Wednesday, December 16, 2009

River Road - Pinot Noir

Price: Around $13
Region: Russian River Valley, CA
Year: 2008

Had a couple of different things to do this weekend. I wasn't home much on either Friday or Saturday night, so I didn't get a chance to browse my local wine store, and pick out a wine for the week. Therefore, my only chance for a review was if my father-in-law was having a wine with dinner that I had not yet reviewed. Luckily enough, that was exactly the case. Even better, it was a variety that I just don't buy that often myself, so it turned out to be a great chance to give another Pinot Noir a chance. I'm not exactly sure of the cost, but I gave a pretty good guess above. There is always an attempt to match wine up with the main course at Sunday evening dinner, and this was no exception. Since turkey was on the menu, Pinot Noir was as well.

I'll be the first to admit that this is always a tough wine for me to review. I just love pouring a glass a dark red wine into my glass and enjoying the view. It is always good however, to try and expand horizons. When I poured a glass of this wine, as expected, it was light red in color, but I did notice it had very good clarity, and was actually quite pleasant to look at. The smell on the other hand, didn't do a lot for me, as it was kind of faint. It did have a bit of an earthy smell, which is another reason I tend to shy away from this type of wine, but overall it wasn't a bad smell, just a bit light. Now, if I shy away from this wine because of the color, and smell, that goes even more for the taste. It just isn't one I have grown to love, but I keep trying, and find one I like every once in a while. Interestingly enough, this happened to be one of those wines. I think the thing I found most surprising, was the taste was very smooth, with a bit of a peppery taste, but not overpowering by any means. I actually enjoyed a couple glasses of this wine with dinner, and could easily find myself buying a bottle of this wine to simply enjoy by itself. This is one I will definitely put on my buy list.

Rating: 3.25 (A Pinot I'll buy again)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So Cab - Take a Guess..


Price: $15.00
Region: California
Year: 2005

It was starting out to be a normal Friday evening as I was headed home from work to grab some pizza. About half way home though, I remembered I had a bottle of wine I purchased at a wine tasting we attended the day before Thanksgiving. From the ounce or so I tried, I was pretty intrigued, so I was definitely looking forward to sitting down with a glass. It is kind of hard for me to come to an overall conclusion from such a small sample, so a glass or two always does the trick.

I had a couple of pieces of pizza on the table waiting, so I poured myself a glass. One of the interesting things I noticed right away, was that it was noticeably lighter then your normal Cabernet Sauvignon. Definitely good clarity, but no doubt a touch paler. I started to take a sniff, and thought it was very nice, but I definitely got the sense of a particular fruit smell. If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know I am very bad at indicating a specific smell, but I could smell a hint of blackberries for sure, very nice. So, when I took a sip, I wasn't overly surprised to find the taste very much in line with the smell. It was very pleasant, but just a bit more fruity then I was expecting. It wasn't a big, bold tasting Cabernet, but that was quite alright for me. This wine had a wonderful flavor, an even better finish, and was a great change of pace for a Cab. This was definitely a solid wine, and one I would buy again for sure. I've been on a roll lately with some good wines, so hopefully my streak stays alive.

Rating: 3.75 (Very Nice)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bogle - Phantom

Price: $19
Region: California
Year: 2005

I had another wine in between my last review (Terra-Barossa) and this wine, but it was just a run of the mill Cabernet I'll make an effort to review one of these days. This wine however, was the last wine from a wine tasting I attended last month, that I've been looking forward to tasting. Now, I kind of cheated on this since I did try it at the wine tasting, but this is the first time I've sat down and had a couple of full glasses with dinner. This special wine from Bogle, is a blend of Petit Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel, and Old Vine Mourvedre, that only comes around at certain times of the year. It seems to be in stock locally around the October/November time frame. If you read some of my previous reviews, you'll recall that Bogle Petit Shiraz is a fairly common wine in my house, so I was interested in how this would compare.

Based on the wines used to make this wine, I don't think it is a big surprise that the color was a deep, dark red. It wasn't quite as dark purple as the Petit Shiraz is, and I noticed a hint of red, that gave it a little sparkle. I was also a bit surprised to find that the smell was a touch faint, but it was very nice, with definite earthy undertones. No complaints so far. As always, the color and smell add to the experience, but for me, taste rules. So, when I finally sat down to take a sip, I enjoyed it as much as I did when I only had an once or so back in October. This time, I was very happy to have a full glass. The mixture of Zinfandel, and Mourvedre, with the Petit Sirah, gives this wine a wonderful, interesting flavor. It was definitely a little unique, and am already looking forward to next year's selection. I think it is quite a coincidence that two reviews in a row have made it on to my top 5. This one as a tie, but definitely deserves to be on the list. Plus, it has a cool name :)

Rating: 4.0 (A bit more $, but a nice treat)

Terra-Barossa - Shiraz

Price: $15.99 (1 Ltr)
Region: Australia
Year: 2008

I am a bit behind because I didn't write any reviews last Thursday (as it was Thanksgiving), so I definitely have some catching up to do. The week before Thanksgiving wasn't a typical week as I had some free time Friday to head to my favorite wine store. We also had some plans Friday night, so I didn't have this particular bottle until Saturday. I did take my time picking out a bottle though, and as is not unusual, I ended up in the Shiraz aisle. I came across this bottle, and it caught my eye because of two reasons. First, it was on sale, and second because it was a bit bigger then the normal 750 ml bottle. So, for a little more then $15 for 25% more wine, it seemed like a good idea.

So, by the time Saturday evening came around, I was looking forward to a glass of wine. I had cooked a simple dinner ravioli for me and my kids, as my wife was out helping a friend. So, when I poured my first glass, I was very impressed by the dark, rich looking wine. It was so dark, it was almost black in color. I then brought my glass up to have a smell, and was equally impressed with a very nice floral smell, with a hint of spiciness. Very much a Shiraz smell without overdoing it. At this point, I had high expectations, so there was nothing left to do, but take a sip. This wine had a very nice initial flavor, that was extremely smooth, and the best part was that it hung around for a bit before fading away. Definitely a very nice wine, with everything I look for in an Australian Shiraz. This one as definitely worth the couple of extra dollars. A very quality wine, at still a reasonable price.

Rating: 4.25 (The 1st Shiraz for my top 5)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Domaine Tresor - Pinot Noir

Price: $11.99
Region: France
Year: 2004

It seems the percentage of European wines that I fail to find a picture for, is much higher then from other areas, but maybe that isn't a surprise. Anyway, I was heading home on Friday, and made the usual stop at the wine store that is right on the way. Again, not my favorite, but by far the most convenient, and on Friday evening, that is important. A slight departure from the normal dinner, and the usual wine. I stop and picked up subs from a local store that uses real turkey breast instead of cold cuts. Therefore, since everyone always says Pinot Noir goes great with turkey, it seemed like as good a time as any to pick up a bottle. Not a wine I have had a lot of luck with at lower prices, but I'll keep trying.

I always have my prejudices when it comes to this wine, which is probably not a good thing when trying to do a review, but they are sometimes hard to put aside. As I poured myself a glass, and took a look, the color was very interesting. It was a bit clear, which I expected, but it had a nice light ruby color that I found appealing. Nothing like the deep dark reds that are by far my favorite, but a nice change of pace. When I took a smell, I was also pleasantly surprised. Again, trying to put aside my expectations, it had a nice fruit smell, with very little of the earthy undertones I tend to find in the Pinot Noirs I have tried. At this point, I wasn't quite sure what I had, so there was no time like the present to give it a try. Here is where I struggle a bit. I really didn't love the taste, but that isn't saying it was bad for a Pinot. It wasn't something I turned my nose up at, which is the case sometimes with this variety, but it just wasn't my cup of tea (or glass of wine to be more precise). Overall, it was decent, but for $12, I just don't think I'll go back. Hopefully one of these days I find a Pinot Noir that fits pleases my palate, without costing an arm and a leg.

