Yes, I do love California. And I love wine, the Vinodogs, chocolate, England, Ben & Jerry's Pistachio Pistachio ice cream and, amongst other things, Tesco. So, you can imagine how excited I was when a local Fresh & Easy, Tesco's foray into the North American grocery business, recently opened a store in Napa. However, Fresh & Easy poses a bit of a conundrum for me. I'm not exactly disappointed in the store, but I am ever so slightly confused by it.
For starters, they don't carry many English food stuffs, not that I really expected them to. But, that's OK because I can get my Cadbury Flakes, McVitie's Hobnobs, and Bassetts Jelly Babies elsewhere. Fresh & Easy is described as a "neighbourhood market" - a one-stop convenience store that offers wholesome, freshly prepared meals for the perpetually time-strapped Californian consumer. It is in the very convenient offering of pre-marinated meat items and pre-chopped veggies where I think the problem lies for me. I cook 99.99% of my meals from scratch and when confronted with prepared food items I simply don't know what quite to make of them, literally. Bizarre, I know, but I tend to go about anything I do the long way! I'm not giving up on Fresh & Easy though, I have visited the store a few times now and I am determined to master their vision of grocery shopping. The prices are very reasonable, and that includes the above bottle of I Love California Pinot grigio, (specifically bottled for Fresh & Easy), which is priced at $3.99.
I am always amazed at how cheaply wine can be produced and bottled, (think Two Buck Chuck), especially when compared to say a premium winery like the one at which I am gainfully employed. With a bottling event coming up soon in Vinoland, Vinomaker has been busy sourcing bottles and corks. The most cost effective bottles he has found so far, Rhone style bottles for a Sonoma Syrah, cost $6.04 a case and come in plain white cardboard. The cheapest corks to be had, composite corks with a solid cork disc on either end, are priced at $74.00 per 1,000, but they are not the greatest quality - one probably really shouldn't use them on a wine intended for aging for an extended period. Then there's the cost of capsules, printed cases, labels, the initial cost of the grapes and barrels - and labour for approximately two years. The mind boggles that anyone could make a profit from a $3.99 wine sale. Is it simply a question of volume? I don't know.
But, how was the wine one might ask? It was actually OK, a little flabby maybe (my palate tends to favour wines with higher acidity), but it had plenty of fruit with quite obvious Pinto grigio characteristics. Surprisingly, it tasted better the next day. I think I just found my mum's summer wine.