Monday, October 31, 2005

Gallo of Sonoma Zinfandel (Barelli Creek) 1999 (PB)

I reviewed this wine a few weeks ago when I brought back a couple bottles from Los Angeles. (NW) and (Billy) and I were tired of wine with animals on the labels and various other bargain wines we picked up here and there and wanted a “real” wine. This wine is huge on blackberries in the nose, good Zin flavors with an all around quality we were longing for. (NW) guessed it to be a “Carneros” Zin and (Billy) guessed it verbatim but me thinks he cheated...

This wine was a 2 for one special so although it cost $20, it was actually $10 with the special a huge bargain! Very nice and we raised a glass with pleasure!

Three Blind Moose Merlot 2003 (PB)

This wine with animals on the label (I detest animals on wine labels) is made worse by the fact that the animals are wearing sunglasses for Pete’s sake. Despite the stupid label and name, the wine is an intense ruby with a light but pleasant green pepper nose with a touch of strawberries.

This wine is made in the fruit forward, typical new world-pop style that appeals to many of today’s wine drinkers. A lot of people will like this wine even though it is just your basic pop wine, unremarkable, not typical of the Merlot grape and a little tannic. But, in fairness, it is an enjoyable enough wine if you just want some “wine” and aren’t looking for anything special or memorable. Raise a glass if you want–seeing impaired animals not withstanding. Around $8 I believe.

Kempton Clark 2001 Petite Syrah (PB)

This California offering has rich garnet color with fresh cherry and raspberry bouquet. In the mouth it is again rich with a touch of vanilla, and anise with strong tannins. Within a few minutes of air, a little bit of dill emerges right before swallowing–nice! After a half hour or so, tannins are still pretty tightly wound but the dill gets stronger. This wine was a close out special for $8! If I didn’t live an hour away from where I purchased it, I’d run out and buy more. (NW) and (Billy) are both still in town and I trust they will also be putting thier review up as well. Raise a glass!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Blind review of two wines (PB) (NW) and (Billy)

Two of my three progeny are here under the same roof with 4 of our 5 1/3 grand-children. Billy and NW are here visiting with their fams– a treat indeed! This give us the unprecedented opportunity to taste wines together and discuss our findings. I believe if you take the time to read this, you will learn something about the subjective and objective elements of tasting wine.

We took a Yellow Tail Shiraz 2004 and the Yellow Tail Shiraz 2003 Reserve and tasted them blind then compared notes. I had an immediate conflict with what I was seeing and what I was finding through other sensory evaluations. The first glass had a better color with more intensity which caused me to lean toward identifying this as the reserve. Of course you wouldn’t make a judgement based only one characteristic but that was my snap judgment. The cognitive dissonance arose when I swirled and smelled for now the “better” wine as far as bouquet and nose was concerned was NOT the wine with the better color.

In the mouth the first wine was peppery with huge green pepper flavors or what some call vegetal. (I don’t care for vegetal wines...a point that will explain something later on.)

I said of the first wine, “a hot decent wine that finishes O.K. is fairly unremarkable; it’s just sort of wine to drink with reasonable tannins.” I wrote of the second wine “has a platform of chocolate right off, solid tannins and a finish that is O.K.. Both were a little bitter.

My assessment was the first wine was the ordinary Shiraz and the second was the Reserve based on the fact that although the first one had qualities more consistent with a better quality wine (the Reserve is $11 and the other is $7) I don’t like vegetal wines and view them as being somewhat flawed even. For that reason, the other wine was more enjoyable to me so I picked it as the Reserve. I was wrong and Billy and NW picked the right one.

Now here is the interesting part; NW had essentially the same review notes as me and Billy shared many of the same qualities yet they picked the other wine as the Reserve for the same reasons I picked the other! My assumption was the wine I enjoy more will be the “better” wine. Not true in this case; I selected the less expensive wine as the Reserve wine which cost $7 as compared to the Reserve which cost $11. In other words, I don’t like what they like and they like what I don’t.

Bottom line? There are objective elements to tasting wine but at the end of it all, it comes down to what YOU like. This was fun and I suggest you try the same sort of little “game.” So raise a glass and see what happens!

Cline Ancient Vine Carignane 2003 (PB)

This varietal pronounced (kar-reen-yahn) is a deep garnet with a fruity bouquet of black pepper. Black cherry, ripe plums and chocolate. This wine review reveals tannins that are adequate and borderline gentlemanly. Licorice and chocolate accentuate the mid-palate tasting and some spice. There is something underneath that is peculiar–an underlying bitterness that I find a bit unpleasant. It finishes short with pepper. I do not have much experience with this particular grape so it is hard to know what is to be expected. At any rate, it is a decent wine with some intrigue. Raise a glass!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Covey Run Riesling 2004 (PB)

This Washington State white wine is a very pretty pale golden on the pour with a solid nose of grapefruit and fleeting peach overtones. On the palate, the first blast is sweetness but then suddenly veers off to a nicely acidic offering that is somehow both mildly sweet yet dry at the same time.

