Celebrate Taste Washington with Wines Under $20

Do you need to restock your supply of Washington wine? You’re in luck, I’ve uncovered some incredible deals just in time to celebrate Taste Washington with wines under $20! Bottles were purchased from Esquin Wine and Spirits (a VinoSocial client), or direct from the winery. Now, let’s uncork some values!

Cairdeas Winery

2019 Diffraction Red Blend
$18 at the winery
I have to confess, I purchased a case of this wine when it was on sale for just $12 a bottle (get on the winery’s email list so you don’t miss out next time!). However, even at $18 it delivers remarkable quality for the price. This delectable red blend is composed of a number of Rhone varieties and although lighter in style, it’s loaded with flavorful spicy nuances. It has been our house wine this last year. In fact, the hubby and I enjoyed the wines we tasted from Cairdeas so much that we have joined the wine club!

Try this if:  you want a red wine with dinner that won’t overpower your food.
Pair with: everything from barbecue to roasted chicken with a spice rub.


2016 Monastrell
$19.99 at Esquin
Spaniard Javier Alfonso works with Spanish varieties grown in Washington. Fruit is sourced from Yakima Valley where cooler nights help retain acidity. This wine is an easy drinker!

Try this if:  you want to experience Spanish influence on Washington wine.
Pair with:  meat loaf topped with barbecue sauce.

Locus Wines (a VinoSocial client)

2019 Rosé
$15 at the winery

I discovered Locus Wines through Seattle Urban Wineries, a great resource if you want to explore wineries in the city.

This mouthwatering blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre from Rattle Snake Hills starts with strawberry flavors and ends with a minerally finish. This is a terrific wine for fans of Provencal rosé. Although the owners at Locus have a heavy focus on wine and food pairing (yay!), I would gladly spend the day on the patio while sipping this wine on its own.

Bonus:  the winery delivers in Seattle for wine orders of $75 or more.
Try this if:  you want to pretend you’re in the Mediterranean.
Pair with:  Greek salad, panzanella, or grilled salmon.


2018 Merlot
$19.99 at Esquin (regularly $24.99)
Lydian is Avennia’s introductory label, primarily meant for glass pours at restaurants. Same great winemaker, terrific sources for fruit, but at a more approachable price. Lydian wines have been a hit in my virtual wine tastings.

Try this if:  you want a wine from a top notch producer, but don’t want to spend top dollar.

Nathan Gray

2017 Syrah
$16.99 at Esquin
Single vineyard Syrah from Den Hoed Wine Estates crafted by Ryan Crane of Kerloo Cellars – for less than $20? Huzzah! It needed a good decant to open up then revealed astounding refinement.

Try this if:  you’re looking for a wine that drinks well above its price point.


2018 Syrah
$11.99 at Esquin (regularly $21.99)
A second label for Isenhower Cellars, this fruit forward wine was fitting for a weeknight dinner of takeout barbecue.

Try this if:  you’re looking for a value wine for the Washington Syrah Challenge.

The Walls

2017 The Ramparts
$17.99 at Esquin (regularly $39.99)
This is serious toe-curling stuff! So, why that unbelievable price? Whenever there’s a transition from one winemaker to another, it typically means great deals are to be had. This was one of the last wines crafted by extremely talented winemaker Ali Mayfield before she moved on from The Walls. Red Mountain fruit makes up the enticing blend of Grenache (40%), Mourvedre (40%), Counoise, and Viognier (5%). It’s kind of like amped up Pinot Noir.

Try this if:  you want an amazing medium bodied wine that’s full of fruity, spicy, smoky character.


If you plan to celebrate Taste Washington with wines under $20, keep in mind that prices here, and availability, may change after March.

Note: I do not receive compensation from VinoSocial clients for any purchases made. These are businesses that I personally patronize.

