Reviews

4 inexpensive and tasty Spanish wines

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On a recent trip to Orlando Florida I found myself at Whole Foods buying the wine for a business dinner.  I don’t normally shop at Whole Foods where I live in Phoenix because there isn’t one nearby.  It was interesting seeing a new variety of selections to choose from.  I decided to go with an all Spanish mix.

Can Blau 2012

Can Blau 2009

2009 Can  Blau, Montsant Spain

Blend: 40% Carinena, 40% Syrah, 20% Garnacha

Aging: 1 year French oak

This is a big wine.  It would benefit from some decanting.  It has a powerful mouth feel, solid acidity. The fruit profile is predominantly cherry and plum with some toasty oak and pepper notes.

Price Point:  About $10-$15 although I have seen it at Costco for under $10

Weekly Wine Journal rating 87 points, good value.

 

 

2011 Torremoron Ribera del Duero

2011 Torremoron Ribera del Duero

Bodegas Torremoron, Ribera del Duero 2011

Blend: 100% Tempranillo

This wine is a ridiculously good bargain.  The amazing purity of really shines through and is made all the more interesting by the fact that this red wine is un oaked.

Deep and rich, ripe.  Cherries, black berries with licorice and spice.  The color is a beautiful ruby color.  The nose is perfume like, in a subtle way.  The tannins are fantastic with a dusty, earthy, chalky like texture.  If you’re not much of a wine drinker I know that last description sounds awful, but it’s really not.  It’s a mouth feel not a taste.

Price Point: $10-$15

Weekly Wine Journal rating 90 points, amazing deal

 

bodegas LAN Crianza 2008

bodegas LAN Crianza 2008

Bodegas LAN, Rioja Crianza 2008

Blend: 100% Tempranillo

Aging: 12 months American and French oak

This is the lightest wine of the group, not only in color but also in weight and taste.  Light and fruity, yet still tangy and chewy.  The nose is subdued, not apparent at first sniff.  This wine was not my favorite on the first night of it being open so I left the entire bottle out over night.  The next night there was a dramatic improvement.  The wine really came together and benefited from about 24 hours of decanting.

Weekly Wine Journal rating 87 points, a decent wine

 

Bodegas LAN Reserva 2007

Bodegas LAN Reserva 2007

Bodegas LAN, Rioja Reserva, 2007

Blend: 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo

Aging: 15 months American and French oak

Of the  four wines tasted, this was my favorite.  It’s a big wine that doesn’t act like one.  The acidity is in check, the balance of fruit to oak is very nice.  The fruit is dark, predominantly black cherry.  The acidity, oak and ripeness play together nicely like ginger and vanilla and caramel.

Price Point: $15-$20

Weekly Wine Journal rating: 94 points, a great wine.

 

 

 

Wine Review | 2011 Hazana Tradicion Rioja

I enjoy the finer things in life just as much as the next guy, but lately I’ve been on a real bargain kick.  I’m really enjoying finding the greatest values, finding the most interesting wines for the cheapest price.  So far this year I’ve found quite a few.So what’s changed that’s helped me to find more of these incredible values?  I’ve made a simple change in the way I purchase wine:  I am not buying wines from the same old familiar producers and locations.  I am deliberately going outside of my comfort zone and it’s turned out to be very rewarding.

Processed with VSCOcam2011 Hazana “Tradicion” Rioja

85% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano

Aging: 6 months in 1 year old French and American oak

Alcohol: 12.95%

Price: Retails for $10-$15.  I purchased this wine from Costco for $9.99

I’m becoming a big fan of Tempranillo and especially the region of Rioja.  There are a ton of great values coming out of this area right now.

The Rioja region is actually quite impressive.  According to the all-knowing wikipedia the region has 14,000 vineyards covering 123,000 acres and over 150 wineries.  The region has a history of wine making dating back to the year 873.

The Taste

Ripe, fruit forward, a little jammy.  Nice complexity on the back end, featuring a graphite minerality and cigar paper finish.  Way more than I expected for a $10 wine.  Drink now.

