Friday, September 29, 2006

Fetzer Valley Oaks Zinfandel 2003 wine review–real time-- by (PB)

Came home tonight to the amazing aromas of Italian sausage steeping in tomato sauce with wonderful Italian spices. I went to the cellar and grabbed a 1999 Rioja and brought it upstairs but for some reason decided to go with this Zin from the folks who make my favorite Gewurtz.

It is sitting in front of me and is imparting incredible berry rich aromas even through the heavy ambient layer of home made spaghetti sauce. This gorgeous crystalline crimson wine is dense with jammy notes of raisins and blackberries that are so ripe they smell like you must eat them immediately or they’ll go over the top.

In the mouth the first blast is a shot of white pepper with a thin texture and heavy tannins. Unfortunately, the mouth presentation is less than promised through the nose. The finish is kind of a toasty white bread.

We’ll leave it sit now and see if air helps any of this.

An hour does open the flavors a bit but there is something that just isn’t quite right with the finish of this wine. It’s awkward and unpleasant. It was $8 and has a great bouquet but just doesn’t come together.

Can't Remember That Wine?

Sometimes, maybe even often times, the simplest ideas turn out to be really wonderful ideas. How many times have you been in a restaurant, or at a friend’s house or a tasting and you loved the wine but have no easy way to remember it short of writing it down somewhere? On a recent bottle of Yalumba’s Viognier, there was the solution.

The back label includes a small perforated, tear-off tab with the name and vintage of the wine on it the size of a postage stamp! If you want to remember the wine, no matter where you are, just tear it off and tuck it in your wallet or wherever. How simple; how ingenious. Nice idea Yalumba!!! I hope many, many others will follow suit now!

Borsao Rose 2005 wine review by (PB)

This Spanish Rose is a Tourmaline red with a luscious bouquet of Summer fruit. It has an adequate structure if a little alcoholic but I served it too warm pulling it out of my ambient cellar.

It has flavors of raspberries and strawberries, but there is a nagging “something” in the structure that just isn’t quite right. When I paired this with baked chicken—a pretty benign dish to pair—the wine was not a good match only increasing that “something” I can’t identify.

After dinner I re-tasted the wine and I confirmed that it definitely isn’t just a bad pairing but with a lower serving temperature, the wine is drinkable but why bother? $8 Roses are in abundance and without the controversy so raise a glass and check the other roses blogged here that are wonderful. (I recommend La Veille Ferme and it’s only about $6!) So raise a glass while Summer hangs on.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Yalumba Viognier “Y Series” 2005 wine review by (PB)

This Aussie white (pronounced Vee-oh-nyay) is a gentle golden in color with a gentle bouquet of mixed fruit cocktail and a nose of sweet spice.

In the mouth this wine gives a steely first impression with really interesting flavors of various fruits but all very subtle.

The structure is really nice giving some power on the palate. It has a nice mouth feel–almost creamy but not quite yet there is a robust feeling on the palate. This is a pleasant change from all the standard white wines we grow used to. The finish has some staying power. This is a good wine by itself and a great food wine. I just ate some bread dipped in olive oil and grated Parmesan with spices and the wine is wonderful with it. The Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a nice rating in the upper 80's. It’s worth it if it was twice what I paid for it. At $11 raise a glass again and again of this puppy today!

As a side note--The back label includes a small perforated, tear-off tab with the name and vintage of the wine on it the size of a postage stamp! If you want to remember the wine, no matter where you are, just tear it off and tuck it in your wallet or wherever. How simple-how ingenious. Nice idea Yalumba!!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

“Julienas” Beaujolais Cru 2003 wine review by (PB)

This Cru—remember this is the best of Beaujolais, this one produced by Dubouef, had a bright bouquet of cherries with a nose of dried cherries, licorice and subtle brief cocoa notes. In the mouth it starts with a blast of licorice and dried fruit. This is another decent old world wine but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the Brouilly—another Beaujolais Cru-- previously blogged. The finish was short.

