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House Wines At Home
Have you ever been to a restaurant and noticed “house wine” on the menu and thought to yourself it is a restaurant only thing? Let me be the first to tell you (or at least today), having “house wines” at home is a practice I’ve been a fan of for the past couple of years.
House wines are very basic and usually quite inexpensive, so you won’t think twice about opening it up if you are a solo drinker and only want one glass. They’re not the best wines you’ll ever try; but they certainly won’t be the worst. In a word, selecting the right bottles will ensure you will have a crowd pleaser at every opportunity, whether it’s a dinner party, last minute guests, a forgotten hostess gift or even the last bottle of the night that nobody actually needs. At home, house wines have gotten a bad reputation, when really, they’re the bread and butter of your wine collection—they’re multipurpose!
Most of my go-to wines could be considered house wine—they’re inexpensive (under $30) but I would sooner open a bottle of it open than something I paid more for, especially when I know an entire bottle won’t be consumed in one evening. These are typically the wines I cook with, the ones that were opened the day before that can be brought back to life with certain ingredients.
At home, there should be a strict rule against cooking with cheap or bulk wine that is either way past it’s prime or loaded with sugar or other unnatural ingredients or flavor enhancers. With so many affordable wines out there, especially those available by the case or half case, a solid house wine is simply an extension of your pantry: you can cook with it, you can drink it and best of all, you can enjoy it without breaking the bank.
There is no “right” house wine, though it’s probably best to steer away from sweet wines such as moscato or port because braising vegetables or meat in it probably won’t taste very good. If you’re a house of pinot noir or riesling drinkers, most people will find them enjoyable as well (again, sweet riesling may not work so well.) If you’re unsure of what you like, blends are the safest bet.
One of my absolute favorite wines to drink and cook with any day of the week is a blend of chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Albariño—I pick it up for $48 a case. It’s a crowd pleaser and it’s my go-to wine to cook with when a recipe calls for white wine. I’ve given many bottles as gifts and people (incorrectly) assume that I spent quite a bit more than I did—a win-win!
White Wines To Consider
Conundrum was my go-to house white wine before I stumbled across my must-have white blend. At $20 a bottle, sometimes available cheaper, it’s a quality white wine blend made from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Semillon and Muscat Canelli grapes. Tastes more expensive than it is.
Murrieta’s Well The Whip 2014 is $18 and also made from a blend of Semillon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli, and Viognier. My father-in-law thinks this is the best wine ever.
Vina Robles White4 is another white wine I’ve stocked up on. At $12 a bottle, it’s on the fruitier side of the spectrum due to a blend of Viognier, Vermentino, Verdelho, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Red Wines Worth Trying
Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno Red Blend is a cult favorite for a couple of reasons. For $20, you’re getting a huge blend of flavors with Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, and Tannat. Because of the huge flavors, it’s fantastic for braising meats—just decant what is left in the bottle before drinking.
Vina Robles Red4 is not only affordable ($15 a bottle), it’s also been awarded some pretty high rewards from various wine rating magazines and experts. Made from a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, it’s medium bodied and incredibly drinkable.
Ventana Rubystone Red is another big blend, that’s not only drinkable, but it leaves excellent flavor on braised meat. For $15 a bottle, you’re getting a blend of Grenache and Syrah.