Affordable pinot noir shootout: Erath vs. Costco (Kirkland)

6 01 2019

Today we check out two pinot noirs each costing around $14 at Costco.

Erath (also can be found for $14 at Total Wine) is a 2016 Oregon pinot noir.  To be honest, I’ve disliked this wine in the past.  But this Erath is a Read the rest of this entry »





HOW TO DRINK WINE

9 12 2018

Today we are going to provide the Top 3 Methods For Tasting Wine.  Sure, you can just drink it, and enjoy the heck out of it.  But if you follow these methods, you will taste MORE of what your wine has to offer.  It’s like getting more information.  OK here they are: Read the rest of this entry »





Carnivor cabernet and Fabula Riserva sangiovese review

4 10 2015

Hi there people! Hope life is going well.  I’ve been taking a break from writing wine reviews, but I had to come back and … well it sounds bad, but I had to warn you against buying this particular cabernet.  I tried Carnivor cabernet at Costco because it was $9 or $10 and they said other stores sell it for $15.  As it turns out, Read the rest of this entry »





LaCrema vs. Decoy pinot noir review / shootout

22 06 2014

Today we compare two 2012 pinot noirs from Sonoma County, California:  La Crema Sonoma Coast ($19 at Total Wine and Costco, but usually in the low $20s) and Decoy Sonoma County ($22).

Decoy first impression:  a beautifully sweet aroma, a delicious cherry-rhubarb pie taste, what could go wrong?  Read the rest of this entry »





2014 Pinot Grigio shootout: Jermann vs. Albino Armani

31 05 2014

Today we compare two Italian pinot grigios.  They are THE most expensive ‘grigios I could find at Total Wine.  Jermann (2011) is $27; Albino Armani Colle Ara “1607” (2012) is $20.

When I first opened these, I thought this shootout was going to be easy because the Albino Armani was much better than the Jermann, and obviously much less expensive.  However, as I tasted both wines over a period of two days with various food, it became obvious Read the rest of this entry »





The Wineguider Thanksgiving Pinot Noir Shootout

21 11 2013

Hi!  Today, in anticipation of The Big Dinner next week, we compare five pinot noirs, all of which I purchased at Total Wine:

  • $11:  Castle Rock Monterey County, California, 2010
  • $17:  Cloud Break Reserve, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, 2011
  • $22:  Coelho, Willamette Valley Oregon, 2011
  • $14:  Harbor Front, California Coastal, 2012
  • $18:  Mark West Carneros, Sonoma, California, 2010

Here is how they ranked, based on taste combined with value:

Read the rest of this entry »





Domaine Des Quatre Vents Fleurie (red burgundy) review: TOTAL WINE! WHY ARE YOU CHARGING $22 FOR THIS!?

16 11 2013

Today we look at a 2010 red from Fleurie, in France’s Burgundy region.  I bought it at Total Wine for $22.

This wine is a nice choice for Thanksgiving.  It’s not too strong, it has a good balance between light tannins and mild fruitiness (i.e. it’s not bone-dry) and it has flavors of black tea, nutmeg and cranberry, unique compared to American reds.  Even with these interesting flavors and some minerality, it’s not a Read the rest of this entry »





Chateau Carignan Prima merlot (Bordeaux) review

2 11 2013

Today we examine a 2010 Bordeaux that is 100% merlot.  I found it at Total Wine for $25.

Here we have a nice example of a French red – robust, yet restrained.  Delicious fruit, yet not sweet.  But is the price too high? Read the rest of this entry »





Tiza malbec review

27 10 2013

Here’s a 2012 malbec from Mendoza, Argentina available at Total Wine for $20.

Tiza malbec is rich, inky black in your glass, and immediately Read the rest of this entry »





Red Theory cabernet mini-review

19 10 2013

Hey there!  This is a mini-review, in case you’re wondering, what’s up with the new 2012 Red Theory cabernet, appearing at Total Wine for 10 or 12 bucks?

