Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Can't I Get That Wine Here

I’ve heard it so many times lately that I swear my ears are bleeding. I’m standing in a grocery wine isle, or in a restaurant and someone behind me exclaims: “These guys just don’t carry a good selection of wine here”. I look down the massive isle, or the wine list and my thoughts are quite the opposite. I’m thinking, “Wow, if you can’t find something to drink here then you just don’t know what you’re looking for”.

Today as I was walking through the wine isle in a large store in Spokane, I was accosted by a lady wondering if I worked there. I wasn’t wearing the apron or the name tag that would indicate my employment. But, being the mild mannered young man that I am, I offered to give her a hand anyway. After all, grocery wine shelves are all the same.

Now, the store was quite large and they had a rather impressive selection. So, when this lovely older woman hit me with the above statement, I was taken aback.

She was looking for an authentic Spatlese from Germany. For those who don’t know, Spatlese is a semi-sweet white wine, much like a Riesling. My immediate response was “No problem”. However, after several runs through the shelves I finally found one label that met her specifics. It was a hefty $42 bottle.

After muffled gasps from both of us, I told her that we’d find something that would work just great, and meet her budget as well. We finally settled on Ste. Michelle Winery’s “St. M.”. This wine was produced by the famed Dr. Loosen in conjunction with Ste Michelle.

St. M is a wonderfully semi-dry Riesling, with a great level of acidity and flavors of peaches, and apricots, with a slight minerality that makes it really good with food. It isn’t a Spatlese, but close enough to taste good at just under $12 a bottle.

After she walked away I looked back down the wine isle and thought about how many people probably walk down this isle every day and say the same phrase. It got me to thinking that people have a specific thing in their mind. In this lady’s case, she had toured Germany with her late husband, and was looking to rekindle those memories.

The problem is that hand made wine is not normally sold outside of normal channels of distribution without a great cost. Sure, you can pick up a Trocken Aslace, or an Opus Cabernet Sauvignon on special order from a local wine shop, but you better know that it is going to cost a little to get it. You might get that same wine in downtown Seattle for a few dollars cheaper, but you’re going to have to cover the gas and hotel.

The truth is that there are absolutely amazing wines available throughout the Northwest, including right here in Eastern Oregon. Most are actually produced within 100 miles of Pendleton. My suggestion is that if you don’t find what you are looking for, just ask one of the distributors or store personnel at one of the local shops. They will likely be able to find something much like it at a price that you will really enjoy.

As always, enjoy!

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