Sunday, July 31, 2005

Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Sonoma County (PB)

This is a Wine Spectator current best buy and they gave it a 91 rating. I am a bit perplexed. On opening, there is a hint of bananas in the room which is really nice. The bouquet of this wine is fabulous and intense with citrus, and huge grassiness reminiscent of the New Zealand creations. There is even a suggestion of caramel–very nice!

*But in the mouth it is as if this wine has given all it has to its bouquet. The flavors are fine but not what you would expect after such an impressive bouquet and worse yet, there is too much alcohol coming through. The finish gives another suggestion of bananas.

This could be a situation of bottle variation with respect to he disparity between what I might rate this wine and the Wine Spectator gives it. The bouquet is a strong 91; the flavors; 85. I paid $10 for a 375ml bottle because that is all the store had. It should run about $13 for a regular 750ml bottle. Once again, it’s hard to compete with New Zealand on this particular grape! Raise a glass!

*Note: Re-tasted this wine 24 hours later and it was a much better wine! Peaches galore in the bouquet and in the mouth. The rather oppressive alcohol flavors were non-existant. Odd-but this turned out to be a better wine than first reviewed--still my comparison with respect to New Zealand S. Blancs stands!

Redwood Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (PB)

This pale white from Frei Bros. has good Sauvignon Blanc aromas though somewhat diminished and not as intense as the Kenwood S. Blanc. Still, in the glass, it holds up as well as the Kenwood and is comparable with citrus flavors, a little grassiness and good acid. Finish is quite short. There’s better out there for the same price–or less! Raise a glass!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mark West Pinot Noir 2003 (PB)

This lighter wine has a fine bouquet of fruit and a nose that hints of celery. Alcohol comes to the fore a little too strongly but I believe this is a result of the wine being served too warm.

In the mouth this wine is peppery in a large way with a subtle taste of chocolate, and a big blast of smoke that fades quickly. The finish is brief and it is a little “hot.”

Bringing the temperature down by chilling it in the refrigerator for an hour or so eliminates the premature volatility of alcohol aromas and nothing but big berry scents fill the air. The finish is still brief but with some nice raisiny notes. This is a good example of a Pinot Noir. I paid $13 for it but have seen it for $11. Not bad for the money and paired well with grilled pork chops with a lime, cilantro mayonnaise sauce both on the grill and with the meat when served. Raise a glass to beautiful Summer days of sun shine and 70's!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Miscellaneous recommended wine selections (PB)

In the most recent issue of “The Wine Spectator,” numerous recommendations are proffered for the “Savvy Shopper.” Note that NONE of these wines have been reviewed by yours truly and only offer them in the “for what it’s worth” category. I have not seen any of these wine in my area but then haven’t really looked all that diligently. Still, I am intrigued enough by the level of “value” (the aspect of cost to quality) of these wines that I want you to have the chance to pick one up and give it a shot. Some are bit pricey but then again, when you consider the Wine Spectator ratings, they seem indeed to represent relative bargains.

They are as follows:

W.H. Smith Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Maritime Vineyard 2003

Rated 97! At a cost of $45. (The median price for a 97 point wine is around $195)

W.H. Smith Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Hellenthal Vineyard 2003
Rated 96! At a cost of $35.

Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2003
Rated 95! At a cost of $28.

For the Sauvignon Blanc devotee they list the following:

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc Napa Valley 2004
Rated 92 at a cost of $24.

Cliff Lede’s Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2004
Rated 92 at a cost of $18.

And listed as a “Smart Buy”
Paul Autard Cotes Du Rhone 2003
Rates a 90 at a reference price of $14.

Again I cannot vouch for any of these wines personally so--Caveat Emptor– but I have found the Wine Spectator to be fairly reliable–which means among other things, their tastes are similar to my own. Raise a glass and if you find any of these selections, please let us know what you thought and what you paid!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2001 (PB)

This is a re-tasting of an old favorite. I decanted it as I didn’t have a lot of time to breathe it. On the pour, the room filled with cherries and blackberries and super rich, ripe fruit. My wife said, “Wow! Perfume!”

