Saturday, December 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Napa Valley 2016

The second Platinum Reserve wine featured in Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer is the Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Napa Valley 2016.  Since this wine is from the same producer and from the same sub-AVA as the previously reviewed Platinum Reserve Meritage, you might expect them to be similar in quality.  However, there is a very important difference.  The grapes for the Meritage were harvested in 2013 and the grapes for this wine are from 2016.  That means that the wine was aged in oak for just a few months.  The Flyer says that the aging was in a 50/50 mix of one-year old French and American oak barrels but it is very unusual for a Cabernet Sauvignon from a prestigious region to be aged for this short length of time.

I like flavors of vanilla and smoke in Cabernet Sauvignon.  Those flavors come from the oak barrels and in this wine are so dominant that I did not adequately taste the fruit flavors.  The wine is just a little out of balance.  It is certainly a value to buy Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville , Napa Valley for $15 but this wine is not exceptional.  I would choose the Platinum Reserve Meritage every time over the Cabernet Sauvignon.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve Meritage Yountville Napa Valley 2013 Lot #82

Trader Joe's is currently selling three Platinum Reserve wines from Yountville, Napa Valley - Meritage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.  All are selling for the usual Platinum Reserve price of $14.99 and the current Fearless Flyer features the Meritage and the Cabernet Sauvignon.

From the label, we know that this Meritage is made from grapes picked four years ago in 2013 which was an outstanding vintage in Napa Valley for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.  We also know that the alcohol content is shown as an above average 14.9%.  We know that the Meritage is made from Bordeaux grapes but we do not know the blend.  (The Fearless Flyer mentions only Cabernet Franc and Merlot but I think that is not correct.  I am sure there is ample Cabernet Sauvignon in this wine.)

Yountville is in the southern portion of Napa Valley where the cool air and fog from San Pablo Bay begins to dissipate.  The milder temperatures lead to red wines with a softer profile than other portions of Napa Valley to the north and east.  The region has a patchwork of soil types leading to a variety of flavors.

This is a fantastic red blend wine.  I taste dark berries, plum, vanilla and earth on the palate with a finish of ample soft tannins.  When I find a wine this good for $15, I am thrilled.  I have already gone back to Trader Joe's for more.  I will follow up soon with a review of the Platinum Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville.

SC Wine Joe rating = 92 points

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Cecilia Beretta Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut 2016

We have been tasting several bottles of Prosecco from Costco, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods for a project I have been working on.  I limited our tasting to Prosecco costing less than $13 and found Cecilia Baretta Prosecco Superior at Trader Joe's to be above the others in taste and quality.

The designated Prosecco region of northern Italy includes nine provinces extending from Venice eastward to the border with Slovenia.  Wine from this region is primarily made with the Glera grape.  Most of the Prosecco from this region that is exported to the United States is sparkling wine and it has become a lower priced substitute for Champagne.

There are several interesting facts about the wine that can be learned from the front label.  Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore can only be made in the Treviso province of Veneto.  Brut is the designation for the driest Prosecco.

This is a dry, crisp and aromatic sparkling wine.  There is great flavor with notes of tropical fruit and the amount of carbonation is just right to enjoy with or without food.  The great thing is that it costs only $9.99 at Trader Joe's.  With the holidays approaching, this is a great choice to add to your celebrations.  I really like this sparkling wine.

SC Wine Joe does not assign numerical ratings to white wine

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Erath Pinot Noir Oregon 2015

Our Thanksgiving wine this year was Erath Pinot Noir Oregon 2015 which we purchased at Costco for $12.99.  Erath is one of the oldest Oregon wineries located in the Dundee Hills area.  Erath's Oregon Pinot Noir is their fruit forward wine meant for everyday drinking.  It is their most popular and least expensive Pinot Noir but they also produce a Wilhamette Valley Pinot as well as a number of single vineyard Pinots.

While this wine is definitely a fruit forward wine with flavors of cherry, raspberry and black cherry, it also has undertones of darker fruit and oak which pair well with a variety of foods.  I enjoyed this wine and believe it to be equal to some much more expensive wines.

