Friday, September 8, 2017

Kirkland Signature Ribera Del Duero Gran Reserva 2011

Costco has been adding a few old world wines to the Kirkland Signature label.  I recently found the Kirkland Signature Ribera Del Duerro Gran Reserve 2011 and quickly added it to my haul. 

Ribera Del Duero actually means "banks of the Duero" and the region is in a plateau in northern Spain along the Duero River.  This region, which is subject to very hot summers and very cold, dry winters, is noted for Tempranillo grapes, also locally known as Tinto Fino.   Along with the soil conditions, the weather stresses the grapevines, but the surviving grapes produce wonderful wine.  The juice from the Tempranillo grapes is often blended with lesser amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec to achieve the winemakers desired flavor.

Ribera Del Duero wines are rated as Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva to designate the levels of aging.  This Kirkland Signature Ribero Del Duero is labeled as a Gran Reserva, the highest rating, which signifies that it must be aged a minimum of 5 years, with at least 2 years being aged in oak.  In fact, the Kirkland Signature wine, which is 100% Tempranillo, was aged in French oak for the first 13 months, then transferred to American oak for 25 months, then bottled and aged for an additional 24 months.  It is not surprising that the wine reaches 14.5% alcohol after that aging process.

This is a very serious wine.  It is a smooth, elegant wine with flavors of rich dark fruit and chocolate, finishing with dusty tannins.  You will want to relish every sip.  This wine deserves to be paired with a well marbled steak.  With all the aging and care taken to produce this wine, you would expect to pay far more than Costco's price of $12.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 92 points

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva 2012

Lidl has brought some of it's most popular wines sold in Europe to the US.  Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva is one such wine.  You can find numerous articles and blogs online that mention this wine.  One newspaper article from London names Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva as one of the 10 "must buys" at Lidl.

With a price of $6.99 for a 5 year old Rioja Reserva, the attraction to this wine is obvious.  Some of the European reviewers describe the taste as strawberry and vanilla oak.  I had to swirl the wine in my mouth for quite a while to detect anything that could be strawberry, but there is ample oak leaving my mouth feeling dry at the finish.  Prior to dinner, I would have preferred more fruit and less oak.   With dinner, I appreciated the wine more than earlier.

I think this wine is a very good value but not the best Rioja you can buy.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon California 2015

Costco has had Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon in the store for several weeks and I have had it in my wine fridge for almost as long.  I have been trying new whites to accompany a lot of seafood, as well as exploring some wines from Lidl and I just never got around to opening this wine.  While I was neglecting red wines from Costco, I knew that there were other blogs reviewing those wines and I did not want to repeat what was being said elsewhere.

I was not enthusiastic about this wine when I bought it since it was a California wine rather than one from a more narrowly defined AVA renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon, such as Napa Valley.   I later learned that the grapes are from Paso Robles, San Lucas (Monterrey) and Lodi aged for 9 months in American Oak.  

When I finally opened the bottle, I found this wine to have intense bold flavors of dark berries, plum and cola and I was pleasantly surprised about the quality.  Wine Enthusiast rates the wine at 91 points and I have no reason to disagree!

Costco is selling this wine for only $11.99 and that is a great deal, but here is where I will tell you something you will not read on the other blogs.  Total Wines also sells this wine for $11.99 and if you have the right coupon, you can buy it for 10%-15%  less than at Costco.  You  must have a coupon that is not limited to only "winery direct" wines.  The coupon that I recently received by e-mail would take 15% off of any wine that does not have a price ending in "7", so I can buy this wine for $10.19.
I strongly recommend this wine.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Chateau Tour de Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers 2015

White Bordeaux is made from 3 classic grapes:  Sauvignon Blanc which provides a grassy flavor, Semillon which provides complexity and a bit of  honey flavor and Muscadelle which adds aromatic Vibrancy.  Entre-Deux-Mers is a sub region of Bordeaux in southwest France and it's white wines feature those three grapes.

I found the Chateau Tour de Bennet Entre-Deux-Mers at Total Wines and it was exactly what I was looking for.  It was a lively fresh, crisp, fruit flavored white Bordeaux with the expected grassy flavors of Sauvignon Blanc mellowed by the softer Semillon,  The wine is 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle with an alcohol content of 12.5%.

I found the wine to exhibit a range of flavors that kept it interesting to the end of the glass.  Total Wines sells this for $14.99, but with my coupon I paid $12.74.  This price is not the lowest in the store for white Bordeaux but far from the most expensive.  I think this is a great choice for beginning an exploration of white Bordeaux wines and I definitely enjoyed it!

SC Wine Joe does not assign numerical ratings to white wines.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands 2016

Trader Joe's August 2017 Fearless Flyer describes this Grand Reserve Chardonnay as crisp and elegant, with fruit forward bouquet, citrus notes up front and a bit of butter and oak on the finish.  I have to disagree with that description.  This is not a crisp, fruit forward wine but instead it is mildly creamy with notes of oak and butterscotch and a nut flavored finish.  This does not imply that it is not a serious Chardonnay.  I think it is, but just not the wine described in the Flyer.

