I drink a lot of wine and I'm always trying new wines. I also know and love the satisfaction that comes with getting good value for my money. Wine is such a subjective and image-oriented industry that what a bottle costs rarely reflects its actual quality, taste, or value. Here are my sure-fire wins for exceptionally good value under $20 (usually under $15)!
Tag: Petite Sirah
At least a year ago, Mitch and I had dinner at a great restaurant in one of my favorite local hotels. It's a seafood restaurant called Catch and it's located in the Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica (beachfront, of course). Sometimes when we go to nice restaurants we like to ask the waiter for a suggestion on the wine, since they usually know better than we do what the wines are like. Our fantastic waiter (who had an equally fantastic assistant waiter) chose an Ortman Pinot Noir for us and we loved it. We loved it so much that it went on my list of wineries to visit when we get up to Paso Robles… and so we did.
The lovely tasting room is located in the middle of downtown Paso Robles (1317 Park Street, Paso Robles, CA 93446), a few doors down from Artisan (the restaurant we brunched at right before starting our tasting adventure for the day). The woman pouring the tasting was friendly and knowledgeable and was proud to be working for this winery. That's a great start to any tasting!
From one of their brochures
“We specialize in artisan wines crafted in the acclaimed “Ortman style,” which is founded on four decades and two generations of family winemaking experience.
The Ortman style emphasizes richness, elegance, and food friendliness, as guided by the father-and-son winemaking team of Chuck Ortman and Matt Ortman.
In order to achieve their winemaking vision, Chuck and Matt focus on varietals that excel in remarkable vineyards on California's Central Coast, including Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills, Chardonnay from Edna Valley, and Rhone-style wines from Paso Robles.”
The standard tasting fee was $6 (not charged if you purchase wine) and I think they offered souvenir glasses but they were the stemless variety of which neither Mitch nor I are fans (plus we don't have room in our tiny kitchen for more wine glasses, we already have at least 20 hanging around) so we left them behind. They also had a Reserve Tasting with a tasting fee of $10 which does include the Ortman logo Riedel glass, but does not get refunded if you purchase (at least that's the formal policy, we didn't pay for either tasting). Naturally we chose one of each so we could both sample the full selection and not be too blotto to move onto our next victim, er winery.
2007 Ortman Syrah Rose – Paso Robles, $16 per bottle, 150 cases produced
What they say: This wine is crafted in the tradition of the dry roses that are favored in the warmer climates of Europe for their refreshing, food-friendly qualities. A round, supple texture bursts with fresh flavors of white peach, strawberry, and cinammon. Are you tough enough to drink pink?
What Jess said: Thumbs up! It's a whole-tongue experience. A mix of sweet and dry. Playful. (I like dry roses from the Central Coast. I'm also a big fan of the Beckman Grenache Rose which should have been released by now and will soon be coming home with me.)
What Mitch said: Thumbs up! Bright clean bouquet with a fruity pucker.
2007 Ortman Chardonnay – Edna Valley, $24 per bottle, 1100 cases produced
What they say: They don't call Chuck Ortman “Mr. Chardonnay” for nothing! From Firepeak Vineyard in Edna Valley, this Chardonnay exhibits the classic Ortman style—rich yet clean and impeccably balanced. Flavors of pear, apple, guava and caramel with mineral accents and refreshing acidity.
What Jess said: Thumbs up! Grapefruit/apple/pear (green fruit, light citrus) on the nose. Caramel, milky, a little oak and vanilla in the mouth.
What Mitch said: Mild velvety slide through the mouth. Subtle fruitiness.
2006 Ortman Pinot Noir – Santa Rita Hills, $36 per bottle, 750 cases produced
What they say: From the famed Fiddlestix Vineyard. Aged for 11 months in French oak barrels (40% new). Bright and broad, with high-toned flavors of cherry, plum, spice, and creamy cola. This classically elegant Pinot Noir is made for enjoying with food. Take it for a walk on the wild side of the dinner table.
What Jess said: Smells like the ocean. Smooth at first with a long finish, but I didn't like the finish.
What Mitch said: Surprisingly dry with a very fruity punch at the finish.
2006 Ortman Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, $36 per bottle, 350 cases produced
What they say: Our passion for the Pinot Noir grape extends northward to Oregon's Willamette Valley, where we seek an inspiring contrast to our Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. The 2006 vintage comes from Temperance Hill and Parish Hill vineyards, which combine to yield a Pinot Noir with delicate complexity and firm natural structure.
What Jess said: Lighter on the nose. Tingly, nutty tannins. Reminds me of French wine (of which I have extraordinarily little experience drinking).
What Mitch said: Dry again. Puckery and acidic, but mild flavor.
