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Salmon Creek

We're planning for a spring wedding, and the hall we've rented serves Salmon Creek as their default. We've never tried it before, but were thinking of just passing and paying the corkage fee for our own bottles. I wouldn't say we're wine snobs, but we tend to buy bottles in the $15-$30 range.

Anybody tried Salmon Creek before? Thoughts?

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  1. A rose by any other name . . .

    Salmon Creek is one of the many labels owned by the Bronco Wine Co., producers of Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck). I'd pass and pay corkage, but that's me.

      1. I believe that Salmon Creek is a made-up label that sells wine only to restaurants (and perhaps caterers).

        It is very inexpensive -- perhaps in the $3 per bottle range.
        The clever idea is that it is never available retail, so the restaurant can serve something that is not available for purchase other than in restaurants. So you can't compare the retail price of the wine as you could with a more popular brand.

        What bothers me is that the restaurants usually price the wine at $20 per bottle, or so, which is obviously a huge markup. But they have to do that otherwise people would get suspicious. If they priced it at $10 per bottle, maybe more people would purchase wine in restaurants, but it would make their other wine seem outrageously expensive.

        That said, I once tried a Salmon Creek Cabernet, and it was not bad.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Joel

          I'm not sure what you mean by a "made up" label, but the practice you are describing is a reasonably common one.

          Salmon Creek is one of several labels, as I said above, from Bronco (the most famous of which is Charles Shaw, but they control roughly a dozen or so). It is "on-sale" only, meaning restuarants and caterers.

          Another example of this is William Wycliffe -- it's a "restaurant only" label made by Gallo to avoid the image that the restaurants how wine is Gallo Burgundy and/or Chablis.

          1. re: Joel

            You are correct, it is an on premise brand only and checks in at around $3 a bottle. Nothing like paying $3 a bottle and charging $4-$5 a glass. It's not bad, the Pinot Noir is pretty damn good. How much are they planning on charging you a bottle?

            1. re: Mr Lee Ho

              Salmon Creek is not just an on-premise brand; I manage a wine shop in Maine and it's available for purchase to sell in retail stores such as mine.

            2. re: Joel

              I'm an F&B director for a hotel in Southern California and Salmon Creek is our house brand. Pricing, for all wines, usually goes as far as the first glass pays for the bottle. Obviously, this allows a bottle to sit on the shelf if no one else wants it and you didn't take a lose financially. With that said, knowing that there are 4.5 glasses in a 750ml bottle, it gives you a bottle cost.

              1. re: Joel

                Just looking up Salmon Creek. I know these posts are old but I too first had Salmon Creek in a restaurant and was told it wasnt sold in stores. Well I never listen. Went to website for Salmon Creek and found a wine store , near me in Charlotte that sells it . We buy the Chardonnay by the case. Just love it and I am not always a bit Chardonnay fan.

                1. re: Joel

                  It also sells in wine shops. We sell it for $6.99/bottle (chard, pinot grigio, pinot noir & cab). I'd do as zin1953 suggests and serve something else BUT a lot of folks like it and we sell a ton of it. So, depending on your guest list you may or may not want to serve it. It's not horrible swill, but it's not anything you would seek out either. It's definitely better than 2 buck chuck.

                2. My wife and I bought several bottles of the 2001 merlot at a favorite little restaurant in the northern Sierra for $12, which we really enjoyed with various meals. Years ago, I vaguely remember reading an article where Bronco snuck Salmon Creek into the SF Chronicle Wine Tasting, where it did not belong since it was not for sale to the public, and it won a medal. I know nothing of the current production but there is way more horrible wine than Salmon Creek.

                  1. Well, we finally had our tasting the other day, and neither one of us was taken with it. It seemed to be a combination of our tastes and our experience (which wasn't great), but Salmon Creek didn't really win us over. We're shopping around now for some wines to bring to the hall ourselves.

