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