Saturday, December 31, 2011

Perrier Jouet "Fleur De Champagne" Brut 2002 wine review by (PB)

Amber hue with streaming, fine, pin-prick bubbles with nutty notes.

Palate--Bone dry, crisp acidity, very light and nuanced with a certain elegance and green apple notes. Most remarkably, this Champagne has a finish that just hangs on and on.

Champagne lovers might cringe at my review of this wine. this is a premier bubbly that runs in the $100-$140 price range. Needless-to-say this wasn't on my dime. Billy of this blog has a thing for Champagne and any self-respecting oenophile would say the same. But my palate just has some kind of a blank when it comes to Champagne. I enjoy it, don't get me wrong but I just can't come up with all the nuances and appreciation for bubbly that I can for still wines. So, this is not the review you want to look at if you have some serious coin to blow on a sparkler from France. In the words of Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry) "A man's got know his limitations!" Raise a glass and thanks "Billy!" Anytime!!!

G. H.Mumm "Cordon Rouge" wine review by (PB)

Straw hue with streaming, pin-prick bubbles giving off a slightly nutty bouquet.

Palate--Hazelnut front with harsh bubbles and very fleeting flavor with a quick finish.

This is the wine poured in the movie Casablanca with the Bogey at his best. This was also my first Champagne which I opened with a sword under the tutelage of my son "Billy" of this blog, on a recent trip to Minnesota and kept all my digits intact!

This Champagne run anywhere from the low $20's to the mid $40's. Personally, I'd rather spend the money on a good domestic sparkler like Mumm's Brut Prestige but that's just me! Raise a glass--TONIGHT!

Heath Wines Southern Sisters Reserve Shiraz 2004 wine review by (PB)

This Barossa Valley Shiraz has a deep garnet presentation with deep blackberry, spice and cocoa with a touch of eucalyptus, tomato jelly and spiced mocha Starbucks drink. Seriously!

Palate--Dense, full bodied--ya think--with deep rich intense dark berry, rich tannins, and a fruit bomb presence that is immense, interesting and really really tasty.

This is my daughter's-in-law go to wine which we shared on a pre-Christmas visit to the Minneapolis area.

This Shiraz will run $19 but it's a lot of wine for that price so raise a glass.

Smith Woodhouse Late Bottled Vintage Port 2000 wine review by (PB)

Gentle, elegant sweet red fruit aromas with touches of cassis and prune.

Palate--Very soft presence with nice elegant raisiny flavors and a surprise hint of red chili peppers. Unusual and delightful.

At $25, a nice treat so raise a glass!

Chateau Faugeres 2004 wine review by (PB)

Nice intense black cherry hue with cola, cigar box, spicy blackberry and plum bouquet.

Palate--Silky tannins, tight black cherry fruit; needs to breathe and warm up (my cellar is at 52 degrees.) After breathing, this wine opens to a perfectly ready blackberry and plum quaff with supple structure. This is nice example of a Merlot based St. Emilion Grand Cru. This wine will hold for another 10-20 years.

I had this wine in 2007 and was so impressed with it at such a young age decided to buy another and lay it down. It was only $28 but frankly I enjoyed it more in its infancy. Raise a glass to a new year, to our 7th anniversary as a blog and to a hopeful New Year.

The Wine Cask Blog Seven Year Anniversary! (NW)

We're seven years old today! After posting nearly 2,500 wine reviews over the past seven years, our wine journey is still just beginning.

This blog has had a singular mission of consistently reviewing wines for the benefit of our readers. The three of us who author this site estimate that we've recorded tasting notes on approximately 5,000 wines, half of which appear on these pages. We deliberately post reviews on a wide variety of wines as this is a direct reflection of our enjoyment of wines from all over the world. We are all students of wine who enjoy how wine is the confluence of history, geography, cuisine, and people. We hope this site is helpful to you on your wine journey, and we look forward to another great year ahead.

Raise a glass!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 wine Surprise of the year or perhaps decade! by (PB)

Darker caramel colored hue with aromas of caramel, stewed apricot and other stone fruits with a sweet presence of dried fruit.

Palate--Totally even keeled with solid flavors of stone fruit and a slight caramel with a balanced sweetness on a supple foundation with a lingering finish of creamy dried peach/apricot.

Now sit down! I have been studying wine longer than a lot of people reading this have been alive and this is no mistake. Friends of ours (D and L) met us at another friend's house for dinner. He pulled out this wine because they had received it when he and his wife were dating and they just forgot about it. So he thought he would bring it and "share it." His wife was against the idea surmising it would be undrinkable. She SHOULD have been right but as you read, this was extraordinary. This wine should have been barely drinkable when it was at its prime! Ready???

