Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Poggio Antico Altero Brunello di Montalcino 2000

Here's a review from Iron Chef:

Christmas Eve get-together in New Maryland, decanted 2-3 hours. I have been waiting to spring this on a friend as a blind tasting as I know he thinks that Brunellos are Poo wines, and I have somewhat agreed in recent tasting. But after I had the Costanti Brunello di Montalcino 2001 at the Muriel McQueen Ferguson Wine event and I was shocked how good it was, I had to try another Brunello. The first sip out of the bottle once it was opened was that familiar scent of Barnyard and Brett as the professionals term it. I hate that smell. But after a couple of hours a beautiful wine emerged. The nose was full of Black Bart chewing gum, Liquorish. Also an interesting scent of dried Roses and lavender. Heady alcohol and old old wood smell. The palate was mouth puckering dryness- very tannic, Red Cherries and Petrol, it was probably too early to open it, but Wow … this was really good. I wish I had bought more at the time. The nose of dried roses was really impressive. This wine could have evolved for a really long time.

This is neat

Retail Price: Approx $60- last years wine sale at ANBL.
Grapes: Sangiovese
Tasted: Dec 2008
UPC: no longer available

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coldstream Hills Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

We loved this wine in 2003. It was a classic new world Cabernet Sauvignon: fruity and full and smooth, with good length, structure, and balance. We drank mostly new world reds then, but it was probably our single favourite wine. We bought perhaps half a dozen bottles and continued to love it through 2005 or so. But then around 2006-7 we drank a bottle that made us think it was past its prime. The delicious fruit seemed to be fading, and other interesting characteristics hadn’t developed to take its place.

Fast forward to December 2008. I’m not sure if the wine has changed or we have, but we opened our last bottle and really enjoyed it. The bright fruit of a few years ago had taken on a more subtle, stewed character, and herbal and other flavours become more prominent. It’s still lush and long and nicely balanced.

In his usual style, Norman subjected the group to a mini-interrogation on the wine (which all but he tasted blind, naturally). We were evenly divided as to whether it was a new world or old world wine. Apparently, it now has characteristics of each.

We sometimes wonder how long to cellar particular bottles. If a wine is meant to be drunk young, we're all for that; but if it is likely to improve with age, we're willing to wait; and we're not always sure. In this case, my preference for drinking a bottle every year or so during the window recommended by the winemaker seems to have worked out reasonably well.

Price: $44
Value: 4/5
Score: 92
Alcohol: 13.5%
Region: Yarra Valley, Australia
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
Tasted: Dec 17 2008
UPC: no longer available

Friday, December 26, 2008

Marqués de Cáceres Crianza 2004

Kelly's note: "Raspberries, vanilla, cheap wine essence. Clear on palate, then very dry on finish. I initially guessed pinot, then merlot. Poor value at the price."

This crianza is is 85% Tempranillo and the remaining 15% is Garnacha Tinta (Grenache) & Graciano. Incidentally, the term "crianza" is the Spanish designation for the youngest officially recognized category of wine that is matured in wood; "reserva" and "gran reserva" denote longer wood aging, while wines without any of these designations - "joven" or young, may not have any cask aging at all. "Riserva" is the Italian term; it also denotes a period of aging, but the Italian usage is not as strict and some riserva wines may not have any cask aging at all.

Price: $22.49
Value: 2/5
Score: 83
Region: Spain, Rioja
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 8410406311006

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

St Hallett Faith Shiraz 2004

Here's a review from Luke (PS - Luke, about the delay in putting it up as a separate post):

In preparation for my wine test in January, I decided to buy 20-some bottles of wine, mostly single varital, and put them in a box. For the past 3 days, I have been tasting one or two blind, making notes, and studying the region while having a glass. (And taking the leftovers to work and testing other people in my course...) I put some wines I had in the mystery box, bringing the total to about 30.

So far so good. I do have a "university exam" coming up on Tuesday, but studying wine is so much more enjoyable. I think it may be the wine...

Today I had Jaclyn pour me a random bottle at 12:30. I may have been because it was so early in the day, but my senses were either working very well or this was a great wine.

Before I even tasted, I wanted to say Australian Shiraz. The deep garnet core and the way it stuck to the glass looked familiar. The nose was very pronounced - dark fruit - cerries, plum, and white pepper. Not too heavily oaked. Very nice.

On the palate, medium body, soft tannin, and a very long finish. Lots of fruit and spice. I was very impressed by this wine. Greath depth and length. My conclusion was South Australian Shiraz, 2004.

Price $27.99
Value: 4.5/5
Score: 91
Region: Australia, Barossa
Grape: Shiraz
UPC #9316920000084

BTW - this week's tastings gave me the idea to see if there is are any valuable learning tools on youtube. So far there isn't, except for this guy.


He says he has allergies, I say he has a coke problem.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ferraton Père & Fils Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière 2006

Crozes-Hermitage is an appellation in the northern Rhone. It produces red wines of mostly Syrah, and up to 15% Roussanne and Marsanne, and whites of Roussanne and Marsanne.

We tasted La Matiniere at the Expo and loved it. So we picked up a bottle and drank it at home recently. I think it offers a bit of something for every taste: prominent fruit, as well as noticeable structure and tannins. The nose is mostly plump, soft fruit - plums and berries - with spruce and herbal and floral notes. All of that follows through on the palate, which is also very soft until it finishes with firm tannins. Good length. This wine is not overly complex, but it is very nice and excellent value for the money. It also kept very well in the half-bottle. After a day it had softened a bit, but didn`t seem to have lost much complexity or fruit.

I see from the ANBL product database that there are only about 80 bottles left in the province and hope that we have already picked a few up.

Price: $26.48

Value: 4/5
Score: 91
Region: France, Northern Rhone
Grape: Shiraz / Syrah
Tasted: Dec 2008
UPC: 3380651030630

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tolaini al Passo 2004

I like the style of this wine - structured, elegant and dark - but there just wasn't enough there in terms of flavour, and I didn't much like the way it changed in the glass. Here is Kelly's note, which I completely agree with:

"Initially reserved on nose - cedar, blackberries, minerals, Christmas rum stewed fruit spice cake - smooth and long on the palate, ending with firm tannins. Just a bit hot or perhaps acidic on nose and palate. Over the course of the evening, the nose opened up a bit, and the wine became smoother and softer, taking on a stewed fruit character - but it also seemed to lose complexity on the nose and palate, so to me the change was not an improvement. We also tasted this wine at the Expo, and loved it; then N had it while I was in Q City and loved it; and I had it Sunday on my return, when I'd have rated it maybe 88. So I seem prefer it straight out of the bottle. Given the way this wine seems to evolve over an evening, I wouldn't be inclined to decant it; and while others have suggested it might be a bit young, I wouldn't necessarily agree that it will improve with cellar time."

In particular, I liked it better as soon as it was opened, when the firm structure gave it character. It softened in an hour or so, but didn't open up a great deal - just lost structure without getting more fruit. Does this mean it won't age well? My bet is that it is not one for the long haul. I'd be interested to know what others think. And I'd really be interested to see what actually happens in a few years. But I'm not sure I'll make the investment to find out.

Price: $29.99
Value: 3/5
Score: 87
Alcohol: 13.5%
Region: Italy, Tuscany
Grape: Sangiovese
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 8032853380086

Friday, December 19, 2008

Value Rating

Now you can rate the wine by value! If you've tried the wine, just tick the box at the bottom of the post to give it a value rating. That way you can share your opinion without having to write a comment.

1 says "do not buy this wine at this price"
2 is disappointing, but not terrible
3 is average value - what you'd expect from a wine at that price
4 is good value. If I think a wine is worth a 4 for value, I'll put it on the "Recommended" list
5 means the wine is a steal at the price

Don't worry too much if you think it's a 3.5 and you can't decide whether to give it 3 or 4. Just go with whatever feels right. If enough people vote (please vote!!) it will all come out in the wash.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Montecillo Reserva 2002

Here's a review from Luke. Incidentally, when he first posted this in the "Make a Suggestion" thread, there was none available in F'ton. They've now brought some in, along with the Torres Celeste that Luke also mentioned in that post.

Here's Luke's review of the Montecillo:

"The Celeste has left me in the mood for Spain since I had it, so I opened a 2002 Montecillo Reserva (Rioja) today. I got something different on the nose every time I went back. Cherries, earth, cedar, lavender, spice, and maybe even tea and chocolate. The fruit and vanilla were most obvious on the palate, which had a medium to long finish with a nice hint of chocolate. A very complex wine.

The deep garnet colour has hints of brown that are starting to show quite well. There is still good acidity and tannin, I look forward to trying this in another year or two. Very enjoyable now, however."

Price: $24.29
Score: 87
Value: 4/5
Region: Spain, Rioja
Grape: Tempranillo
Tasted: 30 Nov 08
UPC: 022851208015

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ribeauville Gewurztraminer Prestige 2006

I liked all the Ribeauville wines when I tried them at the Wine Expo. This is my first chance since then to try the Prestige series Gewurz, and it didn't disappoint. It has a powerful characteristic Gewurz nose on a full bodied moderately sweet frame. Perhaps not quite as much acidity as I would have liked to balance the sweetness - but that's a quibble. Delicious - but not much left.

Price: $23.99
Value: 4/5
Score: 89
Region: France, Alsace
Tasted: Dec 2008
UPC: 3156090316150

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Michele Chiarlo Gavi 2007

Gavi is as appellation in northwest Italy, not too far from the Barolo region, which makes white wine using only the Cortese grape. This wine is fresh with some citrus and mild fruit (peaches?) on the nose, excellent balance with medium body and a good mouthfeel - Kelly says mineral - and reasonable length. On the whole, this wine is very well made, but nothing stands out. I suspect I would have liked this wine better in the summer.

