Sunday, October 1, 2017

Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged Pinot Noir 2015 Monterrey County, Napa County, Sonoma County

I was in Total Wine and More recently with a specific list of wines to buy using a coupon before it expired.  It was Friday and beside the usual tasting table, a winery representative was pouring samples of Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged red wines.  I tried each of them and was particularly impressed with the tri-county Pinot Noir.

Country music star Zac Brown is well known as a foodie and wine fan and he has now teamed with Delicato Family Wines to produce Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged wines.  Zac is involved in the entire process from label design to blending of the fermented grapes.

This wine is sourced from three great Pinot Noir regions - Monterrey County, Napa County and Sonoma County.  The batches of grapes are aged separately in French and American oak then blended and bottled.  The wine has a hefty 14.5% alcohol.

When I first tasted the wine in the store, I noted that there was something different than I usually taste in Pinot Noir.  The tasting sample size was so small that I could not decide what was different.  Drinking this at home, I noted black cherry fruit paired with caramel, vanilla and toasty oak and I do not usually taste those in Pinot.  This is truly an unexpected pleasure.

Total Wine sells this for $11.99 which is less than other retailers online and with my 15% off coupon, I paid $10.19.  I know I will buy more!

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2016

Chenin Blanc grapes originate in the Loire Valley in north central France and Viognier grapes originate in the Rhone Valley of southern France.  Therefore you will never find the two grapes blended together in a bottle of French wine.  In the new world, we are not bound by the same traditions and regulations and in the early 1990's, Pine Ridge Vineyards experimented with the unusual combination and created one of the most popular wines.  There are now other wineries combining these two grapes but Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier remains the most popular and highest rated version.  Robert Parker has rated previous releases of this wine at 90 points.

The 2016 Chenin Blanc + Viognier is a blend of 80% Chenin Blanc from the Clarksburg region of California and 20% Viognier from Lodi California.  The wine is aged without oak to create a crisp, vibrant wine with 12.5% alcohol.

I tasted melon, pineapple, peach and minerality in this wine.  I also sensed a little fizz on my tongue.  You can drink this wine without food but I think it would be a great pairing for spicy Thai food.  We really enjoyed this wine and plan to include it in our upcoming wine seminar and tasting for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman University.  Total Wines sells this for $12.49 and using a 15% off coupon, I paid $10.63.

SC Wine Joe does not assign a numerical rating to white wines.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone Villages 2016

Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone is back at Costco.  Because I always like this wine, I have written about several previous vintages on this blog.  In the past I have written about the Cotes du Rhone region, about the winemaker Patrick Lesec, and about the meaning of the villages classification of a cotes du Rhone wine.  Those posts are available in the blog archives on this page.  I write today, not to relay new information as much as to alert you that the wine is back at Costco.

This wine is again a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre and it has 14% alcohol.  There are ripe fruit flavors and oak that does not overpower the fruit.

This is one of the most consistently good wines at Costco and it is the benchmark I use to judge all other Cotes du Rhone wines.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2016

Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is located within Monterrey County.  The vineyards are on terraces in the Santa Lucia Mountains above the Salinas River Valley where cool morning fog and breezes from Monterrey Bay are followed by warm afternoons.  This creates a climate that is well suited to growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.

Trader Joe's Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands is a very dark purple-black color.  Flavors noted are cherry, black cherry, raspberry and cola.  There are dusty tannins finishing with a lot of oak.  The wine has 14.5% alcohol.

I found this to be a great Pinot Noir starting with rich fruit and finishing with a little bite, making it suitable for pairing with a variety of foods from grilled chicken to prime rib.  It is one of the best Pinot Noirs that I have tried this year.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Friday, September 8, 2017

Kirkland Signature Ribera Del Duero Gran Reserva 2011

Costco has been adding a few old world wines to the Kirkland Signature label.  I recently found the Kirkland Signature Ribera Del Duerro Gran Reserve 2011 and quickly added it to my haul. 

Ribera Del Duero actually means "banks of the Duero" and the region is in a plateau in northern Spain along the Duero River.  This region, which is subject to very hot summers and very cold, dry winters, is noted for Tempranillo grapes, also locally known as Tinto Fino.   Along with the soil conditions, the weather stresses the grapevines, but the surviving grapes produce wonderful wine.  The juice from the Tempranillo grapes is often blended with lesser amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec to achieve the winemakers desired flavor.

Ribera Del Duero wines are rated as Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva to designate the levels of aging.  This Kirkland Signature Ribero Del Duero is labeled as a Gran Reserva, the highest rating, which signifies that it must be aged a minimum of 5 years, with at least 2 years being aged in oak.  In fact, the Kirkland Signature wine, which is 100% Tempranillo, was aged in French oak for the first 13 months, then transferred to American oak for 25 months, then bottled and aged for an additional 24 months.  It is not surprising that the wine reaches 14.5% alcohol after that aging process.

This is a very serious wine.  It is a smooth, elegant wine with flavors of rich dark fruit and chocolate, finishing with dusty tannins.  You will want to relish every sip.  This wine deserves to be paired with a well marbled steak.  With all the aging and care taken to produce this wine, you would expect to pay far more than Costco's price of $12.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 92 points

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva 2012

Lidl has brought some of it's most popular wines sold in Europe to the US.  Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva is one such wine.  You can find numerous articles and blogs online that mention this wine.  One newspaper article from London names Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva as one of the 10 "must buys" at Lidl.

With a price of $6.99 for a 5 year old Rioja Reserva, the attraction to this wine is obvious.  Some of the European reviewers describe the taste as strawberry and vanilla oak.  I had to swirl the wine in my mouth for quite a while to detect anything that could be strawberry, but there is ample oak leaving my mouth feeling dry at the finish.  Prior to dinner, I would have preferred more fruit and less oak.   With dinner, I appreciated the wine more than earlier.

I think this wine is a very good value but not the best Rioja you can buy.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon California 2015

Costco has had Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon in the store for several weeks and I have had it in my wine fridge for almost as long.  I have been trying new whites to accompany a lot of seafood, as well as exploring some wines from Lidl and I just never got around to opening this wine.  While I was neglecting red wines from Costco, I knew that there were other blogs reviewing those wines and I did not want to repeat what was being said elsewhere.

I was not enthusiastic about this wine when I bought it since it was a California wine rather than one from a more narrowly defined AVA renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon, such as Napa Valley.   I later learned that the grapes are from Paso Robles, San Lucas (Monterrey) and Lodi aged for 9 months in American Oak.  

When I finally opened the bottle, I found this wine to have intense bold flavors of dark berries, plum and cola and I was pleasantly surprised about the quality.  Wine Enthusiast rates the wine at 91 points and I have no reason to disagree!

Costco is selling this wine for only $11.99 and that is a great deal, but here is where I will tell you something you will not read on the other blogs.  Total Wines also sells this wine for $11.99 and if you have the right coupon, you can buy it for 10%-15%  less than at Costco.  You  must have a coupon that is not limited to only "winery direct" wines.  The coupon that I recently received by e-mail would take 15% off of any wine that does not have a price ending in "7", so I can buy this wine for $10.19.
I strongly recommend this wine.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points