Friday, December 31, 2010

Lan - Rioja

Price: $17.00
Region: Spain
Year: 2006

My last post of 2010. I was hoping to get to about 40 done this year, and fell a bit short, but still another fun year of trying and reviewing a lot of new wines. I have a whole lot of reviews written down from over the Christmas holiday, but I decided to go with another gift from my wife from the Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2010. I forget exactly where this was on the list, but I'm fairly certain it was between 40 and 50. From the title, it is easy to determine we are talking about a wine from the La Rioja region of Spain. This wine is made up of about 80% Tempranillo. It falls a little bit about the $15 range, but not much. I really enjoyed the Malbec that also found its way on the Top 100 list, so I was hoping for a repeat experience.

There was nothing special going on when I decided to open this bottle of wine. To me, sometimes that is the best time to open a new bottle. No expectations, just wanted to sit down with a fire in the fireplace, and experience a new wine. There was no surprise when I poured a glass and saw a deep dark red wine in my glass. I have had some really good Spanish wines over the last couple of years, so my expectations were high. I gave a glass a rather long swirl, and took a couple of short sniffs. While the wine had a very nice berry smell, it was a bit faint in my opinion. With such a bold color, and the reputation of this grape, I was hoping for a little more umph. When I took a sip, I had the same impression. It was a very smooth wine, with great texture, and length, but just lacked a little boldness. Maybe expectations were a bit too high, but overall I thought it was a touch thin. That definitely doesn't take away from a very good wine, but just a little off the mark for me.

P.S. I updated my list of default wines since it tends to change over time. I added the Angeline Pinot Noir that I reviewed in May - http://winereviewsyoucanunderstand.blogspot.com/2010/05/angeline-pinot-noir.html - Good Stuff!

Rating: 3.0 corks (Worth a try)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Durigutti - Malbec

Price: $15
Region: Argentina
Year: 2008

I really love this time of year. There are the obvious reasons of the Christmas season, but there are surely wine reasons as well. We attended a recent wine tasting at a local wine shop, and did a lot of browsing for a couple of bottles of our Christmas wines. We have a brunch each year on Christmas day, and I like to have a couple of nice bottles of wine, even though it is fairly early in the day. It just gives me a good excuse to take a little nap in the early afternoon. This year will be no different, and I'll do my best to review them come January. Another reason I love this time of year is that my wife always picks me up the Wine Spectator top 100 wines of the year. I don't read Wine Spectator at any other time of the year, but I enjoy sitting down in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine and casually reading this edition. On top of the magazine this year, my wife also grabbed a couple of bottles that were on the list and under $20. so, since I had a couple of new wines to try, I thought I try one an write about it here.

While I had 3 to choose from, I ended up picking the Malbec first, as it was just the kind of mood I was in. We happen to be having take-out hamburgers again, which is almost becoming a Friday night staple. Not quite sure if that is a good thing, but that's another story. Not surprisingly, when I poured a glass, I saw a very dark red wine in my glass. It really had a rich looking quality to it, and just right up my alley. Now, I gave a glass a few swirls, and took in the smell. It was not overpowering, but the word that came to mind is smooth. That is something I usually associate with a velvety tasting Cab, but this wine just had a nice consistent smell to it. When it came to having a taste, the word that again popped in my head was consistent. It had a great upfront flavor, which was a bit smokey, but continued right through to the back of my mouth, with nice length. This wine was really quite tasty. Now, I usually try to stay away from wines that already carry with them a great review, and being on the top 100 list of 2010 definitely carries classifies, but it was easy to see why this wine made the cut. It really had it all, including a very reasonable price. This was one of the better wines I've had this year for sure.

Rating: 375 corks (Top 100 for a reason)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Glen Ellen - Chardonnay

Price: $8
Region: California
Year: 2009

I actually and just about to get ready to head to a wine tasting tonight, and had a few minutes so thought it was a good time to write another review. I have two wines from last week, but I thought I would start with one of the wines that was sent to me a couple of Fridays ago. There were two 1.5L bottles of red, and this bottle of Chardonnay. If you go back over my 2+ years of reviews, the white wines are few and far between. Interestingly enough, I have another one ready to go from two weeks ago that I have not gotten around to yet. Even though we usually buy a white every week for my wife, I usually only have a taste. Since I knew I was going to be reviewing this, I sat down with a glass, some spinach dip, and my wine journal to give it a try.

While I don't find it that difficult to see the variety of sight differences between red wines, I tend to lump white wines into two categories. There are those pure white wines, that have very little color at all, and then there are some with a bit of a yellowish tint. Now, I'm sure there are those that would say there is much more to it that that, I'm sticking with that for now. This wine definitely had a bit of a yellow tint to it. I really gave this one a good swirl to try and conjure up as much of the smell as I could, and I was pretty impressed. This wine had a nice floral aroma about it that was definitely not overpowering. When it comes to white wines, there are few that I love, but I must say I tend to stay away from Chardonnay. My general impression is that I will get a very dry wine, and when I do choose a white over a red, I look for something a bit more on the fruity side. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but as I took a sip, and was bracing myself, I was actually quite surprised that this wine had a very crisp flavor with a pleasant hint of pear. It did not have a bad aftertaste, but went down smooth, and was quite enjoyable. I only had the one glass as my wife enjoyed it as well, and I had a nice looking red standing by just calling my name. I think we will add it to the list of white wines that we buy as a little change of pace from our typical Chenin Blanc.

Rating: 3.0 corks (Not what I would call typical, but pretty tasty)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Glen Ellen - Petite Syrah (Magnum)

Price: ~$10
Region: California
Year: 2007

If I said this review was a departure from my normal process, that would be a rather large understatement. I have been writing this blog for close to three years now, and for anyone who has run across my reviews in that time, you will know that the original intent of this blog was twofold. First, it was really hard to find any reviews that I could really relate to. The exotic flavors and smells that were described in the reviews I would read, just didn't coincide with what I experienced when drinking wine. Second, I wanted to focus on wines that were in a reasonable price range. That is primarily because those are the wines I buy, but also because I know there are some good bargains to be found out there. Interestingly enough, I have been pleasantly surprised with the number of views that my blog has received over the pas three years. Nothing spectacular, but enough to keep me interested in writing each week (my goal anyway). So, as I posted a new review a few week back, I received an inquiry as to whether I would be interested in receiving a few "media samples" of wine to taste and review. While I was completely caught off guard, I wasn't about to say no. A few days later a couple of bottles of Glen Ellen wine showed up on my doorstep, and luck would have it, I had not tried any of them, so they are a perfect fit for me to review. I decided that if I ever receive samples of wine for my blog again, I will review that wine along with my weekly review. So, here I am writing my 2nd review this week.

Now, since this is a bit of a departure from the norm, I am completely aware that my integrity is coming into play, but here goes. As I sat down on Friday evening with a hamburger from my kid's favorite Friday night takeout place, I poured a glass of Glen Ellen Petit Syrah. I would say it was was a touch light for this grape, but good color nonetheless. When I gave the glass a swirl, the aroma was much more in line with the Petite Syrah wines I have had in this price range. While for me, the wine I always go back to is the Bogle Petite Syrah, this wine was not noticeably lacking in this area. Now, it was time to give it a taste. One thing I noticed right away was that it was actually quite smooth, and although it was more in line with the color, meaning it was a little light for a Petite Syrah, it has a pretty good overall flavor. Considering this bottle was a magnum (1.5L), the value was even better. I would say this is a solid choice if you are having some friends over for a party, and need to find a good tasting wine at a reasonable price.

