Friday, December 18, 2009

Montecillo Crianza 2005 $10

Spain, Rioja

I admit, I’m not that well versed on wines from Spain however I’m not shy to tell you about a deal that tastes great as well. This purchase was purely on an impulse buy when I saw a “buy-one, get-one free” sign over the display in a local grocery store. I’m not big on doing my wine shopping at the grocery store as the selection can be limited however dinner was being planned for grilled steaks so a red made sense.

I was away from home so I didn’t have access to any of my own bottles. Figuring that a 2005 bottle of just about anything couldn’t be too bad, considering it’s a year when most all wine regions across the world did well. In fact, some areas claim it to be on the top of their list for most successful vintages.

Upon pouring, a clean, ruby red color accented by scents of ripe plums, strawberries and a woody sensation had me going that I might have found something nice for a relatively inexpensive price point. The flavors were full of ripe fruits such as blackberries and dark cherry along with subtle coffee and mocha. On the finish, a tart, dry/flint like flavor led to hints of oak. The wine is 100% Tempranillo and aged in French oak for 1 year and then 1 year in the bottle before release.

For a $10 wine (actually I got 2 bottles for $10), I’m quite pleased. I’ve seen the wine online for up to $12 and I still think it’s a good deal. Try it with grilled meats, barbecue or even beef stew. The wine cuts through nicely yet not overpowering. I’m not saying this is the best Crianza you’re going to find out there but it’s a great deal for an everyday try.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tin Barn Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007 $34

Sonoma, CA (Carneros)

Thanksgiving has come and gone once again but not without enjoying family, good food (too much) and a great bottle of Pinot Noir. I know many of you have heard how good Pinot goes with turkey and this vintage was no exception as it especially went well with everything on the table. From the beginning aromas filled with an earthiness, smoke and woody sensation to the supple smooth taste following; this was one of the best Pinot Noir wines I’ve had.

All flavors were nicely balanced starting with ripe dark cherries and blueberries. On the mid-palate (that would be your tongue…remember we’re trying to keep it simple here), a silky, smooth hint of cocoa and mild spice on the finish rounded out the wine. Our menu consisted of a turkey which was brined, cold smoked and then baked, savory stuffing with sausage, mushrooms and herb toasted potato bread, Yukon gold garlic mashed potatoes and everyone's favorite green bean casserole. The wine complimented everything so well given the earthy hint to the dishes...especially the stuffing.

I had never heard of Tin Barn Vineyards until a visit to Sonoma this past spring. It’s not your typical winery yet that doesn’t matter. The talents of Michael Lancaster (Managing Partner & Winemaker) along with the select vineyards these grapes are from must be the secret. I’ll admit the price point is not my typical spending range however something this good is worth it! You can find Tin Barn at The 2008 Pinot Noir is now released as the second vintage for this wine. If I’m able to get some, I’ll be sure to write about it here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Natura Syrah 2005 $11

Valle Colchagua, Chile

This wine purchase was on a complete whim! Walking through the grocery store I saw the bottle display, which I had not recognized before. After a short read to the back of the bottle, the appealing price and the 2 ribeye steaks picked out from the butcher, this bottle was destined for dinner tonight.

At first smell the aromas had a smoky-woody scent followed by plum and ripe black fruit. The first taste was a wonderful, smooth sensation of chocolate, blackberries and a mild woody-oak flavor. With soft tannins and a slightly dry finish a hint of pepper rounded out the wine on my palate. It paired great with the grilled steaks at dinner time.

The label states this was a “Special Lot – Made With Organically Grown Grapes.” Maybe this is the difference in its great flavors. I can’t say I’ve always had this good of an experience in trying something completely unknown. I did taste the 2008 Carmenere by Natura after this and found it to be quite nice as well. (See EPCOT Food & Wine posting)

For the price point and now that I’ve tried this, I’d definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kanu, Chenin Blanc 2008 $10

South Africa

I’m beginning to find more Chenin Blanc wines from South Africa which are quite nice. They’re obviously young and ready to drink now so don’t hesitate to open a bottle today. Throw out the old adage that whites are for summer only and try something like this in place of a cocktail before dinner or even with seafood. Hey, Oysters & Stone Crabs are in season now that waters are colder in my area and this would go great with those.

With a light citrus and asparagus aroma, this reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc. The flavors displayed melon, peach and a hint of citrus. A mild nutty taste on the finish mellowed out the typical tartness found in a Sav. Blanc. Since a portion of the wine was aged in oak barrels, this could explain the subtleness of the wine. Overall, I found this wine very refreshing, slightly crisp yet not too tart.

If I was to pair this wine, I’d go with a grilled fish like I had at the time of tasting (Mahi Mahi). This wine would also go well with light pasta dishes or salads. If you don’t want to worry about food pairing, try it as discussed above and just enjoy by itself. With an 87 rating from Wine Spectator and costing less than $10, you can’t go wrong to try it.

The blend: 92% Chenin Blanc, 4% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Viognier
**5% late harvest Chenin Blanc was blended in.

Full disclosure: This bottle was sent to me for sampling. If you know my motto at Simple Wine Talk, you know I won’t write about it unless I liked it!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

EPCOT Food and Wine Festival

If you're able to make this annual event on a visit to Disney World’s EPCOT Center between late September and early November, you’ll find a vast selection of wines, beers, spirits and culinary delights from across the globe. I usually make it to a half or full day and this time I took notes to share here. We started mid-morning by trying some aged cheddar with brown bread from Ireland…no beer or wine yet. After purchasing some tickets to seminars being held later that day, it was lunchtime and South American cuisine was on track for some samplings.

From Argentina, 2008 Cosecha Tardia (by Bodega Norton) was a nice white wine I’d not heard of. Aromas of apricot led to a semi-sweet taste of peaches and vanilla. This is a late harvest chardonnay and would be a perfect pair with seafood and light pasta dishes.

