Hot Wine Deal! 2005 Opolo Fusion

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Hot Wine Deals | 1 Comment

opolo_fusion_2005

We're all about value over here… sometimes that means buying cheap wine that will surprise you, sometimes that means buying mid-priced wine that tastes expensive, and sometimes (today will be one of those times) it means buying mid-priced, expensive-tasting wine so cheap you won't believe your eyes.

Have you met Opolo? I have! I've been to their winery and came home with a bottle of this stuff (among others). I liked Opolo so much I also went to a winemaker dinner here in town so I could have some more without the drive to Paso Robles!

Today, while scouring the web for great deals, I came across this one and said… BINGO! So if you like balanced, well-made California fruit-forward red wines you can have a bingo, too!

2005 Opolo Fusion (49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49% Syrah, 2% Petite Verdot) from Paso Robles.
Release price: $37.50. Sale price: $21.99. There's a “member-only” price, too.

Trust me, if you're thinking about this wine, register for an account so you can see the low low price they're offering to their registered shoppers.

GET IT HERE

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Women & Wine: A new perspective

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | Leave a comment
A lovely gathering of inspiring women

A lovely gathering of inspiring women

Every now and again we have experiences in life that either support or challenge our own unique point of view. Most experiences do neither and are therefore not particularly noteworthy. On March 22nd, Julie Brosterman of Women & Wine and Wine Valet hosted a get-together at her home to honor five women who are blazing trails in the wine industry. Aside from having a beautiful home and being a fantastic cook, Julie has an amazing set of friends and acquaintances… and I walked away with a new amendment to my point of view. Doing business with women is great… even when the relationship is predicated on fellow womanhood.

You know how we always talk about how men and women are different? And it always sounds like a cop-out for us not understanding each other? Well, it’s true. Women and men ARE different… in a good way. We learn different things from each other and it’s so important to remember that. Businesses, relationships, and even the way we make wine benefits from a well-rounded perspective that includes women and men.

I’m really trying to not make generalizations here (well, not more than usual at least), but after wading through a man-filled techie business world for so long, it was incredibly refreshing to discover the differences in the way women talk about their businesses. The passion level is the same, but the expression of that passion is rooted in more in the human part of the experience, the friendships, the struggles, the triumphs… and less in the numbers, the “success,” or the technical details.

Here’s what I learned from these women who kindly opened up their worlds to me, and 30-something other women, to share their passion for … wine!

Julie Brosterman, Women & Wine and Wine Valet
A venerable host and generous spirit

I’m so glad I finally got a chance to meet Julie Brosterman. I have a soft spot for women entrepreneurs (gee, I wonder why) and a personal connection to her store Wine Valet. Julie is an impressive social networker and plugged in to the wine world from multiple angles making her a fantastic connector (think The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell). But she’s also generous and talented, open and honest, and very very hard working. If you have a reason to do business with Julie, you should… if you just want to be part of a network of women who love wine, she’s got you covered there, too…

Karen Cakebread, Ziata Wines (Buy)
A brave one who thinks it’s worth trying

I love how Karen talks about her “project.” As if launching a winery, and all of the work that goes into it, could be encapsulated by such an ordinary word. What it reflects most is her humility considering what she has accomplished in what must be acknowledged as one of the most difficult climates ever in which to launch a new business.

Karen’s “project” is a lovely pair of wines that tasted as good when I had them in the giant, cold, clammy seaside Fort Mason Center in San Francisco as they did in the warm Hollywood home of Julie Brosterman. Karen demonstrates an impeccable taste level not just in her wines but in decisions including the naming of her winery after her mother and the commission of exquisite wine labels that perhaps only a print designer would go gaga over.

P.S. Yes, her last name is from that Cakebread. But she wanted to do something different and share her point of view with “friends, family, and other wine lovers.”

Cathy Corison, Corison Winery (Buy)
One who sees, and knows the importance of, the details

It takes someone with keen vision to recognize an idea within herself and bring that vision to life. After almost 30 years of making wine for others, Cathy transformed the “wine inside me that needed to be made” from an internal notion to an incredible wine. From the precise location of her vineyards, to the specific (down to the forest) source of her oak, to letting “the vineyards speak,” Cathy has found a way to give all of us something from inside her.

Each year Cathy crafts two Cabernet Sauvignons at her Rutherford winery in Napa Valley, California. She brought two of these to Julie’s soiree and one of them was such an incredible experience I sat down alone with it to savor it (and take notes).

My experience with the 2001 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon
(Note: I try not to use prose to describe the wines I drink because it’s nearly meaningless to anyone else, but this wine was special and I found myself unable to access the experience with out flowery language.)

Beautiful black pepper, purple and black fruits, smoky on the nose. Silky tannins, pleasant bite, graceful finish. Lively, deep Cabernet, roundness. Light minerality or chalkiness. Red fruit in the finish.

Julie Johnson, Tres Sabores Winery (Buy)
Loves her life, and it shows

It’s always interesting to meet someone who you already know a little about. Even more so when that person warmly opens up, exudes friendliness and happiness, and welcomes in new people with a big smile and joyous eyes. Or maybe Julie just likes a party!

Caution! Julie comes with show-and-tell props that can be mistaken for snacks! She brought a Ziploc sandwich baggy filled with the organic (of the carbon-based kind, not the Whole Foods kind, though it’s probably that, too) fertilizer they use at the vineyard. The stuff looks like trail mix but it’s kind of neat to think the vines can get their nutrients the same way we do. No, I didn’t taste it.

Related anecdote: Several months ago I purchased a bottle of wine for Arianna’s birthday and the wine shop I bought it from saw me buying an expensive (by my standards) Zinfandel so tried to sell me on others. Being a oeno-neophyte I had not yet heard of The Prisoner, but no amount of reputation conveyed to me by a salesperson is going to convince me to shell out that kind of cash. After a stern “that’s outside my price range” they suggested I try a wine they referred to as “The Little Prisoner.” This was Tres Sbores’ ¿POR QUÉ NO? I think the store is doing themselves a disservice by pushing The Prisoner (I found it ruined the expensive meaty meal I drank it with) and considering ¿POR QUÉ NO? to be similar.

