Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brookland Valley 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2004 wine review by Billy and NW

Nose: earthy (like wet loam) with some cherry notes and a smoked cedar spiciness
Palate: even balance between structural acids at the core with a nice tannin feel at the edges of the mouth. Not as thick or beefy as other pure cabs or pure merlots. Almost as if the weightiness of each minimizes the thickness of the other yielding a pleasing feel.
Finish: warm and slightly spicy of basil and licorice
Overall: a wonderful treat brought back from down under!

Nose:currants, olives, dry earth, smokey notes
Palate:full bodied and dry on the palate
Finish:more currants on the finish with woody and mineral tones.
Overall: Here is a well made Margaret River red that is interesting and dry, with layers that unfold seamlessly in the glass.

Thoughts: This Brookland Valley Cab Merlot from 2004 is from the Margaret River area in Western Australia. Even though I was in Perth the week before I bought this wine, I found it in Sydney. I brought it back as a special memento. Tonight seemed like a great night to open it with NW in town and the fetching Mrs. Billy with us to try the wine and is enjoying it. I believe I bought it for about $45 AU. I've not seen it here in the US. It is one advantage to being able to travel for work.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fattoria Poggiopiano Rosso di Sera 1999 Wine Review by Billy and NW

NW is in town for business so he and I are enjoying some wine whilst we catch up. We decided to open this nice Italian red that I found on the half price rack at a local wine shop. The original price was marked at a (bloated) 67 bucks and I think I paid about 30 for it.

Nose: Just after opening currents and tobacco were evident. Now sweet cherry is emerging.
Palate: very dry, chewy tannins, even balance, wonderful structure that is complex without being heavy or overbearing. Maturing and opening as it airs out. A treat.
Finish: Cherry and nutmeg hints on the back of the palate taper off in a long finish the ends with some woody and stemmy tones.
Overall:A very nice treat to share with NW. This is a pricey bottle and even at half price, the $30 spend was hefty. Still, it is not an unfair price in my mind. The crafting is wonderful, the wine is mature and continues to show its experience as it changes character gracefully, without fits and starts, but in a flow of character and flavor and profile.

Nose:wild cherries, currants, wet earth, leather, spice
Palate:dense and chewy
Finish:sweet black cherry with more spices and hints of tobacco
Overall: interesting and exotic with layers of spicy fruit and earth. This wine should continue to cellar well and when you open it give it plenty of time to evolve in the glass.

The best part of the wine was sharing this special 1999 Italian red with NW who is in town for just a little while. This just goes to show that you should pay attention to what is on the half price rack and in the bargain bin. Some delightful finds will be there. The price of discovery is a risk, but in this case it had a huge payoff.

Raise a Glass of Fattoria Poggiopiano Rosso di Sera 1999 red!

Lindeman's Bin 75 Riesling 2008 wine review by (PB)

This inexpensive varietal is a light straw with fragrant ripe--really ripe white fruit and tropical notes with citrus and plush Asian spices.

Palate--A mite scant on fruit but what's there is nice with some structure and tropical compote with a tart green apple finish that hangs on. Finish gets a little funky after 3-4 minutes but hey, it's $7 for Pete's sake!

I believe I paid $7 for this and for that, it is an okay wine. I will try it with my homemade buttermilk soaked, fired chicken and I'll be raising a glass. Chill this down and enjoy a refreshing Summer day!

Remember there is an international wine glut so there are bargains galore out there! NOW is the time to begin a cellar!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lange Pinot Noir 2007 review by (PB)

I found this previously reviewed Pinot (Aug, 08) in a semi-local store and grabbed it for $17 which is about $10 less than the first time I found it on a trip to Minneapolis. I have a fond connection to this wine having read (and reviewed on this blog) The Grail by Brian Doyle, who writes of the production of this wine having spent an entire season with the folks at Lange Winery in the Willamette Valley Oregon.

It has classic Pinot color of light purple/cherry and a bouquet of wild cherry fruit and some nice sweet spice.

Palate--a bit tightly wound with some bready notes and raspberry /cherry fruit that is tasty and even.

I did not like this nearly as well as the first time I tasted this in August. Bottle variation? An off palate? who knows, but this is a solid Pinot and a decent price so raise a glass.

Loosen Bros. "Dr.L" Riesling 2008 wine review by (PB)

Dr. Loosen has long been a producer of fine German Mosels (for the Mosel River) and this table quality wine although very inexpensive, is very well made. Very nice rich pure fruit aromas on a pale straw glow. Bouquet highlighted by sweet, slightly powdery perfumey sweet spice.

