Thursday, April 28, 2016

Javier San Pedro Randez Rioja Tempranillo 2013

Another wine in the current Fearless Flyer from Trader Joe's is Javier San Pedro Randez Rioja Tempranillo.  Rioja is one of the oldest winemaking areas in Spain.  It is located in northern Spain, south of the Cantabrian Mountains which help moderate the climate.  Tempranillo is the most widely grown grape in Rioja.

I think this is a medium bodied red (Fearless Flyer says full bodied).  I detected flavors of Raspberry and blackberry.  The wine finishes with ample spicy tannins.  I really liked the wine at first but was less enthusiastic on the second day.  It is certainly a nice wine for $7.99 and I recommend that you try it.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sphere Monterrey County Pinot Noir 2014

A Trader Joe's wine featured in the latest Fearless Flyer is the Sphere Monterey County Pinot Noir.  I previously reviewed a Sphere Zinfandel and it was one of the most read reviews on this blog.  Since I was positive about the Zinfandel, I wanted to try this Pinot Noir.

I have to say upfront that I have enjoyed several wonderful Pinot's lately and this wine will be judged by a high standard.  Sphere Pinot Noir is a darker purple pinot in the glass.  The flavor is very fruit forward cherry, black cherry and some light strawberry.  This starts very easy drinking, something that does not require food to enjoy.  It does finish with more oak than you expect, so it certainly can enhance your light dinner.  All in all, this is a very good Pinot Noir for $6.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Yadkin Valley North Carolina Wineries

We recently made one of our treks to visit wineries in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina.  There are over 40 wineries in the area north of Statesville, South of Mt Airy and west of Winston Salem.  On this trip, we visited 4 wineries that were new to us.

1.  MenaRick Vineyard and Winery
This winery, in Rhonda NC,  specializes in wines from Spain (Tempranillo) and Portugal (Touriga Nacional) made in a bolder and more full bodied style.  Our favorite, however, was the Syrah.  They also produce enjoyable blends of Chardonnay with peach or blackberry fruit.  We met Rick (from California) and Mena (from Portugal) who were friendly hosts.

2.  Adagio Vineyards
 Adagio is a newer winery in Elkin, NC. owned by a Dentist and a Periodontist from Winston Salem.  The wife periodically plays her violin in the beautiful tasting room and the names of the wines have musical meanings.  The owners and staff are very friendly and accommodating.  Since the vines and winery are newer, the wines have not yet reached their full potential, but I expect good things in the future.

3.  Grassy Creek Vineyard and Winery
This property was formerly a dairy farm with a long history.  The tasting room was originally stables and the winery is housed in the old barn.  If you visit, you need to hear the story about the dairy cow from this farm that was taken to the South Pole by Admiral Byrd.  Our favorite wine here was the 2013 Chambourcin.  This is a medium bodied wine with a flavor of black cherry.  The bottle we opened at home even had a very slight fizz.

4.  Elkin Creek Vineyard and Winery
 This winery has been around for awhile but was taken over 4 years ago by two couples who had been associated with Blue Man Group in Las Vegas.  This was our favorite winery from this trip and we even went there both Saturday and Sunday.  We especially enjoyed the Sangiovese 2014 and the Adequate Red Blend 2014.  The tasting room and the wooded setting are beautiful.  On Sunday, you can special order a pizza made in the brick oven, but you need to call ahead to reserve your pizza dough.  The pizza looked and smelled delicious.

We are already looking forward to our next trip to Yadkin Valley and discovery of a few more new wineries.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cherry Blossom Pinot Noir 2013

Trader Joe's has had a large display of the Cherry Blossom Pinot Noir for weeks.  It is priced at $4.99 but may have been sold for $3.99 previously.  I have passed it up many times - maybe I did not like the name, maybe it was the label.  In reality, I had been disappointed recently by some low cost wines at Trader Joe's and I was not ready to try a wine made from grapes grown at an unknown region(s) of California and then made into wine by a mystery winery.  Finally, I could not resist the temptation, but I only brought home one bottle.

This Pinot Noir is really easy and appealing to drink.  It begins with flavors of bright berries but it finishes much darker with toasty oak flavors.  It is so good, you just want to gulp down the whole bottle.  While it may not be the most complex wine you ever tasted, there is far more to this than what you would expect for 5 dollars.   Now, I hope they do not run out before I can get more.  This is the best bargain at Trader Joe's since the Emma Pearl Pinot Noir.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Friday, April 15, 2016

Kirkland Signature Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Two years ago, I reviewed  the 2011 version of the Kirkland Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  I was mildly positive about the wine but since 2012 was a much better growing season for California red wine grapes, I wanted to give the current vintage a try. 

Alexander Valley is in the northeast corner of Sonoma County.  It is separated from Pacific Ocean breezes by a mountain range and it does not get the cool fog from the San Francisco Bay like the Sonoma Valley or the Napa Valley.   It does experience great temperature differences from daytime to night time and this improves the quality of the grapes.

Alexander Valley is best known for good value Cabernet Sauvignon made in an elegant, fruit forward style and that is certainly the case with the Kirkland version.  Although it was aged 22 months in oak barrels it is definitely a more fruity, lighter, and less earthy Cabernet than a typical Napa Cabernet.  I enjoyed this wine and would rate it higher than the 2011 vintage.  Costco sells this wine for $8.99 and you will not likely find a Cabernet Sauvignon as good as this for that price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Root 1 Heritage Red Maipo Valley Chile 2013

Root 1 Heritage Red from Chile is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Carmenere, 15% Syrah and 7% Petit Verdot.  70% of the wine is aged in French and American oak and 30% is aged in stainless steel and the resulting wine has 13.5% alcohol.  That may be more numerical data than you care to know!

I found the wine to be a medium bodied wine with flavors of ripe cherries and eucalyptus or possibly cedar.  There was a lot of flavor, but I could not decide that I really liked it.  I expected a wine that is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon to have richer, dark berry and oak flavors than this.  Perhaps the aging of a portion of the wine in stainless steel resulted in a lighter wine.  This wine reminded me of some Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons from Virginia and North Carolina (that are only produced because Americans ask for them) that just do not measure up to California wines grown under better weather conditions. 

I bought this wine for only $7.99 at Costco and it is a decent buy at that price.  It just was not my favorite.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Saturday, April 9, 2016

2013 Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon

Last month, I led a Friday Bonus Event at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman University on the subject of "Selecting Good Values in Wine".   One point of discussion was selecting a bottle of wine for the wrong reasons, such as liking the interesting picture on the label or liking the name of the wine.  Well, I have to admit some guilt, as these issues apply to this bottle of wine.  The label features a strongman and other carnival performers presented in a way that reminds those of my generation of the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band Album cover. ( If you are not old enough to relate to this, do not worry about it)  Further, who can resist a wine called Freakshow.

There are some other attributes about this wine that can be gleaned from the bottle that make it worthy to place in your cart.  The wine comes from the Michael David Winery, which is best known for "7 Deadly Zins".  The wine is from the Lodi AVA which is famous for old vine Zinfandel but is gaining prestige for other reds.  The wine is a 2013 vintage which was a good vintage for California Cabernet Sauvignon and this wine has an alcohol content of 14.5%.   Finally, the bottle places a sticker in a prominent position that Robert Parker rates the wine at 89 points.  With all that information (and the funny picture), I had to bring home a bottle from Costco priced at $15.99. 

I went through several stages in my opinion of the wine.  Finally, after one hour, the wine reached its peak and I decided it really was a very good wine.  There were flavors of licorice, smoke and cocoa complementing a rather subdued dark berry fruit flavor.  The tannins softened a lot with time. 

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points