Rating: 2.75 (Probably deserves a little higher)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Alamos - Malbec

Price: $9.99
Region: Argentina
Year: 2008

I still have one bottle of wine I purchased at the wine tasting party a few weeks back, but it is a bottle I am looking forward to, so I plan on saving it for a rainy day. Actually, there have been a lot of rainy days lately, so I'll save it for a special dinner if I can. This past weekend didn't happen to be one of those special dinners. In fact, it was very much like a few Friday have been recently, which is fine by me. A simple pizza and wine dinner. I walked into the wine store that is on my way home, and had it in my mind that I was going to get a wine from South Africa. Not sure why, it was just something I hadn't had in a while. After a few minutes, nothing really stood out, so I walk a little further down the aisle to where the Argentinian wines were located. There is always a large selection of well priced wines in this section, especially Malbecs. This isn't a wine I have a whole lot of experience with, but the ones I have tried have been pretty good. There wasn't anything that made this particular wine jump out, but it was good as any at $10.

So, when I got home and got settled, I sat down with a couple of slices of pizza and a glass of Malbec. As has always been the case, this wine was very dark red, and had great clarity. There was nothing weak looking about this wine. The Malbec's I have had always remind me of a Cabernet Sauvignon while in the glass. Next, I gave my glass a swirl, and took a sniff. The smell was just as bold as the color, with a bit of spiciness to it. It almost reminded me of an earthy Shiraz, which is always a good thing in my book. At this point, I has hoping for the best. Unfortunately, when it came to the most important attribute (in my opinion anyway), it fell a bit short. I mean that literally. I was kind of surprised that the structure was a bit thin, and a bit short as well. The flavor just didn't hang around for long. The taste seemed to go immediately to the back of the throat, was a little bitter, and then faded quickly. All in all it wasn't a bad tasting wine, just not smooth as the look and smell would have led me to believe. I'll try a few Malbec's over the next couple of months and see if I can find a better choice.

Rating: 3.0 (Will search for a better Malbec)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ballast Stone - Petit Verdot

Price: $20.00
Region: Australia
Year: 2005

Well, the World Series is over, so I have a little extra time tonight. Was really hoping for a game 7 to route on the Phillies, but no such luck this year. Instead, I am writing my second review from this past weekend. Another of the wines I picked up at a recent wine tasting I attended. This one is again a little more then the average I have been reviewing lately, but it was another recommendation from a friend, so I thought I'd give it a try. As I have written many times, I enjoy many of the Australian wines I have tasted, many of which happen to be Shiraz. This was is a Petit Verdot, and I'll be the first to admit I'm not exactly sure of the "normal" characteristics of this wine. I think that made this choice all the more interesting to me.

We were not in the mood for pizza again last Friday, so we decided on a local sandwich shop. I didn't have anything special, so it wasn't really about matching this wine up with anything in particular, but just a relaxing Friday evening with the family, and a bottle of wine. The first thing I noticed when I poured a glass of this Petit Verdot, was a very "grapey" looking wine. That may sound kind of odd, but that was the first thing that came to mind. It had a purplish tone, but not deep dark purple. It was a little lighter, kind of like grape jelly, but with good clarity (definitely not cloudy). After enjoying the color, I took a good sniff of the wine. I would say it was a bit sweet smelling, and kind of floral. Not exactly what I was expecting, but very pleasant to be sure. So far, I was enjoying the uniqueness of this wine, and I wasn't disappointed when I took a sip. The flavor hit immediately, and had very good length. It had a bit of spiciness to it, but I would say not as much as your typical Australian Shiraz. The nice flavor hung around on the pallet for a bit, with no bad aftertaste. This was a great change of pace, and given the opportunity, would definitely give it another try.

Rating: 3.75 (A nice change of pace)

Blackstone - Merlot

Price: $9.99
Region: California
Year: 2007

I know it has been nearly 9 months since I decided to post my top 5 "default" wines, but I am finally reviewing #5 on the list. The real story is that each week I was looking forward to trying something new to review, and just never picked up a bottle. This past weekend, I just needed a bottle for Sunday dinner with my mother and father-in-law, and didn't have much time to browse. My wife was making a chick and sweet potato stew, and a Merlot seemed to be in order. I have tried this wine many times before, but never had taken the time to write down any tasting notes until now.

Obviously with a fairly mainstream wine like this Merlot, especially one I have had on many occasions, I was going in with some preconceived notions already in place. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to finishing off my default wine list. I sat down with a simple appetizer, and poured myself a glass. The wine had a good dark red color, with good clarity. Nothing to be wowed by, but sufficient. Along the same lines, after giving the glass a short swirl, the smell was very pleasant, but predictable. This could very well be my familiarity with the wine talking, but it was what I expected. So, it came as no surprise that when I took my first sip, I found the wine to be fairly smooth, with pretty good length, and a nice overall taste and finish. Now that I think about it, one of the reasons this was always one of my default Merlots, if I didn't know what to buy, was because it was consistent. I knew I wasn't getting a knock your socks off kind of wine, but each and every time it was a solid choice, and sometimes that's all you need.

Rating: 3.25 (Consistently Solid)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Catamoungst the Pigeons - Shiraz

Price: $17.00
Region: Australia
Year: 2007

I'm a couple of days behind on my latest post because the World Series has taken up some of my free time. Anyway, I have a little time to kill this afternoon, so it seemed like a good time to write my latest review. This was one of the wines I picked up at the wine tasting we went to a couple of weeks ago. I grabbed a couple of different bottles as 10% of sales were going to the charity being represented. This store is a little more expensive then the others I frequent, so $17 is a little more then what I usually spend for a bottle, but not by much. This particular wine was recommended by a friend that was at the same wine tasting, and my preference for Australian Shiraz is no surprise, so it seemed like a no-brainer.

Another Friday evening pizza dinner from our favorite local Italian eatery. That seems to be a more and more frequent event on Friday these days, but it is convenient and good. As I poured myself a glass and sat down for dinner, I noticed right away how deep, dark purple this wine was. A great start in my book for sure. It wasn't too "syrupy", but has a nice texture. When I took a smell, it definitely said Shiraz, which again, is just fine for me. It is just a smell that I look for when I open a bottle, especially from Australia. It seems to have a bit of spice behind it, but not overly pungent. Based on the color, and smell, I was thinking this was going to be a fairly strong wine, but when I took my first sip, it definitely wasn't as bold as I was expecting. It had a very nice flavor, a bit different then your typical Shiraz, with a hint of licorice. I actually was quite impressed because it was a nice smooth wine, with a very interesting taste. It definitely played the Shiraz part nicely, with a little twist. Would definitely pick up another bottle on my way through that store.

Rating: 3.75 (A bit different, but very good)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Farnese - Montepulciano D'abruzzo

Price: $9.99
Region: Italy
Year: 2008

Another interesting weekend. We honestly do not attend too many wine tastings, but we had another one scheduled this week for a friend's charity. Anyway, I tried a few good wines, a couple of which I bought to try for future reviews. I didn't however have anything with which to take notes, so I just enjoyed the evening with friends, and wine. That was on Saturday evening, so I did have a new wine to try for Sunday dinner. I actually bought this on my way home from work on Friday, but wasn't feeling 100%, so just decided to save it until Sunday. I bought this Italian wine thinking I was actually going to have it Friday with some of our favorite pizza, but it just didn't work out that way. Instead, I ended up having this wine along with chili that I made in the crock pot. I probably would have usually used this opportunity to try a new Zinfandel, but maybe next time.

