Sunday, December 30, 2007
PB and NW and I paid about $47 for this Barolo. We then decanted it for about 5 hours before tasting it. As you'll see, it still wasn't enough time! (WOW!)
NOSE: HUGE NOSE, SWEET AND SOFT BLENDED MOIST TOBACCO, ROSE, RAISINS (CURRANTS), SMOKED CEDAR, CINNAMON??
PALATE: TIGHT (STILL!!), FISTED TANNINS WITH SEXY VANILLA UNDERNEATH THE TWISTS
Overall, this wine is still way too young to drink. Even with extensive decanting, the wine tasted young and extremely tight. The wine itself is wonderfully pregnant with possibility and promise. However, if you can find a bottle or a case, lay them down for *at least* another year if not more. Then raise a glass and enjoy enjoy enjoy because the wine with go on and on and on!.
We paid about $11 for this South African Pinotage. It was tasted blind against the Pinot Noir and Barbera D'Alba reviewed below. Of the three it was the worst.
NOSE: TOBACCO, SPICE, BANDAID TASTE, PLASTIC
PALATE: SMOKEY, STRONG ACIDS AND TANNIC STRUCTURE. ALMOST ROUGH
FINISH: SMALL GREEN PEPPER TAIL
Overall, the plastic smell on the nose was described by PB as "bandaid thrown into a fire". I think that's accurate. Raise a glass of something else.
NOSE: SPICE, A PINOT SMELL, CHARCOAL, BLUEBERRY LEAVES
PALATE: COMPLEX STRUCTURE, STRONG TANNINS AND ACIDS BUT UNBALANCED. DRINKABLE BUT LACKING THE SOPHISTICATION.
FINISH: WARM AND HEAT, BACK OF THE TONGUE FINISH THAT LASTS AND LASTS OF DARK BERRY
Overall this had a magnificent nose of fruit and oak and complexity that held promise the mouth feel and flavor simply did not deliver. If it were on sale, buy a bottle and write us about what you think.
Raise a Glass!
We paid about $28 for this wine and tasted it blind against a South African Pinotage and an Italian Barbera D'Alba.
NOSE: Mushroomy. A slight "pinot stink" but much more subtle and nuanced than I typically expect.
PALATE: Even Feel, excellent structure and strength without being overpowering.
FINISH: Delightful strawberry decrescendo.
This was the best of our tasting this evening.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Since then, we have posted roughly 1,500 wine reviews to share our discoveries. We place special emphasis on finding value in the world of wine and we record reviews of nearly every wine we taste. Hopefully, these reviews will help you in your own journey through the world of wine.
Raise a glass!
Here are my notes on the three Cabernets we tried:
HAYMAN & HILL 2004 NAPA VALLEY RESERVE SELECTION
Nose: SWEET JAMMY FRUIT, CLOVES
Palate: SPICY, WEAKER TANNINS THOUGH NOT FLABBY, OK BALANCE
Finish: LINGERING, SOFT
(2002 pictured, 2003 reviewed)
SALENTEIN 2003 MENDOZA VALLE DE UCO ARGENTINA
Nose: STINKY MUSHROOM
Palate: PRONOUNCED ACIDS AND TANNINS WEAK BALANCE COMPARATIVELY
Finish: SMOOTH AND PLEASANT. LINGERING TOBACCO MAKES THIS NICE
GREG NORMAN 2004 LIMESTONE COAST AUSTRAILIA
Nose: SPICY EARTH, CEDAR
Palate: DENSE, FRUITY INCREDIBLY EVEN STRUCTURE
Finish: FRUITY AND SOFT SMOOTH
Overall: I preferred the 2004 Greg Norman Cabernet Merlot. The depth of flavor and spice and structure was far and away above the rest. The Hayman & Hill was my second favorite with its balance and fruity structure. The Salentein while having a beautiful nose and finish had a weak structure that was poorly constructed in my opinion (though NW preferred this over the Hayman & Hill and PB preferred the Hayman & Hill over the rest).
Anyway you measure it though, for about $15 these wines are good exemplars of the varietal and affordable.
Raise a Glass!
Here we are on the brink of another New Year's celebration and of course that means bubbly!
First just a point of accuracy–“Champagne” is wine that comes from Champagne, France. If it isn’t from Champagne, France, it isn’t Champagne.
