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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2003 Captain's Walk Sangiovese

Captain's Walk is a winery in Green Bay, Wisconsin that we rather enjoyed, not only for the wine, but also for the friendliest staff I've encountered at any establishment anywhere.

Cinnamon and cherry on the nose.

Mostly cherry and strawberry with a barnyard quality. Loads of black pepper with vanilla, cinnamon, and clove. Very nice balance, smooth, easy drinking, and fairly low on tannin.

Green spice - oregano and such - comes through on the finish.

Nineteen bucks is nothing to sneeze at so I do have some reservations with what you get - however, I think there is enough going on, not only in the wine, but simply the fact that it's from Green Bay, Wisconsin that I give a recommendation. I would say if you see this at retail and you're within a few hours of Green Bay, skip it and make a trip over the winery and try a bunch of what they have to offer.

Wine: 7
Value: Sure

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2001 Woot Cellars Reboot North Coast Brut Sparkling Wine

This wine, with shipping from wine.woot, ran $20 a bottle. Rumors are it is a private labelling of 2001 Windsor Brut, North Coast, Platinum Series which retails for thirty, but this can neither be confirmed nor denied. It has not been receiving much love on the discussion board over on woot with numerous people claiming the wine is salty. Here goes...

Apples and pears on the nose with a bit of pineapple.

Light, crisp – solid acidic structure with plenty of green and golden apples plus a nice amount of pear. As far as the accusations of saltiness goes – perhaps some bottles were compromised with the snow trucks, but I got nothing of that sort here. There is a distinct punch of citric acid on the back palate and finish, perhaps that's what's being spoken of.

Green apple, and as I said, citric acid on the finish.

Worth $20? At this pricepoint, I want a bit more depth, something a tad more interesting – I keep thinking of Roederer Estate's Brut which is a few bucks cheaper and much better, but direct comparisons are pointless. This is a fine offering, its only flaw is its simplicity - a fine quaff and a worthy beverage for the random pop and pour. Certainly not a rip off but any means – I can't see buying it again, but I also am not going to give away my other bottle.

Wine: 7
Value: Pass

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

N/V Miolo Brut

This was twelve bucks and the motivating factor for buying it was that it's a wine from Brazil - something you don't see a whole lot of, though it's just half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir.

This smells like water - that's not to say it smells like nothing because I feel water has a distinct, though difficult to describe and subtle, odor.

A little bit oily in mouthfeel and I must admit somewhat uninteresting. Enough yeast to be okay, some slight rye bread notes, but I can't say I'm getting all that much fruit besides some vague citrus acid qualities. After being open for a while, all I'm getting is pear.

More pear qualities linger on the finish.

I'm glad I had this as I've never had a, that is. I'm also not thrilled by it, it's not bad and as a novelty it works, but in the grand scheme you can do just as well, if not better, for less.

Wine: 6
Value: Pass

Saturday, December 19, 2009

N/V R Winery Bitch Bubbly

Nine bucks - a sparkling grenache, why not?

A light nose with very little going on beyond some white bread.

Interesting. Very interesting.... Take a somewhat sweet, large bodied rose and add a dash of carbonation. It's so different I almost don't know how to take it. Once again – big in body with pineapple, vanilla, papaya, and strawberry dominating the palate. Sweet and viscous – without the fizz to lighten it up a bit I might not be so forgiving, but it adds a nice dimension.

A tropical fruit mish mash for a finish – almost the sort of finish you'd expect from a Hurricane or some such adult beverage.

I'm gonna say give this one a go, but you gotta make sure you know what you're getting into – full bodied, pink, rather sweet – the sorta thing you'll eat with a frozen pizza or Big Macs and not think twice about. Hell, this could conceivably work at a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Wine: 6
Value: Sure

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas advice

Christmas is a week away and I can hear you moaning that the guy (or girl, but is it ever really a girl?) who digs wine is incredibly difficult to shop for.

I'll never understand this way of thinking. This person should be the easiest one to shop for. There is, unless hints are dropped otherwise, one thing to purchase for the wine fan in your life.


"But I don't know what to buy..." Dude, screw that. It's incredibly simple. Here are four ways to approach it.

1) Look for "shelf talkers." These are index card sized descriptions of wines; they're normally reviews from Wine Spectator or Robert Parker. This doesn't guarantee the receiver will love it, but if one of the pros gives a wine 90 points, it probably won't completely suck.

2) Sparkling wine. Few people dislike it and with New Year's a week away, it will most likely be put to good use. Don't feel compelled to go with Champagne, plenty of domestic producers (I'm partial to Iron Horse in California and L Mawby in Michigan) make fine bottles.

3) Go offbeat - go for a less popular region (Romania? Michigan? New York? Missouri? New Mexico?) or varietal (Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah are somewhat obscure while still relatively easy to find).

4) If you're going to spend $25+ don't hesitate a bigger name - you'd have to be real snobby to bash the Raymond or Mondavi Napa offerings. Spending more? Silver Oak. Spending more than that? Chateaux Margaux. Spending more than that? We should be friends.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 Rendez Vous Beaujolais Nouveau

Seven bucks, Trader Joe's, a new label, and the wife was picking up the tab – sold.

Bubblegum and a hint of banana on the nose.

Bubblegum, strawberry, earth, and right on the back palate some banana comes through, though somewhat mildly. Quite acidic, but not so much it demands food, and light enough in body to be a fine complement to simple fare.

The finish lingers for a few seconds and is exactly what you get on the palate, but it fades quick.

Not nearly the mess of Duboeuf, but also not quite as good as the Pierre Chermette. That being said, it's less than half the price of Chermette (and cheaper than Duboeuf - or any producer of recent vintage - I might add), so if you want a 2009 BN – this is going to be my top recommendation.

Wine: 5.5
Value: Yep

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2007 Vinhos Monte das Anforas Vinho Regional Alentejano Vinho Tinto

Retail on this was about $14, but the end of bin sale knocked half off. This is a blend of, get ready, trincadeira, alffrocheiro and aragonez.

The nose here is funky, strange, and a bit trashy.

All sorts of fruit - plums and strawberry - with a bit of spice, but no discernible oak or tannin. This is the sort of wine that consumed with a deep dish pizza would be fantastic and tasty, but upon scrutiny is somewhat lacking - at seven bones I'm down, at fourteen, less so.

The finish brings out some of the funk that came through on the nose, almost a rotten plum thing with some interesting mild brown spice and, once it opens a bit, a presentation of tannin.

A fairly simple, but equally offbeat wine. I'm not excited about it at the full price, but it's worth investigating if you want to branch out and try some varietals and a part of the world you may not have had table wine from.

Wine: 6
Value: Qualified yes

Thursday, December 10, 2009

N/V LaCheteau Brut Sparkling Vouvray

This appears to be made by the same LaChateau which made perhaps my favorite Trader Joe's exclusive white, if not wine overall. Ten bucks is the retail.

A bit toasty and a bit of green apple on the nose.

Crisp and light with an Asian pear quality on the palate. Fairly simple - there's not a lot going on, definitely a very light bodied sparkler that's a good quaff.

Some yeasty qualities appear on the finish - this is probably more interesting on the finish than palate, pear comes out, as well as some nice acid that lingers nicely.

This is a dangerous sort of wine. It's so light and so easy drinking that before you know it you'll probably drink the entire bottle alone.

Wine: 6.5
Value: Sure

Saturday, December 05, 2009

2008 Left Foot Charley Pinot Grigio

This is $15 at the winery. When we return to Traverse City, Left Foot Charley is going to be one of the first stops as I feel we haven't given them the love and respect they deserve.

