- - -
The pick of the liters
A jug wine tasting? No joke, although there were quips and jests aplenty as the Good Eating taste panel sat down to a blind sampling of six jug wines. None of the jugs left the panel particularly fired up. Four were traditional brands in large 3- or 4-liter jugs, but the two top scorers were new-style, vintage-dated 1-liter jug wines, Three Thieves Zinfandel and Valley Home Vintners. These varietal wines were drier, more powerful in flavor and deeper in color. The traditional non-vintage jug wines had a noticeable sweetness. That's good if you're making sangria for a big holiday party; less successful, perhaps, in terms of cooking unless you're working on a large scale and using lots of boldly flavored ingredients.
2005 Three Thieves Zinfandel
A simple but balanced California wine. "Not awful," one taster commented. There's plenty of berry notes but also a touch of tannin to give it shape. "I'd drink it daily," another panelist said. Serve with chili, fried chicken, cocktail meatballs.
2 corkscrews; $9 for 1 liter
2004 Valley Home Vintners Syrah
Lots of cherry flavor to this California wine. "Dr. Pepper wine comes to Chicago," a taster joked. Short finish, rather harsh. Serve with flat iron steak, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs.
1 corkscrew; $12 for 1 liter
CR Cellars Fortissimo California Grape Wine
This California wine is fairly sweet, thin, with flavor notes of tomato and blackberry. Serve with turkey sandwiches, pigs in blankets, Chinese-spiced meatballs.
1 corkscrew; $17 for 4 liters
Carlo Rossi Burgundy California Table Wine
One of E. & J. Gallo Winery's bargain brands, this wine had a one-note cherry flavor. Crude balance of sweet and tart. Thin, short finish. Serve with ham sandwiches, pepperoni pizza.
1 corkscrew; $8 for 4 liters
Livingston Cellars Burgundy California Reserve
Another Gallo brand, this wine was sweet, almost syrupy, with an over-ripe berry flavor. Serve with cheese balls, Italian beef sandwiches, barbecued chicken.