Not only was it a Vendange White Zinfandel, Autumn Harvest(I have a hard time even putting those words down here)but it was vintage 1995.

All I can say is this was a complete anomaly, and utterly extraordinary. It was probably released at the $6 price point. (The 1994 was rated an 81 by the Wine Spectator on their 100 point scale)

At any rate--I was blown away and once again wine provides adventure and surprise like nothing else so raise a glass in the new year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah from the WCB

Tonight there will be reunions of friends and family all over the world because of Christmas. For all the celebrations remember that without Jesus Christmas would only be "mas!" And without Adonai, the miracle of Hannukah would be nothing but folklore.

So tonight, focus on the One who really matters; the One who turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana. Whatever it was, recorded history noted that it was extraordinary which is to be expected from the One whose birth changed the world and the eternity of all who believe. Raise a glass to Immanuel--which means God with us!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Di Majo Norante Ramitello 2008 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Stewed plums, cranberry sauce, and smoky notes on the nose

Full bodied and silky on the palate

Savory finish of dried herbs and sour plum


Here's an interesting wine that's a bit off the beaten path. Made from 80% Montepuciano and 20% Aglianico, this wine is produced near Molise, Italy, along the Adriatic Sea. It has some exotic notes on the nose and a savory finish, with good acidity that's food friendly. Expect to pay around $14, and raise a glass!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pine Ridge Vineyards Napa---Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 wine review by (PB)

Intense black cherry hue with a bouquet of wonderful raspberry cream bonbons with milk chocolate nuances.

Big flavorful hyper-berry Cabernet fruit, a little cocoa with a nice smokey finish. It is textured with finessed construction. Superior Cabernet.

This was a really nice Cab and my review doesn't do it justice. This is my second Cab from Napa Ridge as I do not see Pine Ridge in my neck of the country (Maine). These are splurge wines for sure. At $50 you need to know if you're getting what you pay for and I liked this Cab even better than the previously reviewed Stag's Leap District Cab only because it is a bit more ready to drink. Still both cabs, at this young age are extremely enjoyable so raise a glass--you deserve it!

Remember that Christmas dinner of turkey or goose is NOT a white wine fowl. Big, bold red wines that will hold up to the many strong flavors of Christmas fare. Treat yourself and have a merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pine Ridge Vineyards Napa--Stag's Leap District--Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 wine review by (PB)

Intense blackish, dark garnet hue that leaves pigment adhering to the glass.

Bouquet--Big ripe black berry and plum with slight currant notes, cigar box and a hint of spice with chocolate covered cherries.

Palate--bold rich, plush dark berry and ripe plum with a blast of chocolate on opening that subsides as it breathes. Tannins are immature yet so drinkable finishing with an espresso and tar finish with a finale of smoke.

Disclosure--This wine was provided to the WCB to participate in a virtual wine tasting with other wine bloggers and the wine makers. (More on that later)

This wine retails for $80 and is a serious Cabernet. It will only improve with some time but is drinking well right now and is delicious. If you have the means, drink one now and lay another down for another 5-10 years. You won't be dissappointed as you raise a glass!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chimney Rock Elevage Stags Leap District Napa Valley Red Wine 2007 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Fragrant mix of berries and spice on the nose

Full bodied and finely textured on the palate

Smooth finish with nice lingering layers of spicy black cherry and cedar


Beautifully made, this wine has class and finesse in the way it reveals its nice fruit layers. It's a well-integrated and refined style that's easy to enjoy. The blend is Bordeaux-like with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot from the Stags leap District in Napa Valley. Pair with grilled meat or roasted vegetables.

Expect to pay around $85, but don't be surprised if you have trouble finding it. A lot of this wine gets socked away in restaurant cellars. Raise a glass!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ferngreen Sauvignon Blanc 2011 wine review by (PB)

This Marlboro New Zealand creation is pale straw with immense grassy, guava paste nose with a lime foundation.

Palate is full of citrus, cut grass, lemon/lime, with solid acidity that finishes well with a long lasting S. Blanc flavor.

Trader Joe's value wine at $8 and if you love really grassy S. Blanc this is a classic NZ offering. This would make a great wine to introduce the grape-type to someone who wonders what S. Blanc tastes like. It may be too much for some but I loved it so raise a glass.

Bodega Pravada Malbec 2009 wine review by (PB)

Deep black cherry hue with red berry fruit on a blackberry nose.

Palate--Supple texture with a slight bitterness mid-palate that is endearing. It has a quick finish but tasty, ample berry pie fruit.

At $6(sale) this is a nice drinking wine so raise a glass.

