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Trader Joe's - what to choose?

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For anyone who is familiar with the Trader Joe's Charles Shaw wines (the ones for $3), which ones do you recomend?

I have already tried the Merlot, and thought it was awful... I know this isn't great wine in general, but I'm on a serious budget for a party that I'm having... Most of the guest know very little about wine, so as long as it is decent...

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  1. Two Buck Chuck really isn't drinking wine ... it can be used in some cooking and that's about it. Look around, though, TJ's usually has some pretty decent wines at pretty decent prices. Just not $3.

    1. Two (or three) buck chuck is the best wine you can get for the price. Serve it in carafes at an art opening and you can halve your wine budget without generating complaints. Pour it into jelly jars and call it vin ordinaire, and everybody's happy. But fine wine? Not by a long stretch.

      FWIW, I use the Shiraz for cooking, and occasionally have a glass. It isn't terrible.

      Your guests who enjoy basic wines will drink the 2BC. Those who don't like wine will have their opinions reinforced by it.

      1. the shiraz is far and away the best of the reds. the others are dangerous, and you'll regret them in the morning.
        the chardonnay seemed fine to me...when it's cold, it tastes like a chard twice it's price!

        i just noticed tonight that the trader joe's by me (sf) has trader joe's champagne now for only 4 bucks...could be fun for the party?

        1. Here's another thread from the Wine Board that talks quite a bit about Charles Shaw wines:
          Wine at Trader Joe's in California
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/87328

          1. Others clearly have had a different, and better, experience than me. I have tried a few sips at parties from time to time, when someone brought a bottle, and couldn't take more than a sip. Maybe this is because there were other tastier choices to be had, but if it were the only thing being served at a party, I would drink beer instead.

            Are you serving any food? If you can find it at your Trader Joes, I suggest looking for a white called Amaicha Torrontes. In Northern California, it has ranged in price from 3.99 to 1.99. I first had some when it was 3.99 and thought it was really food friendly and a great value. I couldn't believe it when it dropped to 1.99. It's the only white I can think of recommending at that price point.

            I would buy fewer bottles and move up to the $4-7 range, or at least not exclusively buy Charles Shaw. There is a line of french table wines at TJs called La Ferme Julien that I also think is food friendly, particularly the white and rose. Others probably have more recommendations in this price range. I haven't bought a lot of wine at TJs recently. So many other options around here for good value wines...

            1. If you are limited to that price point, Charles Shaw (Bronco Wine) sells so much wine that it's kindof impossible to say that it is awful except by comparison. Well............. you can say it, but I've read that they sell between 10 and 15 million cases a year, so it's obvious that it's good enough for lots of folks.

              Their Chardonnay won a gold medal at the California State Fair this past summer. There was lots of talk about whether the actual wine submitted was the same as what is in all those cases at TJs, but the general consensus was that it was pretty good value for the money. I would find it harder to suggest a Shaw red that is comparable.

              1. We drink a lot of wine, and most often those under $10/bottle. Most of the $2 Chuck isn't bad, and folks who know little of wine will probably be fine with it. I know many people who have served it at their weddings and other events with folks being none the wiser. I'd stay away from the Cab and go for the Shiraz. The Chardonnay is OK, though we prefer the Pinot Grigio.

                1. Except for some rather suspicious bottlings, I've NEVER had a wine from Charles Shaw* I've thought was worth the $1.99 price tag. At $3, it's just overpriced!

                  Cheers,
                  Jason

                  * There were some GREAT wines from Charles F. Shaw, but that was long ago; here, we're talking about the wine label owned by the Franzia family/Bronco Wine Co.

                  1. If your guests know very little about wine, then Charles Shaw should be fine. It's a drinkable wine especially if you aren't paying a lot of attention to what you are drinking. However, I suspect that if some of your guests see the label they will automatically be prejudiced against it.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: monkuboy

                      I just find this fascinating... I've had people over who "know very little about wine" but still find they will taste among the various bottles open, not knowing the difference price points and find what is to their taste. IMO if what you offer is solely Charles Shaw, allowing for some batches of extraordinary quality, what you are basically offering is a sort of harsh wine. It kind of hurts me inside to think that people who aren't normally wine drinkers get that kind of wine as the choice. Would you do the same with your food, beer or coffee choices at a party?

                      1. re: souvenir

                        And -- just curious -- what makes you think there ARE any "batches of extraordinary quality"???

                        1. re: zin1953

                          I'll start off by saying that I personally have never had a taste of a batch of extraordinary quality. And a batch of extraordinary quality to me would just make it drinkable by comparison to what I have tasted of it in the last couple of years.

                          That is just my reaction to the periodic tastes I have. I do still keep trying... I talked earlier about another $1.99 bottle from TJ's that I like, so this for me is not about a $2 wine being too cheap for me to taste or buy.

                          Midlife referred to at least one well-reported and debated circumstance, where perhaps the bottles submitted for the judging for the California State Fair last year came out of a batch of extraordinary quality. Some people I know went out and bought some CS Chardonnay from their local TJs shortly after that, were very disappointed and couldn't understand the accolades. I was away periodically last summer and so didn't try any during that time period.

                          I have also heard people say (more than once) "I bought some Charles Shaw X awhile ago, thought X wasn't bad, went back, bought what I thought was the same thing and it tasted different".

                          As I understand it, millions of bottles are produced each year, grapes sourced from all over California (anywhere else? I don't know), so the variation that people have commented on makes sense to me.

                          If people genuinely like it, good for them. They have found a great bargain wine to their taste.

                          1. re: souvenir

                            As someone who is a frequent judge at the California State Fair, let me unequivocally and catagorically state there are no extraordinary batches of 2BC (aka Charles Shaw) wines in the marketplace, nor have there been any.

                            1. re: zin1953

                              So the chard that won the big gold medal must have come from "outside" the marketplace, I take it...

                              1. re: monkuboy

                                The wine was ever in the marketplace. Let's leave at that, shall we?

                              2. re: zin1953

                                Did you judge this year? Did you taste this and what were your notes, if you are free to share??? Inquiring minds...

                      2. If on a serious budget - offer them Pellegrino mineral water or beer. Do not poison your guests with a $3 wine.
                        You can go to Costco and pick up a relatively OK bottle of wine for around $7.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: olasek

                          Sage advice.