Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spring Mountain Vineyard Napa Valley Red Wine (Miravalle-La Perla-Chevalier) 1996 Wine Review (NW)



Tasting notes:

Nice nose of black cherry and tobacco

Savory core, juicy and smoky

Finishes with berries, earth, minerals, and traces of vanilla

At a hole-in-the-wall store this past Spring, PB of the blog took a chance on this bottle. He figured it was a treasure worth grabbing. And he was right! It has nice layers, is smooth, and seamlessly integrated. He paid $57 for the wine, and waited to share it with fellow wine enthusiasts accompanied by a good meal. It was memorable!

For more color on this story and additional review notes, make sure to read PB's review of the wine below. If you can find this wine, or have some hanging around in your cellar- raise a glass!

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico 2003 Wine Review (NW)


Tasting notes:

Fragrant nose of black cherry, earth, and mushrooms
Minerals and more cherry on the palate
Finish tapers nicely with cocoa, spices, and earth

Prior vintages of this wine have always tasted good. There's no mistaking the usual Sangiovese tartness layered with Tuscan earthiness and charm. With the 2003 however, there's more depth and rich layers than I remember in other years. It's a very nice wine.

I found a rare magnum of this wine at a liquor store in the North End neighborhood of Boston. The price was $35. After putting together a special menu, we invited good friends over who visited Vignamaggio with us years ago. It was fun to pop the cork.

Raise a glass!

Fox Brook Shiraz 2006 Wine Review by billy


Nose:Surprisingly, there is some black cherry. Is this a shiraz?
Palate: surprisingly round. fruity.
Finish: surprisingly smooth and even.

So why is this wine surprising? Because I paid only $2.99 for this wine. Yes it was on sale. But it was on sale from (I believe) about $6. So when you get a wine for $2.99 and it even has a nose, some fruit, and a finish that doesn't make you clench your sphincter, it's a really nice find. This is a very fruit-forward wine. While not the world's best example of the varietal, it is definitely drinkable (I am even now finishing up the bottle that was opened last night). Paired with grilled burgers or served to someone just as a "red wine" it's definitely drinkable.

So remember that just because it cheap doesn't (necessarily) mean that it's bad. Many times it is, but when you find a quaffable wine for 3 bucks, hey, who can argue. And I'll raise a glass to that!

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Bonterra Mendocino County Chardonnay 2005 Wine Review (NW)


Tasting notes:

Nose of pear, fig, and some chalky minerals
Lively citrus on the palate
Apricot and lemon finish

There is such a wide variety of Chardonnay styles on the market today. This one is more of the crisp, bright style than the round, buttery style. It has very nice fruit layers and an underlying backbone of minerals.

Bonterra prides itself on delicious, organically-produced wines. They produce a nice line-up priced in the teens. I paid $13 for this bottle and often see it for that price when I'm in stores. Raise a glass!

Cline California Syrah 2005 Wine Review (NW)



Tasting notes:

Ripe raspberry and pomegranate nose

Core of blueberry on the palate

Raspberry and chocolate finish

This wine should be pretty easy to find. A lot of people really enjoy the Zinfandel produced by Cline, but if you head to the next aisle you can also find their basic Syrah. It's a decent value wine, priced around $8 or so.

In the Syrah category, this wine is what I call a "red" Syrah. It has more of a red fruit taste than a dark, jammy taste. Check it out and raise a glass!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Spring Mountain Miravelle-La-Perla-Chevalier 1996 wine review by (PB)


If you visit this blog often you know we do not review a ton of expensive wines. We have to buy most all our wines and we figure the average person isn't going to spend over $20 for a bottle of wine with any regularity. But there are exceptions and this was one such wine.

I found it at a hole in the wall store that looked like a low rent liquor store in St. Charles, Illinois. This store has been a treasure trove of fine wines though in scant supply and really hit or miss. I bought and reviewed a Lynch-Bages from this same store not too long ago.

So I found this one and it intrigued me because I was not familiar with Spring Mountain and it had some age on it and seemed to me to be a decent price for a Napa Bordeaux blend.

