Friday, December 19, 2008


I won't be posting notes on any wines for a while, at least until sometime after New Year's. Have a great holiday season.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

2007 "ZESTOS" (50% Garnacha, 50% Tempranillo) (Madrid, Spain)

This was a good buy in a gutsy, blue-collar red.

Eye: Dark ruby with purple highlights.

Nose: Earthy plum juice with a stony note.

Mouth: Chunky and ripe, with low-ish acidity and some tannin that was just north of soft. Full-bodied, with a slightly hot finish. Not complex at all, but a fair amount of flavor for the buck.

Score: 85.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 6-9 months.

Price/store: Was about $8 or $9 at Central Market.

2006 Rodney Strong "Knotty Vines" ZINFANDEL (Sonoma County, Cal.)

A bargain Zin that's widely-available! Get some of this for weeknight dinners!

Eye: Dark, but not saturated, black, plummy ruby.

Nose: Spot-on Zinfandel nose of spicy blackberry fruit, with subtle notes of resiny pine forest and minerals.

Mouth: Ripe, rich, and soft, with decent, though not great concentration. Excellent balance and ripe, mouth-filling fruit. A classic "spaghetti red."

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next year as this is not built to age.

Price/store: I lost the receipt, but I vaguely recall getting this at Randall's on Weslayan for about $14.

2005 Mommessin Chateau de Pierreux BROUILLY (Beaujolais, France)

This was an atypical, though OK, Beaujolais, tending toward the big and tannic side, not the fruity and refreshing style.

Eye: Very dark ruby with violet highlights.

Nose: Intense nose of scorched earth and very primary, crunchy plummy fruit.

Mouth: Full bodied and surprisingly tannic, this wine seems to need some time in bottle to soften a bit. Deep and tightly-wound core of black cherry/plummy fruit, with some alcoholic warmth in the finish.

Score: 83.

Cellar or drink? Hold for another year and then see if it's gotten any softer.

Price/store: $16 at Spec's on Smith.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wines from Grandma and Nonno’s visit -- Part 6 (short-form notes)

Grandma and Nonno returned to Massachusetts today, so this is the last entry for wines from their visit. I'm going to need something to rehabilitate my liver after this visit, so many good and excellent wines did we drink. (I'm also going to need to return to my more frugal, usual fare!)

2005 Chateau de Saint Cosme GIGONDAS (Rhone, France) -- This was a ripe, youthful, and highly structured Rhone wine. Had lots of minerality and was quite tight initially, but opened to show a concentrated core of ripe cassis and raspberry extract. Pretty tannic throughout. If you have a cool cellar, keep this one another 3 years and then enjoy.

2004 Verget CHABLIS 1er CRU FOURCHAUMEVieilles Vignes de Vaulorens” (Burgundy, France) -- this was excellent and drinking beautifully now. Ripe and complex, yet with bracing, well-integrated acidity. Featured a nose of toasty chicken broth, dry pear extract, lemons, and crushed stones. Very good concentration and length.

2006 Alto MoncayoVeraton” (Campo de Borja, Spain) -- This was a new-styled and very concentrated Grenache. I loved the soft texture, the concentration, and the ripeness, but it was just a tad too oaky for me. The 2004 I previously reviewed was better (similar but less oaky), but this was excellent in its own way.

2005 Hubertushof LEIWENER KLOSTERGARTEN RIESLING EISWEIN (Mosel, Germany) -- A youthful but outstanding icewine, with great minerality, wonderfully ripe peachy fruit, and mouthwatering acidity. Very enjoyable now, this fragrant jailbait of a dessert wine could easily last and improve over the next 10 years or so in a cool dark cellar.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wines from Grandma and Nonno’s visit -- Part 5 (short-form notes)

2006 Jean-Max Roger SANCERRE ROSÉ “Cuvée La Grange Dimière” (Loire, France) -- This Pinot Noir rose had a beautiful light salmon pink color, with a fresh nose of minerals, flowers, and strawberry/cherry. Refreshing and bone dry, with ripe fruit and excellent acidity.

