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

This month’s Five Wines Under $15 is devoted to second label wines. Second labels are often used to allow wineries to play at a different price point than their main label. Sometimes the wine is made from declassified barrels; sometimes it has its own dedicated fruit. In some instances – such as the Boomtown wine below – the winery’s main label is made clear. In other instances, such as the wines from Lone Birch and Stonecap, it is not necessarily obvious from the bottle.

Our first wine second label wine comes from the folks at Dusted Valley Vintners. Boomtown is named after the boom in the Washington wine industry in the last ten years.

To me, second labels like Boomtown are extremely important to Washington’s advancement as a wine industry. The $15 and under market is currently largely dominated by a small number of (very large) wineries. To get more Washington wine into consumers’ hands, there needs to be more wineries playing in this space. Entry-level wines allow people to experiment with wines and wineries they are not familiar with. From there, you can generate interest and march people up the price ladder.

While there are a number of wineries in Washington making wine at $15 and under, very few of them are doing it at a scale that will make it far outside of the local area. This is where labels like Boomtown – Milbrandt and Charles Smith are two others that quickly come to mind – can play a significant role with productions in the thousands of cases. Of course this only works if the quality of the wine is there. Thus far Boomtown has delivered.

Lone Birch is a second label for Airfield Estates. In this case the winery’s main label is not mentioned on the bottle or on the Airfield website. Many wineries avoid making a direct association with their second label to avoid competing with their own brand. Others try to leverage the brand to both up sell and down sell.

The Lone Birch Red and White are both kitchen sink blends. The Red Wine is a blend of Merlot, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Cinsault. The white a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Semillon, Roussanne, and Marsanne. Both are made in the thousands of cases at prices that make them glass pour friendly for restaurants and easy on consumers’ wallets.

The final three wines – giving us a baker’s five in this month’s Five Wines Under $15 – come from Stonecap Wines. Stonecap is a second label for Goose Ridge. Goose Ridge is located on Goose Hill immediately across from Red Mountain. The Monson family farms an astonishing 1,600 acres there. This allows Stonecap to provide wines at an $8 price point where a limited number of wineries in Washington play.

The Stonecap wines will not necessarily light the wine world on fire, but they are very solidly made wines at a compelling price point. And again, they are made at a scale that gives them a wide reach.

Read previous Five Wines Under $15 here.

Dusted Valley Boomtown Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2009 $15
Rating: + (Good) Lightly aromatic with milk chocolate, caramel, herbal notes, cherry, and licorice. Palate is light bodied, painting around the edges with caramel, mocha, and cherry flavors. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot. Aged in French (70%) and American oak (40% new). 14.2% alcohol. 6,465 cases produced.

Lone Birch White Blend Yakima Valley 2009 $8
Rating: . (Decent) Pale lemon yellow. Moderately aromatic with peach, apple, spice and honeysuckle. On the palate, a straightforward, easy-drinking wine with just a touch of sweetness. 46% Sauvignon Blanc, 38% Pinot Gris, 10% Chardonnay, 4% Semillon, 2% Roussanne, 1% Marsanne. 13.5% alcohol. 2,478 cases produced.

Lone Birch Red Blend Yakima Valley 2009 $10
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Light in color. A very fruity aroma profile with red currant and red berries. Palate is light bodied with soft red fruit flavors. An enjoyable, light-bodied offering. 38% Merlot, 26% Grenache, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Barbera, 7% Sangiovese, 6% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cinsault. Aged 11 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak. 14.8% alcohol. 2,096 cases produced.

Stonecap Estate Grown Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2009 $8
Rating: . (Decent) Lightly aromatic with straw and spice. The palate is crisp with apple and lime flavors. 100% Chardonnay. 6,023 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Stonecap Estate Grown Merlot Columbia Valley 2009 $8
Rating: . (Decent) Abundant red fruit, spice, and herbal notes. Palate has a full feel with mocha flavors with a slightly sweet finish. 100% Merlot. 13.7% alcohol. 4,030 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Stonecap Estate Grown Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 $8
Rating: . (Decent) An aromatic wine with peaches, pear, and floral notes. Palate is just off dry with a full feel with abundant peach and pear flavors. An easy drinking, well priced wine. 100% Riesling. 13.5% alcohol. 1.7 g/L Residual Sugar. 3,461 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.