Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pietra Santa Zinfandel 2008 wine review by (PB)

Garnet hue with aromas of robust spiciness with a unique odor that I can't pin down that seems to dissipate leaving light blackberry notes remaining

Palate--tightly wound with staid fruit which I think just needs some time to open up and warm up; my cellar this time of year is right around 54 degrees which is perfect storage temp but I find a bit too cold to appreciate the nuances in a wine.

After breathing and warming up the bouquet remains pretty much as reviewed but the unique odor has dissipated. The palate is bigger than initial tasting. There is a clear beam of cocoa underneath the fruit and a finish that lingers for sometime.

This is my first experience with Cienega Valley Zin. My wife paid $16 for it which is a fair price for the wine so raise a glass!

Block Nine Caiden's Vineyard California Pinot Noir 2013 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Cherry and red berries with spice  on the nose

Light bodied on the palate

Pomegranate, cherry, spice, and herbal tea layers on the finish


Here's a nicely made Pinot Noir at a value price of $12. It has a beautiful color and shows well integrated layers throughout. Pair with lighter fare, and raise a glass!

2012 Educated Guess Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Nose: Vanilla and young fruity berries
Palate: strong interplay of tannin and acid. Not bad but not subtle.
Finish: Lovely finish of blueberry and cherry notes.
Overall: we tasted this at a friend's house. They paid $24 for it at a local wine store. It is overpriced at this price point.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

2011 Bruno Giacosa Barbera Casa Vinicola wine review by Billy

Nose: Young plum, spice and clove
Palate: strong warm tannins,  playful acids. Good construction that promotes the tannic structure
Finish: red stonefruit notes and coffee. Hints of cherry.
Overall: Let it breathe. Air softens the strong tannins and lets the structure support the wine.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape 2003 wine review by (PB)

Prune juice hue with aromas of cigar box, and a touch of cedar. Nuanced cherry fruit underneath.

Palate--Mature beyond peak, subdued cherry berry fruit, rustic undertones, finishes sharply.

Our 2nd wine opened for Thanksgiving which surprisingly is also showing its age. Old world style wines go with food better than by themselves as a very general rule so this will again pair well with our bounty.

At the $50 and up price point, this needs to be drank NOW!

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery 2006 wine review by (PB)

Dark black cherry hue showing some age;

Bouquet--sweet, stewed brandied blackberries,a hint of licorice or spice;

Palate--Mature wine going over the hill but characteristic, mature fruit flavors of dark berries and spices with an earthy touch. Finish lingers with a gentle reminder of mature Margaux Grand Cru Classe.

Chicago guest brought this for Thanksgiving and it will be a wonderful pairing. It is ready NOW and needs to be drunk immediately so don't tarry! Expect to pay over $50 if you can even find it. A perfect Thanksgiving pairing!

A nice treat to highlight a nice day of giving thanks to the One from whom all blessings flow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What Thanksgiving wine to serve?

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. 

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 the coffee.

Raise a glass to a Thanksgiving table complete with wine!

Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 wine review by (PB)

Black cherry hue with an off putting aroma at first sniff like "cheap" fruit. I know that's not very helpful but it just reminds me of a $3 wine which is made up of whatever the maker could find.

Palate--Very steely, fruity front with juicy berry flavor. Fleeting finish.

I can't figure out why I bought this in the first place but I paid $13 for it which was about $8 too much. Look for something else.

Cotes Du Rhone 2010 E. Guigal wine review by (PB)

Slightly browning on presentation; with aromas of mature cherry with a tinge of aged bouquet.

Palate--Mature, juicy acidity, with fruit that is starting to head south. Older cherry notes with a touch of spice and wood.

I am surprised that this is heading south but it is a good quaff at the moment. If you have a bottle laying around it is time to raise a glass!

Monday, November 24, 2014

OZV (Old Zin Vines) 2012 Sponsored wine review--by (PB)

This Zin presents with an eye catching crystalline ruby/garnet hue.

Aroma--Cinnamon "red hots" candy over cocoa and the more gentle, strawberry, Bing cherry fruit. Under neath it all there's a creamy vanilla nuance.

Palate--Almost silky mouth feel, with relaxed tannins and loads of cocoa on top of the gentle, vanilla laced, juicy red fruit.

This is not what I expect when I taste a zin because the characteristic, wild or brambly fruit foundation is not there. Meaning what? Meaning this is a mind blowingly different Zin that is more refined than ghetto.

