Chateau Ste. Michelle “Indian Wells” merlot review

1 06 2011

Hi!  Today we are reviewing a 2009 merlot from Washington State that is $13 at Costco.

OK Washington merlot is supposed to be sweet and jammy.  This merlot IS kind of sweet, because it’s very fruit-forward.  But it’s also a little spicy, and has some leather/chocolate going on.  Maybe a tiny bit of tobacco.

At $13, I give it a thumbs-up.  It’s not “great”, but it is definitely nice, and does not do anything wrong if you like warm, jammy, velvety merlot.   BUT — there’s a caveat.  You really have to let it breathe, for at least an hour.  When you first open it, the only thing you will smell is alcohol, and it will be almost tasteless.  Just takes a while to open up.

Chateau Ste. Michelle "Indian Wells" merlot reviewRecommended.





Kirkland Columbia Valley merlot review

22 05 2011

Today we examine a 2009 merlot from Washington State that costs $9 at Costco.

OK Washington merlot has a reputation.  That being, it is generally on the sweeter side.  It’s a good choice if you want to bring a white wine drinker over to the dark side.

Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley merlot falls right in line with that reputation.  And, it’s pretty good:  soft, medium-bodied, and pleasant.  Warm blackberries, with spicy chocolate.  It’s great for a party — most people will be happy to sip it, and it’s a conversation starter, as in: who knew that such a “bargain brand” could taste this good?  (Idiot wine snobs may talk behind your back, as if you brought some wine that you found at a gas station.  Screw ’em.)  It’s got some mouth-drying tannins, but it mostly soothes you with vague deep, dark fruit flavors.  It does almost nothing wrong. 

I found myself pouring glass after glass, a very positive indicator here at Wineguider.  This easy-drinking red is:

Kirkland Columbia Valley merlot reviewRecommended.





Ghost Pines merlot at Costco – !$%#@!?!!

21 03 2011

Hi!  Got some news for you. 

Ghost Pines 2007 merlot is $16, at least.   It’s truly delicious, and WELL worth it, as I explained in my review here.   Bright, juicy, fun, flavorful and interesting, it is everything that an affordable California merlot should be.

Right now, a cheaper 2008  is only $12 at Costco.   (?!%$#!!!)  I don’t know if this is simply a new vintage, or if it’s a special version made for Costco.  Anyway the Costco version isn’t as good.  But it’s still good.  It’s less interesting, and extra bright.  One difference is the source of grapes:   The Costco version is 90% Sonoma, 10% Napa.  The 2007 Ghost Pines merlot that I reviewed before is 49% Sonoma, 51% Napa. 

At $16, the “real” Ghost Pines merlot is a screaming buy, and a Best Value.  At $12, this 2008 version is, I don’t know — shrieking?  It is a HUGE Best Value.  BUYBUYBUY!!

Enjoy.





Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve cabernet sauvignon review

21 03 2011

Hi!  Today we look at a 2006 cabernet from California’s Sonoma County, which costs $20 at Costco and $22 at Total Wine.

The $15 “regular” Kendall-Jackson cabernet is juuuuuust good enough to recommend, according to me (I reviewed it here).  Today’s wine, the K-J Grand Reserve, which sounds like it should cost about $85, is actually only a few dollars more.  Unfortunately, it isn’t much better than the regular stuff.  It smells sweet.  It is spicy, oaky, and has a fair amount of mouth-drying tannins.  It reminds me of leather.  It has a lot of dark red fruit and it isn’t very complex.  What we have here is, basically, a generic California cab.   

Although the Grand Reserve is probably a little better, if I were shopping in the K-J lineup, I’d stick with the “plain” cabernet (which is misleadingly named “Vintner’s Reserve”).  (Sigh.)  In the coming months, I am hoping to find other cabernets in this $15-$25 price range that are more interesting, more exciting, maybe even a “Best Value”.  Unfortunately, this Not-Very-Grand K-J cab is none of those things, so it is:

Not recommended.





Ruffino chianti superiore review: Isn’t it ironic

16 03 2011

Today we review a 2008 chianti superiore from Italy (of course) that costs around $11 or $12, but is just $9 at Costco.

You would think that Ruffino‘s chianti “superiore” would be, ahem, superior to other chiantis, such as chianti classico, or classico reserva.

But this one isn’t superior to much of anything.  It’s on the light side and it’s dry, not juicy.  Kind of bitter.  Not warm, not complex, not delicious.  Maybe it would be great with food?  Sorry, I just didn’t care for this, despite its promising name.  I can’t suggest that you spend even the $9 that it requires at Costco.  This one is:

Not recommended.





Palo Alto Reserve red wine review

7 01 2011

Here’s a 2009 red blend from Chile’s Maule Valley that will cost you $8 at Costco.

Say!  This stuff  is pretty good for $8!   So, why I have I been preparing to “not recommend” it?

Because when I first opened it, it really wasn’t very good.  But on day 2, this wine is very enjoyable — almost delicious.  Although its aroma remains musty and nondescript, the taste has transformed from green, under-ripe sterno to a dry, alcohol-ish transport device for tannins.  This glass of unknown dark and dusty fruit combined with spice and cigar paper is making me want more and more. 

60% cabernet, 25% carmenere, and 15% syrah.  13.5% alcohol.  If you don’t have the patience to wait a day after opening it (and re-corking, of course), then you might want to buy a decanter and let it sit for an hour or two before enjoying.

Recommended, and if it weren’t so quirky when first opened, it would also be a Best Value.Palo Alto Reserve red wine review





Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz cabernet review – STRIKER!

6 01 2011

Today we examine a 2008 southern Aussie blend that you can buy at Costco for $7.69.

This medium-to-full-bodied red smells like a nice cab with some black cherry shiraz notes, but on your tongue it’s jammy blueberry shiraz all the way, balanced by soft tannins and a touch of chocolate.  It’s better on day 2: you get more cabernet, and less alcohol.

And it’s a screamer.  In fact, let me be frank — 

it’s the new value red wine top dog — the big cheese, the head honcho — Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz/cab blend is HIGHLY desirable even at $13, and it’s better than many $20 wines I have tried.  It’s warm.  Tilted toward the sweet side of the sweet/dry spectrum.  Big, but won’t overpower most food.  It was the only red served at the hip New Year’s party I attended in posh West Chester, PA, and it beat 14 other reds in my friends’ $15-or-less blind tasting. 

Our past favorites in the red wine value race are narrowly eclipsed by this reliable Godzilla.  Highly recommended, and a blatant “Best Value” red.   Bravo! 

Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz cabernet review