One big plus is the label. This isn't an art appreciation blog, but the label strikes me as very attractive in a modern but elegant style. That's a definite bonus, especially if you're bringing a wine to a dinner party. I'm going to give it an extra point in the rating just for the label.

Price: $24.48
Value: 3/5
Score: 87
Alcohol: 13.5%
Grape: Cortese
Region: Northwest Italy, Gavi DOCG
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 8002365000703

Friday, December 12, 2008

Paul Anheuser Nahe Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Auslese 2000

Whoa, that's a looooong name. What's great though is that you can really impress your date if you learn to pronounce it: "I'll have Auslese Riesling" sounds so much more sophisticated than "I'll have the sweet white." (Auslese indicates a late harvest wine, usually made in a sweet style, as in this case.)

I picked this up from the liquidation table a few years ago. Along with the Hans Lang Spatlese Riesling 1999 it is one of the wines that got me into drinking white. It is sweet but well balanced, with a lovely thick mouthfeel and a nose of apricot and kerosene (but kerosene in a good way, really). Great with curry or sushi.

Price: $16.60 (Liquidation)
Score: 89
Value: 4/5
Alcohol: 9%
Tasted: Oct 2008
UPC: No longer listed

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

St. Urbans Hof Reisling Kabinett 2007

Here's a review from Luke:

Another wine from the show...
St. Urbans Hof Reisling Kabinett 2007 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer)

Clear and pale yellow color wtih a green tinge. Very viscous at 8.5% alcohol. Nose is fresh, with honeysuckle and tropical fruit: most obvious are pineapple and passionfruit. Also some petroleum.

Very nice mouthfeel - off-dry, medium body with great acidity and a slight fizz. Fruit follows through with some hints of citrus, which may be due to the acidity, then gives way to a long minerally finish.

We had this earlier with a medium-plus spiced veggie stir-fry, and I'm having it now on its own. Very enjoyable in both cases, and at 8.5% there's no shame in finishing the bottle! (for me, there's no shame until multiple bottles have been finished). I May lay one down for a few years.

St. Urbans Hof Reisling Kabinett
Price: $24.29
UPC: 4013231000097
Alc: 8.5%
Tasted: 7Dec08
Value: 4/5
Score: 88

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tapena Garnacha 2006

This review is from Iron Chef:

The colour is a deep violet purple. The scent is Gamey, meaty with wood vanillas and Asian spices- a real fun smell. The palate is very drying but devoid of grippy tannins. Possibly coriander seed mixed with wild berries, Raspberry and black berry. A slight stemmy nature also. The smell is better than the taste, long mouth feel shorter on the palate though. A fun wine with vibrant fruit, reminds me of an reduced oak Vinsobres.

Price: $14.99
Value: 4/5
Score: 82
Alcohol: 13%
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 033293051008

Friday, December 5, 2008


In an comment yesterday Chris MacDonald raised the hot topic of closures cork, screwcap etc. (well, it's a hot topic for wine lovers anyway). There are a lot of issues around closures - cost, convenience, how does it affect wine aging, etc. Chris raised the question of environmental impact to start things off. I've re-posted Chris' comment below, in this thread. But I'm going to abuse my power as blogmaster to strat things off with what I see as the main issue: cork taint. No one would be even thinking about screwcap for fancy wine if it wasn't for cork taint.

Personally I don't care much one way or the other about the closure for wine I intend to drink right away. Cork taint isn't much of an issue because ANBL has such a good return policy (though it's definitely annoying to bring a bottle to a dinner party and have it turn out to be corked).

But for fancy wine that I intend to cellar for a few years, cork taint is a real problem. I've read that something like 5%-10% of wines with a cork closure are affected by cork taint, and that pretty much reflects my personal experience. To me, that's a big problem. Fancy wine is expensive already - it's that much harder to put down $40 or $100 for a bottle of wine knowing that there is a 1 in 10 chance that it's undrinkable. And it's not just the money, but the disappointment when you pull out a special bottle that has been in the cellar for years and is now irreplaceable - and it turns out to be corked.

With that said, my understanding is that there are still questions about how well a wine will age with a screwcap closure. And Kelly and I haven't had as many corked bottle recently. I don't know if that's because the quality of corks is going up, or if we've just had a lucky streak.

Anyway, what kind of experience has everyone else had with corked wine? I've started the comments with Chris's original comment, that I grabbed from the "Make a Suggestion" thread.

Collazzi Toscana 2005

Here's a brief review from Chris MacDonald, ANBL's wine buyer:

I tried the Collazzi 2005 at the show. This is a wine I have been collecting since 2001. Collazzi is a super tuscan in terms of style and grape assemblage but has a reasonable price tag (mid forties$) compared to other well known super tuscans (usually $60+).

As for the description, I found it very rich in aroma and taste with a long finish. Even though this wine has little or no sangiovese in it, it is distinctly Italian...especially on the nose. What makes a wine distincly Italian? For me it is the dried cherries mixed with savoury aromas and a sense of "salt" on the palate.

Name: Collazzi IGT
Price: $48.79
Rating: 4.5/5
Value: 4/5
UPC: 8007425050452

Collazzi is very good every vintage.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Castano Monastrell 2006

Monastrell is a Spanish name for Mourvèdre- or rather we should say that Mourvèdre is a French name for Monastrell, as the grape is native to Spain. The Yecla region is in the south-east of Spain, next to the slightly better known region of Jumilla.

I thought this was a reasonable wine in this price range, but not more than that. A bit of apparent sweetness, some heat, a bit candied, decent fruit. I'd give it 85 except for the candied aspect, which downgrades it to 84, for my taste. If you don't mind that style you might like it better.

I may be missing something here. Stephen Tanzer, or more precisely his sidekick Josh Reynolds, really liked this wine, giving it a score of 88 and Joe thought it was "fantastic" as well. So I'd be interested in hearing what everyone else thinks.

BTW, Bodegas Castano has a great website.

Price: $15.79
Value: 3/5
Score: 84
Alcohol: 14%
Tasted: Oct 2008
UPC: 8422443001208

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mezzomondo Pinot Grigio Chardonnay

I had a glass of this wine at Brewbaker's a couple of nights ago - it's not really enough for a real review, but I was sufficiently impressed that I couldn't resist. I'll call this a mini-review.

I picked it because it was one of the cheapest whites on the by-the-glass list - I figure nothing is good value at 100% mark-up, so you might as well go cheap. And the blend sounded intriguing. I wasn't expecting much - something innocuous and drinkable at best. But this delivered a lot more. The blend really seems to work. It had body and real interest, I think from the Chardonnay, but it was fresh and crisp at the same time, presumably from the Pinot Grigio (though Pinot Gris can make wines of real interest, as the Ribeauville Pinot Gris that I am drinking right now attests). Well, whichever grape is contributing whatever character, this is a really good wine at an unbeatable price. Great value in a casual white.

Price: $12.99
Value: 5/5
Score: 86
Alcohol: ?
Region: Italy
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 8032610318918

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rymill Coonawarra Shiraz 2004

Here is a review from Chris MacDonald, ANBL's wine buyer:

"The appearance of this wine was definitely not bright or intense..it was closer to mildly dull and weakly hazy. The aroma was medium in intensity but there was a lot in there...a mix of primary fruit aromas, oak influence, fragrant spice(take your pick!) and some more mature notes on the leather and tobacco side....definitely complex.

The taste revealed its cooler climate roots..good acidity paired with medium soft tannins and the flavour was more on the spicy side than fruity. The finish was long and satisfying."

Price: $25.99
Value: 4/5
Score: 91
Region: Coonawarra, Australia
Tasted: Nov 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Quinta da Rigodeira Baga 2005

Luke has mentioned this wine in a comment, and I've heard other people talk about it, but I haven't tried it myself and no one has given me a full review. So I thought I'd just start a post on it to allow anyone who has tried it to tell us what they think.

I noticed that Oz Clarke's Grapes and Wines entry on Baga mentions Quinta da Rigodeira as one of the best producers of Baga. He also notes that it lasts very well in the bottle, though I don't know if that would be true of any entry level wine.

BTW, Oz Clarke's book is a great purchase for anyone interested in wine. It provides encyclopedic information about all (well, maybe just most) of the world wine grapes, listed alphabetically. It is packed with information, reasonably priced, and best of all, it is beautifully written. While it has an encyclopedia style, it is not a book that you'll pick up only when you want specific information. It is so well written that you'll find yourself flipping it open and reading at random.

Here it is at Amazon, and at Chapters.

Anyway, back to the Rigodeira Baga:

Price: $15.79
Score: ??
Grape: Baga
Region: Portugal
UPC: 5600398620030

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Here's a review from tancred. BTW, the ANBL website says this is a cab/shiraz/merlot blend, but it's not.

I tried the wakefield cab (2006, clare valley) after seeing it on the wine show table at nbliquor. clare valley is an interesting wine growing region - it is cooler than barossa and maclaren vale and so is best known for its crisp zingy rieslings. however there are micro-climates within the clare that support the growth of shiraz and cab grapes, and it is not surprising to see even small wineries producing both rieslings and shirazes on grapes grown on the same estate. this wakefield cab was a typical australian cab with notes of cedar, capers, and plum. probably not a lot of cellaring potential but very drinkable now, with nice structure and longish finish. at a price around $20 (i forget the exact amount) it is great value for a cabernet.

