On the lookout for high quality and low prices, our panel of readers/sippers finds local winners.

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WINE IS MEANT for everyday enjoyment, and $40 bottles simply aren’t feasible for most of us on a regular basis. This is why we constantly search for the perfect crossroads between quality and price.

The Seattle Times reader wine-tasting panel most recently explored options for Washington red blends that retail for less than $20 — and those we found were delicious and affordable.

About 25 of us gathered at J. Bookwalter Winery’s tasting studio in Woodinville for a blind tasting. We found plenty to enjoy from wineries on both sides of the state.

Seattle Times readers/tasters listen as Perdue discusses the first wine during a blind tasting of inexpensive wines. (Katie G. Cotterill/The Seattle Times)
Seattle Times readers/tasters listen as Perdue discusses the first wine during a blind tasting of inexpensive wines. (Katie G. Cotterill/The Seattle Times)

A question that often comes up is why some wines are more expensive than others. It’s a complex issue, and one part of the answer is that it often depends on where grapes are grown — and how.

For example, Red Mountain and the Wahluke Slope are both warm growing regions, but land on Red Mountain is considerably more expensive. So while it’s hard to make an inexpensive wine from grapes that cost $5,000 per ton (Red Mountain), it’s considerably easier to do so when the fruit is less than $1,000.

The wines are revealed after a blind tasting of inexpensive wines March 3, 2016, at J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio in Woodinville.
The wines are revealed after a blind tasting of inexpensive wines March 3, 2016, at J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio in Woodinville.

In either case, we are grateful to have wines for Tuesday nights as well as for special occasions.

Six affordable reds

Once per quarter, The Seattle Times reader wine-tasting panel gets together for a blind tasting. The theme for this one was affordable Washington red blends. We tasted six wines that retail for $20 or less. They are presented here in the order they were tasted.

Columbia Winery NV Composition, Columbia Valley, $14: This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah is a smooth, youthful red showing aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Mild tannins push all the fruit forward.

Waterbrook Winery 2013 Mélange, Columbia Valley, $16: Longtime Walla Walla winery Waterbrook has crafted this delicious blend of no fewer than 10 varieties for several years. Fruit-laden aromas give way to flavors that fill the mouth with plum and black cherry.

Thurston Wolfe 2013 Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red, Horse Heaven Hills, $16: Longtime Washington winemaker Wade Wolfe blends zinfandel with three other grapes to craft a red that is a crowd-pleaser. Aromas and flavors of vanilla, cocoa powder and fresh raspberry are backed by balanced tannins.

Bookwalter NV Notebook Red, Washington, $10: This merlot-based blend is a delicious wine at a great price. Aromas and flavors of Bing cherry, ripe plum and a hint of oak spice give way to a long, luscious finish.

Tamarack Cellars 2014 Firehouse Red, Columbia Valley, $18: Walla Walla-based Tamarack blends 10 grapes — leading with merlot — to craft a youthful and tasty red wine with plush notes of ripe raspberry and plum.

Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Gold, Columbia Valley, $12: The Columbia Crest winemaking team has put together this cabernet franc-based blend that is nothing short of stupendous. Smoky complexity backs big flavors of black cherry and boysenberry.