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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

2003 Two Hands The Wolf Riesling

This one was ten bones at the wine shop – we've enjoyed some Shiraz from Two Hands and haven't had much Australian Riesling, so it seems worthwhile.

A bit of gasoline on the nose.

Bone dry – some tropical fruit notes and petrol but little else.

Some acid and unripe tropical fruit notes come through on the finish.

Being a 2003, this may just be too old – or it may just not be our style – it's not bad, I won't be pouring it down the drain, but I'm definitely not going to be rushing to buy another bottle, especially in this vintage.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

2006 Bolla Bardolino

I wanted something cheap and Italian to go with a pizza and seeing as I've never heard of Bardolino I grabbed it for six bones. To sweeten the deal, this has two varietals which we haven't had: Corvina (60%) and Rondinella (30%), plus 10% just listed as “other.”

Cherry and sweaty socks on the nose.

Light bodied – extremely light – I doubt this has seen oak but it's not as harsh as some other unoaked reds are. Tart cherry, white pepper, and a nice acidic zing.

A little bit of spice on the finish – black pepper and a bit of raspberry.

Why are cheap, mass market Italian wines so enjoyable? I have no qualms with this – yes, it could use some more body and you wouldn't want to let this sit on the rack for any extended period, but so what? This is great QPR and would go great with any simple food like pizza or burgers.

Monday, April 28, 2008

2006 Umathum Zweigelt

Here's an interesting varietal from Austria that you don't see much of in the USA.

Black pepper and, oddly enough, grilled steak....maybe that's a combination of salt, pepper, and smoke?

Man, this is weird – this almost tastes like steak. Other than that, I'm getting some solid acid, black pepper, earth, a bit of oak, some cherry and blackberry.

The finish has spice, earth, and blackberry.

On the second day, the nose faded almost completely, I do get a bit of oak and bell pepper. The palette's Shiraz like qualities have come out more as well – lots of spice, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon – plus cherry and plum. The finish has some menthol notes and just a bit of alcoholic burn.

This is probably a winner for fans of Shiraz. For the price, about $13, there's nothing to complain about – this is an interesting and somewhat unique varietal and I'd gladly recommend it to someone wanting something a bit different.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

2003 GFWC Zinfandel

I picked this up for about $13 at the Glunz Family tasting room in Long Grove, Illinois. To be honest, most of the regular Glunz table wines don't do much for me, but I found this one to not only be better, but to be a pretty solid wine.

Before anything else – this had a ton of sediment so if you have a bottle you may want to keep it upright for a couple days before consuming.

Strawberry and oak on the nose.

A lot of Zins are fruit bombs but this one is very nicely balanced. Strawberry, cherry, oak, black pepper, and a hint of tobacco.

Some spicy notes come through on the finish – cherry pie filling and a bit of black pepper.

On the second day, some oak and funky notes come through. The palate still has a nice balance of fruit, oak, and spice but what's new is some strong overripe blueberry, cola, and root beer notes. Black pepper and cinnamon, plus a bit of strawberry and plum linger on the finish.

Well, this has got to be among the best Illinois wines I've had – excellent QPR – nicely balanced and a great overall bottle.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

2004 Domaine Carneros Brut

This was about $20 at World Market. After sampling it, I realized it was a somewhat uninteresting bottle. I figured I would liven up this review but comparing how it tastes with two different glasses. The first is a crystal Spiegelau Champange flute which has a very thin lip and runs about $10 each. The second is a $2 glass flute from World Market with a relatively thick lip.

The Spiegelau:
A little bit of toast on the nose, but overall quite muted.

Very light and crisp, but also a bit weak overall. Citrusy – grapefruit mostly and a bit of orange zest with just a bit of yeast.

More citrus zest on the finish.

The no name glass:
Compared to the other glass, this feels thick and viscous – instead of citrus, I'm getting mostly green apple. No yeast, no toast, interestingly I get a bit of mint though overall it's quite mild.

Green apple and yeast on the finish.

Interesting, eh? To me, the line between green apple and citrus zest is somewhat thin so the flavor profile difference are a bit more minor than they seem - however the thing that's really interesting is how the first glass was absolutely “light bodied” and the second glass was the exact opposite – it's all about how the wine hits the tongue..

