Monday, July 29, 2013

2009 Glen Carlou Grand Classique

So tonight I am opening a bottle of wine that I bought last weekend from my favorite local wine purveyor, G.B. Russo's, and since they had a tasting of this wine on Saturday I had a sneak preview before I even decided to open this bottle, the 2009 Glen Carlou Grand Classique.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (43%), Petit Verdot (20%), Merlot (16%), Malbec (16%) and Cabernet Franc (5%), produced in South Africa and imported by the Hess Family Collection.  Now some of you might be looking at the blend and wondering if I liked it given the amount of Malbec in the blend, and surprisingly I really liked this one!

The wine is a lovely deep, inky purple color in the glass and the nose provides a combination of leather, blackberry, tart cherry, toasted oak and just a hint of baking spice.  The taste is quite nice, with some tart cherry and plum up front that transitions to some lovely notes of tobacco and dark chocolate midpalate.  The tannins are somewhat young, but they are nicely structured, leading to a long, supple finish that's really very pleasant.

Overall I would rate this one a solid 8.5, not because it's a spectacular wine, thought it's quite nice, but because it was such a wonderful bargain at only $11!  I've tasted many $20 bottles that were not as pleasing as this one, so that says a lot about the steadily improving quality of the wines from South Africa.  Tonight I am pairing this with a rare Angus T-bone served with some sweet potato fries and steamed Italian flat beans, as this wine really stands up to the boldest of grilled meats. Cheers!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

2011 Erath Oregon Pinot Noir

Tonight I've decided to go a little lighter for the summer fare that will be on my plate this evening, so I've decided to open a bottle of 2011 Erath Oregon Pinot Noir that I bought today at my favorite local wine purveyor, G.B. Russo's!  I figured it would be somewhat lighter, though with the cool weather we've had lately I could have gone with the heaviest of Cabs and felt wine with my choice!

The wine is light in color, and somewhat translucent, like many of the quality Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  The nose has some lovely fruit, blackberry and strawberry, with some lovely earthy notes, cedar and sagebrush, just like you might smell if you were walking through the valley.  The taste is very pleasant, with berries and cherry notes teasing you at the outset, gradually transitioning to some wonderfully earthy spice notes, cracked pepper.  The lovely, rather mild tannins lead you to some nice vanilla notes at the end, for a lovely, long and smooth finish that beckons you to take another sip!

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8, it's a lovely example of a classic Oregon pinot noir, but it was also a relative bargain at only $16!  Tonight I am trying this one with a new recipe for poached wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, with some wild mushrooms and fresh green beans in a white wine cream sauce over some al dente buccatini, so delicious and the pinot just pairs so well with the earthy notes of the wild mushroom cream sauce, Cheers!

Friday, July 26, 2013

2010 Blacksmith Merlot

Tonight it's a little cool here in west Michigan, so I've decided to open up a wine that's a bit more hearty for the unseasonable weather, the 2010 Blacksmith Merlot, a second label from Forgeron Cellars, one of my newer favorites from the Walla Walla Valley.  Although I was just at the Forgeron tasting room last month, this was a bottle that I ordered and was delivered during the spring I think, so it's a little less exciting than you might think at first.

The wine itself is a deep purple color in the glass, and the nose is just a beautiful combination of ripe berries and cassis, leather, dried herbs and just the faintest hint of mint.  The taste is just Merlot joy!  I know it has a bad reputation thanks to that idiot movie, but for those of us who appreciate a nice Merlot, it can be such a pleasure to sip on a cold rainy night!  This one has some very mellow fruit notes at the outset, some blackberry and plum, that transitions quickly to some really nice minerality midpalate, with flavors of dusty limestone and iron.  The finish is quite nice with nicely structured tannins supporting a very dry, long finish, which is a bit surprising for such a young wine.