This Chardonnay comes from the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA which is part of the larger Monterrey AVA.  50% of the grapes are aged 6 months in American oak and the rest are aged 6 months in French oak.  The wine contains 14.5% alcohol and costs $12.99.

If you are a fan of creamy, soft butterscotch Chardonnay, this is definitely a keeper.  However, it is not my favorite style of Chardonnay and I will look elsewhere.

SC Wine Joe does not assign numerical ratings to white wines.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Duca di Sasseta Ser Passo Toscana 2015

Lidl is selling Duca di Sasseta Ser Passo Toscano 2015 for $5.99.  There is minimal information on the bottle or online about the blend of grapes in this wine but Sangiovese is obviously the primary grape. 

I tasted a semi-dry, full bodied Tuscan style wine with flavors of blackberry, dark cherry, plum and cocoa.  There are medium tannins and a long finish.  The wine has 14% alcohol.  There is a lot of flavor here which would pair nicely with red pasta.

This wine exceeds expectations for a $5.99 bottle and if you are in the Lidl marketing  area of the Carolinas or Virginia you should try it.  I hope that Lidl continues to deliver this quality for such a low price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc 2015

You may have noticed that I have been mostly writing about white wine lately.  Summer is white wine season for me, but I also have been trying a lot of new white wines in preparation for a talk and tasting on white wines that I will be presenting in October.  My plan is that the tasting will expose the audience members to wines that they are not familiar with.  I hope you red wine fans will hang in there and I will write about some red wines in the coming days.

Bonterra is one of my favorite wine brands in the value price range.  The wines are made with organic grapes grown using sustainable farming methods.  I believe this results in better tasting wine selling for reasonable prices.

I prefer Sauvignon Blanc from California above similar wines from New Zealand and South Africa.  California Sauvignon Blanc is far less grassy flavored and easier to drink.  Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best examples of my preferred style.  There are flavors of apple, pear, citrus and minerality with 13.1% Alcohol.  The finish is long lasting and enjoyable.  I really like this wine and it has a good chance to be included in my October wine tasting.

Bonterra Sauvignon is widely available and I purchased it at Costco for $8.99.

SC Wine Joe does not assign numerical ratings to white wines.  Wine Enthusiast rates the wine at 90 points and lists as a "best buy".

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve Blanc 2015

When I think of Cotes du Rhone, I imagine red wine -but the region also is known for it's white wine.  White wine from the Cotes du Rhone region of France is a blend of grapes that must be at least 80% Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Barboulenc and Viognier.

 I found Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve Blanc at Trader Joe's for $12.99.  It is not a Trader Joes exclusive, so you may find it for slightly less elsewhere.  This wine is Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier in unspecified amounts.  The resulting wine definitely reflects the Viognier.  It is pale in color with floral aromas, followed by fresh, bright flavors of pear and citrus with minerality on the finish.  The wine has 13% alcohol and would pair with fish and even crabcakes.  This is a terrific summertime wine which I really enjoyed.

SC Wine Joe does not assign numerical ratings to white wines.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fleur Saint-Antoine Bordeaux Superior 2014

Bordeaux Superior wines can be made from grapes grown anywhere in the Bordeaux region of France, but they are considered "superior" due to planting and aging requirements.  One fourth of the vineyards in Bordeaux are superior.  In these vineyards, plantings must be more dense and the vines that survive are healthier vines but the yield is lower.  Bordeaux Superior wines are primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with small quantities of Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Fleur Sainte-Antoine is 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc and is aged 18 months in French Oak.  The wine has 13% alcohol.  There is additional information on the winery website but it is in French and I do not know what it says.

I found the wine to be medium bodied with flavors of tart cherry, blackberry, blueberry and spice.  There is no sweetness in the wine but I really liked the wine and found it easy to drink.  The wine is $5.99 at Lidl and that is a steal!

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2015 Lidl

I found this Montepulciano D'Abruzzo at Lidl.  There is no name of a winery on the bottle to distinguish it from another Montepulciano D' Abruzzo.

Recently, when writing about a wine from the Montepulciano region of Italy, I noted that Montepulciano was also a grape grown in the Abruzzo region of Italy, which creates some confusion.  Abruzzo is in central Italy along the Adriatic sea and the most notable red wines are made with the Montepulciano grape.

I found this wine to be medium bodied with flavors of tart cherry, pomegranate and blackberry.  At first, this was not my favorite style of wine, but it really grew on me and by the end I was wanting more.  I did not drink this with food, but I think it would pair with red pasta or pizza if the sauce was not too sweet.  The wine has 13% alcohol and cost only $4.99 at Lidl.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bois de Menge Gigondas 2015

I found the Bois de Menge Gigondas 2015 at Trader Joe's for $13.99.  I love Grenache based Rhone wines from France and this wine was rated 90 points by Robert Parker, so I bought one bottle to try.

