Tasting Notes on 6 Wines from our Winter Wine Club Meeting

On February 25th, we got together for our Winter wine club meeting. We didn’t have a theme for the meeting so everyone could bring whatever they wanted. We were fortunate enough to have someone bring some Pepe’s pizza which was very good. We also had some homemade perogies, an assorted mixture of apps, some desserts and probably the greasiest eggplant rollatini I have ever had (I brought that, can’t always pick a winner). The meeting proved to be very interesting with a lot of the wines scoring very closely together.

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SEYMOUR WINE CLUB MEETING 2/25/17 – Home of Lew Stanio (2/25/2017)

  • 2014 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Tasted blind. Aromas of Honeysuckle, lemon, beeswax and flowers. Flavors of citrus, honeysuckle, lemon and melon. Had a beautiful acidity on this. Finish went on for 30+ seconds. I guessed the Merry Edwards that I brought and I was right. This was my wine of the night and was the #2 wine overall. Available to order. (93 pts.)
  • 2014 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve California – USA, California
    Tasted blind. Aromas of plum, cherry and earth on the nose. Flavors of cherry, earth and raspberry. Fruit really shines through on this and nicely balanced. Finish went on for 25 seconds. I had actually tried this earlier in the day and recognized it as the Kendall Jackson. Excellent for the money. This was the #3 wine on the night. In stock. (90 pts.)
  • 2012 Adobe Road Redline – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Tasted blind. Aromas of plum, fruitcake and coffee. Flavors of plum, cherry pie, mocha and a touch of iron. Ended with a long finish of 25+ seconds. Guessed a red blend from California. Definitely tasted some petit sirah in there. Turns out I was right. This wine finished 5th on the night. (91 pts.)
  • 2014 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast – USA, California, Central Coast
    Tasted blind. Aromas of honey, mineral and slate. Flavors of pear, apple, mineral and note of star fruit. More settle than the previous wines. Finish lasts about 25 seconds. Guessed a Chardonnay from France. Note surprised when the bag came off. Wine finished 6th on the night. In stock. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Daou Vineyards The Pessimist – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Tasted blind. Aromas of licorice, cinnamon, and Asian spices. Smells older than it actually is. On the palate, this had flavors of plum, licorice and smoked herbs. Finish went on for abut 30 seconds. This one threw me for a loop. I guessed a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This was my #2 wine and it was the wine of the night. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
    Tasted blind. Aromas of peach, honeysuckle, citrus and flowers. Flavors of citrus, grapefruit and tangerine. Great acidity on this. Took me a while to figure this out. At first though it was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc because of the grapefruit but settled on a Viognier from the Rhone. This is going to be great in the Summer. Finished 4th on the night. In stock. (90 pts.)

The Perfect Bubbly to Ring in the New Year!

Let’s face it, people try to drink sparkling wine all year but it’s synonymous with one particular holiday: New Year’s Eve! There is nothing quite like popping a nice bottle and ringing in the New Year (along with the Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy)! Oxford Liquor Shoppe has you covered for all of your New Year’s needs. Here are fours great bottles to celebrate and won’t break the bank.

korbel-brut-organic-grapes

Korbel NV Brut California Organic Grapes $14.99

#73 on this year’s Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2016, this is a clear step up from the normal Korbel bottling.

Wine Spectator 90 points

“Crisp and luscious, this is a winning bubbly for a big party. Aromas of cinnamon, ginger and citrus lead to creamy flavors of pear and blanched almond. Drink now.”
gloria-ferrer-blanc-de-blancs
Gloria Ferrer N.V. Blanc de Blancs Carneros $19.99
Another very affordable bottle from California. This comes from one of the best sparkling wine houses in the United States, making quality stuff for decades now. A step up from the Korbel.
Wine Spectator 90 Points
“This sparkler agilely balances crisp and creamy details with lemon tart and toasted nut aromas, showing layered flavors of lemon zest and cinnamon brioche. Drink now. 5,400 cases made.”
aria-cava
Sigura Viudas Aria N.V. Cava Estate Brut $12.99

Sigura Viudas has always been a house favorite but this is a nice contrast to the entry level style. While the entry level aims for crispness and acidity, the Aria goes for creaminess. Almost like a mini version of the Vollereaux but at a fraction of the price!
Vollereaux Champagne Brut

Vollereaux NV Champagne Brut $31.99

This is a bit more expensive but a great value for a Champagne. This is better than Moet’s Imperial or Veuve Clicuot and less expensive to boot! Been carrying this for a long time and it never disappoints. A creamy style that is sure to please!

Wine Spectator 92 Points

“Rich and refined, with layers of pear pastry, black cherry, hazelnut, lemon cream, honey and floral notes. A spicy thread of minerality winds through this wine, as does the precise and seamlessly integrated acidity.”

Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2016 Available at Oxford Liquor Shoppe!

At the end of every year, Wine Spectator comes out with their Top 100 Wines of the Year. Once the wines are announced, there typically is a mad dash to obtain these wines. The Wine of the Year instantly becomes very hard to find and goes up in value. Some people say it might be a little over-hyped and there are plenty of good wines not on the list but one thing that can’t be denied is the wines on the list are all high quality wines.  The list contains a nice variety of red wine, white wine, sparkling wine and dessert wine as well as a good balance between imported wine and domestic, including selections outside of California. Oxford Liquor Shoppe has done a good job over the years bringing in these wines, most of the time we have these in stock before the list is announced.  For the last few years we have been posting what wines we have in stock from the current year’s list as well as wines we may have from a previous years list.

Top 100 Wines of 2016

Intrinsic Cabernet Sauvignon

#32 2014 Intrinsic Cabernet Cabernet Columbia Valley $19.99

“Firm in texture, brimming with raspberry, black cherry, violet and herb flavors that come together harmoniously on the finish against refined tannins. Offers presence and persistence. Best from 2018 through 2024.”

2015-kono-sauvignon-blanc-marlborough

#41 2015 Kono Sauvignon Blanc $13.99

“This refreshing white offers a clear, focused mix of passion fruit, lime, mango and green apple flavors on a light, smooth body. Finishes with a succulent juiciness, showing echoes of lemon verbena. Drink now.”
2014-vina-montes-cabernet-sauvignon

#42 2014 Vina Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Classic Series $9.99

“There’s minerally freshness to the ripe dark plum, blackberry and cherry flavors, with peppery hints. Well-structured and crisp midpalate, featuring Asian spice and black fig notes on the finish. Drink now through 2020.”
2013 kung fu girl

#45 2015 Charles Smith Riesling Kung Fu Girl $12.99

“Tangy and zingy, with lively acidity that balances against gobs of ripe pear and apricot flavors, carrying through the long, lime-accented finish. Drink now through 2020.”

Hahn 2013 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands

#67 2014 Hahn Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands SLH $19.99

“The texture is plush, with lots of complex flavors, ranging from plum to anise to dusty, cedary oak. Satisfying from start to finish, ending with dusty, nutmeg-scented tannins. Drink now.”
2014-ravines-riesling-dry

#70 2014 Ravines Riesling Finger Lakes Dry $16.99

“A taut, dry style, with pure lime, kiwifruit and pippin apple flavors backed by a slate note that gives the finish good tension and length. Very solid. Drink now through 2017. 5,475 cases made.”
korbel-brut-organic-grapes

#73 NV Korbel Brut California Organic Grapes $14.99

“Crisp and luscious, this is a winning bubbly for a big party. Aromas of cinnamon, ginger and citrus lead to creamy flavors of pear and blanched almond. Drink now.”
 2014-vina-godeval

#75 2014 Bodegas Godeval Vina Godeval Valdeorras Cepas Vellas $16.99

“Pear, peach and quince flavors mingle in this expressive white, while notes of mineral, tangerine and ginger add complexity. Shows depth and focus, with a clean, juicy finish. Drink now.”
2014-carpineto

#76 2011 Carpineto Vina Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva $24.99

“A rich, powerful style, this evokes black cherry, black currant, plum, leather and tar flavors. Balanced and ready to enjoy, with lingering accents of spice and tobacco. Drink now through 2023.”

Past Glories Still Available

Top 100 Wines of 2015

#16 2009 Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Port Score 93 Price $22.99

“Dense and rich, with amply spiced flavors of ripe dark plum and cherry compote. Mineral notes emerge midpalate, leading to a lush, chocolate-filled finish. A fresh and engaging style. Drink now.”

 

#21 2014 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Score 93 Price $29.99

“Stylish and generous, exhibiting a complex array of flavors, from white grapefruit and lemon curd to candied ginger, lemon verbena, honeysuckle and lime zest. Achieves elegance, power and refreshment in lovely harmony. Drink now.”

 

#35 2013 Rombauer Chardonnay Carneros Score 93 Price $38.99

“A creamy-textured, charming style that’s easy to drink yet is deceptively complex and layered, with a mix of vanilla-scented oak and vibrant peach, nectarine, honeydew and apricot flavors. Long on the finish. Drink now.”

 

 

#78 2012 Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Score 91 Price $29.99

“Exhibits ripe and juicy yet firm flavors of currant and blackberry amid a gravelly earthiness before finding focus on the finish, where the tannins are chewy, revealing a licorice touch. Drink now through 2025.”

