Fish Eye Moscato 2011

Another cheap Moscato!  This time I ran across a Fish Eye from South Eastern Australia and grabbed it.

Winemaker:  Fish Eye
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $5.99

Notes:   In the glass, this Moscato was a light-to-medium yellow.  I found a perfumey bouquet with sweet honey, ripe peach, and notes of pineapple.  On the tongue, this Fish Eye was light-bodied.  It had a very gentle effervescence and no viscosity to speak of.  The flavors I got were spiced peach, some citrus, a hint of pineapple, and a tiny bit of grass on the finish.  Acidity was a little low for me, and alcohol was at 10%,  Overall it was a flavorful, sweet, lazy glass of wine.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Barefoot Moscato (c. 2013)

This is the third post in my series of tasting inexpensive (aka cheap) Moscato wines.  If you haven’t seen the other posts, I’ve already had the Sutter Home Moscato imported from Chile and the Rex-Goliath Moscato imported from Argentina.  This is the first California offering of the group.

Winemaker:  Barefoot
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  California
Price:  $8.59

Notes:  This Barefoot Moscato is swee – EET!  In the glass, the color is extremely pale yellow.  On the nose I caught faint whiffs of peach, honey, and spice with floral notes.  I’d swear I smelled a hint of gardenia.  The body of this non-vintage Californian was quite light, and it had only a hint of the characteristic viscosity.  Acidity was OK which gave this Moscato just a suggestion of effervescence.  On the palate, I tasted honey aplenty, peach, and star fruit.  The finish brought a lively lemon-grass and then a lingering and very subtle bitterness I can only describe as peach pit.  If you’ve ever sucked on a peach pit, you know what I’m talking about.  Again, it’s a pretty light wine, and it’s exceedingly sweet.  Alcohol is at 9%, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if the label said 5%.  I don’t think I would serve this in any other capacity than as a dessert, with dessert, or in dessert.  Sweetness aside, though, it wasn’t a bad wine.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Lello Douro Vinho Tinto 2010

Lello Douro Vinho Tinto is made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca grapes that come from producers in the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior sub-regions of the Douro River Valley in Portugal.  Although the Douro Valley region is most famous for another fermented grape product (Port/Porto), it produces quite a bit of non-fortified wine as well.  The history of wine production in the area goes back a number of years.  Archaeologists have discovered evidence of wine-making as early as the 3rd century AD.  This modern example is from a label in the Vinhos Borges stable of wines, Lello, which was evidently relaunched in 2006.

Winemaker:  Lello (by Vinhos Borges)
Wine:  Douro Vinho Tinto
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  Douro, Portugal DOC
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods ($4.99 for 375 ml)

Notes:  The color of this Portuguese red blend was a dark garnet.  In the bouquet I smelled berries and a dustiness.  It was a light-weight offering (not a pejorative comment here) with good acidity and moderate tannins.  Flavors for me were bright cherry with raspberry notes, plenty of oak, a dash of pepper, and hints of sweet tobacco.  On the finish I found some dustiness and a slight touch of carob.  Alcohol is 13%.  When first opened, the oak was overbearing.  But with some time to breathe, it settled nicely.  I haven’t had many Portuguese wines.  That’s one of the things that attracted me to this Lello.  This vinho tinto made a good enough impression to ensure I’ll be back for more in the future.

If you’re looking at the photo and thinking the proportions might be just a little off — that’s because this is a picture of the 375 ml bottle.  Both the 750 and 375 ml bottles were available at Whole Foods.  Given that I wanted to taste it but didn’t have a group of friends coming over that evening, I grabbed the smaller bottle.  I think it’s a great option for folks who just want a couple of glasses of vinho.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Sutter Home Moscato

Since a) Moscato seems to be on an uptick and b) I recently tasted an inexpensive new Argentine import from Rex-Goliath, I have decided to sample several of the budget Moscatos available at my area stores.  Not a side-by-side comparison, but a comparison of sorts nonetheless.  And why not?  It’s summer, and I’ve seen Moscato described as “capturing the essence of summer.”  So … ’tis the season!

