Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Trader Joe's Platinum Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley 2009 Lot #54

This is the second platinum label Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon I have found at Trader Joe's.  This one is from the Oakville region of the Napa Valley and also sells for $14.99.

This Cabernet Sauvignon has lots of jammy dark fruit, subtle oak and a long finish.  I did not get as much bouquet on the nose as I expected.  The wine has an alcohol content of 14.1%.  All in all, this is a very good wine but I did not find it as extraordinary as the Platinum Label Grand Reserve Spring Mountain District Cabernet I reviewed recently.

My Trader Joe's had this wine shelved with the Spring Mountain District Cabernet and the buyer should be careful to buy the desired wine.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Monday, December 29, 2014

Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Chardonnay 2013

My taste in Chardonnay is evolving.  Formerly, I strongly preferred Chardonnay with little or no hint of oak.  If the wine was aged totally in stainless steel, the crisp flavored wine was my kind of Chardonnay.  Lately, I have started to change.  While I have no use for a creamy, buttery, oak flavored Chardonnay, I now can enjoy some oak as long as the fruit flavors are present.

The Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Chardonnay is a wine from the Columbia Valley that I have been enjoying lately.  While there is a definite butterscotch and caramel flavor, the fruit flavors of pineapple and melon still shine thru.  The finish is interesting and enjoyable.  The wine has 14% alcohol.

For the past couple of weeks,  my local Costco has reduced the price on this wine to $9.95 but in mid-January the price will revert to the regular price of $12.95.  The local Total Wine and More store sells it for $13.99 and you can buy it online for as low as $14.99.   I think that Costco is giving us a good opportunity to stock up on this enjoyable Chardonnay.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Marques de Casa Concha 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Concha y Toro is the largest wine producer in Chile as well as all of Latin America.  Marques de Casa Concha is their mid-priced label and the Cabernet Sauvignon has been an excellent wine year after year.  The 2012 Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon was sale priced at my local Costco, so I could not pass it up.

The Marquis de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Puente Alto in the Andean Foothills.  The wine is aged 18 months in new(37%) and used (63%) french oak and has an alcohol content of 14%.  There is an intense flavor of dark cherries and blackberries with a hint of coffee.  I found the finish to be less smooth and silky than promised, even after more than an hour.  This is a very good wine but not quite as good as previous vintages due to the finish.

I found this wine on sale for $4.00 off the regular price of $17.99.  That price will only be in effect until December 26  at my local Costco.  It is regularly priced at $18.99 at Total Wine and More.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Napa Valley Meritage 2012 Lot# 63

I have now had two great Trader Joe's wines in one week. TJ's Grand Reserve Napa Valley Meritage 2012 and the previously reviewed Platinum Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain. 

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Napa Valley Meritage 2012 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (62%), Merlot (12%), Petit Verdot (10%), Malbec (9%) and Cabernet Franc (7%) aged for 20 months in oak.  This is a juicy rich blend of blackberry, plum, and blueberry flavors with a hint of chocolate and caramel and well balanced tannins.  The finish is long and lingering.  The wine has an alcohol content of 14.6%. 

I noticed at my store, there were 2011 and 2012 vintages together on the shelf.  2012 was a highly rated growing season in California and my experience has been that the wines are superior to 2011 wines.  I would make sure that I have the 2012.  The cost is $12.99 per bottle.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trader Joe's Platinum Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Lot #53 2012

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve wines with a black label have been the best, most expensive Trader Joe's wines.  Now, the chain has started Grand Reserve wines in a platinum label, signifying that the wine is even more exceptional.  The holiday Fearless Flyer is featuring the Platinum Label Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District for $14.99 and if I am going to pay that for a Trader Joe's wine, it better be good.   I often pay more for wine but have never paid that much at the home of 2 buck chuck.

The Spring Mountain AVA is in the northwest portion of Napa on the steep slopes of the Mayacomas Mountains that separate Napa from Sonoma.  The vineyards are small and only 1000 acres are in vineyards. 

When you raise a glass of this Cabernet to the nose, you immediately sense that it might be special.  As you sip and swirl you find an intense blackberry and black cherry flavor and the most special characteristic is the long, flavorful finish.  There is oak but the fruit is so intense, you barely are aware of the tannins.  This is the best wine I have ever purchased at Trader Joe's and I want more.  This is a limited production wine which will only be available for a short time. 

SC Wine Joe rating = 92 points

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Alceno Premium 50 Red Blend 2012

Alceno Premium 50 Red Blend is a blend of 85% Syrah and 15% Monastrell from the Jumilla region of southeast Spain.  Inland from the coast, Jumilla has a climate tempered by the Mediterranean Sea.  Monastrell is the most common grape in Jumilla, accounting for 85% of the vines.

This wine really hit the mark for me.  It is a perfect balance of nose, fruit, oak, finish and alcohol.  There is nothing to complain about with this wine.  This red blend is softer and more elegant than Cabernet Sauvignon but has more character than most Merlots.  The dominant fruit flavor is blackberry and the finish is long with softer tannins very present.  The alcohol content is 14%.

I found this wine at Costco for $11.79 and the $.79 ending signifies that Costco believes it to be a special price.  I have shared 3 bottles of this and it has been a big hit.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kirkland Signature Medoc 2012

Medoc is a Bordeaux wine growing region in southwest France, south of the Gironde River near the Atlantic Ocean.  The Kirkland Signature Medoc is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot with an alcohol content of 13.0%. 

