Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Review

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards

Wine lovers making their way to Napa Valley owe it to to themselves to make Jamieson Ranch Vineyards their first stop as they make their way north into wine country from San Francisco International Airport.

As the southernmost winery in Napa Valley, this impressive 300 acre estate has 100 organically farmed acres planted to vine which benefit from the cooling effects of the nearby San Pablo Bay. Varietals grown on their estate include: Viognier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The fruit for their Cabernet Sauvignon offerings is sourced from other sites in Napa Valley.
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards

As you make your way up the majestic tree lined driveway you’ll see the estate’s Viognier plantings along with this quirky sign pointing out that Jamieson Ranch Vineyards has a population of 63,471 vines. This fun fact sets the mood for the no nonsense laid back western setting which you’re about to encounter.

Formerly known as Kirkland Ranch Winery, Valley Gate Vineyards and most recently Reata Winery (Reata translates to Lariat in Spanish, hence the Spanish/Western aesthetic), the winery had undergone some cash-flow and wine quality challenges in the past. But big changes have taken place and its far more than just a simple re-branding of the winery.

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards is excelling under the leadership of it’s new president Bill Leigon who was the visionary behind the Hahn Family Estates mega-brand. The new winemaker Juan Jose Verdina actually served as assistant winemaker under Bill Leigon at Hahn Family Estates and Mr. Leigon believes that his talent and experience will be a tremendous asset to Jamieson Ranch. Combine this with a new executive culinary team and it’s easy to see why Jamieson Ranch Vineyards is finally hitting it’s stride.Jamieson Vineyards Entrance

Conveniently located off of Highway 12 and not far from where it intersects with Highway 29, there is ample parking and likely to be less of a crowd than you might find at other Napa Valley Wineries. Surprisingly there was no road noise as the serene setting is set high up and just far enough back from HWY 12. Some fun facts about the winery:

  • There are actually 60,000 honey bees on the estate which provide honey for the spacious 3,000 square foot tasting room.
  • The vineyards are farmed entirely organic!
  • Spacious terraces afford sweeping views of Napa Valley where you can enjoy a seated tasting in an alfresco setting. They even have cozy heat lamps for those crisp Northern California days.
  • Three of their wines are available on tap: The Carneros Chardonnay, Three County Pinot Noir and the Double Lariat Cabernet.
  • The winery decided to keep the Reata name for it’s cooler climate varietals.

Jamieson Ranch Tasting Menu

Once seated on the patio we had the choice of the JRV Signature Tasting ($15) or the JRV Reserve Tasting. We opted to taste from a combination of both and were certainly tempted by the gourmet bites offered to pair with their wines… Anyone for a grilled pear stack with buffalo mozzarella or a grilled Saint Agur blue cheese sandwich with Cabernet jam? These sounded seriously good and if we had had more time I would have definitely tasted those as well.

Jamieson Ranch Patio

Our QuickNotes on what we tasted:

Reata Napa Valley Viognier

Reata Napa Valley Viognier 2012 ($40): From entirely estate grown fruit this 100% viognier appears pale golden yellow and reveals enticing notes of honeysuckle, caramel apple and pineapple. It’s light to medium bodied but full flavored and quite aromatic. It finishes rich yet cleanly with the 2.5% residual sugar barely noticeable. My tasting partner unequivocally decided that this was his new favorite white wine

Jamieson Ranch Silver Spur Sauvignon Blanc

Jamieson Ranch Silver Spur Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($28): Sourced from a small 3 acre block of Ashe Vineyard in Oakville this 100% Sauvignon Blanc is a very light straw yellow in the glass. The nose is bright, clean and tropical with grapefruit and other citrus. On the palate this expands and seems slightly fuller than the appearance/nose suggest. Note of peach, grapefruit and honey are supported by good crisp acidity.

Reata Carneros Chardonnay

Reata Carneros Chardonnay 2012 ($25): Medium bodied, well-balanced and with elegant oak essence. The sweet tropical fruit is complemented by floral honeysuckle. Very smooth and quite drinkable.

Reata Rose Sonoma Coast

Reata Rose of Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2013 ($24): In contact with the skins for 24 hours it showcases a beautiful salmon color. This is nicely aromatic with rich strawberry and rose petal notes. On the palate it further reveals notes of cherry liquor with a nice crisp and clean finish -quite good.

Reata “Three County” Pinot Noir 2012 ($35): Tasted from tap – With 13,000 cases produced this 100% Pinot Noir is sourced from Sonoma, Monterey and San Benito Counties. As their entry level Pinot my expectations were low however I was really impressed with this wine and I wish I had this on tap at home! Showcasing a nice medium-garnet color it revealed bright, high-toned red fruit including raspberry, bing cherry and then lavender and nutmeg notes. It has a nicely structured medium-body with good extract and a spicy finish.

Jamieson Ranch Double Lariat Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Jamieson Ranch “Double Lariat” Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($60): Produced from 100% Cabernet and with 18 months spent in French Oak this appears dark ruby red in the glass with good medium to full concentration. Notes of sage, dried cherry, cassis, and blackberry develop. The fruit is sweet and the finish long, dry and spicy. This is an excellent, classic Napa Valley Cabernet.

