Second bottles 2 of 4

Last week we visited wine costing $10 or less—“second bottles”—to assist your survival when pillaging pals lay siege to your painstakingly assembled wine collection.

This week, wine values that can step up as “first bottles” without evoking smirks of condescension from status-struck friends or evoke watery comments such as “interesting” from wine-savvy sippers who then decline a second pour.

Suggestion: serve from a decanter and allow guests to evaluate without viewing bottle. Off the top, the decanter adds a dollop of one-upmanship to your soiree. It also aerates the wine, a very good thing no matter the price of the wine or ego needs of you or your friends.

When your guests’ evaluations are comically wrong, you can gleefully unfurl your own smirk of condescension, but do so with restraint. Act as if you often are in this situation.

Much better, simply enjoy a glass or two from the marvelous abundance of quality, value-priced wines available today—the greatest epoc in the world history of wine. Drink inexpensive, drink good. Enjoy the fruit of the vine, work of human hands, a pleasure with true friends.


• Columbia Crest Two Vines Vineyard 10 Red Washington 2008. Nice tannins, dark berries; delicious 5-grape blend. Super value. $8

• Concha y Toro Carmenère Rapel Valley Casillero del Diablo Reserve 2009. Licorice, spice, everything nice, smooth drinker. $10

• Ledgewood Creek PQ Red Cuvée 2008. Red fruits storm forward; mild tannins, smooth. 57% merlot, 18% cab, 10% grenache, 5% mourvedre; winner. $10

• D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red McLaren Vale 2009. Southern Rhône style GSM—fruity, smooth texture & tannins; delicious value. $11

• Laurel Glen Reds 2009. Zin, carignane, petite sirah. Dark, delicious; cherries, berries, plum, spice; special Lodi vintage produced super value and a personal favorite. $11

• Becker Vineyards Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. Best Texas cab value. Black cherries, raspberries. Fun to drink. Winning winery near Fredericksburg. $11

• Noble Vines 446 Chardonnay 2010. Apple, pineapple, apricot; clean-crisp acidity, creamy-silky-medium body; easy, toasty oak; nice value, nice wine, might impress in-laws. $11

• Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel 2009. Cherries, raspberries, blackberries, smooth, caramel; soft, wonderful, 14.5% alcohol. $11