Last year, I was not a fan of the 2011 vintage of this wine but I wanted to give the 2012 a try to see if the wine is different or if my taste has changed.  The bottle promises an intense crimson and purple color with a fruit forward palate, ripe tannins and cocoa notes.  The color is certainly dark and intense but the palate is not fruit forward.  All I tasted was oak with some bitter fruit.  The wine improved a lot after an hour but not enough to get me to buy more.  The bottle is $8.99 at Costco.

SC Wine Joe rating =86

Saturday, November 29, 2014

MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir Central Coast 2012

Fred MacMurray, television and movie actor, bought a sprawling ranch in Sonoma County in 1941 where he raised cattle and enjoyed a life away from Hollywood.  After his death, the family sold the Russian River Valley property to E. & J. Gallo who turned the ranch into a vineyard.  Gallo established MacMurray Estates Vineyards as one of its many wine brands, specializing in Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grown on the ranch as well as other locations.  The wines are actually made in Gallo-owned wineries elsewhere in California.

The MacMurray Central Coast Pinot Noir is made primarily from grapes grown in the Gallo owned Olson Ranch Vineyard.  This vineyard is 599 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Monterey County on the east edge of the Santa Lucia Range. 

I found this pinot noir to have a bright cherry and pomegranate flavor with a finish of mild oak.  For me, it is the ideal blend of flavor, alcohol (14.8%) and oak that I can drink with or without food.  I enjoyed this wine better than any pinot I have had in the past year.  On my last trip to Costco, I found it for $12.99.  It is also available at Total Wine for $13.99 which could be less if you have a coupon.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

South Carolina Wine Joe First Aniversary

One year has passed since I began my humble wine blog.  In that time, I have learned much, drunk some wine and had a lot of fun.  When I began, I had no idea if anyone would read my blog but there have been almost 19,000 pageviews, mostly from North America with a few from Australia and western Europe.  I have reviewed over 100 wines from Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Total Wines and More and below I am listing some special wines that my wife, friends and I have found.

Most Viewed Posts
33 Tentatre 2012 Trader Joe's Wine #1
Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay 2012
Kirkland Signature Cotes Du Rhone, Villages 2012
Overlake 2012 Red Blend
Sphere 2012 Lodi Zinfandel

My Highest Rated Wines
Norton Malbec Reserva 2010  92 pts.
Chateau Hanteillan Haut-Medoc 2010 92 pts.
Kirkland Signature Series Oakville Merlot 2012  92 pts.
Vina Eguia Rioja Reserva 2007  93 pts.

I was extremely lucky to find the 2007 vintage Vina Eguia.  Costco was selling the 2009 vintage and I found a couple of cases of 2007 mixed into the stack.

My Highest Rated Trader Joe's Wine
Trader Joe's Reserve Paso Robles Syrah  91 pts.

Best Value Costco
Kirkland Signature Cotes Du Rhone Villages 2012    $6.99
Tranco Monastrell-Cabernet Sauvignon 2010  $6.99
Kirkland Signature Prosecco  $7.49

Best Value Whole Foods
Pallas Tempranillo 2013  $6.99

Best Value Trader Joe's
33 Tentatre Rosso $5.99
Earthstone Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County  $4.99

Wines that I have purchased most in past year
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot
Joel Gott California Cabernet 
Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay

I have not rated white wines by a numerical score.  The styles of these wines are so diverse that I just cannot assign a number.  For example, I cannot judge the superiority of one unoaked chardonnay against a creamy, buttery oaked Chardonnay.  I can only describe the wine and say what I like or dislike.  In the days ahead, I may attempt to assign a score or I may continue on as I have done.

Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope it has been useful and look forward to commenting on more wines in the next year.

South Carolina Wine Joe

Friday, November 21, 2014

VINTJS Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013

Pinot Noir is a great pairing for a Thanksgiving turkey.  The smooth, ripe fruit flavor enhances the traditional turkey and fixings and appeals to red wine drinkers as well as those who prefer white.  The VINTJS Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is Trader Joe's suggestion for this Thanksgiving.

The Willamette River Valley in Oregon produces some of the finest Pinot Noir in the world.  The valley, from Eugene north to Portland, has cool wet winters and warm summers and most of the pinot grapes are grown on the slopes of the Coast Range west of the river. 

The current Fearless Flyer promises a bright palette of ripe cherries and berries, but I was most disappointed with the failure of the wine to deliver on that promise.  The wine did finish with some oak that I did appreciate.  The bottle only costs $8.99, but I would prefer to add a couple of dollars and try a different Pinot.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spiral Cellar 2013 Chardonnay Napa Valley

Trader Joe's is offering the 2013 Spiral Cellar Chardonnay Napa Valley for this Thanksgiving season.  This is a lightly oaked, slightly creamy Chardonnay that exhibits abundant tropical fruit aromas and flavors.  At $7.99, this can be a great everyday Chardonnay but is also special enough for your holiday meal.  If you are a Chardonnay drinker, you will want to give this a try.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Laurent Dublanc Cotes-du-Rhone 2013

Trader Joe's has published their pre-Thanksgiving Fearless Flyer.  This year they are featuring several wines including Laurent Dublanc Cotes-du-Rhone.  This medium bodied wine is 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre with an alcohol content of 13%. 