Price: $18.79
Value: 4/5
Score: 87
Region: Australia, Clare Valley
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 9311659000626

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Le Bonheur Prima 2004

Here's a review from Michelle:

Tonight..while I was peddling my trainer watching last year's Stage 10....I let a bottle of Le Bonheur Prima 2004 breathe. I didn't decant...because I am the only one drinking it :) Therefore this bottle will be "stopped" and consumed at a later date. I did read, however one review said it didn't lose anything after a day or so. Time will tell.

This wine is a blend of 75% merlot and 25% cabernet. I found first on the nose was a deep berry with plum overtones, earthy perhaps. It really reminds me of a muted California Zin. Not the berry bomb though. More subtle. On the palate, it's hard to nail it down. Cherry is the most prominent. Characteristic Merlot with subtle Cab nuance. I rather enjoyed it. I think it would be more suitable with a food pairing. Red meat of course..such as a beautifully cooked sirloin but would be stellar with a good blue cheese, brie or a nuttier aged gouda.

The value - I am not so sure it's a good value. Yes, I did enjoy it, but would I buy it again if someone gave me $30 to pick out a wine? Probably not.

Price: $26.07
Value: 3/5
Score: 88
Alcohol: 13%
Region: South Africa, Stellenbosch, Simonsberg Ward
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 6001497413254

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sartori Marani 2006

We've got a puzzle here. We tried this at the Wine Expo and loved it. We bought a bottle and loved it - rated it 92. Here's my original note:

This wine from Sartori is great. Complex, balanced, long - it has everything. Kelly's note: "Apricots, petrol, minerals, musk, and maybe something green and herbal on nose. Very nicely put together - well balanced, with clear, refined/delicate flavours. Lovely smooth, full mouthfeel, ending with crisp/tart edge." Awesome value. It is one more step in my conversion to the white side.
Then I got another bottle and tried it again, and had nothing like the same experience. I don't know that I'd change the description much, but the "wow" factor was missing. Still a good wine, but more like an 87-88. We had it side-by-side with the Ribeauville Pinot Gris and the Ribeauville seemed clearly better. (As always, Kelly had them both blind.)

I don't know what's going on, so I'll just give both scores.

Price: $19.99
Value: 5/5; 3.5/5
Score: 92 / 87
Alcohol: 13.5%
Grape: Garganega
Region: Italy, Bianco di Verona IGT
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 8005390006702

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Marqués de Riscal Tempranillo 2006

Here is a review from Vesper:

"Last night I had a couple glasses of the Marqués de Riscal Tempranillo and really enjoyed it. Nice deep berry nose. On the palate it was fairly full bodied and smooth with good tannins. Really nice mouth feel too. I had this in a restaurant so not ideal conditions for tasting but I like it enough to buy a bottle and to try it again. Note: I had two glasses and the second one (initially) was a touch cooler and slightly more sharp on the finish. I put this down to opening of new bottle or the like.

ANBL has this (2006) for $15.79. I think this could make it in the top ten under $20. If anyone else tries this let me know what you think."

Price: $15.79
Score: 86
Region: Spain
Tasted: Nov 2008
UPC: 8410866430477

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ribeauville Pinot Gris 2005

I think of Pinot Gris / Grigio as light and innocuous. A safe bet off the by-the-glass wine list - unlikely to be terrible, but unlikely to be inspiring either. And maybe an overcropped Pinot Gris is like that - but this Ribeauville is not. It is full bodied and full of character. Here's was Kelly says:

"Orange rind, cloves, petrol. Viscous on palate. Full bodied with good acidity. I find this wine a bit musky and manly, in the style of the Chateau de Nages or perhaps Pouilly-Fuissé. Now I think I know what the Aykroyd is trying to do. Ends on a bit of a sour note."

Kelly scored it a 90. I'm not sure I'd go quite that high. But pretty close. Very good value. Act soon - there is not much left.

Price: $22.99
Value: 4/5
Score: 89(N)/90(K)
Region: France, Alsace
Tasted: Oct 2008
UPC: 3156090316143

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vinzelo Douro 2006

Here is a quick review from Luke, from the Wine Expo '08 tasting, that I lifted from a comment. Note that Tinta Roriz is a Portugese name for Tempranillo.

A quick review of the Vinzelo 2006, Douro, booth 19 - Very fresh nose - predominantly strawberries and raspberries, which follow through on the palate, with a touch of spice. 30% each tinta roriz, touriga franca, tinta barroca and 10% touriga nacional. A great display of the potential of Portugese red table wines and the best wine I've had under $15 in a while. Just over 2000 bottles in the warehouse.

Price: $11.49
Value: 5/5
Score: 88
Alcohol: 12.5%
Region: Portugal, Douro
Tasted: November 2008
UPC: #5601920113952

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wine Expo '08 - Part VI - Kiosks 55 - 70

From California, Kelly was quite keen on both the Beringer Napa Pinot and their Merlot. The problem, as always with US wine, is the price. Maybe not great value at $38 - but they're good enough (says Kelly) that they weren't a bad value even at $38. The Private Reserve Chardonnay was also very good, but perhaps no better than my favourite ANBL whites, and $20 more.

From Marqes de Caceres we tried both the Crianza and the Gaudium. The Crianza was ok, but not outstanding - a hint of 'cheap wine'. The Gaudium, on the other hand, stood up very well to other wines we tried in the price range, namely the Silver Oak Napa Cab and the Torres Mas la Plana. We didn't try them side by side, so I couldn't say whether it was better or worse, but it was certainly in the ballpark - impressive.

I wasn't too enthused about the Obsession from Vignamaggio - very fruity, but maybe a bit overripe - raisiny, my notes say. On the other hand, their Terre di Prenzaon Chianti Classico struct me as good value at $24. I'll definitely be trying this one again.

The Cesanese Uno was "stupendous" value at $12. That's what my notes say, and I can't remember any more detail right now.

The Veglio Michelino was probably our favourite Barolo of the show - beautiful nose in particular. We didn't try their Barbera.

The Pangea Syrah struck us as a good wine, but not great value at the price

At booth 60 I found two Aussie Shiraz's that I really liked, the Rymill Coonawarra and the Wirra Wirra Woodhenge. Good bold Aussie Shiraz flavour without going over the top. We got some of each - if those bottles turn out to be as good as they seemed at the show, I will be getting more for medium term cellaring. The Rymill MC2 (a Bordeaux blend) was also very good - and very good value at $20.

Finally, we didn't much like the Coppola Black Label Claret - too candied at the price.

That's it for the Wine Expo '08. Phew - that's a lot of wine. But we missed lots. I'm keen to hear other people's impressions.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wine Expo '08 - Part V - Kiosks 40 - 54

At Kiosk 40 we found the wonderful Pio Cesare Fides which we've already talked about. Their Moscato d'Asti was also delicious. I love Moscato d'Asti. Slightly sparkling - frizzante as the Italians say - light and refreshing but bursting with fruit. The Pio Cesare was a top notch example, but I have to admit to a bit of sticker shock - I've had good examples at half the price, and at 5% alcohol you tend to slurp it down.

The Ferraton Chateauneuf-du-Pape Le Parvis was good, but the show was too rushed to say more than that, one way or the other. WS gave it a 90, btw. Kelly was very taken with their Crozes Hermitage La Matiniere ($26) - she kept mentioning it through the rest of the show. This is one that is on our "must try again soon list."

We've already discussed the Chateau Fuissé at kiosk 46. Delicious. Worth the price? We bought a couple, so we'll find out soon enough.

At kiosk 48 the Pierre Sparr Reserve Gewurz had a great nose but seemed a bit flabby on the palate.

The Liogier Vacqueyras Montpezat (kiosk 50) was a touch candied for my taste, but their Cotes du Rhone La Taladette struck me as excellent value at $16.

The Sartori Marani was fantastic. We'll have a separate review of it soon.

The Terre da Vine Barolo was fine, but didn't stand out, at least in the atmosphere at the show. Their Barbaresco seemed like good value for $30.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wine Expo '08 - Part IV - Kiosks 23 to 39

This post starts with Cave de Ribeauville at kiosk 23. I've already covered it in my initial post on first impressions and highlights. As I discuss there, the Prestige series from the Cave de Ribeauville was definitely a value highlight at the show.

The two St Hallett wines we tried at kiosk 26, the Gamekeepers Reserve (Shiraz/Grenache) and the Faith (Shiraz) were well made in the big fruity Aussie style. We preferred the Faith even at $8 more than the Gamekeepers Reserve. Your view on this wine will be very much a matter of style - this is not for those who like an Old World approach. The rep at the booth was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. He said these wines are meant to be drunk relatively young - now or within the next 5 years. While they will last longer, they will lose their varietal character without gaining a lot of compensating complexity.

Kiosk 28: Chateau Quintus: "Meh" says Kelly's note.

We got a taste of the Silver Oak - I think it was the Napa (it was a quick pour just as the 4:00 show was closing). It was excellent - whether it was $117 excellent depends on the state of your wallet.

The next prestige wine we tried was the Catena Alta Malnec, which regularly scores 93-94 from Wine Spectator. The vintage at the show, the '04, scored 93. We were underwhelmed. Good, but soft and blowsy. Not worth $60 of my money.

More to come . . .

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wine Expo '08 - Part III - Kiosks 11 - 22

The usual caveat - these are impressions, not reviews.

We weren't enthused about the Rincipi di Buttera Riesi - a bit of what Kelly calls "the cheap wine nose." We need to come up with a good euphemism. "Over-ripe" perhaps.

