Jordan Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon review

25 12 2010

Merry Christmas! Today we check out a 2006 California cabernet that will cost you somewhere between $40 and $60. 

I paid $47 for this cab at Costco, but I’ve found it ranging from $38 to $70.  Wow.

This is a very pretty cab.  It’s only 13.5% alcohol, so it’s not fire-breathing.  It’s lighter and has fewer tannins than some of the big boys from California.  But it’s more elegant, so you can pair Jordan Alexander Valley with all kinds of food — it’s not just a red meat wine. 

The aroma offers strong alcohol, cloves, vanilla, and a mix of cedar and red/black raspberries, like a pinot noir.  You’ll taste mainly oak and black raspberries.  It tastes young, so storing this wine for a few years will likely deliver a more sublime experience.  It isn’t pure cabernet sauvignon: it’s 19.5% merlot, 4.5% petit verdot and 1% malbec.  Any downside?  Sure.  For its price, it is, like this review, a little boring.

At $45, this wine is a go.  I probably wouldn’t pay $50 or more for it, but I might if I wanted a delicious red wine that has a fresh take on traditional California cab traits, and is also light on its feet.  Recommended.Jordan cabernet sauvignon review





Cakebread Cellars chardonnay review

24 10 2010

We continue our special California chardonnay week with this coveted $42 wine from Napa Valley’s 2007 vintage.

Bias alert!  I’m doing this series because I don’t generally like California chardonnays — so if I can recommend one, it’s probably good enough for most people.  I am not a normal, impartial judge of this kind of wine.

Am I crazy??  This $42 (sometimes $53) (but look here — just $32.98) chardonnay, thought to be one of the best in the U.S., isn’t good enough??  The wine that I actually saw two grown men fight over in an Atlanta liquor store that had only 1 bottle left (one of whom turned out to be my dentist!)??

First, Cakebread was better than this week’s previous (low-dollar) contenders.  We had high hopes, because this chard was one of the best in Napa Valley when I visited Cakebread‘s winery in 2004.  But it seems oakier and more buttery now.  Our first drink made us grimace uncontrollably.  It tasted like the fake, clogged-up stuff you get when you absentmindedly order “white wine” at some stupid work-related event.  The smell was VERY oaky and buttery.  Decanting didn’t help — still tasted like an improved version of Clos du Bois, which we dissed here

But on day 2, things improved a lot.  NOW this golden boy began to act right — a smell of honeysuckles and a taste of (acidic) lemon/lime, countered by (sweet) honeydew melon and cantaloupe.  And a hint of oak, which combined with the citrus to zap your tongue with a mildly spicy “zing!”   Wow — a natural-tasting, balanced, white wine. 

Then there’s the price.  I would highly recommend this wine at $23.  But at $42, or $53, or whatever, I expect a near-orgasmic experience.  So far, only pinot noirs at this price level have earned a recommendation from your Wineguider.  Unfortunately, at $42 this golden boy is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Domaine Serene 2007 “Yamhill Cuvee” pinot noir review

7 09 2010

Today we review a 2007 Oregon pinot noir that will set you back $40.

So here we have Domaine Serene’s “Yamhill Cuvee” pinot noir.  It costs $15 less than their Evenstad Reserve pinot, and guess what?  It may be just as satisfying.

So what first hits you about the Yamhill Cuvee?  Its aromas are lovely, but they won’t blow you away.  Upon first taste, you will know that you are drinking a very good red wine, but no single flavor leaps out: dark red fruits, oak and a little bit of floral, a little bit of earthiness.  The texture?  Nice.  Spicy?  A bit, sure.

To be honest, nothing really leaps out.  This is the kind of artistic offering that takes you beyond the normal reactions to wine.  You vault over things like “hey, it tastes like blackberries and raspberries,” and you instead arrive at, “that’s it, I’m getting that used Ferrari,” or “where’s the laptop, I’m going to book tickets to China and walk the Great Wall,” or “let’s get drunk and fool around in the downstairs bathroom.”  This wine doesn’t just taste good.  It inspires.

Let it breathe for an hour, have it with some good cheese and light crackers, and buckle up — you’re going to be hit with a really fun, totally involving experience.  So good that it’s hard for me to believe it costs only $40.  This is the first wine I’ve awarded both a “Best Value” and a “Best of the Best” designation.  I hope you get a chance to try it.

Domaine Serene “Yamhill Cuvee” pinot noir review

Highly recommended.





Ponzi 2007 pinot noir review

4 09 2010

Today we review an Oregon pinot noir that costs $36 a bottle.

Well, well, well, another fussy, prissy review from your Wineguider, where an excellent red wine is nevertheless panned.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Basically, I love great pinot noir, and I want your experiences with “the good stuff” to be seriously rewarding.   Ponzi is rewarding, yes, but I think there are better pinot noirs that you can buy in the $35 price range.  The qualities of this panned, not-recommended wine: 

  • it’s very interesting
  • it’s gently spicy
  • it’s elegant
  • it’s medium-bodied
  • it tastes like blackberries, sort of, with some oak
  • it’s juicy but also dry, with no excess sugary sweetness, and no excess mouth-puckering tannins
  • its only downfall — it has a slightly thin and slightly sharp taste
  • and most importantly of all, it’s fun in your mouth.  Complex.  A quality shared by all truly good pinot noirs.  

So clearly, if you buy the 2007 Ponzi pinot noir, you are going to be happy.  Yet, I sit here and pan it.  But only because of the $36 price tag.  So, in my next few reviews, I promise to recommend what I think are even better pinot noirs in this price range.  I’ve been checking out Ponzi, on and off, for over 12 years. This 2007 pinot noir is the best that I have ever tasted.  And it is:

Not recommended.





