Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Champagne and Sparkling Wine Guide

Tonight countless bottles of bubbly will be popped as we gather to celebrate the passing of 2010 and the start of 2011. The absolute worst thing you can do is to celebrate with an inferior bottle of bubbly. But good sparkling wine and Champagne doesn't have to break the bank.

Here are four bottles that can fit your budget and will not assault your tastebuds.
Remember that you can get about 5 flutes of Champagne from a bottle so plan ahead if you are entertaining or better yet, ask your guests to bring a bottle!

Cost: About $12
Review Spanish Cava sparkling wine. Apples and grassy notes. Larger bubbles that fizz and pop in your mouth. Not complex. Made traditionally. Easy going.

Cost: About $27
Review California sparkling wine. Fruity with apples and cream. Medium bubbles that bounce around your mouth.

Cost: About $40
Review French Champagne.Citrussy. Playful and delightful.

Cost: About $50
ReviewFrench Champagne. My absolute favorite. Intense traditional character. Dry, fresh bread and cracker notes with soft cheese and flowers. Small bubbles that dance and play. Elegant, refined, and simply the best!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Are you ready for New Year's?

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 around $20 and is a high quality, yet relatively 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 2011 on a catastrophic note.

Raise a glass to the new year!

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 review by (PB)

This Central Coast (Calif.) beaut. is a dark purple with lush fruity, chocolate aromas and cigar box fragrance and all sorts of good things!

Palate--this is a bold wine with big, tight, dark fruit, espresso, more black plum, baker's chocolate and after 24 hours is even better still loads of cherry fruit as well. I paid $15 for this wine and would love it at a considerably higher price point. This wine will grow for the next decade and should be fabulous.

For the price point this is at, it is worth seeking out and raising a glass of a classic Cab.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Corteforte 1997 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Wine Review by Billy

Nose: Bold casis, tobacco and cedar with cherry undertones
Palate: Big juicy mouth feel with mouth-watering acids and a tannin core that is very firm even after these 13 years.
Finish: long and savory with basil, oregano and anise hints that taper off.
Overall: I paid $30 for a 500ml bottle of this at a local wine store where I am sure they did not know what they had on hand. It is a deep brick red in the glass and shows its age.

This is a very special bottle of wine that I found sitting on the shelf of a local beer shop. This just goes to show that you can find gems hidden away amidst the dross of lite beer and cheep spirits.

Raise a glass!

Oberon Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2009 Sponsored Wine Review by Billy

Nose:Heavy tropical fruit on the nose (pineapple and apricot and lemon)
Palate: Dry with medium acids that make this a good pairing for buttery dishes and cream sauce meals.
Finish:lingering tropical fruit acid notes.
Overall: Thanks to Susanne Bergstrom from the Folio Fine Wine Partners group for providing the review samples. This wine can be found widely (if it is not at your local wine store ask the manager for it). It retails for anywhere from $12 - $16. Overall this is a nice example of fruity Sauvignon Blanc. The citussy acid character presents well and should be best served with a buttery complement. There are many different styles of Sauvignon Blanc wines from around the world. This Napa Valley white wine is a nice example of a tropical fruit style.

Raise a Glass!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chateau De Candale 2005 review by (PB)

Candale is a Grand Cru St. Emilion from the famed 2005 vintage. I am pairing it with a rib roast and my initial tasting of it with on opening shows it will be a nice wine and the perfect pairing. I am allowing it to come to room temp (my cellar is set at 56 degrees and it definitely needs to breathe. I am allowing it 4 hours.

Now that it has opened,there are many more layers. It is this phenomenon of "layers" or complexity that separates the more pricey wines from the lesser ones. This is an 80% blend of Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

Bouquet--Bouquet is sweet fruit laden aromas of black cherry, cedar, licorice, cigar box and black ripe plums, with slight menthol.

Palate--bready,chewy,structured for age, loads of plummy fruit and black cherry bites on a frame of tannins which have toned down with breathing. It was marvelous with our rare rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. A treat all the way around and a fitting feast honoring the King of kings.

Raise a glass to this Christmas celebration and Happy Hanukkah to the patriarchs of the Faith!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sean Minor Four Bears 2008 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Sponsored Wine Review by Billy

Nose: rich and full of dried raspberry and cedar with tobacco notes.
Palate: Warm and full and fruity in the mouth with soft tannins and gentle acid core that make this very accessible and pleasant
Finish: gentle finish with cedar notes and cherry.
Overall:Thanks to the team from the Sean Minor Winery who have sent The Wine Cask Blog samples for review. You can find Sean Minor wines at your local wine shop (or ask the store manager about them). This wine will run $15-$20. If you find it for $12 or less pick up 2 bottles!

