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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.