Mostly pear on the nose.

This is interesting in that it's one of the heavier bodied PGs I recall having in sometime - it's nothing like a Chardonnay or anything, but it's not terribly "light." Good acid/sugar mix with some spicy qualities, pear, green apple, even pineapple.

A pineapple and vanilla thing lingers on the finish.

I was gaga stupid over the 2007 but this one I'm less excited about. I actually waited until the second bottle to jot down notes just to make sure I wasn't going in with too high of expectations. It's good - damn good - and a certain recommendation, but if you're poking around and see the 07 or the 08 - grab the 07.

Wine: 8
Value: Yep

Friday, December 04, 2009

Veuve Clicquot Tasting – Binny's Schaumburg – 12/4/09

I'm at Binny's the other day and see a sign for a free Champagne tasting....”oh geez, that's gonna suck,” I think. Cheapskates pushing and shoving to try fancy wine – and then the people other than Fran! I digress. We decide it's worth it considering the retail price of the six bottles being tasted was over $500.

N/V Yellow Label Brut
Snobs turn their nose at this one – and I know it's definitely not Brut – but I like this bottle. Honey, toast, blueberry, apples, know, this and that.

So peculiar – distinctly sugary but not excessively sweet. Almost like a Brut Champagne with a dash of simple syrup. Toast, strawberry, excellent acidic structure make for an absurdly good wine I could see going with dinner or dessert.

2002 Vintage Brut
A whole bottle of this is in order to full review. Immensely complex – rye toast, boysenberry, cherry – each sip brought something different.

2002 Brut Rose
I dig Roses, but this one was shockingly blah. Dry, toasty, but not a whole lot going on besides – curiously – a grapey quality.

N/V Brut Rose
More like – toast and strawberry, much bigger, less finesse I suppose, but this one would be a crowdpleaser I'm sure.

1998 La Grande Dame
HUGE. Shockingly huge. Seriously. The nose is dominated by caramel and raisin. The palate? Petrol, caraway, raspberry leaf, grapeseed – more I'm sure but I put the book away and just reveled in the deliciousness. Outstanding.

Half assed notes, but the pours were (understandably) small. Unlike some tastings, all the folks pouring were extremely knowledgeable and friendly in a classy kinda way. Like when you go to a four star restaurant and the waiter totally knows your suit is from Target but he pretends he doesn't notice because if he did he'd be a dick and wouldn't be working there.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

N/V Lancers Rose

So this is one of these wines that is apparently quite famous, been around for many many years and has a reputation for being crap, but I had not heard of it before snagging a bottle for seven bucks.

The nose is pretty simple with some strawberry notes coming through.

There's a very slight fizz on this one. Very light in body as well - quite watery in mouthfeel - with some pear, apple, and even slightly cherry 7-Up like qualities.

The finish has an interesting white tea thing going along with some white grape juice flavors.

I mean, not bad, but nothing of interest either. Many things I've read compare this to White Zinfandel which I think is somewhat unfair - though it's off dry, there's enough going on that I can't outright dismiss it.

Wine: 6
Value: Meh

Monday, November 30, 2009

2005 Chateau de la Taille Bordeaux

Can't go wrong with cheap Bordeaux in a good vintage, can you? Eight bucks, I'm game.

Cedar and light plum notes on the nose.

This is very much an earthy/spicy sorta wine - Old World to be sure. There's some plum notes for fruit, but overall we're talking clove, cigar, tobacco, mint, anise, cedar, eucalyptus, and earth.

More of the clove and cedar linger on the palate as well as lingering plum.

Most the under $10 Bordeaux from 2005 we've had has been at least decent and this one is no exception. With these lower end offerings you're probably going to seeing the 06s or even 07s, on the shelf, but if you see the 05 I'd recommend it.

Wine: 7
Value: Sure

Friday, November 27, 2009

2007 Two Lads Merlot Old Mission Peninsula

The wines from Two Lads not only deserve, but I think sort of need, some time in the decanter before drinking. Yeah, I know, every young red should be aerated a bit, but these wines really come alive after around four or five hours of air exposure.

Cassis, cherry, mint, and peach are present on the nose.

Very nicely balanced - cherry, cola, eucalyptus, sassafras, strawberry, raspberry - fruity, spicy, with more than a spoonful of dirt. After it's opened an interesting stone fruit is coming through on the back palate - almost like a drop of nectarine juice got mixed in - it's stone fruit and it's not plum. As it opens a mild chocolate component comes through.

The finish.....remember when you used to bite the ends off of Twizzlers and then drink a Coke with it? Then, when the Coke is done, you eat the Twizzler and a fair amount of the candy flavor has faded and some of the Coke qualities have been absorbed? Imagine that used Twizzler put into a chocolate phosphate - take a sip and take a bite of the candy. There ya go.

I'm not sure how "varietal correct" this is - as a Merlot, I don't know if I'd expect what this wine delivered. As a wine, however, it's interesting and quite complex. At $35, this is a 'special occasion' pricing and would hardly be a disappointment.

Wine: 9
Value: Yep

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2006 Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir Reserve

This wine is $16 at the winery, but it looks like it's sold out through them. Perhaps it can be found in a local retail shop though.

A very nice nose - cherry and cola, two things I like to see, or smell in this case.

Nearly perfectly balanced with a very Old World quality to it - I notice myself saying, or implying, this about many Michigan red wines. A definite earth and even a graphite quality, solid acid, but by no means overwhelming - I would say this is an earthy wine for those hesitant about "earthy" qualities. You got your cherry, you got your cola, you got a bit of sassafras, you got your dirt - it really comes together nicely.

A bit of a raspberry thing comes out on the finish, which fades off to blackberry.

At $16 this is screaming - alas, the vintage is sold out from the winery. If you find it, snag it.

Wine: 8.5
Value: Yep

Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

The annual tradition continues – I buy one BN and feel the need to buy another...why? I don't know. I suppose this year I enjoyed the Pierre Chermette so much that when I saw this for nine bucks I decided it would be worth a gamble. Right? Oh boy...

Immediately after popping, the scent of rotten bananas floated my way. The nose is somewhere between a banana gum or even a banana ice cream.

As it hits the palate, it's not bad – a bit of tart cherry and even a bit of root beer seems to come through, but after a few seconds, the thing we call the mid-palate, we hit this awful wall with a weird, funky mix of rotten banana and low quality cough drops.

Banana – and I do mean rotten, funky, unpleasant banana – on the finish.

Not good, my friends, not good at all.

Wine: 4
Value: No

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

In general, I think a lot of people focus way too much on pairing. I mean, you obviously don't want to serve a giant Shiraz with a Caesar salad, but generally speaking most wine go with most food.

Thanksgiving dinner, if you believe the critics, is a "difficult" meal to pair. It helps sells papers and magazines, I suppose, but I think it's rather absurd.

The key is to avoid big wines - leave your Mollydookers, your Napa Cabs, and your giant buttery Chardonnays on the wine rack. This is the meal to break out the Pinot Noirs, the lighter bodied Zinfandels, the roses, the Rieslings, the Gewurztraminers, and the sparklers.

I also can't help but think that unless you have a very small group of people who all really know wine, you shouldn't be spending much - even $15 is steep. Stick with the $10 range, it's all about the food and the company, right?

My top five suggested wines for Thanksgiving are:

1) 2009 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais Primeur
Screw the haters. I don't know if it's the vintage, the producer, or my incredibly low expectations, but this won me over and would be perfect. My endorsement is only for this bottle, not BN in general (see above).

