Thursday, December 31, 2015

Terrenal Seleccionado 2014

I was in Trader Joe's and decided to look at their selection of Spanish wines.  Recently, I have not found any new wines from Spain at Costco and I wanted a medium bodied red wine to pair with a meal.  The Terrenal Selectionado caught my eye with its blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Monastrell and an alcohol content of 15%.

Terrenal is a brand of Kosher wines at Trader Joe's.  Seleccionado is from high altitude plots in the Yecla region in southeastern Spain, where Monastrell is 85% of the grape crop.

Seleccionado is a medium bodied wine with flavors of tart cherries and blueberries.  There is some minerality and balanced tanins on the finish.  This is a terrific buy at $6.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Monday, December 28, 2015

Kirkland Signature Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2014

My wine for our Christmas dinner this year was the Kirkland Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2014.  Readers of this blog may remember that I reviewed the 2013 vintage in October 2014.

The Russian River Valley is in northern Sonoma County from Santa Rosa to Healdsburg and is noted for cool climate varietals such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  This region is in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and is affected by cool fog at night and plentiful sunshine during the day.  Daytime temperatures cool 20 to 30 degrees at night.

DC Flynt provides this wine to Costco under the Kirkland Signature label.  DC Flynt's website says that Anthony Austin is the winemaker.  Austin is the winemaker for Sonoma Coast Vineyards where he produces award winning Pinot Noir that sells for $50 and up.

I found the wine to have a darker, deeper color than some Pinot Noir.  It has flavors of dark cherry, raspberry and some spicy oak.  From my description of the 2013 version, I think this wine is a little softer but still quite flavorful.  The oak may be more subdued and that is better, in my opinion.  This is a very good Pinot Noir for the $12.99 price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Friday, December 18, 2015

Chateau Larteau Bordeaux Superior 2009

A French wine recently found at Costco is Chateau Larteau from Bordeaux.  This wine is 100% Merlot aged in oak for 18 months (30% new oak) with 13.5% alc.  The 2009 vintage is currently being sold at Costco for $9.99, making it a very low priced French wine.

I found this to be a very soft, fruity, easy drinking Merlot which can be enjoyed by a wide range of wine drinkers.  Flavors remind me of blueberries and cherries.  While this is not the most complex wine around, it is a very good all purpose, weekday wine and a good value.  I have already gone back and purchased more.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Monday, December 14, 2015

Primus The Blend 2013 Colchagua Valley Chile

At my local Costco, I recently found Primus "The Blend" 2013 from Chile.  It is highly rated by Wine Enthusiast and Costco was featuring the wine for a reduced price of $12.99.   Online, this wine sells for $16 to $20.

Primus Blend is composed of 35% Carmenere, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  The wine cannot be classified as a Bordeaux style wine since Syrah is not a Bordeaux varietal but it drinks a lot like a California Meritage blend.  The blend is aged 12 months in French oak and has an alcohol content of 14.5%.  In the glass, the wine is a deep dark red color and has an aroma that promises good things to come.  This medium bodied wine has blackberry, blueberry and dark cherry tones and the sweetness is in the mid range for a red blend.  The tannins are not overpowering and the finish lingers quite well.

This is an excellent red blend which would pair well with roast or even burgers.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chateau de Belcier Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux 2011

My local Costco currently has several French wines in their selection and I found the Chateau de Belcier Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux 2011 for $10.99.

The Castillon district of the Cotes de Bordeaux is in the eastern edge of the Bordeaux region.  The district primarily grows Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with lesser amounts of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere.

The Chateau de Belcier is crafted from Merlot (69%), Cabernet Franc (25%) and Malbec (6%) and was aged in French oak for 8 months.  The wine has 14% alcohol.

The wine is a dry wine with flavors of dried plums, earth and cedar.  The flavor is influenced by the amount of Cabernet Franc in the blend.  This is a different style wine than most California blends that I am more accustomed to drinking although it reminded me of some Virginia and North Carolina Cabernet Franc based red blends.  It took me a while to warm up to this wine but on the second day I began to really like it and was very sorry when it was gone.  This is a great wine to pair with any beef dish or barbeque.  I will buy more if it is still available on my next trip to Costco.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Friday, December 4, 2015

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros 2014 Lot #23

Readers of this blog know that I am a fan of Pinot Noir from Carneros.  Trader Joe's is featuring their Grand Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros 2014 Lot #23 in the Christmas Fearless Flyer that I just received.  I reviewed the 2013 version of this wine and I was anxious to see if I liked the 2014 as much as I enjoyed the 2013.

Just as I wrote last January, this Pinot Noir is a little less cherry and more blackberry flavored than some Pinots.  There is soft oak into the finish.  The wine has 13.9% alcohol and is priced at $12.99.  I think this wine must be very much like last year's version and I will keep my rating the same as last year.  I like this wine and recommend it for holiday enjoyment.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kirland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County 2013

My opinions of this wine have varied considerably in recent years.  I was not impressed with the 2011 vintage but I really liked the 2012.  That made some sense because the 2011 season was not
considered a great year for Cabernet in Napa but 2012 was really good.  Now, the 2013 version is on the shelves at Costco and 2013 was another highly regarded season in Napa.

The Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County 2013 promised good things when I opened the bottle.  The aroma filled the air without even pouring it into the glass.  When I tasted the wine, it was very pleasant initially but by the time I was ready to swallow, the taste had soured slightly.  I just did not have a totally pleasing experience.  An hour later, I could not say that it improved.  The wine is ok but there are better choices.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville 2011

Recently, I wrote about the very enjoyable Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville 2013.  Now Trader Joe's is selling a Platinum Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville 2011 for $14.99.    Obviously, we have to compare the two wines.

