Friday Question of the Day – Your Favorite Wines?

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Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

Not sure how many oenophiles we have out there but I’ve recently been enjoying a grape or two. Despite having taken a vitology class about 19 years ago, I sadly have retained nothing from it. Well I do remember something about the bend in a river affected the light which affects the terroir or something like that but anyway, it doesn’t help me when I’m at a liquor store staring at 1000 bottles and having no idea what’s good. So for today – just wondering if anyone has recommendations for bottles of wine? Even better if you have recs for reasonably priced bottles, say under $20 – but I’d be curious in your recs for special occasion bottles too.

50 Comment

  • How about two kinds of advice, since you’re paying full freight and all?

    If you would like to develop your palate, I recommend serial monogamy. Pick a grape, eg, syrah/shiraz, cab sav, chard, etc, and just drink that one for a while. Try different regions and styles. You’ll learn what that grape can do, and what different areas taste like. They try a new one. You’ll figure out what you like.

    If you would like something pleasant and don’t want to think about it, ask for a cheap recommendation and go with whatever you like.

    Please remember that your taste is yours alone–there is no universal standard. You should buy what you like. Your opinion about what’s good or bad is as valid as anyone’s, and if you disagree with the critics you’ll only pay less. Here in the States many people feel as if wine knowledge is a sign of sophistication and its absence implies the opposite. That’s hogwash. Folks get caught up in pretense; a disservice to drinkers everywhere.

    That’s the view from a methods man. You can come by for a sampling sometime, and I or another experienced wine hand can help you see inside a great world, should you want a guide.

    • I agree with some of Thirsty’s advice. I know a lot about the wine industry through certification, retail and now my job. I’m not a fan of sweet wines like Moscato or Riesling, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad wines. If you like them, great! Don’t let others dictate to you that certain wines are better than others. If you like it, you like it. I do recommend exploring. Many wine stores have daily or weekly tastings. Stop by and sample. Take a photo of the bottle so you remember it later.

      For under $20 I like Educated Guess from Napa Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon), any red from Rioja and Freixenet’s black bottle. Cavas from Spain are a great way to celebrate. I like my wines dry (meaning not sweet), so if you like sweet then I recommend you ask around.

  • One of my favorites is something I hadn’t heard of before a trip to South Africa a few years ago: a sparkling shiraz. I visited the Solms-Delta winery and have since ordered the Cape Jazz Sparkling Shiraz a few times – for myself and as gifts.

    http://wineshop.cape-ardor.com/solms-delta—cape-jazz-sparkling-shiraz—nv-750ml-p109.aspx

  • Chateau Ste Michelle Merlot

  • For a special occasion, Oregon makes some great Pinot Noir. Look for producers like Cristom, St. Innocent, Chehalem. These will set you back more like $40-60 but they are wonderful wines.

    For something every day, try southern French wines from Cotes de Rhone, Minervois, Corbieres, Cotes de Languedoc, etc. I think they can be a great value, and have a dry earthy flavor that’s hard to get in US wines. Guigal Cotes du Rhone is available in almost every wine shop and is very consistent.

    Otherwise Thirsty’s suggestion is good – keep trying grapes and regions. The one trick is that if you get to the bottom of the barrel (less then about $12 these days) the wines tend to taste less distinctive, and tend to gravitate toward a “juicy” centroid.

    • Agree!

      Erath is one of my favorite pinots from Oregon and hovers right around the $20 price point. I can usually find it at Whole Foods and Harris Teeter.

    • What a helpful posting! The other week I went to del campo and the bartender let me try a few wines and I fell in love with this cote de rhone. I cant find it in any of the 14th street wine shops, but when you said “dry and earth,” that is exactly what I am looking for. I’ll now have to try a few other cote de rhone and see how they turn out. Thanks!

  • Juice boxes from Costco

  • For real +1

  • I belong to a wine club. I pay $30 a month, and get two interesting bottles, which would usually retail for about $20 each. I go to the shop once a month to pick it up, and while there I taste whatever they’re offering and generally buy another bottle or two. It’s a great way to try lots of decent wines, chosen by someone who really knows the product.

