Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sean Minor, Pinot Noir ‘09 ($14)


Napa Valley, CA

A few months ago I posted the Cab Sav. by Sean Minor and from what I’ve heard the market went crazy for it.  A great wine at a great value so go figure, the price also went up $3-$4 since then.  Congrats on market penetration with a great wine…I’ll still pay $18/$20 for it.

The ‘09 Pinot Noir is no exception for another great wine from Sean Minor however, I’m not sure pricing will jump like the Cab. so find some of the ’09 Pinot while it’s still on the shelf.  Aromas of cherry jam, black pepper and lightly toasted oak all found to be pretty typical of a Pinot Noir.  The flavors of sweet plums, blackberries and cocoa really measured up to a well-balanced wine.  Hints of vanilla and caramel supported smooth tannins on the finish.

The wine went unbelievably well with dinner of grilled pork loin, grilled asparagus and a porcini mushroom risotto.  Aged for 9 months in French oak gives this wine a nice flavor and shows care in the wine making process.  Sean Minor seems to genuinely care how his wines are made and it shows in the finished product.  You can read more about them at www.seanminorwines.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

Celeste Crianza, ’07 $15


Ribera del Duero, Spain


With many Tempranillo wines out there, I’m always hesitant to just pick one up and try it at this price point.  You can definitely find cheaper however I’m starting to learn the $12-$20 range tends to have better tasting wines.  I hate admitting the price thing is making a difference but it’s proven true for most of the Temps I’ve had.

With this wine the aromas were full of crushed dark cherries, plum and a hint of black pepper.  Toasted oak scents were mild and complimented the stone fruits.  Flavors of ripe blackberries, dark cherries and a subtle nutty trace brought the fruit forward tastes together quite nice.  Mellow tannins and a medium body give it an “easy drinking” classification for me.  I would say though, day 2 of drinking this wine was even better.  It almost felt like a more full bodied wine.

I found this wine to go good with a simple marinated skirt steak of salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and olive oil.  Grill it over a high heat to give it a nice crust.  You won't be disappointed!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wine Cellars and Your Collection

Like anything you treasure (a car, a prized heirloom, your kids), your wine collection needs a safe place to be able to express itself--to age gracefully. The time-tested place for this is a wine cellar where temperature and humidity conditions often work in a wine’s favor.  Creating your own wine cellar may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that Vintage Cellars, a noteworthy name in wine cellar construction (and wine preservation), can help!  

For over 20 years, the Vintage Cellars team has been designing and constructing wine cellars across the nation.  Recently featured in Wine Spectator, the professionals at Vintage Cellars have been sought out by several of America’s most distinguished wine collectors to fashion their cellars.  But you don’t have to be a pro, however, to solicit Vintage Cellars’ expertise!  Collectors from all walks of life will benefit from the following news flash: constructing a wine cellar does not have to be a costly ordeal!  (It can also be easy, too.)  No matter your price range, Vintage Cellars offers custom wine cellar design to fit both your budget and your cellar space.  Even if your wine collection contains mostly inexpensive wines, having any wine collection is still an investment, and investments deserve to be protected.  

Now, let’s talk about basements.  Who has an “ideal” basement?  Almost every cellar has some sort of quirk.  If you’ve put off building a wine cellar simply because you think your basement has a less-than-ideal shape, rest assured that the professionals at Vintage Cellars can make a pleasing cellar in just about any space!  Over the course of approximately two months, Vintage Cellars works with you to; design a cellar that fits your specifications (and wallet), and will even suggest appropriate temperature control devices and cooling units, such as; Breezaire split systems or Wine Guardian ducted cooling systems, etc., to further protect your wines.  When all is finished, a professional contractor installs the racks, and ensures everything is ready to handle the needs of your personal wine collection.

No matter your aesthetic, or price range, Vintage Cellars listens to you to create the cellar most ideal for your wine storage and protection needs, giving all your precious bottles the proper home they deserve.  If you want to learn more about creating a custom cellar, or if you’re simply curious about how to better store your wine, visit Vintage Cellars at www.vintagecellars.com.  You’ll pick up a few tips and, possibly, get inspired!