Gigondas is a village in the southern Rhone Valley.  80% of the grapes grown are Grenache with lesser amounts of Syrah and Mouvedre.  Gigondas is about 10 miles from Chateauneuf de Pape and Gigondas wines are often seen as a less expensive alternative to Chateauneuf de Pape.

Bois de Menge Gigondas is 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah.  This is a wine that I enjoyed much more after the first glass, so I would recommend some decanting prior to drinking.  I tasted red berries with a little blackberry.  The fruit was a little subdued and the finish a little rough, but this still is a very good wine.  I think it is well worth Trader Joe's price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

MBALI Chenin Blanc/Viognier Western Cape 2016

Trader Joe's has a large display of MBALI from the Western Cape, South Africa selling for $4.99.  This wine is 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier with an alcohol content of 13%. 

The Western Cape is a wide growing area that actually includes 27 sub-areas.  Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape in this part of South Africa.

This wine is fresh and fruity with flavors of lemon, melon and peach.  You can drink this poolside or at a party or you might pair it with very casual food.  I believe the fruitiness would detract  from more serious food.

This is a fun summertime drink for a small price.

SC Wine Joe does not assign numerical ratings for white wine

Monday, July 24, 2017

Incanto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2012

When I find a wine that I like, I often go to Trader Joe's and try to find a similar wine at a lower price.  I have recently been enjoying a Poggio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that I bought at Costco, but I hoped to find a substitute for less than the $15 price.  Surprisingly, I did find Incanto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at Trader Joe's for $8.99.  Same grapes, same region but will it be the same quality?

I began my taste test with one glass from last nights $15 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for my wine assistant and one for myself.  We then proceeded to the Incanto from Trader Joe's.  Our immediate reaction was that there was no way to compare the two wines.  It was like these were two totally different wines.  Although the Incanto did not cover as wide a range of flavors as the $15 wine, the Incanto seemed to do a decent job on a more limited flavor spectrum.  I noted flavors of dark cherry and pomegranite with a mildly pleasing finish.  However, the longer we drank this wine, the less enthusiastic we became.  My final conclusion is that it would be better to spend $15 for the recently reviewed Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Poggio Stella Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011

Montepulciano is a very confusing to American wine drinkers.  It can mean the Montepulciano grape, found in Montepulciano d' Abruzzo from the region of Abruzzo.  It can also mean a wine from the area around the village of Montepulciano in southern Tuscany such as Vino Nobile di Montepulcio, made predominantly from the Sangiovese grape.

Poggio Stella is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo with an alcohol content of 13.5%.  This is a crisp, lively, lightly oaked wine with fine tannins.  This is a little richer than an average Sangiovese with flavors of dark cherry, spice and a little earthiness.  It has been aged for at least 2 years plus several years in the bottle.

This is a terrific wine, not well known in the US and Costco is selling it for $14.99.  Wine Enthusiast gave it 88 points and Wine Spectator rated it at 92 points.  Not surprisingly, I am in the middle but slightly closer to Wine Spectator.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Northbound Railway Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012

I write this blog and try numerous wines in search of a $30 wine that I can buy for under $15.  This time, I think I really found one.

My fourth wine from Lidl is the Northbound Cabernet Sauvignon.  From the label, this is a Cabernet Sauvignon from a great vintage (2012), a great growing area for Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) and an above average alcohol content (15%).  The wine was aged in oak for almost 2 years and has been in the bottle for another 2 years.  I knew I would like it even before I opened it.

This wine has so many flavors associated with Cabernet Sauvignon.  After only 20 minutes, it opened up to flavors of dark berries, plum, cola, chocolate, and licorice finishing with dusty tannins.  What more could you ask?  The wine is $14.99 and is worth another trip across town to Lidl!

SC Wine Joe rating = 92 points

Cellier Du Delta Cotes du Rhone 2014

The third wine from Lidl that I tried was this Cotes du Rhone.  Long time readers of this blog know I like Cotes du Rhone wines from southern France and that I judge these wines against the Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone Villages which is usually available every fall for $6.99.

The Cellier Du Delta Cotes du Rhone is a typical Cotes du Rhone.  There is no useful information on the bottle except the alcohol content of 13% and the vintage is 2014.  As with every other Cotes du Rhone red wine, we can assume the wine contains Grenache and Syrah.

The wine has flavors of cherry, black cherry and blackberries.  The flavor is not as bright and crisp as the Kirkland, but overall it is an enjoyable wine to pair with informal entrees.  This wine sells at Lidl for $5.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lidl Parity Press Dry Creek Valley Red Blend 2014

Most of the wines at Lidl are produced just for Lidl.  If you closely examine the bottles, you will notice that they are grouped into three collections:
     1.  Everyday Collection.  These are popular varietals from around the world offered at value prices.  The wines are usually from broadly defined wine regions.  e.g. California or Washington.
     2.  Wine Club Collection.  These are quality wines from more specific regions.  e.g. Sonoma County or Columbia Valley.
     3.  Sommelier Selection.  These are wines judged by Lidl as exceptional.  These will most often be from very specific grape regions.  e.g. Napa Valley or Russian River Valley.

