Sunday, December 30, 2007

Prunotto Barolo 2001 wine review by Billy

PB and NW and I paid about $47 for this Barolo. We then decanted it for about 5 hours before tasting it. As you'll see, it still wasn't enough time! (WOW!)


Overall, this wine is still way too young to drink. Even with extensive decanting, the wine tasted young and extremely tight. The wine itself is wonderfully pregnant with possibility and promise. However, if you can find a bottle or a case, lay them down for *at least* another year if not more. Then raise a glass and enjoy enjoy enjoy because the wine with go on and on and on!.

Dornier Pinotage 2004 wine review by Billy

We paid about $11 for this South African Pinotage. It was tasted blind against the Pinot Noir and Barbera D'Alba reviewed below. Of the three it was the worst.


Overall, the plastic smell on the nose was described by PB as "bandaid thrown into a fire". I think that's accurate. Raise a glass of something else.

Rivetti Vigneto Ca'Veja Barbera D'Alba 2003 wine review by Billy

We paid about $18 for this Barbera D'Alba and tasted it blind against the Pinot Noir (review below) and Pinotage (review above)

Overall this had a magnificent nose of fruit and oak and complexity that held promise the mouth feel and flavor simply did not deliver. If it were on sale, buy a bottle and write us about what you think.

Raise a Glass!

Saintsbury Pinot Noir 2005 wine review by Billy

We paid about $28 for this wine and tasted it blind against a South African Pinotage and an Italian Barbera D'Alba.

NOSE: Mushroomy. A slight "pinot stink" but much more subtle and nuanced than I typically expect.
PALATE: Even Feel, excellent structure and strength without being overpowering.
FINISH: Delightful strawberry decrescendo.

This was the best of our tasting this evening.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Wine Cask Blog Celebrates its 3rd Anniversary! (NW)

Wine is everywhere! It's hard to believe that wine has become the beverage of choice for millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Three years ago, we decided to launch The Wine Cask Blog. It was December 2004, and we wanted a way to collect our wine reviews in one place and share them with other wine enthusiasts.

Since then, we have posted roughly 1,500 wine reviews to share our discoveries. We place special emphasis on finding value in the world of wine and we record reviews of nearly every wine we taste. Hopefully, these reviews will help you in your own journey through the world of wine.

Raise a glass!

Cabernet Sauvignon 3 Way Head to Head wine review by Billy

NW, PB, and I are all together and tasting for the post Christmas holiday. This evening it was a Cabernet flight. The goal was all cabs in the $15 range from different regions of the world. We selected a California, Argentina, and Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. NW and I liked the Australian while PB liked the Californian best. I liked the Californian second while NW preferred it least of the three. Thus proving that wine tasting and drinking is *really* about what you like.

Here are my notes on the three Cabernets we tried:


(2002 pictured, 2003 reviewed)



Overall: I preferred the 2004 Greg Norman Cabernet Merlot. The depth of flavor and spice and structure was far and away above the rest. The Hayman & Hill was my second favorite with its balance and fruity structure. The Salentein while having a beautiful nose and finish had a weak structure that was poorly constructed in my opinion (though NW preferred this over the Hayman & Hill and PB preferred the Hayman & Hill over the rest).

Anyway you measure it though, for about $15 these wines are good exemplars of the varietal and affordable.

Raise a Glass!

NewYear's Means Bubbly!

Here we are on the brink of another New Year's celebration and of course that means bubbly!
First just a point of accuracy–“Champagne” is wine that comes from Champagne, France. If it isn’t from Champagne, France, it isn’t Champagne.

Now that, that’s out of the way let’s get down to some rules of thumb rather than getting too caught up in specific names of wines which may or may or may not be able to find. Remember, you like what you like. Just make sure you really like what you like.

Do yourself a favor (and anyone else who will be cerebration with you, completely avoid the host of sparkiling wines that are ubiquitous at this time of year and are generally displayed on end caps or special displays so that you will buy them. If the wine costs less than $5, PLEASE don’t buy it!

For just a couple dollars more you can buy myriads of sparklers that are actually well made and taste good rather than the sickeningly sweet “soda-pop” wines that are disgusting and make you sick. Andre’s, Cook’s, and others of their ilk are such brands but there are many more.

For less than $10 you can find wines from Spain, Italy, and America that have some character and taste like, well, wine. Spain’s, Freixenet is popular and a solid choice and is always a decent buy. Washington State’s St. Michelle produces three types of sparklers all in the $10 range and are consistently well made. If you are given to a higher end sparkler look to a place like Schramsberg who makes sparkling wines that will rival those of French origin. From Italy are the various “Prosecco” sparklers which again, are routinely well made and won’t break the bank.

Now if you’re a purist and you have to have Champagne, my personal favorite is Mumm’s Brut Prestige. It will cost less then $20 and is a high quality, yet inexpensive bubbly that is affordable and pleasing.

In the case of New Year’s Eve celebrations, if everyone is pretty well toasted anyway, go ahead and open that Andre’s I guess. But if you’re looking for a wine experience, pay the extra few bucks and get a real wine. Happy New Year to you all and remember to have a designated driver. You don’t want to start 2007 on a catastrophic note.

Raise a glass to the future!

Cook's Brut Sparkling Wine wine review by (PB)

This sparkling wine--and I use the words loosely, is plink from the get-go. Sadly, this is what tons of people identify with when they are asked if they like "Champagne." PLEASE--this is neither Champagne nor wine...

Sure it costs less than $6 but it isn't worth even that. You can find a drinkable $6 sparkler but this isn't one. See post below this one for some ideas for New Year's celebrations and raise a glass of something potable.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

South Africa VS New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Face Off: Review by Billy

Today I am at PBs house for the holidays. We put the Kim Crawford 2006 Sauvignon Blanc head to head against the Sebeka Sauvignon Blanc from the Western Cape of South Africa (also the 2006 vintage).

