12 Apr 2010
Finding good trustworthy wine under $10 can be a challenge. Some people question my reasons for pursuing this series. I believe people need help in this range. Generally speaking wine over a certain price is going to be well made. They may have different characteristics but there is a higher percentage of quality wine. Wine under $20 has become more attainable as well. I believe there are more people out there that are looking under $10 for daily drinkers. Economic conditions should not keep people from enjoying wine. The challenge is finding trustworthy wine that, while not exceptional, is drinkable with good flavor.
This brings me to my challenge. Every few weeks I try out new wine in the hope to field a team of nine starters and a few subs. Each team should be stocked with key reds (Cab, Zin, Merlot, Syrah) key whites (Sauv Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sparkling) and some alternates (other miscellaneous grapes). Below is the nearly complete team.
At this rate the Seattle Mariners should win about 47 games this year. For those that don’t know, that’s bad…very, very bad. It’s no secret that along with opening weeks of Football season, April is my favorite time of year. For us Spokane folk we finally start to see warmer weather, the snow has melted and all the brown is replaced with green grass and budding flowers. Crockpot dinners transform to grilling and hanging out on the deck. Steak, burgers and hot dogs become a regular part of the nightly routine, and the calming voice of Dave Niehaus invades the kitchen (he’s the voice of the Seattle Mariners for those who don’t know).
Today’s tryouts include a mystery Cabernet Sauvignon, A well known Syrah, and a controversial Pinot Noir.
NV Distant Bay Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine began as a mystery and ended as a disappointment. The investigation started with a brand that some of my blog friends and I did not recognize. The label mentions being made in Patterson, WA. The main winery in Patterson is Columbia Crest (a Chateau St. Michelle company). Sean Sullivan and I were chatting about it on Twitter and the next morning I woke up to an email that solved the mystery. A retired librarian named Don had been watching our tweets and decided to do some research. He discovered an old Chateau St. Michelle web site referencing the brand and buried deep within the current web site you can find some older tech sheets. Mystery solved!
- The Stuff: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cab Franc from Columbia Valley, 13.5% abv – The guess is that it’s an off brand to dump some excess or inferior juice without tarnishing the main brands.
- The Swirl: Very light in comparison to most Cabs. Watery toward edges, leathery plum color
- The Sniff: Not very aromatic. The heat of the alcohol comes through toward the end with some moderate oaky cherries
- The Sip: Earthy cherries with hints of white pepper. Not overly flavorful but no off flavors either. Very little tannin and low acidity
- The Score: At only $7, this is not a terrible wine but there are other wines out there for $10 that perform much better. I score this 2 out of 5 and send it back to single A ball to work on its form.
See the WAWineReport review
Cellar Tracker scores of 84 (with 8 reviews)
2007 Duck Pond Syrah
- The Stuff: 96.3% Syrah and 3.7% other reds, aged 11 months in French and American oak, 13.5%abv, 5900 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dull thin plum color
- The Sniff: Moderate nose with hints of oaky vanilla and only a whiff of dark berry fruits. Very little spice or fruit as you would expect from a Syrah (even a lower priced Syrah)
- The Sip: Very hollow on the palate with only hints of fruit. A mellow mouth fell with a smooth finish that trails off quickly.
- The Score: At $12 retail, I score this 2 out of five. While there is nothing wrong with this wine, it doesn’t provide much to make it stand out even at $10.
Cellar Tracker scores of 81.5 (with 4 reviews)
2008 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir
With a label that is banned in Alabama due to the naked lady artwork I had high hopes for this wine. Who couldn’t use more naked ladies in their life? Web Site
- The Stuff: 100% California Pinot Noir, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Very light, typical Pinot, with slight rusty brown tone, extremely translucent
- The Sniff: I get a woodiness on this wine (and it’s not the naked lady) along with a bright candied cherry. Pretty good nose for the price of the wine. Earthy funk that is found on a lot of Pinot
- The Sip: A good cherry candy cola flavor with slight earthy dirt on the mid-palate. The finish is slightly off balanced with some bitterness.
