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When you walk the long aisles of a wine store, you’ve probably had moments of discouragement. This discouragement is not because of an inadequate or perplexing selection of wines but from the mundane feeling you experience reading the same labels one after another — cabernet, cabernet, merlot, merlot, chardonnay, chardonnay. Of course every once in a while an unfamiliar grape is in front of you and for a split second you consider the exploration but are quickly drawn back to the familiar bottle descriptions of cabernet… cabernet … cabernet. 

We all seem to get comfortable buying the recognizable wines, but there are many regions, grapes and styles worth a little homework and the benefit of tasting. It’s good to try out intimidating wines. Quality and reliability may have been the most important question in the past, but it is rare to produce an inadequate bottle of wine in modern winemaking. (Rare, not impossible.) This modern change means giving an unfamiliar bottle a try will often result in a pleasantly rewarding experience.

As I look for something out of the ordinary I think of it as an adventure. While I have a staples list of everyday drinking wines that I stick to, I always keep an open mind to explore wines that may seem intimidating because of a complex label or an unfamiliar grape.

On each trip to the wine store, I try to buy one bottle of wine I want to explore and learn about. Some of the best wines I have tasted ended up being from this adventure. Of course there were a few misses, wines that didn’t appeal to my particular tasting palate, but I enjoyed the experience of learning about the style of wine and its taste.

So when you have those humdrum days finding the same too-familiar labels on the shelves and yearning for something different, remember, it’s all about the quest.


  • 2014 St. James Winery Cynthiana, Missouri (about $10 retail)
  • 2013 Meli Carignan, France (about $12 retail)
  • 2014 Marichal Tannat, Uruguay, (about $14 retail)


  • 2014 Tenuta Rocca di Montemassi Vermentino, Italy (about $22 retail)
  • 2014 Force of Nature Tempranillo, California (about $24 retail)
  • 2014 Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer, France (about $24 retail)
  • 2006 Martin Codax Albarino, Rias Baixes Spain, (around $17 retail)