This is a wonderful Christmas wine because of its accessibility and its character. Guests will like it for the fruitiness and how easy drinking it is. The wine lover in your life will like how it combines woody character with soft tannins and full feel.

Raise a Glass to Sean Minor 2008 Napa Cab!

Holiday Wine and Cheese Parings by (PB)

In a recent conference call with the Sam's Club wine and cheese buyers we discussed pairings for the holidays realizing that a bunch of us will be fretting over the right cheeses with the right wines. Below is a helpful little list that can get you started in the right direction. I just returned from my local Sam's Club and their cheeses--at least the ones I checked are WAY cheaper than anything I can find anywhere else so be sure to check out yours!
Cheese and wine pairing suggestions!

French Brie with Champagne, Chardonnay

Roquefort with Port

English Blue Stilton with Cabernet, Port

English Fruited Stilton with Cabernet, Port

Red Wax Gouda with Merlot, Zinfandel

Parmigiano Reggiano with Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay

Grana Padano with Barolo, Barbaresco

Manchego with Rioja (Tempranillo), Merlot

Iberico with Garnacha, (Grenache) Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc

Dubliner (Irish Cheddar) with Cabernet Sauvignon

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Laboure Roi Puilly Fuisse 2008 review by (PB)

I reviewed this wine not long ago (October of this year) and grabbed another bottle on sale.

Pale gold - straw with plenty of vanilla laden citrus mix of lime,and others.

Palate- Stern presence with racy acidity, citrus backbone, juicy with minerals. A Burgundian Chard that will cleanse your palate of the butteriest sauces you can throw at it. It's finish really endures for some time!

A good food wine and a great value at $13 on super sale!

Raise a glass of the real thing!

Honig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Currants and cherry on the nose with a pleasant mix of herbs and spices

Full bodied on the palate

Supple finish with smooth layers of cherry and currant along with chocolate and cedar


With a red fruit profile and nice herb and spice accents, this is a pleasing Cabernet now that could also cellar for a while. Honig is a perennial good value Cab from Napa, and the 2007 is a real winner. Expect to pay around $35 or so. Raise a glass!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Questions About Wine Pairings???

The holidays (don't forget New Years is just around the corner) provide too many opportunities for enhancing your meals, parties, snacks, and traditions, "to blow it" on a poor wine selection. So if you have a question about what wines go with something you are serving, e-mail us ( and we will try to get back to you in a timely manner.

It would be helpful if you can be specific with what you are thinking of serving, the price range you want to spend and whether you live in a metropolitan area with ample selection opportunities. (It is frustrating to receive specific wine recommendations when the wines are not available to you.)

It is even better if you have some idea of wines you have looked at instead of us shotgunning. But that said, shotgunning can be effective as we will provide you with general principles concerning your food etc.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Heidseick Monopole Blue Top Brut Champagne Review by Billy

Nose: Huge aromas that waft even when the glass is on the table. Crisp granny smith apple and buttered toast with caramel underneath.
Palate: good Brut dryness and solid acid core but with bubbles that fail to dance. They prickle but are lazy.
Finish: Floral finish that hints at nuttiness.
Overall: I paid $40 for this at a local wine store. The Heidseick & Company Blue Top Monopole Brut Champagne can be found anywhere from $25 (a steal) to $45 (got money to burn?). It was paired with baklava for dessert and went very well. Shop around and find this on sale and treat you and your Christmas guests to a lovely champagne.

Raise a Glass!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Casal Garcia Rose 2008 Sponsored Wine Review by Billy

Nose:strawberry on the nose
Palate:slightly sprtizy
Overall:The bubbles are the best part of this wine. The rest of it should be left in the bottle. While it is pretty to look at and the bubbles make it an inexpensive festive wine, the rest of it is unremarkable. Still, it is good to know what is good and what is not this holiday season.

Special thanks to Sar Perlman of Portugal Wines for making this sample available to us at the Wine Cask Blog for review! This is an inexpensive ($9 or so) wine from Portugal - the Vinhos Verdes ("green wine") Region in the north of Portugal.Special thanks to Sar Perlman of Portugal Wines for making this sample available to us at the Wine Cask Blog for review! This is an inexpensive wine from Portugal - the Vinhos Verdes ("green wine") Region in the north of Portugal.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Wine and Cheese Pairings by (PB)

In a recent conference call with the Sam's Club wine and cheese buyers we discussed pairings for the holidays realizing that a bunch of us will be fretting over the right cheeses with the right wines. Below is a helpful little list that can get you started in the right direction. I just returned from my local Sam's Club and their cheeses--at least the ones I checked are WAY cheaper than anything I can find anywhere else so be sure to check out yours!
Cheese and wine pairing suggestions!