It has a mildly buttery texture mid-palate and a pleasant finish of citrus. This wine was given an 87 rating the Wine Spectator and I heartily concur. Now sit down–this wine is $7.50! That makes this a great value and it is in good supply so finding it should not be a problem. Don’t pass up this opportunity. Raise a glass or two!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Le Rocche Di Piccini (PB)

This was a close out wine found in a local store. It was $4 marked down from $9. In the glass, when tilted, this wine is showing a slightly yellow to brown rim around the edge of the wine. This means the wine is old and on its way out. It is a very light red (in color) is a Chianti table wine, and non-vintage to boot. On opening there is a really nice bouquet that fills the air with fresh fruit and a nose of cherries.

The fragrance was exciting the mouth this wine was woefully sour and very thin. It was really astringent with a little black pepper coming through. This wine has almost no finish. This “sale” wine was potable but that’s about all you can say. It seems pretty clear the reason it was on closeout is because it is going down hill quickly. This is another reason why you buy only 1 sale wine like this and taste it first. A sale is no sale if it is a bad wine. Go raise a glass... of something else!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mark West Pinot Noir 2004 (PB)

This red has nice Pinot color and classic Pinot berry aromas. In the mouth there is a first blast of nice raspberries and a hint of oh, so subtle chocolate.

It is well balanced, full flavored if a bit understated at first. It is a classic example of Pinot Noir and at $17 it is a fine example of the grape, full of raisins and a nice finish. Nice! Raise a glass!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Eos Petite Syrah Reserve 2000 (PB)

My son–“Billy” the neo-enophile of this blog is visiting with my grandchildren and wife and we are having a grand time! Tonight we made a run to a local wine haunt and came home with some well known and reliable quaffs but also a couple of unknowns, namely this one we were planning to have with a Two Cheese Mousakka–a Croatian vegetarian dish full of cheese and mushrooms and tomatoes and spices. Problem is, this wine was so good we never made it to dinner! This is a Paso Robles red of deep garnet on the pour with good fruit of cherries with a touch of a little licorice and a smidge of cocoa with refined tannins.

With some air the bottle stink on opening has dissipated leaving nothing but black cherries and that touch of licorice. This wine is at peak; is luscious with refined tannic structure. All in all, at $22, which is more than I normally pay for an everyday wine but this is a NICE wine. Raise a glass even if you don’t make it to dinner!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Three Thieves 2002 “Bandit” Cabernet Sauvignon (PB)

First for some disclosures: I have NOT had this wine; Three Thieves advertise from time to time on this blog...

Okay that out of the way, this is such a bizarre finding–in my estimation–that I had to blog it in the for what it’s worth category. Three Thieves is a new venture that began in 2002. They find excess wine wherever they find it (in this case Napa and Sonoma) and ship it out in boxes. YES, I said BOXES–as in, cardboard finished so to speak...

So why am I blogging this? Because the Wine Enthusiast just gave this wine a score of 86! I find that both phenomenal and unbelievable but the folks at the Wine Enthusiast are not “no nothings” when it comes to wine. They say of this wine, “It is deliciously fruity and puts to shame many Cabs costing far more.”

So while I am not sure this wine available in my area, I promise I will review it if and when I find it. Now here’s the rest of the story. This wine sells for $7 for a liter! (Your standard wine bottle holds 750ml or .75 liters) (Viva Le metric system...) Raise a box??? That’s going to take some getting used to!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Concannon Petite Syrah 2003 (PB)

I have reviewed the same wine from the 2002 vintage and it made the recommended list. This iteration of the Petite Syrah grape is another super value! On the pour this wine is so intense in deep purple color leaves pigmentation on the glass after you swirl. It has a unique nose that is deep and inky with a hint of milk chocolate.

In the mouth this gorgeous wine is big but I served it too cold. Allowing it to warm up a bit opens it up well with humongous but finessed tannins. Deep dark berry fruit is central with a subtle layer of anise. At $10, this is a big value wine. It is so well made and well balanced that I want to shout–RAISE A GLASS!

Buena Vista Carneros Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (NW)

Buena Vista Carneros Cabernet Sauvignon 2001:

Big, fruity nose
Jammy, with strawberry and raspberry notes
Oak layer
Moderate tannins
Shorter finish, but nice

I put this in a wine flight of domestic Cabernet Sauvignon. It had the most "jammy" characteristics in the flight and a pretty good overall appeal.