2) 2007 Bistro Pinot Noir
An easy choice - perhaps the best under $10 (if not under $20) Pinot Noir out there.

3) 2008 Lacheteau Loire Valley Vouvray
An absurdly good Trader Joe's exclusive for seven bucks. Loads of acid and a nice hit of sugar will complement just about everything on your plate.

4) N/V Binny's Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Tradition Brut Vin Mousseux
For Chicagoland readers, this Binny's exclusive (for five bucks, no less) is a screaming value.

5) 2008 Mulderbosch South Africa Rose
A rose from South Africa should be unique enough to spark a conversation should one be needed. The fact that it's tasty helps as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais Primeur

Ah, yes – the third Thursday of November. Here's the tradition – I say “I'm not falling for this again, no Beaujolais Nouveau, thank you sir” and I leave it at that. Then the e-mails start coming in from the various wine shops. Eventually, I create an excuse to hit up Binny's (today's excuse was the Three Floyd's Alpha Klaus) and: “Oh, gee, look, $15? SOLD! That's totally fair!” I opted to skip the eight dollar George Duboeuf and go for something a bit more exciting.

A bit of bubble gum on the nose and perhaps some apple candy. There's some funk, but no banana...hmmm....

Light, tart, crisp, easy drinking – I'll be good goddamned, this is like a very light Pinot Noir. Cherry, bubble gum, even cola shines through. This is well worth serving at Thanksgiving – plenty of mouthwatering acidity, some interesting funk, but none of the vile qualities you some frequently find.

A bit, just a bit, of banana comes through on the finish, but so little I can forgive it. More bubble gum, sort of like cherry Bubblicious.

The 2009 Beaujolais (Villages and Cru and all those) may be quite promising with this wine being as thoroughly enjoyable as it is. When the various retail outlets start heavily marking these down in January, I hope to snag as many varieties as I can to compare but for now I'm actually pleased I jumped on this. Don't get me wrong - you won't confuse this with a "good" wine, but for what it is, it more than succeeds. Kudos to the cheese eating surrender monkeys.

Wine: 6.5
Value: I give this one a go, as long as you know what you're getting yourself into.

Monday, November 16, 2009

N/V Saint Julian ST.J Red

I was at a local shop, wanting something, cheap, not too complex or heavy - an easy quaff, if you will - to go with some steak tacos. This jumped out at me for eight bones - it's a blend of Chancellor, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Strawberry and a distinct garbage thing on the nose.

You know, this is almost like a damn good Beaujolais Village wine. It's simple, light, sorta compost like, but none of the negatives (ie, banana). Cherry, strawberry, plum, even some cola, with some very mild tannins and spice.

The finish fades quick - some plummy notes and lingering traces of cola.

The fact is this wine excels at what it is - it's meant to be a light red that's good for everyday drinking - I can not only complain, but I must sing its praises.

Wine: 6.5
Value: Yes

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2007 Domaine de la Mordoree Tavel Rose

This is probably the most expensive rose I've consumed - retail price was $24. Of course, it was heavily discounted to $8 at Binny's, but this is neither here nor there.

Cranberry cocktail on the nose.

Big - very big - oddly big, in fact. Somewhat sweet, which I wasn't expecting. There's some distinct honeydew qualities, plus some herbal tea notes, and some cherry - all in a medicinal sorta way. As it opens, some of the unpleasant qualities fade away, but the whole thing is just, I don't know, unrefined? Everything is so big and in your face it's offputting.

Some interesting cantaloupe qualities come out on the finish.

The first 90 minutes or so I though this wine was damn near atrocious. After it got some airtime, I'm not convinced it works with my palate, but it's not bad.

Wine: 5
Value: Nah

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2007 Bogle Petite Sirah

This review is us giving the people what they want. The senseless slaughter of the gutter slime that litters this nation for cash and prizes? No sir. A review of the Bogle Petite Sirah – a quick look at the hits shows our review of the 2006 is one of our most searched reviews, so here's the 2007. Nine bucks at Costco.

A very nice nose – blackberry, chocolate, plums – big, yet well integrated.

Supoib – blueberry, anise, chocolate, cherry, along with with the definition of sweet oak. Tannins are very light, if present at all. This is a light bodied, potently acidic wine – food friendly to an extreme. A reviewer on cellartracker threw out 'marion berry” which I thought was a hilarious set up for a 'bitch set me up' joke at the expense of wine snobs. Alas, it's a type of blackberry. Maybe bitch did set me up after all? Bless you, Marion.

A bit of cherry, a bit of earth, and a bit of funk all come through on the finish.

Nine bucks? I'm sold. This is perfect for the holidays, it's red so you get some good body, but it's light enough that even the white drinkers should be able to throw a glass down. I'm not as thrilled as I was last year because I think there's a bit less depth, but at the price, this is a wine even a bitch that may or may not set one up would enjoy.

Wine: 7
Value: Yep

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2007 Santa Fe de Arraiolos Vinho Regional Alentejano

This was five bucks, down from nine, thanks to the ol 'end of bin sale. They promised to club a seal for a better deal and I saw to it that did not happen.

Kind of a sweet smelling nose, miscellaneous cherry for fruit, sorta in the preserves kinda way.

Bleh. Diluted NyQuil.

I'd describe the finish, but what's the point?

Sometimes there's a reason a wine hasn't sold much and needs to go on the 'end of bin' rack.

Wine: 3
Value: Three Floyd's makes damn good beer

Sunday, November 08, 2009

2004 Lynfred Winery Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot

We had a glass of this at the winery and a spot in the corner to take formal notes. The bottle goes for $35, but you can get a glass for $10 (a bit pricey considering a bottle should get five glasses, but it's cool they make the higher end stuff available to try). Two other minor issues - the glass was a bit too small for the pour (or the pour too big for the glass) and this was served hella cold. Hella cold. Ten minutes in the hand and it was fine, but yikes.

A very nice, pronounced nose with anise, cherry, and cedar.

An excellent balance of fruit, acid, earth, and tannin - none of the above dominate, but all contribute nicely. Cherry, red apple liqueur, licorice, earth, and cocoa all come through strongly. This is the kind of bottle that you could certainly crack open and see how it changes over a few hours.

Eucalyptus, black pepper, and dark red apple - I'm not sure I've ever gotten apple notes from a red, but here we are. It's different, but it works.

A fine offering, though a bit on the expensive side. My advice would be to do a tasting and see if something cheaper strikes your fancy, but I'd certainly not be disappointed if this were handed to me as a gift.

Wine: 8
Value: Pass

Lynfred Winery - Roselle, IL - 11/7/09

Lynfred is a small winery in downtown Roselle. No grapes are grown on property and some of their labeling - "American" Cabernet Sauvignon, for example - is vague (see the comments section for info on the government regulations). The staff do have more information - sometimes down to the vineyard - available if you ask. From what I could see, a good chunk of their grapes are from Washington.

The tastings change monthly - seven pours (six wines, usually three white and three red, but that varies, plus one fruit wine) go for nine bucks. There are a few different snack boxes for five bones, and I think they do a few other premium tasting deals from time to time. These prices are lower for members of their various buying clubs - which is the promise of buying one bottle a month, at a discount, with no added fee, so if you dig what they do, it's worth getting into.

The bar and tasting area are large, but they get crowded. I'd guess going in the afternoon of a weekday would probably be your best bet for comfort and small crowds.