I found the wine to be quite disappointing with muted fruit and a tart finish.  Although the bottle is only $6.99, I think there are better choices for Thanksgiving dinner.

SC Wine Joe rating = 86

Monday, November 17, 2014

Benziger 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County

Total Wine and More is a chain of big box wine stores with locations in the southeast, California and recently a few other states.   Once before, I wrote about their marketing strategy and how I try to get the best wine for less at their stores.  Total Wine has both name brand wines and wines they consider as "winery direct" wines.  The winery direct wines are wines that are more or less exclusive to Total Wine thus the store seems to have higher profit margins on these wines.  Winery direct wines are often made by well known wineries disguised under a different name and produced to meet a certain price point.   Total Wine would like to entice you into the store with the name brand wines but then divert you to a winery direct wine.  The winery direct wines are on the middle eye-level shelves in the store and the name brand wines are on the top and bottom shelves.  The most popular name brand wines have prices ending in "7" and are exempt from any promotional coupons which are generally $10 up to $20 off each $100 purchase.  When I receive a $20 off coupon, I search the store for $100 worth of name brand wine that I have been wanting to buy with prices not ending in "7".  Using this method, I was able to buy the Benziger 2011 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon for $13.87.  The regular price for the wine is $16.99 which is already a very good price.  I doubt that anyone, anywhere, can buy this for less.

The Benziger Winery is one of my favorites because of their commitment to sustainable growing techniques.  The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on certified sustainable benchland vineyards in Sonoma County and aged 16 months in oak.  The result is an intensely colored and flavored wine with berry, plum and spice notes and an alcohol content of 14.5%. 

SC Wine Joe rting = 90 points.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kirkland Signature Bordeaux Superieur 2012

Approximately 25% of the vineyards in the Bordeaux region are dedicated to Bordeaux Superieur.  These vineyards are planted with more vines per acre, thus stressing the vines and yielding less grapes per vine.  This results in richer and more complex wine.  The superieur wine is made from the same grape varieties as regular Bordeaux wine but is sometimes aged longer with a  higher alcohol content.

The 2012 Kirkland Signature Bordeaux Superieur is 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon grown at the Chateau Le Gardera overlooking the Garonne River south of Saint-Emilion and is aged 12 months in French Oak.  The wine contains 13% Alcohol.

I found the wine to be a well balanced wine with some oak and dark fruit flavor ending in a medium soft finish.  You would expect that a wine produced from grapes produced under stricter growing conditions would be more costly but Costco is selling the wine for only $6.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bogle Vineyards Essential Red 2012

Wine Enthusiast rates this wine as the #3 Best Buy of 2014, assigning a score of 91 points.   I like the wine, but I cannot be nearly as enthusiastic as the writers of the magazine.

The Bogle Essential Red is composed of 31% Zinfandel, 26% Petite Syrah, 24 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Syrah.  All we know is that the grapes are from somewhere in California, are aged 18 months in American and French oak and the wine is 13.5% alcohol.

I found the wine to be very flavorful, especially in the initial taste.  The dark berry flavor shines through.  I thought the wine was a little heavy in texture and needed a little bite into the finish.  All in all, it is a good wine for the money($7.99 at Costco, $8.99 at Total Wines and $11 at the grocery), it just is not a 91 points wine nor is it in the top ten best buys of the year.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

2013 Kirkland Signature Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

If you are Pinot Noir fan because you like a lighter, softer red wine, you will be disappointed in the 2013 Kirkland Signature Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  This is a wine that grabs your attention immediately with a spicy, oak flavor with unexpected tannins.  This is not wine for the poolside to accompany fruit and cheese but is a wine to drink while enjoying a hearty beef dish.  The flavors of cherry and raspberry shine through to the long finish.  The wine has 14.2% alcohol.

Costco is selling this wine at $12.99.  This is a fair price, as long as you are not expecting a different style of Pinot Noir.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Monday, October 27, 2014

2012 Kirkland Signature Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon

Costco has recently introduced their 2012 Kirkland Signature Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2011 vintage of this wine was generally disappointing, so I only purchased one bottle to give it a try.  Wow, was I surprised!  I have been writing about the superior 2012 vintage of red wines in Washington and California, and this 2012 is another that is far better than the 2011 last year. 

I only opened this bottle a few minutes ahead of the first sip.  It was already terrific.  The rich blackberry fruit is accompanied by a hint of chocolate.  There is some oak but it is not overpowering like last year.  The finish is long and pleasant.  30 minutes later, the wine was even better.  I will buy more on my next trip to Costco.  The $12.99 price is very reasonable for a Napa County Cabernet.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage 2011

Last December, I posted positive comments on the 2010 Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage.  I liked the wine so much, that I saved a bottle in the wine fridge.  A few weeks ago, Costco began selling the 2011 version and I wanted to compare 2010 vintage to 2011 vintage.  We had a wine tasting with friends where we drank both wines.  Although the wines were a little different, half preferred the 2010 and half liked the 2011 better.  I had a slight preference for the 2010. 

The 2011 Napa Valley Meritage has less Merlot than 2010 and has added Petit Verdot.  The dominant flavor is black cherry with hints of oak.  The tannins are present but soft.  The $10.99 wine is very good and I will rate it the same as last year.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2013 Rosa dell Olmo Barbera D' Asti

Barbera D' Asti is wine made from the Barbera grape in the provinces of Asti and Alexandria in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy.  To achieve the DOCG designation, the wine must contain at least 85% Barbera and be made by March 1 following the harvest.  It must have a minimum alcohol content of 11.5%.

