Monday, December 31, 2012

2006 Féraud-Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Tonight, to celebrate the coming of 2013 and the U.S. going over the "fiscal cliff," I decided to put my wine selection for the evening to a vote of my Facebook friends, and they didn't let me down, choosing the 2006 Féraud-Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a wonderful GSM blend to end my 2012 and welcome the new year!  Now since I gave everyone until 8:00 pm to vote, I just opened this bottle and have had no time to decant, so I've poured this glass through my aerating pourer for better effect, but it's probably advisable to let this wine breathe a bit if you have time.

The wine in the glass is a deep garnet color, about what you'd expect from a nice CdP.   The nose is very mellow, almost surprisingly so, with hints of lovely fruit, black currant, blueberry, some interesting spice notes intermingled with rose petals and the faintest bit of barnyard.  The taste is just sublime, with lovely ripe fruits bursting forth on the tongue, blueberry, ripe plum and a hint of boysenberry, transforming into some lovely jammy notes midpalate balanced with some earthy minerality.  The tannins play well creating a long, smooth finish, with lovely flavors or dark chocolate and gravel.  For a rather young wine, this one really is drinking quite well right now!

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8.5, it's a very nice example of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape that I found at a local supermarket for under $30 about a year ago.  Unfortunately it's 8:30 pm on New Year's Eve, so I'm just enjoying this wine seulement ce soir, but it would pair quite nicely with a variety of spicy dishes, or grilled meats, but I could also see it going very well with a broad array of seafood.  If you can find a bottle, I would highly recommend it!  Bon Année! 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2009 Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon

So this afternoon, I went on a mini, impromptu pub crawl with some friends of mine from work, and unlike the old days when I was a youth, and pub crawls literally meant drinking so much you had to crawl to the next pub, this was a more staid affair.  I had a grand total of three beers and an aborted glass of Cabernet Franc in our afternoon out.  So, I have more than enough energy to enjoy a glass or two of wine this evening!

And tonight, we have a lovely sustainably farmed Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley of Chile, the 2009 Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas.  Now I happened upon a couple bottles of this wine at a recent "Big Reds" wine tasting at a local establishment called Bar Divani, where I had a lovely time, and best of all, the opportunity to order some of the wines we tasted, this being one of the last minute additions to the menu.

The wine itself is a lovely deep ruby in the glass, and the nose is full of ample rich, ripe fruit, leather, cedar and anise.  The taste is very dry all around, with some very subtle fruit, black currant and cherries, yielding to some mild spices midpalate.  The finish is somewhat short, but bone dry, making this an ideal accompaniment to a variety of grilled meats and savory dishes.  As a side note, it's advisable to let this wine breathe a bit before serving, it's not undrinkable straight from the bottle, but it does open up nicely with a half hour or so in the air.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, it's drinking well now, but I think it could improve a bit over the next few years.  As for pairings, again prepare to be disappointed with my weeks of leftovers, since tonight I am enjoying this wine with some leftover chicken, mushrooms and steamed Brussels sprouts.  Yum!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2009 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Ynez Valley

Well, the holidays are winding down, but even so there are so many wonderful blessings as part of the season, like a plethora of wonderful foods and wines!  Now, this might be a mixed blessing for you readers, since I have a lot of new wines to sample over the coming weeks and months, but I also have enough leftovers for the next two weeks!  So you'll get some nice wines to taste with me, but as for pairings, they might be a little light, at least through the middle of January!

Speaking of new wines, tonight's is one such wine, a lovely gift that was a set of three great Cabernet Sauvignons that my Aunt Janet in Las Vegas sent me for Christmas, and so tonight I am tasting the 2009 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Ynez Valley, a lovely little wine producing area of Santa Barbara county.  A couple interesting trivia facts about the valley, it is home to the town of Solvang, which is a Danish community with lots of interesting shops (and wonderful bakeries and cheese shops!) that I enjoyed on my first visit to California in 1991.  A second, and less glamorous trivia fact is that the valley was the setting for that horrific movie "Sideways" that to this day is convincing wine drinkers to avoid Merlot!  But enough trivia, let's get to the good stuff!

The wine is a lovely deep, inky purple in the glass, and I've given it a good 15 minutes to open up a bit, as the first impression on pouring was that it was quite tight.  Having let it breathe a bit, the nose really presents a lovely combination of leather, sweet berries, vanilla and baking spice that suggests you're in for a treat.  The taste is somewhat fruity, with ripe plums and berries on the front, leading to some cherry cola notes midpalate.  The finish is fairly dry, but uneventful (so I guess that would be very smooth, but short).

Overall, I would rate this wine a 7.5, it's certainly a pleasure to drink, but based on the aromas I was expecting a little more from it.  As for pairings, here's your opportunity for disappointment, as I am enjoying this wine with some leftover Chinese food!  享受!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2009 White Cottage Ranch Napa Valley Merlot

'Tis the season!  Yes, it's Christmastime, and I've just finished the last of my holiday shopping, and now it's time to wrap presents and fill gift bags and make up the gift baskets that will all be delivered over the next few days, so what could I possibly do to make the season bright?  That's right, open a bottle of wine to help me get through the last few hours of hectic humbug!  And so to help out with that I've opened a bottle of 2009 White Cottage Ranch Napa Valley Merlot, one of the sadly ignored wine of the last few years!  This wine is from the Howell Mountain AVA of Napa Valley, produced on the eastern slope of Napa Valley at an elevation of 1,700 feet, near the town of Angwin, CA.

This wine has a nice deep ruby, almost purple color in the glass, and a consistency that makes it shine as a solid example of a good Napa Valley vintage.  The nose is filled with spices and rich ripe fruit, with notes of anise, tarragon and black pepper, balanced by sweet aromas of ripe plum, black currant and just the faintest hint of leather.  The taste is just superb, with rich, ripe fruit up front, laden with plums and ripe black cherries, giving way to some tart and spicy notes midpalate, easing into a finish with nicely balanced tannins creating a somewhat tight, yet smooth, long finish that seems to last a minute or more!

This is the kind of wine that makes you quickly forget that you are sipping wine, bringing forth a lifestyle of taste and grace that we seldom find today.  As for pairings, it would be just lovely with a variety of grilled meats, but amidst my giftwrapping wonderland, I've been enjoying this with a sharp Vermont cheddar and some lovely slices of baguette and it's been a gifted partner, helping me get through my chores!  Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8, and it was at a really reasonable price of just $14, and a recent wine club selection from my friends at G.B. Russo.  So if you have a chance, pick up a bottle, I'm just sad this is my last one!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2008 Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva

Yesterday I was talking with a colleague who is taking a trip to Italy over the holidays, and as a result of that conversation, I really had a hankering for a nice bottle of Italian wine.  Hence, tonight I've opened a bottle of 2008 Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva!  Now a good Chianti is a classic Italian wine from Tuscany, made entirely from the Sangiovese grape, making it a lovely accompaniment to a variety of Italian dishes, from basic pastas, to risotto, to bistecca alla fiorentina, the classic Tuscan porterhouse!

The wine itself has a lovely deep ruby color in the glass and presents a nose of leather, licorice and some floral notes that almost feel chewy as you breath them in.  The taste is somewhat fruit forward, with flavors or ripe plum and tart cherry at the front end, transitioning to some wonderful earthy, spicy notes midpalate.  The well structured tannins and bright acidity make for a lovely smooth, long finish.  It's exactly what you would expect from a nice Chianti Classico.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it's a great example of a classic Italian red wine, and I found it for a decent price of only $22 at my local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a very simple dinner of linguine with some sausage and arrabiata sauce, as the spice of the sauce really plays well against the fruit and spice notes in this wine.

Friday, December 21, 2012

2007 Tangley Oaks Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

That's it, I'm done!  I finished my last day of work before my Christmas Vacation (hold on, I think I'll watch that tonight!) and I am done working until 2013!  And to celebrate, I've opened a nice bottle of 2007 Tangley Oaks Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and purchased a special cut of meat for my meal on the way home, so this should be good!

