Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Claret

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection ClaretI imagine that for many American wine consumers, particularly those who are relatively new to wine, the question, “What is a Claret?” is the thought that crosses your mind as you see this bottle on the shelves.  ”Is it a varietal?  Is it a location?  I know I’ve heard James Bond submit to a wine as a Claret.”  These are all legitimate questions and thoughts to have.  I too once thought, “What’s the difference between a Claret and a Bordeaux?”
Well, it’s really quite simple.  ”Claret” is a British term that has been used for centuries as a generic name for Bordeaux.  It’s not indicative of a particular part of Bordeaux or a specific varietal, it’s just another name for Bordeaux.  The French historically haven’t used the term themselves, although I’ve read that they are reclaiming the word in 2012 to describe wines that are “set alight and fruity, simple to drink, in the same style as the original claret when it was prized by the English in former centuries.”
So, the next question you may be preoccupied is, “Is this wine from Bordeaux?”  The answer to that question is, “no.”  In the case of Francis Coppola Winery they are using Claret to indicate this wine is the style of a Bordeaux.  It’s a Bordeaux style blend from California with 81% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petite verdot, 5% malbec, 3% merlot and 2% cabernet franc.  You may notice that the wine is also labeled as a Cabernet Sauvignon and although it’s a blend, American wines can technically be labeled as a varietal if they are made from 75% or more of a single variety.
In addition to the blend, another touch that adds to the Bordeaux-like nature of this wine is the fact that it was aged for 15 months in French oak. Read more

Silver Ridge Sauvignon Blanc

Silver Ridge Sauvignon BlancI wasn’t familiar with Silver Ridge Vineyards previous to tiresome their Napa sauvignon blanc offering, but with so many “Silver” and “Ridge” named wines earning such fantastic accolades, I was sure that they chose the name smartly.  From a branding standpoint, my subconscious seemed excited that I was about to consume a really excellent wine.  Although, I’ve become such a fan of New Zealand sauvignon blanc that consciously, I was preparing for a let down. Read more

Black Box Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay

Black Box Napa Valley Reserve ChardonnayOver the past few months we’ve received a surprising number of boxed wine samples.  I infer it shouldn’t be a surprise since we are all about cheap wine.  But even though we’re into cheap wine, we’re subdue finicky and certainly prefer to review excellent, cheap wine (or call it “inexpensive wine” if you have a hang-up with the word cheap.)  Anyway… we have noticed an increase in wine producers using bag-in-box packaging and we’ve noticed the quality of the wine going into boxes to be improving as well.
Black Box is one of the producers that’s doing a nice job with their boxed wines.  And when I say, “nice job” I mean that the wine is OK.  They do better with some varieties than with others.  This chardonnay I would say is excellent.  I was really impressed with the bouquet, but not as wowed by the palate.  It doesn’t “blow me away” as the best chardonnay I’ve ever tasted, but for the equivalent fee of $8.00 a bottle it’s pretty excellent.
I should note that Black Box in fact puts out two different chardonnays.  They have a Monterey County chardonnay, which I have not tasted, and this Napa Valley Reserve chardonnay. Read more

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot NoirRobert Mondavi was one of the most vital pioneers of Californian wine, if not the most vital.  He is know for his tremendous contributions to technological advancements and marketing of California wine.  And it’s a shame that this the first time we’ve reviewed a wine bearing his name, although we have reviewed additional wines from the Mondavi family.
Although started as a family companionship, the winery was bought by Constellation Brands in 2004, where it resides today.  There are a few different brands that bear the Robert Mondavi name and the Robert Mondavi Private Selection brand is a mid-level brand — despite the fact that “private selection” might imply that it’s the best stuff, selected for a private few, lucky consumers.  That’s excellent marketing!  While it’s not the cheapest wine you can find with the Robert Mondavi name on it, it’s far from the most expensive.
Now while I’m being a small bit snarky about the name, I’m not going to complain about the wine in this bottle.  It smells and tastes like what I expect from an inexpensive, Californian pinot noir — in a excellent way, I know some folks would say they expect an inexpensive, Californian pinot noir to suck.  But it’s not terrible, and for the fee it’s a steal! Read more

Barefoot Bubbly Review

Barefoot Bubbly ReviewI’ve reviewed a number of different Barefoot wines on this site and it’s one bargain brand that seems to do OK.  I’ve never been really blown away by any of their wines, but they’ve all been quite drinkable and fantastic values.  That continues to be the case with their line-up of sparkling wine… none of it was exceptional, but it was all excellent.
So, what does that mean?  Should you buy it?  I would say that depends on how you’re serving it and who you’re serving it to.  If you’re buying for a party or wedding and your guests won’t know the difference between this and a $50 bottle of French champagne, then by all means buy this stuff.  If you’re building champagne cocktails and will be mixing it with additional stuff then this is a excellent choice — there’s no sense in buying an expensive champagne just to bury the flavor in mixers.  Or if you just want to try something different, there are a link unique sparklers in the Barefoot line-up that are worth a try.
You may notice that Barefoot Bubbly is labeled as “Champagne,” and you may wonder, “Can they do that, I thought Champagne could only come from France?”  Yes, it’s right that the term “Champagne” is legally reserved for wines from the Champagne province of France.  But, many US-made sparkling wines were using the term previous to the choice was made to no longer use it on US-made wines.  Those wines labeled as “Champagne” previous to 2006 were “grandfathered” in to allocate them to continue using that descriptor as long as the province of production is also on the mark (e.g. California).
Here are my thoughts on the Barefoot Bubbly collection. Read more

Calcu Rosé

Calcu RoséWe’ve been reviewing a lot of sparkling rosé wines lately, but rosé can also be a fantastic wine in subdue form.  This one from Calcu comes from the Colchagua Valley in Chile, one of my favorite wine regions when it comes to finding fantastic values.
If you closed your eyes and smelled this wine you might guess it to be a sauvignon blanc, due to the intense tropical fruit aromas.  But this wine is 55% malbec, 35% syrah, and 10% petit verdot — varietals much more associated with deep, dark, rich wines than a dry, acidic and tropical rosé. Read more

Maquis Cabernet Sauvignon

Maquis Cabernet SauvignonA lot of the wines that I review seem to have a similar tale.  A family owns a vineyard for generations and recently renovated their winery, blah, blah, blah.  Well, the tale in the rear Maquis has a slightly different twist.  Yes, it’s a vineyard that has been owned by the same family for over 100 years.  But for most of that time, the family that owns this vineyard only produced grapes for additional vintners.  It wasn’t until about ten years ago that they chose to make some of their own wine from the grapes they grow.
They built a new “gravity flow” winery to produce their wine.  That essentially means that the winery is designed to use gravity to go the wine through the administer rather than pumping the wine from place to place.  The theory is that it treats the wine more gently, making a better product.  For example, during the initial crush you don’t really want to “crush” the grapes but gently crack them open and let the juice escape.  If you were to truly crush the wine, you might also crush the seeds within the grapes adding bitter flavors to the wine.
Since 2005, winemaker Xavier Choné has been consulting with Maquis to help them take better advantage of location within their vineyards in Colchagua Valley.  Choné works with vineyards around the world and is associated with some fantastic wines, like Opus One, and Maquis is the only South American vineyard he’s working with. Read more