Saturday, December 29, 2012

Our 8th Anniversary! (NW)

Wow, it's our 8th Anniversary at The Wine Cask Blog. Hard to believe! The three of us have been enjoying the world of wine for a long time and our more that 2,500 reviews on this site bring back a flood of memories. Our no-nonsense approach to reviewing wine in plain language was ground breaking in the blogosphere eight years ago. Our full disclosure policy on sponsored reviews was unheard-of back then, when corporate America was quietly buying favorable blog reviews for everything from diapers to DVD players.

A lot has changed, for sure, and we marvel at the way wine blogs in particular have taken off. There's a lot of great content out there, and a lot of enthusiasm for the incredible developments in the world of wine. Wine is an everyday occurance for us, and we gladly share it with our readers. Thanks for stopping by, and raise a glass!

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Spicy cherry with blackberry jam notes on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

Savory, earthy finish that's full and layered with tobacco and raspberry


This wine has been consistently good for at least a decade. It has been at the forefront of the richer, more extracted style evolution of Chianti Classico that has taken hold in recent years. Ever since the requirement for white blending grapes was lifted and the Sangiovese percentages loosened, Chianti Classico has been steadily improving and this dense, juicy, extracted style has emerged as the wine of choice.  In fact, in blind tastings, many Classicos are now mistaken for Brunello which shows the potential for this region.

While Barone Ricasoli makes a number of very good reds, this is a consistent and widely distributed offering. It's great young, but also cellars for at least 10 years. I'm still drinking the 2003, which hardly tastes older than this 2009. Try to find a deal, though, as prices have crept up over the $20 mark. While no longer a bargain, it's good juice.  Raise a glass!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Charles & Charles Red Blend 2011 wine review by (PB)

Thin cherry hue with aromas of vegetal fruit with a touch of mocha.

Palate--bready, non-nondescript, dark fruit with a finish of milk chocolate.

This blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Syrah is your basic plonk, an adjective I don't use often.

This wine is collaborative effort between Charles Beiler and Charles Smith, the iconoclastic wine guru of the reliable Washington State K Vintner's. Smith always does a decent job on his wines whether single vineyard or basic sourced blends. This is an exception to what I expect from Smith and while I am not familiar with Mr. Bieler, he seems to be an opportunist who is more interested in scoring an experience rather than investing in the art of wine making. (This is based on what I have read online; beyond this I have no frame of reference for Mr. Bieler)

This is a big disappointment even at $11 and I would urge Mr. Smith to regain focus and do what he does best--producing quality and value Washington State wines.
Find something else of which to raise a glass!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ZD Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 wine review by (PB)

Deep purple hue to the rim with rich, black licorice front with deep berry and a coffee twinge to the lush rustic fruit underneath.

Palate--gloriously integrated on a bed of plush tannins balanced with mocha notes and more fruit.

ZD winery stands for Zero Defects and that is what you get with this beautiful Cab. It is a stunning Cabernet from a stunning vintage from the Cabernet capital of the world--NAPA, Ca. Finishes with toasty oak!

This was the second wine I opened with our standing rib roast for Christmas and it was a stellar accompaniment to the meal.

This was a gift from friends on a trip a year or two or three? ago to Napa and thought enough of us to present us with this bottle and two winery glasses which I am sad to say did not last as long as the wine. I laid it down for a couple years knowing I would be rewarded for the patience of waiting on the 07 vintage to get a little maturity under its cork. I was right.

This wine retails around $50 price point and if you happen to find one and happen to have the means and the inclination to buy it, it is exceptional and classic Napa Cabernet.

So raise a glass to a great wine, Napa Valley and good friends! Thanks M and K!!!

Chateau Gigognan "Vigne Du Regent" 2004 wine review by (PB)

Mature garnet hue with pronounced bouquet of rustic cherry and crazy olive but this was upon opening.

After 4 hours of breathing this wine opens to a really nice Chateau Neuf Du Pape with a delicious palate that is complex and warm, rich and textured berry with rustic cherry and a touch of smoke on the finish. A couple reviews I read were not impressed with this wine however it may very well have been that they either did not let it get a few years going for it or opened it without sufficient breathing. This wine needed several hours to open.

This was the first wine we opened for our "roast beast" on Christmas day of standing rib roast.

Expect to pay $40 for it and its well worth it.

Raise a glass to beautiful Rhone wines that strut their stuff without killing your budget.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Belleruche Cotes Du Rhone 2011 wine review by (PB)

Ripe tropical fruit
Palate--Fruity tropical melange with good acidic backbone. Fleeting and short.

A tasty aperitif with a light cheese spread waiting the standing rib roast Christmas dinner.

Chapoutier puts together some classic Rhone quaffs at reaonsble price points. this is the ubiquitous $10 price point and is what you might expect.

