Monday, December 31, 2007

Bordeaux Bargin #3: 2003 Château Mayne-Vieil

The 2003 Château Mayne-Vieil from Bordeaux’s Fronsac region is one of those wines I think will be getting a little more attention as prices of the more esteemed estates continue to rise.

It’s a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The color is brick red with a somewhat rustic aroma including dark fruits and cedar. There’s lots of structure and it’s still somewhat tannic but in a way that leaves behind a long finish more on the lush side that not.

This is not a great wine but a good one. I think this is going to be more indicative of the affordable Bordeaux of the future. I give it B-. Not as strong as the two other Bordeaux values I’ve tasted recently, the 2003 Chateau Gigault ~ Cuvee Viva from Côtes de Blaye or the 2004 Cap de Faugères from Côtes de Castillon.

The value part of this is that Sherry-Lehmann is currently selling this for $12.50 and I picked it up for $13 from Northside Wine in Ithaca to pair with dinner at my wife’s parent’s home over the holidays.

What these three all have in common are that they are from the outlying satellite regions of Bordeaux rather than the much more heralded Medoc, Graves, St. Emillion or Pomerol regions. These regions tend to be more Merlot based than Cabernet Sauvignon, tend to be made more for earlier drinking rather than long term cellaring, and tend to be less expensive.

With “baby” on the way, I’m going to be looking more into these regions to get my Bordeaux “fix”.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Moldly Screwtop?

Last night I went downstairs to my basement to put a couple of wines away for safe keeping. While moving some of my other wines over to make room, I came across a Chardonnay that my wife and I had bought from a California Central Coast winery. The wine had developed mold at the base of the screwcap foil as well as the seam where the screwcap breaks off. In addition, the wine had lost about an inch of liquid compared to the bottle fills of other wines from the same winery that we bought on the trip. No other wines were affected.

I have seen mold on a cork before but never on a screw cap. It looks more like a science project or lost vegetables found in the fridge after a couple months.


I'm curious as to if anyone has seen this happen before?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Evolving Over Time: 2003 Château Coufran

I have a few more bottles left of the 2003 Château Coufran, a Bordeaux from the Haut-Medoc which I found at Grand Wines in Astoria about a year and a half ago. My first tasting note for this wine was almost exactly a year-ago in November ’06 and it was a nice and surprising exercise to taste this wine now and compare it to then.

First, it seems much more “mature” now as its changed its color slightly and is now a slightly lighter shade of brick red. It has very earthy, wood and leather aromas just hovering above the fruit. The fruit that’s there is dark fruit but it does take a back seat initially. The tannins are in the forefront. Very dry texture with a long finish.

What was most interesting to me is that it has essentially just switched its profile. A year-ago, the fruit was up front with the wood and earthiness in the background.

My hope is that another year in bottle will really bring these elements into harmony. I’m hopeful because after letting this wine sit out for a couple hours, it because much smoother and softer in texture.

The changes seen in the 2003 Château Coufran from one year to the next were a fun lesson in how a wine evolves. It really evolves. Fascinating!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tasting Note: 2005 Querciabella Chianti Classico

I’ve had several vintages of this wine going back to 1998 or 1999 and this might be the best of all of them. I also tasted this and commented in September of this year.

Brick red color with a somewhat earthy and dark fruit aroma. Although it’s a mix of dark fruit, I think it’s the blackberry that comes out on top. There is also a gentle hint of spice surrounded by a cedar frame or structure. Mineral texture but also soft. Medium bodied with a long smooth finish. This wine has excellent balance and is a fantastic value for the $22 I spent on it at Garnet Wine. B+

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tasting Note: 2005 Domaine Didier Pabiot – Pouilly Fume

Sometimes you just don’t recall when or how a bottle of wine ended up in your possession. That’s the case with the 2005 Domaine Didier Pabiot, a white Loire Valley wine made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape.

Straw colored with a very minerally aroma that also has hints of lemon and flora. It’s very light on the lemon though with just a hint of it there. The restraint is nice. Clean crisp texture with a fresh finish. Very nice and a solid B.

As I mentioned, I can’t completely recall how I ended up with this wine but I think it came from a Brooklyn wine shop and I can only imagine it was part of an in-store tasting. I’d keep my eyes out for this one again.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tasting Note: 2004 Fiefs de Lagrange

Château Lagrange is one of my favorite Bordeaux red. I’m a big Bordeaux fan and think the Château offer’s very good quality for the money (the massive shift if 2005 and 2006 future prices notwithstanding.) To that end, I also love the value offered by their second wine, Fiefs de Lagrange.

I recently had the 2004 Fiefs de Lagrange. Its garnet colored with blackberry, chocolate, and cedar notes with light hints of spices. It’s medium bodied but very tannic at this point. Some aging, maybe a two to five years, should soften them up a bit. Medium long finish.

Overall, this is a good wine but verging on average. I think it’s a B wine but my personal enjoyment of it is somewhat dependant on how much I paid for it. By keeping my eye on bargains, I was able to get it from Zachys for $12. While Zachys is not necessarily known for the deals, they occasionally have sales that at least bring some wine prices down to normal in my opinion.

The regular price for this wine at Zachys is $20 and they currently have it on sale for $17. At these levels, the Fiefs de Lagrange becomes less of a bargain and for the money; you can probably find something a little more complex and interesting.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Tasting Note - Heron Hill Game Bird White - NV (Finger Lakes)

For $7 to $9 dollar at your local Upstate New York wine shot, this isn’t a bad deal at all but keep in mind that the Heron Hill Game Bird White is a good quaffer and best suited for food and less for contemplation.

Straw yellow in color. Citrus and floral or hay notes. The citrus is closer to orange peel than anything else. Just slightly sweet on the tongue. Soft texture and a medium length finish.

The wine is a blend of Vinifera and French Hybrid grapes and is cited on their website as being a Silver Medal Winner at the Florida State Fair and a Bronze Medal Winner at the Great Lakes Wine Competition. While not exactly the “Judgment of Paris”, I think the awards are at least a sign that this is a decent wine for a decent price. Something that I feel is becoming harder and harder to find. I give this overachiever a B.

This particular bottle was $9 from Northside Wine in Ithaca, New York.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

2005 Poggio ai Ginepri - Bolgheri, Tuscany or my "baby Sassicaia" as I call it.

Before reading this wine note, keep in mind that the recommended date range to start drinking the 2005 Poggio ai Ginepri is 2010. I say this because when I first opened it with my friend Lisa to see what the wine was like, we both agreed it was good but somewhat “tight.” However, I put the cork back into the unfinished bottle and went back to it four days later and it was much more open and completely accessible and just plain good.

The wine itself, a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Syrah was red brick in color with a very earthy (peat moss in particular) and herbal aroma. The earthiness lost some of its force after being open for a while but the herbal qualities remained. Also present were leather and light hints of smoke, both of which here enhanced with time. Medium bodies with a medium long finish. Shorter when first opened but much longer later. The texture was also very refined in a way. Somewhat “steely” but with fine tannins that suggest the quality down the road with some bottle age.

I call this wine a “baby Sassicaia” but only in my own home. It really has very little to do with the real Sassicaia other than coming from the Bolgheri region of Tuscany with the Poggio ai Ginepri being just south of Sassicaia. Also, I can afford the $18 for this bottle from Sherry Lehmann but not the $200 for the real thing.

Excellent solid B wine with room to improve.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mollydooker - 2005 Two Left Feet

The 2005 Mollydooker Two Left Feet is a big big wine that has gotten a ton of hype from the wine press for a couple of reasons. The first is that the Mollydooker venture is headed by Sarah and Sparky Marquis, formerly of Marquis Phillips, an Australian wine group known for producing a fantastic line of wines. The 2nd is the scores received by both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker, the later giving the 2005 Two Left Feet a 94!

Well… I had to find out what all the hype was about!

Referencing Parker’s tasting note, the Marquis’ motto is “We make wines that make people go wow - through attention to detail and commitment to excellence.” This wine certainly made me go “wow” on the first whiff. It’s got a strong aroma of chocolate, anise, blackberry, fig, fennel, and spices. I’m not sure I nailed all the aromas correctly but the bottom line is that there’s a lot going on here. The other thing that stuck me about the wine is the color. That of a purple abyss. As for taste, you really get a sense of the dark fruit and licorice more than anything else. However, there’s also a note of alcohol at the end, not surprising since this clocks in at nearly 16%. The finish is long, soft, mouth coating, and last for about half a minute.

This blend of 65% Shiraz, 19% Merlot, and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely a good wine. However, you really have to be a fan of this big, in your face and bold style of wine. If you are, then go for it. You will certainly not be disappointed. However, if you are at all on the fence regarding blatent new world styles that express themselves along these lines, then beware. This probably isn’t for you.