"Josh" Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 wine review by (PB)

Decent ruby/garnet hue with nice aromas of big dried fruit and plum bouquet with nice cedary spice and vegetal herbal nose.

Palate--Nice berry front with sound structure that is well balanced and drinking well right now but will improve for a few more years.

I paid $15 for this wine though you can probably find it for a buck or two less. It is made the solid folks at Joseph Carr as their second label. It is a nice example of the grape and is a lot of wine for the money. This will more than likely make my top ten of 2011 so raise a glass!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bubbly for the Holidays (Sparkling Wine Sampler) by NW

At this time of year, I get a lot of questions about bubbly for the holidays. People want to make sure their gatherings are festive, and rightly so.

If you haven't noticed lately, there's good sparkling wine made in all corners of the world now. Let me give you a few suggestions:

For traditional non-vintage Champagne (the real stuff from the Champagne region of France), I like Veuve Clicquot Brut. It's classy and well made, and something about that fashionable yellow label makes a party feel extra special. This wine has tight bubbles and lots of nuances from bright fruit to roasted nuts. Also at the $40 mark, Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut is a good choice. Both of these wines are widely distributed.

For something from California instead, I like Domaine Chandon Brut. This is also a non vintage wine that is fairly widely distributed. It runs about $17, which is fairly priced. As a bargain alternative, though, grab a bottle of Korbel Brut which is often priced around the $10 mark. It's one of the best sparkling wines from California in this price range.

If you'd prefer to go off the beaten path a bit, check out Gruet Brut from New Mexico. That's right- New Mexico. A beautiful non-vintage Brut that's well made year after year, this is my current favorite in the value category. I buy it for $11 on a regular basis.

A lot of people enjoy discovering Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy and can't wait to introduce their friends to these wines. Unfortunately, Prosecco is seldom very good but Cava is really on the rise. Ask your local wine merchant if they stock any, and I'm sure you'll get an enthusiastic introduction to several wines that won't break the bank. Expect to pay in the teens.

Regarding other lesser known bubbly, the sparking Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France can be excellent and priced around $20. The only problem is that it's harder to find. Australia also produces and exports some nice sparkling wine at value prices. In fact, Barefoot Bubbly Brut is a terrific value at only $8 or so.

Lastly, consider the sweeter sparkling wines made from Moscato and Brachetto in Italy. I always have these on hand because they're a lot of fun and much more versatile than people realize. They're not just for washing down chocolate torte. Moscato d'Asti runs between $10 and $20. My favorite is Nivole from Michele Chiarlo. Brachetto d'Aqui is a little less common, but you're sure to at least find Rosa Regale from Castello Banfi for $15 to $20.

Raise a glass of bubbly!

Bogle California Petite Sirah 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Dense nose of dark plum and black currants

Full bodied and firmly textured on the palate

Slightly rustic finish but also richly layered with currants, blackberries, tar, and spice


I summarized this wine in my notes as: a good value wine, strong personality, slightly rustic, and flavorful. It had been several years since I tasted this wine, and I'm impressed with this 2009 offering. At $11 or so, stock up. And raise a glass!

Ferrari-Carano Califoria Fume Blanc 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Bright aromas of lemon and minerals on the nose

Light bodied and crisp on the palate

Lively and crips finish with some grapefruit and good acidity


This is a good choice on the "wine by the glass" list at restaurants. It's lively and has good acidity, pairs well with food, and is reliable. Fume Blanc is just another way of saying Sauvignon Blanc, as it refers to the French wines made from this grape in Pouilly-Fume. The retail price runs about $13. Raise a glass!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Inviting nose of currants, watermelon, tobacco, and sandalwood

Full bodied on the palate

Earthy, savory finish of plum, spice, and vanilla


For Brunello, this is an elegant, aromatic style of wine. While it's still coming together and could cellar a while, it tastes great after it breathes in the glass. Give it plenty of air and enjoy with regional Italian cuisine such as rabbit pappardelle or wild mushroom risotto.

This wine has a list price of $45, but I've seen it priced lower. Raise a glass!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2008 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Pretty nose of cherry, milk chocolate, and herbs

Medium bodied on the palate

Cherry and dried herb layers on the finish as it tapers nicely


My first thought was: a baby Barolo. Crafted from the Nebbiolo grape that is used to make Barolo, this wine is a Langhe bottling from Vietti with the proprietary label name of Perbacco. It has a pretty bouquet on the nose like so many wines from this region of Italy. It's not a particularly complex wine, but it tasted nice and complimented an assortment of Northern Italian dishes with ease. Expect to pay around $25.

