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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