That said, I fall into the later camp and as much as I appreciate the Mollydooker as a well put together wine, I can’t give this anymore than a B rating. I also feel that the scores lavished on this wine by others is a bit misplaced as I see the wine in an almost polarizing light. You’ll either love it or it won’t be for you. The wine is just too big to allow for any passive drinking. That said, to me a score of 94, an A, an 18+ out of 20, whatever the equivalent, is a score that should reflect a wine where the quality AND pleasure of drinking are hard to argue. This wine doesn’t fit that bill for me.

Still, $20 for a wine that “makes people go wow”, even if its not for you, is something to take notice of.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wines in the Cellar

One of the things I’m guilty of is holding on to wines that I really should be drinking. The reasons for this are many. For one, some wines like the handful of classified growth Bordeaux I have, I feel like I have to wait for a special occasion. Another reason is not wanting to open wines that we bought on vacation. That $10 euro wine we brought back from Italy that’s probably already started its down-hill slide… still in the cellar. With some, I loved the first bottle so much that I don’t want to open the second because I wouldn’t be able to find a replacement.

Anyway, I’m trying to get over this and I think I took a baby step forward with the 2003 Perrin & Fills Les Sinards Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We had some friends over for dinner, went through the first two bottles and I was looking for a third to open. This was it.

The wine was deep purple in color with really earthy notes of smoke and leather mixed in with dark fruit including blackberry and black cherry. The wine was smooth with a nice long and lush finish. It’s a blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre.

I loved this wine and gave it a B+. It also made me want to explore the Rhone Valley more, an region I know relatively little about.

I didn’t sit on it forever. I might not have know what I was missing.

P.S. - One thing I like about Perrin & Fils is that they have a blog!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

2003 Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva

Sometimes I get swayed by the pretty pictures on the bottles. Such was the case with the 2003 Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva. Not so much that it’s a pretty label but the picture of the castle reminded me of my trip to Tuscany and the Chianti region.

A good Chianti will also take me back to the place in my memory as well. This wine worked just fine for that. It’s ruby colored and medium bodied with strong cedar and price notes mixed in with red fruit. (I need to brush up on my red fruits to figure out exactly what was there.) Nice medium long finish and good balance between the tannins and acidity.

I liked it and thought it was a solid B. With the rising prices of European wines because of the weak dollar, I also thought the price was relatively speaking, ok. It was $17 from Garnet Wines on the Upper East Side.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Another Bordeaux Bargain? - 2003 Chateau Gigault ~ Cuvee Viva

The 2003 Chateau Gigault Cuvee Viva from the Cotes de Blaye region of Bordeaux was a wine I purchased for $14 from Zachys, a store not necessarily known for their good deals. However, I can’t argue with this one.

The wine is dark garnet with strong notes of smoke and cassis but also with an herbal quality. It’s a full bodied and big wine with a plush, long finish. This is definitely in the more “modern” style of Bordeaux so don’t go looking for elegance here. However, if that’s ok with you, it’s a fantastic wine that I would give a B+ to. It’s a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

A note on the price. I purchased this as a future from Zachys for a price that’s lower than the current $16 to over $30 range found on WineZap.com. At that price, I think this wine is a steal. However, its not so transporting that I would still feel that way about it had I spent $25. Also note that the 2005 Future is selling for $20 at Zachys, again a price that I don’t think qualifies as a bargain anymore.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

2004 Abbaye de Tholomies

The 2004 Abbaye de Tholomies is from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France and honestly, was another wine that swayed me to try it because of it’s marketing on the back of the bottle. In this case, it was the fact that the winery used to be run my Monks “back in the day” which was somewhere in the realm of 1000 years ago. While, marketing is marketing and suckers like me fall for it.

In this case, it worked. The wine is garnet in color with dark fruit aromas dominated by cassis, plum and spices. Soft texture and a long finish. The wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

Another solid B wine that was picked up at Garnet on the Upper East Side for $16.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cap de Faugères 2004 - There are bargins in Bordeaux!

There is value in Bordeaux! It’s not just a myth! That’s what I discovered with the 2004 Cap de Faugères, a red blend from the Côtes de Castillon region of Bordeaux. The wine was part of the list of wines bought for my sister Cindy’s wedding at the beginning of October as the “cigar wine” for her husband (and my now brother in-law) Israel. The wine didn’t disappoint.

Very full bodied with a dark, inky purple or almost black color. Very much a smoky aroma mixed in with dark fruits. Blackberries most notably. There is also an earthy or possibly spicy element too that adds a nice sense of complexity I like. Very much a full bodied wine but not in an over the top way as some might characterize a new world wine. Really long finish that just coats your tongue with spices. Not only is the finish long but it really caresses as well. Not in a silky way but more like velvet.

Excellent wine especially when I tell you the price. $12 from Zachys, on sale from $20. I have theories as to why they are selling this wine at that price. One is that I don’t think people are lining up to buy the 2004 Bordeaux vintage right now. Not a great one according to the critics and everyone is focused on the 2005s. I also think they just need to move wine right now to make room.

Whatever the case, I like this wine a lot for the price and give it a solid B.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

2001 Falasco Amarone on a Tuesday Night

Sometimes you just want to open a good wine on a Tuesday night. Such was the case yesterday with the 2001 Falasco Cantina Valpantena, an Amarone from the Vento region of Italy.

In short is was a fantastic wine and exactly what I was looking for. Deep garnet color with strong nose of wood which I thought was more cedar and vanilla but also dark cherry and licorice. Full bodied with a long meaty finish.

A great way to end an otherwise bland day…

Monday, October 15, 2007

Writing notes at wine tastings. Can it be done?

I love wine tasting events. I think they are flat out fun and a great way to taste wines that I would normally never have thought to try before. For people just learning about their wine preferences, it’s a good way to taste your way through all different kinds of grapes and come away with something like “I think I like Riesling.” For someone on a wine budget, some tasting pour super premium bottles which, for a taste, might be worth the price of admission alone.

What’s not to like!

However…. Every time I go to one of these, which is twice a year at best, I struggle with how I’m going to write about it during and after. While at an event, I always take a small notepad and a pen, thinking I’m going to write some kind of detailed tasting note for most everything I taste. I’m lucky if I write even one down. Even after the event is over, I think I’m going to blog about the wines I’ve tasted, which ones I like, etc. But there are literally hundreds of wines to taste and with my memory, I’m lucky to remember anything beyond the top handful that really truly stood out. Because of that, I usually end up keeping my thoughts to myself.

Now, I think I’ve come up with a way to do it. Just write or mark down the wines I taste and very simply put a + sign(s) next to the ones I liked. In theory I could even do this after the event if I had a half-decent memory.

I got to try this out last week when I went to Wine Library’s Super Tasting as a guest of my friend Julanne, a regular at their shop in Springfield, NJ. The event is HUGE as they offer over 700 different wines to sample, all spread out over three huge rooms at The Manor in West Orange, NJ. The tasting can seem somewhat overwhelming with so many wines, no real way to find out what’s being poured until you get there, and the fact that they’re organized by distributor rather than region or type.

On the upside there are over 700 wines to taste. That’s a pretty big upside if you ask me and I found a lot I liked. My two favorites were dessert wines, the 2001 Filhot from Sauternes which at $14 a half bottle is an amazing bargain. My second favorite wine was slightly more expensive at $140 a bottle. That was the 2002 Gunderlock Nackenheim Rothenberg Berrenauslese from Germany. Taking the prize for “taste of wine that was worth price of admission” based purely on cost per bottle was the 2004 Haut Brion ($400 a bottle). Prize for “wines I was really excited to taste because I had never had them before” were both from Australia, Shiraz’s from Two Hands and Fetish.

Below is the list of the wines I tasted, keeping in mind that this list is literally less than 10% of what I could have tasted!