Parity Press Dry Creek Valley Red Blend (as well as the previously reviewed Sonoma Coast Chardonnay) is one of the Sommelier Selection wines.  It sells for $8.99 and has 13.5% alcohol.

We do not know anything about the blend of grapes in this wine nor do we know anything about the fermentation process utilized.  The labels on the bottles and the Lidl website do not provide much useful information although the short tasting note on each bottle probably helps some buyers.

The Dry Creek Valley in northern Sonoma County is best known for growing quality Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Certainly, there is Zinfandel in this blend and probably some amount of Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine is dark colored and I taste black berry, black cherry and minor licorice.  The tannins are medium and the finish is long.  We enjoyed this flavorful wine and it is a terrific value for $8.99. 

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Monday, July 3, 2017

Even Keel Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2015 from LIDL

LIDL has entered the US market with stores opening last month in Virginia and the Carolinas.  My neighborhood LIDL is still under construction but another store is open in another part of Greenville.  Since LIDL is promoting their wine collection, I decided to cross town and try some of their wines.

I brought home several bottles, but we were having salmon and I thought that would pair well with Chardonnay.  My selection was the Even Keel Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.  I chose this wine because the coast region of Sonoma County is great for growing cool climate grapes and it is home to many of my favorite Chardonnays.

Immediately, I noticed the pale color of the wine.  This signaled that this was probably a lighter Chardonnay.  The wine is crisp, but not overly acidic and there are flavors of melon, apple and peach.  My guess is that the wine is aged in at least some old oak which gives it a light creamy texture.  The wine hits right in the groove for me - not too acidic and not too oaky.  The wine has 13.5% alcohol and costs $8.99.

LIDL is off to a good start with me and I will post how the other bottles turn out.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

VINTJS Russian River Valley Arneis 2016

Tucked into the corner at Trader Joe's is the VINTJS Russian River Valley Arneis 2016.  The chances are great that you have never heard of Arneis but it is a white grape from the Piedmont of Italy and it is only found in a few places in North America such as the Willamette Valley Oregon and the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County California.

VINTJS Arneis begins with flavors of crisp apple and pears but evolves into acidic flavors of melon, minerality and lemon,  It is really a complex white wine which I think I might pair with scallops or shrimp. 

Seghesio sells their Russian River Arneis for $22 but it is not available at any stores in my area.  I would like to know if any readers have tried that wine and how it compares with this $8,99 wine from Trader Joe's.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A to Z 2015 Oregon Pinot Gris

The local Costco is having their summer wine sale which includes the A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris 2015 reduced to $9.99.  The wine includes at least some grapes from outside the Willamette Valley since Oregon is the designated AVA.

I liked that the wine was a little spritzy when it was first opened.  I tasted grapefruit, peach, acidity  and minerality.  It is an enjoyable food wine to accompany your favorite seafood.

Recently, I wrote about Acrobat Pinot Gris.  Both are 2015 Oregon Pinot Gris with 13.5% alcohol selling at about the same price.  I enjoyed both very much but would give a slight edge to the Acrobat.  I would like your opinion if you have tasted both wines.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2015

I just wanted to stop at Costco for gasoline, some paper product and 2 or 3 bottles of wine to fill my wine refrigerator, but as I entered the store I was handed a flyer for a wine sale.  And then, as I was looking for the wines on the sale flyer, I noticed several new renditions of Kirkland Signature wines.  The new KS wines have new labels that are easily distinguishable from the old labels.  Needless to say, I left with more wine than I expected to buy.  My wine refrigerator is full and the overflow is on the floor next to the refrigerator.  Maybe I need a larger wine refrigerator to deal with this overflow problem.

One of the wines I brought home was the Kirkland Signature 2015 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot.  This wine is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, aged 16 months in American and French oak, with an alcohol content of 14.9%.  The winemakers Jeremy Santo and Emily Haines are winemakers with Milbrant Family Wines.

This is a bold wine with flavors of blackberry, hints of cola and a lot of oak.  This wine is not a summer refreshment but is a decent pairing for a grilled steak.  At $8.99, it is a good buy for a dinner wine.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills 2016

Trader Joe's June 2017 Fearless Flyer is featuring the Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from Horse Heaven Hills Washington, selling for $6.99.  Since I usually enjoy California Sauvignon Blanc but  do not remember drinking one from Washington, I decided to give this a try. 

Horse Heaven Hills is part of the Columbia Valley in southeast Washington.   25% of all the vineyards in the state are in this region and while it is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from wineries such as Columbia Crest, Canoe Ridge and Mercer, a wide variety of red and white grapes are grown.

