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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New rating system

I've updated some old wines, and new reviews from here on out will have the same system:

Wine: The rating of the wine, overall. Flavor profile, complexity, etc. This will be the same as it's been - see the side bar for descriptions of each number.

Value: Yes / Pass / No

The "Value" replaces the old "QPR" system which I think was too difficult to gauge in the current system - all that really needs to be answered is: "Is this 'worth' the asking price?"

"Yes" and "No" are straightforward - "Pass" means if there's something better easily accessible then skip it, but if you're at a store with a lousy selection and can't/don't feel like driving somewhere else, then it's fine.

Monday, December 29, 2008

N/V Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut

I tend to sit on some notes from time to time - I've noticed a ton of hits lately for people searching for sparkling wines, so I figured I'd toss up all of our saved notes.

This was $19 at Costco – I knew this was a reliable producer and I recall enjoying it before so why not?

This has a fairly big nose – loads of apples and a tad of limeade.

Very nice tart green apple with a bit of pear, there's some nice toasty notes and a bit of blue and raspberry. The bubbles are tiny and lasted with strength as we finished the bottle over several hours.

Green apple lingers on the finish, a nice amount of acid leaves the mouth watering.

This is outstanding – especially at the price. If you're looking to drop around $20, this is one of the best things to snag. Personally – if you're not crazy about sparkling wines or your palate is just developing.

Wine: 8
Value: Yes

N/V Korbel Blanc de Noirs

This was purchased at a local grocery store for $8 – our options were limited, it was cold outside, and I wasn't about to drive elsewhere or spend more than $10.

A yeasty and doughy nose with a bunch of red apple.

Crisp red apple, strawberry, toast – not bad. Like some cheaper sparklers this has a strange sweet and oily mouthfeel.

More red apple on the finish.

Well...this is one of those's not great, it's not worth $8, but if you're in a bind and your local grocery store doesn't carry any cheap cavas then this will probably be your best bet. Other than the oiliness - which is mild – there's nothing really wrong here but I'd still point you to Segura Viudas or Cristalino if you don't want to spend much.

Wine: 5.5
Value: Pass

N/V Chandon Brut Reserve

This was $12 or so – you can sometimes find it a bit cheaper on sale – and it's been a while since we've had it, so I snagged a bottle.

A little bit of yeast but this is a fairly weak nose.

It starts fine but that oily, borderline metallic thing I get on some (typically cheaper) sparkling wines. A little bit of golden apple, a bit of pear, and oddly a golden raisin sort of thing comes through as well.

The golden raisin notes linger on the finish – a slightly sweet quality.

Not my style. Not terrible for the price, but for literally half this price you can grab a sparkler from Spain that will be more enjoyable – stick with Cristalino or Segura Viudas.

Wine: 5.5
Value: No

N/V Cristalino Rose Brut

Six bucks – yep – six dollars. I enjoyed the Brut from this producer so I figured I would give this a chance. You can find the Brut at many grocery stores – this one isn't quite as well distributed but you may find it rather easily.

White bread and yeast on the nose.

Light in body, bready, yeasty, and loads of berry notes. Strawberry and even some light raspberry.

The tart strawberry notes – almost a strawberry liqueur quality on the finish – with a bit of toast lingering in the background.

No flaws, no issues, an outstanding value for the price.

Wine: 7
Value: One of the better cheap ones out there - absolutely yes.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

N/V Bully Hill Special Reserve Baco Noir

So long story short, I bought a bottle of this online for a coworker and grabbed a second one for myself. She mentioned loving Baco Noir, and I figured I'd try it before giving her this in case it was terrible (she had the varietal, but not from this producer). I popped this open, poured a glass with the intent of just testing it, putting it away and analyzing it later. After the first sip I felt compelled to write.

The nose is big – you don't need to swirl and the glass stinks – but in a strange, funky, earthy, sort of way – this almost smells like pure sassafras.

Weird – this is why you should try offbeat varietals – this is unlike just about any wine I've had. Funky, earthy, strawberry, raspberry, root beer, cola, fresh basil, even some mint with some tomacco (that's a tobacco/tomato hybrid). There's a hell of a lot going on here.

The finish fades rapidly with some cinnamon notes sticking around.

How is this? It's weird and fascinating. From an academic standpoint, this is phenomenal. From a “delicious” standpoint, I don't know. I do know that for a wine that's eight bones a bottle that this is once, twice, three times a bargain.

Wine: 9
Value: Shockingly great value - absolutely yes.

N/V Carlo Rossi Chianti

Look, the economy is in the toilet and if you're not scared, you're not paying attention. Is it so bad we need to resort to jug wine? Perhaps not yet – but who knows what tomorrow will bring? This four liter behemoth was $8. That's a buck fifty a bottle.

First things first, this isn't Chianti. These guys also make wines they called Burgundy and Chablis – neither are actually those wines, the US just doesn't recognize European wine rules and this company doesn't export these wines so it doesn't matter. This is “100% grape wine” which, you know, is kind of a red flag. That being said, I give everything we drink respect and we're consuming this out of Riedel glasses and at what I'd call slightly below cellar temperature.

You know, I don't know if this is a compliment to this or an insult to BN, but this smells vaguely like Beaujolais Nouveau. A funky strawberry and raspberry blend with a hint of banana.

While there's no tannins, there's a nice acidic zing and though it is sweet and somewhat grape juicy, it's not like as sickly as Concord grape wine. A bit grapey with some strawberry and maybe just a slight bit of banana as well – really, this is very much like a soft Beaujolis Nouveau. If you want something that somewhat resembles real Chianti, don't even look at this. The more air this wine sees, the more unpleasant it gets – some bitter harshness comes through and the rotten banana begins to dominatre.

I simply don't understand this. I understand White Zinfandel – it's simple, sweet, you can drink it by the magnum and forget it. This simply isn't pleasant. If I want cheap booze, I'd rather spend the money on Schlitz.