Palate--semi-sweet, not as acidic as I would like but purely made with genuine flavors of light yellow apple, light citrus and tropical notes. Nearly elegant and at $9, a superbly made aperitif or try with more difficult to pair foods like oriental and possibly even mid-eastern.

I believe Bruce Sanderson at the esteemed Wine Spectator gave this wine 90 points. Experiment and raise a glass!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Clarendon Hills Liandra Vineyard Syrah 2001 Wine Review (NW)

Note: 2002 label shown, but otherwise identical to 2001

Tasting notes:

Black cherry, sweet smoke, and raspberry jam on the nose

Thick texture and rich flavors on the palate

Long finish with layers of red fruit and spice


This wine is very nice, wonderfully integrated, and relaxed. If you have some, drink it soon and enjoy it as it evolves in your glass with sweet fruits, smoky layers, and spice.

Notice Clarendon Hills persistence with the word "Syrah" and not "Shiraz" for the grape that has defined the Australian wine scene for the past half century. Interesting!

If you happen to find it for sale in a wine shop, expect to pay about $45. If you see it on a restaurant wine list for under $90, order it. And raise a glass!

Edmeades Mendocino County Zinfandel 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Wild berries and spice on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

More berries with vanilla, oak, and spice on the finish


I'd say this a medium-style Zinfandel. It shows a decent display of wild berries and spice with oak accents. However, it's not over-oaked or hot with alcohol. Expect to pay around $18-20 and raise a glass!

Sean Minor 4B Central Coast Chardonnay 2008 wine review by (PB)

Disclosure: Sponsored review--This wine was sent to us by our friends at Sean Minor wines.
Okay hang onto your palates and get ready to run to find this wine!

It presents with a light golden hue and flowery, sweet candied bouquet enticing my nose while sitting on the table in front of me. Really lovely!

Bouquet: Magical, powdery tropical fruit aromas with glorious banana highlights in a floral package. Wow...

Palate--fleeting but definite caramel front with solid structure that is integrated with pineapple and citrus with a buttery texture all of which finishes elegantly with long, sweet cream and light tropical fruit.

Okay reality check here--THIS is what wine should be. This wine runs around $13 yet reminds me a bunch of one of (NW's) fave Chards--Rombauer--which costs well over twice as much.

I will be paring this wine with salmon in a lemon-dill cream sauce.

And let me reassure my blog followers that I do not give favorable reviews for a wine simply because it was sent for gratis. If I don't think a wine is decent and well made, I will trash it. Otherwise this blog is worthless. This Central coast Chard is a superior wine and a SUPER value so raise several glasses! Kudos to the folks at Sean Minor!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Restaurant wine buyers--BEWARE wine tip by (PB)

I am currently writing this from Los Angeles--the City of Angels--but there's a little bit of the devil in restaurant wine buying. Caveat Emptor means let the buyer beware. This is wildly good advice when buying wine off a restaurant wine list.

We went to a Pasadena restaurant the other night called the Melting Pot. It's a nice, upscale fondue chain and I perused the wine list on their web site before going out for dinner. I had my wine all selected ahead of time.

I would order a bottle of La Crema Pinot Noir, "Russian River," 2007. This is a decent Pinot and sells retail for $32-$38 making this a real value at $47 (by standard restaurant wine markups) .

Before we even were seated I said to my wife, "Watch them try to sell me another wine saying they are out of the one I want." Sure enough, our waiter presents me with a La Crema Pinot Noir "Sonoma Coast" 2008 for approval. He never mentioned that the wine he was showing me was not the wine I ordered. I can only assume he figured I would not notice.

I explained the difference to him and asked what the price adjustment would be to which he went and called in the staff reinforcements. A woman with a rather terse demeanor said the Russian River Pinot was gone.

I explained that the two wines were not comparable and the one they were substituting without notice was a lesser wine. (It sells for around $18-$20.) There should be an adjustment in the price to which she replied in an annoyed manner, "I could take $2 off, that's about it."

In another setting I would have said, "I'll have the water please." Instead I asked for the wine menu back.

Restaurants can certainly run out of a particular wine but there is no excuse for making a substitution without the patron's knowing it. This is called "bait and switch."

What would be interesting is to know how long they have been out of the Pinot I ordered and have been making this substitution. Too bad--it was a nice restaurant.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Renwood Zinfandel Shenandoah Valley 2005 wine review by (PB)

I'm in L.A. currently and taking advantage of the broadened wine pleasures. BevMo, a big wine chain, has a 5 cent sale periodically where you buy one bottle for the regular price and and second one costs 5 cents. So I checked it out and happened to walk in to a wine tasting in the store. For $2, I had a flight of 6 of the wines that are part of the 5 cent sale wines. Nice way to be greeted in the City of Angels. Problem is, 4 of these wines were plonk, one S. Blanc was okay, and one Chardonnay was worth the $10 price tag.

