Friday, October 16, 2009

Mourvedre My Darling, Mourvedre

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from the PR folks for Quivira Winery

Content Originally Posted on my blog, Wannabe Wino.

I feel like that commercial for hair club for men...I'm not only the founder, I'm a client too...I've been a member of the Quivira Wine Club for going on 4 years now. I have tons of their wines in my basement. I usually tend to sit on the reds for a bit though, so I'm happy to have a chance to taste them earlier through sampling so I can decide what more to order for myself and how long to hold my own bottles. Now, I also LOVE LOVE LOVE Mouredre, Monastrell, Mataro, whatever you want to call it. One of my favorite "obscure" grapes. Tonight I pulled the 2006 Quivira Mourvedre from the basement, thinking it might work well with a pot roast I had made. I'm guessing this retails for around $30....I know I paid $27 for the one I got in a club shipment, it had a real cork closure and clocked in at 14.8% alcohol by volume. It appears this vintage received a score of 89 from Wine Enthusiast, so I'm going to go ahead and cross post this blog over on the 89 Project.

On the nose I found campfire smoke...I love that smell in wine, black fruit, blackberry, boysenberry, cedar, vanilla, chocolate, spice, and herbs. It had that dark brooding nose I love in wine. In the mouth, more black fruit with black cherry thrown in, blackberry, herbs, chocolate and pepper, also some tart raspberries lurking in the background. The wine had nice tannins that will see it through a few years, though we really enjoyed it now with our pot roast!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Patrick Lesec's "Bouquet" is One Fine Value Wine

There are plenty of choices from France's Cotes du Rhone area in your local wine shop. You will find the Grenache- and Syrah-based wines plentiful in any good shop worthy of your business.

There are so many wines to choose from, most quite tasty, it's hard to remember anything truly outstanding. Or at least outstanding enough to remember the name or write it down. That might be true until you sample the wines of Patrick Lesec.

A 2005 bottle of Lesec's Cotes Du Rhone Bouquet was nothing short of remarkable for the price point. For $12.99 you're going to have a great bottle of wine that will hold up to most dinner dishes.

It's a terrific wine with herbal notes, a big ripe and rich flavor, but still medium bodied and smooth on the finish. And for the real wine geeks, the first taste of this wine screamed "DIRT!" If you want to taste the "terroir" the soil and environment where the wine is made, or better understand the concept, find a bottle of Patrick Lesec's Bouquet.

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, gave this juice an 89 rating. I thought it was every bit that good. Most of us are influenced by the price point though more than Parker. If you buy your wine on a budget,try this wine.

It's a cliche' but this is far better wine than the price point!

This is also posted at my blog Grape Sense - A Glass Half Full.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I Spy...

This is a cross post from my blog Wannabe Wino. This wine received an 89 from the Wine Spectator.

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Spy Valley Winery.

With my little eye a wine that's an excellent buy! (Oh, and I rhyme too!) I first came across Spy Valley wines at the 2008 Wine Blogger Conference (woohoo, only 18 days until I meet up with my wine blog friends again!) and then had a chance to try them again at the New Zealand Winemakers' Tasting in Dc. Folks from the winery contacted me and offered to send along a more complete sampling of their offerings, so I will have 5 wines to bring you over the next weeks! We first tried the 2008 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc. It clocked in at 13% alcohol by volume, had a screw cap closure, and retails for as low as $12 on the internet.

On the nose I found lime, grapefruit, citrus, crushed stone, lemon, and tropical undertones. The nose smelled like a wine that would be tart and crisp, and the mouth did not disappoint! In the mouth I got grapefruit, lime, almost a hint of green apple, tart citrus, passion fruit, and an herbal quality. I found the wine to be really tart, extremely refreshing, and with great acidity and structure. We drank it with grilled pork chops and corn on the cob, sitting on our back patio enjoying a lovely evening.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A French Cotes-du-Rhone Past Its Prime?

I always make a big batch of pasta sauce, meat, etc. on Sunday nights. Then I eat it a time or two again during the week.

I did just that recently and went to look for a bottle of wine. I didn't have any Italian wines or a Garnacha, both of which I like with Italian.

I grabbed a bottle of French wine I bought on recommendation and popped it open. The wine was a 2003 Chateau Pesquie Les Terrasses. It had a smooth flavor but nothing interesting on the front of the palate. It had a lively Grenache (French) or Garnacha (Spanish) spice flavor on the finish. But, I thought the wine was a little flat initially.

I popped open the Internet to see what I could learn. I learned it was 70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah - therefore, the nice finish. Robert Parker liked this wine and gave it an 89! But then something colored my opinion. Parker said the wine would be best in 2007.

I wish I had thought of that, and it makes sense. That being said, it was a okay glass of wine - not great. I wish I had tasted it in its prime.

The winery is a storied wine-making estate in Provence. New owners took the winery over in the 80s and have made a name for themselves with these French wines. You can find this wine in the $11-$12 range.