French Brie with Champagne, Chardonnay

Roquefort with Port

English Blue Stilton with Cabernet, Port

English Fruited Stilton with Cabernet, Port

Red Wax Gouda with Merlot, Zinfandel

Parmigiano Reggiano with Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay

Grana Padano with Barolo, Barbaresco

Manchego with Rioja (Tempranillo), Merlot

Iberico with Garnacha, (Grenache) Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc

Dubliner (Irish Cheddar) with Cabernet Sauvignon

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2007 review by (PB)

Young purple hue with a sweet berry laden bouquet and a nose of light black licorice/anise and evergreen;

Palate--rich and relaxed with young tannins that will turn to velvet in a couple years. Ample berry and black cherry with a touch of cola nuances and light cinnamon notes; should continue to evolve in the glass as it warms up. After an hour and a warm up this is a superior Cab and at the price of $12 (it runs around $18 most places)it is a super value wine that is delicious and a fine example of how good Cabernet can be. Raise a glass or three of this VERY nice wine!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fontodi Syrah Case Via Colli della Toscana blind review by (PB)

(NW) served this up to me and made me look like a rank amateur in wine tasting. It has a red hue with a bouquet of berries, dill cinnamon and candied berries.

Palate--somehwat lighter in body with cherries, a break out of subtle licorice rear palate,mature tannins and some milky fudge. With more time is has a raisiny quality to it leading me to think it might be a ripasso.

This wine is known as the best Syrah in Italy and will run you a hefty $50-$70. This was quite an experience and an education so raise a glass!

Johann Falkenburg Riesling 2008 review by PB)

This German QBA wine (QBA is an abbreviation for three German words that designate he quality level or "title" of the wine--see explanation on reading a German label in a previous entry.

This was a magnum bottle with a light straw hue and a slight off aroma with a little spice.

Minerals up front on a somewhat flacid foundation with pears and slight peach notes on a steely finish. this is not a great example of riesling and would be better passed on.

Nerello Del Bastardo 2007 review by (PB)

This Italian wine is a young purple ont he pour with nice sweet cherry pipe tobacco scents with black Twizzlers and resin notes.

Palate--Flavorful palate with gentle tannins, tasty with a minerally mid-palate and plenty of red fruit on the finish.

This is really quite a nice wine and a solid value so raise a glass!

Opolo Vineyards Rhapsody Paso Robles Meritage Red Wine 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Fragrant nose of blackberry, licorice, and hints of coconut

Full bodied and plush on the palate

Nicely layered finish of raspberry, blackberry, and vanilla


Here's an interesting blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles. As a 2002, it's really drinking nicely with rich fruit and plush layers. Interesting, with a lot of air it also developed herbal characteristics.

I paid $17 on closeout, which was a considerable deal considering this wine typically goes for over $30. I'd put it with red meat or a rich pasta dish. And raise a glass!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Aveleda Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Branco 2008 sponsored wine review by Billy

Nose:lime citrus and minerals on the nose
Palate:small spritzig with a dry palate, rich acids and mineral textures that burst then quickly fade.
Overall:Special thanks to Sar Perlman of Portugal Wines for making this sample available to us at the Wine Cask Blog for review! This is an inexpensive wine from Portugal - the Vinhos Verdes ("green wine") Region in the north of Portugal. This is a good event wine with the dry palate and almost but not quite bubbles and the mineral textures. It is not buttery or cloying like some other whites you might get served as a guest at a party. This wine was delightful before dinner with light snacks.

Raise a Glass!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Georges DuBoeuf Morgon "Flower Label" Beaujolais Cru 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Beautiful plum, cherry, and chocolate on the nose

Light to medium bodied on the palate

Finishes with nice acidity and flavors of currants, cherry, and herbs


I had heard that 2009 was a fantastic year in Beaujolais, and this is my first bottle from that vintage. This Morgon, which is the village designation, is a beautiful wine. Morgon wines are always my favorite Beaujolais Cru, and this is one of the best I've ever tasted. It has a nice fragrance and is juicy and youthful. I'm actually going to put a few bottles away for short term cellaring.

If you need to be reintroduced to Beaujolais after a bad experience in the past, grab a 2009. This one cost me $14. Just make sure you don't accidently grab a 2009 Nouveau. Nouveau is meant to be consumed immediately and the 2010 is already out.

