Let's have some goals you can really get behind. Here are some wines you may not be too familiar with that may surprise you if you give them a chance.
And less than 20 bucks
We're talking red Zinfandel here. You may not have much experience with it as "everybody" drinks Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot. Or maybe you used to drink Zin, but didn't care for the high alcohol soda pop wines it produced (this fad is winding down, I'm happy to say).
Zinfandel is a versatile wine good for sipping, for BBQs, or with Italian food. There seems to be a style of Zinfandel that will go with most any meal even the traditional white wine foods like fish and chicken when they are nicely spiced up.
You can also get lots of decent Zin at decent prices. That's something you can't really say about Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. It's easy to fall in love with good California Zinfandel if you give it a try.
Widely planted in Spain and the Rhone region of France Grenache is just starting to make a name in California. It's fruity, soft, and easy drinking--what I'd call kind of a "pinot noir lite" being light in both flavors and prices. Grenache and Grenache blends make nice summer wines. For winter fare think of pork roasts and stews.
|Excellent Cab from|
Trentadue priced in the $30s
Instead of Chardonnay try a Rhone varietal or blend. The main white Rhone grapes planted in CA are Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier. These wines, especially in blends of two or more of these grapes, make a more interesting wine than Chardonnay. More info on Rhone whites.
Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Instead of Napa Cab save some money by getting one from Sonoma County's Alexander Valley. AV is not as famous as NV, the grapes are less expensive, and so the wines are less expensive. There aren't many Napa Valley Cabernets under $50 any more. There aren't many Alexander Valley Cabs over $50.
Washington State Wines
Instead of California Wines try some from Washington as they are generally less expensive than their California counterparts. There are about 800 wineries in the state (less than the total number in Sonoma and Napa combined). They are best known for Cabernet and Syrah, but there's lots of Chardonnay, Riesling and Merlot. You can find good whites under $15 and good reds under $25.