Monday, April 23, 2012

2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Merlot

Well, it has been a long day and I need to relax, so what better way than to enjoy a glass of wine from my favorite winery, L'Ecole No. 41!  To celebrate the end of the day, I've decided to open a bottle of the 2008 Columbia Valley Merlot, a nice wine that is really a more basic wine made from some of the best grapes of the region, but done in a way that maintains the character of the wine as a purely "L'Ecole" wine.  This is also appropriate given that I just received my spring wine club selection from the winery last week (can't wait to open those eventually, but you know I'm patient when it comes to wine).

Now L'Ecole is a great producer of Bordeaux style blends, so naturally this wine is not a pure Merlot (only 82%), but has been blended with some wonderful Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Franc (12%), Petit Verdot (4%) and Malbec (2%).  The blend creates a far more interesting wine than many Merlots on the market today.  This one has deep red hues and a a nose of leather, spice and a hint of cherry.  The wine is nicely structured with a subtle taste of berry and ripe black cherry on the front end, which gives way to a wonderful smoky, mocha flavor mid-palate followed by a smooth dry finish supported by very nice tannins. 

Overall the wine tastes like what you might expect for a much more expensive wine, which is probably why I really do like L'Ecole's Columbia Valley reds for everyday drinking wine.  This one I would rate a solid 8, which gets bumped up to an 8.5 since I found it on sale at a local supermarket wine department for only $18!  Can you believe that?  As for pairings, this wine would go very well with a grilled steak, or rich pasta dish, but tonight, I am relaxing with wine and a pizza!  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2007 Monte Antico Toscana

What a lovely evening, nice and cool, clear skies and a beautiful's just too bad I've been busy as all get out today!  Work, then the gym for an hour, then I stopped to pick up a chicken burrito for dinner from the local Qdoba (see not every day is a gourmet feast!) and now I'd just like a nice glass of vino to relax before I start all over again tomorrow!

So tonight I've decided to open a bottle of what I consider a very wonderful everyday wine.  Not a spectacular, special occasion type wine, but a nice wine that comes at a price that doesn't have you filling out mortgage applications should you decide to have more than a bottle a week!

The 2007 Monte Antico Toscana is a nice blend of mostly Sangiovese with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that seems to give this wine a little more body than a typical Sangiovese.  The wine itself is medium bodied, with a nice bright ruby color in the glass.  The nose is filled with ripe fruit and leather, with a hint of sour cherry.  The taste is somewhat earthy, with tart fruit flavors, giving way to a strawberry jam flavor midpalate, and then some nicely structured tannins for a smooth dry finish.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 7, with a half point deduction for the screw cap (you know how I love my corks!).  It's a lighter style that goes very well with take out Mexican food, or just sipping on the patio after a long day. I think I bought this at my local supermarket for just $7, so again, how can you complain?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2008 Palazzo Della Torre Veronese

So tonight being the 100th anniversary of the last dinner aboard the RMS Titanic, I thought it might be interesting to honor the tragedy with a dinner and bottle of wine that hearkens back to those days when technology and industry seemed to hold all the answers for mankind (where have I heard that before?).  So I thought about recreating the menu, but I have to admit I had neither the desire nor inclination toward creating a 12-course dinner for myself tonight, so that seems out, though you know whatever I have will be good. 

Then I searched the web trying to find a list of wines served on Titanic, and perhaps I might have a current vintage, or even a similar wine, like a Bordeaux or Burgundy, but alas there is very little detail on the wines served on board.  It seems they had more than their fair share of Champagne, but little else was detailed in the documents I surveyed.  So strike two for my last dinner evening, though I did learn an interesting tidbit, that apparently on ocean liners like Titanic, they seldom carried a great selection of aged red wines for fear that the rumbling of the massive reciprocating steam engines might somehow shake loose the sediment in old wine rendering them undrinkable.  Here's some information I could use, if I can't find a wine list, I can enjoy a rather young wine with my dinner.

So with my dinner I've chosen a bottle of 2008 Palazzo Della Torre Veronese.  For those familiar, this wine is a distant cousin to Amarone, and a closer cousin to the Valpolicella Ripasso, or the "second pressing" of the Amarone.  The main differences are the grapes used in making this wine, Corvina and Rondinella  which are often blended to make Bardolino and Valpolicella.  Unlike Amarone, this wine takes a slightly different approach, with the majority of grapes pressed at harvest to make wine with the remainder are dried or "raisined" during the period from harvest to January when they are pressed and the resulting wine blended with the wine pressed at harvest.  The result is a very similar wine to Amarone or Valpolicella Ripasso.

This particular wine is a deep red color in the glass.  The nose is quite fruity, with hints of dried cherries, plums, anise and oak.  The taste is somewhat concentrated, with initial flavors of red fruit and spice, followed by a real raisin sort of flavor mid palate.  The tannins are softer than I was expecting, creating a very smooth, dry finish.  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8 with the chance to improve with a little time in the cellar (I'll also note this was #60 on the Wine Spectator list of the top 100 wines of 2011).  And what about my pairings?  Did I come even close to 12 courses?  Not really, but I did enjoy this wine with a very rich meal that would have been quite acceptable during the early 20th Century.  I had a nice grilled ribeye served with Béarnaise sauce along with some linguine tossed with a bit of garlic and olive oil and some steamed broccoli rabe.  And for dessert, what else but a cannoli!  Salute!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2006 Sola Napa Valley Zinfandel

Tonight I've decided to open a bottle of Sola Napa Valley Zinfandel, and I'll admit I was not impressed.  Granted, I am not sure anyone has any business producing Zin in Napa Valley, since everyone knows the best come from Lodi anyway (insert shocked emoticon here), so this one just reinforces my prejudice against wines from Napa that are not Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine struck me as a bit sketchy from the first pour, very light in color, suggesting not much body which is a problem for such a high alcohol wine.  Initially, the nose was very pungent, with almost sour notes, but after it opened up a bit there were notes of leather, licorice and strawberry with some hints of oak or cedar.  The taste is unremarkable, little more than fruit with alcohol blended in, some notes of sour cherry midpalate and poorly developed tannins for a finish that just say "meh..."  The wine definitely needs time to open up, perhaps some serious time in the decanter (or maybe I'll try my aerator I got for Christmas), but even then there is little about this wine that impresses me.

