Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2008 Orin Swift Zinfandel, "Saldo"

Orin Swift is more well-known for his "The Prisoner" zinfandel, but this wine managed to rate #69 (scored 91) in the Wine Spectator "Top 100 wines of 2010." This wine is 88% zinfandel, with syrah and petite sirah in supporting roles. The grapes are reported to be sourced from Sonoma, Napa, Amador, Mendocino and Contra Costa counties.

This is a muscular and intriguing wine but to me it is most interesting as a complex, peppery "mystery" wine rather than a zinfandel. The wine's personality changed enormously as it warmed and aired in the glass. This is an engaging wine but don't buy it if you are expecting classic zin aromas and flavors. I bought this wine at the Total Wine store in Tucson for $25.

2007 Domaine Puig-Parahy, Cotes du Roussillon, "Georges"

OK, the devil made me do it. I just had do do one more review on an amazing wine from the 2007 vintage. This once-neglected part of southern France is now alive with dedicated vintners who are determined to get the most from vineyards containing a lot of old-vine grenache, syrah and mourvedre. And the prices for the best bottles have not gone through the roof, partly because of the global economic meltdown and partly because this area of France was once the plonk capital of Europe. It takes time to overcome a reputation like that.

This deep crimson/purple wine is all about complex fruit aromas and flavors with a touch of the underbrush that you find in wines from this region. The tannins are there but they are ripe and make only a background statement. A long finish completes the very satisfying picture. And the price blows me away - $10 at the Costco store in northern Tucson. Parker gave this wine a low-90 score. $10...amazing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2007 Mayo Family Winery Viognier

This wine is the most expressive and flavorful dry white wine I have tasted in a very long time. The back label says the wine is "explosive and exotic" and that claim is not an exaggeration. The flavors are absolutely mouth-filling and the finish goes on and on. If the wine saw any oak it certainly is not detectable. Altogether this wine is a testimonial to what viognier can be if it is grown correctly in the right terroir and handled sensitively by the winemaker.

The grapes were sourced from Saralee's Vineyard located in the Russian River Valley AVA. Mayo wines are not distributed outside of California and most of them are sold directly from the winery. The retail cost of this wine is $35 but, if you are a member of the Mayo Cellar Club, the price drops 20% to $28. This is a lot of wine for that price. Their phone number is (707)938-9401.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2006 Irony Napa Valley Zinfandel

The label on this wine claims the grapes are sourced from a family vineyard planted by the owner's grandparents in 1924. The price for this wine was so modest I did not expect it to show much in the way of varietal precision. I was way off base on that expectation; this wine was nicely focused and extracted. Its 15% alcohol was completely hidden by the fruit and structure. Lovely aromatics and a long finish complete the picture. The cost? An amazing $10 at the BevMo store in Tucson. It has been a long time since I have stumbled on a wine of this price/quality ratio. I doubt that this wine has a wide distribution,but the winery does have a website (ironywine.com)that provides distribution information.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2008 d'Arenberg "The Hermit Crab"

This white wine from McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills in Australia is a blend of 72% viognier and 28% marsanne. The intensity of the flavors and the length of the finish are what impressed me the most about this wine. I would not be surprised if it had a touch of residual sugar, but that works with this wine. It has a lush, smooth texture and it seems the perfect match with rich seafood and shellfish dishes.

I bought this wine at the Kansas City Lukas store (150 Highway and State Line Road) for $15 and I can't complain about that price. This wine should have wide distribution in this country. Parker gives it an 88.

2006 Domaine la Roquete, Chateauneuf du Pape

$20 for a Chateauneuf du Pape? When I saw this wine in the Kansas City World Market store (150 Highway and State Line Road), I bought a bottle to try with dinner, not expecting a lot in the way of quality for this price. Wrong! I went back the next day for several more bottles. The back label claims the vines are 45 years old. The wine itself is 70% grenache, 20% syrah and 10% mourvedre.

