Wine is sunlight, held together by water.
Hello, my name is Alessandra, and I love wine. I am by no means an expert; I am just someone who genuinely loves wine and the memories made in between sips. The goal of this blog article is to give fellow wine hikers a better understanding of wine and what to look for on their next trip to the state-run liquor store!
After losing my job as a data scientist due to COVID-19, I wanted to do a one-off data analytics project. Stock prices and COVID-19 supply chain served as noble applications of my time and effort.
As I sat on my couch in pajamas at noon drinking the last few drops of my bottle of Chardonnay, I heard the “bing” to herald an email from a Napa Valley winery trying to sell me a $70 bottle of Chardonnay (somehow knowing I’m out). And thus, I set out to answer a more pressing question in these troubling times: what wine should I buy next?
First I had to frame my problem: did I want to sip cool, grapefruit-tinged New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Or relish the complexities of Rutherford Cabernet, fully embracing my existential crisis?
Unfortunately, my recent unemployment status took precedence — I needed cheap, good wine. $45 felt like a good upper price limit. I then broke down my problem per grape variety to the following questions within the $45 limit:
- What regions produce the best quality wines?
- What wineries produce the best quality wines?
- What variety of wines are worth splurging for?
Using data from Wine Magazine, I embarked on a journey into the wine world to the tune of “Call Me Maybe.” Here’s what I found.
Best Region – Loire Valley, France (Average Rating – 88 points, Average Price – $25)
Best Winery – Galerie Wines (Average Rating – 93 points, Average Price – $30)
Best Wine – 2008 Chalk Hill Musque Sauvignon Blanc
Light, dry, and a touch of fruit or herbs, Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile wine that pairs well with anything green. While Loire Valley in France holds the title of the best rated region, Marlborough, NZ, is personally my favorite region. This approachable grape variety is great for wine newbies or a casual afternoon hike!
Best Region – Oregon (Average Rating – 90 points, Average Price – $28)
Best Winery – Chanin Wines (Average Rating – 93 points, Average Price – $37)
Best Wine – 2010 Failla Estate Vineyard Chardonnay
Rich and buttery or light and floral, Chardonnay tastes vastly different depending on the region it’s made or the process used. This wine is best paired with chicken, mushrooms, or rich herb dishes. For buttery wines, look no further than Sonoma Valley, CA, or Argentina.
The Malolactic Fermentation process commonly used in these areas produces that rich, buttery taste. For light and floral Chardonnays, explore Oregon or French wines that are labelled “unoaked.” At an average price of $28, Chardonnays from Oregon are a steal; in Napa Valley, comparable Chardonnays cost more than $60!
Best Region – Central Otago, NZ (Average Rating – 89 points, Average Price – $31)
Best Winery – Walt Winery (Average Rating – 93, Average Price – $40)
Best Wine – 2010 Hellenthal Vineyard Pinot Noir
Earthy and medium dry, Pinot Noir goes down smooth. It’s a lighter red wine that goes well with pork, duck, and mushrooms. It’s a perfect hiking wine for red wine lovers: less heavy than other reds, Pinot Noir packs the complexity of red wines while leaving taste buds free to sip fresh mountain air.
Fun fact: Due to the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir grew in popularity by over 3% in the US after the movie’s release.
Best Region – Western Australia (Average Rating – 90 points, Average Price – $26)
Best Winery – Gramercy Cellars (Average Rating – 93 points, Average Price – $40)
Best Wine – 2007 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is the wine that put Napa Valley on the map in the 1976 Judgement of Paris after a Cab from Stag’s Leap in Napa beat top French Bordeauxs in a blind taste test.
Unfortunately, authentic Napa Valley Cabs start at $70. Fortunately, this grape can be found across the world at a much lower price range in both Western Australia and the Walla Walla Valley, Washington. Both regions produce Cabs that score consistently about 90 points and are available starting at $15. Cabs are best served with a fatty meat dish (lamb or steak) to help absorb the tannins for recent vintages, but pre-2015 you can sip straight.
Several hours and Carly Rae Jepsen albums later, I meandered to the local liquor store armed with this new information and hungry for a hike. I found a $16 bottle of Pinot Noir from New Zealand and set off to watch the sunset over the city with a new friend. COVID-19 might have stripped me of my job and my sobriety, but it sure as hell wasn’t going to pry from me the happiness of a wine hike and the friendships made in the journey. Cheers!
For a full list of results, check out this Google doc.
Written by Alessandra Coote
Davis / Weber County Ambassador