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New Year's wine bargains

Kick off the New Year with some real wine bargains. Tough times have resulted in some really good wines coming to market –– including this selection –– that will only set you back $10 or so.

Rex Goliath. This is absolutely passable juice for sipping at a party of pairing with casual goods. Three varietals –– Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon –– are under $5 a bottle at Habersham Beverage. I miss the influence of former wine maker Adam La Zarre –– but these wines are still great buys and drinkable New Year’s companions.

Angeline Pinot Noir. For a few cents over a ten–spot, you can drink a California Pinot Noir that is a solid contender in categories of value and taste. Aromatic overtones of smoked tea and spice abound; bright flavors of strawberry, subtle vanilla oak lead to a rich, round finish.

Las Rocas Garnacha. This Spanish red is sourced from Calatayud vineyards ranging in age from 70 to 100 years. Dark ruby in color, it delivers alluring aromas of spice box, mineral, cherry, and black raspberry. Layers or rich, ripe dark fruit flavors are pleasing and lead to pure, lengthy finish.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir. There was a time that I would shy away from a Pniot Noir selling for under $20. No more. Look for the California Cuvee or Central Coastal labels of Castle Rock –– those should represent the best value and deliver plenty of the rich, peppery essence that I love in Pinot Noir.

Gascon Malbec. I love Argentina Malbecs – and this example from the high–altitude wine country of Mendoza is classic in style and a real steal. Made from 100 percent Malbec grown in a 50–year–old vineyard, the wine is aged in 30 percent new French oak barrels and 70 percent 2–3 year–old French oak barrels. Don’t be afraid of this wine being too tannic – blending results in a well–rounded wine with nice textures. Gascon Malbec has a concentrated nose of ripe black cherry fruit with notes of vanilla and chocolate. Medium–bodied, it has rich fruit flavor and a soft, velvety finish.

Cycles Gladiator Merlot. Frankly, I had dodged the wines from Cycles Gladiator because of the label – a reference to a French bicycle company. I placed them in my “no animals/cuteness/shameless pandering on the label” category. OK, I was wrong. Each variety is a big value with pleasing characteristics. The Merlot is racked into a blend of new and neutral French Oak for an 11–month slumber.  Aromatics of Emperor cherry, blackberry and cedar announce this wine. Red fruits fill the mouth. The tannins are substantial but offer richness as opposed to the harsh, bitter character that many Merlots have.

Grayson Cellars Paso Robles Merlot. You see more and more wines come from the hot days and cool nights of Paso Robles. Grayson Cellars Merlot exhibits a purple garnet color with aromas of black cherry and a mix of red fruits. This medium to full–bodied wine shows soft tannins and balanced acid with flavors dominated by cherry, blackberry and a few spice notes followed by a long finish. Its roundness comes from aging in both French and American Oak.