Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon

The Hess Collection Cab is a bottle I see on the shelf of my local wine store every time I go in. It is hard to miss the deep purple label and almost Coat of Arms logo it sports. I did some research into the wine and decided to pick up a bottle for this review. The bottle is priced in what I would call the lower end of mid-range at $30.

Right off the bat you get a nose full of blackberry and oak. You get a hint of plum for an instant before it dissipates. I find it quite pleasing compared to some other cabs I have tried in this price range. The wine has legs that stick around for your entire glass, which is around a half hour in my case.

 

hess

The first sip is surprising. Very acidic and spicy; not at all what I anticipated with the aroma coming from the glass. There are tannins but not an overpowering amount. A lot of the flavor is muddled due to the big flavor of the oak and spice mixing with the acidity but there is a definite taste of berry on the finish.

 

After the first glass the acidity dulls and the flavor finally starts to come through. This leaves me to recommend airing the wine for around 45 minutes before drinking.

Once the flavor comes through the wine becomes fairly complex. There is still a spice and oak flavor up front with a bit of tobacco or tar mixed in with it. This gives way to dark cherry and plum flavors that creeps up and hits you boldly in the tongue to remind you of the diversity of wine. It finishes with the oak and spice coming back into the mix of plum and lingers just long enough to make you remember its complexities.

The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine that can show you how rich flavors can mix well with berries and other lighter notes when done correctly. This wine is surprising and complex when let to air and is a testament to what can be achieved with 80 years of experience to build upon. A very nice wine that I will purchase again. 8.5/10.

Chateau Moulin de Mallet

chateau moulin de mallet

Let me prefece by saying that this is one of my favorite Bordeaux. The 2009 I had was a little past its prime when I had it a couple of years ago. The 2011 is my favorite but at this point I doubt there is any left in the country. Finally, the 2015.

The 2015 is the one this review is covering. This bottle retails for around $15 and won a gold metal at the concours de bordeaux vins d’aquitaine 2016.

The Mallet is a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I paired it with grilled chicken, black beans, and spinach. The initial bouquet is big and oaky. A nice spice comes in afterwards and smooths out into a hint of blackberry.

The first drink is true to form. The Cabernet flavor really comes out at first but the texture is closer to the Merlot. The big Cab grape flavor quickly gives way to an almost bitter wildberry flavor and ends with a spicy note with enough tannin to keep it on your tongue for a few seconds afterward without feeling like it is trying to take your throat into your stomach with it. The wine ends with a pleasant oakyness that leaves you wanting another glass.

The Chateau Moulinde Mallet is the wine I turn to when I am in the mood for something to open up and enjoy. From its big bouquet to its mellow tannic finish, this is a wine that will always be my go to. After the bottle is gone, I have yet to find myself unsatisfied. A solid 9.1/10 in my book.

Horin Gekkeikan Sake

I have never considered myself a sake drinker. I have tried several different variants and haven’t found one I enjoy. Until now. Enter Horin Gekkeikan. Classified as a Junmai Daiginjo sake, it stands as the top 1% of all sake. While a lot of Gekkeikan sake is made in California, Horin is still made and exported from Kyoto, Japan. Coming in around the $15 mark for a 300ml bottle, this sake is quite a bit more expensive than a lot of it’s counterparts.

I could go into all of the details about the rice rolling and it’s special spring water but Gekkeikan-Horin-Junmai-Daiginjo-Sakeinstead, I’ll just tell you how it tastes. I chilled this sake for around two hours in the fridge and then poured it into ceramic sake cups. Sake has a very particular smell right off the nose. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, imagine a honeydew melon that was left out overnight and you wouldn’t be far off.

The first thing you notice when you drink it is a creamy, smooth texture. Some honeydew and cantaloupe melon on the front end and a nice pear and lychee finish. I paired this wine with some stove-top pork chops and broccoli and they complimented each other very well. I imagine any lightly seasoned white meat or salad would go well with Horin as well as slightly sweet fruit such as apples or berries.

Horin Gekkeikan sake has changed my mind about sake. From it’s refreshing nose to it’s smooth texture, there was nothing about this sake that I didn’t like. While it’s price was a little high, the experience made it worth it. While I won’t have a constant supply of sake in my collection, when I do it will be Horin. I give this a solid 9.5 out of 10. A truly enjoyable drink no matter how you look at it.

Cherry Cove Pinot Noir

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Randy Coleman from Coleman Vineyards. One of the wines he showed me was his 2011 Cherry Cove Pinot Noir. The first thing that caught my eye was the label. A lakeside beach akin to something Bob Ross might have created. I decided to pick up my own bottle for review. While I was not able to find a 2011 where I normally shop, there were some bottles of the 2013 vintage. While not as delicate as the two-year older wine, everything else about it was the same.

Cherry Cove is a solid Pinot Noir with barely any legs and a good finish. Quick enough that I did not have a lingering spice on my pallet but not so quick that I was unable to enjoy the taste before needing more. The grapes they use are smooth. Just enough tannin to make it grip the back of your mouth without drying you out with the need for something to eat between sips. You get a hint of pepper andcherry cove spice a second after the main grape hits your pallet but balances itself out with a nice, calm, almost melodic wash that cleanses the pallet on its own.

