Out of more than 200 wines tasted in recent months, here are best values we’ve found in drinkable reds – for barbecue, with casual foods and quaffing at parties, tailgate and otherwise.
$16 Cabernet as good as $20+. Knuttel 08 Sonoma County. Complex mint, wood, Cab nose; mid-big body; chewy tannins; some style. w/beef.
Rib BBQ wine Bell Canyon Cellars 08 Napa Red $13 (82% Syrah). Berry, mint, ripe grape nose (14.5 alc); mid-big body; nice tannins.
Rib wine Columbia Crest 07 H3 Merlot $12. Chocolate, cedar, berry, herbaceous nose; mid-body, balanced, hot finish (14.5 alc). w/ribs
Tasty 09 Medoc Chateau Gadet Terreford $23. Earth/mint/wood nose (70% Cabernet 30% Merlot); mid-body, balanced; some style. w/Dijon lamb.
Value Napa Cabernet 09 Avalon $12. Berries, mint, prune nose; mid-body; balanced; finish a little hot. Rib, BBQ wine.
Tailgate red Filon 10 Garnacha (Spain) $9. Minty, Rhone-like nose; mid-body; good fruit, soft tannins. w/BBQ, Pizza, munchies.
Calif. BBQ/pizza red blend Acacia 09 Red $10. Stemmy, berry nose (Pinot Noir, Zin, Syrah?); mid-body, round, quaffable, good flavor.
Weekday pizza/pasta/BBQ wine J. Lohr 09 Paso Robles Syrah $11. Herbaceous, mint nose; mid-body, decent tannins, fruity finish.
Sausage Pizza/Pasta value red Hedges 09 CMS (Cab 39, Merlot 45, Syrah 16) Columbia Valley $9. Jam, berry nose; hearty, mid-fat.
Washington State ultra value Cabernet 09 “14 Hands” $9. Smokey mint berry nose; balanced, soft fruity finish. Styled for food. w/tri tip.
BBQ, rib wine Yarrunga Field 09 Barossa Red blend (Shiraz Cab Merlot) $12. Spice/jam/wood nose; big, grapey, chewy, long finish.
Value bread cheese munchies red Giesta 09 Dao $11 (Portugal). Ripe grape, woody nose; soft, fat; unusual berry mint flavor.
Big Cabernet Waypoint 04 Napa, Weiss. Herbaceous, minty, oak nose; semi-tannic; rich finish, a little hot; long life ahead. w/beef.
Rich older Napa Cabernet 02 Larkmead. Classic varietal nose, mint, oak; mid-body, round, ripe, stylish finish. w/good cuts of beef.
(Highly recommended strategy for future pleasures: stashing a few favorite bottles away in a secret spot, even an interior closet where the temperature is steady, and waiting a few years to try with friends. You don’t need a temperature-controlled cellar, just a cool dark place with stable temperatures based on many tests we’ve run.)