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Affordable Reds

Often when shopping for a well-made Cabernet or Merlot produced in California, you are faced with a sticker price of at least $20 and often up near the $40 to $50 range. However there are some solid producers making great big juicy reds for under $15.

One of my favorite finds of late is the Liberty School 2001 Cabernet ($10.00 @ The Wine Club, 953 Harrison). Out of Paso Robles, it is the second label for Treana Winery. The Cabernet was extremely lush, like sun-warmed blackberries smashed against the roof of your mouth. But it keeps your tongue guessing with the added depth of dried herbs and leather. Great with a porterhouse or just for sipping.

L de Lyeth is an offshoot of the Lyeth label that is quite well known for its Meritage blends. This second label is focused on both showcasing the individual varietals that make up the Meritage blends as well as keeping them very affordable. The 2001 Merlot ($8.00 @ The Wine Club, 953 Harrison) is rich and dark with flavors of black plum, blackberries, and a hint of cocoa powder on the finish. Certainly big enough for any steak you throw its way.

After enjoying Steven Vincent's Pinot Noir (see the past wine column, "Bring Your Own Bottle") so much, I didn't hesitate to sip a bit of the 2001 Merlot ($10.00 @ Amphora, 384 Hayes). It was a little lighter than expected, but still full of juicy black plums with a bit of unexpected heat on the finish. A great versatile food wine, heavy enough for lamb, but it won't overshadow pasta either.

Vineyards Genevieve Robertson can be reached at by_the_glass@hotmail.com