Now that, that’s out of the way let’s get down to some rules of thumb rather than getting too caught up in specific names of wines which may or may or may not be able to find. Remember, you like what you like. Just make sure you really like what you like.
Do yourself a favor (and anyone else who will be cerebration with you, completely avoid the host of sparkiling wines that are ubiquitous at this time of year and are generally displayed on end caps or special displays so that you will buy them. If the wine costs less than $5, PLEASE don’t buy it!
For just a couple dollars more you can buy myriads of sparklers that are actually well made and taste good rather than the sickeningly sweet “soda-pop” wines that are disgusting and make you sick. Andre’s, Cook’s, and others of their ilk are such brands but there are many more.
For less than $10 you can find wines from Spain, Italy, and America that have some character and taste like, well, wine. Spain’s, Freixenet is popular and a solid choice and is always a decent buy. Washington State’s St. Michelle produces three types of sparklers all in the $10 range and are consistently well made. If you are given to a higher end sparkler look to a place like Schramsberg who makes sparkling wines that will rival those of French origin. From Italy are the various “Prosecco” sparklers which again, are routinely well made and won’t break the bank.
Now if you’re a purist and you have to have Champagne, my personal favorite is Mumm’s Brut Prestige. It will cost less then $20 and is a high quality, yet inexpensive bubbly that is affordable and pleasing.
In the case of New Year’s Eve celebrations, if everyone is pretty well toasted anyway, go ahead and open that Andre’s I guess. But if you’re looking for a wine experience, pay the extra few bucks and get a real wine. Happy New Year to you all and remember to have a designated driver. You don’t want to start 2007 on a catastrophic note.
Raise a glass to the future!
This sparkling wine--and I use the words loosely, is plink from the get-go. Sadly, this is what tons of people identify with when they are asked if they like "Champagne." PLEASE--this is neither Champagne nor wine...
Sure it costs less than $6 but it isn't worth even that. You can find a drinkable $6 sparkler but this isn't one. See post below this one for some ideas for New Year's celebrations and raise a glass of something potable.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
We blind poured and were able to identify the wines immediately by their distinctive noses. The Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was intensely citrussy and "out there" in a delightful way. The Sebeka was earthy and fungal in a pleasing way that I tend to attribute to the South African viticulture (almost regardless of varietal). This is one of the reasons I so enjoy the South African wines - the have preserved a sense of place.
On to the reviews:
Kim Crawford 2006 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc:
Nose: big soft lemon with honey. pleasant
Palate: acids predominate on the palate giving backbone to the soft lemon and honey flavors.
Finish: soft and tapering, lingering citrus that is a delight.
Sebeka 2006 Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc
Nose: earthy and fungal with a softly floral scent. Soft citrus pulp smell underneath the wonderfully intriguing terroir smells.
Palate: acids predominate providing good food-accompanying structure. Nice mouth feel and lingering earthy character.
Finish: weak finish in an otherwise interesting wine.
Overall: The Kim Crawford stands alone as a more nicely crafted wine. The Sebeka has so many interesting flavor characteristics, though, that it really should not be missed.
The Sebeka runs about $8-10 a bottle and the Kim Crawford about twice that at $14 - 20 a bottle. Of the two wines the Kim Crawford with its bigger flavors will do well both before as well as during a meal. The Sebeka will do well before a meal for folks who want an interesting and enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc, though it will shine during the meal with its earthy profile and un-intrusive citrus.
Both wines are worth Raising a Glass to.
Monday, December 24, 2007
To Cork or Not To Cork by George Taber is among the "must read" books for the wine enthusiast in your lift. (Amazon link here).
Disclaimer: I was sent this book to review
I am not personally one for non-fiction but this book hooked me from the outset. Unlike PB who reviewed this book as well here, I have no previous interest in the history of corks, wine closures, or wine keeping. My interest was in the wine itself, not the business of bottling. However, this book successfully engaged me and held my interest as it laid the history of wine keeping and delved into the machinations of the cork barons of Portugal, the technological upstarts in the US Pacific Northwest and the dare-to-try-anything Australians. It also has me, even today, looking at corks and closures differently. That is the mark of a remarkable book.
The writing style is simple and easy to read - it is as accessible as a well produced BBC or Discovery Channel documentary while being more "heady" than tv-in-a-book.
