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Wine Review: Price test holds true for $10 or $1,000 products

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I have always been very aware of price when writing about a wine.

A wine should always return quality and enjoyment to the drinker. If you spend $5 for a bottle of wine, you should at least get $5 of enjoyment. That is pretty simple, but how do you gauge enjoyment when the price goes up? If you feel that you got your money's worth, then you most definitely enjoyed the wine.

The rule holds true if the wine costs $10 or $1,000. This rule also includes the fabled wines sold at auctions for astronomical prices. If the buyer does not feel that they have been ripped off and is happy with their purchase, then their money has been well spent.

The Napa Valley of northern California is noted for small establishments known as boutique wineries that are the counterparts of the wine chateaus of France and produce limited quantities of exceptional wines. One American winery that fits that definition is Sullivan Rutherford Estate of California's Napa Valley. Sullivan has been around since 1972 and has consistently produced wines that have always been of the highest quality.

With Father’s Day rapidly approaching, if dear old dad is a wine lover, the wines of Sullivan would make an outstanding and definitely unforgettable gift.

Sullivan Vineyards 2017 Coeur de Vigne ($110)
The name Coeur de Vigne translates as “heart of the vine,” and this wine is just that. The grapes were grown in the heart of the Napa Valley’s Rutherford Bench, a place that is world renowned for producing outstanding wine grapes. The trademark of Rutherford Bench grapes is a dusty sensation that pervades the wine and adds to and enhances its complexity. Coeur de Vigne is a masterfully assembled blend of 80% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot that is given a long aging in oak barrels prior to bottling. What results is a scarlet-colored wine that displays a powerful dark summer berry aroma with hints of smoke. The flavor is rich and creamy with a noticeable background and centers around blackberry, raspberry and red currants, as well as eucalyptus and mint. The finish displays all of the above and even more.

Sullivan Estate 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon ($110)
This wine is full flavored and an absolute delight. There is nothing stuffy or overly pretentious about this wine. The aromas are strong and positive, stressing black cherry, plum and ripe pomegranate with layers of spice, nutmeg, cocoa and oak residing firmly in the background. The fruit aromas follow through to the flavor where they mingle with black tea and even more pomegranate. The acid balance is close to perfection and the tannins are soft. The finish is fruity and remains on the palate for a long time. This wine proves that a world-class cabernet sauvignon can be made from California grapes.

Sullivan Estate Vineyards 2018 Founders Reserve Merlot ($250)
The Sullivan Vineyards 2018 Merlot is not one of those soft, weak or insipid merlot wines that are all too easy to find in the marketplace today. This wine displays the character and bearing of a French Pomerol while retaining the telltale fruitiness of its California birthplace. The aroma carries the soft fragrances of ripe blackberries, as well as blueberries, cinnamon, oak and flowers. On the palate the wine offers blackberry, blueberry and raspberry as well as a dignified amount of oak. Although the Sullivan Vineyards 2018 Merlot is somewhat pricey for an American merlot, it is more than worth it in the quality and enjoyment that it will bring.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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