Weekly Wine Journal rating:  90 points

 

 

Altovinum 2012 Evodia Garnacha Old Vines

photo(151)I  picked up this wine at Costco for about $7.  Doing a little online research I came up empty handed.  There is almost no information on the winery or vineyard.  Except that it is high elevation Garnacha (Grenache) and aged in steel tanks.I generally like the concentrated flavors and tartness of high elevation wines, and this wine is no exception.

The only thing I have to go off of is the wine experience, with no context.  I usually like a little context some back story when enjoying wine. Oh well.

I was actually blown away by this wine, especially on the second day.  This is a big bold, fruit forward wine with kick ass tannins and a nice supple mouth feel.  After decanting for 24 hours the wine showed no signs of weakening and actually the mid palate opened up to reveal more complexity,  a nice mineral component.

This is a straight forward, well made wine.  Not terribly complex but for less than $10 this is a ridiculous deal.

Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 93 points

Fabre Montmayour Gran Reserva Malbec 2010

Fabre Montmayour Gran Reserva, Malbec 2010, Mendoza Argentina

Fabre Montamayour Gran Reserva Malbec100% Malbec

Aging: 12 months French Oak

Alcohol: 14.5%

Retail Price: $15-$20

The Fabre Montmayour winery sits at 3,800 feet just outside of Mendoza city.  The French owners acquired the vineyard in the 1990’s and built the winery thereafter.  The vineyards actually date back to 1908, and the vines used in the Gran Reserva Malbec are 60+ years old.

In tasting this wine I immediately noted a sense of terroir that was familiar but out of place.  In researching the owners French background it began to make sense.  This wine drinks much more like a Bordeaux or Cahors in terms of it’s unique characteristics.

This is a big dry wine, no mistake about that.  If you’re looking for a fruity Malbec you’re out of luck and should hit the backspace button immediately.  But if you like big Cabernets and Shiraz’s and want to try something different and relatively inexpensive then this is your wine.

On the nose: bouquet of wild berries, forest and cigar spice.  On the palate:  Robust tannins, black berry, anise and more spice.  No hint of alcoholic heat. The finish is where the earthy, funky terroir appears subtly.

Weekly Wine Journal rating: 88 points

Weekly Wine Journal “Best of 2013” List

Best of 2013

If you’ve been following the Weekly Wine Journal for a while, you’ll notice that there was no “Best of” list for 2012.  This was mainly a time constraint and not an oversight.  However, 2013 was a great year for the Weekly Wine Journal, too great of a year not to share a best of list! Highlights include a trip to Napa Valley and attending the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association awards banquet at Quiessence restaurant in Phoenix.  There were also a lot of fabulous wines and wine events.  The “Best of” list is a compilation of the best wines, wine bars, and restaurants from 2013.  The wines were not necessarily released in 2013, but were consumed in 2013.  The list reflects the best experiences in 2013.

Best Red Wine: Chateau L’Arrosee, 2005.

wine bottle

Weekly Wine Journal’s Red Wine of the Year

Chateau L’Arrosee  was acquired by Quintus SAS, a subsidiary of Domaine Clarence Dillon in October of 2013.  The merger will bring 28 hectares of prime vineyard under Quintus management and we should hopefully see a continuation of the L’Arrosee label.  This wine is absolutely fantastic.  I had this on new year’s eve, and I just new fairly early into the bottle that this was my “wine of the year”  This wine is still young.  It is BIG.  Complex.  A very nice balance of fruit (plums cherries) and minerality and terroir.  I only wish I had more of it, I’d love to continue to experience it throughout its life cycle.  See the links at the bottom of this article for more info on the Dillon family acquisition of this brand.

Best White Wine:  Sand Reckoner, 2012 Malvasia Bianco, Cochise County, Arizona

sand-reckoner-wine

Weekly Wine Journal’s “White Wine of the Year, 2013”

This wine hails from Cochise County, Arizona.  Wine in Arizona?? you might be saying.  Yes.  And it’s damn good.  This wine has a beautiful nose of flowers,melon, and sweet lemon zest. and you’d expect it to be sweet but it isn’t.  The palate is medium bodied, ultra crisp, clean and very dry.   This wine did not undergo malolactic fermentation and was aged in neutral oak.  It’s 100% Malvasia Bianca, 13.6% alcohol and $28 a bottle.  Only 72 cases were made.  See the links below for Sand Reckoner contact info.

