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!

2013 Aquinas Pinot Noir, Sonoma - Napa, Wine Review 95 Points!

Pinot Noir this impressive is beyond rare around $20. Jimm and I (Tasho) were amazed as the 2013 Aquinas Pinot over delivered with extreme excess making many Pinots at two to three times the price look bad! 

Importantly, it can't be stressed enough that this wine demands 35 minutes of decanting before it will begin delivering its riches. Immediately after pouring the wine into your decanter, please set an alarm for 35 minutes because you won't want to miss any stage of this dynamic wine! At 35+ minutes, this wine remarkably broadens and becomes intensely aromatic. 

The initial slightly darker fruit flavors of black raspberry, plum, and black cherry begin to work themselves into a high-pitched frenzy of bright red-fruit flavors featuring cherry, raspberry, pomegranate, and cranberry skins delivered with a sensational citrus-fruit juiciness that's like Mandarin orange! The incredibly bright acidic energy results in some of the fruit flavors displaying a tartness that interestingly contrasts a slight sappiness similar to that of candied-apple coating (wine is dry). Plus, an incredible array of aromas and nuances make this an absorbing wine. Roasted vanilla, eucalyptus, purple flowers, graphite, spice (distant clove), fine French oak, and a pleasant earthiness are all delivered on the long mouth-watering finish! For those patient enough to allow full development, blueberry flavors further complicate the array of red-fruit flavors after an hour and fifteen minutes or so. 

This wine is the epitome of a holiday-food-friendly wine; however, the wine is so nuanced that it's a shame to introduce the distraction of food flavors. Importantly, because this wine demands 35 minutes of decanting followed by very slow enjoyment over the next 45+ minutes to allow full development, it's best enjoyed alone or with one friend. If you taste with four, get a couple of bottles and decant them simultaneously in a large decanter.

Because this wine retails for just $21, I was skeptical of Wine Review's 95 point review. However, this dominant Pinot delivers a spectacular parade of flavors with remarkable energy, a silky mouthfeel, and a long elegant finish that has me on board! I would love to see this Pinot in a blind tasting against this year's very best $50+ Pinots.

- Tasho Katsaboulas

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

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

2014 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Wine Review 95!!

The usual team of Jimm, Kyle, and Tasho tasted this outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. After vigorously agitating the wine in a decanter for 15 minutes, it offered aromas of salted pear, underripe banana, honeydew melon, and white peach. With more time, additional complexities of white flowers, light spice, and cold butter emerge. The wine has an incredibly agile mouth-feel and energetically delivers white peach, white grapefruit, and refreshing lemon citricity on the palate. This wine would pair perfectly with sticky cheeses (especially goat's cheese), rich foods, and fried seafood (especially calamari). Enjoy this wine's 35+ second finish on warm days on the patio. At just $17.98. Dry Creek over delivers for the price!

- 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

Vina Robles 2012 Red 4, $16.98, Wine Review 90 Points

Tasho and I (Jimm) tasted this wine under our usual rigorous tasting conditions, giving the wine ample time to open and show its hand. As mentioned, this is a Rhone-inspired blend from Paso Robles, California. However, atypical from Southern Rhones, this blend showcases an interesting 50% Petite Sirah with the normal Rhone elements of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre composing the other half. Also, while this wine does display a power one might expect from a Paso Robles red, it does it with finesse, complexity, and less alcohol (13.9%) than some of the high-octane offerings from the region. But the fruit is unmistakably the star of the show here and is well displayed and supported.

Initially, the nose reveals a tarry quality, yet combined with a dry, spicy leafiness. There is an earthy depth here, stewed plums with reduced blackberry paste, and blue fruit and dark chocolate powder that richly extends to the plush mid-palate. The fruit-forward finish is long and underpinned by an herbal/spice softness.

While not the usual would-be Rhone blend, fans of the style will find a welcome value here, rich and complex, powerful without unnecessary muscle, and delicious fruit served upon very balanced tannins. A joy to drink.


This article was published on February 12, 2016