Thursday, December 31, 2009

The WCB's "Top Ten" Lists for 2009

On this our 5th anniversary, we are pleased to post our top ten lists of wines each of us at the WCB--(NW), (Billy) and yours truly (PB)--have tasted this past year. You will note that most of the wines are very approachable from a cost stand point as we are actual, honest to goodness, working class people who study, drink and review wine as an extra-curricular life pursuit.

As you scroll down, peruse each of our lists. We hope you will get a feel for the diversity of wines and the values to be had in a wine world where some labels have soared to untouchable price points except for the richest--or most foolish--among us.

Raise a glass in 2010 and have a happy New Year!

(PB's) Top Ten Wines of 2009

At my income, I look for super value wines that give you way more than what you pay. Here's my picks based--not on the "best" I have had to be sure, but based on great values and extraordinary drinking for the price. Because the #2 spot was a gift and the wine is unobtainable, I didn't include it in the average price which you will notice is under $15!

1. Conte Di Bregonzo Amarone 2006 $17 This one really was the best wine I had all year at any price!

2. Ranschbacher Konigsgarten 1976 Beerenauslese Eiswein Extraordinary and memorable but unobtainable! Delicious!

3. Brolio Chianti Classico 2003 $10 (great sale normally $22) Cherry, Tuscan earthiness, worth looking for.

4. LaBoure-Roi Syrah 1999 1.5 ml $10 Truly a treasure found in a closeout bin!

5. Gaetano D'Aquino Chianti Riserva 2004 $6.00 My new "go to" bargain and super value Chianti. At Trader Joes!

6. Rosenblum Zinfandel Aparicio Vineyard 2005 $24 Classy Zin, spice laden and wild.

7. Rosenblum Late Harvest Zinfandel--Rosie Rabbit Vineyard--2003 $24 375ml A delicious fruity, complex surprise.

8. Foris Pinot Noir 2007 $17 Elegance for a pittance!

9. Guenoc Victorian Claret 2006 $13 Another "go to" bargain varietal worth looking for! Try Whole Foods!

10. Ironstone Vineyards Obsession "Symphony" 2007 $9 A brand new grape variety and a very floral treat!

(NW's)Top Ten Wines of 2009

(Not the best I tasted- those would mostly be older, hard-to-find wines. Rather, these are the most exciting, widely available, and in most cases good values)

(1) Perrin & Fils Gigondas La Gille 2005 ($26) powerful, well made, will age gracefully

(2) Truchard Carneros Roussanne 2005 ($20) the most interesting white wine I tasted all year

(3) Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2003 ($22) Tuscany in a bottle, bought a case at a special price

(4) Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2005 ($20) big, yet still balanced, widely available

(5) Nicolis Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2003 ($46) hard to describe the mystery of Amarone

(6) Concha Y Toro Marques Casa Concha Merlot 2005 ($15) dense and flavorful, rediscover Merlot

(7) Daniel Baurraud Pouilly-Fuisse Les Crays 2003 ($40) a good white Burgundy like this is worth seeking out

(8) J.L. Chave Selection Mon Coeur Cotes-du-Rhone 2006 ($17) could be mistaken for a good Chateauneuf

(9) Chateau Pesquie Terrassas 2007 ($12) versatile wine and a great value

(10) Dry Creek Vineyards Fume Blanc 2007 ($12) beautiful wine and a great value

Billy's Top Ten Wines Tasted in 2009

While I tasted some exceptional and exceptionally expensive wines while out with business partners, I wanted to focus on excellent wines that are generally available in your local wine shops. 2009 was also a year where I tasted more sparkling and Champagne wines than in any year previous. For that reason my 2009 Top 10 Wines List contains more bubbly than other wines. So Raise a Glass to 2010 and to great wines tasted in 2009.

10. 2004 Barolo Beni de Batasiolo Big, woody and complex; 75 Swiss Francs at a restaurant in Geneva or about $40 online in the USA.