The point of this post is that some times the Internet can teach you things. I'm not sure I always agree with Robert Parker or Wine Spectator's ratings, but it's useful information to educate your palate. The glass of wine I tasted didn't warrant an 89, but maybe Parker was right - perhaps it was a tad past its best days.

Send comment or questions to:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nothing wrong with a little bubbly

*This wine was rated 89 by Antonio Galloni in the Wine Advocate December 2008

There has been plenty to celebrate lately. I started a new job (and finished the first two weeks without being shown the door!), Leah graduated from Cornell Medical School, my friends are all reasonably happy and healthy, and it is almost summer.

So Friday night, after a nice dinner of appetizers at Land, I decided it was time to pop some bubbly. I had a bottle of J. Lassalle Premier Cru Champagne NV in the cooler and decided it was well time to open it up and see what was inside.

Leah and I found ourselves very relaxed, with some music playing, bubbly in flutes in our hands, and in good company.

The wine was fantastic. For me there were really pleasant olive notes, some doughy overtones, and just a slight bitterness at the end which I found was very enjoyable. Made me want to go in for another sip, and another. Before long, we had finished the bottle, and the first sip was just as enjoyable as the last. The bubbles were very nice and small and plentiful to the last drop in the bottle.

This bottle was a gift (not a sample) and I very much thank the person who gave it to me. The intention was to expand my wine education and it certainly did that. Before this bottle I had not had many good experiences with sparkling wines. This was an eye opener, and definitely made me want to go out in search of more grower-producer labels.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

1997 Les Cailloux (Lucien et André Brunel) Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Cross-posted from 2 Days per Bottle, based on an 89-point review from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, January/February 2000, Issue #88.

Type Red
Producer Les Cailloux (Lucien et André Brunel)
Variety Red Rhone Blend
Designation n/a
Vineyard n/a
Country France
Region Rhône
SubRegion Southern Rhône
Appellation Châteauneuf-du-Pape

This wine has the Big Wooden Guy scratching his head a bit.

Night One

The color clearly says this is an older wine. It is translucent and brick-red with orange edges. The nose is interesting, tarragon, thyme, cherry, and a little crushed limestone. The palate is complex. It starts with dried cherries then loads tarragon, thyme, sage and leather on top. On the mid-palate the cherries go from dried to tart and add some strawberries, while carrying the spices along from the attack. Lavender also shows up on the mid-palate. The finish is long.

Night Two

Most of the fruit is gone from the nose on Night Two. Instead, it is redolent with leafy spices and dried flowers. There are still a few cherries on the palate but they are resting on a deep bed of violets, lavender, tarragon, thyme and sage.


This is an interesting, even curious, wine. It is not fantastic, or particularly special, but it very pleasantly shows what happens when good wine spends some time in the cellar, long enough to let the fruit fade and the spices and flowers come forward.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cedar Creek Ehrenfelser 2008 ($19)

Cedar Creek Ehrenfelser 2008

This is what Canadian wine geeks like me wait for all winter -- the spring release of the Okanagan whites. Ah, and was it ever worth waiting for.

If you love aromatic whites like I do, you need to taste Cedar Creek's Ehrenfelser. It's a wine to die for. Killer tropical fruit bomb nose -- papaya, pineapple, and mango with floral honeysuckle. On the palate, more tropical fruit dominated by tangerine. It's classed as off dry but I don't find it sweet at all. Glorious balance, nice acidity. Heavenly.

Anthony Gismondi, he of the fabulous shoulders, gives this wine a 89. I give it a yum.

The Ehrenfelser was released on May 1. Taylorwood Wines in Vancouver's Yaletown has 3 cases left and there may be more to be found throughout Vancouver, but it's going to be sold out in a month or two, so get yours now.

(Originally posted on Full Bodied)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cono Sur Vision Riesling 'Quiltranam' 2007

Cono Sur Vision Riesling 'Quiltranam' 2007

Category: White Wine
Varietal: Riesling
Producer: Cono Sur
Name: Vision Riesling 'Quiltranam'
Vintage: 2007
Country: Chile
Region: Bio Bio Valley
Appellation: Bio Bio Valley
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Price Range: $10

Color & Clarity
The Cono Sur Vision Riesling 'Quiltranam' 2007 is a very sharp, golden yellow with slight greenish edges. The overall quality is clear — so clear, that the center can be quite watery.

The aroma of the Cono Sur Riesling is young and fresh, zesty and lemony. It almost tingles in the nose with mineral and citrus scents, but it loses a tremendous amount of this by the next day.

As with the aromas, the taste of the Cono Sur Riesling is characterized by zesty, crisp, citrus flavors — primarily grapefruit, but with some mineral notes at the end. It's not especially complex and might prove to be a little on the sweet side for some but it has a nice, medium body and a moderate, short flavor intensity that works well in a variety of circumstances. It's acid levels work very well — strong enough to make the wine crisp, but not overwhelmingly so. You could sip it alone or pair it with food.

