Weekend Wines

Weekend wines: Value vino that tastes great, under $15

Jan. 27, 2012 at 4:24 PM ET

Estancia Estates /

When it comes to wine, what does value mean to you? It depends, of course, on your perspective. On a basic level, it’s about a price you feel comfortable paying. But for me, it can’t be separated from something else – the discovery of a wine that over-delivers on quality and interest at an affordable price. That’s what real value is all about.

Each week, I’ll focus on relatively inexpensive wines – mostly in the $10 to $20 range – that I believe stand out in this category. I’ll try to tell you about wines (usually one red and one white) that are widely distributed, but some of the most exciting wine values come from small producers. Fortunately, the Web has made finding them much easier.

Now, on to the sips of choice for this weekend:

Among white wines from Italy, Falchini’s 2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany is just what I want in an $11 Italian white – light, fruity and refreshing, and made without aging in oak. With green apple, lemon-lime and herbal notes, it has a modest alcohol level of 12.5 percent, which makes it easy to drink. Enjoy a glass while cooking dinner, then with shellfish, simple fish dishes and sushi. Imported by Martin Scott Wines, Lake Success, New York.

There’s no shortage of inexpensive red wines from California, but finding distinction among them is more difficult. One that stands out is from the central coast: Estancia’s 2009 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon “Keyes Canyon Ranches.” This approachable, medium-bodied cab is 13.5 percent alcohol and opens up nicely. It has decent tannic structure for a $15 California red and tastes that suggest ripe blackberry and black cherry. Highly versatile, it will match well with beef and lamb dishes, grilled and roast pork, and Mediterranean chicken recipes. (Received as a press sample.)

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter.