Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Undurraga Reserve Carmenere 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Wild berry nose
Juicy core of fruit and herbs
Peppery finish

I bought this bottle of wine in Costa Rica on a long weekend with two friends. While one friend was out scounting rental properties for next Spring, the other friend and I sat on the balcony and drank this wine. It was decent, but not great for $17. Fortunately, we had a great view- a 270 degree panorama overlooking the Pacific with miles of rain forest, white sand beaches, and islands below us. Raise a glass in Costa Rica!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Prestizu Vermentino di Sardegna 2004 Umberto Soletta wine review by (PB)

This wine is straw with a green tinge; the bouquet is fragrant with nice vanilla, pears and apple notes; nearly floral. Very nice.

The palate is flavorful with fine structure and a good acidic foundation with a fruity core of mixed fruits. This wine is dry and tasty and would be a great food wine but is nice by itself. Well done.

We served it with an onion tart and it was wonderful.
(It was a gift so I don’t have a reference price) Raise a glass.

Foxhorn Merlot (non vintage) wine review by (PB)

I walked in and my wife was making a nice dinner. On the counter was a bottle of this wine which she bought for the recipe. She said, “it cost $3.99. I said, “Well, it’s review able ” So here ya go.

This wine is light red–not like any Merlot you would expect to see and it is made from excess supplies of California growers.

It has a nose with intense green pepper aromas (way out of whack) with the light berry notes that are present in short supply. The palate is awkward in numerous ways but the wine is potable. If you don’t expect Merlot, and just think–“jug wine” you would probably not be disappointed. What the heck, it’s worth the $4. Raise a glass–but make a small one... :)

Southern Right Pinotage 2004 Walker Bay wine review by (PB)

This wine was served at a friend’s house. In the glass there was a ridiculous burnt wood/smoke/charred ember aroma that was so strong it smelled more like whiskey than wine.

This is a South African creation and the makers of the wine make a contribution to the conservation of the Southern Right Whale. From this bottle, I would say they need to invest some of their profits into wine making tutorials.

In the mouth it has a sour edge to it and is out of balance in every way. This bottle was $14 but the Wine Spectator had it listed at a reference price of $20 and gave it an 87 rating. Something is amiss.

This is not only NOT an 87 point wine but it isn’t a 77 point wine. The wine isn’t corked wither. I can’t explain the disparity in reviews. After a couple hours, the burned wood/smoked meat toned way down but still the berry flavors that were present were harsh and without character. I am curious to try another bottle to see if this was some kind of fluke but frankly, I’m not willing to spend my hard earned bucks on another experiment. Do not raise a glass of this.

If anyone has had this wine and found it different than my review I’d love to hear from you! Post a comment below.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mas Delmera Tarragona Tempranillo 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Plum, berry, and pepper on the nose
Clean, fleshy core on the palate, with some herbal notes
Soft, smooth finish that has a peppery kick at the tail end

I've tasted my way through a lot of Spanish wines this year. At the beginning of 2006, I made it my goal to get a better understanding of the wines from Spain. Half way into the year, I kept going back to Tempranillo. Obviously, this varietal is readily available and there are a lot of bottlings at reasonable prices. I found the styles to vary quite a bit, but didn't always end up with the right ones.

While this wine has some nice qualities for $11, I'd rather have a Tempranillo with a richer flavor and a little less pepper. Still, this wine is pretty well made, and as always, it's seems versatile.

We'll continue to see a lot of value priced wine from Spain, and Tempranillo will continue to lead the charge. Enjoy exploring this aisle, as it won't break the bank. And raise a glass!

Chateau Cos D'Estournel 1989 Wine Review (NW)

Huge nose fills the glass with dark berries, tar, anise, and floral notes
Lively, fruity core
Good finish, with floral and berry notes

This wine tastes young and exciting. It was lively in the glass and showed no signs of age. The bouquet took a while to develop, but when it did, it was really nice.

The restaurant sommelier decanted this wine for the table, so it had plenty of time to evolve in the decanter and in the glass. It was heavily accented at first by dark berries and a dark tar flavor, but showed more floral notes as it got some air.

Tasting this wine was a real treat, but I didn't catch the price. I think it was in the neighborhood of $400 or so. When offered an '89 Bordeaux, never pass it up. That's just good advice for all wine lovers. Raise a glass!

Wolffer Estates Reserve Chardonnay 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Nice nose of melon and pineapple
Crisp on the palate
Elegant finish, smooth and clean

Here's a wine from Long Island, New York. In fact, this is from one of the few wineries on the south fork with a national reputation. Most Long Island wineries are clustered along the highway to Orient Point on the pastoral north fork.

