Sunday, January 31, 2016

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Red Blend 2013

I wanted to compare the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Red Blend with the 2012 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Red Blend that I blogged about two weeks ago.  I found the 2013 Grand Estates Red Blend at Total Wines for $9.49 and with a coupon actually paid less than $8.  We tasted both wines back and forth for a comparison.

The Grand Estates Red Blend is primarily Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon while the H3 Red Blend is primarily Syrah and Merlot.  Grand Estates Red has an alcohol content of 13.5% compared to H3 Red's 14.5%.  As you might expect from the blends, the H3 is a lighter, fruitier wine while the Grand Estates is darker fruit with flavors of licorice and caramel.  I think there are more varied flavors in the H3 and I like the H3 better than the Grand Estates Red.

SC Wine Joe rating for Grand Estates Red Blend 2013 = 88 points
SC Wine Joe rating for H3 Horse Heaven Hills Red Blend 2012 = 90 points

Monday, January 25, 2016

El Prado Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Generally, I am not a big fan of Total Wines and More's Winery Direct Wines.  These are the wines that are generally exclusive to Total Wines and the wines where they have the greatest markup, so that even with a coupon discount, you may not get the best bang for your buck.  They go to great lengths to get you to buy these wines.

However, El Prado is a winery direct wine that you should consider, if you live in proximity to one of their stores.  I have been buying this wine for about 6 years and I think it is one of the best bargains in the Total Wines store.  Recently, I found it for $5.99 and with a coupon bought it for less than $5.

El Prado is a blend of 70% Tempranillo and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon from Valencia in Spain and it has an alcohol content of 13.5%.   Like many Spanish Tempranillo's, this is a medium bodied wine with a lot of dark berry flavor.  You can pair this with hamburgers or pizza or just drink it at happy hour.  Almost anyone will find this to be a decent weekday wine.  Based on the number of displays of this wine in my local store, I know that I am not the only wine drinker who thinks this is a great buy.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trader Joes Grand Reserve Zinfandel Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley Susie's Block Vineyard 2013

I always believe that the more narrowly defined source for the grapes, the better the wine will likely be.  I was enthused when I saw this Zinfandel since the label not only defined the source of grapes to be from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County but also stipulated the specific vineyard.  You do not usually find that in a $13 wine, so I quickly grabbed 2 bottles from the shelf.

I did not get any distinctive aroma from the wine but it is an appealing deep purple color.  This is not a bright, fruity Zin like some I have tasted lately.  Instead, this is an intense dark flavored wine that verges on being a little syrupy.  The finish is somewhat harsh with tannins and alcohol unbalanced to the fruit flavors.

I drank the first bottle and was disappointed, so I waited 2 weeks and drank the other bottle.  My research assistant (aka SC Wine Jane) and I were disappointed both times.

SC Wine Joe rating = 85 points

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Finca Flichman Gestos Cabernet Sauvignon + Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

The local Trader Joe's allocates a decent amount of shelf space in their South America section for this wine.  Usually, this amount of space is reserved for wines that are exclusive to Trader Joe's but I have seen this wine at Total Wines, so it is not an exclusive.  Trader Joe's does sell it for a much better price, so that may be the explanation.  ($9.99 at TJ's vs $13.99 at TW)

This wine is labeled "Cabernet Sauvignon + Cabernet Sauvignon" because it is a blend of grapes from two regions in Mendoza, Argentina.  One region is at 2300 feet above sea level and the other is at 3600 feet above sea level.  The wine is aged 6 months in new oak barrels and has an alcohol content of 14%.

When the bottle was first opened, it had a taste that reminded me of cedar and it was not my favorite.  That flavor diminished after an hour and was nearly gone when I opened the bottle on the second day.  By the second day, I was definitely enjoying the wine much more.  Even the bouquet was far better.  This is a good Cabernet for $9.99 but I would not recommend it at $13.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bodegas Breca 2012

Breca is a 100% Grenacha wine from the region of Caltayud region in northeast Spain.  The vines are considered "old vine" since they were planted 70 to 90 years ago.  The wine is aged 21 months in French oak casks and the wine has an alcohol content of 15.5%.

This is a medium bodied, bright, fruit forward wine with a ton of flavor.  The flavors run from dark cherry to dark berry with some minerality and even a hint of chocolate.  At times, I sensed some cola.  The tannins and alcohol are well balanced with the fruit.  This is a wonderfully enjoyable wine.

My local Costco is selling this wine for $10.99 and down the street, Total Wines has it for $14.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Columbia Crest H3 Red Blend Les Chevaux 2012

Wine Spectator rated the 2012 H3 Les Chaveaux Red Wine at 90 points and Wine Enthusiast rated it as a best buy at 91 points.  I have read online that some were buying this wine at Costco, but I had not found it at my local store until this week.  When I found a stack of H3 Red at Costco, I added a couple of bottles into the cart.

I do not know of any winemaker that has more highly rated wines priced under $15 than Columbia Crest.  Both the Grand Estates and H3 lines have extraordinary wines at friendly prices.  In addition, the 2012 growing season resulted in great red wines in the Columbia Valley.

H3 Les Cheveaux Red 2012 is a blend of 60% Syrah, 27% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Viognier, 2% Malbec and 3% other varietals.  The grapes were grown in Horse Heaven Hills vineyards east of the Cascades Mountain range in southern Washington.  The wine is aged in American and French oak for 18 months.  The wine has 14.5% alcohol.

I found this wine to be easy to drink, even without food.  The flavors are dark berries with mild tannins.  I think this wine would pair best with beef dishes that incorporate multiple flavors such as a stew.

We really enjoyed this wine. The wine is $10.99 at both Costco and Total Wines.  Since the Total Wines price does not end in 7, you may be able to use a coupon and get it for even less.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Monday, January 11, 2016

Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2013

The Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel has been one of my favorite wines since I began shopping for wine at Costco.  They begin selling it in January or February each year and I keep buying it until their supply runs out.  I also notice many other customers loading their carts with this wine.  The only exception was two years ago when I was less enthusiastic about the 2011 version.

I read my description of the 2012 vintage and I could just copy it to this review.  The wine has flavors of blackberry, blueberry, black licorice and a hint of mocha.  Even though the alcohol content is 15.3%, the fruit and alcohol seem very balanced.  There is enough oak to stand up to a beef roast or grilled pork.

The wine again is only $9.99 and I really like it!

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Murphy-Goode 2013 Pinot Noir California

In the past 2 months, I have had a lot of great Pinot Noir.  Both Costco and Trader Joe's have featured Pinot Noir due to its popular pairings with turkey, ham and other holiday meals.  After Christmas, I found Murphy-Goode California Pinot Noir at Costco for $7.99.

Murphy-Goode says that the grapes are 100% Pinot Noir from various cool climate areas in California, including Monterrey, Santa Barbera and Mendocino.  The wine is aged in French and American oak but we do not know the ratio or how long it is aged.  We do know that the alcohol content is 13.5%.

This Pinot is medium bodied with bright cherry and raspberry flavors.  The tannins are light to medium and the finish is slightly tart.  All in all, it is a good Pinot and I have no complaints.  It is not a very complex wine like some of the Pinots I have praised recently, but it is a very good value for Costco's price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points