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.

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Tasting Notes: Da Vinci Chianti

Happy "Favorite Friday"! July went by quickly, but I am super excited to see the arrival of August. What's happening in August you may ask? Kevin and I are headed to the wonderful country of Italy to celebrate our first anniversary! We've been looking forward to this trip since our honeymoon, so we're glad it's finally (almost) here! 

The summer is over, which means the majority of my traveling for work is behind me. It's a relief to be home for more than two or three days at a time and to actually get to spend quality time with my husband and pup. I travel to small towns typically, so the wine choices are usually what I can find at a Kroger or even Walmart. It's not the best situation, but I've tried to find a wine or two that I like that I can buy even in the smallest of towns. One is the Gnarly Head Zinfandel that I reviewed previously, but this Da Vinci Chianti is another solid choice. Both are affordable and very drinkable... important when you're away for work!

The Facts

  • Producer: Da Vinci Wines
  • Region: Chianti region in Tuscany, Italy
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: 90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine*
  • Price: $11.29*

*Note: I was able to find this at Whole Foods and our local Harris Teeter for $12.99. That seems to be the typical price in stores other than Total Wine.

  • Eyes: This wine was a medium purpleish-red color. I've been drinking so much white wine recently, that it was nice to get back to wines that are my favorite color! The wine was also almost translucent and did not have an haziness.
     
  • Nose: The wine smelled of ripe raspberries and spice. According to my Wine Folly guide, clove is a popular aroma for Sangiovese grapes. I actually happened to have some dried cloves on hand from making bread-and-butter pickles, so I got up and smelled them. I was finally able to put it together that the "spice" smell I was picking up on was clove!

    As a side note, if you're looking to improve your aroma identification skills, start smelling things! I like to smell my spices when cooking, and I also am that crazy person who walks around the grocery store smelling everything. I've even started smelling the can of tennis balls when I open them to make sure I've got down the "freshly opened can of tennis ball" smell down from Somm (only sort of joking). It's the best way to learn!
     
  • Mouth: This wine is a bit jammy, but not overwhelmingly so. There are flavors of cherry and plum, and those fruits just taste very ripe. There is also a hint of pepper, which helps balance out the ripeness of the fruit. I think the wine has good body to it and also a decent amount of tannin. It's got a medium finish, so it doesn't linger too long. Overall, it's easy drinking, but has more complexity than some of the other inexpensive wines out there.
     
  • Thoughts: Well, it's a Favorite Friday post, so you know I'm a fan. Do I need it to be part of my stash all the time? I wouldn't say so, but I think it's best described as my "safe bet" when at a restaurant with a less than stellar wine list or in a town with very limited choices for wine. It's a good value at $12.99 in grocery stores, so I plan to keep this name in my back pocket for future business trips.

What are your favorite "safe bet" wines? 

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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.

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Tasting Notes: Tilia Malbec

The Facts

  • Producer: TILIA Wines
  • Region: Mendoza, Argentina
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Malbec
  • Where I purchased: Harris Teeter
  • Price: $11.99
  • Eyes: This wine was between a medium red color and a deep purple It was opaque... I tried to read my existing notes through the wine and couldn't! There were distinguished legs which indicates it's higher in alcohol. I didn't think to look at the alcohol percentage on the label to corroborate. 
     
  • Nose: This wine definitely had fruit aromas on the nose. I picked up on dark red fruits like plum and black fruit like blueberries. The wine also had a smoky smell to it... it wasn't overwhelming but there was definitely a tobacco and smoke aroma going on.
     
  • Mouth: The first thing I noticed was the smoky taste. I don't know if was on the forefront of my mind because of the nose, but that is definitely what I picked up on immediately. I think the smokiness is what added a spice to the wine. The black fruit also came through with flavors of black cherry and raisins. I realize that raisins aren't really black fruit, but I'm throwing it in there anyway. There was a bitterness to the wine that surprised me. I am not sure what caused it, but the finish was definitely not smooth and supple like the bottle described.
     
  • Thoughts: To put it frankly, this wine was not my favorite. The bitter finish threw me off and I am not really a fan of smoky things. If you do like smoky things then this may be the wine for you!  The one upside is that it's a screw-top... I travel quite a bit for work and sometimes I like to get an inexpensive bottle for the week. I often forget a wine opener, so I always look at the screw-top wines since it's really my only option. I have another Malbec in this price point that I prefer**, so this one will most likely not a be one I purchase again.

    **I will be opening this wine tomorrow as the start of a new "Friday Favorites" series, so be on the lookout!

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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.

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