Sunday, January 21, 2007

Moving up or Just Costing More?

If you've been following this column you know that I'm on a crusade to discover the price point where I will actually get to taste a decent wine. To my amazement, I actually came close last week with that drinkable little Woodbridge merlot. If that keeps up and I hit pay dirt this week, I may chuck all of my Bordeaux in the trash and switch to stuff that's a tenth the cost!

I'm really getting into this cheap wine thing. Don't ask me why – the wine snob in me is cowering in a corner sucking his thumb and crying quietly – but the idea of trying a bunch of cheap wines and maybe finding a diamond in the bargain bin has me all hot under the collar. Plus, I get a "reason" to pop four bottles of wine in one night. The downside is that I usually don’t remember much of the tasting the next day and have to make up a bunch of BS to keep my editor happy. Whatever.

Anyway… on with the tasting!

This week I bought four wines that you should be able to find at any grocery store. I picked mine up at Cost Plus.

Blackstone 2005 Monterey County Chardonnay

This wine didn’t actually have a whole lot of aroma – a bit of butter, but not much else. On the palette, it was actually almost flavorless, but, boy, it sure did go down smooth. They finally made something flavorless that has 13% alcohol! Served cold, you could get pretty happy on this stuff, but if you’re actually interested in wine, give it a miss. Honestly, the Gallo chardonnay I had last week was just as good. Pathetic. $8.99. 2 stars.

Yellowtail 2005 Shiraz
As soon as I saw this bottle, I knew I had to buy it. Not only was it easy on the wallet at $5.99, it’s the one wine every single person on the planet has had. On the nose it wasn’t very impressive; a bit oaky and slightly sour, but not horrible. On the palette this was easily the most interesting wine of the bunch. Very floral and perfumy, in a very pleasant way. Smooth. You typically expect an Australian shiraz to have a lot of fruit and pepper, but this one didn’t. Bottom line: this was the only wine I didn’t pour down the sink afterward. 3 stars.

Ravenswood 2003 Vintners Blend California Zinfandel
Ooh… “Vintners Blend”. That must be the good stuff! Actually, “Vintners Blend” is the cheapest stuff Ravenswood makes. “Vintners Blend” is pure marketing for people who know nothing about wine. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Ravenswood is famous for its Zins, but this ain’t one it’s famous for. Too much charred oak on the nose, and bit cooked tasting. Bleech. $6.99. 1.5 stars.

Columbia Crest 2003 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
I’d never had a Columbia Crest wine before. As a California wine snob, I figured that this was just cheap wine, and why drink something from Washington when I could drink something from California that was probably just as bad. Amazingly, this wine had no aroma whatsoever. I mean, even the really cheap stuff smells like something, even if that something is lighter fluid and carpet cleaner. When I buy a bottle of wine, I want it have some sort of smell. Anything will do. But try as I might, I couldn’t suck any smell out of this. The taste was no great shakes either; a bit of oak and some faint fruit. A pass. $8.99. 1.5 stars.

What’s the story here? With the exception of the Yellow Tail, these wines were actually worse than the cheap crap I drank last week. And most of these wines cost about twice what the Woodbridge and Sutter Home cost. Damn! I need to do a better job making up the garbage I put in this column.

Next week: I ask for a raise because I’ll be moving up to the $10-15 a bottle stuff. Ooh-la-la.

1 comment:

Derek said...

We've reviewed many of the same wines at

We gave Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2003 3 out of 5 stars. "This Zinfandel has a interesting raspberry smell, almost antiseptic... Good level of dryness, bold oak, but overall unremarkable"
Check it out over at

We gave the Yellow Tail 2005 Shiraz 3 out of 5 stars as well. "Aggressive Soft ripe sweetness are displayed in perfect harmony with subtle, silky fine tannins. Overall, This is a great Aussie Red..."

We'll have to check out some more expensive wines, but ignorance is bliss?