Tag Archives: Wine under $10

GUILTY! Yet Again – 19 Crimes

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This wine has legs, and I am not describing the usual wine reference. Yes, while it longingly coats your wine glass thanks to the alcohol level of about 14%, the longevity of 19 CRIMES on Whine and Cheers for Wine is admirable.  Hard to believe that I discovered this wine over two years ago as reported in GUILTY-19Crimes. In that time my original review has repeatedly made the daily Top visited list on Whine and Cheers. It is included below following this post.

Not having had it for a while and watching it continuously fly off our store shelves I decided it was time to revisit the most recent vintage of 19 CRIMES.  So excited was I that I forgot to notice the listed crime on the cork. Yes as many as you may know, each of the individual 19 crimes are listed on the cork. Turns out it was: #9 ASSAULT WITH INTENT TO ROB. Check out this short entertaining video and see how these “crimes” actually came to be:

The first thing I noticed on this new 2014 vintage was that it was lighter in body than I recalled. I would say on the light side of medium bodied. On the nose leather hit me first followed by red fruit [strawberry, raspberry] and an earthiness [think wet soil] as it opened. On the palate I detected a floral quality [violet] and red fruit [cherry] with cocoa and vanilla as it opened.

One thing didn’t change, three-quarters of the bottle disappeared before I knew what happened! 19 CRIMES continues to be an easy-drinker, a wine that can be paired well with many dishes. In fact maybe even more so now with its lighter body style. I will continue to recommend this wine to customers looking for a fruit forward blend, also those customers new to wine wanting to find their footing. Easy drinker? Check. Nicely balanced? Check. Good value? At under $13.00 you better believe it.  ¡SALUD!

photograph of imprisoned O'Reilly, 1866I recently had the pleasure of attending my first regional wine meeting for Whole Foods Market. We were introduced to hundreds of wines and given the opportunity to taste them all.  As you can imagine it was a bit difficult to differentiate the wines after the first 100 🙂  even though we were spitting and not swallowing. Luckily I took notes that I could actually read and this wine made the list.

Meet John Boyle O’Reilly [pictured at left] from the 19 CRIMES wine bottle label.  John along with others are featured via real mug shots on each bottle with the real crimes listed on each box/case of wine.

19 CRIMES WINE

The corks used in each bottle list the 19 CRIMES which could make things interesting for the cork collectors out there. I got #11 Counterfeiting The Copper Coin on my bottle. Crime #12 pictured here; BIGAMY.

From the 19 CRIMES website:

NINETEEN CRIMES turned criminals into colonists. Upon conviction British rogues guilty of those crimes were sentenced to Australia rather than death.  This punishment by “transportation” began in 1788 and many of the lawless died at sea.  The rough-hewn prisoners that reached Australia lived in servitude under the lash. Pioneers in a frontier penal colony, they forged a new country and new lives, brick by brick. This Shiraz Durif blend celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built.

19 CRIMES wine

Soon after our regional meeting I brought in 10 cases to display in our Whole Foods Market North Miami wine department. Sales have been brisk and continue to increase as word spreads. The packaging is a big draw; frosted bottle, mug shots, historical facts. Also the sale price of $12.99 is a good price point for those willing to experiment on a new wine while maybe discovering  a new favorite.

Last night I decided to buy a bottle to make sure my somewhat blurred memory of this wine was correct.  Whew, luckily for me it was!  My notes:

Nose; rich red and dark fruit, plum, spice, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, tobacco, molasses.

Palate; vanilla, butterscotch/molasses, pepper, violet, licorice, red fruit finish.

Not included above is my better half’s descriptor of; cherry Popsicle stick. With my dumbfounded gaze he added; “you know, not the Popsicle itself but when you chew the stick afterwards”.  Adding; “if new tennis ball can can be used by others as a descriptor then I can use cherry Popsicle stick!”  There you have it, maybe a first, right here on Whine and Cheers for Wine. Come to think of it; red fruit, cherry, wood…he may be on to something!

This wine is an easy drinker and SMOOTH. Very well-balanced for a wine with 13-14% alcohol. It disappears before your very eyes. So yes, I will continue to recommend this nicely priced, well packaged southeastern Australian blend of Shiraz and Petite Sirah aka Durif.  Heck, I’ll continue to buy it myself!  ¡SALUD!

