I'm happy to offer one of my favorite value Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley. Light on its feet, with notes of roses, bright red cherries, damp earth, and framed by a mineral spine derived from well-drained volcanic soils, this is where the conversation on serious value Pinot Noir officially ends.
Matt Kinne farms vineyards in the Chehalem Mountain range in the Willamette Valley. He's fastidious in the vineyard, allowing only one grape cluster per shoot, and relying on dry-farming to push roots deep into the rocky, volcanic-based soils below. There are no additives, no commercial yeasts, and new oak percentage is kept very low. The result is an ethereal Pinot Noir that speaks to the tiny slice of the world they are born.
Savary's old-vine bottling captures everything I love about Chablis: Crushed oyster shell, cool-fruited citrus, green apple, etc. This old-vine cuvée from Chablis's famed Kimmeridgian slopes is a great value wine to go deep on.
Much of Chablis is harvested too early, with many vignerons resting their laurels on the iconic appellation printed on the label. Savary is a prime example of what the region can do at its very best, pushing ripeness in this frigid climate to the maximum while preserving tension. For the Vielles Vignes cuvéee, fermentation occurs in 20% neutral wood and 80% stainless steel. It then ages in neutral demi-muid barrels.
Olivier Savary follows a long history of vignerons, but due to challenging vintages, his parents chose not to continue the family domaine. Olivier had to start over when he finished enology school in Dijon. Since 1984, he and his wife, Francine, slowly built what was once lost. A serendipitous introduction to importer Kermit Lynch by François Raveneau brought these wines to the States.
Situated 50 miles east of Piedmont, Gavi is home to the Cortese grape, known for its Chablis-like minerality and, in most cases, its mass-produced, innocuous character. There's nothing wrong with wines that bring pleasure from their more refreshing, gulp-able traits. I hadn't had an aha moment with Gavi where my eyes lit up, but that changed when introduced to La Ghibellina.
La Ghibellina's 20 hectares of vines sit on a bedrock of limestone tucked between the Po River Valley and the Ligurian Apennines mountain range. These elements play a vital role in the wine, resulting in gripping salinity that's rare for Cortese. Here, Cortese's white flower and citrus finish with terrific crushed rock and oyster shell notes, and this exuberant disposition is an amplified version of the norm in Gavi.
The couple behind the estate, Alberto and Marina Ghibellina, come from very different backgrounds. Alberto was a water polo player who medaled at the Olympics, and Marina was an art history student. Their passion for wine and Marina's family's roots in the region landed them at this property. The first vintage was in 2000, and from the start, they've been fortunate to work with celebrated enologist Beppe Caviola.
Penedès is known most as the birthplace of Cava, but this Spanish region on the Mediterranean is now the next exciting stop on a tour that's reshaped my thinking on Spanish whites. Since 1996, Celler Pardas has been on a journey to show the serious side of Penedés still wines. Their Blau Cru, comprised of Malvasia de Sitges, captures Catalonia with a dry Riesling-like precision that floored me. Blau Cru continues to make a case for Spain's wine renaissance toward diamond-cut-focused whites.
Malvasia grows in many regions throughout Europe, each with a slightly different genetic makeup, though the wines commonly stand out for rich, oily texture and vivid floral qualities. In the upper Penedès, the limestone, 300-meter elevation, and influences from the Bitlles River bring a more straight-lined Malvasia that conjures Germany's Mosel. Blau Cru has a seamless texture and crystalline quality to the yellow stone fruits that screams mineral spring purity. This unusual juxtaposition in each sip was mesmerizing!
The other wine featured here, Collita Roja, is 100% old-vine Sumoll from the same limestone soils; the fruit is de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel, then aged in used French barrique. Sumoll brings dark red-black fruits and savory spices wrapped together with a mildly chalky mineral sensation that drives through the long finish. I expected a roasted or jammy quality, but the underpinning salinity keeps everything crisp and vivacious.
You might imagine that the most decisive moments in buying Burgundy fall at the very high end. But who wants to be promoting $400-plus bottles that don't quite reach the highs their tariffs imply? Rather, it's the humble Bourgogne-level wines that I fret about the most. I've argued many times in support of the truth that value exists at every twist and turn in Burgundy. You just have to look hard enough.
Charles Van Canneyt is best known for his day job producing the revered wines at his family's estate in Vosne-Romanée, Domaine Hudelot-Noellat. A few years ago, Charles wanted to have some freedom to express Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in a slightly different vein and started his own label. Within the context of Burgundy, though, the wines are still extremely tied to the Hudelot-Noellat style. Purity first.
Looking at Burgundy's $30 to $40 category can be a bit of a minefield. It's critical that the names in question apply the same meticulous process as top cuvées. That's precisely why the Bourgogne Rouge from Charles is such a winner. Tasting this alongside his Charmes-Chambertin and Chambertin-Clos de Beze, the Bourgogne Rouge carries the same translucency and rigorous definition as the Grand Crus.
Regal structure aside, there's also an immediacy and fruit-forward component that makes these super primal in their deliciousness. This has become a house Burgundy for me. I once came upon a bottle of the 2013 bottle hiding in a dark corner of my cellar, and its expression had only grown more vibrant in three years: Gorgeous bright cherry fruit, a finely woven thread of minerality, and a hint of forest floor residing under it all. From one of the most gifted minds in Burgundy, this is a great chance to line the walls of your cellar for a song.