If you're sporting more DKNY than Donna Karan lately, try the same strategy with your wines by buying "second labels," the little-brother brands produced on the QT by some top-tier Napa Valley wineries. Second labels sell for a fraction of the flagship brand's price, but they're made from the same great vineyards by the same expert hands.
How is that possible? Winemakers often end up with surplus grapes (or grapes from younger vines) that they can't use in their primary bottling; others don't want to diminish the allure (and price tag) of their cult wines by producing too much of it. In fact, that's why many of these secondary labels (an idea that began in Bordeaux) are clandestine: High-end wineries don't want to stamp their valuable name on an inexpensive bottle.
But if you read the fine print (look for the line "Produced and bottled by ___" on the back of bottles), you might spot a second label--and a great bargain. Here are some of our favorites:
2006 Double T Red Wine ($25) This Bordeaux-style blend from esteemed Napa estate Trefethen exhibits the pure fruit flavors for which the premier label is known (samswine.com).
2005 Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) Napa producer Darioush remains true to its plush style in this Cab that brims with dark chocolate and espresso flavors (brix26.com).
2005 Goldeneye Pinot Noir ($50) Napa Valley's Duckhorn Vineyards had the connections to get its silky, spicy second-label Pinot Noir served at the Obama Inaugural luncheon (wine.com).
[CORRECTION: In the version of this article that we published by email on 2/25/09, we incorrectly connected Caymus Vineyards and Liberty School. Caymus no longer owns Liberty School. Tasting Table regrets this error.]
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