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Thursday, August 31, 2006

2004 House Wine (Magnificent Wine Company)

This blend of wine is 70% Cab, 25% Merlot, and 5% Syrah, so it’s not quite a Bordeaux blend. I picked it up at World Market for $8.99. Other vintages have different blends, so yes–vintages sometimes do really matter, even with cheap wine.

Big fruit and oak, this is one of those wines that starts off like a big old Cabernet and then fades into a spicy Syrah. Something I tend to like in wine is that sort of contrast, a wine starting one way and finishing in a different direction, so it win points on that front.

With a lot of berries and very nice, smooth tannins, this is well balanced and quite good though admittedly simple on the palate (which I really don’t consider a bad thing, I don’t expect complexity in any of my day to day wines). The finish has some black pepper spice to it and lingers for longer than I figured it would. It’s good, but is it groin grabbingly good? In a

It’s an easy drinking wine, that’s overall quite smooth, and one I wouldn’t hesitate picking up again. It’s interesting to see just how much of a punch the Syrah pulls even though it’s a mere 5% of the blend. At this price you can do significantly worse and not a whole lot better.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2002 Leonard Kreusch Beerenauslese

This half bottle ran me about $20 at Trader Joe's. A good rule if that if the wine if from Germany the longer the name of the wine, the sweeter it is (the only thing sweeter is Trockenbeerenauslese).

So, it's a dessert wine which means it's going to be pricey...a quick search at my local wine shop pulled up nothing less than $60 (we're talking half bottles) for $20, this is already a winner.

It's somewhat syrupy and honestly, it reminds me a bit of the juice you get left behind from fruit cocktail but not quite as sweet. It smells like canned pineapple--it just smells sweeter than regular pineapple juice, we're talking concentrate. On the palate, I get tropical fruit (it reminds me of citron tea that we sometimes get in Korean restaurants) and pineapple, but the finish fades to red apples.

My grandma used to make this dish at Christmas which was dried fruit (apricots, prunes, and so on) reconstituted in boiling sugar water--the fruit was slimy--but the liquid was pretty good...this reminds me a bit of that. Sweet and a number of fruits but a good mix so it sort of all blends together.

When I think beerenauslese I think overwhelmingly sweet and this really isn't. Don't get me wrong--it's a dessert wine--but the sweetness is milder than I expected and there's quite a bit of acid that balance it nicely.

The verdict? $20 for a half bottle--this is not just a good deal, it's a groin grabbingly good deal.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

2003 Mas Donis Capcanes

This is a Grenache Syrah blend, but I’m not sure the percentages. If I had to guess I’d say mostly Grenache.

I get some berries and oak on the nose with a hint of plums.

It's got some nice pepper on the palate along with blackberry and raspberry that give it some fruit, but overall I’d call this oaky. The tannins are smooth and overall, the wine is fairly light. The finish is oaky and I taste some tobacco. If you like wine with a lot of wood, this is for you. To me, it may be a little too woody, but certainly not to a point that I wouldn’t have it again.

I picked this up for $11 and at that price it’s a bargain as there’s a lot of complexity here. It’s distinctly “Spanish” and “Old World” so if you’re looking for a big California style fruit bomb, you may be disappointed so know what you’re getting. I had this with a plate of pasta and it worked out very well.

Monday, August 28, 2006

2005 Yellow Tail Riesling

I'm not much of a fan of Yellow fact just today a coworker told me she liked Yellow Tail's Shiraz and I--like a prick--felt the need to bash it.

I had no idea Yellow Tail made a Riesling until recently, and being a fan of cheap Rieslings I decided to grab a bottle. I don't like YT's reds, but I'm all for giving the whites a shot. If I can get change back on a $10 I'm game for most anything.

On the nose, apples and grapes. Fran gets strawberries and melon.

On the palate, it starts out sweet but has a nice tartness on the finish. I get lots of pineapples right away, but that fades away on the finish and I get some strawberry. I could use a bit more acidity, but it's really not bad.

Overall--it's alright. If, for some reason, I need a Riesling in a pinch this would do, but I don't see buying it again.

Friday, August 25, 2006

2004 Radio-Coteau Savoy Pinot Noir

At $50 a bottle this is the most expensive wine we’ve reviewed and I honestly think the most expensive bottle we’ve ever had–we’ve tried more expensive wines at tastings, but that’s a whole other ballgame.

What’s it like? There are no words. No words to describe it. They should've sent a poet.


Berries and cola on the nose. I’ve always heard of wine having hints of cola in it but I’ve never actually grabbed it until now.

The body has some earth, a bit of fruit, and oh yes–cola. Very well balanced, it’s not a fruit bomb that many US Pinot Noirs have become, it’s very subtle. There’s plums, but there’s also anise, and a suggestion of black pepper.

