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