Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Wine Cask Blog One Year Anniversary Wine Review: Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (NW)

To celebrate our one year anniversary at The Wine Cask blog, PB, Billy, and I agreed to spend our evenings at home enjoying special bottles of wine. On an earlier posting I mentioned that I had enjoyed learning a lot about South American wines this past year. To honor that, I uncorked a real treasure from Chile that has been haunting me since I first tasted it about one year ago.

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2000:

Dark and intense color
Mineral and steely nose
Cocoa, tar, and dark fruit as a tightly-wound core on the palate
Long finish, heavy tannins, and a bitter, semi-sweet chocolate zip at the end

Wow! This wine is so unbelievably intense! I had forgotten how tightly wound it is and how long it takes to open up. For South American Cab, it's one of the flagship wines and is one of the most extreme versions of the intensity that can be displayed in this category. Honestly, this isn't an everyday wine. For many wine enthusiasts, this is probably too dark and almost bitter. Couple that with the fact that it's difficult to find, and I don't recommend that you spend a lot of time hunting for this wine. It does receive very high scores from The Wine Spectator and other critics, and as a result, is considered a bargain at $45. However, it's almost unapproachable because it's just so intense.

After thirty minutes of slowly sipping on my first pour, I decided to decant the rest of the bottle. My next glass was almost two hours later and at that point, the wine was starting to open up and reveal it's layers to some extent. This is where I began picking up on the cocoa and the little bit of dark fruit that is compressed on the palate (if pressed for specifics, I'd say prunes, currant, and plum). Half way though my second glass, though, I got tired of analyzing this wine and tried to just enjoy the rest without thinking too much about it. After all, wine is for enjoyment and this particular one will continue to haunt me anyway! Raise a glass!

TWCB Anniversary Wine Review: 2001 Damilano Barolo (billy)

To celebrate our one year anniversary we at The Wine Cask Blog (TWCB) are having our own little "Open That Bottle" night. You have already Read about (PB)'s adoration of the Zind Humbrecht Gewurtztraminer and (NW)'s recap of what TWCB has meant to him.

I wanted something new to me but that I knew was supposed to be special. To do this I went to a local store just this evening. I have to say that the gang at Century Wines & Spirits were fantastic. This is a new place and the staff was incredible gracious and helpful. Lindy took me around the store and showed me the layout. Nick even offered to take my coat and hang it up (I did). Shannon rung me up and offered me a discount and a smile. I did not get a chance to meet the manager, Mark as he was not in, but I look forward to it. The entire staff was kind and gracious (even the one who declined to be named) and made me feel welcome. They offered to look up wines that I wanted, let me know that they were very receptive to suggestions and special orders.

I say all this in praise on our Anniversary review night not because of bargain basement prices (they weren't but neither were they over priced) but because it just goes to show the importance of establishing a relationship with a wine store and staff that you trust. They need to get to know you, your likes and dislikes and price range. Only then can they help open up for you this wonderous world in a glass.

Speaking of which, the 2001 Damilano Barolo is amazing.

Eyes: lucid ruby tapering to sunburst orange at the edge.

Nose: a wafting and sensuously layered nose full of chocolate, cherry, and tobacco (and mushrooms???). Simply amazing. Not overpowering. Not a jammy or dense new world fruit wine. But an elegant sensuality that embraces my nose and wraps it with exquisite gentleness and character.

Palate: A soft and perfectly balanced structure that is velvet and strength merged as one. There is a "pine-tree" softness flavor that co-mingles with the chocolate and cherry while the tobacco touches my tongue and the other (I think it is mushroom - shitaki?) teases. What an amazing sensation.

Finish: Perfect. It stays and tapers in a symphonic decrescendo to a glowing flavor silence.

I cannot think of a better wine to celebrate and toast the One Year Anniversary of The Wine Cask Blog. So, I raise my glass and salute (PB), (NW), and YOU, dear reader. May the next year find you rich in joy, poor in sadness and pleased with the experience whenever you taste a wine. To you all, I RAISE A GLASS!

A Special One Year Anniversary Toast To You

Dear Readers it has been one year that we have been writing and sharing wines together. This has been an amazing year for (PB), (NW), and me. We have seen TWCB go from an idea one late December to a reality that is now syndicated and going strong.

TWCB has meant a lot to me. I have gone from a wine NOOB to a wine-not-quite-a-noob in the past year. Someone asked me today how to start wine tasting. I said that you just start. I have learned to take time to taste and see and smell and feel the wine - oh, and to drink it. I have learned to unpack the flavor layers (at least to start to identify them).

There is such an amazing world within the glass. To learn to uncover it has been fantastic. I have consulted TWCB reviews myself to see not what I "ought" to smell or taste, but rather what may be there. If I smell citrus, is it pineapple, grapefruit, or something like apricot? Is that strawberry or cherry I smell? TWCB has been instrumental in helping to give me that steer. I hope it has been that way for you as well.

We realize that this could not have been a reality without YOUR readership. So to YOU, dear reader, we RAISE A GLASS!!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Zind Humbrecht Gewurtztraminer 2004 (Wine review ) by (PB)

This is a special night for The Winecask Blog; it is our 1 year anniversary! We want to thank you for visiting with us and for your information, you are one of roughly 1500 visitors to our blog each week! We continue to be “real people” with a passion for wine here to help you learn about and enjoy the intriguing world of wine.

(NW) and (Billy) and I agreed to review a “special” wine for this night. I chose the wine listed above. It was a great selection!

