Tasting Notes: Carson Ridge Cabernet

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that my heart has been very heavy for those affected by the fires in the Sonoma and Napa areas in California. The fires have been absolutely devastating and my heart breaks for everyone there. Kevin and I got engaged in Napa, so this region holds a very special place in our hearts. If you'd like to help those who have lost everything, please consider donating to Rebuild Wine Country, fiscally sponsored by Habitat for Humanity where 100% of the donations will go toward rebuilding homes, or the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. Please continue to keep them all in your thoughts and prayers as the fires are starting to be contained and the rebuilding process begins.

Every year, Total Wine releases their Top 20. As a disclaimer, I have no earthly idea how they decide what to base the Top 20 on. Is it sales? Is it reviews? Is it politicking by the distributors? Who knows, but I do like to give them a whirl because they are almost always affordable and good values. In this year's Top 20, I think the most expensive bottle is Champagne at about $35 a bottle. That's certianly more than my every day budget, but it's also not a bad price for Champagne!

Anyway, I picked out about five or six bottles to try for this first go around. Also, sidenote: I've given Olema Chardonnay a try before. Different vintage this year, of course, but you can read my review of the 2013 Olema here. First up was the Carson Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Facts

  • Producer: Carson Ridge
  • Region: Paso Robles, California
  • Vintage: 2016
  • Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $11.99
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My first thought was, "DANG. This is pretty good for $11.99 (or less if you've got a coupon)!" I'd say it's more medium body, likely thinner than people expect for a Cab and the dark ruby red color. Dark fruit and fruit pie come across on the palate, but there's a zing of acid. I've come to expect that jammy or stewed fruit flavor from low dollar Cabs, but this one is by no means a vanilla bomb which makes me happy. Not very tannic. Overall, I'd say there's a decent balance and complexity for the price. 

The wine went well with our hearty short ribs, mashed potatoes, and green beans dinner. I actually found I liked it less after dinner, which was unexpected. It's utlimately why I bumped it from three bunches to two. Overall, good value, but doesn't necessarily blow my socks off. I think I can find better, but if I don't, I'll come back and change the rating because... well, $11.99.


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Tasting Notes: Gnarly Head Zinfandel

The Facts

  • Producer: Gnarly Head
  • Region: Lodi, California
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Variety: Zinfandel
  • Where I purchased: Grocery Store
  • Price: $9.99

When doing some reading about food pairings, I kept coming across references to this wine as a great find for an every day wine that is widely available. People were raving about it! I knew I wanted a new wine to try with dinner, so I stopped into my local grocery store (Harris Teeter for those East Coast folks out there) and picked up a bottle!

  • Eyes: This wine was a very dark red and purple color. I've come to realize that the color of this wine is my favorite color... sounds silly, but it's beautiful. The wine was definitely more opaque than the wines I've been drinking as of late, so I assumed that it would have bolder and fuller flavors.
  • Nose: This wine smelled amazing to me! I already love the color and this wine's aroma is quickly becoming my favorite scent. It smelled like dark red fruit... dark red cherry and plum. I noted a hint of spice and pepper. I was very excited to give this wine a taste after the nose!
  • Mouth: This wine had a good weight to it, especially considering the price. I tend to find that less expensive wines are lighter in body even if it's a varietal that is typically full-bodied (for light vs. full body think about the weight of skim milk vs. whole milk). I definitely got notes of the dark berry and pepper again which as you probably know by now are my favorite. There was a nice smoothness or vanilla flavor to it as well, which is likely due to oak.
  • Thoughts: DEFINITELY a buy if you're looking for a fuller bodied, flavorful red at an affordable price point. I tend to love Cabs, but it can be difficult to find one with this much flavor at this price point (if you know of one, please pass along the name!) so this will definitely be a regular in our home. Plus, who can beat the convenience of finding it in our local grocery store?! I will definitely have to look to see if they carry it at other big box stores like Target or Walmart. If you're making the transition to reds from whites or are new to wine, this may not be your favorite because it is bolder in flavor, but for $9.99, I say give it a try anyway! You never know what flavors may end up loving. We were having some Korean Beef Sirloin, and I thought that the wine paired well with the Asian flavors and spice of the dish.