The answer is, it’s an average, fruity, cheerful cabernet Read the rest of this entry »





Santa Ema Reserve merlot review

25 09 2013

Today we look at a 2009 reserve merlot from Chile’s Maipo area, which I found at Total Wine for $14.

This wine is deep purple in the glass, and throws off aromas of caramel, honey, allspice and cloves.

It is 13,5% alcohol, comes in a heavy and stately bottle, and Read the rest of this entry »





Rosemount Estate pinot noir review

17 09 2013

Today we look at a 2011 Aussie pinot noir that goes for $9.99 at Total Wine.

Such a pretty color!  Regardless of anything else, this wine will look great on your table, with its nearly see-through pure rose color. Read the rest of this entry »





Oak Ridge cabernet sauvignon review: PASS THE GRAVY

5 09 2013

Hi!  Let’s check out a 2012 cabernet sauvignon from California’s Lodi area, which I bought at Total Wine for $13.

If you like your red wines rich, jammy, and a bit different from all the look-alike California reds (make that taste-alike), you should Read the rest of this entry »





Vigneto Edoardo montepulciano review

3 09 2013

Today we look at a 2008 100% montepulciano from Abruzzo, Italy.  I picked it up at Premiere Wine in Delaware for $35.

Whoa.  This is one of those “serious” wines that makes you pause.

What do I have here?

What exactly is going on? Read the rest of this entry »





Cono Sur Reserva Especial pinot noir review: WE, WANT, THE FUNK

31 08 2013

Today we review a 2012 pinot noir from Chile’s Valle De Casablanca.  I found it at Total Wine for $18.

Well, this can be short, ladies and gentlemen.  I suggest you Read the rest of this entry »





Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc review

21 05 2013

Today we look at a 2011 sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region which I bought for $25.

Have you ever driven an Audi A6?  I have, once.  It’s a great car — I mean truly great, in the most grand sense of the word — but in such a calm way.  Its greatness kind of creeps up on you, over time.  This is what I get from the 2011 Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc. Read the rest of this entry »





Cellar No. 8 pinot noir review: UPDATE

21 05 2013

Here’s a 2011 California pinot noir that costs $8.50 at Total Wine.  We gave the 2010 vintage a positive review here.

Cellar No. 8 has a nice new reddish-purple label, but more importantly the juice inside the bottle Read the rest of this entry »





Cruz Alta reserve malbec: Tale of Two Vintages

9 05 2013

This is a quickie review of a malbec from Mendoza, Argentina which sells for about $15.

The 2009 Cruz Alta reserve malbec is a very welcome reprieve from today’s California reds.  It tastes real.  Fresh.  Juicy but deep and dark, and not too sweet.  A perfect Read the rest of this entry »





Red Theory chardonnay review

7 04 2013

Today we check out a 2010 chardonnay from Washington State’s Columbia Valley.  I picked it up at Total Wine for $12.

You’re looking at a guy who generally dislikes chardonnay, Read the rest of this entry »





Montebuena rioja review: cuchi-cuchi!

11 03 2013

Hello!  Today we check out a 2010 rioja which is 14% alcohol and sells for $9-11.

This bright ruby-red 100% tempranillo from Spain is easy to drink, with a lot of acidity and snap for your ten bucks.  It’s earthy, spicy and dry.  Yet it also has some real Read the rest of this entry »





Mark West pinot noir review: 2011 update

9 02 2013

Let’s check out the 2011 vintage of California’s Mark West pinot noir, shall we?  It’s $8.99 at Total Wine, a slight price increase.

This wine is a rock star, because of its Read the rest of this entry »





Boedecker Cellars “Stewart” pinot noir review

5 12 2012

Boedecker Cellars pinot noir reviewToday, it’s a 2009 pinot noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon, which I purchased online for $34.

I have a crush on Athena Pappas.  Unfortunately, today’s pinot noir is named after her HUSBAND, Stewart Read the rest of this entry »





Avalon merlot review: OH, SANDY

30 10 2012

Here’s a 2010 Napa Valley, CA merlot that costs around $12.