I've visited Lodi on my wine explorations and it is an up and coming AVA in California just starting to come into its own. This wine is made from Zinfandel grapes grown on 50-100 year old vines which according to those who know, lends a special "something" to the fruit produced from such aged vines. (Blended with a touch (4%) of Petite Sirah)

Bottom line--would I buy it again? Absolutely; Zinfandel is my specialty grape and I love unique! This fits the bill as a big "tasty," "juicy" and easy drinking quaff so raise a glass!

Antigal "Uno" Malbec 2010 wine review by (PB)

Nice black cherry hie deeply pigmented right to the rim:

Aromas of robust, blackberry and dark berry aromas with cigar box and vanilla touches. Really beautiful herbal spicy bouquet that is finessed and borders on elegant.

Palate--Big, rich berry flavors with a touch of licorice. Finish is rather short but well done construction.

2010 was a great vintage for Malbec and the Mendoza region of Argentina if my memory serves me right. I am not a big fan of Malbec but I could become so with this wine! This is a classy, NICE wine and at $14 a great value so raise a glass. This bad boy will be hanging for years to come!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Concha Y Toro Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Black currant and coffee on the nose

Full bodied on the palate

Dense finish with dark chocolate, coffee, sage, and blackberry


This wine is always good, year in and year out. The 2012 drinks like a polished Cabernet that costs much more than the $20 you'll likely pay for this. Chile is still a value, for sure. It has dense fruit and integrated layers that give it depth and persistence. Pair with meat dishes and enjoy. Raise a glass!

Laurent Tibes Les Camuizelles Carignan 2004 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Rich and concentrated nose with spicy red currant and black cherry

Full bodied on the palate

Finish fades a bit with plum, spice, and sage


I picked this up on an excellent closeout sale for just $5, as it normally runs around $20. It's drinking nicely, although just beginning to fade a bit. Carignan is the featured grape from this producer in France. Enjoy while the fruit flavors are still in tact. Raise a glass!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 Wine review by (PB)

Purple hue with bright aromas of spicy cinnamon, candy apple red coating, subtle notes of milk chocolate, gentle grape,(go figure) strawberry and a touch of raspberry. Wow! This may be the best bouquet of Nouveau in memory!

Palate--light and lively red berries with strawberry note and a minerally steely finish. This is well made with discernible structure that outshines many wines made to last a lot longer than this drink-it-now, quaffing delight.

At $10 this is an experience celebrated the world over on this third Thursday of November and this is one of the best Nouveau's in the last decade. Put a slight chill on it or take it at room temp--especially if you live in Maine or Buffalo. Don't over analyze it, just drink it and enjoy--Le nouveau est arrivé!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jean-Francois Merieau Le Bois Jacou Gamay 2012 wine review by (PB)

Daffodil, lots of spices, white pepper hint, with big "tequila" aroma, with cherry,strawberry fruit, and grapefruit! (unique)

Palate--subdued fruit with big white pepper and spice flavor, on a steely finish.

Wow--this "Touraine" Gamay I would ever have guessed was a Gamay. Unlike any Gamay I have ever had. Quite puckery tannins, bracing structure and should be an interesting pairing with my broiled cod in a tomatoey light sauce.

Expect to pay around $16 for this and I am glad I bought it as it is a truly unique experience so raise a glass!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beaujolais Nouveau is coming!!! wine alert by (PB)

Remember this Thursday (Nov. 20) Beaujolais Nouveau is released all over the world. Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape and sent to market only 6 weeks after harvest! It is fresh, straightforward, and simple wine drinking at its best. In France, it is the cause for a national celebration observed annually on the third Thursday of the November with the wine being out for sale at the same time around the globe. It will cost you around $10 and Georges Duboeuf is the ubiquitous negociant although other "brands" should be fine.

If you happen to find a "Beaujolais Villages" Nouveau plan to spend another couple bucks.

At any rate--if you are into wine at all, you need to be a part of this annual ritual joining millions the world over drinking the same thing on the same day world wide so: Raise a Glass!

Buehler Chardonnay (Russian River) 2012 wine review by (PB)

Pale gold hue with aromas of apple and pear, melon and creme brulee with sweet vanilla bean.

Palate--a citrus beam runs right down the middle with mouth watering acidity, tropical fruit, vanilla ; made in the oakey style. The finish of this economical Chard hangs on for a good while.

