2015 Trinity Oaks Merlot, Wine Review 90!

Let's face it: at the $10 mark, we tend to expect fruity, pleasant wine, but nothing really special. Just a decent glass of wine for the midweek meal or an after-work wind-down. If we get that, we are happy. But occasionally, an inexpensive wine will surprise us with a bit more, and today, we had that pleasure.

Today we opened the Trinity Oaks Merlot and, as always, gave it a vigorous decanting. Initially, the nose revealed chocolate, blackberry, and black cherries with a pleasant aroma of roasted vanilla bean. The palate coated the tongue with red and black cherries sustained by powdery tannins.  No fruit bomb here! While the fruit was rich and offered interesting aromas (including salted taffy, of all things), it was well balanced by the wood which continued to the fore, over time granting whiffs of autumn underbrush and pencil shavings. Over time, there were even elements like faint bell pepper and burnt matchstick that continued to entice.

We are always delighted to find a true bargain, a wine that delivers beyond its price point and exceeds expectations. The 2015 Trinity Oaks Merlot California, at $10.98, delivers. And, as if giving you more than your money's worth on the wine isn't enough, Trinity Oaks has a program, One Bottle One Tree, where they plant one tree for every bottle sold. Great people making great wine!

2014 Handcraft Malbec, Tastings 91 Points!

At Kats Wine and Spirits, we strive to bring our customers wines with an excellent price to score ratio, and with the Handcraft 2014 Malbec, we have a real winner on our hands. With a 91 score, the tasting team (Tasho, Jimm, and Andrew) decided to see how this Malbec would respond to a little decanting.

From the start, this wine had a very inviting aroma with inky blackberries, dark plum skins, dry cooking chocolate, and dried herbs filling the decanter in the first five minutes.  Each interval brought a new flavor to the party with soft purple flowers and cocoa powder at 10 minutes, blackcurrants and faint peppercorns at 15, and a soft minerality at 20 minutes.

At 20 minutes, our first taste delivered an exceedingly generous 45+ second finish of rich fruits and a soft, powdery minerality that stayed even longer. With just 20 minutes of patience, this wine delivers a range of fruits on the palate with yellow plums, tart black cherries, hints of baked dark fruits, and blackberries, all complimented by a light taste of cocoa powder.

However, this wine was not finished.  At 35 minutes, a lovely anise scent arrived to complicate the nose further.  By 50 minutes, the melding of flavors, silky texture, and soft powdery minerality had us saying the wine was well worth twice its price.

While the 91 point score from Tasting’s.com is no slouch, we feel that this Malbec and its dash of Zinfandel is worth an extra point. We give the Handcraft 2014 Malbec a Kats 92, and at $11.98, it’s our best sub-$15 Malbec out of California!

2014 Baron de Ley Tempranillo, Wine Spectator 90!

Hailing from the Carboneras vineyard, the highest vineyard in the Rioja appellation, the 2014 Tempranillo is our newest wine from the Baron de Ley winery. Promising red fruits and well-developed tannins, we at the tasting team selected this Tempranillo as the next wine for our decanting test.

10 minutes after opening, the initial nose of this wine was resplendent with black cherries, soft herbs, and subtle whiffs of scorched earth. An additional 10 minutes began to reveal the sweet cherry pipe tobacco aromas while ever so slightly tart and extended red and black cherry notes and soft white pepper spiciness attacked the palate.  These flavors came in a sustained wave that showcased an impressive 35+ second finish.  While this wine may not be especially acidic, the slight tartness and a delightful salinity give this wine a very refreshing personality.

At the 30-35 minute mark, this wine became impressively complicated with emerging subtle flavors of black olive, elegant cedar, faint graphite, and sweet cinnamon spices.  This level of complexity is a rarity, particularly at the $13.87 price point.  This wine is truly a gift from Baron de Ley and would be ideal for your next tapas outing or a prosciutto & olive pizza.  For those who enjoy tuning into the subtle complexities of this Tempranillo, Wine Spectator’s 90 point review will seem a tad stingy.  Go ahead and consider this a Kats 91 and a spectacular value! 

