Nice $10-and-under wines to bring home for dinner

School’s under way. You’ve taken out loans for the $30,000 tuitions and bought the $50 backpacks, the $80 textbooks, the cutting-edge fashion that must be worn or your teenager’s social life will be ruined.

The government is open again, but the shutdown gobbled a chunk of your paycheck. The holidays approach, with all their joy, good will and spending.

It’s time to search for pretty good wines at $10 and less. I’ve always said anybody can buy a good $50 wine, but it takes some moxie to buy one for $10.

These are wines for weeknight meals – meatloaf, spaghetti with meat sauce, tuna casserole and 37 ways of preparing the inevitable breast of chicken.

Let’s face it. You won’t generally get wines as good for $10 as you would for $50. They’re likely to be less intense because they’re made from grapes grown at 10 tons per acre rather than four.

Likely to have the word “California” on the label rather than the high-priced real estate of Sonoma or Napa – meaning the grapes might have come from anywhere in the state.

Probably wood-aged by having giant tea bags filled with oak chips dipped into them rather than having been coddled for months in $1,000 French oak barrels.

More likely to be “nonvintage” rather than having a year attached, to give winemakers more flexibility in blending.

Still, we can take hope from the fact that a wine called “Two-Buck Chuck” – a 2005 Charles Shaw Winery Chardonnay priced at $1.99 a bottle – won the Best Chardonnay in California award over wines priced up to $50 a few years ago at a prestigious professional wine competition. And the judges stood by their ratings.

There are some nice wines out there for $10 or less. Wines of many varieties, from light-and-lively whites to rib-eye-ready reds. Let’s go find some.


2012 Beach House Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa (sauvignon blanc and semillon): light, lively and crisp, with white grapefruit flavors; $10.

2011 Cline Cellars Oakley 82 Red (syrah, petite sirah, barbera, cabernet franc): aromas and flavors of black cherries and black pepper; $10.

Nonvintage Turning Leaf Pinot Noir, California: soft and light-bodied, with black cherry flavors; $8.

Nonvintage Barefoot Cellars Zinfandel, California: aromas and flavors of red raspberries, full-bodied, rich and spicy; $7.

Nonvintage Camelot Pinot Grigio, California: crisp and light, with aromas and flavors of ripe peaches and mangos; $7.

2010 Veramonte Reserva Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile: light and crisp, with aromas and flavors of peaches and apricots; $10.

Nonvintage Turning Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon, California: soft and ripe, with flavors of black raspberries and spice; $8.

Nonvintage Barefoot Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, California: light and lively, with aromas and flavors of green apples and lemons; $7.

2011 Bodega Ruca Malen Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina: aromas of violets, flavors of black cherries and milk chocolate, big, ripe tannins; $10.

2012 Blue Loon Moscato, California: lightly sweet, aromas and flavors of oranges, peaches and honey; $8.

Fred Tasker writes about wine for the McClatchy New Service. Contact him at

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