Sunday, December 31, 2023

Il Borgo COLLINARE Nero d' Avola 2022


Medium garnet hue with aromas of baby powder, cherries, a touch of green herbs and savory spice.

Palate--Lively, bright spicy cherry laden first impression with a course acidity, and a bit of a biting finish. 

This is a Trader Joe's $7 offering and while Nero d'Avola is my favorite Sicilian grape, this is not thrilling even at $7. Mind you at $7 it is hard to find a potable quaff so I shouldn't complain but this grape has been a fave for years and it isn't fancy, or expensive and for the price or a couple bucks more, there are plenty of these wines easier to drink out there. For the price, give it a try, but...                

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Dreaming Tree Pinot Noir 2020

Light bright cherry hue with aromas  of brioche, menthol, licorice, and evergreen--Wow!

Palate--Talked about a relaxed first impression that begins to build as it sits on your palate... An elegant, seductive presentation yielding pronounced Pinot fruit of tart raspberry, and touches of cherry/berry with a finish that lingers giving off more gentle yet definite varietal fruit.

This is decidedly old world with the fruit hailing from France--where else? The bouquet is sensational, and the palate is unique because I am so used to domestic Pinot Noir. This is truly a lovely wine and at $14 (Sam's Club) it is a must buy!

I am going to be pairing it with homemade split pea soup and my guess is, it will be nice, may be even great!  Raise a glass!

Thursday, December 28, 2023

La Viña De AMAYA 2020


Intense deep purple hue with aromas of dark berries, pipe tobacco, blackberry pie, a touch of pie spices and floral overtones and a hint of savory spice.

Palate--silky structure with vibrant tannins, fruit forward big blackberry flavors with a mouth filling finish. Well made and will be amazing in another 2-3 years.

This Rioja red made with Tempranillo-- the signature grape of the Rioja, Spain and Garnacha (Grenache) which is a bright, fruity, cheerful grape sets this wine on a course of loveliness. What is hard to fathom is I paid $9 for this wine which I see selling for $25.  I am pairing it with leftover rib roast from Christmas and I know it will be glorious!  [And it was!]   Raise a glass!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The New Year's Toasting Beverages 2023


New Year's means drinking; sadly TOO much for many, but let moderation rule and you can enjoy the celebratory contribution of bubbly to the New Year's party.

 Bubbly takes all kinds of shapes, styles, quality and price tags. Many tend to use the word "Champagne" when what they mean is a sparkling wine. ie., carbonated. 

Champagne is a type of "Bubbly" that is grown and produced out of the Champagne region of France! All Champagne is "bubbly" but not all bubbly is Champagne. Candidly--Champagne is the best of the best of all bubbly's but comes with a price tag as well. And since few have the palate to appreciate the extra cost--which can run into the hundreds of dollars per bottle--you are throwing money away.

Sparkling wines will run in the area of $10 and up but no where the price of Champagne. If you ha e a Trader Joe's near you, they sell several bubblies which are down right drinkable and you will pay under $15 per bottle. 

Mumm's Napa Brut Prestige is probably my favorite for the price. But even that has escalated to over $20 a bottle....  

Spanish sparklers tend to be a pretty nice bargain. Called "CAVA" they are ubiquitous, fun a tasty. Price point $12-$18 

Korbel is a California sparkler and for the price is OK.

A couple to avoid--Barefoot Bubbly... Cook's 

If you have read this far--Search this blog for key words New Years, or bubbly, etc.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Lamarca Prosecco


Nearly clear hue with a hint of straw color with aromas of apple, peach and citrus.

Palate--A lackluster presentation with decent effervescence, clean fruit flavors and off dry meaning it is actually "dry" while tasting sweet. 

This Italian bubbly is not a "sweet" wine by definition.  Fruity wines are often confused for sweet wines which means they have residual sugar, meaning not all the sugar has been converted to alcohol via fermentation. This wine is ubiquitous, wildly popular but I am not a fan.  It is overpriced by half--especially in restaurants where you can pay the price for a glass that you would pay for a whole bottle retail.  But hey!  People like what they like.  From $15-$22 a bottle this is a pass in my book!

Monday, December 25, 2023

Ilex Daino 2019 (Terraine Siciliane)

Purple/Garnet hue with a big bouquet with aromas of cinnamon and cherry candy, spring bouquet of flowers, a nuance of orange peel at the end. Very nice!

