Shopping the Big Brands

What to buy when you’ve run out of time.


I get it. Not all of us have the time to research wine. Diving into the details to find that perfect bottle. No, for many of us buying wine this time of year is just something we have to do. It’s not that you don’t love wine, it’s simply that there isn’t the time, or the impetus to spend inordinate amounts of time deciding, and searching for what to buy.

After all, we’re buying wine for friends and family members who may not be able to tell the difference between that Napa Valley Cabernet and the last bottle of Malbec they enjoyed. While that may tell us more about the wines than they drinkers I get the point. You want to be able to walk into your average wine store and find a bottle on the shelf that is reasonably priced and of good quality with cross-referencing endless lists. OK, so here’s the only list you really need. It’s a list of ten of the most reliable producers that are broadly distributed in the marketplace. Nothing fancy of course, just well made, delicious wines at a fair price vintage after vintage. I’ve also listed the standout wines from each producer that are widely distributed and great values.

Rodney Strong
Dry Creek Vineyard
Clos du Val
Freemark Abbey
J Lohr
Chateau Ste Michelle
Elk Cove

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,003

    Great service you've done here, GdP--and there are places where these are the only kinds of wines that are available. Yes, there are still places that lack a wine culture. I'd probably throw a Ravenswood Zin on there somewhere, although they don't make a huge variety of wines; if you can find their Syrah, it's often good, too. That Dry Creek Chenin is a sleeper for sure, and the Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon can often be found for less--it's a really classic Napa Cab in most years and one I would have no problem drinking if I were somewhere with only "supermarket" wine. Heck, I'd have no problem with it under any circumstance.

    Dec 23, 2013 at 4:21 PM

  • Snooth User: courgette
    124481 158

    A great list! But since when is Eberle "broadly distributed"? I've adored their wines while enjoying the glories of the Central Coast, but have never seen it elsewhere-- certainly not in Minnesota. I'm going to do a bit of probing to see if they're suddenly everywhere...but find it hard to believe I've missed Eberle becoming a "big brand" ala Beringer!

    Dec 23, 2013 at 4:51 PM

  • Snooth User: 1206gene
    1298826 51

    I know I've said this before, but my latest fave in an inexpensive Cab with lots of Cab character for the money is the H3 Horse Heaven Hills from Columbia Crest which costs about $11.69 at Costco and about $14 elsewhere but drinks like a $30 bottle of wine.

    Dec 23, 2013 at 5:28 PM

  • Snooth User: vin0vin0
    Hand of Snooth
    357808 7,026

    GdP, great list! I very much agree with starting off with Rodney Strong, you could have easily put in their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay on your list, at $9 it's a mainstay in the fridge for mid-week sipping. You could have also easily added the Bogle lineup although those tend to be a bit less expensive overall than those you have listed.

    Dec 23, 2013 at 5:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Zuiko
    Hand of Snooth
    540750 833

    The Ch Ste Michelle single vineyard Rieslings are special. I like them better than the Eroica.

    Dec 23, 2013 at 8:07 PM

  • Eberle is definitely a small producer! I know first hand that all wines are produced on the Estate and range from as small as 300 cases up the largest of around 3,500 cases on any one wine... and there are over 15 different wines produced! Total production is about 23,000 depending on the vintage/harvest conditions.

    Jan 17, 2014 at 9:45 PM

  • p.s. Thanks for the mention!

    Jan 17, 2014 at 9:47 PM

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