Picture this: You are rushing to your next holiday party after baking cookies and shopping for your favorite nephew’s Star Wars Lego’s. Driving towards your BFF’s (or coworker’s, or mild acquaintance’s) house, you realize you’ve forgotten a hostess gift. You know a bottle of wine is your best bet, as it is a thoughtful gesture and also helps ensure the tipsiness of your fellow party guests. However, your favorite wine shop is not even close to being en route. What is a wine-loving girl/guy to do? Well, if you are like me, you pull into the nearest gas station or drug store and look for a couple go-to labels. Here are my tips for navigating the wine aisle in these untraditional wine spots.
Tip #1 – Always look for KJ!
If you are in a pinch, think Kendall-Jackson. KJ, as I like to call it, is known for making wines in a consistent manner, year after year. For example, if you like the KJ Chardonnay, you will probably like the 2010 vintage just as much as you liked the 2007 a few years ago. Consistently solid wine is the key to Kendall Jackson’s brand, and I’m particularly partial to the white KJ varietals. This week, I purchased a KJ Riesling for $12 per bottle because I know my mama likes it. But judging by a previous trip to Sonoma where a quarter of the bottles I purchased were from the KJ tasting room on Healdsburg’s square, I’m partial to most KJ wines. So if you don’t want to worry the next time you are in a pinch on the way to a holiday/other party, buy a bottle of Kendall-Jackson. You and the other party guests won’t be sorry!
If you are looking for red, I have two options for you. The first was previously carried by my favorite little wine shop in Chicago. Apparently, it became too popular (aka widely distributed), and that retailer dropped one of the best values around, the Alamos Malbec! Remember, sometimes wines are popular for a reason (they’re good), and I still like the Alamos Malbec, even though I can only find it in mega stores these days. This wine could save you in a pinch if you are looking for a hearty red for your next party. Malbec is a Bordeaux varietal that Argentina has embraced as is main red grape. Most Argentinian Malbecs, like the Alamos, are fruit forward, smooth, and pair well with rich protein dishes. In fact, Malbec is my go-to wine for steak these days. And this Alamos Malbec is a wonderful introductory Malbec at only $10 per bottle. Give it a try the next time you need a hearty red but don’t have time to make a stop at your favorite wine shop.
My second gas station/drug store red is the Apothic Red, which is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot. Basically, it should just say a blend of fruit, fruit, and more fruit, as I found it filled with dark red cherry flavors. It had a little Syrah spice on the nose, though, too. The wine is supple, smooth, and moderate on tannin and acid. It is a great red option for easy drinking at a party, as you won’t need food to be happy with this selection. This wine is approachable, and it seems like the perfect gateway ‘drug’ for white wine drinkers interested in trying a red wine. Also, it was the best value of the bunch this week. The WWG found it for only $9 per bottle. Booyah!
So obviously, these aren’t the most high brow picks, but I can almost guarantee they will be crowd pleasers, assuming your crowd isn’t filled with wine snobs. I hope they will help you in a jam or just help when you are looking for decent wine at a good value.
The Wandering Wine Girl