Thursday, February 26, 2015

2012 Dixie Flyer Vineyards "The Brakeman" Cabernet Sauvignon

Could you imagine my astonishment when I was walking through the Costco wine department and saw this label, the 2012 Dixie Flyer Vineyards "The Brakeman" Cabernet Sauvignon, combining two of my favorite things, wine and trains!  It's a rare occurrence, and this one was even more special as the Dixie Flyer was one of the named passenger trains operated by the Chicago & Eastern Illinois railroad which ran behind my house when I was growing up!  The train and railroad are long gone, but the wine is still here, so let's taste!

The Cabernet is from Paso Robles, which in my experience usually has somewhat lighter color and body, with a somewhat more approachable fruit forward taste than your typical big, bold Cabernets.  This characteristic is certainly true of this wine, with a lighter, garnet color with great clarity.  The nose is a playful combination of green grass, blackberry and cotton candy.  The taste is quite nice, some black fruit up front, blackberry and candied plum, that transitions nicely to some mocha and dark chocolate notes midpalate.  The finish is brief, with some very mellow tannins supporting a last bit of fruit that rounds out to be quite dry in the end.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, it's a pleasant, easy drinking everyday wine at a value price (I think I paid around $12 for this at Costco).  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a very un-Cabernet sort of pairing, some baked cod with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus!  With all the fish on sale for lent, I've suddenly found the urge to eat more fish, at least the fruit in this wine really doesn't overpower the more subtle flavors of white fish.  Cheers!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2012 Reininger Carmenere

Here we are, Oscar night!  Everyone getting excited about the Academy Awards, personally I don't really get all that into it, though it was usually funny when Billy Crystal was hosting it at least.  So instead I'll just enjoy some wine and casually watch to see which big movie I've no doubt never seen takes home the little golden statue.  So to help me with that endeavor tonight, I've opened a bottle of 2012 Reininger Carmenere from the Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla.

The wine is a deep, inky purple color in the glass, with a hint of garnet along the edges.  The nose is a wonderful combination of dark ripe fruit, black currant, blackberry and some spice over a layer of earthy aromas of oak and smoke.  The taste is quite complex, with some dark fruit up front, blackberry, black currant and a hint of raspberry, over some dark chocolate and mocha notes that transitions nicely to some wonderful spice notes of white pepper, fresh herbs and vanilla bean midpalate.  The fine tannins support a lovely, smooth dry finish with just enough acidity to keep it interesting.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's another solid Carmenere effort from Reininger.  Tonight I am pairing this with a classic east coast Italian dinner of hot Italian sausage links with onions and peppers along with some spaghetti tossed with garlic and olive oil.  The nice fruit and earthy spice in this wine makes it ideal to pair with hearty Italian dishes.  Cheers!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

2011 Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot

To celebrate me finishing shoveling the driveway and to settle in for an evening in front of the fire to shield me from the sub-zero outside temperatures, I've decided to open a classic bottle of Merlot, the 2011 Northstar Winery Columbia Valley Merlot.  This wine is a blend of Merlot (78%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Petit Verdot (2%), which should add to the wine's complexity.

The wine is a deep ruby color in the glass, with a center that borders on indigo.  The nose is an interesting combination of mocha, dark chocolate and raspberry over a subtle base of earthy minerality.  The taste is very nice, a blast of fruit up front, tart cherry, raspberry that transition seamlessly into some vanilla bean and toasted oak midpalate.  The finish is quite nice, with a hint of basalt among the fine tannins that support the long, smooth and exceptionally dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it's still a bit young but is drinking quite nicely right now.  It was also a great value as I bought this one for $24,50 in an offer from Vivino (if you don't have it already, it's a super app for drinking wine on the go!).  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a classic Merlot dinner of seared ribeye, baked potato and steamed asparagus. Cheers!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2006 Vine Haven Merlot

Good Sunday evening!  Well the high today was 4, and outside of a little shoveling this morning, I've stayed inside all day.  Seems like a perfect evening to enjoy a glass of wine by a roaring fire!  And tonight's wine is the 2006 Vine Haven Napa Valley Merlot, a bottle I bought from Saddleback Cellars with a gift certificate that some good friends gave me for Christmas.  Vine Haven was a second label of Napa Valley Merlot that Saddleback created, but it only lasted for two vintages, this one and the 2005, but I'm certainly not complaining!