Wine: 3
Value: Terrible.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2006 La Paradou Vioginer

I snagged this a while back on sale for $6.99 – Viognier has been fairly good to us and I'm all for a cheap one.

A somewhat floral nose with some lemonade qualities.

Lemon-lime, a touch of sweetness, a solid punch of minerality, and well balanced all around. As the bottle opens some tropical fruit notes come through – pineapple mostly.

Honey and lemon rind.

Seven bucks, hell yes. It's very light bodied and would go well with any light or spicy food.

Wine: 7
Value: Outstanding - yes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

2006 Working Girl Wines Our Handyman Red

We loved their rose, but how will the red hold up?

Some spices and tart cherries, almost like a reasonable Beaujolais.

A damn shame – extraordinarily simple. Nothing going on but strawberry. It's not bad, necessarily, there are no real flaws and nothing unpleasant, it's just overly simple – a bit of acid, no tannins, and no real depth.

Strawberries on the finish.

Not at all bad, but disappointingly simple. For ten bucks, there are all sorts of “bad” wines out there, this is perhaps best saved for those new to red wine or for a hot day when you're not in the mood for a white.

Wine: 6
Value: For those intimidated by red wine - yes. For anyone else - no.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2005 Woot Cellars Central Coast Emergency Holiday Provisions

This was my first wine.woot purchase and I was content with the service. I won't name the price as the set came with six bottles and five wine bags. (If the the wine was free, each bag would be twelve bucks – hint hint).

An earthy and chocolatey nose.

I like Italian style wines so I approach this with a bias. This is interesting in that it has Old World flavors with a New World feel. It's big, bold, and flavorful but somewhat lacking in acid. It tastes mildly Italian and feels mildly Californian – earthy and funky with some earth and chocolate notes. I'm getting some cherry, blackberry, and raspberry for fruit as well, the cherries feeling somewhat candied.

Some anise comes through as well as blackberry on the finish.

We cracked this open before giving any away – I was afraid it might be terrible and I'd be ashamed to gift it and be stuck. Sadly, just the opposite has happened – I'd prefer to keep them because this is such a solid bottle. Nice depth and an exceptional QPR.

Wine: 8
Value: Excellent - absolutely yes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2006 Bogle Petite Sirah

I was ga ga over this wine some time ago but for some reason haven't purchased it recently, so I snagged a bottle for eight bones at Costco.

This is a nose – Fran opened the bottle, poured a glass for me, and set it on the coffee table and I could smell it from the couch. Rich, dark chocolate, black fruit – blackberry, ripe black plums – it's a big, powerful nose, but not over the top.

More blackness on the palate – plum, blackberry, chocolate, ultra, dark blueberries – but I'm also getting some interesting nectarine notes along with vanilla and some herbal qualities – excellent acidic backbone yet the tannins are very mild.

Some anise notes linger on the finish as well as more chocolate, with some leather and tobacco.

For under ten bucks, you probably won't do much better. This is a solid offering of a somewhat unusual varietal, so it's a great way to expand your wine horizons.

Wine: 8
Value: Excellent value

2007 Yellow Tail Rose

I'm down with roses – I'm not so sure about Yellow Tail. Always being in the mood for a six dollar gamble, I grabbed a bottle of this.

Well, this basically tastes like White Zinfandel with a bit more acid. All strawberries. No nose or finish to speak of.

Ugh – if they just called this “Blush” I wouldn't have expected anything. By calling it a rose, I expected a rose, which this simply isn't. If you like White Zin, this may be a slightly more balanced version, but stick with your Sutter Home – you'll save a few bucks and get the same basic quality.

Wine: 4
QPR: Terrible value, skip this.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2000 Monsanto Nemo Vigneto “Il Mulino”

We've been slowing down a bit with drinking and buying wine, but when I saw this marked down to $20 from $50 I jumped on it. Seeing as we haven't done much Cabernet from Italy I figured it was worth trying. This is another wine which I didn't take a photo of, but as you'll see, still deserves your attention.

I admit I'm shocked just how “Italian” this smells – cherry, earthy, funky, spicy, loads of cedar and cigar box.

Obviously “Old World” - refined and subtle, light-medium bodied, nice tannic structure, loads of acid – all sorts of stuff going on – a bit of sassafras, tons of cedar, tobacco, cherry, some blackberry, clove, and all sorts of dried spices. As the wine opens, the fruit starts to come through – funky strawberry notes, slightly overripe and funky.

The sassafras and cedar cigar box linger for a while along with some ripe strawberry.

This, my friends, is perhaps the best Italian wine I've consumed – hell, this is probably the best bottle of wine I've had at under thirty bucks. $20 is quite the bargain here – even at $50 I'd be raving – this is outstanding.

Wine: 9.5
Value: Yes

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2006 Left Food Charley Pinot Grigio

We hit this winery on our trip to Michigan and wanted to be in love but it was at the end of a long day and our palates were blown. I had a feeling while there that it was a place we would've positively loved six hours earlier so we did a tasting and I snagged a bottle of something that seemed promising. The website said this is $16, which strikes me as higher than what I'd pay, but who am I to question?

The nose is fairly bold – Asian pears really come though with some interesting berry – blueberry mainly – notes with some orange blossoms.

Golden apples, golden pears, golden apple pears – all these dominate. Also poking their heads in: orange blossoms, chamomile, key lime zest, and just a bit of vanilla bean. Fantastic acidic balance, a near perfect level of sweetness – everything here is right.

Berries, and I almost get a slight golden raisin suggestion, on the finish.

We like Pinot Grigio, but it's a varietal I've long found dull – even highly rated PG's struck me as fine for a quaff but ultimately boring – this, my friends, is the first Pinot Grigio that has excited me. Hands down, the best PG we've ever had.

Wine: 9
Value: Exceptional - yes.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

2004 Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux

Ten bucks, sparkling wine, France....I'm game.

A little bit of dough on the nose.

