Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wine Review: Rosenblum Annette's Reserve Rhodes Vineyard Zinfandel 2001 (NW)

Bright ruby color
Very big, fragrant nose of sweet, ripe fruit
Plum, cherry, and dark berries on the palate
Chocolate and a little zing on the long, smooth finish

Wow! Can a wine have more ripe fruit characteristics than this? Maybe it's too ripe. This is the discussion we had on Thanksgiving Day when PB (of this blog) and I tasted the wine. We popped the cork on several other bottles, including the Beaulieu Tapestry discussed below. Compared to that wine, this tasted like fruit cocktail. We kept remarking on how big and ripe the flavors are, and that it really doesn't drink well with food because of that. On its own, though, it was very enjoyable with a super smooth texture and a nice, long finish.

PB provided this bottle from his cellar and he had paid around $25 for it while in California. It's on the expensive end for Zinfandel, but if you're a fan of dark, ripe, and luscious Zin you know these are really bargain prices. Zinfandel doesn't get very expensive, even with the single vineyard bottles from producers like Rosenblum that get big scores on the various 100-point scales. As a result, it really is a bargain wine. Just make sure you're in the mood for ripe (even over-ripe) fruit and a high alcohol content. On Thanksgiving Day, I was. And oh-by-the-way, there's no grape more American than Zinfandel- perfect for an American holiday! Raise a glass!

Wine Review: Beaulieu Tapestry 1994 (NW)

Reddish, brown color
Smokey on the nose like a single-malt Scotch
Some licorice and earthy qualities on the palate
Elegant, lengthy finish

Well, I finally opened the '94 Tapestry that had been sitting in my cooler. I wasn't sure what to expect and was actually a little disappointed. While it obviously showed some age, I didn't really enjoy the flavors. This bottle was earmarked for Thanksgiving Day. PB of this blog joined me for a tasting well before the big meal and we had slightly different impressions of the wine. His review is posted below.

Tapestry is an exciting blend that I've enjoyed. While The Wine Spectator gives extremely low scores to recent vintages due to a "musty" taste, early versions of Tapestry such as this 1994 were very well received by Spectator and other critics. To learn more about the difficult period at Beaulieu Vineyard, refer to PB's review.

My impressions of this wine didn't change after I tasted it with dinner, after dinner, and even the next day. It always seemed smokey, devoid of fruit, and a little unusual. Normally I like wines that are unusual, but this one never really impressed me. It could have been that I was in the mood for a really fruity, juicy wine. Fortunately, we had two other bottles open at the same time during our Thanksgiving meal, and I got my fixed of ripe fruit (review will follow). I paid $50 for this bottle of Tapestry a couple years ago, although it would have been much less than that on its release in 1997. Oh, well! Raise a glass!

Wine Review: Chateau de Chamboureau Savennieres 2001 (NW)

Amazing golden-orange color
Fruit, honey, and creme-brulee on the nose
Smooth and rich on the palate, yet some acidity and backbone
Long finish

I can't believe it's possible to do this with Chenin Blanc! This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc, but shows an amazing variety of characteristics. The color is almost like a Sauternes or other dessert wine, the flavors are smooth and creamy, but the fruit is crisp and there is some obvious backbone and acidity. What an incredible combination!

If you find this, and who knows what the availability is, you've got to grab it. For another review, look at the notes below from PB. He grabbed this bottle at a wine tasting and paid $22. Well worth it! Raise a glass!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wine Review: Heitz Napa Valley Grignolino 2001 (NW)

Beaujolais in color
Nice sweet fruit and floral nose
Strawberries on the palate battle a a layer of tartness
Clean finish

If you want something totally unique, reach for a bottle of this Grignolino. It is both unusual and interesting, providing a new experience for me. Grignolino is a varietal I've never seen. Although I've heard of sparkling Italian wines using this grape, I've never seen a bottle marked for this varietal. A store near me had one row of this wine and it looked like it was collecting dust. The reason I bought it was for the uniqueness factor and because I assumed Heitz wouldn't put out a bad wine. And the fact is, they didn't. I paid $16 for the bottle and took it with me on a visit to PB's (of The Wine Cask Blog). We were both impressed and enjoyed learning a little bit about this unique varietal. Raise a glass!

Concannon Petite Syrah 2001 wine review by (PB)

This is been a big wine, previously reviewed. I opened another bottle last night to go with a venison tenderloin, pan fried, rare with a baby bella mushroom balsamic glaze. This wine is deep garnet as you might expect. The air fills with yeasty aromas immediately with huge black berry and ripe plum fragrances.

In the mouth, this wine is sweet, perhaps even a little too sweet, but is so bold that its ripe fruit just overwhelms the palate with wild cherries and black berries. Tannins are lush. For $10, once again, this Central Coast creation is a good find. Raise a glass!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Christmas ideas for the enophile in your life (PB)

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…

Friday, November 25, 2005

Rosenblum Annette’s Reserve, Rhodes Vineyard Zinfandel 2001–a review by (PB)

In the glass there is a bit of an opaqueness that is due to the intense concentration of chromophores making up the color of this Zin. Rosenblum is a consistent producer of very good to excellent Zins. (As they make 20 diffierent zinfandel creations, read the label carefully!) Rosenblum is known for their style which is up front, rich, ripe and powerful.

The problem is, they may just be too good! This wine has a bouquet that is full of ripe berries, with a perfumey spray of aromas and a soapey scented kind of charm.

The flavor of this wine is gargantuanly intense, concentrated sweetness, with ultra-ripe and peppery fruit. My first response was “Wow.” But, the problem, if I can put it that way, is that this Zin is so BIG that it tramples every other flavor coming your way. The fruit is so rich and fat that nothing can stand up to it not even the intense spices of a thanksgiving table.

(NW) and I agreed it did not pair well with dinner and wondered what might go with such a wine. “BBQ ribs!” (NW) suggested. Ah, indeed, I think that might just do the trick.

So here again is a really special, monster of a wine but too brash to keep company with most food. I paid $25 for this finding it when I was out in Los Angeles this past Summer. Grab one or two but just know, you may end up drinking apart from food. Or fire up the grill and get those ribs humming! At any rate, raise a glass!

Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve 1994 review by (PB)

(NW) and his wife were up for Thanksgiving and that means plenty of wine adventures galore. BV’s Tapestry (a blend of several grapes which accounts for the name) is always one of my favorites even when panned by some experts as BV struggles back from a TCA outbreak in the fairly recent past. (TCA is a contaminant due to a mold that can be the death of wineries as it’s origins can be elusive. Giving the wine off flavors often described as wet cement, or wet cardboard, its presence in a wine–quantified by the parts per million scale--can be detected by individuals with apparently super-human palates and noses.)