We blind poured and were able to identify the wines immediately by their distinctive noses. The Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was intensely citrussy and "out there" in a delightful way. The Sebeka was earthy and fungal in a pleasing way that I tend to attribute to the South African viticulture (almost regardless of varietal). This is one of the reasons I so enjoy the South African wines - the have preserved a sense of place.

On to the reviews:

Kim Crawford 2006 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc:
Nose: big soft lemon with honey. pleasant
Palate: acids predominate on the palate giving backbone to the soft lemon and honey flavors.
Finish: soft and tapering, lingering citrus that is a delight.


Sebeka 2006 Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc
Nose: earthy and fungal with a softly floral scent. Soft citrus pulp smell underneath the wonderfully intriguing terroir smells.
Palate: acids predominate providing good food-accompanying structure. Nice mouth feel and lingering earthy character.
Finish: weak finish in an otherwise interesting wine.

Overall: The Kim Crawford stands alone as a more nicely crafted wine. The Sebeka has so many interesting flavor characteristics, though, that it really should not be missed.

The Sebeka runs about $8-10 a bottle and the Kim Crawford about twice that at $14 - 20 a bottle. Of the two wines the Kim Crawford with its bigger flavors will do well both before as well as during a meal. The Sebeka will do well before a meal for folks who want an interesting and enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc, though it will shine during the meal with its earthy profile and un-intrusive citrus.

Both wines are worth Raising a Glass to.

Monday, December 24, 2007

To Cork or Not To Cork book review by Billy

To Cork or Not To Cork by George Taber is among the "must read" books for the wine enthusiast in your lift. (Amazon link here).

Disclaimer: I was sent this book to review

I am not personally one for non-fiction but this book hooked me from the outset. Unlike PB who reviewed this book as well here, I have no previous interest in the history of corks, wine closures, or wine keeping. My interest was in the wine itself, not the business of bottling. However, this book successfully engaged me and held my interest as it laid the history of wine keeping and delved into the machinations of the cork barons of Portugal, the technological upstarts in the US Pacific Northwest and the dare-to-try-anything Australians. It also has me, even today, looking at corks and closures differently. That is the mark of a remarkable book.

The writing style is simple and easy to read - it is as accessible as a well produced BBC or Discovery Channel documentary while being more "heady" than tv-in-a-book.

If you're looking for last minute gifts for Christmas or the New Year, click the amazon link above and get it for the wine lover in your life.

VEO Grande 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon wine review by Billy

Nose: cherry cola, socks, warm spice
Palate: even, not overly tannic, berry
Finish: warm, soft

Overall, meh. I have to be honest, lots of folks like this and I am interested to try it again but I was not impressed by this wine. It is not bad, but, to me, it was not great either. However, and this is a big however, when considered in light of the price point, it is a really great deal. It is not a "wow me" cabernet sauvignon, but it is certainly enjoyable and well made. It cannot be beat for the price.

Raise a glass!

1999 Robert Mondavi Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wine review by Billy

Nose: dirt, aged earth, finely layered oak, spice, walnut
Palate: relaxed, all in tune and harmonious
Finish: finely made, smooth, green grapes.

This was the hit of the evening and a surprise find at a local wine store. While NW and I were just looking around, we spied this bottle listing at about $55. We decided to pick it up as an curiosity - not knowing whether or not it had been subject to too hot summers or too cold winters out there on the New England wine store shelf. But it was a holiday so we decided to go for broke and pick it up. We were not disappointed. This wine is at its peak. All the rich earthiness meshes with classic California Cabernet flavors in an orchestrated harmony that soothes the palate and warms the heart. While not a bargain, it is fairly priced. If you can find it you will not be disappointed. This was, quite simply, Merry Christmas in a bottle. Enjoyed with friends and relatives, it makes the year memorable.

Raise a Glass to Mondavi's 1999 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon!

2005 Amisfield Pinot Noir wine review by Billy

Nose: classic Pinot stink, wet tobacco, smoky cola, slight hints of cardamom and allspice at the very end of a deep inhale.
Palate: light and fruity raspberry, candied cherry at back. Beautiful mouth feel when it first hits the lips, tongue, and palate.
Finish: deep spice lightly realized, candy, lingering and special.

This wine was a real hit this evening as it was served with a butternut squash soup, green salad and fresh light pasta. At about $30 it is a very high quality wine at an affordable price. A fantastic flavor and expertly made. If you have the chance, please do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle for now and a bottle for later.

2005 Flora Springs Napa Valley Chardonnay wine review by Billy

This wine was tasted with NW at his New England estate.

Nose: Quite possibly some small TCA taint evident on opening. However, this did "blow off". Nevertheless, we did still continue with the tasting and review. After the corkiness smell was eliminated, honeyed pear emerges with cirtussy pineapple and toast underneath. I expect that these would be at the fore in an untainted bottle.
Palate: fine and light. good balance.
Finish: fruity with some green grass.

Overall, a nice and subtle chardonnay. It is not overly oaky, not overly buttery, not overly fruity, but very nicely balanced. Subtle, staid, elegant.

2007 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau wine review by Billy

The Fetching Mrs. Billy and family and I are in New England at NWs place for a day before we head north to PBs house for the Christmas and New Years Holidays. This bodes well for lots of wine tasting and great fun. Be sure to keep checking back here at The Wine Cask Blog for updates as we have planned several evenings for the three of us (NW, PB, and me, Billy) to taste a wide variety of wines for Christmas as well as New Years.

