Saturday, December 24, 2011

2004 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino

Another fine wine from our "Best of" wine tasting, and I can think of no better wine to post about on Christmas Eve.  After all, Christmas itself seems to go so well with Italian food and red wine, so what's better than the classic heart of Italian wine, the greatest wine in Tuscany, and arguably the greatest wine of Italy, Brunello di Montalcino!  This wine, the 2004 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino is a very nice example of this classic Tuscan great, and I can tell you I was not disappointed in the least!

The wine has a garnet color in the glass with a hint of rust color along the edges.  The nose was somewhat "woodsy" which I guess is my technical term for a combination of moss, oak, cedar, earth and tobacco all swirling around.  The taste had some tart cherry, and mild acidity and a subtle spiciness that made for quite a backbone on this wine.  I found the wine itself quite dry, but the mild tannins made for a very smooth finish.  As the wine for the heart of Tuscany, this wine would pair well with many hearty Italian dishes, or if you're bold enough, Bistecca alla Fiorentina!  For those of you unfamiliar, Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a Tuscan style steak about as big as your torso (I exaggerate, but these are big thick steaks) grilled over a wood fire, but if you don't have any 4-inch thick steaks handy, a nice 2-inch thick Porterhouse will do nicely!

This wine was simply delightful, and I would rate it a solid 9, perhaps higher but for the price (this one will set you back in the $30-40 range).  Even so, if you happen to find some online or at your local wine merchant, I suggest buying a bottle or two to enjoy with family and friends.  Tutti a tavola a mangiare!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2008 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine

This is another of our wines from our "Best of" wine tasting, the 2008 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine.  Washington is great at producing wonderful Bordeaux-style blends, and this is an interesting use of excess grapes from other blends in the Walla Walla/Columbia Valley region.  A product of Long Shadows Winery in Walla Walla, this wine is a blend of excess wines used in their signature wine blends from nine winemakers, hence "Nine Hats."

The wine itself is a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec, creating an interesting and smooth wine.  The wine exhibits a deep purple color in the glass with a good structure.  On the nose, it exhibits aromas of the forest, dominated by cedar, moss and tobacco with just the slightest floral hint.  The taste is somewhat abrupt when compared to some of the more mature wines like the Margaux or Brunello we tasted, but on it's own, this wine holds its own.  It's very fruit forward, with flavors of blackberry and cherry, with a mild acidity that holds any sweetness in check.  There is a spicy undertone of pepper and herbs.  The velvety tannins make for a luscious mouthfeel and a long, smooth finish.

For pairings, this wine would be ideal with a grilled steak, or perhaps a classic pot roast with all the classic roasted veggies.  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, with room for improvement as the wine matures.  The 2008 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine would make a great everyday wine, particularly given the price under $20.  I bought this one in a variety pack of wines from my friends at Esquin Wine Sellers out of Seattle, so it might not be available where you live.  If you have an opportunity to buy a bottle, you should certainly try it!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2007 Seven Hills McClellan Estate Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Petit Verdot

Another fine wine from our "Best of" wine club tasting, this one from one of my favorite wine regions, the Columbia Valley of Washington State, in particular, Walla Walla!  The 2007 Seven Hills McClellan Estate Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Petit Verdot is a really interesting wine for so many reasons, not the least being a rare single bottling of a varietal that is normally reserved for blending with many of the find Bordeaux style blends the Columbia Valley has become known for.

I'll admit I had my doubts, after all, what can I expect from a full bottle of wine based on a grape that normally doesn't exceed 20% of a blend?  Well, this wine was delicious and interesting in so many unexpected ways!  The color of this wine was a deep purple, almost inky in appearance, suggesting a wine packed with flavors, and it was.  The nose was somewhat floral, with hints of rose, along with an earthy character denoted by aromas of oak, cedar, tobacco and leather.  On my tasting notes I wrote "evolving" but I don't think this wine is evolving in a traditional sense (i.e. this will mature over the next few years), but rather than it was evolving and changing even as it was in my mouth!  At one moment, tart cherry and licorice, then a spicy smoky flavor, then a little sweetness of plum and cassis, amazing how the flavors can exhibit such complexity.  The tannins provided for a velvety mouthfeel and a long, smooth finish.

For pairings, this wine would be perfect with beef or pork tenderloin or a variety of Mediterranean dishes.  I bought this one from, and as I recall it was around $20, so not a super bargain, but certainly well worth a double sawbuck.  Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, it's still a little young so there's time for it to mature a little more before I open my next bottle.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2006 Grimaldi Luigino e C. SNC Vigna San Biagio Barolo

Another wine from our "Best of" wine tasting, this one a classic from northern Italy, the 2006 Grimaldi Luigino Vigna San Biagio Barolo.  The Barolo is the classic wine from the Piedmont region of Italy, produced from the Nebbiolo grape variety.  In recent years, a number of purists have been disappointed in the quality of Barolos, given the shift toward more modern winemaking techniques which many fans thought diminished the quality and heritage of these wonderful wines.  Fortunately, it seems that the 2006 vintage has sought to recapture some of the past passion of this wine, and I will admit this particular wine is very interesting.

The 2006 Grimaldi Luigino Vigna San Biagio Barolo is of a more subtle style than other Barolos, so if you prefer more powerful, in your face wines, this one is probably not for you.  The wine is lighter in color, with the classic brownish almondine tint along the edges.  The nose presents a bit of rose, berries, tobacco and leather.  The taste bursts with rich fruit, with prune/plum sweetness balanced by some cherry acidity, while the warm tannins undergird a clean, delicate finish.

For pairings, I think this wine would work well with many of the wonderful dishes of the Piedmont region, and particularly I think this would be perfect with a Fontina cheese risotto, as the acidity of the wine plays off the richness of the cheese.  I would rate the one a solid 8, it's an absolutely wonderful wine, but the price leaves a little to be desired – for $45 you can find many truly special wines.  Cin cin!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2007 Tiare Impériale Châteauneuf-du-Pape

You know, I've really come to love the wines of southern France more and more over the last several months.  Whether a nice blend of Grenache from the Longuedoc, or a classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône, these wines are just great expressions of the region.  The 2007 Tiare Impériale Châteauneuf-du-Pape represents the classic aspects of this wine, which dates back to Pope Clement V, the former archbishop of Bordeaux who relocated the papacy to the French city of Avignon in 1308.  As great lovers of wine, the popes of the 70-years of Avignon popes did a lot to promote the wines of Burgundy and the Rhône, and eventually this wine became known as "Vin du Pape" or wine of the pope, to today's Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The wine itself is a blend of 13 different grape varieties, dominated by the classic blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (GSM anyone?).  The wine was somewhat opaque with a beautify reddish purple color.  The nose was somewhat earthy, with hints of tobacco and leather.  The taste was somewhat fruited, with cherries and a bit of licorice.  The tannins were quite mellow for such a young wine, leading to a somewhat soft finish.  Overall, this wine really brought to mind the lovely warm Mediterranean breezes of the Côte d’Azur, and if you can get that feeling from a bottle of wine, it can't be all bad! 