2013 Pacific Rim Dry Riesling, Wine Enthusiast 90!

Often pigeonholed as a sweet wine, Riesling is not a one trick pony.  There is a bevy of dry Rieslings available, and we at the Tasting Team (Tasho, Jimm, & Andrew) had a chance to inspect an example of the style with the Pacific Rim Dry Riesling from Yakima Valley.

This Pacific Rim, a 2013 vintage, wine pours a rich honey color, a trait of rieslings with age. After 10 minutes of decanting, this Riesling stayed true to form with a pleasant dusty, dry chalkiness and honeyed green apples on the nose. An additional five minutes revealed a soft and attractive herbal component to the aroma with hints of citrus and pear coming through as well.

20 minutes in, our first taste revealed a myriad of citrus with lemon, lime, and ruby red grapefruit arriving front and center with a tinge of orange on the side of the tongue and a mouth-coating finish.

At 30 minutes of decanting, the minerality of this wine begins to emerge and contributes to more body than your average dry Riesling. On the whole, this is a very approachable wine that will be sure to garner plenty of praise. However, we found this Pacific Rim Riesling to be lacking the big punch of acidity that we've come to expect from a dry Riesling so expect a softer style.

At $14.98 and 90 points from Wine Enthusiast, we feel this rich and slightly softer style delivers great value and will drink well on cooler Spring and Summer evenings. 

2015 Jacob's Creek "Two Lands" Pinot Grigio, Tastings.com 90 Points!

Jacob's Creek calls the 2015 vintage their best in a decade and after tasting their "Two Lands" Pinot Grigio, we, on the tasting team, understand their need to celebrate.

This South Australian white opens with an aroma of green apples and pears with hints of peaches over soft chalkiness. A few minutes of air allows aromas of high-pitched lemon zest to add dimension to the nose. With 20 minutes of decanting, developing notes of banana pudding with vanilla wafers and the fleeting nuances of fruit stripe gum round out an already complex nose.

With such dimension to the nose of this wine, we had hopes that the "Two Lands" would follow through on the palate.  Initially, this Pinot Grigio delivered a burst of energetic, refreshing lemons and peaches with an impressive staying power.  Lingering for more than 40 seconds, the finish of this wine has an elegance that far exceeds its $11.98 price point. 

A unique feature of this wine is a creaminess on the palate that contrasts and yet perfectly intertwines with its acidic citrus energy.  In fact, we would describe the finish of this wine to be refreshing like lemon meringue pie (without meringue).

 2015 Jacob's Creek "Two Lands" Pinot Grigio would be ideal for redfish at the Mayflower Cafe or a summer evening on the patio. We find Tastings.com's 90 point review to be entirely fair and validating of this remarkable $11.98 value.

2014 Concannon Cabernet, Paso Robles, Tastings 93!

This 2014 Concannon Cabernet from Paso Robles is coming in with a 93 point score from Tastings.com, and at $15.69 per bottle, it's fighting well above its weight. The Concannon has initial aromas of blackberries, black currants, and whiffs of cocoa powder. However, a little swirling of the wine introduces blueberries, eucalyptus, and hints of bell pepper to the nose.

On first taste, juicy black fruits, riding on acidic energy, flood the palate while the conclusion is a cascade of black grapes, black plums, and blueberries. For decanting, this wine is ripe for test sipping between the 20-30 minute mark where beautiful oak, vanilla bean, and elegant cedar notes fill the nose. After 30 - 35 minutes of decanting, one's patience is handsomely rewarded as a seamless wine with character and elegance that far exceeds its price reveals itself. Concannon has come through with a massive over delivery in this wine that easily drinks like a wine twice its $15 price!

- Andrew Dunaway, Jimm Brumley, and Tasho Katsaboulas

2011 Edgebaston Chardonnay, Wine Spectator 90, $14.98.

The excellent 2011 Edgebaston Chardonnay from Stellenbosch, South Africa opens with aromas of white flowers, bread-dough yeastiness, fresh lemons, and mineral water. On the palate, crisp green apples, pears, and faint almonds come through with caramel custard and ground cinnamon. The personality of this wine is crisp with refreshing citrus minerality, yet there's warmth from the caramel custard and cinnamon that creates an attractive duality. Many who love unoaked Chardonnays and Chablis will love still love this wine as the caramel custard, and cinnamon nuances are subtle and add interesting complexities. This wine is ideal for those who love Northern Burgundy but do not want to endure the price. I feel that Wine Spectators 90 point review was a little stingy and would rate this wine in the 91-92 range.