This Alsatian wine is a gorgeous golden wine that almost sparkles in the glass. It has a bouquet of Summer fruit compote of apples, peaches, apricots and pineapple. It is wonderful. In the mouth it is rich and full and though the aromas convince you it will be sweet, it is not which makes it a wonderful food wine with a marvelous balance of acid and all things that make up a good wine.

After swallowing, there is a layer of smoke that is subtle but definite and fascinating. The finish of this wine is lingering and full of fresh apricots that just keeps going. Very nice!

We paired it with boneless pork chops pan-seared with balsamic and a splash of Vermouth. Yellow squash with onions and Italian parsley quick cooked with a splash of Vermouth and finally deep fried sweet potatoes dusted with a hint of ground ginger. This wine was perfect with it all!

I paid $20 for this treat. With thankfulness to all of you for visiting with us through the year, we raise a glass to you this night!

The Wine Cask Blog One Year Anniversary!!! (NW)

Wow! We are celebrating our one year anniversary! It's hard to believe! For the past twelve months, we've really enjoyed providing wine reviews and other musings here at The Wine Cask blog. Our hope is that you've been able to share in our exploration of the world of wine and you've received some good recommendations and insights from our entries. The ideas for this site were finalized on December 30, 2004, and a brief introduction page was written the following day. Wine review and other entries began on January 6, 2005, and the journey through the world of wine was underway!

The world of wine is simply enormous and growing every day. As one of the contributors to this site, I've had a lot of great wine experiences over the past year and I've learned a lot, too. I spent a lot of time discovering the wines of South America, and have grown fond of the dark, inky reds and the crisp, balanced whites that are being produced particularly in Chile and Argentina. I got a good look at the exciting and well-crafted, small production Pinot Noir that is now coming from New Zealand (compliments of my friends who had made several trips to the land of Kiwis to plan a career in wine making). I finally got more familiar with Italian Piedmont wines, which are amazing even down to the least expensive bottles. And I had the pleasure of tasting some superb dessert wines, a category which is truly under-appreciated and overlooked by the major wine periodicals. This has been a great year!

As we celebrate the new year, we also celebrate the journey through the world of wine! After completing one full year with The Wine Cask blog, we look forward to the coming year and wherever the journey takes us! Raise a glass!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Arrowood Merlot 1998 Wine Review (billy)

This is an unfined and unfiltered Merlot from Sonoma and should definitely be decanted. While it is a bit older it should still be a treat.

Eyes: not as dense or inky as I might expect. Signs of slight age around the edges but, there again, not as much as I would expect.

Nose: Rich and layered. This is a much fuller nose that anticipated given the pour. Chocolate, smoke, leather, and cherries are at the fore. Underneath are plum and oily mineral layers. This is a very nice nose.

Palate: It is tight but will definitely open with air. The palate is packed quite tightly with flavor layers but right now it is so tight that they are nearly indistinguishable. The tannins are soft but the acids are prevalent - nearly too much so. Dark fruit and leather follow from the nose to the palate with the black cherry rounding the wine.

Finish: The finish is long but choppy - probably due to the slight overweighting of the acids.

Overall this wine is past its prime but still a nice treat. The abundance of flavor layers make this a wonderful wine to review and taste. Though if you were just looking for a wine to drink, the $24.00 I paid for this would buy you another, less richly layered but more drinkable wine.

Still, I'll Raise a Glass for this TASTING!

Monday, December 26, 2005

New Years Eve Wine Selections (PB)

New Years Eve and Champagne are synonymous or at least almost! So what to pop on that special annual night of raucous celebration?

First- some general tips: My comments will be “general”rather than steering you toward a specific wine which you may not be able to find. Second: I am one of the “everyman” types whose pocket book is thin so my general recommendations are with that in mind!

Don’t go blowing you money on a bottle of bubbly that costs over $20 unless you know what you are drinking! It just isn’t worth it in my humble opinion.

Some tips–I like the “new” sparkling reds that are out like
“Vixen” sparkling Shiraz. It tastes like Shiraz with a nice zippy fizz. ($18)
Codorniu–Spanish sparkler for around $10
Chateau St. Michelle “Domaine Michelle” anything they make is decent $10
Seaview Brut 8 for the price, hard to beat
Friexnet Cordon Negro $8 for the price hard to beat (no that’s not a typo)
Mumm’s Brut Prestige–about $18 and quite nice (one of my favorites)

Whatever you do, DON’T buy one of the many over-sugared soda-pop wines that taste like they have Alka-Seltzer added for the fizz. As you can see, you don’t have to spend a great deal to have a palatable sparkler.

There are many, many more suggestions “out there.” Keep checking back with us and we’ll see if we can’t get some more ideas posted for you! Whatever you do, raise a glass and for Pete’s sake, don’t DRIVE if you do!

Aresti Late Harvest Gewurztraminer Reserve 2002 (wine review) by (PB)

This Chilean dessert wine from the Rio Claro region is a lovely, light golden nectar that has a beautiful, candied bouquet of honey. An unmistakable botrytis nose has caramel layers with a background of bubble gum scents which are fleeting. Nice!

Wildly sweet and heavy, this wine has a nice foundation of acid to carry the sweetness. It tastes luscious and mouth watering with more honey flavors. It is not complex but there is another layer of caramel emerging after a few minutes of time with a finish that lingers well.

I paired this with our appetizer of fresh shrimp, crostini and liver pate, and cheese with crackers. It worked all the way around!

Sure it was $17 for a half bottle but it’s Christmas and it’s worth it! Raise a glass and say, “Thank you, Lord!” And Merry Christmas from the Winecask!

Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva 2000 (wine review) by (PB)

This is a wine we had in Boston recently with (NW) of this blog and some rellies who flew in from Chicago. On opening, the cherry aromas are first up and are very nice and fruity. There is a herbal nose that is heavy with scents of daffodils–a smell I don’t care for...

In the mouth on opening it is tannic and tight but a sneaky hint of anise squeaks by.

After breathing for 1 ½ hours, it has loosened up a bit but still shows immature edges of roughness. A nice bouquet of cherries and raspberries grow strong with maybe even a hint of mocha underneath. This is a nice old world style wine that takes time to open and time to appreciate and really taste! This wine will be really nice in another 2-4 years but certainly approachable now. We are pairing it with our roasted Capon and roasted vegetables. We paid $45 for it at a Boston restaurant; we found it for $20 in a wine shop. If “old world” is your thing, raise a glass!

(See (NW's) review of this same wine a few entries earlier.)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Beringer Chenin Blanc 2004 (wine review) by (PB)

I was on the hunt for the Covey Run Chenin Blanc that was a Wine Spectator “Best Buy” but have not been able to find it in three different states. But I was in Bangor, Maine and when I inquired of the wine shop attendant, he said some guy had been in bought this wine and said it was the best Chenin he had ever had. That may be a true statement for the man which only means he has not had superior Chenin Blanc. But don’t let that steer you away from this wine.

At $7, it is citrusy with banana and circus peanut overtones that I love! In the mouth it is full, rich and wonderful flavors of citrus, pineapple and vanilla are evident through the sweetness. The major weakness of this wine is that t is sluggish in the acid area which makes the sweetness a bit much, at least according to my preference. But even with that, again, at $7, let’s get real. This is a value wine with nice varietal flavors and pleasant all the way around. Raise a glass!
Addendum--I found this wine today for $5!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday Wine Ideas (NW)

The Holidays are a perfect time for friends and family to celebrate with good wine. If you're looking for some ideas on wines that can add to the festive occasions, then begin thinking about being adventurous. There is so much good wine in the world and so many choices, that you're bound to please palates and find surprises.

For a lively gathering, especially one that includes appetizers or something to nibble on, think bubbly. Champagne and sparkling wines don't have to be snobby wines reserved for weddings and anniversaries. Pour some bubbly when your guest don't expect it and see what happens. My favorite time to enjoy a sparking wine is early in the evening with passed hors d'oeuvres. Ideas here include non-vintage Champagne, California sparking wine. If you'd like to be more adventurous, look for Prosecco or Moscato D'Asti from Italy, sparkling wine from Australia, or sparkling red wine. Any of these can be fun and festive.

When you want a nice sipping wine that doesn't have the bubbles, think about pouring both a white and light red at the same time and allow guests to choose. For white wine, I really enjoy sipping on Sauvignon Blanc, especially from New Zealand. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is lively, interesting wine and a fantastic bargain. For light red wine, I like Beaujolais (the real stuff in this case, not Nouveau). My favorite is from the village of Morgon and will be labeled accordingly. It is usually a little bit more full-bodied than some of the other Beaujolais.

Sit down dinners often require a terrific food wine and there are so many choices. I like "old-world" style wines for elegant meals. By this I mean wines that have good balance and acidity, not too much ripe fruit or ultra "fruit-forward". The wines I reach for in this category include European wines such as most Italian reds, Bordeaux, and Burgundy. These wines also include French Rhone wines, Spanish Tempranillos, Oregon Pinot Noir, and German or Alsatian Riesling. Of course, there are other whites that are great with food and this list is by no means complete.

To finish things off, don't neglect the dessert wines. In fact, there are so many types of dessert wines that it's impossible to categorize them all. Distributors often supply wine shops with rare small production dessert wines from vitners that like to experiment with this category, so be on the look out. From year to year, many wineries produce various takes on late harvest bottlings, sweet muscat, port-style wines, and ice wines. If you're feeling adventurous, look for Canadian ice wines, sweet red wines, Vin Santo from Italy, California port-style wines using Zinfandel, or Sauternes. Also, if you'd like a nice compliment to chocolate, try Rosa Regale, an Italian Brachetto made by Castello Banfi. There are a lot of ways to enjoy the end of a meal and it's a great chance to be adventurous. Enjoy, and raise a glass!

Chateau Lynch Bages 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Enchanting nose of berries, currants, and smoke
Add tobacco and leather on the palate
Silky texture and nice, lengthy finish

I know, I know- this wine is too young to drink. But I really wanted to try it. Because of that, I opened just a half bottle and shared it with my wife. It does taste fresh, young, and lively. The layers are evident on the nose and through the finish. Of course, good Lynch Bages has the ability to age gracefully and has proven that over the years. I might pick some up to add to my cellar. At $20, this half bottle was priced fairly and, truthfully, tasted like a steal. I think $40 for a full bottle of this wine is a very good price. The shop I was in didn't have any 750mL bottles in, anyway.

Lynch Bages can deliver that special Bordeaux experience. I've had that experience with a 1990 Lynch Bages that seemed like it was getting better with every sip. The young 2002 is quite drinkable, but isn't as mysterious and enchanting as an older bottle. If you find some from the early to mid-1990's in a local shop, which is highly possible, it's worth doing a little research to see if it's a wine worth picking up. Having a great Bordeaux once in a while can be a real treat for any wine lover and Lynch Bages is capable of being a great wine at a reasonable price. Raise a glass!