The height of the problem for BV reached its zenith in the late 90's, and they underwent painstaking efforts to eradicate the problem. Even during those supposedly really bad years, I have had Tapestry from those “bad” years and find it charming, and full of excitement. This 94 was before the TCA problem.

It is lighter in color than I would have expected–a product of it’s age? There is a slight ambering around the rim, a sign of it’s maturity. The bouquet of this wine balloons into the room on opening making an impressive appearance and a preview of what is to come. The bouquet if full of cranberries with a slightly vegetal nose.

In the mouth it is full of fruit–simple and firm and lush–rather elegant on the whole. With air it is pure rich berry aromas which carry through to the palate. This wine, which was one we served with our Thanksgiving turkey, was too rich and powerful for the meal. A very nice wine but not a good pairing! Still, it was a special wine, ($55) for a special day, and one that I am thankful for having the joy of sharing in with my family. Raise a glass–we did!

Heitz Cellars Grignolino 2001 review by (PB)

Pronounced “grin-oh-leeno” (NW) picked this up because it was such an oddball offering from one of California’s premier vintner’s. Heitz Cellars produced the famous “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon way back in the 70's when I was cutting my teeth on my first adventures into the world of wine. As a student with family in tow, I could barely afford to read about the pricey wine and 30 years later I have yet to have had the means or the inkling to shell out the $100+ a bottle for this sought after creation. So (NW) sees this esoteric production and had to grab one not knowing what we were in for.

On the pour this wine reminds me of a Gamay with its very light color with a bouquet that is equally light. Strawberry aromas are strong. On a second swirl, there is a fantastic burst of fresh flowers but fades quickly. This wine is well made with a strong acid foundation which would make this wine go well with all kinds of foods. The flavors are unique and hard to describe with an odd touch of bitters.

On further swirling there is a candyish scent with a grapey touch in the sweet aroma. It finishes really small but this is such a different wine, I have to say I like it! It set (NW) back $16, a blind expenditure that proved to be both interesting and pleasant. What more could ask for? Raise a glass!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Wine Review: Royal Bitch 2003 Reserve Merlot (billy)

Royal Bitch 2003 Reserve Merlot
From Chile. $11.99

Ok, I admit it, I am a sucker for the double entendre. I bought this wine with the theme of the next “Wine Blogging Wednesday” in mind (judge a wine by its label). The Label is black and gold with an image of a woman walking a dog. The imagery is nothing special but anything that is good for a laugh or conversation does well by me. I also like that on the back of the wine, they invite commentary back about the wine and provide a URL. So, not only is the wine clever with its name (good marketing “stickiness”), it also proves that it is hip to the new generation of wine enthusiasts and web crawlers in the small print. As a techie and a wine lover, I was sold. So how does it stack up?

Nose: beautiful mellow pepper and blackberries with an exquisitely sensual softness and subtlety. There are some really nice layers here. I am EXCITED.
Palate: A touch thin for a reserve merlot. It seems as if all the energy has gone into the nose. Maybe with some time it will open up. After some air time, slightly acidic cherries and coffee/chocolate flavors emerge. This speaks to the complexity that was evident in the initial bouquet. However, in the mouth, the wine remains thin and a bit watery. In this day and age of over the top “berry burst” merlots, this is a pleasant change and it will complement the meal nicely. I would buy this wine again and, for the price, this reserve can hold its own amidst other, similarly priced reserves.
Finish: smooth and beautifully lasting.

Overall, this is a fair wine. The bouquet is wonderful and enticing, the rest doesn't stand up to the expectations the nose sets though. If you find it on sale for under $10 definitely pick up a bottle. $11.99 is fairly priced. You’ll a few better, and many worse for that price. But do not be suckered into paying $15 or more here. You’ll be disappointed.

Raise a glass in thanks for the bounty we experience this day. Cheers to all.

Thanksgiving Day Wine: Discover Through Variety (NW)

Food and wine pairing has evolved dramatically over the years. Sure there are still certain wines that go well with certain foods. However, with the amazing availability of great food and fine wine today, many new pairings are being discovered in kitchens and dining rooms around the world. And Thanksgiving Day is a nice opportunity to discover new pairings. Let me explain.

The most fun I've had with wine on Thanksgiving has been opening several different types of wine at the same time and deciding as I go which to drink. This can be done without breaking the bank, too. If a special wine hasn't been chosen, take the opportunity to open several different, inexpensive wines. Trust me, this will contribute to the festive atmosphere. Even if someone is providing a highly-prized wine for the main meal, there is no reason other bottles can't be opened and enjoyed with snacks, appetizers, and desserts.

Last year, we opened two nice wines for the main meal: an Oregon Pinot Noir and a Washington State Riesling. It was interesting to see how the wines paired with traditional turkey and all the trimmings and side dishes. The Pinot Noir was good but too exotic to go with the food, so most votes went for the Riesling. We also had some bubbly and a nice bottle of Chateau D'Yquem Sauternes. The wines really helped to make the meal special.

I'm not a big fan of picking one wine for a big ocassion and drinking bottle after bottle of it. I think that variety can enhance the ocassion. If you've been to big dinner functions lately like charitable events, corporate black tie affairs, or even wedding receptions, you've probably noticed that multiple wines are poured. At the very least, you'll see one red and one white being offered with the stemware pre-set for both. Many guests will ask for both to be poured when the servers come around. Try this and you may be pleasantly surprised with how the wines interact with the various courses of the meal. Thanksgiving provides this opportunity, so if you're still undecided about what your wine selection should be, open two or more and be thankful for all of the wonderful wine choices we have in the world today! Raise a glass!

Chateau De Chamboureau Savennieres 2001 review by (PB)

I love domestic Chenin Blanc and I have watched the price of it go up about 30% in the past year. So when I was at a wine tasting this past week, I tasted this French creation which was touted as the best white wine in Maine for under $25. Until I have tasted every white wine in Maine under $25, I can’t really make that claim. I can say that in the glass this wine is utterly phenomenal just to look at. It is a deep and luscious looking golden that looks more like a fine Sauternes than a Chenin Blanc. The bouquet is truly unique but has a subtle banana and green apple aroma.

In the mouth this wine is again unique and hard to pin down. It has mouth filling acidity that supposedly will carry this wine another 10 years and while there are no other pronounced flavors, there is just an amalgamation of elegant subtleties with a hint of sweet ness but not really. (NW) will be reviewing this same wine but we both agreed that there is no way I would have ever guessed this as a Chenin Blanc. We paired it with a French onion tart which is like a pizza made with bacon, onion and cottage cheese with sour cream. It was quite nice all the way around. $22 for a wine of this quality is decent. Now we look a head to our Thanksgiving feast. Ah, so many blessings for which to raise a glass.