In the mouth it is actually a little sweet compared to most merlot styles, and marvelously balanced and full of flavors of spicy fruit, chocolate fudge aromas and flavors and it is absolutely wowing!!!
This wine is definitely at its peak right now. At $ 40 this wine would be fine; at the $10 price it is, if you find it, grab it and drink it right away. This a sensational first class quaff with a finish that makes you want to salute!

(This wine was already on the "Recommended Wine list--for a comparison of that tasting and this, go to the same one on the recommended list.)

La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux 2003 [Red] (PB)

This Wine Spectator “best buy” was $6 on sale from $8. It is a Rhone red from the region named in the title of this entry. It is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Carignan. The aromas in the nose are a little inky, and reminds me of a jug wine. On the palate it is light bodied, a tad harsh, but flavors are “okay” but seem to disappear quickly. The finish is non-existent. Best buy? Not as far as I am concerned but if you find it at $6, try a bottle and raise a glass.

La Vieille Ferme 2004 (PB)

This French white is a blend of four grapes from the Cotes Du Luberon. The grapes–Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Ugni Blanc, and Roussanne give the bouquet a fairly well fruit filled bouquet for such an inexpensive wine. I paid $6 for it on sale from $8. The texture is a bit creamy with a sufficient acid bas but a little bitter. I served it too warm–right from the store–but with some chilling the aromas are a little melony, citrusy yet shallow. For the money, what the heck? Raise a glass.

Friday, July 22, 2005

David Bruce Petite Syrah 2003 (PB)

This is a brilliant purple young wine with big blackberry aromas on the opening. It was a gift from (NW) who thought my cellar was looking a little peaked on a recent visit. In truth, I try to drink down my cellar in summer since it is not climate controlled–it’s a tough job but someone has to do it...

Anyway, In the mouth this wine is big with a fruit forward flavor of berries and chocolate. It is raining outside which just started with one of those lovely summer showers that makes everything so fresh smelling. I am lighting my charcoal Weber grill–yes, some still actually cook with charcoal and this wine will pair well with a juicy T-Bone.

On breathing, it is well balanced with sophisticated tannins, good acid, and round flavors of fruit–dark fruit with a hint of blueberries and more chocalate. It is nearly perfect in the mouth. The finish is heavy with fruit...just plain nice. I am guessing the price is around $22. Raise a glass to summer showers!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Echeverria Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (PB)

We had this wine recently at a wine tasting at Freeport (Maine) Wine and Cheese. I wasn’t impressed with it at the time but my wife wanted to take a bottle home so of course we did. I served it last night with seafood kabobs on the grill. I had refrigerated this wine a couple hours since the non-temperature controlled part of my cellar gets to 72 degrees this time of year. The wine was too cold when I served it but it still had a nice peachey bouquet more reminiscent of a Riesling or Gewurtztraminer than S. Blanc. First tasting showed good acid but flavors were rather shallow and a quick finish. I journaled at the time, “...give me New Zealand–this is a Chilean.”

But as the wine warmed up it was much more like a S. Blanc with a bit of that grassy S. Blanc hallmark flavor. The texture was actually a bit creamy and the overall quality was greatly improved with a satisfactory finish. It was excellent with a variety of foods. At $10, it is a sturdy value.

This demonstrates the profound impact serving wine at the right temperature can have; a rather dull, mediocre wine turned into a pleasant, solid value just by bringing the temperature up to “cool” rather than “chilled.” Raise a glass; we did!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Chateau Coufran Haut-Medoc 2000 (billy)

I had a glass of this wine on a NorthWest Airlines flight from the US to London. I was flying business class and the flight was long and the wine was gratus (as it ought to be on a ticket topping out around $5K US). The wine had nearly no time to breathe but that was ok. It displayed ripe cherries, red berries and mint on the nose. The palate was rich and creamy with a robust but quick finsish. There was lots of fruit that emerged as the wine sat exposed to the air. This wine has a lot of California in it. It's fruity but complex but not fruit-punchy.

It was nice to have a decent wine on an airline flight.

