2014 Pasqua Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore ($9)   Valpolicella is an Italian wine generally produced primarily with the Corvina grape and blended with Rondinella, Molinara and sometimes Negrara grapes.   Ripasso, or "repassed," refers to the method of adding grape skins (left over from the production of Amarone wine) to the fermenting Valpolicella Superiore.  The grapes skins are left in contact with the Valpolicella for a couple of weeks to impart extra flavor, color and tannin.  This process yields a rich and full-bodied, fruity, almost Zinfandel-like jammy wine. Along with these fruity flavors, the 8 months that this wine spends aging in oak adds a bit of toasted flavor.    This is another great value wine that's worth checking into.
  2015 Cline Family Cellars Lodi Zinfandel ($6)   Excellent Zinfandels come from Lodi. And, at $6 for this one is a steal. Along with being a great value, this Cline Zinfandel has real nice spice and pepper notes with nice fruit that isn't jammy.  Wines at this price point can sometimes by iffy, but don't skip this one because of the low price. Pick it because it's a Zinfandel from Lodi.
  2013 Fife Creek Vineyards Russian River Valley Zinfandel ($10)   This was a recent find of a Russian River Valley Zin that doesn't break the bank. This Zin tends toward being light for a Zinfandel. It's almost leaning toward a light-bodied wine, almost like a Pinot Noir.  This Zinfandel has hints of peppery flavors as opposed to being big in fruit and jammy. It has definite oak flavors while being one that is easy drinking, smooth and finishes with finesse. While Fife Creek Vineyards is not a physical vineyard you can visit during your next trip to the Russian River, it is worth stopping along the wine aisle and picking up a bottle of this one.
  2014 Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Chardonnay ($11)   This Chardonnay, from Washington's Columbia Valley, not only has great flavors of pineapple and mango, but add rich flavors of butterscotch and caramel from its fermentation and oak aging. Bob Bertheau, the Head Winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, describes this as his tropical Chardonnay and goes on to describe it as his "Pineapple Upside Down Chardonnay" that is fermented in both French and American oak.  This is a really good Chardonnay and, as always, a great value.
  2014 Line 39 California Pinot Noir ($10)   'Line 39' represents the 39th parallel of Northern California's wine country and this Pinot Noir is from vineyards in Monterey. As with most California Pinot Noirs, this wine has nice strawberry, raspberry and black cherry flavors with just a hint of the French oak barrels used for aging. Yet another great value, especially for a Pinot Noir from California. And, it got a 90 point "Best Buy" from Wine Enthusiast!
  Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling ($7)   This Riesling from Washington's Columbia Valley is listed as being between Medium-dry and medium-sweet. So, remembering that 'Dry' means little or no residual sugar in the wine, you know right away there is going to be some sweetness in this one.  The winery sources these Riesling grapes from both the warm and cool climate sites. The cool climate Riesling grapes give this wine its sweet fruit flavors and contribute to a lighter wine, while the warm climate grapes are a bit more subdued and more toward medium-bodied. The resulting blend has the great sweet fruit flavors of Riesling with just a bit of softness on the edges.  A great entry-level wine and one that pairs very well with hot-spicy foods.
  2015 Gerd Anselmann Pfalz Trocken Riesling ($14)   This German Riesling is "Trocken" meaning dry (little to no residual sugar). So, while many German Rieslings are sweet, this is an example of one that, while having little to no sugar content, is not sweet yet still exhibits the sweet fruit flavors of green apple, citrus and peach. An excellent example of a dry German Riesling that has bright acidity. When well chilled, this is a wonderful wine to enjoy with cheeses or a lighter meal. 
  2013 Hook or Crook Napa Valley Red Blend ($7)   I'm always curious when I come across a new label at Trader Joe's.  This one caught my eye so I brought it home. While they don't specify the grapes used, this is a full-bodied red with a real nice set of flavors that caused me to look them up.  Out of Lodi, they are producing three wines including this one.  And, much to my surprise, they suggest $23.99 for this wine!  Once knowing this, the wine tasted even better!  This is great value and sure to go quickly. I went back for more!
  2012 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Sonoma Chardonnay ($15)   This is an "Estate" wine meaning that Rodney Strong grew the grapes, crushed them, fermented, aged and bottle the wine. This Chardonnay has the nice fruit flavors of golden delicious apple and Meyer lemon along with spicy notes of vanilla from its oak aging. You'd expect to pay a lot more for an Estate Chardonnay of this quality. Yet another great value.
  2014 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel ($10)   Just having featured "Old Vine Zinfandel - Is it Better?" I thought it would be good to bring back a wine that was featured in this blog last year. This old vine Zinfandel comes from vines that are 60 to 80 years old. These old vines produce small, concentrated clusters of grapes that result in an incredibly rich and intense wine.  It has great dark fruit flavors and a bit of spicy notes from the use of two-year old American oak.    