Having this wine right after the mediocre and awkward and “Beauzeaux” (previously entered) made this wine taste even better. We paired it with turkey/sage ravioli and it was okay but not great.

I paid $9 for this which is a good price for a Beaujolais Cru wine. They tend to run closer to the mid teens. If you need a brush up on Beaujolais, do see the entry regarding Beaujolais wine explained and while you’re doing that—raise a glass!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Moschofilero Boutari 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Brilliant pale yellow color
Nose of lemon and honey
Dry on the palate, with citrus notes and nice acidity
Smooth, dry finish with some floral notes

In the interest of full disclosure, this wine was sent to The Wine Cask blog compliments of Paterno Wines International. They continue to value the wine blogging community as an excellent resource for furthering conversation about their many wines.

The wine surprised me! At first, I didn't know it was Greek until I spent a moment examining the label. As it turns out, Moschofilero is a grape varietal that's making a bit of a comeback. It is primarily grown in Matinina, a region in Southern Greece.

As I was checking out the label, I realized the bottle was having a psychological effect on me. The bottle is clear glass, and a clear bottle gets me prepared to taste a light, crisp white wine- perfect for summer. Many Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios come bottled this way.

While the wine is light and crisp, the nose is remarkably fragrant. The big lemon bouquet and notes of honey are wonderful. PB of this blog also detected some sweet spices that I did not pick up on.

As for the overall structure, I enjoyed the dry, smooth finish and the fact that it has a backbone of acidity to compliment food.

Ironically, the day after tasting this wine, I saw it in a store for the first time. It was priced at $10, which puts it in the good, value white category. It's easy to beat a comparable Chardonnay at this price, but this wine is more of a Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc alternative anyway. I think it's nice to see another alternative white wine with character.

Raise a glass!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Beaulieu Vineyards “Beauzeaux” 2005 wine review by (PB)

BV has a soft spot in my heart as one of the first wineries I fell in love with as a neo-enophile.
(NW) and I availed ourselves of the tastings at BV when visiting Napa a couple years ago and I’m not sure but may have tried their humorously named “Beauzeaux” (BOZO) wine.

The wine of a few years ago was a nice conglomeration of several different grapes, well made, and rather tasty if not delicious. That wine ran around $25.

So when (NW) and I saw the newly labeled “Beauzeaux” replete with silly cartoon graphic juggler complete with bottle tag that contains three “tricks” you can play on your friends we were skeptical that this could be the same wine since it also cost only $10. (NW) said, “You be the guinea pig and if its any good tell me and I’ll pick some more up for both of us.

Well, this new wine is a blend of 8 grapes. It is cherry/purple rimmed with a pretty crystal color with a bouquet of slight vanilla with a blasts of dill in the nose.

In the mouth the wine is thin with toasty notes on the front palate but nondescript all the way around. It tastes like a blend of, well 8 grapes, none of which really come together. The wine is awkward, though drinkable, and tart. This strikes me a s a wine in search of an identity–a casualty of marketing and mass production. It is an oddity to be sure and not worth getting again.

I am disappointed that BV prostituted itself by ruining a nice wine for the pressures of popularity.

ER–host of the great NZ Sauvignon Blanc tasting blogged previously, was up for the weekend and agreed with this essential review. It was fun; it’s always fun tasting new wines–even odd ones so raise a glass!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Moschofilero Boutari 2005 wine review by (PB)

I cannot even tell you when the last time I had a Greek wine was but I can tell you that it was memorable—for all the wrong reasons! So when the good folks at Paterno Imports sent us this wine, I was skeptical.

This wine, made from the grape by that name (pronounced--mo-sko-feel-ero) is a pale straw with the slightest hint of green. It has a sweet, fruity bouquet with a nice, spicy, nutmeg and cinnamon note that was wonderful. This is one of those wines I just could sit and smell picking apart the nuanced aromas.

In the mouth this Greek creation has vibrant acidity with a keen citrus punctuation and while it smells sweet, it is quite dry!