Definitely not worth the $20 pricetag – if you found this for half off I would recommend it. There's nothing wrong here but it's just not all that interesting compared to various other bottles at this pricepoint we've reviewed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

2003 Torrione Petrolo Toscana IGT

This has been on the rack for a while – long enough that I forgot what it costs. Sites I'm pulling up are telling me this is in the $30+ range, but based on its rack location I either got it at half off or I mistakenly put a pricey bottle in the cheap section.

Earth and strawberry on the nose.

Quite Italian: chocolate, earth, oak, funk, tobacco, menthol, and a bit of strawberry and tart cherry.

Tobacco, oak, and earth on the finish with lingering strawberry notes.

On the second day tobacco and cherry are all over the nose.

This one changed quite a bit – a big burst of eucalyptus, lots of tobacco, some oak, a bit of plum, and some blueberry comes through as well. I think the tannins have become more pronounced as well.

Oak and eucalyptus on the finish.

A tough wine to argue with – for $30 this is pricey but certainly reasonable. Italian wine can be tricky to some people and if you're on the fence I don't see this one selling you – proceed as you will.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

2004 Flourish Malbec Mendoza

This is the last of our Flourish bottles - a low cost, organic line distributed by Albertson's grocery stores.

First day:
Cherry, earth, and oak on the nose.

Quite a bit of menthol on this one – oak and cherry, but the eucalyptus is quite potent.

More eucalyptus on the finish. I suppose this one is good if you care for a lot of menthol in your wine.

Second day:
Chocolate and cherry on the nose.

The menthol is still present but far more sedate. More chocolate, plum, cherry, and a bit of oak.

Cedar and menthol on the finish.

A simple wine but far far better on day two. I'd advise giving this several hours of airtime before consuming. I paid about $5 when this was on sale, but regular price is closer to $11. A solid value at $5, and a borderline acceptable one when closer to $10.

2005 Terrazas de Los Andes Cabernet Sauvignon

This has been in the wine fridge for almost a year – it's been a bottle I keep passing up and figured now is the time. This bottle goes for under $10 and gets some solid ratings.

Day One:
Licorice, oak and perhaps some fig on the nose.

Interesting – cassis, some pruney notes, oak, spice, some dried cherry, and a bit of licorice. Not much tannin and somewhat low acid make the overripe fruit stick out a bit more than I'd prefer.

Spicy cinnamon, dried cherry, and oak linger for some time on the finish.

Day Two:
The nose has faded – while I get cedar, anise, and prune – it's substantially weaker than yesterday.

Today the tannins strike me as a bit more pronounced making this somewhat better balanced. Cassis, cinnamon, oak, and cherry on the palate.

Dried cherry comes through on the finish as well as some oak notes.

This is definitely an interesting bottle – and at the single digit price it's certainly one I'd recommend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

2006 Tait Ball Buster

I figured this one would be tight, so I'm doing one glass Wednesday, recapping it immediately, and getting the rest Friday. This bottle ran me about $15.

First day:
Black cherry, a bit of oak, and a fair amount of forest floor.

Not as tight as I expected, but you better believe it's appropriately named – ripe plum, blueberry, cherry, leather, both black and red licorice.

A bit of cedar, smoke, and plum on the finish – all which last a strikingly long time.

Two days later:
A burst of black pepper on the nose with some ripe raspberry.

Twizzlers, oak, black pepper, green pepper, leather, tobacco, cherry, strawberry - very thick and viscous - huge and complex.

The bell pepper, oak, spice, and tobacco linger.

This one is big – 15.7% alcohol – and these huge Australian Shiraz are either your thing or they aren't – if your preference is for subtle wines, don't even look at this one, but if you like big, bold, and in your face, this is solid.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

2005 Chateau La Rose Tour Blanche Bordeaux

We've had good enough luck with the cheap 2005 Bordeauxs that I hit up Binny's and grabbed a few different bottles – so expect a fair amount of cheap ($12 or less) Bordeaux reviews to be coming in this blog in the upcoming months.

A little bit of candied cherry on an otherwise muted nose.

Hmmm...almost no fruit to speak of – a big earthy mess – tobacco, dirt, earth, oak, clove, cinnamon, various dried Italian spices (basil, oregano, thyme) – a bunch of qualities that aren't a problem if there's some fruit to balance it out, but on their own it's not working. After a few hours in the glass I do get a faint bit of cherry, but you really need to search for it.

The finish lingers for some time – usually a plus – but the absence of fruit really doesn't make it a strong quality.

