Wednesday, March 29, 2006

2004 Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes)

Light yellow in color. Tropical fruit on the nose including pineapple and lychee. Hints of honey complement. Very balanced with a long honey finish. This wine is drinking great now but could possible be aged a couple years. Very good.

It can be found in New York at Vintage (, a downtown store specializing in New York State wines. It cost $22 there and I believe the wine is good enough to warrant a price in the $20 range but buyer beware. Anyone taking a trip upstate can find this in either Ithaca or Elmira, NY (two towns in the Finger Lake region) for several dollars less.

Ithaca’s Northside Liquor and Wines ( sells it for $16 a bottle and buying three bottles or more will end up costing less than from Vintage. It might even be worth calling GCP ( in Elmira Heights as they often undercut Northside by a couple dollars and they have hands down the best selection of Finger Lake wines in the state.

It’s worth getting your hands on a couple bottles of this.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

2001 Montiano (Lazio - Italy)

Although not exactly inexpensive, this is to me a great value from Italy. A 100% Merlot Super Tuscan from Falseco, it has consistently been on of my favorite Merlots period regardless of vintage.

The 2001 is very dark red in color with aromas of red fruit and chocolate. A great combination! It has a very velvety texture, round and soft in the mouth. It’s got a long, lush finish. Overall a fantastic wine.

I’ve purchased all my bottles from D. Sokolin (, a place out on Long Island which delivers in the city. I’m only a so-so fan of the store as they give you the hard sell (especially watch out for their sometimes misleading e-mail offers) but they stock a lot of hard to find wines and some of them are offered at great prices. They are currently selling the 2001 Montiano for $40. I’ve seen it elsewhere for at minimum the same price but often more. If you’re looking for a restaurant experience with this wine, which I would highly recommend, it can be found on the list at Lavagna in the East Village ( for $85.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

2003 Goat Roti (South Africa)

This wine from the Goats Do Roam Winery in South Africa is a blend of blend of 85% Shiraz, 12% Mourvedre and 3% Viognier, all grapes from the Northern Rhone. Overall, I think it’s a fantastic wine.

It’s dark red in color with a lot of spice on the nose and aromas of red fuit underneath. It’s nicely balanced with a mediun-long finsih. If I were any type of expert on Rhone Valley blends, I might mistake this for one. But then again, I’m not an expert.

Still, this is an excellend value wine that can be found at a variety of wine stores in New York. It’s available at Garnet Wines on 68th and Lexington ( for $15 and at 67 Wine on the West Side ( for the same price. I’ve seen it elsewhere too. Also be in the lookout for their slightly less expensive Goats Do Roam which is another excellent value. I’ll post that one next time I pick up a bottle.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

New Mexico and Wine

The Trip

New Mexico might not be at the top of everyone’s wine vacation hot spots and I myself would think of Napa or Bordeaux before New Mexico would cross my mind and it’s true that New Mexico doesn’t exactly offer up the wine tourist vision of grand tasting rooms and tours found in California or the stately chateaux of France. However, what New Mexico does have to offer up is some nice wine; white, red, and sparkling; that makes you take notice.

Tahirih and I spent five days in mid-February visiting my cousin Debbie in Albuquerque and two days on our own in Santa Fe. Since I started exploring the world of wine three years ago, I’ve only encountered two New Mexican wines, Gruet’s sparkling white ( and Casa Rondena’s Cabernet Franc ( I took this trip as an opportunity to explore what else the state had to offer.

Rather than go through an itinerary of our trip, I’ll instead stick to the major wine experiences we had. Although by doing so, I’m knowingly overlooking some of the other fabulous culinary and cultural experiences we had. The Georgia O’Keefe Museum, arts and crafts shopping, and walking tours of Old Santa Fe are not to be missed should you ever visit. The town of Madrid which lies midway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is a hippie town hold over full of artists and not unlike a Southwest version of Woodstock. Finally, the view from Albuquerque’s Sandia Peak at sunset is one of those natural sights that will stick in your mind forever.

Now to the wine…. The epicenter of our wine experience in New Mexico was at the Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro in Albuquerque ( It sits on Central Ave (old Route 66) and was within walking distance of my cousin’s house. The beauty of Zinc lies in two areas. One is great food which can be sampled as either a series of appetizers or as a full meal/restaurant experience. The second is that they have a fantastic wine list with premium pours available by the glass, ¼ carafe, ½ bottle, or bottle and all at basically retail price! It list covers wines from all over the world and is one of the best, affordable lists I’ve seen. Interestingly, Zinc only carried two wines from New Mexico, a red table wine and a Gruet sparkler. Was this a telling sign of what New Mexico wines were really like?

