Friday, March 31, 2006

Stefano Farina Barbera D’Asti 2003 wine review by (PB)

This bargain bin wine cost me $6 in Boston. It is a pretty clear red with awesome bouquet of sweet flowers and powder with a hint of strawberries.

In the mouth it is tart–too tart–austere, chewy and dry as slate with short finish. I will breathe it.

With some air time dried cherries are prominent with air but the palate is still too acidic (tartness) with rough edges. This is an angular wine and thin on the palate. For the price it is okay but worth passing over.

Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Huge nose of blackberries and vanilla cream
Rich, concentrated core with notes of anise
Vanilla custard, white chocolate, and oak finish with moderate chewy tannins

For the featured wine with dinner, PB unlocked his library selection in the cellar and emerged with this beauty. It's a terrific wine; amazingly full-bodied and rich. With a huge nose and concentrated core, it shows a lot of plush and luxurious layers. Everyone at the table was enchanted, and the bottle went dry in a hurry.

For $65, this wine is a special treat. It carries a price tag similar to other Napa Valley Cabs of this quality. And the bottle...this is the most substantial 750mL bottle I've ever seen. If you spot this in a store, pick it up and you'll see what I mean. Then raise a glass!

Domaine "La Garrique" Cuvee Romaine Cotes du Rhone 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Nice nose of cherries and tobacco
Clean, structured core
Smooth and elegant finish, with a hint of tart cranberry

Our weekend at PB's in Maine started off with a pop. A popping cork that is. With a fantastic menu planned for the evening, we eased into the evening with this bottle of wine. The ideas was that this would be versatile as we planned to pick at some appetizers and got the meal going.

Overall, this wine is a nice balance of fruit and "old world" elegance. At $13, it's well-priced, too. Raise a glass!

Open That Bottle Night- A Look Back at This Year's Cork Popping Tradition (NW)

A month ago, on February 25th, a lot of wine lovers around the world celebrated Open That Bottle Night. In the spirit of celebration with family and friends, the evening is simply an excuse to open a special bottle of wine. For many, these wines have been quietly waiting in wine cellars, basements, and closets for a special occasion and the occasion never seems to arrive. For others, a wine is chosen that has a special story or reminds us of a special moment in time.
This past month, my wife and I celebrated this event with our good friends who just moved to the area. We each supplied a bottle that had special meaning and put together a great menu to pull it all together. The following are the wines, my tasting notes, and the stories behind them.
Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva 2001
Sweet cherry nose with some spices
Smooth and velvety on the palate
Long, smooth finish with lasting layers
Delicious and modern in style, this Chianti went down smooth. With some air and time in the glass, the wine kept revealing rich layers that pleased everyone's palate. It costs approximately $20 in a store and is well worth the money.
The story behind this wine, our friends explained, is that this is the first wine they had got them to step out of the comfort zone while budding wine enthusiast in the first year of marriage. The year was 1997 and they were newlyweds with limited disposable income. After numerous visits to a liquor store with a decent wine selection, the wine guy approached them. He said he noticed they always bought the same basic California varietal wine and wanted to suggest something different for them to try. After some conversing, they walked away with this Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva and their wine journey has never been the same. Bringing this wine to OTBN brought them back to this moment.
Pindar Cabernet Franc 1998
Earthy and dusty on the nose at first, followed by some cherry
Juicy palate
Plum finish and notes of lead-pencil shavings
This wine still tastes young and fresh, and has a boldness and richness that develops in the glass. It costs approximately $28 in the store, if you can find it. The producer is a proud Cabernet Franc winery from the North Fork of Long Island, New York.
My wife and I chose this wine for OTBN because we needed an excuse to open it. The story is that we first tasted this wine on a visit to Long Island a few years ago. We were in a little wine shop tasting room in the Hamptons, and this one stood out from the pack as we sampled a half dozen or so New York red wines at around eleven o'clock in the morning. Our good friends were with us at the time, the same couple we shared OTBN with. After looking around for this wine some time later, I finally found just one bottle in a small, dusty wine shop in Gainesville, Florida. It sat in our wine cooler at our home in Florida for two years and made the journey with us to New England when we moved last year. To bring it full circle, we decided to enjoy it last month with our New York friends who also just moved to town.
Raise a glass!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Croft Late Bottled Vintage Oporto 1998 wine review by (PB)

This was a gift from my favorite woman in my life to whom I have been married for 32 years. On the pour it is the darkest port I have had in a long, long time with a nearly black center. It is pungent with fruit and loads of raisins and cola and a nose of more of the same along with strong licorice notes.

This dessert wine is richly sweet (duh) and rather “hot” but flavors reproduce all of the above. The texture is gorgeous, almost velvety. The finish is amazingly short.

This wine runs around $18 and is definitely a cut above of the run of the mill $12 ruby ports you find. But don’t confuse this with “Vintage Port.” Vintage port is a different animal and will cost you 3 times this price and at that price, it probably won’t be ready to drink for several years. Ready-to-drink “Vintage Port” (minimally around ten years of age depending) will run you close to, and in excess of $100! Raise a glass knowingly!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Fusee Syrah 2002 and 2003 wine review by (PB)

I have reviewed previous Fusee varietals but this was the first time for this particular varietal. Made by Sebastiani, the previous Fusee’s (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) were good values as this long time, reliable wine maker just doesn’t seem to put out a bad wine. So when I tasted the 2002 Fusee Syrah this weekend I was surprised;it was essentially awful. My sense though was that it was just gone, not a bad wine, just too old.

This is a typical characteristic of the vast majority of wines made today especially new world wines; namely, they are meant to drink immediately and do not age. This wine is gone! But I had the 2003 Fusee Syrah in my cellar as well and opened it. Eureka! This wine--still young enough to drink--is a wonderful value!

