Wine column no. 9: The Wallflowers

They filter in when you're not listening. Someone tells a funny story, and the half-smile on their face tells you they've almost reached the punchline.
Meanwhile, you're sipping that chardonnay — it is a chardonnay, right? And you're eating your chicken, and the night goes on and you haven't even really noticed the wine that keeps getting poured into your glass.
These are what we call wallflower wines. Like dinner music, they're the stuff in between the words you choose to say and hear. They're wines that don't stand tall enough to be singled out as winners; yet they're not low enough to be excluded from the get-go.
This column is about those wines, because truth be told, not every bottle is going to catch your eye. Some just need to be fillers. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Speaking of chardonnay, let's start with the 2009 Newton from Winetree. This chilled 58 percent Sonoma Valley and 42 percent Napa Valley Californian was instantly green apple. It remained that way for about 20 minutes before the vanilla started to peek through ... like the sun does, sometimes, through the clouds. Think subdued, because that's what this oakiness was. We both liked this. There was no butter, no manufactured softness, and this 14.5 percent alcohol bottle is a good buy if you like vanilla and green apple flavors. Paired with lightly seasoned chicken, it'd be a good bet. $10-$19.99.
Now it's on to the 2008 Bogle Vineyards Old Vine red Zinfandel, which was about $9 at Schnucks. We thought it was rough and a bit bolder than other versions of Old Vine Zinfandel we've had. In terms of flavor, it's earthy, but texturally there are smoother versions of red Zinfandel out there. That said, for a less-than-$10 bottle, it's not bad at all.
Here's a red that won't rob you blind, either: The 2008 Tamas Double Decker Red, which you can find at Winetree. This 13.5 percent alcohol blend of cabernet sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Barbera is light but tastes of red fruit. It's got some tannins, so you'll know you've just had a swig of that post-Prohibition juice. But it's an easy bottle to drink, and to like, without distracting you too much from your dinner companions. About $10-$15.
And finally, the 2008 Concha Y Toro Xplorador Malbec is likable without being high maintenance. This somewhat fruity Mendoza, Argentine, has texture you can breathe in and take with you, meaning it's like a lot of other lower-priced Malbec. Big Red Liquors in Bloomington. $5.99-$9.99

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