It's midweek, and you are rushing to get dinner on the table. It's not a particularly special meal, but a nice red wine could help make it a bit more memorable.
This is the perfect time to bring out a tasty but inexpensive red.
It's becoming more and more difficult to find high-quality red wines for $15 or less, but they are still out there, thanks to the vigilance of some winemakers to continue to produce wines of value and substance.
To make a red wine that fits in lower-price categories, winemakers typically will bring in grapes from regions that are warm and have no trouble ripening. In fact, some grape growers will designate certain areas of vineyards as "high-yield blocks" that will carry more tonnage. These grapes will tend to cost less per ton, thus helping to lower costs.
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Additionally, value wines are not usually aged in new barrels, which cost anywhere from $500 for American oak to more than $1,000 for French oak. They might be aged in older barrels or even in tanks that have oak chips to impart some of those kinds of flavors.
Value wines also might not be aged as long, allowing the winery to release them -- and thus sell them -- sooner.
Here are several value-priced red wines we've tasted recently that are well worth stocking on for those Tuesday night dinners. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Abacela nonvintage Vintner's Blend, Southern Oregon, $15: How complex is this blend? This robust red includes Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Dolcetto, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Tannat. Whew! It offers aromas and flavors of black cherry cola, plum, cranberry and pomegranate.
Columbia Crest 2010 H3 Les Chevaux, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Named for the French word for "the horses," Merlot dominates this blend. This carries aromas and flavors of blackberry, black currant and black pepper.
Waterbrook Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $14: Leave it to this longtime Walla Walla Valley to continue to produce high-quality, high-value reds after three decades. This luscious red opens with aromas of Bing cherry, strawberry, fresh thyme, clove and brown sugar, followed by flavors of chocolate, coffee, plum, blueberry and pomegranate.
Washington Hills 2011 Merlot, Washington, $10: Priced for everyday enjoyment, this red begins with a nice approach of red cherry, red raspberry, cranberry, vanilla and white pepper. There's a smooth follow through of ripe raspberry, cherry and plums with mild acidity and a chocolaty finish, thanks to seven months in American oak.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $14: Inviting aromas of dark cherries, blackberries, espresso, cherry wood and Costa Rican cardamom lead to flavors of sweet blackberry, cherry, coffee and vanilla. Austere tannins merely add to the length that's extended by rich chocolate.
Sagelands Vineyard 2010 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $13: There's no shortage of fruit in the nose with its hints of cherry pie crust, vanilla and strawberry fruit leather. Thankfully, there's a match on the entry to the palate. Plums join the other flavors as the acidity stays ahead of the moderate tannins.
Boomtown 2010 Merlot, Washington, $15: This mellow Merlot ranks among the best efforts by this young brand of Dusted Valley Vintners. Its expressive nose includes dark aromas of dusty black cherry, black licorice, raspberry, Craisins and pipe tobacco. The entry is downright yummy with plush boysenberry and more ripe raspberries. Its pleasing structure includes vanilla, smoke and dried herbs.
Sawtooth Winery 2011 Syrah, Snake River Valley, $14: One of Idaho's oldest and largest producers continues to release some of the Gem State's finest reds. This opens with aromas of black currant candy, white pepper, plum sauce and oak, followed by flavors of blackberry jam, ripe boysenberry and dark chocolate. It's all backed with bright acidity and moderate tannins.
-- Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine; www.greatnorthwestwine.com.