Usually it is a wedding but whether it be a holiday party or summer barbecue I am often asked for recommendations on wines that will please a broad range of palates, some more discerning than others, without breaking the bank. As someone who served a Trader Joe’s wine at their own wedding (the 1999 Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignon Family Selection) I’ve always felt comfortable offering my thoughts. In many cases these thoughts are shared but the loop is never closed as to how the wines ended up fairing. Did they please? Disappoint? Go unnoticed? So when my sister-in-law recently turned 50 and I was appointed sommelier I had a chance to observe for myself.
My approach? Get 24-30 bottles for approximately $200. I wanted at least two reds and two whites. So what did I end up with?
- 6 Zonin Processco at $5.99 – Bubbly always pleases so make sure you grab some!
- 6 Overlake Sauvignon Blanc at $4.99 – This was meant to be my all around palate pleaser and was well received
- 3 Overlake Chardonnay at $5.99 – As much as I want to bag on Chardonnay this was the first wine that was finished
- 3 Honeymoon Viognier at $4.99 – Grabbed this one as I thought it would deliver for those that preferred something sweeter. Remembered this as slightly syrupy but it was all floral this night. Should have grabbed the Dr. Beckermann Riesling instead…
- 6 Novella Synergy at $6.99 – This Zinfandel driven blend was meant to be the simple all around palate pleaser on the red side. It was a bit hot and reds were less popular than whites but my perception was people gravitated towards the…
- 3 Spiral Wines Cabernet Sauvignon at $4.99 – People latch on to California Cabernet like babies do a milk in a bottle. And when you have one that delivers above its price point like this it disappears in a hurry. A must have!
- 3 Cline Zinfandel at $7.99 – I should have grabbed a Pinot Noir here but couldn’t find anything I liked within my price range and opted for this security blanket (one of my very first favorites) instead. While reds weren’t all that popular given the heat this one was more shunned than poured…
What did I learn? I reconfirmed my belief that in these scenarios wine is just an innocent bystander. Most won’t notice it at all and even fewer will stop to truly appreciate it so don’t break the bank. In this case I had a few too many options and some were a little off the beaten path for your average wine drinker (Honeymoon Viognier) and others were too similar (Novella Synergy vs. Cline Zinfandel). If I had a chance to do it over again I would whittle the list. As you can see I think people really hone on the varietal. Having a blend on offer seems to just introduce uncertainty so stick to those they know. Given that I would go with the following in equal proportions:
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
There you have it! Did I miss any of your favorites? Need help planning an upcoming event? Whether it be Thanksgiving, a holiday gathering or something else altogether feel free to reach out. I am always happy to assist.