The Justin Isosceles is a powerful, well made California red blend
The Wine Curmudgeon has always appreciated Justin’s wines, whether the $12 sauvingon blanc or the pricey, pricey red blends. It’s not necessarily a style I prefer, but the wines are always well made and aren’t as over the top as so many others.
The Justin Isosceles ($70, sample, 15%) is a case in point. On the one hand, this red blend (mostly cabernet sauvignon, with about equal parts merlot and cabernet franc) costs a lot of money, and especially for a wine from California’s Paso Robles region. Plus, that 15 percent alcohol screams “HOT FRUIT BOMB DESIGNED TO GET 96 POINTS!”
On the other hand, it’s not nearly as hot and as ripe as it could have been. Powerful, yes, in that fruit forward, California style. That means lots and lots of black fruit aroma, and it tastes of not too sweet cherry fruit. Plus, there is even a little spice, and the oak pushed just enough to the background so as not to get in the way. If it’s not subtle, it is mostly balanced, very layered, and well worth drinking (assuming the price doesn’t scare you off).
I’m not sure the Justin Isosceles is going to age all that well for that much longer, so it’s ready to drink now.
Four suggestions — red, white, rose, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2019
Mother’s Day wine 2019: The 13th time we’ve toasted Mom on the blog, and always with an eye toward value and quality. Isn’t that how Mom raised you? Our Mother’s Day wine gift giving guidelines are here; the idea is to please your mother and not yourself. Because it is Mother’s Day, isn’t it?
These Mother’s Day wine 2019 suggestions should get you started:
• Birichino Malvasia Bianca 2015 ($17, purchased, 13%): This California white is wine geek worthy, that doesn’t mean others won’t like it. It offers all the character the malavasia bianca grape can give (floral, honey, a little orange); that it still has structure and acidity after more than four years is amazing.
• Dellara Cava Brut NV ($7, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly has the requisite cava character — tart lemon and green apple fruit and a bit of minerality. It’s a step up from what Freixenet has become, and at the same price. Imported by Mack & Schuhle
• Ferraton Père & Fils Samorëns Rose 2018 ($13, sample, 13.5%): This French pink is consistent — a little heavier than Provence rose and more red Rhone in style (cherry instead of berry fruit). But it’s also consistently well made. Imported by Sera Imports
The Justin cabernet sauvignon shows off Paso Robles’ terroir in an enjoyable and value-oriented approach
The Justin cabernet sauvignon is so approachable and so well put together that I had to look twice at the label. Could this really be a red wine from the Paso Robles region of California, which is best known for ripe, almost over the top efforts?
It is, and is yet another label from Justin that shows off the wine and not the winemaker. In this, the Justin cabernet sauvignon ($27, sample, 14%) does something I wish more high-end California producers did: Make wine and not points. This vintage shows it’s possible to to combine Paso Robles’ rich, full style with wine that most of us will enjoy drinking.
Call the Justin cabernet sauvignon a surprisingly well mannered Paso Robles cabernet. That means structure, with aromas of cedar, mint, and green herbs, and flavors of rich black fruit. The tannins are soft, but they’re there, so they balance all that fruit. Perhaps most surprising? That the wine is still quite young, and will get deeper and more complex as it ages. It’s amazing how interesting a wine can be when the producer takes the terroir into account.
Highly recommended, and a value at this price. And yes, it’s even a Thanksgiving wine, and especially if the alternative is a sweet, insipid, 14.5 percent pinot noir that costs $35.
Fourth of July wine 2018: Four bottles to enjoy to celebrate the holiday
No weekend this year to celebrate the United States’ 242nd birthday. So we’ll make do with Fourth of July wine 2018 for the middle of the week. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside
Consider these Fourth of July wine 2018 suggestions:
• Justin Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This California white is one of Justin’s best sauvignon blancs in years — very California in style, with the grassy aroma, crispness, and just enough lemon/lime to be noticeable. Highly recommended
• Pierre Rougon Rose 2017 ($9, purchased, 13%): This French pink from Provence is solid and dependable — a steal at this price. Look for barely ripe cherry and some earthy minerality. Highly recommended. Imported by Vinovia Wine Group
• Chateau Haut Rian 2015 ($13, sample, 13%): This French red blend from Bordeaux (about two-thirds merlot) isn’t overpriced, which makes it worth buying regardless. Throw in full red fruit and soft tannins, and you have an ideal summer red. I just wish it was a little funkier and old-fashioned. Imported by Wines with Conviction
• Mumm Napa Cuvee M NV ($20, purchased, 12.5%): Mumm, the French bubbly house, makes this in California; hence the much more reasonable price. Plus, you can buy it in some grocery stores. Look for crisp and green apple and not quite ripe pear, and tight, crisp, bubbles. Very well made, and always enjoyable.
Four suggestions — red, white, rose, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2018
This Mother’s Day wine 2018 post is the 12th time we’ve done it on the blog, and one thing has remained consistent every year. Buy — or serve — Mom a wine she will like, and not something you think she should drink. Our Mother’s Day wine gift giving guidelines are here; the idea is to please your mother. What’s the point otherwise?
These Mother’s Day wine 2018 suggestions should get you started:
• Scharffenberger Cellars Excellence Brut Rose NV ($24, purchased, 12%): This California sparking wine is impressive in many ways — the very aromatic raspberry fruit; the hint of spice that is a surprising and welcome note; and just the right amount of yeastiness, which lets the fruit show. Highly recommended.
• Justin Rose 2017 ($18, sample, 13%): A California pink that is one of the shockers of rose season — a pricer wine from a winery best known for big red wine that is intriguing, almost subtle and delightful. Not nearly as fruity as I expected (barely ripe raspberry), with a little minerality and floral aroma. Highly recommended.
• Domaine de Courbissac Les Traverses 2015 ($15, sample, 13%): This French red blend is delicious, and it’s even more delicious if you can find it for $12 (and it’s only about $9 in France). Mom wouldn’t want you to overpay. Look for some earth, a little rusticity, and black fruit. Imported by European Cellars
The $14 Justin sauvignon blanc is a step up from most of its cheaper brethren, and worth the extra money
What’s the difference between a $10 wine and a $15 wine? Usually, save for a more marketing-friendly front label, not much. This is one of the curses of premiumization, in which we pay more for wine that is not appreciably better.
Sometimes, though, as with the Justin sauvignon blanc ($14, sample, 14.5%), there is a difference worth paying for. The Justin, a white wine from Paso Robles in California, is a step up from most $10 sauvignon blancs, including my favorites. It’s a little more full and round, with white fruit and even some tropical fruit to balance the usual citrus. Most less expensive sauvignon blancs don’t have that, and their one-note grapefruit gets old after a glass or two.
About the very high alcohol: Most of the time, high alcohol white wines that aren’t chardonnay use the extra couple of points of alcohol to simulate chardonnay, in the belief that consumers prefer chardonnay even if they’re drinking something else. This wine, though, still tastes like sauvignon blanc, and the extra alcohol doesn’t get in the way.
In this, the Justin sauvingon blanc is still balanced, fresh, and varietally correct. That rarely happens with a 14.5 percent white wine and is a testament to the winemaker’s skill – very ripe fruit, but not so ripe as to make the wine something it shouldn’t be.