For LeBron James’ 34th birthday last December, renowned rapper, record producer and headphones entrepreneur Dr. Dre dissed the frankincense and myrrh idea, and sent the king of basketball a custom case of fine wine.

A peek inside the box on a video tweeted out by James, revealed the Holy Grail of wines. A near priceless collection indeed.

Obtaining any of the bottles in that treasure trove of a box would be fiscally irresponsible for a mere peasant like myself. And it is highly doubtful Dr. Dre would extend the same kindness to me on my birthday in July.

Fret not, for I’ve done some digging.

The average wine drinker on a budget can still experience the Nectar of the Gods without being selected No. 1 in the NBA draft. I have an unbelievable option that is available locally that won't send your wine budget into full oenophile-shock.

Chateau Haut-Brion is one of the five premier French Bordeaux wines. It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who both served as ambassadors to France in the late 1700s. Locally, a bottle of the current vintage sells for $900. Pretty much a dead end cellar for this wine drinker.

However, the beauty lies within a bottle of their $19.99 Clarendelle Bordeaux, which is made from grapes not quite ready to be crushed into wine for the $900 "First Label."

The Clarendelle, however, is made by the same winemaking team, at the same Chateau, with the same care and quality.

"It's not the difference between a Yugo and a Rolls," said Jeff Bruno, co-owner and wine specialist at Papa Joe's. "Eventually the recognition of the Haut-Brion will come through. "Even if money isn't an issue. You can't eat fillet every night."

I was really hoping to do a blind tasting of the $900 First Label and the Clarendelle Bordeaux. However, a quick scan of my corporate card revealed a nominal line of credit.

I had to graciously settle for the $19.99 version. I was on a mission.

The first sip revealed a silky richness unheard of for a bottle of wine in this price range. I went all out for this tasting. For starters, the wine was great with a wedge of double cream brie cheese, and a nibble of aged Gouda. Quite spectacular with a thick cut chop from Duma Meats, and a side of roasted brussels sprouts. Lots of nice raspberry overtones throughout.

Not bad for 1/45th the price.

This cabernet, merlot, and Cabernet Franc blend has to be one of the top three bottles of French wine I have ever had.

The Clarendelle Bordeaux is priced to be an everyday house wine, but good enough to pour on special occasions. As soon as my tax return check arrives, I'm buying a case of this wine. Then I can drink like King James one day a month for the next year.

On a side note, Papa Joe's has many examples of "Second Label" wines for you to experiment and enjoy. They also have one of the area's best collection of Holy Grail wines, too!

Where: In addition to Papa Joe's, you can buy this wine at Mustard Seed Market Montrose, Heinen's Brecksville and Hudson, North End Wine Hudson, and Kirbie's Meats & Catering, where they will be offering samples of the wine on Saturday from 12 to 4 p.m. for 50 cents.

 

Read more Phil Your Glass wine stories at www.ohio.com/akron/writers/phil-masturzo. Contact him at philyourglass@gmail.com.