Summer grilling season is an ideal time to focus on red wines. Below are my favorite reds under $25, based on recent tastings. Each is a bargain.

Garnet 2016 Pinot Noir “Monterey County” ($10): Impressive quality for the price, I particularly enjoyed its full-bodied entry, balanced fruit, pleasing complexity and extended length.

Chateau La Paws (by Rosenblum) non-vintage red blend “California” ($11): This blend of mostly Zinfandel and Merlot is a remarkable value. It features rich but well-balanced fruit, good complexity, fine integration and a long finish.

Sterling 2017 red blend “Meritage, Vintner’s Collection, California” ($12): Attractive all around with strength on the palate focused on forward fruit as well as medium-soft tannins, pleasing body and extended length.

Butternut 2017 Pinot Noir “California” ($15): An excellent buy with purple-hued color, strong fruit, refined balance, attractive tannins, fine integration, very good complexity and prolonged length.

Columbia Crest 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “H3, Horse Heaven Hills” ($15): This stunning bargain, the best I’ve tasted this year, is beautiful in the glass and even better on nose and palate with power, fruit, complexity and personality.

Frontier Red (by Fess Parker) non-vintage red blend “Lot No. 82, Central Coast” ($15): This blend of six grapes expresses the whole as more than the sum of its parts. Attractive all around with strength, full body, pleasing fruit and great length.

Barossa Ink (by Grant Burge) 2016 Shiraz “Barossa, Australia” ($16): Eye-catching in the glass and pleasing on nose and palate. Well made with strong, rich, finely balanced fruit, engaging tannins, good complexity and extended finish.

Bread & Butter 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon “California” ($16): Very appealing, especially with strength and complexity on the nose and forward fruit on the palate that pairs with excellent balance, fine crafting and prolonged length.

Opolo 2017 Zinfandel “Summit Creek, Paso Robles” ($19): Attractive to eye and nose, but most expressive on palate with power, fruit, complexity, refinement and personality, all persisting throughout a lingering finish.

Ernie Els 2016 red blend “Big Easy, Western Cape, South Africa” ($20): This lean, strong blend of mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon has finely balanced fruit, light tannins and development that yields appealing complexity.

Graffito 2016 Malbec “Mendoza, Argentina” ($20): Attractive all around, but is best on the palate with strength, fruit, balance and development of very good complexity leading to an impressive finish.

Kilikanoon 2016 Shiraz “Killerman’s Run, Clare Valley, Australia” ($20): Highly pleasing and finely crafted in multiple dimensions, including purple hue, strength, complexity, rich fruit, honed balance and lengthy finish.

Pinot Envy (by King Estate) 2016 Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley” ($20): Tops in my tastings of similarly priced Pinots, this fine buy has a complex nose along with full body, appealing fruit, good balance and forward personality.

Yalumba 2017 Shiraz “Barossa, Australia” ($21): Light in color, but strong on nose and palate. Focuses on rich, attractively balanced fruit paired with medium-soft tannins, complexity, personality and length.

Ken Wright 2016 Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley” ($22): An excellent value with purple-hued color along with strength and complexity on nose and palate. Well-crafted with lean-styled fruit and notable refinement.

Planet Oregon 2017 Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley” ($22): This fine value has an attractive, forward personality with well-balanced fruit, appealing tannins, refined integration, good complexity and pleasing length.

St. Francis 2016 red blend “Claret, Sonoma Coast” ($22): Blending Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon resulted in a fine buy with strength on the attack, strong fruit, good balance, medium-soft tannins, appealing complexity and prolonged finish.

Three Finger Jack 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “East Side Ridge, Lodi” ($22): Excellent color hue and depth introduce strength on nose and palate, featuring well-balanced fruit and complexity persisting through an extended finish.

Hearst Ranch 2016 red blend “Three Sisters Cuvée, Paso Robles” ($24): An expressive blend of mostly Syrah with strong, full-bodied, nicely balanced fruit, very good complexity and medium-soft tannins. Pair with red meat.

Victor Hugo 2016 Zinfandel “Templeton Gap District, Paso Robles” ($24): One of the two highest rated wines for this column features strength on nose and palate with forward fruit, appealing acidity, robust personality and lingering length.

John Vankat’s Pine Wine appears most months and his Wine Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday.  Wines can be ordered from local wine stores unless indicated otherwise.  Prices may vary.  John can be reached at


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