Querceto Chianti Classico 2000 Wine Review (NW)

Nice cherry nose
Some hints of earth along with candied cherry on the palate
A touch of Tuscan tangyness on smooth finish

For a Chianti, this wine is fairly soft and smooth. I was pleasantly surprised, quite honestly, because I didn't expect much. This is a wine I've seen many times but never had. I think it would pair well with a variety of food, as many Italian wines do, and was a terrific accompanyment to my gnocchi.

I had this in a restaurant and paid $45. As a point of reference, store prices hover around $20. In fact, I paid exactly $20 for a bottle of this last week at a local wine shop. Raise a glass!

Dona Paula Malbec 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Some bread and yeast on the nose, burns off to reveal soft fruit
Fruit core on the palate
Peppery finish

Malbec can be very interesting wine and is widely available in most places now. Argentina has produced a lot of wine with this grape that was once limited in its use as a blending grape in France.

This particular wine shows classic Malbec character with a fruity core and a peppery finish. I enjoyed this with a group of four and an island full of various appetizers. It seems like a fairly priced wine at approximately $15. I paid $14 and have seen this wine priced from $12 to $17 this year. Raise a glass!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Luc Pirlet Merlot 2003 Wine Review (billy)

Well it certainly pays to make friends with the folks at your local wine market. I was recently at the Byerly's Wine market near me where I usually make most of my purchases when I struck up a conversation with one of the folks there (I'll call him "Dr. P"). As we chatted about German wines, American wines and wine blogging he mentioned that many folks insist that they cannot drink red wine because of "red wine headache".

He has developed a list that eases folks with such a sensitivity back into enjoying the worlds Reds. This is only one reason why it pays to chat it up with your local wine merchant. They want you to enjoy wine. Red, white, sparkling, blush, whatever. The world of the enophile is one rife with flavors and smells and tastes and textures to rival any other culinary enterprise.

So Dr. P and I started talking about wines with a nice finish which is when he recommended this $13.99 (again about $2 or $3 over what it would go for at a discount mart or online) bottle of French Merlot - Luc Pirlet 2003 Merlot.

Here's the realtime review:
Eyes: deep garnet and young around the edges
Nose: Big Fruit Forward with notable cherries and strawberry and just a hint of an oily mineraliness
Palate: Acids are weak and the tannins are rampaging but this is just after opening. I expect that they will flatten out and reveal a more balanced structure. From a feel perspective it is not as heavy or dense as I would have expected. It borders on just the right side of thin so that it cannot be considered light. Still the limpid texture does not hold flavor well (at least not right now - I'll let it breathe for a while).
Finish: The finish is drawn out but, like the flavor, thin. This makes for a pleasingly subtle finish and mouth feel. But, from a flavor perspective, not much to write home about.

We'll give this some air and update this post in a bit with the results.

Well, the wine has been breathing for about an hour. The tightly wound tannins have softened nicely and the palate has really opened up from what it was.
The Nose is still full of big cherries but there are also some cocoa and anise layers hiding underneath the cherry.
The palate is still thin for my liking. The strawberries that were on the nose just after opening have migrated to the palate now to impart some flavor there along with the cherry.
The finish is still lingering but thin and the previously slim acid structure is starting to bite.

For the money this is a wine to pass by if you're looking for a solid Merlot. There are much better examples of the varietal available in the $10 - $15 dollar range. If you are a fan of beaujolais or other "light" reds, then this may be your gateway merlot. Still, this wine lover says it was ok to try but I'll pass on it the next time around.

Raise a Glass!

Terrazas de Las Andes 2004 (wine review) by (PB)

This Malbec is from Argentina which is nearly a redundant statement; Malbec is becoming the king of Argentinean varietals and deservedly so. This one is really austere on opening with aromas only slight with a hint of pepper.

In the mouth it is well balanced with plenty of peppery tastes and a little meatiness like fried bologna. Nothing remarkable but I suspect it just needs some air.

Indeed-with a half an hour or so, a nice bouquet is emitted with “wild” aromas, subtle chocolate and good, solid rustic flavors.

This is not a "classy" wine but it is well made and favorably balanced. This would be the perfect paring for a good, wild game dish like tagliatelle and boar—reminiscences of a past Tuscan adventure…

Subsequent to my review I checked the Wine Spectator to see if they had rated this wine; The Wine Spectator gave this wine an “88” and a “best buy” rating. At $10, I agree with the best buy but “88” is generous. None-the-less, raise a glass to Argentina!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

King Estate Pinot Noir 2002 Wine Review (billy)

I was at at business dinner yesterday evening when my host graciously invited me to select a bottle of wine to accompany our meal. As he was having the Salmon, I was keen to select a Pinot Noir. With about 4 to choose from and I who am not a Pinot Noir lover I went with something from Oregon that was middle of the road in terms of price. I believe that this wine listed for about $54 at the restaurant which is about a 100% markup over what you and I would pay for a bottle at the local wine store.

As it turned out our host either does not drink or had decided to only enjoy ice water last night. So the classic Salmon / Pinot Noir pariing went by the wayside and only one other guest and I shared this bottle.

Now I've said before that I really do not count myself among the fans of the Pinot Noir wines - (the movie Sideways notwithstanding). Nevertheless, this was a pleasant surprise. Here are the notes I took:
Nose: Fruit forward nose with spices and peppery flavors. Big cherries, blackberries. Some hints of "warm spices".
Palate: Very strong flavors. With some air time olives and a warm minearliness emerge. There are underlayers of vanilla and cinnamon and licorice hints. Still the big berries are the storey here. Very big flavors that can stand up to the strongest of spicy foods. The mouth feel is nicely rounded and not sharp.
Finish: round and lacking the sharpness or abrasiveness that I have come to (negatively) associate with most Pinot Noirs.