Both wines are lightly oaked rich wines with fruit forward tastes of dark berries finishing with moderate tannins.  I have to say that the less expensive, Grand Reserve had more intense fruit flavors and was more enjoyable than the Platinum Reserve.   Perhaps, it was due to the better Napa Valley growing season in 2013 than in 2011. 

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Friday, November 13, 2015

Markstone Pinot Noir Carneros 2013

Pinot Noir is a Thanksgiving tradition at our house and Trader Joe's is featuring several Pinot Noirs in their current "wine insider" e-mail.  One of the more interesting selections is the Markstone Pinot Noir Carneros. 

Carneros, in the southern portion of Napa County and Sonoma County, just north of San Pablo Bay near San Francisco, is noted for a distinctive style of Pinot Noir.  The cool foggy climate imparts a special flavor to the grapes.  When I tasted the Markstone Pinot Noir I knew it was from Carneros without even reading the label.

In the glass, this wine is lighter in color than some Pinot Noir.  The color is consistent with the cherry and strawberry flavors in the initial taste.  The wine finishes with some oak and earthiness making it more complex than first expected.  This well balanced wine will be a nice accompaniment to your holiday turkey or ham.  The wine has 14.5% alcohol and costs $10.99 at Trader Joe's.

I have now tried the Markstone Merlot and Pinot Noir.  Both have been excellent.  If you are a Trader Joe's fan, you will want to pay attention to wines from Markstone.

SC Wine Joe rating - 89 points

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Trader Joe's Platinum Grand Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2013 Lot 33

Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer came out today and is featuring wines for Thanksgiving.  There is an emphasis on Pinot Noir and the e-version features more wines than the print version, although all of the wines in the e-version were not available today in my local store.  A wine featured in both the e-version and the print version is the Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Lot 33.

The Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve wines all sell  for $14.99 and most have been outstanding.  They are limited production and often are sold out in a few days.  I think you should make a special trip to Trader Joe's to buy this wine.

The Russian River Valley is the northern portion of Sonoma County from Santa Rosa north to Healdsburg.  It features a cool climate that is affected by morning fog, due to its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean.  The Russian River Valley is noted for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  When we visited this area, we found that the wineries were very visitor friendly compared to wineries in Napa and the southern portions of Sonoma.

Trader Joe's Lot 33 Pinot Noir is definitely a smooth, dry wine.  It has less cherry fruit and more dark berries than a typical Pinot Noir.  The best aspect is the long lasting finish.  I was tasting this wine long after we finished the bottle.  The tannins are present but not overpowering.  All in all, this is a great Pinot Noir and is a value at $15.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013

I recently enjoyed the 2013 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot, so I decided to try the 2013 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is actually a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Syrah and 2% other varietals.  The wine is barrel aged in 30% new oak for approximately 10 months and has an alcohol content of 13.5%.  In my area, Total Wines and More sells this wine for $7.47 and Costco prices it at $7.99.

The first thing you will notice about this wine is the dark color.  The color and the aroma of dark fruit tell you this is a rich, dry, full bodied wine.  The taste confirms this and it finishes with a hint of chocolate and moderate tannins.  This is a wine to pair with red pasta or grilled meat.

I was impressed with this wine and it is a great buy for under $8.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2013

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot from 2012 has been my most purchased wine in the past year.   It was wine that I rated at 89 points (some readers of this blog rated it even higher) and I could buy it for under $7 at either Costco or Total Wines and More.  I credited the fantastic 2012 vintage year for red wines in the Columbia Valley for much of the success of this great wine value.  Now, we have to move on since the 2013 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot is on the store shelves.  The 2013 vintage for red wines in the Columbia Valley is another great vintage,- rated far above average, but not as superb as 2012. 

The 2013 Grand Estates Merlot is again a rich flavored, full bodied Merlot.  It is a very deep dark color.   Besides the usual dark berry flavor, there is licorice and a little cola.  This is an outstanding wine, even better than 2012 and the price is still $6.99 at Costco.  I will buy a lot of this in the next year!

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Friday, October 30, 2015

Noble Vines 1 Red Blend California 2012

Noble Vines 1 Red Blend is a combination of Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We only know that the grapes are from California but the Zinfandel is likely from Lodi.  Noble Vines uses specific grape clones in their vineyards including the 181 Merlot Clone and the 337 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone.  Since 2012 was a great vintage for red grapes in much of California, I expected this wine to be good.

This is a medium bodied wine with flavors of dark cherry and blackberry.   The wine has some acidity and softer tannins.  This is a pleasant, easy drinking red wine suited for pairing with pizza or barbeque.  The wine is not overly sweet like some other inexpensive red blends and is a wine that most people will enjoy!  I purchased the wine at Costco for $9.79 and it has an alcohol content of 14%.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Santa Rita Secret Reserve Red Blend Maipo Chile 2013

Santa Rita has introduced a new line of wines they call "Secret Reserve".  The label features a decorative mirror and a legend about the mirror holding secrets from the past.  The legend is a bit silly and tells nothing about the wine.  Santa Rita produces many world class wines but the purpose of the Secret Reserve wines is simply to meet a certain price point.

Secret Reserve Red Blend is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon (53%), Merlot (20%), Syrah (15%), Petit Verdot (7%) and Carmenere (5%).    I do not recommend drinking this wine immediately after opening the bottle as it improved after an hour.  I found the wine to taste of dark berries with spice and cedar tones.  The flavor reminded me of an inexpensive carmenere that I sometimes drink from Trader Joe's.  The wine is only $8.99 at Costco and is good for that price but you will not want to open this for your next special occasion.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cathar Crianza 2009 Ribera Del Duero

My local Costco recently had Cathar Crianza 2009 in the bins for $14.99.  It caught my attention because of the age (2009) and the Wine Spectator rating (92).   I have since learned that the price was well below the usual for this wine.

