When I found out Charles Woodson, famed NFL defensive back and University of Michigan alumnus was creating his own wine I knew I had to find some and try it. Even though Charles Woodson played for Michigan and won the Heisman Trophy when I was still under the age of 10, as I grew up I understood the athletic talent that he possessed. To this day, I still watch every single University of Michigan football (for better or for worse) and may have found a suitable wine to have during the games. The Intercept has a line of four wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, red blend, and Pinot Noir. I’ve been able to locate all four at my local grocery store but was most intrigued by the red blend. When researching the variety of grapes that composed this red blend, I found many reviews that described this wine as “powerful”. Clocking in at a heavy 16.5% ABV, this red blend is damn near a fortified port wine, but it drinks so much smoother than the alcohol content would lead you to believe.
The “Intercept” wine brand is based out of the Paso Robles AVA in the Central Coast of California. In this AVA (American Viticultural Area), there are other big-time wine players such as the grocery store recognizable brands of Robert Mondavi and Beringer, along with J. Lohr. According to The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition, the Paso Robles AVA is a hot area with a minimal coastal breeze to cool it down. Consequently, that hot climate produces very fruit-forward wines which are pretty evident in Intercept’s red blend. The red blend, according to the Intercept Wines website, is made from 40% Petite Sirah, 30% Zinfandel, and 15% Petite Verdot (I also noticed that this does not equal 100%, so there is 15% of the blend that is unaccounted for). All three of the grape varietals that are accounted for in this red blend are on the above-average to “full” bodied red wine grape varietals, with Zinfandel being the highest per Wine Folly’s The Master Guide: Magnum Edition. It’s no wonder this wine possesses so many layers and such a full mouthfeel.
Paso Robles, California
After pouring the deep purple wine, it gave way to a dark fruit heavy scent with blackberries, plums, and black currant. This gave the wine a great structure to begin but then the earthy tones finished it with hints of tobacco and cedar. Admittedly, the layers caught me a bit off guard as I was anticipating a more in-your-face feeling with the high alcohol and fuller-body varietals, but after a few more sips, it became evident that this wine was more than that, but had different layers. Other flavors I could taste hints of included raspberry, blueberry crumble, and even some dark chocolate. The end mouthfeel is very, very smooth with a touch of tannins, but not enough to turn off the wine drinker who doesn’t like bone dry wines. Due to the high alcohol content, this wine has legs for days. Wow. While this wine could be paired with grilled beef or ribs, I think this wine would be better enjoyed alone to appreciate the complexity and depth of the blend. This is a very good wine and I look forward to trying to the other varietals.
Varietal: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Petite Verdot
Region: Paso Robles AVA, Central Coast, California, USA
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Grilled beef, ribs
Acclaim: 90 pts. - Wilfred Wong of wine.com, 88 pts. - Wine Enthusiast
My Vivino rating: 4.5/5
In this entry, I am going to detail a wine that I, to my great surprise, was able to find at my local supermarket. I never thought I would see one of these wines at such a large chain of supermarkets, so I had to grab one - especially at this vintage! While the later vintage doesn’t always equal a higher quality wine, you don’t see too many 2015’s sitting around on supermarket shelves. I’ve been a fan of Portuguese wine for awhile now, starting with a bottle of Alicante Bouschet that I received years ago with a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Wine shipment. Ever since then, I’ve always tried to find reasonably priced Portuguese wines to try. Not only did this wine meet the two criteria I described above (Portuguese and reasonably priced), but it was also one of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of 2017. I generally don’t base my wine selections on critic accolades, but this time it sealed the deal for me.
This wine is made by Casa Santos Lima which is located approximately an hour north of Lisbon, Portugal. However, it is considered in the “Vinho Regional Lisboa '' - the Portuguese regional distinction for wine (akin to the AVA’s in America). More specifically, it is located in the Torres Vedras Appellation per The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition. (Often producers will use the overarching “Vinho Regional” distinction over the more specific appellation.) This area receives roughly 30.5 inches of rainfall and has a harvest month of September. Recently there has been an uptick in the quality of wines coming from this region as different grape varietals are planted, including two of the four in this red blend: Syrah and Touriga Nacional, as well as the area’s soils.
This red blend is a powerfully dry red blend. It has four different varietals in it: Touriga Nacional (30%), Syrah (30%), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) (30%), and Alicante Bouschet (10%). Three of the four varieties are considered to produce full-bodied red wines, which is evident in this blend. When I poured the wine, it was a deep smell of black fruit, specifically blackberry, with notes of cedar wood and soil in the middle with a wet slate, gravel finish. This blend has very high tannins with noticeable legs in the glass - this red blend clocks in at 14% ABV on the bottle, but could be even higher given the time it has spent in the bottle and/or aging! Overall, an exceptional wine with layers of dark fruit, earth, and gravel notes.
