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 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 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

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Montes Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Since I posted the review below, Kelly and I had a second chance to try this wine at a friend's house. The second bottle was very different and much better. It seems clear that we just got a bad bottle first time around. We can't post a new review - Kelly didn't taste it blind and more generally we weren't in 'wine review' mode. But I'll bump up the rating anyway. While Kelly didn't do a full review, she was convinced that it is much better than a typical cab at this price. (I'm still not much of a cab guy.) But beware of bottle variation.

Here is the original review:

"Here's one that Vesper recommended in the "Make a Suggestion" thread. I can't say that I was as keen on it. I thought it was a bit candied with a slightly bitter, chalky finish. With that said, it's quite reasonable value at $16 - it didn't have what Kelly calls "that nasty cheap wine taste." But a few dollars more you can do quite a bit better, for example with the Wynns Shiraz. And if you look, I think you can do better for less money."

Price: $15.99
Value: 3/5 (1st bottle); 4/5 (2nd bottle)
Score: 83 (1st bottle); 86(?) (2nd bottle)
Tasted: Sept 2008
ANBL UPC: 715126000017

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

E&J Gallo Stefani Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

What's worthwhile at the current ANBL Liquidation sale? While they don't have the 2000 rated, WineSpectator rated the Gallo Stefani Vineyards Cab consistently at about 88 from '94 through '98. At $25 even a 88 is reasonable value and occasionally (as with the Bocca di Lupa) an 88 turns out to be spectacular. So I so I thought I'd give it a try.

I thought this was a solid mature cab with soft tannins and reasonable fruit, though without a lot of complexity or striking character. WineSpectator gave other vintages about a 10 year drinking window, but I don't think I'd hold on to this much longer; it's definitely not over the hill yet, but the fruit is muted and it hasn't picked up a lot of complexity.

Kelly liked this quite a lot better than I did: "Cedar, raspberries, cherries, leather, tar, roses, and veggie lasagna follow through on palate, with addition of licorice. Lots up front on palate, and long. Very firm tannins throughout." (Veggie lasagna is her giveaway for cab). We tasted this with the Nipozzano (Friday's review) and she thought the Stefani had more complexity, while I felt the other way.

Bottom line, if you like cab, this is a wine worth picking up from the liquidation table.

Price: $24.99
Value: 3/5(N) - 4/5(K)
Score: 88 (N) - 89 (K)
Alcohol: 14.5%
Tasted: Sept 2008
ANBL UPC: 085000208076