Chateau Ste Michelle merlot at Bertucci’s

14 05 2012

Continuing with our delicious Italian restaurant samplings, today we review a 2007 merlot from Washington’s Columbia Valley that Bertucci’s sells for $8.25 a glass / $32 a bottle.  It was paired with their Garlic & Herb Roasted Mushrooms and Warm Assorted Olives.
 
OK this wine caused a stir — everyone at our table loved it, almost couldn’t get enough of it.  Like most Washington merlots, it’s on the sweet side.  But then there’s that leather.  Blackberry.  Spice.  Licorice.  And a touch of oak and black pepper.   By itself, Chateau Ste Michelle merlot is good but not perfect, with a bit of harshness.  But with food, it’s a different and much better story. 
 
Our hosts paired it with a fascinating dish: roasted mushrooms and warm Mediterranean olives.  I don’t know where Bertucci’s is sourcing these items, but somebody in that organization deserves a gold medal.  Absolutely delicious and original.  And, a drop-dead perfect pairing with this merlot.  I am jonesing for a repeat of this course!
 
Chateau Ste Michelle merlotRecommended.

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Wines at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant

7 05 2012

This kicks off a series that will review various popular wines that are sold at Bertucci’s.  These brick oven-style Italian restaurants on the east coast have a warm, modern atmosphere, open kitchen and a “dim the lights” feeling of class.   
 
Manager Chad Phillips and culinary manager Michael Cropper in Christiana, Delaware treated us to their newest dishes (excellent) and wines (very good or excellent, for the price, with one exception).  The evening was gratis, but I returned to buy each wine on its own. 

In every case, the food improved the wine experience.  In one case, the pairing caused a so-so wine to become downright enjoyable.  Read on to learn which.
 
The pairings:

  • Rodney Strong chardonnay (Sonoma CA, 2010), with Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad
  • Francis Ford Coppola “Rosso” (CA, 2010), with Eggplant Napoleone
  • Chateau Ste Michelle merlot (Columbia Valley WA, 2007), with Garlic & Herb Roasted Mushrooms, and Warm Assorted Olives
  • Francis Ford Coppola Bianco pinot grigio (CA, 2010), with Cod al Forno
  • J. Lohr “Seven Oaks” cabernet sauvignon (Paso Robles CA, 2009), with Piccolo Chocolate Budino




Cannonball merlot review: CANNONBALLLLL!!!

29 03 2012

Hello!  Tonight we look at a 2009 Napa Valley, California merlot that costs around $15.

Look out:  here’s an addictive light-to-medium-bodied red wine with a fun label that everybody at the party will love.  Blackstone merlot’s former winemaker is behind this.   I got a free sample from the winery, and then bought another six bottles.

A bit  on the sweet side, Cannonball merlot is fun (like your first real cannonball at the pool) and friendly, yet strangely seductive.  It smells like a sweet cabernet, and has some cabernet-ish blackcurrant flavors in addition to black cherry, apple, vanilla and cinnamon when it hits your tongue.

The 2009 Cannonball merlot is:

Cannonbal merlot reviewRecommended.

EDIT:  I recently took this wine to a blind wine tasting featuring 16 wines from around the world.   I didn’t even know if it was included in the 8 wines I tasted.

On a scale of 1 (horrible) to 5 (incredibly great), I rated everything a 1, 2, or 3.   Except one wine, which I rated a 4, and wrote “Nice!!”  Yes, it was this Cannonball merlot.





Norton merlot review: hell, the FALL will probably kill you

21 07 2011

Today we review a 2008 merlot from Mendoza Argentina, which cost me $9.

The smooth and soft texture of this merlot is lovely.  Its deep, dark ruby red color makes your mouth water.  And the label is very classy — at only $9, it looks like a $45 wine.  That can help a guy who’s making dinner for his date.

However, you’ll want your date to actually drink her wine.  Norton is OK, with a cigar-chomping / Anthony Quinn take on the usual merlot taste, but it’s not quite “good.”  There’s some Cheap Red Wine taste in there.  A little bitter, and hot, meaning you can really taste the 13.5% alcohol.

Although it has some nice leather and spicy-hot tobacco, Norton merlot from Argentina isn’t warm, comfortable and merlot-ish enough for me to encourage you to take the plunge.

Not recommended.  Maybe I should try something from Bolivia.





Oyster Bay merlot review: YES OYSTER!

19 07 2011

Today we review a 2007 merlot from New Zealand that costs around $13.

This glass of medium-bodied Oyster Bay merlot really reminds me of the beach.  Not a pristine white sand / blue water beach, but a fishing beach.  Lots of thick rope, metal buckets, and shellfish.

I guess what I’m saying is, this merlot is salty.  It has a hint of black olives.  It’s also minerally, and woody.   Maybe a little bitter, in a good way?  It’s interesting, and would go well with salty food, or a good book on the deck of a beach house.   But at $13, I want a little more composed and smooth delivery of merlot warmth.  I don’t think it will make most merlot drinkers super happy.  And so, it is unfortunately:

Not recommended.





Chateau Ste. Michelle “Indian Wells” merlot review

1 06 2011

Hi!  Today we are reviewing a 2009 merlot from Washington State that is $13 at Costco.

OK Washington merlot is supposed to be sweet and jammy.  This merlot IS kind of sweet, because it’s very fruit-forward.  But it’s also a little spicy, and has some leather/chocolate going on.  Maybe a tiny bit of tobacco.

At $13, I give it a thumbs-up.  It’s not “great”, but it is definitely nice, and does not do anything wrong if you like warm, jammy, velvety merlot.   BUT — there’s a caveat.  You really have to let it breathe, for at least an hour.  When you first open it, the only thing you will smell is alcohol, and it will be almost tasteless.  Just takes a while to open up.

Chateau Ste. Michelle "Indian Wells" merlot reviewRecommended.





Kirkland Columbia Valley merlot review

22 05 2011

Today we examine a 2009 merlot from Washington State that costs $9 at Costco.

OK Washington merlot has a reputation.  That being, it is generally on the sweeter side.  It’s a good choice if you want to bring a white wine drinker over to the dark side.

Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley merlot falls right in line with that reputation.  And, it’s pretty good:  soft, medium-bodied, and pleasant.  Warm blackberries, with spicy chocolate.  It’s great for a party — most people will be happy to sip it, and it’s a conversation starter, as in: who knew that such a “bargain brand” could taste this good?  (Idiot wine snobs may talk behind your back, as if you brought some wine that you found at a gas station.  Screw ’em.)  It’s got some mouth-drying tannins, but it mostly soothes you with vague deep, dark fruit flavors.  It does almost nothing wrong. 

I found myself pouring glass after glass, a very positive indicator here at Wineguider.  This easy-drinking red is:

Kirkland Columbia Valley merlot reviewRecommended.