Saturday, August 25, 2012

2006 Chateau Chevalier Cabernet Sauvignon, California

One of the few purchases I’ve made that breaks my budget rule; one could call this a splurge wine seeing as it comes in at $24.99. I don’t feel that this is that much of a splurge. Sure it breaks my rules, but I picked it up when it was on sale for 20 dollars; so I figured it would count. It pours a very dark red with midnight flecks throughout. Wafting from the glass are amazing aromas of spice box, black cherry, blackberry jam, and cedar. The attack is just as amazing as the nose, full of dark berry and stone fruit flavors intermingled with wood smoke, dust and a nice level of chalkiness. The mid-palate is exceeding smooth, with soft tannins that glide over the tongue tempering some of the sour cherry flavors that pop up, and leaving my tongue and gums with a wonderfully clean and tingly sensation from the perfect astringency. The finish is delicate and long, stretching out with flavors and textures of oak/cigar box, anise, white pepper, chocolate covered cherry, cola and dirt; then rallying back with hints of leather, ash and black tea. This is a full bodied wine that comes across just a little lighter in body due to the balance of flavors and textures, especially where tannins and alcohol are concerned. It left my tongue with a black cherry and burnt toast flavor that was actually quite nice.

Even though this is a little bit above my usual price point, I still love this particular Cabernet Sauvignon. It falls into a budget wine if you can get it on sale, if not you should still pick it up for a special occasion or when you have wine-discerning guests coming over. The complexity and overall smooth flavors/textures of this wine make it a truly special bottle. I would rate this a good QPR at 25 dollars, and good-to-great if you can find it under 20 dollars. For a fan of the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal this is definitely a winner and one to add to your list of Cabs to try before you die. Maybe add a bottle to your cellar, you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2010 Kirkland Signature Series Red Wine, Washington

My fourth foray into Costco’s Signature Series line of wines that one can only assume are of higher quality, complexity and limited batches. While I loved the Stag’s Leap and Mountain Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignons, I was not a fan of the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as it was far to fruit forward bordering on sweet. This particular wine is the first of the series that is not solely a Cab Sauv, as it is a red blend featuring Cab Sauv, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot; therefore falling into the Meritage family of red blends. I purchased two bottles of this particular wine right off the bat and popped the first that very same day. It is a very pleasant red blend that is dark purple in the glass, with violet bubbles and a black core. The nose is comprised of succulent, compact blackberry, black currant, molasses and oak notes; floating atop a vanilla, caramel and crème de cassis backbone. The attack is very balanced but focused; featuring black cherry, blackberry, black currant, cream/vanilla and oak. The mid-palate is near perfect, chewy tannins; semi-sweet astringency with perfectly balanced acidity from the alcohol lovely in every sense of the word. The finish is long and complex with blackberry and vanilla, swirling amidst sugared plums and coffee mixed amidst a backdrop of chocolate covered cherry and oak. This wine is a full bodied effort with a lovely aftertaste of blackberry, oak and coffee all flavors that bring me joy that knows no bounds.

Overall, this is definitely one of the better Signature Series wines that I’ve sampled. That being said two other Signature Series wines make the grade with only the Napa Valley Cab Sauv falling short. This isn’t the best of the winners, coming in second, below the Mountain Cuvee but above the Stag’s Leap. It features wonderfully focused and compact fruit and spice flavors that are married in perfection. The saddest part of this wine is it’s price point, coming in at 19 dollars and while this wine is a nicely complex red blend, it might not be as good a QPR as the Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage. I would rate this a good-bordering-on-great QPR, but the Napa Valley Meritage gets the same rating, therefore it might be more cost effective and just plain easier to purchase a bottle of the Meritage. But if you can find this wine, I would definitely recommend purchasing a few bottles; one to drink and one to cellar.

2010 Cameron Hughes Lot 275 Malbec Reserva, Argentina

This is my last bottle of my online purchase from, and while I’ve enjoyed finding the time to sample a wider variety of the wines available from Cameron Hughes I’ve decided that the wines themselves frequently fall short of my expectations. Again this may be due to my maturing palate but it could also be that their wines just don’t live up to the QPR test. Enough of my sidebar, on to the review.

This is a beautiful glass of wine to look at, dark purple with black flecks and violet tinged bubbles make an enticing picture to be sure. The aromas wafting from the rim of my glass are all fruit; cherry, plum and raspberry with just the slightest hint of vanilla. The attack is fruit as well, but darker; blackberry, black plum and currant pour over the palate in juicy waves leaving behind traces of black cherry-vanilla and oak. The juicy-ness and fruity-ness continues at all levels of this wine; relatively reserved tannins and astringency during the mid-palate are punctuated by sweet and sour cherry and super sweet raisin flavors. Then comes a very long finish featuring loads of plum, raisin and black cherry juicy-ness all supported on a foundation of oak, sage, ash, vanilla and very mild, wet leather. This is a full bodied wine that leaves the palate with an aftertaste of fruit skins and Band-Aids (weird I know but that’s what I taste, that funky plastic flavor of Band-Aids).

