Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rombauer Merlot (NAPA) 2004 wine review by (PB)

When I hear "Rombauer" I think Chardonnay. Silly me; I have never even given them a shot at a red wine so my wife picked this up for me on a trip to California. I opened it last night with a gorgeous, thick boneless rib-eye on the grill.

The wine is Cherry red on the pour with big fruity aromas of smoke and ripe dark fruit with cedar and leather and a hint of cream which is lovely and later, blueberries and it is just really NICE!

The palate is sound with a somewhat immature structure that would benefit from another 2 years of laying low but even still this wine is forthright full of black cherry, smoke, wood and just good stuff!

At $24, this is a really nice wine and fine treat; if you love Merlot (and why wouldn't you?) this is a keeper! Raise a glass and stoke up the grill (the real charcoal grill) and just say, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage 2006 wine review by (PB)

Okay what is up with S. African red wine? This is getting ridiculous. Either they have a whopping Brettanomyces problem ( a yeast contaminant that makes wine unpleasant with flavors/aromas likened to, wet animals, barnyard odors, band-aids and host of other yucky things no one wants to smell, or they have a terroir that is nasty--either way.................

Several years ago I had an Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon which I loved and bought several bottles. The following year I bought more of the new vintage and noti9ced this nasty band-aid aroma which carried through to the palate. Subsequent years also gave off the same offensive nose and flavor and having tried several other S. African reds, it seems to be more and more common.

I stopped buying South African red wine until I found this Petit Pinotage which I bought in the quest of checking of another varietal in pursuit of the centi-varietal club.

It is a lighter hued pruple wine with pink rim and some nice black cherry and raspberry aromas. A good start but then the first taste was like gargling with a mouthful of liquid which had been soaked in band-aids. How do I know that? Okay you got me; I have never tried band-aid laced tonic but this is what it would taste like!

I breathed the wine hoping it would disappear but it did not. It is still ucky and in fact, I am planning to take it back and get my $11 returned.

Someone tell me if you have had similar experience with S. African red wines. I am about through trying them. Don't raise a glass unless you are some kind of weirdo taking a dare to drink to an adhesive, bandage cocktail. Gross!

Cannonau Di Sardegna Riserva 2005 wine review by (PB)

I grabbed this bottle made from the Cannonau grape thinking I was trying a "new grape" only to find out it is another name for the Garnacha or Grenache grape. Oh well, it was a decent wine made on the island of Sardinia.

It pours like a Pinot Noir with a light--even pale cherry hue but it doesn't smell like Pinot at all. This wine is serious with a heavy bouquet of herbal, and dark ripe berries and plums.

In the mouth it is lively with pepper and hints of spice with lively tannins. This wine was surprisingly better than I anticipated! At $11, raise a glass.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chateau Lavergne-Dulong 2005 wine review by (PB)

This Bordeaux Superieur is a deep purple hue with ripe blackberry and plum in a very nice bouquet.

In the mouth there is a rich burst of cinnamon that is wonderful but fleeting with bread and tight flavors with perky tannins.

After 1/2 hour of breathing this is a big wine and a great value ($14)! Milk chocolate foundation holds perfumey aromas. White pepper is pronounced on the palate with gripping structure that needs a couple more years in the bottle. the finish lingers on. This is a buy more and lay it down a couple years for a real treat! Raise a glass!

Honig Sauvignon Blanc 2006 wine review by (PB)

This Napa wine was a gift from friends and is barely colored at all. It has s distinct bouquet which I would have pegged as a Chenin Blanc to be sure. There are big sweet lime aromas on opening with a classic Sauvignon grassiness emerging shortly after uncorking; it is very pretty!

In the mouth it is full of flavor with citrus and grass leading the way with a host of peachy, summer, topical fruit finishing nicely. At the $14 price point this is a winner. Very well made and nice value. Raise a glass and thanks to friends with a discerning palate!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ballast Sone Currency Creek Petit Verdot 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Massive black licorice aromas on nose, with violets and toasty oak

Fleshy and full-bodied on the palate

Mixed berries and licorice on the finish

This is a pretty nice wine and the only varietal-specific Petit Verdot I've seen in a while. It is a product of Australia and it's another example of a Bordeaux blending grape doing well in foreign soils.

