Another drive-by post, but worth the rapid-fire detour, at least if you like your wine local, good, and cheap, because I just found two ridiculously cheap wines that won’t last – and if you’ve wasted any time at all on this site, for reasons other than to bitch, then you won’t want to miss them, because we probably agree on at least three things:

  1. We like to eat and drink stuff that doesn’t suck.
  2. We would prefer to do so with fresh, local products.
  3. To suggest that one can have too much good, cheap, Sonoma County wine is oxymoronic. (Maybe this is just a corollary of the first two, but you get my drift.)

If you live in Wine Country, you’ve probably noticed that tasting rooms will often go to great lengths to clear out space for their current releases, namely by dropping the price of the previous, and still in-stock, release – even if the previous release is a better wine. If you’re a savvy shopper and you pay attention the quality of vintages, this often means that you can purchase a superior wine, which will drink better right now due to its additional bottle age, for less money than the “current” release. I’ve found numerous examples of this dynamic at work of late, particularly when comparing the 2007s – in many instances unsold due to last year’s horrid tourist economy and overall consumer malaise – to the more recently released, but broadly inferior, 2008s, but never more dramatically than for the following perfect pair of Sonoma County’s most essential cultivars:

  • 2007 Sapphire Hill Chardonnay, Sapphire Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley. Regularly $25, now $10. I could write a review, but it would be superfluous, because at $120/case for a legit vineyard-designated Chard from a top-shelf producer, you could water your plants with this stuff and still come out ahead. If you must know: Burgundian in style, with a subtle touch of toasty French oak framing the lean core of classic RRV fruit, and good ripeness but with distinctly less alcohol (13.9) than the vast majority of higher-end Chards these days.
  • 2007 J. Keverson Pinot Noir, Haas Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain. Regularly $35, now $12.50 (to be precise, you have to buy 2 for $25, but why would you want less than two?). A Solid New World Pinot Noir and silver medal winner at last year’s Harvest Fair, fairly rich and ripe, but with plenty of bright acidity to keep it from being overly thick or jammy; maybe a little heat on the finish (14.9), but at this price, who cares? It’s also rare to find a Sonoma Mountain AVA Pinot – typically, I think of Cabs – but the tiny area (one of Sonoma’s smallest AVAs by vineyard acreage) is known for its distinct, hillside microclimates, and you can taste that this is a mountain wine, a bit leaner and more structured.

OK, I exaggerate: I’m not actually suggesting that you boost the bottles, but to get hooch of this quality, at such rock-bottom prices, represents about as close an approximation to legalized theft as you’re going to find, unless you’re a politician. The catch? There isn’t one, except the risk of a stock-out, particularly since I might just buy it all myself. If you’re worried about feeling like a vulture, do bear in mind that the economic interests of the winery are far better served by selling wine directly to you at a deep discount than by taking 100% loss on the unsold bottle, particularly as they’re still making money because, even at 50-60% discounts, you’re paying as much or more than they’d typically get from their distributor (a great blog from Tablas Creek on markups throughout the distribution chain may be found here).

Both wines are tasting-room only deals, but both tasting rooms are about 10 feet apart, in Healdsburg’s cute little Old Roma Station complex. Just bring plenty of trunk space, and get there before me.