Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sean Minor Four Bears Carneros Pinot Noir 2007 Sponsored Wine Review (NW)

This wine was sent complimentary to The Wine Cask Blog in exchange for a review.

Tasting notes:

Fragrant strawberry and cherry on the nose

Smooth and silky on the palate

More red fruit on the finish with spice and pepper accents


Nicely made and very approachable, this wine offers a fragrant bouquet and some complexity on the finish. It's both food friendly and enjoyable for sipping as well. Expect to pay around $17. Raise a glass!

Sean Minor Four Bears Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Sponsored Wine Review (NW)

This wine was sent complimentary to The Wine Cask Blog in exchange for a review.

Tasting notes:

Nice beam of citrus on the nose

Finely textured on the palate

Grapefruit and mineral layers with sweet pear accents


Here's a Sauvignon Blanc that's crisp and flavorful. It dances back and forth between showing a lean, mineral character and a bit of weight with rich citrus and a touch of pear. I don't see it very often in my area, but I recommend looking for it in your Sauvignon Blanc aisle. It should run around $15. Raise a glass!

Hob Nob Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Sponsored Wine Review (NW)

This wine was sent complimentary to The Wine Cask Blog in exchange for a review.

Tasting notes:

Raspberry jam, licorice, and oak on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

Red berries and chocolate on the finish


With grapes sourced from France, this wine is being cleverly marketed along with a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, a several others from the same producer. It's a basic varietal Cabernet with a decent flavor profile but seems a bit "manufactured" with oaky touches and jammy fruit bordering on candy sweetness.

For $10.99, it competes in the value price category. While it's catchy and well packaged, it suffers from a lack of place and a lack of distinction. Raise a glass of something more interesting!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Elk Cove Vineyards 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Wine Reveiw by Billy

Nose:Classic Pinot nose of earthy musk (which is just a nice way of saying "sweaty gym socks") and lush berry undertones.
Palate: juicy strawberry around a firm acid core. The tannins are a bit prickly.
Finish: Red Berries persist as does the lush and juicy texture. Some chalk stone characteristics underlie a medium finish.
Overall: I paid about $25 for this if I remember correctly. This is a bit steep though not unfair. If I saw this for 5 or 10 less I would pick up several bottles to have on hand. If you are looking for a solid pinot made in the US of A you really cannot go wrong with Elk Cove 2006 Pinot Noir. This is a lighter red wine. Not as dense as a Cabernet or Shiraz. It is easy to drink and classy. Look for it at your local store and pick up one bottle at any price. If you see it for under $20 pick up several.

Raise a Glass!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vine Cliff Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Wild berries and mocha on the nose

Full bodied and richly textured on the palate

Moderately tannic with blackberry and toffee on the finish


Here's a nice wine that's still very youthful. If you have some in your cellar, you're fortunate. You will be rewarded by patience as this continues to develop nicely. The flavor profile is really nice and it seems well integrated.

I was fortunate to enjoy this recently at a restaurant in magnum bottles, and it was a crowd pleaser at the table. The wine retails for around $75. Raise a glass!

Pride Mountain Napa-Sonoma Counties Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Currants and black cherry on the nose

Full bodied and richly textured

More dark fruit and toasty oak


From their high altitude perch straddling the Napa and Sonoma County line, Pride makes some beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This $65 Cab is decent but not among their most exciting wines. Even so, raise a glass!

Schild Estate Barossa Shiraz 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Plum, black tea, and cherry on the nose

Finely textured on the palate

Red berries, licorice, and spice on the finish


Here's a well made Australian Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. It exhibits nice fruit, good balance, and has a fine texture on the palate that makes for easy drinking. For some reason, I've seen this recently for a few dollars cheaper than in the past couple of years. I paid $21 at a local wine shop. Raise a glass!

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva 2006 wine review by (PB)

I snagged this on a recent hunt in Boston for $16. It presents with a concentrated opaque blackish/garnet hue. It has a surprisingly grapey bouquet right at the front with something distinctive that eludes my identification. Subtle cherry with loads of ripe juicy blackberry and light pipe tobacco nuances that are really pleasant with a touch of powdered cocoa on the end.