To tell you the truth, I really don't know much about this wine based on the label, and am guessing it is may be a Sangiovese, but not 100% sure. I guess I could look it up, but we'll just go with the fact that it was an Italian wine. I sat down to dinner, and poured myself a glass. It started off good enough, with a nice dark color red. I would say it had a nice crisp color, with good clarity. I gave the glass a couple of swirls, and took a quick sniff. Nothing really special to write home about, and smelled a bit tart for my liking. It wasn't anything that made me turn up my nose, but my hopes weren't as high at this point. So, I took my first sip, and my first impression wasn't so great. The acidity, or tannins were very strong in my opinion, and the taste went away quickly. Definitely no length. It didn't have a bad aftertaste, but the initial flavor was just not something that intrigued me that much. I had a couple of glasses, and soon lost interest. I decided to save some for a night during the week, and my follow-up experience was no better then the first.

One good thing about the weekend though (I think) is that we ended buying a wine tasting of our own (actually we split it with a couple we are friends with) to benefit the charity. So, in the next couple of months, we'll schedule a wine tasting for about 10 couples, and this time I'll bring some paper to jot down some notes. I already have a couple of wines from the wine tasting party, so no need to stop on my way home from work tomorrow. Hopefully there is a winner amoung the bunch.

Rating: 2.75 (Seek out last week's selection)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Langhe Rosso Vajra

Price: $16
Region: Italy
Year: 2007

A very different kind of weekend for sure. It was the first time in quite a while I wasn't stopping at the wine store to pick up my weekly review. The reason being was that we were invited to a "wine tasting" party at a friends house. This particular party was one that was purchased at an auction by some friends of ours to benefit the school our son attends. This is the 2nd one we have attended, and was definitely looking forward to it. The first thing I had to do was get a bottle of wine for the "admission", which will be put together with everyone else's bottle for an auction item at this year's auction. I thought a pretty good idea. So, for my bottle, I purchased a bottle of Ferrari-Carano Tresor, which I would recommend as a special occasion bottle of wine. All in all, it looks like they gather a nice collection for the auction this year. I might even had to bid on it.

Anyway, as I mentioned, we had been to a similar party once or twice before. It is put on by a local wine shop that I wish I had more time to shop at. For lack of a better word, I would say it is a specialty store that focuses European wines from smaller, family owned vineyards who handle the entire wine making process themselves. I have had more than my share of good bottles of wine from this store. The great thing about these parties is that there is always a great variety of wine in terms of varieties and origin. This time we tasted 6 different wines ranging from a sparkling white, up to a very dry Cabernet. There were two that stood out in my mind for sure, and I will definitely head over to this store one day soon, and grab a couple of bottles of each, but for now, I am going to focus on the one that topped the list for me that night.

I'll be the first to admit my ignorance when it comes to the name of the wine above, but even more so regarding the grapes that make up this wine. I wasn't sure what to expect. From the brief notes I took home, in addition to the conversation I had with the gentleman from the store who was pouring the wine, it primarily comes from the Dolcetto grape, but also a contains mixtures of Barbera, Fresia, and Nebbiolo. I'm not going to try and recall too much regarding the site, and smell, but I do recall a very pleasant aroma, that made me want to dig in. The thing that stood out with this wine for me was the taste, and the balance. I tend to gravitate to the grapes I know when purchasing wine, but I should step into the unknown more often, because when sticking with the tried and true, you end up missing little gems like this. It was not overpowering, but had good length, and a unique flavor (at least to me). I will definitely need to buy a bottle or two to get some more accurate notes, but do yourself a favor, and if you can find it, try it.

Rating: 4.0 (A unique winner)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gnarled Vine - Zinfandel

Price: $8.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

One of the reason I enjoy living where I do is because of the change of seasons. I enjoy each season in it's own way, but there is something about the beginning of Fall that makes it my favorite. It could be a lot of reasons, but one of them for sure is the combination of some good warm comfort food, and a bottle of red wine to go along with it. In the case of this past weekend, it was a pot of homemade chili, and subsequently a bottle of red Zinfandel. When one of my former colleagues and I were tired of talking about work, we would always share some wine recommendations. Mine was usually a Shiraz, while his was the newest Zinfandel he'd tried. He's given me some good recommendations in the past, and this variety always makes me think of him. I'll admit it isn't my favorite wine, but I tend to lean in that direction whenever there is a spicy food on the menu. Also, the start of fall always seems to reminds me to grab a bottle of Zinfandel, so there was no escape this time.

I have tried a couple of bottles of Zinfandel lately that were definitely above par in my book, so I was hoping for another stroke of luck. I had seen this wine many times, but was yet to give it a try. It is always one of the wine store employees favorite wines, and this time also had a sign next to it stating it was their most popular Zinfandel. Not usually a reason I would buy a wine, but it seemed a good time to give it a try.

Now, the beginning of Fall can sometime seem just as much like summer as any day in July or August, but luckily it was a nice breezy, chilly day (relatively). So, with the chili (no pun intended) in the crock pot getting ready to be served, it was time to pour a glass and see what we had to go with dinner. As one would expect from such a bold variety, the color did not disappoint. A very dark red, with good clarity. Now, one of the reason Zinfandel is not my favorite, is because the smell is usually a bit much for me. This one however, was very nice. Not too strong, but still held it own for sure. It didn't have the really "earthy" smell that I associate with a Zin. So, at this point, I was thinking maybe I was going to get lucky with another Zinfandel. I took a sip, and swished it around a bit, and my first impression was "ehh". To me, it was really nothing special, but didn't have that strong bite that a really bad wine would have. it was just kind of middle of the road, and really nothing special. For the most popular Zinfandel at this particular wine superstore, I would just have to say there is much better out there in that price range.

Rating: 3.0 (Maybe a bit generous)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Razor's Edge - Shriaz

Price: $12.99
Region: South Astralia
Year: 2006

Back to a little bit more of a normal routine. A slightly different routine now that I have started a new job, but a routine nonetheless. It just so happens that my commute home of Friday brings me past one of my least favorite wine stores (mostly because of price), but it would be enough out of my way to go somewhere else, that it is now where I stop more often then not on my way home from work. I knew this particular Friday nigh was not going to be a take-out night, but instead some type of either pasta or ravioli. So, for a moment I thought Italian, but quickly decided I was in the mood to try another Shiraz. Not uncommon...

It didn't take me too long to come across something I hadn't seen before, but that definitely caught my eye. The reason Razor's Edge caught my eye is because it is the name of one of my favorite AC/DC albums that came out in the early '90s. Anyway, besides the fact they are both from Australia, I was pretty sure there was no other connection, but a good enough reason to give it a try anyway. Knowing that it is quite easy to find a really good Australian Shiraz for $10 or less, I wasn't real keen on paying $13, but knowing I was probably paying a couple of dollars more because of the store I was in, it seemed about right.

So, when I arrived home, and got settled, I grabbed some dinner, and sat down with a glass of Razor's Edge. I know I sound quite like a broken record when it come to Australian Shiraz, but the deep dark red color was very impressive. Probably one of the reasons I like this variety so much. When I swirled the glass a bit, and took a sniff, I was a bit nonplussed because it was kind of tart, for lack of a better, word, but very strong. It was almost a bit too much, but as always, it was going to come down to taste. So, when I finally took a sip, I found that the taste wasn't as nearly as overpowering as the smell, which is probably a good thing. It was however not quite as smooth as I was expecting, and bit short on the finish. I would say all in all it wasn't bad, but for $13, and the fact that I have come across many Australian Shiraz wines for at least a coupel of dollars cheaper, I think I will pass on this one.