The Bordeaux Table
Chateau Beau Sejour Becot - 1988 (++)
Chateau Beychevelle - 2005
Chateau Beychevelle - 2006
Chateau Clarendelle Blanc
Chateau Clarendelle Rouge
Chateau d'Issan - 2001
Chateau Filhot - 2001 (+++ - the best wine I tasted that evening - $14 a half-bottle)
Chateau Grand Mayne - 1999 (+)
Chateau Haut Brion - 2004 (++)
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion (++)
Chateau Lanessan – 1996 (+)
Chateau Lascombes - 2001
Chateau Le Gay - 2004 (+)
Chateau Monbousquet Rouge - 2002

The Rest
Abadia Retuerta Selection Especial - 2003
Adelsheim Pinot Noir - 2006
Angel's Cuvee Ripasso de Tannat Amarone - 2005
Au Bon Climat Chardonnay - 2006
Banfi Brunello di Montalcino - 2001 (+)
Bethel Heights Pinot Noir "Eola-Amity Cuvee" - 2005 (I like this a lot)
Bravante Merlot - 2004
Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva - 2003
Caymus Conundrum - 2005 (+)
Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - 2005 (+)
Cesari "Il Bosco" Amarone - 2001
Cesari Amarone - 2004
Chapelle St-Arnoux Vacqyeras Reserve Vielles Vignes -2003 (+)
Chateau Franc Maillet "Cuvee Jean Baptiste" Pomerol - 2001 (+)
Chateau Fuisse - Pouilly Fuisse Vielles Vignes - 2004
Chateau Rontets Pouilly Fuisse "Les Birbettes" - 2005 (++)
Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004
Duckhorn Napa Merlot - 2005
Falesco Marciliano - 2003 (+)
Fattoria La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - 2001 (+)
Fetish - Playmates Shiraz/Grenache/Mataro - 2005
Fetish - The Watcher Shiraz - 2004 (++ - really good and I thought better than the 2005)
Fetish - The Watcher Shiraz - 2005 (+)
Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett Riesling - 2006 (+)
Gaja Magari - 2005 (++)
Groth Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004 (+)
Gunderlock Dry Estate Riesling - 2005 (+)
Gunderlock Nackenheim Rothenberg Berrenauslese - 2002 (+++ - 2nd best wine of the evening and it should be at $140 a bottle!)
Hitching Post Pinot Noir Highliner - 2005
L'Aventure Optimus Cabernet/Syrah - 2004 (++)
Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino - 2001 (++ - best Brunello of the evening)
Le Volte Tuscany - 2005
Moulin du Duhart Pauillac - 2002
Nickel & Nickel Sullenger Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004 (++)
Parusso Barolo - 2003 (+)
Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon - 2003 (++)
Prunotto Barolo - 2003 (+)
Sanford Pinot Noir - 2005 (+)
Santi Amarone della Valpollicella - 2003
Schafer Frohlich Bockenauer Felseneck Spatlese Riesling - 2006
Sebastiani Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon - 2005
Stag's Leap Artemis - 2004 (+)
Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz - 2006 (++)
Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz - 2005 (+)
Two Hands Lily's Garden Shiraz - 2005 (+)
Von Buhl Armand Kabinett Riesling - 2005
Von Hovel Qba Riesling - 2004
Wegeler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese Riesling - 1994 (++)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hypothesis: A wine tasted at a winery is often better than the same wine tasted at home. True or False?

The 2006 Pellegrini Unoaked Chardonnay makes a case for this to be a true statement. This Sonoma County winery was the first stop on our trip out to the area this July, a day that took us from here to Freeman, Moshin, and finally Inman Family, these last three all being among the best winery visits I’ve had to date.

Pellegrini, not so much as myself, my wife, and Jesse (the best man at our wedding and our designated driver that day) had made arrangements with the winery manager for a tour which we were very much looking forward to as the vineyard setting and the winery looked beautiful and the wines themselves had been highly recommended by the locals we were relying on for help in setting up the day of winery hopping.

Well… the short story made short is that they had no record of us making these arrangements despite me confirming just two days earlier and so we were unceremoniously shuffled off to the somewhat crowded tasting room. Well, at least we got to taste through their line-up of wines, including their Pinot Noirs which they were supposedly well know for, according to the locals, but which we found slightly disappointing. However, one of the bright spots were their whites, including the 2006 Unoaked Chardonnay. Not only did I like it but at $17 a bottle, I thought it was good price per quality and picked up a bottle. That was in July and just two days ago, we opened it up to go along with baked cod and corn on the cob which is in season now in New York and is sweet as can be. Get some!

The wine… Well… It was straw yellow in color with notes of green apples and some tropical fruits, including banana. (This is where the wine started to lose me.) There was a slight zip of acidity, likely evident from seeing no wood. However, it threw the wine off balance rather than pairing with the fruit. The finish was long, lingering on the tongue. However, the banana flavors came back on the end. (This is where the wine definitely lost me and I’d have to give it a D.)

Was this the same wine I tasted at the winery? I thought it was but I certainly don’t remember it like this. This is where hypothesis gets tested. In this case, the winery DID make the wine taste better than it did. I’m not sure how. That’s for future tests.

Overall, disappointing but not the end of the world. And, Pellegrini is still a nice place to stop by and visit if you’re in Sonoma. Just don’t expect the tour.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

2005 Mon Coeur - Cotes du Rhone

The 2005 Mon Coeur is a Cotes du Rhone from J.L. Chave which I picked up for $15 from Garnet Wines on the Upper East Side.

It was ruby red in color with spicy aromas lingering above the dark fruit. The spice was white pepper. Fruits were blackberry and a hint of blueberry. There might have been some dark cherry buried underneath there too. The aromatics were really lovely. Medium bodied with a soft, long, spicy finish.

Very good. B+.

So… I felt I had to write that note in past tense as it comes to me from a scrap piece of paper found in my jean pants after they had gone through the washer and dryer. Now you know how my note taking often works. Drink a wine, reflect, and write something down on the closest piece of paper. They more than likely make it in some form on the blog. Sometimes they don’t make it. Sometime the path is a bit circular as it was here. At least it made it. Whew!

P.S. On the same sheet of paper, it says to drink your bottles of 1996 Brico Manzoni. The essence of the dark fruit is there but its lost some of its complexity. Tar notes are more predominant now. Drink up!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Oregon Pinot Gris! Try it!

Oregon Pinot Gris! Try it!

The 2006 Ponzi Pinot Gris is straw yellow in color with wonderful floral aromatics mixed in with some orange peel and a hint of lemon. The floral notes really come out when the wine has a chill on and some mineral elements come out when the wine opens up some. It has fantastic balance and a soft mouthfeel with citrus coming through on the tongue with a little bit of spice. Medium long finish.

Really one of the best Pinot Gris I’ve had and it makes me want to explore the varietal a little bit more. Especially from Oregon. I’m two for two with the ones I’ve tried.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A New Vintage From an Old Friend - 2004 Castell del Remei Gotim Bru

Spain’s Castell del Remei - Gotim Bru from the Costers del Segre region might be one of the most reliable and affordable wines on the market today. It retails for $10 to $15 a bottle and its quality is consistent year in and year out for as long as I’ve been drinking this, going back to the 1997 vintage. (Read past posts here and here.)

It’s been a solid relationship.

The 2004 Gotim Bru has a ruby red color to it and a smoky aroma with underlying red fruit. There’s spice on the nose as well. Actually, if you swirl it around some, the aroma transforms into dark berry. The dark berry really comes though on the taste as well. Blackberry? Just slightly acidic but not enough to make me think this is too far out of balance. Medium long finish. Very good solid B wine.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wine From My Scrapbook...

From my scapebook...

2006 Inman Family – Rose of Pinot Noir
Rose pink in color. Bright with a berry bouquet. Strawberry or raspberry in the berry. Because of the Pinot Noir grape, I think it has more body than most roses. Balance between sugar and acidity is nice. Healthy bosy for a rose. Very nice. (Solid B)

2005 Querciabella Chianti Classico
Dark rudy red color with aromas of red cherry, cedar, and tabac. All very well integrated. Bright and smooth in texture. Light, resfreshing zip of acidity. Medioum long finish. Very nice. (B)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tasting Wine in Kansas with Friends

“Fruit present and accounted for.” as noted by Zack upon first sniffing this wine, the first of five bottles we shares together with his wife Darci when visiting them in Lawrence, Kansas earlier this month. The bottle was a 2004 Argiolas – Costera – Isola Dei Nuraghi from the Sardina region of Italy. The wine is a blend of 90% Cannonau, 5% Carignano and 5% Bovale Sardo with the Cannonau grape thought to be a descendent of Grenache and that might be the reason it was reminiscent of a Chateauneuf du Pape. The wine has nice balance between the fruits, acids, and tannins with the fruit dark cherry driven, possible blackberry. There are also notes of spice and anise. It’s dark red in color, full bodied with a nice long finish. Very tasty but it could also last another few years. (B+)

It was followed by an actual Chateauneuf du Pape. The 2000 Le Vieux Donjon. A dark, inky black wine that might have been just slightly less complex than the Costera above but what it might have lacked there, it made up in finesse. The wine started out with an earthy mulch like nose but opened up to reveal notes of leather, dark fruit, notably blackberry. Texture was slightly tannic but they were soft tannins, leading to a nice long lush finish. (B but possible a b+ if the flavors meld more together after a few more years in the bottle.)

The next night we shared a 1999 Rosemont Estate Belmoral Syrah from the McLaren Vale in Australia. It was dark inky black in color with aromas reminiscent of grilled meats and prunes with the later coming through on the taste as well. The alcohol shows itself at 14% but softens after some time in the decanter. The acids and tannins had also melded well. (B)

That was the wine of the second evening but we stated out earlier in the afternoon with a couple of white wines.