    • Sounds interesting. Mind sharing where?

      • Whoops, I meant to do that in my original post. It’s Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park. They’re in that weird little strip mall with the parking lot in front, and they validate parking for an hour.

  • I have always been a fan of Cabernet and Malbec and blends that use one of the two. My favorite liquor store in town (Costco), has Alamos Malbec on a regular basis and it will usually run you about $6.89, as opposed to $9 from most other stores. I am also usually able to find a cab blend named Tranco which I enjoy. Recently, I have seen a new (at least to me) Malbec around that I believe is priced around $10 named Revolution Malbec. It tastes good, the price is right and it has a cool label. It can usually be found at D’Vines or DiVinos. Sorry, I don’t know much about white wines because I am weird and unlike most people, it is whites that give me a headache not reds…

    • Sorry if this comes up twice (posting too quickly!). I’m also a fan of malbecs and find Alamos to be decent. When I want to treat myself, I buy La Posta (about $16-$20) if I can find it. For white wine, I really like a good graves (white bordeaux), which I can find at some Safeways for $16-$20.

    • Thanks for the recommendations on Malbecs. I’m not all that into wine, but I tried Malbec for the first time when visiting Buenos Aires and took a shine to it. Ever since then, when I buy wine, I buy a Malbec.

  • gotryit

    I’ve had great success with ~$15 bottles of Rioja, for bold but not bitter reds.

  • Owen Roe makes excellent wines from Oregon and Washington. Try Sinister Hand, Abbott’s Table, and Sharecropper. Fantastic reds that pair well with almost anything, and balance fruit and strength so that even non-red wine drinkers enjoy it.

    For the special occasion, hands down, Nickle & Nickle. Single vineyard wines out of Napa, consistently awesome.

    I know it is the burbs, but if you are looking for a wine shop that really knows there stuff (and does free tastings every Saturday!) head to Oakton Wine Shop, they also have a ton of beer.

  • Whenever I find Nederburg’s Pinotage in the store (usually at Yes! Organic, but occasionally elsewhere) I buy EVERY SINGLE BOTTLE.

  • For the 16 bucks, I don’t think there’s a better value than Decoy Merlot.

  • I love Malbecs and Tempranillos . I really like Nieto Senetiner Reserva Malbec ($14-16). I also really like Evodia Garnacha (super cheap and highly delicious).

  • I love Primus red blend–sold at WF–but Costco has it much cheaper. I also love South American reds like Carmenere. I second (third?) the other commenters’ nominations for Riojas; there are few red wines that can match a really great Spanish Rioja at the $20 price point. I am starting to develop a taste for French red wines but because the regions are so varied and complicated I still don’t know how to pick a French red that matches my taste.

  • montepulciano grapes make a tasty wine. It’s slightly spicy and they’re good at any price range

  • goaldigger

    Virginia is really making some lovely stuff. Drop $65 and get on one of the bus trips to the Virginia Wine Festival at Bull Run or The Plains and explore (you can ignore the 20 something preppies on the bus). Use an app, take pictures or you can use my old school star rating system on the tasting notes sheet to track what you like. I really like Cardinal Point in Afton, VA, Cobbler Mountain in Delaplane, VA and Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, VA.

    Also, the Restaurant Association of Metro Washington will be hosting this event end of March that has several tasting options: http://ramw.org/events/ramws-spring-wine-fling

    • What is the current working definition of “preppies”? is it as well-defined as “hipsters”? reading the term made me think of AC Slater. ha ha

      • Preppies: banana republic / abercrombie and fitch type polo, khakis, and a short haircut… mainstream
        Hipster: skinny jeans / skinny corduroy pants, converse, and an odd haircut / piercings / brooklyn beard… “unique”

    • epric002

      +1 for virginia wines! my all time favorite red is glass house winery’s 21st meritage. i buy it by the case whenever i’m in c-ville. i also love assyrtikos, and a to z pinot gris (oregon).