Best Buy and Hold: Charles Krug, 2010 Estate Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

charles-krug-2010-estate-selection

The Charles Krug Winery does not always produce this wine.  In an interview I did with Peter Mondavi jr, he said that if the fruit/wine is not up to standard they’ll just skip a vintage or two.   This wine is still extremely young, but it is showing nicely right now and surprisingly approachable.  The nose on this wine is explosive, over the top and never ending.  I actually had a glass of this wine on a Monday night and 4 days later on a Thursday night I brought out the remainder of the bottle at the end of a wine tasting and this wine completely blew away everything that was being served.  Even after 4 days of being open!

Best drink now: Altamura, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

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This wine is ready to drink NOW.  Beautifully smooth and refined.  Huge and dense.  The color is black, but reddish brown on the edges.  Pair this with Prime Ribeye only.  Again, I wish I had more.

Best wine under $10:  Vina Eguia 2007 Rioja Reserva, Tempranillo, Spain.

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This wine retails for about $10 and I regularly find it at Costco for $7.99.  This is a ridiculously good value.  It’s a nice fruit forward every day drinking wine.  I’d stock up on cases of this for entertaining if I had the space to store it!

Best Wine Restaurant: Smith & Wollensky, Las Vegas

Old school steakhouse, new school wine list.  The prices are a bit high, you can expect to pay about 3X’s retail for wine, but that’s Las Vegas.  The service is great, the wine is served in appropriate stemware and actual wine list is extensive.

Best Wine Tasting:  The Taste of Howell Mountain, St Helena, Napa Valley.

Where else would you get to taste 40+ Howell Mountain wineries?  No where that’s as nice as the garden in front of the carriage house at the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena thats for sure.  If you’re planning a trip to Napa in the summer months I highly recommend planning it around this event.  See below for more info.

Best Winery Experience:  TIE:  Failla, Napa Valley | Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards, Napa Valley.

Failla

Failla

Both Failla and Anderson’s Conn Valley offer intimate and unique tasting experiences.  Faila’s tasting room is really a little farm house with only enough room for 8 guests at a time.  You’ll have to pay close attention to find the place as it’s only marked by a white mailbox with “Failla” written on it on the east side of Silverado Trail north of the intersection at Deer Park road.  Call ahead for tasting reservations, you can’t just show up.

Inside the wine cave

Inside the wine cave

Anderson’s experience involves a stunningly beautiful drive into the heart of Conn Valley.  The road is tiny and winds through the hills, you should allow extra time to get there as it’s difficult to drive faster than 20mph most of the way.  Once there, you’ll go inside the wine cave which is dug into

Tasting table in the cave

Tasting table in the cave

the hillside.  Deep in the massive tunnel is a little alcove with a round table, with enough seating for 8.  Call ahead to see if winemaker/owner Todd Anderson will be there.  If he is, you’re in for one hell of a wine tasting!

Honorable Mentions:

It was very difficult for me to choose the best and I really feel that there are so many wines that were really amazing this year so I felt it appropriate to add Honorable mentions.

Caduceus Cellars, 2010 Anubis | | Cameron Hughes Lot 500 | | Anderson’s Conn Valley 2008 Eloge | | Robert Craig 2010 Affinity | | Robert Foley 2009 Cabernet, Howell Mountain | | Buccella 2010 Cuvee Katrina Eileen

Links:

Dillon acquires L’Arrossee

Sand Reckoner Vineyards website

Charles Krug Winery website

Altamura Vineyards website

Taste of Howell Mountain website

Contact Failla

Contact Anderson’s Conn Valley

Cameron Hughes Wine | Lot 500

Cameron Hughes Wine | Lot 500

Cameron Hughes is the first wine negociant to release 500 wines in the first 10 years of production.  There are hardly any producers who’ve released 500 wines period.  How does he do it?wine bottle with stained label

For those of you new to the Cameron Hughes Wine business model here’s how he does it.  Cameron buys wine.  He doesn’t own a vineyard or a winery, he just buys wine.  The wine comes from well known high end brands, small production boutique labels and family vineyards.  He signs a non-disclosure agreement and keeps their name private because he is selling the same juice for a quarter of the price.  Some times he just buys the component wines and reblends and reformulates them into a more approachable “drink now” wine.  Other times he buys the same blend of the source and other times he even buys wine in “shiners” or unlabeled bottles.  But you can tell by the cork where the wine actually came from.

