Friday, September 30, 2016

Dearly Beloved I Thee Red

The second Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer wine that I tried this month comes in an unusual bottle and is called "Dearly Beloved I Thee Red".  The "Dearly Beloved" line of wines comes from a Healdsburg California winery Truett-Hurst and is made exclusively for Trader Joe's.  Truett-Hurst was founded by a group that includes Paul Dolan, former  president of Fetzer Wines. 

This wine is a blend of  Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and Petit Syrah from grapes grown in the Central Coast of California.  That region stretches from Santa Barbera to San Francisco Bay and includes areas such as Paso Robles and Monterrey.  The wine has an alcohol content of 14.5%.

This is a medium bodied wine with flavors of dark cherry, blackberry and a little mocha.  The wine starts smoothly but has some oak on the finish.  The high alcohol content is not detectable and the finish lasts a while.  The wine is $7.99 at TJ's and I think it tastes like a $12 plus bottle so it is a good value.  This is a wine to enjoy with casual food such as burgers or tacos.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Eris Chardonnay Carneros Estate 2014

The October 2016 Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer arrived in my e-mail yesterday and my snail mail today.  One of the featured wines is the Eris Carneros Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay.  The grapes are said to be from a single estate on the Napa Side of Carneros.  I have previously written about the breezes and fog from  San Francisco Bay creating a climate of warm days and cool nights in Carneros that is well suited to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

The Flyer describes the wine as buttery and rich with a creamy mouthful and that is not my favorite style of Chardonnay.  I prefer a crisper wine, aged is stainless steel or neutral oak.  After tasting this wine, I do agree that the wine is creamy and soft but I cannot say it is rich and buttery.  From my perspective, I am glad that it did not taste buttery to me.  This is really a high quality wine, even if it is not my favorite style.  An unusual taste, that was immediately noted by both my wife and me was ginger.  It reminded me of a non-carbonated ginger ale. 

At $13.99, this is at the upper price range for a Trader Joe's wine but you would typically pay more than that for an estate grown Carneros Chardonnay.  If you are open to Chardonnay in a less crisp style, I would definitely recommend this to you.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kirkland Cotes du Rhone Villages 2015

Costco's Kirkland wines are some of the best wines for your money that can be found anywhere.  The Kirkland Cotes du Rhone Villages is at the top of the list for quality at a low price.  I have been enjoying this wine since the 2011 vintage and previously blogged about the 2012 vintage (June 16, 2014) and the 2013 vintage (July 11, 2015).  I do not think there was a Kirkland Cotes du Rhone Villages 2014 and it has only been about 14 months since the release of the 2013 vintage.

Cotes du Rhone is a major wine region in southeast France near the outlet of the Rhone River into the Mediterranean Sea.  In a previous blog about this wine, I reviewed the levels of quality of Cotes du Rhone Wines.  This wine is again a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre grapes with 14% alcohol.  Previous vintages were said to be made from sustainably grown grapes but that is not stated on the label this time.  The wine maker is Patrick Lesec from Chemin des Vins and he is best known for Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape wines. He has been recognized by top wine magazines for his quality wines.

Patrick Lesec crafts wines with bright, ripe fruit flavors and oak that enhances but does not overpower the fruit.  I think that is a good description of this wine.  This is a very versatile wine that can be enjoyed with casual food or no food.  I had it with fish tacos and it was perfect. The wine is still only $6.99 and will only be available for a limited time.  I really like this wine and plan to stock up.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Virginia Wineries

In the past, I have blogged about wineries we visited in Finger Lakes New York, Yadkin Valley North Carolina and various regions in Virginia.  We recently went to Charlottesville Virginia to visit the historic homes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and , of course, we visited some wineries in the area.  We have been to wineries in the Charlottesville area in the past and believe that some of the finest wineries in the eastern United States are located there.

Many of the wine regions in the eastern US do well with white wines, especially Viognier, Reisling and Chardonnay.  Virginia wineries distinguish themselves from those in other eastern states by producing some terrific reds.  The Virginia wineries have done this by recognizing that they cannot make Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to compete with California and Washington.  Instead, they concentrate on grapes that can grow well in the Virginia climate and these are often from Italy, Spain or regions of France outside of Bordeaux.  We tasted great Barbera, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (a Bordeaux grape that does well here).  When they do make Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, they make a lighter style wine that is very different from other regions.

Here are three wineries that have interesting stories:

Barboursville Vineyards

Barboursville was the first Virginia winery to produce quality wine grapes.  It was started by the Zonin family from Italy on the former estate of Governor John Barbour, a contemporay of Jefferson and Madison.  Gabriele Rausse came from Italy and planted the first vineyards.  You do not want to miss a tasting at this winery because you get to taste 21 wines for $7.00 and keep your glass.  On a previous trip, we went to Barbourseville on a weekend and I do not recommend that.

Gabriele Rausse Winery

After initiating the vineyards at Barboursville, Gabriel Rausse worked at several wineries in the area and eventually started his own Gabriele Rausse Winery along with his two sons.  This is a quite unusual winery.  You have to be looking for this winery to ever find it.  The winery sits back from the road behind a group of trees.  The only sign by the road is a homemade sign that says "tastings" and winery is open only on certain days, not including Saturday.  The tasting room is rustic and that is being generous in my description.  However, the wines are some of the best in Virginia and worth the visit.

Blenheim Vineyards 

Down the road from Gabriele Rausse and across the street from another famous winery which I would not visit, is Blenheim Vineyards.  Interestingly, this winery is owned by Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band.  We almost left when the only building visible from the parking lot was an old barn.  However, behind the barn and down a flight of stairs is the tasting room.  Once you are in the tasting room, it is quite nice with a panoramic window view of the surrounding countryside.  We had the most knowledgeable and pleasant server at this winery.  The wines are very good and this was one of the best tastings of our trip.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Chateau de Pitray Cotes de Bordeaux 2011

Chateau de Pitray is a 200 acre estate in Bordeaux with a large castle and 70 acres of vineyards.  You can actually stay at the Chateau and tour vineyards in the area or participate in bicycle races.

The wine that I purchased at Costco is from the Cote de Bordeaux Castillion region at the very eastern edge of Bordeaux.  The wines in this region are predominantly crafted from Merlot,  Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, although the other Bordeaux varietals are permitted.

There is nothing on the bottle to advise you of the grapes in this wine.  Since most Bordeaux wines are predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, I was surprised when I sipped the wine and could only taste Cabernet Franc.  While that is not a bad thing, it was unexpected.  The wine may actually be 100% Cabernet Franc.

The wine is medium bodied with  flavors of raspberry and blackberry.  I found the wine to be slightly bitter.  I bought the wine at Costco for $9.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points