Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Blind Taste Off with (NW) and (PB)

(NW) came up for Memorial Day weekend with my newest grand daughter and family in tow plus two dogs (with my own) made three. I decided it would be fun to do a blind flight of three wines; two old world, one new world and just let the chips fall where they may. After my less than enthusiastic review of the 1997 Chateau Haut Brion, (NW) implied in his review of the same wine that my palate had been co-opted by the new world style of wines with their fruit forward, gargantuan fruit bomb style. For the record, what we at the WCB have always stated is that YOU like what YOU like. Wine and it's complexities and variations of style is subjective when it comes to what each one likes. We cannot dictate preference. So "if" it were true that I was partial to new world style--so be it. But when you scan the hundreds of reviews I have given hundreds of old world wines, that assessment doesn't quite endure scrutiny.

So I thought I would pit a classic Old world wine known only to me, while (NW) would put up a new world and an old world wine known only to him. We would taste them blind and see how it all fell out at the end.

The wines turned out to be Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz 2005; Bourgogne Pinot Noir 1997 and the wine I supplied, the classic Chateau Lynch Bages, 1996. For the results, scroll down.

Chateau Lynch Bages 1996 wine review by (PB)

This was (PB's) ringer in the tasting--the wine was aging by the color with a slightly yellow rim with some darker core hues. The wine had a big vegetal bouquet with hefty aromas giving way with some breathing, to dark fruit and a touch of cedar and dill. Molasses emerges later with thick sweet aromas. Nice!

In the mouth it was full of daffodils and plenty of charm but ever so mature with stately posture. The more I tasted it, the more I enjoyed and appreciated it. This was a very nice wine whatever it was and it just kept evolving as it kissed the air.

Yes, this was the Lynch Bages. I had purchased it at an off the wall, run down liquor store in St. Charles, Illinois while visiting my sister-in -law. The store was NOT temperature controlled and I bought in the middle of a mid-western summer. The store had to be 90 degrees and I figured that is why the wine was so cheap. I paid $70 for it when the going rate was about twice that. I expressed my concern to the guy at the register who in a classic Chicago accent said, "Dat's da good stuff; you don' gotta worry bout dat stuff; nah dat's da good stuff!"

Well he was right. (NW) we raised glasses all weekend long and learned more about wine in the process. What a great time and a great way to remember what such freedoms cost those who have given their lives to secure it. We have much to be thankful for. So raise a glass!

Bourgogne Pinot Noir 1997 wine review by (PB)

This was one of (NW's) contributions to the tasting and was obviously an aged wine on the pour with an amber rim and cherry red core. The bouquet was unique with cedar and dark cassis with something sweet, and elegant that eludes description. It reminded me of a Madeira.

In the mouth though the wine was lifeless and yet it had a back bone that showed vestiges of complexity but was shallow and somewhat tannic. There was little fruit present and finished with charcoal flavors. I wrote--"Blah!"

Now--when I bought the Lynch Bages, it was under less than ideal storage conditions and I was skeptical of whether it would hold up as a result. I thought this was the Lynch Bages. I would find out how wrong I was. This was the Nuit St. Georges (NW) brought, from Domaine Alain Michelot. The wine was shot, bu tmust have been quite nice in its day!

Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz 2005 wine review by (PB)

This wine tasted blind has a very nice cranberry to purple hue with a bouquet of dark black cherry, vegetal notes which changes to blueberry jam!

In the mouth it is a rich jammy wine with some chocolate and black berry patch flavors which are nice. It is obviously a new world wine which I pegged as a Zinfandel and was of course wrong. It is an obvious new world wine with a sweeter palate, gobs of fruit, is young, delicious and tasty. (NW) said he paid about $24 for it. It stuck out prominently tasted with the other two wines in the flight.

Vigneti Di Campomaggio 2003 wine review by (PB)

2003 was a really good year for Tuscany and this creation is a classic example of fine Tuscan wine. It has a gorgeous "burgundy red" hue with classic stingy aromas with some solid Sangiovese aromas and steely notes, with dried cherries but is really tight on opening and needs to be aired out some.

