Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Reviews of box wines and affordable bottle wines

Francis Ford Coppola Rosso & Bianco Chardonnay 2009

Francis Coppola Rosso Bianco ChardonnayPrice: $10
Winery: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville, California
Varietal: Chardonnay
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Lately, I’ve been avoiding Chardonnays, mostly because I’ve been in the mood for lighter, fruitier white wines that aren’t strongly oaked. I’m glad I tried Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009, as it’s unoaked and its fruit flavors come through nicely. This chard has a prominent, aroma of tropical fruit & pineapple. These fruits appear on the palate, too. The finish is a little acidic and lingers nicely. It’s not as creamy as some Chardonnays, but the lack of oak gives it an uncommon character.

I usually try to provide a sampling of other opinions, but for this Chardonnay there hasn’t been much activity. Perhaps it’s too new?

Rosso & Bianco Francis Coppola Chardonnay 2009 is a nice summer wine, refreshing, affordable, and not too heavy. Try it on the patio with grilled shrimp and veggies.

ChocoVine

ChocovinePrice: $10
Origin: Holland
Importer: Clever Imports, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, screw cap
Alcohol: 14%

ChocoVine‘s label promises, “the taste of dutch chocolate and fine red wine.” It looks like a frappucino, or perhaps an Irish cream liqueur in a darker shade. The combination doesn’t sound very promising – I was expecting an evil mixture of Yahoo and Two Buck Chuck. In fact, ChocoVine is more like a liqueur, both in taste and texture. It’s sweet and creamy, with a mild chocolate flavor and a noticeable alcohol bite. The “finish” is a rather cloying coating on the tongue from the cream. Continue reading

Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Bogle Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $11
Maker: Bogle Vineyards, Graton, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.8 out of 10

I’ve had good luck with Bogle’s inexpensive wines, and Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is no exception. It leads with ripe cherries, mixed with tobacco, chocolate, and spice. The finish has rich tannins, and the overall structure is very pleasing. For a wine in the $10 range, this Cab is actually amazing. Continue reading

Peregrine Hill Merlot 2006

Price: $11
Maker: Peregrine Hill, Fort Stockton, Texas
Varietal: Merlot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 12%
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

A Texas Merlot? Peregrine Hill Merlot 2006 is just that, and does the Lone Star state proud. Despite having an unusually low alcohol content for a Merlot, this wine is long on flavor. It has a big raspberry and blackberry start, and segues into an oaky, peppery finish with tannins that are just enough to add to the complexity.

This is apparently a product of Ste. Genevieve Wines of Fort Stockton, Texas’s largest winery. From that page,

Their wines universally receive a great reception. The winery’s most decorated wine is the Sauvignon Blanc, a light, dry, white wine. The Ste. Genevieve Chardonnay continues to be one of their most popular.

Tompkins finds their wines fit all occasions. He explains, “The Ste. Genevieve label provides wines which range from casual table wines to those that can accompany fine meals, all at a good value.”

I can agree with the value part. This may not be a wine as big as Texas (few Merlots are), but it’s a good ambassador for the state.

Nine Points Meritage 2006

Nine Points MeritagePrice: $10
Maker: Chateau Diana, Healdsburg, California
Varietal: Meritage
Packaging: 750 ml bottle
Alcohol: 14%
Our Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Nine Points Meritage is a sleeper. Not only is it hard to find out any information about Nine Points Winery, but the wine itself is quite bland at first sip. Fortunately, I kept it open for a while, and after a very long breathing period the wine came into its own. This Meritage has a dark ruby color and a ripe cherry nose with faint woody and floral notes. On the palate, it’s jammy and complex, with a long, slightly peppery, finish.

It turns out that Nine Points is an offshoot of the well-regarded Stags Leap winery. Reviews around the Web have been quite good. The Cork Scrooge comments, “This wine could easily be mistaken for being $25 to $30 or more per bottle.” WineKnow called it a “pleasant, easy drinking, red Bordeaux-style meritage, with dark likeable fruity flavors soft tannins and a velvety finish.”

If you can find Nine Points Meritage 2006, pick up a bottle. It’s an amazing value. And, if it doesn’t delight at first, give it some more air.

