Tasting Notes from the Weekend of 9/18: Caymus, Alto Moncayo, Hall, Shea

I was fortunate enough to drink four really nice high end wines this weekend, three of which we have in stock at the shop. I usually only try to indulge one a week but this weekend, because of a few things going on, I was able to splurge a little. Things started off on Friday night when I headed up to Waterbury to visit a friend of mine.

2006 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon – In Stock $64.99

Decanted this before I drove up there. Didn’t start drinking it until about two hours after that. Had a great nose of vanilla, blueberry, and Cassis. The first sip really coated the mouth with its full body. The tannins were still there after two hours but melted away as we drank the bottle. Flavors of red and black fruits along with some spice and a touch of earth that led to a nice long layered finish. Very big wine! It went very nicely with the steak my friend grilled. Forgot how good Caymus can be!

The next night, my sister-in-law, her fiance, my wife and I  headed out to dinner at Anna Donte’s, a local Italian BYOB place.  We brought two bottles of wine with us.

2006 Alto Moncayo Veraton  Garnacha – In Stock $25.99

This bottle won Wine of the Night at our wine club meeting a while back so I figured we should give it another try. We popped and poured this one. Had some great aromas of cherry, spice, and raspberry.  The wine was very full bodied and high in alcohol, but that’s Alto Moncayo’s style, a big almost over the top wine.  What shows on the palate is big fruit but also a well-balanced wine. Had some great flavors of cinnamon, cherries and vanilla. This is drinking great right now and the price was reduced a while back.

2006 Hall Cabernet Sauvignon – In Stock $39.99

I had this wine while I was out in Napa and although I liked it, I didn’t think it was the 94 that Wine Spectator. I thought it had a lot of mocha on the palate and needed some time in the bottle. It had some tough tannins but it did taste exactly like the Ramey Cabernets that I have had, which makes sense since they brought in David Ramey as consulting winemaker. I decided to open this an hour before the reservation. We got to dinner and we hadn’t finished the Veraton but I poured myself a glass of the Hall to try it. It still was a little tight but I could already tell it was going to be better than the time in Napa. When we got back, about an hour later, we decided to drink the Hall. Now it was open for business! Great nose of currents, plums and licorice. I got some chocolate again on the palate but had some great plum, black raspberry and spice flavors. This time it really impressed me and can now see why it got the high score.  This is only going to get better as it ages.

Lastly, on Sunday we had my wife’s family over for dinner and to watch football.  I cooked up some pasta with meatballs (the sauce and meatballs were home-made by my wife) so I decided to crack open a nice Pinot Noir.

2006 Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noir East Block

I let this decant for about 30 minutes but it probably didn’t even need it. This had a great nose on it with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and brown sugar. This was just as smooth and silky as could be. On the palate it had some great flavors of cherry, red berry, spice, cola and earth.  I can see why they compare Oregon more to Burgundy than California. You get a hint of that earthy taste or Terrior that you find in the great Burgundies. I don’t really get that in the California Pinots. Just a different type of wine.  This was super and a nice way to end the weekend!

In Store Tasting 9/18:Jean-Francois Merieau 2008 L’Arpent des Vaudons

Today we are drinking Jean-Francois Merieau 2008 L’Arpent des Vaudons Sauvignon Blanc from the Touraine Loire Valley. The Loire is the bargain basement of France and this wine just shows you why. The nose has aromas of grapefruit and lime. On the palate it has flavors of pine nuts, peach, and citrus to go along with a mouth watering acidity.  Very refreshing! 

In stock $12.99

Beer from Oxford??? Could it Be??? Call for the Cavalry!

Oxford Liquor Shoppe is proud to announce that we now carry the beer of Cavalry Brewing, made right here in Oxford, CT. Local resident turned brewer Mike NcCreary decided to take on a new career brewing beer after faithful service to our country in Iraq.  He has dedicated his line of beer to his friends in the Army and all those who serve. Cavalry Brewing beers are brewed using traditional English methods on American equipment to create fresh and flavorful ales and stouts to entice the most discerning palate. Each product is a balance between the barley and the hops to provide an easy drinking ale or stout. For more information check out the website here or stop by the store to pick some up!

