Tag Archives: Wine Review

Strasserhof Sylvaner Valle Isarco 2015

4 Sep

Strasserhof Sylvaner Valle Isarco, by Hannes Baumgartner; DOC Süditirol/Alto Adige, Italy, 2015. ABV 13.5%, MSRP $22/bottle.

 

Color is pale straw. The delicate nose has traces of lemon, wildflower, and a hint of funk in the background that was gone by day 2. On the palate: Lemon and freshly cut grass, with backing notes of gooseberry, lime zest, and schist. High acidity and nice heat fill the back palate. The long finish features gentle flavors of citrus and sour candy behind the acidity and heat of the wine, and the combination of delicate flavors plus the elegance of a well-made wine make this a real wine nerd’s favorite.

 

 

After tasting this by itself, the next day I made grilled chicken, which complemented the sylvaner beautifully, as could chicken or veal piccata and marsala. This wine could also work nicely with spicy fare such as  Thai, Mexican, Indian, Lebanese, and Halal, as well as the traditional food of the Trentono-Alto Adige region. Some obvious local pairings would include schnitzel, fresh water fish, sausages, dumplings, sauerkraut, root vegetables, and of course, cured meats like prosciutto. But by day 3, I just wanted to enjoy the subtle flavors and structure of this wine by itself, sipping slowly and savoring the experience.  And for the non-wine nerds who had a taste of this wine? Their response was always the same: positive and interested. So buy some for your wine-centric friends, or for your own edification and education of the great white wines of the world at an affordable price. It might be your first Sylvaner, but it won’t be your last.

à votre santé!

 

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Schiava: the Welterweight Knock-Out Wine!

30 Aug

Abbazia di Novacella Schiava “Stiftskellerei Neustift” 2015. Alto Adige, Italy. 12.5% ABV, MSRP $ 16/bottle.

 

Color is a robust, translucent ruby. The nose has sweet cherry, rose petals, and hint of limestone. On the palate, moderate bright raspberry, fresh cranberry, and a hint of red cassis are followed with lush, green foliage on the front palate. Polite, gentle acidity and tannins are balanced in body and scope. The flavors deepen across the top and back palate, with notes of slate and calcium-rich clay on the medium finish under the fruit profile. Best when served slightly chilled, and just under ‘moderate’ in body, this is a welterweight red that is luscious and mouthwatering, a wine that is beefier than rosé but lighter than the Cru Beaujolais and Burgundian pinot noir, and what a perfect wine for the middle! Pairing is so easy with vegetable appetizers, salad, fish, and pizza.

 

 

 

After a few sips, I kept thinking of all the meals I could serve this wine for; how easily to pair this with an appetizer, soup or salad course as a brilliant impact of delicacy and deliciousness. Taking the next step in meal evolution, if you are planning a cheese plate, cured meats, or a fresh seafood course, this Schiava is still worth your consideration as a capable flavor profile with plenty of acid and personality to pair with these more challenging dishes. Even more, it would be an ideal match for white meats such as turkey and cranberry sauce or roast chicken.

 

At this price, it offers an excellent value that is well worth seeking out to add to your repertoire and cellar, and is a beautiful representation of both the uniqueness and subtlety one can find in the wines of the Alto Adige. This one will go ten full rounds and win by decision as a crowd-pleasing favorite.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

D.V. Catena Tinto Historico Red Blend 2014

8 Aug

D.V. Catena Tinto Historico Red Blend 2014; Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.7% ABV, Street $16-18/bottle.

 

Color is a thick garnet with ruby edging. The nose offers ripe, bold, black and red fruit with hints of clay and oak. On the palate: black plum and black cherry across the front palate; red ripe raspberry and clove across the side palate; while the bottom of the tongue experiences a heavy dose of blackberries, with notes of forest floor, peppercorn, charcoal, and cacao. Intriguing and exciting, this 92% malbec blend features 8% petite verdot that adds richness to an already lush palate. Big, bold and beautiful, perfect for grilled meats, dark or savory flavors, such as cheeses, salumi, even grilled vegetables. I’m on a summer diet and paired this blend beautifully with pesto, believe it or not! But sipping this tasty wine made me want to put a porterhouse on my grill and invite my neighbors over!

 

I have had good experiences with Bodega Catena Zapata in the past and this wine continues that history, showing as a well-made, balanced wine that is gorgeous on the nose and mouth, dense and complex as a foil for food, providing a rich overall experience. Lush and luxurious-tasting, for an Argentinian wine you can source for under $20, you’d be crazy not to add this to your cellar so pick up a few bottles for your next grill adventure!

