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.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage 2014

Every year, Costco produces the Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage.  The 2014 version is now available and is made from 47% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec. The wine has 14.5% alcohol.

I have liked this wine better in the past.  Even after an hour, the oak overwhelms the black cherry flavors.  Costco sells the wine for $10.99, which is a very good price for a Napa Valley Meritage, but I will reiterate what I said last year.  It is well worth the additional $2 to buy the currently available Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Napa Valley Meritage.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pierre LaTour Pomerol 2014

The third red wine we tried from the Lidl French Wine Fair was the Pierre LaTour Pomerol.  Pomerol is a wine region in the right bank portion of Bordeaux.  Wines from this region are predominantly Merlot blended with lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc.  The grapes for this wine were harvested in 2014 which was a very good vintage.

If you drink more than one wine variety on an occasion, the first wine has a big impact on the perceived taste of the second wine.  Wineries order their wine tasting flights so that the first wine enhances the perception of the second.  The opposite happened at our house with this wine when we finished our Chateauneuf du Pape and opened the Pomerol.  If I had written this blog that night, it would not have been complimentary.  Fortunately, we tried it again on a new day..

This Pomerol is a medium bodied dry wine with flavors of plum and earth and medium tannins.  The flavor expands into the tart finish.  This is a good representation of a wine style that is not common in the US and you will enjoy it best with roast beef.

The wine has 13% alcohol and costs $14.99 at Lidl.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

SC Wine Jane with Pomerol

Friday, October 27, 2017

Lidl Chateauneuf du Pape 2015

Chateauneuf du Pape can be quite expensive. Our local Total Wines store stocks bottles that range in price from $30 to $100 but you can pay more than that at independent wine shops.  The lowest priced Chateauneuf du Pape that I previously found was Costco's Kirkland Signature for $18 but now Lidl has one for $16.99 in their "French Wine Fair".  In fact, I was able to buy it last week for 20% off that price but the promotion has since expired.

There are over 100 wineries in the Chateauneuf du Pape region and as in every region, the quality varies greatly.  There is no brand name or winery shown on the label for this wine and furthermore, there is no information about the grapes incorporated into the wine.  Since there is no winery or brand name, you cannot find any information online.  We can assume that Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre are blended resulting in a stated alcohol content of 14%.

What we really care about is how the wine tastes.  This wine improved greatly after one hour.  It is a medium to full bodied wine with ripe cherry and red berry flavors as well as some darker fruit.  This wine is a terrific buy for $17 and well worth a try. 

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Terroir des Dentelles Vacqueyras 2015

Lidl is having their French Wine Fair.  They have stocked  a collection of 16 French wines from various French wine regions.   These wines are not part of their regular collection and will be available for a limited time.

The first wine that we tried from this collection is Terroir des Dentelles Vacqueyras.  Vacqueyras is a wine region in the southern Rhone Valley.  It is located adjacent to the more famous Chateauneuf du Pape region.  Red wine from Vacqueyras is made from the same grapes as in Chateauneuf du Pape - Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre but the wine is usually less prestigious and much less expensive.

Terroir des Dentelles is 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 5% Mouvedre with 14% alcohol.  I found the wine to be medium to full bodied with rich flavors of cherry, black cherry and a hint of mocha.  The wine has a long, enjoyable finish with a little spice and oak.  I really enjoyed this wine and it is only $9.99 at Lidl.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Merlot 2013

The Greenville Costco has Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Merlot 2013 on sale for $9.99.  This is an incredible price for a quality Merlot that Costco usually sells for $16.99.  The 2013 vintage Merlot has been available for well over a year and Costco must have scored a good price from the winery as they begin to market the 2014 vintage.

It has been almost 3 weeks since my last post on this blog.  I was busy preparing for a presentation that I gave about finding good values in white wine.   More importantly, the new wines I have tried recently were not especially interesting.  Napa Valley Merlot for $9.99 fixed that problem.

Franciscan Estates Napa Valley Merlot is 97% Merlot and 3% Malbec with 13.5% alcohol.  The grapes are from a Franciscan Estates vineyard in Oakville blended with grapes from the cooler regions of southern Napa Valley including Oak Knoll.  The wine is aged for 18 months in small oak barrels.

This wine has rich dark fruit flavors accented by flavors of licorice and vanilla.  There is some oak on the finish but it takes a back seat to the rich fruit flavor.  This full bodied wine is truly a Merlot for Cabernet Sauvignon fans.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points