I just started reading "Great Wine Made Simple" by Andrea Immer. I've gone through the first tasting of whites. I used a 2003 Kendall Jackson Vitner's Reserve for the Chardonnay, a 2003 J Lohr for the Riesling, and a 2003 Silverado for the Sauvignon Blanc. I was amazed at how I could pick out specific flavors inherent in these wines simply by tasting the 3 next to eachother. I had never been able to place many specifics in wines that I had enjoyed. It was a great treat to be able to pull out different characteristics that I had not been able to enjoy before reading Andrea Immmer's book.
I'm going to try round 2 with reds and I would love some recommendations. I am looking for less expensive wines($7-15) that capture the essence of each varietal (pinot noir, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon). I am interested in pulling out the basics of each wine, rather than concentrating on more complex nuances. Those, I hope, will come in later tastings.