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.

Some Great Turkey Wines for the Upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday

The holidays are coming with Thanksgiving up first.  The traditional meal on the holiday is turkey of course. Since it is still a few weeks away, I thought it might be a good idea to post a few wines we have in stock that will go great with turkey. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we do carry other wines that will go with the meal but I just wanted to throw out there the three most common that happen to be favorites of mine.

Riesling

Riesling is a very versatile wine. It can either come dry, semi dry, sweet and you can even have it as dessert. Turkey can complement either style. The acidity in the dry wines can bring out the flavors of the meal or the sweet ones can complement them the same way cranberry sauce does. Here are a few we have in stock and I like personally.

2009 Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling $10.99

This wine falls on the sweet side and there may not be a better deal on the planet! The 2008 was on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2009 and I think the 2009 is just as good. This has some great fruit but a nice acidity as well. From Germany.

Wine Spectator 88 Points – “There’s a snappy acidity to the peach, apple and Bosc pear flavors in this white, which offers plenty of freshness on the finish, with hints of glazed citrus. Drink now through 2014.”

2007 Trimbach Riesling Alsace $16.99

This is a dry style Riesling from France that also made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2009.  This has the nice acidity I mentioned above but also some nice fruit flavors that won’t overpower the food. If you prefer a tad more elegance in your Riesling then the Trimbach is the way to go.

Wine Spectator 91 Points – “This subtle Riesling offers a finely woven mix of white peach and crushed pine needle flavors, with hints of brine and smoke. There’s racy acidity, but it’s well-meshed, and a mineral note lingers on the delicate finish. Drink now through 2015.”

Wine Advocate 88 Points – “The Trimbach 2007 Riesling – from purchased fruit – boasts unusually high (7.9 grams) acidity that translates into positive brightness of lemon and pineapple, and finishes with invigorating and lasting suggestions of citrus rind bittersweetness, tingling pineapple, and chalk dust..”

Dr. Thanisch Bernkasteler Badstube 2007 Riesling Kabinett $24.99

This is a little more expensive but the nice thing about Riesling is that for a small jump in price you can find a bigger jump in quality. Not as sweet as the Dr. L but more structured and the flavors sweep over your palate revealing little nuances and complexities. Also from Germany. A joy to drink.

Wine Spectator 92 Points – “Intense mineral and spice notes mark this snappy Riesling, which shows fine clarity and detail, with peach and lime adding interest. Has fine harmony, with a lingering finish. Drink now through 2022.”

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is an easy choice for Thanksgiving and work like the dry Rieslings with the acidity.  Your choice for the meal depends on personal preference as both oaked and unoaked will go nicely.  I am an oak man myself but the acidity in a nice Chablis can be very refreshing. Here are some favorites of mine.

2007 Clos du Bois Russian River Valley Chardonnay $14.99

I have mentioned this wine on the blog before but I really think I need to mention it again. It’s not very often you find a high quality Russian River Valley Chardonnay for only $15. This is my preferred style of Chardonnay, with nice tropical fruit flavors mixed in with some toasty oak.  We tasted this wine blind at our wine club meeting last Summer and it came in first place. Although I did prefer another wine to this one, it was beating out wines two to three times its price. I haven’t found a lot of reviews on this but once the tasting results were unveiled, Dave made sure he got some extra bottles of this.

2007 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux $19.99

Dave is a big William Fevre fan and he actually carries a few of their wines in the store.  This particular bottle is their entry-level offering. Very different from the Chardonnay from California above, in Chablis you get no oak so it brings out a more citrus side to Chardonnay as well as a stony minerality you find in some Rieslings. Crisp when young but the best can age as well.

Wine Spectator 88 Points – “Apple, melon and mineral notes mingle in this vibrant, balanced white, which lingers with a Granny Smith flavor and a mouthwatering impression. Drink now through 2012.”

Wine Advocate 88 Points – “A cuvee featured especially in the U.S., coming from purchased fruit and numerous villages, the Fevre 2007 Chablis Champ Royaux showcases luscious, bright lemon and grapefruit in a lively interchange with salt and wet stone. A subtly fusil, smoky aura hangs over this, along with high-toned herbal essences; and oiliness of texture enhances a sense of underlying richness for all of the wine’s brightness. This should drink well for a couple of years.”