Paula Kornell, Oakville Ranch (Buy)
Connected to the land

Paula was born and raised in the Napa Valley… an upbringing I’m more than a tad bit jealous of. From childhood she recognized the Napa Valley as an extraordinary place to be protected, revered, and enjoyed. She brings that love of the Napa Valley to her post at Oakville Ranch, where you can taste how the wines reflect the company’s dedication to “giving back to this land.” Paula is a warm and lovely woman who not only manages a fantastic winery, but also has a long history of charitable work for a variety of causes and does everything to support her love of life, community, and land. I can’t wait to visit her at the winery and see first hand where all the magic happens.

Kelly McElearney, Ehlers Estate Winery (Buy)
Dedicated to something bigger

In the days when too many wineries to count are competing for your taste buds and your wine budget, it’s getting harder to tell the difference between wines (and equally hard to remember the difference). Some wineries are offering us better reasons to buy their wines than just “it’s a Napa Valley Cab that got 91 points from The Wine Spectator.” Among them, Ehler Estate is a non-profit winery where 100% “of the proceeds from the sale of these wines go to support the Leducq Foundation, a highly regarded, not-for-profit foundation dedicated to funding international cardiovascular research.”

What’s even cooler about this winery is Kelly. Kelly comes from a well-known Napa wine family. You may have heard of them… the Duckhorns? Rather than take a leadership role in her family’s legacy, Kelly is putting her knowledge and passion to work supporting a winery with much larger goals. What’s not to love about that?

P.S. I think her Mom sounds pretty neat, too.

McManis: Valuable Friendships and Value-Priced Wine

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Comments Off on McManis: Valuable Friendships and Value-Priced Wine

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I'll be gaining a new title this year. With the addition of these extra letters, what I permanently lose is snowy Midwestern Christmases where I giddily stuff myself full of bacon, cheese and mayonnaise hors d'eouvres; the two-parent home in which I always believed my child would be raised; and a loud group of flawed-but-funny family members who fight a lot but love each other even more than they disagree. So there are a lot of changes happening, but I recently realized that there is a constant in there, too: A very important bond with my sister-in-law old friend.

Remaining close with one's ex-husband's sister is actually a lot easier than you might think. I like to credit similar artistic notions, temperaments, philosophies about life, the universe and everything…and a mutual deep appreciation for good wine. Oh – and being broke. I guess that's also important, because lately we've done a whole bunch of bonding over that, too. So what wine does a poor divorcee bring to her equally strapped sister-in-law, to be enjoyed as they might've, back when they were younger, fabulous and slightly more liquid? Turns out it's a 2008 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, for about $9.99 a bottle.

2008 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

The McManis – unlike certain aspects of a failed marriage and a bad economy – is very easy to swallow. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and a pinch of Petite Verdot, aged on new and used French and American Oak for 4-6 months. While not quite a fruit bomb, it is definitely a jammy Cabernet (take it or leave it). On the nose, it's all big, black fruit like fresh blackberry and stewed plum. I picked up chocolate on the nose, but on the palate that turned into vanilla and smoke. It's big and fruity through-and-through, so if California Cabs are your thing, this might be a worthwhile wine for you. Especially for the price, which is kept low because the fruit comes from Lodi, instead of one of the more expensive AVAs to the north.

As we all move through life, it's impossible to avoid the hailstorm of difficult decisions that leave us running for cover. People grow and change, circumstances shift, we often find ourselves finding ourselves due to some serious miscalculation of where we thought we'd be at a particular point in our lives. These things are hard. So I'm all for celebrating the easy decisions: Joy, bravery and love. Especially love. Love in whatever form you're lucky enough to find it, however long it lasts and wherever it takes you. Especially if the place it leads is crying with laughter over a cheap and delicious wine, with an ex-family member, who – despite no longer being related – feels more like a sister, now that we're “only” just friends.

A Really Rough Guide To Budget Bordeaux

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes, Great Wines Under $20, How to Buy Wine at Good Prices | 2 Comments

wine tastingSeveral weeks ago, I had the exquisite pleasure of attending the 2007 Union des Grand Cru des Bordeaux tasting in Los Angeles. For those who don’t speak French, “Union des Grand Cru des Bordeaux” translates, roughly, as “The Incredibly Fancy Wines From the French Region of Bordeaux. You Can’t Afford Them. Don’t Even Bother.” Look it up.

There were over one hundred wineries pouring at the event. Representatives stood behind low tables covered in white tablecloths, ice buckets, bottles and business cards. In the center of one portion of the cavernous conference room were lovely banquets of fresh fruit, colorful cheeses and a variety of crackers to absorb a bit of the booze. Separate tables supported shiny silver spittoons. Guests in subdued attire slowly wandered from table to table, shmoozing, sipping, smiling, spitting.

The room was divided according to the regions of Bordeaux:

Graves (Pessac-Leognan, Sauternes and Barsac); Medoc (Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Listrac-Medoc, Moulis-en-Medoc,

Bordeaux AOC

Bordeaux AOC

Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Saint-Estephe). For the purposes of this piece, I will not go into the history and importance of Bordeaux, because I cannot do the proper justice which many an expert has already done on the region, and I could not begin to match the authority of these historians.

I’ll simply provide some broad stokes.

Red Bordeaux (called Claret, in the UK), is the most widely produced wine type in this region (outnumbering white wine by about 10 to 1), and is generally made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. To round out the “Fab Five” of Bordeaux, Petit Verdot and Malbec are also permitted, although these are blended in less

frequently. While Carmenere is also authorized, this varietal is now difficult – if not impossible – to find in the area, since replanting never quite took hold after the Phylloxera epidemic of 1867.