Now, I'll admit I'm unfamiliar with "Tangley Oaks" as a winery, but I happened across this wine last weekend at a tasting at my local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's, and what I learned was that this wine was made from the same grapes used to make the Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet, which typically costs about twice what this bottle costs.  When there is a surplus of grapes, they simply bottle the wine under the Tangley Oaks label so as not to dilute the value of their premium brands - it's really a win-wine (get it?) as we get some stellar wine for a bargain price!

The wine itself has a deep purple color, as you might expect from a Napa Valley Cabernet from this super vintage.  The nose is quite subdued, with notes of cedar, leather, cocoa and some mixed floral notes accented by rich ripe fruit of blackberry and black currant.  The taste is exactly what a high-quality '07 NV cab should be, rich ripe fruit up front, followed by some chocolate and earthy notes midpalate, and a finish that is bone dry, with supple tannins creating a long, smooth balance of woodsy flavors.  This really represents a solid Napa Valley Cabernet effort.

Now this wine is a big, bold Cab that stands up to the best of a bold beefy dinner, which it so happens I am lucky enough to enjoy tonight!  I stopped at a local supermarket in Indiana where I've been working the last two days and picked up a "cowboy cut" ribeye!

Can you believe they classify this as "semi-boneless"?  In any case I am enjoying this wine with this monster steak and it's delicious in every way!  A rare steak, big baked potato and some steamed Brussels sprouts, what could be better?  Oh, the wine, yes I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's really a great Napa Valley Cabernet from a great vintage but for only $22!  So if you happen across this one, pick up a bottle or two for the holidays!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2009 Soos Creek Champoux Vineyard Red Wine

Tonight I am enjoying a wine I received in the recent Snooth "Secret Santa" exchange, and what a delight, a new Washington red wine from a producer that I am not familiar with!  Now apparently Soos Creek is a family-owned winery that sources its wine grapes from the Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington's Columbia Valley.  And of course Champoux Vineyard is well known for its outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon among others, and it's always a treat to have a bottle of wine made with such fine fruit.  This particular wine is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc, which were sourced from blocks of mostly older vines.

The wine itself is an inky purple color in the glass (so far so good!) just as you'd expect from a fine Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The nose is a lovely combination of leather, tobacco, and a wonderful combination of sweet fruits, cherries, blackberries that just seem to play around the edges.  Surprisingly, this is not a particularly fruit forward wine, instead I experienced a rush of floral notes at the outset, which was then followed by some very subdued flavors of ripe berries.  The finish was quite nice, with some earthy notes accented by some cedar and a hint of anise, as the rather young tannins made for a bit of tightness that might open up with a bit of time. 

This was really a wonderful example of a great Washington wine and overall I would rate this a solid 8.5!  It's always fun to try a new and undiscovered wine, and this "secret Santa" was a perfect opportunity to try something completely new.  And tonight I am enjoying this big, bold red with an unexpected meal of pan seared sea scallops, couscous and steamed broccoli (yeah, sometimes I get in weird cooking moods), as I find the floral notes and modest fruit play well against the richness of the sea scallops.  Salut!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2009 Las Rocas Garnacha

Happy Birthday!  No, I'm not doing my best Frosty the Snowman impersonation, but today is my birthday, 12/12/12, and I spent most of the day in New York, but made it home in time for a late dinner and a bottle of wine, and the wine I chose was the 2009 Las Rocas Garnacha.  Now I partly blame my dinner companion last night, as I met a fellow Snooth board member, Greg T. in SoHo at a lovely little French bistro called La Sirene, which is all BYOB, with no corkage!  So Greg brought a lovely 1998 Rioja so I've had Spanish wines on the brain!

This wine comes from Calatayud, which is deep in the interior of Aragon, Spain, and from what I've read, the terrain can be quite intimidating, very rocky, with lots of limestone, and quite arid.  Yet somehow the Garnacha (or Grenache in France and elsewhere) vines took root, producing some of the loveliest wines I've had the pleasure of tasting, and as a bonus, they are seldom priced at a level that would suggest their true quality!

This wine has a lovely deep ruby color in the glass, and a nose that is a wonderful blend of jammy fruit, black cherries, currant, anise and somewhat of a sour twang, suggesting that the sweet fruit might be well balanced by acidity.  The taste is an explosion of fruit in your mouth, with rich ripe berries, yet the acidity of some sour cherry notes really balance the fruit mid-palate.  The finish is quite smooth, yet it has a wonderful woodsy sort of taste on the finish, which again is a surprising counterbalance to the rich fruit.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, particularly given the price, as this was a recent office wine club selection for only $8!  As for pairings, for my birthday, I had a hankering for some Thai food, and there is a new Thai restaurant that someone told me about last week, called Thai Chef, which was right on the way home from the airport!  So I enjoyed this one with some wonderful pad kee mao, and I found the fruit and acidity really played nicely with the spice of the dish, and the fragrant Thai basil!  Not one of my more traditional pairings, but it worked, cheers!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel

Tonight I've decided to open up a big bottle of wine, yes indeed a MAGNUM!  Oh that sounds intimidating doesn't it?  Well it's really not, or at least it shouldn't be, as large format bottles have been around a long time and they are pretty fun, after all no one in a large group feels bad about having a glass of wine when they know there are at least 8 glasses in the big bottle!  So tonight I've opened a magnum of the 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel, this one being the "Vintner's Blend" which is their basic wine.  Even so, I've been a fan of Ravenswood since 2000, so I am usually quite confident that their blends won't leave me gagging!

Now you all know how I love Zinfandel, and I acquired those feelings from some of my earliest experiences with Ravenswood Zins, before that I just thought all Zinfandels were pink wines (call me a child of the 1980s!).  This particular wine has a nice deep ruby color in the glass, and the nose exhibits aromas of leather, blackberry, plum and black cherry, and just the faintest hint of baking spice.  The taste is very fruit forward, a very "jammy" sort of Zin, with flavors of ripe plum, cherries, and blackberries, giving way to some fresh herbs, cedar and spice notes midpalate.  The tannins are quite well developed, leading to a nice, tight dry finish.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8, because it's good, but also because it was a tremendous bargain at only $10 for a magnum from (for those of you doing the math, that's like $5 for a regular bottle!).  Tonight I am enjoying it with a completely random and poorly thought out dinner (come on it's the holiday season, who hasn't had a random dinner?) consisting of tortilla crusted tilapia, a baked potato and the holiday classic green bean casserole!  Who knows how well this wine could possibly play with all those flavors, but by the time it's over I probably won't care one way or the other!  Cheers!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2000 Burgess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Here we are again, at my fifth? (perhaps it's a good thing if I've lost count!) Cellar Saturday, and what special wine do I have to share?  How about the 2000 Burgess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon!  I love a good Cabernet, and some of the most pleasant come from Napa Valley, so why not give this one a try?

The color in the glass is a deep, inky purple which transitions to a dark ruby along the edges.  The nose just says, "Get ready, this is a great Cab coming your way!"  There are lovely notes of leather, ripe berries, plum and a hint of anise.  The taste us just absolutely everything you'd expect from a decade old Cabernet from Napa, lovely fruit at the outset, surrounded by a smokiness that just creates a carnival of the senses, notes of plum, black currant, all of which lead to an earthy, limestone quality midpalate.  The finish is wonderful, as the tannins are still vibrant despite the 12 years of age, and the flavors of leather and dry herbs create a great, long dry finish that highlights the great quality of this wine.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's aged wonderfully since the halcyon days of the birth of the new millennium.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a classic Italian dinner of hot sausage with onions and peppers along with some linguine tossed with garlic and olive oil and a hind of aged Parmesan and Asiago cheeses.  Cheers! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

2009 Mount Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Over the past couple years, I've really grown to like the wines of the Mount Veeder Winery, particularly their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons (you can see my review of the 2008 vintage here).  In any case, a week or two ago I ordered a case of the 2009 vintage and have decided to give it a whirl.