Seriously Good Wine Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Seriously Good Wine Chalk HillPrice: $12
Maker: Chateau Diana, Healdsburg, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle
Alcohol: 13.7%
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

A name like Seriously Good Wine Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 sets seriously high expectations, even though it’s an inexpensive wine. Seriously, though, this Cab does a reasonable job of living up to those expectations. The berry aroma was unremarkable, but the wine was more interesting on the palate. It started with bright cherry and chocolate notes and finished with robust but well-balanced tannins. The wine was accessible but not overly simple. Continue reading

Campobarro Tempranillo

Price: $21
Maker: San Marcos Winery, Almendralejo, Extremadura, Spain
Varietal: Tempranillo
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.3 out of 10

Campobarro Tempranillo 3LSlowly but surely, more interesting boxed wines are appearing on store shelves. A good example is Campobarro Tempranillo (non-vintage) from Spain. This is the first Spanish Tempranillo I’ve seen in a box. Like many inexpensive Tempranillos, this is a fine, if undistinguished, table wine. It has a fruity nose, with red berries and medium tannins on the palate. It’s not overly complex and the finish isn’t memorable, but for the equivalent of less than six bucks a bottle it’s very drinkable.

The wine is labeled as “Vino de la Tierra Extremadura,” indicating that it is from the Extremadura region of western Spain. The winery seems to be Bodega San Marcos, and the importer San Antonio-based Makin Wines International. The San Marcos website doesn’t reveal too much about the winery, sadly, and I haven’t seen any other boxed products from them.

Don’t expect to wow your oenophile friends with this one, but if you are looking for a chance of pace from the more common-seen boxes of California Cabs and Australian Shirazes, Campobarro Tempranillo may be just the ticket.

Kenwood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Kenwood Sonoma County Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $11
Maker: Kenwood Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.7 out of 10

At a recent stay at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco, I was handed a half-bottle of Kenwood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 as an amenity of their Joie de Vivre club. It was a screw cap bottle (handy to not have to deal with the whole corkscrew thing if you are handing out bottles of wine to your guests). Although I wasn’t expecting much, this Cab proved to be not only inoffensive but rather tasty. The aroma was of ripe berries with tobacco overtones. It had a fruity raspberry and strawberry flavor, with quite a bit of oak, a hint of chocolate, and robust tannins.

Either the JDV chain got lucky, or they actually put some thought into this selection. This Kenwood Cab is inexpensive, though not in the Two Buck Chuck or Barefoot range. Most importantly, it’s fruity enough to please just about anyone while it sports enough complexity to avoid disaster with a more experienced wine drinker. Plus, it was immediately drinkable, though a little air seemed to bring out more complexity. All in all, it was a very nice welcome to the hotel, and it’s a wine I’ll look for at the wine store.

Black Box California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Black Box CabernetPrice: $20
Maker: Black Box Wines, Madera, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 3-liter box
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

Periodically, we revisit the boxed wine of the ubiquitous Black Box Wines. In the case of Black Box California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, we’re very glad we did. It’s one of the nicest box wines we’ve tried and definitely as good as a lot of bottle wine costing twice as much. This Cab has a very dark ruby color, with bright berry and clove aromas. Raspberry and strawberry flavors predominate, and the finish is long with chewy tannings and a lingering note of dried fruit.

Our history with Black Box Cabs has been mixed. We liked Black Box Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 enough to score it 8.5, but the Black Box 2005 Cab disappointed at a mere 7.5. Happily the 2006 Black Box Paso Robles Cab bounced back to an 8.5. The 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon, though, was the best of the bunch.

Comments on the latest offerings from Black Box have been mostly positive. Catman_Drinks says, “Usually, boxed wine is in the domain of the cheapest-of-the-cheap, but this is different. It is actually good wine.” Cheap Dates doesn’t rave about this Cab, but notes, “It’s a very juicy, jammy wine that would be a crowd pleaser at a big family party, assuming your family does not consist of wine snobs. There is more flavor and interest here than one expects in a 3-liter box.” WineLife365 tried the 2008, and called it, “by far the best tasting box wine that I’ve ever tried.” Katherine Cole also recommends the 2008, calling it a “crowd-pleaser.” Eat A Perfect Pair said of the 2007, “Lovely wine and a great value.”

I actually scored this box at Sam’s Club for a mere $18 – that’s $4.50 per bottle-equivalent. A pleasant wine and a great value!