I paid $11 for this which is a value for a Russian River Chard. It's juicy, well made and solid value making me want to say, "Buehler? Bueheler?. I will pair it with chicken and rice this evening which is chicken baked on top of rice soaking in mushroom soup so raise a glass.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chusclan "Les Genets" 2012 wine review by (PB)

Cranberry jelly hue with aromas that are rustic, with a touch of forest floor, fresh cherry and cherry cream.

Palate--Lively mouth feel with vibrant acidity that makes my mouth watering, leaving a moderate wake of tart red fruit and a fleeting finish.

This blend of 5 Rhone grapes is predominantly Grenache which is what carries the day. This sells at a $17 price point but you can find it for a good bit less if you hunt. It's an interesting blend and a good food wine for which I say, "Raise a glass!"

Bogle Pinot Noir 2012 wine review by (PB)

Light raspberry bouquet with gentle spices and a touch of chocolate covered cherries.

Palate--Understated, fruit flavors, with an overly acidic foundation, a fleeting finish of faded fruit leaves my mouth underwhelmed.

Bogle has been producing some real values wines of late but this California sourced Pinot just doesn't do it. I'd let this one go by the wayside.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sierra Batuco Pinot Noir Reserva 2011 wine review by (PB)

Lighter ruby hue with aromas of spicy and bright raspberry/cherry

Palate--Initial impression of band aids with subdued tart, acidic red fruit with a slight band aid finish.

Who! This is not a good beginning but since it is Pinot Noir I have experienced this before and it disappears with some airtime. We shall see!

This wine is flawed and will be returned where I will receive a refund without issue. Any reputable store will do this; just be sure the wine is flawed and not just a wine you don't care for!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ghost Pines Red Blend 2012 wine review by (PB)

Deep black cherry hue with aromas of chocolate covered red fruit, with loads of red berry and blueberry hints, plenty of rustic spice, tart red raspberry.

Palate--Supple texture solid structure, bold, full bodied, berry fruit with hints of cocoa, and a finish that leaves your mouth tingling.

This is a Gallo partnered production sourced from grapes of Sonoma, Napa, and San Joaquin Counties. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. I am always leery of such blends as few makers can do them well not ending up tasting like a confused stew of grapes; Beaulieu's "Tapestry" is one such stand out. When I first smelled this taht is exactly what I thought--Confused... But with some air, the wine comes together with the Zinfandel winning out and while I am not crazy about the bouquet, the proof is on the palate and this is a downright, interesting and tasty creation. I will be pairing it with grilled rib-eye and will be perfect.

Thanks to my long time birthday partner, hunting partner (sort of) and 4 wheeler partner for this birthday gift! Raise a glass and BTW it is available at Sam's Clubs though I am not sure of the price.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Columbia Valley Chardonnay 2012 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Tropical fruit bouquet with coconut and lime

Full bodied on the palate

Finishes with melon, citrus notes, and some creamy oak


Here's a rich, round style of Chardonnay from Columbia Crest in their highly reliable Grand Estates line. This one has really soft edges but just enough acidity to keep it honest. It's a crowd-pleaser for sure.

Expect to pay $11 or so, but I've seen prices from $8 to $13 recently. Raise a glass!

Perez Cruz Carmenere Limited Edition 2012 wine review by Billy

Nose: light notes of plum, cherry and a hint of mushroom
Palate: Firm tannins and moderate acids play with each other until the tannins win. Strong characteristics of loam and charcoal. Pleasant dry mouth feel.
Finish: Vegetal and long but subtle.
Overall: We paid $26 for this at a local wine shop. We also decanted it for 30 minutes or so before tasting it. This wine is 100% Carmenere grapes from the Maipo Alto region of Chile. The grapes are hand picked and the winery practices sustainable farming.

I am not a fan of 100% Carmenere wine.  But a very engaging wine store aficionado, RJ from Wine Republic in Excelsior, MN, persuaded us to try it.  He was a good advocate for the varietal and an engaging fellow.

This wine is well made and structured. But the Carmenere grape simply does not have enough character to create an amazing wine by itself. The nose has some teasing tempranillo and merlot hints but the fruit is obliterated in the mouth by the overwhelming taste of the "terroir". This terroir is akin to a spoonful of dirt dumped on your tongue.

For the money, go with a couple bottles of French Merlot blends or Old Vines California Zinfandel or even a middle level Cabernet. The French history of the Carmenere grape is evident in its potential for complexity but sometimes complex is just difficult.

Still, it was good to engage with a local wine shop owner who has opinions and is willing to go out on a limb to encourage patrons to try something new.

