Tasting Notes: Josh Cellars Family Reserve Cabernet

It may be 2018, but I am still working through Total Wine's Top 20 of 2017, slowly but surely. I know I've mentioned this before, but I am always intrigued to try Cabernets at a more value price. Cabernet is such a popular (the most popular?) wine varietal, so I like to have a tasty, but affordable, option available for guests, and now readers!

Josh Family Reserve Cabernet.jpg

The Facts

  • Producer: Josh Cellars by Joseph Carr
  • Region: North Coast, California
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $16.99

First, let me share with you what the bottle description says. I always love reading these because they're usually ridiculous marketing ploys, but I also like to see if I pick up on the same notes they identify.

Wine bursts with plum and blackberry flavors, layered with vanilla, roasted hazelnuts, and a long finish supported by tannin.

I absolutely got the blackberry notes in this wine. It smelled like really dark fruits, and perhaps, a little jammy. I am usually turned off by "jammy" wines because I think it's a sign that an inexpensive wine is trying to be "bold" with over-oaking, but there's nothing to balance it. This wine, however, was actually not that way. It was easy to drink, more medium-bodied than full-bodied with balanced tannin and a nice vanilla touch to it. Not a vanilla bomb! It went very well with our pot roast, but was also nice to drink on its own. I think this may be the relatively inexpensive Cab winner for the moment! If you're headed out to a dinner party and want a more affordable wine to bring, I think this Josh Family Reserve is a great option!


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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: Honoro Vera Garnacha

I probably say this at the end of every month, but I can't believe another month is over! How is it almost JUNE?! That just blows my mind. For this "Favorite Friday", I went with one of our favorite values. We had asked for good "every day" choices one time when we were in Total Wine and the girl pointed us toward this Spanish grenache. Since it's part of the series, it's no surprise that we enjoy it, but read on to find out more about its flavor profile!

The Facts

  • Producer: Bodegas ATECA
  • Region: Calatayud, Spain
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Garnacha (Grenache)
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $7.99
  • Eyes: This wine is a nice garnet color and was "medium clear", so not quite translucent or opaque. The bottle indicates it is 14.5% ABV which shows through the legs of the wine.
  • Nose: This wine smells of red berries and jam. Think raspberry compote or cherry pie. There is also a tinge of alcohol which is not surprising given the ABV mentioned above. Beyond the initial aromas, I also picked up on hints of vanilla. This plays in nicely with the fruit aromas. 
  • Mouth: The first thing I notice on this wine is the acid. There's a tartness to the first sip, but not in an unpleasant way. There were also notes of cherry and raspberry jam, as mentioned above. I would not say that it has a lot of spice to it like some Grenache I've had, but there's some and the acidity helps give it some oomph. 
  • Thoughts: At $8 a bottle, this is a GREAT find! It's got enough pizzazz to appeal to drinkers of the heavier and bolder stuff, but isn't so heavy that it can't appeal to those who like lighter wines too. It's easy to drink and doesn't linger too much, so I think it'd pair nicely with meals. Plus, beyond the random model's face, the bottle has a colorful label (you can't see it all in the photo above) and who doesn't love a nice label?! We like to pick up a bottle or two to have on hand if we want something drinkable and good. I highly recommend you give it a whirl the next time you're at your local Total Wine!




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.