As for pairings, I think this wine would be lovely with a variety of seafood dishes, or even a bouillabaisse for those who are more adventurous!  Overall, this wine was a fairly good value for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I think I bought it from Wines Till Sold Out for under $30.  For my rating, I would put this one at a solid 8, it's a nice example of the wine, but there was definitely room for improvement.  Salut!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2000 Taurian Vineyards Sonoma Zinfandel

This was a fun, last minute addition to our "Best of" wine tasting, just because it was something different.  Granted, for a best of Zinfandel, my personal preference would be one from Lodi, since in my opinion the best Zins come from Lodi, no matter what anyone else thinks!  But this one I wanted to drink since it was the last bottle of a non-consecutive vertical (1995, 1999 and 2000) that I bought from Lot 18.  This offering of three bottles was based on a quantity of wine found in storage since this winery is not longer in operation.  Of the others, I thought the 1995 was a great wine (maybe I got lucky), and the 1999 was undrinkable, so I was hoping this would be more like the '95!

Overall, it was okay, nothing too special or exciting, though it also seemed to be getting past its prime, so this might be our last chance!  The nose on this wine was somewhat alarming, as some in the group described the aroma as a horse in a barnyard, to which I could not really disagree.  I guess we'll just call that earthy.  The taste however was somewhat surprising in a pleasant way, hints of earth, leather and tobacco, mingled with black pepper and ripe cherries made this one an interesting one.  Overall, I have had many other Zinfandels that were far better, and despite the age, this wine was somewhat disappointing, resulting in a 6.5 rating.  Thankfully I don't think this wine can be found anymore, but if you happen upon some, exercise due caution!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Once again, the beauty of Oregon shines through on their Pinot Noirs, and the 2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is no exception!  This was another wine from our "Best of" wine tasting, and of the two Pinots we tried, this one was clearly my favorite.

The wine itself had a rich ruby color, suggesting something a bit heavier for a Pinot, and suggesting this wine might be something special.  The nose was quite earthy, with hints of cedar and the tiniest bit of leather, taking me back to my time living in the Pacific Northwest, the lovely rain forests, hiking near Mount Hood and tasting wine throughout the Willamette Valley.  The wine itself had a complexity that defied its youth, fruit forward, with hints of plum and wild berry, balanced with hints of oak and cedar.  With mild acidity and subtle tannins, this wine makes for a long, smooth finish.

I would easily pair this wine with a variety of seafood dishes from the Pacific coast, but most of all, I can see this wine as a perfect complement to a cedar planked wild salmon at the peak of the season, with fresh steamed asparagus and couscous with toasted pine nuts.  I would easily rate this wine an 8.5, and the fact that you can often find this wine on sale for under $20 makes it an even more impressive find!

2008 Cloudline Pinot Noir

This wine was part of our "Best of" wine tasting, and what's not to love about a Pinor Noir from Oregon?  Now I'll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Pinor Noir, but having lived in Portland for a few years and traveling extensively throughout the Willamette Valley, I have to admit it kinda grows on you!

The 2008 Cloudline Oregon Pinot Noir is not a pure Willamette Valley wine, but is a blend of wine from a variety of Oregon vineyards.  This is one of the lighter Pinot Noirs that I've had, and it tends to have more delicate flavors than some heavier wines.  The wine itself has a nose that is somewhat woodsy, with mild floral aromas, that hints at the lightness.  As for the taste, it's a fruit forward wine with hints of blackberry and an almost honey-like sweetness, with a finish that was somewhat lacking.  This wine is light enough that I would hesitate to pair it with a full meal, instead I think it's an ideal wine for a cheese course, particularly made up soft cheeses that would not overpower the delicate nature of this wine.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7, it's certainly not a "knock your socks off" sort of wine, but for the $12-15 price tag, it certainly is a value among Oregon Pinots!

A wonderful wine tasting

Last night we had a chance to get together with a bunch of us from my office wine club to have a little tasting, and it was a lot of fun!  I always enjoy sharing good wine with friends, and this was a perfect opportunity to share as we get into the holiday season.

There are many ways to do a tasting, whether picking a theme, trying different wines from the same winery, the same type of wine from different wineries or vintages, you get the idea.  Well, our theme yesterday was "the best of" where we went about tasting some of the best wines from various regions, focusing on what each region is known for.  We had Pinot Noir from Oregon, Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, a Barolo and Brunello from Italy, a Margaux from Bordeaux, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from southern France, you get the idea. 

We had a variety of cheeses, crackers, olives and salami to just have some nice snacks as we tasted, and what's not to love about wine and cheese?  And then the wine!  So what did we have?  Here is a list of what we tasted last night:

·         From France:
o   2005 Château La Tour de Bessan Margaux (2005 was a great Bordeaux vintage)
o   2007 Tiare Impériale Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre oh my!)
·         From Italy:
o   2004 Casanuova delleCerbaie Brunello di Montalcino (arguably the best wine produced in Italy, and certainly the best of Tuscany)
o   2006 Grimaldi Barolo (the best of the Piedmont)
·         From California:
o   2006 and 2007 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2007 was a great vintage for Napa Valley Cabs)
o   2000 Taurian Vineyards Sonoma Zinfandel (this one was a last minute addition, just for fun, and to see if it was still drinking all right!)
·         From Oregon:
o   2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (the best Pinot Noir comes from Oregon, and specifically the Willamette Valley)
o   2008 Cloudline Pinot Noir
·         From Washington State:
o   2007 Seven Hills McClellan Estate Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Petit Verdot (this is a varietal that normally is blended, rarely seen in a single bottle, this prized Bordeaux grape should produce a wine to be reckoned with!)
o   2008 Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine (Washington is great at producing wonderful Bordeaux-style blends, and this is an interesting use of excess grapes from other blends in the Walla Walla/Columbia Valley region)

I'll begin putting up some reviews today, with more to come over the next couple weeks.  So enjoy a vicarious tasting, but better yet, why don't you try one yourself?  All you need is a couple bottles of wine and a few friends and viola!

Monday, November 14, 2011

2006 J. Bouchon Merlot

Ok, so I've already gone on a Merlot rant, so this one we'll just play by the numbers.  Tonight I am enjoying a bottle of 2006 J. Bouchon Merlot from Chile.  Now the merits of Merlot aside, you have to admit that in the last few years Chile has been producing some remarkably wonderful, yet inexpensive wines for us to enjoy, and I think this is one of them.

This wine has a deep ruby color, with a nose of licorice, spice and ripe berries, with just the faintest hint of cedar.  As for the taste, this is a dry but remarkable fruit forward wine, with the taste of ripe plum, cassis and cherry, with just a hint of tobacco near the finish, which is remarkable smooth and supple, and very dry (it is a Merlot after all!).  This is a really easy drinking wine that really opens up after a few minutes in the glass.  Tonight I am enjoying it with a chicken breast, wild rice and some awesome fresh Brussells sprouts right from the stalk that my friend Amanda picked up for me at Trader Joe's and we love Trader Joe's!

