Where my winos at? (I mean that in the nicest way possible, of course!)
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write a post about one of my favorite subjects – wine! Sometimes I get so caught up brainstorming new content for the blog that I miss what’s sitting right in front of my face. Perfectly chilled, and served in a big, tall glass.
(⬇️ excellent holiday gift idea alert!)
Before I got Celiac Disease, Ben and I were very much into the craft beer scene. We had so much fun trying different varieties and flavors (RIP Hell or High Watermelon,) going to craft brew festivals, trying local beer when we traveled – Ben even brewed and bottled beer in our basement! Unfortunately that all went out the door when I got sick. Turns out it’s not as much fun brewing beer when you can’t enjoy it with your craft brew-loving spouse anymore.
All was not lost, however, because although beer is full of the devil gluten, guess what isn’t? WINE! And guess what has a zillion varietals, vintages, and intricacies that make drinking interesting again? WINE!
So here we are. Wine drinkers. Who would’ve thought? That is to say, Ben and I have really gotten into wine over the past three years. The anticipation of trying a new wine – opening the bottle, pouring it into a glass, giving it a good sniff and finally a nice sip – is something we both really enjoy. Ben usually does the shopping because he loves finding new and interesting wines to try, which means all I have to do is uncork and enjoy. Speaking of uncorking, here’s the wine opening kit we use and swear by. No wine lover should be without it.
I’ve been to Napa a couple times, once with my girlfriends and again on a blogging trip, and have really enjoyed learning about wine-making from passionate winery owners and growers. Also learning the phrase “meth teeth“. And while I’ve loved learning even more about wine and wine making from documentaries like Somm (<< mind blowing) and Somm: Into the Bottle, I’m certainly no expert. That said, I know what I like and don’t like, so today I’m sharing 6 of my favorite wines under $20. Because I don’t think you need to spend an arm and a leg on wine to have a good experience, and also because any of these wines would make an excellent hostess gift for the holiday parties you’re attending this month. Slap a bow on that baby and get prepared for a big ol’ smile from the recipient!
I’m going to share three of my favorite white wines and three of my favorite reds, all of which can be found for under $20 around here. Prices can vary depending on where you live and buy wine – for example, we’ve found up to a $5 difference on some bottles depending on which HyVee we buy our wine at. Just something to be mindful of.
Ok so the only thing I like better than sharing my favorite wine picks is finding new and yummy wines to try, so let me know what YOUR favorite $20 and under wines are in the comments section below! In the meantime, CHEERS!
Favorite White Wines
Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc
When Ben and I are feeling fancy, we break out the Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc. And by fancy I mean I’ve showered sometime in the last 48 hours and Ben still has both socks on. Is anyone else’s husband constantly walking around with one sock missing? Just mine? Anyway, Whitehaven is my favorite mid-range New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It’s very crisp, finishes super clean, is incredibly refreshing, and best enjoyed ice cold. Perfect to pair with sushi or serve at summer grill outs. Whitehaven is usually sold in the $16-$19 range around here, which is why we try and keep it for a clean hair/fully socked sort of occasion.
From the brand: full-flavored and medium-bodied with notes of peach, gooseberry and ripe tropical fruit. Showcasing a brilliant straw color, this elegant wine refreshes the palate with a long, clean finish.
Decoy Sauvignon Blanc
Decoy Sauvignon Blanc is my go-to “I’ve had an insane day, haven’t sat down since 7am, and need something to relax with while watching incredibly trashy television after the children are in bed” wine. I don’t cook with this wine (and hate sharing!) because it’s just so good by the glass. It has just the right amount of finish and is very balanced – not too tart nor too thin – just, perfect. We can usually find Decoy in the $14-16 range and it’s worth every penny. I’ve told all my white wine-loving friends to try it!
From the brand: this vivid and enticing wine offers bright, stone fruit flavors of nectarine and apricot, as well as lovely notes of honeydew, lemongrass and grapefruit. On the palate, refreshing acidity mingles with a subtle sweetness that carries through to a fresh, lively finish.
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was the gateway wine into the world of Sauvignon Blancs for me. Readily available and in the $13-$16 range, it’s a wonderful, all-purpose white that’s crisp and tart. It pairs well with just about any food but especially seafood, chicken, and anything off the grill, plus it’s great to cook with.
I jokingly call this a “poor man’s” good sauvignon blanc because the quality is better than a $5-7 bottle of wine, but if I had a choice I’d go with Whitehaven or Decoy, which happen to be a few bucks more. Still completely delicious though, and my friends and I tend to drink this wine the most when we get together. Kim Crawford has really pretty labels on their bottles right now which would make a great hostess gift tied simply with a ribbon!
(Honorary shoutout to Kim Crawford’s Unoaked Chardonnay, which I recently tried. Really good!)
From the brand: an exuberant wine brimming with juicy acidity and fruit sweetness, providing a balanced flavor profile. The finish is fresh, zesty, and lingering.