The wine is like many good Napa cabs, very deep ruby color, almost inky in the glass.  The nose is a wonderfully rich blend of leather, blackberry, cherry and anise that speaks to the richness of the wine, and feel free to let it open up a bit in the glass, my hint is to have a glass or two while I am making dinner, so it's perfect by the time I sit down to eat.  The taste is a lovely fruit forward blend of ripe berries, plum and fresh herbs, giving way to some spicy notes midpalate, as the flavors play against each other and add a bit of complexity.  The nicely structured tannins provide for a long, dry, velvety finish that makes this wine a treat by itself.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 as it's a lovely example of a classic Napa cab at a super price, since I bought this from for only $20!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a rare grilled New York strip, baked potato and steamed asparagus, as the wine has just enough bite to really accent a nice juicy steak.  So it you find this one at your local wine merchant, pick up a bottle, you're in for a nice treat!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2010 L'Ecole No. 41 Wahluke Slope Grenache - Happy Thanksgiving!

So the Thanksgiving holiday is almost done, we've had turkey with all the fixin's, football (in the yard and on TV), a head start on all our Christmas shopping with all those "Black Friday" deals, and hopefully we thought at least a little bit about what we are thankful for, all those spiritual and material blessings that make us wonder what we've done to deserve them.  But enough of the philosophical, you really just want to know what wines I paired with my turkey last Thursday don't you?

Well, you get a treat today, as I am highlighting two wines that I enjoyed with my Thanksgiving dinner.  The first one I enjoyed most of since it's surprising how many people are intimidated by red wine with turkey, even when it's a lighter red like the 2010 L'Ecole No. 41 Wahluke Slope Grenache from the Stone Tree Vineyard!  The color in the glass was a lighter shade of ruby with a nose that had notes of sour cherry, cedar and smoke.  The taste was quite fruit forward with flavors of ripe plum, cherry and strawberry, intertwined with dried herbs and a somewhat earthy quality.  The tannins were quite subdued leading to a very delicate finish. The fruit flavors paired very well with the turkey, which even when perfectly cooked I find can be very bland.

You know how I love L'Ecole, but this one wasn't spectacular, perhaps because I love their bigger reds, but it was the perfect wine for Thanksgiving dinner, so I'll rate it a solid 8, with some room for improvement as it matures.

Now my second wine with dinner was the 2009 Espelt Corali Rosado, much less intimidating as a chilled rose than a red wine for most dinner guests!  This wine was very refreshing, with a nose of pear, strawberry and grass along with a few floral notes.  The taste was delightful combination of melon and peach with hints of fresh herbs with a clean, crisp finish.  Again, the crispness and light fruit made a nice counter to the heaviness of some of our dinner (think stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and the ever popular green bean casserole!) and really made the turkey sing.

This one I would rate a solid 7, as it was a descent wine, but a tremendous value as I bought this on close out from my local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's for only $1.50 + tax!  Less than 2-buck-Chuck!  I'm just glad I bought a few extra for next summer.  So that was my Thanksgiving wine, what did you enjoy with your feast?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2009 Helix Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

So tonight I've decided to relax a bit, and with a chill in the air it would be a perfect evening to light a fire and enjoy the nice warmth of a cabernet sauvignon.  Unfortunately I don't have a fireplace, but I can still enjoy the wine as I light the grill out on the patio!  And for tonight's wine, I've decided on a bottle of the wine club selection from Reininger, a new favorite from Walla Walla that I discovered on my trip last spring, and after a time on the waiting list, I finally became a member of their club!  Helix is the second label from Reininger, offering wonderful wines at a more modest price point.

This wine is a deep purple color in the glass, with an almost inky quality.  The nose exhibits rich fruit notes of ripe cherry, plum and cassis, with a good bit of spice overlaying the fruit.  The taste is very rich, luscious fruit at the outset, with ripe cherry, plum and blackberry flavors, giving way to licorice and dark chocolate midpalate, then bursting into a warmth of black pepper and spice on the long, velvety finish.  It's the finish that really makes this wine a perfect accompaniment to a chilly autumn evening!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8 as I love my Washington wines, and this one was a reasonable value as well, with a list price of $28, the wine club price was only $25, so perhaps not an everyday wine, but a nice wine for the unexpected special occasion.  Tonight I am enjoying this with a rare grilled angus ribeye (see, I had to have a fire in here somehow!) some steamed fresh Brussels sprouts and a jumbo baked potato with all the trimmings.  And for those who worry, I will make up for the red meat, after all I'll be having turkey on Thursday!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hell's Canyon Retriever Red Wine

Tonight I've decided to open one of my vacation wines, a bottle I brought back from a truck stop in Baker City, Oregon of all places (see us wine aficionados can find wine anywhere!), the Hell's Canyon Retriever Red Wine, a non-vintage blend of Merlot (56%), Cabernet Franc (22%), Cabernet Sauvignon (19%) and Syrah (3%).  The winery is located in the Snake River Valley in Caldwell, Idaho, so I probably passed in on the way to Oregon but I didn't stop.  In any case, I stopped at a hotel in Baker City for the night, and went across the street to the truck stop for some chips and saw they had wine, and this bottle with a great image of a Black Lab swimming with a duck in its mouth really caught my eye, so I figured why not buy a bottle?

The color of the wine is a nice ruby red, a little lighter than a lot of Bordeaux style blends I've seen.  The nose is enveloped with aromas of sweet cherry, licorice and cedar, with just the faintest hint of fresh mint.  The taste is actually remarkably well balanced, with ample fruit on the front, laced with ripe cherries and blackberries, giving way to hints of charcoal and fresh herbs midpalate.  The vibrant tannins make for a very crisp, tight finish that could mellow a bit over time, but as it stands marks the perfect yin to the sweet red fruit yang on the front end.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's hands down the best truck stop wine I've ever had!  And as I recall it was a pretty good value too at about $11.  Tonight I am pairing with some butternut squash lasagna that a good friend at work made and brought in for me to try, and a fresh salad.  The wine complements the sweet and earthy flavors of the lasagna quite well, so it looks like I'm going to have a good evening after a long week!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2009 L'Ecole No. 41 Perigee

You know, sometimes you just need to take a step back and smell the roses, or the bouquet on a great glass of wine as the case may be!  It's been a long few weeks of lots of hours at work, and unfortunately those weeks seem to be dragging into months and I could use a break.  Of course with no break on the horizon, I'll take the next best thing, a great bottle of wine.  And tonight we have one of the great ones from my favorite winery of all time, L'Ecole No. 41 and their 30th anniversary edition of the Perigee.  The grapes for the Perigee blend come from the acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard, of which L'Ecole is a partner, originally planted in 1981, it is Certified Sustainable and Salmon Safe.

The wine itself is a classic Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (64%), Merlot (16%), Cabernet Franc (12%), Malbec (4%) and Petit Verdot (4%).  The color in the glass is a rich garnet and the nose brings forth notes of leather, oak and earthy spice, the type of aromas that cause you to enter a state of deep relaxation (at least they do that to me anyway!).  The taste is at once fruity and earthy, with tastes of ripe berries and plums washing over your palate, then giving way to cedar and chalky gravel.  The tannins as a bit more subdued than I've noticed on previous vintages, giving rise to a smooth, deliciously dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, but I'll freely admit my bias towards my favorite winery (but really, what could that possible add, a point?  Half a point?  Come on).  I also purchased more than my usual share of the 1,210 cases of Perigee produced this year since the winery has offered a special anniversary price that marks the price down from the $49 retail price to $41, and even further, to less than $35 when you add in the wine club and case discounts!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine on a warm fall evening on the patio as I get ready to grill a nice thick New York strip, some oven roasted fingerling potatoes and a salad, as this wine is the perfect accompaniment to a seared steak!  YUM!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

2007 Vino Tinto - The Tapas Wine Collection

So tonight I'm taking a detour to Spain, since I missed Tempranillo day last Thursday.  I picked up this bottle a month or so ago from the World Market, had an interesting label and it was under $10, so I figured why not give it a shot?  After all, a nice tempranillo can compliment a wide variety of dishes, large or small!

