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'Tis the season for wine bargains

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist1 / 2
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In an earlier column, I listed some inexpensive wines that are available on the market and enjoyable to drink. Because the response to the article was favorable and the holiday season is upon us, I thought it timely to make some additional suggestions that are both a bargain in price and very drinkable as well.

To begin, I have to point out that in Fargo and Grand Forks, Happy Harry's Bottle Shops will be starting their penny sale Friday, Nov. 24. For the uninitiated, you pay the regular price for selected wines — of which there are many — and for just another penny, you get the second bottle.

To help in the decision-making process, there will be ample opportunity to taste before making a purchase. I look forward to this event every year and restock my small wine cellar with some new discoveries. The penny sale runs for about two weeks, so don't miss out.

In hunting for bargain/good tasting wines, I suggest looking for well-known, established names on the market. Companies like Robert Mondavi and Chateau St. Michelle have a broad spread of wines available at many pricing points to satisfy the discriminating customer. Find wines with their names on the label at the price you are comfortable with. Such wineries have well-deserved reputations, and they are not about to put second-rate wine on the market at a low price to get a single purchase. They want you to come back again to their brand name, and perhaps graduate to the next tier of pricing in their product line.

As an example, Robert Mondavi has two good chardonnay wines that should please the most frugal wine drinker: Woodbridge is $8 and Private Selection is $12. Woodbridge is less OK, with the Private Selection being more traditional in style.

For riesling wines, Chateau St. Michelle has excellent selections at just about any price point the buyer might want. I had such a treat with a dinner of chicken potpie, with each one complementing the other in taste and satisfaction.

A mistake I've made in the past is to ignore the wines that are found everywhere: from top wine stores to the mass-marketing outlets. While they won't have the quality and complexity to elicit a "Wow" from you, they just might turn out to be an enjoyable wine.

One such enjoyable wine I've had is from one of the world's most interesting winery - the Kendal-Jackson's Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay that retails around $12 for a 750-ml bottle. As far as a balanced wine goes, this is one of the most perfect I've ever tasted. Barreled in French oak, with vivid flavors and just the right amount of sweetness.

Kendal-Jackson is a no nonsense winery owning thousands of acres around the wine-making world, producing this wine from its estate-owned vineyards.

Enjoy the holidays with good wine and family.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at