It’s Thanksgiving: What wines should you buy?

19 11 2011

Hello!  Today we are going to get right to the point.  For Thanksgiving, here is what I recommend:

1.  Do not buy “Beaujolais Nouveau,” no matter how much your wine store pushes it.  It is light, boring, and basically worthless.  Ha!  THAT should generate some friendly comments.  Just to put the cherry on top of my popularity profile, you should also avoid California chardonnay at Thanksgiving.  Its flavors are non-complimentary and too dominating.  For turkey, cranberries and stuffing, the next 3 wines are where you want to be.

2.  Zinfandel.  This is THE All-American grape, and yes, it goes very well with turkey.  For a very friendly, sweeter version of this very Thanksgiving-ish red wine, buy 99 Vines for $10.   Try 1 bottle first, and make sure you like it.  For $10 it’s a great value, but it may not be for everybody.

For a more serious, kickass zin, acquire Oak Ridge ancient vine zinfandel, just $12 at Total Wine.  This wine is very dark purple, oaky, spicy, with some sweetness way in the background, and basically acts like a wine that costs almost twice as much.  For a better, more well-known name, buy Ridge “Three Valleys” zin, for $20.  Yes, the Ridge “Three Valleys” is superior, but is it 67% better than Oak Ridge?  No.  For a serious knockout punch, you can buy any zin by Ridge in the $30-and-up range.

3. Pinot Noir.  Buy a bottle of La Crema pinot, the “Monterey” version.  I reviewed it here.  More light on its feet than a zinfandel.  It’s $20.  If that’s more than you are used to spending:  just trust me.  This wine is lovely, spicy, and tastes very organic.  It adds a LOT to any Thanksgiving dinner.  In my opinion, more important than the zinfandel.

For a bolder, also-excellent pinot, buy Hahn SLH Estate pinot noir from Santa Lucia Highlands, which I reviewed here.  It’s around $25, and again, worth every penny.

4. Sparkling pink stuff.  If you want your Thanksgiving table to say “FUN!” loud and clear, add a bottle of Martini & Rossi sparkling wine from Italy, reviewed here.  On the back, it says “Rosé.”  To you and me, it’s pink champagne.  And it’s good.  Only $15.  Definitely not bone-dry, this one’s a crowd pleaser.  Don’t bother with snooty impressive champagnes up to $50, because they are mostly terrible.

So, I am recommending 2 reds, and a sparkling rosé if you want a high fun factor.

If you want a white wine, I recommend the super-friendly David Hill “Farmhouse White” blend from Oregon.  Around $11.  Floral and tropical, this is a brilliant blend of mild sweetness with crisp tartness and acidity.  You don’t want your white wine to steal the show at Thanksgiving, and this won’t.

Have a wonderful holiday!

ridge zinfandel99 vines zinfandeloak ridge zinDavid Hill Farmhouse White





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.





La Crema Russian River pinot noir review: DAMMIT!

13 08 2011

Today we look at a 2009 pinot from California that costs $32-$40.  I found it at Total Wine for $36.

La Crema has been making good pinot noir for a long time.  They have various “levels” of pinot, including Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, Monterey (which we reviewed right here), and Russian River (today’s wine under review).  Prices for these varieties range from $17  to $90.  Ouch. 

The $36 Russian River pinot is ballsy.  Medium bodied, verging on full bodied.  Crack it open and buckle up — tart spices are about to invade your taste buds.  But first, when you smell it, you’ll get a nose full of clove and cinnamon, along with a brambly garden aroma of roses and mushrooms. 

On your tongue, there isn’t much cherry, which I usually expect from a California pinot noir.  Instead, there’s cola, alcohol, tart blackberry, and a kind of spicy pine forest taste with espresso-ish tannins.  It’s hard to describe.  It’s that “complex, beautiful-yet-kickass expensive California pinot” taste.  And it’s calling you back for more.  Dammit!

Recommended.