The wine is not a blockbuster CDP but neither is it lean or hollow. Soft, ripe tannins support the solid fruit which is already showing complexity. Lively and focused, it drinks very well now but could handle five or more years in your cellar. This wine appears to be another example of the world's tanked economies causing a huge wine "lake" that can only be drained by drastic reduction in prices.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2007 Martinelli Pinot Noir, Zio Tony

If I weren't careful, I would end up filling New Tastes with reviews of Martinelli's luscious pinot noirs. They are all estate bottled wines from their vineyards in Sonoma's Russian River Valley and the "true" Sonoma Coast.
This pinot says Russian River from start to finish. Seamless and precise, it is loaded with sweet, ripe cherry aromas and flavors, with touches of wet earth and soy. If higher alcohol and ripe fruit offend you, look elsewhere. This is a hedonistic wine that makes no excuses for what it is - delicious.
This is an allocated wine but it should not take you too long to get on their list. They might have some of this wine for sale at the winery (800-346-1627). The cost is $60. There are not many wines for which I will pay $60, but I have no problem doing so with Martinelli's pinots.

2007 Domaine Gauby, Cotes du Roussillon, Vieilles Vignes

OK, I promise this is my last posting on the Languedoc/Rhone Valley wines from the 2007 vintage, but this is such a superior vintage and the tanked economy makes these wines even better values.

This wine is a blend of syrah, grenache and carignan, with a bit of mourvedre thrown in. The intense fruit and spice aromas that leap from the glass tells you this is something special. Full-bodied with high extract, ripe tannins, mouth-filling flavors and a long finish, there is a lot going on here. You could drink this wine now with roasted T-Rex, but this one will definitely improve in the bottle for another five to ten years, maybe more.

I bought several bottles of this wine from the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA (1-800-76-WINEX). The price tag of $40 each may seem steep for a wine from the Roussillon appellation, but it really is a treat. Parker gave it 93-94 and I think it easily merits that.

If they are out of stock, see if they have any of the following exemplary 2007 Languedocs:
Leon Barral Faugeres; Chateau de la Negly (La Falaise) Coteaux du Languedoc; and Domaine de Fondreche (Persia) Cotes du Ventoux. They are not as knock-your-hat-in-the-creek as the Domaine Gauby, but they are about half the price.

Monday, August 30, 2010

2007 Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Cotes du Rhone

Coudoulet de Beaucastel is the second-wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer Chateau de Beaucastel. It is a blend of syrah, mourvedre, cinsault and grenache. The vineyards from which this wine is created are located not far from Beaucastel's estate vineyards, but they are not located within the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, so the wine is entitled only to the less-prestigious Cotes du Rhone appellation. I have had many earlier vintages of this wine but I think this one, from the southern Rhone's glorious 2007 vintage, could be their best yet.

Although this is a big wine (14.5% alcohol), it is harmoniously balanced with supple tannins and a richness that is not at all flamboyant. It is drinking well now, but another five years in your cellar will pay good dividends.

This wine was priced at $33 at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA, but it should have a broad distribution. Parker gives it a 92, and I think it is every bit that.

2008 Domaine Huet Vouvray, Le Mont, demi-sec

I believe Domaine Huet makes the finest of all Vouvrays, and this estate has been cranking out these beautiful chenin blancs for many decades. In good vintages they usually make a simi-sweet version, such as this one, and a dry or almost dry version. Please don't pass on this one because it has some residual sugar. The supporting acidity takes the edge off the sweetness, making for a table wine that pairs perfectly with Chinese and Thai dishes. Or drink it on its own as your dessert course.

The apricot and peach aromas (no new oak used here) leads to mouth-coating flavors of green apples and marzipan (probably a bit of botrytis here). The zesty acidity keeps in all in balance and this same acidity will see this wine through 10 or more years of ageing.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gaston Huet in the fall of 1999 at his home situated adjacent to his beloved vinyards (Le Mont is one of three.) Mr. Huet passed away in 2002, a sad moment for lovers of his wine. But Mr. Huet had turned over winemaking to his son-in-law, Noel Pinguet, many years ago and Pinguet has carried on Mr. Huet's work, including making the vineyard management and winemaking completely biodynamic.