 

à votre santé!

Ehlers Estate Sylviane Rosé 2016

3 Aug

Ehlers Estate Sylviane Rosé 2016, St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA. ABV 12.8%, MSRP $36/bottle.

 

The color of this rosé of Cabernet franc is fuschia. Yes, I said fuchsia. That’s a first for me.

 

Imagine taking the innards of a sweet watermelon and mashing the dripping fruit thru a fine strainer into a sautée pan to make a reduction, cooking it down over low heat for an hour. You add a dozen plump strawberries, the juice of one lime, and one-half of a pint of raspberries. Reduce again for 30 minutes, then strain again, transfer and chill. It’s THAT color, ok? Fuschia! Getting back to the wine:

 

Color is fuchsia. The nose offers greenery of plants: raspberry bush and strawberry leaves, with watermelon vine and rind. There is a definite hint of fruit masked by lush greens; you can sense the fruit, but the plant is hiding them. On the palate, beautifully tart red berries and melon, then lemon-lime citrus. The acid appears as gorgeous lime zest, with sandy chalk on the finish. But you probably won’t spend any time thinking about the flavors, the essence, the notes on the medium-long finish. You’re going to drink this and go, “Oh, yes! Let me have some more of that, please?”

 

Trust me. Even the most verbose of astute critics can be silenced by a wine. I’ve seen it happen.

 

 

 

This rosé of cabernet franc is just delightful. Once you get some, you might turn the bottle around in your hand, pick up the phone and call the number on the back, asking to join their wine club so that you can get some of this juice delivered direct to your door. You would not be the first, nor the last, to do so.

 

When I saw the playful, unusual, and delightful color of this wine, I put it away in the cellar and put a note on it: OTBN (Open That Bottle Night). Months later, I spent days choosing a lengthy wine evening (nine+ bottles) and as I secured treasures from my cellar, I pulled this bottle out, wiped her clean, and put her squarely in the middle of the tasting: bottle #5. Part of me wanted to make this bottle #1, as with the recent steamy weather, it would be easy to start, continue, and end the evening on one wine -if only I had a case or more to play with. But with ten guests and one bottle,  everyone could get a fair pour, and that would be that. But it would be absolutely delicious!

 

 

‘Celebration’ Dinner wines. Not including the aperitif  Vinho Verde or additional after-dinner drinks, such as a 1962 Bas-Armagnac. 

 

Kevin Morrisey as a winemaker is quite similar to me as an audio engineer or production manager. In my world, the star gets what they need, everything in the production is highest quality,  done right, and the audience gets a PERFECT performance -the way show business is supposed to be. It doesn’t matter what happened on the way to the venue, during the load-in, or what technical issues might arise- anything could be in the way.  We overcome, and the audience gets the best show possible, period.
Similar to producing an event from a single idea, Kevin raises his “stars” from seedlings, grooms and cares for them with love on the vine, trimming the canopy for both protection and optimal sun exposure. He harvests them at the perfect time, uses the least intrusive measures (100% organic) to get the maximum result. He presses them with a champagne press. The wines see fermentation only in stainless steel, before bottling. No matter what happens during the growing season or after crush, he overcomes: his eye on the prize. Kevin treats this wine with both passion and scientific expertise, with love and the utmost of care- as he only wants to make sure the person who gets to drink his rosé will love the results and the message in the bottle. The best wine possible, period

There is a reason why this rosé is both priced comparatively with the finest rosé wines from Provence, France, and why it may be difficult to find months after release: This wine is just that damn good! Production size is low, and demand is high. And that’s why you should seek it and drink it. This is NOT the “drink me every day” rosé. To me, this is the engagement, anniversary, amazing dinner, or special event rosé. I call it like I see it, but you have to do the same.  Of course, if  YOU can secure a few cases, it could be the “drink me any day that ends in Y” rosé. If that’s the case… invite me over for a bottle!

à votre santé!

Make a Memory: Weingut Ziereisen Blauer Spätburgunder 2013 “Schulen”

25 Jul




#MWWC34

Unlike the rest of the writers who will submit entries for this Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, I have an unusual relationship with the word selected for this month’s topic, “Memory”.  I will assert that I am the only wine writer who has such a relationship with this word, “Memory”, which is also the title of the eleventh-hour song from the Broadway musical, CATS .  Subsequently, it was recorded in the 1980s by every diva who ever had a hit record. Oh yes, it haunts.

 

 

 

 

Cats, on Broadway. A show I mixed over 1600 times.

 

Over 1600 times.