Trader Joe's is now featuring Rosa Dell Olmo Barbera D' Asti which is made from 100% Barbera grapes and has an alcohol content of 13%.  The wine begins with flavors of cherry, strawberry and some hints of darker fruit.  It begins as an easy to drink, fruit forward wine but then it surprises with a long, dry finish.  You can pair this with roasts or red pasta and it is well worth trying at $5.99.  I think it will appeal to a wide range of wine drinkers.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Earthstone 2013 Savignon Blanc Sonoma County

In June, I raved about the VINTJS Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  Now Trader Joe's has the 2013 Earthstone Savignon Blanc Sonoma County, which is very similar in style.  You will not find the grassy flavor of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but you do get a dry citrusy, melon flavored wine with just a hint of lemon.  While, the current Fearless Flyer touts this as a match to roast chicken, I think you should keep at least one bottle to go with your Thanksgiving turkey.  The wine is said to come from sustainably farmed vineyards and has an alcohol content of 13.5%.  I liked the wine a lot and cannot believe it is only $4.99 at Trader Joes. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

VINTJS Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2012

It is always an adventure when I buy wine at Trader Joe's.  I have found incredible values and I have found wine that has no value except as part of my growing supply of wines to be added to the next pasta sauce.  VINTJS Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

VINTJS Old Vine Zinfandel apparently is produced for Trader Joe's by Delicato Family Vineyards.  This is the same company that produces Gnarly Head, Twisted, and several other brands of wine.  Trader Joe's defines "old vines" as being over 30 years old, although other zinfandel vineyards in Lodi have older vines.

I found the wine to have less fruit flavors than some other Lodi Zinfandels, and more oak and tannins than I prefer.  Paired with food, the wine can be enjoyable, but not outstanding.  The wine has 14.5% alcohol and costs $7.99.

I recommend that you instead try Trader Joe's Growers Reserve Zinfandel Paso Robles for $5.49.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2012 Joel Gott 815 California Cabernet Sauvignon

Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon has been one of our favorites.  In December 2013, I wrote a post praising the 2011 vintage.  Since 2012 was a great wine growing year in California, with low rainfall, cool temperatures and a long harvest, I was anxious to try the 2012 vintage.  The new version certainly does not disappoint.  The wine contains grapes from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Lodi, Lake County and Paso Robles.  The individual lots from each viticulture area are aged in oak for 12 months and then blended to achieve the desired flavor.  25% of the grapes are aged in new American oak and the resulting wine has an alcohol content of 13.9%.  The wine has flavors of blueberry, blackberry and cola with a long flavorful finish.  I think the 2012 wine is even better than 2011.  I purchased the wine at Costco for $12.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points.

Friday, October 3, 2014

CA' MOMI Rosso Di Napa 2013

Three Italian winemakers established the Ca' Momi winery in Napa.  The Rosso Di Napa is a red blend made in an Italian style utilizing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Petit Sirah.  The winery does not disclose the percentages of each grape. 

Since this is a 2013 vintage wine, it is young but quite flavorful.  I found it to be medium bodied with black cherry and blackberry flavors.  Oak is present but subdued.  The finish is long with soft tannins and the alcohol content is 13.5%.  I enjoyed the wine and have since bought some more.  Wine Enthusiast rated the wine at 88 points but I think it is a little better than that.  I found it at Costco for $8.79.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Amalgama Red Table Wine 2013

The Amalgama Red Table Wine, from the Cachapoal Valley of Chile, is a blend of 70% Cabernet and 30% Syrah.  The grapes were harvested in April 2013, so it is a relatively young wine.  This is a fresh, fruit forward red wine without a lot of oak influence.  While it is not the most complex red wine, it is a tasty, medium dark fruit flavored wine that can be enjoyed with food or on its own.

My local Costco currently is reducing the $15.99 price to $8.99.  This is a very popular wine and should sell quickly.  I have had 2 bottles and will purchase more while it is available.

SC Wine Joe rating =88

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Comparison of two white European fizzy wines.

I have recently tried two similar white European wines that have a modest amount of sparkling fizz.

Broadbent Vino Verde

This wine from Portugal is a light, fresh wine with taste of lemon, tart apple, peach and melon.  It has a low alcohol content of 9% and I found it at Costco for $6.89.

Floriana Gruner Veltliner 2013

This wine is from Hungary.  I expect that it is the first wine I have consumed from that country.  It also is a light fresh wine with a taste of lemon and apple and an alcohol content of 11.5%.  I found it tucked away on a low shelf at Trader Joe's for $5.99.

The Gruner Veltliner is a very dry wine with some fizz.  The Broadbent is a semi-dry wine with some fizz.  Both are great summertime choices at a low price to accompany salmon or swordfish but if I were choosing, I would choose the Gruner Veltliner over the Broadbent Vino Verde.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tarima Hill Monastrell 2011

I have been reading some glowing online reviews of the Tarima Hill wine for the past year.  I have been looking for some bottles to try, but it never showed up at my Greenville Costco.  Finally, earlier this week, there was a large pallet of the wine.  I grabbed a couple of bottles and opened the first one that night.

