Heavyweight cabernet sauvignon review

28 09 2011

This review has been updated here.

As we continue our white-hot series of affordable one-word cabernets that begin with the letter H, we arrive at a 2007 red that is 76% cabernet sauvignon, 14% syrah and 10% zinfandel.  It is around $13 and is from Lodi, California.

Heavyweight is allowed to be called a cabernet because it has at least 75% of that grape.  It’s nice to know the rest, since they don’t have to tell us.  Here, the syrah and zin add extra power, spice, richness and warmth — punch, if you will — to this surprisingly good cabernet.  You also get smooth tannins, very dark burgundy color, and the expected currants/black raspberry/”other dark fruits” flavors.  Actually that 14% of syrah is almost overpowering, to the point where this wine doesn’t taste like a typical cabernet sauvignon.  It’s more jammy, more fun, and frankly, sweeter.

But who cares?  It’s really good.  It’s only $13.  And it will be a big hit at a party, because of the name, the cool artistic label, and the knockout taste.   Heavyweight 2007 cab is:

Heavyweight cabernet sauvignonRecommended.





Heron cabernet sauvignon review: GOLDILOCKS, I THINK I LOVE YOU

20 08 2011

Hello!  Up next in our special series of affordable cabernets with one-word names that start with H, we have Heron, a $13 cab from Mendocino, California’s 2009 vintage.

WOW, what’s up with Heron??  This cab is only $13, yet it has exactly what I want: dark ruby color, plentiful tannins, that warm black raspberry/currants taste, and a medium-to-heavy feel.  It improved on day 2, but I was happy when it was first uncorked.  The noticeable oak is like the middle dish in that bedtime story: “just right.”  In fact, Heron cabernet does almost nothing wrong, and as a bonus, it’s only 13% alcohol.  So it won’t rock your block.  Unless you drink the whole bottle in one sitting, which you will be tempted to do.  

This $13 wonder gets a “Best Value” award.  Even at $18 (which is what Total Wine charges, for some reason), the price would seem right.  Still going strong on day 3, this lovely California girl is:

Highly recommended.





Hogue cabernet sauvignon review: INTRIGUE FATIGUE FOR YOUR TONGUE

19 08 2011

Hi!  In response to overwhelming demand from you, the faithful readers of Wineguider, tonight we kick off a special series of reviews examining affordable cabernets that have one-word names beginning with the letter H.

First in line:  Hogue, from Washington State’s Columbia Valley.  This 2008 cab is just $8 at Total Wine, but often goes for $10.  While it’s a bit on the light side for a cabernet, a light cab could be wonderful.  Let’s find out.

Hogue smells nice.  You get cloves, a nice “fertile soil” smell, and some cranberry-ish red fruit.  But in your mouth, the familiar red fruit and tannins leave you with a slightly tinny aftertaste.  Unusual, but quickly tiring.  Worse, this wine is actually hard to taste.  It’s a bit generic.  Hogue is vague. 

I love the price, but this Washington value cabernet is:

Not recommended.





urban riesling review: Yavolt!

31 07 2011

urban riesling reviewHello!  Today we review a 2010 riesling from Germany that I discovered for $10 at Wilmington Delaware’s excellent Premier Wine.

“Urban” in German means polite, with good manners.  Works for me:  urban riesling is absolutely civil, especially on one of this summer’s hot days.  Although it smells like peaches and honey, it’s on the dry side of sweet.  Definitely not ooey-gooey.  In your mouth it delivers smooth melon, a very light tangy snap, and a hint of stone.  Perfect by itself or with spicy food, pizza, even with dessert. 

The bottle and label are retro-German stylish, as if you’re holding a prop from a high-society European scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.  Urban is not a “huge wow” wine, but at $10, this well-mannered and delicious refresher is:

Recommended.

P.S. Although Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes sounded like he was answering commands with “yavolt,” it appears that the German word is “Jawohl.”





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.





Chateau Bois Redon bordeaux superieur review: oh, MY, GOODNESS

12 07 2011

Today we review a 2009 blend of 75% merlot, 25% cabernet sauvignon from France.  It’s $10 at Total Wine.

If you ever wonder why some people say that U.S. wines are too sweet, this is a wine for you to try.  It’s just merlot and cabernet, but it tastes NOTHING like the merlot and cabernet that most Americans are familiar with.  Smell: pure alcohol.  Taste:

Dried cherry and coffee.  Lots of dry cocoa-like tannins on the finish.  Almost bitter, yet has a soft leathery texture.  Serious.  Elegant.  Medium bodied.  Understated.  Tastes “tight” and too reserved when first opened, gets better on day 2.  This dark burgundy-red wine from Bordeaux is absolutely killer for $10.   I say give it a try, especially if you don’t drink French wine.  Maybe pop open a Washington or California merlot to go with it.  Compare and contrast.  Let us know what you think!

Chateau Bois Redon bordeaux superieur reviewRecommended.





Schloss Kinzer gruner veltliner review: summer wine with emotional baggage

9 07 2011

Today we check out a 2009 gruner veltliner from Austria that cost me $13 at Premier Wine in Wilmington, Delaware.  But you get a full 1 liter instead of the usual 0.75-liter bottle, so think of it as a $9.75 wine.

This more-for-the-money white wine is delicious and PERFECT for summer.  It’s light.  It’s refreshing.  It has hints of vanilla and minerality.  But mostly it’s honeysuckle, melon and zingy citrus that will be cooling off your taste buds.  A nice balance of mellow sweetness against tangy lime, this uncommon grape with the funny name sort of tastes like a cross between pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc.  It’s more dry than sweet.

The floral aroma is lovely — and on day 2 it actually brought a tear to my eye, by reminding me strongly of a smell I enjoyed at summer camp when I was just 5.  (I’m still not sure what that aroma was, but it might have been simply the grass we played on.)  It’s not a “great” wine, but being light, refreshing, and coming in a full liter bottle, Schloss Kinzer is definitely a party wine.  I liked this Austrian the moment I tasted it at the store.  It is:  

Schloss Kinzer gruner veltliner reviewRecommended.





Barista pinotage review: coffee, anyone?

1 07 2011

Today we review a 2009 pinotage from South Africa that cost me $14.99.

John at Premier Wine in Wilmington, Delaware recommended this robust red wine to me, and he was dead on.  Barista, as he stated, is the most espresso-like wine you will probably ever taste. 

The aroma is like a hearty cabernet sauvignon combined with coffee liqueur.  In the mouth, Barista is medium-bodied, with prominent mouth-drying tannins and flavors of espresso, combined with black cherry and rhubarb, and just a hint of dusty, unsweetened dark chocolate.  Really quite amazing.

