As my boyfriend and I savored a recent dinner at Alinea in Chicago, we discussed how each wine played off of the sumptuous course in front of us. Debating if the Tempranillo or Riesling had been the best was a far cry from our early days of wine consumption.\r\n\r\nEarly in our relationship, a date had to be canceled. I decided to send him a bottle of wine, a way to at least make the evening memorable. I scrolled through the limited selection at the grocery store with my even more limited knowledge and picked out a bottle of Apothic Crush, a $9 red blend that I recognized drinking with a friend. I sent it off with a note to keep the bottle and we would drink it together sometime.\r\n\r\nAfter that evening, it became a symbol of everything we looked forward to, through the difficulties of our post-divorce lives and the myriad of changes that came with it. When times were tough and my eyes were full of tears, he would remind me that we had that bottle of Apothic waiting. The $9 lifesaver we needed.\r\n\r\nWe had known each other a long time and had a strong foundation to build a relationship. But sometimes you still need that cornerstone to bring it all together. Ours became wine.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nDates in the beginning were often sporadic, usually beer-driven at a sports bar. For a long time, our ability to go out was limited, but we had time and each other and that\u2019s all that really mattered. We\u2019d sit in camping chairs on his back patio in the evenings with music playing and a bottle from the lower shelves of Safeway, talking continuously as the sun faded.\r\n\r\nWine became this symbol of normality; the idea of having a glass together would be the sign that we had made it. Eventually, we opened that bottle of Apothic Crush and toasted to all the possibilities the future could hold. No vintage had or has ever tasted sweeter.\r\n\r\nOver time, things improved. Our first real vacation was to Napa, where we discovered Twomey. We spent 2020 expanding into Oregon wineries, where we loved the Pinot Noir. Then came Malbec. We even added a small wine fridge we both chipped in to buy for his kitchen.\r\n\r\nWhen I booked the reservation at Alinea, adding the wine pairings wasn\u2019t even a second thought; by now, it was just what we did, all thanks to a $9 bottle. Raise a glass to the grocery store wines\u2014next one\u2019s on me.\r\n\r\nThis article originally appeared in the December 31, 2021 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!