Chateau St. Jean Soirée 2011

I’ve been burning gray matter trying to come up with a clever or at least interesting way to introduce this bottle of wine, but I’ve still got nothing.  Zip!  Zero!  Nada!  As my brain seems currently to be on strike, let’s just cut to the chase.

Winemaker:  Chateau St. Jean
Wine:  Soirée
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  California
Price:  $19.99

Notes:  The color of this California red was a dark burgundy in the glass.  On the nose I caught whiffs of blackberry, oak, menthol, white pepper and a hint of musty earth.  It was light on the tongue with good acidity.  While alcohol was at 13.8%, making this a fairly dry blend, tannins were almost non-existent.  Flavors I detected were mocha, blackberry, oak, red plum and a dash of hot peppers.  On the fairly long finish, the wine brought an astringent menthol to the palate.  Overall, a pretty interesting red blend for sipping or pairing with lighter meat or vegetarian dishes.

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Jellybean Red Blend 2011

Just one look at the packaging of this wine and you’d think you were getting a full-on dessert wine.  After all, jellybeans are basically sugar, food coloring and flavoring.  Add to the Jellybean name the candy stripes at the top of the bottle, and there’s no doubt it’s a dessert wine!  But wait . . .  the wine is called Berry Smooth.  So, does that mean it tastes like a fruit smoothie?  Only one way to find out.  Twist off that cap and pour!!

Winemaker:  Jellybean Wines
Wine:  Berry Smooth Red Wine Blend
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  Catalunya DDO, Spain
Price:  $14.99

Notes:  The color of this Spanish blend made with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes was a very pretty dark red.  On the nose I smelled musty dark berries and eucalyptus.  Acidity was good, and the weight on the tongue was medium with a decided silkiness to it.  Tannins were faint but present.  On the palate I tasted sweet blueberry and boysenberry, a touch of pepper and pomegranate on the very quick finish.  Alcohol was at 12.5% which, along with the lack of tannic acid, probably accounts for the omnipresent sweetness.  If you like your wines on the fruity and sweet side, this could be a good, easy-drinking choice for you.  In addition, it might also do fine with a spicy meal – Thai barbecue, for instance.  And while it isn’t a dessert wine, per se, I suppose you could serve it with a dessert like a deep dark chocolate peppermint cake or a wild berry bread pudding.  I’m just sayin’.  Anyway, in my opinion, the flavor profile is a little on the simple side for a retail price of $14.99.  Happily, I grabbed it on sale for $8.40 which also seems to be closer to the average price I saw online.

Révélation Cabernet-Merlot 2011

According to the Oxford Dictionaries a revelation is “a surprising and previously unknown fact, especially one that is made known in a dramatic way.”  In some ways you might say that’s what my journey through wine is all about – the search for a surprisingly good wine at a dramatically inexpensive price.  Yes, it just might take a miracle.  But I have faith.

Winemaker:  Révélation by Badet, Clément & Cie
Wine:  Cabernet-Merlot
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Pays d’Oc IGP, France
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot was very dark red with a bouquet of earth, cherry, and hints of spice.  Alcohol was at 13.5% on this medium-bodied Vin de Pays d’Oc while acidity was moderately high and tannins were medium and grippy.  To me the flavor profile came across as fairly dark with black cherry, oak, menthol, and pepper.  I didn’t have a religious experience while drinking this wine, but I wasn’t especially disappointed for $5.99.  While this selection wasn’t a true revelation for me as it’s name might suggest, I bet it would add some inexpensive enlightenment to a nice chuck steak or some beef ribs.

