Go cheap. Go Washington.
If you find yourself in a grocery store with a $20 bill in your pocket and happen to need a six pack of Bud Light Wheat and a bottle of wine but just don’t feel like swiping the plastic, I have a solution. Actually, a few solutions.
Cheap wine is the most difficult to buy—especially if you don’t want it tasting like sun or sap, or as real as plastic surgery. Best universal bets: Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest Grand Estates of Washington or Bogle (namely the Petite Sirah) of California.
Washington offers an alternative to the sickly sweet, California grocery store reds that are about as decipherable as white noise. The cool climate angle makes all the difference and it’s easy to imagine you’re drinking a wine of much smaller production. N.B. I always prefer these wines with a chill.
From my tasting notes:
Dark cherry, precision blackberry, orange blossom, potting soil, and yogurt. A touch glossed over with vanilla, cloves and coffee, but undeniably delicious. Sturdy tannins, especially for a Merlot.
Finish is perhaps a bit juvenile—if at any point this wine reveals any shortcomings, a slightly eager sweetness after the swallow would be it. Retains minerality and earth. Factor in price, and this wine is easily a 90-point wine depending on the day and the mood of the reviewer. Wisps of tobacco and violets are present, but certainly not expected in a $10 wine.