Overall I would rate this one a solid 8, as it's a very pleasant Merlot that's drinking quite nicely right now, and it's just a spectacular bargain at regular retail price of only $18!  No wonder it's already sold out!  Tonight I am pairing this with my usual unconventional flair, enjoying it with a potato crusted flounder filet, a backed potato with sour cream and chives, and a nice salad, sounds odd, but the hearty flavors really work well together.  If you can find the Blacksmith label at your local retailer or wine bar, I highly recommend picking some up, in fact I'm now kicking myself for not ordering more when I had the chance!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

2008 Northstar Stella Maris Red Wine

Ahhh... another weekend winding down, so at least I could end it with a nice bottle of wine!  Tonight it's the 2008 Northstar Stella Maris Columbia Valley Red Wine, a bottle I picked up from a wine shop in Seattle a couple years ago I think, it's sad how I so easily forget where I get these bottles of wine, but at least I'll record my drinking them for posterity.  The wine itself is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (46%), Merlot (46%), Petit Verdot (3%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Syrah (2%).  The fruit for this Columbia Valley blend were sourced from a number of great vineyards in the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys, including Northstar Estate, Windrow, Minnick Hills, Horse Heaven Vineyard, Kiona and Shaw Red Mountain.

The wine is a deep ruby color in the glass with a lovely nose of ripe plum, blackberries, leather, anise and green cedar, with just a hint of baking spice.  The taste is lovely, with an explosion of black ripe fruit on the outset, but not sweet and jammy like some wines.  The fruit transitions smartly to some green grass and tart cherry notes midpalate that lead you right to a silky smooth finish supported by very well structured tannins.  The wine has such a lush mouthfeel, it's just a pleasure to sip, even on a summer afternoon!

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8, I really enjoyed sipping it and could continue doing to for hours, but as I recall it was a bit more expensive, probably in the $25 range, so a little more expensive than an everyday red.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with some grilled Copper River Sockeye salmon, with a touch of dill cream sauce along with some steamed basmati rice and grilled rainbow carrots, so yummy!  The wine smoothly interacts with the fresh crisp flavors of the vegetables while not detracting from the lovely salmon flavor, a perfect Northwest treat!

Friday, July 19, 2013

2006 Laguna de la Nava Valdepenas Gran Reserva

It's hot and I'm a bit tired, so I've decided to open a bottle of wine that I bought yesterday at the duty free shop in Montreal.  Not that I'm a big duty free wine shopper, but I had and extra $20 Canadian that I wanted to get rid of, so the natural choice was to bring home a bottle of wine rather than a $20 bill!  So what I found was a 2006 Laguna de la Nava Valdepenas Gran Reserva from Bodegas Navarro Lopez and it's opened tonight!

The wine is somewhat lighter in color than your typical rioja, but perhaps that bodes well as I wanted to avoid a real heavy wine with the recent heatwave!  The nose is very nice with a good bit of leather, some sweet jammy fruit notes and a hint of mint and some spice.  The taste was actually quite pleasant, with some notes of blueberry and ripe plum up front which transitions to some tart cherry and limestone midpalate.  The finish was pleasant and very long, as the tannins were very supportive of the long dry finish.  I must admit I was a bit concerned when reading on the internet that most wines of Valdepenas are meant to drink young, so having a 7-year-old bottle might not be a prize, but this one turned out well.  It's somewhat lighter, tart and modestly refreshing for a red wine, making it ideal for the summer!

Overall I would rate this a solid 7.5, it might be a bit past it's prime, but for $13.95 Canadian it wasn't a bad deal overall!  Tonight I am enjoying this with a nice steak, yes my butcher hooked me up again with Angus T-bones on sale for $6.99 a pound he had three with the most lovely tenderloin on the steak so I jumped at the opportunity!  Along with the steak I have the traditional fare, a baked potato with sour cream and a nice mixed green organic salad with a bit of balsamic and olive oil.  I'm going to sleep well tonight!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

2006 Walla Walla River Winery Syrah

Tonight is Walla Walla night, so I could think of no more appropriate wine to enjoy than the 2006 Walla Walla River Winery Syrah.  Now for a bit of background, Walla Walla River Winery is a second label from Cougar Crest, which I discovered on my Walla Walla adventure back in 2012, and also when I picked up this bottle (doesn't it show I have great discipline that I can hang on to a bottle for more than a year and never even think of opening it?).  But I digress.

