Here are some recommendations of fine wines and buying strategies for different styles of wine.
Here I'm biased. Sweet rose wines give me the willies. If you like a sweet blush wine, 1989 Beringer White Zinfandel ($6.69) is a well-made wine that beats the heck out of Sutter Home. I don't much like it, though.
The following are all bone-dry rose wines. It's a category thadeserves a lot more respect -- including the surprising Lancer's listed below.
Among the best:
1989 McDowell Valley Vineyards "Les Vieux Cepages" Grenache 1989 Joseph Phelps "Vin du Mistral" Grenache Rose (about $9.50).
1989 Bonny Doon "Vin Gris di Cigare" ($8.49).
1989 Simi Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.89).
Other fine wines: 1989 Saintsbury "Vincent Vin Gris," Vin Gris oPinot Noir, Carneros ($8.69); Lancer's Rose, Portugal, non-vintage ($4.19).
Most of the news about under-$10 sparkling wine is bleak. If the wines aren't cotton-candy sweet, they tend to be either flavorless or overwhelmingly earthy.
Spain did provide two exceptions. They aren't from the hughouses of Freixenet and Cordoniu, though, so it might not be easy to find them. They're worth the effort even though they won't make you forget real Champagne:
Segura Viudas Cava Brut Reserva ($7.09).
Mont Marcal Cava Brut ($8.09).
It's a lot harder to make good, inexpensive sweet wine than good, inexpensive dry wine, so this category will always be rather thin.
Still, even the most poverty-stricken wine lover can likely afforat least one fine dessert wine -- Chateau La Salle Blanc ($3.29).
That's right. Ignore the screw cap -- this is actually a very goowhite muscat that has fooled many a so-called "expert" in blind tastings (yes, me, too). So go ahead, pour it in a decanter and serve it to your favorite wine snob.
Among the best:
1984 Peter Lehmann Botrytis Riesling, Barossa Valley, Australi($9.99).
Other fine wines: Yalumba "Clocktower" Tawny Port, SoutAustralia ($9.49).