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Top Ten Red Wines from the 2014 Mohegan Sun Winefest

CIMG2375Here’s our Top Ten list for red wine from the recent 2014 Mohegan Sun Winefest.  I’ll be honest up front and say I wimped out, couldn’t make the hard decision and left in a tie for tenth, so it is really a top eleven.  These were evaluated on overall quality, price (and therefore value) and our general impressions.  There were many wines we didn’t get to, so I guarantee there are things missing.  Also all of these were good, and the differences between some are infinitesimal.  Still, this is our blog so it’s our opinion that matters.  We’ll throw in some very Honorable Mentions as well as a couple that really didn’t make the grade at the end.  But first, the good stuff!

A quick note: there were three wines that clearly belong here but which we’ll exclude based on value.  They are the 2009 Gaja Barbaresco, the 2010 Signarello Padrone Cabernet and the 2008 Terlato Episode.  They are great, but they also start at $175 and go north from there.  I don’t think they are that much better than what follows.  Maybe the Gaja is, but it’s $275!  (You can read more about Gaja Nebbiolo from a previous tasting here)

1. 2009 Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon – this is here strictly on quality, since it rings in at about $90, but also because it may have been the best wine of the weekend period.  It’s really dark in color with dark fruits, earth, tar and bramble on the nose, as well as oak.  It’s luscious, very full bodied and come out swinging with those same dark fruits, oak and a great savory quality.  This is big time wine.  Cheri absolutely loved it, as did I.  Somewhat out of our price range, but if I find one of these around $60-$70 I’m stretching for it.  Outstanding.

2. 2010 Louis Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon – another pretty big price tag at $68, but a great wine

2010 Monte Rosso Cab - yum!

2010 Monte Rosso Cab – yum!

and a sentimental favorite as well.  The only other time we’ve been to this event was way back when it started, and it was a bottle of 2001 Monte Rosso, brought out from under the table, that really changed the way we looked at wine.  This version is excellent, with dark fruits, leather, vanilla and chocolate.  Deep red in color, full bodied and long – long – long, this is going to last a while.  Very elegant and it will only get better.  I’ve heard great things about 2010 California Cab, and this reinforces it.  We’ll be looking for some of this, on sale hopefully.

3. 2010 Austin Hope Syrah – this was a revelation of sorts.  We snuck in this table right at the end, as I was talking with Derek Rohlffs from Bravium and Hope Family Vineyards was

The excellent Austin Hope Syrah

The excellent Austin Hope Syrah

right next door.  Cheri was fighting a cold and took a few minutes rest, so she didn’t get to try this wine, which was too bad.  They make a Grenache as well, which is excellent, but the Syrah is clearly better.  This is deep purple red with great dark fruit on the nose.  It doesn’t have that big, spicy, meaty nose or flavors that a full Syrah can bring, but they are there a bit more restrained and in nice balance.  It’s long, rich and delicious.  The tannins are very approachable but a little stiff at the back, so a couple of years wouldn’t hurt.  We’re gaining a taste for West Coast Syrah.  Very, very nice and about $37.

4. 2010 Casey Flat Ranch Estate Red – this is about where we put this wine in the Top Ten from last year’s Newport Mansions festival, and it continues to be one of our favorites.  You can read a lot more about Casey Flat Ranch wines on a couple of our previous blogs here and here.  Full bodied, expressive, complex and elegant this is on of my favorite wines anywhere near this price range.  Around $35, $40 at the winery.

5. 2010 Bravium Signal Ridge Pinot Noir – you know as soon as this comes out of the bottle it is not your everyday Pinot Noir.  It’s a deep red color, darker than most Pinot.  It’s got some significant body to it as well.  The fruit aromas are lovely, and they dance across your palate in a complex and completely satisfying way.  There’s are some fine tannins here as well.  This is rich yet elegant.  It was by far the best Pinot Noir we had all weekend.  I talked to Derek Rohlffs, who makes this, at length and we discussed everything from the 6 clones and 8 blocks that he babies until finally blending them to how he does cap management and how often he racks.  This only gets a single racking after completing malolactic fermentation.  He treats this with kid gloves the whole way.  It works.  This is special.  Not cheap at $60, but outstanding.  Maybe I can talk him into a discount.

6. 2011 Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – you’re going to run into another Pine Ridge wine on the

Pine Ridge Cab

Pine Ridge Cab

Top Whites list, but let’s start here.  Of all the Cabernet’s we tried over the two days this was probably the most rich and rounded.  It filled your mouth with flavor and had a great viscosity to it. Very full bodied it packed traditional Cabernet aromas and flavors into a thoroughly enjoyable wine.  A pretty good value too checking in around $35-$40.  This is mostly Cabernet with a little Merlot, Malbec and Cab Franc mixed in.  We would, and just might, buy this.