As a very broad generalization, Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux’s second-most planted grape variety) dominates the blend in red wines produced in the Médoc and the rest of the left bank of the Gironde estuary. Typical top-quality Chateaux blends are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot. This is typically referred to as the “Bordeaux Blend.” Merlot (Bordeaux’s most-planted grape variety) and to a lesser extent Cabernet Franc (third most planted variety) tend to predominate in Saint Emilion, Pomerol and the other right bank appellations. These Right Bank blends from top-quality Chateaux are typically 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon (Oz Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes p. 129 Harcourt Books 2001 ISBN 0151007144)

Second in production is white Bordeaux, which is grown only in Graves and is mostly (exclusively, in the case of the sweet Sauternes), made from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, with neither varietal making up more than ninety percent of the blend. Typical blends are usually 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Muscadelle is sometimes included, as well, to round out the flavor of the wine, although rarely – if ever – playing a predominant role. On occasion, one can find small amounts of Colombard and Ugni Blanc mixed in, as well.

For me, the greatest thing about the Union des Grand Cru des Bordeaux tasting was the discovery of amazing Bordeaux whites – specifically from the Pessac-Leognan region. Each region in Bordeaux has its own terrior and as a result, the flavor profile of each wine differs noticeably from one parish to another. While I found most of the Bordeaux Blanc to be pretty special, it was the Pessac-Leognan whites that really took my breath away: Pure peachy-grapefruit refreshment. Silky smooth. Perfectly balanced (I mean perfectly). I cannot overstate how enamored I am of these velvety wines.

But while far, far below the sky-high prices of their darker brethren, bottles of white Bordeaux do not come cheap. What’s a value-minded vino-holic to do?

Luckily, there are several options:

  1. Don’t buy Grand Cru: Right after the Bordeaux tasting, I dove into research and trips to local wine shops, trying to recreate the magic of what I had sampled in that large conference room – minus the hefty price tag.
    Chateau Loudenne Blanc

    Chateau Loudenne Blanc

    What I eventually found was a 2006 Chateau Loudenne. While not from one of the premier Chateaux, this wine is so incredibly delicious that the sommelier at a recent celebratory dinner stopped to comment on our choice to bring it to the restaurant. He did this several times. And then helped himself to a small pour. With a nose of sweet almonds and a soft, velvety mouthfeel rich with grapefruit and lanolin, who needs to spend Grand Cru prices to experience a similar level of deliciousness? Especially when this beautiful bottle cost me only $20. Maybe $21. Let me say that one more time: Even the sommelier at a restaurant with 2 Michelin Stars stopped to praise this “value” wine. It really was remarkable, especially when you consider that bottles from up the road in this region run $80+. I can’t recommend the Chateau Loudenne more highly, but there are plenty of incredible Bordeaux wines out there that are selling for a comparative song, simply because they lack that coveted First, Second or Third Growth status. But if “Cru” matters to you, remember that there is a significant price difference between First and Second Growth (Premiers or 1er and Seconds or Deuxiemes Cru Classe), Second and Third Growth (Troisiemes), Third and Fourth Growth (Quatriemes), and Fourth and Fifth Growth (Cinquiemes). The cost plummets even more precipitously when you go from Fifth Growth down to Cru Bourgeois – which is the class from which the Loudenne comes – although the Cru Bourgeois designation was officially done away with in 2007. Any value vinophile worth his or her salt should simply find the wines classified Cru Bourgeois before ’07 and hunt these bad boys down*. You know you’ll be getting an absolutely incredible value for the money. But one shouldn’t place too much emphasis on growth classification; just because a wine is Second, Third, Fourth, Bourgeois, etc., does not mean it’s far inferior to Premier – especially as the quality of some of the First and Second Growths waxes and wanes over the years.

  2. Don’t buy chateau-bottled Bordeaux: While there is very concentrated hoopla over several important Chateaux in the region, wine making in Bordeaux is not confined merely to grand properties where they grow and ferment their own. Like almost everywhere else in the world, Bordeaux also produces wines blended from several different properties – sometimes even the fancy ones – although you’d be hard-pressed to find this information on the label. This practice is actually borne of the age-old négociant (“merchant”) system – identical to the system that produces Cameron Hughes and Layer Cake Wines in the US. Winemakers source what they feel is some of the best fruit in the area and mix it to create their own special blend.
  3. Don’t buy “Bordeaux”: Instead, opt for the lesser-known appellations in the region, which are producing solid stuff at a fraction of what the classic parishes pull in. Look for appellations like Premières Côtes de Blaye, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes de Francs, Côtes de Castillon, Cadillac, Côtes de Bourg, Fronsac and Montagne-St-Emilion. These are some of the “new” appellations, but they are all within the Bordeaux AOC. For potentially even bigger bargains, look for “Bordeaux blends” in regions entirely outside of Bordeaux – Like Loire, for example. Wines produced in other AOCs will not taste the same as the identical blend from Bordeaux, but there will be a similar and recognizable flavor profile you might really enjoy.
  4. Meet Meritage: The blends that produce Meritage are the classic Bordeaux mixtures, in varying proportions – made in America.
    meritage_assoc

    The Meritage Association

From the website:

Meritage wines are provocative red or white wines crafted solely from specific “noble” Bordeaux grape varieties and are considered to be the very best wines of the vintage.

Meritage, pronounced like heritage, first appeared in the late 1980s after a group of American vintners joined forces to create a name for New World wines blended in the tradition of Bordeaux. The word was selected from more than 6,000 entries in an international contest. Meritage combines “merit,” reflecting the quality of the grapes, with “heritage,” which recognizes the centuries-old tradition of blending, long considered to be the highest form of the winemaker’s art.

While many bottles may contain the Bordeaux blend, only those that belong to the Meritage Alliance can use the name on the label. The Good: It’s generally really good wine at non-Bordeaux prices (although this doesn’t mean they’re necessarily value priced). The Bad: It isn’t true Bordeaux.

One final note: Good wine – whether it’s from Bordeaux or anywhere else in the world – is the wine that tastes good to you. I’ve spoken to several industry veterans who have had the good fortune of experiencing several of the most renowned and celebrated wines on the planet. In each case, these experts remembered some of the wines as being perfect and lovely and delicious and incredible…and some of them tasting like…well…crap. Undrinkable. They poured their – otherwise perfect – glasses down the sink. I spoke to one man who said he went to a special winery dinner where, unbeknown to the head sommelier, they switched the bottle of the 3- or 4-figure wine of the evening with a bottle of Charles Shaw. The sommelier’s reaction was tepid: He thought it was a pretty decent bottle of Two-Buck Chuck and that the “exceptional” wine was quite a disappointment.