Rating: 3.0 corks (Good taste, even better value)

Terra Alta Ludovicus - Red Blend

Price: $12
Region: Spain
Year: 2009

This wine came courtesy of my wife again, who really tries to make sure she picks a bottle that I have not tried before, so that I can write about it here. One of the advantages she has, is that she usually has a good idea what's for dinner on Sunday night when we get together with her parents. This particular Friday, there was a small wine tasting, and she mentioned to the person giving out samples, that she was looking for something to go with a chicken and sweet potato stew. He recommended this bottle from Spain, that is actually a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. There was been few Spanish wine that I really did not care for, so I was looking forward to dinner on Sunday.

I opened the bottle a bit before dinner, as I usually do, and I sat down with my wine journal to make some notes. Given the grapes that are blended to make up this wine, I was hardly surprised to find a very dark wine. It definitely had a grape jam look about it. Part of what I am definitely trying to get away from is making any assumptions about a wine just by sight. I'm getting better for sure, but I slipped a little with this wine, as I was expecting something along the lines of a Cab or Syrah. It had a very pleasant aroma, but I thought it was a bit tart. I'm not quite sure the percentage of each wine, at least i didn't write it down, but if it is based on the order they were listed, it makes sense that it would lean toward the Garnacha or Tempranillo, both of which I'm a little less familiar with. As I tasted this wine, the tartness that I came across in the aroma, was nowhere to be found. This wine was very smooth, with a good flavor from start to finish. I would say it fell on the side of being a bit lighter than I expected, but again, this where I need to try and experience what the wine is, instead of thinking what it should be. I will say, it went well with the delicious chicken and sweet potato stew. Not a bad way end the weekend.

Rating: 3.25 corks (Something a little different, and worth a try)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Alexander Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $17
Region: California
Year: 2007

This has probably been the longest streak of not reviewing a wine online since I started writing my blog back in 2008. Definitely not a habit I want to get into. A few different things happened recently that made me carve out some time for a new entry. First, while reading one of my wine-a-day calendar entries, I was reminded why I started writing this blog to begin with. It was one of those reviews that I just don't get. This one happened to point out the subtle taste of pencil shavings in a particular Cabernet. I'll be the first to admit that I have a limited array of flavors I usually pick up on when tasting a wine, but pencil shavings has never been one of them. To be honest, if I ever do taste pencil shavings in a wine, it will be time to move on to some other topic. The second thing that happened was the change of seasons. I'm not quite sure where late Summer or even early Fall disappeared to, but not much motivates me more to enjoy a glass of wine then a cracking fire on a brisk fall even, especially as it gets close to the holidays. Lastly, as my wife picked up my son from school, she stopped by the store to pick me up a bottle one Friday afternoon, as I was running late. Being the considerate person he seems to be turning into, he insisted on using allowance to by me a special bottle of wine so that I could write about it in my blog. So, this so happens to be that bottle. While I tried my best to remain open to either enjoying this wine, or not, I can't help but think my final verdict was a bit tainted, but I did my best nonetheless.

I had this wine the weekend before last, and I believe it was with an Italian dish my wife had made for Sunday dinner. As I poured a glass to have before dinner started, I noticed a wine with a soft grape color. It was a little different than a typical Cab, but sometimes something a little different is welcome. As I gave the glass a swirl, and took in the aroma, I wasn't at all surprised to find a very pleasant, fruity smell, that I would again have to describe as soft, and not over-powering. I then went to take a sip, and the taste that immediately came to mind was blackberries. Again, the flavor wasn't bold, but subtle. It also had very good length with a smooth finish. This wasn't a cab that would stand up and command attention, but not one that you would easily forget either. My goal is to not buy a $17 bottle of wine each week, but for a few extra dollars, it it definitely worth a try.

Rating: 3.75 corks (Good choice)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rio Seco - Malbec

Price: $14
Region: Argentina
Year: 2008

As I was driving home this past Friday, I knew I already had a half of a bottle of wine waiting for me when I got home. I'll review that bottle another time, but in addition to that bottle, my wife had stopped by the store on her way home from work, and grabbed me this bottle of Malbec. Since I didn't need it Friday, I saved it for Saturday dinner. Saturday ended up being a fairly long day as I took my son and some of his friends to play paintball for his 14th birthday. When I got home, I had a buffalo chicken wrap, and a bottle of Malbec waiting for me. After running around in the woods all day shooting paint at people, it was nice to sit down and relax with a glass of red wine.

Since the big bold red wine are usually my favorite, I was looking forward to giving this one a try. I really have enjoyed most Malbecs that I have tried, so I was hoping this one would be no different. The first glass was poured, and at first sight, I was definitely not disappointed. This wine was very dark, almost like black cherry in color. Things just kept getting better because the aroma was very nice indeed. it had a nice strong fruit smell, and really the black cherry was starting to become a common thread. As I took a sip, I really got the feeling that the wine was very slow to develop. It didn't come right out and hit you, but slowly built up to a wondering flavor with a great finish. As with the smell, I could really taste the fruit in this wine. I really do think black cherry is how I could best describe what I tasted. There was really a lot to like about this wine, so I poured my wife a small glass, and she agreed. This wine is definitely worth a try, but it does seem hard to find a bad Malbec, especially if you put out a couple more dollars and go for one in the $12-$14 range. This one for sure, is worth it.

Rating: 3.75 corks (Gotta try it)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ercavio - Tempranillo Roble

Price: $12.99
Region: Spain
Year: 2007

I think I am going to have to take a day off one of these days if I ever want to catch up on my backlog of reviews. I've had a couple of decent wines the last couple of weeks, and I've surely skipped a few that I'd like to review, but it is always easiest for me to pick one that is relatively fresh in my mind, so here goes. I had been to the wine store the weekend before last, and grabbed a couple of extra bottles because I knew work was going to keep me pretty busy during the upcoming week, and wasn't sure if I'd find the time. I walked around for quite a while on Saturday afternoon, and eventually found myself in the Spanish wines aisle. There was a decent sale going on, and for some reason this one caught my eye at a dollar or two off. I've had good success with Tempranillo in the past, so I was hoping to find another gem.

We didn't have anything special for dinner, just a few burgers and fries from our local hamburger joint (5 Guys), but it is always a tasty meal. After a long day of running around for my son's 11th birthday party, I was ready to unwind a bit with a glass of wine. I noticed at first glance, that the wine had a very nice clarity too it. I would say the color was a dark red, but not quite a Cab or Shiraz. As I usually do, I gave the glass a good swirl, and then a few quick sniffs, and found it was a bit fainter than I was expecting. It did however, have an interesting hint of vanilla. I would say it was fairly pleasant, but a little more of the aroma wouldn't have hurt. At this point, I would say I was pretty middle of the road in my expectations. Nothing blew me away yet, but nothing caused a red flag to go up either. When I took a sip, what hit me was the fact the wine had very good length. The taste went from the front of the mouth, all the way to the back of the tongue, and was pretty smooth to boot. I wouldn't say I was jumping up and down over the flavor, but I did notice a bot of the vanilla I smelled earlier. I think it was a bit off of the beaten path, but sometimes that is a good thing. Definitely worth a try if you want to take a break from the same old thing.

