Tasting Notes: 19 Crimes Red Blend

If you've never seen 19 Crimes, you may live under a rock. I'm just kidding, but really I have seen this wine everywhere. The frosted bottle and menacing label always intrigued me, plus I always thought it'd be nice to have a wine I liked that I could get almost anywhere, but for whatever reason I never bit the bullet. I'm not sure why, but I never did. Finally, my dad gave me a bottle to try. 

The Facts

  • Producer: 19 Crimes
  • Region: South Eastern Australia
  • Vintage: 2016
  • Variety: GSM blend (Grenache, Shiraz/Syrah, Mataro/Mourvedre) , with the majority being Shiraz.
  • Where I purchased: Widely available - Grocery store, Target, Costco, Total Wine, etc.
  • Price: $8.99 - $11.99

Eyes: This wine is DARK purple. It's got an opaque center to just a slightly lighter rim. Very characteristic color of a New World, young, Shiraz-heavy GSM blend. Expecting it to be a bold, flavorful wine.

Nose: Black fruit and vanilla. I also think it has sort of a medicinal smell that I can't say is pleasant. I'm not sure what that is coming from, but it reminds me of Robitussin or something. Needless to say, that was unexpected.

Mouth: Wine is full-bodied and a vanilla bomb. I know people will describe it's texture as "smooth", but to me it was lacking acidity and/or tannin. The texture just seems sort of one-note to me. The flavor that lingered after sipping was pleasant, probably because it was less vanilla-y. 

Thoughts: I can't lie... I was disappointed in this wine. I had a feeling before I even opened it (maybe because of the bottle design?) that it was going to be very vanilla-y, and that is exactly what I got. I wish I knew what their aging process or wine-making process was, but their website doesn't give much info. To me, there's something missing and it's tough to put your finger on what exactly that is. That being said, if you like full-bodied, oaky, smooth red wines, I think this is a good choice at an excellent price point with an availability that can't be beat. I know this wine is super popular, but for me, I prefer other bottles to this one for my every day. I will give them props for their marketing though -- crimes on each cork? Love it. 



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!


Tasting Notes: 14 Hands Stampede Red Blend

As you know, one effort of this blog is to taste wines that are widely and easily available. Now, I am a big fan of local wine shops because of their knowledgeable staff and carefully curated wine selections, and I love Total Wine because of their wide range of grape and region offerings and price ranges. But the bad news? There isn't always a wine shop or Total Wine around! Sometimes Harris Teeter or Kroger or Publix or whatever your local grocer may be is the best choice around. For that reason, I make it a point to purchase options from these places, and this choice was one of those selections.

The Facts

  • Producer: 14 Hands Winery
  • Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Red Blend - Syrah, Merlot, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre 
  • Where I purchased: Grocery store - Harris Teeter
  • Price: $11.99
  • Eyes: This wine was a deep red color with some purple in it. Definitely not as deep as a Syrah or even a Cab, which makes sense now considering Merlot and Viognier (a white grape) is included.

    As a sidenote, I was surprised that Viognier (pronounced vee-ohn-yay) was included in the red blend, but after a quick search, I found that it is actually not uncommon. Viognier grows alongside Syrah in the Northern Rhone Valley in France and French wine laws allow the combination. Viognier is very aromatic (think peach, pear, and floral), so it is blended to give the other wine an aromatic boost. 
  • Nose: Despite the Viognier being in the blend, I would not say that this wine had those typical aromas. As expected, I picked up on the berry and cherry aromas, but I also got vanilla or a syrupy smell on the bouquet. It reminded me of the smell of a flat cup of Coke... heavy, a little sweet, and it kind of lingered.
  • Mouth: When I tasted this wine, I primarily tasted two things: berries (blackberry and cherry) and vanilla. There was a hint of spice, likely from the Syrah, but overall, the wine wasn't overly complicated. The wine bottle touts cedar, but to be honest with you, I still need to decipher what that smells and tastes like. I didn't pick up on anything overly "woodsy" but maybe that is also where the spice or bite comes from. I guess I need to go find some cedar to smell!
  • Thoughts: This wine was decent for a red blend at this price point. I listened to a podcast on the red blend trend from Wine For Normal People (you can listen to it here or check it out on iTunes), and Elizabeth mentioned how lower tier red blends tend to be what's left over versus an intentional blend (ex: Dave Phinney's Prisoner or Chappellet's Mountain Cuvee, which are both delicious). This causes the wine to be flat, lacking character of the grapes, and usually on the sweeter side. That was eye opening to me, and I definitely pick up on that in cheaper red blends. This wine had some of that, but I actually thought this one was better than most. The vanilla was a little strong in my opinion, but the hint of spice helped it be a step above others I've tried. Will this be a consistent purchase in our household? No. However, I know the 14 Hands brand is widely available, and this isn't a bad choice when my options are limited.



Blind Tasting Dinner with Laura Maniec

Happy New Year to everyone! It's been a crazy few weeks with lots of travel and time with family, and it was great to take a break from "real life". Unfortunately, my day job picks up 1,000% once the new year starts, so it'll be a hectic two months, but I'm trying not to think about it too much!