Castle Rock Carneros Pinot Noir 2004 wine review by (PB)

I picked this up as it was a Wine Spectator or a Wine Enthusiast “Best Buy.” It has nice cherry color in the glass with meaty berry aromas with a classic Pinot Noir nose. In the mouth it is a bit hot but fairly deep with nice flavors of berries bursting all over. At $12, this is a very nice example of the grape. See (NW's) review of the same wine. I was at work when they opened this bottle and I therefore tasted it after it had time to open considerably. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wine Review: Avignonesi Nobile di Montalpulciano 2001 (NW)

Tangy, earthy nose
Fruit, olives, and moss on the palate
A little zip to the finish

Aah, Tuscany! I think I taste the Tuscan sun in this bottle. For anyone who's been to the hamlet of Montalpulciano in southern Tuscany, you probably have vivid memories of your experience. This may or may not be a good wine, but it will always taste like a romantic and enchanting wine because I first had it there. Montalpulciano is one of the strikingly improbably hill towns in Italy, perched on the edge of the sky like a ship out at sea. When you wind up the road to the center of the walled village, you cannot walk ten feet without encountering some local wines available for tasting and for sale. They are very proud of their wine, which arguably captures the "terroir" that is so elusive in other places in the world. This Avignonesi, for example, is so full of earth and olives that it seems to have been scooped out of the ground from a nearby terraced hillside.

If you want a solid Tuscan wine, look at Nobile di Montalpulciano. You'll spend less than a Brunello and get a different kind of experience than a Chianti. On this particular occasion, I paid $24 for a half bottle through room service at the Four Seasons, however, this wine can be found in the store for about $20 for a standard 750 mL bottle. Raise a glass of Tuscan sun!

Wine Review: Tamellini Soave Superiore 2003 (NW)

Light, crisp nose of citrus
Very soft and light on the palate
Good finish

What a nice food wine! This is a crisp wine with a good backbone of acidity and will go well with a variety of food. I paid $8 for a glass of this at a good Italian restaurant in Boston. The list of white Italian wines by the glass was extensive and I wanted to try a Soave. I haven't yet made it a point to shop for Soave in the local wine stores, so I'll make that a project for next Spring. I think of it as an alternative to Pinot Grigio (great for me because I'm not a big fan of Pinot Grigio). Soave can be an interesting wine and I'm looking forward to discovering more about it. Raise a glass!

Wine Review: Castle Rock Carneros Pinot Noir 2004 (NW)

Nose doesn't reveal much
Nice burst of soft fruit and milk chocolate on the palate
Clean finish

Bargain Pinot Noir can be tough to find. As a rule of thumb, it's a slightly more difficult grape to work with and, therefore, often more expensive than comparable bottlings of other major varietals. However, this is changing somewhat as more producers work with Pinot Noir along with their other reds.

This wine was $12, which is a decent price. It doesn't have all the mystery and excitement of a great Pinot Noir, but it's at least representative of the varietal and easy on the wallet. The funny thing about this wine is that it doesn't reveal much on the nose. I swirled and sniffed as much as possible but it seemed kind of flat. Then, after taking a sip, I was surprised at all of the flavor on the palate. It is very smooth, with a nice fruity quality and a layer of milk chocolate. This is the exact opposite of a lot of wines that are produced in the modern style. I often find that modern-style wines have a great nose then disappear on the palate with very little finish.

I recommend this wine as an inexpensive Pinot Noir, but not if you're looking for something exotic or exciting. For that, you'll probably have to spend a lot more money. Raise a glass!

Thanksgiving & The Wine Cask Blog

As you do your last minute shopping for that perfect bottle of after-the-turkey-and-pie Muscat or a nice pre-dinner sparkler, remember to check the Recommendations page of TWCB (The Wine Cask Blog) HERE.

You can point your Blackberry or other hand held browser to this page for a quick glance while you're in the store!

Then, let us know what you had and how you liked it!

Happy Thanksgiving Holiday

Monday, November 21, 2005

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2001 [Real time review] (PB)

Okay, honestly, slap me and tell me to shut up but I have to rave yet again about this wine VALUE, spell that–V-A-L-U-E wine and here’s why. Yes, we have reviewed this wine previously, but as previously noted, we do routinely re-review wines because, uh...because we can and we like to see if our re-reviews are consistent with our past reviews among other things. But here’s the deal–I have a whopping cold and the flu to boot! I said to myself, “Self! You are NOT going to review anything because you know how awful your olfactory abilities are and are compromised with a raging rhinorrhea.”

Yes, that’s the way I talk to myself because in my past life I was a heavily inundated medically educated individual and the penchant for all things physiological are still extant. Sorry–in laymen’s terms; my smeller sucks at the moment and my mouth is so messed up with viral crud I shouldn’t be able to taste anything at all. But that’s why I HAD to review this wine in my dismal state of health.

Even with all this going on, this wine is absolutely stellar! I can’t believe it. I am slapping myself right now to make sure I am truly conscious because this wine which I am sipping at the moment is just, Oh man, GOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!! Even with an impaired taster this wine is bursting with fresh berries and chocolate. And here’s the other thing; my mouth is painfully infected with sores--I knew you'd want to know that--and yet this wine is so stinking well made and balanced while it should be causing me to scream–-alcohol tends to do that to mouth sores–-this wine is soothing! I’m serious! Sheeeeeeeesh, this is such a good wine why are you NOT running out to buy it while you can? This wine is all of $11, $10 some places so what are you waiting for? Run, Forest Run! And then pop that cork and raise a glass to the avian flu while you’re perched on a branch somewhere gnawing a cuttle bone. I am sure this wine is even a great accompaniment to bird seed, now Go, Go RAISE a GLASS will you?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wine Review: Amon-Ra Barossa Valley Unfiltered Shiraz 2004 (NW)

Intense and beautiful deep, dark color
Nice bouquet of berries, cherry, and currant
Layers of silk on the palate
Finish goes on and on with more fruit, almond butter, and vanilla

I was in the mood for a ripe, fruity wine and this one delivered! It's so beautiful in the glass, though, you'll just want to look at it for a while. This is the kind of wine that can stain your finger tips instantly. When you do get around to tasting it, the silky layers go on forever. Our house guest brought this wine for dinner and we had a terrific pairing with pork tenderloin.

I decanted this wine because the label read "unfiltered" and I was unsure of how much sediment was present. Actually there was none, so the decanting may have helped open the wine up a little but was mostly just ceremonial.