*A house full of scents from candles and cooking skews a reasonable appreciation of the bouquet but even with the strong scents, the tropical fruit cuts through it all.

A refreshing aperitif so raise a glass!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tenute Folonari Campo al Mare Bolgheri 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Smoky dark fruit and floral notes on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

Layered finish of cassis, roasted meat, and charcoal


There's an intensity and persistence to this wine that's expressed in the dark fruit, roasted, and smoky profile. Priced at $32, it's made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc in the Bogheri region where this type of blend is the norm. There will be plenty of cellaring potential if you choose to. If you open it young, simply aerate or decant to open up the aromas as much as possible. Hearty Tuscan fare should prove a good match. Raise a glass!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chateau de Myrat Sauternes 2009 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Beautiful honey, almonds, and apricot on the nose

Full bodied and richly textured on the palate

Long, rich finish that's almost creamy with honey, citrus creme, and tropical fruit


A beautiful young Sauternes! It's absolutely delicious but kind of a crime to be opened so young. Your crime will be forgiven, though, because it's understandable that you'd want to drain a bottle of this dessert nectar at the end of a nice dinner. It has a huge nose and a long, long finish that is richly layered. The retail price is $45, but you might also find half bottles for around $25. Raise a glass!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Butterfield Station Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 wine review by (PB)

Youthful looking with dark black cherry hue.
The bouquet is full of dark berry fruit and some cedar.

Palate--Integrated tannins, some real cab flavor and a nice surprise at $6 on a sale.

Why did I bother with such an inexpensive Cabernet? Even though it is a sourced wine 2007 was a stellar year for Napa and most other cab regions. So I figured for the price, I just might score a wine that was a bargain and I did! So raise a glass.

White 4 Vina Robles 2008 wine review by (PB)

This wine is a pretty yellow gold with big aromas of ripe cantaloupe, sweet apple, and tropical fruit with a backbone of vanilla.

Palate--Pronounced acidity with strong flavors of blended fruits on a vanilla frame. Everything in the bouquet is in the palate; a big wine. Quick finish of green apple.

This is an unexpected blend of Verdelho, Vermentino,Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier, not exactly the grapes one expects of Paso Robles.

This is a really surprising wine! It is so big, and full and complex; a lot of wine for $15 and yet I paid $6 at my fave wine store. I wasn't expecting this.

Various growers are really trying to expand their reach with respect to grape varieties grown and this mix of a Rhone (Viognier), a Tuscan, (Vermentino) and a Portuguese (Verdelho) varietals shows that it can be done.

This would make an awesome brunch wine or a mid day Summer aperitif; Either way raise a glass of this wine but drink it up; it won't last much longer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Caves du Fournalet Cotes du Rhone 2011 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Red currant notes on the nose

Light to medium bodied on the palate

Cherry and spice on the finish with light pepper accents


Well, I haven't reviewed many Trader Joe's wines on this site in part because PB does a great job covering the Trader Joe's selection for our readers. He hasn't hit this one yet, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Here's the deal: this is a simple, straightforward wine that tastes like it should and goes down easily. It's a "you get what you pay for wine". But there's a catch- it's a noteworthy wine because there simply isn't a lot of Cotes du Rhone imported into the US at this price.  As a Trader Joe's exclusive, it's only $5.99.  Packaged in a squat 750mL botttle that recalls a common French bottle shape from several hundred years ago, it's probably tucked away on the bottom shelf of the French red wine section going unnoticed.

This is where Trader Joe's shines, particularly now with French, Italian, and South American wine (name brand wines are not particularly good bargains at TJ's). They sell a ton of exclusive house brand bottlings at single digit prices built on the successful Charles Shaw model. There are some really good Cotes du Rhone wines at $10-20 in most other wine shops, but you just won't find much wine priced at six bucks like this.

These bargain wines at Trader Joe's are in the spirit of the table wines of Europe. Consumed night after night at the dinner table, they are simple, affordable, reliable wines that no one in their right mind would wax eloquent about on a blog like this. On the other hand, in the US we tend to put special status on wine and consume far less per capita. As a result, we analyze and perhaps over-analyze even cheap everyday wine. The problem is compounded by restaurant markups on cheap wine in the US that are often 300-400% over retail forcing us to, at times, treat even simple bottles as splurges. This is not the intent for a wine like this. Just pour a glass, drink it with dinner, and do it again the next night.

Thanks to Trader Joe's for capturing this spirit. While I don't buy a lot of wine there, I appreciate the model and am glad to see that its allowed people to sample wines from around the world at rock bottom prices. Raise a glass!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gaetano D'Aquino Riserva 2008 wine review by (PB)

This lighter bodied Chianti has decent Tuscan aromas of cherry and spice and prominent caraway notes making it quite nice.

