Isn’t shopping for wine a bit like visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? Pass through the entrance and sense feelings of wonder and awe. How could there be so many choices? The wine, like a seemingly endless river of chocolate, brings on conflicting feelings of childlike joy and overwhelm! Caution should be exercised so that a lack of self-control doesn’t lead to catastrophe.
It’s a lot to cope with, I know. In order to maintain a sense of decorum AND not overspend, it’s a good idea to have a plan and stick to your mission. To that end, here is a simple guide to buying wine.
Begin with a Show of Restraint
My wine shopping strategy begins with a modicum of restraint. I take a bag to the shop that holds 6 bottles and make a pact with myself not to purchase more wine than the bag can carry. This is good for the budget and limited storage space.
Shop with Dinner in Mind
Next, I make a mental list of what types of wines we could use with dinner. What’s on the menu? I reflect on memories of travel and celebrations around the table. Then take some time pondering about what types of value wines might be of interest – are certain regions calling me?
This easy savory baked apple recipe shows up regularly for dinner at our house. The apples can be prepared ahead of time, then served at room temperature. It’s the kind of dish that works as well for an everyday dinner yet looks impressive enough for a special occasion meal. It’s also quite at home on a brunch table. Plus, it’s every bit as tasty the next day, so I usually plan to make leftovers.
Inspiration for this dish comes from the book, On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis. It’s a fascinating read in which recipes comingle with the tale of how she and her family adapt to life in Normandy, France and transform an old convent into their residence.
While celebrating Washington Wine Month throughout March, I opened a number of bottles that reminded me of the remarkable values crafted by our state’s wineries. Here they are, irresistible Washington wines under $26 in order of price point along with food pairings. If these wineries aren’t already on your radar they should be!
On a recent visit to VinoSocial client Esquin I asked for a Washington Merlot under $30 that isn’t heavily oaked. With over 5,400 wines in stock, I was surprised the recommended wine came in at less than half the budget! For the price, I was willing to take a chance.
What’s in the Bottle
100% Merlot fermented in stainless steel, aged in a combination of second use, third fill, and neutral French oak.
With fruit coming from the ethereal Champoux Vineyard (Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, and Woodward Canyon source from here), plus vineyards in the Wahluke Slope it’s hard to believe what a great value this is.
Blackberry, Tootsie Roll, and dark chocolate comingle in this weeknight winner with lifted acidity.
Hubby and I tried this out with whole grain spaghetti topped with marinara sauce and I’d do it again!
“When should I open this bottle of wine I’ve been saving for a special occasion?” That question was regularly posed to Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher in the days when they penned their renowned wine column for The Wall Street Journal. In response, the clever writers started “Open That Bottle Night.” The goal was to encourage the inquisitive to just go ahead and open that bottle. The event continues to take place on the last Saturday of every February. If you’ve ever wondered what wines are on the minds of winemakers and wine writers on Open That Bottle Night here’s a little insight.
“I was lucky enough to try a tank sample of the Block B Syrah with winemaker Jordan Fiorentini when I visited last spring. I got my hands on a bottle and I can’t wait to open it – the Block B is a plush, layered mix of fruit, earth, and mineral.”
When it comes to her desired dish, “I can’t wait to pair it with grilled lamb meatballs with flavors of cumin, coriander, and allspice. Lamb and syrah always signal spring to me and are a classic pairing.”
Wine Writer Kathleen Willcox Soaks Up Paul Hobbs’ Finger Lake Project
Talented wine writer Kathleen Willcox is the co-founder of Thinking Outside the Bottle. Her captivating work frequently appears in Wine Industry Advisor, Wine Searcher, and Wine Enthusiast.
As an Open the Bottle option, “I would love to revisit Paul Hobbs’ Finger Lakes project, Hillick & Hobbs,” Kathleen says.
“It’s a tribute to his upbringing on his family’s farm in Upstate New York, and the traveling winemaker’s latest estate overlooking Seneca Lake in the FLX is producing some of the best Riesling I’ve ever had. Hobbs is known for running Sebastopol’s Paul Hobbs Winery, and Crossbarn, in addition to working with Mendoza’s Vina Cobos, Cahors’ Crocus, Armenia’s Yacoubin-Hobbs and Galicia’s Alvaredos-Hobbs. All delicious. His Seneca Lakes beauty more than lives up to his reputation for producing terroir-driven wines.”
As for pairing, “This one is delicate but powerful, tangerines, wildflowers, wet rocks, pears, lemons and limes. I love pairing it with chicken schnitzel—a family favorite—with buttered and salty egg noodles.”
Winemaker Jay Anderson Reminisces Over Vouvray
When it comes to memory wines, Jay Anderson of Foundry Vineyards in Walla Walla mentioned Vouvray during an interview for the Slow Wine Guide. The energetic Chenin Blanc comes from the region of the same name in France’s Loire Valley. It was the wine Jay’s father would always order with mussels when dining out. Therefore, it was especially meaningful to Jay when he got access to Chenin Blanc for Pet Project. Not yet familiar? It’s his exciting venture based on the ancestral method of winemaking. The grapes come from the 200-acre organic Arete Vineyard in the Columbia Valley. The result is a zippy effervescent wine with citrus up front and lemon-lime soda like character, contrasted by a rich finish.
Open That Bottle Night Wine Revives Travel Memories
Contemplating memory wines has me thirsty for a bottle over which the hubby and I may reminisce about our travels. A lone bottle from our visit to Castello Monte Vibiano in Italy’s Umbria region still resides in our cellar. I think it’s time to open that bottle.
As soon as the leaves start falling off the trees, I look forward to the availability of Brussels sprouts. This salad recipe calls for the help of a food processor which makes prep incredibly easy. Plus, it can be made in advance, so is a terrific side when company is coming. What’s more, its shades of red and green make it a festive addition to meals during the holiday season. So what are you waiting for? It’s time for Brussels sprout salad and wine!