Tonight I had one of the best bottles of wine I’ve ever opened.  It was Avalon merlot.  A Napa Valley red that you can find at Total Wine for a mere $11.  Why was it so great?

I opened it during Read the rest of this entry »





Les Martinieres table wine: YOU MAKE ME WANT TO –

14 10 2012

Today we look at a French white wine.  Seven dollars at Total Wine.

If you get excited about great food.

If you get excited about delicious wine.

If you like a bargain, but you love an extreme bargain — then it’s time to discover Read the rest of this entry »





La Crema Sonoma Coast pinot noir: IMPORTANT NOTICE

26 09 2012

ALERT!  La Crema 2010 Sonoma Coast pinot noir is delicious — and right now it’s just $16.89 at Costco.

Wow.  I’m used to seeing this wine for around $23.  Regardless of the price, it is compelling: light, but spicy.  It smells Read the rest of this entry »





Benziger merlot mini review

24 09 2012

Hi!  Today it’s a 2008 merlot from California’s Sonoma County.   I found it at Costco for $13.

Benziger Family Winery’s Sonoma County merlot uses grapes grown with sustainable farming methods.  And it tastes that way – Read the rest of this entry »





Lapis Luna Moon Eyes cabernet sauvignon review: IT’S COOL

21 09 2012

Tonight it’s a 2007 cabernet from California’s Lodi area.  I paid $14, but I’ve seen it online for $9.99.

Wow, this wine is cool.  It is different from the usual California stuff — instead of Read the rest of this entry »





Mini review: Marius red wine blend

18 09 2012

This 2010 French red blend with the cool label cost me just $10.

Marius, from France’s Rhone valley, is a blend of syrah and grenache.  The aroma is spicy and Read the rest of this entry »





Montoya pinot noir review: HUNG JURY?

15 09 2012

Today we review a 2010 pinot noir from California’s Monterey County, which I acquired at Total Wine for $16.

This pinot isn’t spectacular but, importantly for a pinot noir, it doesn’t really do anything wrong.  It has cola, Read the rest of this entry »





Avalon cabernet review: why it’s REALLY exciting

12 09 2012

Today we review a 2009 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon that sells for about $17.

PART I

OK, Avalon’s Napa cabernet is very good, in fact just as good as Kendall Jackson’s legitimately delicious cabernet, at around the same price.   Avalon’s true cabernet taste features an oaky snap, dark red fruit, and a hint of cinnamon and chocolate.  Yum.  Although it won’t change your life, it has plentiful tannins, great mouthfeel, and doesn’t taste funky like some lower priced cabernets.

But what if you could have this wine for only $13 a bottle?  Read the rest of this entry »





Ravenswood Lodi zinfandel: COME-FROM-BEHIND WINNER

22 08 2012

Tonight we examine a 2009 zinfandel from California’s Lodi area, which I bought at Total Wine for $12.50.  I also received a free sample of it.

Last night we compared three zins, at $17, $15, and $15, and it was basically a tie.  Guess what — tonight, I can announce a clear winner.

Ravenswood Lodi old vine zin.  It wasn’t one of the three we compared, but Ravenswood Lodi has the juicy, crowd-pleasing warmth of last night’s Kenwood.  Going beyond the Kenwood, it has some (but not all) of the spice and tannins of the Rancho Zabaco.  And like the Ravenswood Sonoma, Ravenswood Lodi is definitely not wimpy.  (Partly because it’s actually 23% petite sirah.)  But it doesn’t take the big risks that Ravenswood Sonoma does, which causes that very nice red to have potentially more limited appeal.  In fact, the Lodi is just generally, flat-out delicious.  I love it.

All this, and it’s only $12.50.  It might not be the best of these zinfandels in absolute terms, but then again, it might be.  Taking price into account, Ravenswood Lodi clearly defeats all of last night’s notable contenders.

Ravenswood Lodi zinfandelHighly recommended.





