A quick drive-by review of a couple of five dollar wines and something a little better.
Most cheap red wines, particularly Cabernets and Merlots, are afflicted with a cloying, off-sweet aroma and taste. The winemaker, or PR chick, or somebody in the basement swilling a can of Monster at three in the morning, sometimes describes it as cherries (Marischino not Bing). I can't get past the flavor, which induces a bit of a gag reflex almost every time.
I'm not clear why cheap red wine suffers with this nor do I understand enough of the winemaking process to explain how it occurs. I don't know if the fruit or the winemaking is to blame. Or both.
These two cheap wines both marginally escape the curse of the cherries. Something to be said for that.
Rex-Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon
The label schtick of this undenominated vintage is a 47 pound rooster named Rex-Goliath. Rex was quite the circus attraction back in the day. The label promises big and bold in the tradition of big and bold Rex-Goliath. The wine is okay. It is big and pretty bold but it has a really strange back taste at the finish that I found to be sort of annoying. I still drank the wine and it will be fine for mid-week if you pair it with pizza, pasta, or Mafia Sandwiches.
2007 Overlake Cabernet Sauvignon
Lake County is a coming wine growing area and is probably in the same place as Paso Robles was 12-14 years ago. Wine grape growers and drinkers have begun to realize the potential is there. That said, the Overlake isn't a great wine. It has a little bit of an edge of cherries that goes away with a little aeration. I liked it a little better than the rooster wine. Again, this is more of an everyday wine and needs a bowl of chili or pasta and red sauce to keep it honest. It is bottled by Kitchen Sink Wines. It would almost be worth panning the wine just so I could say that the Overlake Cabernet by Kitchen Sink Wines is Sink Pourin' Wine!
Either of these wines is drinkable and helps keep the budget in tune. Neither is good enough to end up as a house wine. A House Wine, as defined by TWC, is inexpensive enough to drink regularly but is also good enough to enjoy regularly**.
What does that mean to you? Simple. If you see either of these wines on the shelf for five bucks, you'll be fine. At eight or nine bucks? Not so much. Your mileage may vary.
**You want an example of a house wine?
Christian Mouiex Merlot is done in a very nice, earthy, minerally, dry Bordeaux style. It's medium bodied and widely available for under $10.00 ($6.49 in California Money). Yes this guy. In some fashion he's managed to incorporate the expertise that produces some of the finest wines in the world (think Dominus and Pomerol) to produce an enjoyable wine that tastes more expensive than it is.