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Sunday, December 31, 2006

2005 Owen Roe Abbot’s Table

I picked this bottle up a while back for around $25. It’s a red blend with 10 different varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Blaufrankish, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Malbec.

Oak, cedar, alcohol, and black cherries on the nose.

The palate brings black fruit, cherries, lots of oak, a touch of spice, but not much else in terms of depth. Medium tannins but big bodied...I’d drink it again with a hearty stew of some sort.

The finish has a slight bite and some fading blueberry.

It’s alright but the more I drink these kitchen sink blends, the less I enjoy them. Even at a lower price I don’t think I’d revisit this one.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

N.V. Warre’s Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Porto

I have a bottle of 1977 Vintage Port that I intend on opening after the new year, but I figured before I open that I should try some other Ports to have fresh in my mind to compare. This 10 year Tawny ran me $20 for a 500 ml bottle.

When I first opened this bottle around two weeks ago I just found it to be complexity, nothing interesting, just some caramel and that’s it.

I recorked it and put on the rack for a few days and was blown away with what this developed into. The more time I gave it, the better it got so I decided to hold off on giving this a full review until I let it get some more air time.

Ports last a while when opened, I’ve heard different time estimates, the more conservative are six weeks, but I’ve heard some people say if you keep the bottle in the fridge it will last six months. Port is not a wine that you can finish a bottle of in a night or two, it’s heavy, thick, and has a high alcohol content (20%).

A touch of alcohol with walnuts and raisins on the nose.

Maple syrup, pecans, raisins, currants, and plums on the palate. Very nice depth and complexity with almost no burn.

The finish is nutty, with some caramel, vanilla, and just a hint of orange zest.

The last time I had a 10 year Tawny I found it simple and not all that great. This one has some very nice depth and complexity. I’d strongly recommend this one if you’re new to the world of Port as it’s reasonably priced and an excellent value.

N/V Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs

I was debating opening this for New Years but opted to pick up a half bottle of a genuine Champagne for midnight instead. We paid around $19 for this. The last tasting we attended had an excellent Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir so I figured this would be worth a shot.

The palate is a bit toasty and the main fruit I get is red apples with a hint of raspberry.

The finish is more of the same, lots of toast and red apple. I’m even getting a bit of a flavor I’ve never had in wine before--sassafras/root beer.

Overall, an enjoyable sparkling wine with some nice depth, reasonably priced and recommended.

Friday, December 29, 2006

2005 Hartford Court Land’s Edge Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

I have to say, I have become a huge Pinot Noir fan as of late. We received this bottle for Christmas from my much as I hate to look up the price of presents I do find price to be quite important...and this one retails for around $40.

Unfortunately, I looked up the price after I opened the bottle and poured a glass. I can’t say I would’ve opened a $40 bottle on a whim, especially after Wednesday’s Burgundy indulgence.

You can’t take wine with you, I suppose. Plus, we had no other Pinot Noir on the rack and we’re having mushroom risotto for dinner.

Earth on the nose...I find earth such a difficult thing to describe because I want to say more but don’t have the words. Maybe some raspberry and I believe I detect a hint of coffee.

The palate brings cherry, boysenberry, coffee, not quite chocolate–perhaps carob (I like carob...and if you don’t, I suggest you try some and go into it not thinking it will taste “just like chocolate”), and my personal favorite flavor in Pinot Noir—cola. Very nice complexity, smooth tannins. I’m used to Pinot Noirs that are distinctly light bodied, and this one is absolutely on the medium side.

This one is a bit different than a lot of the recent Pinot Noir we’ve had. Bigger, bolder, far more backbone, but still distinctly Pinot Noir. Even at the $40 price I’d recommend this one for a special occasion.

2005 J.W. Morris Gewurztraminer

We had this label’s Riesling yesterday and dumped most of the bottle. I figured I’d open the Gewurz today and see how it is....once again, $4 for the bottle.

Pear and apricot on the nose.

Grapes and apples on the palate with a touch of spice. Much better than the Riesling (not say much honestly), but I’d still say it’s a bit too flabby.

There is a finish with grapes and it leaves a rather unpleasant sticky sugar feel.

So, there you go....halfway through the first glass I thought it might be passable, but the more you have, the less drinkable it is.

Needless to say, these two wines have convinced me never to buy J.W. Morris again.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

2005 J.W. Morris Riesling

Another $4 find from Trader’s Joe. For a long time, we were big fans of cheap Rieslings but the more we try, the more our palates are becoming a bit more discriminating....I still don’t care for the expensive ones, but based on what we’ve had at tastings and restaurants, we seem to have gravitated to mid-teens German.

That being said, for $4, I’m willing to take a shot.

Stone fruit, mainly peaches on the nose.

Peaches and some grapes on the palate. Though it’s really not terribly sweet, there’s basically no acid which gives it a bland grape juice mouthfeel.

No finish.

The lack of acid really ruins this one. I don’t mind simple, but I do mind flab. Even for under $5 I can’t recommend this one.

2005 Trader Joe’s Chilean Collection Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (65/35)

We visited Trader Joe’s today and I decided it would be fun to pick up a few bottles of cheap wine (all $4) and see how they hold up. This one was $3.99, just $1 more than Charles does it compare, you ask?

Oak and spice–cinnamon mainly–on the nose.

The palate brings blackberry and a fair amount of oak. There are no fun subtleties which is really what I have begun to enjoy. It is very smooth and has no alcohol bite at all.

No real finish, some oak and a touch of fruit linger, but it fades quickly and isn’t terribly interesting.

This is light years ahead of Charles Shaw, I can tell you that much.

If I had to compare this to anything I’d say it’s at the same quality level, though very different in flavor, of the Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon we reviewed not long ago which goes for around $5. Simple and inoffensive....fine for a large party, but really not for serious wine fans.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2004 Vinum Cellars G2 KA-POW Late Harvest Gewurztraminer

A while back we reviewed St. Gisbertus Eiswein–a $10 bottle from Aldi–in that review I said it was alright but you can do far better for a few dollars more. When I wrote that, this is the wine I had in mind. Our local wine shop has this available for $12 a bottle.