The second day brings no nose at all. Chocolate, cinnamon, spice, oak, tobacco, menthol, and some more prominent cherry. The finish brings some blackberry and spice.

Initially I was going to say this was not worth the eight dollars, but I think it somewhat came through on the second day – I'm still not sold on it though. If you do try a bottle, you may want to decant it for at least six hours or so – or pour yourself a glass, recork the bottle, and enjoy the rest the second day so it gets a chance to morph a bit. It's a shame – this wine has a lot of nice complexities, but as a whole it's just not a strong contender.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

2006 Menage a Trois California Red Wine

This was eight dollars at the grocery store and since we've previously enjoyed this producer's rose, I saw no reason not to give it a try. This is a Zin, Cab, Merlot blend.

Oak, spice, cinnamon, and cherry on the nose.

Nice tannins, somewhat spicy, fruity and even somewhat sweet. An interesting combination, I'd say the blend of grapes definitely brings this to a higher level then they'd be alone – the fruitiness of the Zin is certainly there but the Cab really gives this some nice structure. Blueberry, blackberry, and cherry on the palate – some nice cedar notes, and a nice dollop of vanilla.

That spice lingers on the finish as well for some time, with some cherry pie filling notes as well.

I thought for sure some Syrah would've been in this, the blend fools you somewhat. On the second day, the only thing I noticed that was different was the fact that the tannins have faded and the wine lost a bit of structure, but nothing drastic.

This is a solid bottle, maybe a bit too sweet, but for the price it's got some great depth and is quite tasty enough to get a recommendation.

Monday, April 14, 2008

N/V Beaulieu Vineyard BV Muscat de Beaulieu

This was something like $8 for a half bottle – being a dessert wine that's quite a deal so I snagged one.

Ripe peaches on the nose.

Very ripe peach – peach pie filling – overwhelms the palate. This is 18% alcohol but there's not a whole lot of burn – though there is a heavy thickness.

Just more peach on the finish.

After a few days of being open, the nose has faded a bit and the palate his picked up some strange nutty flavors – walnut mainly, I suppose – with honey, peach, apricot, and vanilla.

No depth, but for a cheap dessert wine I don't expect much – no big flaws other than its simplicity. If you like a peachy wine with enough alcohol to knock you on your ass, here you go.

Fuego review - 4/5/08

We've been going to Fuego since they opened a couple years ago and while we haven't done an exhaustive search, it's clearly the best Mexican in the Chicago suburbs we've encountered. The Chicago Tribune just gave them a positive review so I figured we should stop by at an off hour and accept that it'll be a place to avoid for at least a month or two.

We started with the Ceviche Jarocho – shrimp in an orange-lime marinade, plum tomatoes, green olives, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and avocado.

I had the Filete Morita – beef tenderloin medallions in a chile Morita cream sauce, Chipotle mashed potatoes, and sauteed zucchini and peppers.

Fran had the Chuletas Oaxaca – pork chops in Mole Amarillo which is a fairly light sauce.

We've worked our way through the menu over the years and the only thing I encountered that was less than excellent was a very tough skirt steak. Other than that misstep, everything has been at least very good, if not fantastic – guacamole, chile rellenos, queso fundido, burritos, various specials, etc.

The drinks are good, though somewhat on the expensive side – I stick with the Michelada with Pacifico when I visit. We've tried various mojitos and margaritas and none have disappointed – the wine selection is somewhat small but they have some Mexican offerings which is always nice to see.

In full honesty, I do have some issues with the staff – I can't say we've ever had truly excellent service at Fuego. There's a certain very mild standoffish attitude with, to be honest, most of the servers we've had. It tends to take away from the experience, though is never bad enough to complain.. Simply put, the front of house does not live up to the very high quality kitchen.

Another related issue I have is that the guacamole is prepared tableside – I suppose it's a nice gimmick, but on a crowded evening having a giant cart wheeling around the restaurant – including the bar area – just seems like a bad idea. The people who prepare the guacamole tend not to be talkative or friendly, which makes me wonder why they have someone come out and make guacamole if they don't say a word to you the entire time? It seems that the point of this service is so they chat you up, ask you questions about how you'd like it prepared, yet this has never been the case.

In terms of food, Fuego is excellent – I think with a few more years of growth and fine tuning we actually may have a reasonable competitor to Frontera Grill here in the suburbs.

