First, let me send another thank you to the good folks at Folsom who sent along a few of the whites from the Big House line of wines for sampling. Big House is a value-priced line of wines from Underdog Wine & Spirits. Underdog also makes Cupcake, Fish Eye, flipflop, and Octavin wines. Big House’s winery is basically across the street from the Soledad State Correctional Facility in Mendocino County, California – thus creating the obvious inspiration for both the name of the wine and the nicknames of many of the individual varietals.
I received three bottles for sampling – their “most popular summer sippers,” according to winemaker “Warden” Georgetta Dane. So, without further adieu:
Big House White 2011 – This white is a “field blend” of 10 primary varietals, plus whatever else they have around at the time. The largest chunk of the wine’s composition is Viognier (about 27%), followed by Malvasia and Gruner Veltliner. With a backbone of Viognier, I wasn’t surprised to find the nose rather perfumey. You can’t miss the floral characteristics unless your sinuses are acting up. Flavorwise, I got melon & tropical fruit flavors with a little bit of sweetness from a little bit of residual sugar. The finish is fruity and a little fat. I thought it tasted like an inexpensive Viognier without the oiliness common to many of those wines. A decent enough summer quaffer if you’re looking for something that’s aromatic.
Big House 2011 “Unchained” Naked (Unoaked) Chardonnay – I’m not a big fan of many California chardonnays because they’re usually heavily oaked and buttery. Some winemakers have tried producing unoaked chardonnay with mixed results. The big drawback to many of these unoaked specimens is a lack of acidity. When I tried the Unchained, I was pleasantly surprised to discover some tartness. (Now, it’s not super-acidic, mind you.) Lemon and green apple were major flavors. The body had a decent amount of weight and the finish was reasonably crisp. I thought it was OK, but I wouldn’t classify it as one of my favorite bottles to just slug on. Steak tacos were on the menu for the evening, and I hoped there’d be enough oomph within to handle them. With the beef, greens, avocado, and onion – everything was fine. As soon as I dolloped some spicy salsa on there, game over. The capsaicin just ran the flavors over. Lesson learned – it’s a flexible enough food wine, as long as you aren’t eating spicy.
Big House “The Birdman” 2011 Pinot Grigio – Again, this pinot grigio wasn’t exactly what I expected. Many pinot grigios are either highly acidic or downright watery. Neither was the case here. I found this to be quite full-bodied for a pinot grigio – and I certainly wasn’t expecting one which had lemon flavors that sat on my tongue for any length of time. That lemon is crossed with a strong dose of tropical fruit, especially pineapple. The finish is much more fruity than crisp. If I weren’t paying much attention and was looking for a wine to slug on, it was decent. However, I like more crispness in my pinot grigio. This one just wasn’t my speed.
Big House also offers Big House Red, “The Usual Suspect” Cabernet Sauvignon, “Cardinal Zin” Zinfandel, “The Slammer” sweet Shiraz, and “Grü-V” Grüner Veltliner. Big House’s wines generally retail for around $10. Three liter “wine casks” are usually around $22.