Charles Shaw Wins Triple Gold in Orange County

At the 2013 Orange County Fair Wine Competition, the 2011 Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Charles Shaw Merlot, and 2012 Charles Shaw White Zinfandel each won a Gold Medal. The 2011 Charles Shaw Chardonnay won a Bronze Medal.

Does this surprise you? It sure surprised me when I read the article on Actually, I was shocked and dismayed that a bulk-made wine priced at $2.49 could do so well in a blind tasting from experienced wine judges. But, maybe it is not so surprising after all.

Apparently this wine competition is separated into four categories based on price from Low to Premium. I checked the Orange County Wine Society website and found results only for “Best in Class” and “4-Star Awards” but none for the entire competition. Obviously, the Charles Shaw was entered into the “Low” price category and we do not know how many wines were in this particular competition. We also do not know the exact price point. Does “Low” mean under $5?

I decided to shop for these wines and give them a try myself. I found two of the wines at my local TJ’s, the Cab and the Chardonnay. The Merlot and the White Zin were different vintages than the Orange County Fair, so I passed on those two wines. We tried the wines over a couple of nights just to see if our opinion changed on the second night of tasting. We thought the Cabernet was flat, one dimensional, and filled with an oaky character that we thought a little synthetic in taste. The Chardonnay was a tad better but lacked anything fulfilling that is so enjoyable in a wine. No aftertaste lingering on the palate or powerful aroma, no complexity to ponder on each sip or taste with food. In short, we did not like either wine for our wine cellar.

image of Chuck Cab

The Chuck Cab

Consumer Reports rates Charles Shaw Chardonnay a Best Buy

The 2011 Chardonnay was selected as a Best Buy in the Consumer Reports July issue that rated Chardonnay wines. This was also a blind tasting and the wine expert panel rated the Charles Shaw Chardonnay 2011 in 3rd place, well above Sonoma-Cutrer and Rombauer Chardonnay. Here is what they said about the Charles Shaw Chardonnay: “Clean, intense citrusy fruit flavors with just a touch of butter and wood on the finish.” They also suggested this wine would pair well with: “Baked brook trout with tarragon, aperitif or with light hors d’oeuvres, fish croquets, grilled shrimp, olives in a Harissa sauce, etc.” That all sounds very impressive.

image of chuck char

The Chuck Char

Give these wines a try and judge for yourself if they are are indeed worthy of such accolades. I would be very interested in hearing what you think about these wines. Please feel free to comment below.

Oh, one more thing, this is an interesting article on wine judging. “Can Wine Experts Really Tell the Difference?” Science Says “No!


  1. The fix is in… Or maybe, they had a category $2.50 and under?

    • Ed,
      Yes, it would be nice to know the category price point. I wonder if there is a fee for the wineries to enter the competition?

  2. I tried the 2012 C.S. Cabernet. It certainly didn’t curl my teeth, but I wouldn’t buy it again. It might make a passable barbecure wine, something to wash the fare down with, however.

    • Joe Becerra says:

      I need to check out the Merlot. I met a guy who thinks it a much better wine than the Cab. We shall see!

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