2005 Domaine de la Noblaie CHINON “Les Chiens-Chiens” (Loire, France) -- Classic Loire Cabernet Franc nose and flavors: mineral and walnut oil, and herbal black cherry. Medium-full body and bone dry, stony black cherry skin flavors with underbrush and tomato notes.

2006 Razor’s Edge SHIRAZ (75%)-GRENACHE (25%) (McLaren Vale, Australia) -- Tastes like it’s got more Grenache than Shiraz, rather than the other way around, with great kirsch and spice aromas, medium full body, and ripe, sweet cherry/raspberry and earth flavors. Excellent buy at $13.99.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wines from Grandma and Nonno’s visit -- Part 4 (Thanksgiving Dinner) (short-form notes)

2004 Rosenblum Santa Barbara County SYRAH “Appellation Series” -- A good buy in the usually overpriced California Syrah market, this $15 bottle had dense color, full body, and lush texture, and deep-toned roasted meat, graphite, and blackberry scents.

2002 Domaine Francois Lamarche GRANDS ECHEZEAUX (Burgundy) -- This was good, but a disappointment for its pedigree. Very lean, tart cherry and minerals flavors emerged only after long decanting, and it lacked the depth and complexity I expected from this Grand Cru vineyard. If I had tasted it blind, I would have probably guessed it was a regular village bottling from Fixin or Monthelie (due to the lean, hard style). For my money, I’ll take an Oregon Pinot Noir over Burgundy 9 times out of 10. Should have bought a lottery ticket instead. I’ll remember to give thanks next Turkey Day not to have dropped a C-note on another disappointing burgundy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wines from Grandma and Nonno’s visit -- Part 3 (short-form notes)

2006 Chateau Calabre MONTRAVEL (Blanc) (France) -- This 50% Sauvignon Blanc/40% Semillon/10% Muscadelle blend from the fringes of the Bordeaux region was light, very soft, and featured refreshing bitter grapefruit and mineral flavors.

2004 Castello di Bossi CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy) -- Old school. This Chianti sported classic old school aromas of earth, leather, and brandy-macerated cherries, and was lean and food-friendly.

2002 Domaine Martin Schaetzel RIESLING GRAND CRU RANGEN (Alsace, France) -- ZOWIE! What a wine! Unfathomably rich, yet refreshing at the same time. Nose of apricots, honey, Earl Grey tea, and minerals. Broad, intense, and long in the mouth. This wasn’t totally dry, but was still a great pairing with pecan-wood grilled flounder and shrimp. From a biodynamic producer who flies under the radar of most wine geeks.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wines from Grandma and Nonno’s visit -- Part 2 (short-form notes)

1998 Marcarini BAROLO “Brunate” (Piemonte, Italy) -- Seemingly lean and devoid of fruit at first, after a couple of hours of breathing in a decanter, this Barolo opened up and show classic Nebbiolo scents of dried cherries, leather, and minerals. On the palate, this wine showed a more feminine style (almost Barbaresco-ish) than I expected. Very nice and could even last a couple more years.

2001 Guilhem Durand SYRAH “Vieilles Vignes” (Southern France) -- This cheap red had been tucked away in my wine closet for several years. I had been afraid to open it because I thought it was in a state of advanced decrepitude, but figured “what the heck” and popped and decanted it. What a surprise! The color was still youthful, and the wine was full, ripe, and complex, with big scents of dried cassis, eucalyptus, and minerally, wet earth. Tannin has all dropped away , leaving a soft, long finish.

2006 Martin Schaetzel PINOT BLANC “Vieillles Vignes” (Alsace, France) -- Ripe, soft, simple, and peachy.

2006 Mollydooker SHIRAZ “The Boxer” (South Australia) -- A tremendously rich, mouth-coating wine. Loads of flavor, with minerally-graphite and cassis extract flavors predominating.

2005 Turley ZINFANDEL “Ueberroth Vineyard” (Paso Robles, Cal.) -- Intense in every sense of the word: intense boysenberry fruit, intense rock-dust minerality, intense body, and intense acidity. Great with mesquite/pecan wood grilled porterhouses.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wines from Grandma and Nonno’s visit -- Part 1 (short-form notes)

Mom and Dad are visiting from Massachusetts, so I'm not going to have time to do the full version of the tasting notes, if experience is any guiide. So here are the Reader's Digest notes of the first batch:

2004 Verget VIRÉ -CLESSÉ “Vieilles Vignes de Roally” (Burgundy, France) -- a terrifically rich, dry, ripe, minmerally Maconnais Chardonnay with poire William and melon-scented fruit. Loaded with character, and soft as a summer breeze. Great.

