Monday, February 27, 2006

New World Syrah 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Plum, chocolate and coffee and the nose
Nutty flavors on the palate
Juicy finish

This is a South African Syrah which is made in a modern style that is fruity and juicy. What is interesting is that other delicious layers emerge, too, including some chocolate, coffee and nuts. I was surprised at the abundant flavors in this wine, not expecting much from a catchy label from South Africa. The wine cost $9 and is not a bad alternative to the under-$10 Australian Shiraz that every seems to be reaching for these days. Raise a glass!

Alamos Bonarda 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Jammy nose
Smooth palate with black currant flavors
Silky finish

After a bottle of beer on Superbowl Sunday, I turned to this wine to accompany several appetizers emerging from the kitchen. Other wines were opened and more small dishes appeared from the kitchen, making this Superbowl more of an epicurean celebration than a football game.

The wine is unique and tasty. If you're looking to try new varietals, grab this. It costs $9 and is a consistent offering from Mendoza, Argentina. It has some of the dense flavors typical of South American reds, but a slightly different finish that is silky and smooth.

I've seen this wine all over the country. Wherever you live, take a look for it next time you have a chance. And raise a glass!

Brolio Chianti Classico 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Black cherry and tobacco on the nose
Earthy mid-palate
A touch of cocoa on the finish

What a nice Chianti for that big, fun Italian meal! If you are preparing for just that type of evening, consider this wine. It's a notch above the average liquor store or grocery store selection and it's priced a bit higher, too, at $19. As a result, it's not a tremendous value but it's still worth considering. Raise a glass!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chateau Plo Du Roy 2000 wine review by (PB)

This gorgeous red-to-the-rim beauty comes from the extreme South-East corner of France called Minervois. The primary grapes of this region are Grenache, Syrah Noir and Carignan giving these wines a juicy overall tone. Some of the best wine bargains are coming out of this little known region (relatively speaking).

Even at 6 years old this wine is youthful right to the rim of the glass with an astounding first blast of cinnamon on opening with dark berry aromas.

In the mouth, this wine is loaded with black pepper, full and zesty. This is a wonderfully made wine with all things being just about perfect in harmony. On swallowing there is a meaty backbone with tannins that are still bold yet balanced. At $22, this is another wine value from this appellation but I have also had other Minervois wines for half the price and have not been disappointed. It plowed through our grilled rib-eyes yet allowed even the delicate flavors of asparagus to show off. I believe my wine-guy at the Freeport Wine and Cheese shop (Maine) recommended this wine. Nice—very nice! I’m raising a glass!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Sokol Blosser Evolution 9th Edition NV Wine Review (NW)

Fragrant, fruity nose of pear and lemon
Creamy fruit palate, slighty thick and sweet
Soft finish tapers nicely

In the interest of full disclosure, The Wine Cask Blog received this complimentary wine from Paterno Wines International. See also, Sokol Blosser Meditrina 2004 Wine Review below and reviews of both complimentary wines posted by PB.

Evolution 9th Edition is a unique, one-of-a-kind wine. It's a bold, artistic undertaking by the winemaker to weave together nine grape varieties, including the obscure Sylvaner and Muller Thurgau. While it shows nice layers of fruit and a smooth texture, it lacks acidity and backbone. This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it- in fact, it was fun to drink. What this does mean, though, is that it might not do too well with food. I didn't get the chance to pair it with anything meaningful, as we had just set out some basic cheese, crackers, bread, and dipping oil to nibble on.

I am interested to read other evaluations of this wine. I enjoyed it and would like to hear how others have fit it into their food and wine repertoires. The reference price for this wine is in the range of $12-18. I have seen it once recently, and it was priced at $18 in a reputable wine shop. That may be a little high. In the lower end of this price range, I would call it a good value and compare it to Caymus Conundrum but half the price. Raise a glass!

Sokol Blosser Meditrina 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Rich berry nose emerges with some air
Lively on the palate, fruity and juicy core
Nice finish tapers well with chocolate and pepper

In the interest of full disclosure, The Wine Cask Blog received this complimentary wine from Paterno Wines International. The folks at Paterno recognize the value of wine blogging as a means for promoting the world of wine and providing honest opinions and evaluations of the wine we enjoy. Now, about this wine...

Sokol Blosser is a highly regarded producer of Oregon Pinot Noir. This wine called Meditrina is a blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. Overall, it's a lively and festive wine which gives me the impression the winemaker had a lot of fun putting this proprietary blend together. Pinot Noir is a finesse grape, challenging even in good years. I bet this blend was a way for the winemaker to put together a recipe for pizazz.

