Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fetzer "Valley Oaks" Chardonnay 2008 wine review (Real time) by (PB)

Light golden straw hue with ample bouquet of tropical fruit with melon, powdery vanilla and cream notes.

Palate--Racy acidity, with solid structure and loads of citrusy, tropical fruit compote all wrapped into one big fruity, value Chard. It even has a finish that let's you know what you've been drinking after the fact.

Remember the axiom, "You get what you pay for when buying wine." That's actually a pretty good rule to a certain extent. One Exception are "value wines" which are wines that trump the wisdom of the rule. There can be numerous reasons why a wine is inexpensive with respect to the quality you get. One is production.

Fetzer kicked out nearly 630,000 cases of this wine. That is a HUGE production which yields an economy of scale. this wine is typically found for $9 but Trader Joe's sells it for $7. At either price, it is a value wine and received Wine Spectator's "Best Buy" designation. See? I wouldn't steer you wrong.

I will pair this with some kind of Haddock and fiddle head fern dish this evening so raise a glass!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2006 wine review by (PB)

Gentle golden hue with awesome bouquet of spicy unknown fruit with touches of citrus with light pineapple and a powdery, sweet fragrance. Fantastic!

Palate--Minerals abound as you would expect from an Alsatian white, on an off dry foundation of yellow citrus and an almost Sauvignon Blanc-like grassy note. There is a slight touch of green apple with a delightful balance and solid acid base to make this a wonderful wine and a super value at this price so raise glass after glass!

A grocery chain in our area is running some close out sales on numerous wines and this was one that was one of those "finds" you celebrate. Trimbach is a big name Alsatian producer and Gewurztraminer is the signature grape of Alsace. If you follow this blog, you know that Gewurztraminer--pronounced ga-Vurts-tra--MEE-ner--is my favorite white grape and my perennial spring/summer wine for celebrating, warm sunshine, spicy foods, the sun rising, and the moon rising.

Trimbach does Gewurz well and this wine typically runs $19-$22 or higher. So at $9.99 on closeout I have been stopping at every one of these stores I run across clearing the shelf of this wine. I have obtained 2003, 2005's and 2006's.

Monkey Bay Rose 2007 wine review by (PB)

One of the grocery chains in my area is having a "close out" sale on numerous wines and this rose was going at $4.

Watermelon juice hue with bouquet of really gorgeous sweet fruity aromas of fragrant strawberry and vanilla.

Palate--Juicy, straight forward strawberry fruit and chilled down is a great summer quaffer for the porch. Raise a glass and take advantage of those close out sales; I bought 4 more of these for another day...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tolaini Valdisanti Toscana 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Fragrant nose with a concentrated beam of ripe raspberry and black cherry with some milk chocolate and spicy earth notes

Full bodied, dense, and velvety on the palate

Long finish of plum, earth, and spice

What a beautifully-made super-Tuscan, and it won't break the bank. There's a great beam of fruit in the bouquet and interesting layers on the long finish. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, it has enough Tuscan charm to give it a sense of place. Prices seem to vary widely on this wine, but I've most commonly seen it for around $25. Raise a glass!

Concha Y Toro Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Bright citrus and honey on the nose

Sweet, soft, and light

Pear, melon, and more honey notes


Here's a wonderful dessert wine that's light, sweet, and full of flavor. It's amazingly flavorful and never heavy, really retaining the characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc. I don't often see this for sale, but it's from the largest producer of Chilean wines so keep an eye out for it. Expect to spend around $20 for a 375mL bottle- and the raise a glass!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pfaffl Haidviertel Vineyards 2008 Gruner Veltliner Sponsored Wine Review

Nose: stony, nutmeg hints with a flowery hard peach/pear fruit foundation.

Palate: fairly sharp acids on the palate wrapped around a grassy core. Sharpness decreases notably when not held in the mouth yielding instead a crispness that invites regular sipping.

Finish: acidic and tight at the back with lime and more stony notes.

