Noble Vines 1 Red Blend

Red blends are where it’s at when you want a tasty red wine at a bargain price.  And they seem to be all the rage too.  I’ve hear people raving over red blends all the time, and some of my favorite wines are red blends.  Although not all red blends are the same, so it’s good to learn what styles you prefer.

When it comes to Californian red blends, I find a lot of “new world” style wines.  This means they tend to be fruit forward with nothing subtle about the flavors.  I’ve noticed a growing popularity of zinfandel blends coming out of California, a wine that’s known for its bold fruit characteristics.

The 1 Red Blend from Noble Vines is a new world style wine, which is very generous on the fruit.  It’s not a zinfandel blend per se, but it does have some zin in it.  Merlot is the lead grape in this blend, followed by cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel.

The nose of this wine is loaded with spice, and it’s well-balanced with the fruit characteristics too.  It features cinnamon, cedar, blackberry, black cherry and plum.  The palate offers concentrated plum, black cherry and blackberry flavors — just like the fruit on the nose.  It’s a bit on the jammy side.  It has good acidity. This is a good BBQ wine.

Wine: Noble Vines 1 Red Blend
Variety: Red blend
Vintage: 2011
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 85
Price: $15.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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Brancott Estate Pinot Noir

Yesterday I posted a review of a bargain-priced pinot noir that was pretty good for the price.  It wasn’t a wine that would totally knock your socks off, but it was good and a great value for a pinot noir.  This wine from Brancott Estate is a similar story.

This wine comes from Marlborough, New Zealand where Brancott has been producing wine since the mid 1970′s.  Brancott is best known for their sauvignon blanc, which is quite tasty.  But their pinot noir is not bad.

The nose on this wine has quite a bit of intensity — I didn’t even need to bring the glass to my nose before I was smelling it.  It’s a spicy nose too, with nutmeg, allspice and cedar making a bold appearance.  There are good fruit aromatics dancing in there too, such as plum, cherry and blackberry.  The palate is bright and fruity, although has a bit of a pucker.  It offers tart cherry and strawberry flavors with a touch of spice.  The finish is fairly long, but has a bit of bitterness to it.  Overall it’s a good pinot noir, particularly on the nose.  And it’s a great value.

Wine: Brancott Estate Pinot Noir
Variety: Pinot noir
Vintage: 2011
Alcohol: 13%
Rating: 85
Price: $13.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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Harlow Ridge Pinot Noir

As I’ve commented recently, I try to make sure I post reviews of both unique (although perhaps harder to find) gems and more widely distributed, easy to find wines.  This one comes from Bronco Wine Company, a producer I’ve written about a number of times.  They produce over 100 brands of wine, including many of the more popular cheap wine brands like Red Truck, Charles Shaw and Forest Glen to name a few.

To be honest, I didn’t expect much from this wine — a $10 bulk-produced pinot noir from Lodi.  Many folks consider cheap, good pinot noir to be a unicorn (i.e. they don’t exist).  And to extent that’s true, it is hard to find an “exceptional” cheap pinot noir, but you can find some decent ones.  And with this one I was pleasantly surprised.  That’s one reason I write these reviews.  With so many wines on the shelves, it’s hard to know which bargain is going to be worth the ten bucks.  I think this one is.

The nose is quite aromatic and balanced, offering strawberry, plum, raspberry, vanilla and cedar fragrances.  The palate is light and approachable with tasty strawberry, black cherry and plum flavors that are harmonious.  It does good with the acidity and tannins too, which are just right.  There’s nothing extraordinary or magical about this wine, but it’s good and easy to drink.  And the value can’t be beat.

Wine: Harlow Ridge Lodi Pinot Noir
Variety: Pinot noir
Vintage: 2011
Alcohol: 12.5%
Rating: 86
Price: $10.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s no secret to regular readers here that I’m a fan of the good value wines that come out of Chile.  I’ve reviewed a bunch of Chilean wines over the years.  And I’ll probably review a bunch more in the coming years.

