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Developing our every day wine list by committee

By Staff
July 25, 2001
There are dividing lines between the so-called every day drinking wines, the premium wines and the classics.
The first line comes at about $10. The second is perhaps $30. Most wines above that level are, at the very least, near classics or classics.
Making our list
We normally concentrate our reviews to the second group, premium wines in the $10 to $30 range. But recently we've been thinking about the lesser wines. They sell well, although we are told better wines are beginning to cut into their demand. But the question remained, are they worth the money? How much quality do they really represent?
So we put together a four-person tasting of some of the most popular of the every day chardonnays. We selected Gossamer Bay, Turning Leaf, Glen Ellen, Woodbridge, Walnut Crest and Napa Ridge. They ranged in price between $8 and $11, depending on the package store. We chilled them properly and served them in no particular order. Here are the six, rated from worst to best.
Number 6: Gossamer Bay 1997: Clearly the least desirable wine of the lot. To me it tasted like Juicy Fruit gum. It's very fruity, almost sweet, with a minimum amount of flavor and little or no aroma. A Gallo wine but they have nothing to brag about here.
Number 5: Napa Ridge 1998: This was a surprise because they promote themselves as one of the better lower end wines. Three of our four tasters rated it as fifth. The fourth moved it up to third. It too lacks bouquet, depth and character and was the chief disappointment of the evening.
Number 4: Woodbridge 1998: This is Robert Mondavi's low end wine and, with the master's name on the bottle, you can buy it in almost every restaurant by the glass and certainly in every wine shop. At the best this is a very average wine with a thin flavor and a finish that goes away the minute you swallow it.
To pay $5 or more for a glass at your favorite restaurant makes little or no sense. To pay about $9 for a bottle at a package store is also no bargain since, in our opinion, there are better wines available at about the same price.
Number 3: Turning Leaf 1999: Another split vote, three for third place and one for fifth.
This a Gallo wine and it's a big seller for them. The bouquet is much better than numbers 6, 5 and 4 with a pronounced apple aroma and taste. One taster said it would be a good summertime patio wine, the kind you take outdoors with you and sip. I agree. Our tasters felt it was not really a food wine but would be pleasant with cheese on a warm summer day.
Number 2: Walnut Crest 2000: This wine from Chile will be a real favorite for those who like citrus flavors. It is very lemony, but not offensively so. With its lemon flavor and higher acid content it would compliment shellfish very nicely. At its price, the lowest on our list, about $7.50, it is a very nice buy. Our panel gave it three votes for second place and one for first. A pleasant wine.
Number 1: Glen Ellen 1998: You'll find a green pear flavor in this wine but not overpoweringly so. It has a deeper and nicer color, a lovely bouquet, and should match up with food very nicely. For example it was the only wine we tasted that had, in our opinion, enough body and depth to match up with bar-b-que. For under $10 this wine is well worth its price. It was selected as best by three of our four tasters.
Next week
Next week we will reconvene our panel and taste cabernet sauvignons in the same $10, more or less, price range.
Tomorrow night's French burgundy wine tasting should open a door for wine lovers who are not familiar with these great wines. Three are whites, a chablis, a mersault and a puligny montrachet. Three are reds and, having tasted them all, I assure you they are quality.
To make your reservation phone 482-0930 or e-mail it to The tasting starts at 6:30 p.m. at Northwood Country Club and you do not need to be a member to attend. A place setting is $25. These are gorgeous wines and you will enjoy them as well as learning more about what are truly classics.