This Zin is one of the 5 cent sale wines.


It is too light in color for a typical Zin, yielding lighter, rustic berry notes and too much alcohol.

Palate--Way out of balance for a Zin of this age and is mostly alcohol with a little fruit, a touch of mocha and a bitter finish.

The "regular" price on this wine is $20 and for a nickel more, you get a second. Too bad...

Reality check--This wine is harsh, bland and would be better priced at $4. Caveat emptor!

Sebastiani Secolo Sonoma County Red Wine 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Chocolate-covered cherries and dark plum on the nose

Full bodied and really velvety on the palate

Cherries, plum, cedar, and rich spices on the finish


This wine is rich, full bodied, and flavorful. As a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, and Petite Sirah, it delivers a nice Sonoma County flavor profile with cherry and plum. It also has a velvety texture that contributes to its polished feel and makes for easy drinking. Expect to pay around $30, and raise a glass!

Sterling Vineyards SVR Reserve Napa Valley Red Wine 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Currant, black cherry, and cedar on the nose

Firmly structured on the palate

Moderately tannic finish with more currant and cedar


This wine has the fruit and cedar qualities one might expect from a Bordeaux-style blend, but it doesn't deliver anything special for the price. It retails for $50 and can commonly be found for $38-40. Raise a glass of something else!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Faustino Gran Reserva 1996 wine review by (PB)

I've said it before and I'm saying it again; wine is like no other beverage! When was the last time you had a great reminiscence and tied to the memory was a great 7-Up or Pepsi?

Away on business, I am eating at one of these Brazilian restaurants dedicating celebrating carnivore liberation where they just keep coming to your table trying to force feed you 22 different kinds of MEAT! It's wonderful!

So I wanted a decent wine for the evening with a special colleague and saw this on the menu for a fairly shocking (in a good way) $69. The release price of this wine about a decade ago was $33. Figuring the time factor and the restaurant mark up factor, this was a value wine. It was a solid choice; not great, but definitely solid.

For a wine of this caliber, I was surprised that there was no hint of showing its age. It is still a bright black cherry hue with a bouquet of ripe wild cherry and dusty tannins with some spice and a touch of earthiness. This Tempranillo (the grape) reminded me of a Sangivoese (the foundation of Chianti) but it was Tempranillo all the way.

At 14 years, it is drinking in its prime and will hold for quite a few years to come.

It was a perfect pairing with all the different beef cuts, lamb and chicken served through the evening. The wine was never lost in the food nor the food overcome by the wine. This wine will always mark a memorable night with a good friend, a comrade in arms and the end to a great day. It just doesn't get any better, so raise a glass!

Rosenblum 2006 "Limited Release" wine review by (PB)

I am out of town on business and pleasure and saw this in a store I dropped into. Since I don't see this wine in my neck of the woods and Rosenblum puts out good wine at all price points, I thought I would see what this had to offer since it is 75% Zinfandel, 14% Carignane (pronounced car-een YAN) and 11% Petite Sirah.

It presents with a black cherry hue of some depth, with ripe plum, blackberry, strong cola notes. So far the wine has my attention.

Palate--presents with a popular "sweeter" palate impression with slight cocoa or mocha mid palalte and plenty of fruit. It is a tad hot though yet finishes with more cola and cocoa.

While the review seemed positive to this point there is a problem with this wine. It seems confused as to what it is supposed to taste like and it just doesn't come together. Even at $13 it was a disappointment. I would raise a glass of something "real."

Sorry no label available

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lois Gruner Veltliner 2008 Sponsored Wine Review by Billy

Nose: floral citrus and dry apple cider on the nose
Palate: very slight spritzig (small bubbles in a non-bubbly wine) in the mouth and quite dry. Crisp and tart. FUN!
Finish: dandilion and grapefruit on the finish
Overall: a fun and character-ful white that is easy going and pairs well with lots of meals. The Wine Cask Blog received this wine free of charge in exchange for a review. The Lois Gruner Veltliner 2008 runs for 10-14 dollars. If you want an easy going, fruit and citrus white wine you can raise a glass of this Austrian wine.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Beaulieu Vineyard Napa Valley Tapestry Reserve 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Vibrant currant and plum with cedar accents on the nose

Firm and dense on the palate

More currant and plum on the finish with anise and dry earthy notes


The 2005 Tapestry is a classy wine. It has nice flavors along with some depth and firmness suggesting cellaring potential. A classic blend of the five red Bordeaux blending grapes, Tapestry is one of Beaulieu's premium wines and typically runs around $40-50. I've sampled many of the vintages since 1998 and this is 2005 is one of the better wines. Raise a glass!