I purchased this wine from the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. The price, $33, is a bargain for a wine of this quality.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

2008 Guarachi Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

"Wine Spectator" magazine recently gave this wine a 94, so I expected it to be a good performer. I was not disappointed. This lovely pinot delivers the same rich, ripe, seamless style I always find (and love) in pinots from Martinelli and Rochioli. This is a nicely focused and harmonious wine with the signature pinot aromas of black cherry, cola and hints of wet earth. The finish is satisfyingly long.
The only question I have is on the "Sonoma Coast" AVA designation. That AVA is really a joke since it encompasses parts of Sonoma County that are many miles from the Pacific coast. But no matter, the wine has many of the superb qualities you can find in pinots from the "true" Sonoma Coast - those ridge lines (islands in the fog) just a few miles inland from the ocean. These vineyard sites deserve an AVA of their own.
I purchased it from the Costco store in Kansas City (off Main Street). The cost, $40, is very reasonable for a pinot of this quality

Saturday, July 31, 2010

2008 Rio Vaca Vineyards Chardonnay, "small lot reserve"

This wine is a prime example of the incredible wine bargains that can be found today. It's modest "California" AVA designation tells you it has no special pedigree. It originates from a vineyard to the east of the Vaca Mountains (which in turn are to the east of Napa Valley.) Looking at my California map shows the vineyard is actually on the edge of California's Central Valley. But no matter, the proof is in the pudding. The back label claims it was barrel fermented in 100% French oak. I don't know about that, but this is one tasty little Chardonnay that appears to have been intended for a more upscale market. This wine has good structure and focused aromas and flavors.

The price - an unbelievable $7 at the Kansas City Lukas store (135th and State Line on the Missouri side). Lukas seems to have purchased a big load of this so you may not be able to find it elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2007 Pellehaut, Cotes de Gascogne, "Ampelomeryx"

The 2007 vintage in the southern regions of France continues to pump out interesting and tasty wines at bargain prices. This white wine is from the relatively obscure southwest region (south of Bordeaux). It is an unlikely blend of chardonnay and petite manseng, a grape that is normally used in this region to make sweet wines. It reportedly sees some oak but that element is far in the background. This is a completely dry, clean, fragrant wine that has an interesting flavor complexity.
Like the red Faugeres posted below, this wine came from the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA (800-76-WINEX). The price is a very reasonable $11. The perfect summer sipper.

2007 Faugeres, Leon Barral

Here is yet another delicious Languedoc red from the exemplary 2007 vintage. Faugeres' schist soil plays a big role here, as does the fact that the vines are 40 to 70 years old and are tended by a quality-driven fanatic.
This wine is a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre, cinsault and carignan. The purity and focus of the fruit-driven aromas and flavors are impressive. Fully ripe tannins mean there are no rough edges to be found. An altogether satisfying wine that is delicious now but it will handle a few years in your cellar with ease.
The Wine Exchange in Orange, CA (800-76-WINEX) carries this wine. It is bargain-priced at $16.

Monday, June 21, 2010

2005 Saint Jean du Barroux Cotes du Ventoux, "Oligocene"

This is another remarkable bargain-priced wine from the south of France. The Ventoux appellation is not on most wine drinkers' radar so good quality producers like Philippe Gimel seldom get what their wines are worth. This wine is a blend of 75% grenache, 15% syrah, 5% carignan and 5% cinsault. It is purple-black in color with pure plum and earth aromas. The ripe flavors and tannins completely hide the 15% alcohol. This wine is a pleasure to drink now, but I don't think there is any danger of it going over the hill if you tucked it away in your cellar for several more years.
I purchased this wine from the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA (714-974-1454). The cost was $15. I would love to taste the 2007 vintage of this wine - it should be something very special.

2007 Domaine du Mas Blanc Collioure, "Clos du Moulin"

Collioure is a tiny French appellation tucked in next to the Spanish border and the Mediterranean. Domaine du Mas Blanc has for decades been the best producer of this wine. The "Clos du Moulin" is mostly mourvedre with a small percentage of counoise. This is a dense, full-bodied wine with loads of extract and ripe tannins, reflecting the fact that the 2007 vintage was one of the best vintages ever for France's Languedoc and Roussillon regions. The nose is remarkably detailed for a wine that has years of development ahead of it. This is a wine that needs another five years or more to show its best.
I bought the wine from Wine Exchange (714-974-1454) in Orange, CA for $23. Wine Advocate gave it a 93-94.

Monday, June 7, 2010

2006 Paraiso Vineyards Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands

Just when I think I am not going to buy another bottle of Chardonnay, one like this comes along (cheap and good gets my attention every time). The prestigious AVA caused me to buy this wine, but I was not disappointed when I pulled the cork. Lively, fresh pear and apple aromas are supported by just a touch of oak. The silky and supple flavors lead to a pleasing finish. This could be my favorite house white.

