Monday, July 26, 2010

Local Wino's Value Proposition

It seems as though everywhere you look these days businesses are making great 'deals' on their goods and services to be "recession friendly" or resigning to the state of the economy. Even in my discussions with colleagues, friends and family, we often seem to end up talking about this subject. And, I'll be the first one to enjoy discovering a great value for a product or service at a better price. I regularly look at to find discount certificates at local establishments and appreciate the value it presents. It's easy, quantifiable and makes an immediate impact on my pocketbook. You buy $25 certificates for $10 and $50 certificates for $20. No problem, I'll take two, three...!

However, when it comes to wine, it becomes an entirely subjective venture with everyone weighing in on the discussion from very wide angles. The challenge is that each person has their own deep rooted opinion about what a great value is and it is SO dependent on what you are comparing. Us groupies here in Napa/Sonoma wine industry are very skewed because we know more of the inside nuances of the business, have access to incredible local wines/winemakers events, and our palates are admittedly very spoiled. But, I still know where the good values are and understand EXACTLY what value means to me...and not opposed to the odd < $10 wine now and again. Many of my close family do not understand much of this unless they have been able to visit me in Napa to know the difference. So, is this lack of experience bliss? Are you better off not knowing the difference? I offer not. Let's explore...

1) What's the actual purpose? I'd much rather fully enjoy drinking an entire $25 bottle of wine than drink half of the $12 "special" deal that left my palate completely flat and/or the other half ended up down the sink (or left to vinegar several days later). Or, on that special occasion of having guests over, popping the $40-$45 bottle and sharing/savoring the experience completely with those that can appreciate the effort. I enjoy selective purposeful drinking these days.

2) Comparable varietals. It is completely unfair to say your $10 Malbec screaming deal from Argentina compares to the $30-$40 Cab from Napa or the delicate $12 Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) should be compared to a nice $35 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Not only the varietals worlds apart (literally), but the experience is not meant to be compared. It would be like saying your all-beef hot dog was so much better priced that the Angus Rib-eye steak...they're both beef and can taste OK, just made differently. At least keep it on the same playing ground when comparing varietals.

3) Wine scores...Ugh! Please see our view on Wine Scores online first. I hate this benchmark and I will give one example as to why. Let's take Chardonnay. If I see a 92 pt. rating on a random brand/label, what does that rating do to take in to account the style of Chardonnay I like? I do not care if it is rated 100 pts. if it is stylistically not what I prefer or does not consider what I may drink it with. For instance, I don't like any oak on my Chardonnay and a pure point scale does not take that in to account. Wine scores are a mediocre starting point at best.

4) Consider the occasion. If you're showing up to a large party where no one is going to notice the bottle you bring and/or it's more of a 'gulp-fest', no need to bring complex wines. Bring one of the 'quaffing' varietals like Grenache, Malbec, Rhone (GSM), or Zin/Primativo or inexpensive blends where you can easily keep the price under $15. However, in one-on-one or more intimate settings where everyone may be sitting around asking, "who brought what?" do your homework not to possibly embarrass yourself (too much). And, find out ahead of time what food if any is being served. Segue...

5) Will the wine be served/paired with food or a main course? This is more of personal item, but it is being paid more attention to of late. Especially if you do some reconnaissance and show up with a "prefect pairing" for the food you'll be the hero. The last thing you want to do is show up with a big complex Cab and find out that it is a lobster/seafood fest where you could have showed up with a nice Riesling or Chard for half the price. See our page on F&W pairings.

6) Do side-by-side or 'blind' tastings. Let your own palate be the judge. Nothing finally hits the message home (i.e. humbling) more than a blind tasting. And, I'm completely OK when the less expensive wines outperform the bigger labels. As long as it is compared as stated in #2 above. Also, keep the vintages within a year of each other as this can make a huge difference unless considering foreign wines. Again, it is not fair to throw a big juicy Zinfandel against a tannic 100% Cab...they serve two completely different purposes.

Lastly, just know that there are few absolutes with wine. One of my favorite winemaker's quotes when asked what kind of "good" wine do they recommend, he said, "A good wine is a wine that you enjoy regardless of price." My former wine teacher's philosophy was that EVERY wine has its occasion and you should not discount the vast selection of varietals/choices to go with each.

All of the wines at Local Wino combine the best overall quality-to-value ratio as we discover wines that normally compare to wines at sometimes twice the price. We specialize in the $20 - $50 category and offer specialty wines rarely found outside Napa. Give us a try...

So, until the next sip, swirl ya' later!