Overall, I would rate this wine a very pleasant 7.0, nothing earth shaking, but a very nice everyday table wine at a value price.  This was a WTSO Cheapskate Wednesday selection that I picked up a couple weeks ago for only $8 delivered!  Can you believe it?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

2008 Mount Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

So tonight I decided to open a bottle of our office wine club's November selection, the 2008 Mount Veeder Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  I am fighting a cold, so my sense of smell and taste could be affected, but that will not stop me from enjoying a nice cab!  So let's get right down to business.

This wine has all the earmarks of a classic Napa cab, a rich deep ruby color, with an opacity that hints at its complexity.  The nose is a combination of leather, tobacco and spice that let's you know this wine is not playing games.  The taste is absolutely beautiful, with a fruit forward appeal of cherries and ripe blackberries, giving way quickly to the young tannins that give this wine big bold Cabernet taste leading to a long smooth finish.  What a great wine, perhaps not to the level of the now legendary 2007 vintage, but a fantastic wine in its own right nonetheless.

This wine would pair well with a variety of grilled meats, perfect with a rare T-bone, or many spicy Italian dishes, as the wine stands up to many flavors, as it stands well on it's own.  This was one of our more expensive wine club selections at $20 (thank you!), but still a bargain as this wine seldom goes for less than $25, but still the cheapskates in the office whined, so it looks like I'll be stuck with a few bottles for myself <==insert evil grin==>.  I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 to 9, as it has everything a big bold Cab should have, so enjoy a bottle tonight!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

2007 Moulin de Vissandre Domaine de Fabrègues Coteaux du Languedoc

Happy #LanguedocDay!  A new holiday from Rick Bakas, who has done past fun events like #CabernetDay among others, is a celebration of the wonderful wines of the Languedoc in the south of France.  Wines of the Languedoc contain many familiar grape varieties, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier, which to my mind bring out the warmth and flavor of the region.

To celebrate #LanguedocDay, I am enjoying a bottle of 2007 Moulin de Vissandre Domaine de Fabrègues Coteaux du Languedoc, which I got a couple weeks ago during WTSO's "Cheapskate Wednesday" so what more could I ask, a new wine from an interesting region for a bargain price?  The 2007 Moulin de Vissandre is a classic blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Carignan, which is a red wine grape believed to have originated from the Aragon region of Spain.  Interestingly, most of the Carignan used in French wine used to be imported from Algeria until its independence in 1962, when the French began to plant the variety near the Mediterranean coast.

The wine itself is a classic Languedoc, which is certainly different than your standard Cabernet or Merlot from Bordeaux.  I've read some pretty negative reviews of these types of wines, but most I think were from people who were unfamiliar with the varietals and hence did not appreciate what these wines have to offer.  This wine is quite pleasant, with a nose of leather, blackberry and tobacco with a hint of spice.  The taste is fruit forward, with flavors of ripe berry and plum, with a smooth, subtle finish, that leaves you feeling as though a warm breeze was blowing off the Mediterranean as you relax at the end of a hard day of leisure.  This is an especially good feeling for me today since it's been snowing off and on since this morning!  As for pairings, this wine would go very well with some soft cheese, a variety of roast poultry or seafood.  But for tonight, I am having it with a classic northern European dinner of Kielbasa, saur kraut and pierogis!  How's that for an interesting choice?

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7, as a good example of the types of wine from the Languedoc, and for value you can add another half point as this one came delivered for only $7!  Can you believe it?  So whether it's this bottle or another, I'd encourage you to try a new wine from the Languedoc!

Monday, November 7, 2011

2008 Buried Cane Merlot

Man, one stupid movie, and a whole broad array of wines get trashed!  I'm talking about the unfortunate Merlot, the object of abuse and brunt of jokes since that sad sack movie Sideways of nearly a decade ago.  What a depressing movie that was, not because I am approaching the age of the two main characters, but because the two main characters led such depressing lives even a Chardonnay would have made me happy if I were either one of them!  Let's be serious, the character "Miles" elevates pinot noir to vaunted status, even though they are traveling through "Santa Barbara wine country" even though anyone worth their salt would freely admit that any decent pinot comes from much further north, ummm anyone?  How about Oregon!  And then he denigrates Merlot throughout, and what did Merlot ever do to him?  Maybe get that sad lonely film an Oscar?  Oh, but I digress, I must leave discussion of the idiotic tastes of the Academy for another time!

In any case, just because an idiot character in a movie praises or denigrates a varietal, doesn't mean we should listen!  That would make us even more numbskulled than the imaginary person we listened to.  For me, I love a good big bold Cabernet, but I also am a huge fan of exceptionally dry red wines, after all, I learned to like red wines in Paris!  So a nice Merlot will always have a place in my cellar and a glass to be filled.  Which brings me to tonight's selection, the 2008 Buried Cane Merlot from Washington State.

You must know that wines of the Northwest, and particularly the Columbia Valley have a special place in my heart.  This wine was a WTSO Cheapskate Wednesday selection, so you know it's a value.  The wine has a wonderful nose of ripe berry, leather and spice.  The taste is exceptionally dry, with subtle fruit flavors and a smooth finish.  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, and it was a great bargain at only $8!  I'll be enjoying a glass or two with some linguine and marinara sauce (sorry, no time for a fancy dinner on a work night!), but it would pair well with a nice baked salmon as well!  Salut!

Friday, October 28, 2011

2007 Taverna II Lagarino Di Dionisio Basilicata IGT

Ahhh...Cheapskate Wednesday, what a wonderful holiday!  For those of you who are unaware, Cheapskate Wednesday is an event by Wines Till Sold Out ( where they go though all their leftover stock and put them up every 15 minutes (or till sold out) throughout the day on a Wednesday.  Well, this past Wednesday was of the Cheapskate variety, so I ended up buying 12 different wines to share among friends and the office wine club, and shockingly, the first 7 arrived at my door today!  As such, I am enjoying the first of my fruits tonight, the 2007 Taverna Il Lagarino Di Dionisio Basilicata!

If you're unfamiliar with this Italian wine, you're not alone, as I've never heard of it either, but what the heck, I'll try anything once.  The wine hails from the Basilicata region of Italy, which if you think of the "boot" it's right between the heel and the toe, so it has the interesting position of touching two seas, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea (Gulf of Taranto) to the southeast.  Being so far south from the more famous Italian wine regions, the Basilicata has some very interesting history.  The region is only known for one kind of grape, Aglianico del Vulture, which derives its name from a bastardization of the word "Hellenic" or Greek, and Mount Volture.  Interestingly enough, there are no grapes native to the region, but the variety so prominent here were planted by the Greeks when they settled the area in pre-Roman times, so these grapes have been made into wine long before the native varieties to the north!

