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home : top stories : top stories April 24, 2015

8/17/2012 9:57:00 AM
Wine Review: To buy or not to buy

Bennet Bodenstein
Wine Columnist

We feel we should let you in on some of the secrets of the wine industry and people like us who write about wines.

We are constantly deluged with “fact sheets” on specific wines. Never, in more than 35 years of writing about wine, have we seen one that said the wine in question was not too hot or just plain bad, but some of them were.

When we review a wine, we look at all facets, but the most important is the quality for the dollar. We have sampled some $75 wines that went right down the drain after the first sip and have had some $7 wines that were outstanding.

Here's a rundown on some wines that are not among our favorites, and a few value wines that aren't half bad.

Sterling Vineyards
Sterling Vineyards has been around for a long time, so that means that their wine must have some fans; we are not among them.

While all of the Sterling wines are OK, we feel that they have never lived up to the price category that they fit in. We always take price into consideration when we review wines and adjust our review accordingly.

To us, the Sterling Vineyards wines are overpriced for the quality they deliver.

Inglenook is another great disappointment.

In the 1950s and '60s, Inglenook was at the top of California’s quality heap. The company then went through a change of ownership and the quality of the wines dropped like a stone.

What was once above the average became below mediocre and a pity for those of us who once held Inglenook in great respect.

The Wal-Mart test
To prove our impartiality, we now take on the great giant of marketing, Wal-Mart.

The Wal-Mart proprietary wines, Oak Leaf, look like a bargain at $2.98. Some of them are, while others just do not make it.

The white wines are good for their price category but the reds are terrible, and maybe even a bit worse than that.

Two Buck Chuck
Then there are Charles Shaw wines, or as they are commonly known, “Two Buck Chuck.”

These wines originally came out to sell at about $1.99, but with inflation, they now sell for as much as $3.99.

They were a rotten buy at $1.99 and they still are at whatever price they ask. These wines were all weak and watery and offered little to the consumer except alcohol.

We present you with some facts. A new wine bottle costs about $1. The cork, capsule top and label are about 20 cents, and then there is packaging and delivery, so there is not much left over to pay for the wine. Need we say more?

Value wines
Not all is bad; there are those wines that have always been more than an exceptional value for the dollar.

Among the better for their price are those of Sebastiani Vineyards. These wines deliver real value for the money, most specifically their barbera and pinot noir wines. Their cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay wines aren't slackers either.

Concannon Vineyard is another producer where the quality far exceeds the price. Their petite sirah, to use a texting abbreviation, is TDF (to die for) as are most of their wines. Priced right and delivering exceptional quality, Concannon wines are a tribute to California and its wine industry.

Not to be taken lightly are the wines of Fetzer Vineyards. While all their wines are worth much more than their very reasonable price tag, their gewürztraminer and riesling wines are total knockouts. They are sweet but not cloying and display the incredibly intense floral aroma the varieties are famous for.

We shall continue to write about the better buys in the marketplace but will still take a "poke at the eye" at any of those who deserve it when it is called for.

Nixa resident Bennet Bodenstein is a wine columnist and helps manage with his wife, Sheila. He can be reached at

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