Raise glass!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Argento Malbec 2009 wine review by (PB)

Beet juice hue with bouquet of dark berry,

Palate--stewed fruit front, silky tannins, rich presence with solid berry flavor.

The wine is better than the review notes; for $10 at Trader Joe's raise a glass!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Napa Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 wine review by (PB)

Deep black cherry hue with big aromas of rich blackberry, licorice, cedar, cocoa and violets with a nearly floral bouquet.

Palate--Pure Cabernet presence, integrated, silky tannins,bold fruit and lingering finish.

I can only imagine this in another 10 years but is really good NOW. I bought this online for $20; Raise a glass.

Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Cabernet (Rutherford) 2005 wine review by (PB)

Cherry-black cherry hue with cigar box, cedar, licorice and cocoa aromas.

Palate--relaxed yet bold, with classic Cab flavors and slight green pepper, spice with blackberry and cherry fruit that lingers.

A classic Napa offering from this reliable producer.

Friends brought this with them to our Thanksgiving feast and it was a perfect pairing for all the spice and strong flavors a typical turkey brings with it. It is drinking well now but would improve for another couple years. At the $20 price point raise a glass to delicious!

Cuvee Michel Leon Gewurztraminer 2009 wine review by (PB)

Nice gold hue with fragrant tropical fruit and sweet spices.

Palate--Sweet, floral, tasty with nice aftertaste that lingers a bit.

This Alsatian wine was excellent--before tasting it. The bouquet is flattering and I was expecting a lot in the mouth but this wine is a good example of the importance of structural balance. It is terribly deficient in acid making the whole wine a rather unpleasant experience. It had so much promise but is flaccid and leaves one wanting to dump it.

I paid $10 for it at Trader Joe's but pass it up!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chateau Cote Montpezat Cuvee Compostelle Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Big nose of black currant, coffee, and dark chocolate

Full bodied on the palate

Tannic finish with dark plum and roasted meat along with more coffee notes and baker's chocolate


There's a nice roasted quality to this wine along with dark fruit, coffee, and dark chocolate. It's powerful and flavorful, with the kind of tannic finish that suggests aging potential.

This wine is a Merlot blend that retails for around $20. Pair with hearty stew or braised meat. And raise a glass!

Kinton Santa Barbara County Syrah 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Beautiful crushed blackberry and blueberry on the nose with some spice accents

Full bodied and richly textured

Long, dark fruit finish with chocolate, fig, and pepper accents


I continue to discover great Syrah from Santa Barbara County, California. This wine has the big, bold fruit characteristic of the appellation, accented by spice, chocolate, and pepper. It's drinking beautifully right now at five years of age, and will probably taste great for another five. Don't miss what's going on in this region.

I paid just $16 for this bottle, although it was discounted a bit. Put in a roast and raise a glass!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Domaine De Chateaumar Cuvee Bastien Grenache 2009 wine review by (PB)

This Cotes Du Rhone has a garnet hue and a bouquet of fresh strawberry juice and light spices with cinnamon.

Palate--Unique velvety texture with stiff acid, bread, yet a bit tight on fruit. Quite unique and at the price point of $15, this is a nice, and fruity wine.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Peter Michael Les Pavots Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Beautiful nose of dark berries, mocha, and black licorice

Full bodied and lush texture on the palate

Long, smooth finish of amazingly well-integrated layers of dark berries, currants, and mocha


What a treat! This wine has it all- amazing fruit and complexity along with great texture and a long finish. It's incredibly well polished.

One of the great red wines of California, this Cabernet consistently sits a top the list of acclaimed wines from the well-followed critics. To some people, it's a great splurge with a list price of $175. To others, it's a great bargain compared to the cult wines of Harlan, Colgin, Byrant Family, and Screaming Eagle. Whatever your view, it's a great wine and the 2006 bottling should please the palate for some years to come. Pair with the finest grilled meat and raise a glass!

Thanksgiving Day Wines- Stress Free! (NW)

Thanksgiving requires a lot of planning, cooking, timing, and logistics with family and friends. Don't add wine stress to the ocassion as well. Understand that a lot of wines will work just great with the big meal, especially if it's a relatively traditional turkey day meal. Let me walk you through some ideas.

My first advice is this: if you have a big casual group of people make sure to have several wines including at least one red and one white. Seriously, how much time is spent actually sitting at a dining room table and how much time is spent standing in the kitchen, roaming around the house, leaning up against the wall in a crowded family room watching the Detriot Lions, or listening to your distance cousin talk about the economy on the back patio. In this situation, have both a red and white on hand- and plenty of it. I recommend California Cabernet Sauvignon or "Meritage" blends, California Syrah or Petite Sirah, and Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

For white wine, you could reach for a moderately oaked California Chardonnay for the mainstream popularity but let me provide a couple other suggestions in keeping with the American wine theme. Ask your local wine merchant about their selection of Oregon Pinot Gris, Washington state Riesling, New York Riesling, or California producers of Rhone white wines varietals such as Viognier and Roussanne. My first pick out of these would be Oregon Pinot Gris.

