Saturday, October 27, 2018

Battle of the Bargain Chardonnays: Charles Shaw, Naked Grape and Gallo Family

By way of background:  Today we are doing what I call: "Take One for the Team"!  That refers to those times when I provide legitimate attention to wines which are at a price point - and which are generally seen as being also at a quality point - which do not warrant  true attention.  But occasionally I have found good and best values within this category.  So today, in that spirit, we are teeing up three "supermarket chards": California chardonnays that will, in the U.S. generally run you under $5 a bottle, and often WELL under.  Let's see what we've got...
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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Charles Shaw Chardonnay.

Original tasting and review : This is Charles Shaw Chardonnay, California, 2017, finished at 12.5% alcohol and first sampled one year from vintage date, in 2018.   This is part of what is often affectionately called the Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" line, since it is generally sold at the retailer at a price point under $3.

Inspired by this wine: We're putting on our mittens and gloves, as it will be a cold walk to the store.

In the glass: Light golden throughout.

On the nose: Poured at chilled temperature and swirled vigorously, shows clean fruit with hints of butterscotch and pleasant funk.   From the aroma, seems like this may carry some layered notes.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact gently sweet honeydew melon, bringing just a touch of the butterscotch across your palate.  Some bright acids then lift the sip and it fades cleanly, but fairly briskly.

In summary: Overall, rates an easy three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, almost touching a plus for its varied aromas and palate notes.  A strong best value at this "Take One for the Team" price point!
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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Naked Grape Chardonnay.

Original tasting and review : This is Naked Grape Chardonnay, California, non-vintage, finished at a higher 13.5% alcohol and sampled in 2018.   Like Charles Shaw, Naked Grape offers a line of single varietal wines at price points around or below $5 a bottle in the United States. 

Inspired by this wine: Chopping melon fruits and spices for an exotic salad blend.  Getting hungry!

In the glass: Clear with a light yellow and golden wash.

On the nose: Poured at chilled temperature and swirled vigorously, shows sweet melon fruit and Indian spices.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact much as suggested by the aromas.  The sip is gentle, pleasant, lightly sugar-toned.  Yet it carries plenty of intrigue from the layers of spices. The acids are subdued, and the alcohol moves the sip along.  Finish is brief, but clean.

In summary: Overall, rates a remarkable three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for its intriguing blend of a soft, melon base with spicy overtones.  Best value - without a doubt!
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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Gallo Family Chardonnay.

Original tasting and review : This is Gallo Family Chardonnay, California, non-vintage, finished at 13% alcohol and first sampled in 2018.  Gallo obviously crafts a very wide range of wines.  This is part of their affordable varietal line.

Inspired by this wine: There are a bunch of us at the big kitchen island, rolling and cutting the sugar cookies for dinner's dessert.  

In the glass: Clear with hints of vanilla extract and yellow.

On the nose: Poured at chilled temperature and swirled vigorously, shows pineapple and honeydew with just a tiny hint of pleasant funk.   From the aroma, seems like this may be sweet and mouth-filling 

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact as expected from the aromas, but carrying a wisp of green apple and associated acids along with the softness.  The finish is fast, but lingers just a bit because of the light acid notes.

In summary: Overall, rates a solid three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, and also hits the best value category.
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Overall wrap-up:  Wow.  Three wines, each well below $5 retail in the United States, and each a best value!  (At Spirit of Wine, best values are a function of BOTH quality and price.  See info to the right if you want to geek out on the question.)  The Gallo, with its notes of acid in the finish, would be the one of these best paired with foods.  But the Naked Truth, with its hints of exotic spices, wins for quality and uniqueness.  But, don't sell Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw) short - still a best value.   I do love wines of higher caliber, sophistication and price.  And yet, sometimes, just a few bucks is all it takes!
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(c) Copyright 2018 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Review and rating: ***+ $$ Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California, 2014 = GOOD VALUE!

Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Original tasting and review : This is Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California, 2014, finished at 13.5% alcohol and first sampled four years from vintage date, in October, 2018.  This is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec, sampled from a 375 ml bottle.