 

So when anyone says “Memory” I have a different reaction than you do… I pause, I take a deep breath, I remember some amazing people, and a show I worked on for a very long time, a very long time ago.

Then, I mentally compartmentalize, and move on: from ancient history back to modern times!

 

So, moving on… to some wine memories. 

I’m going to share with you a memory I’d like to forget, one I cherish, and then we’ll make a new one.

Memory To Forget.
The bad comes first: being one of the fraud victims of the Hector Ortega/John Fox Premiere Cru Ponzi scheme. This calendar year, after years and years of carefully reading every document sent to me from the lawyers and judge, I got my settlement check, for pennies on the dollars stolen from me. I’d like to forget this… the funny thing is, I only had a backorder with them because they had proven to be a trusted good supplier at a decent cost, though it took months sometimes for the wines to arrive. So I’ve learned to tread lightly and never risk anything I’m not willing to lose (as what you buy, even if it exists and actually gets delivered, it might be flawed or corked already!) Too depressing? A good reason to forget, so let’s move on!

 

 

The Memory to Cherish: In 2016, I attended a reading of a new musical at a luxury home in Manhattan. The owner is a serious oenophile, and in addition to giving me a tour of his personal cellar, he shared with me an 1875 Madeira, and then opened a 1986 Chateau Margaux for me. Heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory to Make: Open That Bottle.
I have been sitting on a German wine, a Blauer Spätburgunder (aka, Pinot Noir) from Weingut Ziereisen. Waiting for an excuse to open it. But finally, for #MWWC34, I am going to do so!

Weingut Ziersen Blauer Spätburgunder 2013 “Schulen”; Baden, Germany. 12.5%ABV. $35/bottle.

The color is a translucent garnet. The nose is expansive with deep, dark notes of black cherry, mocha, dried rose petals. On the palate, exquisite dark cherry and raspberry fruit  will start your experience; beautiful floral and grassy notes cross the top to back, while racy acid cross the side and rear palates. The luscious aromas connect from olfactory sensory down to the back of the tongue through the soft palate, extending the finish with a mineral/ limestone completion.

Matured in massive barriques, while both unrefined and unfiltered, it opens up beautifully and shows gorgeous expression, from the massive nose to the delicate fruit through to the limestone finish. Had I tasted this blind, I’m afraid I would have placed this in Burgundy! Bravo, in demonstrating the incredible art of winemaking. What a great “Open That Bottle”  bottle, I would have been afraid to open this with friends but now I KNOW I must do so to see if they share the same experience I do with this tremendous value.

 

 

 

Cheers- here’s to making more excellent wine memories!

 

 

“Let the memory live again”- “Memory”, CATS

à votre santé!

How Dry Is Alsace? Cuvée René Dopff Riesling

20 Jul

Dopff & Irion ‘Cuvée René Dopff’ Riesling 2015 Vin D’Alsace, Pfaffenheim, France. ABV 12%; MSRP $17/bottle.

 

Color is medium straw; the nose is floral blend of tulip, iris, and sweet honeysuckle. But the sweetness stops on the nose. On the palate, this is so deliciously dry! Gorgeous white peach, youthful pear and white stone fruits, with lively, flowing acidity, hint of almond, beautiful minerality, nary a hint of wood, but a tiny note of lemon peel on the finish.  This is so beautifully dry, such balanced flavor and acidity. It is never over the top; every sip is a mature, reserved, solid mouthfeel that makes me want another.

 

As for pairing, Cuvée René Dopff Reisling demonstrates how extremely flexible it is, coupling with  both high acid and rich, savory dishes. Baked goat cheese, bruschetta, and spinach bourekas in phyllo dough were great matches! It’s an obvious home run pairing for shellfish, raw or crudo, from sashimi to mussels to baked fish or delicate entrees. On a lark, I tried it with a beef stew my wife and I made; I assumed (incorrectly) that it would not be able to stand up to the powerful flavors of red meat. It turns out that the high acidity was a great choice with the huge number of vegetables in the stew, some sweet and some bitter, and could cleanse the palate while matching up with the various flavor profiles and make for a solid pairing.

 

I’m a fan of Alsace, and this wine is a perfect example of why: this wine is entirely hand-picked and sorted, pressed at low pressure, matured on the lees for four months before filtering, treated with such love, care and devotion- and it shows! This screams of the terroir of Alsace, of the brilliant, war-torn soils, the mineral layers, the subtle fruit profile, and of gentle, caring handling. And at this price, what’s not to love? Under $20 a bottle for a wine that is so beautifully demonstrative of the region and made by hand in one of the adored regions of France? Back up the truck, I need more than a few cases.