Van Der Heyden cabernet sauvignon review

10 08 2011

Hi!  TodayVan Der Heyden cabernet we break all the rules here at Wineguider by reviewing a 2002 Napa Valley cabernet that you probably can’t find at your local store.  Why?  Because it saved my Napa Valley wine tasting trip.  It cost me $50, but the price is $60 these days.

When you visit Napa, it’s all very beautiful, but after several wineries you begin to realize something:  many of the reds taste similar.  Cabernet, merlot, zinfandel, syrah, sometimes even pinot noir, all have this typical oaky California thing. 

Not Van Der Heyden.  We arrived at their tiny operation after enjoying two full days of sumptuous country clubbish dark-wooded wine bars.  The tasting room at Van Der Heyden was a trailer.  Hound dogs lay on the porch.  Cats roamed.  I started whistling the theme from Sanford & Son.  Should we even get out of the car?  We took a chance and went in.  Soon, a short Dutchman appeared and started talking very fast.  I could understand his longer-than-usual aging process, and a few other things, as he explained, basically, “here is why we make the best wine.”  Oh really, I thought. 

Then, as I realized we were speaking with Mr. Van Der Heyden, I tasted his merlot.  “Hmmm… wow.”  And the chardonnay.  “Jesus.”  (I usually hate California chardonnay.)  Then the cabernet sauvignon, the subject of this review:  Rich.  Different.  Exciting.  Like a warm raspberry, cranberry and rhubarb pie, it was not a dry red, but it wasn’t blatantly sweet either.  It had moderate tannins, with restrained oak.  He was right.  This was the best red wine we tasted on that trip.  Including the fancy tasting at Beringer, where you sample their $100-plus bottles.  Van Der Heyden’s cab was 50 bucks.  And it rocked, because it had a complexity all its own.  I hereby award it a “Best of the Best” designation.  Finally, his cabernet dessert wine (“Late Harvest”) was out of control.  Pornographic.  So good, I feared chronic addiction, especially because its price was over $100.

It’s pretty hard to find this wine, because it is sold mostly right out of that trailer.  And through their mailing list.  If you want something special, call them at 800-948-WINE and order a bottle (and maybe that dessert wine).  I think you’ll be glad you did.  

Highly 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.”





Argyle pinot noir review: TOUGH CALL

17 07 2011

Today it’s a 2009 pinot from Oregon that costs $23 at Total Wine.

Argyle pinot noir smells wonderful.  Cola, mushroom, rose petals, some fairly hot alcohol AND a kind of warm caramel all invade your sinuses as you bring this to your nose.  The problem: the taste, although satisfying, is maybe a little boring for a $23 pinot.  It’s definitely not bad, though.  Argyle pinot noir is:  Soft.  Complex, because you get more than one flavor.  But it’s not “super” complex.  I get cola and spicy rose petals.  Interesting.  And easy to drink.

This one is hard to judge.  In its favor: it tastes good, and is an elegant, warm, medium-bodied pinot from our nation’s very best producer of pinot noir (Oregon).  Against it: at this price — which disqualifies this wine as a daily drinker — there are other wines that will offer more of a “wow” experience.

I’ll choose to recommend Argyle, because it really is very good, it does nothing wrong, and it’s modestly priced  — among Oregon pinots (which in general are, admittedly, overpriced). 

Argyle pinot noir reviewRecommended.





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





Primus red wine review

23 06 2011

Today we look at a 2006 red blend from Chile that I picked up for $18.

Hey!  This wine is a super, duper, killer wine for summer grilling — IF you’re eating inside with the AC on.  (Or if it’s not too hot outside.)   It boldly delivers to your tonuge a mix of cabernet (36%), syrah (31%), merlot (17%) and carmenere (16%).  Think — “dry steak wine… juicy… warm and soft… spicy leather.”

And your thinking would be correct.  Dense, warm, spicy, leathery, dark-fruited, with mouth-drying tannins and a slightly musty-basement-funk smell to keep things interesting — this blend has a very natural, real taste.  You can really “get” the different dark red and black berry flavors.  Unlike cheaper red wines, which can be nondescript and leave you asking, “what does this actually taste like?”

