Tag: red blend

Welcome the Winery Ghost: Phantom 2013


At first glance at the Phantom label, it’s not obvious that this proprietary red blend is produced by Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg, California. That information is hiding on a hard-to-see watermark on front label and more prominently shown on the back.

Our first encounter with the Phantom was about seven years ago when we owned a liquor store. One of our employees had “reserved” half of a case in the back office. We asked him why he did this but suddenly his English wasn’t so good. The lack of information gave us all the more reason to take a bottle for “homework” and find out firsthand what all the fuss was about. 

I can’t find any personal tasting notes from so long ago and I don’t remember if we liked it or not so Bogle Phantom 2013 provides an opportunity for a fresh start.

The Bogle label is so prolific that when I began researching it online, I thought I’d find it was owned by some conglomerate maker of mass produced wines. But in fact, Bogle Vineyards is a family-owned business that produces a selection of value brand wines, including popular varietals and two red blends.  The Bogle family farms 1600 acres in Clarksburg and the Lodi appellation, as well as sourcing grapes from various California growers.

We find the Bogle varietals and blends in most liquor stores selling in the range of $9 to $11 a bottle. Their reserve wines are offered on their website for about $24. As per some of the online reviewers, Phantom, priced anywhere from $16 to over $20, tends to sell out before the next year’s vintage arrives. And so the Winemaker’s Note, “Welcome the winery ghost into your home with the latest vintage…before it vanishes again” is fitting.  

The 2013 Phantom is a blend of 39% Zinfandel, 38% Petite Sirah, and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose has equal amounts of ripe cherry fruit and briary, vegetal aromas. At the first sip, I realize that although we’ve decanted the bottle for about 15 minutes, it’s quite alcoholic and can use a little more time for the alcohol to blow off.

Coming back to it after another 15 minutes, flavors of currants and ripe berries combine with black pepper and spices on the palate. The flavor is balanced with oak in a medium to full-bodied mouth feel. A long finish has a trace amount of bitterness and slightly hard and chewy tannins. Maybe a little more aging in the bottle will mellow them out?

Overall, Bogle Phantom 2013 has a decent level of complexity for the price point and is one that I’d buy again (and hold for a while before drinking for a bit more aging in bottle). My impression of Bogle wines in general is that they offer consistent quality for the price and are easy to find even when traveling.

Here is an interesting interview with Bogle’s Director of Public Relations, Jodie Bogle: https://hucklegoose.com/journal/meet/meet-bogle-wines

Here are my notes on Bogle’s Essential Red: http://wp.me/p4rcsv-2f






Apothic Wines Newest: Inferno 2014


The information on the label tells us that Apothic Inferno is a limited, small batch release red blend made from California-sourced grapes and aged for 60 days in whiskey barrels. The rest of the text, “A new blend emerges from the flames of a time-honored craft, creating a most unexpected and masterful encounter,” seems intentionally vague, sending me on a trip to the Apothic website for specifics.

I’m met with more mystery when I find myself in the shadowy Apothic Cellar where I can have my palm read or add a picture to the Dark Portrait gallery. In the Crush Music room, you can create a song dedication read by a voice eerily similar to the late Casey Kasem.  The Alchemist isn’t ready for visitors yet so don’t forget to sign the Guest Book on the way out so you’ll be notified when he’s open for business.

We discovered Apothic Red and White in 2010 when we owned a wine and liquor store. Despite being mass-produced, they consistently delivered bold fruit flavors with a smooth finish and were a good wine recommendation for buyers on budget.  According to the company’s literature, the name Apothic was inspired by Apotheca, a mysterious place where vintners of the Middle Ages blended and stored their most coveted concoctions. Beguiling hype aside, apotheca is the Latin root apothecary, referring to a person or place where herbs, spices, and wine were sold.

Apothic Red is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Syrah, and the White is comprised of Chardonnay, Reisling, and Pinot Grigio. I noticed that as new labels were added, the website became less forthcoming with the varietal information. As per other sources, the inky, dense Apothic Dark is blended with Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Teroldego, and the lighter-bodied Apothic Crush is a blend of Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir.