Floral notes with pineapple and citrus on the nose.

Apricot, honey, a hint of grapefruit, a touch of pineapple, a zing of orange zest, and a suggestion of flowers - perhaps rose water - on the palate....certainly sweet, a bit syrupy, but a nice hit of acid that gives it a phenomenal balance (for a dessert wine).

If we had a cellar I’d own a case of this. I cannot recommend this one strongly enough.

2003 Domaine Henri Gouges, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Pruliers

I received a gift certificate for Christmas for our local wine shop. There’s always an internal debate I have with gift certificates—do I spend it on several bottles of wine in our typical price range (under $20) or do I splurge and go for something I’d never buy for myself? Since the ol’ rack is pretty much full I opted to splurge on a $65 bottle with the request from the shop owner that I get a bottle that is a decent representation of good quality Burgundy.

We enjoy Pinot Noir from the New World but really haven’t enjoyed much from Burgundy, especially towards the higher end (I am well aware this is not a “top” Burgundy). Most good Burgundy need a bit more time in the bottle but I was told this one would be a good representation even if opened right away.

Funk on the nose--earth, barnyard, and a bit of alcohol.

The palate has some strawberry, raspberry, and cherry with lots of earth and a bit of wood. I get some chocolate and coffee (which I suppose means mocha) in the background as well.

Smooth tannins on the finish, lingering mocha, and very late in the finish I get an odd bit of hazelnut and maybe just a touch of pine.

I hope that at some point in my life I’ll be able to buy a case of this sort of wine and drink it over a decade. For now, this one special bottle will have to do. I’ve been a bit afraid of French wine in general, but I think there will probably be some more Burgundy on here in the upcoming months.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2005 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

We really haven’t had a lot of Pinot Noir since we started to really get into wine....I think it’s because other wine (Cabernet, Shiraz, etc) overpower them at tastings and in turn we usually grab the bigger, bolder wines. The more we drink Pinot Noirs, the more I love them because they are wines that benefit tremendously with serious thought and contemplation.

This one retails for $18 but I found it on sale for $11–being one who can’t pass a bargain I jumped on it.

I get wood, earth and funk on the nose.

On the palate: a touch of wood, earth, light berry fruit and a hint of vanilla.

The finish is subtle–wood, earth, and lingering vanilla.

This is a big enough label (I got it at a grocery store) that there’s no reason to pay the full retail will go on sale and when it does I’d say go for it. For the price, you can probably do better at your local serious wine shop, but if you’re grabbing something at the market—go for it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

2005 Delicato Pinot Grigio

A while back we went to a wine tasting and there was an excellent Shiraz that was something along the lines of $12 a bottle, but a box which equaled four full bottles was a mere $20. The guy working the table was talking about the fact that great box wine now exists and is becoming easier to find. This one was–a four bottle box–was on sale for mere $15 so I figured I’d give it a shot. I bought it thinking it was the one we tried at the tasting.

It's not.

The whole thing just smacks of pineapple...the nose, the palate, even the finish.

The nose has vanilla, pineapple, even some me, it reminds me of lousy Chardonnay. No fact, it almost tastes watered down.

The finish has some butter and a bit of pineapple, it fades quickly.

If you are a wine drinker, I can't recommend this. Maybe it will work in a spritzer. Bland, generic, not unlike something from Sutter Home.

2006 Mollydooker The Violinist Verdelho

I am a sucker for a cool label and with Mollydooker’s strong reputation I figured I’d pick up a bottle of this one.

In a word: big. It reminds me of a Sauvignon Blanc on steroids.

The nose hits you with pineapple.

Though it’s somewhat creamy, I get lots of pineapple, white grapefruit, some herbal notes, and a nice amount of acid. It’s fruity, but not sweet.

The finish has an alcohol burn (no shock–15% alcohol) and I’m getting papaya.

I’ve never had a Verdelho before so I have nothing to compare this to, but this one is big and heavy.

I prefer my whites lighter and crisper, so this one just isn’t my style. If you like big, bold whites I’d recommend it. If you’re like me and enjoy Riesling and the like, avoid this one.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

2005 Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Auslese

I love cheap (this one was $9) German Rieslings. Seriously. Low alcohol, off dry/semi-sweet, acidic enough, and thoroughly quaffable–they are a perfect simple wine that you can drink with anything or nothing.

The downside is that they’re way too easy to drink. One can easily finish a bottle without even realizing it.

Mild stone fruit on the nose and a touch of stone.

The palate is stone fruit: peach/nectarine/apricot, with some apple and even grape.

The finish brings just a touch of spice and perhaps pear.

Quite frankly, it’s not well balanced, the acid that’s there doesn’t really balance it out. It’s not complex...I mean, I taste grapes. The lesson here is that a wine need not be balanced and terribly complex to be good. It’s simple and easy drinking, the wine you’ll bring on a picnic or will crack open when it’s 90 degrees and you’re hanging out on the deck.

2005 Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap

This South African wine is a blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Viognier. South Africa is a great country to investigate if you’re a fan of wine...places like South Africa, Chile, Argentina, and even Spain have some outstanding bargains. This one cost me $10.

There’s no doubt here, this is a food wine. Big, bold, jammy, spicy, acidic and with medium tannins it begs for big, flavorful food.

Alcohol and earth on the nose.

The palate is fruity and spicy–ripe blackberries, plums, a bit of cherry, some cinammon, and black pepper, all with bit of earth

Firmly acidic in an unusual way....the 5% Viognier (a white grape) may be the source of that, but it may also be the terrior. It's difficult to describe, but most wine has a very nice blended taste to it...the acid and fruit just work together...with this they just seem seperate. Imagine the difference between a blended squash soup--everything just works together. Now think about a salad with a balsalmic dressing--everything compliments each other but by contrast. This has that contrast feel to it, but don't get me wrong--it works.