  Z. Alexander Brown 2014 Russian River Valley Uncaged Pinot Noir ($13)   The Russian River Valley is renowned for its delicious Pinot Noir. And this is another fine example.
  2014 Foggy Veil Hillside Red Blend ($13)   This blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Grenache from Santa Barbara County is another unexpected winner. In the Rhone tradition, this blend has the big fruit, medium tannin characteristics of the Syrah with the Grenache adding its big fruit flavors and moderate tannins to yield a smooth medium-bodied blend.  Flavors include strawberry, black currant, black pepper and vanilla. This blend has excellent balance and a velvety finish. The winery suggest $25 for this bottle and it stands up as a $20+ wine, yet it's yours for just $13.  A terrific wine at an equally terrific price!
  2013 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Rhône Style Blend ($6)   This Rhône style blend is a perfect fit for Behind the Cork ™ - Wine of the Week. It's affordable, it's attainable and it's a nice wine to enjoy any day of the week.  Being a Rhône blend, it is made from Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (GSM). It's medium-bodied with flavors of blackberries, black currants and just a hint of pepper. Being aged in a bit of oak also add to the character of this easy drinking wine.
  2015 Blackstone Winemaker's Select California Merlot ($5)   The theme of  Behind the Cork  ™ -  Wine of the Week  is to feature affordable and attainable wines that are enjoyable to drink.  This Merlot fits that description. This Merlot is blended with 14% Syrah, 4% Petite Sirah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec. But it's the 79% Merlot that shines through. Nice black cherry, plum fruit flavors along with chocolate and vanilla from its oak aging.
  2014 Oak Ridge Lodi Ancient Vine Zinfandel ($12)   This Zinfandel has great dark fruit flavors, a bit of black pepper and nice chocolate, vanilla and caramel from its oak aging. While this Zinfandel varietal is made from at least 75% of the Zinfandel variety of grape, it is also blended with some Petite Sirah to create this full-bodied wine with low tannin for a nice smooth texture.
  2013 Hess Select Central Coast Pinot Noir ($16)   This Pinot Noir is from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey, CA . Nice red fruit flavors of sour cherry, rhubarb and Pomegranate. Another fine Pinot Noir from California at a very reasonable price.
  2016 Ventisquero Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc Reserva ($15)   This wine is from the Casablanca Valley of  Chile . In the Northern region of Chile, this valley has strong coastal influences that keep temperatures cool, adding as much as a month to this region's growing season as compared to others in Chile. This 100% Sauvignon Blanc underwent cold maceration for 12 to 14 hours followed by a slow fermentation and was then aged over its lees for four months and battonage was used to increase its complexity.  While distinctively a Sauvignon Blanc, the peach flavors really come through on this one while the grapefruit and citrus flavor take second billing. The wine finishes with subtle fruit and distinctive minerality that Chile's soils impart. At 12% ABV this is a dry wine with moderate acidity. If you like the body of an un-oaked Chardonnay this Sauvignon Blanc is right for you. Serving this one chilled to 45-50 degrees F will keep it refreshing while also allowing its body and complexity to make a statement.  Enjoy with a variety of foods including salads, fish and seafoods.   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  2015 Valdivieso Valley Selection Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserve ($17)    Chile  is turning out some highly-acclaimed wines that are also great values. This Sauvignon Blanc, from the Valle de Leyda in Chile's San Antonio Region, is a fine example.  Founded in 1879 by Alberto Valdivieso and owned since the mid 1900’s by the Mitjans family, Valdivieso is one of the most prestigious and recognized wineries in Chile.  This 100% Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in stainless steel tanks, sees no malolactic conversion and is left on lees for 3 months. At 12% ABV, it is a dry wine.  With distinct grapefruit, passion fruit and lime flavors, this Sauvignon Blanc is light and refreshing, with distinct stony minerality. Its acidity is not overpowering and the body actually leans a bit toward unoaked Chardonnay. A nice wine to enjoy on a warm day or paired with goat cheese, white fish or shellfish.   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  Valdivieso Sparkling Rosé Brut ($13)   Viña Valdivieso dates back to 1879 when Alberto Valdivieso founded Champagne Valdivieso, the first company in Chile and South America to make sparkling wine. Today they continue making sparkling wines and still wines.  This sparkling Rosé Brut from Chile is made of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from the foothills of the Los Andes mountain range. The second fermentation was done in tanks using the Charmat method.   This Brut Rosé has reddish-orange color and moderate fizz. With its 12% ABV, it is not overly sweet. Its low acidity allows the fruit flavors to come through without being overly bright. This is actually a fairly smooth sparkling wine with delicate fruit flavors on the palate and a light finish.  Serve this one around 48 F (not refrigerator cold) to get the most out of its flavors. Nice by itself, but pairs well with most lighter fare.   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  2015 Ventisquero Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ($15)   Chile has been producing wine for more than 400 years. But, in the past 30 years has really made great strides in producing highly notable wines. And the Maipo Valley has become Chile's red wine country.  