Five California Wines From Wally's

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Dumbing Down Wine
Chain stores threaten to destroy independent wineshops—and your chances of finding interesting wine. By Corby Kummer.

Small wine stores try to sell wines you can’t get anywhere else, or at least not at better prices. Here are five well-priced ones from Wally’s, in Los Angeles. Wally’s ships to states that allow it: www.wallywine.com.

2004 T. Solomon Wellborn Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, $19.99. A small-production bargain, made from declassified grapes—the still-very-good seconds of the wine world—that would cost more than twice as much if made with classified ones.

2005 Chaparral Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, $12.99. A typically oaky, fruity, big-bodied wine bottled for the store by Au Bon Climat, at half the price it would fetch under the maker’s label.

2004 Cycles Gladiator Syrah, Central Coast, $9.99. Midstate red wines are strongly fruity (“jammy”), like this first-place winner from the L.A. County Fair (a big event in the California wine world).

2005 Orin Swift’s “The Prisoner, Napa Valley, $27.99. A young wine from a young winemaker, David Phinney, who blends Cabernet, Syrah, and Petite Syrah into a Zinfandel base, with a small percentage of Charbono, a grape identical to the French Corbeau that has a tiny U.S. production.

2003 Hill Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $39.99. A limited-quantity wine from Doug Hill, a winemaker experienced with famous wineries including Stags Leap and Duckhorn, now working for himself—and thus selling his wine for less than comparable big Napa Cabs.

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