This wine is a fairly small production from Barossa Valley grapes and is crafted by Ben Glaetzer, who is a passionate wine maker responsible for other outstanding Australian wines. After composing my notes, I looked up some reviews and this wine scores big points with the critics, especially Robert Parker, Jr. If you are looking for a top-notch Shiraz, this is a nice choice. It is expensive for Shiraz, at approximatley $65, but will be much more expensive in a few years as it joins the big leagues of highly-prized, small-production Barossa Valley Shiraz. Raise a glass!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wine Review: Magnificent Wine Company House Wine 2003 (NW)

Fragrant nose
Strawberry and raspberry on the palate
A dark, woody layer
Nice finish with moderate tannis

There is a lot of great wine from the Columbia Valley in Washington and this is no exception. It's an interesting blend of grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. This is close to a Bordeaux-style blend, but not quite due to the Syrah. It has good texture and nice overall flavors. Don't let the label fool you- it looks like a home-made label with "House Wine" in huge black-on-white lettering. I paid $10 for the wine on sale, reduced from $12. Raise a glass!

Thanksgiving and Wine Demystified (PB)

The day of the feast is just around the corner and if you didn’t know by now, the old rule about white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat is passe. I have seen recommendations from the “experts” ranging from Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc to Dry Riesling which only underscores the foundation of all gastronomic pursuits where it all comes down to what YOU like. But that being said, there are certain considerations in pairing wine with a dinner as diverse of flavors like the Thanksgiving spread.

Think about it; you have the subtle flavors and aromas of your green bean casseroles, turnips and mashed potatoes, but then you have the pungent spices of a great giblet dressing, and the somewhat challenging flavors of the various types of cranberry relishes, sauces, salads.

So what wine goes with it all? In my opinion, nothing goes with everything really well (except possibly a good sparkling wine). On top of that you have the additional factors of styles of wine made from the same grape. All Cabernets are not made alike; all Riesling are not made alike, etc. So just grabbing a wine because it’s made from a particular grape can be disappointing.

I find the most difficult element in the dinner is the cranberry sauce. Take a bite of such a relish, then sip a Cab or Zin or Pinot Noir and you’re likely to get a rather yucky, bitter taste in your mouth with an accompanying mouth feel that says, Eww! What to do?

It’s pretty simple really. Select a couple wines you know you like. Give yourself some variety; a Pinot Noir and a dry Riesling will give you some diversity. If you don’t like the one with what you’re eating, go to the other one. What I find is that usually nearly everything on my table will go with a particular wine like a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir for example–everything except the cranberry sauce! So, just don’t follow a bite of cranberries with a slosh of wine! Take some potatoes and gravy first and then enjoy the nice cleansing acid of the wine and nice fruit to follow. Pretty profound huh?

Whatever you do this Thanksgiving spend a little more on the wine you buy. Why demean such a work of love as the Thanksgiving feast with inferior wine? And finally, remember that we will all be sitting down to tables over flowing with food and most of us will eat so much we will hurt. Many in the world do not enjoy such bounty and while we are gathered with loved ones, our troops are fighting a war so that we may eat without fear of harm. Give thanks to the One who has smiled on our undertakings. Then, raise a glass!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wine Review: Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2005 (NW)

Beautiful color- a light purple that almost sparkles
Wonderful nose of fresh strawberries and raisins
Smooth on the palate, but with a chalky and dry finish

I hope this is representative of the 2005 harvest because it's the best Beaujolias Nouveau I've ever had. The wine looks and smells terrific, although the chalky finish is a little bit drying in the mouth. It really shouldn't be over-analyzed, though, so I'm going to enjoy it for what it is. Beaujolias Nouveau is a fun wine for pure enjoyment and the celebration of the new harvest. By the way, I paid $10 for the pleasure of drinking this wine on the day of release. Raise a glass!

The Beaujolais Nouveau Phenomenon (NW)

The Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon continues! I am amazed to think that just a few weeks ago, this wine was a cluster of grapes on a vine. In very short order, these grapes were pressed, fermented, racked, filtered, and sold.

At one minute past midnight on the third Thursday of each November, over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey out of tiny villages in France to all corners of the world. Announcements proclaim the good news: "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!" According to one French wine industry observer "one of the most frivolous and animated rituals in the wine world has begun!"

By the time it's over, approximately 70 million bottles will be distributed and drunk around the world. It has become an exciting tradition worldwide to celebrate this first new wine of the harvest. No matter where you live, you're bound to find some Beaujolias Nouveau on the shelves between now and the end of the year. When you do, buy some and drink it right away. This wine is not meant to linger on the kitchen counter and certainly not meant to age in the cellar. It is intended for immediately enjoyment and should be celebrated as "nouveau". Raise a glass!

Beaujolais Nouveau Day! A Review of the Joseph Drouhin 2005 Offering by (billy)

Chill. Pop. Pour. Drink. Wow. Fascinating wine.

Now. I've got to admit. I am NOT a big fan of Beaujolais. I tend to prefer the more structured wines. But Beaujolais Nouveau day is a fun one to put aside the bias and uncork a bottle or two and just enjoy wine for wine's sake. It is amazing how much I can enjoy this bottle when I chuck my expectations and simply enjoy the beverage.

So here is the deal. We're eating some cheese (nothing pretentious), some left over crackers, chips, and whatever else we have here (including marshmallows). For me, eating is essential when enjoying this kind of wine.

This bottle of Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Noveau was 11.99 at the local supermarket wine store. This market "Byerly's" is usually a touch pricier than the local liquor-mart but they have a knowledgable staff that is unafraid to make recommendations to help you out. They also have a fantastic bi-annual wine sale where my wife has to restrain me for want of filling the cellar! I frequent there a lot and have found some gems.

It pours almost strawberry in color with a lucidity that is characteristic of the style and the gamay grape. I didn't bother with trying to find a nose here, this is a wine for drinking, not for sniffing and snorting! In the mouth it is spritely and light with little complexity but some peppery heat. If you like "wine" flavored wine and not something overwrought with berries, leather, casis and smoke, this is the wine for you! All in all this is a simply wonderful BN that really supports the proposition that 2005 was a banner year for Nouveau.

Pick up a bottle or three of the Joseph Drouhin 2005 for Thanksgiving (for those of you in the States) and be sure to drink it by then! Better yet, Get a bottle of this, the Georges Duboeuf 2005 that (PB) recommends, and whatever (NW) pulls out of his brown paper bag and have a festival of wine. Remember to give thanks for 2005, a simply wonderful year for Nouveau.

If you are in the State of Minnesota, check out this site from the Wine Company for a list of stores that carry the Joseph Drouhin 2005.

Raise a glass to the new 2005 Nouveaus!