By the way, this is another great food wine like the Crozes-Hermitage below. What I mean by that is a wine with good acidity and broad flavors that accompanies a variety of food really well. Happy Holidays and raise a glass!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Paul Jaboulet Aine Les Jalets Crozes-Hermitage 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Dried cherry, sour plum, and mulling spices on the nose

Medium bodied on the palate

Finishes with cherry, cranberry, and dried herbs


Here's a classic Syrah from the classic and original Syrah-growing region of France in the Northern Rhone. Unlike the big, explosive Syrah from the new world regions like California and Australia, this is a refined and medium-bodied wine. It has expressive fruit and a nice spice to it.

This is a wine that will prove to be versatile with food, which is a nice characteristic during the holiday season when we seem to always be eating. For $20 or so, you can serve up an original Syrah. Raise a glass!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Christmas gift ideas for the wine lover in your life! 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 counsel 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! Even with my vast years of experience and study a wine store can be overwhelming; don't hesitate to ask for help and be specific meaning--don't be shy about your price range, likes, dislikes, hopes etc. I have rarely been steered wrong by a knowledgeable staff making recommendations and YES--even I ask for help at times! No one can possibly know all there is to know about the bazillions of wine "out there" today.

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 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!)

Wine aerator--This is my new favorite gizmo! Vinturi is the name of a wine aerator that you pour the wine through into your glass and it speeds up the breathing process. AND it actually works! For $30, it is a great gift!

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 $9!

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!

Villa Cerrina Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2009 (real time review by PB)

Nice dark garnet hue with really nice red fruit in the bouquet with maybe a raspberry touch and the faintest of licorice way down in the glass.

***Palate--Surprisingly relaxed for such a young wine; Texture is a bit thin, fruit is definitely there but again thin and short but an overall balanced, fruity wine that has a finish to it.

***After an hour or so,this wine turned amazingly better even than it was on opening. This is definitely a great value!

Now here is the get a grip factor--This is a $5 Italian D.O.C. wine from Trader Joe's and frankly for the price, this is a stock up wine for your pizza, pasta or cracker and cheese party so at this price--raise a glass!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

J.W. Morris Gewurztraminer 2008 review by (PB)

Light gold with remarkable spicy peachy, peary, slight mandarin orange nose that is wowing!

Palate--Again--wowing at the ridiculous Trader Joes pricing of $4 with sold Gewurz flavors.. It is off dry and contains all the flavors you smell.

Put a chill on it,and enjoy simple quaffing pleasure at an economy price! Raise a glass!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Villa Mt. Eden Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve 2005 review by (PB)

This Napa Valley cab is a classic example of the grape. Nice Cabernet nose with rich plum and dark berry with some cedar and dark cocoa.

Palate--Baker's chocolate, nice cedar notes with rich dark fruit and unsweetened cocoa. The finish is cedary and black fruit.

(NW) and I shared this before a dinner recently and we both agreed this is classic Cabernet Sauvignon. This one is particularly well made and is much better than the $15 price tag we find it for. I picked up another bottle of it the next day so raise a glass!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Fragrant ripe currants, dried herbs, and spice on the nose

Smooth and supple on the palate

Nice layers of mixed berries, cherry, anise, and cedar on the finish


Here's a soft, supple style of Napa Cab that's very approachable. The flavor and texture profile is open and relaxed. It's ready to enjoy now and should prove to be versatile with food. This was the case on Thanksgiving, as our magnum disappeared quickly. I paid $100 for the 1.5L format which always makes the table more festive. Raise a glass!

Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Nose slowly opens to reveal muted aromas of currants, plum, charcoal, and herbs

Full bodied, dense, and firm on the palate

More currants, with cedar, cocoa, and some musty earth flavor on the finish


I don't often say this about Napa Cabernet, but put this one away for a long, long time. It's a bit closed and muted, but shows a density and depth that will probably take some time to reveal.

In fact, we sipped on this wine for several hours and it didn't seem to evolve much. Just a little bit was left in the bottle when I put a stopper on it and returned it to the cellar overnight. The next evening, I poured the last of the bottle and it was remarkably more open. This is fairly uncommon and tells me this wine is very slow to evolve.

I grabbed this bottle for $45, although it usually retails for more. Raise a glass- later on!

Zaca Mesa Santa Ynez Valley Syrah 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Very peppery nose with rich plum and berry aromas

Full bodied and richly textured

Long finish with dark berries, mocha, sweet spice, and pepper layers


This is a very good Syrah with a lot going on. While there's a big peppery explosion on the front, there's plenty of rich fruit to round it out.

