Here’s a Little Holiday Shopping Tip from Me to You

So since we are on the topic of food and wine, here's a little holiday shopping tip for you. I was reminded of this earlier this week while reading Food and Wine magazines description of good "supermarket" wines. So before people start to wonder if I have a problem (as in "how much wine do you drink each week exactly"), let me say that I have really gotten into wine since I moved to Seattle. There's a real wine culture here, much like people perceive us having a "coffee culture". Part of it is certainly the proximity to lots of wineries (if I had to estimate, I'd say I live within 5 miles of about 10-20 of them). Also, local Pacific Northwest food goes great with wine. I compare this to my previous life in Chicago where I was enjoying a nice cold beer with my pizza.

Sine I have moved here (mostly in the last year even), I have taken the time to get to know wines, develop some favorites, buy a wine refrigerator and really get into it enough to read about it. I am by no means a wine snob, but I have been heard saying "step away from the three buck chuck". I found that once I started to explore the difference between a basic merlot and a spicy Zinfandel, it was hard not to get a little more selective. My wine budget has gone up but that has more to do with the quality of the wine than the quantity.

Last week, our team had our holiday get-together at my house. We wanted it to be casual, comfortable, fun and within budget (we can talk about how cheap I am's a good kind of cheap, I promise). I threw together some antipasti, we ordered some pizza and we blind tasted 5 Zinfandels. Oh yeah, and we danced in my living room...gotta love the crazy team I'm a part of.  I don't know that I ever did any kind of wine tasting before I moved here (except when I lived in Chicago and visited here). You just kind of get into the wine thing. Incidentally, you also get into the teeth bleaching thing too ; )

Anyway back to my tip. Food and Wine Magazine is right about the abundance of good wine at grocery stores, especially here. At my QFC (in Bella Botega, for any locals), they have a wine expert on staff and she's great. Their selection is pretty extensive and includes lots of wines from Italy, Australia, South Africa and Spain as well as the regulars. So reading about it, and the fact that I wanted to pick up a couple of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc to go with the turkey, I headed off to QFC for an expedition. Did you know that you get a case discount at QFC like you would at a wine specialty store? And did you know that you can mix the case any way you want? It doesn't all have to be the same thing. So about once or twice a  year, I'll stock up at the QFC. What I do is regularly patrol the wine aisles keeping a watch for when some of my favorite bottles go on sale. When I notice that, it's a perfect time to do a little stocking up. Not only do I get the sale price, but I get an additional ten percent off. For example (get this), today, I bought a full case of wine including one of my newer favorites, Coppola Diamond Label Zinfandel (the winner from our wine tasting party). The bottle was originally $13.99 (a dollar less than you find it at Cost Plus...I'm always about comparing the prices), then with my QFC card, they took $3 off. Then I got ten percent off on top of that. So I got a $15 bottle of wine for ten dollars. I'm sorry, what better combination than cost savings and yummy wine? Oh and today? I saved $53.79 on the case. Crazy. Let's just say that my wine refrigerator is full.

Another good thing about this little ritual is that it encourages me to try some new wines. I typically drink wines that stand up well on their own (mostly spicy reds or reds with lots of black fruit, anise or soy...also some non-oaky Chardonnay). Now I am starting to experiment with pairing, hence the Sauvignon Blanc which I usually find too light and fruity (but a good balance to poultry). So this helps me expand my knowledge of wines. I think the next step is to start and keep a wine journal so I remember what I like (I doubt I'd be up for steaming labels off..too  much work). Next up, I think I might explore Spanish wines since I really like a nice glass of Rioja.

Anyway, those of you who know me personally, know that I get a little excited about getting a good deal (it's kind of my one hidden talent), so I wanted to share.



Comments (11)

  1. Josh King says:

    Believe it or not, the Albertson’s (yes, Albertson’s) at 236th and Redmond-Fall City Road has an outstanding selection of Washington wines. Leonetti wines, which are allegedly only available via a mailing list, are often on the shelves there. They also have a varied selection from a bunch of other small Washinton vintners. And they’ve got the 10% off 6 bottles or more deal . . .