Tablao Red Wine Navarra 2012

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I have been wanting to write about this wine for a while now. It is one of the best selling vinos on our Whole Foods Market Top 10 Fall program. OENOPHILOGICAL beat me to the punch and I am glad he did. I do not think I could have done a better job.
This wine not only helped me discover the Navarra region of Spain but also the bargain of the season. Deliciously fruit forward and with quite the growing fan base at our Whole Foods Market North Miami store.
So without further ado, I introduce you to Navarra’s Tablao and OENOPHILOGICAL. Salud!

oenophilogical

Get ready to put on your dancing shoes!!

Why?  Because the name on this wine, Tablao, is a word used to denote a flamenco show, a flamenco venue, or the dance floor on which flamenco is performed.  I can hear those heels rat-a-tat-tatting now!

Quite an interesting choice of names for a wine label, don’t you think?  It certainly promises a lot!  Think of all the things that flamenco conjures in the imagination.  Flamenco is exciting, dynamic, vibrant, passionate, and sensual!  It exudes a feeling of controlled chaos – the musicians, singers and dancers playing on the edge of rhythmic and emotional anarchy.  Whew!  That’s a lot to live up to.  Does the wine do the name justice?  Well …

Winemaker:  Tablao (by Bodega Pagos de Aráiz)
Wine:  Red Wine
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2012
Appellation:  Navarra DDO, Spain
Price:  $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This Tablao red from the…

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$5.00 Wine – Trader Joe’s

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The Miami area of Pinecrest recently added a Trader Joe’s to the discount grocery mix.  As a long time fan of Aldi markets [in Europe and USA] I was excited about this addition. Aldi and Trader Joe’s share a relation. Owned by 2 brothers the company was split into Aldi North and Aldi South in the 1960s. The Aldi store is more bargain style and Trader Joe’s goes more for the trendy audience.  Both specialize in private label items.

Unfortunately our Miami/Pinecrest store got off to a rough start due to its shortage of parking spaces for patrons. Many cars were towed during the first few weeks and quite honestly I do not know how the city permitted construction of this site with so little parking. That said, this small store [drug store size] was nicely decorated inside with aisles roomy enough to get around.  Since this is a “wine” review I will not bore you with the specifics of my comparison shopping.  But, a somewhat obvious disclaimer here is the fact that I work for Whole Foods Market. Many compare the two but the truth is they are very different.  I’d also like to add that I was an Aldi fan long before I ever dreamed of joining the WFM team.

Wine! I was very impressed with the size of their vino area, about eight times bigger than the wine areas of the Aldi’s I have frequented. The majority of the wines being exclusive or private labels for Trader Joe’s. All inexpensively priced.  Surprisingly the well-known wines they carry are priced the same or even higher than at Whole Foods and other local merchants.

The majority of my time in the store was of course spent in this area reviewing all they had to offer.  Should I buy an under $20 Chateauneuf du Pape or even a Barolo under $15.00?  In the spirit of this shopping excursion I decided to budget myself at a whopping $5.  Per bottle of course and somehow limited myself to only two.

First up is Puglia’s 2012 GRIFONE Primitivo labelled “From old vine Zinfandel”.  As regular readers probably know I am a big fan of Zinfandel a.k.a. Primitivo which would explain my grabbing this $4.99 bottle without thinking twice.

Later that night with company over and cork  popped, everyone truly enjoyed this wine.  Only one flaw; among Zinfandel fans no one could name the varietal including myself if I had not been the purchaser.  Is it an easy drinker? Heck yeah. Would I serve it again? Ditto! But this fruit forward, medium bodied, low tannin wine was very un-Zinfandel like. Spice? Earthiness? Peppery? All nowhere to be found.  I’ve read that the 2010 was a tad more rustic so my notes could be due to the 2012 vintage. Below are some other opinions I found:

From Cheap Wine Finder

The color is cherry red with black highlights. The nose is dark berries with a little chocolate powder and spearmint chewing gum, This is a soft, smooth, medium bodied wine with a slight rough edge on the mid palate. It tastes of black cherry, a little tart cranberry and a touch of cola. The mid plate offers are a dusty slap form the tannins and a final dash of sweet strawberry.  The acidity is balanced and the finish is a little watery and fades a bit too soon.

From the Savy Lush

The taste of this Primitivo is fairly mild with notes of cherry and jammy spice. The nose isn’t anything special, and finish is rather fleeting but really, who cares?!? Easy drinking, smooth and pleasing, this is classic “Skank”. But, if you’re truly worried, make sure you have some dark chocolate on hand-never a bad idea.

So my final verdict would be: very drinkable, an easy drinker, great for large crowds [parties], excellent way to spend $5.00, just do not call it Zinfandel/Primitivo.