- The Score: At just $11 this wine scores a 3 minus out of 5. A pretty good Pinot Noir for the price considering that most under $20 are suspect
Wine Enthusiast 85 points
Cellar Tracker Scores of 83 (with 3 reviews)
I’m always looking for good under $10 (on sale counts) recommendations. I carry around a rec’s book when I head to the store. If I can find it, I’ll buy it and feature it on a future episode. Leave a comment.
Side Note Addendum
After reviewing game film, I decided to add the Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir to the bench with the potential to become the starting Pinot Noir. Other considerations brought in the 2006 Kiona Winery Lemberger. At $12, this wine is a little over budget but with the collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing I decided to up the budget to bring this wine in as the starting pitcher. Here is my Cellar Tracker review.
My previous Under $10 Tryout featured my American League MLB predictions. Below are the National League predictions for the 2010 season. Disagree? Bitch and share in the comments J
NL East: Florida Marlins 94 wins
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals 101 wins
NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks 89 wins
Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies 91 wins
31 Mar 2010
For a night, Merlot was king. The grape that got turned upside down in the movie Sideways was back on top for two hours in March. This event, and others similar to it, proves to me once and for all that Twitter and other Social Media has changed the way we can do business and effect change.
Before I get into the analysis of the Twitter metrics for the night I must give thanks to the group that pulled it together. I may have been the face behind a lot of posts, videos and tweets, but without these amazing ambassadors of Washington Wine, this event would have fallen far short of its potential. The following twitter personalities were on board from the beginning – @SeattleWineGal – @WAWineReport – @Catie – @WineBeerWA – @WineeYak – @YakimaValley – @Shonoa425 – @wbcorbust – @nwwineandre – and @lunabeanmedia. These are the people who are deserving of the praise.
The Promotion and Media
#WAMerlot gained a massive groundswell about 2 weeks prior to the event. More than 100 wineries, restaurants, wine bars, wine stores, and even hotels from New Jersey to Wisconsin to Phoenix to Seattle got on board! The event was featured in the Spokesman Review, Walla Walla Union Bulletin, and even National Public Radio. Promotion continued through other wine writers like SuppleWine, WineFoot, Oregon Wine Blog, Wine Harlots, Wino Magazine, Sip With Me, Wine-Ophelia, Vinotology, Weekly Wine Journal, Cork’d and so many more (so sorry if I forgot to mention you). One highlight for me was the Gary Vaynerchuk Wine Library TV #WAMerlot episode. In fact, leading up to and after the event there were over 75 blog posts that referenced the event from wine reviews to social media reporting.
The Results and Analysis
I don’t have fancy Twitter analytics. I know they exist. I know there are programs that can determine the overall reach, brand impressions, etc – I don’t have those (if I get them, I’ll update this post). Here is what I do know. The event rocked the wine world!
- Twitter rock stars like @ChrisPirillo (Social Media persona) and @nansen (Seattle politics) joined in during the evening. Between them they have nearly 300,000 followers.
- Wineries and businesses having events had anywhere from zero to more than 30 people in attendance. From preliminary returns average attendance ran about 10. If my 6th grade math serves me right, 100 locations x 10 people average is approximately 1000 people.
- Tweets were observed from Europe, Australia, Asia (China), and North America (Canada, Mexico, and USA) – 4 out of 7 continents.
- #WAMerlot was a trending topic in Seattle (#1 and #2 at times) and was in the top 15 of trending topics on Twitter during the evening.
- Web site www.wthashtag.com tracked almost 2000 tweets by nearly 500 tweeters.
- Total brand reach was well into the millions
- Potential bottle consumption of Washington Merlot for the night is between 2000-3000 bottles
- While attending Taste Washington, I was continually thanked by dozens of wineries that participated in the event. True test – we’ve been asked to do it again.
- People had fun. People drank some effin’ Merlot!
