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I’d like a case of wine, here’s $200. Go.

Recently a good friend of mine approached me with an idea. The pitch is this: here is $200, can you set me up with a good case of wine?

Um, yeah, no problem - I love spending other people's money! This would be an interesting project of budgeting and education, and I was all in.

Let's back up just a moment. Couple of facts about my friend. He is a family man who just had another child, doesn't have a ton of excess time, enjoys wine (but wants to learn more), doesn't enjoy overpaying for things, and is always interested in trying sometime new. OK, no problem. My advice is normally to just go to Costco and pick up some wines and see what you like. The nearest Costco is about and hour and a half away. Fail #1. OK, no problem. Just go to WTSO and order some stuff on sale that looks interesting. Whoops, shipping alcohol to your home in the state of Alabama is apparently really complicated and is basically impossible. Fail #2. So now what? Grocery stores? Meh, very high markup on many mass produced wines. Not a great option. Fail #3. That's when we came up with the pitch.

This gets me excited. Not only do I get to shop for wine, but I can help someone else in their journey to expand the way they appreciate wine. The only downside is that I won't get to drink the wine. It's OK, we have enough stashed away at home to last us for a while.

I needed some parameters in order to get started. First, I needed a budget. $200. Second, I needed to know what kind of case to build - all reds, all whites, or mixed? 9 reds and 3 whites. Third, I need to get the general style of wines that appeal to him. Full bodied reds and crisp whites. Fourth, any special requests? Barolo/Barbaresco. OK, got it.

At this point, I really had some pretty good ideas of how to break this down and where I would get the wines. For shear value, I decided to go to Costco for half of the case, and then for more selection, I went to a high quality local liquor store.

The whites I came away with were these three:

Kirkland Signature, Sauvignon Blanc ($7)

Joseph Drouhin, Saint-Veran (Chardonnay) ($16)

Vinho Verde ($9)

I was mainly seeing value and summer drinkability here - especially with the Sauvignon Blanc and the Vinho Verde. I did want to include the Saint-Veran because of the high quality producer and great value that you get from that region as opposed to Chablis or Burgundy.

Here are the Reds I chose for this case:

This was the fun part. Really trying to balance value within this budget and wines that are interesting. The hardest part was to try to get a quality Barolo without killing the rest of the budget. Instead, I settled on another Nebbiolo wine (Barbaresco) that had a little bit of age on it that could probably be enjoyed relatively soon. This wine didn't kill the budget, but at $36, it wasn't cheap. After that, I knew I needed a good mix of wines from all over the world and it just became a balancing act. I think these wines are all from high quality producers and are reasonably priced. Here is what made the case:

Kirkland Signature Malbec ($7)

Owen Roe, Sinister Hand, Red Blend (GSM), Washington ($14) 

Daou, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles ($22)

Cloudline (Drouhin Family), Pinot Noir, Oregon ($15)

Joseph Drouhin, Beaujolais-Village ($16)

Castelli del Bibbione, Chianti Classico ($14.49) 

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbera d'Asti ($19)

Pelissero, Langhe Nebbiolo ($24)

La Fenice, 2010 Barbaresco ($36) 

The total cost for this case came in a just under $200, mission accomplished! This was a really fun project for me, and once we find out his preferences I can build off that knowledge and work on his next case!

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