Wine on Wednesdays – House Wine

Over the years, I have worked at a lot of restaurants. At various times, I have been the general manager, the executive chef, the sommelier, the bartender, the server, and many other positions.

Most restaurants have a house wine, which is the wine you receive if you just ask for a “red” or a “white”. It’s usually — although not always — the cheapest wine option. And it almost invariably tastes just terrible.

As a consumer, I don’t judge a restaurant by how awful its house wine tastes because if guests don’t care enough to look at a wine list or ask for a favorite brand, they deserve what they get.

Even if what they get comes out of a jug. Or even a box. Which it frequently does, even in the best fine dining restaurants.

(A quick aside: Never drink wine out of a box unless you enjoy having horrible headaches the next morning. Box wines are the Chicken McNugget of the winemaking world: You don’t ever want to see how they are made.)

That’s why when I found this brand called “House Wine”, I was intrigued. It turns out this wine is nothing like your typical “house wine” because while it is completely affordable, it tastes amazing.

House Wine is one of a handful of brands made by the Magnificent Wine Company, which is based in Walla Walla, Washington. While many people think of that as onion and potato country, it also is home to the Washington’s famed Columbia Valley wine growing region.

The company is a partnership between Charles Smith, of K Vintners, who is something of a living legend among syrah fans, and Andrew Browne, the wunderkind founder of the Precept Wine brands. It also makes a chardonnay, White House Wine; a sauvignon blanc, Fish House Wine; and a cabernet suavignon, Steak House Wine.

House Wine is mostly cabernet sauvignon, but also has merlot, malbec, syrah and petit verdot, all grown in Columbia Valley. It is a nicely balanced wine that is neither jammy nor meekly bland, but a nice place in between. Even though it is made mostly with cabeneret sauvignon grapes, it has qualities of the laid back merlot.

And it was definitely affordable at $7.99/bottle, which is, of course, my self imposed upper limit for budget wines. Any restaurant would do well by serving House Wine as their house wine.


On a separate note, I found myself in a Trader Joe’s the other day and I couldn’t help but to pick up a bottle of their house brand, Charles Shaw, perhaps better known as “Two-Buck Chuck.” although it now costs a whopping $3/bottle.

I had this wine many years ago and remembered that I didn’t like it. But given the concept of this budget wine blog, I thought I would try it again to see if I was mistaken. After all, if “Two Buck Chuck” was at all drinkable, I could recommend it to those people seeking affordable wines.

Sadly, this is not the case. I now remember why I didn’t like this wine. It tastes like barrel dregs. It’s bitter and has a persistent unpleasant aftertaste. It is a waste of $3.

Trader Joe’s has plenty of other good, affordable wines, so do yourself a favor and walk past the enormous display of “Two Buck Chuck” and pick yourself up something drinkable. The only positive thing I can say about this wine is that at $36/case, you can afford to pick up a dozen bottles to fill the holes in your wine rack until you can replace them with better wines.

Just don’t get tempted to drink a bottle.