Wine competitions, regardless of some deserved criticism over the past couple of years, are the great levellers of the wine business. Since every wine is judged blind, price, appellation, and critical acclaim don’t matter, and it’s difficult for judges to vote their prejudices. Yes, lots of expensive wines do well, but so do lots of cheap wines — often to the chagrin of the people who give them the medals.
Few things make the Wine Curmudgeon happier than to find quality cheap wine that earns big awardsl at wine competitions, and especially at the best known. That was the case this year, when the McManis ($11, sample, 13.5%) won a double gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, perhaps the most prestigious of them all. The McManis was in fine company — double golds also went to a $40 California pinot noir, a $125 Napa cabernet sauvignon, and a $50 Paso Robles red blend.
And why not? McManis, as my old pal Dave Falchek regularly reminds me, is at least the equal of Bogle, one of my cheap wine favorites and a fixture in the $10 Hall of Fame. The petite sirah shows why: a little earthiness and lots of dark fruit, not too overdone, and, most importantly, varietally correct, This is petite sirah that tastes like petite sirah, something that too many producers no longer bother with. Drink this with dinner as the weather gets cooler and don’t be afraid to open a bottle or two at Thanksgiving. A candidate for the 2014 Hall of Fame, since it retails for $10 in much of the country.