For experts in the wine world, a well-stocked fridge is as commonplace as a DJ’s encyclopedic record collection. And like a DJ who spins his favorite record just to unwind after hours in the studio, industry pros often reach for something inexpensive and delicious at the end of a long day—a wine built for sheer, easygoing pleasure.
We asked 11 experts to let us in on their favorite everyday bottles—a wine they keep around the house for pre-dinner sipping, or just to pour a glass when decompressing with an Orange Is the New Black marathon. While these pros have high standards (no Yellowtail here), they also look for value wines that they can snap up by the caseload—most picks are from small-production wineries and range from $15-$20 a bottle, which is the sweet spot for “entry-level” wines from respected producers that generally make far more expensive wines.
As someone who tastes wines professionally throughout the week, I like to keep a few under-$20 bottles around that I have no qualms about opening and not necessarily finishing—something to take the edge off, or to pair with whatever midweek meal I’m able to cobble together. My go-to is Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling ($18) from the Finger Lakes in New York State, because it can be as versatile and surprising as my own mood.
It’s worth your energy to seek out and secure a few of these recommendations, because it’s a good bet that a wine that a winemaker or sommelier drinks off the clock is one that by its very nature over-delivers. And keeping a stash of great value, easy-drinking wines nearby for any-time uncorking ensures that you’ll won’t have to make an emergency run to the corner store for a regrettable jug of Carlo Rossi.
Beverage director at Momofuku
Go-to bottle: Punta Crena Mataòssu ($15)
Salcito says: “Lately, I’ve become obsessed with Italian coastal white wines. After work or on days off, I’m generally sipping either Punta Crena’s Mataossu or Cordoso Vermentino. Both are from Liguria and are quaffable and incredibly pure expressions of their respective grapes.”
Bar captain at Booker and Dax and cocktail correspondent at Thrillist
Go-to bottle: Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis Rosé ($22)
Bennett says: “It is a little difficult to find, but when I do, I buy up as much of the Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis as I can. This bright, effervescent Spanish rosé is bottled with a little residual carbon, giving it a light spritz. A glass of this helps me relax and is particularly enjoyable after a tough shift or a long day tasting hard spirits.”
Winemaker-owner at Robert Foley Vineyards
Go-to bottle: Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina ($15)
Foley says: “If we’re not drinking our Pinot Blanc, which goes with every kind of food from steak to Thai cuisine, our favorite everyday wine to quaff is the Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina. It’s a versatile white wine to pair with food—really crisp, with an adequate mid-palate. It won’t tear the enamel off your teeth, like some Pinot Grigios can, and it has a nice peach-honey flavor profile, but it’s not sweet in any way—it’s bone dry. We often start with this wine and then launch into something red. We can’t stop at one bottle—I have a name for it; I call it ‘Civilization.’”
Sommelier at Redbird at Vibiana (opening September 2014 in Los Angeles)
Go-to bottle: Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia ($20).
Pandolfini says: “I always keep a supply on hand for when I entertain friends, as the wine is a perfect aperitif. Its intense minerality and bright acid is reminiscent of ocean air, and indeed, it is a fantastic wine for oysters. The bouquet is of lime blossoms and jasmine, which combined are like energizing aromatherapy oils, electrifying the ambiance in which the wine is served.” (Photo: Ted Meyer)
Founder of Bittermens Spirits Inc. and Vendetta Spirits LLC
Go-to bottle: Domaine Barmes-Buecher Riesling “Herrenweg de Turckheim” ($21)
Subbarao says: ”As New York blooms and my terrace once more becomes available for a quiet, early evening tipple, my thoughts tend to turn to the bright, lemony, floral aromas and rich honeyed palate of this early-harvest Alsatian Riesling. The wine is rich and velvety enough to keep me going as the evening develops its first chill, but bright, fruity, and acidic enough to be drinkable in NYC’s dog days of summer. This is the wine I tend to pick up until my favorite stores are out of stock.”
Go-to bottle: Estate Argyros “Atlantis,” Santorini, Greece ($15)
Madrigale says: ”This is a wine that I must have a case of at home at all times. I buy it every year and the current vintage available is 2013. I can drink this wine anytime. I usually pour myself a glass when I get home from 12 hours on the floor and need to wind down. Also, when I’m sitting on my fire escape on a sunny Sunday afternoon taking in the sun and watching the freak show promenade on lower Avenue A. It’s mostly Assyrtiko, and it’s stainless-steel fermented. It’s peachy and salty and zippy and refreshing. It saturates the palate but also has ratchet-tight tension. Back up the truck.”
Vice-President & Director Of Education / North American Sommelier Association
Go-to bottle: Cantine Garrone Munaloss Rosso Red ($18)
Meraviglia says: ”I always have at least a case of this Northern Piemonte wine at home—it is an instant trip back to my original homeland, the snow-capped Alps of Northern Italy and Southern Switzerland, where it is the local tavern wine. It has its origins in the 3,000-year-old Celtic tribes that inhabited those valleys eons ago. The blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Bonarda grapes is superbly versatile with a wide array of lighter food thanks to its low tannin and gentle character. There’s some nice un-oaked, thirst-quenching acidity, and it’s packed with flavors of mountain fruits, forest floor, and red flowers. And at just 12% ABV, you can sip it all day without falling over.”
Manager and co-owner at Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards
Go-to bottle: Albino Rocca Barbera d’Alba ($17)
Bynke says: “This is one of my favorite red wines, and the nice thing with this one is it’s a tight wine when opened, so it can handle sitting out on the counter for a few days—it doesn’t get tired. You can open it on a Monday night and have a glass, leave it be, and then come Tuesday you have another glass, even one on Wednesday—it opens up over time and will evolve beautiful. For such an entry-level wine, it really over-delivers.”
ALEXANDER LAPRATT, MS
Owner at Atrium DUMBO
Go-to bottle: Marques de Caceres Rioja Reserva ($17)
LaPratt says: “For the value it’s incredibly complex, with tart red fruit aromas and a lot of dried herbs, spice, and old leather. It has moderate alcohol and higher acidity, which makes it very food-friendly. It’s also released after a few years of age, so it’s usually one of the older quality wines in this price category.”
President and beverage director at Stag Dining Group
Go-to bottle: Bodkin Sauvignon Blanc “The Victor’s Spoils” ($17)
Homyak says: “I keep a bottle of the latest release in my fridge at all times, especially as the summer months approach and the heat reaches a palpable climax. By mid-day, it’s time to call upon my true-blue SB. The winemaker, Chris Christensen, is incredibly talented and a good pal of mine. After working as the assistant winemaker of Medlock Ames for years, he has forged his own label called Bodkin. I love his approach and passion for Sauvignon Blanc. He produces four expressions of the varietal, including California’s first sparkling SB. The Victor’s Spoils Sauvignon Blanc hails from Sandy Bend Vineyard in Lake County. It’s got beautiful grapefruit and tangerine notes on it and pairs nicely with a seersucker suit.”
Go-to bottle: Triennes Rosé, Provence, France ($15)
Lindquist says: ”This rosé has that beautiful light-salmon color and bright, vibrant fruit and crispness. This is a wine I can drink every day. It’s versatile and pairs with anything from pizza to Asian cuisine. Living in the Central Coast, we enjoy nice weather year-round; I can sit and sip on this (on its own) any day of the week. I buy it by the case and I purchase magnums every year for Thanksgiving dinner, because rosé pairs perfectly with turkey and all the fixings.”