Fog Head pinot noir review: nice name!

30 03 2011

Today we look at a 2008 “reserve” pinot noir from California’s Monterey area, which costs $17.

Fog Head reserve is good.  It does nothing wrong, which is a big score in the pinot world.  It has a nice cherry and cola taste, and doesn’t have too much alcohol.  But it’s a little too sweet, a little bland, has that strange “California pinot” taste (which does not actually taste like pinot noir) and it is not spicy, which I almost require before recommending a pinot.  At $10, this would be a definite recommendation.  Unfortunately, although very nice and friendly, and although it’s done nothing at all wrong, Fog Head reserve at $17 is:

Not recommended.





Coppola Director’s pinot noir review: Cut!

27 03 2011

Today’s wine is a 2009 pinot noir from California’s Sonoma coast, which costs $17-$19. 

This Coppola “Director’s” pinot noir is a step up from the regular Coppola pinot, and it does indeed taste better.  It also tastes a little bit like the Archstone that I just recommended, here.  And like the Grayson, recommended here.  Those are $10 wines, so as you would expect, the Coppola is better. 

All three are California pinots, and all have a certain hard-to-define flavor in common, which I’m not used to in a pinot noir.  I’m not wild about it.  In addition, Coppola Director’s gives you a lot of rose, cherry, and especially cola.  Its color is a beautiful dark rose.

It’s nice and smooth, generally appealing, and it doesn’t do anything wrong.  However, for a $17-$19 pinot, it’s a little bit too sweet, and it doesn’t taste quite enough like pinot noir, so it juuuuust misses.  This California girl is:

Not recommended.





Archstone pinot noir review: wait – what?

23 03 2011

Today we look at a 2008 pinot noir from California’s Carneros area that costs around $10.

Boy, does Archstone pinot noir have a forgettable name.  In fact, I predict that if you turn away from your screen at the end of this sentence, you won’t be able to remember the name of this winery.  Archetype?  Archmere?  Apple Something?   Well, GOOD LUCK when you head to the wine store.

Which you should do, because this low-priced California pinot is worth checking out.  It’s not great, but for $10, it’s very good.  This pinot noir is powerful, rich, with a smoky licorice and black cherry flavor, and has a texture built to please.  It’s not AS pinot-like as the cheaper Mark West, but it might be more of a crowd-pleaser.  So grab $10, and write Architect down on your list.  Or Arch Enemy, something like that.

Archstone pinot noir reviewRecommended.





Ghost Pines cabernet sauvignon review

21 03 2011

Ghost Pines cabernet sauvignon reviewHi!  Today we review a 2008 cabernet from California that costs around $19.

Let’s get right to it:  Ghost Pines cabernet is damn good.  68% from Napa Valley, 32% from Sonoma County.  It’s everything you expect from an affordable California cabernet:  it has mouth-drying tannins, dark fruit, like blackberries and currants, and it pairs well with steak. 

But the key is:  it gives you something different — there is just a little bit of a farm-fresh, mushroomy, walnut-y, earthy undertone that is not run-of-the-mill, and makes you take notice.  With some more familiar qualities, like spice, denseness, full-bodied character and a texture that is almost chewy.  The funny thing is, this cabernet has almost nothing in common with the same winery’s merlot, reviewed here.  Will it change your life?  No.  But at under $20, this cab is definitely:

Recommended.





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.





Oberon cabernet review: BREAKIN’ THE LAW

17 03 2011

Today we look at a 2007 cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley, CA that costs around $18-$19 (but I got on sale, for $15). 

On sale at $15, this cabernet is in the ball park of a recommendation.  And 2007 Napa Valley reds are supposed to be “so great,” so the rulebook says that I should be recommending this puppy.  The problem is, I never see it for $15.  Maybe I just live in the wrong state — what are you seeing it sell for?  (Just leave a comment.)

It’s a typical California cabernet, with tannins, deep dark fruit, and oak.  It doesn’t have a very transparent taste (i.e. it is somewhat generic), so it’s more about texture than flavor.  It’s not super dense, and it’s not terribly juicy, but it’s fine.  And it seems very consistent, because I’ve tried multiple vintages and I always have the same reaction — “this is almost good enough.”  But not quite good enough to score a recommendation from your Wineguider.  Unfortunately, this reliable Napa Valley red is:

Not recommended.