Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of South Florida and help keep the future of New Times free.

You gotta love a winemaker like Randall Grahm. He named one of his finest wines Le Cigare Volante ("The Flying Cigar") to commemorate Rhone Valley vintners who in 1954 had a law passed that would prohibit flying saucers from cruising over or landing near their vineyards.

One of his best-selling wines is Cardinal Zin, with a Ralph Steadman-like illustration of a particularly depraved-looking Catholic cardinal on the label. Another hot seller is the Big House series--red, white and pink--named for the winery's down-street neighbor, Soledad State Prison.

But what you really gotta love about Randall Grahm is his willingness to swim against the tide, to call a spade a goddamn shovel. When most California winemakers were planting chardonnay practically in freeway medians to fulfill exploding demand, Grahm was preaching planting lesser-known varietals like charbono, grenache and tempranillo in out-of-the-way appellations that suited them best.  

When 14 and 15-percent alcohol wines with more oak than Sherwood Forest became the norm, Grahm was producing lower-alcohol wines that actually tasted of their grapes and "terroir," the semi-mystical French word that means wines that taste of where they were born. Grahm sold off the Cardinal Zin and Big House labels a couple years back, but they're still being made according to his philosophy.

Take the 2008 Big House Pink. It's a blend of eight grapes--charbono, tenet, barbera and sangiovese among them--that tastes as if you stuffed all of them in your mouth with a squeeze of orange and lemon juices to balance all that fruit. It's a big sucker for a rose, which means it can hang with habaneros, chill with chilies, go for it with garlic and big, bold flavors. It will cost you about $10 and you don't even need a corkscrew. Just unscrew the cap and pour.

Randall Grahm wasn't much for ceremony either.

Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.