While I spent the evening traveling to four locations in Spokane, I felt it important to give a formal review to the wineries who sent me samples (bottle shots below)
2007 Hogue Cellars Merlot
- The Stuff: 99% Merlot and 1% Syrah, Columbia Valley, 31,606 cases produced, 13.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Moderatly cloudy and slightly translucent. Dark cherry tones leaning toward a plum color
- The Sniff: Fairly tight on the nose at first but opens up to cherry, dust, and cocoa
- The Sip: A little thin on the front and thick fruit flavors on the mid palate. The wine is singular in dimension (dark cherry fruit) and provides a good sipping experience.
- The Score: At $9-$10, you won’t blow anyone away with this selection, but it will suffice as a standby everyday drinker. Some wines in this Hogue family can be hit or miss, but this Merlot is a good trusty label. I score it a 3 minus (out of 5)
Cellar Tracker Scores: No scores on the 07 vintage, but the 05 and 06 scores range between 77 – 87 (median 85)
2006 Fielding Hills Merlot
- The Stuff: Single vineyard Wahluke Slope AVA, 80% Merlot 11% Cab 9% Syrah, aged 19 months in 77% new oak, 14.3%abv, 163 cases
- The Swirl: Dark plum with beautiful jewel tones toward the edges. Mostly opaque
- The Sniff: Overwhelming aromas of cherry, smoke, and hints of spicy bacon. Amazed at how aroma profile changes as it comes through the nose.
- The Sip: A mouthful of joy! The black cherry fruit skips across your tongue and then transforms into undertones of smooth violet perfume, that then release themselves to cocoa flavors. The acidic finish brings a nice wash across the back of the mouth as the finish lingers for eternity.
- The Score: At $36, I score this wine a 4+ (out of 5) and would easily buy it again and again. The balance between complexity, flavor, and drinkability are impeccable.
Cellar Tracker Score 93pts (1 score); Wine Spectator Score 93pts
2007 Longshadows Pedestal Merlot
- The Stuff: 75% Merlot, 15% Cab Sauv, 7% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, Aged 20 months in 80% new oak, 2005 cases, 14.7%abv
- The Swirl: Dark, dark, dark. Looks like the midnight sky with some hints of purple.
- The Sniff: Once you get past the tree hugging oak, some big blackberry fruit springs forth. A small shot of spice shoots out too.
- The Sip: Intense and immense are the words that come to mind. A concentration of fruit with enough acidity to not make you think fruit bomb. The oak flavors are more subdued on the palate and some nice tannins firm up the back end. Still a young wine but provides intense flavor with 60 second finish
- The Score: At $45-$55 I score this wine a 4 (out of 5) – lowered slightly because of the price. An incredibly well made wine for those that want an intense Merlot experience. I would think laying this down for 5 years would reveal a supurb wine for the future.
Cellar Tracker Score (1 review) 92 pts; Josh Green Score 96pts
Long Live the King!
26 Mar 2010
Six wines, two drain dumpers, two meh, and two certified “deals.” This is the result of the Grocery Outlet Challenge. Yesterday, I received a comment on my blog that I MUST pass along. Kelly shares this in regards to wine deal hunting at Grocery Outlet, “You have to kiss a lot of wine-toads before you find your prince charming vin.”
The last two GO posts have generated some of the most intense response I’ve seen to a wine review (over 100 comments between my Facebook page and this blog). This tells me two things, 1) people are looking for bargain wine in a big way and 2) people like the chance to win $50! For me the exciting part has been seeing actual consumers comment on the blog (usually wine blogs generate a lot of industry insider comments). I want to thank the hundreds of new visitors that have stopped by and I want to encourage you to keep coming back and to check out the blog links I read on the right side of the page. There are so many great wine reviewers there that can help with your wine buying decisions.
Today’s review is two reds and two labels that I recognize. In reading through everyone’s comments, this seems to be one of the themes. If you see a label you recognize at a price below what you would find at a grocery store, pick up a few bottles. The other theme is, if you’re into experimenting, be sure to just pick up one test bottle before you commit to the whole lot.
Now, on with the review.