                    1. Salmon Creek (or similar) was originally what Mr. Franzia wanted restaurants to sell at a $10 pricepoint, to get people to drink wine in restaurants as a non-exotic, affordable part of the meal. I would imagine that it is a $25/case or similar cost to the restaurant (in states without the legal extortion schemes). I have had it in various airline lounges, and some of it was drinkable, and some of it I have left as undrinkable. It is probably as reliable as 2 buck chuck, and sometimes it will have high/mixed quality grapes, and other times it will have Jug #2 quality. Bronco does make some much better wines, but Salmon Creek isn't one of them. The irony is that he wants inexpensive drinkable wines to be on every table, and things like Salmon Creek could make it happen, if restaurants would charge $10/bottle.

                      If it was my wedding, I'd pay the corkage.

                      1. We too are being served Salmon Creek by the restaurant where we are having our wedding in 3 weeks. The restaurant is in LA and is one of the best according to Zagats, so I was surprised to see that Salmon Creek is what they are serving. Since it isn't sold retail, I couldn't try it. I did sample it at our tasting though and was very pleasantly surprised. We are having their chard and their cab. Unless your friends and family are super into wine, no one will really be focusing on it that day. Save yourself some money and stick with the S.C. Besides, no one has ever heard of it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: spitzj


                          We were married last month. We ended up springing for some other wines to serve with dinner (Frog's Leap sauvignon blanc and Alamos malbec), but let Salmon Creek get served during cocktail hour. The verdict: Nobody commented on the Salmon Creek, but several friends told us how much they enjoyed the wine at dinner.

                          So, thanks for all the advice and information. We're happy that we didn't serve the Salmon Creek with dinner, but when it was served nobody really noticed one way or the other.

                        2. I've had Salmon Creek Merlot on two occasions at a restaurant, and it was excellent (for a house wine)...if it's for a wedding I would recommend it without question.

                          1. This is undrinkable to those in the know. Those not in the known will taste nothing and think it is good.

                            It is a huge money maker for restaurants. About a 10 to 15 time markup.

                            1. I love Salmon Creek Charodonnay and I am not a big fan of that grape Found a wine store in Charlotte that sells it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: marlenes


                                I am sure their Chardonnay is a blend of other grapes too and I would imagine no oak treatment and if so oak chips. You should try Columbia Crest Two Vines for a few more dollars. I think you would like it.

                              2. Last month we got a bottle of Salmon Creek Chard here in Tokyo, and it was around $10 for a bottle (very cheap for here) and we liked it a fair bit. We'd buy it again, or perhaps try other varieties in their line.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Tripeler

                                  Hi, Tripeler:

                                  On one hand, I won't put down what I haven't tried.

                                  On the other, I just can't get rid of the vision of spawned-out salmon rotting along the Creek's banks.

                                  So I'll take your word for it.


                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    Or, if you find a bottle of it, you could actually purchase and drink it. Don't expect greatness -- after all, it is a table wine, and a fairly cheap one at that.

                                2. It's an old post - but I'm always happy when the house wine is Salmon Creek. There are so many annoying alternate choices and fewer better house wines.
                                  I pay $4 a glass and $12 a bottle in the restaurant.
                                  It's amazing how many house wines actually taste bad.

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: marc99

                                    >>> It's amazing how many house wines actually taste bad. <<<

                                    No it's not. House wines are almost always purchased based upon COST, not upon quality. If a restaurant (in the US) actually carries a "house wine," I've always regarded that as a danger signal -- unless, of course, I was the one who sold it to them . . . I often got restaurants to switch from cheap house wine ("and it only costs me 2.4¢ an ounce") to a better, by-the-glass pour ("but this is 17¢") by getting to look at the $$$ profit, rather than the PERCENTAGE profit . . .

                                    >>> I'm always happy when the house wine is Salmon Creek. <<<

                                    Well, that's the first time I ever heard anyone say that. And this is why there is more than one winery on the planet: we all have our own individual tastes.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      "Well, that's the first time I ever heard anyone say that. And this is why there is more than one winery on the planet: we all have our own individual tastes."