Palate--Cherry berry front with forward savory spices, lip smacking tannins, and a nice line of acidity. Lingering finish!

This is still young and will benefit from another 2-5 years.  Nero D'Avola is the signature grape of Sicily and this is an elegant rendition. I was pressed to pair with my standing rib roast for Christmas and while I didn't want to open this as I just received it for Christmas and it is not the best pairing, I had no other reds ready to drink. We'll see how it goes with my roast. 

But the most important thing of this day is the celebration of the birth of the Savior of mankind. So I will focus on that and all my blessings which are too numerous to count.

This wine seems to run about $30 and I would say for the price you could find a Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon that would do better with my menu. But I give thanks and wish you a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Chateau St. Michelle "Harvest Select"-- Sweet Riesling-- Columbia Valley 2022

Straw hue with aromas of wondrous summer melon, vanilla pudding, tropical fruit salad, and a citrus beam under all.

Palate--vibrant "*spritzig" on the palate, with well made sweet, but not cloying, tropical fruit melange, hints of mango, cantelope, and a finish that says "I want more!"

This is a brilliantly beautiful wine and sells for around $10. It is hard to stop drinking it. I have a ham in the oven right now and this will be my wine. This is great all by itself as an aperitif too. Put a chill on it and have plenty on hand and raise glass after glass!

*Spritzig--a German term for "sparkle" or what we might call a touch of carbonation.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

5 more days to the Christmas feast


Prime rib roast?  Turkey?  Lobster?  Asian cuisine? Vegetarian?

What to pair with what main course. Well, here's one axiom of wine pairing you may not realize. You pair more to the sauces and spices than you do the actual meat, seafood, or whatever. 

So again--here are rules of thumb.

Asian cuisine is one of the more difficult food to pair wine with but you will find that sweeter wines go very well with Asian dishes. They compliment the food rather than fighting with it.  *New world Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chenin Blanc do a nice job with those tricky, but delicious asian spices and they are affordable! 

*New world in this context means California, Oregon, Washington State primarily. The Finger Lakes (NY) also offer some nice "sweeter wines."

Beef roasts etc. are wonderful with Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec, Rioja and many others.

Turkey (see Thanksgiving post for ideas) But even a decent Pinot Noir is nice with the varied flavors and structures of all the trimmings.

Lobster-  I live in Maine and a number of friends traditionally have lobster. Sauvignon Blanc, both old world and new world, high acidic white wines will cleanse that buttery coating off your palate refreshing it for another tasty mouthful of the ocean's premier offering.

Vegetarian--my son is a vegetarian and loves sparkling wines but particularly Champagne!  But here again , it is the sauces(s) you want to pair to with your wine selection. And if you are at a "real" wine store, they almost always have someone who knows wine and can be a great help to you. Just tell them your price point and you'll be all set! 

Ham--a salty ham needs a nice chilled, sweet white wine to make the perfect pairing.  Pretty much the same wines that go wtih Asian food work well with ham!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

19 Crimes Shiraz 2021

Lighter hue than the nearly black presentation I am used to from this intense grape!  Big ripe, black berry aromas dominate, a touch of sweet red berry and maynbe a tinge of dark chocolate. 

Palate--Bold front palate full of dark brooding blackberry flavors on a bed of sweet and savory spices with just a singular beam of blackberry pie.

Australia has one of the greatest Shiraz wines called the Grange by Penfolds. Current releases will run you around--sit down--$800!  That's not for a case, that's for ONE bottle! Rest assured I have NEVER and will never have the luxury of tasting such a wine.

This is not the best expression of Shiraz from Australia but it is a value at under $10. It pairs well with a thick grilled steak; prime rib or any number of bold dishes and cheeses. If you want to experience a hint of what this grape can do, go higher around the $40 price point and be wowed by this grape.  Raise a glass!

Saturday, December 16, 2023

La Vielle Ferme 2022

Light orange/pink hue with aromas of gentle tropical fruits with orange blossom notes.

Palate--Off dry fruitiness with nice acidity, tropical fruit flavors with a twinge of lime and grapefruit.

This line of wines has been a reliable and value wine for the past 2 decades I have been following their productions. They always run around $8 and are certainly worth grabbing even a case keeping it on hand for any number of occasions. Chill it down and Raise a glass!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Joseph Handler Riesling 2022


Pale straw, nearly clear, with aromas of melon, lime and sweet spices with vanilla.

