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

Review: 2014 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Louis Martini’s latest Napa Valley cab — one of the more entry-level though perfectly palatable bottlings — has arrived. This year’s bottling is lush and seductive, loaded with fresh and dried berries, but not overtly sweet or jammy, with overtones of milk chocolate, nutmeg, and fresh cherries. The finish is supple and seductive, with hints of vanilla. And yet… it’s less dessert-like than all of that sounds, pairing well with food and drinking beautifully on its own today. No need to cellar.

A- / $38 /

Review: 2014 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec Reserva Mendoza

This “purple label” bottling is the upscale release from Gascon. The mint on the nose is dense to the point of coming across a bit like spearmint gum, backed up with violet florals. The palate offers more in the way of fruit, though it features a semi-sweet, caramel-inflected core that takes it to a sweeter place than I’d like. With air the wine exhibits notes of black pepper, licorice candy, and potpourri. Surprisingly, that’s a swell combination.

B+ / $25 /

Review: Carnivor 2015 Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s the first wine ever designed solely for the meat eater who can’t spell! Turns out Carnivor’s intentional typo is the least of its problems…

2015 Carnivor Zinfandel California – A beefy zin that’s been pumped up with jam straight from the Smucker’s factory. Brambly blackberry and blueberry notes initially smell appealing, but on the palate the syrupy, caramel-laden fruit becomes leaden and simply overwhelming. Even with meat. C-  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

2015 Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon California – The maroon hue isn’t a good sign, and neither is the vegetal nose. The palate is blessedly understated, with an almost watery depth of body that masks a berry-driven palate that comes across a lot like boozy Kool-Aid. That may be fine for some drinkers, but probably not what you’re going for at the steakhouse. C- /  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

both $15 /

Review: Wines of Outlot, 2017 Releases

Outlot is a new brand from Accolade Wines, best known for Geyser Peak and novelty brands like XYZin. A trio of initial releases, sourced from the Sonoma area, are now hitting the market. We tried them all. Thoughts follow.

2015 Outlot Chardonnay Sonoma County – Whoa, someone turned up the “oak” dial and forgot to shut it off. This is powerful with raw oak barrel notes, so intense that they push straight through the wood and into (very) brown butter, coconut, and nutty nougat. The finish is straight up licking a tree. If you dislike Chardonnay, well, you’ll hate this one. C / $20

2016 Outlot Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County – A straightforward lemon and grapefruit bomb, with some ammonia touches evident throughout. Refreshing, with a subtle creaminess evident, particularly as the wine warms up. The finish is a touch green, but otherwise perfectly up to code for the style. B+ / $17

2014 Outlot Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – Straightforward cab, a bit gummy at first, but it settles into a groove of gentle drinkability, heavy with fruit but touched just so with balsamic which gives it a bit of a sour edge. The overall impact is akin to your typical “house wine” structure, priced perhaps to move. B / $24

Review: 2015 Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay Sonoma County

Landmark’s latest release of its iconic chardonnay has arrived. This year’s is initially a bit overwhelming with oak, this wine settles into a groove driven by dried apples, lemon peel, and fall spices. The finish is almost bitter at times, with sherried overtones, including more pumpkin-esque spice and a touch of gentian on the back end.

B / $25 /

Review: Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Tawny Port

The Port house of Taylor Fladgate celebrates 325 years of operation in 2017, so what better time than to put out a unique expression of Port? This is a tawny port with no age information (though on tawnies, an age statement doesn’t mean much anyway), but the winery does offer some information on its production:

To commemorate the milestone, Taylor Fladgate’s blending team has drawn on their extensive cask aged reserves to create a special blend of fine oak-matured Ports selected for their depth and richness of flavor. The limited-edition Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Reserve Tawny, released in a special 1692-style bottle, is a fitting tribute to Taylor Fladgate’s long history and mastery of the art of cask aging and blending.

What’s in the bottle is immediately odd, feeling a lot like a cross between a ruby and a tawny Port. Fruit-forward, it carries the juicy raisin and fresh fig and date notes of a ruby port, with undercurrents of chocolate sauce and coffee bean. As the palate develops it brings forward some of those classically tawny oxidized notes, here showcasing a finish that offers hints of sherry-infused hazelnuts and a smattering of Christmas spices, heavy on the cloves.

B+ / $38 /