If you like big red wine I’d recommend it, especially at this price. At $10, you can’t get anything with this depth from the US or even Australia.

2006 Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Pinot Noir

I saw this at the local shop for $8. I was in a Pinot Noir sort of mood and realized the past few we’ve had were in the $15 range so it would be interesting to try a cheap one again.

Alcohol, cherry, spice, and some bell pepper on the nose.

The palate is a bit sharp with hints of green and underripe blackberries and spice, mainly cinnamon and clove. The mid-palate brings some earth.

The finish has an alcohol bite and fades to bitter strawberries.

If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it’s like a less offensive Charles Shaw. It is a 2006 so perhaps it needs some time on the rack. Maybe I’ll revisit this one next fall to see if it develops something, but in the meantime avoid this one.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2004 Mount Pleasant Merlot

This is our final Mount Pleasant Winery review for the near future. The prices of their red wine are way too high for the quality and this ultimately made me decide to quit their wine club. I have no problem dropping $30 (this one’s retail price) or even double that for a bottle of wine, but when we’re in that price range, I expect a wine to be truly excellent.

Oak, anise, and black fruit in the nose.

The palate has lots of wood–oak, tobacco, smoke, with some ripe black fruit–plums, blackberry, even a hint of strawberry. While it’s dry and tannic, it’s still medium bodied so it’s fairly easy to pair with whatever you’re eating.

The finish is all wood, with some licorice, and perhaps, just maybe a touch of raspberry. Very tannic. Even after being open for a full 24 hours, it’s still firm...maybe it needs some more time in the bottle.

Overall, here’s a wine that isn’t half bad at all...but the cold reality, especially at my age (20s), is that price matters a tremendous deal.

For $10 I’d buy it again, for $15 I’d recommend it, for $19 I’d say it’s good but somewhat overpriced though overall recommended. $30? I just can’t. Yes, it’s a smaller winery, it’s Missouri fruit, and it’s a nice place to visit....but this just doesn’t cut it.

Next time we go to St. Louis we will not hesitate visiting the winery, we’ll do a tasting, we’ll even buy a case, and perhaps, in the spur of the moment, I’ll buy one of their $30 bottles....and when I open that bottle months later I’ll remember a nice afternoon in Missouri wine country and we’ll enjoy it...but with no sentimentality attached, this is nothing more than a “good wine” that’s being sold at a “great wine” price.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

2002 Domaine Pichot Vouvray Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette

For our 100th post, I bring you a wine from a region we enjoy but haven’t reviewed yet–Vouvray.

To me, Vouvray tastes like what a Sauternes would taste like if the grapes didn’t quite reach the noble rot....not quite German Riesling, not quite Gewurz, not quite Pinot Grigio...distinct from those, but similar enough that if you like any of them, you should give one a shot.

Vouvray is made with Chenin Blanc, but the only CB I've had from the New World has been bone dry, so they don't really compare. A bit on the sweeter side and they tend to have some nice acidity to balance it out. We pair them with Asian and spicier faire–and we’re enjoying this one with some Moo Shoo Vegetable.

The nose has honey, peaches, and some floral notes.

The palate is light, fruity and a bit floral—peaches, a touch of spice–think peach pie. I get just a touch of vanilla and perhaps butter as well...not something I’d expect in Chenin Blanc.
The finish has some citrus–-orange zest and lemons.

I think there’s just a bit too much sugar (or perhaps a touch short of enough acid) for it to be well balanced, but at $9 I'd buy it again and say you should give it a shot.

Monday, December 11, 2006

2005 St. Christopher Gewurztraminer

I picked this one up some time ago for $6 and remember thoroughly enjoying it so I figured I’d give it another shot.

This can be described in one word: quaffable. It’s almost dangerous in how easy drinking is. On the nose, lots of floral and some nice ripe stone fruit.

The palate is all about apricot, peaches, and just a touch of spice–a bit like peach pie filling. It’s got some acidity, but a bit less than I’d expect, so it’s not all that well balanced, but it’s still a great, simple wine.

A bit of sweetness and a bit of spice, if you’ve never had a Gewurz you can do far worse. This may be a sweet and simple version, but it’s got a lot of varietal characteristic and I think, for the price, you’re not going to do better.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

N/V Mumm Napa Blanc de Noirs

This will probably be our last sparkling wine for a while, we’re really more red wine drinkers and I think my hankering has been just about quenched. This one goes for about $15 and can be found in grocery stores with a decent wine selection.

On the palate, there’s tart apples, sour strawberries, and some floral notes. There’s lots of acid (almost too much) which give it a much firmer backbone than I’m used to. The fruitiness does not bring sweetness--this one is absolutely a dry wine.

The finish starts with an alcohol burn–something I’ve never had in a sparkling wine until now--and has a bit of yeast and apples, that both slowly fade away.

At $15, this isn’t half bad. I’d like to give this winery’s other sparkling wines a shot before buying this one again.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

2003 Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a pretty popular brand that we’ve finally gotten around to trying, I paid $11 for this one but it seems to retail for closer to $15.

The nose is a bit misleading–it’s all oak, black fruit, and earth.

I get raspberry, cherry, a bit of blueberry, a touch of vanilla, some mild oak, and very smooth tannins. It’s definitely a Cab, but it’s fruity for the varietal. The oak really comes out on the finish, with some tobacco, and cherry on top of it.

It's not a terribly complex Cabernet, but it's good one. Soft enough to drink alone, but firm enough to have with dinner, this holds up and in the lower teen price range, this is priced right.

