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WBW 48: Roots Wines

WBW 48: Roots Wines

by Tim Elliott on August 13, 2008

Tonight is the 4th anniversary of Wine Blogging Wednesday, our monthly virtual tasting. And for the 48th edition, founder Lenn Thompson has asked we go back to our wine roots and taste wines we drank when we first got into wine.

Like many wine lovers, my journey started with California jug wines. Since I came of age in California during the early 1980’s, many of these jugs accompanied meals through my last couple years of college. Brands such as Almaden,  Italian Swiss Colony, Paul Mason and Inglenook were regulars but the first jug to become a “house wine” were from Gallo.

The first wine book I picked up, for a whopping $1.95, was the Signet Book of Inexpensive Wine by Susan Lee. My original copy was thrown away many years ago but I picked up another copy at a used book store earlier this year as part of my research for my book, And browsing the “United States” section of this book tonight, I see Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy in the “Best Buy” category (3 stars). This was my go-to red and the first wine I picked up for our roots tasting tonight.

Today Hearty Burgundy is part of Gallo’s “Twin Valley” brand while it’s white cousin Chablis Blanc is now in the ultra-budget “Livingston Cellars” brand. Since the latter was only available in 1.5L and 3L bottles, I passed on trying this wine tonight but did get a bottle of Hearty Burgundy; my first in over 20 years.

Gallo Family Vineyards
, “Twin Valley”, Hearty Burgundy NV ($5) – Deep garnet in color with aromas of red raspberry, geranium and fennel. Bright red fruit flavors with cherry pie filling in the mid-palate finishing with moderate tannins. Clean and state of the art for industrial wine blends but seems unnatural (what Gary would term as “fakey-fake”).

13% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Score: 77
Rating: ★★½☆☆

Since my former house white of Chablis Blanc was only available in industrial quantities, I decided to pick up my first house Zinfandel. Back in 1981, this was from Sebastiani which I bought on sale for $2.50 a bottle.  Since Sebastiani has since rebooted their brand as a limited production, premium product, I settled for my second place Zin from the 1980’s: Sutter Home.

Yes, from the house that was built from white Zinfandel but back in the early 1980’s, they made some pretty interesting red Zins. My favorite being their reserves tasted on my frequent visits to Napa Valley during my college years. But their regular release was also pretty good from memory so I thought it would be interesting to revisit this wine.

Sutter Home, Zinfandel, California 2005 ($5) – Medium ruby in color with aromas of black cherry, strawberry and sage. Fresh red cherry and strawberry fruit flavors, some black pepper, finishing with supple tannins. A very light style of Zinfandel but a decent red for pizza and pasta dishes.

13.5% ABV
Composite cork closure
Score: 81
Rating: ★★★☆☆

An interesting tasting that shows how my tastes have evolved since the days of the first Reagan administration. But it’s also good to see both wines being clean, fresh and drinkable… although I would not drink these wines daily as I used to.

Thanks to Lenn for his leadership over these last 4 years and I’m hoping to blog WBW 96 with him and other friends in 2012.

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  • California jug wines – that brings back memories.

  • Tim

    Andy: Indeed they do bring the past back… but these were not as good as I remember them. Advanced palate or poor memory?

  • I also went back to Gallo, but I picked up a bottle of their Sonoma Reserve Chard, which wasn’t awful. Hearty Burgundy was the wine poured at every big Italian feast at my grandmother’s house. I’m surprised your review was as positive as it was. I wonder if they make the wine differently today?

  • Hi Tim

    My grandmother brought over a 1.5L bottle of this last night (which had been in her cupboard for about 5 years – ?) and insisted we try it because we’ve been giving her tastes of various wines we drink.

    I think there is a lot credit due to the Gallo folks here. If this wine is as old as grandma says, it is holding up very well – synthetic closure and all.

    Ruby cabernet, grenache and whatever else they threw into it seem to be a winning formula given the sales numbers….

  • USA California jug wines that is great memories.


  • USA California jug wines that is great memories.

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