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Bushwick, Open Studios and the Chuck

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the October 26th, 2006

thechuck1.jpgI didn’t really know when I would get around to this third installment of the Trader Joe’s experiment. After the first two I was all into taking a bit of a break from the Tj’s to search far and wide (in NYC) for more excellent value priced wines. I found some and will taste them after I write this post. The thing is, an opportunity arose for me to dive once more into the experiment and this time it was for the signature line: The Trader Joe’s “Two-Buck…” Oh, wait sorry…”Three-Buck Chuck.” My wife is an artist and her studio is located in the up-and-coming art community of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Off the Morgan Ave. stop on the L train there is a burgeoning art scene happening in the coolest way. Last weekend the three or four former factory buildings that make up this community held an “Open Studios” event where all the participating artists open the doors to their studios to display their talents. It was an amazing event and my wife had a great time with her studio mate entertaining guests and talking shop. I am not very knowledgeable about art but I do appreciate the craft and support the effort to expose unknown artists in a city where art can be very political. Local artists Unite! We had so much fun and I can’t wait until the spring when they have another one.
So every time we go to these kinds of events that are usually in a Brooklyn art space of some sort the wine served is usually bulk wine that is heavily on the cheap side. Of course it is. These are artists that struggle to pay their rent by juggling one or two jobs while trying to dedicate enough time to there passion in the studio. I always drink the wine. I am not a snob. I figure if these good people go out of their way to purchase wine for the masses it is only right to partake of their sacrifice. But I have always had this idea that a good wine to be served at these events would be the Chuck. Sure it’s the same price of some of these bulk wines that are usually available but maybe, just maybe the Chuck has one up on them and a new trend can surface.
When my wife put me in charge of providing her and Beth’s studio with wine I immediately had visions of this amazing international cheese plate with some sort of pate and various selections of fruit presented in a visually stunning fashion accompanied by amazing wine from south America and Italy so that people would have something nice to munch on while observing some beautiful artwork. I saw myself going to various cheese mongers and charcuteries searching for the good stuff and selecting reasonably priced wines to pair. And then I saw a theoretical bill rising and rising and began to realize why these events don’t go over the top. It should be about the art not the refreshments. Sure you should have something to snack on but the focus should be on those hard working artists that pour their souls out onto some sort of medium hoping it touches the small place in ones’ soul that makes them feel they need that piece In their gallery, apartment or business.
But I am a wine geek with a need for exploration. So I decided to journey into the world of the Chuck. As it turns out a case of any of the wines is only thirty-eight bucks. Not bad at all. The choices are: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz. I figured the event was going on for seven or eight hours and I wasn’t sure of the turn out. So I highballed it and we got two cases, one white and one red. I felt that of the three reds available the shiraz would be the most fun and have the best chance at being well done. Of the whites I figured the sauvignon blanc would do well because I didn’t have to worry too much about oak. They opened up at nine in the morning on a Saturday and my wife and I were there at ten to pick up our two cases of Three-Buck-Chuck and off we went in a cab to the “Open Studios” event.
I must say that when all was set up and ready to go it had just turned noon and I was eyeballing the wine. I was actually fidgeting with my wine key, the geek in me screaming to be surfaced. As always it doesn’t matter to me whether the wine has a good or a bad rap. I just want to try it and figure it out. So quarter after twelve I started poppin’ bottles. We hit the sauvignon first. Oh boy. I wish I could say that this wine was surprisingly good for the price (three bucks, mind you) and I hope this doesn’t sound too mean but your better off spending a little bit extra on an albarino or a New Zealand Sauvignon. It was pretty bad. It had little or no character and a weird cardboard taste. Not the corked wet-cardboard taste but fresh cardboard. There was just nothing going on. Wow, talk about mass production. It wasn’t only us either. At the end of the day we had more sauvignon left over than shiraz. We’ll probably just cook with it this fall. I’ll cook the flavor out of it. Hopefully.
Next the “shiraz.” The reason I put this in quotes and I probably should do so for the white is that even though all the Trader Joe’s labels have a varietals name on them they also all have this text below the Trader Joe’s name: “Trader Joe’s blend,” and I think I saw a vintage on the back of the bottle so they can’t be mixing vintages unless they know some loop hole in the AVA regulations. I guess their just getting grapes from multiple vineyards and just pumping the stuff out (like in Sideways where the scene opens on a tanker being filled with mass produced vino). Or it’s all some sort of marketing ploy trying to convince people not in the know that it is something more than what it is; playing on their naivety. I will have to do some research. Anyway, back to the point.
After my wife and I slung down some cups of the sauvignon blanc while talking to onlookers in the studio we just had to stop. This wine really was not good. We should have just bought the chardonnay so the oak would mask everything. Keep it as cold a possible and go with it man. So we took a bit of a break had some lunch and decided to brave the shiraz. Or what trader’s calls shiraz. Sure there was that fruitiness and the berries were struggling to be seen but no depth. Okay I know it was only three bucks but I am just exploring here. I have to approach every wine with an open mind and give each one some tasting notes (read my post on Iron wine). It was a bit watery and shy with some juiciness and a faint, far away, distant hint of spice. The thing is this wine is approachable and it’s not to bad for a really cheap wine to serve at an event if you’re short on cash. And you know what? People drank it. They actually slugged it down. It was a hit and I wonder if it was because it was free or if it actually had something going for it. Either way we still some left over and I don’t know what to do with it. I will probably cook with it just like the sauvignon.
My wife and I agreed that the next time she has one of these events (if there are any curators reading this I put her website link in the title of this post and you can find it also in the link section in the sidebar. Shameless plug, I know but I really think she does some cool stuff. And that is not just some biased statement. I truly love her stuff. If and when I ever have my own wine bar here in NYC she designing it) we will do some research and find some great South American wine, Spanish and Italian wine to provide. For the amount we paid for two cases of the Chuck we could have bought a case or more of decent wine from some wine discount store. Live and learn man. Live and learn.
What it comes down to though is that it was a great day for Bushwick artists. The turnout was great, there was a parade and a great after party with bands and people who were swallowing razor blades and breathing fire and just downright dancing naked. I can’t wait for the next one. The sense of community is quite strong and you can tell everyone is working together well to make this place happening. I also can’t wait to challenge myself with a new selection of wines. Maybe next time I’ll break down do the cheese thing.

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