Tag Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

The Ruins Syrah

Another bottle of South African wine I picked up in the last few weeks. This is from Eilandia vineyard in Robertson region, which is limestone basin northeast of Capetown that has similar geology to the Bluegrass country of Kentucky and Tennessee. I’m drinking this with a spicy chicken masala from the slow-cooker.

The Ruins (2010) Robertson, South Africa – $12

Photo0377Color: a dark cherry-red.

Aroma: this has that characteristic South African stinky nose – what some call barnyard, or brettanomyces, or sulfurous. Underneath there are nice notes of sweet plum and cherry.

Taste: more acidity than I was expecting, with berry fruit in the midpalate, and significant minerality on the finish. This definitely needs food.

Unfortunately, this fades out quickly, and even with the food is thin and tart. Not recommended.


The Royal Shiraz-Cabernet

This is a blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cab, from the Swartland region of South Africa – the breadbasket of the country, as well as a notable producer of wine and olive oil. It’s named in honor of The Royal Hotel, which vies for the title of South Africa’s oldest inn.

The Royal Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon (2009) Swartland, South Africa – $9

Photo0371Color: dark purplish red, shading almost to black in the center.

Aroma: brambly red and blue fruit notes, with some smoke and spice underneath.

Taste: quite Australian in style, with loads of jammy fruit, warm spice, and a hefty finish. Good acidity up front and in the mid-palate makes this a good choice for food, especially anything with tomato- or vinegar-based sauce.

I could see this with a big plate of Memphis barbeque. Quite a nice wine for the money – you’d be hard-pressed to find a comparable Shiraz blend from Australia at even 50% higher in price. Recommended.

Winetasting report: Trader Joe’s, Ann Arbor

Stopped into the Ann Arbor store for their Saturday afternoon tasting – a typical crowded weekend afternoon in a Trader Joe’s! They had three wines on tasting, and I’d only had one of them before, so I ran the flight.

Villa Sonia Pinot Grigio (2012) Venezia, Italy – $6

More body than typical for a Pinot Grigio, with lower acidity and a full mouthfeel. This is something to have with food, not as a cocktail-hour drink. A simple risotto or some poached fish would be good pairings.

Valreas (2012) Cotes du Rhone Villages, France – $7

I tried the 2011 vintage of this wine just a few months ago, and I have to say I prefer it. The 2012 bottling over-the-top on the oak, and you don’t get nearly the amount of fruit as in the 2011. Skip the 2012.

Revelation Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) Pays d’Oc, France – $6

This was really tight. The Pays d’Oc region is mostly too hot to make good, expressive Cabernet – much like the Central Valley of California. I found this to be a little stemmy as well. Not recommended.

The Executioner from Shinas Estates

George Shinas, Australian winemaker and judge, is a great character.  All of his wine labels feature judicial themes (The Guilty, The Innocent, The Verdict, The Executioner, and Sweet Justice) with awesome sepia-tone photography. I’m fortunate enough to have a signed poster from George, courtesy of the great sales job I did with his special reserve wine, The Executioner. And I’m cracking open a bottle of that for dinner tonight.


The Executioner is a blend of George’s best barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) and Shiraz (43%), with just a dash of Viognier (2%) to improve the aromatics – this wine is an Aussie twist on a Cotes du Rhone, and adding some white to a big red is a Rhone tradition from way back. I broke out one of the big Riedel glasses for this – it deserves nothing less.

I’ve got a chorizo pizza coming out of the oven, and I thought I’d share the before-and-after pictures of that as well. This is a whole-wheat crust with mushroom marinara and a blend of four Italian cheeses. It’s topped with Mexican chorizo, baby portabella mushrooms, onion, and kalamata olives.




The Executioner (2008) Victoria, Australia – $30

Photo0346Color: a deep purple-red, almost opaque in the center.

Aroma: plum, blackberry, and cassis dominate – you can just feel the Viognier trying to break through with some floral notes. There’s also some eucalyptus and mint in there as well.

Taste: powerful stuff; while Cabernet led on the nose, the Shiraz is noticeable right off the bat on the palate. Big notes of spice, with some of the eucalyptus, then followed in the mid-palate by Cabernet fruit. The finish is still ripe and juicy; this has several more good years in the bottle. Even though it has a whopping 15% alcohol, it’s not hot at all. The finish has just a bit of tannin coming through.

With the pizza, more floral notes come out on the palate, including some violets. A little extraPhoto0347 air and this is just overall pleasant, harmonious, and powerful. The interplay between the fruit notes and the other elements are fascinating – very bite and every sip is a new discovery. A fantastic wine; the supply of this is limited to just a few hundred cases in the US, so if you find some, snap it up. Highly recommended.

Drinking Tonight: Velvet Moon Cabernet

One of the mid-priced “moon” wines from Trader Joe’s.

Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) California – $7

Photo0296Color: solid dark reddish purple.

Aroma: earthiness off the bat – smoky oak and toast, followed by cassis and blackberry fruit.

Taste: a solid combination of fresh and cooked fruit – not jammy in texture, but has some jammy taste notes. That’s backed up by a little oak, gentle tannins, and moderate acidity.

You can drink this on it’s own, with pizza, or with lean beef. A pretty nice bottle for under $10. Recommended.

Drinking Tonight: Benefactor Cabernet

This is the sister bottling to the Chardonnay and Shiraz from this label that I’ve tried earlier this year. Another Trader Joe’s exclusive – I’m drinking this with a spicy meatball pizza, while I also prepare mini chicken pot pies for the freezer. A busy day in the kitchen!

Benefactor Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (2012) South Eastern Australia – $6

Photo0289Color: dark, velvety purple – almost black towards the center, but not opaque or cloudy.

Aroma: ayep, a little bit of that Aussie eucalyptus and mint, plus tar and chocolate-covered cherries. This will probably be a nice mouthful.

Taste: not big right off the bat, but just wait one second and it fill up your mouth nicely – more of those spice and earth notes, plus some black cherry, dark plum, and blueberry fruit. Just a touch of heat on the very end – it’s over 14% alcohol.

I think of the three, the Chardonnay is still my favorite, but I can recommend this as a nice, fun, big Cabernet to have on hand. It’s a steal at the price.


Drinking Tonight: Trader Joe’s Coastal Cabernet

I’m steadily making my way through the perennial private label wines at Trader Joe’s, with the goal of having an ebook out by the end of the year. If you’re looking for a virtual stocking stuffer for anybody with a Kindle, then I have just the thing – check out my Books page for my current volumes, and keep watching this space!

Back to the bottle at hand – this comes from the Central Coast region of California, which is basically the strip running from Santa Barbara to Monterrey, from the Pacific Ocean to about 75 miles inland. This region has a great climate for grape-growing, and growers here are more free to experiment. Since they haven’t sunk thousands of dollars per acre into buying the land, the way their colleagues in Napa and Sonoma have, they don’t have such immediate pressure to bring product to market, and can devote some of their land to oddball varieties, different methods of trellising and pruning, etc.

Trader Joe’s Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon (2012) Central Coast, California – $6

Photo0285Color: textbook ruby-red Cabernet coloring.

Aroma: blackberry, cherry, cassis, and some warm spiciness. I detect a little bit of grapey character to this too – it might benefit from a little more time in the bottle.

Taste: more cassis, blackberry, and cherry, plus some black plum. The oak is just enough to lend some character to the finish, which is mildly tannic and exhibits cassis and some more spice.

This is a solid, respectable Cabernet for under $10. Recommended.