13 Oct 2010
Yellow Tail makes a reserve wine? This was my thought and the question I heard several times over when I told people I was reviewing Yellow Tail wine. According to the print material, “The fruit used is taken from Australia’s premium cool climate regions to maintain elegance, finesse and length of flavor. Great wine begins with the best grapes for [ yellow tail ] Reserve. You can taste the difference.” This is what I wanted to determine, could you taste the difference?
Over the last 30 years the Casella family has taken Yellow Tail from small production to over 11 million cases, making them one of the largest wine exporters in the world. In 2001 the little yellow wallaby was introduced to the US in an agreement with W.J. Deutsch. Americans fell in love to the sip of 8.5 million cases making Yellow Tail one of the most recognized wine brands in the US.
At prices between $12-$15 the five Yellow Tail Reserve wines (Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon) are about twice the price of the non-reserve line. I’ll admit I had my share of Yellow Tail magnum bottles of Shiraz from Costco. The fruity and slightly disjointed wine used to work as a standby from time to time (especially in my early wine exploration days). Now, however, I’ve discovered that a step up in price is well worth the drinking experience. I’m pretty curious to see what twice the price gets the consumer.
The reserve packaging is a picture of great branding. The use of a black label and silver foil wallaby convey quality while maintaining a tie to the core brand elements. The bottles seem to be slightly weightier as well. After receiving the wine, my step-son walked in the room and said, “oooh, these must be expensive.” He’s a pretty astute and observant 13 year old and has a keen eye for design and marketing. After noting the name, he said, “Oh, they’re only Yellow Tail.” Interesting…
2008 Yellow Tail Reserve Merlot – The 100% Merlot is from six regions in Australia, mostly King and Alpine Valley. The various fruit spent between 6-12 months in a range of new and used American and French oak barrels. With a soft burgundy rust color in the glass, the wine was fairly translucent. The nose on the wine was fairly woody like water logged wine soaked piece of cedar. Some underpinnings of sour red fruit graced the nose to. In the mouth the wine is soft and slightly unassuming with presentations of sour cherry on the mid palate. Hints of vanilla poke through the light tannin finish. At $12-$15 this is a drinkable wine but in comparison to the Velvet Devil on the Under $10 Team, I’ll pass on this one 3-/5.
2008 Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz – The 100% Shiraz is from the Langhorne, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Barossa and Wrattonbully areas in South Eastern Australia. The fruit spent varying amounts of time (6-12 months) in new and used American and French oak. In the glass the wine is similar in tone to the Merlot but with a darker center. Slightly less translucent but could be the same wine to the untrained eye. A traditional aroma profile for what I’ve experienced in Yellow Tail Shiraz offering off scents of dark fruit and pepper. In the mouth the wine is fairly large and squishy with well balanced play of blackberry, blueberry and pepper spice. The oak components are more subtle and offer more layered flavor to the profile. While still on the simple side, the bold and rich flavor will appeal to a large audience. Having had my fair share of non-reserve Shiraz, at $12-$15 this is definitely a step up in flavor and quality. 3/5
2008 Yellow Tail Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – A multi-regional blend of 100% Cabernet from various sources in South Eastern Australia. As in the other two reserves, this fruit in this wine spent 6-12 months in new and used French and American oak. The Cabernet is thick in the glass with hints of ruby and rust color around the edge of the glass. The aroma profile suggests a well thought out combination of dark fruit, oak and hints of mint. I really enjoyed the nose of this wine. In the mouth the wine is big on fruit and big on oak. The superstar in this wine is the presentation of mint. The finish is average with moderate tannin. In comparison to other $12-15 price point Cabernet Sauvignon, this certainly can stand with them. The subtle differences in like/dislike could be a matter of preference and not quality. 3/5
*NOTE – In the video the graphic rating is mistakenly listed as a 3+/5
In summary, the reserve line of Yellow Tail provided a decent step up in quality and flavor from the regular line. These wines could be a natural next step in people’s evolution of expanding their palate without breaking the bank. The brand familiarity certainly helps in moving people up. Each of the wines, in retrospect, seemed to offer a similar mouth feel and flavor component with the subtle difference being the finish. On each bottle there is a two word description of the wine, i.e. “Dark and Spicy” “Bold and Thick,” my brief description of the reserve line is, “Better not Stunning.” If you see these wines at or around $10, give them a try for a comparison to what you know of the non-reserve line.
