Wine 1: Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui. A fun sparkling wine from Italy, this has a lot of body in the mouth. It swells up and has hints of strawberry. This wine should go great with all sorts of chocolates, and could work equally well before dinner or during dessert. For $18 it's great, but for an inexpensive alternative, I'd recommend the standby Ballatore Spumante Rosso, though it definitely falls more on the simple cherry soda side of the spectrum.
Wine 2: 2003 Folie à Deux Menage à Trois Blanc. Despite the name, this is a California wine. Take note of the two dancing girls drawn like a Rorschach test--this winery is owned by two psychologists. As a big fan of their Rouge blend, I was anxious to try this wine. However, it was not as sweet as I expected. It's made from Chardonnay, Moscato and Chenin Blanc, though I think it could have used less Chardonnay and more Moscato. I'm not the biggest Chardonnay fan--that's not an elitist position, it's just that there's a lot of crap chard out there that has a sad rotten fruit aroma. (Technically it is rotten fruit, but work with me here.) Anyway, this is a solid white wine that ought to be useful for a wide range of dishes. Good for a backup wine, and affordable at $11.
Wine 3: 2001 Calò Rosa del Golfo. Supposedly, this is not a terribly popular wine, and the sponsoring shop owner was trying to unload a few bottles. That's a damned dirty shame, because I love this wine, though not necessarily at this time of year. This is a perfect summertime wine for grilled fish and shellfish. Despite the color, it tastes nothing like white zinfandel. It's actually quite dry, and often surprises those who taste it for the first time. By the way, this was the "blind" bottle for the day, and I nailed it immediately. (I'm not an expert by any means--I just recognized the color of the foil on the neck and the small selection of the sponsoring shop.) $15.
Wine 4: 2000 Apollonio Primitivo. (Good luck with that site, by the way. Not only is the English side broken, but it's all Flash. I can't stand that.) Primitivo is the ancestor of California's Zinfandel. This wine was much smoother and less sweet than I expected, which I imagine has a lot to do with the aging. I'm still on the fence when it comes to Zins... I enjoy them, but have yet to get enthusiastic about them. $14.
Wine 5: 2001 Montevina Amador Zinfandel. I had the 2000 of this wine, and it was horrible, though I'm willing to assume that I got a bad bottle or one that hadn't been stored properly. Anyway, the 2001 was noticeably better, but I still wasn't very impressed. It wasn't even as good as the previous Primitivo, and even that didn't excite me. $12.