Palate--Unique, presence of rich cherry fruit with a texture that approaches silky. Tannins are also mature with a smokey after taste. Wow. This is really nice.

The price range runs from $13 -$20 on line. I paid $16 for it and I would do it again in a minute so raise a glass of a distinctive treat!

I will be paring this with Italian Puttanesca later this evening!

Jenica Peak California Chardonnay 2005 wine review by (PB)

Maybe a year ago a friend of mine--himself a neo-enophile--was raving about a Chardonnay he had. "I'm not crazy about Chardonnay but I really liked this one; I'd be interested in knowing what you think.

Caveat--As I have written numerous times, at the end of the day, enjoying wine is enjoying what YOU like even if it's plonk. For the sake of my friend who is learning his way around the vineyard so to speak, I have taken more time in describing and qualifying my review.

Here goes--Real time review: Nice golden hue to it, with strong vanilla citrus, tropical fruit aromas that exude a fruity, candy-like sweetness.

Palate--Really racy acidity that stimulates your parotid glands (just below your ears these glands secrete saliva to aid in digestion...I knew you'd want to know that.) This is what would be called a juicy wine!

Okay the subjective critique--This IS an enjoyable wine and I for one love a wine with vibrant acidity. The bouquet on this wine is nice and I like it. The taste is also enticing as a generic, inexpensive Chardonnay--under $10.

The objective critique--There is a sense of manufacturedness to this wine. This is pretty much the norm for wines--especially Chards--in this price range. (NW) of this blog insists that these wines are all made in a laboratory off the highway in New Jersey where huge warehouses of petri dish flavors and aromas are created for all artificial food stuffs we consume. Okay, he's not serious but he has a point. As Gaiter and Brecher, formerly of the Wall Street Journal used to write--"There's no sense of place with these wines." And that's the trouble. They're consumable even tasty--sort of--but when you have had real wine with real character with real identity, you know what I mean. That's not being snobby, that's being real. This tastes like the other 10,000 inexpensive chards out there today. Also--this wine is 5 years old which is quite old for this class of wine. It probably presented much better 2-3 years ago! At any rate Thomas--raise a glass!

BTW--This wine gets the best label design award I've seen in a long time!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Marchesi Di Barolo 2003 wine review by (PB)

I opened this around noon and tasted it three times between 12:00 and 6:00. It is a black cherry hue on the lighter side that is showing some age at the rim. That's a little surprising for a Barolo but not unheard of.

Bouquet--Sweet fruity cherry aromas are present three feet away from the decanter. It is so strong and beautiful that it turns my head as I wonder where the gorgeous fragrance is coming from forgetting I had decanted the wine earlier. There is leather, berry cherry with eucalyptus or mint or both with dusty anise notes with prunes later in the breathing stage Very nice!

Palate--front palate of cedar, more at the mid palate, dry tannins, lighter than expected fruit with a wood finish. Although lighter than your typical Barolo, it is fully integrated and even peak though should hold for another year, possibly two.

This was a gift from a friend but I believe it runs around $50 which is on the lower end of the scale for Barolo, especially a 7 year old Barolo, which can run well over $100.

I served this with my friend pairing it with homemade gnocchi with a prosciutto and spring pea, butter and heavy cream sauce. Broccolini with a browned butter and toasted cashew sauce. What's not to love? Raise a glass!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tempra Tantrum 2008 Tempranillo Cabernet Wine Review by Billy

Nose: grapey, and maraschino cherry from the Tempranillo grape and some white pepper and cedar spiciness from the cabernet
Palate: slight spritzig. Overwhelming bitter acids and unbalanced blanching tannins make this actually unpleasant.
Finish: limp, harsh.
Overall: To quote Monty Python, "this is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding". I paid about $9 for this bottle and wish I had that money back.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Shiraz 2008 wine review by (PB)

This Aussie Shiraz from the Barossa region is a nearly black, black cherry hue with aromas of sweet mint/eucalyptus, with Chinese 5 spice and a little tar.

