Monday, July 31, 2006

Jacob's Creek Shiraz Reserve 2003 Real Time Wine Review (NW)

Ripe berries on the nose surrounded by an unusual blend of pepper and sweet spices
Fleshy core, moderately dense
Smooth finish with pepper and mint notes and a hint of vanilla

Okay, I had to get in on the action! I'm tasting this wine right now as I review the posting from PB on July 3, 2006. Take a minute to refer to this posting to see why I mention this. PB put in a rather brief review of the wine and several well-imformed comments were tacked on creating a thread of dialogue about Australian Shiraz.

I agree with the general consensus from those who posted comments. Allegedly, this wine got an inflated score from Wine Spectator with a 91. However, I don't see that in their database and am wondering if maybe it's very recent and is not listed in the wine ratings yet. Maybe it was Wine Enthusiast. Either way, that's a big score and I just don't see how the wine deserves that. Especially in the category of $10-20 Australian Shiraz, where you can still get a great deal of wine for the money. (You've got to be in the mood for a really ripe, fruity wine, though!)

This wine is still a good value for $11, but it's no 91 point wine. I agree with several comments regarding an alternative choice, the Peter Lehmann Shiraz. I assume they're referring to the Peter Lehmann Barossa Valley Shiraz, which I'd take over the Jacob's Creek Reserve any day. While the Peter Lehmann wines are usually a few dolllars more, the 2003, 2002, and 2001 are very good and worth the extra money.

With that said, it's an interesting category of wine for sure. When you want a really ripe, fruity bottle at a reasonable price, this is the aisle to be in. I paid $11 for this particular wine and feel that it's a good buy under any circumstances.

One more thing... in PB's review, you'll note that he let the wine breath for a while to see how it changed. He's very good about doing this to give the wine a second chance if it doesn't show much right away. In this case, it's the right thing to do. New layers emerged and additional complexity developed with some time. Thanks for the dialogue and raise a glass!

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Return to Roses? (PB)

After many years of eschewing the overly sweet, cloying, pale red soda pop wine called “Rose” I thought I would give some a second chance. Having read an article or two on some roses with character I stopped in a wine shop in Rockland Maine and grabbed a $14 bottle. (I never thought I would lay out that kind of change for a rose.) But it turned out to be quite a nice surprise. So now I am looking for others to see what has transpired over the ensuing two decades of rose evolution.

Traveling out to Minnesota to visit (billy) of this blog, I grabbed three to run a little flight of these wines. None cost more than $11. The results are listed below.

Chateau De Micouleau 2005 Rose wine review by (PB)
This surprising Grand Vin De Bordeaux is very pretty in the glass with a tinge of watermelon hue in the glass.

It has a fruity, gentle strawberry aroma with a gentle palate but quite refreshing and well made. It is a blend of the class Bordeaux grapes used in making the very best wines of the world consisting of Merlot (70%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).

Rose D’Anjou 2004 Barton-Guestier wine review by (PB)
Made from Cabernet Franc (typically a blending grape) and Crolleau—which I’ve never heard of and cannot even find it on line. This wine is quite pale in the glass with a watermelon juice hue.

The bouquet is creamy scented and less fruity than the Bordeaux. It is a little more puckery than the Bordeaux and basically more subtle with a clear cinnamony layer emerging after a few minutes. It is just delightful and my palate is being won over by rose for a summer time aperitif or lunch/dinner al fresco under blue skies. Raise a glass!

Tin Roof Russian River Pinot Noir Rose 2003 wine review by (PB)
Smells grapey on the nose but under whelming in all ways. A better food wine than by itself but all around not worth remembering. Even with a surrounding alfresco dinner at the Minneapolis Arboretum surrounded by my grand children and son and daughter-in-law, this wine is blah. Reminds me of why I stayed away from roses for so long. This wine was clearly the loser in this flight.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Masi Campofiorin Ripasso 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Nice nose of perfume and sweet cherries
Velvety core
Rich finish with dried cherry and earthy notes

From the house that helped develop the ripasso technique, this wine delivers! It has body and elegance and touches of Italian earthiness that I love. The texture is very nice, especially as it gets some air. For $14, you can't go wrong with this.

Next time you want a different kind of Italian wine, ask for this. If you can't find it, grab what ever Ripasso your store has and give it a try. Then raise a glass!