Il Lagarino di Dionisio is primarily a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which certainly shows up in the color and flavor of the wine.  It is during the second fermentation that Aglianico del Vulture grapes are added to the blend, giving it a unique character compared to similar blends.  The wine is a deep ruby color with a nose of soft berries, chocolate and tobacco.  The taste is dry, yet has a rather complex, nuanced flavors throughout, with rising fruit flavors intermingled with a spicy earthiness.  The delicate tannins create a lush mouthfeel and smooth finish.  This wine is not your typical Italian red, but I think it would go with a variety of Mediterranean cuisine, though tonight I think I'll enjoy it with some penne alla vodka, as the spiciness of the wine might be the perfect compliment for a sweet creamy sauce.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.0, which would have easily been higher, but for the price at $14.  So look for this one on WTSO, or at your local wine merchant and try a different taste of Italian wine!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Pair of Chilean Cabernets

Ok, I'll admit it, I like cheap wine!  Not like I've not taken up drinking from paper bags, nor have I splurged on a case of Boone's Farm, but I always love finding a nice drinking wine for a price that doesn't make you feel bad for drinking every day.  Now color me ignorant, but I had always know Chile as a big exporter of copper and agricultural commodities, but I was surprised to find out they are the the world's fifth largest exporter of wine and the eighth largest producer of wine.  I suppose that shouldn't have been surprising given its proximity to Argentina (who loves a good Malbec?) and the wonderful coastal terrain that should be ideal for wine making.

So about a month ago, I embarked on my South American journey when I purchased a case of 2009 Chilensis Riserva Cabernet Sauvignon from my friends at G.B. Russo's for only $84 less a $15 mail in rebate (did I ever send that in?), and I've been drinking it off an on since then, just opening a bottle or two during the week as my everyday drinking wine.  The Chilensis comes from the Colchagua Valley of Chile, which is in the southern part of the Rapel Valley, south of Santiago and to the west of San Fernando.  The area is known for it's Cabernet, Carménère, Syrah and Malbec.  This Cabernet is drinking quite well despite it's youth, displaying a nose of black cherry, leather and spice.  For taste, this wine has very structured tannins resulting in a smooth, dry taste with a luscious mouthfeel.  Overall a great wine for grilled meats, heavy Italian dishes (I'm enjoying it tonight with some linguine and arrabbiata sauce with Italian sausage).  Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8, which is only made better by it's super $7 price tag.  My only complaint about the wine is the lack of a natural cork, though I suppose the screw cap makes it easier to drink throughout the week.

The second wine from Chile is the Cono Sur (get it? Cono Sur, Connoisseur, nice play on words) from the Central Valley just south of Santiago.  Cono Sur is an interesting winery, with a bicycle on the label it shows the concern they have for the environment and sustainable viticulture.  In fact many of their wines are certified organic, however this basic Cabernet is not.  Even so, it benefits from the same environmentally conscious practices that show up in the quality of the wine.  I first tasted this wine at Russo's in a comparison with 2010 organic monastrell and 2008 Groth Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet (talk about big shoes to fill!) and this one stood up quite well, even to a legendary Napa cab.  The wine is much more fruit forward than the Chilensis, with a nose of blackberry and currant, and a hint of cedar and tobacco.  The taste is like a big bold California Cab, much different than the Chilensis, this was a more fruity, in-your-face wine, making it a perfect with spicy dishes, or hearty beef roasts.  This would also be ideal for a nice cheese course, particularly with some of the stronger cheeses.  Again, this was a very nice wine, easy drinking and a quality that belies it's $8 price tag (though it was on sale, regularly it's $11).  Overall I would rate this one an 8.5 as I just liked it a little better than it's Chilean cousin (though it still has the same problem with the screw cap!).

So if you haven't already, you should open your heart to the beauty of Chilean wines, they are solid quality and an affordable price.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

2006 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Well, it's hot and sunny out today, perhaps a last gasp of summer before the Fall truly gets a foothold.  So you'd expect a lighter bodied red for such a summery day, but who ever said I was predictable?  Tonight I cracked open a bottle of 2006 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps a rebellious response to so many young cabs (e.g. less than 4 years old) I've been drinking lately.

The wine is a beautiful deep ruby color, and somewhat opaque.  The nose is somewhat earthy, with hints of leather and tobacco, and something else I can't quite wrap my mind around, perhaps licorice?  Maybe I should just leave it as a generic "spice" but there is definitely something else there.  The taste is surprisingly fruit forward, with strong flavors of cherry, mixed with a hint of cedar and very elegant tannin structure giving it an exquisitely smooth and dry finish. 

I must admit, for a Napa Valley cab, this wasn't the big, bold, overpowering wine I might have expected.  Instead, this is a much more structured and balanced wine that I think will draw out the flavors of the food it accompanies.  Tonight, I am pairing this wine with some linguine with red sauce, fresh Italian sausage and sweet red and yellow peppers, and I expect this wine will perfectly accent such a flavor rich dish, particularly once it opens up a bit as I am cooking!  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it might have been higher, but for the price.  I got this one from for a discounted price of just $25, which is still a little steep for today's frugality, but you have to splurge sometimes right? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

2008 Liberty School Cuvee

Ok, I will fully admit now that I've been a total and complete slacker on my wine blog, part of it's due to not drinking a whole lot of interesting wines lately, but also the fact that I have been super busy.  With what, I'm not so sure, since I can't recall accomplishing much over the last few weeks!

Tonight I am reviewing the Liberty School 2008 Cuvee, an interesting blend that I've never tried before.  In the past I've tried Liberty School's cabernet sauvignon and was a pretty big fan, a nice bold cab at an awesome price.  So I happened upon this wine at my regular rounds to G. B. Russo's in Grand Rapids and it was on sale for something like $10, which is sure to get me to try new things.  Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed.

The Liberty School Cuvee comes from Paso Robles, on the central coast of California, and a place where some of the most wonderful Zinfandels come.  But this wine is not a Zin, but an up and coming blend (which apparently is becoming a big deal in the central coast, who knew?).  This wine is a blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier, making it so close to the fine blends from the south of France that I have so come to adore.

This wine is a lighter style that is really perfect for summer, or a summery 80-degree afternoon in early October!  It's light in color, but crystal clear, with a nose that exhibits clear fruit aromas of cherry, blackberry and currant and a hint of smokiness.  The taste was lighter and fruit forward, but nonetheless complex.  With flavors of cherry, strawberry and plum combined with hints of black pepper and anise, I was surprised by the soft tannins and resulting smooth dry finish reminiscent of the fine blends of the Rhone Valley.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, particularly given the $10 price tag!  Try some today with a grilled salmon steak or perhaps a nice pork tenderloin with some freshly grilled summer squash!