Jamieson Ranch Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Jamieson Ranch Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($65): This limited production 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Napa Valley’s newest AVA. It’s even darker in color than the “Double Lariat” Cabernet and is an earthier, more rustic wine. It displays notes of dried herbs, cassis, bell pepper, mineral, dried cherry and clove on the well balanced finish. It’s a solid Cab that distinguishes itself well from their other more popular offering.

Jamieson Ranch Tasting Bar

Jamieson Ranch Tasting Bar

Jamieson Ranch Private Room

The spacious and inviting private dining room off of the tasting room

With knowledgeable, friendly staff serving great wines in a beautiful setting we can’t think of how anyone could go wrong at Jamieson Ranch Vineyards. It would be a great way to start of end any trip to wine country.

John helped us explore the wine portfolio and I could have spend another few hours there with him if we hadn’t had another appointment to make. On our way out, he made sure we had time to see the ‘Fresh Coat’ of urban graffiti the winery received by a prominent collection of urban artists to support the Aldea Family Services’ Art Therapy program. Now if you still weren’t convinced, how about supporting a winery that is as open minded as it is civic minded?

Jamieson Ranch Graffiti Fresh Coat

Jamieson Ranch kindly requests that visitors make reservations and they are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 707.254.8673 ext. 119 or email info@jamiesonranch.com to make reservations


Best Costco Wines for Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving already right around the corner you’ve probably already gotten your dinner menu figured out, I mean you have to have turkey and stuffing right? But you might be wondering about which wines will be best to serve with traditional Thanksgiving cuisine.

In addition to serving wines that pair well, its also important to find wines that taste great yet don’t cost a fortune, especially since you probably have to buy more wine than usual for this special occasion. So don’t stress… I’ve navigated the numerous and often daunting selections for you and here you’ll find 6 of the Best Costco Wines for Thanksgiving and they all cost under $15. If you’re interested in my full review of one of the wines, just click on it! 

- Number One – Best Costco Wines for Thanksgiving -

La Marca Prosecco Review

La Marca Prosecco – At under $11 the elegant La Marca Prosecco is easy to open and even easier to enjoy! It’s elegant and understated in it’s approach and would make an excellent aperitif or could be enjoyed throughout the entire Thanksgiving meal.

  – Number Two – Best Costco Wines for Thanksgiving -

J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2013 Review

J Vineyards Pinot Gris – California’s take on this French varietal results in a lush, juicy and refreshing white.

  – Number Three – Best Costco Wines for Thanksgiving -

Dr. Wagner Riesling Review

Dr. Wagner Riesling Kabinett – At under $14 this well made German Kabinett Riesling is just what the Doctor ordered!

   – Number Four – Best Costco Wines for Thanksgiving -

Kirkland Signature 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Review

Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – At under $9 this Costco Cabernet drinks well above it’s modest price point!

  – Number Five – Best Costco Wines for Thanksgiving -

Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Front Label

Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon – At under $12 the approachable Hess Select Cabernet might become your ‘house wine’ well after the Thanksgiving festivities come to an end!

 - Number Six – Best Costco Wines for Thanksgiving -

Tarima Hill Old Vine Monastrell 2011 Label 2

Tarima Hill Old Vine Monastrell – For those looking for bolder, somewhat meatier wine with their turkey dinner look no further. At under $13 this Spanish gem might be one of the best bargains in the Costco wine section!


Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Review

Kirkland Signature 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Review

I’m perennially tempted and intrigued by Costco’s Kirkland Signature wines so I thought I might give the Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2011 a try. Alexander Valley is the northernmost part of Sonoma County and is known for producing Cabernet’s that are slightly softer and more elegant in style.

It’s generally cooler temperatures produce a different Cabernet than you get in Napa, where wines are often riper, fruitier and more tannic. Often I find myself more inclined to drink Cabernet that is less fruity with good balance and acidity and Alexander Valley fits the bill at a better price point. Several notable wineries you might recognize produce sought after Cabernet’s from Alexander Valley including Silver Oak,  Jordan and Lancaster Estate.

Kirkland Signature 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Review

Appearance: A light medium brownish red

Nose: A bit oaky but once you get past that there’s quite a bit to like. There are notes of dried red fruit and herbs along with an interesting medicinal/menthol quality that’s really enjoyable.

On the palate: Despite being on the lighter side even for an Alexander Valley Cabernet the oak and alcohol are more perceptible than I’d like, although with time in the glass it did smooth out. There are notes of raspberry, cherry, dried herbs with just a touch of cassis, cocoa and green bell pepper.

Varietal Composition: Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage: 2011

Origin: Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California

Value Rating:  4.75 / 5     

Price: $8.99

Score:  87

Should you buy? Yes. It’s not without its flaws but makes a compelling value argument.

Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2011 Review

Value Proposition - Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2011

I served the Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley to some friends of mine blindly and asked what their opinions on price would be. They guessed that it cost between $18 and $30 and I would agree that if you were tasting this without seeing the label you might think it was a $20 Cabernet.

