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Vines & Vittles: Everyday sippers, Saturday-night specials

By John Brown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I oftentimes refer to bottles of that elixir we all love as either Saturday-night specials or everyday sippers. Saturday-night specials can also morph into holiday or celebratory wines when the occasion dictates. So, doing the math, you will have significantly more opportunities to experience the everyday sippers.

I know, I am the master of the obvious, but that's why I spend so many words telling you about wines that are both excellent and usually priced less than $20 a bottle. I'm just explaining (rationalizing?) my predilection to concentrate most of my tasting research and recommendations on less expensive wine.

OK, I'm a cheapskate too.

That's why of the wines reviewed here, all but one are everyday sippers. Also, I am a firm believer that there is a whole lot of buried treasure at the bottom of the sea of wine we are all adrift in -- and I was put on this planet to find it for you.

So, I hope you will try a bottle of two of the vinous booty below -- even it's the Saturday-night special.

Everyday sippers

2010 Bridlewood Pinot Noir ($15): Bright black cherry and spicy flavors highlight this smooth, supple pinot noir from Monterey County, Calif. The medium-bodied texture is balanced out with a touch of vanilla and ample acidity. Try this one with grilled chicken spiced with black pepper, garlic and kosher salt.

2011 Conde Villar Vinho Verde Rosé ($10): Strawberries and raspberries commingle to produce a refreshing and slightly spritzy rosé that is just the right wine to open on the patio. Just a touch of sweetness is balanced out nicely by citruslike acidity. You might also pair this with brunch-type food.

2009 Treana White ($18): A great alternative to rich and full-bodied chardonnay, this blend of 50 percent each Viognier and Marsanne has a creamy, toasty and floral component. From the central California coast, Treana would be an excellent accompaniment to broiled lobster with drawn butter.

Bugey Cerdon Sparkling Gamay ($16): From the foothills of the Alps in the Jura Mountains of eastern France, this sparkling rosé is composed of 80 percent Gamay and 15 percent Poulsard, an indigenous regional grape. There is just a touch of chardonnay added to provide some body to the strawberry and cherry flavors. Sip it as an aperitif before dinner or with chocolate-based desserts. This is a very pretty and tasty wine.

A great Saturday-night special

While Sebastiani is a legendary winery in California known for its value-based quality wines, they also produce among the best of the best in the wine world. Try this one for that special occasion:

2008 Sebastiani Cherryblock ($80): This is definitely a special-occasion or celebration wine. Earthy aromas with a hint of cigar box lead to a silky smooth Bordeauxlike wine with complex flavors of cola, plums and dark fruits. It is an elegant wine that will continue to develop for a decade or more. Try it now with filet mignon in a mushroom demi-glace sauce.

For more on the art and craft of wine, visit John Brown's Vines & Vittles blog at thegazz.com.


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