Barista is serious, yet fun at the same time because of its Starbucks overtones.  And it’s delicious.  It’s great to bring to a party, when you want a red that people will like, and will also get them talking.  This one is highly:

Barista pinotage reviewRecommended.





Peirano Estate Heritage Collection petite sirah review: OH MAMA

30 06 2011

Hi!  This (hopefully) wraps up our special series of rushed, poorly written wine reviews of good wines.  Today we chug down a 2008 petite sirah from Lodi, California that costs around $13.

Peirano Estate is not super well-known, but the label says they have been growing grapes since 1895 (wow).  This Heritage Collection petite sirah is full bodied, super dark, deep, luscious, ripe, oaky, warm, and very juicy.  It has a medium-to-high amount of mouth-drying tannins, and it doesn’t have too much of any one thing, so its elements come together with impressive balance.  (Many petite sirahs can be tannic monsters.)

For $13, this wine is flat-out incredible.  I would have recommended it at $18.  The only thing that seems “less than $20” about Peirano Estate Heritage Collection is that the various fruit flavors are hard to pin down — you just know you’re getting dark red and black fruits — and that’s fine.  It’s possible that you will find it too heavy, or just “too much,” but that’s true for any petite sirah.  This one is delicious, is hereby awarded a “Best Value” award, and is:

Peirano Estate Heritage Collection petite sirah review

Highly Recommended.





Domaine Guillaman white wine review

30 06 2011

Continuing our special series of disappointingly inadequate wine reviews, today it’s a 2010 French white wine that is a blend of colombard and ugni-blanc.  It costs $10.

Have I ever had an ugni-blanc before?  No.  A colombard?  No sir.   I avoid weird wine names such as these like the plague. 

Yet, I can tell you, this Domaine Guillaman Cotes de Gascogne white wine is very inexpensive, and ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC.  It’s very minerally and citrusy, yet has a round, semi-sweet melon flavor in the background.  And the cool chick at the wine store sensed some basil in there, too. 

I see it’s selling in plenty of places for less than $10.  Nice!  If you like minerally — jump on this.  If not, avoid it.  I’m jumping.

Domaine Guillaman white wine reviewRecommended.





R Collection Lot No. 3 cabernet sauvignon review

29 06 2011

Continuing our very special series of totally inadequate reviews of good wines, today we examine a 2008 cabernet from California that costs around $13.

R Collection by Raymond is good, and you should buy it.  (Damn!  I’m good.)  It’s spicy, big, filled with dry red fruit and yet it’s also juicy and warm.  Medium bodied, with some vanilla in there, and a definite feeling that you should be enjoying a steak or hamburger with it.  Tannins are mild. 

And here’s the cool part:  I have a feeling you can find it for less than $13.

This one’s a keeper.  Recommended. R Collection Lot No. 3 cabernet sauvignon review





CMS sauvignon blanc review: A WINE THAT DESERVES A BETTER REVIEW

29 06 2011

Today we will embark on a special series of “lackluster reviews” from your intrepid Wineguider, because I’m drinking all this wine, and I don’t have the time to really write proper reviews, so I sort of suck right now. 

Our first, through no fault of CMS Winery, is 2009 CMS sauvignon blanc from Washington’s Columbia Valley, for around $10 – $12.  It is made by Hedges family estate winery.

This wine is good, and it’s cheap, and you should buy it.  There!  Sorry for the lackluster review!  But it’s the truth.  CMS sauvignon blanc is:

 – minerally

 – dry-ish

… and has a fresh lime taste. 

Yum.  Recommended.  CMS sauvignon blanc review





Clos Robert pinot noir review: KEEPIN’ IT REAL

8 06 2011

Today we look at a 2008 pinot from Oregon that cost me $13, but can be found for $10 if you look around.

Clos Robert seems like an unusually small winery, which is cool.  I can’t find much about them, beyond this.  Now, this wine is very inexpensive for an Oregon pinot.  Is it any good?

Yes!!  It’s not a crowd-pleaser and it’s not super-complex, but for a bargain Oregon pinot noir, Clos Robert is very, very good.  It gives you a kick when you first taste it — bright acidic cherry, followed by mushroom, cola and strawberry, along with a healthy dose of spices.  Juicy, not much in the way of tannins.  The best parts:  Clos Robert doesn’t really do anything wrong, and for this low price, it has TONS of “real pinot” in it. 

What’s the secret?  I think the 2008 vintage in Oregon was just extremely friendly.  Either way, at $10 or even $13, this Oregon pinot is:

Clos Robert pinot noir review  Highly recommended.





Project Paso red wine blend review: HEY NOW

3 06 2011

Today we look at the 2009 Project Paso red blend from Paso Robles California, which costs around $11.

This is a second label from Sebastiani.  It’s fun and flavorful, with an original personality that will save your life if you are bored to death with same-tasting California reds.  In fact, it is all-around excellent for an $11 wine.  At 14.8% alcohol, it will rock your block.  This is party wine, people.

The fun begins with the funky new unwrappable rubber “cork”, built into the red/orange lid.  Project Paso red blend smells like caramel.  When first opened, it is reserved, with pleasurable medium-bodied texture but mysterious flavors.  On Day 2 it blossoms, jammy, intense, and filled with deep dark fruit.  Moderate tannins.  Luscious black raspberry and cranberry flavors meet up with dark coffee and spices, spices, spices.  All with a slight “dusty” quality.  Brought to a dinner party recently, the bottle was quickly consumed.

A blend of grenache, zinfandel, petite sirah and mourvedre, Project Paso is a clear Best Value winner — hence the guy at the slot machine.  It is enthusiastically:

Project Paso red wine blend review

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.





Hahn Winery cabernet sauvignon review: dazed and confused; happy

24 05 2011

Today we review a 2009 cabernet sauvignon from California’s central coast that includes 10% merlot and costs $10 – $11.

OK I am a little confused about “Hahn Estates” vs. “Hahn Winery.”   At the Winery part of their website, you see both Winery and Estates wines for sale.  Also, the Estates label seems to now be called “Hahn SLH Estate”, just for fun. [EDIT: I spoke with Hahn.  For their normal, basic wines, Hahn Estates is the old name and Hahn Winery is the new name.  Hahn SLH Estate is their “upscale” label.”]

This $11 cabernet from Hahn WINERY is really good.  Right now it’s noon, and I just poured myself a little glass, after having sampled it last night.  I like it that much — willing to risk the self-loathing that comes from drinking at home, at noon, on a Tuesday.  (“What has my life come to?  Am I going to be OK?”)  This easy, medium-bodied cab tastes nice and fresh, with lovely dark flavors of blackberry and unsweetened chocolate, balanced by prominent tannins that will suck the moisture out of your mouth faster than chewing up a piece of chalk.  It tastes serious.  Not a fruit bomb.  Not a party wine, more of a steak dinner kind of deal.   