Kenwood, Ravenswood, and Rancho Zabaco: ZINFANDEL SHOOTOUT

21 08 2012

Today, it’s a comparison of three red zinfandels from Total Wine:

RESULTS:

Kenwood Sonoma:  Light, bright, easy, minimal tannins, mildly spicy.  It’s not a “fruity” wine, but it has more fruit than the others.  A potential crowd-pleaser.  However, it’s very neutral, and doesn’t have much aroma.

Ravenswood Sonoma:  Powerful.  Serious. Abundant mouth-drying tannins.  Eucalyptus and a hint of licorice.  An interesting wine.  A food wine.  However, not much aroma, and the flavor is taking a risk, so not everybody will like it.

Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek:  Seductive aroma of coffee, rhubarb and cedar.  The two extra dollars you spend on this zin get you complexity, serious tannins, and a combination of cinnamon, cocoa and blackberries.  I like it a lot, but again, it’s a bit different, so it may not appeal to everyone.

If you factor in the cost, this trio is basically a dead heat.  A three-way tie.  If forced to rank them, I would say:

1. Rancho Zabaco (duh, it’s the most expensive) (I want more)

2. Kenwood (easy-breezy)

3. Ravenswood (serious and real, takes risks, can’t please everybody)

All three, however, are:

Highly recommended.

Kenwood Sonoma zinfandelRavenswood Sonoma Old Vine zinfandel

Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek zinfandel





Parducci Small Lot Blend pinot noir review: MAM-A, MI-A!

5 08 2012

Hi!   Today we review a pinot noir from Mendocino, California that I bought for $11.

Parducci is a family winery, which I like.  Their website lists many varietals, from $11 to $35, including a rose and a port.  And you just know they have more.   I am excited to tell you that the Parducci Small Lot Blend will be an elegant, light-bodied and speecy-spicy addition to your dinner table.  Don’t be fooled by the word blend — this is 100% pinot noir (maybe that’s how it avoids the “generic red-wine-goulash” taste of some other value-oriented California pinots).  It’s not as complex as more expensive bottles, but with this grape, at $11, you mainly just want it to taste good.

And it does.  With aromas of cedar and raspberries, Parducci Small Lot Blend lands on your tongue with a fun, acidic kick of red fruit, roses and some mellow vanilla.  This is a REALLY good food wine for $11, people.  Probably why Martha Stewart rated it a smart buy.

Drink slightly chilled, but not cold (30 mins. in the fridge before tasting).  The acidity might prevent it from being a massive crowd-pleaser at your next party, but at 14% alcohol, this one is definitely a feel-good Winner-For-Dinner.

Parducci pinot noirRecommended.





Harbor Front pinot noir review: OH GOOD GRACIOUS

28 06 2012

Today we check out a 2010 pinot noir from California that sells at Total Wine for $9.99.

OH MY GOD THIS WINE IS GOOD.  At just ten bucks, you HAVE to try it.  I promise, even though it’s an inexpensive pinot noir, which therefore should be wriggling all over the place to try to disappoint you, this wine in fact does nothing wrong.

It’s got aromas of rhubarb and blackberry, and in your mouth it’s a whirlwind of pleasurable cranberry, eucalyptus, roses and unknown spices.

I hereby nominate and confirm Harbor Front pinot noir as a flagrant, screaming, Best Value.  It is highly:

Harbor Front pinot noirRecommended.





Cloud Break pinot noir review: GAME CHANGER

21 06 2012

Cloud Break Pinot NoirToday your Wineguider reviews a 2011 pinot noir from California that is just $7.99 at Total Wine.

Sure, at this writing 2011 seems recent for any red wine, but there’s some good news here.  Cloud Break‘s aroma:  vintage middle school jelly bar.  (Translation: AWEsome).  Taste:  innocent, with lovely reminders of cherry cough drops and almonds.  It has a nice light-bodied mouthfeel appropriate for a pinot noir, with hints of oak and speecy-spicy meat-o-ball.  At this price, simply a great pinot noir.  Not complex, but extremely yummy.