The Santa Ynez Valley in California is situated just North of Santa Barbara. If you're interested in Syrah, get to know this area. The Syrah made here can be out of this world. I paid $20 for this wine and bought a half case. The first bottle paired perfectly with a friend's homemade buffalo chicken mac'n cheese. Raise a glass!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sawyer Cellars Bradford Meritage 2004 wine review by Billy

Nose: oaky, currants, black and blueberry notes muted under a layer of spice
Palate: even tannins and strong acids and a strong mouth feel. Neither plush nor sharp, simply strong. Stands up very well to our dark Guinness gravy this thanksgiving
Finish: berry burst on the finish.
Overall: mature red wine from Napa that works well with strong flavored meals. A nice centerpiece to a multi-faceted meal this vegetarian thanksgiving
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Trevisiol Prosecco Veneto extra dry wine review by Billy

Nose: vanilla bean and lemon grass
Palate: understated bubbles, dry, good acid core
Finish: floral and more vanilla hinys though a bit thin
Overall: an ok prosecco and an inexpensive before turkey Thanksgiving drink.
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A Vegetarian Thanksgiving Day Wine Perspective

If you are looking for a very good write up on Thanksgiving Day wines and how to make that last minute selection, see this post by NW.

If, however, you have alternate dietary requirements, whether by choice or by necessity, read on.

Thankfully(!) wine is a holiday staple that is usually not restricted from most diets. But pairing it is often the challenge. My family has been vegetarian for well over 10 years now. But we never fail to have some wonderful wines with our Thanksgiving Dinner and for that we are truly thankful. Here is what is on the wine menu this year:

Trevisiol Prosecco Veneto Extra Dry. This sparkling white Italian wine comes from Valdobbiadene. It will make a versatile aperitif with the various munchies we will have out - aged cheeses, olives, crackers and spreads. - about $12

Main Course:

Bottle 1: Sawyer 2004 Bradford Meritage. This is a Napa Valley (Rutherford) Red. It has some age on it and will be a mature and robust addition to our thank-full meal full of traditional side dishes and a delightful quorn roast. - about $25

Bottle 2: Fetish "The Watcher" 2008 Barossa Valley Shiraz. This is a robust, big, bullish wine. This is an example of where what you like is what you like and you go with it. For our family, the fetching Mrs. Billy simply adores Aussie Shirazes. So she will enjoy this wine even with the lighter fare that we vegetarians typically enjoy on meat-centric holidays. - about $25

All in all there are many reasons to be thankful this year. These three wines will be a delightful addition to the vegetarian meal. Raise a Glass!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Joseph Drouhin 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Review by Billy

Nose:candied red cherry nose
Palate:sharp acids make for some tartness on the palate while keeping the fruity structure
Finish: tart and young and pleasing
Overall: I paid about $12 for this Beaujolais Nouveau at the local store. It should be widely available.

Celebrate new wine with this new wine. Let it breathe and the acid structure will soften.

Thanksgiving Day Wines Revisited (NW)

On Thanksgiving day, many wines will work just fine. If you have a big casual group of people, make sure to have several wines including at least one red and one white. For a smaller gathering and a more formal meal, serve a red wine at the table that's versatile.

My top pick is still Cabernet Sauvignon with a little bit of age on it. Even more specific, I'd go for a Sonoma County wine or a Napa Valley producer who's focused on a more refined Cabernet style. Other wine regions such as Paso Robles, CA, Columbia Valley, WA, and Walla Walla, WA, also produce Cabernets and Cabernet blends that would be fitting. In the spirit of a uniquely American holiday, serve American wine. There are plenty of other opportunities to open your Bordeaux.

You might be surprised that my top pick isn't Pinot Noir, but I find that all the wonderful subtleties of a good Pinot are washed away in the Thanksgiving day meal.

In any case, don't take wine and food pairings too seriously on Thanksgiving. With the variety of flavors involved and the number of side dishes that grace most tables, versatility is key. I will be pouring a beautiful Cabernet.

Raise a glass!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Primer by (NW) reposted by (PB)

As I write this my turkey is thawing (Saturday prior to the big feast) and I will certainly brine my bird and then fantasize about all the wonderful wines--both reds and whites, bold ones and more finessed ones which will be served up during the multi-course celebration.
As you will find when reading (NW's) post from a previous year, whatever you do, don't think, "Turkey= poultry= white wine." If you do, you will miss out on the best this day has to offer--gastronomically speaking!

(NW) writes--
Thanksgiving day meals, whether traditional or uniquely creative, offer a terrific opportunity to showcase the marriage of wine and food. A lot of people fret over the wine pairings because there's a lot of time and money invested in the meal. Let me suggest that the pairings don't need to be exacting and a wide variety of wines will suffice.