Rating: 3.25 Corks (Definitely better Australian Shiraz out there)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Anakena - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $7.99
Region: Chile
Year: 2008
Another review from my backlog. It just so happens that this one however, occurred purely by chance. Earlier this year I review a bottle of the Anakena Cabernet, that I enjoyed very much (http://winereviewsyoucanunderstand.blogspot.com/2009/01/anakena-cabernetsauvignon.html) and one weekend I decided to give it another try knowing that it wouldn't be one I review. Well, when I got it home and took a closer look, it was a differnet year (2007 as opposed to 2006). So, as it so happens, this will be the first time I review the same wine, but a different year.
Not quite sure what I had this bottle of wine with because for some reason I forgot to write it down. However, history tends to point towards some take out pizza or Italian food. That probably isn't too much of a stretch. Anyway, I do have some pretty thorough notes, and I do remember the wine quite well given it was one I was looking forward to trying again. When I poured the first glass, I was cheating by looking at the notes from my review of the '06. This one did not strike me as the deep dark red that the '06 had, so I would say it was a touch lighter. No big deal so far. The smell however, was still very pleasant, and had all of the strength of what you would expect from a Cab. So, being that we weren't that far off from the previous year yet, the real test came next. I swirled the glass again, and took a sip. I noticed right away that it just didn't have the qualities I was expecting given my earlier review. One of the things I loved about the previous year, was how smooth it was for the price. Maybe there is a reason it was 20% less expensive ($7.99 vs. $9.99), and I will tell you, I would gladly pay the $2 for the difference between these two wines. This '07 simply was not as smooth as the '06, so we'll have to hope for good things from the '08.
Rating: 3.0 Corks (Grab the Anakena '06 if you can find it)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Montoya - Petit Shiraz

Price: $12.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

I've been meaning to get to a some of my backlog reviews, and it seems I have a little time to do so. I'll aim for an extra review a week until I catch up. This wine was actually enjoyed in July, when we went over to a friend's house for an evening out on the back deck. As some may know from other reviews, I'm in constant search for another Petit Shriaz to match the one found on my default list (Bogle). I've tried many, but no such luck to date. My usual course of action, when I have the time, is to browse the store until something jumps out at me. This particular week, as I walked down teh first aisle, where "other reds" are on display, one of the employees who often offer to lend a hand saw me looking in the direction of the Petit Shiraz. She said, if you want to try a good one, this one from Montoya just came in, and it is excellent. Well, that was about all I needed to pursuade me, so it was a wuick trip to the wine store in deed.

As we arrived at our freinds' house, it didn't take too long to be out back on the deck with glasses of wine in hand. One of the things I just love about a good Petit Shiraz is the almost purple color, and this one was no different. It was very deep, and dark, almost black. A very goos start indeed. As I lifted it up to smell, it didn't disappoint there either. A good earthy, bold smell. Just was I was hoping for. I will say I have gotten this far before with a Petit Shiraz, but then fell flat on my face when it came time for the moment of truth. No such bad luck here. The wine was very flavorful, and bold, with great length and balance. A great match for burgers on the grill. Much like the Bogle, it was just a good solid, smooth wine for a reasonable price. I will say I tend to say no thank you every time one of the employees ask me if I need any assistance, but this time, I'm glad I took her advice. While I would definitely say it is on par with the Bogle, it is a couple of dollars more expensive, so just comes in a shade under as far as corks go, but a nice wine fo sure.

Rating: 3.75 corks (Great for a Bar-B-Q)

Hopewell Valley - Barbera

Price: $16.95
Region: New Jersey
Year: 2007

It has been far too long since I've sat down and wrote a review, and I have quite a backlog to get to. Part of the delay was that I was on a family vacation in Maine. While the normal evening would consist of a beer or two, I was definitely looking for a different kind of wine to review as well. As luck would have it, my sister who went along with us, brought a bottle of wine along for me that I definitely had not tried before. Not her full time job, but as a little side project, she has been working at a local winery in New Jersey. So, knowing that I love a good red wine, she grabbed a bottle of Barbera from Hopewell Valley Vineyards.

Now, I will be the first to admit, when I look for a bottle of wine each week to review, the New Jersey section of my favorite wine shop is not prominently displayed (if its there at all). So, not only do I know I never had a wine from Hopewell Valley, I can't remember ever having a wine from New Jersey. I can't say that was going to stop me from giving this wine a try with a nice seafood dinner. I will also admit I am not completely up on all of the Italian varietals, but whenever I hear the name of this wine, a big bold red always comes to mind. Not sure if that is completely accurate, but we'll go with it for now.

So, I sat down with a plate of scallops, and my bottle of Hopewell Valley Barbera. When I poured my first glass, I found it to have a very nice red color, albeit it touch lighter then I as expecting. This could very well be my ignorance, but nonetheless, nothing to be concerned about. When I gave my glass a swirl, and took a whif, I was fairly impressed at the pleasant smell, with a bit of an earthy background. Really not bad at all. So, when it was time to give it a taste, I wasn't completely shocked that is was actually quite good. It had a nice smooth flavor that hit the tongue immediately, and hung around quite nicely with very good balance. It definitely didn't have a big bite to it, but instead just kind of faded away, at which point I wanted to have another sip. I beleive if I had written some notes down before I gave it a try, based on my expectations, I would have to say it would have exceeded them. Would definitely stop by an pick up another bottle if I happen to be driving by Hopewell Valley. If for no other reason then to say hi to my sister.
Rating: 3.75 corks (Pleasantly surprised)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Penfolds - Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cabernet

Price: $10.99
Region: Australia
Year: 2007

OK, back to reality. While last week was totally out of the ordinary, I wasn't quite so lucky this week. Still a nice Friday night at home with the family, some homemade tacos, and a bottle of wine. While I went to one of my least favorite wine stores, mostly because it is on aver $2-$3 more expensive per bottle, it is the closest to my house so it did the trick. I will say they have a fairly good selection, so its not all bad. As I was walking around looking for a bottle to try, I just thought to myself that I hadn't tried an Australian Shiraz in a little while. It is also a wine that rarely lets me down. While I have had a couple different bottles of Penfold's wine, I had not as yet tried teh Koonunga Hills Shiraz/Cab mix. There was no time like the present.

So, as I mentioned already, my wife was making dinner on Friday this week, so no take-out to pick up. Once I got home, I sat down and poured myself a glass. One of the reasons I love a good Shiraz is because of the great color, and this wine was no different. A nice dark purple wine, that had good depth. So, when I gave my glass a swirl, and took a sniff, I again was not disappointed. A very nice fragrant wine, which I would say was above average in that it really stood out to me. As always, the taste has more weight in my book. As I took a sip, I will say it had a nice fruit-forward taste, and was generally pretty smooth. The taste faded a bit quick for my liking, but it wasn't weak by any means. I wouls ay all in all the taste was a little shy of the color and smell, but in general, a very good $11 bottle of wine that you can probably find for a couple dollar cheaper. Overall, I would put it ont he "give it a try list". Next week we are off to vacation, so I might a couple of extra bottles to review :)

Rating: 3.25 corks (Give it a try)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pine Ridge - Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $90 (in 2004)
Region: Napa, California
Year: 2001

OK, definitely way out of the guidelines I originally set up for my blog, but I couldn't go without reviewing this wine. It was a wine that my wife and I purchased on a trip to Napa, Ca. for our 10th wedding anniversary in 2004. The plan was always to put it in our little wine refrigerator until anniversary number 15, and then break it out for a special dinner. Although our anniversary is a little over a month away, we were able to sneak in a nice little getway this past weekend. We ate dinner at a great little BYOB restaurant that is about 20 minutes away, and I just couldn't wait to give this wine a try. I litteraly had been waiting 5 years.