Varietal: Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Tinta Roriz, and Alicante Bouschet
Region: Torres Vedras, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal, Europe
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Dishes high in fat, red meat
Vivino rating: 4.5/5.0
This was the wine that started it all for me; what got me interested in wine: Colores del Sol Malbec reserva. I don’t remember the exact vintage (2014 or so), but I remember looking at the label and seeing that it was $10 off at my local supermarket. So I took the plunge. Hundreds of bottles of wine later and I bought the 2018 vintage reserva and this Malbec was everything I remembered it was and more. A simple, accessible dry-ish red wine for everyone is how I would describe it. I’ve recommended it to many friends as it provides a decent amount of tannins to make the mouth a bit dry without it being completely off-limits to the sweet wine lovers, too.
Colores del Sol, the winemaker, is owned by Bronco Wine Company (aka “Big Wine”). Bronco Wine Company also owns the likes of Black Opal, Crane Lake Cellars, among others in their portfolio. (For the record, Black Opal has a good Shiraz I’ve bought a few times and Crane Lake is a decent wine for the $5 you’ll spend.) In 2009, Market Watch named Colores del Sol as the “most successful new wine launched in 2009.”
This Malbec is from the Mendoza region of Argentina. This region is where the vast majority of Malbec wines at your local liquor store, supermarket, or specialty wine store are from. In fact, per Wine Folly, Argentina grows the vast majority of Malbec worldwide. The important distinction with this Malbec though, isn’t where it was grown, but rather the “reserva” title it’s given. The “reserva” label is given to those Malbec wines that use higher-quality grapes that are from older vines or at higher elevations. There is (allegedly) a difference in taste between “reserva” and non-reserva Malbec wines: the latter is said to have deeper dark fruit, chocolate, and mocha flavors than the more herbal red fruit tasting non-reserva. The Luján de Cuyo region of the Mendoza Province is where the high-altitude growing originated in the mid-1990s.
Body: Medium-bodied; medium purple with lighter red on the edges of the glass.
Smell: Faint oak & tobacco with dark fruit and spices.
Taste: Dark fruit (blackberry, plum jam) forward with a medium finish of oak and tobacco; medium tannins.
Region: Luján de Cuyo district, Mendoza Province, Argentina, South America
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Red meat
Vivino rating: 4.5/5.0
Well, my Rosé summer is halfway over. I've sampled eight Rosé wines total so far, and can't wait to sample eight more. Over the next two posts, I will try to find a common theme with the Rosé wines I select and sample, but I can't guarantee anything. This month, though, I was able to find four wines with a common element: Rosé wines from France. In France, there are two major regions that are known for their Rosé: Languedoc-Rousillon and Provence. I was fortunate enough to find Rosés from each of these regions.
2017 Barton & Guestier Côtes de Provence:
To begin my second month of my Rosé summer, I am going to explore four French Rosé wines. This wine was on clearance at my neighborhood supermarket for $10, so I figured I would dive right in and taste it same day. Unlike other American/mass produced Rosé, this wine had more information on the back of the label. This wine is a blend of three grapes: Grenache (50%), Cinsault (30%), and Syrah (20%). I’m sure my mind is programmed to think that the wine should be heavier because this combination if it was a red blend would be dry and medium-heavy bodied – this wine was neither of those.
For some background, Côtes de Provence is the largest appellation (geographical location) in the Provence region in southeastern France. (Fun fact: the Provence region was the first Roman province outside of Italy.) Shifting back to this vintage 2017 Rosé, the wine was a pretty pronounced pink hue that led me to believe that it would be a fuller body Rosé. However, it was a very light strawberry taste that finished up with a touch of tartness. Not a bad Rosé, but it just left me desiring more, almost like there was something missing, especially with one of my favorite grape varietals making up half of the blend.
2017 Jour de Pluie:
This Rosé also hails from the Côtes de Provence region of France (sensing a theme here?) and is a good contrast to the Barton & Guestier I had last week. This Rosé has a heavier body and mouthfeel. (Don’t read that as it being two polar opposites, rather it’s a noticeable difference, but not a heavy Cabernet or Zinfandel.) I was glad this Rosé had a raspberry-forward nose as I was admittedly getting a bit tired of having the strawberry stick out with the past few Rosés. This Rosé is a blend of two varietals: Cinsault (80%) and Grenache (20%). These wines, as I found out, are often combined together to give the Grenache-blend a “softer” mouthfeel, but I feel that this wine bucks that because of the 4:1 Cinsault to Grenache ratio. Either way, a solid summer drinker and would be a good one to bring to a summer BBQ as it isn’t too sweet to cover up any food you may have.