From Chille, 2008 Carmenere (by Natura) was a red, which had aromas of cocoa, black fruit and a woody hint. Tastes comprised of ripe blackberries and plum along with some oak on the finish. The blend is Carmenere (87%), Syrah (4%), Petite verdot (4%) and Malbec (1%). A very easy drinking red with silky soft tannins will be something you should try from this eco-conscious winery. Online costs show retail pricing around $9-$10.

After our lunch samplings, we attended a seminar hosted by Chopin Vodka. If you haven’t tried this potato vodka, you must! There definitely is a difference in vodka made from grains (Rye, Oats, etc.) vs. potato vodka. I do love my martinis shaken cold, up and with a few olives and I have had my share of grain vodkas, which I think are outstanding as well. I just need to give a nod to Chopin for introducing me to theirs.

It was on to a South African 2008 Pinotage (by Fairview). What a great red wine exhibiting plum and
mocha on the scents followed by tastes of a mellow blackberry and finishing with a subtle peppery spice. I had it with grilled tenderloin and sweet potato mash. A bit of barbecue sauce on the side brought it all together with great flavors I’d bring out for my next barbecue.

From the North Fork region of New York State we tried a 2007 Pinot Blanc Reserve (from Lieb). With a buttery and woody aroma I was fooled when asked if this was aged in French or American oak barrels. The answer…no wood! Wow, it tasted very much like a chardonnay with subtle hints of oak. With light citrus and subtle buttery flavors this would pair well with oysters and shellfish. I’d like to send a thank you to Gary Madden, GM Lieb Family Cellars for taking some extra time to discuss Lieb, the North Fork and his history in wine making. I hope to keep a connection with you in the near future. Great seminar Gary!

To add a little variety to the day I decided to try a traditional Oktoberfest beer called Spaten. It’s a medium dark, mellow drinking beer from the Bavaria region. It went down great with the Nuremberg Sausage on a soft pretzel roll. A blend of salty snacks to pair well with was perfect. To all my client friends in Germany, I look forward to more wonderful beers in your country on my next visit.

Rounding out the evening were 2 more wines I felt worthy of mentioning here. The first was a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend. The 2006 Villa Maria from New Zealand had hints of ripe cherry, blackberry and an earthy aroma. The taste brought out the dark cherries along with some oak. The finish was pleasing, silky and smooth showing off soft tannins.

Lastly before all the tasting kiosks closed I grabbed one last sample. A Zweigelt from Austria (by IBY) was the finale. Big aromas of ripe strawberries and plum along with a smoky scent made me feel good for not missing this wine on our daily adventure. Flavors exuded with ripe dark berries along with a nutty and smoky finish. Very easy drinking with subtle tannins.

It was a great day and I hope you’re able to find some of these selections locally. I know I will begin looking as well.

Full disclosure: Everything tasted and mentioned above was paid for. No endorsements, complimentary samplings or products were offered.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yarraman Estate “Hell Raiser” Cabernet/Merlot 2005 $10-$12

South Eastern Australia

I had the opportunity to enjoy this wine twice by the glass at a local restaurant before writing about it. The first time I was amongst friends and engaged in conversation so I didn’t pay close attention to the aromas and tastes yet I did recall it was very good. The second time was the other night when I really took note of this pleasant red blend of Cabernet and Merlot.

The restaurant is located in Orlando, FL and called Press 101. They somewhat follow a philosophy as I do in trying to simplify wine and help you enjoy it more. Their wine menu is great as they offer a nice by-the-glass selection, larger than most restaurants, although many are changing to provide a wider selection today.

With a name like “Hell Raiser” there must be a story behind the wine yet I’ve not found anything to date. My wine was served slightly chilled at what I’d call an appropriate temperature like 55°. The aromas weren’t very predominant although I found a mild woody/cedar scent followed by black fruit such as dark ripe plums. The tastes certainly matched the aromas with more plum and blackberry fruit up front. Some may call this wine “jammy” or “chewy” and either of these with some further tasting would probably be valid. I only had 1 glass.

Well rounded and balanced along with soft tannins classify this as very easy drinking and silky for my palate. The finish held on to flavors of cocoa and orange yet not too strong. I enjoyed it with a Filet & Portabella mushroom flatbread. I’d also give the wine a try with grilled steak, pork or lamb and maybe even pasta with marinara sauce. I’m on a hunt for purchasing by the bottle now. You can check here to see if it’s in your local area. Wine Searcher

Research on the web showed me it’s going for a reasonable price in the $10 to $12 range. Let me know if you find it and I hope you enjoy as I did.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Joseph Phelps, Le Mistral 2006 $35

Monterey county, CA

A few months ago I wrote about the 2005 Le Mistral. Granted it was the vintage I had on hand at the time, the 2006 was released this past March. After tasting the 2006 now, its safe to say this winery is producing once again a wonderful and consistent Rhone style wine for all to enjoy.

With aromas of black cherry, toasted oak and a hint of pepper I thought immediately this was on track to be one of those wines you’ll remember and desire again. The taste was a pleasing, medium body red blend with flavors of dark fruits such as cherries and blackberries. A subtle essence of cocoa really complemented well with the dark berry fruits. The finish had a gentle pepper spice that held nicely on the tongue yet didn’t get in the way or linger. Along with being very well balanced one of the best things I noticed was the silky, smoothness from sip to finish. Let this wine settle in your mouth for 10 or so seconds and you’ll see what I mean.

I couldn’t agree more with the winery that this is definitely in the style of a Chateauneuf du-Pape wine. One of my favorite French style wines yet generally a bit pricey for my wallet. The Le Mistral for the price point is well worth it and a wine I would keep on hand for that special dinner. It went great with an aged, grilled NY strip and sautéed spinach w/ garlic & olive oil. I could also see this going well with a seared, pepper crusted Ahi tuna steak.

Full disclosure: This was a sample bottle sent to me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Loma Larga, Quinteto 2006 ($21)

Chile (Casablanca Valley)

Without knowing anything about this wine, I relied on an owner of a small wine shop nearby to guide me on my purchase based on our discussions. He definitely wasn’t wrong in directing me to this wine and I urge all of you looking for something new to just ask for help. It’s my belief that most all wine store personnel really do enjoy helping people find something you’ll like based on a simple conversation to share what types of wine you prefer. Don’t be shy in asking for something new, there are hundreds of wines out there and I know it can make your head spin.

