With dreary winter weather making another return visit, we’ve been spending an unknown number of hours each day contemplating the bottles in the house. And while we’re always ready for a good white (oh, you smooth talker, La Crema Chardonnay), we have to admit, gray days filled with rain (or sleet or snow) seem to demand a hearty red.
We’ve also noticed that being trapped indoors seems to inspire many people to start creating lists. Lists of things to do around the house, list of things they’d like to do before they die, lists of favorite books or movies or albums; lots of big, long lists full of everything imaginable.
Originally, we decided this need to create lists was just another odd human quirk but then we noticed that one of the more popular topics for lists is favorite wines for under $20. Ah, inspiration! What would we come up with for our own favorite wine list? It was tricky, trying to decide on which to include. Heck, just developing any sort of criteria was proving to be difficult. Did we want to limit ourselves to a particular varietal? Or maybe a favorite region? After many glasses and some heated discussion, we decided to list our favorite reds under $20 that can help you fight those winter blahs.
So without further ado, here’s our own list of feline favorites:
- Fat Bastard Pinot Noir – first, how can you not love a wine called fat bastard and featuring a very contented looking hippo on the label? And then there’s the wine. Big fruits – tons of raspberries and strawberries – with a hint of flowers on the nose. Very soft tannins, just enough to provide a strong finish but never enough to dominate.
- Rex Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon – it’s every cat’s dream come true…or worst nightmare. A giant rooster, 47 pounds to be exact, on the loose and apparently, making wine. The cab is particularly noteworthy. This is smooth, smooth, smooth and holds lots of dark, deep flavors.
- Liberated Cabernet Sauvignon – for those looking for something a little lighter, try this purple beauty. This cab leans more towards sweet plums, with a hint of vanilla on the nose. A subtle hint of licorice also adds to that sweet sensation.
- Julia James Pinot Noir – this is one wine that will have you convinced you’re drinking something more expensive. The initial flavor is full of ripe, tart cherries that will trigger the drool response, followed by a deeper, warmer flavor that speaks of earth and forest. Oak tones are minimal. It’s just big and warm and so easy to drink.
- Shinn Estate Red Table Wine – a blend of mostly merlot and Cabernet Franc, this is the perfect wine for those who prefer to fight the chill in the air with something more spicy. The Shinn Estate is located on Long Island and its flavor evokes the windy, shrubby, coastal area it calls home. Pair it with anything red – pasta, meatballs, or even a hearty shepherd’s pie.
- Broadside Merlot – everyone remembers the beating Merlot took in the movie Sideways, and there’s enough cheap plonk out there of questionable flavor to lend credence to that belief. But Broadside’s version from the Margarita Vineyard will have you rethinking your Merlot aversion. This one has the big fruity flavors associated with the Merlot grape, but it’s nicely balanced with an unexpected bite and a hint of something mysterious that will keep you sipping.
- Antigal Uno Malbec – there’s that Malbec fruit flavor, something between sweet raspberry and tart cherry, that no other grape can really capture. This version is also big, almost beefy really, and it has an unexpected finish. A dry, almost mineral flavor at the back of the mouth that gives it an incredible complexity for a wine in this price range. Definitely think meat with this one.
As a concession to certain cats among us who feel that winter need not be limited to red no matter how bitter the wind outside may be, we would also like to add one white to our list – the Bellingham Viognier from South Africa. It’s a grand Viognier, deep and luscious like Viognier’s are supposed to be, full of summer flavors – honeysuckle, apricot and peach, with just a bit of dryness at the end that makes you want to enjoy another long, leisurely sip. It’s the perfect wine to bring back summer just a few months early.
Winter is here so dust off those bottles and find that corkscrew. Wine is a fabulous way to survive the season.