I don’t know what the sticker price is on your average Tuesday night wine—or whether it’s different from your Saturday night bottle. (Someone recently chided me for the assumption that those would be different: “When I want a good bottle of wine, I want a good bottle of wine, Tuesday or no.”) But I can’t help but get excited about bottles that come in under $15 (a price range almost all of us nightly drinkers need) but taste like they cost more.
A lineup I tried recently made me a believer again in the fact that it can be done. From a trio of irreverent, talented winemakers—Joel Gott, Charles Smith, and Charles Bieler—who have collaborated both on wines and in a recent unorthodox wine tour that involved raucous parties in bowling alleys and ping pong halls, these all have an suggested retail price of $12 (which means that you’ll probably find them for less). My hunch is that pulling off interesting wine at that price requires caring about wine at that price, plus the resources of higher-end winemaking to subsidize the process; all three of these vintners turn out much more expensive bottles as well.
Charles Smith 2012 Kung Fu Girl Riesling (Columbia Valley).
A gorgeous mashup of Washington apples, citrus, and jasmine, with lightening acidity to balance its touch of sweetness.
Joel Gott 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (California).
An aromatic wrap of tropicals and tart stonefruit softens crisp lemon-lime edged with green herbs.
Charles & Charles 2012 Rosé (Columbia Valley).
A lively, dry pink, with bright, cinnamon-spiced red fruit—cherry and watermelon.
Bieler Père et Fils 2012 Rosé (Coteaux d’Aix en Provence).
A drier rosé than the double Charles, as you’d expect from France; a wet stone character underpins puckery lemon and red berry fruit.