Red Wine Reviews

I drank these 30 wines and tasted black fruit, blue fruit, bright, cassis, cherry, raspberry, red fruit, smooth tannin, spice, vanilla. The wines are aged, biodynamic, bright, food friendly, my favorites, organic, small production, smooth, whole cluster and came from a variety of sources, including wine clubs, wineries, and wine stores.

Wine reviews by: Jessyca Frederick

California Pinot Noir Lot 179

2022 Ninety Plus Cellars California Pinot Noir Lot 179

The wine was not perfect, but at a quarter of the price of most boutique California Pinot Noir it delivered great fruit and was very smooth.

Tasting notes: red fruit, vanilla

Barbaresco Lot 181

2021 Ninety Plus Cellars Barbaresco Lot 181

At $28 I’m only a little disappointed. I expected more tannins and body from an Italian red wine, but was an experience worth having at that price.

Tasting notes: sour cherry, all spice, orange peel, menthol

Barbera d’Alba Lot 27

2022 Ninety Plus Cellars Barbera d’Alba Lot 27

This wine reminded me to not be so tied to my earlier impressions of regions and grapes. I really enjoyed this Italian red, which is something I don’t say too often.

Tasting notes: dark red fruit, cassis, tobacco

Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

2017 Ken Brown Wines Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

A beautiful example of what put Sta. Rita Hills on the map of world’s best Pinot Noir regions.

Tasting notes: red fruit, spice

Improv

2014 Ecluse Wines Improv

A great example both of the winemaking style from Écluse Wines and and the ageability of their wines (and red wines from Paso Robles).

Tasting notes: black fruit, smooth

Oakville Cabernet Sauvingon

2019 Stag’s Leap Winery Oakville Cabernet Sauvingon

The nose was classic blackberry and graphite, with a hint of pyrazine. It was fairly bright for a Napa Cab, and lighter bodied than I expected, too. I tasted cedar and clove, blackcurrant, and some plum.

Tasting notes: bright, black fruit

Block 20 Merlot

2019 Stag’s Leap Winery Block 20 Merlot

Among the three wines I tried from Stag’s Leap Winery in April, this was my favorite. I like Merlot and I’m not ashamed to say so.

Tasting notes: smooth tannins, bright, black fruit, blue fruit

Titus Andronicus

2020 Titus Wines Titus Andronicus

Great crowd-pleasing Bordeaux-style blend. Fruit-forward but balanced with smooth tannins, great acidity, and just a touch of vanilla from the oak.

Tasting notes: red fruit, vanilla, bright, smooth tannin

Talinay Pai

2018 Tabalí Talinay Pai

Talinay is like Bourgogne in Chile, but with a fruit forward, new world sensibility. This is a winery to know if you like Pinot Noir (or Chablis-style Chardonnay)

Tasting notes: black cherry, berry, spice, bright

Margaux

2018 Château Cordet Margaux

On the palate I tasted red fruits, blue fruits, black fruits (all the fruits, no, not really). The tannins were slightly grippy.

Tasting notes: red fruit, leather, grippy tannins, black fruit, blue fruit

Swirl Petite Sirah

2018 Penrose Hill Firstleaf Swirl Petite Sirah

People who like a sweeter red wine, like a jammy Syrah, would enjoy this bottle. The sweetness was balanced with strong tannins in this full-bodied red wine.

Tasting notes: jammy, slightly sweet, red fruit, bold tannins

Scapolo’s Charm

2019 Penrose Hill Firstleaf Scapolo’s Charm

This Sangiovese was slightly sweet and bright, had nice tannins, and savory notes. As $15 red wine goes, I gave this a thumbs up.

Tasting notes: bright, food friendly, lightly fruity, slightly sweet

Ralí

2019 Penrose Hill Firstleaf Ralí

White pepper and raspberry are common flavors in Pinot Noir, but this one brought pomegranate to the glass, too.

Tasting notes: red fruit, raspberry

Inkscape Shiraz

2018 Penrose Hill Firstleaf Inkscape Shiraz

A subtle version of what this grape can produce, but a great introduction to it if you’re not familiar and looking for an alternative bold red wine to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tasting notes: dark fruit, tobacco, spice, subtle

Cabernet Sauvignon

2017 Dani Gold Wines Cabernet Sauvignon

Easy-drinking, well-made California Cabernet Sauvignon featuring cherry, cassis, and soft tannins. Quite enjoyable.

Tasting notes: cherry, cassis, smooth tannin

Westmount Pinot Noir

2019 Westmount Wine Company Westmount Pinot Noir

A round, juicy, red fruit Pinot with smooth tannins and a long finish. Also an impressive value at $25. These are things I don’t find enough of in most of Willamette’s Pinot Noir, and rarely find in a Pinot that costs less than $45.