2007 Gewurztraminer - A fairly big nose reminiscent of a fuzzy naval. Peachy, pink apple, apricot, a bit hot, and a tad short of acid for my liking, but no complaints. A bit of heat on the finish, plus some nice vanilla and honeysuckle qualities come through.

2008 Sauvignon Blanc - The nose brings grass, slate, and lime. Good acid but with a slightly viscous mouthfeel. Lime and citron qualities with a bit of grass and perhaps some honeydew. Grassy finish with some clear limeade - not lime, but limeade things going on.

N/V Oktoberfest - Golden apple and green grape on the nose. Light pineapple on the palate - very light, like watered down pineapple juice. Beyond that, this had a distinct grapple taste - a grapple is a strange genetically modified apple designed to taste like grapes. It winds up tasting like both and neither at the same time - this brings it both on the palate and finish.

N/V Rose - Strawberry all over, I'd almost guess this was infused with them. Nice acid, a bit of sugar, a hint of tannin, and some bitter grapeseed make this a wine I think is well made but just didn't quite work to my palate.

2005 Merlot - Garbage and plum on the nose. Loads of black pepper with big tannins (I'd probably wait a year or two before opening this one). For fruit, we get black cherry and plum.

2006 Cabernet Franc Reserve - An earthy nose. Fairly earthy with cherry and clove on the palate. I was excited to try this one, but it paled next to many of the comparably priced Michigan Cab Francs we've had.

Mango - Many wine buffs turn their noses up at fruit wines. I am guilty of this attitude because, let's be blunt, it's a legit thing to be snobby about. Lynfred, though, makes some excellent fruit wines. Are they "wine"? No. Are they well crafted alcoholic beverages? Absolutely. This mango wine obviously tastes like mango, but it also could easily pass for a (admittedly odd) Riesling or Gewurz. Vanilla notes come through on the finish.

No complaints at all. Lynfred is a worthwhile spot to try out if you're anywhere near Chicagoland.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

2005 Mourel Azurat Fitou

Nine bucks retail - end of bin sale knocked it down to four bones. This is a blend of 40% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah, 15% Grenache, and 15% Carignan.

The nose reminds me of a blackberry rolled in dirt.

Spicy - black pepper mostly. Earthy - like dry, caked dirt, with some leathery qualities. The fruit is dark - blackberry, black cherry - yet unrinsed fruit that has fallen on the ground.

Almost a minty thing comes out on the finish, but everything disappears quickly.

Can't argue with it - especially at four bucks - but even at nine, it ain't band. I stand by much cheap French wine is worth your time and this one certainly proves my point.

Wine: 6.5
Value: Yep

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Monday, November 02, 2009

N/V M. Lawrence Fizz Batch #20 Demi-Sec

I don't know if I've ever had a Demi-Sec before. It's one of those designations that I knew existed, but just never explored (it means half sweet - a step sweeter than Extra Dry - if you care, just read this or one of those old fashioned things that existed before Wikipedia....I think they were called books. Retail on this SOB is thirteen bucks.

A red apple nose - oh man, it just hit me - Red Apple Jelly Bellies. That's it.

Well played. I have a bias against sweet sparklers, but lately I've tried a few and have been impressed. Don't get me wrong - this wine isn't one of these "good with dinner" things, it's a dessert wine for the wine fan (and a soda replacement for the high class lush). Peach candy, of the Jolly Rancher persuasion, along with some red apple and apricot. I'm digging that this has a nice, light body - it's sweet, but there's none of that (sickening) oily mouthfeel that you sometimes get. Serve this blind and I'll bet the wine snob in your life will think this is a well made moscato.

Peach candy lingers on the finish but it all fades quickly.

The winery suggested taking four parts Fizz and one part Jack Daniels to make a cocktail they invented called the Hydraulic Jack. I only had Maker's Mark handy and figured they're close enough to try it out....let's just say I'll be sticking to my cherry lime rickeys.

You know, this wine kind of reminds me of this Australian offering, yet made better, cheaper (by volume), and with enough added depth to kick it up a notch or two and make it solidly recommendable.

Wine: 7
Value: Treat as a dessert wine and you're good to go

Saturday, October 31, 2009

2007 Tohani Dracula's Blood Pinot Noir

Perfect for Halloween - Dracula's Blood. This was a gift, so I'm not sure of the price though I can't imagine a novelty thing like this hitting twenty bucks. Interestingly, there's another label called Orlok's Blood out there, but it violated copyright law and all bottles were to be collected and destroyed, only it had been distributed so widely it's already gained mainstream popularity.

A funky sorta thing on the nose - almost like a blueberry infused rootbeer thing.

This is described as an "Semi-Dry Red" - a designation I would typically avoid. However, it's dryer than your average cheap Australian and/or Californian plonk sold as legit wine. Everything about this wine is soft - tannins, acid, fruit, and earth are all present but all are very mild - a decent step above your Beaujolais Nouveaus. For fruit, it's mostly cherry and though I do get some RS, it's less than one would expect. A fine quaff - the more you sit and contemplate, the more some strange, slightly medicinal, things come through.

A bit of a Twizzler thing on the finish with some black pepper creeping in as well.

It's actually a rather acceptable offering for a kitschy label and a semi-dry - perhaps not a wine for daily drinking but a fine compromise for the average red drinker and those who prefer whites. I could see this working for Thanksgiving, actually, where you want something food friendly and not too complex.

Wine: 6
Value: Take it for what it is

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

N/V Oak Leaf Vineyarads Cabernet Sauvignon

I want to hold back on going on a rant here, but I want to make this clear - I loathe Wal-Mart. I felt nauseous entering the store, but when the new Kiss album came out and it was only available there and then I couldn't find the various other Kiss merchandise promised - the Kiss M&Ms specifically - so I wandered around and was confronted with a giant display of this three dollar wine. This reminded me of an article I read some time ago about Wal-Mart getting into the cheap wine business. What the heck, Richard Speck, let's hope this wine is not a wreck. Actually, Wal-Mart does have some positive aspects. Check out the El Camino from October 27, I didn't realize you could make an El Camino any classier and then bam!

A sweet smelling nose - red candy mostly I suppose. Distinctly artificial - sort of like a cherry Jolly Rancher.

Sweet - red licorice, fake cherry/strawberry, no tannic structure but there is some acid. I think what makes this wine somewhat tolerable is that it's reasonably light in body - any heavier and this would be sickening.

Fake cherry and a tad of black pepper on the finish, but it fades quickly.

You know, I expected this to be truly awful, but much like that new Kiss album I have to admit this isn't nearly as bad as it should be. Don't get me wrong, it's not good by any means. I had roughly a glass and a half...I don't want more, but I don't feel it should go down the drain. A fine cooking wine for when you're sick and can't taste anything?

I don't even like Kiss all that much, but that new Slayer album? Holy moly - that shit is Premier Cru.

Wine: 3
Value: Nah

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2007 Two Lads Cabernet Franc Reserve

Today being my birthday, I decided to pop open something from the top shelf of the wine rack, aka "the special occasion and whatever you do don't open for guests" section. This goes for forty big ones at the winery.

There's a cherry candy quality - in fact, I distinctly get Cherry Nibs - on the nose, as well as some chocolate notes.

This is a dangerous wine. Every so often I encounter a wine like this and my initial opinion tends to be frustration or disappointment because of the "drinkability" - it's the kind of wine I pour a glass, drink, enjoy, but don't think much about. It isn't until I force myself to step away, take a glass, and ponder that the impressive craftsmanship comes through. Actually, this is like the wine version of Paranormal Activity. After seeing it, I left the theater annoyed at its flaws (talk about a terrible ending, what a sellout). It wasn't until two nights later when I woke up at 3 am, needing to use the bathroom, when I refused to get out of bed until I confirmed Fran was asleep and laying in bed, not standing over me or in the kitchen, that I realized just how effective that flick was.

