As a military family, we have been incredibly fortunate. Our first duty assignment was Fort Bragg, North Carolina and we have only moved once as a family, to where we currently live, Colorado Springs. We had an incredible first assignment in North Carolina and landed ourselves in the most supportive neighborhood and community that I could have dreamed of. This neighborhood, Carolina Lakes, is where I met a group of women who will undoubtedly be lifetime friends. Since most of the women were military spouses, the majority have since moved from North Carolina, though a couple are still in the area.
We had just moved to North Carolina and purchased our home when we learned that we were lucky enough to buy a house across the street from Colleen. Our friend Colleen and her husband had a kegerator that held three full kegs (don’t worry – they’ve since upgraded to a kegerator that holds four full kegs) and their standing policy was that if the garage door was open, you were welcome to help yourself to a beer. One Friday evening we noticed the glow from the garage and decided to make our way across the street. Also enjoying a beer was Colleen’s friend Chrissy, who had recently moved from Carolina Lakes.
Okay, so let me just paint a picture here for you. Chrissy looks like a super model and she wears yoga pants, t-shirts and I rarely see her with makeup on. What the hell? And, Chrissy is a graduate of St. Mary’s law school and married to a prior Army doctor and West Point graduate. She’s kind of amazing! All of these details I didn’t learn until I had known Chrissy for a couple months. She’s so humble, she would never even mention it. Chrissy and her husband have chosen to settle in North Carolina, specifically in Cameron. They’ve recently undergone a massive renovation project in their home where they built the most incredible bar that you’ve ever seen! So, Chrissy texted me and asked if Grape Juice Mom could make some recommendations on wines to stock in her bar. So you mean I get to dream shop for wine? I guess I can handle that…
Some of the criteria that Chrissy identified was that she consistently loved Malbecs. She has a subscription to the Wall Street Journal Wine Club and finds herself strictly ordering Malbecs because she’s never been disappointed by them. However, she wants to stock this bar with wines that she can enjoy with guests, so she does not want it limited to Malbecs. She wants to spend around $20 for per wine, wants to buy ten different red wines, and does not enjoy Merlots.
At first, I was so excited that all my favorite wines started running through my head. But then I realized, I really need to do some research about Malbecs and determine what factors may be turning Chrissy to Malbecs time after time. Malbecs fall towards the “bolder” end of the light-to-bold spectrum of red wines and are considered medium to full-bodied. Malbec is traditionally an old-world grape, specifically it was one of the original grapes of French wine production. The French consider Malbec as sort of a dilutant in their wines and typically blend it with more prominent and robust grapes. However, Malbec has really taken off in Argentina, though it is said to have a very different taste from French Malbec. Malbec is known to be an great pairing wine since it’s “easy going” nature is complimentary with many different types of foods. It often has deep fruit notes such as plums and blackberries. Okay – I think I can work with this.
So I developed a red wine scale (in the graphic at the beginning of the article) to get an idea of which varietals fell in a “confidence interval” (that’s geek speak) with Malbec in the center. Since I know Chrissy doesn’t like Merlots, I left Merlot just out of the lighter end of the confidence interval and extended the bolder end of the interval to the milder Petite Sirahs. If I am going to recommend specific wines to anyone, I am not going to just google “best Petite Sirah”, I will only recommend wines that I have personally enjoyed. So, I started searching for some of my recommendations on Wall Street Journal Wine Club and not a single one showed up! Uhhhh! Fortunately, being familiar with Chrissy’s area, I know that there are a couple great wine shops to include Triangle Wine Company in Southern Pines, NC and an easily accessible Total Wine & More in Cary, NC. Once I started searching wines at these locations, all of the ones I was looking for were available. Perfect!
Below I have listed my 12 recommendations (yea, Chrissy asked for ten but both of these locations offer a case discount, so she may end up spending the same amount for ten bottles as 12!). My methodology was to include a few great Malbecs that Chrissy may or may not have tried, and then make my way to the left and right of the red wine spectrum within the declared confidence interval. So, I threw in a couple Zinfandels, some blends with the varietals that she likes, a couple Shiraz and Syrah’s, a Petite Sirah and a couple Cabs. I have also included a link to the Triangle Wine Company or Total Wine description. Please feel free to comment or share your experiences with these wines! Cheers Chrissy!
- A Go-To Malbec: Kaiken Malbec Ultra, 2015 ($15.95)
- A French Malbec: Chateau de Mercues Cahors, 2014 ($22.99)
- An Argentinian Malbec: Catena Malbec ($15.94)
- An Orin Swift Zin: Saldo Zinfandel, 2016 ($24.95)
- A Hidden Gem of a Zin: Macchia Zinfandel Adventurous ($27.99)
- An Australian Blend: Terra Barossa Cuvee Shiraz-Cab-Petit Verdot ($18.99)
- A Little Known Blend: Sexual Chocolate Red Blend ($33.99)
- An Affordable Shiraz: Woop Woop Shiraz ($12.99)
- A Luxurious Syrah: Jeff Runquist Syrah R ($27.99)
- Jen’s Favorite Petite Sirah: Girard Petite Sirah Napa Valley ($26.99)
- A Classic Napa Cab: Decoy by Duckhorn Cabernet ($16.99)
- An Alexander Valley Cab: Louis Martini Cabernet Alexander Valley ($24.99)
Total cost before tax and any case discounts: $270.75 (average of $22.56 per bottle).