While on the afore-mentioned "field trip" to the Wine Library, I picked up a bottle of 2003 Glass Mountain Syrah for $3.99. Yes, $3.99.
Glass Mountain is a value label whose Merlot (generally around $8-$10) I've enjoyed in the past. I've never had their syrah, but when I saw it was on sale for $3.99 (I imagine it would normally sell for $9 or $10), I figured why not? If it was absolute crap, well, it was still only half the price of a decent glass of wine at most restaurants in the area. If it was good, then I just got an amazing deal. I picked up 3 bottles because to me a $12 risk on wine is always worth it.
I was planning to wait a little while before opening it, but the other night I just had to find out if my gamble paid off. The result: a resounding "eh." I'm not someone who is good with smelling every hint of every spice and flavor and oak in a wine. I just know what tastes good to me and have a knack for suggesting good wines and good pairings to my friends. So I was honestly surprised when I actually detected a burnt caramel nose. Usually I make fun of the people who use terms like these to describe wine because, c'mon, really, wine smelling like burnt caramel?!? Honestly, though, it really smelled like that to me. It was quite remarkable. Unfortunately, though, that was the most fun and surprising thing about the wine. Once it hit my mouth, I didn't get much of any flavor. It had a thin mouth feel and tasted like a really dry, highly alcoholic red wine. Sadly, there's little else to say.
Perhaps a little more age will help it out.....Lucky for me I have two more bottles to test this out!
I really wish I would have liked it, but this experience will not keep me from taking a chance on a $3.99, or even $10, $15, $20 or $25 bottle of wine in the future. If I'd never taken chances on random bottles in the past, I never would have discovered some of my current favorites (e.g. Casa Julia Carmenere - a $13 gem).
So go out and find a $3.99 wine to take a chance on. Hmmm, I need to amend that -- go out and try a $3.99 wine that doesn't come in a box, does not have the words "white zinfandel," "Boone's Farm," "Mad Dog," "Alize" or "Charles Shaw" (the infamous and overrated "$2 Buck Chuck" at Trader Joe's) on the label. You may surprise yourself - even if it's just because you actually got something on the "nose" that a pretentious wine snob might.