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Saturday, March 24, 2007

1998 Dom Perignon Champagne Brut

Yep, Dom. After busting her ass at her current employer for 3+ years, Fran just accepted a new job - better pay, better hours, better work environment. When I heard this I thought it warranted something extremely special. So, why not Dom?

Strong nose - with mainly lemon, bread, and yeast.

Toast, toast, and more toast on the palate. Everything is tightly blended, pear, crisp apple, lemon, a bit of berry, yeast. It’s perhaps a bit too acidic, we opened this when it was quite cold and I’d almost call it harsh. As it opened and warmed up, the harshness faded some but there was still a bit of astringency.

As soon the finish starts you get a burst of berry - black, blue, and raspberry, and fades to lemon and finally exceptionally long lasting yeasty notes.

As much as we’re not disappointed, I can’t say it’s worth the price. The difference between this and one the non-vintage bottles that sell for half the price just seems marginal to my tastes.

2005 Estancia Monterey Pinot Noir Pinnacles Ranches

In my quest for a strong, affordable Pinot Noir I decided to give this one a shot, which ran me about $15 at the local supermarket.

Red fruit on the nose - strawberry mainly - and some alcohol.

Strawberry on the palate with a bit of root beer. Low tannins, smooth drinking all around, not much acid.

The finish brings out some dirt and oak and a Twizzler like taste.

A solid bottle of wine, but missing some of that Pinot funk I’ve come to love. It’s not the dream Pinot for $15 that I’ve been hunting, but it’s a damn good one.

2004 Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo

We used to drink this wine quite a bit a while back. In fact I’d say we got into something of a “wine rut” with this where I would just buy a few bottles of this and drink it as our “house wine.” It’s been quite a while, and I noticed a positive review in Wine Spectator so I thought it would be fun to give it another shot. This one goes for $8.

Plum, oak, and anise on the nose.

This one needs time to open...I’m going to say at least two hours. Smokey oak, earth, cedar, fairly strong tannins, lots of interesting herbs, and perhaps some raspberry. The tempranillo does come through giving this a distinctly Spanish taste.

The finish brings out some wood - oak and cedar - notes but fade fairly fast.

We only had a glass each when we opened it, so we had the rest of the bottle the next day: The tannins have smoothed out and a fair amount of fruit has come forward. Cherry, blackberry, some herbal notes.

An interesting, complex, and bold wine that is almost unheard of at this price. I’d almost say this is better on the second day. I doubt you’d do better for under $10.

2004 Vision Cellars Pinot Noir Chileno Valley Vineyard Marin County

Earth and herbs with chocolate and raspberry notes with a bit of berry.

Licorice, cola, cherry, strawberry, and oak on the palate. Do I detect a bit of rhubarb? A nice acidic zing, but nicely balanced all around immediately after opening and after letting it open for a while.

The finish brings out some raspberry.

Not a bad bottle at all. If you can find it for under $20 I’d say pick it up.

N/V Lisennes Cremant de Bordeaux Brut

We’ve never had a sparkling Bordeaux before, so I gave this one a shot at $14.

On the nose I get yeast and it took me over an hour to place it, but now that I hit it: marzipan.

Citrus on the palate - lemon, lime, orange, tangerine...whether it’s a legitimate taste or an influence from the nose or not, I taste marzipan as well. I’m one of these strange people that love marzipan.

A bit of yeast on the finish as well as some lemon zest.

It seems to me there is a strange line....if a sparkling wine is under $12 it’s probably not great....$13 to $25 and it’s remarkably better....and I’m sure there are higher levels but I can’t afford to learn those. At $14 this is clearly in that medium level - nice complexity, long lasting bubbles, smooth texture, goes with anything - a great wine and one I’d recommend.

2005 Turning Leaf Riesling

I’m a sucker who was drawn in by the $5 pricetag even thought I was looking for beer, not wine.

The nose brings out some white grapefruit, grapes,

The palate is a bit flabby - there is some acid, some spice, grapes, and orange zest.

The finish is the yellow grapes you see in the grocery store.

It’s $5 and it tastes like it. I can’t recommend it other than I can say that Riesling is a difficult wine to completely botch - it’s certainly drinkable, but you can just do so much better for just a bit more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

1977 Dow's SIlver Jubilee Vintage Port

Here it is....the crown jewel of the wine rack, the one I’ve had sitting around for a year, a gift from the missus–and not one of those “look at this great bottle of Champagne I bought ‘us’”, a Port...a wine she hates, bought for me. This is the first triple digit bottle of wine ever reviewed here, and probably the last for some time.

Since Port lasts weeks, even months, after opening, I’ve decided to hold off this review and give you a full review from the first pour to the last.

First impressions - (The first hour)

Not much of a nose.