It's worth a look up.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Castellblanch Brut Zero Cava Brut Reserva NV (PB)

This sparkler is pale golden with a bouquet that is almost non-existant but a slight hint of peach. It has real nice tiny bubbles in the mouth but almost none in the glass. The flavors are shallow, the wine dry, and yet...well chilled, it is a nice, fresh Summer quaffer! At $12, it is a nice accompaniment to a variety of foods.
Raise a glass! We did!

Hunt for that bargain find! (PB)

Here I am still in Chicago enroute to our last stop of the trip. Last time here I found a bottle of BV Tapestry for $25. For some reason The Wine Spectator always pans this wine giving it, most recently, a score in the 70's.

This is baffling since this wine, regardless of year has been one of my very favorite wines. Beaulieu Vineyards had a TCA problem a couple years back. TCA is a contaminant of wines originating from a bad cork, or contamination somewhere in the system used for vinification. It can be the ruin of a wine producer and a real pain to find the source. Even in the worst year of TCA at BV, the Tapestry bottling was wonderful so go figure.

At any rate, the wine store I found it in a couple years back had changed its inventory to a "popular" selection of wine rather than the informed selection of wines it had previously. No Tapestry was found.

But what I did find was a bottle of Chateau Lynch-Bages, one of Bordeaux's premier wines of the Grand Cru Classe designation. It was a 1996 and they had what looked to be most of an entire case. It was priced at $69.95. This wine runs anywhere from $90-$115 per bottle. So, I will be hitting the store on my way out of town and picking up a bottle to take back to New England. Tonight, I will raise a glass to all of you of whatever it is we open. Cheers!

Wine totes for transport (PB)

Well here I am in the city of wind. With access to the net, I am able to at least give this update from Chicago. I stopped by a "Wine Spectator" affiliated wine store and felt like I was dropped in dream land. Binny's is a large chain the area with a vast array of wines from around the world. I could have spent a couple hours just gawking at labels and fantasizing about a cellar filled with bottles of first growths. Alas, traveling is not real condusive to purchases of more than a couple bottles.

I purposely brought along my "wine tote" anticipating that special find and bringing it back to New England. A wine tote is a carrier usually made of a canvas type material with two compartments; one side is for one bottle of wine and the other side is supposed to be for carrying two wine glasses. There are also a couple little pockets for storing a cork screw and whatever else might aid your impromptu picnic. (You can find these for $15-$30)

Its primary purpose is for that Summer time outing to the seaside, lakeside or park and you want to bring along a bottle to open as you enjoy God's great outdoors. The compartments are lined with an aluminized substance with reflective and insulating properties with an "R" value probably somewhere around .3. Never-the-less, it does provide some kind of temporary protection of the wine from the scorching extreme of a sun baked vehicle.

With the wine glasses removed, it makes an adequate carry-all for two bottles of wine and fits neatly into a carry-on or suitcase.

Overwhelmed with the selections in front of me, I had my eye on a Beaulieu Vineyards "Georges De Latour" Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon-2001. But instead of just snatching it up, I grabbed one of the so-called wine experts of the store; explained to him my situation of travel and asked him for a couple recommendations of something special I could take back "home."

He said the BV Special Reserve was nice but he unequivocally steered me toward a Darioush 2002 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It was pricey at $65 but his exhuberance, excitement and unmitigated desire for me to try this wine over many others was compelling.

I then took him over to the Bordeauxs which was a who's who in winedom. I asked him to pick out something in the $30 range that was particularly nice. He gave me a choice of two or three bottles and after some interrogation I settled on the Chateau Leoville Barton 2002--$37.

With my wine tote in tow, I made my purchases and will head back for "home" tommorrow looking for the right opportunity to open each wine with a story and a memory. And there is the beauty of the study; it's more than drinking a beverage as I have written previously. It is about an experience, memories, stories and sharing of life with someone(s) special.