It has pipe tobacco aromas, with cherries and berries galore and is just plain made well. It is actually quite luscious and at $7, you cannot do better!

So, yes, knowing the producer (Sebastiani) and their commitment to good wines and their proven track record for the same, helped in my initial assessment of the older wine. Ie., Was it old or a poorly made wine? (Sometimes it's not that clear, at least not to me) I was confident it was just over the hill. Tasting the younger 2003 proved I was right!

So, skip any 2002's out there and drink up the 2003's! You won’t regret it! Raise a glass!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Coppola Merlot 2003 “Blue Label” wine review by (PB)

This was one of the Merlot’s under $20 that Gaiter And Brecher of the Wall Street Journal recently reviewed and this made one of their top picks. I find These two to be very reliable in their recommendations and reviews and this was no exception.

This wine is a very pretty dark ruby color with depth and a bouquet of baked bread, a little spice, and some black cherry fruit. Really nice!

In the mouth this wine is full of flavors of chocolate, berries, has good structure yet is a bit tight on opening but it will relax; great first impression.

With 15 minutes of air, this wine even has some layers of cedar and dill aroma with dried cherries on the palate. Everything comes together. This is an awesome wine and a great value at $15.

You have got to try this spectacular bargain! Raise glass after glass.

Villa Tonino Nero D’Avola 2003 wine review by (PB)

(NW), myself and our two wives were tasting this wine together and all said it had a bouquet of buttered popcorn! It also has plenty of dark fruit as well.

In the mouth it is closed but strawberries are prevalent. It relaxes some with air but is still tannic yet all in all a complex and interesting wine. (NW) brought this wine up so I don’t know the price but I suspect it to be around $10. Pretty nice but let it breathe! Raise a glass.

Paitin Langhe 2001 wine review by (PB)

On a trip to Boston to visit (NW) we stopped by several wine shops and after talking wine to one of the distributors who happened to be in the store at the time, I bought this wine on her recommendation.

It has a gorgeous color of intense burgundy (the color, not the region) with a bouquet of candided cherries, pipe tobacco with a tinge of spices and herbs.

In the mouth the tannins are wound tighter than a rubber band over the hind end of a pig. It needs to breathe!

With some air time, this wine has black cherry, anise and fruit filled jam. It is still tight, and immature. This wine will hold for several years to come.

A layer of dill emerges–nice! The problem with this wine is we drank it too quickly! (NW) was here and we had Timbalo–the labor intensive, but ever so rewarding Italian festival food. It needs plenty of time to breathe (decant it) or let sit for another 2-4 years. At any rate we all liked it, even at $28! Raise a glass!

(Watch for (NW's) review of this wine as well!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Louis Dubroca 1999 Sauternes Wine Review by (billy)

So let me start off by saying that there is nothing worse for a budding enophile than a persistent head cold that turns into a sinus infection then lingers on for weeks and weeks as enlarged sinuses prevent any kind of attempt at sniffing - anything.

Sorry I've been absent for a while, but it hasn't been for lack of desire. It has been for lack of sampling the fruit of the vine due to a terribly long head cold.

It is over now and I'm back to tasting. I thought I'd celebrate with another attempt to blog a Sauternes. I'm especially hopeful for this bottle of 1999 Louis Dubroca Sauternes since my last Sauternes was definitely and conclusively corked!

We'll see how this one goes.

I paid about $35 for this bottle.
Eyes: pale liquid honey
Nose: citrus and chardonnay and butter creme
Palate: bold honeyed apricots that leap immediately as the wine touches your tongue. medium-weak acid structure that provides just a touch too little backbone to support the heavy sweetness. This, however, does not impede the fantasically creamy smoothness of this wine. Oak hints lend complexity in a suggestive style.
Finish: lingering but weakly. Like a memory of a great finish. Some candied lemon rind hints with a complimentary green sprig.

If you read the review from the eyes, nose, palate, finish perspective (above) you'll get the idea about this Sauternes. It is a wine of playful hints and suggestions. If you were on a date with this wine, the complexity and structure flirt with you but never ask you inside. Meanwhile the bold honeyed apricot flavors leap out from behind the bushes and bop you on the head for wanting more than the rest of the wine is ready (or willing) to give.

I did some brief research on Louis Dubroca and found only this. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to see if this wine will open up at all and yield some more complexity.

Overall, this is a fine wine. Not a great wine, a good wine. For the money I might opt for a half-bottle of something a bit more complex and better put together. Still, I'm not complaining. It's just good to be back tasting wine again.

Raise a Glass!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hess Collection Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Big, fragrant nose of wild berries
Creamy palate with white chocolate notes
Good finish, with moderate tannins and layers of vanilla and oak

I was at the Hess winery a few years ago, but I don't specifically remember their Mt. Veeder Cab. I must have missed something because this wine is really good. It has the dark and rich features of Cabernet grapes grown on a mountainside vineyard.

Some bottle aging may benefit this wine and help round out the finish and relax the tannins. Although, it tastes pretty good as a young wine. The pairing was a big New York strip steak and assorted sides, which worked quite well. The restaurant price was $68, which I thought was very well priced. I've seen this wine in stores for $35-40. Raise a glass!

Chateau Grande Cassagne G.S. Costieres de Nimes 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Nose of bread and plums
Fruity but dry mid-palate
Some cocoa on the clean finish

What a nice, well-balanced wine for the money. This is a wine from the Southern Rhone region of France that is based on a Grenache-Syrah blend. It costs just $8. I originally bought two bottles but will be going back for more.

The sign of quality here is that there is a good balance between dry and fruity. Because of that, it's a versatile wine that can probably accompany a variety of dishes. Raise a glass!

Omaka Springs Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Big citrus nose
Mineral qualities on the palate
Tart finish

For New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, there is much better. While this one has a mineral strength and presence; it seems a little tart and unbalanced. It also lacks any underlying richness. For $10, make a different selection like Villa Maria or Monkey Bay. And then raise a glass!

Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 wine review by (PB)

In Chicago last Summer I stopped in a huge wine chain and was fantasizing in the midst of reverie. I decided to splurge and started shopping for a higher end red looking toward Beaulieu Vineyard’s Georges De Latour line of Cabernet. I found one for about $65 and had it in my hand. But I asked one of the knowledgeable wine people what he would buy if he had $65 to spend. He said the wine I had was quite good but if I wanted something ready to drink, he suggested the Darioush.

I went with his recommendation. Now, with (NW) up for the weekend, Steak Florentine on the menu, and a year later, I decided to open this for dinner. What a treat.

This cab is rich and garnet though a bit lighter in color than I would have expected. The bouquet of this wine was wonderful filling the room.

There was a very subtle herbal note (I don’t like herbal in my wine) but this was so faint it was enticing. But the wine was loaded with fruit of rich wild cherries anc an astounding, aroma I can only describe as cream. And this was just smelling the wine. Nice.

In the mouth that flavor of cream was prominent giving a mouth feel that was downright sexy and dried cherries was big. I loved it. This is a fruit forward wine, new world with an under layer of smoke. Smelling the “empty” glass was a treat and the remnant wine was exuding Thanksgiving jellied, cranberry sauce. We all loved this wine and was bummed that it was gone so quickly.

To quote Ferris Beuller, “If you have the means, I highly recommend you pick one up.” $65 is a lot of money but, well, it was worth it! Raise a glass!!!

Domaine “La Garrigue” 2003 “Cuvee Romaine” wine review by (PB)

This Cotes Du Rhone value is a light red in color with a tinge of watermelon red towards the rim. The bouquet is very nice with pipe tobacco, flowers, and yeast filled with fruity aromas.

In the nose there is a faint layer of chocolate covered cherries. This wine is chewy, balanced, cherry flavors and chocolate on the palate as well. It has good structure, a little smoke and a nice finish.

For $13 this is a solid Rhone pleasure and worth seeking out. (NW) is up for the weekend and this was our prelude to an awesome Steak Florentine with homemade pasta. Raise a glass!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2004 wine review by (PB)

This New Zealand (Marlborough) is pale straw in color with a big bouquet of ripe, rich figs(?) A hint of citrus and another fruit I cannot identify.

In the mouth this wine is wildly acidic-TART–and austere with a minerally finish with a hint of lemons. After ½ hour it actually relaxes a bit and turns slightly creamy and subtly grassy. Now, this wine was given an 89 rating by the Wine Spectator and the Wine Enthusiast gave this wine at least 90 points and one of the top 100 picks of the year. The bottom line is that I was not crazy about this wine regardless how many points it scored.

This was a solid wine, a good food wine, but I would prefer many other Sauvignon Blancs especially out of New Zealand. I paid $13 for it but have seen it for as much as $20. At $13 it’s a fair wine, but again, not my style. Raise a glass never-the-less!

Chateau de Flaugergues Cuvee Sommeliere 2003 Wine Review- Real Time (NW)

Nice nose of berries and floral notes
Dry, clean palate
Elegant, dry finish with chocolate and raspberry

I am finally giving this wine a try and I really like it. It's on the dry side, but has really nice layers and seems very classy and elegant. This is another Coteaux du Languedoc value, priced at approximately $14. I found it for just $10 and bought a couple bottles on PB's recommendation. To see his review, look at his posting dated December 9, 2005.

The Languedoc region of France produces some really exciting, bargain-priced wines. Next time you're in a store, ask where they are and take a gamble on a $10 bottle. Raise a glass!

The Restaurant Wine List Anxiety (NW)

Last weekend, my wife and I had the chance to enjoy a really nice meal out with our very good friends. We chose an Italian restaurant known for fresh ingredients and earthy dishes. I knew they would have a long list of interesting Italian wines, but I didn't want to interrupt the flow of the evening by hunkering down with the wine list in solitary isolation. I find this to be a problem sometimes because I want to spend time making an educated decision on the wine for a special occasion but I don't want to it to take forever while our glasses sit empty and our server gets distracted.

In order to avoid such a scene, I decided to spend some time looking over the wine list in advance. The day before our dinner, I checked out what their current offerings were and had two whites and two reds picked out that were sure to be crowd pleasers. And knowing my group and the dinner selections they would likely be making, it made all the more sense to have some ideas on wine before we even sat down at the table.

Fortunately this restaurant had their wine list pretty well up-to-date on their website which made things really easy. Most restaurants don't have this posted, but will often have a printed list that can be faxed out. When restaurants can't even provide that, your only opportunity to preview the wine list is to stop by in advance and take a look. For special occasions, this makes a lot of sense. For important dinners, it allows the evening to flow and makes the host look good.

The wines we enjoyed at the Italian restaurant were really good. We started off with a half bottle of white wine and finished with a bottle of red. Prior to heading off for dinner, we had a bottle of Prosecco bubbly and some bite-sized appetizers at home.

The white wine was Bucci Verdicchio 2003, and my tasting notes are as follows:

Creme brulee and floral, perfumed nose
Very nice texture on the palate; consistently smooth and thick
Finish is like a medium-dry Sherry from Jerez, Spain

This is an interesting white Italian. It was an excellent accompanyment to our various antipasti and other appetizers. The texture was intriguing and the finish captivating. The Verdicchio grape is a lesser-known varietal planted in a small region in Central Italy, East of Umbria. Not all wine shops will have it represented. For the money, it was enjoyable, at $24 for the 375mL bottle.

