In tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.

Chenin Blanc is a rare beast in Washington. The grape was once widely planted but a mere 233 acres remained as of 2010. Interestingly though, many of the remaining vines date back decades.

Such is the case with Hestia Cellars 2009 Chenin Blanc. This wine hails from Andrews Ranch Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills from vines planted more than thirty years ago. The result is a very pretty, nuanced wine with layers of complexity. Look for an upcoming article on Chenin in the July/August edition of edibleSeattle.

Finding Chardonnay under $15 can be a tricky venture as one never knows if they’ll find an oak-chipped, buttery beast or something leaner and more nuanced in style. Barnard Griffin’s Tulip Series Chardonnay is in the latter category and is an extremely enjoyable wine at this price point.

Wines labeled as ‘sweet’ makes some swoon and other recoil. Clearly there is a market for sweet wines. To wit, this is Pacific Rims largest production wine at 90,000 cases. Unfortunately though for many people sweet wines have gotten a bad name due to the numerous, cloying white wines that are heavy on sugar and low on acid.

The 2009 Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling is about as far as you can get from that wine. Though clocking in at 8.4% Residual Sugar – and a mere 9% alcohol – the acidity more than keeps the sugar in check here. The result is a thoroughly delicious wine that makes for a perfect pairing with spicy food. It is a steal at $11.

A Washington Malbec under $15 is completely unheard of. In fact, I do not know of another outside of this wine. Malbec is consistently Washington’s most expensive grape at about $1,600 per ton in 2010. Most of the resulting varietally labeled wines have price points of $30 and up. Here Hudson Shah – part of Woodhouse Wine Estates – offers a bottle that comes in at a mere $12. Though not a prototypic Washington Malbec, it is an enjoyable red wine and the price is right.

The Envious Winemakers Woodinville White is a companion wine to the popular Woodinville Red. This non-vintage wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.

See previous Five Under $15s here.

Hestia Cellars Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2009 $15
Rating: * (Excellent) Pale golden color. Leesy aromas along with straw, nectarine, and lemon. Palate has a weighted, textured feel with layers of complexity. Sample provided by winery. Andrews Ranch Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 13% alcohol. 450 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Barnard Griffin Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2009 $14
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with spice, lemon, apple, and melon notes. The palate is crisp and tart with a rounded mouthfeel. Apple notes linger on the finish.

Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 $11
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) An aromatic wine with floral notes, honey, red apple, jasmine, and tropical fruit. The palate is rich with fruit and sugar, beautifully accented by acidity. Walks the balance beam almost perfectly. Residual Sugar 8.4%, pH 2.97, TA: 0.78. 9% alcohol. 90,000 cases produced.

Hudson Shah Malbec Wahluke Slope 2008 $12
Rating: . (Decent) Light in color. A moderately aromatic wine with spice, cherry, and plum. The palate is light bodied with abundant tart cherry flavors. Not a prototypical Washington Malbec but a pleasing wine and the price is right. 100% Malbec. Konnowack Vineyard. Aged 18 months in French oak (45% new). 14.8% alcohol. 840 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Envious Winemakers Woodinville White Table Wine Columbia Valley NV $13
Rating: . (Decent) Abundant pear, apple, and light tropical fruit notes. On the palate, a mix of lemon and lime flavors. Alcohol shows through at times. 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Pinot Gris. 14.0% alcohol.