The wine is 100% Tempanillo, which is the dominant grape of Ribera Del Duero (Bank of the River Duero) in northern Spain.  The grapes are from 42 year old vines.  Ribera Del Duero has hot, dry summers and long harsh winters.  There are also great temperature variations during the summer days.    The vines are low yielding and the grapes are hand harvested.   The wine is aged 15 months in French oak.

The vines, climate, soil and care during production lead to a wonderfully complex wine.  There are many layers of flavor including blackberry, cedar and spice in this medium bodied wine.  I really enjoyed this wine.  On my next trip to Costco, the Cathar Crianza was gone.  If it is available in your local Costco, you should buy several bottles.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Trellis Chardonnay 2013 Sonoma County

I do not assign numerical ratings to white wines.  Chardonnay is a good example of why I am hesitant to do that.  Chardonnay comes in a variety of styles.  Some are oaky and creamy, others aged in stainless steel and acidic.  Many are somewhere in between.  It is extremely hard to rate a chardonnay made in a style that is not my favorite. 

Trellis Chardonnay is not my favorite.  To me, it tastes too much like lemons and is too acidic.  It may not taste like that to you and it could be just what you like. The grapes are from a great growing area and may be top quality. I did not sense the apple and pear with vanilla that is promised in the latest Fearless Flyer.  The wine is only $6.99 so there is not much to lose, but my recommendation is to buy the Trader Joe's Coastal Chardonnay Central Coast instead.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Markstone 2012 Merlot Napa Valley

Trader Joe's is also featuring the Markstone Napa Valley Merlot in the current Fearless Flyer.  Even though the bottle indicates a webpage for this wine, it is not active, so do not expect to learn much online.  We cannot determine who is behind the Markstone label.

I will get straight to the point!  I really enjoyed this wine.  It is a lighter bodied merlot with tons of fruit flavor.  Besides the usual dark berry and dark cherry flavors, there is also an underlying cola and even licorice flavor.  There is not  much oak flavor on this, so it would pair better with cheese and pasta than with roast or steak.  2012 was a great year for Merlot and Cabernet in Napa and we need to enjoy these wines while they are so affordable.  This wine is only $9.99 at Trader Joe's and that is a great value.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mayhall Tibbs Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 2013

Trader Joe's October 2015 Fearless Flyer is featuring the Mayhall Tibbs Pinot Noir which they are selling for $10.99.  The reputation of Sta. Rita Hills AVA for fine Pinot Noir made this a promising selection on my recent shopping trip.

Sta Rita Hills is a small AVA in the western edge of Santa Barbara County.  The unique aspect of this viticulture  area is that the mountain ranges were turned by tectonic plate movement so that they align in an east-west direction.  This funnels fog and ocean breezes into the growing areas making them ideal for cool climate wine grape varietals such as Pinot Noir  and Chardonnay.   These grapes have only been grown in this region for about 20 years but award winning wines are now being produced.

As you would expect, the wine has flavors of cherries with some minerality.  I found the wine to finish with a little sour taste.  The wine is  a lighter style Pinot Noir but is not as fruit-forward as I expected.  The wine is good but not up to my expectation.

SC Wine Joe Rating = 87 points

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bonterra Chardonnay 2013 Mendocino County

I found the Bonterra Chardonnay Mendocino County at Whole Foods Market for $11.99.  I recently have been enjoying the Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon from Costco so I thought I would like the Chardonnay.  The good news is that we really liked the Chardonnay.  The bad news is that Total Wines and More across the street sells the wine for $8.99 and this week it can be purchased for 15% off with a coupon.  I guess it really is good news because I can buy more at a very good price, I just paid $3 too much for this one bottle.

Bonterra Chardonnay is comprised of 70% grapes aged in French and American oak that undergoes a secondary fermentation to give the wine a creamy texture and 30% grapes aged in stainless steel to add a crispness.  As with other Bonterra wines, the grapes are grown in a sustainable organic environment.  I found the wine to have an apple, pear, honey flavor that is different from most Chardonnays.

I really enjoyed the wine and expect to buy more- at Total Wines not at Whole Foods!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

2014 Ca'Momi Rosso Di Napa

Last October I reviewed the 2013 vintage of the Ca'Momi Rosso Di Napa which I really liked,  The 2014 vintage is now at Costco, so I was anxious to see if it measures up to last year.

This red blend consists primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel sourced from the heart of the Napa Valley blended with lesser amounts of Merlot and Petit Sirah from the Carneros area.  The wine has aged 6 months in French and American oak and has an alcohol content of 13.5%.

Like last year's version, this is a medium bodied wine with moderate tannins.  The wine has loads of blackberry, blueberry and black cherry flavor with a little spice on the finish.  I really enjoyed the wine and at a cost of about $8, I will buy a lot more.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville 2013 Lot 69

The weather in Napa Valley varies from south to north.  The southern portions of the valley are cooled with breezes and fog from the San Pablo Bay.  Carneros at the very southern portion of Napa is the coolest and is famous for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.  As you move northward, the influence of the Bay's breeze and fog diminishes.  Yountville is in the southern portion of Napa Valley but in the area where the cooling from the bay begins to be reduced.  Therefore it is a great area for Cabernet Sauvingnon wines with a softer profile than other portions of the valley to the north and to the east.

