Grand Hotel Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Grand HotelPrice: $14
Maker: Coopers Lane Winery, St. Helena, Napa County, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.8%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Grand Hotel Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 is one of a series of summer-only products bearing the famous Grand Hotel (Mackinac Island) name and sold through Meijer stores. The wine itself hails from California, not Michigan. It has a complex aroma with dark berry, spice, leather, and vanilla notes. This cab is medium-bodied, with cherry and blackberry fruit, mild black pepper, and tannins that grab your attention, perhaps a bit too much, in the finish. The wine is reasonably well balanced, and comes across as juicy but with some bite.

According to an article in the Cincinnati Post, the products will be available only through July. The full range of products includes such diverse items as Front Porch Ale, fudge and fudge sauce, rocking chairs, pillows, and more. We like this strategy – particularly in the midwest, the Grand Hotel name should be a strong brand symbolic of high quality and relaxed summer fun; for its part, the hotel not only gains royalty income but exposure to new customers in Meijer’s high traffic stores. A win-win, to be sure.

Grand Hotel Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 could be a nice summer entertaining gift. The wine itself is nice enough, and the combination of the appealing Grand Hotel brand and the limited run will make it a welcome conversation piece.

Bohemian Highway Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Bohemian WinesPrice: $6
Maker: Bohemian Highway Wines, St. Helena, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Bohemian Highway Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 shares many characteristics with its fellow varietal, Bohemian Highway Merlot 2004. It has the same funky label and the same fruity, juicy flavor. We found Even the slightly smoky aroma is similar. And, as with the Merlot, letting this Cab breathe took the edge off the sweetness and slightly improved the balance and complexity; in fact, tasting on the second day (saved in the bottle without argon) was actually even better. In this one, the flavor was dominated by cherry and strawberry notes, with a hint of white chocolate, and finishing with soft tannins.

Despite the very similar nature of the two wines, we rated this one a bit lower as we found it rather lacking in varietal character. Having said that, it’s an equally gulpable, highly accessible wine that will no doubt appeal to many wine drinkers. It’s definitely at the fruitier, sweeter end of the spectrum. Bohemian Highway Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 may disappoint those looking for a big, complex Cab, but may work well for those wine drinkers who gravitate toward less dry whites and want to try a red that won’t have much of a pucker factor.

Wine-o-Rama liked it, partcularly paired with Philly cheese steak pizza. 365 Corks awarded this wine four corkscrews (we think that’s good!) for its combination of value and drinkability.

Trinchero Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Trinchero Family Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $10
Maker: Trinchero Winery, St. Helena, Napa County, California
Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml Bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.25%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Trinchero Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is a very nice cab and a great value. The nose is dense with dark berries, spice, and woody notes. The flavor is both fruit-forward and well balanced. Black cherry and plum notes combine with oak, cinnamon, and soft tannins to create a smooth and relatively complex wine. We paired this wine with charcoal-grilled tenderloins, and it worked out very nicely. Overall, this is a wine that’s both fruity and accessible but offers interest to the more accomplished palate.

The Trinchero website has an interesting and rather difficult wine trivia game, the Napa Wine Challenge. If you fancy yourself a wine expert give this a try. You may find it a bit humbling!

Root:1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Root 1 Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $10
Maker: Vina Ventisquero, Rancagua, Chile
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Root:1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 comes in a rather striking painted bottle which shows a grapevine with a long root trailing deep into the earth. The graphic and name are meant to emphasize the wine’s claim to fame, that the grapevines aren’t grafted onto different rootstock as most vines are. The wine has a rich aroma that’s not fruity- rather, it offers leather, spice, and vanilla notes. The flavor is well balanced – fruity notes of plum, cherry, and blueberry start things off, and lead into a long-lasting pepper and cinnamon finish. The tannins are smooth and not overbearing. This is a nicely structured red that would pair well with grilled meats or other fare demanding a robust wine.