The palate is honestly a bit harsh–lots of alcohol....some raisin, some walnut, a bit of space, some slightly dried plum, borderline prune. Fran gets the distinct taste of black walnut.

A slight burn starts off the finish and it fades to a nutty, musty taste....strange in a way. The finish I first thought didn’t seem to last long, until I took a sip, swallowed it, and moved away from the glass...quite literally five minutes later I still was getting some funky tastes....impressive. I look forward to giving this some more time to aerate.

A bit longer - (The second and third hour)

I decided to do some serious swirling and this astounded me....I swirled this standing up with the glass at a waist level counter and after just a few seconds of swirling I could smell the wine.....that is to say, not with my nose in the glass, but with the glass on the counter and me standing....easily three feet away.

The nose begins to develop....a bit of must, but definitely more on the nuttier side....walnuts mainly.

The palate has already smoothed out a bit...a big burst of raisin and dried pineapple and fig immediately, some prune,

The finish has more of that strange’s not necessarily bad, it’s just weird. *Long* lingering walnut.

The next day - (24 hours later)

Thankfully, the must has faded.

The palate brings rich brown sugar, caramel, and dried cherry.

The finish is long lasting and nutty.

Day 3 -
The nose certainly isn’t going anywhere...powerful raisin, prune, and tobacco.

The palate seems to have grown more complex...caramel, raisin, black walnut, prune, oak, tobacco, even just the faintest bit of blueberry...all at once and then separate. Strong and rich.

The must is gone...excellent news. The finish still lasts for a long time and brings out some nice nutty flavors.

Day 5 -
Skipped a day....the nose is straight up prune and maple syrup.

The palate has the brown sugar, caramel, walnut, prune, raisin, fig—dried fruit...maybe even some dried pineapple.

There’s an earthiness that’s coming through that I haven’t noticed before, but the finish is certainly nutty.

Day 8 -
Dirty socks on the nose - yeah, I don’t know, but it’s what I get.

Brown sugar, maple syrup, walnut, prunes, fig, and some striking tobacco.

The finish really brings out the dried cherry, walnut, pecan, and brown sugar.

Day 16 (or so) -
I’ve done some research and it seems the mild musty essence I’m getting may very well be a flaw with the bottle. If it is, it is mild enough to not be a deal breaker. I had Fran smell the glass and she said “it smells like a basement.”

Firm alcohol on the nose.

Rich strawberry, prune, walnut, and cola.

The finish is tobacco and dried fruit - raisin, prunes, etc.

And that, sadly, ends the bottle. If you have the money, I’d suggest drinking some Ruby’s and Tawny’s first so you can really appreciate the quality in a bottle like this. If that sounds like too much work, I’ll gladly take a donation.

2004 Coppola Diamond Reserve Claret

We last had this wine a few years ago after I read an extremely strong review of it...we were underwhelmed, but I figured I’d give it another shot since it was on sale for $11.

The nose has oak and berry.

When I first opened the bottle, I was shocked at how completely bland it was. After opening for two hours, it’s come to life. Cherry, blueberry, oak, nice tannins, a bit of spice, and some red fruit - plums mainly.

The finish lingers with oak, cinnamon, and a bit of that miscellaneous red fruit.

Basically, it’s not bad. Actually, this isn’t a half bad wine to bring to a dinner party or to serve to guests because it’s easy to drink and is a conversation piece - it’s called “Claret” - a British term for Bordeaux, it has a classy label, and yes, it’s that Coppola. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this one go for as high as $20 and it’s certainly not worth it, but closer to $10 and I’d say give it a shot.

2004 Nachtgold Eiswein

We had this one at a family function, so I'm not sure what it costs, but a brief search found some places selling it for $20 for a 500 ml bottle.

The nose has hints of orange and floral notes.

The palate has an interesting mix of fruit: papaya, pear, orange, nectarine, with a bit of honey and some floral - rose, mainly - essence as well.

The finish is all stone fruit...nectarine, apricot, and fuzzy peach.

If you can find this for $20, it's a steal....grab it.

2003 Chateau Talbot Caillou Blanc

We haven’t much experience with White Bordeaux, or oaked whites in general for that matter. This one was on sale and I figured it would be an learning experience.

The nose has hints of vanilla and gasoline...viscous.

Tropical fruit - pineapple, papaya - vanilla. There’s some buttery notes as well. Viscous mouthfeel.

A touch of oak on the finish with some more tropical fruit.

This is very new to me....a clearly oaked white, that’s not Chardonnay, and that doesn’t really offend me. Interesting depth, and thoroughly enjoyable. I would have no idea, as a vegetarian, how to pair this...maybe a French style pasta with a white sauce...for now, I’m enjoying it alone.

N/V Rotari Rose

I figure I keep referring to Rotari I should try the third available bottle I have access to - the Rose.

