Great Wines at Low Prices

14 Hands Cabernet - easily one of the best values in America
14 Hands Cabernet - easily one of the best values in America
Brancott Sauvignon Blanc - the quintessential New Zealand SB is delicious!
Brancott Sauvignon Blanc - the quintessential New Zealand SB is delicious!

Red, White and True

As people of all ages become more fascinated and rewarded by great wines, the more we're venturing out to try new ones. And with today's economy faltering the way it is, saving money is a damn good thing; so don't think you have to drop a load of cash to sip your favorite bottle(s) of wine when there are soooo many wonderful selections to choose from for under $20.

After spending 2 years selling wine (and spirits) for the largest distributor in the state of Florida, I have learned quite a bit about the value of a truly great inexpensive wine and the enduring power of their mass appeal -- despite the upturning noses that tend to sway new buyers toward the expensive aisles. Great wine, red or white, does not always come in a $50 bottle. Great wines under $20 are available by the truckloads in your neighborhood boutiques, grocery stores and liquor retailers, and now with the expansion of Total Wine & More outlet chains, buyers have been introduced to thousands of great new brands at discounted prices. Below is a list of some of the best values you can find as you prepare for your next wine tasting, private party, or quiet evening at home. Sip and enjoy.

The Reds:

14 Hands Cabernet: if you're a Cabernet lover like myself, you enjoy the big and bold taste of a powerhouse red wine that finishes smooth and with just a hint of fruit. This enigmatic cab from Washington state is a sure-fire crowd pleaser - bristling with aromas of cherry, vanilla and butterscotch(!) and finishing with a calming cool fruit blast that will leave you reeling. You should be able to find this awesome wine for under $15 anywhere. (Honorable Mention: Coastline Cabernet $10, Estancia Cab $13, 337 Cab from Lodi $14.)

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot: another score from Washington, this flavorful merlot boasts enticing scents of plum, nuts and vanilla and uses its fresh nuances to grow with every sip. Always a winner and available at most retailers for under $10! (Honorable Mention: Oak Grove Reserve $8, Coastline $10, Wild Horse $18.)

Muirwood Pinot Noir: this brilliant batch of deliciousness has so much character and flavor that you will want to buy this wine by the case. Chock full of sensory come-ons and a light ruby appearance, the Muirwood is the best California pinot you can buy for under $20. (Honorable Mention: Coppola Diamond Series $14, Oyster Bay Pinot Noir $15, River Road $17.)

Menage A Trois Red (Folie a Deux): what a gem! A blend of Cab, Merlot and Zinfandel gives this sexy wine its title, as well as a flavor profile that goes on for miles -- cherries, spice, oak, plum... A great conversation starter and inexpensive (should be under $12) bottle that will become a great go-to wine for any occasion.

The Whites:

Brancott Sauvignon Blanc: for around $10 you can snag a bottle of this tasty New Zealand juice. Platinum in color, crisp and refreshing in taste, the Brancott delivers peerlessly to the eyes, nose and palate. Awesome as a summer day sipper and even better as a dinner appertif. (Honorable Mention: Grove Mill $10, Kim Crawford $14, Rodney Strong $18.)

Markham Chardonnay: an extraordinary white wine that transcends the expectations of your usual chardonnay. Lots of great pear and oak flavors fusing together to create a truly original piece of California juice. It's wonderful for around $15. (Honorable Mention: Sterling's $10, Coastline $10, Simi Chard $15.)

Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio: this crisp and citrusy wine is a PG lovers dream come true. Light and lean with plenty of character through and through, this Italian import is currently being presented from the Chateau Saint Michelle Winery in Washington for just under $20. (Honorable Mention: Yellow Tail $8, Stellina de Note $14, Estancia $15.)

Boutari Moschofilero: a worthy addition to the whites column from Greek winemaker Boutari, the Moscholfilero (mos-ko-feel-a-row) is a juicy blend that is a little bit pinot grigio, a dash of chardonnay, with just a hint of sauvignon blanc. This wine is great with salads and fish, or just a wonderful way to start your tasting -- all for under $15. (Honorable Mention: Citra $8, Menage A Trois White $12, Renee Barbier Table Blend $13.)


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