I really enjoyed the wine, but the only complaint is that it tastes a little bit too heavily oaked. I'm not in the "I hate oak" camp at all, but this wine brings it on pretty strong. Overall though, for $16, it's a good bottle of wine and I recommend it if you haven't had a Petit Verdot. Raise a glass!

Miguel Torres Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of black currant, cocoa, and pepper

Dark, lean core of fruit on the palate

Green herbal finish with coffee notes

There's a lot of really good Chilean Cabernet in the $10-15 range, but this isn't one of them. It's just too green and herbal, like it didn't really ripen. A lot of Chilean Cabernet has this quality, but when it's integrated with the other characteristics of the wine it adds a nice backbone. In the case of this Miguel Torres, it's distracting.

I paid $11 at Whole Foods, which is the right price for experimenting on new wines. Grab something else instead. Then raise a glass!

Artazuri Navarra Garancha Rose 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Dried roses, strawberry, and cranberry on the nose

Acidic, fruity core on the palate

Finish of strawberry and herbs

It's nice to sip on a good Rose wine on a hot Summer afternoon. I discovered this one at a friend's house during an afternoon cookout. While it's nothing complex, it's also not supposed to be. The wine has good fruit flavors, a backbone of acidity that's just right, and a refreshing finish. Our host paid $11 at a local wine shop. Raise a glass!

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva 2004 wine review by (PB)

Vibrant color with tart cherries and anise notes in the bouquet.

In the mouth it is tart. tight, and sporting perky tannins. It needs decanting.

With some breathing time, it becomes a more classically Tuscan wine but for the quality of the vintage (04 was a very good year) it is disappointingly shallow. This wine clearly needs a couple more years and seems to have some potential but certainly doesn't seem ready right now.

At $17, it is okay but not a value wine--at least not now. Raise a glass.

Wine as an event; (PB) celebrates 35 years

On the occasion of the 35th year with my high school sweet heart, girl friend, lover and mother of my children, my wife arranged a wine tasting with some very special people. (Billy) the technical genius of this blog and our son flew in from Minneapolis and and our favorite in-laws from Chicago all showed up as a huge surprise.

Son-in-law (NW) of this blog, supplied 6 wines which were bagged and tasted.

Wine #1 (the ringer) Numanthia Termes 2005 had a bouquet of big sweet fruit with plums, black cherry and chocolate in the nose. The palate was lusty with bold fruit, layers of different dark berries and finish of cocoa. This was clearly the favorite of the tasting and I think everyone selected it as the "ringer." ($25)

Wine #2 was a Cinsault (pronounced sin-SO) which is the grape variety and a rare find since Cinsault is normally a blending grape and not a varietal.
It has a light bouquet of anise with a sweet palate of bready fruit. It wasn't an enjoyable wine for the most part. ($?)

Wine #3 was provided out of my cellar and was 2005 Chateau Gobert. I purchased it on the vintage and nothing else. It was a dissappointment with very little bouquet of sour cherry.
Int he mouth there was a touch of licroice but not much there in the way of falvor. The finish was its best attribute. Not a good offering for the famed vintage. ($13)

Wine # 4 was a Barbera D'Alba 2006 at the $20 price point. It presented well with an intense hue and a bouquet of cherry, and pepper.
Int he mouth it brimmed of chocolate covered cherries, roses but the base was a bit tannic and the finish short lived. So-So.

Wine #5 was Chateau De Charmes Gamay Noir 2004--This was to be sure the most unique wine of the bunch but in this case "unique" was not a good attribute. Never having had a Gamay Noir (NW) selected this for that reason. This is a Canadian effort that had an unbelievably strong grapefruit bouquet and white pepper in the nose. Grapefruit is not an aroma one normally assiociates with a red wine...
The palate contiued the grapfruit theme and light cherry flavor. Everyone dissed this wine.

Wine #6 was an Argentinian Bonarda which is the grape type. This Mendoza creation of JJ Lurton 2007 had grape hints and sour notes that reminded me of Malbec. It had a nice mouth feel with toast, thin flavors and a licorice note. Not much goinfg for it.