Lime zest – all sorts of lime actually – a bit of white grapefruit. Nice, crisp, light bodied and a thin mouthfeel (which I tend to like on cheaper sparklers).

Red apples on the finish with a bit of nuttiness coming through on the back end.

For ten bucks this is certainly alright - easy drinking, crisp, and enjoyable – definitely better than most sparkling wines in this price range.

Wine: 7
QPR: 8

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

2006 Strong Arms Shiraz

We were looking around the wine shop a few months ago and this label caught my eye. I picked it up and thought it was amusing enough to spend $11 on. Upon closer inspection I saw the shelf talker saying Parker gave it 91 points, which is pretty good. My palate is pretty broad, but I've noticed that I do tend to agree with a good chunk of Parker's higher ratings.

The nose huge, as expected, peach, red licorice, and some burnt wood.

Big and bold but not quite over the top. Definitely a sweeter fruit bomb style – there's oak, mocha, and chocolate – but there's also loads of deep, dark red strawberry, black cherry, with quite a bit of stone fruit – super ripe peaches and plums.

The finish leaves a sweet sort of residue – more red licorice, with some mocha and cherries. This one lingers for quite a while.

I'd say this just a mild step down from Mollydooker's The Boxer, in scope and size – and certainly a better deal at half the price. In that sense, it's probably better than The Boxer because I can grab two bottles for the price of one of those and can actually see drinking this with a steak or a Chicago style pizza.

Wine: 8.5
QPR: 10

Sunday, November 30, 2008

2001 Hutton Vale Grenache Mataro

This was a birthday gift from a friend of mine and I figured it would be worth opening.

A big and jammy nose – blackberry, super ripe plum, and a dose of chocolate.

At first, this was a bit of a surprise on the palate – I figured I'd be getting all sorts of fruit but the big thing that hits me right away is spice – black pepper and dried green spice – basil mostly. Loads of chocolate, or maybe more precisely carob, and some rich, black fruit, plus tobacco, and a punch of vanilla.

A menthol quality also comes through as the wine opens which is fairly potent on the mid palate as well as some heavy medicine/cough syrup qualities – this is a quality that in small doses I enjoy and I feel it's about right here – though it may turn some people off. After a few hours, the fruit comes forward right away and some interesting garbagey notes begin showing up.

Vanilla lingers for a while but raspberry notes stick around for well over a minute.

One of the finest wines we've had from Australia. Big and bold, but not absurd like many Aussie wines, excellent depth, and certainly a wine I'd recommend.

Wine: 9.5
QPR: Gift

N/V Freixenet Cava Brut de Noirs

This was $10 – the more I think about it, the more I think most cheap Pinot Noir based sparkling wines turn out pretty well, so why not try it out? I did find it interesting how dark this is – it's certainly a Brut de Noir and not a Blanc de Noir.

A somewhat bready nose.

The palate has some dough notes, some nice tartness, and red apple dominates.

More red apple on the finish.

Not bad at all – I'll give you it's rather simple, but there are certainly no “off” notes or issues. For the price, this is an easy recommendation.

Wine: 6.5
QPR: 8

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2005 Columbia Crest Merlot Grand Estates

We had the 2004 and enjoyed it, so why not grab the 2005 at a lousy stinking seven dollars....especially with the economy in the toilet, a cheap find is always welcome.

Cherry, vanilla, and oak on the nose.

A bit of everything really, all in harmony. A dash of fruit – plums and blackberries - a pinch of acid, a hint of spice, a dollop of vanilla, and a suggestion of oak.

Some spices really come through – dried Italian spices with a slight bit of anise and menthol as well.

Day two brings more of the same though the nose is more muted and the there's quite a bit more in terms of spice on the palate and finish.

This is a no-brainer.

Wine: 7.5
QPR: 10

The Wine Ritual

Recently, Fran and I dined out at a fairly pricey restaurant and our waiter totally skipped the wine ritual – which to put it mildly – annoyed the hell out of me. This gave me the idea to throw a post on up about what the wine ritual and what is expected of you.

The first thing is the waiter (or waitress) should come out with your bottle and show it to you – you're looking the make sure it's what you ordered. You're checking the wine producer, the vintage, the varietal/region, and I suppose even the bottle size. If it looks good, shake your head, say “thanks” or “yes, that's fine.” If something is wrong, speak up right away – even if the vintage is wrong. It's possible they ran out of the vintage you ordered – or it's possible the wrong one was grabbed by mistake, I've seen significant price differences for the exact same wine but different vintages, so say something!

The waiter will then uncork the bottle. You may or may not be handed the cork – I've read this is becoming less common, in part because many more wines have screwcaps and fake corks. If the waiter hands you the cork, put it on the table. There's virtually no reason to do anything with it – if it's totally jacked up or moist then you'll know there may be a problem, but don't smell or chew it please.

The waiter will then pour a small amount into your wine glass. Taste it. Is it fine? Shake your head and “thanks.” The waiter will do the rest – usually pouring everyone at the table before you, typically ladies get poured first.

Now, I've heard of establishments where the sommelier will taste the wine first. We have yet to encounter this – I mentioned this to Fran – she found the very idea of this infuriating, where I thought it was totally fine.

What if it's not okay? This is tricky, but say something as soon as possible – not after you're halfway through the bottle. The key here is to be polite. I've, luckily, never had this problem in a restaurant.

If I picked something I simply didn't like then I wouldn't say anything – that was my error and I'll live with it. If the sommelier or waiter pushed it on me, I'd perhaps say something – when asked how I enjoy it, I may say something discreet to express my displeasure.

But what if the wine is bad – corked, perhaps? Here's how I would approach it: If the waiter is good, I'd ask him, otherwise I'd ask the sommelier or manager to try the wine and get their opinion. If you're convinced something is up and they disagree, then be tactful but firm.