Now for the wine, a beautiful ruby color in the glass, just as you would expect from a nice Syrah.  The nose is an interesting combination of ripe blackberry, tart cherry, smoke and some herb notes, perhaps it's a bit of tarragon that I'm picking up,  The taste is classic Walla Walla Syrah, with flavors of tart cherry, blackberry, leather and anise up front, which then transitions to some notes of dark chocolate, green grass and earthy basalt notes midpalate.  The finish is quite nice, with some well structured tannins that support a long, dry finish.  This wine is probably right about at its prime drinking right now, so I'm glad I opened this one!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as I think it's a classic example of a Walla Walla Syrah, but that said it's probably not for everyone.  As for the appropriateness of this wine, tonight I am enjoying this one with a rare grilled Angus T-Bone, along with some home made beer batter onion rings made with Walla Walla Sweet Onions, hence it's Walla Walla day in my kitchen!  The wine just pairs so nicely with grilled steak, and provides a nice balance to the sweet onion rings, so delicious!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2005 Chateau Griviere Medoc

It's getting to be very hot and humid here, so it might be rose season again soon enough, but tonight I've decided to go a little more traditional with my wine selection in light of my dinner menu, so here we are with a 2005 Chateau Griviere Medoc, a lovely Bordeaux from a fairly respectable vintage!

The wine is a very lovely deep purple color, leading to some bright ruby along the edges.  The nose is quite nice, with wonderful notes of sweet cherry, blueberry, leather and tar that seems quite appropriate for a Medoc.  The taste has some nice dark fruit at the outset, plum and ripe berries with scattered floral notes that transitions nicely to some dusty limestone and baking spice notes midpalate.  The finish is delightful, as the well balanced tannins support a long, luscious dry ending to a lovely sipping Bordeaux.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's a nice example of a Medoc that is drinking very well now, and it was a bargain at the World Market for less than $15!  As for my more traditional pairing, tonight I am enjoying this wine with a nice New Zealand lamb chop grilled medium rare and topped with a bit of French sheeps milk Feta over a bed of baby spinach, the ripe fruit and earthiness of the wine really accents the beautiful flavors of the lamb, cheers!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

2009 Chateau des Moines Montagne Saint-Emilion

Tonight I've decided to open a bottle of Bordeaux from the very solid 2009 vintage to enjoy with my dinner, the 2009 Chateau des Moines Montagne Saint-Emilion (wow I certainly hope this doesn't taste like wine made in Des Moines!).  Now for those unfamiliar with Bordeaux, the Montagne Saint-Emilion is an AOC that is just to the north of Saint-Emilion proper, as one of the satellites of the Saint-Emilion vineyard.  The wine itself is a rather different Bordeaux blend of Merlot (75%), Cabernet Franc (20%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) which could lend itself to some interesting notes.

The wine is a lovely deep purple color in the glass with a bright ruby around the edges.  The nose is quite refined with hints of blackberry and prune, along with aromas of leather and cut grass with just the faintest hint of the Bordeaux funk!  The taste is quite fruit forward, with flavors of blackberry and ripe cherry that seems to last but an instant before we transition to some lovely limestone notes.  The tannins are nicely structured, but they are big, leading to a wonderful long, dry finish that is just classic Bordeaux.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's a very nice wine for drinking every day that goes well with a variety of dishes.  And it was a bargain too, as I bought this one from Wines Till Sold Out for just $12!  Tonight I am pairing this with a nice rare ribeye with a baked potato and a lovely spinach salad with bleu cheese, dried cranberries and white balsamic, yum!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

2006 Bodegas Olarra Anares Rioja Reserva

Tonight I am trying something new for dinner, so why not also try a new wine with my meal?  For this evening I've chosen a bottle of 2006 Bodegas Olarra Anares Rioja Reserva, and it's not the first time I've enjoyed a bottle from this producer, back in May I enjoyed another bottle from 2005: Cerro Anon Rioja Reserva that I thought was very nice. As for my new dinner choice, I've been seeing incessant commercials for Wal-Mart's "Choice Premium Steaks" I decided to go out over the weekend and buy one, just to try it and see if it lives up to all the marketing hype.  More on that later.

This wine certainly lived up to my expectations for a nice Rioja, as I've come to really appreciate Spanish wines over the last year or so.  The wine had a rich ruby color in the glass and the nose was a nice combination of black licorice, plum, leather and a hint of floral notes, perhaps a bit of lavender.  The taste had a nice shock of ripe plum combined with tart cherry at the outset which transitioned nicely to some earthy notes of dusty limestone midpalate. The tannins were very pronounced creating a very long, exceptionally dry finish that makes this wine ideal for spicy dishes or hearty grilled meats, like a Wal-Mart steak!