Palate--A bit watery on the palate but definitely authentic Chianti flavors even if fleeting.

This oft reviewed wine (by me) over the years (usually the 2007 vintage)still offers a real value for a casual and rustic Chianti that you can afford to supply your next party. This is a Trader Joe's offering and at $4 a bottle you just can't go wrong!

It can drink a little wearyingly if that makes sense but again--it's hard to imagine how they can even get it to this country and retail it for this price. At any rate--take advantage of it and raise a glass with your next pizza, Lasagna, pasta or tomato based soup or stew!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Col Solare Columbia Valley Red Wine 2006 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Fragrant blueberry, currant, and cream on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

Ultra-smooth and rich finish of berries and white chocolate


Here is a big, rich wine with a lot of ripe fruit and round edges. It's expressive and full bodied, with nice layers and texture. Expect to pay around $70 for this treat.

Col Solare is a joint project between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Antinori, made from Columbia Valley fruit in Washington. The blend is derived from the noble Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. It could cellar, but I like how it shows right now. Raise a glass!

Vina Herminia Rioja Reserva 2005 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Sweet, fragrant floral and cherry notes on the nose

Medium bodied and nicely textured on the palate

Soft, silky finish with layers of red fruit and toasty vanilla with some hints of tobacco


I like how this wine is fragrant and silky. It shows a style from Rioja that's modern but not overly extracted. Made from Tempranillo, Garancha, and Graciano, it's made to compliment food and should prove to be versatile. The retail price is around $20, which is a nice value. Raise a glass!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2002 Champagne Review by Billy

Nose: Lime, Macadamia and White Crackers
Palate: Extremely active bubbles that are needlepoint fine.  Very dry with knife-edge acid crispness.  Lemon and Lime notes in the mouth joined by cool crusty french bread flavors.
Finish: Creamy finish with soft citrus.
Overall: an exquisitely citrussy vintage Champagne.  The crisp acid core combines delightfully with bubbles that scintillate and titillate at the same time.

This 2002 vintage Champagne from Moet & Chandon retails for about $69 on average.  This is a fantastic price for a vintage champagne and a great entry point!  We enjoyed this wine here at The Wine Cask Blog Central Annex with PB and his wife who were visiting for the Christmas Holiday.  It is a wonderful sparkling wine and vintage champagne to share with loved ones or for any celebration.  Raise a Glass!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bodega Norton Torrentes 2009 wine review by (PB)

Pale straw hue

Palate--Razor sharp acidity on a cirtusy, off-dry foundation with prominent aromas of vanilla, ripe pineapple and stone fruit. Finishes a little clunky.

This Mendoza (Argentina) varietal from a great Malbec producing family from a fairly little known grape isn't a great example of the varietal. A typical Torrentes is worth trying as it usually yields a big floral bouquet not unlike a Vigonier,with a blend of floral/fruit flavors.

A typical Torrentes is delicious and flavorful and is as delightful to smell as it is to drink being "the grape" of Argentina like Zinfandel is to California.

I paid $4 for this normally $10 wine but DO raise a glass of another Torrentes from a different producer.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Villa Canestrari Auge Soave Supreriore Riserva 2006 wine review by (PB)

Lovely golden hue that nearly glows.

Bouquet--Big vanilla nose with tantalizing melon and gooseberry aromas with ultra sweet perfumy notes that remind me of viognier and spices that remind me of Christmas!

Palate--Utterly perfect in integration with off dry complex fruit and spice that is both juicy and succulent in its presences.

It finishes with a light vanilla bitters ending.

This was sent to the WineCask Blog for review and this is a spectacular Soave! I was unable to find a reference price on this wine. This is a special wine!

Villa Canestrari Auge Soave Superiore Riserva 2006 Sponsored Wine Review

Nose: Honeysuckle, vanilla and pear nose.  Incredibly round, soft and smooth scents.  The nose is amazing on this comparatively older Soave.
Palate: Velvety soft  mouth feel that has a lovely balance and just enough of an acid backbone to stand up without buckling.  Elegant and delightful.  Great structure that stands up to fatty dishes.
Finish: Young finish even though this is over 6 years old!  Lasting and Lingering greenery and honeydew melon tastes.
Overall:  This is the best Soave I have had the opportunity to taste!  It is bold and round while maintaining a sophisticated and balanced elegance.  The nose is simply amazing.  This Italian white  wine is comprised of Garganega 85% and Chardonnay 15%.  The Chardonnay imparts a buttery fullness while the Garganega delivers on structure and vanilla.  It is an amazing blend and a truly Superior Soave!

We had the opportunity to taste this with PB of this blog while he was out visiting from the Northern Wine Cask Blog Annex.  It was made even more delightful for his being here.  Raise a Glass!