Rating: 3.25 corks (Worth a shot)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jim Jim - Shiraz

Price: $9.99
Region: Australia
Year: 2008

It has unfortunately been a few weeks since I last sat down and wrote a review, and again, it hasn't been for lack of material. One of these days work will slow down, and I'll have a bit more free time to catch up on the backlog. In the meantime, I'm going to stick with what is fresh in my head, and that is a bottle of wine I tasted last Friday night. On my way home from work, I had to stop and pick up my son from one of the first field trips of the school year, so luckily my wife offered to stop by the store and pick me up a bottle of wine or two. On a few recent Fridays, I've stopped at the local convenience store on my way home and grabbed her a bottle of Coke with Lime, and she's stopped and grabbed me some wine. I know I'm the one who always makes out on the deal, but I'm not about to start complaining. She has a pretty good grasp of wines I have not tried yet, and this week was no different. She came home with two different wines that I had yet to try. I was kind of in the mood for a Shiraz, and sure enough she grabbed an Australian Shiraz I had seen on several occasions, but had never picked up. It was time to give Jim Jim a try.

It is obvious from first glance, that the a wine called Jim Jim, with a picture of a dog on the front is going to have some story behind it on the label, and sure enough, it did (I'll let you pick up a bottle to read for yourself). I don't think we had anything too intriguing for dinner, maybe just some sandwiches, but after a long week, I was really just looking forward to a nice glass of wine. Things were starting off on the right foot once I poured a glass. A very dark looking ruby colored wine filled my glass. I was expecting a very strong smelling wine, and while it was very pleasant, it definitely wasn't overpowering. To me, I smelled just a bit of fruit, maybe a little blackberry, but based on the bold color, and a bit of a mellow aroma, I wasn't sure which side the flavor would tend to lean towards. Luckily for me, it was a combination of both. I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the wine was for a $10 bottle, and it really had a wonderful flavor, with great length. The taste just lingered on the palette for a few seconds, and then slowly faded. No hint of bitterness in this wine.Jim Jim (I just like saying that) was a real find in my opinion, and if my wife continues to come home with wines like this, I might just let her pick them all out.

Rating: 3.75 corks (One of the better $10 bottles I've had in a while)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anakena - Ona

Price: $13.99
Region: Chile
Year: 2008

First, I know the picture is a bit small, but it is the best one I could find. Second, I can't believe I'm actually reviewing a white wine. I'm sure there are lots of people who comes across my blog, who probably think I don't know what I'm talking about, but wait until they see me trying to review a white wine. I actually had a couple different bottles of wine this past weekend, and I hope to get to one in particular, but I just thought it was about time to throw another white into the mix. Usually, if I have a white wine, it ends up being the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend. This is on my list of top 5 default wines, and my wife likes it so much we usually pick up a bottle each week. This past weekend was a bit odd in that we were out running errands together, and decided to stop at the wine store. As is typical, my wife picked up a bottle of Pine Ridge, and then asked one of the store employees about a white Chilean wine we had tried at the wine tasting the week before last. They didn't have that particular wine, but picked up this bottle of Anakena Ona, and suggested we give it a try. So, we put it in the basket, grabbed a couple of other things as well, and headed home.

This particular bottle of wine was a Viognier, Riesling, and Chardonnay blend. It is fairly obvious from going through my previous posts, they I'm not a big white wine fan. There are a few I enjoy, and especially with a certain type of food, but given the choice, I'll pick the red every time. One of the major reasons is I just am not a big fan of Chardonnay. This blend kind of intrigued me because of the variations in the grapes. My generalization on white wines is that Riesling is sweet, Viognier is in the middle, and Chardonnay is dry. I know that is a far from always the truth, but assumptions are made lots of time because they start with a grain of truth. Anyway, we opened this bottle to have with some appetizers at Sunday dinner. While I tend to focus a lot on the different shades of red wine, I'm not as picky with white. I will say, this had a nice golden color, and definitely wasn't pale. It also had a nice smell that reminded me a bit of cut flowers. So, at this point, I wasn't sure what to expect, but when I took a sip, it had a nice crisp flavor, that wasn't overpowering, with a bit of pear flavor. I would say the Viognier kind of rounded out the bite of the Chardonnay. I could still taste what I would call the dryness of the Chardonnay, but it wasn't the overriding flavor, and in the end, I thought it wasn't half bad. For me to say that of any wine composed of Chardonnay is a step in the right direction. I did however, quickly open a bottle of Malbec after one glass.

Rating: 3.0 corks (Not a bad white)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ruta 22 - Malbec

Price: $13
Region: Chile
Year: 2008

I've been in a bit of a wine review slump lately, but hopefully things are beginning to turn around. It really hasn't been for any reason in particular, and especially not for a lack of material. Last weekend was a bit of change of pace. If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll know Friday evenings are not the "night out on the town" kind of nights for me. A pizza and a new bottle of wine usually does just fine by me. This particular weekend however, my wife's parents bought four tickets to a local wine tasting, and asked us to come along. So, after a nice dinner at a local Italian restaurant, it was off to the wine tasting. This tasting was not at a wine store, so there was not the usual 1.5 oz limit to the servings. This was pretty much a full glass of wine with each pass.

There were two tables est up on each side of the room. One side sat the white wines, and the other the reds. I'm sure you can guess which side of the room I ended up on most of the night. The theme of the night, if you can call it that, was Chilean wines. While all three of the reds I tasted had some merit, this particular Malbec was the that stuck most in my memory. The first red I tasted as a pretty good Pinot Noir. Not what I would call typical, but tasty for sure. The Malbec however, was right up my alley. It had a really nice dark purple color. When I got my first glass, I walked a bit out of the way, so I could pay a little closer attention. The smell was fruit forward for sure, with a nice intense aroma. So starting off with a nice deep color, and strong fruity smell, the wine definitely had promise. At this point, I was really looking forward to giving it a taste. As I took a sip, I knew this wine had a lot of merit. The fruit forward smell that I observed, was definitely not an illusion. The taste of fruit was very prominent, especially blackberry. It was a very nice bold wine, that was really quite smooth. The tannins were firm, but definitely not overdone. I really was not sure how much this wine cost, but when I found it online for around $13 on average, I was convinced this was a good buy. I will definitely look for a bottle to try at home with my favorite grilled meat.

Rating: 3.5 corks (A nice Malbec at a good price)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Le Cadeau - Pinot Noir

Price: $30
Region: Oregon
Year: 2007

This is not going to be my typical review. I'm going to branch out a bit this week and write about the restaurant my wife & I visited last week. While I'll highlight a great wine I tasted, I'll also touch a bit on some of the other wines, all of which I enjoyed very much. Since our two boys had an overnight stay at summer camp, my wife and I had a night to ourselves, and we surely weren't about to just sit around the house. While we had visited this particular wine bar in Wilmington, DE once before with friends, it had been quite a while, so we thought it a good time to visit again. I thoroughly enjoyed it last time, and wasn't expecting anything different this time around.

To describe the entire evening could get kind of lengthy, so to make a long story short, we decided to order the 6 course, chef's special tasting. This was basically leaving our food choices to the chef's descretion, most of which was not on the menu. We just told our server a couple of items we were not overly fond of, and the rest was up to them. Each course was really a tasting, and not a full serving, but with 6 courses, we surely weren't going to go hungry. With each course, our server would give us a few different wines that he thought paired well with what was being served, and we could either choose a 1.5 oz., 3.0 oz., or 5 oz. serving. Most of the time we just had a small taste, especially with the whites, but when we got to my favorites reds, that paired with the main course, I figured a full glass was the way to go.