Overall I thought this was a very nice Rioja that is drinking very well right now, so I'd rate it a solid 8.5 particularly since it was a terrific value at just $12.99 from Wines Till Sold Out!  Back to the steak, surprisingly the Wal-Mart steak wasn't bad, it was not very thick, a little under an inch, but I still had no problem grilling it to a nice rare, cool red center.  I seasoned it just as I would my normal Angus ribeye and it was tender and quite flavorful, with good marbling.  So overall a successful experiment, though the everyday price of $9 a pound is a bit more than I can usually buy my Angus steaks when on sale, so I think Tom, my butcher can rest a little easier.  I had the wine and steak with a nice baked potato and some freshly steamed sugar snap peas I picked up at the farmers market last weekend.  Overall a very nice dinner!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2012 Mark Ryan "The Vincent" Rose

So as some of you know, though I am not a white wine drinker per se, I've come to appreciate the more chilling aspects of white wine in the summer months, hence my more recent fondness for rose wines - great blends of traditionally red wine grapes to provide a refreshing summer respite without the sweetness that can be so common among white wines.  With a wonderful sunny, summer afternoon developing, and after the wonderful dinner I had paired with a rose last night, I've decided to open another rose that I picked up last week in Walla Walla, the 2012 Mark Ryan "The Vincent" rose, from his very affordable second label, Board Track Racer.  Another interesting note about this wine is that although I bought this at Mark Ryan's new tasting room on Main Street in Walla Walla, the winery is based out of Woodinville, the new hot area for Washington Wine (leave it to me to stick with a wine region after all the cool kids leave!).

The wine itself is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, though I didn't pick up the tasting notes, so I have no idea what the exact percentages are, in any case who wouldn't love a GSM rose?  The nose on this wine is very subdued, with pleasant notes of strawberry and some faint floral and grass notes.  The tastes is quite nice, with a bit of fresh strawberry on the outset that shifts to some nice minerality midpalate.  The finish is very dry with just a hint of pink grapefruit on the mildly acidic finish.  Overall a very refreshing and dry rose that's just perfect for a summer afternoon on the patio.

Overall I would rate this one a solid 8, a very nice rose that I loved in the tasting room and like just as much at home, and it was a good value at just $15.  Today I am pairing this one with a lovely Caprese salad, with some sliced red and brown tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and some 25-year balsamic and topped with a few sprigs of fresh basil from the garden.  The dryness and mild acidity of the wine provide the perfect balance to the sweetness of the aged balsamic and creaminess of the cheese.  What a great afternoon, salut!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

2012 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rose

To today I felt inspired in a number of ways, it was a Saturday meaning that I had loads of errands to run, including to the farmers market and the grocery store (that's a dangerous combo for one who loves food as much as I do) and it's really hot out today!  So heat and humidity in Michigan can mean only one thing, it's time to bust out the rose!  And for tonight's inspired meal it's the 2012 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rose, a perennial favorite!

The wine is a lovely pink grapefruit color, which is appropriate since the nose is a pleasant combination of pink grapefruit, strawberry and hint of floral notes.  The taste starts out with a burst of strawberry and citrus, and then eases into some lovely minerality midpalate, all leading to a lovely, exceptionally dry finish supported by some well structured tannins that I've come to love about this wine.  What a refreshing way to end a sweltering summer afternoon!

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8, as I think this is probably the best example of the Grenache Rose to date, as our friends at L'Ecole seem to be getting just a bit better with this wine every year!  Plus it's a bargain at only $18, or $16 with my wine club discount, but unfortunately they don't produce enough of this so it's currently sold out (sign up for the mailing list to get an alert for the 2013 vintage next year!).  As for pairings, here's where my inspiration pairs off as I am enjoying this wine with some lovely alder planked Copper River Sockeye salmon with a bit of lemon and fresh dill along with some couscous with toasted pine nuts and some steamed sugar snap peas I picked up at the farmers market this morning.  YUM!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

2010 Klinker Brick Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

Happy Independence Day!  Of course being the traditionalist that I am, the Fourth of July means barbecue, and specifically ribs and what wine goes better with barbecue than a nice Zinfandel, and of course you know I'm convinced that the best Zins come from Lodi!  Hence tonight I am enjoying a bottle of 2010 Klinker Brick Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel.

The wine has a nice deep ruby color and the nose is pure Zinfandel with notes of black cherry, anise and cocoa powder.  The taste is lovely, with some light floral notes amid rich ripe cherry and plum on the outset, transitioning into some nice licorice and baking spice midpalate.  The finish is very smooth and dry, as the soft tannins lend plenty of depth and character to the long, dry finish.  A perfect wine for the holiday!

