Wine on a Dime: Beyond Two-Buck Chuck

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After last month’s dismal showing, the Mavens advisory board decided to raise our price limit a bit. No disrespect to Two-Buck Chuck, but if it’s the best of our picks, we are doing something wrong. It is to Gen X what Gallo Hearty Burgundy was to those of us of a certain age. It also proves our point that wine is a better beverage than beer, and often cheaper. Besides, if you need us to tell you about it, you probably wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get the bottle open. Stick with pop tops.

Wine sales and recessions tend to go hand in hand. One can think of them much like Karl Rove’s nickname. The combination of our new policy and some great sales gave us the best tasting yet.

No nattering nabobs lurking around to interfere with great food. For the first time not one shrug or “nah” –all “yahs” and “hoorahs.”

We started with the Crawford Sauvignon Blanc as it is one of the better ones from New Zealand. We have recommended several Sauvignons and wanted to see what it is supposed to taste like. We enjoyed it and in retrospect were pleased with our past recommendations. $12.99 is a good price for this wine; it is normally closer to $16.

We moved on to the Edna Valley, served with a Gruyere cheese puff. The two work together like Batman and Robin. The Edna Valley, an old favorite of Don’s, normally sells for $12+ . We can thank the recession for the new low. The Mondavi, normally $10+, was from a recent sale at Raleys and is often offered around this price.

A prawn gratin and roasted figs with goat cheese accompanied our last two whites. The Ravenswood had enough richness and backbone to stand up to the gratin’s robust flavor. The Phillips was overpowered by this dish, but worked with the lighter fig dish. We had trouble judging it alongside the other “big brothers,” finally deciding it was a nice, flavorful summer sipper. For $2.99 you can’t beat it, especially if you were lucky enough to catch it at their recent sale for 20% off, seniors getting an additional discount when shopping on the last Wednesday of the month. By the time you figure all that out, they are almost paying you to haul it away.

The reds were served with a duck and sausage cassoulet made with giant corona beans. The Martini was easily the favorite wine of the tasting until we tried the D.A. Syrah. We concluded it was a photo finish. A trip to G.O. (Grocery Outlet) for the Syrah early the next morning found the cupboard bare. Someone had absconded with our treasure.

For dessert we had homemade chocolate chip cookies and the Woodbridge Muscat. Another winning combo and a great finish to the best tasting yet.


Hoorah = Great. Run out and buy a case.

Yah = Good. Would buy again.

Shrug = Drinkable, but not sure why were bothering to.

Nah = Yuck. Marinate something in it.

White Source Cost Rating
Kim Crawford
N.Z. Sauvignon Blanc 2009


5H 1Y

Edna Valley
Ca. Chardonnay 2008
Holiday & Safeway 7.99 6H
Mondavi Private Selection
Ca. 2007 Chardonnay
Raley’s 6.99 6Y
Ravenswood Sonoma*
Ca. 2007 Chardonnay
G.O. 6.99 2H 4 Y
R. H. Phillips
Ca. Chardonnay 2007
G.O. 2.99 6Y
L. Martini
Sonoma Cabernet 2007
Costco 10.99 6H
Domain Alfred
Syrah Ca. 2006
G.O. 2.99 6H
Ravenswood Sonoma*
Syrah Ca. 2005
G.O. 6.99 5Y 1H
Mondavi P S
Merlot, Ca. 2007
Raley’s 6.99 6Y
Mondavi Woodbridge
Muscat Ca.
G.O. 3.99 6Y

* These wines are real bargains as they come from Ravenswood county series. A higher-priced wine than their Vintners Blend.

G.O. prices are their regular price. They have sales twice a year. Supermarket prices are sale-priced and may not be available until they have another sale. If you do not have access to Costco, these wines are often available at supermarkets for a few dollars more. The Martini is currently a special at Holiday for $11.99.

Don Cohen is a retired commodities trader who has lived in Redding for 10 years. Joy Yoshioka is a retired high-tech exec who has lived in Redding for four years.

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