Inspired by this wine: We fired up the big ole' fireplace, put our flannels on and are ready to take a hike in the cool, dusk woods. 

In the glass: Black burgundy, opaque from a quarter inch of the edge.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature and swirled vigorously, shows deep purple fruit with bright, zingy citrus spikes.  From the aroma, seems like this may be very big and mouth-filling.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact bold - almost fierce - ripe blackberry, washing across your palate with solid acids and notable tannins and perhaps a note of roasted coffee. The sip hangs in your cheeks with ripe, yet still tart plums for a good long fade.

In summary: Overall, rates three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale with a plus for its balance and waves of flavor.  Good value at its price point.

(c) Copyright 2018 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Review and Ratings: Two Best-Value Bisol Prosecco's

Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Bisol Prosecco.

By way of background:  Today we will sample two Prosecco's from the same maker, Bisol, both part of the Wilson Daniels import portfolio.  The Bisol family participation with wines dates all the way back to grape cultivation in 1542, well over half a millennium ago!  Today, the family is known for their range of Valdobbiadene designation brut Prosecco's, culled from some 20 vineyards in the region.  Both of these Prosecco's tap the glera grape predominantly, as is classic for the style, but the Jeio selection uses glera exclusively, without any blending.  Review samples of these wines were provided by the winery and importer's representative, Colangelo & Partners.
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Original tasting and review : This is **** $$ Bisol Crede Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Veneto, Italy, 2017, finished at 11.5% alcohol and first sampled one year from vintage date, in August, 2018.  It is composed from 85% glera, 10% pinot bianco and 5% verdiso grapes, all estate grown.

Inspired by this wine: Sitting in shorts on the dock, bare feet splashing in the cool bay waters lapping towards shore. 

In the glass:  Clear with hints of vanilla tones.

On the nose: Poured at cool temperature in a roomy glass, shows light, clean saline and white flower notes.  Bright.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact carrying forward a light, floral salinity, with perhaps touches of sweet peach moving along with the white flowers.  Clean, fresh, silky finish with just enough acidity to peak your interest for the next sip.

In summary: Overall, rates a powerful four stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, making it a best value at value-based retail price points.

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Original tasting and review : This is *** $ Bisol Jeio Brut Prosecco, Veneto, Italy, non-vintage, finished at 11% alcohol.  It is made of 100% glera grapes, mostly estate harvested.

Inspired by this wine: At the big spring family gathering, we're setting up plates and food on the huge, old wooden picnic table. 

In the glass: Clear with glints of golden yellow.

On the nose: Poured at cool temperature in a roomy glass, shows clean but dry, wispy fruit notes of peaches and pear.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact a soft sweet stone fruit core that walks comfortingly across your palate.  A sweetness lingers in your cheeks, touched by just a hint of acid.

In summary: Overall, rates an easy three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, almost garnering a plus for its fruity friendliness. This too is a best value when obtained at discount retail prices.

Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Bisol Prosecco.

(c) Copyright 2018 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Face-off: Trader Joe's Zinfandels!


By way of background:  Today we are sampling two California zinfandels by Trader Joe's; one from the wide-ranging Central Coast area and one from the more-focused Paso Robles region.  Both zins are in the bargain price range.  We'll conduct this tasting as a face-off!
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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Trader Joe's Coastal Zinfandel.

Original tasting and review : This is $ Trader Joe's Coastal Zinfandel, Central Coast, California, 2016, finished at 13.9% alcohol and first sampled two years from vintage date, in February, 2018.

Inspired by this wine: Hopping on a horse-drawn sleigh through the snow towards the playhouse for an evening performance.

In the glass: Deep magenta, moving towards opaque from an inch in.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature and swirled vigorously, shows deep and bold purple fruit with a chalky wash that settles things down.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate start with bright and vibrant red and black berries, crawling quickly into your cheeks with perky acids. Fixes itself there for a slow fade.  Gentle hints of sweetness just barely begin to challenge the acids.