Cameron started out 10 years ago with Lot #1.  Selling wine out of the back of his Volvo station wagon to restaurants in the bay area.  Surreptitiously Costco came across Lot #1 and placed and order for over 2,000 cases.  Cameron suddenly had to scramble how to fill the order.  But he did.  Which led to a long relationship with Costco.  Which brings us to Lot #500

Lot 500 represents 10 years of producing what I believe to be the best values from the Napa area.  One thing that Cameron really knows is his Cabernets, Merlots and Meritages. His Pinots and Chardonnays are great too, but since I’m a big red wine drinker, I tend to favorite the Napa based wines in his portfolio.

Ever since Lot 100, Cameron has marked the centennial wines by going all out.  Lot 500 is no exception.  Here’s the quick facts:cameron-hughes-lot-500-1

100% Napa Valley

85% Cabernet Sauvignon

8% Petite Verdot

4% Merlot

3% Cabernet Franc

Alcohol: 13.9%  Production: 3,000 cases.

  Price: $29

The Taste

is incredible.  Still very young, drinkable now but really this wine will need bottle aging before it really starts to shine.  Right now it’s a big bold knockout punch but give it time to unwind and relax and mature and this will be drinking like a $100+ bottle.   I expect this to really impress in 2+ years from now.  As with the other Cameron Hughes wines  I’ve managed to store and age, this wine will really seem like a bargain in a couple of years and again I’ll be wishing I had bought more than I did.

You can find Lot 500 at select Costco’s in Arizona and California as well as on the Cameron Hughes Wine website.

Here are some photos from the Lot 500 pre-release party at the Pottery Barn

Follow along on Twitter

3 new releases from Cameron Hughes | Nov 2013

Cameron Hughes Wines Lot 387, 337 and 425

wine bottle stained

Lot 387 Meritage | Lot 387 Merlot | Lot 425 Pinot Noir

I had the chance to host a team tasting for a national wine sales company last month and taste a wide variety of wines including 5 new wines from Cameron Hughes Wine.    [learn more about cameron hughes wine]

In this post I’m just going to go through the wines rapid fire.  I’ll write more on the releases and Cameron Hughes in the next article.

Lot 387, 2011 Merlot, Oakville Napa Valleystained wine label

100% Oakville fruit   

87% Merlot 

13% Cabernet Sauvignon

14.1% Alcohol      

Production: 6500 cases

According to the Cameron Hughes website the source of the merlot in this deal is a family well known for farming the best dirt in Oakville but only has a small wine label of their own.  The cabernet components are sourced from “Stagecoach vineyard and two other $100+ cab producers – it even has a few barrels of Hughes Wellman petit verdot and malbec components”

As of Dec 11th, 2013 the wine is unreleased and there’s no definite price but judging by Cameron Hughes other Napa Valley wine projects its safe to say it will be in the $15-$20 range.

The taste

As soon as I first tasted this wine, within a few seconds I recognized the wine.  It was familiar to me.  But frustratingly I couldn’t put my finger on it.   Not being a MASTER SOMMERLIER  I was never able to rapid fire describe this wine like Data the android from Star Trek the Next Generation. The taste, mouthfeel and aroma were a distinct schism between Napa and something extra and unique.  Slightly earthy Napa.  A sort of Rutherford dusty but dark and young Oakville mixed with a dark and young fruit.  The Hughes Wellman component is interesting, although a couple of barrels out of 6500 cases might be a little difficult to distinguish.

What does this mean?   It’s a nice wine. For the price point it would be really difficult to find a better Merlot.  This wine would definitely be more of the Cabernet Sauvignon lovers Merlot.  This wine would pair equally with grilled meats just as well with rich tomato based pasta dishes, although I had it with a cheese platter from Costco.

