Photo by Erin Cooper

We are firm believers that pairing wine with food shouldn’t be solely reserved for fine dining in fancy restaurants. Wine can and should be enjoyed in a variety of different settings including a spring picnic or a casual dinner at home in your pajamas. In the spirit of encouraging wine pairing with even the simplest meals, we met with Robyn Sonnenberg, Wine Steward for Vons supermarkets here in Las Vegas, and asked her about common buyer behaviors as well as pairing recommendations for some of the grocery chain’s most popular grab-n-go meals.  

Robyn, when did you discover your passion for wine?

I first discovered my love of wine in my early twenties. I was lucky enough to travel a lot at a fairly young age. Traveling though different countries I was drawn to the local cuisines and with that, the local wineries. I owned a restaurant and bar in Lake Arrowhead, California where I was able to share the wonderful food and wine pairings that I fell in love with while traveling.

How did you become the Wine Steward for Vons?

I was doing a tasting at a local venue for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits when the district manager for Vons approached me with a pretty enticing offer to come onboard with Vons as a Wine Steward. I do tastings, order new and exciting wine (and spirits), help customers with wine and food pairings and help educate liquor managers on the products in their departments.

How do your customers’ buying patterns change throughout the year?

Summer and spring bring about the lighter wines that are chilled like Chardonnay, Prosecco, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rosé. As for reds, my customers seem to like Pinot Noir or sweet reds such as Stella Rosa, served chilled. 

Fall is the perfect time for some oaky Chardonnay, spicy red Zinfandel, jammy red blends and full-bodied Malbecs.

Winter is when you want to buy a bottle to warm your soul. People tend to start grabbing hearty Cabernets and red blends. My other winter favorites are Syrah and Malbec, which are often less purchased and unfortunately less understood.  

Are there any current trends or buying behaviors that you find particularly interesting?

Yes, some of the biggest buying behaviors are with the millennials. Wine buyers between the ages of 21 and 34 aren’t as influenced by marketing due to not watching TV as much. These customers are more influenced by trending wines also known as “cult wines.” 19 Crimes has an interactive label on their bottles that are trending hard right now. Walking Dead wines also have interactive labels. These trending wines can be inexpensive or very expensive such as Caymus Cabernetor Penfolds Grange. 

What are your top three “go-to” wines?

My top three affordable wines are Love Noir Pinot Noir, Flowers Chardonnay and Ménage A Trois Silk. My top three splurge wines are Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Opus One and Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Rosé. 

Quick and easy wine pairings with five popular grab-n-go meals:

1. Signature Café Italian Sub Sandwich
: Ruffino Pinot Grigio
Red:  A Chianti like Villa Antinori Toscana Rosso

2. “Fresh Meals Made Easy” Garlic and Herb Salmon with
Roasted Red Potatoes and Broccoli
: Whispering Angel Rosé
Red: Cherry Pie Pinot Noir 

3. Chicken Wings (from the hot wings bar)
White: Veuve Clicquot Brut with plain wings and Kung Fu Girl Riesling with spicy wings
Red: Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel

4. Harvest Salad with valley spring mix, apples, walnuts,
feta cheese and cranberries with a sweet onion vinaigrette
: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
Red: A Beaujolais or Meiomi Rosé

5. Rotisserie Chicken
White: Ferrari Carano Chardonnay
Red: Chateau Ste Michelle Merlot

Sonnenberg also noted that single serving wines in 187ml bottles or Tetra Paks are becoming increasingly popular with grab-n-go customers. These smaller options come in many of the popular white and red varietals and can provide a little something for everyone at any budget.