Wolffer Estates does a nice job with this Chardonnay. It's steel fermented, so no oak. When I'm in the mood for an elegant and somewhat crisp Chardonnay, this is the type of wine I reach for.

I had just one glass at a restaurant and paid $11. I think the bottle goes for around $20 in a store. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bodegas Julian Chivete Navarra 2005 Rosado wine review by (PB)

This Spanish Rose from the Garnacha (Grenache) grape is a very pretty crisp, light cranberry red color with a big bouquet of light fruit and a touch of anise that is really nice.

In the mouth it is bone dry with good acid, more apple flavor and a light finish of strawberry. This wine was $8 and is a nice food Rose due to its structure. Raise a glass.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pindar 2001 Johannisberg Riesling Ice wine review by (PB)

This New York State dessert wine is an amber jeweled beauty that is stunning right from the pour. My birthday is just around the corner and some friends came over for dinner bearing gifts one of which was this *wine. I have not much experience with New York State wines and the ones I have were disappointing. This wine borders on awesome.

Every facet of this wine is worth contemplating which is what makes a wine--a great wine. The color is unique and in fact when I first laid eyes on the brownish blush amber, I was concerned the wine was gone. One sniff and I was in reverie. The bouquet is just deep in rich spices with cinnamon and nutmeg. The nose is full of honeyed richness with all kinds of layers. Wow.

In the mouth–and I was still skeptical because the challenge with a dessert wine is to get that profound sweetness yet balanced with a solid foundation of acid to carry the sugar. Otherwise you have a sickeningly sweet wine that is stomach turning after two sips.

This wine has it all. It is intensely sweet with the acid to make it delightful and crying for more. In the mouth there is just huge flavors of ultra-sweet stewed apricots and a fruity finish that is great.

*Point of wine etiquette–When you take an unsolicited bottle of wine to your host’s house, protocol says the wine is a gift and you should not expect your host to open it.

Since I didn't buy this wine, I don’t have a price on it but I suspect it was around $35 for a half bottle. Not cheap to be sure but a wine of this caliber is worth it Raise a glass

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wrong Dongo 2004 wine review by (PB)

This Spanish red has a fairly deep, black cherry color with a dense nose with big blue berry aromas.

In the mouth it is unpolished, a bit tannic, full bodied and rustic. I served this stove top BBQ ribs and it was a nice pairing. This wine, though rough around the edges has a lot of flavor. At $8, it is okay especially if you like blueberry flavors in your wine.

Raise a glass.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Alto Moncayo Garnacha 2002 wine review by (PB)

This Grenache from the Campo De Borja is a much darker crimson that what you would expect of a grenache. This wine could pass for a rich Cabernet or Merlot with a dark cherry rim and sturdy youthfulness by appearance.

The nose of this wine is full of raspberries and dark plum fruit with some wonderful floral tones. In the mouth this wine gives a front palate blast of spice with intense flavors yet tightly wound on opening but still hints of white pepper at rear palate.

With breathing, this wine intensifies to yield loads of ripe plummy fruit with marvelously integrated tannins. This wine will age for a couple more years. This is not your mother’s Grenache. It is unlike any grenache I have ever had. This is bold, not finessed or elegant, just incredibly fruity pleasure with full bodied boldness.

With a little more time there is another layer of dill and more big fruit. At 15.5% alcohol, you have to watch how much you enjoy it!

My wife brought this back with her from a recent trip to Chicago. She bought it on recommendation of one of the store’s wine consultants. Again, this was a nice recommendation as I would never even think to pay $38 for a Grenache which is what this cost.

Now here is the perplexing part. The Wine Spectator gave this wine a shocking 82 points. The Wine Enthusiast gave it a 93! This wine is much closer to a 93 than an 82. Go figure and raise a glass!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Hess Collection Chardonnay Napa Valley 2004 wine review by (PB)

This wine is pale golden with green apple notes on opening with bready highlights and plenty of sweet fruit.

In the mouth this wine is solid in structure with touches of vanilla, spice and creme brulee. There are gentle and subtle flavors with a lady-like complexity.
The finish is of caramelized sugar.

This is a nice Chard made from Napa grapes of various vineyards but I question the rating of 93 points (Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast) and the price of $18.

Just for kicks I reviewed this wine side by side with a much cheaper Chardonnay from California that I am particularly fond of as far as a value wine. Be sure to read the preceding review while you raise a glass!

