When the subject of wine values comes up in conversation, more often than not the name Charles Shaw, as in “2-buck Chuck”, is mentioned. I’ve had every flavor of Charles Shaw over the years, and outside of the Chardonnay and sometimes Shiraz, there is nothing to recommend, even at $2-3 a bottle. Sure, they are drinkable, but I’d rather have a bottle of cheap Spanish red any day over the well known Trader Joe’s phenomenon.
The Charles Shaw brand is made by the Bronco Wine Company who’s leader, Fred Franzia, is quite a character. In fact, he has been quoted as saying that no wine is worth, “more than $10 a bottle.” While I disagree with that assertion, Mr. Franzia has created somewhat of a “Walmart for wine” figuring out how to cut costs and make low cost wines that are generally decent and often times good values. Bronco makes many other brands including ForestVille Vineyard, Montpellier Vineyard, Hacienda Wine Cellars, Napa Ridge, Forest Glen, Estrella, Napa Ridge, Sea Ridge, Coastal Ridge, Silver Ridge and Crane Lake. Since Trader Joe’s market has the exclusive for Charles Shaw, Bronco created the Crane Lake brand to market similar wines sold in independent wine stores. I’ve had several of these wines, and most are indistinguishable from Charles Shaw, except in the price department being somewhere between $3 to $5 a bottle. So it was interesting to see this Petite Sirah on the shelf; one that does not appear in the Shaw lineup. Given that this grape is somewhat under the radar to most consumers I reasoned that it might be a reasonable value. If not, I had some cooking wine.
Crane Lake, Petite Sirah, California 2003 ($5) – Inky, almost black, purple in color with aromas of blackberry jam. In the mouth, the wine is soft and very fruity with blueberry pie filling flavors a bit of white pepper and no tannins to speak of. Some might consider this to be too simple and slightly flabby, but I think it’s varietally correct and a stunning value. It also turns your tongue black
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