We went back to Zinc twice over the course of our stay, sampling a total of 10 wines of which three were Napa Valley based Cabernet Sauvignons, two west coast Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon, one Napa Chardonnay, one Spanish Port, one Ice Wine, and two New Mexicans. One a Gruet Rose Sparkling wine and another red table wine from Milagro (

On our first trip to Zinc was spent on the restaurant side tasting flights of wine. The best of all these was the 2001 Silver Oak which was one of the best wines I’ve had in the past year let alone on this trip. In addition, I thought the price was great. For $40 we could get a half-bottle and for $80 we could get the full bottle. A bit expensive in the grand scheme of things but for a top quality like this that would sell for about $150 on a standard wine list, why not! Our other two big discoveries here were the 2004 Roessler “Blue Jay” Pinot Noir and the 2002 Peju Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Napa. The Roessler Pinot was Tahirih’s “wow” wine and was probably the biggest discovery of the trip. I don’t really know the whole story about the Peju but whereas with some digging you can find bottle of the Roessler, it seems the Peju is a new venture and might be limited more to West Coast restaurants according to our server. The two disappointment were the 2005 Willamette Valley “Whole Cluster” Pinot Noir from Oregon and a NV New Mexican red table wine from Milagro. The Pinot was basically too young and the 2005 vintage date made me think that this was from second rate grapes and was bottled to make a quick buck. I know that’s a harsh assessment but it’s what came to mind. The NV red from Milagro was basically what I would have expected from a NV table wine. Good but not worth thinking too much about. My thought at the time was “better than a most Long Island reds” which I haven’t been too impressed with.

Our second trip to Zinc was later in the week where we sat at the bar sampling a few half-glasses. The best of these were the 2004 Heinz Chardonnay and a 1997 LBV Port from Quinta Do Noval. I expected the Heinz Chardonnay to be a quality wine. What surprised me a little was that it felt litly oaked to me and more like a white burgundy than an over oaked California Chardonnay. We also sampled a Gruet Brut Rose from New Mexico. This was better than I thought it was going to be, only being a so-so fan of their standard sparkler.

Our favorite dinner of the entire trip was at The Old House in Santa Fe, part of The Eldorado Hotel ( Our dinner of Crab Cakes and Scallops was sublime. On note to wine lovers was a part of the wine list that I had never seen in a restaurant before. At the end of the list they had an “end of bin” section where the last bottles of previous selections could be had for close to retail. We tried the 2000 Belle Soeurs “Wild Thing” Pinot Noir for $68. At release, it had a suggested retail price of $47. The current release is selling for about $80. It was a solid pinot and while it probably wasn’t the best pairing with scallops, it was great to be able to taste the wine in a fantastic restaurant setting for that price. However, it was “end of bin” for a reason and you could tell it was just at the edge of its maturity as it took a little while to open up and was a little too acidic at first. We finished the night with a German ice wine from the Mosel region. Delicious and a great way to finish our meal.

Wine stores in New Mexico are not as abundant as they might be in the Northeast as we only came across two in Albuquerque during out travels. However, they both stocked most of the wines we tasted during our trip and also had a healthy selection of New Mexico wines. The best of these stores was Jubilation ( It was here that we picked up a couple New Mexico wines to take back and taste in New York. Prices are reasonable and they have a very helpful sales staff who steered us towards a couple representative area bottles, including a St. Claire Gewürztraminer which at $10 was a great buy.

All in all, we had a fantastic wine experience in New Mexico but we still didn’t get a clear view of the best of what the state has to offer the wine world. More research is needed so I guess we’ll go back!

The Wines

2001 Silver Oak Caberbet Sauvagnion (Napa) – This is a very lush sophisticated wine with hints of pine needles and vanilla on the nose. Very rich dark fruit and very long finish. One of the best Napa Cabs I’ve ever tasted in my short time with wine. Very distinctive.

2004 Roessler “Blue Jay” Pinot Noir (Napa) – Bright fruit intermingles with hints of cedar dominate the nose on this one. The fruit, lead by cheery, burst into your mouth. The tecture is velvety with a nice long finish. This was Tahirih’s “wow” wine.

2002 Peju Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) – Tar and cedar on the nose with dark fruit on a nice long finish. Lush, balanced, and very good. This is more in line with what I consider to be a traditional California cab.

2002 Ehlers Estaate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) – Dark red with cedar and black currant on the nose. Somewhat tannic with a long finish. A solid wine overall.

2005 Willamette Valley “Whole Cluster” Pinot Noir (Oregon) – A dry wine with mostly cedar. The cheery tries to fight through but doesn’t quite make it. Light red in color with a medium finish. It’s not a great wine but I might try again to give it another chance.

NV Milagro “Corrales Red” (New Mexico) – Nose has notes of blueberry and cedar but this doesn’t carry over to the taste. It has a medium-short finish and a light texture.

2004 Heinz Vineyards Chardonnay (Napa) – A nice balance of oak with hints of vanilla and apricot. Soft in texture with a nice finish. Very good.