Palate--hefty, bold, lovely dark black cherry fruit with baker's unsweetened chocolate, and fine tannic structure for a young wine.

I received this as a gift and a nice one it is! I served it with a grilled Porterhouse. This wine runs around the $18range and is a good example of Aussie Shiraz AKA Syrah. Raise a glass!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Zantho Gruner Veltliner 2008 Sponsored Wine Review by (PB)

Gruner Veltliner is the signature grape of Austria and this is nice example of the varietal. It has a pleasant light golden hue with a big bouquet of tropical fruit galore. Mango, banana, vanilla and more. Really nice!

Palate--This is a well made off-dry, really fruit filled delight with a fine acid structure making it a good a food wine but fruity enough to be a nice aperitif.

This is the first wine I have seen with a glass "cork"(actually an stopper) produced by Alcoa called "vino-seal." It is a pure glass--aesthetically pleasing--stopper that has an inert o-ring of sorts on it that locks out oxygen and is treated with a *TCA preventative, hermetically sealing the wine. Fascinating and also pricey for each cork (70 cents) which is probably why you don't see many of them.

I believe this wine runs around $15 and a nice change from the ubiquitous, poorly crafted white wines flooding the market. Raise a glass to Austria!

*TCA stands for 2,4,6, Trichloroanisole which is a chemical contaminant that ruins a wine and winery if not corrected!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Charamba Douro 2007 Sponsored Wine Review by Billy

Nose:A smooth and fruity nose reminiscent of the Spanish Tempranillo grape, some earth and oaky acorn notes are most dominant. Vibrant and enticing.
Palate:firm and youthful acids play about an understated tannin core. Very accessible but definitely young.
Finish: Acorn and Vanilla Cherry finish off very quickly leaving a green apple peel flavor at the very back of the tongue.
Overall: This delightfully youthful mix of grapes from the Douro region of Portugal still looks very young in the glass with a spry purple hue. The nose of the Charamba is wonderful and has enough facets to keep the wine lovers in your life enthusiastic. The palate is not complex which keeps this wine in the easy drinking and have a bottle on hand category. The finish is short but nice and keeps the Charamba balanced. A solid every day drinking wine for a very reasonable price. This wine was sent to The Wine Cask Blog for review by PortugalWines.Org. It retails for anywhere from $7-$12 online and you should ask your local wine store to get a case or two in stock. The 2007 Charamba is accessible and easy going. It is not a complex wine but that makes it easy to enjoy. It's youthful character and easy-on-the-wallet price point mean that it is pleasant to drink and pleasant to share. Raise a Glass to Portugal!

Big House Red 2008 wine review by (PB)

This purple wine has an earthy nose with steely, confused fruit. Black cherry, cherry, no wait, uh, maybe blackberry no, it's just weird red berryness, or is it cherryness?

Palate--bready with ample fruit with some dirt and tannins and smoke with dusty rags.

This wine is a blend of 11 different grapes which in my experience with hyper blended wines yield just what you have here--a schizophrenic red beverage that doesn't know who or what it is. Send this wine to the "big house" to serve sentence for inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on its drinkers.

These wines usually run around the $10 price point but I bought it at $6. That was about $6 too much. Now lest one thinks I am just a snob, I just paired a Beringer Pinot Noir (under $6) with my wife's home made chicken soup. It was perfect for the dish and I actually bought a case of this cheap wine knowing a value when I see, er uh, taste one!

Charamba Douro 2007 wine review by (PB)

This wine was sent to us for review and presents with a black cherry hue with big,slightly jammy aromas of black berry and plum.

Palate--White pepper front palate, closed, tannic and tight. I breathed it, decanted and re-reviewed it about 16 hours later. The bouquet is nice and fruity with peppery notes and in the mouth where it counts, this wine is still chunky with sweet though thin fruit and otherwise not all that enticing. At the $10 price point, there's way too much wine out there to settle for something you have to talk yourself into.

