NAPA, Calif. — In a tight economy, wine-lovers and makers are thinking bargain.
One way to save money without scraping the bottom of the barrel is to look at second line wines from premium wineries — cheaper cousins to the flagship wines — that often offer surprising quality.
A recent entry in the wine labels-for-less field is Turn 4 from the Napa Valley’s Bennett Lane Winery, owned by vint-ner and NASCAR West team owner Randy Lynch. The wine, named after the turn on the race track where all the action happens, sells for $19.99 and, this year at least, features Napa fruit.
Lynch initially intended to make Turn 4 a cheaper, entry-level wine, but, with premium grapes going at rock-bottom prices due to the recession, he decided to put Napa cab in the bottle.
“I don’t know that it will always be Napa fruit, but, at least for now, it’s quite the bargain,” Lynch said.
Another winery with a second label is the Duckhorn Wine Company in the Napa Valley, which sells cabernet sauvi-gnons for as much as $95 a bottle. It has a second line, Decoy, that goes for $30.
A cutely named second line is Orphan from Justin Winery on the Central Coast. The wine is made in small quantities and has sold out at the winery this year, but remains available at some retailers.
It’s made up of juice left over after flagship wines such as Isoceles, which goes for $62, are made. Orphan is a robust red generally priced at less than $15.
Looking for more ways to satisfy a thirst for deals? Noted wine critic Robert Parker’s latest book is “Parker’s Wine Bar-gains: The World’s Best Wine Values Under $25.”
California recommendations include Mason Cellars sauvignon blanc, N.V. Frontier Red from the Fess Parker Winery (yes, Davy Crockett himself) and a number of offerings from Rosenblum Cellars.
Values also can be found in various gift boxes offered this time of year.
Napa-based direct wine seller Geerlings & Wade has a holiday sampler of five bottles of wine, featuring some inter-esting reds, as well as a half bottle of dessert wine that costs about $80 including shipping.
For those looking to get in touch with their inner winemaker, San Francisco-based Crushpad winery is selling Fusebox, also going for about $80, that comes with the ingredients, equipment and instructions for making your own custom blends of Napa wine.