2006 Luzon (Jumila, Spain) -- a great value ($8 and change) in a Monastrell/Syrah . Ripe, rich, full, balanced.

2001 Guigal CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE (Rhone Valley, France) -- At its peak, this was a very elegantly-textured wine, with classic Provencal scents of smoky herbs from the garrigue, and iron-y cassis/blackberry fruit.

2005 Rene Barth RIESLING “Vignoble de Bennwihr” (Alsace, France) -- A classically austere style of Alsace Riesling: lots of pungent, stony minerality and lemon-lime fruit. Crisp and bone dry.

2005 Tenuta la Cipressaia CHIANTI COLLI FIORENTINI (Tuscany, Italy) -- A medium-bodied, tight but food-friendly Sangiovese, with crisp cherry mineral flavors and and some tannin in the finish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2007 Menguante "Old Vines" GARNACHA (Carinena, Spain)

A great buy in a young, flavorful Grenache. Needs a little time in the bottle to settle down, though.

Eye: Vivid dark ruby purple.

Nose: Intensely youthful and unformed, fruity nose of crunchy raspberries and stones.

Mouth: Layers of pure, straight-up fruity. Very primary at present, but with excellent ripeness and depth. Good balance and some noticeable, youthful tannin in the back end of the palate.

Score: 87+

Cellar or drink? Pleasant enough now -- particularly with a any intensely flavored, rustic meat or pasta dish -- this wine really needs a year or two to settle down and soften up. It could be even nicer when it does.

Price/store: Was about $11 and change at Spec's on Smith.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2006 Torbreck "Woodcutter's" SHIRAZ (Barossa Valley, Australia)

A very deep-toned, exceedingly full-bodied wine.

Eye: Nearly fully saturated black black ruby, with violet highlights.

Nose: Deep, inky cassis liqueur scents with smoky cedar, a prominent eucalyptus component, and graphite in the background.

Mouth: Deep-toned flavors of spicy cassis extract, black peppercorns, tar, and grilled Italian sausage flavors. Extremely full-bodies, with noticeable alcoholic warmth in the finish. Massive and inky. Needs a rich meat or game stew to really shine.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? My experience is that wines with this much alcohol showing in the finish usually don't hold up that well in the cellar. The alcohol tends to burn through the fruit more over time. Drink over the next year.

Price/store: Was $18 and change at Spec's on Richmond.

2005 Domaine Schlumberger PINOT BLANC "Les Princes Abbes" (Alsace, France)

A perennial good value, the 2005 iteration of this wine is a very satisfying, if not very complex, white.

Eye: Light, bright greenish gold.

Nose: Beautifully ripe fruit melange: peach skin, apples, and watermelon, with a hint of earthy gravel.

Mouth: Gobs of fruit on entry (like fruit salad with lemon juice squeezed on top), but then tapering quickly into a crisp finish. Average concentration and weight, but still lots of fun to drink. A very nice aperitif or party wine.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 6-8 months.

Price/store: $14 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Domaine de Fenouillet BEAUMES DE VENISE "Terres Blanches" (Rhone Valley, France)

This Cotes du Rhone Villages was very elegant and flavorful.

Eye: Dark ruby garnet color.

Nose: Sultry nose of deep-toned ripe red and black berries, smoke, and lots of stony minerals.

Mouth: Broadly-flavored and mouthfilling, with lots of soft, mouth-coating tannins and long, rich flavors of cassis, blackberry, subtle iodine, and deep herbal notes. Long finish transitions from deep fruit to minerals. Very civilized, mature, and balanced.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? At its peak, drink this over the next year.

Price/store: $16 and change at Spec's on Smith.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

2006 Joel Gott ZINFANDEL (California)

Robert Parker rated this highly (giving it a 90), but I didn't think this was a particularly distinguished Zin.

Eye: Deep plummy violet color.