- The Stuff: Sourced from a top Petite Sirah producer in Lodi then re-introduced to oak barrels for 12 months; 6000 cases produces 13.5%abv
- The Swirl: Dark brooding wine with a rusty purple tinge.
- The Sniff: Subtle and subdued but gives off hints of dried cranberry, blueberry, violets and nutmeg (Thanksgiving in a bottle)
- The Sip: Slightly disappointed because the nose was so nice, the structure seems very thin. The hint of cranberry on the front loses itself pretty quickly. The seems to be average tannin on the back end, but not as bold as I would hope for a Petite Sirah. Could be a decent sipper for some folks.
- The Score: G.O. says the retail is $15, but Cameron Hughes website says $11. The price I paid was only $6. At $6 I can score this wine a 3 minus (out of 5). Some people may love it, I was on the fence.
Cellar Tracker scores average 85 (with 7 reviews)
- The Stuff: 100% Grenache from the McLaren Vale; Aged 10 months in used oak 14.5%abv
- The Swirl: Brighter plum with hints of ruby red jewel tones.
- The Sniff: BAM – I just hit in the nose with a raspberry / blackberry fruit. Soft tones of oaky smoke are there too.
- The Sip: My mouth eagerly welcomed this Spanish lover! The fruit was intense but not over the top. It smoothed out nicely and provided just enough spice, leather and smoke as the finish lingered.
- The Score: At $22.50 retail, this is a good wine – at $12, this is a great deal. I score this a 3+ (out of 5)
Definitely the best of the six wines that I purchased.
Cellar Tracker score of 87 (1 review)
There you have it! Six wines down the hatch (or down the drain). Thank you for all your comments, encouraging words and suggestions. I love hearing about the DEALS you found. Please leave a comment for your chance to win a $50 Grocery Outlet gift card. You won’t be added to a mailing list and you won’t get spammed.
GROCERY OUTLET BI-ANNUAL WINE SALE IS MARCH 30-APRIL 3 20% OFF ALL STOCK
*All wine reviewed was purchased using a gift card provided by Grocery Outlet
25 Mar 2010
Last night I dumped a wine down the drain. Even at $3, the wine was not a good deal. Grocery Outlet buys wine that wineries are moving prior to new releases.
From the Bargainista Blog: These overstocks are most of what Grocery Outlet buys. The wine can be from the winery, importer or distributor. Past vintages are opportunistic buys, because once a vintage has been replaced by a newer vintage, the salespeople stop showing the older vintage. Older vintages become a storage expense, not a sales opportunity. Wineries, importers and distributors have money tied up in this stock. To quickly move through non-performing inventory, wineries, importers, and distributors will sell the wine at cost or even a loss.
Yesterday’s post brought lots of activity and comments. People are pretty passionate about finding good deals. The general consensus about shopping at Grocery Outlet is that it’s hit or miss. Be cautious and buy some “test bottles” before you commit to quantity. BUT – when you find a bottle you recognize or a region you trust…scoop it up.
Tonight, I broke out the short sleeve golf shirt to celebrate Spring and two potential white wine “deals.”
- The Stuff: 100% Russian River Chalk Hill estate Chardonnay. Aged in oak. A portion of each bottle benefits disadvantaged children.
- The Swirl: Clean and well filtered with a nice golden yellow color
- The Sniff: Melon and pear/apple aroma with hints of oaky vanilla
- The Sip: The wine has a nice mouth feel but the mid-palate seems slightly off structure. There is a mild butter toast that includes an effervescence like a sparkling wine. A good apple flavor comes through as well.
- The Score: Retail of $22, I wouldn’t re-buy this Chardonnay, but at $11 this is a good 3!
Cellar Tracker Score (2 Reviews) of 84
This is the first DEAL from the Grocery Outlet bunch! With the 20% off sale March 30-April 3, this wine would only be $9 which is a good price for a well made Sonoma Chardonnay.
- The Stuff: 93% Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Chardonnay from Paso Robles
- The Swirl: Pale yellow, straw
- The Sniff: A hint of lemon but a predominant yeast / bread smell
- The Sip: At first the wine presents a really nice citrus and straw flavor but the back end kicks you with a tart finish.