The Stellennzicht Pinotage tasted distinctly like a Pinotage - and I'm not really a fan. I'd like to hear from Pinotage afficiandos out there about what they thought about this wine. It was clearly well made.

One of the great curiosities of the show was the Yellow Tail Limited Edition Premium Shiraz - what does a $50 Yellow Tail taste like???? It was suprisingly good. Maybe what you'd expect from a $50 Yellow Tail. Well made, though not very subtle: "a crazy cartoon of a wine" says Kelly's notes. Reminded us of the 2003 Rosenblum Rockpile Road Zinfandel that was #3 in Wine Spectator's 2005 Top 100 list. Over the top, but in a well made way.

We've previously reviewed the Farnese Edizione Cinque Autoctoni 2004, which we really liked. Unfortunately the '06 edition was not nearly as good. It was a clear shift to an international style. It had none of the unique character that made the '04 so interesting, and as an international sytle wine it was fine, but not worth $43. A real disappointment.

I'll finish this post on a high note. Both the wines from Tolaini were excellent. The Valdesanti is a Bordeaux blend (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cabh Franc) and was very well done. Worth buying at $45, though maybe not a steal. A 91 from Wine Spectator. The Al Passo - Sangiovese and Merlot - was a terrific blend. Delicious, interesting and different. It was on our "must buy" list - and everyone else's, as it was sold out by 4:00 on Friday. Wine Spectator gave this an 86. That's nuts. Don't tell your friends about this one - at least not until I get my hands on a couple of bottles.

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wine Expo '08 - Part II - Kiosks 1 - 10

I'm going to spend a few posts going through the wines we tried in a reasonably systematic way. I'll go through the show in order of the kiosks (though of course we didn't try every wine or even every kiosk). As I said in the last post, the tasting conditions were not what they would be at home and we were suffering from palate fatigue pretty earlier on, so what follows are just impressions and not final opinions.

At kiosk 2 were the wines from Collazzi, which we somehow missed even though they were on our "must try" list. Did anyone else try them?

At kiosk 4 we tried the Quinta da Rigodeira Bairrada Baga. It was fine, but not special, even at the price ($16)

At the Kriscott kiosk (6) the Schroeder Grande Corte Pinot Noir - Malbec was one of the most interesting wines at the show. Pinot Noir is usually made as a varietal, but this blend worked extremely well. The Malbec was judiciously used (20%, I believe) and added a underlying smoky note without t overwhelming the Pinot, which came through beautifully with characteristic flavours on bright end of the spectrum - cherry and raspberry I suppose. Good mouthfeel and balance as well. Unfortunately there was a bit of something woody and slightly harsh at the finish that marred an otherwise extremely appealing and interesting wine. The Las Moras rep (Ricardo Valero - very engaging and knowledgeable about Argentinian wines) suggested it might have been from young Malbec vines.

From Finca Las Moras both the Black Label and the 3 Valleys Shiraz' were very good. I think we actually preferred the less expensive Black Label, but Kelly's notes are a bit fuzzy here. These are both wines we definitely want to try again. We weren't quite as keen on their Malbec, even though it's the signature Argentine grape - a bit of wet cardboard on the finish, perhaps.

We tried the '06 Grand Marrenon White and we liked it quite a bit better at the show than we did when we reviewed it. Looks like we're evolving as white wine drinkers. The Grand Marrenon Red also seemed to be very good value at $17. A blend of Grenache and Syrah, it was nicely balanced without the candied over-ripe profile you often find at this price. Another wine we want to try again outside the show.

We tried the Chocolate Block at kiosk 9. It was solid, but we weren't wowed. But this is a case where my warning really applies - a restrained and subtle wine isn't going to show well at the hurly burly atmosphere of the expo. I'd be very interested to know what others though of this wine, especially if you've had a chance to try it in a more relaxed setting. Luke has already mentioned that he was very impressed.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wine Expo '08 - Part I - The Show and Some Highlights

Where should I begin this post about our marathon tasting at the Wine Expo 2008? I don’t have time to comment on everything we tried at one go, so I’ll start with some thoughts about the show and a couple of the highlights.

Though I don’t have much experience with wines shows, I thought the expo itself was very well done. There occasionally a bit of a crush in getting to a particular kiosk, but even at the height of the madness there was never too much of a wait to get the sample we were looking for. The Coliseum is large enough that there was plenty of room to move around and when we had a wine we were particularly interested in, it was always possible to step back from the table and enjoy the wine in (relative) peace. And as Kelly said, speaking with some very knowledgeable agents and owners was a delight.

The only real improvement I can think of it that it would be nice to have spittoons either at the tables or, even better, distributed around the floor space. It is not possible to taste any significant number of wines without spitting, and while you could spit into the open plastic containers on each table, but there was a real risk of splashing bystanders or yourself, not to mention that looking at a bucket of spit is very unappealing. (Trafton Agencies had spittoons at their kiosk, but they were the only ones.) Kelly and I carried our own Nalgene containers for spitting - better than nothing, but a bit awkward.

Well, there is one other possible improvement. A few times I was almost knocked over by the scent of perfume, making it impossible to taste the wine. Presumably the people wearing perfume or cologne were more interested in a fun evening out than appreciating wine - there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but even a light perfume can spoil the experience for others who are there for the wine. I’m not sure if there’s anything the organizers can do - perhaps a polite “no perfume” request at ticket purchase website?

I hope that doesn’t sound too negative - these were minor complaints. The show was well organized and a great place to meet and talk wine.

Now on to the wines themselves. While this was a great chance to taste many wines, it was sometimes hard to focus and we were suffering from severe palate fatigue by the end (well, actually by about a quarter of the way through), so what follows are not notes, but impressions, to be taken with a very large grain of salt. For the most part we avoided buying wines at the show, but instead made notes of wines to re-try later in a more leisurely setting.

My overall impression is that the wines at the show lean heavily toward a soft and approachable style, even in the higher price range. It’s the modern taste, I suppose – and I can’t pretend I don’t share that taste. While I’m a fan of the structured styles of Madiran and some of the Italian reds, I’m still struggling with Chianti and even Bordeaux. And more reserved and elegant wines are unlikely to show well at an event like this, between the crush of people, palate fatigue and competition of blowsier wines. Nonetheless, I hope this trend doesn’t mean that the likes of the Bocca di Lupo and the Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes are going to disappear from the shelves of ANBL.

To begin we went straight to the Pio Cesare table and sampled the ‘05 Fides. It is undoubtedly as good as the ‘03 and is great value even at $48. (While the '05 is the current vintage, I saw some bottles of the '03 on the shelves at the show. These are drinking beautifully right now.) We also had a great chat with Augusto Boffa (now if I could just remember what he said about the drinking window for the Ornato...) We also spole with Cinzia Travaglini who was signing bottles of her Gattinara. We didn't try the wine, as we've had it before and loved it, but I did buy a signed bottle.

One of the highlights of the evening for me were the four Pouilly-Fuissé wines (white burgundy / chardonnay grape) from Château Fuissé. Delicious enough that we bought a couple of bottles at around $50 each. Wine Spectator rated these at about 88 points - if these really are only 88 points for a Pouilly-Fuissé, 90+ is going to knock my socks off. As Kelly said when I told her the rating, “I dunno dude.”

Another big winner at a much lower price point were the wines of the Cave de Ribeauville, particularly the Prestige series ($19-$24). All were slightly sweet with balanced with good acidity and excellent fruit. We tried four different varietal Gewurztraminers at about the $24 mark, and the Ribeauville was our favourite. The Andante at $19 is a blend of Muscat and Gewurz - the nose leaps out with grapiness of Muscat with the lychee of Gewurz. Delicious and fun. And their varietal Pinot Gris might make me a convert to that grape. Usually I find Pinot Gris / Grigio to be crisp and clean but uninteresting - something to drink by the glass from a restaurant list if you want to play it safe. But the Ribeauville Pinot Gris had real character and interest. Kelly made me buy a couple of bottles. Their Grand Cru Gewurz was excellent, but every wine in the Prestige series was outstanding value.

And speaking of Gewurz, we had a quick taste of the Aresti Reserve Late Harvest Gewurz in the same price range ($11.50 / 375 ml) and it stood up extremely well. We didn’t spend as much time with it as we did the Ribeauville, but we’re keen to give this another try soon.

That's enough for now - I'll post more thoughts on the show over the next week or so. Kelly pointed out that we seemed to have gotten more out of the whites, perhaps because palate fatigue set in more quickly with the reds making it more difficult to appreciate the subtleties.

Those are my first impressions. What are yours? Please comment - there were far too many wines at the show to have tried them all, and I'm sure we must have missed a number of winners.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wine Expo '08

The old thread on Wine Expo was for people to say what they thought would be worth trying. I'm starting a new thread here for everyone share their impressions after the fact. Here are Kelly's initial impressions:

We went to the Expo yesterday. No doubt Norman will blog about it when he gets a chance, but he's out building mtb trail now. My bottom line is that it's well worth the trip. There are all kinds of really excellent wines to taste, and some extremely knowledgeable and passionate people keen to help you understand them. And of course there's great stuff to be had at the on-site store. I saw all kinds of people buying carts full of their favourites, and quite a number of wines were out of stock by 4 pm Friday.

I didn't taste the Blason de Bourgongne, but of the pinots I did taste, my favourite was the Beringer Napa - a Californian. It's a "big" pinot. I think you'll like the St Hallet Faith, which is definitely a "big red."

It's my impression that at the Expo there were a lot of wines I'd call "old world wines for the new world palate." They're "big" rather than delicate, but with typically old world flavours. I think there's a lot to like about that style.