The red wine was Contratto Tenuta Alberta Barbaresco 1996, and my tasting notes are as follows:

Huge nose of candied cherry, plum, and exotic spices
Velvety-smooth palate, round but firm
Notes of earth, mushrooms, and tobacco on the long, smooth finish

This red was a crowd pleaser. All four of us enjoy good Italian red and are becoming fond of Piedmont reds (within our budget constraints, of course). These wines can take a long time to mature and can break the bank. We paid $90 for this wine at the restaurant, which was worth every penny. It had such a nice bouquet that it was enjoyable just to smell it. As the layers emerged, the wine evolved in the glass and showed different characteristics that boosted our enjoyment of the meal. This is what good wine should do!

I'm glad I had the chance to preview the wine list because it would have been frustrating to figure all this out at the table. When you have the opportunity to do this, take advantage of it. When should enhance a meal, not get in the way of it or cause distress and anxiety at the table. Raise a glass!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Flaio Salento Primitivo 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Nose of strawberries, lilacs, and green pepper
Smooth mid-palate
Finish of herbs and mushrooms, with a bitter note on the end

This wine is a little odd. It might sound delicious based on my tasting notes above, but it didn't come together. I was was expecting something a little different and even with all the flavors, it seemed disjointed.

Primitivo is essentially Zinfandel. I realize Zinfandel is the most American of grapes, but it actually has roots in Croatia along with Primitivo which is made in Southern Italy (heel of the boot).

This wine is bargain-priced at just $7, so I can't complain too much. To be honest, my wife and I both turned away from it after a half glass or so. The bottle then sat on the counter for two days until I decided to give it another try. Guess what, it was actually a little better- rounder, smoother, and with better integrated flavors. Interesting! Even seven dollar wine can change and evolve. Still, I don't recommend this wine even though I really encourage you to try Primitivo. Others are out there. Raise a glass!

Mouton Cadet 2003 Wine Review- Real Time (NW)

I am enjoying this glass of wine as I write.

Pretty nose of roses and berries
Plum on the palate
Floral finish accompanied by hefty tannins

For bargain Bordeaux, this wine is actually quite good. I was worried about the hefty tannins at first, but they faded away as the wine warmed up from cellar temperature.

The floral notes in this wine are really nice and a change of pace from inexpensive wines that carry too much grape and oak qualities. I see this label everywhere and have been wanting to give it a shot. It's cheap- at $8 or so, and magnums are readily available, too.

If you're looking for a bouquet of roses in a wine glass, this is it. Interesting and expressive for the money! Raise a glass!

Angelicus Chianti 2003 wine review by (PB)

I bought this on a lark and had it with veal strips tied in a knot, fried fennel with parmesan, and pasta with sage butter. Wow!

This light red wine from Tuscany has a fragrant almost floral bouquet with candied notes, chocolate, pipe tobacco, cherries and jasmine. Seriously; everything quite identifiable all up front. In the mouth there is solid Sangiovese flavors, in this nicely made wine and a rigid tannic backbone gives this inexpensive ($10) creation a clean, green, finish of gentle fruit. Raise a glass!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Andre Brunel Grenache 2004 wine review by (PB)

This red from the Rhone has an amazing bouquet of pipe tobacco and chocolate, cherries and more that is positively super! This is the kind of wine I could just sniff and not drink and enjoy it greatly. Ah, but who am I kidding?

In the mouth this varietal from the specific region of Vaucluse has superior structure and rather light on flavor. It is adequate to be sure for a $9 wine but with such an amazing aroma, I would hope it would be reflected in the mouth. Never-the-less, this wine is straight forward, luscious, even juicy. It has a short finish. I like this wine though, a lot. It is a nice change from the fruit bombs I drink so often.

For this price definitely raise a glass!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Pecan Stream Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend 2003 wine review by (PB)

Another pick from Freeport Wine and Cheese in Freeport, Maine. It is pretty on the pour, almost sparkly in vibrant purple with garnet rim. On the pour it is brimming with rich, dark blackberry and ripe plum fruit with prune notes only intensified on the nose. Later some cocoa emerges. This blend contains some Merlot, Mouvedre, Cabernet Franc and some Hermitage.

In the mouth this wine is nearly elegant with a silky texture, a tad sweet, nicely balanced and so ready to drink.

There is a mid-palate flavor of “band-aids” however, which I have associated with another South African Cabernet called Excelsior. Could this be "terroir" (distinctive characteristic of a specific geographical area) rather than the presence of “Brettanomyces,” a contaminant yeast that can be a flaw in some wines or actually desirable (to some people)in small amounts?

I don’t care for it but it doesn’t detract too much from this overall well-made wine from Stellenbosch. The finish is again silky and finessed. I paid $17 for this. Actually a pretty good wine--band-aids not withstanding. Raise a glass!

*A day later I tasted what I had left over and it was just enormously rich with bacon fat aromas I thought I would have to pick bacon bits out of my teeth. Wine is just plain FUN!

Chateau Belon 1998 Wine Review (NW)

Big fruity nose
Thinner on the palate, lacking depth
Clean finish

Unfortunately, there was nothing exciting about this wine. I was hoping it had a little something extra, but it seemed kind of predictable and boring. The up-front bouquet of fruit was the highlight.

For me, spending $16 on a Bordeaux from Graves is a reasonable gamble. This wine may develop further with even more bottle aging; only time will tell. See also PB's tasting notes on this wine posted Monday, February 20, 2006. Raise a glass!

Donimio de Eguren Protocolo Red Wine 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Brilliant garnet-violet color
Somewhat thin nose of berries and cocoa is slow to open
Fruity palate
Herbal on the finish

For bargain Spanish reds, there are better wines. I think too much of an herbal note can ruin a wine if it doesn't show complexity in other ways. This is super-bargain priced, though, at just $6. Because of that, you may want to check it out and come to your own conclusions. I see it a lot, so it seems to be readily available in a variety of wine shops, liquor marts, and grocery stores. Raise a glass!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hacienda Merlot 2003 wine review by (PB)

This wine has long been touted by (NW) and his wife as one of the favorites I found it in Boston as it is not available in my neck of the woods. For a Merlot, this wine is lighter in color than you would expect of a “good” Merlot but in this case, looks are deceiving.