Overall, this was an OK wine. It complimented the meal nicely but it would have been nice if others at the table had helped polish it off so that another bottle of something different could have been ordered.

Either way, all of us there did indeed Raise a Glass.

Chardonnay Wine Flights a Wine Review (billy)

This past Monday eveining the fetching Mrs. (billy) and I went out on a date and hit a local wine and coffee bar that is just starting to do wine flights. We like giving local small shops our business and we we decided to sample what we jokingly termed their "new white flight" option.

I like doing wine flights for the simple reason that the flavor profiles of similar or the same varietals are so much easier to compare. Differences are immediate and obvious even if it is something to which it is difficult to put words. Even the fetching Mrs. (billy) was able to describe what she liked about the nose of the second wine sampled and we both clearly had our favorites (read on to see what).

I had my digital voice recorder with me and so I was able to take "review" notes without being too obtrusive - though I did garner a few laughs from the Mrs. Here are the 3 wines we sampled with my transcribed notes.

Four Emus 2004 Chardonnay. Australia.
On the Nose: crisp green apple, floral scents like carnation and iris, lemonny citrus.
On the Palate: heavily citrused, slight spritzer
Finish: is acidic with some bite

Alpha Domas 2005 Chardonnay(Hawks Bay New Zealand)
Nose: Deep pineapple and olive. Not nearly as sharp as the Four Emus. Subtle and seemingly more structured.
Palate: Citrus rind (a bit too much acid I expect). Green Apple combined with a sweeter citrus flavor. Not nearly as flowery as the Four Emus.
Finish: not nearly as green as the Four Emus but still having a bit of a bite. A touch of "mineraliness" that adds to the complexity.

This is an unoaked Chardonnay which really lets the fruit come through in nice and unexpected ways.

Hanna Chardonnay 2004 (Russian River Valley - Sonoma)
Nose:Subtle nose combining honeyed flowers, melon, light citrus, mineraliness that speaks of olive oil and figs.
Palate: Simply wonderful caramel-carmelized sugar-vanilla flavors that are intermingling in a subtle complexity that is engaging and fantastic when combined with the nose.
Finish: lingering with a silky smoothness that is buttery and without any of the acid "bite" of the other two Chardonnays.
Overall: Incredibly complex and very well balanced.

The Hanna 2004 Chardonnay is an incredibly complex and fantastically balanced wine. Clearly the best of the flight. While the Mrs. enjoyed the unoaked and heavenly pineapple of the Alpha Domus 2005 Chardonnay, we both picked the Hanna 2004 as the best of the bunch. In fact, after our evening wine flight date was over, we hit the local wine store (Byerly's for those of you who are in the know) to pick up a bottle for our January wine party. We paid $20 for it there.

Now when you understand that Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted varietals you understand that there are simply scads of Chardonnays out there. To find a Chardonnay for $20 that has the complexity and subtlety and structure of the Hanna when there are so many others out there that are nearly the same price but lack so much of the character and flavor of the Hanna, it is a treat. While the Four Emus can run anywhere from $12 - $18 I would not recommend it. The Alpha Domas will run about $14 or so and it worth it for the softness of the fruit and really delightful nose. But the $20 Hanna 2004 Chardonnay is a keeper.

Raise a Glass! and if you're enjoying a flight, raise 3!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Patrizi Moscato D’Asti 2002 (wine review) (PB)

This Moscato has a bouquet of light cinnamon and spice. In the mouth it is sweet–of course–and a little light on acid but not offensively so. I paid $7 for this on a recent trip to Boston to see (NW) of this blog. For a Moscato, $7 is a deal if it’s at all potable. This is! Not a great Moscato to be sure but for the price, worth a second look. If you want an enjoyable and inexpensive sparkler for New Years Eve, try one of these simple and enjoyable wines. Raise a glass!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rosenblum Zinfandel Oakley Vineyards 2003 (wine review by PB)

This wine made in the Contra Costa County near San Francisco is a deep red with typical Zin aromas in the bouquet though somewhat subdued. In the mouth it is full flavored though tight on opening, with a nose more like Merlot than Zinfandel. It has a nice heavy texture and a flavors of pepper.

With some air to breath, this wine opens well, with cherry aromas and a little spice with dark berry aromas that are intense. In the mouth it is rich with nice raisiny flavors with a scant hint of chocolate and spice. This is such a nice wine and well made I want to shout!

We had the Annette’s Reserve by Rosenblum for Thanksgiving which was so stinking big and intense that it couldn’t be paired with anything on the Thanksgiving table. (Rosenblum is perhaps the most diverse maker of Zinfandels with over 20 different itterations of the wine.) In fact, it was hard to imagine what it might pair with. This is a much better food wine and more familiar to my palate and $10 less than the higher rated Annette’s Reserve. I love this wine as indicated by the empty bottle after dinner. At $15, I HAVE to recommend this Zin! Raise a glass then another!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2003 wine review (billy)

Robert Mondavi Winery (Napa Valley) 2003 Fume Blanc $17.99

Nose: strong citrus. Grapefruit and flowers.

Palate: incredibly soft and silky. The acid structure is wound up a
bit tight. But that is only immediatly after opening. There are
lemon and vanilla hints here. Apricot and minty green hints linger around the edges.

Finish: silky and thin (in a good way - like honeyed water from a feel perspective).