The wine is a deep garnet in the glass with great clarity.  The nose is a lovely combination of ripe plum, green grass and a hint of leather that reminds me of a nice Bordeaux.  The taste is wonderful, a blast of dark chocolate, cherry cola and blackberry overwhelms your senses, and then smoothly transitions to some wonderful mineral notes of dusty limestone and peat midpalate.  The tannins are still firm and well structured, providing a solid foundation for the long, smooth dry finish with just enough Bordeaux funk to bring back memories of sipping Pomerol in Paris.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, it's a great example of the varietal and an exceptional value at just $20, I'm just sorry I only ordered one bottle!  Tonight I am having a tougher time pairing this than usual, as I have a nice Angus ribeye ready to grill, but as the temperature outside is now 1, I have no intention of trying to grill a steak out by the garage!  Instead, this is a job for my trusty George Foreman, my first time trying to grill anything beyond a pannini in it!  If it works, this Merlot will be perfect with the ribeye and my baked potato and steamed asparagus.  Cheers!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bledsoe Family Red Wine

Happy Friday!  I just got back from the gym and I'm ready for a nice glass of wine!  Today I received a shipment of wine that I ordered from Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla.  For those of you unfamiliar, this is the winery that was started a number of years ago (I believe they just released their 6th vintage of Cabernet, the 2012 which was in the shipment I received today) by former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe and his wife Maura.  The Cabernet is the signature wine, but they also produce an intriguing table wine, the non-vintage Bledsoe Family Wine, which is sold in very interesting clear 1-liter bottles with a stopper similar to the ones Grolsch uses on their beer bottles (you can see it in the photos below).

The wine is a deep inky purple color in the glass, with bright ruby around the edges.  The nose is an interesting combination of ripe plum, green herbs and a bit of mocha.  The wine is really nice, with a blast of fruit up front, plum, tart cherry and raspberry, that transitions nicely to some mineral notes of dusty limestone.  The tannins are a bit chewy, but supportive of the long, velvety and exceptionally dry finish.  For a red table wine, it reminds me a lot of a good quality northern Rhone blend.  Keep in mind, I didn't decant this wine, but it opens up very nicely with a couple hours of air.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, I really like it, and though not inexpensive at $38, it's certainly reasonable for an everyday wine.  Now this may sound kitschy, but when I first saw the bottle, it reminded me of the big clear jugs of table wine my Italian neighbor Lidio used to drink when I was growing up.  Granted it's not a gallon jug, but it still made me think this would be perfect with a classic spaghetti and meatballs, which is what I'm pairing it with tonight.  It would also be ideal with a grilled steak or braised short ribs, almost any classic comfort food you could think of.  Cheers!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2012 Helix Stone Tree SoRho

Happy Thursday!  So tonight I've come home at a reasonable hour and what the heck?  Why not open a bottle of wine?  For this evening, it's a recently delivered wine club selection from Reininger Winery in Walla Walla, the 2012 Helix Stone Tree SoRho, a southern Rhone style blend of Mourvedre (42%), Cinsault (31%) and Grenache (27%) that ends up being such a food friendly sort of wine!

The wine is a deep garnet color in the glass with great clarity.  The nose is a classic Rhone, with aromas of  black cherry, cassis and blueberry over some earthy notes of fresh cut grass, rose petals and leather.  The taste is just lovely, some fantastic fruit blasts forward, blueberries, black currant and boysenberry that effortlessly transitions to some notes of vanilla spice and toasted oak midpalate.  The finish is lovely, with a touch of anise and cassis that lend some complexity to young tannins, and making for a long, smooth finish that has you begging for more!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it's a great blend and the price is reasonable at $36 before any wine club discounts.  As I mentioned, this is a very food friendly wine, and tonight I'm pairing it with a nice panko crusted walleye filet, with some oven roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed asparagus, the fruit in this wine really accents the flavors of the walleye, a personal favorite when it comes to fresh water fish.  Cheers!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2013 Stasis Cabernet Sauvignon

Well the weekend is coming to a close, so why not open a bottle of wine to enjoy?  Tonight it's a Cabernet from an emerging region of California wine production, Paso Robles - the 2013 Stasis Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is the reserve level wine produced by Tolliver Ranch, with its sandy, gravelly soil that is ideal for producing big red wines like Cabernet, Petite Sirah and Syrah.