The bouquet would lead you to expect a stronger presence on the palate than what was there but with its structure, this wine would be an excellent food wine—think; lobster with dripping drawn butter.

We saw this wine a day later at a wine shop in Boston for $10—a decent value! So, okay, now we have yet another country to explore—just stay away from the “retsina.”

Be sure to check out (NW's) review of this wine as well and raise a glass!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs blind tastings by (PB)

Every once in a while, the stars align just right and you fall into an amazing opportunity that you know you just don’t deserve.

Visiting (NW) in Boston this past weekend, we were invited to some friends’ house for an extraordinary dinner and a blind tasting of 9 N.Z. Sauvignon Blancs.

All nine were bagged and numbered 1-9. We tasted them in three flights of three. Again, once thing that was emphasized through the experience is that tasting wines side by side is the only way to really taste a wine and appreciate the nuanced differences between them.

Our hosts spent some time in New Zealand before coming back to the U.S. bringing with them an understanding of New Zealand’s forte in to the production of this varietal.

Below are my notes from the tasting.
(Because of low light conditions, we ignored that attribute of the wines. Suffice it to say they were all pale yellow with a hint of green to one degree or another.)

#1 Spy Valley 2004 $11 (WS score of 88 pts)
Big guava nose with plenty of grass with a citrusy palate, subtle flavors that are tight and minerally notes with tart grapefruit. Some complexity.

#2 Dashwood 2005 $14
(WS score of 89 pts)
Subtle guava, grass and pear notes with a touch of mandarin orange. More grapefruit on the palate with a touch of bitter and lighter bodied than #1.

#3 Tohu 2004 $14 (WS score of 90 pts.)
Still more subtle notes of guava and grass with citrusy palate and grapfruit with a rear palate of floral notes–wow!

#4 Cloudy Bay 2004 $21 (WS score of 86 pts)
Guava/grass nose with new asparagus notes. Good mouth feel though slightly tart with solid acid and stoney finish with some complexity.

#5 Selaks Premium Selection 2005 $16 (WS score of 90 pts)
Lighter nose of guava and big vanilla aromas with creamy notes and creme brulee. In the mouth it is a tad weak on acid but adequate. Simple finish.

#6 Kim Crawford 2005 $12 (WS score of 90 pts)
Bouquet of vanilla cream, lychee. Grass, sweet spice–nice! Citrus on the palate with S. Blanc character all the way. Nice grassy finish. A great example of the grape.

#7 Matua Valley “Paretai” 2004 $17 (WS score of 93 pts)
Guava and grass and lychee fill the bouquet with great mouth feel that has a “zip” to it and full of flavors with grapefruit, and citrusy complexity. Best of tasting!

#8 Grove Mill 2002–(the wine was “corked”) or possibly shot due to its age! These wines are meant to be drunk young!

#9 Oyster Bay 2005 $8 (WS score of 89 pts.)
More grapefruit than grass in the mouth; this wine has nice structure and is well made. (Best value of the tasting)

Again I stress that while wine tasting is subjective as far as what one likes, there are objective elements that go into making a great wine! The fact that I picked the Matua Valley Paretai as the best of the tasting which happens to correspond to the Wine Spectator’s rating as the highest of the wines presented, is not coincidental!

Still the importance of wine "pairing" cannot be over stated. I found myself going back again and again to the Dashwood with the different foods we had that night which included a shrimp lasagne, mushroom and gruyere fondue, Arugula with fried Gorgonzola balls.

Special thanks to our hosts for a wonderful dinner and a special time. We raised many glasses that night. Here’s to the next time around!

Columbia Crest "Two Vines" Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 wine review by (PB)

This Washington State super value wine has been reviewed by (NW) and I before but another bottle opened merits another review.

Dark cherry color with a bouquet of cherry and dark berry fruit with a hint of green peppers and currants. In the mouth this wine is simply unreal with a fine structure and balance of a wine that costs many times as much as the $7.50 I paid for it. This wine is at its mature best though should hold well for another year anyway.

