Thursday, June 13, 2013

Getting Hitched? Pick Some Wine.

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The sun is finally starting to peek out in the Pacific Northwest, and the onset of spring and summer signifies a very important time for many Pacific Northwesterners: Wedding Season. Domestic Partnership Season, Civil Union Season, whatever words you’d like to use to define your relationship season. Being the semi-pretentious wine enthusiast in my social group, I often find myself responding to a question along the lines of, “What wine should I serve at my wedding?” In fact, recently a couple different groups of friends have asked me that very question, at least that was my interpretation of the grumbling about how high the corkage fees were at their wedding venues and the per-bottle cost through the caterer.

As I reflected on the question, I realized just how important and complicated a decision wine selection can be for a wedding. You’re dealing with a tough crowd. Aunt Suzie drinks the boxed stuff, Uncle Jim likes only the finest French wine, and your father-in-law never met a bottle he didn’t like…as long as it’s from Washington. How can you meet everybody’s needs? Then, there’s the financial impact. Most wines purchased by the bottle from a caterer are north of $30.00 per bottle for the most entry-level wine, the stuff you can find for $6.99 at the store. If you provide your own, a $10.00 per bottle corkage fee is standard. How can you get the best value on an already expensive day? Finally, the always-elusive question of how much wine to buy? Don’t get overwhelmed; keep reading and I’ll take the guesswork out of outfitting the special day with Northwest bounty.

The Basics:

The easy decision would be to put your wine selection entirely in the hands of a caterer. There are many caterers that do a fine job, however, with a little time and attention you can often save money and better reflect the Pacific Northwest wine scene at your celebration.
  • Keep it simple. One red, one white. That’s it. People are there to celebrate the union of two people, not taste through a flight of 50 wines. By selecting wines with broad appeal, you’ll satisfy most guest’s palate with just two offerings.
  • How much? Common consensus is that half a bottle for each adult guest is a good start. If your friends imbibe more than the average bear or you plan on serving wine before and during the ceremony, adjust accordingly.
  • Keep it local. Washington and Oregon are world-class wine regions.
With those principles in mind, here are three different wine packages to consider when planning a wedding.

The Budget Menu:

This package offers broad appeal at a very reasonable cost.
  • 2010 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. This red wine from Paterson, WA is medium bodied and has broad appeal. While it retails at $13.00, it’s always on sale at my local grocery store for around $9.00.
  • 2010 Barnard Griffin Fume Blanc. A textbook Sauvignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley, perfect for a warm summer day. Retailing at $9.00, it’s often available in the $7.00 range on sale.
The Wine Aficionado Menu:

Stepping things up a notch, this mix balances cost with quality. Nothing too extravagant because let’s be honest, your guests probably don’t have as refined of a palate as you.
  • 2010 Desert Wind Ruah. From the Wahluke Slope, this merlot-based blend if very approachable and works with food or by itself. Retailing at $20.00, I find it often on sale for $15.00 per bottle.
  • 2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris. A crisp but well-balanced Oregon white, the Pinot Gris is awesome with seafood but can stand on it's own. At $16.00 per bottle, it’s a great value.
The Portlandia Menu:

Want a little Oregon quirk and whimsy in your wedding? These selections are for you.
  • Sokol Blosser Evolution Red. A red pinot-noir based blend with syrah and zinfandel, this Oregon wine pairs with anything. Retail is $15.00.
  • Sokol Blosser Evolution White. A white blend of 9 different varietals, this also pairs with anything. Retail is $15.00.
Most importantly, though, make it meaningful to you.  The wine selections of two different couples I know with weddings on the horizon have done just that; leveraging special memories, relationships, and experiences from wineries can add icing to the proverbial cake of the day.  Those selections are as follows:
  • Couple 1:  Willamette Valley Vineyards being central to their wine universe, they took my Pinot Gris selection and added a more delicate, sophisticated red in the Estate Pinot Noir ($30).
  • Couple 2:  The awesomeness of Enso Winery just screams Portland, so for this local wedding the Resonate Red and White blends were perfect.
Keep your eyes open for sales and if you buy by the case you’ll often receive an additional 10% discount. Hopefully these suggestions get you going in the right direction and will help your new partnership start off on the right foot. If not, at least you drank some good wine.


In the spirit of full disclosure, much of this post is repurposed from a piece I did for a now-defunct Seattle lifestyle website about 2 years ago.  So there you have it.

1 comment:

  1. I think I know the couple who chose Enso! Man, they have good taste.