Most of the Spanish wines that I have been buying are lighter, fruit forward wines.  The Tarima Hill is different from that.  This is a full bodied, complex 100% Monastrell from old vines in Alacante, Spain.  It has aged 20 months in French oak and has an alcohol content of 15%.  The wine is a deep violet color with flavors of dark red cherries and blackberries as well as smokey oak and spice.  Some reviewers have noted soft tannins on the finish but I would describe the finish as having medium tannins. 

This is a special wine that can be purchased at Costco for $12.69.  You can keep this wine for several years or have it with your next steak dinner.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91

Friday, August 29, 2014

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2012

Some 2012 west coast red wines are starting to show up in the stores and we are in for a treat.  The Wine Enthusiast Vintage Chart shows that 2012 was a great red wine vintage for California but an even greater superb vintage in the Columbia Valley of Washington.  In fact, it is the highest rated vintage since before 1990.

I had not drunk a Columbia Crest Grand Estate red wine for a few years.  When the Merlot showed up at Costco, I thought I would give it a try and it far exceeded my expectations.  The smooth, rich, black fruit taste and pleasant finish were very enjoyable.  The wine is 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and has an alcohol content of 13.5%.  If this low priced, mass marketed wine is this good, I cannot wait to try more 2012 Columbia Valley red wines.  I purchased this wine at Costco for $6.99.

SC Wine Joe rating =89 points.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trader Joe's Reserve Paso Robles Syrah 2012 Lot #100

Paso Robles is producing some great wines and Trader Joe's has found a partner there to bring terrific values to their customers.  Last March, Trader Joe's featured a Reserve Zinfandel Paso Robles that I thought was terrific.  It was produced under the name of Familia Nueva Vineyards, Creston CA.   Trader Joe's is now offering, as the fourth wine in the Fearless Flyer, the Trader Joe's Reserve Syrah Pasa Robles 2012 from Familia Nueva.  I think this is the best Fearless Flyer wine since March.

The wine begins with a spicy fruit aroma followed by a dark black cherry and blueberry taste with a hint of licorice.  The Flyer mentions a hint of bacon but that is a little far-fetched (I would not like it even if it was true).   This is a complex wine with varied flavors on different parts of your mouth.  It is really good and it finishes with a reasonable amount of oak.  The alcohol content of 14.1 % is well balanced. 

The wine is $9.99 and you will not find a better California wine for this price.  I recommend that you buy several bottles while it is available.

SC Wine Joe rating =91

Monday, August 18, 2014

VINTJS Mendocino County Heritage Varietal Blend 2012

The VINTJS Heritage Varietal Blend is a blend of 48% Zinfandel, 22% Syrah, 15% Carignane, 5% Petit Sirah, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Mourvedre and has an alcohol content of 13.9%.  It has been aged 12 months in French and American oak.  With those credentials it has to be good.  Maybe.

Here is how you can save $8.99 on this wine- do not buy it!  There is no awful reason to condemn this wine but there is no good reason to buy it either.  I could not discern the cherry and plum notes promised on the bottle.  It was just a boring monolithic taste with oak on the finish.  When you pay less than $10 for wine, you never know if it will surprise you or if it will just be mediocre.  I recommend you spend your $8.99 on one of Trader Joe's Italian or Spanish reds.

SC Wine Joe rating = 85

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Trader Joe's Petit Reserve 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay

The second wine from the new Fearless Flyer is the TJ's Petit Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay.  This delightful Chardonnay has many of the summer fruit flavors found in the other Fearless Flyer white, Pancake Big Day White.  There are apple, peach, lemon and melon notes but not the honeysuckle.  This is more complex and less sweet than the Pancake, which makes it a better choice to accommodate a meal.  The alcohol content is 13.5%.

Trader Joe's has raised the price a little on this wine to $7.99 but it is still an excellent buy for a Napa Valley Chardonnay.  I recommend that you give this a try if you are a white wine drinker.  I think you will enjoy it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pancake Cellars 2012 Big Day White Paso Robles

The August/ September Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer has been published and I will be posting about the wines featured in this issue.  The 2012 Pancake Cellars Big Day White from Paso Robles is a blend of 37% Chardonnay, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier, 15% Pinot Blanc and 10% Muscat Canelli.  This wine is produced by Central Coast Warehouse, the company that produces other Trader Joe's wines such as Fadeaway Pinot Noir, Fadeaway Chardonnay and Caretaker Pinot Noir.

The bottle mentions flavors of peach, apple, cantelope, orange blossom, honeysuckle and lemongrass.  I thought that the honeysuckle flavor was the most obvious.  Four of us shared the bottle in our garden and we all enjoyed it on a warm summer evening.  We agreed that it was aromatic, crisp, easy to drink and well worth the $5.99 price.  I think there are better food wines but this is a fun summer wine.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kirkland Signature Series 2012 Red Mountain Cabernet

The Red Mountain AVA is part of the Yakima Valley in Washington at the south end of the Columbia Valley.  It is an area of 90 degree days and cool nights during the grape growing season.  The AVA is known for powerful red wines which are the highest rated in the US outside of California.

John Freeman, who is a winemaker for Precept Wine, is identified as the winemaker for this wine.  On May 26, I reviewed Pendulum Columbia Valley Red Wine from this same organization and I discussed Precept's operations.

