Review: 2015 Cashmere by Cline Red Blend and Black Magic

We’ve been writing about Cline Family Cellars for years — but I had no idea the winery has had a second label since 2001. The Cashmere Collection was designed “to create unique blends from classic varietals” while also using sales revenues to make donations to charities such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Today we look at two Cashmere bottlings, both from the 2015 vintage. Thoughts follow.

2015 Cashmere by Cline Exquisite Red Blend – A Rhone-style blend of 59% mourvedre, 22% grenache, and 19% syrah. I never would have guessed this was a GSM, as the wine’s extreme sweetness and surfeit of fruit give it a character closer to zinfandel or, at least, a doctored cabernet. The blackberry and cherry notes here verge on raisins, with a nougaty, marshmallow-like character that drives toward a chocolate syrup finish. Best with food, as it’s a bit overwhelming when consumed solo. B-

2015 Cashmere by Cline Black Magic – An “alluring dark red blend” of petite sirah, mourvedre, syrah, and grenache, proportions unstated, sourced from California. This one’s a more well-rounded player, “dark red” indeed with notes of cassis, plums, figs, raisins, and dark brown sugar giving it a bit of sweetness. While there’s more tannin here, the finish is a bit pruny, which only pumps up the sugar, but the silky fruit notes do enough heavy lifting to make this fairly enjoyable solo, or as a companion to food. B

each $15 /

Review: The Naked Turtle White Rum

The Naked Turtle is a new rum brand hailing St. Croix, where molasses is distilled five times and bottled completely unaged — “naked,” as the distillery says. Also of note, the company is involved in a serious conservation effort involving turtles: For every bottle of The Naked Turtle White Rum sold, it donates to the Sea Turtle Conservancy to save baby sea turtle hatchlings. So far over 250,000 turtles have been saved since 2012, per the company.

As for the rum itself, it’s a sweet operator with few surprises in store. The nose is heavy with marshmallow and butterscotch notes — extremely sweet at first blush, with just a hint of tropical fruit underneath. The palate largely follows suit, with few mysteries revealed: Pure sugar, more butterscotch, and moderate vanilla notes all come to the fore. You’d expect to find a significant amount of fuel-like burn on an unaged rum like this, but The Naked Turtle has so much added sugar that it isn’t harsh or overpowering in any way. That’ll either be a plus or a minus depending on your perspective, but one thing’s for certain: At least it’s cheap.

80 proof.

B- / $10 /

Review: The Bitter Truth Celery, Cucumber, and Olive Bitters

It’s been said that there is a flavor of bitters for every season, and if you need proof just check out this latest collection from The Bitter Truth, which has been expanding its bitters lineup into some unusual areas. Let’s look at this trinity and see if they merit a home on your bartop.

The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters – Probably the most traditional of the bunch (and not a new addition to the lineup), most commonly found as an enhancement to the Bloody Mary. Intensely herbal, the character isn’t immediately evident as celery but rather a less distinct green vegetable note. That said — if you’re looking for a quick shot of veggies, this is a reasonable way to do it. That said, it’s very bitter, with a pungent, astringent aftertaste, I wonder if this wouldn’t be a bit more balanced at a slightly lower abv. 88 proof. B-

The Bitter Truth Cucumber Bitters – Huge cucumber notes hit, right from the start. Slightly sweet with that “spa water” character, it’s refreshing without being overly vegetal, its gentle sweetness offering a pause before a traditional bitterness takes hold on the back end. The cucumber notes linger for quite some time, which makes this a solid companion to summery gin cocktails. 78 proof. B+

The Bitter Truth Olive Bitters – This was a new one for me, and a fascinating idea. The distinct aroma of salt-cured black olives (the wrinkly ones) is heavy on the nose here, which makes for quite an enticing entree. The palate is lively with salt and bitterness in equal proportions, that olive character becoming more intense as the finish arrives. I can see tons of application for this product, ranging from Bloody Maries to martinis to a variety of savory cocktails that could use a dash of antipasto. Fun stuff. 78 proof. A-

each $17 per 200ml bottle /

Review: Wines of William Hill, 2017 Releases

Three new wines from William Hill, all part of the winery’s Coastal Collection, which is its entry-level lineup. All three hail from the North Coast appellation, which covers a vast area that spans the bulk of northern California.

