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The Road Less Traveled

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Stick with what works.

Go with the tried and true. 

Expand your horizons.

Of the thousands of choices available to us these days, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And when we get overwhelmed, the most common reaction is to shrink back to safety. We walk in feeling confident, bold, and daring… until we see 100 different Sauvignon Blancs staring us down. Rather than struggle through deciphering which one we’re going to like, our hand involuntarily reaches for our Ol’ Reliable, Kim Crawford. It’s familiar, comfortable, and we know exactly what we’re going to get in our glass.

Of course, “comfort brands” like Kim Crawford, Kendall-Jackson and Apothic Red drive sales in almost every store. These names have built themselves up to be household brands that people have come to know and depend on. But if we relied only on these labels, there would be no reason to have any other choices. It would be safe and predictable, but… super boring.

Wine isn’t a necessity in life. It exists today to delight and satisfy us. In our technologically-advanced winemaking world, we have a plethora of well-made, unique, interesting, and enjoyable wines from several different countries, thousands of producers of all types and sizes, and thousands of different microclimates. One of the most incredible things wine has to offer is this wide bevy of influences, all working together to create something wholly unique. If you’ve made the choice to drink wine in the first place, why wouldn’t you want to discover the crazy, special things it has to offer? You don’t watch the same movie every week. You don’t read the same book over and over again. Why should you have to stick to the same old rotation of beverage choices?

We’ve compiled a short list of some of our favorite “substitution wines” to help you break out of your comfort zone. The wines are similar, of course, but they’ll play a slightly different tune than the wine you’ve stuck with for far too long. All that’s required is an open mind and a spirit of adventure. With some things in life, it’s good to stick with the tried and true. But with wine, you could be missing out on some tasty—and sometimes awe-inspiring—experiences.

And as always, our staff would love nothing more than to chat about all the wonderful choices out there!

  • The empire of Kendall-Jackson, which has been on a buying spree of premium-quality wineries up and down the west coast this year, has built up its Chardonnay to be a reliable, consistent bottle year in and year out. Its luscious fruit flavors and hints of toasty oak are signature markers of this textbook California Chardonnay. Those same luscious fruit flavors and full, round body show up in the Lafage “Centenaire” Blanc, hailing from Roussillon in Southern France. Coming from Grenache and Roussanne vines that are well over 50 years old, the ripe orchard fruit notes are just as opulent and smooth as KJ’s Chardonnay!
  • For years, Meiomi Pinot Noir has delighted wine lovers with its sumptuous, intense flavors that seem to make other Pinots pale in comparison. Its silky-smooth texture, baked fruit and spice character make this a standout in a crowded field. Translate these same qualities to the Old World, and you’d be surprised how well Tres Picos Garnacha fits the bill! Packed with undulating layers of ripe red fruit and well-placed notes of clove and vanilla, it retains a lithe, supple nature and a delectably long finish.
  • Where would we be without Apothic Red? A “gateway” red blend for many new wine drinkers, this is a hedonistic, too-easy-to-drink sipper that’s equivalent to candy in a wine glass. If you’re looking for a tiny step in a drier, less sugary direction but want to retain that intense, beautifully concentrated fruit, Margarett’s Vineyard Romer Red is made up of a similar “kitchen sink” blend of grapes. This tasty wine is structured, bold and accentuated by spice—a more grown-up version of Apothic.
  • LaMarca Prosecco’s iconic baby-blue label brings festive flair to any gathering. The fizzy, fruit-forward, daintily sweet nature of this Italian sparkler is perfect for mimosas, Bellinis, or to go along with any starter course. If you hop on over to France, you’ll find a profusion of economically priced French bubbly (which includes basically everything produced outside the region of pricey Champagne). One such alternative is the Fleuraison Blanc de Blancs: zippy, light on its feet, and ridiculously tasty. A little more refined and less heavy-handed in fruit quality than Prosecco, the Fleuraison also works well in cocktails or as a gorgeously bright reception bubbly.
  • Did you know that Kim Crawford is actually a guy? Whoever he is, he sure has a knack for creating wines with international appeal. This Sauvignon Blanc is so popular that when you walk into the wine shop looking for “that Kim wine,” everyone knows what you’re talking about. Bold, in-your-face tropical fruit jumps out of the glass with that stereotypical New Zealand grassy/peppery note hiding in the background. But if you’ve had your fill of over-the-top Kiwi Savs and have a hankering for a gentler version, head over to sustainably-farmed Quivira Vineyards in California’s famed Dry Creek Valley. Balanced, clean and linear, this zippy white retains its refreshing acidity and juicy citrus notes from mineral-rich soils, and the cooling influences of the nearby Pacific Ocean. Quivira’s claim-to-fame is their commitment to sustainable, organic, and biodynamic farming methods, with the aim to create balanced and harmonious wines at every price point.

Cheers to new wines, new experiences, and getting out of your comfort zone!