The Kirkland Signature Series Cabernet offers aromas of bing cherries and dark red fruit.  I always enjoy a flavor that I describe as earthy and this wine has it.  You may describe this flavor in some other way, but it is intense and rich.  A small amount of Merlot softens the tannins and the result is terrific.  The wine only has an alcohol content of 13.1% but you would guess it would be higher when you are drinking it.  The wine is $15.99 at Costco and that is a fair price for this wine.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91

Friday, August 8, 2014

Domaine Bousquet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

I have previously talked about the great wine values from Argentina and here is another.  The Domaine Bousquet is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Tupungato Valley, Mendoza Argentina.  This wine is made with organic grapes grown at an elevation of 4000 feet above sea level.

The Bousquet family are wine makers originally from southern France.  In 1990 Jean Bousquet arrived in Mendozza looking for the perfect location for his vineyard and winery.  In 1998 he purchased his land in the Tupungo Valley.   He is now creating wines with a European style that utilize the cool climate and terrior of the region.  Domaine Bousquet is now one of the leading exporters of organic wines in Argentina. 

This Cabernet has a dark purple color and a nose of berry fruit.  On the palate, it is a velvety soft wine with a long, elegant finish.    There are dark berry flavors with some earthy tones.  Wine Spectator rates this wine at 90 points and I agree.  The alcohol content is 14%.  At my local Costco, this wine is $13.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

South Africa is one of the great wine producing countries in the world but it exports more wine to some other countries than to the US.  Recently, I found the Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon from the Western Cape of South Africa at Whole Foods for $8.99. 

This is a wine that I liked better as I drank more of it.  Initially, I was surprised that it was a medium bodied Cabernet rather than the bigger type of Cab that I usually drink.  The tannins are softer than most Cabs from California, Washington or South America.  As I drank more of the wine, I realized the fruit berry flavor was pretty intense and I was really enjoying it.  You can drink this wine without food or with mild beef or stew.  The alcohol content of this young wine is 14%.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88

Monday, August 4, 2014

St Francis Old Vine Zinfandel Sonoma County 2011

In January,  I wrote about the 2010 St Francis Old Vine Zinfandel Sonoma County.  The 2011 vintage is now at Costco and since this wine is one of my favorites, I decided to compare the two vintages. 

The blend for the 2011 vintage is 87% Zinfandel, 6% Petit Sirah, 3% mixed blacks, 3% Mourvedre and 1% Syrah.  This blend has more Zinfandel, less mixed blacks and less Syrah than 2010 and there was no Mouvedre in 2010.  A big difference is that the 2011 has 15.0% alcohol while the 2010 had a whopping 15.8% alcohol.

I think St Francis softened this Zinfandel in 2011.  It is still a bigger tasting Zinfandel, but not as big as 2010.  There is still a lot of flavor but a little softer tannins.  You will still want to have this with grilled beef but you could also enjoy it with red pasta.  This wine is $13.89 at Costco and you cannot go wrong with it at that price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pallas Tempranillo 2013

I have been enjoying the Pallas Tempranillo from Whole Foods for a couple of years.  There are many Spanish Tempranillo wines available at reasonable prices and I think this is one of the most enjoyable.  This wine is 100% Tempranillo from the rocky La Mancha plateau and it has an alcohol content of 14%. 

In the glass, Pallas Tempranillo has an aroma of black cherry fruit.  I actually taste cola in this fruit forward, medium bodied wine.  There is a lot of flavor in each sip.

At $6.99, you cannot go wrong with this wine.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88

Friday, July 25, 2014

Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Viognier Clarksburg 2012

We were first introduced to Viognier a few years ago on a wine tour of Virginia, where the grape has been designated the state grape.  We have since discovered great Viognier closer to home in the Yadkin Valley, North Carolina.  If you have not discovered this grape, you are missing a great summertime treat.  Viognier wines are drier than reisling or pinot gris but still retaining a crisp fruit flavor.

The Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Viognier comes from Clarksburg, a short distance from Sacramento, California.  It has a crisp flavor of peaches, apricot and melon.  The alcohol content is 13.7%.  This is so easy to drink and so enjoyable, you will empty the bottle sooner than you can imagine.  The great thing is that it only costs $6.99.  I have had some terrific white wines this summer, but none better than this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Marchigue Carmenere Santa Ana Vineyard Reserva 2012

Carmenere is one of the original six Bordeaux grapes.  Today, the Carmenere grape is primarily grown in Chile and is often referred to as the "signature grape of Chile".   This Merlot-like grape is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Carmenere is best drunk when it is young.

It is not common to see Carmenere in the stores where I shop and I was intrigued to find this single vineyard, reserve wine for $7.99 at Trader Joe's.  The bottle promises aromas of lush forest.  I was skeptical, but from the glass I indeed detected a nose that I would describe as damp cedar followed by a taste of oak, mint and red berry.   This is a medium bodied wine with softer tannins and the terroir has clearly impacted this wine.

This medium bodied wine will pair well with a wide variety of beef, pork and pasta dishes.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89

Friday, July 18, 2014

Montrosso 2010 Chianti

This summer, I have been enjoying European red wines from Italy, France and Spain. Many California and South America wines have seemed heavy in the warm summer temperatures.

I recently picked up a bottle of Montrosso Chianti at Whole Foods Market for $11.99.   A wine labeled as Chianti comes from the Chianti region in central Tuscany and must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes.  This bottle is labeled as "estate bottled" and has an alcohol content of 13.5%. 

The Monrosso Chianti is a medium bodied wine with a lot of medium-dark fruit flavor and a soft tannin finish.  It is enjoyable from start to finish and I think it is very fairly priced.  We paired the wine with red pasta and it was a good match.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points.

