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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.