7. 2010 Michael David Ink Blot Cabernet Franc – we ran through five Michael David reds, and frankly I could put them all on this list.  It was impressive.  This one struck home because you rarely find an expression of Cabernet Franc that brings this much power and depth to the party.  This is a deep, dark red purple with notes of oak and brambly underbrush entwined with the red and black fruit.  It’s full bodied, long and flat out delicious.  This is too dark for Cabernet Franc and that’s because they put 6% Petite Sirah into it.  They apparently put a little Petite Sirah in just about everything.  I suspect they put some in their milk for their morning cereal.  Whatever reason, it works splendidly.  They have an outstanding lineup of super value red wine and this one is exceptional.  About $35.

8. 2009 Chateau de Fieuzal Rouge – here’s a somewhat reasonably priced Bordeaux from a celebrated vintage that really delivers.  We love Bordeaux, and there are cases of 2005, 2009 and 2010 in the cellar waiting for the proper time.  We just added a few of these.  It’s deep purple red with lots of fruit on the nose.  The impression is big, as is the flavor profile and depth.  This is serious stuff here, and it really delivers a full throttle red wine experience.  Still pretty tannic it needs some bottle time, but decant it for an hour and it’s going to work right now as well. Very nice, about $50-$55.

9. 2010 Treana Red – we’re back to Hope Family Vineyards for this one.  This is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon

Treana Red

Treana Red

and 30% Syrah.  It’s a deep purple red color with a lot of fruit on the nose.  Currants and berries come through with a little spice.  The flavor profile is deep and rich, with the same currants and berries and spice notes.  It’s very long and really delicious.  Very approachable now as the tannins are fine and well integrated, this will also last a while.  We’ll be looking to add a few bottles of this to the cellar.  About $30.

One of many excellent Michael David wines

One of many excellent Michael David wines

10. 2011 Michael David 6th Sense Syrah – another entry from Michael David Wines, this is dark purply red with deep aromas featuring dark fruit, subtle earthiness, oak, tar and savory notes.  I’m pretty sure there is a touch of Petite Sirah in this as well, it’s a pretty good bet at least.  Smooth tannins make it very drinkable now.  Really yummy and yet another California Syrah I am a fan of.  I sense a trend.  About $15, and a raving steal at that price.

10B. 2010 Double Decker Red Blend – Double Decker is one of the Wente labels, and we

Very good $10 bottle here

Very good $10 bottle here

like a lot of their wines.  This was a surprise.  There’s some nicely balanced acid, some tannin and some good fruit here.  It’s a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Syrah and 10% Barbera.  Good length too.  It’s just a good bottle of wine, and it’s only about $10, which makes it a great value as well.  Based on that price we couldn’t exclude it.

So there it is, eleven very good wines with some great ones among the bunch.  There are some great values in there.  If you’ve got the money the Don Melchor is just killer.

Here’s the Honorable mention list, and again some of these could easily be in the above list.  It’s that close, and of course totally subjective!

Honorable Mention Reds

2005 Chateau Bernadotte – $38

2010 Charles Krug Reserve Generations – $50

2010 Banfi Bolnero (and pretty much every other Banfi wine we tried) – $30

Banfi - excellent across the board

Banfi – excellent across the board


2011 Michael David Petite Petit (yes, yet another one) – $15

2010 Michael David Rapture (and another) – $50

2010 Michael David Lust (last one – promise) – $50

2012 William Hill Napa Valley Cabernet – $25

And a few we didn’t like so much…..

2010 Entwine Cabernet Sauvignon – light, watery with absolutely nothing going on, this is not the first Entwine wine we have really not liked (see earlier blog here).  I don’t get this.  If you’re going to make wine to pair with food make a decent wine, not something that is so devoid of character it can go with everything, but not accentuate anything.

2009 Novelty Hill Royal Slope Red – a blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot this is light bodied and flat.  No length at all and not much of anything.  My notes ended with “avoid this”.

2011 Tortoise Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – I have to be honest – this tasted like tortoise.  The only wine of the weekend I absolutely could not drink and went looking for something to spit it into.  Hopefully this was a bad bottle.

In summary, there’s a lot to like here, and there were a lot of great wines overall.  We’ll be adding many of these to the value list, and as we mentioned earlier, putting our own hard earned cash up to buy some.  I can only wish for the budget for Gaja.

A votre sante!

 

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