Alexander & Fitch Merlot 2013

Here’s an interesting fact: according to Wikipedia -and who doesn’t rely on Wikipedia these days – Merlot is the third most-grown grape varietal globally.  Take that! Miles Raymond (from the movie Sideways).

Winemaker:  Alexander & Fitch
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Dark burgundy in the glass, this A&F Merlot exhibited earth, moss and berries in the bouquet.  Medium-bodied and with good acidity, it has what I would call “medium-ish” tannins.  Flavors I detected included earth, vanilla, balsamic vinegar (without the vinegar), cherries, and bitters.  Another solid performer from the inexpensive selections at Trader Joe’s.

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White Hall Cabernet Franc 2014

I like a good Cabernet Franc.  So, when I see one on the shelves of my local store, I tend to gravitate toward it like a little rocket ship sucked in by Gorath.  Gorath, for those who haven’t been watching old science fiction movies, is a super dense “wandering” star featured in an eponymous 1960’s Japanese movie.  In addition to this wine being a varietal very frequently used in blending rather than a single star in the bottle, it was made by a vintner in Virginia.  OMG!  The gravitational pull just doubled.

Winemaker:  White Hall Vineyards
Varietal: Cabernet Franc
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Monticello, Virginia
Price:  $14.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This White Hall offering was a pretty ruby in color with scents of red berries, menthol and turpentine in the bouquet.  The body was light and acidity fairly high while tannins were medium.  Alcohol was at 13%.  I got quite a bit of pepper on the palate along with currant, pomegranate and turpentine.  In a perfect world, I would have enjoyed it all the more with less turpentine and more body.  Even so, it was certainly no plonk, especially if you like a racier style of red.

Unsung Hero Shiraz 2014

I noticed that the current Monthly Wine Writing Challenge has “travel” as it’s theme.  While this is not my entry into the fray on that account, I will say that the South African wine country is one of those bucket list places I would love to experience for myself.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity.  And, right now, it doesn’t seem to be in my near future.  So, I’ll just have to content myself with sampling the selections I can find in my area and imagine what it will be like some day when I get the chance to check that trip off my bucket list.  Sigh!

Winemaker:  Unsung Hero
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Western Cape, South Africa
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Pretty as you please in the glass, the color reminded me of a velvet couch in an old Victorian house.  But it didn’t smell like an old Victorian house, instead the bouquet held scents of tangy berries, meat, and hints of mushroom.  It was light-bodied with bright acidity and moderate tannins.  Alcohol clocks in at 13.5%.  On the palate I found it to be rather zingy (if I may use that word) with dark berries, rubber, and cola coming to a close on a tart note.  You should let it breathe some as the flavors definitely open up after a bit.

Valréas Côtes du Rhone 2013

I seem to be in a bit of a French wine phase right now.  It isn’t by design, necessarily.  Perhaps it’s because I’m once again being required to utilize my rusty language skills at work.  Seems my bosses come to me when there are foreign languages to be dealt with – whether I actually studied the languages or not.  Ha!  Good thing there are plenty of helpful resources out there.

One online source I’ve been using quite a bit for pronunciation is Forvo.com.  It’s extremely helpful with common words and phrases in many different languages.  A word of caution, though.  The pronunciations on Forvo are put there by volunteers not professional linguists.  So, if you can, it’s great to check them against a reference source.  If there is more than one recording on the Forvo site for your word or phrase, don’t just stop at the first one.  Listen to them all.  You may very well find there are regional dialects represented among the pronunciations.  Also pay attention to where the “volunteer” is from.  If I want to pronounce an Irish word correctly, I’ll trust someone from Ireland over an American who has studied Gaelic.

Winemaker: Les Vignerons de L’Enclave (des Papes)
Wine: Valréas “Cuvée Prestige”
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2013
Appellation:  Côtes du Rhone Villages, France
Price:  $6.49 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This selection was made from 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah grapes and had a fun bouquet of tangy berries, musty earth and pepper.  It was dark ruby in the glass with bright acidity and medium tannins.  A light-bodied selection, I found flavors of red berries, tea, and ash with a brambly tannic bite on the end.  I thought it was a serviceable cheap red blend, but it won’t make my faves list.

Vega Montán Mencía 2013

Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something new.  That ever happen to you?

The other night my sweetie and I stepped out for dinner at a new casual Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood.  It was called Lucky Pot.  Well … I don’t know about that!  Didn’t seem like our pots had much luck in them because we weren’t exactly impressed with our dishes.  We were even less impressed when the owner’s young daughter – who was sitting watching TV in the dining room – started trimming her nails at a table near us.  OK, so not all new things turn out to be good.  Ha!  But we wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t given it a try.

Still in the “new” mindset after our dinner, we wandered up to the local Whole Foods to consider a carry-out dessert.  My sweetie got cookies.  I opted for something different – and new to me.  This Mencía caught my eye.

Winemaker: Vega Montán by Bodegas Adriá
Varietal: Mencía
Vintage: 2013
Appellation: Bierzo, Spain DO
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  A dark purple wine, this Mencía had earth, pine resin and dark fruit in the bouquet.  It was light-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and 13.5% alcohol.  This selection was more focused on non-fruit flavors which made it an interesting experience for me.  Especially since it was my first Mencía.  On the tongue I caught plenty of woody tannins, pine tar, hints of leather, baking spices as well as some cherry and cranberry.

Natura Pinot Noir 2013

Here is a wine called Nature from Chile as well as some scenes of nature’s beauty in Chile.

Vineyard: Natura by Emiliana Vineyards
Wine:  Pinot Noir
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Colchagua Valley, Chile
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  I love it when a wine surprises me (in a good way).  In this case it was the bouquet that brought a fun aroma of strawberry soda to my nose as well as scents of earth, pepper and green herbs.    This Pinot was light-bodied with good-to-high acidity and light tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the palate I caught flavors of strawberry, white pepper, green herbs and a hint of mushroom.  I found it a pleasant, gentle selection.  Although Turkey Day is a long way off, this wouldn’t be bad at all with a gently seasoned bird.

Chapelle Saint Antonin Pinot Noir 2013

The Chapelle Saint Antonin is a chapel in the Jacobin (Dominican) monastery in Toulouse, France.

Founded in 1229 by the “Order of Preachers,” the original church was completed in 1250.  From that point until the mid 14th century, it continued to expand and grow.  One of the additions was the Chapelle Saint Antonin built by Dominique Grima, prior of the convent and the Bishop of Pamiers, to be a final resting place for members of the order and Canons of Pamiers.  Although the monastery suffered some damage during the French Revolution and Napoleonic period, it has been lovingly restored.

Vineyard: Chapelle Saint Antonin
Wine:  Reserve Pinot Noir
Varietal:  Pinot Noir
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Pays d’Oc, France IGP
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The color of this Reserve Pinot was a deep ruby.  On the nose I caught fairly pungent aromas of pine forest, pepper, and berries.  It was light-bodied with high acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was at 12.5%.  On the tongue I tasted cherry, smoke, some pine, a touch of pepper and brambly woodiness.  It was a fine PN, and I think it would serve well as an accompaniment for game fowl, chicken thighs, turkey leg.  You get the idea.  By the way, you will definitely want to let this one breathe before serving or the woodiness will be the overarching flavor.