Best Wines $20 and Under
2008 Luli ($20)
Master Sommelier Sara Floyd teamed up with California’s Pisoni family (of Pinot Noir fame) to make this wine, which emphasizes the fruitiness of its Santa Lucia Highlands grapes and de-emphasizes oak flavors. It offers pure peaches-and-cream notes with a lick of citrus and pear.
2008 Hanna Russian River Valley ($19)
Winemaker Jeff Hinchliffe translates the bright fruit character of night-harvested grapes from Sonoma’s cool Russian River Valley into a blossom-scented Sauvignon Blanc with a soft texture and clean pineapple, grapefruit and herbal aromas.
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
2008 Sineann Pinot Gris ($18)
Owner and winemaker Peter Rosback delivers a quintessentially luscious Oregon Pinot Gris that lays spicy melon and white peach scents over a delicate floral background. The refreshing acidity gives this wine a special lift and vibrancy.
2007 Siduri Sonoma County ($20)
This entry-level bottling from Adam and Dianna Lee’s acclaimed high-end winery showcases the sophisticated side of Pinot. Juicy, creamy and ripe, with a plush texture, it balances its impressive body with vivid aromatics and a delicate acidity.
2007 Foxglove ($15)
Bob and Jim Varner of Varner Wine know what’s right with Zinfandel (big flavors) and what’s all-too-often wrong with it (alcohol overload). By sourcing grapes for this second label from Central California’s Paso Robles region and adding in 14 percent Petite Sirah, they have made a tangy red with classic wild berry fruit and a satisfying touch of jamminess.
2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells ($18)
The 2006 vintage was a difficult one in Washington’s rugged Wahluke Slope area. But somehow, the unusually cool, wet spring and hot, dry summer combined to produce this gentle, minty, black-cherry-rich red.
2006 Twenty Rows ($20)
This red gives the true taste of Napa Cabernet depth and harmony at an almost forgotten price. Winemaker Brian Nuss rounds out his Cabernet Sauvignon with small portions of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The result is a rich but subtle wine, shot through with a dark black-currant fruitiness and nuances of forest floor and green peppercorn.
2007 Copain Tous Ensemble ($20)
Wells Guthrie’s stated aim, especially for his affordable Tous Ensemble line, is to produce wines with moderate alcohol levels, specifically crafted for food-friendliness. He fulfills his ambition with this peppery red, assembled with fruit from four well-known, organically farmed Mendocino County vineyards. It’s round and lively, with ripe plum and wild berry flavors.