Top 100 Wines of 2014

#16 2012 Two Hands Shiraz Bella’s Garden Score 95 Price $79.99

“Utterly seamless, focused, powerful and elegant, layered with cherry, boysenberry and red plum fruit, revealing glints of coffee, jasmine and cardamom that add extra nuances. Delivers complexity without extra weight. The finish won’t quit. Drink now through 2022.”

#43 2013 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling Score 91 Price $12.99

“Crisp and sleek, with juicy, expansive nectarine and peach flavors that play against citrusy acidity, finishing with zing and a sense of softness that lets the finish keep singing. Drink now through 2020. 128,806 cases made.

#54 N.V. Mumm Napa Brut Napa Valley Prestige Score 91 Price $22.99

“Packs in a lot of complexity, with aromas of apple, fresh ginger and rubber that lead to crisp and layered flavors of raspberry and spice. Drink now. 173,000 cases made.

 

Top 100 Wines of 2007


#7 Robert Mondavi 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve Score 95 Points Price $102.99

“Weaves together a complex array of ripe, rich currant, anise, smoky oak and black cherry. Dense, concentrated and persistent, with great depth and focus. Ends with an amazingly long, richly flavored finish. Best from 2008 through 2018.”

Top 100 Wines of 2002

#37 Rosemont 1999 Syrah McLaren Vale Balmoral Score 93 Points Price $32.99

“A bit more aristocratic than most Aussie Shirazes, this one strikes a beautiful chord of rich blackberry and currant fruit, hinting at anise and pepper. Has a fleshy frame, with sweet spicy notes darting in and out through the long, harmonious finish. Drink now through 2010. 10,000 cases made.”

Tasting Notes on 6 Wines from our Fall Wine Club Meeting

Our wine club got together for our Fall meeting and it did not disappoint. We meet 4 times a year to break bread and drink wine. Sometimes we have a theme, other times we don’t. This week’s past meeting there was no theme so people could bring whatever they wanted. It proved to be an interesting assortment of wines. You would be surprised how tough it is to guess the grape when your drinking it blind. It could be quite challenging, especially with even the most popular grapes. This meeting saw 2 whites and 4 reds, which went nice with the buffalo chicken pizza, turkey quesadillas (what else are you suppose to do with leftover turkey), spring rolls and an assortment or cheese and meats.

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  • 2010 Crowley Pinot Noir Entre Nous – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Tasted blind. This was a pop and pour. Boy did it need a decant because this was an 84 when I first had it. Lot of wet leaves on the nose and a simple wine with short finish. Upon retasting, got some cherry, matchstick, tobacco and earth on the nose. Flavors had plumped up with some cherry, earth and beet. Like a totally different wine. I gave this wine 88 points and it finished 6th on the night. (88 pts.)
  • 2013 Lavau Gigondas – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Gigondas
    Tasted blind. Similar to the first wine, this needed some air to open up. Not as big a difference as the first wine but was noticeably better upon retasting. Aromas of cherry, earth red fruits and licorice led to flavors of cherry, plum and dark red fruits. Ended with a 20 second finish. I gave this wine 90 points and it finished 3rd on the night. (90 pts.) In Stock.
  • 2015 Jules Taylor Pinot Noir – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
    Tasted blind. Decanted for over an hour before serving. Nose of citrus, which is strange for a red wine, tea and cherry. It then had flavors of cherry, green tea, earth and mineral. Closer to Burgundy than anything from the states. Still the citrus nose is pretty unique. I gave this wine 92 points and it finished 2nd on the night. (92 pts.)
  • 2013 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Tasted blind. Nose of beeswax, mineral and wet stone. Got some honey, lemon, mineral, stone and melon on the palate. Ended with a 25+ second finish. This one had me stumped. Guessed a Sancerre. Shocked when the bag came off. Never really liked their chardonnay’s before but this was nice. I gave it 92 points an it came in 5th on the night. (92 pts.)
  • 2014 Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Series Napa County Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Tasted blind. This was a bit closed down initially but opened up with some nice cherry, raspberry and boysenberry aromas. Ended up having a lot going on there. The palate had some flavors of plum, cherry, earth, blackberry and a floral thing going on. Ended with a 30+ second finish. Pegged this as a Sonoma Cab in the $40 range. Everyone was shocked when the bag came off. This was my wine of the night and I gave it 93 points and it finished 4th. Bought a bottle of this a week later just to see if it showed as well and it was just as good. Curious who makes this for them and what the grape source is. (93 pts.)
  • 2014 Viña Godeval Valdeorras Cepas Vellas – Spain, Galicia, Valdeorras
    Tasted blind. Nose of tropical fruit, honeysuckle and mineral. More tropical fruit on the palate with lemon, honey, pear and a hint of grapefruit. Nailed this as a Godello. Just a nice wine for the money. I gave this 92 points and it finished 1st overall. (92 pts.) In stock.

