Maker: Peter Vella Wines, Modesto, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 5 liter box, push-button spigot
Our Rating: 6 out of 10
Peter Vella Cabernet Sauvignon is an ultra-cheap box wine – we found a 5-liter box on sale for less than ten bucks. We have studiously avoided these offerings from Vella and Franzia because we’ve invariable been disappointed. But, it was on sale, and this box proudly exhibited a gold medal from Chef’s Best – the coveted (?) “Best Taste” award for 2007. Before we knew it, a box had somehow found its way into the shopping cart. As it turns out, we could have saved the trouble of lugging this box home. This wine is light-bodied for a Cab – it weighs in at a mere 11% alcohol, and the color is a rather light ruby shade. The flavor, unfortunately, was mostly oaked prunes. Pouring a glass and letting it breathe for a while slightly improved the flavor, but we’d consider this acceptable only for starving college students looking to buy massive quantities of wine for not much money.
So what’s up with the Chef’s Best medal? We checked out the website, and it is stated that the tests are conducted in a blind tasting process. What isn’t clear is exactly how products are chosen to be tasted, or what percent end up earning the “Chef’s Best” designation. The site says that “we judge all qualifying leading national brands.” Was this Peter Vella Cabernet Sauvignon judged against just, say, Franzia and Almaden (who offer similar package sizes), or did it include other cabs in smaller boxes or bottles? It’s hard to imagine this wine beating out, say, a Killer Juice or Black Box Cab, but of course those cost more and might have been excluded. And a cheap $5 bottle is far more costly than the Vella wine. Even Two Buck Chuck Cabernet Sauvignon looks expensive by comparison. If the Chef’s Best tried to compare only equivalently priced wines, the would have been hard-pressed to find more than one or two wines in the same range as the Vella.