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AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular

It’s time to stock the cellars. Now celebrating its 35th year, AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular offers wine novices and experts alike the chance to explore more than 40 must-try wines for $13.99 and under.

Wine is often the centerpiece of any celebration, and thanks to the quality, yet wallet-friendly, options that have been hand-picked for this year’s AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular, there is no need to have a fancy occasion to bust out the bottles. “It’s about finding quality at a good value,” says Alice Itsell, AJ’s Fine Foods Cellar Expert, noting that AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular marks the perfect time to stock up.

The highly anticipated annual wine program started in 1986 by Cellar Master Ann Stephens. Known at the time as the Summer Sizzler, Stephens’ must-try wine list featured myriad interesting varietals of outstanding quality and great value. The tasty tradition has continued ever since.

Starting in February each year, the department managers at AJ’s get to work tasting and rating a selection of 300 to 500 possible wines to feature in AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular. After tasting about 30 wines in a sitting, with nine to 10 tasting sessions in total, Itsell says, a fresh list is compiled of the highest rated bottles each summer and presented at each AJ’s location. “It is important to present something new and fresh to the consumer,” Itsell says. Starting in July, the process repeats for AJ’s Winter Wine Spectacular.

Offering an unintimidating space for wine lovers of all expertise—or lack thereof—AJ’s Cellar Masters and Wine Stewards are on hand to offer recommendations, pairing ideas and more to customers who have questions. “We are not here to judge a selection or judge a palate. We are here to say, ‘What do you normally like?’ Here are some items that match your tasting profile,” Itsell says. She also recommends having a price point in mind in order for the wine pros to steer you in the right direction. Plus, AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular is conveniently organized in categories (like fruit-forward red, crisp white or summer sparkling) to make shopping a breeze.

Seeking some wine recs before checking out AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular? Here, Itsell discusses a few seasonal standouts.

Best bottle to bring to a summer barbecue: The Show Malbec – medium body with good dark fruit notes, good complimentary notes of black pepper and spice. Works great with grilled foods.

Calancia Grillo – bright, crisp with a touch of mineral notes. Good complement to salads, grilled shrimp and scallops.

Best summer-friendly bottle to gift a host: Le Jade Picpoul de Pinet – a delightful wine with notes of stone fruit, crisp and light body. Totally refreshing and pleasing.

Best bottle to introduce something new: Aichenberg Gruner Veltliner – from Austria and when introduced to individuals, they are very pleased. Citrus, crisp and dry white wine. Aromatic with a light body, finishing crisp on the palate. Great alternative in the white wine category.

Best failsafe pick everyone will love: Carpineto Dogajolo Italian Red Wine – a red blend from Tuscany, Cabernet and Sangiovese. Easy-dinking, approachable style and medium body with notes of bright cherry, spice and subtle oak. Pair with Italian dishes.

Best bottle for those who are ready for fall: Matchbook Estate Bottled Petit Verdot – dense color, dark fruit notes of blueberry, blackberry and medium-to-full body. Can be lush and rich on the palate and ready for fuller fall cuisine.

Now that’s something we’re excited to toast to this season. AJ’s Summer Wine Spectacular wine prices are available through Sept. 12. For more information, visit www.ajsfinefoods.com.

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