2 Buck Chuck . . . @ Trader Joes
Any opinions on this stuff?
I believe it's now Three-Buck Chuck ... I just bought some yesterday at $2.99 a bottle ($35.88 a case). Due to Massachusetts liquor laws, it's only sold locally at the TJ's locations in Cambridge, Brookline, and Framingham.
It'll meet your needs if you are looking for inexpensive wine that looks presentable. I bought about six cases of the merlot and chardonnay for my sister's wedding last summer (they were operating on a shoestring budget) and bought a case yesterday as part of my grandmother's holiday present (she's a big wine drinker, usually opting for wines that are less than $7 a bottle).
I enjoy dry wine but as I recall the merlot at my sister's wedding was VERY dry. Frankly, I'd be reluctant to buy it for my own consumption. Since TJ's in-store guide lists the cabernet sauvignon as being dryer than the merlot, I shudder to think what it may taste like. As the previous poster suggested, the chardonnay is more enjoyable, although in general it's probably safe to say that you get what you pay for.
The other options besides the three I've already mentioned are shiraz, sauvignon blanc, white zinfandel, and a new variety called valdiguie -- none of which I've tried.
I'd say give it a try. Obviously I don't think it's totally horrendous stuff or I wouldn't be foisting it on my grandma. Worst-case scenario if you hate it is that you're only out $2.99!
Charles Shaw wines (at least to me), taste like $7.00 bottles of wine. So the fact that you are paying $3.00 for them makes them a value, if you are in the market for a $7.00 bottle of wine. I rarely am, so they are not for me. Don't be fooled into thinking that the Cab will drink like a $30 Cab. It won't. And the Chardonnay cannot hold its own against $19 bottles. They are comparable to Woodbridge wines. And because the wines are produced from bulk juice sourced from the surplus market, the wines will vary from year to year, as there is no continuity insofar as vineyard sources are concerned. So if you like (or hate) a wine one year, that is no indication that future vintages will perform likewise.
And if we had it in PA I'll bet it would be Four Buck Chuck. Heh. In Ohio, where we bought some once, it's $3.39. Or it was then, a couple years ago I think since we last did that. It was, at the time, the highest price. Midwest and eastern US prices are due mainly to shipping. Ohio vs Mass price is probably due to taxes.
TJ's is hardly the only player in this. In WV a while back, I saw a similar product, wine in regular 750ml bottles with plainish labels and corks, for about 3 bucks. The kicker: it was in RIte-Aid. Seriously. Did a quick search, I believe the label is called Five Oaks, a house brand just as Charles Shaw is at TJ's. I'm sure it's produced exactly the same way, with surplus grapes that will vary in quality from batch to batch (let alone vintage to vintage).
Bronco has LOTS of labels . . .
Alexander and Fitch
Bad Dog Ranch
Charles Shaw, AKA Two Buck Chuck
Santa Barbara Crossing
Santa Barbara Landing
The California Winery
Three Knights Vineyards
Search the Wine Board (where this will probably get moved to anyhow). There are lots of threads about TBC.
Charles Shaw wines are terrible. Agree with others who say it's better to spend a bit more for a better wine. With all the hype, I tried a few different varietals a few years ago and had to pour the contents down the drain... undrinkable. So for me it was a waste of $3 per... but a good learning experience.