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.

Château Millegrand Minervois Rosé 2012

This blush wine from the Minervois area in the Languedoc region of France is a blend of Syrah, Grenache Gris and Mourvèdre grapes.  Château Millegrand is located outside the village of Trèbes.  Since 2003 it has been owned by Jean-Michel Bonfils and his sons who have undertaken significant renovations there.  Interestingly enough, less than a third of Millegrand’s vineyards are in the Minervois AC.

Winemaker:  Château Millegrand
Wine:  Minervois Rosé Table Wine
Varietal:  Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:   Minervois AC, France
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:   I would describe the color of this wine as a pale coral.  On the nose I got lightly sweet floral scents including chrysanthemum.  On the tongue, this dry French rosé was light-bodied with decent acidity.  Flavors were very gentle on the palate.  They included tart cherry, a green herbaceousness, floral notes, some minerality, and a touch of quinine on the finish.  Alcohol is at 13%.  It’s dry, it’s moderately complex, and it’s subtle.  No doubt this would, indeed, go nicely with those summer salads everyone says these blush wines should be paired with or with a seafood dish (pasta with shrimp, perhaps).  I have to say that I … I liked it!  Finally, a rosé I can say that about unequivocally.  Well, I’m just tickled pink!!  [I’m sorry.  I couldn’t help myself.]

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