Yes, that annual throw-down-your-money exercise is around the corner, with taxes due four days hence. Which also provides an occasion to home in on less spendy bottles (or cans) of wine that, in sports vernacular, punch above their weight/price class.
Fortunately, there is some seriously tasty fermented grape juice that can be had for a dozen dollars or less. Here are some of the bargains awaiting you:
I was amazed when I first stumbled across Le Hameau Sauvignon Blanc at $11 several years ago. Its freshness and fab flavors carry the day, but there’s enough perfectly ripe fruit (pear, lemon/lime) and mouthwatering acidity to please proponents of both those attributes. The best news: This Loire gem still costs just $11, often less. The 2017 is a perfect patio wine but also plays well with spring salads and summer veggies, and I can’t imagine a fish or fowl preparation that wouldn’t sing with it.
Available at Liquor Boy, Hum’s, Perrier, WineStreet, Wayzata muni, Surdyk’s and (many) others.
Another French delight, Domaine Duffour Côtes de Gascogne Blanc ($12), is a classic regional blend of colombard, ugni blanc and gros manseng. That these are considered “lesser” grapes — colombard was bulk-planted in California to make midcentury jug wines like “Mountain Chablis” — is inexplicable once one tastes Gascony blends such as this one. (Fruit from the older vines, by the way, is used to make spendy Armagnac.) The purity of fruit, mostly honeydew and citrus, laced with herbal notes, makes the Duffour wonderfully food-friendly. Because of its affinity with fried chicken, it’s an ideal picnic wine, and grilled salmon, barbecue chicken and summer squash are other great pairing options.
Available at Stinson, the Wine Shop, Scott’s, the Little Wine Shoppe, Village Wine & Spirits and Zipp’s.
The conventional wisdom holds that finding a domestic pinot noir under $15 that actually tastes like pinot noir is a fool’s errand. Well, this fool is here to tell you that the Ironstone Lodi Pinot Noir 2017 ($12) possesses the light color, soft tannins and bright cherry/berry and earthy notes that typify the variety. The flavors get fuller and the oak more pronounced toward the finish, which should please Meiomi lovers. With Easter looming, it’s ham season, and that’s a more than fitting match for this wine. So are mushroom-laced dishes, duck (breasts or confit), trout and mildly spicy curries.
Available at Haskell’s, the Vintage, North Loop, Liquor Barn and First Grand.
For a more rustic experience, and a shot at having one’s soul transported to Italy, go for the Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017 ($12). Boasting that quintessential Old World amalgam of fruit and dustiness, this marvelously chewy red delivers complexity from the beguiling nose through the black-pepper-laced midpalate and on to the racy finish. Game dishes immediately come to mind when choosing an accompaniment, and roasted or grilled meats of all ilks also are apt partners. And of course pizza and pasta (l’Amatriciana, carbonara, cacio e pepe).
Available at Big Top/Sid’s Discount, Midway, Minnehaha, Sundial, Bottle House, Liquor Time, Liquor Village, Total and others.
A perfect equation: Take the two hottest categories in the wine world — that would be pink wine and cans — and throw in some bubbles just for fun. Voilà: House Wine Rosé Bubbles ($5.50 per 375ml can), filled with vim, vigor and vivacity. Oh, and some pretty dandy, juicy red-fruit flavors. It feels a bit implausible to talk about elegance with liquid that comes out of a can, but it’s a spot-on characterization for this American beauty. Like its tasty pink (and bubbly) peers, this is another spectacularly versatile offering at the table, indoors or out. A Friday fish fry, a sausage grill-a-palooza and a pan of paella would provide the proper settings for this particular “house wine.”
Available at Hennepin Lake, Marshall, Richfield munis, McDonald’s, Elevated, 1010 Washington, Chicago Lake, Greenway and others.
And then there’s the kind of rosé that prompted many of us to begin a love affair with these wines a decade or three ago. Made with the traditional Rhône grapes (grenache, syrah and cinsault), coming in a bright (but not too) color and showcasing the kind of medium body and refreshing mouthfeel that tag it as a nexus of red and white-wine qualities, the Domaine du Pere Caboche Rosé ($12) is an exemplary treat. A perfect aperitif, and not just because of its affinity for salty appetizers and shareable dishes, this is made for fruits of the sea. And with its sharp, savory finish, it will cozy right up to most anything emanating from what Yogi Bear would call a pic-a-nic basket.
Available at Solo Vino, Wine Republic, Tonka Bottle Shop, Cork Dork, France 44, South Lyndale and others.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.