Thursday, April 27, 2006

2005 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)

This minerally white Sauvignon Blanc is very crisp with floral notes and lemon citrus. This wine doesn’t have the “zing” that I’ve seen in other Sauvignon Blancs but it goes down smooth and easy. A great everyday wine, especially for the price.

The 2004 Dashwood was one of my favorite New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. I don’t think the 2005 is quite as good. It does lack that zing that I liked in the first, but I still think this is a fantastic value that I’d keep on hand.

It can be found around the city, including Sherry Lehmann where they sell it for $12 and that might be the high end price.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blind Tasting of 2004 Rieslings and various Merlots with Brian & Lisa

Blind wine tasting can yield some unexpected surprises. This was the lesson learned recently when my wife Tahirih and I got together with our friends Brian and Lisa to compare three bottles of 2004 Riesling and three bottles of Merlot across a couple vintages. I was in charge of bringing two bottles each of the Riesling and merlot while Brian and Lisa took care of one bottle each and the food. Tahirih was charged with hiding the identity of the wines by placing them in paper bags and labeling then by number. She was the only one from the group who knew the identity of the wines.

My first mistake going into this was thinking that I could clearly guess the wines before their true identities were revealed and I basically succeeded with the Rieslings.

In the end we tasted the 2004 Martha Clara Riesling from the Northfork of Long Island, the 2004 Ravines Riesling from the Finger Lakes, and the 2004 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett from Weingut Reuscher Haart in Mosel Valley Germany.

The 2004 Martha Clara was almost clear in color with notes of honeydew, melon, citrus, and pear. It was very minerally and acidic with a touch of tartness. It’s a complex wine with a few different things going on and thus not a great balance in my opinion. However, it’s acidity would make it great for Chinese food. Overall, not my favorite of the bunch. It was purchased by Brian and Lisa at the winery for $xx.

The 2004 Ravines Riesling was more golden in color with a slightly flinty and minerally nose mixed in with cantaloupe. There was a good balance between the acidity and the flavor. Smooth and crisp. It was a little more of a one-note wine as compared to the Santa Clara but I liked it a little more.

The 2004 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett was fantastic. Light gold in color with notes of leeche, pineapple, and a little bit of honey. There’s a little bit of zing at the beginning and then moves to a smooth, nicely balanced wine with a medium-light body. It was a classic Riesling.

I was able to guess which wine was which during the blind tasting but partially only because I had glimpsed the gold aluminum around the Ravines and deduced the German wine because it was just too distinctive compared to the rest.

As for the wines, I preferred the Piesporter Goldtropfchen followed by the Ravines and then the Martha Clare. More importantly, I learned the differenced between most domestic Rieslings and the German variety. German Rieslings tend to be less acidic, smoother, and with more body while the New York wines were more crisp and had a certain “zippiness” to them. Tahirih and Lisa also preferred the German wine while Brian like the cleanness of the Ravines.

The Merlots were a revelation to me. I provided a 2003 Pesano Merlot made by Falesco from Umbria, Italy along with a 2001 Chateau Mayne-Vieil from the Fronsac region of Bordeaux, a 90% Merlot-10% Cabernet Franc blend. Brian and Lisa contributed a non-vintage Collina 48 from Macari Vineyards in Long Island.

The 2003 Pesano was dark red/inky in color with lots of oak and secondary layers of strawberry and dark cheery. It was slightly acidic and just a little out of balance but still nice overall. Just not smooth.

The 2001 Mayne-Vieil was more brick red in color with notes of menthe, crème de cassis, and hints of cedar along with a peppery element. This was also more tannic but better balanced than the Pesano. Overall very good.

However, the NV Collina from Macari was a revelation in a way. It was dark cherry in color with notes of tobacco, cedar, and blackberry with a certain earthiness to it all. There was a very nice balance of tannin and acidity. Medium bodied with a nice long finish.

The revelation was this. I thought immediately it was the Bordeaux and I was convinced of this and I LOVE Bordeaux. In addition, I’ve never fallen for any Long Island wine and I think it’s one of the most over hyped regions from my New York City perspective.

I thought the Collina 48 was by far the best of the Merlots and was shocked when Tahirih revealed its identity. That’s the beauty of the blind tasting!

We all thought the Collina was the best of the bunch. Brian and I like the Mayne-Vieil 2nd best while Tahirih and Lisa liked the Pesano.

My lesson learned here is to maybe give Long Island another shot.

All in all they were good wines with no real duds but the bottom line is that we all had a great time and can’t wait to do this again. Thanks to Brian and Lisa for providing the wonderful food too!