This wine left me somewhat conflicted to be honest. It was lighter in body and could have used just a bit more polish, extract and overall balance. Having said that, this has some really redeeming qualities to it and it absolutely drank well above it’s modest $9 price point. I would stock up on the Kirkland Signature 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley for holiday parties or for an interesting yet inexpensive weeknight Cabernet.

Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas Review

Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas Review

The Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas 2012 really caught my attention when I received an e-mail offering from The Wine Library. Not only was it fashioned by the same talented winemaker who produces the Novellum Chardonnay, but at only $13 it had scored a whopping 93 point score by Jeb Dunnuck of the Wine Advocate.

The Novellum Chardonnay is an excellent value, consistently over delivering for it’s modest price point at the hands of winemaker Jean Marc Lafage. He is also responsible for producing the wildly popular Las Rocas Garnacha for power-importer Eric Solomon.

Considering his track record and over 15 years of experience for a man only in his 30’s, I had to try this highly acclaimed wine. Then I learned that the Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas is actually named after Jean Marc and Eliane Lafage’s son, ‘Nicolas’. If you put your son’s name on the bottle, you’ve gotta put a little extra heart into it, right? Time to pop the cork!

Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas Review

Appearance: A vivid garnet hue

Nose: This is floral and aromatic with intense raspberry liquor and sandalwood.

On the palate: Medium to full bodied, this is full of juicy sweet fruit: strawberry, raspberry, kirsch liquor then leading to exotic spices and hints of smoke on the dry, polished finish. The acidity keeps this lively and balanced.

Varietal Composition: 100% Grenache

Vintage: 2012

Origin: Cotes du Roussilon, France

Value Rating:  5 / 5     

Price: $12.98 ($14 Retail)

Score:  91

Should you buy? Yes, by the case!

Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas Review

Value Proposition - Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas

The Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas is an exceptional value and a great example demonstrating that French wine mustn’t always be expensive! This has a good amount of complexity with a very fine delivery for it’s modest price point. Apparently great things can happen when great winemakers put their son’s name on the label!

Dr. Wagner Riesling Review

Dr. Wagner Riesling Review

I don’t drink many Rieslings, mostly because I’m not a huge fan of sweetness in my wines. Rieslings are however considered to be amongst the greatest age-worthy white wines, and they aren’t always very sweet, if at all. I very much enjoyed a Riesling recently while visiting Long Island Wine Country at Paumanok Vineyards so when I spotted the Dr. Wagner Riesling Kabinett at my local Costco I decided to give it a try.

The German wine classification system can be a confusing one. While they describe it as Dr. Wagner Riesling Kabinetta quality scale, this is misleading as it actually refers to the ripeness of the grapes when they are picked. The level of ripeness has a great deal to do with the body of the wine and the sugar content of the grapes. The finished wine may be produced in a dryer style however, even if the grapes are quite ripe and high in sugar content.

The Dr. Wagner Riesling is a ‘Kabinett’ level wine, meaning that the grapes are picked at the lowest level of ripeness on the German scale. This typically translates to a finished wine that has a lighter body, less residual sugar, lower alcohol and high acidity. These attributes are what make Kabinett Riesling so great to pair with food, especially seafood and shellfish.

Appearance: Very pale yellow

Nose: The flinty nose reveals subtle citrus; predominantly lemon along with wet rock.

On the palate: Light bodied, the crisp acidity keeps the off-dry to medium level of sweetness in good balance. Notes of lemon peel and grapefruit are complemented by a nice mineral component.

Varietal Composition: Riesling

Vintage: 2013

Origin: Mosel, Germany

Value Rating:  4.5 / 5     

Price: $13.79 ($23 Retail)

Score: 89

Should you buy? This well made Riesling is tough to beat at this price. Its a terrific upgrade over the ubiquitous Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.

Dr. Riesling Kabinett Review

Value Proposition - Dr. Wagner Riesling Kabinett

After tasting the Dr. Wagner Riesling Kabinett I’ve vowed to try more Rieslings. This particular specimen is produced from 30 year old vines in the Mosel and I really like it’s mineral driven character.

It’s also a pretty solid value at Costco’s price considering that it sells for closer to $20 at most merchants. But it is still a touch too sweet for me personally, although I think most people would find this pretty appealing as the acidity really does a great job of keeping the sweetness in check.

With that being said, I look forward to tasting more Rieslings and hopefully exploring those that are truly bone dry. If you don’t mind a touch of residual sugar, then give the Dr. Wagner Riesling Kabinett a shot. If even I can enjoy it considering my major aversion to sweetness then Dr. Wagner’s Riesling is a winner in my book!


Best Long Island Wineries

Long Island Sunflowers

Wild Sunflowers on Long Island’s North Fork

Long Island’s East End is just a two hour drive from the bustling city of New York, yet it feels like it’s a whole world away. It’s peaceful, more relaxed, agriculturally rich and refreshingly spread out after spending time in The Big Apple.

There are lots of reasons to visit the longest island in the contiguous United States too: it’s beautiful world-renowned beaches, abundant local produce, incredible seafood, and of course the tony Hamptons. While all of those might be tempting, what intrigued me the most are the wineries! Read on to see the best long island wineries we visited along with photos and our top Long Island wine picks!

