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 HighlandsBottle Shop 33 in Wash ParkWines Off Wynkoop in LoDo and Proof Wine & Spirits in RiNo, we decided to head to Cherry Creek to explore The Vineyard Wine Shop.

Sitting proudly on Fillmore Street, The Vineyard Wine Shop has been a Denver staple since 1971. These veteran wine enthusiasts are approachable, well educated and passionate about helping customers find the right bottle for their preferred flavor profile and price point. Most notably, they offer twelve different Wine of the Month Club options at a wide range of prices that give wine enthusiasts monthly opportunities to discover new favorite bottles. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we caught up with buyer and manager Nathan Gordon to discuss his picks for affordable date night wines under $21. Cheers!

THE BOTTLE: Château de la Greffière Mâcon-La Roche-Vineuse Blanc Sous Le Bois 2015 Burgundy, France ($20)

THE NOSE: This bottling is a great transitional style for fans of California Chardonnay, with sexy, integrated oak and wonderfully ripe fruit.

THE PALATE: White Burgundy is a sure thing for so many reasons, and some of the best values in a category not known for them come from the Mâconnais, at the southern end of the region.

THE PAIRINGS: Nathan lovingly described the bottle as the “vinous equivalent of comfort food,” so roast a chicken, start a fire and pour a couple glasses to kick off a romantic evening.

THE BOTTLE: Kühling-Gillot Riesling Qvinterra 2015 Rheinhessen, Germany ($21)

THE NOSE: Beautiful, pure lime and peach fruit with a zippy seam of bright acidity.

THE PALATE: “I love Riesling with just about everything,” Nathan explains. “And this bottling from a terrific producer in Germany’s Rheinhessen packs a lot of value into an inexpensive package. It’s delicious.”

THE PAIRINGS: Spicy lovers, this one’s for you. It’s an ideal accompaniment for savory-spicy cuisines from Indian to Chinese to Moroccan to Thai, it’s versatile wine. If take-out’s on the menu for a “Netflix and chill” kind of romantic evening, this is the way to go.

THE BOTTLE: Abbazia di Novacella Schiava 2015 Alto Adige, Italy ($19)

THE NOSE: Pinot Noir lovers will find this scent familiar – fruit forward, with a hint of spice.

THE PALATE: A brilliant light-bodied red from northeast Italy that’s bursting with vibrant berry fruit and subtle hints of herbs.

THE PAIRINGS: “Schiava is a go-to red for me in warmer weather,” Nathan says. Pop it in the fridge for a slight chill and it’s perfect for an afternoon barbecue—but it’s also a great alternative to Pinot Noir in cooler months. Thinking you’ll celebrate with a nice piece of salmon and your wine absolutely, positively has to be red? Schiava does the trick every time.

THE BOTTLE: Elderton E Series Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 South Australia ($21)

THE NOSE: Va-va-voom! This wine packs a serious punch.

THE PALATE: “Elderton does great work up and down their range,” Nathan explains. “From the single-vineyard Command Shiraz at around $100 to their entry-tier bottlings that are considerably more budget-friendly.” Sign us up! This blend of Shiraz and Cabernet is a lot of wine for the money, packing a ton of ripe Barossa fruit into a wine that’s sure to please anyone who digs their reds full-bodied.

THE PAIRINGS: This is primo steak wine, whether you’re thinking tenderloin, prime rib or a big, beefy tri-tip.

THE BOTTLE: Moncontour Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé NV Loire Valley, France ($15)

THE NOSE: A distinctive scent with hints of peaches, spice and summer.

THE PALATE: Those bubbles are incredible palate-cleansers, so a few glasses of something like this Crémant, a blend of Loire Valley mainstays Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, during dinner will make each bite as revelatory as the first.

THE PAIRINGS: Sure, sparkling wines scream “CELEBRATION!” but they’re also wonderful throughout a meal—especially multi-course extravaganzas of tapas or sushi, where many different flavors are all vying for attention. Or you could just raise a glass to your sweetie before a night on the town. Or you could stay home with a good book and a flute of pink bubbles and toast the single life. Whatever your idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day may be, this beauty has you covered.

What wine shop should we explore next? 

All photography by Kyle Cooper.

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