Prison-Themed Wines: Slammer, Birdman, Unchained...

Big House Wines has a kitschy theme that defies wine marketing conventions.  Word is that they are so named due to the winery's proximity to Soledad State Correctional Facility.  Their wines all have cute names like The Slammer, The Birdman, Caridinal Zin, Usual Suspect, and so on.  Mystified as to why they've chosen imprisonment over water foul as their label concept?  Me, too. 

What's more is that their unoaked Chardonnay is called 'Unchained Naked Chardonnay', which, in the context of this particular theme, conjures images of intimidating guards hazing a new felon.  Personally, I might've opted for something less, well, suggestive, but I'm not a promotions expert.

Anyway, the concept doesn't seem to be keeping these guys down.  Their wines are virtually everywhere now, so putting your hands on them shouldn't be any harder than bumping into and end cap at your local supermarket.  But should you put your hands on these?  Read on, but my take on it is that there are "real" $10 wines (okay, maybe not stellar, but certainly respectable) that garner respect, without the shtick.

(Disclosure: These wines were received as press samples.)

We previously reviewed the Cardinal Zin, giving it 3.5 stars for improving "dramatically after a couple of hours."  And for being "right, friendly, and fruitier than Ricky Martin."

2010 Pinot Grigio California The Birdman
This is about as inoffensive, polite, and ready for the country club as you'll find.  For your Mom, that is.  Smooth, round body with none of the harsh acids that often accompany this variety.  At $10 (and $22 for a 3 liter box!) it's a no-brainer to stock up on for those book club gatherings - or for when your mother-in-law stops by unexpectedly.

2009 Syrah Central Coast The Slammer
Jamma-lamma-ding-dong.  Juciy fruit meets adult beverage in this unapologetically fruit forward rendition of Syrah.  Bordering on demi-sec, it somehow holds together through a cleaner than expected finish.  Available in a box - and it tastes like it, too.

All of these wines retail in bottle for $10 or less and are also available in handy 3L lush boxes.  You know, for when you're really, really thirsty.