We started off with a taste of some sparkling wine (CastellRoig Cava Brut) from Spain. Sparkling wine isn't my favorite, but it really wasn't a bad way to start off the evening. Next, we had a delicious fig, stuffed with some kind of cheese. With this, I tried a Robert Mondavi Chardonnay. If Sparkling wine isn't my thing, Chardonnay is even further down on the list, but again, not a bad wine at all. Maybe I'm starting to broaden my horizons, who knows. The next was a wonderful lobster salad, with which I tried a taste of a fairly sweet German Riesling (Fritz Windisch). A couple of more courses found their way around, including an absolutely wonderful piece of filet mignon. As one would expect, I went straight to the Cab for this course, and this one did not disappoint. I had a glass of Carl Roy "East Side Cuvee" 2007 Cabernet. This wine had a wonderful aroma, and a very smooth finish, the was just an excellent companion for the filet. With another course, I gave the Bodega Rejadorada (Tempranillo) a try, and this was the only wine that seemed a bit off. While it was not a bad wine, I was just hoping for a little more. Finally, we decided to skip dessert, and instead had a cheese tray brought out with 6 or 7 different kind of cheese. I was torn between the cheddar & the blue cheese as my favorites, but both went great with my final wine choice. I had a glass of the Le Cadeau "Red Label" Pinot Noir (2007), and enjoyed every minute of it. It is just one of those wines you can tell a lot of care and attention went into making. While I will be the first to admit I always favor the big, bold red wines, it definitely seems to me, that when you pay a little extra for a good Pinot Noir, they are simply hard to match. This wine had a great unique flavor, with a finish of soft tannins & great berry aroma. A wonderfully complex wine, that just topped off a spectacular evening. Although a little pricey in the end, I think you just have to treat yourself every now and again when the opportunity presents itself.

Rating: 4.5 corks (A great wine, a great Wine Bar, and great evening)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Crush - Cab/Merlot

Price: $14.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

Not my typical picture this week, but it will have to do as I had trouble finding one online. While I wouldn't say this is going to become the routine from now on, again my wife stopped by the wine store on Friday afternoon, and picked up a couple of bottles from the Cabernet aisle. No particular reason that I tried this one first, but I thought it was an interesting looking wine, so I popped open the cork and dug in. We decided on some pizza for dinner, so I sat down with a bottle of wine and a couple pieces of pizza with ham and spinach. Not a bad Friday evening in my book.

From the get-go, this was a nice looking wine. A dark red color, where you could see the Cabernet really shine through. It seemed a little thicker than most wines, but could very well have been my imagination. When I brought the glass up for a smell, my only reaction was wow. It had a great aroma that just oozed fresh fruit. This glass of wine was surely headed in the right direction. As I went to take a sip, the smell was still stuck in my head, and I think my expectations were a bit high. The interesting thing is, my initial reaction after the first sip was kind of muted, but the more I drank this wine, the better it seemed to get. It really had a very flavorful, fruity taste with a hint of blackberries. The wine was very smooth, and with nice tannins. I actually liked it so much after a couple of glasses, that I looked for it again the next day at my favorite wine store, but unfortunately, it wasn't on the shelf. I will definitely head back to where my wife picked up this bottle to another round. In fact, if my wife keeps bringing home winners like this one, maybe her stop at the wine store on Friday to pick out my weekly wine will become the routine.

Rating: 3.75 corks (Very fruity, very yummy)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bonterra - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $13.99
Region: California
Year: 2007

The wine I'm reviewing tonight was from a couple of weekends ago. I know I am going to give away my overall impression of this wine, but what I was really waiting for, was to finish off the bottle before sitting down to write about it. The problem was, I never did end up finishing the bottle, which is a first in a very long time. Anyway, when I got home from work one Friday evening, my wife had already stopped at the wine store and picked up a couple of bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon for me. The first one she picked because it had a good rating on one of the little signs they hang up, and this one she picked up because it was organic. When given the chance, and without over-spending, we like to try different organic foods & drinks. I have had a couple of other organic wines with pretty good success, so I was happy to give another a try.

I ended up having the first bottle she bought my on Friday, and finished it up on Saturday, but when Sunday evening rolled around, we sat out on the deck after dinner and popped open this bottle of wine. It was a very pleasant Sunday evening, so we just sat down, relaxed, and had a nice chat over some wine. The color of the wine was right up my alley. A nice dark red wine, with a purple hue. It was at this point that things started to head down hill (with the wine anyway). When I ace the wine a swirl, and a couple of quick sniffs, I just didn't think it was overly pleasant. Sometimes I like a nice earthy smell, but this one was so earthy, it reminded me of dirt. Not something I look for in a wine. So, at this point, I was just hoping against hope that this was just an anomaly, and the taste would come crashing through. Unfortunately, it was more like crashing down. There wasn't much I liked about the taste. The smell definitely influenced the taste, and not in a good way. I thought the overall texture was rough, and the taste was somewhat tart. As I mentioned when I started out, I never did end up finishing this bottle of wine. If I have some wine left over from the weekend, I usually find a night during he week to have a glass or two. I'm not sure if I was just too busy, but I tend to think it never crossed my mind for a reason.

Rating: 2.0 corks (I'll pass)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Grayson Cellars - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99
Region: California
Year: 2009

I promise it is not my intention to review a wine every other week, but it seems that has been happening more and more lately. It isn't that I am running out of material, for that is the furthest thing from the truth, but finding the time lately has been a bit of a challenge. Anyway, I had two new wines this past weekend, so here goes the first. Each of these wines my wife actually bought for my one her way home from work. I didn't indicate that I wanted anything in particular, but she bought me a couple of bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon. It ended up being a normal Friday evening with pizza and wine... Just the way I like it.

Right off of the bat, this wine strayed a little from the typical California Cab, as the color was a bit light. It almost reminded me of a middle of road Merlot, but it was had nice clarity & a pleasant color. It veered back towards the typical with the smell. I gave it a few swirls, took a few quick sniffs, and got a nose full of a full-bodied red wine. It had a very nice fruit aroma that called for another sniff. So far, it was a little of the expected, and a little of the unexpected. So, I really wasn't quite sure what to expect when I took a sip. Of all the things I could have expected, what I ended up getting was not one of them. To me, this was a very unique tasting Cabernet. While I got an initial flavor of bold fruit, it was quickly followed by a stream of vanilla. Again, not what I would have expected, but very distinct, and very enjoyable. It still had all of the normal structure of a decent Cabernet, with slightly chewy tannins, but the taste was what kept me coming back for more.

Rating: 3.75 corks (A very unique, tasty Cab)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mercedes Eguren - Shiraz/Tempranillo

Price: $12.99
Region: Spain
Year: 2006

I purchased a couple of wine this past weekend, and being that it was Father's Day, I treated myself to a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to go along with the fillet mignon we had for dinner on Sunday, but maybe I'll get to that review next week. Right now, I wanted to write about the wine I picked up on Friday on my way home from work. I went into the store looking for a bottle of Shiraz, preferably Australian, because I was just in that kind of mood. It just goes to show you that sometimes the best laid plans never turn out quite like you thought. As I was walking up the Shiraz aisle, this bottle just kind of jumped out at me. I'm not really quite sure why, because as you can see, it definitely isn't the flashy packaging. I think it was just the fact that I saw the word Tempranillo along with the word Shiraz. I have had a few very god wines made from Tempranillo for a very reasonable price, so I just thought the mix sounded interesting. At a 50/50 mix between Shiraz & Tempranillo, I was quite sure what to expect.