All that said--the Douro region of Portugal is producing some really nice wine and at value prices. I would raise a glass of a different Douro or a different year!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chateau Leoville Barton 1995 wine review by (PB)

With (NW) this weekend and we're talking about great wines we've had and this one comes up. I peruse the blog and discover that I never entered my tasting notes. So here goes:

This St. Julien sought after wine is filling the room with fruit aromas even before raising a glass. Sweet plush fruit fills the air. Luden's wild cherry cough drops (my fave as a kid) are in my head and my nose. I think I will fake a cough so I can have a Ludens! This wine is like sniffing a fragrant cigar box with leather and wonderful aromas all over the place.

Palate--Holy cow; this wine is SO young at 14 years old, sheesh! It tastes like a 3 year old wine even though the color is showing some maturity. Cedar and fruit are trying to fight their way out but this wine has only begun to show its stuff. Texture is plush and elegant. Wish we had another to try in another 5 years. Raise a glass to fine wine.

Gentil "Hugel" 2007 Wine review by (PB)

This Alsatian white blend was on sale for $10. That's a very good price so I snagged it.
It presents with a hue of very light gold and a bouquet of ample vanilla with a tropical fruit compote of fruit galore with citrus aromas that are making my mouth water and a touch of minerality rounds out this nice nose. Tons of spices are just under the fruit. Really nice; especially with a run-on sentence!

Palate--Absolutely saliva producing citrus fruits that are so fresh I want to peel the rind away in my mouth. This is just juicy, juicy, juicy with pineapple, slight pear, mandarin orange and tart orange flavors with green apples as it warms up.

This is definitely a food wine which I will put to the test as soon as my sous chef arrives with the seafood ingredient du jour. Raise a glass to a wine with place, pedigree and pleasure!

Late note--Had a straight forward broiled Haddock with broccolini and a browned-butter cashew garnish.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Szigeti Gruner Veltliner Brut Sponsored Wine Review by Billy

Nose: Floral and citrus with a vanilla/nutmeg touch
Palate: well spaced bubbles and a dryness that accentuates the floral nature of this delightfully sparkling Gruner Veltliner from Austria
Finish: short and tangy with more grapefruit at the back and an acid core.
Overall: I have never had a Gruner Veltliner sparkling wine before but this is quite simply a delight. This was sent to The Wine Cask Blog by Winebow for review. The wine retails for $17-20 and is a pleasant change from the American bubbly, Spanish Cava and Italian Prosecco. The Gruner Veltliner grape is expressed nicely. For any fan of bubbly (and really, who isn't?) this is a must-try bottle. A Special thanks to Constance for arranging this sample.

Raise a Glass!

Consentino Merlot 1995 wine review by (PB)

(NW) served this up blind to me. It's a little game we play to both enrich our skills at wine evaluation as well as instilling humility with respect to one's assessment of their own skills...

The wine was showing some age in the glass with a slightly opaqueish brick red hue with yellow to brown tones at the rim but not too much.

On the swirl this wine was special. Red fruit, pronounced Italian olives right up front nuanced with the sweet fragrance of mature cherry, and pronounced pomegranate with more olives and dill galore. Gorgeous!

Palate--Utterly integrated with firm structure and grilled meat with long smokey, toasty hickory, fruit laden finish.

So the humility enters--I said to (NW) the wine is 15 -22 years old. If I had stopped there my oenophilic ego would have been satisfied. I really had no bearings for region but it didn't fit any of the obvious global locales with which I am familiar. "Maybe a Bordeaux" I said as a wild stab. But that was only because I had no other category in which to put this wine. When he told me it was Napa Merlot I was a bit incredulous but then again, how many 15 year old Napa Merlot's have I had to enable me to have a reference point--basically zero.

