Criminally Inexpensive

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
September 30, 2009

Big House White Label

Astor Wines & Spirits
399 Lafayette St
@ 4th St
New York, NY 10013

Wine at Whole Foods Market
808 Columbus Ave
@ 97th St
New York, NY 10019
212-222-6160 ext. 4

Since the economic climate turned icy cold this year, I’m constantly asked about wines under $10. I wish I had a list ready to ramble off whenever the question arises, but I just haven’t run across anything under $10 that I would drink. I’d rather pay $15 for a bottle that I enjoy and just drink less. I don’t see the point of drinking wines I don’t enjoy even if they’re $2.

So it was with much delight and surprise that I recently tasted the wines of Georgetta Dane, Romanian winemaker who is at the helm at Big House Winery. Named for it’s proximity to Soledad State Correctional Facility, Big House Winery produces wines that are criminally inexpensive! I was especially enamored with Dane’s whites. Good inexpensive California whites are so hard to come by that I usually avoid cheap California whites on restaurant lists since I expect either something insipid or an oaked-to-death opposite extreme.

But Dane’s Big House whites are an exception. Her Big House White (Astor Wine & Spirits) ($9) is crisp, fragrant, varietally exotic and playful. The 2007* off-the-wall blend includes 29% Muscat Canelli, 25% Viognier, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 18% Malvasia Bianca, 6% Vermentino, and 4% Muscat de Gaillo. The floral notes in this aromatic wine are calmed by the crisp finish. Finally, I have found a $10 wine I can recommend without reservation!

Also, don’t miss her 2008 Pino Grigio (79% Pinot Grigio, 6% Chenin Blanc, 6% Malvasia Bianca, 5% Viognier, 4% other whites) (Wine at Whole Foods Market) ($12). It is a variation on Pinot Grigio with a bit of aromatic white varietal blends which still retains a lot of citrusy notes and paired splendidly with my lobster dish.

* Some retailers might still be in vintage transition, but if the 2007 is any indication, I’m sure the 2006 is also superb!

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