Jacob’s Creek 2009 chardonnay review – WHAT THE?

12 10 2010

Today we look at a chardonnay from Australia that will cost you only 6 bucks.

I can’t restrain myself, ladies and gentlemen, this white wine from south-eastern Australia is AWE-SOME.  At a price that is almost laughable, you get a smooth white wine with some real character.  A crisp, tart, tangy, enjoyable wine with some true chardonnay taste and aromas, combined with a little extra citrus and minerality, yet almost no oak and almost no butter.   Almost nothing like a typical California chardonnay, it actually acts more like a sauvignon blanc in some ways.  I literally can’t stop drinking it.

Now I admit, Jacob’s Creek 2009 chardonnay is strange in one way:  one bottle that I bought had a screw top.  Another one had a cork.  Same wine.  Same year.  Same STORE.  What the hell!?  I don’t know, but I can tell you this:  the bottle with the cork tasted better.  It was smoother.  And it lacked the slightly over-tart, slightly kerosene-tinged character of the screw top.  But most importantly: both bottles were incredible for a $6 wine.

This aussie is an obvious, flat-out “Best Value” winner, and is:

Jacob's Creek chardonnay review

Highly recommended.





Zestos especial 2007 wine review

10 10 2010

Today we review a Spanish wine that costs only $9 a bottle.

Bottom line: Terrific if you enjoy dry red wine!  This wine wins a “Best Value” designation.

OK folks, this one verges on incredible.  It’s 85% tempranillo and 15% syrah (which is the same thing as shiraz).  It’s made in Spain.  It has cool modern art on the label.  And it’s only 9 bucks.  Even if you pay $12, it is still a very good wine for the price.

It’s spicy, and very dry when it first hits your mouth.  But after drinking it for a little while you will begin to notice the dark fruit in there: plums, dates, maybe some black raspberry.  All of them, “not quite all the way ripe yet.”

One thing: buckle up if you’ve never had Spanish wine before, because it has WAY more tannins than the typical U.S. wine.  Tannins are what give you the feeling that all the moisture is being sucked out of your mouth.  Associated with red wine, they are the result of grape skins being left in during portions of the fermentation process. 

I suggest letting Zestos breathe for a couple of hours. Pouring the bottle into a decanter (any container that lets more of the wine’s surface touch air) speeds this up.  Breathing helps to ripen those “not quite ripe” fruit flavors.

Zestos isn’t complex, it’s not going to pair well with everything, and it’s not a “crowd pleaser” due to those extra tannins.  But at $10, it’s a great wine to sip alone, or to enjoy with steak, lamb or anything spicy from Italian to Thai.  And so, it is a “Best Value” wine, and is:

Zestos especial wine review

Highly recommended.





Extra!! Mark West “Santa Lucia” pinot noir review

3 10 2010

Today we review a 2009 pinot noir from the Santa Lucia area within California’s central coast, which will cost you around $16.  My bottle came free directly from Mark West.

Wow.  Let’s get to the point — I cannot think of another $16 pinot noir that is this entertaining, this notably good.  (The same is true of the “plain” Mark West, which has an orange label.  Nothing at its lower price point tastes as much like real pinot noir.)  And yes, Mark West Santa Lucia is better than the “plain” Mark West: it’s more silky, tastes more mature and complex, and some of the rough edges of the “plain” Mark West have been sanded down without losing that very real, true, pinot noir character.  You’ll taste rose petals, cola, raspberry and cherry, very bright spices, and a little bit of oak and minerality.  This medium-bodied wine is perfect for drinking on its own, or with just about any food other than the heaviest of meats.

Drawbacks?  It’s pretty darn hot, so it delivers an “alcohol!!” punch in the mouth.  It’s definitely not your father’s light, see-through pinot noir.  This very real pinot noir is another clear “Best Value” winner, hence the guy laughing at the slot machine.  Mark West Santa Lucia Highlands is:

Mark West "Santa Lucia" pinot noir review

Highly recommended.





Lander Jenkins “Spirit Hawk” cabernet sauvignon review

22 09 2010

Today we look at a 2007 red wine from California that lists for $15, but I found for $13 (and later found for $12).