At any rate, this wine just kept changing as it breathed and was positively exquisite with my daughter's risotto and strip steak garnish. When you consider this was $50 on release and about $35 now--if you can find it--it is hard to imagine wine getting much better at any price. It is a treasure like this that makes the hunt so worth while. Raise a glass and then some!

Bonny Doon Delusions of Grandeur 2008 wine review by (PB)

This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignane, and Cinsault. It swirls like a light red wine of Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Bouquet has light red fruit with spice notes up front with aromas of raspberry behind.

Palate--Nice light cocoa front with bright red fruit and a kicky mid-palate. This was another surprise that it had such a nice presence when it seemed like it would be fairly non-descript. I presume it runs around the $12 price point. Unique and quite tasty so raise a glass.

Alita Schwoaz 2008 wine review by (PB)

Sponsored review:
This Austrian white in a liter bottle has much going for it. It is pale straw with citrusy peach notes and tropical fruit aromas.

Palate--Minerals galore, a slightly bitter mid palate, good acid to give it a nice juicy citrus core and finishes well with more minerals and fruit.

I approached this wine expecting not to like it for reasons of which I'm not even sure. But I was surprised to find it a well made wine with some character and quite drinkable. AND, I kept going back to refill my glass; always a good sign!

This wine is a blend of the Scheurebe, Gruner Veltliner, and Chardonnay grapes and will run somewhere in the $20 range but remember this is a liter bottle which means basically you get an additional glass of wine than a standard 750 ml bottle.

This wine really stands well all by itself but has the structure to pair it rather diversely. We had it with appetizers of all sorts and it was quite nice. So, raise a glass!

For more information:

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Covey Run Riesling 2007 wine review by (PB)

This Washington state producer has become one of those reliable makers who produce value wines year after year, varietal after varietal. This one is no exception.

Presentation of light straw with aromas of vibrant powdery, banana cream pie, vanilla pudding, and light citrus.

Palate--a cream foundation with off dry structure, light lemon notes and other tropical fruit with a touch of green apple.

It is tasty even if a bit quick but is juicy to the core and at $8, keep it on hand and raise a glass. It was wonderful with my breaded, deep fried, Maine shrimp (99 cents a pound--oh yeah!) but would be great as an aperitif or a nice chilled summer quaff.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Alamos Malbec 2008 wine review by (PB)

This is a value Malbec form the mecca of Malbec; Argentina. This wine is quite young and will only improve with another year on it.

This is a juicy fruit filled wine with a pretty presentation of purple, cranberry jelly hue, and aromas of rich dark fruit with a bready note and ripe black berry/black cherry notes and a touch of tar.

Palate: This is a tight wine and needs to both breathe as well as sit for another year. It is tasty right now but will be greatly improved with a little age. It has good structure with a tannic backbone and sound acid balance. There are loads of fruit with a coffee line and fruity finish that hangs on.

This is another wine at the $10 price point but this one is a keeper. I will be pairing it with homemade ravioli stuffed with cheese and a prosciutto/parmigiano cream sauce with oyster mushcrooms so raise a glass.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

JC Cellars California Cuvee Syrah 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Wild berries, tar, and spice on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

Blackberry, roasted meat, and burnt chocolate on the finish

Here's one of the many Syrah's from JC Cellars. They specialize in a variety of Rhone style wines and typically bottle a number of site-specific Syrah's. This one is the California Cuvee and is towards the bottom of their price scale at $25.

It shows some dark fruit and tarred or burnt aromas that are interesting. While not a great value, this wine has a unique flavor profile that is worth checking out. Raise a glass!

Mas du Boislauzon Cotes-du-Rhone Villages 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Plum, wild berries, and roasted meat on the nose

Full bodied and intense on the palate

Long finish of raspberry, cocoa, and spice

The 2007 Rhone wines from France have been showing up on shelves. Prices are up a bit, which is partly attributable to a perpetually weak dollar, but don't let that dissuade you. These are beauties.