After drinking my first glass, I was ready for more. Not because I needed more but because I was truly enjoying it. I typically enjoy bigger, bolder wines such as Far Niente Cabernet or Chateau Moulin de Mallet. This Pinot Noir, however, satisfied my taste for good wine while enabling me to keep just enough outside of my comfort zone that I was not able to fall into a habit of ‘big wine, big flavor’ that I like to stay in.

I have found a recent love for red wines out of the American North West. Cherry Cove, and Coleman Vineyards for that matter, are no exception. In the $20 price range, this wine is worth picking up and mixes well with most foods. If you are able to find a 2011 vintage do yourself a favor and pick it up. Younger vintages will not be as delicate, but will be a great addition to any collection nonetheless.

This wine has found a spot in my permanent collection. A solid 9 out of 10 between both vintages I have been able to try.

Bunratty Meade

Before getting this bottle for review, I had not had the pleasure of trying mead before. To me, it seemed like it was an old-fashioned drink that was for Vikings and feasts from the Middle Ages. That was an injustice that I won’t make again.

When I opened the bottle of Bunratty, the first thing I noticed was the cap. There is no closing this bottle with the same cap that comes from the distillery. The cap is a screw top but it doesn’t crew back on. That wasn’t a problem for me but I can see an issue with some spilling during transit because of it. Luckily, mead isn’t supposed to spoil like wine does and when kept in the fridge, can last for a month or longer after opening because of the honey.

I decidbunrattyed to put mine in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill it for my first glass and then let it sit out to come to room temperature for my second.

It had a very strong honey smell to it with undertones of grape and some earthy, floral herb, and behind it all, subtle hints of vanilla.

The first taste was all honey up front and an almost off-putting sweetness but finished smooth with a floral finish. It took me by surprise with how good this mead was. After a couple of sips, the sweetness grew on me and I wanted more. Being only 14.7%, I was surprised by how hard one glass hit me. I suppose it was a mixture of natural sugar from the honey and the alcohol itself mixing together.

When I finished my first glass, I wanted more. The bottle had warmed to around cellar temperature at this point and the flavors just jumped out and punched me. Honey, flowers, vanilla, and grape aroma and flavor filled the room. I spent the rest of the bottle enjoying this mead and understanding why mead is called “Nectar from the Gods”.

With a sweetness from the honey to a nice floral and herbal finish, Bunratty Meade is worth the $15 it will cost you. I will buy this again soon and I enjoyed every drop. 9/10.

Dr. McGillicuddy’s Apple Whiskey

I am a huge whiskey fan. It’s what I usually choose to drink if I am just relaxing and want something to sip on. When I saw a bottle of this apple whiskey, I couldn’t help myself. I knew I had to try it. For around $20 a bottle and an urge for something sweet, this was a good bottle to choose.

Lets startapple whiskey with the smell. There are few artificial smells I like better than green apple. I don’t eat candy anymore, but the smell brought some nostalgic memories of my childhood and those caramel apple suckers.

It tasted surprisingly smooth for something that smelled so sweet. While it had some candied tones to it, it wasn’t overbearingly sugary. Again, green apple was the main focus. It finished quickly with a little cinnamon on the tail end. Beyond that, there wasn’t a lot of depth to this whiskey.

If you are looking for a straight forward whiskey with some candy apple tones, this is the bottle you want to buy. It was great for the price and goes well with many mixers or just straight in a lowball glass with a little ice. While a little too sugary for my tastes, it sated my want for something sweet and was a good introduction to other, more complicated drinks. 5/10.

 

Alibrianza Colle al Vento ‘Pacato’ Primitivo di Manduria

I was drawn to the bottle of ‘Pacato’ because of its sleek design and agreeable price. A $12 to $15 bottle of wine is acceptable even if it turns out being something I don’t necessarily enjoy. Not the case for this particular wine though. For the asking price, this was a bargain from the first glass.

When I pacatoopened the bottle, it smelled surprisingly fresh. Like a cherry or pear fresh from the tree. The first sip was pleasant. I got a good bit of dark cherries right away followed by some cocoa or dark chocolate. It was a little dry but not overly so and finished quickly with a bit of oak, leaving me ready for another sip. As expected, its legs fell immediately after swirling my glass.

After my first glass, I began to notice the tannins stuck around for a little longer than I would like, leaving me wanting something to cleanse my palate. Without any red meat or bread/crackers readily available, I opted for some mild cheddar cheese and it did the trick.

Palate cleanser at hand, I very much enjoyed the second glass. Half way through I noticed a slight change as the wine began to warm to room temperature. While still a little tannic, the latter half of each drink was a little velvety and ended with a little more oomph. A very muddled fruit taste lingered for several seconds before dissipating. Muddled may sound like a bad word. However, in this case it worked in the wine’s favor.

This bottle of ‘Pacato’ was an excellent wine for the price. I don’t see myself buying it again soon, but I will eventually. With a good flavor profile and a good balance between tannins and a swift finish, Pacato is worth trying at least once. I give it 6.5/10.