Tasting Notes: Josh Cellars Family Reserve Cabernet

It may be 2018, but I am still working through Total Wine's Top 20 of 2017, slowly but surely. I know I've mentioned this before, but I am always intrigued to try Cabernets at a more value price. Cabernet is such a popular (the most popular?) wine varietal, so I like to have a tasty, but affordable, option available for guests, and now readers!

Josh Family Reserve Cabernet.jpg

The Facts

  • Producer: Josh Cellars by Joseph Carr
  • Region: North Coast, California
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $16.99

First, let me share with you what the bottle description says. I always love reading these because they're usually ridiculous marketing ploys, but I also like to see if I pick up on the same notes they identify.

Wine bursts with plum and blackberry flavors, layered with vanilla, roasted hazelnuts, and a long finish supported by tannin.

I absolutely got the blackberry notes in this wine. It smelled like really dark fruits, and perhaps, a little jammy. I am usually turned off by "jammy" wines because I think it's a sign that an inexpensive wine is trying to be "bold" with over-oaking, but there's nothing to balance it. This wine, however, was actually not that way. It was easy to drink, more medium-bodied than full-bodied with balanced tannin and a nice vanilla touch to it. Not a vanilla bomb! It went very well with our pot roast, but was also nice to drink on its own. I think this may be the relatively inexpensive Cab winner for the moment! If you're headed out to a dinner party and want a more affordable wine to bring, I think this Josh Family Reserve is a great option!


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Tasting Notes: Valserrano Rioja Crianza

It has been a BUSY last couple of weeks for Kevin and me. We celebrated Thanksgiving across the pond in London, and then last weekend, I got to visit my best friend in New York City! I've been on the go, and it doesn't look like the holiday time will slow down for me much, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some good wine, right? This week, I decided to get back to the 2017 Total Wine Top 20 list with this red from Rioja.

Valserrano Crianza.jpg

The Facts

  • Producer: Valserrano
  • Region: Rioja, Spain
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Variety: 90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $16.99

For those not familiar with Spanish wines, particularly those from Rioja, the region's star grapes is Tempranillo and the region has a board that controls the quality of wine. This is similar to France and Italy. You can read Wine Folly's more detailed post here, but I'll summarize some key facts. There are four levels of Rioja, starting from base to top quality: Rioja, Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva. Each level has longer aging requirements in both barrel and bottle, and each level gets more expensive. So, for a wine in the Crianza level, the Rioja board requires 1 year of aging in barrel (usually used oak) and 1 year in bottle. Why does that matter? The flavors that come from oak won't be as strong on a Crianza, and the wine will be more affordable than those with longer oak aging.

I'd say that sets up this wine pretty well. The bottle stated that it was cask aged over 16 months, and I bought the 2013 vintage, so it's been in the bottle for a couple of years. Overall, the wine smelled very nice -- like dark red fruit, pepper, and some smoke or earthiness. This all translated to the palate, too. It's very fruit-forward with black cherry and maybe even some blackberry with a hint of spice. The wine was not very tannic, which surprised me for Tempranillo, but the acid makes it very food friendly. We paired it with this wild rice casserole by Budget Bytes, and I thought the flavors went well together. I think it could stand to "open up a bit" because the flavors developed over time. So, if you can remember to do this, open the bottle about an hour in advance, or even better, decant it! Great flavor, good price point, and overall, a nice wine to have with dinner. 


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Fiesta Time: What to drink this Cinco de Mayo

Fiesta time, cha-cha-cha! Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo! In the United States, I feel like this holiday is an excuse to eat your weight in chips and guacamole and cheers with a margarita. Nothing wrong with that! Being from Texas, I love Tex-Mex food and I personally think I make the best margarita around, so I'm looking forward to celebrating. And just in time for the holiday, here are two drink options for you to feel festive!

Classic Fresh Margarita

I know this is a wine blog, but I can't help it. This margarita recipe is the BEST, so it is totally worth sharing! If you like margaritas with fresh ingredients, you'll love this recipe, and it's SO simple to make for one (or multiples!). Disclaimer: I found this recipe out on the internet somewhere several years ago and have been making it ever since. I apologize to whoever published it, I want to give you credit, but I honestly can't remember where it came from since Kevin and I have it memorized.

For one serving, you will need the following:

  • 2 oz tequila - We stock Hornitos Plata in our bar, but feel free to use your favorite!
  • 1.5 oz lime juice - Usually about 1-2 limes, depending on ripeness.
  • 1 oz orange juice - Do yourself a favor, and just buy it from your grocery store. Fresh squeezed is the best, but something like Tropicana works great, too!
  • Agave nectar to taste - I usually start with 1/2 tsp and work my way up from there.

The recipe is THAT SIMPLE, y'all. Pour all of the ingredients into a shaker, shake away, and then pour over ice. Yum!

Strawberry Sparkling Sangria

For those out there who may want to change things up from a classic margarita, this is a great alternative. Berries and peaches are coming into season, so now is a great time to celebrate spring and Cinco de Mayo all in one! It's sweeter than my margarita recipe, but super tasty with spring fruit flavors! 