It is made of Cabernet Sauvignon 83%, Merlot 10%, Cabernet Franc 5%, and Petite Verdot 2%.

I served it blind to (NW) just to see what he might say about it. He actually pegged it as a Napa Bordeaux like blend with some age on it.

It is an opaque, mature red wine with a mature Cab bouquet and fresh dark berry nose.
In the mouth the wine is balanced and still lively, even a little tight on opening. Dark berry flavors with a slight herbal quality and notes of green pepper but very finessed with sophisticated structure.

With some air time, the wine is a little jammy in the bouquet with ripe black cherry and plum notes. If I had been tasting this wine, I would have pegged it as a quality Bordeaux.

Anyway, I paid $57 for this and would have to say it was worth it. But once again I will also say, that unless you have a fairly experienced palate it doesn't pay to spend that much money on a bottle of wine. You just cannot appreciate the nuances in a more expensive wine so educate your palate before dumping a load on a bottle you will probably scratch your head over. And then raise a glass!

Domaine De Baumard Clos Du Papillion 2001 wine review by (PB)


This white is yellow in the glass with distinctive aromas that were defying (NW) and myself from beginning to end. The wine comes from the Savennieres which is a region within the Loire Valley and this is my first wine from there. It is made of Chenin Blanc which is another one of my favorite grapes but this was unlike anything in my experience.


After talking about the wine and trying to pin it down, I labeled the nose as canned mandarin oranges with cinnamon spice up front. Bold and mysterious!

In the mouth the wine is dry, dry and dry again! There is a strong citrus front palate and a floral blast that is fleeting but awesome immediately following the swallow. This wine is from the Domaine De Baumard and cost (NW) $21. Raise a glass if unique is what you seek.

Willm Gewurztraminer 2005 wine review by (PB)


Another Boston grab at $13 which is really cheap for a Alsatian Gewurz. Opened this (NW) up for the weekend and it is full of apricots in the nose with a wonderful spicy underlay.

The mouth is sweet which in my experience is a bit unusual for Alsace (pronounced All-sos) and has intriguing flavors and complexity. To heighten the wonder of this wine, is the smoky touch in the finish. If you are familiar with this blog, you know my affinity for Gewurztraminers and this one is a honey. At this price, raise several glasses

Friday, August 24, 2007

Columbia Crest Merlot/Cabernet Two Vines 2001 wine review by (PB)


This $7 wine is another super value--do I sound like a broken record? Don't blame me, it's the folks at Columbia Crest who make bazillions of cases of good wine so they can peddle it at a bargain price point. This blend has a nice bouquet that is actually varietal with spicy fruit and Cabernet herbal notes up front with a chocolate layer underneath.

The palate is loaded with fruit and a wonderful touch of licorice. Raise a glass of another bargain!

Columbia Crest Shiraz Two Vines 2004 wine review by (PB)


This wine is fairly heavily pigmented as you would expect of a Shiraz. There is pencil lead and ripe blackberries and plum in the nose.

The moth feel is heavy--even a bit much? but it is a big wine and if in the right mood you would like it. As always with these folks, it is well made so raise a glass because you can afford to do so at $6!

Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay 2004 wine review by (PB)


I think I paid around $6 for this wine and a predictable, it is a value wine from the folks in Washington State. It has a citrus and vanilla cream bouquet with a palate that is lively with citrus and vanilla flavors that taste real rather than manufactured in a petri dish (somewhere in New Jersey...)

Anyway, this is another super value wine from CC so raise a glass.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wiens Cellars Merlot 2002 wine review by Billy



Nose: tobacco, licorice, black currant, cherry and black pepper.

Palate: warm and well structured with a big mouth feel. Balanced with a pleasing tannins and some cranberry-esque peak at the back.

Finish: smooth finish with crushed cherry and cedar for a lingering velvety warmth.

I simply adore this wine. It is big, fruit forward but with more character and structure than is typical of many new world wines. I bought this from the winery which is located in Temecula California though the grapes came from the Lodi region (of jug fame). But do not be mistaken, this is no jug wine. This is a fantastically crafted work of mouth-pleasing art. Sadly the 2002 is sold out but if the Wiens family can continue this excellence they may well be responsible for bringing Temecula wines back in vogue.

