Redwood Creek Wines
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Redwood Creek Wines Tasting Notes

Frei Brothers has created a winning line of under $8.00 California appellation wines under the Redwood Creek label. These wines are straightforward and completely accessible, in keeping with the outdoor and campfire motifs prominent in the wine's labeling and product positioning. These are summer wines for sure, made for food, and comfort food at that; food and wines to be enjoyed in a convivial open-air setting.

The 2006 Redwood Creek California Chardonnay—87% of that grape filled out with Chenin Blanc, Viognier, and “Mixed White” varieties—is a refresher, lemon-yellow with golden tinges, nice crisp apple and light citrus on the nose, and medium body. This wine is clean, without a dairy element, without a heavy wood element. A touch sweet on the attack, it finishes dry. Alcohol, at 13.4%, brings a little heat. Very nice length and smooth touch for a wine in this price range. This wine is absolute proof that large production wines—in this case 430,000 cases—can bring quality a notch or two above their price-range expectations.

The Redwood Creek 2006 Pinot Noir I received is a product of the Provincia di Pavia in Italy (another version of the wine was sourced in France's Languedoc-Roussillon region). The wine is a pale ruby with touches of garnet. It is not complex but it is tasty. Nose and palate both give good solid cherry and raspberry. The acidity meshes well with these fruits and combines with a soft mouthfeel to make this an excellent quaffing wine. The finish is smooth and carries over a great deal of the red fruit with a little candied fruit at the end. On palate but especially on the nose I enjoyed a slight spiciness. The palate also has something of a dried herb/smoky element. In keeping with the “outdoorsy” theme of the Redwood Creek line, I could easily imagine this wine filling the bill with cookout attendees or picnickers of either gender. The wine has the kind of refreshing acid and fruit-forward lift that should mesh with a broad variety of foods.

The Redwood Creek 2006 California Cabernet Sauvignon is nearly 85% Cabernet with additions of Petit Syrah, Rubired and Alicante. The wine is clear and yet deeply intense in color, as one would expect given the dollop of Rubired (which itself is a derivative of Alicante). Never mind the color, the nose is all Cabernet (a grape whose aromatics could tend to dominate even if the proportions were reversed), with excellent fruit intensity: tangy cherry, brambly blackberry, and some of that characteristic Cabernet cassis. The nose brings plenty of spice, the kind pastry cooks like me can relate to, including nutmeg, cinnamon (but without clove to fill the trio) and vanilla. The spices from the nose come out even stronger in the mouth, enhanced by a sense of milk chocolate, black cherry and blueberry pie filling. The mouthfeel is lush and unctuous, in a direct and comfortable way, with soft tannins and plenty of lip-smacking fruit to enjoy once you put the glass down.

The Redwood Creek 2006 Merlot fills out with Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Rubired. The wine is nicely dry, with friendly forward fruit: berry, cherry and plum, spice in the background, cocoa and vanilla on the finish. This wine's fruit is quite ripe, fragrant and warmly sweet. I enjoyed the Merlot the most of the three Redwood Creek reds, and I enjoyed it alone. The wine has the kind of tannins that fool the drinker at first; the tannins are more aggressive that would be apparent at first sniff or taste, but these are eminently friendly tannins, fine-grained and partially rounded. Unquestionably appropriate to drink now, the Redwood Creek is accessible, inexpensive Merlot that does not demand compromise (the vegetal notes so prevalent in many Merlots that fail to make the grade.) I wouldn't cellar this wine, not only because it is ready now but because I can hardly conceive of its essential balance improving with time. Merlot has had its ups and downs over the past two decades, at all levels of the market; the Redwood Creek is a tangible up for its price range.

Verdict: Well positioned for today's market
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When well made, easy-to-drink wines are also easy-to-like wines.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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