Monday, August 06, 2007

It's Cheap for a Reason

To hell with your fancy schmancy Frenchie Bordeaux, I say! Let's have wine for the plebeians! Wine for the unwashed masses! Power to the people. Right on! Too long have we suffered under the oppression of rich, cultured wine makers foisting their over-priced grape juice on gullible wine drinkers incapable of telling the difference between Chateau Latour and Turning Leaf. Too long have we paid through the nose for a decent glass of vino. No more I say! No more! It's time for a revolution in wine!

Ooo…I like that. “It's time for a revolution in wine.”® That's my new motto.

Actually, my new motto should be, “Crap! It's Monday night and I have to write another damn wine column! Man, I'm goin' broke.”

Wine is expensive stuff. If I tasted three $20 bottles of wine every week for this column, I'd be homeless in a minute. And let's get real here; how many of you have ever bought a bottle that I recommended, much less a $20 bottle I recommended? I thought so.

I don't mean to slum it intentionally, but given the combination of the cost of decent wine and the Beat's audience (no offense intended to anyone), popping a Chateau Lafite Rothschild for this column is probably a waste of time.

And anyway, I kind of enjoy searching for diamonds in the dumpster. OK, maybe that's not the best metaphor, but if I can find a decent pinot noir for under $5, I'm all for it (good luck with that, by the way).

I already reviewed Two Buck Chuck, so who could possibly be next? Well, I got a hot tip from a hip tipster that Grocery Outlet was the happening place to score some hot wine deals. With the motto “Bargains Only!” I knew I was on the right track before I even entered the store.

As soon as you enter the store you are overwhelmed by a wall o' wine. I almost peed myself in anticipation of the "bargains" to come. In fact, there were too many great “bargains” to choose from, so I limited myself to four.

Evans-Tate 2003 Margaret River

A typically Aussie blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this wine promised a lot for two bucks. And boy did it deliver! First hit on the nose: cork taint. Barf-o-rama! There's nothing worse than a corked wine. What's “cork taint” you ask? A corked wine has been tainted by a nasty chemical (2,4,6-trichloroanisole, for you smarty pants out there) that gives wine a characteristic smell and flavor of wet cardboard or moldy basement. I think I might be getting a clue to why it's only $1.99. Bottom line: wine this bad for two bucks is a waste of two bucks. 0 stars.

Fresno State 2004 Grenache

I knew I had to have this as soon as I saw it. Fresno State is bottling and selling their own wine? Cool! Chico State could learn a lot from their example. Chico State could start a brewery program (it's a natural!) and name their different beers after University presidents. I'm sure the “Zingg Pale Ale” would be very popular. Not sure about the “Esteban Lager” though.

Back to the wine. It sucks. Plain and simple. It's super light in color with the ever so appealing aroma of pencil shavings and cough syrup. Flavor-wise, the fruit was very over-ripe and the finish had a real cough-syrupy bitterness. See what happens when you let students make things? $3.99. 0.5 stars.

Covey Run 2004 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Covey Run is a big producer of occasionally decent wines from Washington. I had high hopes for this one. On the nose an explosion of muskmelon, apricot and truckloads of Papaya. Wow! If it tasted anything like this, it would be a steal. Sadly, it didn't. Typically light and grassy for a sauvignon blanc, the tons of fruit vanished on the tongue, leaving a hollow, slightly thin wine with a tart, unbalanced finish. Disappointing, and not as good as the Two Buck Chuck sauvignon blanc. $1.49. 2 stars.

Lussac 2003 Saint-Emilion

Saint Emilion is one of the major wine regions in Bordeaux. Lussac Saint-Emilion is a lesser known wine region just north of Saint-Emilion proper. Since this bottle lacks a Chateau or Domaine name, I'm assuming that this represents leftover grapes bottled by some wine merchant trying to unload the wine for cheap.

Typically Bordeaux on the nose: earthy, with notes mushroom and cellar. Typically Bordeaux on the tongue as well, with good structure but not much fruit. My only complaint is that it has somewhat strong and bitter tannins on the finish. However, I think with a couple of years cellaring, this will be a pretty decent wine. Not for fruit lovers, but if you like Bordeaux on a budget, this wine is for you. $3.99. 3 stars.

Okay, so we didn't find too many "bargains" at Grocery Outlet, but for 4 bottles under $12, at least I didn't break the bank. And word on the street has it that Big Lots is the next big cheap wine hot spot. As always, I'll be hot on the case.

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