We are always on the hunt for really good wines that offer great value. These are much harder to come by than most would think.
Finding something interesting at $12 a bottle, for instance, is a real challenge. Consider the cost of the bottle, cork, label, shipping box, shipping and taxes, plus importer, distributor and retail markups. What cost is left for growing and harvesting the grapes, and winemaking charges?
The Internet is full of stories of fast-food companies finding ways to shave down costs, which includes using hamburger or chicken that have surprisingly small amounts of real protein. There’s a reason why a double cheeseburger can cost just 99 cents.
How does this scenario apply to other fields, such as wine?
I don’t think there is just one answer to this question. In our own attempts to search for value for our restaurants, we look to work with those who own their own vineyards.
In many cases it helps to search less famous winegrowing areas, where land is less expensive and therefore has less effect on the cost of the final product. If families have owned their vineyards for at least two or three generations, the costs could even be lower.
Here are a few finds:
» 2013 Sella & Mosca Vermentino de Sardegna (about $15 a bottle): Sella & Mosca is one of the single largest vineyard holders in all of Italy, with an estate that is well over 100 years old.
Their vineyards lie mostly in the northwest sector of Sardegna, a large island off the western coast of Italy. Their dry, briny, remarkably light and crisp white wines seem tailor- made for the fresh seafood caught along the coast.
The indigenous Vermentino grape variety is for many the standout of this island and all along the Mediterranean basin.
It’s a wonderful alternative to sauvignon blanc and pairs with a much wider range of food.
» 2014 CF Riesling Estate (about $18): This newly released gem, produced by iconic German winemaker Bert Selbach for our CF label, is made exclusively for Hawaii’s warm climate and Asian- inspired food.
We chose Selbach to craft this unique wine because of the refined, amazingly light and ethereal qualities of his own wines.
And because Bert is a descendent of the legendary Prum family, he has highly revered, single-vineyard holdings. For this special bottling, he uses grapes from old-vine Himmelreich and Domprobst vineyards that rise above the town of Graach on Germany’s Mosel River. This wine definitely over-delivers for the dollar.
» 2012 Domaine Fontsainte Corbieres (about $14): Corbieres is a small appellation in Southern France, not far from the Mediterranean Sea. They’ve proved that the vineyard was cleared and farmed by the Romans, and the family who currently owns the vineyard took over the estate in the 17th century. I have been a huge fan of their wines for some 30 years, and with every release I wonder why their prices never seem to inflate.
But I’m not complaining. This one is as delicious, light, food-friendly and gulpable as they come. It’s the quintessential country-style wine — at a great price.
» 2010 Peltier Station Zinfandel (about $15): This family estate vineyard out in Lodi, Calif., is currently run by the third generation.
The zinfandel vines used for this bottling were planted in 1965, resulting in a dark, intriguing core with dusty, brambly fruit and lots of spice. You really can’t go wrong here.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the DK Restaurants group. Follow his blog at chuckfuruya.com.