Eleven Triad-area restaurants received Wine Spectator magazine Awards of Excellence in the Aug. 31 issue.

There are the usual suspects on that list — Fleming’s, Ruth’s Chris, Green Valley Grill, Print Works Bistro — who are recognized for their breadth and depth of inventory. But what catches my eye is when Wine Spectator singles out those restaurants with “inexpensive wine pricing.”

Now, I’ve never found restaurant wine pricing inexpensive anywhere, seeing how wines are marked up twice, thrice or more retail. But I have found restaurant wine lists priced such that they beg me to try something new.

Of the restaurants singled out for “inexpensive wine pricing,” here are ones that make me want to reach for something different: Osteria Italian Restaurant, 1618 Midtown and Village Tavern — all in Greensboro. Outwest Steakhouse & Saddleroom in Kernersville has an affordably eclectic list, too.

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An hour west of Greensboro lies the Swan Creek wine appellation, home to more than a half dozen wineries. Two Italian-style producers — Raffaldini and Piccione — literally sit side by side, so it’s well worth the time to visit both and compare styles.

I’ve long admired Raffaldini’s estate-grown Sangiovese-based reds. On this visit, I tasted through the menu and bought the 2017 Il Falco ($31), a blend of Sagrantino, Montepulciano and Petit Verdot. It’s a juicy mid-weight red reminiscent of Tuscany. I also bought the 2018 Liguria ($22), a crisp white that leans on Vermentino with just a hint of Pinot Grigio in the blend.

Next door at Piccione, I tasted through its menu and bought the 2015 Sangiovese ($23), 2015 Montepulciano ($24), 2015 Nero ($24), and the 2015 Vermentino ($20).

Both offer a taste of Italy that North Carolina wine drinkers shouldn’t miss.

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A delightful addition to the local wine scene is an affordable (about $10) bottling from the famed St. Cosme estate in France. Outside of its estate-grown offerings, this producer buys grapes from various growers in southern France for its Little James Basket Press label.

The red is 100% Grenache blended from different vintages. It’s juicy and jammy black cherry and plum. I found it at Bestway in Greensboro. The white is a blend of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp tropical fruit flavors. I found it on the wine list at Melt in Greensboro. Both are meant for everyday drinking.

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A few lighter-styled suggestions to get you through this hot, sticky season:

2018 Jacob’s Creek Moscato ($6): For you sweet-toothed types, this slightly fizzy, off-dry white from Australia explodes with peach, pineapple and clementine.

2017 Honora Vera White ($10): This white is crafted primarily from the Verdejo grape, which responds well to drought-like conditions in northwestern Spain’s Rueda region. Apple and pear with zippy acidity.

2016 Cecchi Sangiovese Toscana ($13): An everyday Sangiovese from Italy’s Tuscany region. Interesting stir of plums, sour cherry and balsamic acidity.

2018 Charles Smith Band of Roses ($13): This Washington State producer crafted a delicate blush from Pinot Gris. Strawberry and honeydew melon flavors and aromas.

2017 Firesteed Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($16): A mid-tier Pinot from Oregon that delivers plenty of black cherry, black raspberry and black licorice.

2018 Fitapreta Branco ($22): From Portugal, this is grape blend largely unknown to most Americans: 40% Antao Vaz, 40% Roupeiro and 20% Arinto. A well-structured white with a bracing minerality and hints of white peach, granny smith apple, and magnolia flowers.

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Ed Williams is marketing director at Alamance Community College. This column appears the first Wednesday of each month. If you have wine news, email williamsonwine@gmail.com.

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