On to this tasting of the 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau (again - reviewed previously here and here). This was served with a wonderful array of appetizers including blue cheese, honey, and walnuts.

Nose: Strawberry predominates. Undertones of something I can only describe as petroleum
Palate: limp, thin
Finish: tannic strawberry at the end

Overall: still not the best year for Beaujolais Nouveau. Though after a day of travel and sleeping recovery, then sledding in the New England snow, it is really not a bad start to the evening.

Wine & Philosophy Book Review by Billy

Looking for some last minute Christmas gift ideas for the cerebral wine lover on your list? Then check out Wine & Philosophy edited by Fritz Allhoff (Amazon link here).

(Disclosure: I was sent this book to review)

The book is a collection of essays and articles that run the gamut from heady to witty to intensely scholarly. The book appealed to me personally (I hold an undergraduate degree in philosophy and an MA in communications with an emphasis on philosophy) and was an engaging read. It is definitely not a casual read, but something that would make a great read for someone wanting to go "deeper" into both the philosophical underpinnings of wine and it's role in western philosophical traditions.

Some of the articles stretch the links between wine and various philosophical traditions or disciplines but are an enjoyable excursion into the worlds of "as if" and possibility. Consider it in the same family (though a grown up big brother) as "Pooh and the Philosophers".

Either way, enjoy this Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Gift Ideas by (PB)

Need some gift ideas for that enophile in your life? I hope this helps.

I have been studying wine for over 25 years so it’s fairly safe to say I have all the gizmos, gadgets and gee-gaws any aspiring enophile could want. So remember, my council is based on the assumption that I am “every man” and that my particular gift likes and dislikes might be fairly representative. If you grant that assumption, I think you will find this helpful and may even spare you some embarrassment on the gift giving end when you give that cork wreath to someone special…

In the wine category—
Port wines—“Ruby,” “Tawny,” and “Late Bottled Vintage” ports are all quite inexpensive. Don’t confuse a “Late Bottled Vintage” port with a Vintage Port. You will know immediately by the price! A L.B.V. port will cost less than $20. A vintage port will start at twice that and you’ll be hard pressed to find any for under $50 and that will be for a very young one. With age, you are usually talking in the $100-$150 range.

Vintage Port
—Always a treat and a great gift but it is pricey—(see above)

Champagne—also another reliable treat for most normal people. I am not normal and a good bottle of champagne would be wasted on me. But for well under $50, you can buy some very nice sparklers.

In the wine paraphernalia category—

Glasses are always welcome; namely because there are so many different shapes geared to a particular style of wine and because they break. But not just any old wine glasses; nice glasses and that doesn’t have to mean expensive. I like Riedel (pronounced to rhyme with “needle”) and their “Vinum” series are lovely crystal and will run you around $20 for one glass. (See I’m not talking about a whole set here, just a special glass or glasses just for “him” or “her”) The Bordeaux glass with it’s large 21 oz. bowl is great for tasting and evaluating red wine. But then they make a special shape and sized glass just for Chardonnay; Zinfandel; Burgundy, you get the idea. Spieglau (pronounced to rhyme with, uh, never mind) is also another name which makes a nice quality, but inexpensive glass.

Williams-Sonoma carries Riedel and Crate and Barrel carries Spieglau or at least used to. I think the Crate and Barrel may even carry their own brand which are actually pretty nice and about half the cost.

Vacuum seal stoppers
—These actually work and again will cost you less than $20! They help keep opened wine a bit longer. Some work better than others but I paid $7 for mine at T.J. Maax and they are now a year old and still working well. That includes a pump and two stoppers.

Spray preservatives—The Wine Enthusiast has an aerosol spray that you shoot into an opened bottle of wine which displaces the air with an inert gas thus preserving the wine. I have never tried this but I am told it works! $10 buys you many bottles of preserved wine!

Stemware Care
--Various sizes and shapes of stem ware brushes and odor free soaps are available at wine suppliers on line. I love mine!

Label Lifters—for removing wine labels from bottles; some work better than others and I have found the ones from to be the best. Around $8!

Wine identification
--The very best wine gift I have received to date is an aroma kit which my lover, girlfriend, and wife of 33 years made for me. A wooden box, some glass vials (obtainable on line from any medical supply house) and you put your scents in each vial for continued reference. You can buy a small, ready made kit though from the Wine Enthusiast but they are a bit pricey ($60) I believe.

Cork screws
like my glasses, just can’t really have too many of them; especially a unique one, (*note—unique doesn’t mean stupid; like a Santa handle) or a particularly functional one—the best are called waiter’s cork screws and have a hinged lip on it. These are purely functional and are less than $10. But a very special cork screw, like one from Laguiole can run you in to the hundreds of dollars. If you have money to burn…

Wine cooler
—these come in drastically variable price ranges. I have a Sunbeam generic 35 bottle cooler which cost me less than $200. The same size from one of the premier makers like Haier will cost you more than twice that but of course you get a better quality unit.

—For my birthday this year I received a crystal, monogrammed chiller which is essentially just a big glass jar—a pretty one—which fits a bottle of wine submerged in ice water for that quick cool down. The prices vary widely depending on composition.

Wine totes are also very practical and handy. I'm not talking about the bag kind of tote but one that looks more like a small piece of luggage. It can carry one or two bottles of wine, has an insulating material on the inside and keeps your wine temperature moderated while in transit. These are also fairly inexpensive at $25 or less.

Books are a nice idea if you the person is a book kind of person. I like the huge wine volumes with the magnificent pictures from around the world. I received Wine by Andre Domine (Barnes and Noble) two years ago and it is magnificent for the very beginner to the very studied. A handy reference book is also a nice idea; Andrea Immer and Food and Wine Magazine each have a quick reference book that costs around $10. Check the book reviews posted this past year on this blog.