The wine needed a little time to open up and it even had some Pinot Noir stink at first. This is often a good thing in my experience because it indicates that exciting layers are going to emerge from within. I really liked the fruity core and found the wine to be well-made. The reason I call it festive is that it clearly has a Pinot Noir nose and a Zinfandel finish. What a great combo!

Upon opening, we had seven people sample the wine together in my kitchen. It was a crowd pleaser and the bottle went dry within minutes. The reference price is approximately $12-15, which is well priced. Raise a glass!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Groth Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Fragrant, fruity nose
Jammy texture and flavors on the palate
Moderately strong tannins on the finish

At a recent dinner, I had the opportunity to taste three well-known Napa Valley wines. Of the three, this was the best. It's not a terrific wine, but it happened to be the best of the evening. With a fragrant nose and a jammy quality, it's very characteristic of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The problem is that it shows no special qualities beyond that.

The store price is approximately $50, which is relatively modest by category standards. Prices are high for Napa Valley Cab and most people are shocked to see how many cost well over $100 a bottle. For my money, I wouldn't stock up on this wine. I've had comparable Cabs for $15 and much better Cabs for $25.

In general, the 2001 vintage is worth sampling to find wines you like. Happy hunting and raise a glass!

Grgich Hills Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Big berry nose
Fruity palate of berries and black cherry
Strong, chalky tannins on the finish

At a recent dinner, I had the opportunity to enjoy three well-known Napa Valley wines. Of the three, this was the worst. Interestingly, though, it would rate as a slightly above-average wine if it didn't have such strong tannins on the finish that dry the palate and make the lips pucker. Even my colleague who isn't really into wine was commenting on this. Yes, it could just be that the wine is still very young and needs to be rounded out from a few years in the cellar. But it didn't seem like that was the story here.

Grgich Hills has produced some really terrific wines over the years. In fact, Mike Grgich helped pioneer the modern styles of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley in the late 1960's and early 1970's. This one is just a little funny with such a chalky finish. The store price is approximately $55.

For 2001 Napa Valley Cab, though, it's worth taking some risks to find out what you enjoy. Once you do, buy a bunch and enjoy it over the next decade or more. Raise a glass!

Merryvale "Profile" 2000 Wine Review (NW)

Blackberry nose that's somewhat dark and mossy
Cocoa and anise on the palate
Moderate tannins on the finish

At a recent dinner, I had the opportunity to enjoy three well-known Napa Valley wines. Of the three, this was the second best (however, that's not saying much). It was dark and concentrated, but really wasn't very complex. This was complicated by the fact that it was served much too warm.

The store price for this wine is $79; I paid $19 for the glass. At these prices, a wine needs to deliver! While Merryvale's Profile has a good reputation with several excellent years in the 1990's, I can't imagine buying a case of this wine for nearly a thousand bucks and hoping it turns into something- because it won't. You can do a lot better for the money! Raise a glass!

Andre Brunel Grenache 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Very light color
Light fruity nose
Crisp on the palate, with cherry and green pepper
Soft, herbal finish

Grenache is a prominent grape in Southern France and Spain. At $10, this one is produced as a value wine to enjoy with food. While it isn't a terrible wine, it isn't memorable either. For my $10, there are many wines I'd rather pour. Raise a glass!

Sokol Blosser Evolution 9th Edition wine review by (PB)

This wine even has a unique name. Created by the folks at Sokol Blosser, it was sent to us for review by the folks at Paterno Imports. (see previous entry)

This wine, is a unique blend of 9—yes, count ‘em—NINE different varieties of grapes. In their published description of this wine they state, “The blend must be well-knit and integrated, yet the individual varietals character should still be evident. It’s like trying to mix nine different colors of paint and end up with a rainbow instead of a muddy brown.”

Do they succeed? Well, to say that authoritatively I would have to have much more experience with such a wine. I don’t know that I have ever had a wine made from 9 different varietals. What I can say though is that on opening the bouquet is really fragrant reminding me of a robust Gewurtztraminer filled with aromas of fruit compote.

In the mouth, it has a nice texture, is a bit sweet and would make a nice chilled Summer aperitif. It is somewhat lacking in enough acid to really pull the whole balance out to where it would be a really great food wine. I liked it more on initial tasting than later on as it became a little “too much” another sign of just not quite enough back bone.