Valckenberg Pfalz Gewurztraminer 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Nice nose of pear, peaches, and nutmeg
Sweet core, somewhat flabby
Sweet spice finish with floral notes

We pulled this from the cellar to pair with spicy fish tacos on a hot summer evening. Gewurtztraminer has a knack for complimenting spicy food, and this worked out well for us. PB and his wonderful wife were in town, so we had to have an exotic meal and some interesting wine.

This wine cost a mere $10 and was a nice change of pace. Raise a glass!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Freemark Abbey Carpy Ranch Rutherford Viognier 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Nose of floral and soft tropical fruit
Plush on the palate, but with enough backbone and acidity
Soapy, floral finish with a bitter note beneath

After not having a Viognier for a while, I wasn't sure what to expect. This is a bottle I saved to open with PB of The Wine Cask Blog because it's always fun to share an interesting wine.

I think the nose is beautifully floral and complimented by just enough fruit. The overall plush feel is nice, and the finish tapers well. The slight bitter note at the end was a bit puzzling, but not a major distraction.

If you'd like to break out of a Chardonnay slump, give this wine a shot. That is, if you can find it of course. It's a limited production wine that I happened upon at a New York wine merchant while on a recent trip through the area. Grab it if you see it because it's a great deal at only $12. Although, the $12 I paid seems awefully low but I didn't argue with the clerk. Raise glass!

Ferrari-Carano Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Nose of berries with a vanilla note
Rich core, fairly dense, with a herbal back drop
Oaky finish with moderate tannins

I paired this with a steak at a New York steakhouse. It did just fine as a pairing, but wasn't all that memorable. Especially since I had to pay $14 by the glass.

While it seemed pretty well made, it tasted too typical. So many Cabs in this price range have that oaky character. This in itself is not a bad thing, but many wines are starting to taste the same because of the prominent oak.

I guess the answer is to keep trying new wines. Raise a glass!

Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Fruity nose of melon and citrus
Clean, acidic core
Medium-length, lively finish with a touch of honey and some pear

This wine is classy and has nice balance. It pairs well with food, too, which seems to be characteristic of Trimbach wines.

We enjoyed this bottle with an assortment of fusion seafood appetizers and main courses at a nationally renowned restaurant. I expected to be robbed on the price, but it was within the acceptable mark up at $48. Typically, you'd pay $22-24 for this wine in a store.

Look for other Trimbach whites, too, like Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Gerwurztraminer, when you want a classy white wine with food. These are produced in Alsace- that Northwestern region of France that has a German flair. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Chateau Bonnet 2003 wine review by (PB)

Gaiter and Brecher of the Wall Street Journal wrote a column several weeks ago about inexpensive Bordeaux. Since my wife and I really appreciate their notes on wine, we sought out one of the wines they liked. We thought this was it but turned out we had gotten the wrong year. No big deal this wine was $10-12.

So tonight I opened it and had it with a grilled porterhouse. This wine is much lighter in color than one would expect of a 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot–the classic Claret wine.

The bouquet on opening was full of olives and cedar with a light fruity foundation waiting to break out. The palate was typical old world with good structure and promise.

After a half hour and some cooling down, (the wine was too warm on opening) it was full of ripe dark berry fruit and more cedar. Even though this wasn’t the wine we thought Gaiter and Brecher liked, we liked it a lot! For this price, you can’t go wrong.

Superior creation by the Lurton family–again. Raise a glass–nice!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sideshow La Rosa 2004 wine review by (PB)

The Sideshow line of wines intrigued me with their silly label and commentaries on the reverse of the bottle. While I don’t normally “get off” on creative wine labels, the folks at the Sideshow won me over with their inexpensive wines that are uncomplicated and a decent value.

Since I have been trying to find Roses of late, I saw this one and grabbed it for $7. It is from the Campo De Borja region of Spain although I have no idea what it is made from. Never-the-less it is watermelon juice in color with a lovely strawberry and light raspberry scented wine.

In the mouth it doesn’t deliver as much as the bouquet leads you to believe but it is still a nice Summer guzzler. There is a somewhat bitter tone ion the palate and a light finish of summer berries. Chill it down, forget about evaluating this wine and just raise a glass to blue skies and BBQ grills!

Cotes Du Ventoux 2004 (Cave La Romaine) wine review by (PB)

This Rhone region wine is made from gathered grapes from the region and this one has a very light cherry color which looks almost like a rose when viewed on the tilt.

It’s bouquet hints of light strawberry and a little raspberry with black pepper mid palate. In the mouth it is at first a bit sour but seems to lose it’s sourness with the next taste.