Mags. If we’re talking about a real wine enthusiast the Wine Spectator ($49/year) and the Wine Enthusiast ($29) are essential! If your wine lover enjoys cooking as well, I like Food and Wine magazine.

A wine journal or log book; If they haven’t been doing so they need to be writing about their wine. This doesn’t have to be some gimmicky official “wine log” but just a nice book with blank or lined pages. Leather is ALWAYS special…

What not to get—any kind of clothing with a wine motif, really, please! Unless perhaps its an apron--the one exception. :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

To Cork Or Not To Cork by George Taber a book review by (PB)

To Cork Or Not To Cork, that is the question! Whether tis nobler in the mind of wine lovers to suffer the aromas and flavors of corked wine or to use a screw cap and eliminate such taint has its supporters and detractors. Both are equally passionate in their view.

When I received this book to review, I thought, “An entire book about the cork controversy?” Y-A-A-A-A-W-N

To Cork Or Not To Cork, (Scribner 2007) by George Taber–noted author of The Judgment of Paris--does such a masterful job in handling the issue, the book is fascinating, easy to read and absolutely delightful!

As the subtitle reveals--Tradition, Romance, Science And The Battle for the Wine Bottle--is about far more than just which closure is best. It is a history of wine and specifically wine problems and how much attention has been given to the problem for decades.

After reading this book, you may still lament the decline in the usage of cork in sealing off wine from the ravages of air, but you will certainly appreciate the care, concern, research and money invested in the endeavor of bringing the likes of us, the very best wine that can be made.

If you have a wine lover on your Christmas list, this would make a great gift! Sit in a comfortable chair, raise a glass and enjoy Taber’s new book.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nice nose of mixed berries and currants

Fairly plush texture with dark fruit on the palate

Finishes with gobs of chocolate and currant layers

This is a fairly good wine that will please fans of Napa Cabernet. It's not particularly refined or well-structured, but it has the big flavor and nice texture that has come to characterize Napa Cab. Serve this with a steak and this wine will shine.

Prices continue to climb for wines like this from top producers. At $45 or so, it's not a wine that most people will open every night. However, next to the winery's top Cabernet-based offering called Insignia, this wine looks almost inexpensive. Raise a glass!

Ridge Geyserville 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Rich nose of black cherry, licorice, and sweet spices

Plush core of fruit on the palate

Very spicy finish with cinnamon, cloves, and anise wrapped around a raspberry layer

I opened a magnum of this wine for Thanksgiving dinner. It was passed around along side a magnum of 1997 riesling so guests could enjoy both a red wine and a white wine with their meal.

The wine paired nicely with the traditional Thanksgiving day dishes. It has a youthful taste and texture, with fresh fruit flavors, rich spices, and plush tannins. It's a blend of 77% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, and 6% Petite Sirah that drinks nicely now but will probably also cellar quite well for up to a decade.

If you are a Zinfandel fan, this is a wine that you should taste. Stylistically, it's right up the middle and has a history of even airing on the refined side. Meaning, it's rich, bold, and actually quite balanced; not a heavy, over-extracted wine. Magnums might be hard to find, but I see the standard bottles frequently at prices around $30-35. I paid $75 for the magnum and consider that a reasonable premium for the scarcer format. Raise a glass!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

VEO "Ultima" Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 wine review by (PB)

This wine--which may only be available at Sam's clubs [uncertain about that] is a surprising wine worth seeking. It is a very young purple wine with a herbal bouquet and ripe blackcherry fruit and a true Cab. nose.

It is a bit course on opening but with air evens out a bit but this wine has real potential. The couple reviews of it I found on line were not very favorable but I believe they miss the real potential of this wine. It does not taste like a new world wine first of all which is why I believe the reviewers didn't like it. Their expectations were misplaced.

If I didn't know better, I would have thought this was a Bordeaux with some complexity and old world style. In the mouth it is immature but has genuine flavor with some complexity with black cherry fruit and a hint of mint even. Let this wine open for about an hour or decant it. For $10, this is a wine I plan to buy a couple more bottles of and lay them down for a couple more years. The wait could be impressive! So, raise a glass. (no pic available of label)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Conquista Malbec 2005 wine review by (PB)

Nice cranberry hue with seductive bouquet of rich black raspberries and almost minty spice.

This is a really nice smelling wine.

The palate is heavy with dark ripe fruit and soft flavors. For $9 it is pretty decent so raise a glass.

Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc 2005 wine revie by (PB)

Nice medium gold with vanilla cream and citrus aromas.
Palate is "zingy" with citrus and summer fruit tones. Finish lingers. For $8 it's good drinking but nothing distinct. Raise a glass.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

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

Medium garnet hue with ripe fruit nose of plum and blackberries.

Palate is covered with blackberry flavors and ripe plums with decent structure and overall balance.

This wine was around $6 and once again Columbia Crest delivers a big value wine. It is easy drinking and for the price, stock up, then raise a glass.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Solane Santi Ripasso 2002 wine review by Billy

Nose: tobacco, cherry, and something akin to a Pinot Noir strawberry pungency that hints at an earthiness not found in many new world style wines.
Palate: "thinner" or less jammy old world style feel that is balanced with tannins and acids that allow an even mouth feel without overstating anything.
Finish: chocolate candied cherries finish out pleasingly.

The Ripasso is an Italian wine made in a different style. By adding dried grapes or allowing others to go through a second fermentation, the wine is "aged" quickly and given a body and character that is typically found only in older vintages/growths.

This wine was given to us as a gift and it accompanied a nice meal with the fetching Mrs. Billy.

