Behind the Cork™ - Lion Tamer Red Blend


2016 Lion Tamer Red - The Hess Collection ($45)

This red blend comes from The Hess Collection of wines from Napa Valley.

Hess Family wines was founded by Donald Hess in 1978. Today, Tim Persson (Donald’s son in law) and his wife Sabrina are owners of Hess Family Wine Estates and are the fifth generation of the Hess family to lead the company.

The Lion Tamer is part of a new collection of wines that are not Hess branded. But it certainly represents the tradition and heritage of Hess wines.

This red blend is comprised of 40% Malbec, 27% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Mourvedre, 1% Petite Verdot and 1% Merlot.

While the Lion has been the emblem of the Hess Family for nine generations and the name Lion Tamer has become the nickname for Malbec because of their use of Malbec to ‘tame’ the tannin in their Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

The Malbec certainly does its job in taming this wine. It’s amazingly smooth and full of big juicy dark fruit flavors of black plum, black currant, cassis and boysenberry. This wine is a delight and oh so easy to drink.

This is one you’ll want to be on the lookout for! Cheers!

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 of Donna White Communications

Behind the Cork™ - Vallobera Rioja Crianza


2016 Vallobera Rioja Crianza ($10)

This was an unexpected recent find. A Tempranillo from Spain. And, it’s a Crianza. This style of Rioja is required to be aged for one year in oak and spend one year in the bottle before being sold.

This extra aging takes the bright red fruit flavor of this Tempranillo and adds some rich, chocolaty flavor.

This is yet another fine example of a wine that just fits the model for a Behind the Cork™ wine - it’s a great value. Cheers!

Ever Wonder? Is Price a Good Indication of a Wine's Quality?

Source: Wine Folly 8/5/15

Source: Wine Folly 8/5/15

Early in my wine exploration, I was drinking a lot of inexpensive wine. Mostly in the $5 - $10 price range. And that’s where I did a lot of learning.

When I’d splurge and buy a wine in the $10 - $15 range it would usually be a better wine. So, in those early days, I’d constantly wonder how much better are expensive wines? If a $15 bottle is better than a $10 bottle, how much better is a $20 bottle? How about a $40 bottle. Is a $100 bottle of wine perfection?

Well, over the years, I’ve learned that indeed there is a correlation between a wine’s price and its quality. And, the infographic from Wine Folly is generally true. About half the wines priced at $20 will be “good.” And, by the time you are spending $30 or more on a bottle of wine, you’ll probably find it’s a really good one. But, where does this stop?

During my travels through wine country, I’ve gotten to taste a lot of wines. And, generally, price and quality are correlated. I’ve tried a $100 Cabernet Sauvignon from a major wine producer in Paso Robles that I still claim is the best wine I’ve ever tried. It was truly amazing. But, I’ve also tried a $150 Pinot Noir in the Russian River area, from a winery I really enjoy, but found it to be no better than their significantly lower priced Pinot Noir.

Price can also be somewhat of a marketing thing. Is $2500 really worth it for a bottle of Screaming Eagle 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa? I don’t have first-hand experience with this one. I bet it’s good. But that good? When you are trying to impress someone, maybe a prospective customer that you know enjoys wine, or a good client, the $2500 is certainly worth it. Everyone will be impressed and you’ll make your customer very happy. But, is the wine really a thousand times better than a $25 bottle of Cabernet? I’d love to find out!

So, price is usually a good indicator. But don’t let it be your only guide. Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - 2016 Écluse Ensemble


2016 Écluse Ensemble ($48)

This Bordeaux red blend from Écluse in Paso Robles is truly an ensemble of varietals. It’s produced from 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cab Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, 14% Merlot, 14% Malbec and 7% Carignane. A little bit of everything!

And the result is quite tasty. It has bright red fruit flavors such as cherry but also has hints of pepper, licorice and other spices.

Écluse has masterfully blended this wine to be big in flavor and smooth on the finish.

If you’re passing through Paso Robles on Highway 101, Écluse is just a couple of minutes away and well worth the stop. And, you’re likely to find the warm and friendly owner Steve Lock (Lock is Écluse in French) in the serving room.

This is a really good one! Cheers!

Let Your Own Palette Be Your Primary Guide When Selecting Wine


Last time we looked at wine scores and how well they can be relied upon as an indicator when selecting wines. Some wine scores are from reputable sources (e.g., Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate) while others are less dependable. And, when it comes right down to it, a wine may receive a high score from a reputable source but not be something you care for.

And, the fact that you don’t care for a highly rated wine doesn’t make the rating “wrong.” It just shows that professional wine tasters have a different palette from yours.

So, let your palette be the primary guide when selecting a wine. If you are a big fan of particular varietal of wine or wine region, stick with them. But, if you are looking to select a wine from your favorite varietal or region, and you see one with a good wine score, give it a try. You’ll usually be pleased.

Next time we’ll take a look at wine prices and how well they correlate with quality. Until then, Cheers!