Hahn Winery cabernet sauvignon reviewIt doesn’t give much of an aroma that I can describe, but really, who cares?  Here at Wineguider, we drink wine.  At $10 or $11, Hahn Winery’s 2009 cabernet gets a strong recommendation.  Even at noon.





flipflop riesling review: kick back and have a sip

23 05 2011

Today we review a 2009 riesling from Washington State that costs $7.

Hi!  Today’s burning question:  “At this low price, how good can it be?”  I’m happy to report that this wine with the carefree name is officially “really good.” Yes, it’s fairly sweet, but it’s less sweet than most rieslings.  That’s cool.  It’s fun, light, and it doesn’t do anything wrong.  With flavors of melon and peach, flipflop riesling is pretty much the ultimate party wine.

That’s good.  But there’s more.  Flipflop is actually kind of a big deal, because this $7 wonder is just as good as the Mack Daddy of affordable riesling, Chateau Ste. Michelle, which is also a bargain but costs a bit more than flipflop.   

In fact, the only disappointing thing about this bottle for me was the grammatically challenged slogan, “to each, their own.”  A little singular/plural issue there.  Oh well – I’m glad they are making wine at flipflop, and not worrying about grammar. 

flipflop riesling reviewRecommended, and, hereby awarded a Best Value designation.





Wheelhouse cabernet review: YEAH, BABY

18 05 2011

Wheelhouse cabernet reviewHere’s a 2008 Napa Valley cabernet that sells at Cost Plus World Market for $13, on sale from $18.

Folks, the mission here is to review affordable wines that you can find.  Today, that rule is bent in case you are near a World Market, which has an exclusive on Wheelhouse.  Or near a restaurant that’s smart enough to carry this Napa Valley cab, like Columbus Inn on Pennsylvania Ave. in Wilmington, DE.

That’s because Wheelhouse cabernet is fresh, delicious, natural-tasting, dark-fruited, spicy, and I Can, Not, Stop, drinking it.  Wow — $13, for this?  Mouth-drying tannins, juicy dark cranberry flavors, combined with some oak, a hint of rhubarb and vanilla, and . . . drum roll please . . .  it’s not too sweet.  Medium-bodied, and light on its feet for a California cab, you can enjoy Wheelhouse with almost anything.  Not endlessly complex, but way more interesting than most California reds I’ve had under $20.

I would say that it’s great for a party, but you want this wine for yourself.  A humongous Best Value at $13, receiving a standing ovation at $18, and dangerously close to being awarded a “Best of the Best” designation at ANY price, Wheelhouse cabernet is:

Highly recommended.





Smoking Loon pinot noir review: TOUGH CALL

13 05 2011

This 2009 pinot noir from California sells for around $10 and inspires some very divided opinion.

Many wine reviewers love Smoking Loon pinot noir.  This review says, “the flavors started to explode, layers of dark cherries, spice, cocoa, and berries flowing together all framed together by a touch of oak.”   And this review called it a “winner.”

Then there’s this review, which says “if you switch to Smoking Loon after a true, decent pinot noir, it’s a knife in the throat, with the alcohol hitting your sinuses so intensely it’s almost like you took a swig of gasoline by mistake.”

As for yours truly, taking a big swig of this pinot caused me to wince uncontrollably.  Musky, a little dusty, weird, and a jumble of flavors that resist identification.  (Cherry?  Bacon?  No, I’m serious.)

Yet, I keep drinking it, trying to pin it down.  By this time, many other pinots have found their way into my garbage disposal.  Surprisingly, Smoking Loon is calling me back.  Bottom line:  this gets two reviews.  If you enjoy inexpensive pinot noirs generally, you just might like it, because you’re prepared for it.  If you really love high quality pinot noir, stay FAR away.





Jacob’s Creek reserve chardonnay review – HOLY FREAKING

29 04 2011

Today we review a 2007 $14 chardonnay from south Australia.

Holy freaking COW this Jacob’s Creek reserve chard is good.  It costs around $14.  If you find it for $20, you should still buy it.  Below, you can read part of a real, grown-up review of this wonderful white wine, from a website that usually requires you to pay in order to benefit from their wisdom. Bring this to a party and everybody who has been choking down California chardonnay will love you.

Much better on the 2nd day after opening, this bargain chard with a real cork from the other side of the world has aromas of butterscotch and tastes fresh, natural, and real — with acidic citrus flavors like lime, balanced by round tropical notes like mango (and some butterscotch). 

More, please! 

Highly recommended, and a “Best Value”.   

Jacob's Creek reserve chardonnay review

From Jancis Robinson.com (I added the emphasis):

“As detailed in Chardonnays – Oz vs the rest, I ended up giving the same relatively enthusiastic score, 16.5 out of 20, to Jacob’s Creek regular Chardonnay 2008 [a $6 value monster that your Wineguider recommended in 2009 form, right here] as to Bruno Colin’s Premier Cru Morgeot 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet [a fine French chardonnay that sells for $50-$80], and gave an even higher score to the Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2008.

The distinguishing mark of the Jacob’s Creek Chardonnays is that Phil Laffer has steered their stylistic evolution in parallel with the dramatic change in the style of the average Australian Chardonnay much higher up the ranks, towards something much leaner and more refreshing. More Chablis than the old heavily oaked monsters. 

The main changes Laffer has made in recent years have been to treat the Chardonnay grapes as though they were fragile Riesling, picking them at night, protecting them assiduously from oxygen, minimising the time between vineyard and winery. Laffer reckons even his regular Chardonnay should last five to six years, ‘which certainly wasn’t the case five years ago’.”





Ironberry cab/shiraz/merlot review: ??

13 04 2011

Today we look at a 2008 blend of cabernet (36%), shiraz (33%) and merlot (31%) from Australia that cost me $10 at Total Wine.

Wow, this one is tough.  At this low price, I feel as though I should like it.  It definitely tastes more expensive than most $10 wines.  It’s very dark, juicy, and even interesting.  Big.  A little smoky.  It smells mostly like shiraz — a kind of alcohol-intense blueberry compote.  Although it has more cab than anything else, this is not your dad’s California cabernet — that sort of west-coast U.S. cab is nowhere to be found here.  Rather, Ironberry tastes like a deep-fruit shiraz that has more mouth-drying tannins, more nameless red fruit, and less gooey-sweet blueberry.   

At only $10, this wine is definitely worth trying.  You may not love it, but as long as you enjoy “big” and fruit-forward reds, you probably won’t dislike it.

Ironberry cab/shiraz/merlot reviewRecommended.





Archstone pinot noir review: wait – what?

