Eventually of course I wound up in the wine section at Albertson's, which, to be honest, is usually spectacularly bad. Prices are horrible, and what they have on sale is basically limited to whatever those Republicans who built those heinous mini-mansions up the street like to drink: Far Niente chardonnay, Napa merlot, and of course huge bottles of Corbett Canyon white zin for the nanny. There's also a growing boxed wine section... well, to be specific, a "super premium" boxed wine section.
It was just over a year ago that I saw Hardy's cask wine [that's a fancy way of saying "boxed wine"] for sale in a Fred Meyer down the hill from Salmonberg. I was pretty curious about it, but having no memory of Hardy's brand wine from Australia at all, I decided it was better to ignore it than to risk $18. I mean, what if it sucked? At least if a $7 bottle of wine sucks, you're only out $7. Cask wine, however, costs more because there is more: they hold four bottles' worth of wine. [The cool thing about casks is that you can pour just one glass and the rest of the wine's not going to oxidize or spoil; once you open the cask, you have about four weeks to drink it before it might start going off.]
Alberson's was selling about six different kinds of boxed wine. They had the usual Franzia "wine with natural flavors" shit [this isn't really wine, but a weird alcoholic fruit beverage], but they also had the following:
Hardy's Stamp of Australia [$16; this is a large Australian winery who, I believe, were the first to introduce cask wine to the USA; I've seen shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, and chardonnay]
Origin [$17; this is an Albertson's private label line of wines; I think they had merlot and chardonnay only]
Black Box [$18]
Delicato [$16; amusingly, this is marketed as "The Bota Box"]
After much hemming and hawing - which box will be good? What if it sucks? Should I go with the prettiest box, or with the most likely not to suck? - I went with the 2003 Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon from Black Box.
When I got home, I poured myself a small glass.
It was good. Really good. Like, $10 a bottle good. Nicely sweet, no evil tannins, no fake oak taste, just good solid red wine. Mmmmm, good.
I think I'll be drinking more cask wine in the future.
[Bonus: I went to Costco today with Brian (thanks to iahklu for getting us in the door!), and met an American woman who's trying to start a business importing Aussie cask wine to the USA. I picked up a box of Tindindi 2001 Limestone Coast cabernet sauvignon, and hope to start in on that box in early 2005.