Whining and dining: Inflation opens the door for domestic wines

Years ago, when I first started seriously drinking wines, I wasn't looking to become a sommelier or a monster wine snob. Basically, my goal was to find a few good brands and varieties of wines so that I could match a drink with a meal and only make a moderate ass out of myself.

After a little trial and error, I more or less reached my goal: I discovered that Penfold's Shirazes were hearty red wines that generally tasted great, Alsatian Gewurtztraminer went well with spicy Indian food, and Boone's farm wine was best consumed with a bottle of 7-Up or a Slushy. Best of all, most of the wines that I discovered were well under $10, which meant that they fit my budget beautifully.

Over the years, wines have come in and out of style, which means that prices have gone up, taking a few of my favorites out of my range. Penfold's became really popular in the mid-1990's, and I wasn't able to afford most of its wines; ditto Alsatian Gewurtztraminer. On the other hand, there's never been a lack of good brands for me to try, and I discovered Spanish Rioja, Kim Crawford unoaked Chardonnay, and Idaho Gewurtztraminer, all of which are really tasty and reasonably priced (at least for the time being).