Saturday, December 28, 2013

Besllum 2008

This is a wine that evokes a lot of controversy.  On one hand, it is a Spanish wine that is a 2008 vintage and has 14.5% A.C.  It is loved by the wine advocate which rates it at a lofty 93points.  The Costco Wine Blog says it is one of the top 10 Costco wines for 2013.  You may pay as much as $32 a bottle in some places but it is $12.99 at Costco.

On the other hand, some critics say it is over rated. 

This wine is from the Montsant area of Spain.  It is composed of 45% Carinea, 45% Granacha, and 10% Syrah.  It has been aged for 16 months in new french oak.  It has a deep color and an alluring aroma.  I find it to be a lighter wine-between a pinot noir and a merlot.  I have discussed in previous posts about the value that can be found in Spanish wines.

I think that one's opinion of this wine is somewhat dependent on the style of wine that most appeals to you.  I like this wine a lot.  I have been buying it regularly for about a year.  However, in most circumstances, I prefer a Malbec, Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon, so I would not rate it as high as the the ratings cited above.  I think it is great value at $12.99, but I probably would not pay a lot more. 

SC Wine Joe rating=90 points.  I plan to review this wine again at a later date and reserve the right to modify my rating.  I would like to hear what others think about this wine.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Kirkland Signature 2010 Napa Valley Meritage

In the United States, a wine is usually labeled by the dominant grape varietal used to make the wine.  For example, a Cabernet Sauvignon wine must be produced from at least 75% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  This is not the case in some parts of Europe where the bottle is often labeled by the name of the grape growing area and the wine is normally a blend of the grape varietals from that area.  A Bordeaux wine from France is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere.

In America, blended wines were sometimes considered simple, everyday wines.  However, some winemakers desired to create high quality blended wines in the Bordeaux style.  They grouped together and coined the name Meritage(rhymes with heritage) to signify a high quality wine blended from the Bordeaux varietals listed above.  A winemaker must pay a fee to use the name Meritage and meet certain quality standards.

Every year, Costco produces a Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage.  The wine is currently available for a limited time in our local store.  The 2010 Napa Valley Meritage is composed of 57% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc. and it contains 14.1% A.C.  As you would expect, the wine is more flavorful than a merlot but smoother than a Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is rich tasting high quality wine.  The bottle suggests that you may taste dark cherry or plum flavors.  The wine is priced at $10.99.

SC Wine Joe Rating =89

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Norton Malbec Reserva 2010

I previously mentioned that the Bodega Norton Malbec Mendozza 2010 from Argentina was #36 in the 2013 Wine Spectator top 100 wines.  This is a high honor, especially for a wine moderately priced at $20 or less.  This wine is rated 92 points by Wine Spectator and 92 points by Wine Enthusiast.  The incredible thing is that this wine costs $10.99 at Costco ($13.99 at Total Wine).  We can enjoy a world class wine on a Wine Joe budget.  You can expect to pay up to $20 elsewhere.

A word of advice is to open this bottle of wine at least 30 minutes before you want to drink it.  I guarantee that you will like it much better.  Wine Enthusiast says "opaque purple and thick in the glass, this wine has inky, supercharged aromas of blackberry and spice.  It feels amped up, but balanced, with more intensity and clarity than what most other $18 reds offer.  The flavors of wild berry, mild herb and chocalot finish in a rich, toasty wrapping." 

This wine is aged 12 months in oak and around 2 years in the bottle.  It has 14.5% A.C.  I find that the tannins are in the medium range, but clearly enough to accompany a steak or grilled pork chop.

SC Wine Joe Rating = 92  (who am I to argue with the ratings listed above?)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon California 2011

The Joel Gott 815 Cab is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from vineyards in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Lodi, Lake County and Pasa Robles.  The grapes from each area are fermented in individual lots for over a year in oak.  The lots are blended together after fermentation to achieve the desired wine flavor.  The resulting wine has 13.9% A.C.

