This edition sees three more red wines. The rules for those who missed chapter 1, are that I have to purchase the wines at a local grocery store, and that the total amount for the three bottles needs to be about $20, before tax.
I’ve gone with red wines again, as it’s cold out. Spring will bring white wine editions for sure. I added to the degree of difficulty this time by having my two kids with me at the store while I tried to pick out the wines. And it was Saturday lunchtime, so the store was packed. And my kids hadn’t eaten yet. And I’d just starting taking some serious cough medicine with hydrocodone in it. I’m impressed that I came within a dollar of the $20 limit. Actually, I’m impressed that I actually got the three bottle part right.
2006 Meridian Pinot Noir California ($7.99 – on sale) 13.8%
Why? Well, in my early graduate student days I used to drink a lot of Meridian Chardonnay which was decent and dirt cheap. Then, the label was based in California’s Central Coast, which has since become quite the hot bed for Pinot Noir. Of course, a lot of the early plantings of Pinot Noir were in the wrong place, resulting in underripe, vegetal wines. The label has probably been sold a couple of times since then, and I have no idea who owns it now, or where the grapes come from, but it was a bit of tangential nostalgia.
How is it? Pale, clear light ruby. I’ve honestly seen rosés that are darker, which is not necessarily good or bad. It just is. The nose has quite a bit of Pinot Noir character to it, albeit in a relatively slim, modest package. The core is bright, light tart cherry, supported by some warm clay and a bit of decaying leaves (sous bois sounds better, I admit). There’s not a lot there, but everything that is strikes me as a Pinot Noir-related aroma (U.S. federal wine law requires only 75% of the named grape to carry a varietal label – hat tip to Oregon, and some other states that require more) . With time a bit of oakiness comes out, but it never becomes obtrusive. I tried chilling this a bit, given its lightness, as that sometimes helps sharpen things up. This time, it only managed to accentuate the oak even more.
A bit bigger in the mouth, with a pleasant roundness that is offset initially by a somewhat creamy quality, but what happened to the fruit? It’s all texture and very little flavor, apart from some oak. There’s decent acidity and minimal tannin. There is a really unpleasant aftertaste that just lingers and lingers – sort of like that taste when you forget to close your mouth while spraying yourself with Off! or some other mosquito repellent. The chilling did nothing good for the palate either. The oak is amped up, the creaminess kind of rough, and there’s still no fruit. Absolutely dead on day two. Not recommended.
2004 Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz Columbia Valley Washington ($5.49 – on sale) 13.5%
Why? Again, it’s an old favorite label. I drank cases of their basic Chardonnay and Merlot in my early wine days, when they were about, oh, $5 on sale. Not much seems to have changed in the past 15 years. This brand was always good value, and the warm, dry climate of Washington state to the East of the Cascades where these grapes are grown limits the amount of vintage variation. I can’t recall having any wine from Columbia Crest in at least the past decade, so when I saw it on sale, I took the chance.
How is it? Clear reddish purple. Dusty plum with quite a bit of vanilla, and a touch of clove. The vanilla dies down with time, and some black pepper develops. On day two, the nose is better, with tarter more Rhone-style Syrah notes of cranberry, and a bit of black olive. It’s surprisingly light on the palate, with little substance and a short finish. On day two, the palate is a bit more forthcoming, with some dark red fruits, sour acidity and sawdust flavors, but its still not very attractive. Still vaguely winey on day three (not a lot of incentive to finish any of these off quickly), but no miracle. Not recommended.
2006 Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Sauvignon Rapel Valley Chile ($7.49 – on sale) 14.1%
Why? Chilean wines can be decent value, and I’d not had one in a while. I was hoping for a Carmenere, but the grocery store only had one, and it was at full retail of $12.49. This wine wins our biggest “on sale” percentage at a whopping 25% off its regular retail price. The bottle is definitely a step up in classiness of labeling, but that’s hardly a reliable indicator.
How is it? Blech. The color is a nice clear medium purple. And that’s pretty much the highlight. The nose is incredibly green, but it’s not even an underripe Cabernet Sauvignon green bell pepper green, it’s just a vaguely vegetal green, with an odd sheen to it. Very creepy, actually. No berry, no plum, hell, no fruit flavors at all. Same on day two, I’m sad to report. Amazingly, it’s even worse in the mouth! Still no fruit, still very green, but also incredibly tannic. Mmmmm. Same story on day two. Highly not recommended.
Well, this was a depressing set of wines.
It has caused me to revise my Twenty Buck Luck rules. I am no longer limiting myself to grocery store wines. I can now hit wine stores and specialty grocers (like Trader Joe’s, and our local Italian markets). I still have to make it out with three bottles for about $20, but I know I can do better than this dreck. Alright, I’ve been convinced to stay true to my original mission and stick to grocery store wines. Look for the next chapter once I get the taste of that Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon out of my mouth.