Review: Wines of Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve, 2016 Releases

KJVR_13MerlotFour new wines in the KJ stable have recently been released, all in the Vintner’s Reserve line, the second (from the bottom) level in the five tiers that Kendall-Jackson produces.

Thoughts on these wines, all reds, follow.

2013 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Merlot Sonoma County – As inoffensive a wine as anyone could hope for, this simple merlot showcases blackberry and blueberry, with a modestly tannic core. Some vanilla comes to the forefront alongside a nice bite of bitterness and a gentle denouement. It’s a perfectly drinkable pizza ‘n’ pasta wine… but it tastes like it could be any varietal. B / $19

2014 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Syrah Santa Barbara County – Musty and smoky, even a syrah lover like me had some trouble pushing past the funk here. Once inside, the sour cherry core offers few real pleasures, and the bittersweet finish comes across as lackluster and cheap. C / $17

2013 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County – The nose is bright with currants and blackberries, but the body is flat and almost watery, with zero finish. Harmless currants and black pepper stud the caramel-focused body for very brief time it spends on the palate, and the finish offers a slug of tannin that quickly fades. Improves with some air, but this isn’t a wine that should merit decanting. B- / $24

2013 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Summation Red Wine Blend California – A mystery blend that includes merlot, zinfandel, syrah, and other grapes. Lush, almost opulent, a big surprise in an otherwise lackluster lineup. Big currants and blueberry dominate, while soft tannins lead the way to some baking spice and vanilla notes on the finish. Excellent balance with a lush and rounded finish and an easy approachability. Buy this one; it’s a huge value. A- / $17

kj.com

Tasting Affordable Bordeaux, 2016 Releases

grand-vin-de-reignac-2006Bordeaux means money, pure and simple. Or is it? There’s plenty of affordable Bordeaux out there, and while quality can be hit and miss, if you take the time to sift through the market, you can find some gems.

Here’s a sampling of five affordable Bordeaux wines — two whites and three reds. Affordabordeaux? No?

Starting with white wines…

2013 Chateau La Freynelle Bordeaux Blanc – Sauvignon blanc, semillon, and muscadelle compose this awfully tart white, a sour apple-infused wine with ammonia overtones. The finish offers fruit with just a touch of tropical character, but by and large it’s a bit too tart for easy enjoyment. C / $12

2014 Augey Bordeaux Blanc – 75% sauvignon blanc and 25% semillon. Not bad, a fresh but simple wine showcasing lemon and some apple fruit, with floral notes on the finish. Just a hint of sweetness gives it easy drinkability without veering into plonk. B+ / $9

And now the reds…

2009 Domaine de Montalon Bordeaux Superieur – A classically funky wine that exhibits everything people dislike about Bordeaux wines: mushrooms galore, forest floor, old dirt… this is rustic stuff that would be more interesting if the body wasn’t so thin to the point of wateriness. A miss. C- / $17

2013 Chateau Genins Bordeaux – Pungent, with a slightly sour character that recalls unripe blackberries and balsamic vinegar. The short and tart finish fades as quickly as it arrives. C / $11

2012 Grand Vin de Reignac Bordeaux Superieur – Merlot heavy. Easily the best red of the bunch (but also the most expensive), a full-bodied sipper with dark currants and notes of dark chocolate, moderate tannins, some black pepper, and a lengthy, silky finish. Nothing fancy, really, but exactly what an inexpensive Bordeaux ought to taste like. B+ / $25

Review: Mt. Brave 2012 Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon

nullNapa’s Mt. Brave is back with two big 2012 releases: A malbec and a cabernet sauvignon, the winery’s signature release.

Thoughts on both wines follow.