The bouquet is very nice with a yeasty, fruity cherry and berry nose that is nearly candied. In the mouth this wine is steely like a Sangiovese with a slight sweetness and loaded with fruit and berry flavors. This wine even has a tannic base and a light fruity finish that is minerally and tight.

Now here’s the deal; this wine cost me $5! Wow! It’s not your classic Merlot, just tasty, juicy exuberant inexpensive solidly made wine that I paired with left-over turkey dinner. It was very nice! Cheap Merlots can be rather nasty; this is a great, tasty exception. Find it and slosh it down, especially after a hard day of tracking down poachers! Raise a glass!

Monday, March 13, 2006

La Vieille Ferme 2003-magnum wine review by (PB)

Speaking of bottle variation, (check out the previous entry) this is a re-review of a wine I evaluated a while back. This however was a magnum (2 bottle size). I liked it better than the previously reviewed same wine I rated some time ago.

This Rhone red is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault grapes giving off a fruity bouquet just sitting in the glass after pouring. It has nice light fruit and spice notes with a back bone that is surprisingly tannic and raspberries galore.. It finishes with light strawberries.

After an hour or so, there is another layer of prunes both in the nose and on the palate. A nice value at $8 for this two bottle, bottle. I paired it with a full blown Turkey dinner; not because I thought it would be a great pairing–it wasn’t; but because I wanted to try the wine. Raise a glass.

Vastly different Reviews of Same Wine (PB)

(NW) recently reviewed Chateau De Paraza 2002–a wine I had reviewed this past September–with vastly differing opinions of the wine. Despite the push-back, I offer the following comments.

I wrote: 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 was fabulous.

On the swirl it was 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

(NW) wrote: Chateau De Paraza 2002 wine review by (NW)
White pepper and herbal nose
Nice texture on the palate
Thin, peppery finish

I always search out wines from Minervois, a region of the Languedoc in Southern France. This is a fast evolving wine region that is producing fun and interesting wines with Mediterranean grapes such as Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre.

This bottling isn't quite my style, with such a peppery and herbal composition. As a result, I don't recommend it. However, it was only $8 and I highly recommend sampling wines from Minervois in this price range to determine what you like. Raise a glass!

So how come the disparate reviews of the same wine???

First, it is possible that (NW) had an off-night so to speak; sometimes an on coming cold, the particular pairing of the food that the wine was served with or a wine that preceded or followed the reviewed wine could impact a review. But (NW) has a more discriminating palate than that so I suspect it was one of the following:

Possibility #1. My review came 6 months prior to (NW’s); enough time for a wine to “lose it” and have gone just enough down hill to warrant the kinds differences (NW) noted.

Possibility #2. Bottle variation is well known among tasters. For unknown reasons, one bottle of a particular wine just doesn’t present the same way as another bottle. This could be due to a difference in storage once each wine arrived at the retailers or one bottle just happened to get tainted in the process of bottling. I suspect this is probably more likely the reason for tow differing reviews.

What we should do, is fine another bottle of this wine and review it together or at least two more bottles in our respective locales and re-review them. The results may be telling. In any case, it’s a great excuse to try another wine! So, raise a glass and Viva La Difference!

Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Aromatic nose of plum, sweet cherry, and vanilla
Silky smooth palate
A touch of chocolate on the smooth finish

This wine is very smooth and round for a Cabernet Sauvignon. While it may not be the best representation of this varietal, it's delicious. A lot of flavors are packed into this wine for the pricetag- $7 a bottle. I have a case in my cellar as a reliable fall-back wine, when my wife and I can't decide what we want. It always pleases the palate and is fun to drink.

Columbia Crest makes really smooth, delicious wines. And they are extremely value-oriented. Don't pass up their wines. Raise a glass!

Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 1999 Wine Review (NW)

Very lightly sweet and fruity nose of apricot and honey
Crisp and elegant on the palate, good acidity
Clean finish that is silky and crisp

Good Riesling is so good that it's difficult to describe. This varietal gets a bad name because of the simple, sugary knock-offs that have polluted our minds for decades. This is not one of them, in fact, it's a terrific wine that is perfectly suited for accompanying food.

I was very impressed by this wine, and although it may be hard to find, buy it if you see it. The restaurant price I paid was $69, and the typical store price is $35. Trimbach makes a lot of excellent white wine, including Pinot Gris and Riesling. It's worth figuring out what you like in this category, and when you do, Trimbach is a reliable name. Raise a glass!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Darien Rioja Tempranillo 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Fruity berry nose
Black currant and cocoa on the smooth palate
Graceful finish

In the Spanish value wine category, this one is worth the money. At $9, it delivers a nice introduction to Tempranillo. The style is very "new world" and fruity, which will make this enjoyable for a wide variety of people. Serve it up with a hearty meat and rice dish. Raise a glass!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Paolo Scavino Rosso Vina Di Tavola 2003 wine review by (PB)

This Piedmont red is just plain wonderful! I picked it up in Boston on a recent trip to visit (NW) and we made our obligatory wine adventures to new wine shops. We stopped in at Brookline Liquor Mart where I met the distributor whose name, I am sorry to say, escapes my 52 year old mind cluttered with all manner of“stuff.”

After talking wine, she made some recommendations which I took her up on. This was one of them.

Wow! A while back I was frenetically trying to find a 2001 “La Volta” which I never did find. This wine reminds me of that wine VERY much and it is about $10 cheaper than the La Volta.