The next time you have to take a trip for business or pleasure, consider taking advantage of the destination to which you're headed and take an expedition or two for that special bottle of wine that might just turn your dreaded obligation into a wonderful adventure. Now raise a glass to our travels back to New England.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Erath Vineyards Reserve 1999 Pinot Noir (billy)

This was another Oregon wine (Erath Vineyards Willamette Valley, Oregon) that I tasted while at Salty's paying $10.50 for a glass. (see previous review for link to wine list with the restaurant's review). While I enjoyed this wine, it wasn't as much of a WOW as the Pinot Gris. This Pinot Noir had much more of a "POW". Here's what I journaled:
Robust nose booming with black cherry and wet leather and butter. On the palate it has a strong and pleasing acidity with well rounded tannins. Minerals and a hint of vanilla hang around with a finish that says, "WE ARE HERE!". The Finish is a taste bud snapshot without a camera. It contains a hat-tip (though not a full bow) to barrel aging and says "I'm Hearty".

King Estate Oregon Pinot Gris 2003 (billy)

This was a Pinot Gris I bought by the glass ($9.50) at Salty's seafood restaurant in Portland while on business. This is a wine crafted locally in Oregon. Here is the entry from my journal:
Quite light and elegant on the eyes. Quite a chardonnay style aroma on the nose. Citrus fruit, and sweet floral scent with honey on the nose. There is a bit of a spritzer with pleasing tannins that drop off very quickly to a very mild and elegant sliced green apple finish that almost is not enough but winds up making me say "ahhhhh."
A nice salad or greenery wine or fresh fruit accompaniment

If you are interested, you may view the Salty's wine list (with their review of this Pinot) here. The menu is in PDF format so you'll need Adobe's free Acrobat viewer plugin for your browser.

I've not sought out this wine locally, but given the Supreme Court's decision on wine shipping, you *may* be able to get it shipped to you.

Back to Posting (billy)

Well it has been a long and busy time but things are starting to revert back to normal here. Through the craziness (including international travel at a moments notice, illness, family trips and the Star Wars Episode III opener) some great and not-so-great wines have been samples and recorded in my handy little wine journal.

It is now that I go back through those writings to share my thoughts on the wines enjoyed with you.

Here's a glass raised to all the wine tasted over the last several weeks.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Word To Our Regular Visitors (PB)

One of the elements of a good blog is regular posting such that it does not become stale and turn away repeat viewers as they land on the blog only to find the same old post unchanged from the last time they visited. To that end I have tried to keep winecask updated at least daily with a pretty fair level of success. But—even PB has to leave town occasionally either on business or just to get away. So, to our regular visitors, do not loose heart!

I will be away from July 13-July 20 and more than likely, there will be no new posts between now and then unless life settles down for “Billy” and/or “NW” and they get behind the keyboard again.

So thank you for visiting, I shall return, and I appreciate your taking the time to stop by! Until we meet again at this website, by all means—“Raise a glass!”

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Mumm’s Napa NV Brut Prestige (PB)

This was a gift from the restaurant we went to for our anniversary mentioned in an earlier blog. We took the split (a split is a little bottle of wine; in this case 187ml) and put a good chill on it. I was expecting an overly sweet, tired, cloying grapey wine that would be better flushed than drank accept that Mumms is a “good” name. On opening this wine was full of apple and citrus with tight bubbles on the palate that were exciting. It is dry, refreshing, and a solid sparkler.

This was much better than the Chandon reviewed previously to this entry. It has a tart finish with is down right juicy. I will search this out to buy a full bottle! I believe it sells for around $18. Raise a glass!

Chandon Brut Classic NV (PB)

This sparkler has a bouquet of unfermented grape juice which always reminds me of “cheap” wine or homemade wine that isn’t very appealing. The bubbles are okay but not bright and the flavor is grapey with hints of apples. It is dry, unremarkable and straight forward. Fruit is average; this is just a lackluster creation of Pinot Noir Chardonnay and Pinto Meunier. This wine was $20–about $12 too much! Don’t raise another glass of this; there’s much better out there.