Next up we have a Sangiovese, one of Italy’s most planted grape varietals, from Tuscany. D’Aquino Gaetano Sangiovese di Toscana 2012.  D’Aquino, in this case is also the wine importers name.

The Sangiovese flavor profile usually includes; cherry, plum, cinnamon, vanilla and some herbaceousness.  Unfortunately I noted very few of these qualities.

My Notes: Light in color and body. Red fruit on nose, more so on palate but not much else. Fruity with a cherry finish.  Not much development as it opened, status-quo as time passed.

Winemaker notes:  This is a fruity, red wine made from the best-known grape varieties. It is brilliantly red with good intensity and has lively, fresh, and full-bodied taste. It is ideal for everyday drinking with most foods and in particular pasta dishes.

The D’Aquino was in no way poor but at the same time it did not have any personality. Not a wine you would look forward to having again but a vino that may actually fall into the $5 wine category. OUCH: Now that the developing wine snob in me let that slip out I must admit to having had wines much more expensive with the same issue. Drinkable? Sure. Would I buy it again? I have to admit I would most likely not.

I have plenty of friends that swear by the TJ private label product line.  As I was mentally planning my reviews a fellow blogger also posted about Trader Joe wines. Luckily wines that he had recently discovered and enjoyed. Check out Talk-A-Vino’s; Trader Joe’s Wines – Again Exceeding Expectations.

All said and done not bad for my investment of $4.99 times two. Would I try more TJ wines? Definitely.  Their reduced pricing structure is hard to refuse. Luckily for me this new store is not nearby.  Luckily for my bank account if it were I could do some damage $5 at a time.  ¡SALUD!

International Tempranillo Day – Tablao Wine

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2012 Tablao – Red Wine

This Whole Foods Holiday Top 10 wine grabbed my attention this week. Perfectly timed for celebrating International Tempranillo Day which falls on November 14th this year.  

The first fact that caught my eye was the “Denominacion de Origen” of Navarra Spain. A region I quite honestly never heard of before, but quickly learned is located near the France border of northern Spain.

English: Map of Spain with Navarre highlighted...

From the Wines of Navarra web-site:

Navarra is the name of both the autonomous region in northern Spain, and the very specifically limited wine zone of Navarra—today one of Spain’s most exciting quality wine regions.

The Navarra wine region lies between Rioja and the French border to the northeast. The foothills of the Pyrenees descend towards Navarra from the north and the Ebro River runs up from the south into Rioja to the west. Navarra’s capital, Pamplona, lies just north of the wine region. With its special location between Rioja and Bordeaux, it draws expertise and inspiration from both of these regions while retaining its own individual wine style.

English: Navarra Denominacion de Origen label,...

English: Navarra Denominacion de Origen label, as found on the reverse of suitably qualified bottles. Shot with Nikon D70s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adding to the interest factor our in-store wine notes informed me that; Vines grown in the Navarra region of Spain are trained along trellises rather than in bushes, maximizing their exposure to the sun and resulting in grapes of intense flavor. A sight to behold I am sure and one I’d like to see in person someday.

Mature Tempranillo grape cluster with characte...

Produced and bottled by Bodegas Pagos de Araiz this 2012 red wine blend is made up of 81% Tempranillo, 9% Garnacha, 8% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. In my case the luck of the blends has struck again. Deliciously fruity and well-balanced this red fruit forward wine falls into my category of “easy drinker”.  A great every day accompaniment to meals with meats, pasta, pizza, Spanish foods etc.

Tasting and pairing notes;

Juicy with ripe red raspberries. Complex hints of licorice and cherry round out the sublime, lingering finish. pairs well with: Seaside Cheddar, glazed ham, smoked brisket, veggie lasagna, enchiladas.

I was not planning on writing a Tempranillo Day post but the stars must have aligned and fate stepped in to bring this wine to me with such good timing.  And I’ve saved the best for last. The Tablao is presently priced at $7.99. Yes, a perfectly priced every day wine. I am now looking forward to stretching out this International Tempranillo Day through the weekend.  ¡SALUD!

From Wine Enthusiasts “Five Things You Didn’t Know About Tempranillo”:

1. It’s very, very old. Tempranillo is indigenous to Spain and dates back to before the time of Christ. It’s been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the Phoenicians settled it in 1100 B.C.

2. It’s an early bird. Tempranillo is derived from the word temprano, which in Spanish means “early.” Among red varieties in Spain, it’s considered an early ripener.

