Holiday parties are on the horizon. But you're always looking for good wine at prices within the realm of reality. Here are a few reds, none more than $20.
The 2014 Ravenswood Besieged ($16) sports an evocative, ravens-against-a-stormy-sky label suitable for Halloween. But the image actually reflects good luck and a harvest that yielded a concentrated red blend lively enough to carry you to New Year's. Zin-master Joel Peterson's plummy winner includes old vine zinfandel, petite sirah, carignane, syrah, alicante bouschet, mourvèdre and Barbera. The versatile Sonoma County wine has generous berry and cassis notes.
The 2012 Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon ($16), a Paso Robles-Alexander Valley alliance, offers hints of blackberry, plum and cherry, plus some chocolate. Sample it with beef stew, braised brisket, a steak.
Chile contributes the 2011 Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenère ($15), which marks the 20th anniversary of this medium-bodied red from the Colchagua Valley. It's full of ripe berry fruit and is the right match with grilled meat, from cheeseburgers to dry-rub seasoned steaks.
Argentina is the source of the 2013 Trivento Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($12), a garnet-hued bargain that's smooth and satisfying, especially when the main course is roast beef, marinated skirt steak or a husky meatloaf.
From South Africa comes the 2012 protea Red ($18), a juicy, husky blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot that makes no demands and delivers plenty of flavor. You'll enjoy the decorative design on the bottle, too. Try the protea with burgers, flank steak or milder chili.