A Nice Little Wine for Not Very Much Money

Sometimes we get so caught up in winery names and regional reputations that we don't taste what's in our glass

Kristen Hom

Every once in a while I fall in love with a totally unexpected wine.

There was a vintage many years ago (I don't remember which) of Buena Vista zinfandel

that tasted so right to me, and so much better, in a confident, low-key way, than most of the pricier zinfandels then on the market, that I bought cases of it at a time. On another occasion, soon after I moved from California to the East Coast, I ran across an inexpensive rosé of cabernet franc made by Stonington Vineyards in Connecticut from Long Island grapes (they don't produce it anymore) that tasted like summer in a glass to me, and was in my glass all summer.

A few weeks ago at an event of the kind known more for conviviality than for enological sophistication, I asked for a glass of red wine and took a sip and knew that I had found another object of affection. It was bright and clean in color (the color being an attractive garnet red); it offered plenty of fruit but it tasted like wine and not like cherries or plums or even grapes; it showed some grape tannins but no confounding oak; it filled the middle of the mouth perfectly, and was just really nicely balanced. Was it a wine of great refinement or complexity? Certainly not. Would it be apt to score 90+ from one of those wine magazines people who don't know much about wine follow slavishly? I doubt it sincerely. But sipping it that first evening, and enjoying it on several occasions since, I find myself thinking that it is pretty much everything I want a casually enjoyable wine to be.

I suppose at this point I should mention what it is: It's 2014 Babor Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine produced in Chile's Maipo Valley by Odfjell Vineyards, a quarter-century-old property owned by the Odfjell shipping and tank terminal company from Bergen, Norway. The wine costs between $8 and $11 a bottle, depending on where you find it, and I'd put it up against a lot of cabernets for three or four times as much.

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