Cellar No 8I have written more than 200 wines of the week over the last four years, and none has been a bigger surprise than this. Cellar No. 8 wines are about as ordinary as possible, the kind that defines grocery store wine. The reds all seem to taste the same, regardless of the varietal – lots of sweet fruit, some fake oak, and the kind of tannins that are there only if you pay careful attention.

And then there is the Eight ($10, sample), which is a stunner. This red blend, made with the usual suspects, is grocery store wine the way it should be. It has legitimate tannins and balanced acid and just enough red fruit – no cherry bomb here — to round everything out. Yes, it’s simple, but it’s clean and professional, and that’s what you want in a simple $10 wine (which is probably closer to $8 in many locations). Drink this slighlty chilled on its own or with barbecue and burgers, especially for Father’s Day.

Given this brand’s track record, I almost didn’t taste it. But I’m nothing if not stubborn, so I figured I’d have a glass and use the rest of the bottle for cooking. Stupid me. What’s the most important lesson in the wine reviewing? Taste the wine before you judge it.

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