Chateau de L'Abbaye Bordeaux Superieur 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Smoky cherry with cedar and herbs on the nose

Medium bodied and tight on the palate

More cherry accented by strawberry and herbs on the finish


Inexpensive Bordeaux seems to deliver very mixed results. Here's a Merlot-based Bordeaux that just doesn't have much to it. The wine goes for around $15, but it's nothing exciting.


That was the end of my original review. Now here's the crazy part. I left a few ounces of wine in this bottle and put it in the pantry- not even back in the cool cellar. Over the course of a week, I tasted it several times. I normally don't do this, it was just a fluke. Believe it or not, the wine kept improving as it sat in the pantry even though most red wines would expire very quickly under these circumstances at room temperature. It's hard to believe, but this wine is significantly better a week later. Now that's incredible! Raise a glass!

Buttonwood Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Big aromas of spicy plum and currants on the nose

Full bodied and rich on the palate

Sweet, smoky berries with spicy plum sauce and cola on the finish


Here's an interesting Cabernet Franc from California. It's a full-bodied style that's richly spiced and fruity. This is completely different from the Cabernet Franc produced in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions in France. For $18 or so, check it out. It should pair well with rich food similar to what you might expect with a Zinfandel or Petite Sirah. Raise a glass!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Coppola Shiraz 2007 wine review by (PB)

I saw this for $8 and since Coppola is one of those producers who just seems incapable of producing a bad wine, I decided to give it a try.

On the lighter side in color for a Shiraz but still some depth in its black cherry hue, with aromas that are at first a little peculiar, but beyond the hint of oil, there is some dark berry fruit and black cherry notes.

Palate--Big steely front with a big alcohol presence and a bitter rear palate. The fruit is awkward and rather nasty. *But--breathe this wine for at least an hour and it relaxes and delivers some fruit. It actually gets drinkable and for the price, turns out to be okay so raise a glass!

*This wine is a good example why you need to let a wine--even a cheap red wine--to sit and open up. In this case, my initial review upon opening this bottle was to pour it out. I actually went back and edited my review because as it opened, my wife and I found ourselves going back to pour more. It was actually pretty enjoyable so be patient with your wine, and it may surprise you!

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

Reviewed previously--this sale wine (I paid $13 for it but normally runs around $18) is a black cherry color with a nice delicious spicy, raspberry wonder with sweet fruit and cigar box aromas and a touch of licorice.

Palate--A tad hot on first impression but tames down. It is "zippy" with sweet berry fruit, black cherry highlights, and a juicy foundation. Oh my gosh, I love Zinfandel!

This is a nice example and a lot of wine for the sale price. Even at the normal price, I still love it so raise a glass!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Zardetto Prosecco (NV) wine review by (PB)

Pale straw color with some nice fine bubbles.
Aromas are scant but what's there hints at light apple notes.

Palate--bubbles are ample making a lively impression but all in all the flavors are fairly non-descript and rather lifeless. With a good chill, this wine is pleasant enough for a warm spring day which is why we raised a glass but if flavor is what you're after, any number of sparklers would fit the bill. At $11, this was just "okay"with some cheese and almonds as an appetizer but there are so many other choices, why not get both fun and flavor?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

L'Etoile Cuvee Reserve Banyuls 1989 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Stewed plum and sweet tobacco on the nose

Sweet and rich but somehow light on the palate

Long finish of more stewed fruit, prunes, spice, and earth

(Not exact 1989 Cuvee Reserve label pictured at left, but similar L'Etoile label)


What a treat! I'd been meaning to try an older Banyuls after sampling several relatively young wines, and this one is excellent. Banyuls is an under-appreciated dessert wine on this side of the Atlantic. Produced in the very Southernmost part of France, it's a Grenache blend that carries a dark, rich color and flavor.

While you might not see a 21-year-old Banyuls for sale in most wine shops, you might spot one on a restaurant wine list. When you do, check it out. I paid about $20 for a glass of this 1989 from L'Etoile at a restaurant recently. Raise a glass!

Arns Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Aromas of black cherry on the nose wrapped in eucalyptus and oak

Full bodied on the palate

Relaxed finish with more black cherry, cedar, and vanilla


Relaxed and aging gracefully, this wine will evolve between sips while it's in the glass. While the flavor profiles I described in the tasting notes above might not sound like they work together, this wine is harmonious and well integrated. It will pair well with a variety of dishes.

