Who doesn't like a bargain, especially in this rotten economy? Certainly not wine lovers.
While there is talk around the American (and global) wine industry that wine drinkers' wallets are loosening up ever so slightly, the sweet spot remains under $20 -- and that's good for those of us who love a great bottle of wine that tastes like twice the price.
While Northwest wines are not at the low, low end of price scales (box, jug or Two Buck Chuck range), there are plenty of good bargains that will help you keep your dollars -- and regional pride -- close to home. We've tasted these wines recently, and all are delicious. And they're in the right price range to keep you from feeling guilty about opening them any night of the week.
Ste. Chapelle 2009 Chateau Series Soft Red, Snake River Valley, $7: This off-dry offering is the most popular red wine made in Idaho. There's complexity in the aromas of crushed strawberry, horehound and dried oregano. The palate could be mistaken for an adult Hawaiian Punch, bringing more strawberry and some blueberry with lemon bar creaminess and acidity.
Airfield Estates 2008 Runway Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley, $10: Prosser winemaker Marcus Miller puts his wines in screw-cap like the Aussies would a shiraz, and he's priced this one comparably. There's a smoky nuttiness to the nose that includes blackberry jam, black cherry, molasses and vanilla extract. On the attack, it's a lighter-styled syrah, leading with boysenberry and blueberry. There's a nice girth to the drink, and it should handle richly flavored meats such as ribs or a juicy steak.
McKinley Springs Winery 2008 Bombing Range Red, Horse Heaven Hills, $12: The Andrews family still picks up spent .50-caliber casings in their vineyards left behind from the days when their farm served as a bombing range during World War II. Winemaker Doug Rowell nailed the coordinates with this blend. Black cherry jam, Graham cracker, menthol, cedar and black licorice aromas lead the way. There's fluidity to the satisfying structure on the palate with cherry pie, pomegranate, boysenberry, cassis and minerality.
Buried Cane 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $13: From the owners of Cadaretta in Walla Walla comes this widely distributed, fruit-forward value that stays true to the variety with an easy drink of big cherry notes, crushed leaf, eucalyptus and some grip at the end.
Three Rivers Winery 2008 River's Red, Columbia Valley, $14: This blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, tempranillo, cabernet franc and petit verdot is a great bargain from the Walla Walla Valley. Cordial cherry, plum, orange peel and eucalyptus notes join up in a creamy and juicy drink. Tannins gradually build to add texture and length.
Columbia Crest 2008 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: The largest winery in the Northwest was also the first to set up shop in the Horse Heaven Hills. Here's the fourth vintage of this label, and it's a doozy from the start with aromas of cassis, black cherry, roasted meat, Dutch chocolate and green tea. The drink starts with a dollop of black currant jam, backed by pomegranate and raspberry.
Mount Baker Vineyards & Winery 2008 Barrel Select Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, $15: Exotic wood notes carry into the aromas of Van cherry and raspberry. There's blackberry, molasses and beef juice flavors, enjoyable acidity and bittersweet chocolate in a finish of tar and molasses.
Troon Vineyard 2009 Trifecta Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $15: This Southern Oregon producer brought in grapes from the Eola-Amity Hills and Willamette Valley and blended in just a touch of zinfandel. The resulting wine shows off aromas of cherries, olives and sweet herbs, followed by flavors of marionberries.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.