Pick this wine up for a mature feel/taste without paying a mature price. For another Ripasso review by NW see this.
Raise a Glass!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of mixed berries, anise, and cinnamon

Juicy core of cherry on the palate, dense and tight

Moderately tannic finish of berries with lingering spice

I was treated to a bottle of this wine while on vacation. Friends from Milwaukee flew down to meet my wife and me in Florida for a few days at the beach, and were generous enough to bring this along. With a budding wine interest, these friends had been tasting their way through Meritage wines and other red blends from California. In that vein, this Cyrus was begging to be opened.

It's a tasty wine that delivers nice flavors, especially on the nose. However, it's dense and firm. Because of that, I don't know that we ever got it to open up completely. We didn't have a decanter at our disposal, so we did our best to linger over our glasses.

The wine remained firm and tannic throughout our tasting. If you have some, let it sit in the cellar for a couple more years and see what happens. With a base of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, it's a proprietary blend of grapes that may continue to evolve in the bottle. For $50 or so, it's a special treat wine. Raise a glass!

Grant Burge Filsell Barossa Shiraz 2003 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Ripe berries and spices on the nose

Juicy, dark fruit on the palate

Finishes with raspberry, currant, and a dose of black pepper

This wine is full-bodied, ripe, and peppery. It has some classic Barossa qualities, but is just an average wine. It doesn't come together extremely well like a top-end Shiraz.

I paid $20 for the bottle, and have since seen it priced as low as $15. Given that the price range is being stretched well into the six figure range for Barossa Shiraz, this wine seems fairly priced. Raise a glass!

Fernleaf Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose has grapefruit and grassy notes

Core of citrus on the palate

Juicy, citrus finish

Here is a basic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for $10. It's clean and crisp, with a nice flavor profile. In this price range, there are still some good wines and it's hard to go wrong. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Falesco Vitiano Cabernet-Merlot-Sangiovese 2005 wine review by (PB)

I think I paid a little under $10 for this wine. It is cranberry in color with a thick, heavy, dark berry aroma.

The palate is a bit understated but nice hints of dark fruit and black pepper. All in all, I liked this wine and it paired well with home made pasta with meat sauce. How can you go wrong? Raise a glass!

Note--this isn't the exact label but it's close enough to get you to the right place...

Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc 2005 wine review by (PB)

This Chilean is medium gold in hue with fairly strong aromas of vanilla and citrus.

In the mouth the wine is flavorful and "zingy" with citrus and summery fruit with good varietal presentation. This is their production level wine and sells for around $10 though I found it for $8. It is always a decent value so raise a glass!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Step Rd. Blackwing Shiraz 2005 wine review by (PB)

This wine is a pretty purple, burgeoning ruby hued wine with a bouquet that is up front with black cherry, fresh cherry fruit and spicy berries to boot but in the rear there is a unique scent of APPLES. That's right; apples and yes, this is a red wine!

On the palate this wine is another fruit bomb with soft structure and very ripe dark fruit with a sweet foundation. this is a very popular style and it is well made with big flavors and drinks very easily. But that being said, it just doesn't taste distinctive; it tastes like a gazillion other new world Shirazes on the market. It finishes well, and it's a decent wine for the under $11 I paid for it. But I have to admit, the seemingly monoclonal new world fruit bombs are all beginning to taste the same. Raise a glass if sweet, dark and fruity is what you enjoy!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon "Vision" 2006 wine review by (PB)

This Chilean is a thrillingly ruby-garnet pour with purple highlights--really pretty!

It has a deep rich, ripe plum bouquet with pepper notes in the nose.

Palate is intense with ultra smooth tannins and dark fruit. Seems to need a little more time in the bottle. Maybe another year but is really ready to drink now. I paid $12 for this fruit forward new world wine. Not unique or distinctive but very easy to drink and full of flavor. Raise a glass.

Maison Nicolas Reserve Merlot 2003 wine review by (PB)

This is 100% Merlot and peddled by Sam's Club and elsewhere. Friends dropped this off while I was in the middle of a battle with the flu. I felt better just knowing someone dropped off a bottle of wine for the heck of it.

I have had this name of wine before but not this varietal or year. It's color is aging with purple prune hue and a bouquet of prunes, olives, and ultra ripe plums.

In the mouth the wine has unrelenting tannins which are a bit out of balance; this wine will not get any better and is in fact peaked. Flavors range from slight black pepper with prune notes and a short finish. In all fairness, this wine deserves another review when I my palate is 100%.

Still, for $6 (sale price) you can raise a glass.
(label pictured is basically same except for the name of the varietal)

Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 1997 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Rich nose with dueling aromas of bright lemons and dried apricots

Plush on the palate, with lime and wet stones

Finishes with more dried apricot and a long, silky finish that tapers nicely

Our Thanksgiving Day was highlighted by a gathering of friends and family. The group was just big enough that we had two of everything- two turkeys, two potato dishes, two stuffings, and yes, two featured wines.

One of the wines was a rare magnum of this Riesling. The bottle itself was a showpiece- incredibly tall and slender. It was one of three a large wine store had acquired several years ago. I spotted it on a rack in the back of the climte-controlled wine room and asked the general manager about it. He said the other two were purchased by employees, and added that they both reported the wine was drinking well. It was a cool $50.

I was incredibly impressed with the wine, after some initial concern when the cork slipped out too easily and was completely soaked and covered in mold. I crossed my fingers and poured a bit to taste. Fortunately, it was awesome and showed a lot of life. The dueling aromas of bright lemon and dried apricot made the wine really interesting and flavorful. The finish was long and silky.

