The deal was straightforward: I'd get a six-bottle wine bag from Metropolitan Market and a budget of $150 to fill it up. All I had to do was explain the reason for my choices to the cameraman. And yes, they'd let me keep the wine.
So here goes. I pretended I was having friends over for dinner, so I'd want to start with a festive bubbly. Prosecco prices were well under $15, Crémant goes for about $20, but Met Market had its own, private-label Champagne on sale for $25. K-ching.
A bottle of white to accompany a crab appetizer, perhaps? There's an impresive, Rhone-style blend from Hedges Cellars, and moderately priced wines from Barnard Griffin and The Hogue Cellars, but what better representation of eastern Washington whites than Chateau Ste. Michelle's 2011 Sauvgnon Blanc from its Horse Heaven Hills vineyard. Two down.
Now for the reds. Over on the French side of the display at the Mercer Street store, there's a good selection of reasonably priced Bordeaux, but very little classified Burgundy. The better selection of wines, made in the Burgundian style from pinot noir grapes, are over in the Northwest section. Two Oregon classics: the Eyrie Vineyards 2009 and Adelsheim 2010, both in the mid-$20 range. Full of fresh berry flavors, yet lighter in body, these wines are ideal companions to grilled salmon.
Moving on to my imaginary barbecued-beef course, I looked for red blends from eastern Washington. (Could have done French Bordeaux or Rhone wines, obviously. Could have done Italian reds, Chianti Classico or Nebbiolo-based. Saved the Barbaresco Proddutori for another day.) Plenty of big cabs, merlots and syrahs on the Washington shelves, but dollar-for-dollar, I think there's better value in blends.
First, Brian Carter's "magic" wine, Abracadabra, blended from more than half a dozen varieties. Second, an excellent blend from Brennon Leighton at Efeste, his Final-Final (roughly sixty percent cabernet sauvignon, forty percent syrah). Both bottles retail in the high $20s, but the Abracadabra is on sale for $16, $11 off.
All done! Just under $150 with Met Market's 10 percent discount for six bottles.
UPDATE June 26th: They've now finished editing the video, which is online here.
Yes, it can be frightening to approach a supermarket wine section with hundreds of labels. But Met Market makes it easy; their wine department managers are very well-trained. Second, it helps if you come in with guidelines: a grape variety, a region, a winemaker or winery. The more specific your requirements, the fewer your choices and the more you'll pay.
Romané-Conti and other grand cru Burgundies are expensive because they're from teensy vineyards that produce limited quantities of exceptional wine and are sought-after by connoisseurs all over the world. There's a lot more First-Growth Bordeaux, but plenty of "collectors" with more money than taste, often buying case lots as "investments." Nah, wine shouldn't be considered an investment in anything but your own pleasure.