Trader Joe's September e-version Fearless Flyer features the Grand Reserve Merlot from Stags Leap and the Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville.  I much prefer the Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine is a lightly oaked rich wine with fruit forward flavors of dark berries and soft tannins.  The intensity of flavor is equal to wines costing over $20.  At $12.99, this truly is a great value and I do not expect the supply to last long.  This is worth a special trip to Trader Joe's.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Trader Joe's Coastal Chardonnay 2013 Central Coast

Trader Joe's Coastal wines are produced by a California Central Coast Vintner to fit a price range above Charles Shaw wines but lower than the VINTJ's wines.  In our location, they are priced at $4.99 per bottle.

I actually like the Coastal Chardonnay very much.  It is an unoaked Chardonnay with melon, peach and honeysuckle flavors which makes the wine very appealing in the late summer weather.  The wine is not overly sweet and it could pair well with cheese and crackers or with most light seafood.  We enjoyed the wine with red snapper and it was great.  If you like unoaked, crisp Chardonnay, you should give this bargain priced wine a try.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Glorioso Rioja Reserva 2009

Browsing the wine racks at Costco, I came across Glorioso Rioja Reserva 2009.  There were several signs that this would be a great wine to try.  The wine is 6 years old and the label says that it was aged 24 months in French Oak.  The wine has 14.5% alcohol and Wine Spectator has rated it 91 points.  Costco sells this wine for $13.99.  With that knowledge, I bought a bottle but I should have bought several.  I hope there are some left on my next trip.

Rioja is a wine region in northern Spain.  Rioja wines are categorized as Rioja, Rioja Crianza, Rioja Reserva or Rioja Gran Reserva.  In that order, the wines have increasing required aging times.  A Rioja Reserva wine must be aged 3 years with at least one of the years aged in oak.  Gloriosa Rioja Reserva exceeds that criteria and is 100% Tempranillo grapes.

The wine is a beautiful deep ruby red color.  The bouquet has a hint of leather along with the dark berry aroma.  This wine had to aerate about 45 minutes but then had a complex flavor of dark berries with a little red licorice.   The long finish had ample tannins to accompany a roast or steak.  All in all this is a terrific red wine worth more than the Costco price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc California

Barefoot wines are available almost everywhere, from the grocery store to the state controlled liquor store in states such as Pennsylvania ( my birth state).   In my area of South Carolina, Barefoot wines are in Walmart ($4.99) and Publix ($5.99) but the best price is at Total Wines where they are priced at $3.97.  Barefoot is the low priced wine from E&J Gallo and it competes with wines from Sutter Home, Berringer, Goliath Rex and Yellowtail. 

I am fortunate to live in an area that has Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Total Wines and More.  I can often find wines at these stores in the lower price ranges that are superior to the national brands listed above.  However, many people live in areas that do not have populations to support Trader Joe's, Costco, etc. or live in states that limit alcohol sales to state controlled stores.  For these people, brands such as Barefoot are often the best choice for their weekday wines.

I have been blogging a lot lately about California Sauvignon Blanc.  This summer, it has seemed like every California Sauvignon Blanc has been great.  From Trader Joe's Earthstone to Benziger Family Winery's Sauvignon Blanc, each has been enjoyable. 

The bottle of the Barefoot Sauvignon does not yield much information about the wine.  We know the grapes are from somewhere in California but we do not know the year they were harvested.  We know the alcohol content is 13%. 

I found this wine to be very drinkable and enjoyable.  It has more lime flavor and is more tart than the other Sauvignon Blanc's that I have been drinking but overall it was good.  I paired it with swordfish but it would also pair very well with Pad Thai due to the lime flavor in the wine.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

2012 Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon

I have high regard for farmers and growers who produce crops using organic and sustainable methods.  I actually think the fruits and vegetables taste better and I am willing to pay more, if necessary, when I purchase them.  Wine is no exception to this idea and sometimes it does not cost any more for wine produced in organic or sustainable ways.  Wines produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers just seem to taste better to me.  I have previously written about Benziger Family Wineries and their sustainable methods.  Today, I am writing about Cabernet Sauvignon from Bonterra  Vineyards, probably the largest wine brand in the U.S. with all organic wines. 

Bonterra was started by Fetzer Wines as their line of organic wines.  A few years ago, Fetzer and
Bonterra were acquired by Concha y Toro, the large Chilean wine company.  Bonterra has continued the tradition of organic wines.  Bonterra tries to maintain a balanced biodiversity of wasps, birds, sheep and wildlife in their vineyards so that pesticides are not necessary.

Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon is from vineyards in Mendocino County (72%), Lake County (24%) and Napa County (4%) California.  The aromas of dark cherry, berry and plum are noted in the glass.  The flavor backs that up in a smooth, rich wine with medium amounts of oak.  I think the fruit flavors are outstanding.  The alcohol content is 13.9% and I purchased it at Costco for $10.89.  Whole Foods also carries this wine.  It would be hard to find a better Cabernet Sauvignon at this price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Friday, September 4, 2015

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Merlot Stags Leap District Napa Valley 2013 Lot #70

The Stags Leap District is a portion of Napa Valley, located east of Yountville along the Silverado Trail.  Stags Leap is very hot during the day with cool breezes at night.  It has ideal conditions for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and 80% of the grapes are Cabernet and Merlot.

Anytime I can buy Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot from the Stags Leap District for less than $20, I am all over it.  The Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Wines (black label) are often great values for their $12.99 price, so I could not wait to uncork this wine.

This Grand Reserve Merlot is a lighter, softer Merlot.  While there are underlying flavors of licorice and possibly chocolate, the fruit flavors are subdued.  The finish is dry and long lasting but somewhat tart.  All in all, I was disappointed in this wine and can find better wines to buy in this category.