Strawberry Sangria 1

For about 4 servings (give or take), you will need:

For the strawberry simple syrup:

  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

For the sangria:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 ripe peach
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup strawberry simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 bottle of sparkling brut rosé

1. Make the strawberry simple syrup.

For this simple syrup, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, gently stir until the sugar dissolves and then add in the strawberries. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the strawberries look like they've lost their color. Strain the simple syrup into another container and throw the strawberry bits away. Let the syrup cool fully (took about an hour in the fridge). 

Strawberry Sangria 2

2. Dice the peach and add the berries to the pitcher. Pour brandy and cooled simple syrup over the fruit. Stir well! Let this mixture marinate for a while, at least an hour.

Strawberry Sangria 3

3. I'd use a stemless wine glass or a double old-fashioned glass for this cocktail. I found that the sangria tasted best when I poured the sparkling wine directly into the glass as opposed to including it in the pitcher. Also, in my opinion, the perfect ratio of sangria mix to wine for a serving is 1/3 mix, 2/3 sparkling wine. Feel free to adjust to your taste, and be sure to put some of the fruit in the glass! 

Strawberry Sangria 4

I hope that you all enjoy yourselves (and be safe!) this Cinco de Mayo.

Tasting Notes: Trefethen Merlot

Spoiler alert: This has recently become one of our favorite wines. It may seem counter intuitive to go ahead and tell you the conclusion before we even begin, but Kevin and I poured this wine earlier this week and we both discussed how much we liked it. It is a bottle we've had before, so after a long day, we treated ourselves to a nice wine with dinner. Instead of my typical incessant note taking and researching, I actually sat back and just enjoyed this one!

Trefethen 2012 Merlot

The Facts

Kevin and I were supposed to visit Trefethen on our trip to Napa back in September 2014, but unfortunately, it was the only winery we intended to visit that hadn't reopened after Napa's earthquake as they had structural damage to their building. It will definitely be on our list for our next trip! Although I have not heard the history first hand, their story is the start of a great family tradition. Gene and Catherine Trefethen moved to Napa Valley after Gene's retirement in the late 1960s, where they purchased over 600 acres. At this time, Napa was still recovering from Prohibition so most vineyards were in disarray.  The Trefethens wanted to sell their grape crop, but their son, John, felt differently. He at first attempted to make wine in his parents' basement using trashcans as fermentation tanks, which didn't pan out. However, a few years later in 1973, John and his wife, Janet, made Trefethen's first batch of commercial wine. Now the winery is run by John, Janet, and their two children, with the motto being "One Family, One Estate, One Passion."

Their passion definitely shows through in this wine. In my opinion, this wine is everything a Merlot should (or what I want it to) be... juicy dark fruit like blackberries and plum, a hint of mocha and spice, full-bodied and velvety. It is so dark in the glass, but doesn't drink too heavy. If tannins aren't your friend, I think this could be a good wine for you. If you love tannins, I implore you to try it anyway because I think it's damn delicious. Kevin agrees with me. We paired this with a homemade lasagna, simple arugula side salad, and garlic knots, and it was a homerun. Actually, it was a grand slam.


Tasting Notes: Ancient Peaks Renegade

Whew -- it's been a busy couple of weeks. Can I get an amen?! I've been traveling a lot for work recently, but luckily my parents came into town this past weekend. It was great to see them, and naturally, our weekend was filled with delicious food and great wine. On Saturday night, we hit up one of our favorites, Good Food on Montford. If you're a Charlotte local and have never been there, you need to go. NOW. Their wine menu is different and unique, but the waiter recommended this bottle to accompany our small plates for the evening. So how did it fare?

The Facts

  • Producer: Ancient Peaks Winery
  • Region: Paso Robles, CA
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Variety: 93% Syrah, 4% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot
  • Where I purchased: Restaurant. I haven't found any big name stores that carry it yet, but it may be worth a look at your local wine shop. You can also order it online directly from the winery here.
  • Price: $24.00 on the winery's website
Ancient Peaks Renegade Blend
  • Eyes: The waiter mentioned we'd love the color, and he wasn't wrong. It was a deep purple color which you can kind of see in the picture above. This isn't surprising given the grape breakdown, but I knew this wine was going to be full-bodied and bold after seeing that color.
  • Nose: This wine smelled like a fruit bomb, but with a hint of oak. I picked up on some of the vanilla, but it was really the smell of dark and black fruit... think blackberry, black plum, etc. The aromas were delicious, and I couldn't wait to try it!
  • Mouth: This wine was tasty... those dark fruit aromas came through and there was spice as well, as promised by the waiter. What more could I ask for? Those are my two favorite things! It was very bold in flavor, but the notes of vanilla helped smooth it out. 
  • Thoughts: Overall, it's a great choice for those of you that like bold wine. Bold isn't always good, especially as we go into the hot summer, but when a full-bodied and spicy wine is needed, this is definitely a great choice. I also think it's a good value at $24 a bottle... that price range typically lends to bigger flavors than the lower priced wines but it isn't so expensive that you could only have it once in a blue moon. I'll be checking out our local wine shops to see if I can locate this puppy in Charlotte. I also think this that this blend shows I need to try more Syrah!