Notes on over 80 Wines from a Fall Retail Tasting

Every year the Fall brings trade show season for our distributors. Although it is not quite Fall yet, today we had our first tasting of the season and it is one of the best. We had the chance to taste a ton of wine today and I took wrote down some very basic notes.  There were so many wines to try that you obviously can’t try them all. I tried to write down at least a thought or two on each and I figured I would share them with our customers to help with purchasing decisions. I’m listing this in the order that the book goes and not the order that we tasted it in. For the sake of simplicity, I rated these wines in the universal 100 point scoring system which is reflected below.

Chateau Montelena

2008 Chardonnay Napa Valley- Surprisingly, found this rather thin and not much to it. Not anything like the 2007 or the fantastic 2004 we had in May. Could need some time to put on weight but I’m not holding my breadth. 87

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – This was quite pleasant, made in an old world style. Has some nice up front fruit. 90

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – Much better than when we had it at the winery in May. This is still tight and probably needs another 3-4 years of cellaring.92


2007 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast and 2008 Chardonnay Napa Valley – Preferred the Sonoma Coast bottling slightly more than the Napa Valley but both were made in a very similar style with the touch of oak. Two of the best Chardonnay’s I tasted today. 95 & 94

2006 Pinot Noir Jayson – The 06 vintage is not regarded as a great vintage for Pinot but this is quite nice. Had some nice fruit concentration and drinking great. Pretty good deal for the money. 93

2007 Merlot – Made like a Cabernet, this was probably the top Merlot of the day. Lots of nice structure and fruit. Very impressive. 93

2006 Proprietary Red – Still kind of young but well deserving of the 95 points Parker gave it. One of the top reds of the day. 94

Joseph Phelps

2008 Sauvignon Blanc – This had a touch of oak, which I really like in my Sauvignon Blancs, but it was still light on its feet. Very nice but tends to be a little pricey. 91

2008 Fog Dog Chardonnay and 2007 Freestone Chardonnay – These were both really nice. Haven’t really liked these wines in the past but these are both solid. Preferred the Fog Dog to the Freestone. 93 and 91

2006 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon – Had a bottle of the 2005 two weeks ago and this was just as good. Very nice structure and plenty of fruit. Very nice finish as well. Impressive. 91

2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia – WOTD This was awesome! Still very young and it will need some aging but this is a classic wine. The finish sailed on for a minute with some great red and black fruit flavors. I can see why Parker gave this 97-100 points. 97

Maison Marques et Domaines

2007 Pio Cesare Barbera D’Alba – some nice cherry fruit and ready to drink. Impressive. 91

2006 Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande – This was a classic Bordeaux wine that needs some age but was showing well already. Classic cigar box nose with some nice up front fruit. 92


2005 Bella Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Trailside Cabernet Sauvignon- decent Napa Cab made in an old word style but not worth the money. 88 & 89

2004 and 2005 Martha’s Vineyard – Heitz is smart to release these a few years after most wineries release their wines. I didn’t taste a whole lot of difference between the two vintages which is a testament to their consistency. Both 94.


2007 Old Bull Red – a Bordeaux blend, this was one of the best value wines I tasted on the day. Some great young fruit and made for early drinking. 90

2006 and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – both were very nice and classic Napa Valley cabs. Preferred the 2007 to the 2006. 91 & 93

2005 Black Label – very rich, with layers of fruit and flavor. An impressive effort. 94


2008 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford – Michael Honig was pouring their wines and this was great. Little more expensive than their regular bottling but you can really taste the difference. 91

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – James Laube nailed this one. Very nice herb, dill with some subtle fruit. I liked this better than the 2005. 92