Some general categories of wine tend to be very good pairings for Thanksgiving. This is partly due to that fact that most meals have a number of dishes and a wide variety for flavors. Wines that do well in this situation are wines that naturally accompany food, both red and white. The red wines that are often viewed as traditional Thanksgiving meal accompaniments include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a great way to enhance the meal. Is it too red- meaning too full-bodied and powerful? I say no. Cabernet Sauvignon does well with meats, even poultry, especially when accompanied by sauces, gravy, and starches. To refine this selection, try a Cab with a little bit of age on it. The age will likely have mellowed the wine's tannins and softened its edges.

Pinot Noir can be a stunning accompaniment to a Thanksgiving meal! It's really an amazing varietal that has the capability of total success and total failure. Therefore, it's the riskiest choice. For example, I paired a highly regarded Oregon Pinot Noir with the meal two years ago, but it didn't work at all. It was an amazing wine, for sure, but too exotic and smokey. It just didn't work. If you know you've got a good one, then go for it. Otherwise, be careful because Pinot Noir is the most unpredictable varietal.

Zinfandel is often considered a perfect pairing for Thanksgiving. After all, it's the most American grape. Stick with a traditional Zinfandel if you're going this route. Some of the newer single vineyard bottlings are highly ripe, alcoholic, and overpowering. They won't work well. Make sure you are serving a traditional, balanced wine. A good wine merchant can help you find the right wine. For example, Ridge produces Zinfandel blends that are very elegant and balanced.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you're looking for white wine, consider Riesling, Chardonnay, or Chenin Blanc. Riesling can be an amazing food wine, but you'll have to stick with the dry versions. These dry Rieslings are produced the world over, but if you're shopping in the German aisle look for kabinett or spatlese bottlings.

Chardonnay can be a nice choice, especially if you're unsure of your guests' preferences. Because Chardonnay comes in so many forms, look for a wine that has the reputation of ripe tropical fruit and enough acidity for food.

Chenin Blanc could deliver a nice pairing if you're looking for something on the lighter side. It can be very crisp, so get the help of a good wine merchant if you'd like to find one with a little more body.

Obviously, you can find success with a number of wines and, therefore, have some flexibility. In fact, not only do you have some flexibility in wine selections, you have an opportunity to present multiple wines. I always recommend this as a way to satisfy different palates and make the meal more festive. Multiple pairings give people the chance to figure out what they like and go back for more of the same. If you have the means, I recommend placing two glasses at each place setting- either one red and one white or two red glasses.

Also, when considering multiple pairings, use finger food and appetizers as a way to offer up other wine options. Before the meal, consider opening a sparkling wine or use this as a chance to offer a white wine if you're only offering reds with the meal. Rose can also be a nice pairing for appetizers. And don't forget about dessert wines. For example, this year we are having three small dessert courses. With the first two, we'll have a dessert wine and with the last one we'll have coffee.

Wine can enhance a Thanksgiving meal in many different ways. Realize that you have many options and don't fret over exacting your wine pairings. With all the flavors and various dishes, a number of different wines will work. Just enjoy making wine a part of the festivities. Raise a glass!

Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2009 review by (PB)

Grabbed this from Trader Joe's for $12 and this one is pale yellow with a wonderful pronounced, grassy, grapefruit and guava paste bouquet that provokes salivation.

Palate--Solid grassy, citrusy, grapefruity, Sauvignon Blanc flavors on a foundation of racy acidity that will cut any grease, butter, or fat right off your palate as you eat.

This is classic New Zealand (Marlborough) Sauvignon Blanc and is a good food wine especially with heavy buttery foods. Raise a glass!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Infinite 2008 Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 review by (PB)

Made for Sam's Club, the Torre's family, with great reputation intact, produces this wine and distributes it for a value price of under $8.

It is purple and young with ample sour cherry with sweet red fruit along side.

Palate--Pepper with tight fruit that needs plenty of time to open. It packs a lot of flavor even with subdued red berry fruit trying to break out. It is well made as one would expect from the Torre's family.

I cut my oenophilic teeth on Torres wines and still have fond memories of well made wines and value pricing. Some things never change so raise a glass!

Columbia Crest Two Vines Riesling 2008 review by (PB)

Gentle bouquet with an off odor of petroleum or Kerosene. It is slight but it is there! It dissipates fortunately leaving and off dry, citrus with generic fruit.

This wine is unremarkable and should be passed up. Columbia Crest normally makes great value wines but this one is an exception so raise a glass to something else.

Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009 review by (PB)

This New Zealand Marlborough wine is pale gold with a tinge of green.

Bouquet is sweet, powdery, grassy, tropical fruit, pineapple, pears and loads of grapefruit with some air.