Dinner was a normal Friday evening stop by the pizza store. I know that is starting (if it hasn't already) to sound a bit repetitive, but it works for us. Anyway, when I first sat down with a glass, I thought it had a very distinct coloring. More a fruity looking purple than anything else in my opinion. At this point I tried to continue with an open mind, not trying to favor either of the two grapes, but when I swirled the wine around, and gave a sniff, I would have to say the Shiraz came through loud and clear. It had a very nice earthy Shiraz smell, with a nice trail of spice. At this point I was thinking that might be a common theme with this wine, but the taste threw me a bit of a curve. When I firs took a sip, I was kind of surprised that all of the flavor tended to hit the back of the mouth, but it truly was a great blend of the two grapes. It It had a slow start, with a distinguishable fruitiness in the middle, with a nice spicy finish. I would say overall a ripe fruit kind of taste, but definitely unique. I know this might seem like strange thing for me to say, especially this week because I started out looking for my tried and true, but I love finding something off the beaten path every now and again, and this one definitely fits the bill. A really nice change of pace & a good wine to boot.

Rating: 3.5 corks (A nice blend)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cono Sur - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99
Region: Chile
Year: 2008

Sometimes it seems that work gets in the way of writing my weekly review (I missed last week). Luckily however, it doesn't get in the way of enjoying a new bottle each week. In fact, it might be one of the main reasons why I sit down with a bottle every weekend, but I guess that's another story. Interestingly enough, this week's review was a bottle that my wife picked up for me one evening. It was a nice gesture after a particularly long day last week, but it also meant I didn't have to stop on my way home from work on Friday. She picked it because it had mentioned organic farming, and she was pretty sure I hadn't tried this before, so it worked well for what I usually try to find. While this winery definitely has some organic wines, I do not believe this particular variety is organic. Either way, we ordered some pizza last Friday night, and I sat down to enjoy (hopefully) a new bottle of wine.

I also hadn't had a new Cabernet in a little while, so it was even a good choice as far as the grape was concerned. I do not believe I have had too many wines from Chile, so really this was a good choice all around. When I poured my first glass, the wine had a very pleasant color, but a little lighter than I would have expected for a Cab. No complaint, just an observation. Interestingly enough, the smell was similarly light, but there was no doubt it was a Cabernet. I didn't get enough the first time around, so with another pass, I could definitely smell a nice fruity wine. At this point, I was pretty convinced that the taste would align with the sight, and smell, but as seems to be the case more often than not, it is hard to make assumptions before you actually taste the wine. This wine was definitely not short on taste, as it had good tannins, that were not really heavy, but the wine was fairly smooth, if just a bit tart. It really did have a nice overall flavor that I quite enjoyed with my ham and pineapple pizza (my favorite). I think I will take a look at their organic wines someday, as my first go around with this cleverly named wine, was quite enjoyable.

Rating: 3.0 corks (Will try others from this winery)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Manage a Trois - Red Blend

Price: $11.99
Region: California
Year: 2008

It was nice to have a three day weekend this past Memorial Day, and I do have a wine to review, but I decided to try and get to my backlog of wines before I don't remember some of the more subtle details that I sometimes forget to write down. This particular wine was one I had been looking for at my favorite store for a few months now. My wife had tried it at a dinner party we went to (not sure how I missed it then) & she said she really enjoyed it. When she says that about a red these days, I tend to give it a try. While I didn't have much luck finding it at my favorite store, I happened to run across it in the Zinfandel aisle of another store I stop by every now and then. Although I did not write it down, I'm pretty sure I had just picked up a peperoni pizza, and had the notion that a Zin might do the trick. This is one of those minor details that would have soon slipped my mind if I didn't get around to this review. This wine is actually a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but happened to be in the Zin aisle of this particular store. When I saw it sitting there, and for a reasonable price, I had to give it a try.

Sometimes I fall prey to the notion of having to have a Zinfandel with pizza, and this just happened to be one of those days. So, I sat down with a slice, and poured myself a glass (not a bad start to the weekend). As one would expect from a wine made from these three varieties, we have a nice dark red wine on our hands here. I would tend to say it was almost purple in color, but you get the gist. Once I gave the glass a swirl, and took a sniff, I immediately realized why it was in the Zinfandel aisle, because out of all three, that particular smell sure shined through. At this point, I was pleased, but a little perplexed as to why my wife was a big fan. if there is a wine she almost categorically does not like, it is Zinfandel. Anyway, trying to figure that one out may be a bit beyond my capabilities. I was a little less surprised at that fact when I took a sip of this wine. While I definitely tasted a bit of the boldness & spice of a Zin, this wine had very smooth edges, and great length. It had a very good structure, with a bit of "jaminess" (if that's a word). I thought this wine was a great alternative to a straight Zinfandel, and definitely worth the price of admission.

Rating: 3.5 corks (Definitely give it a try)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Releaf - Cab/Merlot/Shiraz

Price: $8.99
Region: South Africa
Year: 2007

Even though I had a little time on my hands this past weekend to browse a bit, this was a very quick trip to the wine store. I had pretty much decided the week before that I was going to pick up this bottle of Releaf red. As I mentioned in last week's review, as I was checking out, the cashier recommended I grab a bottle of this as well. Considering I generally try to purchase as much organic food as is reasonable based on price, etc. I thought it was just natural that I try a bottle of red wine made out of organically grown grapes. I didn't even know this was a South African wine until I got it home and read the label. Since the general trend is you pay a bit more for organic food, I was a little bit scared of the $9 price for this wine, and was hoping it wasn't a $6 bottle in terms of quality.

We ordered Chinese take out for dinner, so after I got back from picking it up, I poured myself a glass. I thought the wine has a nice looking ruby color, with good depth. It definitely didn't give the impression of a weak wine, but I would think being 50% Cabernet, 30% Merlot, and 20% Shiraz, you would get a nice dark red wine. I then took a sniff of the wine, and was a bit surprised that it seemed a little faint, but it had a pleasant fruity smell nonetheless. It has close to 2 years now that I have been writing these reviews, and I am definitely trying to concentrate of identifying particular tastes, but I would be the first to admit I still tend to notice more general flavors as opposed to specific ones that people identify on more "professional" reviews. I do tend to pick up hints of blackberry with this wine for sure. My only complaint is that the wine was a bit acidic, but generally a nice flavor. I would have to do some more research on the benefits of drinking organic wine, but my philosophy has always been, if you can get someone without chemicals, for the same price, and quality, why not. This was a very solid wine, at a great price, and organic to boot. I will definitely pick up a few bottles to have around as it could be a very good everyday wine.

Rating: 3.5 (Gets a little higher score for being organic :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bridgman - Merlot

Price: $13.99
Region: Washington
Year: 2007

I think I am drinking more wine than I am able to review these days, which I'm not sure is a good thing, or a bad thing. My guess is a good thing, and we'll leave it at that. I had two wines this past weekend, one on Saturday evening, and the other for Mother's Day. I decided to go with the review of the wine from Saturday since it fits the original intent of this blog, which is wines under $15.00. The wine we had on Mother's Day wasn't that much more expensive, but was in the $30 range. Anyway, I was out running errands on Saturday, and finally had a chance to stop by my favorite wine store and just walk around for a bit. I wasn't in a huge hurry, which is how I like it when I visit this store. Lots to choose from, that's for sure. Since we were having chicken for dinner, I decided going in and search out a Merlot, and I figured at least part of the bottle would be left over for Mother's Day, and since we were having my Mother-in-law over, I decided to look for something that was a bit more than I would spend on a normal weekend (althought not that much).

