The Wine Find: The Demise of Two Buck Chuck — and Upcoming Wine Events

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barbarabarrielleBY BARBARA BARRIELLE

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As most of you know already, Trader Joe’s pulled an overnight price hike on their (can we say) legendary $1.99 Charles Shaw brand wine.  Now at $2.49 (really TJs, a 25% increase?) I say why bother.  In fact, except for the Sauvignon Blanc I bought for a big crab feast where greasy-fingered guests never saw the labels, I always felt it was a “why bother?” wine.  There are so many good wines at ridiculously cheap prices; anyone with a smidgeon of inspiration can do better.

I sincerely hope this crazy, non-incremental price increase puts the kibosh on all the Chuck drinkers. We all loved those “poor kid does well” stories of the Two Buck Chuck victories in assorted wine competitions and the gimmick did well for Trader Joe’s (got rid of juice, too) and got many people to drink wine at a great intro price.  In the wine world, the goal is to move those newbies on to better wines and an appreciation for the toil and finesse that goes into those wines.

But, if you must pay less than $2 for a bottle of wine, don’t fret.  Fresh and Easy has an entire wall of $1.99 wines under cute labels like “The Big Kahuna” with my fave, the screw top.  On this wall, find Chardonnay, Merlot, Reisling and Shiraz among others.

Speaking of finesse in winemaking, an incredible first time event is being held in both San Francisco and Los Angeles this week.  The group of stellar wineries that formed a coalition called In Pursuit of Balance that promotes balance in the making of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  If you are a fan of these varietals (and who isn’t?) this a great opportunity to rub elbows with these elite winemakers, try their wines and hear about their approach that captures the essence of the varietal – with balance. At The London Hotel on Wednesday, two panels comprised of the “who’s who” of winemaking and moderated by wine writers Jon Bonne and Jordan MacKay, this is a not-to-miss event.  Click here for more info and tickets to the seminars and tasting.

And, if that isn’t enough Pinot Noir for the week, the Sixth Annual Pasadena PinotFest takes place on Saturday at the Altadena Country Club.  One of the largest gatherings of Pinot Noir producers from California and Oregon will pour over 200 wines and the list of vintners of extraordinary.  Pasadena PinotFest kicked off with a sold out luncheon and tasting last week at sponsoring restaurant Noir Food and Wine as well as a second tasting and  Kosta Browne dinner over the weekend.  Even at $189 a person this was a sell out!  Tickets for the event—which runs from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.—can be purchased online atTwo levels of tickets are available: general admission for $89 and VIP admission for $119 (the latter comes with admittance to the event at 11:30 a.m. as well as access to the VIP lounge and master sommelier host George Skorka).  And, the best part, a portion of the proceeds (including wine sales) supports Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services.

I am especially excited to try the wines from the new Pence Ranch winery where Tantara’s former winemaker, Jeff Fink, is surely working his magic again.  .

The Garagiste Festival in Solvang debuts February 16 and is the perfect opportunity to try small boutique wines you may not normally find in your local wine shop.  When you try the wines from micro-producers you know these are wines born of passion and diligence.  Winemaking is a time consuming process and much is controlled by the quality of the fruit (farming) as well as the technical knowledge of the winemaker (science) and then the palate, patience and heart (beauty).

Among the winemakers scheduled to pour at the Solvang festival are our local favorite Shai Cellars, Autonom, Baehner Fournier Vineyards, Blair Fox Cellars, Casa Dumetz, Center of Effort, Deovlet Wines, El Rey Wines, Frequency Wines, Ground Effect Wines, J. Wilkes Wines, Kaena Wine Co., Kessler-Haak Wines, La Fenetre Wines, Larner Winery, Luminesce, Nagy Wines, Native9 Wine, Pench Ranch, Piedrasassi, Refugio Ranch, Roark Wine Co., Ryan Cochrane Wines,  Storm Wines, Tercero Wines and Transcendence Wines.  The event opens with a media and trade tasting from noon to 2 p.m., followed by the grand tasting from 2 to 5 p.m.   A VIP all-access ticket is $80, and includes an oak-barrel tasting seminar at 11 a.m., followed by lunch and early access to the grand tasting; tickets for just the grand tasting are $50 per person.

Barbara Barrielle is a wine, food and travel lover since she was a small child trying to break out of the meat and potatoes cycle that was small town Ohio.  Now, in the land of plenty she owns a home and vineyard in the wine country and works in LA doing PR for luxury brands and travel while acting and producing when she can (get hired!).  Her daughter, Charlotte, 15, also an actor and frequent dining and travel companion, is in tenth grade at Campbell Hall where she also loves to write.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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