Salmon Creek Chardonnay 2005 wine review by (PB)

A couple years back I bought a case of this wine (different vintage) because it was such a darn good value. It has been quite some time since I have had more and I thought it would be fun to review this wine next to a much more expensive Chardonnay.

My wife participated in this as well.

Review–This is a nice light golden hue with prominent vanilla tones in the bouquet with a tropical fruit notes. In the mouth the palate is a little mushy but only tasting it next to the Hess Chardonnay. It is not flabby (meaning lacking acid) but just not as crisp as the Hess which precedes this review.

It has a citrus backbone with vanilla and fruit flavors. I asked my wife which wine she would prefer. She liked this wine but preferred the Hess due to its crisp (acid) structure but noted that this was a decent wine.

Then I asked her if she would be willing to pay more than four times the price of this wine for the one she preferred.

The Hess is definitely more complex and crisper but also cost $18. This Salmon Creek cost just $3.99! I question the 93 point rating of the Hess Chard. and quickly ass that the Salmon Creek is a really nice wine and SUPER value! Raise a glass of either one; you’d just be able to raise many more of this bargain wine!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Peter Lehmann Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Sweet blackberry and anise nose
Fruity core on the palate
Finish of berries, cola, and cocoa

For $12, this wine is a pretty good deal. It's dense and rich, offering a real Cab experience. It paired well with our grilled steaks and didn't get dull after the meal either.

I got this wine on sale, and I've seen it as high as $17. I think that's a bit of a stretch. If you happen to find it at a good price, grab it. If the shelf is stocked with the 2002, no need to hesitate as I've heard that's a fine offering as well. I have yet to sample that myself so I can't be sure, but good sources tell me it's a nice wine for the money, too.

Raise a glass!

Merlot Market Mutating

California Merlot grape crops are coming in huge this year...again. That makes three straight years of larger than average harvest. THAT (combined with other market pressures) means that we should be seeing Merlot prices come down while quality stays about the same or even raises.

So despite a manufactured Hollywood merlot snub (read: Sideways), now and the next year or so will be a great time to get some decent - great Merlot on the inexpensive side of the store.

If you do, let us know!

Read more: HERE

Raise a Glass.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Beviamo Moscato D’Asti n.v wine review by (PB)

Every now and then you taste a wine from a region or vintner that is so bad, it taints your view of any wine of similar origins. You have to tell yourself–“Try again; it was just a bad wine!”

Moscato D’Asti’s are typically fun wines with plenty of spritz on the palate and a fruity sweetness that simply scintillates your senses. This wine is NOT such a wine. I bought it at Sam’s Club for $14–a painful acknowledgment–and had it tonight as my wife returned from being gone for a week; a cause for celebration! It comes in a uniquely shaped blue bottle, had a cork that was the most difficult cork to remove of any wine I have had in 30 years, and was absolutely...yucky.

On opening, the bouquet was quite nice full of sweet fruity pineapple, lychee and a touch of apricot. If you only smelled the wine, you’d be ahead of the game.

In the mouth though this wine is sickeningly sweet. If you ever wondered what “cloying” meant, this is it.

The wine is dull, way too sweet, and no structure to carry any of the nice flavors that are there. If you have read the term “plonk” used to describe poorly made wine, this again, is a great example. Please don’t raise a glass of this.

Ravenswood Icon Syrah 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Bright strawberry nose with notes of anise
Jammy plum core on the palate
Moderately long, dry finish of rich berries and note of cocoa

During our visit to North Carolina, our friends supplied some interesting wines. This one was recommended by the local shop in Black Mountain and costs around $20. I've had a previous vintage of this wine and was eager to try it again now that I'm more in to Southern Rhone-style blends. This one is a GSM blend, meaning Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. However, it is primarily Syrah, to the tune of 81% according to the label.

The wine has that "classy" quality with its combination of lively fruit and a dry finish. I like this style because of its versatility. Raise a glass!

Falchetto Langhe Arneis 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Fragrant nose of apples, honey, and peaches
Good core of acidity and a rich, soapy quality
Floral finish

I really enjoyed this wine, partly because it paired so well with our various bite sized appetizers. Our friends hosted us in North Carolina for four days, and we enjoyed a number of wines together. This one, I supplied, after picking it up at a nice shop in Atlanta.

For an alternative white, this is a good choice. It's a nice food wine and has some really good flavors and a nice texture. I paid $20. Raise a glass!