Tannins present, but smooth and silky, you won't even notice them - an acid balance that is so well defined you won't even notice it - a combination of fruit, spice, earthy so well integrated you almost think you're tasting nothing, when in fact, you're tasting everything. Cherry, strawberry, raspberry, eucalyptus, cola, earth, basil, black pepper, nectarine, white pepper, cassis, chocolate, coffee - I can go on.

A dried cherry, almost prune, almost dried cranberry (Craisin?) thing lingers for some time on the finish.

Another outstanding offering from Two Lads. I have some more Two Lads reviews in the pipeline, and before I'm accused of being a shill, I want to point out they make wine I do not like - I try before I buy and I buy what I dig.

Wine: 9.5
Value: Yep

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2007 Ciccone Vineyards Lee La Tage

This is an offering from Ciccone Vineyards, the winery owned by Silvio Ciccone, Madonna's father. We visited and took some notes in July and found it to be one of the better places up there - not only in consistent quality but also among the most reasonably priced spots. This bottle was $17 if memory serves. We're drinking this even though it's not a holiday.

A funky sort of barnyard thing comes through on the nose with some raspberry notes.

Tasted blind I'd tell you this was a damn good Chianti - yet it has no Sangiovesse. It is a blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. Very nice acid, cherry, raspberry, a tad of mint, some raspberry, and even some chocolate/carob qualities come through - very much an Old World sorta wine. The acid here is pretty remarkable - it almost has a raspberry vinegar quality once it hits the palate. If you dig funky Italian wines, this may be one you can cherish. If not, you should open your heart to it.

A lingering finish of dried Italian spices and raspberry flowers.

If you're visiting the Suttons Bay area, Ciccone is a must visit - this one is highly recommended, truly a winery which I can praise and not feel compelled to justify my love.

Wine: 8
Value: Yep

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2007 Mollydooker Maitre'D Cabernet Sauvignon

Mollydooker's wines are ridiculously large - their wines can be a bit much for many people and situations. My experience has been rather hit and miss - I was lukewarm on the 2006, but grabbed a 2007 for fun. All the entry level offerings from this vintage went for $27 in these areas. One reviewer suggested giving this no less than 24 hours to open - I didn't even bother tasting this until six hours of air in the decanter. As you can see, I wanted to like this so much I decided to give it an extended period of time...

Six hours
Eucalyptus on the nose, in fact it's almost like a cherry cough drop. The palate is more or less ruined by heat - I can't say I taste much beyond the cherry cough drop thing from the nose and maybe some brown spice. Finish lingers for quite a while but nothing beyond a medicinal eucalyptus thing.

Twelve hours
No change on the nose. The palate has morphed a tad - more into a cherry cough syrup thing blended with a menthol cough drop.

Twenty-four hours
Some interesting overripe plum, bordering on prune things come out on the nose. The heat and medicinal qualities have faded (but not disappeared) leaving some dark, ultra ripe black cherry and raspberry, plus more plum, and even a chocolate thing.

Thirty hours
Eucalyptus, mint, even some anise on the nose - it's finally coming together. The heat has faded even more. I'm getting loads of spice - brown and green - with some black cherry for fruit. The eucalyptus does come through and linger for some time.

SIXTY hours
I normally wouldn't even bother with this, but I had a bit leftover and thought it would be interesting. Cherry and eucalyptus on the nose. The fruit has disappeared leaving a minty, mentholly, clove spiced, alcoholic beverage.

Even when it finally came together - 30 hours in the decanter - it was still a rather uninteresting and disappointing offering. If you want to try a Mollydooker, stick with The Boxer Shiraz.

Wine: 4.5
Value: Nope

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2007 Bistro Pinot Noir

This is an eight dollar bottle of wine at Costco - we dug the 2006, so why not snag an 07?

Black pepper and cherry on the nose.

A big cola quality here which is thrilling to my palate. Cherry notes as well - a relatively "big" Pinot Noir, but fairly light on tannin and a reasonable amount of acid.

A white pepper quality as well as some dried Italian spices, cherry, plum, and clove.

Never had Pinot Noir? Want to try one that actually tastes like PN but don't want to spend a ton? Here you go. Somewhat heavier in body than you'd expect from France, but still superior to anything I've had coming out of the US for even twice the price. It's not the most complex bottle, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better Pinot Noir for under fifteen bones.

Wine: 7.5
Value: Yes

Thursday, October 08, 2009

2005 A to Z Night & Day

Another from the discount rack. At six bucks - down from fourteen - I was game.

A blackberry sorta nose.

Black fruit - plum, blackberry, blueberry, cherry - rather tasty and not at all over the hill. A little bit of Twizzler and some other various berry candy flavors. Very nice acidic balance, not a lot of tannin, but it all does come together. It's not complex by any means, but the flavor profile works for me big time.

The finish lingers with more jam and bit of spice.

A nice quaff - simple but tasty - perfect for burgers, steaks, ribs - anything on the grill.

Wine: 7
Value: Sure

Cheers to Michigan

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

2008 Thierry and Guy Fat Bastard Rose

I appreciate when a wine gives some proceeds to charity - I also appreciate when they are up front with what how much. A quarter may not seem like much but how many things like this just say 'a percentage'? Technically, zero is a percentage. Anyway, we liked the 2007 so why not snag the 2008 on a stupid hot summer night?

The nose has a distinct watermelon Jolly Rancher thing happening.

The palate has more of that artificial watermelon, plus some real fruit including strawberry. Overall quite dry and even somewhat tannic. Once again - a real, legit dry rose.

Not a whole lot lingers on the finish.

A true rose for $6.50. I'm not excited by it, but I also have no issue with it - for a hot summer day this a cheap and easy find so I can't really knock it.

Wine: 6.5
Value: Absolutely

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2008 Two Lads Dry Sparkling Wine

On the one hand, one should not think of sparkling wine as something to consume only for celebration. On the other, why not celebrate the little things? Today, for example, Kiss released a new album. Is it good? Well, it's better than it has any right being so for that, my friends, I Just Wanna celebrate. $25 at the winery, cool looking bottle, with a bottle cap enclosure.

To be blunt, I came to this wine expecting to dislike it. I suppose because my experience with sparkling Riesling has been iffy (and don't get me started on the vegemite of wine, sparkling Shiraz) so this fairly atypical varietal for a sparkler gave me pause. In a word, crisp. In many ways, this hits me like a damn good Blanc de Blancs - more of that pear and apple with a bit of citron - the palate is mostly fruit, nothing in terms of toast and maybe, just maybe, since I'm looking, a suggestion of yeast.

More golden apples on the finish as well as a vaguely tropical thing - can't quite place it, but something here makes me think of papaya.

No complaints - in fact, much praise, far better than a bottle of Cold Gin. A quality wine in a funky looking bottle - if you'd be willing to let it leave your hands, this is the definition of the ideal party and/or gift wine, but pick some up because it won't last Forever.

Wine: 7.5
Value: Sure enough

Monday, October 05, 2009

2008 Two Hands Brilliant Disguise Barossa Valley Moscato

I got this for about eleven bones (500 ml bottle) on sale - it normally goes for around fifteen I think. This was tasted in less than ideal circumstances - at Ravinia with less than ideal stemware, so perhaps the brevity of my notes reflects this.