23 03 2011

Today we look at a 2008 pinot noir from California’s Carneros area that costs around $10.

Boy, does Archstone pinot noir have a forgettable name.  In fact, I predict that if you turn away from your screen at the end of this sentence, you won’t be able to remember the name of this winery.  Archetype?  Archmere?  Apple Something?   Well, GOOD LUCK when you head to the wine store.

Which you should do, because this low-priced California pinot is worth checking out.  It’s not great, but for $10, it’s very good.  This pinot noir is powerful, rich, with a smoky licorice and black cherry flavor, and has a texture built to please.  It’s not AS pinot-like as the cheaper Mark West, but it might be more of a crowd-pleaser.  So grab $10, and write Architect down on your list.  Or Arch Enemy, something like that.

Archstone pinot noir reviewRecommended.





Le Jade picpoul review

23 03 2011

Today we look at a 2009 picpoul from France, which costs around $11, give or take a couple dollars.  Actually, it’s a “picpoul de pinet.”   Whatever.

I don’t pretend to be a French wine expert, but I can tell you that this refreshing, affordable white wine is really good.  It’s nice and crisp, smelling like lemon and grapefruit.  It tastes like lemon/lime, grapefruit, pineapple, honeydew, and a little bit of green pepper.  Tart.  Fairly dry, but also round.  Minerally.  Friendly.  And easy-drinking, at 12.5% alcohol. 

Picpoul is not a common grape.  So most people haven’t heard of it, and that’s why this wine is great to bring to a party.  Everybody will be asking, “what IS this??”  (In a good way.)  Great with shellfish, chinese food, or any cheese, especially “big” cheeses.  At any price under $15, this Frenchy white is a Best Value, and is definitely:

Le Jade picpoul reviewRecommended.





Ghost Pines merlot at Costco – !$%#@!?!!

21 03 2011

Hi!  Got some news for you. 

Ghost Pines 2007 merlot is $16, at least.   It’s truly delicious, and WELL worth it, as I explained in my review here.   Bright, juicy, fun, flavorful and interesting, it is everything that an affordable California merlot should be.

Right now, a cheaper 2008  is only $12 at Costco.   (?!%$#!!!)  I don’t know if this is simply a new vintage, or if it’s a special version made for Costco.  Anyway the Costco version isn’t as good.  But it’s still good.  It’s less interesting, and extra bright.  One difference is the source of grapes:   The Costco version is 90% Sonoma, 10% Napa.  The 2007 Ghost Pines merlot that I reviewed before is 49% Sonoma, 51% Napa. 

At $16, the “real” Ghost Pines merlot is a screaming buy, and a Best Value.  At $12, this 2008 version is, I don’t know — shrieking?  It is a HUGE Best Value.  BUYBUYBUY!!

Enjoy.





Ruffino chianti superiore review: Isn’t it ironic

16 03 2011

Today we review a 2008 chianti superiore from Italy (of course) that costs around $11 or $12, but is just $9 at Costco.

You would think that Ruffino‘s chianti “superiore” would be, ahem, superior to other chiantis, such as chianti classico, or classico reserva.

But this one isn’t superior to much of anything.  It’s on the light side and it’s dry, not juicy.  Kind of bitter.  Not warm, not complex, not delicious.  Maybe it would be great with food?  Sorry, I just didn’t care for this, despite its promising name.  I can’t suggest that you spend even the $9 that it requires at Costco.  This one is:

Not recommended.





Red Bicyclette pinot noir review: Umm…

14 03 2011

Tonight it’s a controversial French pinot noir from 2009 that will cost you about $10.

This wine is famous, not for its taste, but because there was a huge controversy about it a couple years back.  It seems that the French actually sold about a kagillion gallons of fake pinot noir to the maker of Red Bicyclette, which affected 2006 and previous vintages.

So I bought a bottle, thinking “maybe now, it will be awesome for the price, to help give this label a credibility come-back.”  In my optimism, I ignored the absence of maker’s name (Gallo) on the bottle.  I ignored the winemaker notes, which admit that this pinot is still cut with 14% merlot and syrah.  And I ignored this, on the back label: “Bottled by: Reh Kendermann Gmbh Weinkellerei — Bingen, Germany.”  (????)

Rather than awesome, I felt it was just bland, sweet, fake cherry water that failed to resemble pinot noir.  I poured most of the bottle down the drain.  My bitterness from wasting $10 on this wine is lessened only by the satisfaction of writing those last two sentences.  If you don’t have a wine blog, but you, too feel burned by Red Bicyclette, please feel free to leave a comment on this review.  Or if you work for Gallo, and want to vent at me for being an unqualified wine-swilling jerk, please feel free to leave a comment.  

Unfortunately this pinot is:

Not recommended.





Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio review: WOW

13 03 2011

Today we review a 2009 pinot grigio from Italy that will cost you $14 at Total Wine.

OK, this Italian white wine with the German-sounding name is absolutely delicious.  It comes from the northernmost parts of Italy, bordering not Germany, but Austria.  Clean, fun, a dash of minerality on your tongue, full of crisp, juicy citrus and honeydew flavors, with a gentle aroma of pears.  Wow.  I haven’t compared it directly to the very nice $15 Bolini, which I reviewed here, but I think Tiefenbrunner might be even better. 

Tiefenbrunner is also better than the delectable value champion Lagaria pinot grigio, reviewed here.  It should be better, since Lagaria is only $9.  Is Tiefenbrunner worth the extra $5?  Yes.  But it’s a close call.  Lagaria still gives more joy-per-dollar.  If you are throwing a party, go with Lagaria.  No-brainer.  But if it’s a special dinner with just the two of you, I’d recommend Tiefenbrunner.  Or Bolini.  Both, also no-brainers. 

Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio reviewThis pinot grigio is: 

Highly recommended.





Tilia malbec review: keep it simple

4 03 2011

Today we check out a 2009 malbec from Mendoza, Argentina that cost me $8.

I first had Tilia at a restaurant.  It was a cheaper red, among a collection of overpriced, mediocre labels — that was not a great sign for Tilia.

But I tried it, together with pasta in a spicy red sauce, and really liked it!  It’s very juicy, fairly deep and dark, and most importantly at such a low price, it does nothing wrong (unless you like your wine bone-dry).  To test the bar effect,** I tried it at home, and it held up:  for only $8, Tilia is a no-brainer that you will enjoy with a burger, pizza, that pasta and red sauce, or by itself.  Not much complexity or tannins — just a simple, dark-fruited and easy-drinking red that has more to offer than your usual Yellow Tail / Barefoot / etc. 

Plus it’s a malbec, which is all the rage these days, so it’s a great choice to bring to a party.

Tilia malbec review

Recommended.