Where to buy: Sherry Lehmann carries the Pesano ($14), Mayne Vieil ($12), and Piesporter Goldtropfchen ($16). The Ravines was bought at GCP Liqours in Elmire, NY for $14 but it’s Vintage New York may carry it in the future. Both the Martha Clara ($15) and the Collina 48 ($10) can be bought at their respective wineries.

Monday, April 24, 2006

2003 Belle Glos Pinot Noir “Clark & Telephone Vineyard” (Santa Barbara)

The 2003 Belle Glos Pinot Noir “Clark & Telephone Vineyard” is from the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara.

The wine is light red in color with a cedar and tobacco aroma. As for the fruit, it’s a jammy wine with strawberry and red cherry. It’s a bit hollow on the palate with a medium finish.

Wine Spectator gave this wine a somewhat harsh score of 77 out of 100. While I don’t know if I would have given it a 77 were I a professional wine taster, I do agree that overall this wine is a lacking when compared to some of the other Central Coast Pinots I’ve tasted.

Sherry Lehmann carries this for $40 and at that price, I’d look elsewhere. There are too many other good Pinots competing for our dollars to make me want to give this one another try although it may improve with some bottle age.

2000 Poggio Antico (Brunello di Montalcino - Tuscany)

Poggio Antico is one of my personal favorites when it comes to my somewhat limited experience with Brunellos. However, from what I have tasted from this producer, I’ve yet to be disappointed.

The 2000 Poggio Antico is very dark red in color. There’s a smoky characteristic on the nose with notes of cedar and tobacco. Dark fruit is prevalent with what I thought were notes of blackberry but there are also hints of chocolate. It’s a big wine with a long, lingering finish. However, even for its size, it still shows some finesse. I would recommend decanting for at least an hour before serving. I think this is an excellent wine although I’ve liked other vintages a little bit better including the 1999.

I was able to taste this wine at Landmarc, a restaurant in Tribeca which has an excellent wine program where they offer most of their wines at very close to retain price. This cost $75 which is very close to the wine’s suggested retail price. In fact, Zachy’s sells this for $75 while Morrell’s has it for $65.

Landmarc (Tribeca)

Landmarc, located at 179 West Broadway in Tribeca has one of the more progressive wine lists in the city and in my opinion, has some of the best grilled meats around.

First the wine. One of Landmarc’s virtues is what they call their “wine program” which is really just a fancy way of saying that the vast majority of their wines are priced at retail or just slightly above. In addition, they do not serve wine by the glass in order to avoid serving anyone a wine that’s sat on the shelf for too long. To make up for this, they have an extensive list of ½ bottles. Personally, I wish all restaurants followed this philosophy.

Second is the food where I believe they really excel at grilled meats and especially lamb and steak. However, their selections of salads and seafood are also strong.

The décor is heavy on the exposed brink with modern touches to the bar area and seating. The back of the restaurant has an open grill where you can watch the hanger steak sizzling away. The biggest complaint is the bar area is on the small side which can be somewhat of an issue as the wait can typically be an hour plus on busy nights. They do not take reservations.

The wait staff is young and are fine when it comes to helping with food. However, don’t expect high quality assistance with the wine unless you talk specifically with the sommelier/beverage director.

I’ve been to the restaurant twice and have had positive experiences both times. This last trip was highlighted by a perfectly cooked hanger steak ($27) preceded by an excellent shrimp salad ($16) that was just large enough to share with my wife. The highlight though wa the $75 bottle of 2000 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino which was a perfect pairing with our meats and at $75 was priced at retail. This wine would have been at least $100 or more elsewhere and I would have passed on it at that price. Here, you can get it and feel like it’s a splurge.

Vinovino (Tribeca)

Vinovino is a relatively wine venture in Tribeca which combines an attractive and sleak wine bar with a trendy wine store which has a small, by most standards, but select selection of wines not found in your typical wine store. They best part, you can sample a wine at the bar and then walk right into the store and purchase a bottle to take home.

What they’ve done with the approximately 20 by 30 foot space is divide it down the middle for the first 3/4th of the store with a glass wall from floor to ceiling. On the left side as you walk in, there are banquettes and small coffee tables along the side wall and on the right hand side is the store. The store is very orderly and neatly kept up. Afterall, its wide open for all to see. The back of the space opens up to allow space for the bar itself and a few more tables. It’s a very relaxing place for an after work drink and I’ve never seen it too crowded.

The wine list has plenty to choose from with about 20 whites and reds by the glass to choose from including a small selection of dessert wines and even sake. In addition, you can choose a selection of cheeses, cured meats, and even pate to nibble on.