The wine is a deep purple color in the glass, with some lighter ruby along the edges.  The nose is very sweet, with aromas of black currant, vanilla, baking spice and a hint of root beer or all things.  The taste is somewhat fruit forward, with ripe berry and cherry cola flavors transitioning to a bit of anise, dried herbs and a hint of oak.  The tannins are supple, making for a lush mouthfeel and a smooth, dry finish that lasts a bit longer than I expected.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7, especially considering the value price.  It would pair nicely with a variety of tapas as well as roasted meats or grilled seafood.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with some Maryland style crab cakes, steamed fingerling potatoes and some fresh cauliflower, a wonderful autumn spread!

Friday, November 9, 2012

2008 Villa Mattielli Amarone della Valpolicella

It's Friday I'm in love...for those of you who are children of the 1980s and 1990s, you'll instantly recognize those words as a title of a song by The Cure.  Well today is Friday, and I'm in love with Amarone!  It's been a long week with a lot of travel for work, so I figured tonight I should treat myself with a little something special from Italy, a nice Amarone della Valpolicella, a wine that is somewhat eclectic in its style, but certainly worthwhile in every way!

The wine is a nice ruby color in the glass, but somewhat lighter than many Amarones, this is likely due to its somewhat youthful presence.  The nose is quite pleasant, with aromas of sweet berries, ripe plums and licorice.  The taste is big and fruit forward with flavors of plum, raisin and ripe berries, transitioning to strawberries and grass midpalate, leading to a nicely structured and dry finish.  Although it's 15% alcohol by volume, I didn't notice a strong alcohol presence in the wine, though I note that the wine could use a few more years of cellaring before coming into its prime.

Overall I would rate this wine a 7.5 with room to improve over time, plus it was a good value from Wines Till Sold Out for less than $25.  Tonight I am pairing it with the classic Italian American favorite, pizza pie!  In this instance a lovely Home Run Inn frozen pizza, which is classic Chicago style thin crust pizza, with sausage and pepperoni (for those unfamiliar, you should really try one before you dismiss it out of had, it's my all time favorite frozen pizza)!  The sweet fruit of the wine plays nicely with the spice of the meat, and throw in a few pepperoncinis and you have a lovely meal for spending an evening relaxing from a hard week of work!  Salut!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2003 Le Signal Domaine Lignères

So tonight I've decided to open up a bottle of wine from the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France, certainly one of my favorite wine regions outside of Bordeaux, with the signature blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, they tend to be much more fruit forward and in many ways more food friendly wines than some other regions of France.  This particular wine is a blend of Carignan (80%), Grenache (10%), Syrah (5%) and Mourvèdre (5%), which is interesting as I've not tried many wines based primarily on Carignan.  This wine also had an interesting story on the label (yes I do read these things!) and apparently in the 1920s the winemaker delivered the domaine's wines in a Berliet truck designed to carry barrels.  He took 22 hours at an average speed of less than 7 mph to go from Alaric Mountains to Lourdes where he finally delivered his wine!

The wine itself is a deep purple color in the glass, and the nose exhibits scents of mint, ripe plums and blueberries and a good bit of earthiness, perhaps a hint of truffle.  The fruit was pleasant at the outset, with some chewy plum and black cherry flavors, there were some spice notes and a bit of cinnamon midpalate.  The tannins were very subdued, making for not much of a finish, though it was still pleasant.

Overall, I would rate this wine a mid-range 7, it's a pleasant one that might be a year or so past its prime, but at least it was a bargain - I picked it up at my local D&W for only $13!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a grilled pork tenderloin with a wasabi marinade, some steamed broccoli and a baked potato, a wonderfully fall dish, and the best part is that fruit in the wine really compliments the flavors of the pork and spice of the wasabi, so delicious!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

2003 Piancornello Brunello di Montalcino

Here we are at my fourth "Cellar Saturday" and I've decided to go back to my love of Italian wines, and particularly the wines of Tuscany.  Now of course you can't explore the wines of this region without taking some time for the undisputed king of Tuscan wines, Brunello di Montalcino, and this case the 2003 vintage of Piancornello. For those familiar with Brunello, you'll immediately recognize that vintage as one that caused quite a stir with the confiscation of four producers' 2003 Brunello on charges that they had fraudulently included foreign varietals in their wine labeled Brunello.  By law, Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, and although the investigation was somewhat inconclusive, the U.S. government blocked the import of 2003 vintage Brunellos that could not prove they were made with 100% Sangiovese (so I suppose this one is safe!).  The laws also require that the wine be aged a minimum of 2 years in oak, and 4 months in bottle before release, though most producer age their wines in oak for 3 years.

This wine has been in the bottle for considerably longer than 4 months, as most Brunellos really start coming into their own when they hit about 10 years old, so this one is just about to hit its stride.  The color on this wine is a rich garnet hue, certainly a bit lighter than your typical Napa Cab.  The nose has quite a bit of herbs, some classic spice, anise, and ripe red fruit with a hint of sweetness.  The taste was a bit tart up front but quickly transitioned into some rich ripe fruit and even a bit of prune midpalate which gave way to some interesting chocolate notes.  The tannins are somewhat subdued providing for a long, silky smooth finish that left me wanting another sip every time!

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 and perhaps even a 9 given the value.  I bought this one through Wines Till Sold Out back in 2010 for just $35, which is pretty good for a Brunello!  Tonight I am pairing this wine with a simple but delicious Italian dish, bucatini with mussels.  I simply sauteed some guanciale (this is a cured pig jowl, but you can use pancetta if you can't find guanciale) with some crushed garlic, then added some olive oil and about a pound of fresh mussels.  Once the mussels opened up, I added 2 cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes and about a cup of red wine (but not the brunello!).  Let that simmer for 20-30 minutes on low heat and then toss with some al dente bucatini (bucatini is a long pasta shaped like a drinking straw, but if you can't find it at your local store a nice linguine or spaghetti will do fine).  Top the dish with some fresh basil and some freshly shaved Parmesan and you have a lovely dinner! Tutti a tavola a mangiare!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2006 Bernardus Marinus Red Wine

Well, it's a good time to enjoy a lovely Bordeaux blend from the Carmel Valley in California!  The 2006 Bernardus Winery red wine from the Marinus Estate in upper Carmel Valley in California, this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec grapes, making it a very interesting blend.

The wine is a lovely deep purple color in the glass, and the nose exhibits a notes of red fruit, raspberries, cherries and blackberries along with some earthy elements of tobacco, leather and anise.  The taste is very fruit forward, with flavors of ripe cherry and plum, transitioning to dry spices and cinnamon.  The tannins are quite supple, leading to long, smooth finish with notes of dark chocolate and smoke, which is often characteristic of blends with Malbec.

This wine is a very nice wine that stands well on its own, but would pair nicely with a variety of grilled meats or hearty winter dishes, though tonight I am pairing it with pizza!  Overall I would rate this wine a solid 7, but with a price tag of $20 it seems as though it should rate a bit higher.  Even so, I am certainly pleased to be sipping on a glass or two of this one tonight, cheers!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2011 Honoro Vera Garnacha

You know, I just don't drink enough Spanish wines.  I know they are having loads of troubles over there, so I figured they make wonderful wines and I should help out by buying a bottle or two!  In this case, it's the 2011 Honoro Vera Garnacha, which is the Spanish version of Grenache, a grape from the south of France that I've taken quite a fancy to in recent months.  This wine comes from the city of Calatayud, which lies just to the southwest of the French border in the Sistema Iberico mountain range, roughly equidistant from the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

The wine itself is a very deep purple color in the glass, trending to more ruby color along the edges.  The nose is a very pleasant combination of sweet fruit scents with a combination of strawberries, sweet cherries and plums with just the faintest hint of cedar and spices.  The first taste brings some surprising smokiness and gravel which are enveloped by the fruit flavors, which present themselves as very jammy at first, flavors of ripe cherries and blueberries, which transition to rich plums laced with exotic spices that seem almost Oriental.  The young tannins are surprisingly well integrated leading to a lovely smooth finish.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 7.5 as it's really a lovely, fruit forward example of the varietal that makes it wonderfully food friendly, plus it was a great value at only $8!  Tonight I am pairing it with some tortilla crusted tilapia, a variety of fingerling potatoes and some steamed asparagus, and I really love the way the fruit in the wine plays off the spice of the fish, very lively!  So try a lovely Spanish red wine if you have the opportunity!