Primus, by Chile’s value machine Veramonte, is interesting, delicious, worth more than $18, and is highly:

Primus red wine reviewRecommended.





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.





Louis Chavy Bourgogne pinot noir review: haw-haw-HONNHHH!!

7 06 2011

Today we review a 2009 pinot noir from France that costs $15 at Total Wine.

This wine is so French (the word Bourgogne in its name means burgundy), yet, it’s American in a very important way.  French: it’s not juicy, jammy, or sweet in any way, it’s light-to-medium bodied, and it’s hard to love, at first.  Kind of stand-off-ish.  (Fun facts: burgundy is an area in east France, and red burgundy wine is almost all pinot noir.) 

American: the label actually says “pinot noir.”  French labels almost never give you this useful info, which seems incredible, and makes me want to slap my gloves in their face.  So, how does it taste?  It’s adult.  Louis Chavy Bourgogne pinot noir is dry, spicy, cranberry-ish, and very, very serious. 

I love it.  It’s the kind of wine I can drink by itself, and finish almost a whole bottle in one sitting, without realizing it.  It is not for white wine drinkers, or those who complain that red wines are too bitter, or sour.  But if you like exploring, if you like pinot noir, if you find most red wines too sweet, and especially if you love budget burgundy, Louis Chavy Bourgogne pinot noir at $15 is definitely:

Louis Chavy Bourgogne pinot noir review Recommended.





Hahn SLH Estate pinot noir review: THIS-IS-HOW-WE-DO-IT

5 06 2011

Today we check out a 2009 pinot noir from California’s Santa Lucia Highlands area.  Price — that’s a mystery, to be revealed below.

Whoo!!  Baby, this wine is hot.  Actually, it’s slightly chilled, for maximum enjoyment.  But Paris Hilton and anybody else with taste buds will tell you, Hahn SLH pinot is hot.  Spicy.  Bright, fruit-forward, and interesting.  Smells like caramel and rhubarb.  Tastes like spiced dark raspberries and cola.  Medium-bodied and sensual in your mouth.  Missing the floral notes of many French and Oregon pinots.

I don’t know the price, because Hahn sent it to me.  I’m going to guess.  An Oregon pinot like this would be $40, except there are no Oregon pinots like this.  Since this is from the up-and-coming Santa Lucia Highlands, I’ll say lower.  Even though its taste could easily command $30, I’ll say $23 because Hahn wines seem to be a great value in general.

Google search . . . and the price is: a range from $22 to $30.  Averaging the prices I found, this is a $25 wine.  So I was close.  Whatever price you find, I hereby decree this explosively delicious pinot to be:

Hahn SLH Estate pinot noir review

Highly 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.





Kirkland Columbia Valley merlot review

22 05 2011

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

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

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

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

Kirkland Columbia Valley merlot reviewRecommended.





La Crema Monterey pinot noir review: YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION

19 05 2011

Today we look at a 2009 pinot noir from California’s Monterey region that costs around $20.

STOP EVERYTHING – this is to announce that Monterey pinot noirs have overtaken the universe and must be bought!! — ahem, I mean, if you’re looking for pinot, and you want to spend $15 – $20.  Here’s the deal — Oregon pinot is supposed to be so great.  Well, at the $20 price level, Monterey pinot is now COMPLETELY OUTPERFORMING, NAY, EMBARRASSING, Oregon pinot.  That’s saying a lot, because Oregon pinot is my favorite thing to drink in the whole world.  To be specific, La Crema Monterey for $20 is **Far Superior** to these $20-ish Oregon pinots:

  • Erath
  • Cloudline
  • Kudos Reserve
  • A to Z
  • Acrobat
  • Big Fire

La Crema Monterey smells bright, with aromas of spicy raspberry and medium-bodied flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, red cherries, a little rhubarb and vanilla, and a slight “farm fresh” mushroomy earth.  YUMYUMYUMYUM.  This Monterey pinot noir is:

La Crema Monterey pinot noir review

Highly recommended.





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.





Uppercut cabernet review: VERY NOT BAD!?!