  2. QFC. Is that like KFC mispelled? As in Quentucky Friend Chicken? Whatever it is, we don’t have it here.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ooh, Josh, I had no idea. I’ll have to check that out.

  4. Brad says:

    QFC is good. So is Whole Foods in Seattle. I’d guess the Bellevue one would be similarly good.

    I love the idea of a wine tasting morale event!! Very fun.

    Happy Holi-daze

  5. Russ says:

    Cakebread Cellars (Napa)- Sauvignon Blanc

    Chalk Hill (Sonoma)- Chardonnay

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’ve heard that Cakebread sauvignon blanc is good. I like their Chradonnay. My favorite Chardonnay these days is L’Ecole. I generally get more excited about the reds, but I like a nice Chardonnay in the summer.

  7. Great to hear about your explorations of American wine. Here in Europe getting anything other than the big American brands is pretty difficult – I guess the home market drinks all the good stuff.

    We had a similar great wine shopping experience last weekend, from a slightly unusual source. There is a particular wine I’ve been looking for since moving to Switzerland – it’s a 3rd growth Bordeaux from the Margaux district called Chateau Kirwan. I fell in love with it in about 2000 when I was lucky enough to have a fabulous lunch at the chateau with a vertical tasting of about 5 different years.

    When I lived in London one of my local suppliers, Berry Bros & Rudd had it. Since moving to Switzerland I couldn’t find it. We’ve tried everywhere including many, many specialist shops without joy.

    Last weekend we were at a large supermarket in our home town. What did they have on the shelves alongside the other good Bordeauxs – Chateau Kirwan. And then we spotted the ‘buy more than 6 bottles and get 10% off offer. Needless to say we cleared them out.

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Andrew-I love finding stuff unexpectedly. I wish I knew more about Bordeaux…had a nice one on my recent cruise though. Would not have been able to pick it out myself though.

    I just started subscribing to Food and Wine Magazine a few months back, so hopefully I’ll be able to branch out a bit…could be contacting you for recommendations since it sounds like you know your stuff!

  9. Marlene says:

    Great article, I feel like a nice glass of wine right now! I’m going to try the Rioja, txs for the tip. I’ve got a great Shiraz to recommend, price range around $14 CAN, I’ll have to go home and "steam off" the label and get back to you on the name. Hey, this is my first look at a Blog site, glad I caught yours. Cheers! Marlene

    NB: Got connected with your Blog off the erdaily for recruiters.

  10. Guy Missing Wine says:

    You know, I’m still pretty happy with two-buck-chuck from Trader Joes. Though I do also love a good Australian Shiraz.

    Here’s something funky: I was quite the wino, er, wine connoisseur in grad school… having frequent wine and cheese parties in my dorm room in the International House… friends from France and Turkey and all over helped make appetizers, too.

    But since I’ve been in the work world, I’ve just found myself too busy to have much regular wine, much less wine with friends over. Sad 😐

    I just got an offer from Microsoft, and if I decide to accept, here’s hoping for more time to enjoy fine wine 🙂

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Marlene-welcome and I look forward to your recommendation ; )

    Guy Missing Wine-congrats on the offer! That’s so awesome! I’m assuming that if you accept, you are relocating (sounds like from California since "two buck chuck" is "three buck chuck" outside the state of CA) and you’ll get much more into wine living here, I think. Because "two buck chuck" + connoiseur does not compute. I wouldn’t spit it out, but mostly because that would be rude ; ) Seriously, it’s "drinkable" but it’s certainly not something that’s truly "enjoyable"…see, I have become a little bit of a wine snob. Wow. If it’s not a price thing, I can recommend some of my favorite labels if you want. I’m good at the $15-20 price range ; )

    Anyway, I opened one of my bottles of Sauvignon Blanc this weekend and I actually really liked it. It’s called "Sirch" and it’s from a small vineyard. It had less of that fruity thing going on so it was kind of like a less-oaky chardonnay but a bit lighter. It was one of my "experimental" bottles…good!

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