Big House Wines
Cheap wines with funky labels and screw-tops
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., Sept. 11, 2009
Big House Wines
Randall Grahm is the owner of Bonny Doon Wines and also created the Big House wine label, named after the vineyard's proximity to the Soledad prison in California. Grahm is irreverent, funny, and a born risk-taker. In 2006, he sold Big House Wines to the Wine Group, an equally irreverent and risk-taking bunch whose main goal in life is to produce good wines that skirt the lowest possible price points – wines like Franzia, Corbett Canyon, and Fish Eye. The Wine Group was formed by a group of Coca-Cola folks, who have turned it into a huge company that is the polar opposite of smallish artisanal operations like Bonny Doon. Funny is not its favorite word (that would be profits). Wine watchers wondered if Big House Wines could retain its charm under the new regime.
Enter Romanian Georgetta Dane, a talented winemaker with a master's degree in enology. Her hiring makes more sense than you might expect, because just like Grahm, she's used to working with grapes most Americans have never heard of, including Malvasia, Tannat, Aglianico, and Touriga. The Wine Group's marching order to Big House management was to go for the youth market. So prices are about $8, labels are funky/funny, and the bottles have screw-tops.
The good news is the wines are as good as ever. Big House White is nicely acidic and has big floral and fruit aromas. It would be classified as a dry wine, though it has just a hint of sugar to make it a good quaffing wine for these hot summer days. Ditto for the Big House Pink, though it has more body, and its aromas tend more toward raspberry and strawberry. The Big House Red is my favorite of the bunch. Just as in the old days, the winemaker avoids over-oaking the wine and keeps the texture light. Nonetheless, the flavors are well structured and forceful, ideally paired with a Mediterranean stew.
Big House Wines are available all over town.