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 pretty label on the front, we’re here to help you sort it out.

Enter 21 and Under: our new, 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.

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This month, we headed to Argonaut in Capitol Hill. This family-owned operation has been a Denver staple since 1967, and it’s certainly easy to get lost in their 40,000-square-foot space. Luckily, wine expert Mats Weissenberg was there to help navigate the shelves. Weissenberg has been with the store for 13 years, and samples every bottle while taking notes on individual flavor profiles before it can be sold in store.

Weissenberg carefully selected five wines for our 303 Magazine readers — all under $21 and sold exclusively at Argonaut.

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THE WINE: 2009 Premiere Bulle French Sparkling Wine

THE FLAVOR: Dry, crisp, incredibly refreshing and a vintage 2009; hints of lemon zest, brioche, jasmine and hibiscus; It’s the perfect French sparkler.

THE PAIRINGS: Sip with grilled tilapia, spicy salsa or aged Gouda cheese.

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THE WINE: Silver Beach Sauvignon Blanc

THE FLAVOR: From New Zealand, this stunning white is a constant crowd favorite. It boasts hints of grapefruit, starfruit and kiwi. It has a great minerality and a nice acidity. Perfect year-round.

THE PAIRINGS: Sip with grilled eggplant, salmon caesar salad or a spicy guacamole.

 

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THE WINE: The Culprit Red Blend

THE FLAVOR: From California, it’s Argonaut’s most popular exclusive, Guild wine. It’s a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet, Merlot, Cab. Franc, Syrah and Petit Syrah. This is a big wine with essences of Dutch cocoa, cedar, Wisconsin cherries and a kiss of oak. This wine is full-bodied and with a lush finish. “This is how red wine should taste!” said Weissenberg.

THE PAIRINGS: Savor with filet a la sauce bernaise, sausage lasagna or baked brie.

 

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THE WINE: Domaine Camaissette Aix-en-Provence Rosé

THE FLAVOR: “This is one of our best selling rosés,” Weissenberg explained. Strawberries and vanilla fill your nose as you taste dry, elegant and smooth flavors with soft tannins. Hints of cranberries and fresh rhubarb round this out to an even finish.

THE PAIRINGS: Sip with bacon-wrapped melon, porcini risotto or Swiss raclette cheese.

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THE WINE: The Protest Red Blend

THE FLAVOR: From Sonoma County, this big blend of Cabernet and Syrah is aged in rye whiskey barrels. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” Mats explains. Tones of butterscotch and hazelnuts shine through from the bourbon barrels, yet you still get the depth of a red wine.

THE PAIRINGS: Savor with swiss chocolate, candied almonds or a t-bone steak and bleu cheese.

 

What liquor store should we explore next? 

All photography by Alex Palmerton. 

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