35 Degrees South Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2011, $9.99
I was playing Wine Roulette in front of the South American wines at Meijer last weekend and my eyes locked on a brand I had not noticed before: 35 Degrees South, made in Chile, obviously borrowing the latitude of this vineyard for its name. Two bottles for $12 — $6 each; regular price $9.99. Quite a savings. Keeping my expectations low, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavors — the style is the tart, grapefruity, herbal, minerally profile of Marlborough on the South Island of New Zealand. It’s styled like a poor man’s Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc with a touch of tropical sweetness in the midpalate. It’s made by San Pedro, a pioneering winery that’s part of Chile’s third largest winemaking company and also produces the even less expensive brand GatoNegro. San Pedro’s portfolio gets high marks from critics. Give 35 Degrees South a try — of course, at supermarkets, it’s on lowest shelf. Don’t let that poor ZIP code hold you back.
Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2011, $22
Matt Smith, who hails from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., makes all the red wines in Bordeaux-shaped bottles for Kendall-Jackson, and he applied his talents to this beauty. It’s a striking wine, beginning with the bottle, with a single etched platinum palm tree on the front, a silver capsule over the neck and cork, and silver lettering on the back. It opens with aromas of cassis, black cherry, blackberry and dark plum, has round, firm tannins and is infused with oak and smoke off the barrels. Eight percent Merlot is blended in. It’s made from grapes off cooler coastal vineyards in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Remember, 2010 was a very cool vintage in all of California making the red wine structure more European in style than the usual upfront fruitiness. The Silver Palm Cab would make a lovely gift for a hostess or special person in your life.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Summation 2010, $16
This is K-J’s affordable red wine blend, the genre that is so popular right now. The 2010 vintage is a knockout — a blend of almost equal parts Syrah and Zinfandel, backed up with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah — no doubt a recipe that changes with every vintage. It’s a layered, structured dry red with a personality of black cherry, raspberry, dark chocolate, black pepper, dark plum, cranberry and herbal, leathery notes. It finishes dry and herbal. Here’s what winemaker Matt Smith had to say about the first release — in 2011.
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