$15 or less
WHAT: Sogrape Vila Regia 2004 (red) Rating: NNN
WHERE: Douro, Portugal
WHY: Connoisseur, schmonnoisseur - it's dinner time and we need some vino. You can't knock the price, and it's widely available. Admirable balance and restraint: not too dry, not too easy. Very nice finish. Enough oomph to match up with most robust foods.
PRICE: 750 ml/$7.95
AVAILABILITY: At most liquor stores (product #464388)
WHAT: Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (red) Rating: NNN
WHERE: Central Coast, California
WHY: The boss/in-laws/yoga instructor are coming over. Time for something besides no-name root beer. This is a real solid sipper that, as a Vintages Essential, should be pretty easy to find on a regular basis. If they don't like Liberty's ripe but firm structure, it's time for a new authority figure.
PRICE: 750 ml/$18.95
AVAILABILITY: At selected Vintages outlets (product #738823)
Sips and Nips
WHAT: Cruzan Estate Dark Rum Rating: NNN
WHERE: U.S. Virgin Islands
WHY: You don't have to libra- or mohito-ize this. Maybe a cube or two, maybe a squeeze of lime, and delicate tropical smoothness awaits. A nice option for the straight-up crowd.
PRICE: 750 ml/$23
AVAILABILITY: At selected liquor stores (product #602912)