Overall: The Brand Action Team of The Austrian Wine Marketing Board sent us this wine free of charge to review. Pale yellow in the glass. This is a good summer wine for enjoying outside. Not as flowery or citrussy as other Gruner Veltliners but spry. Goes well with hard cheeses.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bressler 2004 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon wine review by Billy

Nose:cocoa dust, tobacco leaves and casis with vanilla and oak nut notes.

Palate: elegant and unprepossessing mouth feel while remaining warm and full with a fine balance of firm acid and warm tannin core.

Finish: dark berry mash and pepper tones emerge over the top of more dusty cocoa.

Overall: Asking $200 for this wine which can retail and auction for typically less than $100 (though still in the $70-90 range) is plain thievery. And yet it was the second *lowest* priced option on the Cab wine list at Strip Steak in the Mandalay Bay casino in Las Vegas. It is truly an obscene mark-up. Still, you cannot fault the wine maker for the sins of the seller (and, I suppose, the enablement by the buyer). This wine was wonderful. It is still tight and young and will benefit from continued cellaring.

Raise a Glass, but if you raise a glass of this, make sure you get a reasonable price from your restaurant, wine store or internet retailer.

Greg Norman Shiraz Limestone Coast 2006 wine review by (PB)

I reviewed this wine earlier in April just a few weeks ago with consistent notes though I served it blind to (NW) next to the Jaffurs Syrah. (NW) was not stumped for a second pegging the country of origin, the grape and I think even the producer. Aussie wines, like the Norman Limestone coast are pretty obvious with their eucalyptus and licorice bouquet etc.

This Shiraz is a good one at $14 and is a decent value. It presents with a garnet to cranberry hue with scant cedar on a green front with fruit that is dilute, and a little awkward with a touch of strawberry, licorice and spice trying to fight its way out. Breathe it!

Palate: Softer, thinner and tight fruit but as it warms up from cellar temperature, the bouquet intensifies with a really nice, sweet eucalyptus and fruit note but still stingy on flavor.

This review doesn't do it justice; it held its own against the Jaffurs which was twice as much but all in all is a solid value Shiraz from down under.

Go fetch a Wallaby, grab your waltzing Maltilda, and raise a glass!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jaffurs Syrah "Thompson Vineyard" 2003 wine review by (PB)

I had the pleasure of visiting the Jaffurs winery out in Santa Barbara a couple years ago. Unfortunately, Craig Jaffurs was on a trip to Europe but his folks were gracious and accommodating to show me around their modest, "warehouse" winery. The facilities were unimpressive to be sure; the staff and the wine is just the opposite!

This wine which (NW) brought up with him on a recent visit, is an opaquish garnet, cranberry hue with a big rich ripe jammy bouquet of dark berries and and dark fudge under layer and mint(?) or licorice emerging.

Palate--on first taste this is rather "hot", bold and tightly wound. It needs more time on the shelf and more time to breathe.

With a little airtime, it is full of berries and cocoa and relaxes quite a bit but still is quite young. Just for kicks we tasted this blind next to a Norman (Aussie) Limestone Coast Shiraz 2006. The Jaffurs' wine's bouquet was superior by far. I believe this wine runs around $35. give it another year at least but raise a glass to be sure!
(Label shown is for Petite Syrah but they are the same except for the grape)

Steak House Red 2008 wine review by (PB)

This is a production of Charlie Smith the iconoclastic owner of the Washington state Magnificent Wine Company AKA "K" Vintners. You can spot their wines by the labels which look like a kindergartner designed them...Did I say Smith was an iconoclast?

He produces a steady line of value wines that are well made and bargains for what you get. This one however is an exception to the rule. It is made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon possessing a black cherry hue with chocolate powder and licorice, cedar and some nice red fruit. It starts off well but...

Palate--The wine is watery, thin with tight fruit that's a bit bitter. It finishes with, uhhh, nothing. Breathing did nothing to improve this wine and when (NW) asked what I thought--we were together at the time--I responded with, "Drinkable plonk."