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**The mysterious “bar effect” often makes a wine seem captivating, original and wonderful when you’re out among the bright lights and beautiful people, only to disappoint gravely when you drink it at home in front of the kitchen sink.





Kenwood pinot noir review: holy MACKEREL

23 02 2011

Today we look at a California pinot that I bought for $13, on sale — usually $15.

Whoa!  Kenwood Russian River Valley 2009 pinot noir is damn good!  It really tastes like pinot noir.  It’s easy-drinking, at 13.5% alcohol.  And it’s delicious– I want to keep drinking glass after glass.

Who knew?  This label seems like such a huge, mass-production winery.  It’s not.  Then again, it’s not a tiny boutique, either.  I have to admit, I did not expect a pinot noir from this label to be this good.  It is medium-bodied, so it’s not “see-through” in your glass.  Yet, it won’t overpower whatever you’re eating.  It has that very “pinot” combination of roses, cola, cherry and mushroom, with a bit of spice.  It’s on the juicier side of things, rather than earthy and dry.  And it has zero — zero — pinot noir “stinkyness,” which many people love, but I am not so crazy about.

This is a great middle-of-the-road, non-controversial pinot noir.  If somebody tells you to bring pinot to a dinner party, bring Kenwood Russian River.  Sure, there are some that are a little better at $15, like the Mark West Santa Lucia Highlands — but that is a limited production wine.  Considering availability, I am not sure that anything at this price beats Kenwood.  And if you can find it for $13 as I did, it’s a no-brainer.

Kenwood pinot noir reviewHighly recommended.





Block Nine pinot noir review: digital representation of pinot

22 02 2011

Today we look at a 2009 pinot from California that I bought for $13.

Block Nine vineyards is dedicated to making only pinot noir, which is really cool.  Right now they offer only the “Caiden’s Vineyards” pinot.  The famous Robert Parker has called the 2009: “Everything a pinot noir should be,” and said, “even more shocking is how good Block Nine pinot noirs are for their price.”  His notes on the 2008 included: “Earthy, gamy, plum and cola aromas jump from the glass of this medium plum/garnet-colored wine. Complex notes of herbs, sweet cherries and sassafras follow through on the palate.”

All of which is baffling and mildly hilarious, because, unfortunately, this California red with the pretty dark-pink color tastes like alcohol-infused cherry water, not pinot noir.  It’s very pleasant, light-to-medium bodied, and easy to drink.  It’s also too sweet, typical of California pinots.  To be fair, it does have a bit of spice and floral action going on, which is nice.  Overall it’s like a computer-generated replica of pinot noir, by the guy who made the ’80s Atari video games.  The big problem for Block Nine is Mark West, which is still under $9 at many stores, and really does taste like pinot noir. 

Cool bottle, awesome “one grape only” philosophy for a winery, but Block Nine is:

Not recommended.





Buffalo Grove zinfandel review: great news

17 01 2011

Today we review a $9 red zinfandel from the 2009 vintage in the exclusive wine region “California.”

HEY this zin is nice, and it’s cheap.  Is it great?  No.  Do I want to keep drinking glass after glass?  No, but then again, I don’t really love red zinfandel. 

If I did love zinfandel, I would absolutely love Buffalo Grove.  It’s totally drinkable.  That’s saying a lot, because I usually hate inexpensive red wine.  I found this at Total Wine.  It smells like a generic California red, but it has a snappy, bright, peppery, open and very berry-berry taste that wakes you up.  And at just 12.5% alcohol, it’s easy-drinking.  I liked the deeper, darker Zen of Zin more, but that’s a little more expensive.

Buffalo Grove zinfandel review

Recommended.





Palo Alto Reserve red wine review

7 01 2011

Here’s a 2009 red blend from Chile’s Maule Valley that will cost you $8 at Costco.

Say!  This stuff  is pretty good for $8!   So, why I have I been preparing to “not recommend” it?

Because when I first opened it, it really wasn’t very good.  But on day 2, this wine is very enjoyable — almost delicious.  Although its aroma remains musty and nondescript, the taste has transformed from green, under-ripe sterno to a dry, alcohol-ish transport device for tannins.  This glass of unknown dark and dusty fruit combined with spice and cigar paper is making me want more and more. 

60% cabernet, 25% carmenere, and 15% syrah.  13.5% alcohol.  If you don’t have the patience to wait a day after opening it (and re-corking, of course), then you might want to buy a decanter and let it sit for an hour or two before enjoying.

Recommended, and if it weren’t so quirky when first opened, it would also be a Best Value.Palo Alto Reserve red wine review





The Little Penguin cabernet sauvignon review

7 01 2011

Hi!  Today we look at a 2009 cabernet from south eastern Australia that will cost you only $6.

This is gonna be quick — don’t bother with Little Penguin cabernet sauvignon.  It tastes like cheap red wine.  Medium-bodied.  Doesn’t really taste like cabernet.  Slightly strange.  Not yummy.

I will say this:  certain bottles of their pinot noir that I’ve tried (same cost) have been good for the price.  But this one’s a no-go.

Next!





Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz cabernet review – STRIKER!

6 01 2011

Today we examine a 2008 southern Aussie blend that you can buy at Costco for $7.69.

This medium-to-full-bodied red smells like a nice cab with some black cherry shiraz notes, but on your tongue it’s jammy blueberry shiraz all the way, balanced by soft tannins and a touch of chocolate.  It’s better on day 2: you get more cabernet, and less alcohol.

And it’s a screamer.  In fact, let me be frank — 

it’s the new value red wine top dog — the big cheese, the head honcho — Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz/cab blend is HIGHLY desirable even at $13, and it’s better than many $20 wines I have tried.  It’s warm.  Tilted toward the sweet side of the sweet/dry spectrum.  Big, but won’t overpower most food.  It was the only red served at the hip New Year’s party I attended in posh West Chester, PA, and it beat 14 other reds in my friends’ $15-or-less blind tasting. 

Our past favorites in the red wine value race are narrowly eclipsed by this reliable Godzilla.  Highly recommended, and a blatant “Best Value” red.   Bravo! 

Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz cabernet review





Down goes Chilensis! Down, goes, Chilensis!

21 12 2010

Hi!  When you’re done reading, please contribute to the survey, by leaving a comment below.

My review of Chilensis pinot noir said it’s $9 a bottle, making this a value monster.  But Premier Wine in Delaware is now selling it for just $7.99.  Wow — after discovering this delicious bargain pinot, the last thing I expected was to see the price go down. And no, Delaware’s prices are not super low — Georgia and Florida are lower, for example.  