Esquin Wine & Spirits

Locus Wines

Cairdeas Winery

Seattle Urban Wineries

Let’s Talk About WineSmith Wines with Clark Smith

It’s not often that a winemaker initiates a discussion on consumer perceptions of wines and winemakers. Especially rare is a winemaker who openly discusses his use of oak chips in winemaking. Insists that wine tastes better paired with music. Or asserts that sulfite free wines age forever. Yet, all this and more was tackled head on during an online media tasting with Clark Smith, winemaker for WineSmith Wines & Consulting and author of Postmodern Winemaking.

I wasn’t sure what to anticipate from the virtual event. One thing was for sure, though. When I received the sample bottles, I was excited to see wines rarely associated with California such as Saint Laurent and Petit Manseng.

Here’s the first thing Clark wanted to say:

“My wines are highly manipulated. ALL wines are highly manipulated. Those are not grapes in the glass. No wine is as manipulated as any beer, and that’s the truth. The foundation of our brand is total honesty.”

Regarding Wine Lovers

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About WineSmith Wines with Clark Smith”

Eight Washington Wines Worth Staying Home For and What to Pair with Them


Although winery tasting rooms were forced to close in March, maintaining a steady supply of wine hasn’t been a problem in our house! In order to stay afloat during these wildly challenging times, wineries have provided consumers all kinds of offers. A library vertical – yes, please! A mystery library pack – sign me up! Shipping included – okay! In other words, I’ve discovered some terrific deals. Revealed here are eight Washington Wines worth staying home for and what to pair with them. August is Washington Wine Month so don’t let it pass you by without trying some of these soul satisfying wines priced from just $17-36. Continue reading “Eight Washington Wines Worth Staying Home For and What to Pair with Them”

What Makes Avennia a Leading Winery in Washington

Although it is my regular practice to spread the word about notable wines and wineries, I don’t normally write about clients. However, these are far from normal times. Not to mention, I have been a fan of Avennia since the release of their inaugural vintage in 2012. Working with them for nearly two years in order to help wine lovers connect with the brand has just been icing on the cake. I consider myself extremely fortunate to assist such a celebrated winery and a team of generous and talented people. Through our partnership it’s become clear that there’s a lot to admire about the winery in addition to first-rate winemaking. Here’s an insider’s update on what’s happening at leading Washington winery Avennia lately, along with an exploration of some of their wines I’ve recently opened and the foods paired with them.

Avennia Winemaker, Chris Peterson (photo via Facebook)

Founded by Marty Taucher and Chris Peterson, Avennia is based in Woodinville, Washington about 20 miles outside of Seattle. The two met while working harvest at DeLille Cellars in 2009. When Chris reviewed Marty’s business plan for a winery, an innocent inquiry as to who was going to make the wine led to a partnership. By the 2010 harvest, the two were working Avennia’s first crush. Since then, Avennia has amassed top accolades and earned some of the highest scores in Washington State for their world class wines. Marty manages the business side of the winery while Chris oversees the cellar.

Avennia Founding Partner Marty Taucher during Avennia’s first live tasting

At the first signs of the pandemic, my company was impacted significantly. As business plummeted, so did my spirit. I remember speaking with Marty on the phone right when everything started going in a tailspin. Thankfully, the first thing he did was offer reassurance, “Don’t worry, Nancy, we’ll get through this.”

Principled Leadership

It turns out that Marty had read an article of mine that highlights five lessons on marketing during these challenging times. Like so many other businesses, Avennia was planning a quick pivot. In order to stay engaged with customers, social media would play a key role much to my relief! Additionally, employees would be kept busy with curbside pickup and wine delivery to customers’ homes. Remarkably, the winery also stepped up to help out the distressed hospitality industry. Continue reading “What Makes Avennia a Leading Winery in Washington”

Oregon’s Alternative Wines for the Adventurous

It’s easy to return to the familiar wines. The wines we know we like. After all, there’s comfort in the familiar, right? However, during a time when it’s critical to exercise caution in the everyday routines of our lives, wine is one aspect where we can choose adventure. Let’s talk about the less talked about wine varieties and explore Oregon’s alternative wines.