I really like this wine.  It has a deep rich color and an elegant soft taste with enough tannins to pair with any red meat.  This wine is available at both Costco and Total Wine for $12.99.

SC WineJoe rating = 90 points

Thursday, December 12, 2013

SC Wine Joe ratings

My post on December 1, 2013 described the rating system used by the top wine rating web sites.  With great trepidation, the SC WineJoe is stepping into this arena.  Starting now, the SC wine Joe will assign a rating to the wines available in our area using the same system.  First, let me say that my ratings are subject to revision at any time.  I can taste a wine today and have a totally different experience tomorrow.  Second, your opinion is as good as mine and I welcome your comments.  In addition, let me say that rating a white wine is harder than rating a red wine, so I will only assign a numerical rating to red wines for the immediate future.  Here is my rating for the reds mentioned in past blogs:

St Francis Cabernet Sauvignon         90
Trim 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon        84
XYZin 2011                                      89
Tranco 2010                                      89
Velvet Devil Merlot 2011                 90
Oyster Bay Pinot Noir                       88

Monday, December 9, 2013

American Viticultural Areas(AVAs)

When selecting a wine of a specific style such as Cabernet Sauvignon, you will want to consider where the grapes used to make the wine came from.  In the United States, the various growing areas are identified by their American Viticultural Areas(AVAs).  AVAs can be as large as a state, the size of a county or much smaller.  Some AVAs may be composed of smaller sub-AVAs.  For example, the Napa Valley AVA includes 16 sub-AVAs.  The AVA identified on the bottle must be the source of 85% of the grapes used to create the wine.

From largest to smallest, a wine can be identified by
     State                      e.g. California
     County                         Napa
     AVA                            Napa Valley
     sub-AVA                     Oakville
     Vineyard                      Crooked Vine Vineyard

The smaller, more specific the designation, the more expensive the wine.  For example, at Costco you can find a Kirkland California Cab in a large bottle for a low cost.  Recently, I found a Kirkland Napa Valley Cab for around $13 and a Kirkland Oakville Cab for almost $20.  All 3 of these are a good price when comparing them with wines of similar AVA designation.  Of course, the quality of these wines improves with the price.

Friday, December 6, 2013

St Francis Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County

This is one of my favorite Cabs and it is an excellent example of why I do not buy wine at Publix or BiLo.  This wine is $13.49 at Costco, $13.97 at Total Wine and $20.69 at Publix.  It may be convenient to throw it in the grocery cart with the beans and bananas but you pay a steep price for that convenience.

This wine is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 7% a blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah.  It is aged 18 months in 80% French Oak and 20% American Oak.  It has an A.C. of 14.6%.   This wine is loaded with flavors from the beginning to finish.  I have never been disappointed with this wine.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

King Estates Signature Pinot Gris

One of the most popular pinot gris or pinot grigio wines is the King Estates Pinot Gris from Oregon.  You can find this wine on the wine list of many fine restaurants.  It is also one of my favorites, which we shared with our friends Katherine and Carl at Thanksgiving.  This wine pairs especially well with seafood, but also goes well with turkey or chicken.  It is fermented entirely in stainless steel for 5 months and has an A.C. of 13%.    Oregon is famous for pinot gris and pinot noir due to the cooler weather, and this is one of the best. 

This wine is slightly less expensive at Total Wines($12.97) than at Costco($13.87). 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Costco Wine Sale

Costco usually has 2 wine sales per year.  The current wine sale is from Dec 5 to Dec 29, 2013.   14 wines will be reduced in this sale.  Since Costco generally has very good prices, the sale prices will be great.  There are a few wines I know that I am not interested in and some that I am not familiar with.  I plan to try Plungerhead Zinfandel and 4 Vines Naked Chardonney. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wine Ratings

The best wine is the one that you like irregardless of what some expert thinks.  However, ratings by a reputable group are a great help in deciding whether to buy a wine that is unfamiliar to you.  When a merchant provides rating information, they are giving good service to the customer.  Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate (Robert Parker) provide dependable ratings.