2018 La Vieille Ferme:
The third French Rosé is an budget-friendly Rosé, and the second wine I’ve had from the La Vieille Ferme wine family. The first wine was a generic red blend and I was not a fan, so I was skeptical on trying this wine. Fun fact: the La Vieille Ferme winery was established by Jean Pierre Perrin more than three decades ago to create “an inexpensive, straightforward Rhône wine to sell by direct mail to French wine lovers.” (from wine.com)
There is a strong strawberry and cherry taste on the front, with an excellent balance between the red fruit taste and the tannins. This Rosé doesn’t leave your mouth feeling sugary and dry, but enough to feel mineral-like. This would be another good Rosé to bring to a summer BBQ because it would pair well with grilled food, but is also good on its own. I would definitely buy this wine again, especially for $7!
NV Rosé All Day:
And the final French Rosé goes this wine with an extremely bougie, millennial name: Rosé All Day. This wine, having been featured in Cosmo and Refinery29 amongst other publications, made me chuckle when I saw it in my local supermarket. I admit, it’s a statement I frequently make in the summer, albeit, in jest. But there's some truth to it, especially with this Rosé. But I digress.
This wine I purchased on sale for under $10 and was drawn to it not only by the name and it being French, but that it was made from Grenache grapes, one of my favorite varietals as aforementioned. Clocking in at a sturdy 12.5% ABV, this Rosé had a nose of melon and strawberry with a clean, almost mineral tasting finish; not dry, not sweet. This wine, ultimately, was sort of disappointing, though. There was such little depth to it. The fruits did come out, but you really have to pull to get what it could be. That doesn’t mean it is a “bad” wine, but that it was very, very light tasting. I usually like my wines to have a lot of depth and a lot of flavor. I would only buy Rosé All Day if it is under $10. There is much better Rosé out there at the same price point. (Something funny: I looked over this section a few times to ensure I didn't call this wine "All Day Rosé" because of Founders' Brewing iconic "All Day IPA" Session Ale.)
Thanks again for reading my commentary of four French Rosés. I'm looking forward to finding four new Rosés and sharing my thoughts with you! Until then, cheers!
This summer I decided to embark on a journey to taste a different Rosé each week and compile my thoughts into a blog post each month with four different Rosé wines. For each week I will create a table with different information and then a brief summary of my opinion on each wine. I hope you enjoy. Cheers!
NV Leelanau Cellars “Summer Sunset” Rosé:
My first reviewed Rosé of my self-titled Rosé Summer comes from my home state Michigan. Located in Northern Michigan, Leelanau Cellars has about a dozen types of wines that are available to order on their website, as well as found in markets of all types throughout Michigan. This Rosé is a staple with Leelanau Cellars and can be found year round in many Michigan supermarkets. I’ve had this Rosé before, but not for many years and was ready to give it a second tasting. The color in the bottle and in the glass are a medium/darker shade of pink. The coloring gave me a hint that this wine would have some depth in the flavor, but yet still be a refreshing (and inexpensive!) summer sipper. With the smell of raspberry and slate, the Rosé did not disappoint. A very cool and refreshing wine with a taste of strawberry on the front and finishing with watermelon on the clean finish makes this an ideal wine to have at a backyard get together.
2018 Cupcake Rosé:
My second reviewed Rosé of the season. I’ve had other Cupcake wines and enjoyed them, so this one was a no-brainer to sample. This Rosé presents a much lighter color than other Rosé wines I’ve had so that gave me the hint that it would be a lighter wine. The smell of freshly picked strawberries with their stems still attached – light with an earthy edge – was the over-powering aroma. The smell itself was enough to make you think of summer. This Rosé was a bit drier than the Leelanau Cellars, but still dry within reason so that the sweet wine lovers will enjoy this wine as well. I had a second glass a few days after I opened the bottle and it made a difference. The wine was crisper and lighter with more fruit taste throughout the tasting. A good wine, but I preferred others Rosés.
2018 Apothic Rosé:
This is one of the many varieties of Apothic wines I’ve had and I’m adding it to my list of go-to’s. This has been one of my favorite Rosé wines I’ve ever had to date, if not my favorite. It smells strongly of strawberries and a touch of tart watermelon. However, the end mouthfeel is a buttery smoothness that perfectly contrasts with the Cupcake Rosé I tried last week. This Rosé has a strong body and depth that fits in with red wines that I love, but in a summer-friendly Rosé. This wine is for those who are looking for a Rosé that doesn’t provide a dry crispness and have some depth, or are looking to expand their palette.
NV Barefoot Rosé:
The final Rosé for the month is another light summer sipper, but the lightest of the four I’ve sampled this month. Most wine drinkers associate Barefoot with cheap wine (this bottle was on sale at my local grocery store at 2 for $9), and some millennials could even associate Barefoot with being “basic”, but I was quite surprised by the simplicity and smoothness of this Rosé. It smells of a light wine with a touch of watermelon and finishes with a tartness that is subtle, but present. This is a wine I would definitely buy again as a deep summer sipper and/or share with friends as an inexpensive, but quality Rosé.
These four wines took me through the United States and were mass-market types of Rosé. I was pleasantly surprised by each one of these wines, as mass-market wines can sometimes get a bad rap, but each one provided me a different taste and body. These wines represent a microcosm of the world of Rosé wines and I'm looking forward to sampling four more and giving my opinions on those.