SC Wine Joe rating = 86 points

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Benziger Family Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc North Coast

This summer, I have been drinking a lot of California Sauvignon Blanc.  It has become our white wine of choice.  I have found California Sauvignon Blanc to be less grassy and more refreshing in the South Carolina hot weather than the New Zealand versions.  Further, I have found several bottles from wineries such  as Joel Gott and from Trader Joe's that I liked and could buy for less than $10.   Without a doubt, our favorite has been the Benziger Sauvignon Blanc North Coast.

I have some bias toward Benziger from visiting their winery in Sonoma and learning of their sustainable grape growing program.  The balance of insects, bees and birds that they maintain is impressive.  The grapes for this Sauvignon Blanc are not predominantly grown at the Sonoma Vineyards but instead come from multiple vineyards in the 6 county North Coast AVA.

As with much Sauvignon Blanc, this wine features a lot of citrus and floral aromas and flavors.  This wine has been aged entirely in stainless steel and has more flavor of lemon and grapefruit than some Sauvignon Blanc.  There is also a minerality to the taste.  You can enjoy this with seafood or by itself.  Our local Costco has been selling this for $7.99 but you will pay more for it at most other stores.

This is a strong recommendation for a white wine for summer.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Emma Pearl 2013 California Pinot Noir

Shopping for wine at Trader Joe's is often like looking for pearls.  About half of the time, the wines I buy are not good enough to blog about.  Sometimes, the Trader Joe's Grand Reserve or Platinum Grand Reserve are terrific wines.   Occasionally, I find very good wines for very low prices and those are the pearls.  Emma Pearl Pinot Noir is one of the pearls.

Today, I went to Trader Joe's and found a Fearless Flyer that had not yet arrived in my home mailbox.  I skipped past the "popcorn in a pickle" and went directly to the wines.  One of the wines was the Emma Pearl Pinot Noir for $3.99.  I read the usual story about how Trader Joe's used their immense buying power to buy a supply of great wine for a pittance and passed the savings on to their valued customers.  I found the wine on the shelf and was unimpressed until I saw that this Pinot Noir has an alcohol content of 14.5%.  While I steadfastly maintain that higher alcohol does not necessarily mean better wine, I also know that sometimes low alcohol equates to cheaply made wine.   I will also admit that sometimes higher alcohol does go with better wine.  In any case, you have to be skeptical of a wine that costs only one buck higher than Charles Shaw.  Since I was not wasting very many bucks, I put one bottle in my cart.

Emma Pearl Pinot Noir has the usual pinot noir taste of cherry and strawberry along with a little oak.  I found the initial taste was bright and very enjoyable.  There is a light amount of tartness on the finish, but there is little to criticize and much to praise.  I did notice a little alcohol on the finish but it was very minor.  This is a very good Pinot Noir and is a steal at $3.99.  It is a pearl.

SC Wine Joe rating =  88 points plus 2 stars for value.

Kirkland Signature 2012 Napa Valley Meritage

I have been looking forward to Costco introducing the 2012 Kirkland Napa Valley Meritage.  I have reviewed previous vintages in October 2014 and December 2013 and enjoyed both vintages.  With 2012 vintages of Napa red wines being so superior, I knew that this would be special.

The 2010 version of this wine was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  In 2011 the winemaker added Petit Verdot and in 2012 the blend is:
51 % Merlot
29% Cabernet Sauvignon
8%   Malbec
6%   Petit Verdot
6%   Cabernet Franc

In addition the alcohol content has increased from 13.8% to 14.5%.

Again this wine is a rich, soft blend of dark fruit flavors.  Black cherry with a bit of oak dominates.  The finish is long lasting and pleasant and the higher alcohol does not detract from the taste.  I believe that the 2012 vintage is superior to the past 2 vintages and the price is still $10.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2013

Souverain Wines has been owned by Australian owned Treasury Wine Estates.  This family of wines includes Beringer in the US. and Lindemans, Rosemount Estates and Penfolds in Australia.  Recently, I have noticed some of their other brands in Costco at very good  prices.  These have included Chateau St. Jean, Etude, 19 Crimes and Souverain.  There have been online articles that claim Treasury Wine Estates was having marketing problems in their US operations and last month it was announced that Souverain is being sold to Gallo.  Perhaps Costco has taken advantage of the situation to bring us some terrific wine values.

Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is from the California North Coast AVA.  North Coast is the large AVA that includes the Counties of Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma and Solano.  Labeling this wine as North Coast indicates that the wine blends grapes from several of these counties.

I found the wine to be a very easy drinking, soft Cabernet Sauvignon.  Previous vintages of this wine have had nearly 20% of the blend from Petit Verdot, Petit Sirah, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.  The wine makers are clearly looking for an approachable wine.  I tasted some cherry and blackberry with enough tannins at the finish to accompany most grilled meats.  The wine has 13.9% alcohol and was on sale at Costco for $10.99.  This is a very good Cabernet Sauvignon for that price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Honey Moon Viognier California 2013

Trader Joe's sells a line of low priced California wines from Trader Moon Wine Company.  They all have a crescent moon on the label and I have found the white wines to be tasty values.  I recently tried the Honey Moon Viognier which is priced at $5.99.

Viognier is a green aromatic grape from the Rhone area in France.  Today, it is grown in many regions including California.  It has been named the state grape of Virginia and it does especially well in the Monticello region around Charlottesville.