We brought this wine out to enjoy a steak dinner with friends and it went wonderfully with everyone’s meal. Aromas of oak and a slight hint of wet leaves led me to request a decanter to let the wine open up. Sorry, I shouldn't take for granted that you know what “open up” means so in my own words…letting the wine breath to help some of it’s bottled up flavor out to enjoy more. Hope that helped…

The flavors after decanting are what I’m writing on here so if you drink it from a bottle pouring and not let it decant, you could find some different flavors. Blackberries and cherries filled my mouth along with some of the oaky flavors on a spicy finish. My guess is the Syrah brought this spiciness to the blend also including Cab Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

It was a well balanced wine and in the end, I found this wine to pair very nice with our steaks. With only 5,000 cases produced, it might be more difficult to find. Click on the title in this posting to take you to the vineyards website for more information.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rombauer Zinfandel 2006 ($24-$29)

Napa, CA

This bottle was given to me as a gift from a friend and co-worker. I had no idea of what to expect yet I was blown away at how wonderful this wine is! If you’re looking for an easy drinking, full flavor, smooth…smooth red wine, this is the one.

On the nose it brought out black pepper and cedar. The tongue flavors were warm and full of ripe blackberries and cherry. A very mellow, well rounded wine with a slightly sweet/jammy flavor. Hints of chocolate and vanilla rounded out a velvety finish and the soft tannins really made this a fabulous drinking red.

I’ve seen that the 2007 is released now yet I have no information as of this posting. If you can find the 2006, I recommend picking some up. I would guess its good to hold on to for a few years yet it's definitely ready to drink now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Valserrano, Crianza 2005 ($14)

Rioja, Spain

On a day I planned to do some wine buying of my favorites, I ran across a wine tasting in the store. Given my limited knowledge of wines from Spain I proceeded to taste a few the store was “pushing” that day. I’m a big fan of wine store tastings because how else would many of us ever get to try something new prior to a bottle purchase. I only make mention and share that the store in general is doing this not only bring you something new, they’re in it for the sale of more wine. Therefore, don’t feel guilty or obligated to buy a bottle if you don’t like what you taste. Buy it if you like it, which is what I did with this one.

I found this wine from Spain to be a well-balanced, full bodied red. On the nose (aromas), wood shavings, plums and ripe berries were present. With flavors of Blackberries and a hint of mocha, the toasted oak from barrel fermenting continued to enhance each sip. On the finish it was slightly dry with a bit of a tobacco taste. I let the bottle stay open for about 30 minutes (no decanting) and a whole new wine came out! A much smoother and delicate finish showing flavors of vanilla made me feel like I had purchased an even better bottle.

The wine is comprised of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Mazuelo along with being aged in 50% American and 50% French oak barrels. I often wondered the difference in American vs. French oak and a wine makers can give a better explanation than me. In general, my feeling is the French barrels provide a more subtle flavor however the age of the barrel and how many times it’s been used play a big factor. One thing for sure is that the French barrels are much more expensive.

I’ll leave you with one more interesting bit of knowledge I recently studied when buying wines from Spain. If the bottle has “Crianza” on the label it must spend at least 1 year in oak barrels and a 2nd year in the bottle prior to release. If the label has “Reserva”, its 1 year in oak and 2 years in the bottle. Finally and probably the most expensive of the 3 labels is “Gran Reserva” with 2 years in oak and 3 years in the bottle prior to release.

I’ll be on the hunt for more wines from Spain in the near future. Enjoy for now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sequillo White 2006 ($12 on sale)

Swartland, South Africa

In an effort to bring more white wines into my repertoire, I saw this wine mentioned in a local wine store’s online newsletter. It intrigued me that it was a white blend I had not yet experienced. In the style of a southern French white blend using 60% Chenin Blanc, 20% Granache Blanc, 10% Roussane and 10% Viognier my desire to try this became impatient before the sale price was gone. You see the regular price on this wine is $20+ depending on where you find it online or in a local wine shop. Here is a link to seach your local wine store: Sequillo

2006 was the first vinification of this wine. With a wonderful golden color present in the glass the first aromas exploded with fragrant orange peel and pineapple. After letting the wine decant for about 20 minutes, the scent of honey began to come alive. The winemaker recommends 2 hours of decanting although I was quite happy after 20 minutes. Plus, I can’t wait 2 hours…can you? The first taste supported the nose with orange, honey and a hint of citrus. I would say this is a semi-sweet wine with a very clean taste on the palette. Served chilled (or I say cold) this is a pleasant summer time wine to sip with grilled seafood or even a light pasta dish.

Some simple “did you knows” about the wine are that 50% of the Chenin Blanc is fermented in stainless tanks and the remainder of the wine is vinified in French Oak barrels. The aging takes place in French oak as well and you won’t find this wine “over oaked” as some chardonnays have been forced in to over the past few years.

I honestly liked this as an alternative to a Sav. Blanc or Chardonnay although it is a bit sweeter. Give it a try and look for a sale!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Heritage Des Caves des Papes, Cotes-Du-Rhone ($11)


Its not often a good bottle from France is moderately priced however this selection truly impressed me. I had no information on the wine prior to buying and the only insight was from one of the wine store’s associates feeling the same as I did…”for eleven bucks, its worth trying.”

I can’t help but like various blends as mentioned in past postings and this one was quite nice complementing our dinner of grilled pork tenderloin, sauté pea pods & baby bella mushrooms & summer tomatoes w/ mozzarella over garlic toast. Sounds good enough to have again tonight with the rest of the bottle!

At first the aromas seemed a bit unpleasant yet after a few swirls in the glass, it began to open up with an earthiness accompanied by a woody scent. A subtle musty and green moss hint was present along with a slight anise tone. I know it sounds like a lot of smells but it really wasn’t that overpowering.