Friday, September 23, 2011

2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon

Today is the autumnal equinox, half day, half night and the first official day of Fall, so what better way to celebrate fall than to go back to school!  In this case we'll be going back to school at one of my absolute favorite wineries of all time, L'Ecole No. 41 in Lowden, Wash.  You see, today I was fortunate in that a long awaited order (blast you summer head!) arrived at my office, along with the L'Ecole red wine club selection for fall!

So to celebrate this banner day, I am enjoying a bottle of the 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon!  Now wines from Washington are exceptional in many ways, and those from Walla Walla represent the cream of the crop in my view.  Having lived in Washington and Oregon for five years, I had more than my fair share of opportunities to travel in the Columbia Valley, visiting the fine folks at L'Ecole as well as the many other fine vineyards along U.S. 12.  The wines are exceptional Bordeaux blends that can stand up to the best wines anywhere in the world, and many are such small vineyards with limited production that having a bottle is sure to be a special treat to share with friends and family.

Tonight I am enjoying a new vintage, the 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon, which is likely still a bit young, but sure to mature quite nicely in the years to come.  I must have at least two or three cases of L'Ecole wines with vintages going back to 2000, and it's really interesting to see how the wines have evolved and matured over the years (unfortunately your author hasn't evolved and matured nearly as much!).

The wine itself is a beautiful ruby red color, and the nose is a blend of plum and black cherry mingling with rich leather and earth, suggesting your about to get your wine drinking butt kicked by a really solid red!  The taste is a surprisingly delicate and sophisticated array of fruit, with plums, blackberry, yet an elegant tannic structure that provides a fabulously dry finish that's quite unexpected from a wine with such fruit.  After a long day of work, I am so happy to relax with a glass of such a nice wine that brings back memories of warm summers in the high desert of eastern Washtington...Ahhh... As for my rating, this wine is not inexpensive, but it's worth every penny of the $36 asking price (by the way, if you are a wine club member like me, you get all sorts of exclusive bottlings and other fun stuff, 3 special shipments a year, and 15% off the price of this wine!), so overall I would rate this one a solid 9 with plenty of room to advance as it matures.  So if you have access, pick up a bottle for yourself today, and enjoy it with a rare ribeye and some grilled veggies like I'm doing tonight!

Finally, a note for my friends at L'Ecole No. 41: I know you've spend a lot of effort on the new labels and marketing, and I think it's fabulous.  The embossed white labels of the Walla Walla wines and special wines is sophisticated and projects a solid image for the winery.  However, some of us have enjoyed the Recess Red over the last few years, and before that the School House Red, they were fun and whimsical, and fit well with the old labels, so I can understand how they might not make it with the refreshed 2009 vintage.  That said, the new "Red Wine" that replaces the recess red has to be renamed.  I mean really, we go from whimsical "Recess Red" to "Red Wine"?  You may as well save the printing fees and stencil it on the bottle with white paint!  Here's a suggestion, how about a contest to name the replacement?  Get your fans involved, offer a nice prize, maybe a free bottle of the newly named wine in their honor?  I'll get you started, here is my suggestion, let's go back to School House Red, but with a French twist, "l'école maison rouge."  Now set loose the creativity of your rabid fans to honor the best red table wine on the planet under $20 (in my opinion anyway) with a name that fits the great product that it is!

Friday, September 9, 2011

2005 Saviez Zinfandel I love a good Zin! And although I freely admit that some of the best Zins come from Lodi, on occasion the Napa Valley comes up with some pleasant surprised as with tonight's escapade, the 2005 Saviez Vinyards Napa Valley Zinfandel.

Now this is one of those vertical picks, as last year I had such a good experience with their 2004 vintage, we decided to go with it again for our office wine club's September pick, and I was not disappointed!  The wine is a classic Zin, fruit forward with a long smooth finish.  The wine itself is a deep ruby red, with a bit of opaqueness.  It exhibits scents of ripe berries, cherries and a hint of leather and tobacco.  As you take a whiff, you get the sense that something really good awaits!  And there's no disappointment with the taste, as the sweetness of rich ripe fruit quickly gives way to leather and cedar and a long, smooth, tannin filled finish.  The wine just exudes the characteristics of a small production, high-quality producer.  Now, compared with the 2004 vintage, this is clearly the step child, as that vintage was just super all around, but this one is still quite a nice Zin and one which I would easily buy at the price.

Tonight I enjoyed this wine with a nice rare New York strip and an ear of grilled corn, a perfect summer meal to start the weekend.  Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8, with a chance to improve with a little age, though Saviez is quite good at not releasing their Zins before they are at least ready to drink!  Salut!

Monday, September 5, 2011

2009 Il Bastardo Rosso di Toscana

Happy Labor Day!  What a wonderful holiday to celebrate the end of summer, and in some cases a last hurrah for summer barbecues and cook outs, such a shame, but alas the changing seasons adds such spice to life doesn't it?

So on this Labor Day, I decided to go to the supermarket to get some groceries and perhaps find something good for my dinner this evening.  Well, I was thinking perhaps a nice steak, maybe a nice pork tenderloin, but let's not decide too quickly, and instead just let the super sales inspire me! 

We'll turn to my dinner in a moment, but for the wine tonight I picked out one of my old time favorites, the 2009 Il Bastardo Rosso di Toscana, a lighter red wine from Tuscany which would pair very well with my dinner.  Plus it has to have one of my favorite labels of all time, Il Bastardo himself, relaxing with a glass of his wine, oh how I can identify with this man!

The wine itself as I said was on the lighter side, with a clear ruby color and a nose of light fruit, leather and a touch of cedar.  The taste is quite dry, with a hint of ripe fruit, very few tannins and an exceptionally dry finish.  This wine would pair well with so many dishes, from steaks to roasts, to chicken and fish.  So what am I pairing it with tonight?  Well I started at one supermarket, where I like their produce, but not so much their meat (do you have that problem, you find yourself doing your grocery shopping at multiple stores?  I guess it's just like the old days before supercenters, where you went to a bakery, a butcher shop and a farm stand for your food...) but they had a nice Labor Day sale on fresh sweet corn, locally grown for 10¢ an ear so I picked up some, since that can go with any cook out!  Then off to the other store for some meat, still thinking about steak or pork tenderloin, when there I see the live lobsters for only $8 each!  So that is dinner tonight, steamed lobster with drawn butter and corn on the cob!  A real New England holiday meal in the Midwest, though it also reminds me of back in college when the Civil Air Patrol sold Maine lobsters for like $5 each as a fundraiser, so every fall when we got back on campus we'd have our annual lobster fest!

So back to the wine, it's not all that impressive, but it did make that Lobster come alive with flavor, and for $8, how can you complain about Il Bastardo?  With that label alone, I give this wine a solid 7!  Enjoy the end of summer however you celebrate!

