By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Tony's aisles are loaded from ankle to waist with cases of wine of diverse variety and far-flung origin. Prices, however, seem to bounce consistently between $25 and $60, no matter the age or simplicity of the wine within. With the help of a Tony's salesman, we bought a case of wines--then assembled an expert tasting panel to evaluate our purchases. Our tasting party consisted of Diane Teitelbaum, a Dallas-based wine consultant and wine writer; Whit Meyers, vice president of food and beverage for Jeroboam and the Green Room restaurants; Susana Partida of Salute!, a wine broker; and myself.
With the exception of the 2001 Poppy Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (suggested retail $9.99, Tony's price $39.95, case discounted to $19.98) and the 2002 Château Les Anguillères Bordeaux (retail unknown; Tony's price $69.95), which the panel judged too harsh, the reds were fresh, simple and very drinkable.
Whites were more problematic. The best ones were crisp, very simple wines: the 2003 Salmon Creek Chardonnay (retails on the Web for $7.99; Tony's price $35.95, case discounted to $11.98); and the 2004 Andrew Peace Southeastern Australia Chardonnay (retails on the Web for $7;Tony's price $39.95, case discounted to $19.97). But the panel found that eight of the 12 whites tasted were either past their prime or in the throes of ruin and therefore undrinkable. A sampling, with our tasters' comments:
2000 Signus white BordeauxSuggested retail price unknown; Tony's price $49.95.
Whit Meyers: "Oxidized, maderized [brown with off flavors], undrinkable. If you
drank that for 50 bucks, you'd never buy another white Bordeaux."
1996 Chehalem Reserve Oregon Pinot Gris
Suggested retail price $19; Tony's price $34.95.
Meyers: "Pungent wet dog."
Susana Partida: "Don't put down dogs like that...cooked diesel. It's terrible for your brand...It's awful."
1995 Moonshine California Chardonnay
Suggested retail price unknown; Tony's price $29.
Meyers: "Burnt toast, burnt butterscotch."
Diane Teitelbaum: "Bitter, oxidized, old canned peach...too baked."
1997 Byington Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Suggested retail price $22; Tony's price $59.95.
Meyers: "It tastes like paint. Or varnish. It belongs in a hardware store. It tastes worse than mouthwash."
Partida: "That's a shame. That's a good wine normally."
1996 Château des Sarrins Cotes de Provence Rosé
Suggested retail price unknown; Tony's price $11.98.
Meyers: "Tastes like tamarind tea. It's done. It's bad."
1995 Reine Pédauque Les Rigaudes Cotes du Rhone
Suggested retail price unknown; Tony's price $35.95.
Teitelbaum: "Tanky, oxidized, finish is unpleasant, shows mold...Terrible."
We successfully exchanged the Château des Sarrins rosé and the Signus white Bordeaux for a salesman's recommendations of equivalent Tony's value: a 2001 Foppiano Pinot Noir (very good) and a 2000 Cordier Lauretan Blanc Bordeaux (badly oxidized and undrinkable). --Mark Stuertz