 

 

à votre santé!!

Blandy’s 10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira

18 Jul

Blandy’s ‘Malmsy’ 10 Year Old Rich Madeira; Island of Madeira, Portugal. 19% ABV; MSRP $29/500ml Bottle.

 

Have you ever had a madeira? If not, you should not wait any longer. It is time, my friend. Time to experience a vast, complex palate of flavors that will excite your senses.

“What? Seriously? What can be that good? I mean, what do you think you are, Hamilton? No. People pay CRAZY money to see that show… can it really be that good?”

<Smack>  (beat)

The World Turned UpSide Down! 

 

I went through three nights and multiple glasses of this gorgeous fortified wine before I had any idea how to describe the genteel beauty of this madeira, favorite drink of our nation’s forefathers. All I knew is that I wanted more. Ten years maturing in oak casks. It’s simply stunning, and a great after-dinner or after-event drink to put the perfect cap on your evening.  This gorgeous beverage doesn’t want to be defined, it wants to be enjoyed and adored.

 

Color is a deep, warm caramel; it might remind you of your favorite small batch whiskey. The nose is rich and deep of molasses and burnt orange peel. The palate is deep, complex, opulent: notes of mature caramel, toasted oak, copper, hazelnut, dried plum, and honey with succulent spices, from black tea to clove to orange zest.

 

Served either at room temperature or chilled, this fortified wine lasts indefinitely after opening- you can store it and come back to the bottle weeks later, with zero lost lustre. It is still just as mysterious, just as rich, just as luxurious.

 

Drinking this Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Year Old Madeira is like seeing Hamilton. Worth it? Every penny. Just like this Malmsey. You’ll never forget it, and you’ll want to taste it again.

 

 

 

 

When I was younger, I adored my brandy and cognac. But as I approach the end of middle-age, I find myself turning to beautiful ports, madeiras, and the Macvin from Jura- the gentler, more sophisticated, fortified wines with loads of flavor and a much lower alcohol. It’s not the alcohol (although that would allow me to enjoy more of it) it is actually the enjoyment of beautiful, articulate, and lasting flavors– just like appreciating a sunset, a brilliant meal from a great chef, a grand opera, or the company of your very closest friend.

 

I leave you with an awe-inspiring piece of art, much like this Malmsey Madeira: Hamilton’s “Yorktown” which will make you want to drink the beverage of our founding fathers- until it’s in your glass, and you will love this as you find yourself tearing up at this presentation of our forefathers in a turning point in our great history.

 

 

 

 

à votre santé!

Chateau Smith Cabernet & Kung Fu Girl Riesling

23 Jun

Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 by Charles Smith Wines, Washington State, USA. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $20/bottle.

The color is dark, inky purple, while the nose provides black fruit, vegetation, spice, and eucalyptus. On the palate: cassis, mature black and red plum dominate, with an undertone of potting soil. Secondary notes of oak, forest floor, granite, slate, and loam. Nice extended finish with lasting tannins. After some air the wine opened, the acid mellowed a touch, and the tannins act brilliantly taut, making this wine a lovely foil for red meat. Smart to achieve by decanting, or 30 minutes in the glass should achieve the same result- but who can wait that long for a Charles Smith wine? Not I, so that air will have to be on glass #2 or #3.

I like the choice of name, as it reminds me of a right bank Bordeaux. Focused, direct, drinkable while young, but age-worthy. Delightful to pair with powerful flavors like red meat, heavy sauces, strong to medium-bodied cheese. If you haven’t had a Columbia/Yakima Cabernet, or you didn’t know that Washington State makes great cabernet, then you owe it to yourself to taste this juice. At this price point, it’s an easy one to put in the cellar or keep ready to go.

 

Kung Fu Girl Riesling, 2015; Charles Smith Wines. Ancient Lakes AVA, Washington,USA. 12%ABV; MSRP $13/bottle.

 

Hang on. $13/bottle? I have to double check myself on this. Seriously? Why am I even telling you this? Back the truck up to my house with this juice…ok, my readers deserve to know the inside scoop: Kung Fu Girl is a black belt in wine, with delightful fruit, just a hint of sweetness, great acidity, and lovely balance. I want to drink this all day long while cooking, gaming, watching movies, shooting pool, or hanging out at the beach house. And it pairs beautifully with asian cuisine and medium bodied cheeses, but it also can hold its own with red meat-  just to try, I paired this with a ribeye last night, and it was a solid choice, proving once again that (a) the old wine rules don’t matter, and (b) you really can pair white wines with red meat if they have enough acidity.

