Friday, January 29, 2010

Excelsior, Shiraz 2006 $10

South Africa

This wine came to me as a sample after inquiring about a South African Chardonnay (Indaba). I had asked the importer what other South African wines were being brought to the US and they introduced me to Excelsior Shriaz. It may sound like an awkward way to get introduced to wines although I try to reach out to importers, wineries & distributors to tell me what’s new rather than only relying on the store shelf.

This Shriaz has a deep ruby red color with aromas of dark cherries, vanilla and a hint of black olives and pepper. The tastes began with full flavors of black currants followed by dark cocoa on the mid-palate. (I forget that explaining something like mid-palate could be helpful to here's a try) Simply think of the wine in your mouth and the tastes just after the first flavor sensation. That’s the mid-palate. You could also think of the “attack” as the first flavor, the “mid-palate” as the second and most compelling flavor(s) and finally the “finish” which is what’s left on your tongue after the wine leaves your mouth.

For the wine’s finish, it was a clean balance of oak and pepper. Soft tannins and a very easy drinking red all wrapped up in an affordable price tag…could you ask for more? To help locate this wine in your area, you can try here:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mark Davidson, Cabernet/Merlot (NV) $14

South Eastern Australia

I first had this wine in a favorite restaurant of mine with a pecan crusted, baked snapper. Probably one of the most flavorful fish entrees I’ve ever had. The wine was on their “by-the-bottle” specials that night so I decided to try it. As the story goes for most of us once we find something we like…”where can I buy this?” Its always a challenge especially for those great restaurant wines not found in stores. It took about 6 months once I stumbled on it and I didn’t hesitate to buy a few bottles.

The wine’s fragrance was full of dark, ripe berries followed by a sweetness found in grape jam. Along with this, a bouquet of fragrant herbs was prominent. On the first taste a mouthful of ripe black berries & currants led this medium bodied, wonderfully blended wine. Through the mid palette, I found cedar and tobacco flavors with soft tannins on the finish, which are probably from the Merlot. This is such a nice drinking wine with the boldness of a Cabernet and the subtlety of a Merlot. It almost reminds me of a full bodied red Zinfandel yet not so 'fruity'.

This wine doesn’t have a vintage date, which could mean there is some blending of varietals from a neighboring year. This doesn’t bother me as it used to especially if the wine has what I like and this one will not let you down.

Mark Davidson has been making fine wines from premium vineyards in Australia for 21 years. In 1985, along with investors, Mark bought Tamburlaine Winery and has been in charge of wine production and operations. Tamburlaine has a reputation for innovation along with a focus on producing high quality wines with cutting edge and environmentally sound production techniques.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mac Murray Ranch, Pinot Noir $17

Central Coast, CA

I admit, I bought this wine after reading a Wine Spectator issue recommending it as a moderately priced and very good Pinot Noir. I honestly don’t follow up on all the notes I take from reading wine related magazines but I’m glad I did on this on.

The aromas began with bright fruit, cherries and dried mushrooms followed by a hint of Fall-like wet leaves. Sounds like a lot going on here although it was a nice rounded and balanced sensation. It helped reinforce and remind me that the aromas (or “nose”) play such an affect on the tastes which follow. This is actually a proven fact in wine tasting so don’t be shy to sniff, sniff, sniff.

The tastes were a wonderful collection of ripe cherries with a mild spice. On the finish, vanilla and a hint of chocolate were present. Very nicely balanced wine that I would categorize as easy drinking yet sophisticated in flavor composition. I had it with salmon on cedar plank and the wine was an excellent complement. Even the warm chocolate chip cookies after dinner went great with the wine.

Recently I saw this wine on sale at World Market ($16). I guess I should continue to follow up on my wine magazine notes more often.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Frick Winery “CAFÉ” Merlot, 2003 $10

Sonoma, CA

Even if you blind tasted this wine, you’d probably never guess it was a Merlot. I guess that’s a pretty bold statement for those of you who are pros at determining the wine's varietals (grapes) from just a taste. Is it still lingering from the days of the movie “Sideways” that Merlot has a bad reputation? I would hope not however, who am I to control that except to say that this $10 bottle was absolutely a wonderful surprise. More Merlot for all!

With a dark, deep purple color, the aromas were full of licorice, smoke and dried dark berries. Subtle hints of cocoa and spice rounded out the nose and completely fooled me in believing this was a Merlot. I’m not an expert on determining a wine’s varietal from the smell but it’s safe to say I had not experienced these aromas in other Merlot wines.

The flavors were full of bright fruit; blueberries, blackberries and medium oak. Soft tannins and easy drinking left my pallet with a smooth, velvety finish.

I was told that the wine maker, Bill Frick had this in his oak barrels a little longer than normal, waiting to decide on what to do with the wine. In guessing, it must have been a choice between selling the wine, possibly for blending or bottling it. Good thing he chose to bottle it.

I’ve never had a Merlot like this and if its any sign of other wines Frick is making, I’ll be sure to search out others. I do know they take great care in their wine making from information posted on their website. Small batches and time tested techniques are their claim. You can visit them at

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