I’m a sucker for a cool label and am always happy when the wine inside is as good as the outside. A great looking bottle and a great tasting wine–to me, that’s the recipe for a great gift. With Christmas around the corner I’ll be buying this one again and passing it along.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

2002 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a common wine that you can find just about anywhere, the retail prices ranges from $12-15 but I was able to use a sale, a quantity discount, and “holiday special” to my advantage and paid $8. Since wine really isn’t perishable, if you encounter a good deal, you may as well go for it.

The nose brings cherries, licorice, a bit of chocolate, and I even get some marzipan. And now that I have typed that, I am now craving marzipan.

The palate is nice and smooth. Cherries, blackberries, oak, anise, with smooth tannins. It’s an easy drinking wine but does have some backbone so it will hold up well with food. We had it with potato and onion pierogi and it went well.

The finish starts off with leather and gradually fades to cherries with a bit of vanilla.

I have to say I’m impressed. I’d buy this again, even at the $12 price range, and would be more than happy to serve it to guests. If you see this one for under $10, do not hesitate--pick it up.

This is the lowest level Cab that Chateau Ste Michelle offers, if this is their $12 wine, I will not hesitate picking up their $30 label (Cold Creek) next time a special occasion calls for it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

2004 Damianitza Reserva Melnik

I arrived at a local pizza place before my food was ready and decided to head to the liquor store next door and see what they had. They had all the typical wine you’d expect to find in a grocery store, and for some odd reason, around half a dozen Bulgarian wines. Seeing as I’ve never had wine from Bulgaria, I figured that at $9 it was worth a shot.

My understanding is that Damianitza is the winery, this is their “reserve” wine, and the region/city is Melnik. With some research I discovered that the grape this wine is made from is Shiroka Melnishka Loza, a grape only found in Bulgaria. This is from the Southwest part of Bulgaria near Greece and Macedonia. According to, this region has less than 5% of Bulgaria’s vineyards.

I had no idea what to expect, and I have to say this was a very pleasant surprise. This is excellent quality wine especially at this price.

I get ripe cherries on the nose and some black fruit. The palate hits you with earth for the most part and some plum, blackberry, anise, and oak. There’s plenty of firm, but smooth tannins for a strong backbone. I’d actually say this one is shockingly good. This is an Old World wine and it’s proud of it...earthy and funky with fruit more in the background. If you gave this to me blind I’d probably guess it was a Chianti Classico.

At $9, I’d buy it again and I’d recommend it, if you can find it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

N/V Cook’s Brut

I had a taste for something sparkling and always see this brand at the store, but have never tried it. It is the cheapest one you’ll probably wine at $5 a bottle. Not wanting to add to the grocery bill but still wanting something I picked this one up to give a shot.

This is not made in the typical Champagne style, the secondary fermentation–the one that makes the bubbles–happens in vats rather than the individual bottle.

The first thing I notice is how this has a lot more carbonation right as you pour it, and after it sits in the glass for a few minute it looks pretty much flat.

The palate is boring, a bit of yeast, some sugar, and a lot of grapes.

The finish reminds me of orange soda. Sweet, lingering, I wouldn’t go as far as to say chemicals, but I would say there seems to be something artificial there.

No palate and a strange finish comes as no real shock with a $5 sparkling wine. As a wine, this pretty much fails, but I’d say it does succeed as a tolerable, cheap drink. I’ve had some truly bad wine and this isn’t one of’s just not good. If you’re having a large party, say for New Years, with a lot of people who were already drinking, there’s no reason to go better than this (unless we’re invited, of course).

Friday, December 01, 2006

2001 Rotari Brut Riserva

Yesterday we had the standard non-vintage Rotari which was $9. This is the 2001 Riserva and ran for $11. A side by side tasting probably would’ve been more fun, but it also would’ve left us with two open bottles and only one sparkling wine saver.

Compared to the regular, this has more yeast, more citrus, and some distinct oak flavors. The regular had a nice, soft strawberry finish–this has none of that and is far more tart. A fair amount of lemon

The review I read of the regular Rotari said it could pass for a non-vintage Champagne...perhaps it could. This one certainly tastes like a lower end Champagne–I’d compare it to the Kirkland we had the other day.

I’ve been very open about the fact that with sparkling wine my palate is a bit unsophisticated. To me, this one is good, but the non-vintage is clearly better. Either way–$9 or $11 you’ll spend your money wisely by picking up a bottle.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

N/V Rotari “Arte Italiana” Brut

I’m on an e-mail list called “The 30 Second Wine Advisor” that I enjoy...I tend to agree with the reviews from it, but a lot of times I just can’t get the wine reviewed there. The other day a glowing review came for this one, so I did a quick search and sure enough, my local store had it for $8.99.

This one is from Italy, but don’t confuse it with Prosecco or anything like that, this is from an area in Trento that only does Champagne-style sparkling wines. This Brut wine is 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir.

A bit of yeast, some apple, pear, a bit of citrus, and the always surprising, grape–it’s quite fruity, but there is a hint of toast that gives it some nice backbone. Nicely balanced, fruity, but dry...this one is impressive.

The finish hits you with strawberry and then fades to grapes.

I find this to be significantly more pleasing than that Kirkland Champagne we had the other day for $20. Less than half the price, for a wine I find to be genuinely better...I’ll be buying this often and if you can find it, give it a shot.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

2005 Runaway Red Pinot Noir

A red label, a hammer and sickel, and a photo of Trotsky...oh yes, it’s Runaway Red. Even at $15, this label was too funny to pass up. Capitalizing on Communism? I should break out my Rage Against the Machine CDs (on Sony Records).

On the nose, while there is some fruit–I’m thinking boysenberry–it’s pretty much all must and earth...exactly what a Pinot Noir should be.

The palate shows us a light/medium bodied Pinot with smooth tannins. Some cherry, perhaps plum, and a fair amount of funk. It's more earthy than fruity, but extremely well balanced. This is an easy drinking wine and would have been excellent at Thanksgiving and can pair with I’d imagine almost anything.