This wine defines smooth. The tannins are present but they just drape your palate, like George Costanza wanted to drape himself in velvet.

Sometimes I tell people that certain foods, restaurants, and experiences are consistently good, but never outstanding. A lot of wine may be consistently good, but it never reaches this level....this is a new level of wine for us. If you like Pinot Noir, if you like wine, I can’t recommend this strongly enough.

In 2005 the White Sox won the World Series. In 2006, I had this wine. What can 2007 possibly bring that will top either of those? Other than new episodes of Futurama....

N/V White Star Moet and Chandon Champagne

$35 a bottle isn't all that much for Champagne, but you get a good sparkling wine from the US for half that price.

Yeast on the nose and not much else.

There's some sweetness but it's, of course, not moscato sweet. I get some apples and pears in this one. There's some toast but not overwhelmingly so--which is something that ruins a lot of Champagne. There's not really much acid so it's not all that balanced. The finish has a funk to it that reminds me of overripe strawberries.

Bluntly--I'm glad I only get a half bottle (for under $20), I would not buy this one again.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

2005 Sterling Vintner's Collection Pinot Noir

This has been on the rack for a while, but I think I paid around $17 for it. I set my wine rack up by wine price, and this is in the "twice a month" section (the sections are day to day (under $11), once a week ($12-15), twice a month ($15-$25) and special occassion ($25+). If all you have is a small wine rack (less than 30 bottles) and a limited budget, I think that's the most logical way of doing it.

It's fairly light red which is typical for a Pinot Noir. I get a bit of earth on the nose and a bit of strawberries in the background.

On the palate, we get a lot of oak and spice, and the finish has strawberries. The finish actually reminds me a lot of "Astronaut Strawberries" that you get at science museums, they're freeze dried and sold in a foil pouch. Though the finish is interesting but I just don't get a whole lot from the wine itself. We've let it open for 90 minutes and it still just isn't wowing us.

There's a nice balance and if I found this for under $15 I would pick it up again (and probably let it sit, since it's a 2005, I suspect it may just be too young). It's acidic enough, but still smooth, fruity yet still earthy. All it's lacking is the "wow" factor that is increasingly more difficult to come by at this pricepoint.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

2005 Mount Pleasant Villagio

Mount Pleasant Winery in Augusta, Missouri is one of finest wineries in the Midwest. We've visited there twice and are members of their "wine club"--everytime we get a shipment in from them I get excited because they consistently do a good job with red wine. Many Midwest wineries do okay with white but their reds are at best decent, at worst awful. Mount Pleasant's whites are a bit more hit and miss.

This wine tastes very "Midwest" which leads me to believe it has to be mainly Vidal Blanc or Seyval Blanc--hybrid grapes that you'll only find in places like Illinois and Missouri because they're more adaptable to the climate than something like Pinot Grigio is.

I get grass on the nose and not much else, I detect no fruit. Fran gets hay on this one.

As far as how it tastes--to put it bluntly, it's like a bad Pinot Grigio. There's not much going on at all, some fruit--grapes, actually--and not nearly enough acid. Acidity is a must in white wine and I just don't get much in here. Fran gets orange zest on the finish, I get something citrusy, but can't place my finger on what.

I like Mount Pleasant's red wines, but I can't just recommend this one. If you love Pinots and want something a bit different, it may not be a bad buy (it's only $10) but otherwise I'd pass. I have two bottles of their red wine (one Norton, one Cab) on the wine rack, when I crack them open (they're priced in our "special occasion" range, though) I'm sure they will be raves.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

N/V Dow's Fine Ruby Port

As the name of the wine says, it's "fine." Not much else. Ruby Port is the generally the cheapest and simplest Port out there and one shouldn't expect much more than that.

It's fruity, there's a bit of a burn on the finish, and has none of the nutty flavors you get in a Tawny. For $11, it's perfectly acceptable. It will probably sit on the shelf for a few weeks, perhaps I'll have a glass every so often but I really see this going into sauces.

This is the first time I've had a Ruby Port in a while and to be honest, I'm probably not going to be buying another bottle for a long time unless I get into poached Pears again come the fall. For what it is, it's good, I certainly won't be pouring this down the drain, but since a bottle of Port lasts so long (it can go three months after opening) and you really only need a couple ounces at a time, I'd rather spend a bit more money and get something truly excellent.

Monday, August 21, 2006

2005 Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon

Many moons ago I bought a bottle of Little Penguin expecting it to be like Yellow Tail (ie, not good).

But when I opened the bottle, I was shocked. It wasn't the greatest wine I ever had, but it was by far the best $6 bottle of wine I ever had, it was smooth, fruity, and had a fair amount going on all things considered. I've periodically grabbed a bottle, but it's been a while simply because the wine rack has been fairly full so I didn't need to buy.

