A variety of prices and flavors in top 10 wine tastes of 2009

2009 was the year of the customer in wine, food and all other aspects of the economy. The straight-up expansion of wineries, resorts, restaurants and wine shops came to a screeching halt, and cracks appeared as there were severe discounts and some closings.
The smart operators did what they had to as 50 percent discounts were in evidence for high-end premium wines and restaurant menus. Small-bite menus and small portion wine pairings were the new buzz words. Argentina and Chile kept the pressure on the establishment wine countries, with lovely tasting native wines like Malbec and Camanere.
The mantra of the health benefits of red wine continued to impress as the anti-oxidant resveratrol and its cardiovascular benefits were reported by medical experts.
More than 20 of the top 100 wines of the world, reported by the respected Wine Spectator, were under $20 suggested retail, a symptom of the times.
I attended more than 270 wine events at wineries, restaurants, hotels and special events, tasting thousands of wines, and documenting their tasting characteristics.
The list contains wines that impressed me with price to value.
Prices can vary and are generally what I have observed on their Web sites and in retail stores. All are equal in consideration and are not ranked 1 to 10, but are listed by alphabetical order. Web sites are listed for your further information.
— Amavi Les Collines Syrah, Walla Walla, Wash., 2007. Cost is $34. The essence of great Rhone Syrah. Fantastic intensity of fruit with the right balance of acidity. Sixteen months in French oak. Farmed sustainably. Visit www.amavi cellars.com for details.
— Banfi Vintners Casillero del Diablo Camenere, Rapel Valley,Chile. Cost is $11.
A touch of Cab and Syrah add to this native grape, with its dark, crimson look and taste. Toasty American oak gives it depth and structure. A true Chilean wine. Visit www.banfivintners.com for details.
— Brolio Ricasoli Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy, 2003. Cost is $11. An incredible value for a six-year-old Italian classic from a winery that dates back to the 12th century. One hundred percent Sangiovese. This is a family created modern-day Chianti. Visit www.ricasoli.it for details.
— Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2007. Cost is $85. A hallmark name in Bordeaux-style Napa winemaking. The estate only grows this varietal. Historic brand in a peak performance. Visit www.caymus.com for details.
— Erath Estate Selection Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon, 2006. Cost is $20. Heart and Earth both contain letters that are used in Erath and sum up the grapes made in this part of the wine world. Luscious ripe strawberry taste that floats on the palate. Visit www.erath.com for details.
— Justin Isosceles, Paso Robles, 2006. Cost is $62. Intense flavors come through from 86 percent Cabernet, 9 percent Cab Franc and 5 percent Merlot. Twenty-four months in French Oak. Lovely flavor retention once opened. A top 10 repeat. Visit www.justinwine.com for details.

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