As a professional Wine Geek I
constantly get asked "How do I pick out good wines that don't
taste like Mike n' Ikes left in a car in August?" Looking
for my little purple Devenish sticker on the back of the bottles or
reading my blog (wines;tasted on Typepad) is a pretty good way, but
while you will get good wines you won't get wines that are precisely
chosen for you. That's a problem if you unwittingly pick up a
good pizza wine but are having mussels and it makes the mussels taste
like mud. Luckily there is a trick to always getting the right
wine! It's not a crazy new app, nor is it a personal wine
steward (although that would be really cool). The trick to
always getting the right wine is simple: shop at a store with a good
wine selection and a staff that will recommend wines based on what
Getting great wines is easy if you go to a shop with knowledgeable staff and talk to them. Don't be intimidated by asking about wine; wine retail jobs aren't exactly high paying so most staff are there because they want to be and enjoy talking about it! There are plenty of good wine stores around Portland: Aurora Provisions, Oh No, Rosemont, Bier Cellar, Browne Trading, Old Port Wine, Downeast Bev, RSVP, and Whole Foods are just some of them. Once you start going to a shop and giving the staff feedback about their recommendations they'll be able to make more accurate recommendations; they'll also turn you on to wines that you wouldn't have found otherwise.
The number one concern I hear in response to my advice is that shops like that are more expensive. In fact most small shops are very conscious of that image and try to sell their wines at lower margins in order to compete with the big super markets. Shops that take wine seriously pride themselves on having better selection and better values, otherwise why would anyone shop there? So you can always just tell the staff what your budget is and the staff will recommend the best wine at that price.
I would argue that you actually get a better wine value shopping at a serious wine store. Look at it this way: you can go to a big grocery store and pick up a generic $9.99 bottle of wine, but it may taste like microwaved fruit roll-ups. If you're buying wine with no idea what it will taste like it's your own fault if you get microwaved fruit roll-ups. Buying wine based on a knowledgeable person's recommendations will drastically increase your enjoyment and reduce the possibility that you're wasting your money on microwaved fruit roll-up wine and you'll have more fun learning about wine!