The Magnificent Wine Company's "House" wines are really good wines for the price. But this one even on close out at $8 is worth passing up. Raise a glass of one his other productions.

Archeo Nero D'Avola Ruggero di Tasso Sicilia 2007 wine review by (PB)

Trader Joe's is always good some super wine values and this was another one I grabbed a half case of when in Boston. It has a garnet hue with some depth and bouquet of distinction with earthy fruit with touches of raspberry, cranberry, and pomegranate(?)

Palate--Tasty and juicy with black pepper on opening with loads of minerals and cherry fruit. With some air, a nice thick layer of milk chocolate raises into the air and an integrated palate of dried cherries, and bread with chocolate carrying through to the foundation.

This is a lot of wine for the $6 price tag which explains why I bought a half case and will buy more if I get down there in the near future. Raise a glass.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Graziano Zinfandel Redwood Valley Kazmet Vineyard wine review by (PB)

This was on sale from $20 to $14 and for a single vineyard Zin (40 year old vines no less) that is a GREAT price if the wine pans out. It presents with a cherry hue and a nice zesty ripe blackberry with sweet backbone and classic Zin nose. So far so good--

Palate: Light cinnamon palate with chewy tannins and is a bit harsh on opening. Ripe berries give nice presence.

This wine needs to be decanted. A day later this wine was much better and much better balanced. I even tried to obtain more but the store only had 14 bottles total. This is not a great single vineyard Zin but then I didn't pay a great single vineyard Zin price so raise a glass!

Alamos Malbec 2008 wine review by (PB)

I reviewed this wine back in February as well. It is one of Argentina's premier grapes and Alamos is a consistent producer. Ripe blackberry on a baker's chocolate foundation with ripe plum and spice.

A little chewy due to immaturity, needs time. All in all, a decent value for an $8 Malbec. Raise a glass.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

La Loggia Barolo 2005 wine review by (PB)

Had some friends over for lasagna and opened this very inexpensive Trader Joe's "Barolo." I paid $17 for it which is not what you normally pay for a Barolo; even a low end one. They start around the mid $20 range but those are few and far between. Most start around $30 and up into the hundred range for one with some age on it. For the price though this was not bad at all!

There was a little "bricking" at the rim so this wine is definitely peaked and headed south. This is also very atypical for Barolos which are age worthy wines. The bouquet released a very nice fresh cherry note with an earthy front and sweet tobacco.

Palate: mature, integrated wine with tight fruit and earthy dried cherry notes.

This is a fairly thin wine for a Barolo but again , for the price, I would buy a couple more for immediate consumption. The company--the car salesman and his wife--a celebration of buying a new vehicle for my girl friend (and wife) made it an utterly enjoyable evening. You see wine makes everything a special occasion. Raise a glass and thanks Rog!!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chateau Lynch-Bages 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Muted nose of currants and olives develop slowly

Firm and tannic on the palate

Cherry, herbs, and tobacco on the finish with a touch of cocoa


This wine is firm, tannic, and mostly closed. Under no circumstances should you drink this now. For the real Lynch-Bages experience, you'll have to wait.

Upon opening, we decanted this bottle and nursed it in our glasses for three hours. To no avail. Give it many more years.

I've had very good experiences with past vintages of this wine, so I jumped at the chance to order it at a wine bar recently when the manager offered it to us near retail price. It goes for about $75 in stores right now, however Bordeaux prices are all over the map recently.

Raise a glass- in many years!

Four Vines Biker Zinfandel 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Spicy black cherry, plum, and chocolate on a big nose

Full bodied and rich

Spicy cherry, wild berries, and herbs


With a fairly explosive nose and rich flavor profile, this wine finishes with just enough acidity to keep it real. Four Vines has developed a reputation for big, explosive Zinfandels. While some may find them over the top, I detect enough acidity and balance to keep me coming back for more. This one runs about $25. Raise a glass!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Vina Zaco Tempranillo 2006 wine review by (PB)

Bodegas Bilbainas produces this Rioja which makes this bold red that garnered Wine Spectator's "Smart Buy" and #71 in their top 100 giving it a generous 90 points.