This Chilean wine from the Maipo Valley is produced by Ventisquero from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah.  The grapes underwent a pre-fermentation low-temperature  maceration  in order to bring out the maximum color and aromas from the grapes. Fermentation occurred in stainless steel tanks and then the wine was aged in French oak for 10 months, followed by another 4 months in the bottle before release.  While Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are typically big, full-bodied wines, this one actually has some delicate red-fruit flavors of strawberry and raspberry but the finish yields the dark-fruit flavors of blackcurrants and blueberries along with hints of vanilla and chocolate from its oak aging.  If Cabernet's are typically too big and bold for you, give this one a try. At 13% ABV, I found it to be medium-bodied with lots of bright fruit flavors. And, it's a great value too. Be sure to check this one out!   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  2016 Amalaya Blanco ($12)   Amalaya wines was founded in Argentina in 2010 by Donald Hess of the Hess Family Wine Estates. The grapes are grown in the Calchaquí Valley in the eastern foothills of the Andes mountain range at altitudes as high as 5580 feet. This high altitude provides intense sun in the day and cool nights to produce concentrated fruit.  Amalaya Blanco is a blend of 85% Torrontés and 15% Riesling. It was cold-pressed, allowed to settle for up to 48 hours before being racked and fermentation started. After fermentation it was again chilled to prevent malolactic fermentation and then aged in stainless steel for up to 120 before bottling.  The Amalaya Blanco starts with fresh aromas of grapefruit and citrus and has bright, fresh, crisp and refreshing flavors with good acidity and just a hint of minerality. It is light-bodied with delicate flavors. Great to enjoy alone by the glass or with sea foods.   Amalaya wines maybe relatively new to the wine scene, but Donald Hess of the Hess Family Wine Estates has got a very good thing going with this wine.  The label may say " Esperanza por un milagro " (the hope for a miracle) but none is needed with this one. And, as always here on  Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week , this one's a great value! Give it a try!   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  2016 Colomé Torrontés ($15)   Colomé is one of the oldest working wineries in Argentina and home to the highest vineyards in the world, some reaching altitudes of 10,000 ft (~3000m) above sea level. The winery, established in 1831, is based in the Calchaqui Valley, in the Salta region of northwestern Argentina.  Colomé joined the Hess Family Wine Estates in 2001.  Torrontés has become Argentina's signature white grape and one of the most widely grown.  Nearly all the world's Torrontés comes from Argentina.  Salta, on the edge of the Andes, is dry with desert-like conditions. But the significant diurnal temperature shift helps bring out the best in Torrontés.  This 2016 Colomé 100% Torrontés is dry and zesty. It is straw-like in color with aromas of citrus and pear. Dominate flavors include grapefruit and lemon. It's finishes with lingering acidity that is refreshing.  There's also a bit of salinity along with a smooth mouth-feel.   Keep your eyes out for this one. It's a wonderfully refreshing wine that is easy to drink on its own, or with light fare.   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  2016 Amalaya Malbec ($16)    Amalaya wines was founded in Argentina in 2010 by Donald Hess of the Hess Family Wine Estates. The grapes are grown in the Calchaquí Valley in the eastern foothills of the Andes mountain range at altitudes as high as 5900 feet. This high altitude provides intense sun in the day and cool nights to produce concentrated fruit.    More than 75% of the world's production of Malbec comes from Argentina. This one,   from Salta, is made from 85% Malbec and 10% Tannat and 5% Petite Verdot. One-quarter of the wine is aged for 8 months in French oak barrels. This lets the fruit flavors shine through with only a touch of oak flavors there to enhance the fruit.    This Malbec is a deep ruby red in color with nice dark fruit aromas of plum and black cherries. Cherry and Black Cherry flavors come right through along with a bit of peppery spice, moderate tannin, and a nice finish.   If you enjoy full-bodied red wines but prefer a bit less tannin, Malbec is for you. And this one from Amalaya is a fine one to choose!   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  2014 Colomé Estate Malbec ($25)   Established in 1831, Colomé is located in the upper Calchaquí Valley in the Salta region of Argentina.  Colomé grows the world's highest elevation Malbec. The grapes used in making this wine are grown in four vineyards that sit at elevations ranging from 5740 feet to as high as 10,207 feet. These elevations produce thicker skinned grapes that yield robust flavors and ample tannin.  This 100% Malbec comes from 90 year old vines, is aged 15 months in French oak. What is immediately striking as you pour this wine is its extreme dark color. Then you get the aromas of black and red fruits. The intense rich fruit flavors, spiciness, firm tannin and acidity all work together to make this a very well balanced wine.   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  2013 Wild Horse GSM ($12)   This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (GSM) from Wild Horse is medium-light in body with a soft mouthfeel, candied red fruit flavors, and light tannins. When served slightly chilled, at cellar temperatures, it's a very easy-drinking wine that goes well with light fare. This is a great value for such a nice wine.  While this is a Wild Horse flagship wine, look for more wines from Wild Horse in my up-coming reviews of some of their reserve wines. They're really nice and surprisingly affordable. Cheers!