In the mouth it is brimming with flavor that is balanced with the fine tannins and chocolate, licorice, and currant flavors. The tastes linger with a nice solid finish. I have to put this up on the recommended wine list yet again! Raise a glass and buy several of these before they’re gone.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

La Puerta Torrontes 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Aromatic nose of pineapple and melon
Smooth, dry palate, with good acidity
Surprisingly dry finish, tapers nicely

The wonderful, aromatic nose leads me to think this wine would be more full-bodied, but the finish is surprisingly dry. I still enjoyed it, thinking that it's a nice alternative white. It's a Spanish varietal that I don't see all that often. Because of that, it gets points for uniqueness. The price is right, too, at $10. Raise a glass!

Temecula's Wilson Creek Winery Tasting Notes by (Billy)

Well Hooray. My shipment of Temecula wines arrived safe and sound yesterday. These were the various bottles I had picked up while visiting the region last week. Thankfully the souvenir winery tasting glasses also arrived fully intact. (on a side note, the Mt. Palomar Winery glasses were hands down the nicest glasses you received at a tasting).

Now that my wines are here I can post the tasting notes I took at the various wineries. Here are the six wines I tasted at the Wilson Creek Winery.

2005 Sauvignon Blanc - $18.95
Eyes: Clear translucent straw
Nose: Crisp apricot tropical flower, green honeyed melon
Palate: Dry and crisp. Not bad, touch of green stem bitterness at the back of the tongue.
Finish: Slightly astringent linger, but crisp and spritely.
This was an OK sauvignon blanc.

Quartet Blanc (non vintage) - $18.95
Eyes: The palest yellow straw
Nose: subtly blended vanilla and kiwi and green apple. Slight citrus. Not as minerally as I would have expected.
Palate: Mixed rather than complementarily blended flavors. Overly yeasty and lacking any distinguishing character of any varietal. Comes across watery and blase.
Finish: what finish?
This wine was a blend of Semillon, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. While the nose was nice, the scent profile had to be teased out rather than coming out on its own. As the tasting review suggests, the mouth feel was limp and watery and generally not nice. This tasted like what you might get pouring a bottle of these varietals into a bowl, adding some water, and letting it sit out for a while. A wine to avoid.

2004 Estate Syrah - $34.95
Eyes: Ruby with burnt brick at the edge
Nose: Coffee, chocolate, dried cherry and creamy hints.
Palate: Over hot and peppery. Bitter at the back. A bit too acidic for my taste. Very good tannic structure.
Finish: Warm and better than the initial palate impression. Nice dried cherry on the back. Will mellow with another 2 - 3 years aging.
Overall this was a nice syrah. It could maybe blow off some of the hotness with decanting or more breathing (I have no idea for how long the bottle we tasted was opened). The bitterness at the back of the palate was distracting, but for that, the wine was quite nice.

2004 Zinfandel
Eyes: Translucent red mellon at the edge moving to clear red apple at the center.
Nose: Makes me say, "OOH!" Smooth chocolate, cherry, raisin and leather.
Palate: Nicely balanced with a warm and firm structure.
Finish: smooth with black cherry hints at the back of the finish.
This was the best wine we tasted at Wilson Creek. It was really quite nice. Unfortunately, I do not see it on their website (though I do see the 2003 there). The fetching Mrs. Billy also agreed that this was the best wine of the bunch. Their zinfandel was well constructed, had outstanding flavors that were balanced and not overpowering and showed a maturity and character absent in the other wines. This is one to get again.

Almond Champagne - $16.95
Eyes: Nearly Clear
Nose: Big almond nose
Palate: medium bubbles, light structure, almond hints. Nice
Finish: none to mention.
I should note that I am really quite poor at "tasting" sparkling wines. The bubbles throw me, I will admit it. I am also not really one for "flavor spike" wines like this sparkling champagne style with almond. Nevertheless, this was actually fun to drink. It was sweeter than I would have liked, but it easy to see its appeal. This wine, according to the Wilson Creek gang, is what put them on the map. Alex, our server, said that she likes to put a splash of this almond champagne into a glass of our last reviewed wine - the Grand Cuvee Champagne. We brought a bottle home, so when we pop that cork, I'll post another review for comparison.