On opening--
It has a nice cranberry hue with a big bouquet of cherry fruit, and spicy, black licorice-like notes.

Palate--bold flavors of sweet cherry berry fruit but this is hot on the palate with edgy tannins and lip smacking acidity and rustic oak. Finishes a tad bitter and coarse. $12 is a good price but it needs to change some with air to get my approval. After over an hour of air, it remains stable. Shows potential for the future--like 2 more years--but right now, I'd give it an 83.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Infinite 2008 wine review by (PB)

The Torres family have a special place in my wine heart as they were one of the first wines I cut my teeth on so to speak in my early days of wine education some 30 years ago. The Torres family always seemed to put out wines that were higher in quality than their price tag would indicate.

This wine is made by the Torres family exclusively for the folks at Sam's Club. It was sent to me for review compliments of the folks at Sam's.

It is a blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a purple/garnet hue with nice aromas of sweet fruit, wild blackberry, pepper, tobacco and leather.

Palate: Soft texture and fruit with light pepper and relaxed tannins for such a young wine.
With some air time, ripe fruit with loads of berries and a decent finish.

This new line of wine will be around $8 and I might add that it has a very nicely designed label.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dow Vintage Port 1985 wine review by (PB)

I ordered this by the glass at an L.A. restaurant and was skeptical that it was what it was listed as. It was $5 which is absurdly low for a glass of this wine and I had already had an "issue" moments before with ordering a bottle of wine off the menu which they tried to substitute without telling me.

Due to the lighting of the place, I couldn't evaluate the color of the wine. Bouquet was less raisiny than I might have expected, with green sweet herbal notes.

Palate: bright cherry and currant richness on a lush velvety "vintage port" texture that is heavenly. I don't know what to make of the cheapness of this glass but it was a joy raising it!

Stanza Gewurztraminer 2008 wine review by (PB)

Understated, sweet floral aromas but uncharacteristic for a Gewurz and I would have called it a Chenin Blanc if I had tasted it blind. Very pleasant but not typical.

Palate: Slight bitterness in the mouth and really flabby (meaning lacks acid) making it really kind of yucky. At $10 this is NOT a good wine and should be avoided!

Querceto 2007 (red label) wine review by (PB)

Large wine chain BevMo was running this on their 5 cent for a second bottle sale. It is a bottle from the illustrious Tuscan producer which holds a special place in my heart having been to the home of this wine tasting it for the first time in the place of its home.

Nice garnet hue with some intensity, with wonderful classic Sangiovese aromas. Nice fruit with cherry on the nose and a deeper sense of spice.

Palate: Amazingly ready to drink with nice tannins though would benefit from another year. Nice bold Sangiovese flavors that was the perfect pairing with my homemade ravioli with mascarpone and prosciutto filling. $17 a bottle but 2 for a nickel more. Raise a glass!

Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Incanta 2005 wine review by (PB)

Another Trader Joe's wine, with bright medium to lighter hue with wild cherry aromas, with dusty fruit.

Palate--Subdued on the palate, cherry flavors, fruity with a lighter presence. It is pretty straight forward and decent. At $10, not bad so raise a glass.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Errazuriz "Don Maximano" Estate Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 wine review by (PB)

Black cherry hue with aromas of ripe black cherry-berry fruit rising from the table. Hints of cedar and eucalyptus with oak touches. Nice.

Palate: Fairly soft with good first impression of baker's chocolate with tight fruit on solid structure and a finish of burnt wood/smoke/charcoal. Needs air.

With breathing, the bouquet takes on a creamy note with cherry.

Palate: Sweet fruit, a tad hot, tannins that are a little chewy. At $20, this was a bit disappointing but needs a few more years on the shelf to be fair. Raise a glass of a ready to drink wine!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sean Minor Pinot Noir Napa Valley-Carneros 2008 sponsored wine review by (PB)

This wine was sent to us for review by the good folks at Sean Minor wines.