Casillero Del Diablo Carnemere 2004 (PB)

This is another Chilean wine from the folks at Concha Y Toro. It runs $9 and is a nice value. It is a lush garnet red with huge ripe fruit forward aromas of blackberries, black cherries and blueberries. In the mouth it is meaty, a bit hot, and a bit tannic on opening but gobs of beefy and spicy smoke.

With some breathing, it is full bodied, robust and tones down to a decent balanced wine. Finish is smokey like BBQ aromas. It is really a kickin wine! Raise a glass.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Mark West Pinot Noir 2003 Central Coast (PB)

For our celebration of 32 years together my wife and I went to one of our few, fine, eating establishments. The Apollo Bistro is a quaint setting in the upper floor of an old New England house with seating for a relative few. The menu is select, intentional and unique; the service attentive; the wine list lacking but affordable.

We kept going back and forth between wine list and menu before making each of our selections. It would be challenging to get a bottle of wine that would be a decent pairing for my wife’s Caribbean spiced grouper and shrimp and my coffee encrusted pork tenderloins with balsamic and roasted figs. We settled on the Mark West Pinot Noir listed above.

It was classic California Pinot in both color and Pinot bouquet that borders on a little stinky. It had a bouquet of raisins and fruit. In the mouth it was nicely balanced with good structure and ready to drink on opening. Though served a little on the warm side, it wasn't disturbingly so. It was a perfect pairing for my tenderloin. I really can’t say how it was for my wife but she didn’t complain and seemed to enjoy it as well.

Had I wanted to spend a bit more on the wine, I would have probably ordered one of the two (maybe three) selections of Zinfandel on the list but at $22 (remember that’s restaurant price)(about $12 retail) I went with the Central Coast Pinot and was glad I did.

Dessert was equalliy unique and wonderful.

We raised a glass and the staff even brought us out a split of Mumm’s–on the house–for our anniversary. This is the kind of extra touch that will bring us, and others back. If you’re ever in the central Maine region vacationing, don’t pass up this easily overlooked establishment of fine food!

Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui 2003 Banfi (PB)

This is a sparkling red dessert wine from Italy with a brilliant raspberry red color and a sweet, fruity bouquet to match. In the mouth it is intensely sweet and only very lightly “frizzante” (sparkling) with a rich sweetness that borders on, but doesn’t cross, being cloying. This is so raspberryish that if I didn’t know better I would have even thought it was a raspberry wine.

The finish is actually lingering and creamy. With a pretty good chill on it, it is refreshing as an apperitffe which is why we opened it on the eve of our 32nd wedding anniversary before going out to dinner. It was a treat but not an especially great value at $17 for 375ml. Raise a glass today to our 32 years together!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Concannon Petite Syrah 2003 "Select Vineyards" (PB)

This wine is intensely rich in color with a deep, dark purple but crystalline hue. There is richness to the bouquet and a nose fairly intense of blackberries and green peppers. In the mouth this is wildly austere with a tight structure that needs time to breathe and time to age. It has plenty of thick tannins to age this wine for years it seems.

With breathing, there is only a slight give on what I think are some pretty intense flavors locked away under an encasement of tannins. A slight hint of mint is apparent but not much else from the opening. This same wine of the previous year’s vintage (2002) is by far a better wine to drink right now. This one may deliver in a few more years but right now, it’s confrontative and insensitive. (I love inane wine talk like that!) Look for the 2002 to drink now and the 2003 to lay down. Both can be found for around $10. Now raise a glass!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Dry Creek Chenin Blanc 2003 (PB)

Previously reviewed California Chenin Blanc–the grape that gets little respect– is citrusy and fruity and has such a bracing acidity that it is really nice with food. This is the grape of the Loire and need not be associated with the cheap white jug wines of years gone by.

What is being done with this grape gives portent to what will surely be rising prices for well made Chenin Blancs and Dry Creek does it as well as anybody and better than most. I have the 2004 on order and it supposed to be even better than the 03. No matter what you think, give this wine a try. At less than $9 you will be thrilled you did! Raise a glass!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (PB)

Okay, I DON’T do wines with stupid animals on the labels or with really stupid names like Old Fart and the like. But...I was reading the Wine Enthusiast and a wine with an 87 rating and an “Editor’s Choice” caught my attention. Then, NW strolls into town and says “Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc is the best Sauvignon Blanc I have ever had” I said, “Whoa!” Okay I have to at least give this a shot–stupid animal on the label not withstanding.

