Wine on a dime! Your guide to PDX’s (good) cheap wine

Illustration by Joanne Sally Mero

By Chris Breen

Welcome to Wine on a Dime! This weekly column is all about wine, specifically wine that is cheap and delicious, because what else could one need in life! Each week, in addition to highlighting a few wines that I have been drinking, I will include tips for buying wine, so that in no time you will leave the Barefoot behind and know how to find that good-good glou-glou (French for drank) for less than a Hamilton.

Wine on a Dime and the Pioneer Log do not condone underage or unsafe drinking in any form. It’s wine, not Burnett’s.

This week, we’ll be focusing on two white wines made from varietals (grape type) most known in the French region of Alsace; these two white wines, however, are made locally in the Pacific Northwest. These wines are for everyone! They’re quaffable as heck, dirt cheap and widely available. Talk about a triple threat!

 

2016 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling

If I’m in a pinch and need a wine that is inexpensive and pretty good, this is always my go-to. You can find this Washington white almost anywhere; I actually found it in wine shops while living in China! Riesling can get a bad rap as the wine of choice for sorority girls who are tired of rosé, but sometimes sorority girls get it right. Riesling is a versatile grape that can be made sweet, dry or even sparkling and is one of my favorite grapes to drink for any occasion. This Chateau Ste. Michelle is available in dry, off-dry and sweet, so whether you’re averse to sweet wine or can’t get enough of it, everyone can get down with some of this juice. I had the off-dry version, which has some really great aromas of pear and apple with a little bit of citrus on the finish. The mouthfeel (ugly word, but it’s what the professionals use) is spunky with a little bit of fizz from the fermentation. While Riesling pairs well with almost any dish thanks to its high acidity, I usually save this one for after dinner. This here is your Wine Wednesday slammer, your Friday night sipper. It’s what the French call a vin de soif; or a “wine for thirst,” meaning that it’s not really meant to contemplate, it’s meant to drink! $6-8 at most supermarkets.

 

2015 Swallow Gewürztraminer

Ten points for Gryffindor for literally anyone who can pronounce (or spell) this wine grape without practice (for future reference, it’s ga-VERTZ-trah-mee-ner, I just call it ga-VERTZ though). Gewürztraminer is another varietal that made its name in Germany and Alsace, and shares a lot of characteristics with Riesling. It’s a high-acid, aromatic white wine that can be made both dry and sweet, and, like Riesling, Gewurztraminer in any form is usually delicious. Swallow is an Oregon producer that slings local Oregon wine at unbelievable prices; this label is one to remember because their wines are alway rock-bottom cheap and are always halfway decent. This Gewürztraminer is no exception. On the nose there’s some super sweet pineapple, almost canned-level sweet, with some pear and lychee thrown in the mix. Fun fact for those of you looking to become wine snobs: if you’re ever tasting a Gewürztraminer, always mention you’re getting lychee on the nose, you will never be wrong! This wine has a smooth mouthfeel and is fairly sweet, but to anyone who has sworn off sweet wine, I would suggest you reconsider. A sweet Gewurztraminer is always the suggested pairing for any spicy food, from spicy curry to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Yeah, you heard right, this wine is your perfect pairing for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and I think that’s a pairing everyone can get behind. $5 at Portland Wine Merchants on SE 35th St.

 

This Week’s Pro Tip: Delectable and Vivino

While I would always suggest to visit a local wine shop to pick up a bottle, sometimes it’s 10 p.m., your friend just invited you to a wine and cheese night at West Hall and all you’ve got left is half a bottle of Barefoot Moscato. Logically, you find yourself at Fred Meyer or Market of Choice standing wide-eyed in front of the massive selection of bottles, but have no fear, because with a quick download of either Vivino or Delectable (I prefer Delectable), your new pocket sommelier is here! These apps work like Google Translate for wine labels, allowing you to photograph a label and get ratings and details about the bottle in your hand. If you have an idea of what you’re looking for, maybe read a review or two. If you’re a beginner, then maybe just stick to the numbers. Scan, scan, scan until you find that one diamond in the rough! It’s the wine equivalent of a day sorting through the Bins! Salud!

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