I received all three boxes of these wines as samples. Retail should be around 24$. I probably got these wines because I was such a fan of the Big House Red in the Octavin. Each Octavin works out to 4 bottles of wine, so these are around 6$ a bottle or so, and you can drink them one glass at a time, which is good. I can attest to the fact that these wines were all fresh after about two weeks. However, these wines don't have the same spunk as the Big House Red, and I have to admit to being really jealous of Fredric Koeppel over at Bigger Than Your Head, because he got a really interesting box of Bierzo from Spain. If I could find wines like that in a box, I'd always have them around. Wouldn't it be cool to have a Chinon in a box? Or a Beaujolais? (As an aside, my neighbor gave me a glass of Domaine et Collette Beaujolais Village 2009 last night--all cranberries, cherries and dirt, with great balance, acids, and obvious depth--11$. An awesome deal.) Or Barbera d'Alba? Or Muscadet? It's insane that these things aren't available. I bet that ultimately, wineries et al would end up selling way more wine if good, cheap stuff came in a box and was easily obtainable. There's only a stigma attached to the box if you let it inflect your thinking. The reality is, it's more convenient, tastes the same, and is a better deal for you as a consumer. I can't imagine why people aren't down with that. Anyways...
I've heard never to bite the hand that feeds me...but I'm not so much a fan of these wines. They're kind of boring. The wines all bear the generic Central Coast appellation, so who the hell knows where all the fruit came from. It scares the shit out of me that these wines come from a "20$ bottle program." And why does that scare me? Because that means that people are willing to pay a lot for stuff that isn't that interesting. Ah, marketing. Of course, on the other hand, you've got to ask yourself what you're looking for in a 6$ bottle of wine (or potentially less depending on the retailer). There is nothing wrong with these wines other than a bit of snooze factor. Are you looking to make sangria? These are good options. Looking for something to feed your friends that don't like wine? This is perfect. Just looking to get hammered? Ditto. Would I buy these wines for my own consumption? Nope. Anyways, of the three wines, I think that the Cab is perhaps the best, followed by the Chardonnay, and followed by the Merlot.
Chardonnay: Tons of pineapple, guava and passion fruit character. Crisp acidity, with apple flavors. Similar body to apple juice, and sweet. Not my favorite. Not Sarah's favorite either. She was adding ice cubes to tone down the sweetness, despite her reservations about being tacky. A grudging C. This is like apple juice for adults.
Merlot: Chocolate, licorice, cherry pie, and just a hint of cinnamon. Smooth. My little brother called it: "Typical fruitbomb." C-
Cabernet Sauvignon: Cherries, currants, a little spice, and a little vanilla. Of the three, I think this is the best wine. It's a little cloying and definitely fruity, with decent balance, and a bit of tannin. C+