On the taste, a definite fruit forward flavor of blackberries and cherries was present with an faint oaky sensation on the mid palate. The wine finished with an nice spice and hint of smokiness. In general I’d say the vintage was well balanced, medium body with pleasant tannins and very easy drinking. Almost a lighter wine than I would have thought prior to opening.

For those of you curious, the wine is comprised of 3 classic grape varietals from the Rhone region in France. 70% Grenache (which holds the fruitiness), 25% Syrah (which brings on the spiciness) and 5% Mourvedre (which softens the wine).

This is one of the best deals I’ve found in a good French wine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Neu Direction, Malbec 2005 ($11)

Mendoza, Argentina

To those of you following me, sorry it’s been a few weeks since my last posting. My “real” job took over but I haven’t forgotten you.

It’s no surprise that most of us are looking to find more “value wines” in today’s economy. Well it’s not hard to find a match between reasonably priced bottles and good wine. By reasonably priced lets just say under $20.

One of my recent findings was during a stroll through the wine aisle at Sam’s Club. I know, their prices “kill” the small wine shop but what can I say if something I decided to try turns out good. They especially deserve credit for many more reasons than price point on this Neu Direction Malbec.

On the nose (for those of you new to this that means smell or aromas) a hint of smokiness, must and maybe wet leaves was there. The flavors supported a light woody flavor, licorice and dark berries. I would characterize this wine as having a medium body with a slight spicy, chocolaty flavor on the finish. Once again, for those of you new here and in basic terms…”finish” is usually what you taste once the wine has left your mouth. – just keeping it “Simple Wine Talk”

This Malbec is a good everyday drinking red especially with grilled beef or pork. The great story behind the wine itself is that it’s a “Fair Trade” wine. In an excerpt taken from the link below:
The DIRECTION of the path is guided by Fair Trade, seeking to enrich the lives of vineyard workers, their families, and their communities. Fair Trade Certified™ directly supports a better life for farming families in the developing world through fair prices, community development and environmental stewardship.

For more information on this Fair Trade Wine see:
Organic Wine

Monday, June 29, 2009

Let It Breath! ---------- VINTURI ($39)

I was introduced to the Vinturi during a tasting in Sonoma. At first I didn’t know what the tasting room person was doing by pouring their red wine through this clear, funnel-bullet shaped thing. I was so focused on watching the wine flow through it while hearing this fizzy, gurgling sound that I didn’t pay attention to the explanation of what the device was supposed to do. It became clear that air was being mixed into the wine while traveling through the Vinturi.

So fast forward to today and I’m on the hunt to get one of these things. It seems they’re popping up all over in small wine stores and even at some larger stores such as World Market. They cost around $39 and I must admit I’m impressed at what it does with red wines. You see I’m not so patient at waiting for red wine to decant (letting the wine breath before drinking and introducing oxygen into the wine to help “soften” it). Using the Vinturi sure takes the waiting out of this process and let’s you enjoy your wine immediately and by the glass if you want vs. a decanter. Did I mention I also don’t like to clean the decanter? Not that it gets dirty with wine but I do like to rinse and dry after using it.

Taken from the Vinturi website:
“When wine is poured in the Vinturi, it's internal design creates an increase in the wine's velocity and a decrease in its pressure. This pressure difference creates a vacuum that draws in air which is mixed with wine for perfect aeration.”

Sample the nose. You'll appreciate the subtle aromatic differences and the full aroma of the wine. Vinturi allows wine to display its intended aromas.

Go ahead, take a sip. Vinturi's wine tastes better. It is more flavorful and has better mouthfeel. It tastes like a richer, more expensive wine. It tastes like it was intended to and is more enjoyable.

Ahhhh. Vinturi's aeration is very effective at softening tannis which results in a much more pleasant finish. Any bitterness or bad aftertaste is reduced or eliminated.

You be the judge. Taste your next red wine before and after using a Vinturi. I think you’ll be impressed.

Please note, Vinturi did not send me a free device nor did they ask me to write this. I don’t want you to feel as if this is an advertisement for them. I just bought one of these and felt it was good enough to share with others.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Veramonte, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, 2008 ($10)


It had been a few years since I tried a Sauvignon Blanc after mostly drinking reds for so long. In my efforts to engage in some more white wines this summer, this was recommended by a small wine shop owner. I was looking for something under $20 and not a Chardonnay.

The bottle uses a screw cap but don’t let that fool you in this wine’s quality. I’ve been told (but not an expert) that screw tops maintain a wine bottle’s seal from letting air in better than a cork. I digress but won’t lie, I still like a cork.

From the initial aromas of grapefruit and tropical fruits I thought this could end up being too tart for my taste. It definitely was not! Like most Sav. Blanc wines this too had a hint of freshly cut grass (without the lawn mower scent of course). The taste was fresh and crisp with citrus flavors. Trace flavors of asparagus followed by an almost sparkling, tart mouth feel on the finish. I had the bottle fully chilled in the refrigerator and some people may say this is too cold. I definitely feel this chilled temperature added to the wine’s refreshing flavors.

We had the wine with a grilled Mahi Mahi fillet caught by friends and I off the Atlantic coast. I would highly recommend this wine on a hot summer day and with lighter fare foods such as chicken, fish or shellfish.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dancing Coyote, Tango 2004 ($18)

El Dorado, CA

After receiving a gift certificate to a small wine store, which I hadn’t yet visited, we wanted to make the best of the certificate’s value and get 2 bottles. Tango was recommended by the store’s owner and after not having a wine from this region of California, it turned out to be very pleasing on the palette.

The first smell from this red blend hinted of an earthy aroma (no, not dirt!). With a second swirl in the glass, scents of ripe berries and coffee exuded to balance out the overall bouquet. On the taste, flavors of blackberry and a hint of cocoa blended together in an easy drinking wine. I would say this was a smooth drinking wine as well however it really gained a silky, smoother mouth feel after letting the bottle sit for 30 minutes. I would recommend decanting this.