Chilensis pinot now displaces Five Rivers cabernet sauvignon as the most astounding red wine value that I’m aware of.  With the $7 Rosemount shiraz a close third.  Five Rivers and Rosemount are more crowd-pleasing than Chilensis pinot.  But if you love pinot, or you like that leathery South American wine thing, Chilensis is unbeatable.  Almost as unbeatable as George Foreman against the world’s heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, which you might want to skip if you have a delicate constitution:

SURVEY:  add a comment below, telling us your favorite red wine value.  Any price range is fine — we’re talking great value here, not just rock-bottom price.





Yellow Tail sparkling wine review – CONTROVERSY!

10 12 2010

As we continue searching for champagne that makes sense for New Year’s Eve, today we look at this Australian sparkling wine for $9.

Such controversy!  Reviews are really mixed on this bubbly.  This guy says it’s repulsive, and undrinkable, and this other guy says, “no joke,” it’s actually decent, fruity with a smooth finish.

Well, the second guy is right!  I know wine snobs are supposed to hate it, but this stuff is good!  It’s very fruity, and yes, it’s sweet.  However, it’s not as sweet as the stuff you had in high school (was is “André”? — let’s Google that sucker — ahh, I see their Peach Passion is available for $5.19, good, good).   Of course, the stuff you had in high school probably wasn’t “72% Semillon, blended with Traminer, Viognier and Trebbiano” — I’m feeling better about [yellow tail] already.

This Aussie is also very drinkable, because they don’t overdo the bubbles.  You can actually tell that you’re drinking wine.  This, and the price, make it great for any ol’ day of the week.  The taste is unusual — oranges and mangos — but I loved it.  (That orange note makes it perfect for mimosas, by the way.)  I just wanted to keep on guzzling glass after glass.  Complex?  Refined?  Nope.  But it’s light and fun, and it has a real “champagne” cork that makes a loud BOP!! when you open it.  I still say: for bubbly, you gotta go extreme: cheap, or expensive ($45 and up).  Those “serious looking” mid-priced bottles are just a waste of your money.*  And for New Year’s, it’s cheap and fun all the way, baby.   This fun, fruity, $9 wonderboy is:

Yellow Tail sparkling wine review

Recommended!

*But I love to be proven wrong.  If there’s a mid-priced bubbly you like, please let me know.  I’m at wineguider @ gmail.com.





Jade Mountain cabernet sauvignon review – oh MY

6 12 2010

Today we review a 2007 –

WOW!!  Holy mackerel, I love this bargain California cabernet.  It’s spicy.  It’s dense.  It’s real.  And it’s only $12 . . . .  WTF?! 

Kyle, at Capers & Lemons restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware, served me this wine and I need to buy him a 6-pack, at least, as thanks.  For those of you who crave details that don’t matter:  Jade Mountain is made of cabernet sauvignon grapes from Napa Valley (55%), Sonoma County (42%), and Lake County (3%).

It’s not the most natural, or organic wine you’ll ever taste.  A few others in this price range (meaning, to be honest, a little more expensive) are more open, more bright, more “easy to taste” — this one is on the darker side, more extracted, more deep.  But for 12 bucks, it’s AWEsome. 

How does this dark-red-fruited value monster compare to the Boy Wonder, $9-$11 Five Rivers cabernet?  It’s better.  But if you compare the prices, it’s exactly comparable — meaning, Jade Mountain is $1 to $3 better than Five Rivers.  Jade Mountain cab is more flavorful, more full-bodied and velvety, and has more prominent tannins.  YUM.   More steak, please.

This California cabernet is a blatant Best Value winner.  And it is:

Jade Mountain cabernet sauvignon reviewHighly recommended!!





Pomelo sauvignon blanc review – IT’S A SECRET

3 12 2010

This 2009 sauvignon blanc is from California and it costs — I don’t know.  I’ll Google it, and tell you at the end of the review.  (As usual, the price will be a big factor in whether I recommend it or not.)

HEY!   Sipping it for the first time, and it’s really nice.  Lemon, lime, floral tastes, organic, juicy, natural, a bit complex, a little bit sweet, and even a little minerally . . .  also a bit of that “green grass” taste that sauv. blancs deliver . . .  but overall, I can’t say enough good things about this white wine.  It’s not super clean or crisp, because it’s just so flavorful, and it has that slightly sweet undertone.   But it’s still very, very drinkable.

Full disclosure: I got this free.  (Which is why I have no idea what it costs.)  I received it from the folks at Mason Cellars, who are famous for their sauvignon blancs.  And I can see why.  This lovely white wine is FUN.  I want more of it, right now! 

OK, time to risk looking like a fool:  I’m going to GUESS what this wine costs.  Ummmm . . . I’ll say, . . . $18 — even though I’m thinking it could really be worth more. And the real cost is . . .

[Google search] . . .

HOLY COW IT’S TEN BUCKS!  What!??  Nice!!  BUYBUYBUYBUY!!  There you go — this wine is highly recommended.  Cheers!

Pomelo sauvignon blanc review





Rosemount shiraz review – ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

18 11 2010

Rosemount shiraz reviewTonight your fussy, picky Wineguider reviews a 2008 Australian shiraz that’s only $8 at my local store, and just $6.50 at Total Wine.

What is this, some kind of a joke?

How much, for this jammy plastic explosive?  $6.50??  This big, dark, chewy, fruit and tannin-filled shiraz costs what?

OK if you’re reading this, you probably know what cheap red wine tastes like.  Think about the last time you trusted a good-looking flight attendant who offered you a merlot, and suffered the consequences.  Or the last time you ordered “red wine” at a hotel bar.  Rough.  Bitter.  Weak.  Totally anonymous. Fraudulent. And you paid nine U.S. dollars for one glass of it, didn’t you.

But wait — I can offer you a whole bottle of feel-good, for $6.50 — less than a carwash.  I’m not saying it has huge individual personality.  And it’s not perfect, or layered, or complex.  But it’s SO drinkable, and it’s so cheap, that you can grant yourself forgiveness with it.  Forgiveness for all of those bad drinking decisions at “hip” after-work nightspots (for example).   Just order your favorite Chinese food, and get some Rosemount shiraz.  And get ready for a good time.

Go ahead.  You deserve redemption.  Rosemount is there for you.

At $6.50, or $8, highly recommended.  And, a “Best Value.”  Enjoy!





Three Pears pinot gris review

14 11 2010

Three Pears pinot gris reviewHere’s a 2009 California pinot gris that costs $9.50. or $10.00, or $12 (my cost).

The Wineguider survey is clear!  You want more pinot gris reviews.  (Or pinot grigio — they are the exact same thing.)  So, here you go:  Three Pears scores quickly because it’s not merely alcohol-flavored water, as many of these wines seem to be.  It’s not a face-full of pear flavor, thankfully.  It’s on the sweeter and heavier side for a pinot gris, but compared to other wines, it’s not sweet or heavy at all.  

