Good Alternatives to America’s Most Popular Restaurant Wines



By John ~ April 10th, 2009.

Dinner and Wine in a RestaurantA few months ago, I saw a list of America’s most popular restaurant wines that was published in a post on the popular wine blog, Vinography:

  1. Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
  2. Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel
  3. Cavit Pinot Grigio Italy
  4. Sutter Home White Zinfandel
  5. Inglenook Chablis
  6. Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio Italy
  7. Yellow Tail Chardonnay Australia
  8. Copperidge Chardonnay
  9. Yellow Tail Shiraz Australia
  10. Franzia Winetaps Vintner Select White Zinfandel

Are you as shocked as I was when you read this list? Three White Zins. Only one red wine. I have a hard time envisioning any of our readers rushing out to buy these and especially not at restaurant prices. While the average retail price of these wines is only $6.50, restaurant customers buying these wines are paying two to three times that amount and buying these wines by the truckload. Unbelievable!

If you have been buying these wines, I won’t tell anyone; but let me make a couple of suggestions:

  1. If you have to buy them, don’t buy them at a restaurant.
  2. Broaden your horizons. Try more different varietals, both red and white.
  3. Try some of the wines I’ve listed below. They are excellent wines that retail for $10 or less:

YEAR WINERY LOCATION VARIETAL/TYPE PRICE QUALITY QPR
2005 Concannon Central Coast California Cab Sauv $9.00 4 5
2005 Columbia Crest Gr Est Washington Merlot $9.00 4 5
2004 Penfolds Koonunga Hill AUSTRALIA Shiraz-Cab $7.99 4 5
2003 Columbia Crest Two Vines Washington Shiraz $6.67 4 5
2006 Atlas Cumbres ARGENTINA Malbec $9.99 4 5
2007 Columbia Winery Washington Gewurztraminer $8.00 4 5
2006 Yalumba Unwooded AUSTRALIA Chardonnay $10.16 4 5
2007 Nobilo Reg Collection Marlborough NEW ZEALAND Sauv Blanc $8.75 4 5
2007 Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese Washington Rose $10.00 4 5
2005 Michele Chiarlo Nivole ITALY Moscato d’Asti $9.95 4 5

In these tough economic times, more and more of us are buying less and less wine at restaurants, and instead buying a bottle at a wine shop and taking it home to drink with our meal and/or sip by a fire. But if you still plan to have wine when dining out, you might want to refer back to our Ordering wine at a restaurant post for some helpful tips.


Filed under: American Wine, Argentine Wine, Australian Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wine, Chardonnay, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Gewurztraminer, Italian Wine, Malbec, Merlot, Moscato/Muscat, New Zealand Wine, Red Wine, Rose Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Shana Ray | April 12th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Sadly, I am not shocked by this. When Franzia is the number one wine in America (volume-wise) you gotta know that restaurant wines will follow.

    I do agree that your best bet is to bring your own wine, even if you have to pay up to $15 dollars, you still save $$.

    Thanks for your recommendations.

  2. John | April 12th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Shana,
    Thanks for your comment, and for the good info on your blog.
    As you said, paying a corkage fee is often a smart move.
    John

  3. ryan o'malley | December 16th, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Your list of recommended wines as alternatives read like a Southern Wines and Spirits quota sheet. Objective blog…I think not. Though I will agree with you that 3 white zins on that list is a crying shame.

  4. John | December 17th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Ryan,
    I appreciate everyone who takes the time to comment; but I have to tell you that your conclusions are way off base. You are obviously not a regular reader of Wine Peeps by the fact that you are commenting over 2 1/2 yrs after the post was written. If you were a regular reader you would know that we are very objective in our wine reviews through the use of blind tastings. Each of the wines we recommended in this post was a wine we had tasted and reviewed per our standard procedures[http://winepeeps.com/how-we-taste/]. We have no affiliation with any wine distributor, and I’ve never even heard of a quota sheet nor have ever used one.
    John

  5. ryan | December 17th, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Ok John, nice to see you managing your blog. I suppose it’s merely a coincidence and I stand corrected. Carry on, cheers.

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