Two Buck Chuck’s Italian cousin

People at work are starting to notice that I’ve begun writing a wine blog (who knows what effect my handing out cards has to do with it?).

As a result, I’m getting hot wine tips from various co-workers—like the one who excitedly passed me a Trader Joe’s flyer touting one of the store’s insanely cheap but often surprisingly stupendous-for-the-price wines. This one being the D’Aquino Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2006.

For some reason, I’d missed that one in the past. So I thanked the co-worker for the hot wine tip and stopped at TJ’s after work to scout out whether the local shop had a bottle in stock.

Silly me. There was a display about eight feet high of it.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But I always—always!—look a bottle over like it’s a legal document.

Hmmm.

Nice shape.

Nice color.

($3.99)

I’m sold.

There have been recent reports about another one of TJ’s insanely cheap but often surprisingly stupendous-for-the-price wines. Namely, the legendary Charles Shaw Chardonnay, aka “Two Buck Chuck,” which sells at the insanely cheap price of $1.99 to $3.49 per bottle, depending on the region.

Turns out, as ABC News reported last month, Two Buck Chuck took the top prize in a prestigious California tasting competition, trouncing 350 other Chardonnays—in California!!

“The characteristics that we look for in our gold medal winner … a nice creamy butter, fruity … it was a delight to taste,” declared 2007 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition judge Michael Williams.

How legendary is that?!

In fact, a Wine News Review reader yesterday happened to mention it in a comment, ruminating over how it might compare with the “good wines at great prices” sold by an importer spotlighted by uber wine expert Robert Parker in a recent Business Week article.

Gaetano D'Aquino inspects his vines.Gaetano D’Aquino inspects his vines.

The D’Aquino may not be as famous as Two Buck Chuck. But it has a long and cherished history, at least in TJ’s bottom line. The chain says it sells more than 120,000 cases of it in 280 stores every year, which is about as strong a public vote of confidence as any wine might wish for.

The D’Aquino has been on TJ’s shelves for nearly 30 years, from the time when the chain had only 18 stores and Pinot Grigio was not the household name it is today.

Dinner that night also came from TJ’s aisles: Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta with capers and canned Yellowfin tuna, which deliciously complimented the Pinot Grigio’s distinct citrus flavor.

The wine had a lively aroma, was refreshingly light on the palate with a crisp medium dryness. It might not beat out 350 other wines, but it was definitely a winner.

As a reality check, I paid a visit to the online wine community at cork’d and found the wine garnered an 82 score from a reviewer there—not a bad rating but probably an underestimation by several points.

Moral of the story, it pays to tell co-workers you’re into wines.


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