9. 2006 Clos du Mont-Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape. NW of this blog encouraged me to get into Chateauneuf du Papes and in 2009 I did! The best Chateau Neuf I had in 2009. $39.

8.Heidsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top Brut Champagne (NV). Aaah Champagne! Is there anything it cannot do? Affordable at $30.

7. 2007 Orin Swift Cellars "The Prisoner" Napa Red wine. Full of berries and spice and character. I paid $35 for this bottle.

6.Tapestry Shiraz 2006. From the Bakers Gully vineyard, Mclaren Vale, Austrailia. I paid about $26 for this bottle. Showcases excellent Australian crafting.

5.Mer Soleil Chardonnay 2006. Buttery, creamy, and round melon flavors; about $36 bucks.

4. 2006 Turly Atlas Peak Mead Ranch Zinfandel. An exceptional mouth feel and balance and a coppery finish. About $45

3. Pommery Brut Royal Champagne A brilliant and challenging Champagne. At $43 it is a dapper evening on the town in a bottle.

2. Stags' Leap Napa Valley Petite Syrah 2005. Perky, tight and young with vanilla and cherry; about $36

1. Perrier Jouet Grand Brut Champagne (NV). Hands down my favorite Champagne of the year. Fun, Rich, Exotic and Delicate. $45

The Wine Cask Blog Five Year Anniversary!

Five years ago today, we decided to begin sharing our wine reviews with interested readers. Over the years, we've made a conscious effort to provide straightforward wine reviews on a regular basis. While there's an occasional book or gadget review and some holiday shopping recommendations, we focus on reviewing the wine that we drink.

To date we've posted approximately 1,800 reviews which is an average of one review per day for the past five years. We hope these reviews have been as useful for you as they have been enjoyable for us. While PB has been the most consistent and prolific contributor, NW and Billy have rounded out the postings and broadened our exposure to other wines.

Thank you for accompanying us on our journey through the world of wine. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bubbly for New Years! (PB)

Here we are on the brink of another New Years 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 $6, 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 want a solid sparkler, 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 2010 on a catastrophic note. Raise a glass to new beginnings.

Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Reserve 2004 wine review by (PB)

I saw this in a local supermarket marked down from $18 to $13. Being the Kin of Zin (king of zing doesn't really work) I grabbed it.

Pigmented black cherry hue with big ripe plum, blackberry and tar, with unsweetened dark chocolate aromas.

Palate--Sweet, rich mellow tannins with chocolate and berries and a nice rich texture. At its full price of $18, this is a decent Zin; at the sale price it's a great value!

The good folks at the Wine Spectator--whom I respect deeply as THE authorities of the wine world--gave this wine a 72 which is baffling. They just don't miss and certainly not by that broad a margin.

Possible explanations: They could have had a bad bottle but not classically "corked." It happens. But for these guys that is not likely. The other explanation which I mention because it will happen to you sooner or later, is that one may have a sub-clinical URI (upper respiratory infection; AKA a cold) which greatly impairs and skews your olfactory perceptions but because it is "sub-clinical" you would not be aware you even have anything wrong with your taster.

I have experienced this on several occasions and have delayed writing my review of the wine for a couple days and sure enough, a cold or the flu or something usually manifests invalidating what would have been a bad review. So get healthy and raise a glass!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne Review by Billy

Nose:Light orange lemon with delicate nutmeg and butterscotch
Palate:Delightfully even and spritzy bubbles that tease and play. Dry without being cottony.
Finish: Lingering citrus and nutmeg spice with floral hints.
Overall: Beautiful. As I have written before, the quality of Champagne bubbles is important to me. To big and they bombard. Too small and they prick. Uneven and they make the wine feel flat or unbalanced. This bottle had perfect bubbles, delicate flavors and a long finish that invites another sip...and another and another. I paid about $36 for this Champagne at a local wine store that tends to be a few dollars higher than others. A fair price for a splurge and a celebration. Find something to celebrate and raise a glass of Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Sweet plum and cherry layered with rich spices on the nose
Richly textured on the palate
Relaxed, harmonious finish of cherry, currant, and sweet cocoa

Cathy Corison provides a beautiful expression of Napa Cab with this bottling. It's a slightly different take with sweet red fruit and spice rather than dark berries and herbs, but I really like it.