Friday, October 26, 2012

2010 Yellowstone Roadblock Red Wine

And now we have come to the last wine from the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, the 2010 Yellowstone Roadblock Red Wine.  Now I wish I could say we saved the best to last, but unfortunately we haven't!  Now I bought this wine in the gift shop at Yellowstone National Park, so let that be lesson number 1, don't buy wines in national park gift shops!  And I really bought it because of the label, a roadblock caused by a bison, which was something that happened to me that morning coming into the park as we were stuck in a traffic jam caused by a herd of bison coming back into the park.  And let that be lesson number 2, don't buy wines because the label reminds you of something that happened to you earlier in the day!  No good can come of it!

Now the wine itself was made from organic grapes, but that really is lesson number 3, it really doesn't matter if the grapes are organic or not, if you buy them from a person that doesn't know how to make good wine with them, you may as well opt for Welch's.  The wine was somewhat light in color, with a nose of leather and grass, and that was the highlight.  The taste was somewhat earthy with some mild fruit, but then it had a finish that reminded me of cough medicine.  The only saving grace was that since this was a tasting I could share the misery with my friends!

Overall, I would rate this one a 4 and barely so, as there is no way I could recommend this for anything but marinades.  I should have saved this one as a $20 souvenir, or better yet, used the money I wasted on this wine to enlarge a print of the buffalo herd and put that on my desk as a souvenir!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2008 Reininger Mr. Owl's Red Wine

And now we have another great Walla Walla wine from the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, the 2008 Reininger Mr. Owl's Red wine! Now you might wonder about the funny name, and when you hear the story, you'll probably fall in love with the winery and the family that owns it, as it's quite endearing.  This wine is named for Reininger's cellar master Raul, but unfortunately when the winery owners' children were young, that had a difficult time pronouncing his name, so they ended up calling him "Mr. Owl"!  And thus when they wanted to craft a wine and name it after him, they choice of "Mr. Owl's Red" was perfectly logical!

The wine itself is a blend of mainly Merlot (88%), Syrah (7%) and Sangiovese (5%), and it's that latter that I believe provides some lovely differentiation to this wine.  The color is a lovely deep purple in the glass, and the nose exudes leather, oak and plum.  The taste is fruit forward as you might expect with a blend dominated by Merlot, but the initial burst of red berries and plum, give way to a spiciness, of cinnamon and anise, which is not surprising with the addition of some Sangiovese into the blend.  I found the tannins to be somewhat subtle and earthy, which gave this wine a long, mellow finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it was a really lovely wine, but the only thing holding it back was the price, which at $30 might preclude this from everyday drinking, but perfect for a special occasion.  The wine paired very nicely with some of the soft cheeses we had at the tasting as well as the green olives, but it would also pair well with a rare grilled steak as well!  Salut!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2009 Famiglia Pasqua Passimento Veneto

So tonight I feel like having a little Italian, so why not open a bottle of our October wine club selection?  The 2009 Famiglia Pasqua Passimento Veneto, a wine from the far north of Italy, where the cuisine tends more toward rich risotto and polenta dishes.  Now, for those of you familiar with Amarone, this wine is very similar to the Valpolicella Ripasso, which is the second pressing of the dried Corvina grapes used to make Amarone.  The Pasqua family named this wine "Passimento" as they first dry the Corvina grapes before pressing them, creating a much more concentrated and rich flavor.  Then, unlike Amarone or Valpolicella Ripasso, they blend the first pressing of the dried Corvina grapes with Croatina, Merlot and several other local varieties of grapes from Verona that are not dried, resulting in a unique blend that has the richness of an Amarone, but is much more approachable for everyday drinking.

The color of this wine is a deep ruby in the glass, and the nose portrays a richness, with concentrated scents of blackberry and dried figs, leather and rose petals.  There's a sweetness in the nose that's somewhat deceiving, as this is by no means a sweet wine.  The taste starts with some strong fruit notes, ripe red berries and plums, transitioning to a gravelly taste reminiscent of some wonderful Bordeaux, along with dry herbs and just the faintest hint of mint.  The finish is somewhat tight, as the tannins are still developing, yet still providing for a smooth, dry finish.

As for pairings, this wine would pair well with a variety of rich, northern Italian dishes, and tonight I enjoyed it with some penne alla vodka, and the tightness of the tannins played against the richness of the cream in the sauce, while the rich fruit flavor of the wine balanced out the spice of the tomatoes in the sauce.  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's really a lovely everyday version of Amarone, maybe an Amarone light, but at a price that won't make you cringe.  I found this one at my local wine merchant for a tasting for only $14!  So if you have the opportunity, pick some up and enjoy it with a mushroom risotto!

Friday, October 19, 2012

2004 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Commemorative Reserve

And now we get to one of our favorites of the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, the 2004 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Commemorative Reserve!  I never had the chance to get any of this wine when it was released back in 2006, but I happened to try it when I visited the winery back in May and fell in love with it, so I brought back a couple bottles!  The wine was crafted in honor of Jean and Baker Ferguson, who founded L'Ecole No. 41 back in 1983, and it was made with grapes from some of the oldest Washington state vineyards that the Fergusons forged relationships with back when they founded L'Ecole: Klipsun Vineyard (Red Mountain), Bacchus & Dionysus Vineyard (Columbia Basin), Weinbau Vineyard (Wahluke Slope) and Stone Tree Vineyard (Wahluke Slope). 

The wine itself is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (48%), Merlot (42%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Petit Verdot (5%), and it was bottled unfined and unfiltered, so you might want to decant it.  The wine has a deep, inky purple color in the center that transitions to rich garnet along the edges.  The aroma is a rich blend of leather, plum, roses and licorice.  The taste had some nice fruit on the outset, with blackberry and plum, transitioning to a bit of earthy spice midpalate, before the well structured tannins provide for a long, smooth finish with residual notes of anise and dark chocolate.  At the end, you're just left muttering to yourself, what a fantastic glass of wine!

As for pairings, I can think of nothing better to pair a glass of Ferguson with than a lovely sunset on a 72-degree evening as this wine just stand on its own.  Sure we enjoyed it with some olives and cheese, but this is the kind of wine you can open with some friends and have confident that you'll all enjoy the rest of your evening.  The consensus of our tasting was that this was our favorite wine of the seven we tried and I certainly agree.  I would rate this one a solid 9, and if you can get some, I'd encourage you to get a few bottles and put them up in your cellar, as this wine was made to improve with age.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2008 Forgeron Barbera

Here we are at the forth wine of the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting event, and this one is from a winery that I got to know and really like on my trip last May, the 2008 Forgeron Barbera.  Now I really liked what I found at Forgeron, and Marie-Eve Gilla is making some wonderfully sophisticated, yet food friendly wines, including the Walldeaux Smithie I reviewed back in June.  The second thing to like about this wine is the fact that it's a Barbera, a varietal I've enjoyed since I first tried Woodward Canyon's offering back in the 2002 vintage.  Barberas have such a wonderful flair that make them a delight for pairing with a variety of dishes, which likely explains why I am so enamored with them.

The 2008 Forgeron Barbera has a lovely deep ruby color in the glass, but with an opacity that really reminds me of many of the lovely wines of Tuscany, somewhat lighter than a typical Cabernet.  The nose is lovely, with notes of leather, blackberry and anise.  The taste is somewhat fruit forward, with flavors of ripe plum dominating, but then we transition to some serious spice notes that often come from a wonderful Barbera, before yielding to a wonderfully smooth, dry finish.