  • There used to be secondary lables that would be used by the big producers to process surplus grapes to process wines of secondary (yes still fabulous) quality. An example was Liberty School used to be Caymus secondary lable producing fabulous inexpensive wines with Caymus second quality grapes…. the 2005 Liberty School cab was really incredible at 15 bucks. Sadly i’ve heard that this practice is not as widespread anymore and certainly Liberty School isn’t doing it anymore….and the last few years of Liberty School was just “meh.”

    Anyone know of any top secret secondary lables still operating? T

    • Look for Cameron Hughes wines. He buys the left over juice and sells them as a mystery. Each varietal is given a sequential Lot# and he gives clues on his website for where each came from. Can be hit or miss, but the price usually reflects the quality.

    • Here are a few I sometimes buy:

      Decoy (second of Duckhorn)
      Double T (second of Trefethen)
      Hawk Crest (second of Stag’s Leap)
      Darioush Caravan (second of their most expensive cab)

      These are all California wines which I am more familiar with. I know there are others but these are the ones I could think of for now. Perhaps well informed blogger has compiled a list? Would be worth a google search.

  • For sparkling wine, Gruet from New Mexico is actually really good and pretty cheap. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/16/dining/16newmex.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  • this is a bit cheesy i know, but because i always forget what i liked, i started a pinterest board of wines i bought and want to buy again. it’s a short list now, but it will grow!

    maybe it can help you.
    http://www.pinterest.com/sean_hennessey/wine-i-drank-and-liked/

  • PDMtP

    There are some very good suggestions here, and some of what I’m saying picks up points others have made. I’d come at this a little differently, though – I don’t think it’s that useful to get particular names or labels, because a) the odds you’ll find that particular wine at your particular store aren’t that great and b) if you do, it’s likely to be a big brand – not that those are all bad wines (for example, the Gruet suggestion is a very good one), but you’ll be limiting yourself to a small fraction of the world of wine. So, my suggestions:

    1. Don’t be intimidated. There’s as much variation in the world of beer as there is in the world of wine. If you can know what kind of beer you like, you can know what kind of wine you like. You have to deal with more producers and more information, but it isn’t that your palate isn’t sophisticated enough.
    2. Think about it as what kind of wine you like, not what particular wine you like. You don’t have to walk in spouting a bunch of jargon, but in a good wine shop if you can tell them a category they can probably show you good examples and/or similar wines based on what they have. If you can remember particular wines (you’ll probably need both the name of the producer and either the name of the grape – in the New World – or exactly which region – in the Old) so much the better, but categories are a good start. For the person who likes Rioja (yay!), I could find you a number of good examples or suggest you try a Tuscan sangiovese-based wine if you want to branch out. The folks in a decent shop know a lot; if you give them something to work with, you can leverage that.
    3. Building on 2, find a decent wine shop. If you’re really into it, it’s worth the trip to not go to Safeway, and you can learn a lot just from chatting (and the people there generally like to do it). My personal favorites are Weygandt in Cleveland Park, Bassins in Palisades, Wide World in Glover Park, and Schneider’s on the Hill, but there are lots of other good options. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the guy in Union Market, but the shop had interesting choices. Cork Market is also a great choice; they know what’s up, and you can buy what you just tried (and remember, it’s what YOU like)!

    Have fun – it’s a great hobby and one you can share with your friends – not droning on about tannins and terroir, but just being the dude or dudette who always brings tasty juice that sometimes has a cool backstory.

    • I haven’t been to Weygandt yet, so I say this with that caveat: Calvery Woodley has the best price, selection, and service in the city when it comes to wine. You tell them what you are eating, what wine you like, what wine you don’t like, anything, and your budget. They will suggest a great wine within your budget without judging or batting an eye. There is one sommelier there who has been hit or miss (younger guy), but the rest are spot on every single time.

      • Calvert* Woodley

      • PDMtP

        Calvert Woodley is a good store and I shop there. If you’re comparing them to the big three (CW, Bassin’s, Schneider’s) they don’t have the best prices or, at least compared to Bassin’s, the best selection. All three have very knowledgeable staff.

