Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais - Any of their wonderful array of Beaujolais will make you happy, but you're most likely to see the Villages version. The designation, a step up from the introductory level Beaujolais, is made from Gamay, the red grape of the appellation. The grape offers bright red, juicy fruits with lively acidity and some floral notes, on the nose especially. Too many people associate Beaujolais with Nouveau, an unfortunate connection. (More on Nouveau as the season gets closer). 'Real' Beaujolais is much drier, although certainly fruity, and more complex. Pair with fish, lighter cheese, chicken or just have a glass. If it is warm outside, feel free to drop this in a bucket of ice for a few minutes, or a fridge for 25 or 30 minutes. Find it for $9-$11, imported by W.J.Deutsch & Sons.
Bogle Petite Sirah - The confusingly named Petite Sirah (sometimes spelled Syrah) is not 'little Syrah'; it is, in fact, a nearly unknown grape called Durif that came from the south of France to California. The grape bunches look a lot like Syrah, but smaller, no doubt how the name began. Generally darker and more tannic than Syrah the wine often lacks finesse, and the hallmark peppery notes of Syrah, but makes up for it with a power and depth that often entrances. Bogle has been one of the best known producers of this grape for well over a decade (they first produced it in 1978). Their version is not as massive or intense as some more expensive versions but still offers concentration, big fruit and more accessibility in the short term. Although the tech sheet does not discuss the oak treatment, it clearly sees time in wood and some of it is no doubt new. This wine wants red meat, red sauces and can stand up to rich sauces like BBQ. Recently I have seen this wine advertised for as little as $9 and as much as $13. It should be found in most places between $10 and $11.
Cycles Gladiator Syrah - Absolutely one of the most impressive wines in this category I have ever encountered. Inexpensive, aged in a lot of new oak (not 100%), Central Coast appellation, eye-catching label - all signs point to me not caring at all about this wine, but I am consistently impressed by the wine. The label features a nude woman seemingly flying by holding onto the handlebars of a bicycle, a poster from the Belle Epoque era advertising a bicycle, called the Cycles Gladiator. There is some Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon blended with the Syrah. Juicy, lush but not to the point of flabbiness, often a flaw of wines in this price range, the wine is all about hedonistic pleasure for the palate. A great glass of wine, it also works well with the same food as Bogle but can expand to chicken and pork due to its brighter acidity and lower tannins. $8-$10 retail.
The next two entries will offer some white wines that can offer safe haven for your taste buds when in strange environs.