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.