I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that though I do enjoy the heavier reds, if I just want to sit and relax with a glass of wine, something like this is what I need. I’d cheerfully buy this one again.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

2003 Kirkland Super Tuscan

This is what’s known as Super-Tuscan. Basically, a Chianti on steroids: 60% Sangiovesse (the typical Chianti varietal) 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot.

This was $20 at Costco and is that store’s private label.

The nose has lots of dark fruit and chocolate with a bit of tobacco and wood. After letting it open for a few hours, I get a very strong hit of cherry cordial.

The instant this hits the palate, you know you’re in for something big...this is chewy wine. Lots of earth, tar, oak, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, with dark ripe fruit and very firm tannins (I’ll go as far as too firm). I typically think of Italian wine as being “funky” and this one is no different.

Sadly, we’re not frequent Super Tuscan drinkers so I can’t say I have a whole lot to compare this to. I’d probably try a few more of this type of wine at lower price points and revisit it in a few months to see how it holds up.

N/V Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky #9–10th edition

A blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Muller-Thurgau, Semillon, Muscat, Gewurtztraminer, and Sylvaner–-most “blends” consist of 2-4 varietals, so this one with nine is somewhat unusual. I got this one on sale for $11, but most of the time I see it around $15.

Good acid, a bit of sweetness but not overbearing, this is a nicely balanced wine. I’m going to guess most of the wine in this bottle is from Riesling. There’s just a hint of spice that must be coming from the Gewurtz, plenty of the typical green apple you get on a Riesling, a fair amount of peaches, a touch of apricot, a bit of the grapey taste you get from Muscat. Interestingly, I’m getting some grapefruit/tropical fruit that I at first said “it’s from the Sauvignon Blanc,” yet that varietal is not in the blend.

I’m not as familiar with the other varietals in this blend so I’m sure some of these qualities come from those as well.

Many would call this a “summer wine” and I tend to agree, it’s a good one to bring on a picnic and such. That being said, I believe the acid and touch of sweetness would’ve worked well at Thanksgiving dinner as well.

An excellent balance, a complex palate, a lingering fruity finish...this is an excellent wine and even at $15 would be worth buying again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

N/V Kirkland Signature Brut Champagne

I was perusing this food message board and a few people were speaking very highly of Costco’s private label wine, Kirkland. The thing that interested me has that these wines are by no means cheap...most were $20 and they went as high as $50.

This Champagne–that’s actually from Champagne–was $19.99. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real Champagne for under $25 in this area, and most are much higher. According to the label, this is produced by Sas Janisson, a producer who puts out a Champagne that runs $30-$35.

Lots of fruit on the palate, pears/apples, some tropical fruit, a bit of citrus, and some toast as well. It’s fruity and when I think Brut, I think drier than this, this strikes me as more of an Extra Dry. The finish has some nice yeast that’s balances with acid and fruit and I even get a bit of pecan at the tail end.

A while back we had Moet & Chandon White Star and did not like it one bit. We also had the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin which we loved. I’ll put this right in the middle. At $20, a Champagne of this quality will be in a half bottle.

If there’s a special occasion coming up (New Years, perhaps) and you want to pick up a few good bottles at a great price I’d say go for it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

2005 Mount Pleasant Cuvée Blanc

This is an odd review to write. Most of the wine we buy and review are things we’ve either tried, come with strong reviews from people who know basically what we like, or are so inexpensive that I’m very forgiving.

We received this wine with our “wine club” membership from Mount Pleasant. Knowing this one saw some time in oka, I didn’t even put this one on the rack, I just let it sit on the counter for a few days to settle it down, chilled it, and cracked it open.

Retailing at $14, this is made from the Vidal Blanc, a hybrid grape that can withstand harsh winters so you’ll find this a lot in the Midwest.

The nose has a bit of pineapple and oak.

For lack of a better way to describe it, this tastes like Pine-Sol. A bit of lemon, a bit of pineapple, and a lot of pine. There’s some acid, but that just makes it taste like a cleaning product....the wood flavors turn what could’ve been a decent wine to something unbearable.

The finish has lots of vanilla at first and fades away to Pine-Sol....unpleasant is an understatement.

This is really all a matter of taste, the notion of white wine in oak repulses me...I thought I’d give it a shot, but alas....terrible. Lots of people love this style, it just does not work for me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

2003 Pierre Sparr Gewürztraminer Reserve

Lychee and apricot on the nose.

It’s fruity–peaches/stone fruit but not all that sweet, I get lots of floral notes and a reasonable amount of honey. The finish does have a bit of spice, but not as big as I’m used to.

This is pretty much like this is what we’re used to (US style), only everything is a bit more subtle...slight sweetness, slight spice, but firm acid. I don’t say that as a bad thing really, because it’s all still balanced and not overwhelming as some other Gewurtz we’ve had tend to get.

I like this a lot, but Fran does not. Fran needs a bit of sweetness and lots of acid to balance it out.....I do prefer that, but this is still good. It maybe a “a bit” sweet but compared to a lot of the Gewurtz from Germany, this is bone dry.

It’s not bad, for a $13 Alsace Gewurtztraminer it’s a decent representation of the Alsatian style.

If all you know is Oregon and Germany for this varietal, I’d say pick this one’s not as bone dry or pungent as some Alsatian Gewurtztraminer that I’ve had, but it’s heading down that road and worth checking out for that fact alone.

Monday, November 20, 2006

2005 Gnarly Head Old Vines Zinfandel

This one was going for $8 and came with praise from a friend of mine so I figured I’d pick it up.

The nose hits you with alcohol–not too shocking when it’s 14.5%. Other than that, it’s pretty green—-bell pepper in particular–which is a bit troubling.

The palate releases all fears though–blackberry, overripe strawberry, plums, some oak and spice on the palate–overall I’d call it jammy. The tannins are smooth and this is a very easy drinking wine. We’re eating it with pizza which is a great match, but I’d imagine any sort of BBQ would compliment this well. This one needs a lot of time to open up, pour your glasses at least an hour before you drink.

