You can buy these wines. They're all around you. Do I think these wines are the be all, end all?
But sometimes, you just want a Pumpkin Spice Latté instead of a cup of coffee from beans that a cat pooped out. Sometimes you don't need the filet mignon and the Dom Perignon with the inlaws watching Citizen Kane, you need the fuckin' Quarter Pounder w/Cheese and the Cupcake Prosecco with your girlfriends watching The Bachelor.
I feel you. I really do. Sex & the City?
On that note, because maybe I'm having one of those nights, here are four wines from BIG wine producers that give me some comfort when I'm buying wine at a gas station in Mukilteo on the way back from another Washington Huskies loss. And if I cross the border back into Canada, the fortunate thing is I can still find a bottle of it if I have to.
1. Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon (or Merlot)
Few wines produced at this scale (or sold at this price) can boast the satisfying richness, roundness, gulpy, mouth-encompassing qualities that these puppies do. No, these do not come straight from the vine, squeezed gently into the seasoned barrel and into the bottle with native yeasts and a hands-off approach, but let's assume that for all the wines going forward. The reason I love these wines is because they resemble much more closely than their higher-priced California competitors the real, higher-quality Bordeaux varietal wines that come from the New World, with little of the mass-production-tinged side effects. The wines aren't too purple. The fruit character is generous, but not sickly and too obviously formulated. The oak character (an oak chip or sawdust filter was once part of the same tree as the barrel) is pleasant and undeniably American: banana and vanilla character abound. I'm glistening just writing about it, and I have a fucking glass in my hand. $23 or so Canadian. As low as $10-$12 in the US at the grocery store. Maybe it's the more marginal nature of the Washington as opposed to California as a whole that gives it an air of elegance over pompousness and flab. Or maybe it's the fact that Chaka Khan plays live at this winery during the summer and she's still really hot and my wife knows that I think that. Whatever it is, when I need a cigarette, I reach for a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon (or Merlot) in a pinch. And I bloody well enjoy it.
2. Blouberg. It's White Wine. From South Africa.
Do we know much else about this odd-shaped, $8 bottle of glorious juice? It comes from mega-big wine producer Distell, the South African wine giant behind brands like Nederburg & Obikwa. My aunt & uncle served it at their wedding. My other aunt & uncle, who are fabulous entertainers, served it for years as their house wine. I am considering the idea of serving it at my wedding. I don't know exactly what's in it, but that's also a plus factor. Most people can get into something that's made soundly for $8, and in many ways, it can be mind-opening. There might be Chenin Blanc. There might be some Riesling. There's definitely some other stuff. I don't remember/know what else. It doesn't matter. Blouberg is a welcome little stubby bottle of a white wine in any world that I'd want to be welcome to. Does Elon Musk drink it? Who the fuck cares. I do.
3. La Vieille Ferme Rosé
Well, butter my baguette and call me a believer. Coming straight from the renowned Perrin family (let's be honest, this is as fancy as you get when it comes to Chateauneuf-du-Pâpe even though you're "familiar"), this Rosie-Posie blush splits 'er right down the middle between Tavel & Provence. That's French for down the middle between dark rosé & rosé so pale you thought it was white wine and you were just having a moment. Rosé never should have gotten so complicated in the first place, and if you're paying $38+ for Whispering fucking Angel (they should have stayed in the outfield) or Brangelina's Miraval, I've got news for ya babay, you're getting ripped off. The rosé with the chicken on the label is everywhere, and you should have some when you've given up on answering emails from your annoying boss at 9:30pm.
4. Ruffino Chianti
It's everywhere. They make tons of it. And, yet, it delivers on the romance that Chianti promises when Dean Martin is on your playlist and spaghetti with meat sauce is on the menu and Goodfellas is on TV and Ray Liotta was out 'til 4am the night before doing blow off of god-knows-whose-torso...did we take that too far? Don Juan was also known as Don Giovanni, and when he must be channeled on date night and you've failed to prepare your gray matter enough in advance to discover any other exciting wine: accept no substitute. Ruffino will save the day. And it's not terrible by any stretch. In fact, it will deliver the goods with anything tomatoes (are nightshades still a thing even?!) touch, and the label is classic, old world, if not romantic. Get into the mood. It's not the type of wine to knock you out when you need to numb the pain (see item #1), but rather, it's fresh enough to keep you feeling lively while adding plenty of courage to allow for Bob Seger's patented Night Moves™ to continue into the wee hours. Speaking of those...
The title of this post could be "4 Wines That Won't Make You Look Like an Idiot Even to a Sommelier". It may be my greatest gift to you thus far.
Enjoy responsibly. I love you all.