Grape Madness: It’s Game Day!

Trader Joe’s Grape Madness Basketball Bracket
With the Grape Madness action tipping off shortly wanted to give everyone a quick recap on the rules..  We kept it pretty straight forward.  Here we go:

The following guidelines were put in place to manage the pricing at each seed level as follows:

  • All wines are red
  • Wines are priced based on seed (1- $12-$20, 2- $8 – $12, 3 – $5 – $8, 4 – $5 and under)
  • All wines are tasted blind
  • Wine are scored on some semblance of the 100 point scale (some might liken the scores more to a basketball game for fun early on)
  • In the result of a tie, lower price wins.

That’s it.  Condensed a bit, if you want the more verbose version you can find it here.

The Zinfandel match ups are up first for me in Round 1.  Expect tip off on the Rosenblum vs. Old Moon game shortly.  Lot’s of action on tap today with 8 games on the schedule.  I’ll be updating here as often as I can so check the scoreboard frequently.  For those that need to know all things now go straight to the sources:

Who’s bubble is going to get burst today?  Stay tuned to find out…

Grape Madness Bracketology: Daddy Winebucks & Cost Plus

With time running short before tipoff I still have one round of Bracketology outstanding for Daddy Winebucks and Cost Plus (or perhaps World Market in your hometown).

First let me share my thoughts on Cost Plus. Eric nails his description, in fact hits it out of the park.  Embarrassingly for me apparently both him and RJ have graduated from this Cost Plus phase.  I just bought new wine glasses there a few months back.  Just to make myself feel good I’ll believe I am that much younger than them.  Seriously thought I remember arguing with roommates to shop here instead of Ikea.  Recommend it for all you young’uns out there.  As for the wine, great selection with moderate prices.  I’ve had many a favorite from here.  The first being this d’Arenberg Stump Jump Red which I still drink to this day.  Of the three stores I don’t frequent in this tourney this is the one I miss the most.

Now let’s get to it. As a refresher, here is the Cost Plus bracket:


Giving the bracket a once over I recognize a few and see lots of new, unchartered wine territory.  I know the Norton and the Show from experience along with the 337 and Pinot Evil by name.  The Edge, Aaku, Talia and Baron de Magana are all new to me making this difficult to handicap.

So how did I pick’em? Went by the rankings in round #1 although I gave some thought to the Norton Malbec pulling the upset.  In round #2 decided to go for the underdogs.  The 337 because I’ve heard good things and the Show because I know them to be true (Full Disclosure: I also happen to be acquainted with the winemaker.).  Going into the finals the “full disclosure” was enough to push the Show not only to the Final Four but all the way to the championship game.  Had I not felt the need to be loyal to Trader Joe’s it may have been wearing the crown.

Who do you think is going to make it to the Final Four from the Cost Plus bracket? Have you entered the contest yet? If not, too bad.  The deadline has passed.  We have the inaugural Grape Madness trophy and a case of the winner in store for our champion. Hope you’ll follow along and mark your calendar for next year!

Grape Madness Bracketology: RJ’s Wine Blog & Whole Foods

In my first version of bracketology I covered Marc’s Muse & BevMo, now let’s move on to a regional a little closer to home with RJ’s Wine Blog and Whole Foods.

First let me share my thoughts on Whole Foods . Guessing most are familiar with Whole Foods which made its name selling organic wares and in doing so has earned the popular nickname of “Whole Paycheck” as a visit tends to do damage to the wallet. In my experience the same can be said of the wine department. On the plus side, something about the shopping experience always makes it seem like you are getting a nice wine for the money. Perhaps that hurts in the long run as expectations run high making it more difficult to impress in the end. I like shopping here for wine but it is an exercise in caution not to break the bank!

Now let’s get to it. As a refresher, here is the Whole Foods bracket:
Quickly scanning the bracket I recognize little. I am really only familiar with the Castle Rock and Rex Goliath. Many appear to be limited supply, higher end offerings with the Klinker, York Creek and Steven Vincent coming to mind. On the low end the mystery brand of the day is Quail Creek. You guessed it. Quail Creek is made by Bronco Wine Co.. That leaves the Block 45 Petite Sirah which seems like a bit of a sleeper at $7.