All in all--this was a memorable celebration all the way around and the wonderful aspect of wine used for such festivities is that years from now, if we still have our senses, we will remember the event because of the wine, of course because of the surprise of loved ones, and unfrotunately we will all remember the wierd "grapefruit" wine (red no less) from Canada. We raised glass after glass, enjoyed each other and the temperate climate of a Maine Summer night on our porch blessed to be alive, healthy, prosperous and most of all, "saved by God's grace." Raise a glass!

Razor's Edge Shiraz 2006 wine review by (PB)

AT the $10 price point this is a hard Shiraz to beat. It has a rich bouquet of ripe sweet plum and dark berries with licorice notes.

It has a nice texture with sweet chocolate berries in the mouth. With a little breathing a slight and beautiful scent of roses blooms; with the purple black cherry hue, it is a big all around wine and a good value so raise a glass!

Frei Bros. Pinot Noir "Russian River" Reserve 2006 wine review by (PB)

A beautiful pomegranate color with delicate strawberry and raspberry bouquet; in the mouth it is slightly tart with bready, slightly sweet fruit and a layer of milk chocolate trying to reveal itself. Finishing with a considerable bacon/smoke finish.

With a little air time, there is a touch of licorice with sweet berry fruit; this is a nearly elegant wine but then that tends to "Pinot Noir!" This wine stops just shy of elegant at "classy." This wine was a gift to me by my wife. A nice choice so raise a glass. Comes in around the $30 price point.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chilensis Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 wine review by (PB)

Garnet and a little opaque with some intensity.

Bouquet is strong and parotid stimulating! Strong berry and cedar nose with a palate that is crisp, tasty, a little hot, with berries that are dark, cedar, and sweet tannins. Blueberry notes emerge later and this is a value wine from Chile. I padi $8 on sale and is a nice buy! Raise a glass.

Snoqualmie Select Riesling 2007 wine review by (PB)

We do not see much Snoqualmie wines out here in Maine which is really unfortunate as they produce many nice value wines.

This Riesling is a light golden with a bouquet of pears, apples and peach with cream galore!

In the mouth this wine is sweet with vibrant acidity that carries the sweetness well and the flavors of peach and apple on an off dry frame works in every way.

At $8, this is a buy a case kind of wine and a super value! The apples finish just lingers and lingers. Amazing at this price so raise a case!

Dancing Bull Zinfandel (California) 2005 wine review by (PB)

This $9 Zin tastes like a $5 Zin. Blackberry jam and plum nose with coarse presence, a little cedar but a flaw in the mid palate--a certain bitterness--pass. (Be sure to read the labels of the Rancho Zabaco wines carefully; they are easily mistaken one for another eg. California vs Sonoma. It can make a huge difference!)

Chateau La Fleur Pichon 2005 wine review by (PB)

Grand Vin De Bordeaux from the Lussac St. Emilion: Gorgeous ruby hue with a tinge of purple with sweet aromas of plum pudding and jammy blackberry on the nose.

Palate--Steelly front palate but very tight and a touch tannic.

It lightened up a bit with some air but cedar nose was all it had to offer. Either shallow or really needed to be breathed longer but I believe it is just shallow which is why it was $14. Disappointing after a great start. Not worth seeking out but raise a glass of the 05 Bordeaux!

Fetzer Gewurtztraminer 2006 wine review by (PB)

This perennial favorite for summer time quaffing is a light golden with peach and mandarin orange in the bouquet with a little spice and fruit compote like sangria which is very nice.

Palate--really sweet and a bit flaccid in acid; it is not flabby but it is not crisp either. It has a pleasant stone fruit finish but this is not as good as it has been in past years. It will run $10 and for this year, I tried something else but still raise a glass of Gewurtz to be sure!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Benziger Sunny Slope Vineyard "Sam's Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Black cherry and cocoa on the nose

Smooth texture on the palate

Relaxed finish of raspberry, cherry, and tobacco

As it turns out, this wine is a private label bottled exclusively for Sam's Wine Warehouse in Chicago. At $35, it's a nice Sonoma Cab that that I enjoyed for it's smooth, fruity characteristics. Unfortunately, it's not readily available unless you live in Illinois or in a state that has reciprocity with Illinois and you order it online.