Speaking of passionate and interesting wine makers, we made the T&T: photo and article.

If you follow this blog, you know that we are basically obsessed with the wines of Pio Cesare.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Donnafugata Tancredi 2004

The Tancredi is made in Sicily, primarily from the Sicilian Nero d'Avola grape (70%) blended with Cabernet Sauvignon (30%). I love the style, tannic but with great mouthfeel and excellent balance. I'm beginning to think of it as a "southern" style - it reminds me of a Madiran, or the Tormaresa wines, particularly the Masseria Maime.

Here's Kelly note: "Lush nose of mostly blackberry and cedar; same on palate, plus tar and puckeringly firm tannins throughout. Long. I'd rate it higher if it were more complex, and/or also if it had a bit more follow through on the palate. As it is, it's largely tannins on the palate."

Same for me. While I love the style and I really enjoyed the wine there wasn't enough complexity to get it into the 90s.

Everything above this point is from the first night we tried this wine. I'm now having a glass after it's had a couple of days in the half bottle, and I must say that it has done very well. That's a bonus in itself - if you're like us and you don't finish the bottle on the first night, a wine that holds up well in the fridge is worth more than one that doesn't. The tannins have softened a bit and I think this has allowed more of the flavours on the palate to show through. I think this clearly deserves a 90 now.

Price: $38.29
Value: 3.5/5
Score: 90
Alcohol: 14%
Region: Sicily, Contessa Entellina
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 8000852000151

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Top 10 Whites

Since I've recently had a couple of whites that I really enjoyed - as much as a red at a comparable price - I think it's time to start a list of Top 10 whites. It's still pretty short though.

1. Tormaresca Pietra Bianca 2006 $29
2. Tunella Campo Marzio 2004 $35

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

La Tunella Campo Marzio 2004

At last! A white I can get really enthusiastic about! The Colli Orientali del Friuli is, according to the World Atlas of Wine, is one of the two "most revered DOCs for white wine" in all of Italy. It is made from two indigenous Italian grapes (or autochthonous grapes, as the Italians seem to like to say), Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano) and Ribolla Gialla.

It's not a fruit driven wine. The nose has minerals, petrol and a touch of something herbal. The palate is medium bodied and almost musky, with more deep notes than you would often get in a white - a manly white, says Kelly. Lovely mouthfeel - fresh and viscous at the same time. Excellent finish with something spicy that kicks in just when you think it's all over. A white for red drinkers, says Kelly.

Serve reasonably warm - this was much better after it had warmed up than it was straight out of the fridge. WineSpectator gave this 90. Speaking of which, while I liked the Pietra Bianca, I like this even more - my scores can't be compared directly with Iron Chef's.

Price: $34.48
Value: 4/5
Score: 91
Alcohol: 13.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 8030050000233

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tormaresca Pietra Bianca 2006

I'm going to start with a review from Iron Chef, since I didn't drink any "bloggable" wines this weekend. I had my eye on this wine and almost bought a bottle last week, but I bought the Tunella Campo Marzio instead - see Wednesday's post. (PS Chef Do I have the year right?)

Here is Iron Chef's review:

"A wine made of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Fiano in southern Italy, Puglia. I think this blog has tried all the Tormaresca line from Antinori now at ANBL. This is a rich wine with tons of creamy malolactic fermentation and well integrated oak. The nose is fun with peaches and zesty citrus aromas and lots of buttery vanilla. The palate is very expressive and textured- notes of oak, butterscotch ice cream, dried apricots and smoke. I could see this wine breaking the "Red Meat with Red wine" rule because of its strong favours and texture. An absolute stunner of a wine. WoW. WS gave it 87 points btw.

One drawback was that the cork was very wet, seepage around the foil might affect this wine.

Value: 4/5- although I hate spending that much on a white. It was worth it.
Score: 93"

Price: $28.99
Score: 93
Value: 4/5
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 8026530000077

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pelee Island Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2006

Ted brought this wine over and I tasted it blind (a rarity for me). I wasn't a fan. The balance was poor - sweet and soft. It had a very distinct candied flavour that I dislike - it's common in wines at this price range, but a significant negative nonetheless. Some candied wines have enough fruit or brightness to partially compensate - but not this one. Kelly liked it better than I did - she detected strawberries on the nose.

Price: $17.99
Score: 83(N) - 86(T) - 88(K)
Value: 2/5(N) - 4/5(K)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 777081720942

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chateau de Brondeau Bordeaux 2005

Thanks to Chris for recommending a reasonably priced Bordeaux that I actually liked. It has beautiful balance and an excellent mouthfeel, with a mineral structure and tannins that are just right - firm but fine. The nose is subdued and the palate is similarly reserved, though with a hint of chocolate on the finish. Perhaps it will improve, but for now I'll give it 88.

Wine Spectator gave it 86, while Parker apparently (I don't subscribe) gave it 88-90. The Brondeau is 70% Merlot, 20 % Cab Franc and 10% Cab Sauvignon.

Price: $28.29
Score: 88(N) - 90(K)
Value: 3/5(N) - 4/5(K)
Alcohol: 13%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 3448820700101

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wines to Try

This is a list of wines that someone has suggested are worth a try. I'm not saying they actually are worth trying - but they might be. And trying new wines is half the fun. If you decide to experiment with any of these, let us know what you thought - anything from a single word, to a brief review. And more suggestions are always welcome (doesn't anyone drink Australian anymore?)

Mezzomondo Salento Negroamaro $9
Trapiche Pinot Noir $9.99
Canaletto Primitivo di Puglia $11.49
Palo Alto Reserva Red $13.49
Trapiche Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon $14.99
Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2004 $31
Donnafugata Tancredi $38
Clos de l'Oratoire Chateauneuf du Pape $45

d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab $20
Merryvale Carneros Reserve $36.99
Merryvale Hyde Valley $48.99
Pio Cesare Piodilei $45.99
Pierre Andre Ladoix 1er Cru $44.28

Atalon Napa Valley Merlot 2002

Here's a review from Luke that I've cut from the Make a Suggestion thread:

"I've been reading some old reviews while sipping on the 2002 Atalon Merlot (liquidation price $31.99) The initial nose was a bit dank - like wet socks, but it opened up beautifully after fifteen or twenty minutes.

LOTS of red fruit, some anise and spice on the nose. Soft tannins, good finish. I won't hesitate to pick up another bottle. (around 100 bottles left in the province - might not be around for long)"

Stephen Tanzer gave this an 88. I don't drink a lot of US wine as I tend to find it overpriced, but it sound like this one is a good buy from the Liquidation table.

Price: $31.99
Value: 4/5
Score: 89
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 784794001602

Monday, October 27, 2008

Aresti Reserve Pinot Noir 2006

Here's a review from Chris Macdonald, ANBL's "wine guy" that was originally posted in the "Make a Suggestion" thread. It got some good comments and Kelly and I finally tried the wine ourselves last night.

I would say that it doesn't have the classic Pinot character in they way that the Cono Sur Pinot does - but as Chris says, we all have our own idea of how Pinot should taste - and in any event, the bottom line is that this is outstanding value. We'd probably score even higher than Chris did - more like 89. And it is undoubtedly a 5/5 for value. Extremely impressive at this price.

Here's Chris's review:

"The Pinot Noir Reserva is a new offering from Aresti. I have tried the Aresti wine portfolio from top to bottom a few times and have found that overall, Aresti offers good value a >$15 (with exceptions) but struggles at the premium end.

With the Pinot Noir Reserva 2006, Aresti breaks through from reliable to very very good. This wine is made in California style. As I nosed it, I was reminded of some pricy California pinot. I found the aroma slightly more impressive than the taste...at first. It really opened up to deliver the goods. Generous (but pleasant) oak gave way to a solid core of red fruit that was enhanced by a soft but appreciable acidity and enough tannins(soft) to raise this wine above the ordinary.

Pinot Noir is a touchy subject for a lot of wine drinkers. We seem to have our own idea of how PN should taste. Not to mention PN's supposed quality link with "terroir". Please try this wine with an open palate and let me know what you think."

I've just tried this wine again (11 Nov '08) and I found the harsh finish mentioned by Tancred to be quite pronounced. I'm a bit less enthusiastic than I was the first time, so I'm revising my score.

Price: $13.79
Value: 5/5 (Chris) - 4/5(N)
Score: 87 (Chris) - 84(N)
Alcohol: 14%
Region D.O Curico Chile
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 677855001218

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Top 10 Reds Under $20

Everyone wants a good wine at a good price, so a "Top 10 under $20" list seems like a good idea. But I can't put up my own list - there are just too many wines in that price range for Kelly and me to try. So this has to be a group effort. I will put wines on this list if I've tried it and liked it myself, or someone else has tried it and enough comments have agreed that it is worth putting on the list. For example, Iron Chef liked the Castillo de Molina Pinot, but I won't put it on the list until I get a few more comments giving it the thumbs up. If you have a wine that you think might belong on this list, leave a post on the Make a Suggestion thread. (Or if you're feeling ambitious, write a brief review and e-mail it to me and I will start a new post to get more feedback.)

Here's the list so far, in no particular order:

1. Cono Sur Pinot Noir. This is a no brainer for the list. Great Pinot character at this price is unbeatable.

2. Norton Barbera. This was one of the first wines I blogged about and I think I undersold it. Clean pure flavours in a medium bodied wine. Not a lot left.

3. Bon Cap Ruins Pinotage. Different and well done.

4. Montes Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a close call for making the list (check the review), but I'd like to put a cab on the list. I'd be interested in more feedback.

