There are wines in our midst priced for under $20 that are well-made and taste great, many of them from familiar local regions that also produce wines of high acclaim and higher cost.
Those wines have their place. But in celebration of Halloween, we present this year's lineup of wines that won't scare your wallet.
<b>Besieged 2012 Red Blend, Sonoma County ($16):</b> The first new wine label to be released by Ravenswood Winery in more than four years, Besieged is a blend of carignane, petite sirah, zinfandel, mourvedre, alicante bouschet and barbera, a rich, full-bodied mouthful of juicy fruit. On the label, spooky ravens menace the night sky, the perfect bottle for Halloween or Day of the Dead gatherings. Info: ravenswoodwinery.com.
<b>Bonterra 2011 Pinot Noir, Mendocino County ($18):</b> From organically grown grapes, this pinot noir is smooth and succulent in strawberry and cherry vanilla, a subtle note of spice streaking through on the finish. It'll be hard to find a better bargain for such a wine, sourced from Mendocino County and given a level of care rare in fairly priced wine that still tastes like pinot. Info: bonterra.com.
<b>California Square 2012 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley ($20):</b> Just released from the folks behind Healdsburg's Truett-Hurst Wines, with winemaker Virginia Lambrix putting it together, the wine does indeed come in a square bottle, meant to be better for the environment and require less space for shipping and storing. The winery hopes it will be reused for a multitude of purposes. The grapes are sourced from the Russian River Valley and fermented in both French oak and stainless steel. Info: casquarewines.com.
<b>Dry Creek Vineyard 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley ($16):</b> A beautiful, stainless-steel-fermented sauvignon blanc with 10 percent sauvignon musqu? all grown in the Dry Creek Valley, that's alive in tropical and citrus fruit. With plenty of minerality to give it a satisfying kick, it's versatile and ready to be enjoyed alone or with food. Info: drycreekvineyard.com.
<b>Handley 2012 Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley ($20):</b> From two Anderson Valley vineyards, this well-crafted pinot gris is a drink of restrained peach and orange, wrapped in floral overtones. If you've only ever had pinot grigio, now's the time to go for its Alsatian-American cousin, a crisp, clean, dry expression of cool-climate fruit that's pretty in every way. Info: handleycellars.com.
<b>HandCraft 2011 Inspiration Red, California ($13):</b> From the third generation of the longstanding California wine-farming Indelicato family, Cheryl Indelicato offers this blend of syrah, zinfandel, merlot, malbec and sangiovese that's deliciously juicy and jammy. A registered nurse, Indelicato came up with the idea to make HandCraft wines to support causes important to her, like breast cancer research, prevention and awareness. But bottom line, the wine's good. Info: handcraftwines.com.
<b>Josh Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast ($15):</b> Made by negociant Joseph Carr at Larson Family Vineyards in Sonoma, this is a cabernet sauvignon that'll please most palates, easy to drink with smooth tannins, a core of cassis and enough balance and depth to make it seem as though you paid plenty more. Info: josephcarrwine.com.
<b>Kendall-Jackson 2011 Avant Chardonnay, California ($15):</b> The winery's cool-climate chardonnay, aged in neutral oak and stainless steel, is crisp and bright in fresh apple, pear and tropical fruit goodness, a crowd-pleasing wine that can successfully open up the night as an aperitif or wedge its way seamlessly into a range of mid-week meals, from seafood to chicken to Thai. Info: kj.com.