- Tasho Katsaboulas

2013 Seaglass Cabernet, Paso Robles (Tastings 93 Points!)

At just $13.87, the '13 Seaglass Cabernet delivers a wine worth twice its price. After agitating the wine in a decanter and 17 minutes, the wine gives off aromas of vanilla extract, baked blackberries, and cool, dry mint. At 25 minutes, aromas of blueberries and dry mint chocolate (wine is dry) join a palate featuring gobs of fresh, lively black cherries on an impressive 45+ second finish! At around 45 minutes, the vibrant fruit flavors join a silky saline minerality, hints of salted dried meats, and charming sandalwood accents. At 55 minutes, green bell peppers emerge with raisin-box aromas and an array of plums on the palate. There won't be many other sub-$15 Cabernets that deliver similar quality. I find Tastings.com's 93-point review to be spot on. 

- Tasho Katsaboulas

2015 Penya Red Blend, France (Tasho Katsaboulas 91)

The 2015 Penya Grenache-Carignan-Syrah blend from Côtes Catalanes, France generously rewards those who decant with patience. Out of the decanter, an initial nose of spice, violets, dry gray stones, and tart red fruits with blue and black fruit accents is joined by an interesting inkiness. At 15 minutes, faint whiffs of smokiness emerge and meld with aromas of fresh raspberries. At 21 minutes, the fruit is just beginning to loosen a bit, and plum skins are emerging on the nose, but the wine is still not quite ready to drink. At 27 minutes, the fruit is starting to loosen introducing the beginning of the drinking window. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate scored this wine 89 points. For the first 40 minutes, I agreed. However, after 40 minutes of decanting, this wine soars to a new level as lush black fruits impart a deep, rich flavor that brings a wonderful counterbalance to the tart, juicy red fruits. At 57 minutes, there's a sappiness to the plum and raspberry fruits that remind me of Now-and-Later candy (wine is dry). This interesting red blend kills it at just $13.87! I have no reservations in upgrading the Wine Advocate's 89 to the 91 point score this wine fully deserves.

- Tasho Katsaboulas

Purple Cowboy 2013 Tenacious Red (Syrah-Cabernet), Paso Robles, $14.98, Wine Review 90 Points!

This wine is selling well with lots of repeat buyers. Honestly, after trying the wine, I'm a little surprised. My surprise stems not from there being anything wrong with the wine, but from the wine's need for decanting. Usually, the average consumer just opens, pours and drinks. On wines we've tried that need a certain amount of decanting to show their best, we always advise our patrons of that specific need. In this instance, the 2013 Purple Cowboy benefits greatly from 25-30 minutes of decanting which may seem somewhat lengthy for a sub-$15 wine. For those of you who have been liking this wine without decanting it, I know that you will love it after 25-30 minutes of air!

During the decanting process, the wine starts out dark and charred with aromas of blackberry liqueur, stewed black plums, and burnt matchstick. There's a slight bitterness to the fruit flavors that eventually disappears. As the wine begins opening, aromas of pencil shavings, earth, and distant bell pepper emerge. 

At about 27 minutes into the decanting process, the gradual improvement of the wine reaches a point that becomes very inviting. All of the aromas and flavors mentioned above meld nicely. A hint of black cherry emerges adding a red-fruit complexity that nicely contrasts the stewed black plum and blackberry flavors. Aromas and flavors of cassis begin to further complicate the wine. At 38 minutes after opening, an interesting aroma comes up that's like Juicy Fruit gum. Warm aromas of cinnamon and oak join in with the cool aroma of dried soft green leaves. Although the wine has a nice 25-second finish, it seems to start fading a bit past 50 minutes after opening. Therefore, the drinking window begins after about 27 minutes of decanting and last 30 minutes.

The 2013 Purple Cowboy has the perfect personality for cool to cold Fall and Winter evening. Enjoy this one on the patio with friends after dinner. It will pair nicely with flavorful grilled ribeyes. With proper decanting, I find that the wine lives up to Wine Review's 90-point score (quite good for a sub-$15 wine).

Tasho Katsaboulas

This article was published on February 9, 2016