Jonathan Leal of Wine Warehouse in Palmetto knows his stock intimately, as any really good wine merchant does. The bottles in his shop run the gamut from high-end Bordeaux to quirky picks great for every day. One of the latter is Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which we love but often have trouble finding elsewhere. Big points there. Another is Hey Mambo Sultry Red (see below), a sassy table and party wine that we’ve fallen hard for since Leal introduced us. We like this guy, and so we asked him to select six of his favorite value wines for us. His tasting notes follow. Prices are those at his shop and are subject to change.
Domaine des Cadastres Picpoul de Pinet ($9.99) Grown in the Languedoc region of France, near the Mediterranean, Picpoul is a quintessential French varietal. Showing crisp acidity and an abundance of citrus, apple and honeysuckle flavors, this is the perfect wine for seafood or as an aperitif. Show your friends that your palate is on the cutting edge with this one!
Schwarzbock Gruner Veltliner ($12.99 in a one-liter bottle) The centerpiece of Austria’s wine industry, Gruner Veltliner has become a focal point for those in-the-know. One of the most versatile whites in the world and possibly the most food friendly, Gru-Vee (as it’s been dubbed) is bursting with citrus, white flowers and its most distinguishing feature, cracked white pepper. Pair this with any salad, soup, fresh pasta or shellfish and enjoy. Why haven’t you heard about this before? Because the local market snaps up most of it before it can be exported.
Rayun Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99)Sauvignon blanc occupies a standing spot in my refrigerator. Wines like Chile’s Rayun even more so, owing to its lively citrus snap and crisp acidity on the palate. Foregoing oak barrels, many winemakers are now using stainless steel fermenters to showcase the natural brightness of the sauvignon blanc varietal. This wine is no exception and makes the perfect late afternoon refresher.
Hey Mambo Sultry Red ($10.99)
I can’t think of a more perfect wine to get any party started right. Hey Mambo is a fruit-forward blend consisting of zinfandel, Barbera, syrah, petite sirah and Alicante Bouchet. Lip smacking good but not flabby, this wine finishes with a zesty spice that makes you come back for more without tiring the palate. One sip and you’ll be hooked on this delicious red.
Dante Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99) In this world of tightening budgets, no wine delivers more bang for the buck than this California cabernet by Michael Pozzan. Big and bold, this cab tips the scales at a mighty 14.9 percent alcohol but does not come off as hot. It is entirely enjoyable young. Plenty of tannin allows pairing with steak, lamb, or a standing roast, but it’s easy enough to enjoy on its own.
Piedra Azul Toro ($12.99) The most widely planted grape in Spain is the venerable Tempranillo, responsible for the great reds from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. Flying under the radar is the Toro region with its own local Tempranillo clone called Tinto de Toro. The wines of Toro, in particular Piedra Azul, deliver rich, smooth reds with outstanding backbone and length. Piedra Azul Toro delivers “new world” flavor from an “old world” winemaking country. Step outside the box and treat your tastebuds to a sensory delight.