One varietal from Chile that has been hit and miss for me is cabernet sauvignon.  Sometimes it’s awesome, but sometimes it has too much menthol that makes it seem out of balance.  This one, from Casillero del Diablo, is good and I didn’t find any menthol aromatics in it, but those may have been hidden behind the abundant spices.

The nose of this wine makes me think of a blackberry cobbler made with healthy dose of cinnamon and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  There’s plenty of fruit and loads of spice.  The palate also features loads of juicy, ripe fruit, such as blackberry, black cherry and black currant.  And the spiciness comes through in the flavors too.  It finishes medium-long, with berry and chocolate flavors.

It’s a big, juicy wine and the spices are heavy (perhaps too heavy, leaving it slightly out of balance).  It’s not what I would call elegant, but it’s tasty and a good value.

Wine: Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon
Variety: Cabernet sauvignon
Vintage: 2011
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 85
Price: $12.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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Forest Glen Pinot Grigio

At times I struggle to find the right balance on this site.  My personal interest lead me down the path of more obscure, unique and interesting wines.  But I know that many readers come here just wanting to find recommendations on something simple they can pick up at their local shop, wherever that shop is.  This is a review for those readers.

One of the more common brands I’ve been pleasantly surprised by over the years is Forest Glen.  It’s a brand in the portfolio of bargain-wine-giant Bronco Wine Company and is one that I’ve found to have a good quality-to-price ratio fairly consistently.  This pinot grigio is no exception.

Apple, pear and light floral aromas give this wine a vibrant and refreshing nose.  The flavors are a medley of stone fruits: pear, peach and apple.  The acidity is sufficient — meaning it’s crisp, but a touch more acidity would have been even better.  The finish is relatively long and brings a touch of citrus to the stone fruit flavors.  Overall, I can’t complain about this wine and for ten bucks it’s a bargain.

Wine: Forest Glen Tehachapi Clone Pinot Grigio
Variety: Pinot grigio
Vintage: 2011
Alcohol: 12.53%
Rating: 86
Price: $10.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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Raats Original Chenin Blanc

As I mentioned in my last review, I’ve become a fan of chenin blanc over the past year.  Particularly those from South Africa.

This one comes from Raats Family Wines in Stellenbosch — a producer I recently praised for their super-tasty Red Jasper cabernet franc blend.  In that review I mentioned that Raats specializes in two types of wine, cabernet franc and chenin blanc.

The Raats Original Chenin Blanc is an unoaked style, but they also produce an Old Vine Chenin Blanc that has some oak ageing.

Powerful perfume aromatics make this wine stand out.  It also shows tropical fruit, apples and hay aromas.  The palate has a slightly creamy mouthfeel and offers melon and apple flavors, with a touch of bitterness.  The fruit is a little restrained.  Salty mineral flavors come into the mid palate and linger on the finish.  This is a good chenin blanc, although the aromas deliver more than the flavors.

Wine: Raats Original Chenin Blanc
Variety: Chenin blanc
Vintage: 2011
Alcohol: 13%
Rating: 85
Price: $12.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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Indaba Chenin Blanc

Over the past year I’ve become a big fan of chenin blanc from South Africa.  And while I’ve enjoyed it a number of times over the past year, I just realized that I haven’t yet posted any chenin blanc reviews.  It’s time to change that.

Chenin blanc originates from the Loire Valley in France, but has become the most widely planted grape variety in South Africa.  Some researchers suspect that chenin blanc is one of the parents of sauvignon blanc.

It’s hard to generalize the flavor profile of chenin blanc as it is a fairly versatile grape that can take on a range of characteristics, from dry and mineral, to vibrant and citrusy, to lively and tropical.  This one falls somewhere between citrus and mineral, but has some other qualities as well.

The nose is a little tight on this wine, but pleasant, offering light lemon, melon and salty sea breeze aromas. The palate is much more lively, with zesty lemon, grapefruit, white peach and granny smith apple flavors.  It’s crisp, slightly tart and very refreshing.  It’s more of a fun chenin blanc than an elegant one, but it’s definitely tasty.

Wine: Indaba Chenin Blanc
Variety: Chenin blanc
Vintage: 2012
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 86
Price: $10.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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