This was my first tasting of this wine as I discovered it on an overpriced wine list at a chain steakhouse. Scanning through the reds, this just jumped out at me as a better value than all the other very young wines at more than triple mark ups. ( That's right, the rule of thumb on this list was a mark up over three times higher than retail shelf prices. If I wasn't entertaining clients, I would have been drinking water out of protest.)

Anyway, the wine was terrific and I still had to pay up for it. In this case, I paid $115 and the bottle has a retail price of $45. Good stuff- and the 2000 vintage is still available through a few retailers online. Raise a glass!

Masciarelli Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Spicy plum, cherry, and licorice on the nose

Fresh and lively on the palate

Nicely tapering finish of cherry and sage

I summarized this wine in my notes by stating "fresh, flavorful, nicely integrated spices" and "solid value". I paid just $8, althought you'll likely see it at $10.

Montepulciano D'Abruzzo is a real sleeper. Slightly off the established wine trail in Italy, this region churns out some incredible value in the bottle. Many offerings are $6-12 and some terrific limited production wines are in the $20 range. I stock up on these wines.

Raise a glass!

Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec 2008 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Raspberry and herbs on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

Currant and cocoa notes on the finish with some spice

Malbec from Argentina has rapidly become a fan favorite in the US and elsewhere. Of course, the playing field has become more crowded which gives us a lot to choose from.

This offering is just so-so. I'd put it in the middle of the pack of the $10-15 wines that I've sampled. I paid $13, althought I've seen it priced lower since. Raise a glass to choice!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jacob's Creek Reserve 2007 Chardonnay Sponsored Wine Review by Billy

Nose:Slightly off chardonnay nose. Lightly green and citrus.
Palate:thin and acidic, not quite crisp. Buttery on the back of the tongue.
Finish: Grape stem.
Overall:This wine was sent to The Wine Cask Blog free of charge to review. I have seen it retail for about $13. Meh. 2007 was not the best year in Australia overall and I have tasted much better Jacob's Creek wines at or below this price point. That they made something as good as this is testament to their drive for quality no matter what they have to work with. Still I would pass this year up.

Raise a Glass!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Villa Mt Eden Grand Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Plum, black cherry, licorice, and hints of mint on the nose

Full bodied and smooth on the palate

Finishes with more of the same

Here's a well-made Napa Cab that won't break the bank. I might just stock up on this one. The flavors are nicely integrated throughout and the wine has good texture.

I paid $12 for the bottle, but I've more often seen it priced around $15. Raise a glass!

Jade Mountain La Provencale White Wine Blend 2008 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Bright, aromatic nose of tropical citrus

Full bodied

Sweet peach finish with underlying spice and mineral notes

This white wine blend is a unique composition of grapes in the Rhone style. It results in a multi-layered wine with hints of sweetness balanced by a firm undertone. If you're looking for something a little different, check it out for $18 or so. Raise a glass!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Ideas For the Wine Lover in Your Life (re-post by (PB)

Need some gift ideas for that oenophile 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—
Any wine that has been thoughtfully obtained; if you don't have the expertise to do the selecting, find a reputable wine store--probably not a supermarket--and ask for the wine expert! I have rarely been steered wrong by a knowledgeable staff making recommendations!

Special wines like Ports—“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 usually 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 an aged, vintage port, you are usually talking in the $80 and above 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. There is a glut of Chamnpagne as the economic down turn has impacted Chamnpagne significantly. That's good news for sparkler lovers.

There are loads of wine clubs available now online, provided your state allows shipment of wines into your area. The retailer would be able to tell you if your state is open.