The bottle was easy to finish, with it's appealing flavors and low alcohol content. It made a nice compliment to the appetizers and worked okay with dinner, although it wasn't a perfect pairing to the traditional Thanksgiving meal. For that reason, we also offered a red wine to guests so they could enjoy one white and one red as they please.

So far, in my experience, Riesling with some age on it is a marvelous thing- even some Kabinett Rieslings. Enjoy a rare find and raise a glass!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Beaujolais Nouveau 2007 Georges Duboeuf Review by Billy

Finally I got my hands on a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. You'd think that, as much of the stuff floods the world the third Tuesday of November, that I'd have had a much easier time of it. Unfortunately I was in California for the two weeks surrounding this day and, restaurants and bars there simply didn't have the stuff on hand (at least where I was). So I'm a bit late to the game this year. Either way, I'm glad to have a chance to finally get at this bottle of early wine.

Nose: Petroleum tar with juicy raspberry.
Palate: chewy, balanced, unprepossessing.
Finish: present, quickly tapering.

All in all, Beaujolais Day is a great reason to have a glass of wine. While this wine is unremarkable, it is also unpretentious. It is a good drink. It will go with stuff. Have a bottle just to have a bottle but don't look to be blown away.

Raise a glass of Beaujolais to Beaujolais!

Turner Road Shiraz 2003 wine review by (PB)

I found this on sale from $10 to $5. From Lodi, it is slightly purple with light inky dark fruit that is pretty nice.

In the mouth it is fruit forward but with non-descript flavors on opening. Big plum flavors emerge and for $5, this is pretty darn good wine. (Couldn't find a label)
Raise a glass.

Jaques De La Jugie 2005 wine review by (PB)

This Minervois red "Cella Vinaria" is purple cranberry color with sour dried cherry bouquet with faint sweet fruit behind.

Palate is peppery with stifled cherry notes and finishes very quickly. I paid a little less than $11 for it and it is just okay for a Minervois which usually produces some super value wines.

Raise a glass.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Caymus Conundrum 2005 Wine Review by Billy

It's Thanksgiving day. I'm working in the kitchen and the perfect wine to accompany all the baking, tasting, basting, and roasting is this 2005 Caymus Conundrum. The easy drinking white wine hails from California and the conundrum is just what blend of white varietals is actually in here.

Nose: Honey and Pear predominate
Palate: rich off dry palate with enough structure to be refined without getting flabby.
Finish: Smooth green pear skins.

At about $20 this wine is great just for drinking. Today, Thanksgiving day, it is the perfect bottle to have open around the kitchen. To keep it at the right temp in my hot kitchen I have it wrapped in my wine chiller. A great plan, a great wine, a wonderful day!

Give thanks and Raise a Glass!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving Day Wine Pairing Recommendations (NW)

A Thanksgiving Day meal with friends and family provides a perfect opportunity to enjoy nice wine. Because so much fuss is made over food and wine pairings in general, I find people get a little stressed out about what to serve guest on this special day. Fortunately, many wines have a much broader range than they get credit for. With that in mind, I have some basic suggestions that might help.

If you are planning a very traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with Turkey and all the assorted sides, a number of red wines can work well like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Merlot. All of these varietals have a pretty broad range, except maybe the Zinfandel. However, I put Zinfandel on the list because it works well with cranberry sauce and heavy starches like mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.

In order to make things even more festive at the table, I suggest you offer guests two wines. This is especially easy if you are able to provide you guests with two wine glasses and allow them to pour and sip as they like. Simply place the bottles on the table and allow your guests to discover the different pairings as they please. As a rule of thumb, plan for at least a half bottle per person while at the table. Which two wines? Try offering one Cabernet Sauvignon and one Pinot Noir, perhaps both from American wineries in the spirit of the holiday. This year, I'll be offering one red and one white to try something different.

While wines at the dinner table are often the focal point, don't forget that you can create a special experience with wines before and after the meal. A nice bubbly is a great way to start the festivities, especially with assorted appetizers or finger food. To finish things off, try a nice dessert wine. Something sweet but light, for example a muscat or icewine, should help wash down the pie. Do this before coffee.

My Thanksgiving Day wines for this year are listed below- maybe it will give you some ideas:

Bubbly: Domaine Carneros Brut 2003
White: Dr. Loosen Riesling Kabinett 1997
Red: Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2005
Dessert: Pindar Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2001

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of black cherry and sweet spices

Bright cherry and leather on the palate

Finishes smoothly with berries, ash, dark chocolate, and hints of vanilla

I could make this my house Chianti this year! This is a nice wine, with a full flavor profile and interesting layers. In fact, I bought a few bottles already at the terrific price of $13. The reference price is $24, but I typically see it on shelves for $17-19. When I found it for $13, I couldn't help but stock up.

This is a riserva and definitely a step up from a basic Chianti Classico. Look for riserva bottlings when you don't mind paying a couple extra bucks. Lately, they've been worth the additional cost, especially from the 2001, 2003, and 2004 vintages. Raise a glass!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beaujolais Nouveau 2007 Duboeuf wine review by (PB)

The first (and only) Nouveau I found was by--of course--Georges Duboeuf the grand master of Beaujolais. The 2007 season was challenging. This wine is a purple red wine with a fresh strawberry-raspberry aroma.

In the mouth the wine is juicy with berry flavors and a hint of spice at the rear. This is classic Gamay wine even if a little thin. Not the vintage of 05 but tasty none-the-less. Raise a glass for under $12.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrive! by (PB)

Beaujolais Nouveau is here! Made from the Gamay grape, Nouveau is fermented for just a few weeks and then annually and always, released on the third Thursday of November. In Beaujolais, it is time of great fan fare and celebration.