My point is this: Bordeaux is known for producing some truly special wines – for people who like to drink Bordeaux. There are no points given for paying top dollar for something you don’t want to drink. A region or a designation only makes the wine better in the way that a designer label improves a pair of jeans: Perhaps it’s an indication of quality or a certain cut or style, but there are a lot of other factors that determine the right fit.

Have fun, try a bunch of stuff, and buy what suits you. Maybe that’s Chateau Lafite-Rothchild, or maybe it’s something with a pretty label and a small price tag you buy from Trader Joe’s. In the end, you are your own expert, and only you can determine what you like to drink and how much you’re willing to pay for it.

* Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels:

Exceptional AND value-priced, too

Exceptional AND value-priced, too

Château Chasse-Spleen (Moulis-en-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc)

Château Haut-Marbuzet (Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Estèphe)
Château Labegorce Zédé (Soussans, Margaux)
Château Ormes-de-Pez (Les) (Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Estèphe)
Château Pez (de) (Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Estèphe)
Château Phélan Ségur (Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Estèphe)
Château Potensac (Ordonnac, Médoc)
Château Poujeaux (Moulis-en-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc)
Château Siran (Labarde, Margaux)

Getting Better at Blind Tastings

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | 5 Comments

I’m going to let you in on a deep, dark secret – one that has been burning inside the most hidden recesses of my soul: I can’t identify different red wines, based on taste alone.

Yeah, I know. And sometimes I leave the dirty dishes in the sink overnight, too. Sue me.

But this secret bothers me and I have vowed to do better, so the other night I made a move to change my life. I drove over to BottleRock – Culver City, and told my-favorite-waiter-who-never-gives-me-discounts-even-when-I-flirt-like-a-crazy-girl, Byron, to line up some reds and let me puzzle through their mysteries. I also ordered a grilled cheese sandwich.

Cute little British Byron said he’d help me out and help me out he did! After disappearing for a few minutes, he returned to my table with four glasses containing two-ounce pours, and lined them up on a diagonal. Byron gave me instructions on the order in which to try each taste, and then bounced merrily away like some benevolent spirits pixie, tending to the thirsty masses.

Out came my notebook and down the hatch went the first wine.

The strong blast of alcohol heat clued me in that what I was drinking was young. The nose contained lots of delicious

Taste test

Taste test

plum and raspberry and cherry. It tasted of rich, ripe red fruit but felt a little oily. It had a medium body and a short finish. I thought it was a Cabernet.

My next taste smelled like a combination of dill, fennel and cherry – but was very pleasant, despite the somewhat odd-sounding mix. On the palate this wine was floral and herbaceous and really lovely, with definite strawberry notes and high – but not overwhelming – acid. It was a little thin, but ended up being my second-favorite pour. I noted that this wine was probably a Shiraz.

Wine number three was big and jammy. It smelled and tasted like cough syrup, but not in a super sweet way. Again, I picked up some dill on the nose, but on the palate it was mostly cherry. This pour was huge and hot, but contained smooth tannins. “I’m picking up tannins,” thought I, “so this is probably a Cab!” I decided I had been wrong about the first wine and crossed the varietal off my notes. I told you I have no idea what I’m doing.

The final pour had a nose of plum, a little hay and a bit of petrol, so when I tasted it, I was incredibly surprised at how smooth and delicious it was. This wine was massive, with a silky mouthfeel and flavors of delicious plum. It was a little hot, but all of these wines seemed to need age or decanting. This was another favorite. I decided it was a Pinot Noir, because I like making stuff up.

Wine consumed, sandwich finished, Bryan sprang back to my table and took a look at my notes. To his credit, he didn’t laugh at me at all – not even once – which is why I love him, even though I always have to pay full price.

MacMurray Pinot Noir

MacMurray Pinot Noir

The first wine, the one jotted in my notes as Cab Sav (?) turned out to be Pinot Noir – a 2007 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir (about $17 per bottle) from the Central Coast of California, in fact. Duh. (Super delicious)

My second tasting was not a Shiraz, as I had thought, but a Zinfandel – a 2006 Puccioni Zin from the Dry Creek Valley, in Sonoma County, California ($28). I love Zinfandel; it’s one of my favorite varietals. And apparently I can’t tell a Zinfandel from a hole in the ground. Or from a Shiraz. Man, I’ve got some catching up to do.

Wine three – the one I so wisely guessed was a Cabernet based on the tannins – was a 2005 Robert Keenan Winery Merlot (about $35 per bottle). A big Merlot, mind you, but still not Cab.

Keenan Merlot

Keenan Merlot

Finally, wine four was a 2006 Josh Cellars Amber Knolls Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley (about $15 a bottle). If you know anything about wine, you know that Cabernet Sauvignon is not really the same as Pinot Noir. Oops.

So how did I get all of these wrong? More important, what should I remember for next time?

Let’s start with Pinot Noir:

Pinots tend to be lighter in body, but are often complex and aromatic. New World Pinot Noir is more fruit-driven than Old World Pinot Noir, but I find that this is – in general – a given for all New World vs Old World wines. Pinot also possesses a more earthy character, often containing notes of mushroom/truffle, smoke, spice, tea or floral perfume. I only picked up on the heavy fruit in my Pinot pour, which pinned this as a New World wine. In my defense, I did register its lighter body, too, but I didn’t sense a trace of earthiness. But maybe that’s my bad.

zinfandel

Zinfandel grapes

Zinfandel:

Because of the huge variation in alcohol from one Zin to another (anywhere from 13% to over 18%), this wine presents a very diverse flavor profile. The term “jammy” is pretty popular as a description, since Zinfandel tends to possess big, concentrated blackberry, boysenberry, raspberry and/or black cherry fruits. But often woven within the chewy flavors are hints of black pepper, clove, anise and herbs. The more alcohol, the bigger and more concentrated the Zin. These are the “monster Zinfandels” you may have heard about. However, these 16%+ alcohol heavy hitters lack balance and acidity, and therefore don’t pair well with food. In the taste that I tried at BottleRock, I detected some of the herbs in the wine. Also, this must have been a lower alcohol Zin because I didn’t get drunk found the pour to be thin and high in acid.

