Josh Cellars, by Joseph Carr, proves two things: a winemaker doesn’t have to have a vineyard or a winery to produce excellent wines, and second labels can be intoxicatingly delicious values.
A close third, the Merlot paired especially well with a kielbasa cooked in red wine. Fruit forward with a little citrus high note, a little spice, and a nice minerality bespeaking its terrior. A well rounded wine, this Merlot plays well with most foods, especially meat and chocolate.
The Sauvignon Blanc was our second favorite, with a lemon tart flavor on my tongue tip, followed by peach and melon. A bit of lime balanced it all out. While this wine paired well with everything, it was especially suited to rich, buttery dishes, like our cheese fondue and some bread pudding.
We were very happy to find the Cabernet Sauvignon was our favorite of the night, and Council members ran out the next day to stock up. Understand, this is a group who taste a lot of wine and only buy the exceptional value wines—whether they be $10 or $100 bottles. This is a full, dark, smoky, inky wine, with black current flavors. You can taste stone fruits, and a wisp of vanilla. Easily comparable to Cabernet Sauvignons at twice (or more) the price. This paired especially well with a complex meatloaf which followed a recipe by Thomas Keller of Napa’s French Laundry.
Artists of all stripes escape to the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, perched above Temecula, California, where deer nibble their morning meals and city lights are replaced by moon and star light. The Wine Council retreated to the Arts Colony to taste five Josh Cellars wines: a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99), a 2012 Chardonnay ($13.99), a 2012 Pinot Noir ($16.99), a 2011 Merlot ($14.99), and a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.99). Although the Joseph Carr website has a handy tool for locating sellers of his wine by zip code, I found only the Cabernet Sauvignon was readily available in Southern California.
Joseph Carr embraces the label: “negociant of Napa Valley”. A “negociant” is a wine merchant who assembles either the grapes or the wine of smaller growers and winemakers, and sells the product under its own name. Mr. Carr uses the Larson Family Vineyards’ facilities in Sonoma, California to make his wine, getting his Joseph Carr label grapes from Napa Valley, and using Sonoma and other non-Napa sources for his Josh Cellars label. He focuses on Bordeaux style wines, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Both labels are food friendly wines, at, for Napa, quite reasonable prices. Josh Cellars wines average about half to 2/3 the price of Joseph Carr wines.
Josh Cellars’ top three in our tasting were simply enticing in both taste and price. If you can find them, don’t be put off by the low price—enjoy them and their value.
Finally, the Pinot Noir was very young, with flavors of cherry and a little spice. It paired best with smoked salmon. This is a tight wine which benefits greatly from breathing. It opened nicely after two hours, but still held back. I let this wine breathe for a day. At that point, it was really quite tasty, its more earthy flavors coming to the forefront. Paired with a gruyere cheese, I found it to be a good representation of a French style Pinot Noir.
The Chardonnay was a distant fourth. Tasting of tropical fruits, citrus, and peaches, its acidity and crispness paired well with a sweet bread pudding, but was overwhelmed by a rich fondue.