Grand Cuvee Champagne - $18.95
Eyes: Nearly Clear eggshell
Nose: Nice traditional champagne nose. Granny Smith apple
Palate: small bubbles, crisp and apply. Dry and easily drinkable. Quite nice actually.
Finish: Very nice, though short, smooth finish.
For a southern California winery to produce such a well structured and smooth champagne style wine is something that I (correctly or incorrectly) found amazing. This was really nice. I brought a bottle of this home with me as well, so we'll get to see another review and then we can compare what I tasted there to what I taste here. Then maybe we'll see how much the ambiance and the atmosphere affected my "on site" reviews.

Until then,
Raise a Glass to Temecula Wines and Wilson Creek Winery

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ferrari-Carano Siena 2003 wine review by (PB)

This Sonoma County blend is supposed to be a take-off of the great Italian wines of Tuscany. Think, Sangiovese! This Sonoma County blend though is Sangiovese, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon; not exactly your typical Super Tuscan blend. It is named for the lovely Italian town of Siena which (NW) and I and our spouses toured a couple years back. When my wife smelled this wine, she said it smelled like Italy! There in lies the glory of wine! It is so much more than just a beverage.

Never-the-less, this wine is a somewhat opaque medium-garnet color with a room tinting scent of fresh fruit. The bouquet is rich in black cherry/berry aromas on opening with a big spicy nose with some other things mixed in.

In the mouth, on opening, this wine has rough tannins with a very nice front palate of toast and spice with a slight prune finish.

As it breathes, the fresh fruit nose becomes even fruitier with flavors intensifying as it warms up a bit. This wine was enjoyable and is gone,always a good sign, yet it is a bit clumsy taking on an awkward sweetness as it warms to room temp from the cellar temp of 55 degrees.

The folks at Ferarri-Carano tend to make solid wines in the just under $20 range. I have forgotten what I paid for this one but it was under $15 and, even with its awkwardness, we liked it plenty!

I am headed for Boston this weekend which means hooking up with (NW) which means plenty of more wine reviews coming in the next couple days so raise a glass and stop by soon!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Chateau Bonnet 2002 wine review by (PB)

This Gaiter/Brecher (Wall Street Journal) pick is a Grand Vin De Bordeaux and pours a little lighter than I might have expected of a Bordeaux blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot. It is a pretty Cherry red in color.

The bouquet on opening is tight with very little aroma but what’s there is nice with spice.

In the mouth this wine makes a nice first impression with superb balance. Though tight, it is crisp with a definite fruit foundation.

This wine needs to be breathed for a good hour.

With air, this wine opens to a bouquet that is full of fresh cherries with a nice green spicy flair, and a layer of steel. This wine is well made without benefit of oak. After a full hour there is a layer of evergreen, cherries and is just plain sophisticated. For $14, you can’t beat this wine.

When I first opened it, I thought for a moment, “What were Gaiter and Brecher thinking; but I knew better as their picks are almost always dead on.

This wine is worth searching out and if you ever wondered what wine was supposed to taste like, this is it! Raise a glass!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Feudo Arancio 2003 Nero D’Avola wine review by (PB)

Coming off that sorry cold I mentioned in a previous entry, my palate is not to 100% yet. Even so, this value wine was quite remarkable. This Sicilian is a nice deep red with super ripe fruit of plummy jam and blackberries with a touch of currants in the bouquet.

In the mouth this wine is full of flavor with all the same fruit mentioned above also evident in the mouth. I would say it is about peak right now! This was a $6 wine and that’s hard to beat. My grilled pizza was a bomb but the wine salvaged it. (Hint about grilled pizza–USE ENOUGH CHARCOAL TO CRISP THE DOUGH QUICKLY) (NW) noted in his review of this wine back in February that this wine was a better food wine than a solo wine. He is right. At any rate, when I am down in Boston again, I will hunt for another load of this bargain wine. Raise a glass!