It strikes me as a blend of Grenache and Syrah but there are 13 grapes allowed in the appellation so who knows? It is a bit chewy but all in all I like this wine and we had it with grilled burgers. It was a decent enough paring so raise a glass. It was $10 and I suspect you could fine it for less but once again, the wines from the Rhone tend to be just very drinkable wines at a decent price.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hartford Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Big nose of berries and some pepper
Dense on the palate with notes of sweet spices
Rich finish of dark fruit and spice

A friend supplied this wine for an outdoor dinner gathering. We had some gourmet sausages, exotic side dishes, and this wine fit right in. It is deep and complex, with interesting spice notes woven throughout.

After doing some research, I found out this wine sells for approximately $30 and gets big scores from the critics. If I find another bottle, I'll probably set it aside in the cellar for a while and see how it drinks in a couple years. Raise a glass!

Etude Pinot Noir 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Nice nose, plummy and an herbal layer
Fairly round and smooth with an underlying richness on the palate
Good finish with chocolate notes

I enjoyed this Pinot Noir at a French bistro in Burlington, Vermont. It complimented the various dishes well with it's nice plummy quality and overall smoothness. A half bottle was available for $28, which was a fair price. Raise a glass!

Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexander Apalta Vineyard Merlot 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Fragrant berry nose with a layer of black cherry
Juicy, rich core
Long, earthy finish with cocoa, licorice, and cassis

Merlot from South America can be completely different than elsewhere. This is not your father's Merlot, by any means. It has lots of interesting layers and has a rich, earthy quality that makes it unique. It tastes fresh and lively, too.

I paid $21 for this wine, as it's gone up in price steadily in recent years. For a high quality Merlot, though, it's not overly expensive. We paired it with Lebanese food, and it did just fine. Raise a glass!

Martin Schaetzel Vin D'Alsace Pinot Blanc 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Nose of pears and apples
Smooth, light, and dry on the palate
Classy, dry finish

This wine needs to be well chilled. When it is, there's a nice crispness to it. It's a cuvee reserve wine and cost me $14. I hadn't seen it before, but was keeping my eyes open for Pinot Blanc in this price range. There are some good offerings in the $10-15 price range from Alsace and I recommend this as good buy. Raise a glass!

Piper-Heidsieck N.V. Brut Champagne wine review by (PB)

I purchased this bubbly for our anniversary but opened it one (NW’s) arrival in town for a prelude to our dinner of anti-pasta, Lemon Leek pasta (homemade of course) and BBQ’s Veal chops with a Balsamic sauce.

It has a pretty, light golden hue with nice bubbles, small and voluminous. The bouquet is nutty and this wine is nicely balanced in all ways. It is gentle, but subtly fruity with pineapple hints and solid structure. It is very easy to drink. I paid $35 I believe—a splurge—but a nice one at that. Raise a glass!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Copolla Merlot 2003 Blue Label wine review by (PB)

This wine was previously reviewed by me; you can look up that review or you can just trust me that this is a really, nice Merlot that is worth much more than the $12 I paid for it.

It is bursting with ripe blackberry fruit and plums with touches of cedar, chocolate, and flavor galore. New world bargain wine with loads of character and finesse. GET, get, get it NOW! Raise a glass.

Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay 2003 wine review by (PB)

This wine is one of those value wines which you should be drinking NOT reading about! It is pretty pale golden with a lovely bouquet of vanilla, peach, and creme brulee!

In the mouth it is real nice, with solid structure, well balanced and just plain tasty. It is such a solid wine and full of flavor with a nice lingering finish that I cannot believe I paid $6 for it! Wow! Now shut up and go grab some before it’s gone! Raise a bottle or two; GO! NOW!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chateau De Flaugergues 2001 “Cuvee Sommeliere” wine review by (PB)

This is another super value wine from the Coteaux Du Languedoc that is dense cherry in color with an almost opaque appearance. It is full bodied with nice structure and the first fleeting taste in the mouth is of spice with a trailing sense of steel.

In the front palate there is a layer of menthol with cedar sprigs galore; the finish is lasting with a hint of licorice and eucalyptus. It reminds me of some of the high end Syrahs I have had. I paid $12 for this wine and would buy a bunch more if I can find it. If you run across this wine BUY IT and enjoy it to the max! Raise a glass and more.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Chateau La Clude Bordeaux 2003 Review by (billy)

Greetings readers! While i've not been posting for a while, I've been keeping copious notes on my tastings and they shall appear soon on the blog here.

This evening the fetching Mrs. Billy phoned to suggest that I pick up a bottle on the way home from work that the two of us might enjoy together. This typically means something rich, soft, red, and inexpensive (read - under $15).