So, we ordered a couple of appetizers, and poured ourselves each a glass. From the get go, it was exactly as I expected. A deep, dark red color was definitely no surprise. This is a top rated Cab each year, and shallow in color was one thing it was not going to be. The smell was equally impressive. A great fruity smell, that definitely had some body behind it. So, now, the only thing left to do was give it a taste. I know there is not much suspense here, but wow, what a great wine. It was velvety smooth, with a great red berry flavor, that had tremendous length. I know that when you are used to $10 - $15 bottles of wine like I am, that a bottle that almost cost $100 is in a different league, but at least it tasted like it. I would have been a bit disappointed if it wasn't a homerun across the board, but no such let down here. I will say that when we were in Napa, we had a private tasting at Pine Ridge where we barrel tasted this wine, and it wasn't quite as good as it was that day, but not far behind. The point here is that every once in a while, even if it is once every 5 years, treat yourself, and see how the other side live :)

Rating: 4.5 (Wow)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tin Roof - Merlot

Price: $11.99
Region: California
Year: 2005


I still have a little bit of a backlog of reviews, but I haven't had time to sit down and write up the weeks I missed. I will certainly get to it soon. In the meantime, I am going to write about my wine from this past weekend, as it is fresh in my head. There wasn't too much special about this Friday night, just a normal take out dinner from our favorite little Italian eatery, with a wine store next door of course. I was just having a salad, so wasn't predisposed to any particular wine. I just wanted something medium bodied, so I went straight to the Merlot aisle. After looking at a couple of selections, I saw this bottle of Tin Roof, and at $12, seemed like it was worth a try.

So, when I got home, and got everyone's dinner ready, I sat down with my glass of wine, and my salad. At first glance, this glass of wine looked very much like many other medium-bodied Merlots. Not super dark in appearance, but not weak looking by any stretch. It really had a nice looking depth to it. When I gave my glass a little swirl, and took a sniff, I was pleasantly surprised. A very nice floral bouquet, that was definitely not weak, but not overpowering. A good balance. At this point, I was really looking forward to tasting this wine, because it had been a while since a new Merlot caught my attention. When I took a sip, this one definitely did that. A very nice forward flavor, that was very smooth, with great length. It wasn't a velvety smoothness like a good Cabernet, but definitely a smooth tasting wine, with great texture. I have to say, once of the better Merlot wines I have had in this price range in quite a while. I was so impressed, I went back on Sunday to get another bottle for Sunday night dinner. The first new addition to the "top 5" list in a couple of months.

Rating: 4.0 corks (a repeat buy for sure)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Earthquake - Syrah

Price: $30
Region: California
Year: 2005
So, I am a few weeks behind I know, but I have a good reason. I recently changed jobs after 13 years at my previous job, and things were a bit hectic. I am however, back in the swing of things, and have three reviews to write up over the next couple of days. This first one is a departure from the normal routine as it was a present from my wife. It is more expensive then the wines I set out to review, but still wanted to post a review on this one. Anyway, after I decided to take this new job, my wife stopped by the store on her way home one night, and picked out a nice bottle of Syrah.
We were having rice and shrimp for dinner, so as I helped around the kitchen to get dinner ready, I poured myself a glass of wine. Right off the bat I knew this was a bold wine. The color was a deep dark purple, very pleasing to the eye. After admiring the color, I gave my glass a swirl, and smelled a very nice Syrah for sure. Not too strong, but extremely pleasant. So far I was very impressed. As I took a sip, the smoothness hit me right away. A great bold flavor for sure, but one that hung around for a bit too. A nice smooth wine with great length. I must admit there wasn't much I could find wrong with this wine. Definitely one worth the extra money for a special occasion when you done't feel like spending $50 or $100 for a bottle of wine. Now, I probably won't add this to my top five, although it certainly scored high enough. I just want to be sure to rank the wines that fit into the original criteria of this blog. That being said, if you have a few extra dollars one evening, this one I would recommend for sure.
Rating: 4.5 corks (A great wine)

Friday, July 3, 2009

S. Orsola - Chianti

Price: $9.99
Region: Italy
Year: 2007

This week I was determined to stay in the Italian aisle until I left with a wine I hadn't tried before. I'm just not as familiar with the grapes on some of the different kinds of Italian wine, so it just takes me a little longer to pick one out. Well, after about 15 minutes, I narrowed it down to a couple of choices, and finally picked the S. Orsola Chianti. I can't say there was really any deciding factor, but sometimes that's just how it goes. Anyway, since I was determined to get an Italian wine, I also decided to pick up our favorite pizza for dinner. A large pie with grilled chicken, artichoke, and spinach. Sounded like a good Friday evening to me.

So, I sat down with a couple of pieces of pizza, and a generous glass of red wine. One thing I found interesting when looking at a couple of different bottles of Chianti, is that some stated "full-bodies", while one or two stated "light-bodies", but the far majority were listed as "medium-bodied". The bottle I choose was of the medium variety. So, it wasn't unexpected that the color was a bit on the light side. It didn't look weak or anything, but definitely not big and bold. Along the same lines, the smell had a bit of a floral hint to it, but it wasn't very strong. It was definitely time though to give it a try. I took my first sip, and all of the taste seemed to go right tot he back of my tongue, with a bit of a bite. In addition, the taste seemed to fade pretty quickly. It wasn't an awful taste, but I was definitely hoping for much more. All in all, I would say it was a middle of the road kind of wine. When Sunday rolled around, and it was time to have my in-laws over for dinner, my wife told me she was cooking an Italian dish for dinner. Since I had long finished the bottle of Chianti I bought on Friday, I took another trip to the store, and grabbed the only Italian wine on my default list Monte Antico-> http://winereviewsyoucanunderstand.blogspot.com/2008/12/monet-antico-sangiovese.html -> and it was good....

Rating: 2.5 Corks (Going to have to pass)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Prodigal Son - Petit Sirah

Price: $9.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

For some reason over the past couple of weeks, I have been heading to a different country section of my favorite wine store to try and find a new wine. Last week I tried a new wine from Spain, and this week I was gravitating towards Italy, as it has just been a while since I tried a new Italian wine. For some reason though, I left the aisle without finding what I was looking for (maybe next week). Then, I ended up in a small section of the red wine aisle called "alternative reds". This is always a place I like to take a peak in order to find something a bit different. This week however, it wasn't something different, but instead a new brand of wine I buy quite often. It is hard to miss the bright colorful label, and the interesting name of this wine, and it definitely caught my attention. There are only a handful of Petit Sirah wines in this store, so I guess that is why it shows up in this section. Based on how much me and my wife love a bottle of Bogle Petit Sirah, I am always on the lookout for its equal, at a similar or better price. However, so far, no luck. So, when I saw a new bottle of Petit Sirah with a catchy name, and at the same price point, I had to give it a try.

Usually I would save this wine to have with a hamburger on the grill, or some other grilled meat, but I already knew we were having Italian take-out, and that wasn't stopping me. I was really looking forward to giving this a try, which might have been my first mistake. I have to remind myself to not get my expectations up when buying a bottle of wine under $10. Anyway, I sat down to dinner, and poured myself a glass. It started off good enough, with a nice rich, deep red color. Very similar to other Petit Sirah wines I have enjoyed. Definitely one of the things I love about this variety is the color. So, I gave the glas a swirl, and was not surpirsed that it was a nice strong scent. Pleasant enough, but for some reason, it seemed a bit young, for lack of a better word. As usual though, it was going to come down to taste, as I was a bit on the fence at this point. So, when I took a sip, it had a good start, but faded quickly. As I noticed with a smell, the wine didn't seem to have much in the way of staying power. It was a nice enough taste, but still a bit short of the Bogle, and with much less length. So, my search for an equal continues, but I'll keep trying for sure.

Rating: 2.75 Corks (Decent, with a catchy name & label)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eguren - Tempranillo

Price: $9.99
Region: Spain
Year: 2007

OK, another trip to the store where I decided upfront to go back to a specific country. For some reason, I just gravitated towards a wine from Spain this week. It didn't have anything to do with what was on the menu, because we were planning bar-b-q pork chops, but more just that I hadn't had a Spanish wine in a while and decided it there was no time like the present. I really haven't only tried a couple different wines, and mostly have stuck with the Rioja grape, but I saw this bottle of Tempranillo, so I snatched it up.