SMACK TALK at another blogger, about Lange vineyards in Oregon

18 07 2010

Lange pinot noirToday I respond to a guy on the west coast with a blog called Beyond the Bottle.  He reviewed Oregon’s Lange vineyards, maker of some seriously great pinot noir.  He rated them a 2 out of 5.   (???)   His reason: the tasting was $10 and they wouldn’t refund his money if he bought their wine. 

Let’s get one thing straight: $10 for a tasting at Lange is worth it.  Big time.  They let you try 5 different wines, and it’s serious stuff — up to $60 a bottle.  The five tastes add up to more than a full glass.  Now, what would a full glass of Lange wine cost you at a restaurant?  Definitely more than ten bucks — probably $13 or $15. 

Plus, buying a tasting at Lange lets you hear from the people who make the wine, or at least people who work with the winemaker.  That’s worth a lot to me.  I mean, imagine test-driving a Porsche with one of their head engineers.  I remember my first tasting at Lange was hosted by. . .  drum roll please . . .  Don Lange. 

Anyway, the blogger accused Lange of  “highway robbery” and didn’t mention how any of their wines tasted.  Read his review here.   

He disabled comments, so I sent him an email:

“Hi,

I see you are somewhat upset after visiting Lange, which you rate a 2 out of 5.  Sorry about that.  After visiting Oregon and its wine country several times, I believe Lange is one of the finest wineries in the state. For my money (wink wink, let’s remember what’s really important here), they are in fact the single best. Their pinot noir introduced me to the concept of really high end wine, and in my journies since then (12 years) they have yet to be bettered. 
 
I am sorry that you were so put off by having to pay for their wine that you were not able to actually review their wine.  For example, their $17 pinot noir is sort of weak and disappointing, their reserve pinot is more robust and even more disappointing because it costs more and doesn’t taste that great, their Estate pinot noir is again more robust but also very mature, dry, and almost challenging, their Three Hills Cuvee pinot noir is a violent orgasm of multiple pleasurable flavors in your mouth, and their Freedom Hill pinot, at a very dear $60, is perhaps the single best wine at this price in the known universe, with layers, and layers, of deep, sensual complexity. 

With this winery, it really is all about the wine.  I figure, if I spend $10 on tastings, who cares?  In fact it appears you are so interested in receiving something for nothing that you were briefly incapacitated.  Tell you what, why don’t you let me paypal you 20 bucks to cover your first visit, and a return visit, and go back and just open your mind and your palate to the actual wine that Lange is producing — I am sure that your readers would greatly benefit.

Cheers,

Andy”

If he replies, I’ll seek permission to post it.





Stags’ Leap merlot review

15 07 2010

Today we review a merlot from Napa Valley, California that costs $40 a bottle.

OK this is a ridiculous review, because I am going to “not recommend” a very, very good wine.   The problem is the price.  The wine is the 2006 Stags’ Leap merlot.  Big, oaky, with kickass tannins YET bursting with juicy dark fruit flavors all over the place, and silky smooth.  And organic.  Once you let it breathe, this wine smells and tastes very natural, very much “off the farm,” with all kinds of interesting notes calling for your attention.  Stags’ Leap is definitely not your typical processed, corporate, red juice.  Which is what you’d expect, because the Stags’ Leap area of Napa Valley is some of the most high-fallootin’ grape farmland in the entire world.

As with any very good wine, drinking this merlot is like having an artist’s palette explode in your mouth.  You suddenly realize why all the $10 wines that you have been drinking were priced that way — because (compared to the really good stuff) they are bleached out of real flavor and are overly simplistic or “one flavor only.”  

But here’s the thing — at $40, I expect something seriously compelling.   The Stags’ Leap is truly lovely, but it’s really just a great merlot.  If it were $25, it would merit a huge recommendation.  So there you have it.   A very, very good wine, which is:

Not recommended.





Domaine Serene 2006 “Evenstad Reserve” pinot noir review

2 06 2010

Today we review a 2006 Oregon pinot noir by Domaine Serene called “Evenstad Reserve,” which costs $55 a bottle.  (UPDATE:  As of 2013 the retail price is $65, but you can find it at Total Wine for under $50.)

With this wine, you are entering the big leagues.  It may not be immediately delicious to everyone, but give it a few minutes.  Your first impression will be a reserved feeling of “quality”.  After a while, I predict, you will be addicted.  Bring it to a party and heads WILL turn, if the guests know about wine.  However such a move is risky – Lou might pour half the bottle into the oversized glass of the 20 year-old he’s hitting on, causing you to burst into tears.

This pinot has a gently spicy and very layered taste.  It smells incredible.  I know a woman who can’t drink red wine due to an allergy, and she is very happy to simply take in the aroma of this wine.  Once sipped, you are endlessly entertained by various flavors, like waves arriving on a beach: a hint of cedar, some raspberry, cranberry, and strawberry, oak, fresh spices, and pure pinot magic.  For all its delicacy and complexity, this is a fairly big, medium-bodied wine that shows a deep, dark, ruby red.  Finally, it does not have the stinky barnyard flavors and aromas that many admittedly good pinots have.

This wine wants to breathe for a while before being enjoyed.  It’s best when slightly chilled, as in, refrigerate for 20 minutes before drinking.  The Evenstad Reserve is highly recommended and is a “Best of the Best”.

Enjoy!er