This beauty has a bouquet of flowers and candy being made on the stove with tremendous sweet aromas with a creamy tone. Fabulous! The candy nose takes on sweet cherries and a hint of Jasmine.

In the mouth--on opening--this wine is tart, minerally and stingy on every count with chewy tannins. The flavors are tighter than Joan River’s face after her third face lift.

After an hour of breathing, the bouquet is grand yet with more dried cherries this time around and a suggestion of horseradish on the trail. (That may sound nasty but it is actually amazing and wonderful.)

There is plenty of old world flavor in the mouth with a little spice forward, black and white pepper, fruit on the rear with a finish of fresh cherries that lasts. At $15, this is a must find!

Raise a glass or three. Recommended!

Covey Run Gewurztraminer 2004 wine review (PB)

I purchased this wine on my recent trip to Los Angeles as I have been searching for it in New England and have been unable to find it. If you follow this blog, you know I am a Gewurz. Fan and when the Wine Enthusiast gave this $8 wine a 90 point rating, I wanted to check it out.

It is pale straw in the glass with loads of fresh peaches on the bouquet and candied little nose of more peaches with slight apricot notes. In the mouth it is sweet, full of peaches with nice acid and texture with gentile overall feel. This is a wine you chill and slug down just for the fun of it. A nice finish of apricots rounds this wine out.

Frankly, I wouldn’t have given it 90 points. I like the Fetzer Gewurztraminers year after year just as well if not a little more. But this is a fine white for knocking down with the first tastes of Spring. Raise a glass!

Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2003 Caneros Reserve wine review (PB)

I picked this wine up on a lark on my way back from Boston. It cost me $15. It is a pretty Pinot red with a delightful strawberry and chocolate bouquet–I’m talking loads of chocolate and even more in the nose.

In the mouth it sits well on opening with light fruity notes, very nice structure yet more tannic than I would have expected giving it an unexpected vibrancy.

With 15 minutes of air, this wine is gently sweet and fruity which opens to more fruit galore with more fudgey chocolate notes. Positively delicious and eliciting a “Wow!” from me. What a nice surprise and a nice value. Raise a glass of this recommended find.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Louis Latour Meursault 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Rich, buttery nose
Creamy palate of honey and oak
Slightly tart finish

The rich nose had me thinking this wine would be really buttery on the finish as well. However, the finish is really different- almost tart and abbreviated. This didn't make much sense to my palate, so I was a little confused by this wine.

It was still relatively enjoyable, but I wouldn't recommend it. If you're looking for a white Burgundy and are leaning toward a bigger producer like Louis Latour, do some homework first to zero in on a good selection. This particular wine was ordered on a whim, and it wasn't much of a gamble. I noticed the restaurant happened to have this in a half bottle, so it was only $30. A half bottle in a wine shop would cost approximately $18 and a full bottle would be $35 or so. Raise a glass!

Chateau de Paraza Minervois 2002 Wine Review (NW)

White pepper and herbal nose
Nice texture on the palate
Thin, peppery finish

I always search out wines from Minervois, a region of the Languedoc in Southern France. This is a fast evolving wine region that is producing fun and interesting wines with Mediterranean grapes such as Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre.

This bottling isn't quite my style, with such a peppery and herbal composition. As a result, I don't recommend it. However, it was only $8 and I highly recommend sampling wines from Minervois in this price range to determine what you like. Raise a glass!

Sybille Kuntz Trocken Riesling 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Lightly sweet and fragrant nose
Honey and pear on the palate
Elegant finish

This is a nice wine and it happened to be a terrific accompaniment to my appetizers at a local seafood restaurant. It has crisp acidity and a clean, elegant finish.

German Rieslings come in many forms, from ultra dry to ultra sweet. This wine is on the dry end, and therefore, is very versatile. I paid $8 for a glass at the restaurant and the bottle price in most stores runs approximately $18. Raise a glass!

Romolo Buccellato Nero D'Avola 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Light cherry nose
Silky, medium weight on the palate
Clean, simple finish with some herb and sour cherry

A Nero D'Avola can range from simple cherry flavor to rich and robust, similar to Sangiovese. This wine is on the simple end, but is also inexpensive at $8. I grabbed it because I want to sample any Nero D'Avola wines I find under $10. These Sicilian bottlings are good values and it's worth spending some time finding ones you enjoy. Raise a glass!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wine Trip to Santa Barbara Jaffurs Winery (PB)

After a seminar in L.A. I took a little jaunt out to Santa Barbara with my beautiful and very pregnant daughter and dashing son-in-law. First stop on my itinerary was Jaffurs Winery. My wine guy in Freeport, Maine said I definitely had to check them out when I was out there. Since he hasn’t steered me wrong yet, how could I refuse.

I contacted Dave Yates who welcomed me out. I was surprised when I pulled in front of the building that looked more like a warehouse for sheet-metal work than a winery.

“Matt” greeted us and asked if we wanted to taste some wines. Sitting on a small table were five bottles. (*Note—for me tasting/reviewing wine is difficult for me when I am not sitting with it in my home with time to ponder it/study it/smell it (many times) and finally taste it. Without exception, wines I review in these environments are even better when I get them home.)

Matt proceeded to explain that they are a small operation and don’t even own their own vines, but lease them from various owners. He assured me that only premium grape vines are leased.

My first glass was a Roussanne 2004—It was pale straw with a somewhat *thin bouquet of fresh citrus, nice mouth feel, creamy notes and solid structure. All in all quite nice.
(*Remember this was not the ideal tasting arena being open to the outside air which tends
to dilute the collection of volatile esters which gives wine its bouquet.)

My second glass was a Grenache 2004 from the Stolpman and Thompson Vineyards. I was thoroughly taken with this wine. It had a wonderful bouquet of raspberries with strawberry hints. In the mouth this wine is really distinctive, having truly unique floral flavors of rose petals(?) and a wonderful mouth feel. It was just bottled in August. I loved this wine.