OK ladies and gents, this new cabernet sauvignon is DARN good for only $13.  The Lander Jenkins “Spirit Hawk” wines — they produce only cabernet and chardonnay, I like that — are from Rutherford Wine Company, maker of the usually-delicious Rutherford Ranch cabernet. The grapes in this cab were sourced mostly from Paso Robles, an area producing such rich, deep, satisfying red wines at such bargain prices that it seems it might just swallow Napa Valley whole within our lifetimes.

However THIS cabernet is not super rich and deep — it’s a little bit lighter, brighter, sweeter, and noticeably more elegant than other Paso Robles reds I’ve had.  Lander Jenkins is delicious, with the obligatory California dose of oak, but not so much as to hide the flavor of the wine itself:  you get a sort of blackberry and rhubarb pie, balanced by pleasant acidity and well-behaved tannins.  Nice!  And a clear Wineguider “Best Value” wine.

Is there a downside?  Well, Lander Jenkins is a little bit on the fruity and sweet side for a California cabernet, and it doesn’t taste exactly like a more expensive, true, tannin-filled classic California cab.   But it’s close.  So, I suggest you buy some high quality ground sirloin, obtain some killer spicy brown mustard and fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and as you complete your cookout menu with your favorite side items, snag a few bottles of this lovely cab for a late summer / early fall dinner outside.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

Lander Jenkins cabernet sauvignon reviewRecommended.





Domaine Serene 2007 “Yamhill Cuvee” pinot noir review

7 09 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Domaine Serene “Yamhill Cuvee” pinot noir review

Highly recommended.





PINOT TO THE PEOPLE! Mark West 2008 pinot noir review

1 09 2010

Today we look at the 2008 Mark West pinot noir from California, which costs $11 a bottle at most places, $9 at Total Wine.

You probably don’t really care if today’s wine tastes like cherries, boisenberries, or whatever — the main question is, how good is it?  Answer:  holy crap, it’s really damn good!   Mark West pinot noir tastes like real pinot.  This is an amazing feat in today’s world of inexpensive pinot-dom.  There’s a “kick” to it.  Some SPICE.  And even a little bit of complexity.  The website says “Pinot for the people.”  Yes!  This lovely red is Everyman’s pinot noir. 

You can taste more alcohol in this pinot than with some others, although the percentage is reasonable (13.8%).  Other flavors are floral and sort of strawberry-like.  It’s not too sweet, like some inexpensive California pinots (say, Mirassou), and it’s not bleached-out and generic, like many others (say, BV).  

If you want a good, affordable pinot noir, or a good wine for Thanksgiving — THIS is your wine.  If you want a “crowd pleaser” for a party where you’ll serve only one red, this is NOT your wine — but only because many people are not used to the unique flavors that pinot noir provides. 

So, is Mark West better than the 2009 Grayson Cellars pinot noir, which I recommended?  Yes.  Is it better than a $40 Oregon pinot noir?  Probably not.  But luckily Mark West is NOT $40.  In fact, I’m awarding it a “Best Value” designation.  Mark West pinot noir is: 

Mark West 2008 pinot noir reviewHighly recommended!





Anakena sauvignon blanc review

23 07 2010

This review has been updated here.

Today we review a white wine from Chile that costs only $8.  I found it at Total Wine.

Anakena’s price is what makes it hot.  There just aren’t many $8 wines that taste this normal and civilized.  This 2009 sauvignon blanc is light, and a little bit tart and minerally.  It tastes more round and slightly sweeter than some sauvignon blancs.  It has some pleasant citrus, but it’s not a mouth-puckering All-Grapefruit Assault.

Is there a downside?  Anakena doesn’t have as much “zing” for your taste buds  as Oyster Bay, which I reviewed here, and which is 25-35% more expensive.  But on the bright side, Anakena is easy to drink and clean, leaving less mineral feel behind than Oyster Bay.  Even brighter is Anakena’s price.  Gotta love it.

If you love white wines and a great value, THIS is your summer white.  And if you have been drinking very sweet white wines, and you want to “get more serious,” this is a really great starting point.  Anakena sauvignon blanc is hereby awarded a “Best Value” designation, and is:

Anakena sauvignon blanc review

Recommended.