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
30 Sep 2010
Are you looking for a wine that will kiss you on the lips, smack you on the ass, and leave you feeling completely satisfied? Mollydooker just might do it. In my 11 months of wine blogging and five years of wine consumption, I have yet to experience anything so over the top and hedonistic as the Mollydooker wines. In fact, it’s not even until now that I understand the use of the word hedonistic when describing wine. Even at their lower end price points $25, the wines are full of big and rich fruit with an emphasis on flavor. It’ll feel like a flavor orgy in your mouth. Be careful, however, the bold wines come with bold alcohol levels of 15.5% and higher! Too much of this booze and you’ll get a smack on the ass from falling on it!
Mollydooker has put together a winning combination of wine, marketing, and consistency since coming on to the scene in 2006. Their web site is fun, quirky and educational, the labels are catchy and carry a personal connection, and the wine has garnered praises including five 99 point scores from Wine Advocate, Top Value Wine (under $20; 2006), and the Carnival of Love has been selected as a Top 10 Wine in the World (2 years running).
Owners and Winemakers Sarah and Sparky Marquis spent 12 years making critically acclaimed wine for others companies before starting Mollydooker in 2005. Based in Australia’s premier regions of McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek and Pathway, Sarah and Sparky claim that it is their Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme and Marquis Fruit Weight focus that sets their wine apart. Two pretty cool, although heavily marketing focused, videos are on their web site at www.mollydookerwines.com.
The watering program manages the growth of the vines and canopy to create a healthy and vigorous crop. At specific times the plants are deprived of water to drive the energy into the grape clusters. A repeating cycle of starvation and watering leads to the high fruit weight the Marquis’ are aiming for. Marquis Fruit Weight is a non-scientific measurement of WOW. It is an attempt to quantify the percentage of your palate that’s covered by the smooth fruit flavor.
I was pretty skeptical and intrigued by the Fruit Weight concept, so I thought I’d put the three sample wines to the test in a blind tasting format. I had the wife bag and tag the wines after removing the colorful foil identifiers. I knew I was drinking Mollydooker, I knew they were 2009 Shiraz, but I had no clue as to which wine was The Boxer ($25), Blue Eyed Boy ($50), or Carnival of Love ($90). Watch the video for the surprising results.
*So far, this may sound like a sales pitch for Mollydooker, instead of a review. I’m just providing the back story (and theirs is an impressive one). I did review a 2008 vintage of Blue Eyed Boy and didn’t give it so glowing of a review.
- The Stuff: 100% Shiraz from vineyards in McLaren Vale, Langhorne and Pathway. The wine spent 12 months in 57% new 43% year old American oak; 3.6% residual sugar, 16%ABV, screw cap enclosure (as are all Mollydooker wines) – 70% Marquis Fruit Weight
- The Swirl: Thick and inky in the glass with a heavy purple. Wine leaves a film on the glass edge when swirling.
- The Sniff: A Shiraz masquerading as a big Malbec with blueberry and vanilla on the nose. There are subtle hints of sweet residual sugar and cedar too.
- The Sip: Good flavor but not overwhelming. Starts off feeling a little syrupy and then gives way to dark black and blue berry fruit. A stronger pepper finish than I expected and a good amount of acidity to clear away the sweet fruit.