Here's a pretty good article that's worth reading:

Personally, unless I have a conversation with the waiter about wine, I will never buy something that I know nothing about. I may not know the producer, but I'll know the region and/or varietal. (I also won't pay more than $75 for a bottle at a restaurant, and even that is pushing it.)

For example, I don't know much about old Bordeaux, I've heard it's funky and a bit of an acquired taste – some day I will buy some and try them out, but I'd feel really goofy paying three times what I can pay at a shop for something that I may wind up thinking has gone bad – but is, in fact, correct. If the place you're at has a wine list, then the odds are someone there will be able to talk to you about it – don't hesitate asking for assistance, that's why the staff is there!

Monday, November 24, 2008

N/V Kirkland Signature Brut Champagne

Whenever we go out and order Champagne, we're always asked “oh what's the occasion?” I even get asked this when buying it at the shop from time to time. Normally, there is nothing going on, we just enjoy sparkling wine, but today we're celebrating. It's been thirteen long years that I've been waiting, but at long last Chinese Democracy has come. I searched around for a wine from China but the only thing that I could seem to find was rice based, and I am not a fan of rice wine.

Toast, berries, and lemon peel.

Lemon pledge with some nice blueberry notes and some yeastiness. Other than that, this is pretty simple.

More berries on the finish – I'm thinking more strawberry – and more lemon qualities.

You know, I have to say that this is a bit disappointing. At $26 I have some expectations of complexity and while there's some depth it's certainly not interesting enough for me to get excited. Spend $10 more and get the Kirkland Brut Rose, or spend $10 less and get some Gloria Ferrer.

Wine: 6
QPR: 6

Sunday, November 23, 2008

2001 Big House Wine Company Big House White

I'll admit something has been confusing me about this line – I know this as being a product of Bonny Doon – an interesting wine producer, yet this and the last Big House wine we've had have had no reference to Bonny Doon on the label. It turns out the owner of Bonny Doon sold off this label and it's not a product of the Big House Wine Company who owns a bunch of wineries and has some connection to Coca-Cola – if you thought wine wasn't big business, you are wrong, good sir.

So anyway, Big House White – ten bucks or so – and a blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malvasia Bianca, Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli, and Marsanne.

A floral nose – with some orange blossom and chamomile notes and perhaps some grapefruit.

Fairly light in body, mostly mild white grapefruit – really, just about only white grapefruit.

White grapefruit on the finish with just a bit of floral – maybe some chamomile – notes and some grapefruit zest.

So this is where things get tricky because my number is going to look pretty low, but I still enjoy it. It's a simple, easy drinking, quaffable wine that's quite tasty, but it is by no means deep or interesting. There are no flaws other than there's just not much going on. This would be perfect with Indian or spicy Asian food.

Wine: 6.5
QPR: 8

Slightly OT – Domaine de Canton

Just a bit off topic from our typical wine consumption.

A few days ago Fran and I had a very enjoyable dinner at Graham Elliot. It was a fantastic meal and I highly recommend eating there should you be in the Chicago area anytime soon. Chef Bowles has expressed some displeasure with the whole blogging/photo taking thing so I opted not to bring my camera.

For dessert I had a piece of molten carrot cake – delicious of course – and the pairing was a glass of this – Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.

At 28% alcohol, it's certainly potent but it's not so high that it's difficult to drink without watering it down or anything of that sort. This is all ginger – strong, potent, painful, burny ginger – if you are a fan of Reed's Ginger Ale then this is your thing. Don't mix it, don't add water, don't put it on ice, sip it at room temperature and you'll be in heaven.

The bottle was $35 and considering it's a spirit, a bottle should last you a while. Drink it with a dessert that will work with ginger – carrot cake was an excellent pairing – though I'm quite content just drinking it by itself.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2008 Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils Beaujolais Nouveau

Here's the new annual ritual for your friends at The Wineauxs – a few days before Beaujolais Nouveau I hear about it and say to myself “nah, not this year” - then the day comes, I'm driving by the wine shop, I say to myself “nope, not this year.” My car magically goes into the parking lot and I, like out of a Romero movie, get out of the car and buy a bottle. This was $13 which made it only slightly more expensive than others.

Bubble gum and banana on the nose.

Grape stems, tart cherry, reasonable tannic structure, banana, a slight bit of cola, chocolate, and earth, with a hint of strawberry.

Some banana comes through on the finish.

Yet again – lots of sediment here so keep the bottle upright for about day and pour it slowly.

BN used to be fun, but now that every single bottle I saw was over ten bones, there's really no way to justify playing this game anymore.. If you feel compelled to buy Beaujolais Nouveau, this is probably your best bet, but if you're looking for a decent wine or something to with Thanksgiving, I'd say look elsewhere.

Wine: 5.5
QPR: 5

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2006 Dievole Pinocchio Nero d'Avola

About ten bones at various shops with a nifty looking label, why not give it a try?

A big nose – with a giant burst of fresh, ripe raspberry.

All sorts of raspberry on the palate here – good structure with enough acid to be enjoyable – but damn - this could be spiked with raspberry brandy.

The finish sees no change – loads of raspberry.

I promise not to lie - everything here is nicely balanced and fine but the flavor profile is very one dimensional. It's a decent wine for drinking with food and such, but for this sort of concentration just isn't terribly interesting.

Wine: 5.5
QPR: 5.5

Friday, November 14, 2008

N/V Maui's Winery Ulupalakua Red

Wine from Hawaii? I can hear you say it now: “wha wha WHAAAA?” Yep, it's true. This was a souvenir from my parents and I was encouraged to review it on the blog and to be honest.

The biggest thing on the nose is pineapple, which is certainly odd and I fear there's some sort of power of suggestion going on here. There is some strawberry in there as well.

Smooth and easy drinking – mild tannins, nice balanced acid, a dash of black pepper, ripe strawberry, and this is where the ol' brain can get in the way – I can't help but think I'm getting pineapple like tropical fruit notes along with some banana.

More strawberry notes on the finish.