1997 LBV Quinta Do Noval (Portugal) – Very dark and rich with notes of dates. Sticky with a nice long finish.

NV Gruet Brut Rose (New Mexico) - A yeasty nose and a bone dry texture. The fruit has to fight though a little but overall a decent wine.

2000 Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir “Wild Thing” Pinot Noir (Oregon) – Oak or cedar on the nose with red fruit breaking through, most of it cherry and red currant. It was ruby red in color with a medium long finish.

2002 Kinheimer Rosenberg Reisling Eiswein Mosel Saar Ruwer – Clean citrus flavor and not cloying. Dark yellow in color but just short of golden. Lingering finish. Very good.

2004 St. Claire Gewurztraminer (New Mexico) – Pale in color. Almost clear. Tropical fruit on the nose, including melon. A clean, only slightly sweet finish. Good wine but not as solid as some of my New York State favorites.

2003 Garretson Aisling Syrah (Paso Robles)

The Chelsea Wine Vault ( is located in Chelsea Market at 15th St, and 9th Avenue. The store has a solid selection of wines from all over the world even if I think it’s a little light on Bordeaux (my personal favorite.) One of the other great things about the Chelsea Wine Vault is its tastings of which they seem to have four or more times a week. This can be particularly fun (as well as dangerous and expensive) if you work in the building.

It was one my way home one evening that I caught a tasting of wines from Paso Robles’s Garriston Vineyard ( They deal mostly with Rhone blends with Syrah being their signature grape. I tasted a variety of their wines, including both red and white table wines, a Roussanne, and two Syrahs. The best of the lot in my opinion was their Aisling Syrah.

The wine itself of a 100% Syrah aged in American Oak. Dark red in color, its nose is cedar and dark fruit with cassis (possibly blackberry too) standing out the most. Its texture is smooth and creamy with a long finish. Basically, this wine is all about the texture and it’s a good one.

There were only 500 cases produced and as far as I can tell, Chelsea Wine Vault is the only store in New York that carries it. Suggested retail price according to the winery is $30 and Chelsea carries it for $34.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

2002 Franciscan Magnificant (Napa)

I tasted this about a month ago. I’m in the process of catching up on some of my previous wine notes that I’ve had scribbled on pieces of paper.

This wine is a direct result of the benefits that can come from knowing the right people. It came from a friend who tends bar at a mid-town hotel and was a result of overstock. A nice benefit!

This 2002 Franciscan Magnificant was inky purple in color. It’s aroma’s are smoky, leathery, tar, hints of cedar with dark fruit underneath. The fruit is there but it is slow to emerge. The wine was bone dry on the palate and somewhat astringent with a medium long finish. Overall ok but not as good as it probably could have been. Still, I can’t complain with the price!

NV Pol Roger (Champagne)

This might be one of the best bargains in wine. It was voted the best Champagne in Wine Enthusiast for 2005 AND it can be bought at Garnet Wine on 68th and Lexington for $25 where it retails for $40 and sells for that price elsewhere.

The Champagne itself is light pale in color with small, tight bubbles (always a good sign). It has a lovely yeasty aroma but isn’t overly “bready.” (I’m not sure how else to put that.) On the palate, it’s crisp and zesty with a bit of citrus. Overall, it’s a very pleasant wine and a great value.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

2002 Gewürztraminer Alsace Grand Cru-Kirchberg de Barr-Clos Gaensbroennel Willm (Alsace)

This sweet Gewürztraminer Grand Cru from Alsace is golden in color, has floral notes along with pineapple and lychee, and has a very silky rich texture. Overall, the wine is very structured with a long finish. It’s excellent!

The wine was bought after one of Union Square Wine’s Saturday afternoon tasting where it easily stood out among all the others. It was selling for $25 at the time but with only 400 cases imported into the US, they are out of their allotment and a quick search of revealed nothing.

The moral to the story is that this was wine good enough to make me wish I had bought another bottle. In order to compensate, I’m planning to either return to Union Square Wine and ask someone for something comparable or to take a trip to 67 Wine on 67th and Amsterdam where their collection of German and French Gewürztraminers are exceptional.

Monday, March 06, 2006

2004 Ramsey Pinot Noir (North Coast California)

It's been almost two weeks since my last post but it's not for lack of drinking wine. I'm going to try and post notes on bottles over the previous couple weeks later.

However, the bottle I'm drinking now is a 2004 Ramsey Pinot Noir which I bought after tasting at Crush on 57th and Lexington which I bought for $13.99. At the tasting, I generally thought it was good and "tasted like a Pinot Noir" which isn't always an easy thing to find for under $20. I thought it would be a good weeknight wine which we opened on a Monday after work.

This time around, after having more than a minute to enjoy, my impressions are dark fruit with a slightly woody nose, slightly hot, with a medium finish. This wine isn't very complex and not as good as I remember. But, it is a fine weeknight wine and like I said, I think it exhibits the characteristics we all like in Pinots.