Food Pairing

Pairing Cono Sur Vision Riesling with Cheeses

  • Cheddar Cheese: Cono Sur Riesling is at best mediocre with cheddar.

  • Swiss Cheese: This is a nasty combination and should be avoided.

  • Aged Gouda: This Riesling is neutral with aged Gouda — not great, but not horrible.

Pairing Cono Sur Vision Riesling with Meats

  • Chicken Sausage: The Cono Sur Riesling is good with mild chicken sausage, becoming a bit more sweet without losing its acidity.

  • Salmon Burger: This is a neutral pairing and I expect that the Cono Sur Riesling would work reasonably well with other fish dishes as well.

Pairing Cono Sur Vision Riesling with Main Dishes

  • Chicken Versailles: The Cono Sur Riesling becomes more tart and dry when paired with this dish, producing an even more crisp and refreshing finish. This is definitely recommended and other baked or fried chicken dishes would probably work equally well.

  • Creamy Ranch Dressing: You may not pick a wine just to go with the salad, but it helps if the salad doesn't conflict with the wine. In this case, the Cono Sur Riesling becomes mellow and sweeter when eaten with a salad with ranch dressing. The apple flavors come out more strongly as well, which was surprising.

  • Salted Rosemary Potatoes: Although the Cono Sur Riesling isn't an inherently complex wine, the salt and rosemary made it taste that way. This pairing is worth having all on its own.

  • Roast Turkey with Gravy, Stuffing: The Cono Sur Riesling goes reasonably well with turkey — it's not outstanding, but it makes for a decent combination if you want a crisp white wine to go with roast turkey.

Cross-posted from A Taste of Wine

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Helfrich Vin d'Alsace Riesling 2007

Helfrich Vin d'Alsace Riesling 2007
Category: White Wine
Varietal: Riesling
Producer: Helfrich
Vintage: 2007
Country: France
Region: Alsace
Appellation: Alsace
Alcohol Content: 12.5%
Price Range: $10-15

Color & Clarity
The Helfrich 2007 Reisling is a clear, pale yellow wine with green tinges around the edges.

The positive, moderate aromas of the Helfrich 2007 Reisling are a combination of citrus and herbaceous elements. None are quite strong enough to identify clearly, but the blend is quite pleasant.

The Helfrich 2007 Reisling starts out with positive citrus flavors then moves to a crisp, dry, mineral finish of moderate length. In fact, the finish is a bit drier than the initial impression would suggest and the acidity of this wine develops over time.

Overall it's medium dry, light bodied, and reasonably well balanced. My wife, who has generally liked sweeter Rieslings, was very happy with this and now has more interest in trying and experimenting with drier Rieslings. It's a moderately complex wine that will probably continue to be worth drinking over the next couple of years, so if you can find it at a good price it should prove to be a decent value.

Although this Helfrich Riesling only received a score of 89 from Wine Spectator, I was really impressed by its flavors and how well it paired with fish. In comparison, the 2005 Hugel et Fils Riesling is widely considered an especially good vintage, but I didn't like it nearly as much. I'll get this Helfrich Riesling again and I'll recommend it highly to others, even those unsure about dry Rieslings, but I won't go out of my way to get the Hugel Riesling again.

Food Pairing
The acidity of the Helfrich 2007 Reisling makes it a bit too tart for my taste if I were just sitting and sipping it, but this wine really shines when paired with the right food. I had this Riesling with some salmon which really brought out the wine's citrus flavors and increased the aromas the developed in the back of my throat.

It was even better when a creamy dill sauce was added to the salmon, making the Riesling much smoother and sweeter. This also brought out an increased tingling just on the tip of my tongue. The Helfrich 2007 Reisling also went fairly well with asparagus and hollandaise sauce, which also made the wine a bit smoother and sweeter. You would be safe pairing this with just about any dish based on fatty fish and/or with creamy sauces.

Cross-Posted from A Taste of Wine

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2005 J. J. Prum Kabinett Riesling ($30)

Check out the Chateau Petrogasm review of this wine:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Woodward Canyon: Nelm's Road in Walla Walla

Here's a wine that I could almost make some peace with when it comes to an 89 score, but the only reason is due to the fact it's a "second" label. And at the same time, in spite of the fact it is a "second label," it's a second label for a world class winery.

Nelm's Road is the second label for Woodward Canyon. Woodward Canyon is one of the oldest wineries in the Walla Walla Valley and has had more than it's share of 90+ scores from the likes of Parker, 'Spectator and the 'Enthusiast. Woodward Canyon started producing their second label in 1998, offering Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla and Washington State grapes. I know damn good and well, "Woody's" second label could stand up to a lot of high-end wines in a blind tasting. It's that good.

Nelms Road Merlot - 2007 received an 89 from the Wine Enthusiast. What I love about the Nelms Road reds, is I always know I'm getting a quality wine made with quality fruit. And typically these reds show off the essence of the Walla Walla Valley - - dark dried fruits, especially cherry. These wines are earthy and with the right elements, they can be cellared for about five years. And at $21, how can you beat the price for such quality?

