Two Buck Chuck & $10 Wines
I don’t consider myself a wine connoisseur, but my palette is improving. That said, when buying a wine, I usually spend $8-$15 for what I consider to be a decent bottle just to keep around. But apparently I’ve been overspending.
Trader Joe’s famous “Two Buck Chuck” recently took the award for the top chardonnay at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.
The connoisseurs may cringe, the snobs may even sob, but the judges have spoken: California’s best chardonnay costs less than $3.
Charles Shaw Chardonnay, better known as “Two Buck Chuck,” beat hundreds of other wines and was named the top prize in a prestigious tasting competition in California.
The affordable wine beat out 350 other California chardonnays to win the double gold. Second place went to an $18 bottle, and the most expensive wines at the event, at the price of $55, didn’t even medal. (from ABC News)
And in case you haven’t heard of Trader Joe’s or Two Buck Chuck, here’s some background from Wikipedia.
Charles Shaw is an American brand of “extreme value” wine produced in California.
These wines are currently Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and most recently Shiraz varietals and Valdigue in the style of Beaujolais nouveau,and Pinot Grigio in limited quanities all from California vineyards. They are distributed exclusively by Trader Joe’s grocery stores, and in California sell for $1.99. Because of this, the Charles Shaw wines are affectionately known as Two Buck Chuck.
Due to the three-tier system, in other states the price can go up to around $4. As such, the wine is often referred to as “Three Buck Chuck” or “Four Buck Chuck” relative to the price.
Charles Shaw is an example of the recent trend of economy-minded wine drinkers seeking the greatest value. In particular the brand stands out not only for the low cost, but also for the respectable packaging and semi-frequent high ratings at wine tasting events. For example, at the 28th Annual International Eastern Wine Competition, Shaw’s 2002 Shiraz received the double gold medal, besting the roughly 2,300 other wines in the competition. More recently, Shaw’s 2005 California chardonnay was judged Best Chardonnay from California at the 2007 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. The chardonnay received 98 points, a double gold, with accolades of Best of California and Best of Class.If you don’t happen to live close to a TJ’s, don’t worry. Here’s a list of wines under $10 compiled from the NY Times, PJ Wine, and Fine Living that will help you find a great bottle of vino without breaking the bank.
Steenberg South Africa Sauvignon Blanc 2004, $8
Crisp, fresh, zesty and balanced, with unexpected depth. (Importer: Monsieur Touton Selections, New York)
J. Vidal-Fleury Côtes-du-Rhône 2001, $8
Earthy and balanced, with lingering fruit flavors and a great sense of place. (W. J. Deutsch & Sons, White Plains, N.Y.)
’05 Arzuaga Ribera del Duero “La Planta,” $8.99
A PJ’s Wine of the Week: The nose carries lovely notes of black cherry, dusted cocoa, warm vanilla bean and a suggestion of oak. The palate boasts exquisite black cherry and plum flavors with hints of smoky minerality and a dark, milk chocolate-inflected finish. Serve this rich, fruity wine with roast pork tenderloin, pasta Bolognese, lamb chops or steak.
’05 Odfjell “Armador” Chile Cabernet Sauvignon, $7.97
This wine received a 90 point rating by The Wine Advocate, although no tasting note was given. It is another outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon value from this impressive Chilean producer. Bright red and black berries are followed by a touch of roasted red pepper and a hint of fresh jalape–o. The brightness of the nose carries through on the palate, which is smooth and loaded with cassis and blackberry flavors and chalk tones. This wine finishes with vibrant fruit and a touch of pleasingly dusty, ripe tannins. An expressive and distinctive Cabernet buy.
’01 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva, $9.97
2001 is a breakout vintage for the consistently first-rate Marqués de Riscal Reserva. It offers beautifully plush, ripe black fruit flavors, smoky oak and mineral nuances coupled with outstanding balance and finish. It is without a doubt one of the greatest values in the store and a miracle at this price. Drink now or over the next 30 years!
Red Flyer 2003 California Red Table Wine, $ 9, California.
The label depicts a flying saucer zipping through a bleak postmodern landscape, but this award-winning combo of Syrah, Mouvedre, Grenache, Carignan, and “Clone X” contains very pleasant hints of toasty oak.
Firestone Vineyard 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, $10, California.
Aged in stainless steel tanks, this one’s clean, bright and versatile — it would serve well as your house white. It’s 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, not a blend.
Folie à Deux 2004 Ménage à Trois California Red, $9, California.
Purify your thoughts, people. We’re talking about a blend of three grapes: Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot. This mouthful of a wine starts off vibrant and fruity and finishes with a fresh-ground, spicy bite. There’s nothing it can’t stand up to — throw your best summer barbecue at it. It won’t flinch.
14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, $10, Washington.
Grown in the wine-making region of Washington state known as Horse Heaven Hills, the name of this super-smooth wine refers to the height of the mustangs that once ran wild there. Its lingering finish is reminiscent of the cherries for which the area is also known.
Alianca Vinho Verde, $7, Portugal.
Perhaps the classic summer white wine, this crisp Portuguese import is the crushed-grape equivalent of linens drying in the sunshine. The term “vinho verde,” or “green wine,” refers not to the color but means the wine is best drunk young.
Henry’s Drive Pillar Box Red 2004, $10, Australia.
Don’t be hoodwinked by the screw cap. This smoky, intense wine from Australia’s Padthaway winemaking region received a buzz-worthy rating of 90 out of 100 from The Wine Advocate reviewer Robert Parker. A rich, complex and lingering blend (primarily Cabernet), this is a treat you won’t soon forget.
Hacienda Pinot Noir 2002, $7, California.
This is a nice, light, fruity red for those who prefer less drama per sip than, say, rambunctious Pillar Box fans. On average one of the most inexpensive wines on this list, this Pinot Noir is better suited to a juicy pork tenderloin than a T-bone steak.
Viña Sila Las Brisas 2004, $10, Spain
Got some spicy shrimp cooking up on a skewer? Maybe enjoying a creamy chilled soup made with avocado and cucumber? This fresh, faintly citrusy white from Spain’s Rueda winemaking region will set off these summer dishes perfectly.
Doña Paula Los Cardos Malbec 2004, $9, Argentina.
A robust red with an intriguing chocolate-coffee taste on the finish, this winning selection is made from the increasingly popular Malbec grape. Malbecs, which were grown heavily in France but are now the prize variety of Argentina, tend to make deep, dark violet wines.
Smoking Loon Viognier 2004, $10, California.
This flavorful white from Don Sebastiani & Sons is on the sweet side of Chardonnay, very fruity and full. The winemaker recommends it as an aperitif, a palate cleanser, or a counterbalance to spicy foods like a searing Thai curry.
Photo from Flickr.