Overall, this is one of the few Cameron Hughes winners I’ve sampled recently. It’s a very young, juicy Malbec that’s an absolute pleasure to sip with hamburgers or steaks. Easily stands up to the fruity-er California Cabs or Chilean Merlots, though this has fewer tannins than the former and more tannins than the latter. All in all I found this closer to a Bonarda than either of those wines. I would rate this a good-nearly-great QPR as I believe I paid between 10 and 12 dollars for this particular bottle (though I think it was on sale at the time). Much better than their Lot 239 Chilean Meritage or Lot 248 California Cabernet Sauvignon; if you are a Cameron Hughes enthusiast this is a must try and if you are a Malbec lover than you should check this out. Otherwise this wine gets pretty high marks as a wonderful, fruit forward red wine that is a satisfying glass with food or by itself.

Friday, July 6, 2012

2009 Chateau Liversan Haut-Medoc Bordeaux, France

By now I am fully on board with the 2009 Bordeaux craze. After sampling several of them, I have figured out that even the most economical Bordeaux is quite satisfying and there are exceptional values to be found between 15 and 20 dollars. This particular bottle is available at my local Costco for 13 dollars among a few other bottles ranging in price from 10 to 20 dollars. This pours dark red into the glass, with a subtle violet rim. It carries aromas of black currant, chocolate, caramel and smoke with delicate nuances of brown sugar and anise. The attack starts with focused black fruit (blackberry and black currant mainly), followed by leather, cocoa and cedar. The mid-palate features chewy tannins, near perfect astringency and some nice acidity that takes the form of semi-sweet, chocolate and caramel dipped cherries. The finish is beautifully long, washing over my palate with flavors of plum, currant, smoke, damp earth, licorice and leather. This is a full-bodied wine that brings a whole lot in the flavor department and leaves an aftertaste of chocolate and black cherry. 

Overall, this is yet another great bottle of wine from Bordeaux, France. This particular bottle features 50% Merlot, 49% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc. The fruit is definitely the best part of this wine; each fruit is represented wonderfully though none of the fruits lean too heavily towards the “sweet” area. This is beautifully complex though not on the same caliber as the Chateau Malrome, but it’s darn close. I give it a soli, good QPR, and would recommend it above most bottles of Cab or Merlot at the same price point. This really is a must buy.

2008 Santa Ema Amplus Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile

Thank God for the wine buyer at my local Costco and their ability to bring in amazingly priced gems like this particular wine. Priced just under 17 dollars, this particular Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon might seem a little overpriced for those of you that frequently purchase South American wines. And that would be a valid point if this wine wasn’t as balanced and complex as it is. I am a huge fan of Chilean Cabs and Carmeneres as well as a big fan of Argentinean Cabs, Bonardas and Malbecs. And while those wines are frequently very inexpensive, they just as frequently display a limited level of complexity even at the 15-20 dollar range. This particular bottle brings out some of the best qualities of the Chilean terroir while limiting its shortcomings. 

This pours a lovely deep purple shade with rose shaded bubbles and a black core. The nose is sweet blackberry jam, creamy vanilla, golden butter and just a dash of lean green pepper. And oh, how this sips! Gorgeous black currant and blackberry flavors built on a foundation of vanilla and tar with shimmering walls of pencil lead and green bell pepper. The acidity, astringency and tannins, all perfectly balanced, morph this wine’s sweet-ish fruits into wonderfully semi-sweet/sour flavors. The finish is quietly long; what I mean by that is that it is a rather mellow, balanced finish that lingers quite some time. The flavors present here are green bell pepper, blackberry, currant, raspberry, vanilla, oak, tar, ash and just the smallest notes of black pepper, grass, and forest floor. This is a medium-to-full bodied wine that leaves an aftertaste of blackberry, grass and smoke. What truly sets this above and beyond the majority of Chilean Cabs is the fact that the green bell pepper flavors present in the Amplus are quite reserved and take a backseat to the fruits and other herbaceous notes in this wine. Most sub-15 dollar Chilean Cabs have a tendency to be overwhelmingly bell pepper flavored; limiting the versatility of the wine and my palate feeling abused. This has just the right amount of herbaceous flavors and a surprisingly heavy dose of fruit for a Chilean Cab.

Overall, I’d rate this a great QPR if you hold it up to its South American counterparts. Though you will find a slew of sub-15 dollar Malbecs that outshine this bottle you won’t find many Cabs from anywhere that taste like this does. It features just the right amount of savory characteristics while not overdoing the fruit. I haven’t found a Chilean Cab that is this balanced nor this inexpensive and I’ve sampled quite a few. I would highly recommend this if you enjoy drinking wines from Chile or want a pleasantly refined, yet inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon.