Here are 7 of my most recent favorite inexpensive but good wines.
J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
This Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, California is made from 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petite Sirah, 5% Syrah, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 1% Malbec- quite an intense mix, but it works. Stainless steel fermentation, then 14-16 months in oak casks. Bright reddish purple in color with strong fruity fragrance of cherries cedar and blackberries, and cherry soda, chocolate and vanilla on the mouth. Enjoyed this with a cheeseburger at a new restaurant in Forest Hills by the glass, and it can be found retail at the $20 range. 13.8% alcohol.
Cantina Di Casteggio Oltrepo Pavese Barbera 2005 DOC
This medium weight ruby colored 100% Barbera is unoaked, so there's no wood influence, allowing a nose of pure mild red fruits, a palate of sour cherries, spice, white pepper, and a mix of fragrant herbs. After an hour of decanting the finish was smooth and fleeting, but after 4 hours the finish stretched out nicely. The mild tannins would hold up well to a pork or veal dish, or even barbecue. We are in the $12 range.
Rocca Delle Macie Campomaccione Morellino Di Scansano DOC 2006
Blend is 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot. Rocca Delle Macie Campomaccione Morellino Di Scansano DOC 2006 is a ruby red, dry, full-bodied wine from Tuscany with ripe red fruit and chocolate on the nose, and a fresh smooth palate with a good finish. 13% alcohol and $7.99.
Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere 2006 Chile
This Carmenere from Chile is aged for 8 months in small oak barrels, is a deep purple red, has mild floral aromas and complex fruit flavors including cherry, with spice and vanilla. This is an interesting pick... the flavor profile is unique (it's my first 100% Carmenere)... I haven't seen many around. Found this in the $10 range.
Chateau Grand Moulin 2005 France
This red wine from France is a blend of Syrah and Grenache grapes. Color is clear dark garnet red with cherries, ripe fruit and tar on the nose. Palate has black cherry and white pepper undertones and moderate tannin. It is paired well with warm gruyere gougeres. Not bad by the glass for $9.
Straccali Sangiovese Di Toscana 2004 IGT
This is a 100% Sangiovese red wine made from grapes from various locations in Tuscany, Italy. There's barnyard on the nose with black cherry and oak with cinnamon, and mild flavors of fruit and good balance. This is an inexpensive, but decent everyday wine, I believe it was $6.
Fattoria Del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2004 DOCG
This DOCG from Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy is made from 80% Prugnolo Gentile (a Sangiovese clone) and a 20% blend of Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo. 80% of the grapes are aged for two years in Slavonian oak and 20% in French oak. On the nose is cherry, oak, rose and vanilla and on the palate black cherries with moderate tannins and a smooth medium finish. In the $20 neighborhood, this is a good vintage to drink now but you can also cellar it for a few years.