The Jules Taylor and Vina Godeval ended up being on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2016.

Exploring Malbec, a Grape with a Bright Future

The world of wine is just as trendy as anything else. Wines become the hottest thing then all of the sudden they’re not. Over the years things like Blue Nun led the rise of Riesling from Germany, California introduced their version of barrel aged Chardonnay as well as the White Zinfandel craze, and more recently Shiraz from Australia had it’s time in the sun. Only the quality of the wine and pedigree of the grape dictate whether it sticks around after it’s hot streak. The current hot trendy wine currently belongs to the Malbec grape from Argentina but the grapes origins come from the old world.

Malbec’s birthplace is in the French region of Cahors. The wine was grown there for several hundred years enjoying great notoriety from the middle ages until the 19th century. The grape, known locally as Cot, had a great reputation for quality and was shipped all over the world. “The black wine” of Cahors rivaled Bordeaux to the Northwest but the region had two devastating events. The first was phylloxera, an insect that attacks grape vines and kills them. Whenever they hit, the vines need to be grafted to American root stock which the insets won’t go after. The second event was a frost that decimated 75% of the regions vines in 1956, effectively wiping them out. It takes years, even decades, to recover from something like that. After that the grape went dormant. The grape is one of the six red grapes allowed in Bordeaux wines but it was never a major player there. It wasn’t until Argentina came along and made the grape it’s own that Malbec became a major player again.

It’s easy to see why Malbec has become so popular over the last 6-7 years. The wines are typically fruit forward, easy drinking and aren’t as heavy or tannic as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Most importantly, the quality is high but the wines are inexpensive which has really fueled it’s popularity. Steak houses can serve it by the glass cheap, offering a tasty compliment to a juicy steak. Argentina has been the epicenter of this movement and it’s the most widely planted grape in the country.They have done some great things with it, including some high altitude vineyards that are some of the highest elevations for vineyards in the world.

With the popularity of Malbec comes other regions trying there hand with the grape. Versions have surfaced from Bordeaux, California, Chile, Washington and of course Cahors trying to get back in the game. I thought it would be fun to pick out three and taste them against each other. Here are the results.

  • 2009 Château de Chambert Cahors – France, Southwest France, Cahors
    Nose gravitates more towards the old world with notes of blackberry, kirsch liquor, smoke and violets. Trends more towards the black fruits than the red fruits. Very dark color, almost black with a magenta rim. More blackberry and kirsch liquor on the palate of this along with an earthy note and touch of iron. Finish lasts maybe 20 seconds. Wine will definitely peak your interest in Cahors if your a fan of the grape. (90 pts.)

  • 2010 Waterbrook Malbec Reserve – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Nose is more fruit forward than the Chambert and you can tell it’s new world. Color on this is very similar to the first wine being almost black. Trends more towards the red fruits with cherry and plum but still get violets and kirsch liquor like the Cahors. Palate is also fruit forward. Really get smacked with it in the beginning with flavors of cherry, plum, kirsch liquor and a earthy note on the finish. Finish lasts about 20 seconds as well on this. (90 pts.)

  • 2011 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec – Argentina, Mendoza
    Amazing how different the 3 noses on the 3 wines are. The Catena is the most forward of the 3 wines. Aromas of dark cherry, kirsch liquor, plum and smoke jump out of the glass. Again a very dark wine, almost black in color. The palate is again very forward with flavors of dark cherry, plum, kirsch liquor and a mineral note on the finish. This had the longest finish of the 3 wines as well, going on for about 25-30 seconds. Outstanding quality for the money. (92 pts.)

I have to say this was fun. It was interesting to compare and contrast the three wines plus I love to see diversity in wine. It’s good to see Cahors trying to establish itself back in the quality circle. That wine really opened my eyes to the region. Washington seems like it can do interesting things with the grape although they need to try and keep prices in check to compete. Argentina is certainly doing great things with the grape and I firmly believe that the wines will have some longevity because the quality is clearly there.

Could you tell the difference?

Being a sommelier and known as a “wine guy,” people often ask me if you could really tell the difference between a $100 bottle of wine and a $10 bottle of wine. I usually tell them “It depends.” There are so many factors that go into that question. Let’s assume that the price above for each bottle is the actual cost and not discounted. Let’s also assume that the comparison is between two bottles from the same or similar regions. The reason for this is if your comparing a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon  to a Bordeaux they are very different wines. If you have the Napa Valley first, these wines typically have more alcohol and are more fruit forward with bombastic personalities. Following up with the Bordeaux would make it seem too rustic and simply overpowers the wine. Having the Bordeaux first has the opposite effect. A Bordeaux, typically with lower alcohol and more finesse, makes the Napa Valley Cabernet too alcoholic and flabby. So you really need an equal comparison. The last factor is it depends on the taster. If you have someone that doesn’t have that much experience tasting wine try the two bottles they probably aren’t going to see a difference. So the answer would be no. Unless you enjoy wine, I would not advocate spending that much money on a bottle of wine.