2016 William Hill Sauvignon Blanc North Coast – Big ammonia notes lead the way with this highly aromatic and rather typical California sauvignon blanc, which melds gooey fruit with astringent minerality, somehow concluding on some oddball milk chocolate notes. B- / $13

2015 William Hill Chardonnay North Coast – Full bodied, with an immediate rush of cantaloupe and honeydew melon, this is a bit unusual at the start, before finding its way to more traditional vanilla and toasty oak notes. The wood feels a bit forced — I’m thinking chips, not barrels — which gives the finish some astringency. So-so. B- / $17

2015 William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast – An unusual cab, this wine displays intense vanilla and chocolate notes which manage to completely overwhelm any red (or black) fruit notes hidden within. The result is akin to sipping on chocolate syrup, filtered through just the slightest haze of strawberry jam. Extremely sweet, with no structure to speak of whatsoever. C- / $19

Review: Mercer 2016 Sauvignon Blanc and 2015 Red Blend

Mercer can be found in Prosser, Washington, where it produces a series of affordable — some might say very affordable — red and white wines. Largely uncomplex, these are wines built for the Everyman inside all of us.

2016 Mercer Sauvignon Blanc – Gently tropical, with mild acidity, this is a basic but perfectly enjoyable sauvignon blanc, with a bit of pineapple-driven sweetness to cut through the lightly floral afterimage. The slightly creamy body is a nice departure from the usual California sauvignon blanc, which tends to be a bit harsh these days. B+ / $13

2015 Mercer Red Blend – This sticky blend of 29% cabernet sauvignon, 27% syrah, 18% merlot, 14% petit verdot, 10% grenache, and 2% carignane is a bit of a mutt, and none of those constituents really stands out. The wine is sweetish and a bit gummy, but when paired with food it allows some of the violet and plum notes to step forward, pushing past the sugar, just a bit more clearly. B- / $15

Review: Teaninich 17 Years Old Limited Edition 2017

In the far north of the Scottish Highlands you’ll find Teaninich, a quiet distillery that is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Teaninich single malt is virtually unheard of, because Diageo uses almost all of it for blending. In fact, this is the first time that Teaninich has ever appeared in the Special Releases lineup. This release was distilled in 1999 and aged in refill American oak hogsheads.

While this isn’t a bad whisky by any stretch, upon sampling it’s easy to see why it’s not widely released as a single malt. Hot, grain-forward, and heavy with wood, it tastes like it could be from just about anywhere. The nose is indistinct, boozy, and a bit rustic. Water is a big help at evening out the experience, bringing out notes of ripe banana, green vegetables, heavily roasted grains, and mushroom — none of which may sound overly appealing, but all of which are better than raw alcohol notes. The finish is on the bitter side, echoing the granary, with a touch of orange peel on top.

All told, this is more of a curiosity than a collectible, the odd man out in this collection, though were it priced at about 90 percent off, it would be a perfectly serviceable daily dram.

111.8 proof.

B- / $310 /

Review: Wines of Cru Bourgeois, 2012 Vintage

Cru Bourgeois is a wine classification specific to the Medoc region of Bordeaux. A middle ground wine, the term dates back to 1932, but it’s been revamped (and was briefly killed altogether) until its most recent revival in 2010. Wineries must apply to France’s wine-governing body to be allowed to put Cru Bourgeois on their labels.

Are Cru Bourgeois wines any good? We sampled three from the 2012 vintage to find out.

2012 Chateau Greysac Medoc Cru Bourgeois – This is a simple expression of Bordeaux, soft and a bit green, with ample savory herbs and some bitter notes overtaking a basic core of blackberries and stewed apples. A touch of gingerbread spice lifts the finish a bit and adds some needed sweetness. B / $20

2012 Chateau Aney Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois – A heavily herbal expression of Bordeaux, some balsamic notes overtaking a more basic cherry and blackberry core, this wine is already showing a considerable amount of age on it. Fans of more austere styles of wine will find this of interest, but the wine feels a bit like it’s fading, with a rather lifeless finish. B- / $22

2012 Chateau du Cartillon Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois – Probably the best wine in this group, this Haut-Medoc offers a more rounded fruit core, studded with lighter herb notes, citrus peel, violets, and hints of chocolate. The finish is tart and a touch astringent, not overwhelmingly complex but interesting enough to merit exploration. B+ / $25