I'm not overly familiar with the grape, so I didn't have any preconceived notions. I was getting ready to throw dinner on the grill, so I headed out to the deck with a glass of wine. A first I thought the wine was a bit pale, but it has a nice light "redish" color with good clarity. When I took a smell, it was also a bit faint, but was a little bit different then what I am used to. So, at this point, I definitely wasn't anticipating a big bold wine taste, and true to form that isn't what I got either. The tate was unique when compared with the normal varieties I usually stick to, but not in a bad way. It was a little short in length as the taste didn't hang around long, but it was a nice change of pace. Maybe in the end, it was a good pairing for pork, because that is something we choose when we're tired of the same old meats on the grill during the summer. So, all in all, a decent tasting wine, and would try it again if I was wanted to get out of a rut of having the same old thing each week..

Rating: 2.75 Corks (if you want to try something a bit different)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Snapdrag - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99
Region: Sonoma, California
Year: 2007

Sometimes it isn't just about finding a different wine, sometimes I like to try a store I rarely visit just to see if they have something different on the shelves. In the case of last Friday, we were actually not ordering take-out, but I still had to make a quick run to the store to grab a bottle of wine. A Friday just isn't complete.... Anyway, I decided to try a small little shop that is close by, but just don't happen to frequent very often. It just so happens that on Friday evening, they do a small wine tasting. Now, this isn't generally how I pick my wine out, but I figured what the heck. So, when I was offered a taste of a wine I hadn't tried before I thought it would work good for my wine review of the week. I just took a small sip because I had already decided to buy a bottle, and I wanted to wait until I got home to determine what I really thought.

When I arrived back home, I went right to work and poured a glass. As one would expect, a nice strong looking, dark red color. I then swirled it around a bit, and took a sniff. A very nice smelling wine, but a touch on the light side. Nothing too much to complain about though. So, at this point, I didn't recall much of the taste from the wine store, since it was such a small amount, but I was ready for another try. Now, I will be the first to admit I'm not the biggest fan of the next saying, but it definitely applies with this wine. The taste was was "fruit forward", which to me means the fruity taste hit me right away, and then actually had good length. It definitely didn't dry up right away. A bit of blackberries if someone demanded to know what fruit I tasted (again determining different tastes in a wine is not my strong suit). It had a touch of a bite, but I would say was fairly smooth overall. My general impression is that for $10, and I would suspect a couple dollars cheaper at a larger wine store, this was a very nice Cab. It wasn't a big bold tasting wine, but definitely held its own. Would definitely give it another try.

Rating: 3.25 Corks (Solid choice for the price)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ravenswood - Petit Shiraz

Price: $9.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

A pretty average Friday evening, but we just happened to order pizza from a different pizza shop, which is no where near my favorite wine store. In fact, the store I ended up stopping at has a good selection, but just way overpriced, so definitely not my favoroite. However, I didn't have much of a choice unless I wanted to go out of my way, so I figured I'd stop by and see what I could find. I really didn't have anything particular in mind, but found something in the first aisle I walked down. It happened to be the aisle with a few bottles of Petit Shiraz. I just haven't been able to find a bottle, for the price, that meets or beats a bottle of Bogle Petit Shiraz (on my default list), but I'm always willing to take a chance just in case I get lucky.

In this instance, the brand was very familiar, as I have had many bottles of Ravenswood Vinters Blend Zinfandel, but was very surprised to see a Petit Shiraz on the shelf. I had never seen a Ravenswood Petit Shiraz before, but at just under $10, and probably cheaper at more reasonable stores, it was worth a try. Again, nothing to exciting for dinner, just a ham and spinach pizza, but it was Friday, and there could be worse things then a quiet evening with pizza and wine. So, when I sat down, and poured a glass, I was not surprised to find a very dark, purple glass of wine. That definitely seems to be the trait of any Petit Shriz I have ever had. A very nice color for sure. When I went to take a smell, I was a little surprised to find it was kind of dull. It was pleasant enough, but not as bold as I was expecting. So, at this point I was thinking that I might have found a decent, inexpensive Petit Shiraz to have every now and again, but the most important aspect was still left. When I took my first sip, my first impression was, bland. Not the adjective I was thinking I would use after first seeing the wine. I know this next word might not make a whole lot of sense, but overall the wine just seemed shallow. I was expecting big, and bold, and that is not what I got. So, the search goes on for another quality, inexpensive Petit Shiraz, but I didn't find it here.

Rating: 2.25 Corks (Will pass on this one)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

7 Deadly Zins - Zinfandel

Price: $12.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

Sometimes it takes a gentle nudge. I received an email from a friend the other day, nicely reminding me that I haven't reviewed a Zinfandel in quite some time, and he was exactly right. I must admit, it is a wine I walk past more often then not, and I'm not 100% sure why. I think in general, I have just had a couple bottles that make me think twice about it, and I have found that the more inexpensive Zinfandels seem to stand out as just that, cheap. Anyway, there were a couple of suggestions for ones I might like, but when I saw "7 Deadly Zins" on the list, I knew what my next purchase was going to be. I have seen this a couple of times before, but just never pulled the trigger, and this time I had no excuse.

The interesting things about this night, was that I had to figure out a way to buy a Zinfandel for a dinner I was planning for my wife's birthday, when I know full well i is one of her least favorite wines. So, in addition to grabbing a bottle of this, I also picked up my default white wine, (http://winereviewsyoucanunderstand.blogspot.com/2008/11/pine-ridge-chenin-blanc-viognier.html) which I know she loves. So, I was covered all the way around. I wasn't sure exactly how much this wine was going to cost at my favorite wine store (which has some great deals), but when I saw it was $12.99, I was actually happy because I was hoping it wasn't a $8 bottle of Zinfandel for reasons mentioned above.

I made a mixed grill of chicken, steak, and vegetable ka-bobs for dinner, so I was actually looking forward to the pairing. i was going to wait until dinner was ready, but something about a glass of wine out on deck while grilling that is very enjoyable, so there was no time like the present. I poured a glass, and was none to surprised at the nice deep, dark color. When I raised the glass to swirl & smell, I was impressed by the very nice smell, that was a touch earthy. So, far, things were looking good. So, when I took my first sip, I continued to be impressed. It immediately hit me how smooth and well balanced the wine was. No big bite that I have sometimes experienced with less expensive Zins, but still bold, and a touch spicy. Kind of similar attributes to what I love about Shiraz, but clearly a different wine (and 14.9% alcohol to boot). I'm not going to say it was my favorite wine, but definitely on top of my Zinfandel list at this point. I am definitely going to have to pay more attention to the emails I receive from Roland in the future.

Rating: 3.5 Corks (A really good Zin)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mendoza Station - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99 (1.5 liter)
Region: Argentina
Year: 2008

Obviously another selection that I didn't have much luck finding a picture for. So far they've been few and far between, so I'll stick with my default picture. This would have been a weekend where I took the time to look for a little nicer bottle of wine because it was for my father-in-laws birthday dinner. That would usually coincide with a nice cut of steak or one of his other favorite meals, however, it was a super busy weekend, so we decided to make it simple, and have hamburgers instead. Whatever we ended up having, I really wanted to try out my new grill, so hamburgers worked for me. I will admit, my original intent was to run in and grab a 1.5 liter bottle of my #1 default wine, Yellowtail Shiraz. When I went to the aisle with the 1.5 liter bottles, this wine just jumped out at me. It was definitely a new selection in this store, and I could pass up the opportunity given the excellent price.