So let’s say that the conditions above are met. Now what? Well I believe that there are good bottles of wine at every price point. So there are nice bottles to be had for $10 and there are some bad bottles to be had at $100. So if you picked out your best $10 could it beat a bad $100 bottle? While it’s certainly possible it’s still a long shot. When a winery is making a bottle costing $100, they are aiming for a very high quality level. To bring the 100 point wine rating scale into the picture for a moment, someone buying a $100 bottle may be expecting at least a wine rating of 95 points. Anything below that may be a disappointment. But for a $10 bottle, a really high quality one may get 90 points. So although that may be a nice bottle, especially for the money, it might not be enough to say it is better than the $100 even though it may not reach that 95 point threshold. No don’t get me wrong, there are some bottles that cost $100 that aren’t even hitting that 90 point mark.

My general feeling is that someone who does enjoy wine will be able to tell the difference. They don’t have to be a wine expert either! They really just need to enjoy wine. Well this past weekend I did a little experiment. I have a friend who I get together with every so often and he too loves wine. So of course we crack a few bottles when we get together, typically some really nice stuff. The past couple of times we have been tasting blind. Now if you don’t know what that means there are two different definitions. Single blind means you don’t know the wine but you may know the region, the grape or the vintage. Double blind means you know nothing at all. So for the wines we cracked, we only knew the grape: Cabernet Sauvignon. He said to bring your “A game” so we both picked out two really nice bottles. I then decided to make it interesting by throwing in a $20 bottle I recently had. The $20 bottle was excellent and I thought it would make it difficult to identify in a blind tasting. All wines were decanted for 1 hour. Here are the results:

Wine 1

We both agreed the aromas on this were closed, meaning it was not giving up much. What I did get was some plum and iron. After sitting in the glass for a while the nose started to open up. Tasting this wine was a different story. It had some nice plum, cherry and iron flavors. It certainly had some complexity to it but my friend and I then argued over the finish. I said it lasted about 30 seconds, which to me is long. My friend argued that 30 seconds was not a long finish and it was shorter than the other wines. Overall I gave this wine 92 points and my friend scored it a 90. Interestingly enough, my friend called this out as the ringer before even tasting the other wine!. Since I had it a week or two before, it was pretty easy for my to identify it immediately as well.

Wine 2

This was a much bigger wine than the first one. The nose exploded out of the glass with aromas of blackberry, black cherry and roses. It was much more intense and very much from Napa Valley. The color on this was a very dark red, somewhat similar to wine 1. Drinking this was sheer joy! Favors of blackberry, currant, vanilla and a touch of iron dance across your palate. This was not just a monster wine though. It was beautifully put together that balanced power and elegance. The finish lasted about 45-50 seconds, clearly longer than the first wine. My friend’s impressions were similar to mine. I gave it a 96 and he gave it a 98.

Wine 3

An important distinction between this wine and the other wines was the color. As a red wine ages it gets lighter in color and this one was starting to show some bricking around the rim, a clear sign of age that my friend quickly pointed out. The nose on this also exploded out of the glass with sweet cherry and plum but also showing some more mature aromas of mushroom. Similarly on the palate it had some nice flavors of plum, cherry and blackberry but started showing mature notes mingled in with earth. The finish on this was about as long as wine 2. My friend and I both gave this 96 points.

The Wines

Wine 1 – 2014 Intrinsic Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Washington Release Price $20

Wine 2 – 2012 Lail Cabernet Sauvignon J Daniel Cuvee Napa Valley Release Price $225

Wine 3 – 2004 Opus One Propriety Red Napa Valley Release Price $180

Overall

Tasting the Intrinsic on it’s own was one thing but tasting it next to two high end wines was another. It first got my attention by getting 92 from Wine Spectator. On it’s own it’s a fantastic wine for only $20 and could probably sell for three times it’s price if it came from Napa Valley. My friend is a more experienced taster and it was easy for him to pick this out without even trying the other wines. He actually used deductive reasoning to pick out his wine as well. Since he guessed wine 1 was the ringer and he knew that he didn’t bring an older wine (wine 3), he concluded wine 2 was his. The Lail received a perfect score, 100 points, from Robert Parker. Opus One, when the 1979 vintage was released, was the most expensive wine from Napa Valley at the time. It’s had its ups and downs over the years but the 2004 recently got a 96 from Robert Parker.