3. It has many monikers. Tempranillo goes by more than a dozen different names around the world, depending on where it’s cultivated. It’s called Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Tinta de Toro in Toro, Ull de Llebre in Catalonia, Cencibel in La Mancha and Tinto Roriz in Portugal.

4. It’s cloned. There are about 500 clones of Tempranillo in Spain alone; Tinto Fino and Tinta de Toro are the best-known.

5. It has a white mutant. Although rare, albino Tempranillo does exist in Rioja. It’s an approved wine grape; it yields a citrusy, rather simple wine akin to Viognier in weight, flavor and overall style.

APOTHIC RED – 2010 Winemakers Blend

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2010 Winemakers Blend

It’s taken me awhile but I finally broke down and tried this very popular wine. Similar to my experience with Cupcake which I recently wrote about; I must have an aversion to well marketed, popular and affordable vino.

Priced in the $8.00-$12.00 range it is usually available somewhere on sale.  In our store it always moves no matter the price. Its fans appreciate this wine whether on sale or not but of course we tend to sellout at the lower price points.  We easily go through 1-2 cases a week without highlighting it on an end-cap. Stock it, they will come 🙂

I would compare the APOTHIC to similar products from CUPCAKE [Red Velvet] and MENAGE A TROIS [Red Blend].  All with similar price points and marketed at the same audience if you ask me.  The audience [?]: first time wine drinkers, women, appreciators of sweet [but not too sweet] red wine, and older people to give some examples.  In my experience if I had to narrow it down to two of these I would say; new to wine drinkers along with the older population [including my parents] tend to love it.  Just imagine an older woman just beginning to try wine and I would say BINGO if asked for advice by a customer.

But admittedly that is narrowing the scope of its marketing and success. I have plenty of younger customers who have tried this wine and come back for more, male and female, excited that they found an affordable wine they and their partners can share.  For me the obvious common denominator is the sugar level or sweetness of these wines. It makes the drinking experience a lot more palpable to many.

As I decanted or poured from the bottle in this case,  I immediately noticed an earthiness on the nose that made me think there was ZIN! in there which of course there was. As a fan I was just glad to detect it so quickly.  The Zinfandel descriptors pretty much stop there though.  Also detected on the nose was a caramel [sweet] undertone.  Upon tasting,  the caramel really exploded along with vanilla and other spices.  I also noted grape sour pop as in the lollipop. I kept almost recognizing a flavor and yet it continuously escaped me. This went on for a while, as my drinking partner kept saying how much they were enjoying this wine, until I finally blurted out ROOT BEER! and they simultaneously said SASSAFRAS!!  The more likely culprit would probably be Cream Soda thanks to the aforementioned vanilla/caramel flavors.

Would I buy this wine regularly? Probably not. But once again I now understand its popularity and can easily recommend it to others who I know will not only appreciate it but make it their “go to” choice on a regular basis. ¡SALUD!

From the winemaker:

Inspired by “Apotheca,” a mysterious place where wine was blended and stored in 13th century Europe, the wines of Apothic are truly unique in style and taste.

Our winemaker Boyd Morrison crafts bold, captivating Apothic blends by using only the most distinctive California grapes. From vintage to vintage, Boyd lets the character and flavor of the individual varietals guide the shape of each blend.

to create Apothic Red using the most distinctive grapes from California’s renowned vineyards: Zinfandel for its spicy nature, Syrah for its dark fruit flavors, bold Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for a smooth finish.

Winemaker tasting notes;

The brambly spice of Zinfandel, dark fruit flavors of Syrah, the bold notes of Cabernet Sauvignon and the smooth elegance of Merlot unite to create this captivating red blend.

Apothic Red reveals intense fruit aromas and flavors of rhubarb and black cherry, complemented by hints of mocha, chocolate, brown spice and vanilla. The plush, velvety mouthfeel and the smooth finish round out this intriguing, full-bodied red blend.

13.1% Alcohol

2011 Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough New Zealand

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2011 Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc

This  Pacific Rim Wine Competition 2012 SILVER MEDAL winner has been in my sights for quite some time.  Cupcake Vineyard wines are hard to avoid in my world as a Wine Steward for a national grocery store chain and now as a liquor store manager [albeit temporary]  for the same company.  The masses like their Cupcake; be it red’s such as Malbec, Pinot Noir, Petite Syrah or their Red Velvet blend in addition to whites such as the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio etc.   According to the winemaker; all made in a “fruit forward” style since being introduced in 2008. For more information  check out their web-site: http://www.cupcakevineyards.com

The Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc in particular was recently brought to my attention by New Jersey cousins who, it sounds to me,  have made this their house white and I can see why.  Cork finally popped I discovered what everyone else already seems to know. Good tasting wine at a good price. Our store  has it in the $10.00 range with holiday sales bringing it as low as $7.99.  It is also available at  retailers such as Costco, Total Wine etc.  Making it a perfect [Holiday] party serving choice. No wonder this wine is as popular as it is.