The greatest thing that happened over the break? I watched the series Uncorked on the Esquire channel. If you haven't heard of this series and are a wine enthusiast, I definitely recommend checking it out. It is similar to the documentary Somm where it follows a group of candidates for the Master Sommelier (MS) exam.  I found it very entertaining and enlightening to see the process these people go through. One of the Master Sommeliers on the show that was training, mentoring, as well as judging the candidates was Laura Maniec, co-owner and founder of Corkbuzz restaurants. They have two locations in NYC and one in Charlotte, so I was thrilled to see the woman behind one of my favorite restaurants! She is one of 32 women to have earned the MS certification, so she's definitely someone to look up to in the industry. K and I went to eat dinner at Corkbuzz last week and they mentioned that Laura was coming in town to host a blind wine tasting dinner. That sounded awesome and I really wanted to meet her, so I jumped at the opportunity!

The dinner was great. As Laura mentioned, she was just "hosting a dinner party" for some of the Charlotte patrons, and it definitely felt that way! The dinner was three courses and five wines were selected for blind tasting... two with our first course, two with the main course, and one with dessert.  She poured both wines at the same time and then we went through the descriptors just as sommeliers do during the MS or other certification exams. At the end, we had to guess the grape varietal, region, and vintage! I was nervous at first, but in no time, I was having fun. My tasting skills definitely need to improve if I ever wanted to join the sommelier world, but it was a great starting point and fun experience! Laura was a fabulous host and graciously answered everyone's questions. I will definitely be back to Corkbuzz for more events in the future!

Wines We Had

Course: Crab Bisque with cauliflower, celery root, and nutmeg

Wine 1: Domaine des Baummard Savennieres, 2011, Loire Valley, France, $26

This wine was a Chenin Blanc and confused everyone! It was very crisp and refreshing with higher acid, so we deduced it was Old World. It had flavors of bruised apple, pear, tree fruit, and had little evidence of oak. Grapes guessed were Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine 2: LIOCO Chardonnay, 2014, Sonoma County, California, $24

I found this one to be easy to identify having had several Chardonnays from the area. I also think the Chardonnay grape, especially if there is a hint of oak, has a very distinctive nose to it, so I called this one. Others also suggested Sauvignon Blanc, but I found the color to scream Chardonnay, and there was no citrus or tropical fruit to it.

Course: Pork tenderloin with pumpkin puree, spaghetti squash, and onion jam

Wine 1: Albert Bichot Santenay 1er cru "Clos Rousseau', 2012, Burgundy, France, $30

This wine had a big nose, so I was surprised when the flavor didn't really come through for me. It had more earthy notes, which indicates Old World. Other aromas were some red and black fruits. It was lighter in body, so I immediately thought Pinot Noir. I know Pinot Noir is most well known from Burgundy in the Old World, so that was my guess. I wrote down a random year (I had heard 2012 was a great year for Pinot Noir in the US, but there was really no reason other than that), and I got it right! I was proud. Might as well give me my MS pin now...

Wine 2: Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso, 2012, Tuscany, Italy, $34

This wine was my favorite. It smelled amazing and definitely was more full-bodied than the previous wine. I had absolutely NO clue what it was, but I did note hints of spice in the nose, which I love. It ended up being a blend from Tuscany which included Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. The Syrah is what brings out the spice/pepper notes, while the Merlot kept it smooth with chocolate flavors. It was delicious and we ended up purchasing a bottle at the end of the dinner.

Course: Maple Panna Cotta with graham cookies

Wine: Elderton Shiraz, 2012, Barossa Valley, Australia, $30

This wine was the most full bodied and had the darkest color. It had the spice notes again, so I should have wondered about Syrah. Other wine varietals that provide spice are Granache, Petite Sirah, Malbec, and ZInfandel. I'm not sure how you would distinguish Old World versus New World on this one, but hey, I'm not an MS. I enjoyed this wine, so I think I should try more of this varietal.



Tasting Notes: Kitchen Sink Red Table Wine

This is the fourth wine from my Total Wine 2015 Challenge

The Facts

  • Producer: Kitchen Sink
  • Region: California
  • Vintage: No year specified
  • Variety: Red Table Wine - a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $9.99
  • Eyes: This wine is a "medium" red. It's dark, but not opaque like some of the more full-bodied wines I have had. Also, while swirling my glass, the wine seems more viscous. Both of these wines lead me to believe that the wine will be lighter bodied for a red blend.
  • Nose: This wine has a good nose... pretty fragrant for a red. The most prominent smell that came across was a dark berry, like raspberry or blackberry.
  • Mouth: My instinct from the "eyes" portion was correct. This wine is medium bodied and pretty smooth. It's what I like to call "drinkable"... easy to drink with good flavor. It is fruity with little spice and medium tannin. Based on my research, other flavors that have been identified are creme de cassis (liquor made from blackcurrants), plum, and pepper. I didn't taste any pepper notes, but that could just be my palate. 
  • Thoughts: I would say this pretty good for the $9.99 price point. As some of the other less expensive wines I've had, I definitely think this is a good intro for those trying out red wines due to the low tannins. I prefer more spice and "bite" to my red if I'm have a good meal, but I would say it's a nice choice for every day table wine. We ate this with sauteed chicken in a light tomato sauce, and I thought it paired quite nicely!