A lot of you ask me for wine recommendations, which makes me feel way cooler than I should, because I’m actually pretty stupid when it comes to wine. I can tell you the introductory basics, like what grapes certain regions are known for and the difference between oak and stainless steel barrels, but put me in front of 10 different bottles of pinot noir and ask me to tell you how each bottle should taste based on the climate in that region that year, and I’d tell you to stop being such a pretentious jerk.
Just kidding. I’d hang my head and kick myself for not improving upon my wine knowledge at all in the last five years. Someday, I’ll be able to pick out a bottle on the wine list based on the grape, region, and year. (I’ve been telling myself that for a long time now.)
Right now, I pretty much pick something based on the grape, price range, and familiar brand. When I choose something gross, I chalk it up to being “adventurous” instead of “clueless.”
When purchasing from the store, I rely heavily on the varietal I’m in the mood for, and the cuteness of the label. Which is not ideal, because not all chards, pinots, cabs, merlots, etc. are created equal. Also not ideal, because cute labels mean nothing other than I’m an immature, unknowledgeable consumer. Props to the marketing departments of Middle Sister and B**** wineries, though. Your wine may be simply passable, but that’s good enough for me, because looking at your bottles in my kitchen makes me really happy.
Over the years, I have found some go-to bottles of wine that I think are legitimately good. You may completely disagree with me if you’ve had them before, or once you taste them after trusting this blog to guide your next wine run, but my taste buds have spoken. I cannot take responsibility for their preferences.
Here are 5 simple recommendations that you can find in any grocery store (or wine+liquor store if you live in a sad state that doesn’t let you buy wine at Food Lion, Rite Aid, 7-11, etc.). They include 3 reds and 2 whites, ranging from $9.99-$19.99. I don’t pay attention to year, because I simply haven’t reached that level of training. Bear with me.
1. Smoking Loon Pinot Noir (~$9.99)
I was told about this wine by someone who knows a lot about wine. He used the phrase “drinks above the price,” which sounded bougie enough for me to try it. I’m not going to get into all the “tastes like the mouth of a lightly rusted hose” descriptions, but if you want a red that is pretty light, pretty cheap, and easy to drink, this baby’s right up your ally.
2. Ravenswood Zinfandel (~10.99)
Again, this one comes at the recommendation of a much more wine-savvy individual than I. First of all, zinfandels are lovely when not rudely confused with white zynfindels. Vom. “White zinfandel” is not a grape, so don’t get it twisted.
Anyway, this zin is a red that I personally like to enjoy with spaghetti. It’s a tad heavier than the pinot noir, with more berry flavors. Nom Nom.
3. R Collection Cabernet (~$11.99)
R Collection is the more affordable “branch” (so-to-speak) of Raymond Vineyards. I wouldn’t call this cab particularly big or velvety, but it’s the kind that’s really good both with or without food pairing. A lot of times, cabs can be a tad heavy for me to drink without food, so I like that this one is full-bodied, but not overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I love big cabs that taste like a velvety vanilla dreamsicle, but for a “house cab” that you pull out on a Tuesday, I’m all about R Collection.
3. Matua Sauvignon Blanc (~12.99)
This one, you will either really love or really hate. I think we used to serve it at my restaurant in New York…maybe. I believe that’s how I know of it, but I could be making that up. It’s basically a bottle of citrus body spray that you bought from Limited Too back in the day. I used to hate wines that could be related to body spray or perfume in any manner, but the granny in me is really starting to shine through my wine preferences. I love how floral and citrusy it is at the same time (at least, to me…you should maybe go see how their website describes it). I gave a sip to my friend’s husband last week, and he promptly shook his head and poured himself a glass of cab, so I mean, it’s not for everyone. But if you think kids these days wear shorts that are too short, you’ll probably like it.
5. Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay (~19.99)
You may have to go to Total Wine to find this little gem, but it’s so yummy that it’s worth a trip beyond the grocery store. I got a bottle as a gift once, and fell in love. It’s is a stainless steel chard, not an oakey/buttery chard, which appeals to more people across the board. I think it’s yummy with chicken, seafood, or a light pasta, or just for drinking on the beach with friends. If you don’t like chardonnay, you’ll probably still like this. Try it!
It’s really weird that the two whites I chose are more expensive than any of the reds. That is abnormal. But I’m abnormal, so it kind of works out. Salud!