Russ Winton: Inexpensive medal-winning red wines

02/11/2014 6:55 PM

02/11/2014 7:01 PM

My wine purchases fall into three categories: Monday wines, Friday wines and Sunday wines.

I refer to Monday wines as our house wine or daily wine. When my wife is cooking and needs a cup, this is the wine I open. My wife loves to cook with wine and sometimes she even puts it in the food. Monday wines are not expensive and are under $10.

T.G.I.F. wines are in the $10 to $20 range. Everyone deserves to have a wine upgrade for surviving the week. However, if you’re having a really bad week, you can always uncork a Friday wine a bit sooner.

Sunday wines, $20 and up, are for those special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries or when the Giants win another World Series. The 2014 S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition awards medals within certain price categories. Here are some of the Best of Class red wine winners that should fit neatly into my three-tiered wine cellar.

If you are a pinot noir fan, look for the 2012 Seaglass Santa Barbara County ($12) and the 2012 Redwood Vineyards ($8.99). Both were winners in the under $20 category. In a step up, the 2011 CRU Wine Company Santa Lucia Highlands Montage ($24) is one to track down. The 2012 Twisted Zinfandel ($7.99) and the Fiddletown Cellars Old Vines ($19.99) were the best zins under $20.

The best syrah deal is the 2011 Cycles Gladiator Syrah ($12) and the 2012 Cline Cellars Mourvedre Contra Costa County ($15). If Rhone blends interest you, look for the 2012 Hahn Central Coast GSM ($14). I’ve had this and it’s a steal at that price. The Fog Head 2012 Merlot ($9.99) was the best merlot under $10, followed by the 2011 Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma County ($14) and the 2011 Central Coast Liberty School ($16) in their price categories.

Three cabernet sauvignons to look for are the 2012 Monogamy North Coast ($12.99), the 2012 Spellbound California ($14.99) and the Napa Valley 2011 Aquinas ($18.99). The wines listed here are just a small portion of the Best of Class winners of the tasting. If you’d like more tasting results,go to www.winejudging.com.

Beatles and burgundy

Fifty years ago the Beatles arrived and raised the bar on pop music in the U.S. Fifty years ago Ernest and Julio Gallo introduced a robust red blend called Hearty Burgundy and raised the quality of U.S. table wine. The wine appeared on the cover of Time magazine and was called the best wine value in the country. A limited edition Hearty Burgundy will be available in the original style with a special 50th anniversary seal.

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