Buena Vista is a very nice winery to visit near Sonoma and it has a friendly tasting room. I was there several years ago, but haven't sampled any of their wines since then. I was glad to find the Cab for $14 and would look for it again as it's a good representation of California Cabernet Sauvignon. Raise a glass!

Chateau Bois Martin 2000 (NW)

Chateau Bois Martin 2000:

Dark berries on the nose
Currant and blueberry layers on the palate
Smooth texture
Elegant finish

Nice, but not exciting. This is a Bordeaux from Pessac-Leognan and has some of the classic Bordeaux elegance that I like. The problem is that it seems a little flat. It may be the bottle and fortunately I have another so I'll be able to compare. This is from the year 2000 which is the "vintage of a lifetime" in Bordeaux according to many critics. Because of that, there are so many exciting wines to choose from that I probably won't look for this again unless my second bottle really surprises me. I paid $25. Raise a glass of Bordeaux, but find an exciting one!

Pindar Winter White (NW)

Pindar Winter White (non-vintage):

Lightly fruity on the nose
Light, sweet touches of citrus and honey
Clean finish

If you live in the New York metro area, you may actually stand a chance to find this wine. Pindar, a north-fork Long Island winery, produces an incredible variety of wines and many are just not available much beyond Long Island and the metro area. Our friends from New York brought us a bottle on a recent visit and we really enjoyed it. We found this wine to be incredibly versatile, pairing well with a variety of appetizers we prepared. It is lightly sweet, but still a dry table wine similar to a Chenin Blanc. The list price is $9/bottle. Raise a glass!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Domaine De Pouy 2004 (PB)

This French white from the Cotes de Gascogne has a sensual bouquet that smells like a cross between a Riesling and a Sauvignon Blanc. It is pale golden and is wildly tart on the first blast and almost puckery. Pineapple and citrus are the main flavors. As it sits on the palate the hyper-acidic tartness tones way down. A little vanilla comes to the surface. With food, this bracing wine can cut through any kind of fatty, rich food you might serve. A nice food wine!

It finishes rather gentle but with a nice subtle lingering sense of lemon and cream. This wine was $10 on sale for the night as it was a wine tasting featured wine. Raise a glass.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (NW)

Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon 2002:

Fragrant nose of berries, vanilla, and oak
Strawberry and raspberry on the palate
Nice layers taper with a polished finish

We have praised the 2001 and this wine is even better! I find it difficult to locate a high quality Cabernet Sauvignon from California for under $20, so this is really a great deal at $12. That was a sale price, so a more typical price might be $15. What a buy!

This wine has nice balance and it's not too tannic. It reveals itself in interesting layers of fruit and oak that are quite nice. If you like a Cab that pairs well with food but still delivers that fragrant and fruity quality typical of California, then this should be on your list. Raise a glass!

Vinho Nova 2001 “Tras-Os-Montes (PB)

This Portuguese blend of local varieties of grapes is a light red on the pour with a wonderfully, fruity fragrance. The nose on swirl is barely perceptible–odd! In the mouth this inexpensive wine–part of the Mix-n-match batch (NW) brought my way, is wildly peppery and big on tannins. It is thin and not much there initially.

But after breathing it for a half hour or so, the bouquet–it’s strong point–is just fabulous, full of fresh fruit that almost makes you salivate. There is licorice in the opened bouquet which is nice and my wife smells smoke. (My wife and daughter always seem to smell smoke and for some reason I seem to be unable to smell smoke when everyone else does.) Point–some people’s olfactory abilities are superior or at least different than others. I almost never smell smoke, while (NW) for example often smells or tastes “dirt,” well earthiness actually. (He likes it...) You have to work with what God gave you.

So, bottom line–this wine is thin but has a wonderful bouquet and for some reason, I think it would make a great lunch time wine, sitting in the shine dining alfresco, and eating a baguette with some cheese. So, what the heck, raise a glass and be thankful for the good things this life has.

Monday, October 17, 2005

House wine 2003 (PB)

This is a second review of the wine I reviewed back in June. This blend from Washington State is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (59%) Merlot (31%) Syrah (9%) and Cabernet Franc (1%) and is full of fresh baked bread on opening with loads of berry fruit. First taste on opening reveals a wine with big flavors of black berries and some spice but with tannins begging for a fight! This wine needs to be sent to the timeout chair for a while until it can learn to get along!

With an hour sitting out, there’s a layer of licorice and chocolate and the tannins are learning to get along but still a bit rowdy. This is a big wine and very aggressive–I like it.

With another hour or so to breathe, finally the tannins chill out but still have an attitude. This is a nice wine for the price of $10 I paid for it and it seems to be available widely. I’d find this wine and serve it up with plenty of air and a hearty meal!