Friday, March 27, 2009

It's a well kept secret!

Recently, the good PR folks from The Wines of Chile (@RobBralow) sent me a surprise box of wine samples. In this box, held a treat for the sense, and an 89 pointer. Ok fine, really it was 88 points by the Spectator but it was voted a Best Buy.

The 2006 Viu Secreto Malbec hails from the Colchagua Valley region of Chile. The Colchagua Valley lies about 80 miles southwest of Santiago, and has a moderate climate. It has often been compared to Napa in many ways, but I bet you won't find a Napa Malbec at this price point!

This Malbec is priced at a fighting $10-15, and is worth every penny in my opinion. I immediately smell a smokey richness, with fennel and herbs. It is a rich and chewy wine, which one would expect in the over $20 category, but is a treat at this price point. On the palate, there is heavy plum and herb, with an earthy richness. I also taste lavendar and a nice pepper overtone.

Chile has become my go to region for budget minded wines. I have personally tasted several Cabernet blends that are priced around $10 and are a STEAL. Particular varietals that do well in Chile are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Sauvingnon Blanc. I'm still exploring other varietals, so please stay tuned!

Walk, don't run to your local shop for this gem!

Cross posted to Luscious Lushes

Value Alert: 2007 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec

This is a cross-post from The Wellesley Wine Press. This wine received 89 points from The Wine Advocate.

Whenever a wine publication produces a list of wines that includes "top" wines -and- "value" wines, I always look for the value wine that sneaks into the list of top wines in spite of its lower price. This week's WWP Value Alert highlights one of those wines, the 2007 Altos Los Hormigas Malbec from Argentina.

I first heard of this wine from a piece in the Wall Street Journal. They tasted Malbecs ranging from $10 to $25 and this Altos Las Hormigas (at $10.99) was their favorite irrespective of price. Wine Spectator also thought highly of this one, rating it 87 points.

I had a bottle of this recently and was really pleased with it- absolutely delicious:

2007 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec - Argentina, Mendoza (2/28/2009)
Wow! Very nice. 91 the first night, 88 the second. Very impressive QPR here- will buy again. (90 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Where to find it:If Malbec is not your thing, you might be interested in this 92-point, $12 Italian red. Willing to spend a little more? Perhaps this 93-point, sub-$20 California Zinfandel would be interesting to you. If you prefer white wines, then maybe this excellent $10 domestic Riesling would hit the spot.

Do you like hearing about incredible quality-to-price ratio wines like these? If so, please consider subscribing to the Wellesley Wine Press so you'll never miss an update.

Question of the Day: Have you tried this one? If so, what did you think? If not, what are some of your favorite Aregentinian Malbecs?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Countess of Montecillo

Wow, two 89 wines that I reviewed in a row after having none for months. Truly amazing.

There are few things I enjoy more than sitting around and chatting about wine with a winemaker, especially a winemaker that has been making wine for over 30 years. There is such a sense of ease and enjoyment that comes from a wine where the winemaker knows that she does not need to over work it.

I had the privilege of attending a lunch with Maria Martinez-Sierra, who has been making wine for the past 34 years. She has been working with the Osbourne family, the owners of Bodegas Montecillo in Rioja, since they started making wine. The Osbourne’s took over ownership of Bodegas Montecillo in 1973, at first producing only sherry and brandy. The winery itself was founded in 1874 and is the third oldest winery in Rioja, or so it claims.

Maria was one of the first women winemakers in Rioja as well as one of the first winemakers to make her wines with 100% Tempranillo. In fact, Maria has a particular devotion to indigenous Spanish varietals, such as Tempranillo and Albariño. With the rise of demand for Tempranillo from Rioja, it seems that Maria is a visionary, with more surprises on the way. During the tasting Maria brought out a tank sample of a 2008 Albariño from Rias Baixas and it was beautiful. The wine was fresh, crisp and so sippable that I could probably have finished off the bottle by myself – luckily there were others that were there to hold me back. This is the winery’s first vintage of white wine and I am glad that they let Maria talk them into it.

Those of us that attended the tasting were able to sit around very informally and just chat with Maria about her philosophies. Her views on vintages were really interesting to me. When asked about how she decides to make her wine into a Crianza, a Reserva, or a Gran Reserva she said, “When the vintage is not up to the standards, I won’t make the wine.” By this she meant that the grapes needed to be a certain standard in order to last under the aging treatments that come with a Reserva and Gran Reserva, a very respectable philosophy of winemaking. Looking at past vintages, Maria did not make a Gran Reserva in 2002 and did not make even a Reserva in 2004.

When asked about her production volume, she noted that it changes frequently. “When the grapes are of a good quality and the conditions are right, I will make as many bottles of wine as the Osbourne family pockets can make.”

I thought that was a damn good answer.

When we tasted the red wines they were very enjoyable. My favorite of the three was the Gran Reserva 2001. It was beautifully young and juicy with red fruit on the nose and got more floral the longer it would sit in the glass. The taste was smooth and silky with cherries and blackberries on the taste. I think what I most enjoyed was that the oak used did not overwhelm the fruit. There was a great balance. And at the price of $25 a bottle, it’s a great deal!

