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Crane Lake Red Table Wine Nouveau 2009 California

I've been seeing Crane Lake wines at the local RiteAid for three or four months now, at the bargain price of two bottles for $7.00. I confess that, after a less than stellar experience with Charles Shaw, I turned up my nose. But when this interestingly honest label turned up at the local Bargain Grocery Outlet, well, for $3.99, I figured why not?

Crane Lake Winery is owned by Frank Franzia of Bronco Winery. Bronco is best known for Charles Shaw "Two Buck Chuck" wines. Bronco owns a number of other labels as well, many of which have been appearing at local Trader Joe's and Bargain

Grocery Outlets. Bronco, you may recall, is a bulk wine producer. They have their own vines, but principally, they buy excess wine from other wineries, blend, and bottle them, and put one of twenty or so labels on them. Crane Lake in particular has gone after the varietal table wine market, producing Moscato, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, and Zinfandel. I note as well that Crane Lake has imported Australian Chardonnay, in bulk, blended "finished" and bottled it here, slapped on a label featuring a koala, distributed it primarily via Trader Joe's—and received some startlingly good press from The Wall Street Journal, and wine bloggers alike—for a $3.00 to $4.00 bottle of wine.

I've written about Beaujolais Nouveau, and about how it was a celebratory drink-it-now sort of wine. While "Red Table Wine" doesn't map to Beaujolais, with or without the "Noveau" label this is very much that kind of wine. There's something delightful about a wine label that frankly declares itself so unabashedly as "Nouveau," and "Red Table Wine," with a 2009 date. It's a full, fruity, joyful sort of wine, young, but also fresh and quite quaffable (it is, in other words very much the sort of wine upon which you'd expect a "Nouveau" label). It's a lovely color, purple with pronounced ruby highlights in the light, and quite fresh and fruity on the nose. This is very much meant to enjoyed now, right now, with food and good friends and several bottles. According to the Web site, it's a blend of 58.31% Valdiguié, 23.25% Proprietor's Dry Red, 14.36% PS, 2.49% Cabernet Franc, and 1.59% Red Zinfandel. The ABV is 12.5%.

We'll be going back for another bottle, this one to share with friends on New Year's Eve, and, yes, I'll at least try one of the other Crane Lake Varietals. This is a budget wine at a bargain price (the retail price at $7.00 is still a good deal).