Palate--Sweet, off dry, fruity, tasty, more grapefruit and short but a nice value at $6. Another Trader Joe's value wine so raise a glass.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beaujolais Nouveau G. Duboeuf 2010 review by (PB)

Classic Gamay light purple/cherry hue with substantial aromas of candy apple, sweet cherry and strawberry hints.

Palate: A tad tart with a slight puckery dryness that makes you smack your lips. The wonderful berry aromas on the nose are scant on the palate. The aftertaste has a "beer" like quality to it--seriously.

Well, with Nouveau you have to take what you get. 2005 was one of the best Nouveaus in memory and 2007 as well as 2008 were also quite delicious. This 2010 is one of the lesser examples I have had in several years. Bummer. Try another negociant and see what you get! Raise a glass--of a different Nouveau!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Red Tree Pinot Noir 2009 review by (PB)

Reviewed previously this very inexpensive Pinot is a bargain out of the gate. It presents with a classy light cherry hue and classic Pinot aromas of light raspberry and strawberry juice that is simple and pure.

Palate--really flavorful with nice structure, solid balance and wonderful Pinot Noir flavors with some richness in the bright red berry flavors.

This is the kind of VALUE wine you look for to stock up on at the $10 price point. For a pinot that tastes like Pinot, this is a buy more wine which I already have so raise a glass.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Get Ready for Beaujolais Nouveau!!! by (PB)

Tomorrow is the annual festivities and celebration of the release of this infant, simple wine! At midnight on the third Thursday of November, and not a second sooner, the "New Beaujolais" wine is uncorked and the partying begins. (Australia will be the first to uncork)

As a wine, Nouveau is never much to anticipate beyond the sheer, simple quaffing pleasure of this beautifully hued, simply made wine from the Gamay grape with no pretensions of being great, complex or remarkable beyond the event. It is picked, made and bottled within 6 weeks and shipped all over the world so the timing is just right!

The best years for Nouveau yields a wine that is straight forward, wonderfully fruity, with pleasant raspberry or strawberry suggestions and down right refreshing with a light chill on it. It goes will all kinds of appetizers and munchies that aren't too elaborately spiced or is just plain good to sip or guzzle next to a nice fire.

At any rate, look for the Negociants "Georges Dubœuf"(Label pictured) "Joseph Drouhin," and "Louis Jadot," to mention only a few and expect to pay from $9-$16 depending on the origins of the wine. So be ready to raise a glass with us at the WCB about 72 hours from now! (12:30 EST Monday 11-15-2010)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Beautiful nose of apricot, banana cream, and spice

Smooth as silk and richly textured on the palate

Ultra-rich and long finish of peach, apricot, creme brulee, and marshmallow


This is an excellent dessert wine and delicious even in its youth. Sauternes can often age for generations, and has proven to cellar for even 200 years. I'm always amazed by the stuff because it has an intense sweetness but never seems heavy.

Although this one was served a bit young, it proved to be smooth, rich, and well integrated. I always like to have a few half bottles on hand and this is one to look for in the 375mL format. It runs about $40 for the half and $80 for the full bottle.

Serve up a bottle of Sauternes like this as a way to wind down the Thanksgiving meal. And raise a glass!

Chimney Rock Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Inviting aromas of black cherry, currants, and sweet tobacco on the nose

Full bodied and supple on the palate

Soft, rich finish that's nicely layered with more black cherry and currant along with black tea and chocolate

Summary: This wine delivers a softer Cabernet Sauvignon profile, but is still full bodied and richly perfumed. It's well integrated and easy to drink. I recommend it as a very approachable Cabernet.

At a recent business dinner, my table polished off a magnum before the meal even arrived. We paid $175 for a magnum at the restaurant and a 750mL bottle runs about $45 in the store. Raise a glass!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Latium Morini Campo le Calle Soave 2009 sponsored wine review by Billy

Nose: After some time and exposure to air this white wine's nose opens and softens with Honey and Fig notes underpinning crisp hay and citrus
Palate: crisp with delightful acid core. Citrussy notes and peachy character.
Finish: rounded mouth feel with melon notes and a very long lasting minerally finish
Overall:Thanks to Amy from Colangelo & Partners PR for thinking of us at The Wine Cask Blog and providing us the samples to review. This Soave wine is 100% Garganega grapes. According to research the Garganega grapes are dried for several days before wine making beings. This concentrates the flavors and sugars and brings out the honey notes in this delightful white wine. It will pair well with holiday meals and provide a very nice alternative that white your uncle pulled out from under the cabinet. I have seen this 2009 Latium Soave available online for anywhere from $12-$20 which is a very reasonable price.

