One of the joys of every oenophile is finding a little-known bottle hiding on the stacks at your favorite liquor store, taking it home and discovering you've made a great choice.
Now that gas prices are hovering around $4 per gallon, all of us have less money to take a chance on those unknown gems, so we've found 20 wines under $20 that are highly rated, consistently excellent and easy to find.
· Relax Riesling ($10) " A German Riesling from one of Germany's premier winemakers. Slightly dry, bright acidity, with notes of apple and peach.
· Babich Sauvignon Blanc ($15) " The New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are improving every year. This one has strong grapefruit notes and low acidity.
· Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay ($12) " This is a popular restaurant wine in Oklahoma City, tending to have more citrus than the oaked, buttery Chardonnays, but the vanilla finish offsets the acidity.
· Lolonis Ladybug White ($13-$15) " This organic white from Mendocino County, Calif., is a blend of four grapes: Colombard, Sémillon, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Strong notes of green apple and peach, but the light acidity makes it a refreshing wine.
· Wildhurst Sauvignon Blanc ($15) " This California Sauvignon Blanc has less grapefruit and more grass than the New Zealand wines, and it is complemented with passion fruit and other tropical notes.
· Hogue Riesling ($10) " This Washington Riesling is an excellent buy. The great blend of apricot, pear and floral notes is offset by a little stone on the finish.
· Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio ($14) " This Italian white is actually a blend. The Pinot Grigio is blended with Verduzzo to make a more substantial wine. The odd blend prevents the wine from being sweet and too light, but the pear and banana notes still add up to a refreshing wine with good balance.
· Adelsheim Pinot Blanc ($19) " The Pinot Blanc has very little acidity, strong notes of cantaloupe and nectarine and a long, spicy finish.
· Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewürztraminer ($10) " A tangy, citrus Washington white with moderate acidity and notes of pineapple and rose.
· Beringer Alluvium ($16-$19) " This is the best white under $20 to be found anywhere. It's a near-perfect blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier. Tangerine, nectarine and pear abound and the finish is slightly herbaceous.
· Evil Cabernet ($11) " This Australian Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best buys in the world right now. A big, unapologetically dry red with red and black fruit, as well as tobacco and dark spices.
· Peter Lehmann Barossa Cabernet ($15) " From one of the best winemaking regions in the world, this Barossa Valley Cabernet is full of red fruit, especially cherry, with subtle spices and mellow tannins.
· Bodegas Castano Solanera ($15) " A fantastic Spanish blend of Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon with firm tannins, plenty of blackberry and chocolate and a tangy, lingering finish.
· Lost Angel Cabernet ($13) " A 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from California, this rich wine boasts hints of dark chocolate, plus molasses with black cherries and raspberries.
· Lolonis Ladybug Red ($14) " An organic red blend of five grapes with great cedar and sage notes, dominated slightly by currant and cherry.
· Don Gascon Malbec ($10) " A smoky, Argentine varietal with chocolate, plum and cherry notes with a lingering finish.
· Stephen Vincent Merlot ($13) " A blend of California Merlot grapes gives this wine good plum and berry flavors and low tannins.
· Casillero del Diablo Carménère ($9) " Another Concha y Toro wine, this Carménère is loaded with currant, tobacco and cocoa, making it a bit smoky for those who shy away from big reds.
· Castello Banfi Centine ($12) " A well-balanced Italian red with notes of loam and blackberry, leading to a long finish with low tannins.
· Yellow Tail The Reserve Shiraz ($12) " Not to be confused with its better-known, cheaper sister wine, the Reserve is Yellow Tail moving into the big leagues. Blueberry, currant and plum make a tangy, bright red with good balance and a great finish. "Greg Horton