I was treated to a bottle of this wine while visiting friends in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. We popped the cork on a cool evening in early July and sat on the back deck. Raise a glass!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Niner Paso Robles Boot Jack Ranch Syrah 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of blackberry and chocolate

Richly texture on the palate and full-bodied

Finish of black currant, blackberry, and vanilla custard

This Syrah is big and rich. It has opulent, ripe fruit characteristics and is richly textured. Is it over the top? Well, not if you're in the mood for this style. Just know what you're getting in to and pop the cork when you're in the mood for envelope-pushing ripeness.

I paid $18 on sale, with the regular price listed at $20. Raise a glass!

Martin Codax Albarino 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Citrus nose with floral notes

Acidic and crisp on the palate

Finish of grapefruit and lime

This is a nice, crisp Albarino around the $15 mark. It has good fruit and acidity, and tastes especially good with fish.

Although good Albarino from Spain is also available for around $10, this wine won't disappoint you for a few dollars more. Raise a glass!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Poggio Amorelli Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 wine review by (PB)

I bought this wine with dinner at the very fine Italian restaurant in Portland Maine called Cinque Terre. It was the occasion of our 35th year of wedded bliss together. Not bad for two who were married and "children" 19 and 20 and voted most-mismatched couple of our senior class in our school's "Senior Superlatives." Take THAT all you doubters!!!

Anyway, I paid $70 for the bottle which considering retail is $40, is a relative bargain in the restaurant mark up world of wine. The wine was served in nice glasses as well although very disappointingly, the wine was not only warm but nearly "hot."

The day was particularly hot, the evening was early and the restaurant had not cooled down yet leaving room temperature at, well room temperature. This is nearly criminal when you consider again the price you pay for restaurant wines. At any rate, 2001 was a grand year for Tuscany and although I ordered the 03, apparently they were out which is why you always check the label before the wine is opened. (The waiter didn't realize he had brought the wrong wine.)

The wine was a pretty garnet with some years still left on this fine vintage. Cherry notes abounding but again the ridiculously warm temperature of the wine was volatilizing the alcohol so readily that it over powered the nuances of the bouquet that I am sure were buried beneath.

Wine temperature is important and yes while some can get carried away in either direction, too hot or too cold can stifle a good wine.

Palate was tasty with cherry as the predominant flavor with touches of cinnamon and chocolate.
It was a nice accompaniment to the chef's tasting menu we ordered and a grand occasion was celebrated with a grand evening. We raised a glass as we shall continue to do as long as the Lord tarries.

HOUSEWINE White 2007 wine review by (PB)

Charles Smith (K Vintners) makes this value wine from 85% Chardonnay and Riesling 10% with 5% Muscadet. It has a barely straw tone with pronounced bouquet of sweet tropical fruit notes.

Palate--Solid acid backbone with off dry palate and a touch of spritzig (sparkle) with light citrus and shallow flavors of mixed summer fruit.

it is a well made wine but I LOVED the 06 and this is not the 06. The peach/apricot finish works. I paired this with grilled swordfish and fried potatoes with mozzarella and it worked well. Raise a glass.

Griesbauerhof Sudtirol "Lagrein" 2005 wine review by (PB)

(NW) decided we needed to pursue adding the "Centi-varietal" distinction to our credentials and our palates. Meaning, we need to find (the hard part) and taste (the easy part) wines made from 100 different grape varieties. He spied this Northern Italian wine--so northern that the label reads more like a German wine than an Italian one--and grabbed it because of the grape--Lagrein--which we have never had.

The Lagrein grape is a relative of Syrah which explains the heavy pigmentation of the wine. It is intensely dark almost black-black cherry to the rim.

Tight aromas of tart cherry with spice try to emerge underneath with white pepper notes later on.

Palate--huge cedar blast immediately though the wine is a bit flaccid on opening with tight stingy lt. berry fruit.