Keenan Napa Valley 25th Anniversary Merlot 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Nose of dark berries
Juicy, fruity core
Finish with berry, cola, and cocoa notes

Sometimes I encounter wines that taste pretty good and fairly well made, but just aren't very exciting. This wine is in that category. It has some good qualities, but really isn't that memorable.

I think the fact is, this wine tastes somewhat flat- or, at least, this bottle does. I'm glad I didn't pay for it, because it cost $29.

Raise a glass, but fill it with exciting wine!

Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel 2005 wine review by (PB)

Cline tends to put out a solidly made Zin year after year. This one, a step up from their normal production was a bargain buying it at Sam’s Club for under $12. It is a pretty garnet with some youthful hint purple in the color. The bouquet on opening is brambly with nice berries and touch of spice.

The wine is a bit closed at first and a bit hot but some breathing room should take care of this.

With a half an hour or so this wine yields up full berry flavors, a meaty nose, plenty of fruit and is well made and just a forthright, sturdy, unpretentious wine. I had it with grilled pork chops, not because it was the pairing I would choose but because I wanted this Zin and I wanted grilled chops so what the heck?

It wasn’t a great pairing but it was okay. At any rate, I enjoyed both so raise a glass to the waning days of warmth and sunshine.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Beringer Chenin Blanc 2005 wine review by (PB)

This previously reviewed wine is just a positively, stunningly super wine for under $5–note, that is not a misprint–-I am talking about less than a finsky, 5 clams, a few dineros--and you can have a wine with structure, peach and apricot notes, with a fruit compote finish. It is made well enough such that it paired perfectly with a crab cake appetizer and knocked the cocktail sauce (made with horse radish and ketchup) out of the park.

This is my last bottle but I can assure you if I find more I am buying it up! Now go and do likewise before you regret it! Now raise a glass.

How Wine Is Made

It's that time of year. The sugar content of the grapes is reaching the correct "brix" for ideal harvest. A colleague of mine from my day job, John Omlin, has a side vineyard and wine making business in Oregon. His site, Omlin Vines and Wines has a great running blog of the week to week activities of running a vineyard. But now it's harvest time for their Pinot Gris at Hungry Hill Vineyard.

John has posted a slide show on yahoo pictures of the harvest to barrel process. It's a blast to watch how the grapes are taken from the vine to the winery to the barrel where it awaits bottling. Check it out here
Hungry Hill Harvest!

John has promised me a bottle when it is ready. You can bet we'll post a review here. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 wine review by (PB)

This wine is a nice garnet with a very nice bouquet of cocoa and black cherry aromas with a touch of licorice–nice! In the mouth there is a lot of toast flavor but it is quite hot, peppery–really peppery and shallow flavors. There is strong eucalyptus rear palate–a weird wine!

There are too many side flavors to this wine and it is all out of balance but there is something that is causing me to stay with it through breathing.

With air, it is still a weird wine yet it is somewhat intriguing though not typical of the varietal.

24 hours later I retasted this wine and it was vastly different. There are mild green pepper aromas with chocolate and a sweet fruit fragrance filling the air. In the mouth this wine much different; more balanced tough lacking grace and is a bit thin. The finish is weak and yet, this wine still intrigues me as it is unique and much better than it was even after a couple hours after opening.

Which makes you wonder what of all the wines that are reviewed annually by so many only minutes after opening? How many wines are being panned when they just need more time to come alive after opening? This wine was $8 on sale and is a mixed bag. I found it interesting.

Which stresses why it is important to learn about vintners, grape types, regions etc. and buy based on your own experience preference. At the wine cask blog, we want to give you specific reviews but pay close attention to the place of origin, the vintner, etc. and seek out wines that might be similar if you can’t find the exact wine. Learn your own palate and your own preferences and make decisions accordingly and boldly experiment with new wines. It’s an adventure and a conquest and an enjoyable journey so raise a glass!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Calera Pinot Noir 2002 Real Time Review via Handheld Device (NW)

Nose of plum and touches of spice
Dry palate with notes of cranberry
Moderate-length finish with woven layers of fruit and herbs

This is my first ever attempt at a real time review from my Blackberry. I'm sitting outdoors on the back patio of Waterzooi, a Belgian bistro in Garden City, NY. Somebody tell me it's actually October 4th!

I have to say, overall, this is a nice, quality wine. It even paired well with a filet of sole and black truffle mashed potatoes.

My prefence for Pinot Noir is a slightly richer and smoother style, but this one was enjoyable with food.