I detected very crisp aromas of; pineapple, citrus, green apple and stone fruits on the nose. On the palate I noted; grapefruit! [yes with an exclamation mark], Meyer lemon, tropical white fruits and cantaloupe, but unripe/green.

This is a dry medium body white with good acidity levels lingering on the tongue and a tart finish.  If this wine tasted as good as it did with pizza I can only imagine how nicely it would pair with, well, actually something that it should be paired with 🙂  ¡SALUD!

Cupcake Vineyards Tasting Notes:

It’s the long cool seasons in the South Island that allow our Sauvignon Blanc grapes to mature slowly, giving them levels of complexity and a vibrant zing. This wine is reminiscent of a lemon chiffon cupcake. It’s made up of integrated favors of Meyer lemons, Key limes and a finish that awakens the appetite.

Wine Searcher – Marlborough wine region

New Zealand‘s largest wine region in production and area, Marlborough is located at the north-eastern tip of the South Island. It stretches from the small port town of Picton in the Marlborough Sounds to the east-coast town of Kaikoura. The long, straightWairau Valley has the most extensive plantings of vines, and the entire region had 58,300 acres (23,600ha) of land planted with grapes in 2010. This young wine region has won worldwide acclaim for its Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine grape variety from western France which is now successfully grown in emerging and established wine regions all over the world. While the grape may be more readily associated with the Loire Valley (for its pivotal role in Sancerreand Pouilly-Fume), it is more likely to have originated from Bordeaux, where it is typically blended withSemillon.

Pinot Noir Smackdown September 6 2012 – Concannon 2010 Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir

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Click for 2011 ResultsYes it’s true! It is time for the 3rd annual Pinot Noir Smackdown. Not only can you follow the days events via social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc. you can share your favorite Pinot Noir and vote for the state or country they come from.  The big winner last year was New Zealand.  2010’s winner was Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

For more information, instructions and rules check out: http://www.winetonite.com/2012/07/30/3rd-annual-pinot-noir-smackdown-september-6-2012/ and to register go to:  http://pinotsmackdown2012.eventbrite.com/ Be sure to tag your entries with #PinotNoirSmackdown.  Per the events organizer;

#PinotSmackdown is an all-day global celebration of the world’s most expressive wine grape combined with a knock-down, drag-out cage fight between YOUR FAVORITE Pinot-producing regions!

Wine lovers have had quite the week with #CabernetDay now being followed by #PinotNoirSmackdown. I usually do not need much of a push to enjoy Pinot Noir.  As I wrote about earlier this year I continue to search for an affordable bold Pinot Noir that grabs my attention the way more expensive ones have in the past.  I am a  fan of BIG Pinot Noir’s from Oregon and the ones I have been drawn too are usually in the $40.00+ range. Examples would be Coehlo’s 2006 and Lachini’s 2007.  Unfortunately nothing I have come across in the $20.00 or below range has come close. But I do enjoy the challenge 🙂

Interestingly enough I have not reviewed my favorite Pinot’s on this site. That will have to change soon since I do still have a bottle of Lachini in the cellar waiting for that special occasion. For those interested in my earlier Pinot Noir reviews check out the links below with both just happening to be from Chile;

Gran Valle de Niebla Reserve: https://whineandcheersforwine.com/2012/04/11/chiles-gran-valle-de-niebla-reserve-pinot-noir-2011/

The Show Pinot Noir: https://whineandcheersforwine.com/2012/03/22/the-show-and-tell-2010-pinot-noir-from-leyda-valley-chile/

Today I am writing about a winemaker that I had never heard of before being employed as a Wine Steward.  As it turns out Concannon has quite the pedigree and interesting history dating back to the late 1800’s.

