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"They can drink whatever they want. I'm just glad to see they're drinking some wine," he said. "Everybody has got to start somewhere on their wine journey. If it's a jug, so be it."


Bill Daley answers questions on wine, beer and spirits every Sunday in Q.

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The pick of the liters

A jug wine tasting? No joke, although there were quips and jests aplenty as the Good Eating taste panel sat down to a blind sampling of six jug wines. None of the jugs left the panel particularly fired up. Four were traditional brands in large 3- or 4-liter jugs, but the two top scorers were new-style, vintage-dated 1-liter jug wines, Three Thieves Zinfandel and Valley Home Vintners. These varietal wines were drier, more powerful in flavor and deeper in color. The traditional non-vintage jug wines had a noticeable sweetness. That's good if you're making sangria for a big holiday party; less successful, perhaps, in terms of cooking unless you're working on a large scale and using lots of boldly flavored ingredients.

2005 Three Thieves Zinfandel

A simple but balanced California wine. "Not awful," one taster commented. There's plenty of berry notes but also a touch of tannin to give it shape. "I'd drink it daily," another panelist said. Serve with chili, fried chicken, cocktail meatballs.

2 corkscrews; $9 for 1 liter

2004 Valley Home Vintners Syrah

Lots of cherry flavor to this California wine. "Dr. Pepper wine comes to Chicago," a taster joked. Short finish, rather harsh. Serve with flat iron steak, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs.

1 corkscrew; $12 for 1 liter

CR Cellars Fortissimo California Grape Wine

This California wine is fairly sweet, thin, with flavor notes of tomato and blackberry. Serve with turkey sandwiches, pigs in blankets, Chinese-spiced meatballs.

1 corkscrew; $17 for 4 liters

Carlo Rossi Burgundy California Table Wine

One of E. & J. Gallo Winery's bargain brands, this wine had a one-note cherry flavor. Crude balance of sweet and tart. Thin, short finish. Serve with ham sandwiches, pepperoni pizza.

1 corkscrew; $8 for 4 liters

Livingston Cellars Burgundy California Reserve

Another Gallo brand, this wine was sweet, almost syrupy, with an over-ripe berry flavor. Serve with cheese balls, Italian beef sandwiches, barbecued chicken.

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