The wine is a deep ruby color in the glass with great clarity.  The nose is very earthy, with strong notes of leather, dusty granite and some notes of rich black fruit that steadily emerges, blackberry, plum and black cherry.  The taste is quite nice particularly given it's youth and inexperience.  You start with a bit of jammy red fruit, cherry, boysenberry and red currant that gradually transitions to some mocha, vanilla bean and toasted oak notes midpalate.  The tannins are somewhat young and underdeveloped, yet the finish was surprisingly voluptuous, smooth and very dry.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, it was a very nice and approachable wine today, but one that will likely improve with some time in the bottle.  It was also a fairly descent value at just $17 from Wines Till Sold Out.  Tonight I am pairing this wine with some oven roasted center cut pork chops, some cheesy potato casserole and steamed asparagus, a perfect Midwestern Sunday dinner!  The rich black fruit notes with this wine are the perfect complement to a fine pork chop, like cranberries on turkey at Thanksgiving. Cheers!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

2002 L'Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Estate Syrah

Well it's the first Saturday of February, and of course that means it's time to dig deep into the cellar and pick out a wine to open just for the pure enjoyment of it!  Tonight I've gone back nearly 13 years and opened a bottle from one of my all time favorite Washington producers, the 2002 L'Ecole No. 41 Seven Hills Estate Walla Walla Syrah!  Now with a wine this mature, I decided to decant it and let it breathe for about an hour before tasting, so here goes nothing!

The wine is a beautiful deep garnet color in the glass, with pretty good clarity despite its age.  The nose is a blast of green grass and herbs which settles down to some lovely earthy notes of smoke and leather, overlaying some interesting mocha and cherry cola notes.  The taste is divine, a blast of black cherry and cassis that quickly settles down to some earthy flavors of dusty limestone and licorice midpalate.  The sturdy tannins still provide a solid foundation for a wonderfully smooth, dry finish that seems to last an eternity.  What a great glass of wine!

Overall I would rate this one a solid 9, it's a fabulous example of the varietal that has stood the test of time.  I am sipping this one as I'm cooking dinner and getting ready to go out to the theater tonight, but as soon as the cooking is done, I'll be pairing this wine with a wonderful pretzel crusted boneless chicken breast, some oven roasted potatoes and steamed asparagus.  The subdued fruit and great earthy notes are the perfect foil for the rich, buttery chicken, even though I know you're not supposed to drink red wine with poultry.  Here's to being a red wine rebel!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2012 Pedroncelli Barrel Select Red Wine

One more day until the weekend and I am sure ready to unwind a bit!  Tonight I got home from work at a decent hour, no gym, no cooking, just some time to relax.  So I've opened a bottle of wine I recently bought from Wines Till Sold Out, the 2012 Pedroncelli Barrel Select Red Wine from Sonoma, a blend of Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah, that should be very approachable on such a casual evening!

The wine is a beautiful deep ruby color in the glass, with great clarity.  The nose is a lovely combination of tart cherry, blackberries and a hint of smoke.  The taste is very fruit forward, with nice flavors of blackberry and cherry cola up front that transitions effortlessly to some mint and fresh herb notes midpalate.  The elegant tannins provide for a very smooth, mellow and very dry finish.  The wine seems to start off with a definite Zinfandel bent, but then finishes like a great Merlot.  A very easy going mid-week wine!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's a pleasure to drink even so young, and it was a great value at just $13!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with what else, pizza!  I told you I wasn't cooking tonight, so I've decided to order a thin crust classic pizza with sausage and roasted veggies.  A nice Zinfandel blend like this is really great to pair with pizza, you have the great fruit to balance out the spice of the sauce and sausage, but the dry herb notes are a perfect foil to the roasted veggies.  Cheers!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2012 John George Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

Well the Superbowl was a bust, despite my drinking lots of Washington wine leading up the the game, the Seahawks couldn't pull of a victory.  So not we're back to drinking whatever wine peaks my interest, regardless of where it comes from.  Tonight we're taking a trip to the land down under, a place with many great wines (which I haven't really had in quite some time), Australia!  I'm opening a bottle of 2012 John George Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine is a deep, brooding garnet color, with a center that looks almost black.  The nose is quite subdued, with soft notes of leather, charred oak and cherry cola, certainly a departure from the typical big bold Cabernets that are so popular today.  The taste is very nice, with some black cherry and mocha notes up front, leading into some fine minerality and notes of limestone and basalt midpalate.  The finish is quite nice, the tannins are still very young, yet it's still quite long, smooth and exceptionally dry.  This wine will likely improve with some time in the cellar, but it's quite pleasant right now as well.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, it's a super Cabernet at a great value, as I bought this one from Wines Till Sold Out for just $20!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a basic mid-week meal of a rare grilled ribeye, baked potato and steamed cauliflower, as this Cabernet is a perfect big steak wine, with nice fruit, great minerality and a strong backbone!  Cheers mate!