I am impressed by the wines being produced by the "Magnificent Wine Company." Today I just picked up another rather pricey wine--$35--(for me) the "K Syrah, Milbrandt." I doubt I will be disappointed. Once you find a wine maker that just seems to get it right with anything they do, I find I am rarely lead astray. Stay tuned and we'll let you know! Raise a glass!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Clos de los Siete 2003 (NW)

Clos de los Siete 2003:

Big nose of dark fruit
Rick layers of berries and dark chocolate
Smooth texture, followed by strong tannins on the finish

I was looking for an interesting wine from Argentina and I didn't want another straight up Malbec varietal. This looked to be a little different. The label says it's a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, and is a project of Michel Rolland. I was interested enough to shell out the $15 to bring one home. On opening, it's obviously a very powerful, dark wine in color and on the nose. It is well balanced and has nice layers of dark berries and dark chocolate. The surprise was how silky and smooth it felt in the mouth at first but finished with a tannin bite. It's an interesting wine and I would be curious enough to see how it cellars for a few years. I wonder if the tannins will mellow and the other layers will develop even further. I guess I just made up my mind and will probably grab a couple more bottles and stash them away. Raise a glass!

Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel 2004 (PB)

STOP reading right here and run out and find this wine!!! Not convinced? This wine was recently reviewed by the Wine Spectator and given an 89 score. I am not given to being swayed by other’s ratings but this one, if anything, is underscored! This wine is big in every way right on opening with a huge bouquet of dark fruit. It smells rich! In the mouth this wine is just as full with loads of body and flavor and mouth feel.

With a little air time, which isn’t necessary for this elegant creation, it is so full of flavor and if you ever wondered what “plush” tannins were like; this is it! This is just a nicely made, elegant wine. After a half hour, I was blown away by an unexpected blast of mint. Nice!!!

It finished velvety, and long–the finest tannins I have had yet! At the listed reference price of $18, this wine is a bargain BUT–Sam’s Club has it for under $13!

Stock up NOW and raise many glasses!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Brancott Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (PB)

This New Zealand white was my choice to go with my seafood ravioli made for my secretary’s birthday. This is the lowest tier of Brancott’s wines, ($10) and for the price is a decent value. This wine has solid New Zealand style grassy S. Blanc aromas with mega-guava bouquet.

It is dry and acidic enough to hold up to most foods with a citrus backbone. It isn’t as well put together as it’s higher tier wines but then it isn’t the higher price either. It is a solid wine, and a good value. Raise a glass!

Concannon Pinot Noir 2003 (PB)

I’m fixing dinner for my secretary’s birthday and I have homemade pasta (seafood ravioli) for the main course. I make Bruschetta (broiled pieces of bread with garlic wiped over the toasted pieces and fresh basil and tomatoes with olive oil on top for an appetizer. My secretary is partial to red wine so I want to serve wines that will give her a choice between red and white and yet have each one pair adequately with the dinner. So I choose this Pinot Noir knowing it will pair well with the appetizer and will probably work with the main course even if not being the optimal choice.

It works well on all counts.

This wine is pale red, has classic Pinot aromas with gorgeous fruit in the bouquet. It is well balanced and rather refined. A nice compliment to a gentle flavored main course. My secretary seemed to like it just fine! It was $10 on sale and a good choice; Raise a glass!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Fusee Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (NW)

Fusee Cabernet Sauvignon 2003:

Cinnamon on the nose
Berries and chocolate palate
Moderate tannins

A pleasant surprise! I bought a case of "bargain" mix-and-match wines to see if we could uncover any hidden jems. I sent half to PB and kept half to try myself. This wine happened to be opened when we were together and it was a crowd pleaser. It was very approachable, had some nice layers, and disappeared very quickly into everyone's glasses. After closer inspection of the label, which has some whimsical commentary on futuristic space travel, we discovered that this wine is a project of the Sebastiani family. That explains the quality in the bottle! The wine is a true bargain, and would be fun with a big group or in a party setting. Raise a glass!

P.S. It was only FOUR DOLLARS!

Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull Zinfandel 2003 (PB)

I went to one of my wine haunts to hunt down some of the latest Wine Spectator and Wine
Enthusiast top, bargain, picks. At the top of my list was the elusive Buehler–YES! That’s Beuhler as in, “Beuhler? Beuhler? Beuhler? As in the classic “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” or not...

Anyway, they didn’t have the 93 point Zinfandel by the name but the wine guy–Jim–suggested I try this wine which was nearly half the price of the one I was looking for.

I grabbed it, took it home and popped the cork as I await, my venison sausage and penne with provolone dinner.

It is a very pretty garnet on the pour with a nice bouquet of fruit filled with black cherries. With a few minutes of air, it opens even more fully to a wonderful fruity wine with solid tannins and a rich flavor of hay and watermelon and little spice which is very nice. This is a quality wine and at $8.50 and readily available, I HAVE to recommend it! Raise a glass and enjoy!

