Bel Vino (Formerly Stuart Cellars)

Bel Vino Website

This was our first time in the Temecula area to do some wine tasting and we were very excited. Our first stop was the Bel Vino Winery (formerly Stuart Cellars) resting on one of the beautiful ridges of Rancho California Road. We purposely chose different wines because this vineyard featured an outstanding variety.  Even between the two of us we could not have tasted every type, but we were pleasantly surprised that for a reasonable price we each got 6 tastes.  Our opinions below:

2010 White Merlot
Teri: This was the first time I had seen a blush done with another grape other than Zinfandel. This White Merlot still carried a lot of the same flavors you get from the Merlot grape but with additional flavors of sweet raspberry and strong floral tones. The nose was crisp carrying lots of grapefruit. 87 points

2010 Riesling
Teri: The Riesling has a very pleasant nose with smells of sweet pea flowers and peaches. I loved the strong apricot taste that lingered just enough with a crisp smooth finish. This is sure to be a favorite of white wine drinkers. 91 points

2009 Malbec, Limited Reserve
Aaron: To be honest, most of this wine’s points come from its smell.  The bouquet is magnificently fruity with strong vanilla and a bold brilliance.  Unfortunately, this smell subdues into a flavor which was not as full as expected or desired.  I tasted lighter fruits and though the finish was smooth it just didn’t stay long enough.  In my opinion, I felt like I was drinking a white – not because of the flavors but because of the finish and quick release of flavor.  84 points
2006 Cabernet Franc, Estate Reserve
Aaron: I was excited to try this Cab Franc and it was the first glass of my tasting.  The nose boasted a slight jammy smell with notes of raspberry and strawberry.  Sadly, this was not mirrored in the taste which was airy with hints of pepper.  Overall, too light for me.  85 points
2009 Merlot, Vintner’s Select
Aaron: By the time I got to this Merlot I almost expected a pleasant smell followed by a lacking flavor.  What started as a heavy jam and prune on the nose melted away to a light, medium bodied flavor.  There were mild tannins and strangely these were the primary flavor. 82 Points
2007 Lagrein, Vintner’s Special Reserve 
Teri: This is a varietal that I had not tried before. It contained a fruity nose with very smooth fruit forward flavors (lots of dark berries) that melted into a lingering earthy finish. Similar to other Italian varietals with a little bit more fruit flavor than a syrah. 87 points

Aaron: Like Teri I had never even heard of this varietal before, so I had to try it.  I enjoyed the chocolaty smell and felt the creamy smoothness of the flavor was a nice complement.  There was not as much fruit as I need but I was pleased with the medium tannins and the complete lack of bite.  That said, this wine needed something else – just a little something – to make it a winner.  86 points

2008 Zinfandel, Lopez Ranch – Old Vine Zin
Teri: The sweet nose on this wine was extremely different from the taste. I would describe it as medium bodied (opposed to most Zins that are normally full bodied) with some fruit flavors similar to currants and finishing with pepper. 83 points

Aaron: I was surprised by the noticeably short legs on this Zin – though this prepared me for a dissapointly medium body.  I loved the strong jam and creamy vanilla smell then moved to my first few sips.  There was an enjoyable fruit forward flavor coupled with a slight, almost sweet pepper which was interesting.  The primary taste in my opinion was blackcurrant which was a tad overpowering but went well.  I felt the tannins were effective and the flavor was nice however for the price ($45) I want something with a full body..  89 points

2009 Long Valley Red, Ltd Estate Reserve
Teri: This is a blend of 5 varietals (Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec). I found this wine interesting but not anything out of the ordinary. It had a strong fruit nose with a nice blend of earthy and fruit flavors. Medium bodied with a medium to light finish. 85 points

2004 Zinfandel Port 
Teri: Wonderful port! Rich but not to sweet. Flavors of raisin, caramel and semi sweet coco. This pairs well with chocolate or is a great stand alone. 93 points 

Aaron: For a port, this was excellent.  The nose was powerful with a full brandy and jam combination.  The rich flavor was not syrupy and the pleasant flavor gave way to a rich brandy sensation quickly.  Overall, I would highly recommend this – it was easily the best wine of the tasting. 92 Points