Honey Moon Viognier begins with a floral aroma followed by tastes of honey and mango.  While the wine is a little sweet, it is not as sweet as you might expect from its aroma.  The wine actually finishes with a little tartness.  This is a very enjoyable summer wine and you cannot beat the price.  It would pair very well with spicy Thai food or you can just drink it without food. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Saronsberg Artspace Shiraz Mourvedre 2012

I have been finding good value in red wines from South Africa and I recently noticed Artspace Shiraz Mourvedre from the Coastal Region of South Africa on the shelf at Trader Joe's.  This wine is 90% Shiraz and 10% Mouvedre with an alcohol content of 14.5%.  Mourvedre is also known as Monastrell and Shiraz is also known as Syrah in some parts of the world and both  grapes are grown in the Rhone region of France.  This wine is apparently available in Europe but can only be found in North America at Trader Joe's. 

This is a very drinkable, medium bodied wine.  The wine is deep purple in color and displays legs on the wine glass indicative of the higher alcohol content.  The flavor is dark berries and plum with a little tartness.  The finish is long with moderate tannins.  The wine was a good match for our grilled hamburgers and  I thought the quality exceeded the $9.99 price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Waterbrook Reserve Merlot Columbia Valley 2011

I have not found many great bottles of Merlot recently.  I checked my posts and found that I was only enthusiastic about one Merlot so far this year.  I have tried to find good Merlot, but most of the time what I purchased was not interesting enough to write about.   Last week, I found the Waterbrook 2011 Reserve Merlot from the Columbia Valley in Washington at Costco for $13.99 and this time my perseverance was rewarded in a big way!

The Waterbrook Reserve Merlot is 100% Merlot grown in 3 vineyards in the Columbia Valley.  The grapes were harvested in October 2011 and aged 24 months in American and French oak,-  25% new oak and 75% oak that is 2 to 5 years old. 

This wine has a distinctive flavor.  It is a flavor that I have tasted before in wine but it is not common.  The bottle mentions a flavor like sun dried cherries and I can accept that as the description of the flavor.  In any case, I really like it!  The wine does not taste like they made it to appeal to the mass market, it just comes from grapes with unique characteristics.  It is a medium bodied wine with powerful flavor and a long, long finish.  The 14.3% alcohol content is detectable in the mouth.  If you are a merlot drinker, you should give this a try.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Liberte Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2012

Last March, Trader Joe's featured the Liberte Cabernet in their Fearless Flyer.  For some reason that I no longer remember (common problem for people over 60), I never tried the wine.  I recently found the wine at my local TJ's and decided to give it a try.

It is hard to find a good Cabernet Sauvignon under $10, so I was skeptical of this wine ($9.99).  However, I do like a lot of wines from Paso Robles and the $13.6% alcohol content was promising.  The Fearless Flyer article said the wine is aged 12 months in French and new American oak.

I found the wine to be much better than I expected.  I tasted dark cherry and cola with a decent finish.  The tannins were well matched to the flavors.  I do not think this is the best steak wine, but it would be great with pizza or burgers.

My wife almost always agrees with my taste in wine,  but she did not like this wine as much as I liked it.  If you try it, let me know what you think. 

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Chardonnay Carneros 2013 Lot #20

Last month, I wrote about the Etude Chardonnay from Carneros which I greatly enjoyed.  I have now found Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Chardonnay from Carneros and it is another terrific chardonnay from this great wine region.  As I have noted in the past, the cool night breezes in this region are perfect for growing world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

This Chardonnay begins with enticing aromas of stone fruit.  The wine has flavors of apple and peach with some minerality.  There is some oak but it is in balance with the fruit and does not detract.  I found this wine to be moderately crisp and not buttery with a nice finish.  You can almost sense the cool breeze as you drink this. 

The wine has 13.5% alcohol and sells for $12.99 at Trader Joe's.  I think this wine is good value at that price and I will buy more.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone Villages 2013

Last year, I wrote that the 2012 Kirkland Cotes du Rhone Villages was one of the greatest bargains available at $6.99.  I have been drinking the 2013 version, which still costs only $6.99, and it again is one of the greatest values in wine that I have found.  Even Total Wines and Such does not have a Cotes du Rhone Villages for less than $11.99.  

This wine is again a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre with 14% alcohol.  The medium bodied wine is a very fruit forward blend of red and black fruit flavors.  This is a great, flavorful wine.  You might pair it with burgers, pizza or a roast.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points plus a star for value.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc Napa Valley 2013 Lot #73

Cabernet Franc is one of the Bordeaux grapes.  It is one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon and it usually results in wines that are lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon.  In California, Cabernet Franc is most often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in Meritage or similar blends.  In the eastern US, from North Carolina and Virginia to New York, Cabernet Franc often results in wines that are superior to other red grapes.

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc comes from the Napa Valley with an alcohol content of 14.1%.  The wine should definitely be opened well before drinking.  The color of the wine is dark violet, similar to a typical Merlot.  After an hour, the taste is an intense, pleasing dark fruit flavor but as you swallow, the finish has very harsh tannins.  Even with red meat, the finish could detract from the initial flavors. 

As with all Trader Joe's Grand Reserve wines, the bottle costs $12.99 and I think there are better options in this price range.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

R Collection California Cabernet Sauvignon Lot no.1 2014

Raymond Vineyards is one of Napa's premier wineries and has even been named winery of the year by Wine Enthusiast.  They have vineyards in Napa's premier areas and some of their wines command prices in excess of $100 per bottle.  This wine is not from Napa's finest vineyards nor will it ever command extraordinary prices.  Raymond has a line of wines at entry level prices named their "R Collection" which includes wines that are made well but priced for everyday consumption.  My local Costco has recently stocked the R Collection Chardonnay and the R Collection Cabernet Sauvignon.  I was not that impressed with the Chardonnay but really enjoyed the R Collection California Cabernet Sauvignon 2014.

