27 Oct 2010
There was a time last week when I had 25 bottles of wine open in the house. “What is the problem,” you ask? Well, for one I feel obligated to drink every bottle and two, not all of them are good wines. The open wines were from the Chile Blends tasting, One Hope Chardonnay, and four box wines from Don Sebastiani & Sons.
Over the last six months, I’ve had my share of boxed wines, many of them from the group that distributes the Octavin family of wines. This week, I’m cautiously optimistic to take a look at four wines from Don & Sons and their Pepperwood Grove brand. As a mouth breather and wine lover, chances are you’ve had one of the seven D&S brands, Aquinas, The Crusher, B Side, Flock, s|k|n, Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove.
After significant research Don & Sons concluded that consumers were hesitant to buy 3L boxes because they didn’t see a brand they liked or knew. D&S is taking a significant step by using one of their mainstream recognizable brands in the 3L box format. The four Pepperwood Grove wines are Don & Sons first boxed wine release. In my opinion the packaging, presentation and labeling are the best of what I’ve experienced in this format.
For newcomers to the “new” box wine format, a bladder inside the box deflates as the wine is consumed keeping oxygen (wine’s enemy) from deteriorating the flavor. The 3L format is equivalent to four (4) bottles of wine. A convenient spigot provides easy access. While I’ve yet to encounter a premium wine I’d enthusiastically serve, there are several mid-quality offerings available. Let’s see how the recognizable GREEN BOX wines perform.
BIG GREEN BOX NECTARVIEW
Since each of these wines is simple, clean and in eco-friendly packaging. I’ll keep my reviews simple, clean and I’ll save some words too.
Pepperwood Grove Pinot Grigio
Tweets from the machine:
The un-oaked Pinot Grigio comes across as an oaked wine to me. The wine was round, slightly flabby and offered subtle hints of pear and lemon water flavors. The acidity was weak and the finish was a quick flash. 13%ABV – certainly no offensive flavors but very simple in presentation. Quite a few people will enjoy this wine. It’s simple to drink and will probably go fast at a party. $20 retail for 3L ($5 per bottle); 3-/5
Pepperwood Grove Chardonnay
Tweets from the machine:
Very yellow and thick in the glass, like a pale banana. Strong aroma of toasted apples and vanilla. The mouth feel is big and flabby. The six months on oak staves comes across. I would envision quite a bit of malolactic fermentation as well. The acidity is mild leaving the flavor lingering in your mouth. For those that prefer crisp Chardonnay, this will not be your wine. If you enjoy Chardonnay for the thick easy drinking apple flavors, you may want to give it a try. $20 retail for 3L; 3-/5
Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel
Tweets from the machine:
Light burgundy in color and very translucent, can see to the bottom of the glass. At only 13.5%ABV (refreshing for a California Zinfandel), this is on the very low side of alcohol for Zins. Good aromas of blueberry, subtle strawberry, tobacco spice and more. It’s all mellow, but it’s there. The palate is very nice as well with flavors of plums, strawberries and mild pepper. The acidity is well balanced and the finish is lovely. Definitely the bargain find of the four wines tasted. While not complex, there are good flavors in this wine. 3/5
Pepperwood Grove Cabernet Sauvignon
Tweets from the machine:
The wine is sourced from Valle Central (Chile) fruit and weighs in at 13.5%ABV. I get a lot of sour red fruit and raw meat with hints of clove on the nose. Other participants enjoyed the aroma, but for me it was a little off putting. In the mouth the wine felt disjointed and out of balance. With green peppers, sour cherries and medium tannin, the flavor profile was not one that I enjoyed. From the comments on the machine, it looked like the participants were split. 3-/5
Other Reviews, Insights and Final Thoughts
Don’t try this party trick with 16 bottles
30 Jun 2010
Some wines just scream summer! The crisp citrus acidity seems to be the perfect pairing for warm weather. Sauvignon Blanc is also a great pairing for light salads, chicken, shellfish and dishes that feature ingredients like bell peppers, olives or spinach. If pairing a Sauvignon Blanc with food, do your best to match the acidity levels with your ingredients (high acid pairs with high acid) and avoid rich creamy buttery dishes (as a rule of thumb).
The three Sauvignon Blanc featured in today’s post are from the southern hemisphere and grow in hot climates with cool evenings that help produce some stronger acidity in the wine. A Sauvignon Blanc that lacks in acidity can often come across as being overly tart on the back of your mouth. The new en vogue Sauvignon Blanc region is Marlborough New Zealand where super crisp, grassy, mineral focused flavors are being displayed. Price points on Sauvignon Blanc tend to range from $10-$20. Great daily sippers can be found for under $10.
2009 Valdivieso Sauvignon Blanc
Update: This wine was previously reviewed as part of the Wines of Chile tasting in May 2010. There was some concern of bottle variation among the reviewers and the winemaker graciously agreed to send out an additional sample. Note: The bottle label is different than the previous one received.
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley; 13.5%abv, wild fermentation with no added yeast. Barrel aged in large French oak for 6 months; cork
- The Swirl: Yellow apple color with hints of pale green
- The Sniff: A dramatic departure from the traditional citrus Sauv Blanc. Strong aromas of herbs and a sweet sherry are present. Mild hints of ammonia and green pepper are on the nose as well.
- The Sip: A wild funk of flavorliciousness and a wild Sauvignon Blanc. This is not your grapefruit pucker sucker. I kept being drawn in by the odd herbs and spice but wouldn’t suggest this to folks who are looking for a crisp boat wine.