As for pairings, tonight I'm having teriaki pork tenderloin with some couscous and steamed broccoli, but I'm still mulling opening up another bottle with my dinner, but we'll see.  I would rate this wine a weak 6, and fortunately I don't think I paid a lot for this bottle otherwise I'd be really disappointed! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

2007 Kunde Family Estate Sonoma Valley Zinfandel

Oh how I love me a good Zin, and certainly it's hard to match the Sonoma Valley for really solid Zinfandels, like the one I'm enjoying this evening, the 2007 Kunde Family Estate Sonoma Valley Zinfandel.  I've had a few bottles of wine from Kunde, and they've not disappointed me.

This wine is no exception.  A deep ruby color that suggests a richness you might expect from a good California Zin.  The nose is very rich and supple, with a strong scent of leather and oak intermingled with anise and the faintest hint of licorice atop ripe cherry and plum.  The taste is not as fruit forward as I had expected, rather the subtle fruit tends to provide a lasting, smooth flavor of dark berries to mid palate, followed by well structured tannins that make for a long, vibrant finish.

I'm enjoying this one tonight with some 4-year old cheddar I bought from Herman's Boy, one of my favorite local cheese merchants up in Rockford, Mich., but it would also go with a variety of fun, easy dinner options, from Chinese take out to rich barbecue!  Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, and it was such a bargain at only $10 from Wines Till Sold Out (  It's been a while since I plugged them, but I just can't say enough good things about them, by far the best online wine merchant in the world, perhaps even the universe (though I haven't ordered much beyond our solar system).  Great wines, great prices and great people to deal with, what more can you ask?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

1999 LaMarque Haut Mèdoc

Tonight I'm going back to the future!  That's the lovely thing about wine, it ages much better than most of us do, and it allows us to travel back in time.  Imagine, tonight I get to go back to Bordeaux in 1999, back when the franc was still in use, the euro was a dream, the internet bubble was going strong, and airport security was a breeze...and I was enjoying the last year of graduate school, those were the days!  And to remember, I'm enjoying the 1999 LaMarque Haut Mèdoc!

As I enjoy a bottle of nice Bordeaux from the last of the 20th Century, it brings back memories, but it also provides much pleasure on its own.  I recall falling in love with Haut Medoc when I was working in Paris in 1995, and I brought back 3 bottles to enjoy, all from the 1990 vintage if I recall correctly, wonderful vibrant, dry red Bordeaux that immediately brought back memories of enjoying a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe a few block from the Eiffel Tower, with the warm breeze...printemps à Paris, c'est le meilleur!

This wine is very interesting, particularly in how it's aged over the last decade.  The color is a bright ruby with a hint of rust around the edges.  The nose is an experience in oak, leather, Asian spice, and a bit of sour cherry.  The taste is mildly fruit forward, giving way to a good bit of earthy Asian spice mid palate, and then finishing very dry, with remarkable tannic structure.  What a wonderful wine that 13 years on is still not past it's prime!  I'm enjoying this one tonight with some aged cheeses, gruyère, parmesan and gouda, all of which complement this wine exceptionally.  I don't recall where I bought this one, but I think it was just a couple years ago on a close out of some kind.  In any case, I would rate this one a solid 8.5, a great aged Bordeaux that has certainly reached it's prime.  I'm not sure you'd be able to find this wine anywhere, but even so, this should be an encouragement to open a bottle of older vintage wine tonight and relive the wonders of the past with a glass of great wine!  Salut!

Monday, April 2, 2012

2009 Château Legarère Bordeaux

So tonight we are venturing off to France for another example of the much praised 2009 vintage of Bordeaux, though technically we are a little southeast of Bordeaux in Longoiran, a small medieval village on the right bank of the Garonne.  So why not try this for fun, after all, I've had a case of this wine since the end of 2010, so it's probably about time to crack open a bottle.  And you know how much I love my Bordeaux blends, this one happens to be 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon for what should be a rather sturdy wine.

The wine exhibits a bright ruby color and has a nose of classic Bordeaux, with a musty oak, mild hints of flowers and spice all intertwined with a bit of leather and earth.  The wine itself is somewhat fruit forward, with hints of plum and cassis, giving way to some earthy spice mid palate, and then light tannins for a dry, but unremarkable finish.  The wine is still quite young (at three years old, most Bordeaux are barely out of diapers), so I expect this wine will evolve quite a bit over time, though it's drinking fairly nicely right now, given it's youth and inexperience.

I got this wine from Wines Till Sold Out nearly 18 months ago, and it was a wonderful bargain at $11, so even if I didn't find it as compelling as an '05 Haut Mèdoc, it's still a very nice, and affordable everyday red.  For that level of accessibility, I'll give this wine a hearty 7 with a chance to improve with age.  Tonight I am enjoying a glass with a rare, thick ribeye, some roasted red potatoes and steamed haricots vert, yum!  Bon appetit!