Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Benziger Family Winery 2011 Chardonnay Sonoma County

When I began this blog in November 2013, the Benziger Chardonnay was one of the first wines I reviewed, since it was one of my all-time favorites.  Unfortunately, my readership was very low at that time and almost nobody read my post.  Recently, Total Wines and More sent me a coupon for 20% off Chardonnay that I could apply to this all-time favorite and I could not pass it up.

A few years ago, my wife, my sister-in-law and I toured the Benziger Winery in Sonoma County.  It was a fascinating place.  Benziger has a commitment to natural vineyard management and sustainable farming.  Special gardens are planted which attract insects and birds that eliminate pests thus eliminating the need to apply chemicals and insecticides.  This is a standard that they apply to any vineyard that supplies grapes to their winery.  It is very reasonable to expect this policy will result in more flavorable wines.

The Benziger Family Winery Series is their lowest priced group of wines and you can find them throughout the country at many retail outlets.  The 2011 Chardonnay has tastes of lemon, pear, apricot and a slight amount of oak resulting from 6 months aging in Hungarian oak.  I miss the small amount of "fizz" I found in last years version.  All told, this is still one of my favorite Chardonnays that I will buy time after time.

The normal price at Total Wines and More for this wine is $11.99.  With my coupon I purchased it for $9.59.  I do not give a numerical rating to white wines since preference of style is such an important factor when selecting white wine.  However, this is one of the best Chardonnays you can buy in this price range.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pendulum Columbia Valley Red Wine 2011

Precept Wine is the largest privately owned wine business in the Northwest, owning vineyards and wineries in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  Precept controls all aspects of their wines from vineyard to wine making to marketing.  Some of the wines are names you recognize, some are not.  Several of their wines are "winery direct" wines at Total Wines and More.  Pendulum is a smaller production wine but it has been honored by Wine and Spirits (93 points and a best buy) and by Wine Spectator (90 points).

2011 Pendulum Columbia Valley Red Wine is comprised of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 4% Syrah and 3 % Temperanillo.  The 2012 Vintage has just been bottled and it has a different blend of grapes.  The 2011 version is aged in a mix of French and American oak and has 13.3% A.C.

The bottle says the wine has flavors of berry, chocolate and spice.  I do not taste the chocolate but you might.  I find the taste to be intense and complex but also smooth.  This is a great wine and you can enjoy it with steak or red sauces.  Online, you can buy this for $16 to $18.  I found it at Costco for $12.99.  If you give it a try, you will be well rewarded.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90

Thursday, May 22, 2014

2012 Francis Coppola Sofia Rose

Do not confuse this wine with White Zinfandel.  The Sofia Rose is a dry blush wine blended from 80% syrah and 20% Grenache from Monterrey County, California.  This wine is a perfect match for summer food.  The wine begins with an aroma of flowers, then tastes of strawberry and raspberry completed by a long, dry, spicy finish.

The colorful Rose wine comes in a beautiful clear bottle.  It is available at Costco for $9.99 and the supply has diminished at my store in the past week.  I recommend that you try this while it is available.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Kirkland Signature Series 2012 Columbia Valley Red Wine

Costco's Signature Series wines seem to be priced in the $15 to $20 dollar range.  The signature Series Columbia Valley Red Wine is now available for $18.89. 

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec from the Columbia Valley in Washington.  The wine is said to be produced and bottled by Dolan & Weiss Cellars, Walla Walla, Washington.  The winemaker is Gilles Nicault who is the French born director of winemaking at Long Shadows Winery.  The wine is aged in French oak for 15 months and has an A.C. of 14.6%.

My initial taste sensation was of licorice and rich dark cherry and blackberry fruit.  The flavor is concentrated and a little tart.  It finishes with medium tannins and a little more oak than I prefer.  I enjoyed the wine more on the second day.  All told, an enjoyable wine.  As with most Kirkland wines, it compares favorably with more expensive bottles.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Vinessens Sein 2011

When I find a wine rated 92 points by Robert Parker that I can buy at Costco for $12.99, that wine will be in my shopping cart.  The 2011 Vinessens Sein is from Villena, Alicante located on the eastern Mediteranian coast of Spain.  Bodegga Vinessens specializes in growing Monastrell grapes and the plot where these grapes are produced yields fruit which is fresh and fruity.  The Vinessens Sein is 60% Monastrell and 40% Syrah with a hefty A.C. of 15%.  The taste of the wine is described as having ripe black fruits with hints of spice and a lasting finish.  I agree with that description except that I think there is more than a hint of spice and a peppery taste from the syrah.  I found the wine to be a bit different than anything I have tasted recently and I found it very enjoyable.  I think it would be a great wine to drink with barbeque.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Kirkland Signature Series 2012 Oakville Merlot