- The Score: At $22, this is an out of character Sauv Blanc. I give it a score of 3 out of 5. The flavor may be different than what you would expect from a Sauvignon Blanc but the wine is balanced and doesn’t trick you into thinking it’s something it isn’t.
2009 Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc (Octavin)
- The Stuff: Comes in a 3L (equivalent to 4 bottles) Octavin container with a collapsible bladder. 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Stainless Steel fermented; 13% ABV
- The Swirl: Very light, resembles a lemon colored water
- The Sniff: A good power of grapefruit and a hint of herbaciousness. A strong steely minerality also attacks the nose and not in a good way.
- The Sip: The wine has a good mouth feel and is moderately awake with flavors of grapefruit and lemon zest. Slightly one dimensional and the wine lacks any acidity or notable finish
- The Score: No off flavors here and for the equivalent of $5 per bottle, this is definitely a trusty wine to have at a party or out at the cabin. Can give it a value score of 3 out of 5. Average flavors but above average value.
Cellar Tracker Scores: 85.8 (four scores)
2008 Brancott ‘B’ Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand; Stainless Steel fermented with only free run juice; 13.2%ABV; Screwcap enclosure
- The Swirl: Subdued honey or wheat color
- The Sniff: Elegant aromas of grapefruit, dirty martini and layers of grass and spice
- The Sip: Fantastic mouth feel with a gentle whisp of grapefruit that is equally matched by stone fruit and river rock. Well balanced acidity keep this wine from feeling tart on the mouth and provides a good medium finish
- The Score: At $25 this is a perfect Sauvignon Blanc to pair well with a good dinner or to impress at a party. I score this wine 4 out of 5.
The Brancott ‘B’ Sauvignon Blanc is an elegant pairing of grapefruit, stone fruit and minerals. A wonderful balance helps this wine feel great in the mouth and provides a crisp stone finish. 4/5
Cellar Tracker Scores: 90 points (3 reviews)
NOTE: All wines were provided as industry samples with the intention to review
29 Apr 2010
Sometimes you just need a lot of wine. That’s where I see the value of boxed wine. There are plenty of times in life when people will care less that you’re gracing them with a 2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay or a 2007 Bordeaux or Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe. These are the times when you’re camping, grilling, or entertaining your less discerning friends and the beverage container resembles one of those red plastic cups you used to charge $5 for at college parties. These are the times when folks might be more concerned about the buzz than the nose. Box wine comes in handy when you need a lot of juice. HOWEVER, there is no excuse for BAD WINE. There are wines that will rock your world and there are wines to clean the drain out with. Regardless of the party or situation, life is too short to drink bad wine.
Both of the wines in this review arrived via FedEx sporting a curiously shaped package. The Octavin Home Wine Bar, as they’re called, is a three liter container (four regular bottles) with a vacuum-packed bag and spout that keep air from getting in contact with wine (oxygen is the single biggest factor to a wine’s demise). According to the literature, the wine should have 10 times the shelf life of a regular bottle. If it’s any good, it won’t need that long *wink*. It’s also worth noting that the Octavin is much more eco-friendly because of the lower shipping weight and smaller package waste. Still, we don’t drink crappy wine.
The Octavin packaging is available with 10 different wines ranging from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to a big Central California Coast Cabernet. Now, on with the review:
2008 Monthaven Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from various vineyards in the California Central Coast. Partially 35% barrel fermented, cold fermented, and barrel aged. 13.5%abv; 40,000 cases made
- The Swirl: Very pale straw color, much lighter than a traditional Chardonnay. Swirl does indicate some thickness to the wine. Clean and clear
- The Sniff: Not a lot happening on the nose. There are some nice plays of pear, subtle hints of tropics, and a slight mineral aroma that throws it off just a bit (not much).
- The Sip: Pleasing on the mouth-feel. Surprisingly nice for coming out of a box. In a blind tasting I would certainly put this on par with some $12 Chardonnay I’ve recently had. The subtle tropics continue on the palate with a tad citrus lemon. The acidity seems slightly off balanced on the finish.
- The Score: At the equivalent of $6 per bottle ($24 per Octavin), I can easily score this a 3 and offer it as a recommended wine for summer BBQ parties or camping adventures.
Side Note: This wine was consumed over the course of several weeks and as time passed the wine did seem to retain its overall quality.
2008 Big House Red
- The Stuff: While in the video I refer to 6 different grapes being in the wine, I must admit that I was wrong because there are 13 different wine grapes in this bend, including five that I can check off my wine century list (Algianico 6%, Tannat 6%, Nero D’Avola 5%, Sargentino 4%, and Touriga 3%). The other grapes in this wine are 23% Syrah, 14% Petite Sirah, 9% Grenache, 9% Montepuliciano, 6% Mourvedre, 6% Sangiovese, 3% Barbera, and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine clocks in at 13.5%abv and 30,000 cases were made.
- The Swirl: Bright purple with 50% translucence and slightly thin and watery at the edges
- The Sniff: The wine struck me as sweet cherry candy with some earthy dust and oak.
- The Sip: Definitely not the big red as I expected from the moniker. The mouth feel is slightly thin. The first impression was an oaky off balance. As I re-evaluated the wine there was some nice mild red berry flavor good back end structure and a descent finish. Not a wine you pull out of a nice dinner but certainly palatable for burgers.
- The Score: I wasn’t overwhelmed by the wine and even at a price of $20 for the 3L ($5 per bottle), I can only score it a 3 minus out of 5.
Both of these wines give me hope for boxed wine. I’m impressed with the packaging, convenience and longevity of the wine. Neither of these are special occasion wines BUT, neither of them were what I would consider bad wines either. I look forward to exploring the other eight Octavin container wines.
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intent to review