This is a fine Fume Blanc, though a bit pricey. If you're unfamiliar with Fume Blanc from a flavor and body perspective, think of Champagne. It's like that but without the bubbles.

Overall, I enjoyed the wine but was unimpressed from a value perspective. I can find something comprable for $7 or $8 less in most places.

Still, the bottle was polished off and the wife enjoyed it quite a bit.

Raise a glass!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Paraduxx 2002 wine review (billy)

It is a celebration night. Not a big celebration mind you, but a celebration that calls for a "California Champagne" with boursin and crackers to start while the final preparations are being made and a nice bottle of 2002 Paraduxx California red ($50).

We're having a veritable feast with an organic exotic greens salad, baked potato, butternut squash, artisan bread, cranberry sauce, and a fantastic main course of garlic herbed baked seitan. For all you non-vegetarians out there that last bit is probably a bit of a mystery. But it is one of our favorites here.

I bought the "California Champagne" (Cooks Brut) on sale for $6.99 and it is an unremarkable sparkling brut. What it lacks in sophistication it more than makes up for with what it adds to the ambiance. It is light and flowery with definite citrus underlay. This is fun and a fantastic start to the evening (one that will culminate in a family "Polar Express" movie watching event)

The Paraduxx is a very special treat. In case you are not familiar with this, it is a blend of Zin, Cab, and Merlot. The blend is proprietary but the flavor is out of this world.

On the eyes it is a deep but muted garnet with some signs of early age around the edge.
The Nose is simply amazing. There is a subtle jammy thickness which is not like the overwhelming fruity jam of other fruit-forward. I smell wet leather, strawberry preserves and just a hint of under-layered dark chocolate

On the palate the complex structure of this red shines - and this is just after opening. With some air the forward acid structure will soften and the subtleties will emerge. Even so, there is a soft strawberry and blueberry flavor with dark loam accented by a delightful oakiness. This is fantastic!

The finish is smooth and the typical cab "greenness" is cut by the softness of the zin. What a wine!

Overall the Paraduxx is a wonderful treat of a wine. It has complexity the way new world wines have fruit. It is like a punch in they kidneys immediately followed by a sensual back rub replete with oils and incense - WHAM! ahhhhhhhhh!

Quite a memorable experience all around. Raise a GLASS!

Covey Run Riesling 2004 (wine review) by (PB)

Not to be confused with Covey Run “Dry Riesling” this wine is light, fresh and a bouquet of pineapple and citrus. In the mouth it is fresh, lively with a bit of “spritzig” (sparkle) and well balanced.

After a hard day, I came home to a dinner of “Caccincco” which is an Italian spicy fish soup. It was wonderful and this wine was perfect for the hot spices offset by the light touch of sweetness in the wine. At $7 this is a run out and buy all you find wine! And then raise a glass!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wine Review: Cerbaiolo Sensi Toscana 1997 (NW)

Subtle, earthy nose
Tobacco, leather, and earth on the palate; not much fruit
A little tangy with a hint of molasses on the finish

Kind of a strange wine! First of all, it was shelved as if it's a current release in the store- but it's a 1997. The sale price was $10 and I couldn't determine the original price. I wasn't surprised by the flavors that emerged, but the label says it's a "super-Tuscan" style blend of Sangiovese and Merlot so I was expecting a little more fruit. The reason I grabbed it, though, was because I was intrigued to see a 1997 Tuscan blend at this price. And after all, in the world of wine, $10 is not a big capital risk when you want to try something on a whim.

This type of wine is an acquired taste because it's not very fruity. For that reason, I don't recommend this particular label unless you're sure you like the style. If you do, raise a glass!

Wine Review: Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2004 (NW)

Not a big nose, but nice cherry aromas
Smooth on the palate with soft fruit
Silky finish

This is a nice, simple Pinot Noir that I paid $11 for. It doesn't have any of the exotic or interesting qualities that this varietal can deliver, but I like it for eleven bucks. Not only is it well priced, it's also widely available. Give it a try if you're looking for a basic Pinot Noir. Raise a glass!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tomaiolo Chianti Classico 1999 (wine review) by (PB)

Rather deep garnet for a Chianti with daffodil bouquet and light berry aromas.

In the mouth it is still tight after a ½ hour breathing with closed flavors. Some pepper around after 40 minutes or so of breathing. Old world style–subtle nuances of shallow fruit. After 24 hours, this wine is olivey with chocolatey foundations. All in all nothing remarkable but okay. At $15 you can do better but not bad. Raise a glass.

Domaine De Durbin 2002 Muscat de Beaumes De Venise (wine review) by (PB)

This lovely desert wine has a honey and fruit cocktail bouquet with aromas like a botrytized wine with a hint of caramel.

In the mouth it is a bit flabby and a little too alcoholy but very sweet with some nice flavors.

There’s not a lot of flavors here other than sweet with a thickish texture and a finish of pineapple that stays. I could be critical of this wine as a bit “dumb” but at the price of $6 I’m enjoying it!

Raise a glass of inexpensive but enjoyable desert wine!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Terra Unica Reserva 2000 (Wine Review) by (PB)

This Spanish red is 50% Tempranillo (pronounced Tempra-NEE-o) and 50% Monastrell and has a light bouquet of dried cherries. In the mouth it is bone dry and tart with tight tannins. From the Alicante region of Spain, this wine has a background flavor I can only describe as a floral taste-not an aroma. Interesting...

After a few minutes of breathing, there is a very earthy base and earthy, musty flavors that are not unpleasant. The finish is actually quite lasting with the tannins smoothing out fairly nicely.