Thanks to the team at Vintage Cellars for providing this guest posting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Edge Cabernet Sauvignon ’08 $20

Napa Valley, CA

While on the hunt for a decent Napa Cab that wouldn’t “break the bank” I was introduced to Edge.  Given it’s price point, relatively below most good Napa Cabs, I was a little skeptical.  I hate to believe price dictates quality especially with a wine I don’t know and now my theory proves correct.  To say it blew me away for $20 is an understatement!

Starting with hints of black pepper followed by ripe dark cherries the aromas we’re awesome.  Black fruit, subtle toasted wood, almost like cedar and hearty herbs supported my belief, I may have stumbled on a new favorite red. 

Comprised of pleasant dark fruit flavors, rich blackberries and a smooth balance of vanilla, this was going to be a bottle I needed to buy more of!  Hints of cocoa, medium tannins and a clean finish went absolutely fabulous with the grilled ribeye steak I had.

Much of the toasted wood aromas & flavors is from this wine spending 16 months in French & American oak.  The well-balanced fruit and smooth mouth feel are more than likely brought out from a small percentage of Merlot blended in.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Juan Gil, Monastrell ’09 $13


Jumilla, Spain

I wasn’t sure what to expect after being referred to this varietal, which can also be found as a blending grape with varietals such as Grenache and Shiraz.  As I’m always learning from others, this too was another one of those “Ah-ha” moments.  The Monastrell grape is the same as Mourvedre, which is commonly grown in the South of France.

With aromas of black pepper spice, blackberry, toasted cedar and a hint of being somewhat gamey, this was appearing to be a well-rounded, new red for me.  A medium bodied mouth feel supported subtle flavors of dark cherries and plums.  Where I was most impressed was how easy drinking this was especially with soft tannins and a finish of cocoa and traces of licorice.

I'm told this wine goes quite well with smoked gouda cheese although my choice was a marinated and grilled skirt steak. Overall I was impressed with this new selection for me, but now I’ve seen other wineries, primarily from Spain, making 100% Monastrell.  I definitely credit my local wine store staff in guiding me to new wines…and this one was a “keeper.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Buoncristiani "O.P.C" ’07 ($38-$41)


Napa, CA

I tried this wine with some good friends last week at a pleasant water front restaurant called CafĂ© Del Rey in Marina Del Rey, CA.  The wine list had a nice variety of selections and I was in the mood for something new and different.  Well, new and different turned into a great wine I couldn’t help but talk about.


As some of you know from my past write ups, I really like red blends.  So naturally, I migrated to the “Meritage” section on the wine list.  I was intrigued with the varietals shown on this wine (Cab. Sauv., Syrah & Merlot)… I think they left out Malbec.  Our server also recommended it over another selection I was considering so this helped sway my decision.

With the blend being 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Syrah, 17% Merlot and 10% Malbec, the wine showed off a dense purple color.  On the aromas blackberries, plums, black pepper spice and something that reminded me of an oven-roasted beef tenderloin came together nicely.  It was a pleasing, warm scent highlighted by subtle oak as well.  This might explain the barrel aging for 21 months on French oak. 

My first taste was somewhat dry and spicy which led me to believe we should let our glasses open up a bit.  We probably should have asked to decant it but it didn’t need much time to open in the glass.  On the following tastes plums and dark berries came out with a hint of soft vanilla.  I’d say this was a full-bodied wine with medium-dry tannins.  On the finish that meaty aroma led to what could have been hints of leather and tobacco but nothing too overwhelming.  

My dinner selection of Palomillo lamb went very tasty with this wine and I could see it going great with other grilled meats. It was a great new find for my friends, Michael & Shelly and myself.  I hope you find it out there for sale or at your favorite restaurant.  I commend the Buoncristiani brothers for making a very nice red blend to add to my favorites list.  It’s a fairly small production wine with 2,025 cases for 2007 yet I’ve seen a few online retailers still selling it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sean Minor, Cabernet Sauvignon ‘07 ($14)

I love the branding this winery uses… “Founded to celebrate the things we prize most.  Delicious approachable wines, Expressive terroir driven flavors, Great value for the price…and Family!”  I never knew it when I bought this Cab but after trying it, I did a little research.  Not a big deal but it’s honest and goes well especially with this wine.  For a Napa Cab to come in under $20 and taste great is a tough find anymore.  Sure there’s plenty out there and our economy sadly has driven price points down.  I’m happy to say I found something you won’t be disappointed with the price and on your palette.