Kiwi Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Total Wine & More, $8.99
Various retailers, $8-$12

Aaron: I bought this from Total Wine because we needed more white wines on the blog.  Generally I was satisfied, but not overly impressed.  There was a dominant citrus smell, mirrored by the crisp flavor.  I felt a strong zing of white fruits on the palate with a notable lack of creaminess.  Throughout the glass there were notes of apple, lemon and orange flavors which were pleasant but not overly exciting.  This wasn’t bad but there are better whites out there.  87 Points

Teri: This wine is crisp, light, and refreshing with a light nose of apple and lemon. The flavors are rich and smooth as they hit the palate and finish with a long lingering finish. I tasted a lot of apple, lemon, and grapefruit within this wine and would love to drink it on a hot day with a wonderful and rich salad. 89 points

Scheid Isabella Sparkling Wine 2008 (our 50th post!!!)

Purchased from the Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room off the 5 freeway. ($45)

My friend, Lauren, and I (Teri) had a lovely time in this tasting room with a kind gentleman behind the bar named Dave. I was excited to bring home this bottle home for Aaron to try and post to the website.

Aaron:  I’m a big fan of sparkling wines and I enjoyed this very much.  The smell was almost sweet and presented a strong, citrus bouquet.  The taste contrasted this smell, boasting apricot and strawberries with only a hint of sweetness.  I love the lingering finish and spent a lot of time trying to determine what other flavor held up the body of this wine.  After much debate with Teri, I concluded it was some kind of oak or nut which paired well with the fruits.  I would certainly recommend this for a trial, especially if you already like sparkling wines.  90 Points

Teri: I cheated because I tasted this wine while in the tasting room but opening it up once more reaffirmed my choice. This sparkling wine is a nice mix of pinot noir and Chardonnay grapes yielding a bright caramel color with a light carmel and orange smell to match. The carbonation brings out a richness in the almond, orange-lemon flavor that lingers on the palate over a smooth finish. This would be a great celebratory bottle to open and complex but pleasant flavors that would please a wide variety of individuals. 91 points 

 Special thanks to Dave from the Scheid Vineyards tasking room for making the stop a pleasant one! I would go back any time I could! 

Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Received as a gift from a close friend. Thanks Irene Matz!

Prices vary depending on the retailer but on the pricier side ($50-$80)

Cakebread Website

Aaron: Let this wine breathe in the glass for a while; I didn’t experience it’s true flavors until a few sips in.  The smell was bold with strong notes of fruit and earth, very similar to some French wines, and was complemented with a light nuttiness.  The taste was good but I admit I might be influenced by the price tag on this one.  The smooth flavor was almost bitter early on (though it mellowed out after a while).  It was full with an almond sensation but did not feature extensive fruits as I would expect from a Napa wine.  There were noticeable tannins which were a little too strong in my opinion but the finish was great.  If you want to impress someone, bring them this – the name will certainly win points.  89 points.

Teri: The name of Cakebread is bound to win some points with those in the wine industry, although this bottle didn’t win any additional points with me. The nose was my favorite part and I would classify it as “pretty” having a wonderful blend of floral and red berry aromas. The wine itself was not too heavy and not too light but still left me wanting a bit more. I would classify it as medium bodied with a full and smooth flavor but carries stronger tannins that are fully noticeable. Nice blend of earth and fruit flavors but not worth the price this bottle goes for. 86 points  

Blue Fin Pinot Noir 2011

Trader Joe’s, $3.99

Aaron:  Even for those winos who like pinots I would not recommend this wine.  Overall, this tasted young and tart.  The prominent flavor was cranberry, which to me is not appealing for a wine.  Beyond this, the wine was far too light and there just wasn’t a lot going on. 70 points

Teri: Reflecting it’s very light red color this pinot was very light on the taste with a predominant cranberry flavor. Overall it’s taste is young and dissipates very rapidly in the mouth. Not an expensive bottle of wine but would recommend picking up something else. 75 points


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