The Montecillo Gran Reserva 2001 was rated an 89 by Thomas Matthews at Wine Spectator and Josh Raynolds at the International Wine Cellar, given a 91 by contributor Michael Schachner at Wine Enthusiast. I did not find a rating for it on the Wine Advocate's website. After giving it quite a bit of thought I would agree with the dreaded 89 rating. It was a very good wine, but it was not greatness in a glass, which is what I think the 90-100 point range should be.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Everyone is crazy on Argentina

I have been ITCHING to review a wine on the Wine Post that was 89 points for this blog. I was asked so many months ago if I wanted to contribute and I said YES PLEASE. And then sat on my hands for forever. But now... away we go!

It really is incredible how the everyday drinker latches onto a grape. In the US, Merlot had a good run (with plenty still on the shelves) and gave way to Pinot Noir after Sideways knocked over a few bottles. Now the grape of the moment: Malbec!

Even though I think this is a fad that will one day be replaced by another fad (although it may stick around… when are people going to leave White Zinfandel and Chardonnay?), there is one major difference: Malbec from Argentina is damn tasty.

There is a lot of wine flooding in from Argentina these days. In fact, Argentina is now the fourth largest importer of wine into the US, behind Italy, Australia, and France. However, more than half of that wine is bulk wine.

What is bulk wine? Let’s think about how wine in brought into the U.S. for a moment. When shipping overseas, most producers put their wines on very large tankers. They have to bottle the wines, put the appropriate labels on them (do not get me started on labeling laws), put them in boxes, and then deliver them to the appropriate port where a ship will take the wines on board and drop them off in a port in the U.S. where customs the opens the boxes and looks to make sure all importing laws are being upheld.

Have you ever lifted a box of wine? It is heavy, which adds cost in the shipping. Well, what if you decide to simply put all the wine into large plastic containers and bottle the wine wherever you decide to send it. That would save money on shipping and you can bring more wine in at the same time. The problem is that the wines almost never have the interest and the life that a bottled wine has. You can find bulk wine from every country, especially right now when producers are doing everything they can to keep prices down.

But, I digress. We are talking about the good stuff here and there is not much better than the Bodegas Salentein Reserve Malbec 2006 from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina. This wine was very good, with a beautiful deep velvety purple color. There was a very nice vibrant freshness in the wine when I stuck my nose in the glass, accented by ripe red fruits. The vibrancy continued in my mouth where I found some cherry, black raspberry and cranberry flavors. Towards the end of the finish there was some nice spicy richness to it.

I looked up what the experts said, and I found that Jay Miller at the Wine Advocate gave this wine an 89. Finally, a wine I can post on the 89 project! Michael Schachner at the Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a 90. Wine Spectator gave this wine a 75. I was confused because I did not think the wine publications posted anything that was given less than an 85. When I saw the notes it looked like the Wine Spectator received a few bad bottles when they were doing their review. A real shame, because I think this is a great wine. On I found this wine between $17 and $22.

2006 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese Terre degli Osci IGT

Type: Red
Producer: Di Majo Norante
Variety: Sangiovese
Country: Italy
Region: Molise
Appellation: Terre degli Osci IGT
Price: $9.99

The Little Wooden Guy is disappointed, and that's not really fair to the wine. At $9.99, it delivers a decent bang for the buck. No, he is disappointed because it failed to meet its promise, and herein lies one of the real problems with rating wines. The shelf-hanger said:

Wine Advocate - December 2007 - 89 points - Great Values from Italy

"The 2006 Sangiovese Terre Degli Osci is simply gorgeous. This superbly balanced red offers generous, super-ripe blueberry, spice and sweet toasted oak along with a soft, accessible personality."*

Hey, $9.99 for that? What a bargain! And then, disappointment. On the one hand, it suckered me into buying it. On the other hand, I was disappointed where I should have been thrilled- for $9.99 this wine really delivered. So I guess the question is, do they want a large number of individual sales, or a smaller number of multiple sales and loyal customers?

Night One

The nose opens with big aromas, starting with rubber and dark ripe fruit, blackcurrant and plum, followed by spices, primarily pepper and cardamom.

The palate, too, opens with rubber, followed by black pepper, blackberries, plums, and lots of florals, including violets and roses. Vanilla comes out on the finish. Mouth-feel is very smooth.

Night Two

The nose is much lighter on Night Two, more fruity, opening with cherries and raspberries, plus the cherry pits.

The palate is far simpler on Night Two, as well. Cherries and raspberries, some spice including white pepper, not any significant changes on the mid-palate, and a hint of nutmeg added on the finish.