Beaujolais Nouveau-- Georges Duboeuf 2005 review by (PB)

Well here it is! The festive celebration of the arrival of this quaffing wine at its simple best.
Imagine you are sitting in your villa somewhere in southern Burgundy, an onion tart (it has a fancy- shmancy name in French) is placed in front of you and you want, some wine of course. It is a normal day; you got up, you went to work, you come home and you just want to eat and relax. You’re not going to be served a Grand Cru Bordeaux or an Hermitage. What is poured is an everyday “table wine” that the normal people drink–normally. That’s Beaujolais Nouveau. (If you missed it, read the preceding entry...)

Okay, now for the good news, First–Just SHUT UP and grab yourself a bottle of this fun beverage. Put a good chill on it and remember you are not tasting this like you would another seriously crafted wine. You are just going to slosh this back with whatever it is you’re eating and you’re going to enjoy it! This is the BEST Nouveau I have had in years!!!

It is a rather deep purple in the glass–much deeper than past years–and the bouquet is actually full of fruit and even some character for Pete’s sake! (Who is “Pete” anyway???) In the mouth there are fruity tastes–not complex mind you–but simple guzzling, all purpose wine. And EUREKA–there is even some honest to goodness structure to this wine! This IS a good year for Nouveau. And remember, there are numerous reliable producers. Try them all by raising a glass ot three! By the way, not that it matters, I paid $10 for it...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It’s Beaujolais Nouveau time! (PB)

Thursday, Nov. 17, is the famous day of the release of the traditional Beaujolais Nouveau. With 70 million bottles going out worldwide, it appears everywhere. Prices tend to range anywhere from $8 -$11 usually and is guzzling wine at its simple, best.

There is nothing complicated about the Gamay grape which is harvested by hand–a requirement fixed by law. In a good year, this wine, made in the southern Burgundy region of France is luscious, fruity and a beverage to chill and serve up with a broad variety of food stuffs.

Production of this wine takes no more than 6 weeks and is made to drink as soon as it arrives. This is not a wine to keep around and in fact it will be “shot” typically within a year of its release which is always on the third Thursday of November marking the beginning of the holiday season.

To be honest, for the last four or five years I have not had a Beaujolais Nouveau I have truly enjoyed but the predictions for this harvest are supposedly great. So give it a shot; bring home a bottle, throw it in the fridge for an hour and try it out. If you find one you really like, let us know about it! Raise a glass!

Wine Review: Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (NW)

Nice fragrant nose of dark berries
Smooth and full-bodied on the palate
Lengthy finish, revealing more layers of flavor

2001 was generally a good year for California Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is no exception, as it delivers what I consider to be very classic Cab qualities. It is well-structured and well-made. At a recent business dinner, we drank every last bottle of this wine at a big, well-stocked steakhouse. I don't know the exact count, but it was more than a case. (Our group numbered about 18). The thing is, this wine is not cheap. The restaurant charged $100 per bottle. As a point of reference, I often see it in stores for around $40. More than 100% markup is not a good thing; fortunately, I was not picking up the bill.

If you're on the lookout for a classic American Cab, this is a good bet from the 2001 vintage. Raise a glass!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Castle Rock Sauvignon Blanc Lake County 2004 review by (PB)

My first impression of this wine is “Wow!” The bouquet given off by this Lake County creation is nice S. Blanc grassiness with a beautiful overtone of soap. That may sound dubious but it is really nice!

In the mouth this wine has a creamy texture with a solid acid base to give it some backbone. Good flavors of citrus, apricots and pineapple are forefront. Finish is again creamy and fruity to round it out. At $12 I will raise a glass!

Covey Run Riesling 2004 Wine Review (billy)

Well (PB) and (NW) have posted their $.02 on this $7.50 bottle so I figured I should write up my wine review of this Riesling as well. And am I ever glad I did!

Rich grapefruit on the nose with vanilla tones and a floral softness
Palate: sweeping sweet on first taste but then tapering to more of a dry texture. Peaches and dried apricot flavors on the back of the tongue and noticeably so.
Finish is crisp and very slightly tannic but not overly so.

This is a fantastically fruity Riesling especially for the price point. You’ll be hard pressed to find another Riesling of this quality for even 30 or 40 dollars more. The big fruit and the complex sweet-dry continuum that is present makes this a fun wine to drink. It is complex enough to keep the skilled wine taster interested and drinkable enough to keep the others of us asking for another glass and commenting on the quality of the host to provide such a fine fare. Of course, the host need not share the bargain basement pricing on this wine. That is a secret that lets us keep stocking up while still impressing guests and not breaking the kids’ college funds.

Raise a Glass to Economic Wine Enjoyment.

See (NW)'s wine review here

See (PB)'s wine review here

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gallo of Sonoma Pinot Noir Reserve 2003 review by (PB)

This is a classic example of the varietal which everyone can afford. On opening this pale red wine has a beautiful fruity and baked bread bouquet with a classic Pinot, slightly stinky nose. Ironically, this “stink” is desirable and trademark of the grape. The wine is nice even on opening with a minerally yet subtle flavor that is rather non-descript but pleasant. It all sits on a nicely balanced frame.

With some breathing–just a few minutes–this wine is friendly, easy, and a nice, inexpensive Pinot Noir. I paid $10 for this which makes it a great value and will make the recommended wines list!

Now for a situation–the wine spectator web site gives this wine a 77 and yet the reason I picked it up in the first place is because it was a Wine Spectator “best Value rating it an 89 via there web subscription. Confusing? Yes! But not about this wine. It IS a GREAT value as I have paid three times this for a “nice” burgundy that was not up to the caliber of this wine. Raise a glass!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Montpezat “Palombieres” 2003 review by (PB)

On opening this Coteaux Du Languedoc–made of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvedre is a pretty garnet with a faint but gorgeous cherry Life-savers bouquet. On the swirl, the nose is stingy with a steely aroma and much else.

Right after opening, this wine is a tad bitter, a tad hot and dry as dust. All elements of this wine are muted–it needs to be decanted.

With considerable breathing the bouquet and nose both open up some with nuanced aromas of chocolate, cherries, black cherry fruit. In the mouth everything is much nicer in general with a subtle layer of vanilla, though it is still a bit harsh. This is a classic “old world” creation. As it breathes, the chocolate layer just keeps growing and the harsh presentation tones down considerably.

The key to this wine is to decant it a good two hours a head of serving.

Don’t confuse this wine with the other Montpezat I reviewed on October 5th. I actually liked tho other one–not the “Palombieres” designation–better and it was a couple dollars cheaper than the $15 I paid for this one. But the Palombieres is interesting and fine example of Old World craftsmenship. Raise a glass!