Everything here - nose, palate, finish - brings out an artificial peach quality, not unlike a peach Jolly Rancher. The body is fairly light and the sugar isn't terribly cloying, but the wine is fairly one dimensional.

It really depends on your enjoyment of peach Jolly Rancher - they are, believe it or not, my favorite flavor so this worked for me very nicely, but for $11 I can buy many months worth of the candy. A glass with (or as) dessert and you'll probably be alright - so maybe a bottle for the next family gathering would work, but for two people it's simple enough that I can't get too excited.

Wine: 6
Value: Pass

On paid tastings

A while back, Shannon from Michigan By the Bottle wrote an article praising free tastings and arguing (more or less) against them. This is not a direct response or anything of that sort, but it got me thinking....

I love the paid tasting.

Seriously. I also acknowledge my love of them is a symptom of neurosis.

I am a recovering Catholic and though I've gotten over some things, the sense of overwhelming guilt still fills me with just about everything. When I enter a winery and the nice person pouring hooks me up with multiple pours of wine for free, I feel guilty. If said person is a winemaker/owner/manager I feel even worse. Even though I am legitimately looking for wine to buy and am not looking to get drunk, if you set me up for free, I feel bad.

If you charge me a few bucks, that guilt goes away. I also don't feel bad lingering a bit (not too long) and taking notes.

It's a trade off in terms of business I suppose. On a wine trip we made pre-blog, I bought wine from every single winery we visited that did not charge. This included places I hated everything - every single thing - we tried.

But when you charge me a few bucks - five, ten, fifteen, according to some reports there are places in Napa that charge fifty! - I am far more relaxed.

Recently, we visited Brys Estate - a winery in Michigan - and did a "premium" tasting of their $50 wines, four pours cost $10, a price I find to be more than fair. I guarantee if they poured these to me for free, I would've bought their cheapest, sweetest wine and given it to my sister-in-law who doesn't like wine. And that makes things all the more awkward with the "oh great, wine, my favorite" reaction. So, in a way, when wineries charge for tasting not only does it save awkwardness in the present, it also prevents it in the future.

To those who are well adjusted, I get why the free tasting makes sense. To the neurotic? For the neurotic? Charge me at the door - I insist.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

2008 Two Lads Cabernet Franc

I'm not going to pretend to be up on vintage ratings for Michigan, but my understanding is 2007 was considered exceptional and 2008 was merely average (in fact, there was some, shall we say, bitching about how the Old Mission fellas probably couldn't make a great '08 CF). Let's unscrew a bottle and try an '08, shall we? The winery normally sells for $25, but is on sale for $20 - not sure how long that deal will last.

Rich, black raspberry with a chocolaty - almost carob like - nose.

The first word that comes to mind is tart. Served blind, I probably would've guessed Italy. Loads of acid and not a lot of tannin - the sorta wine you can crack open immediately and serve with just about anything that has red sauce on it and it will go perfectly. There's a very interesting cherry thing going on - it's almost like a dry cherry soda (there's a new line of "dry" sodas on the market, I haven't dried them but I'm guessing it has this sort of quality).

Tart cherry, not to bring up the soda/candy thing, but it almost has a CherryHead quality, but by no means is it sweet, nor is it artificial tasting.


I let half this bottle sit overnight. Notes from day two differed enough that this warrants another set of notes -

The nose is like half Coke, half root beer with a dash of cherry syrup.

On day one, I liked this wine. On day two, I loved it. Most the "tart" quality has faded leaving a clear cherry cola component. In fact, I would say cherry cola dominates both the palate and finish and for that I tip my hat. You know, it's almost like regular ol' Coke with a shot of cherry vodka.

If you like tart, Chianti style wines, open a bottle and pour. If you like cola notes, almost Burgundian qualities, pour one glass, drink it, recap and put the bottle in the fridge for a day or two, and you're all good.

Wine: Day 1 - 8. Day 2 - 9
Value: Yep

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Two Lads - Traverse City, MI - 10/3/09

I was wandering the audiobook stacks at the local library and the new David Cross book, quite appropriately titled I Drink for a Reason caught my eye. It seemed like the perfect accompaniment for this little day trip, seeing as we were making the drive for one of our reasons for drinking.

Two Lads released four new wines today - 2008 Cab Franc, 2007 Merlot, 2007 Cab Fran Reserve, and a 2008 Dry Sparkling Pinot Grigio. I have no notes for any of these releases as full bottle write ups will be on the way in the coming weeks/months. Expect the first review - a writeup of the 2008 Cab Franc - to be up by Monday.

While in the area, I felt compelled to show some respect to Harding's Cup winner, Brys Estate, an establishment that just didn't work for us last time (this time was better, notes follow).

We were able to try the top three Cab Francs from the Harding's Cup and, I know what you're thinking - who the hell do you think you are commenting on such things? - but I'll just leave it at the following: The Brys wines were both very good - worthy of the top three? Perhaps. Yet, I bought neither. The Two Lads Reserve? I walked out with four.

Brys Estate - Traverse City, MI - 10/3/09

So we visited Brys Estate a few months ago and were not particularly impressed - in (large) part due to at no fault of the winery, a major buzzkill in the tasting room. To be honest, I was in no rush to get back until they won the Harding's Cup - an all Michigan Cab Franc competition. Brys won first and third place with their Artisan and Reserve Cab Francs.

So, Brys has a regular tasting deal (six wines for five bucks, I think) or a premium tasting four pours for ten bucks with a small gnosh plate. Each of the four wines on the premium cost $50 a bottle, so it's a pretty nice deal.

The notes:

2007 Artisan Chardonnay - I no like-a the Chardonnay in general. This one? It's alright at one ounce. Vanilla and tropical fruit on the nose, which is a bit hot. Palate is all vanilla, pineapple, and butter. Tropical fruit and some heat on the finish. Well made, to be sure - I respect it.

2007 Artisan Pinot Noir - vaguely sweet smelling with cherry dominating. Medium body, cherry, spice, very nicely balanced.

2007 Artisan Merlot - rather big. Almost a blackberry liqueur nose. Easy drinking with very nice tannin/acid/fruit balance. Blackberry and cherry for the most part.

2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc - Cherry with some bell pepper on the nose. Earthy and spicy with a dash of cherry.

2007 Artisan Cabernet Franc - Cherry and distinct eucalyptus on the nose. Bigger than the Reserve, but still earthy, spicy, with cherry and more eucalyptus coming through.

The woman at the bar, Cheryl, was very nice - courteous, informative, friendly - all you could ask for.

Overall, we left with a higher impression of Brys. The Artisan series are certainly well made wines, but at $50 a bottle, I believe they are also among the most expensive (non-ice) wines in the state. My recommendation is to hit it up, do the premium tasting, relax, and see what you think. We left empty handed this time, but next time we're in the area Brys will be on our short list of must visits.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

2006 Maison Bouachon Cotes du Rhone Les Rabassieres Skalli

There's an interesting ad campaign pushing the fact that Cotes du Rhone is food friendly - even with asparagus? Even with those weird looking vegetables you have to peel that I can't stand? What are those things called? I don't care. As a fan of the bargain "end of bin" sale, I present you a wine that retails at twelve but was crushed down to five dollars American.

This nose is like Buster Poindexter - hot hot hot. It's also like David Johansen - it needs a fix and a kiss. By fix and a kiss I mean an hour in the decanter and decent stemware. Seriously though, 14.5% alcohol is pretty up there for a's like a personality crisis? You got it? It was hot..

