Official theme song

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