Next was a Sangiovese 2004 named Cane Felice, named for the winery dog, Kava.—This is the classic wine grape of Tuscany; I was skeptical when Matt told me what it was. Made from Paso Robles grapes it was a light ruby with a light, yet sensuous bouquet; really nice. Its flavor was unlike Tuscan Sangiovese lacking the steeliness I often associate with the Italian creations. This wine is fresher and more pleasant than the wines of Tuscany. It finishes of light apples. Again—Nice!

Wine # 4 was a Syrah 2003 Santa Barbara; This wine is deep red and inky looking with young strawberry and cranberry notes in the nose. In the mouth it is peppery and chewy, youthful, tannins yet with a very finessed finish. Really nice.

The last wine was a bold Syrah 2003 from the Thompson Vineyards (if I didn’t get my notes confused) and was much deeper in rich color than the previous pour. There is white pepper and deep berry notes. Hints of chocolate, strawberries and cranberry highlight this nicely balanced creation. Finishes well.

Now here is the real scoop on Jaffurs; there are only a relative handful of wineries which, in my opinion, just turn out really good wines no matter what grape(s) they are working with. I was impressed with Jaffurs as being one of these wineries. Each wine I tasted was distinctive and really artistically crafted. I was impressed and I believe you will be as well.

But here’s the problem—Production is small which means scarce and yet way out here in the middle of “Snake Navel,” Maine, my wine guy in Freeport stocks the Roussanne. So if we can get it out here, anyone ought to be able to get it and if you’re in a state where it is legal to bring wine in from out of state, visit Jaffurs website. And Raise a glass!

Chateau Simard 1990 Wine Review (NW)

Pale brick red color shows some age
Smoky nose with some cedar
Mild fruity core, some dried cherries, but a little hidden
Soft finish tapers nicely

The smoky nose is interesting, but obscures the mild fruit core. It never seems to really open up and reveal much, which is disappointing. It could be that the wine failed to age well in the bottle, or more likely that it's just not very good wine.

This bottle was opened with PB in a side-by-side tasting with a much younger wine. Our intent was to compare and contrast two Bordeaux wines that were 12 years apart in age. The younger wine was a 2002 Gruard Larose which is reviewed below.

Of course, the differences between these wines were remarkable. The Simard was smooth and round, but it wasn't "alive". This could be simply that it's not very good wine. The Gruard Larose was lively and fruity, but had hefty tannins.

I don't recommend the Chateau Simard 1990- it just seems a little odd and somewhat flat. I paid $14 for a 375mL bottle to use in this side-by-side tasting. However, read below about a much better wine that I do recommend. And raise a glass!

Chateau Gruard Larose 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Bright garnet color
Big nose of dark berries, cedar, and tobacco
Juicy core, tightly wound layers
An elegance to the finish, but noticeably strong tannins

From a legendary Bordeaux producer, this is a very nice wine. It is elegant and has a lot of delicious layers. Of course, it's young, tightly wound, and has strong tannins.

I intentionally opened this to taste a young Bordeaux alongside an older one, which is reviewed above. I was joined by PB for a side-by-side tasting of these two wines and the youthfulness of the Gruard Larose stood out. It has a juicy core of fruit and is lively. This wine cost $18 for a 375mL bottle.

Some Bordeaux wines are being made to drink a little younger for the impatient customers, but this one needs some time in the bottle. Grab one and lay it down for a while- say 5-10 years. Raise a glass!

Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Sweet nose of orange marmalade
Soft palate and light on its feet
Light, graceful finish

This is a nice value in dessert wine. It's produced in a small Rhone valley region in France and is modestly priced at $6 for a 375mL bottle. Instead of heavy and syrupy like a lot of inexpensive dessert wines, this one is light on its feet. Raise a glass!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Domaine Henri Rebourseau Gevrey-Chambertin 1999 Review (billy)

Eyes: Nice raspberry lucidity
Nose: Acetate which blows off after time, some pinot noir stink, cedar and strong tobacco after some air time.
Palate: Chunky. Some steely minerals, strawberries and tart berries. Fantastically tannic immediately after opening - let this one breathe!
Finish: creme brulee and moderately herbal finish.

With air this wine softenes substantially but never really balances out. While the overwhelming tannins are the story early on, after time an unbalanced bitterness emerges at the back of the palate. The nose is not terribly complex though not unpleasant. The finish has some green herbiness to it but never finds its stride.

This wine was a story of potential that never makes it. The cedar and tobacco on the nose were exciting to discover (after time) but they did not transfer character to the palate or finish. The palate had some good character and flavors but never got the tannic/acid balance right. This produced a chunky wine that tried but did not obtain. Like biting into a microwave burrito that was hot in one area, icicle in another and all the cheese was stuck at one end. You know that you've had decent burritos but this isn't one of them.

I picked up this bottle in England on the same business trip that I bought the Chateau Filhot Sauternes 1996 (see review below) and paid about 17 pounds (about $30 US) for it. I feel it was overpriced in this range.

If you see this one, pass it by for another.

Either way,
Raise a Glass!

Chateau Filhot 1996 Sauternes Review (billy)

I picked up this bottle in England on a recent business trip. I opened it up last night and WOW. This was something else. Now, I should be up front and say that this was the first Sauternes that I have tasted. Consequently, as my first experience of this wine, the review may be a bit choppy.

I paid 17 pounds for it in London which translates to about $30 US.

Intense is the best word for this medium sweet white wine from France.

