January’s Virtual Tasting is Thursday January 26th from 7-8pm Pacific. Read about how to participate here.

In tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.

We start off today with three wines from Forgeron Cellars’ Blacksmith label. The goal of Blacksmith is to focus on wines that provide both quality and value. In this, winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla surely succeeds.

I have written (extensively) in the past that it is somewhat difficult to find high quality Washington Syrah in the value range. This is in contrast to Cabernet and Merlot where such bottles are fairly abundant.

The 2009 Blacksmith Syrah bucks this trend and is nothing short of a knockout at $15. This wine is unequivocally Syrah, hitting some of the grape’s highlights with dark fruit, chocolate, and floral notes. Listed at 14.4% alcohol, it is a restrained bottle that had me at each sip saying, out loud, “Wow this is a nice bottle of wine.” Who could ask for anything more at $15?

I checked out the 2009 Gordon Brothers Chardonnay after a strong review from friend and fellow wine writer Paul Gregutt in the Seattle Times. Let me start by saying that I often approach inexpensive Chardonnay with more than a little trepidation, because when Chardonnay is bad, it can be downright awful. I approach wines described as “buttery” all the much more so.

The 2009 Gordon Brothers Chardonnay delivers. While it starts out a bit too strong on the toasty spices and butter, it settles down after being open for a hour or so and delivers enjoyment well above its price point. People who only like their Chardonnays unoaked – ‘naked’ in the latest lingo – should look elsewhere. However, people who enjoy a rich, full, buttery style – and even some who do not – will find much to enjoy here.

Finally we have the Columbia Crest 2010 Moscato. Moscato sales have been soaring of late, increasing 73% this year through last September according to Gomberg-Fredrickson. These wines are proving to be particularly popular with the Millennial set, with some referring to them as a gateway drug to wine drinking.

Why are these wines so popular? It’s this simple. They are incredibly aromatic, full of fruit flavors, and are often semi-sweet. These wines aren’t going to necessarily overwhelm you with complexity, but that’s not the point.

While Columbia Crest’s 2010 offering doesn’t completely come off, it remains an extremely enjoyable wine that is guaranteed to appeal to wine newbies and many others. Some sophisticated types might say, “Well I’m not quite sure I like this.” And then pour another glass. And another.

If you have Washington favorites $15 and under, leave a comment below, and I’ll check them out. Read previous Five Wines Under $15 here.

Forgeron Cellars Blacksmith Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $15
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with floral notes, dark fruit, and bittersweet chocolate. The palate is soft and gauzy with dark fruit flavors. Lingers on the finish. A huge value at $15. 94% Syrah, 6% Petite Sirah. Boushey, Lewis, Marcoux, Les Collines, Ash Hollow, and Goose Ridge vineyards. Aged in French (61%) and American (39%) oak (45% new). 14.4% alcohol. 446 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Forgeron Cellars Blacksmith Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2010 $15
(Excellent) An aromatic offering of Chardonnay with toasty spices, almond butter, whiffs of tropical fruit, and tangerine. The palate is medium bodied, silky, smooth, and textured, full of citrus and spices that linger on the finish. An outstanding value at $15. 87% Chardonnay, 3% Semillon, 3% Grenache Blanc, 2% (each) Orange Muscat, Marsanne, and Viognier. Olsen, Crawford, Birch Creek, Dwelley, Boushey, and Dionysus vineyards. Aged in French oak (33% new). 233 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Forgeron Cellars Blacksmith Merlot Columbia Valley 2008 $15

(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with spice, cedar, and red currant. The palate is broad with soft tannins and silky fruit flavors. Finishes a bit tart. Boushey, Alder Ridge, Lonesome Spring Range, and Ash Hollow. Aged in French oak (30% new). 14.2% alcohol. 446 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Gordon Brothers Chardonnay Columbia Valley
2009 $10
(Good) Medium yellow. Aromatics dominated by toast, spice, and butter overlying tropical fruit. The palate is medium-plus bodied, starting out full and then drawing back. Improves considerably after an hour or more of being open. 13.7% alcohol. 3,500 cases produced. Recommended

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Moscato Columbia Valley 2010 $12
(Good) A perfumed wine that is an aromatic tour de force with lychee, mango, mint, kiwi, and passion fruit. The palate is off dry, full of tangerine and tropical fruit flavors – almost every one you can imagine. Gets a touch watery toward the finish and wants a bit more acid to hold it together but overall a fruit filled wine that delivers a huge amount of enjoyment. 75% Muscat Canelli, 15% Morio Muskat, 10% Black Muscat. 10.5% alcohol. Recommended.

Rating System
Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.
(Not recommended/Flawed)