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Wines on the Cheap

When I moved to the Northwest from California, I deliberately looked for and bought "local" wines. Before I moved, most of the wines I bought were California, Australian, or South African, with a smattering of German and Italian wines. Consequently, I thought it would be fun to try Northwest wines, so I have been assiduously buying and thoroughly enjoying lots of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I have a confession to make: my wine purchases are typically under $15 a bottle. Mostly, they're under $10 a bottle. And I'm not buying the Gallo Rhinegarten or Riunite Lambrusco I grew up with as "table wines." I'm buying local Washington, Oregon, and Idaho wines. Among my favorites have been Red Diamond Shiraz, Badger Mountain 2007 Organic Riesling, Columbia Winery Cellermaster Riesling, Columbia Crest Two Vines Vineyard Ten White, Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot, Ste. Michelle Gewürztraminer, and Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling, and my favorite local sparkling wine so far, Domain Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut.

There are a number of other local wines that I've enjoyed enough that I'd buy them again, even though they're not among my favorites. Quite a few, actually.

And now I have a second confession; I've bought all the wines I've mentioned either at local grocery stores, the Washington State Liquor Stores, and, believe it or not, local RiteAid drugstores. Depending on the wine buyer at a given RiteAid, you'll find some delightful Pacific Northwest Wines in the five to ten dollar range; most of them are between 6 and 8 dollars a bottle. In addition, both SafeWay and Haggen stores will give you a 10% off if you buy a mixed collection of six bottles (four for Hagen). I've also noted that after the New Year, you can pick up amazing bargains on Northwest sparkling wines; I'm seeing the entire Domain Ste. Michelle sparkling wine suite at under 8 dollars almost everywhere, and frankly, I see no reason to restrict a lovely thing like sparkling wine to celebrating large scale events; I heartily endorse celebrations of ordinary triumphs, on a regular basis. I also note that sparkling wines keep just fine when they've not been opened, and they're a lovely summer indulgence.

And that brings me to an observation: In California, I was fortunate to receive lots of recommendations from the wine buyer at my local Trader Joe's. I haven't been to a TJ's here yet, but I have met some very knowledgeable folks about Northwest wines not only at the larger chain stores, but at a local tiny neighborhood market. Why not try your local neighborhood market, state liquor store, or RiteAid? At under ten dollars, you can afford to try something you might not ordinarily buy—and find you really like it. That's how I discovered the Columbia Crest Two Vines Vineyard Ten White; the price was right, I'd enjoyed other Columbia Crest wines, and I was curious about the effect of the blend of "predominantly Washington" Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, and Semillion."