Experts’ weekend wine picks: From South African favorite to Pinot Grigio bargain

Comparing the picks: A survey of recent selections from popular wine experts and websites, spotlighting bargains and best values among other choices at their websites.

The Wine Cellar: Earthy South African reds evoke the Old World

An update on South African wines, with a notable favorite highlighted, from Frank Sutherland and Kate Sutherland, Gannett News Service:

“In a world of homogenized wine styles, South African reds really stand out. They have remained true to the distinctive style of the region; no other wine in the world tastes like a South African wine.

“They often have a gravelly, dusty quality and flavors of green pepper, olive, and peat. These are true “terroir” wines — they reflect the qualities of the earth in which the grapes were grown. As such, they tend to taste more like a European wine than a New World offering.”

And now to highlight the favorite: 2003 Vergelegen “Mill Race,” $24.99.

Single-Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

A review of standouts from a region noted for its Pinot Noirs, from Lynne Char Bennett, San Francisco Chronicle:

“The panel found lots to like among the 57 vineyard-designate Russian River Valley Pinots, which are made from vintners’ best, most distinctive grapes. The wines showed well and are displaying depth, complexity and less noticeable alcohol levels than many from the hot 2004 vintage.”

One of the more-affordable two-and-one-half-star winners: 2006 Hawley Oehlman Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $33.

Stock spring picnic with affordable Washington wines

A dozen selections tuned to different courses for a wine tasting or meal, from Paul Gregutt, The Seattle Times:

“Rather than worry about matching particular wines to particular foods, I put together a group of whites and reds that allowed the guests to mix and match according to their own tastes and whims.”

The terms affordable and outstanding pair quite well in this description: Columbia Crest Two Vines 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, $8

Top 5 Box Wines

Nicely priced boxed wines (and handy food recommendations), from Jeffery Lindenmuth, Epicurious:

“Box wines (a.k.a. boxed wines) have become popular in recent years because they hold more wine than a single bottle, they’re light and recyclable, they’re easy to open and reseal, they chill quickly, and they won’t break if you drop them.”

This one-liter pick is said to show more character than the bottled types: Three Thieves Bandit Pinot Grigio 2006, about $9.

Tip: Print out this list and bring it to your local wine shop — even if a specific favorite isn’t available, ask the salesperson to recommend something similar. Or try browsing the latest wine reports from this custom collection of hundreds of news websites — filtered for bargains, continuously updated, and quick and easy to scan:

  • Reds (from Beaujolais to Zinfandel)
  • Whites (from Chablis to Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Organic (red, white, in between)

To hit closer to home, try WNR’s Smarter Wine Search tool and see what wine finds columnists and wine experts may be writing about in your area. Once there, just type in your city and state (within quotation marks, as in, "Napa, California"), to get results ranked by relevance.

Or scroll down to the bottom of this page and dig into top wine lists from a variety of sources. You’ll also find links to everything from a food-pairing database to websites for comparative wine ratings.

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