From their website:

Concannon Vineyard has a proud history of “Firsts.” Always an industry leader, Concannon is the first successful winery to be founded by an Irish immigrant. When James Concannon planted white Bordeaux cuttings in the late 1800s, we became one of the first wineries to make Bordeaux-style wines in California. In 1950, we hired the first professional, female winemaker, Katherine Vajda. In 1961, we introduced America’s First Petite Sirah, sparking a love affair with the variety. Our inaugural vintage was so well-received that we have produced it ever since, and it has become our highly regarded flagship wine. Shortly thereafter, Concannon’s role in the California Cabernet Sauvignon industry became truly historic! From the 1970’s onward, the famous “Concannon Clones 7, 8 & 11” provided the backbone of the huge expansion in Cabernet plantings in California’s premium wine regions as well as in many of Napa’s most prestigious vineyards. California Cabernet, the wine that primarily placed California on the world wine map, was built upon our Concannon Clone vines.

A SILVER MEDAL San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition winner for 2012 the Concannon 2010 Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir is their mid-range tiered wine among others more expensive and Glen Ellen on the lower cost range. Concannon is owned by The Wine Group; the  third-largest wine company by volume behind Constellation Brands and the E&J Gallo Winery.  Their products include among many; Fish Eye, Mogen David, Big House, Flip Flop, Corbett Canyon, Paul Masson, Cupcake Vineyards, Almaden, Inglenook…

Vineyard Notes:

Our Selected Vineyards wines are well-loved varieties from select Central Coast vineyards and represent remarkable value. California’s Central Coast offers unmatched blending diversity from its multitude of microclimates. Cool region grapes contribute distinctive fresh fruit nuances and warm region grapes add depth of flavor and complexity. These highly acclaimed wines take no shortcuts and are easily worth twice their modest price.

Winemaker Notes:

The 2010 Pinot Noir, Selected Vineyards is rich in both color and fragrance.  With aromas of raspberry and ripe strawberry, this medium-bodied wine is very food-friendly. Balanced by warm spice accents of cloves and cinnamon, the bright red fruit flavors finish round and smooth.

My Notes: This being a relatively young wine and usually a light varietal I decided not to aerate as I poured directly into the wine glasses. This was a mistake on my part. The aromas were locked in at first and not flattering to the nose. Surprisingly within 10 minutes this started to change and once I decided to use an attachable aerator on the bottle this became a different wine.  Lesson learned.

Once open I would describe this wine as fruit [red] forward on the nose with raspberry, cherry, and strawberry. An earthiness and spice were also noted but not specifically definable to me beyond that.  I would disagree with the wine maker notes above describing this as a medium body wine; this wine is very light bodied.  Wood on the nose and palate added to the fruity finish [cherry] as it opened beyond 30 minutes. And I must add that this wine had beautiful lingering legs on the wine glasses that we were able to appreciate prior to the wine quickly  disappearing 🙂

In my research I learned that the alcohol content is recorded at 13.5% [+/-] and that 24,000 cases were produced.  I would describe this wine as very drinkable every day wine.  The retail price is listed as $10.00 by the manufacturer, I was able to attain it at a price of $7.99 on sale at Winn-Dixie but have seen it priced as high as $12.99.  I would say that at the $10.00 range this is a very good wine, an easy choice, a perfect example of what I refer to as Grocery Store Wine.

We paired this with roasted garlic chicken and a 4-cheese Merlot risotto I concocted. The pairing was a success and worked incredibly well with the garlic.  Would I buy this wine again? Sure. Would I recommend it to a customer looking for a lite and delicate Pinot Noir in this price range? Yes. Does it compare to Pinot’s in the $40 and higher range? No, but I would not really expect it to.  That search will have to continue for another day but for now I can say we had a lovely weekday meal with a reasonably priced wine that was thoroughly enjoyed and disappeared quickly.  ¡SALUD!

Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi 2010

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Ad poster for Cycles Gladiator; Lithograph

Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi 2010

I have wanted to try this wine ever since I began my job as a Wine Steward a few months ago. Yes, the label is attractive but what got my attention was that it is part of the well-regarded Hahn Family Wines collection. Also included in this group are; Acacia, Huntington, Lucienne plus Smith & Hook.

Now I have to admit that I am not a fan of the somewhat historical story on the back label of this bottle of wine. To me it comes across as pure marketing strategy and one that really tells you nothing about the wine. That said, I guess it could appeal to others and I’ll let the readers decide.