*I am not a big fan of wine ratings and rarely buy anything based upon shelf-hangers, but as the manager of The 89 Project, if see and "89" under $10, I really have to buy it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I received my invitation to participate in The 89 Project with relish. With the revolutionary spark of an old hippie I thought to myself "right on" and "power to the people"! After all, Wine Camp is a points-free zone because I can think of few things that have driven us to the bland wine world of today more than the 100 point scale. So when I recieved my invitation I was ready to go, to become the Abbie Hoffman of points and blister the blog with righteous indignation about passed over wines.

Then as the days spread into weeks, that spread into months and before I know it probably years, I have yet to place a single post on The 89 Project. What's my problem? After all I could not agree more with the concept that hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful wines are condemned to the neither here nor there purgatory of getting 89 points in a world that only cares for 90+ wines. So what was my problem?

The 89 Project
has made me realize how far out of the mainstream of the wine world I've drifted. Not having followed The Wine Spectator or The Wine Advocate for some years now I just don't know what they're talking about anymore. I couldn't name an 89 or a 90 if my life depended on it. It's not so much that I want to fight the pointy people anymore as much as I just don't care.

In the past, although I never gave points on Wine Camp or, my previous blog VinoCibo, I used to score wines for my own personal edification. Three or four years ago even that drifted away as I concentrated more and more on how wine and food made me feel instead of trying to reach for an absurd codification or ranking.

So I apologize to the the dedicated writers of The 89 Project for my silence, but I have nothing left to say about points other than they are pointless. Thank you for continuing the fight against the the stupidity of the 100 point scale. While I may have tired of the fight, I am glad a new generation has taken up the cause.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

This is a cross post from my blog, Wannabe Wino. This wine earned an 89 from the Wine Advocate. Since we're still talking about it days later, at $13, it's a fantastic value...and scoop it up for the QPR! Thanks for the 89 Wine Advocate, it's probably keeping the price lower!

Red wine is multiplying and having babies in my basement. We used to have just slightly more red wine than white wine down there....the red lived in 9 wine racks and the white lived in one old wine rack and 7 styrafoam shipper halves. Now, the red wine takes up the original 9 racks, plus the old rack, and more than 4 of the styrafoam shippers. I'm not really sure how that happened, but I think I need to start collecting some more white wine. My selection is dismal at the moment. So that would explain why I'm quickly drinking the few whites I got in my Domaine547 shipment last week!

On our ski trip, we decided that fondue would make a great meal after a day on the mountain. However, when I packed to go, I realized I had absolutely no bone dry Riesling in the basement to take with us. (My usual choice with fondue.) So instead I grabbed the 2007 Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon Blanc that I bought from Domaine547 for $13. It clocked in at 12.5% alcohol by volume, had a plastic cork, and hails from France.

On the nose I found grassy aromas, citrus, hay, lemon, herbs, tropical notes, and star fruit. I also thought I detected a hint of wet stone. In the mouth I got flavors of lemon, fresh cut grass, herbs, pineapple, stones, minerals, and other tropical fruit. Overall, I found the wine to be light and refreshing, and it went fabulously well both in the fondue and with it. At $13, this is a great bargain...Matt is still talking about it days later!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2005 Margalit Cabernet Franc

This is a cross-post for an Israeli Cabernet Franc that received an 89 rating from the Wine Spectator. I have been recently posting reviews about numerous Israeli wines and you can visit my website for more.

Margalit Winery, founded in 1989, was the first boutique winery in Israel and is owned and operated by Yair Margalit and his son Asaf. The winery is located close to the Mediterranean, about halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Their two vineyards are located in the upper Galilee Mountains and the village of Binyamina.

They only produce approximately 1600 cases a year, all of the grapes having been hand harvested and using only free run juice. They have a passion for Bordeaux grapes so concentrate on growing those.

The 2005 Margalit Cabernet Franc ($54.99) is 100% Cabernet Franc and has an alcohol content of 14.9%. I was a bit hesistant about this wine as I am usually not a big fan of this grape because it often has a green/vegetal taste I dislike. But to my pleasant surprise, this wine lacked those flavors. In fact, it reminded me far more of a Syrah.

It was a dark red in color with a nose of berries and a touch of spice. On the palate, the spice was much more prominent, like a spicy Syrah, though there were also nice black cherry, plum and raspberry flavors. The tannins were moderate and the finish was long and enjoyable. Plenty of complexity, a nice structure and very satisfying. This was a Cabernet Franc that I very much enjoyed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fabulous Washington State Riesling

This is a cross-post for a Riesling that received an 89-point rating from one of the major wine magazines. I think it's very good QPR.

This year, one of my goals is to learn more about Washington wine. I'm starting my journey this month, and decided to take my first steps with a white wine.

Washington may be better known for its Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots, but it makes white wine, too. The climate seems especially well-suited to Rhone varietals and Riesling. It's been a while since I had a Riesling, so I picked the latter.

The 2006 Long Shadows Poet's Leap Riesling was a very good QPR choice. ($20, Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman; available elsewhere for $17-$24) While higher in price than many domestic Rieslings, it has character and finesse. It comes from fruit grown in the Columbia Valley, which is Washington state's largest appellation. It includes within it six other smaller AVAs, and the most plentifully planted grapes are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. Syrah and Riesling are also planted there in what qualifies (for Washington, anyway) as a "desert" climate of less rain and damp maritime influence.

