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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tweet and Taste - soon!

You don't have much time left to prepare for the Tweet and Taste. It will be happening Monday, March 8 at 7 pm CST.

Details are here = Tweet and Taste Michigan!

A few wine bloggers - myself included - and some folks from Black Star Farms will be on Twitter, at the same time, talking about the following wines:

• 2008 Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling
• 2007 Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Noir
• 2007 Black Star Farms Arcturos Barrel Aged Chardonnay

It will be a fun time. To be honest, even I'm not 100% sure what to expect, so we'll see. Readers of this blog know I am not a Chardonnay fan, so I fear popping that one open.

Spoiler alert - I had, and enjoyed, the Riesling a few months back at Hot Woks, Cool Sushi (a goofy name for a pretty good restaurant on Michigan Avenue - perfect for Millennium Park/Art Institute/Symphony goers). I have a feeling the bottle will hold up to close scrutiny, but who knows?

Friday, February 26, 2010

2006 Chateau Ste Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

You may recognize Chateau Ste Michelle as a producer of widely available inexpensive wines - reds, whites, and sparklers - many of them quite good. In Chicago you can pretty much find their wines at any grocery store. This one is from their higher end line which are somewhat less widely available, but a decent wine shop should have them.

A slightly tight nose - vanilla, plum, and oak. It does open a bit to bring some blueberry in time.

Chocolate, plum, cherry, a little bit of vanilla, a touch of menthol, and even a Twizzler quality seems to be coming through - definitely a fruit forward wine. Tannins are present, but just mild enough (and with enough of that candy quality) that I think I'd call this somewhat lacking in structure, though that gripe is minor.

A lengthy finish with cherry candy for the most part with just the tiniest bit of nutmeg.

I did have about half a bottle left over and retasted a day later - I give this wine props as it actually improved. The flavors are basically the same, but the tannins seem more pronounced with the balance more in line. If you bought this, sit on it for a year...

Quite tasty indeed. This is about $25 at retail and has received a ton of praise from the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator....I'm less enthusiastic, but by no means do I completely dissent.

Score: 87

2006 Trader Joe's Reserve California Cabernet Sauvignon

I bought this on a whim figuring the Cabernet "Reserve" from Rutherford had to be decent, right? Let's find out - and I do remind you I didn't know what I was drinking when I wrote this.

Somewhat rotten raspberry with a bit of bubble gum on the nose.

Sugary - sort of like eating a cherry Starburst and washing it down with strawberry soda. There's a splash of acid that gives a bit of balance.

Several years ago we had some Charles Shaw which completely fell apart as the wine saw air - this one did the same. The first sip didn't seem all that bad, but after two hours this tasted like raspberries that came out of a fat man's jock strap post-triathlon.

Strawberry soda on the finish.

This tasted cheap on first pour and after a short amount of airtime became unbearable. The only reason I gave this that high of a score is because the first twenty minutes or so were at least drinkable. I have a policy where wines I'd score under 75 don't get reviewed unless they piss me off - if this was three bucks I'd still be offended - but ten? A failure of Bushian proportions.

Score: 68

Thursday, February 25, 2010

2007 Dr. Jebediah Drinkwell's Meritage

This is a Trader Joe's exclusive blend - 60% Cab Franc, 27% Merlot, 11% Cab Sauv, 1% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot - quite a bit in there and strangely dominated by Cab Franc, no? Eight bucks, fun label - yep, sold.

Plum and black raspberry on the nose.

The palate brings a bit of menthol, mint, and cherry - almost like a cherry/mint toothpaste with a bit of cough syrup. Tannins are present, but the alcohol, acid, and tannins do come off a tad harsh. There's a somewhat off putting medicinal quality here - it's not all that bad, but it's definitely not great.

Cherry, or perhaps even ultra ripe farmer's market style strawberry, on the finish lingering with clove and tobacco.

It seems to me that the better Trader Joe's exclusive wines tend to be white - and to a lesser extent sparkling. The reds tend to be weak - here's an example.

Score: 78

Sunday, February 21, 2010

N/V M Lawrence Sandpiper Batch #21

I just got my shipment in from L Mawby - the decision was difficult, do I put them all away and grab a beer, or since they're fairly cool already, pop one open? Sparkling wine always wins.

Strawberry - as in strawberry seeds - on the nose. Spicy nectarine notes as well, I don't know if anyone makes nectarine pie, but if they did, this is what the fill would smell like basically.