I found the wine to be quite acidic with lime and grapefruit flavors dominating and the promised melon flavors playing only a minor role.  We had no problem finishing our bottle but it was not our favorite style of Sauvignon Blanc.  At $6.99, this was ok but I probably will not buy it again.

SC Wine Joe does not assign a numerical rating to white wine.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Vitiano Rosso 2014

My local Costco just received a large supply of Vitiano Rosso 2014 from Umbria Italy.  It is priced at $7.49 and prominently sports a rating of 91 points by James Suckling on the front of the bottle. 

The wine is 34% Sangiovese, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot.  In the glass, the wine emits a rich jammy aroma.  I taste flavors of Black cherry, ripe cherry and earthiness.  The wine is somewhat acidic with smooth tannins and the Sangiovese blend is like a Chianti which hits some additional light flavors. 

This is a very versatile wine that you could enjoy with red pasta, but it can also be enjoyed alone as you are preparing your meal.  I like this wine better than the Chianti I have been drinking and I hope to buy more while I can get it at $7.49.  If not, I can buy it at Total Wines for $9.99 reduced by whatever coupon is available.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Le Bruniche Chardonnay di Toscana 2015

I often write about the variety of styles of Chardonnay and how our individual preferences influence our opinion of the wine.  It is certainly good that we have choices.  I do not assign a numerical rating to white wines but I hope that my description of the wines is more useful than a number.  

My local Costco just started carrying a few new Chardonnays including Le Bruniche Chardonnay di Toscana,  This wine from Italy is totally unoaked, so it is tart, acidic and dry with flavors of lemon,  peach and a little minerality.  This wine is too tart for me but if you are a fan of French Chablis, this is a viable, less expensive alternative.  The wine has 12.5% alcohol and sells for $11.99 at Costco.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Acrobat 2015 Pinot Gris Oregon

My wine research assistant, SC Wine Jane, and I look for different things in a white wine.  She would rather drink a Riesling and I most often choose Chardonnay.  On occasion, we can agree on a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio or Gris but that did not happen with the Acrobat Pinot Gris.  I really liked this wine but Wine Jane was not enthused.

Acrobat Wines are produced by King Estates Winery to reach customers who are looking for value at a reduced price.  They price these wines a few dollars less than their King Estates wines and they do this by using grapes from a wider area than just the Willamette Valley and producing larger volumes of the wines.  Although the wines come with a lower price, they have still received high ratings from Wine Enthusiast and others.

The wine begins with  bright, fresh flavors of melon and pineapple.  As the wine lingers in the mouth it becomes more acidic as it finishes.  This acidity makes it an excellent wine to pair with cheese or crab cakes.  The wine has 13.5% alcohol and I bought it at Costco for $10.99.

I do not assign numerical scores for white wines but I like this very much.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kirkland Signature Cotes de Provence Rose 2016

Here in South Carolina, we are already into summerlike weather.  That means that it is time for summertime favorite Rose' wine.  When you think of serious Rose', (not the sweet watered down cheap stuff) you have to go first to the Cotes de Provence region of south France.  In fact, between the summer of 2015 and summer 2016, sales of Provence Rose's grew by 55%.

Costco recently came out with the Kirkland Signature Cotes de Provence Rose 2016.  The grapes for this wine come from coastal vines of the St Tropez Peninsula on the Mediterranean Sea in the South of France.   The wine is made from Granache 30%, Cinsault 20%, Mouvedre 20%, Tibouren 10%, Rolle 10%, Syrah 5% and Cabernet Sauvignon 5%.  Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are not traditional grapes for a Provence Rose' but winemakers have begun adding them to bring more depth and structure to the wine.

The wine is light salmon in color and exudes a delicious aroma of tropical fruit and floral gardens.  Flavors of strawberry and citrus lead to a dry finish.  This delightful wine can best be enjoyed with a summer salad or grilled seafood.  I think this is one of the most enjoyable summer wines in the under $15 category and Costco is selling it for $8.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Friday, May 5, 2017

Kenwood Sonoma County Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2014

Kenwood Vineyards is one winery that always exceeds my expectations for their lower priced Sonoma County wines.  This Pinot Noir fits that description.

The Russian River Valley empties into the Pacific Ocean in northern Sonoma County.  The valley allows cool ocean fog to move inland and that cooling influence makes the area ideal for growing Pinot Noir grapes.  Some of the best Pinot Noir in California comes from the Russian River Valley.

Kenwood Sonoma County Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is aged 12 months in French oak and the wine has 13.5% alcohol.  This lighter bodied wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry, strawberry and some minerality.  You can almost taste the cool fog in this wine and I liked it very much.

Costco does not always sell wine for the same price everywhere.  I have read online that Costco is selling this wine for around $13 in some locations and that is a good price for a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  But at the Costco in Greenville SC, there are stacks of the wine and they have reduced it to $8,99.  If you can buy the wine for $8.99 you will want to take advantage of the sale.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Benziger Family Winery Chardonnay Sonoma County 2013

It has been almost a month since I have posted any wine reviews on this blog.  I have had a cold and now can finally taste wine well enough to write a description worthy of your time.  Thank you for your understanding.

