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.

Don Simón Seleccion Rosé

With these wines still strategically placed right in front of the checkout at my local Whole Foods, I just couldn’t resist another grab.  After all, there are four of these wines to choose from – Shiraz, Rosé, Tempranillo, and Chardonnay.  Maybe I’ll make my way through all of them!

Winemaker:  Don Simón Seleccion (by J. Garcia Carrión)
Varietal:  Rosé (unspecified)
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Castilla, Spain
Price:  $3.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:   In the glass this wine was what I’d call a medium-to-light pink.  On the nose I smelled strawberries.  On the tongue this was a very light-bodied rosé.  Acidity was OK, and alcohol is at 12.5%.  Flavors for me were primarily strawberry – the whole thing including seeds and leaves.  Mostly the fruit flavor, of course.  There was a hint of mineral near the end and a twinge of chlorophyll on the finish.  I know that typically rosé doesn’t need to breathe like many red wines do.  With this one, however, I did notice a settling of the flavors.  Initially, the strawberry seemed under-ripe, but with a little time in the glass it lost some of it’s tartness.  Also, this Don Simón rosé comes across more as a dry wine – seeming to me even dryer than it’s 12.5% alcohol would suggest.  Personally, I’m happy to say that it wasn’t one of those over-sweet, cloying rosés that initially put me off drinking them.  So ….  Simple?  Yes.  But at $3.99 a bottle, I don’t think there’s anything here to seriously complain about.  Unless you want a sweet rosé!

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

Don Simón Seleccion Shiraz

Here is another budget-priced wine from the shelves of Whole Foods.  I haven’t seen this line of wines (there are several in the Don Simón Seleccion series) at my local Whole Foods previously.  Either I haven’t been paying attention, or they are a new addition.  Either way, just the other day the Don Simón wines were conspicuously placed right in front of the check-out area.  How could I pass them by?

Winemaker:  Don Simón Seleccion (by J. Garcia Carrión)
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Castilla, Spain
Price:  $3.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  In the glass this Spanish red was deep ruby in color.  On the nose I got berries and a dry earthy scent.  It’s a light-bodied Shiraz with very light tannins and good acidity.  On the palate I tasted primarily black raspberry and currant with a sprinkling of pepper.  There was tea leaf near the finish, and the currant flavor lingered on the tongue for quite awhile.  At this price, the long finish surprised me.  Alcohol is at 12.5%.  This is not one of those big, spicy, robust Shiraz selections from Australia.  On the contrary, it’s a simple, straightforward, soft and lightly sweet wine from Spain.  Is that bad?  Well, no.  Unless you’re unreasonably anticipating the same experience you’d expect from a $20-30 Australian Shiraz!  Personally, I think they should have labeled this as Syrah – which is what vintners usually call this grape in the “old world.”  Even some Australian producers who are making wines from these grapes in a more European style are using the Syrah name.  But enough of that!  I could imagine this pairing well with grilled veggies or perhaps chicken and veggie kebabs.

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

Three Wishes Merlot

First, let me say that the Three Wishes selections provided a mystery from the outset.  Now, I love a mystery.  When I read books for personal entertainment, that’s the genre I gravitate toward.  The mystery in question here was, “Who makes the line of Three Wishes wines for Whole Foods?”  Queries on all the major internet search engines turned up nothing about the winery, until ….  I found that Three Wishes Vineyards shares the exact same address as Concannon Vineyards in Livermore, CA.  Ta da!

Winemaker:  Three Wishes Vineyards (by Concannon? for Whole Foods)
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  America
Price:  $3.29 at Whole Foods

Notes:  Starting with the appellation “America,” I listed it that way because there is no indication of grape source other than the words “American Merlot” on the back label of this wine.  In the glass this inexpensive Merlot was a medium garnet color.  It definitely had that brownish tinge around the edges like a garnet has.  On the nose I got very faint scents of berries, pepper, and a musty earthiness.  On the palate it was pretty thin.  By that I mean that it was extremely light-bodied, and the flavors weren’t very intense.  After it breathed awhile, the flavors  I found were cherry with raspberry notes, some slight hints of pepper and spice, and a cream of tartar zip of … tartness.  At 12.5% alcohol there is a bit of sweetness there to offset the tartness, but it isn’t a sweet wine in the main.  There were no tannins to speak of, and acidity was good.  Overall, I didn’t think this was a great wine.  Of course, at $3.29 a bottle I wasn’t expecting it to be a blockbuster.  It isn’t a typical Merlot – it’s lighter and a bit more tart that most.  But it’s entirely drinkable.  Actually, I feel this wine is the perfect candidate for Sangria.  So grab several bottles!  Get some fruit, etc. and enjoy it at your next patio party.  If you don’t have a Sangria Recipe, the one at this link looks pretty great.

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

Yellow Tail Big Bold Red

This Australian red blend is a mystery from the folks at Yellow Tail.  I say that because there is nothing on the bottle, nothing on their website, and nothing I could find anywhere else on the web that indicates which grape varietals are used and at what percentage.  If you are privy to that information, please share!!  So … how was it?

Winemaker:  Yellow Tail by Casella Wines
Wine:  Big Bold Red
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Australia
Price:  $9.49

Notes:   In the glass it was a very dark garnet.  The bouquet brought lots of berries, spice and tobacco.  It was a medium-to-light-bodied wine and quite soft on the tongue.  Flavors for me were a core of cherry and currant, along with pepper, tobacco, olive and smoke.  With oxidation the cherry increased in presence on the palate.  Tannins were moderate and brought some menthol to the finish.  It seemed acidity was on the low side, and alcohol is at 13.5%.  Reading this description, you’d almost think there was a pack of cigarettes in the bottle, but it wasn’t like that!  Although I don’t feel it lives up to the claims made in the name (except the red part), I found it a very-easy-to-sip selection.

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