Crisp and dryer than I remember previous bottles being - tart cherry with a bit of spice - it's got that white cherry thing going on, I'm not sure if white cherries exist in nature, but they do in Slurpee form, and that - though in a peculiarly un-artificial sort of way - is what this reminds me of. Tart pink apples, pink grapefruit, what else is pink? Let's not go there.

The finish lingers for quite a while, with a very dry pear kind of quality - nice stuff.

This $10 Michigan sparkler annihilates - if you tell me a better sparkling wine at this pricepoint exists anywhere, I won't believe you. Outstanding.

Score: 89+* (not blind)

Friday, February 19, 2010

2005 Chateau D'Orscwihr Gewurztraminer Bollenberg

This retails for about $22 in the US. (Curiously, the 2007 on the winery's website costs nine Euros, but other American shops are selling various vintages – exact same label – for $20 or so).

The nose is mostly peach driven.

Fairly simple, peach and golden apple dominate, with a touch of vanilla, spice, and a fine balance of sugar and acid.

A very Gewurzy finish – a sort stewed, spiced apricot quality lingers for quite a while.

Alsace is known for making dry whites, but this is the second we've had from the region that has been rather sweet. A decent wine, but outrageous at $22. If you're in Europe and will be paying nine Euros then it may be worth a whirl, but I can't get behind this.

Score - 82

Sunday, February 14, 2010

N/V R.L. Buller & Son Premium Fine Victoria Muscat

We don't have a lot of this style wine, so I didn't even bother attempting to do the whole "blind" thing. To keep it fair though, I did make Fran buy it - a trend I hope to continue. Twelve bucks for a half bottle at Costco - not exactly cheap, but a little goes a long way.

Caramel, brown sugar, and raisin on the nose.

Truly outstanding. Incredibly complex, deep, and delicious - raisin, vanilla, dried apricot, nuts, figs, maple syrup, toffee - thick, sugary, syrupy. There's also a distinct old timey sarsaparilla thing - makes me want to break out my widdling set.

The root beer really comes out late on the finish - we're talking a finish that lingers in the minutes.

This might not be for everyone - even those who like dessert wine may find it to be a bit much, but for me - I'm sold.

Score: 93+* (*not blind)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just Grapes

If you're a wine fan and are ever in Chicago, I highly recommend hitting up Just Grapes. (I am getting no kickback or compensation for this post - just calling attention to a place I like.)

It's located about a block west of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, so very easy to get to via public transit.

It's a wine shop - good sized, plenty of options, at fair prices.

The thing that pushes it over the edge, to be blog post worthy, is they also have a pour it yourself tasting bar. You get a rechargeable card (minimum opening $10), they set you up with a glass, and then you can go around to the tasting pour and get some wines - check out the photos and info here.

Today, for twenty bucks, I was able to try around nine wines - decent sized pours, more than you'd get at your average store tasting, and since it's always open and not an "event" you don't have to worry about working your way to a table/bar while dealing with some the pushy characters who sometimes attend such things.

There are different ways to approach places like this - go for what you like and interested in buying, or - what I do - is go for stuff you don't normally drink. For example, I don't drink much Vinho Verde, Tempranillo, or Pinotage, but for six bucks I got good sized pours of four different wines. None of them worked for me, but at least I tried something different and did some experimenting for less than the cost of a bottle of Yellow Tail.

It's also a great spot because some of the wines at the bar are pricey - $50, $70, even $90 bottles are up there. The pours for those aren't cheap - $4.40 for the $90 bottle - but, how often can you try a bottle at that pricepoint for so cheap, if at all? The cheaper bottle samples are as low as eighty cents.

Take a look, give it a shot - I don't often endorse wine shops or bars, but this one easily earns it.

N/V Domaine Chandon Etoile Rose

This goes for $50 at the winery, but can be found for much less if you shop around. The prices on Chandon's website are obscenely high compared to what you can find at a wine shop. Etoile used to have bottle cap enclosures, but this came with a standard sparkler cork.

Fresh red raspberry on the nose. I rarely comment on color, but apparently this wine gets a splash of still full power Pinot Noir to give it a rather dark color.