I ordered a half bottle, alone on a business trip. It was reasonably priced at $21.

Raise a glass to real-time, wireless, handheld device wine reviews and blogging!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ca’Bianca Barolo 2000 wine review by (PB)

This wine is unexpectedly light in color (relatively speaking) for a Barolo showing some age in the color at the rim. It has a big bouquet full of plumy, bread and berry fruit with an amazing, almost floral, nose that is downright sexy and sweet. (My wife said it smelled like brown sugar to her!)

In the mouth this wine is steely, really tannic, chewy, a bit thin or just tightly wound and needs to breathe. Knowing Barolos, this wine just needs time to open up.

With just a half hour even there is an amazing transformation; this wine which was rather unremarkable, almost unpleasant due to being so tannic, turns voluptuous and wowing with layer upon layer of nice things. Chocolate, cinnamon, (brown sugar—my wife) and a mixed spice is all there at different times. The tannins? They just melt away and leave an amazingly tasting wine that is delicious with—get this (NW), a nice earthy, almost mushroomy finish with nice fruit to boot.

This was one NICE wine and I paid $28 for it at a Sam’s Club. Wine Spectator gave it a 92. It’s all that, perhaps even more. Raise a glass and revel in what good wine is supposed to be and doesn’t cost you a second mortgage. Wow!

Monday, October 02, 2006

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Blind Tastings (NW)

Two weeks ago, our very good friends hosted a blind tasting of nine New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines. After making several trips to the Kiwi nation, they fell in love with these wines and always seemed to have more bottles hanging around than they could possibly drink. So the idea of a tasting night was born, and nine wines were selected.

I really enjoyed this set-up because it made it possible to detect subtle differences between wines that would be difficult to taste otherwise. My tasting notes are as follows (prices are approximate):

#1- Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($13)

Explosive nose of lychee, grapefruit, and minerals
Fairly rich palate, but with backbone
Smooth, lingering finish of citrus and grass, with tartness and complexity
(good quality wine)

#2- Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($14)

Nice nose of citrus, lychee, and sweet melon
Smooth on palate with sweet notes of apple and pear
Smooth finish balances sweet and grassy notes
(a little sweeter than others, but retains its backbone)

#3- Tohu Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($14)

Somewhat muted nose of citrus, opens with air to reveal fresh cut grass
Simple on palate, almost a touch flabby for this varietal
Simple finish, but tapers well, some floral notes
( a little bit soft and simple)

#4- Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($22)

Nice nose of grapefruit, lychee, and minerals
Minerals on the palate, nice texture
Elegant finish is balanced, with an added fragrant, floral note
(3rd best of tasting- flavorful, elegant, and balanced)

#5- Selaks Premium Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($16)

Nose of citrus with sweet touches of pear and apple
Flabbly on the palate, not enough acid
Soft finish, pleasant but not complex
(soft and flabby for varietal)

#6- Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($16)

Grapefruit nose with lively grassy notes
Rich, mouth-filling palate
Elegant finish, layers taper nicely with citrus and floral
(best of tasting- lively, rich, and elegant all rolled into one)

#7- Mutua Valley "Paratei" Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($18)

Nice nose of citrus, minerals, and grassy notes
Rich, balanced texture on the palate
Good finish, tapers well with layers of citrus
(2nd best of tasting- tastes very balanced and well made)

#8- Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc 2002 ($14)

Off nose, faint citrus and herbal notes- corked?
Woody core
Flat, sour finish
(terrible- a corked wine! and too old)

#9- Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($11)

Nose of grapefruit and melon
Soft core of fruit on the palate
Simple finish with sweet fruit and a citrus note
(slightly below average relative to peers, but not offensive)

I ranked the wines in the following order after the blind tasting: 6, 7, 4, 1, 2, 3, 9, 5, 8. I chose #6 as my favorite, the Kim Crawford, because it had all the flavor, it was lively, and had an added elegance. It seemed really well made and well balanced.

The Grove Mill (#9) was clearly the worst. In fact, it was corked! Yes, there are some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc's that have cork closures. At first, I couldn't believe what I was tasting because I assumed all the bottles were screw top. Of course, the vast majority are.

After the formal tasting, we made all the wines available for food pairing. Several of us kept going back to the Dashwood for just the right pairing with the seafood lasagna. My 5th ranked wine was number one with that dish! You just never know what might make a good food pairing.

This blind tasting was a terrific chance to examine the subtle nuances of the varietal. Thanks again to the hosts, who opened their cellar for a fantastic evening. Raise a glass!