During our visit, we had a red Châteauneuf du Pape and a white German Riesling.

The Châteauneuf du Pape was the 2001 Chante Cigale which was an earthy wine with deep red color and a spicy nose. There were notes of dark fruit, smoke, tobacco, and even truffles. The texture was soft and lush with a long finish. The wine sells for $12 a glass or $40 a bottle in the wine bar. However, you can have it for $32 from the store if you want to take it home.

The white was a 2004 Grunhauser Riesling Spatlese Maximin from Mousel Saar Ruwar. It was off dry and slightly sweet with floral notes along with honey, apricots and a touch of lemon. Nice zing of acidity. An overall lovely wine that sells for $11 a glass or $40 a bottle in the bar but a much less $25 from the store.

Overall, a very enjoyable place to go and worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Food Network Party at Bar Americain (Midtown)

One of the perks of my job working in media is the corporate party and one of the best corporate parties I’ve attended was Food Network’s Revealing of The Next Food Network Star hosted by Bobby Flay at his restaurant Bar Americain in mid-town Manhattan.

The restaurant was closed to the public for the party and the place was packed with about two hundred people including Food Network chefs, contestants from the show, advertisers, and executives from the network.

However, the real focus was on the food. Hors d'oeuvres included an amazing array of fresh raw oysters, lobster and avocado in a citrus vinaigrette, shrimp in pesto sauce, sautéed wild mushrooms on toast, mini crabcakes, pulled pork in BBQ sauce of toast, and rotisserie chicken. The buffet included cauliflower in gratin, yellow corn in cream sauce, halibut with avocado salsa, beef tenderloin, and spicy BBQ chicken. Desserts included an incredible array of chocolate goodies including dark chocolate brownies with hazelnuts and cherry and almond cookies with raspberry.

While the wines at events like these are pretty innocuous, the liquor was top shelf and I was able to finagle two glasses of fantastic port that I probably would have not otherwise ordered on my own.

The Ports

The first was a full bodied 1980 Warre that tasted like pure blueberries to me with a nice long finish.

The second was a 1997 Churchill which was pure crème de cassis, more medium bodied with a medium long finish,

Both were excellent in my opinion but I thought the 1980 Warre was more unique to my experience of ports.

Overall, the party was a fantastic experience and the food presented at Bar Americain was so good that I would definitely return for a “real” visit for dinner.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

2000 Bordeaux Dinner at the Biltmore Room (Chelsea)

It’s not often that I get a chance to taste wines that I would never ever be able to afford under my current financial state.

That’s why when I found out about a 2000 Bordeaux dinner at the Biltmore Room in Chelsea , I jumped at the chance. Reason number one was the price. It was $165 per person which is significantly less that the typical $300+ dinners I’ve seen elsewhere. Reason number two was this list of wines they were pouring, They included Latour, Haut Brion, Ausone, Valandraud, Lafite, and Mouton. The Ausone along is selling for around $700 a bottle and the rest aren’t that far behind.

However, some things are too good to be true.

We were also looking forward to having dinner at the Biltmore Room which received three stars from the New York Times when it was reviewed in 2003 by
William Grimes. The meal did not disappoint. The décor of the restaurant was amazing as they incorporated gilded arches, marble, and the revolving door from the original Biltmore Hotel which was demolished in 1981. The space itself is worth the visit alone.

Our 5 course dinner did not disappoint. The first course was Sashimi of Fluke and Green Almonds followed by Holland White Asperagas. These as appetizers were fantastic. The Asperagas along was so fresh that I was amazed they were able to find vegetables of that quality in March. Our “pre-entre” was a Marjoram Scented Grilled Quail which which was good enough that for me the dinner could have ended there. However, ending the meal was Algerian Spiced Roast of Rack Lamb which aside from being on the the best cuts of meat I’ve had, was also cooked to perfection. It was rare but the meat itself was so tender, I probably could have eated it raw. Finishing off everything was a soft cheese, Brillat Savarin which was paired with the last two wines of the evening.

The wines…. Well…. They were fantiastic overall but not the ones advertised. For one, missing where the Haut Brion, Latour, AND Ausone! The very wines I was probably looking forward to the most. Because of that, it certainly felt like false advertising.

However, the wines we did have were nothing to sneeze at. They included the white Laville Haut Brion, Valandraud, Angelus and the promised Lafite and Mouton Rothschild.

The Wines

The 2000 Laville Haut Brion was fantastic. This Sémillon is very stylish and full bodied with an oaky nose, minerality, and melon. This was really different from any other Bordeaux based white that I’ve ever had. Fantastic.

