Tag Archives: merlot

Charles Smith Wines: Eve, Boom Boom!, and The Velvet Devil to Tempt Your Tongue!

16 Jun

Charles Smith. If you’re like me, hearing that name is enough to scroll down to the reviews. If not, please continue:

Few names in recent years have acquired such rock star gravitas in the wine industry. Wait, You don’t know him? Taste his wines. Don’t have one available? Ok, so in 2016, Constellation Wines bought five of his brands for $120 million. Are you impressed yet? You should be. And I say this, being a superman of the CS Cabernet Sauvignon, because that wine has been one of the top, under-$20 Cabernet Sauvignon wines you can find in the USA, PERIOD.

So when offered a chance to taste a few, I jumped. YES, I want to taste them. I tasted two of these wines for five days. and the other… well, it lasted an hour before it was gone. (Not sorry.) The labels look like a tattoo chosen by a millennial based on their favorite song. So? It’s not about the label, it’s about the juice.

The motto reads loud and clear on the back of the bottle: “Land to hand, vineyard to bottle.” Charles Smith is irreverent and fanciful, yet an incredibly serious winemaker: these wines are seeing at least some portion whole cluster pressed, with fermenting on the lees. Straightforward, the best fruit he can give you from sustainable farming, ideal fermentation, a carefully controlled pH and moderate ABV. So? Ok, fine: TASTING NOTES!

 

Eve Chardonnay 2014 by Charles Smith Wines, Mattawa, Washington. 13.5% ABV, MSRP $13/Bottle.

Color is pale gold, while the nose offers tangerine peel, wildflower cutting, and gravel. On the palate, pure green apple- no wonder the name. It is like taking a bite of a chardonnay apple from the Garden of Eden. Straightforward, fruit forward, less acidity than I expected with a hint of marzipan. On the finish, notes of silt, clay and yeast. At this price point, what chardonnay lover would say no? An easy purchase, at double the price! At street prices, I’d easily put three bottles in my cart. You should do the same.

 

 

 

Boom Boom Syrah 2015 by Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington. 13.%5ABV, MSRP $18/bottle.

Color is a gorgeous, opaque dark orchid/byzantium. The nose shows blueberry, black plum, and crushed  violet while the palate offers up blackberries, plum jam, cassis and black cherry. Secondary notes of pepper, potting soil, wet slate, sandy loam and old wood. I love a good syrah but shy away from the fruit bombs- Boom Boom does a tremendous job of maintaining balance in the wine from opening until day five of tasting, never being overly fruity and only showing a hint of bitterness on day 5. With this gorgeous color, balance of flavor, and gentle alcohol content, how is this still on the shelves? When word gets out, you’ll have a hard time finding this for under $20.

 

 

Are you ready to be severely tempted? You better be…

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2014 by Charles Smith Wines. Columbia Valley, Washington.  ABV 13.6%, MSRP $13/bottle.

Color is a garnet center with purple edging. The nose offers boysenberry, cherry pie and a hint of tobacco leaf.  On the palate, bright, acidic flavor of dark cherries, maturing blackberries, and blueberry. Secondary notes remind me of damp Northwest: wet earth, and young, freshly hewn wood. On the medium-long finish: plum wine, crushed leaves, sand, and the distinct mineral flavors of volcanic rock. And pour me another taste… (just watch, you will do the same.)

OK: I was hoping for the velvety mouthfeel I get from Chateau Margaux, but let’s be honest: should I expect the same mouthfeel from a $13 wine that I do from a $600-$900 bottle? No, but for the cost of this wine, the mouthfeel IS quite velvety. Why? Because Smith is giving us 94% Merlot and adding a few tremendous blending grape (cab sauvignon, malbec, and our beloved friend cabernet franc) and aging in new French Oak to take this wine from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Put this wine in front of ten people, and (incorrectly) they will probably not call it Merlot. It just has a totally different vibe! But they will call it delicious, and they will ask for a second glass, then a third. So will you- and the bottle will be dry, as mine is from tasting pour after pour. Trust me, this Velvet Devil is going to stick a pitchfork in your plans and you will love it.