Nose: Rich nose of plum jam and sweet cream, with a hint of lemon juice and sweet cream.

Mouth: Big but simple fruity flavors (sweet plum and blackberry), with a flat mouthfeel. It lacked the vibrancy and minerality I love in top-flight Zin from, say, Mendocino County or Paso Robles. This wine was chunky but unexceptional.

Score: 85.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next year.

Price/store: Was about $18 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2004 Verget SAINT-VERAN "Terroirs de Davaye" (Burgundy, France)

This wine delivered lots of flavor in a big, galumphy (in a good way) style.

Eye: Very light gold with a slight lime green glint.

Nose: Loads of sweet pears and apples, with two scoops of minerally earthiness and a slight, almost cinnamony spice component.

Mouth: Big, rich, mouthfilling flavors of earth, pear and peach fruit, and a sweet minerality. Long finish with low-ish acidity. More chunky than crisp.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 8-12 months.

Price/store: Was $19 and change at Spec's on Smith.

(Sorry -- picture of 2002)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

2007 Domaine Matignon CABERNET D'ANJOU (Rose) (Loire France)

YUK. Cloyingly sweet. Avoid.

Score: F.

2005 Les Heretiers du Comte Lafon MACON-MILLY-LAMARTINE (Burgundy, France)

This was the best wine I've ever had from a Macon-_____ appellation. If I had tasted this blind, I would have guessed that it was a top-flight Chablis Premier Cru.

Eye: Light gold with the barest glint of green.

Nose: Amazingly Chablis-like nose, with lots of lemony, gun-flinty scents, and some deep apply and pear fruit.

Mouth: Crisp and deeply flavorful, this featured lots of earthy, straw-tinged fruit, augmented with lemon/mineral streaks. Loooong finish with perfect balance. I could drink too much of this.

Score: 91.

Cellar or drink? Tough one. It's concentrated and balanced enough to sit a couple of years, but it is so delicious now I would get and drink this over the next few months. I mean, why risk it changing from its current delicious state?

Price/store: $27 at Spec's on Smith -- expensive for a Macon-based wine, but worth it!

(Label is wrong vintage -- sorry).

2006 Terredora DiPaulo AGLIANICO (Campania, Italy)

A while ago I implored Houston wine shops to start stocking Aglianico-based reds, and finally a few are showing up. This one is a broadly-flavored, weighty beauty.

Eye: Nearly saturated black ruby with a hint of brick.

Nose: Fantastic nose that changed over several hours. It started with a pungent, freshly-cracked black peppercorn, earthy character (which took me back to a couple of bottles of 1979 Cakebread Howell Mountain Zinfandel I drank a couple in the early 80s) dominating some deep-toned fruit that seemed almost overripe, but over several hours it morphed into an exotic perfume of spring flower nectar, plums, orange peel, talcum powder and dry rock dust.

Mouth: Dark, rich, mouth-coating flavors of sweet cassis, smoky charcoal/graphite, and sandstone. Nice balance, full body, and a long finish that I thought had a barely perceptible bit of residual sugar.

Score: 91.

Cellar or drink? This is drinking incredibly well now, but it's got the stuffing to last and possibly improve over the next 3 years.

Price/store: $22 at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Casa Castillo MONASTRELL (Jumilla, Spain)

A 100% Mourvedre (Monastrell), this wine was richly fruity and a great value.

Eye: Dark ruby with violet highlights.

Nose: Beautifully pure fruity nose -- ripe plums, grapes, and blackberries, with a subtle background note of stony minerals.

Mouth: Soft, broad entry, with good concentration and lots of body. Loads of fruit and soft tannin in the finish. Not complex, but very satisfying as an everyday red.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next two years.

Price/Store: $12 and change at Spec's on Holcombe.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

2006 Inama SOAVE CLASSICO (Veneto, Italy)

This was the best Soave I've ever had. An appellation usually associated with industrially-produced, over-cropped wines that taste like water with a bit of alcohol and acidity added, this wine had lots of character! Actually, kind of a schizophrenic character, in that the nose and flavors didn't really match up. It was really good, though.

Eye: Very light gold color.

Nose: Great, pure fruit nose of ripe peaches, apple, and quince, with a subtle earthy-stony note in the far background.