Wolffer Estate Vineyard - Best Long Island Wineries

Wolffer Estate Vineyard

Entrance to Wolffer Estate Vineyard

Wolffer Estate Vineyard is located on the South Fork, not far from the famous beaches of the Hamptons and the town of East Hampton Village. It’s location might have something to do with the upscale aesthetic, European flair and beautifully maintained grounds. If the wines were only passable we would have enjoyed the beautiful terrace – but alas they were excellent.

Wolffer Estate Vineyard

Wolffer Estate Vineyard Tasting Terrace

Founded by talented entrepeneur Christian Wolffer, the original parcel was actually a potato farm when he purchased its 14 acres in 1978. Now, the estate has ballooned to 170 acres with 55 of those representing Wolffer Estate Vineyard.

Wolffer Estate Vineyard

Wolffer Estate Vineyard Grapes

During our visit we chose the Grand Tasting ($20) which afforded us the opportunity to taste the blanc de blanc sparkler, current release Merlot and two library wines. We tasted:

  • Cool As Well Sparling Blanc de Blanc 2010 ($54): Pale gold with sweet juicy green apples finishing cisp and clean. Very simple and refreshing.
  • Estate Selection Chardonnay 1998 (from magnum): Honey gold with oak, butter and subdued tropical fruit on the nice. It was full and creamy with a surprisingly lithe mouthfeel that belied its rich buttery nose. Notes of guava, lemon and mineral were very nice.
  • Wolffer Estate Chardonay 1998Christian Cuvee Merlot 2010 ($125): Their flagship Merlot is composed of 100% Merlot and is aged 20 to 21 months in oak. Dark ruby with earthy red fruit on the nose. The palate is rich with good concentration. Notes of wild lingenberry, prunes, lavender, leather and cedar. My top red wine for the trip!
  • Reserve Merlot 2000: Medium ruby with signs of some bricking. The nose was surprisingly vibrant for a 14 year old wine with high toned red fruit including raspberries and more savory cedar and leather. On the palate it was elegant with good acidity supporting the red fruit, cloves and spice.

Wolffer Estate Merlot

While we weren’t too impressed with the sparkling wine, the other wines we tasted were excellent. We would certainly return to taste through more of their wines and perhaps enjoy a bottle of wine from their extensive selection while relaxing on their gorgeous terrace!

Wolffer Estate Sign

Paumanok Vineyards - Best Long Island Wineries

Paumanok Vineyards Entrance

As we head away from The Hamptons and begin moving up the North Fork we reach Paumanok Vineyards just off Route 25, or Main Rd. They produce just under 9,000 cases a year from entirely estate grown fruit on their 103 acre estate. The winery is a charming, renovated barn with a great patio area overlooking the estate’s vineyards. Paumanok Vineyards Oysters

As we made our way to the tasting bar we were presented with several tasting options. We decided to try the classic Paumanok Flight ($9) because we felt it covered the most based whereas the others focused on white wine, red wines or Loire varietals for example. We tasted:

  • Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($24): Soft with subtle creamy tropical notes. It starts out crisp and then rounds out on the palate.
  • Dry Riesling 2013 ($22): The nose suggested it would be sweet but it was quite the opposite when we tasted it. The palate is refreshingly tart and crisp with a good bit of lime. This was my pick of what we tasted and I could have easily sipped this on their patio.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($24): This reminded me more of Pinot Noir than Cabernet. The nose was fruit forward with a soft medium body. More understated notes of soft red fruit, ginger and spice emerged.
Paumanok Vineyards Terrace

The patio at Paumanok Vineyards

If you make it to Paumanok Vineyards make sure to ask if they have any of the Chenin Blanc in stock. They are known for producing the best Chenin Blanc on Long Island. We were unfortunately unable to taste it as they had already sold out of it.

Shinn Estate Vineyards – Best Long Island Wineries

Shinn Estate Entrance

As we head away further North and up the North Fork you will find Shinn Estate Vineyards tucked away just off the beaten path while many wineries are visible from the Main Road (Route 25). Shinn Estate has been named a top wine destination in the US by several notable publications including Gayot, Fodors and Food and Wine to name a few. Founded by Barbara Shinn and David Page, it is the first East Coast winery to be completely powered by Solar and Wind Power!

Shinn Estate Entrance

After quickly finding the perfect table to accommodate our party of four we were given the opportunity to taste 3 wines for $12, or 6 wines for $15. Any additional wines could be tasted for $3 more and we could taste their flagship wines Grace and Clarity for $7 per taste. With so many decisions we finally decided on:

