In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10, unless noted otherwise.

I’m calling these reds unusual because either they’re niche reds (one distributor) or their hard-to-find reds (perhaps closeouts).

Four Vines 2009 Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel Sonoma County, California Alcohol 14.4% by volume. $8.99 at BevMo! on sale.

On the Label:  “Old vines lend depth and character to layers of silky berry fruit and spice. The wine begins with a rich fruit, then glides into a lingering sexy oak finish. Enjoy with candlelight and a friend…” Christian Tietje Winemaker

My Take: First off, I have never seen this in the grocery store. In order to find it (what’s left of it, that is), you’ll have to go to BevMo or another big box wine and spirits store. That said: This wine is made by one of my favorite winemakers, who actually sold the Four Vines label a year or so ago and is now making wines under the Cypher label. When we saw the Zin going for only $8.99 (30% off sale at BevMo!), we had it that same day to see if we should rush back and get a bunch of bottles.

The wine was good, I will say that. However, it wasn’t the stellar wine that I’ve become so spoiled with from Cypher (at 3 times the cost, I might add).  Even though its only a 2009, I’m thinking it was a wine that was made to drink young and, therefore, it has already lost some oomph for me. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a terrific bottle of wine.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ And it is a very good price.

Chessman Vineyards Reserve North Coast Pinot Noir 2009 Alcohol 14.3% by volume $10.04 on a “get rid of” sale at Vons.

On the Label: “In chess, choosing the right chessman and placing it on the right space maximizes the force of the move.  Likewise, choosing hte right vineyard that produces the highest expression of a particular varietal is the key to great wine.

Chessman Vineyards has found the perfect vineyard sites, from renowned North Coast, California, with the perfect varietal, Pinot Noir.  with its favorable exposure, climate, and soil, our North Coast Pinot Noir is the highest expression of this wonderful grape. Maximize your next move by enjoying a glass of Chessman Vineyard’s Pinot Noir.”

My Take: Okay. This label goes too far, especially since I read it after I tasted the wine. And trust me, it is NOT the “highest expression of this wonderful grape”.  I found it young, lacking in complexity (that may develop over time) and rather thin, which some pinot noirs can be. It is a cranberry color, reminiscent of a fruity Beaujolais Nouveau. I don’t know if this wine will get better over time (well, with each successive glass it does, lol). I’ve been waiting to try Chessman Vineyards, since they are usually priced above $15; now I realize I don’t need to worry about it. Note: This vineyard doesn’t have a website. I find that exceedingly strange.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ It went fine with pasta and garlic bread, even though it kinda got lost amongst the garlic.

Pacific Coast Highway Vintage 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Alcohol 14.5% by volume – around $8 at Fresh N Easy Markets.

On the Label: “The Pacific Coast Highway hugs the coastline of California and provides one of the most scenic drives in the world. It has inspired songs, poems, books; and now a wine. Enjoy the ride.

My Take: I admit, I was hesitant to try this wine as it was the third bottle I’d bought at Fresh N Easy  and the first two didn’t fare well in the Christine Rating System (the other two were reviewed here).  But dinner was almost ready and I needed to open something that befits a Wednesday night’s Mexican Plate Special. Besides, I love the name. Hubby and I got to drive PCH way up around Big Sur last March, and it was a magical, wonderful time. (Of course, after we got home, part of the highway fell into the sea…but I digress.)

So anyway, I opened, I poured, I sipped, I was surprised. The wine was drinkable straight from the get-go, no need to wait for it to air. The color is a deep purple-black and the taste, juicy and smooth. It almost tasted like a merlot, it was so mellow. It is a 2009; my guess is you’d better snap up bottles of this before it turns, and drink them now. (Does anyone other than the mega-rich or mega-snooty keep wine for more than a few months? Just wondering…)  It’s definitely an any-day wine and perfect for Wednesdays.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ A good all-around meal wine that won’t break your pocketbook.

That’s it for this week, thanks so much for stopping by! Remember these are my opinions based on my mood, the color of the sky, and whether the cat is purring or hissing. Your taste buds will vary.

I love your comments and wine suggestions, so please feel free to give me suggestions. (I’m still working on Reislings, Kathy!)

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?

My rating system: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever-popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!