Lost Vineyards Malbec/Bonarda (PB)

This is an oddly marketed wine; the label reads: “Lost Vineyards searches the world for little known (lost) wineries that produce highly drinkable wines suitable for everyday enjoyment...”
This was yet another of (NW’s) gracious deposit in my nearly barren cellar. (I think I am down to less than 50 bottles!)

My tasting notes read: This wine made of 20% Malbec and 80% Bonarda has a light, nondescript bouquet, yet has a good balance of the all the “nondescript stuff” that’s there. I had this wine with some friends at their house so my tasting ritual was compromised. But after giving some air, it was still rather simple–make that, very simple, yet pleasant! Compared to the Woodbridge magnum our host insists on buying weekly, this was a far better wine and probably less expensive. I would guess it was around 7$ and it was worth it. Not stellar, but certainly drinkable as an everyday table wine. Raise a glass.

El Roy Proprietor's Red Wine 2000 (NW)

El Roy Proprietor's Red Wine 2000:

Plum and black currant on the nose
Jammy on the palate
Strong tannins and a vegetable bitter finish

After giving this wine some time to breathe, the bitterness burned off and revealed a strawberry layer in addition to what's noted above. This wine is nicely balanced and good with food. The label says there are Bordeaux and Rhone grape varieties blended together, but the blending information is proprietary.

I first had this wine two years ago in Atlanta at a restaurant. The following day I found it in an Atlanta wine shop that specializes in small production wines and bought a bottle for $22. I hadn't seen it for two years until I spotted a few bottles in a Boston wine shop, and at the attractive price of $19. I need to go back and grab the last couple of bottles. Raise a glass of hard-to-find wine!

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2001 (NW)

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2001:

Cherry, plum, and sweet spice on the nose
Vanilla and oak layers
Smooth and soft

Easy drinking and full of flavor! I am consistantly impressed with Columbia Crest. Here is a wine that is around $11 (I got it on sale for $9) that is absolutely delicious. I don't drink a lot of Merlot, but I'm going back for more of this. I like it because there are so many layers and it is so smooth. As a word of caution, though, you have to be in the mood for this soft and sweet character to really enjoy it.

I've written about Columbia Crest numerous times before. For the past two years, I've been really impressed with their affordable wines. Apparently I'm not the only one, as Wine Spectator recently named Columbia Crest as one of the great "value" wineries of the world. In fact, this particular Merlot earned a 90 point score from the taster. Raise a glass!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Want to develop your skill as a wine taster? (PB)

Want to do more than just take a pretend sniff, sip and then say, “I like it, it’s sweet;” or “It’s dry...”

The current issue (Oct. 31) of the Wine Spectator has a good section on how to taste wine. It will help you on your way to being able to evaluate what you have in your glass. The more wines you taste, the more you will appreciate what you’re drinking. But BEWARE–the more you appreciate what you’re drinking, the more you will spend in search of the next remarkable wine!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Now raise a glass and do it with some finesse! :)

Liebfraumilch 2004 (PB)

German wines were my first real study wines. Then the market for German wines just seemed to keep escalating and I lost interest. But learning how to read a German wine label is perhaps the most interesting and informative of any label on any wine. I won’t go into that now...

Liebfraumilch–literally “Mother’s Milk”is one of the most popular of wine due to its low coast, and “soda pop” flavor. It is not meant to be great wine; just a quaffing table wine. This one comes in a yellow glass bottle–typical of the Reinhessen–an area of Germany. (Wines from the Mosel–Saar-Ruwer always come in green glass bottles–just one of the many complexities of reading German wines...)

At any rate, this is one of the Mix ‘N Match wines (NW) dropped off on a recent visit. It is pale yellow in the glass with a really nice and pronounced bouquet of apples, apricots, and peaches with a little honey. This wine reminds me of a blend of Chenin, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. What it is, is anyone’s guess as it is a blend of local German grapes from the region.

In the mouth it is predictably sweet–too sweet, with some decent flavors of peach and honey but it is cloying–sort of a lifeless, sickening kind of sweet that makes you click your tongue repeatedly with a scrunched nose. This is due to insufficient acid in a wine. As a learning experience it is a good wine to demonstrate lack of acidity and how unexciting and lifeless a wine with some other good qualities can be.

Again, I don’t know what (NW) paid for this wine but I would guess it was around $8. Except as a lesson in the importance of acid, I’d pass this one up and raise a glass of something else!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Breast Cancer and Drinking Wine (PB)

The current issue of The Wine Spectator notes that a new report in the British Medical Journal reveals the latest research that with proper intake of folate–a B vitamin–will cancel out any potential risk. Folate can be found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans or you may just take a dietary supplement.

