I'd like to present a few concepts and options for both the casual drinker and the dabbling collector that now is the time to spread your wings within the world of wine.
♦ Exploration of alternative domestically produced varietals. This is a great time look at not only more economic types of wines, but to expand beyond the mainstream or comfort zone of what you have always drunk. Instead of typical Chardonnay, Merlot, Zins & Cabs that most are used to, expand your horizons. Look at different wines such as various types of Rose's or whites like Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon and reds such as Carmenere, Mourvedre, Malbec, Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, Cab Franc and general red blends that are done quite well here. Not only are they generally cheaper, but provide for delicious alternatives for your buds and are great food or seasonal wines.
♦ Discovery of new wine regions. Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia are doing a fine job of not only the classic varietals, but some of the above mentioned as well. You get a much better "bang for the buck" overall without sacrificing quality. And these days, they are quite readily available at your local wine shop or grocer.
♦ Buying by the case. When you find either a wine you love or one of your favorite wines on sale, buy a case as your everyday go-to wine. Saves on gas to the store and makes those decisions just that much easier day-to-day.
♦ Join a wine club. When you know a producer that makes several styles of wines you like at reasonable prices, join their club and enjoy the benefits of membership. You generally get 20-30% off most wines and often can be presented additional deals that cover most of the extra shipping costs.
♦ Make good friends with a local wine shop owner. Nothing more valuable than personal relationship with someone that can turn you on to the wines you love, but can also secure good deals for you to buy in bulk if needed. Often times you can also have the opportunity to 'try before you buy' with regular local wine tasting events. Plus, they get special promotions or overstock wines on the cheap that they can give you the inside scoop on.
♦ Make your own wine. Believe it or not, this process has been made much more available at reasonable costs to do right out of your garage. And, I have to tell you, if you have some good sources and/or creativity, you can make some decent wine. it may not be the wine you wine a gold medal with, but can be comparable to what you'd spend in $7-$15 range for at the store.♦ Drink your cellar. Let's face it, if you are a collector of any decent size, you will not drink all of your wines and you probably have several wines that are past their peak. I highly suggest looking at any CA cabs or Merlots past 7 years old and popping the cork. There are a few exceptions, but if you're like me, I have dozens of wines that need to be opened asap.
So, leap out of your comfort zone and get moving. Next time you're tempted to buy that Chardonnay or Cab off the shelf, explore the other regions of the store with some help and you'll be pleasantly surprised about the myriad of options before you.
Until the next sip, swirl ya' later!