Overall I would rate this one a solid 8, as it's a nice Lodi Zin at a great price, I picked up this bottle at World Market for only $15!  And of course tonight I am pairing it with great American eats, some barbecued St. Louis spareribs, homemade strawberry coleslaw, red potato salad with dill and corn muffins fresh from the oven.  The richness of this wine pairs well with salads while the anise flavor is the perfect accent to a rich barbecue sauce.  I can't wait to start eating!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2009 Reininger Carmenere

So last night I got back from my wine tasting adventure to Walla Walla, so wouldn't it make sense to immediately taste more wine from there?  Yeah, but whoever accused me of making sense!  Tonight I've decided to taste a wine from one of the few producers that I didn't have an opportunity to visit on my recent trip, Reininger and specifically their 2009 Walla Walla Carmenere.

Well, needless to say, I'm still sort of jet lagged and am fully prepared to eat dinner at 11 pm, so this was an interesting evening.  I came home at about 7:30 and began cooking by first opening a bottle of this wine!  It's a beautiful deep purple color in the glass, and the nose evokes great aromas of anise, sharp spice, cinnamon, and cocoa.  The taste is very fruit forward with some notes of black cherry, plum and cassis that evolves into some lovely baking spice and earthy notes midpalate, including some cedar and limestone.  The finish is quite refined, with ample tannins creating a tight yet well structured long, dry finish that makes this wine excellent for food or for drinking while cooking (I speak from experience!).

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 with a great change for improvement with a bit of time in the cellar, it was drinking very well now though!  Tonight I paired this wine with a lovely thick cut Angus T-Bone grilled rare, along with some wonderful grilled veggies, including some Walla Walla sweet onions, asparagus and golden beets (which I just learned are good for the body's natural detoxification process, nudge nudge, poke poke!) and a great baked potato.  The wine stood up well to the beef and would be a great pairing to a variety of big dishes like that. Another day of Walla-Yum!

Monday, July 1, 2013

A final day if tasting in Walla Walla!

So here I am on my last day of tasting in Walla Walla, first stop Otis Kenyon where I tasted some of the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was very nice, from the Estate Stella and Seven Hills vineyards. Then the 2009 Matchless Red Wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Syrah (27%) and Merlot (22%), which I found to be a very nice blend, very easy to drink. Finally the 2010 Carmenere from the Phinney Hill Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. This one had a lot of spice up front but then finished very nicely. And after all that I bought a bottle of the 2008 Merlot from the Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards!

Next I was off to the Sapolil Cellars tasting room to start with the 2008 Gandy Dancer, a blend of Syrah (73%), Sangiovese (14%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (13%). A very nice easy drinking blend that has just enough spice from the Sangiovese to make it interesting. Then the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon which was mostly Cab with a bit of Merlot (7%). This wine had an exceptionally cool label that I fell in love with! The wine was very nice with good dark fruit up front and some nice structure. Finally the 2008 Dwelley Reserve, a blend of Syrah (78%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (22%), a nice fruit forward wine with a bit of mint and raisin very nice overall. But my favorite of the group was the Gandy Dancer, as I'm a sucker for the spice!

Next stop was Da Ma which had some nice wines made entirely by women and an awesome little dog named Gracie! I started with the 2012 Viognier which was very crisp and dry. Then off to the reds, beginning with the 2009 DaMaNation which was a super GSM blend of Grenache (55%), Syrah (23%) and Mourvèdre (22%) which had some nice spice, smoke and great minerality. Next the 2009 Cowgirl Cab, a Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which was very spicy on the outset, then some licorice and a zippy taste on the finish. Next the 2008 Merlot which was a very fruit forward merlot with a well structured finish. Finally the 2007 Walla Walla Sangiovesr which was perhaps the nicest Sangiovese I've tasted in Walla Walla! This had a great nose of leather and spice and a rich fruit that brought me right back to Tuscany! It was just amazing!

Last stop of the last day was Sinclair Estate Vineyards. First was the 2012 Roussanne-Marsanne which was a very nice, crisp refreshing white which came in handy on a day when the high was supposed to be 108! Next the 2011 Columbia Valley Chardonnay which was an old world style of Chardonnay that was very buttery. Next the 2010 Syrah which was a nice Syrah, very warm with notes of licorice and a tight finish. And last was the 2009 Vixen Red Blend which had a nose of leather and spice but was much cooler with a super dry, smooth finish.

Overall it was a great last day if tasting! Cheers Walla Walla!