The 2000 Valandraud was the one wine during the dinner I was just a little disappointed in. However, it’s all a matter of context. Had I drank this wine on its own, I probably would have loved it but up against the likes of Lafite and Mouton, its flaws where exposed. The wine was tannic and you could tell it needed a little bit of bottle age. However, this wine was so tannic with a very oaky nose that it was hard to tell if the black fruit underneath would emerge with time. It definitely needs more time to develop as all these reds did.

The 2000 Angelus was fantastic and the most accessible of all the wines tasted. It was very dark garnet in color with notes of crème de casis. Very full bosied and rich with an incredibly long finish. This is the bottle I would feel ok about opening now.

The big boys of the tasting were the 2000 Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild.

The 2000 Lafite was pure elegance and austerity. It was dark garnet in color with notes of minterality/graphite on the nose all intermingles with black fruit, currant, and tobacco. An amazingly long finish. Very flavorful right now but there’s a big tannic quality to this wine right now. It’ll last forever.

The 2000 Mouton Rothshild….. I would step out on a limb and say this is one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. This wine was surprisingly soft, velvety and elegant for a still young wine with loads of black currant and coffee notes. It’s dense and is another wine that will probably last forever. For example, some suggest that it needs at least 24 hours of decanting and even that might not be enough. Very very long finish.

Overall, these wines were great and I relished the opportunity to taste them. Still, I feel a bit jipped that the Latour, Ausone, and Haut Brion were not represented and if I do this again, I would call ahead of time to confirm the wines.

2004 Standing Store Vidal Ice (Finger Lakes)

Standing Stone, a winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York offers one of the best values in dessert wines with their Vidal Ice. The wine is made from vidal blanc grapes and rather than letting the grapes freeze on the vine as would be required with a true “ice wine”, they pick the grapes after the leaves have dropped from the vines and then they commercially freeze them just before the crush. The resulting wine is full of sweet nectar fruit such as apricots and nectarines with a honey nose and zing. This is a really mouthwatering wine that doesn’t have the cloying finish of many other dessert wines. It consistently earns a 90 score from Wine Spectator. Alcohol level is approximately 12% with 21% of residual sugar.

Vintage New York in the city carries the wine for $27 at both their Soho and Upper West side stores. It can also be bought directly from the Standing Store website for $25 or at the winery. One nice thing about the Standing Stone website is that they list where in New York State you can wine their wines at either retail stores or in restaurants.
Finally, while researching this wine, I came across a podcast from The Wine Scout where Patricia, the woman behind the site, interviews Marti Macinski, the owner of Standing Store. It’s worth a listen and the site itself is worth checking out.

2000 Hochar (Lebanon)

The 2000 Hochar is from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. It is the second wine of Chateau Musar which has often been compared as being in the same category as a 3rd-5th growth Bordeaux.

The wine has strong notes of cedar and spice with a nice lingering cherry taste. It’s brick red in color with a soft texture and medium finish.

It is currently available for $20 from the Chelsea Wine Vault in the Chelsea Market but that is the only shop I’ve seen it in.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

2004 Domaine Sauvion "Les Ombelles" (Loire Valley)

The 2004 ''Les Ombelles'' Pouilly-Fume from Domaine Sauvion is a crisp clean wine with some minerality and notes of light citrus. It’s pale yellow in color with a round texture. Overall, good but not a great wine. I’ve had fantastic New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs lately that I like more, the 2004 Dashwood and 2005 Babich are two that come to mind.

However, it’s getting harder and harder to find Pulley Fume’s for less than $20 and I do think this is a decent expression of the region and might not be a bad starting point for someone just learning about these Loire Valley wines.

This was $16 at Sherry Lehmann ( which is the only store I’ve seen it for sale at.

2004 Ravines House White (Finger Lakes)

Ravines Wine Cellars ( a Finger Lakes Winery in Hammondsport, NY where it sits along the Eastern Shore of Keuka Lake. They make a total of seven wines, the best of which is their Riesling. The owner and wine maker used to work at Dr. Konstantin Frank ( and then moved on to open this venture just a couple years ago.

In addition to the Riesling and a Chardonnay on the white end, they also make a House White. The 2004 version is pale yellow in color with citrus notes with lighter notes of apricots and peach. It’s a crisp wine with just a tad of sweetness. It would make a great companion to Chinese take-out.