I was poking around the most recent Wine Spectator and they gave the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon 88 points. Since I had good memories, the bottle was cheap, and that's a strong rating, I figured I'd check out a bottle.

The first sip and the finish are heavy on blueberry. There's a little bit of spice as well and I get some cherry hints. This is a fruity wine to be sure, more like a Zinfandel than a Cabernet, but it's quite good. If you like California Zins, I don't see why you wouldn't enjoy this. Big, jammy, a burst of berry fruit, and a surprisingly long finish. It's easy enough to drink by itself or pair with almost anything. A bottle of this at something like Thanksgiving would be perfect--something that will go with anything and please everyone.

Can a cheap wine be good? Here's proof it can. Why would you spend $3 on Charles Shaw when with a bit of shopping around you can get this for $5?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

2003 Blue Nun Riesling

It was on sale and it's called Blue Nun...need I explain more? Apparently, this was a very famous wine producer back in the 1970s.

Lots of peaches in this one. On both the nose and palate. It's sweet. Sweet isn't a bad thing if there's enough acid to balance it out and this doesn't even come close. The finish brings orange zest, pineapple, and tropical fruit to mind.

It's certainly drinkable. I like cheap Rieslings, but this one tastes just a bit too cheap for my liking. If you think White Zinfandel is good wine, this is probably a good stepping stone, but I wouldn't give it much more than that.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

2004 Charles Shaw Merlot

The (in)famous Two Buck Chuck. We had Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon a few months ago and it was terrible...I didn’t make notes back then so I can’t tell you why we didn’t like it, but I can tell you we dumped the bottle, I figured we may have better luck with Merlot.

Fran's first thoughts are spice and cherries, and feels though it’s fruity there's enough oak to make it somewhat balanced. Not exceptional, but not great.

On the nose, I get cinnamon and tart cherries. I find it’s a bit sweet and fruity, but there is oak and a bit of tannins as well.

Over the course of the evening, something odd happened. The wine soured. I don't mean, we stopped enjoying it, I mean the more time it saw in the decanter the more that tart cherry turned to pure sour. I've never had a wine go from drinkable to "I have to pour this out" in a matter of three hours, but it did.

Bottom line: it’s $3 and it tastes like $3. It’s not bad at first, but the sharp drop in quality after a couple hours is disturbing. Since it’s so cheap I think a lot of people really overlook all the problems with it--I mean, it's sour. If I was having company, I would not even consider serving this. I'd hate for a friend who's not into wine try this and never want to partake again.

2004 Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Blason De Bourgogne

I like to make my own vegetable stock since I find most of the ready made stocks to be little more than salt water. In order to get some more flavor, the bulk of the liquid I use in my stock is wine–since it simmers for over an hour, and then gets reheated when I add it to whatever recipe I’m making, most of the alcohol burns off. I feel the wine really gives it the added punch that you need with something so mild like a low salt vegetable stock.

The number one thing I use my own stock for is a cream sauce which I serve with shallots and mushrooms. I like to use an inexpensive–but good enough quality that I’d drink it from the glass–bottle of Pinot Noir, as that’s a common suggested pairing for mushrooms.

So, I present you the following: A Pinot Noir from Burgundy which I picked up at Trader Joe’s for a whopping $7.

It’s a very simple, easy drinking, light Pinot Noir. All the nose really gives me is earth, I don’t smell much fruit–just dirt. The palate is no surprise: lots of earth. I detect a bit of cherries and blackberries as well, but make no mistake, this is an earthy wine. It’s light but it’s acidic, giving it a bit of tartness. It’s a very simple wine, very little finish, not much complexity, but did you expect that for a $7 Burgundy?

It’s ultimately very good--most cheap wines are either harsh or sweet and overly jammy, this is neither. This actually tastes like a Burgundy. It’s not phenomenal, it wouldn’t last in the cellar, but at this price, you simply will not find a wine this characteristic of the region.

It seems like a shame I’m dumping the rest of the bottle in the saucepan, but next time I’m at Trader Joe’s I’ll be picking up another bottle.

Friday, August 18, 2006

2003 La Legua

La Legua is a Spanish wine made of 96% Temparnillo and 4% Garnacha. Temparnillo is a common Spanish varietal that I don't think I've ever seen in a wine made outside of Spain. I rarely enjoy wines with so much of that varietal, put 60% Cabernet Sauvignon with 40% Temparnillo and we're talking. It was $9 and I felt like something different so I grabbed a bottle.

I get very little on the nose. There seems to be some fruit there, perhaps plums, but it's in the background. Fran gets earth and must, which I'm going to agree on--it just smells like earth.