The Lukas store at 119th street and Metcalf in Overland Park (Kansas City) has it on sale for $14. That is a very fair price for a chardonnay of this quality.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2008 Kanu Vineyards Chenin Blanc, South Africa

This is an interesting little dry white that also happens to be dirt cheap. The winery is located in the Stellenbosch viticultural area. Chenin blanc (also locally called steen) has been cultivated in South Africa for a long time but it has generally been relegated to also-ran status. This one is not going to provide serious comoetition to the classic Loire Valley chenins, but its rounded fruit-driven flavors, spicy aromas and good overall balance results in a wine that does not have to make excuses.

The price? $9 at the World Market in Kansas City (135th and State Line). This is a perfect summer pool-side wine. I would be difficult to find a better white quaffer at this price.

Monday, May 3, 2010

2007 Luna Pinot Grigio, Napa County

Year after year, this producer can be depended on to make a satisfying California pinot grigio. This may be their best one yet. Light yellow in color, with notes of lemon and honey in the nose. Not at all watery like many pinot grigios can be. Lots of ripe flavor interest with zesty acidity complete the picture. This wine normally sells for around $16, but the World Market store in Kansas City (135th and State Line) had it last week for $10! A case of this wine gives you a good start for the summer.

1994 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay, "Cuvee W"

You might think this review should be posted in "Old Tastes." But this is actually a recent release from this winery, located in Novato, CA (northern Marin County). The fruit was sourced from the Wente Estate Vineyard located in the Livermore Valley AVA. The wine is amazingly fresh even though it is almost 16 years old. The color is a deep yellow but shows no signs of any browning. When you taste it, you can tell it has some age but, again, its freshness and vitality would lead you to guess five years rather than 16.
And this is not a one-of-a-kind offering from this producer. The web site (kalincellars.com) offers several other older wines for sale, including a 1997 sauvignon blanc (which I have had and it is amazingly well-preserved), a 1994 pinot noir and a 1988 (!) chardonnay.
The price for this 1994 chardonnay was $38 plus shipping. This is a bargain when you factor in the decade and a half of storage costs. Parker gave this wine a 94;Tanzer gave it a 91.

Friday, April 23, 2010

2007 Martinelli Pinot Noir, Blue Slide Ridge Vineyard

This wine would be in the final running for picking my desert island wine. I think all of Martinelli's pinots are delicious, but in my book this one tops them all. The grapes come from one of this producer's "true" Sonoma Coast vineyards, located two or three ridge lines in from the Pacific Ocean near the old coastal town of Fort Ross. This vineyard, just above the marine/fog layer, thrives on a diet of warm, sunny days and very cold nights. This last fall, Julianna Martinelli took my wife and I out into these mountains (SUV country indeed) to let me have a look at this magical area.
This unique terroir results in a wine that takes California pinot to new levels of excellence. It is lush but not ponderous, ripe but not thick, deep but not dumb. The intense aromas combine sweet, ripe cherries with an engaging wet earth note. The complex flavors are all about low yields of ripe fruit with careful use of oak in the cellar.
It will be interesting to see how this relatively new viticultural area develops and it certainly deserves its own separate AVA. To throw these special vineyards into the ludicrously immense "Sonoma Coast" AVA is a prime example of why the AVA system needs serious overhaul.
This particular wine is closely allocated by the winery and the cost is $95. There are very few wines for which I would pay $95 but this is one of them. Both Parker and Tanzer gave this wine 94 points.

2007 Jean-Louis Tribouley, Cotes Catalanes, "Les Bacs"

This wine is another example of the superb wines that have been surfacing in the wine regions of southern France which, until recently, have produced mostly forgettable wines. To top it off, 2007 is probably the best vintage in this region in the last 10 years. This wine is a vin de pay from the Cotes Catalanes. 20 years ago, this lack of any pedigree would have relegated it to "plonk" status, but not so today. It is carefully crafted from 75% grenache and 25% carignan, all from old vines.
The color is inky purple-black. Ripe raspberry and fig aromas jump from the glass. The wines' structure and extract level tells you this is serious stuff. Full but ripe tannins and a long finish makes this wine easy to drink now with hearty foods, but it also will amply reward five or more years in your cellar.
I bought this wine from the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA (1-800-76-WINEX). The $25 price tag seems very fair to me, given the superb quality. Parker gave it 93 points and I can't argue with that number. There is also a similar wine from this producer called "Orchis" with identical price, grape percentages and Parker rating. You can't go wrong with either one.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

