Friday, April 17, 2015

Shedding Some Light On Illuminate Wines

The Illuminate brand comes from Kimmel Vineyards, part of Kimmel Ranch in the western foothills of Mendocino County's Potter Valley. Four generations of Kimmels have shed their blood, sweat and tears through the years - as cattle ranchers until their 1986 decision to grow plants - grapevines which grow at an altitude of a thousand feet. The Kimmels supplied great fruit for others to make into wine until 2007, when they chose to hold back some choice stuff for their own label.

According to the Kimmel website, their wines "are developed under the guidance of renowned winemaker Bruce Regalia, highly regarded for his leadership with brands like Duckhorn, Goldeneye and Madrigal. Ragalia works closely with vineyard manager Mark Welch.

Kimmel Vineyards' marketing mavens recognized a need for good wine at an affordable price, what we generally think of as an "everyday" wine. The Illuminate brand was created to satisfy that thirst for a good ten-dollar wine. Illuminte's label art, "ROOTS," by Karena Vail, depict how the grapevines "reach deep into the earth to nourish the vines and transform the grapes into a wonderfully fresh and fruit-forward wine."


The Illuminate North Coast Chardonnay 2013 carries a ripe alcohol content of 14.5% abv and is fermented and aged in stainless steel - not a splinter of oak for these Chardonnay grapes. 3,000 cases were made, and the wine sells at a $10 price point, putting it within reach of everyone looking for a great everyday wine.

The wine throws off a yellow-gold tint and smells of crisp green apples, tropical fruit, cantaloupe and a twist of lemon. The palate is fairly lush, with enough citrus fruit to make Minute Maid jealous. The zippy acidity carries some nice zest along to the finish. The sip is clean and brisk.


Illuminate's North Coast Red Blend 2012 is a Bordeaux-style mix that is Merlot-heavy - 95% - with a smattering of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine is presented naturally - aged in steel, not oak. Alcohol hits 13.9% abv and 2,200 cases were produced.

Showing a very deep purple color, this red wine's nose is loaded with blueberries and sage with a backbeat of black olives. Flavors of cassis and blackberry are powerful, but there is a savory slant that is quite striking. The tannins bite a bit, but things settle down some after the bottle is open for a time. It's a pretty good wine, and the $10 sticker makes it look even better.

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