I think the folks at SB were just trying to have some fun experimenting with a hodge- podge—albeit an educated if not artistic attempt--to do what may well be impossible.

The bottom line is, would I buy this wine? Well I have seen prices ranging from $12-$18. $18 is overboard by half. Perhaps at $9 I might but again, I like a solidly crisp white and this one just isn’t crisp. But for the fun of it—and if you are going to a bring- your-own-bottle tasting—this would be a perfect stumper wine even for the most experienced taster. Nobody is going to come up with 9 different grapes so raise a glass, and have some fun. (Be sure to watch for NW's review of the same wine)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sokol Blosser Meditrina 2004 Wine review by (PB)

The good folks at Paterno Imports—realizing that more and more people are internet savvy—are utilizing top bloggers to put the word out about their wines. They sent the Winecask two different bottles of wine for review. This is the first. I went down to (NW's) for the christening of his new wine cellar and brought the two wines along to be reviewed by each. (Look for his reviews of the same wines.)

This nice red is a unique blend of Pinot Noir (48%) Syrah (39%) and Zinfandel (13%). The wine is produced by Sokol Blosser of Oregon. The grapes used in this wine, are collected from numerous areas including both Washington State (Columbia Valley) and California (Lodi) for example.

It has a pretty and light purple hue on the pour with a light berry bouquet with slight hint of anise with a touch of spice and pepper. In the mouth it is dry as dust, a bit hot with shallow flavors initially. But hang on…Give this wine some room to breathe and open up. When you do, the Pinot Noir clearly comes through as the predominant aroma and yet the Syrah and Zin are both discernible-nice!

This is a totally different wine with half an hour of air with rich berry flavors, anise and a touch of vanilla, rear palate, to finish things off. But after leaving it for a couple hours and retasting it, another layer—chocolate emerges.

I have a reference price for this wine of $12-$15 and at that price, this unique wine is a decent value and worth trying. So raise a glass! (Be sure to look for the subsequent review of the other wine—called Evolution--from Paterno Imports.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Alcohol-intensive nose of dark berries and cocoa
Dense core on the palate
Rich, gamy finish

Zinfandel is an amazing varietal, but can be difficult to finesse through a meal. It's strong, powerful, and high in alcohol (often above 15%).

This wine from Cline seems somewhat alcohol-intensive, as if it never really burns off. For me, that gets in the way of the flavors. Typically priced around $12, it can be a real value in good years. The 2004, though, is a little strong and out of balance. If you like powerful Zinfandel, you might just enjoy and it won't break the bank. Raise a glass!

Chateau Belon 1998 wine review of (PB)

This Bordeaux has a great bouquet on opening which reminds me a bit of the tapestry I just reviewed after this entry. On opening it is tight, austere and needs air.

Made of Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, Merlot 55% and Cabernet Franc 5% this Grand Vin De Bordeaux is thin on the pallet compared to Tapestry with big pepper flavors, and surprisingly fruit forward for a Graves wine. (Graves is the region in Bordeaux)

This is a straight forward wine with some years left ahead of it. I don’t how much it sells for as (NW) provided it. (My guess is around $18) Very nice.

Borgo Maragliano La Caliera Moscato D'Asti 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Pale golden color and nice, big bubbles
Very full nose of pear, melon, and honey
Soft and luxurious on the palate
Smooth finish

My wife and I have become big fans of Moscato D'Asti. We often eat in numerous small courses, and Moscato can takes its place at either the beginning or the end of the meal with appetizers or dessert. Moscato D'Asti is generally light, sweet, and bubbly- a terrific combination. It's low in alcohol content, typically 5 to 6%. And more and more, I think it's versatile beyond just dessert.

This Moscato is one of the best I've had. It has such a full bouquet and is very smooth on the palate, making it seem extra rich. I paid $12 at Table & Vine in Northhampton, MA, which is one of the best wine stores in the country if you're in the area. Raise a glass!

Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry 1999 wine review by (PB)

This California red is just always one of my favorites and I’m not sure why. You just kind of become emotionally attached to certain wines. I am such a fan of Tapestry in general that my masterful daughter painted me a still life oil of a bottle of Tapestry which graces the wall of my living room. I even took a bottle of Tapestry to Tuscany and opened on the grounds of Vinamaggio, the birth place of Mona Lisa.

We spent President’s Day with (NW) in Boston when he opened this classic as one of numerous offerings with our multi-course Italian feast.

This wine is rich and dark ripe blackberries on the swirl with a solid garnet-to-the-rim hue and rich cocoa notes on the nose.