2008 Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay $35.99

The Cakebread is similar in style to the Clos du Bois but you get some richer and more complex flavors in it.  The oak is dialed back a bit in this and it has more citrus flavors. If you want to splurge a little more for the holiday then roll with the Cakebread.

Pinot Noir

If you want a red wine for Thanksgiving the most obvious choice is Pinot Noir. It stands up very well to lighter meats like turkey and chicken because it doesn’t need the heavy tannin a Cabernet Sauvignon has to cut through a fatty piece of meat. I have found it difficult to find a nice Pinot Noir that I like for under $25 but I actually have found one recently that is great for the money.

2009 Red Tree Pinot Noir $7.99

James Laube spoke about this wine in his blog last year and I was intrigued. It comes from Lodi and they use oak chips to age the wine instead of oak barrels.  When I heard oak chips I was about to write it off but I really respect’s Laube opinion when it comes to Pinot Noir so I figured I would give it a try if I had the chance.  The 2008 that he was taking about in the article was not sold in Connecticut.  My wife and I had a Christmas party and one of the guests from Boston brought this wine.  I tried it and could not believe the quality, especially for the price.  Connecticut has since started carrying it although they have the 2009 but I have to tell you that I do not taste a difference between the two vintages.  If your new to Pinot Noir, this is an inexpensive starting point and if you’re having a party pick some up.  You won’t be disappointed.

Wine Spectator 88 Points (Review for the 2008) – “Offers baked cherry pie, with rhubarb and blueberry, showing a wonderful fruit profile that’s spicy, elegant and easy to drink. Great balance. Drink now.”

2007 Johanneshof Reinisch Pinot Noir vom Syeinfeld $15.99

I tried this when we first got it into the store and really liked it. Then I brought a bottle home one night and did not think it was as good.  I was able to have it again at a wine club meeting over the Summer and I was a fan again.  I figured out the key to this wine was it needed a good amount of air. At the store, I’ll sample the wine on Saturday every hour to see how it evolves.  The night I brought it home we opened it and drank it pretty quickly. At the meeting it got plenty of air before we even tried it. The style is closer to Burgundy than anything out of California, with plenty of earthy flavors at the forefront and some red fruits in the background. More subtle and graceful. Great with food!

2004 Macrostie Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain $44.99

The Redtree is a nice entry-level bottling, the Johanneshof Reinisch is more of a classic style Pinot and the Macrostie is your big jammy California Pinot Noir. This was tight when we first got it in at the store but has had a few years in the bottle to settle down and now it’s open for business. I still recommend decanting this one but once it’s ready it has a nice raspberry nose with flavors of cherry cola and dried berry. It also has some well-integrated oak as well with a decent finish. A bottle to splurge on for the holiday.

Wine Spectator 89 Points – “A rich, savory style, with cola, fresh earth, herb and dried berry flavors. Picks up a leathery oak character on the finish. Tight and firm. Drink now through 2011. 595 cases made.”

Tasting Notes for over 50 Wines from the Last Fall Tasting of the Season!

Sunday I was at the last big tasting of the Fall season here in Connecticut but it did not disappoint. Held at the Aqua Turf in Southington, the wines are good but the food is always fantastic.  Worth going for that alone. If anyone is looking for a place to have an event or a wedding I highly recommend it. That being said I had the chance to taste a lot of good wines today. The layout of the tasting room is a little funky so I’m going to list everything in the order of the book.  Again, I hope this helps customers with any buying decisions in the next few months. If I list something we don’t carry, we can always order it for you no problem. Drop us email or give us a call for details.  Onto the wines!

Folio Fine Wine Partners

The highlights here were the two Italian wines. The Luce is pictured above with the interesting bottle artwork.