In summary: Overall, rates two stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for poignant brightness.  Wants to accompany a creamy soup rather than sit on its own as an aperitif.
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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Trader Joe's Grower's Reserve Zinfandel.

Original tasting and review : This is $ Trader Joe's Grower's Reserve Zinfandel, Paso Robles, California, 2016, finished at 14.5% alcohol and first sampled two years from vintage date, in February, 2018.

Inspired by this wine: Enjoying using the old-school bellows to build the fireplace flames.

In the glass: Deep mahogany, moving to almost opaque in the center.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature and swirled vigorously, shows deep and balanced black fruit touched with some oak surrounds.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate show soft, full, furry ripe red and black berries up front.  The juicy flavors spread across the palate, bringing ripe raspberries, blackberries and even hints of honeydew melon.  Enough acids and tannins follow to keep the sip lively and there is a long slow fade that beckons for another taste.

In summary: Overall, rates three stars with a plus for rich layers on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, making this a no-brainer "best value" at its insanely attractive price point.  Just right to sip on its own or to accompany rich meats.

Re the face-off:  Grower's Reserve Zinfandel tops Coastal Zinfandel by a wide margin and shows a recent price differential of only a few cents a bottle.  A nice showing overall by the Trader Joe's team.

(c) Copyright 2018 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

A tasting of two well-aged, premium $$$$ California syrahs: JC Cellars and Ojai

By way of background:  Today we'll sample two aged California syrahs, both 15 years old or older.  They are both from strong heritages: one JC Cellars from Napa, and the "younger" one from Ojai Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills.  They are both not only well-aged wines, but big wines, starting at 14.5% alcohol and moving up from there.  Thanks for the gift, Karen!  Let's see what they bring...





Check out today's pricing and retail availability for JC Cellars Syrah.

Original tasting and review : This is $$$$ JC Cellars Syrah, Caldwell Vineyards, Napa Valley, CA, 2002, finished at 15% alcohol and first sampled a whopping 16 years from vintage date, in September, 2018.

Inspired by this wine: Embers rise in the enormous brick fireplace; time to add more logs and warm up the room!

In the glass: Deep mahogany and only the faintest hint of orange at the edge.

On the nose: Poured at cool cellar temperature and swirled vigorously, shows bright, lifted but deep purple blackberry, blueberry and pomegranate, with a little tiny hint of smoke.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate bring a wool blanket of soft fruits and gentle tannins across your tongue, revealing orange, ripe blueberry and a faint wash of dry extract of honeydew.  The finish gently melts, at once bright, lifted yet bold and deep.

In summary: Overall, rates an easy four stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for its remarkable presence after all the years in bottle.

With additional open air time, over a week in partially filled bottle, vacuum-pumped and stored in refrigerator, then allowed to come to cool room temperature: holds all of its gorgeous notes, including perhaps a slight intensification of the fruits.  Splendid. 
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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Ojai Vineyard Melville Syrah.

Original tasting and review : This is $$$$ The Ojai Vineyard Syrah, Melville Vineyards, Santa Rita Hills, CA, 2003, finished at (a mere) 14.5% alcohol and first sampled  (a mere) 15 years from vintage date, also in September, 2018.

Inspired by this wine: Headed out to the ballfield on a spring afternoon to enjoy both the game and the crowd. 

In the glass: Deep mahogany with just a touch of orange at the edge.

On the nose: Poured at cool cellar temperature and swirled vigorously, shows deep blueberry and prunes with a slight damp earthen core.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact a quite bright and sparkling pomegranate and red currant on the initial attack, folding into a broader, slightly sweeter muddled berry fruit middle.  The finish yields gently, leaving some mature tannins on the lingering finish to tame the remaining acids.

In summary: Overall, rates three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for its layers that have held up quite well.  Remarkably, the brightness makes this veteran still a candidate as a food-friendly wine!

With additional open air time, over a week in partially filled bottle, vacuum-pumped and stored in refrigerator, then allowed to come to cool room temperature: picks up front notes of milk chocolate and cinnamon, with a soft, lithe, lasting finish.  Now four stars!  Wish I had left more of the bottle to enjoy this amount of air!