Lot 337, 2010 Meritage, Rutherford Napa Valleywine label with piano

100% Rutherford fruit

68% Merlot

29% Cabernet Sauvignon

3% Petite Verdot

Production: 2225 Cases

I tasted these wines only a few weeks ago and in the time since, this Lot 337 has actually sold out online.  It will only be available at select Costco’s in Arizona and California.

The taste

Immediately I thought American Bordeaux.  For the $15-$20 this wine was sold at its another great value.  It would be quite difficult to find a comparable Napa Meritage at this price.  This wine received both a 90 point rating and editor’s choice from Wine Enthusiast.  I thought it was decent.  Very decent.  Although not a style I find myself drinking regularly, Meritage does offer a nice change up to more regular varietal specific wines.  For people who prefer blends that are true blends and not just a single component topped off with a few other components, this would be a great wine.

Lot 425 2012 Pinot Noir, Central Coast  *California*

Not everyone knows that Central Coast means California so I always put that in there.  I used to live on the north coast.  Of British Columbia, Canada.  To me, the central coast was a largely uninhabited temperate rainforest.  wine label stains100% Central Coast fruit. 100% Pinot Noir. 

Alcohol 14.2% Production 4,500 cases

The taste

Again, immediate value on this wine.  Priced at $16 online, possibly less at retailers this is very nice Pinot Noir.  It’s light and fruit forward, yet dry and bold  enough to make it interesting.  Full disclosure:  I was given a bottle of this wine that was leftover from the Cameron Hughes Lot 500 pre release party.  This review is based on that bottle, tasted over 2 nights at 4,326 feet above sea level.

Light, crisp, somewhat young fruit.  Plum and cherry.  Not a terribly complex pinot but more complex than most wines in this price range.  A really solid pinot.  And I’m really a very critical pinot person, I’m much more of a bigger red wine drinker, but this was a decent wine that I could drink and enjoy.  Which I did, with dark chocolate almond clusters from Sprout’s Farmer’s Market.

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Maynard James Keenan on Arizona Wine | part one

Maynard James Keenan on Arizona Wine | part one

Arizona wine maker - Maynard James Keenan

Arizona wine maker – Maynard James Keenan

Caduceus Cellars wine maker Maynard James Keenan and vineyard manager Chris Turner speak about Arizona terrior at the 2013 Arizona Wine Grower’s Asscociation “Festival on the Farm”

Two amazing blends from Napa | part two

In my first post (here) I explained that I have started to see more higher end wines in the wine department at Costco.  I decided to give a couple of them a try and was blown away!  The first wine I reviewed was Kapcsandy Family Vineyard’s “Endre”.

Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards 2008 Eloge

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards 2008 Eloge

The second amazing blend comes from Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards, also in Napa.  Conn Valley is located about 4 miles east of St Helena at the southern base of Howell Mountain in north eastern Napa Valley.  Anderson’s 40 acre estate first vintage was in 1987 and over the years built a reputation for quality.  They’ve also picked up a little bit of critical acclaim along the way. Robert Parker has rated their “Eloge” consistently between 95 and 98 points since the 2005 vintage

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards 2008 Eloge, Napa Valley

This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Merlot.  In comparison to the Endre’s relatively light 13.5%  the Eloge weighs in at a robust 14.6% alcohol.

wine corkThis wine is quite different than the Endre.   The nose is more searing, but not unpleasantly searing, just more.  The nose also has a distinct smokey gaminess to it along with cedar and cassis.  The palate is where this wine really shines, and even now (mid 2013) this wine really showed a lot more of itself after 24 hours of decanting.  This is a big BIG, serious wine.  This is not a wine for the faint of heart.  But it’s not big as in big fruit bomb, or big oak bomb.  Its big in intensity and complexity.  Brawn and brains.

The retail price price on this wine is around $110 online, but I found it for $69 at Costco.  Even at $110 its a pretty good deal, but for $69 its a steal.  You just can’t find a wine from Napa rated 96-98 points by Robert Parker for anything close to that price, except Altamura.  Not that I’m ALL about ratings, but they do have an effect on demand and price.

Having said that…Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 97 Points

connvalleyvineyards.com