24 Hours in Temecula review by (Billy)

Greetings wine lovers. I arrived back home in Minnesota today from a 2 week FOT (family obligation trip) - vacation in Southern California. In between weddings, family visits, beach trips, and mountain hiking, the fetching Mrs. Billy found some time to get her and me away from the kids and craziness to visit the southern California wine region of Temecula. Nestled between LA and San Diego, Temecula hosts some very special vineyards and wineries.

Over the course of about 24 hours we visited 6 wineries (Wilson Creek, Wiens, South Coast Winery, Callaway, Frangipani, and Mount Palomar) and tasted wines at all except Callaway.

The first thing to realize about Temecula is that it is not the lush and verdant geography of the more northerly California wine making regions. To get there from the coast, you drive through rugged (though beautiful) scrub-covered mountains to elevations of about 2600 feet then back down. The rusty-taupe of the sandy soil pervades the color palate in your view. The Temecula "wine country" is clearly marked and the relatively short drive down Rancho California Road (the main winery/vineyard drag) and it's offshoots is simply gorgeous. Being there in early September meant that ripe clusters of grapes were clearly visible (and pickable) from the roads and parking lots. What a treat!

I'll post my review each wine from each location above, but this review is for the region/trip overall.

If I had to pick a "favorite" place the winner would definitely be the Wiens Family Cellars. While the tasting room that we visited was a converted trailer (construction on their main facilities is still finishing up), the conversation, wine, and interaction here was the best by far. Far from being the most "polished" and certainly having the least "wine schwag" for sale, Wiens was overall the most interactive, most knowledgeable, and most passionate (in this bloggers view) about what they did. It also helped that we spoke with Joseph Wiens, one of the family.

A close second would be the friendly folks at Wilson Creek. This was the first vineyard we visited and tasted at so we purposely refrained from judgment until well after the trip. Even so, the casual atmosphere, heartily social enthusiasm for wine tasting, and the fun family story of the Wilson Creek Winery left us with fond memories of this location. Their tasting room was airy and light. The staff was helpful and fun. There was plenty to read, pictures to see, and wine gadgets to buy. Folks there were as comfortable chatting as they were buying. There was no "hard sell" or push to do anything more than enjoy some local wine. Special props to "Alex" our server and back room tour guide. We had a blast!

Our last stop on day one was the South Coast Winery. We stayed in one of the bungalows here overnight and ate in their restaurant as well. I must say, the accommodations here were fantastic. There were beautiful bordering on opulent and the view was terrific. I wish I could say as much for their wine. This is where I am unsure how much ambiance affects my evaluation of the overall wine experience. But suffice it to say that the tasting room at South Coast was very "nice". It was big and dark and cold and you got the impression that you were not allowed to touch anything. It was like your old aunt's house - the one with all the Hummels where your hand gets swatted if you reach out too far lest you slip and break a figurine. The ventilation was blowing so much air (quietly though) that I could feel the draft across my hands and face and had to turn and walk away from the bar to properly sample the nose of the 6 or so wines I tried there. The staffer was nice enough though apparently unenthusiastic about being there and she made clear the difference between someone like Joseph Wiens who is vested and passionate about his wines and a part time taste pourer who just has to finish her shift.

Still the stay at the South Coast Winery resort was fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone again in a heart-beat. Go for the resort, not for the wine.

Day two saw us start off at a winery tour of Callaway winery. While their location was beautiful and the tasting room simply gorgeous, we actually passed on tasting here. This was due to the miserable experience we had on our tour. The tour guide was another of these "why are you crummy tourists bothering me by being here today?" kinds. She was apparently annoyed with the questions we and others asked and sped through rote recitations of each location we visited. Both the Mrs. and I got a distinctive "piss off!" feel from her. Unfortunately, this spilled over into our general impression of the winery (unfair I know, but hell if I was going to spend more precious kid-free time risking more of that kind of an atmosphere). So we left and headed to one of the backside wineries.

