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Charles Shaw Shiraz Picmonkey

2012 Shiraz


Producer: Charles Shaw

Appellation: California

Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $2.49


“Some fruit aromas with a little dusting of white pepper. Restrained flavors of blackberry and blueberry with a subtle spicy nuance. Finish continues an overall 'softness,' but doesn't really seem overly sweet. While it won't make fans of Penfolds Grange change their preferences, there's nothing to really dislike about this wine. Were it to be put to consumers in a 'blind tasting' of Shiraz/Syrah wines priced $10-20 more, it might not finish last. It's a damned decent table wine and a remarkable value at the price.

“This Shiraz (Syrah) is part of the 'Two Buck Chuck' product line that is sold exclusively in the California-based chain of Trader Joe stores. After several years pricing at $1.99 (which we hear was bumped up all the way to $2.99 in some eastern markets), it's now 'Two-and-a-half-buck Chuck' in California. The brand is a product of Bronco Wine Company, which is owned by Fred Franzia. Prominent lettering on the back label reads 'CELLARED AND BOTTLED BY CHARLES SHAW WINERY, NAPA AND SONOMA, CALIFORNIA,' which, though technically accurate, might lead consumers to assume it was also made from fruit grown in those prestigious and pricey areas. The wine surely is the product of grapes from California's more prosaic Central Valley, where Franzia has substantial vineyard holdings. Whether the label misleads the consumer or is just clever marketing depends on your point of view, but many vintners in Napa and Sonoma take offense. Regardless, Franzia seems to delight in jerking the tail of these establishment types. Trader Joe sells the hell out of the Charles Shaw line and has created a broad swath of American consumers, who wouldn't otherwise be drinking wine now.”

Food Affinity: Best not to overthink things. Reviewer enjoyed it with a home-made tacos featuring shredded meat from slow-roasted pork shoulder.

Grgich Hills Cab S bottle shot  Picmonkey

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon


Producer: Grgich Hills Estate

Appellation: Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14.6%

Retail Price: $60


“Another fine effort from one of the Napa Valley's most reliable producers. Legendary winemaker Mike Grgich--though nearly 90 years of age--is still involved, but the day-to-day winemaking chores are now handled by his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, who has overseen the move toward use of only organic and biodynamicly-grown grapes.”

“Aromas of blackberry and dark cherry most obvious, but a little spice and powdered chocolate touches become apparent after wine's been in glass for a while. There's a plush feeling in the mouth as flavors of blackberry and black cherry come immediately to the forefront. Later, a hint of spice shows and wine finishes long with subtle influences of the oak.”

Food Affinity: If the reviewer knew more about Croatian cuisine, one of that culture's favorites would be suggested to honor Mike and Ivo. Failing that, a rich and slowly-cooked dish like osso bucco or roasted lamb shank would do nicely.

Tanilla-Label Picmonkey



Producer: Knee Deep Brewery

Location: Lincoln, Ca

Style: Porter

Alcohol: 6.3%

IBUs: Unknown

Serving style: keg and 22-oz. bottle

Availability: California, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio and Idaho


Appearance:  Very Dark

Aroma:  Smells Sweet—maybe a little like vanilla?

Taste:  Not piney at all. Creamy when sipped, less so when gulped. Slightly chocolatey

Food Affinity:  Steak sandwich and mashed potatoes.

Kristen Watson Picmonkey


--reviewed by Kristen Watson,

a marketing assistant and aspiring food critic

in Sacramento, California.

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