Serve slightly chilled, but not refrigerator-cold.  Mark West was my GO-TO pinot noir under $9.  Now it’s Cloud Break.  Consider the low-priced pinot noir game, “changed.”  A Best Value winner (hence the guy at the slot machine), Cloud Break pinot noir is:

Recommended.





Cupcake sauvignon blanc review

14 06 2012

Hello!  Today we review a 2011 sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough Valley, selling at Costco for just $7.89.

WOW do I ever like this wine.  The 2011 Cupcake sauvignon blanc is a summer party hit — it has a fun name, a lighthearted yet classy label, and its taste is tangy and refreshing, with lemon, a little lime, and just a whisper of  grapefruit and honeysuckle.  It does nothing wrong, and with the crazy low price, this is kind of a big deal.  In fact, why isn’t everybody talking about this?  What is going on!?  Why isn’t this wine on the FRONT PAGE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES?   EVERY DAY?

I would like to humbly suggest that you hurry to Costco and buy as much of this little stunner as your family can afford.   Or, to Total Wine, where it sells for a mere $7.97.  Or anyplace you can find it, really.  That guy at the slot machine is laughing because Cupcake 2011 sauvignon blanc is a Best Value winner, even at $12.  And it is highly:

Recommended.





J. Lohr “Seven Oaks” cabernet sauvignon at Bertucci’s

7 06 2012

Concluding our experience at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, today we look at a 2009 cabernet from Paso Robles, California that Bertucci’s sells for $7.50 a glass / $29 a bottle.

Another winner,  J. Lohr’s 2009 cab is reasonably priced, even here, and delivers mildly spicy, dark red fruits on your tongue with not-too-much oak (it’s more like Three-and-a-Half Oaks) and restrained sweetness.  On the lighter side for a cabernet, it’s still a real, medium-bodied cab. 

Somehow, it goes perfectly with Bertucci’s Piccolo Chocolate Budino, a cupcake version of chocolate mousse, with a dark chocolate wrapper instead of the usual enveloping paper.  YUM.  This combination was sinfully delicious, and even without the dessert, J. Lohr Seven Oaks cabernet at Bertucci’s is:

J. Lohr Seven Oaks cabernetRecommended.





Francis Ford Coppola Bianco pinot grigio at Bertucci’s

16 05 2012

Continuing with our experience at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, today we review a 2010 pinot grigio from California that Bertucci’s sells for $7.50 a glass / $29 a bottle.  It was paired with their Cod al Forno main course.
 
Here’s a pinot grigio that mostly flies under the radar.  With such a light aroma that I can’t even describe it, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bianco pinot grigio hits your tongue with crisp grapefruit, tangy lime, and a hint of melon sweetness.  That hint of melon makes it more substantial than many other pinot grigios, but might also turn you off if you were expecting a typical, super-light pinot grigio. 
 
It was paired with Bertucci’s Cod al Forno, which is a piping-hot breaded wild Pacific cod baked with marinated tomatoes, and roasted red potatoes.  This dish is delicious and is a healthier go-to when you’re hankering for fish & chips.  Pairing with Coppola’s pinot grigio was a nice balance, as you would expect the acidity of the white wine to balance the breaded baked fish, but — surprise — the hint of sweetness really made it for me.  Coppola’s pinot grigio is:
 
Francis Ford Coppola Bianco Pinot GrigioRecommended.





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.





Rodney Strong chardonnay at Bertucci’s

7 05 2012

Today, in the first of our reviews from our experience at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, we look at a 2010 Sonoma, California chardonnay that Bertucci’s sells for $7.75 a glass / $30 a bottle.  It was paired with their Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad.
 
You may already know that I usually dislike California chardonnay.  Guess what?  I liked this fresh, light and affordable chard — a lot.  Rodney Strong  has a pretty aroma of lemons, followed by flavors of snappy pineapple, lemon, and a hint of the “standard chardonnay” melony/oaky/buttery thing.  Everyone at our table loved it, and I hereby pronounce Rodney Strong an outstanding value.
 
The Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad improved this perception.  It combines deliciously sweet chunks of watermelon with fresh mint and a tangy balsamic dressing, which everyone praised for its flavor and restrained application.  The touch of feta cheese made this a perfect creamy / sweet / tangy balance to Rodney Strong’s light and tropical chardonnay, which is:
 
Rodney Strong chardonnayHighly recommended.





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




artezin zinfandel review: ACH-CHOO!!!

4 04 2012

Today we look at a $15 California red zinfandel from 2009.

Hey!  It’s spring of 2012, it’s pretty outside, and you might be in a hurry.  So let me break this down quickly for you.  The 2009 artezin zinfandel has a cool label, it’s affordable, it smells complex and wonderful, and on your tongue it gives you:

1.  high-quality, freshly-ground pepper that may make you sneeze,

2.  black licorice, and

3.  drum roll…. it’s not too sweet.

Plus at 14.5% alcohol, it will rock your block.  I love this wine!  It has its own flavor, not that typical California red goulash.  THANK you, artezin, from Hess vineyards.  You have blessed us with a red that we can take to any party and show people that we are on the “inside track,” while not breaking the bank.

In the realm of $10-20 wines, artezin zinfandel  is sophisticated, deep, dark, and delicious.  And it is definitely:

Recommended.





Wheelhouse cabernet: coming to a theater near you?

2 04 2012

You might have noticed my rabid, out-of-control positive review of the 2008 Wheelhouse cabernet, right here.

Now, it appears that Wheelhouse’s distribution has expanded.  I just found its bad-2010-Napa-self at a regular ol’ wine store, for $16 (TOTALLY worth it, even though the 2010 is not quite as good as the 2008 was). 

If you have found Wheelhouse, let us know with a comment.   Cheers!





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.





Cueva de las Manos reserve malbec review

5 02 2012

Today we check out a 2009 reserve malbec from Argentina.  Its price ranges wildly from $10 to $19 online – I found it at Total Wine for $16.

Wow, malbec has really taken off.  Not taste-wise, but popularity and price-wise.  I’m normally very, very impressed with South American red wines, for their price.  At $16, I expected this Mendoza reserve to blow my head off.  Instead, it’s “good” — a pleasantly mild aroma, with a taste that is more tart, blackberry-flavored tobacco and black pepper than it is juicy.  It’s also a sort of manly wine — aggressive, mouth-drying tannins abound.

Even though Cueva malbec isn’t a value monster, it is plenty good enough at $16 to recommend.   And, it has a cool name, to boot.

Recommended.





Estancia pinot noir review: THIS REVIEW WOULD BE SO MUCH BETTER IF I WEREN’T SO DRUNK RIGHT NOW

6 01 2012

This evening, we check out a 2009 Monterey County, California pinot noir that I picked up for $12.

Usually I try to write helpful reviews of wines that you can afford AND that you can find at the store, as opposed to strange, super-expensive wines that you will never see in your lifetime.  A radical approach?  Oh yeah.

So let’s do that.  This pinot noir is $12.  That’s affordable.  It’s Estancia, so you’ll be able to find it.  And, the verdict:  Estancia pinot noir from Monterey County is complex, spicy, earthy, mushroomy, very pinot-ish for $12, and absolutely freaking delicious.  So that’s the problem.  I’m not sure this review will be “helpful.”   Mainly because I’ve had WAY too much of it.  This is not completely my fault.  I mean, they made it really good.

So, pretty much, I would say you should go out and buy it.  Estancia pinot noir is:

Estancia pinot noirHighly recommended.





Cellar No. 8 pinot noir review: EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

6 01 2012

Today we look at a 2010 pinot noir from California that is $8.50 at Total Wine.

Ho-hum, another California pinot.

BUT WAIT!!  Cellar No. 8 pinot is pretty damn good!  You can see through it, but I say it’s on the lighter side of medium-bodied.  It’s spicy, has subtle tannins, and it’s generally delicious.  