That's it so far. But don't forget to check Recommended under $20 for other wines that had a good review, but not enough feedback to get on this list. And see Wines to Try if you're feeling a bit more experimental.

Tormaresca Masseria Maime 2004

This wine is made from 100% Negroamaro, a relatively obscure grape grown almost only in Puglia. The name is usually said to mean "black bitter" though some say is means "black black" with the "amaro" deriving from Greek "mavro." One way or the other, it certainly is dark, dark, dark. But despite the name, not bitter at all. Oz Clarke says the grape is "sturdy in structure and can be both slightly farmyardy in flavour and have a distinctly medicinal edge." The Oxford Companion describes "chunk[y] tannins."

Well, I didn't get any of that. No farmyard at all, and just a hint of menthol. The tannins are not chunky at all. On the contrary, they are very refined - the wine seems almost soft at first but fine tannins linger on the finish. Really beautiful mouthfeel. Some dark fruit, but the flavours tend more towards leather and chocolate. It reminds me of a softer version of the Bocca di Lupo, which isn't too surprising - the grape is different, but the producer and vineyard are the same. If it has any negatives, it is that it is a bit short. But there is so much else going on that who can complain?

Price: $34.48
Value: 4/5
Score: 91(N) - 90(K)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 8026530000152

Saturday, October 25, 2008

JeanJean Ormarine Carte Noire Picpoul de Pinet 2007

There are a lot of names on this wine. JeanJean is the producer, Ormarine is the brand (originally an independent producer, before the two merges), Carte Noire is the name of the wine and Picpoul de Pinet is the name of the AOC, which is is a subregion of the Languedoc regional appellation. It is made entirely from the Picpoul (a.k.a. Picquepoul) white grape.

After all that build-up, there's not a lot to say. It had a nice citrus note on the nose, but other than that it was a dry, crisp, light but undistinguished white.

Price: $14.49
Value: 3/5
Score: 83
Alcohol: 14.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 3186127736156

Friday, October 24, 2008

The wines of Pio Cesare in Moncton

Chris MacDonald has provided this information about an upcoming Pio Cesare wine event. The wine list is fantastic. I haven't tried the Piodelei, but the Fides is one of my favourite wines, and the 2001 Ornato is the best wine I've ever had. The vintages aren't specified, but the Barolo Classic, the Ornato and the Il Bricco have all scored consistently in the 94-96 from Wine Spectator in recent years.

Here are the details, as provided by Chris:

The wines of Pio Cesare presented by Augusto Boffa
Moncton, Maverick Restaurant, November 6th, 2008

First Course
Lobster and fennel Aranchini Balls

Pio Cesare Piodilei Chardonnay

Second Course
Carpacio of beef with grilled Radichio, fresh Arugula, Sicillian olives and Balsamic and Fig Gastrique

Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba Classic
Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba Fides

Main Course
Braised Lamb Shanks with red wine demi served with autumn vegetable au gratin and butter poached Carrots

Pio Cesare Barbarbaresco Il Bricco
Pio Cesare Barolo Classic
Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato


White Chocolate Risotto with Strawberry Compote

Pio Cesare Barolo – 2001

For tickets, please contact Mavericks restaurant in Moncton 506-855-3346, only 24 seats available. Cost $80 including HST and Service

d'Arenberg d'Arry's Original 2005

After Ted's recent d'Arenberg post, I decided it was time to try d'Arry's Original, which is a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Shiraz. I thought the Original was solid, but nothing special. The fruit is very bright without being candied and the same flavours follow through on the palate. It is a very soft wine - too soft for my taste.

Perhaps this wine will improve with age. Wine Spectator says to drink now through 2010, but the d'Arenberg website says this wine will cellar "for a considerable time." I'm not sure how long that is, but it sound like they mean longer than 2010. I wouldn't have thought it was a wine to cellar, as the tannins are not noticeable (to me), but d'Arenberg should know better than I do. Certainly there is enough fruit that it could fade quite a bit without doing much harm and if age added some complexity that would help.

For now, Kelly and I agreed that the Original deserves an 87. Wine Spectator gave it an 88.

Price: $24.48
Value: 3/5
Score: 87
Alcohol: 14.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 9311832337006

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico 2005

On first pour this had a very appealing floral nose but was a bit acidic on the palate. (The latter is something I associate with Sangiovese - and the association is not entirely positive.) With air the nose faded (bad) but the balance improved (good). In fact, the balance was excellent with some good dark (chocolate?) notes on the medium length finish. Fine tannins.

Kelly liked it a bit better than I did. Here's her note: "Very nicely balanced - reserved but flavourful - nose of smoky plum, cloves, earth, minerals, violets follows through on palate. Long Clean and nicely structured, with firm tannins. Not quite as full and complex on the palate as on the nose. Slight bitter edge on end of palate initially, seemed to dissipate after an hour or so."

I wonder if it might be too young, but Wine Spectator said "Drink now" when they reviewed it a year ago. WS gave it an 88, while Stephen Tanzer gave it 87.

Price: $28.99
Score: 88(N) - 91(K)
Value: 3/5(N) - 4/5(K)
Alcohol: 13%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 8001935001362

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bon Cap Ruins Pinotage 2006

Here's another Liquidation table review from Iron Chef:

"We had the 2006 The Ruins Pinotage, 14%. The nose was plummy and fleshy with aromas of spicy wood vanillas. The palate is spicy with woody acidity. Dried herbs and a short finish. But not a lot else. It was just very one dimensional. I heard such good things that maybe I was expecting more. Don't get me wrong, for under $15 this is a solid effort but...it lacks a depth of character that I have had with other Pinotages - the tarry earthy notes that made the Cathedral Cellers such a nice wine."

Price: $14.99 (Liquidation)
Value: 3.8/5
Score: 82
Alcohol: 14%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: #6009677370052

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Aresti Reserve Chardonnay

Here's a review from Iron Chef:

"Speaking of whites, my wife had her book club over last evening and I opened an Aresti Reserve Chardonnay from the Liquidation table at ANBL for $9.49. I was really in the mood for a crisp oaky and zesty Chardonnay and this hit the mark. The finish was creamy- almost too malo-lactic- but held it all together. Very nice wine for the price all things considered- reminded me of the Marques Casa Concha Chard that ANBL had this summer for a very short engagement that was $23."

(Score and value ratings are Iron Chef's)
Price: $9.49
Value: 7/5
Score: 84.9
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 677855000044

Monday, October 20, 2008


While I want to keep individual wine reviews at the centre of this blog, it might be interesting to occasionally get a thread going on more general NB wine related topics. If anyone wants to write a comment on a general topic, please send it to me at "NBwines /at/ gmail /dot/ com." (I'm told I should spell out my e-mail address to avoid robots etc.)

To start with, here's a comment from Ted on the d'Arenberg winery. Ted lived in Australia for a few years and is a dedicated fan of Aussie Shiraz and Aussie wine generally.

"I've had a decade of experience with d’Arenberg reds across the spectrum from their entry level wines like d'Arry's Original and the Stump Jump to their flagship, the Dead Arm Shiraz. Up until the last few years d’Arenberg made universally dependable, often exciting and sometimes superb wines. Classically Australian fruit forward but very well structured and balanced, and with layers of flavours on the nose and palate. And the d’Arenberg entry level wines (priced at the $10-$15 range in Australia) were far better value for money than similarly priced wines from the big winemakers like Lindemans, Penfolds, Rosemount and Wolf Blass. Over the last few years I think the value end of the spectrum for Australian wines has become more of a crapshoot – including d’Arenberg. That was due in large part to an expansion of new plantings on more marginal land that was in response to the boom in Australian wine exports. But I think this was even more of a problem for the other, larger, Australian winemakers through the mid 2000s – the curious mid- 80s scores for Little Penguin and Yellow Tail from WS notwithstanding. (The resulting Australian wine glut saw cleanskins from top wineries going for $3-4 a bottle. This, combined with stiffening competition from South Africa, Chile and Argentina in export markets, has hopefully brought about a market correction.) The bottom line is that given the Australian selection we have here in NB, d’Arenberg is as close to a sure thing as there is among Australian winemakers. There may well be better value from other new world wines on the shelves, and there may be occasional missteps (such as the 2003 High Trellis), but d’Arenberg remains for me a winemaker that I can count on."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tormaresca Torcicoda 2004

This wine is 100% Primitivo (not Aglianico, as the ANBL website says), from the Salento IGT (the heel of the Italian boot). It has delightfully aromatic nose of caramel and toasted marshmallows. Unfortunatelythe palate doesn't follow through on what was promised by the nose; it is clean but short, without a lot of interest.

Price: $26.79
Value: 3/5
Score: 87
Alcohol: 14%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 8026530000176

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pio Cesare Fides Barbera d'Alba 2003

This is going to be a short review because I last had this wine last winter and I didn't make detailed notes. The 2003 is no longer available, but I want to post a review because a new vintage is going to be available at the Wine Expo (likely the '05), and it is a wine worth looking for. The '03 Fides had beautiful balance and mouthfeel and the flavours are clean Barbera mid-notes in terms of fruit, but with great complexity in the chocolate / violets range. I served it blind to a few people along side the Glaetzer Amon-Ra Shiraz (which got 98 from RP) and there was complete agreement that the Fides was much better, primarily because of its complexity. Wine Spectator gave the '03 an 89, but it clearly deserves much more than that. They tasted it in 2006 and noted that it was 'still tight' so it has evidently improved in the bottle. In any event, the '03 was a great wine and a great value. And by all accounts the Piedmont vintages from 2004 -07 were even better than '03. So no matter what vintage we see at Wine Expo, this will be a wine to try.