Considered to be close to a Bordeaux blend, the wine is comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Tempranillo. The finish showed a slightly spicy, peppery taste yet nothing too strong. We enjoyed this wine with a grilled filet mignon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Joseph Phelps, Le Mistral 2005 ($35)

Monterey county, CA

I first tried this wine a few years ago at a somewhat high priced steakhouse. It was priced, as most restaurant wine prices are, at higher than retail yet I couldn’t complain as it was moderately priced (around $75), compared to everything else at well over $100. Upon the server’s recommendation and after asking for their choices in red blends, I decided to try it. At the time, I remembered it to be a very nice, well-balanced wine, which accompanied our steaks perfectly.

Created in the style of a Rhone wine from France, the blend consists of the following grape varietals:
59% Syrah
23% Grenache
8% Carignane
5% Petite Sirah
5% Alicante Bouschet

Fast forward a few years now as I found this on the shelf of a local wine shop (Total Wine). I was curious to see how the current vintage (’05) was compared to what I had a few years back. Sorry, I don’t remember that vintage year. Once again, this proved to be quite nice and I probably should have grabbed a few more bottles to hang onto. I’m hoping the store has more ’05 when I return.

With subtle scents of leather, black pepper and ripe strawberries it suddenly brought me back to the wonderful steak dinner I originally had with this wine. The taste encompassed blackberries, cocoa and a hint of peppery-spiciness. On the finish you’ll find a pleasant, silky mouth feel making this a medium to full bodied wine. In my opinion, this wine is definitely ready to drink and may be cellared for 1-3 years more. The 2006 vintage is released now yet I haven’t had a chance to try it.

Enjoy with your next NY strip or rib eye on the grill this summer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Indaba Chardonnay 2008 ($8)

South Africa

After a brief stroll through one of my local wine shops, which I hadn’t visited in a few months, I was stuck on what to purchase. My desire was for something unknown to me yet leaning toward white varietals such as a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc in the $10 range. My recent postings have predominately been reds and with summer coming upon us I was feeling a bit guilty for not balancing out my tastings with some whites. I turned to the shop’s owner for a recommendation and I was pleasantly surprised after opening the bottle that evening for dinner.

Showing off aromas of pineapples, peach and a hint of vanilla I sensed there wasn’t an over abundance of oak. After some reading up on the wine maker’s process I found out a percentage of the wine was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels. This was pleasing, as I’ve heard the recent trend for Chardonnay wines is to reduce some of the heavy oak flavors found in many wines of the past. The taste brought on similar flavors of the aromas with peach and hints of citrus and honey. The mouth feel was very smooth with minimal acidity and a light balance of oak. A slightly tart, grapefruit flavor held on the finish although it seemed to vanish quickly. I had the wine with fish tacos done with Spanish Mackerel in a Panko crust (yes, I caught the fish myself). The wine would also go great with other seafood or even a creamy pasta dish.

“Indaba” is the traditional Zulu forum for sharing ideas as the label reads. The wine has a great story behind it as a portion of its proceeds support scholarships to those in South Africa interested in a career in wine, wine making, etc. A great wine, great price and great story. We should all look for things in life to align this well.

I found this at Gran Cru in Orlando, FL and I’m told some of the grocery stores such as Publix carry the wine as well. If you can’t find it in your local store, ask for it to be brought in. You won’t be disappointed!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sangiovese, 2005 ($15)

Sonoma, CA

On a recommendation from other Sonoma wineries, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards continued to be one that everyone said you must see.  I must say the place was beautiful and felt as if the main building was right out of Tuscany…except with some modern day amenities.  It was the first visit of the day so our taste buds weren’t shot yet.   I noticed the Sangiovese bottles sitting on a table with a sale sign for $14.99 (normally $22) and didn’t really give much thought as I always believed a wine like this was made best in Italy. I was wrong!

After our tasting, I purchased a few bottles to bring home and opened one a week after our return. It was wonderful and no “bottle shock” from the flight.  I’m not sure if that really does happen but I thought the movie was enjoyable.  I’ve gotten in the habit to really try and pull out some of the aromas in the glass before tasting and this had such a nice earthy, old wood scent.  My guess was its from the 14 months of aging in French oak barrels.

The first sip brought on a bright raspberry and peppery flavor so I decided to decant it.  Once my patience got the best of me after 30 minutes in the decanter, I tried it again.  What a difference as the tannins and acidity virtually mellowed out and a certain silkiness exuded upon the finish.   After an hour in the decanter…unbelievable!  Now with an even smoother finish showing off hints of tea and cocoa, this wine will definitely cellar well.  The winery says up to 5-7 years for aging although I’ll have a tough time waiting that long for my next bottle.  Distribution may be limited however the Jacuzzi website has information on distributors in your state. Visit

Monday, May 25, 2009

Goldschmidt Vineyards "Fidelity", 2006 ($9)

Crazy Creek Estate
Alexander Valley, CA

Once again I was walking the aisles at Sam’s Club looking for a wine I hadn’t tried, as I didn’t plan on buying wine during this visit. I saw this wine (Fidelity) and decided to read the label, which was informative enough to tell me that it was a red blend. If you’ve followed some of my other postings you’d know these are some of my favorite types of wines mostly because the blending a wine maker does is very intriguing to me. Anyway, for $9 I’d give it a try and now I should get back there to pick up more bottles.

The first aromas reminded me of a dusty, woody cellar (somewhere all of us wish we had to store our wines). Another smell and ripe blackberries were predominant. After a few tastes, a fruit forward dominance from the Merlot along with soft tannins balanced everything out from the other 2 varietals in this blend.  With 83% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, it classifies itself as a Bordeaux blend.

Medium body with a slight oaky feel on the palate gave this a great mouth feel along with a smooth finish hinting of cocoa. This is a great bargain wine from a relatively unknown wine maker, Nick Goldschmidt.  I’ll be on the hunt for some of his other wines now.

Tiz Red, 2004 ($11)

Santa Rosa, CA (Sonoma County)

I’ve been drinking this red blend for just under a year now and it continues to impress me with consistency from the 2 vintage years I’ve tried (2003 & 2004). If you’re looking for an everyday, easy drinking red that’s got nothing to be ashamed of at $11, then give this one a try.