By contrast…

Shiraz/Syrah:

Syrah/Shiraz grapes

Syrah/Shiraz grapes

Are big, bold, bad (in a good way) motor scooters. Despite having two different names, these are actually the same grape. It’s also known as Hermitage, but that name is a protected French designation (like Champagne). Australian and South African producers call the wine Shiraz. If it comes from France, the United States, Argentina or Chile, it’s labeled Syrah.

These wines display firm, smooth tannins, and are medium-to full-bodied. Huge black cherry, blackberry and plum fruits are common, but so are more exotic notes of bell pepper, black pepper, spices, licorice, lavender, chocolate, vanilla bean, smoked meats and musk. If you remember, I found the wine I described as Shiraz to be herbaceous (not spicy) and thin. See where I went wrong?

Merlot grapes

Merlot grapes

Merlot:

Merlot can be soft and mellow or big and bold. Obviously, the tasting notes will be different, depending on the heft of the wine.

In general, Merlot presents with fruit-forward black fruits like blackberry and plum and blueberry. It can also contain cherry and currant. It is also common to pick up floral flavors and stronger notes like cocoa, black pepper, clove, caramel, bay leaf, green peppercorn, green olive or bell pepper. With a bigger Merlot, you might find yourself chewing through smoke, tar, coffee, leather, cedar or cigar box. Milder Merlot will be more floral, with toasty tastes of vanilla and coconut and sweet wood. It is also worth mentioning that, although usually on the softer side, Merlot can be tannic – especially bigger Merlot. This might be why I got my pour confused with Cab Sav.

Cabernet Sauvignon:

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes

“The noblest of all grapes,” “the king of red wine grapes,” the darling of collectors and connoisseurs, Cabernet Sauvignon contains the most tannins of any other wine – love it or hate it – which makes this the best wine around for aging. Cabs can present a similar set of flavors as Merlot, although Cab Sav is not as sweet and soft as Sideways-maligned Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon ranges from medium-to full-bodied and the tannins support all that plummy, berry fruit. Depending on the way it’s aged, Cabernet Sauvignon can also be rich, warm and spicy on the palate, with notes of vanilla or tobacco, warm spice and sometimes leather, toast or tar. Some fancy folks talk of pyrazine, which is a green pepper or sometimes asparagus-like flavor imparted from under-ripe grapes. This is not a wine fault, and is often attributed to growing influences.

The fact that I thought this pour was a Pinot is proof that I need to drink more.

Maybe I’ll do this with another blind tasting at BottleRock and a full glass of the MacMurray Pinot Noir to start.

La Finca Wines from Trader Joe’s

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Leave a comment
La Finca wines from Trader Joe's

La Finca wines from Trader Joe\’s

With Two-Buck Chuck heralded as the “everyman’s” wine I have become more open to the idea of deeply-discounted wines. To me, Two-Buck Chuck has always been a nice $6 wine for $2. Since I don’t drink $6 wine unless there isn’t any beer available, Two-Buck Chuck is just something other people talk about, not something I experience myself anymore.

But a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer fearlessly arrived in my mailbox and found its way onto my coffee table. While perusing it, I noticed some new wine they were promoting that goes by the name of La Finca and comes from Argentina. They sell these wines for $3.99 and it caught my attention. The following questions ran through my head, in roughly this order:

  1. If it’s $3.99 could it be twice as good as Two-Buck Chuck?
  2. If it’s $3.99 could it be like a nice wine that’s normally $12?
  3. If it’s $3.99 could it be any good?

By the time I’d arrived at the third question I’d reached the point of mini-obsession and I just had to know what they’d be like. So I marched myself right over to TJ’s and picked up a bottle each of the La Finca 2009 Malbec, La Finca 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the La Finca 2009 Chardonnay.

I’ve drinking a lot of Malbec in the last six months as I’m going to write a post about Malbec one of these days. Anyway, the general conclusion I’m drawing about Argentinian Malbec involves the difference between “regular” Malbec and “reserve” Malbec and the old addage “You get what you pay for.” Looking for one more notch in my Malbec bedpost, I dove right in as soon as I got home. And I was pleasantly surprised!

I found the La Finca 2009 Malbec to be very drinkable, very characteristic of Malbec from this region, and of pretty solid structure for a very young wine. Here is a little recap from twitter after I tweeted my usual “mini-review.”

grapesmart: Drinking 2009 La Finca Malbec from Trader Joe’s for $3.99. Was very skeptical–Chocolate nose, slightly acidic, low alcohol… kinda nice.
7:10 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck

happywineguy: @grapesmart so…is it a middle of the week wine or something good enough to pour for friends?
7:18 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart

grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy Depends on your friends. It’s acceptable for friends after the first bottle is gone. I have friends I could serve it to :)
7:26 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck

grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy That is, if you’re not embarrassed to serve a 2009 IN 2009 😉
7:29 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck

happywineguy: @grapesmart not at all. The Southern Hemisphere is a half year ahead of us on vintages. So a 2009 is not unacceptable. As a 2nd btl, ok.
7:32 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart

grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy Thanks for teaching me something new about vintages! I had never thought about Southern Hemisphere being 6-months ahead!
7:42 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck

happywineguy: @grapesmart awww, that’s what I do. :-)
7:43 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart

Some time later I opened the La Finca 2009 Chardonnay. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from an Argentinian Chardonnay, or a $3.99 Chardonnay for that matter. I have to tell you, I was absolutely blown away by this wine. It is better than 95% of the Chardonnays I’ve ever had, including all the ones that are over $30. My biggest concern was that since it doesn’t taste like a typical Chardonnay—or even an unoaked Chardonnay where you’ll (hopefully) find more of the Chardonnay grape showing off instead of the oak—that I was mistaken about how good it was. So, I called up Arianna (whom you may remember from such posts as: “I Don’t Read Playboy for the Articles“, “Wine and… Food? Please! Pairings“, and “An Oak Barrel-less Barrel of Fun“), had her come over, and gave her a blind taste. I told her absolutely nothing about what she was drinking and handed her a glass of chilled white wine. I found her analysis to be extremely curious considering what I’d poured.