The R Collection California Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 is obviously a young wine that has not spent very long maturing in oak barrels.  It is a lighter, fruitier Cabernet which can be drunk with or without food.  It has 13.5% alcohol and we thought it was a delightful, tasty drink, well worth the $9.79 price.  I plan to buy more.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ocarossa Cuvee Rosso

The Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer for summer is also featuring the Ocarossa Cuvee Rosso Italia.  There is not much to learn from the bottle label except that the wine has a low alcohol content of 12.5%.  Mostly, the bottle describes the naming of the wine after a red goose and that the bottle comes with a "revolutionary cork".  The bottle does not identify the year the grapes were harvested, so we can assume more than one year's grapes were used.

The Fearless Flyer does say that the wine is made from Ciliegiolo grapes which are genetic relatives to Sangiovese.  With a price of $5.99, the low alcohol content and the minimal information provided, I was skeptical from the start.

In this case, my pessimism was unwarranted.  The wine is a nice medium body wine with a cherry and light fruit flavor.  There is not much oak but the wine is dry, not sweet.  The wine is a light version of a chianti and we paired it with burgers.  We really enjoyed this wine and it is an exceptionally good value.  I expect to buy more in the near future.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points plus a star for value.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Pinot Noir Central Coast 2013

Trader Joe's summer Fearless Flyer is featuring their Petit Reserve Pinot Noir from the California Central Coast.  Some portions of the Central Coast have cool weather conditions suitable for growing Pinot Noir.  Previously, I reviewed a Central Coast Pinot Noir from MacMurray Ranch that is one of my favorites.

I have been drinking some terrific Pinot Noir lately, but this is not in that category.  However, for $8.99 it is better than most Pinots in its price range.  I found it to be medium body with light oak.  I tasted some strawberry and cherry but did not detect the cola flavor promised on the bottle label.  I did find a little bitterness in the finish.  The wine has 13.8% Alcohol.  If you are wanting a Pinot Noir for less than $10, you could give this a try.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Indaba Mosaic 2014

I have been finding great values in wines from South Africa at Whole Foods Market.  These wines are imported into the US by Cape Classics, the largest importer of wine from South Africa, representing over 22 estates.  Indaba Wines are a good fit for Whole Foods because of their commitment to sustainable production and social responsibility.  A portion of the brand's global sales supports the Indaba Educational Fund, which provides funds for projects such as early childhood development for children of wineland workers.

Indaba Mosaic is a blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot.  The wine was fermented on the skins in stainless steel tanks then pressed and returned to the tanks for secondary fermentation.  The wine has 14.5% alcohol.

This Bordeaux blend is a jammy wine with intense dark berry flavors.  It is a very approachable wine with soft tannins.  Some people may find this wine a little syrupy but I thoroughly enjoyed the juicy flavors.  At $8.99, this is a great value.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Etude 2012 Carneros Chardonnay

My local Costco started their summer wine sale on June 8 and it will last 4 weeks.  One of the wines in the sale that caught my eye is the Etude Carneros Chardonnay.   We were exposed to Etude several years ago at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and we remembered the quality wines.   This estate grown Chardonnay is regularly $20.99 at Costco but in this sale it is reduced $7 to $13.99.  Since this is a greater sale reduction than normal for Costco, I decided to research the pricing online.  I found that Etude sells this direct from the winery for $32.  Online sites sell the wine from $18 to $32.  Therefore, buying the wine for $14 is a great buy.

The wine, which has an alcohol content of 14.3%, has a beautiful golden color with a nose of apple and honey.  The wine is soft yet crisp with some minerality, neutral oak and tropical fruit.  Everything is in balance and the finish lasts at least 2 minutes.  This is a wine that reflects the cool breezes from Carneros nights.

I think this is a chardonnay that exceeds anything else you can buy for less than $15.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

While shopping at Whole Foods, I found the Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa priced at $9.99.  I do not find much Cabernet Sauvignon priced at $10 or less that is worth buying but this looked promising.  The sign said that this crowd pleasing Cabernet was consistently a Wine Enthusiast "Best Buy" and I noted the wine was a 2012 vintage (harvested spring 2012 in the southern hemisphere) with a high alcohol content(14.5%).  Note: high alcohol does not necessarily equate to a better wine but low alcohol sometimes means the wine will be too sweet.

In researching my buy, I found that the Total Wines and More store across the street from Whole Foods lists this wine as a "Winery Direct" wine selling for $11.99, or $2 more than Whole Foods.  This is another validation that Total Wines overprices their "Winery Direct" wines to allow for a coupon discount.

The Excelsior Cabernet is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot.  40% of the wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak for 9 months.  The wine is deep violet in color and has a jammy blackberry flavor.  The only criticism is that the wine is a little overpowered by the high alcohol content.  All in all, this is a very good Cabernet for this price range and I would buy it again.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Kirkland Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2013

Chateauneuf-du-Pape means the "new castle of the Pope" and this village in the southern Rhone area of southeast France was the home of the papacy in the early 1300's.  Today, the area is best known for the wine from the appellation that includes the village and surrounding areas.  A Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine can include 13 varieties of grapes but must be predominately Grenache.

The Kirkland Chateauneuf-du-Pape is produced by Domaine de Nalys.  Their wines are highly regarded and typically sell in the US in the $30 to $40 range.  Since the Kirkland version sells for $20, it sells out quickly.

The Kirkland Chateauneuf-du-Pape  contains Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Vaccarese, Counoise and Mouvedre grapes and has an alcohol content of 14.5%.  The wine is delicious and can be sensed throughout the mouth.  I tasted black fruit, cedar and spice.  The finish is very long with medium tannins.  I recommend that you try at least one bottle while it is available.