Apothic’s newest offering, Inferno, upends cask aging by using barrels previously used for whiskey. Isn’t it usually the other way around? Cask-finishing spirits in wine barrels is a technique that’s been used since the 19th century. The essence of the wine that remains in the wood adds subtle flavors and colors to the spirit. Will the process work in reverse, where nuances from a whiskey barrel will enhance a wine?

The Apothic Inferno pour is medium-bodied, lighter than Apothic Red or Dark, yet fuller than Crush. Along with sweet dark berries on the nose is a hint of maple candy. Currants on the palate are spicy with some high alcohol heat. The sweetness of blackberry fruit ends in a dry finish, medium in length, and with a reminder of whiskey’s essence at the very last.

Apothic has hit the mark in terms of creating a wine that’s unique, even if the experiment may be perceived as change for change’s sake. If you like some of Apothic’s other wines, this one is certainly worth a try for about $12.

H3 Horse Heaven Hills Les Chevaux Red Blend 2011


The H3 Red Blend from Columbia Crest Winery can be categorized as a value wine that delivers a lot for the price. The winery is located along the Columbia River in eastern Washington State. This dark ruby blend is comprised of Syrah and Merlot.

The nose starts with blueberry jam followed by a layer of vanilla. A medium-bodied mouth feel yields plum and blackberry mixed with walnuts and oregano. This red blend from Washington exhibits some minerality that we haven’t experienced in California blends. The fairly long finish ends with peppery dark chocolate. All in all, it’s a great value at about $13.

Bogle Essential Red


In keeping with drinking on a budget, we tend to save our better, and usually pricier wines, for the weekends. Our weekday wines are of the “best bang for the buck” value variety. Bogle Essential Red is the newcomer to our weekday wine collection. This red blend is comprised of Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah.

The dark ruby-red blend hums with scents of juicy plum and blackberries. On the palate, the spiciness of the old-vine Zinfandel is dominant with hints of black tea and anise. The mouthfeel is velvety and full-bodied. The respectable finish suggests vanilla and pepper and closes with tangy fruit.

All in all, Bogle Essential Red is very satisfying for $11 on a Wednesday night.

Deadbolt 2012 Winemaker’s Blend


Deadbolt is a big, bold California blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Syrah and Syrah. The pour is deep purple in the glass. The nose is powerfully fruity and jammy. On the palate, black cherries, plums, and currants mingle. The Merlot offers a wisp of earthiness and the Zinfandel, a pinch of spice. The wine finishes smoothly, without acidity or heat. Deadbolt delivers handsomely for its $12 price tag.

Update: We’ve added Deadbolt to our regular weekday wine list. The complexity and balance presented in the blend holds our attention and keeps us coming back for more.

Buena Vista Legendary Badge 2012


Some very stormy weather prevented us from enjoying a summer wine on the deck so we decided to crack open Legendary Badge from Buena Vista Winery.
The Buena Vista Winery was established in Sonoma County in 1857 by one of California’s first elected sheriffs. The website describes the colorful life of the founder and how his legacy inspires their wine. Legendary Badge is a red blend of six varietals. Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the dominant varietals with smaller amounts of Mourvedre, Grenache and Merlot rounding out its character.
The pour is a gorgeous, deeply saturated ruby hue with sparkling edges. The nose is blueberry, boysenberry and a pinch of pepper. On the palate, this wine has a superb, medium-bodied mouth feel. Dark berries converge with bits of spice and blossoms. A medium to long finish is full of soft tannins and oak. Our overall impression is that this wine is well-balanced and well-blended. Legendary Badge is definitely one to try again, but is a bit of a splurge at about $25.

Thorny Rose Red Blend 2011

Thorny Rose from Columbia Valley, Washington has a funky, youthful label and a screw cap. I get a little put off by screw caps, especially in restaurants that mark up as much as 300-400% on wines. But I’ll try to be open-minded and give it a chance. Thorny Rose is a Bordeaux style red blend with 48% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec, and 1% Syrah.
The nose is bursting with black cherry. The palate has a full-bodied mouth feel and bold, juicy strawberry and plum are prevalent. Merlot in the blend delivers an earthy quality. A morsel of vanilla is expressed in the mid-palate. The absence of tannins is noted. The medium-length finish is marginally tainted by a sour taste like under-ripe fruit.
Even though we occasionally enjoy a bold fruit bomb, I felt that Thorny Rose was a bit unbalanced and its finish left us on a low note. Costs about $10.