Friday, August 19, 2011

Toad Hollow Winery

I've been meaning to write about Toad Hollow Winery since our visit in early June.  What a pleasant surprise their tasting room was!  We were first greeted by Debbie Rickards who was as friendly and adorable as could be.  We were later joined by Jim Costa, Tasting Room Manager.  Debbie and Jim as a duet were quite amusing and entertaining.  

We learned that the winery had been established by Todd Williams who partnered with Rodney Strong (yes, THE Rodney Strong) to produce quality wines at affordable prices.  I'm happy to say that they were successful.  

Unbeknownst to me was that Rodney Strong was a professional dancer and choreographer in Paris and on Broadway before moving to Sonoma and starting his wine prowess.  Mr. Williams was a restauranteur for many years before "retiring" and starting the wine company with his wife Frankie.

We tasted some mighty fine wine including an unoaked Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir dry Rose', a Russian River Pinot Noir, and their Proprietary red wine "Erik's the Red," principally Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Syrah.  We bought quite a few bottles of Toad Hollow wines because they are affordable.  


They also have the best wine bottle labels in the world, at least the cutest, and all with a Toad theme, even a high-stepping dancing toad.  All the labels are the work of Maureen, their long-time designer.  

The tasting room is located a 409A Healdsburg Ave, in Healdsburg, CA  95448.  Check out their website, it's very clever.  Be sure and visit if you're in the area; you won't be disappointed!

Tom da Wine Guy

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Two Buck Chuck or..........$25-Buck Chuck (read on for explanation)

At our Trader Joe's we try to schedule a wine tasting for the Crew once a week as part of the "Product Knowledge" program.  The wines being tasted are paired with other TJ foods , snacks, and cheeses to enhance the overall presentation.

A few weeks ago, we tried all the Charles Shaw wines (in two different tests on two different weeks) in a blind tasting against other labels of the same varietals.  First we did the whites, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay against wines that were a few dollars more per bottle.  In the following week, we tasted the reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz against the same varietals, again, at just a few dollars more.

The bottles were in brown bags and the tasting was blind.  To my "Wine Snob" surprise, the Shaw wines held their own, although more than half picked the more expensive wines.  But I was surprised at how well the Two-Buck Chucks did!  Being a "wine snob," I can't ever be seen walking out of TJ's with a bottle of Shaw, but I now have a better understanding of why people buy the Shaw label.  Not bad, indeed...

Now to the $25-Buck Check reference.  Sometime ago, a woman came through the wine section and told me that she had just returned from a business trip from Beijing, China.  On their last night, she and her colleagues went to the liquor shop in their 4-star hotel looking for some wine.  They found Charles Shaw wines for $25.00 a bottle!  The Shaw's were more expensive than some of the French wines in the shop.  Go figure.  They bought a couple of bottles of Shaw at $25 a bottle.

The next time you pour anyone a glass of Charles Shaw, make it clear that they're drinking a bottle of $25 wine!  Guess it's just a matter of location.  Location, location, location.  Sounds like real estate.

"Tom da Wine Guy"

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Wine NOT to Buy!!!

Usually, this blog recommends wines to buy but this post is about a wine at Trader Joe's NOT to buy.

I bought a bottle of a Benefactor Shiraz from Southeastern Australia for $4.99.  Took one sip then another to make sure that I tasted a wine that bad.  Then I dumped it down the drain.  Benefactor also has a Cabernet and a Chardonnay in the store.  A co-worker tried the Cab and she had the same experience.  She dumped it down the sink also.

Normally, I wouldn't post about a wine that I didn't like but a couple of months ago, TJ's had a Benefactor red blend from Paso Robles that was AWESOME so when I saw the new arrivals, my heart beat increased with excitement.  I had hoped for another awesome wine at a great price, but that was not the case.  So, if any of you readers purchased the first Benefactor you too probably would have bought some of this new batch of Benefactor wines.  But don't.

Thank you, Bo, for your comment correcting my statement about Goldeneye Winery being located in the Alexander Valley when in fact, it's in the Anderson Valley.  I knew that...

Tom da Wine Guy