- The Score: At $25 this is a great wine that easily outperforms Aussie Shiraz in the $15-$20 range. The flavor is more intense but not over the top. Great price point. 3+/5
- The Stuff: 100% Shiraz from the Mollydooker vineyard and Langhorne Creek; aged 12 months in 71% new and 29% used American oak; 3.6% residual sugar, 16%ABV, screw cap enclosure – 80% Marquis Fruit Weight
- The Swirl: Great light refraction around the edges. The wine looks like a pristine calm glassy purple lake. Thick and very weighty
- The Sniff: A very well layered aroma profile that includes perfectly balanced amounts of fruit, licorice, powdered sugar, and deep blackberries. Love the subtle cracked pepper on the finish
- The Sip: A massive wash of soft plum, bright blackberry, and warm milk chocolate. The luscious and round mouth feel is accompanied by a good amount of firm tannin on the finish. This is a young wine that drinks very well now, but is crying out for sausage, cheese, and beef dishes.
- The Score: For those wine drinkers that are accustom to laying down $50 for a good bottle, this is a fantastic wine. There is more here than just a giant fruit bomb. The layers of flavor will ease the pain of parting with the cash. This is a special wine whose taste and aromas are burned into my memory. 4/5
- The Stuff: 100% Shiraz from the Gateway vineyard in McLaren Vale; 97% new and 3% used American oak for 12 months. 3.8% RS; 16%ABV, screw cap enclosure – 90% Fruit Weight
- The Swirl: As with all the MD Shiraz this wine is pure purple passion. Very thick and pure like liquid glass. The Enchanted love is one of the darker wines I can recall seeing.
- The Sniff: Beautiful scents of violets, sweet sugar, bright blueberries, rich plums and spice. I think about 10 minutes went by before I quit smelling this wine. An enjoyable experience even before the sip.
- The Sip: A wonderful evolution of flavor happens on this wine. Tasting the wine gives you an understanding of what “fruit weight” is. The flavor seems to wrap every square inch of your mouth. Not a single taste bud is left out of this experience. Great presentations of fruit, spice, and even some dried tomato and coffee components.
- The Score: The Carnival of Love is a sensory experience not to be missed. This is truly a wine event, if ever I’ve had one. A huge step above in balance over the previous vintage and crafted with subtle intricacies that keep you wanting another sip. Keep in mind this is not a subtle experience of strolling through a park enjoying the serene waterfalls and flowers, this is a high octane double loop roller coaster at 70MPH! At $90, a challenge for most but if you want to really impress a wine lover (especially one who enjoys Aussie Shiraz), you’ll score big points here! 4+/5
09 Sep 2010
I don’t usually make a habit of travelling 3000 miles to taste wine, but this occasion deserved the trip. I packed my bags and headed east to the city they call the “big apple” to taste wine from Clare Valley, Australia. I mean really, how often does one get to taste Australian Shiraz?
Actually, I lie; we were in New York City (specifically Manhattan) for our annual family vacation. We gave our son the choice of NYC or Washington DC. He chose NYC, which means next year we’ll be headed to DC. Timing couldn’t be better as we can coordinate the trip with the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference and visit my family just a few hours south in Roanoke, VA.
Before I get back to the wine, let me just say that Manhattan is a-ma-zing! The energy, the vibe, the fashion, the hustle, the passion, the art! Walking the streets felt as if we were walking in the center of what makes the United States (and even the world) run. The eye wall of Times Square rotates out spinning its massive energy force touching the corners of our globe. Would I want to live there? Nope. I couldn’t afford to, but it sure is a fun place to visit.
While on our travels, through the wonders of Twitter, I learned that Cork’d was hosting a wine tasting at the Roger Smith Hotel. In a previous business trip to Manhattan, I had the opportunity to tip a glass with Jon Troutman of Cork’d and Kristen Murphy of Wine Library. Any opportunity to reconnect with these ambassadors of wine immediately shot to the top of my priority list. A quick tangent here – my social media experience has been amazing. Because of the relationships I’ve established on Twitter and Facebook, every city I travel to results in cheers and toasts with “old friends.”
