This periodic department of knives and corks is dedicated to really good finds for under $15. Joel and I enjoy the more expensive bottle from time to time, but for the most part stick to the frugal crowd. Here are four red wines we have tried over the past week or so, all of them under $15.

Bula 2012: Now is the perfect time to announce that I recently resigned my full-time day job to focus on writing. Thus, one week ago, Joel and I were wandering in downtown Austin following a farewell happy hour with my day job coworkers. We ended up at Annie’s Café & Bar, one of my first Austin restaurant loves and the location of discovery for one of my favorite sauvignon blancs, but that’s for another post. On this most recent visit, I was perusing the wine list for my usual suspect (full-bodied, spicy red, yadda, yadda…) and selected a Bordeaux. However, when I explained this choice and what we were looking for to our server, she insisted we submit to a blind tasting between the Bordeaux and another wine that she felt met our requirements. We hesitantly accepted…

The second wine was the Bula 2012 from Montsant, Spain. It won. The Bula is a mazuelo (carignan), Grenache, syrah (40-40-20) blend. The nose is full of red fruit also and on the palate it tastes of coffee and cocoa. It is velvety and full-bodied and coats the mouth with a lasting mineral finish.

We experienced the Bula alongside chili and honey roasted Brussels sprouts, calamari, chicken schnitzel and sautéed spinach. A versatile wine. $12.99

(Side note: Annie’s has the Best. Brussels. Sprouts. Anywhere. Hands down. Don’t question. Just fly to Austin immediately and get them. After SXSW, of course.)

Atavist 2012 Paso Robles Merlot: This is another exclusive from our wine club, Club W. The club’s site describes this wine as: “…like drinking a jelly donut.” That’s not necessarily a good thing in by book. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this wine. The nose is very floral and it is full of red fruit and vanilla on the palate. This wine is comforting and friendly… soothing. It went well with the meal – smoked pork, potato salad and sautéed mushrooms. In fact, I sautéed the mushrooms in this wine, a testament to its not being sweet even though the note from the club would suggest sweetness. This is an easy-drinking wine one could enjoy without food, too. $13 with Club W membership.

Kitchen Sink: Parts is parts. This zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah (38-34-21-5) blend does not display a vintage and is labeled as good old California Red Table Wine. I’m super okay with that. It was fantastic and less than $8. I picked this wine up and knew I was taking a risk, but it really came through with flying colors. Upon further research for this post, I learned it has won several awards and is bottled, owned, etc. by the same company as the next wine on this list.

The nose is full of plum and licorice and the palate offers up more plum and spiced vanilla… dare I say, nutmeg? No, I won’t go that far. This is a surprisingly complex wine with a long finish. I feel it proves that good materials and the application of skill don’t usually let you down. It is also unpretentious – the label itself is simple and familiar, which is probably what drew me in and then the price tag sealed the deal. We drank Kitchen Sink with smoked Jamaican jerk chicken and fish tacos. $8

Sand Dollar 2013 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon: I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about Sand Dollar. I have done you all a disservice.

The Sand Dollar cab is one of those bottles that I am always heartbroken to see empty and always kick myself for not buying two. Learn from my mistakes, ye readers. The nose of this wine is ripe with strawberry and raspberry – what I consider to be lighter red fruits. But, on the palate it explodes with plum and vanilla and is juicy and almost creamy at the same time. Its full body really coats the mouth and the dry finish lasts forever – case in point, I took my last sip when I started writing this portion and I can still taste it.

I poured this to accompany grilled venison and sautéed zucchini and asparagus. However, it goes best with watching Tonight Show Lip Sync Battle clips on YouTube. May I suggest the premier with Paul Rudd? 

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