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 ( 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)