Unfortunately, it's bad news. It appears that CostPlus World Market, purveyors of a wide selection of "moderately-priced" wines from around the world, is down-scaling their wine selection. On a recent trip I noticed that both the quantity and quality of their wines has gone down. The selection appears to have moved much more toward the low end. "Mid-range" wines (i.e., wines in the $25+ range) have virtually disappeared, aside from the required bottle of Opus One. The few Chateauneuf du Papes they once carried have vanished, replaced by low-end plonky Bordeaux that are probably worth skipping. Even the variety of lower-end wines has shrunk noticeably. The good news is that their selection of Italian wines appears to have about doubled, and they still have a few excellent bargains (see below). I'm hoping this change is just an anomaly as they move things around in the store, but I doubt it.
Jim Barry 2004 Clare Valley Shiraz “The Lodge Hill”
Here's a serious Auzzie shiraz. On the nose, a delightful spiciness that develops into serious aromas of camphor, eucalyptus, oregano and a touch of citrus peel. Sounds more like an herbal tea than a wine, but this complex spiciness is more than offset by a base of dense dark fruits. On the palate, strongly spicy, carrying over the camphor flavor, counterbalanced by dark rich flavors of blackberry and black cherry. A bit of a floral flourish on the finish. Fruity, but miles from simple plonk. 3.75 stars. $22 at Vino 100.
Here's another Auzzie wine, but this one's a classic Bordeaux-style blend. Extremely dense color with dark cherry and deep succulent blackberry on the nose. Dense and chewy on the palate. This is a great wine for the price - a well balanced wine with plenty of fruit, but sufficient complexity to make it much more than a simple fruit bomb. Worth the price and more. Fortunately, this is one wine that CostPlus still has plenty of. 3.25 stars. $7.99 at CostPlus World Market.
Another wine that CostPlus thankfully still carries, this one is a Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and malbec from California. Lots of raspberry and black cherry fruit, edging toward the jammy style, but well balanced. Obvious oak, with a hint of wood smoke. Mild tannins. If you like approachable, "fruit-forward" red wines, you'll definitely like this. 3.5 stars. $14.99 at CostPlus.Jean Luc Columbo 2004 Cote du Rhone
Wine Spectator recently rated the 2005 vintage of this wine 88 points, so when I saw this in CostPlus I figured I give it a try. Racy and spicy on the nose, with strong hints of dark bramble. On the tongue, juicy strawberry and cherry pop flavors. Very fleshy, soft fruit; a bit flabby with no apparent tannins. A light, friendly and approachable wine, but one ultimately lacking in depth and complexity. Something of a disappointment, particularly for a French wine. 2.5 stars. $9.99 at CostPlus.
Cloudline Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
I had this recently at Monks Wine Lounge in downtown Chico. I don’t know the vintage off hand, but I’m sure that someone there can tell you. A nice medium-bodied Oregon pinot noir – very smoky, earthy and musty on the nose. Very smooth on the tongue, but with a nice tartness to perk up your taste buds. Spicy, with strong notes of the earthy mustiness coming through. Wonderful pinot. 4 stars. Available by the glass or bottle at Monks.