If you have a bottle, it can continue to lay down for at least another year if not more. This bottle was youthful and bursting. With breathing it rounded and gained character. With cellaring,it will gain even more character and rounding without giving up the fruit.

I raise my glass to Wiens!

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Quivira 2004 Zinfandel Wine Review by Billy



Nose: Classic zin nose of earthy cherry, tobacco and cracked pepper spice

Palate: on opening this is overbalanced and over acidic tending toward a bitter astringency.
Finish; meh. smoother than the palate feel would suggest. Eating olives (like I did while reviewing this wine) cuts the bitterness a bit

Overall I do not care for this wine. I shared a bottle with the fetching Mrs. Billy at a local restaurant (where I paid $40 for the bottle). After taking the remaining 1/2 bottle home and trying it the next day, the bitterness was still pronounced and the nose (the best part of the wine) had dulled.

The green-astringency and pronounced bitterness that hid the berry flavors and smoothness suggests that too many young grapes went into the creation of this wine. It is possible that the bottle would mellow and characterize with some cellaring but I would have hoped that it would be ready by now.

Others have enjoyed this wine (or at least the vineyard) more than I but Raise a Glass anyway!

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Sandeman Tawny Oporto NV wine review by (PB)


It has been sometime since I have had a port so I grabbed and inexpensive one from a well known and old producer--Sandeman, one of the great port houses of the world. I should have paid more. this port is actually a light ruby in color with an awkward bouquet of fruity raisins and a nuttiness. The palate is hot, thin and there is more alcohol than flavor initially but nuts and raisins are trying to escape the clutches of ethanol imbalance.

This wine does open though and its "okay." This is not a wine to buy if you aren't familiar with ports and you are expecting this to be representative. I paid $12 for it and should have gone a few dollars more. You can some nice porto fro under $20. I'd pass on this one but if you know what you're drinking, well, what the heck--it meets a need. Raise a glass--or not.

Beringer Shiraz Stone Cellars 2004 wine review by (PB)


This production line of table wine is from the folks at Beringer who generally produce solid wines even at the low end. This wine cost me $4--count 'em, four measly dollars--if the wine is just potable for that price you can't really complain.

This wine is more than potable! It is a young purple wine with a grapey and slightly peppery bouquet with even a note of black cherry. The palate is tart at first but mellows out, it is hot and steely and thin with tannins that are a bit rough. But, this is a $4 wine! Give it a little air and voila! You still have a $4 wine but seriously, there is even a touch of chocolate and the palate is better balanced. For a $4 wine, it is drinkable and a good wine to serve to unappreciative guests. Serve it with out embarrassment and raise a glass.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico 2004 Blue Label wine review by (PB)


This Tuscan value wine is aged 9 months in barriques and on pouring is a very pretty purple wine with fresh, wild cherry aromas floating upward with a cherry candy element. It reminds me of the old Luden's wild cherry cough drops. With even five minutes of air, a licorice layer is evident; I am impressed.

In the mouth the wine is a little tight on opening but opens with a nice licorice note on wild cherry flavors. This was a really nice Chianti and brings great memories as we traveled through and ate in Lamole Italy a few years back. I think I paid a mere $12 for this wine on sale. I wish I had bought more! Raise a glass!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hugel et Fils Gentil "Hugel" 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of pear and lychee
Apple on the palate, with little backbone
Note of grapefruit and pear on the finish

This is an "okay" wine. It's not exciting or interesting. Actually, it tastes a little flat like a tired Pinot Blanc. I was hoping it would have a little more zip- and it probably does most years. I'd be willing to say that maybe my bottle was somewhat tainted but I don't know for sure.

The wine cost $11 or so, and is widely available. I enjoy wines from Alsace and would be willing to give this another chance at that price. Raise a fresh glass!

Ternhaven Cellars Claret d'Alvah 1999 Wine Review (NW)


(Label pictured at left is the 2000 Vintage)

1999 Tasting Notes:

Nice nose of cherries, cedar, mushrooms, and dusty earth
Steely core of minerals and tobacco
Finishes with wild berries and eucalyptus

I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. It has a distinctive taste and is drinking beautifully. From the Eastern-most winery on the North Fork of Long Island, this wine is a wonderful red blend.

