Cost: Average price $17.99
Where buy now: Byerly's Wines & Spirits, Minnetonka- $14.99
Grapes: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot
Region: Yakima Valley, Washington
There are few things that get me to leave the security of the city: good friends, good food and good wine. Oh, I should probably mention family in case any of them are reading this. So, when I decided to make the sojourn out to Minnetonka, I thought, "Great, suburban drivers, high prices and shopping malls, I can't wait!"
To my surprise, I found the Wines & Spirits shop at Byerly's near Ridgedale, charmingly sweet! Not too tiny and not too overwhelmingly huge, the store was just right. Well laid out, clean and wide aisles, it comes with friendly staff to boot. Enter Rodney, without knowing what he looked like, you could almost tell who he was by the friendly voice bellowing in the distance. After talking shop with a customer and ringing up a purchase, he came over and we introduced ourselves to one another.
He loves what he does and that is evident by how proudly he shows off his store, from knowing each bottle to the neighborly chit-chat he provides his patrons. He says he likes to watch people shop (not in that weird "To Catch a Predator" kinda way) but he likes to ask questions and build relationships with his customers. This is like your ma' & pop store with a facelift. Okay, it's great blah blah blah. Show me a budget, yet outstanding wine. Better yet, show me something not many others have.
Rodney explained that they have three BIG wine sales every year: Spring, July and October. Spring sale dates haven't been revealed but will be within the next week. With that said, this store doesn't operate on a sale flyer or catalog system. I asked, "Why not? I love leafing through flyers circling my next big find." He went on to explain that they carry around 3500 different wines, during their wine sale it is simply, "Buy one bottle, get one half off". This mantra holds true for every bottle. If the bottle is in the store, it's part of the sale.
I love that. I love that for a couple reasons. 1) You buy what you truly want. No, "Gosh, I'd rather have bottle X, but bottle Y is actually on sale." or 2) You may be more apt to experiment with a bottle slightly outside of your comfort zone without breaking the bank. Buy one you know you love and then buy one that's new to you.
As we continue conversing, in comes Dr. Mike, a regular customer. First, Dr. Mike is smokin' hot. Oh, what, he's a surgeon, too? He and Rodney shoot the breeze. Rodney asks how his wife liked a bottle the doctor bought a week ago and the friendly banter continues. Did I mention Dr. Mike had soft flowing locks that were well coifed but not in an Aveda-sort of way. Just natural like he jumped out of his open-aired jeep, wearing flip flops and beachy attire.
"The wine, Lush, the wine"
Yes, back to my story. Rodney asked me if I knew much about the Meek Family. I knew nothing of them so he took me to the bin that held the WJ Meek Red Wine. The owner/vintner , Michael Meek, actually lives right here in our very own state of Minnesota on Lake Minnetonka. Originally from Seattle, he founded the estate in Yakima Valley, Washington, back in 2000 due to a lifelong passion. The WJ Meek name honors his grandfather who was also a winemaker. You can check out http://www.meekfamilyestate.com/Meek Family Estate. The Meek Family Estate must own some pretty sought-after real-estate because their grapes are harvested for a few other name brand wines. However, they also create some killer limited production wines under their own name. I say that because Rodney opened a bottle for me to taste on the spot and I was hooked.
Upon opening, the aromas just smelled great. I know that is vague but don't you get that sometimes? Something just smells "right"? This Cali table red is reminiscent of really good French Bordeaux. For those in which that means nothing, this red wine is something I can see the natives tossing back with friends while cracking inappropriate jokes, enjoying each other's company and just relishing the good life.
For something more tangible, it is a Cabernet/Merlot blend. The Cabernet releases a fuller bodied richness with scents and tastes of cherry and blueberry. The induction of Merlot creates this soft-robust wine. Does that make sense? It has boldness, yet softness at the same time. The fruit grabs you but the hints of earth and touch of woody vanilla rounds out the taste leaving you with a pleasant, medium finish. It's such a smooth, full-bodied red that has personality without getting in the way. You'd believe you were drinking a bottle twice the price. I'll be honest, I didn't drink my first bottle with any food. Yes, I said first bottle. No, I don't have the second, third or fourth but you better believe when that wine sale hits, I'll be doing the BOGO thing with this wine.
Too good to be true? You can head on in to Byerly's now for a great price. I know city-folk, I cannot make you leave the confines of Minneapolis or St. Paul. I can tell you if you are out that way, it's worth the stop. If you live in the Western Metro, make this a go to after you pick up groceries next door. Remember, wine is personal. Do you let any Tom, Dick or Harry cut your hair or give you a physical? No, hell no. You want someone who gets to know you over time. That relationship builds and they can tailor to your needs and personality.
Make sure to tell Rodney I sent you. Strike up a conversation and don't be hesitant to tell him what kinds of wines you like, otherwise he'll just "watch" you shop and perhaps offer a swell suggestion when you check out.