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Drinks: Simple outdoor sips

2010 Ruffino Pinot Grigio

2010 Ruffino Pinot Grigio Photo Credit: Handout

Feeling a little al fresco?

The picnic-and-barbecue season announces itself with food-friendly wines that make no outrageous demands, either at the table or in the budget. Here are some easygoing choices, for $16 or less.

The 2010 J Vineyards 'California' Pinot Gris ($16) is a crisp and versatile white, delivering a hint of citrus and vanilla. The wine is an ideal aperitif, and good company for Asian and Latin fare.

From Sonoma: the 2010 Simi Sauvignon Blanc ($14), a straw-hued, tangy white with notes of citrus, tart apple and tropical fruit. You'll like it with cured meats, shellfish, maybe a fish taco.

And the 2010 Ruffino 'Lumina' Pinot Grigio ($10), with traces of pineapple and pear, works as a sipper, or with everything from pasta primavera or pesto to seafood or chicken in green curries.

Ripe, reliable and ruby-red, the 2009 Banfi Chianti Classico ($13) is perfect with grilled meat and especially red-sauced pastas. Also, look for the 2009 Banfi Chianti Superiore ($11), good with red meat, baked pasta, lighter stews.

The Central Coast brings you the 2008 Concannon Selected Vineyards Merlot ($10), a no-nonsense varietal with plenty of red fruit. Made for beef or lamb.

The 2010 Barone Ricasoli Albia ($15) is a light, floral Italian rosé, pretty in pink, with suggestions of cherry and strawberry. Enjoy it slightly chilled, with antipasti, cold cuts, stuffed peppers, Thai dishes. Veer French with the 2010 Château de Campuget Tradition Rosé ($11), a fruity number full of berries.

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