At the beginning of each aisle, there are some wines that are listed as the "Wine Buyer's Selection". I assume these are wines that various employees at the store list as their favorites. For some reason this bottle of Bridgman Merlot stood out, so I grabbed a bottle and headed for the register. For the first time while checking out, the cashier tried to sell me another bottle that was sitting in the check-out line. In this case it was a bottle of Leaf, which is apparently an Organic blend. I passed this time, but may just grab it the next time through. Anyway, I headed home and was ready for a glass of wine. I was pretty impressed right off of the bat with this wine as it had a very nice light purple color. It definitely looked like a wine with some character. I also thought it had a very pleasant smell, with a bit of a cherry licorice coming to mind. When I took a sip, and then another, I thougth this wine was very well balanced, with nice structure. The taste was a bit like the smell, with a hint of cherry. Overall it had a very nice taste, and wasn't over-priced. There are some comparable wines for a few dollars more, but I would say this is worth a shot.

Rating: 3.25 (Pretty nice wine)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Angeline - Pinot Noir

Price: $11.99
Region: California
Year: 2008

So, last week I did something a bit different by reviewing a wine as I typed. This week I'm going back to the weekend before last. This was the weekend ww had my in-laws over for my father in-law's birthday. Based on what was on the menu, shrimp and rice, I knew my father-in-law would enjoy a bottle of white wine. Since I wanted to get a decent bottle for his birthday, but just don't have much experience with whites, I decided to go the the "highly rated" aisle. This is where there are about 20-30 bottle of different wines that have good ratings from publications such as Wine Spectator, etc. I ended up getting a bottle of Courtney Beckham Sauvignon Blanc, which really wasn't half bad (and I probably should review as well), but I also saw this bottle of Pinot Noir sitting there, and was just tempted to give it a shot. If you've followed my blog much, I just don't find that many that I really enjoy, and it could very well be the price range I usually find myself in, but at $12, I thought, "why not"?

I'm not sure if this is the wine/food pairing made in heaven, but that isn't always my top priority. Some time you have to bend the rules. The first thing I always tend to focus on with a Pinot is the color. Some would most likely say it is my wine novice shining through, but I just love a dark red wine, which these are usually not. This was no exception, although I must say, it really did have good clarity, and was a pretty color red. As I gave the glass a swirl, and took a sniff, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a bit earthy, as doesn't seem to be uncommon for a Pinot, but also had a really nice fruity aroma. Not that big bold blackberry Shiraz smell, but maybe just a bit down the intensity scale. As I took a sip, I was again taken a bit by surprise at the smoothness of the wine. It really had an even taste that made me go back for more. While I've tried a few Pinot Noirs that were highly rated, and I usually ended up not getting what the person found so interesting, but not so on this one. If I ever need a Pinot to lean on at a good price, I'll definitely grab a bottle of Angeline.

Rating: 3.25 (Great value)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ravenswood - Petit Shiraz

Price: $9.99
Region: California
Year: 2007

Ok, doing something a little different this week. I have two reviews from last week that I just didn't get around to writing up this week, and I really want to get to them, but I think I'll try to get them done one night next week. Since today is Friday, and I didn't get around to my review last night, I have a new bottle for this weekend that I am going to review as I try it out. I think I've done this once before, but it definitely isn't my normal routine. I just had a little free time tonight, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I left work a bit early and caught the last half of my son's baseball game today. Since it wasn't my normal route home, I stopped by a store I rarely buy from. It was already a little late, and I didn't want to spend a whole bunch of time, so I headed for the Shiraz aisle. It is always good to have a fallback wine, and this is definitely mine. While I didn't get a regular Shiraz, I did see a sign for a Petit Shiraz from Ravenswood at a good price, so I thought I'd give it a try. I only spent about 5 minutes in the store, so mission accomplished on that front. I didn't have this wine with dinner, which was a delicious tortellini soup, but instead decided to wait until a bit later to sit down and relax with a glass of wine. And of course, that time is right now. As I take a look at this wine, I can tell you this is one dark red wine. I know I've said this before, but it is nearly black. As I give the glass a swirl, and take a sniff, I can tell you the aroma is very intense. Almost a bit too much, but for my liking I would prefer this to one that has a very faint smell. As I take my first sip, my initial impression is kind of middle of the road. The taste is not as intense as the smell, but I'm not so sure that is a bad thing. It is not quite as smooth as the other Petit Shiraz that I lean towards in this price range. It isn't a bad change of pace from the Bogle, that I really enjoy, but it isn't quite at the same level either. While the wine has good length, it is just a tad bitter for my liking. I think it will definitely do the trick for tonight, but not at the top of my list of Petit Shiraz.

Rating: 2.75 (Acceptable)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unti - Petit Frere

Price: $28
Region: Healdsburg, California
Year: 2006

First, a bit of background on this one. This is a wine I usually buy a couple of bottles of around Christmas each year because it is my wife's absolutely favorite red wine. I would buy it more often, but there is only one store in our local market that carries it, and I just don't get out that way very often. It is a great little specialty wine store, that carries much more wine from Europe than the US, but this one that they do carry is usually a winner. The one thing I noticed this year that I hadn't noticed before, is that while the grapes used in this wine are the same, the percentages of them from vintage to vintage vary significantly. This wine is a Cotes-du-Rhone style wine made from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. The blend in the 2006 vintage that I tasted was 86% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 4% Mourvedre. A significant difference, for instance, from the 2007 vintage which is almost 50% Syrah and 40% Grenache. This wine sat in our cellar for a couple of months, until recently when we had a quiet Saturday evening home preparing for our trip to Florida, and it seemed like a good time to break out a bottle.

This is obviously a bit more than we would spend for a weekly bottle of wine, but it is always nice to have an upgrade every now and then. When I poured my first glass, I noticed the wine had excellent clarity, and a very rich looking color. It was definitely pleasant to look at. I then gave my glass a quick swirl, and took a sniff. This wine had an excellent floral bouquet. So much so, that I went back for more before giving the wine a taste. At this point, the wine was everything I was expecting it to be. I then took a sip, and instantly noticed that this wine was very smooth. It had a wonderful flavor, with great length, and a definite European flare. Maybe it was the heavy percentage of Grenache, which is a grape I don't purposely seek out, and don't usually come across in California wines I buy. This one is definitely unique, and well worth the almost $30 as something to save as a treat.

Rating: 4.25 (A yearly treat)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hess - Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $15.99
Region: California
Year: 2006

Still have a bit of a backlog of reviews to get to for a couple of different reasons, and was hoping to get at least two done today, but don't think that is going to happen. I decided to review this wine, just because it was one of the ones I enjoyed over this past holiday weekend (Easter), and it is fresh in my mind. In picking this wine out, I took a bit of a different approach. Before O left work on Friday, I had a quick conversation with one of my friends. We both get the same wine of the day calendar, hers being online, and mine being one of those little square desk calendars. I usually save a wine if it looks like one I want to try, and she usually saves a link for the same reason. So, we went through our saved wine of the day selections, and this is what we came up with. It definitely made the trip to the wine store that much easier. While sometimes I enjoy browsing the local wine store, the way home on a Friday evening isn't usually one of those times. For this blog, this is a couple of dollars more than I usually spend on a weekly wine, but I'm sure you can find it somewhere for under $15.