With subtle aromas of strawberries and raspberries the taste followed through with similar ripe berries and fruit forward flavors. I found a mild tartness toward the edges of my tongue as the finish delivered hints of pepper and licorice. None of the flavors are overpowering and blended together very well. I would say this is a medium body wine with a bright and crisp character. It’s a blend of 65% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. 52% of the wine was oak aged while the Merlot & Cab. grapes were cold fermented in stainless steel to maintain their crisp flavors. The Syrah was barrel fermented to deepen the color and intensify the flavors.

Grilled meats or pasta w/ bolognaise sauce seems to be a favorite of mine with Tiz Red. I’ve seen the wine now at many retailers so my guess is distribution is quite good. Fresh Market, Whole Foods and in Florida, ABC Liquors are some of the places that carry the wine.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Preserve It!

Not every posting needs to be about a new wine I've tried…right? I think some of the ways to serve wine, tools, gadgets, etc. are just as important to enjoy the overall experience. This one little bottle of “air” is probably one of the greatest things I’ve run across. I’ve been using it with great success and felt it was time to share some insight.

Private Preserve is a combination of inert gasses (CO2, Nitrogen & Argon). Its used to help prevent a partial bottle of wine from going bad for what I believe is somewhere between 4-8 days, although some claim longer. The product works by preventing oxidation upon re-corking your bottle. If your household is like ours, we don’t always finish a full bottle. I know some of you out there may laugh but seriously, if its only me drinking the wine, I’ll have a glass or 2 (maybe 3). I’ll usually open the preserved bottle for tomorrow’s dinner or at least within the next few days.

For us non-scientists I know it seems odd that a few shots of “air” in a bottle would do anything to keep your wine tasting good the next day or even days later. It really does and I’ve stopped using my vacuum gadget although that does still work if you only need to keep the wine ok for 2-3 days.  In simple wine talk terms, the gasses place a layer over the wine in the bottle to prevent oxygen from getting to the wine and spoiling it.

This isn’t a sales pitch for the product as I’m buying it myself and wasn’t sent it for testing. It claims to work for port, sherry, single malts, single batch bourbons, old Cognac, sake, ultra-fine tequila, and in the kitchen, fine cooking oils and vinegars. It basically works by putting the tip of the extension tube inside the neck of the bottle against the glass and giving one long spray and 3-4 short bursts into a 750ml bottle. Re-cork immediately and store the bottle upright.  The gasses escape from the bottle upon re-opening.

All I can say is; I’ve noticed all the wines I use this with as having no awkward tastes. In fact some reds have mellowed out and tasted better. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Little Vineyards ’06 Zinfandel ($25)

Sonoma, CA

Recommended by numerous people to visit this winery’s tasting room during my visit to Sonoma, I can't say enough about how great the reds were which I tasted.

Rich & Joan Little along with Joan's brother Tom make the wine and manage the vineyards. They’ve all done a wonderful job of turning out some great varietals such as;  Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 blends to name a few.  Since 2002 when their first vintage was released you’d never know in such a short time that they weren't making wine for over 20+ years.

I was fortunate to meet Rich who is a musician (as I am) and he loves to record in his studio on property. He has a CD with his band although I didn’t get a listen. You can buy it on their website or at the winery along with all their wines. You won’t find these wines at many retailers so visit and join their wine club or just buy whatever you'd like.

2006 Zinfandel
With notes of ripe red berries and a spicy peppery hint, this wine would go great with a pasta bolognese sauce or grilled meats.  The taste had a great mouth feel with firm acidity yet no harsh tannins.  I would consider this a medium body wine with flavors of black cherry and spicy pepper.  The finish was paired with toasty oak and a subtle hint of cocoa. Predominantly Zinfandel (at 93%), the blend also has 4% Syrah and 3% Petite Sirah.

With only 125 cases made, this is a bottle you can enjoy now or benefit from short term aging (1 - 3 years).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Torres Malena, Garnacha 2007 ($8)

I picked this wine up at Sam’s Club just to give it try. At $7.99 I wasn’t overly worried should I not like it. Guess what? I went back and bought 4 more bottles. It surely taste more expensive than its price point but I’ve always been told not to let price influence your buying.  You never know when a wine like this one will surprise you.

With minimal aromas this wine still carried a hint of plum and subtle rustic notes. The taste was definitely more impressive after the lack of aromas.  Strawberries, cola and a bright acidity blended with a good mouth feel and easy drinking for those not ready to take on a heavy red.  The finish was slightly tart yet silky with a little peppery aftertaste.  There is a slight bit of oak on the finish as well however it almost evaporates from your palette.  I wouldn't consider this a "heavy" red yet it goes great with grilled meats.

The vineyards in Spain border a region in France where Grenache grapes grow well. I’m a big fan of Grenache blends so it’s no surprise why I’m a fan of this wine.  With such a great price and seeing online ratings of 89, this is one you should try.  I’m guessing it’s available at other retailers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Larson Family Winery

After driving down a short bumpy road lined with humorous tree signs scattered throughout reading; “Caution Kamikaze Squirrels Ahead”, “You’re Almost There” and on the way out, “We already miss ya”; how could you not believe this is going to be a fun place to visit? Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed! From a warm welcome meeting Tom & Becky Larson (owners), Carolyn Craig (winemaker) and Molly (tasting room & hospitality manager) I can’t say enough about how wonderful these folks are. The vineyards have a rich history dating back to the 1800’s when the Sonoma Rodeo was held on theses grounds to steamboats delivering goods nearby along the river from San Francisco Bay. The rodeo has moved on, the steamboats don’t run anymore but the wine is flowing without question today!

This visit was planned for me to work & shadow a winemaker for a day. It was a gift, however the company issuing the experience went bankrupt. Carolyn along with Tom & Becky were kind enough to allow me to still experience this gift and it was worth every minute we spent together. From barrel tastings, enough to make my tongue purple, to understanding the science and important variables, which go into wine making, I’ve come back with an even greater appreciation for the hard work wineries and winemakers endure.