2007 Chateau Paradis "Terre des Anges"

This superb wine is a good example of the revolution in wine quality that has been happening in the south of France. This particular wine is from the Coteaux d'Aix appellation, which 15 years ago was known mostly for cheap reds of little merit (aka plonk). This monumental wine is a blend of Syrah (55%), Grenache (30%)and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%). When you pour this wine into a glass, the inky black color tells you this is not old-school wine from Provence. The itense, focused aromas (the fruit is not overwhelmed by oak) and the lush flavors are supported by ripe tannins and good acidity. This wine is delicious now with something like braised T-Rex, but a few years in your cellar will result in something special.

I bought this wine at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. The cost was $30 and I think it is worth every penny. If the wine is sold out, the chances are good that can't go wrong with any of the southern Rhone/Languedoc wines your favorite wine dealer may have from the superb 2007 vintage. The vintage is that good.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

2007 John Duval Wines Shiraz, "Entity"

I confess I tend to shy away from any Aussie shiraz that costs more than $20. I love the bang-for -the-buck you get from their wines at this price point, but often spending more money doesn't get you much increase in complexity (you can say that about a lot of wines, right?). But this wine, made from Barossa fruit, delivers that elusive complexity at a retail price that makes sense when you consider all it delivers. Make no mistake, this is a dense, purple-colored, mouth-coating wine with the opulence you expect from an Aussie shiraz, but its underlying texture, aroma and flavof make you pause and reflect on what is lurking under the fruit. Like most young Aussie shiraz, it is drinking nicely now but up to five years in your cellar should enhance that complexity.

I purchased this wine at the Total Wine store in Tucson for $38. Parker gave it a 93 and I can't argue against that score.

Monday, February 15, 2010

2007 Rasteau, Domaine Grand Nicolet ,Vieilles Vignes

Another example of the fabulous values that can be found in the Cotes-du-Rhone appellation of the Rhone Valley. This one comes from the Rasteau sub-appellation and it is loaded with intense, layered aromatics and flavor. This wine is 80% grenache and 20% syrah, sourced from vines with an average age of 45 years. This dense, rich wine has supple tannins and an almost chewy mouth feel. The 15% alcohol is a reflection of the near-perfect vintage for this area but this wine has not a trace of heat. The price? $19 at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. What a fine bargain. Parker gave it a 91-93 preliminary rating.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

2008 Anakena Winery "ONA" white blend

This Chilean white wine is made from a blend of roughly equal parts of viognier, riesling and chardonnay. Now that may seem like a blend that is unlikely to produce anything interesting, but the folks at Anakena knew what they were doing. The back label says it received French oak ageing, but it probably did not see much if any new oak as the wood notes are very subtle. This is a relatively full-bodied white with very interesting aroma and flavor nuances, followed by a satisfyingly long finish.

I purchased this wine at Total Wine & More in Tucson, AZ. The cost was $15 and I think that is a reasonable price for the quality it delivers. This does not seem to be a wine that would improve with time in your cellar, but it certainly would make prime drinking the rest of 2010.

2006 Clos del Rey Cotes du Roussillon Villages

Cotes du Roussillon is a French appellation sandwiched between the Languedoc and the Spanish border. For most of the 20th century this area of southern France was notorious for the huge quantities of low-quality red "plonk" that flooded the markets. But this area is currently enjoying a renaissance in wine making and the producer of this wine, Jacques Montagne, is one of its quality leaders. This red wine is produced from old vine grenache and small quantities of carignan and syrah, all cropped to produce very low yields per acre.

The wine, almost black in color, is intensely aromatic with complex aromas and flavors that develop beautifully as the wine airs in the glass. The ripe tannins and high extract are perfectly balanced by the superb fruit. This wine is delicious to drink now, but it has the stuffing and balance needed to develop further complexity in a cool cellar for at least 10 years.

I bought this wine at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA at a cost of $40. Now that may seem out of line for a wine from this region, but this wine can hold its own with any top wine from the more prestigious (and more expensive) Rhone Valley appellations. The Wine Advocate gives it a 95.