I paid $30 for this bottle recently and I've seen it priced up to $70 on the internet. I'd love to get more at $30 but the inventory is long gone from the shop I found it in. You might be able to track it down or see it on a restaurant wine list. If so, raise a glass!

La Grange Clinet 2005 wine review (PB)

I reviewed this back in May and bought the last three bottles I found to study how it might evolve with time. It is a strong garnet color with a bouquet of wild cherry and dried cherry with some light caraway.

Palate--Hyper-steel and mineral notes that is wildly sour and NO fruit to speak of. There is so much steel it tastes like sucking on re-bar. (Everyone sucks on re-bar don't they?)

This wine is so tightly wound and it might be in what some wines go through called a dumb phase. Remember I purposely bought more of this wine and I don't do that without good prospects of a nice wine with a wait.

As the wine breathes, it is much better but still tightly wound. We'll watch this wine over the next two years. I paid $14 for it so I am not expecting a miracle but it should show better down the road. Paired with BBQ'd NY strip steaks. Raise a glass.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Bouchaine 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 aromas of spicy plum and black cherry on the nose

Smooth and silky texture on the palate

More black cherry with smoky and spicy layers on the finish


I like it! Here's a classic Pinot Noir that's well made and tastes great. It should prove to be a versatile wine with food, as well.

This winery produces Pinot Noir along with Chardonnay and several other varietals and has a deeply rooted philosophy in sustainable farming. Pinot Noir seems to be their flagship grape and they have multiple bottlings. This one runs about $30. (The 2006 label is pictured, but the 2007 looks the same.) Raise a glass!

Bouchaine Carneros Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 Sponsored Wine Review (NW)

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

Tasting notes:

A nice beam of citrus on the nose with melon and vanilla cream accents

Full bodied and nicely textured on the palate

Smooth finish of lemon, floral notes, and butterscotch


Here's a very nice, well rounded Carneros Chardonnay. It has bright citrus and acidity that is well integrated with the softer flavors such as vanilla cream, butterscotch, and floral notes. This wine retails for around $30 and is a solid "step up" from the rows of $10-20 California Chardonnays. Part of its magic is that it has a sense of place, with a true Carneros taste and feel to it. Raise a glass!

Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Blackberry, currant, and chocolate on the nose

Full bodied and smooth

Very smooth finish with currants, violets, and oak


As PB, my colleague here at The Wine Cask Blog, is fond of discussing, there's subjectivity and objectivity in wine. The subjective element tends to rule the roost, as it should. Drink wine that you like! However, there's also a secondary element of objectivity that allows for evaluation of quality.

This wine forces me to bring attention to this matter. While it's a high quality wine for $18, it's well made, and it garnered high scores from the critics, I don't really like it that much. And I'm not sure why. This is the subjective element that wins in the end. Raise a glass to California Syrah- just make sure it's one you like!

Herman Story Santa Barbara Grenache 2006 wine review by (PB)

Intense, deep, dark black cherry hue with a bouquet of rich, deep, dark black cherry nose changing as it opens.

Palate--Rich, plush luxurious tannins, cocoa with big fruity dark berries and wonderful fruit flavor and a pepper finish.

A really tasty wine at the $32 price point and make note of this; there tends to be a big difference between a varietal wine--in this case Grenache--that is $10 vs. $20 or above. So making a decision that you don't care for a particular type of wine at the $10 price point, don't just write the grape off until and unless you have had a wine of the same grape at a higher price point!

I love inexpensive Grenache but it is an entirely different experience at this higher price point. I paired it with breaded Veal shoulder cuts pounded out very thin with broccoli rabe. The wine was everything! Raise a glass.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Seven Sisters Chenin Blanc 2007 wine review by (PB)

Chenin Blanc just may be the most under appreciated white wine grape going. Gone are the days when Chenin Blanc meant cheap, California jug wine you'd chill to near freezing and then put an ice cube or two in the glass with it.

This wine is from South Africa (Western Cape), (cost $8 on sale from $11) is light straw in color with a pleasantly fruity bouquet of light lemon, guava paste, spice, and vanilla.

Palate--strong lemon presence with off dry tropical fruit notes, finishes a little abruptly but all in all tasty.

I will pair this with--get ready--"Country scramble." Which is fried ham pieces letting all the wonderful ham fat ooze into the pan. Then homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs and milk gravy made from the ham drippings and silky grits (NEVER make them according to the directions; they will taste like sand...)

All this is then served over the biscuits on which is laid the ham, the eggs, the grits and then the gravy. This is SO good it makes you want to slap your mother! And for the record--it never even occurred to me that this is a "breakfast" to most normal people. We have it for DINNER! :) Raise a glass.