So how did I pick’em? I took both of the one seeds as I can’t see Quail Creek delivering the goods. Then I picked two upsets. The first was the Rex Goliath over the Stephen Vincent because, well really, who wants to bet against a 47 pound rooster. How about the Block 45 over the Castle Rock Pinot? I can only imagine how bad Pinot would taste if you are drinking it immediately after sampling a Petite Sirah. For the second round, I thought about taking the underdogs again but went with the one seeds. Guessing the old vine Klinker shows some restraint here which overcomes the, my assumption, fruit forwardness of the Rex Goliath. As for the York versus my sleeper Block 45, I had to take the York Creek just based on the pleasant memories of Ridge’s field blend York Creek Zin. That memory in theory should have been enough to carry it to the finals but for some reason unknown to me right now I picked the Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel to represent Whole Foods in the Final Four.

Who do you think is going to make it to the Final Four from the Whole Foods bracket? Have you entered the contest yet? We have the inaugural Grape Madness trophy and a case of the winner in store for our champion. Fill out your bracket today!

Grape Madness Bracketology: Marc’s Muse & BevMo

In starting the bracket reviews I wanted to kick it off with Daddy Winebucks as he started the smack talk but RJ’s Wine Blog beat me to it. So I’ll start by taking a look at Marc’s Muse BevMo selections.

First, let me share my thoughts on BevMo. For those that may not be familiar BevMo is a large format chain here in California (and Arizona) encompassing 100 or so stores. When I initially started getting into wine I made a few purchases here. Since, it has fallen off of my preferred places to shop list. When I do stop it is to check out their 5 cent wine sales for which they are well known. The deal is buy one at regular price and get another bottle for a nickel. I have taken part in a few of these with rather mixed results. At the end I always lament how disappointed I would have been had I paid full price!

Now let’s get to it. As a refresher, here is the BevMo bracket:

Grape Madness: Bracketology – Marc’s Muse & BevMo

Taking a quick look up and down I see some names I recognize. Some mass market offerings in Penfolds, Columbia Crest and Blackstone. Some that I think of has higher quality offerings such as Renwood and Tapiz. The low end Rockbrook mystery brand, perhaps a Bronco Wine Co. bottling (funny, just checked and it is…)? The only one I am left unsure of what to think is the Talus. Given it is a $9 Pinot (from France) I am inclined to think the worst.

So how did I pick’em? I went with the favorites early. Rockbrook was easy to discount and as mentioned think Marc is going to be disappointed in the Talus. That leaves the Penfold’s versus the Columbia Crest. Insider secret, I bought the Grand Estates Cab for the Trader Joe’s bracket as well but replaced it upon realizing it was a duplicate. I’m picking that one to not only beat the Penfolds but to represent BevMo in the Final Four.

Who do you think is going to make it to the Final Four from the BevMo bracket? Have you entered the contest yet? We have the inaugural Grape Madness trophy and a case of the winner in store for our champion. Fill out your bracket today!

Grape Madness: The Trader Joe’s Selection Show

When you saw Trader Joe’s included in the Grape Madness brackets did you have any idea who the blogger behind their selections would be? Actually it was in doubt. I feel like I have turned over most of the leaves at Trader Joe’s and wanted to focus on new wine for this event. That said, upon taking one step back in the wine aisle it quickly became clear that on some varietals I hadn’t even scratched the surface. So I decided this is where I would dive in. One rule: has to be new wine to me. By all means necessary avoid a wine I had previously tried. With that let’s review my eight picks…

Grape Madness - Jason's Wine Blog - Trader Joe's - Bracket

Now let’s talk about how they got there…

The Cabernet Regional:
(1) 2004 Chateau Chevalier Napa Cab ($15) – As I purveyed the rare air of the top shelf many options availed themselves with a $20 price cap. This one appeared to be from a smaller winery and with a Spring Mountain AVA stood out from the crowd.

(2) 2006 Sterling Central Coast Cab ($12) – This one was added as a grudge match. Back in December I had a blind tasting with some friends and a bottle of Sterling took down one of my much more expensive Cabernet’s. Let’s see how it performs this time around…

(3) 2006 Fetzer Valley Oaks Cab ($6) – This one popped out given my recent experience with the Dynamic Vineyards offerings which are tied to Fetzer via Ceago Vinegarden. Fetzer calls themselves “The Earth Friendly Wine”, let’s see how they do with the palate…

(4) 2006 Trader Joe’s Coastal Cab ($4) – On the cheap end I had to go with Trader Joe’s private labels. Once that was determined this one was an easy choice as it is made by Castoro Cellars. I had heard some good blog buzz on their offerings so decided to give this one a ticket to the dance.