Wine ratings are based on a 100 point scale.  However, most wines fall within the range of 83 to 93.  Wine Spectator's list of the top 100 wines contain only a few wines rated 94 to 96 and none rated above 96.  The wines above 93 are priced $50 per bottle and up (way up).

I am not sure that I can discern the difference between an 89 wine and a 90 wine, but this is a general guide:

86-87 Good
88-89 Very Good
90-92  Excellent
93 and up Extraordinary

Saturday, November 30, 2013


We have been enjoying this  Old Vine Zinfandel for a few weeks.  I had planned to write a blog about it soon.  But, today the Costco wine blog did a review and I think I should weigh in now!  The 2012 XYZIN Old Vine Zinfndel is available at my local(Greenville SC) Costco for $9.99.  This is not a wine you need to hold until you are grilling a rib steak.  This is a medium bodied, spicy Zin that pairs well with pizza, a juicy hamburger,  or even Indian cuisine.  I will buy it until it is no longer available at my Costco.  If you want to read another review, go to

Friday, November 29, 2013

Benziger Family Winery Chardonnay

This is my favorite chardonney.  You cannot buy it at Costco but it is available at Total Wines for $12.99.  I do not care for a heavy oak, creamy, buttery, butterscotch, chardonnay.  This one spent 8 months in hungarian oak but the result is a fruit forward, medium bodied wine with flavors of pear and citrus.  I also feel a slight fizz on the tongue.  The wine has an A.C. of 13.5%. 

Cindy and I visited the Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma a couple of years ago and it was one of the most interesting vineyards we have ever seen.  Everything is done in an environmentally sustainable way using natural vineyard management.  The birds and other predators eliminate the harmful insects and no chemicals are ever used on the vines.  If you are ever in wine country, be sure and visit this vineyard. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Do not buy this wine

Back in October, I found "Trim 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon" at my Costco.  The sign indicated that this wine was highly rated in the previous vintage but not rated for 2011.  It was only $9.99 and looked like a great deal for a California Cab.  I thought I should buy 2 bottles before they were all sold.  I came home and opened the first bottle.  I thought that it was worse than 2 buck chuck!  I poured a glass for Cindy and without prompting she thought it was bland and tasted watered down.  I let a month go by.  I have found that sometimes I think a wine is not good, but when I open another bottle I wonder why I did not like it before.  Tonight, I opened the other bottle and it was as bad or worse than the first bottle.  Maybe we can throw it into pasta sauce or something.  Last week, I noticed that there were still more bottles at Costco.  Somehow, everyone else knew something I did not figure out!  At least, if you read this, you will not be fooled!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2010 Tranco

Spanish wines are some of the best bargains available today and this is one you cannot pass up.  The 2010 Tranco is a blend of 75% Monastrell and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yecla region of southeast Spain.  Monastrell is probably better known as Mouvedre when grown in France.  All of the grapes in this wine are organically farmed at high elevations.  The wine has 14% A.C.  Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate has called it a "marvelous bargain" and rated it a 90 score.

The wine only aged in French and American oak for 3 months but the wine is now 3 years old.  It has a rich, spicy, fruity, complex flavor which compares well with California wines that cost twice as much.  I think this vintage is even better than the 2009 which was previously available.

This wine sells for $6.99 at Costco.  If you can find a better wine for less than $7, please let me know.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2011

How can you pass up a wine with a name like this.  It is currently available at Costco in limited supply for $9.99.  The Velvet Devil Merlot is produced by Charles Smith Wines from the Columbia Valley in southeast Washington state.  The wine is composed of 83% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 6% Cabernet Sauvingnon, and 3% Syrah.  Previous vintages did not have Malbec and Syrah so they will taste a little different if you find them.  The Charles Smith website specifies the 4 vineyards that are the sources for this wine.  They are not all officially within the Columbia Valley AVA so the label specifies this wine as from Washington State rather than specifying Columbia Valley.  (The State of Washington is the second largest producer of wine in the US, trailing California by a wide margin.)