Golden apple, berry, and peach with some tart notes. The bubbles faded, but are still present - if slightly - after an hour.

Doughy finish.

This is probably the worst of the Rotari label we’ve had and I’d still recommend it - strongly, in fact. We’ve had many cheap sparkling wines, none this good.

N/V Gruet Blanc de Noirs

I picked up this half bottle for about $7 and figured I’d give it a shot since it’s from a strange area.

Yeast and doughy notes on the nose.

A bit of toast on the palate with some raspberry...a decent bottle of wine.

The finish has some mineral tones.

Not bad, when I think sparkling wine I sure don’t think New Mexico - this is a great surprise and an excellent wine all around at this price point.

N/V Henkell Trocken Dry-Sec

I honestly don’t recall having a German sparkling wine before. This one was about $10 at the local shop.

The palate has a fair amount of lime, yeast, a bit of Granny Smith apple, and some dough. Sweet - but not offensively so.

The finish brings out a strange green Skittles sort of taste that lingers for quite some time. Lots of candied lime in this one.

This is a strange wine and one that I’d have to recommend. You wouldn’t confuse it for a Champagne, but it’s certainly more interesting than most sparklers at this price. Give it a shot.

2004 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin

I don’t think we’ve ever had a Pinot Noir from New Zealand...and the more I think about it, the more I’m not sure if we’ve ever really had anything from New Zealand. I’m sure we have in tastings, but I’ve never bought anything from that fine country.

Berry, earth, and funk on the nose.

Cherry, oak, chocolate, and plenty of earth. A fair amount of acid and nice, firm tannins - nicely structured all around.

The finish really brings out the oak and some blackberry.

If there’s an under $15 Pinot Noir from the States that’s this good, I want recommendations. This is a great buy and is recommended.

2005 La Crema Pinot Noir

We paid right around $15 for this one.

Earth, raspberry, and cola notes on the nose.

Smooth, raspberry, cola, earth, and cherry. Tannins are so low we’re hovering on the flabby line.

The finish is watery, but has some slight herb, earth, and a lot of raspberry. It’s a very mild finish but it lasts for quite some time.

This is a dangerous wine, nice fruit, good depth, and such low tannins that it’s all too easy to gulp down. I could use some more structure and acid, but for a $15 Pinot Noir this is a good one if you like the fruitier style.

Monday, March 12, 2007

2004 Firefly Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon

Berry on the nose.

Fruit, fruit and more fruit...blueberry and prunes (and not in a good, Port way)...the slightest hint of oak, not much in terms of tannins and virtually no structure.

Not much in terms of a finish. Right after being opened this had a strange, battery acid taste at the end of it....but at hour two that faded thankfully.

The bottle says this can be aged for up to ten would be a curious the taste of it, I couldn’t imagine letting this cellar for more than a year or two. For this price, in fact for less money, you can do better.

2005 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages

Strawberries on the nose.

Tart strawberries, raspberry, and earth on the palate.

No finish except for a medium drying tannic effect.

This is a cheap, simple wine and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Tart, drinkable, acidic, fruity - a crowd pleaser. Drink with anything simple - burgers, pizza, whatever.
Definitely a step up from Jadot’s Nouveau.

N/V Chateau Ste Michelle Brut Columbia Valley Sparkling Wine

The well known brand that's available anywhere for under $9.

No nose.

The palate is toast, a slightest hint of yeast....just some generic citrus...I actually am having flashbacks to my childhood and that drink “Five Alive.” Large, flimsy bubbles that dissipate quickly.

The finish leaves the mouth with a strange syrupy coating....some interesting floral notes but just an unsettle honey feel.

Quaffable and just a touch too sweet. We’ve had some good bottles right around this price range, this is fine, but after we’ve tried a bunch of sparklers right at this price point I’d put this low on my list. It just tastes cheap, sadly.

2003 Castello D'Albola Chianti Classico

This one was right about $10, which is somewhat low for a Classico, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

Earth and plum on the nose.

Cherry, earth, blackberry, plum, smokey oak, spice, and that good ol’ funk that is in most Chiantis. A touch of sweetness, and lots and lots of acid make food a requirement for this.

The finish fades quickly and starts with some cherry but fades to spice...cinnamon mainly.

Not a wine I’d say should be consumed by itself, but it would make almost any type of Italian faire taste better.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

2004 75 Amber Knolls Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

We had this at a tasting a while back and enjoyed it thoroughly...I believe it ran around $16.

I get berries–blackberry and raspberry–on the nose with some oak.

The palate is smooth....medium tannins, lots of blackberry, oak, and vanilla notes. This is a wine that is really blended...nothing really sticks out but it’s certainly flavorful. Balanced nicely and everything being is in such harmony that it almost detracts.