Tasting notes: fruity, juicy, smooth tannin

Sophenia Altosur Malbec

2021 Finca Sophenia Sophenia Altosur Malbec

It is really rare I find a red wine under $15 I like. This Malbec — not cloying, flabby, or oaky — proves you can make great red wine at this price.

Tasting notes: smooth tannin, balanced

Milo

2019 Aubert et Mathieu Milo

This delightful, balanced, and unique red wine offered savoriness and tart cherry, after slightly sweet butter cookies. Wrapped up with a cherry bomb at the back of the mouth.

Tasting notes: cherry, savory

Envision Pinot Noir

2017 Ken Brown Wines Envision Pinot Noir

The 2017 Envision, a blend of some of SYV’s best vineyards, represented a classic style of Pinot Noir common to the area.

Tasting notes: smoky, red fruit, bright

Viña Ardanza Reserva

2012 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva

Rioja Alta (both a region and the winery which produces this wine) is an insider favorite, typically because it offers such great drinking value and ageability.

Babylonstoren Shiraz

2019 Babylonstoren Babylonstoren Shiraz

Well-balanced, rich, deep, beautiful fruit-forward Shiraz — an excellent sipping wine. Brambly black fruit was dominant, with some subtle raspberry fruit in the background. A long slightly vanilla finish was supported by fine-grain tannins.

Tasting notes: black fruit, brambly, raspberry, vanilla, smooth tannin

Moric Blaufränkisch

2019 Weingut Moric Moric Blaufränkisch

A medium-bodied red wine that tastes a bit like Pinot Noir had a love child with Mourvèdre (red fruit forward, especially black cherry, mixed with violets and a little spice), and it tends to be brighter than either of those imaginary progenitors.

Tasting notes: red fruit, bright, black cherry, violets, spice

Amarone Classico della Valpolicella

2017 Zenato Amarone Classico della Valpolicella

This wine was magnificent and has made me completely rethink what I know of Amarone. The critics were mesmerized and so was I.

Tasting notes: cassis, liqueur, cherry, fig, prune

New Routine

2017 Thacher Winery New Routine

Big, mouth-coating red wine featuring dark red fruits, black fruits, and a host of other savory flavors.

Tasting notes: dark red fruit, black fruit, pepper

Duvarita Vineyard Pinot Noir

2019 Story of Soil Duvarita Vineyard Pinot Noir

A complex, red-fruit forward, slightly smoky Pinot Noir that typifies the Sta. Rita Hills appellation and showcases winemaker Jessica Gasca’s love of letting the grapes shine.

Tasting notes: red fruit, smoky, smooth, cherry, cranberry

Ana Diogo-Draper Red

2020 Naked Wines Ana Diogo-Draper Red

Portugal is one of the world’s best wine values right now and food-friendly red wine styles like this one are contributing to its growing popularity.

Tasting notes: red fruit, spice, smooth tannin

Camille Benitah Volute

2020 Naked Wines Camille Benitah Volute

When I taste wines like this one, I’m reminded that Napa Valley wines are mostly overpriced and overhyped. It showcases Napa’s red wine grapes and terroir without breaking the bank.

Tasting notes: black fruit, graphite, chocolate, oaky, smooth tannin

F. Stephen Millier Legend Series Santa Barbara Pinot Noir

2021 Naked Wines F. Stephen Millier Legend Series Santa Barbara Pinot Noir

For $15.99 this Pinot Noir was an impressive doppelganger for Santa Barbara’s more premium product, but the complexity and depth was missing.

Tasting notes: red fruit, earthy

Pomares Duoro (Tinto)

2020 Quinta Nova Pomares Duoro (Tinto)

This Duoro Tinto is smooth, with subtle fruit and spice. A bright and food-friendly wine that while enjoyable was not necessarily unique.

Tasting notes: smooth tannin, red fruit, spice, bright

Luca Old Vine Malbec

2019 Luca Wines Luca Old Vine Malbec

A well-made, smooth Malbec with delicate spice, hints of espresso and violet, and enjoyable notes of black and blue fruits.

Tasting notes: smooth tannin, espresso, violet, black fruit, blue fruit

Notice: I hold no formal wine credentials. I am a wine geek who has consumed 1000+ of bottles from 100+ different wine clubs and 1000s more bottles that didn’t come from those wine clubs. I do not accept payment for wine reviews, and I do not accept payments to influence my opinions. I happily accept free wine (and I buy wine).

Why read my wine reviews: Wine taste is subjective. What I like may not be what you like. I try to leave room for you to form your own opinions, so I don’t provide a score or a rating. I do point out wines that are an incredible value or truly not worth the money. I note flaws, wines that don’t have typicity (because this matters if you are buying wine without having tasted it yourself), when wines are out of balance, and when wines lack appropriate body.

I don’t like wasting money (or anything for that matter). I’m careful about where I spend my money and my mindset as a reviewer is to be careful about where you spend yours. I don’t believe a high price tag equals quality and I know for sure there are wines of very good quality that are also a great value.

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