If you're looking for last minute gifts for Christmas or the New Year, click the amazon link above and get it for the wine lover in your life.
Nose: cherry cola, socks, warm spice
Palate: even, not overly tannic, berry
Finish: warm, soft
Overall, meh. I have to be honest, lots of folks like this and I am interested to try it again but I was not impressed by this wine. It is not bad, but, to me, it was not great either. However, and this is a big however, when considered in light of the price point, it is a really great deal. It is not a "wow me" cabernet sauvignon, but it is certainly enjoyable and well made. It cannot be beat for the price.
Raise a glass!
Nose: dirt, aged earth, finely layered oak, spice, walnut
Palate: relaxed, all in tune and harmonious
Finish: finely made, smooth, green grapes.
This was the hit of the evening and a surprise find at a local wine store. While NW and I were just looking around, we spied this bottle listing at about $55. We decided to pick it up as an curiosity - not knowing whether or not it had been subject to too hot summers or too cold winters out there on the New England wine store shelf. But it was a holiday so we decided to go for broke and pick it up. We were not disappointed. This wine is at its peak. All the rich earthiness meshes with classic California Cabernet flavors in an orchestrated harmony that soothes the palate and warms the heart. While not a bargain, it is fairly priced. If you can find it you will not be disappointed. This was, quite simply, Merry Christmas in a bottle. Enjoyed with friends and relatives, it makes the year memorable.
Raise a Glass to Mondavi's 1999 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon!
Nose: classic Pinot stink, wet tobacco, smoky cola, slight hints of cardamom and allspice at the very end of a deep inhale.
Palate: light and fruity raspberry, candied cherry at back. Beautiful mouth feel when it first hits the lips, tongue, and palate.
Finish: deep spice lightly realized, candy, lingering and special.
This wine was a real hit this evening as it was served with a butternut squash soup, green salad and fresh light pasta. At about $30 it is a very high quality wine at an affordable price. A fantastic flavor and expertly made. If you have the chance, please do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle for now and a bottle for later.
Nose: Quite possibly some small TCA taint evident on opening. However, this did "blow off". Nevertheless, we did still continue with the tasting and review. After the corkiness smell was eliminated, honeyed pear emerges with cirtussy pineapple and toast underneath. I expect that these would be at the fore in an untainted bottle.
Palate: fine and light. good balance.
Finish: fruity with some green grass.
Overall, a nice and subtle chardonnay. It is not overly oaky, not overly buttery, not overly fruity, but very nicely balanced. Subtle, staid, elegant.
The Fetching Mrs. Billy and family and I are in New England at NWs place for a day before we head north to PBs house for the Christmas and New Years Holidays. This bodes well for lots of wine tasting and great fun. Be sure to keep checking back here at The Wine Cask Blog for updates as we have planned several evenings for the three of us (NW, PB, and me, Billy) to taste a wide variety of wines for Christmas as well as New Years.
On to this tasting of the 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau (again - reviewed previously here and here). This was served with a wonderful array of appetizers including blue cheese, honey, and walnuts.
Nose: Strawberry predominates. Undertones of something I can only describe as petroleum
Palate: limp, thin
Finish: tannic strawberry at the end
Overall: still not the best year for Beaujolais Nouveau. Though after a day of travel and sleeping recovery, then sledding in the New England snow, it is really not a bad start to the evening.
Looking for some last minute Christmas gift ideas for the cerebral wine lover on your list? Then check out Wine & Philosophy edited by Fritz Allhoff (Amazon link here).
(Disclosure: I was sent this book to review)
The book is a collection of essays and articles that run the gamut from heady to witty to intensely scholarly. The book appealed to me personally (I hold an undergraduate degree in philosophy and an MA in communications with an emphasis on philosophy) and was an engaging read. It is definitely not a casual read, but something that would make a great read for someone wanting to go "deeper" into both the philosophical underpinnings of wine and it's role in western philosophical traditions.
Some of the articles stretch the links between wine and various philosophical traditions or disciplines but are an enjoyable excursion into the worlds of "as if" and possibility. Consider it in the same family (though a grown up big brother) as "Pooh and the Philosophers".