It's a highly unusual region for wine yet it's a pretty good offering – it's nothing terribly complicated but I'd be shocked if it was.

Wine: 6.5
QPR: Gift

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

N/V M Lawrence Sandpiper Batch #13

This is the one wine you are forced to try at the L Mawby winery – it's the one that the Wine Spectator gave a fairly high rating to which they're clearly proud of. Going for ten bucks it was an obvious bottle to grab.

The nose reminds me of candied pink grapefruit and as the bottle opens (do sparkling wines open?) some nice hints of peach comes through.

White grapefruit notes mostly with some very nice crisp red apple, some interesting toastiness and surprisingly long lasting bubbles.

The finish presents some interesting floral and pear notes – pear cobbler perhaps – with even more toast, and no hint of the weird metallic unpleasantness you find in many cheaper sparklers.

This can only be purchased online or at the winery and to me, it's well worth the effort. If you're in the area, this is one of the wineries I'd say qualify as a “must visit.” Great stuff.

Wine: 8
QPR: 9

Sunday, November 09, 2008

2006 Domaine Daniel Chotard Sancerre

Yeah – I'm a sucker, I know – I don't think I've had red wine from Sancerre before, so when I saw this bottle originally priced at $22 marked down to $10, how in the world could I resist?

A funky and earthy nose, though nothing specific jumps out.

Very light in body – but a fair amount going on. Lots of earthy notes, some faint cherry and blackberry, a fair amount of red bell pepper, a small amount of spice, a dollop of carob, but there's really not enough acid here.

Some very subtle cigar box comes through on the finish as well as cinnamon and just the faintest hint of cherry.

Well, here we are...I believe red Sancerre means Pinot Noir, if that's not the case it's certainly in the same family.

As previously established, QPR is based on what I paid – even if found on some sort of sale – if you see this for over $20, adjust accordingly.

Wine: 6
QPR: 6

Saturday, November 08, 2008

2005 Sophia Slavyantsi Merlot

Six bucks and from Bulgaria – seeing as I don't think I've had Bulgarian wine it seemed like an obvious one to snag.

Virtually no nose other than some very very very light eucalyptus – sorta like the wrapper of a cough drop.

A simple, easy drinking wine – tart cherry, very light in body, enough acid to give this an excellent balance, but little to think about.

Some tart cherry fades quickly on the finish.

Overall it's an enjoyable, easy drinking wine – fine for burgers or pizza – some people would call this a “patio wine” - whatever you call it, it's enjoyable and certainly a fine value at seven dollars.

Wine: 6
QPR: 7

Lavender Crest Winery – 10/31/08

In planning a trip, I found that we'd be passing a winery so we plotted it out that we'd stop here for lunch. This winery is western Illinois right outside the Quad Cities – Moline and Davenport being the most well known.

The winery is set up with a browsing area right when you walk in, a tasting bar to the left, and a restaurant straight ahead. The menu is mainly sandwiches and they do have recommended pairings.

The woman working the bar was the type who didn't seem to be thrilled with someone writings notes, so my apologies for these being somewhat useless.

Ritt's Reserve: plum and garbage on the nose. Light bodied, funky, earthy, decent acid, tart cherry, and spices – bay leaf perhaps. Somewhat Italian in style.

Colona Red: this wine both smelled and tasted sweet and grapey. There were some reasonable tannins and acid that gave it some balance but overall, blah.

Miche Sepi: black cherries were all over this one – I don't have better notes but I did buy a bottle so look for that in a while.

Catch of the Day: I found this light and crisp but the finish totally ruined it with a very woody quality – something some people may like.

Sweet Temptation: somewhat like a moscato, sweet and just a tad short on acid, though still fine.

There you have it. To me, Lavender Crest is certainly worth a visit if you're driving through the area or if you live within a reasonable distance. The sandwiches we had were quite good and the facility is very nice. The winery opened in 2004 and I feel it shows promise. The wines are not stellar – but that's something that should come with time. If you're driving along I-80 then you should definitely pull off and drop in.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

N/V Kracher Trockenbeerenauslese

This was on clearance for fifteen bones – a 187ml bottle was a striking fifteen dollars but Kracher is a highly reputable producer – one of the finest dessert wine producers in the world, so why not?

Honey, peaches, sugar, and dare I even say grape on the nose.

Spicy peach pie filling on the palate. Orange blossom, orange marmalade, peach jam, white pepper,

More of that spicy peach on the finish, cinnamon, even some clove, maybe some candied apple,

The bottom line here is Kracher makes fantastic wines at premium prices – this bottle is your chance to get two small servings for under $20. I've had some of the higher end Kracher offerings and while I do feel they are stronger, is a half bottle worth $80 – more than double the price per ounce? I can't say for sure, but if you're starting out with dessert wine – this is the place to start if you're interested (and you should be) in Kracher.

Wine: 9
QPR: 9.5

N/V Kirkland Brut Rose Champagne

Election night calls for Champagne – really, any night calls for Champagne, but I'd call this a special enough occasion for a $35 bottle. This is a Costco brand legitimate Champagne which Wine Spectator apparently rated at 90 points by Wine Spectator.

The nose has red apple, yeast, a bit of wax, like unscented candle wax, as well.

Ah geez – I went in cautiously optimistic but this is outstanding. Tart and bone dry, loads of toast, quite a bit of yeast, bread crust, strawberry, stone fruit - nectarine, red apple, watermelon even.

A fuzzy peachy sort of finish with loads of apple and some spicy notes....strawberry – maybe strawberry seeds – that is to say a bit of strawberry but also a somewhat earthy berrylike flavor, and a bit of unripe honeydew melon..

I'm going to go out on a limb and call this wine, which costs $35, a 10 at QPR – very few, if any, Brut Rose Champagnes are available at this pricepoint and this is solid.