In 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 are 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 so that it adds to your stress level. 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, probably with a few years of bottle age. Maybe several of them. Now raise a glass!

Jaillance Cremant de Bordeaux Cuvee de l'Abbaye Brut NV Sponsored Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Interesting nose of white flowers with citrus in the background

Medium bodied on the palate with tight bubbles that dissipate quickly

Almond and apple notes on the finish


This wine was provided complimentary in exchange for a review.


Here's a nice alternative to expensive French Champagne. Made from Semillion, this French sparking wine boasts a similar fruit, floral, nutty profile to the wines of Champagne.

My only complaint is the bubbles. I tasted this along with four others and we all remarked that the bubbles were nice and tight but dissipated too quickly.

Expect to pay around $19 for this wine and pair it with a festive atmosphere, exciting appetizers, and good friends. Raise a glass!

Jaillance Clairette Imperiale Cuvee Imperiale NV Sponsored Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Delightful pear notes on the nose

Medium bodied and lightly bubbly on the palate

Soft and pleasant finish of sweet tropical fruit


This wine was provided complimentary in exchange for a review.


I always appreciate versatile wines. This bubbly is moderately sweet but still light. It's versatile and fun to drink. Produced in France from Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains and White Clairette, it resembles a Moscato d'Asti from Italy with it's slightly sweet frame and just 7% alcohol.

The suggested price is $19. Pair it with light appetizers or serve it with a fruity dessert. And raise a glass!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving and wine (repost)

A Thanksgiving Day meal with friends and family provides a perfect opportunity to enjoy nice wine. Because so much fuss is made over food and wine pairings in general, I find people get a little stressed out about what to serve guest on this special day. Fortunately, many wines have a much broader range than they get credit for. With that in mind, I have some basic suggestions that might help.

If you are planning a very traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with Turkey and all the assorted sides, a number of red wines can work well like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Merlot. All of these varietals have a pretty broad range, except maybe the Zinfandel. However, I put Zinfandel on the list because it works well with cranberry sauce and heavy starches like mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.

In order to make things even more festive at the table, I suggest you offer guests two wines. This is especially easy if you are able to provide you guests with two wine glasses and allow them to pour and sip as they like. Simply place the bottles on the table and allow your guests to discover the different pairings as they please.

As a rule of thumb, plan for at least a half bottle per person while at the table. Which two wines? Try offering one Cabernet Sauvignon and one Pinot Noir, perhaps both from American wineries in the spirit of the holiday. This year, I'll be offering one red and one white to try something different.

While wines at the dinner table are often the focal point, don't forget that you can create a special experience with wines before and after the meal. A nice bubbly is a great way to start the festivities, especially with assorted appetizers or finger food. To finish things off, try a nice dessert wine. Something sweet but light, for example a muscat or icewine, should help wash down the pie. Do this before coffee.

Georges Du Boeuf Beaujolias Nouveau 2011 wine review by (PB)

The color of this wine is simply beautiful! It is gently garnet in the center of the bowl with a simply artistic pinkish-purple hue at the rim. I just want to stare at it.

Bouquet--Perfumy, powdery, young fruit filled loveliness with cinnamon overtones.

Palate--A relaxed Nouveau with a slightly chewy tannic back bone (unusual for Nouveau)with a structurally solid acid foundation. Fresh young fruitiness of bright fermented grape yet with a note of unfermented fruit ending with a real finish.

When I smelled this wine before tasting it, I was taken back to the best Nouveau in my memory which was 2005. This wine is really close!

We have written each year about the "event" that this wine is world wide being released on the third Thursday of each November. It is meant to be consumed within a year and better within 9 months or so of release. It is simple, straightforward quaffing wine and yet this is so well made that it would stand up to numerous cheeses and dishes.

