Dancing Bull Merlot – Big, Fruit-filled and Tasty

Dancing Bull Merlot – Big, Fruit-filled and TastyWhen you see the mark on the Dancing Bull Merlot you might reckon that the design looks similar to that found on Rancho Zabaco Zinfandels.  Well, it is… and the two are related.  Rancho Zabaco, part of the E&J Gallo portfolio, has been around since 1996 and has developed a excellent reputation for Zinfandel over the years.  They also produce Sauvignon Blanc, but they are best known for their Zinfandel, of which they have a few different offerings.
The Zinfandel below the Rancho Zabaco mark comes from the Sonoma County province, but starting with the 2000 vintage, winemaker Eric Cinnamon started experimenting with a Zinfandel made with grapes from additional parts of California.  The new wine was released below the Dancing Bull sub-brand, which has a lower fee than additional Rancho Zabaco wines.  Now, to transition from Zinfandel to the topic of the day: Merlot.  In 2006, Dancing Bull added a few additional varieties to the brand, including Merlot. Read more

Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec

Bodega Elena de Mendoza MalbecLast nighttime, we reviewed a very excellent, although relatively pricey, malbec from Cruz Andina.  Well, tonight, we’re checking out what a malbec for below $10 can deliver.
I sometimes like to give a small background tale about a wine, but with this one I don’t really have much tale to share.  This brand is part of the E&J Gallo family.  And that’s about all I have for you, additional than my tasting notes — which will reveal that even without a rich tale, I found this wine to be quite nourishing. Read more

Alamos Selección Malbec

Alamos Selección MalbecLike many wine producers, Alamos produces a link different tiers of their wines.  I’ve earlier reviewed their entry-level Malbec, which was pretty excellent.  This bottle, branded Alamos Selección, is the higher-tier Malbec from Alamos.  And while it’s at the high end of wines produced below the Alamos brand, these wines are part of the Catena family, which releases a number of even-more-high-end Malbec below the Catena brands.  Fee-wise, at 20 bucks it’s at the high end of what we cover at Cheap Wine Ratings, but it’s also approaching the high end of enjoyability.  And that’s the suggested retail fee, so you should be able to find it on sale for less.
Alamos Selección Malbec is 100% Malbec from high altitude vineyards in the Mendoza province.  All of the grapes for this Malbec came from vineyards in the Uco Valley.  The wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak. Read more

Diseño Malbec

Diseño MalbecSometimes I search and search, but can’t find any background info on a wine to share with you all.  I combed through the results on my favorite wine search engine, Able Grape, and there was nothing enlightening to be found.  Even the website listed on the bottle doesn’t seem to be working.  All I have to give you is my review, and maybe that’s all you want anyway. Read more

Down Under Chardonnay by Crane Lake

Down Under Chardonnay by Crane LakeYou won’t see much marketing for Crane Lake wines out there, but you will find them in many supermarkets.  Crane Lake is another mark from cheap wine mogul Fred Franzia and his Bronco Wine Companionship.  These are the same folks in the rear the legendary Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck) that you’ll find in Trader Joe’s supplies.  The Charles Shaw mark is exclusive to Trader Joe’s, and so Bronco Wine Companionship produced Crane Lake wines as a mark to sell at similar rock-bottom prices at additional supplies.
I’ve seen Crane Lake around for a few years, but this is the first I’ve seen of the “Down Below by Crane Lake” mark.  As you could probably guess, this wine comes from Australia (while most Crane Lake wines are Californian).
My general rule of thumb on this site is to only review wines priced between $5-20.  While I’m a fan of paying as small as possible for my wine, I’ve found that I’m generally dissatisfied with those below $5.  So, I usually avoid them.  But I received this $3 bottle of Down Below as a sample, so I threw it in the mix during my blind Chardonnay tasting to see how it would fare. Read more

Jean Bousquet Malbec Reserva

Jean Bousquet Malbec ReservaOur series on Malbec continues today with a look at a very excellent Malbec from a French winemaker who relocated to Argentina.  Jean Bousquet started his winemaking career in Carcassonne, France, where he spent over 20 years honing his craft.  In 1990 he first became familiar with the vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina and in 1997 he bought land in Tupungato, Mendoza and relocated his winery to Argentina.
I tasted this wine alongside some $40+ Malbecs—which were exceptional—and it held it’s own next to them. Read more

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Shiraz

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate ShirazMcWilliam’s Wines has a long heritage as a family-run winery in Australia since 1877.  They tout themselves as “Australia’s most awarded winery,” and they certainly have earned a number of awards over the years.
McWilliam’s has vineyards in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales—the latter being the area where the grapes for this Shiraz were harvested.  While there are a link different lines of wine available below the McWilliam’s name, the Hanwood Estate is their entry-level wine in terms of fee. Read more

Dashwood Pinot Noir

Dashwood Pinot NoirI have to declare that while I’ve tasted a lot of pinot noir, I haven’t tasted much from New Zealand.  It’s not that I have anything against the province, I just haven’t come across a lot of NZ pinot noir at tastings I’ve attended.  And it’s unfortunate that I haven’t had much, as New Zealand is known to make some intriguing wines from this grape.
There are numerous variations in climate and soils throughout New Zealand, which result in varying characteristics in the pinot noir produced there.  Some of the most highly acclaimed come from the Martinborough province, where loam over gravel soils produce pinot noir with concentrated plum flavors.
But this Dashwood pinot noir comes from the Marlborough province, known for producing fruit-filled pinot noir with loads of cherry and plum flavors.  The cool conditions in this area are perfect for pinot noir. Read more