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.

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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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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: Phantom

In honor of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays to decorate for, I thought I'd share my tasting notes for one of my favorite wines that just so happens to have a spooky name and an eery label!

The Facts

  • Producer: Bogle Vineyards
  • Region: California
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Blend of Petit Sirah (46%), Zinfandel (40%), Cabernet Sauvignon (11%), and Mourvedre (3%)
  • Where I purchased: Originally a wine shop in the mountains of North Carolina, but most recently Total Wine and Trader Joe's.
  • Price: $16.99
  • Eyes: Very deep red color, like almost a dark maroon. I noticed that it almost looks opaque when pouring and while in the glass.
  • Nose: Red berries with a hint of spice. Not sure of the red berries, but something darker given the color would be my guess.
  • Mouth: Full-bodied, definitely a bold wine. Black fruit such as blackberries. Medium tannin and very smooth to drink. Spice could be black pepper, but a vanilla flavor plays up the smoothness. After some further research about the wines that go into the blend, popular or common flavors were plum, blackcurrants, and  pepper. While I'm still developing my ability to identify flavors from the get-go, I can see these as being characteristic of Phantom as well.
  • Thoughts: I think this is my favorite red blend. It is definitely bolder and deeper in flavor, but is at a relatively inexpensive option. I would definitely recommend Phantom for someone who enjoys cabs. Also, who doesn't love a cool label?!