Always around $10, definitely don't miss this Nouveau and raise a glass!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 Bouchard Aine & Fils wine review by Billy

Nose: Strong nose of grape and currant.  Fruity.
Palate:Thin mouth feel, some tannic character with an acid snap emerging at the back of the tongue
Finish: Lingering vegetal finish at the back of the mouth.
Overall: Beaujolais Nouveau is the celebration of wine harvested this year.  The gamay grapes were picked just a couple of weeks ago.  Then they were pressed, vinified and put into bottles to ship to stores all around the world this year.  This Beaujolais Nouveau was in a grape on a vine a mere 10 weeks ago.  Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 is a celebration of wine.  As such, the liquid in the bottle and in your glass is a great big HOORAY for wine.  It is a fast wine.  A fruity wine.  It is not complex.  It is not subtle.  It is wine from grapes freshly picked this year.  Enjoy this wine tonight and maybe tomorrow.  I paid $10 for this celebratory 2011 wine at a local wine shop.  Raise a Glass!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Send us your Thanksgiving Wine Queries!

We'd be happy to help you with your Thanksgiving Day wine selections. Just shoot us an e-mail at and we will field your question in a timely manner.

Remember don't just automatically think--poultry = white wine--especially NOT for a traditional Thanksgiving spread. Let us help you raise a glass!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Columbia Crest (Grand Estates) "Amitage" Red Blend 2008 wine review by (PB)

Suggestions of dried cherries with a touch of licorice, nearly floral fruit, with sweet herbs.

Palate--Super steely front with bready fruit that is a bit austere and probably needs to open. Gentle tannic structure and a finish that has potential. I'll update this review after the wine opens some.

From the Washington State producer who always produces solid wines, I saw this unfamiliar name--Amitage--in a store recently and had to give it a try.

It is a blend of Merlot (64 percent) with portions of syrah (19 percent), cabernet franc (7 percent), cabernet sauvignon (5.5 percent) and malbec (4.5 percent). Blending this many grapes in inexpensive wines tend to be a disaster giving a generic wine production that is, at best, confused. But Amitage is another Columbia Crest value wine. At $10-$12, it is easy to drink, tasty and well made. Let's raise a glass to yet another CC success!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Duplin (Carolina) Pink Magnolia wine review by (PB)

Rose hue awkward bouquet of sweet Cinnamony fruit suggesting apricot.

Palate--sweet on the flabby side, fruity with a very weird aftertaste.

This was given to me and it hails from North Carolina. Magnolia is the Scuppernong/Muscadine grape and gives ample demonstration that just because something can be made into wine doesn't mean it should.

North Carolina actually produces some pretty decent wines although they don't seem to be distributed too widely. Whatever you do, don't judge N.C. wines on this review of this grape. This wine is basically awful but it is another varietal I can add to my list of grapes I have tasted.

Monday, November 07, 2011

CalNaturale Mendocino Organic Chardonnay 2009 Sponsored Wine Review by (PB)

Lemon and orange marshmallow "circus peanuts" aromas with of touch of vanilla.

Palate--sits with lively acid, and a fairly shallow flavor foundation but straight forward and pleasant enough especially if chilled. Finishes quickly.

I tasted this along side a 2004 Chablis "Millesime" (Simon et.Febvre)which has more depth but the CanNaturale is a better value! At an extended price of around $10.50 for a standard bottle, the CalNaturale stands its ground.

Candidly though, they both present as wines at that ubiquitous price point of $10. So the competitive edge goes to this "certified organic" Chard for its handy outdoor friendly Tetra Pak for that trip to the beach, or hike through the woods to the lean-to for the evening. Raise a glass or Bota bag as the case may be...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

CalNaturale Paso Robles French Camp Vineyard Organic Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Sponsored Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Red berries and spice on the nose

Medium bodied on the palate

Finish of raspberry and currants accented by cinnamon


Note: this wine was provided complimentary in exchange for a review.

I was surprised by this wine on several fronts. First off, it's a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles packaged in a carton. That's a first for me. Second, it's a pretty decent wine that doesn't taste like it's poured from a carton. Most certainly it's the type of Cabernet Sauvignon that's typically produced in Paso Robles, with red fruit and spice. I was impressed that it confirms this sense of place. Additionally, I was surprised that it's made from certified organic grapes. Interestingly, many wines are certified organic and even more wineries practice organic farming but are not certified. I'm surprised this hasn't gained more legs in the marketing of wines over the years. It's still uncommon for a wine to promote the word "organic" on the package as this wine does.

Now, what about that carton? Well, here's the deal: if you're picnicking, camping, backpacking, or traveling this is a great format. The wine is sold in a Tetra Pak carton, made primarily from paper. The plastic screw cap is easy to use and provides a reassuring seal for a partially consumed carton. I've used this format several times before- on a picnic and on a backpacking trip. It's such perfect packaging for this type of activity that I'll probably continue to use these outdoors. Honestly, I probably wouldn't open this at home though. I'd rather pour from a traditional wine bottle.

This wine is offered in a one Liter package for $12.99 and a 500 ml package for $6.99. Raise a glass, or carton, or plastic cup!