I learned about Three Pears from super-friendly Kim, at Hockessin Liquors in Delaware.  She absolutely loves it, even though she dislikes pears.  Usually, people don’t “absolutely love” pinot gris, so that caught my interest.  What do others say?  This website calls Three Pears “crisp” and “dry,” but they are lying to your face.  This review calls it “sprightly” and says you’ll get flavors of pear, citrus and apple.  That’s better.  The winemaker’s website mentions pear.

This wine isn’t crazy-good, but it’s good.  Its flavors are mild, so it could be seen as slightly boring.  But I like its relaxed, slightly sweet, pear and apple mojo.  And so, other than Lagaria, Jacob’s Creek and The Birdman, Three Pears is the only pinot gris/grigio so far recommended by your Wineguider.  Enjoy!





Da Vinci chianti review – WHAT IS THIS!?

12 11 2010

Da Vinci chianti reviewToday we review a 2008 chianti from Italy (of course), which costs $10 at my local wine store.  However, I’ve seen it for as high as $14.

Holy cow, is this the perfect value-oriented wine?

It may not be terribly cool to love Da Vinci chianti, but I love it.  But only on day 2, after leaving the bottle corked overnight.  To be honest, when first opened, it struck me as generic, slightly too sweet, and lacking any kind of personality.

On day 2 my views changed, so I suggest letting it breathe — even better, pour it into a decanter.  Da Vinci has noticeable, mouth-drying tannins, but less than many other chiantis. It’s juicy, and very friendly for a chianti.  It’s medium-bodied, verging on full-bodied.  Wine geek words like “mouthfilling” come to mind.  It smells like a sweet Marks-A-Lot magic marker.  And it tastes like oak and vanilla, mixed with strawberry, cranberry, blackberry, and a little smoke.  Perfect?  No.  It doesn’t have the sensual complexity or fresh, organic explosion of colors that you get with a truly great wine.   But at this price, it’s damn near perfection.

WOW.  At $10, absolutely unstoppable.  This crowd pleaser is easily a “Best Value” winner.  Recommended!





Mommy’s Time Out white wine review

10 11 2010

Today’s subject is a 2009 blend of garganega (70%) and pinot grigio (30%) from Italy that costs just $7.

With a name like this, I pretty much HAVE to recommend it, don’t I?  (Wait . . . does mommy really want a “time out”?)  Let’s dive in:  Mommy’s Time Out smells harmless and slightly fruity, with some  lemon and honeysuckle.  Pretty.  It tastes. . . “OK”.  Kind of flat and plain.  Mildly sweet.  Very easy to drink, with just 11.5% alcohol.  Not much tartness or acidity.

It’s better than a cheap pinot grigio, because it’s less alcohol-ish.  And better than a cheap California chardonnay, because it tastes like wine.  But describing the flavor is hard:  if I say “pears” or “melon” or any other common thing, I’ll get struck by a bolt of lightning.  Mommy’s Time Out just refuses to taste like anything specific.  Maybe diluted sweetened lemon?

I probably won’t buy more, even though $7 is a great price.  Don’t forget, for $8 you can get the lovely Anakena sauvignon blanc, and for $6, the spectacularly acceptable Jacob’s Creek chardonnay.  Although it’s a close call because this blend is so easy to drink, this forgettable wine with the unforgettable name is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Cupcake petite sirah review

7 11 2010

Cupcake Petite Sirah review

Here’s a 2007 petite sirah from California’s central coast that costs only $8.99 at the unstoppable Premier Wine in Wilmington, DE.

 This wine is not incredible, but it’s easily good enough to score a recommendation at this bargain price, even at $10, or $11.  Very “berry” in character, you almost feel like this cannot have come only from grapes — they had to use blueberries, didn’t they?  Either way, I keep drinking glass after glass.  It’s not complex, but it does nothing wrong.  Bravo!  I’ve already recommended their cab and merlot, and this Cupcake is the best yet.

The smell is some kind of dessert — blueberry rhubarb pie? — and the taste is sweet (for a red wine), full of dark berries, and just plain good.  Pure.  Tannins appear, but only after you let it breathe for an hour.  I just finished enjoying this wine with a fantastic t-bone steak, and it rocked.  The label says “dense” and “full-bodied”, but I found it pleasantly drinkable and medium-bodied at best.  

Cupcake petite sirah doesn’t taste altered, and it doesn’t taste cheap.  But it is cheap.  And those last two sentences are the main reason that this California girl is:

Recommended!





Iris pinot gris review

6 11 2010

Today’s subject is a 2007 pinot gris from Oregon that cost me $13 (but look here — only $10.80).

This, ladies and gents, is a really cool bottle.  There’s no label!  They just painted in red, purple and yellow on a dark green wine bottle.  The “I” in Iris is represented by a painting of an eyeball.  And the words on the back are sideways.   They provide a dictionary definition of “iris.” 

Their website says: “Beautiful aromas of orange blossoms and jasmine are accented by hints of figs and pears. On the palate this medium bodied wine bursts with tropical flavors of papaya, banana and mango, with a dash of nectarine.”

I don’t know what that means.  Except the banana part.  But it doesn’t taste like a banana.

Although it’s pretty good, and I’m a bit on the fence about it, I can’t recommend that you buy Iris pinot gris, even though it’s from Oregon (which I love) and it’s only $13 (which I love even more).  It’s definitely interesting, and it’s definitely not bad, but I don’t have the desire to keep drinking more and more.  It has some mild sweetness and its aroma is nice, with some melon and a mixture of tropical fruit.  But to my stupid mouth, the main flavor was sort of just, melon-sweetened alcohol.   However, I will be buying more if I find it for $10.

So, at $13 this one is not recommended, unless I am going to an outdoor concert, or a picnic, where a really cool-looking bottle of white wine will score points, in which case, Iris can’t be beat!

Next!





Bogle sauvignon blanc review

5 11 2010

Today we look at a California sauvignon blanc from 2009 that will cost you between $9 and $12.

Bogle is a winery that I really like, although I’ve only reviewed their chardonnay here, and it didn’t get a recommendation.  But the first sip of their sauvignon blanc signalled a change in direction:  my first reaction was, “I want more of this.”

And I still want more, especially at $9.50.  It’s smooth, and has flavors of lemon, lime, grapefruit and a tangy minerality.  Yet it’s also slightly sweet (for a sauvignon blanc), with a soothing hint of melon.  Because of that quiet melon, it’s not as “clean” as some sauvignon blancs, but neither does it choke you with green grass flavor (even though Bogle lists “freshly cut grass” first in its tasting note!).