Price: Approx $39
Value: 5/5
Score: 93
Tasted: March 2008
ANBL UPC: No longer listed / Available at WineExpo '08

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cellier de Marrenon Grand Marrenon 2006

The Cotes du Luberon appellation is in the southern Rhone, not too far from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The Grand Marrenon is made from a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Marsanne and Roussane.

I've only started drinking white wine the past couple of years, and even then mostly in the summer with seafood. I'm most familiar with Riesling, Gewurz and Sauvignon Blanc.

Maybe that's why I have a hard time knowing what to make of this wine. When first poured this wine had a very off-putting nose. That dissipated after a few minutes and was replaced by a distinct plasticine smell that reminded me of the Puligny-Montrachet Le Trezin. The plasticine followed through on the palate, which was otherwise a bit flabby. After I got used to the taste I found it interesting, but I can't say that I actually liked it. I had this wine with Ted, Kathy and Kelly; they liked even less than I did.

I'm not sure how to score this. I expect that the taste is a matter of style which some people enjoy, even though I'm not one of them. I'll give it an 85, but the truth is I don't know what to make of this wine. I'd be very interested in comments. Help!

Price: $17.29
Value: 3/5
Score: 85
Alcohol: 13.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 3256811113645

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Iron Chef's Top 10 To Try

Here's Iron Chef's "Top 10 wines in ANBL that I have been Dying to Try"

Montes Purple Angel
Feudi San Gregorio Rubrato
Feudi San Gregorio Falanghina
Pio Cesare Piodilei Chardonnay
Pio Cesare Ornato Barolo 2003
Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2004
Torres Mas La Plana
Arrowood Syrah
Chateau Beau Soleil

If anyone tries any of these, please let us know and I'll start a separate thread on it.

Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Chardonnay 2006 Revisited

After my initial unfavourable review of the Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Chardonnay, they were kind enough to send me a bottle each of the '06 and the '07. I had wanted to hold off re-tasting it until I could serve it blind to some friends, but I've realized that day may not come until next summer, which is longer than I want to wait. So Kelly and I had a glass of the '06 tonight with dinner.

This bottle seemed better than the first bottle we tried. The unpleasant medicinal note in the first bottle came across as a herbal / juniper note this time, and was combined with a touch of citrus. I can't say I much liked it, but it wasn't as unpleasant as the first time around. We both identified the same sour finish (without having checked our original notes).

While this bottle seemed better than the first, I'm not sure it actually was. The main characteristics were recognizably the same, and it may be that the first bottle had suffered in comparison with the other wines we tasted it with. On the whole, as Kelly said, "The best we can do for this wine is to take if off the 'Blech!'" list. Perhaps the '07 will do better.

Revised score: 80

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2007

I haven't had a white wine in a few weeks now - not since the last of the hot weather - so it's about time for another. I enjoyed New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc all summer so I thought I'd try a new one. Whether it's the wine or the time of year is hard to say, but I didn't enjoy this Spy Valley nearly as much as the Bay of Fires Tigress that I was drinking for most of the summer. The Spy Valley is unmistakeably a NZ Sauv. Blanc, with a striking nose of citrus and melon (maybe I should add "gooseberries" since that's what everyone says about NZ Sauv. Blanc - but that's not what I taste). But there wasn't a lot of follow through on the palate and the crispness of the style veered over into tartness, giving it a bit of a sour finish. I suspect this wine would do very well with spicy food - Indian or Thai curry - as it has the punch to stand up to the spices and food would tame the acidity. But to my taste it's not really a wine to sip before dinner.

I'd be very interested to hear what others have to say about this wine.

Price: $21.49
Score: 86
Value: 3/5
Alcohol: 13%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 9421008350033

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

O Fournier Alfa Crux Malbec 2004

I picked this up from the liquidation table last winter. Note that the Alfa Crux Malbec I'm reviewing here is a completely different wine from the Alfa Crux blend that is currently available at ANBL - the blend is 50% Tempranillo with the rest Malbec and Merlot, while this is varietal Malbec. We tried this for the first time at a tasting with half a dozen other sale wines. This was my favourite and I ran out and got six more bottles. This is the first time I've had it since then.

It's very well balanced wine that somehow manages a lush feel and grippy tannins at the same time. Good flavours in what I think of as the "bass notes" end of the spectrum. Not a lot of complexity. Reminds me of a Madiran in structure - the Montus in particular (Iron Chef might like this one).

This is what Kelly had to say: "Red berries, herbs, leather , and new sneaker on nose follow through on palate, although palate is largely berry. Clear flavor, well balanced, ending with firm tannins. Opened up after an hour or so to be smoother, longer, and fruitier. Vesper got rotting fruit and chalk."

On the whole, this is a very solid Malbec, but after tasting it for the second time, I'm not completely sure why I ran out to buy 6 more bottles the first time I tried it. But hey, Wine Spectator gave it a 93(!) and says it will be best from 2009-15. So maybe I'll wait a few years before I try it again.

Price: Approx $30 (Liquidation price)
Value: 3/5
Score: 89
Alcohol: 14.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: No longer available

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Top 10

This is my overall top 10, based on both quality and value. If someone asked me "What do you recommend?" I'd end up suggesting one of these wines, depending on the style and price point the person was looking for. I've numbered them starting at 1, but that's just to count - the list isn't in any particular order:

1. Tormaresca Bocca di Lupo $34
2. Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes $50
3. Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato $100
4. Perrin & Fils Les Christins $25
5. Pio Cesare Fides Barbera d'Alba $47
6. Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina $27
7. Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Syrah $24
8. Tormaresca Masseria Maime $34

Top 10 Lists

I thought it might be useful to have some "Top 10" lists - lists like "Top 10 BBQ wines," 'Top 10 to bring to your boss's house," "Top 10 wines to share with a special someone," "Top 10 with spicy food," and so on - whatever people might find useful.

I'd like to make sure that the wines on the list are all currently available at ANBL (though not necessarily the same vintage). And I won't put a wine in the list unless I think it belongs, so to start with my lists won't necessarily have 10 wines in them.

If you have a suggestion for a list you'd like to see, or even your own Top 10 list, feel free to post it in a comment. (I may cut and paste it out of the comment into it's own post to make is searchable - I haven't entirely figured out how to go about this.)

For my first list, I'll start with the basics:

My Top 10 Reds
My Top 10 Whites
Top 10 Reds under $20
Iron Chef's Top 10 To Try

Chateau Reynella Shiraz 2001

In order to keep the posts going on Monday and Tuesday without too much liver damage, I think I'll try to use these two days for wines that were bought at ANBL but are no longer available (but who knows, we may see them again).

Here's a review from Iron Chef that I listed from the "Make a Recommendation" thread.

"And finally for desert- Chateau Reynella 2001 Shiraz 15.5% to pair with a flourless chocolate cake with blackberries on top. This Australian wine was huge. I mean BIG- nose of hot chocolate, Mocha coffee with cassis and warm oak. Reminiscent of a high-end Zinfandel except with more cassis and 'Fine wine' aromas. The tannins were still chewy. Overall very Port-like in nature and heavily extracted. But it was almost too dense a wine even for desert. Unfortunately it is no longer available in NB, I miss it. It was about $45, I think.

Price: approx. $45
Score: 92
Value: 5/5
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: No longer available."

Note this is Iron Chef's score and value. I don't know if I'd give 5/5 for value for a 92 at $45. But that's a quibble - the wine sounds great. As it happens, I have a bottle of the 2000 in my cellar. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finca Flichman Dedicado 2004

The Dedicado, the flagship wine from Finca Flichman, is 60% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah.

Kelly and I saw eye to eye on this wine. It has excellent balance and structure with smooth ripe tannins. Some floral notes, with dark fruit, though it's not fruit driven - more of an old world style. The flavours on the palate are distinct and clean, and a clear chocolate note is dominant. Despite the Cab content, it has none of the harshness that I often associate with Cab.

The only negative about the wine is that there isn't a lot of complexity, which is why we didn't score it higher. But I have to say, every time I drank a mouthful, I gave a little "hmmm" of pleasure. No one can resist chocolate. Yummy.

Julia Harding (with Jancis Robinson) gives it a 16.5/20

Price: $38.29
Value: 3/5
Score: 88
Alcohol: 14.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 7790470080574

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Castillo de Molina Pinot Noir 2005

Here are a couple of reviews from Iron Chef that I've cut out of the "Make a suggestion" thread. Note that the scores and value ratings are Iron Chef's, not mine.

"What we had on Saturday Night:
We started with the Castillo de Molina 2005 Pinot Noir 14%- Very aromatic- Strawberry Rhubarb Pie notes. Very creamy on the palate accented by vanilla bean and crème brulee. Great Acidity for food. Very good value for a Pinot.
Price: $18.79
Value: 5/5
Score: 89
Alcohol: 14%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 7804300121693 "

Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Iron Chef's review:

"Next we had a Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Wonderful floral and citrus bouquet- filled in with grassy aromas. The acidity was a great pairing with the Panko Coconut Scallops in cilantro chutney. Very nice seafood wine.

Price: $16.29
Value: 5/5
Score: 90
Alcohol: 13.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 089419007138 "

Friday, October 10, 2008

Banfi Centine 2005

The Centine is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. The blend works beautifully. There is nothing of the leanness and acidity that is often associated with Sangiovese in this price range. On the contrary it has a soft lush quality that must come from the Merlot. In fact, it's maybe a bit too soft for my taste, though not by much. It has bright clean but slightly candied fruit in the mid-range - cherries, I suppose (though I have a wine blog, I'm not great at putting names to flavours. I leave that to Kelly.) Not a great deal of complexity, but you wouldn't really expect it at the price.

