15 Dec 2010
Turkey dinner with cranberry sauce and apple pie; the traditional Swanson TV dinner. Since 1953 Swanson has been synonymous with bachelor living, working families and modern convenience. In 1985 the Swanson family purchased 100 acres between Silver Oak and Opus One. W Clarke Swanson planted Merlot in the heart of Cabernet country, CA and that gamble paid off. Swanson built a reputation with quality Merlot and now expands that production to Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and a few red blends.
While Swanson TV dinners have become equated with microwaves and convenience, the wines have proven themselves to be associated with quality. Recently selected as one of the top 100 wines of the world and winery of the year, 2010 by Wine & Spirits Magazine, Swanson is a winery to be considered on your list of top contenders. The three wines reviewed here will be released in the spring.
You’ve had the dinner, how is the wine?
Visit Swanson Vineyards on the internet www.swansonvineyards.com
2009 Swanson Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio to me is usually either crisp thin and tart, or slightly flabby but still light on fruit. The 2009 100% Napa Valley Pinot Grigio (13.6%ABV) is a nice balance of flavor, fruit, and mouth feel. 100% stainless steel fermented to bone dry with no malolactic fermentation, the sip reveals a nicely structured wine that is pleasing to the palate without being flabby or tart. Flavors of melons, lychee and citrus are softly interwoven. At $21 this is typically more than I would pay for a Pinot Grigio. Give this wine a try at the tasting room (or order it by the glass) before committing to the whole bottle. 3+/5
Scores on Cellar Tracker are 89 points from 3 different reviews
2007 Swanson Merlot
It’s no secret I love a well made Merlot. I love the combination of aromas and soft subtleties of fruit that can often times have flavors of coffee, cherry, and chocolate. Merlot makes for a great dinner pairing or just relaxing in the evening. The $36 Swanson Merlot is sourced primarily from their Oakville estate vineyard. Winemaker Chris Phelps gave the fruit a cold soak extended maceration before laying it down for 20 months in 40% new French and American oak. The color in the glass has a fairly dark plum center and soft colors of muted ruby at the edges. The aroma out of the glass is a bright combination of fruit, licorice, and cola. From what I’ve seen and smelled the anticipation was very high. This wine, on the sip, lived up to the expectations. The fruit was slightly thin on the front palate but opened up to a medley of flavor. I loved the play between cola and coffee and the fruit flavors were not over the top but nicely balanced. This merlot also boasted some modest muscle with a hint of thickness on the finish. At $36, worth the price for merlot lovers. 4/5
2007 Swanson Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon
The 07 Swanson Alexis stands tall above everything else. Literally…the bottle is like two inches taller than your standard wine bottle. Do you get more? At $75 you should, but sadly it’s just a marketing play. The pedigree here is strong; 26 day extended maceration, 22 months in 60% new French oak, Napa Valley fruit from Schmidt Vineyards and a moderately tame (for California) 14.8%ABV. The Alexis is 81% Cabernet and 19% Merlot. The swirl showcases the deep color of the fruit but the wine is not opaque. Like the merlot, the aromas jump out of the glass. This wine is deep and lush with a bouquet of dried flowers, baking spices, dark berry fruit, and subtleties of toasted oak. On the sip, I was surprised by the soft strength of the wine. For a young bold California Cabernet, Alexis is very approachable and velvety while still offering well integrated tannin that you would expect. I would expect this wine to be in its prime in just about 5 years. I liked the wine but I didn’t LOVE it and for $75, I need to LOVE it to recommend it. From a quality perspective, the Swanson Alexis is an extremely well made wine with great aroma and flavor. Proceed with caution even with a 4/5 score.
Only 500 ½ cases of this wine were produced so chances are your only experience will be at the tasting room or very select restaurants.
Previous vintage of this wine scores 92 points with 3 reviews on Cellar Tracker.
Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review and for fun…here is a flashback to the 80’s with some TV Dinners by ZZ Top!
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