During yesterday’s blind tasting in Napa, amid a flight of sumptuous 2005 Sonoma Coast Chardonnays from the likes of Paul Hobbs and Chasseur, came a news flash across my computer screen.
Glad I was sitting down.
Two-Buck Chuck, less known by its formal name of Charles F. Shaw, was judged the best Chardonnay from California at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, held in Sacramento. The 2005 Two-Buck, with a California appellation, goes for $1.99 in California and a dollar more elsewhere. It's only sold at Trader Joe's.
I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking the same thing. How can this be? What’s next? Forrest Gump for president? Aliens plan to spring Paris Hilton from the joint? The moon really is a big wedge of green cheese?
Since the state fair uses wine professionals as judges and the wines are tasted blind, the results stand on their own. Some 270 Chardonnays from 2005 were evaluated, so Two-Buck had plenty of competition.
Still, I’m wondering if this bottling of Two-Buck is really that good. Or whether, more likely, that this is a result of a clean, fruity, non-oaked Chardonnay that has enough appeal to win the approval of a panel of judges?
There’s no question that for many critics, too many Chardonnays are too oaky and there are questions about whether the wines are true to their appellations. Or whether, in the extreme, all Chardonnays taste alike, in which case it’s conceivable that Two-Buck could emerge a winner.
If you’re wondering why this matters, well, here’s why. Think what you may about a $1.99 wine, but Two-Buck is impacting the market. It has sold 300 million bottles in five years and it continues to put downward pressure on wine prices, and at the end of the day, that’s great news for wine drinkers.
Think it’s not popular? Check out a Trader Joe’s this weekend and watch as people wheel out shopping carts loaded with cases.