Without decanting, the finish has a bit of burn and fades very quickly. After letting it open for about an hour, the alcohol burn is no longer present and I get plenty of long lasting blueberry, though there’s a peculiar green taste in the background—if you’re drinking this with food it’s not detectable, but on it’s own it’s there. Present or not, it’s still a lot better with some time to open, and for $8 it’s not going to be perfect.

In spite of the minor problems, I’d say this one is strongly recommended and I’d buy it again without hesitation.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

2006 Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils Beaujolais Nouveau

This was the most expensive new Beaujolais the local shop had, retail was $15 but since I was there the first day it was $12.

It’s amazing how different this one is from the Georges Duboeuf.

No real nose, maybe a bit of strawberry but not a whole lot.

Dry, even a bit tannic, this one reminds me of a very light bodied Pinot Noir. Raspberry, strawberry, a bit of spice, even some earth, and I actually get a hint of wood even though (I’m assuming) this hasn’t seen oak.

This bottle had quite a bit of sediment in it, so I’d recommend either decanting it or storing it right side up and dumping those last few ounces.

I will say this—I grabbed this off the rack, opened it, poured it and it was pretty terrible at room temperature. I thought I’d throw the chiller on it and give it a second shot, and sure enough—drink this one chilled! Most things I read suggest Beaujolais Nouveau is better chilled–-I say, don’t even think about drinking it without at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

2005 Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Kalb Silvaner Kabinett Trocken

I’ll be honest, I’ll grabbed this one because of the interesting bottle shape and also because it’s a Silvaner–one more checkmark off our Wine Century Club list.

Being a German wine, I assumed–even as a Kabinett–this would be, at least a little, sweet. Of course, sometimes we learn things the hard way—this is not a Kabinett, it’s a “Kabinett Trocken.” “Trocken” means dry and this one certainly is. My knowledge of the word “Trocken” was limited to “Trockenbeerenauslese” which is a sweet wine, but the Trocken is a reference to dry grapes (so overripe they’ve dried out).

Maybe a bit of white grapefruit on the palate and some grapes as well, perhaps a bit of melon, but overall I’d say lots and lots of minerals making this one bone dry. No real finish to speak of. Not our typical style of wine and not a wine I’d have again.

If you like dry, unoaked wine, this may be right up your alley. Give an offbeat varietal a shot and pick up a bottle. If a bit of sweetness is required for your white wine, then avoid this one.

Friday, November 17, 2006

2005 Niebaum-Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blancs

This is Francis Coppola’s winery’s sparkling wine named after his daughter Sofia. It comes wrapped in pink cellophane, a good marketing gimmick as it certainly stands out. The wine itself is pale gold, typical of Chardonnay based sparkling wines.

The nose has nothing but fruit, no yeast or anything of that sort.

The palate on this one is extremely simple—all we both get is grapes. Maybe there’s some apple, but this is a grapey wine. I always find that to be a bit refreshing, a wine that tastes like what it is. There’s really not a lot going on, no subtle flavors that I pick up, just a good, drinkable wine.

The finish on this one consists of one flavor whispering something inaudible to the other leaving it all up to interpretation even though all we want is a real resolution.

At $16. I’m not sure I can give this one a strong endorsement. If you find it on sale for $12ish, I’d say go for it. If you have something like an anniversary or birthday, it’s certainly an attractive package. This one also comes in cans which wouldn’t be half bad for a picnic.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

2006 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

The third Thursday of November is the day Beaujolais Nouveau comes out...a fruity wine that really shouldn’t be aged more than a few months, if that. Let’s be blunt–it’s a marketing thing more than a wine thing. This wine came out today and it’s “a big deal” because it’s “Beaujolais Nouveau day”....why is it a big deal? Well, the producer of Beaujolais Nouveau say it is....but I’m a sucker so you better believe I ran out and got me a couple bottles.

Beaujolais Nouveau are made with the Gamay grape using a process called carbonic maceration, which means the grape juice isn’t what ferments–the entire grapes themselves ferment and from what I understand, explode on their own.

This one is $8 and is the cheapest and probably most widely available Beaujolais out there.

The nose has some raspberry.

The palate is fruity with berries, black, rasp, and even a bit of blue. Simple, a bit acidic, and there’s even a bit of tannin–so this is surprisingly (but, and this is important–relatively) dry. This is really a good wine if you don’t like red wine but want to start learning a bit more and acquiring the taste. If you’re going to a party–say Thanksgiving dinner with the family–and want to bring something that will please everyone, you can’t go wrong.

When I’m making poached pears, I grab Beaujolais Nouveau because it’s so fruity and simple...this vintage is no different.

If you like fruity red wine—or if you don’t like red wine—go right ahead and drop $8 and pick up a bottle. Maybe it’ll help bring you over to the red wine lovers side. If you know red wine, then you know what this is...drink it with frozen pizza, Burger King, or a microwave burrito, and stop being such a goddamn snob and enjoy something simple.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

2005 Ditka Da Coach Pinot Grigio

Thought I’m not a football guy, I am a huge fan of Bill Swerski. So, when I heard Ditka was putting his name on a series of wine, I didn’t hesitate picking one up. I figured a good place to start was a wine that’s tough to mess up, Pinot Grigio. Of course, it’s also the cheapest Ditka wine at $9. There’s a “Kick Ass Red” blend going for $40 and I think the others push the $20 line.

On the nose–well, it smells like Pinot Grigio. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but once you try a few Pinots, you know it—grapes, maybe some minerals, and a bit of citrus.

Lots of fruit, not a lot of acid–about what I’d expect at the price. The palate is mainly lemon...lots of lemon. There’s also some grapefruit, apple (think Golden Delicious) and I’ll even say a bit of citron. For all intensive purposes, there is no finish.

