Friday, December 4, 2009

Top 2 Value Labels

Wine Enthusiast's recent top 100 best buys list inspired us to finally write an article we've been thinking about for quite some time. If you're anything like us, chances are your friends have pegged you as their resident wine expert. Inevitably, your wine novice friends will ask you what wine they should buy. To complicate things, this friend doesn't even know if they prefer red or white wines. They also don't want to spend more than $15.

What do you say? Sure, you could create an abbreviated list of wines from Wine Enthusiast's list. You could even take a wild guess and tell your friend to get a specific wine. Another option, which happens to be one of our favorites, is to do something a little different.

We suggest an entire label.

That's right. Our wine newbie strategy is to give somebody a label and say "have at it." The following two value labels are what we consider to be the absolute safest labels to suggest where not a single wine would be considered sub-par.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates
Columbia Crest's Grand Estates line is the first thing that pops in our heads when somebody wants us to suggest a solid value line. It's one of the few we feel comfortable enough to tell somebody that they can grab anything with a Grand Estates label on it knowing that they'll be pleasantly surprised. If asked specifically what to pick up, we will usually suggest their Cab Sauv as a favorite.

Columbia Crest's Grand Estates wines usually range from $6-$10 for white varietals and $9-$14 for reds. Beyond price, the other added benefit is you can pretty much assure that Grand Estates wines will be available at almost any grocer.

Barnard Griffin Tulip Wines
Look for the label with the tulips, pick what sounds the best, and walk away with a great wine at a low price.

To be frank, Barnard Griffin doesn't mess around and this includes their Tulip wines. Like the Grand Estates line, Tulip wines include both reds and whites. One of my personal favorites is their non-vintage Cabernet-Merlot. Of the white offerings, it's worth noting that they offer a rather unique varietal in the form of a Fume Blanc. Your white wine loving friends will feel at least ten times classier!

Expect to pay a dollar or two more for reds versus the Grand Estates line, but also be aware that these tend to be on sale almost as often as they're not. Whites will usually run $9-$14 and can often be found on sale as well. Distribution is national, so chances are Tulip wines can be found at your local grocer.

So, there you have it! It may sound a lot lazier than painstakingly narrowing down your friends' tastes to a perfect wine, but there's also something to be said for giving somebody the freedom to safely experiment.

Anybody out there know of other value lines that you would suggest as universally great?


  1. You can't steer them wrong with Hogue Cellars either. Their entry line of wines with the Hogue label are all very good, with screw caps.

  2. We love Kiona, wish it was more widely distributed down here. You're also right on Hogue, Clive. It's a winery where a lot of winemakers "cut their teeth" in Washington.

  3. Oops, I meant to say Cline from CA, not Clive the commenter

  4. Both are excellent choices. Kiona is good as well, but if you could only choose two value labels, you did a good job of choosing these. I alwo enjoy Sagelands, Hogue, and Clive as well.

    Josh @nectarwine

  5. Kiona is exquisite. If it came down to two labels Kiona and Hogue would be make the cut.