Hmmm....earthy and spicy mostly with only a bit of fruit. There's some dried green and brown miscellaneous spice. A bit of slightly unripe berry - maybe blackberry - maybe it's plum, maybe it's both. You know, it's sorta like that Pomegranate White Tea from Trader Joe's in that it tastes neither like pomegranate, nor white tea, but some essence of both, yet neither. When these reviews get all strange it's because I either really like a wine or am extraordinarily ambivalent - this is the latter.

The finish really just strikes me as gently tannic, like chewing a few tea leaves with just a hint of blackberry. Actually it's like chewing a few leaves of Pomegranate White Tea.

Like, you know, twelve bucks you can probably do better, but on clearance it's a fine offering at what decent cheap wine can be.

Wine: 5
Value: Pass at full price

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2005 Les Heretiques Vin de Pays

This goes for roughly eight bucks but was knocked down to four.

A fairly tight nose - I suppose it's a bit of cherry in there, almost in a cough medicine sorta way.

Well, I've long felt that when you buy a cheap French wine you can be confident you're going to get something decent, balanced, and basically one-dimensional. If you don't want to spend a lot of money and don't want something to "study" - there's my blanket recommendation. Cherry, oak, and a good punch of cigar.

A cigar quality lingers on the finish.

That was after the bottle was first opened. Around three hours later this bottle pulled a major u-turn. A strange funkiness dominates the nose - almost a mushroomy quality. The palate too has taken on an unpleasant mushroom like quality, rotten cherry, all soaked in chewing tobacco spit. Down the drain with the rest of the bottle.

For four bucks you can probably grab it, but drink it quickly after opening my friends.

Wine: 6 at first, down to 2.
Value: Nah.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

1997 Iron Horse Russian Cuvee

A local shop sold this at $30 - a more recent vintage is going for $33 from the winery itself. Iron Horse is one of the more famous domestic sparkling wine providers and their products are respected, so let's take a look.

This has a crazy big nose - two feet away from the glass and I'm getting some citrus qualities. Inching ever closer some very nice yeast and toast notes come through

This Russian Cuvee is as subtle as Tchaikovsky. Big. Real big. Furtwangler's Pathetique big (no one does it like that anymore, man). Full bodied with punch of acid, enough to knock your teeth out, and all sorts of citrus fruit - from citron to tangerine to tangelo to pomelo to boring old orange. A touch of sugar, well more than a touch, which is interesting since I don't tolerate such things often. Personally, I'd serve this with dessert.

The finish lingers and lingers - obscure citrus fruit and loads of acid.

It ain't subtle and it ain't even my "style" necessarily but it's absurdly well made and has great depth and complexity plus the flavor profile fits my palate perfectly. I don't give 10s easily, but I calls'em as I sees'em.

Wine: 10
Value: Yep

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2007 Coppola Magenta Label Alicante Bouschet

This is a strange varietal that is apparently a cousin to Grenache. Cheers to Coppola for making an oddball wine that goes for right around $11.

The nose has a distinct rotten strawberry quality.

More rotten - or at least ultra ripe right on the cusp of turning - strawberry on the palate plus some super ripe, slightly too ripe black raspberry, plus a kinda weird rehydrated prune thing seems to be happening.. Not much tannin, but plenty of acid - almost like a heavier tasting Beaujolais. There's a good amount of acid and spice - black pepper, anise, basil, even a strange roasted red pepper thing. When I use "rotten" fruit to describe wine it's not necessarily a bad thing, but here it is unpleasant.

Overripe strawberry and some blueberry notes linger on the finish.

I can't say this is a poorly made wine, but it's certainly one that I don't enjoy the taste of.

Wine: 5
Value: No

2008 Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon

We actually have been pretty forgiving to the Little Penguin - when we tried it several years back I recall liking it and feeling that it may not be great but it's also not total crap. I thought it was time for a revisit.

Plum and red licorice on the nose.

Heavy on plum, blueberry, ripe strawberry - somewhat jammy with no hint of tannin or structure to speak ok. A tad of vanilla is present as well, but overall we're talking about a very sweet wine here - so sweet it has destroyed any good will I may have had for it.

The finish almost brings out a tomato soup like quality, plus more strawberry, but in a clearly artificial sorta way. Imagine a piece of strawberry candy in a bowl of soup - not good.

Though the prices on this vary, $5 - $8 is about right. I'm curious if this vintage/bottle variation or if my palate has just changed so much. Either way, look elsewhere for value.

Wine: 3.5
Value: No

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2006 Massarosa Frascati Superiore

She said, hey, Massarosa, baby
Keep on a workin child
This aint no time to quit
She said, go, Massarosa, baby
Keep on dancin
I'm about to have myself a fit
Massarosa, Massarosa

Thank you very much.

It's hard to pass up the ol' stab and grab when a $12 bottle is marked down to $3. I'll fly my private plane to Colorado for a Fool's Gold Loaf but I like deals on wine. There's not a whole lot of info out there about this wine other than it's a blend of two minor varietals Malvasia and Trebbiano.

A light nose that seems to mostly have a Golden Delicious apple thing going on.

This has some grassy qualities - not quite unlike a Sauvignon Blanc - as well as a bunch of minerality and some limey qualities. It's a bit bigger in body and lighter in acid than a Sauv Blanc, but it's still a rather pleasant wine. As it opens a bit, some pineapple and various tropical fruit qualities come through.

Some pear notes linger on the finish as well as a lingering buttery feel.

Respectable and for three bucks I am happy with it - perhaps a good wine to drink when you're having a little Fun in Acapulco? Perhaps working as a lifeguard? Jumping off cliffs? Pissing off a rival gangster or some sort of nonsense? You know what's a great movie? Charro.

Wine: 6
Value: Sure

Monday, September 14, 2009

N/V Barboursville Vineyards Virginia Brut

In the wine world it's important to try new things - take a risk or gamble even though it may not pan out. I present you with a sparkling wine from Virginia. The winery charges $18, but I paid a little bit more at a local shop.

No nose.

A slightly, ever so slightly, oily mouthfeel here and sadly the wine goes flat fairly quickly. That being said, we're also getting slightly unripe apple dominating plus a bit of apricot as the bottle opens a bit. There's nothing unpleasant here - no weird metallic qualities or any other major flaws that show up in cheaper sparklers.

More of that apricot quality lingers on the finish.

For $18 if you want a wine as a souvenir or gift from your trip to Virginia, I can't say it's a bad deal. That being said, at this pricepoint you're looking at very basic entry level Champagne which is a far better deal. Apologies around - I respect this wine and it's certainly better than the Korbels of the world, but it's just, to me, not worth the asking price.

Wine: 6
Value: Nah

Sunday, September 13, 2009

N/V Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee

Alright, in my post on bargain I mentioned snagging a $65 bottle of Champagne for $35 at an "end of bin" sale. Here we are.

Like a piece of toast slathered with some sort of pear preserves.

Big toast - loads of pear, tart green apple - plus a ton of acid, almost in a lactic acid sorta way. There's a distinct lemon thing and even, dare I say, a tad of sugar. It all leaves the mouth watering big time - alone I'm not convinced but give me a dozen oysters and I'd probably be in heaven.

Almost a dash of cinnamon seems to come through on the finish with pear notes lingering for a while.

There's nothing to complain about here - as a sparkling wine it's excellent, but there's plenty of entry level Champagnes for less than even the discounted price that are worth your while. This is very good to be sure, but I'm not punched in the face and at $35 (and especially at $65) I want my nose to be bleeding.