2006 OOPS Carménère/Cabernet Franc

A very slight change in format - most posts will begin with formal notes from the first few hours of opening the bottle. Immediately after pouring two glasses, I recork the bottle, toss it in the fridge overnight, pull it out a couple hours before reopening and consume the rest the next day. The second day notes will have varying degrees of depth.

A bit of a history lesson: this wine is called OOPS because for some time wines were coming out of Chile which were called Merlot – but something seemed amiss about it – after genetic testing, it turned out the “Merlot” was actually carménère – one of the orignal Bordeaux grapes that was presumed extinct (largely due to bugs, no less). This is a blend of Carménère and Cabernet Franc. I paid under $8, but don't recall exactly how much less.

Day One:
Earth and oak on the nose.

A lot of oak – too much – lots of spices, to a near unpleasant degree – cinnamon, basil, oregano – all sorts of green as well – bell peppers. In terms of fruit, maybe some black cherries but it's mostly just funk.

The oak lingers on the finish as well.

Day Two:
Oak and alcohol on the nose.

Very watery as it hits the palate – then some tannins come through – oak, mint, tobacco, and a slight bit of plum.

The alcohol is quite apparent on the finish as well as some minty flavors. I do not recommend this for mouthwash though.

Final thoughts:
You know, it's refreshing to have a cheap wine that I don't care for because of excessive green and funk versus it being too fruity and flabby. In fact, I'd be willing to wager that if I dumped out half a bottle of some cheap Sutter Home type Cabernet and mixed it with a half bottle of this, you'd probably have a pretty solid blend.

Friday, April 11, 2008

N/V Glunz Family Mission Angelica Solera

Glunz is an Illinois based winery which specializes an Illinois version of Port that's pretty solid. I recently visited their tasting room in Long Grove and got t try a sample of this which compelled me to grab a bottle – I forget the exact price but it was in the $35 range for a 500 ml bottle.

Day One:
A powerful nose – brown sugar, maple syrup, caramel, cherry, and some alcoholic burn.

The palate is actually just a bit mellower than one would expect, but don't get me wrong it's still huge – like a Tawny Port like in many ways – caramel, cherry, prune, tobacco, spice, and oak. This is 18.5% alcohol and it definitely shows.

A nice nuttiness which was present on the palate really shines through on the finish. Candied orangel peel, dried cherry and smoky oak notes also linger for quite some time.

Day Three:
How big is the nose? I can smell the glass from five feet away. Nutty, caramel notes mostly.

The burn of the alcohol has blown off somewhat. Strong nuttiness comes through, dried fruit – cherry and raisin – and brown sugar notes boldly hit the palate. I'm also getting some soda notes – cherry cola or root beer...I can't decide – perhaps both.

More nuttiness on the finish, more dried cherry, more caramel.

Day Six:
The nose has faded, and the nuttiness is getting stronger, other than that, there's little to report and the bottle is all but gone.

A solid wine, a good value, and stunning seeing as this is from a winery near the Illinois/Wisconsin border. I'd recommend it and next time I'm at their tasting room I just may pick up another bottle if I don't grab another one of their Ports instead.

2005 Georges Duboeuf Morgon

This was in the $10 range at Costco and I figured it would be a good thing to grab for a light sort of evening.

I'm going to call maraschino cherry on the nose.

Very smooth and fairly simple – cherry for the most part, a bit of spice – nutmeg? - no oak, mild acid, and very slight tannins. There's a slight mustiness in the glass – if I had to guess I'd say there's some cork taint here but it's very mild.

Just the slightest bit of spice and cherry on the finish.

I'm definitely grabbing another bottle of this to see if the mustiness is a bottle flaw or just the way the wine is – even if it's right, this is a perfectly reasonable quality Beaujolais at the price - if you don't care for the region, forget this one, but if you're open to it, this is worth a shot.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

2004 Hogue Genesis Riesling

This has been on the rack for quite a while and I figured it was time to open it up.

Pineapple and do I detect a bit of gasoline on the nose?

A fairly bold Riesling – lots of tropical fruit, stone fruit, a sharp acidic zing, and a fair amount of sweetness. Pineapple, papaya, apricot, grapefruit, some floral notes, and a bit of minerality.

Pineapple lingers on the finish.

This ran me just about $8 – a great bargain. I look forward to snagging a bottle of a newer vintage.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

1996 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage Reserve Brut

I had a hankering for a quality Champagne and figured I'd grab this – not cheap, $28 for a half bottle, but it's important to splurge every so often...that's what I keep telling myself anyway.