OK Wineguider, that’s great, but at only $9.50, what’s the catch?  Well, no catch really, other than a slight bit of flatness and lack of complexity, compared to more expensive bottles.  Which you would expect.  Bogle sauvignon blanc is a solid, admirable performer.  (I still want more. . . .)  Your Wineguider hereby decrees that this light and easy white is:

Bogle sauvignon blanc review

Recommended.





Five Rivers cabernet: OH MY GOD

4 11 2010

This review has been updated here.

Five Rivers cabernet sauvignon, which normally goes for $11 or more and was recommended by your Wineguider here, is now selling for $8.99 at Total Wine and, I’m told, at Wegmans.  Thereby CATAPULTING it into “Best Value” status.  Juicy, yet packing a dry punch full of tannins, it’s not as full-bodied as some other cabs, but it does almost nothing wrong.

Is there another $9 cabernet sauvignon on planet Earth that is this good?  I DON’T KNOW.

Are any red wines this good, at $9?  Yes:  Mark West pinot noir, and super-tannic Zestos especial.  But they have strong personalities that prevent them from being budget crowd-pleasers. Five Rivers is generic enough that almost anybody can enjoy it.  Admittedly, this is also its downfall: it can be kind of plain.  And maybe a little sweet for a “real” cabernet sauvignon.

But at this price, I don’t know of any cabernet that comes close.  To my budget red wine drinking friends – enjoy!





Jacob’s Creek reserve pinot noir review

3 11 2010
Jacob's Creek Reserve Pinot Noir

Jacob's Creek Reserve Pinot Noir

Hello!  Today, in a mild-mannered Clark Kent of a wine review that will make no mention of urine or the Pain Train, we check out a $12 2007 Australian pinot noir.

OK here’s the deal:  if you love wines with a minerally taste, this is your pinot noir.  And if you don’t . . . you should read on.  The appearance, one bottle of which I received as a sample, matches its taste: somewhat light.  (Jacob’s Creek calls it medium-bodied.)  The aroma is muted, a combination of cherry and alcohol.

On your tongue you get minerality, along with black cherries, raspberries and cloves. It tastes like real pinot noir, and it’s very drinkable, at a low price.  That almost never happens.  The flaw I noticed is a lack of complexity, also true for the $9 Mark West, our value benchmark. 

Which is better?  I prefer the Mark West, because it’s SO pinot, and SO cheap, and because I am not a huge fan of the “minerally” thing in pinot noir. But the Jacob’s Creek Reserve is probably better, because it’s smoother, has a more pleasing texture, and doesn’t have Mark West’s fire-breathing alcohol overtone.  Either way, this Aussie, ladies and gentlemen, is:

Recommended.





Dominican Oaks chardonnay review

2 11 2010

Continuing our marathon California chardonnay week, we look at a $13 contender from 2009 that is unoaked and seems to be available only at Total Wine.

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.

It’s here!  A recommended California chardonnay below $20.  (We also recommended the $20 buttery and intense William Hill chardonnay.) 

The Dominican Oaks Unoaked chardonnay wins BOTH “most contradictory name” and “best chardonnay under $20” in our reviews so far.  It smells like honeysuckles (if you aren’t familiar with this plant, it is a divine aroma). Not terribly complex, but very clean.  It’s balanced:  you get some minerally tartness, and some light sweetness.  Flavors concentrate on lemon-lime and peach.  It’s light, easy to drink, delicious, and its taste is refreshingly natural.

And note: winning “best chardonnay under $20” means that Dominican Oaks Unoaked is better than the $6 Jacob’s Creek, which sounds like faint praise except that the turbocharged value machine Jacob’s Creek has beaten every single chardonnay that we have reviewed from California, at any price, except William Hill.

This mystery wine with the ironic name, no website, no pictures of anything from 2009 and no reviews that I could find is hereby:

Dominican Oaks unoaked chardonnayRecommended.





Clos du Bois 2009 chardonnay review

21 10 2010

LET’S GET READY TO RUMMM-BLLLLE!!!!  Today we continue our special California chardonnay week by reviewing the Clos du Bois 2009 chardonnay, which will cost you $12.

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.

Et tu, Clos du Bois?  This is the THIRD DAMN California chardonnay I’ve auditioned this week, and I can’t find one that I would buy again.  What’s up, ladies and gentlemen?  I guess I am just too cheap and too optimistic, as I have now tried chards priced at $11, $8, and $12. 

What I got here was an aroma of “standard California chardonnay,” and a taste of — this was a shocker — “standard California chardonnay.”  Admittedly, it tastes cleaner than Bogle or Kendall-Jackson.  In fact Clos du Bois is not horrible, and does not slap you with grimace-producing chemical flavors, but the problem is, there’s just no reason to keep drinking it.  Pale yellow in color, it had notes of oak, butter, grilled pears, broasted pineapple . . . oh who cares?  Life is meaningless!

(Sorry about that.)  And check this out: after 3 days in the fridge, this chardonnay transformed into some kind of flavored water.  Monday night, when first opened:  blah chardonnay.   Thursday afternoon:  yellow sports drink.  I’m having some right now.   Nothing.   It’s vaguely buttery, and has a light spice.  Whatever. 

Looks like we’re going to have to up our game for the next California wine that we audition, ladies and gentlemen.  CHOO CHOOOOOOOOOOO!!  Here come the PAIN TRAIN, YO.  As I commence a 2nd mortgage application on my house to purchase our next contender, today’s ordinary $12 California chardonnay is:

Not recommended.

Next!





Bogle 2009 chardonnay review

19 10 2010

The second contender in California chardonnay week is the 2009 Bogle Vineyards at $8.  That’s $3 less than the almighty Kendall-Jackson (which we rejected for tasting like a bunch of chemicals and for its unrelenting mediumness).

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.

“WHOA.”  That was my first reaction.  This stuff is truly intense.  It smelled like sweet mangos, butterscotch, and lemon — far more interesting than the Kendall-Jackson factory.   The taste?  Oaky and buttery . . . lemon and green apple acidity . . . butterscotch, melon, cream, some real sweetness . . . and, like Kendall-Jackson, the feeling that I was ingesting random chemicals.  At least it’s a little spicy.  That was my favorite part about this bargain white wine.

Bogle is a cool winery.  It’s family-owned.  They keep the price of this wine really low (which is a mystery, because it’s at least as good as Kendall-Jackson).  And I hear great things about their bargain cabernet and “ThePhantom” red blend. 

But I can’t recommend this chard.  Which isn’t surprising because, as I’ve said, I generally don’t like California chardonnays.  I wouldn’t go as far as this guy, who called the 2004 Bogle chard “undrinkable,” but I can’t agree with this other guy who said it was his favorite chard under $10.  Wow.   As for me, it really smells wonderful, but this intense California chardonnay is, unfortunately, not recommended.

Next!