The average Cotes-du-Rhone and Cotes-du-Rhone Villages wines I've sampled so far from 2007 have been excellent. These wines go for $10-25 and can be enjoyed right away. I paid $16 for this and it's well priced for the quality even with a poor exchange rate. Pour the wine, close your eyes, and take in the aroma of the Southern Rhone. And raise a glass!

Dow's Crusted Porto 2002 Bottled Wine Review by Billy

Nose: spicy nose of currants and cedar
Palate: rich, honeyed smoothness. Wonderfully silky feel with some pear flesh fruitiness. Warm and full bodied.
Finish: very long and memorable.
Overall: In the glass this unfiltered port is inky, thick and splendid. I paid about $25 for this bottle. It will last for some time, is perfect on a snowy evening and after dinner.

Raise a Glass!

Four Vines Old Vine Cuvee California 2007 wine review by (PB)

I love Zinfandel, have I mentioned that? No other grape and no other wine is All American. This bargain Zin was on special for under $10. It tends to run around $14. It is a black cherry/purple hue with a bouquet that is wonderfully Zin with spicy ripe blackberry with sweet "fruity olive" notes and a nice chocolate cherry cream highlight. Nice!

Palate--Rich presence of fruit galore, espresso bready notes, and loads of dark fruit with some oak and plenty of ZIP!

This is a hefty wine and will probably kill my gentle Gnocchi side with my pounded sirloin but, dinner is about wine and this is nice Zinfandel and a solid value. Raise a glass!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay Sonoma 2008 wine review by (PB)

Gentle golden hue with aromas of butterscotch, tropical fruit, and maybe a touch of cream.

Palate--fine structure with rigid acid and fruit core of creamy tropical fruit with citrus highlights.
This value Chard has some heft to it and has some style and character which is unique for a $9 Chard which is what I paid for it.

St. Jean's wine maker, Margo Van Staaveren knows how to make Chardonnay of all levels.

You normally find this table wine version of Ms. Van Staaveren's Chard for around the low teens. It is juicy and a nice Chard and a super value at this price. So, raise a glass as I will with my salmon with brown mustard and brown sugar glaze.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

LaTraversagna 2001 Classico Superiore Monte Faustino wine review by (PB)

Celebrating our 36th anniversary together, I brought my wife to New York City so she could walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Call it a bucket list kind of thing... We made our way to Greenwich Village to this little bistro and sat on the street where I ordered my first "Sweet breads." How the thymus gland--or brains of a calf was given such a pleasant sounding name, I'll never know. They are "different" to be sure.

I ordered this wine for $50 which puts it around $24 retail. Restaurant mark ups of wine--don't get me going...

This wine is showing some maturity in the color and presents with a fruity Valpolicella presentation with an herbal green pepper foundation;

Palate--a green peppery, cherry fruitiness: It is perfectly mature and should hold for another year at least.

In view of our surroundings, the event of the celebration, the wine is a wonderful accompaniment to the festivity of our anniversary. Such reviews are never objectively accurate. But that is what is wonderful about wine. It's not simply always about objective analysis but about the entire experience and the role wine plays in that memory. For that reason, this will always be a special wine worth its weight in gold!

Raise a glass to the beverage that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Falanghina Dei Feudi Di San Gregorio Sannio 2007 wine review by (PB)

Phew--that's a big name! But it goes with a big wine. This Southern Italian white from the Campania region has a light honey hue with wonderful aromas of pear/apple with honey and a hint of banana and sweet cream. Nice!

Palate--Distinctive presence reminiscent of a quality Pinot Grigio. Good structure yields plenty of fruit with a light cream flavor on the ending.

Wine Spectator gave this wine a "Best Buy" and 90 point rating. I paid $16 for it which is a good price running closer to $20. Raise a glass!

Oveja Negra Cabernet Franc/Carmenere 2007 wine reivew by (PB)

This Central Valley Chilean blend is a black cherry hue with strong, vegetal, dry dust, and hidden fruit.

Palate--A little odd; some red and dark berries, clunky, with a bitter finish.

This was on special for $6 and that was about $5 too much. Pass on this awkward Chilean or dump a glass!