2008 Crane Lake Down Under Chardonnay

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Crane Lake

What They Said:

2008 Down Under ChardonnayPer Wall Street Journal “One other wine stood out. In our notes we wrote: “Crisp, with crackling acidity and good, lemony fruit. Quite fruity, especially on the finish, with a summery mix of fruits like grapefruit and pineapple. Lovely, fresh wine.” When we took the bag off, this was a new wine to us: Down Under by Crane Lake, from the 2008 vintage. When we checked our notes, we were surprised and pleased to see that we had paid just $5.03. As we looked further into this wine, we were even more surprised: It is a wine imported in bulk and bottled in the U.S. The producer: Bronco Wine Co., the very same people who brought you Two-Buck Chuck. This did indeed turn out to be, in effect, Down Under Chuck, the liquid affirmation of one of our theses.”

What I Think:

Have you met Two Buck Chuck’s big sister Three Dollar Koala? Perhaps the first ever Bronco Wine Co. international offering, this one makes its way to your local shelves via an unordinary journey. It arrives from Australia where the grape market is experiencing a serious grape glut which is being widely reported. Some see disaster, others see opportunity. So Fred and his friends have descended, bought some quality product and had it shipped back stateside. That is where it gets interesting. You see 99.99% of wine that arrives on the shores of the United States does so in a bottle. This one however arrives in the equivalent of an oil tanker. Once on shore they “blend, finish and bottle” it before sending it on to Trader Joe’s while preaching to the press that you have been paying too much for Australian wine (read Yellow Tail). And for the record, in Fred’s words, the Bronco Wines aren’t cheap they are “right-priced”.

Now let’s get to the wine. Soft, white fruit that hardly shows on the nose. Nectarine and apples appear on the early palate with a vanilla, oak component appearing mid stream. The finish has a very nice fruit crispness that doesn’t show a hint of acid. To the aforementioned oak, it isn’t overpowering but is certainly noticeable in a subtle way. For someone with oak defenses on high alert this is just enough to trigger the alarm. Given that, I won’t be picking another bottle of this up as I prefer a different Bronco offering, the Blue Fin . That said, if you like a little bit (or a lot) of oak this one is worth a try. After trying it, if you like it, grab a case or two. This is the first batch and you can be certain they have bought the best of the best of the affordable and available grapes. Come batch two, the lowest common denominator might be a couple floors away. For those that remember the original vintage of Two Buck Chuck we know how this saga plays out. Enjoy it while you can…

Rating: 12th Bottle

If you’re interested in another take on this one check out what Jeff had to say about this one on Viva la Wino!

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12 thoughts on “2008 Crane Lake Down Under Chardonnay

  1. Fred Franzia is right that Aussie wine is overpriced. Most of the plonk they’re selling for $10 shouldn’t be much more than $2 or $3. In fact, once Charles Shaw Shiraz blew away McWilliams Shiraz in a blind tasting I did at home! I’m not surprised at all now that Australia has undermined its foundation that Franzia is getting some good deals on quality bulk juice. At the low end, critter labels border on self-caricature. At the high end, critics like Jay Miller hand out 95+ point ratings like they’re candy for overpriced Aussie wines that just aren’t that special. People are wising up to the Aussies’ game. The sad part is that they seem to have turned to Malbec, which will probably head in the direction of unstructured Shiraz soon enough!

    • I didn’t even think about that Charles Shaw Shiraz, is that actually from Australia? Or is it US grapes? I agree that Australia has a tough road ahead but I hope with all my heart you are wrong about Malbec. Otherwise I’ll have to insert some lame reference to “Don’t cry for me Argentina” as this has been my favorite value spot for years…

  2. I am wondering if this is the same as our East Coast Charles Shaw Chardonnay from Down Under at 2.99? I am demoing it tomorrow at Foggy Bottom in DC. Brand new and quite a bit better than the price. Enjoy!!

    Also loving our Espiral Vinho Verde from Portugal for 3.99 a bottle to make white Sangria’s: 1 bottle Vino Verde to 1/2 bottle of TJ’s bloodred orange Italian sparkling soda with slices of lemon, orange and lime! Easy Peasy, cheap and great to drink in the summer.

    • I would guess it is the same as the Charles Shaw, let me know if it is the same picture. Thanks for the Sangria recipe. I like the Vinho Verde as a spritzer or sparkler alternative but think you may have found its best use.

  3. Jason-

    Is there a way to post a link to your blog on FB? Lots of my friends are TJ’s employees on the East Coast in the MD/VA/DC area and would love your blog!!!



    Ps I am a big fan of the French Red Table Wine: L’Authentique for 4.99$ a bottle!

    • There is indeed a way to share via Facebook, though I am working on making it more obvious. In the right hand toolbar near the top you will see a “Bookmark” icon, if you mouse over it it will expand and you can select Facebook from the list and post it as you see fit. As for the wine tip, I added it to my list, thanks!

  4. New from the Wall Street Journal that Yellow Tail is suing the Bronco Wine Company for trademark violations. Fred obviously got their attention with his antics and $3 offering. You know he is loving that!

  5. I too noticed something called [DOWNUNDER] 2008 Chardonnay with the “Charles Shaw International” label. My local Trader Joe’s (I’m in Washington state) sells it for $2.99 and the label indicates that it’s from south eastern Austrailia.

    Looks the same to me – is it? Why would they sell it under two different labels?

    Haven’t tried it yet, but I’m planning to taste it blind against the Blue Fin.

  6. At Trader Joe’s I found “Down Under” by Crane Lake. At SaveMart markets, I found “Down Under” by Foxbrook. Both said South Eastern Australia Chardonnay 2008 !
    Why 2 almost identical labels but not quite the same ? One shows a Koala, the other a kangorou ?
    Same price … almost the same taste !
    Please explain !
    Marie-France de Sibert

  7. Sounds like they’re using slightly different labeling to get around their exclusivity agreement with TJs on Crane Lake. Fox Brook is indeed another Bronco label.

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