I find this wine more flavorful than most merlots, probably because of the Cab, Malbec and Syrah in the blend.  Merlot has had less acceptance since the Sideways movie but I recommend that you give this a shot.  I think it will pair nice with a hamburger or pizza.  The label is plain white with black letters and a large pitchfork on the right side.  For this price you cannot go wrong but you should hurry because it may not be available long.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wine Spectator Ratings

Wine Spectator Magazine annually selects their top 100 wines of the year.  They have published this list in the last week and their magazine is now free online so that you can see their top 100 list.  This will be available only for the next 2 weeks.  Most of the wines on the list are well above our $20 limit but there are a few below that price.  One wine that is available at Costco for a very affordable price is the Norton Reserve Malbec.  It is in my wine rack waiting for a special occasion.

Useful Blogs

I have found that these blogs are useful to me:
Costco Wine Blog
Reverse Wine Snob

Google these and connect.  I hope you enjoy them

Kirkland Wines

I have found that the Kirkland Wines at Costco are usually a good buy.  They are usually priced lower than the equivalent name brand wines.  When you see a Kirkland wine in a category you like, you should stock up because it will be gone when you go to Costco next week.

Wineries Close to Home

It is a lot of fun to visit wineries and taste their wines.  If you live in upstate South Carolina, it is an easy weekend trip to the wineries of the Yadkin Valley North Carolina.  My wife Cindy and I have done this twice, recently with our friends Denny and Martha.  Wineries that we enjoyed were Raffaldini Vineyards, Westbend Vineyards, Flint Hill Vineyards and Shelton Vineyards.  The lunch at Childress Vineyards was great but skip the wine tasting- it was expensive and not very good!

Thanksgiving Wine

A favorite wine to accompany your Thanksgiving turkey is Pinot Noir.  Here is one pinot that I think goes very well with your turkey and appeals to all of your guests, wine veterans or rookies: Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2011.  This wine has the right blend of fruit, sweetness and zip.  New Zealand is famous for its pinot and this will not disappoint.  Enjoy!

Where I Shop

In Greenville, we have 4 major retailers of wine on Woodruff Road.  I have found that name brand wine costs more at Whole Foods and Trader Joes than at Costco and Total Wine.

Total Wine has name brand wines and wines they call "Winery Direct".   Name brand wines usually have prices that end in 7 and are excluded from their coupons.  The name brand wines are  usually located on the highest and lowest shelves while the winery direct wines are at eye level on the middle shelves.  The name brand wines are usually priced very well and are competitive with Costco.  Clearly, Total Wine wants to entice you into the store with the name brands and switch you to the winery direct wines where they have better profit margins.  There are many signs saying that if you like this name brand wine, you should try this other winery direct wine.  If you ask for assistance from a clerk, they will always recommend a winery direct wine.  It has been my experience that the winery direct wines are a little overpriced, even with coupon savings.  If you shop Total Wine and stick with the top and bottom shelf wines with prices ending in 7, you will do well.  However, you will need to know what you are looking for because the clerks will not be helpful in finding a name brand wine.

I buy most of my wine at Costco.  The prices are unbeatable and Costco's wine buyers have a knack for selecting excellent wines.  It is always an adventure to shop for wine because you never know what the selection will be.  There are always new wines to try.  Costco does an great job of displaying the ratings done by reputable organizations such as Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast.

Welcome to my Blog

This blog is for the average Joe who buys wine that costs less than $20 at your local grocery or big box store.  If you routinely drink wine that is more expensive from your local wine shop and have a cellar full of collectable wine, this blog will not be for you.  In Greenville SC we have the 4 largest retailers of wine on one stretch of Woodruff Road- Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Costco and Total Wine and More.  This blog will help you find great wine at an affordable price.