Raise a glass!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Quarles Harris Porto Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005 review by (PB)

Another Trader Joe's nice wines--this one earned the Wine Enthusiast's 90 point "Best Buy" rating. I can go along with the best buy but right now this wine is still too young. Watch out in a couple more years!

This wine is young with a purple hue and deeply fruity with licorice/anise/fennel, ripe prune hints but not over done.

Palate--Sweet (of course) ripe prunes, a bit harsh, grapey but nicely textured with a silky presence, licorice and light black pepper.

I paid $13 at Trader Joe's and would buy another so raise a glass.

Remember--do NOT confuse a "Late Bottled Vintage Port" with "Vintage Port." They are two different animals and I assure you two vastly different price points! The Quarles Harris 2007 "Vintage Porto" by the way--is spectacular and is a STEAL at $35!

Stemmari Feudo Arancio Pinot Noir 2008 review by (PB)

Feudo Arancio knows how to make Nero D'Avola--they should concentrate on that and leave the Pinot alone--at least in this 2008.

It has a black cherry hue with aromas that are pleasant but not varietal. Floral cherry licorice notes.

Palate--Soft, lifeless again--atypical as a Pinot Noir but easy enough to drink. Even at $8, I'd pass on this Pinot!

Marchese De Petri Il Valore Chianti Riserva 2006 review by (PB)

Finally--we have a Trader Joe's in our state of Maine. While I am a big fan of TJ's wine selection and pricing, this one is pretty disappointing by way of both selection and pricing. This Chianti Riserva--I assume made for Trader Joe's perhaps or at least is bought in bulk by TJ's is $6. What do you get for $6?

A decent garnet hue wine with cherry, evergreen and licorice aromas with a nice Sangiovese bouquet!

Palate--Cedar and cherry with dried cherry flavors that tastes remarkably like a Tuscan Sangiovese. This was a pleasant surprise and at $6, this IS a BUY MORE kind of wine so raise a glass.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Marc Bredif Vouvray 2008 review by (PB)

I am a fan of Chenin Blanc and Vouvray means Chenin. Straw hue with pronounced aromas of Meyer Lemon with lime citrusy, cream notes. Ripe pineapple with slight caramel hint. Really nice!

Palate: Racy acidity with lime galore. Citrus peel with a nice finish and a creamy texture.

This is a very nice Chenin that works as an aperitif but also paired well with a seafood risotto I whipped up. I paid $15 for this at Rapid Liquors in Stoneham, Mass. My favorite wine store in New England! I paid $15 for this which is a GOOD price so raise a glass!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Chevalier Aerating Wine Glass Sponsored Review by Billy

From time to time we at The Wine Cask Blog receive wine related objects to review. Click here to see PB's double-blind review of the glass. This is one such object and a very unique one at that. The Chevalier Aerating Wine Glass is a beautiful full size wine glass with a unique, perforated bowl on a stem in the center of the main bowl. As you pour your wine into the small center bowl, the perforations allow the wine to cascade into the main bowl. The idea is that as the wine is split and fountains into the main bowl, its surface area increases thereby increasing its exposure to the air. Most reds and many white wines improve with exposure to air. This is called "breathing" the wine and is one reason why many wines are decanted prior to serving.

I decided to review the glass with a wine I've not tasted before: Penfold's Bin 28 2006 Kalimna Shiraz from Southern Australia. I selected this wine because I typically like Shiraz to breathe before drinking it and because I did not have any predispositions for or against this wine.

I performed a blind test by pouring a newly opened Shiraz into the Chevalier glass and then having my assistant pour this into a "regular" wine glass which I tasted next to another regular glass of the Shiraz that did not first go through the Chevalier. Here are the results:
Glass 1:
Nose: raisin, chocolate and earthy plum spice
Palate: smooth and round with plush tannins and a soft acid core.
Finish: long and even with dried sage, blackberry and more chocolate notes.

Glass 2:

Nose: tobacco, peppery spice and herbal tones
Palate: sharp acids followed by plush tannins for a warm core.
Finish: chocolate and blackberry on a medium long finish

Glass 1 was the Chevalier aerated wine and glass 2 was the wine poured straight from the bottle.

Overall: As this test shows the Chevalier wine glass works. It quickly opens up and softens the wine. This process would otherwise require decanting and/or an hour or so of breathing.

That said, there is one drawback to the glass. The glass is a bit thicker than a traditional crystal wine glass. The lip of the glass, especially, is thick and bulky. It doesn't feel great on my lips. However the time savings in getting a great, pre-breathed glass of hearty red makes up for either the un-elegance of a thicker glass or the bother of pouring it into another glass.

This would make an interesting and fun gift for the wine lover in your life and a conversation piece during the holidays.

Raise a glass!