I have made a conscious effort to expand my wine palatte in recent years, venturing into German and Alsatian rieslings, earthy Oregon pinot noirs, tangy NZ sauvignon blancs, luscious Sauternes, etc...
My wife still likes 'em red, big, and bold. Anything else simply will not do. A refined chianti riserva failed to impress her at a recent meal in a top Italian restaurant in Chicago. My efforts to expose her to old world wines and styles have not been rewarded with gratitude. And so I continue to seek out ultra-concentrated, fruit bombs that will please her palatte. Luckily, I too enjoy a good Chilean cabernet or Barossa shiraz.
Here are some recent wines, at reasonable prices, that have made a good impression (and not too big a dent on our savings):
Thorn-Clarke Shiraz 2005 "Shotfire Ridge" (Barossa): Classic Barossa flavours of mint/mentol, eucalyptus, milk chocolate, and blackberries abound in this reasonably priced wine. Tannins are still a bit gritty, and the wine will probably peak 3-5 years from now. We opened a bottle last week, and the wine tasted much better two nights after we opened it (granted, we used preservative spray).A perennial favorite in our household, I have not yet tasted a bad vintage. Retails at $30 in BC, probably a third less in the US. Just had to buy a half-case for our cellar.
Orin Swift "The Prisoner" 2005. I'm sure some will find this wine a bit too high in alcohol (15.2 %) and "hot," but I really enjoyed it and added a few bottles to our cellar. An unusual blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, charbono, and four other varietals (can't remember all 7 varietals off the top of my head). A good deal for a Napa red of such quality ($50 in BC; I think around $35 in the US). Widely available.
Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Syrah 2005. Around $25/bottle in BC. Concentrated fruit flavours, nice earthy tar/leather flavours typical of Chilean syrah. Good for the cellar, too.
Concha Y Toro Single Vineyard Carmenere Winemaker's Lot 152: This was a real surprise. While many inexpensive carmeneres are dusky to the point of murkiness, this lovely wine has a lively floral bouquet and flavours of violets, smoke, chocolate, and sweet berries. A great buy at $19.78/bottle in BC.
I also must put in a pitch for the wines that Ken Wright makes under the "Tyrus Evans" moniker. We received a number of these wines made from Bordeaux and Rhone varietals as wedding gifts last summer. The Tyrus Evans Malbec 2003 was a revelation; despite its shockingly low (12.5%) alcohol level (for a new world wine, it is shockingly low), the Malbec was a dark, inky, elegant fruit-forward wine, with all of the mysterious leather and tar characteristics typical of well-made Malbec. If I had tasted this wine blind, I would never have guessed that it had only 12.5% alcohol, primarily because New World wines at this alcohol level so often taste watered down and puny.
We also enjoyed a Tyrus Evans Syrah from 2003, I believe. I am really falling for Syrah from the Rogue valley in southern Oregon; I absolutely loved the Rockblock Syrah 2003 made by the winemaker from Domaine Serene. I think this region is a dark horse that will be "discovered" in the next few years, leading to big price increases. Just look at what has happened to Oregon Pinot Noir prices in the past 10 years (I am hard-pressed to find decent Willamette Valley PN for less than $40-50/bottle, and that is when I am IN the Willamette Valley).