Oakville California is in the heart of Napa Valley.  In this blog, we have previously talked about how, the more narrowly defined the source of the grapes, the better and more expensive the wine.  There is not a better source for Merlot and Cabernet in the US than Napa Valley.  This wine narrows the grape source to the Oakville area of the Napa Valley.  Oakville is north of the town of Napa and south of St Helena and Rutherford and is renowned for immensely concentrated, balanced grapes from the well drained soils of gravel and sand.

The Kirkland Series 2012 Oakville Merlot is one of the finest wines I have tasted in recent months.  It has a beautiful dark velvet color and an inviting aroma.  The initial taste is soft, but the longer the wine is in the mouth, the better it gets.  It has a deep red and black berry flavor and a tremendous long lasting finish with medium, balanced oak.  The wine has an A.C. of 14.5%.  I cannot say enough good things about this wine.  At $14.99, I plan to go back and buy a lot more.  I think you could easily pay more than $20 for a wine like this.

SC Wine Joe Rating = 92

Friday, May 9, 2014

Kirkland Signature 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The Alexander Valley AVA is the northernmost portion of Sonoma County, north of Healdsburg.  The area has very high daytime temperatures and low night temperatures.  The valley is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but many other varietals do well.  Among the best known vineyard owners in the Alexander Valley are Simi and Rodney Strong.

When you check out the medium purple Kirkland 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet in the glass, you suspect that it will not be the biggest, boldest Cabernet you can drink.  In fact, it has a palate of bright cherry and raspberry with no dark fruit or earthiness at all.  The finish is soft tannins even though it was aged in oak for 22 months.  While it is a pleasant drink, it falls short of expectations for Cabernet.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Kirkland Signature Prosecco

Kirkland Signature Prosecco just hit the shelves of my local Costco.  Prosecco is a lesser expensive Italian alternative to champagne usually made from the giera grape.  This Prosecco is from the Friuli region in the northeastern portion of Italy, bordering on Slovenia and Germany just below the Alps.

Prosecco can be dry, extra dry or Brut.  The Kirkland Signature Prosecco is extra dry, so there is not a lot of sweetness.  The wine is classified as a spumante so it has had a full secondary fermentation with resulting bubbles.

This is a terrific Italian sparkling wine suitable for special occasions or just for any informal party or brunch.  The wine is low in A.C.(11.5%) and is aromatic and crisp.  At $7.49 a bottle you can keep several bottles on hand.

Friday, May 2, 2014

2012 Trader Joe's Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Earlier this week, I came home with three red wines featured in the current Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer.  I did not like the the TJ's Petit Reserve Merlot and was not excited about the Overlake Red Blend.  However, I really like the TJ's Reserve Russian River Valley 2012 Pinot Noir Lot #85.

The Russian River Valley AVA is the portion of Sonoma County between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.  This area is a short distance from the Pacific Coast.  It regularly receives a nightly blanket of fog that cools the temperature making ideal conditions for growing  pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.  I recommend visiting the wineries in this area because the wines are great but the area is less commercialized than the Sonoma Valley and much less commercialized than Napa County.

The TJ's Reserve Pinot Noir is a medium red color with an initial taste of cherry and cranberry.  There is just a hint of oak and an easy, long lasting dry finish.  The wine has 13.5% A.C. and has been aged 5 months in french oak barrels.  The wine is a good value at $9.99.

SC Wine Joe Rating = 88

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Overlake 2012 Red Blend

This month, Trader Joe's is featuring the 2012 Overlake Red Blend from Lake County California for $5.99.  Lake County is bordered by Napa County on the south, Sonoma County on the southwest and Mendocino County on the west.  The weather in the wine growing regions is greatly impacted by Clear Lake in the center of the county.

The Overlake Red Blend is 70% Zinfandel, 20% Syrah, 5% Barberra, 3% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot.  My initial sips seemed a little weak in flavor but it had a stronger berry finish.  It is not overly sweet and is easily drinkable, especially with a burger or pasta.  I think the wine is good value for the low price.
SC Wine Joe rating = 87