The United States consumed 913 million gallons of wine last year. With so many vineyards producing to keep up with demand, it’s hard to distinguish what bottles will be worth the investment. The average price per bottle has increased significantly in the last two years, but price doesn’t always mean quality. If you’re constantly lost in the liquor store, or if you generally pick your bottles of wine by the sale price or the pretty label on the front, we’re here to help you sort it out.

Enter 21 and Under: our monthly series covering the best bottles of wine at liquor stores around Denver ringing in at less than $21 — because you don’t have to break the bank to pop a cork.

After exploring Argonaut in Capitol HillMondo Vino in the Highlands and Bottle Shop 33 in Wash Park, we decided to head to LoDo to explore Wines Off Wynkoop.

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Wines Off Wynkoop is tucked away in a quaint alley off Wynkoop and the 16th Street Mall and conveniently located near several holiday shopping stops such as the Tattered Cover Bookstore and Union Station. It’s the perfect one-stop shop for a bottle of something cozy after a day of exploring downtown Denver. Don’t forget to stop in for their free wine tastings from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays.

I met with long-time employee Steven Knudson at the shop to talk about the store’s top wines under $21 — bottles that are both affordable and perfect to tote to any holiday gathering.

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THE BOTTLE: Pinot Nero Terregaie – Brut 100% Pinot Nero. Veneto, Italy ($21)

THE NOSE: Light red fruits like strawberry and red currants pop with bubbles. Definite notes of floral and citrus. The perfect holiday rosé.

THE PALATE: This bottle boasts an acidic, slightly fruit-filled characteristics that linger after opening.

THE PAIRINGS: Perfect for a party full of light appetizers.

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THE BOTTLE: Montinore Estate Willamette Pinot Gris – Forest Grove, Oregon ($17)

THE NOSE: Peach and apricot open to stronger citrus and tropical fruits in this fresh Pinot Gris.

THE PALATE: This bright bottle tastes of peach, peach and an ultimately floral flavor. You can taste its cooler climate production in it’s flavor profile and light, crisp body.

THE PAIRINGS: Perfect for those lighter holiday dinners full of fresh fish and vegetables.

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THE BOTTLE: Chateau de Montfaucon – 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Carignan, 10% Cinsault and 5% Counoise. Cotes du Rhone, France ($15)

THE NOSE: Ripe red fruits abound upon opening. Think plums, cherries and a hint of wet moss. Steven says, “You must decant this one. It’s worth it.”

THE PALATE: Complex is an understatement, raspberry and orange pith kick off a lighter citrus flavor with a smooth strawberry-like finish. With more oxygen, comes the savory meat and darker berry notes.

THE PAIRINGS: Sip with a Christmas roast, duck, sausage and most cheeses.

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THE BOTTLE: Battle Creek Cellars Unconditional Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, Oregon ($20)

THE NOSE: Bright and juicy, this pinot noir emits hints of cherry, strawberry, wood, tobacco and citrus.

THE PALATE: The Pacific Northwest is one of the youngest yet most promising wine regions. This bottle strikes a balance of light fruit flavor without being sweet. Taste ripe strawberries, soft tannins and a long finish that opens up to more fruit.

THE PAIRINGS: As Steven said, “pick any roasted bird.” I purchased it immediately.

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THE BOTTLE: Recanati Yasmin Red – 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot. Galilee, Israel ($14)

THE NOSE: Black cherry opens up to smoke and pepper.

THE PALATE: Like many Israeli wines, it is similar to the production of French wines. The warm climate where these grapes are grown leaves more dry, earthy notes in the bottle, with hints of smoke, raspberry and black cherry.

THE PAIRINGS: It’s Kosher, so tote this one to any Hanukkah celebration as a no-fail thank you gift.

What wine shop should we explore next? 

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