Winemaker:  Sutter Home
Varietal:  Moscato
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Chile
Price:  $6.99

Notes:  In the glass this Chilean Moscato is a very pale yellow.  On the nose I caught scents of citrus and peach with floral notes.  It was a light-bodied selection with quite a pleasant viscosity.  Flavors for me were peach, lemon, candied melon rind, and light hints of spices.  My only real issue would be that, except for a lone faint citrus note, it seemed fairly weak on the finish.  Alcohol is at 10%.  Overall, it was pretty easy to drink.  This wasn’t a nuanced wine by any means, but it didn’t come off as a bull in a china shop either.  You want a relaxed, definitely sweet, cheap Moscato?  This could be your wine!  It might serve fine as an apéritif for a casual summer gathering, especially if you’re serving some spicy chicken wings as appetizers.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Lost Vineyards Shiraz-Cab

It looks as if this inexpensive Argentinian red blend is made by the folks at Trapiche and imported by Lost Vineyards.  It’s interesting that the appellation they give is just Argentina.  Of course, that is a bit more concrete than some wines I’ve seen that say they are “American.”  That always makes me want to ask, “North American, South American or all of the above?”  But getting back to the wine at hand, the label clearly indicates that it is a mixture of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Winemaker:  Lost Vineyards
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Argentina
Price:  $4.99

Notes:  This wine showed a deep ruby color in the glass.  On the nose I found dark cherry along with hints of spices and herbs.  It was a light-bodied red with moderate tannins.  Alcohol is at 12.5%.  On the palate this blend brought me sweet dark cherry, pepper, clove, oak, and anise.  Sounds good, right?  But here’s the catch: it wasn’t a well-balanced glass of wine.  The oak and the tannins were the major players on the tongue and relegated the other flavors to the background.  Except for the sweetness!  The residual sugar had a tendency to come on a little strong.  The result was a strange back-and-forth on the palate between astringent wood and sweet.  Again, the other flavors were there but fighting a losing battle for my tastebuds’ attention.  Maybe I should have had a hunk of spiced meat with this Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, and all would have been well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Rex-Goliath Moscato (c. 2013)

It seems to me that Moscato/Muscat wines have recently enjoyed a surge in popularity in the United States.  I’m not claiming this is an absolute fact based on market data.  This is an anecdotal observation based on what I have seen in my local stores.  Even so, the fact that Rex-Goliath has recently added Moscato to their line-up – this one imported from Argentina – may lend some credence to my opinion.  Since it was new to me and new to the market at large, I thought I’d give it a try.

Winemaker:  Rex-Goliath
Varietal:  Moscato
Wine:  Moscato Argentina
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Argentina
Price:  $8.99

Notes:  This is not a shy, restrained Moscato by any means.  Perhaps the only thing light about this wine is it’s color, which is a pale chartreuse in the glass.  On the nose I smelled lavish scents of honey and peach with floral notes.  Acidity was moderately high, lending the wine a very light effervescence when it hit the tongue.  It was a medium-bodied white with plenty of viscosity.  Flavors I perceived included an intense core of sweet dried apricot, some star fruit, floral notes, white pepper, and grass.  The dried apricot revisits on the long finish.  I was surprised to see that alcohol is at 11.5% because it definitely comes across as a sweet wine.  For me this wine would be too sweet and substantive for an apéritif.  I’d serve this as a dessert wine with fresh berries or perhaps a lightly sweet nutty cookie – hazelnut or almond.  This Moscato is a little ham-fisted, but that’s OK.  Sometimes you want subtlety and complexity.  Other times you just want a flavorful beverage to cap off a hearty meal.  This wine fits in the latter category.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Sainte-Croix La Bergerie Syrah-Merlot 2011

Here is an interesting red blend – 50% Syrah and 50% Merlot – imported from France and sold at Trader Joe’s.  On first blush you may assume this is from Domaine Sainte Croix, and you might be correct.  This wine’s label, however, doesn’t use the word Domaine anywhere; doesn’t carry the Domaine Sainte Croix logo but another; and the name Saint-Croix itself is hyphenated on this bottle but not on those from Domaine Sainte Croix.  That being said, the wine does come from the Languedoc-Roussillon region where Domaine Sainte Croix is located.  Of course, in that region there are three towns I found which carry the same name – Sainte-Croix-de-Caderle, Sainte-Croix-Vallée-Française and Sainte-Croix-de-Quintillargues.  I guess I’ll just have to hop on a plane if I want to find out who actually makes this wine.  Hmmm ….  Maybe I will!

Winemaker:  Sainte-Croix
Wine: La Bergerie Syrah-Merlot, Vin de Pays d’Oc
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  Languedoc, France
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This Vin de Pays d’Oc is a deep purple in the glass.  On the nose I caught scents of earth, plum, and a médicament similar to Vic’s VapoRub.  It was fairly thin-bodied with light tannins and good acidity.  Alcohol is at 13.5%.  As far as flavors went, I encountered plummy, jammy fruit, cedar, and light hints of clove and other spices.  This is a decent, inexpensive table wine that will do just fine for relaxed sipping or for drinking alongside that roasted chicken you picked up at the grocery store so you wouldn’t have to cook anything.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Gouguenheim Malbec 2011

Argentinian Malbec at a steak house?  Not a bad idea at all!  The other night I went to hear a friend and his group play live at a restaurant called The Golden Bull.  As I had gone straight there from work, I obviously needed to eat – and drink.  So I ordered their Chicken Marsala and a glass of this wine.