12 05 2011

Today we review a 2007 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon that’s around $20.

Uppercut cabernet reviewHi there!  I bet you’re wondering if Uppercut cab is any good.  The answer is, yes!  It’s VERY good.  It’s reliable, won’t piss anybody off, and looks beautiful in your glass with its deep ruby red color.  At a recent mini-tasting at a nice restaurant, Uppercut was the stand-out cabernet winner: smells like cedar and vanilla.  Great mouthfeel, a deep, dark-fruited taste, and a finish that cries out for steak.  This wine does nothing wrong, balancing blackberry/cranberry fruit with oaky, mouth-drying tannins.

However!  “Not doing anything wrong” could be its downfall. Uppercut is a little bit regular.  At $20 a bottle, I’d like a little more personality, something quirky, something more memorable. Maybe that’s wishful thinking — let’s not forget, this bottle says “Napa Valley” on the label.  I think we’re paying something, just for that name.  If it were $15, Uppecut would be a HUGE recommendation, and a clear Best Value winner.  At $20, I am happy to say that it is:

Recommended.





Gordon Brothers merlot review: oh MAMA

11 05 2011

Today we look at a 2007 merlot from Washington state’s Columbia Valley that costs between $17 and $22.

Whoa.  This stuff is serious.  Super dark red, almost black.  Dense.  Warm.  I mean, really warm.  Fruit-forward.  Woody.  Hints of chocolate.  Excels at both flavor and mouthfeel.  Moderate tannins.  A gentle bite.  Smells like a spice box.

Delicious.

EDIT, Jan. 2013: The current 2008 vintage is similarly wonderful, although it is more fruit-forward than I remember the 2007 being, to the point where the 2008 verges on blatant sweetness.  I still love it.

I paid $22 at Total Wine for this mouth-watering wonder, and will gladly do so again.

Gordon Brothers merlot reviewHighly recommended.





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’.”





Fabre Montmayou Barrel Selection malbec review: KICKASS

22 04 2011

Fabre Montmayou Barrel Selection malbec reviewToday we review a 2009 malbec from Argentina that costs $16.

  • HEY!  I think you’re going to want to try this rich, dark, dense, medium-bodied, blackberry-licious malbec.
  • 1.   First, malbec is the new merlot.  I mean, pinot noir.  (Or at least, it was a year ago.) 
  • 2.   Second, if you don’t try it, I’m going to say blackberry-licious again. 
  • 3.   Third, Fabre Montmayou is only $16 at the fascinating Veritas Wine & Spirits, at Wilmington DE’s riverfront. 
  • Bottom line, this is one of the best affordable malbecs I’ve ever tasted.  I hope you’ll give it a try, and leave a comment letting us know what you thought.
  • Recommended.




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 cabernet sauvignon review

21 03 2011

Ghost Pines cabernet sauvignon reviewHi!  Today we review a 2008 cabernet from California that costs around $19.

Let’s get right to it:  Ghost Pines cabernet is damn good.  68% from Napa Valley, 32% from Sonoma County.  It’s everything you expect from an affordable California cabernet:  it has mouth-drying tannins, dark fruit, like blackberries and currants, and it pairs well with steak. 

But the key is:  it gives you something different — there is just a little bit of a farm-fresh, mushroomy, walnut-y, earthy undertone that is not run-of-the-mill, and makes you take notice.  With some more familiar qualities, like spice, denseness, full-bodied character and a texture that is almost chewy.  The funny thing is, this cabernet has almost nothing in common with the same winery’s merlot, reviewed here.  Will it change your life?  No.  But at under $20, this cab is definitely:

Recommended.





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.