I bought it at the winery from the winemaker himself a year ago. I remember stopping in to taste a few wines, this one included. I was the only one in the tasting room that afternoon and had a nice conversation with the gentleman pouring my wines, only to find out he was the winemaker. I paid $18 for the bottle and zipped off to catch the ferry to Connecticut. Raise a glass!!

La Chablisienne "Petit Chablis" 2003 wine review by (PB)


If you thought you could never afford a white Burgundy think again. Chablis, which is a small village in Burgundy, France (it is NOT a cheap sugary white jug wine) produces four different levels of wine. They are--from the lowest to the highest, Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru, Chablis Grand Cru. All the wines are made from Chardonnay and great pride is taken in making them all.

I bought this white Burgundy for $14. It is golden in the glass with a bouquet that has a couple things going on. Vanilla cream and citrus or mandarin orange notes with a little touch of spice to cap it off.

In the mouth it is full of wood, good acid, citrus fruit that's a little thin with a touch of cream in the aftertaste. This is a lot of wine for the money and a fine example of how little you have to pay for a wine with some real character. Look for these "Petit Chablis" or "Chablis" wines as they will not ruin your kid's college fund. Then raise a glass to inexpensive wine with real character.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Man Chenin Blanc 2005 wine review by (PB)


This South African Chenin--colloquially called "Steen" is a value wine at less than $7.

It is a light golden wine with citrus and big tropical fruit aromas with a touch of custard. In the mouth the wine is well made, a little tart showing good cleansing acid with mixed fruit flavors. A good food wine or aperitif and worth raising a glass!

Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer 2006 wine review by (PB)


The Gewurztraminer grape (pronounced Guh-VERTS-tra-MEE-ner) has to be just the best all time summer quaffer.

This one by Ste. Michelle is typical of the varietal (in the American style) where it is almost clear, bursting with big pear aromas in the nose with a fresh and crisp palate exhibiting peaches and pears all over. It is fairly simple but tasty and lingers with gentle fruit. All of the American Gewurz's tend to run in the $8-$10 range.

Raise a glass again and again.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 wine review by (PB)


In my previous entry I mentioned the wine hunt (NW) and I engaged in and found a bargain wine in a bin of markdowns. This was the other wine in the bin marked down to $7.99.

This wine is purple with a young dried cherry bouquet. The palate is soft with light red fruit which benefits from a little breathing.

Ripe plum emerges with a nice palate of new world structure and popular taste. At $7.99, this wine is a bargain as it generally runs around $13. We raised a glass of this as well and then bought several more bottles for our cellars.

Kendall Jackson Meritage 2003 wine review by (PB)

A "meritage" blend is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc; it is your typical Bordeaux blend if you can describe anything as typical in Bordeaux. This one (NW) and I found on a recent wine hunt Boston and did we ever find a bargain. This young wine is purple with a black cherry/berry bouquet. In the mouth there is a little spice front palate and generic fruit but it is tight and needs to breathe.

There is nice fruit with a layer of cocoa or milk chocolate with fresher black cherries; palate is still tight but this is a value wine fro what we paid for it.

We saw a bin with this and another wine in it. This was marked $6.99 yet we knew this wine sells fro around $14. So we grabbed a bottle, opened it and tasted it. We went back the next day and bought up everything they had which was another half case. This is what wine hunting is all about. It's the "garage saleing" for the wine enthusiast and we hit a real find and raised a glass or three. Nice!

Numanthia Termes Toro Termes 2002 wine review by (PB)

If my memory serves me, this wine was #3 of the Wine Spectator's annual top 100 a couple years back. At $24 or so, this wine was a steel but (NW) served up the last one. It has a brilliant garnet hue with fresh cherry/berry bouquet and ripe plum with black berries and a wonderful licorice layer all in the nose.

The mouth feel is luxurious with a big licorice layer with robust body and all this is before it has even had a chance to open up. It is made from the Tinto Del Douro grape which is a clone of Tempranillo.