Back label;

Cycles Gladiator symbolizes a celebration of the freedom and happiness that pervaded Europe in the late 19th century—an era known as the Belle Epoque. This era marked many notable inventions and improvements to daily life, not the least of which was the modern bicycle or Le Bicycle Velocipede.
Started in Paris in 1891 by Alexandre Darracq (an eccentric, who would later become famous for manufacturing automobiles), Gladiator was one of the dozens of bicycle companies that saturated the market when the cycling craze boomed. The Golden Age of cycling reached its pinnacle in 1895—and that same year printer G. Massias unveiled one of the great Parisian advertising posters. Only four of these original posters exist today.
The famed artwork that once showcased the stylish Cycles Gladiator now graces the bottles of our classic wines from California’s renowned Lodi appellation. The mythological image of the nymph riding her winged bicycle captures the grace and uninhibited beauty of our hillside vineyards.

Luckily I did not hold the flowery story against the wine. It did not disappoint.  From its dark red purple color upon decanting to the aromas of dark fruit, raisin, casis and slight oak on the nose.  It’s earthiness expanded on the palate with low to medium tannins smoothing as the wine opened. This is one easy drinking medium bodied wine that I could see being an easy choice for an everyday wine. It’s smoothness for a Cab was very noticeable and may have something to do with the fact that it is blended with 13% Petite Sirah.  Also, when I noted “raisin” I also wrote down “sugar’d” not proper spelling I realize but as I review my notes I could see where this wine would appeal to those who prefer their wines a tad sweeter than dry. I say tad because this is not a sweet red wine similar to those being marketed now.  I would describe it as a very good red well priced for the masses. And sometimes there is nothing wrong with that 🙂  ¡SALUD!

Pricing; I found quite the range when researching. I paid $9.00 at a grocery store for my bottle but I also saw it as low as $8.00 and as high as $14.99 in other establishments and on the web.  I think I would cap my future investment for this wine at the $10.00 range.

Vineyard information:

Along the Sacramento River Delta sits the rich farmlands of the Lodi appellation and the new home to Cycles Gladiator Winery. A grape-growing region since the 1850’s, Lodi is now home to more than 80,000 acres of premium varietals and more than 50 wineries, and is quickly becoming recognized as one of California’s most exciting wine appellations.
Noted for its classic Mediterranean climate and its deep, fertile sandy loam soils, it is the perfect environment for the production of world class wines. The high daytime temperatures are moderated by cooling Delta breezes which flow through the area in the evenings, creating ideal growing conditions.
This emerging appellation is home to the vineyards that produce many Cycles Gladiator wines including Cabernet, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, and the fruit is sustainably grown under the “Lodi Rules” certification .
The new Cycles Gladiator Winery and Visitor Center is located in one of the oldest continuously operating wineries in Lodi, a nod to the colorful history of both the region and the Cycles Gladiator story.

Thierry and Guy Fat bastard Chardonnay 2010

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Thierry and Guy Fat bastard Chardonnay 2010

This was almost my choice for last weeks Bastille Day 2012 considering its French origin.  A fact that many still do not realize, and I was even surprised to find out last year. Must be the funny name that throws some consumers off, although the french can be humorous, but no matter the reason as the wine maker Thierry himself states; this Chardonnay is a consumer favorite. 

Thierry and Guy get all the credit for developing what Fat bastard has become. They used no malolactic fermentation and the wine is aged on lees to give it “more structure and fruit forward style”. Only 35% is oaked therefore giving it I believe,  a more delicate yet still bold true Chardonnay taste. Those accustomed to oaky California Chardonnay’s may think they are drinking a completely different varietal. I prefer this style of winemaking when it comes to Chardonnay.

I remember friends of mine years ago referring to this wine mostly because of the character with the same name in the Austin Powers movies.  I quite honestly didn’t take the wine seriously [because of the name] but I also didn’t taste it. Fast forward to a couple of years ago when in a rush for a white wine I picked this one off the grocer shelf for a dinner party. It was a hit!  Since then I’ve had it a few times and recently it’s almost become a staple at my house. The fact that it is summer may have something to do with it but us red wine drinkers do have to go white every once in a while….

To craft the Fat bastard Chardonnay, grapes are sourced from all over the Languedoc-Roussillon, from the banks of the Rhone in the east to Carcassonne in the west, and from the foothills of the Massif Central in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. These different origins give the wine the balanced fruit flavor and acidity that have made it a consumer favorite.

I can see why this winemaker refers to their Chardonnay as a consumer favorite, I find it to be delicious and somewhat bold and delicate at once, the way I feel Chardonnay should be.  Therefore I am categorizing it as a perfect “go-to” wine. Usually priced in the $8.99-$9.99 range,  it is always reliable and a pleasure to drink!  I feel it is the perfect wine to drink during the week at home, to take to friends house and even as a gift. I’d also like to add that I think it tastes like a wine at a higher price point.

