Friday, October 1, 2010

Easy to Find Fine Wine

If you're looking for really good wine, there's no substitute for visiting one of Corvallis' specialty wine stores. There you will get the benefit of the staff's expertise, who can find you the right wine at the right price.

Nonetheless, I've been repeatedly asked for recommendations for wines that can be found at local grocery stores, such as Safeway and Fred Meyer. In fact, just a few weeks ago I took a call from a friend who was in the wine section of the Philomath Boulevard Safeway. She was buying the ingredients for a dinner party and wanted a recommendation for a Cabernet or Merlot. I suggested going to a wine store, but she replied, "I don't have time. I have to finish getting groceries here and head home to start preparing. Can you recommend anything that I might find here?"

I suggested the Louis Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. She checked the shelf and replied, "They have the 2007. Is that okay?". I replied that it was. She later informed me that she and her guests had been pleased with the selection.

Recognizing that many of you likely will find yourself in a similar situation, I've decided to provide a list of wines you can find at most grocery stores. None of these are great wines, typically getting scores in the 88 - 91 range from publications like The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate. If you want something better, then you'll just have to bite the bullet and go to a specialty wine store.

Another thing about these is that they are pretty consistent from year to year, so I won't include recommended vintages. These wines are made by high production wineries, which can draw on a lot of vineyards for grapes. Those in California and Washington can even use up to 25% grapes from a year other than the listed vintage, or outside the designated area. This gives them a lot of flexibility and allows them to maintain a fairly constant flavor profile (for example, the Ste. Michelle "Eroica" Riesling has gotten exactly the same score - 91 - from The Wine Advocate for the last four vintages).

Kendall Jackson "Vinter's Reserve" Chardonnay - $11-12
Kendall Jackson "Grand Reserve" Chardonnay - $17-18
King Estate Pinot Gris - $14-15
Ponzi Pinot Gris - $15-16
Gallo Family Vineyards Pinot Gris - $9-10
Chateau Ste Michelle "Eroica" Riesling - $20-22

Benton Lane Pinot Noir - $21-22
Argyle Pinot Noir - $22-26
Ponzi Pinot Noir - $33-35
Argyle Reserve Pinot Noir - $35-37
Chateau Ste Michelle Canoe Ridge Vyd Merlot - $19-20
Kendall Jackson "Grand Reserve" Merlot - $24-25
Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County - $12-14
Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - $23-24
Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - $24-25

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut - $17-18
Argyle Brut - $24-25

Finally, if you happen to be at Costco, look for wines from a Chilean winery, Montes Alpha. Their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are all both good and moderately priced.