  • Sparkling Brut 2009 ($35): Creamy apple and pear with a touch of sweetness finishing with a zest of lemon.
  • Nine Barrels 2010 ($42): A 9 barrel blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Very dark with wonderful aromatics and nice red fruit on the nose. Its medium body reveals raspberries, dusty cocoa, rose petal, and baking spice with a smooth velvety texture. Quite good, this was my favorite wine here.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($40): Much softer than the nine barrels. Medium bodied with notes of dried herbs, balsamic and cherry liquor. This was slightly fruity.
  • Petit Verdot 2010 ($35): The alcohol was very perceptible, giving the impression of ‘heat’ on the nose and a slightly unbalanced wine. There was some subtle red and black fruit but it was mostly overpowered. Finished with cocoa.
  • Clarity 2007 ($100): A 3 barrel reserve blend of Cabernet and Merlot. It appears dark with some bricking and visible sediment. This is big and rich and structured with scorched earth,  cocoa dusted cherries, leather and earth. This has a liqueur-like quality to it with some perceptible. Not as balanced as the Nine Barrels but could certainly improve with time as the structure is here.
Shinn Estate

Part of the Shinn Estate winery visible from the tasting area

Roanoke Vineyards – Best Long Island Wineries

Roanoke Vineyards

Don’t let the quaint, unassuming appearance of Roanoke Vineyards’ winery fool you. They are producing some of the top red wines on Long Island, and as our taster explained to us, that is what they focus most of their energies on. It is all the more difficult to produce a great red wine here because it isn’t as hot or as dry as say Napa Valley. Couple those challenges with the extra efforts of sustainable farming practices as Roanoke does and it makes you really appreciate how much effort is being made here.

We decided on the The Red Flight ($12):

  • Bond 2012 ($19) : Full of strawberries and black cherries, it is medium bodied with good acidity. At this price this nicely balanced Bordeaux blend was a good value.
  • Cabernet Franc 2011 ($34): Nicely aromatic, there are black cherries and nutmeg evolving on the palate. It’s medium bodied with very good length and a nice spicy finish.
  • Merlot 2010 ($45): This has a darker appearance and a bit more depth to it. It boasts plum, cocoa and dark red fruit with cedar and a toasty, spicy finish.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($45): A nice deep ruby color, this has good concentration and a nice mouthfeel with just the right amount of polished tannin supporting notes of cassis, cedar and dark cherry. From a great vintage for Long Island and it shows.

I would certainly return in the future to spend more time with their wines and to sample more from their portfolio.

Sparkling Pointe Winery – Best Long Island Wineries

Entrance to Sparkling Point Winery

Entrance to Sparkling Point Winery

As the name suggests, Sparkling Point Winery produces only sparkling wine from its vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island. Founded by Tom and Cynthia Rosicki, they share a mutual love for the wines of Champagne and sought to create their own sparkling wines of distinction on Long Island. It was here that I tasted my favorite sparkling wine of the trip, and ironically it tasted the most like a true Champagne out of all of the sparklers on the trip.

We chose the Grand Tasting Flight ($17) which allowed us to taste four sparkling wines. While all of them were good I enjoyed these two the most:

Sparkling Point Tasting Menu

Sparkling Point Tasting Menu

  • Brut 2011($29): All orchard fruits with green apples and pears. Uncomplicated yet enjoyable.
  • Brut Seduction 2005 ($60): Aged 7 years on the lees this tasted quite like an actual Champagne. It was yeasty with notes of lemon, brioche and almond. Very good but expensive.


The expansive terrace at Sparkling Point Winery

The expansive terrace at Sparkling Point Winery

Worth Mentioning: My tasting notes were derived from small samples which gave me only an initial impression of the wine and its potential. With a larger sample and more time for the wine to breathe and develop, other complexity and nuance would likely be revealed. Other Top Long Island Wineries I wanted to visit but was unable to due to time restraints: Bedell Cellars, Lenz Winery, Channing Daughters and Macari Vineyards.

A nice end to a day of Long Island wine tasting

A nice end to a day of Long Island wine tasting

Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc

Curpake Sauvignon Blanc Review

Chances are that you’ve either seen or know of the Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. It’s usually prominently displayed in every supermarket wine section across across America. So today at The Fermented Fruit my mission of unearthing the wine bargains we’re all searching for continues. I love these missions; and I love Sauvignon Blanc too.

Some are full of tart citrus while others are much more earthy and mineral driven. My favorite Sauvignon Blanc’s have a grassiness and an oily viscosity to them. The wines with these characteristics usually hail from New Zealand, especially the Marlborough wine-growing region there. Having said that, I haven’t met too many Sauvignon Blanc’s I haven’t liked for their sheer refreshing drink-ability.

The Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc just so happens to come from Marlborough and it has been quite some time since I’ve sampled it. The low price and prominent positioning in the Costco wine section also peaked my curiosity. Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc Review

Behind this bright well executed label lies quite the success story. Was it a stroke of genius that Cupcake Vineyards launched just as the cupcake craze began to take hold in America? It’s been called the current ‘it’ wine for good reason.

In 2010 sales surpassed one million cases per year. The company behind Cupcake wine, Underdog Wine and Spirits, reports that since launching in 2008 they have experienced double digit growth for the Cupcake Vineyards brand each year. Time to open the Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc and see whether we are dealing with clever marketing or clever wine-making. Hopefully its a nice combination of both.

 Have you seen our Costco Wine Price Guide with our top recommendations?

Appearance: Very light, greenish yellow

Nose: There’s lots of citrus and some subtle orchard fruits – mostly apple and pear.