Reviewing Chardonnay is tricky, because there is such a variety of styles from very oaky and buttery to acidic wines aged only in stainless steel.  It is often difficult for me to distinguish between the quality of the wine and my own preferences about style.  My preferred style of Chardonnay is crisp but not lemon-like acidic and the wines I have most enjoyed are aged in older oak barrels so that the wine is still crisp but with a hint of oak flavor.

This is the third vintage of the Benziger Chardonnay Sonoma County that I have written about since I started my blog.  It is obvious that this is probably my favorite Chardonnay.  Total Wines enticed me back into the store with a very good coupon and I took advantage by buying this wine at a discount.  The final price was $10.67.  The wine is aged in Hungarian oak for 9 months and has 13.5% alcohol.

I found this wine to be a crisp flavor of mild citrus, and apricot with just a hint of oak.  Some reviewers mention lemon but I do not taste lemon.  I usually detect a slight fizz with this wine but no one else seems to get that.  We paired this with rotisserie chicken and it was perfect.  This continues to be at the top of my Chardonnay list.

SC Wine Joe does not assign a numerical rating to white wines.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Bodegas Ego Infinito Jumilla 2012

Infinito 2012 is the fourth red blend that is part of the spring Costco wine sale at our local warehouse.  Costco has reduced the regular price of $19.99 to $15.99, thus making it the most expensive of the red blends in the sale.  The bottle prominently displays a Wine Spectator rating of 91 points on the front label.

Infinito comes from Jumilla in south central Spain and is a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.  The grapes are from 40 year old vineyards and the wine has 15% alcohol.

The wine is full bodied with flavors of cherry and vanilla.  I found the wine to be more acidic than I prefer but that was my only objection.  From my research online, I think others appreciated this wine more than I did.

SC Wine Joe rating = 88 points

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mercer Canyons Columbia Valley Red Blend 2013

Mercer Canyons Columbia Valley Red 2013 is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Syrah.  It is interesting that they have chosen to market this wine as a red blend rather than a Merlot.  Perhaps previous vintages have had less Merlot in the wine than the 2013.  The winemaker has barrel aged the Merlot and the Syrah separately for up to 12 months and then blended them together.  The label states the alcohol content as 13.9%.

This enjoyable wine has flavors of black cherry and plum.  The website claims that caramel is also part of the flavor mix but I did not detect that.  Perhaps, I will sense it the next time, if only due to the power of suggestion.   I definitely liked the wine and will buy it again.  Our local Costco included this in the current wine sale and it is reduced $2 to $7.79.  (I bought it prior to the sale for the higher price)  This is a great value at $9.79 or $7.79.

I have one criticism and that is that the back label has a story about cattle grazing and tells nothing useful about the wine.  Since the information on the bottle only says it is a red blend, the buyer has no clue about what is inside.  It could be anything and I should not have to go to a website to determine if the wine fits what I am looking for.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ferrari-Carano Siena 2013

Ferari-Carano is one of my favorite Sonoma County wineries.  In the past year, I have enjoyed many bottles of their Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.  Recently Costco was selling their Siena Red wine for $16.99 but now has it on sale for $11.49 locally until April 8.  This wine sells online for $23, so Costco is selling it for half of the online price.  It was an easy decision to place a bottle in my cart.

Siena is a Sangiovese blend that also includes Malbec, Petit Sirah and some Cabernet Sauvignon.  The grapes are from the Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley areas of Sonoma County.  The wine is aged for 12 months in 20% new Hungarian oak and 80% older French and Hungarian oak and is said to be 14.5% alcohol.

This Italian style wine is medium bodied with flavors of cherry, black cherry, blueberry and cherry cola.  The tannins are soft and not overpowering.  I have had several North American Sangiovese wines in the last year and have enjoyed every one, but I think this is the best I have had to date.  I really enjoyed this and want more at this price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Friday, March 31, 2017

Castano Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013

Yecla  is a rising wine region in southeastern Spain.  I have found great values in the past from this region including Campo Arriba, Terrenal Seleccionado and Tranco.  All of the wines have had Monastrell blended with varying amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Granacha and syrah.

Solanera is another great buy from Yecla.  The Greenville Costco is selling it  for $7.99 thru April 15. It is a blend of 70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Granacha Tintorera with 14.5% alcohol.

This is a medium to full bodied wine with powerful flavors of blueberry and blackberry which should be enjoyed now, rather than cellared for very long.  The wine is very enjoyable and I have already gone back for more.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 2014, & 2015

For the past 2 years, Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 has been my favorite "every day" Cabernet Sauvignon.  Recently, I was at Costco and when I reached for my Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon and I was surprised to notice that the stack included the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages.  I had never seen 3 vintages of a wine being sold together before.  Since my last blog on this wine was for the 2012 vintage ( ), I decided to taste all 3 vintages and make a comparison.

