Wine Review – June’s Best Values

quadreviewFinding a great bottle of wine for $8 or $10 can sometimes feel even better than finding one for $50. If you’re spending that kind of money, the wine will most likely be excellent, but really, it had better be. On the off chance that it isn’t, it’s just a huge disappointment. On the other hand, if an $8 bottle of wine turns out to be really good, it’s a pleasant surprise (and if it’s awful, it only cost you 8 bucks).

It’s been a while since we posted our last review, so we picked out four of our favorites from our $7.99, $9.99, and $11.99 bins for an extra-special quadruple review. So in price order from lowest to highest, here are our thoughts on these tasty picks from our discount bins:

Porta do Castelo Vinho Regional Alentejano 2013

Portugal – Alentejo

($7.99 + tax; 40% Trincadeira, 40% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Caiada)

This rustic red blend is made from two of Portugal’s best-known grapes, Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional, along with Tinta Caiada, which is primarily used as a blending grape. This medium-dark, purplish red boasts aromas of black cherries, chocolate, and a hint of licorice. On the palate, the Porta do Castelo delivers notes of black currant, spicy oak, and cocoa powder, with a little bit of sour cherry on the finish. Portugal has a reputation for producing fantastic value wines, and this is certainly no exception. This wine would pair beautifully with some ruby port-braised short ribs.

Nicolas 2012 Pinot Noir

France – Pays d’Oc

($9.99; 100% Pinot Noir)

While France is generally known for its lighter, softer Pinot Noirs, the Nicolas 2012 Pinot Noir behaves a bit more like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet Franc. A bit rough around the edges and just a smidge past medium-bodied, this surprisingly dark red starts with a nose of spicy oak and blackberries and boasts notes of oak, dark plum, and a bit of smoke and fresh mint leaf on the finish. This is a rare find: a $10 Pinot Noir that could easily stand up to a grilled steak.

Roberston Winery 2012 Pinot Noir

South Africa – Robertson, Western Cape

($9.99; 100% Pinot Noir)

If you’re looking for an easy-drinking, light-as-can-be, summertime red, look no further than the Robertson Winery 2012 Pinot Noir. This South African Pinot Noir is on the opposite end of the Pinot Noir section from Nicolas’ take. It pours translucent red with dark accents and boasts substantial aromas of black peppercorns, fresh blueberries, and sour cherries. On the palate, however, it is much milder, with notes of ripe strawberries, sour cherries, and a nice amount of acidity that balances out the teeming fruit. You won’t find any of the smokiness that is typical of South African wines, so it wouldn’t overpower a salad with arugula, grilled chicken, goat cheese, and sliced strawberries.

Aveleda Follies White

Portugal – Minho

($11.99; 50% Alvarinho, 50% Loureiro)

One of our favorites year after year, Follies White is made from Alvarinho (see: Albariño) and Loureiro. This wine is exceptionally light in color, yet deceptively full in body, with focused, citrusy fruit, along with a some floral overtones and a refreshing snap of acidity. While great on its own, this crisp white blend goes nicely with spicy Thai green curry.

Given their high quality-to-price ratio (and nice labeling), all of these wines would be perfect for a party or event. As with all the wines in our discount bins, they enjoy a 15% half case discount (6 bottles) and a 20% full-case discount (12 bottles), even on mixed cases, in case you want to try all four.

Wine Review: Daniel Gehrs 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

The mystery bottle, unveiled!

The mystery bottle, unveiled!

In all my time as a card-carrying, licensed blogger/taster of things that are delicious (but potentially bad for you in excess, I’m told), I’ve reviewed vodka, tequila, apple pie moonshine, and a ton of cigars, but never wine. But it’s time to check that box off on my “things I’ve written about” list, which totally exists, by the way – this post you’re currently reading is my very first wine review.

Since it’s my first wine review, and therefore the first on the Stone Ridge Wine & Spirits blog, I decided to go with one of the styles that got me interested in wine in the first place: the California Cab. In particular, I picked the Daniel Gehrs 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that’s new to our store, and also relatively new to the market. Founded in 1990 by Daniel Gehrs and his family, Daniel Gehrs Wines originally focused on varietals specific to France’s Loire Valley (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and Cabernet Franc), according to their website, but eventually expanded their repertoire to include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and more. They’ve since taken home awards from the San Diego International Wine Competition, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and the New World Wine Competition, and the Cabernet I’m about to try is the recipient of two of those awards.

But that’s enough about me, and enough about the producer(s) – it’s time to talk about this handsome red.

It's as good as, if not better than it looks.

It’s as good as, if not better than it looks.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml bottle

Alcohol Content: 13.5%

Price: $15.99 + tax

Composition: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Verdot

Aging: 13 months in stainless steel

Appearance

Dark red with bright ruby accents; slowly descending legs.

Aroma

Fresh berries, eucalyptus, peppercorns, freshly cut flowers.

Taste

I was expecting this to be a big, spicy fruit bomb, but it’s most certainly not. It’s subtler and gentler than many of its peers, and I think it owes that (at least partially) to the fact that its aging takes place only in stainless steel, rather than in oak. This wine greets the palate with eucalyptus and a bit of bell pepper up front, giving way to fresh blackberries and black currants. The fruit is ripe and pronounced, but thanks to ample acidity, it’s not jammy or blown-out. The finish is long and berry-like with a slight hint of what I can only describe as leather.

Final Thoughts

This is unlike a lot of other California Cabs out there. The absence of oak allows for the character of this iconic grape to really shine, and while the wine is relatively young, it is also fairly complex. With its subdued fruit and subtle floral aromas, this is a New World wine for an Old World palate, though its pronounced blackberry note might still impress fans of bolder, fruitier, New World-style wines. Either way, at $15.99 a bottle, it’s not too much of a gamble.