The 2006 L’ete Viognier is from Mendocino County in California. It was straw yellow in color with a somewhat yeasty nose. The fruit was not as immediately identifiable. Possibly citrus peel underneath but hard to distinguish. Pleasant summer quaffer but not too remarkable. (C)

Also sampled that afternoon on the back patio was the 2005 J. Albin Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The wine was mainly fermented in stainless steel with a small portion aged sur lie in small oak barrels. It was straw yellow in color. Very floral on the nose. Honeysuckle. Citrus zest. Grapefruit. Actually more like pink grapefruit. Nice balance of acidity and fruit. Medium long finish. Very good and another strong case for Pinot Gris from the Pacific Northwest. (B+).

As for prices, the only two I bought were the L’ete for $11 and the J. Albin for $17 and those were purchased in Kansas. Other than that, the other wines were generously provided by Zack and Darci.

Those were the wines of the first night. Shared with friends I hadn’t seen in a really long time. The wines were shared over cheeses, olives, caperberries, homemade pizza and long discourses of child rearing and friends. You know how people say that the context of tasting a wine, where you are, who your with, etc. adds to your perception. Well, I would have probably given a Yellow Tail an A+ in this context.

All in all, a great wine weekend and a great weekend with friends. Zack was probably the first friend of mine who developed an interest in wine back when I thought red table wines from the Finger Lakes were the pinnacle of class. It’s be nice to have him here to drink away with at times.

Cheers!

Friday, September 14, 2007

San Fransicso Wine Bars and Writer's Block

The attached link is from a New York Times Travel article this past weekend called Snobless Sipping: Where a Glassfull is Just a Glassful”. It’s an article about San Francisco wine bars.

Here’s where my writer’s block starts. My wife and I spent our vacation this year in California, a couple days in Los Angeles. A couple of wonderful days in Santa Barbara wine country where we visited several wineries, including Santa Barbara Winery, Brander, Beckmen, Alma Rosa, Sanford, Foley, and Melville. From there we traveled up the California, stopping in Monterrey where we kayaked up the Elkhorn Slough. From there we went up to San Francisco where we spent a full six days, spending plenty of time some of the aforementioned Wine Bars but also a fantastic day in Somona where we had personal tours of Inman Family, Moshin, and Freeman.

My block… I’m not sure where to start. In the meantime, read the article. It’s gives a little taste of the fantastic time we had.

But, I have to say the highlight might have been just seeing and photographing the Sea Smoke Vineyard even if only from a distance... (Below: Not my photo of the Sea Smoke Vineyard but beautiful just the same.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

NYC Wine Notes: Wine Blogging Wednesday - 2002 Cardeal Reserva from Portugal

NYC Wine Notes: Wine Blogging Wednesday - 2002 Cardeal Reserva from Portugal - Indigenous grapes for Wine Blogging Wednesday as hosted by Dr. Vino's Wine Blog (check it out - great site and fantastic wine educator if you can get into any of his NYC classes!)Lots of choices. I settled on the 2002 Cardeal Reserva from the Dão region of Portugal. It’s made from 100% Touriga Nacional.

2003 Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva Lucius (Italy-Tuscany)

The 2003 Lucius is a Chianti Classico from Viticcio, makers of what is one of my favorite Chianti’s, their Riserva.

The difference between the two… This one is sees more in oak. That is the basic difference. Does that make it a better wine for me? Well, it’s different and a nice departure from what I’m used to.

The wine is dark red in color. The oak really comes through on the palate with an oak/cedar aromatic blend but there is also noticeable “big” fruit underneath. Blueberry is predominant but lighter notes of cherry, plum, & prune lay underneath. Maybe the prune notes are possible result of the unusually hot 2003 growing season? Lots of grip on the long finish with a a strong berry taste. But… its just slightly tart. Really the only flaw in an otherwise solid wine that rates a B in my book.

This was part of a Viticcio sale at Zachy’s a few months ago for $25. I have one more bottle that I’ll let sit for another couple years to see what happens.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday - 2002 Cardeal Reserva from Portugal

Indigenous grapes for Wine Blogging Wednesday as hosted by Dr. Vino's Wine Blog (check it out - great site and fantastic wine educator if you can get into any of his NYC classes!)

Lots of choices. I settled on the 2002 Cardeal Reserva from the Dão region of Portugal. It’s made from 100% Touriga Nacional. A grape, if you believe everything you read on Wikipedia, is “considered by name to be Portugal’s finest.” I’d never heard of before today but that’s part of the point of this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday!

Now, I understand that this is a grape more closely associated with Port, Portugal’s finest wine export, and is seen less in table wine. But as it shows in the 2002 Cardeal Reserva, I’m not sure if it exactly “Potugal’s finest.”

The wine is brick red in color with a nose of sour cherry and spices with an overall earthiness, a slightly weird mix of aromas that don’t entirely work in harmony. Medium bodied with a soft texture, the wine’s best characteristic. Dark fruits do come out on the palate. Possibly plum but it’s hard to tell. The earthiness also comes out in the medium long finish. However, all the elements on the taste seem as disjointed as the nose.

Overall, this is not a wine I can really recommend and I’d give it a C-. Although not undrinkable, it’s too disjointed to offer up real pleasurable drinking for me. In its best scenario, I can see consuming this at a party where conversation is the focus rather than what’s in your glass.


That said, I might be expecting too much from a $10 wine, actually $9.20 when factoring in the 15% discount I got from Astor Wines as Portugal was their featured region this past Tuesday. As for the experience of having an indigenous grape from Portugal… I’ll look for a good Port next time.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

2006 Foley Rosé – Santa Ynez Valley

Hot pink color. Another wine with a refreshing minerality that comes out up front. Floral nose with just a whiff of light cherry. Almost a cherry cotton candy aroma but definitely bright red berry. Dry. Medium bodied for a rosé. Just a slight acidic tang. Red fruit really lingers on the tongue. Good rose that’s slightly above average. B-.

Bought at the Foley Estate for $16.

This wine note is a prelude to a larger post I’ll do regarding our visit to California Wine Country where Tahirih and I spent three days tasting in Santa Barbara County and one day visiting Sonoma County.

It was fun and enlightening. I’m just not sure where to start in blogging about our trip. I’ll have to let it sit so look for a post later.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling – Finger Lakes

The Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling is straw yellow color. Minerally is the first impression. Lemon comes next but that’s only the first layer as its reveals a nice apricot note underneath along with a really nice floral element. This wine has some amazing aromatics. Crisp with a nice acidic zip. Exactly the right balance. Medium finish. Just long enough to savor. Solid A. (“Yes, I’m aware of the grade inflation I have going on with this blog!)

I’ve had many vintages of this wine and while I’ve always liked it, I don’t think I remember it being this good. I have recently been somewhat down on Finger Lake Riesling mostly because of cost. The 2006 vintage of this wine is $18 and I think that’s high compared to some excellent entry level German Kabinett Rieslings that I’ve often thought where of better quality.



That may still be the case for me but this was a nice surprise.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Sister’s Wedding Wines

Back in June, I was tasked by my sister Cindy to help pick out the wines that will be served at her wedding in October. At the time I was thinking there would be PLENTY of time and that it might actually only take a weekend to put something together. However, not only do these things take longer than you think, it is for my sister and her fiancée and of course, I wanted things to be perfect. And of course, there is a budget.

(1) Wanting the wines to be “perfect” and (2) wanting to find them for under $10 a bottle equals creative shopping. Below is what we came up with.

The Reds…
2004 Falesco Vitiano – Umbria - $7 on sale from Zachy’s
2004 Cap de Faugeres – Bordeaux - $12 on sale from Zachy’s
2006 Julienas Flower Label: Georges Duboeuf – Beaujolais - $5.50 on sale from Zachy’s “The Flood Sale”

The Whites…
2005 Domaine Gaujal - Cuvee Dames Coteaux du Languedoc - $7 from Garnet
2005 Domaine de Pouy – Gasgone - $7 from Garnet
2005 “Rabbit Riesling” - $10 from Northside Wine in Ithaca

This last wine, the “Rabbit Riesling” is not its real name and was not chosen by me. I have had it and think its good and a good value. However, this is Cindy’s choice and she picked up the case of this. I think its German.

However, the others are all solid wines and I believe them to be better than most selections you’d get from a caterer. Especially the Cuvee Dames from Languedoc and the Julienas.