What they say: A taste of Italy from Algunas Dias Vineyard. Inspired by Matt Ortman's winemaking travels in Italy. Lively integrated flavors of raspberry, cherry, and blackberry unfold along a smooth texture. Great with pizza and pastas. Buon appetito!
What Jess said: Thumbs up! Sweet, floral, and cinammon on the nose. Fruity and smooth, probably good with poultry.
What Mitch said: Thumbs up! Bright nose. Starts with a berry explosion and fades slowly to a nice dry finish.
2005 Ortman Syrah – Paso Robles, $22 per bottle, 350 cases produced
What they say: From Brave Oak Vineyard. Toasty aromas of blueberry, violets, and raspberry jam. Round and supple, with juicy flavors of black cherry, plum, smoked bacon, and oak spice. While it's no sin to savor this yummy wine on its own, this Syrah will sing with skirt steak and lamb chops.
What Jess said: Very typical Syrah from the Paso Robles area. Delightful, light-touch, with a familiar terroir. A spicy finish.
What Mitch said: Nose goes all the way up. Minor tannins detectable, but it had a pleasant finish.
2007 Ortman Cuvee Eddy – Paso Robles, $24 per bottle, 1600 cases produced
What they say: Contrary to rumor, this Rhone-style blend is not named after the Iron Maiden band mascot, but rather for the swirls on our label that represent two winemaking generations coming full circle. Still, this wine does rock with big, juicy flavors of blackberry, blueberry and raspberry, mocha and vanilla bean.
What Jess said: Thumbs up! Smoky on the nose. Dusty, sweet cherry and tobacco. Reasonably smooth.
What Mitch said: Mildly abrasive nose, dry! Largely smooth with a medium-level of berry intensity.
From the Reserve Tasting…
2006 Ortman Pinot Noir – Fiddlestix Vineyard, $50 per bottle, 140 cases produced
What they say: Five barrels were selected to exemplify the quality and character of Fiddlestix Vineyard. Flavors of black cherry, wild berry, cola and spice finish with soft, juicy acidity. This Pinot Noir will age gracefully over the next several years. In the meantime, the genie in this bottle will benefit from brief decanting.
What Jess said: Smells like Fiddlehead Pinot Noirs (in addition to Fiddlehead Pinot Noirs coming from the Fiddlestix vineyard, they also make Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley, so due to my relatively small experience with Oregon Pinot Noirs and relatively large experience with Fiddlehead wines, it shouldn't be surprising that I would make this connection). Very dry berry flavors are prominent.
What Mitch said: Berry, bright, not too dry, but sadly flat.
2003 Ortman Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley, $45 per bottle, 350 cases produced
What they say: Our connection to Napa Valley's premier varietal dates back to Chuck Ortman's earliest winemaking days, when he was a winemaking consultant to some of the valley's top Cabernet producers. The 2003 vintage comes from White Cottage Ranch Vineyard on Howell Mountain. It offers juicy layered flavors of black cherry, plum, and vanilla.
What Jess said: Thumbs up! Dream-inducing nose. Tastes of salty (salami!), cloves, and blueberry with a spicy-hot finish (in a good way).
What Mitch said: Thumbs up! Dancing berries on the nose. Dry, with a burnt-like finish.
2006 Ortman Petite Sirah – Wittstrom Vineyard, $38 per bottle, 68 cases produced
What they say:The 2006 Petite Sirah marks our inaugural vintage for the varietal, which joins our small family of red wines from Paso Robles. Winemaker Matt Ortman has long been a fan of Petite Sirah, and he jumped at the chance to make it when fruit from Wittstrom Vineyard became available. This vineyard occupies and idea site for Petite Sirah, yielding a wine that is big yet elegant with lusciously intense flavors.
What Jess said: Makes me want to drink it with steak. Chalky.
What Mitch said: Heavy nose, bitter berry. Heavy but smooth.
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On a recent trip to Paso Robles, and nearby Santa Margarita, Mitch and I stopped into the Ancient Peaks Winery tasting room. The stop made our schedule because I've been curious about Zinfandel lately (I don't like most of what I've tried) but the Paso Robles area is known for their Zinfandel and Ancient Peaks is, too. I suppose the biggest disappointment of the visit was that the 2006 Zinfandel was sold-out. This is most likely because the annual Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival was the weekend before we arrived. Oh well, better luck next time.
