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: Queen of Hearts Merlot

This wine has been on the rack for a while... it was originally purchased way back in February. As you may guess from the kitschy name, I came across a tasting of this brand around Valentine's Day while doing some grocery shopping. For a reason unknown to me, I tend to shy away from buying Merlot, so I was happy to give it a go!

The Facts

  • Producer: Was Queen of Hearts Wines but is now owned by Lucas & Lewellen
  • Region: Santa Barbara County, CA
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Variety: Merlot
  • Where I purchased: Grocery store - Fresh Market
  • Price: $12.99
  • Eyes: This wine was a medium red color. After a brief foray into white and rosé wines, I am back to the color I love most! It was relatively transparent and was not super viscous. As a note, viscosity can be an indicator for acid levels in the wine, so I'd have qualified this as a "medium acid" wine based on how it looked. 
  • Nose: This wine was very pleasant to smell. I tend to be biased toward the aromas of fruit forward reds, but hey, I like what I like! The wine smelled of dark berries and plum. There was a hint of something sweet smelling, whether that be vanilla or something jammy. Regardless, it smelled good.
  • Taste: This wine definitely had a strong fruit flavor, but a mix of red and black. I picked up on some blackberry and some cherry which was not unexpected based on the aromas. There was definitely more of a jammy taste to the wine once I had some, but there was still a good bite from the tannin. Sometimes I think jammy can be a turnoff, but it worked in this case. 
  • Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine! I remember having the same feelings while in Fresh Market. I (probably unfairly) had low expectations of the wine based on the name and price point, but it actually came out as an "every day" category winner for me. I thought there was a good balance between fruit and tannin and was just really pleasant to drink. Fair warning: I tried this label's Pinot Noir, and I was NOT a fan of that. I'd buy the Merlot again, but in my opinion, shy away from the Pinot.


Tasting Notes: Coelho Atracao Pinot Noir

It's no longer 2015, but this is the fifth wine from my Total Wine 2015 Challenge. I figured I had until they put out another list.

The Facts

  • Producer: Coelho Winery
  • Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $21.99
  • Eyes: This wine is a very bright red or cherry red color. I could see through this wine, which supports the fact that this wine was medium bodied. Based on swirling the wine, it appeared to have lower viscosity, which likely means medium alcohol level. Here is a good, brief article that elaborates on that relationship.
  • Nose: This wine smelled like ripe red fruits to me. Fruits that came to mind were cranberry and strawberry. I did not see any hint of oak or spice aromas.
  • Mouth: When I tasted this wine, I did not get any tannin and high acidity, which is common for Pinot Noir. It was a more "feminine" Pinot Noir meaning it had more of the red fruit, jammy, and cherry cola flavors.
  • Thoughts: To be honest, I was very confused by this wine. To me, it was very jammy with little depth. However, when I looked this wine up on Total Wine's website, it was described as having notes of cedar, spice, and chocolate. Regardless of this disparity, this wine just really didn't do it for me and there are other wines I prefer at that price point (or even less). However, remember, tastes in wine are so subjective! If you love lighter, fruit forward red wines, then give it a go!