From the bottles, we see the following:

2013 Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon
72% Mendocino County
28% Lake County
14.4% Alc.

2014 Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon
64% Mendocino County
24% Lake County
14.3% Alc.

2015 Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon
13.8% Alc.

All three wines are made with organic grapes and all have the same deep color.  The 2015 was a lighter weight with slightly more oak than the 2014 and 2013.  The 2014 and 2013 are full bodied with concentrated flavors of dark fruit.  My judgement was that the 2013 had the most pleasant complex flavors.  Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon is widely available but at Costco, I paid $9.99 and  I will continue to buy this wine as long as the 2013 and 2014 vintages are available. 

SC Wine Joe ratings:  2013  91 pts.
                                    2014 90 pts.
                                    2015 89 pts.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pleyades Campo de Borja Garnacha 2015

I had given up hope of finding another interesting low priced wine at Trader Joe's.  Believe me, I tried many bottles but finally just resolved myself to sticking with the TJ Grand Reserve wines.  However, last week I was drawn to a display of Pleyades Granacha from Spain selling for $4.95 and tossed one bottle in the cart.

The label is interesting with white doves ascending toward the sky.  I have always liked Garnacha or Grenache based wines from either southern France or Spain and this wine from the Campo de Borja region is said to have 14% alcohol, so I did not expect an overly sweet wine.  And, did I mention, it is $4.95 per bottle?

As you would expect, this is a medium bodied wine with ample flavors of dark fruit with a slight minerality.  I have to say, this is a very enjoyable wine that is really easy to drink.  I like it and it is a great bargain.  Back to Trader Joe's!

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Monday, March 13, 2017

Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2014

Every year, around this time, I look for one of my favorite Kirkland Signature wines, the Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel.  The 2014 vintage of this wine is in the stores and I will be adding this to my cart for the next several months. 

I cannot tell any difference between the 2013 and 2014 vintages.  The wine is 15.3% alcohol and still costs $9.99.  The same flavors of blackberry, blueberry, black licorice and hint of mocha are still present.  The finish is still long lasting and pleasant.  If anyone is interested, here is the link to last years review:

I know this wine is quite popular -so enjoy!

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Friday, March 10, 2017

Quinta do Portal 2013 Mural Reserva Red (Douro)

Mural Reserva Red 2013 from Duoro Portugal was rated 92 points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine and included as #12 in their list of Best Buys of 2016.  That is a lot to live up to, especially for a wine selling at the Greenville Costco for $8.99.

Duoro, in northern Portugal, is the birthplace of Port wine and is said to be one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world where the vineyards terrace up from the beautiful Douro River.  Quinto do Portal is described as a beautiful family owned vineyard.

Mural Reserva Red is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional grapes.  The wine is dark in color, medium bodied, dark fruit flavored with a significant amount of tannins.  In fact, the Wine Enthusiast review recommends not drinking the wine until 2018 to allow the tannins to mellow.
I am sure that is a good thing to do, but I can only review wines based on how they drink today and do not rate wines by predicting what they will be next year.  In any event, this is a very good wine to enjoy with a steak or red pasta and a terrific buy at $8.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon California 2014

Our local Costco has a stack of Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon selling for $8.99, which is $3 less than the price featured in this weeks ad from a local grocery chain.  Since I am always on the lookout for decent Cabernet Sauvignon costing less than $10, I brought some home.  Online research shows that Carnivor is a Gallo brand which of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. 

The label only stipulates that the grapes are from California, but the Carnivor website says that most of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are from Lodi.  A small amount of Petite Sirah is in the blend and the alcohol content is listed at 13.9%.

The wine has rich flavors of dark fruit with hints of dusty cocoa.  The tannins are not harsh and the finish is pleasant.  A wine magazine has rated previous vintages of this wine at 90 points and I think that is generous, but anytime you can find this for $9 you should buy it.  I plan to buy more.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Saturday, February 25, 2017

SC WineJoe at OLLI@Furman University

On February 24, SC Wine Joe presented a Friday Bonus Class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman University.  The class discussed the marketing strategies of the largest wine retailers in the Greenville SC market as well as how to select a bottle of wine using information
included on the front and back of the bottle.  Finally, four red wines were tasted.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Grand Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile 2014

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve wines are typically domestic US wines.  I was very surprised to find a Grand Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon from the Colchagua Valley of Chile and I hope there will be more imported Grand Reserve wines in the future.

The Colchagua Valley and the Maipo Valley are the two important wine regions in Chile.  The Colchagua Valley is the southwestern half of the Rapel Valley and it is the source of some of Chile's finest red wines.  The dry Mediterranean climate here has warm days cooled by ocean breezes, especially suited to growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Syrah.