  2013 Tobin James Ballistic Zinfandel ($14)   Tobin James is one of the larger producers in Paso Robles. Located on the east side of Highway 101, this winery has a salon-style tasting room and a fun atmosphere.  The Ballistic Zinfandel is one of their flagship wines. Paso Robles is known for their Zinfandel, and this is a good example. Using grapes from the noteworthy Dusi Vineyard, this Zinfandel starts with rich and jammy dark fruit flavors and finishes with classic peppery notes.  This Ballistic Zinfandel from Tobin James fits right in with the " Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week " theme of good wines at a great price. Enjoy!
  2015 The Hess Collection Napa Chardonnay ($22)   This week's feature is The Hess Collection's 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay. This wonderful 100% Chardonnay features flavors of apple, white pear and a slight touch of tropical fruits and a very slight hint of oak.  The hint of oak is due to 70% of the blend seeing fermentation in Stainless Steel to retain the fresh yellow stone fruit, citrus and pear flavors. The remaining 30% of the blend gets just a light touch of oak, and only 30% of the overall blend is allowed to undergo secondary fermentation. The wine is then aged for 9 months in barrels with lees stirred weekly for 4 months.  The resulting wine is a nice balance that features the crisp fruit flavors with a bit of baked apple, vanilla and caramel.  The Hess Collection wines are family owned, sustainably farmed and dedicated to reflecting a true sense of place.  This Chardonnay is well worth the price and one that you should definitely try. It was a great pairing with pork loin, but would work well with poultry or fish.  But, for that matter, it was great all by itself.  Look for 2015 The Hess Collection Estate Chardonnay. You won't be disappointed!
  2016 Artezin Old Vine Zinfandel ($18)   This Zinfandel comes from California's Mendocino County that has a climate with warm days and cool evenings that provides for great growing conditions and optimal ripening. Winemaker Randle Johnson, who has been with Artezin since its inception in 2002, blends this Zinfandel with Petite Sirah and Carignan. He describes this wine as having " a concentration of juicy bright cherry, pomegranate and boysenberry aromas with flavors of raspberry and currants. "  His description is right on. It starts out with big, bright fruit flavors and finishes by leaning toward being a bit jammy with the rich currant flavors. It is very smooth, has moderate tannin, and the French oak provides a hint of spice.  The Artezin wines are family farmed and sustainably grown. And at this price-point, a terrific value. Be sure to keep an eye out for this one and give it a try. It's a winner.  Artezin wines is part of The Hess Family Wine Estates portfolio that is family owned and a fifth-generation company producing excellent wines.   Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission:   I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.  Sample Provided by Donna White Communications
  2015 Thomas Allen Selections Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon ($7)   Generally, when I see a California Cab under $10 I don't pay too much attention. But this Cab is from Lodi, a region I really like. And, while Lodi isn't exactly the best-known region in California for Cabernet Sauvignon, I decided to give it a try. And I'm really glad I did.  It turns out that Thomas Allen is not one person but a pair of third generation wine grape growers; Thomas Michael Stokes and Allen Lombardi.  The Stokes have a family tradition of growing exceptional wine grapes having planted their first 45 acres of Zinfandel near Lodi in 1954.  This Cab is rich and full-bodied with flavors of blackberry and black cherry, with hints of spices. The oak aging also led to subtle flavors of vanilla and chocolate.
  2014 14 Hands Columbia Valley Stampede Red Blend ($9)   I've recently read some nice things about 14 Hands Winery and, never having had their wines, I thought I'd give this one a try.  The Stampede Red Blend is a combination of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mouvèdre. Oh, and Viognier.  Yes, Viognier, a medium to full-bodied white wine that gives a bit of an aromatic kick to the Syrah base.  Each variety was vinified and aged separately in mostly neutral French and American oak for nearly two years with blending occurring just prior to bottling.  Right out of the bottle, this blend exhibited big red fruit aromas and the full-bodied flavors that are expected with a Syrah. Along plenty of tannin. After decanting for an hour this wine really settled down and exhibited some smoothness and subtle hints of its oak aging.  This 2014 Stampede Red Blend received 88 points from Wine Enthusiast and 89 points from Wine Spectator. Very nice ratings, especially for $9 bottle of wine.  So, another great value wine. Check it out.
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