Frangipani was the penultimate vineyard/winery we visited and a woman who will remain nameless played host to us. She was a piece of work. She had the attitude of a Manhattanite and the demeanor of an underripe lemon. Honestly, we felt like she was mad that I was taking tasting notes. While we were there a fellow came in with a flyer for some sort of Temecula valley vintner's event. Our hostess read this fellow the riot act in a clear play of "kill the messenger". She was neither kind nor coy in her opinions and it did not matter who else was there to hear them.

The tasting room was so-so, but our hostess grabbed the tasting glasses by the bowl (a big no-no in my book as it betrays a lack of care about the wine and lack of respect for the taster). There were no palate cleansers (e.g. crackers or something) available. Remember, my favorite tasting room was a converted trailer, so I am not one impressed by marble and vaulted ceilings. But I would rather have been served vinegar by the folks from Wilson Creek or Wiens than spend much more time at Frangipani. It got so bad that the Mrs. actually left to go sit in the car while I finished my notes. In retrospect it wasn't worth it to even go there. Now, I hope that this was simply an "off" experience but until I hear otherwise, these impressions are pretty solid.

We finished up at Mt. Palomar Winery. This was a very nice way to end our 24 hours in Temecula. The tasting room was quiet, paneled in dark woods, cool, and inviting. Our pourer, "Ray" was very nice and had some fun stories about the wines we tasted as well as good explanations of what we were tasting and how the wine making practices of Mt. Palomar influenced the flavor profiles we samples. The only downside to the Mt. Palomar experience was the "hard sell" we experienced regarding their wine club. Nevertheless, even this "hard sell" was not presented in such a way as to sour us on the experience or the wines we tasted there. We left with 3 bottles (to be reviewed later).

Over all our 24 hours in Temecula California were fun and memorable. The stay was gorgeous and while some of the wines were only so-so, many were good and a few were superb. The smaller nature of the wineries and vineyards means that the likelihood of your getting to speak with someone who is doing more than just pouring samples is high. Even the crusty folks added spice to the trip and made a memory.

Leaving the region we had tasted 37 wines, consumed 1 bottle over dinner and left with another 8 (to ship home). Not a bad 24 hours.

Watch (above) for the reviews to come and Raise a Glass!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Beaulieu Vineyards Chardonnay Private Cellars 2005 wine review by (PB)

Reviews have been scant from (PB) due to a whopping cold that has compromised his taster! This is the last one til recovery takes place.

I found this on sale at a local supermarket for $7. The normal price is listed to be $13. I bought two bottles untasted figuring for $7, even if it’s just marginal, no loss. What can you expect from a $7 Chard?

It is lightly golden with a vanilla and crème brulee bouquet that I find pleasant with a light citrus note.

It has nice acid, good mouth feel and a nice finish with vanilla and oak throughout. If you like this style it’s decent enough at $7. But I put it head to head with Columbia Crest’s Two Vines 2003 Chardonnay also at a non-sale price point of $7.

Coulmbia Crest wins hands down. Both are good-with-food Chards so if you find the BV for $7 buy it, for $13, you could pass it by.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Matua Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Light golden color with a touch of green
Huge nose of grapefruit, lychee, and straw
Crips core of straw and cut grass
Smooth, layered finish

This is the best New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I've ever had! If you can find it, run out and buy it. At $18, it's one of the best white wines for the money. But I warn you, you must be in the mood for the characteristics of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc because you can practically taste a green meadow in this bottle.

The texture is outstanding, and there's a richness and smoothness that runs throughout. Nothing is sacrifices, because the wine also has a backbone of good acidity. It all comes together!

Raise a glass!

Chateau Maris Minervois 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Yeasty nose burns off to reveal blackberry aromas
Jammy core
Dry finish, heavy tannins, with notes of pepper and a burnt, tart bite

I expected more from this after all the rave reviews of the 2003 vintage. Of course, no wine is exactly the same in two consecutive years.