Monday, July 14, 2014

2012 Chateau Mayne Guyon Cotes de Bordeaux

I have previously praised the Trader Joe's wines from Italy and Spain, so I decided to select a wine from France to see if my luck will hold out across another European country.  I looked over all the bottles and selected a red Bordeaux from the Cotes de Bordeaux.  Trader Joe's does not give you ratings from wine magazines, etc, so you do not have much to go on except for the information on the bottle.  Also,  I am new to buying wine at Trader Joe's, so I do not have a backlog of information to use in my selections.
I think I really made a great choice.  In researching information for this review, I found that in 2013, Wine Enthusiast Magazine named this wine the #1 best buy for the year and awarded the wine 91 points.  Many others have named this one of the best wines to buy at Trader Joe's.

I really liked this wine.  I found it a smooth but complex, medium bodied wine with tastes of plum, black cherry and licorice.  The bottle does not indicate which Bordeaux varietals are in the wine and the wine is 13.5% alcohol.  You can buy this great wine at an unbelievable price of $7.99 at Trader Joe's.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Santa Rita Organic Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Santa Rita is one of Chile's best known and respected wineries.  The Santa Rita Organic wines are made with organically grown grapes and are sold exclusively at Whole Foods Markets.  No artificial pesticides or fertilizers are used in the vineyards.

The Santa Rita Organic Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Central Valley of Chile is made from 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Carmenere and 5% Merlot.  The wine is aged 8 months in French Oak and has an alcohol content of 13.5%.

I found the flavor of the wine to be complex and fruity.  The bottle describes the flavor as ripe black fruit with notes of black pepper and spice.  I did not detect the black pepper but agree with the ripe black fruit flavor.

This wine is smooth and flavorful with a long lasting medium tannin finish.  The Cabernet is definitely softened by the Merlot and Carmenere.  It is a very enjoyable wine which I have already replaced in my wine fridge.  Whole Foods prices this wine at $12.99. 

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chateau Hanteillan Haut-Medoc 2010

Every once in a while, Costco has a wine deal that is so compelling, I have to bring special attention to it.  Finding this Chateau Hanteillan Haut-Medoc for $11.79 is one of those occasions.  Items at Costco that have a price ending in 79 cents are items where Costco has received a special deal from the supplier/manufacturer and you should not expect this wine to be available for very long.  If you search online, you will find this wine selling anywhere from $20 to $40.  Wine Enthusiast rated the wine at 92 points.

Haut-Medoc is a wine growing region in the Bordeaux Region of southwestern France.  Therefore the wines are a blend of the Bordeaux varietals.  This wine is composed of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot (there may be other grapes such as Cabernet Franc but I could not confirm that).  Drinking this wine, I am sure that Merlot must be at least half of the blend. 

In my initial taste, I found black cherry, spice and a hint of licorice.  The long lasting finish had medium tannins like you would expect to find in a nice Merlot or an American Meritage.  This is one of the most enjoyable wines I have tasted recently.  You can drink it now or keep it for the future in your wine fridge.  I strongly recommend buying a few bottles of this if it is at your local Costco (all stores do not have the same selection).

SC Wine Joe rating = 92

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Albero 2012 Monastrell

Readers of this blog know that Spanish wines are favorites of mine and that they are also great bargains for American wine drinkers.  I also have found that the best values at Trader Joe's are the wines from Spain and Italy.  Recently, at Trader Joe's, I found the Albero 2012 Monastrell.  It was not on a big display, just one of the wines on the shelf.  On the first day of drinking this wine, I was not sure if I liked it.  I liked the initial flavor, but the finish was unexpectedly dry and oaky.  When I finished the bottle on the next day, I really liked it and was perplexed about what I should say about this wine.  The only solution was to buy another bottle and try again.  I will now say that I like this wine a lot.

Albero is from the town of Jumilla in southeast Spain.  This area is inland from the Mediterranean sea and is known for growing Monastrell grapes.

The initial aroma from the wine is a little spicy.  The taste is a great blend of medium berry with some minerality.  The finish has oak and tannins but is long lasting.  I think you can enjoy this wine with meat or pasta.  The wine is only $6.99 at Trader Joe's.  A great price!!

The wine is said to be made from 100% organic grapes.  The alc. content is 14%.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve St Helena Napa Valley Merlot 2012 Lot #37

When I host a wine tasting, I advise my guests that they can know a lot about a wine by determining where it is from.  A  little knowledge about the growing areas of California is helpful in selecting a bottle to purchase.  For example, some AVA's produce great Merlot and Cabernet but not great Pinot Noir.  Generally, the smaller the AVA is defined, the better and more expensive the wine.

The Trader Joe's Grand Reserve St Helena Merlot ($12.99) seemed to have a lot going for it.  Not only was it a Merlot from Napa County, it was from the St. Helena sub-appellation.

If you like soft, smooth, easy drinking merlot with not much complexity, this wine is for you.  For me, it was a dissappointment.  It is a medium berry flavored wine with a small finish.  After a glass, I could not remember much flavor to describe.  There are better choices available.  See my review of the Kirkland Signature Series Oakville Merlot.

SC Wine Joe rating = 86

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay 2012

At my local Costco, the summer wine sale runs until July 6, 2014.  I was disappointed in the offerings for this sale, but one wine you might want to consider is the Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay 2012.  Costco states that the regular price of this wine is $17.39 but during the sale it is reduced $3.50 to $13.89.