This Trader Joe's Cabernet Sauvignon has rich flavors of dark fruit with some cocoa and cedar.  I suspect the cedar may come from some carmenere blended into the wine.  The wine has a long finish with pleasant tannins.  I thought the wine was better when I opened the bottle on the second day.  The wine has 14.5% alcohol and sells for 12.99.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Merlot Napa Valley Oakville 2014 lot #78

When I am in Trader Joe's, I always check for their Grand Reserve wines.  This week, I found a Merlot from Oakville in Napa Valley.  This choice was promising since it was from a narrowly defined area (Oakville), in a superior AVA for Merlot (Napa Valley), from an outstanding vintage (2014) and has a higher listed alcohol content (15%).  I am happy to report that this wine lived up to my expectations.

The obvious first thing to notice about this wine is the deep purple color in the glass.  When you swirl the wine, it clings to the glass and slowly forms legs verifying the higher alcohol content.  The nose promises darker fruit and I noted flavors of blackberry, plum, licorice and cocoa. The tannins are in balance and the finish is long lasting. This is an outstanding wine and I would pair it with a steak.  Trader Joe's sells all of the Grand Reserve wines for $12.99 and the quality of this wine exceeds that price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lavau Cotes du Rhone Villages 2014

In my previous post, I was disappointed with the Cotes du Rhone Villages that I selected at Trader Joe's.  A few days later I found Lavau Cotes du Rhone Villages at Costco for $8.99 and I was optimistic that I had found a better wine.

This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah.  The typical Cotes du Rhone will usually have some amount of Mouvedre, but there is none in this wine.  The alcohol content is 13.5%. 

This wine is somewhat acidic with flavors of blackberry and spice.  The finish is average.  While this is better than the Trader Joe's wine, it did not reward my optimism.  I will look for another Cotes du Rhone to drink until Costco brings back the Kirkland Cotes du Rhone Villages.

SC Wine Joe rating = 87 points

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Valreas Cuvee Prestige Cotes du Rhone Villages 2015

I am a big fan of Cotes du Rhone wines from France.  On my last visit to Trader Joe's, I specifically looked at their selection of Cotes du Rhone wines and selected the Valreas Cotes du Rhone Villages.  I read the labels and selected this because it was from one of the 18 Villages and had 14% alcohol.

I know you can find reviews online which praise this wine, but I do not agree.  The best I can say is that this wine is definitely drinkable and only costs $5.99.  Beyond that, I can say that the wine is acidic, dry and somewhat spicy.  I think that I have been spoiled by the delicious Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone ( see my blog from September 2016 ) and this is not nearly as good.

SC Wine Joe rating = 86 points

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2013

The North Coast appelation encompasses all of the counties in California north of the San Francisco Bay.  This includes the wine growing regions of Napa and Sonoma as well as 4 other counties.  Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast is primarily from Mendocino County with some Sonoma County Merlot and a small amount of Cabernet Franc.

This wine is dark purple in color and full bodied.  I noted flavors of dark cherry, blackberry and cola.  The oak and tannins are present but not overpowering and I think the most impressive feature of this wine is the long lasting finish.  This is a terrific wine that you should try.  Costco now has the wine for $13.99 and Total Wines sells it for $14.99, but with a coupon you should be able to buy it for less than the Costco price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 90 points

Friday, January 6, 2017

Campo Arriba 2014

A Robert Parker rated 93 points Spanish wine for $9.59 at Costco - I am a buyer!  I am a buyer for more than one.

This wine from Yecla in Spain is made from old vine Monastrell (70%), Syrah (20%) and Granacha Tintorera (10%) with 14% alcohol.  The wine is aged 3 months in small french oak casks.  The wine is medium to full bodied with flavors of dark berries and slight minerality.

This is a great wine with tons of flavor bursting throughout the mouth.  It would pair nicely with a roast or barbequed baby back ribs.  I really enjoyed this wine!  It is a great bargain and I will buy more if it is still available on my next trip to the Greenville Costco.

SC Wine Joe rating = 91 points

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Les Terrasses Chateauneuf du Pape 2014

A few weeks ago, the local Costco had a bin of this wine priced at $17.99 and anytime I see a Chateauneuf du Pape for less than $20, I am a buyer.  In fact, the best price you can find online for this wine is $30.  Apparently, I am not the only one who cannot pass up Chateauneuf du Pape at this price, because a few days later, I checked and it was gone.

This was our New Years Eve wine.  As you would expect for a wine from this region in Rhone France, it is primarily Granache, Syrah and Mouvedre grapes in a dry, medium bodied wine.  There are flavors of  plum and red licorice as well as dark berries.  Alcohol content is listed at 14%.

While this is a very good wine, it is not the finest Chateaunuef du Pape.  For example, the very popular Kirkland Signature Chateauneuf du Pape ($19.99 when available) is definitely more complex and flavorful.  However, Les Terrasses  is still a great buy at $18 and I would buy again at that price.

SC Wine Joe rating = 89 points