Buys $25 and under, Puglia, Red; Mostly Napa Cabs, Tastings

Seven Summer Surprises

As we turn the clocks back into darkness and careen towards winter, we thought a quick post on seven great wines we discovered over the summer would keep the warm feelings going a few days longer. These are not “summer” sippers; we just happened to find them while staying sane through Covid, family health issues, and rain, rain, rain. We give a big thumbs up to each of these wines, some of which are remarkably affordable.


Good Earth White Wine, 2020 @$16/bottle
Silver Thread Vineyard
, Lodi, NY [Finger Lakes]
Where to buy: Dion’s Wine, Waltham, MA and online

I hesitate to call this fantastic blend a “white wine for red wine lovers,” but, if the cork fits…The off-dry Good Earth combines classic Finger Lakes Riesling with two white hybrid grapes (NY-45 and NY-81) developed by Cornell University. The alchemy produces a wine with beautiful citrus and melon aromas and a palate that starts warm and honeyed but ends with bright acidity and a hint of spice. Following our first taste of the Good Earth we bought a case to enjoy during the long winter months

Emma Reichart Dry Riesling 2020, $5-$9/bottle
Rheinhessen, Germany
Where to buy: Trader Joe’s, Vivino [online]

Yes, @$5 at Trader Joe’s gets you this luscious dry Riesling, with ripe fruit flavors [mostly apricot and melon] and bracing acidity. A little citrus, a little minerality, a lot of flavor for almost no $. It’s bright, lively, and a great complement with fish, seafood, chicken…we had it with homemade fish tacos and it stood up to the salsa and the fish seasonings. Even if you think you’ll hate it…isn’t it worth $5 on the chance you might love it? Want more? Read our recent post on Riesling.


Ad Hoc Primitivo di Manduria, 2020 @$16/bottle
Tenuta Giustini, Puglia, IT.
Where to buy: Vivino online

We visited Tenuta Giustini during our trip to Puglia in 2019 and wrote glowingly about, well, everything: “From the setting to the hospitality and, of course the wine, Tenuta Giustini shone brightest.” The young, 2nd generation winemaker had a way with Primitivo (Zinfindel outside of Italy) and we bought several bottles to enjoy during our trip. At the time, Tenuta Giustini’s wines had limited US distribution. Just a few years later, to our great surprise and delight, we found its Ad Hoc Primitivo di Manduria on Vivino and bought six bottles. Sometimes, what you taste at the winery, amid the beauty of the vineyards and hospitality of the winemaker, tastes just ok when consumed at home. This was not one of those times. Black raspberry, blackberry and licorice flavors, with a very smooth finish. If you can find it, buy it!

Dave Harvey Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018 @$15/bottle
Walla Walla, Washington
Where to buy: Vivino online

Our friends brought us this yummy wine with a fish on the label as a “congrats on your new boat” gift. None of us was familiar with Dave Harvey Wines, nor had we ever tasted a Cab from Walla Walla, Washington. Well…it was a delicious surprise. Bold, smooth, easy drinking, fruit forward but not jammy. The four of us polished off the bottle in, oh, 45 minutes. At this price, and with good availability at the online wine sites, you could easily make the Dave Harvey Cab your house red.

Napa Valley Cabby, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017, @$22/bottle
Beau Vigne, Napa Valley, CA
Where to buy: 2017 available at Vivino online

When you give your wine a cute name, and slap a cute label on it, you better make sure the wine is very good and well-priced. Beau Vigne’s Napa Valley Cabby succeeds on both counts [I’m guessing Beau Vigne itself a cute play on the word “bovine.”] At under $25, Cabby is a bit high for everyday drinking but well below prestige Napa Cabs including many other selections from Beau Vigne. Napa Valley Cabby is a delicious sipper that transports your taste buds with young, full-fruit black cherry notes draped over a fine velvety tannin layer. It’s the perfect accompaniment to your favorite burger, pizza or even barbecue.

Papillon 2018 Napa Valley Red Wine
Orin Swift, St. Helena, CA, @$70/bottle

Orin Swift’s Papillon is a Bordeaux blend made with grapes from vineyards across Napa Valley. Being old, I assumed the “Papillon” tattoo on the guy’s hands was some kind of homage to the 1973 Steve McQueen/Dustin Hoffman Papillon. [regrettably remade in 2017.] But no, the hands on the label are in the shape of a butterfly, which, in French, is papillon. Per the winemaker, “A weathered pair of farm hands and the image of a fragile butterfly extend to the wine itself—delicate yet brawny, nuance but bold.” Ok. Got it.

And the wine? It’s fantastic. If you’re a fan of Hess’ Lion Tamer and wonder “How could they make this any better?” or if you love The Prisoner (originally an Orin Swift cult wine), try the 2018 Papillon. Even at this young age, its mouth-feel (fine silk/velvet tannins) and pure unadulterated raspberry/blackberry/mulberry notes are just perfection. While we’re not huge fans of The Prisoner, Papillon has turned us into a fan of winemaker Dave Phinney.

Uvaggio Montagna Nera Red Wine, 2016, @$30/bottle
Uvaggio, El Dorado, Sierra Foothills, CA

Per Gary: “You have to wonder what sort of evil genius in California decided to pair Barbera (think Italian) with Zinfandel (derived from Italian Primitivo). Well, it works incredibly well with great blackberry/blueberry/black cherry compote notes and a long silky, satisfying finish. Paired with roasted winter vegetables and roasted Zataar chicken (bone-in) breasts, this cuvee was in perfect harmony. Buying again!” ’nuff said.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s