There are a lot of wines available on store shelves. A grocery store, liquor store, or big-box wine seller will have plenty of wine offerings. But most of the wines are large production wines from big wineries. And, as previously discussed, the terms 'Reserve' or 'Estate' can be misleading or completely meaningless when looking for "better" wines.
But there truly are different 'grades' of wines made by wineries. For example, I recently had the opportunity to enjoy a bottle of Francis Ford Coppola 'Director's Cut' Cabernet Sauvignon (See my notes in Behind the Cork™). While Coppola turns out a lot of good wine, their line of 'Director's Cut' wines are a step up in quality and wine making craftsmanship. And this is true for most wineries. They make their large production wines that show up on store shelves and then they make wines that are limited production. You may be able to buy some of these in stores but most often they are held by the wineries for sale in their tasting rooms or for their wine club members.
It's definitely worth taking an extra moment on the wine aisle to read labels and do some comparison shopping. You may be surprised to find a higher-end bottle of wine from some of the big wine producers. Many times these wines will distinguish themselves from the winery's mainstream wines by providing the vineyard's name where the grapes were grown, or the label may be 'fancier' than the other label by the same winery. Price will also be an indication.
Where you really get 'better' wines is by visiting wineries. I had an acquaintance once ask why I bothered to go to wine country to buy wines when I could just go to the store. And besides, he said, the wines at the wineries are more expensive! Well, yes, the wines at the wineries can be more expensive but that's because you are getting something 'better' than you can buy in stores. A lot better. Wineries will truly have 'Reserve' and special 'Estate' wines that are of better quality than those on the grocery store shelves.
So take a closer look at the wines on the store shelves, visit a smaller wine shop or, better yet, visit a winery. You will certainly find wines that are a 'Cut' above. Cheers!
Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week - Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
This Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast is really a great value at $13. It's delicate, as a Pinot should be, with the cherry, raspberry and cola flavors that are typical of Pinot Noir from the Sonoma region. Pinot Noir pairs amazingly well with everything from Salmon to Steaks.