This is so good, I have gone through four one-ounce tasting pours and haven’t even begun my review… that should tell you that I’d rather drink this wine than talk about it, but here goes:

Color is medium straw. Nose of lychee, lime zest, starfruit, and honeysuckle. On the palate, a stunning key lime/citrus with backhanded acidity that surprises the palate. Notes of limestone, calcium and sodium in the lovely minerality. A complex, evolved wine, 2015 must have been an amazing year as the balance of this wine is tremendous and it drinks like much more expensive bottle. As I held the wine in my mouth and pulled air across, a tiny sensation of petrol deep under the surface- but this wine is such a delight in the mouth, it’s impossible to fault. Say again, $13? I’ll be curious to see where this wine is priced next year, and I wish I had room for a couple of cases. If you love bargain riesling, you should give this a try- it could be your wine of the summer.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel

18 Jun


Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel, Lodi, CA. 15.5% ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

There’s a backstory here. When in Lodi last summer for #WBC16, I visited this winery. I tasted their rosé, and I thought “this is really good”. But when I tasted their old vine zinfandel, I was truly blown away by the power of the beautifully made Old Vine Zin, Lizzy James.

 

 

Months later, I pull a bottle of their 2013 “house” zinfandel from my cellar, open it gently, allow it to air, and taste it. Oh yes, my Father’s Day treat to myself!  The next day I serve it to my in-laws, not telling them what the grape varietal is. The bottle is gone within the first few minutes of the meal- and my brother-in-law doesn’t believe me at first when I tell him he is drinking zinfandel, so I remind him of my trip to Lodi.

 

 

If the independent Lodi winemakers (like Harney Lane, Bokisch Vineyards, Borra Vineyards, Klinker Brick, McCay Cellars, Fields Family Wines, and Acquiesce, just to name but a few of Lodi’s standouts ) were only making fair quality wines, there would be no point- they might as well sell their fruit to the huge corporate winemakers. But in Lodi, they are making smaller quantities of superb, high quality wines- single varietals, single vineyards, custom blends, -really, whatever they choose- they are simply making the greatest wine they can, to the best of their ability. This is how they can make wines that stand out and have an impact: they have to make tremendous wines with superb value in the bottle that makes a customer go “WHOA”,  to remember that experience. In doing so, they create their own brand fanatics who want to join their wine club and drink more than a case per year.

 

I know you want the tasting notes, so without further ado:

Color is deep magenta with violet edging. The nose offers complex, mature black and blue fruit (and really, it smells of blackberry pie) followed by dark chocolate and green, leafy vegetation. On the palate: mature blueberries dominates the lower palate with a small portion of red fruit, -cassis and young raspberry- with secondary notes of mocha, pepper, and clove. Great acidity on this wine follows the fruit across the top palate, but the tannins hit from the tip of the tongue across the top palate simultaneously, making perfect closure to the sip. For the finish, notes of oak, pebbles, and sand round out the long, lusty finish with echoes of that fruit across the palate. For those who have heard my past complaints about too much alcohol in wine, I never sensed this wine as “hot”. To be completely fair, I didn’t even notice this wine was 15.5%ABV until after the bottle was finished. So I’m keeping my trap shut, as this wine rocks. I paired this beautiful zin with cold sesame noodles when I first opened it, and then served it alongside  a beef, tomato and bean chili for dinner. It will rock a steak house menu, pair easily with Italian cuisine, match up with grilled or cured meats, or handle anything that is Mediterranean in style, as well as being purely delightful on its own.

Matured 15 months in American oak, this Zin actually has 5% of syrah blended in. Given that they made 700 cases (about 28 barrels) you can still find some, but I wouldn’t wait very long to get some for the cellar.

 

 

Jorja and Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane call themselves “control freaks” when it comes to maintaining their vineyards, growing the best clusters, and picking their best fruit at the perfect time; but all you have to do is taste it and you will be convinced. Whatever they are doing, it simply works. This is a world-class wine with style, class, depth and tenacity. You’d happily pay five times the price for a wine of this quality in a steakhouse- in the under $25/bottle range, this is a no-brainer. Better yet, join their wine club, and get this wine for $19.20 per bottle!

As a final note, all Harney Lane wines are certified green under the strict “Lodi Rules” for sustainable wine growing. That might make you feel better, about being a better citizen of the planet when you buy the wine. But when you drink it, you might not care anymore. You’ll just be glad this deliciousness is in your glass. 

à votre santé!

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!

 

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