The article further notes that while a definitive link to drinking and breast cancer has yet to be shown, in a study of 17,447 women followed for a period of 10 years, those who had 2-3 drinks per day had a 15 % lower risk of breast of cancer than those who didn’t drink if those who drank had a sufficient intake of folate–(330mcg) and a 19% lower incidence if followed by 400 mcg of folate.

As is always the case, the Biblical axiom of “All things in moderation” is still wise counsel.

Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon Antiguas Reservas 2000 (PB)

This is one of my favorite “value” reds from Chile. I have reviewed it at least two other times and this is my second to last bottle. It is lighter on the pour in color than I remember it but has a huge bouquet of cherries and blackberries. The bouquet just grows and grows filling the room. I could leave this wine sitting around as an air freshener...

A little menthol emerges with just a few minutes of breathing. In the mouth it is filling with flavors that are full, balanced and pleasing. This wine seems to be just about peaked but with as good a structure as it has, could hold for another couple years (I think).

It finishes rather thin. For $13, it’s a great way to raise a glass!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bellini Rosso Piceno 2004 (PB)

Another of the “mix-n-match” wines (NW) brought up for review. Served again with left-over “Timbalo” (see preceding entries) this wine is a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes that gives off a pretty bouquet and fresh grapes and cherries.

In the mouth it is a little sweet with Sangiovese flavors with a little steel. With air, the flavors move up a notch with nice balance and overall structure. It is balanced and solid. Finishing with pepper this is a winner; straight forward and pleasant. I am uncertain of the price until I check with (NW) but I suspect it is $10 or less; worth a raising a glass. (Turns out it was $3.33!) Oh yeah!!!

K Syrah Cougar Hills 2003 (PB)

This wine is a very limited production wine from Washington State which my wine guy in Freeport was able to locate for me. It is a bit pricey–$45–and this was one of 8 bottles available in my state! It had to be a special occasion to open it and last night was that night! (Read preceding entry)

It is a deep, inky blue/black/red with a humongous and clear strawberry and meat bouquet. (NW) called it a strawberry hamburger...On the palate it is deep but a little closed with a little smoke on the finish. With a few minutes of breathing a little vanilla emerges. After a half hour or so there is a consistency of aromas and flavor and depth that is unusual in my experience. A hint of chocolate rises as well on top of more fruit.

This is a deep, rich wine with luxurious tannins and finally a wine that is expensive (for me) and that is impressive! This won’t be on the recommended list only because I don’t believe it is readily available. But I’d buy it again and that’s a pretty good compliment. If you can find this, raise a glass for a real treat.

Fusee 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (PB)

This is the third wine of the “Timbalo” evening (preceding entry) and didn’t expect very much out of it as it was an unknown wine, and had two hard acts to follow. But (NW) brought a half case of mix and match bargain wines for my cellar and kept a half case for himself. These are all unknown wines which we’ll both try and see what’s worth buying again.

This wine is produced by the Sebastiani’s–a name with a long reputation for stability and quality over the long haul. I don’t believe I have ever been disappointed with a Sebastiani wine in 25 years of wine study. It is a Cabernet Sauvignon and the name means “Rocket” in French. The label has some odd statements on it about space travel etc. but what’s inside is surprising. With its pricing and marketing, the Sebastiani's goal is to stem the encroaching tide of Australian wines from deluging this country.

The bouquet is cherries and chocolate and the flavor is the same with a layer of licorice and wonderful burst of cinnamon–wow! There isn’t a lot of depth and the finish is short but although I don’t know what this wine cost, my on line search seems to put it around $8 and at that price, this is a good find! Raise a glass!

Chateau Montpezat 2003 (PB)

Went to the wine tasting at Freeport Wine and Cheese and had this wine as one of the many nice wines served that evening. This one stood out to both my wife and me although I wasn’t “*excited” about it. We grabbed a couple to go.

Tonight, (NW) and our daughter, and our daughter’s childhood “bud” came up for the day and we made the Italian celebratory dish–that labor intensive but so worthwhile meal called, “Timbalo.” It is so special it is the focus of a feature length movie titled, “The Big Night.” I urge you to look up the recipe online and give it a crack!

Anyway, we started out with bruschetta–an appetizer that’s wonderful–I opened the Montpezat. It is wonderful and a great deal at $13.50 (tasting sale price). This lighter garnet colored wine is from the Coteaux Du Languedoc, the up an coming wine region–currently a bargain--of France.

The bouquet is full of cherries and then a layer of licorice takes over. In the mouth it is a little sweet with nice, even flavors. The bouquet of cherries and licorice is fabulous and maybe even a slight hint of chocolate and this wine is ready to drink right on opening.
*As I said at the beginning, I wasn’t excited about this wine at the tasting because the amount they give you to taste is generally insufficient to get a really nice mouthful which I require to really “taste” the wine. The small amount is understandable yet a little unfortunate. I wonder how many good wines I have missed being unimpressed by the inadequate aromas and sensations offered by a small tasting amount served at a tasting.