In the mouth this is juicy with chocolate on the rear palate right after the swallow. Tannins are still chewy at seven years old. I am rather surprised this wine is still a bit tight.

With breathing it emits a really nice bouquet and nose of celery as well as the other aromas mentioned. It has a full mouth of blackberries on a foundation of firm structure with a finish of dark fruit. This wine currently goes for about $45 which for me is a fair price. Raise a glass.

Chateau Lavergne-Dulong 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Nose of blackberry and cedar
Juicy, dense core
Smooth, fruity finish

Bordeaux Superior wines can be real bargains in good years. With 2003, it's worth sampling a few to get a sense for what's available. This wine is only $12 and is probably the best Bordeaux Superior this chateau has ever produced. Their earlier wines were known to be herbal and thin.

I hope this is telling of other bargain 2003 Bordeaux. The vintage is considered monumental, so the overall quality of even the inexpensive wines should be high. Raise a glass!

Terra Unica Tempranillo-Monastrell Reserva 2000 Wine Review (NW)

Plum and grapes on the nose
Soft, fleshy palate with a perfume-like touch
Nice, fruity finish

This is a fun, interesting wine! It's a 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Monastrell produced in Alicante, Spain. For only $9, it packs a punch. In the bargain Spanish category, it stacks up well due to the fleshy, fruity core. Paired with lentil soup and various appetizers, it performed well. Raise a glass!

Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico "Blue Label" 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Nice, inviting candied cherry nose
Lively, earthy core
Clean finish

Lamole di Lamole, made in beautiful Gaiole-in-Chianti, Italy, produces two similar Chianti Classico wines. One bottling has a yellow label and the other has a blue label with the notation "aged nine months in barriques." The blue label is the better wine from the 2001 vintage. It has a richer nose and is more lively. If you have the choice, go for blue.

The food pairing was white bean soup- a very Tuscan, earthy dish. For $14 a bottle, you can take a momentary trip to Tuscany, too. Raise a glass!

Casa Castillo Jumilla Monastrell 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Brilliant dark color
Raspberry and chocolate nose
Silky smooth palate
Nice finish of plum tapers off smoothly

For a bargain Spanish wine, this tastes pretty good. It's plush and smooth, which makes it easy to enjoy. I really like the texture and am constantly amazed at what can be done with the Monastrell (Mourvedre) grape in Spain. This wine cost $12. Raise a glass!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Arcos do Rei Vinho de Mesa Tinto Wine Review (NW)

Non-vintage one liter bottle
Light burgundy color
Faint nose of plum and cherry
Thin palate
Short finish with a little pepper

For the past six months, PB and I have been sampling wines from the local bargain bins to see if there is anything worth repeating. Most of the wines have been very simple and some have been aweful. However, this and other wines from Portugal are some of the best bargains of the bin. At $4 for one liter, this wine was something we enjoyed for several evenings. It turned out to be a good "food wine". It wasn't too simple and sugary, nor was it too harsh and vegetal. I find this balance to be true of a lot of wines from Portugal, and many of them are bargain priced. Don't look for this to be a wine worth discussing all evening, rather think of it as a Tuesday night dinner wine. Raise a glass!

J. Lohr Arroyo Seco Chardonnay 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Lively nose of fruit and honey
Some vanilla on the creamy palate
Simple finish tapers nicely

For a fairly priced California Chardonnay, this wine delivers. It has nice balance, with a creamy core that brings together the fruit and the acidity. I was thrown off by the accompaning food, though, because I had this at a Brazilian steakhouse and there were a lot of competing flavors. I will buy a bottle to sample at home in the near future to get a better look at the wine. The typical store price is $14. Raise a glass!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bellini Merlot 2004 wine review by (PB)

I found this Italian red in Boston in a bargain bin at $4. It is light on the pour with a very vegetal–too vegetal–bouquet. The nose has some berry aromas but mostly vegetal with some pepper.

In the mouth it sits well enough at first but grows bitter mid palate. There is some honest fruit present but strong daffodil greenness. Finishes quickly. For the price, you can’t really complain but I repeat–life is too short to drink bad wine. Don’t search this one out.

Beringer Chenin Blanc 2004 “Premium Vineyard Selection” wine review by (PB)

Previously reviewed, this wine just seems to get better and how on earth can you go wrong at–are you ready–$5-$7 a bottle. I know you can’t believe it and won’t try it because you are convinced that it can’t possibly be anything but an insipid, cloying white, soda-pop wine.

