Recession Busters! High QPR mid-priced reds

In a tough economy there is nothing like finding a wine that drinks like a more expensive bottle. Here are a few that have stood out recently. While you won’t find any of these wines in the value bin – see next week’s monthly Five Under $15 for that – each of these wines drinks like a wine of a considerably higher price point, allowing one to simultaneously drink up by drinking down.

The first is from Tranche Cellars. I have sung the praises of this winery before. Tranche consistently produces wines that punch above their weight class (see a previous post on the winery here). This Cabernet Franc is the first released red wine from the winery’s estate vineyard, Blue Mountain. This stunningly beautiful vineyard was formerly part of the Nicolas Cole Cellars site that Tranche now inhabits. The 2007 Cabernet Franc from Tranche Cellars is an outrageously good wine at this price point.

SYZYGY Winery is the work of Walla Walla’s Zach Brettler. The winery is named after a term for the alignment of three celestial bodies. While SYZYGY has made a name for itself with its Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Red Wine is not too far off these wines in terms of quality. The 2007 vintage is half Syrah with the balance Cabernet, Merlot, and Malbec.

This is Va Piano Vineyards’ seventh offering of its entry level Bruno’s Blend. The wine is named after Father Bruno Segatta. Segatta inspired winemaker Justin Wylie during his time at Gonzaga University, and his paintings adorn the Bruno’s Blend label. This blend is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc with a splash of Syrah thrown in. It is by a good stretch the most impressive Bruno’s Blend yet.

Obelisco Estate first came on the radar with their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit for the 2008 Red Wine – a Cabernet predominant Bordeaux-style blend – comes from the winery’s estate vineyard which is in its third year. This thirty acre site on Red Mountain, located next to Hedges Family Estate, is planted to Cabernet, Merlot, and Malbec. Pete Hedges and Sara Goedhart serve as the winery’s winemakers. The 2008 Red Wine is not shy on the oak, which is a mixture of American, French, and Hungarian. The result is a potpourri of spices, char, and dark fruit.

Two other previously reviewed wines that I would also put in this category are the Pamplin Family Winery JRG Red Wine (see review here) and the Maison Bleue Jaja Red Wine (see review here). The Jaja in particular, at $20, is thus far my QPR standout of 2011.

Again, these wines are by no means inexpensive, but nothing like drinking a $35+ tasting wine for a considerably lower price point. Now if we could only find bottles like this in the $15 and under range, but we'll leave that to another day.

Tranche Cellars Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2007 $25
Rating: * (Excellent)
Pleasing aromatics of black cherry, herbal note, oak spices, and kisses of chocolate. Palate starts off with opulent cherry flavors and then pulls back and sails with velvety tannins. Another top notch effort from this winery. 15.1% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

SYZYGY Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $24
Rating: * (Excellent)
This excellent Red Wine from SYZYGY is full of brambly berries, spice, and chocolate. On the palate it is lusciously rich and full of ripe tannins. 50% Syrah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and 11% Malbec. 14.8% alcohol. 948 cases produced.

Va Piano Bruno’s Blend VII Columbia Valley NV $23
Rating: * (Excellent)
Earth, herbal notes, raspberries, olives, floral notes. Beautifully expressive wine with graceful fruit flavors and assertive – but still in check – tannins. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Syrah. Aged in 50% new French oak. 14.3% alcohol. 1,000 cases produced.

Obelisco Estate Red Wine Red Mountain 2008 $30

Rating: * (Excellent)
Roasted coffee bean, dark cherries, toasty oak spices, and light herbal notes. Full of soft, sinewy fruit flavors and sappy oak flavors. 70.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 4.5% Malbec. 13.7% alcohol.

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. Sean- I think you hit it out of the park with these 4 (6) selections and any of the fore mentioned wines should be in your cellar, just try to hold onto them. Keep up the great work, your eye on "value" here is 20/20. Billfish

  2. Sean-

    Do you ever worry that as the mainstream market is flooded with $15 and under bottles (mostly declassified blends and second labels) will make the public think that any other the higher priced bottles "aren't worth it" and thus destroying the market. NO winery under 5,000 cases will be able to sustain quality as the cost of goods and services increases. I'm just afraid that soon we will be creating a generation that sees declassified blends as the norm when in fact they are by definition inferior. Big names like DeLille, Quilceda Creek and Betz COULD sell their wines at $15 a bottle but that doesn't mean they should.

  3. Thanks Billfish!

    Anon, it's funny you should say that. The original ending I wrote was, "Now if we could only find bottles like this in the $15 and under range, but if we could the Washington wine industry would be in big, big trouble."

    The flood of high quality declassified wine definitely has the possibility to reshape price dynamics. While many may see this as a good thing, there is a large cost of business to making high quality wine. I think many people think wineries are just charging inflated prices. Some may be, but most are note. Hence the expression, "Never trust a rich winemaker!" If prices get forced down too low, it will be untenable for many to continue as they many are already just breaking even (at best).

  4. Thanks Sean:
    All great wines and are well worth thr price.

  5. Finally went to the Obelisco tasting room in Woodinville and was really impressed. We tasted all of their new releases and top to bottom it may have been the best line up of wines I have ever tasted. We had 12 people with our group and almost everyone fell in love with their wine. All but a few of their wines are in the $25-35.00 range which might be the best QPR in the state for Red Mountain Estate grown wine.