Some of the wines you love and remember most are the ones that surprise you. They're inexpensive, yet the quality and taste experience is extraordinary.

There are plenty of reasons why these bewitching wines are a steal for the price. A winery might own its own vineyards at a cost savings, or perhaps a winery has purchased grapes in bulk at a good price. Some inexpensive labels are created to round out a winery's price range.

Or maybe a winery is using excess juice that doesn't quite make the cut for its upscale label. This is the case of the $12 Shebang! Fifth Cuvee, North Coast Red Wine, according to Morgan Twain Peterson of Sonoma's Bedrock Wine Company.

"Shebang! is a blend of vineyards that do not quite fit into the higher-end Bedrock wines and is decided months after harvest," Peterson said.

"My hope with Shebang! has always been to make a wine that offers serious deliciousness for the price. . . . It's not a wine I make for a bunch of profit. It's the wine I make for my college self, something that tastes likes well-reflected California sunshine."

The producer of a tasty $8 cabernet sauvignon -- the Round Hill, 2010 California -- said the price reflects the fact that the family owns vineyards throughout California. The Round Hill brand is an inexpensive label of St. Helena's Rutherford Ranch Winery.

"We have access to good-quality grapes at reasonable prices," said winemaker Steve Rued.

Rued added that the $12 and under category has always been very competitive and continues to be, but it's driven by curious consumers.

"As winemaking/grape growing has improved over the last 15 to 20 years, so has the quality of inexpensive wine," he said. "I think that as consumers become more interested in trying different wines, wineries are attempting to meet this new demand."

Whatever the reasons, consumers can enjoy the fact that there are plenty of budget-savvy, captivating wines out there to be found. Here are a few:

Shebang! Fifth Cuvee, North Coast Red Wine, 14.2 percent alcohol, $12. A juicy red blend with a great concentration of fruit and some snappy spice. Notes of blackberry, black cherry, herbs and cracked black pepper. Dripping with fruit.

Round Hill, 2010 California Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5 percent, $8. An easy drinking cab with great fruit. It's slightly sweet, with aromas and flavors of cherry, cinnamon and a hint of caramel.

Husch, 2012 Mendocino Chenin Blanc, 13.6 percent, $12. A vibrant chenin blanc with aromas and flavors of melon, apricot and peach. Lush mouth-feel. Lingering finish.

Picket Fence, 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 13.8 percent, $9. An approachable, layered pinot noir with aromas and flavors of cherry, anise and caramel. Medium-bodied.

Gnarly Head, California Pinot Grigio, 12.5 percent alcohol, $10. A refreshing pinot grigio with bright acid. Aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, Meyer lemon, and white peach. Great minerality.

Staff writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 521-5310 or

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