Try a $15 California red that's perfect for a party

April 5, 2013 at 3:49 PM ET


In the California section of any big wine store, you’ll find no shortage of wines from the Central Coast, a very large and prolific wine area stretching from Santa Barbara County in the south to San Francisco County in the north. The bigger challenge is finding memorable bottles, especially under $20, in the ocean of wine that flows from the region.

One that stands out is from Clos La Chance, the 2009 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, which is an excellent value at $15. As I tasted it the other night and drank it with dinner, I quickly forgot about the price and realized that I was enjoying a very good bottle of wine, regardless of what it cost. That’s probably the ultimate compliment for a relatively inexpensive bottle of wine.

According to Clos La Chance’s website, about 2,700 cases of this wine were made, which is very small and in stark contrast to many other $15 California wines that are produced in far greater quantities. In this case, the quality is superior.

Like many less expensive California wines, this one is relatively soft and easy to drink but with enough tannic structure and layers to make it interesting. When first poured it shows lots of red fruit notes, especially cherry and raspberry, which are accented by a touch of cinnamon. As it opens up the tastes turn darker, with blackberry and blueberry emerging, along with a coffee note. The overall impression remains bright, even refreshing, in a wine of unusual complexity.

The blend is 86 percent cabernet, 12 percent malbec and two percent merlot, with most of the fruit estate-grown. There are lots of pairing possibilities for this one, including steak and lamb, burgers and grilled chicken and pork. And at this price, it’s a great one to serve to a crowd.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter.

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