Nice ruby hue with classic Pinot aromas that are ample and bright, with fresh red berry aromas with hints of floral sweetness and a touch of subtle cocoa underneath it all.

Palate: This is yet another Sean minor success in masterful wine creation. If you have ever wondered what silky tannins are like, this is a great example. It is made in the relaxed style with lovely pomegranate, strawberry, and raspberry tartness. The finish is slightly smokey and just continues on and on.

This wine will run you Around $17 and is well worth it. It is a fine example of Pinot Noir although much less expensive than many. Raise a glass of this delicious artful wine!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Greg Norman Shiraz Limestone Coast 2006 wine review by (PB)

This wine has a unique bouquet with "green" fruit aromas that emit cedar, spice or licorice notes with break out red fruit but it needs to be breathed 1-2 hours.

Palate: Thickish big bold, full bodied, with bubble gum on opening. Bread and scarce fruit before breathing with smokey finish.

After letting it air out, there is luscious cherry, cranberry fruit aromas with menthol and eucalyptus.

Palate: big fruity, rich, thick, lush fruit with smokey charcoal finish.

A very tasty, wine at $13 so raise a glass! I paired it with a grilled t-bone. Very nice!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Bechtheimer Stein Gewurztraminer "Spatlese" 2006 wine reviewby (PB)

G & M Wachner produces this wonderful Gewurz and shipping it for a mere $12 from the Rheinhessen which is the region of Germany it comes from.

It has a lightly golden hue and sweet pie spice with loads of tropical fruit in the bouquet which is outstanding presenting a little caramel note as well. I LOVE this grape!

Palate--Tropical fruit blast on the front palate with delicious sweet mango and papaya on a structure that is up to the task. Wow! Chill this baby down for a real treat. Great as an aperitif or with those difficult Asian dishes that tend to stump people when pairing. What a nice wine at $12 and a gorgeous label to boot! Raise a glass!

Valle Reale Vigne Nuove 2008 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo wine review by (PB)

Real time review:
Intense black cherry hue with lovely ripe deep black fruit waiting to break out. (I just opened this so it has not breathed at all.) Some light herbs and spice are also lying underneath waiting to be released with some bitter sweet baker's chocolate underneath it all.

Palate--Full of minerals a steely notes on opening with pretty plush tannins and a little chewiness to them. It is still thinner than I would have thought on first tasting but the wine is young. It finishes with a nice bitter fruit note which mellows out with some air time. The fruit is still tightly wound so give it some time--say another year anyway.

This wine shows promise and just needs some cellar time. I believe it will open nicely so I will update the review when it has opened up. (It didn't open as much as I would have hoped but it is a nice wine.) At $12, raise a glass!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Buehler Zinfandel (Napa Valley) 2007 wine review by (PB)

By far, one of the most difficult wines I have reviewed in ages. Explanation: I always taste the wine on opening and then breathe it accordingly if time permits. As stated many times, most wines, even inexpensive red wines will change (improve) with some breathing.

My initial taste of this wine was angering. The bouquet was really subtle with a suggestion of chocolate maybe with a hint of brambly red berries but really subdued. It was thin, flat, and sour on the palate and since I bought it out of state there was no way I could return it and I paid $20 for it.

It was so bad and my 30 years of experience said it was not going to get better, I was close to dumping it. But, the combination of my frugality and my inability to determine what was wrong with this wine told me to hang on for a while. I didn't believe it was "corked" which meant it had to be simply "bad." But I waited; and I breathed it, and I decanted it and tasted it again after another 2 hours.

What tha? It wasn't great but it wasn't the same wine I had tasted earlier either. I waited still another 2 hours and after 5 hours re-tasted it. Eureka!

Garnet ruby hue with lush plum and bold ripe blackberry with a wildness and spice with notes of evergreen.