I picked this up in the Boston area for $9. Not bad for the price and certainly unique from the hum-drum carbon copy wines that abound today. Raise a glass of this Spanish red!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Long Flat Semillion-Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (wine review) (by PB)

After opening the Rivaner (see blog entry just prior to this one) I had to open another wine to wash the Rivaner out of my mouth and mind. It was an interesting juxtapositioning of wines.

The Rivaner might be used for cooking because it’s lack of acidity just makes it intolerable to drink.
Yet this wine though very inexpensive ($4) on sale, has some character to it thanks to some acid.

It is light gold with a light sweet bouquet of citrus. This wine is unremarkable, light in every way, and yet its acid structure makes it so much more palatable and so much easier to drink with food.

I wouldn’t recommend this wine but putting it side by side with the Rivaner, this one–half the price–wins hands down. Raise a glass now of something NICE and quit being so stinking cheap–like ME! Like the little pillow someone gave me says, “Life is too short to drink bad wine.”
I’ll drink to that!

Black Tower Rivaner 2002 (Wine Review) (PB)

“Billy” of this blog picked this up while he and (NW) also of this blog, were here for Thanksgiving when they made a wine run without me. It was one of the wines left here unopened once they departed. I opened this German wine thinking I was unfamiliar with this grape but found it is just another name for Müller-Thurgau, the second most planted grape in Germany.

It is named for Prof. Müller-Thurgau who created the grape in 1882 crossing Riesling and Gutedel. I am not widely experienced with this particular grape though I have had a few over the years. Irrespective of the type of grape used, this one is a good example of a bad wine.

In the glass it is a pale straw with a mandarin orange bouquet that is not unpleasant even if light. But there is a grapey undertone that always shows up in either very poorly made or very inexpensive wines; the kind smuggled into highschool football and basketball games by underage adolescents.

In the mouth this wine is flabby which is due to a lack of acid and consequently, the sweetness is cloying with that same grapey, cheap-wine finish. Ick. “Billy” paid $8 for it which was $9 too much.

Don’t raise a glass of this and quickly open something else to get the memory out of your head and off your palate!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas gifts for the enophile in your life (PB)

(This is a re-blog for the season)
I have been studying wine for over 25 years so it’s fairly safe to say I have all the gizmos, gadgets and gee-gaws any aspiring enophile could want. So remember, my council is based on the assumption that I am “every man” and that my particular gift likes and dislikes might be fairly representative. If you grant that assumption, I think you will find this helpful and may even spare you some embarrassment on the gift giving end.

In the wine paraphernalia category—
Glasses are always welcome; namely because there are so many different shapes geared to a particular style of wine and because they break. But not just any old wine glasses; nice glasses and that doesn’t have to mean expensive. I like Riedel (pronounced to rhyme with “needle”) and their “Vinum” series are lovely crystal and will run you around $20 for one glass. (See I’m not talking about a whole set here, just a special glass or glasses just for “him” or “her”) The Bordeaux glass with it’s large 21 oz. Bowl is great for tasting and evaluating red wine. But then they make a special shape and sized glass just for Chardonnay; Zinfandel; Burgundy, you get the idea. Spieglau is also another name which makes a nice quality, but inexpensive glass.

Williams-Sonoma carries Riedel and Crate and Barrel carries Spieglau. I think the Crate and Barrel may even carry their own brand which are actually pretty nice and about half the cost.

Vacuum seal stoppers
—These actually work and again will cost you less than $20! They help keep opened wine a bit longer. Some work better than others but I paid $7 for mine at T.J. Maax and they are now a year old and still working well. That includes a pump and two stoppers.

Label Lifters—for removing wine labels from bottles; some work better than others and I have found the ones from to be the best. Around $8!

The very best wine gift I have received to date is an aroma kit which my lover, girlfriend, and wife made for me. A wooden box, some glass vials (obtainable on line from any medical supply house) and you put your scents in each vial for continued reference. You can buy them though from the Wine Enthusiast but they are a bit pricey ($60) I believe.

Cork screws like my glasses, just can’t really have too many of them; especially a unique one, or a particularly functional one—the best are called waiter’s cork screws and have a hinged lip on it. These are purely functional and are less than $10. But a very special cork screw, like one from Laguiole can run you in to the hundreds of dollars. If you have money to burn…

Wine cooler—these come in drastically variable price ranges. I have a Sunbeam generic 35 bottle cooler which cost me less than $200. The same size from one of the premier makes like Haier will cost you more than twice that but of course you get a better quality unit.

Wine totes are also very practical and handy. I'm not talking about the bag kind of tote but one that lookes more like a small piece of luggage. It can carry one or two bottles of wine, has an insullating material on the inside and keeps your wine temperature moderated while in intransit. These are also fairly inexpensive at $25 or less.

Books are a nice idea if you the person is a book kind of person. I like the huge wine volumes with the magnificent pictures from around the world. I received Wine by Andre Domine (Barnes and Noble) last year and it is magnificent for the very beginner to the very studied. A handy reference book is also a nice idea; Andrea Immer and Food and Wine Magazine each have such a book that costs around $10.

Mags. If we’re talking about a real wine enthusiast the Wine Spectator ($49/year) and the Wine Enhtusiast ($29) are essential! If your wine lover enjoys cooking as well, I like Food and Wine magazine.

