Buying wine sight unseen is not easy. Store shelves are packed with too many bottles, too many of which lure consumers with clever labels that makes what's in the bottle seem an afterthought. Those wines that do offer a glimpse of what's inside usually do so in winespeak so convoluted that even professionals get dizzy. Eight dollar cabernet sauvignon does not have hints of mocha.
Which brings us to the Line 39 ($9, purchased). The Wine Curmudgeon was having a shrimp boil, and I was poking through the wine section at a major national grocer looking for something new to serve. This bottle was stuffed on a lower shelf, more or less hidden by the usual grocery store suspects. I'll confess: The first thing I noticed was the screwcap. So I picked up the bottle, and gave it the once over.
• California wine from Lake County, a lesser known appellation that produces decent cheap wine. That was good.
• 13.5 percent alcohol, which was OK. Most inexpensive California wine all seems to be 13.5 percent alcohol, thanks to the wonders of science.
• Back label was sort of informative, though the business about lines of parallel was more than a little confusing. And the "Salut!" and winemaker's signature were corny, which almost made me put the wine back.
But I'm nothing if not adventurous in the cause of cheap wine, so I bought it. Turned out that was the smart thing to do. The Line 39 was more than I expected -- a bit of lime citrus, a sort of stony, unmarred finish, and clean and crisp throughout. It paired well with the shrimp, and the guests liked it (which is always the important thing). It's a simple, well-made and uncomplicated wine, of which there isn't nearly enough.