2002 Jim Barry - Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

The 2002 Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon from Jim Barry is a big meaty wine. It’s nearly black in color with an almost inky thick texture. This offering is very fruit forward with notes of prunes and black cherry but it also has hints of coffee or mocha. It’s dry with a medium long finish. Overall, good but not exactly to my taste and at 15% alcohol, I thought this wine was a bit hot for my taste. Fans of big California Cabernets or Zinfandels might want to give this a try.

I found it for $17 at Sherry Lehmann ( after keeping an eye out for it around New York. The only other place I know that carries it is Union Square Wine ( where they sell it for $20.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

2002 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir (Oregon)

My past experience with wine clubs has been hit and miss. My wife and I have had three gift memberships given to us and we’ve subscribed on our own once. Three of those experiences have been with which seems to have a decent market share of the business if you consider that they, along with The California Wine Club, rise to the top of the list in internet searches. While my own experiences have been limited, I intend to do some research and write more on the topic at a later date.

In the meantime, today’s selection comes from’s “Big Bold Reds” club. It’s the 2002 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir.

The wine is brick red in color with spice, notably nutmeg, and dark fruit, leaning towards a black cherry, on the nose. The oak has made its presence known but not in an overbearing way. Overall it has a soft texture and a medium long finish. It’s good wine for immediate consumption that I’d feel good about bringing to a party.

The club is selling this wine on special for $10.99 as a special with a regular price of $18.99. As a $20 Pinot I think it’s ok but not great as I’ve had various other fantastic Pinots for just a few dollars more. However, I think it’s a terrific value at $10.99 . I haven’t come across this wine in any of the New York City shops I’ve been to recently but it doesn’t mean its not out there. A quick internet search leads me to believe that if you do find it, the price will probably fall in the $15-$19 range. At that point, you’ll have to judge for yourself.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

2003 Jean Marc Brocard-Fourchaume (Chablis Premiere Cru)

This 2003 Chablis was recommended to us by an associate at Sherry-Lehmann ( who thought it would be a nice "complimentary contrast" to the buttered sole we were having that night. The recommendation was a good one.

This complex wine is straw yellow in color with floral notes mixed in with hay. I also thought the nose reminded me of seaside air. Fresh with a great balance of sweetness to acidity along with a honeyed texture. It's a structured wine with a nice lingering finish.

Sherry-Lehmann sells this wine for $29 but I know I've seen it elsewhere in New York.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

2002 L'Ostal Cazes (Languedoc)

The 2002 L'Ostal Cazes is a relatively new venture from Jean-Michel Cazes and his son Jean-Charles of Lych-Bages fame. The wine comes from vineyard land they purchased in the Minervois district of the Languedoc region in France. L'Ostal Cazes is the grand vin of the property and it, along with their more entry level Circus Shiraz and Shiraz-Cabernet come from 150 acres of vines on the 370 acres they purchased in 2002. Winemaking is overseen Daniel Llose who is also the managing wine director at the Cazes properties in Bordeaux, including Chateau Lynch-Bages and Ormes de Pez.

The wine is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, and Carignan. It's ruby red in color with aromas of cassis, blueberry, cedar, and chocolate. Lush with a medium long finish. Overall a very solid wine what I found went well with a more casual meal like herb chicken. In my vernacular, this is a great "Thursday or Friday night wine" where you want to drink something good with a quick-fix meal.

The only wine store I know of in New York that carries this is Sherry Lehmann ( where it sells for $30.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

1995 Caparzo La Casa (Brunello di Montalcino-Tuscany)

The 1995 La Casa from Caparzo is hands down one of the best Brunellos I've ever tasted. The wine is the reservia bottling and their high end Brunello in terms of the quality they try to put in the bottle. I've been a fan of their regular Brunello bottling, especially the 1999.

This particular bottle was from a vintage that wasn't exactly rated among the highest by the critics and the bottle itself was rated rated as above average. (An 88 by Parker and a 91 by Wine Spectator. Parker rated the 1995 vintage as an 88 as well.)

However, I think bottle aging has been very very kind to this La Casa. The wine is incradibly complex. Dark red in color. Smoky wood, tabacco, and dark fruits all intermingle on the nose. Cassis and cherry are also evident, first in the nose but more so on the palatte. It has a soft, velevety texture and a long long finish.

Overall, it's a medium bodied wine with structure and soft tannins now that its been in the bottle for over a decade. Important to note, this needs about an hours worth of decanting to bring out its complexity.

Price wise, this wine was a bargin for me at $40 from D. Sokolin in Long Island during one of their sales ( However, they're selling it for $80 now and that's the lowest I've seen it on the web. Luckily, I picked up two bottles and have one left!