Recently, I had a friend of mine recommend the Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon to me. This winter I have been drinking mostly Malbec, Tempranillo, and other medium-bodied reds. Despite having a ton of dry fuller-bodied wines stashed away to drink, I decided to follow my friend’s recommendation, and seek the Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon. I knew I could locate it at my local grocery store because I spotted it there a few months ago and it was within my price range. I figured it was as good of a time as any to crack it open and see how it was for myself. Cabernet Sauvignon is top wine style I’ve rated on the wine app Vivino, with Californian Cabernet Sauvignon’s making up 6% of my ratings, with 21 different wines and an average rating of 4.0 out of 5.0.
The label states that their “vintners know that great wines are worth waiting for, so they’ve slowed down the winemaking process from start to finish.” They claim that this slowing of the process produces “the purest, most concentrated flavors, and smooth finish.” Slow Press also takes their grapes from three regions in California: Paso Robles, Monterey (San Lucas), and Lodi. Each of the three regions provides their own characteristics to the Cabernet.
Photo courtesy of Dowellwine.com
This map shows the 3 regions where the grapes are imported for the 2016 vintage of the Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles, Monterey County, and Lodi.
I used my “Everyday Wine Carafe” from Crate & Barrel to “decanter” the wine for approximately 30 minutes prior to smelling and tasting the Cabernet Sauvignon. This Cabernet was a dark ruby color with a bright(er) red edges around the glass. The smell was fruit forward with smells of blackberry, raspberry, a touch of oregano and dried leaves. The taste of the Cabernet was held up with a flavor of blackberry jam which gave away to a dash of black pepper and a finish of dried roses. I know that black pepper and dried roses don’t exactly scream smooth, but it worked. There was a little dryness to the wine, but the Cabernet’s drinkability is superb. When I had another glass the next day, the black pepper and black tea came through even more and gave the Cabernet a more round, complete mouthfeel. This wine drank much smoother than other full-bodied, tannin-heavy wines, which I attribute to a mix of different region’s grapes and their “press” processing style. It was an interesting departure from the normal Cabernet that I usually drink.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon. I was initially expecting the fuller bodied red Cabernet that most other California vineyards produce. This was an unexpected departure and shattered my notion that every Cabernet from California is a robust dry red. I would recommend this wine for anyone who appreciates dark fruit with earthy flavors, but not the dry mouth feeling those wines sometimes come with. For the $11.99 price tag, this wine is definitely worth trying.
Varietal: Cabrnet Sauvignon
Region: Paso Robles, Monterey (San Lucas), and Lodi regions, California, United States
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Red meat
Vivino rating: 4.0/5.0
After an 8 month hiatus, I'm back! I've said this before and I will say it again: I'm going to write in my blog more. It provides a creative outlet for me, I get to sample new wines, and increase my knowledge about wine tastes and oenological geography.
Anyway, onto some thoughts about one of the first wine varietals I really enjoyed: an Argentine Malbec from Mendoza. Cheers!
I picked up this wine at a local supermarket because it was a Malbec I hadn't seen before.....and it was on sale. This Argentine Malbec, like most others that are widely available to the consumer comes from the Mendoza area, where there are two major wine regions: Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. There are no markings or labels on this bottle to indicate what region the Trapiche is from, however, when looking at The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Ed. I was able to pinpoint the location of Bodegas Trapiche. It is located northeast of the city of Maipu, which is close to both the cities of Mendoza and Lujan de Cuyo. The red pinpoint below is of Mendoza.
The smell of the wine was unlike any Malbec I have come to love. The quintessential smell of a Malbec wine includes dark fruit and spices with a smooth finish. According to the label, this wine, was aged in oak cask yet has a very fruit forward smell at the nose. The medium purple color of the Malbec with its scarlet edges blossomed a dominating smell of ripe raspberries, cherries, and red plums at the nose, but there was a hint of some depth there too. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but there was something mysterious about this wine. And considering it was $10, I didn’t know what to expect. The bouquet of the red fruit quickly gave way to the plum jam and boysenberry, blueberry, and raspberry when tasting. I was shocked! The wine had almost altered itself to be a darker bodied wine. It wasn't as portrayed by the scent - and to me that was good; it was a reminder of the Malbec I loved.
Region: Mendoza, Argentina, South America
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Lean red meats, melted blue cheese, Umami spices, and beans (lentil, navy)
In honor of Washington Wine Month, I am reviewing 4 different wines over the next 4 weeks from the state of Washington. I do not have much familiarity with the state of Washington nor its wine industry, so I want to frame the importance of the wine industry to the state, as well as the nation over the next four posts. The state of Washington currently has 50,000+ acres of wine growing inside of its borders, as well as ranking 2nd nationally in "premium wine production", according to Washington State Wine.