SC Joe rating = 89 points

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Merlot Napa Valley 2016 Lot #79

Trader Joe's recently had a 2014 Grand Reserve Merlot from Oakville in Napa Valley which was terrific.  At some point, The Oakville Merlot sold out and was replaced on the same shelf space with this 2016 Napa Valley Merlot.  A buyer would need to be alert to recognize the change, but the 2016 Napa Valley Merlot is not equal to the Oakville Merlot.

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Merlot Napa Valley is a black cherry, blackberry flavored Merlot with moderate tannins.   On the first sip, the flavor is quite pleasant but as you continue drinking, you realize that there is no depth or complexity.  Since the grapes for this wine were only harvested about one year ago, the wine had limited aging and that may explain the problem.  The wine has 13.8% alcohol.

I recognized that that the wine I was buying was not the Oakville Merlot but I gave it a chance because it was a TJ Grand Reserve wine.  I think many readers will be disappointed with this wine and I do not plan to buy it again.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Monday, November 20, 2017

Balnaves of Coonawarra The Blend 2014

Lidl has a section of their wine department for unique wines that are not part of their regular collection.  These wines are available for a limited time and when they are sold, they will not be restocked.  One wine that caught my eye last week was "The Blend 2014" by Balnaves of Coonawarra Australia.  This Bordeaux blend was priced at $17.99 and the signage said that the wine was rated at 94 points.   The rater was not identified but I have since found out that it was James Halliday from Australia.  I do not often have the opportunity to taste 94 points wine in my price range, so I bought a bottle.

Coonawarra is a cool climate grape growing region in southeast Australia which is known for premium dry red table wines.  The average summertime (December, January and February) temperature is 72 degrees F. and the soil is red "terra rossa".

Balnaves makes their wines from grapes grown on their own vineyards.  Winemaker Pete Bissell varies the blend of grapes for this wine each year.  Some years Cabernet Sauvignon makes up more than 50% of the blend and other years Merlot dominates.  In the 2014 vintage, Cabernet Sauvignon is 56%,  Merlot is 38%,  and Cabernet Franc is 6%.  The wine is aged 14 months in French oak and the alcohol content is 14%. 

I found the wine to be medium bodied with flavors of black fruit, dried herb and cedar.  The finish is very long lasting.  I think this is a well made wine but since I am not a fan of dried herb and cedar flavors in my red wine, I will not rate this as high as the Australian rater.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Schug Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2015

Costco is having their annual pre-Thanksgiving wine sale featuring 14 wines selling at reduced prices.  Several of the wines are well known, widely available wines.  Here at the SC Wine Joe house, we have been working our way through bottles of some of the other wines.  The red wines we tried thus far have not been interesting and we actually poured one (Nanna's Shortcake Zin) down the drain.  The one wine that has been a highlight for me is the Schug Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2015.  It has been a few years since I last tasted this Chardonnay and my preferences in Chaardonnay have evolved somewhat since then.

The Sonoma Coast AVA is a large portion of the Sonoma County wine grape growing area.  It includes the entire Sonoma County Pacific coast and extends east as much as 30 miles.  This area includes the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley, Los Carneros and more.  The area generally has a cooler climate and more rainfall than the remainder of Sonoma County.  The Schug website states that this Chardonnay is crafted from grapes grown in western Carneros, southern Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Gap. 

You can pay as much as $21 online for this wine.  Costco's regular price is $17.99 but my local warehouse is selling it for $13.89 until November 26, 2017.

Schug makes their Sonoma Coast Chardonnay with minimal new oak. This allows the bright fruit to be featured with only hints of oak.  I found the wine to have apple, peach and pear flavors.  The alcohol content is 13.9%.  This well made wine is the style of Chardonnay that I really enjoy and  I will pair it with crabcakes tonight. 

SC Wine Joe does not assign numerical ratings to white wines.  Wine Enthusiast rates this wine as 90 points.