2006 Bartolucci Cabernet Sauvignon – Can’t remember if I had the 2005 or 2006 back in May in Napa but this showed a lot better. Just as impressive as the 2007 regular bottling. 92

2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc – the best desert wine coming out of Napa Valley. The 2007 was much better than the 2008 we had back in May. Kind of pricey but worth the money. 93

Citadel trading

2007 Domaine du Galet des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes – Very nice for the money with some great fruit and smooth finish. 91

2007 Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape – 91

2007 Domaine de Beaurenard Boisrenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Some nice fruit but very tight. Needs a good 5 years. 93

Eagles Trace – This is the new venture from Gus Anderson, father of Todd Anderson who runs Anderson’s Conn Valley.

2006 Because – Right up there with the Turnball as the best value bottle I tasted. Similar to the Anderson’s Conn Valley Prologue. Some great upfront fruit for early drinking. 90

2004 Merlot – very similar to the Right Bank, this was drinking perfectly and very Bordeaux like. 91

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon – the taster explained that Gus owns half the Conn Valley vineyards so he gets first pick to what he wants.  This explained why these wines tasted almost identical to the Conn Valley wines. This was right there with the Conn Valley reserve Cabernet although the 2007 reserve was a bit better. 93

2005 Latitude 38 – 92

Jordan Winery

2007 Jordan Chardonnay – Not bad but kind of overpriced. Would be nice at $14.99 88

2006 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – Again, not bad but just overpriced. Just not worth over $20. 89

Darioush – They had pictures of the spectacular winery out in Napa. Worth going to see that alone. I pulled the above picture of their website.

2007 Chardonnay – a very nice wine even if it’s a tad overpriced. 90

2007 Caravan – A nice Bordeaux blend and the price was a little more reasonable.  Little more French like than Cali. 91

2007 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon – Another Cab mixed with classic Bordeaux varietals, this proved to be nice as well. 91

Dreyfus Ashby

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet Red – Not bad but very earthy. 88

2007 Domaine Drouhin – Had a nice mix of red fruit and earthy flavors. 90


2008 Sauvignon Blanc – Light crisp and refreshing with a nice acidity. 88

2005 Merlot – Didn’t think this was as good as their other efforts although this was before their great 2006 vintage. 87

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – The 2006 was great but I think this was better. Not as tannic and well structured. 93

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Kathryn Hall – This was impressive as well with a lot of good mocha and dark fruit flavors 92

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Kathryn Hall – My favorite of their wines and one of the best at the tasting. Well structured with a great finish and smooth tannins. 95


2008 Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch – They really make a great Chardonnay. Well balanced and put on some weight since May with just a touch of oak. 92

2007 Merlot – This actually put on some weight as well. The fruit was more prominent and powerful. 91

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five – This needed some air, which it got when I was there in May, but unfortunately didn’t this day. Still like this a lot though but I wish they would drop the price. Showed better at the winnery. 90

2007 Syrah Relentless – This was very tannic and needs a lot of time. I thought the 06 we had back in May was better. 90

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select – I was blown away by the 2005 back in May but the same thing happened here last year. We hit this table first and it just did not get enough air on top of the fact that it is just too young to drink. Needs 3 or 4 years in the bottle. Has a lot of great fruit and structure but those tannins need to round into form. Would need at least an 8  hour decant right now. 95

Preston Layne

2008 Anderson Conn Valley Chardonnay – An impressive Chardonnay from them although very oaky. 91

2008 Anderson Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Prologue – What a value! I thought the 2007 was good but this is just as nice if not better. Smooth tannins and ready to drink. 91

2007 Anderson Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – This was spectacular and just as good as when I had it in Napa. Well structured and just so different from other Napa wines. 96

2006 Anderson Conn Valley Eloge – I liked this slightly less than the Reserve but it was excellent as well. The Cab Franc really makes a difference in this blend. 95

Loosen Bros.