Either way, enjoy this Christmas!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
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 when you give that cork wreath to someone special…
In the wine category—
Port wines—“Ruby,” “Tawny,” and “Late Bottled Vintage” ports are all quite inexpensive. Don’t confuse a “Late Bottled Vintage” port with a Vintage Port. You will know immediately by the price! A L.B.V. port will cost less than $20. A vintage port will start at twice that and you’ll be hard pressed to find any for under $50 and that will be for a very young one. With age, you are usually talking in the $100-$150 range.
Vintage Port—Always a treat and a great gift but it is pricey—(see above)
Champagne—also another reliable treat for most normal people. I am not normal and a good bottle of champagne would be wasted on me. But for well under $50, you can buy some very nice sparklers.
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 (pronounced to rhyme with, uh, never mind) is also another name which makes a nice quality, but inexpensive glass.
Williams-Sonoma carries Riedel and Crate and Barrel carries Spieglau or at least used to. 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.
Spray preservatives—The Wine Enthusiast has an aerosol spray that you shoot into an opened bottle of wine which displaces the air with an inert gas thus preserving the wine. I have never tried this but I am told it works! $10 buys you many bottles of preserved wine!
Stemware Care--Various sizes and shapes of stem ware brushes and odor free soaps are available at wine suppliers on line. I love mine!
Label Lifters—for removing wine labels from bottles; some work better than others and I have found the ones from labeloff.com to be the best. Around $8!
Wine identification--The very best wine gift I have received to date is an aroma kit which my lover, girlfriend, and wife of 33 years 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 a small, ready made kit 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, (*note—unique doesn’t mean stupid; like a Santa handle) 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 makers like Haier will cost you more than twice that but of course you get a better quality unit.
Chillers—For my birthday this year I received a crystal, monogrammed chiller which is essentially just a big glass jar—a pretty one—which fits a bottle of wine submerged in ice water for that quick cool down. The prices vary widely depending on composition.
Wine totes are also very practical and handy. I'm not talking about the bag kind of tote but one that looks more like a small piece of luggage. It can carry one or two bottles of wine, has an insulating material on the inside and keeps your wine temperature moderated while in transit. 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) two years ago 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 a quick reference book that costs around $10. Check the book reviews posted this past year on this blog.
Mags. If we’re talking about a real wine enthusiast the Wine Spectator ($49/year) and the Wine Enthusiast ($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 motif, really, please! Unless perhaps its an apron--the one exception. :)
Sunday, December 16, 2007
To Cork Or Not To Cork, that is the question! Whether tis nobler in the mind of wine lovers to suffer the aromas and flavors of corked wine or to use a screw cap and eliminate such taint has its supporters and detractors. Both are equally passionate in their view.
When I received this book to review, I thought, “An entire book about the cork controversy?” Y-A-A-A-A-W-N
To Cork Or Not To Cork, (Scribner 2007) by George Taber–noted author of The Judgment of Paris--does such a masterful job in handling the issue, the book is fascinating, easy to read and absolutely delightful!
As the subtitle reveals--Tradition, Romance, Science And The Battle for the Wine Bottle--is about far more than just which closure is best. It is a history of wine and specifically wine problems and how much attention has been given to the problem for decades.
After reading this book, you may still lament the decline in the usage of cork in sealing off wine from the ravages of air, but you will certainly appreciate the care, concern, research and money invested in the endeavor of bringing the likes of us, the very best wine that can be made.
If you have a wine lover on your Christmas list, this would make a great gift! Sit in a comfortable chair, raise a glass and enjoy Taber’s new book.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Nice nose of mixed berries and currants
Fairly plush texture with dark fruit on the palate
Finishes with gobs of chocolate and currant layers
This is a fairly good wine that will please fans of Napa Cabernet. It's not particularly refined or well-structured, but it has the big flavor and nice texture that has come to characterize Napa Cab. Serve this with a steak and this wine will shine.
Prices continue to climb for wines like this from top producers. At $45 or so, it's not a wine that most people will open every night. However, next to the winery's top Cabernet-based offering called Insignia, this wine looks almost inexpensive. Raise a glass!
Rich nose of black cherry, licorice, and sweet spices
Plush core of fruit on the palate
Very spicy finish with cinnamon, cloves, and anise wrapped around a raspberry layer
I opened a magnum of this wine for Thanksgiving dinner. It was passed around along side a magnum of 1997 riesling so guests could enjoy both a red wine and a white wine with their meal.
