Jul 19, 2007

Three Thieves Digs Mac 'n' Cheese

Well, it seems as though I've been wrong all along: people actually like reading product reviews. Since I keep getting comments from folks who wonder why I don't write more of them, I've decided to throw up my hands, open wide, and toss back a drink or two—all in the name of providing my loyal readership with the valuable information you need to buy yourself some booze. Just one caveat: I don't give a hang about scores or reputations. Make that two caveats: I make no bones about the fact that I am one person with my own personal proclivities, however endearing or asinine they may be.

Those proclivities happen to include a fixation with both package design and mac 'n' cheese. The depth of this fixation was made abundantly clear to me the other night as I continued my pursuit of the elusive perfect homemade mac 'n' cheese recipe. As any good chef knows, the first step of any recipe is "pour yourself a glass of [insert adult beverage of choice here]."

Three Thieves 2006 Pinot Grigio wine review on Bar StoriesTypically, I drink beer when I cook. But when I opened the fridge on this round, I was reminded that I had a box of wine that had been sitting there for a couple of weeks, waiting for that perfect moment when boxed wine would be an appropriate drink of choice (see how I brought it back to package design and mac 'n' cheese? I'm killer at that kind of thing).

If you're scoffing at the fact that I had boxed wine in my fridge, back off. Just look at this screaming green package and tell me you'd pass this up on the shelf. And I'm no dummy; I knew there was a decent chance that Three Thieves spent more effort on their marketing than they did on the wine inside the neat little box. And what a neat little box, indeed. It's technically known as a Tetrapak, and it's made by people who believe that "a package should save more than it costs" (and they mean both environmentally and financially). But Three Thieves has been known to produce some rather drinkable value wine.

So does the wine inside the box hold up to the niftyness of the package? Better yet, does it hold up to my latest incarnation of mac 'n' cheese? I'd purchased the 2006 Pinot Grigio and, on pouring it, caught a big whiff of tart green apple and citrus. That tartness carried through in the flavor—Pinot Grigio is typically fairly acidic and fruity, for those of you who aren't big winos. This was a good thing, because after ten minutes of whisking my Bechamel sauce over the hot stove, I was...hot...and the Three Thieves were kind enough to cool me down a little. (By the way, the secret to my mac 'n' cheese—aside from the ever-changing combo of cheeses—is Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale and Honey Spice Mustard. Oh my god, this stuff is incredible.)

Bar Stories' mac 'n' cheeseBy the time I got halfway through the second glass, the mac 'n' cheese was out of the oven and ready to eat (turns out, adding Gouda is a good thing). Again, the crispness of the wine was great with the creaminess of the dish, but in all fairness there really wasn't a whole lot else to it. I have to wonder if some of this is the nature of value wine: Three Thieves, like many value labels, basically buys overrun juice lots and blends them together until they get what they like. Is there something about a winemaker having a direct hand in the grape growing that inevitably makes a wine better? This particular batch didn't undergo a secondary malolactic fermentation and I was surprised to find I would have liked a little more creaminess to it. The dryness was nicely balanced, though, by the fruit (which gave it just a touch of sweetness without being cloying).

That said, for $7 a liter I was pleasantly surprised. Turns out the Thieves do know what they're doing. Putting a decent wine inside great—and ecologically responsible—packaging does good things for the value wine market. And even better things for my mac 'n' cheese.

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