Conclusions

This certainly wasn’t highly scientific but it was fun to put the above theory to the test. The less expensive bottle definitely stood out compared to the other two wines. I’d like to do this again but with a larger sample size. It’s pretty safe to say though that on this day the less expensive wine was identified as inferior to the other wines.

Nebbiolo: An Unsung Hero

Four times a year I belong to a wine club that gets together to have a blind tasting. For those unfamiliar with this, it’s where you taste wines blind.  In our case, we brown bag all the bottles and take turns pouring the wines. Sometimes everyone just brings whatever they want or we have a theme. We score all the wines using the 100 point scale. At the end we tally all the scores and then remove the bags to reveal what was poured. This past weekend we got together and the theme was the Nebbiolo grape, our first time having a dedicated meeting to wines made from this grape.

For those of you unfamiliar with the grape, let me fill you in. Nebbiolo was made famous in the Piedmont region of Italy. Although not the most widely planted grape in the region (the workhorse Barbara grape has that claim), it is by far the most famous. It makes the distinctive wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, which some people actually think are the grape names but they would be wrong. Unlike the United States, old world grape producing countries like France, Italy and Spain categorize their wines by region instead of the grape. So a Red Bordeaux from France, for example, could be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc or any other grapes used to make red wine. The Barolo and Barbaresco regions are only allowed to make red wines from Nebbiolo, so we always know what the grape is. The same can’t be said for the rest of the Piedmont region though. The grape is grown in other regions outside of Italy but unlike other grapes that have found popularity in other parts of the world, this one has not.

The Nebbiolo grape produces very distinct wines. These red wines are typically lighter in color but get more orange as they age. Nebbiolo has a very pronounced tar scent and flavor, which evolves as it ages. Typically they don’t even start getting good until about 10 years of age but these are some of the longest lived red wines in the world because they can be very tannic. Drinking a 30 year old Barolo is an unforgettable experience because there really is nothing out there like it because Nebbiolo is so distinctive. It is often compared to Burgundy but not because of the aromas or flavors but because of structure of the wine and the region.

Now that I’ve given you some background information onto the wines! We tasted 5 wines that night. All wines below are in the order tasted.

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Wine 1 – 1998 Vallana Gattinara – Off to a good start. For an 18 year old wine this wasn’t showing any obvious signs of aging. The nose on this was very nice with the classic tar aroma along with roses and cherry. For flavors, this had some nice raspberry, tar, tomato and tobacco with again no real signs of aging. Had a lot of fruit but a tad more elegant than the other wines that night. Maybe that was a sign? The wines ended with a nice finish of about 25 seconds that played on the fruit and tar theme. Tannins were there but not overwhelming, probably because I decanted this for 4 hours. Yes this was the wine I brought and Gattinara is located in Northern Piedmont. I gave it 92 points and it finished tied for last place.

Wine 2 – 2009 Villadoria Barolo – This wine’s nose was a touch bigger than the last wine and more complex. Had some nice aromas of cherry (more intense than the last wine), tomato leaf, roses and earth. I found this to be more tannic than Wine 1 but was still showing quite nicely. Flavors of earth, tobacco and cherry really stood out here. Like the first wine, the finish was about 25 seconds. I gave this an extra point because the nose was a touch more complex. So 93 points and it finished tied for last.

Wine 3 – 2011 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco – What immediately struck me about this wine was the biggest nose yet. A big aroma of cherry just jumped out of the glass with secondary aromas of lavender and cedar. The funny thing on this was besides the big blast of cherry, Wine 2 still had the more complex nose for me. Once tasted, it was easy to see that this wine was just a baby. Flavors of tar, cherry earth and a touch of spice danced across my palate. My wife brought this wine and it was also decanted for 4 hours. Definitely tasted good but only just starting to realize its potential. I gave it 92 points and it finished in 3rd on the night.

Wine 4 – 2005 Cascina Bruciata Barbaresco – This wine changed things up a bit on the nose with a very prominent matchstick aroma but familiar cherry, tar and roses. It’s tough when you have all the same grape and basically the same region because they share a lot of similarities. You could tell that this was starting to tie things together on the palate with again cherry and tar but more raspberry flavors as well as game mixed in. It ended with a 30 second finish that just eclipsed all the other wines. This was well structured and edges the other wines out along with Wine 2 as my favorites of the night. I gave this 93 points and it finished tied for 1st.

