Wine Shopping To The Oldies

how to pick a good wine in the grocery store

The other day, I was wine shopping at my local Safeway supermarket when I was suddenly struck with a weird, disconcerting feeling. At first, I thought it was a reaction to what is admittedly an extensive selection of different varietals for a national supermarket chain. It’s probably a bonus to living in the San Francisco Bay Area, but even Safeway carries smaller, artisan producers like Baldacci Family Vineyards side-by-side with the requisite Rombauer and the omnipresent Cupcake Merlot.

No, something else was tickling at my frontal lobe and after a few moments, I started to figure it out. The background music being piped through the overhead speakers in this particular grocery store was “Start Me Up,” the classic Rolling Stones anthem from their I-Promise-To-Be-Cool-Again, post-disco album, Tattoo You. I bought that album back in 1981 when albums were albums: Round discs of vinyl with etched grooves that you listened to by subjecting them to daily abuse with a sharp needle until you could practically see through them. Google it, kids.

Look Who’s Wine Shopping With Me…

Standing just a few feet down from me in the aisle was an attractive, 40-ish woman, wine shopping much like me, probably looking for her Weekend Mommy Medicine. Like many of the female inhabitants of my little suburban section of the Bay Area, she smacked of money, and believe me I don’t mean that in any derogatory sense. I have no problem with money or the citizens who’ve acquired vast sums of it. It’s just that if I actually had some myself I’d probably use it to buy a case of Screaming Eagle rather than inject botulism into the crevasses of my face. But hey, honestly, whatever makes you feel good about yourself is fine with me. Especially if it makes you feel so good about yourself that you have sex with your husband more often.

It’s The Soundtrack to Wine Shopping

As Mrs. Smooth Brow searched for her selection, she began to, unconsciously at first, hum along to the background music, gaining slowly in volume, until she finally sang the verse line out loud: “If you start me up I’ll never stop!” I glanced over at her, smiling, and she glanced back, perhaps a little sheepishly but not enough to stop humming away as she looked back over the bottles.

I took it as given that she thought of the song as the NFL Kickoff Anthem it has become over the past decade, in much the same way that people have come to believe that “YMCA” by The Village People is a happy-go-lucky singalong call to action on the gridiron. However, in the same way, that “YMCA” is actually ranked as the Third Most Gay Song Ever Written, just behind “Dancing Queen” and “It’s Raining Men,” ol’ Mick Jagger did not have properly-executed Special Teams play on his mind when he wrote “Start Me Up,” unless that Special Team was comprised solely of teenage models.

You Talkin’ to Me?

But there was something else about hearing this Rolling Stones song on the market PA system that was bugging me, something I couldn’t place. I began to think it was the feeling of being targeted – that some glorified Madison Avenue intern figured that the Stones’ music would inspire Safeway’s preferred demographic  (namely me) to purchase more six-packs of ManicBlast, The Energy Drink Guaranteed To Keep You Awake And Refreshed For The Next 137 Years. However, I was all of one month old when the hip kids were dancing the Frug to “It’s All Over Now” on weekly episodes of The TAMI Show. Besides, I know what it feels like to be targeted.

About 12 years ago, the diabolical bastards at Nissan Motors used Rush’s Red Barchetta to hawk their latest sedan in a commercial that straight-up screamed, “Hey, we’re talking to you, that guy over there who grew up in the suburbs listening to Rush and is in his mid-30’s now…no, the one on the left who smoked pot in college and spent weekends copying Alex Lifeson guitar riffs and thinks maybe this bitchin’ car will mitigate a full-on eight-point-five event on the Mid-Life Crisis Richter Scale…no,no, the other one on behind you, the one named John Taylor.” They pegged me. I had to take a shower after watching that commercial.

Targeted at The Wine Store

Just as I was beginning to understand that what I was feeling was a certain sense of foreboding – an almost giddy feeling that something surreal was about to happen – the moment hit like a bottle of Two Buck Chuck right between the eyes: There it was, for all the world to hear, from the Organic Baby Food aisle to the Adult Incontinence section, blaring out in sweet, high fidelity from every speaker in the store. Mick Jagger imploring, “Yo! Yo! You make a dead man come!!”

No, not you…you, the one there on the left, over there with the 12-carat Mercedes keychain and the bottle of Skinny Girl Chardonnay in hand. Yes, we’re targeting you. Our research indicates that you go wine shopping for fruit-forward, slightly-sweet, white wine on the weekends and as it turns out, you also have the uncanny ability to elicit a mighty fine climax from the undead.

It’s a tired argument that songs espousing The Big O for zombies are indicative of the Moral Decline of Western Civilization, especially when no one blinks an eye at the likes of Honey Boo Boo Child and Gangnam Style. But it is crazy to think that the flaccid Muzak stylings of Perry Como and Englebert Humperdink were once the common background of our lives, and now that baseline has changed to Keith Richards, the same guy whose liver is such an opiate sponge that he gets his blood changed with more regularity than most of us change the oil in our cars. In the end, though, it really just proves that no one listens to the lyrics. Except me. And to paraphrase Robert Frost, that makes all the difference.

Francis Ford Coppola’s Diamond Collection Ivory Label 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Having The Legitimate Opportunity To Smile And Tell Your Neighbor That She Makes A Dead Man Come Pairs With: Francis Ford Coppola’s Diamond Collection Ivory Label 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The most difficult thing to find in large-production wines is consistency, but this typically isn’t the case with Coppola’s wines. Face it, you walk into your local wine shop to get a recommendation on something hip, new, amazing, and expensive. But you go to the grocery store for Comfort Wine, that bottle you know is going to taste the same every time and not cost half the mortgage payment, like the alcohol equivalent of a Big Mac. Ravenswood wines used to be the Wine-Twinkie of choice for me, but over the last handful of years, I’ve noticed an inconsistency from vintage to vintage.

I did graduate with a degree in Journalism, so I should probably do something journalism-y. Like maybe call the folks over at Ravenswood and ask them what the hell is going on? But in much the same way you’d just blow it off and switch to another Comfort Wine, so did I, and Coppola is the one. And I don’t just say that because I idolize Francis Ford Coppola. I did have the opportunity to meet the man himself one day at his winery. Instead of vomiting pure Fanboy hero-worship all over his Italian loafers, I managed a polite, “Hello, Mr. Coppola, I deeply respect your work.” Good thing I hadn’t started wine tasting yet, though…

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4 thoughts on “Wine Shopping To The Oldies”

  1. Thank you for this humorous and enlightening entry. If you haven’t entirely vanquished it, you certainly offer potent psychoemotional weaponry to battle that persistent guilty feeling that I get when contemplating a wine purchase in the aisles of my local supermarket. I browse labels, maybe handle a bottle or two, but then feel invisible, judging eyes upon me—so much so that I look up and down the well-waxed passages half-expecting to find someone glaring at me in disgust. “You buy you wine at a supermarket?!”

    But now I see that it’s far more likely I’ll find well-bankrolled, botoxed hotties (of certain age) seeking comfort wines. Your revelation might actually solve more than one problem for me. Just shows to go you: in vino, veritas. Thanks, John!

  2. You got my brain turning (even after a long cook day with my most challenging client), and you have me laughing my ass off! You are completely entertaining, and enlightening, and I cannot wait to read your next post. Loads of Love to ya Cuz!

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