Let's face facts.
Lots of wine drinking has nothing to do with "wine tasting," especially in summertime. Sure, there are gatherings where people taste a bunch of wine and there are dinners where it's nice to have a good pairing, but this is the season for long nights out on the patio and for gatherings. Backyards. Front porches. Picnics. Reunions.
Somewhere near the cooler of beer, there are usually at least a few bottles of wine about. Now, some believe that "more is better" applies, and the jugs of Gallo get stuck in the ice next to the PBR. While I'm happy to toss back wine sans swirling -- I want to slug something that's not going to make me feel like I've just poured a plastic cupful of battery acid.
So, we're basically looking for some wines that aren't going to be center stage. We're not going for complexity. We're not looking to take flavors apart. We want some wines that will be inexpensive enough that you can load up, but of enough of a quality that no one's giving their glass that "one squinty eyed" frown.
I've found a few that could fill the bill -- so, for your gathering pleasure...
Sundial 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon -- When I bought this bottle, I was told by the person in the wine store, "People who buy it usually come back and get some more." After a glass or two, I understood why. For a bargain-line cabernet, this is a surprisingly big and tannic wine. ($13-14 for a 1.5 liter) An absolute must: make sure you let it breathe for awhile. Once it opens up, you'll get a nice nose full of raspberries and dark fruit. It's got solid body with some uncomplicated fruity flavors, and a decently dry finish. Perfect for any grilling occasion.
Twisted PiG 2006 Pinot Grigio -- I've been seeing a lot of Twisted Head wines on the shelves of various wine stores, and I happened upon their pinot grigio. This wine certainly fits the "uncomplicated" mold. It's very light and has some decent fruit, but it wasn't anything overly exciting -- until we had it with some salty snacks. Pretzels were fantastic, and I'd imagine chex mix would have been, as well. It's about $8 for a 1.5 liter bottle. Easy enough to drink without ill effect or ill flavor.
Borsao "Vina Borgia" 2006 Campo de Borja -- I'm intrigued by a wine that tags itself as the wine of an infamous noble family, but hey -- why not? (It actually refers to the town in
Le Faux Frog 2005 Pinot Noir -- I admit, this was an impulse buy. I was walking past the box wines and I saw this very cute frog on one of them. Closer inspection revealed that this was actually a Toad Hollow production, so I picked it up. At first pull, very tight and really tart, but after a few minutes, and for subsequent glasses, one of us remarked, "This...is a dangerous wine." The nose is largely cherry, but nothing complex. But definitely a real pinot-ish scent. Flavor, again, after a few minutes to let it open is soft fruit and has a somewhat complex finish of blackberries and coffee. It also lulls you into a false sense of security because it's super easy to drink...so it's probably good that it's only $23-25 for the adorably-frog-adorned 3 liter box.