the vine yard 2009 Columbia Valley Late Harvest Riesling - ~$7

Perhaps because I had markedly poor experience with its Cabernet Franc label-mate, I'd put off reviewing the vine yard's Late-Harvest Riesling (LHR). Turns out I needn't have worried. This is a good little off-dry (i.e. sweet) white wine.

Now, there are those who would contend that this wine - off-dry, low (at 9% ABV) in alcohol and associated with funding for breast cancer research - is being marketed unabashedly to women. Women, say, like my mother, who I'm pretty sure would like this wine.  I would counter that this marketing effort doesn't in itself compromise the quality of the wine itself. I'm not a frequent consumer of sweet wines, but I can give respect where respect is due, and it is due here.

Given the low alcohol level and relatively low residual sugars, this is a LHR on the lighter side. The nose offers aromas of baked apple, pineapple, citrus and cinnamon. The mouthfeel is slightly viscous and the flavor is shaped by elements of Macintosh apple sweetness, dried apricot, lychee, and a cinnamon note that reasserts itself on the finish.

If you like off-dry (i.e. sweet) white wines, this will likely do nicely for you. It's sweet in soft, pleasant manner, and while it lacks the balancing acidity of its more distinguished peers (say, an off-dry German Auslese - which would be significantly more expensive as well), it also avoids the cloying, one-note syrupy simplicity of its domestic cousin, white zinfandel.

At ~$8, the vine yard's LHR is playing the same ballpark, price-wise, as similar Washington state bottlings by Hogue and Chateau Ste. Michelle.


Drinkability: 8/10
Price: 3/5
Total value: 11/15


WineWrights 2009 Napa Merlot - ~$10

I really enjoyed Fresh & Easy's WineWrights Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, so I had high hopes for this Merlot. While it's not quite as rich or complex as the Cab, it's a good red in its own right, featuring flavors of plum and chocolate, wrapped up in a pleasantly dense, typically plush Napa Merlot package . There is a measure of oak and soft, lingering tannins on the finish.

All in all, a well-made red from Napa, and at ~$10 the price is definitely right for that storied wine real estate.


Drinkability: 8/10
Price: 4.5/5
Total value: 12.5/15


Chateau Vaguelas 2008 Corbieres "Cuvée Prestige" Red Blend - ~$13

This is not an in-house Fresh & Easy wine, and there was an "Available While Supplies Last" sign on the shelf at my local F&E, so I'm not sure if this is a one-off inventory sort of thing or not. Regardless, this is an interesting wine from the up-and-coming Languedoc region in southern France.

It's pungently grapey in aroma, and follows up with flavors of ripe red cherry and blueberry with a good backbone of leather, spice, and clove notes. The tannins are a touch on the tough side, but all in all this is an interesting wine that offers some real regional character, and that would likely pair well with a variety of typical red wine foods (I suspect it would go quite well with BBQ).

The only sticking point for me is the ~$13 price tag. That's hardly exorbitant for a quality French AOC wine, but Chateau Vaguelas faces some stiff competition from Fresh & Easy's own Chateau Calage GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) blend, which is characterful, appealing red that goes for almost half that price.


Drinkability: 8.5/10
Price: 3.5/5
Total value: 12/15