Wine 5 – 2010 Massolino Barolo – The final wine of the night was another strong showing. More aromas of cherry, tar, game and roses danced across the nose. Similar to the last wine, this had some nice cherry, raspberry, game and tar flavors. The finish was a touch shorter than Wine 4 but this was a excellent wine. Massolino is a very strong name in Barolo and it’s not surprising to see this wine finish strong. 2010 was one of the best vintages in probably the last 15 years in Barolo. The other 4 wines were all over the place in other members scores but this wine was consistent which is why it finished tied for 1st. I gave it 92 points.

Overall, this was one of our strongest meetings in recent memory. Typically we usually have one wine that shines above the rest with a few outliers people don’t like as much. The average score for each wine was over 90 points and I can’t remember that ever happening. Nebbiolo tends to be on the more expensive side with the average price to entry around $30, which is more expensive than most other grapes. On the flip side, for $50-$75 you can really get some top wines from the grape/region where you would be spending well over $100 or even $200 in places like Napa Valley or Bordeaux. If you have never had a chance to try this grape now is the time with a lot of 2010’s still widely available and if you see anything older make sure to jump on it.

For Wine, Temperature is Everything

You’ve just selected that delicious special occasion bottle out at one of your favorite restaurants. The bottle is going to go perfectly with the appetizers you’ve selected. You have had this bottle before so your no stranger to it. The server comes by with the bottle, runs through the usual ceremony of presenting the bottle and let’s you try the wine to insure it is sound. You quickly give the glass a quick swirl and test the nose but your not getting anything. Not usual but by no means a sign of a flawed wine. You then take a sip. The big lively flavors of this California Chardonnay seem sound but muted. The wine is not exploding on your mouth with the pineapple, mango and marshmallow that you’ve had in the past. Your left scratching your head as to what is wrong. Finally, the last few sips it starts tasting like how you remembered it.

Has anyone had this happen to them? Then you are a victim of someone serving you a wine at the wrong temperature. Unfortunately this is something that happens all too often and a lot of people don’t realize what the problem is. Temperature in wine might seem like a trivial thing, but if you spend good money on a bottle of wine you don’t want anything but an enjoyable wine drinking experience when you open it.

I have especially found this issue to be the case with Chardonnay where wine drinkers commonly drink it too cold. Now the unoaked versions are ok to drink colder. They typically aren’t as fat as their oaked counterparts and they have a lighter body. So if they are served a little colder it doesn’t effect the wine. But oaked Chardonnay needs that warmer temperature to really express itself. When served colder the nose can shut down and the flavors can be muted.  On the flip side, the wine served too warm can seem flabby and more alcoholic. So you can see how important it is to get temperature right.

Now if your at home and cognizant of the issue, the problem is an easy fix. Either stick the bottle in the fridge or give it time to warm up. If your a dedicated wine drinker, you can look to invest in something like this. But let’s say your getting wine by the glass in a restaurant. Then you have a problem. Everyone wants an optimal glass of wine when your suppose to be enjoying yourself. A step to the prevent this is just simple awareness on the restaurants part. The easy solution to the problem is keeping different coolers at different temperatures. The last resort is pouring any wine that needs to warm up first and letting it sit while getting other things for the table. It would be similar if the wine needs a chill to bring the temperature down.

Here is some guidelines from my experience for the most popular grapes:

White
Riesling 43°-47°
Sparkling Wine 45°
Sauvignon Blanc 47°-52° Unoaked versions I like closer to 47°, oaked versions 52°.
Chardonnay 50°-55° Unoaked versions I like closer to 50°, oaked versions 55°.

Red
Pinot Noir  55°-61° Almost always on the warmer side of this range but a nice chill can be refreshing in the Summer.
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 63°-64°
Syrah 64°

A tool I use at home and find helpful is a digital thermometer. Here is a link to one that I have used before that is inexpensive.

Finally, these are typically the norm but everyone has there personal preferences. While you can’t make everyone happy, sticking to the above guidelines should cater to most wine drinkers.

6 South American Wines from our Wine Club Meeting

As I have mentioned in the past, Dave and I belong to a wine club that meets four times a year. These meetings typically happen during each season and sometimes revolve around a theme. We usually meet at someone’s house but lately we have been finding some nice BYOB restaurants to go to.  The Fall meeting we decided to have at Anna Donte’s in Naugatuck, CT. and the theme was the wines of South America. I have been to Anna Donte’s a few times now. It’s not anything fancy but the food is homemade, the ravioli is amazing, and best of all its BYOB.  They don’t have a liquor license so all they charge is $1 per glass but we brought our black tasting glasses so we didn’t have to pay anything.  Turns out the black glasses were a waste since everyone brought red wine to the meeting. We serve everything blind, score the wines and unveil at the end. Onto the wines!