Even still, the mouth has an initial blast of spice like a touch of clove with vibrant tannins and is really tasty out of the gate with a finish of smokiness. This is still a youthful wine.

With an hour of air, the bouquet opens up some but is still a bit tight and the palate is heightened with tart raspberries and a slight touch of licorice.

This is a very nice old world wine and when done right; old world wines are just in a different class than new world wines. This one is done right! The fact is, I LOVE new world wines and I LOVE old world wines; if it is well made and delicious and memorable, then raise a glass. This wine was found at Sam's Club for $18. Buy it if you find it--better still--buy more and lay the rest down. It is drinking great right now and will only get better!

Wine spectator gave this wine a 91 point rating and "Highly Recommended."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wente Smith Bench Reserve Zinfandel 2003 Wine Review (Number 1 in Flight- NW)

My wife organized a birthday party for me last week. One of the highlights was a blind flight of seven wines- four reds and three whites. We enjoyed this tasting, along with cheeses, grilled lamb, and lots of other good food. Ten friends were invited and every last bottle of wine was consumed.

The blind tasting was a lot of fun- and interesting! The reds were difficult to guess, while the whites were a little easier. We were asked to name the varietal and country of origin. My guesses were as follows:

Number 1 (red)- Pinotage/South Africa

Number 2 (red)- Merlot/Chile

Number 3 (red)- Tempranillo/Spain

Number 4 (red)- Cabernet Franc/USA

Number 5 (white)- Gruner Veltliner/Austria

Number 6 (white)- Sauvignon Blanc/New Zealand

Number 7 (white)- Riesling/Germany

The correct identities and tasting notes are in subsequent blog postings below for all eight wines, beginning with wine number one in this posting. Wine number one is as follows (Wente Smith Bench Reserve Zinfandel 2003):

Tasting notes:

Nose of red berries and spices
Fairly full-bodied and fleshy
Finishes with a slightly burnt rubber flavor

For Zinfandel, this is definitely a lighter style than most. Even so, it would be decent if it didn't finish with a burnt rubber taste. With Zinfandel, I'd rather search out a rich, ripe wine. And there are many in the $20 range, where this is priced.

In the blind tasting, I incorrectly guessed this to be a Pinotage from South Africa. I was thinking more along the lines of something more exotic when I picked up on the unusual finish. It didn't seem to burn off over time, and I wouldn't have guessed it to be a Zinfandel.

Number 1 in flight: kind of an odd wine- I wouldn't buy it again. Raise a glass to blind tastings!

Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Wine Review (Number 2 in Flight- NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose shows some berries and odd plastic-like aromas
Licorice and herbs on the palate
Finishes a little burnt

For my money, I can recommend a number of Chilean Cabs that taste better. This one wasn't very good. The flavors are off and nothing seems integrated. It cost $10.

I guessed wrong in the blind flight, thinking this was a Chilean Merlot that went bad. Anyhow, it was the worst wine in the flight.

Number 2 in flight: Not a good Cab- I wouldn't buy this again. Raise a glass of Concha Y Toro or Casa Lapostolle instead!

Hoya de Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo 2002 Wine Review (Number 3 in Flight- NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of faint red berries and flowers
Tastes thinly-structured on the palate
Soft finish, some berries and smoke

This is not my taste in wine right now, although I somehow managed to guess what it was correctly. As far as Spanish Tempranillo, this one tastes thin and flat compared to most. While there are many styles of Tempranillo, I'd prefer to taste more fruit and have the wine be more mouth-filling. At just $8, though, it's certainly not expensive.

Number 3 in flight: not very good- I wouldn't buy this again. Raise a glass of something else!

Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2005 Wine Review (Number 4 in Flight- NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose is fragrant, showing lead pencil and violets
Plum and cherry on the palate
Elegant, balanced finish with more cherry and some spices

At first, I incorrectly guessed this to be a Cabernet Franc because I smelled lead pencil shavings on the nose. When it turned out to be a Pinot Noir, though, I wasn't all that surprised. It had other nice layers and just enough complexity to make it stand out in the pack.

