Back-to-school lists aren't just for children. They're for wine lovers too.
As Labor Day approaches, we'll spend the next two weeks reviewing wines that retail for $15 or less, wines you can enjoy guilt-free with barbecues and late summer outings.
Remember that to get an even better deal on these wines, buying by the case often will gain an additional 10 percent discount, depending on the retailer (and it doesn't have to be a case of the same wine, either). If you're buying directly from the winery, joining the wine club usually will get you another break.
Here are some red wines that won't hit your wallet too hard. Age them on the way home from the store and call it good.
Next week, we'll take a look at the white wines.
Snoqualmie Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $13: Joy Andersen's winemaking team refers to this product of organic grapes as its "ECO Cab," and these wines are made in a USDA-certified organic facility. The intense nose of ripe purple fruit includes notes of black currant, blackberry, dark chocolate, espresso and white pepper. Inside is a gorgeous entry of black currant and cordial cherry. (14 percent alcohol)
Waterbrook Winery 2011 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $13: This Walla Walla winery has long been known for producing delicious wines at modest prices. This Merlot opens with attractive aromas of blackberry, dusty cherry, horehound, lavender, lilac and dark spices. Cherries and boysenberries lead into chewy tannins, bright acidity and dash of white pepper in the finish. (13.5 percent alcohol)
BBQ Wine Co. NV Oink! Red Table Wine, American, $13: Doug Charles, owner of Compass Wines in Anacortes, and winemaker Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas are collaborating on this value-minded label. This blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec offers aromas and flavors of blackberry jam, black cherry and chocolate. (14 percent alcohol)
Jones of Washington 2009 Estate Vineyard Merlot, Wahluke Slope, $15: Aromas of cordial cherry, cola, black pepper, Beech-Nut chewing tobacco and baking spices lead to flavors of cherries and boysenberry with long-lived tannins, backed by notes of cherry wood. (14.8 percent alcohol)
Grantwood Winery 2010 Heritage, Walla Walla Valley, $14: It's rare to come across a bargain of this quality in the Walla Walla Valley, but we've begun to count on Grantwood for such finds. This Cab-leading blend is loaded with aromas and flavors of blackberry, pie cherry filling, cola and hazelnut coffee. (15.4 percent alcohol)
House Wine 2012 Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon, American, $10: This Cab is perfect for Tuesday nights. Aromas of red currant, raspberry and Van cherry include a pinch of oregano, tobacco leaf and clove. Those carry onto the palate, which is nicely balanced and built in a lighter style, backed by black licorice and toast. (12.5 percent alcohol)
Daven Lore Winery NV Recovery Red, Washington, $15: Yakima Valley winemaker Gordon Taylor and his wife, soil scientist Joan Davenport, created this label at the start of the "Great Recession." The aromas offer hints of blackberry, blueberry, pie cherry, vanilla and cigar tobacco, along with a whiff of Syrah gaminess. There's a match on the darkly textured palate, backed by spice, pomegranate acidity and managed tannins. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Claar Cellars 2011 White Bluffs Cab-Merlot, Columbia Valley, $15: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Claar's vineyard north of Pasco opens with aromas of cinnamon bark, dark chocolate and black licorice followed by fruity tones of black currant, dark plum and blueberry. The palate builds with bold flavors of plum, black cherry and vanilla, which is tracked by a structure of Western serviceberry skin tannin and pomegranate acidity. (13.8 percent alcohol)
Ste. Chapelle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley, $12: Idaho's largest winery offers this bright, tasty Cab with aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry cola, red licorice and milk chocolate. (13.7 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company.