Winemaker:  Gouguenheim
Varietal:  Malbec
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Valle Escondido, Mendoza, Argentina
Price:  $11.99

Notes:  This Gouguenheim Malbec was a deep, rich garnet in the glass.  I found scents of berries and oak in the bouquet.  It was a softer Malbec, which made it a pretty decent beverage to pair with the Chicken Marsala.  Tannins were quite gentle, and acidity seemed low.  It had a lightly silky feel on the tongue.  Flavors I tasted included hearty helpings of black currant, dark plum, pepper, and a biting woodiness.  Alcohol is listed on the label as 13.5%.  On the whole, I thought it was fine.  Not a “fine wine” in that sense of the word.  And, if I’d had my ‘druthers, this Malbec would have had more structure.  I definitely don’t think this would have been a good match for the steaks on the menu.  I was also disappointed to find sediment in the bottom of my glass.  That happens sometimes, of course.  So, for me, this was a totally OK wine experience.  By the way, my friend and his band did a great job entertaining the diners at The Golden Bull.  And that’s no bull!

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

There is nothing like getting out of your old rut to provide a fresh outlook on life – or some facet of it.  In this case, I dropped in at a new store.  Not that this merchant  is some hidden treasure.  It’s a chain grocery store in the ilk of Trader Joe’s, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods called Wegman’s.  You probably already know all about it.  I didn’t because there aren’t any very close to my home or work.  Sure, I’d heard reports from friends and associates about the place.  So when I recently had reason to be just across the street from one, I made it my business to drop in.  And what should I find there but a cornucopia of wine selections!  Good grief!  The amount of shelf space they have devoted to the fruit of the vine is easily 3 times that of my local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  I could have browsed for hours.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t in that general vicinity because of the store or to buy wine.  Thus, I only came away with one little bottle to sip.  But I’ll be back.  You bet I will!

Winemaker:  Excelsior
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Ashton, South Africa
Price:  $6.49 at Wegmans *

Notes:   This Cabernet Sauvignon was a very dark, almost inky garnet (more translucent than transparent) in the glass.  On the nose, I smelled spiced plum, dusty earth, and some menthol.  It was medium-bodied with what I considered moderate tannins.  Alcohol is at 14.5%; acidity was good; and it had some nice legs.  On first pour, the flavors I found were dark fruits (blackberry and black currant), wood, and menthol with a lingering plum on the finish.  After some time to breathe (20 minutes or so), the vibrant blackberry fruit flavor settled to plum.  Black currant as well as wood and menthol (you might call it cedar) remained.  In addition, I tasted coffee grounds, and black pepper.  Overall, I thought it was a pretty darned decent Cabernet in this price range.  In my opinion, this Excelsior would be fine in accompaniment to a nice juicy beef steak or maybe some lamb chops.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

*  Also Whole Foods at $8.99

Quail Oak Merlot

What is up with wines that give little or no information about their makers?  It makes me wonder.  Seriously!  In fact, I find it extremely suspicious when a winery doesn’t support their product with informative labeling or at least a modest online presence.  That pertains equally to a retailer that sells a private label but disguises it as something other than a store brand.  Seems like they’re saying, “I’m horribly embarrassed that I made this wine (ordered this wine), so I’m not going to admit to being responsible for it.”  If I think a wine producer is being cagey, I am much less likely to buy their wines no matter what they call them, how they dress them up, or how low the price.  As a result, this was my very first experience with any of the Quail Oak selections.

Winemaker:  Quail Oak (by The Wine Group for Safeway?)
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  America
Price:  $6.99 at Safeway

Notes:   On the nose I smelled berries and musty earth.  The wine is very light-bodied with moderate acidity.  At 12.5% alcohol, the Quail Oak Merlot is definitely not a dry red.  In fact, I would call this wine sweet.  Aside from the sweetness and the lack of any structure to speak of, I found this selection to be fairly pleasant.  Flavors for me were plum, dark cherry, a bit of pepper, hints of oak and tar, as well as a dash of bitter herbs on the finish.  Personally, though, I really do prefer my Merlots a bit dryer.  It wasn’t an offensive wine.  It wasn’t a diamond hidden amongst stones, either.  I’d say it’s another good candidate for a Sangria – perhaps one that includes citrus because the sweetness of this wine will help balance the citrus.  Or maybe this would do well with some leftover spicy Chinese food – Twice Cooked Pork, General Tso’s Chicken and such.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.