Wine: 9
QPR: 10

Sunday, November 02, 2008

N/V Blason de Bourgogne Blanc de Noirs

We've enjoyed other bottles in this line – they tend to have a solid QPR, so let's see what this ten dollar bottle brings. If any photography types out there have any advice on how to take a decent looking photo of a shiny label like this, please drop me a line.

I can't place the nose, basically rye bread dough is all I'm getting.

The thing about most cheaper sparkling wines is they tend to be bogged down with an oily feel that I don't much care for, or some odd lingering metallic notes. It's tough not to get a bit excited when you pop open something like this – light, crisp, and dry. Some light doughy notes, some crisp, peeled Granny Smith apples – a nice amount of tartness, but not the sharp bite of the skin.

The finish brings out some mildly exotic citrus notes – citron, pomelo, maybe some tangerine.

A bit too simple to be excellent, but a fantastic QPR and a great, easy drinking wine.

Wine: 7.5
QPR: 9

Saturday, November 01, 2008

2004 Heaphy Moutere Riesling

I can't find any info on this – I have no idea where I bought it or what I paid for it.

The nose has a slight bit of gasoline.

Quite nice. Dry overall with some tart apples, almost a hard apple cider made with Granny Smith apples. Plenty of lime and some good minerality with a hint of eucalyptus oddly.

More lime – lime zest - on the finish.

Maybe, just maybe, a bit simple – but overall very enjoyable, very balanced, and very good.

Wine: 7.5
QPR: ? - recommendable if you find it for under $13.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2005 Chateau Combray Bordeaux

I'm not sure where I read or heard – but the old rule is that in good vintages you can buy cheap stuff and in bad vintages you should splurge on the big boys. 2005 was known as a great Bordeaux vintage and I'll be blunt – I grabbed every under $10 bottle I could find – this one was seven. Let's take a look.

A funky nose – earth, oak, menthol, tobacco, and some alcohol.

Let this wine open for two hours. Before this wine saw a fair amount of air, it was almost like a piece of gum. It had a burst of cherry flavor but the longer you swished and swirled the more the flavor faded. Bright tart cherry, some oak, a bit of cigar box, and a reasonable amount of dried spices – from anise to oregano to eucalyptus. The acid and tannins become more pronounced with air as well – this went from completely dull to quite reasonable. It's a simple wine, even with concentration, and as such – with mild acid, fruit, and tannins – can be deemed little more than a simple quaff.

There are some some dried spices, perhaps some cherry and cinnamon, even a touch of mint.

This has some nice Bordeaux qualities and it's tough to criticize a cheap Bordeaux that actually has some reasonable essence of the region even without the complexity and nuances. If you've never had Bordeaux, this may be a good wine to try. To me, if you just drink this wine – just consuming it with pizza or whatnot – it's fine, good in fact. The more you think about it, the less it stands up – serve this at a party, with a large group of friends, or as the third bottle at a dinner party and you'll be fine.

Wine: 6.5
QPR: 6.5

Saturday, October 25, 2008

2003 Rubicon Estate Cask Cabernet Sauvignon

Rubicon – the classy Coppola winery – I've been wanting to try wine from this producer for some time but have avoided it – this half bottle ran me thirty bones, so you see why.

Big vanilla and cherry on the nose.

At first I wasn't convinced but the longer I have this in the glass the more I'm sold (in other words – decant 3+ hours) – plenty of vanilla, lots of tart cherry, some ripe strawberry, rich chocolate – not in the funky/earthy/baking chocolate kind of way, but legitimate hints of a dark chocolate candy bar, great balanced tannins.

The oak sticks around on the finish with some nice tart strawberry notes.

A great wine – excellent depth, great fruit, solid backbone – perhaps not quite worth the price, but a solid effort.

Wine: 9

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2007 Olympic Cellars Rose the Riveter

This bottle was ten bucks at the local shop. I've never denied being a sucker for a cool label and the guy working said it was a strong offering.

A note on proper serving temperatures: when I first opened this bottle, poured a glass knowing it was somewhat too cold and my reaction was: “this is boring and flabby” - read on for what a wine I think of this wine when it's cool, but not cold.

Peach and strawberry on the nose.

Nice – same as the nose really – peach and strawberry with a nectarine punch in the face. Fruity, but not really sweet, “just on the edge of off-dry” I'd call it. I'd say this has just the right amount of acid which gives this a great balance. A slight bit of cherry is hanging out in the mid-palate.

The finish is insane. Strawberry and nectarine all the way – they last for an absurd length of time and are almost pure fruit though there is a hit of black pepper.

The other day I gave a very low score to a rose because you it was dull, especially in the price range – the reason why that wine isn't worth drinking is because of bottles like this. This is easily in my top five roses of all time.

Wine: 9
QPR: 9

Monday, October 20, 2008

N/V Tabor Hill Red Arrow Red

This was about $10 at the winery's tasting room. The Chicago Tribune did a nice write up on midwest wineries and this was one of the bottles featured, and for good reason.

The nose has some chocolate, earth, some oakiness, and nice mild cinnamon and clove spice notes, and quite interestingly as it opens, some fresh red apple peel seems to be poking through.

If this wine has a fault it's that there's not enough fruit, the only thing I really get is some red pear....its dominated by oak, spice – more clove and cinnamon with some anise with a solid acidic backbone.

The finish fades fairly quick but is mostly those brown spices with some tart cherries as well.

A nice bottle for a solid price - very enjoyable and great QPR.

Wine: 7
QPR: 7

Thursday, October 16, 2008

N/V M Lawrence Obama Brut Batch #13

This Obama wine was $16 at the local shop and an obvious choice....not unlike the candidate himself.

A fruity nose – peachy for the most part.

Putting politics and the label aside, this is probably the best M. Lawrence wine we've tried. Loads of fruit – peach, strawberry, some citrus as well – a little bit sweet but light in body which I think really brings it together nicely.

Tropical fruit on the finish – papaya, pineapple, and a bit of orange blossom.