Taste wise, I get some spice, pepper almost, as well as your standard fruit. It's a rather interesting wine, amazingly complex for the price (actually, there are a lot of very cheap and fantastic Spanish wines floating around). Something like this from California would easily be double the price.

It's a smooth wine with a fair amount going on, but I just can't put my finger on most of it. I'm very used to the "big" reds--Pinot Noir, Cab, Zin, something like this is a challenge. There's cherries but there's also spice...almost like a mild Syrah. Fran gets currants.

This is an outstanding wine---we're two people who generally don't like Temparnillo, and we like this, quite a bit in fact. I'd buy it again without hesitation.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

2005 Domaine de Pouy Vine De Pays Des Cotes De Gascogne

That's a whole lot of title for what is basically "French White Table Wine."

I picked this up at our local wine shop, the guy working commented it's his favorite inexpensive, fruity, French White wine. I chuckled at all the qualifiers until I thought about how my favorite Iron Maiden Blaze Bayley era 70s prog rock cover b-side is "Doctor Doctor."

So, yes, here we are. $8 for a bottle of French wine? I was skeptical, but it came with not only that recommendation, but another from the woman at the shop who knows our tastes very well.

This is a "Vine De Pays" which basically means it's a "country wine"...a wine from France. No specifics are given on the label--I believe that they can't give specifics, legally.

What I discovered is that this is a blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Gros Manseng. It originates from the Bas-Armagnac region. Not familiar with Armagnac? If you like spirits (brandy, in particular), next time you go to a French restaurant ask for a glass after you've had your meal.

I get some citrus on the nose while Fran gets Granny Smith apples...citric acid I suppose.

There are certainly minerals and grapefruit both on the palate and the finish. I taste a bit of pear on the finish as well. This is a wine that I feel just makes you think...there's a surprising complexity here, it's all citrusy mind you, but what kind of citrus? Do I taste grapefruit, or is it orange, maybe tangerine, I know, tangelo, is that lime?

If I had to compare this to something, it's not unlike a Sauvignon Blanc really: not sweet, but fruity, a bit of minerals, citrus and acid. Overall, it's just a really nice balanced wine. For $8, it's a steal and I see buying it again.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

2005 Norma Jeane Merlot

A while back we were at a wine tasting and I asked one of the guys working if the Marilyn Merlot was any good. He thought about it and said "you know, the Marilyn Merlot is actually pretty good, but I'd stay away from the Norma Jeane if I were you."

I present with you...Norma Jeane, 2005 Merlot. Marilyn costs around $25 a bottle, this is their lower priced label and will run you about $10.

The first impression isn't good. A punch of strawberry and a very hard bite. This is from the bottle to the glass with a bit of swirling. I decided to pour our glasses and the rest of the bottle into our decanter to aerate it a bit and see what happens.

After 20 minutes in the decanter this wine softened up a went from "damn, that's harsh" to "damn, this isn't good" but for a variety of other reasons.

On the nose, all I get is strawberries. Fran claims to smell formaldehyde. I never know if she's kidding.

The wine is very light's one of the lighter wines we've had in some time. In fact, it looks like a Beaujolais.

As far as how it tastes, not surprisingly by the color, it's like a Beaujolais. There doesn't seem to be any wood--there's a bite, but this is 20% syrah which is probably where it comes from. It tastes pretty much like strawberries, maybe some cherries, and not a whole lot else. It's fruity, a bit sweetness, a hint of spice, and overall it's just very light. This is absolutely not your standard Merlot, if you poured me a glass blind and asked what it is I'd say Beaujolais. .

The bottom line? The folks at your local wine shop generally know what they're talking about. The wine isn't great, but the label gets 100 points.

Monday, August 14, 2006

2004 Yellow Tail “Reserve” Shiraz

A while back Yellow Tail started a “higher end” line of wines called the “Reserve.” I got this on sale for $10, but I’ve seen it listed as high as $16 (which would be absurd). Compare that to the $5-7 regular Yellow Tail, it’s pricier but not bank breaking.

Regular Yellow Tail Shiraz, to me, tastes like fruit juice. It’s sweet, there’s little to no tannin, and when one drinks they’d have no idea what type of varietal they’re drinking. When all is said and done, it’s not terrible, but it’s just sort of there.

This one is better. I’d say it’s somewhere between Yellow Tail and a “good” quality Shiraz. It’s fruity, but not offensively so because it's balanced out by oak. If memory serves me correctly, there is barely a hint of oak in regular YT, but here it's obvious.

There’s mild and smooth tannins with a hint of spice that is characteristic of a Shiraz. There’s some anise on the nose and tastes strongly of raspberries, a hint of anise, and cherries. Honestly, this is much better than I expected.

