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Reviewing some of Wine Enthusiast’s top 100 Best Buys for 2017

Posted by on November 5, 2017

The list is out in the latest edition of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s top 100 Best Buys for 2017.  Many of these wines are available locally, and many are on your neighborhood grocer’s shelves.  I chose to look at the grocer’s liquor department for some of these wines.  I found six, and picked up one of my favorites from last year’s list, just to make my own comparison.  These were tasted and reviewed:

  • Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Syrah (#1 on the list) – $9 Costco
  • Woodbridge 2015 Pinot Noir (#2 on the list) – $8
  • Three Thieves 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (#13) – $8Image result for Three Thieves 2014 Cabernet SauvignonImage result for Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Syrah
  • Gnarly Head 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel (#57) – $12
  • Estancia 2015 Pinot Noir (Monterey County) (#97) – $14

For good measure, I also tried one former best buy and one current editor’s choice.

  • Cline 2015 Ancient Vines Zinfandel (89 points, editor’s choice) – $15
  • Charles Smith 2015 Velvet Devil Merlot (88 points, best buy) – $11


For starters, all of these wines are a fantastic value.  I would buy any of them again and plan to buy my top three on this list often.  I blogged about the Velvet Devil last year and still consider it one of the best values at this price level.

My ranking of the super seven:

  1. Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon – This is no joke at this price.  Buy one.  Buy a case!  Tasting it blind, you would believe this to be a wine valued at $30 or more.  This Cabernet displays notes of sage and wild green spices I often find in hot Napa Valley wines from Silverado Trail or Stag’s Leap districts.  It would not surprise me to learn that these grapes came from that area or somewhere close by.  Medium to full-bodied, this wine is a real steal at $8!  T-Scale 90+.  I plan on buying often.
  2. Estancia Pinot Noir – Medium bodied with lovely floral and fruity nose of rose petals and strawberry.  Some mineral, light cherry, pomegranate, and  strawberry flavors ride to a long finish.  This wine feels like it might cost twice this much.  A great Pinot Noir at a really low price.  This does not happen often.  T-Scale 90+, maybe the best value for a Pinot out there.
  3. Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel – Zinfandel at this price point can be jammy an uninspired, but Cline has bottled up a winner here!  I’ve had this wine in the past, but I don’t recall it ever being this well made.  The 2015 is a balance of barrel spices, vanilla, and big red fruit.  Not jammy, not heavy, and not too alcoholic.  This wine would be a great pair with grilled red meat or pasta with red sauces.  T-Scale 90+, a great, if not the greatest, value for a nice Zin.
  4. Velvet Devil Merlot – Still one of my favorite value bottles, even after this comparison.  Mostly Merlot, but with tiny bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and other grapes, this is a very smooth “velvety” little devil.  Very easy going and a pleasure to roll around the tongue.  Not a long finish, but a nice medium bodied middle-of-the-week red wine.  T-Scale 90+, a regular in my stable.
  5. Woodbridge Pinot Noir – I would never look twice at Mondavi’s budget label, but hold up, this is worth a try!  Cheap Pinot Noir tastes cheap, like strawberry Kool-Aid with too much water added.  Not here.  This wine does not taste or smell cheap at all.  Furthermore, it evolved in the glass!  Much to praise here at this price.  It’s light bodied, but full of predictable Pinot flavors of stone, cherry, and maybe some darker berry fruits.  Very pleasant surprise here!  T-Scale 89 points.  A real steal!
  6. Columbia Crest Estate Syrah – Listed at $12 retail, Costco has this gem at $9!  I was expecting a big, mountainous Washington Syrah, but it’s really a medium-bodied smooth sailing nice wine.  Not big, not long, it’s really a mid-palette pleasing red.  From Wine Enthusiast, “The aromas in this wine pop, with notes of dried herb, plum, vanilla and smoked meat. It brings a compelling sense of texture, coating the palate from end to end with exquisitely balanced fruit and savory flavors. It’s a knockout at this price.”  I agree.  It’s a really great wine when you get out your wallet for sure!  T-Scale 88 points.
  7. Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel – The nose and palette both reflect a toasty oak barrel.  There are vanilla and cinnamon flavors mixing with big jammy fruits.  It’s a large Lodi Zin, and if that’s what you like, this might be for you.  Certainly better than most other offerings at this price level.  T-Scale 86 points.

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