We visited the Hess Winery in Napa a few years ago and had a great time.  I remember the reds we tasted as being exceptional.  There is also a great art collection to view.  We did not taste this wine at the winery but the Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay is a step up from the Chardonnay usually found at the local grocery.

I find this wine to be an oak aged Charonnay with a great fruit and honeysuckle nose.  The flavor is not as crisp as I like, but with food, the elegant texture really works.  We had it with a cream sauce pasta and it was great.  This is not a poolside summer wine, but it works well with a lot of food styles.  If you get to Costco before July 6 and this wine is on sale at your store, you should put a bottle in your cart!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mas Picosa negra de negra 2013

Whole Foods is a great grocery store and one of the largest wine sellers in the United States, but I have noticed that very few bloggers review the wines from this store.  You can find a few posts about whether Whole Foods or Trader Joe's has the best wine for $3.00 but there is not much more.  Since I regularly shop at Whole Foods, I decided to pick up a couple of bottles of wine to give them a try.  The first is a wine from Montsant, Spain - "Mas Picosa negro de negro 2013".

Montsant is a Spanish D.O. for wine located in the Province of Tarragona, which covers 12 municipalities in the vicinity of the Montsant Mountains in southern Spain.  The region has a Mediterranean climate but is inland from the sea.  The main style of wine is powerful reds.

I opened the Mas Picosa an hour ahead of time.  There was not a lot of aroma but the initial taste was somewhat fruit flavored.  However, the finish was bitter, peppery and hot (the Alc. content is 14.5%).  I think the wine is too young and unbalanced.  The bottle cost $12.99 and I would not buy this again.

SC Wine Joe rating = 85

Monday, June 23, 2014

Il Tarocco 2011 Chianti Classico

Chianti is an area in the Tuscan Hills of western Italy.  A wine designated as a Chianti Classico must be Sangiovese blended with a small percentage of other grapes.  A classico wine must meet certain criteria regarding color, flavor, tannins and alcohol content and also must display a symbol of a rooster somewhere on the bottle.

The Il Tarocco Chianti Classico  is made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo Nero.  It is aged in small french oak barrels for 12 months and 6 months in the bottle.  The A.C .= 13.5%.  Il Tarocco is available at Trader Joe's for $9.99. 

It has taken 3 bottles of this wine for me to be able to write this review and that is not a bad thing since I really like it.  I just had a difficult time discerning what I liked.  I would describe the wine as a medium body, medium cherry and berry fruit, with a medium long finish.  I know that sounds like a mediocre wine but it is not!  This wine has a lot of flavor and complexity.  It just seems to hit a midway point in many categories.  As such, I think it is a wine that will appeal to many wine drinkers and a wine that will pair with many foods.  If you are a Trader Joe's shopper, you should give this a try.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Milcampos Tempranillo 2011

Readers of my blog know that some of the best values in wine come from Spain and this wine is no exception.  The Milcampos Temperanillo comes from the Ribera del Duero appelation in Castilla y Leon in northern Spain.  This region is known for high quality Tempranillo grown in higher elevations.   A unique flavor is imparted to the Tempranillo grapes from the soil conditions and the weather extremes.  This wine is aged  for 10 months in new American and Hungarian oak barrels and in the bottle for 8 months.

I found the wine to have a deep purple color but a medium body.  The wine has lovely fruit flavors and very mild tanins on the finish.  All of this results in an elegant, fresh wine.  I enjoyed this wine very much and I think most others will also.  This wine was found for $11.99 at Costco.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Kirkland Cotes Du Rhone, Villages 2012

Last year, the Kirkland Cotes Du Rhone Villages was one of my all time favorites and I have been waiting for it to come around again.  Too much time has passed, to compare last years version with the 2012 vintage I found today at Costco, but I can attest that the new vintage is one, really good wine!

The Rhone Valley is in Southeast France.  The Granache dominated wines from this region are classified:
     1.  Cotes du Rhone
     2.  Cotes du Rhone Villages
     3.  Cotes Du Rhone Village (named Village)
     4.  Crus

The Kirkland wine is from the second level of wines.  The wine is produced from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.  The A.C. =14%.  The wine is said to be produced using sustainable agriculture.

This wine has a medium dark velvet color, a taste of dark berries and red licorice, and an easy finish of moderate tannins.  It is a thoroughly enjoyable wine and one of the greatest bargains you can ever find at $6.99.

SC Wine Joe Rating = 89 (plus an extra star for value)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

VINTJS Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013

When I think of Sauvignon Blanc, I think of New Zealand, not of Napa Valley California.  I think I have to revise my thinking a whole lot!  The fourth wine in the Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer is the VINTJS Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  I have to admit, my expectations were not that high for this wine and that is why I opened the other 3 wines before this wine.  Trader Joe's has several tiers of wine above the VINTJS label and I was not familiar with California Sauvignon Blanc.  This was one of the biggest wine surprises that I have ever experienced.

We had a small wine tasting tonight and everyone loved this wine.  As promised in the Fearless Flyer, it is a straw colored wine with hints of tropical fruit flavors,  There is a minerality and crispness in the finish.  This is a perfect summertime wine.  The wine is $7.99 at Trader Joe's and it is a real winner.  I will buy a lot more of this wine this summer.