Bombshell: A $6.99 Wine Tops Our GSM Blind Tasting

GSM wines ratings

Eight store-bought GSM wines were blind tasted

The Vintage Wine Tasters blind tasted eight GSM wines, Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, ranging in price from $6.99 to $19.99. GSM is a typical Southern-Rhone blend made famous by the wines of Chateauneuf de Pape. Grenache is usually the prominent grape in a GSM blend followed by Syrah and Mourvedre. In the Northern Rhone region, the red wines must be 100%  Syrah. It was my turn to host our bimonthly meeting of the Vintage Wine Tasters. I found the GSM wines at K&L Wines, Costco, and Trader Joe’s.  I chose three California GSM wines. I was curious to see how the California wines, all from the Central Coast, would stack up against the French wines. We usually blind taste six, but we included two extra wines for this tasting.

Results – Our GSM wine rankings

Startling as it might be, a $6.99 wine was our top choice, the Pontificis wine made for Trader Joe’s. The second place wine was close, but the rest of the lot far behind on our wine scoring sheets. Watch the slideshow to see the rankings from 8th place to 1st place.

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About the Pontificis

As near as I can determine, the 2014 Pontificis is bottled exclusively for Trader Joe’s. The Pontificis is a blend of 40% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 27% Mourvèdre. The grapes are from the Languedoc wine region in Southern France. In 2013 we traveled to Languedoc and visited several wineries. We were impressed with the quality of the red blends and the price point. We dined at restaurants, paying about 10 Euros for fantastic-tasting wines. The Languedoc area has the most vineyard land in all of France. The wineries are small and owned by families and winemakers with a deep passion for making quality wines. The Languedoc is a sleeping giant in the world of wine. The back label indicates the Pontificis is produced by Badet Clément, a winery owned by two winemakers, Laurent and Catherine Delaunay.  Their focus is on wines from the Languedoc, Burgundy, and the Rhone. The Pontificis is a worthy food wine. It is moderate in style with plenty of complex flavors of dark fruit and slightly spicy flavors. The Pontificis is an excellent price-to-quality wine. The Pontificis is a favorite of Vintage Wine Taster Ray. Ray previously review the Pontificis in May of 2016.

Back label Pontificis

Back label – Pontificis

About GSM wines from the Central Coast

Paso Robles and the Central Coast produce many GSM blends. Why: The Paso Robles winery, Tablas Creek, has a nursery which grows stocks of Rhone varieties. The principal owner, Robert Hass, has a partnership with the Perrin Family and Chateau de Beaucastel in the Southern Rhone. He founded Tablas Creek in 1989. He selected  Paso Robles after searching California for a soil and climate region similar to that of the Southern Rhone. Today, Paso Robles is known for its quality Rhone-style wines both red and white. On an interesting note, the Vasco Urbano from the Central Coast was our third-place wine and is made exclusively for Costco. Vasco Urbano is a Livermore winery specializing in Rhone wines.  The Vasco Urbano was our number three wine. The Hahn GSM I purchased at K&L Wine for $12.99 but later found it at the Safeway for $9.99 at the six-pack price.  At the $9.99 price, Safeway Shoppers, it is a very nice wine bargain.

GSM wines in the blind tasting

The wines we tasted, where purchased, and ranked from top to bottom

  1. 2014 Pontificis – Languedoc Red – Trader Joe’s $6.99
    40% Grenache, Syrah 33%, 27% Mourvèdre
  2. 2015 Kirkland Signature Gigondas – Costco $14.99
    85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre
  3. 2015 Vasco Urbano Central Coast GSM – Costco $15.99
    50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre
    Made specifically for Costco by winemaker Collin Cranor
  4. 2015 Eberle Cotes Du Robles – Costco $18.99, Online $30
    54% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 6% Mourvèdre
    91 Points Wine Enthusiast
    88 Points Wine Spectator
  5. 2015 Hahn Central Coast GSM – K&L Wines $12.99, Safeway $9.99
    59% Grenache, Syrah 33%, 8% Mourvèdre
    Connoisseurs Guide – “Good value and one star”
    Double Gold – San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  6. 2015 Cave de Rasteau “Dame Victoria” Rasteau – KL Wines – $13.99
    70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre
    89 Points Wine Spectator
  7. 2014 Mas de Sainte Croix “Quintessence” Côtes-du-Rhône Villages – KL Wines $19.99
    34% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 33% Mourvèdre
  8. 2015 Domaine Cécile Chassagne Gigondas – KL Wines $19.99
    80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre
    92 Points Vinous



  1. I did find the Pontificis at my local TJ’s. It was on the bottom shelf, almost hidden from sight. I agree with the tasters, it is a very nice bottle of wine, especially for the price. I really appreciate Joe and the VWT’s efforts to find quality wines at a good prices. Keep up the good work (not that you really need the encouragement).

    • I also found the Pontificis on the bottom shelf at my TJ’s. I find that somewhat strange. Maybe the staff is hiding for themselves. Thanks for your comments.


  2. I recently went to a different TJ’s from the one I first found the Pontificis at. The Pontificis was (again) on the bottom shelf. Looking closer, next the Pontificis with the red foil top I saw bottles with a near identical label with a green foil top. It was in fact a different Pontificis wine, a 2016 white blend that lists the grapes as: Viognier-Roussanne-Marsanne. At the same $6.99 price I, of course, had to buy a bottle. I had the wine with a big bowl of turkey vegetable soup last night. Like the red, I found the Pontificis white to be a very enjoyable every day dinner wine. It is a pleasant change from the whites widely sold on the west coast. TJ’s is to be applauded for bringing good wines at every day prices to market. There is far too little of it.

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