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Sunday, February 10, 2013

TWO BUCK CHUCKS NO MORE

The end came this week to Two Buck Chucks, the $1.99/bottle of wine sold at Trader Joe's in California.  The Charles Shaw brand is now going upscale, all the way up to $2.49/bottle.  There is a Charles Shaw (who happens to have graduated from Stanford University--I give credit to all my alumni) winery in Napa Valley.  However, the grapes themselves come from the central valley.  

In most Trader Joe's across the country, the price is $2.99/bottle.  In Hawaii, no Trader Joe's, but Whole Foods has their $2.99/bottle :  Three Wishes Vineyards (right, based in Livermore, California).  Reviews were good.  Longs Drugs now and then sell their "exclusive" Tisdale (Modesto) California wines, $10 for three bottles.  I personally have never had a bad bottle of Charles Shaw, Three Wishes Vineyards and Tisdale, although in the back of my mind I wonder how they can do it so cheaply.

Forbes has a recent article of on good, cheap wines, but none came in under $10/bottle.  Food and Wine an The Wine Curmudgeon have a few bargains, all around $10/bottle.


Of particular fame is Thunderbird wine, made by Gallo.  While once about the cheapest, a bottle now goes for $5.  I once thought it was made from pear, not grapes.  It is fortified, and can go up 18% alcohol.  It has a screw cap.  I got to almost like it in the early '60's when the bar across the street from the Hutchinson Sugar Company factory (where I worked) only served  Budweiser beer and Thunderbird wine, usually over ice.  It is here that I learned you can get a lot more cooperation from your staff if you drank with them.  I've used this wine (in another bottle) in a couple of wine tastings, and some who "know" wines picked it out as the most expensive of the lot because they thought it was a late harvest riesling.

What about boxed wines?  R. Muller has been touted as drinkable.  Their Riesling sells for $24, but that is only for three liters, or about $6/equivalent bottle.  Here is one list, but they're still too expensive for me.   Epicurous.com has their top five, but, still on the high side.  My all-time favorite is Peter Vella Chardonnay.  Five liters for $16, but sometime on sale at Long's for less than $10.  That would be the equivalent of a two buck chuck's.  The beauty of this system is that the wine never contacts air.  You open it, close it, and it's good in a refrigerator for a month or more.

I have yet to find a really excellent red boxed wine that is cheap enough for me.   There is "champagne" in a can:  Francis Ford Coppola 6 ounce Blanc De Blancs named Sofia.  But I'm still on the search for a really terrific and low cost 5-liter box red wine.


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