Villa Antinori “Toscana” red wine review

17 03 2011

Today we review a 2006 Italian red that is often called a “Super Tuscan”, even though it doesn’t say that anywhere on the label.  (More on that in the Boring Note at the end of this review.) It costs $22 at Total Wine, which is a little too high since many merchants are selling this wine for around $15 or $16, as you can see here

OK I really liked Villa Antinori Toscana.  It tastes very deep and dark, like distilled blackberries and cranberries buried under oak, lots of tannins, and a little chocolate.  Smooth.  Dense.  A little smoky.  A very dry, luxurious texture, and an inviting aroma with a fair amount of alcohol in there.  Balancing that dry texture is a warm juiciness in the flavor.  Basically, it tastes like a very good, extra dense and juicy chianti classico.  It is 60% sangiovese, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 15% merlot, and 5% syrah.

At $15 or $16, I would buy Villa Antinori Toscana all the time.  Even at $22, this dry yet juicy Italian is:

Villa Antinori "Toscana" red wine reviewRecommended.

Boring Note:

There is no law that specifies what a Super Tuscan is.  It is generally a wine from Tuscany (Toscana, in Italian) that has a blend of grapes similar to chianti.  The term used to be reserved for truly kickass wines, so of course today all wines like this are called Super Tuscan.  Many Super Tuscans replace some of the sangiovese that is required to dominate chianti with cabernet sauvignon (true for the wine reviewed today).  Many Super Tuscans say Indicazione Geografica Tipica on the label.  IGT generally means that you are getting grapes from the location shown on the label, in this case, Tuscany…. 

Whew.  I’m already bored, and we didn’t even scratch the surface of Italian wine rules and vocabulary.  Is this stuff worth learning?  I’m not sure — even if you master it, you find that it does not allow you to choose great wines.  You still have to go by word of mouth (or trial and error).  I would just sit back and read Wineguider.





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.





Ghost Pines merlot review: Happy Birthday!

27 02 2011

Today we check out a 2007 merlot from California that cost $16 at the wonderful Premier Wine in Wilmington, Delaware.

This merlot is 51% from Napa and 49% from Sonoma.  Even though it’s a serious merlot that really announces itself in your mouth, this stuff is FUN, baby — a party on your tongue!  Here’s why:  Ghost Pines merlot tastes way better than its price.  It absolutely beats the pants off the $17 Kendall-Jackson 2006 “Jackson Estates Grown” merlot.  Tasting them back-to-back, Ghost Pines makes the KJ seem as though it has literally no taste at all.  Ghost Pines has very adult, responsible California red wine flavors of blackberry, mocha, and spice, and it smells perfect for a California merlot.  And it has warm, moderately strong tannins to suck the moisture out of your mouth, so you know it’s going to be killer with steak.  

At the same time, there’s this tiny, juicy hint of something a little wild.  Is it frosting from one of those $5 premium cupcakes?  Red Stag black cherry bourbon?  A trace of birthday cake?  I don’t know — you’ll have to decide.  And when you do, promise me you’ll come back and tell us what you thought.  Until then, this warm, medium-to-full bodied winner is: 

Ghost Pines merlot reviewHighly recommended, and a Best-Value.





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.





Kendall-Jackson cabernet sauvignon review: IT IS DECIDEDLY SO

31 01 2011

Today we look at a 2007 cab from California.  I paid $19, but you can buy it for $15 at Total Wine.

This is the “vintner’s reserve” cab from Kendall-Jackson.  That sounds pretty special.  It’s not.  It’s actually their bottom-of-the-line.  But that doesn’t mean it tastes bad. 

In fact, this dark-ruby cab is very nice to drink.  Go ahead and buy a bottle.   You’ll like it.  The winemaker says it “opens with deep black cherry, blackberry and cassis flavors. Intense, round and well-structured tannins provide a strong backbone throughout the middle. Cedar and vanilla notes linger on the finish, beckoning another sip.”  OK, I’ll go with that, although it may be a somewhat brilliant technicolor description, when the wine is actually painted in more subdued shades.

Now, when you follow my advice and try K-J cabernet, will you **love** it?  My sources say no.  Will you remember it?  Maybe not.  But I guarantee you’ll like it.  For me, that’s saying a lot.  At $15, this is a damn nice example of a California cabernet. 

Kendall-Jackson cabernet sauvignon reviewRecommended.





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





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





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





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.