But this is a nice wine and worth seeking out! Raise a glass!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (PB)

While in L. A. I stopped in a big wine store with all kinds of bargains. I grabbed this New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region and have I cannot for the life of me remember why!
With all the selections, there has to be some reason I selected this wine to wrap in my clothing, and with my pillow packing it into my suitcase for the dubious trip back to New England.

Tonight I opened it with Fillo dough wrapped, deboned pork chops with an apricot glaze. Wow! This wine is typical New Zealand with a bouquet of fresh cut apples and guava. How do I know guava? While in L.A. we visited my son’s-in-law (that IS the grammatically correct way to say that) father’s house. He has a huge guava tree in the yard and my son in law climbed up and picked me a very ripe guava. I smelled it and said WOW! I handed it o my wife and asked, “What does this smell like?” It smells just like a New Zealand S. Blanc; the aroma I have been calling grassy is GUAVA–big time!
This wine is highly acidic in a good way and is fresh with big pear and guava flavors with a a sense of creaminess on the palate yet it finishes it clean and dry.

The finish just keeps going on of pears, grass and lusciously tart. At $10, this is yet another fabulous New Zealand S. Blanc reminiscent of the recommended “Monkey Bay.”

Raise a glass–you’ll love it!

Airport Surprise in Charlotte! (PB)

So there we are walking to our next flight having just arrived from Los Angeles. We’re in the Charlotte N.C. airport and we have to go to the D Concourse. My wife and I are on the non-moving people mover and out of the corner of my eye I spy the Yadkin Valley Wine Bar.

Something is familiar about the name and I nearly shreak to my wife–“That’s the wine bar Gaiter and Brecher wrote about in June! We’ve got to go there!” So we walk to the end of the immovable people mover and walk back a mile and half to this wine bar. The sign says, “Taste 4 wines for $3."

Whew-hoo this is great! We meet Bruce Ridgeway of the Yadkin Valley Wine Association who is pouring and after having been with the wine challenged wine bar attendants in Temecula California two days earlier, Bruce is a delight. He knows his wines, he’s personable and unimpressed with his knowledge of wine. He just enjoys wine!

He begins to pour while he’s explaining the components of the wines, the geography, the meteorology and what ever else comes to our minds to ask. He reminds me of the actor/former Senator from Tennessee--Fred Thompson. But Bruce is the real deal and the wines are genuine. We tasted numerous blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Viognier, Riseling, and I don’t remember all what we tasted but the whole experience was wonderful!

When you’re traveling by air these days you need all the help you can get especially if you are traveling by U.S. Airways, the most consistently passenger UN-Friendly air carrier in existence.

Now here is the surprise–First having a tasting bar in an airport is stellar! How better to put a smile on a mass of disgruntled passengers faces than with the fruit of the vine? But second is that these wines were significantly superior to the wines we had tasted two days earlier in the burgeoning wine country of Southern California. Wineries with names like Reylen, Shelton, and West Bend, offer wines that have character, are bright, have some complexity and the wines we tasted were roughly half the price of the Temecula, California wines we had with the average wine costing around $10!

I don’t recommend traveling by air these days but if you must and you are passing through Charlotte, be sure to try the Yadkin Valley wines. Where else can you “raise a glass;” make that 4 glasses for 3 bucks?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Veuve Ambal Brut NV (PB)

This French made sparkler is light golden on the pour with a light but definite bouquet of citrus and lemon with a hint of vanilla. In the mouth it is dry with good acid and rather indistinct flavors of citrus primarily. It is slightly bitter and the flavor dies quickly. It would be okay with a rich main course. I picked it up in an LA wine shop basically for the price of $9. It’s not remarkable but it’s not offensive either.

And our trip to Los Angeles comes to an end in about 12 hours. The trip was fun, the wine was mediocre, but the memories are swell! The next time you hear from me, it will be from back home in Maine. There’s no place like home… So, on that note, raise a glass!

Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (NW)

Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004:

Very bold, grassy nose
Citrus and apple layers on the palate
Crisp, acidic finish

Of the readily available Sauvignon Blanc's from New Zealand, this has become my favorite. At jsut $9, it's a great deal because it has real character. The bold, grassy flavors are outstanding and refreshing. This grassy character is typical of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but you really have to like it to enjoy this wine. Normally I am skeptical of wines with cute animal labels but this one gets a pass. Actually, if you look closely, the monkey is a little frightening and not at all cute. Of course, it's the contents of the bottle that counts. Raise a glass!