Eyes: Brilliant honey gold in the glass with a noticable thickness that translates into character.
Nose: Immediately after opening there was a strong acetate smell but after time and air, this blew off. The remaining aromas were layered with toasted butter, musky melon, light herb and a bit of a musty rocks smell.
Palate: Massive layers to this thick wine. There is a viscosity that puts this strongly into the sweet and dessert wine category though it is not a delicate wine and could easily stand up to an appropriately paired main course. While being strong, it is still soft and nicely balanced. There are more musty minerals, roasted honey, butterscotch, and melon rind. These are all underneath an obvious apricot (peach?) marmalade flavor. Overall, the palate has a thick heavy feel that I have found to be the norm in other sweet dessert wines. I suspect the same is true of most Sauternes, however, this being my first, I will defer to later judgement.
Finish: More lingering apricot marmalade and melon with a slight hinting emergence of a limon-y suggestion as it melts away in your mouth.

Overall, I found this was a large wine and quite in a class unto itself. As I said before, I really have not a whole lot to compare this with in order to make a sound judgement. I know that Chateau Filhot is well a well regarded Second Cru Classificaion. I thoroughly enjoyed the layers and the new flavor profile (for me). The acetate smell upon opening was very strong and not pleasing, but as mentioned, it blew off after some air time. The must rocks / paper bag smell - taste did not completely go away though it lessened after time. This was not nice but I am not sure if it is part and parcel to the wine or if I got a slightly bad bottle. I'll have to have another to find out.

Nevertheless, the experience of my first Sauternes was something to be remembered and quite enjoyable.

To new wine experiences,
Raise a Glass!

Henschke 2004 Eden Valley Riesling (billy)

Nose: green grass, green apple, soft citrus
Palate: good acidity that provides a strong backbone for this semi-dry Riesling.
Finish: tapering quickly though evenly.

It should be noted that I tasted this bottle after it had already been opened for about a day. Nevertheless, the primary characteristics remained. It was still quite "green" which hinted at the youthfulness. However, the acid backbone of the palate was very strong while not being overpowering or overbalanced. The finish was soft and subtle though I feel that it may have been tempered by the fact that the bottle was opened one day prior.

A nice wine if you can get it.

Covey Run Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Review (billy)

Eyes: Light and Lucid Pale Straw
Nose: Vanilla Butter and Pear
Palate: nice balance. Pear, green apple, and lemon grass on the palate
Finish: smooth

This is a nice and very drinkable Sauvignon Blanc. It is a solid wine that easily pairs with lighter fares or appetizers. Not overwhelming or over awing but simple and very nice.

Raise a Glass!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Light cherry nose is slow to emerge
Smooth on the palate with plum and floral layers
Some tobacco on the finish

This is a nice wine, but the flavors seem a little slow to develop. Because of that, it comes across as a little flat or almost too light. It has a nice floral quality, though, which is lightly fragrant and very enjoyable. If you like really rich, velvety Pinot Noir this wine will let you down. On the other hand, if you're looking for subtlety and finess you'll want to give it a try.

Oregon Pinot Noir is almost always a great choice at restaurants when your dinner companions have ordered very different dishes. This was the case when I ordered this bottle at an amazing restaurant in Portland, Maine called Fore Street. I paid $45, which is a decent restaurant price for a wine that sells between $26-$30. Raise a glass!

Chateau Sainte Eulalie 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Light berry and cherry nose
Some tobacco on the palate
Crisp green pepper finish

I like wine from Minervois in Southern France, but this particular one is not my favorite style. It tastes like a very simple Grenache. The flavors are light and thin; there's no depth or richness.

I paid $10 for the bottle, not knowing anything about it. In general, $10 for a Minervois usually surprises to the upside so they're worth keeping an eye out for. Grab one and give it a try, but take a pass on Sainte Eulalie. Raise a glass!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Cakebread Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Very fragrant nose of dark berries
Juicy palate with fruit layers, cedar and all kinds of other things emerging
Lengthy finish, youthful and ripe

For the $50 price range, this is a nice Napa Valley Cab. Although it may be a little ripe and fruity for some, it also has other exotic layers and an overall nice structure.

This was a crowd pleaser at a recent dinner I attended. The dinner host paid $117 a bottle and ordered three to circle the table while the runners were bringing the food out. I had my fair share! Raise a glass!

Groth Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Berry nose
Intense core with herbal and vegetable notes
Good finish with chewy tannins

The herbal and vegetable notes are an acquired taste in this type of Cab. If you're not in to these qualities, you won't like this wine. Overall, it's a decent wine but definitely not worth paying $50 for. Find something else and raise a glass!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Fusee Merlot 2003 wine review by (PB)

This is another super wine value from the folks at Sebastiani. They just keep out doing themselves for superior wine at ridiculous prices.

This wine is loaded with dried cherries in the nose and a hint of green peppers in the rear. On the palate it is full of flavors of dried fruit, and vanilla. This is just sheer, simple drinking pleasure. I believe the Cabernet Sauvignon made our list of wine values and this one will do the same. I paid $4 for this here in Pasadena. Even though it sells for $7 out in my neck of the wood (Maine/Massachusetts) it would still make the value list at that price.

This wine even has a finish. Why restaurants wouldn’t offer this wine over the many overly priced and far inferior wines to this one is beyond me. I was just at an Outback Steak House while here in California and the wine list was atrocious, price gouging, and just plain uninformed. (Then again, the food was the same, but I digress...)

My kudos to the folks at Sebastiani. Well done—again! Raise a glass.

Chateau St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Wine review by (PB)

This Columbia Valley varietal with a touch of Semillion is a gentle straw on the pour with citrus tones and a bit of a must scent that is somewhat intriguing. After a few minutes the mustiness gives way to a creamy aroma.

In the mouth it is a bit awkward, slightly sour with a minerality and is just kind of dumb. The finish has a note of melon buried deep with a slightly bitter finish. I paid $9 for this at a Trader Joe’s in Pasadena. This is neither a good example of Sauvignon Blanc nor a good example of what St. Michelle can do with this grape. Give this one a pass.