Here’s the thing with Charles Shaw. While they do have their own vineyard, but most of the grapes come from the central valley and not Napa. They buy the excess grapes from other vineyards. So, the quality of a bottle can really be varied. When TJ’s has wine tasting, I usually ask them to open a bottle of Charles Shaw. Since it’s cheap, the wine guy rarely has a problem with this. (I also tell him that if I like it I’ll buy a case). So, have a sip. Sometimes, the grapes are from an excellent vineyard or mostly from their own Napa vineyard and the wine is superb for $3. At times, it can easily stand next to the $16 Coppola wines (which aren’t the best wines in the land either, but I’m just using it as a measuring stick). Other times, the wine tastes like a cheap bottle of wine and not too characteristic of the label (i.e. Cab Sav might not have the right characteristics of a cab sav. I’m guessing these wines are made more from cheaper Central valley wineries. In this case, I won’t buy a bottle. But, since sometimes the wine can be very good, Charles Shaw is a real eye opener to wine enthusiast when some fine grapes are processed. In 2002, the Shiraz beat out about 2,300 other wineries when they won double gold at the Eastern International Wine Festival. And, I have to say, it was definately a good bottle. I went through 2 cases. So, Charles Shaw can be hit or miss, but even the misses are still a good deal at ~$3 (east coast) for CA reds. I’m not a fan of any of their whites. The Chardonnay has never been good IMO, but I will drink the Sav Blanc. It is nothing special, but is drinkable. It’s a lot like a Pinot Groggio, not too many tasting notes to speak of, but very drinkable, espcially when served very cold.
If you try a Merlot and it’s too sweet, do what I did – stick some fruit in it and make a sangria out of it. That was a huge hit at a party I held. I didn’t think the wine was good enough on it’s own to be put out, but it ended up making some of the best sangria I’ve ever made.
As wine producing becomes more advanced, you’ll find the modern style of wine to be very accessible and easily drinkable. C.S. fall into this category. It’s a great wine to just drink. A good everyday table wine, you can even serve it at parties. You may even find some foods it pairs well with, and I’m sure there’s a fine cheese it will pair real well with, given the number of cheeses out there. If you pair it right, even a not so good bottle will taste fantastic.