A few wines to note are the 05' Cabernet Sauvignon, 07' Millerick Road Zinfandel and 2 blends, which I believe were Tom’s idea to start…Sonoma Red” and Wingo White.”  The Red is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon,
 Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Grenache and Malbec. The White is a blend of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.  They’re both sold in 1 liter jugs and a great buy.  These are nice easy drinking wines that won’t disappoint.  Join their wine club and get a special price of $10/each (normally $20). Clink on the wine name links above for full details.

As a “sneak peek” tip coming out in limited supply, I was able to try something Carolyn was creating for her first time. It’s a Late Harvest Gewurztraminer and it was unbelievable!  The wine is being barreled in stainless and held a beautiful golden color in the sunlight. With notes of peach, tropical fruits and dried apricots it was a very refreshing, clean yet not overly sweet tasting. The wine should be bottling in the coming months.

In a future posting I’ll share the Cab. and Zinfandel bottles I bought after some in-home cellaring (just a wine cooler, nothing fancy like a cave under the house).  For now some notes on the Cab.:

Deep, red color.  Varietal aromas marry with the vanilla and spice of the barrels. The taste is full of spice, vanilla, currant and dark cherry fruit flavors. The vanilla and chocolate finish adds to the wine`s fruity characteristics.  Wonderful now yet aging this wine will provide a nice treat for the future.

I highly recommend a visit to the winery on your next trip to Sonoma. The staff was very pleasant and they made me feel part of their extended family. I can’t wait to get back!

All Larson wines can be purchased at the winery or online.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sonoma, CA

I know I haven't posted in awhile and I apologize to those of you just beginning to visit here.  I promise it will be more regular especially since I have so much to share from my recent visit to Sonoma, CA.  To say it was unbelievable would be an understatement!

I want to begin with the many different wineries I visited although first a big thank you to the Larson Family Winery who allowed me to spend the day with Carolyn Craig, their winemaker.  To everyone at Larson from Tom & Becky, Molly and especially have brought me more education and knowledge to help guide me down this path of something I truly love sharing with and the passion that goes into making it.  Your family atmosphere, fun loving spirt and overall experience will be something I never forget.  Oh yeah, some incredible wines now and some which I hope to see in the future from our barrel tastings.  Watch out, I'll be back for harvest time!

To some of the other enjoyable places visited, I wanted to make mention here and follow up with a posting for each along with some of the great wines they make. 

More to come ASAP on all these.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stephen Vincent Crimson, 2006 ($11)

Petaluma, CA (Sonoma)

I can’t help to say that this wine was bought on a complete whim! In the store, it was in the same area of other red blends, which are my current favorites to try. I thought, why not try this one given its description and price point. I’ve been back to buy a lot more!

“Crimson” is made in the style of a French Rhone blend, yet made in California. The aromas are pleasant suggestions of coffee, roasted nuts and toasty oak. A combination of 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, from the Sonoma and Central Coast growing regions of California, make this a new favorite of mine. Blackberries, plum and toasted oak are the predominate flavors. A silky-smooth finish, with soft tannins bring together flavors of licorice, cocoa and a moderate tartness leaving you wanting more. I’ve also had the 2004 and it was equally good and consistent to the ‘06.

Since I found this at an independent liquor store, here is a way to find this wine near your home. Stephen Vincent Crimson

I am starting something new with my postings and would like to share with you some other wine blogs I follow. Please check these folks out as they have some great news to share as well. I’m not saying leave me…just see what else is out there and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Today’s blog pick is Good Wine Under $20.
With a name like this, how can you go wrong?  But seriously, Deb Harkness has been doing this for awhile and she definitely intrigues me with her writing and knowledge.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blauer Zweigelt "St. Severin", 2005 ($16)

Krems, Austria
Winzer Krems, Kremstal Vineyard

I first had a Zweigelt wine during a visit to Vienna. The grape’s original birthplace is in Austria and many say the varietal is close to a Pinot Noir.

My story began, in 2007, while on a hunt for good homemade Wiener Schnitzel at a recommended Gasthaus, which is generally where you’ll find traditional dishes, homemade specials and a pleasant home-like atmosphere. These places are somewhat hard to find in the big cities anymore and more prevalent in the countryside towns. On our hunt, we must have passed the restaurant 3 times circling the block since it was so small with minimal signage. In the end, it was worth the adventure as the meal was wonderful along with samplings of at least 4 local beers I couldn’t even begin to remember.

So, I decided to buy a bottle of Zweigelt and make our own Wiener Schnitzel with egg noodles and mushroom/rosemary gravy here at home. This wasn’t the exact same wine from Vienna although the Winzer Krems vineyard is in Krems, Austria which is a small town located 55 miles northwest of Vienna. The city is over 1000 years old and rich in history.

With rich scents of ripe berries, black pepper and a hint of molasses it definitely brought back memories of that wonderful dinner. Tastes of plum and black cherries combined in this easy drinking wine with soft tannins and fruit forward flavors. An essence of licorice, spice and tobacco existed in its velvety finish. Considered to be a medium bodied wine, I’d love to find another bottle however I believe the 2006 is now what’s out. I guess I’ll have to try that vintage as well.

I found it at Total Wine although you can try here to find a distributor near you.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Columbia-Crest, Two Vines Merlot-Cabernet, 2005 ($7)

Washington State

Earlier last year I had the “Two-Vines Vineyard 10" which I thought was very nice and an affordable red blend, so I decided to try the Merlot-Cabernet blend. For the price, I couldn't go wrong.  Guess what, I’ve been back to snatch up more before the price heads north! I found it at my local Albertsons grocery store in Florida.

Aromas of raspberries (maybe even strawberries) blend with a light oak, woody scent.  It didn’t seem like the aromas were overly complex; which kept things simple.  The first taste always fools me so I’ll go with what I tasted on the second sip.  By the way, that can be true with many 1st sips.  Don’t judge too quickly and on that 2nd sip think about what you taste for 30-60 seconds, after the wine has left your mouth.  You’ll be surprised from the different flavors that hang on.