2009 Dr. L Riesling – Year in and year out this is a very consistent wine. A Dave favorite. 90

2006 Urziger Wurzgarten – Nice sweetness and range of flavor. 91

2006 Beerenauslese – Nice sweetness here as well but much richer flavors. Affordable in the 187 size. 93


2008 Melville Estate Chardonnay – I liked this very much. Nice touch of oak with tropical fruit flavors. 91

2009 Melville Cloe 76 Inox Chardonnay – No oak in this one with some nice “naked” flavors although I got a touch of heat on this one. 90

2008 Melville Estate Pinot Noir – A very feminine Pinot with soft, soft tannins and great blue fruit flavors. I liked this better than the 2007. 93

2009 Melville Verna’s Viognier – What a nose on this wine! Incredible! Some great tropical fruit flavors to boot. 93

2009 Diatom Clos Pepe Chardonnay – While not a bad wine, this was third in line for me out of the Diatom Chardonnays. 89

2009 Diatom Babcock Chardonnay – Some really nice fresh fruit flavors with a great minerality. Impressive 93

2009 Diatom Huber Chardonnay – This one didn’t taste that different from the Babcock but where I noticed the difference was the finish. It had to be at least 45 seconds.  Both had high alcohol but were amazingly well-balanced. I didn’t detect any heat on them. 95

Brewer Clifton

2008 Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills – This table was right next to Melville and the chards were very similar. 90

2008 Chardonnay Mount Carmel – 92

2008 Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills – Another great Pinot and priced very reasonably. 92

2007 Pinot Noir Mount Carmel – A tad lighter than the SRH bottling, this had a great range of flavor and very nice structure. Greg Brewer is making the best wines in the Santa Rita Hills right now. 93

Silver Oak Cellars

2003 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – Decent but thoroughly unimpressed for the coin they charge for it. I should be wowed and I wasn’t. I thought quite a few bottles about $50 less were either equal or better than it. 91

Twomey Merlot (Didn’t get the vintage) – I continue to be unimpressed with their Merlot. Way too tannic and not enough fruit and structure. Too much money. 88

Dr. Konstantin Frank – We hit this right before we left so my palate was kind of fatigued. I only have the scores I wrote down at this point and remember everything was impressive but the Chardonnay. Priced right too.

2009 Dry Riesling – 90

2008 Rkatsiteli – 89

2007 Gewurztraminer – 89

2007 Chardonnay – 86

2009 Semi Dry Riesling – 90

2008 Cabernet Franc – 88

Notes on 7 Wines from a Housewarming Party

My father-in-law recently built a new house in Seymour. The house was just finished so to commemorate the occasion he had a house-warming party for his family over the labor day weekend.  They cooked quite a few things on the grill including ribs, hot dogs, sausage links, and homemade burgers. He made a trip to the store on Saturday to pick up some wines for the party so all of the wines except one were purchased there.  It was a beautiful day so we decided to kick things off with one of my favorite California Sauvignon Blancs from Honig.

2009 Honig Sauvignon Blanc – In Stock $14.99

This was perfect to start off with because it was light and refreshing.  I had a chance to try this back in May on my trip to Napa and I must say I think it has improved since then. It has a beautiful floral nose with flavors of citrus, nectarine, peaches and a nice acidity. Just a great Sauvignon Blanc and for the price you can’t beat it.

After everyone got warmed up with the whites, my father-in-law broke out the reds.  He proceeded to open up five of them and put them on the table.  Someone walked up to me and asked which one they should try.  I told them to try them all! Soon everyone was coming over for the “wine tasting” as they were calling it.  Being familiar with the wines since they were from the store, I was able to give them some background on each wine and some tips on the makeup of each.  It worked out quite nicely. Everyone started from left to right so the first wine people tried was the Rabbit Ridge.

2009 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles  – In Stock $7.99

Primarily a blend from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvede, this wine is grown from Rabbit Ridge’s vineyards in Paso Robles and made in a Cotes du Rhone Style. The clones used for the plantings of these grapes are predominantly from Tablas Creek Winery, who brought them in from Chateau de Beaucastel in the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape region of France.  Aromas of roasted coffee beans on the nose led to flavors of strawberry, cherry, coffee and a touch of earth.  Overall a great bottle of wine that’s not too heavy and a great value.

