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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