This excellent domestic Riesling had aromas of seaspray, apples, peaches, and a hint of petrol--kind of like driving through an oceanside fruit orchard in a beat-up pickup truck. There was a slight spritz on the palate, along with flavors of melon, peach, and apple. The wine's aftertaste was juicy and a touch off-dry. This wine receives consistently high reviews from wine critics, and sells out quickly (both the 2007 and 2006 bottles are already sold out at the winery) so if you see some, nab it.

An aromatic, fruity, and flavorful wine such as this one is perfect with spicy Asian food. I made a doubtless inauthentic but extremely good stirfry of chicken, Chinese eggplant, oyster sauce, chiles, onion, garlic, and basil and it was delicious with the wine. The bottle's slight sweetness meant there was no acidic clash between the spices in the food and the fruitiness of the wine.

I'm off to a good start with my Washington wine lessons. Next month--a red.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Forget 89 points--how about unrated wines?

This blog is about finding wines that are good, even great, that didn't score so well with the mainstream critics. How about a wine that's never been scored at all? When I was in Washington this summer visiting my parents in Walla Walla, I stopped in to visit a few wineries along the way. One of those was Hedges in the Red Mountain AVA, Washington's hot new AVA that's producing some of the best wines in the state. But Pete, Hedges' winemaker, said they don't go in for those blockbuster wines. They want to make wines that work with food and reflect the Red Mountain terroir. A few years ago, they made the decision to stop sending their wines in for scoring.

As a writer I'm always on the lookout for ideas, and a seed of an idea was planted here. I went home and pitched the story to Portfolio, and it published today. At first I wondered if I could find other wineries that, like Hedges, had made the decision not to submit their wines for scoring. It turns out I had more sources than I could use, and plenty of stunning wines to choose from for the sidebar.

The reasons aren't what you might think, like the wines are bad and the winemakers were afraid of a low score. Instead, many winemakers don't submit on principle, or else as a deliberate business decision. Read the story to find out more.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Vinos Sin-Ley M4 Monastrell 2006

While other vintages of this producer came away with numbers that would appeal to any "Score Whore" out there, the 2006 was assigned 89. Since I love both the 89 Project and the varietal, monastrell, how could I resist? I snatched the bottle up.
The winemaker's notes say:The 2006 M4 is from Bullas. Dark ruby-colored, this strong effort has a classy nose of smoke, pencil lead, mineral, and blueberry. Ripe and mouth-filling, the wine is well-balanced and long in the finish. "Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate89 Points.

Hmmm. Yes, I definitely agree. Very pretty color. Less fruit than I would have expected and a lot more mineral notes. While this is a tasty, easy drinking wine, it had a little too large a scoop of the bitterness that can drive people away from mourvedre. Examples I prefer are the delightful Juan Gill Monastrell or Cline we had at Wine Bar Wednesdays past. Opened several days, the aroma converted to cocoa powder dusted blueberries and the flavors became more chocolaty with a solid core of dark berry. At $11.99, this is a nice every day wine. It is worth picking up especially if you like less fruit forward wines and want to try something different.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

N.V. Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Brut

Type: White - Sparkling
Producer: Chartogne-Taillet
Variety: Champagne Blend (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
Designation: Brut
Country: France
SubRegion: Champagne
Appellation: Champagne

The Wooden Guys are amazed at all the apples in this wine.

This N.V. wine got two different 89 ratings, one from Steve Tanzer on December 1, 2005, and another from Wine Spectator on October 15, 2003. Funny thing about N.V. wines, though, you get to use the 89 rating, even when it applies to something disgorged at an entirely different time. Looking at those two reviews, it's pretty clear this champagne is not consistent from year to year. Is that good or bad? I can't really say. I know the big houses strive for consistency, but isn't the fact that grower champagnes do a better job of letting the grapes and terroir do the talking one of the charms of these gems?

89 pts. Tanzer on 12/1/2005
Light gold color. Fresh aromas of orange blossom, acacia and honeysuckle, with a suggestion of grilled nuts. Round and supple, with deep, almost sweet flavors of mango, apricot and yellow plum. Frothy and suave, with ripe orchard fruit flavors and notes of pear and apple. The delicate, almost weightless finish is subtle, fine and long.

89 pts. Spectator on 10/15/2003
Starts with a yeasty, baking bread aroma. Fresh, firm and satisfying for its apple, citrus and wheat notes. Nicely balanced and textured. Drink now.

Night One

The color is pale straw, with a very slightly copper-colored tint.

The nose is apples. No, make that APPLES!! Not fresh tart green apples, but more like one of those half-baked without any sugar or spices. Once it cooks, add just a teaspoon of warm caramel, and that is what this wine smells like.

The palate is interesting. Imagine lining up every apple you ever ate, from tartest to sweetest, then back to tart again, and quickly taking a bit out of each one, and you get what happens from attack to mid-palate. It's dry, don't get me wrong, but the impression of apple is there the whole time.