On To The Wine:
When I say Australia, you say?
Okay, when I say Australian wine, you say?
Well, yes, that’s quite true. Most people have narrow thoughts when it comes to Australian wine and it is usually the little kangaroo of Yellow Tail, Jacob’s Creek or Penfolds. The wine tasting at Cork’d hoped to shed some additional light on a region that exports over 1 billion bottles of wine per year (fourth largest in the world).
After a long day of meandering through the Metropolitan Arts Museum, the family was very accommodating and semi-enthusiastically agreed to accompany me to the Roger Smith Hotel (just off Park Avenue and 47th). The eclectic, warm and urban vibe of the hotel made me re-think my lodging choice at a national chain.
At the tasting I was excited to finally meet Lindsay Ronga, CEO of Corkd.com. We’ve spoken via phone and twitter, but in person, Lindsay is infinitely more adorable. She’s also smart as a whip! Lindsay and Jonathan introduced us to their guest, Tom Barry, a third generation wine maker for Jim Barry wines and explained the tasting “rules of engagement.” Immediately the ladies, and some of the men, were smitten with Tom’s thick accent. Most of the crowd was armed with laptops, but I committed to my family to leave mine at home, so I attempted to document the journey with a smart phone whose battery was about to go the way of some of the art exhibits we had just discovered.
Due to the nature of the tasting, these are my initial thoughts and observations of Jim Barry wines. This is not the full attention that I typically try to give to one of my reviews, but should give you a general framework of my thoughts.
Jim Barry Wine Tasting
2007 Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling
The dry Riesling (under 2% residual sugar) had surprising aromas of toasted nuts, white pepper and that standard petrol aroma of a well aged Riesling. The wine was clean fermented with no malolactic and zero oak. With 13%ABV the wine is slightly off balance with only mild acidity. Great flavors of apple, lemon zest, lime and a tart finish. Quite a surprising wine and at $17-$20, could be a good selling price point in the US. 3+/5 (Recommend)
2008 Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon
This 100% Cabernet is a blend from various Coonawarra fruit. The name, and labeling design is inspired from the 30 acres of Cabernet that grow on former Cricket playing fields. The wine receives 12 months in American oak. In the glass there is a good thick color to the edge of the glass. Aromas of bright cherry, are offset by vegetal components, eucalyptus, and cinnamon. In the mouth the wine is slightly thin on fruit with heavy tobacco mid palate and a sweet zing at the end. A bold chalky tannin begs to be decanted, paired with food, or cellared for 5-7 years. $20. 3/5
2008 Jim Barry The Lodge Shiraz
We ended the evening by looking at two Shiraz; one, a new release, and the other from 2004 that should give an indication of age ability. In the glass, the 08 is thick and leaves a crimson residue on the edges of the glass. The 14.5%ABV is low comparatively speaking for some Aussie Shiraz. Fragrance of blackberry and clove present themselves to me. I love the way the wine feels in the mouth. A lush velvet coats the tongue. The black pepper is perfectly balanced with the sweet fruit. The wine is big without being jammy. $20 and a great buy. 3+/5 (Recommend)
2004 Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz
The final wine of the night is dark and inky in the glass; a brooding color similar to moonless foggy night. The nose offers up green berry twigs, sour black cherry and some hints of what I would guess coffee syrup would smell like. In the mouth the wine is big on fruit, but it is slightly sour. The finish offered moderate tannins with well integrated acidity. Many of the tasters were very impressed with the wine but this one left me feeling a little empty; a perfect example of taste variance and subjectivity. At $45 this was the highest priced wine of the night. 3/5
Tom Barry of Jim Barry Wines. Follow them on Twitter @JimBarryWines
24 Mar 2010
Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a deal.
Finding good wine at low price makes it taste even better.