While the Mrs. enjoys the old standbys that we've come to enjoy, I am always wanting to try something new. So there I was in the store looking at the spanish reds on sale (enticing but chancy), a very inexpensive Georges Duboeuf Merlot (from their "fleur" line), when I came across this wonderful little Bordeaux for $9.98.

Chateau La Clude 2003 (no typos there, it is "clude" not "claude") is from just outside the city of Bordeaux in, yeah, Bordeaux. Other than that, I could really not find much more about the wine that didn't come from inside the bottle. But Oh, what a bottle. It was a hit with both the fetching Mrs. and me.

We decanted the bottle to speed up the air time and we were not displeased that we did.

Eyes: Cheery Cherry-Plumb with only the slightest tints of maturity around the edge.
Nose: Rich round earthy currant, delicate ripe plumb with underlayers of pepper, anise, and allspice. Heady caramel creme rounds out the nose. And what a nose it is! This is a wine you can enjoy just by inhaling deeply.
Palate: supple. decent structure though it could be a touch more dry to properly balance the acid's ever so slight bite. Goes down easily and without pretense.
Finish: lingering crisp like a tart apple but with the spicy headiness of the nose's currant and plumb.

All in all, a fantastic way to spend $10 and an evening with someone you love.

Raise a glass!

Greg Norman Estates Sparkling Wine N.V. wine review by (PB)

Celebrating our 33rd anniversary, my wife and I were aced out of a real wine shop due to it being Sunday so we had to settle for a local supermarket in the little town where we spent the night.

I grabbed an $11 bottle of Norman’s Chard/Pinot Noir blend and put it on ice.

It was mediocre with nothing really distinctive about it. It was pleasant enough and had enough structure to make it potable but for $11, believe it or not there’s plenty of sparklers out there with a lot more oomph! Think–Prosecco, Freixnet, even Domaine St. Michelle from Washington State. So, like I said, it is O.K. just rather boring. Raise a glass any way.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Almira Los Dos 2004 wine review by (PB)

This inexpensive red was an experiment. I paid $7 for it which was not money well spent. This Spanish is 93% Grenache which is what the nose is from a distance with a splash (7%) of Syrah. The bouquet is typical, fruity Grenache but on the swirl there is an unappealing medicinal nose. This wine has moments of mediocrity but is confused at best.

The palate is tannic, then some fruit. It’s not horrible but worth passing up! Don’t raise glass of this.

Paitin Docletto D’Alba, “Sori Paitin”2003 wine review by (PB)

This wine is a pretty cranberry red with fresh fruit bouquet of tart berries and green tones.

In the mouth there is some toast and stern tannins with tight flavors. Definitely old world style and needs some time to open up.

With 15 minutes of breathing the nose yields earthy tones that are wild and rustic. There’s a layer underneath of something I can’t put my finger (or tongue) one. More breathing…

A fabulous layer of cinnamon emerges—wow! This is opening nicely; an old world classic; dried fruit through and through. I bought this on a trip to Boston with (NW) and this was recommended by one of the shop’s knowledgeable staff. Raise a glass.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Jacobs Creek Shiraz Reserve 2003 wine review by (PB)

This dark red to purple Aussie varietal with a crimson rim has a nose of pork fat, blackberries, eucalyptus. On the palate it has a blast of spice which tastes like eucalyptus, mint, and cinnamon like the “red hot” candies all rolled into one. It is quite “hot” (meaning harsh) though on opening.

With some breathing–give it a good 1-2 hours–vanilla comes out in the rear and the harshness tones way down to yield a full flavored, heavy but tasty wine that is robust and bold. This wine was given a Wine Spectator rating of 91 points and yet it cost only $11 and seems to be broadly available.

This is worth hunting down. Remember to taste your wines right on opening even if you’re going to breathe them. Sometimes a layer or two comes and goes and you just might miss it if you don’t.

Serve up something with backbone to go with it and raise a glass.

Beringer Chenin Blanc 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Pale yellow color
Fresh citrus nose
Crisp and acidic on the palate
Clean finish, some melon notes

Good value white wines are nice to have on hand during the summer months. I am very impressed with the quality of this wine for a mere $6; it's an extremely good value. We chilled it to refrigerator temperature and the bottle was emptied within minutes of popping the cork. It tasted great on a hot summer afternoon just before dinner. Raise a glass!