When I first poured a glass, I was a bit intrigued by the color. It wasn't a big bold looking red, but did have really nice clarity, and an almost ruby hue to it. So, if I thought that the appearance wasn't typical Cabernet, I certainly can't say that about the smell. I gave my glass a few swirls, and tried my new sniffing routine again, and very much enjoyed a full-bodied red wine smell. I would say it have a hint of blackberry, which is what usually comes to my mind for me when I smell a typical Cab. At this point, I was pretty impressed, but the taste is always most important to me. With my first sip, I immediately noticed how smooth this wine was, and also the great tannins. This wine had a great upfront taste, that continued all the way to the back of the throat. Really great length. That smell of blackberries was again evident int he taste. Overall, a really good wine, and held up well against wines that I've paid twice as much for. Go give it a try for sure.

Rating: 4.25 (A Cab for the Top 5)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Oracle of the Sun - Shiraz

Price: $8.99
Region: South Africa
Year: 2008

Well, March was not a such great month for keeping up with my reviews. That's not to say I didn't have my fair share of good (and not so good) wines. Between being away for a week for Spring Break with my family, and a crazy work schedule, I just haven't made the time to sit down and write a review. I try to keep those periods to a minimum for sure, but sometimes it can't be helped. The good news is, I have a whole lot of reviews to catch-up on, so no time like the present to get started. I bought this wine on my way home from work one Friday evening in early March. Didn't really have a particular wine in mind, but also didn't have a lot of time to walk up and down the aisle. This usually means I head to the Shiraz aisle first, as I can almost always rely on the fact something will grab my attention. The interesting thing about this particular wine is that sometimes I am in the mood for a South African wine, but they are usually in a different section of the store. At my previous job, I became friends with a couple of colleagues from South Africa, and met up with one of them on a business trip, and the wines he brought over from South Africa that we shared were excellent. Every once in a while I try to find something as good as those wines were, but haven't had much luck. So, when I was in the Shiraz aisle, and saw this wine, I was hoping my luck had changed.

I can't recall what we were having for dinner that night, but if I had to guess it was probably pizza, which seems to becoming a Friday night staple. When I was ready to sit down, I poured a glass, and was a bit surprised at the color. It was much more shallow then I was expecting for a Shiraz. Not the end of the world, but wasn't impressed. Not sure if I said this in one of my other recent postings, but I read recently that when you smell wine, you should take multiple short sniffs, as opposed to one long one. I really can tell the difference when you do this, so I would recommend it. The comment said to think of a hound dog following a scent. Anyway, this isn't a wine I went back to sniff again. It wasn't horrible, but definitely a bit off. Just not overly pleasant. This was going to have to finish with a phenomenal taste to win me over for sure. I took my first sip, and my impression was average. It didn't have those good chewy tannins that I love to find in a Shiraz, and it definitely wasn't a big bold wine, but it wasn't horrible. I paid $9 for this wine, which is too much. I just saw online while looking for the picture that it can be had for $6. It might be worth a try at that price, but I just have to say there are much better wines out there for the price.

Rating: 2.5 (I'd skip it)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

V Sattui - Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $30.00
Region: Napa, California
Year: 2006

Well, I missed a week for the first time in a while, but time to jump right back in. I was hoping to get two reviews written up tonight, but might just try to do the 2nd one over the next couple of days instead. I actually had this wine two weeks ago, when we had just received another big snow storm. This was the second or third of the year (lost count). Anyway, I didn't feel like tracking through the snow, so I went downstairs and grabbed a bottle I had been saving for a rainy day... or in this case, a snowy day. I didn't remember to write down what I had for dinner with this particular bottle, but if my memory servers me correct, we made a fairly simple pasta dish.

I'm cheating a little bit on this review because I did have a taste of this wine back in January when I was in San Fransisco for a week of training. I was fortunate enough to get done early, and headed up to the winery for lunch and a little wine. I knew it wasn't going to be one I turned my nose up at, but I was still looking forward to a couple of glasses to have a little more to go on. I was not overly surprised at the color being a Napa Valley Cab, but never get tired of the sight of a dark red wine like this one. I also very much enjoyed the aroma, with a fairly noticeable fruit smell that I would liken to blackberries. I'm not sure I'm getting any better at picking out certain smells, but every one in a while I go with the first impression, and that's what happened here. So, when I finally took a sip, and then another, I knew I had made a good choice in picking a bottle of this up. It was a very smooth wine, with a flavor that hung on for quite a while. The predominant flavor hit the back of the tongue, which always carries a little bit of spiciness to me, but it definitely didn't disappear right away. My kind of wine for sure. I would say you could probably fine similar quality wines for a bit less money at your local store, but if your driving through Napa anytime soon, you just can't go wrong by pulling into the V Sattui parking lot. You won't be disappointed. I know I haven't been yet.

Rating: 4.0 (Worth a trip to their website)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carro - Tinto

Price: $9.99
Region: Spain
Year: 2008

Sometimes it happens that I head into the store with one thing in mind, and for no particular reason, head out with something completely different. After a few of weeks of being completely out of my routine, I settled back into a fairly normal weekend for me. I was stopping to grab dinner on my way home from work on Friday, and stopped by at the most convenient store, which happens to be one of my least favorite. For some reason, I was pretty much set on grabbing a bottle of California Cabernet. To be honest however, I never even made it over to that aisle. On my way over, I took a detour, and ended up looking at some rather well priced Spanish wines. This particular bottle of Carro Tinto just happened to catch my eye. When I looked at the back, I saw it was primarily made from three grapes, two of which I knew fairly well. The third, and predominant grape however, I had never even heard of, and that was Monsatrell. Given that the other two were grapes I'm very fond of, Syrah & Tempranillo, I thought it was a good gamble at $10.

Right when I poured my first glass, I noticed that this wine had a nice moderate color, with good clarity. Definitely not very dark, but not weak looking either. The smell on the other hand, while being very pleasant, and slightly floral, was quite strong. It was actually an aroma I enjoyed very much. When I took my first sip, I was a bit surprised. I was expecting a middle of the road type wine, almost like a California Merlot, but this wine was much more. It was very smooth, with good length, and very nice tannins. I know this following term is one you'll see in some reviews of high end Cabernet, but it was almost a bit chewy, with a nice hint of spice (must be the Syrah). Anyway, from beginning to end, I found this wine very enjoyable. A nice smelling wine, that was fairly smooth given the price, and had a nice flavor. I will definitely give it another try sometime.

Rating: 3.75 (A nice find)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Poggio Morino - Morellino Di Scansano

Price: $15.00
Region: Tuscany
Year: 2006

The weather has definitely been a bit crazy around here lately. Lots and lots of snow. I haven't had the chance to run out and pick out a new bottle of wine, but luckily I still had a couple left over from our recent wine tasting. This bottle was another one our friends bought for us that we tasted that night. Now, given that it was the first Italian wine I've had in a little while, and the fact we get a lot of take-out from a nice Italian Cafe that is close by, you would think that would be what I had with this bottle, but it just didn't work out that way. Instead, we stopped by our favorite burger joint for some good old hamburgers and fries. Sometimes the food-wine pairing just doesn't work out, but that definitely isn't going to stop me from opening a bottle of wine. Regardless of the food, I was hoping for a nice smooth wine for a Friday night.