This wine would be a perfect complement to a wide variety of Italian dishes, from basic pasta with red sauce, to a lovely mushroom risotto, or buccotini carbonara, but it would also pair quite nicely with a number of French dishes, and here I'm thinking chicken Provencal, or a number of other dishes from Provence, as the spice of the wine can really hold up nicely to the richness and creaminess of these dishes.  Among the group at the tasting, the consensus was that this was our second favorite wine, which is saying a lot since there was some pretty significant competition!  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's a lovely, food friendly wine that can serve as the star of the show or a great supporting cast member!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

2009 Seven Hills Winery Ciel du Cheval we are, the third wine from the "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, a wine from one of my favorite wineries in Walla Walla, the 2009 Seven Hills Ciel du Cheval Vineyard red wine.  This wine is a wonderful example of the best of Washington wine in my opinion, hand picked, low-yield varietals based mainly on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, along with some Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot to make for a wonderful red blend that is so characteristic of the wines in Walla Walla.

The wine is a deep ruby color in the glass, as you would expect from such a blend.  The nose presents some lovely black cherry and plum, along with some cinnamon and floral notes.  There is also a sweetness in the nose, almost candy-like, which is offset by the aroma of licorice and just a hint of cedar.  The taste is a true delight, with a lovely balance of ripe berry and plum at the outset, giving way to fresh herbs and a certain earthy quality.  The flavors are very sophisticated in the way they play off each other and bring real balance to the overall taste of the wine.  The tannins are still a bit tight for this younger wine, but they work well for a long, smooth finish.

This was one of our favorites at the tasting, and believe me, the competition was pretty stiff!  Overall I would rate this one a solid 9, with much potential for aging.  This wine would pair nicely with a variety of wonderful dishes, from rich Italian dishes, to grilled steak, to Indian curry dishes, as it has the strength to stand up to bolder dishes, but the sophistication to bring out the layers of flavor in more complex cuisines.  If you can find this wine I would recommend buying a few bottles, and if you can't find it, contact the folks at Seven Hills Winery, as I'm sure they'll do all they can to help you get some!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

2005 Carmela Cabernet Merlot Blend

Now on to the second of my "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting, you can see the lineup here and this second wine is from an emerging region, the Snake River Valley in Idaho, the 2005 Carmela Cabernet Merlot blend.  I brought back a few bottles from the Carmela Winery, and tasted the 2004 Carmela Cabernet Sauvignon back in June.  Now the Snake River Valley is interesting as the climate tends to be a little more arid than the Columbia Valley, and given the volcanic history of the region, the pumice and ash in the soil adds to the characteristics of the wines produced here.

This one is an interesting blend, modeled after some of the classic Bordeaux blends, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and this one is split right down the middle with 50% of each grape in the blend.  At first pour, this wine has a strong aroma of alcohol, but some time in the glass and it begins to open up a bit.  The nose has a lot of carbon and smoke, along with some lovely dry herbs.  The taste has some mild fruit at the outset, giving way to some herb flavors and concentrated spice leading to a very dry finish.  In sharing our thoughts on this wine, one person in the group exclaimed "Hot Lava!" so that might give you some sense of this one!

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 7.5, and it paired especially well at our tasting with the 5-year old cheddar and the lovely pear mustard and soft cheese that a friend brought.  It would also work well with some nicely grilled steak, or even a spicy chili!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Les Bourgeois Jeunette Rouge NV

And so it begins!  I am starting to post my reviews from my "Taste My Vacation" event held last weekend, so brace yourselves, this is going to be good!  We will go in the same order we tasted them, so if you click here you can see what we tasted and the order, etc.  Since we are going in order, tonight's review is of a little wine I bought at a small winery in Missouri called Les Bourgeois, just east of Kansas City (don't ask how far, this was a distraction as I was so focused on getting barbecue!).  Oh, and for all of these reviews, please excuse my photos, I took them with my phone and even though I took them all before the tasting began, it still looks like I took most of them well into the evening festivities!

Now what's interesting about this winery and Missouri in general is a specific grape called the Norton grape, as this is apparently the only wine grape that is native to North America, all the rest have been transplanted here over the centuries from Europe.  Now the Norton grape has a long and storied history, and was cultivated and made into wine not long after the revolution, including on Thomas Jefferson's estate in Virginia.  It was made into some award-winning wines in the mid-19th century, so it has some heft behind it.  Now I tried Les Bourgeois' pure Norton wine at their tasting room, and I'll admit I was taken aback when the young lady serving the wine asked me if I liked mushrooms, and then informed me that if I liked mushrooms I'd like this wine.  Not exactly a stellar endorsement, and since I really am not a big mushroom fan, I was prepared for the worst.  I was not let down, it was pretty repugnant at least in my taste.

So, I tried the Jeunette Rouge, which was a blend that contained some Norton along with a number of other varietals, and in this case I was pleasantly surprised.  The wine has a lighter color and body, similar to a pinot noir.  The nose is full of red berries, leather and an earthy aroma of mushrooms and moss.  The taste was very fruit forward, with the berry flavors quickly giving way to flavors of fresh herbs midpalate, and then leading to some wonderfully mild tannins and a smooth, dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 7, it wasn't spectacular, but for only $12 it was certainly well worth taking home from Missouri!  This one would pair nicely with some stronger fish dishes, or some classic southern cuisine given the earthiness and how that might accent some comfort foods.  So if you get down to Missouri and want to try some wine from the Norton grape, I highly recommend it!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

2001 L'Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon

Time flies when you're having fun!  Here we are, already at my third Cellar Saturday, the first Saturday of the month where I open up a bottle of wine that's been waiting patiently in the cellar for me to finally open up and enjoy.  And this month we have a really special treat more than a decade in the making, and a wine from my all time favorite winery, L'Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla!

What a wonderful wine, I can tell already!  The color is a rich, deep ruby color, and the nose is a wonderful blend of earthiness, oak, offsetting a sweet spiciness, that's a blend of cassis, cherry and blackberry, balancing out the spice of cinnamon and dark chocolate.  The taste is remarkable, with flavors of ripe fruit coming through despite the age, which are quickly overtaken by notes of cocoa powder and cherry cola, leading to a wonderful bit of mint and cedar with a hint of earthiness, and a classic flavor of rich, dark chocolate that is so characteristic of Walla Walla wines.  The finish is very long, dry and smooth, and after a decade, the tannins are still very well structured and vibrant, which is a perfect complement to the overall lush mouthfeel of this wine.

Given this is such a wonderful, classic wine, I better have something besides Taco Bell to enjoy this with, and yes, you know me better than that!  So I've paired this wine with a dinner that is a marriage of summer and fall, with the last bits of summer coming together with the very best of what fall has to offer.  I've started with the summer, a simple salad of sliced heirloom tomatoes with a bit of fresh basil, drizzled with 25-year balsamic vinegar.  And once that gets your tastebuds moving, the main course is a rare grilled angus ribeye, with sweet potato fries and grilled white, yellow and orange carrots, bringing in the classic root vegetables of fall.  And after all that, I'm ready for a nap!

Oh, but before I doze off in the La-Z-Boy, my rating!  I am totally biased, but I would have to rate this one a solid 9, as it's a stellar example of the wine, the terroir and the vintage, I just have no idea of the value since I bought this back in 2004!  In any case, I'll be enjoying this one again someday, as I still have another magnum left in the cellar!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2009 Stags Leap Napa Valley Merlot

It's a new month, so I say go big or go home!  And tonight we are going big, since I'm already home, with the 2009 Stags Leap Napa Valley Merlot!  Now many of you already know I like my Merlot, and I am a big fan of Stags Leap, so since I had three bottles of this wine delivered to my office today, I figured why not try one with dinner tonight and get me in the mood for a presidential debate (I think I'll follow it on Univision, so I get less biased reporting and the the chance at the appearance of gorgeous models and confetti, thanks to Don Hunt for that line).

Now, on to the wine!  This one has a lovely, deep purple color in the glass.  The nose is absolutely lovely, with aromas of leather, oak, mint and something green that I can't quite put my finger on.  The taste is just an explosion of wonderful flavors dancing around your mouth.  I often talk about how flavors progress from your first taste, to midpalate to the finish, but this wine just shows a pronounced yet smooth transition through all those phases.  At first I taste lovely fruit, cassis, ripe cherry and plum, which transitions to oak and leather, moving toward a fantastically earthy finish, which I honestly didn't expect.  The tannins are very well structured, providing balance to the earthy flavors and a wonderfully long finish.  It's still very young, and could probably be cellared for another 5 years before reaching its prime, but it's drinking beautifully now (which reminds me I have a few bottles of '07 Stags Leap Merlot around here somewhere that I should drink!).