The palate here has a striking amount of green tea powder – sort of like the green tea you get in green tea ice cream or Starbucks, rather than actual brewed green tea. It's interesting. That's not all – there's also a bit of toast, some yeast, strawberry, apple (golden and red), caraway – there's even an odd Crystal Pepsi thing going on. I don't want to go off on a tangent, but the fact that Crystal Pepsi has been discontinued for so long is a crime against humanity – perhaps the worst since, I don't know, the presidential election of Gerald Ford? That was such a dark day, few people acknowledge it even happened. Anyway – join the Facebook group here and let Pepsi Hussein Cola know how you feel.

Excellent length on the finish – rye toast, blueberry, and raspberry.

For about the price of two cans of Crystal Pepsi on eBay, this works alright.

Score - 90

Saturday, February 06, 2010

N/V Gloria Ferrer Va De Vi Ultra Cuvee

We've had, and enjoyed, the entry level Ferrer Brut and Blanc de Noir - both nice bottles.

A bit of yeast – doughy, if you will – on the nose, with some lime notes.

Lime dominates the palate. Quite sweet really and slightly thick/viscous. On the back palate I'm getting a nice pink grapefruit quality. All the fruit has a somewhat candied quality.

A lengthy and fairly limey finish.

A decent wine in general, though admittedly not my style. Even with that taken into consideration, at the $20 pricepoint I'd expect a bit more.

Score: 81

Thursday, February 04, 2010

N/V L Mawby Jadore

This $19 bottle is a blend of Vignoles, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.

This may sound odd but to me this smells like pear, vanilla, and cooked, but unseasoned, chicken.

Tropical fruit all around. Papaya, mango, pineapple, even some mild coconut with a dash of lavender with golden apple, and some pie crust. I'm also getting a slight hint of pear and cinnamon all with some orange juice that's perhaps sat around just a few days too long.

More of those tropical fruit notes on the finish with the coconut really coming through.

For $19 this is a fairly reasonable bottle - the sweetness, to me, is enough to make it more of a dessert thing but I could absolutely see this working with Thai or Indian food.

Score: 88

2007 Cline Cashmere GSM

When I was a little girl in Panama, a rich American came to our town and he was wearing the softest most beautiful sweater. I said to him, "what do you call this most beautiful fabric?" and he said "they call it cashmere."

I repeated the words "cashmere, cashmere."

My friend Georgie bought a bottle of this. At retail this goes for about $15, but we had this at a restaurant so it ran us - ahem - considerably more.

This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.

A big nose dominated with black fruit - cassis, plum, even some ultraripe blackberry.

For such a big nose, this is a rather smooth, soft - basically mild mannered - wine. Strawberry, cherry, black pepper, sassafras, cassis dominate - tannins present and smooth with acid well integrated.

A tad - just a tad - of heat on the finish with cherry and cassis lingering.

This is certainly a solid bottle - easy drinking, smooth, and enjoyable.

Strange thing about this has a small red dot right on the front.

Score: 87* (*not blind)

Monday, February 01, 2010

2007 Two Lads Cabernet Franc

Two Lads....

Frequent readers of this blog know we love Two Lads - they were the first winery we visited in Traverse City and set the standard. Reviews of their wine have been strong here - but how much of that is bias? I like their aesthetics, I like the staff, I like the lads themselves - so when I crack open their wine do I like it because I genuinely do or because I want to? This, my friends, is why I switched to blind reviews. If this wine sucked, I'd say so - I genuinely don't care. Chalk it up to the power of suggestion and move on....I liked, but didn't love, this wine the first time we had it and even I didn't expect what follows...

Something about the nose reminds me of books - take a book, not a terribly old book, but not something brand new, flip through the pages right in front of your face and inhale - I get that. After some air time I get plum, menthol, and even some barnyard? Nice.

Solid - a distinct cedar chest quality, a bit of tobacco, cherry, and plum. There's a nice zing as well mid palate. This is a subtly complex wine - I'm getting sassafras way in the back palate, more of that (slight) menthol comes out as well. There's more - it's all subtle - and I'm content to just sit back and enjoy. The tannins are beautiful on this - integrated near flawlessly giving fantastic structure.

I get a bit of fuzzy tobacco on the finish - bite a cigar in half and let some of the tobacco get on your lips, it's that 'feel' (rather than the taste). Cherry cola and maybe some of that tobacco comes in...

Before the bottle was revealed I guessed this was a high end California Cab - instead I got a $25 Michigan Cab Franc. A twenty-five dollar Cabernet Franc from Michigan. Let that sink in. I give this the same score I gave a sixty dollar California Cab. Take note wine drinkers - this is the future.

Score: 94