We’re all looking to save money. Buying something for a bargain makes us feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s easy to agree that getting a new Chevrolet Corvette for $10,000 is a bargain (if not a steal), but is it a bargain to pay $3 for a bottle of wine that tastes disjointed, tart, sour, and thin? The definition of a bargain is “Something offered or acquired at a price advantageous to the buyer.” A used Paul Reed Smith Custom Ten-Top with bird inlays for $2000 would be advantageous to me, but not for everyone.
Grocery Outlet is known for low prices on food items. While I’ve never considered G.O. a place for wine, I learned from my Twitter friends that several often find deals there. Evidently there are more bargainistas out there than I imagined. Ahead of their bi-annual wine sale (March 30-April 3) Grocery Outlet reached out to me with a fun challenge. They offered me two $50 gift cards – one to use to buy wine and the other to give away to a lucky viewer/reader. I have to admit that at first I was conflicted about being “paid” in wine to promote an event, but I see it as an opportunity to uncover a good value for those that read this blog (thanks, Mom). It’s also pretty cool to be able to give someone $50.
So, off I went with my preconceptions in search of the $7 bottle of Opus One, and the $4 Clos de Betz. Each of the 130+ West Coast stores is independently operated, and from what I hear, wine selection varies greatly by location. The Spokane location on Sprague Ave had a decent sized section of wine. If you’re looking for a wine steward, shelf talkers, and organized bottles – go somewhere else. If you’re looking for wine that is as low as $3 and $60 Napa wine (retail) for $15, then you may be onto something.
Armed with my $50 gift card, I walked up and down the aisles looking for labels I recognized, appellations that have respect, and the biggest mark-up. 30-minutes later the till said $61 (pre-tax) for my 8 bottle score ($7.62 average). Sadly I only saw a few labels I recognized. With a low of $3 and an outlandishly expensive $15, I left a little uncertain of how this experiment would take shape.
HOW TO WIN $50
It’s simple. Leave a comment (either here or at my Facebook page). You won’t be added to a mailing list, you won’t be spammed – one lucky reader will win!
- The Stuff: This wine comes from AU Vineyards in South East Australia. The winery is responsible for AU, Buckley’s Cove, 12 Apostles, Element 79, Fly, and Tambourine labels. This is a 2009 vintage blend of Shiraz and Cabernet. The web site availability shows US distribution is limited to Grocery Outlet stores.
- The Swirl: Very bright purple (neon), moderately thin with medium translucence.
- The Sniff: Sugary grape or cherry jolly rancher and sweet candy. Reminded me of those sugar candy you dip the stick into.
- The Sip: Very thin throughout. The wine is very off-balanced with a sugary sweet front end and then a bitter tart back end.
- The Score: At $3, I score this wine a 1 (out of 5). This is a not recommended at any price.
Okay – so for me this was not a deal. Keeping it real here, this wine ended up down the drain. I’m sure that there are some folks who would be okay with it, but for the majority of wine lovers, this is no deal.
2005 Two Iron Red Wine
- The Stuff: The bottle says Napa and references Costa del Sol Cellars. My online investigation revealed next to nothing about this wine. The retail on the Grocery Outlet shelf said $60, but I was unable to validate that anywhere.
- The Swirl: Dark plum with a good color. Thins out toward the edge and is mostly opaque.
- The Sniff: The nose opens up with a nice black fruit and cassis. Hints of stone and oak come through as well.
- The Sip: The mouth feel is a Jekyll and Hyde. The initial attack is modest with good fruit but the finish is very bitter, woody and sharp.
- The Score: At $15, I score this wine a 2 (out of 5). A purchase price of $25 and over, I’d be ticked. At $15, I’m slightly disappointed, at $10 it still doesn’t make the Under $10 Team.
Cellar Tracker – Seven people have this in their cellar (all purchased from Grocery Outlet), but no reviews.
I had high hopes for this wine, being from Napa Valley. So far, neither of the two wines I selected would qualify as “bargains” for me. Three of the remaining four are from labels I recognize, so I’m hoping for good things.