This is what Kelly says: "Stewed dark fruit, cloves, and cedar on nose, then smooth and slightly sweet on palate, progressing to firm tannins. Longish, balanced."

Price: $21.99
Score: 86(N) - 88(K)
Value: 3/5(N) - 4/5(K)
Alcohol: 12.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 8015674830862

Thursday, October 9, 2008

d'Arenberg The Stump Jump Red 2006

This is a guest post on the d'Arenberg Stump Jump Red, which is a GSM blend of 48% Grenache, 28% Shiraz and 24% Mourvedre (24%). Kathy, Ted and Dean shared it (non-blind) over dinner.

Dean: "Moss and wet earth, red berry and cloves on the nose. smooth mouthfeel with licorice and berry notes, and firm tannins. Well structured and nicely balanced. Fruit forward now but could develop nicely after 3-4 years in the cellar."

Kathy: "Way too fruity, too sweet, almost candied. Not a fan, couldn't finish the glass."

Ted: "Balanced, with firm but not overbearing tannins. fruit forward, with some spice from the shiraz that compensates for the somewhat candied characteristics, presumably from the grenache. Overall, an interesting wine that is drinking well now and at under $20, very good value for money. Much much better than the entry level Australians from Lindemans, Penfolds or Rosemount. Score: 86 value for money: 4/5"

Note that both Kathy and Ted remarked on the candied characteristics. That's something I have come to recognize in lower price Grenache (in the same way that lower priced Merlot reminds me of Bazooka Joe bubble gum - which I hate). Some people don't mind that characteristic in a wine, while others - like Kathy - hate it. Best to know where you stand when you think about picking up this wine. And if you don't know where you stand on the candy issue, try this wine and find out.

The score and value are Ted's. Wine Spectator also gave this an 86.

Price: $16.79
Value: 4/5
Score: 86
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 9311832314007

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Gallo Frei Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

This is another one from the liquidation table. I don't tend to drink a lot of cab. (I think that might be because a lot of good cab comes from California and I tend to find US wine overpriced - but that's for another post.) In any event, I'm always on the lookout for good value cab and since the Stefani worked out pretty well, I thought I'd go back for the Frei Ranch.

To begin I should point out that Wine Spectator totally trashed this vintage of the Frei Ranch. It gave a score of 79, citing "wet cement" on the finish. No doubt that's why so much is still available on liquidation. Maybe there is bottle variation, but there is no way the bottle we had warrants a 79 - no wet cement at all.

Another point is that right now this wine needs to breathe for an hour so. It was quite harsh out of the bottle, but smoothed out considerably with some air.

With all that said, I thought this wine was pretty good, but for me it didn't have great balance or mouthfeel. There was some reasonable fruit in the middle but nothing outstanding. I'll give it an 86.

Kelly liked it quite a lot better. There's a pattern developing here - we generally agree quite closely on our scores, except about cab. So if you like cab, her scores might mean more to you than mine. Here's her note:

"Mostly stewed dark fruit on nose - cherries, plums, raisins - and also cedar and menthol; same flavours are soft on palate, with slightly sweet edge, followed by cedar and firm tannins. Long. I guessed this wine was Italian, and definitely wouldn't have thought it was a cab. I'd be interested to know what someone who likes French wines would say about this. The stewed fruit reminds me a bit of the Coudoulet de Beaucastel."

Kelly gave it an 88.5 - she didn't want to give it an 89 because she definitely likes the Stefani better, but she thought it's better than an 88 - this is our score compression problem again.

How will it develop? We had the '96 Frei Ranch cab a couple of years ago when it was about 9-10 years old and we loved it - much better than the 87 that WS gave to it. Will this one improve as well? Your guess is as good as mine - if it does, it will be a real bargain at $22.

Day 2 update: We had this wine again last night (Sat) after it spent a few days in the half bottle. Kelly thought it had suffered a bit, but I liked it much better this time - a solid 89. I'm not sure what's going on, but at the price I'll pick up a couple more.

Price: $22.29
Value: 3/5
Score: 86/89(N) - 88.5(K)
Alcohol: 14.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 085000223055

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Montes Cab Revisited

Since writing the original post Kelly and I have had a second chance to try the Montes Cab. It was much better the second time around, and I've revised the original post accordingly.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wine Expo 2008

The annual Wine Expo is a great chance to try new wines, but there are way too many to try them all. So what's caught your eye on the Wine Expo list?

I've tried a few previous vintages of some of the wines listed. The 2003 Pio Cesare Fides was a great wine (and great value) and I'll write up a post on it soon. I'll be very curious to try their Moscato d'Asti, which can be a wonderful light slightly sparkling wine. Too bad they're not going to let us try the Ornato or the Il Bricco. I've also recently had the Travaglini Gattinara - it's an excellent and different style of Nebbiolo. I've already blogged about the Farnese Edizione Cinque Autoctoni 2004 - I expect it will be the '06 at the Wine Expo.

But for now I want to open this thread to by asking if anyone else has noticed any wines that are particularly worth trying? Here's the list.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

d'Arenberg The Coppermine Road 2005

I was away for a few days, so I have to do this review by proxy; Kelly had this with Kathy and Ted. Maybe that's just as well, as I'm beginning to think that I'm not really a cab person. I'm also bending the blog rule about discussing only wines bought through ANBL. While the 2005 Coopermine Road isn't available here, the 2004 is. As both rated the same from Wine Spectator I thought a review of the '05 might be helpful.

That gets us to the Wine Spectator rating - 83 for both the '04 and '05. All three of the tasters agreed that "there's no way in the world that this is an 83."

All agreed that it had good cab character and a very good mouthfeel, but perhaps a bit of a harsh finish. Here's Kelly's note (blind tasted and scored as usual for her): "Blackberries, cedar, raspberries, leather, pepper, green olives on the nose follow through on palate. Firm tannins, longish. Not a fruit-driven wine, although there are some nice fruit flavours here. This is a nicely structured wine and the best cab I've had in some time."

It's almost certainly too young; time should smooth out the tannins and give it more complexity. But for now the score is a 90. (Note that Kelly liked this quiet a bit better than the Stefani even though she only scored them 1 point different - we're running into the problem of score compression in this area of the scale.) Right now it's not a great value, but it will be good value if it develops as anticipated.

Price: $52.29
Value: 3/5
Score: 90
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 9311832317008

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ch. Montus Madiran 2002

Madiran is a dark masculine wine from the south of France. I'm a big fan of this style and the Montus is from Alain Brumont, by far the best known producer in the region. A lot of it is the mouthfeel. The tannins are big but not harsh and the wine coats your mouth with smooth persistence. But with all that said, I didn't like this as much as I expected. The nose is great. Restrained but with a distinct menthol note as well as some earthier notes I can't put my finger on (Kelly is the one with all the wine words) . But the palate is a bit disappointing in comparison. Great mouthfeel but not a whole lot else going on.

Kelly felt generally the same, but liked it better: here's her note: "Dark, luscious nose of stewed plum, cedar, violets, anise, campfire. Mostly fruit, licorice, and lots of tar on the palate. Long, with grippy tannins. The nose promises a bit more than the palate delivers, but on the whole this is a nicely structured wine with lots of interest."

Day 2 update: I like this quite a lot more on the second time around, even though Kelly says it may have faded in the half bottle. Maybe I'm just paying more attention today. There's lots going on, but mostly in the low notes, so you have to kind of pay attention. But it pays off if you do. I'm going to raise my original score from 88 to 91. (I should have known better than to disagree with Kelly.)

Price: $38.29
Value: 4/5
Score: 91
Alcohol: 14.5%
Tasted: Oct 2008
ANBL UPC: 3372220021019

Friday, October 3, 2008

Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina 2005

I don't usually drink a lot of Chianti - I've generally found it to be too sharply acidic to be enjoyable. So I was curious to try Iron Chef's suggestion . I'm glad I did. This is an elegant wine - and by that I don't mean it's tasteless. It is true that it is a bit reserved, though it opened up over a couple of hours. But I call it elegant because it has very clean fruit on an open mineral structure, with a bit of licorice(?) on the finish to add interest. Kelly got blackberries and spruce on the nose (though she's finding evergreens in everything these days) and coffee on the palate. Excellent balance - the acidity made it crisp rather than sharp. (But I can't say that I got much on the earthy / mushroom end of the spectrum.)

This is probably a wine for those who like an old world style. Note that ANBL online lists the vintage as 2003, but it's the 2005 that is currently in the stores.

Day 2 update: This wine has changed a bit in the half bottle, but I think it's gotten even better. That a bonus in itself - a wine that gives two days of pleasure is better than one that tails off on the second day. And I'm getting some really great flavours on the palate and finish. Kelly says the nose has got black cherry ice cream and is "really freaky." I'm not sure if she means freaky in a good way, but I like it. I'd originally given this a score of 89 and 4/5 for value, but on the basis of today's experience, I'm bumping it up to 91. Maybe even 92. It is awesome value at the price. I always worry about grade inflation, but I think I've got to give it a 5/5. I should say that I've had a very long day, so maybe I'm just in the right mood, but right now I'm loving this wine.

Price: $26.79
Value: 5/5
Score: 92
Alcohol: 13%
Tasted: Sept 2008
ANBL UPC: 8007425000181