Warm aromas of plum and lightly toasted oak followed by hints of dark berries show off a subtle fruit.  On the taste, ripe plums balance with blackberries and supple flavors of vanilla.  Soft tannins with a nice balance of the oak keep the flavors lasting on your tongue.  Definitely a more sophisticated wine from this price range.

With a 13% blend of Merlot in this wine, I can see how it’s helped balance the subtle fruit found on the mid-palette.  Normally the bottle is $18 and I must have found a deal.  There is a 2008 out now and shows to have a little less Merlot so I’m anxious to find some and compare to the 2007.

Click here for   2007 Winemakers notes

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stella Maris Red '06 ($16)


Columbia Valley, Washington

This wine was on a special at my local wine shop for a great deal compared to what I had seen it for online.  It probably wouldn’t be fair to say but it was $16 vs. normal retail of $26-$30.  I see it now for $19 and either way, a great find for $16 but maybe a bit pricey for $30.  Shop it around out there as it’s worth it with Robert Parker giving it a 92 and Wine Spectator a 91.

At first the aromas hit me with a spicy pepper bomb, which later I realized was the higher alcohol.  Being at 14.4%, I can see that yet ripe blackberries and plum with hints of cinnamon encouraged me to wait it out on this one.  Let it breath! 

With a balance of (35%) Cab Sav., (29%) Merlot, (28%) Syrah and (8%) Petite Verdot to finish it off, I thought the flavors were great from the first sip however after an hour of letting it sit/decant, the sweetness toned down along with the peppery/alcohol found in the beginning.

Lot’s of dark red berries, plum, chocolate and even some hints of vanilla all layer together very nicely.  I’d give this wine a full-bodied, “Big Red” label with flavors finishing off with cola and subtle oak.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

14 Hands, Hot To Trot 2009 ($9)


Washington State

Without knowing anything about this wine, I picked it up merely on my past experience with 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon.  Also, for the price of $8.78/bottle it wasn’t going to be something I’d expect much out of for the BBQ I was taking it to.  I was wrong…it was a great, easy drinking wine!  I wouldn’t label it as a “big red” but sometimes it’s nice to just have a “go to” red for everyday enjoyment.  This fit that very well.

The aromas brought on a strong peppery spice, yet as the wine opened up it had more of a dark stone fruit hint like plums with mocha.  On the taste it was more of the plum flavors, mocha and subtle vanilla. This may be due to the neutral barrels used in aging.  To help understand that, a neutral barrel is one that’s been used for apx. 5 vintages/years and therefore doesn’t exude as much of the oak flavors you would find in a new barrel.

Soft tannins and a smooth mouth feel make this a wonderful wine to go with just about any pasta dish or even grilled meats.  I’d probably have this for a starter red when entertaining.  It’s easy drinking and smooth enough for even white wine drinkers.  Moving on to a heavier red for your dinner would be my recommendation.

The blend is Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon,  Syrah and Petit Verdot.  I found it at Sam’s however you may find it elsewhere.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bodegas Caro, Amancaya ’09 $16


Mendoza, Argentina

This blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon is probably one of the best wines I’ve had in the past year!  It’s bursting with aromas of ripe blackberries, spicy black pepper and toasted wood.  Deep purple-red color led to flavors of ripe plums, currants and dark cherries followed by a rich cocoa and vanilla blend.  With a definite fruit forward flavor, the finish balances that out with a hint of tobacco and earthiness.  A full body wine with tight tannins has this wine feeling more mature than other 2009’s I’ve had.

The blend is 70% Malbec and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2 wine makers have a long history for their own respective wines.  Nicholas Cantena, with their great Malbec’s from Argentina and Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) with their Bordeaux wines from France.  2003 was the first vintage of Amancaya.

This is absolutely a must have especially in this price range which I’ve heard could be increasing.  I need to thank one of my local wine shops again for a wonderful recommendation, The Wine Barn.

Grill up a nice steak, pork tenderloin or even some seared Ahi with this wine and let me know what you think.

 
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