Wine: 7.5
Value: Nah

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Picking a wine shop

Interested in wine? Looking for a regular shop? Here's a few tests.

First, observe the following:
1) Enter the shop dressed in your most casual clothes.
2) Walk around and don't speak unless spoken to.

Shop elsewhere if:
a) No one says anything for more than sixty seconds.
b) You get looked at with anything other than a welcoming smile or nod.
c) Everything in the shop is dusty and many many bottles and shelved standing up.

You may have a winner if:
a) Someone comes over, introduces him/herself and shakes your hand.
b) Someone says "how may I help you?" within sixty seconds.
c) Someone says "welcome, have you shopped here before?" within sixty seconds.

They do okay? Alright


Second, observe the following:
1) Enter the shop dressed in your most casual clothes.
2) Ask for a good red wine for $15 or less.
3) Await response.

Shop elsewhere if the person says:
a) "I can give you a great wine if you're willing to spend just a tad more."
b) "How about this wine?"
c) "I don't know."

You have a winner if the person says:
a) "Is this wine for you or is it a gift?"
b) "What will you be eating with this wine?"
c) "What wines have you had that liked?"
d) "If you're going to be having fish, you may want to try...."
e) "A food friendly wine that goes with anything is...."

Did they pass? Here's hoping they're swell.


Wait a couple days, return at a different time of day and observe the following:
1) Enter the shop in your most casual clothes.
2) Ask for something light but with a bit of sugar.
3) Await response.

Run away if you hear:
a) How much do you want to spend?
b) White Zinfandel is in aisle three.
c) (deep sigh) I guess you may like....

You have a winner if you hear:
a) Late harvest or German Riesling may be your thing, let me walk you over and give you some info because the labeling is tricky.
b) What are you going to be eating with this?

If they passed, you're doing alright.

Here's what you need to take away:
One cannot give an accurate wine recommendation (at a store) if they don't know in what context the wine will be consumed and/or the general tastes of who is drinking it. If a vague question is asked and a wine is recommended, why in the world should you trust them?

White Zinfandel should never be recommended. I'm not saying White Zin is bad, I am saying that if someone at a wine shop recommends it to you, they are mocking you. Sad but true.

If a budget is stated, ANY suggestion or push to get you to go over it should not be tolerated. If a recommendation for more the five dollars under what you stated is offered, that's a good sign.

Bottles of wine should be stored on their side. Inventory should be dusted frequently. Dust doesn't hurt a wine, of course, but if the shop doesn't care about that, what makes you think they care about things like storage temperature?

Wine is a luxury item that you can easily live without or buy elsewhere - if anyone at a shop gives you shit, shop elsewhere.

Since wine is a luxury item, one should not be put off (but shouldn't necessarily expect) a little bit of over the top courtesy or explanation.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Bayless empire

The new restaurant by the man referred to as the hottest (as in most popular, not sexiest, though maybe he is that too) chef, Rick Bayless, opened yesterday.

Xoco - located right next door to Frontera and Topolobampo is a counter service restaurant with food inspired by street carts in Mexico. You basically got sandwiches, salads, and after 3 pm, soups.

Apologies are in order for the crappy photo, but this is the Pepito.

The menu says: Braised Tallgrass shortribs, caramelized onion, artisan Jack cheese, black beans, pickled jalapenos.

I went in expecting it to be okay, but nothing revelatory - and I'd say it was somewhere in the middle of the two. The point of the restaurant is simpler faire with high quality ingredients and for that it succeeds.

Also consumed were guacamole (excellent but without some of the pizzazz you see in Frontera itself), a Milanesa sandwich (fried chicken with a crazy amount of delicious jack cheese), and hot chocolate - there is a whole menu of chocolates which are made in house. Dinner was $32 - not cheap, but also not as expensive as the sit down places. If you're drinking alcohol one can easily hit $50 on dinner for two.

We arrived on a whim at 4 pm and had no wait. Chef Bayless was present overseeing the kitchen and even working on plating some food. The waits are going to be crazy in the coming weeks - it's worth a visit I think, but I would say you should stay away in the typical busy hours.

Monday, September 07, 2009

2007 Fayette Estates (Mackinaw Trail) Pinot Noir

I grabbed this bottle from the wine rack and had no idea what it was until the fine print said "Produced and bottled by Mackinaw Trail Winery." An attempt to get more info didn't pan out and sadly I don't recall what I paid for this - it must've been less than $20.

Quite interesting notes on the nose - funk, earth, barnyard, maybe some strawberry.

Truly dumbfounding. Serve this to me blind and I'd tell you it's from Burgundy. Hell, I'm still not convinced I'm not hallucinating. Very light in body, with a funky, barnyard, spicy quality up front - basil, thyme, oregano show themselves. This is a predominantly earthy wine with only light fruit, strawberry for the most part.

A basil thing comes through on the finish as well as lingering strawberry.

This very well may be the most Burgundy like domestic Pinot Noir I have ever encountered. I'm not saying it's comparable to a top producer, but it's absurdly good (and not at all on par with my notes from the tasting room, which shows how subjective all this is).

Wine: 8
Value: Yes'm

Friday, September 04, 2009

2006 Frei Brothers Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir

This goes for roughly $25, but I found it in an end of bin sale for half that. I debated buying more than one bottle, but didn't want to risk it.

Cherry on the nose, but also a fair amount of barnyard.

Light bodied with an excellent balance of fruit and earth. Cherry and strawberry mostly with a big dash of white pepper and a touch of fact, it's more than a touch, this is a wine with fairly big cola flavor, and if I may say so, that is a damn good thing.

More cherry and spice on the finish which is admittedly short.

Though this isn't the best PN we've had, it's clearly the best for what I paid and a worthy entry even at retail. I may have to hit up the shop again and see if there are more on clearance. An easy recommendation.

Wine: 8
Value: Yep

Saturday, August 29, 2009

2006 Castano Monastrell Yecla

CastaƱo for those of you who are particular about their tildas. This is a monastrell - you may be familiar with it by its more common name, mourvedre. I don't recall what I paid for this or why, but online prices vary between six and ten dollars, so it's a cheap offering.

I get some cola components on the nose as well as some tart cherry.

Not unlike a light bodied California Pinot Noir - the peculiar blend of strong dark fruit combined with a strong dollop of funk and earth. Like dropping a blackberry in fertilizer and not washing it off before eating it. I am digging the fact that this is so light, many CA PNs don't work for me because the ones we've had tend to get a bit heavy, this is just about right.

I get just a bit of Twizzler on the finish.

This isn't a terribly complex wine, but it's very tasty, easy drinking, and a perfect summer red - chill it a bit and eat it with burgers or brats and you're good to go.

Wine: 7
Value: Definitely

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2008 Mulderbosch South Africa Rose

The weather's a bear and rose is a surefire way to beat the heat. I'm perusing the shop and grab a French rose, our default, and as I walk around I stumble upon the South African wine section. It's been a while since we've had a South African wine (as far as I can tell it's been three years), so this is the first in several wines we'll be having in the near future to reacquaint ourselves with the region.

Some minerality on the nose, which isn't all that common in roses.

The slightest bit of sugar - barely noticeable, but it's there - and a good punch of acid. Strawberry mostly dominates here with some nice spicy notes. There's an interesting lemon/lime sorta thing - almost like it has a dash of 7-Up or something mixed in.

Some interesting spicy things come through on the finish - white pepper perhaps, something more exotic that I can't quite place my finger on - almost a lavender quality.

For ten bucks, I have no complaints here.

Wine: 7
Value: Yep