The wine got plenty of air and just never came together for me in the glass. I found the finish to be burnt and tart.

Bargains abound from Minervois, France, but stick to 2003 with this one if you can find it. The price will be anywhere between $10-15. And raise a glass!

La Vieille Ferme Rose 2005 wine review by (PB)

In my quest for nice rose’s I have been buying most of what I have seen and amazingly have not been disappointed with the overall quality of this long forsaken wine–forsaken by me! Rose’s over the years became snared into the “soda-pop” wine craze having the same quality as white zinfandel–yuck.

But there is a resurgence of this uncomplicated wine and they are really surprising. This one is a huge surprise and a super value.

La Vieille Ferme produces a red and a white wine both of which have been reviewed on this blog. They are all marketed at the same price point which is usually under $6! They are from the under appreciated region of Southern France that has been producing barrel after barrel of bargain wines with character. But this rose is amazing.

It is, of course, pale, pale watermelon red on the pour but the bouquet is fabulous. It is just brimming with wonderful fruit aromas which I can’t even pin down. It is just a pleasant, sweet smelling fresh fruit kind of blend between strawberry and raspberry and I don’t know what else but I love it!

I expected the palate to be disappointing as often happens with really inexpensive wines that seem to give their all to the bouquet but this wine is as amazing in the mouth. It is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah from the Cotes Du Ventoux and yields it all on the paltate.

It is NOT sweet even though it smells sweet and has a great structure of acid and full flavors of fresh summer fruit. With this kind of structure, it will pair with a variety of appetizers or light main courses or is nice all by itself. I paid $5.79 for this wine and will be buying more. It has been a long time since I added a “Recommended wine” to our list but this one is definitely head there. Raise a glass and just say, AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Reserve 2003 wine review by (PB)

Previously tasted and reviewed before this Aussie varietal is a nice dark black cherry color with a huge, gorgeous, fruity bouquet of ripe black cherries and a touch of spice.

In the mouth, at opening, this wine is tightly wound and needs some time to open up. Since we are having friends over for dinner, I will decant it to hasten the process.

With two hours in a decanter, this wine opens to a full flavored and full bodied bold wine with rigid tannins which should hold this wine for several years. It has some light black pepper reminders under the fruit forward foundation of jammy flavors. This is not a subtle wine! Serve it with something bold that will hold up to this big bad boy. For $11, this is a solid value wine and worth seeking out, so raise a glass and enjoy this Labor Day here in the states!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 wine review by (PB)

This is another Chilean creation from the Apalta Vineyard of the Colchagua Valley. It is a pretty, intense cranberry/purple colored wine with a plush bouquet of fruit, cedar and oak.

In the mouth it is a bit sour on opening but only because it needs to be breathed; yeah, decanted! Tannins are quite stiff, even chewy and flavors are incarcerated in youth. Decanting should help.

With an hour of time to breath and be swirled in a decanter the wine comes together with nice aromas of ripe dark fruit and a spicy, cedary nose. The palate is lush with ripe berries but this wine suffers from immaturity. It is tasty but austere and needs a couple more years on the shelf. It was really enjoyable with a grilled-on-the-charcoal medium rare slab of beef but should be downright sexy if aged. This wine was a gift from (NW). The Wine Spectator gives a reference price of $23.
Raise a glass!

AlMeDo Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 wine review by (PB)

This Spanish proprietary blend has BIG cherry-berry aromas in a cherry red/purple “package.”

My wife picked this out on one of our wine hunting endeavors being enticed by the hand written sign on the wine which said “Awesome!” At $7.50, it was worth the gamble.

It is rich and full of flavor galore with bold tannins for support and plummy jam contributed by the Syrah grape. It opens a bit with breathing to give more huge blackberry fruit. It went well with out Italian sausage dinner. At this price, this was a really nice value. I wouldn’t describe it as awesome, but certainly—very good! Raise a glass!