Sunday, October 22, 2006
Cheap wine roundup--Sutter Home, Glen Ellen, Frontera
I was browsing the aisle at my local supermarket and found a bunch of these little bottles on sale–$1 each. I figured it would make an interesting post to go through these “lower end” wines and see what they’re like.
2005 Sutter Home White Zinfandel
Many wine people hate White Zinfandel on principle...they will say it’s not wine. Being literal minded–it’s fermented grape juice, so it’s wine. But here’s why we hate it: no acid, no complexity, no finish. It’s a Kool-Aid like product, just sweet—and I like sweet wine—but that’s all it has going for it. It’s ultimately bland and uninteresting. I’m not repulsed, but if all I want is sweetness with some mildly fruit flavor I’d get a Cherry 7-Up...do they make that stuff anymore?
2005 Sutter Home Pinot Grigio
Fran claims this and the White Zinfandel taste like vinegar. While I disagree I see where she’s coming from–sugar and alcohol are really the only things here. There’s a little bit of honeydew that one would expect, but really it’s watery and bland. A full bottle of this is $5--for $8 you can get Ecco Domani or Gabbiano which are light years ahead in quality.
2002 Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon
If you had $5 and needed a red wine and were at a grocery store...well, this is your option. The nose is all alcohol, with what seems like wood, but there’s none on the palate. No tannins, but a strawberry flavor that’s pleasant enough and comes out in Twizzler fashion on the finish. Inoffensive, better than anything Charles Shaw, but for a few dollars more you can do so much better.
When I talk about red wine with people who don’t like red wine, I actually will push things like this—many people who dislike the tannins and oak in red wine I think need a stepping stone and this would be a reasonable inexpensive place to begin your journey from White Zinfandel to Chateau Margaux.
N/V (?) Glen Ellen Cabernet Sauvignon
The second I took a sip I thought this was far ahead in quality of the Sutter Home but it really died mid-sip. The nose has some earth and wood, but mainly just has alcohol. On the palate, this starts off almost like a Cab should–a bit of spice, oak, and berry but just dissipates after two seconds. No finish. On the tongue, it’s not half bad honestly...lots of fruit and spice. There’s a sweetness in this that needs food to minimize it....almost reminiscent of cherry pie. ....this one does not taste so good it’ll bring a tear to your eye though, nor will it put a smile on your face ten miles wide. Think Bobbi Brown 2006 versus Bobbi Brown 1991–it’s not exactly what you want, but you’ll still drink it.
2005 Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
Anyone who knows me and likes food knows that may favorite restaurant is Frontera Grill. How does the wine Frontera, which has no affiliation with the restaurant, compare?
The palate has some nice oak flavors with a bit of cherry....smooth tannins and a decent finish. Of these five wines this is the best hands down. The others relied on a sweetness to cover up the lack of complexity. This actually has something going on it...nice flavors, a finish, minimal sweetness...this isn’t bad. For a 187ml bottle at $1 this is perfectly acceptable.