So on your way home, stop by your local wine place and grab a bottle or two of Nouveau. It is simple wine that is fruity and--in good years--just plain delicious and guzzle worthy! It should cost you anywhere from $9-$14 depending on whether it is "Beaujolais Nouveau" or Beaujolais Cru Nouveau. But either way, it's fun and juicy so be sure to raise a glass on this special wine day around the world!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Fruity nose of lemon, melon, and pear

Good core of acidity on the palate

Refined finish with tropical fruit followed by subtle hints of spice and nuts

While vacationing in Florida, we enjoyed a lot of nice meals and good bottles of wine. One good memory was a lunch at the beach house with good friends, some seafood appetizers, and this wine. The bottle went dry very quickly as all the kids were napping and the adults actually got to enjoy a mid-day conversation.

One of the discussion topics was, of course, wine. If the California Chardonnay producers are polarizing into two distinct camps, we agreed that this wine still resides right in the middle. One camp applies generous oak aging and the other camp has completely eliminated oak. Looking toward the middle ground, I'm always impressed by the producers that use oak judiciously to enhance the varietal characteristics. This wine has that nice balance.

I paid $20 for the bottle, marked down from $25. In my experience, it's consistently well made and the 2005 is no different. This is a good, middle-of-the-road style at a fair price. Raise a glass!

Chateau Langoa Barton 1998 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of black cherry, tobacco, and smoke

Smooth texture on the palate, with earthy flavor

Finish glides smoothly through layers of leather, cherry, and earth

While in Florida, I paid a return visit to one of my favorite shops. They always seem to have some older vintages of Bordeaux hanging around in the climate controlled room. I was happy to find this wine, along with some others in the same price range. I happily paid $32 for the bottle, which is roughly the same as the release price seven years ago.

The wine has really well integrated flavors and tastes great. Particularly, the tobacco and smoke notes enhance the complexity and make the wine interesting. Additionally, the texture is smooth and the tannins are relatively soft. I recommend this wine as a well-priced classified growth Bordeaux. Grab it if you see it...and raise a glass!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Masi Campofiorini Ripasso 2003 wine review by (PB)

This Ripasso from Valpolicella is a rich dark cherry in color. Ripasso wines were essentially "invented" by Masi as it is a unique process which is too involved to describe here. (If interested go to for a good explanation.)

It has a Baroloesque bouquet about it but with fresh red fruit up front and dark sweet licorice underneath.

The palate is fruity and yet truly old world in style. Dusty sour cherry fruit throughout and herbal notes. The Ripasso technique gives these wines a very different feel and texture all around. you really should give it a try by raising a glass.

Domaine De Clairac Marsanne 2003 wine review by (PB)

We popped into (NW's) on our way back from Los Angeles and he served up this white with some appetizers. I have had very few Marsanne's (Marsanne is the grape type) but this one stands out and was delightful.

It was pale golden in the glass with an interesting fragrance with a unique sweet rye bread aroma.

Front palate is floral with off dry fruit that hard to pin down a description but it was really very nice. there was a touch of vanilla rear palate with a gentle vanilla finish.

This is very well made an unique. I liked it and was a nice change. (Reference price--$17) Raise a glass.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2006 wine review by (PB)

Medium cherry hue with sour raspberry and wild cherry core with stewed prunes rising later; palate is balanced with gentle structure with solid Pinot flavors.

This wine is uncomplicated and juicy and is pretty tasty for an inexpensive Pinot Noir which you may know can be VERY pricey. Good example of a Pinot and for this price, ($12) raise a glass!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Laetitia Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of plum, pomegranate, and roses

Herbal core on the palate, smooth texture

Long, fruity finish with loads of black pepper

I spent a week in Florida with my family visiting old friends and hosting guests at a beach house. While there, wine was a centerpiece of many casual dinners and evening conversations.

This wine was a real treat because it so nicely complimented the variety of appetizers set out. Our friends opened this bottle to share with us while we were visiting them in their home. We all enjoyed the smooth texture and the floral tones, and drank the bottle down very quickly. It was a fun evening, as we recalled the good times we all had together as we lived near each other in Jacksonville, Florida.

The reference price for this wine is approximately $25. It's a fair price for a well-made Pinot Noir. Raise a glass!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Juan Gil Jumilla 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of raspberry, allspice, and cinnamon

Juicy core, full-bodied

Mixed berry finish, moderate tannins, and spices

This is a fruity, new world stye of wine. The rich spices from oak are prominent, but still fairly well integrated. The texture is rich and juicy.

Spain produces many good red wines from various regions around the country. Look to Jumilla for bargains $15 and under. I paid $13 for this bottle on a recent trip to Florida, and have seen similar prices on the internet. Raise a glass!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Napa River Zinfandel 2005 wine review by (PB)

This is another super bargain found at Trader Joe's in LA while on a recent trip. I snatched it up simply because it was $5! I didn't expect much but "Shut up!" wasn't I surprised?

This wine is purple with youth possessing an amazing bouquet of blackberries and ripe plum.

The palate is amazing as well with big bready and spice flavors of dark berries. It actually changes with a little breathing to yield flavors of chocolate and an awesome blast in the rear of spearmint. So much that I thought someone at the table must have been chewing gum but they weren't. This wine is just too incredible and for $5. My last words in my written review were "Wow and Wow again!" It is truly a zinfandel with some layers etc. If you are near a trader Joe's and they have this wine--which was in abundance at the one I shopped; buy a ton as an everyday all purpose red. Then raise a case to super values!

I found another review of this wine on what was touted as an "amateur's blog." They said it tasted manufactured and called it plonk. For the record--my 30 plus years of tasting wine says otherwise! (No label available)

Three Knights Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2006 wine review by (PB)

Real time review--Pale yellow with bright green apple bouquet with candied nose and vanilla.