I’ll say this: this wine does not have any sort of “alcohol” taste, it’s incredibly smooth—the translation of that is that it’s dangerous wines—you can finish the bottle and not even notice it. It’s simple, easy drinking, and quality-wise what I’d expect from an under $8 wine you can find in any grocery store across the country.

My prediction: After Ditka wins a one on one brawl with a hurricane in Las Vegas, he will spend all of his money buying every vineyard on the planet and all the wine you know and love with be preceeded by “Ditka’s”—Ditka’s Silver Oak, Ditka’s Chateau Margaux, Ditka’s Mollydooker, etc.

The final verdict: I didn’t expect to have my socks blown off and I didn’t. It’s not the best Pinot Grigio, but no one claims it is. It’s decent and while I’d sayt the price may be a bit high, you’re buying a name, and if you’re going to pay for a name, it may as well be DIT KA.

Monday, November 13, 2006

2003 Li Veli Passamante Negroamaro

Negroamaro is a varietal from Italy that you don't see often for one reason or another. This is our third Negroamaro wine and it's fairly typical of what we've had before.

The nose reminds Fran of cherry cough syrup, alcohol and all. I do get alcohol on the nose, as well as some cherry (not cough syrup though), and a bit of earth.

Basically, if you like Chianti, buy this one. Fruity (cherry specifically), lighter bodied, smooth tannins, a bit of pepper, and plenty of acid--a great food wine, especially if you're having pasta with a red sauce or even pizza. Not the most complex thing in the world, but it's beautifully balanced and has just the right level of spice and fruit.

At $8, this is a steal. In fact, I doubt you can get a Chianti of this quality at that price. Strongly recommended.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

2005 Stone’s Throw Riesling

Stone’s Throw is a Wisconsin based winery which gets their grapes from California–this Riesling, in particular, comes from Monterey County. This one retails for $17.

I get lots of peaches on this one, with some spice–think of a lighter peach pie filling. I’m also getting plenty of apricot. It is a bit flabby though, there’s not enough acid and it has a very strange structure (or lack of). It’s not really a bad wine, but it’s certainly not a $17 bottle.

I’d recommend giving some of Stone’s Throw’s wines a chance, especially if you’re in the area and can visit the winery (we have yet to, but plan on it) but I’m not sure that, at this price point, this one can be strongly recommended

Saturday, November 11, 2006

2004 Mount Pleasant Norton

Towards the beginning of this blog we reviewed a white wine from Mount Pleasant negatively. A bit later, we reviewed a $25 Cabernet Sauvignon, and ultimately felt that while it was okay, it was not worth anywhere near the asking price. This is the only winery which we’re “members” of and I have to say that two mediocre wines in a row really shook my confidence.

So, here we are with a 2004 Norton. Norton is a varietal found in the Midwest and if you tour wineries in the area you’ll find a lot of terrible wine made from it. When we visited Mount Pleasant, we both agreed it was the best Norton we had, but also the most expensive at $35.

Norton’s typically are dark and this one is no exception. It’s dark purple, but looking at a full glass, it almost seems black.

The nose has lots of pepper, black fruit, and a touch of alcohol.

On the palate, this reminds me a bit of Syrah. Lots of pepper, licorice, and spice on the palate, but there’s also plenty of blackberry–to the point that I’d call it jammy. As soon as it hits the tongue, it seems to taste like blueberry but that changes to blackerry. It’s a nice but strange balance of strong jam and strong earth–a big wine for sure. I thought I was getting tobacco, but I think it’s more just smoke. The tannins are extremely smooth and silky, no burn or anything of that sort.

The finish is long–starting with prunes and fading away to raspberries.

I’m glad that my memory has held up....if this one was a disappointment, I probably would have quit our club membership. This is, hands down, the best Norton I’ve encountered. An excellent wine, regardless of region or varietal. Complex enough for the nerds, yet smooth enough for the friends-–highly recommended.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

2003 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese

French and German wine labels can be tricky–every time I think I know what everything means I realize I actually have no idea--so I’ve decided that when we drink them, I’m going to start breaking them down so eventually I know what the hell I’m doing.

2003 is the vintage.
Joh.. Jos. Christoffel Erben is the producer.
Erdener Treppchen is the vineyard.
Riesling is the grape.
Spätlese is the QmP (let’s simplify it as “sweetness level’) designation.

There you have it.

This one was $20 which is more than a typical day to day wine, but I had a hankering for a Riesling and this was the only thing I had handy.

This was described to me as a “wine drinker’s wine” and I’m going to agree. This punches you in the face with acid with a bit of sweetness to balance it out. Lots of time I talk about Rieslings that are sweet with enough acid to balance it–this is the opposite.

The nose has some grapefruit and something else, but I can’t put my finger on it–something non-fruit, which I’m still not good at detecting.

Fran gets pineapples on this with a touch of grapefruit on the finish. I completely disagree. To me, this is all grapefruit–-pink grapefruit, sweet and tart with some minerals for good measure. There’s some spice on this that reminds of Gewurtztraminer. As the finish lingers, I get notes of honey and pear....the finish on this wine is one of the longest I can remember having with a Riesling.
Spicy, acidic, sweet–pretty much all the best qualities I look for. I’d buy this again without hesitation.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

N/V Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noir

I figured we'd open a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate the new path the country is heading down.

Domaine Chandon is a producer of sparkling wine out of Napa. I wondered if it was the same Chandon as in Moet & Chandon, producer of Dom Perignon among others...and sure enough, it is. The Moet company opened the winery in 1973 making this the only French owned sparkling wine producer in the US.

As useless as that sounds, Moet & Chandon is a highly reputable company which suggests quality.

Anyway, this Blanc de Noirs is salmon in color. It's fruity and toasty, a touch of sweetness, but certainly not a sweet wine. To me, I taste a bit of blueberry which seems strange--Fran gets strawberry, but that's not what I'm getting...somewhere in between--huckleberry?