Now for those who are familiar with Stags Leap, the wines are usually pretty pricey, but occasionally you can find a bargain as I did with this wine for only $20 on  For that price, I can easily rate this wine a solid 9, and I only wish not that I'd bought more than 3 bottles!  Tonight I am enjoying this with some maple bourbon glazed pork tenderloin, steamed rice and fresh green beans, and yes, this wine has every chance to overpower that meal, but I won't complain one bit!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

2009 Charles Krug Yountville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

So tonight I've decided to go with an old standard, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, after all, how can you go wrong with a Napa Cab?  I picked up a few bottles of the 2009 Charles Krug Yountville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from and they arrived last week, so who am I to deprive myself of the pleasure of opening up a new bottle of wine to try?

This wine is very deeply colored, almost ink like in appearance, with deep purple to ruby along the edges.  The nose has lovely fruit aromas of black cherry and ripe plum, along with cocoa, fresh herbs and almost a raisin smell.  For taste, it's delightfully fruit forward, with flavors of currant and raspberry at the outset, quickly transitioning to a dark chocolate and smoke flavor midpalate.  The lush mouthfeel then dissipates, overpowered by the young tannins giving this wine a very tight finish.

Overall, I would rate this one an 8, with the potential to improve with a few years in the cellar.  At $18 from, this wasn't a huge bargain, but it was a pretty good value for a Napa Valley Cab.  Tonight I am pairing this wine with tacos!  You see, even chorizo and refried beans deserve a good Cabernet once in a while!

Officially Unveiled: The Taste My Vacation Line Up!

At long last, I am officially having my "Taste My Vacation" wine tasting next Saturday, thank you Shani and Karen for offering your deck!  And since this is so long in the making, I've decided to officially announce the line up a few days early.  Now you might be thinking, "what's the big deal?" or "What in the world are you talking about?"  Well, let me outline this event for you.  As you may have read, I took a bit of a wine vacation earlier this summer, and spent 10 days driving across country, visiting wineries and all sorts of tourist traps, and when I returned I thought, wouldn't that make a great theme for a wine tasting?  Since I brought back wine from Missouri to Walla Walla, and points in between, it would be like vacationing though the magic of wine.

So I've selected seven bottles of wine that I brought back with me, and rather than think through this in terms of order and what not, we are simply going to taste these wines in the order I tasted them on the trip!  And don't worry wine blog friends, I'll be posting tasting notes for each of these over the coming weeks.  So, without further adieu, here are the seven wines we will be tasting:

  1. Les Bourgeois Vineyards Jeunette Rouge, a red blend from Rochefort, Missouri that is made with the Norton grape, one of the only wine grapes native to North America.
  2. 2005 Carmela Cabernet Merlot, a blend of 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this wine from Glenns Ferry, Idaho was the second wine I tried on the trip from the Snake River Valley.  The climate is similar to the Columbia Valley in Washington in terms of length of daylight and temperature, but the volcanic soils tend to make these wines a bit more earthy.
  3. 2009 Seven Hills Ciel du Cheval, a wonderful Bordeaux style blend of Merlot (39%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Petit Verdot (15%) and Cabernet Franc (11%), from my first winery stop in Walla Walla.
  4. 2008 Forgeron Sagemoor Vineyard Barbera, from my second stop in Walla Walla, I really came to like these wines, great quality and solid values.
  5. 2004 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Commemorative Reserve, made in honor of the founders, Baker and Jean Ferguson, this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (48%), Merlot (42%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Petit Verdot (5%).  L'Ecole was the third stop on my tour of Walla Walla!
  6. 2008 Reininger Mr. Owl's Red, this was from my last stop in Walla Walla, and this was a blend dedicated to Raul, who became Reininger's cellar master, but when the owners' children were young, they had difficulty pronouncing Raul, and it came out Mr. Owl, thus a blend was born!  This vintage is a blend of Merlot (88%), Syrah (7%) and Sangiovese (5%).
  7. Yellowstone Roadblock Red, this one I bought in the gift shop at Yellowstone since earlier in the day I was stopped by a roadblock of a herd of bison coming back into the park, and the label on this bottle has a pickup truck being blocked by bison!  This red blend of organic grapes was made by Ten Spoon Vineyard in Missoula, Montana, my last wine of the trip!
So there you have it, the magnificent seven wines that we'll be tasting next week and sharing through the month of October with my faithful blog readers, giddy up!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2008 Coppola Alicante Bouschet

So tonight I am trying a new wine I picked up yesterday at World Market from Francis Coppola.  Now I'm a big fan of his black label Claret, as it's a lovely everyday wine for a very modest price, so when I saw his diamond label on a bright magenta background I had to investigate!  This wine was the Alicante Bouschet, which apparently is a grape that has been cultivated since the 1860s, but was made popular during prohibition, since the grapes are red fleshed, which makes them much more robust in blending, creating darker colored wines from traditionally lighter grapes.  The thick skins also make it much more resistant to rot during transport from California to the east coast during prohibition.  And all this, made it a target for Mr. Coppola, who had fond memories of wines his family made from this grape during the period, so they located some and decided to make this wine.

The wine has a wonderful, deep ruby color that is almost an inky purple at the center.  The nose is full of jammy fruit, plums, blackberries, currant, with a hint of almost maple syrup.  The taste is very fruit forward, but not really as sweet as I was expecting.  The flavors of ripe red fruit quickly transition to spice, anise and mint midpalate, and then the bright tannins take control for a tight, dry finish.

Overall, I am thrilled with this wine, not so much because it's a stellar grape or exceptional vintage, but for what it can be paired with!  This wine is a perfect compliment to barbecue, and prior to discovering it, I was fairly limited to nice Zinfandels when it came to wine and barbecue, but this opens up a wonderful second option!  And it paid off, since tonight I am pairing this with a wonderful slow roasted, barbecued beef brisket, garlic mashed potatoes, grilled white, yellow and orange carrots and corn muffins!  All those flavors, and this wine stands up like a champ!  I would rate this one a solid 8, maybe an 8.5, since it's a rare wine that pairs with something traditionally more difficult, but it was also a great value at only $10!  So pick up the pink label and enjoy some today!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2009 Château Sigognac Medoc

It's a Wednesday evening, so it must be time to open a bottle of wine to celebrate "hump day"!  Tonight I've decided to open a lovely bottle of Bordeaux from the exceptionally hyped 2009 vintage, the Château Sigognac Medoc!

You know how I love a nice Bordeaux, and the characteristics of a lovely Medoc really bring my mind back to my printemps au Paris!  This wine is a lovely, deep ruby color in the glass, and the nose presents aromas of licorice, spices and a hint of gravelly limestone, but there's also something warm and syrupy that I can't quite place.  The taste is classic Medoc, with the faintest hint of fruit at the outset, quickly transitioning to a gravelly earthiness midpalate before the delightfully structured tannins leave you with a long, bone dry finish.

Tonight I am just enjoying this wine with my appetizers of sliced ripe tomatoes with 25-year balsamic and some aged cheeses as I think about what to have for dinner (sorry for my lack of pairing recommendations!) but I think this wine would pair quite nicely with a variety of steaks, or perhaps some lighter pasta dishes with grilled seafood, even though I know that might sound wierd to some of you!  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, though it might have gone higher but it was somewhat expensive at $17, marked down from the normal price of $22.  In any case, I'll enjoy this one all evening long!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2007 Ravenswood Dickerson Napa Valley Zinfandel

Well, kids are back in school and football is on TV all afternoon on Sundays, so that can mean only one thing, summer is on its way out and fall is coming into its own.  So as a celebration of the last gasp of summer, today I decide to have a little barbecue, and what could possibly go better with barbecue than a lovely zinfandel?

