Will Mercer, winemaker Jessica Munnell and Rob Mercer combine to lead Mercer Estates, which was named 2016 Washington Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest magazine. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Bargain reds drink smoothly for wine lovers on a budget

Last month, many wine lovers on the West Coast needed to drop a check in an envelope addressed to a six-digit Post Office box in San Francisco.

That pain of Tax Day may have a few of us looking to shave expenses and downsize luxury purchases for a while. Fortunately, the Pacific Northwest remains a great region for finding quality red wines at a bargain.

A key part of this is affordable vineyard land. Compared with quality land in Northern California, land in Washington’s Columbia Valley is fairly inexpensive. And labor prices are also reasonably low as a vast majority of vineyards are mechanically harvested. That reduces costs considerably.

Here are a few delicious Northwest reds we have tasted in recent weeks. We’ve dubbed them as a “Best Buy,” and while many of them are available at grocers throughout the region, don’t hesitate to ask for them at your favorite wine shop or contact the wineries directly.

Ross Andrew Winery 2015 Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Ross Andrew Mickel made his name in the Woodinville wine scene, and now his wines are poured in downtown Walla Walla. His Glaze program is a remarkable value with layers of complexity. Dark cherry, blackberry and vanilla aromas transition to a fluid that is yummy and bright with red plum, black cherry and cola. Blueberry acidity and bittersweet chocolate make for a lengthy finish. Look for these wines at Precept’s Associated Vintners tasting room near the iconic Marcus Whitman Hotel. (13.8 percent alcohol)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Each year, Bob Bertheau’s team represents cabernet sauvignon in Washington state on a wide scale with this bottling. Its medium tannin structure and combination of purple fruit flavors akin to blueberry and pomegranate make for a cab that continues to evolve in the glass with meatiness and a late lift of chocolate. Enjoy with steak topped by blue cheese, rosemary-rubbed veal or dishes featuring spices such as paprika, clove, ginger, mace or nutmeg. (13.5%)

14 Hands Winery 2014 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $15: This fragrant, composed and resilient merlot upholds the variety’s reputation for being capable of accommodating a wide range of foods at the table, such as ribs, tri-tip or pasta in a tomato sauce. This won a gold medal and best merlot at the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. (13.5%)

Sagelands Vineyard 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $10: Four stalwart vineyards in the Yakima Valley — Goose Ridge, Oasis, Willard Farms and Willow Crest — combine for this remarkably suave and joyful version of cab that’s far from ponderous. It’s fruit-forward from start to finish, opening with jammy aromas of dark strawberry, huckleberry and clove. On the palate, it’s creamy and cherry, ranging from Bing cherry on the beginning, fine-grained cherry-skin tannins and capped by Rainier cherry in the finish. It’s a worthy way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of Washington state’s oldest brands. (13.9%)

Mercer Canyons 2014 Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills, $14: The Mercer family, sparked by the winemaking talents of Washington State University grad Jessica Munnell, is growing this refreshed brand across the nation. This six-variety blend is steered by merlot from the family’s Spice Cabinet and Dead Canyon sites. Aromas of roasted coffee, black cherry ice cream, grilled blackberry, mocha and vanilla lead to a smooth and steady stream of sweet blueberry and black currant. Enjoyable tannins and ample acidity make this nicely balanced with a long farewell. (13.9%)

Hinman Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $15: Doyle Hinman launched this Eugene winery in 1979, and second-generation vintner Liz Chambers continues to honor his legacy with this expressive and consumer-minded pinot noir from a rewarding vintage. Aromas of Dr Pepper, raspberry, saddle leather and smoked sage lead to penetrating textures of President plum with black cherry skin tannins and cranberry. This sister brand of Silvan Ridge is available in more than a dozen states and the nation’s capital. (13.5%)

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