This is a solid wine from a fantastic producer – I've tried a bunch of sparkling wines, hundreds if you consider what we've done at wine tastings – and simply put L Mawby is among the best sparkling wine producers in the United States. This wine, along with many of their others, is proof why.

Wine: 10
QPR: 10

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

2006 Fontana D'Italia Chianti

A six dollar frozen pizza calls for only the best eight dollar Italian wine I can find.

Rich dark chocolate with some oak essence on the nose.

Black fruit – black cherries – decent underlying acid, with some cedar notes, but overall a bit heavier feeling than I expected

Some oak notes linger on the finish – along with some cinnamon and clove.

Thoroughly uninteresting and not the style I enjoy. For the price, there are way too many “pizza wines” like this that are more enjoyable.

Wine: 5
QPR: 5

Saturday, October 11, 2008

N/V M. Lawrence Sex Brut Rose Batch #39

L Mawby is a damn fine sparkling wine producer out of northern Michigan. This is one of the more entry level bottles that goes for about fifteen dollars.

Just a slight bit of nectarine on the nose.

A fairly thick body on this one with orange blossoms and more nectarine. There are some odd woody (cedar, perhaps) notes and some bitterness that are present at first, but blow off after a while. Something here reminds me of flying saucer candy – it's two wafers pressed together and shaped like a UFO with small bits of candy or sugar inside. Where can I find those? I am now craving them. But yeah – stone fruit, nectarine mostly, and orange blossoms.

Some chalkiness comes through on the finish along with just a bit of peach pie.

This is one of the weaker bottles in the M Lawrence line but it's still an enjoyable bottle and worth checking out.

Wine: 7
QPR: 7

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

2007 Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz

Alright, here it is....the 2007 vintage of Mollydooker. These wines are made in a very particular style – they are huge, over the top, some may say stupid wines – immense fruit and immense alcohol. A lot of people love these wines, plenty more cannot stand them. I lean towards the love side here, but let's see.

To misquote Ralph Wiggum: this smells like burning. Seriously – swirl this around and stick your nose in and expect some nose hair to be seared.

Enormous. Bigger wines may exist, but I have yet to encounter one. No tannins to speak of, it's all in your face, over the top, absurd red fruit blended in with a vanilla milkshake. Super ripe, dark red strawberries and giant, freaky, genetically modified, monster blueberries. This isn't “a touch of vanilla” or “a hint of vanilla bean” - it's “throw me a giant cookie, I'm drowning in this Olympic sized pool filled with vanilla milkshake.” I'm getting a left jab of asphalt, an uppercut of smoke, a bodyblow of tobacco, a right jab of green pepper, a low blow of oak, and is this ring in the middle of a barnyard? There may be more but I don't know any more boxing terminology. A speedbag full of blackberry jam? Deep into the finish a burst of cedar comes through as well as some blueberry and spiced cherry.

Serving temperature of wine is important – this cannot be overstated – but it's especially true with a wine like this. Consumed too warm – even slightly – this will be atrocious, burny, and harsh. Cool it down, my friend – mid to upper 50s and this will be enjoyable....if you're prone to enjoy this style.

Day two is interesting.

Tree bark on the nose – maybe cinnamon – more powerful alcoholic burn.

This almost feels heavier and darker – almost like blackberry fruit leather. A lot more spice, too – cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, basil, and menthol are coming through with some tobacco. It's almost giving me a fuzzy tongue. The oak seems a bit more present and that superpowered vanilla milkshake has faded tremendously but in its place is something vaguely reminiscent of cherry cough syrup.

The vanilla milkshake has finally shown itself on the finish though I do believe some raspberry is in the mix.

There you have it. I'm down. You may not be and that's splendid. This is the sort of wine that you shouldn't bother trying to pair anything with – popcorn maybe, something powerful - perhaps ribs? Mmmm, ribs....anyway, this goes for twenty-five bones, nothing to shake a stick at, but if this is your style I don't know if you're going to do better - if this review doesn't sound appealing, don't bother....really.....don't.....just don't.

Wine: 9
QPR: 9

Monday, October 06, 2008

2006 Martinborough Vineyards Te Tera Sauvignon Blanc

We tried this at a tasting and enjoyed it enough to snag a bottle at fifteen big ones.

A citrusy nose with some great fresh cut grass notes.

While I don't recall the tasting at which we tried this, at first sip I see why we bought it. This has what I would describe as an ideal balance – just a bit of sugar and a whole mess of acid. Pink grapefruit – almost a grapefruit cocktail thing going – actually...this is just like the leftover syrup in canned/jarred grapefruit. There's also some limeade sort of notes. As the bottle opens and warms up a bit I get some vanilla bean and some fuzzy pineapple.

The acid lingers with more grapefruit and some grassy notes – just as it's about to completely fade away a burst of mango comes through – it's curious.

Your enjoyment on this wine will most likely be directly related to your love of grapefruit. I'm a fan of both.

Wine: 9
QPR: 9

Thursday, October 02, 2008

2004 Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Rosso di Montalcino

This bottle was fifteen bones – marked down on clearance. Hey – why not?

The nose? Strawberries lingering on the edge of spoiled and cedar chips stuffed into sweat socks.

Loads of dark chocolate, reasonably strong tannins, a solid amount of acid – well balanced all around really. A lot of herbaceous qualities here – loads of dried and fresh spices – dried oregano and fresh basil come through as to some interesting nutmeg and clove notes – something you'd sprinkle on top of a pumpkin latte of some sort. In terms of fruit, this is interesting – at first pour: sweet, tart cherry; after 30 minutes: nothing; after 60 minutes: nothing; after 90 minutes: nothing; after 120: distinct black cherry. Wine can be a funny thing.

A lingering fuzzy clove and tobacco fueled finish lasts for quite a while.

Day two brings a fairly simpler offering. Almost no nose – though there is some strawberry fruit leather coming through. The palate is has the distinct funky Italian quality I like – dried spices, some tart cherries – so tart it's almost ultra dark cranberry. The finish is all earth, spice, and funk – loads of earth and tobacco.