I've had this wine several times, but had never tasted it blind. It was good to see it stand out in the flight- clearly the best red! At $25, it also turned out to be the most expensive.

Number 4 in flight: Well-made, somewhat complex- I'd buy it again. Raise a glass!

Leth Lagenreserve Gruner Veltliner 2003 Wine Review (Number 5 in Flight- NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of minerals
Crisp and acidic on the palate
Very dry, clean finish with hints of lime

For a very dry style of white wine, Gruner Veltliner can't be beat. It's the grape that put Austria back on the wine map.

This one is nice and elegant. It has a real mineral character and would accompany a broad range of foods. I guessed it correctly, after just going with my gut reaction. Although there are plenty Gruners available for $10 or so, I'd still recommend this one at its $16 price point.

Number 5 in flight: very dry and elegant- I'd buy it again. Raise a glass!

Sauvignon Republic Cellars Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Wine Review (Number 6 in Flight- NW)

Tasting notes:

Fresh blast of citrus on the nose
Lively, fruity palate of lychee
Crisp, grassy finish

While tasted blind, I knew right away I was drinking a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. They are very distinct wines. This label, however, I was surprised to see. I hadn't seen it before in the New Zealand aisle. Apparently, they are producers of at least three Sauvignon Blancs sourced from different parts of the world, and they're Russian River Valley bottling from California has garnered good reviews.

This New Zealand effort is just right. Priced at about $15, it's right in the middle of the pack.

Number 6 of flight: lively, fruity, and a little pizazz- I'd buy it again. Raise a glass!

Chateau de Montfort Vouvray 2005 Wine Review (Number 7 in Flight- NW)

Tasting notes:

Melon and peach on the nose
Crisp, but only semi-dry on the palate
Dry finish with a touch of sweet fruit

Vouvray is made from Chenin Blanc. While there are a variety of styles, many of them deliver a nice mix of crisp acidity and slightly sweet fruit. This wine is no exception, with an overall nice balance to it. The price was $12.

I didn't guess this to be a Vouvray. Instead, I somehow thought it was a dry Riesling from Germany.

Number 7 in the flight: good wine- I'd buy it again. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Don Ramon 2004 Campo De Borja wine review by (PB)

This $9 wine from Sam's Club is 75% Grenache and 25% Tempranillo. I really enjoy Grenache for its fruity if fairly simple back bone. On the pour the wine is quite light in color but with a pretty crystalline, cherry red presence.

The bouquet is thin though the nose is bright with raspberry notes and a touch of pepper. In the mouth the wine is juicy with more bright and slightly tart fruit. This is a simple wine, straight forward and tasty. A nice summer wine to put a bit of a chill on it and have some Hors duerves on the porch or out of a picnic basket al fresco. Raise a glass!

Legaris Crianza 2003 wine reveiw by (PB)

The Spanish, Ribera Del Duero produces some bargain wines made largely from the Tempranillo grape locally called "Tinta Fina." This wine is cranberry red on the pour with a shimmering halo rim of beautiful magenta translucency. The bouquet is full of blackberry with a touch of wood in the nose.

In the mouth the wine is intense, on the sweeter side, a tad hot on opening but "cools off" with nice fruity (plum) and bready flavors with gentle, elegant tannins. Give it a half hour of air before serving. It's really quite nice for the price and $14 you can afford to raise a glass.

Post review consult shows the Wine Spectator gives this wine 90 points. Oh yeah!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel 2005 wine review by (PB)

A regular favorite of mine, the "ancient vine" designation Zin is rich and full year after year. This one is a beautiful purple/garnet with brambly dark berry bouquet of ripe berries, raspberry and jammy plum notes.

