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The Belt-Tightener's Top 10

These 10 wines will help you survive the post-holiday budget crunch
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Dec 26, 2012 1:02pm ET

Here it is, the day after Christmas, and you're tired and bloated and probably broke. Ho Ho Ho! With the holiday bills coming due, that broke feeling might not go away for a while.

If you're like me, you drank only the good stuff over the holiday, and now 'tis the season for post-holiday belt tightening, or at least it will be as soon as we survive the New Year.

With that in mind I put together a Belt-Tightener's Top 10 of California wines. There are five whites and five reds and none of the bottles cost more than $20. These are wines that are handy for everyone. Even if you're not on a budget in the New Year, they're fine bottles for everyday drinking, and if you're going to a New Year's Eve party next week, these are the sorts of tasty wines that anyone can enjoy.

All of these wines are produced in good quantities and should be available in markets around the country. With any luck, they'll brighten your New Year.


Big House California White 2010 (86 points, $10) An eccentric blend that's zesty and juicy.

Buehler Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2010 (88, $16) A complete package with delicate, spicy fruit.

J Pinot Gris California 2011 (88, $15) A spicy white with lively fruit.

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay California Vintner's Reserve 2010 (88, $15) A snappy little Chardonnay that's supple and fleshy.

Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc Paso Robles 2011 (89, $20) A floral and crisp white Rhone blend.


Bogle Petite Sirah California 2009 (87, $11) Packs lots of flavor and punch.

Cline Cashmere California 2011 (88, $16) A Rhone red blend with savory plum flavors.

Montevina Barbera Amador County 2010 (87, $11) Soft, juicy and zesty. Good quaff.

Murphy-Goode Merlot California 2010 (88, $20) Supple and soft with lots of spice notes.

St. Francis Zinfandel Sonoma County Old Vines 2010 (89, $20) Balanced and zesty, with plum and licorice flavors.

Mark Lyon
Sonoma, California —  December 26, 2012 4:13pm ET
I tried the KJ Vintner's Reserve 2010 Chardonnay in a blind tasting and was very impressed! I too would recommend it except for the bone dry crowds.
Dave Reuther
Deerfield, Illinois —  December 26, 2012 6:32pm ET
MEIOMI Pinot Noir Monterey-Santa Barbara-Sonoma Counties 2011 Score: 92 | $22. At 92000 cases this wine is available just about anywhere. I have seen it as low as $16.79 a bottle. I agree with the WS score. It will be one of my Belt-Tightener reds for as long as it is available.
Kihei, HI —  December 26, 2012 7:25pm ET
I agree with Dave about the Meiomi Pinot. It is my favorit Pinot under $20. It is $18 at our Costco.
Thomas Herer
Milwaukee, WI —  December 26, 2012 10:16pm ET
What a coincidence, sipping the J as we "speak". Heck of a deal for the $12 I paid. Great belt-tightening reco, Tim.

Had a little chuckle earlier reading the back label -- waxes poetic about what a small winery J is. After I finish this bottle, there should be only a little under half a million bottles left, so good luck finding it! :)
Tim Fish
Sonoma County —  December 27, 2012 11:38am ET

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Cheers.

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