The big news from the big box world this week was Target’s introduction of a line of five dollar wines. These new bottles are definitely cheap, but we couldn’t help but wonder, “How do they taste?” So, we assembled our crack Neat Pour tasting panel to get some feedback.
Target’s California Roots label is available in five varietals or blends: a Pinot Grigio, a Chardonnay, a red blend, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Moscato. Our tasting only involved the Pinot and the Cab. The task was handed to a panel comprised of Konrad Kantor, Maggie Morgan, and Nick Detrich from New Orleans’ Cane & Table as well as Neat Pour CFO Kate Benson. Together, they popped the synthetic corks and offered some insight.
California Roots Pinot Grigio 2016
The tasting opened with the 13.5% ABV California Roots Pinot Grigio 2016. The sampling started well with an extremely pale, yellow tinted juice. Kantor and Detrich both observed overripe peach and dried apricot on the nose. Then, the panel actually tasted the wine. Benson immediately exclaimed, “Whoa! That is sweet!” She then wondered aloud how sweet the Moscato must be if this was the “drier” varietal. Morgan noted some stone fruit in the taste. Detrich observed, “It’s got a little bit of vinegar, acetic acid to it” beneath the overwhelming taste of sugar.
The panel all agreed that the wine drank more like a sweet Riesling. They suggested food pairings accordingly. Wings, fried chicken, spicy food, and crawfish boils all made the pairings list.
Kantor’s takeaway was, “Drinkable, if you like sweet wine.” Morgan simply concluded, “I’m not mad at it.”
California Roots Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Next up was the Cab (also touting a 13.5% ABV). Kantor got lots of oak and butter off the nose–almost overwhelming in volume. On the tongue, the California Roots delivered on the sweetness again. Plus, tannins and lots of oaky butter, berries, and grape. Benson compared the taste to “licking a piece of oak furniture” and Kantor wondered if the winemaker dissolved blocks of butter into the barrels. Detrich also pondered the origins of the “fake oak a.k.a. fauxk flavor.” But, he was more fascinated by the strong taste of “Robbotussin cherries,” speculating, “That’s definitely grape 20 flavoring right there.”
The wine would make for an excellent Kalimoxtos, suggested Detrich. The rest of the panel was unanimous in their opinion that the juice would pair well with fried chicken and make for an excellent punch.
What About Chuck?
California Roots is an unabashed attempt to compete with Trader Joe’s popular Two Buck Chuck line. Our panel still preferred the Chuck, citing a drier and slightly more tannic red, and a better made wine overall. Still, in the five-dollars-and-less market segment, the differences in quality are relatively minimal.
The bottom line is literally the bottom line. These wines cost five dollars American and are sold by Target not Zachy’s. Given the price point, they serve a purpose. California Roots is perfect for punches, fried food, and definitely perfectly priced for big parties. In short, these winemakers know their Target market.