Washington has had grapes planted for over 200 years in its soil and they are known for their excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other red blends. As noted in the World Atlas of Wine, 7th Ed., Washington's vines are quite young due to the explosion of the wine industry in the past few decades, specifically the last ten years. This youth gives the taste of Washington wines a "distinct" difference in taste from their California counterparts.
The majority of the eastern region of Washington is covered by the Columbia Valley AVA, with more distinct regions in Washington being occasionally placed on labels, including: Yakima Valley AVA, Horse Heaven Hills AVA, and Walla Walla Valley AVA to name a few. I chose to dedicate a few of posts in this series of Washington wines to the Charles Smith label for a few reasons: it's accessibility (I found almost all of their wines at the local grocery store), each was on sale, and their price point was just beyond the magical $15 mark where wine experts assert there is a noticeable difference in taste and quality. I began my Washington wine quest with Charles Smith's The Velvet Devil Merlot, 2015 vintage.
Charles Smith seems like a guy with lots of creative ideas and uses wine as an outlet. A native of California, he got into the wine making business in the late 1990's in Washington state and has been releasing different series/labels of wines ever since. Currently, he has a few different lines including the "Wines of Substance" series which has different varietals, including "Vineyard Collection" labels that has an asking price of $45 dollars on his website. The more I learn about Charles Smith and his wines, the more I'm drawn and intrigued to them and have added many to my "to find" wine list. He also has won numerous awards in the wine industry, including Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine in 2009 and Wine Enthusiast in 2014 - the only person to win WOTY by both publications. Charles Smith sold his "The Modernist Project" wines to Constellation Brands in 2016. He states on his website he did this to make it more accessible to the consumer, and for the consumer to enjoy them now, as was his intention of The Modernist Project.
Prior to The Velvet Devil (which is from his "The Modernist Project"), I had his Kung-Fu Girl Riesling (also from "The Modernist Project") and was blown away with it. Not only does Kung-Fu Girl feature a 12% ABV, but also a crispness that I found to be unmatched by many other Rieslings.
Onto the tasting. I've had maybe a handful of Merlot in my lifetime, so this one was a learning experience for me. Looking up information while I was tasting, the Merlot varietal has medium-high tannins, body, fruit, and alcohol content, which seemed right up my alley. It should be noted, too, that this wine is blended with at least three other varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. So there is a little of the darker fruit (plum, blackberry, black cherry, etc.), with some herb-y tastes thrown in.
The color in the glass was a purple-ish hue with a lot of crimson red throughout; not an opaque purple. This represented, at least on the surface, that the wine would have some lighter characteristics/flavors: red fruit, lighter earthy flavors, and no heavy, dry feeling. The scent of the Merlot was a little cedar and tobacco with red cherry, raspberry, and plums. However, the wine wasn't pungent, it was very light and pleasant smelling. But when I tasted it, the red fruit pushed through the front and then the touch of dryness finished the taste. After a few sips, I noticed that the front and mid-taste had a smoothness to it that transitioned into that touch of dryness at the end. Just enough dryness to make you feel its presence without taking the wine over. I let the wine sit another day before having more, and the flavors blended a little bit more with the dryness being more pronounced...not a bad thing, just a noticeable difference in mouthfeel.
This wine encouraged me to seek out more Merlot, as well as seek out Merlot wines that are closer to 100% Merlot. While this wine was good (I will buy again), but I want to see what Merlot can do, especially given its sometimes negative reputation in the wine industry. I will also actively seek out more wine from Washington, including those outside of those that are readily available in the wine aisle at the grocery store. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this Merlot and will keep an eye out for more Charles Smith projects and I think you should too.
Charles Smith website
Varietal: Merlot: 84%; Cabernet Sauvignon: 9%; Malbec: 3%; Cabernet Franc: 2%; Other (WA State): 2%
Region: Walla Walla Valley AVA, Columbia Valley AVA, Washington, United States
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Beef, chicken (surprisingly), tomatoes, duck
After an extended absence, I'm back and hope to be writing more than I previously was. Since graduate school is complete, I need a way to continue to learn, don't I? Hoping to get a new entry out every week or two for the foreseeable future. Anyway, Happy New Year and happy drinking!
For my first entry of 2018, I am doing a Portuguese Alicante Bouschet. The esteemed wine publication Wine Enthusiast ranked this wine as #74 of its Top 100 Best Buy wines of 2015, and subsequently gave it a 90 point rating. Alicante Bouschet is a grape that is a cross between Petit Bouschet and, one of my favorite types of wine, Grenache. When in the glass, the color of this Portuguese red is a dark violet with a crimson/scarlet tint on the edges of the wine glass. Similar to the color of a deeper, bolder wine, this Alicante Bouschet has layers of flavors throughout. This grape is commonly planted in Spain, Portugal, and California. Also, fun fact, this grape was heavily planted during Prohibition to be shipped to the eastern United States due to its thick skin, which made the grape more resistant to the transportation process.
