2011 Simi Pinot Noir Sonoma County $20
Kapow! This is a standout wine from a lackluster vintage. That it's a Pinot at $20 makes it all the more alluring. Intense, dark fruit is mainlined with attendant spice packaging and a vanilla streak thanks to its oak regimen. Far from subtle and far from sucking.
2011 Langmeil Shiraz Viognier Barossa "Hanging Snakes" $20
Interesting how much of a difference 4% Viognier makes in toning down the rambunctiousness of the Syrah. Clean and well-made, this Oz red looks great on paper, but in the glass lacks any kind of X factor that otherwise would make it compelling. Still, if found on sale for $15 like I did, you could do a hell of a lot worse on a Tuesday night.
2008 Domain de Nizas Languedoc $10
Clean, full, and fairly typical Languedoc red with plenty of violet fruit, some floral and herbaceous aromas. Pleasant enough, especially at $10, but falls shy of generating any real gravity.
Enormous improvement over the last time I tried this bottling. Structure, acidity for backbone, and the fleshy fruit Central Coast is known for. The Gallo folks aren't giving anything away on fire sale, nor should they. This is priced exactly where it ought to be.
2012 William Hill Chardonnay Central Coast $15 (Sample)
Very enjoyable thanks to a friendly vanilla wafer thing held in check by a line of lacy acids that run vertically through it. Full of round, plump flavors that start out in the big Cali-Chard way, but manage to finish long, lush, and - best of all - clean. Disappears dangerously fast from the glass.