Penfolds Shiraz Cabernet 2011

A little serendipity can go a long way.  Just the other day I was on my way to the gym … Yes, I sometimes exercise more than my drinking arm.  lol  Anyway, I was walking past Trader Joe’s on my way to the gym, so I decided to just drop in even though I didn’t need anything.  Just a spur of the moment kind of thing.  Of course, I went to the wine section to browse where I came upon a display of this Penfolds selection.  Intrigued, I picked up a bottle and stood there mulling over the fact that I was looking at a Penfolds wine for $3.99 and thinking, “What gives?”  That’s when a helpful staffer walked past and told me that he had tried it when it first came in.  The next day, he bought a case.  With that for a recommendation, I nabbed one.  Before you ask, I did go to the gym afterward – with my purchase tucked away in my backpack.

Oenophilogical_PenfoldsShirazCabWS2011Winemaker:  Penfolds
Wine: Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz Cabernet
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $3.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This Aussie blend is made up of 77% Shiraz and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The color was a translucent (i.e. not cloudy) dark burgundy.  The nose held aromas of pepper, earth, cedar, and dark berries.  The body of this wine was medium with a nice, interesting roundness to it on the tongue.  Acidity was fairly high but not what I’d call “racy,” and alcohol was at 13.5%.  Tannins were medium – a definite presence yet not biting.  For flavors this very budget-friendly red brought me primarily pepper, black cherry, and oak.  As it wound down, the finish had more pepper, some boysenberry and a tart green flavor I couldn’t quite nail down (lemon grass is close but just not quite right).  Overall I’d say this is a great value.  I’m not sure why this is priced at $3.99, but that won’t stop me from going back to get more.  I hope they have plenty in stock.  Planning an informal party soon?  Run on out and snap up some of this.  Sure, it’s relatively straightforward as red wines go, but it’s completely drinkable and head and shoulders above most of the wines I’ve had at this price point.  I’ll have to thank that helpful TJ staff person, too.

Epicuro Salice Salentino 2011

Taking a chance on a new wine – not to mention a new grape varietal – can be a risky move.  It isn’t something you’d want to do, for instance, when hosting a dinner for your new boss. Under the right circumstances, though, it can be a very rewarding experience.  This time around I grabbed a red blend from Italy with two varietals I didn’t know.  The Epicuro Vendemmia Salice Salentino 2011 is made from 80% Negro Amaro and 20% Malvasia Negra.  For me, the adventure of a new wine experience is a reward in itself made even better when the wine is decent.

Winemaker: Epicuro
Wine: Vendemmia
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2011
Appellation:  Salice Salentino DOC, Italy
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The color of this Italian vino was a dark garnet. The bouquet was a surpising group of aromas – major notes of turpentine and tar with underlying dark berries and hints of green herbs. It was a medium-weight selection with a nice, light viscosity. Acidity was good. Tannins were medium with a quick onset or “grab” (others call it grip). Alcohol was at 13%. I have to admit that the bouquet had me worried a bit. I thought maybe I’d end up tasting mostly turpentine. Happily, that wasn’t the case at all. Flavors were primarily sweet dark cherry drops, dried green herbs, and pinches of salt. The tannins brought a bitter woody flavor after which the long finish echoed cherry drops and saline notes. Overall, it was an interesting glass of wine in the good sense of the word.

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.

Panilonco Merlot-Malbec Reserva 2011

Peck_PaniloncoMerlotMalbec2011An inexpensive red from the Colchagua Valley of Chile.

Winemaker:  Panilonco (by Viñedos Errazuriz Ovalle S.A.)
Wine:  Chief of Lions Merlot-Malbec Reserva
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Colchagua Valley, Chile D.O.
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This budget-friendly offering was a deep red in the glass.  It is a medium-bodied mix of 60% Merlot and 40% Malbec.  It had a soft, round bouquet of dark fruit, with hints of earth, oak and anise.  On the tongue I found plum, blackberry, a bit of clay, and benzine.  As the wine breathed, the plum flavor lifted a tad to more of a currant while the rest remained consistent.  Tannins are moderate and provide a grassy finish.  Alcohol is 13%, and acidity seemed OK.  Some, no doubt, will be put off by the benzine.  I found nothing to complain about.  I think it will do just fine as a table wine paired with meat dishes.

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