Think about wine from Oregon, and Pinot Noir is sure to come to mind. Or maybe one of the other leading planted varieties – Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Each of them fine selections in their own right. However, given the choice between those or a juicy red Zweigelt or fragrant Gewurztraminer I say back the truck up and head down the road less traveled! In fact, there are over 70 varieties beyond Pinot Noir grown in Oregon.

Did you know that Muller Thurgau is the seventh most planted variety in Oregon’s Willamette Valley? In case you’re not familiar, Muller sounds like Bueller, as in Ferris Bueller – the very one that took an infamous day off. Gewurztraminer is sixth. Pinot Blanc fifth. What makes these varieties compelling? Distinct personalities. Food friendliness. Character. Ultimately, this is the kind of juice I’m craving right now.

Oregons Alternative Wines

Six of Oregon’s Alternative Wines

While in Oregon last summer on a wine-soaked journey hosted by some of Willamette Valley’s wine industry veterans, I was exposed to a number of the ‘other varietals’. These are the wines that captivated me.

Gamay Noir
Brick House Vineyards
$34 SRP
Don’t confuse Oregon Gamay Noir for the highly promoted Beajuololais Nouveau. Although the same red grape variety is involved, carbonic maceration is not used here. Brick House practices Biodynamic farming on its 40 acres and ferments with indigenous yeast. The result is a serious wine with notes of cherry, baking spice, and slate. I was extremely excited when I saw this wine being carried at VinoSocial client Esquin!
Try this if you like:  Pinot Noir.
Pair with:  roast chicken, Asian cuisine, sausage, and special occasions.


Minumus / Craft Wine Co.
$30 SRP
Prepare a picnic, pour a glass of this captivating white wine, and get lost in the moment. The name of the grape is pronounced similarly to coroner but with an e instead of o. Sure, maybe coroner isn’t the best word to use but isn’t it going to be easy to remember now? The name comes from Dr. Julius Kerner who developed this delectable cross between Riesling and Trollinger. This fascinating wine inspired me to take advantage of a recent shipping deal and order more of the Minumus alt wines, Vermentino and Muller Thurgau among them.
Try this if you like:  Picpoul or other refreshing white wines.
Pair with:  bacon wrapped goat cheese atop a salad.

Muller Thurgau

Sokol Blosser
$28 SRP
With limited free time during a day of wine education at the property, I ventured into the tasting room for a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sampling and purchased this bottle as a result. Sokol Blosser is one of the founding wineries of the Willamette Valley, family owned and operated, and deeply committed to being good stewards of the land. They also happen to be the first commercial producer of Muller Thurgau in the U.S. This fragrant, pretty white wine evokes spring.
Try this if you like:  Torrontes, or off-dry white wines.
Pair with:  Thanksgiving dinner. Some sweetness on the wine also lends itself to spicy food.

Pinot Meunier

Left Coast Estate
$50 SRP
This red grape is mostly known as a blending partner in Champagne. Here it is on its own, opulent, fruity, and delightfully gulpable. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of this wine!
Try this if you like:  Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir.
Pair with:  risotto and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Pinot Noir Rosé

Maysara Winery
$20 SRP
Okay, okay, so it’s made from Pinot Noir. However, rosé of Pinot Noir drinks differently. After a tour of Biodynamic Momtazi Vineyards, I couldn’t resist purchasing this alluring bottle at the tasting room.
Try this if you like:  rich, fruity rosé.
Pair with:  sunny days on the deck and summer influenced food.

Pinot Blanc

Native Flora
$34 SRP
Scott Flora’s fascinating philosophy of farming is all about experimentation and improvability. This wine is for people with an adventurous spirit who desire a glass filled with something that gets along well with food.
Try this if you like:  Pinot Gris.
Pairs well with:  light seafood.

Now is a great time to pour something other than the usual in your wine glass. Let Oregon’s alternative wines take you to another place.


Willamette Valley Wine