Okay, fine; don’t bother but DON’T SAY THE WINECASK DIDN’T TRY TO TIP YOU OFF! It has a pretty bouquet of citrus and pineapple with a balanced palate and texture. There is fruit, nice acid and more. Find it; buy it; and raise a glass!

Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexander Merlot 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Berries and earth bouquet
Nice fruit core on the palate, a lot of layers unfold
Very dry finish for Merlot

If you want to broaden your view of Merlot, try this wine. This, and many others from South America and places like Washington State and Northern Italy will surely redefine your view of Merlot. If you think of Merlot as the simple, sweet restaurant by-the-glass default, you're missing out. Move past those wines, and discover Merlot such as this Cuvee Alexander. It has heft and real, elegant wine qualities. What gets my attention is that it's slightly dryer and more earthy than what I expect from Merlot. This is a very nice wine for $19 and it has educated my palate. Raise a glass!

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Aromatic and creamy nose
Lively fruit palate with good acidity
Not as creamy or buttery on the finish

I enjoyed this wine, but I don't think I quite figured it out. It seemed to be very rich and creamy on the nose, but was followed by a more acidic palate. This is actually a good thing, in most cases. Finding a marriage of big, flavorful characteristics and good acidity is a real accomplishment for a wine maker. In this wine, though, these qualities were all there but didn't seem to really meld and work together in this $29 wine.

All this to say, the American Chardonnay is not out of vogue. In fact, even big creamy and buttery flavors are still worth achieving when there is balance in the wine overall. If you want further reading on this subject, John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter have written a terrific article in The Wall Street Journal, Weekend Journal section, dated February 17, 2006. Raise a glass!

Moet & Chandon White Star NV Champagne Wine Review (NW)

Beautiful small bubbles
Lightly sweet
Clean and elegant on the palate
Nice balance of dry and fruity

For a Valentine's Day toast, this is a nice non-vintage bubbly that doesn't cost a fortune. My dinner party enjoyed the wine over appetizers, and it stood up well to food.

White Star is a bubbly I commonly see on restaurant wine lists, and this restaurant had it priced by the bottle ($68) and by the glass ($14). Raise a glass!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mumm’s Brut Prestige NV wine review by (PB)

This Napa sparkler is one of my favorite sparkling wines. On the pour it is pale gold with a slight nose of citrus and apple.

Bubbles are plentiful and teeny; (I hate big bubbles...) In the mouth it is lively with a tangy well balanced zing, and more flavors of green apples tart and crisp. The finish is unremarkable.

We were given a split of this wine compliments of a restaurant we were celebrating our anniversary at last Summer. We figured it would be the typical, soda-pop, sickeningly sweet sparkling wine so popular–unfortunately–to the masses. It was a wonderful surprise. It costs from $16-$20 and worth raising a glass!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Clos Mimi Petite Rousse 2003 wine review by (PB)

Sometime ago at one of my numerous visits to my favorite Freeport, Maine wine shop, Eric Fullagar recommended this feminine looking wine which comes with a pink label, pink foil and pink synthetic cork. But let me tell you; there is nothing petite about this wine.

It ought to come with a Bull Dog on the label sporting tattoos on its hind quarters. This Paso Robles wine is 100% Syrah and is Syrah in every way! On the pour it is deep, rich, magenta and leaves chromophores on the glass as you swirl.

The bouquet is baked bread, celery, cocoa and dark, dark fruit. In the mouth it is rich with nice mouth feel and good foundation of well structured tannins. Though closed for the time, it begs to be breathed and decanted which was recommended when I bought it.

After considerable time of breathing, fresh grapes come to the surface in a very subtle, enticing way. There are several layers of caraway, anise, blackberries, cranberries and a later touch of chocolate and vanilla. This is a nice new world wine with out the assaulting fruit forward style of many new world wines. At 16% alcohol, it is a tough wine but hides its masculinity very well.

I paid $20 for this treat at the Freeport Wine and Cheese Shop. If you’re ever there, do stop in and let Eric Fullagar–the affable shop-keeper, show you around and who knows– he just may give you a foot rub, or manicure. Why do you think I keep going back? Raise a glass and don’t forget your Valentine!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Chateau Simard 1990 wine review by (PB)

(NW) was in town for a quick breeze-through before the blizzard hit and brought with him, a couple of half bottles of two Bordeaux classic wines. One was this 16 year old Ch. Simard and the other was a 4 year old Ch. Gruaud Larose. We had our wives “bag” them so we could taste them blind to see if we could tell the mature wine from the immature wine. Okay, okay, trying to discern the difference between a 16 year old St. Emilion and a 4 year old St. Julien is about as difficult as looking at two women in bikinis trying to pick out the grandmother from the granddaughter.