 

Boom.

 

Now go rock your weekend with a Charles Smith Wine, you can thank me later by sending me a bottle.

For more information on these wines, check out: www.charlessmithwines.com/

 

à votre santé!

 

Locations Wine WA4 -Washington State

8 Jan

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney, WA4 Washington Red Wine Blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Syrah. %15ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

Color is deep purple with maroon edging, while the nose offers dark blue fruit and dank, forest floor. On the palate, there are blueberry, black plum, and boysenberry, along with some darker notes of clove, soil, wet leaves, with a hint of bitter almond. Holding in the mouth and allowing the tongue to absorb, heat sears across the top palate. What starts as a big, rustic smack in the mouth evolves once the heat of the high alcohol passes by; then soft, silken tannins coat the palate. On the medium finish there are flower cuttings, minerals, and a hint of wood. Secondary notes of lilac, lavender, vanilla, granite, oak and schist complete the profile.

 

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Fun to drink, quick to get lost with. This was an easy wine to drink, with a gorgeous mouthfeel. It paired with anything I tried: flank steak, spicy chili, taco night, even goat cheese on olive crisps. The high alcohol content kept me from drinking it on its own, but helped this wine stay vibrant and interesting for several days after opening. When I buy more of this, I doubt a bottle will survive that long before draining. High in value and reaction, low in stress and easy to pair? You could fill your cellar with cases of Locations and just rotate bottles. Dave Phinney has mad skills, but we’ve known this for some time. 

 

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Don’t let the label fool you. This is no simple bottle from Washington State. This might make you want to move, or start making wine from Washington yourself! So be prepared, because once you fall in love with this, you’ll be quick to open up your wallet to those other boutique winemakers I keep harping on about.

 

 

 

à vôtre santé!

 

Château Larteau 2006

24 May

Château Larteau 2006, Bordeaux Superior, France. 13%ABV, $13/bottle from Garagiste.

Dark ruby in color with a nose of black currants, eucalyptus and rose bush. On the palate, cassis blends gently with mature tannins. Secondary notes of coffee, road tar, and gravel pair with a medium long finish. Consistent notes over three days; it took significant willpower to allow the wine this much time to sit without completion.

As much as I often think that I don’t care much about Merlot, this wine reminds me that Merlot is often and sadly maligned -Relax, Miles!  This is an excellent example of a delightful Merlot! At nine years old, it has a good balance of flavors, mouthfeel, depth and structure, making this wine an excellent value in the under $20/bottle marketplace. Larteau

à votre santé!

Letters from Readers (I’m Not Drinking Merlot)

21 Dec

Today I got a note from a longtime reader, wine lover, and parent of three teenagers from Georgia.

“Searching for wine for an upcoming girls-only party that I am having next week. Can you give me some suggestions for good low/medium budget Merlot please?”- LS

It made me laugh, because few people identify themselves as merlot drinkers. Remember the character Miles in the film Sideways? Sure you do:

As a bordeaux lover, I’m constantly drinking merlot. But I rarely seem to write about it! Why does it get such a bad rap? Sure there’s lousy merlot out there, but when cared for and cultivated well, merlot can be stunning. It often shows a nose of herbs and forest, great purple coloring, and tasty plum-forward fruit.

I digress. So I answered LS quickly, because as a parent of two teens to a mother of three I can relate. Sometimes you really need that glass of wine, and can’t wait to have other adults to share a glass with!