- The Score: Even at $5 I have to compare this to some other good Sauvignon Blanc’s from Arbor Crest ($7) and Yellow + Blue ($9). I can give this a 2 (out of 5). Some people may love the crisp flavor but there isn’t a lot going on here.
Cellar Tracker Score (1 Review) of 76
As a reminder, Grocery Outlet has a huge wine sale March 30 – April 3. Stop by for 20% off their already low prices. Each of the 130+ Grocery Outlet stores is independently operated, so selections vary by store.
*The wine in these reviews was purchased using a $50 gift card provided by Grocery Outlet
ENTER TO WIN $50
It’s simple, leave a comment. Names won’t be added to a mailing list and you won’t be spammed. One lucky person will receive a $50 Grocery Outlet gift card.
23 Mar 2010
Queue up Don Henley’s Boys of Summer. Spin some John Fogerty, Centerfield. In less than two weeks, the official start of summer begins with the yell of, “play ball” and the crack of the bat. I can almost smell the fresh cut grass, pine tar, stale beer and hot dogs.
While baseball season is right around the corner, my attempt to field a team of solid “Under $10 All Stars” has been a challenge. Spring training tryouts have been hampered by poor performance, no shows and injuries. The graphic above shows the status of the team including tryouts from three Merlot.
2007 14 Hands Merlot
- The Stuff: Washington State, 85% Merlot, 14% Syrah, 1% other red grapes; Aged 12 months in a variety of new and used American and French Oak.
- The Swirl: Dark plum and slightly cloudy
- The Sniff: Tight on the nose with hints of plum and sweet candy
- The Sip: A muddy combination of cherry syrup, sweet candy, and woodiness. Very flat back end with a lack of tannin and little acidity.
- The Score: At $9.99 I score this a 2 (out of 5). The character is undefined with little structure. There are better under $10 Merlot
Cellar Tracker reviews 91.5 (two reviews) – wow, not sure I agree here
2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot
- The Stuff: Columbia Valley, 85% Merlot, 7% Syrah, 5% Cab Fanc, 3% Cab Sauv; 13.5%ABV, aged 14 months in a combination of new French and American oak.
- The Swirl: Dark cherry color with moderate translucence and thin outer edge
- The Sniff: Modest cocoa and oak on the nose with hints of cherry and tobacco
- The Sip: Dark cherry blackberry on the mid palate with a nice smooth finish of cocoa. A hint of spice jumps through that makes this a decent Merlot for the money. Nothing is intense and everything is subdued.
- The Score: At $9.95 I score this a 3 (out of 5). This is an average Merlot that will provide many enjoyable nights.
No reviews on Cellar Tracker or Cork’d for 2007 vintage
2008 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot
- The Stuff: 100% Washington Merlot, 10 months in oak, 13.8% ABV
- The Swirl: Mildly translucent with ruby red undertones. A pretty wine
- The Sniff: Smooth dark chocolate with cherry and oak. I would imagine this would be the aroma an Umpa Lumpa would smell in the chocolate river (if cherries were involved too).
- The Sip: The sip is slightly thin on the front that opens up to a nice moderate fruit – still cherries. Definitely a chocolate covered cherry Merlot.
- The Score: At only $12 (sometimes under $10) – At this price, a solid 3 (out of 5). A trustworthy wine for the money. Good sipper, but the thin front and single dimension leave the score lower.
Cellar Tracker average of 85 pts with 5 reviews
With these three tryouts (and 2 other Merlot), I place the 2008 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot on the starting roster at Right Field batting 8th.
My 2010 American League Baseball Predictions
AL East The Red Sox will win the East at 93 wins, Yankees will finish with 90 wins
AL Central The Twins will win the Central with 90 wins, Whitesox will finish with 86 wins
AL West The Rangers will win the West with 93 wins, the Mariners will finish with 91 wins and take the Wild Card for the AL
Do you have a player to suggest for the team? Leave a comment. who do you think will win each of the AL divisions? I’d love to hear your thoughts!