During the next couple of months, barbecues and summer get-togethers will mean a lot of Northwest wine being opened.
When you have friends and family showing up, you don’t want to have to think too much about the price of the wine you’re uncorking. Besides, young and fresh reds tend to taste great with ribs, grilled chicken, hot dogs, burgers, pizzas and steaks.
Fortunately, a number of Northwest wineries are crafting delicious red wines at affordable prices. For us, the threshold for a “best buy” is $15 or less. And this corner of the wine world is known for its premium grapes, so it’s difficult to find reds for much less than that.
Most red wines in this price category are produced in reasonably large quantities, meaning they should be readily available.
Here are several affordable red wines we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or grocery or call the wineries directly.
Drumheller Wines 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $12: This new label from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is sold primarily through restaurants. It offers glorious aromas of blackberry, black currant and elderberry, followed by jammy flavors of cherry and blueberry, backed by cocoa powder. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Coach House Cellars NV Garage Red Wine Blend, Columbia Valley, $13: This Bellingham winery produced a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that is a nicely balanced and fruit-driven drink with aromas of strawberry taffy, black cherry, baking spices, toast and moist concrete. Marionberry opens the floodgates of flavors that include boysenberry, Montmorency cherry, crushed herbs and vanilla extract, adding up to a pleasing and long finish. (13.51 percent alcohol)
Ross Andrew Winery 2013 Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Winemaker Ross Andrew Mickel offers a Cab with aromas of dried plum and fig that lead to cherry juice, crushed tobacco and anise. Inside, it’s a nicely balanced drink of black currant and black cherry with resolved tannins and lingering blackberry acidity. (13.3 percent alcohol)
Barnard Griffin 2014 Rob’s Red Blend, Washington, $14: Winemaker Rob Griffin stitches together this approachable blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec that’s loaded with milk chocolate, black cherry, dark plum and vanilla bean aromas. Cherry juice and chocolate-covered almonds begin to describe the flavors, backed by a structure of easy tannins that slowly build and finish with red currant acidity. This earned a double gold medal at the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition. (13.6 percent alcohol)
Primarius Winery 2014 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $15: It’s always fun — and rare — to find an Oregon Pinot Noir for $15 or less, and this is a beauty. This youthful and affordable red offers aromas of grilled strawberry, dark cherry, blueberry and bittersweet chocolate. Inside, it’s a mouthwatering drink of black currant, boysenberry and strawberry, backed by a finish of watermelon and toast. (13.7 percent alcohol)
Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2014 The Expedition Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Here’s a bargain Merlot that reveals hints of pepper, then blackberries and mint in the nose, followed by flavors of blackberries and black currants backed by solid tannins. This earned a gold medal at the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition. (13.8 percent alcohol)
College Cellars 2013 Scholarship Red, Walla Walla Valley, $15: Enjoy this Merlot-focused red blend any night of the week, thanks to the price. Aromas of blackberries and blueberries and flavors of blackberry, blueberry and black currant are backed by restrained tannins. This earned a double gold medal at the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition. (13.9 percent alcohol)
Columbia Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $14: This sports bright aromas of blackberries and black currants with deftly used oak. On the palate, the blackberries and currants are augmented by a dusting of cocoa powder and a bit of Bing cherry in its finish. (13.7 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com