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Here’s proof that great California pinot noir for under $20 really exists

Here’s an opportunity to savor one of the rarest wines that the geekiest of wine geeks geek over: a really good California pinot noir for less than $20 a bottle. And here’s a chance to taste history, with an inexpensive sparkling wine made from the oldest European grape variety planted in the New World. Plus some rosé to cleanse your palate, as well as a distinctive red wine that might inspire you to book a trip to Portugal once all this mess is over.

The 12 best bargain wines of the year will set you back as little as $10. How can you resist?

As always, during this pandemic, check with your wine store to verify they are open and whether they are doing curbside pickup or delivery.


Craftwork Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016

(2.5 stars)

Monterey County, Calif., $16

Really good California pinot noir under $20 seems to be the holy grail of wine — something we are always seeking, but may not actually exist. The Craftwork is not only delicious and affordable, but it comes with a county appellation, not just the statewide “California” designation. And it is all-estate fruit, meaning the winery grew the grapes. This is an elegant wine with flavors of strawberries and plums, accented with spicy notes of clove and nutmeg. Alcohol by volume: 13.5 percent.

Distributed by Artisans & Vines: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Magruder’s, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Beer, Wine & Co. and Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda; Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John; Decanter Fine Wines in Columbia; Fenwick Beer & Wine and Locavino in Silver Spring; Greenbelt Co-Op in Greenbelt; Grosvenor Market in Rockville; Hop N Grape in North Bethesda; the Market at River Falls in Potomac; Wine Source in Baltimore.


Miguel Torres Chile Estelado Rosé Sparkling Wine Uva País 2018

(3 stars)

Maule Valley, Chile, $20

País is the Chilean name for the mission grape, brought to the New World by Spanish missionaries and colonists in the mid-1500s. Recent DNA analysis identified it as listán prieto, an old Spanish variety. So it is perhaps fitting that this delightful, refreshing sparkling rosé is made by the Chilean outpost of Spain’s famous Torres winery. Bright flavors of red berries and wild herbs seem to carry history with them. Here’s an opportunity to taste wine from the first European vinifera grape variety planted in the Western Hemisphere. Forgive me, but all I am saying is give país a chance. Certified vegan and fair trade. ABV: 12 percent.

Imported by Miguel Torres USA, distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Dixie Liquor, Grand Cata, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring. Available in Virginia at Kroger (Eastridge) in Richmond, Streets Market in Alexandria.


Rinaldi Le Piccole Follie Pink Rosato 2019

(3 stars)

Piedmont, Italy, $17

Here’s a delightful aperitif wine to brighten your spirits as you prepare dinner or relax on the patio. Flavors of strawberries and raspberries throw a party in your glass and will bring a smile to your face. The blend is dolcetto and merlot, with a little brachetto. ABV: 12 percent.

Imported and distributed by Kysela: Available in the District at Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Bin 604 Winesellers and Canton Crossing Wine + Spirits in Baltimore, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg, Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Ronnie’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Forest Hill, On the Vine Craft Beer & Wine in Rockville. Available in Virginia at Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington, the Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Farm Fresh in Richmond, Kroger in Tabb, the Town Duck in Warrenton.


Crasto 2017

(3 stars)

Douro Valley, Portugal, $18

Quinta do Crasto sits atop a small, almost perfectly round hill on the northern side of the Douro River, with terraced vineyards along the granite slopes as a backdrop to the spectacular view of the river as it meanders through port country. The winery makes excellent port, but it has always been one of the Douro’s leading producers of unfortified table wines from the traditional port grapes. The Crasto red (tinto) is a blend of touriga nacional, tinta roriz (one of several Portuguese names for tempranillo), touriga franca and tinta barroca. The wine is soulful — which is the best word to describe it. ABV: 14 percent.

Imported by Folio, distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley; Central Liquors; Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits; Georgia Avenue Food Barn; Hop, Cask & Barrel; Modern Liquors; Pearson’s; Rodman’s; Schneider’s of Capitol Hill; Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits; Wardman Wines, Whole Foods Market (P Street). Available in Maryland at the Bottle Shop in Potomac; Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg; Georgetown Square Wine and Beer and Lance’s Beer & Wine in Bethesda; Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store in Hyattsville; Grosvenor Market in Rockville; Knowles Station Wine & Co. in Kensington; Rodman’s in White Flint; Town Hall Liquor in College Park. Available in Virginia at Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington, Vienna Vintner in Vienna, Wine Gallery 108 in Alexandria.

Susana Balbo Signature Rosé 2019

(2.5 stars)

Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina, $21

This wine is a bit pricey and out of the mainstream, but its bright red fruit aromas of berries and cherries, crisp refreshing acidity and a dry finish make it delightful and worth your attention. ABV: 13 percent.

Imported by Folio, distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at Central Liquors, Pearson’s, Rodman’s, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits. Available in Maryland at Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick.

Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

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