At any rate, this aged Bordeaux was brick red on the pour with a slight browning to the rim. That this wine was still potable is a credit to the quality of the wine. But its longevity was about the best thing going for it. (Be sure to read (NW’s) review of the same wines to see how we differed on our assessments of these two wines.)

There was fruit in the bouquet that was fully developed and even a bit fresh with green pepper, white pepper, and olive notes. On the palate, there is almost no fruit–not surprising for such a mature St. Emilion–but the nuances of this soon to be dead wine, were unimpressive all the way around. In the end I called it “unremarkable and average.”

But that being said, it was a real treat tasting a wine of this age. It cost (NW) $14 for a 375ml bottle. We didn’t stop there thought as we had the other bottle to taste so raise a glass and read on!

Chateau Gruaud Larose 2002 wine review by (PB)

This was the other wine referred to in the previous entry compliments of (NW). This 4 year old St. Julien Grand Cru Classe is youthful in all ways with a garnet sparkle to the rim. There is solid plum and dark fruit though buried in its youthfulness. This wine so “tight” you could bounce a quarter off the surface of it...

In the mouth the tannins are so chewey it made you open and close your mouth working up some saliva to swallow it down. Again, be sure to read (NW’s) review of this wine. I had a difficult time judging it as it was so closed, I just couldn’t get to the core of what is there. I liked what was there, but this wine needs to be tasted in another decade and then another after that. (NW) paid $18 for a half bottle of this and it was sold out when he went back for a couple more. We raised a glass or three and then they were off to beat the blizzard which hit with a fury.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

White Oak Sauvignon Blanc 2004 wine review by (PB)

Back to my wine trip (Belfast, Maine) blogged previously—

This was the second wine recommended to me by Martin Gottlieb at the wine store perplexingly called, “The Clown.” It comes from the Russian River Valley of Sonoma and if you didn’t know better would swear it was one of New Zealand’s stellar creations.

It is a very pale straw on the pour with a huge bouquet of fragrant pears and the trademark grassiness that sets off the S. Blanc grape in it’s classic form. This is classic!

The nose is just remarkably big with more of the same aromas and a sweetness that would rival a desert wine. Before tasting, this was a bit of a concern as I presumed-- based on this great nose--it would be SWEET. But oh baby… This wine is NOT sweet and has great acidity pushing the fruity flavor throughout. It has nice mouth feel and finishes with still more pears and pleasantness. This is another great recommendation from the shop’s proprietor. At $15, this wine makes our recommended wine list so raise a glass and just say, AHHHHHHH!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Chateau De Paraza 2002 wine review by (PB)

This French red from the Minervois region Is medium garnet on the pour and when I put it to my nose, I was overwhelmed by an astounding blast of pipe tobacco aromas which is fabulous.

On the swirl it is more of the same. Wow!

There’s a touch of cinnamon on the plate with solid structure and dried cherries as the prominent fruit though it is somewhat tight. With some air, the dried cherries just grow accompanied by steely flavors. The wine is somewhat thin, and the finish short. But this wine cost $8 and the bouquet alone is worth that, and more. Raise a glass of this value wine!

David Bruce Russian River Pinot Noir 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Plum and chocolate cream nose
Very smooth and velvety on the palate
Rich, smooth finish, with some cherry to layer

This is a delicious Pinot Noir from a winery that does the grape justice. It costs approximately $40 and is well-priced when compared to Burgundy of similar quality. The wine is so smooth that it coats the mouth like fine melted chocolate. I recommend this wine as a very good example of California Pinot Noir. For your friends who think this varietal is quirky and elusive, this will set them straight. Enjoy and raise a glass!

Vignamaggio Terre Di Prenzano Chianti Classico 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Earthy, mossy Tuscan nose
Plum and olives on the palate
Tangy, fine finish

Vignamaggio is a special label in my household. My wife and I have had three enjoyable visits to the beautiful hillside vineyard where Mona Lisa was born and raised. Because of these special memories, the Vignamaggio wines transport us to a special time and place. This one is a new label for them, priced at $18 which is below their standard Chianti Classico at $24. It is very Tuscan and is appealing for that reason. Earthy dishes with red sauces, olives, and mushrooms should give this wine a chance to come alive. Raise a glass!