In the mouth the wine is just as rich and made in the sweeter style with ripe berries galore, big new world flavor with a rear blast of ripe currants and wild rough elegance. It's delicious with lingering ripe blackberry and weedy flavors. This wine is always under $13 at Sam's Club so raise a glass!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Chateau Haut-Brion 1997 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Color fades slightly to brick red at the rim
Nose opens with air to show a wonderful dusty, earthy aroma of stones, with dried herbs, light red berries, and some tobacco
Palate is extremely smooth with spices and smokyness
Finishes with noticeable tannins pushing along more berries, herbs, and some chocolate and tobacco

Well, I finally opened this ten-year-old first growth Bordeaux I had resting in the cellar. The special ocassion was a new baby- the birth of our daughter Elsa!

While young by first growth standards, I have to say this bottle was fully mature. With some bottle variation expected from such a wine, I can't say all 1997 Haut-Brions should be comsumed now. However, this experience leads me to think you shouldn't wait much longer.

With a mature flavor profile, the wine is elegant and harmonious. The problem is it's actually a little boring. Flat might be a better word here- the wine tastes a little flat. I wasn't disappointed, I just expected it to evolve more in the glass as we sipped on it for several hours.

I will say, I enjoyed it more that my esteemed colleague- PB of this blog. His review is posted below. If you can't find it, enter the wine name in our search box and you'll be linked right to his review. I think he's going "new world" on me.

All in, it was a nice experience. Maybe the wine tasted better to me because I was drinking in the excitement of having a new baby girl. And after all, I got the wine half-price. Literally, I paid half price for this wine four years ago- $90. Raise a glass to that!

David Bruce Petite Sirah 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of blackberry jam with spices and an herbal undertone
Core of anise with a moderately-plush texture
Finishes with more berries, herbs, and lingering cocoa

First off, this is not a huge style Petite Sirah. Instead, it's an elegant style aimed at more balance and harmony. Even so, it's just okay- not great.

I like the Pinot Noir bottlings from this winery, so I know they make good wine. With this more refined style of Petite Sirah, though, I can't help comparing it to the big, rich wines from other producers. Like Zinfandel, this is a grape that can push the ripeness scale, delivering high alcohol with inky color and thick, mouth-coating texture. David Bruce chooses a more refined style, but it then needs to be more elegant as well with better-integration of flavors.

Hey, this is just my two-cents worth. I enjoy Petite Sirah and would be interested to try the 2005 David Bruce when available. I'll grab it on sale somewhere, like I did with this one. I paid $16, marked down from $19. Raise a glass!

El Quintanal Ribera Del Duero 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of berries
Juicy and full-bodied on the palate
Currants and cocoa on the finish

For a $10 Spanish wine, this is a nice bottle. The Ribera Del Duero region produces nice, juicy wines made from Tempranillo. Slightly purple in the glass, fruity, and full-bodied, this wine has all the classic elements.

If you're exploring value-priced Spanish wines, as many wine lovers are today, then grab this one for your next party. And raise glass!

Fairvalley Chenin Blanc 2005 wine review by (PB)

My wife picked up this South African Chenin for $10. I have never had a wine from this producer but I think my wife grabbed it because it a positive write up on the little shingle hanging by the wine.

It is a light golden in color with a pronounced bouquet of green apples and a twinge of citrus.

In the mouth the wine has a decent foundation with some unique fruit tastes and a hint of pears, persimmons and finish of Summer fruit.

I am a Chenin fan anyway and this one was pleasant enough and decent with food so raise a glass!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexander Apalta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Wine Review (PB)

This Chilean cab is a young purple black cherry color wine with rich bready and blackberry fruit on the nose with herbal cab aromas.

In the mouth it is toast, blackberries that are ripe though tightly wound. Tannins are young and need another year anyway. Finishes with some smoky bacon notes and bittersweet chocolate. A nice tasting wine if a bit angular but its not cheap--$22. Raise a glass to Chile and Casa Lapostolle who makes fine wines at whim.

Golden Kaan Shiraz 2004 wine review by (PB)

This South African Shiraz is of the lighter hued variety with a bouquet that is rather subdued with cranberry and raspberry notes. In the mouth, there is nice first blast of spice with toast flavors. Flavors are shallow all around and the wine is unbalanced and without much character.