The wine paired nicely with the traditional Thanksgiving day dishes. It has a youthful taste and texture, with fresh fruit flavors, rich spices, and plush tannins. It's a blend of 77% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, and 6% Petite Sirah that drinks nicely now but will probably also cellar quite well for up to a decade.
If you are a Zinfandel fan, this is a wine that you should taste. Stylistically, it's right up the middle and has a history of even airing on the refined side. Meaning, it's rich, bold, and actually quite balanced; not a heavy, over-extracted wine. Magnums might be hard to find, but I see the standard bottles frequently at prices around $30-35. I paid $75 for the magnum and consider that a reasonable premium for the scarcer format. Raise a glass!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
It is a bit course on opening but with air evens out a bit but this wine has real potential. The couple reviews of it I found on line were not very favorable but I believe they miss the real potential of this wine. It does not taste like a new world wine first of all which is why I believe the reviewers didn't like it. Their expectations were misplaced.
If I didn't know better, I would have thought this was a Bordeaux with some complexity and old world style. In the mouth it is immature but has genuine flavor with some complexity with black cherry fruit and a hint of mint even. Let this wine open for about an hour or decant it. For $10, this is a wine I plan to buy a couple more bottles of and lay them down for a couple more years. The wait could be impressive! So, raise a glass. (no pic available of label)
Monday, December 10, 2007
Nice medium gold with vanilla cream and citrus aromas.
Palate is "zingy" with citrus and summer fruit tones. Finish lingers. For $8 it's good drinking but nothing distinct. Raise a glass.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Medium garnet hue with ripe fruit nose of plum and blackberries.
Palate is covered with blackberry flavors and ripe plums with decent structure and overall balance.
This wine was around $6 and once again Columbia Crest delivers a big value wine. It is easy drinking and for the price, stock up, then raise a glass.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Nose: tobacco, cherry, and something akin to a Pinot Noir strawberry pungency that hints at an earthiness not found in many new world style wines.
Palate: "thinner" or less jammy old world style feel that is balanced with tannins and acids that allow an even mouth feel without overstating anything.
Finish: chocolate candied cherries finish out pleasingly.
The Ripasso is an Italian wine made in a different style. By adding dried grapes or allowing others to go through a second fermentation, the wine is "aged" quickly and given a body and character that is typically found only in older vintages/growths.
This wine was given to us as a gift and it accompanied a nice meal with the fetching Mrs. Billy.
Pick this wine up for a mature feel/taste without paying a mature price. For another Ripasso review by NW see this.
Raise a Glass!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Nose of mixed berries, anise, and cinnamon
Juicy core of cherry on the palate, dense and tight
Moderately tannic finish of berries with lingering spice
I was treated to a bottle of this wine while on vacation. Friends from Milwaukee flew down to meet my wife and me in Florida for a few days at the beach, and were generous enough to bring this along. With a budding wine interest, these friends had been tasting their way through Meritage wines and other red blends from California. In that vein, this Cyrus was begging to be opened.
It's a tasty wine that delivers nice flavors, especially on the nose. However, it's dense and firm. Because of that, I don't know that we ever got it to open up completely. We didn't have a decanter at our disposal, so we did our best to linger over our glasses.
The wine remained firm and tannic throughout our tasting. If you have some, let it sit in the cellar for a couple more years and see what happens. With a base of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, it's a proprietary blend of grapes that may continue to evolve in the bottle. For $50 or so, it's a special treat wine. Raise a glass!
Ripe berries and spices on the nose
Juicy, dark fruit on the palate
Finishes with raspberry, currant, and a dose of black pepper
This wine is full-bodied, ripe, and peppery. It has some classic Barossa qualities, but is just an average wine. It doesn't come together extremely well like a top-end Shiraz.
I paid $20 for the bottle, and have since seen it priced as low as $15. Given that the price range is being stretched well into the six figure range for Barossa Shiraz, this wine seems fairly priced. Raise a glass!
Nose has grapefruit and grassy notes
Core of citrus on the palate
Juicy, citrus finish
Here is a basic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for $10. It's clean and crisp, with a nice flavor profile. In this price range, there are still some good wines and it's hard to go wrong. Raise a glass!