2007 Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon – Very atypical Cabernet. Certainly pleasant but nothing overly exciting. 88

2006 Emblem Cabernet Savignon Oso Vineyard – More structure than the Oberon, this had some nice up front fruit that carried onto the finish, which lasted about 25 seconds. Pretty nice but a little pricey (over $50). 90

2007 Medusa Lover’s Lane Old Vine Zinfandel – A little disappointing. Decent wine but where’ the fruit? This is a Zinfandel after all. 87

2005 Luce Brunello di Montalcino Tuscany – Very big wine with aromas of flowers, herbs and spices. Full bodied with some chewy tannins, this had some great flavors of herb, licorice, and spices. Needs some more time in the bottle but a very impressive wine. 94

2006 Masi Costasera Amarone Veneto – I didn’t get a big nose on this wine but it made up for it on the palate. Some great flavors of cherry, licorice and herb. Very balanced and not too much alcohol. 92

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants

Offered some decent value wines from France.

2009 Chateau Ducasse – Fresh and vibrant. Good for the money. Mainly Semillon. 90

2008 Domaine Regis Minet Pouilly-Fume Loire – Some nice fruit and minerality. Very crisp and had a decent finish. 90

2007 Domaine Champalou Vouvrau Sec – This was very nice with some big tropical fruit flavors on the nose and the palate. Most impressive 91

2008 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Bourgueil Loire – Has some nice oak to go along with some plum and cherry fruit flavors. 88

2008 Clos la Coutale Cahors – Some nice upfront fruit with a nice touch of mocha of the finish. 80% Malbec. 89

2007 St. Martin de la Garrigue Bronzinelle – Very earthy with decent fruit but made in a very classic style. 88

2007 Chateau Bellevue Lussac St. Emillion – Again, very earthly wine with some herb and a little red fruit. Had a decent finish. 88

2007 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras Rhone – Nose had some barnyard on it but the palate had plenty of fruit and some earth. Not worth the money (over $50). 88

Ex Cellars

The Guigal wines were certainly impressive wines. I especially liked the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

2009 Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc – Some nice upfront fruit but with some nice acidity as well to stand up to food.89

2006 Guigal Gigondas – Still a little tight but had some great fruit and coffee flavors and aromas. Not bad for the money. 90

2005 Guigal Chateauneuf-de-Pape – Lots of big fruit with blueberry and blackberry flavors. Very nice finish. 91

2001 Guigal Cote Rotie – This had a lighter body and an interesting nose that I really couldn’t figure out. Some decent fruit with a nice finish. 90

2006 Baumard Savennieres Loire – Still very fresh for a 2006 with a nice minerality. Citrus and melon fruit end with a decent finish. 90

2006 Baumard Quarts de Chaume Loire – Had a nice beeswax aroma that reveals flavors of honey, ripe melon and pear. Superb. 94

Chappellet

2007 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee – Has some big upfront fruit with sweet soft tannins. Super value for the price! 92

2004 Chappellet Merlot – Starts with a wonderful nose of blackberry and spice to go with flavors of plum, blackberry and mocha. Ends with a nice long finish. 91

2008 Chappellet Chardonnay – Has a nice touch of oak but lets the fruit shine with tropical fruit flavors and vanilla. 90

Vintex

2005 La Fleur d’Or Bordeaux – Very nice Sautern although a little pricey. 91

Domaine du Pegau

2009 Plan Pegau Selection – Has some nice upfront fruit, mild tannin and made very early term consumption. A nice Chateauneuf for a reasonable price. 90

2007 Pegau Chateauneuf Cuvee Reserve – This is a very big wine that definitely needs some time in the bottle. Has some plum, currant and other dark fruits. Very complex. 93

2008 Chateau du Donjon Grande Tradition – A very nice value that has flavors of red berry, blackberry and herb. 90

Whitehall Lane

A big fan of their Merlot. Was hoping to try the 2007 but they only had the 2006 with them.

2009 Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc – Big and fruity with some nice citrus flavors. 88

2006 Whitehall Lane Merlot  – Some big fruit with black cherry, mocha, and currant flavors. Ends with a decent finish. 89

2006 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon – Has some nice dusty berry, dark fruit and mocha flavors. Nice wine but there are better values. 89

2006 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Very similar to the regular Cab bottling but the flavors were more pronounced and the finish was a little more impressive. 90

Rodney Strong

Known for turning out moderately priced wines that give people some value for what they are getting.