The first wine was very tight upon tasting but you could just tell it was a big wine with a lot of structure. I got some nice earth and cherry aromas that went along with cherry, earth and mint flavors. Very Bordeaux like with a long finish. I marked this down for a retaste and when I tried it again it had really opened up into a very nice wine. I had guessed it was a Clos Apalta and gave it 94 points. I thought I came pretty close since Michel Rolland is involved with both.

2007 Cuvelier Los Andes Coleccion (Ranked #1 Wine of the Night)  [2005 Vintage in Stock]

The second wine I kind of got a glimpse that it was the wine I had brought. This, like the first wine, was very tight and needed more time to open up. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with this wine as the other times I have had it. It had a very green nose with some earth and it had a nice cherry flavor with a long finish.  I suspect next time I open one of these I will need to give it a very long decant. The other times I have had it the wine had a lot of nice upfront fruit that was a tad sweeter and very silky. I expected a better showing but still gave it 90 points.

2007 Colome Malbec Estate (Ranked #4 overall)

Wine number three was yet another very nice wine but different from the first two. This didn’t have the tight tannins that the first two had. Again it had similar cherry and earth aroma. This wasn’t as complex as the first or second wine but had some nice flavors of cherry, licorice and red fruits.I gave it 89 points.

2008 Trapiche Malbec Mendoza Broquel (Ranked #5 overall)

The next wine again tasted very familiar but wasn’t tight like the first two wines. It was more integrated and smooth. I got more black fruit on the nose of this wine and again some earth. It revealed flavors of plum, black fruits and licorice. I was kind of impressed with this once it was revealed because it tasted more youthful to me. I gave it 90 points.

2002 Bodegas Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza Alta (Ranked # 3 overall) [In Stock]

The fifth wine of the night was more like the fourth wine than the first three. This had smooth tannins and was well-balanced with a decent finish. A nice nose of black licorice and cherry, this had a lighter body with lots of red fruits plus a decent finish. I was a little surprised when the bag came off on this one that I didn’t rate it higher although my colleagues liked it and it was the second highest rated wine of the night. I rated it 89 points.

2003 Vina Almaviva Puente Alto (Ranked #2 overall) [In Stock]

The last wine we tried Dave brought along just to make things interesting. The wine was given to him by one of his customers and it’s a homemade wine with grapes from Chile. Surprisingly, the wine wasn’t half bad. It had a weird nose of butterscotch that was a little off-putting but it revealed some decent fruit flavors, although not complex. Most importantly it didn’t have high alcohol which a lot of these homemade wines are just too strong to drink in my opinion. The alcohol overwhelms the wine. This didn’t have that so I could appreciate it. I gave this 82 points

Homemade Wine (Ranked #6 overall)

Overall a very nice meeting and until next time!

2 Wines From a Weekend Dinner

My father-in-law moved into a new house over the Summer. He actually had a housewarming party which I posted notes on but I promised him I would bring over something nice when it was a more intimate setting.  This past weekend he had the family over for beef stew so I decided to break out that special bottle. Back in May when we went to Napa, we got the chance to visit Alpha Omega.  I came away very impressed. They had both red and whites that were great but the highlight were their ERA wines, the flagship bottling. The 2006 was a very nice wine and the 2008 barrel sample we tasted was special.  I decided to bring over a bottle of the 2006.  It needed to decant so while we were waiting for that, we cracked open something else.

My father-in-law broke out a 2007 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon 815.  This actually brought back two things for me. First, he brought this same  Joel Gott to a wine club meeting a while back and it was the surprise of the meeting. Everyone came away impressed and it was the second highest rated wine of the night. The second thing was this reminded me of Napa much like the Alpha Omega did. You see Joel Gott owns Taylor’s Refreshers which is now known as Gott’s Roadside Burgers. The name changed but the burgers didn’t. These are some of the best burgers I have ever had! Plus what Burger joint can you go to and order a burger with a glass of wine? Anyway, Gott also puts out his own wine. I also hear the Zinfandel is pretty good.  The Cab wasn’t as good as the first time I had it but it was still a decent wine no less. It had some nice plum and raspberry flavors but it also had these strong earthy flavors this time that was a little too much compared to last time. Perhaps some bottle variation?  Anyhow, I gave it 87 points.  I believe the 2008 vintage is available if anyone would like to order it.

Now onto the main course! The Era was still a little tight when I first poured it but it slowly opened up while in the glass. It had a nice nose of vanilla, current, and black cherry. The palate revealed a complex wine with blackberry, coffee, and black cherry flavors. This really coated the mouth and had a very nice 30 second finish.  A very well made wine with an understated elegance that I think has many good years ahead of it. I gave it 94 points! I also checked my notes and I liked this a little more in Napa, giving it 95 points. This wine is available if anyone is wishes to purchase it.

After the Era, we wrapped things up with dessert and we had a 2003 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port. Certainly a nice way to end the evening.