Red Bicyclette 2004 Syrah Review (billy)

I don't remember how much I paid for this bottle but I hope it was under 10 dollars.
Eyes: lighter than a typical Syrah
Nose: nice nose. Not overly fruity but balanced with black pepper, plums and hints of maraschino cherries.
Palate: I just opened this bottle so it is quite tannic but this will dissipate with about half an hour or so of air. Still there are nice black cherries and blueberry flavors that comingle with a touch of heat.
Finish:soft and unassuming but also a bit on the weak side. Green grape stem flavor at the end of the finish. I'm interested in what this will do with a bit of air time. We'll see....

After about 2 hours of breathing the tannins have softened considerably leaving only a touch of acid noticeable. This is the syrah equivalent of a light beer. This makes the Red Bicyclette 2004 Syrah a not overly complex wine or even a very good representative of the varietal. Still what it loses in sophistication, it gains in drinkability and mass appeal. This is definitely a decent wine for entertaining or drinking when you just want something to drink rather than something to taste or consider.

While I reviewed the 2004 vintage here, PB, below reviewed the 2003 and found it hot and "minerally" and not the most pleasant. The 2004 does not have those characteristics so, if you're buying now for Thanksgiving and want a low price French Syrah for your casually inclined guests, this could definitely fit the bill.

If you can get it for under $10 a bottle, grab one or two and save them for the next time you have guests. Otherwise look for something a bit more typical of a Syrah. Either way, remember to Raise a Glass!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Colombelle 2003 review by (PB)

This very inexpensive white of the Vin De Pays Cotes De Gascogne is powerful on the nose of lemon and something else I can’t quite nail down. It is made from the Colombard (remember cheap white jug wines of days gone by?) and the Ugni grapes.

This shows you what skill can do with a routine grape! In the mouth it is tart but not distractingly so with a blast of lemon cream—nice. All things are fleeting in this wine but at this price ($7) it is a nice value in fact making the Wine Spectator “Best Buy” rating. Upon swallowing, there is another very fleeting but fun blast of just picked, non-fermented grape juice but blink, and it’s gone. At this price, raise a glass!

Pio Cesare Barolo 1998 Review by (PB)

Another quick jaunt down to visit (NW) and my daughter which always means the wine will be flowing. We started out with a Columbelle (previous review post) and moved to this wonderful wine of the Piedmont which is near Alba, Italy. (Note—Barolos are notoriously pricey; this one was in the $60 range) On the pour it is a little lighter in color than I would have thought but there was an immediate cloud of splendor filling the air of the kitchen. It was floral, with a candied bouquet of cherries that was just mouth watering.

It was a bit hot on opening but this kind of wine needs to be decanted which we did constraining ourselves from drinking it away. With some air—oh the torture of temptation—there are numerous layers; licorice, cocoa powder, and something underneath that I was never able to put my finger—or tongue—on. But it was awesome!

With yet some more time to breath, a hint of bananas and more licorice and chocolate just kept popping up as each layer came and went and returned again. Served with Osso Buco it was splendid! I want to raise a glass—but it’s gone.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Rosemount Grenache/Shiraz 2003 (NW)

Lightly fruity and peppery on the nose
Soft and velvet-like on the palate
Peppery finish

In order to get a jump start on the evening, we opened this wine with some friends prior to getting settled in for dinner. We were surprised by how peppery the wine was not knowing what to expect from it. The wine is a blend of two grapes commonly used in the Southern Rhone Region of France. I often see wines copying this style but using Mouvedre in addition to Grenache and Syrah (Shiraz). This three-grape blend is becoming more popular with wine makers all over the world and I often see GSM on labels. However, no Mouvedre in this wine and the Grenache and Shiraz used in this bottling are intended to produce a value wine with some character. Known for their Shiraz, Rosemount is making more and more blends. If they keep their prices down, I think they'll have some winners in the inexpensive category. This wine was just $7/bottle. Raise a glass!

Covey Run Riesling 2004 (NW)

Nice nose of apricot and peach
Lightly sweet and simple palate, but sturdy
Good, clean finish

This is a good value wine. PB and Billy of this blog discovered this wine for just $7 and bought a few bottles. They were sitting on the kitchen counter for a few days in plain view when we were all together, so we had to finally open and sample one. It seems to be a really well-made wine that is versatile and has the potential to pair well with food. However, by the time we poured a tasting for the whole group, the bottle was gone before the first appetizer. By the way, this wine gets a whopping 89 points from Wine Spectator. Truly a great value at $7, so raise a glass!

Carlo Giacosa Barbaresco Montefino 2000 (NW)

Plum and raspberry on the nose
Layers of exotic spices, smoke, and earth
Medium finish

We had a rustic cassoulet in the oven and needed an earthy, old-world style wine to match. This Barbaresco did the trick and proved to be a nice pairing with the dish. I always admire how old-world style wines, such as this Italian red, pair well with food. When I say old-world style, I mean well-structured and not overly ripe and fruity. This particular wine is a good representation of Barbaresco, although pricey. Our friends paid $40 for the bottle. It's good to have friends! Raise a glass!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

David Bruce vs Bogle Petite Sirah 2003's Head to Head Wine Review (billy)

I reviewed these head to head this evening. Thanks go out to my local wine store assistant who graciously gave me 1/2 off my second bottle even though she should not have. I bought 2 different bottles of 2003 California Petite Sirah and reviewed them both here for you. Analysis of each, independently is provided and then a summary of the comparison is at the end.

$23 David Bruce 2003 Petite Sirah
Nose: hearty chocolate, jammy plumbs and cracked black pepper. Fruit is noticeable and there are hints of maraschino cherries
Palate: strong tannins at the front with a bit stronger acid at the back. Cherries are front in the mouth.
Finish: not much of an initial finish but quite an apparent “grape stem” flavor is left over (think of what chewing a grape stem tastes like after you eat a green grape

This is not the best value for the money. For much less than 22 you can get a decent Petite Sirah and for about the same you can get a much better one (see the EOS review below)

$11 (down to $5.50 on sale) Bogle 2003 Petite Sirah
Nose: earth and leather with deep dark black cherries. Nearly a Port kind of nose.
Palate: Not nearly as tannic as the DB above, but still a bit acidic near the back of the palate. Massive fruit though. Dark berries and big cherry flavor
Finish: the finish is of medium length and there is a touch of the green stem

Overall for the one time sale price of 5.50 this can't be beat on value. Unfortunately, this deal was brought entirely by the fact that the extremely kind and definitely knowledgeable sales person behind the counter was willing to give me a one time deal.