It benefits from a half hour of breathing with dried cherry flavors and a touch of tartness. Not impressive but the second day, the wine did taste a bit better. South Africa is making some pretty decent wine but in a global market glutted with oceans of wine at this price point ($8) they have to do better than this. If you don't think of it as Shiraz, and you have already had a couple glass of something else, then, raise a glass; it goes down okay.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Steltzner Napa Valley Claret 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Blackberry, raspberry, and herbs on the nose
Tight core of fruit and menthol on the palate
Clean finish with moderately-strong tannins, lingering berries, and dark chocolate and anise

For a Napa Valley Claret under $20, this wine is a winner! It has class and structure, along with nice layers of fruit. However, it seems a little tight. I'm going to lay a couple bottles down for three years or so and see what happens.

Steltzner has done a nice job with this proprietary blend year after year. I like it and recommend it for Napa Valley reds under $20. I paid $17, and will go back for more.

I brought this bottle up from my cellar to put in a blind side-by-side tasting with the Duckhorn Decoy posted below. We enjoyed the comparison and noticed the Decoy was more approachable now with softer fruit and a smoother texture. Both showed good structure and tasted well made. It was a treat to compare two excellent 2004 Napa Valley red blends. Raise a glass!

Duckhorn Decoy Napa Valley Red Wine 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Fruity nose of soft blueberry and plum
Smooth texture and rich fruit flavors on the palate
Finishes with berries, chocolate, and caramel

This wine is very approachable now. If you want a 2004 Napa Valley red that's ready to drink, grab a bottle of this.

As far as Cabernet-based blends go, this one has a fairly low percentage of Cab at 49 percent, complimented by 22% Merlot, 15% Petite Verdot, and 14% Cabernet France. It has a balanced feel to it, with soft fruit and a smooth texture. Don't get me wrong, though, it's still a full-bodied red.

I was treated to a bottle of this wine as a gift! We put it in a blind side-by-side tasting with the Steltzner Claret listed above. It was softer and smoother- in general, more approachable now. It runs around $30 and I've seen internet prices from $25 to $35. Raise a glass!

Canei Lambrusco Dell'Emilia NV Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Light fizz fades away
Bright strawberry nose
Moderately sweet palate
Peppery on the finish

With summer-like weather in May, we enjoyed dinner on the deck and popped open a bottle of...Lambrusco. Well, it was more of joke that I even bought the bottle. Is it really even wine? Actually, for all the hubbub about Ruinite selling 10 million cases a year in the 1980's, this is still a legitimate wine from a beautiful village in Italy.

At just $4 and 9% alcohol, it went fast. Summer is on it's way! Raise a glass!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Casa Solar Tempranillo 2004 wine review by (PB)

My wife picked this wine up for dinner because it was inexpensive and I guess she liked the description. The wine is clunky though palatable but not worth looking for. Pass it up even at $8!

Moillard "Les Violettes" 2005 wine review by (PB)

This Cotes Du Rhone is a pretty purple and garnet with pronounced bouquet of dried cherries and nice fruit. Pepper is the first impression on the palate in a wine with sound structure. It is tight on opening so let it breathe a half hour or so.

Light raspberry comes out as well as dried cherries with a pepper note on the palate.

It is a simple wine but well made at $9 so raise a glass!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sonoma Cutrer "Russian River Ranches" Chardonnay 2004 wine review by (PB)

If you want a really nice Chardonnay with character, and complexity and won't cost you a second mortgage this is the wine to try. I paid $10 for a glass of it in a restaurant but it costs around $22 retail for a bottle. It is worth every penny!

The wine starts with a gentle straw/golden hue and a big lemon, pineapple and vanilla cream bouquet with something else strong--and lovely--trying to break out. The perfumy spice was eluding my wife and I so we grabbed the spices out of the cupboard and started sniffing. BINGO! Cardamom big time--wild and wonderful.

This wine has a well crafted foundation with solid acid to make it a great food wine and wonderful Chard tastes to enjoy solo. We had it with crab cakes on our porch and it was awesome. But to be perfectly fair, when you live in Maine and can do anything on the porch, it is awesome...

Grab this Chard, enjoy it and raise a glass or three with some good company.