Stay tuned! Have you ever found a bargain at Grocery Outlet? Want to win $50? Leave a comment.
08 Feb 2010
Many people associate Australian wine with a little yellow kangaroo. While this little yellow kangaroo has done wonders for wine promulgation, it has also caused some negative backlash into the wine world. Australian wine has garnered a reputation for being big, fruity, and cheap, affordable, inexpensive. The price point has been fantastic for introducing people to the world of wine but it has also set the expectation that wine pricing should be under $10 and red wine = massive fruit bomb! The low price point (and the current economic time) has shook the California wine business like a 7.2 earthquake. Wine is way more than the little yellow kangaroo. Australia produces quality wine in many price points.
Today’s review is from Australia’s #1 export…no not Paul Hogan…a bolder, more alcoholic import…no, not Mel Gibson either! Today we review Australia’s #1 wine export, Jacob’s Creek. If you’re familiar with wine, no doubt you’ve seen and tried Jacob’s Creek. With a history dating to the 1850’s Jacob’s Creek produces over 1.1 million cases of wine per year. The vineyards in Southern Australia are some of the oldest and highest quality on the continent.
Jacob’s Creek offers four labels in a variety of price points and focus:
- Jacob’s Creek (main label): A variety of two grape blends and single varietal offerings ranging from $5-$10
- Jacob’s Creek Reserve: A mid price label with a range of white (Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose) and red (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir) $10-$15
- Jacob’s Creek Heritage: Moderate price label with a range including Shiraz, Shiraz-Cab, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Chardonnay $20-$30
- Jacob’s Creek Three Vines: Contemporary label exploring non-traditional blends $8-$15
Reviewed in the video: 2007 Chardonnay, 2006 Shiraz, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Reserve label
2007 Reserve Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% reserve block Chardonnay; 60% barrel fermentation; partial malolactic fermentation; 13.5% ABV
- The Swirl: Yellow gold tone with hints of green apple. Beer-like color.
- The Sniff: Bright acidity and lemon qualities with moderate hints of green grape and oak
- The Sip: Two dimensional wine with mellow front end consisting of meaty vanilla and pear and a bright acidic lemon peel back end. The flavor drops off quickly and leaves a moderate bitterness in the mouth.
- The Score: At $12ish I score this wine a 2+ (out of 5), for my tastes there are more complex and robust Chardonnays available for the money
2006 Reserve Shiraz
- The Stuff: 100% reserve block Shiraz; 18 months in oak; 14.3% ABV
- The Swirl: Dark plum inkiness with mild jewel tones toward the edges
- The Sniff: Underwhelming nose with hints of blackberry and/or plum, moderate sprigs of clove and spice
- The Sip: Grape candy licorice on the front end with green twig component on the back end. The wine still feels young and could/should be cellared for a few more years.
- The Score: At $12 this is a pleasant Shiraz offering that scores a low 3.
Other researched scores: Cellar Tracker (2 scores avg 86.5); Cork’d (2 scores avg 87)
2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% reserve block Cab; 18 months in new and old French oak; 14.2% ABV
- The Swirl: Dark plum with hints of aged rusty brown toward the edges
- The Sniff: Mellow aromas of sweet blackberry and a whiff of vanilla and cocoa
- The Sip: Mild front end with a wash of chocolate and berry; back end of bitter cassis and pepper spice. Slightly off balanced in flavor
- The Score: At $12ish can score this a solid 3 and makes the re-buy list. Paired well with our hearty beef stew.
Other researched scores: Cellar Tracker (1 score at 78); Cork’d (2 scores avg 85)
Have you had Jacob’s Creek? What is your experience with some of their other labels?
In the video I mentioned the Washington Redskins and my annual disappointment. What team do you cheer for? How do you cope with the let down?
*This wine was provided as an industry sample with the intent to review