Amazing balance, citrusy, apricot. Bright & crisp, no alcohol taste like you get in cheaper wines. I’d guess this is a Roussane or other white Rhone and that it’s at least $20. It tastes a little bit older, like a 2007.

This kind of wine is the reason this blog exists. We try everything and point you to great values. This kind of value is rare. If you like white wine go stock up on this Chardonnay, you’ll be glad you did. And if you’re not, I’ll buy the rest of yours off ya.

The story of La Finca comes to La Fin on a sadder note though… Last night I finally cracked the La Finca 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and I have to say… meh. Not only was there nothing extraordinary, there was nothing ordinary. Well maybe not nothing, because the underlying flavors were nice (cherry and blackberry I think), but I had to fight through minerality, alcohol taste, and that dreaded cheap-red-wine-toothiness to get to them and my taste buds were fatigued before I even finished the first swallow. I wonder if it sat in the bottle a while longer (maybe a year or two) if it would get better. I also wonder if it will be better tonight than it was last night (I’ll keep you posted if it is).

At any rate, the moral of the story is to drink lots of wine so you can figure out what you like and what you don’t like… and then buy lots of what you like when it goes on sale.

La Finca wines from Trader Joe\’sWith Two-Buck Chuck heralded as the “everyman’s” wine I have become more open to the idea of deeply-discounted wines. To me, Two-Buck Chuck has always been a nice $6 wine for $2. Since I don’t drink $6 wine unless there isn’t any beer available, Two-Buck Chuck is just something other people talk about, not something I experience myself anymore.
But a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer fearlessly arrived in my mailbox and found its way onto my coffee table. While perusing it, I noticed some new wine they were promoting that goes by the name of La Finca and comes from Argentina. They sell these wines for $3.99 and it caught my attention. The following questions ran through my head, in roughly this order:
If it’s $3.99 could it be twice as good as Two-Buck Chuck?
If it’s $3.99 could it be like a nice wine that’s normally $12?
If it’s $3.99 could it be any good?
By the time I’d arrived at the third question I’d reached the point of mini-obsession and I just had to know what they’d be like. So I marched myself right over to TJ’s and picked up a bottle each of the La Finca 2009 Malbec, La Finca 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the La Finca 2009 Chardonnay.
I’ve drinking a lot of Malbec in the last six months as I’m going to write a post about Malbec one of these days. Anyway, the general conclusion I’m drawing about Argentinian Malbec involves the difference between “regular” Malbec and “reserve” Malbec and the old addage “You get what you pay for.” Looking for one more notch in my Malbec bedpost, I dove right in as soon as I got home. And I was pleasantly surprised!
I found the La Finca 2009 Malbec to be very drinkable, very characteristic of Malbec from this region, and of pretty solid structure for a very young wine. Here is a little recap from twitter after I tweeted my usual “mini-review.”
grapesmart: Drinking 2009 La Finca Malbec from Trader Joe’s for $3.99. Was very skeptical–Chocolate nose, slightly acidic, low alcohol… kinda nice.
7:10 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck
happywineguy: @grapesmart so…is it a middle of the week wine or something good enough to pour for friends?
7:18 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart
grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy Depends on your friends. It’s acceptable for friends after the first bottle is gone. I have friends I could serve it to :)
7:26 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck
grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy That is, if you’re not embarrassed to serve a 2009 IN 2009 😉
7:29 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck
happywineguy: @grapesmart not at all. The Southern Hemisphere is a half year ahead of us on vintages. So a 2009 is not unacceptable. As a 2nd btl, ok.
7:32 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart
grapesmart: @HappyWineGuy Thanks for teaching me something new about vintages! I had never thought about Southern Hemisphere being 6-months ahead!
7:42 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck
happywineguy: @grapesmart awww, that’s what I do. :-)
7:43 PM Oct 19th from TweetDeck in reply to grapesmart
Some time later I opened the La Finca 2009 Chardonnay. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from an Argentinian Chardonnay, or a $3.99 Chardonnay for that matter. I have to tell you, I was absolutely blown away by this wine. It is better than 95% of the Chardonnays I’ve ever had, including all the ones that are over $30. My biggest concern was that since it doesn’t taste like a typical Chardonnay—or even an unoaked Chardonnay where you’ll (hopefully) find more of the Chardonnay grape showing off instead of the oak—that I was mistaken about how good it was. So, I called up Arianna (whom you may remember from such posts as: “I Don’t Read Playboy for the Articles”, “Wine and… Food? Please! Pairings”, and “An Oak Barrel-less Barrel of Fun”), had her come over, and gave her a blind taste. I told her absolutely nothing about what she was drinking and handed her a glass of chilled white wine. I found her analysis to be extremely curious considering what I’d poured.
Amazing balance, citrusy, apricot. Bright & crisp, no alcohol taste like you get in cheaper wines. I’d guess this is a Roussane or other white Rhone and that it’s at least $20. It tastes a little bit older, like a 2007.
This kind of wine is the reason this blog exists. We try everything and point you to great values. This kind of value is rare. If you like white wine go stock up on this Chardonnay, you’ll be glad you did. And if you’re not, I’ll buy the rest of yours off ya.
The story of La Finca comes to La Fin on a sadder note though… Last night I finally cracked the La Finca 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and I have to say… meh. Not only was there nothing extraordinary, there was nothing ordinary. Well maybe not nothing, because the underlying flavors were nice (cherry and blackberry I think), but I had to fight through minerality, alcohol taste, and that dreaded cheap-red-wine-toothiness to get to them and my taste buds were fatigued before I even finished the first swallow. I wonder if it sat in the bottle a while longer (maybe a year or two) if it would get better. I also wonder if it will be better tonight than it was last night (I’ll keep you posted if it is).
At any rate, the moral of the story is to drink lots of wine so you can figure out what you like and what you don’t like… and then buy lots of what you like when it goes on sale.

BevMo! Mega Tasting Notes!