  • In love with Oregon Pinot Noir right now haven’t really had one that disappointed. Erath or A-Z you can usually get at Giant or Whole Foods for under $20.00. Estancia is my favorite Noir when I can’t get a new Oregon. Chardonnay makes me crazy so I avoid it but my friends tell me the Cupcake is cute. Gertzweiner/Rieslings are my summer wines. Haven’t found a favorite yet. Open to any great suggestions.

  • Call me cheap/unclassy/ridiculous, but the best stuff I drink these days is the Tisdale wine that Giant sells. 3 bottles for $11?! For as cheap as it is, it doesn’t taste that bad IMHO. The pinot grigio is great.

    All that being said, I’m definitely not a wine snob and just drink wine when I’m not feeling beer, so this cheap stuff could actually be terrible and I just don’t know it.

    • Well said. I echo your buying habits/opinions.

    • Hey the Tisdale wines are decent. I get mine at Yes! next door. I’m also liking some of the box wines the Montgomery Co liquor stores are stocking – FishEye and Black Box. Around $20 for the equivalent of 3 bottles of wine. Fits in the fridge and has a cool tap on it.

  • I have disagreements with some of the above comments.
    Wine choice has a lot to do with what you are eating! If you buy a nice malbec, you should really pair it with a steak (or similar food)…. otherwise it’s just not the same (and this is coming from someone who lived in Argentina for many years). Some of the wines recommended above are BIG/Robert Parker/Wine Spectator/International Bordeaux style wines. If you like that kinda thing, all the more power to you…. but I find this style generally poor for matching to most foods (well, most foods we eat). Some of these wines are fine for drinking on their own, or pairing with strong cheese, but you there is a lot of really good food wine on the market, so why go for the flavor bombs? For lighter, spicier, less meat heavy foods, I avoid big red wines, and go for light reds, good (dry) rose, and whites.
    For reds, yeah Oregon Pinot Noir can be awesome, but also expensive (most good ones are >20-30$). Pinot Noir is generally more expensive to produce than other varietals. I personally avoid California reds like the plague. I’m also a fan of wines produced from some of the more obscure grapes in Spain, Italy, and Austria. I’m a big fan of Zweigelt, Blaufrankisch, and other light reds (some of which are closely related to pinot noir).
    My other suggestion is to hit Austrian wines!!!! They make many, many, reasonably priced wines that go great with lighter foods, and are cheap enough for everyday drinking. A good Gruner Vetliner, or dry reisling is awesome in the summer, or drinking with food. A cheap go-to is Anton Bauer Gruner, which can normally be found at Whole Foods for 11-14$. A good way to tell if a reisling is sweet or not is by looking at the ABV. If it’s below 10% it will have considerable residual sugar. 12% or more and you’re fine. It is worth noting that for really spicy foods, a sweeter wine is normally preferred (I generally detest sweet wines, so I don’t follow this rule).
    One great rec from above is to find a good wine store! I tend to avoid Trader Joes as they are heavy into CA wines, and larger producers. I prefer wine stores that stock smaller producers and odd varietals. Cork market is good, but Ace liquor is probably the best wine store I know of in DC (mostly because I have a friend who works there that knows my taste very well).
    A few other things:
    VA wines are overpriced for their quality. Yeah, there are some good ones, but you can find better wines for 1/2 the price. VA is for visiting wineries, not buying bottles in DC stores.
    There is a LOT of really bad Pinot Grigio and overly oaked Chardonnay on the market. It’s a good idea to just stay away from both (unless you know what you’re doing, or like these kinda things).

  • I’ve never got a bad bottle from the 2 for $20.00 bin at D’vines. It’s a great way to try different styles and find the characteristics you like. Then when you have some idea of your taste, and want something a little more developed/challenging etc. just tell Eddie what you liked and why, and he can recommend other choices.

    And a general rule for grocery store/cheap wines – NEVER Chardonnay – cheap Sauvignon blancs are your best bet for white, for reds – cheap Merlot is usually better than cheap Cabernet.
    And for a camping trip – Target box wines are not bad.

  • I actually find the New Zealand Nobilo (Sauvignon Blanc) very good and it’s usually around $10.

  • I haven’t met a grenache or sancerre I didn’t like.

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