2008 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Sonoma – Decent Chardonnay for the money. Had some pleasant flavors of peach, pear and vanilla. 89

2008 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Chalk Hill – This was big and creamy with flavors of pear, apple and well integrated oak. 91

2007 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – Had some big upfront fruit with cherry and currant. Had a decent finish with a touch of spice. 90

2007 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Reserve – Even better than the regular bottling, this had a much fuller body and coated the mouth. Fruit was more intense. 92

2009 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Russian River valley – First 2009 Pinot I have had and this was very nice. Some great strawberry and raspberry flavors with a decent finish. 90

Landmark

Their Chardonnays are right up there with the better producers our of California.

2008 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay – A top Cali Chardonnay for a reasonable price! Some great flavors of pear and nectarine to go along with nice balance. 90

2007 Landmark Chardonnay Damaris Reserve – Even better but of course it was more money. Has some nice melon and citrus flavors to go with a fuller body and flavor profile. 91

2008 Landmark Pinot Noir Grand Detour – Had some interesting dusty berry, strawberry and earth flavors but I found this a decent Pinot but better values exist for the money. (Over $40) 89

Robert Mondavi Winery

I don’t think I have ever tasted any Mondavi wine except the Cabernet so I was excited to try the other varietals. I decided to stick with the Cabernets after trying them though.

2008 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc – I was expecting a little more from this. I love Sauvignon Blancs aged in oak but I couldn’t really detect any in here. Where’s the smoke? 87

2007 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay – I found this rather thin and disappointing. It did have some pleasant simple flavors but I was expecting more. 86

2008 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir – Again I was expecting more from this wine. Had some decent fruit but lacked complexity I would expect from this world class winery. 87

2007 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – This is more like it. Made in a traditional style, this showed nice fruit, good balance and silky tannins. 90

2006 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – This had some tight tannins but had some great berry fruit, currant and sour cherry. Ended with a impressive 30 second finish. 94

2005 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – The 05 was more accessible with a bigger nose. Had some nice fruit as well but it faded early on the finish while the 06 kept going. 92

Vias Imports

2004 Damilano Barolo Lecinquevigne – Has some decent fruit but more earthiness. Tannins still need time to resolve although it had a pleasant finish. 89

2005 Argiano Solengo Tuscany – I had my doubts about this with a big whiff of leather and barnyard on the nose. The palate changed that with some nice dark fruits, licorice, herb and smoke. Needs time in the bottle but still drinking great. 92

2005 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino Tuscany – Lighter body than I was expecting but had some nice fruit with licorice and tobacco. Smooth tannins. 89

2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Piedmont – What a great nose of strawberries, earth and flowers. Some great dark fruit, licorice and fine tannins. Haven’t liked this in the past but this vintage seems enjoyable. 90

San Francisco Wine Exchange

2008 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon – Has some nice fruit and sweet tannin even if it does seem a little out of balance. Justin is usually hit or miss but this seems a little in between. 89

2007 Justin Isosceles – Better balance than the regular Cab bottling with nice red and black fruits, chocolate and some toasty oak.  This was tasty even if a tad expensive. 91

2008 David Bruce Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – Very nice fruit and not bad for the money. 91

2006 David Bruce Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – This tasted very hot to me. I’m thinking it might have been flawed even though it didn’t dawn on me when tasting it initially. Flawed

2007 Mibrandt Traditions Merlot – Had some really nice fruit on the palate and a touch buttery. This is great for the money! 88

That’s it for the season! I look forward to this every year. Shoot me an email if you have any questions in regards to this or any of the other posts.