Favorite Red Wines
Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon
If I’m drinking red wine it’s almost always going to be cabernet sauvignon, which in my opinion is a white wine drinker’s red wine. That is to say, it’s easy to drink. Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon is the wine we tend to pour on Sundays in the season that shall not be named when Ben or I have a big pot of stew, Sunday sauce, or gumbo simmering on the stove. This cabernet is a great one to slowly sip because I find it to be a bit bold, and it goes well with the hearty food we eventually pair it with. We usually find this cabernet in the $13-$15 range, making it the most “affordable” of my three favorite reds. I like taking this wine as a hostess gift because I find both red and white wine drinkers like it.
From the brand: this vintage (2015) had a long, calm growing season, helping create elevated and concentrated flavors that include wild berries, plum, licorice and mocha. The full-bodied and mouth-coating feel on the palate leads to a long, graceful finish with tones of intense fruit, dried herbs and cedar inside firm structure.
Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon
Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon makes my list of 6 favorite wines under $20 because it’s very, very smooth and just totally yummy. It might be my favorite red wine under $20, actually! Just to paint you a picture – this cabernet is great to pair with cheese, crackers, and prosciutto, and enjoy by a warm fire. It’s usually just a dollar or two more than Louis Martini and I can find it pretty much everywhere.
From the brand: the Indian Wells Cabernet is our warm climate ripe, jammy “New World” style of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine typifies the Wahluke Slope region with dark fruit aromas and flavors. Syrah added an enhanced richness and concentration to the wine.
La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir
La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir is a great choice for when you want to switch your glass of red wine up. Pinot Noir grapes are notoriously hard to grow because they’re super sensitive to climate and soil changes, which means a GOOD pinot noir can be on the more expensive side. That said, we find La Crema to be really delicious and can usually find it in the $17-$19 range. Each sip is very light, easy to drink, and super juicy tasting.
From the brand: on the nose, red plum, tea leaves and coffee bean. On the palate, red cherry, orange zest and classic Monterey minerality. A lingering finish of sweet spice.
What are your go-to wines for enjoying at home and/or giving as a gift?
join the conversation
I love a medium sweet white, not too sweet or bubbly, and found the perfect one while we were at Disney World, of all places! The resort we stayed at (Coronado Springs) served this. The only place I’ve been able to find it is wine.com. It’s Marques de Caceres Satinela Rioja Blanco.
More of a question- Have you done much reading on biodynamic wines and whether the hype is true?
I love the Stella Rosa Black. I am such a light weight so a normal glass of red knocks me on my booty. I love that Stella is only 5% so I can have a glass and feel tipsy!
I’m going to second the suggestion above…Meiomi Pinot Noir is awesome! And readily available at Costco. Also, Giesen Sauv Blanc has a similar taste to Kim Crawford for a cheaper price point (also at Costco).
Freakshow Pinot noir is really nice and jammy. If you can get it, the Robert Mondavi cab sauv, unoaked Chardonnay and Pinot noir from the vineyard it’s set, not the private reserve or Woodbridge is out of this world! Estancia has really good Pinot Grigio and Chloe has a good Pinot noir
Mary Kay Garry 12.01.2017
Love all the suggestions but have to mention how much we enjoy Sean Minor wines. All varieties are pleasing and under $20! If you want to splurge a bit, try Sean Minor Nicole Marie Red Blend. Outstanding!
Melissa Grubb 11.30.2017
What no Tassel Ridge or Santa Maria???
I cannot get into Iowa wines no matter how hard I try! ?
Lynn Cochran 12.28.2016
Suggest some whites without screw tops please, for those of us who are old fashioned, and believe it does impact the taste! Thanks!
I actually learned that a lot of wineries have switched to screw top vs cork because it keeps the wine’s integrity intact better than cork. I like the cork too though. :)
Mar Ward 12.26.2016
Big fan of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. Sadly, I don’t think its under $20 here in Canada. In the winter, I turn to reds. My fave reds are Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cab Sauv and J Lohr Cab Sauv (for when we feel like treating ourselves). My go to summer white is Toasted Head Chardonnay.
Great post, thanks for sharing!
Any wine from the Robert Mondavi collection is my go-to wine for drinking and gifting. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $20 on a bottle of wine (and you shouldn’t have to!).
Rutheyi Thompson 12.21.2016
Marchese Guadagni Ovrieto Classico
Truly a fantastic white wine! Not dry, not sweet. Fragrant with floral and redolent with fruit notes (citrus, pear, apple). Most are unaoked and cool fermented; this brand is such. Has a full body and a very tiny bite at the end. It is one of those wines perfect with a meal or at the end of a long day with a good book or your hour of Netflix. Plus it just sounds haute coutre saying the name!
I love the cranberry wine from Wide River Winery (local!), it’s not too sweet and Chateau St Michelle’s riesling is great!
Amelia @ Eating Made Easy 12.19.2016
The Decoy is one of my favorites too. Somehow it feels OK to pour a glass of it at 4:15pm on a Tuesday ;)
La Crema Chardonnay is actually one of my “go to” whites, and Ravenswood Old Vine Napa Zinfandel is my FAVORITE red!