Vallebelbo Moscato D'Asti (NW)

Vallebelbo Moscato D'Asti (non-vintage):

Great color, light bubbles
Sweet grape on the nose and palate
Simple, creamy finish

My wife and I have enjoyed a lot of Moscato D'Asti lately. We think it's much more versatile than just as a dessert wine. Although it is excellent with light desserts like panna cotta and fresh berries, we've enjoyed Moscato D'Asti with sweet shellfish dinners and often as an aperatif. It is low in alcohol content, usually 5-7% and delivers a nice balance of light, sweet, and bubbly. This Vallebelbo was just right, and a mere $10 at the local wine shop. Raise a glass!

Chateau Larose Trintaudon 1999 (NW)

Chateau Larose Trintaudon 1999:

Subtle fruit aromas on the nose
Soft, dull character built around blueberries
An off layer tasting like rubber
Simple, short finish

This wine was a disappointment. It was a little dull and had an unusual rubbery taste. This may be the result of brettanomyces yeast, which often causes a medical or rubbery odor. I ordered it at a business dinner and didn't really pick up on the off flavor right away. The entire bottle was poured very quickly and we were engrossed in conversation, so I didn't bother to make a scene. We had just one bottle and overpaid at $43. Not the most pleasant wine experience. Raise a glass, but not a glass of this!

Trip to wine? country (PB)

Santa Barbara! No, Temecula! Temecu-what? Temecula! 90 miles south of Los Angeles, is a new (“new” is relative)developing wine region in southern California situated in what is essentially a desert. Santa Barbara would certainly have been more scenic but the Santa Barbara wine region—made famous by the movie “Sideways”--is a very spread out area with a fairly low concentration of wineries in any particular locale. So, in light of our limited time, we went to Temecula where the wineries are pretty well situated on one thoroughfare.

We stopped at Hart winery—the first one you come to on the approach to this wine region. It is pretty much a barn with a tasting counter about eight feet in length and a room that is simply a space off the actual production area of the winery. It was much too small to accommodate the number of people that were trying to get to the tasting counter.

Since we tasted about 25 wines in all this day, I will hghlight only a couple standouts, and simply give an overall assessment at the end. Where the Hart winery shone above the rest we visited, was that with their $10 tasting (they have a $5 tasting as well) you get their reserve wines and a souvenir 19 oz. Spieglau Bordeaux tasting glass. Nice!

Our next stop was Churon winery which is built in an elegant French Chateau style architecture and beautifully appointed. The tasting room is spacious and beautiful. The wines were unremarkable and way overpriced.

We stopped for lunch at Maurice Car’rie winery which was a very nice and very popular place to stop. They have the only free tasting of all the wineries and it was well attended yet, the tasting area and shop was spacious and comfortable. As you enter the winery, you could order a sourdough loaf with baked brie which would be ready for you in 15 minutes. We availed ourselves of this and it was ready and warm and wonderful to eat on the picnic grounds outside. For $14, it was a cheap lunch for five people.

The attendant serving our tasting was pretty well clueless about the wines but very friendly. This was the first winery we had visited that tasted like they had actually been making wine for a while. Heather’s Mist—a blend of Muscat Cannelli, Chardonnay Riesling and something the pourer didn’t remember, was very pleasant and would be great chilled on a hot summer day. ($9) Of all the wineries, this was the most fun.

We would make our way to two more wineries which were off the beaten path and although not far, it was awkward getting to them due to some major construction on roads in the area and what seemed to be development of this burgeoning wine area.

We found Filsinger Winery with some work and walked in to the small tasting room/shop and was overpowered by the unmistakable aroma of urinal inserts—the blue or bubblegum pink tablets you find in toilets to mask the smell of--uh, other things... A meaningful tasting was out of the question with the stench and we left immediately.

Last on our agenda for this quick trip was the Keyways Winery, again out of the way, dirt parking lot, but a good atmosphere, some of the best wines of the day we had including a Late Harvest Zinfandel which was remarkable. It is a great dessert wine with chocolate aromas and flavors. They served it with a few chocolate pieces and the pairing was astounding. Serve this wine with chocolate cheesecake for a taste of heaven.

In Summary—we only visited five out of the 13 wineries in this up and coming region. Overall, the wines were disappointingly marginal. With the exception of the Heather’s Mist (Maurice Car’rie) and the Late Harvest Zinfandel (Keyways) the wines were almost all very blah, with light bouquet’s only hinting at the grape type. The reds tended toward overwhelming alcohol aromas and light on fruit. The prices of some of these wines were in the $25-$30 range. One Old Vine Zinfandel we had smelled like toluene (airplane glue) and even the better reds were just "okay," all with a lackluster finish.

My impression was, either the winemakers need to go back to school, or the quality of grapes being produced in Temecula just isn’t cutting it. It was a nice day—a great day—but the wines and some of the tasting rooms need a lot of work.