The tasting fee was $5 which was a fair price for the amount of wine we tasted. No souvenir glasses here but that's okay because we're running out of room. We chose to do one of each of their available tastings, so that means one Estate Wines tasting and one Limited White Label Collection tasting. In a rather unusual turn of events, the more expensive the wine got the less we liked it. The Estate Wines seem fairly priced and would make nice table wines. The Limited White Label Collection left much to be desired considering the $35+ price-point. Here's what we tasted and what we thought about it:
2007 Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc, $12 per bottle
What they say: Vivid aromas of pear, gooseberry, and lemon zest. The pear impression continues on the palate, accompanied by integrated flavors of melon, pineapple, and green apple. The texture is bright and fresh, finishing with a crisp acidity.
What Jess said: Nice. Light on the nose. A hint of apple. Kinda zippy… nice. Actually, it was nice enough I bought two bottles of it because at $12 a pop, it's a very nice white to have kicking around the house for salad-night.
What Mitch said: Slightly bitter, not unpleasant, light, easy nose.
2006 Ancient Peaks Merlot, $16 per bottle
What they say: High-toned aromas of black cherry and blueberry with hints of cola. A smooth, silky texture brings flavors of black currant, blueberry, mocha, and vanilla cream. The finish is cool and velvety, with hints of blackberry and clove spice.
What Jess said: Buttery popcorn on the nose, buttery in the mouth. Cherry. Also nice. We tried it a second time and I found it less exciting the second time around.
What Mitch said: Tarry finish at the back of the mouth, but light. More sour than bright.
2006 Ancient Peaks Syrah, $16 per bottle
What they say: Warm plum and spice aromas with smoky-earthy nuances. The palate bursts forth with bright rounded flavors of black cherry, plum, cola, and mocha. The finish lingers with long fruit and supple tannins.
What Jess said: Bacon on the nose. Big up front with a diminishing finish. I'm not crazy about this wine, and I found it a little boring (and I generally like Syrah, especially from this region).
What Mitch said: Uvula firecracker. First it's smooth, then it burns and finishes flat.
2006 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon, $16 per bottle
hey say:Intense aromas of black fruits and leathery spice. The palate is deep and juicy, unfolding with ripe flavors of plum, cassis, black cherry, and mocha. Supple tannins are interwoven into a long, chewy finish.
What Jess said: Not much on the nose, but gentle and pleasant in the mouth. I thought it might be a little chocolatey. It had a long but delicate finish. Definitely tasted the Central Coast terroir in this Cab. We tasted this one a second time too, and it was notably sweet the second go-around.
What Mitch said: Pungent nose, flavorific but not heavy.
I found this on Bizrate for $12.95 if you'd like to give it a try.
2006 Ancient Peaks Malbec, $35 per bottle
What they say: Aromas of raspberry plum, rhubarb, and forest floor. Deep jammy flavors of boysenberry and blackberry anticipate accents of cedar, tobacco, and Asian spice. Juicy tannins embrace a supple, smoky finish.
What Jess said: Gentle on the nose, longer finish than the others, easy on the tannins, nice but not awesome. Maybe at $20 a bottle I'd feel differently.
What Mitch said: Medicinal nose, bright, crisp flavor, smooth.
2006 Ancient Peaks Petit Verdot, $35 per bottle
What they say: The 2006 Petit Verdot offers warm black fruit aromas with accents of lavender and pencil shavings. The palate bursts with fresh flavors of wild cherry, black currant, cola, and coffee with hints of peppercorn. Firm tannins are balanced with bright acidity for a clean, focused finish.
What Jess said: It's kind of like sour cranberry juice. A little acidic to my nose, maybe it just needs to be aged?
What Mitch said: Burnt berry nose. Smoky flavor all around.
2006 Ancient Peaks Petite Sirah, $35 per bottle
What they say: The 2006 Petite Sirah is loaded with exotic aromas of blueberry, cigar box, anise, white pepper and pomgegranate. Luscious flavors of blackberry, black cherry, vanilla bean, and cinnamon spice unfold along a big, chewy texture. Dusty tannins add structure to a long, juicy finish.
What Jess said: Blueberry and sesame on the nose. Chalky and sweet in the mouth. Another wine showing the strong Central Coast terroir.
What Mitch said: Pedestrian nose, like a dry Vina Santurnia
2006 Ancient Peaks Oyster Ridge, $50 per bottle
What they say: The 2006 Oyster Ridge is an artful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel, and was crafted to exemplify our finest winemaking efforts. The bouquet brims with accents of black fruit, rose petal, toasty oak and graphite. A complex tapestry of flavors includes blueberry, blackberry, vanilla, mocha, and anise. Firm tannins and exquisite balance ensure that this wine will reward careful cellaring.
What Jess said: Smoky, like barbecue sauce. Smooth finish. We liked this one but without a cellar (or even proper wine refrigerator), we don't invest in wines this expensive. And we're not sure it was worth the $50 price tag.
What Mitch said: Mild nose, spicy finish. Hits at the back of mouth but is light on the tongue.