2012 Mt. Brave Malbec Mt. Veeder – 98% malbec, 2% cabernet sauvignon. It may be a little thin around the edges, but the notes of black pepper, currants, and rhubarb all combine to give this wine a big, balanced lift. Nicely herbal, the body is long, dusted with licorice and cloves. While I’d love to see a little more acid lift this wine up a bit, the light chocolate notes and hints of roasted nuts give it a fun New World spin when compared to many a malbec. A- / $75

2012 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder – 88% cabernet sauvignon, 5% merlot, 4% cabernet franc, 3% malbec. This is the best expression of Mt. Brave I’ve encountered to date, a lush and rounded cabernet that is loaded up with chocolate, currants, brambly earth, and lightly bitter coffee grounds. The body develops and brings with it notes of cloves, some Asian spices, and licorice — all good and engaging things that make this Napa cabernet all the more engaging. One of the best 2012 cabernets I’ve experienced so far. A / $75

mtbravewines.com

Review: 2012 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

stonestreetThis latest release from Stonestreet showcases an incredible turnaround from last year’s lackluster slate. This cabernet is drinking wonderfully already, showcasing notes of chocolate-covered cherries, solid vanilla notes, and a touch of eucalyptus. The body is round and mouth-filling, the finish moderate in length but gentle and lightly bittersweet as it fades out. Worthwhile on its own, but it’s also a delightful natural companion for food.

A- / $45 / stonestreetwines.com

Review: Wines of Silver Palm, 2016 Releases

silver palmThis new brand is another Jackson Family creation, focusing on the sub-$20 segment with wines heralding from the North Coast and Central Coast regions. Thoughts on four of the current offerings from this winery follow.

2014 Silver Palm Chardonnay North Coast – A garden-variety chardonnay, with heavy apricot notes that are heavily buried in brown butter and oak notes. Some lemon character midway along adds a touch of something brighter, but the sugar bun sweetness on the finish comes across as overblown. B- / $15

2014 Silver Palm Pinot Noir Central Coast – A simple wine with modest ambitions, this pinot noir features gentle cherry cola, very light herbs, and not a whole lot else. The wine goes well enough with a light meal, but on its own the almost watery character drives it to only minor inspiration. B / $18

2013 Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast – Surprisingly capable, this North Coast cab offers notes of cracked black pepper, blackberry, and a touch of violets. Just a hint of cocoa nibs gives the wine just a bit of sweetness and fun. I was surprised how enjoyable this was, considering the price point. A- / $19

2013 Silver Palm Merlot North Coast – A quite fruity wine, with notes of blackberry and tar at the forefront. The floral notes of merlot are largely lacking here, but what remains is a fairly straightforward expression of California at its most generic. B / $18

silverpalmwines.com

Reviewing Douro Wines: 2013 Vale do Bomfin and 2012 Prazo de Roriz

p and s Prazo Roriz 2012The Symington family is a titan of Port-making — producing Dow, Graham, Cockburn, Warre, and more — but it also produces plenty of table wine, right in the same region where Port grapes are cultivated: The Douro of northern Portugal.

Made using traditional Portuguese grapes, these wines are rustic and often simple. Let’s explore a pair of P+S’s budget-friendly bottlings.

2013 Dow Vale do Bomfin Douro DOC – 40% tomta barroca, 30% touriga franca, 20% touriga nacional, and 10% tinta roriz. A rather pungent, overly-fruity wine, it immediately comes across as unfortunately cheap, overloaded with notes of both strawberry candy and burnt tea leaves. A little of this would go a long way, ideally in a sangria. C- / $13

2012 Prats & Symington Prazo de Roriz Douro DOC – A mutt of a wine: 30% tinta roriz, 25% tinta barroca, 15% touriga nacional, 15% touriga franca, 10% tinta amarela, 2% tinto cão, and 2% sousão. Fresh and fruity, the wine begins with cherry and strawberry notes, layered with black pepper and some dried, savory spices. The finish is lightly tannic, with flecks of vanilla bean. For a budget bottle, it’s a nice value. B+ / $16

chryseia.com

Review: 2014 Freemark Abbey Chardonnay Napa Valley

FREEMARK_ABBEYFreemark’s latest chardonnay offers a bit more mineral character than your typical California chardonnay, with notes of white grapes, white florals, and honeysuckle, before slowly fading into light caramel, vanilla, and gentle oak notes. The 2014 bottling rides the line between traditional Napa chardonnay and, say, a New World pinot grigio — which is either curiously intriguing or entirely heretical, depending on your point of view.

B+ / $20 / freemarkabbey.com