Head to Head
These wines are studies in how the same varietal from the same year from the same state in the USA (California) can be so different. The David Bruce 2003 Petite Sirah is muted in an attempt at sophistication. It comes off as the wine that tries to be “the expensive one”. It has a hearty complexity that smacks of pretentiousness without ever achieving the desired sophistication. For the money, go with the EOS. The Bogle 2003 Petite Sirah, on the other hand, is more drinkable. The fruit-forward styling makes it easily paired with meals and a decent dinner wine. It is not pretentious and does not try to be. This, I think is the primary differentiator between the two Petite Sirahs reviewed here.

In the final analysis, the David Bruce overreaches and the Bogle meets expectations. If you want to spend the money of a David Bruce, reach instead for the EOS or save a bit and get the Bogle if your wallet demands.

Either way, Raise a Glass!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

EOS 2000 Reserve:Petite Sirah Review (billy)

I paid $22 for this bottle and what a great find!

deep plumb in the glass
big nose. Chocolate, jam, plumb, wet earth, pepper and mint
Palate: big berries, excellent balance with a nearly velvety softness.
Finish: lingering but not long, Vanilla and greens remain after the wine is gone to remind you to ask for another glass.

This is a fantastic wine that is peaking right now. At $22 it is a nice “treat” wine. Buy one to share with someone special. This is a fantastic wine to taste. If you are newer to wine tasting or seeking to educate your palate, this is the wine on which you should splurge. The fruit is forward and noticeable but the more complex flavors are still able to be noted (with some effort for a new palate). All in all the EOS 2000 Reserve Petite Sirah is a very nice “special occasion” wine, a fantastic “learn how to taste it” wine, and a wonderful treat.

For NW’s wine review see this post

For PB’s wine review see this post

Monday, November 07, 2005

Kempton Clark Petite Syrah 2001 (NW)

Raspberry and baked bread on the nose
Juicy palate with a fruity and peppery quality
Very strong tannins at first, then tapering

Finding inexpensive Petite Syrah is a real treat (especially when it tastes good). This wine surprised and pleased the group. It has nice juicy fruit and a little pepper which reminded me of Malbec. Overall, it seems to be a well-made wine and is priced well, too. We paid $8 for the bottle.

I recommend looking for Petite Syrah when you want something a little different. I'm not an expert on this varietal, but have had quite a few lately that have all been enjoyable. In wine stores, you might have to search for it a little bit and it's often in a category like "other reds". Of course, you could just ask and most shop attendants would be happy to point you in the right direction. If you find a bargain, grab a few and raise a glass!

Concha Y Toro Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (NW)

Dark ink color
Chocolate and dark berries on the nose
Currant and a hint of licorice on the palate
Good finish with noticeable tannins

I've always found this to be a dark and dense wine with strong berry flavors. If you're looking for a good representative Chilean Cabernet, this is it. It has the inky color that can stain your fingers and enough backbone to stand up to food.

This was plucked from the cellar at PB's (of this wine blog) and enjoyed with a veal dish. He happened to have several bottles of 2001 left in his stash. In the store right now, you might find the 2002 or 2003 on the shelves. If so, don't hesitate as they're both even better than the 2001. I generally see this wine priced at $14-16. Raise a glass!

Red Bicyclette Syrah 2003 review (PB)

This French Vin De Pays has a nice--though a tad lighter--color than a typical Syrah though the bouquet on opening is bright cherries even if faint. In the mouth, it is weak, steely, or minerally and “hot.”

This wine needs to be breathed about 45 minutes. The bouquet opens up to a nice berry rich fruit-filled bouquet with hints of chocolate. In the mouth there is chocolate and dark berries with chewy tannins though a bit thin all the way around and still hot.

I remember thinking to myself I might pick up a bottle of this if I see it but I can’t remember why. At any rate, at $9, it is a change from the typical fruit forward-taste-alike-new world wines that get boring. There’s better out there for the price but all in all, this French offering isn’t bad. (Wine Spectator gives it a generous 85)

On a side note, France is going through a traumatic reevaluation of their whole wine industry and place in the world. They are now planning to convert much of their excess wine into alcohol for adding to gasoline. Why do they have so much excess wine? Simply–because of their politics.

American purchase of French wine since 9-11 is way down and although France is trying to beef up their reputation and status by labeling their wines differently (by putting the grape type on the label for example) I am not sure they understand the real issues responsible for their dismal sale of wine in the United States. Until they do, tweaking their labels is like putting lipstick on a gorilla; I’m still not going to kiss one... Raise a glass!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 review by (PB)

This is a previously reviewed wine but by way of reminder–I review every wine I have no matter how many times I have it. This helps me to track aging considerations as well as what is called “bottle variation.” (Bottle variation is the difference between two bottles of the same wine and vintage. It happens; and I’m not talking about a "corked" or bad bottle. You can have two bottles of the same wine and they can both be in good shape but have some significant differences.)

At any rate, this wine is rich with deep, berry laden aromas with a hint of vegetal scents. The nose is ripe, and jammy and sits well in the mouth. Chocolate is big initially but fades with air and big juicy, ripe black berries remain. It finishes a little green and the tannins are bit stern but probably just needs more air.

This was a Wine Spectator rated wine at 89 points! It’s another beaut. from the folks at this Washington State winery who just have trouble, it seems, producing a bad wine! Their lower level “Two Vines” series are routine “Best Value” selections and the $7 Two Vines Shiraz scored a 90 from the Wine Spectator. And their Grand Estates Merlot 2001 is a Wine Spectator 90 point bargain. That’s just nuts! But it’s an example of the habitual quality and value of this winery.

Their Gewurztraminer–though not up to par (yet) with the quality of their reds, is a Summer favorite of mine. Great things are coming out of Washington State and Columbia Crest is leading the way. Raise a glass!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc 2004 review (PB)

This Sonoma offering is straw colored in the glass with generous fragrances of pineapple, mandarin oranges and the classic Fume Blanc ( also known as Sauvignon Blanc) “grassy” aroma.

In the mouth this wine is supple with nice mouth feel and big pineapple and quince flavors. It is really well made with a nice balance of everything in the wine. To top it off, right before the finish there is a Creamsicle finish that is just plain classy.

I paid $12.50 for this value wine at Sam’s Club though you will pay around $15 for it elsewhere. Either way it is worth it! Wine Spectator gives this wine a deserved 91 points. So quit procrastinating, quit reading, and go buy a half case of this at least! THEN, and only then, raise a, raise several glasses!

Sparkling Shiraz McLaren Vale Burgundy Vixen NV review (PB)

(In case you were wondering, NV means “NON-Vintage” meaning it was not necessarily made from grapes of a particular year’s harvest…)

At any rate, sitting around earlier in the Summer I was reading my Bon Appetite, Food and Wine and Gourmet mags and it seemed that this sparkling Shiraz—which I had never heard of—starting popping up all over in articles. I was curious and had to find one. I did, paying $20 for and having to drive an hour to find it. Ah, but what a surprise!

