Anyhow, I noticed shortly thereafter that Trader Joe's was rolling out a similarly budget priced line of wines, but Chilean, not [presumably] Californian. Up here in Washington, they retail for $3.49 a bottle [Charles Shaw is $2.99 here]. This is of course cheap enough to pique Mr Smith's interest. Of course, it piqued mine too as I've rarely had a truly bad Chilean wine [the one exception was a God awful bottle of unspeakably vile red consumed near the Torres del Paine a few years ago]. Better yet, these new wines had not just chardonnay and merlot, but also faux Bordeaux [cabernet-merlot] and even carmenére-merlot. The latter really got my hopes up - if anyone's going to bother labelling a wine as carmenére, I'd like to think they bothered to grow it well.
Well, wouldn't you know it, but Trader Joe's Chilean Collection merlot-carmenére is really, really good. By that I mean it smells like good quality wine, it goes down easy, it's got subtle flavors, and DID I MENTION IT'S ONLY $3.49? The bottle even looks nice enough to drink it and not feel like a wino [Charles Shaw's labels look like they were printed in Moldova or something].
Hell, it's only $2.99 in California. I say go for it. I'm now curious about what the other wines in the series taste like.
Other recent stuff we've tasted:
2003 Bonny Doon Big House Pink: Well, it's kind of like a D cup compared to the more restrained Vin Gris de Cigare, I guess. Good stuff but nothing earth-shattering; probably the best pink wine in this price range [about $7], although a decent Rioja can be had for $7 as well. Still far from sweet White Zin, which is a very, very good thing.
2002 Andrew Rich marsanne: Mind blowingly wonderful. At $18 it had damn well better be.
1998 Rosemount Hill of Gold shiraz: This should be around $12, and frankly there are better deals out there. This was - I believe - the first bottle of wine I ever bought that cost more than $10. It languished in the cellar for years because I was afraid to drink it, but finally I did last week. It was, well, old, and tarred by an awful lot of acidity. Still, it wasn't too unpleasant, and there was a trace of the interesting funk you can get in a Mudgee shiraz. Still wouldn't recommend it though. Stick with The Wishing Tree shiraz at $9 if you want seriously good Aussie shiraz.
And wouldn't you believe, that's all I remember for now. We must have plowed through a good six bottles last week, but it's all a distant memory at this point. Ah well. Must remember to take notes next time.