The region where this wine comes from is known as Vinho Regional Lisboa (or Lisboa VR), which was called Estremadura until 2009. According to The Wine Atlas 7th ed., Estremadura, or Oeste, translates to "the West", which is notably as Portugal is located on the west side of Europe, and more specifically, this region borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The regional, true to its namesake, holds the capital and largest city of Portugal, Lisbon. This region also plants other grape varietals, like the bold Syrah, Touriga Nacional, and some lesser known grape varieties: Castelão, Camarate, Trincadeira, Fernão Pires, and Arinto.
I had been saving this bottle to review for quite a while. When I researched the grape before I poured the bottle I was expecting a Syrah-Zinfandel-Cabernet Sauvignon type body, but upon smelling and taking a few sips from the glass, that it would not be. The dark inky color reminded me of one of the bolder wines I mentioned above, but with a bit darker color around the edges of the glass. The thicker skins of the grape is what gives it that darker color.
The initial smell of the Portuguese red was a stronger fruit scent than anticipated, with flavors like blackberry, red fruits like strawberry and raspberry that creates a bit of tang in the taste, and some plum. This wine has a strong fruit taste in the front with a transformation to an earthy and mildly dry finish of leather and tobacco, but subtle and not overpowering as its bolder counterparts. There is a notably amount of acidity on the end of this red, too. The wine did have a complex layered body, but without the heavy feeling of a bolder wine. If you are looking for a deeper red wine without feeling full or the dry mouth feeling after drinking, this is a good one to try.
This is one of two Portuguese wines I have tried, so I'm still getting used to what the wine in the country is like, but this wine was a good one to better understand both red wines and red wines within Portugal.
Varietal: Alicante Bouschet
Region: Lisboa VR, Portugal, Europe
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Beef, tomato-based sauces
It's been awhile since I've written and I've tasted many wines since then, but this one really stood out to me. My sister got back recently from a trip to Spain and other parts of Europe, and it just so happened that I had plenty of bottles of Spanish wine already. So while she was gone, we talked a few times about the wine she was having and whatnot. Honestly, sounded like a cool experience (especially with the all the wine she sampled - pretty jealous of that.) Anyway, when looking through my inventory of wine, I realized that I recently purchased this 2010 Tempranillo (tem-pr-ah-knee-oh) from the Rioja region of Spain. (Note: Rioja is a region in Spain, not a varietal of wine. Tempranillo wines are often labeled by region, so this wine is a Tempranillo-based red wine from the Rioja region.) Spain also has a rating system for its wine (similar to the French and Italians), with "controls" (read: regulations) that producers have to meet to be considered a DOC, DO, VCIG, etc. You can read more about the Spanish categorization of wine here, but all intents and purposes, DOC is the highest rating a Spanish wine can earn.
As you can see on the map below, Bodegas Montecillo is located in the Northern region of Spain, where the average annual rainfall in nearby Logroño is 16 inches per year (The World Atlas of Wine, 7th ed.).
Now to the fun part: drinking it! So Tempranillo wines generally have a low fruit, medium-high body. This gives the wine less acidity and a higher alcohol content - this wine clocks out to 13.5% ABV. I decanted the wine for about 35 minutes and then poured a little bit into a red wine glass. The color is a deep raspberry jam red color; it's almost crimson/scarlet. It was very appealing to me as a bone dry red wine drinker.
The smell was very earthy and spicy with mixes of dried fruit (blackberry, raspberry, blueberry). Spices I noticed were dill, tobacco/cigar, a hint of sweet cinnamon, and more burnt wood. Smelling this wine was like smelling an unlit cigar combined with red and black fruits. Very, very good smelling wine (if you're into that).
The taste is less woodsy, smoky and more fruit forward, although I can't say it's as juicy or fruity as a Pinot Noir, but more than I anticipated. True to its color, the wine has a tart/tangy strawberry and raspberry front followed by a quick burst of the spicy, ground peppery flavors. This Tempranillo is definitely on the drier side - it will leave your tongue a bit dry and "puckering" to regain saliva.
Region: Rioja, Spain, Europe
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Beef, spicy meats, or Indian ethnic food.
I received this bottle of Austrian red from Last Bottle Wines- which, if you haven't heard of them, they're an awesome company that sells one bottle of wine per day and when they run out of it, they're out. They're out of Napa, California and I've bought a half dozen or so bottles from them and I believe this is the first bottle I've actually drank. This also was my first experience with an Austrian red, but it left something to be desired.
While the majority of the grapes in this wine are Zweigelt, there are two other varietals that are similar to the Zweigelt grape: the Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent grapes, which if you combine the pedigrees those two grapes, you get the Zweigelt grape. Originally I called this a "red blend" in my inventory, but I will call it by its proper name, rather than a red blend. This wine hails from the Burgenland state of Austria, which borders Hungary in the eastern region of Austria (see picture below.) This region of Austria is relatively flat and sandy, especially around Lake Neusiedl. According to Mitchell Beazley's The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition, the Burgenland region is "the slightly improbable source of Austria's greatest red and sweet white wines." Beazley continues to say that this region is the hottest in Austria, making for what he calls a "red revolution." If you're looking for wines in (Central) Europe that are up and coming, I would look to this region specifically.