This later wine is interesting. It’s from the Gamey grape and is grown in Burgundy. It’s also an excellent wine but more on that in a minute. What’s interesting here is the price at $5.50 a bottle. In the spring, there were rains. At times they were heavy enough in the New York City area to cause flooding and this is what happened to one of the Zachys warehouses in Westchester. While not heavy flooding, it was enough to damage labels for the cases on the bottom of the pallets. For these wines, which they all claim to be undamaged except for the labels, they cut prices in half. Perfect for me and perfect for my sister’s wedding in terms of price. It’s a way to get an $11 wine for half the price!

In a different sense, this is what happened with the Cap de Faugeres although in this case, Zachys was looking to clear inventory of its 2004 Bordeaux to make room for the higher priced 2005s and 2006s. In essence, I think they needed the cash.

Now for the wine. 2006 Julienas Flower Label: Georges Duboeuf . I had to take the Julienas before agreeing that it would work for Cindy’s Wedding. It did. The wine is ruby red in color with notes of smoke, spicee, blueberry and cherry. It has a fantastic bright nose. There are other aromas going on here too. Maybe white chocolate? Cotton candy??? That might be going to far but regardless, there’s a bright cherry scent. Very soft texture, spicy taste which mixes well with the cherry. Medium to full bodied with a wonderful long and slightly dry finish. Fantastic. It gets a B+ (maybe an A if it holds up at the wedding!)

2006 Domain Mont Chavy – Morgon – Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais

This wine was tasted at the same time as the Julienas but as a way of checking out Beaujolais rather than for the wedding.

This was another winner. Dark purple in color. Earthier than the Julienas with notes of dark cherry and blackberry. Chewy texture, dry and more tannic than the Julienas. Long finish. Blackberry tastes as well. Maybe a layer of raspberry underneath. A very nice wone. Solid B.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

1994 Leoville Barton and the New Bordeaux Future Campaigns

Will this be my last bottle of Leoville Barton ever? Will it be my last bottle of classified growth Bordeaux? Maybe? Hopefully not but with the rising prices of Bordeaux starting with the 2005 vintage, I can’t be certain.

Let’s start with the 2006 Bordeaux futures. This is this the year the Bordelais may have pushed wine lovers like me, who love to find wonderful mid to value priced wine but occasionally like to splurge on more expensive special occasion wines (whatever the occasion), out of the market for classified growth Bordeaux.

It all started with the much heralded 2005 vintage which is supposed to have produced some of the best wines since the dawn of man (or something along those lines) as proclaimed by all members of the wine press, a group I have to rely on as I’m not exactly attending the spring Bordeaux tastings. In a case like that, I can understand (but don’t necessarily like) a price increase from previous vintages based on quality. Maybe you pay more for a high quality Bordeaux compared to a diluted vintage from the year before. Prices were raised significantly higher than 2004. Sometimes double the price when they were offered as futures. Ok. That was 2005

However, the 2006 vintage, while praised for its surprising quality in a tough year with rains at harvest, will never go down in history as a great vintage. But, the Bordelais used the 2005 pricing as a base price and reference point for the 2006 pricing rather than relying on the base prices for a similar recent vintage like 2004.

This new pricing structure, in which I am left with the perception of paying more than I have in the passed for lesser quality wine, is the reason I feel the need to start distancing myself from Bordeaux.

To keep things in perspective, I have never been able to purchase first growth Bordeaux like Chateau Margaux or Lafite Rothschild. Spurge bottles for me, anniversary bottles, birthday bottles, graduation bottles, fall more in the line of 2nd to 5th growths like Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre, Lagrange, and the very very occasional Leoville Las Cases. These are the wines that I’m about to let go.

It’s possible to go online and find some “before and after” price comparisons by looking at 2004 and prior (say back to 2001) and 2005 and after. The example I’ll use here is Lagrange, a chateau that I’ve fallen hard for and I’ll compare $25 a bottle for the 2002 vintage to the $50+ for 2005 and $45+ for 2006 vintages.

It gives me pause and leads me to my current reflection. I find myself here after sharing a bottle of 1994 Leoville Barton with friends last night, wondering if this is the beginning of the end of classified growths for me. I like to drink these wines, they reward good cellaring, and they can (relatively speaking) become an incredible bargain if you buy the wines as futures in good vintages. (The 1990 Leoville Barton can sell for $250 but cost $40 as a future.)

For all my ranting above, note that I am talking about the 60 classified growth chateaux and that, thankfully for now, my dismay has not carried over so some of the wonderful non-classified wines coming from the less heralded regions of Bordeaux such as the Haut Medoc and satellite regions of St. Emilion. Wines like Gisault Cuvee Viva, Coufran, and other under $20 values that I’ve discovered over time. And this definitely includes some of the $10 (plus or minus) Bordeaux that I’ve had such as (insert Sherry Lehman wines here). These chateaux have been improving the quality of their vines and wines over the past several years and will go a long way in softening the blow of the “new world of Bordeaux pricing.”

The 1994 Leoville Barton…

The 1994 Leoville Barton was everything I could hope for in a mature Bordeaux. Dense and tannic with a layer of fruit underneath. It’s dark purple in color. Very earthy with notes of cedar and then dark earthy fruit. Blackcurrant buts its also spicy. It’s hard to tell exactly. Notes of tabac as well. Very tannic texture with a lot of grip and a long long finish. A+.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

2001 Tre Rose Vino Nobile de Montepulciano (Italy-Tuscany)

Deep purple color. It’s a juicy wine with notes of blackberry on the first encounter along with notes of cassis and cedar with come out as the wine aerates and softens. There’s a smokiness that emerges as well. It has a soft texture and a nice smooth medium long finish.

Very good wine at an affordable price. $15 from the usually ridiculously expensive D. Sokolin Wine on Long Island.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

2003 Spy Valley Pinot Noir (New Zealand- Marlborough)

Spy Valley. New Zealand is on the map for Pinot Noir. Very juicy with a deep ruby red color. Black cherry aroma with a creaminess to the nose (if that’s possible) and texture. Hints of cedar and red licorice. Juicy and lush with a medium finish.

I’ve had the ’02 vintage of this wine and while it’s not as good as what I remember that to be, its still not bad and a solid B wine.

It was purchased for $32 at Chelsea Wine Vault but is generally not an easy wine to find around. However, at $32 I don’t think this is a great deal.

Friday, June 22, 2007

2002 Termes Toro – Bodega Numanthia Termes (Spain - Castilla y Leon)

The #3 Wine if the Year in 2005 as cited by Wine Spectator! Bought for $25 at Union Square Wine! Will it live up to this incredible Price per Quality ratio!

Well… Yes. #3 Wine of the Year. Maybe not but awfully darn good.

Tempranillo. Deep red color with notes of Blueberry, blackberry, and tabac nose. Fine tannins. Slightly dry on the palate. But the fruit is the real star here.

The one knock on this wine is that its slightly acidic on the finish but that just makes it an A- wine rather than an A.

Friday, June 15, 2007

2005 Cuilleron Roussanne – Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes (France – Rhone)

Straw colored. Very floral with some lemon and just a hint of orange peel. This really smells like flowers though. Which ones… I can’t place them. I’m not a florist. Soft texture as the floral notes come through on the taste as well. However, this is another guess as I’ve never actually tasted flowers. Medium long finish.

A very good B+ wine for its uniqueness. $16 at Garnet Wines.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

2004 Regis Minet Pouilly Fume – Vielles Vignes (France – Loire Valley)

Straw yellow in color. You’d especially know the color if you’ve spent any time on a farm pitching hay. Not that I have that much experience. Very floral nose with a lot going on. Honey suckle and definitely some other floral note I can’t quite pinpoint. Light lemon citrus underneath. Soft texture with a light touch of acidity which works very well with this wine. Medium long finish with another hint of that lemon.

Purchased at Brooklyn Wine Exchange for $20.

Friday, May 18, 2007

1994 Bovio Borolo – Vinga Arabrina (Italy-Piedmont)

Ruby red color. Very spicy on the nose with notes of nutmeg and light hints of cedar with the last bits of primary fruit peeping through. Notably cherry mixed in with some spice. Medium bodied with a medium long finish and a tannic, chewy grip. It just does not last that long.

This is a B grade wine whose time has come to drink up. Originally purchased from Pascal’s Liquor Square in Syracuse for approximately $25 as a gift to one of my groomsmen at my wedding.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

2000 Chateau L’Enclos (Bordeaux–Pomerol)

Brick red in color. Rasberry aroma at first that fades into the background revealing a more woodsy/earthy characteristic with dark fruit and tabac. Dry with a tannic feel to it. Medium long finish but overall a little hallow on the palate.

B- wine that was part of a Wine.com club shipment.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

1993 Zilliken – Saarburger Rausch – Riesling Spatlese (Germany – Mosel-Saar-Ruwar)

This is another fine example of that can happen when you put some age on an affordable bottle of wine that can stand time in the cellar. Rieslings are known to be able to do that and if this is what I have to look forward to with some of the bottles I have in my cellar…

Straw colored with a primarily lime scented nose mixed in with a little apricot and some lingering floral notes. There’s also honeysuckle and just a whiff of petrol. It has a perfect touch of acidity with a citrus-lime taste along with a little bit of melon. Ends with a long lingering finish.