This is (PB) who also received this wine for review. My notes were so similar to (NW's)there was no point in duplicating his review. Ditto's!

CalNaturale Mendocino Organic Chardonnay 2009 Sponsored Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Vibrant green apple aromas on the nose

Light bodied on the palate

Crisp finish with citrus notes and a trace of vanilla


Note: this wine was provided complimentary in exchange for a review.

In general, I found this wine pleasing enough and easy to drink, but certainly simple. It's a lighter style of Chardonnay for sure, with prevailing apple and citrus notes. The notes on the package describe a toasted oak finish, but I'd suggest that's barely evident. In fact, this drinks more like a naked Chardonnay (one that's never encountered oak).

I'm impressed that this wine is made from organic grapes. Interestingly, many wines are certified organic and even more practice organic farming but are not certified. I'm surprised that this hasn't gained more legs in the marketing of wines over the years. It's still uncommon for a wine to promote the word "organic" on the package as this does.

Now, a note on the package. This wine is sold in a Tetra Pak carton, made primarily from paper. The plastic screw cap is easy to use and provides a reassuring seal for a partially comsumed carton. I've used this format several times before- at a picnic and on a backpacking trip. It's such perfect packaging for this type of activity that I'll probably continue to use these for outdoor activities. Honestly, I probably wouldn't open this at home though. I'd rather pour from a traditionale wine bottle.

This wine is offered in a one liter package for $12.99 and a 500 mL package for $6.99. It's decently priced. Raise a glass, a carton, or a plastic cup filled with this go-anywhere Chardonnay!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2007 wine review by (PB)

Intense black cherry hue with nice bouquet of cola/root beer and cherry with dried cherry and the slightest hint of black licorice that fades.

Palate--Integrated flavors of a wine drinking at its prime but will last several more years. Fruit filled with slight note of cinnamon initially, well balanced with firm yet elegant tannins and an all around good wine.

The previous vintage of this wine made my wine of the year a couple years back; this is a solid wine at less than $14 from Sam's Club. Raise a glass, if you like fruity yet structured classy wine that is affordable.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir (Sonoma) 2010 wine review by (PB)

Pretty bright cherry hue with nice Pinot aromas of gentle cocoa and str4awberry with candy cherry lifesavers with a base of mulling spices.

Palate--Crisp, pure, fruity strawberry, with cinnamon touch and solid Pinot flavors. this is a lot of wine for the $12 I paid at Trader Joe's. Raise a glass of a nice straight forward Pinot Noir.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Robert Biale Napa Valley Thomann Station Petite Sirah 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Huge nose of crushed dark berries, currants, and tar

Full bodied on the palate

Rustic finish of dark berries and herbs


Here's a big, muscular Petite Sirah that's just softening up a bit now six years after harvest. It's rustic and tannic but dark and complex. If you have some, it's good that you waited to drink this. But don't wait too long or the fruit could fade. It's showing some big aromas of crushed berries right now that really drive this wine. Go ahead and enjoy!

I paid $20 for this on a close-out deal, but the release price was $55. It's an extremely small production wine at just over 300 cases or so from an excellent producer. Raise a glass!

Melini Borghi d'Elsa Chianti 2010 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Cherry and violets on the nose

Medium bodied on the palate

Silky but simple finish of cherry and dried herbs


I'm a bit disappointed with this wine. It received some critical acclaim as a value priced Chianti that stands out from the pack, but I just don't see it. It tastes like every other Tuscan wine in the under $10 category. There's nothing that stands out, save perhaps the somewhat silky finish. Expect to pay around $9, but raise a glass of something else.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Rich, ripe nose of tropical fruit

Full bodied and richly textured

Long, incredibly smooth finish of pear, pineapple, and vanilla


This wine is all about the texture: rich and smooth. It has plenty of fruit to round it out, but you won't find a more richly textured Chardonnay at this price. Expect to pay around $17.

Of course, the debate about oaked versus unoaked Chardonnay always seems to enter when discussing a wine like this. I favor oaked Chardonnay because it's one of the white grapes that interacts best with oak. Can it be overdone at times? Well, of course. But so many other popular white grapes do better in steel tanks. If I want that style, I simply reach for something other that Chardonnay.

Raise a glass to La Crema!

Irony Monterey County Pinot Noir 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Cherry and strawberry notes on the nose

Medium bodied on the palate

Silky finish of spicy plum and vanilla


It's nice to discover a good value Pinot Noir. This one delivers a red fruit profile along with a silky texture for just $15 or so. I found it for $12 on sale. Roast a whole chicken with vegetables- and raise a glass!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chateau Grand Vin De Leoville Las Cases 1996 wine review by (PB)

Intense black cherry to the rim.