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 4 Comments
The GrapeSmart gals and their pimp-for-the-day, Wilfred Wong

The GrapeSmart gals and their pimp-for-the-day, Wilfred Wong

BevMo!, a beverage superstore local to California and Arizona, recently opened its 100th store, and Jess, Mitch and I trekked all the way to Rolling Hills Estates to help them celebrate (see Bordeaux Wines That Won’t Break The Bank). The expansive wine, beer and spirits “mega-tasting” was probably an incentive…

Armed with vinoculture literature and a solid breakfast, we descended on the event – determined to taste as much as possible before passing out. Or until they closed up shop at 5pm. So we started at the most likely place: The ticket booth.

Our $15 tax-deductible entrance fee went straight to Boys and Girls Clubs of the South Bay, and gave us 10 tasting tickets. Jess and I looked at our notes, looked at each other and promptly decided to buy 10 more tickets to split between us. We were handed a reusable 6-bottle wine carrier, a commemorative BevMo! glass and a shiny new wine key, then headed into the fray.

Before I talk about our tastings, I thought I’d share some important bits of info we quickly learned about these types of events:

1) Don’t buy extra tickets in advance. At this tasting there were several wineries at each tasting station but only one ticket was requested per table. So one ticket could buy as many as 10 tastings, depending on who was crowding into the area. And by the time the place was packed, tables weren’t even taking tickets anymore. Go back and buy extras as needed, but don’t stock up in the beginning.

2) Wear a hat.

3) Come sober.

(The last one is probably a given, but I thought I’d throw it out there, just in case)

And now that that’s out of the way, here is a list of our favorite pours and the ones we would’ve preferred to pass up:

FAVORITES:

Silver is golden

Silver is golden

Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay 2007: This unwooded Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County and is aged in concrete tanks (which are made in Burgundy). It contains no malolactic fermentation and never touches oak. A beautiful light straw color in the glass, it has a lovely nose of grass, stone fruit (peaches, apples), and bright flavors of pineapple and citrus. It comes with a screw top!

Altocedro Reserva Malbec 2007: Rated as #47 of the “Top 100 Wines” in Wine Spectator, this Argentinian delight is a rich, dark purple in the glass, with a nose of grapes (!), oak, cherry and earthiness. On the palate it’s big and lush and oaky, with flavors of bright, dark fruit. This was definitely one of the stand-outs of the day. I should note, however, that it was only the Reserva that blew us away. The Ano Cero and Desnudos Malbecs didn’t do much to impress.

Rosenblum Rockpile Road Zinfandel 2006: This old clone Zinfandel is rich and robust and bursting with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, raspberry and vanilla. I’m already a big fan of Rosenblum’s more value-priced vinos, but this one really stands out and I think it’s worth the steeper price. Grown in Lake Sonoma in the upper Dry Creek Valley.

Trefethen Chardonnay 2006: Bright, light yellow in the glass, with aromas of pear, lemon and honeysuckle. Great balanced flavors of pear, lemon and vanilla. This is a nice, full, creamy white and has become one of our favorites in this price range.

Le yum!

Le yum!

Joseph Perrier Cuvee Josephine: Have you ever taken a sip of champagne that was so delicious it made you smile? The perfect amount of tiny bubbles tickling your tongue through the perfect balance of aroma and taste and mouth feel? Apple-y, citrus-y, peachy, vanilla and caramel deliciousness cascading over every tastebud and gracefully slipping down your throat? If you answered “no” to any of the above, than you need to find an occasion to try this remarkable champagne. Those French really know what they’re doing.

NOT-SO FAVORITES:

Roth Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: You know how we’ve said that Alexander Valley Cabernet is across-the-board delicious? Yeah…well…we can also admit when we’re wrong. This is a blend of 76% Cab Sav, 19% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. The color is 100% gorgeous. The nose is scrumptious chocolate cherry. The flavor is…well…bland. Slightly tannic. Unimpressive. And at $30 – $40 a bottle, I need more for my money.

Lancaster Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: Hailing from Healdsburg, California, Lancaster is a family-owned winery and was at the same tasting table as Roth. In the glass, this wine is gorgeous and dark, with a nose of cherry and coffee. Smooth, rich mouthfeel. Coffee flavors. Very tannic. Fussy. However, in their defense, I learned in my research that Wine Enthusiast doesn’t feel this wine will reach its full potential until 10 years of bottle aging. Currently between $55 – $70 per bottle, that’s the chance you’d have to take.

Zinfandon't

Zinfandon't

Renwood Grandmere Zinfandel 2006: Boy, I really wanted to like this wine. The owner was at the tasting. He was incredibly enthusiastic. His winery is “Green Friendly,” which is a term he coined to describe the beautiful environmental protections he practices in his business. The grapes for this Zin are grown in the “oldest known Zinfandel vineyards in America.” Honest-to-blog, I really, really wanted to like this wine. But I didn’t. The color was super light. The scent and taste were very strawberry. It was incredibly tannic. It wasn’t very good. In fact, I couldn’t even drink it. Maybe that makes me a bad person. I’m sorry. I tried.

Parcel Thirty-One Zinfandel 2007: The Wine Whore has an interest in the topic of why some varietals don’t work for him, but he just keeps tasting them anyway because you never know when your palate will change or you’ll find one you DO like. There are three wine-growing areas that I feel this way about… Monterey, Lodi, and Mendocino County. And this Zinfandel, from Victory, was yet another example of how the wines from those areas don’t work for me. This was thin and light (Zinfandels should have body and finish!) with no appreciable flavor qualities beyond “red wine.” {Sad face goes here}

To wrap up… Wine Tasting Events are fun! Bring a friend and come prepared. And don’t forget to take notes or you’ll forget EVERYTHING. Oh, and don’t go shopping at a wine store while you’re drunk… the next day Jess looked in the wine box and the following conversation ensued:

Jess: “I bought those?!”
Mitch:
“Is that a bad thing?”
Jess:
“No, actually, those are wines I either like or have wanted to try.”
Mitch: “I guess it’s a good thing that even when you’re drunk you know what you like!”


A Weekend Full of Great Wine & Friends

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | Comments Off on A Weekend Full of Great Wine & Friends

This past weekend my husband and I flitted off to San Diego to visit some friends and chill out. In addition to excellent company and excellent food, it was a fun wine weekend, too.