Tasting Notes on 8 Wines from over the Weekend

My birthday was this past weekend so I decided to open up some good wines to celebrate. My wife took me to Ralph and Rich’s on Saturday night, a nice Italian restaurant in Bridgeport.  If you are from the area, it’s worth checking out. Some nice Italian food, great atmosphere and corkage was $15. I decided to finally try the 2005 Ovid Proprietary Red. I decanted this about two hours before we went to the restaurant. When I poured it the nose was just unbelievable.  Just brimming with dark fruits although I must say that it wasn’t as powerful once we got to the restaurant and wine still had some tightness to it. This is a flashy wine with blackberry, current, mocha, and some well-integrated oak.  I had a good amount left and we needed to catch a movie so I figured I would let some friends try it the next day to see what they thought.

The party started at 1 but thank god most people were late because I had to finish cooking. I found a recipe in Food and Wine magazine for crisp gnocchi tater tots and it took me longer to cook than I had thought. I also made mahogany wings and marinated some flank steak.  My wife and a few other people pitched in some dishes as well. I started off the day with a glass of chardonnay.

2008 Melville Chardonnay Verna’s – I had just got this in the week before and decided to give it a try. I haven’t had instances of travel shock in white wine before but I think I might hold off from now on just in case. I haven’t tried this vintage before but something was a little unbalanced. Still it had some nice citrus aromas and no noticeable oak. Their website said they use neutral barrels. This had a zingy acidity with some peach, citrus and a nice minerality.

Call for availability

Next up, we moved to the WH Smith Pinot that I had decanted for an hour already.

2006 WH Smith Maritime Pinot Noir – This use to be one of my favorite Pinot Noir producers but after the 2005 vintage something changed in these wines.  There are a lot more earthy flavors to it with the smell of barnyard. It still does have some fruit in there with some cherry and plum flavors but I just don’t like the direction they have gone. Some people do like this still and a few mentioned they did like this wine.

Maritime not available but the 2006 Sonoma Coast is In Stock.

After the Pinot, I reopened the Ovid and let some people taste this including myself. This tasted pretty similar to me as it did the day before although the tannins had mellowed out. People did like this so I was happy they got to try some.  The next wine I opened was the Chateau Ste Michelle.

2008 Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Indian Wells – We had gotten this in a few weeks ago and I was excited to try this because Wine Spectator just gave it 90 points. This is an easy drinking Cab that has some fine tannins and does not hit you over the head with too much fruit or oak. Had a pleasing mint flavor in there that was really nice. Overall a really nice Cab for the money.

In Stock

Dinner wasn’t ready yet at this point so I decided to open another Cab and give it a quick decant. I already had the Bond decanted and was waiting for the main course.

2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve Proprietary Red Wine – I really like this wine but it does need the decant to really open it up. BV, which is owned by Diageo, has been revamping its wine program and brought in famous wine consultant Michel Rolland. His help has really made a difference. This had some nice aromas of cassis, earth and cedar. Some really nice black and blue fruits on the palate along with licorice and mocha.  A very nice Bordeaux blend from Napa Valley.

Call for availability

The BV was almost gone and it was time for the main course. Everyone got their plates full and I made sure they got some of the Bond. Saved this to go with the flank steak.

2003 Bond Matriarch Proprietary Red Wine – By the time we ate this it had probably been decanted between 3 and 4 hours. This is a big dense wine and a great purple color that just coats your glass. Some nice black cherry, mocha, herb and some nice toasty oak. Had a decent finish and the wine was very balanced. Went great with the steak!

After the dinner and Matriarch, decided to open a bottle my boss from work gave me. We actually have this in the store but it is the 2005 vintage.

2007 Chateau Douley – This was an easy drinking red with very little detectable tannins and some straight forward fruit flavors. Found this very pleasant and for the money it is definitely worth it.

2005 vintage is In Stock!

About this time we started to get dessert ready so it was time to break out the desert wine! I decided to pick up a few bottles of this Sauterne.

2007 Haut Charmes – This is rumored to be from the young vines of Chateau D’yquem.  I have never had D’yquem so I can’t compare it to it but I can tell you for the price this is a really nice bottle of desert wine. Had some nice pear and honey flavors with decent complexity and finish. Definitely worth picking up.

In Stock

Well, another year down. Hopefully the next year brings many more good bottles, fine food and great friends.