Wine: 7.5
QPR: 7

Saturday, September 27, 2008

2007 M. Chapoutier Bellerche Cotes-du-Rhone Rose

Nine bucks and a reputable producer sounded like a safe bet to go with some Indian food.

No nose to speak of.

Dry tart cherry, some subtle spicy notes – cinnamon mostly – as the wine sees some air some strawberry creeps forward.

Not much finishing other than some lingering tannins.

I like roses – in fact, I could drink them daily if they'd let me - but every so often you grab a random crappy one....this isn't terrible, but it's not enjoyable...for a few bucks less you can get something significantly better.

Wine: 4
QPR: 1

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

N.V. Georges Dubœuf Cuvée Rouge Vin de Table Français

Six bucks at Trader Joe's, this was. Tricky review to write, this is. Judge a bottle for what it is, I must. Enough Yoda talk – this is, by design, a simple, quaffable wine that isn't meant to have serious analysis – a “table wine” - no grape, no region, no vintage....I can almost hear the winemaker telling me “shut up and drink it.”

I get nothing on the nose – maybe possibly an empty bag which used to contain some potting soil.

This is basically like a decent (and more expensive) Beaujolais (Villages, definitely better than Nouveau). Simple, easy to quaff, lots of acid, no discernible oak or complexity. Tart cherry is it for fruit, there's an odd wateriness in the mid palate with the mouth drying tannins and cheek puckering acid coming through at the back of the palate.

The tannins and acid stick around from the back palate into the finish with some sour berries, perhaps of the rasp raspberry? Is there such a thing? If so, this is it – if not, crush some blackberries and some raspberries and mix the juice together.

I'll tell you what this wine is – a highly recommendable or, dare I say, ideal Thanksgiving wine. Great for an occasion where you don't want anything too fancy or expensive, something you can sit back and wash down a huge dinner with while enjoying good company.

I'm torn on how to rate this. It's not an 8 bottle of wine – in the grand scheme of things it's perhaps a 6 – but for what it is trying to be, a simple easy quaff, meant for casual enjoyment, it's an easy 10. In terms of QPR, a comparable Beaujolais would easily be double the price and for that I must sing this one's praises.

Wine: 8*
QPR: 10

Sunday, September 21, 2008

2003 Adelsheim TF Willamette Valley

What's TF? Tocai Friulano. A varietal from northeastern Italy which the folks at Adelsheim fell in love with on a visit to the region. It's an oddball one to be sure. I discovered this in the fridge and cringed a bit at the 2003 date, but here goes. The 2006 of this sells from the winery for $22 – my cost for the 2003, on clearance no doubt due to the age, $6.

Interesting nose – lavender comes through strongly with some tropical fruit – lychee?

Oddly viscous – this is an interestingly “heavy” wine. Dry with a fair amount of acid and still some fruit – this is showing better than I expected. Lots of pineapple, quite a bit of lime, some nice minerality and loads of spiced tropical fruit – unripe canned and spiced things like guava and papaya are here (I must mention I unripe spiced papaya, though interesting, isn't something I'd seek out).

The lime sticks around for a while.

So here's where ratings are flawed – I find this wine quite interesting though not particularly delicious...a simple wine with this profile would be below five but how can I bash a wine this interesting and well made? Let me introduce you to the asterisk.

This wines ratings get asterisks on both fronts. The QPR asterisk is because I have no choice but to judge that based on what I paid for this particular vintage. The wine rating is adjusted for interest – I don't find this wine to be tasty, but it's more than interesting and its flaws may be due to age.

Wine: 7*
QPR: 7*

Thursday, September 18, 2008

2006 Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir Limited Bottling

My apologies for the “photo” - I either forgot to take or mistakenly deleted the actual photo....normally I'd just cancel the review but this bottle strongly deserves praise.

Alrighty – a Gamay Noir, they call it Gamay in France but they throw the Noir here in the States to make it sound fancy I suppose. This bottle is about $12 which is about the pricepoint that you can get (or used to be able to get before the dollar collapsed) a decent Beaujolais Village do we compare?

Earth, cherry, and a bit of mint on the nose.

Good balance – lots of dirt, some tart cherry notes, some nice herbaceous qualities, a bit of chocolate covered raspberry as the bottle opens, some interesting cola notes come through..

Some mint, menthol, and other herbs linger on the finish for quite some time with some good acid sticking around really making the mouth water.

Give this wine some food and you're good to go, a great deal at $12 - why in the world I only bought one bottle of this will be a mystery for years to come. Twelve bucks for a bottle this good made with an offbeat varietal in an unusual wine region? This bottle represents why I love wine.

Wine: 8
QPR: 9

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2006 Feudo Arancio Nero d'Avola

This was seven bucks at the mighty Costco – we haven't had too many Sicilian wines but this varietal is pretty reliable at the lower pricepoints.

There's really not much on the nose.

On first sip, I was going to annihilate this one but it improves as it opens. Chocolaty and earthy, with cherry and fairly potent clove spice. Some cheap Italian wine is light bodied and highly acidic, this is the other kind – dark, heavy, and chocolaty – now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but to me the simplicity and flaws in this darker style jump out more.

On the second day the nose opened big time – chocolate, cherry,

The palate here has taken a turn for the worse – the flavors haven't changed but some bitterness is coming through that's rather unpleasant.

The finish tastes like garbage – not necessarily a bad thing, but not all that great here.

We had the other half of the bottle two days later....

No nose other than some very faint oak notes. Still a bit flabby but the balance improves nicely – chocolate, cherry, bell pepper, cigar box, and some faint spice notes, and the acid comes through fine. The finish suggests bell pepper and chocolate but it fades fast.

The ratings here assume you let this wine open or pour a glass and finish the bottle a day or two later – even with that qualification, it's still a five.

Wine: 5
QPR: 5