Palate is thin in weight but carries some varietal flavors of off dry summer fruit and oakiness. Finishes with light tones of sweet summer fruit.

I grabbed this for $6 at Trader Joe's out in LA since it was a Russian River AVA (American Viticultural Area) which defines the geographical locale of origin of the grapes. It is a tasty little wine which, for the money, is another decent bargain to be sure. If there is a Trader Joe's in your area, check this wine out as well as the zinfandel reviewed above! Raise a glass of either one. (Sorry I couldn't find a picture of the label)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Buena Vista Chardonnay "Carneros" 2004 wine review by (PB)

Wine shopping out here in LA is much different than shopping in my home state of Maine. I am amazed at the prices of wine, especially non-California wine. There are bargains galore.

I picked up this very nice Chard from one of the wine super stores called "BevMo." This particular wine has a reference price of $22 which is a pretty average starting point for Carneros chards. I paid $12 for it and it's a winner.

It is lightly golden with green hue sporting a super candied bouquet of rich fruit compote, butter scotch and vanilla with oak here and there.

The palate is buttery and well structured with citrus and vanilla and mixed sweet fruit flavors in a nice package of well rounded acids. The finish is quite lasting. All I can say is raise a glass, and then another.

Gini Toscana 2000 wine review by (PB)

On a stop over to Boston on the way to LA (NW) served up this Tuscan red.
Garnet hue is showing a touch of age at the rim and yields sweet fruit bouquet with earthy tones and taffy. (That's right I said taffy--or caramel if you prefer!)

The palate is medium to full bodied with good acidity with flavors trying to break out. It should open with a few minutes.

A little rustic with mushroom and fruit in a decent balance and finish that is okay. This wine is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot. Reference price is $30. This was served by (NW) after the Ricasole Formulae (see previous post) which has a reference price about a third of this wine. I liked the Formulae better! To each his own. Raise a glass.

Chateau St. Michelle Riesling 2006 wine review by (PB)

I am in LA at my daughter's house and she is fixing Peruvian stir fry called "Pollo Saltado" tonight which means a lot of spices heavy on the cumin and south of the border flavors like cilantro, and essentially raw onion flavors. Not the eaisest pairing. But I chose this very inexpensive first time wine and had beer standing by if it bombed. (I knew it wouldn't though...)

This wine is barely yellow with a hint of green. The bouquet is fruity with gobs of peach, pear citrus, and apricot all rolled into one fruit compote aroma that is nearly flowery.

The palate is sweet to off dry with light citrus notes with fresh stone fruit flavors. The finish is short and it could use a touch more acid for my liking but for Pete's sake, this wine was $6! It paired fine with the challenging dinner and for the price is decent value to be sure. Raise a glass.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ricasoli Sangiovese Toscana Formulae wine review by (PB)

We're breezing through Boston on our way to L.A. and spent the night with (NW). Ordered pizza and (NW) served up this inexpensive bottle of Tuscan red.

It was a medium cherry red with slight bricking at the rim. Bouquet is amazing with sweet fruity almost candied cherries nose with slight hints of licorice and maybe tobacco.

The palate is a bit tart and steely with a thin texture. This wine though is quite nice for the price (around $10) with earthy notes and a peak maturity which will not last. This wine needs to be drunk NOW. I liked it especially at the price. Raise a glass.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bodegas Montecillo Crianza 2003 wine review by (PB)

I bought this as a Wine Spectator pick and they gave it 87 pts. I didn't care for it writing at the time I tasted a few weeks back: Dry cherry bouquet with vegetal, daffodil scent.

Palate also yields daffodils, a little bitter on the finish; less than exciting.

Hey--you don't always agree with the pros. I paid $10 for this so try it for yourself. Raise a glass.

Quinta Do Casal Branco 2006 wine review by (PB)

Reviewed previously this $7 wine from Portugal is pale yellow with big rich sweet bouquet of light vanilla and lemon on opening but changes to apples and peaches with a day in the fridge.

Palate is off dry with forward acid, citrus and vanilla. Finishes a touch bitter but again improves with a day opened. Solid acid making it a good food wine. I am not crazy about it, but it is a good wine--just not my preference so raise a glass!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Chateau Faugeres 2004 wine review by (PB)

Birthdays qualify as a special occasion to open that "special" wine and tonight we celebrated my 54th. A Time of celebration to be sure for I realized that it was 27 years ago when I was 27 years old that I was hit head on by a drunk driver. I should have been dead but the Lord had other plans.

So my wife bought some inch and a quarter thick strip steaks to grill and I opened this wine. I bought it last winter in Chicago when I was there on a business trip as was (NW) of this blog. We had an evening rendezvous at his hotel and shared a bottle of white Burgundy. But on with this review:

This St. Emilion Grand Cru is intensely pigmented with a dark black cherry hue that clings to the glass and is as intense at the rim as at the center.

The bouquet on opening is rich and deep with dark fruit and and a musty earth scent. The palate is tight with robust tannins and bready fruit first impression.

After fifteen minutes of breathing there are loads of sweet black cherry and plums in the bouquet and is amazingly new world in style with fruit forward steely fruit. (Michelle Roland?)

Tannins are juicy and immature but fresh fruit just exudes in the bouquet with sweet grapes. This is really nice. It is not exactly a fruit bomb but it is so similar to a Napa wine that I would have never have guessed it to be Bordeaux. It will age well for several years but is drinking really well now. I paid $24 for it and wished I had bought more. (Wine Spectator gave this wine a 90 on their 100 point scale.) Raise a glass!