Santa Marta Merlot Del Veneto 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Nice nose of fruit and vanilla
Palate falls flat
Thin finish

I've given the bargain bin Italian Merlots a few chances, but they aren't very tasty. This one has a nice nose, but doesn't deliver after that. Oh well, it was only $4. Raise a glass of something else!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

KWV Steen 2004 wine review by (PB)

Belfast (Maine) is about an hour’s ride east so I don’t get out there as much as I would like. But this Saturday found me with a bad case of houseitis so we took a quick trip to the coast to visit a wine shop I’ve been to before. I met Martin Gottlieb–a New York transplant–managing the store called “The Clown.” I have been to their shop in Portland Maine as well and it is well stocked with an intelligent selection of a wide range of wines.

Mr. Gottlieb made a couple recommendations of which I took advantage and learned something in the process. I am a big fan of Chenin Blanc and he recommended this wine by KWV–a South African mega-giant corporation that markets and trades wines and spirits around the globe.

This inexpensive wine–$8–is pale straw on the pour with a really nice bouquet of buttery notes and pineapple with a hint of pears. In the mouth it is very well made with a supple texture and solid balance.

The pineapple carries through with a nice mouth feel though there is a slight bitterness mid palate that flees leaving a finish that lingers with buttery fruit. This is why listening to a trusted shop steward pays off. First, in all my years of study, I never knew “Steen” was the S. African name for Chenin Blanc. Second, I could have took a shot in the dark at this shop but the manager gave me some suggestions of which I took advantage.

Based on this suggestion, I can’t wait to try the other two I bought. If you like Chenin blanc–and why wouldn’t you–search this out and grab a couple; then raise a glass! Thanks Mr. G!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Posapiano Chianti Classico 2003 wine review by (PB)

On the pour this wine is rich in both color and bouquet. It is a deep purple garnet showing its youthfulness and a depth I don’t normally see in a Chianti this inexpensive. I paid $23 for it and it is a BARGAIN!

On opening there is a very nice bouquet of fresh red fruit with Sangiovese minerality that some describe as steely. It is just beautiful to the rim.

Yeast and olives abound with dried cherries prominent with considerable air. (Breathe this wine for a good 3 hours and decant it.) It will be an entirely different wine if you don’t take the time to do this.

In the mouth it is equally rich with muscular tannins but they really mellow out if you follow the breathing procedure I recommend.

Baked bread is also big in the mouth with fruit all over. This wine will hold well for another 3-5 years but is enjoyable now if you breathe it enough. This is one of the best Chianti’s I have had. We paired it with Sage pasta squares in Sage/Shallot butter. Magnificent!

Raise a glass!

Sumarroca Brut Reserva Cava wine review by (PB)

This non-vintage sparkler was on sale for $10. From the Penedes region of Spain. This wine is painstakingly made with meticulous care harvesting in the night to avoid the sunshine; choosing only the first 20-30% of the juice obtained (the best) and then goes through two fermentations and ages for 21/2 - 3 years in a cave.

I mention all this to say to the vintners; “Save yourselves a lot of trouble!” This wine is light straw on the pour with a very nice bouquet but that is where this wine stops. It is dry, dry , dry and very dull. There is no flavor and no finish. Other than being sparkling and cold with a slight–very slight, citrus note, this wine is dead. Fageddaboudit.

Searidge Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 wine review by (PB)

This “bargain bin” wine which was bought for $5 actually has varietal characteristics. I tasted this wine blind against another Cabernet Sauvignon and picked it from the other one. Based on what? Based on the price of each wine. The other one was a $2.99 grab as a “what the heck” let’s see if its even palatable. More on that wine after this entry...

This wine actually has some pleasant–relatively speaking–aromas that are a bit fragrant and vegetal with some fruit to accompany it. In the mouth there is a hint of vanilla and a remote hint of cherry. First impression is tart, shallow and not much there. With some air, there is a suggestion of strawberries and a touch of chocolate and then zippo–nada.

Still, for this price. It is better than many wine I have had for significantly more. Raise a glass–but not of this.

Golden Gate Cabernet Sauvignon (NV) wine review by (PB)

I tasted this $2.99 wine blind against a bargain bin $5 Cabernet Sauvignon and picked the $5 wine as the $5 varietal. How? I made the assumption that the bargain bin wine might have some varietal characteristics and the $2.99 wine would not. I was right.

This wine doesn’t taste anything like Cabernet Sauvignon but that does not mean it is not drinkable. It is light on the pour and the bouquet has a pleasant touch of cinnamon on the nose. In the mouth it is sweet with some fruit though shallow short all the way around. It reminds me of a jug wine.