Palate--almost cherry candy front with a juicy ripe core. Delicious and what a surprise. I am usually quite good at determining whether a wine will improve with breathing and whether it is a bad wine or just a poorly made wine. This one was a total baffler. So--lesson learned. trust your palate, be patient and you may be rewarded. Raise a glass!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Sean Minor Four Bears 2008 Napa Valley Pinot Noir sponsored wine review by Billy

Nose: old decaying grass (typical of most Pinot Noirs) and warm strawberry pulp. Some teasing mulling spice just hints that it might be there
Palate:tight acid core around which is wound a light strawberry charge and some minerally or metalic characteristics.
Finish: Light and easy going.
Overall: This wine was received free of charge by The Wine Cask Blog in exchange for a review. Online this wine retails for about $15. Overall this is a delightfully light and easy-going pinot noir. It is light and full of strawberry which makes it a great choice for afternoons and lighter fare meals. It also has a subtle side that is fun for the wine expert in your life.

Raise a Glass!

Wines For Easter Dinner by (PB)

What to serve with that celebratory Easter feast? What's on your menu--Lamb? Turkey (that's what I'm having) beef? or the traditional ham?

If you're having turkey, go to our Thanksgiving wine posts from the past; they're wonderfully helpful. If you're having lamb, think a bold wine like a quality Syrah (Shiraz if its Aussie) or even a Petite Syrah (which is NOT small Syrah...but an entirely different grape and a big wine.)

Since so many different wines go with beef--it really matters more what you're having with the beef and how you're cooking it. Grilled? Think Zinfandel. Is it with a sauce? Pair the wine to the sauce and spicing but generally, a nice Cabernet Sauvignon will usually work.

And since ham seems to be the most traditional fare at this season, think in terms of a fruity, *sweeter wine with good structure and some character.

*Do not think "sweet" means one of the ubiquitous cheap "soda pop"wines out there that are unfortunately so popular. Sweet means a crafted wine that is balanced with acid moderating the sweet impression and making it food friendly. My first two choices would be a nice Washington state Riesling or a German Riesling of the "Kabinett" or even "Spatlese" designation or "title" (pradikat) if you are familiar with German labeling. If not ask your wine store person! My other choice would be a nice fruity Gewurztraminer (Fetzer is one of my perennial favorites and available everywhere. About $9!) Beyond, these, a Cru Beaujolais could work but some expert advice from your wine expert would be helpful.

The biggest thing here is don't go through all the work of great meal only to skimp on the wine. That's a quick way to ruin a lot of work and a great celebration. If you have a "special" bottle laying around and you just can't seem to open it because it is "special" THIS is the occasion.

God became a man and lived for the express purpose of dying for the sins of mankind rising from the grave defeating death, once for all! What could possibly be more "special"than that???

Raise a glass and don't forget that a nice Port goes GREAT with dark chocolate!!!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Monsanto Vigneto "Il Mulino" Nemo 1997 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Black cherry, plum, and eucalyptus on the nose

Smooth and relaxed on the palate

Red currant, cedar, and smoke notes on the finish


Here's a Cabernet Sauvignon-based super-Tuscan from a well respected pruducer in Tuscany. If you have some of this, drink it now. Based on this bottle, it's starting to fade. It was enjoyable and it evolved in the glass quite a bit throughout the course of the evening, but it doesn't seem like it will last much longer.

The release price was around $35 and I recently acquired this bottle for $32 from a great little shop that has older wines from time to time. Raise a glass!

Brancaia Tre Toscana 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Raspberry, black cherry, herbs, and spice on the nose

Finely textured and smooth on the palate

Firm finish of raspberry and cocoa


This wine has received some high aclaim, particularly at its $20 price point. While it's definitely better than the past vintages I've had, it doesn't seem to have the depth and complexity of Brancaia's other super-Tuscans. I will say this: it does have a decent flavor profile and really nice texture. Also, it should cellar well. I'm not buying a case, but I did buy a couple extra bottles to lay down for a while. Raise a glass!