Despite the enormous influence of California's wineries, too few specialize in premium wines at value prices. One that does is Cartlidge & Browne. Avoiding the extra oak and other types of manipulation used by some vintners, Cartlidge & Browne produces fruity, pure, and vibrant wines that reflect varietals' personalities. Even better, it offers sensational quality at bargain-basement prices.
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon - The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits black currant, dried herb, earth, and spice characteristics. It is a soft, fruit-driven, medium-bodied wine to consume over the next two to three years. $12-$15
2005 Rabid Red - The dark ruby-hued 2005 Rabid Red (a blend of cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah, with small amounts of merlot and syrah) offers an attractive bouquet of earthy red and black fruits and spice. Medium-bodied, with excellent texture, good purity, and a decent finish, it should be drunk over the next one to two years. $12
2006 Pinot Noir - Cartlidge & Browne's 2006 pinot is better than many that go for five times the price. Its medium ruby color combines with a soft perfume of sweet cherry fruit and a touch of cinnamon. With good size, medium body, excellent purity, and a savory texture, it can be enjoyed over the next one to two years. $12-$15
2006 Chardonnay - The tasty 2006 Chardonnay offers orange blossom, lemon oil, and tropical fruit notes, medium body, crisp acidity, and fine purity, as well as freshness. There is no evidence of oak in this lovely wine. $12
2006 Sauvignon Blanc Dancing Crow - This is a brilliant, medium-bodied white loaded with melony fruit notes, crisp acidity, freshness, and a true sauvignon character. Drink it over the next year. $12
Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.