Actually, it hit me what this reminds me of....there's a soda company called Jones Soda. You can buy their stuff pretty much anywhere (in the midwest anyway) and one of their claims to fame is a Thanksgiving pack with a turkey flavored soda, a stuffing soda, brussel sprout get the idea. Jones Soda makes a flavor called Fufu Berry and this tastes like a mild version of that.

In fact, now that thought has come to mind I can't taste anything other than Fufu Berry in this. Bah.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

2003 Casa Silva Coleccion Carmenère

Here we are getting ever closer to the wine century club with a Carmenère from Chile. Carmenère is actually a fairly interesting grape. It was originally found in Bordeaux but in 1867 insects (Phylloxera) infested all the vines and destroyed every grape and vine. Luckily, the grape was exported to South America in the 1850s, so it still exists. Chilean wine tends to be a good value, this one was $9.

The first thing that struck me with this wine was how dark it is. At a very deep purple, no light gets through this one at all. The nose has a hit of alcohol and cherries and not a whole lot else.

The palate is fruit bomb with a hit of alcohol. There’s some tannins to balance it out a bit but very little oak--this is for all intensive purposes, all fruit. Black fruit–plums, blackberries, cherries, and the like.

After this one opens some subtleties of spice and oak come through. A hint of herbal notes–mint for the most part–are present, but really only seemed to come through after being open for five hours. If I had to compare this to anything, I’d almost say a Zinfandel. Fruit, high alcohol, perfectly paired with pizza, grilled or roasted food, anything heav.

This is a fantastic wine, especially at the price. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 06, 2006

N/V Stone’s Throw Winery Field Blend Red

After having the Stone’s Throw White I had a good idea what to expect with this—light bodied, smooth drinking, somewhat simple, and acceptable.

And....I was right. For a $10 bottle of wine, you can do far worse. A mystery blend of grapes, I can’t pick any out....if I had to compare it to anything I’d say a very light Chianti. Nothing bold or firm like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, this is far lighter. Fruit right away--cherries and blackberries-–though present, there's not much oak or spice, but there’s a bit of earth to give it some balance.

A simple red wine, fine for the price, and a good one for a simple meal or picnic. You can do better for your money if you’re looking for complexity and oak, but if you want a good wine you can enjoy without worry this is another fine one.

N/V Stone’s Throw Winery Field Blend White

Stone’s Throw is a winery in Door County, Wisconsin. Most of the wineries in the area focus on fruit wine, but this one gets their grapes shipped in from California and consider themselves to be a bit more serious.

The Field Blends are the cheapest wines they offer in red and white at $10 a pop. No varietal information, just a miscellaneous blend that is from a field not designated for one type of grape.

Basically, we have a very simple, easy drinking, and perfectly acceptable wine. Citrus notes, a bit of lemon and even some citron. A hint of acid to balance it out a bit, but not a whole lot....this is a fruity, sweet wine that’s perfect for a picnic or BBQ on a hot day.

If I had to compare this to a varietal, I’d say I pick up a hint of Pinot Grigio....sweet, quaffable, and good with salads, burgers, and the like.

If you want something you can just drink and enjoy without worrying about the subtle hints on the nose and such, this is a good wine to have.

2005 Monastrell Wrongo Dongo

Here we are with an $8 bottle of WANGO TANGO...oh wait...Wrongo Dongo...Nugent doesn't drink, that's right. I bought this one at World Market as it was a double whammy–-first, it was highly rated by Parker (or Wine Spectator...someone important) and second it knocked off another grape for our Wine Century Club application.

Fruity right off the bat, mild tannins, and a hint of spice. As far as I can tell, this wine has not seen oak and that’s very rarely a pro with red wine. There’s a harshness and burn on the finish that’s unappealing. The front and mid palate hit you with cherries, raspberries, and herbal notes. I get quite a bit of “green” on this–bell peppers, basil, strange flavors under the fruit. Fran feels it is comparable to Charles Shaw, I think that’s a low blow.

For an offbeat varietal, it’s interesting and worth giving a shot if you want something different and inexpensive.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2000 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut

Yesterday’s Veuve Clicquot gave me a big hankering for more sparkling wine and I thought it would be interesting to move over to California. Without thinking, I grabbed this $30 bottle which is way more than I’d casually spend but some recent eBay auctions went better than expected, so why not?

Though it’s good, yesterday’s really grabbed me and this one is just sort of there. I detect some slight yeast right off, lemon mid palate, and orange zest on the finish. Nice, small, constant bubbles, but I have to admit the citric acid is a bit stronger than I’d prefer.

Even at $30, this is acceptable. While some of the flavors don’t mesh quite as well as I’d like, it’s complex enough to make this a much stronger candidate then what we normally drink for sparklers. At this price, I get complexity–-some things I like, but aspects I don’t. A $10 bottle is a whole mess of “this is okay” but nothing really jumps out either way. I'd rather get hit with complexity I like, mind you...but this is still good.

Would I buy it again? Honestly, probably not. There's tons of sparklers out there for $30, many from Champagne, that I'd rather investigate first. I'll visit this one again in a few years perhaps, when I feel my palate is more refined.

Monday, October 30, 2006

N/V Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut

Frequently called “the yellow label,” Fran bought me this for my birthday. To be polite, I won’t look up the price, but if my memory serves me correctly I believe this is in the $40-50 range.

In previous sparkling wine reviews I keep mentioning how little I understand tasting these wines, but I have to say I’m slowly coming into my element. This is clearly an excellent wine.

I like this one...yeast right away and some nice toasty flavors towards the end of the palate, with pear, granny smith apple, and grape flavors abound. The bubbles are smooth and coat the mouth like foam more than anything else.

I like this a lot and would drink it several times a week, but I’d probably say that about any $40 bottle of wine. While I like trying new things, once a price point is hit I stay with strong recommendations from reliable sources or things I time I need a Champagne I won’t hesitate going for this one if I can’t make it to the wine shop.