If you enjoy regular Yellow Tail this would be a good stepping stone into firmer red wine. It’s not spectacular but it’s not bad. If I found it on sale again, or if friends were coming over who weren’t particularly crazy about wine, this would be on my short list of what to pick up.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

NV Toso Brut Sparkling Wine

This bottle plus a 187ml liter bottle came in a pack for $8.99 at Cost Plus World Market. I picked it up figuring I could try the small bottle and if I really didn't like it offer up the full bottle to someone who enjoys sparkling wine. We enjoyed enough to hang onto the bottle for a few months and finally opened it tonight.

The interesting thing that I pickup immediately is that this is considered "Brut" and if I had to label it I'd call it Extra Dry if not Demi-Sec. Fran thinks it's too dry...which is a great point. I taste it as being too sweet, she tastes it as being too dry...who's right? Both of us, because it's our tastes. That's why wine tasting is so much fun. If you taste cranberry or something in a wine, no one can tell you (though they can try I suppose) that you're wrong...they may not taste it, but who cares, you do.

I taste some apples in this and I get some yeast as well. This is made with Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, normally I hate Chardonnay but in sparkling wines I'm okay with it. This one, to me, tastes more like Chardonnay than many other sparklers we've had. Fran agrees. This very well could be a result of us paying a lot closer attention now that I'm specifically writing about what we try...but with the Chardonnay taste and a somewhat powerful yeast, I just don't like it. It's odd, we both enjoyed the small bottle no more than a couple months ago but we're not feeling it with the full bottle.

I don't foresee buying this one again.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

2005 Fetzer Gewurtztraminer

This is our "house" Gewurtztraminer. You can find this on sale for many places for around $6-8...if you can't find it for as low as $6, you'll easily find it under $10.

If we're having any sort of Thai or Indian food or we're making a stir fry, this is the bottle I go for. Since you can find this at almost any grocery store in our area, it's an easy one to keep an eye on and once it goes on sale I pick up a few bottles.

I get some peaches on the nose, perhaps a bit of apricot--stone fruit, basically. Fran smells citrus fruit, and I agree with that as well. There's spice in there as well that suggests peach cobbler. I also get some floral notes. Definitely not a simple wine...there's a lots going on in the glass.

On the palate I feel like I'm getting something different with each sip....sometimes I get tons of grapefruit, sometimes it's Granny Smith apples, sometimes apricot, sometimes peach cobbler. It's all that and none of that at the same time. I don't know how many other wines in this price range have this much going on. Fran gets the apples but not grapefruit,

If I had complaint it may be a bit too sweet. You don't notice it until the finish, which has a lingering honey like sweetness that can get to be a bit much if you're drinking it alone.

At this price point, I don't think you can find a better Gewurtz. We've tried the other Gewurtzs in this price range--Hogue, Sutter Home, Chateau Ste Michelle. Beringer--and not one comes even close to this one (well, maybe Hogue). This is easy to find, cheap, and a very safe bet.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Fat Bastard 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Fat Bastard wine...who says the French don't have a sense of humor?

At $8 a bottle this is certainly one of the better low end wines out there. If you want a French wine for under $10, don't hesitate grabbing a bottle.

A lot of cheap wine, especially all the animal label wines from Australia, tend to be sweet, intensely fruity, and show little to no varietal qualities. I had a regular Yellow Tail Shiraz a few weeks ago and though it was drinkable, I realized in halfway through my glass that had it been served to me blind, I would have no clue what it certainly didn't taste like Shiraz....maybe a Zinfandel, or maybe a blend, but not Shiraz.

This actually tastes like Cabernet. I smell some blackberry and wood on the nose. There's definitely oak and spice on the palate, along with some nice blackberry fruit. In the glass, this is dark--dark purple, almost black. Somewhat surprisingly, it's actually dry and well balanced...there's some nice acid, it's not too oaky, not too fruity, and tannins are velvety. There's not much complexity, but if you care about complexity, you shouldn't be getting change back on a $10 bill.

For the money, you can do much worse. I wouldn't hesitate trying their other varietals, and if I'm looking for a bolder wine for a casual dinner I would gladly pick this one up again. The best under $10 Cabernet I've had in a very long time.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

2000 Lynfred Michigan Chambourcin

You may be asking “what the hell is Chambourcin?”

It’s an offbeat varietal that you won’t find in places like France or find it in places like Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, I’ve heard even Pennsylvania and New York vineyards grow this type. It’s a French-American hybrid. Basically the classic grapes can’t grow in places like the Midwest, so way back when a guy named Jonnes Seyve did some cross breeding and we have grapes like Chambourcin, Seyval Blanc, and Traminette. They're definitely different than the famous varietals, but they all can make very good wine.

If you go to any Midwest winery the odds are they have a Chaumbourcin. A few years ago Fran and I went on a “wine tour” of Illinois and we had more Chambourcin than I care to remember, but every so often I get a craving.