A wine journal or log book; If they haven’t been doing so they need to be writing about their wine. This doesn’t have to be some gimmicky official “wine log” but just a nice book with blank or lined pages. Leather is ALWAYS special…

What not to get—any kind of clothing with a wine motiffe, really, please! Unless perhaps its an apron--the one exception…

Chateau De Flaugergues 2003 (wine review) (PB)

This is a medium, red Languedoc on the pour with a yeasty bouquet and cherry nose that is subdued.
In the mouth it is solid, full flavored with solid structure and tannins which are a bit tight.

Breathing opens this wine nicely with raspberry notes on top of cherries with a very nice subtle, licorice nuance. It is well balanced with mouth watering tannins that are down right chewy and should hold this wine for another 3 years or so. This is another wonderful value wine from this underrated region of France. At $13, it is a real bargain. I loved the 2001 of this same wine which I found just last week in the Boston area. I can’t wait to see what a little more time does to an already fine wine! Raise a glass to the snow, the season and to life–always a gift!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wine Review: Quintessa Rutherford 2001 (NW)

Somewhat muted nose of dark fruit
Berries and licorice on the palate
A mineral-like finish with moderate tannins

Quintessa is a big-name proprietary blend wine from Napa Valley that seems to sell well at steak houses where corporate expense accounts devour the biggest steaks and the most expensive wines. This was the case at my table, where we had two bottles of this decanted and poured. The wine cost us $170 per bottle, which was a lot of money for the experience it delivered. While it was a nice, smooth wine that actually paired well with the food, it wasn't anything special. In fact, it was barely average. I've had many wines at one-tenth the price that I'd put before this Quintessa. To be fair, though, I've only had this wine once and maybe I missed some of it's finer qualities. At this point I can't recommend this wine unless you're trying to impress somebody with the price. I saw it in a store yesterday for $110- impressive! Raise a glass!

Wine Review: Amicus Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (NW)

Fragrant and floral nose
Dark berries and cherry on the palate
Moderate tannins on the oaky finish

I wasn't sure what to expect from this wine because I wasn't at all familiar with the label. A colleague ordered this for our table at a business dinner. As it turns out, it's a very small production Napa Valley wine which produced only 100 cases. The restaurant had it priced at $90 and I believe it goes for $45-50 in wine stores.

The basic flavor and texture of the wine is nice, but it seems a little muted. Nothing really jumped out at me, which is disappointing for a wine at this price. As a result, this 2001 isn't exactly a good value wine and it would be hard for me to recommend under most circumstances. However, if you see this on a wine list in the future and are looking to try something that may be hard to fine, it's worth a shot especially since it is a small production wine that's probably crafted with great care. Raise a glass!

Wine Review: Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (NW)

Very nice nose- fruity and fragrant
Juicy and ripe on the palate
Moderate tannins on the long finish

I wanted to try this wine again after recently praising it in a prior review. On the second pass, I still feel this is a very nice wine. What I like about it is that it seems alive and fresh, but still has depth and nice layers. To me, this is a very good example of a well-made California Cab. But be careful because in this category and price range (approx. $45), the wines can often vary greatly from year-to-year. As a result, my recommendation is that you pay special attention to the vintage when shopping. I can tell you the 2001 is very nice but that may not hold true for the 2000 or 2002. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Alba Liza 2004 (Wine Review) (PB)

This Spanish red is made from 65% Tempranillo and 35% Garnacha. It is purple on the pour being a very young wine indeed. The bouquet and nose are essentially non-existent at first yet in the mouth there is flavor that is fresh, simple and fruity yet shallow.

After just a few minutes of breathing though, the bouquet opens up a bit and releases some nice berry aromas with a corresponding cherry/berry flavors in the mouth with a mouth watering juiciness. It has a remarkable balance and at $8 this is a value wine! Raise a glass tonight!

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Wishing Tree 2005 Chardonnay (wine review) (PB)

This unoaked Chardonnay from Australia is a pale straw in the glass with a nice fruity bouquet rising into the room. On the swirl, it is citrusy and pineappley and in the mouth the fine acid is mouth watering giving a solid foundation to luscious flavors that seem short lived but then return. The finish is lingering.

This is one of the best Chards I have had in a long time and is worth much more than the $8.50 I paid for it. It paired superbly with the seafood ravioli in a cheese sauce I made but is also real nice all by itself. Raise a glass of this white from down under!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wishing Tree Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon blend 2004 (wine review) by (PB)

Another Australian creation comprised of 61% Merlot and 39% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is pretty garnet with a slightly vegetal nose of berries. In the mouth it is sweet, bitter and tannic killing the real fruit that lies beneath.

With air, this Western Australia red has a nice full fruit laden bouquet which mellows out from opening but still has chewy tannins. It is simple, berry rich, new world and an average wine for the price of under $9 (case price). Raise a glass.

Wishing Tree Shiraz 2004 (Wine Review) by (PB)

This Aussie red varietal comes from grapes grown in Western Australia (66%) and Southern Australia (34%). It is more ruby than dark like Shiraz tends to be.
The bouquet is yeasty on opening with red berries and cranberries in the nose with some interesting spice.

It is sweet and very rich with solid flavors that are big, intense with some toast notes mixed in. This is a classic new world wine that is in your face, though has a decent balance and finish. This wine is made in the “sweet” style which I tend to not enjoy as much as a dryer version. The new world boldness is almost too, in your face for my preference. I bought a mixed case of wines by Wishing Tree so was able to land this wine for less than $9 a bottle. I bought a mixed case without tasting first, something I have warned against doing. Would I have bought 6 bottles of this wine if I had tasted it first? No. That’s not to say it’s not a good wine; it is. But remember wine is about preference and this wine style is just not my first choice. So, raise a glass with something hefty!