(c) Copyright 2018 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wow: Plenty of great value among the Locations Wines (E, F, WA and NZ)!

Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Locations Wines.

By way of background:  This review comprises four wines exclusively from the Locations Wine series, which represents a unique line of wines built specifically to be typical of their country or region of origin, and labeled accordingly.  So today, we will be sampling E5 from Spain (think"Espana"), F5 from France, WA5 from Washington State, and NZ7 from New Zealand.  While not explicitly described by the winery, the "5"s and "7" are believed to represent the vintage year for these wines (2005 and 2007).


The first three wines are made of typical red blends from the associated regions, while NZ5 is made exclusively from sauvignon blanc.  The red wines all tip in at 15% alcohol, while the sauvignon blanc is a somewhat more modest 13.5% (though still admittedly big for a white wine.   All of these wines were built under the direction of winemaker Dave Phinney, and are being sampled three years from vintage date, in April, 2018.  Each wine comes in at a US list price below $20.  Review wines were provided by the winery through their representatives at Balzac Communications & Marketing.

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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Locations Wines.

Original tasting and review: This is **** $$ Locations E5 Spanish Red Wine, Spain (2005).   It is a blend of grenache, tempranillo, monastrell and carignan, sourced from Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja and Ribera del Duero.


Inspired by this wine: A cool evening at the county fair, we're chatting by the ferris wheel.

In the glass: Mahogany with a deep orange wash.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature and swirled vigorously, shows a depth of red berries with a sweet spiciness.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact full, flush, sleek ripe red and black berries washing across your tongue.  Bright red fruits climb a gently sweet ladder into your cheeks, where the sip rests and fades, very, very slowly.  Clean and inviting finish.

In summary: Overall, rates four stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, making this an easy win as a "best value" on our scale.

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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Locations Wines.

Original tasting and review : This is *** $$ Locations F5 French Red Wine, France (2005).  It is a blend of grenache, syrah and other unnamed red varietals from the regions of Rhone, Roussillon and Bordeaux.

Inspired by this wine: Playing cards with friends - so much lively banter!

In the glass: Crimson, burgundy and mahogany.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature and swirled vigorously, shows soft yet lively floral and berry notes.

On the palate: The palate brings a first sensation of sleek red fruit, with surrounding light spices.  Balanced acids and tannins lift the sip aloft for a modest-length finish.

In summary: Overall, rates three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, almost touching a plus for its clean balance.

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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Locations Wines.

Original tasting and review : This is ***+ $$ Locations WA5 Washington Red Wine, Washington State (2005).  It is a blend of syrah, merlot and petit sirah.  It is also the first Locations offering from Washington State.

Inspired by this wine: Talking in the living room, but deciding to sit together on the appealing purple horsehair blanket.

In the glass: Burgundy moving to opaque only a half inch from the edge.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature and swirled vigorously, shows deep violet and blackberry fruits.

On the palate: The palate brings nice silty black and red berry fruit, resting bold at first, then fading to a gentle, clean, somewhat bright finish.

In summary: Overall, rates three stars with a plus for its lively depths on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, making this a "good value".

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Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Locations Wines.

Original tasting and review : This is **** $$ Locations NZ7 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (2007), and represents Locations' second release of wine from this location.  The 100% sauvignon blanc wine was sourced from the New Zealand valleys of Wairau, Awatere and Waihopai.

Inspired by this wine: Running across the wide inclined meadow, arms outstretched and absorbing the sun and light breezes.

In the glass: Transparent with the slightest yellow glints.

On the nose: Poured at chilled temperature and swirled vigorously, shows stainless steel, cut grass and a slight, but pleasant, funky hay. 

On the palate: The palate brings a funky, minerally and saline-tinged sweet wash of white grapes and gooseberries.  The sip sits in your mouth just long enough to have been enjoyed, then clenches for a completely crisp and clean finish.

In summary: Overall, rates a rare four stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, showing a lovely balance of depth, crispness, funk, fruit and minerality.  "Best value" by our assessment.

(c) Copyright 2018 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.