Concha Y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 wine review by (PB)

Substantially pigmented rich, dark cranberry jelly hue with aromas of over the top vegetal bouquet on opening that gives way to big, dark fruit, ripe plum, baker's chocolate. loads of forest floor and cedar with more fruit behind.

Palate--Bold, full bodied,vibrant, rich intense berries and other dark fruits with a sharp cocoa beam with a lengthy finish of spices, subdued fruit and rustic meadow flavors.

Concha Y Toro and I have had a relationship since the mid 70's. They were a big part of my early wine exploration and they have only continued to make their mark in the world wine arena. This is a classic Chilean Cab and Concha Y Toro does Cab WELL! No matter the price point of any particular varietal, their wines are generally super values and this is no exception.

I can't remember what I paid for this but seems to sell for around $15. At this price point, it is a BIG wine and lot for the money so grab some and reward yourself laying a few bottles down for a few more years and you won't be disappointed so raise a glass!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Oreana Petit Merlot 2010 wine review by (PB)

Hefty pigmented deep black garnet hue with great bouquet of ripe plums, rich blackberries, licorice, forest floor, and and edge of cocoa. Wow!

Palate--Big bold fruity, ripe blackberry, black cherry laced with a mocha edge and spices galore with a finish that lasts and leaves a creamy fruit finish.

The wine is a blend of Petit Verdot and Merlot and Oreana believes they are the only people in the country to do such a blend.

Okay--Here's a great lesson about tasting rooms at wineries: I had this wine on site in Santa Barbara, Ca. in September. The wine was previously opened (we were the first patrons of the day being there rather early although questioning this I was assured that their wines were kept under nitrogen which preserves the wine's freshness after opening. Never-the-less the wine was way too warm served I would guess close to 80 degrees the ambient temp of the room. I didn't care for this wine at all especially with a price tag of $30 or so but I wanted to take something back with us and this was unusual so I grabbed a bottle.

I just opened it with a friend who is a Merlot devotee and he loved it as did I. This is NOT the wine I tasted at the tasting room. I am glad I brought it back to Maine and raised a glass. Only wish I had more as this wine is till quite immature and will benefit from 3 more years in the bottle. Again I say raise a glass!

Ravenswood "Besieged" (Sonoma County) 2013 wine review by (PB)

Pigmented, dark garnet with aromas of deep pomegranate, blackberry, Plum, blueberry,

Palate-- Big, 30 megaton fruit bomb with rich, deep black berry and dark plum with heavy flavors and plenty of wood; big spicy flavors and black tar.

This is a blend of 5 grapes I believe from the Ravenswood clan who have a great reputation for well crafted wines. It is well made and a big wine with a lot going on. I paid $14 for this wine and its a nice quaff on its own but with the right food, its a tasty addition so raise a glass.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Dr. Loosen Riesling 2012 wine review by (PB)

Pale lemon hue with aromas of creamy sweet mandarin orange,tropical fruit galore with a powdery creme brulee and sweet pie spices abounding.

Powerful assaulting tropical fruit compote with a moderate acidic foundation leaving a thickish cream coating on your tongue. Gentle cinnamon and Chinese five spice garnishes the melange of ripe sun kissed citrus, leaving a finish that is all too quick but making you want to dive into the next mouthful. At 8.5% alcohol, you can afford to go back and raise another glass of this German Mosel.

My wife and I boated down the Mosel River for our 25th wedding anniversary and were astonished by the slope of some of the vineyards. Being so steep it seemed a worker might have to "rope up" to prevent from stumbling which wouldn't stop until they reached the river. The Wine Spectator gave this a 91 point rating and its all of that. At the $10 price point it also received the W/S "Best Value" rating so if see this bottle of this under appreciated grape, snag several, put a light chill on it and raise a glass with friends!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Marchese di Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2010 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Opens with backberry and black cherry on the nose with hints of tobacco

Full bodied on the palate

Black currant, balsamic, and dense spicy notes on the finish


This is very good wine, dense and interesting. I've sampled most of the recent vintages, and this one is probably the most approachable on release. Give it some air and it's one to enjoy with a hearty meal and good friends. Raise a glass!

Condes de Albarei Rias Baixes Albarino 2013 Wine Review (NW)

Tasting notes:

Citrus and hints of apple on the nose

Light bodied on the palate

Abbreviated finish with citrus notes


There's a lot of good Albarino out there from the Rias Baixes region of Spain, but this one is a bit flat. It doesn't have the brightness and full flavor palate that has come to characterize these wines. Take a pass.