That it is even potable at this price, it’s a good sign. Raise a glass but why waste even a penney on cheap wine? “Life is too short to drink bad wine,” as my pillow says.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Feudo Arancio Nero D'Avola 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Cherry and earthy nose
Plum and spice on the palate
Somewhat weak finish

I've grown to enjoy Nero D'Avola, the quintessential Sicilian red wine varietal. This one, though, is not quite as good as others I've had. Granted, it's incredibly inexpensive at $6 (which may have been a sale price). At this price, I don't expect a knockout wine and it's unfair to over-analyze it. The truth is that it ended up being a nice food wine with our hearty Tuscan fare. Raise a glass!

Ray Len Carolinius Red Wine 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Light, fruity nose with some watermelon aroma
An odd plastic taste on the palate
Some chocolate on the finish

Well, this wine is juicy but somewhat odd. I just couldn't get over the plastic taste, while the other three people who sampled the wine with me were put off by the watermelon "jolly rancher" aroma.

Ray Len is a winery in North Carolina which produces some interesting red blends, among other wines. This is a proprietary blend of several grapes that costs approximately $15 a bottle. Another similar wine in their line-up is called Category 5 and has been previously reviewed by PB and me. It was also very juicy and a little better put together than the Carolinius. More and more North Carolina wines are getting broader distribution and it's worth getting to know what's available. Raise a glass!

Matua Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Spicy cherry nose
Some tobacco on the palate
Simple, smooth finish

This wine has a nice, fresh taste and is simple and smooth. It can usually be found for $9-10 a bottle. If you like Pinot Noir, keep an eye open for offerings from New Zealand. This one isn't particularly interesting, but a lot of them are. Wine makers in New Zealand are on a steep curve with Pinot Noir today like they were with Sauvignon Blanc five years ago. Raise a glass to the Kiwis!

Jordan Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Nice nose of dark berries
Juicy core on the palate
Good finish with moderate tannins

Jordan delivers again! The 2001 is a wine I've enjoyed quite a few times now. Often at business dinners I attend, the restaurant of choice is a steakhouse and the wine of choice is California Cab. This is not a very creative formula, but it seems to appeal to the masses. At least there are often high quality wines on the list at these places. Of course, they cost a fortune, too. This Jordan was priced at $102 at The Palm, which is more than a 100% mark-up over the store price. In the store it runs $45-$48 and can be found on the internet for as low as $39. Fortunately the wine was a crowd pleaser at this recent business dinner. Raise a glass!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Kuentz-Bas Alsace 2004 Wine Review (billy)

The fascinating thing about this $16 bottle is that I can find next to nothing about it. The varietal is not listed on the bottle. It is simply a 2004 Alsace. So, I did a little digging and found not much to be honest. While Kuents-Bas is well known, I can only conclude that their "Alsace" bottle is the leftovers from the primo pickings.

Uncharactaristicly for Asatian wines, it is not completely dry. It blends characteristics of Riesling and Gewurztraminer while not being quintessentially either. Don't let this deter you though. This is a very nice bottle.

Eyes: pale golden straw
Nose: Honey, vanilla creme, the slightest hints of nutmeg spice
Palate: fantasic balance and smooth acid structure to give this Domaine Alsace from the Husseren region a silky smooth feel. This medium dry is wonderfully light but with enough body to accompany a meal and stand up to the flavors. The smooth texture provides a nice compliment to white and cream sauces.
Finish: smooth and long with dry grassy undertones and green pears making a tentative appearance.

Don't be fooled. Though a blend of the leftovers, it is quite a nice wine if a bit spendy. I'd like to see it available for $2-3 less per bottle. On sale for under $10 would make this wine a must-buy.

Serve slightly chilled and
Raise A Glass!

Joan Gine Gine Priorat 2000 Wine Review (NW)

Very inviting nose full of soft fruit, vanilla, and white chocolate
Raspberry and cream on the palate
Long finish that is creamy and smooth

This is the best wine I had in the month of January and one of the best red wines under $15 I've ever had! I paid $14 for this, although after doing a little research I saw prices much higher. I'm not sure if it was priced correctly or not.

What makes this wine special is the wonderful array of flavors and the incredibly consistant mouthfeel from start to finish. I didn't know this could be done with Monastrell! The wines of Priorat, a region in Spain, are starting to garner attention and I'm looking forward to exploring these wines. Wow! Riase a glass!