A standout A+ wine that I purchased for a mere $20 from Crush. A testament that there are affordable, phenomenal wines out there for a really good price. You just have to do your homework or at the least, make sure you are one some store e-mail lists!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

2005 Beckman – Le Bec Blanc (Santa Ynez Valley)

Beckman Vineyards is in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County and this wine is a Rhone blend of Rousanne, Marsanne & Grenache Blanc.

It’s light golden colored with lovely aromatics of cloves and apricots along with lighter hints of citrus, nutmeg and caramel. The nutmeg, clove and caramel also come on in the taste with a dash of lemon peel. It’s a medium to full bodied wine with a long finish.

Overall a food solid B wine what’s a great example of some of the Rhone blends currently being made in Central California. This bottle was $20 from Chelsea Wine Vault and worth picking up a bottle.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

1998 Montiano – Falesco (Italy–Lazio)

Falesco's Montiano. One of the finest Merlot wines I've ever had. I love re-tasting good wines and there is a reason why this is one of my favorites!

Dark garnet in color with a wonderful earthy aroma. Lots of underbrush. Blueberry. Blackberry. Currant. Notes of tar. Tabac leaf. Red currant to add just a bit of brightness to it. Smooth and silky texture with fine tannins that lead to a nice long finish. (At this point Tahirih chimes in with “Forest floor… Gooseberry… Brambleberry…” Is she making fun of me?!)

This is an A+ wine at its peak. Too bad it’s my last bottle.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Vereinigte Hospitien Schavzhofberger Riesling Spatlese (Germany – Mosel-Saar-Ruwar)

Light golden hue. Floral nose with notes of orange peel and a hint of petrol. There’s also some honeydew and melon so there’s a lot going on here. Leeche taste with the sugar clinging to the tongue for a medium long finish.

A very nice, solid B wine that was given to us as a gift from my sister Cindy and her fiancée Israel. What’s nice about receiving wine as a gift is that you get the opportunity to think about how nice the people who gave it to you are. And I’m not just saying that because they’re family!

Monday, April 23, 2007

2003 Chateau de Clotte (Bordeaux-Cotes de Castillion)

Deep purple and inky color. Dark earthy fruit up front, most notably of currants and blueberry. Just a slight hint of oak. Dry velvety with a lot of grip and a long finish.

A good wine that I’d give a B to and especially affordable in an expensive Bordeaux vintage at $16 from Wine.com.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

2005 Qupe - Bien Nacido Cuvee (Santa Maria Valley)

This is from Santa Barbara County's Qupe Vineyards who are known for their Central Coast Rhone Varietals. This is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Viognay from a rather well know vineyard in Santa Barbara County called Bien Nacido.

The wine is a vibrant yellow color with nice aromas of citrus, hey, and a floral element. Very pleasant. Citrus on the taste. Some orange. Medium bodied that leads to a lasting finish. The only real knock on this wine is that it’s a bit too acidic and that puts it slightly off balance for me. Slightly too much acidity for its weight.

A decent effort but really a B- wine for my tastes. $20 from T.B. Atkerson Wine in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.


Friday, March 30, 2007

1995 Chateau Gloria (Bordeaux–St. Julien)

This wine exemplifies what a little age (in this case 12 years) can do for an affordable bottle of Bordeaux.

Deep red color. Nice aroma which is a mix of cedar and tabac, leather, and dark earthy fruit. Black currant becomes more evident on the taste. The tannins have softened with the bottle age (or I’m assuming they have as this is the first time I’ve having this vintage.) The soft texture leads to a nice long finish.

A solid B+ wine that I purchased for $25 from the online WineBid.com auction.

Friday, March 23, 2007

2003 Chateau La Vieille Cure (Bordeaux-Fronsac)

This a young wine but I have four more bottles of this and can’t wait to see how it develops over time.

Dark garnet color. Aromas of blackberry, cassis, lead pencil, cedar, and general dark fruit. Loads of tannins and a velvety texture with a long juicy finish. I generally like Bordeaux wines and thing this is going to be fantastic down the road. I’ll give it about three to five years before opening the next bottle.

$25 from Morrell Wines and brought as a future.

Monday, March 19, 2007

2005 Mollydooker Shiraz – The Boxer (Australia-McLaren Vale)

Living up to its name, this wine will KNOCK YOU OUT! Big… That’s the operative word here.

Inky purple-black color. Lots of different aromas going on. Prunes. Blackberry. Dark cherry (to give it a “lighter” note.) It’s also slightly earthy with faint wood and cedar aspects. A “juicy” wine with gobs of fruit through. Namely prunes. Figs. Spices as well, especially on the finish which is very long. The texture is velvety and creamy in a way. There is also a nice surprise at the end which is a bitter chocolate aftertaste if you wait it out long enough as the finish lasts for almost a minute.

If you are a fan of this style of wine, you’re probably going to like it. After all, Robert Parker did give it a 95 score! However, if this style isn’t for you, it’ll be hard to get past the first impressions it leaves.

I’m on the fence on this wine. For aromatics and general complexity, I think its an A. As for my own style and preference, I don’t think I could drink this too often.

$25 at Zachy’s although the 2006 version of this is coming out now.

Monday, March 05, 2007

2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle – Indian Wells – Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington)

Deep garnet color. Blackberry currant and kirsch. Generally “juicy” with dark fruit and toasted oak underneath. Earth and very thick in texture. Very aromatic as well with nice tannins and good balance. Lingering finish. Very nice for the $17 paid at Liquor City in Syracuse, New York. An A grade wine for the value.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

2001 Zilliken – Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett “Forstmeister Geltz” (Germany - Mosel-Saar-Ruwar

Light straw/hay colored. Aromas of lemon and lighter tropical fruits and floral notes. Sweet but not cloyingly so. There’s also a pineapple taste that comes through. Light on the acidity which makes this an ok but not a perfectly balanced wine. Medium short finish.
A good effort and a decent food wine but really a B- . This was $20 at Crush Wine.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

2005 Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre – Apalta Vineyard – Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

Another big wine which is also on the “jammy” side. Plum and fig with maybe a whisper of raspberry on the nose. Fig is also apparent on the taste along with some chocolate notes. Dry… and very velvety texture and a long finish. This was $15 from PJ Wines on sale but it typically retails for $20 to $25 dollars. At the sale price, this is a very good value for the money and a B+ wine for my tastes.

Friday, March 02, 2007

2005 Layer Cake Shiraz (South Australia– Barossa Valley)

Big! Dark purple in color. Actually, it’s almost opaque. Notes of kirsch and raspberry but generally… gobs of fruit with some cedar notes underneath. The raspberry really comes out on the palate. Thick texture with a medium long finish. This is a high alcohol (15%), high octane wine that you’ll probably like if you’re a fan of this style. This was a $16 purchase from Garnet but I’ve seen it elsewhere as well. For my tastes… it’s a B grade wine.

2005 Belle Glos Pinot Noir – Clark & Telephone Vineyard (California)

The Belle Glos - Clark & Telephone Vineyard is a Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley in the Central Coast region of Califorina. The wine is cherry red in color. Bright fruit aroma of strawberry and some raspberry but there’s also an earthiness there, exhibited by tabac and smoky notes. Creamy texture and a medium long finish. Good enough for a B grade. Nice but not outstanding.

Monday, February 26, 2007

2004 Coren Pere & Fils Pouilly-Fuissé (France-Burgundy)

One of the things I like to do is check out new wine shops. What usually happens is that I go in, check out the place, look at the prices and compare them in my head to what I think they should be. (I’m usually disappointed.) Then I buy a bottle of something. Sometimes I’m lucky and the shop has a bottle open to sample or a tasting going on.

This is what happened with this wine. The 2004 Coren Pere & Fils Pouilly-Fuissé was being poured by the chateau owner at the Brooklyn Wine Exchange on Vanderbilt Ave.

The wine… Light golden colored. The nose is very floral and an actual florist could probably nail down a specific scent but I certainly can’t. Underneath this are very light and lovely hints of almond and citrus, almost like an almond cake. Smooth texture with a little zip of acidity and an easy finish. Nice wine that I would give a B to. We bought it for $25 and thought it was worth the price.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

2000 Cellole Chianti Classico Riserva (Italy-Tuscany)

It’s winter and I’m on a “hearty red Italian wine” kick. The 2000 Cellole is another product of our Honeymoon in Tuscany two and a half years ago. I had first read about the 2001 Cellole in Wine Spectator then and liked what I had read. Wine Spectator game it a 95 score which made it predictably hard to find, saying it had a "phenomenal nose, with complex smoky, tarry, licoricelike red fruit aromas" and that it was "full-bodied, with added tobacco and vanilla coming through on the palate, with silky tannins and a long, minerally finish."

