Great value reds for the holiday season

As we head into the holiday season, it’s always good to have a few bottles of red wine on hand for festivities, whether they be Christmas parties or New Year’s Eve celebrations.

With red wines, it does get a bit more difficult to keep prices at or below the magical $15-per-bottle mark. This is because Washington state in particular doesn’t grow wine grapes at a production level that allows for really low prices, not like some areas of California’s Central Valley. While the San Joaquin Valley vineyards can reach 10 or more tons per acre for jug-quality wines, Washington’s Columbia Valley rarely sees much above 5 tons per acre.

While this means the prices are a bit higher than California’s bottom-shelf wines, it also means Washington’s lowest-price reds compete very well in price and quality with California’s premium red wine regions, including Paso Robles, Sonoma County and Napa Valley.

With that in mind, here are five Washington red wines price at $15 or less that will bring great enjoyment to your holidays without hitting your wallet too hard. All should be easy to find at grocery stores and other retailers.

14 Hands Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $12: The official wine of the Kentucky Derby continues to lead the herd of Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of commercial success. Its dark fruit profile starts with a nose of blackberry milkshake and black currant followed by notes of dark chocolate, clove, crushed red pepper flakes and charcoal. Blackberry, blueberry and chocolaty flavors are met by medium structure of silky tannins and juicy acidity that’s built to drink now with foods such as tomato-basil bruschetta, eggplant parmesan, herb-crusted prime rib, steak or venison stew. (13.5 percent)

Ross Andrew Winery 2012 Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Woodinville winemaker Ross Andrew Mickel has worked on cult programs such as Betz Family Winery and Force Majeure, and yet he also collaborates with Seattle-based Precept Wine on projects such as this everyday priced line. Approachable and accessible aromas of strawberry, cherry juice and cocoa powder lead to flavors of strawberry jam, blackberry, plum, cherry candy and chocolate. Its juicy and fruity structure with low tannins makes this quite a quaffer and a good introduction for new red wine drinkers. (13.8 percent)

Maryhill Winery 2012 Winemaker’s Red, Columbia Valley, $15: Richard Batchelor has his signature on the label of this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc that accounts for more than half of Maryhill’s annual production. Aromas of black cherry, cocoa powder, moist earth, sagebrush and sea breeze carry into delicious flavors of black currant, black cherry, Red Delicious apple peel and black licorice, all framed by easy tannins and ample acidity. (13.8 percent)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Red winemaker Ray McKee shines with this expansive and expressive Cab. The blend of Canoe Ridge Estate, Cold Creek and Indian Wells vineyards set the table to create aromas akin to Hostess blackberry pie, Hershey’s with Almonds, cola nut, brown sugar and baking spices. A rich entry of black cherry, black currant and plum flavors comes with remarkable balance, length and a classy dash of white pepper. (13.1 percent)

Mercer Canyons 2012 Red Blend, Columbia Valley, $14: A product of a stellar vintage, this blend is built upon the shoulders of Merlot (68 percent) and gets fleshed out by Syrah (14 percent), but takes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and even dabs of Pinot Meunier and Cinsault. Sweet black cherry and Marionberry aromas include cola, porcini mushroom, eucalyptus, Greek olives and mint. The drink is plush and hedonistic with more cherry, brambleberries and blueberry flavors, while the structure is rich and lengthy with a pinch of mint in the finish. (13.8 percent)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Listen to their weekly podcast on iTunes or at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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