We started out with a simple appetizer of chips and guacamole, and I figured it was time to give the new wine a try. Everyone else was enjoying Corona and lime, as it was a warm spring afternoon, but I was really looking forward to giving this wine a try. I poured my first glass, and I was thinking the color was a bit lighter then I was expecting. Not weak looking, but not as deep as I was thinking it might be based on previous Cabs from Argentina. I then took a smell, and thought it was very pleasant. Again, not overly bold, but nice. So, after I swirled it around a bit more, I thought it was time to give it a try. I took a sip, and the first thing I noticed is that it was very smooth. Sometimes with wine hovering around this price for a 1.5 liter bottle, you get some bite, but this wine was definitely not bitter. It also had very good length, as the taste hung around for a second or two, and finished nicely. It was a not a big, bold Cabernet by any stretch, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I would especially think based on the price, this would be an excellent wine to but a bunch of when you have a large gathering of friends. This could also be one of the inexpensive every day wines that you keep around the house. Overall, and wine with a few different uses for sure.

Rating: 3.0 Corks (Nice, especially for the price)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sebeka - Cabernet/Pinotage

Price: $9.99
Region: South Africa
Year: 2007

This week I happened to be in one of my less favorite wine stores, and I must say it is mostly because of the price, but nonetheless it was convenient. So, I would say you could easily buy this wine for around $7.99 at stores that have more competitive pricing, but for now we'll go with what I paid. When I walked into the store, I just made the decision I was going to find a wine from South Africa this week. I have worked with some colleagues from South Africa for quite some time now, and on a visit a few years back, one brought me over a couple of very nice bottles of wine. So, every once in a while I see if I can find something that matches up. So far, very few have, but it could very well be the price point I keep sticking to. Anyway, this one looked different, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I can't really say I know exactly what a wine made from the Pinotage grape should taste like, but based on the brief write-up on the label, it seemed like I wasn't going too far out on a limb. Things started off well enough. The wine had a very nice bold color to it when I poured my first glass. I would say it was more a dark purple, then dark red, but either way, I was impressed. The smell on the other hand, was not quite as bold. It was pleasant enough, with what I would say was a hint of floral background, but in general it was a little weaker then I anticipated. As always, the important piece was the flavor. Based on a plus, and a minus so far, I really didn't know what to expect. Unfortunately, it definitely didn't "wow" me. My first impression was that it had a bit of an odd tasting bite at the onset, but then that went away quickly. It didn't have great length, and wasn't what I usually expect from a California Cabernet.

I would say overall, it wasn't horrible, but nothing I'm going to rush out and buy again. Interestingly enough, the 2nd glass I enjoyed more then the first. It may have been that the bite I epxerienced with the first glass was not as noticeable with subsequent glasses. I also saved a couple of glasses for another day, and also thought it wasn't too bad a couple of days later. Again, nothing to write home about, but if it sticks out on the shelf someday, might consider giving it a try.

Rating: 2.25 Corks (When you run out of others to try)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

L de Lyeth - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $10.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

Nothing too exciting for dinner, but somehow just decided that I was in the mood to try a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Sometime I go into the wine store looking for a wine from a particular country, and other times it is a specific variety. Most times I do it just to make my search for a new bottle a little less time consuming, although this time it didn't seem to work very well. I must have looked at a dozen different bottles of Cabernet that I hadn't tried before, and I just couldn't make up my mind. Anyway, I settled for this bottle of L de Lyeth, and I can't exactly say why. Maybe it was the interesting name, who knows.

Nothing too out of the ordinary for dinner, just something from the Italian eatery we seems to hit every other week. So, I sat down and poured a glass. As I would have expected from a Cab, the color was deep and rich. Sort of a dark purple with a hint of red. When I took a smell, I was pleasantly surprised. It had a very nice aroma. Actually, I decided to give it a couple more twirls because I really found it appealing. So far so good with this one. I took my first sip, and I quickly noitced that it was very smooth, with a slightly subdued taste. It was not overly bold for a Cabernet, but it was by no means bad. So, the inital flavor was good, overall it was very smooth, but it did not have great length, or that type of taste that lets you know you just tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon. I think I will put it on the list of wines to give another try some day.

Rating: 2.75 Corks (More good then bad)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shoofly - Shiraz

Price: $9.99
Region: Australia
Year: 2005

This was not a typical take-out and wine Friday evening. Every so often we take the kids to my sister's for the weekend, so they can spend some time with their cousin, and Aunt and Uncle. We were planning on a night out with some friends on Saturday, so it seemed like a good weekend for that. On the way home from dropping them off, I stop at my favorite wine store with the knowledge that I was picking up sushi for dinner. Without a doubt, it is hard to top sushi and wine in my book. Usually I would buy a more expensive bottle to enjoy during a quiet dinner like this, but I wanted to stick with my original plan, which was a review a week for a bottle under $15. Therefore, I went to the aisle that usually never lets me down, and that was the Shiraz aisle. I had this wine on my list to try for quite a while, so I thought there was no time like the present.

After getting home, and setting out our sushi dinner, I poured a glass, and my first impression was wow! I do not think it could be any deeper, or darker red. It looks just like the bottle in this picture, almost black. The wine just looked smooth from the get go. When I brought the wine up to take a sniff, I was almost equally impressed. Now, I will always admit I love the smell of Shiraz to begin with, smooth with a hint of spiciness, and this one did not disappoint. At this point, I was very much looking forward to taking a sip, but was just hoping it was even close to the expectation I had now set based on the sight, and smell. I did this all while still knowing I only paid ten dollars for this bottle of wine. So, when I took a sip, I knew I had found a very good wine. it was smooth, with an excellent flavor, and great length. It hung around just enough to entice another sip. I usually don't use this next word because it is part of what I have always found confusing, but one word that did come to mind was structure. This wine, from the beginning to end, was just well structured, and very much worth the price. I will definitely add this one to the list.

Rating: 3.75 Corks (A $10 gem)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Avalon - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

I'm a bit behind, so I have a couple of weeks of reviews to catch-up on. Sometimes life gets in the way. Not unlike many weekends, I was picking up take-out at one of the two Italian eateries we frequent on Friday evenings. This particular one has a wine and beer store right next store. It isn't my favorite place, but it isn't too bad, and is very convenient. Anyway, I wasn't looking for anything in particular this week, just something I hadn't tried before. I actually walked around for longer then normal because I just couldn't make up my mind. After a couple of times around, I finally decided to try a Cabernet I have never seen before, but at $10, wasn't too much of a gamble.

On Fridays in Lent, I usually try to remember not to eat meat, so I actually ordered an eggplant parmigiana sandwich, and stole a piece of two on my son's pizza. Again, not necessarily what I would buy a Cabernet Sauvignon for, but that's just how it played out. So, I poured a glass, and sat down ready to eat dinner. My first impression was that there was a hint of "clearness" to the wine. It wasn't as deep dark red as I would usually picture a Cabernet, but still had a nice color to it. When I went to have a smell, again, it was a little on the soft side. It wasn't bold at all, but not unpleasant. So, when I went to take my first sip, it was generally well balanced with no bite or aftertaste, but just a little thin. All the way around, the wine was pretty good, just didn't stand out liek many Cabernets tend to do. I will say though, as I ate my dinner, and pured another glass, it grew on me a bit. This is the case of the 2nd glass pull up the score just a touch.

