I have focused on wine under $15-$20 in my newspaper column and this blog because that’s where the growing wine market is buying. It’s also the majority of what I buy and really enjoy. There is nothing more fun than finding a great $12 bottle of wine. Well, maybe its finding a bottle under $10 – but those are even more rare.

How do I find them? I read a lot, and listen to the recommendations of wine shop employees, owners, or in this case – wine buyer!

I found a really good $12 bottle Saturday at Vine and Table in Carmel. I wrote a blog entry not too far back about avoiding wines with funny or cute names. But I bought Bangin’ Red 2005 Napa Valley on the recommendation of Vine & Table’s wine buyer, Louis Calli.

I started asking some questions at the tasting bar and identified myself as a wine columnist/blogger and he jumped in to answer some questions and walk around the shop. I’m thinking of going back and doing a visit just to get his opinions on some things for a future newspaper column, if he would be so kind.

The point I went away with was how important it is for a shop like the one in Carmel to have a wide selection of wines under $15 and even $10. He pointed out a couple I purchased.

The Bangin’ Red had a rich and fruity taste with plenty of oak on the back end to make me shake my head at a wine that sometimes can be found for under $10.

I’d say the juice has some spice, definitely some dark fruit, with medium body and despite the oak a rather smooth finish.

The label “Table Wine” has long taken a bad rap! It’s often a blend of grapes that reads like what the winery had left over after making the good stuff. This wine had Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Zinfandel – and the kitchen sink. But it will surprise you because it’s darn good!

A regular blog reader asked me to note more often how a wine pairs with food. Tonight I had some pasta, a tad bit more spicy than I normally make it. I was testing a mixture of flavors for a dinner I’m making later in the week. I simply used ground turkey and Italian sausage with onion, red peppers, and garlic along with canned seasoned, diced tomatoes. I mix the sausage 2-1 in favor of mild over hot.

The Bangin Red held up better than I expected. It might not be my first choice, but as opposed to other reds it held its own against pretty big flavor.

And the final endorsement: I had some 70 percent cocoa chocolate and the wine held up pretty good. Afterwards I tried a couple small bites of 60 percent cocoa chocolate and it paired really great.

Bangin’ Red rocks!

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