As the Chinese economy expands, creating thousands of millionaires with an undeniable appetite for all things Western, their clamor for the great wines of Bordeaux has led to a frightening escalation in price. While there are still relative bargains to be had in the French original, there are alternatives. The grapes that make up the Bordeaux blend have found homes throughout the world's wine regions. California and the Northwest have proven to be especially well-suited for the requisite cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Here are the panel's top three Bordeaux-style reds:
2009 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee, $30
Since 1967, Chappellet has been a Napa Valley standout. This five-grape blend (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petite verdot and malbec) offers a combo of aromas, including earthy red fruits, light cinnamon, cedar, chocolate and a hint of fresh tobacco. The flavors are big but balanced with a definite elegance. On the palate, it's a mix of spicy cherry, herb, sweet plum, anise and mocha. This wine is a California classic.
2009 Cinder Cabernet-Merlot, $27
Idaho's own Melanie Krause is making some exceptional wines, and this 75/25 blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is no exception. Ripe, round cherry and raspberry fruit aromas are backed by sweet licorice and light oak. Lush plum and dark berry fruit flavors are nicely balanced by tart cherry. This world-class wine finishes smooth and spicy.
2010 Francis Ford Coppola Claret, $15.99
Before China came onto the scene, Britain was the major market outside of France for Bordeaux wine, which was historically called claret. Coppola chose that name for this blend, which uses the same five grape varieties as their California neighbor, Chappellet. It opens with soft oak and dark berry aromas. On the palate, it offers creamy cherry and plum fruit with smooth tannins and a silky finish. This wine is a definite bargain.