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 please--not just any old wine glasses; but "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 $22 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. And for the really economical accident prone wine lover--Crate N Barrel sells their own wine glass which cannot be beat for the price to value ratio--about $10 each!

Williams-Sonoma carries Riedel and Crate N Barrel also carries Spieglau or at least used to.

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 3 years 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 use this primarily for my opened bottles of port which you tend to drink in small quantities.

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

*Wine glass charms--these are tiny wire thingies that slip onto the stem of a wine glass so that it can be positively ID'd. this is a nice and practical addition for anyone who entertains more the 3 people at a time. (*There are tasteful charms and there are stupid charms--go tasteful!)

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 36 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 and above) 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… I'd rather have a $10 cork screw and spend the rest on a decent bottle of wine!!!

Bottle tags--
If your devotee has several bottles at any given time laying down in a make shift or bonafide cellar--these are little tags that hang around the neck of the bottles identifying the wine so you don't have to pick up the bottle thus disturbing it's contents. They are reusable if you use a wet wipe marker and are very inexpensive.

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. Neoprene totes are also handy and are great for packing your treasured wine purchase in your suitcase when you have been traveling abroad.

Books are a nice idea if 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) several 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. Jefferson on Wine for the history buff and oenophile in your life (check review in our blog) and George Taber is a reliable author putting out two books in the past couple years--To Cork or Not too Cork which is about the screw cap controversy, and his latest "In Search of Bacchus." Also a really good read is the Billionaire's Vinegar by A. Wallace. This is the intriguing account and controversy surrounding the sale of the famous--or infamous--Thomas Jefferson bottles of Lafite purchased by billionaire William Koch and others, from seller Hardy Rodenstock.

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. The Wine Spectator also has an online membership which is really handy for your smart-phone when you are out shopping.

A wine journal or log book; If they haven’t been doing so the wine lover in your life needs 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 silly wine motif, really, please! Unless perhaps its an apron--the one "possible" exception. Have fun and raise a glass!

Rosenblum Petite Sirah "Heritage Clones" 2006 wine review by (PB)

Dark purple hue with big fruit bomb aromas of black berry, pipe tobacco and cocoa/milk chocolate notes.

Palate--Big, thick textured foundation that is ripe, extracted, with layers of tar, black fruit, rich and jammy with a finish that has staying power.

Big wines like this need to be enjoyed when in the right mood and allowed to stand on their own. I paid $16 for this and is a fun wine when looking for something to shake up a lazy palate. Raise a glass.

Snap Dragon Chardonnay 2007 Wine review by (PB)

This is a California sourced varietal that is light yellow, with sweet creme brulee notes along side citrus, and dusty fruit.

Palate--butterscotch hints up front with racy acidity, dry dusty citrus and some cream on the finish. My wife grabbed this at Sam's Club because it had a note claiming the Wine Spectator gave it an 87 point rating. She paid $9 but it is now selling for $6.83 at Sam's which is a good price but I honestly don't see the W/S rating of 87 points. (I rarely disagree with their reviews.)

It tastes rather manufactured than genuine, a common trait among inexpensive Chards today but always, the bottom line with any wine at any price, is whether or not YOU like it! I wouldn't buy this wine again but that's my problem. My palate just seems to be fatigued with carbon copy, vanilla laden, "petri dish" Chardonnays. But all things being considered, it would be a great wine to serve a big house full of guests who need to move away from white Zin! So raise a glass.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Mano Primitivo 2007 Wine Review by Billy

Nose:earthy aromas with blueberries
Palate:warm spices and cedar with a smooth, even balance and tannins that warm and do not overwhelm.
Finish: short and tannic. more juicy berry notes.
Overall: I paid about $17 for this wine. A Mano Primitivo is the Italian version of the Zinfandel grape. The styles between this and American Zinfandels could not be more striking. The warm earth notes and soft tannins contrast with US Zin's typically fruit and hot black pepper explosion. While there are definite similarities, this Italian wine is milder and juicier with more earth notes than is typical for other Zins.