On the palate: Crisp, tart and juicy with a light to medium body. The bright acidity brings life to the notes of lime, lemon peel and green apple. This isn’t terribly complex but it’s eminently quaffable style is enjoyable.

Varietal Composition: Sauvignon Blanc

Vintage: 2013

Origin: Marlborough, New Zealand

Value Rating:  4.5 / 5     

Price: $7.59 ($11 Retail)

Score:  87

Should you buy? If the order of the day is refreshing, uncomplicated and inexpensive this is a good, widely available option.

Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc Review

Value Proposition - Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc

Even if the Cupcake craze eventually comes to an end – something tells me that this particular cupcake will still be making its way into millions of shopping baskets. Fortunately in this case that’s not such a bad thing. Now we’ve just got to come up with how we can play the Macaroon craze while still in it’s nascent stages. Macaroon Rose, anyone?

While this didn’t have the level of complexity or our favorite characteristics we look for in Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’s it isn’t without its redeemable qualities. Much like a cupcake this is refreshing, tasty, quick to disappear and doesn’t require the level of commitment as buying the whole cake, or say a more expensive bottle of wine. However, unlike a cupcake one glass of Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc has only 111 calories so you can enjoy this cupcake a little more freely!


La Marca Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco Review

Perhaps taking a cue from the success of Veuve Clicquot’s inescapable bright orange label, the La Marca Prosecco boasts an elegant and eye catching blue label which certainly stands out amongst a sea of wine labels. But we mustn’t get too distracted by pretty labels and well executed marketing! What’s behind the label and inside the bottle is far more important.

I was intrigued to learn that the La Marca is the only Prosecco producer from Veneto, Italy to have earned the honorable distinction of “Top 100 Wines of the Year” for it’s Prosecco by Wine Spectator. This leads me to believe that the La Marca Prosecco could very well have some serious potential. Time to investigate…

La Marca Prosecco

We love sparkling wine too! Check out another nice Italian Prosecco that costs under $10.

Appearance: Straw yellow with small, slowly rising bubbles.

Nose: Citrus and apple notes dominate with a lingering floral element.

On the palate: Soft and creamy, there are sweet orchard fruits, lemon curd, lavender, mineral and a touch of grapefruit on the pleasant if slightly short finish. This isn’t as effervescent as other sparklers; its more subtle in its overall approach.

Varietal Composition: Prosecco (100% Glera)

Origin: Veneto, Italy

Value Rating:  4.75 / 5     

Price: $10.99 ($17 Retail)

Score:  89

Should you buy? Yes, as an elegant inexpensive sipper – but we wouldn’t make Mimosa’s with it

La Marca Prosecco Review

Value Proposition - La Marca Prosecco

The La Marca Prosecco is delicate and understated in it’s approach – somewhat unusual and refreshing in wines at this very reasonable price point. These admirable qualities are also why we wouldn’t use this Prosecco as a base for mimosa’s or bellini’s. For those we recommend the Lunetta Prosecco as it boasts a more dominantly effusive personality; which in my opinion lends itself better to the sparkling wine cocktails we all love during brunch.

The La Marca Prosecco’s pretty label isn’t just a meretricious attempt to woo consumers. You can rest assured that the juice inside is just as elegant. This really grew on me as I sipped with Mom on a lazy Sunday afternoon. She liked it so much that she asked me to pick her up several bottles on my next trip to Costco (I can’t remember the last time she asked me her to pick up a bottle of anything!).

When we returned to Costco to stock up on the La Marca Prosecco they had sold out of it completely… Yet another lesson learned on my part that you have to stock up on Costco wines while they actually have them in stock!


Guide to Costco Wine Prices and Top Recommended Wines

J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2013 Review


     An Informal Guide to Costco Wine Prices

         Top Picks – and- Current Selections

If you’re like many wine lovers who are looking for great wine at great prices, you may have discovered that your local Costco sells wine! We have been Shopping for Wine at Costco for years now and the selections and prices continue to warrant your attention as a wine consumer. While we continue to feature specific wines which we feel represent a great deal of value on The Fermented Fruit, we thought a Costco wine price guide might serve our readers well. Since Costco neither publishes their current selections nor their prices, we hope that you find this guide to Costco wine prices resourceful!

Lunetta Prosecco Review

Champagne and Sparkling Wines – Costco Wine Prices

  • Dom Perignon Brut Champagne 2003, $134.89
  • Freixenet Brut Cava, Spain, 2 pack, $15.99
  • Kirkland Signature Brut Champagne, $19.99
  • Kirkland Signature Brut Rose Champagne, $24.99
  • Korbel Brut California Sparkling Wine, $9.89
  • Lunetta Prosecco, Italy, $8.39 – Recommended
  • La Marca Prosecco, Italy, $10.99
  • Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne, $37.89
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne, $41.89