2009 Redtree Pinot Noir – In Stock $7.99

As I have said in the past, it is really difficult to find a nice Pinot Noir under the $20-$25 mark but I remember trying this Redtree Pinot Noir that James Laube wrote about in Wine Spectator and thought it was really nice for the money. One of our distributors just starting distributing it in Connecticut so I spoke to Dave about bringing it in. Made from grapes grown predominantly in Lodi, the wine is aged in oak chips instead of oak barrels to keep costs down but it also gives it a subtle oak presence. This is a lighter style of Pinot with aromas of fresh fruit and strawberries. You get some nice cherry and red fruit flavors on the palate while having very supple tannins. This is made for immediate consumption and an affordable party pleaser.

2008 Borsao Tinto – In Stock $6.99

One of the great Spanish values out there, the 2008 vintage got 89 Points from Wine Spectator and 88 Points from Wine Advocate. Your not going to find wines at this price point getting scores like that.  The 2008 Borsao is made up of 80% Grenacha and 20% Tempernillo. It comes from a town called Borja, which is in a region called “The Grenacha Land of Spain.” It has some nice notes of black cherry, black berry, herb and smoke to go along with some well-integrated tannins.

2007 Four Vines Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel – In Stock $10.99

Four Vines puts out quite a few Zinfandels (The Bike Zin was on Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2009) but they have more than enough left over juice to put together this multi-appellation blend. This comes from vineyards in Mendocino, Amador, Sonoma, Paso Robles and Lodi with some old vine juice mixed in from the various regions.  This has some nice vanilla, cherry and spice aromas to go along with flavors of blueberry, blackberry and spice on the palate. Perfect for BBQ (my father-in-law insisted we get a Zinfandel) and another party pleaser.

2006 Bivio Chianti- Sorry Last Bottle

This is 100% Sangiovese and sourced entirely from the renown Chianti region in Italy. Probably a better match with hearty pasta than a BBQ, this had a very floral nose. Medium bodied, this had some nice black berry, raspberry and earth flavors that led to a nice finish.

While we were all trying the five reds, I had something else decanting off to the side. My father-in-law has a fantastic looking decanter (see above). I knew this wine was going to need an hour our two in there to open up so I decanted it right after I had gotten there. It was now time to see if my patience had paid off.

2006 Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Tapestry – Available: Please inquire

A classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, the Tapestry is BV’s second reserve wine after the flagship wine Georges De Latour.  The wine had notes of cocoa, licorice, and cassis on the nose. This led to a big wine with flavors of red and black fruits, dusty berry, licorice and smooth tannins (at this point after the decant). The finish went on for about 25 seconds and certainly was impressive. A very noble effort and clearly made to age.  I was turned off to BV’s wines for a number of years but they clearly have come back in a big way.

By this time we were eating dinner so I had thought this was the final wine of the night. After we were finished, my father-in-law brought out one more wine to cleanse the palate.

2007 Trimbach Riesling – In Stock $16.99

Sorry but I wasn’t able to snap a shot of this bottle. This appeared on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2009 and was much different from the first time I had it. The first time I found this to be one of the dryest Riesling I had ever had.  This time, I tasted just a touch of sweetness, which is just how I like my Rieslings. Coming from Alsace, this had some beautiful melon and wet stone aromas. This gave way to flavors of granny smith apple, pear, and mineral notes with a nice acidity running through it. A nice way to end the night. Need to have these get togethers more often.

In Store Tasting 9/4: 2009 Pacific Edge Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot

Today we are trying two wines, both by Pacific Edge. The first is there 2009 Merlot which has some nice berry aromas to go along with some easy drinking red berry flavors. The second, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, has a nice licorice aroma to go along with flavors of red licorice and herb. Both good buys for $5.99.

We are sampling both for in store consideration.