A nice take on a familiar varietal. For $17 not a bargain wine but not an unfair price for a new experience.

Raise a Glass!

Torciano Baldassarre Rosso Toscano 2003 wine review by (PB)

Real Time Review: Ah, the season of gift giving tis lovely! Only a couple hours ago a friend walks into my office and gives me this Tuscan red.

Opaque red with purple remnant hue and an ample bouquet of classic Sangiovese dried cherry notes with light, fresh cherry undertones and a nice Chianti earthiness. This Super Tuscan--meaning it does not conform to Chianti rules regarding the blend but includes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) is just, well-NICE.

Palate--Mature, integrated wine with a front hint of licorice, bready fruit, still presenting a chewy tannic backbone that could use another year or two. Light chocolate layer emerges and more dried cherry fruit. Ends with a nice earthy finish that hangs on forever.

This is a nice example of a Super Tuscan and Chianti come-of-age. Thanks MB! Raise a glass!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rosenblum Monte Rosso Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel 2008 wine review by (PB)

If you follow this blog you know I am a Zinfandel zealot so I snatched a couple bottles of another one of Rosenblum's 2 dozen or so single vineyard Zins. I paid $20 for this bottle which is a great price at about half of what it would normally run.

Darker black cherry hue with perfectly wild, brambly blackberry Zin aromas with a suggestion of mint. With ample time to open, more aromas of eucalyptus/menthol and chocolate nuances.

Palate--textured rich berries with creme brulee notes and a slight vanilla finish.

This was a nice bargain at the price even if a little hot--probably just its immaturity.

I love Rosenblum Zins--what else can I say but "raise a glass!"

Jacob's Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 wine reivew by (PB)

This complimentary bottle was sent to the WCB for review: Deep black cherry hue with vegetal notes and nearly minty tea aromas with blackberry and plum highlights.

Palate--sweet berry with spice front; well constructed foundations and relaxed tannins with a balanced under layer of fresh grapes with some vanilla oak. Finishes okay. This wine runs around $14 which is a decent price for the wine so raise a glass.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Fragrant berries, cassis, and cedar on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

Finishes with strong tannins, currants, and herbs

In my experience, Cakebread Napa Cab always has a beautiful bouquet and this is true with the 2006. However, overall the wine doesn't seem to really come together as well as expected.

The good news for Cakebread fans is that this wine has not doubled in price over the past five years like some others. It should run you about $65. Raise a glass to to price flattening!

J.L. Chave Selection Mon Coeur Cotes-du-Rhone 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Intensely resinous nose with dried lavender, currants, and mushrooms

Densely structured on the palate

Long finish of dried herbs and red berries

Here's a powerful and dense Cotes-du-Rhone that could masquerade as a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It's deeply flavored and has long layers on the finish. Also, there's tons of the resinous garrigue aroma that gives a good Cotes-du-Rhone it's character.

Expect to pay around $20- and raise a glass!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sandeman "Fine Rich" Madeira wine review by (PB)

Preparing to make an olde traditionale Christmas drink called Wassail my wife grabbed this after hunting in several grocery stores and passing on the $6 Paul Masson Madeira--the only Madeira offered in each one. Madeira wine and ale are the salient ingredients in Wassail!

Okay, Madeira isn't exactly a household word but it certainly is rich in tradition. In the days of shipping as the primary transportation, a different variety of wine was needed to survive the months long trips in scorching summer temperatures. Madeira was crafted--basically cooked and oxidized--kind of a pre-spoilage-by-design tactic, so that in transit to the new world, it really couldn't spoil.

In the early American colonies Madeira was pretty much more standard fare if wine was served at all and Jefferson had a fairly large inventory of Madeira in his ample cellars.

Madeira is a "fortified"wine, the same as Port, and in fact comes from the Madeira islands of Portugal. A fortified wine is one that has had brandy or some other harder liquor added to it which stops fermentation leaving a very sweet wine with a much higher alcohol content than a regularly vinified wine. Usually in the 21% and above realm.