This is a fairly light red wine, I’d say it’s light purple but there seems to be a hint of brown (a sign the wine may be a tad too old), It looks sort of like a very light Pinot Noir.

There’s a bit of earth on the nose, maybe some tobacco, and most definitely sour cherries.

In a word, this wine is tart. Fran’s first comment was “it’s harsh” and I agree. This isn’t a bash at Lynfred, it’s the way I’d describe most Chambourcin. The sour cherries definitely overpower everything else though as it opens up I taste some cinammon. The more it opens, the smoother it gets, but that's not to say it is even remotely "smooth." The tartness overpowers all....low tannin, high spice.

This sounds like I'm bashing it, and I suppose I am, but the fact is, in six months I'll be craving it again. I think trying these unusual varietals is a fun thing to do and I'd recommend trying some next time you see a bottle, just don't spend too much.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

2003 Chariot Sangiovese

This is one of our favorites. A nice, light, easy going red wine that is perfect with anytime of Italian food you can think of....we're drinking it with pizza.

Sangiovese is the grape varietal you find in Chiantis, so this, of course, is very similar to a Chianti. There's a lot of bad Chianti out there unfortunately, and at this price point, you're better off buying this than most Italian fact, at this price point, you're better off buying this than most other wines period.

At $12 a bottle, this is a groin grabbingly good deal...that's right, it's that good. I've had $25 bottles not come anywhere near this. Maroon in color, it's a relatively light red. Taste and nose on this one definitely strike you with cherries. We also smell a bit of cola, and mix that with the cherries--you got it, Cherry Coke. The tannin give it a nice backbone so you know you're drinking a red, but they're extremely smooth. It's light enough that you can drink it with almost anything, but it's got enough going on that I can't think of much food that this wouldn't pair well with.

This wine defines well balanced...not sweet, not dry, not too acidic, but acidic enough to make your mouth water, not too tannic, but tannic enough to give it a bite. Isn't that the sign of a great wine?

In fact, as I drink my current glass, I can't help but wonder why I only have one bottle on the old wine rack. When you consider most places give a discount when you buy by the case, I foresee picking up a case of this sooner rather than later.

Monday, August 07, 2006

N/V Monmousseau Rose d' Anjou

Rose is a pink wine that's typically from France. It's different from the very popular White Zinfandel from the US in that it's less sweet (if sweet at all) and has some acid for balance.

Roses are typically made from red grapes and only see a small amount of contact with the grape skins in the fermentation process. If you press red grapes, the juice is white, what makes red wine red is time spent soaking in the skins.

This rose is, well rose in though there seems to be an orange tint. It's light, you can see through it, and it's probably the same color is Sutter Home.

The nose on this actually has a bit of orange and perhaps some strawberry.

This particular wine is my personal favorite rose. Everytime I hit up the wine shop I am tempted to buy this by the case. It's smooth, has a little bit of acid, but a nice amount of sweetness. There's not a whole lot else to say, as is the case with roses. I taste a little bit of orange, I honestly taste a bit of pear (that may be the power of suggestion since it's from the Anjou region), maybe some strawberries, and oh yes, a bit of grape as well. It's simple, not horribly complex, has a nice bit of sweetness, and is overall delicious. I've had around a dozen other roses and none of them come close to this one.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Glunz 1999 Vintage Port (made with Touriga and Tinta Madeira)

Here we have another Glunz wine, a Vintage Port from 1999.

The Glunz Family Winery has a shop in Long Grove, Illinois. You can try their wine at the shop, buy a bottle of almost everything produce, or pick up an array of gifts. It’s a nice shop in a tourist destination, if you’re in the area it may be worth a visit. The 1999 was $25, they had a few other vintages for different prices...from $20-$40.

The cork on this one was a bit messed clearly leaked a bit, the capsule was stuck to the bottle, and the cork was moist throughout. A bad sign, but the wine actually survived.

I opened this one a few days ago but held off writing about it since an open bottle of Port can morph for weeks after opening. This one is no exception. When I first opened the bottle I poured a glass right away and it was, shall we say, terrible. The smell and taste of tobacco just punched you in the face. Not a whole lot of fruit, not a lot of nuts, and seriously, tobacco just overwhelmed everything else.

I dumped out the glass, poured a bit more into a larger wine glass, swirled the hell out of it, poured that into my Port glass, and gave it a shot. It was better, but still not good. I’ve had Glunz’s 2000 Vintage Port and it certainly didn’t taste like this, so I decided to let it sit for a while.

After a few days, the bottle improved significantly. The tobacco flavors faded pretty far into the background and fruit, oak, spice, and caramel came forward, topped off with a fairly long nutty finish.