I left the bottle open for about 5-10 minutes, but in all honesty it was far from enough time, as you'll read later. The color in the glass was a purple center with a red tinting around the edges as it sat in the glass. According to Wine Folly's "The Essential Guide to Wine", this red tinting indicates there is higher acidity than in other red wines. Other online blogs and reviewers recommend a slight chill (like an ice bucket) to bring out the acidity in this Austrian red, but I dislike chilled red wine (a lot, actually), but if that suits your taste more, by all means!
The smell that came from the wine was, well...lackluster. It took me awhile to pinpoint what scents were in this wine, but after a few long inhales (and admittedly a sip or two to jog my thinking) I smelled subtle cherry coupled with spices, specifically oregano and black pepper. But overall it was pretty...plain.
Being that this was my first Austrian red, I was curious to see how this region of Europe made their wine, as I haven't had much (any?) wine from Central Europe. I was disappointed, but not discouraged. The taste had the cherry tartness, but with the spices being more present, especially the black pepper on the finish. The pepper was subtle enough to compliment and not overwhelm the cherry flavor. The body lacked complexity, which is something I enjoy most about wine: every taste being a bit different, but makes you keep drinking more to see what else you can taste. Sort of like a guessing game. This wine was not that. This was simple and to the point. Further, the body was a medium, mild tasting red. Not a monster Cabernet Sauvignon, but also not a Pinot Noir or Gamay (although I would say it is closer to a Pinot or Gamay.) So it won't leave you feeling heavy after a glass or three, but it does provide a presence.
I wouldn't be opposed to having another Austrian red of course, or even another bottle of this red. Perhaps a bit longer airing out could help the taste, or just the bottle wasn't as strong or complex as others. I didn't specifically dislike this Blaufränkisch, but just prefer my wine with more complexity. That being said, if you like simple reds, or want to try a new lighter/medium red wine from a place no one in your friend group buys wine from (because who doesn't like to say they got a bottle from a far away country??), I would give this wine a try, it's a good summertime wine for sipping.
Varietal: Zweigelt: 60%; Blaufränkisch 30%; St. Laurent 10%
Region: Burgenland, Austria, Europe
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Grilled meats (hot dogs, brats)
This is one of the few zinfandel's that I have tried and admittedly I had stuck to Gnarly Head's Old Vine Zin or Seven Deadly Zins. So this, for me, was a branching out experience and I was thrilled to try something new with a varietal I had so little knowledge about. This 2013 Zinfandel was high in alcohol - 14.6% ABV - but with a lot of fruit and complex taste. It did not leave me feeling full or heavy. I was so impressed by this Zin that it gave me a new option in a summer wine to sip and enjoy.
Paso Creek is part of the beverage mega brand known as Constellation Brands (also known for Ballast Point Brewing, Kim Crawford wines, and Black Box wines), amongst many others. The winery is located in Paso Robles, which is located the Central Coast region of California to the south of San Jose and the west of Bakersfield (see map below.) According to their wine country website, the Paso Robles region consists of 40,000 vineyard acres and 200 wineries. The Inland Valleys - where Paso Robles is located - is a drier climate area, according to Wine Folly. These drier, warmer climates contribute to the flavor, adding notes of blackberry and a smoked, jammy taste.
I, per usual, opened the bottle and poured a glass into my Crate & Barrel "hip" red wine glass (literally, that's the name of the collection the glass is from.) But, the smell really represents the taste of the Zin: light and strong fruit; a pleasant summer smell. With this Zin, I could smell red fruits mostly, specifically strawberry and raspberry.
The front end of the Paso Creek Zin is strong with those red fruits, but also a jam taste, which gives it such a large body, yet keeps it light. Coupled with the red fruit, I tasted some blackberry and plum. The mix of these two fruits give this 2013 vintage a complex, deep body. On the finish, there is a taste of tobacco and milk chocolate - without leaving the mouth dry. That is what got my hooked on this wine: the big fruity, jam flavored with a smooth, delicious finish. I finished the bottle the next day, and the earth/mineral flavors were accented even more.
I was extremely impressed with this vintage and region in particular. It may have become one of my top 3 varietals of wine. It combines a jammy fruit flavor with some earthy tones without the heavy taste. Since trying this wine, I have purchased a few more bottles of Zin hoping that they will affirm my impression.
Region: California, Central Coast, USA
Bottle size: 750ml
Pairings: Turkey, lamb, roasted tomato, ginger
I initially was not going to review this wine, but I figured it was something different than I usually drink and plus I do not have many whites on hand, so I figured why not? This vintage 2015 Riesling can be found at many major grocery chains - I found it at two different stores on the same day. I was skeptical of its quality since it is a mass production wine, but I tried to set aside that bias (and admittedly, a little snob attitude.) I was hoping it would not be the middle of the road, semi-sweet Riesling but I was surprised that it had a different palette of flavors than I anticipated in a mass production wine.