Zuccardi Q Tempranillo 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Rich bouquet of berries and vanilla aromas on the nose
Smooth and round core
Moderately long finish, floral and fruity

Smooth texture and nice fruit make this wine pleasant to drink. If you've explored Malbecs and are looking for other red wines from Argentina, look at Tempranillos like this. This one is approximately $20. Raise a glass!

Hedges Three Vineyards 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Ripe, fruity nose of berries
Moderately dense core and fleshy on the palate
Medium length finish, young and fresh

I was impressed to see this on the "wines by the glass" list at a local restaurant, but I had to pay $13 for the privilege. It was served in a nice glass at just below room temperature, which is always a bonus. Too often, ordering wine by the glass ends in disappointment.

This wine is the flagship red from Hedges Cellars, a Washington state winery. It has a nice dense core, good fruit, and could probably cellar well if you're patient. I've enjoyed other Hedges wines, too, and recommend that you check them out if you haven't already. Raise a glass!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Domaine La Due Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Real Time Wine Review (NW)

Beautiful dark color
Explosive nose of blackberry, raspberry, and cedar
Firm structure, dense core, herbal
Long finish, moderately chewy tannins, notes of cocoa and vanilla

I am really enjoying this wine. It is such a classic Cabernet Sauvignon. I mean classic!. It has every element of a great Cab and could probably cellar well, too.

We are about to pair it with two kinds of rich, homemade pasta. I'm sure it will do extremely well... Yes, not only a classic Cab, but food worthy as well.

This wine is a very small production from a family-run winery in the Oakville district of Napa Valley. Six months ago, my wife and I stumbled upon it at a wine tasting at Freeport Wine & Cheese in Freeport, Maine. Of all the wines present, this was the best and we left with a bottle. I thought about putting it in the cellar for a few years but felt it was important to enjoy a full bottle at home together before we bet on it in the cellar. Hopefully I can track it down again and grab a couple more to tuck away. Some of these small production Napa Valley wines that fly under the radar are just terrific; well made and well priced. I paid $33 for this, but it would stand up against many Oakville wines two or three times the price. Raise a glass!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay 2004 wine review by (PB)

I’m in Denver for a conference and I check in at the Cheese Cake Factory for a bite to eat. Kade is my server and he wins you over immediately with a winsome, yet sincere smile. (The service industry is in woeful short supply of people with personality and talent–this young man was refreshing change!)

I ordered the pork tenderloin with maple honey glaze and this wine but FIRST– I ask Kade about when the wine might have been opened, how long it has been sitting out etc. The wine was $11 by the glass so, as I explained, I would like to know under what conditions my $11 glass of wine has been handled. Kade–astute and personable gives a brief explanation of their high turnover and wines being dumped out at night rather than kept for the next day. But what separates brilliance from the rest, he says, “Let me get you a taste and you can decide...”

He brings back a sample of what I would be paying for and it tasted fresh, and actually slightly chilled. I proceeded with my intention.

This wine is from the Russian River and has nice tones of cream and fruity citrus. It is lively on the tongue with floral flavors that are hard to describe. This is a well made wine with a nice acid base and a finish of pineapple. I guess this wine to run around $24 a bottle based on the per glass charge and the routine minimal 100% mark up of restaurant wines. An internet search shows it to cost any where from $18 - $22 a bottle normal retail.

I liked it a lot and it was fine with my slightly overcooked pork tenderloin.

It turns out that Kade is a budding enophile and we engaged in enophilic banter as the tables filled around us. The pour of this wine was more generous than most restaurants–nice–and the glass was a tad better than the routine five pound-quasi wine glass–used at most restaurants.

Between Kade’s brilliant service and this fine wine, my solo dinner was most enjoyable!

So here’s to Kade and his affection for Gewurztraminer–raise a glass my friend!

High Altitude Malbec 2004 Wine review by (PB)

Well, I’ve been out of town for a few days so I apologize for the hiatus of reviews.

I returned to a BBQ chicken dinner so I grabbed this wine as it was previously untasted by me and my beloved.

This Argentinian red is grown at high altitudes just like the name says allowing warm sunny days and cool nights to work their magic on the fruit of the vine.

This wine is a youthful red/purple in color on the pour with a gentle bouquet but a deep nose of dried cherries and fresh fruit. It is definitely “hot” on opening with subdued flavors but twenty minutes of air as well as a chill down in the fridge–my ambient cellar is up to around 72 in these warm spots of the day–does this wine well.

It went well with out BBQ’s chicken, macaroni and cheese and a delightful reunion of lovers after being gone four days to a conference.

For the $8 this wine cost, it is a decent buy and a good wine. So, raise a glass to warm nights and hot love!