SC Wine Joe rating = 92 points

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Briego Ribera Del Duero Crianza 2009

I was shopping at Costco a few weeks ago and found a large display of the 2009 Briego Crianza with the price reduced from $17.59 to $13.99.  I was not familiar with the wine but the age, alcohol (14%) and region looked interesting and I purchased one bottle.  On my next trips to Costco, the wine was no longer at the sale price.

Ribera Del Duero is one of the great wine regions in the world.  It is located in the Northern Plateau of Spain, centered on the Duero River.  The word Crianza on the label signifies that it has spent a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels.  In fact, this wine spent 14 months in used American and French barrels before bottling.

This is a silky, smooth, full bodied wine with flavors of black and red cherry, raspberry and smoke.  The finish is long lasting with subtle oak.  I think this is one of the best Spanish wines I have tasted in the past year.

The 2009 Briego Crianza  has been in the bottle for a while.  It was reviewed by Robert Parker back in February 2013.  I am not sure if you can cellar this wine more than a year, so you should just drink it and enjoy.  If Costco puts this back on sale, I plan to stock up.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Saturday, May 23, 2015

2012 Fairview Pinotage

Pinotage is the signature red wine grape of South Africa.  It was created in 1925 as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (also known as Hermitage).  Early wines made from this grape were pungent and undesirable.  Today wine making procedures have eliminated that problem and the often smoky, earthy wines are highly regarded.  Most Pinotage is grown in South Africa but a small amount is grown in California and Virginia.

Fairview Farm in South Africa is known for production of both wine and cheese and has been owned by the Back family since 1937.  Goats roam freely on the farm and the signature landmark of the estate is a tower that the goats climb.  Fairview is most commonly known in the United States for their "Goats do Roam" moderately priced wines.

The Fairview Pinotage is deep purple in color with tastes of dark fruit, spice and a little smoke.  The finish is long with well blended tannins.  The wine has 14% alcohol and costs $16.99 at Total Wine and More. ( I paid less using a coupon.)

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kirkland Signature Series 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Costco's Signature Series wines have been priced above Costco's usual Signature wines, but are great values for the superior quality of the wines.  The latest is the Signature Series 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

The Willamette Valley Oregon, stretching south from Portland to Eugene, lies east of the Oregon Coastal Range and west of the Cascade Range. It is an area that has cool, wet winters and dry summers.  It is cooler than California and is noted for some of the best Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris in the world.  The Kirkland Signature Series Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is produced by  Precept Wine which we have encountered previously in our reviews of Pendulum and Shingleback wines.  You can also find Precept at Costco in the House Wine and Canoe Ridge labels.

I found this wine to be very ordinary for a Pinot Noir, with no distinctive aroma, color, flavor or finish.  It is very drinkable with no obvious flaws but not worth the extra cost.  Recently we have reviewed several Pinot Noirs from Costco and Trader Joe's that were better values.  The wine has 12.8% alcohol and sells for $14.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Kirkland Signature Chianti Classico Reserva 2011

Chianti Classico is a region in Tuscany and the wine bearing that regional name must be at least 80% Sangiovese and be aged in oak for at least 24 months.  A Chianti Classico wine will always have the famous rooster symbol on the bottle.

The Kirkland Chianti Classico Reserva is 100% Sangiovese  and has benn aged 24 months in second year French oak barrels and 5 to 6 months in the bottle before release.  The wine is medium body but intense dark red color.  The flavor is ripe dark cherry.  It is dry and acidic in flavor, which I certainly realized when I followed a glass of this wine with another familiar wine that seemed sweet for the first time.

I think this is an excellent example of a Chianti Classico wine.  The Sangiovese has a distinct flavor that just seems perfect to pair with a garlic red tomato sauce.  This wine has a richer, stronger flavor than the average Chianti Classico and you can enjoy it now or keep it for future enjoyment.  The wine has 13.5% alcohol and Costco sells it for $8.69, which is a great price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Saturday, May 9, 2015

2013 Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley Merlot

Last year, I reviewed the 2012 vintage of Costco's Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley Merlot. After two bottles,  I stated that it had a rich initial taste with a big tannin finish and could substitute for Cabernet to accompany grilled steak.  I then rated it at 87 points and did not try it again.

The 2013 KS Columbia Valley Merlot is now in my store and I again purchased two bottles.  After the first bottle, I thought that perhaps I underrated the wine last year or that the 2013 was better than the 2012 version.  Last night I finished a bottle of one of my favorite Merlots from the Columbia Valley and then opened the second bottle of 2013 KS Columbia Valley Merlot.  I have to say that on that one night I enjoyed the Kirkland Merlot better.  I still would say that it has a rich initial taste with an oaky tannin finish but this time I think the finish was an asset not a negative.  The wine has an alcohol content of 14.5% and is priced at $8.99. 

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

                                                          Glass from RayLen Winery
                                                          Yadkin Valley, North Carolina

Saturday, May 2, 2015

La Granja 360 Verdejo Viura

The May 2015 Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer is featuring La Granja Verdejo Viura for $4.99.   This is a dry white wine from the Castilla y Leon region of North Central Spain and is made of 70% Verdejo and 30% Viura grapes.  The wine is straw yellow in color with a appealing citrus aroma.  The wine has flavors of lemon and grapefruit which makes it perfect for late afternoon summer patio enjoyment.  The alcohol content of this wine is only 12%, so you can have an extra glass without feeling too guilty. You can enjoy this without food, but it would enhance any grilled fish.  I really enjoyed this wine and the price is right.