The finish brings a bit of anise and wood with blackberry.

I hate to say it, but I’d almost call it a good red wine beginner’s “quality” bottle....not a fruit bomb - smooth, tasty with a lot of character. I would serve to guests in a heartbeat.

2004 Domaine Bernhard & Reibel Vin D’Alace Gewurztraminer

Gewurz from Alsace is normally not our style but we really enjoyed this one at a recent tasting. The cost was about $16 or so.

A very spicy and floral nose, not much in terms of fruit, but plenty there.

The palate is very aromatic....lots of rose water and orange blossom, crisp acidity, a touch of sweetness, some light pink grapefruit and apricot.

The finish doesn’t bring all that fades somewhat quickly but there is a lingering floral essence - more of that orange blossom - almost like a tea.

This is the type of wine I’d bet you’ll either appreciate or you’ll just hate....personally I don’t think I like it enough to buy again, but I’d have a glass at a wine bar because I appreciate what it brings...strange tastes and a nice complexity. It’s certainly not “quaffable” is a “wine drinker’s wine” to be sure.

2004 Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay

Do not adjust your monitor, this is a bottle of Chardonnay on The Wineauxs. Why? I had a strange urge to try a Chardonnay. This is, I believe the lowest end wine from Louis Jadot, it’s from Burgundy and ran us just about $14.

Buttery, creamy, pineapple nose.

Citrus, pineapple, vanilla...I don’t know if this has seen oak but I seem to detect some–not really a good thing. There are some nice layers in this and it has a decent complexity to it...nothing too deep in the grand scheme of things I'm sure, but it's not a dumb wine.

The finish brings out some more vanilla and pineapple.

I wasn’t really sure I’d be a fan of this and I can’t say I am...but we’re not offended and that’s really the nicest thing we can say about a Chardonnay. I certainly won’t be buying it again, but I’m glad I experienced it. I think the next Chardonnay I try will be a New World unoaked one.

N/V Duval-Leroy Brut Paris Champagne

I found this on sale for under $30 so I figured I’d give it a shot. The bottle design would make this perfect for a celebration of almost any sort.

The nose is mainly dough with a bit of walnut.

Green apple, yeast, a bit of toast, all nicely layered with just a hint of raspberry. Firm acidic backbone brings an almost sea salt quality that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. As I have come to expect from a true Champagne–small, long lasting bubbles that add a very nice texture.

The raspberry is really more on the finish I suppose with some more doughy notes coming through.

Yet another excellent Champagne....a bit on the pricey side for daily drinking, but well worth the occasional splurge.

2003 Whitman Cellars Narcissa Red Wine

The is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc and ran us right around $15. We let it open for around two hours and to me the Cabernet Sauvignon was the dominant grape but as it opens further into hour four the Syrah has really come through.

Alcohol, oak, spice, and black fruit on the nose.

This is starts off very smooth and the tannins only kick in towards the end. Tobacco, chocolate covered cherries, oak, a bit of bell pepper, and some plum are all on the palate. Fran gets tart blueberry and black pepper....I see the pepper, but I get no berry fruit at all.

The finish has a slight burn and lots of oak with some plum and cinnamon.

An excellent bottle of wine, and one I’d gladly buy again.

N/V Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Sparkling Brut

I realized what one of my problems is today....our local Binny’s (local chain liquor store that’s about the size of Walgreens) is right next to Taco Bell. Fran and I work lousy hours so sometimes after a 14 hour day we just want some comfort food and I typically stop and buy a bottle of cheap wine or beer to go along. Today was an Australian sparkling wine that I seem to recall reading a decent review of but can’t place where.

Yeasty and doughy nose, not much else.

For an $8 wine it’s pretty impressive...dry, yeast and white bread notes, mainly grapefruit, but a bit of Granny Smith apple and a touch of orange zest. The only gripe, no shock here, is the bubbles...this one flatlined after a mere half hour or so.

The finish really shows the sweetness at all and a slight yeasty drying effect.

If you like dry sparkling wines, you can do far worse at the price and not much better. It’s certainly not on par with even a low quality Champagne but we’re not even halfway to the price of a Champagne...perhaps not as good as Rotari, but still enjoyable.

2004 Finca Flichman Paisagie de Tupungato

This blend from Argentina has Cabernet Sauvingnon, Malbec, and Merlot and ran us around $16.

A smokey nose with a bit cherry.

Cherry and lots of blueberry on the palate with plenty of smoke as well. Lots of fruit and medium tannins–nicely balanced. Fran thinks this tastes cheap...I tend to disagree as there’s a fair amount of complexity you wouldn’t get in a $7 range wine.

The finish brings out some smooth oak.

It’s a decent bottle, perhaps not for over $15 but I can’t really say anything bad about it.