The Zinfandel Regional:
(1) 2006 Rosenblum Paso Robles Zin ($16) – This one was a relative no brainer. Given that I am a fan and a long time wine club member. This one has the pedigree to go all the way if it isn’t upset by the…

(2) 2007 Bogle Old Vine Zin ($10) – Riding high after my experience with the Petite Sirah this one has dark horse potential to mess up more than a few brackets.

(3) 2006 Ravenswood Vinters Blend Zin ($8) – This was a tough choice. The Ravenswood or the Cline. My heart said the Cline but the Ravenswood made the cart. Why? Because of the one rule I set going into this selection process. I have had the Cline many time before. The new vintage on the Ravenswood made all the difference.

(4) 2006 Old Moon Old Vine Zin ($5) – Speaking of the rule, I had to break it for this one. Why? Because I’ve had every Zinfandel Trader Joe’s offers in this category and know this one to be the best.

That sums it up. What do you think? Which bottle do you think is going to make it all the way to the final four?  How about all the way?  Let me know if the comments and fill out your bracket now. When done check my entry here and let me know what you think.  The smack talk starts soon…. Until then, look for my analysis for the other three regions over the next few days.

Announcing Grape Madness

Basketball H & K Wine Bottle HolderI like sports, I like wine.  Often the two don’t mix but whenever I can I go out of my way to make sure that they do.  So, if I were to ask myself what is the ultimate sporting event on the calendar I would reply hands down that it is March Madness 4 days on opening weekend, upsets and Cinderella stories and overtime and buzzer beaters for all.  It all encapsulates in a single elimination winner take all tournament.  Whoever can win six games in a row cuts down the nets while CBS wraps up its coverage with a montage of highlights from the tournament all set to “One Shining Moment“.

What does this have to do with wine you might ask?  It all started as an innocent comment made by one Daddy Winebucks on my blog some time ago.  From there the power of four imaginations snowballed into a cure for cancer and an end to world hunger before returning to their humble roots.  Once grounded, the rules were hashed out and a plan was hatched.  Now after months of preparation we are able to greet March with a tournament of our own.  Welcome to Grape Madness.

Say what?  Grape Madness?  That’s right!  Four of us, Eric from Daddy Winebucks, RJ from RJ’s Wine Blog, Marc from Marc’s Muse and I decided to take all the things that make the NCAA tournament such an enjoyable event and apply them to the wine world.

Here’s how it works…

Each of the four bloggers was assigned a store – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Cost Plus and Bevmo – and a mission to pick out 8 wines from their specific store, for 32 wines in total. The 8 wines are then divided into two brackets of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th seeds. Each seed level is governed by the retail price of the wine:

  • 1st seed: $12 – $20
  • 2nd seed: $8 – 12
  • 3rd seed: $5 – $8
  • 4th seed: $5 and under

Wines will be all reds, tasted blind and scored on the 100 point scale. In cases when multiple bloggers are scoring a wine, the scores will be aggregated. The winner of each match-up will be the wine with the maximum composite score. Should a tie result, even after totalling up the points, the winner will be determined based on, first, lower prices, then, a coin flip.

For Round 1, we will each blind taste our brackets (8 bottles of wines) and narrow the field to, first, the best four bottles, then, finally, the best two bottles from each store. These two bottles will then move forward to Round 2.

In Round 2, the bloggers will pair up locally (Jason and RJ in San Francisco and Eric and Marc in LA) and taste the eight remaining top wines together, eventually narrowing it to the best wine of each blogger’s grouping, thus creating the Final Four. The Final Four will then be tasted by each blogger and together we will anoint the first annual champion of Grape Madness.

Which store do you think I am covering?  How did you guess Trader Joe’s?  I set a rule for myself of all new wines.  The Grape Madness home page shows my selection.  While you’re their take a look at the field, find a sleeper you like and then head over to the contest page and fill out your own bracket.  We’re aiming for a thousand participants, who wants to be first?

Stay tuned for more coverage tomorrow.  I’ll start with a closer look at my picks…

In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or thoughts on Grape Madness and good luck with your picks!