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.





Plungerhead zinfandel review: WHOA, DOGGY!

15 08 2011

Today it’s a 2009 old vine zinfandel from California’s Lodi area, which costs about $19.

This is a big one!!  The label is awesome: a guy with a plunger on his head.  It’s pretty hot when first opened, meaning, it smells and tastes of alcohol (it is 14.9% alcohol).  It’s also pretty darn spicy.  That’s a good thing.  More good stuff:  the medium-to-full-bodied texture is wonderful, and there is some nice complexity on your tongue that says HEY, this wine is better than a $9.99 special. 

In your nose, there is a bit more “rhubarb pie” sweetness than actually greets your taste buds.  Meaning, Plungerhead tastes more dry and balanced than it smells.

The problem is, for $19, I just didn’t warm up to the dense, spicy blueberry, rhubarb and eucalyptus flavors, as nicely put together as they are.  At $12, this would clearly get a recommendation from your Wineguider.  Although this zin with the big impact is obviously high quality, my picky, cranky self has decided that it is:

Not 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.





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.”





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.