Friday, September 2, 2011

2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel

Oh how I love a good Zin, and this week has been a good week for them!  Earlier in the week our monthly wine club selection was a good Zin, and today I received a delivery of 5 bottles of 2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Zin from!  So tonight I will enjoy a bottle.

I have a long history with Ravenswood, when I was a sell side analyst, we had our monthly "dog 'n' pony" show and one time in 2000 we met with Ravenswood, one of the few publicly traded wineries.  And after the presentation by their CEO and CFO, they opened up a case of their wares for us to try, mostly reds mind you, which suited me just fine.  Needless to say, we picked up research coverage, but I was not the analyst in charge, yet I still maintained a fondness in my heart for Ravenswood, with their signature tagline "NO WIMPY WINES!" Well, eventually they were bought out, so the investment side worked well, but even afterwards, they have maintained and even expanded their great wines, moving from their own label to specialty single vineyard labels like the one I am trying tonight.

The 2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel comes from a great family vineyard run by the Teldeschi family and focusing on growing Zin, along with petite syrah and carignane, which are often blended with this wine.  The wine expresses everything I expect in a great Zin, the nose is full of bright fruit, blackberry, cherry, black currant, along with a wonderful hint of cedar and tobacco.  The color is an inky, dark purple that suggest the strength of the wine and the smoothness of the tannins.  On the palate it's a simply delicious and vibrant explosion of fruit, followed by a long, smooth, dry finish that is so characteristic of the Zins of the Dry Creek Valley in the Sonoma Valley.  So wonderful, it would pair well with a grilled steak, seared tuna with a wasabi glaze, or a simple Italian dish, like the sausage with onions and multi-colored peppers I am enjoying it with tonight!   Keep in mind also, this is a young wine, and although I treated myself tonight, the remaining bottles will likely be cellared for at least a few years to mature.

Overall, this wine is a little expensive, with a usual price around $35, but I got a great deal on this for only $21, and for that price I rate this a solid 8.5 to 9.0!  There are so many other great wines from Ravenswood I'd encourage you to try, from their basic everyday table reds for $8-9 to their exclusive single vineyard bottlings, they are all high quality, great wines that have never disappointed me!  Cin Cin!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Celebrate #CabernetDay!

Well, hard to believe it's been a year, but it's September 1st and #CabernetDay once again!  So tonight I am celebrating (!) with a bottle of 2007 Wine Spots Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, after all, I heard somewhere that Napa Valley makes good cabs, and 2007 was a pretty good year! =)

I can't remember where I got this bottle, but in looking it up on the internet, it apparently was a pretty pricey bottle, though I can't imagine I paid that much for it.  Wine Spots is interesting in that rather than a single vineyard, they go to various spots known for great wines and work with local producers to come up with a wine that vividly illustrates what makes that spot great for wine, hence the Wine Spot!  Well lucky for me, this particular bottle seeks to show the best of Napa Valley in a bottle of Cab, perfect for #CabernetDay!This wine was made with a blend of grape sourced from acclaimed sub-regions including Rutherford and Oakville, so it should be pretty good right?

Well, I won't leave you in suspense any longer, it is indeed VERY good!  The nose is an interesting combination of lush fruit, leather and a hint of a light floral scent.  The mouthfeel is big and luscious, with lots of velvety tannins for a long finish.  The taste bursts forth with blackberry and cherry, with a woodsy sort of background, and despite the early fruit, the wine is actually quite dry, really showing the greatness of Napa Valley Cabs.  This wine would be a perfect match for grilled steak, or some rich barbecue as we approach the last holiday of summer, though tonight I'm enjoying it with some spicy chorizo and bean tacos!  I can't remember how much this one cost, but ignoring price I would rate this one a solid 8.5, a great Napa Cap to enjoy anytime!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A new cellar!

Ok, so this post is only tangentially about wine, but last Friday night I finally broke down and bought a wine cooler (and no, not the classic Bartles & Jaymes fuzzy navel)!  A friend at work told me that the local Lowe's was having a clearance on a Frigidaire 34-bottle wine cooler for only $171, so I had to do it!  I got there after work on Friday and of course saw the last one with my friend's name taped to it, but there was still the display model, so a little negotiation and an additional 15% discount later and I drove home with my new fridge!  Here is the standard image, since I haven't had time to take a picture of mine yet:

It's a nice little unit, but there are certainly some quirks to be aware of, particularly if like me, this is your first wine cooler.  This particular model did not have the digital temperature settings (I highly recommend them as I think it would make operating a lot easier!) so I had to experiment with the settings which went from "Min" to "Max."  So I had to experiement with a bottle of wine I wasn't afraid to ruin, well maybe a few basic bottles of red just to see how they did.

I started with the "recommended" setting, but that ended up chilling the wine way too much, a cabernet served at 50 degrees is just plain wrong!  So I adjusted all weekend until I got to the minumum setting, and that turned out to be the right one, cooling to a nice 62-64 degrees.  Once the temperature was settled, I stocked the cooler with some of my older wines, where temperature control is much more important, and surprisingly enough, I managed to fill up the fridge!  Of course this freed up a lot more space in my usual cellar, the hall closet, so now I have no worries about stroring wine for the moment.  But you know how that is, building it and they will come, so I expect in a month or two the closet will again be at capacity!

In the meantime, a small fridge is an inexpensive method to long-term, safe storage of wines with consistent temperature and humidity, if like me, you don't live in a place with a cool, dark basement for wine storage.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2006 D-Cubed Primitivo

What a beautiful evening!  The sun is shining, it's perhaps 75 degrees, and an ideal evening for a glass of wine on the patio before dinner.  Tonight I'm enjoying a wine that accentuates the feel of a late summer evening, the 2006 D-Cubed Primitivo from Napa Valley.

For those of you unfamiliar with Primitivo, it's a close cousin to Zinfandel (and what great Zins come from Sonoma!), and in fact DNA testing has shown that it's nearly identical to Zinfandel grapes.  The Primitivo is commonly grown in the "heel" of Italy, producing wonderful wines with bountiful fruit, and a somewhat higher alcohol content.  Now, in the mid-19th century, the Primitivo grape was brought to California where it took on the "Zinfandel" name, and today produces a great red wine, along with it blush sister, the White Zinfandel which is quite popular in the United States, though I couldn't begin to tell you why!

The D-Cubed Primitivo has a nose full of fruit, and a quick whiff will surely tell you this is a more fruit-forward red than many of the dry Bordeaux style blends.  You can smell hints of blackberry and cherry, which a bit of woody earthiness.  The taste is wonderfully loaded with fruit, so much that it almost makes you think it's sweeter than it is.  As it hits the back of your mouth, you get a great hint of spice and cedar before a clean smooth finish.  This wine would be great as a later dinner pairing with a cheese plate, particularly with some stronger cheeses (tonight I enjoyed it with a little aged swiss).  I got this one as a Wines Till Sold Out Cheapskate Wednesday selection, and I really enjoyed it.  I would rate this one a solid 8.5, particularly given the wonderful price of only $13!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2007 Rumpus Syrah

Ok, seriously, how can you not just love a wine called "Rumpus"?!?!?  I saw this one on the WTSO cheapskate Wednesday a couple weeks back and couldn't resist, after all even if the wine was terrible, it's called RUMPUS!!!