With the second taste, the fruit flavors were definitely prevalent with blackberry and vanilla supporting this light bodied, low acidity, silky blend. Flavors of cocoa and spice with a slight earthy hint (no not dirt!) rounded out the finish.

This blend is a mix of 60% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak barrels. Overall this is a flavorful blend everyone will enjoy and it won’t break the bank!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tormaresca Neprica, 2006 ($10)

Puglia, Italy

I would have never thought to try this wine if it hadn’t been for attending the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.  I met a distributor and emailed him after the event to ask if they had any other red blends that I should try.  After finding this wine in my local grocery store Publix (FL), I was just happy to find it on the shelf, given the many wines people tell me about yet difficult to find.  (It may not be in all Publix stores, try to request it.)

I’ve only been to Italy once and it made my Italian mom happy, as I was able to join my parents there and meet mom’s relatives in Ravenna.  Her aunt is 90+, still going strong and since my visit, I often make her homemade Limoncello recipe.  Being raised in the USA and never really learning Italian or studying the geography of the country, here is what I can share in regards to this unique wine.

The region of Puglia is in southern Italy and located in what’s called the “heel of the Italian boot.” Tormaresca means “tower by the sea” and is named for the many towers that line the coast of the Adriatic sea in this region.  When I first poured this full bodied blend it showed off its deep ruby red color hinting to a surprise of aromas and tastes soon to follow. Dried fruits, leather and a hint of earthiness from its aromas led me to believe I was about to sample a very dry wine.  I was wrong!  Up front flavors of currants, blackberry and plum reminded me of a hearty Cab or spicy Zin. On the finish: hints of licorice, black pepper and oak (even though its unoaked) rounded out this pleasant new find for me.

The wine is actually a blend of 3 grapes (40% Negromaro, 30% Primitivo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon).  After some research on 2 of the unknown grapes (to me), I found that Primitivo is actually a twin to the Zinfandel varietal. Negromaro is a varietal predominately grown in the Puglia region with full fruit characters and good tannic structure. You won’t be disappointed with this wine especially if you pair it with a bolognaise sauce or baked ziti which is what I had it with.  Chin, chin!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Farallon Chardonnay, 2007 ($9)

Woodbridge, CA (Central Coast)

I honestly didn’t get a tip on this purchase other than seeing another shopper loading her basket with a few more bottles than the average vino drinker might buy. Now for those of you who know me, I wasn’t shy to ask 
“…what’s up with this wine and would you please leave one on the shelf for me to try?” She smiled, said it was very good and kind enough to leave me a bottle to take home.  Since then, I've been back for plenty more!

In general, I’m an oaky, buttery, Chardonnay fan. Kendall Jackson Chard. has always been a good-old standard in the house although I think I’ve found an equal contender for slightly less $$. You’ll find soft aromas of pear and green apples followed by flavors of peach, pineapple and ripe melon. With a favorite finish of mine being toasty oak and a light buttery flavor, your palette won’t be disappointed. The remaining flavors on the finish are slightly sweet followed by a tart aftertaste, which fades quickly, revealing an easy drinking and quite refreshing wine.

I would recommend chilling your bottle in the refrigerator for an hour or more as it should be served chilled.   If you’re in a hurry, make up an ice bath (ice & water) in your wine bucket and place the bottle in there for 15-20 minutes (with some twirling of the bottle every few minutes).

I had this wine with parsley, breaded seared scallops, porcini/roasted red pepper orzo, sauté spinach in olive oil & garlic and a salad of fresh picked tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow peppers and scallions in an olive oil & balsamic dressing.  Yes…I made the dinner so the enjoyment of the wine was even better!  I could see this wine as a great intro. to spring or summer paring it with grilled salmon or a pasta dish like Fettuccini Alfredo.

Hey Dad, you’ll love this one with your favorite Carbonara.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mollydooker "The Boxer" Shiraz, 2006 (apx. $20)

McLaren Vale, South Australia

This bottle was given to me by a friend - I'm guessing she bought it for the fun label and hopefully, also on a good recommendation from the store's wine expert. The label is fun and has a good story (see below) but I'm not into a cute label when searching out new wines. Mostly I'm interested in the quality tied to the price point.  Even though I didn't buy this bottle, this vino did not disappoint!!!

Wow, with great aromas of currants, plum, a hint of chocolate and spicy sensations, I almost wanted to hold off on the tasting.  But that's silly!  The taste was even better...with a full flavored explosion of fruity, blackberry flavors leading to a spicy finish, I didn't stop at one glass.  I'm guessing (remember I'm no pro at this) that the spicy finish is probably from the higher alcohol content (16%).  A smooth and rich wine at a good price can you go wrong? 

After such a wonderful experience with this wine, I did a little research. Since I haven't got into rating the wines I taste with any sort of numbering system, which I may do in the future, I found that this vintage received 90pts. from Wine Spectator and the '05 vintage got 95pts. from Robert Parker along with his "Best Wine Value in the World Under $20."

To wrap things up and give you a little insight on the label, here is the definition for "Mollydooker." Its Aussie for left-hander.  The boxer on the label has 2 left gloves, sure to knock you out!

Check out the Mollydooker website and learn how to do the Mollydooker Shake...with their wines of course!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Villa Mt. Eden Zinfandel, Fox Creek, 2002 ($13-15)

St. Helena, CA (Napa)

After being introduced to a new "wine guy" in one of my local liquor stores, which carry a nice selection of wines, I was becoming discouraged at everything he was showing me.  $35 and up wasn't for me and usually isn't, as I prefer to keep my price point affordable under $20 (unless it's something I've tried and would like for a special occasion).  Well, I credit him with turning me on to this wonderful Zin that I've come back for more!

This was a pleasant find, great priced and a 2002 vintage encompassing delicious characteristics.  I'm not sure how long it will remain in stores therefore if you find it! With aromas of oak and ripe berries my first taste encompassed a fruit forward enjoyment yet not overly sweet.  Flavors of raspberries and vanilla were predominate in every sip thereafter.  The finish is gentle and silky with low acidity.  I would drink this one now!
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