Palate--Off dry first impression with a somewhat lethargic foundation. Flavors of green melon and tropical fruit are subdued which could be hampered by the temperature of the wine. Finishes very quickly with a lack luster overall profile.

 Riesling is one of my favorite white wine grapes and is the signature grape of Germany. This one hails from the "Pfalz" region bottled in blue glass which is a kind of signature of the region's wines. 

This is a Q.B.A. which is a German quality notation. It is essentially the beginning point of german wines and goes up from the there.  This is not a great example of the nature of Riesling but chill it down, it is tasty enough and economical. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Vignobles Lacheteau Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2021

Pale straw hue with aromas of sweet pie spices on a light bed of citrus, creme brulee, on top of a tropical fruit melange.

Palate--Vibrant acidity hosts a somewhat tepid presentation of muted, tropical fruit flavors and a solid beam of citrus.

I am tasting this chilled, and had it last night with homemade seafood chowder. It was an "OK" pairing but nothing special. I reviewed this wine back in June, and having just checked what I wrote then, and I like it better this time around then back in June. It does seem a bit more vibrant than in my initial review which could be a number of factors. At any rate, this Trader Joe's offering is OK for the money.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Bread & Butter Pinot Noir 2021

Questionable watery, watermelon juice-like hue with slight bricking at the rim.  Distinctive bouquet like that of a bathroom soap dish that no longer has soap in it and a slight pickle juice scent at the end.

Palate--Pleasant first impression with nice structure, some acidic longevity, with balanced delicate flavors of confused red fruit. Finishes better than its first presentation.

I paid $11 for this at Sam's Club today and was hoping for a bargain. No deal.  It's weird, it's awkward, it is drinkable but won't be getting anymore.

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Chateau La Tuilerie Du Puy 2020


Deep garnet hue with aromas of mild spice and cherry berry notes.

Palate--Tart, juicy, woody, harsh, awkward and lip smacking tannins.  No finish.

This "Vin De Bordeaux" is the lowest ranking in the Bordeaux scheme of labeling. Grand Vin De Bordeaux, and then the stellar--and expensive-- Grand Cru Classé.  My wife bought this for $12 and I am not thrilled with it, in fact I am not even drinking it.  

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Marquis De Colbert Utiel-Requena Reserva 2017


Garnet hue with some opacity and a nice bouquet of interesting red fruits, some dried, slik dried cranberry...

Palate--juicy tannins, with sharp edged red berry powder and awkward presentation.

I noted back in June that this wine was fading quickly and it that is what's going on with this bottle. This will be the last bottle of this I will get for that reason. I paid $7 for this wine which is silly for the kind of wine it is and the age etc. and it was well worth the chump change I laid out for it with no regrets. But it has run its coarse and we'll note the experience. 

Monday, December 04, 2023

Knock on Wood Chardonnay (Willamette Valley) 2021

Oregon Chard opens with a straw hue and aromas of sweet powdery melon, baking spices and a touch of citrus.

 Palate-A rigid beam of acidity that takes a moment in the mouth to come forth, lemony mid palate, *off dry pretty straight forward for an Oregon Chard.

*Off dry means it tastes SWEET when in fact it is bone dry meaning there is no residual sugar to be fermented. Off dry gives the impression it is sweet when it is FRUITY. 

This is a nicely made Chardonnay and paired wonderfully with my baked cod with parmesan laced spaetzle. I see it selling for up to $25 but I found it for $8 and of course wish i had bought more. At any rate, raise a glass! 

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Monterey County 2020

Hue is a lovely crystalline cherry-red with aromas of sweet strawberry, ripe raspberry.

Palate--Vibrant fruit out of the gate with bold structure and loads of Pinot varietal fruit all over the palate. Juicy, sill a touch angular needing a little more time in bottle to reach its optimum.

Castle Rock makes numerous Pinot's from various AVA's and they are all, always value wines! They are reliable, juicy, tasty and classic Pinot Noir.  At the $10 price point, you just can't go wrong so raise a glass!

Le Fraghe Rodon 2022

A pink orange watermelon hue sets the gentle aromas of vanilla pudding with a citrus note with red rose petal notes and a hint of orange blossom.

Palate-- Tart first impression with a wildly acidic back bone, citrusy mid palate, red cherry/raspberry flavors and more juicy acidity. 