This Madeira is actually quite delightful with a root beer colored hue--due to the oxidation--and a bouquet that is chock full of nuts--hazel, macadamia, a veritable mixture of nutty aromas.

In the mouth, it is of course very sweet--which is why it is a desert wine--with a nearly syrupy and velvety texture punctuated by hazel nut flavors and a creamy nuttiness. For $15, this is a treat and because it is already oxidized, it has amazing staying power once opened. This is not the kind of wine you sit down and finish off the bottle unless there are a pack of your friends around to help you enjoy it. So raise a glass of this very different treat. And don't confuse it with the cooking Madeira found on your grocer's shelf in the cooking section.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Chateau Coucy 2002 wine review by (PB)

Hailing from the Montagne Saint-Emilion of Bordeaux this 7 year old wine was $13 so I grabbed the last two on the shelf. It presents with a deep garnet hue and bouquet that is quite nice with gentle tobacco and lighter, dark berry aromas.

Palate--White pepper initial impression with light berry and dried cherry fruit. Tannins are still a bit immature giving it a little chewy finish. But at the price, it's a decent example of an inexpensive, right-bank, Bordeaux. Raise a glass.

Jacob's Creek Pinot Grigio sponsored wine review by (PB)

*This complimentary wine sent to us for review:
Pale straw/green presentation with aromas of sweet citrus, pear, and apple.

Palate-- This wine has a dry dusty sweetness to it accompanied by a racy acidity giving it a solid juicy core of crisp, light fruit.

In fairness--I am not a fan of Pinot Grigio in general but in honesty, this is one of the better ones I have tasted. At $8, this is another Aussie value wine so raise a glass from Down Under.

Jacob's Creek Riesling Reserve 2008 *sponsored wine review by (PB)

*We received this complimentary wine for review.
Pale golden with nice bouquet of ample sweet, stone fruit, vanilla powder, with pineapple hints and other fruit.

Palate--Lively, dry style with nice acid base and a pronounced lime foundation.

This is a well made Riesling in the food friendly, dry style with racy acidity making it a wine that will pair well with the right food. The reference price on this bottle is $14 and at that price it is a good example of a solid Aussie Riesling. Definitely worth grabbing so raise a glass.

Conte Di Bregonzo Amarone 2006 wine review by (PB)

This is possibly one of the best ten wines I have ever had at ANY price! Certainly, one of, if not THE very best value wine to date. I bought it at a Trader Joes in Boston where their wine prices are just ridiculously GOOD. I paid $17 and if you know anything about Amarone, it tends to start at twice that.

Black cherry hue with great aromas of brilliant pipe tobacco, big black cherry aromas and seductive fruit nuances.

Palate--Bold, sweet, fudgey fruit with stewed prune hints, elegantly textured, voluptuous tar, bread notes with a finish that is looooong and beautiful. This is the kind of wine you grab by the case. I bought only bottle and of course they were sold out when I went back for more. My loss!
Raise a case to this gorgeous wine. (note--label is for the 03)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Foppiano Petite Sirah 2005 wine review by (PB)

This Russian River varietal was a gift from friends with a nice dark cranberry jelly hue and a bouquet of dark dried black berry fruit, a touch of blueberry and anise with some air.

Palate--Still chewy with tight dried berry fruit,baked bread, a touch of chocolate on the end but after breathing it really mellows out with more chocolate, with a sweet, fruit forward chocolate palate. I always enjoy Petite Sirah and this is no exception. Raise a glass!

Cameron Hughes Lot 150 Meritage 2005 wine review by (PB)

This Sam's Club wine has a garnet hue with somewhat green, olivey bouquet that reminds me of a cheap Chilean Cab with black cherry fruit underneath.

Palate--ready to drink berries, soft tannins, integrated central coast California sourced wine. For the price of $7, raise a glass!