Great Value: Columbia Crest Grand Reserve Cabernet, 2014

The tree is put away, the lights have been taken down (hopefully), and the bills from the holidays need to be addressed. Where is that value wine when you need one most? Well, for those experiencing the need for a good drinking, modest priced Cabernet – I have one for you.

I recently read a review in Wine Spectator regarding the Columbia Crest Grand Reserve Cabernet, 2014. It was tasted and awarded 91 points. Interesting start… Then, they listed the price for $12. This gets more of my attention. For me, that’s an invitation to see if I can find it and taste it myself.

One of the other things that I consider when searching for value wines is the actual number of cases that have been produced. It is no fun to write about a good wine when no one else can purchase a bottle easily. Well, the production numbers on this wine: 170,000 cases! That is big, and it means great distribution and availability.

My hunt was a short one. I found it at Total Wine, and the price was even better than what I’d read. I paid $8.50 per bottle, and if that doesn’t beg a purchase to drink mid-week for a happy time, I don’t know what does. I purchased two bottles for my own take on the wine, because I don’t make recommendations without tasting the wine first.

So what did I find? The wine on the first night was just okay. The nose was subdued with some floral notes and dark red fruit. The taste on the palate followed suit. The fruit was there on first blush, yet faded quickly. I would have given it more like an 85.

The next night, I opened the second bottle I purchased and what a difference! The nose was bright and filled with red and black fruit and I experienced the same thing on the palate. It really kept bringing me back for more. This was a great tasting wine! The second bottle was something that was very pleasing and easy drinking – especially for mid-week. If you can find this for $8.50, consider that a steal. I would also wholeheartedly recommend it for a party setting.

Why the difference in the bottles? Consider the case production number. It is a very large number and there are only, on average, 24 cases of wine that will be produced from one barrel. With that size production, if they used traditional size barrels, that is over 7,000 barrels. There will be variation in barrels, and that will easily give you some bottle variation. Nonetheless, it can be a very pleasant bottle to open at any time.


The Nose Knows: Part 2

The sense of smell is critical for taste  – whether it be when tasting food or wine. Remember, we can discern 10,000 different smells, at a minimum. A recently published paper touts that we can distinguish up to 1 trillion smells! The second number is a mathematical extrapolation, not based on a human study. Either way you look at it, we can discern a lot of smells. It again makes the point of how important wine aromas are and just how much they factor into the pleasure.

Why do I bring this up again? Well, one of the first places to be using that super sense of smell is in the glass before you pour the wine. The glass itself (not the wine) may often be the source of what we perceive as off odors or spoiled wine. The first thing I do is smell the glass to ensure that it is clean and free of any off-putting aromas itself.

Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible, has a great 2-minute clip that makes the point clearly, and I wanted to share it with you.


The Nose Knows

Every year during the holidays, the family hosts a wine tasting party. The purpose is to share good wine and enjoy each other in a festive environment. Each year, there is a challenge regarding varietal and matching wines to their profile. There is always a variation on the theme to pique everyone’s interest and to learn something new.

This year was no different, interesting people and a friendly, inviting environment. There were six wines, all different varietals along with descriptors to match each one to. The tasting is blind, with each bottle of wine placed in a paper bag with a number.

One would think that the most important aspect in identifying the different wines would be the taste, yet consider that one of the most critical aspects is the nose. What does that mean? The nose is the main source of our sense of taste. While we can only taste five distinct flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory), we can smell hundreds of thousands of distinct aromas. Remember the last time you had a head cold and couldn’t smell a thing? Food did not taste very good, if you could taste it at all. Test this out by holding your nose and taking a sip of wine.

So back to the family wine tasting. As I was preparing for the wine tasting, I was talking about the importance of the sense of smell with our young nephew, who is not yet old enough to enjoy wine. He was intrigued by the idea and decided to join in for the challenge. He did not drink the wine, yet took a sample of all and used only his sense of smell. On the second wine, he declared, “Green apple, lime!”  — which was perfect as he nailed the Sauvignon Blanc. This was very exciting for him to discover, as we unveiled the wines and revealed the correct matches.

Consider that all he did was read the general descriptors of the wines and explore what was in the glass with his sense of smell. This is a perfect example of the importance of the aromas in the glass for the pleasure of the taste. It is an invitation to really enhance what you find in a wine by giving yourself the opportunity to take in the “nose” of your wine. The nose knows!