This wine is just solid in every way, delicious and what wine is supposed to about. If you can find one raise a glass or buy whatever vintage you can. I recently saw a more recent year locally for $22. So, raise a glass and just say "Ahhhhhh...."

Bricco Allegro Moscato D'Asti 2003 wine review by (PB)

This hyper sweet dessert wine from Italy haw an amazing bouquet of lemon juice from one of those plastic yellow lemons in the grocery store and lemon grass. The wine is a light golden in color.

The palate is lacking acid which makes an otherwise nice wine a bit flabby. At 4.5% alcohol, you can drink up and not worry about a buzz. It was really tasty with an appetizer of figs with walnuts and blue cheese and honey. The wine was $11 for a 500ml bottle which makes it a bit pricey. It was nice but over priced. Raise a glass though chilled down well.

Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc 2005 wine review by (PB)


Pale clear with slight green touch on the pour with gentle but finessed bouquet that is extraordinary--some citrus and other fruit which is baffling.

The palate is fresh and rather classic Sauvignon Blanc though a tad weak in structure. Reading the label I realized why I was baffled by the bouquet. I thought this was 100% Sauvignon blanc but is blended with Semillion which explains the nice but out-of-character aromas. This is a tasty white from Sonoma and the always reliable Ch. St. Jean. It will run you about $13 so raise a glass!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Brancaia Tre 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Bright Sangiovese nose of sour cherry and licorice
Steely core, with earthy tones on the palate
Moderately chalky tannins with red cherry, minerals, and traces of vanilla to finish

The wine never really opened up for us, but was developing more layers as it got some air. It has a lot of Sangiovese style, but is a "super-Tuscan" blend incorporating 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot with the Sangiovese base.

The fruit is sharp and the tannins are pronounced, but I'd be curious to taste this wine after a couple additional years of bottle ageing. My guess is that it would soften up, and hopefully become more harmonious too.

This was my first go-around with this wine. Dining out with PB and our wives, we figured we'd try something new from a wine list with very limited selections under $100. (Make sure to read his review forthcoming). We paid $50 for this bottle, and retail prices seem to be around $20. The restaurant markups make me cringe! Nevertheless, raise a glass of Tuscan juice!

O'Reilly Pinot Gris 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Rich nose of pear and apple
Fairly thick texture on the palate
Finishes with layers of sweet peach and honey

For Oregon Pinot Gris, this is a very sweet wine. While somewhat out of character, it's a nice wine for summer drinking. I had to do a double take at the label just to make sure it really said Pinot Gris and not something else (like Riesling or Gewurztraminer).

The problem we ran in to at the dinner table was food pairing. I expected it to be lighter and more acidic, so I don't think it paired as well with our various seafood appetizers as it could have.

Overall, though, it drank nicely. And it better have! Because we were on Nantucket, we paid a handsome restaurant markup of $50. I've seen this wine selling in stores $16-$20. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Show 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon wine review by (PB)


This wine is made from sourced California grapes and is produced by the same folks who did such a decent job with the "Three Thieves" line of box wines.

The label is hokey but the wine is pretty good. On the pour it is a fine purple with some depth and has varietal aromas of green pepper and light fruit. It needs to be breathed.

With 15 minutes, the gentle bouquet turns into a full blown power house of Cabernet aromas with a touch of leather.

In the mouth it tastes a bit manufactured but it is a good example of the grape with a sweeter palate in the popular style with dark berries and chocolate with simple tannins and a powdery texture. It finishes with plenty of smoky oak.

Somewhat predictable but at the $15 price point it holds its own. All in all not bad and down right tasty. So, raise a glass!

Beaujolais Villages 2006 (G. Duboeuf) wine review by (PB)

Brilliant purple/cherry hue with lovely strawberry and chalky powdery bouquet.

Palate is fresh, with nice summery fruit and a touch of milk chocolate; it is lively, simple and a summer wine for guzzling with just about anything. We had it with fried chicken and it was delicious. I paid $8 for this which is well worth it but then found it at Sam's Club for $6.58.

I WILL be buying more--so raise a glass and obtain some of this super value, tasty wine.