Winewaves considered this wine an “outstanding value.” Purple Lips liked the packaging and low price, and rated it a B+.

Root:1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 is a stylish wine that would make a nice bottle to bring to an upscale cookout.

Wine Tasting Evening

Just had a chance to taste some interesting wines at a local tasting, and I thought I’d share some fragmentary notes:

Kunde Sauvignon Blanc 2005. Melon and peach notes, slightly acidic finish.
Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2005. Not your usual Chardonnay. Strong vanilla flavors, with a moderately astringent finish. Definitely not an over-oaked chard.
Bridlewood Viognier 2005. Another quite different selection. Tropical notes, not too dry, and clean on the palate.
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2005 (Sonoma Coast). I found this to be an unusually pleasant Pinot Noir – it offered big, bold plum, berry, and cherry notes, and a smooth finish. I tend to complain that some Pinot Noirs are a bit thin (or subtle, if you prefer), but this one is neither thin nor subtle. Recommended.
Gloria Ferrer Carneros Merlot 2002. Strong berry nose with some woody/leather notes, big rounded flavor featuring a great balance of blackberry and cherry, oak, and spice leading into a long finish. This was a big, well balanced Merlot, and my favorite of the evening.
Bridlewood Syrah 2004 (Central Coast). A nice, well-balanced Syrah with blackberry, oak, and black pepper flavors.
Frei Brothers Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished with this rich cab. Lots of dark berry and oak complexity, with a long finish. Highly drinkable.

The big winner for me was the Gloria Ferrer Carneros Merlot; I liked the Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon and the MacMurray Ranch Merlot quite a bit, too. This was quite an unusual tasting – I liked all of the wines, and every red (including Red Rock Merlot, not described above) were wines that I’d buy.

The King Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

The King Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $9
Maker: Graceland Cellars, Santa Rosa, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12.9%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Last night was the first warm evening in months, so we fired up the outdoor grill for the first time to make some burgers. This seemed like a good occasion for a fun red wine, so we uncorked a bottle of The King Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, also known as “Third Edition.” We have to admit, we were a bit suspicious of a novelty label like this. As it turns out, we had little to fear. The nose is powerful and pleasant, a mix of juicy berries, herbal notes, and pepper. The flavor is also juicy, with plum and cherry notes balanced with a bit of oak and soft tannins. The finish has a pleasant touch of acidity. This wine isn’t big and complex, but its structure and simple fruitiness will make it a crowd-pleaser. We’d love to bring out a few bottles of this at an informal outdoor party, where its label will be a conversation starter and its flavor will satisfy most wine drinkers.

Graceland Cellars appears to be the major collectible label offering from Signature Wines. We were familiar with Signature from their offering of small run private label wines for weddings, corporate gifts, and special occasions. In addition to Elvis-themed wines, they also have deals with Ducks Unlimited and various colleges and universities. It looks like a key strategy in marketing these wines is to label each year and varietal in a different manner to encourage collectors to buy them all. Not a bad strategy, though as drinkable as The King Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 is, we’d hate to see it gradually turn to vinegar on someone’s shelf. Enjoy the wine, save the bottle.

Greener Planet Shiraz – Merlot – Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Price: $11
Maker: Greener Planet
Varietal: Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon blend
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Our hopes were limited when we tried Greener Planet Shiraz – Merlot – Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – what can one expect from (apparently) a bunch of French environmentalists? As it turns out, one can expect a rather tasty red wine made from”organically grown grapes.” The nose is blackberry and spice, with cedar and leather notes in the background. On the palate, this wine is smooth, rounded, and well-structured. Juicy berry flavors combine with spicy oak and a hint of chocolate to create a nice balance and medium finish. We found this wine improved considerably after breathing.