Rating: 2.75 Corks (Nothing great, but a solid buy)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Black Box - Shiraz

Price: $17.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

I wanted to sit down and write this last week, but just didn't get around to it. This was an odd week for a couple of reasons. The main reason was that my wife was traveling to a conference in Texas, so I knew my schedule would be a touch out of whack. Since she was away from Tues - Sunday, I was thinking I might not make it to the wine store on Friday night, so I needed somethign that would last. Plus, I was thinking there might be a day or two where a glass of wine to end the night wouldn't be such as bad thing. My usual mode of operation is to only drink on the weekends, but again, this wasn't a normal week. Anyway, I decided a box of wine might not be a bad idea. Whenever I think of box wine, I almost always go right to Black Box Merlot, and as you can see from my top 5 list, there is a reason why. Since my goal is to try somethign different each week, I decided to try a different variety, which I hadn't before this week. Now that I think about it, it is kind of surprising because of how much I like the Black Box Merlot, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

Not surprising I'm sure, is the fact I went right to the Black Box Shiraz. One, I had never tried it, and two, for the equivalent of 3 bottles of wine, who can beat $18. For those that are math challenged, that's only $6 a bottle. Pretty impressive. Anyway, when I pushed the little valve, and poured my first glass, it was exactly as I expected, a deep dark red, almost purple. A very nice, deep color. Them when i took a smell, I knew this was going to be a good purchase. Nothing out of the ordinary, but very bold aroma, which is exactly what I love about a good Shriaz. So, when I swirled the glass, and took my first sip, I was again thoroughly impressed. This wine had a very smooth taste, with great length, but no aftertaste. it was just a very enjoyable galss of wine. And the best thing about it is that it last for a good long while. After a couple of glasses, I just put it in the basement, and the next time I poured a glass, it was the same quality as the first glass. i do not want to over emphasize this wine, as it is still a $6 bottle of wine, but for the price, I find it very hard to complain. This is the second Black Box wine that I have tasted, and while I still like the Merlot a little better (which is ood for me to say), this still a very good wine for the price.

Rating: 3.75 corks (A tie for a top 5, but just misses the list - Great buy)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gabbiano - Chianti

Price: $9.99
Region: Italy
Year: 2006

I have a couple of wines to review from this past weekend, but I'm going to start with the first one I tried. Nothing too special about this Friday evening, just grabbing my wife's new favorite pizza from a relatively new Italian restaurant nearby. This particular pizza has chicken, spinach, and artichoke. Definitely a good pizza, so I decided it needed an Italian wine to go along. The store I was close to has a much smaller selection, and much higher prices then my usual store, so I was just looking for something I hadn't tried before that was around $10. Low and behold, I saw a Chianti that fit the bill, so I decided to give it a try.

I have not had a whole of of Italian wines. I have the one I usually get that is n my list of default wines, and I have also had a couple of more expensive wines around the holidays, but as you can see from what has been reviewed so far over the past 6-7 months, wines from Italy are not that common. That being said, I'm more then aware you can find many good Italian wines at a good price. I was hoping this would be the case here. My first impression when taking a look at my glass of wine, was that it had a very nice ruby red color. Definitely not a dark Cabernet, or Shiraz, but very vibrant. When I lifted the glass up to take a smell, I could tell it was going to stand out. It was very fruity, but definitely not overpowering. Just a really pleasant, fruity smell. So far so good. Now, for the important part. I took a sip, and was a touch disappointed. It was definitely not bad, but there was something about the taste that just didn't make it stand out. I was thinking based on the great smell, that the taste would be equally as good, but it was just OK. I hate to say middle of the road, because I just don't have a whole lot of Italian wines to compare it too, but definitely not on par with my Italian defaut wine. Definitely not a bad "pizza on a Friday night wine", but nothing to write home about either..

Rating: 2.75 Corks ( Pretty good)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Red Diamond - Merlot

Price: $9.99
Region: Washington
Year: 2005

OK, I'm trying something a little different this week. Usually I have some wine over the weekend, take some notes, and then sit down later in the week to write the review. Well, it just so happens I have a little free time now, so I decided to write the review at the same time I am trying the wine. I have a glass of Red Diamond Merlot sitting here at my desk, so here goes.

First impression based on the color is pretty good. A nice deep red color, but also a little soft, which I would expect for a Merlot. Now, just gave the glass a few twirls, and gave it a sniff, and again very nice. I'm admittedly not the best a pinpointing specific smells, but it is very appealing, and definitely not too strong, and not too weak. I would say it almost has a floral aroma. Another point to make here before giving my impression of the taste, and overall rating, is that often times I come back to my notes to make a slight adjustment a glass or two later. Obviously that won't be the case here, so this is just my first impression, which will end up driving the overall review. In addition, Merlot is not usually my wine of choice. I have a couple that I really enjoy like Bogle, Blackstone, and Columbia Crest (one of which might finally be #5 on my default list), but generally I stray towards Cabs, and Shiraz. Anyway, the taste of this wine is very good. Definitely not too weak, so it holds up well, with a nice finish, but no aftertaste. Again, hard for me to rate many Merlots really high just because of personal preference, but it definitely stands up with the others that I mentioned above.

Rating: 3.0 Better the avgerage, and definitely worth a try

Friday, January 30, 2009

Anakena - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99
Region: Chile
Year: 2006

I tried to post last week's selection a little earlier in the week, but I guess time just got away from me. So, I know it is almost time for this weekend's selection, but here goes anyway. One thing it has been around here lately in the Northeast, and that is cold. So, last Sunday seemed the perfect day to have a nice pot of beef stew for dinner. Seemed like my wife was up for it too, so that was the plan. Now, when it comes to matching up a good wine with dinner, I usually don't try to stick too much by the book, but there is just something about beef stew and Cabernet Sauvignon in my opinion. So, off to the store I went. I will admit, it took me a while to find something I wanted to try. What it came down to was i decided to try a completely different region then my standard California Cabernet. The bottle from Chile, just happened to jump out after a little browsing.

So, when it came time for dinner, I was excited to pour myself a glass. When I first saw the wine in my glass, my first word was wow. When I say deep, dark in color, I am not kidding this time. This wine was almost black it was so dark, but definitely in a good way. The color made me look forward to the meal that much more. Interesting enough, on the label it mentioned some of the tastes, and smells. Now, if you happen to have read my initial entry when I laid our the reasns I was going to write this blog each week, you'll know I am not very good at distinguishing what others say I should smell or taste. This was no different as I did not smell tabacco or licorice, but it was very pleasant nonetheless. So, after the first two observations went so well, I was hoping not to be disappointed as has happened a couple fo times recently. Luckily, that was not the case here. This wine had a wonderful fruit forward taste, and was very smooth, with good length. It definitely enhanced a great dinner on a cold winter night. I will definitely take a longer look at wines from Chile based on the experience here.

Rating: 3.75 Corks (Pretty darn good)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Columbia Crest - Two Vines Cabernet-Merlot

Price: $7.99
Region: Washington State
Year: 2005

OK, kind of a different weekend on the activity front, so same goes for the wine review. Friday was actually pretty quiet, but I already had one of my default wine in the basement, so I decided to have a bottle of Bogle Petite Shiraz -> http://winereviewsyoucanunderstand.blogspot.com/2008/11/bogle-petit-shiraz.html instead of going out an getting another bottle. Then, on Saturday I took my 12 year old son to see Metallica in Philadelphia, so no drinking on that night. That left Sunday for my wine of the week. However, this week we were having dinner at my in-laws, so I was kind of hoping the wine with dinner was something I hadn't review yet. Luckily enough, it was.

There are a couple of different Columbia Crest wine I liek very much, and actually, when I get around to buying my last default wine, it just might end up being a Columbia Crest wine, but this is one I have not tried before. It is called Two Vines, and to be honest I did not read the bottle to find out why. However, it is a Cabernet/Merlot blend. I had my first glass with some simple appetizers, and watching the NFC Championship game. When I first poured a glass, and took a look, I was hoping for a little darker red. It was a good color, but could see through the wine just a touch. In addition, the smell was not very unique, but did border on tart. Again, not something I was expecting. So, at this point, with being a little disappointed with the color and smell, my expectation were lowered. When I took the first sip, I think it at least met my lowered expectations. It was by no means a horrible wine, but having very much enjoyed some Columbia Crest wines in the past, I was just hoping for a little more. The taste was just not very bold, or distinct. It kind of tasted like one of the wines you would expect to have at a large gathering in a clear plastic cup. Not really anything that could offend someone, but really nothing special either. With some other very good Columbia Crest wines out there, I would just have to pass on trying this one again.

Rating: 2.5 Corks (Definition of Middle of the Road)