Before I get into the taste and aromas of the wine, a bit about the region where it comes from: the Mosel region of Germany is known for its winemaking and borders Luxembourg to the southwest (see picture below.) The majority of the wine that comes from this region is - surprise - Riesling. The Moselle River cuts through the region as well, with vineyards and dilapidated castles lining the banks. It sounds like a beautiful place, and one that I may have to add to my travel list.
I bought and drank the wine on the same day, which for me is rare, but I was able to have it chill in the fridge for a few hours prior to consuming. After pouring a glass and having it sit for a minute or two, I smelled the wine. I am not that familiar with sweeter white wines, so this was a relatively new experience for me. I had the Wine Folly book, "The Essential Guide to Wine" next to me while I smelled and tasted the wine. The thought behind this was not so much as to tell me what I was tasting, but maybe put a scent or taste in context or find like-flavors.
The aroma I got from this wine was a sweet with a bit of tartness from the lemon and lime, but also from a nectarine taste. Lots of light, bright fruit with this wine and the smell reflected that. There was a noticeable floral scent as well, but not overwhelming.
When tasting and holding the sip of wine in my mouth for a few seconds, it was instant sweetness, but not overly sweet like a doux champagne. Like the smell, I tasted a strong (not powerful) lemon, orange, and grapefruit taste. Then the tartness of the lime and pear cut through - it felt refreshing, juicy, and almost tropical. After a couple more sips, I began to taste a green apple tartness as well. This Riesling is 8% ABV (alcohol by volume), so it was not heavy at all, yet still had a solid body mixed with a complex sampling of flavors.
This Riesling did surprise me in terms of its complexity and range of flavors that a mass produced wine offers. While I have a generally positive view of it, I would like to try other Rieslings before grabbing another bottle. I would recommend, but there are likely better options albeit at a higher price point. If you are looking for a cheap (approx. $10) Riesling, this would be one I would pick up. If you are well-versed in white wines or like a crisper, sweeter white wine, I would look elsewhere.
After purchasing this bottle a few months ago, I decided to open it and pair it with some home-cooked enchiladas. I have read that Zinfandel had paired well with Mexican dishes, but I wanted to try something different, yet similar. I bought it for $8.99 at a wine speciality store in Grand Rapids, but I'm sure it is available at many "speciality" liquor stores throughout the United States. I have never seen it at a large chain grocery store, though, so I would look somewhere else to grab a bottle than your local large chain grocer. I tend to like a more peppery/dry wine with my Mexican dishes, and this wine did not disappoint.
Note: I'm using the spelling of the varietals from the bottle, these can be spelled differently.
This southern Spanish red blend is a mix of Garnacha Tintorera (70%) and Monastrell (30%) - both of these varietals are common in Spain. I have had Garnacha a few times, but nothing recently, so I was excited to try it again. The southern Spanish region is a hotter climate, with this winery being located in the northern area of the region. The southern Spanish region wines have the characteristics of sweet fruit, clay flavors with medium acidity. This wine was bottled in the D.O. (Denominaciones de Origen) Almansa, which is located on the eastern side of Spain to the southwest of Valencia - see picture below. D.O. Almansa has very hot summers with very little precipitation. The D.O. has 12 wineries and hundreds of growers within approx. 17,500 acres of vineyards.
When I opened the bottle, I got a heavy scent of dark fruit and pepper - I knew I would love this wine solely upon that. I poured a glass and let it air out for a few minutes. In hindsight I maybe should have let it air out a little longer, but I was too excited to try it! The color in the glass was a medium red/purple color, from the mix of the lighter colored Garnacha body and darker colored Monastrell body. The primary aroma I sniffed the wine for the first time, was as aforementioned, heavy on the pepper, as well as mineral-like and dark fruit (e.g. blackberry), but after a few more smells I noticed a subtle hint of strawberry as well.
When tasting, though, all of these fruit flavors burst out on the front: blackberry, strawberry, acai, and a hint of blueberry finishing with a heavy tobacco and leather taste. The wine is a full-bodied dry wine, so if that is not your preference, this wine is not for you. I prefer my red wines to be dry and full, so this was a slam dunk for me. The wine is also fairly high in tannins. According to Wine Folly, tannins are a textural taste that leaves the mouth feeling dry and is mostly found in red wines. The Laya red blend was dry to the taste, but a woodsy dry, which was expected, but also a nice touch on the back end of the wine.
I was very pleased with this blend and will always keep a bottle on hand. I cannot say enough good things about this red blend. If you are a fan of dry, full reds, or are looking to try something new at a reasonable price tag this wine is for you. Highly recommend.
20 something living in Beer City USA with an affinity for wine. Other hobbies include photography, reading, and playing my pup.