After opening up a bit, there is cedar galore--too much but interesting none the less but I feel like I have bitten into a Christmas tree limb. Finish is a touch light. Interesting wine but nothing I would care to repeat as a varietal which is why it is blended normally with other grapes. Being high in acid and usually very tannic, it is a good grape to give back bone to a gentler variety.

It is one to "check off" the list anyway! Raise a glass!

Hill Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

I grabbed this while on a conference trip to N.C. Shop owner recommended it as being hard to get a hold of. This wine has a sl. purple, black cherry hue with a distant bouquet of sweet dark fruit with pleasant berry jam as the foundation with a lovely cinnamon note.

Palate--Absolutely silky tannins with subdued vegetal flavors with big berry fruits, leather, tar and more fruit.

I paid $40 for it and was it okay for the price but not an eye poppin, palate surprising creation.
Raise a glass.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Chateau LaFleur Pichon 2005 wine review by (PB)

I purchased this hoping for a value "05" Bordeaux on a recent trip to Boston with (NW). I paid $13.50 for the wine hailing from the Lussac Saint Emilion Grand Vin De Bordeaux.

It is a gorgeous garnet hue with slight purple tinge and room pleasing candy plum pudding aromas. The nose is blackberry and ripe plum with some cedar as it opens up.

Palate--steely and sits well with an austere presence. It is well made but flavors are really tight. Pleasant blackberry jam and plum flavors and cherry with bold tannins that need more time.

I am putting a porterhouse on the grill; we'll see what happens but this should be a nice food wine.
Indeed, pairs well with grilled steak but still no the VALUE I had hoped but solid. Raise a glass!

Friday, July 04, 2008

What to drink on the 4th of July?

July 4th--the day when we celebrate the independence of our nation from the rule of uninvolved individuals living far across the ocean. Uninvolved in the sense of estranged from the culture they were trying to rule. They were very involved with respect to placing laws and taxes--especially taxes--on the citizens of the not yet united states. It just didn't fly and brave souls gave their lives to shed the bonds of of government that was not their own.

Now how do we go from fighting red coats to BBQ and corn on the cob? Who knows and who cares! It works for me though but barbecuing can be challenging when it comes to wine pairing.

First--prep your mind with a nicely chilled down Gewurztraminer or other delicious wine of your choosing and then stoke up the grill--preferably real charcoal--and throw on the ribs, the steaks the chops, the dogs or whatever.

While I can enjoy any number of solid red wines with the smokey taste of good grilling, Zinfandel is the All American pairing wine and on this 4th of July, while there are many Zins I enjoy, few can come close to the value of Cline's 2006 Zin which I find all over the place but is less than $8 at Sam's Club.

So whatever you do, raise a glass to Ben Franklin--I finished his bio this morning at 6 a.m.--and remember T.J., John Adams, Al Hamilton, Madison and General George W. and thank God for the sacrifices of our predecessors enablin gus to BBQ and drink wine in the land of plenty!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Barefoot Bubbly (NV) wine review by (PB)

Looking for an inexpensive, pleasant summer refresher this is a good one! This California splash is a "premium x-tra dry chardonnay."

It is a pale straw with nice green apple and pear notes.

In the mouth it is crisp with pin prick bubbles. Sure it is rather non-descript but chill it down and it is refreshing, lively and fun. For 8$ raise a bottle or two on a hot summer's day!

Castillo De Almansa 2005 wine review by (PB)

Nice Spanish Garnacha Tintorera with beautiful black cherry hue with some intensity.
On the swirl it has black cherry and plum notes with flavors of luscious fruit blended with compote of plums and berries.

For $8 this is really a nice quaff so raise a glass!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose of ripe berries and licorice

Fleshy, smooth texture on the palate

Finish of chocolate, raspberry pie, and a touch of toasty oak

This wine has been quite good for a few years in a row. I consider it to be a good value Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina at around $13.

The flavors are rich and ripe, and the texture is fleshy. It should give Malbec lovers a reason to cheer when they see prices for Catena and others rise to $20 or more. What ever happened to a really nice Malbec for $10? Well, since I can't seem to find many of those anymore I'll grab more of this. Raise a glass!