Chardonnay – Costco Wine Prices

  • Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay, $13.89 – Recommended
  • Catena Chardonnay Argentina, $13.89
  • Chalk Hill Estate Grown Chardonnay, $32.89
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay, $7.49
  • Fess Parker Santa Barbara Chardonnay, $2013
  • Ferrari Carano Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $20.99
  • Hess Napa Valley Chardonnay, $15.39 – Recommended
  • Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay, $13.39 – Recommended
  • Kirkland Signature Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $7.49
  • Kirkland Signature Chardonnay 1.5L, $7.99
  • La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $14.89
  • Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse White Burgundy (Chardonnay), $19.89
  • Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay, $13.39
  • Sonoma Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $18.89
  • Simi Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $10.59
  • Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay, $12.89
  • Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay, $14.69

Sauvignon Blanc – Costco Wine Prices

  • Atalon Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $14.99
  • Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc, $17.99
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc, $9.99
  • Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc, $8.69
  • Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, $24.89
  • Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc, $7.59 – Recommended
  • Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, $23.99
  • Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $8.69
  • Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $12.89

J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2013 Review

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris – Costco Wine Prices

  • Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio, $13.99
  • Cavit Pinot Grigio 1.5L, $10.89
  • Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, $7.89
  • King Estate Pinot Gris, $12.89
  • Kirkland Signature Pinot Grigio, $5.99
  • J Vineyards Pinot Gris, $9.99 on sale (Was $11.99) – Recommended
  • Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, $17.99

Other White Wines - Costco Wine Prices

  • Bartenura Moscato Kosher Italy, $10.89
  • Chateau Petit Roubie Picpoul de Pinet France, $7.89
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, $7.19
  • Coppola Sofia Rose, $10.99 -Recommended
  • Dr. Wagner Riesling Kabinett, $13.79
  • Primal Roots White Blend, $6.99
  • Terrazas Reserva Torrontes, $11.99

Bordeaux – Costco Wine Prices

  • Chateau Croix Figeac, $21.99
  • Chateau Latour Pauillac 2010, $1,399.99
  • Chateau Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2010, $1,199.99
  • Chateau Margaux 2010, $999.97
  • Chateau Margaux 2011, $559.99
  • Carruades de Lafite Pauillac 2011, $189.99
  • Chateau Pontet Canet Pauillac 2011, $109.99 – Recommended
  • Chateau Lynch Bages Pauillac 2011, $115.99
  • Chateau Roquefort, $8.99
  • Kirkland Signature Bordeaux Superieur, $6.99


Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Front Label

Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blends – Costco Wine Prices

  • Apothic Red Blend, $7.89
  • Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet, $22.89 – Recommended
  • Black Box Cabernet 4L, $15.89
  • BV Coastal Estates Cabernet, $6.89
  • Chalk Hill Estate Red, $49.99
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet, $11.89
  • Chimney Rock Stags Leap District Napa Cabernet, $54.99
  • Chonca Y Toro Cabernet/Merlot (1.5L) $7.25
  • Columbia Crest H-3 Cabernet, $10.29
  • Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet, $34.79
  • Cousino Macul Cabernet Chile, $11.99
  • DeLille Cellars Grand Ciel Cabernet 2008, $99.99
  • Diamond Creek Napa Valley Cabernet 2008, $135.99
  • Folie à Deux Menage à Trois, $7.89
  • Francis Coppola Claret, $11.69
  • Freemark Abbey Napa Cabernet, $26.99
  • Ghost Pines Red Blend Napa & Sonoma, $14.49
  • Handcraft Cabernet, $9.49
  • Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon, $11.89 – Recommended
  • J. Lohr Seven Oaks Paso Robles Cabernet, $11.89
  • Justin Paso Robles Cabernet, $19.99
  • Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Cabernet, $14.89
  • Kirkland Signature Cabernet (1.5L), $7.99
  • Kirkland Signature Alexander Valley Cabernet, $8.99 - Recommended
  • Kirkland Signature Series Red Mountain Cabernet, $15.99
  • Kirkland Signature Rutherford Meritage Napa, $10.99 – Recommended
  • Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet, $11.69
  • Luigi Bosca Reserve Cabernet, $17.99
  • M Chapoutier Belleruche Red Blend France, $9.99
  • Merus Napa Valley Cabernet 2009, $135.99
  • Napa Cellars Cabernet, $16.99
  • Pendulum Red Blend Columbia Valley, $13.79
  • Primus Red Blend Chile, 15.59
  • Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Cabernet 1.5L, 9.89
  • Robert Mondavi Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet, $39.99
  • Santa Rita Triple C Red Blend Chile, $29.99
  • Sebastiani Sonoma County Cabernet, $10.89
  • Stags Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet, $39.99
  • Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red Washington, $16.59

Italian Wines – Costco Wine Prices

  • Brancaia Tre Rosso, $14.99
  • Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, $57.99
  • Crognolo Toscana, $22.99
  • La Pietra Rosso, $18.99
  • Mongrana Toscana, $16.99
  • Ruffino Chianti Reserva Ducale, $16.79
  • Villa Antinori Toscana Rosso, $16.69 – Recommended

Malbec – Costco Wine Prices

  • Alamos Malbec Mendoza, $7.39 - Recommended
  • Catena Zapata Malbec, $13.99
  • Costco Kirkland Signature Malbec, $6.99
  • Norton Malbec Reserva, $12.99
  • Tintonegro Malbec Argentina, $10.79