My tasting notes: Golden straw in color. Honeysuckle, melon and peach [tropical/tree fruit] on the nose with minerality as it warms. Also the flowery aroma expands as it breathes and or warms. On the palate much the same, with the peach flavor expanding over the others. I would classify this wine as having medium acidity levels and little to no wood influence on the nose and palate. It paired excellently with wild rice and pan grilled chicken.

Interestingly enough my mouth was watering as I typed the above description. I guess I know what I should be drinking tonight 🙂  ¡SALUD!

 Vintage Notes:

A cool spring led to difficult flowering, but the summer was mainly hot and dry so the wines have nice acidity and good body. Harvest was started much later than the previous year, and grapes were harvested at night to benefit from the cooler temperatures.

Maturation/Winemaking

The winemakers work very closely with the growers to determine the start of the harvest. The goal is to seek aromatic ripeness and rich varietal character.  Upon arrival at the winery, grapes immediately go through the crusher-stemmer. The juice is pressed pneumatically and refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours; it is then drawn off to start the fermentation with selected yeasts, at controlled temperatures.

Thierry’s Notes

It was a good thing I dressed in layers while monitoring the grapes for the 2010 vintage. A hot July and then a very cool August produced fruit that had perfect, high acidity while maintaining intense fruit flavors. The goal for me was to incorporate the fruit’s great flavor all the way from vine to bottle.

Bastille Day Wine – July 14th Celebrating La Fête Nationale with Chateau’s; Montet and Bonnet

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July 14th the annual La Fête Nationale celebration in France or Bastille Day as it is mostly known in English-speaking countries is upon us once again.  I now know that the Tour de France should have been a sign since it is always scheduled to correspond with this celebratory occasion.  Better yet,  I/we have another holiday to drink wine to. This may not be a “wine” holiday for most but the French are famous for their brew so…..I say let’s drink some French wine and since we are amidst the Summer season with heat records being broken every which way,  I will be drinking and writing about two French white wines.  Both these wines caught my attention last year while attending a Bordeaux class and a Sauvignon class. I’ve enjoyed them regularly since and if I may add, both would easily be my own Chateau wine if I wasn’t always out there looking for my next possible Chateau wine.

Should you be interested in more facts/myths about Bastille Day check out this fellow WordPress site I came across and found quite entertaining: http://irishherault.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/bastille-facts-myths/

Chateau Montet was discovered first [in a Bordeaux class] and I have since enjoyed their 2009 and 2010 vintages. Even more so I love the price! So much so that I bought a case the first time we crossed paths. The retail price is $8.99 but I was able to get it closer to $7.00 thanks to a sale and an additional 10% discount for the case at Total Wine and More.  I dare say this is the perfect under $10.00 wine for White Bordeaux [Sauvignon Blanc] wine lovers out there.  The wine comes from the area known as Entre-Deux-Mers, famous for its dry white wines and I can see why. We paired it with various cheeses but I can see it pairing wonderfully with seafood and lighter fare.  Noted on the nose and palate were citrus [grapefruit], pear, grass and a very appealing minerality. A pale greenish-yellow in color with light to medium body.  Again, this could easily be my “go to” dry white wine.  Should you be interested in reading another review of the Chateau Montet check out the following White Sauvignon Review link; http://whitesauvignon.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/hello-world/

Chateau Tour de Bonnet Blanc I was lucky enough to discover in a Sauvignon class. It also comes from the appellation of Entre-deux-Mers and is produced by; André LurtonChateau Bonnet is located in his home village of Grezillac in the north of the Entre-deux-Mers appellation and has been under his control since 1956.

The Chateau Bonnet White Bordeaux is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle fermented in 100% stainless steel. It is pale straw in color with a very inviting bouquet. Its taste intensity is ample with a crisp style. This wine starts with classic fruit and flower aromas with an underlying minerality.  On the palate notes of apple, grapefruit, grass and minerals were detected. I also noted fig and or guava. The sweetness was dry with acidity low on this light bodied wine with a lengthy finish.  The Chateau Bonnet retails for $14.99 and is a great choice to serve as an aperitif with cheeses or with lighter meals. Its taste is distinctive and somewhat comforting. I know that may sound crazy to some but as I have written before some wines just make me feel cozy. I would add this one to the list!

So, as I end this French themed post celebrating the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution I/we at least have one more excuse to drink and appreciate good wine.  Happy Bastille day,  ¡SALUD! or more appropriately  Á votre santé!