I wanted to offer her a quick list off the top of my head within the $10-25 range from an array of producers and regions. So here we go:

First to mind was three Bordeaux wines are 65% or more merlot:
Roc de Segur, 2012 ($10)
Mouton Cadet Rouge 2012 ($10)
Chateau de Bellevue ($25)
Washington State was next due to great value:
14 Hands Merlot ($12)
Cht Ste Michelle Merlot Indian Wells ($14)
Columbia Crest H3 Merlot ($13)
California has a huge list, I wrote the first five that came to mind:
Bogle Vineyards Merlot ($12)
Beringer Napa Valley Merlot ($)
Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Merlot ($17)
Murphy-Goode (CA Merlot, $12, Alexander Valley Blend, $18)
Hogue Cellars Columbia Valley ($10, Hogue Reserve$25)
My list was obviously missing the other countries that are doing such great work at low prices! So to be fair, we have to at the very least include three countries whose merlot should be easy to find anywhere:  
Australia:
Yalumba “Y” Merlot ($11)
Mollydooker, “The Scooter” Merlot ($25) or “Two Left Feet” Shiraz/Merlot/Cab Blend, ($25)
Chile:
Santa Ema Merlot Maipo Valley Reserve ($12)
Montes (Classic Series, $11, “Alpha Merlot”, $19)
Argentina:
Gouguenheim Valle Escondido Merlot ($13)

Making this quick list just reminded me how much amazing merlot is out there for a song.

The next time someone tells you they aren’t drinking any merlot, smack them over the head and tell ’em “Relax, Miles!” and pour them a taste of one of these. 🙂
 
I hope this list helps when you go shopping, and let us know how your party goes!
So… who else plans to open up a merlot tonight?

à votre santé!

 

The Valentino of Red Wine

7 Jun

Campo Al Mare Bolgheri 2010 IGT

Sample Provided by Wine Chateau, $21/bottle (reg $35) 14.5% ABV

A dark ruby color and nose of black plum and spice. In the mouth: tart black fruit with licorice and a hint of spice, a medium long finish that becomes more acidic as the tannins close in on the back palate. I was left with a remaining flavor of violet-laced licorice, some clay, and new oak. I was surprised at how Bordeaux-like this felt to me, as if it were a blend of several grapes (and it is, I quickly found out!) Lovers of both classic Italian and French wines will enjoy this, and those who champion “new world” reds will still appreciate this very classic winemaking blend with excellent results.

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With a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, no wonder it reminds me of French wine blending.  I was impressed by this wine, to be honest. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, and the wine stayed consistent over five days with no special treatment. It drinks well on its own and complements proteins and carbs nicely; it was stunning with a single-pot chicken, tomato & green bean dish my wife makes. The more I thought about this wine, the more it reminded me of the Italian film star and sex symbol of the 1920’s, Rudolph Valentino, famous for his dashing Italian looks and soft, gentle charm. To me, this wine embodies some of the best characteristics of European winemaking, and it would be an excellent gift or wine to stock in your cellar that can pair with many food options or be enjoyed on its own, providing quality and a solid value at this price.

You can access the link for the winemaker’s website if you want more information about the Folonari Family of winemakers,  and you can purchase this wine directly from Wine Chateau’s website.

à votre santé!

Two great (under $10!) Italian values to enjoy!

4 Sep

* For my friend Vince, taken from us far too soon- a toast, SALUT!  And to my buddy Katie who complains the wines I review are all too expensive.*

Castello di Monastero Chianti Superiore 2007

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This is a tasty blend of sangiovese, merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes that form a delicious Italian red not to be missed. This Italian wine complements many food elements and is tasty and fun to drink. The color is deep garnet with ruby edges turning to brown on the edges.  With a nose of red plum, rose bush and cola, it hits the palate with a burst of elements: plum with tart cassis, notes of cherry, charcoal, and tar.  Oak and vanilla on the medium finish, this is a wine made to complement a vibrant meal.  Price: from 10-16/bottle. (90+ points), available for under $10/bottle online.

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Cavit Pino Grigio 2011

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A pale yellow color with a nice floral nose, Cavit is a consistent value of pino gris grape and a great white wine choice for Italian food, chicken, veal or fish or as an aperitif. After the floral nose is a hint of green apple, followed by bright fruit on the palate complemented by a crisp acidity and lemongrass on the finish. $9-11/bottle, every cellar should have some of this wine well chilled on hand for the sunny afternoon or to enjoy with polenta, risotto, potato latkes, blintzes, or pasta with pesto.

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à votre santé! And to my friend Vincenzo, Salut!

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