This is a lively creation with a robust-- slap you awake-- kind of presentation.  I love it!  I paid around $10 for this though ranges from at $10-$27. 

Pairs with a lot of foods due to its structure and vibrant profile; Raise a glass!

Christmas gift guidance for the wine lover in your life

Glasses of Red Wine in Front of Christmas Tree Stock Image - Image of ...
If there's a wine lover in your life it can be tough getting a meaningful gift for them. With nearly 50 years in the study of all things wine, here's the struggle: if you are NOT a wine enthusiast yourself, you may be led astray into the "cutesy," the novel, or the gimmicky trying to please your recipient. Let me help you not waste your money or embarrass your gift recipient.
Let's begin with what NOT to get. 

Consider wine related "doo-dads" that hang on a wall off limits.  Eg. a hangable meme stating "Life is too short to drink cheap wine." Don't do it, even calligraphy can't enhance such a "gift." 

Little stuffed toys holding wine themed signs, or a plush figures holding a corkscrew are off limits too. Custom made, carved wood signage with wine allusions or references are inane UNLESS they have meaningful significance. Eg. My wife had a friend make me a wood sign with the name "Ornellaia Del Cripini" on it.  It still hangs in my *"cellar" and was a wonderful surprise. At the time I had a very small vineyard in my yard from which I made 1-2 cases of wine from my own hand nurtured wine grapes.  I called my wine the name emblazoned on the sign! I love it! Most everything else--avoid with a couple exceptions.

1 Eg. I have a vintage poster from NAPA Valley back around the latter 70's. It is not only gorgeous but enologically meaningful. It too hangs in my cellar.

So let's look broadly at what TO get.

My first pick would be a wine aerator. I have had a Vinturi ($27 Amazon) for over a decade. There are numerous styles and price points and many are galmy, too big, and just too ostentatious. Mine cost under $20, it is held in your hand and wine is poured through it into your glass. They actually work! Avoid the ones that attach to the bottle, look like pot stills or something from Star Wars.

A very functional cork screw is a must and you are talking from $7 to $50.  (The expensive ones don't work any better than the cheaper ones. If you go this route, here is a MUST for a great wine cork. The leg of it, which hooks on the lip of the bottle needs to  be "articulated." This means the "leg" should be jointed in the middle. The purpose is so that when you are putting that hard to screw auger in a very dry and hard cork, you have to get that auger way down into the cork before you can pull the cork out using the little "leg." If it is articulated, you don't have to get that auger buried as deep into the cork making it much easier to extract even the toughest corks.

Wine glasses are a nice gift and should be clear!  Meaning NOT colored at all. They should have thin stems and you want what is typically known as a "Bordeaux" glass. These work well for all wines! But glasses get broken so you want a good quality glass as it truly does enhance the wine experience. I suggest you buy a single, VERY nice, higher end Riedel for the wine lover that will be HIS/HER own tasting glass. Everyone else can have decent glasses too but not the kind you loose your breath over when it tips over on the granite counter-top and breaks.  There are also wine glasses that are break resistant being made of glass and plastic. They feel good, they look good, and while they will break, they are much tougher than classical glass or crystal.  Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal are very nice.

Unscented dish soap-- Not sexy but if your recipient is a budding taster,  There is nothing worse than opening a lovely $45 wine and taking a first whiff of perfumy lemon scented soap. 

A wine aroma kit is wonderful but unless you make it yourself, it is cost prohibitive.. 

Wine books are good only if you know the wine lover likes to read and desires to learn more about wine.  The choices are myriad. But a "general" kind of book with nice pictures, are another nice gift.

Buying a special wine is always a good score and this is where "professional" help is very helpful. Go to a decent wine store and ask who their wine expert is. If they laugh, you're not in a good wine store. A real expert will ask you questions about how much you are thinking to spend and will try and get a feel for the level of hobby you are buying for. And do NOT be shy about saying "I don't want to spend more than $15 if that's what you are hoping.  (If you follow this blog-- which now has close to 1.5 million hits--I believe it is because I blog about the kinds of wine a "normal" person buys.  Sure I have been privileged to taste many extravagant wines but not that came out of my pocket.  :) 

If you are able to spend a couple to a few hundred dollars consider a wine refrigerator! I have one that holds maybe 30 bottles, keeping them at 55 degrees. I did not pay but a couple hundred bucks.

I will post more in the days ahead of New Years so check back!