We tried to learn more about Greener Planet, but didn’t have much success. The bottle suggests one visit, which is actually a spammy parked domain. (Oops, it’s always a good idea to actually register the domain before you print the labels!) Even the origin of the wine is cryptic – the label reports, “Bottled by: 11N129 at F11160”. That certainly helps… at least we know it’s a product of France.Perhaps this is all a PR move by Wal-Mart (we found this wine at Sam’s Club, and haven’t seen it sold anywhere else) – they can add it to the list of “organic” products they offer.

Whatever the origin of this wine, it’s a good buy and would make a great gift for your left-leaning friends. It’s the perfect wine to enjoy while watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. And, if you’re going to present a bottle to Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, be sure they know it’s a gag gift.

Veo Grande Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Veo Grande Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $7
Maker: Viñedos Errázuriz Ovalle S.A., Chile
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13%
Our Rating: 9 out of 10

Veo Grande Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 tells you immediately that it’s no ordinary Cab. The nose is full of smoky wood, and it almost climbs out of the glass on its own. The flavor isn’t average, either – it’s a well-balanced mix of blackberries and cherries, oak, herbs, and chewy tannins. The spicy finish goes on and on.

Viñedos Errázuriz Ovalle S.A. make the Veo Grande Cab and, on their website, claims to be the single largest family owned vineyard and winery in Chile.

The Wine Commonsewer tasted the 2004 vintage, concluding “It’s not a sleeper but it’s a good budget wine that you can enjoy with a Southern Italian meal or grilled beef.” Tom & Melody said, “It is delicious after decanting. I love it! A dark, bitter chocolate finish. Lovely!”

Overall, we liked this wine a lot, but we’d caution readers that it’s a bit quirky and not your typical cab – try it if you are looking for something different.

Dog House Checkers’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Dog House Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $8
Maker: Dog House Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Varietal: Merlot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Don’t let the screw cap and cute label put you off – Dog House Checkers’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 is a big, fruity, crowd-pleasing cab. Its nose is a mix of dark berries, spice, and tobacco. The flavor is fruit-forward and not particularly dry, with cherry, berry, oak, and chocolate notes. There’s black pepper in the lingering finish. Complexity is medium – Dog House cab no one-note wonder, nor is it likely to send serious wine drinkers into ecstasy. This is the kind of wine to bring to a barbecue, or to serve to a group of wine drinkers with varied palates and levels of sophistication.

We tried Dog House Maxie’s Merlot a week ago, and liked that wine too – perhaps a bit more, even. Still, both are highly accessible, inexpensive red wines with plenty of payback. Others have commented favorably on the Dog House Cab. The Easy Wine Drinker comments, “Nice, smooth, a bit on the sweet side for a Cab, but overall a nice, affordable bottle of juice… A good party wine / house wine.” The Naked Vine says, ‘The big blackberry jam nose on this wine gives way to a slightly oaky red with some nice background tastes of licorice. The finish is very gentle for a cabernet sauvignon — not terribly tannic with some lingering smoky flavor. Very easy to drink — the Dog House would be a good “transition cab” for people who enjoy mellower reds like merlot and are interested in giving drier wines a try.’

To see some of the media comments on this wine, visit the Dog House Winery website.

Alice White Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Alice White Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $6
Maker: Alice White
Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: Bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

When we tasted Alice White Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, we were reminded a bit of our review of Alice White Merlot 2004. In our notes for that Merlot, the words “forgettable” and “inoffensive” appeared, and those adjectives seem appropriate for this Cab as well. We just didn’t find much to write home about with this very young offering from Alice White. A mild nose with some cherry and berry notes leads to a medium body with moderate cherry, plum, and spice notes. We didn’t find a lot of structure, and the best thing we can say about this one is that it won’t offend anyone too much.

Cheap reds of this type aren’t generally intended for aging, but somehow we wonder if this Cab wasn’t rushed to market. Based on comments on the 2005, we were at least expecting a big, juicy Cab, but didn’t find it here. For some Aussie fun, check out the Alice White website.