It's time for another round of the Skid Row Wine Bowl where we take an ultracheap wine...Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw)...and put it up against a higher rated moderately priced wine of the same variety. We take the name for the cheap wine you'd get in the bad liquor stores along Skid Row. At two dollars a bottle, Charles Shaw is cheaper than bottled water but it has a fairly good reputation among the public.
Watch the Video!Today, we're going to be pitting their merlot against a similarly price merot from Sterling Albert Winery. Sterling Albert is located in a low-rent industrial park in Concord, California. The grapes are grown in the Russian River Valley which is located about 50 miles west of Napa Valley. This valley winds up from the Mendocino coast towards Santa Rosa where the heat of the inland valleys mingles with the fog from the ocean.
The Sterling Albert merlot is available at The Wine of the Month Club for $4.99 a bottle. Online, the winery lists it at $30 and I've seen it on a restaurant wine list for $52. If you see it on a wine list at a restaurant you're dining at for this price...walk out the door, they're ripping you off!
Charles Shaw, of course, is famous for selling their wines exclusively at Trader Joes for $1.99 a bottle. The very first two-buck Chuck I ever tasted was the merlot. I remember it being very good and very smooth and, like a lot of people, was blown away by the price. To me, it is still the best of their varietals but the one big knock against the Shaw line is their inconsistency. You can get a good wine one week and one you'll end up using for cooking the next so it's like paying twice as much for the one you drink.
We do have to give Shaw...or more properly Bronco Wines, the owner of the Shaw label...props for one thing. Since they sell so much wine and buy so many grapes at low prices, they keep the lid on grape prices in California. Growers and other wineries don't think highly of them for this reason, but it keeps the prices on other wines low, such as the Sterling Albert we taste today.
In Round 1, we tasted the Chardonnay and, believe it or not, we picked the two-buck Chuck as the winner. So how does the merlot stack up? Watch the video above for the results.
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick