NV Sausal Cellar Cats Red Zinfandel

Price: $13.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “The Cellar Cats Red is an estate Zinfandel named after Sophie and Gypise the two little black cats that have taken over the winery, literally! Gypsie wandered into the winery one day and captured the hearts of Peachie and Cindy, two of the winery owners, but then quickly disappeared. Unbeknownst to them, she birthed a litter of kittens in the cellar. When they were discovered, they were presumed to be dead, but at the last moment, they realized they were still alive, but just barely. Only one survived, her daughter, later named Sophie. The cats live at the winery here in beautiful Alexander Valley and needless to say, they are spoiled as if they were the heirs to the family fortune, hmmm, what fortune? One day, very near Sophies first birthday, the Demostene family decided to make a wine in honor of the cats, hence, The Cellar Cats Red was born. The popularity of this wine was so great, that it has now become an annual bottling.

This is our lightest, fruitiest Zinfandel. This wine craves a warm night on the porch or by the pool. No need to eat with this one, but it does pair nicely with hamburgers or even cheese and appetizers.”

What I Think:

Many know that I am a member of the Sausal wine club. The winery is located in the Alexander Valley area of Sonoma and known for their old vine Zinfandels. This is one of their latest offerings. It is the bottom of their four rung offering, two of the others have been written up here. Amazingly this one is made from 50-90 year old vines at a very fair cost of $13. Super mellow with loads of dark fruit this one is a winner. If $13 is an everyday drinker for you get a case. In my case I am going to need to do some further evaluation on the field. Stay tuned…I reserve my right to update this one based on my findings.

Rating: Pricey

NV Familia Nueva Vineyards Simplicity Red

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “This delicously affordable red table wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, from the Central Coast of California. This wine pairs nicely with grilled steaks or lamb chops, but is a great compliment to any fine meal.”

What I Think:

This red blend from the central coast was opened as a second bottle following pizza and Aglianico then finished the following day after carne asada and Carinena tinto.  After night one I wasn’t disappointed nor was I impressed, perfectly quaffable. Night two it showed me more. Given that this seems like a nice 12th bottle to me. Next time I’ll make it the main event with dinner and see if it can flourish.

Rating: 12th Bottle

NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut

Price: $36.99 @ Friend/Gift imported by Clicquot Inc.

What They Said:

Per wine.com “One of the world’s favorite Champagnes. Rich, nutty, and complex non-vintage Brut.  From one of the most prestigious Champagne houses, this Brut is the gold standard for non-vintage Champagne year in and year out. Deliciously rich on the nose and palate, with almond croissant and suggestions of Calvados in the aroma and flavor. A fuller-bodied style, creamy and round, with a long, lingering nutty finish. The best Champagne in a recent tasting. Simply superb!”

What I Think:

That same friend that was kind enough to invite us over for fresh tuna also sent us home with what must have been at least a 5lb piece for our continued enjoyment. How could you say no? From there we picked a few lucky friends to help us work through the cut. The couple that had joined us had bought this champagne for us when our son was born. As it was still chilling it seemed like as good of a time as any. I am not much of a champagne guy so you’re not going to get tasting notes from me. What I will tell you is that I want a bottle of this in my house at all times because if I am going to celebrate this is how you do it.

Rating: Wow!

NV Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot Number Forty Three

Price: $8.99 @ The Wine Club

What They Said:

Per the winery “Old Vine Red is a proprietary red wine that is round, smooth, “Zinfandel-like,” and noted for its balance, approachability, and consistency. It is primarily comprised of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane as well as smaller amounts of Cabernet and Syrah. Various Italian varietals round out the blend.

Our entire production of Old Vine Red has been completely allocated since 1978″.

What I Think:

I picked this up as part of a mixed dozen a few weeks back when I was shopping a few weeks back at The Wine Club picking up the Ridge. Given the results of the first two I am hoping a change in fortunes is one horizon.

We brought this one out to match some turkey burgers my wife cheffed up for us. On the nose there was loads of fruit with spice lingering in the background. At the front of the palate the dark fruit quickly gives way to the lighter taste of cherries. The texture is smooth, rich and chewy; there was a lot to like here. From my initial tasting it seemed heavy of Petite Sirah characteristics. I searched in vain for the blend percentage but alas I could only find historical figures giving me reason to believe it is roughly 60% Zinfandel, 20% Carignane and 20% Petite Sirah. While searching for this I found that it was bottled just January 1st of this year. Not sure that it could have benefited from any more time in the bottle but found it interesting none the less. I initially thought about rating this higher but given that I don’t believe this wine will find its way to my house again I’m going with “12th Bottle”. That said, if you see it give it a try, you are likely to enjoy it.

Rating: 12th Bottle

NV Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Many of you remember the old Rabbit Ridge Allure. It was a Rhône style blend made from various grapes we found that particular year that we thought would make interesting wine. It was very good, was a great value, and was like a wine from Cotes du Rhône or Provence.

We have not produced an Allure since 1998. Now however, a dream comes true for Rabbit Ridge with the release of our Allure de Robles. Our vineyards in Paso Robles are in the ideal climate for Rhône varietal wines. Allure de Robles is an estate grown wine that is a Chateau Neuf du Pape style. This wine is primarily a blend of Grenache, Counoise, Syrah and Mourvedre. The clones of the grapes are predominantly from Tablas Creek Winery and Vineyard Nursery, meaning they are cuttings from Chateau Beaucastle in Chateau Neuf du Pape. The wine is from 2003 and 2004 vintages. We made Allure de Robles a non-vintage wine in order to keep it in true Chateau Neuf du Pape style.

Allure de Robles is priced extremely moderately at one-third to one-half of what similar wines are selling for from the Paso Robles region. 1,994 cases produced.”

What I Think:

Again, TJ’s gets accolades for getting the prices they do, however it is that they do it as this wine cost double direct from the winery. I found myself opening this after dinner one evening as I didn’t want to finish the Rosenblum Petite Sirah nor the Navarro Pinot that were the open and available options. First off, this is never the ideal situation for opening a bottle of wine you’ve never had before. You want a known commodity. Something that when you pop the cork you know it is ready to drink. It doesn’t need air or food to be at its best, something like this Nero d’ Avola. Since I had nothing of the sort on hand I pulled the cork and hoped for the best.

This wine is made out of a mixture of grapes from 2003 and 2004 and was the first of this label that they had produced since 1998. Try as I did, I couldn’t find anything specific on why it had not been made over the years or a blend percentage by year. The wine is primarily a blend GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre). GSM’s can have quite a different look and feel based on which grape is dominant. I would never think of the Australian version as elegant or the French as a bold offering. Since no blend percentage was readily available and the name implied a leaning towards Europe my expectations were set accordingly.

Even as I was opening this bottle I was thinking that it looked very light in color. I had a misconception that lighter color always meant lower alcohol content. This was quickly erased when I saw this one measured in at nearly 15%. I guess darker only means stronger when it comes to beer… Initially, I was getting more floral notes on the nose than fruit. With some time it seemed to get a bit fruiter and familiar on the nose. When I say familiar over the two days I was drinking this wine there was something nagging my mind that I should know based on what I was drinking, alas it has yet to come to me. On the palate there were loads of light, forward fruits with raspberries being the most prevalent. This held quite well through the mid-palate before giving way to a slightly peppering, simple finish. This was certainly a pleasant effort. With the loads of raspberries and hints of strawberries I came around to thinking of it as a poor man’s, fruit-driven Pinot Noir. This realization really came to the fore when I paired a glass with some turkey tacos which easily overpowered this wine. To recap, everything about this wine is light; perhaps almost even a bit rosy (is that what was nagging me). If this appeals to you I recommend giving this one a go. Given that it is light and refreshing It could be perfect pre-meal wine for a summer barbeque. I wonder if it would work chilled?

Rating: 12th Bottle

NV Rosenblum “Desiree”

Price: $18.00 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per the winery “To produce this wine, a selection of fortified wines from different regions and different vintages were evaluated. The blend that combined the most intense and most chocolate characteristics was chosen. We have special liquid chocolate syrup that is put together in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for us that will coalesce with the blended wine to enhance the flavors of chocolate, coconut and vanilla in the wine that is already geared for being a great chocolate experience.

The fortified wines that make up this blend are Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, and Zinfandel. These are wines that are kissing cousins in terms of flavor and intensity. In addition they bring together both the new and the old world with varietals that are famous for dessert wines.”

What I Think:

Ah, another dessert wine and a chocolate one at that. When I started this endeavor I at least hoped to establish some expertise in the wine area, dessert wines weren’t even a consideration I didn’t even know that chocolate dessert wines existed. That is my main reason for posting this, so that you would realize that as well.

This wine seems to have the same general idea as a port. The wine portion is made of some of the Portuguese varietals along with Zinfandel. It isn’t clear whether brandy is included but as it is fortified it must be. Wonder what the mix is between wine, brandy and chocolate. This certainly is an interesting character, couldn’t be richer in the mouth. For me, not a huge chocolate fan, I had a hard time getting past these overpowering flavors to get to anything more nuanced. Perhaps I should have tried to chill this a bit, I do like chocolate milk. Given that my guests usually loved it, it was worth having around. If you know someone who loves eating chocolate while drinking wine it may be the perfect gift.

Rating: Not for Me

NV Warre’s Warrior Porto

Price: $11.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Vineyard Brands

What They Said:

Per the winery “Warrior is the oldest mark of Port in the World, having been shipped continuously since the 1750s. The traditional style has been maintained over the years and is today a classic full-bodied wine with wonderful richness and balance. Aged in seasoned oak casks for 4 to 5 years before being drawn off and bottled following a light filtration. Warrior Special Reserve is ready for immediate drinking and does not require any decanting or ageing. Warre’s Warrior is a classic Special Reserve with dark, intense fruit – a superb Port in the traditional style and one of the finest available for everyday drinking.”

What I Think:

As mentioned with the dinner party I have had another scenario to envision, what to do with dessert wines? I have these around just for these occasions when we actually serve dessert, truth be told I am not and don’t hope to be a connoisseur in this area. My wife actually cares for them more than I do. On occasion, I’ll have one while out tasting or get one in a wine club shipment but barring that I am just scanning the bottles at TJ’s that is cost effective and hope inspiring, that is how this bottle ended up in the house.

Warre’s is part of the Symington Family Estates that is known for bottlings such as Dow’s and Graham’s. It is made from a blend of traditional Portuguese varieties from the Douro Valley though no percentages are listed here, bummer. With these grapes approximately 20% brandy is added to the mix to get us the final product which is kept in the barrel for five years. In the glass it has that ruby tint that one would expect, in the mouth it has the richness you are accompanied to be seems to lack the intensity and depth that I have come to know. This one seems on the lighter side with cherry-ish flavors riding on top of the oak from the barrel. These two aren’t all that well integrated which leaves the taste of brandy and tannins the dominate forces at the end. If there is one thing I need from my ports it is a lingering, enjoyable taste lasting long after I have put the glass down, this one doesn’t deliver. I don’t think it is worth the money, there surely must be cheaper/better port available.

Rating: Skip It