Bouquet--Dried fruit with slight prune notes with sweet floral, red fruit with a maple/cocoa and then peppermint presence. I was astounded!

Palate--Thickish, satiny dried dark fruit, black cherry, superior, young and amazing!

The 3rd wine served to me blind by (NW) of this blog and I was so spell bound by what I was smelling that I almost lost consciousness. Every swirl of the glass revealed yet another fragrance. My notes do not do this wine justice.

Having no categories and certainly no experience with a wine of this caliber the dried fruit, first made me think Amarone! But this was no Amarone. The texture, the elegance, the wowing presence then lead me to my closest experience to such a wine which for me meant Brunello. But this was no Brunello.

This wine has made me a believer in Brodeaux. Explanation--in what sounds down right heretical in the world of wine, my experience to some upper tier Bordeaux of the Classified growths has greatly disappointed me over the years of my study.

From Haut Brion, Batailley, a 1975 Leoville LasCases that was stored poorly and a few more, my view of Bordeaux has been that they are overpriced, over-hyped wines that sell at greatly inflated prices because of good marketing, their history and the ignorance of the rich who can afford them. Give me a good California Cabernet for my money. But now this.

This could mean the end to any illusion of retirement I may have been working toward. (NW's)wife paid $175 for this in 2003 but think more along the lines of $350 now. What a wine, and a memory. Bordeaux I believe! Thanks (NW). Thanks Spin!

Churchill's Agua Alta Porto 1992 wine review by (PB)

Pretty purple presence with loads of sweet fruit. (Not sure why that is all I wrote down in my notes)

Palate--prunes with pleasant, elegant flavors, sweet and velvety with gobby berries and cream and more dark berries and a finish that doesn't really finish.

This Port still looks like it is infant in its youthfulness. There isn't a hint of age at 19 years of age. It will last decades!

This was the desert wine (NW) served with an assortment of cheeses and dried fruit. The bottle could have easily been emptied it was so delicious. Raise a glass!

Le Vieux Donjon 2004 Chateau Neuf Du Pape wine review by (PB)

There is already some bricking at the rim of this wine meaning it is showing some age so I put it at at around 10 years old.

There was a slight stink which I am equating with Grenache and a prominent peppery aroma pointing to Syrah and Mourvedre. As it sits in the glass there is slight chocolate and licorice with more licorice than chocolate later. Then notes of dried strawberry fruit-leather follow.

Palate--Black Pepper and bold presence trailing to a fleeting chocolate note which was not present on subsequnet tastes. then strawberries on forward.

I was pretty sure this was from the Cotes Du Rhone region of France which is known for their blend of GSM--Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre and of course that is what it was. I was surprised that it was as young as it turned out to be.

Wine Spectator gave this wine 94 points. It was a NICE wine so raise a glass!

Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 wine review by (PB)

Dried cherry bouquet, uncomplicated, straightforward. (So why did it baffle me?)

Palate--Dried red fruit, slight licorice, rustic, quick finish.

Served to me blind on a weekend blow by at (NW's) of this blog, this was the second wine in a series of 4 he served. I was stumped when asked what I thought it was and yet reading through my tasting notes, without having seen the wine much less tasting it, just from my notes I would have said Sangiovese! Brain cramp?

At any rate, Querceto in Greve Italy has nothing but GREAT memories as we stayed with (NW) and his wife at Vignamaggio in Greve a few years back. It is a working winery in the heart of Tuscany and the birth place of Mona Lisa. This is the wonder of wine; a liquid in a glass that can evoke memories and special times like they were yesterday. This wine wasn't super but it was a great trip down memory lane.

Grifone Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 wine review by (PB)

Nice garnet hue with lovely earthy dried cherry Sangiovese aromas.

Palate--Bright first impression with slightly chewy tannins that lend to an impression of heft but this is a light, flavorful example of Chianti Classico with dried red fruit and a gentle finish.

This is a $5.99 Trader Joe's Italian selection and is a great value so raise a glass!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Santa Cristina Sangiovese 2009 wine review by (PB)

Black cherry hue with a little bottle stink on opening, earthy cherry opening to candy apple aromas.

Palate--Bright and medium in body and a little quick but needs air. It opens well with pure Sangiovese bouquet with pure cherry and well made; a very good food wine.

This was a blind grab so to speak knowing nothing about it except whose name was on the label. "Antinori" one of the major families of Tuscan wines for ages who makes great wines. This is a blend with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. I paid $9 for this and it will be contender for my top ten of 2011 so raise a glass!