Saturday, February 17, 2018

Canoe Ridge Vineyard The Explorer Horse Heaven Hills 2015

Canoe Ridge Vineyards released their 2015 "The Explorer" in December 2017.  The 2014 version was a very limited production that was not widely marketed, but the blend of the 2015 version was modified and production was more than tripled.  This will result in the wine being available to a wider audience.  In anticipation of release of this wine into South Carolina, Precept Wines, parent of Canoe Ridge Vineyards, provided a sample of the wine for my review.

The Explorer 2015 is a blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Syrah, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc from three vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills portion of the Columbia Valley, Washington.   The wine was aged 20 months in French oak- half new and half second or third use.  The stated alcohol content is 14.62%.

The wine is a dark garnet color.  I tasted black cherry, blackberry, plum, cola and a hint of mocha.  The wine is fruit forward and elegant, with softer tannins and a very long, pleasant finish.  We really enjoyed this wine and believe it is one of the most enjoyable red blends we have tasted in the past year.

The suggested retail price of this wine is $21.99, but some retailers will likely price it under $20.  At this time, I do not know where it will be available but will revise this post as soon as I learn more.  If you find it, be sure to buy a couple of bottles.  It will be money well spent.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Substance CS Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

In 2001, Charles Smith began making wines in Walla Walla Washington.  Some of his brands became quite successful and in 2016, he sold 5 brands including Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Velvet Devil Merlot and Boom Boom Syrah to Constellation Brands.  In 2017, Smith combined several of his remaining bramds, including "Substance" under the title of "Wines of Substance".

Substance CS is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Columbia Valley.  The wine is aged 100% in French oak and has an alcohol content of 14.5%.  Although it remains quite affordable, the wine has received critical acclaim, including a rating of 92 points from Robert Parker, who described it as one of the best values available.

I found the wine to have flavors of dark fruit combined with flavors of cola and vanilla.  Although the wine has a silky texture, there is a significant amount of tannins making this a dinner wine and certainly not a party wine.  This is one of the best Cabernet Sauvignons that I have tasted in the past year.  I bought the wine at Costco for $12.99 and you can match that price at Total Wines with a 20% off coupon (regular price $15.99).

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fat Barrel Signature Series Perseverance Western Cape South Africa 2015

I found Fat Barrel Perseverance at Lidl for $9.99.  Fat Barrel represents a group of South Africa estates with 14 wine brands as well as private label brands.  Perseverance is a blend of 61% Shiraz, 32% Pinotage, and 7% Merlot from the southern tip of Africa, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. 

Many American wine drinkers may not be familiar with the Pinotage grape.  It is the signature grape of South Africa and was created in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault.  It is a difficult grape to grow and the wine made from it can sometimes turn out to be very unpleasant.  Nevertheless, there are great Pinotage wines being produced and Pinotage is often blended with Syrah and other grapes from the Western Cape with distinctive results.

Fat Barrel Perseverance is definitely a medium bodied wine.  Our initial tasting was very interesting.  My initial impression was related to the raspberry, cherry flavors.  My research assistant (Wine Jane) reacted to the unexpected tannins   Of course we were both right.  The wine has more ripe cherry flavor than expected but also has darker fruit flavors and a long lasting finish with enough tannins to make this a food wine.  I really enjoyed the wine, especially with our dinner.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Friday, February 2, 2018

Cloudline Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2016

I purchased this wine in early December at Costco for $14.99 and planned to enjoy it with our Christmas turkey.  Some events got in the way and we did not have the wine for the holiday but happily opened the bottle at the end of January.

The Willamette Valley of Oregon is one of the great wine producing regions of the United States.  Several wine magazines have honored the area as wine region of the year and the reputation of the region grows every year.  The climate and the soil conditions are best suited to growing Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and especially Pinot Noir.

Cloudline Pinot Noir is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from low-yield vineyards in the Willamette Valley including the Roserock Vineyard.  The wine has 13.5% alcohol.

The winemaker says that the wine has flavors of dark berry, blue fruit, cola and a touch of spice.  I did not note the cola but accept the rest of the description.  I actually was not as enthusiastic about this wine as I expected to be.  I thought the fruit flavors were muted and the spice and oak were a little harsh.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Villa Antinori Toscana 2014

I think that I tried Villa Antinori Toscana previously, but did not remember very much about it.  I have seen advertising about it in wine magazines and was aware of good reviews by respected critics but still did not buy it.  Maybe, the price was not a compelling buy.  However, my Costco warehouse reduced the price down to $12.99 and that was enough for me to buy two bottles.

Villa Antinori Toscana is considered a "Super Tuscan" wine because it is primarily Sangiovese with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  A Super Tuscan wine is distinguished from Chianti wine which must be all Sangiovese.

The first bottle was quite a disappointment.  There was some dark berry and plum flavor but it was very acidic and not nearly as good as some other Tuscan wines I have been enjoying.  I am glad that I bought 2 bottles, because the second bottle was significantly better with some cherry cola flavor that I did not detect in the first bottle.  However, the wine still did not live up to the 90-92 point wines that I read about.  I did some research and found that 2014 was a very bad growing season for wines in Tuscany.  The vintage was rated at only 83-85 points as opposed the 91-93 point vintages usually expected.  I am blaming my experience with this wine on the vintage and will be on the lookout for the 2015 vintage to give the wine another try.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Gerard Bertrand Languedoc Syrah/Grenache 2014

This blog has been stuck in the south of France lately and my plan was to move on.  Then I found one more French wine on my last trip to Costco that I had to try.  I promise that my next blog will be about a wine from Italy or North America.

Languedoc-Roussillon is near the Mediterranean coast from the western edge of the Rhone region to the border with Spain.  This region is the largest wine grape producer in France but is not that well known in North America.  A wide variety of grapes are grown including red Bordeaux grapes and especially red Rhone varietals.  Languedoc has a history of prioritizing quantity over quality but that is rapidly changing and Gerard Bertrand is one of the leaders of that change. 

Gerard Bertrand Languedoc features Rhone varietals Syrah and Grenache.  Most Rhone wines emphasize the Grenache grape but this wine features Syrah with Grenache playing a backup role.  The producer does not show the grape percentages on the bottle or on their website, but you can taste the difference.  This wine is slightly more heavy-bodied with flavors of plum and a peppery finish.  The wine was aged 10 months in oak and has an alcohol content of 13.5%.

I like this wine and found it a nice variation from the Rhone wines I recently have been drinking.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Friday, January 19, 2018

Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Cote-du-rhone Villages 2015

On my last trip to Total Wines, I picked up a bottle of Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Cotes du Rhone Villages 2015.  The wine is a little pricier than the various Cotes du Rhone Villages that I usually buy and I wondered if it would be worth the extra cost.

Signargues contains the southernmost vineyards in the Cotes du Rhone region. It is west of Avignon and northest of Nimes.  The vineyards are planted in smooth pebbles deposited thousands of years ago in what was the bed of the Rhone River and the area has a warm dry Mediterranean climate.  The soil and climate stress the vines, thus producing fewer but richer grapes.

The wine is produced from 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 5% Carignan and 5% Mourvedre and the alcohol content is indicated as 14%.  The wine is a medium dark violet and has aromas of dark berries.  It is medium bodied with flavors of dark cherry and dark berries.  There is more oak and tannins than some Cotes du  Rhone wines and there is a slight bitterness on the finish.

Total Wines sells this wine at $14.99 and since they consider it a "winery direct" wine, you can usually pay less with a coupon.  I paid $11.99 with a 20% off coupon.  My opinion is that it is a reasonable buy at $11.99 but not worth $14.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points