So with my lovely meal, I've cracked open a bottle of 2007 Ravenswood Dickerson Napa Valley Zinfandel, since the rich fruit flavor and smokiness of a good zin really pairs well with barbecue of all kinds!  Now this wine is part of a series of wonderful single-vineyard zinfandels that Ravenswood produces, including the Pickberry, Teldeschi and Barricia zinfandels.  And of course you know I'm a big fan of just about anything Ravenswood does!

This wine has a lovely ruby color in the glass, lighter around the edges and deeper toward the center.  The nose is a lovely combination of leather, limestone, oak and just a hint of ripe berries.  The taste is very fruit forward and characteristically jammy, but not is a super sweet grape jam sort of way.  It has lovely fruit that doesn't make you think you just drank kool-aid, instead this wine seems to be showing a lot of respect to the ripe fruit.  The fruit gives way to some wonderful minerality and spice midpalate, with hints of gravel and baking spice.  In the end, the delicate tannins provide for a long, smooth, supple finish that makes you want to take your time with this wine.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's really one of the nicest zins I've had in quite a while!  I bought just one bottle of this a couple years ago, on clearance sale at Meijer of all places, so the price was a real bargain at under $16, and now I wish I'd bought more!  And what sort of end of summer barbecue am I enjoying this with?  Glad you asked, a lovely rack of slow cooked barbecued spare ribs, along with some grilled corn, baked beans, corn muffins and broccoli salad, everything you need for a summer meal out in the yard!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

2010 Concannon Central Coast Petite Sirah

I've been a fan of Petite Sirah (or Petit Syrah as they say) for several years now, and I think what I like most about this varietal is that it's arguably neither petite nor very much like syrah!  It tends to be much bigger and bolder, with a more pronounced fruit profile.  Now I've had a Concannon petite sirah a few years ago, and it was very pleasant, so I'm hopeful that this wine will not let me down!

This wine still appears to be a bit young, but it's still well developed.  The color is a deep purple transitioning to a more ruby color toward the edges.  The nose feels young and green, with a clear fruit aroma of blueberries and ripe plums, almost edging toward a prune.  The fruit is accentuated by aromas of oak, savory spices and fresh herbs, which lend to the perception of this wine being young and "green."  The taste is very fruit forward, with flavors of blueberries and raisins transitioning to a combination of tar and tart cherries midpalate.  The finish at first seemed somewhat short, but then the tannins really played on some of the flavor complexity to make this a very pleasant finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7, it's certainly not the best Petit Sirah I've tasted and I'll mark them down for the artificial cork, but it was a wonderful value at only $7 from my favorite local wine merchant, G.B. Russo!  This wine would pair nicely with some roasted meats, perhaps some lamb, but tonight I am enjoying this one with some chili!  So if you're looking for a nice red with plenty of fruit and lots of body, pick up a bottle and enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2009 Powers Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

What a long day!  Work, then going out to Menard's to pick up a gigantic air compressor for work, so I finally got home and am ready to drop.  But not before I at least enjoy a nice evening meal and a nice glass of wine from Washington!

Tonight I am enjoying a bottle of 2009 Powers Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a nice wine at a very nice price that I picked up last weekend.  This wine has a lovely deep ruby color in the glass, and the nose exhibits classic Columbia Valley Cabernet aromas of leather, cedar, licorice, cocoa powder, and a bit of vanilla and floral overtones at the top.  The taste is very fruit forward, with lovely ripe berry and plum bursting forth on your palate, quickly transitioning to a tart cherry midpalate.  The young tannins create a tart but long-lasting finish, just as you'd expect from a classic Washington Cabernet.

As I mentioned, this wine was a wonderful bargain for only $11 at my local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's.  The only negative I could find on this wine was the screw cap, but I suppose I could overlook that minor transgression.  So overall, I would rate this one a solid 7.5, a really solid wine for the money, and one I could enjoy for an entire afternoon!  Tonight however I am enjoying this with frozen pizza, yes, my life is in fact that glamorous...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2008 Delas Côtes-du-Ventoux

Even though it's starting to feel like autumn, it's just not time to put away the summer reds for another year, so tonight I am enjoying a bottle of 2008 Delas Côtes-du-Ventoux, a southern Rhône blend of Grenache (80%) and Syrah (20%) that just strikes me as ideal for a late summer afternoon. 

The wine is a lovely deep ruby to purple color, and the nose is thick with ripe fruit, blackberry and plum, and a nice bit of spice that balances the fruit very well.  There is also a good bit of earthiness too, somewhat reminiscent of the forest after a spring shower that reminds me of the flavors of black truffles.  The wine is quite fruit forward, with a lovely balance of ripe black fruit, black pepper and a bit of tartness that doesn't come from the tannins, but I believe comes more from the fruit itself - very interesting.  The wine is quite flavorful throughout, reaching a crescendo of cherry cola flavor midpalate, which gives way to tannins that are well structured providing for a very pleasing finish.

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 7.5, it's certainly not a spectacular, make your jaw drop sort of wine, but it's a great value!  I bought this bottle today at my local wine retailer for just $10.49, which seems a bargain for the quality of wine inside.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a lovely Polish dinner of all things!  Some fresh smoked kielbasa, pierogis and sauerkraut, so you see, you can pair lovely southern French wine with just about anything if you try hard enough!

Monday, September 3, 2012

2009 L'Ecole No. 41 Petit Verdot

Happy Labor Day!  What a wonderful holiday where we celebrate the joy of working but cooking out and enjoying a last gasp of summer with family and friends.  And what better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a bottle of wine from one of my favorite Washington wineries?  Ha!  Rhetorical questions that one!

So with my lovely Labor Day cookout, I've cracked open a bottle of 2009 L'Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Valley Petit Verdot, what is normally a blending grape for Bordeaux, all on it's own.  Now a few weeks ago I tried a bottle of the '09 Cabernet Franc, and I must admit I really like this Petit Verdot a lot better!  I'm not sure whether it's the varietal or just the character of this year's vintage, but this is simply an outstanding bottle of wine!

The wine is a deep ruby red to purple in the glass, and the nose is a wonderful combination of luscious ripe fruit that causes your brain to immediately start thinking of juicy plums or berries just dripping down your chin. The nose is an ethereal blend of ripe fruit, with elements of grape, plum and anise, transforming to a bit of cocoa, baking spice and just the faintest hint of woodsy earthiness.  The taste is a delight, with a shock of fruit right at the outset, rich grape, plum, berry which then transitions to real dryness midpalate, before the tannins come rushing in to provide that long, tart finish.

I really have no idea if this is what the true expression of the petit verdot should aspire to, I just know that I really love this wine and could go on sipping it for the better part of an afternoon.  Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8.5, one of my personal favorites and one I wish I had more of since it's sold out!  As for pairing, tonight I had it with my typical Labor Day feast of a ginormous 28-ounce boneless ribeye grilled rare with a tossed salad of baby herbs and a bit of 25-year balsamic vinegar.  So yummy!!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

2001 Château Les Gravières Saint Emilion Grand Cru

And for my second official Cellar Saturday, I've decided to open up a wine that has only been in my cellar for less than a month!  Tonight it's a more than decade old Grand Cru Bordeaux, the 2001 Château Les Gravières Saint Emilion.  Now unlike many Bordeaux blends, this one is 100% Merlot, though I'll admit I've always found something about French Merlot that seems to make it better than anywhere else.

The wine itself has a lovely deep purple to ruby coloration.  The nose is a wonderful blend of rich red fruit, leather and smoke.  The taste is remarkably fruit forward, with wonderful ripe plum, red berries and cassis that creates a seeming jolt of sweet fruit flavor that quickly transitions to black pepper and musty oak.  The tannins are quite supple, offering a very smooth, dry finish.  Given it's age, this wine is probably now entering its prime years for drinking, so it's a good thing I opened it!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, mainly since I love classic Bordeaux and this is definitely in that realm.  The nose, the color, the taste, all remind me of the wonderful wines I drank the last time I was in France.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a rare grilled ribeye, haricots vert almondine and some roasted red potatoes.  I bought this wine recently from Wines Till Sold Out for only $30, and I am just amazed sometimes at what wonderful wines they can find for bargain prices that really give you a chance to taste something out of the ordinary!