Chilensis reserva pinot noir review – WEB REDEMPTION

9 12 2010

Today we review a 2009 pinot noir from Chile that will cost you $9 at Total Wine.

This is a smoky yet juicy, leathery, slightly dry pinot noir.  Tasting it makes me think of those South American scenes at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, even though that was Bolivia.  The arrow below points to the origin of this wine, Chile’s Maule Valley.

It smells great — like a box full of expensive spices AND high quality coffee cake — and it has a MANLY taste:  medium bodied, some tannins, and some dark fruit. 

And it utterly redeems the Chilensis name, after my recent encounter with this label’s carménère.  At this price, even at $13, Chilensis pinot noir is a no-brainer. 

I say, buy it.

Cheers!

Chilensis reserva pinot noir review





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!!





Nicolas Feuillatte rosé champagne review: THE TEST

6 12 2010

As your picky Wineguider continues asking “what champagne for New Year’s Eve?” today we review a $50 French rosé, Nicolas Feuillatte.

OK this stuff is serious.  It has a very fruity, slightly spicy aroma.  Maybe that’s because it’s 60% pinot noir.  (And 10% chardonnay, and 30% pinot meunier, whatever THAT is).  The taste is also interesting, very balanced.  Tasting less sweet than the aroma suggests, it gives you sparkly strawberries and blackberries combined with a tart, alcohol-ish snap.  The bubbles are NOT overwhelming, and you get some of the joy of drinking a good wine — nice!  

But then, I did THE TEST.  I brought this $50 bottle to a big, fun Christmas party with a live band and guests in their 30s – 60s, in an affluent neighborhood in West Chester, PA.  This, and a bottle of Martini & Rossi sparkling rosé, which is just $15.  The results?  At the end of the night, the Nicolas Feuillatte was untouched.  The Martini & Rossi was drained.  Like, half a glass left.  And you can’t say it was because the M&R looked better — these bottles look eerily identical.

The lesson?  For a big party like New Year’s Eve, it doesn’t make sense to break the bank on bubbly.  Cheap works.  Or at least, it CAN work, if you buy the right kind.  Lesson 2?  Martini & Rossi rosé is FUN, as I said in my recent review.  And when you’re not buying for a big party, I say go extreme: either cheap n’ sweet, or high end — $45 and higher.  Mid-priced bubbly is a waste of your money, because it just doesn’t taste good — overwhelmed with bubbles and alcohol, and not much else.

Nicolas Feuillatte brut rosé champagne is very good, and I highly recommend it for general purposes.  But I can’t recommend that you buy it “in quantity” for your New Year’s Eve party.  Next!





Martini & Rossi sparkling rose review – PARTY PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE

4 12 2010

New Year’s is coming, so it’s time for bubbly.  Today, it’s a $15 Italian rose sparkling wine.    

OK I have an announcement:  there are no rules when it comes to bubbly.  Sure, “champagne” has to come from France, but really, any bubbly is fine.  Do whatever the hell you want.  Here’s why:  unless you spend a whole lot of money, it usually tastes like crap!  Yeah!  Woo hoo!!  Take your shirt off!!  It just doesn’t matter.  With that in mind, today we review Martini & Rossi sparkling rose.

The verdict?  It’s young and innocent and happy, and it doesn’t make me grimace or swear when I taste it, and the bottle looks EXACTLY LIKE this $53 bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte rose champagne that you’re droolin’ all over, which I will review next.  Nice!

In fact, it’s pretty damn good, and you should buy it.  Especially if you want a drinkable, sweeter bubbly and you don’t want to break the damn bank.

And you don’t want to break the bank.  Because on New Year’s Eve, bubbly isn’t really important — you’re much more worried about your shoes being banged up, your clothes not fitting right, throwing up, and the ever-present nightmare, trying to be cool at the party without coming off like a WEIRDO.  Where does the “quality of the champagne” rank, in this evening?  Minus 14?  So, I hereby give you full permission to buy this lovely $15 rose from Italy.

Party on!   (God, that made me sound like a weirdo, didn’t it?)Martini & Rossi sparkling rose review





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