I took a quick look at the label to see if I recognized the predominate grape that is used for this wine, but I didn't. Sometimes that makes it a bit more interesting and forces more of an open mind. When I poured my first glass, I noticed the wine had good clarity, with a hint of ruby to it. It kind of flashed red a bit as I poured it into my glass. I tried something a bit different when going to smell the wine. I read recently that I was doing it all wrong, which really isn't much of a surprise. Instead of a prolonged sniff, I read that you should take a series of shorter sniffs, kind of like a hunting dog. That seems to make sense to me, so I gave it a try. My impression was that it definitely intensified the smell, but that didn't necessarily help me in identifying smells that some people seem much better at picking up than me. It did have a pleasant smell, and I would say somewhat earthy. It kind of reminded me a little bit of a Shiraz. With no preconceived notions at this point, I gave it a taste. It actually tasted much like it smelled, with a hint of earthiness to it. The taste hit the back of the tongue, but didn't fade away immediately. it was a little different, but I very much enjoyed it as a change of pace from my normal reds. I would say overall it is a good medium-bodied red, that would go well with pasta, even though I enjoyed it with hamburgers.

Rating: 3.5 (A solid Italian wine)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Altos Las Hormigas - Malbec

Price: $10.99
Region: Argentina
Year: 2009
Some time back in October, we attended a wine tasting for a local breast cancer charity. One of the auction items that day was a wine tasting for up to 20 couples at the same store . We decided to split the auction item with some good friends, and it just so happened that this past weekend was the day we decided to hold this wine tasting. We each brought four other couples with us, so the final group was a nice even 20. The tasting was scheduled for late afternoon, so once 3:00 rolled around, it was off to a very nice, sort of upscale, local wine store. They had a nice variety of wines for us to taste, ranging from a California Riesling, to an Australian Shiraz. As isn't too much of a surprise, I was not overly impressed with the whites we tasted, but based on the small samplings, thought a couple of the reds had some promise. I actually decided not to purchase any of the wines that we tried, but given that we have some very generous friends, I found out as we started our walk to dinner, that one couple had bought us three bottles as a sort of thank you.
We now have a couple of bottles of wine to try from our most recent tasting, which always make for something to look forward to. The first one I decided to try this past weekend, was the 2009 Malbec. I think this was mostly because we were having beef stew for dinner, and it seemed like the logical choice, but it was always because of a comment someone had made on my blog the last time I reviewed a Malbec. Back in November, I reviewed the Alamos Malbec on a whim (http://winereviewsyoucanunderstand.blogspot.com/2009/11/alamos-malbec.html). Being that I love wines like Shiraz, and Cabernet, I was thinking Malbec would be the next logical choice, given they are mostly very well priced and have good word of mouth. Anyway, the Alamos left a bit to be desired, and someone left a comment to make sure that I didn't give up on this particular variety. So, with that in the back of my mind, I wanted to give it another go.
This is definitely a bold looking wine. Very dark and jammy in color. A nice wine to look at for sure. As far as the smell, it was pleasant enough, but just seemed a bit young. It didn't have that stand up and take notice type of aroma, but again, not bad. With the last Malbec I tried, it was the overall taste that made the rating take a bit of a hit. It was definitely thin, and a little bitter. This wine however, started out with a nice flavor that hung around for a bit, and finished smooth. My initial impression was somewhere between a Shiraz & a Cabernet. This wine didn't "wow" me, but it was definitely a good counterpart to the beef stew, and it is nice to have a change of pace sometimes. I think I may now be on a search for a really good Malbec that comes in at a reasonable price. Wish me luck....
Rating: 3.5 (Getting warmer...)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

V Sattui - Crow Ridge Zinfandel


Price: $33
Region: Napa, California
Year: 2007
One more entry from my trip to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. My class ended a bit earlier on Friday than I expected, and my plane wasn't leaving until 7:30 PM, so with a few hours to burn, I could think of nothing better to do than drive 60 miles or so north to grab lunch and a quick little tasting at a great winery. When my wife and I visited Napa back in 2004 for our 10th wedding anniversary, this was definitely one of our top three favorite stops. The great thing about V Sattui, besides the wine, is their small deli "like" shop and picnic area. A wonderful place to grab a nice meal, and sit outside on their beautiful grounds. After buying their special of the day, a homemade meatball sandwich, I went back in for a quick tasting before heading back to the airport. This is going to be less of a review, and more of a recommendation to stop by V Sattui, if you ever have the chance.
There were two different options for their tasting. I took the cheaper one ($5), only because it had a wider variety of options. The more expensive tasting was only $10, and had some higher end wines, but not as many wines to choose from. There were two wines that definitely caught my attention. The first of which I have pictured above, the Crow Ridge Zinfandel. Interesting enough, this wine was not actually on the tasting sheet for this tasting. The Zinfandel I first tasted was call "Bar 49". I wasn't overly impressed with this wine, as it was very mild for a Zin. When the very nice lady behind the bar noticed the look of "ehh, it's OK", on my face, she quickly went and grabbed this Zin and asked me to give it a try. I am very glad she did. This is what I would expect from a solid Zin, and even a little more. It had a very unique, but very nice flavor, and was very smooth. Also, a great aroma that I had to take a second sniff of before taking a sip. As the original intent of this wine blog was to look at wines in the under $15 category, I won't compare a wine that cost twice that, but if you buy wines in this range, this one is a steal. The 2nd wine I really enjoyed was their Napa Valley Cabernet. I actually liked this one so much I bought a bottle to bring home. I'll have the opportunity to review that one some time down the road. I was also going to grab a bottle of the Zinfandel, but I wanted to get a bottle for my wife, and she is not a big fan of Zinfandel. Instead, I bought a bottle of their Petit Sirah, which we'll give a try one of these days as well.
Since V Sattui only sells their wines direct to the consumer, you won't find any of their wines in your local store. For some states however, you can go directly to their website, and they will ship you an order. I made due with a couple bottles to go, and I am looking forward to trying them both out. I would definitely give this particular Zinfandel high marks, probably somewhere in the 4.25 range, but my real recommendation is to give a variety of their wines a try. They definitely do a great job!!
Rating: A Great Winery....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Talley - Pinot Noir


Price: Around $35
Region: California
Year: 2006
Definitely not your typical wine review week for me. I know it has been 2 weeks since my last review, but I have a good excuse. I was on a trip for work, and lucky me, I got to go to San Francisco. Definitely one of the best cities I have ever visited. Not to mention the fact that Napa is only an hour north. Now, being from east coast, I have only visited San Francisco two other times, so it is definitely a treat when I get to go. The other thing that makes this review a little out of the ordinary is that I had this particular wine at a great wine bar, and just jotted down some notes when I got back to my room. So, here goes...
This wine was actually part of a "flight" of three different wines that I tried. I knew without writing down the names of each, I would have a hard time remembering all of them, so I just went with the one that made the biggest impression on me. Amazingly enough, it was a Pinot Noir, and not one of the very good Cabs or Syrahs that I tried. Go figure. I'm 100% I have the winery and grape, but only about 95% sure I have the right year. That being said, I'm pretty sure it was a 2006. When I just looked up the winery online, this picture seemed the most likely, and it appears to go for around $35. A bit more than the wines I usually review, but this was a special occasion for sure.
The thing that caught me by surprise originally was this wine was a bit darker than what I would typically expect from a Pinot Noir. It had a real nice color, and very good clarity. What really stuck out to me, and made this wine memorable for me was the aroma. The word that first comes to mind is smokey, but it was way more complex than just that. It had a nice earthy feel to it, with what I would call a dried fruit smell. Without a doubt, one of the more distinctive smelling wines I've had in a while. So, when it came to tasting this wine, I was so not surprised how smooth, flavorful, and downright good this wine was. I actually saved another wine for last in this flight of three wines, but given to do over, this would have definitely been the clean-up hitter. Next week I'll review one of the wines from one of my favorite wineries in Napa that I had the pleasure of visiting last week.
Rating: 4.5 (A Home Run of a wine)