We eventually found the wine in Florence on the wine list at Cibreo, a restaurant known in Florence for its somewhat out there dishes like duck esophagus (which I had and liked) and a strange take on braised beef (which my wife had and didn’t like as much.) The thing we agreed on was the wine. After that dinner, we looked around for a bottle to take home but came up empty with the 2001 vintage but we did score on the 2000 from a fantastic wine shop in Grieve where they have samples, for a fee, of close to 100 wines dispensed from enotec machines as well as samples of Tuscan olive oils.

Luckily, this wine did not have to live up to the lofty expectations and memories associated with the 1998 Poggio Antico Altero but because of the search we went through in Italy trying to find a bottle, there was some nervousness. Would it live up?

Yes, but not because it reminded us of our experience in Florence. It was just a good wine that exhibited characteristics we like.

The wine… Tahirih got it right away when she said “It’s like walking through a thicket!” This wine is earthy. It’s dark red in color with a beautiful earthy aroma, mixing in wind fruit and wood. The fruit is blackberry and fig although there might also be a light note of raspberry there to just give it a little bit of lightness. The wood is oak. There is a nice balance of tannins and acidity. The wine has a nice grip to it that leads to a long finish. A solid A grade and not because of the memories of Italy. This is just a good wine.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

1998 Poggio Antico Altero - Brunello di Montalcino (Italy-Tuscany)

What I look for in a birthday wine is a memory. Not the memory of a wine per se, what it tasted like the last time I had it, or anything like that. I look for an emotive memory, something that makes me thinks back to a time when things really felt good.

That’s where the 1998 Poggio Antico Altero fits in. We opened this up on my 37th birthday but the memory comes from Tahirih’s and my honeymoon in October 2004. We were in Tuscany. Specifically in Sinalunga at a resort, Amorosa, just outside of Siena. We tried the wine at the resort’s restaurant on the recommendation of the sommelier after discussing what we liked and didn’t like in Italian wines and mentioning that we’d like to try something from the region. This is what was recommended. The bottle was opened for us and she left us to our first sips, only to rush back and say in her broken English… “If you can, leave this wine for seven minutes.” I think what she meant was “several” but her point was made. Needless to say, we loved the wine, enhanced all the more by the “magic of Tuscany, looking into my new bride’s eyes, and by the fabulous steak in front of us! The next day we actually made the trip into Montalcino and found the Poggio Antico vineyard, buying this bottle and a couple others for transport back home.

Fast forward two and a half years later. My birthday and the biggest question, other than how does it feel to officially be in my “late thirties” is how will the wine live up to its incredible first impression when taken out of the Tuscan countryside and transported to a Brooklyn dining room. Is it even fair to ask any wine to live up to that?

Well, the answer is that good wines can and do live up to the challenge when expectations are set high by a previous experience. This was one of those wines.

The wine…. Dark, deep red in color. Almost black. First impressions are chewy and smoky. Its important to note here that Poggio Antico has two basic bottlings of their Brunellos and Riservas. One is just labeled as Poggio Antico. The other, Altero, is aged more in oak, approximately a year extra. I’ve had both and this chewy and smoke characteristic is enhanced by the extra wood the wine sees. It’s earthy with lots of fruit as well. Namely blackberry and black cherry. But there’s also notes of violets and chocolate with maybe just a hint of black licorice. There’s a lot going on here. The word makes itself know again with cedar. Long finish that leaves a lasting impression.

This wine deserves an A in my book for delivering a fine wine experience and more importantly, for bringing back the memories.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

2003 Jean Claude Bachelet – Chassagne Montrachet ‘Encegnieres’ 2005 (Burgundy)

This was a “special wine” we bought to go along with Tahirih’s and my Valentine’s Day dinner at Le Gigot, a very nice French Bistro on Cornelia St. in Greenwich Village. The wine cost $95 a bottle so it was definitely a splurge. It was a hard wine to track down on the internet and I couldn’t find the ’03 anywhere. However, it appears the ’04 can be found for around $40 to $50.

The wine itself is golden hued with a lovely and unusual burnt sugar and vanilia nose. There are also caramel, light butter, and a flinty or minerally aspect to the aroma. The texture is smooth and lush with a light buttery texture. This all leads to a wonderful, medium long finish.

This wine also really evolved in the glass as time went on. After about 45 minutes, the burnt sugar more upfront minerality which introduced a light scent of lemon. However, towards the end of the bottle, about an hour and a half later, the caramel and burnt sugar came back in a big way, reminiscent of crème brulle.

It’s not often I have wines like this and due to my own personal tastes, am rarely moved by a white wine. However, this was on the verge of transporting. I can only imagine that hard-core fans of White Burgundy would find this a good solid wine and have had better. But… I don’t have that base of knowledge and truly found this wine on the verge of transporting. A+

Monday, February 19, 2007

2005 Glenora Riesling

Straw colored with floral and citrus notes. After a little bit if time (i.e. as it gets warmer in the glass), notes of lemon emerge but the orange is still dominant. It might also be giving this wine a little too much credit to say that I noted, albeit buried deep underneath the citrus, faint notes of petrol. The taste is a little on the sweet side but there’s just enough acidity for a nice balance. The finish is on the short side but there. All in all, not a bad wine but it doesn’t bowl me over. I’d give it a B grade.

This comes from my stash of Finger Lake wines that I stock up on once or twice a year. This was bought for $12 at GPC Wine & Liquor in Elmira Heights, NY.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

2000 La Magia Rosso di Montalcino and 2004 Vitiano (pre-b-day wines)

So… Today is my b-day and to gear up, Tahirih and I have planned an “extravagant” wild boar dinner. (I really should let up on Tahirih as far as asking her to come up with fantastic dinner to match our “special occasion” wines but… she’s up to it!). We followed a recipe from Vino Italiano, an Italian wine guide written by David Lynch (not that David Lynch) and Joe Bastianich. The recipe comes from Lydia Bastianich, cookbook author, tv star, and chef of Felidia on the Upper East side. What do you pair with wild boar? Well, they suggest a hearty Brunello and we’re planning on opening the 1998 Poggio Antico Altero.

However, we’ve been cooking all day and had to have a little something before hand. What we choose were the 2000 Rosse di Montalcine from La Magia and the 2004 Vitiano from Falesco. The later is also the wine we used to braise the boar.

The 2000 La Magia Rosso di Montalcino is not from a fantastic year but not a bad one either. However, I was actually surprised to see a 2000 Rosso in a wine store as the 2004’s are currently showing up on shelves. Rosso di Montalcino’s are the 2nd wines of the Brunello estates and are made up of grapes from younger vines and grapes not deemed of high enough quality to make it into the main bottlings. However, these wines are often a good indicator and preview of the vintage.

The 2000 La Magia we opened is brick red in color with noticeable tar and a smoky, earthy nose. Dark berry… blackberry lies just underneath. There are also some spices evident. Somewhat out of balance with high alcohol (14%). That leads to a medium finish. Not a bad wine but falls short, even if its not supposed to live up to it’s bigger brother’s Brunello’s standards. I’d give this wine a B-. It was purchased at Warehouse Wine & Spirits for $16.

The 2004 Vitiano from Falesco is typically one of my “go to” wines, always offering quality at a low price point. The Vitiano is a blend of mix of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot which is aged for a short time in oak. The wine itself has a deep purple color with an earthy, cedary nose. Bark fruit underneath… again blackberry, prunes, and spice. The wine is very nocely balanced with good “grip”, leading to a medium long finish. Very very nice and a great value. This is a solid B+ for me. This was $10, also at Warehouse Wine & Spirits.

Both wines were a nice start to the day but I’m really looking forward to the Poggio Antico. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

2004 J. Vidal Fleury (Cotes du Rhone)

Sometimes you get what you pay for. At $6.99 a bottle from the hot or miss Warehouse Wine & Spirits, that’s what I learned with the 2004 J. Vidal Fleury Côtes du Rhône.

Purple hued color with funky earthy aromas of underbrush and just a slight hint of red fruit. You can also detect the alcohol on this much as you might a new world Zin. Don't get me wrong though. That's only the alcohol I'm talking about - not the taste of the wine. The texture is a bit rough and the finish lingers but not in an entirely pleasant way.

I've had worse wines than this certainly but rather than being unremarkable, this possesses some characteristics that I don't like. Mostly the texture.

It is against my recommendation to buy this, even at $7 a bottle. I give it a D+ in my book.