Night Two

Like Night One, the nose is huge with apples, apples, apples, and a little dollop of caramel.

And like Night One, the palate runs through a bite of every apple you ever taste, though now the tart ones are more pronounced. Still, the only possible impression of this wine is APPLE. The mid-palate adds just a bit of baguette, but mostly, it's still apples.

This is also a good time to answer the obvious question- how did I make champagne last two nights? It's called a champagne saver, and a picture of mine is below. It pushes down into the bottle to make a seal, then the wings fold down over the lip of the bottle keeping it tight. The next night it opens with a "pop!" and you can't tell it had been opened the night before.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sonoma-Loeb 2006 Sonoma County Chardonnay - Private Reserve

I'm going to commit a wine faux-pas and say that I actually prefer - nay, crave - full-bodied white wine in the winter. Of course, I live in southern California, where our January temps reach August-worthy highs - but oh, those winter nights. By my romantic, gas-powered fireplace. With the patio door cracked open. 


At the wine bar I lend my talents to on Saturdays (Heritage Wine Bar, Pasadena) our pre-New Year's menu included a lovely Chardonnay by the glass - Sonoma-Loeb 2006 Chardonnay, Sonoma County. Being that it was screamingly popular with the clientele and always my first choice for an "end of shift" glass, I was surprised when a patron claimed it was "too oaky." Her feedback caused me to do a second tasting - and to see what number on the Spectator scale the wine received. 

Who'd have thunk it? 89 points. At my "re-tasting," I found caramel apples, vanilla and counter-ripened pear on the nose. The mouthfeel was creamy and dense, but with a slight tap-dance that lightened the load, ending with delicious creme brulee, butter and - there you have it - gentle oak. In fact, this time around I noticed an almost puckery note to the finish that made me think it walked a thin line between just enough and too much oak.

That must have been what swayed the Spectator away from 90.

Being that oaked-or-not is very much a Chardonnay buzz-phrase currently, and that I am quite the champion of the oak + Chardonnay relationship (faux-pas #2?), I do not agree with the 89-point badge. I think Sonoma-Loeb made a hell of a seductive Chardonnay for the price ($30), and whilst I understand some folks prefer a little less barrel action with their Chard, it works very well here. In fact, I think I'll go downstairs (yes, I live above said wine bar) and buy another bottle now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Smoking Hot and Full Bodied

Smoking Hot and Full Bodied!

Ahh can life get any better than that? It's a hot California day reaching up into the eighties! Yep you read that right the eighties! Welcome to So-Cal! Heading out to do some swimming today and catch some sun! Ahh don't be jealous, just a perk of living here. But I digress back to the task at hand.

The other night I fire up the grill and get it smoking hot! I have had this phat Tri-Tip marinating all day, along side broiled red potatoes with an EVO spice glaze and an ear of white Corn! So here's the match up a Sebastiani 2004 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.4% ALC, 14 months on American and French Oak before release, paired against a Grain fed Tri-Tip Steak. Talking serious perfection!

From the first splash to enter my glass to last drop from the bottle, the wine delivered an awe inspiring performance, in a word stellar. I know, I know you think that's over the top, but for $23.95 it deserved every bit of the word, stellar. In the glass this wine was an opaque brooding storm of violet hue, now that's what I call extraction baby! This cab delivered so much palate coating dark fruit flavors and aromas, with subtle mocha nuances on the long and lingering finish I had to check the price again.
The year 2004 was indeed a very good year for Cabernet in Napa and Sonoma! Looking around the web I see I picked up this wine $10.00 to $15.00 less than advertised prices, score! Another QPR winner!

Now the folks at WS thought a little less of it than I did and scored it 89 points, which is considered very good a wine with special qualities. But personally I scored this beauty a whopping 91 pt's, that's if I were in the business of scoring wines. Which I am not, but I do know what I like and I challenge anyone to grab a bottle of this wine and find giving this Cabernet any less than 90 points! I look forward to hearing back about your experiences.

Until next time Cheers Everyone!

Twitter Taste Live Tastes Blind

A few weeks ago I participated in the 89 Project's contribution to Twitter Taste Live. We all got 4 wine shipped to us wrapped in foil and numbered. Each of the wines had been given an 89 score from a major wine rating source. The purpose was to taste the wines blind as a fun exercise and determine if we agreed or not with the 89 score.

The first wine was a 2006 Jean-Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis. It clocked in at 13%, had a real cork closure, and I purchased it as part of a tasting pack from Bin Ends Wine.

On the nose I found lemon, melons, something sweetish...honey, almonds, and minerals. I liked the nose on this wine, it smelled like the wine would have great acidity. In the mouth I got lemon, citrus, apple, minerals, and orange rind.

This turned out to be my favorite of the 4 wines of the evening. I guessed that it was a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion blend, but clearly I was very very wrong. I thought this one deserved better than an 89, I would buy it again.