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.