What did I pick it up… I’ve been coming to the realization that I like Rhone wines and I’ve been hoping to find a nice everyday one for less that $10 a bottle. I was hoping this would be a contender. I was wrong. Lesson learned.

1990 Chateau Lagrange (Bordeaux-St. Julien)

Deep garnet color. Notes of cedar, tobacco leaf and still strong fruit. Black currant. Blackberry. Hints of a red fruit mix as well but layered in the background behind the currant and blackberry. The texture of this wine is wonderful. It has a very soft and velvety feel. Very fine tannins and a super long finish. An outstanding wine what deserves an A+.

Read the full story of my wine experience with this bottle of 1990 Chateau Lagrange here.

1990 Lagrange with Mac & Cheese

First the tasting note for the wonderful 1990 Chateau Lagrange….

Deep garnet color. Notes of cedar, tobacco leaf and still strong fruit. Black currant. Blackberry. Hints of a red fruit mix as well but layered in the background behind the currant and blackberry. The texture of this wine is wonderful. It has a very soft and velvety feel. Very fine tannins and a super long finish. An outstanding wine what deserves an A+.

Now the story… I picked up three bottles on the internet auction site WineBid.com for what I think was approximately $75 each. Note bad for a wine that’s been retailing lately for $100+. I bought it during the summer of 2005 after actually having it at a dinner at Chateau Lagrange on our trip to Bordeaux in May 2005. That’s a whole other story.

This was obviously a special occasion wine for me given the price I paid. However, we ended up having it with some of my sister-in-law’s Mac & Cheese that she made for us just before we moved in October. I had been storing the three bottles in my winefridge in the closet and when pulling the wines out as we packed for our move, I notices that the cork on this wine had been pushed into the wine and there was significant seepage as a result. In addition, there was actually ice around the capsule that had eroded the tin. I had never seen anything like it before.

So, I set the wine out and chipped away the ice. I then took candle wax and tried to “reseal” the wine. When this didn’t work, I knew I had to open the wine and hope for the best. We had packed our kitchen at this point but thankfully Jasmine, my aforementioned sister-in-law, was making mac and cheese for us that night. We took the wine down to her apartment and enjoyed what ended up being a wonderful combination. Impressively, Jasmine’s homemade mac and cheese stood up to the 1990 Lagrange better than I would have ever thought.

Don’t get me wrong though. My next bottle is going to opened alongside a rack of lamb.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

2004 Les Arums de Lagrange (Bordeaux-St. Julien)

This is the white wine from Chateau Lagrange in the St. Julien appellation of Bordeaux and I think this wonderful!

Golden hued with a very nice aroma of light oak and vanilla along with floral notes. The aromas blend so well together that you could sit and sniff this one for hours. There is a certain weight to the texture to this wine. There is a light caramel and honey taste which lends itself to a medium length finish.

I’m not sure I expressed all the characteristics of the Les Arums de Lagrange but the bottom line is that this is a fantastic wine. It’s not a necessarily easy wine to fine but Sherry Lehmann sells it for $17. What I think is amazing about that is this drinks more like a $30+ wine. Great QPR and really a must buy in my book for my tastes.

Friday, February 02, 2007

2000 Pavillon des Connetables (Bordeaux-St. Julien)

This is the 3rd wine of Leoville Poyferre in Bordeaux’s St. Julien appellation. Purchased for $22 at Warehouse Wine & Spirits in Greenwich Village. It was a curiosity buy as Leoville Poyferre is a favorite of mine and I didn’t even know this was one of their wines until I saw it in the store.

Garnet colored with blueberry, cedar and spice notes. Somewhat “bright” fruit my taste in Bordeaux but it has body to it. Enough tannins for a medium length finish.

A pleasant wine which is really all you can ask from a 3rd wine but it wasn’t worth the money I ended up paying for it. However, that seems to be the game in Bordeaux with the classified growth. Leoville Poyferre is a 2nd growth chateau.

2005 Gaujal de Saint Bon – Cuvee de Dames (Coteaux du Langedoc)

Straw yellow in color with a very nice light orange, maybe evern tangerine citrus nose. There’s also a floral and a grassy element to the wine. Overall, a beautiful aroma.

Light honeyed texture with just enough acidity to give it a perfect balance. Medium length finish.

I love this wine and it’s a solid A in my book. It gets extra points for being a great price-per-quality wine too at $11 a bottle from The Fermented Grape in Park Slope, Brooklyn on Vanderbuilt Ave.

New Wines to Start Off February

Not much of an intro to this post other than an offer to check out three wines I've tasted recently including two whites who make a run at claiming the title of "Favorite white Wine Of the Year" for me. Yes, it is only February and white wine season (i.e. Summer) is still months away. I know this. However, do yourselves a favor and check out the 2004 Les Arums de Lagrange and the 2005 Gaujal de Saint Bon - Cuvee de Dames. The later at $11 is also in the running for the "Price per Quality" title as well. To round out these three wine, Isatiatedd my curiosity by trying the 3rd wine of a Bordeaux favorite of mine, Leoville Poyferre. It was the 2000 Pavillon des Connetables. Enjoy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Adventures in Wine and Food Pairing

I like to think I know a little something about wine but where I fall flat on my face is when left to my own devices for pairing wine and food. I know the basic rules of thumb like (1) White with Fish and Red with Meat and (2) its ok to break rule number one.

I tend to follow the 2nd rule and just order a wine I think I’d like and hope for the best. Following this line of thinking works about half the time.

A perfect case in point is a recent experience at one of my local restaurants called Farm on Adderley in Ditmas Park – Brooklyn. The restaurant itself has tasty food and I’ve yet to be disappointed in any of the several times I’ve eaten there. However, I have yet to be blown away either.

My wife and I decided to sit at the bar last Thursday and after perusing the menu, I ordered a seafood ragu in a red sauce while Tahirih ordered a lamb and pasta dish. Bother were specials.

For the wines, I ordered a NV Pinot Noir from Touraine in the Loire Valley region of France. It was $10 a glass or $38 a bottle, not exactly a bargain, especially for a non-vintage wine but I was curious.

It was cherry red in color with a raspberry nose. Actually more like candied raspberry. It was on the taste as well along with maraschino cherries. All fruit, syrupy texture, and a short finish. My point here…. I can’t recommend this wine and I was extremely disappointed at $10 a glass. Worse yet, what should have been a decent Pinot and red-seafood dish pairing was one of the worst combos I’ve ever had.

That was the miss. My wife on the other hand picked a winner with a 2001 Rioja-Crianza from Bodegas Saenz de Santamaria in Spain. This was $9 a glass and $28 a bottle. Brick red in color with bright red fruit. Spicy nose mixed in with a little oak. Smooth texture and a medium finish. My only knock is that it was a tab out of balance between the bright fruit and the acidity. It’s a great food friendly wine and at $28, a very good restaurant price. I’d give this a solid B score versus a D- for the Pinot.

That’s my latest adventure in food and wine paring but I got Andrea Immer’s “Everyday Dining with Wine” and will be studying up for my next restaurant trip.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Return Pt. 2 - The Wines...

In an effort to catch up and fill in the gaps between August and January, I have added the noted I’ve taken during that span. Like I said, I didn’t stop drinking good wine…I just took a brief hiatus from posting. Many of these notes have come from my “little black book”, a small leather bound book which I bring to the dining room table when opening a some great (by my taste) wine that we’ll be sharing for dinner.

I’d say the tastiest wine to make it into those pages over the past 5 months has been 2000 Chateau Pipeau from St. Emilion, suggesting that with some decanting, a good 2000 Bordeaux has the potential to blow you away without waiting forever for them to age.

Check out the wine’s I’ve added by checking them out via the Wine Index.

Beni di Batasiolo Barbaresco – 2000 (Piedmont)
Chateau Bourgneuf - 1994 (Bordeaux-Pomerol)
Chateau Coufran – 2003 (Bordeaux – Haut Medoc)
Chateau Lafayette Reneau – Dry Riesling – 2005 (Finger Lakes)
Chateau Pipeau St. Emilion Grand Cru – 2000 (Bordeaux – St. Emilion)
Chateau Ste. Michelle - Canoe Ridge Merlot – 2000 (Washington St.)
Clos du Marquis – 1996 (Bordeaux – St. Julien)
Layer Cake Shiraz – 2005 (Australia)
Loimer Gruner Veltliner – 2005 (Austria)
Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – 2002 (Sonoma)
Mont Gras Syrah “Limited Edition” – 2003 (Chile)
Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras – Les Christins – 2004 (Rhone Valley)
Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir – 2004 (Santa Barbara)
Stonestreet Merlot – 2002 (Napa Valley)
Torrione Petrolo – 2001 (Tuscany)
Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva – 2003 (Tuscany)
Yellow Tail Riesling – 2006 (Australia)