This sparkler is gorgeous in the glass with great bubbles and nice intense color. Better still, is that it actually tastes like Shiraz! It was fresh, with nice berry flavors and kept its life through out the finishing of the bottle. This was my first experience with such a wine and it won’t be my last! Wine Spectator gave this wine an 88! You really ought to raise a glass it’s nice and different!

Friday, November 04, 2005

EOS Reserve Petite Syrah 2000 (NW)

Great nose of soft fruit and milk chocolate
Prominent strawberry
Very silky on the palate
Long finish

This is a very nice wine from Paso Robles, CA. I've enjoyed a number of wines from this region and think this is one of the best Petite Syrah's I've ever had. It is oh-so-smooth, that the texture alone makes it enjoyable. If you haven't discovered this varietal, start looking for it. It probably won't be an every day wine because it's typically a smaller production wine that costs a little bit more. I bought this bottle with Billy of this blog while we were visiting PB and we paid $22. They had enjoyed the same wine just two nights earlier before I arrived in Maine, so it came highly recommended. Raise a glass!

Cline Ancient Vines Carignane 2003 (NW)

Nice nose, somewhat soft and fruity
Peppery and veggie on the palate
Dark chocolate and some smoke on the finish

This is a fun wine! Not only is it a unique varietal, it has some interesting layers. I was with Billy of this blog and we picked this up on whim. We were visiting PB of this blog and wanted a varietal wine that is a little different. Cline does a such a nice job with Zinfandel, we figured we'd try this.

I was impressed with all the interesting layers and would buy this again if I could find it. Although, it doesn't seem to be widely distributed. The grape has traditionally been used as a blending grape in Europe, but is now taking on a following as various vitners in the new world, including U.S. and South America, are working with it on a regular basis. Billy bought this wine with me at a small, out-of-the way liquor store in Maine and paid $15. Raise a glass and try a Carignane!

Kakhetian Wines Kindzmaraul 1996 (NW) [Real Time Review]

Alcohol on the nose, but with some air a sweet cherry bouquet emerges
Sweet cherry and plum on the palate
Silky smooth, but also sweet and heavy

This is an unusual wine! It is from the Republic of Georgia, which is one of the regions credited for developing the tradition of wine making around 3,000 B.C. The wine is made from the Saperavi grape varietal, according to the label, and has been aged in oak barrels for at least three years.

Although only 11% alcohol, I would say this wine has some characteristics of fortified wine and some characteristics of dessert wine. Overall, though, it is somewhere in between dry table wine and a dessert wine. It is thicker than dry table wine but not syrup-like or ultra heavy. I don't quite know how to describe it, but it's fun to try to figure it out.

The packaging is interesting, as the wine is bottled in a brown ceramic bottle with a heavy, clay feel to it and a matte finish. The label is also ceramic in feel and pressed into a notch on the front of the bottle.

Four of us are now tasting the wine and have decided to put it aside during dinner and see how it measures up to dessert. Our friends paid $14 for the bottle, and yes, it is a 750 mL. size. Raise a glass, and be adventurous!

Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris 2004 (NW)

Very big nose, surprising for it's light color
Floral and honey nose
Layers of citrus kick in on the palate

Excellent wine! I was excited for this wine because I have heard so much about Oregon Pinot Gris but felt like I wasn't well versed in this category. This wine seems to be a good representation, with a light and crisp feel but full of flavor. I won't be seeking out a lot of crisp whites this winter in Massachusetts, but next spring I'll be looking for Oregon Pinot Gris. Our friends and house guests for the weekend brought this bottle from New York. They paid $15 for the bottle. A nice buy! Raise a glass!

Beaulieu Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (NW)

Black cherry and dark berries on the nose and palate
An earthy quality as well
Moderate tannins and good backbone

I like this wine. I bought just a half bottle to put it in a wine flight with my wife. This was not her favorite, but it was my favorite of the flight that included Buena Vista Carneros Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 and Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2001. I liked it because it has an earthy quality in addition to the fruit. This makes it seems more elegant and capable of food pairng than many of the big, fruit-forward, and jammy Cabs from California. In other words, it's almost more of an "old-world" style than and "new-world" style. I paid $10 for the half bottle. Raise a glass of Rutherforld!

Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel 2003 re-review (PB)

This value wine is still available even though the 2004’s are also in circulation and the 2004’s are even a little better and the same price! This wine—which we had with a moose chili—living in Maine does offer some out of the ordinary culinary opportunities—is just flat out rich, pure blackberry fruit with that classic Zinfandel zing of spice.

This wine is at its peak right now so don’t shelve it too long. A great lesson in wine would be to open the 03 and the 04 and taste them side-by-side. This is a super way to learn about the nuances of wine in general. So raise a glass of this bargain red.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Raylen Category 5-- Review (PB)

This was a wine I picked up at the Charlotte, N.C. airport tasting bar on a layover coming home from Los Angeles several weeks back. Raylen sits in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina where numerous wineries have been producing varietals and blends for years. I blogged about this tasting bar which Gaiter and Brecher of the Wall street Journal also wrote up in the late Spring. It is worth a stop over if you're in the airport!

This was an $18 wine that showed much better for this review than it tasted at the airport.

It has a nice dark color with a big nose of dark fruit and a hint of green pepper in the bouquet which is actually pleasant. (Normally, I find green pepper aromas too overwhelming and rather annoying.) And finally a layer of cherry fragrance in this fruit forward offering. It is a blend of five grapes--Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Petite Verdot.

In the mouth it is full bodied with a nice chocolate layer with decent structure and rich berry fruit. It is actually quite nice even on opening. With some air, it is full with raisins and ripe fruit. This is a well made wine which exceeded my expectations. Now I’m sorry I only bought one bottle. For this price, it is a solid value so raise a glass.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Review (PB)

I tried this wine earlier in the Summer when I found it in a half bottle for $11.00. I was not impressed with it even though Wine Spectator gave it an 87 I believe. I found it in a full bottle a couple weeks ago for $12 for twice the amount of wine as in the half bottle.

This wine is straw colored with a very nice S. Blanc bouquet of grass, grapefruit and citrus. Quince and Lychee are prominent on the nose... Okay, I lied about the quince and Lychee; I’ve never even seen a Lychee fruit whatever it is and I have had a quince recently it was just sort of a plain sour piece of pithy stuff.

Anyway, this is a nice fragrant wine that impresses on the palate as a classic Sauvignon Blanc with good acid and flavors that balance out well on the whole. It stands up well to greasy, fatty foods making it an easy pairing with lots of menus. I liked it so raise a glass!