Merlot – Costco Wine Prices

  • Bonterra Mendocino County Merlot, $10.39
  • Bogle Merlot, $7.39
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot, $11.89 - Recommended
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot, $13.79
  • Decoy by Duckhorn Vineyards Sonoma County Merlot, $15.99
  • HALL Merlot 2007, $19.99 – Recommended
  • Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Merlot, $14.89
  • Rutherford Hill Merlot Napa, $16.99

Pinot Noir – Costco Wine Prices

  • A by Acacia Pinot Noir, $9.69
  • Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, $15.89 - Recommended
  • Chalk Hill Russian River Pinot Noir, $39.99
  • Kendall Jackson Pinot Noir, $13.99
  • Kirkland Signature Carneros Pinot Noir, $9.99
  • La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $16.89
  • Macrostie Pinot Noir Carneros, $22.99 – Recommended
  • Marimar Estate Cristina Pinot Noir, $45.99 – Recommended
  • Oyster Bay Pinot Noir New Zealand, $11.59

Shiraz and Syrah - Costco Wine Prices

  • Layer Cake Shiraz, $11.89
  • Santa Rita Reserve Syrah, $9.99
  • Sparkman Ruckus Syrah Washington, $39.99
  • Spring Valley Vineyard Syrah Nina Lee, $42.99
  • Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz, $22.99 - Recommended
  • Two Hands Bellas Garden Shiraz, $54.99
  • Yellowtail Shiraz 1.5L, $9.39

Spanish Wines - Costco Wine Prices

  • Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva, $16.49
  • Tarima Hill Monastrell Alicante, $12.69 – Recommended
  • Tres Picos Red Blend, $11.99 – Recommended
  • Vinessens Sein Alicante Red Blend, $12.99 – Recommended

Cabernet Franc, Grenache and ZinfandelCostco Wine Prices

  • Breaux Vineyards Cabernet Franc Virginia, $15.99
  • Orin Swift D66 Grenache France, $31.99
  • Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma, $18.99
  • Seven Deadly Zins Zinfandel, $11.89 - Recommended

*Costco wine prices are current and accurate to the best of our knowledge as of October 5, 2014. We have no affiliation with Costco. Stores visited for this guide: Costco in Arlington, Virginia, Sterling, Virginia and Fort Lauderdale, Fl.


Roederer Estate Brut

Roederer Estate Brut

In 1982, Jean-Claude Rouzaud selected a 580 acre vineyard site in California’s Anderson Valley with the intent to expand and further build upon his long family tradition of producing world-class sparkling wine. The descendant of the founder of Champagne Louis Roederer, Jean-Claude Rouzaud was running the highly successful family company when he decided to bring his vision of Champagne to the United States in the form of Roederer Estate. Six years after locating this ideal, sizable site near the Mendocino Coast, the Roederer Estate Brut was born!

Roederer Estate Brut Review

We love well-priced sparkling wine. Consider this Italian Prosecco or Spanish Cava too!

Appearance: Pale golden yellow with a soft but persistent effervescence and medium sized bead.

Nose: Toasty and doughy with lemon and apple notes piercing through.

On the palate: This is rich, round, toasty and creamy. It’s elegant and refined mouthfeel belie it’s modest price tag. Lively notes of honeysuckle and orchard fruits expand on the palate as it leads to a long, dry yeasty finish.

Varietal Composition: ~60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir

Origin: Anderson Valley, California

Value Rating: 5 / 5     

Price: ~$16-18 ($23.99 Retail)

Score:  92

Should you buy? Yes! The Roederer Estate Brut boasts Champagne character at a sparkling wine price.

Roederer Estate Brut Review

Value Proposition - Roederer Estate Brut

I’ve been in the mood for sparkling wine lately. I really enjoy a glass before dinner as an aperitif to wake up the taste buds. I like finding tasty bottles that don’t necessarily require a celebratory environment to be enjoyed, and the Roederer Estate Brut couldn’t fit the bill any better.

This could very well be as inexpensively as it gets to Champagne in California. It has all of that yeasty, toasty richness that we have all come to love from the wines of Champagne. Some notable points that surely contribute to the admirable character of the Roederer Estate Brut:

  • It is aged a minimum of two years on the lees (yeasts).
  • Roederer Estate sources all of it’s fruit from entirely estate-owned vineyards.
  • Little to no malolactic fermentation occurs to ensure the freshness and precision that is characteristic of Louis Roederer’s wines.
  • Recently recognized as Wine World Champion U.S. by the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships (CSWWC) in September of 2014.
  • The owners of Roederer Estate are also responsible for one of the most expensive and highly sought after wines in the world: Cristal Champagne.

The Roederer Estate Brut is a classy, tasteful execution in the value sparkling wine category. Fans of sparkling wine will surely benefit from Jean-Claude Rouzaud’s decision to produce a California sparkling wine in the style of his families tradition at Champagne Louis Roederer. How can you go wrong with a sparkler readily available nationwide from retailers under $20 that shares DNA with Cristal Champagne? The answer is that you can’t. So if you’re on the fence about picking up a bottle of the Roederer Estate Brut, please allow me to gently nudge you in the right direction…you won’t be disappointed!

Roederer Estate Brut Review


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