“Wow.”   The label says it’s earthy and has notes of strawberry jam.  For once, I totally agree.  True, Cellar No. 8 pinot noir isn’t thrilling.  But it is $8.50.  Even at $10, I love it.  And it’s like a more crowd-pleasing version of  Mark West pinot noir, which I also love.  Where did all these excellent sub-$15 pinots come from?  Incredible.  Cellar No. 8 pinot is definitely:

Recommended.





Jacob’s Creek reserve shiraz review: WHAT WHAT!!

2 01 2012

Today it’s a 2008 Australian shiraz that goes for $9.99.

Question!   How is this intense, spicy wonder only 10 bucks?!  It used to be $11 or more.  In my last review of Jacob’s Creek reserve shiraz, I said the 2006 was a good buy, but not the best year for this stout red wine.   

But today’s 2008 reserve, which also carries the name Barossa, and still comes with a real cork and everything, is a huge taste winner.  It’s more delicious, AND cheaper, AND more complex.  

That combination threatens to topple the current all-time Wineguider red wine value winner, Koonunga Hill shiraz/cabernet from Penfolds (reviewed here).  I will edit this (see below) to let you know.  For now, get ready for a subtle aroma of spice, impressive “Napa cab”-like tannins, and a big, warm taste of cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and a little rhubarb.  Plus subtle blackberry, and no sweet blueberry pie in the face, as is so common with shiraz from down under.   

Jacob's Creek reserve shirazA Best Value winner at $10, and highly recommended anywhere up to $15.

EDIT:   After several bottles, I have decided not to dethrone Koonunga Hill shiraz/cabernet, for one reason:  I have found the 2008 Jacob’s Creek reserve shiraz to be inconsistent.  Some bottles have been wonderful; others have been pretty bad.   I don’t know if this is the fault of the winery, the importer, the store, or what.  But at this low price, it’s still very much worth checking out.





Columbia-Crest Grand Estates cabernet sauvignon review

24 12 2011

Today it’s a 2009 cabernet from Washington State that costs about $8.  At this price, can it possibly be any good?

Yes!  In fact this wine is unbelievably good, for $8.  Spicy, with rich, medium-to-heavy mouthfeel.   A good balance between cranberry/black cherry sweetness and rhubarb tartness, with just the right amount of oak.  It’s also surprisingly interesting, maybe due to the 7% merlot and 6% syrah added by winemaker Ray Weinberger.

Overall, Columbia Crest Grand Estates cabernet performs way above its class.  In a blind comparison with $12 and $16 cabs, Columbia Crest nearly tied — an extraordinary result for an $8 red.  It came in 3rd because it was a little too sweet, and it has some of that generic mass-produced red wine taste.  But at this low price, I’m not complaining, I’m raving. 

Columbia Crest Grand Estates cabernet reviewRecommended, and a clear Best Value winner. 

 





Cincuenta Se Cumplen Cincuenta Anos Desde Que Victorino Continua Con La Saga De La Familia Eguren En Su 3d Generacion Ugarte rioja review

7 12 2011

Today we review a fine rioja from Spain that costs $15.

Spicy and energetically juicy, I must say that I really liked Cincuenta Se Cumplen Cincuenta Anos Desde Que Victorino Continua Con La Saga De La Familia Eguren En Su 3d Generacion Ugarte rioja the first time I tried it.

Although very dry, and lighter than you expect, Cincuenta Se Cumplen Cincuenta Anos Desde Que Victorino Continua Con La Saga De La Familia Eguren En Su 3d Generacion Ugarte rioja rewards your palate with bright flavors of black raspberry, rhubarb, and tobacco.

In fact I wish that my favorite steakhouse would carry it.  Don’t forget to ask your local wine merchant for a bottle of Cincuenta Se Cumplen Cincuenta Anos Desde Que Victorino Continua Con La Saga De La Familia Eguren En Su 3d Generacion Ugarte rioja, at any price under $20, because this bright, dry-yet-friendly elixir from Spain is:

Highly recommended.