Sometimes you go to the wine store looking for a perfect bottle for a specific occasion. Such was the case last weekend when I went looking for the wine to compliment our roasted lamb for Easter dinner. Other times you go looking for an array of options to restock your wine rack, an errand that calls for searching through many bins and coming out with a wide variety of choices to fit a wide variety of contexts and moods. Such was my errand this week. And thus this weekend’s wine post is more than just the one bottle, and rather a look at the new inventory on the shelf!
1. Chento Malbec
A bronze medal winner of wines from Argentina, Chento is 100% pure Argentinian Malbec, best served decanted to smooth out the strong oakiness present on the first pour. After being allowed to breathe, that oak flavor becomes an undertone to a rich fruit aroma and flavor. If you like a “spicy” wine, this is an excellent choice with a complex spicy streak that lasts from the first sip through the finish. There are also some earthy tones through the finish. Some call it tobacco…others leather…I just think it’s earthy, like a minerality that keeps this wine on the dry/tart side of the spectrum rather than sweet/supple.
2. Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel
Fun fact, this was the first bottle of Zinfandel I ever tried, not now…but sometime back around age 22 when it was given to me as a gift. I was not a big red wine drinker at the time (are most 22 year old college kids big red wine drinkers?), but I remember feeling very adult as I would pour myself a glass and walk past my roommates sipping wine coolers like I had uncovered some secret of sophisticated drinking.
I’ve talked about old vines before, and how the older the vine, the smaller the harvest and more concentrated the flavors within the grapes. Bogle is no exception, and you can expect deep fruit flavors, the characteristic berry tartness, with strong notes of oak (the wine is barrel aged in oak for 12 months). This wine pairs with spice, so try it with a spicy pasta dish or sharp cheeses.
3. Benzinger Cabernet Sauvignon
Named one of the best California Cabernets under $20, Benzinger offers up a lot of flavor for a fraction of the price of comparable wines. Plus, you can feel good drinking Benzinger as everything the winery farms is either organic, sustainable, or biodynamic. It’s fruit forward on the first sip with strong notes of cherry. However, well balanced with medium acidity and tannins, it’s an overall crowd pleaser. An everyday kind of wine, Benzinger pairs well with many weekday dinner favorites from roasted chicken to tacos.
4. Ancient Vines Cline Zinfandel
Not to be outdone by the “old vines” label, Cline calls their old vines “ancient,” and at over 100 years old, they are some of the oldest vines remaining at the Cline Family Cellars. Adding to the “old time” flavor, however, is also the fact that this wine is aged in used barrels, mellowing out some of what might be considered traditional oakiness and giving it a a smoother flavor that leans more towards coffee or vanilla. This wine has a plush, full mouth feel that lingers long on the finish. And while it’s good now, the winemaker also suggests aging for 5-7 for full complexity to develop.
5. Josh Cabernet Sauvignon
When you’re married to a man named Josh, you end up drinking a lot of Josh wine because it turns out people like to give it as a clever gift. The Cabernet Sauvignon was the original Josh wine, so you know it’s a winner because its success and popularity allowed them to grow the label and expand their offerings. This was the bottle of wine I went looking for to pair with our Easter roast lamb as it’s suggested specifically for rich, roasted meats. It’s the strong hint of spice (the winemaker suggests cinnamon) helps to balance those rich food flavors, so a dessert pairing would likely work well also. Blackberry and plum round out the fruit flavors.
6. Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon
The Indian Wells label actually applies to four varieties of wines produced by Chateau Ste Michelle, and refers to the source of the grapes from the Indian Wells vineyard in Washington. The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the warm weather side of the vineyard (as opposed to the cooler valley side), and features strong, sun ripened fruit flavors. Blended with Syrah to add complexity and richness to the bouquet, the wine is aged in oak for almost two years before bottling. It’s a juicy wine, with a soft mouthfeel lacking bite and acidity.
7. Tandem Blend (Syrah/Grenache)
Tandem is the most expensive and the most highly ranked wine in this bunch, but if you can find it on special, it’s an interesting blend worth a few extra dollars. Scoring 94 from Wine Enthusiast, Tandem is joint project between Gilles Trouiller and Jean-Louis Vera of Clos de la Serre in Maury, where Gilles consults, and is a blend of Syrah and Grenache sourced from both men’s vineyards, lifting Gillies Trouiller out of obscurity. Having no experience with this wine or producer, I can’t speak to the actual specifics of the observations made to me by other winos, but the thing that struck me as most interesting was the way it was described to me as “think and smooth.” It’s the only wine that’s been explained to me as having a distinctive and unique texture, and so I’m most curious as to what a wine described by one as “the most interesting wine I’ve ever had” really tastes like!
8. Francis Coppola Black Diamond Claret
The Black Diamond Claret is the signature offering of the Francis Coppola line, so like the Josh Cabernet, if it’s the original that launched the success of the label, it must have something going for it. Consequently, this is the second Francis Coppola wine to be featured here. I’ve previously reviewed Francis Coppola Director’s Cut, another good choice. This wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc blend, blended in the French style of Bordeaux. Fruit forward with stone fruit and notes of anise, the wine is approachable and should be allowed to breathe so the complexities can come forward. The biggest trick with this bottle may not be the wine that’s in it, but the gold netting on the outside. There’s a special video on the Francis Coppola wine website that explains how to open and preserved the netting on the bottle when serving.
While I can’t responsibly suggest you make your way through all eight choices this weekend, I can suggest that any of them will make an excellent addition to your weekend plans. If you, like Josh and I, will be partaking in the epic battle of Winterfell episode of Game of Thrones this Sunday, than it’s likely you’ll need at least one bottle to see you through all the characters that are slated to bite the dust. That might be the right night for “Tandem.” I might need some complex wine to help unpack my complex emotional attachment to fictional characters!
Whichever you choose for your festivities…