Wine #1: 2006 Beringer Napa Chardonnay

2005 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay

2005 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay

As a pre-dinner diversion, our friends Greg & Celine had us over for snacks and a glass of wine before heading out. They served us homemade dips (a delicious Greek yogurt dip with herbs in it and a yummy parmesan-artichoke dip) with pita chips and edamame. They served it to us with (and here's an adjective I never thought I'd use to describe a Beringer wine) Napa Valley Chardonnay. It was crisp, a little oaky, and had hints of green fruit. A well-structured, enjoyable white wine for $10-13 per bottle.

Wine #2: 2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Greg & Celine brought us to their friends' new restaurant in Del Mar, California called Zel's. The patio was lovely, the food (mine at least) was excellent, and the service was an adventure. Greg insisted that since I have a wine blog I needed to choose the wine for the table. Unusually, there was a choice to be made because Zel's has a great wine list and really great bottle prices on the wine. I asked around and everyone liked Cabernet, so I chose the Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. You've heard me say before that you can't go wrong with a Cab from Alexander Valley and this gem was no exception. A delicious Cab typical of Alexander Valley, it carried us gracefully through mussels & french fries, warm spinach salad, sea bass with mushroom risotto, steak, pork shoulder, and a serrano ham woodfired pizza. We happily ordered 2 bottles during dinner and not only would I go back to this restaurant (a rare compliment from me) I would buy this wine at twice it's normal price of $14-17 per bottle.

Wine #3: 2005 Clos du Bois North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast

2005 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast

In the afternoon, I took my friend Gary shopping at Walmart. There are so many parts of that sentence which sound strange to me, but the strangest of all is that I voluntarily went into a Walmart (stranger still I spent money while I was there… on wine!). While we were wandering the aisles, I discovered they sell wine. In fact, I picked up a couple bottles of the Bonterra Organic & Biodynamic Chardonnay for $6 which is a STEAL. While perusing the shelf I saw the 2005 Clos du Bois North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon and opted to pass. Boy was that dumb. Later that afternoon, while sitting around playing games and drinking (that's what Sunday afternoons are for, right?) we opened a bottle that Gary already had at his place… and it was better than I've come to expect from Clos du Bois which can be SO hit-or-miss. (Example: I love their Pinot Grigio but hate their Pinot Noir.) This Cabernet was not of the same exceptional quality as the one from the night before, but nonetheless, when you're looking for value in your limited wine budget, this wine will make you think you spent more than you did for your $12-15 per bottle.

Wine #4: 2006 Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros

2006 Domain Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros

2006 Domain Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros

When we made it to our final dinner of the weekend, we were ready to keep the good times rolling, so we ordered another bottle of wine. Well, I guess we technically ordered two bottles of wine. The first one was a Zolo Malbec… a wine I love! Or thought I did. I in fact love the Zolo Gaucho Select Malbec which I bought at BevMo! (which is, near as I can tell, a Reserve wine). They also bottle a lesser-version of it without the Gaucho Select, and I can tell you it's not as good as the Gaucho Select. So, I sent it back. Instead we ordered the 2006 Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir Carneros because Mitch loves Pinot and we were all eating dinners that would go nicely with a Pinot. Lately I've felt like every Pinot Noir I taste is overwhelmingly cherry or tastes like water even though it looks like wine. Finally that streak has been broken but I don't have a new Pinot to add to my shopping list when I want a wine in the $20-25 range because I don't think it was worth that much. More like $15-18 per bottle.

Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon – From Costco… Really!

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
We love Alexander Valley Cabs at a great price!

We love Alexander Valley Cabs at a great price!

So, I recently wrote about my last trip to Costco, which accidentally ended up including buying more wine. No, no one is shocked by this. My impulse purchases are no longer clothing, shoes, and jewelry–they're now wine, gourmet food stuffs, and more wine. I restocked on the Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon (because the label says it's from Alexander Valley) and I didn't recall NOT liking it. Couldn't really remember specifically liking it or anything, but cheap wine I don't dislike is grounds for a closer inspection.

And inspect I did! I read the back of the label this time, seeing as when I opened the bottle and smelled the cork it was lovely. Just what I like in

my Cabernet's… a hint of red fruit, some blueberries, and something I can only describe as purple. Maybe someday I'll have the flavor word for purple, but for now, purple will have to do. It's good I inspected the label because it SAYS Cabernet Sauvignon on the front, but when I turn her around, I find it out she's all slutty (in a good way of course). From the back of the label,

“Alexander Valley's gravel and  loam soils create dense, dark blackberry fruit with a sweet hint of wild cherries. 20 months in American oak barrels add toasted spice layers, vanilla, and cinnamon. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Petite Sirah and Merlot create a complex mid-palate of black cherry and currant. The long finish shows depth and concentration with lifting acidity. Drink now through 2012.”

Sometimes Costco does buy good wine!

Sometimes Costco does buy good wine!

Yeah, what they said. Exactly. But can you believe how many different grapes are in there? It's like that six-hour spaghetti & meat-sauce I made last weekend that had really complicated flavor profiles in the sauce because of the six million ingredients (six-hours is not an exaggeration… six million may be a little).

Moral of the story: PromisQuous Red could have been MUCH better if it were more about winemaking and less about marketing… and I have to go buy more of the 2006 Kirkland Signature Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Costco!

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The Costco Cabernet Saga Continues

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Label

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Label

One of the best ways to get value in wine is to buy it on sale. Even more value happens when a big retailer buys so much of it they got it at a great price, which they pass onto you, and then they add coupons to it! For this reason, I pay special attention to Costco Wine Coupon Sale time… which, coincidentally happened last week.

This time, I restocked on the Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec, the Kirkland brand Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, and the J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon. I also tried an experiment from the sale wines because the price seemed right for experimenting… $10.49 with coupon. It was the Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

I ate it with a spaghetti & meat sauce recipe that I spent all day cooking (six hours, to be precise) figuring it would pair nicely with a hearty meaty dish. It left me flat. It wasn't bad, but it was tannic and very very dry… too dry… and I usually prefer very dry wines. Then again, so was the food. Well, not tannic, but dry. I'll blame the chef for that.