I honestly can’t tell you how this holds up to the high end Ports of the world. I’ve tried my hand at a few, but none really higher than the $40+ range. What I do know is that as a guy who’s not afraid to try the cheap ones ($10-15) and who generally goes for the mid $20s range, this is right on par. There’s a very nice balance of fruit and oak on the palate, with a nice long nutty finish. I would not hesitate picking up another bottle of this if I wanted something surefire for under $30.

N/V Glunz Family May Wine

The Glunz Family Winery ( is located in the northern Illinois town Grayslake (near Gurnee, home of Six Flags). The winery has a strange setup as it's located in an industrial/office building area. It's one part of a building and I assume is surrounded by offices...I believe there's a paint company, a surveying company, a masonry, a model company, a vet supply company and a bricklaying business in the same building. That's not a criticism, but the odds are you'll drive right by the building a few times before realizing that's where it is.

Glunz specializes in fortified wines, they have a few vintages of Port available (a review of one will be up soon), a framboise style raspberry wine, plus some typical wine (Chardonnay and Merlot), and some specialty ethnic wine (Sangria, Glogg and May Wine).

May Wine is a sweet white wine infused with woodruff. What is woodruff, you ask? It's an herb native to Germany. As you may have guessed May Wine is a typical German drink which is normally consumed on May Day (aka International Workers' Day aka more or less Labor Day for the rest of the world with a bit more politics mixed in).

I've never had May Wine before so I have no idea what to compare this to. It's sweet, doesn't have much acidity, and it has a strange floral scent and taste. It's certainly unique. Fran tastes cinnamon and nutmeg, which I can see but there's something else that's going on that is clearly strange.

It comes in a one liter bottle for about $10. I find this wine to be ultimately be a bit strange, definitely different, and quite honestly not something I terribly like but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it's an authentic recipe. If you know May Wine and like it, picking up a bottle may not be a half bad idea.

The verdict? I'm glad I had it, if I encounter May Wine somewhere else I'll give it a shot, but I certainly wouldn't ask for a full glass. If you've got a bunch of people, it may be a worthwhile summer drink but with only two of us, I see most of this bottle going down the drain.

Downtown Roselle Wine

Yesterday we decided to hit up the Taste of Roselle located in downtown Roselle, Illinois. Part of the motivation of going was to revisit the Lynfred Winery ( and the wine shop Vine Tastings (

We started at Lynfred which is a winery located just south of Roselle Road and Irving Park Road in Roselle. They offer a tasting of seven of their wines for $5 (they pick the wines and they rotate them monthly). The winery also offers free tours every weekend which is interesting or you can schedule a group tour at any other time for a charge. It’s worth a look, you get the see the whole facility.

We went for the wine tasting and my notes are as follows. When you enter the winery you go to a bar area, get your glass, walk through the gift shop to a balcony that overlooks some of the tanks. That’s where the table with the wine is. It’s a very nice winery, but the setup makes getting back and forth from the tasting table difficult if it’s crowded.

We started with the 2002 Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a bit sweeter than I’d expect from a Sauvignon. Lots of pink grapefruit on the nose. There’s a lot of grapefruit flavors as well as pineapple, Fruity with a nice bit of acidity, I’d call it off dry.

Next up was a 2003 Viognier. Lots of melon on the nose, this one smells a lot sweeter than it tastes. There’s a bit of honey and a bit of melon with suggests sweetness, but there’s a whole lot of acid that balances out the taste. I personally tasted cantaloupe in this one which is a flavor I rarely encounter–perhaps because we don’t drink much Viognier?

2002 Organic Chardonnay. I hate Chardonnays in general and this one didn’t sell me. Buttery with a bit of pineapple, no thank you.

The 2003 Vidal Blanc was up next. I’ve had a lot of ice wine made with Vidal Blanc but I’m not sure I ever had a regular harvest one. This one had a ton of floral aromas and the only thing I tasted on this one was honey. My note says: “Honey Assault.” That’s about right. Vidal Blanc Icewines are well worth your time, this one I found interesting because the varietal characteristics are very clear but without the overwhelming sweetness. I’ll give it an “interesting.”

Next up was the 2001 Old Vine Zinfandel. This one absolutely fascinated me. If you gave this to me and asked me what I thought it was I’d tell you it was a Pinot Noir. The nose had a bit of blackberry and earth. The taste was light, earthy, and a bit oaky. I like Pinot Noirs and I like Zinfandels, but it was just strange that I found it to have basically no of the jammy characteristics I’d expect from the varietal.

The 2003 Cabernet-Merlot blend was our sixth wine. The nose on this had both berry and a wallop of cedar. This one tasted of blackberry and wood, the tannins were very smooth making this a great, relatively mild, easy drinking red. I enjoyed it a lot.