An interesting nose – gooseberry, vanilla, jasmine, rye toast, chocolate,

Few wines warrant words like “exciting” but to me this qualifies – strong minerals, lots of toast, strange floral and tea notes, chamomile, almond, walnut, raspberry, crisp apple, tangelo, and pomelo.

The yeast, toast, grapefruit, and chamomile tea notes linger on the finish.

At nearly $30 for a half bottle, I'd call it a bargain. This is phenomenal and among the best Champagnes we've had – at a relatively reasonable price, you can't go wrong.

Monday, April 07, 2008

2006 Dr. Loosen Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Riesling

I snagged this the other day at the wine shop – we haven't been in much a mood for whites, but with Chinese food for dinner I decided to unscrew a bottle and give it a whirl.

Slate and peach on the nose.

Lemon lime, just a bit of stone fruit, some slate, and dare I say a bit of banana on the mid-palate? This is certainly sweet and the acid rounds it out though not quite as much as it really needs.

Limeade on the finish which fades quickly.

This was about nine dollars and for a German Riesling at that price this is definitely one I can recommend. It's an easy quaff and will be great on a hot summer night.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

2005 Bonny Doon Big House Red

We're fans of Bonny Doon and I figured I'd snag a bottle of this for nine bucks. This is a kitchen sink blend and thensome...get this – Sangiovese, Syrah, Carignane, Barbera, Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Montepulciano, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Aglianco – wow! We're two varietals closer to the Wine Century Club so that's exciting enough.

Pepper and raspberry on the nose.

Black pepper, plum, blackberry, and even a bit of nectarine.

Oak and pepper on the finish and has a surprising length.

Pretty impressive at the price – a solid bottle of wine with fairly wide distribution makes this a winner and easy to recommend.

Friday, April 04, 2008

2006 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

This goes for about $15 and has somewhat wide distribution around here – it's one of the higher shelf Pinot Noirs at the local grocery store.

Earth, tar, and cherry on the nose.

Lots of cola here – earthy and funky – some strawberry and raspberry. At first pour this is somewhat sharp, but the acid blows off after a couple hours of air, some sassafras starts to come through plus some interesting stone fruit and spicy notes – poached peaches and such. We're drinking this over one night – but I couldn't imagine this lasting overnight – after a few hours it's fading fast – it's not bad, it just gets very tame very fast.

Cherry cola and anise on the finish.

In terms of availability and price this one is perfectly reasonable – with definite varietal characteristics and no obvious flaws, it's almost Old World in style which is about as high of praise as I can give. I dig it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

N/V Segura Viudas Cava Brut Heredad

This is the reserve bottle from Segura Viudas – a producer's whose sparkling wines we've been very happy with. This normally goes for about $20, but it was on sale for a mere $16.

Crisp apples on the nose.

The first word that came to mind was smooth. Anjou pear, Golden Delicious apple, some yeasty notes, and as it opens, some tropical fruit notes come through, I'm getting some lychee, pineapple, and dare I even say some mango?

More of that crisp apple on the finish.

A solid bottle and another winner from Segura Viudas. High quality wine and an interesting bottle would make this a great gift or conversation starter at a gathering. Go for it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

1995 Smith Woodhouse Late Bottled Vintage Port

This was a Christmas gift so I'm not sure the cost – a very brief internet search found this to come up for at least $25.

The nose here is powerful – rich, dark, dried cherries covered in dark chocolate with espresso. Solid.

A lot of alcohol on the palate – definitely some burn – a bit of oak, but overall fruity and burny. Raisins, prunes, dried cherries, coffee, caramel, and orange – quite impressive. After the bottle has opened for a few days, it morphs slightly – quite a bit of vanilla starts to come through, and an interesting almost raspberry infused brandy quality comes through.

The wood lingers with some caramel and earthy notes on the finish.

A fantastic bottle – strongly recommended.

N/V All Shook Up Sparklng Wine

Yes yes, Elvis is the king – though the wines which have his name are hardly royal – will this sparkler which runs about $13 send me to Blue Hawaii or is not even fit for a Roustabout? Let's fine out.

White bread, pear, and apple on the nose.

Quite a bit of pear on the palate – saccharine mouthfeel with some yellow grape, green apple, pear, and a bit of yeast.

Some orange, pear, and a bit of toast on the finish.

Meh. A nice gift for the Elvis nerd in your life I suppose, but other than that I see no reason to grab this again.