Well, lucky for me and several friends who shared this purchase, it's not a terrible wine.  Quite the opposite, this is really an exceptional Syrah from California's Sonoma Valley.  No often times we see a syrah or "shiraz" and expect it to be lighter and a great pairing for lighter summer fare, or just sitting on the patio enjoying a glass of wine on an August evening, but this one is much more like a petite syrah, which is such a misnomer...

The Rumpus syrah is a blend of 86% syrah with the balance of Cabernet Franc, which is a blending grape that is so underappreciated in my opinion.  So in this instance you end up with a wine that is a deep ruby, almost inky color in the glass, so you get the sense that this is not the lighter side of syrah.  The nose is ripped with scents of cedar, leather and pepper, which merely whets your appetite for the wine that's to come.  The taste has an infusion of berries, with spice and delicate tannins that scream fine age worthy wine from the south of France!  But this is from California, showing that our friends outside Napa can compete just as effectively on the world wine stage.

I've been sipping this wine all evening as I've been cooking dinner, and thankfully I have a full glass left to enjoy with my summertime dinner of barbecued chicken breast, sweet potato fries and steamed asparagus.  Such a wonderful evening!  As for my rating, I would put this wine at a solid 8.5, and it was a WTSO cheapskate Wednesday selection for only $13!

2007 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon

So I was down in Dallas this week, and once a quarter we visit one of our favorite clients for their quarterly earnings release and conference call, and typically late night we finish our work then go out to dinner at Fogo de Chao, which for those of you unfamiliar Fogo de Chao is a Brazilian churrascaria steakhouse with locations around the US.  For the carnivores among us, this restaurant is paradise, as fully costumed gauchos go to each table with giant skewers of freshly grilled meat, ranging from top sirloin to bacon wrapped filet mignon to grilled lamb chops.  Every item is delicious, and rather than going up to a buffet, you simply have a card at your table, if you flip the green side up, they bring you meat, red side up means you need a little break.  It's really an amazing dining experience that everyone should try once in your life, unless you're vegan of course!

So at dinner, we typically have our host, the CEO of our client select the wine, and he has yet to disappoint!  That night he selected a 2007 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina.  Now certainly Argentina is known not for Cabernet but for the classic Malbec which has put the nation on the wine map over the last decade or so, but I must admit, I'm not a big Malbec fan and the Cab was exceptional! 

The wine had a nice nose of blackberry, leather and earth, not unlike a very nice Cabernet from Napa or the Columbia Valley.  But the taste was wonderful, very dry, with flavors of black cherries and licorice and a long smooth finish.  As for my rating, I would put this one at a solid 9, but again I was not privy to the cost which might move that rating up or down, especially given restaurant pricing!  So I learned that Argentina does more than great Malbecs and as always the high protein diet is exceptional at Fogo de Chao!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

2007 Muir Hanna Estate Muirs Legacy Bully Red

Another day another bottle of wine to try!  Not sure why I start months so strong and then lose energy near the end, maybe it's a natural cycle, or maybe it's a function of wine availability!  Last week was the WTSO Cheapskate Wednesday event, and I bought 6 different wines in the event (for those who haven't experienced it, think of a full day of all different wines on sale for a maximum of 15 minutes or until they're gone!). 

This wine is a really interesting blend for a number of reasons.  First, from a historical perspective, you can't underestimate the contributions of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt on natural conservation in this country, plus Teddy Roosevelt is one of my favorite presidents, and both are featured on this label!  The wine for 2007 was produced with 100% grapes from the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, oohh! and it's a fine blend primarily of merlot (80%), with a lot of other grapes - 6.5% petite verdot, 5.5% cab franc, 3.5% pinot noir and the rest cabernet sauvignon.  This was a relatively small production of 640 cases, so I am happy to have a few bottles.

As for the taste, this one is a sure winner!  The nose embodies hints of leather, earth, cedar and tobacco, but interestingly the nose seems quite sedate.  Certainly it's not like some of those punch you in the face aromas of some Napa cabs.  The taste is well balanced and quite dry, I'll credit the heavy merlot influence there.  There are some hints of blackberry and spice that make this wine a really pleasant drinking experience, reminiscent of those times in Paris sipping a nice glass of medoc at a sidewalk cafe.   And since this was a Cheapskate Wednesday selection you know it was a bargain!  I would rate this wine a solid 8.0, but with a price of $11, I would add an extra bit to make it a great 8.5 value!

Monday, August 1, 2011

2007 Painted Wolf Red Cape Blend

So let's start August off with some spice to heat things up!  Tonight's wine is a wine club selection for August, so what better wine to start off the month, the 2007 Painted Wolf Red Cape Blend from South Africa.  This is my first ever experience with South African wine, and I must admit, Painted Wolves are really ugly creatures:

Fortunately the wine is nowhere near ugly like it's namesake!  The 2007 red blend is an interesting blend of Shiraz and Pinotage along with some Merlot and Mourvedre to make this a compelling red blend to battle the summer doldrums.  For those unfamiliar, the Pinotage is South Africa’s signature grape variety that is a cross between two of the most famous grapes of the Burgundy region in France, Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, that typically has a very smoky, earthy flavor.  Combining a grape that is a cross of two historic burgundy grapes with Mourvedre, a grape that produces very high tannin, high alcohol wines in the Rhone Valley of France and Merlot, a primary grape used in many Bordeaux could make this a very interesting wine. 

The wine exhibits a strong nose of cedar, leather, earth and spice.  The wine is velvety on the tongue, with an interesting taste that at first seems quite dry and then bursts with blackberry and smoky pepper flavors, with solid tannins that lead to a long, smooth finish.  This wine would pair well with a variety of meat dishes, or for me tonight, a complete vegetarian selection!  In my patio herb garden I've been blessed with an abundance of fresh basil, so tonight I am making some fresh pesto to toss with some al dente farfalle and topped with some freshly grated pecorino romano and served aside some wonderful grilled peppers, red onions, green beans and zucchini.  My mouth is watering so I must cut this short!  Oh right, almost forgot, this was a selection that I would rate a solid 7, particularly given the price of just $8!  So get a taste of South Africa and enjoy the experience!  Salut!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

2008 Veramonte Riserva Cabernet Sauvignon

So yesterday I got an e-mail from one of my favorite local wine merchants about a sale, and you know how I love sales!  One of the sale wines was the 2008 Veramonte Riserva Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, so the price was good and I figured why not buy a case, so I did! 