Finally, we had their non-vintage Strawberry Wine. Indeed, there are no grapes in this, it’s straight up fruit rain. Though it had a bit of tartness and wasn’t too sweet, all I could think to compare it to is strawberry Kool-Aid. When I tried it I assumed this had very low alcohol, but it has 11% which surprised me (I would’ve guessed 8%). Drinking this for dessert with chocolate and strawberries would be an ideal match.

The staff at Lynfred is generally quite good and friendly. There’s typically a very laid back atmosphere. We had a bad incident there a few months ago, but after I complained the winery really went above and beyond to make amends. That really goes back to our first post–bad service happens, don’t automatically count an establishment out until you give them a chance to correct mistakes made (unless, of course, the poor service was given to you by the that case, screw ‘em).

My overall opinion of Lynfred is that all things considered, it’s a worthwhile place to try. It is a winery a suburb of Chicago, so no it’s not Silver Oak caliber. The wines are generally quite good and it’s always nice to support a local business.

Later in the evening we went to Vine Tastings also located in downtown Roselle. Vine Tastings is a wine bar/shop that has around 20 bottles open that you can try by the glass (a small “taste” or a large “glass”) or by flight (3-5 smaller servings that have a theme–all Chardonnay, all South African, all Syrah, etc). The service is always top notch, the decor is very nice, and best of all–there are gargoyles all over the place. They also do a “wine club” that’s well worth joining.

Prices by the bottle are reasonable and the glass/flight prices are actually a bit cheaper than I’d expect.

Here’s what we had, but for some reason I didn’t get vintages on any of these wines.

We started with Hopler Gruner Veltliner. Gruner Veltliner is a varietal almost exclusive to Austria and is frequently (fairly or unfairly) compared to Riesling. This is the third Gruner I’ve ever tried. The first one I had a few months back was excellent, the second was absolutely sickening–in a Chardonnay kind of way–and this third one was somewhere in the middle. Apples on the nose. In the mouth there’s lots of minerals and slate. The wine had a lot of acid and a bit of Granny Smith apples. If this was sweeter, I probably would’ve liked it a lot more–there was a bit of sweetness, but not enough.

Next up with the Seifried Gewurtztraminer. On the nose and palate there’s subtle apricot. It’s tart and has the spicy bite you’d expect from a Gewurtz. Personally, I like my Gerwurtz to have a bit of sweetness and then a bite. There was some fruit in this but really not much sweetness. It’s certainly not bad, but it just didn’t work for me.

Finally, we had the Wente Riesling. I taste honeysuckle in this one and really didn’t get a whole lot on the nose. No real sweetness, but there was some peachy flavor and even a touch of spice. It’s a decent, crisp Riesling. If I’m going to have a cheap Riesling (this one was $10 a bottle) I want a bit more residual sugar.

None of these reviews are terribly good I realize, BUT I must remind you before I type up my notes that this is absolutely no fault of the shop. The shop is great (they are a shop/bar–not a winery), we just chose poorly.

There you have it!

Friday, August 04, 2006

N/V Bernard Rondeau Bugey Cerdon Sparkling Rose

This French sparkling wine is from a small VDQS called Bugey in eastern France. I've tried to do a bit of research and really haven't found a whole lot of information on the area.

It's light pink, almost resembling that old soft drink Cherry 7-Up, I think it can qualify as being a light salmon.

There is some sweetness present but it's not overwhelming and there's plenty of acidity to make it balanced and interesting. Perhaps the color is influencing me, but I taste strawberries. At 8.5% alcohol this one is beyond light. The acidity/sweetness balance makes this a wonderful wine and at $16 it's not a half bad deal. Should this go on sale, I very well may stock up.

Regardless, if you see this one and want to try something a little different with some bubbles, a bit of sweetness, and a really good acidic balance, don't hesitate picking up a bottle.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

2003 Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon

The Three Thieves! Fighting wine snobbery jug by jug and box by box.

Three Thieves produce wine out of California and don't sell their product in your standard 750 ml bottle. Instead, they sell one liter jugs and tetrapaks--which you may recognize as the type of container soy milk and "classy" soups are sold in. At $10 for a one liter jug, you may be afraid, but fret not.

I found the nose on this to have a hint of cinnamon, blackberry, and grapes.

The spice in this one was throwing me off as it's not typical of a Cabernet, with a visit to I found this has 26% syrah which explains that.

Cinnamon and cherry on the palate, this wine is smooth. Yes, there is some spice, but there's virtually no burn and the tannins are light. I get mostly blackberries and raspberries on this one. I think there's a hint of vanilla, but I always fear the power of suggestion on that one.

We're eating this with BBQ tofu sandwiches and it pairs perfectly--almost like a Zinfandel. If you're into jammier California wines, I'd say pick up a bottle. Next time I come across some of Three Thieves other varietals I'll be picking some up.