I looked a couple places but to no avail. As it turns out, our major supermarket chain carries it and it’s CHEAP! $8.99 for this New Zealand phenome. It is a pale yellow in the glass with a phenomenal classic “grassy” Sauvignon Blanc bouquet with a citrusy foundation. In the mouth this wine is superbly balanced with a solid base of acid which made it a perfect pairing with our Fourth of July Lobster–Oh yeah, Baby! SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!! It has fruity flavors which other reviewers call “stone fruit.” I have no idea what a stone fruit is but I know an outstanding wine when I taste it. *This is a marvelous example of the grape type and at this price you have GOT to run out and pick some up. It seems to be widely available. It is rich and creamy in the mouth and the finish just keeps on going and going. Why are you even still reading this? RUN Forest, run and pick up some of this stellar–artificially corked wine NOW! And then–Raise a glass! Oh yeah!

*Wine Spectator rated this wine an 85. I think they need to add another 5 points to that!

Dolceoro Moscato D’Asti n.v. (PB)

From Italy, the Moscatos are just plain wine guzzling refreshment at their lazy enjoyable best. This one emanate wonderful bouquet of ripe peaches and bounding in fruit aromas. On the palate it is lively with a hint of fizz and a sweetness which is a bit too much without sufficient acid to hold it up. But that said, the flavor of this wine is like biting into a fresh bouquet of flowers with a huge floral scent and floral flavors which just keep on going. To overcome the sweetness–although many will not see this a problem to overcome but a delight to revel in, it is best all by itself with a good chill on it.

I don’t remember what I paid for it but it was around $10 and it is worth the plain old summer fun this wine holds. Don’t worry so much about specific names for this wine; just pick up whatever Moscato you can find and chill it well and give it a whirl; I don’t think you’ll be dissappointed.

Raise a chilled glass and enjoy!

Reserve Des Chapelains 2000 (PB)

I saw this on an end cap at one of my wine haunts with a sign that said $5.79 regularly $12.99. I said, “Hey for that price, regardless of what the wine was supposed to cost, you can’t go too wrong fro the price.” I picked up one bottle–Remember I have learned that no matter how good a deal something seems, if you haven’t tasted it, don’t buy more than one bottle!

This wine is a Cotes Du Rhone produced red with a “Villages” designation. It is quite a light red color with an interesting nose of ripe plums and touch of raisins. It is austere on the palate, smokey and somewhat strident.. With a little breathing it is still hot and tannic but with a subtle and unique flavor that is hard to describe. Not much on the finish but then again, it didn’t cost much out of the wallet. When you compare this wine at this price to the previously reviewed wine at nearly 10 times the price, you begin to understand what we mean when we talk about wine value...

Now raise a glass.

Viu Manent Viu 1 2001 (PB)

Okay first–apologies for the hiatus of new entries but I DO have to earn a living and occasionally that requires me to travel. So I have been “out of pocket” as they say. So why not start out with a bang? NW and the fam dropped up for a visit and to deposit one female dog until their residence is ready in a nearby state. We decided to grill rib eyes and I decided to open this bottle I bought while visiting Billy in Minneapolis last winter. I bought it even though it was a wine outside my normal purse range. I have loved what Chile has produced in the way of inexpensive Merlots and Cabernets and I wanted to try a higher end wine. This one was around $50.

It has a wonderful deep and rich purple color–very young looking like pure grape juice. The bouquet was light with fresh cherries. It is spicy on the palate and quite dry. Tannins are firm but not oppressive though the wine is quite closed. It has a decent finish that lingers.

With some air time, there are berries in the nose and some green pepper flavors. It is rather “hot” and quite peppery like a bold zinfandel. All in all it is a decent wine but not worth the price tag!

Say ouch and raise a glass.