                                      Well said.

                                      I had a Salmon Creek Sparkling wine that was served at an event and it was undrinkable but the people who slam their wines thought it was fine.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        just came across this old post and all i can say is wow! there is a wine for everyone isn't there? when they started to serve Salmon Creek at my wedding (they snuck around my back and started pouring Salmon Creek instead of the wine i upgraded to hoping i wouldn't notice, HA!) i almost cried it was so bad.

                                        honestly not much worse than 2 buck chuck and made similarly since they're both Bronco wines.

                                        1. re: trolley

                                          Subsequent to having the Salmon Creek I described in 2007, I tasted it at various other times such as weddings with the results you describe. However, I returned a couple of years later to that same little restaurant after this thread started and tried another bottle from probably the same case. My wife and I both liked it. I deduce that this wine is wildly inconsistant.

                                          1. re: BN1

                                            i do wonder why it's so inconsistent? although i don't drink two buck chuck anymore i find the same inconsistency with that wine as well. i've emailed my friend who is a winemaker at Hirsch this question in hopes he'll shed some light to my question.

                                            1. re: BN1

                                              From my friend- salmon creek and 2 buck chucks are purchased from distressed sales then poured into big vats and bottled into cheap bottles, hence the inconsistencies.

                                              1. re: trolley

                                                Yes, and your friend would be WRONG. That isn't AT ALL how it's made. Take it from someone who knows the winery, knows the company, and knows the Franzia family personally . . .

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  Ok, then what are the other ways? He's not in the mass winemaking industry so he could only know part of it. He is now the lead winemaker at Hirsch and held the same position at Flowers.

                                                  1. re: trolley

                                                    Part of it could be that you misunderstood Ross; or, that he may have not explained it thoroughly; or, that one of you is using terminology improperly . . . but --

                                                    Bronco is -- IIRC -- the 4th or 5th largest wine producer in the U.S. They have multiple winery locations (Ceres, Escalon, Napa), and own some 40,000 acres of producing vineyards. They own over four dozen different brands, some of which were created by the Franzias, but most of which were purchased out of bankruptcy (they would purchased the rights to the brand name, and sometimes the inventory, but rarely the winery itself).

                                                    Bronco a) makes wine from their own vineyards, b) buys grapes from various vineyards to be crushed, fermented and bottled at their own wineries, AND c) buys bulk wine on the open market. There is nothing "distressed" about the wine they purchase (if there were, they'd be undrinkable, tainted and/or damaged/contaminated, and they'd written off on the 702s and destroyed). Many wineries throughout California -- from the most famous names and highest in quality to names you (and most people) have probably never heard of -- buy and sell wines on the bulk market.

                                                    Because of the sheer number of cases sold under the brand names of 2BC, Salmon Creek, and others, there are indeed multiple bottlings for any given wine, with no indication on the labels between the different lots.

                                                    Some lots may also be intentionally of higher quality than others as well, depending upon the season -- and that's all I will say on *that* subject.

                                      2. I had my first taste of SC Merlot last night.. I liked it ..in fact I had two glasses while out to dinner...I'm no where near an expert on the subject of wines..i just know if something tastes good to me..if it does, I'll have more...in this case it did, and that is why the second glass....in fact i tried to buy a couple of bottles to take home, but the wine is, as someone posted earlier, sold only to restaurants...

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Saraevans

                                          And THAT, Sara, is the most important thing of all: drink what you like!

                                          1. re: Saraevans

                                            It is not sold only in restaurants. We sell the chard, pinot grigio, pinot noir and cab in a retail store.

                                            1. re: lynnlato

                                              According to the Franzia family, and Bronco Wine Co., it *is* sold only in restaurants.

                                              That said, as you are in North Carolina, the "restaurant only" aspect of this label is quite difficult for the winery to enforce.

                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                Yep, we sell it, lots of it too. I have seen it in other retail stores around here too... not many, but a few.