Well it's a hot day, and I've been doing chores all day, so I figured I needed to enjoy a bottle of this cab, but what could I do to really integrate the wine into my dinner?  Hmmm...did someone say Italian?  Did someone say mussels fra diavalo tossed with linguine???  Ahh yes, one of my favorite home made, yet quick and easy Italian dishes that leave me feeling sated, and sophisticated all at once!

First the dinner, since it includes the wine.  I sautee a little diced pancetta in some olive oil, add some fresh galic, and then come the fresh mussels. Once they open up, toss in a couple cans of diced tomatoes and a little of the Veramonte cab and some spicy red peppers...then let it simmer.  Just before I toss with some al dente lingine, I add a few sprigs of fresh basil I pick from the plants on the patio, and then top with some fresh grated parmesan and asiago and dinner is served!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot this blog is about wine isn't it?  The wine is actually quite nice, as Chile has been producing some very nice cabs over the last few years.  This wine has a great nose of leather, cedar and very subtle berries, the taste is smooth and quite dry with nice tannins for a long, pleasant finish.  This is the type of wine I can use in my dinner, with my dinner and after my dinner as I enjoy a glass while watching the late summer sunset from the patio.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid, 7.5 by itself, but given that I bought this wine for the bargain price of $7 I can't help but boost this to a solid 8!  So if you can find it, grab a bottle, cook some spicy tomato based pasta and enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

2009 Rouge des Karantes Languedoc La Clape

What a wonderful summer day!  It's sunny and about 84, perhaps the most perfect weather to enjoy a relaxing glass of wine on the patio.  Tonight I am enjoying a bottle from one of my favorite producers from the south of France, in Narbonne on the Mediterranean, the 2009 Rouge des Karantes Languedoc La Clape.  I became familiar with Domaine des Karantes in 2008 or 2009 at a wine tasting fundraiser in Grand Rapids where I was able to meet with the proprietor and taste his wines.  He showed me a number of photos of the vineyard, and I was shocked at how close it was to the sea, you could see the Mediterranean right over the next hill it seemed.  I was so impressed with the quality of the Diamant des Karantes I ended up buying a case!

Well, here we are again, only this time its not the Diamant, but the lesser cousin, the Rouge des Karantes, but it's still a wonderful wine that beautifully expresses the terroir of the Coteaux de Narbonne and the warmth and beauty of the south of France.  I think sometimes when we drink French wine, we only think of Bordeaux, but there is so much more, from burgundy to the wonderful wines of the Cote d'Azur.  From a technical standpoint, I am not sure this wine could be much different than a Bordeaux.  Forget Merlot and Cabernet, this wine is 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre!  The result is quite pleasing.

On the nose, this wine has a distinct air of leather, earth and cedar with just a hint of licorice.  For a wine that you might expect to be more fruit forward, it's quite dry, with just a hint of black cherry.  The tannins are quite smooth, allowing a sophisticated, lingering finish.  The wine would pair very well with nice Mediterranean dishes, from a mussels simmered in tender red tomatoes and capers served over linguine, to seafood kabobs grilled over a wood fire, to a fresh platter of soft cheeses and olives.   Come to think of it, I need a snack!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, with room to grow over a few years, but given the cost compared with it's highbrow cousin, I have no place to complain!  I bought this bottle for $9 at my local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's & Sons, so if you can find it, pick up a bottle and enjoy the taste of the vacation spot of the rich and famous!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2007 Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Cabernet Sauvignon

Yeah, try saying that three times fast!  Our wine today comes from the land down under, where it's probably wintry cold right now, even as I have my A/C cranked!  The Kikikanoon Killerman's Run Cabernet was sourced from premium parcels and blended together and aged in French oak barrels, then bottled unfiltered to preserve the balance of flavors desired by the winemaker.

On the nose, this wine exhibits the classic scent of a very nice cab with a clear presence of fruit, cherry and black currant, but with a hint of leather and spice.  On the palate this wine is fairly dry, with a definite taste of spice more pronounced than the aroma would suggest and very smooth tannins for a long, satisfying finish.  This wine would pair well with lamb, a variety of gilled meats or vegetables, or as I will experience shortly, a nice rare porterhouse, about 1 1/2" thick!

Although Australia is quite well known for its Shiraz, I've found many of the Cabernet blends quite satisfying, and to me this wine marks a progression of Australian wine development.  My only serious reservation on this wine is the use of a screw cap, but alas it's an indiscretion that can be forgiven.  I would rate this wine a solid 8, with the potential for improvement over time.  I got this one from (actually their bargain site), and for the perhaps $15 I paid for it, I think it's well work it!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

2009 Chateau de la Taille Bordeaux

Ahhh...summer time, it's officially here and it's such an awesome time for enjoying the joy of outdoor cooking, or "cookouts" as we used to call them!  Although having my 60,000 BTU Charbroil grill allows me to grill steaks, fish, chops and other sundry items year round, it really comes into its own during the sweltering days of summer.  So today, I am enjoying my grill along with a bottle of 2009 Chateau de la Taille Bordeaux, another bottle from that super vintage (at least as it's been billed) from France.

Now don't get me wrong, the experts who tasted from barrels are probably right on, but given that for us plebians it takes at least 4 or 5 years for a great or even mediocre Bordeaux to be drinkable much less outstanding, it's really an unfair tease in my opinion.  Granted, I did order a case of '09 Margaux on futures and can't wait for it to arrive sometime in 2012, but come on!  We all know the reason we buy great bottles of wine is not to satisfy our squirrel instinct for stocking the cellar, but to enjoy the great wine now! 

Well, fortunately, many of the early 2009 Bordeaux are drinking quite nicely right now.  Could they benefit from time in the cellar, certainly, but that doesn't mean we must opt for future enjoyment over immediate satisfaction.  Such is the case with today's wine, a wonderful blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec (this might be a somewhat familiar blend to those who like me, enjoy the Bordeaux blends of the Pacific Northwest).  I've found in my personal experience, the early releases that have a heavy Merlot emphasis tend to drink much better right now than many other blends, particularly the heartier wines like a recent St. Emilion I purchased and can't imagine opening until 2014.

This wine is a very young wine, with ample fruit.  The nose exhibits some hints of cedar and leather, with a strong body of fruit, ranging from cherry to dark plum.  The taste is quite light right now, and very dry with silky tannins for a long finish.  Unlike some others I've tried, this wine is actually drinking quite nicely right now, though it's certainly worthy of another year or two in the cellar. I've heard some suggest this would be a great wine with lighter fare or perhaps some soft cheeses (but come on, what wine wouldn't go well with a fine brie?), but call me crazy, I'm going to enjoy this bottle with a summer cookout of a prime porterhouse steak, grilled rare (oh yes, cool red center please!), some red, yellow and orange peppers roasted in extra virgin olive oil and some fresh sweet corn grilled in the husk!  Ohhhh my!

This wine is still young, and I would rate it 7.5, certainly with room to grow.  I expecially like it at the bargain price of $9 that I found it for at my favorite local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's!  So crack open a bottle and get grilling!  Salut!