Covey Run Gewurztraminer 2004 wine review by (PB)

This Columbia Valley (Washington State) varietal with the grape of the interminably long name is pronounced Ga-VURTS-tra-mee'ner which means "spicy traminer" The traminer grape hales from the Alto-Adige region of Italy but is best known to be a French/Alsatian wine; that is until the whole world wine seen changed. Now some of the best Gewurz grapes are raised in France and California.

Enough head lint; what you need to know is the new world version is just one of my absolute favorite quaffing wines known for its peachy/apricoty floral spicy bouquet and when made well, is fabulous with a chill on it all by itself or is one of the best pairing wines for tough foods like oriental or middle eastern cuisine.

This one is a medium golden with BIG peach bouquet and a touch of apricot and a hint of cream. the palate is off dry with nice structure. It is graced with a floral note on the palate; finessed and delicate all around. Very nice, especially at $9! Raise a glass and say, Ahhhhhhhh...

Chateau Clos De Latour 2002 wine review by (PB)

This Grand Vin De Bordeaux has been reviewed before by me and was a good enough value that I picked up several other bottles. This is the last of the bunch.

It is a very cherry red color with a slightly herbal bouquet and a pronounced sour-cherry nose.

In the mouth it is tannic initially and a bit tart and closed. It needs some air!

With a few minutes, everything that was out of whack is balanced and mellow. There is a little tart raspberry with a slightly sweeter palate than I remembered and a steely finish. this wine is peaked NOW so drink it up if any laying around. This wine will run you about $10 and is a nice value for the money. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chateau La Louviere 2003 wine review by (PB)

Many years ago in the mid 70's I was just starting my hobby of becoming a wine know-it-all--okay, at least a wanna be wine know it all. I joined a wine club in Atlanta called Les Amis Du Vin--Friend of the vine. This wine (different vintage of course) was one of the selection of the month wines. I remember I wasn't wild about it.

Now about 30 years and who knows how many wine experiences later, I am walking around in Sam's Club and I spy this wine with a price of under $13. For a "Grand Vin De Graves" I had to have it for that price. When I got home I noticed I actually paid $30 for it thanks to Sam's awkward placement of the $13 price placard which was for a different wine. Oh well...The wine is from the Pessac-Leognan produced by the great Andre Lurton. It is a blend of 85% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Semillion.It is a light golden to straw color with a nice citrus cream bouquet with nice interesting spice notes and vanilla. In the mouth is acidic and tightly wound with notes of citrus, wood and a nice texture with lingering--I mean really lingering--finish of fruit. This is NOT your new world Sauvignon Blanc!

I noted that this should be a nice food wine and then went to making dinner. I poured my next glass some 20 minutes later and I wrote "WOW! What a different wine: It is open and full of mouth watering flavors."

It was a good food wine and this was one of the few white wines I have had that I could say "opened" with some air. $30 is steep for a bottle of white wine in my book but this one was worth the price! Raise a glass.

Gallo of Sonoma Zinfandel Reserve 2003 wine review by (PB)

The wine emits room filling fruit with a beautiful garnet hue and bouquet of cranberry and big black raspberry aromas.

The palate is hefty and a nice texture--there are touches of steel and bread with a front palate of blackberries and jammy fruit. Structured well with nice tannins and acid. This should age a few years. Finish is zippy with ripe tannins and brambly fruit. Very nice tasting like dark fruit pudding. At $10, a nice value. Raise a glass.

Columbia Crest Merlot "Grand Estates" 2004 wine review by (PB)

From the folks who just have a hard time making a bad wine, comes another super value, wonder- wine! This wine is purple to black cherry in color with an amazing bouquet of big ripe black cherry and cocoa nose with a hint of cedar! NICE!

In the mouth this wine is delicious with a hint of chocolate and a rich berry palate with young tannins that will only mature but this wine is ready to drink now! In a year or two, this wine should be incredible at the price point of $10. I just picked up the latest Win espectator an hour ago and they gave this wine a 90 with a "Best Value" rating. Indeed! Buy a case and drink half now and raise a glass as the year progresses.