Mouth: Softly-textured and round, but with very dry, intense stony/herbal flavors, with mouthwatering minerally salinity and acidity.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next several months.

Price/store: Was $14 at Spec's.

2005 Pierre Labet BEAUNE "Clos du Dessus des Marconnets" (Burgundy, France)

This Pinot Noir was tight and pretty good, although a bit on the tarter side than I like. Lots of the "terroirist" crowd seem to enjoy this style more than I do, however. It should have been a heck of a lot better for $33.

Eye: Vivid medium ruby color.

Nose: Medium intensity nose of cherry, with a hint of tart raspberry, as well as cinnamon, smoke, and powdered stones.

Mouth: Tight cherry and stone flavors, with crisp acidity but only medium concentration and length.

Score: 86+

Cellar or drink? The concentration and ripeness are marginal, but I'm guessing that there's just enough there to warrant 2 years or so to see if this softens up and broadens out a bit.

Price/store: Was $33 at Spec's on Smith, making it NOT a good value.

2005 Chateau Montroche COSTIERES DE NIMES (Rhone, France)

(Notes from memory, as this disappeared before I could take contemporaneous notes).

This is a great value. I think it was around $9 or $10 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

A big beefy wine with lots of "oomph." Earthy and tight at first, but with airing lots of deep, ripe fruit continues to emerge.

Pick some of this up soon. (I probably would have scored this around 87.)

UPDATE (10/4): I got the price wrong: Richard's at Bissonnet and Weslayan has this for $7.99, making it an unbeatable bargain.

2002 Chateau Souverain Alexander Vallet CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Cal.)

My last bottle of this excellent value, which I last reviewed 2 1/2 years ago here. It's still drinking very well and, I think, could still keep and maybe improve a few more years. In my view, Cabernets from the Alexander Valley tend to drink well earlier than Cabs from other Napa and Sonoma appellations, yet keep for several years.

Eye: Very dark black ruby.

Nose: Gorgeous and complex nose of sweet, smoky balsa wood, blackberry and cassis fruit, charcoal embers and dry gravel.

Mouth: Soft and round, yet concentrated and focused in the mouth. Lots of sweet, ripe blackberry fruit and smoky gravel flavors. A little heat and still some tannin to shed in the back end.

Score: 89+

Cellar or drink? Either one. Drinking well now, but could soften further over the next few years.

Price/store: I don't think this is available any longer, as I bought it three years ago.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

2006 Dashe Dry Creek Valley ZINFANDEL (Cal.)

A very satisfying, if not complex, Zin.

Eye: Saturated dark ruby with purple highlights.

Nose: Ripe, fruity nose, with lots of friendly black raspberry fruit and some minerals lurking in the background.
Mouth: Soft, deep, and full-bodied, with ripe blackberry and mineral flavors, a long finish, and nice balance with no excess alcoholic heat. Some tannin to ensure another year or two's keeping.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 2 years.

Price/store: Was $22 and change at Spec's on Smith.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

2005 Mas Donis Barrica (85% Garnacha, 15% Syrah) (Montsant, Spain)

A little on the lean side, but still good.

Eye: Dark, youthful black ruby.

Nose: Sophisticated nose of smoked meat, hot stones, and some subtle blackberry scents.

Mouth: Fairly weighty in the mouth, but on the austere side, with flavors tending more towards a strong minerally component rather than fruit, and with a fair amount of tannin and acidity to complete the lean personality profile. Is nice with food but not so friendly on its own as a sipper.

Score: 85.

Cellar or drink? I'd drink over the next year, as I don't think this has the concentration needed to improve with age.

Price/store: Was $12 at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Viu Manent CARMENERE Reserva (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

Like lots of other Carmeneres I've had, this wine really needs time to breathe before it starts to show its true colors. Once it airs out a bit, it's a beauty.

Eye: Completely saturated blood plasma color.

Nose: Before airing, it had a very pungent bakers' chocolate nose. After being opened a couple of hours, rich ripe cassis and plum scents wafted out, along with mocha-coffee notes and a smoky/sweet gravelly component.

Mouth: Rich, broadly-flavored, and soft, this wine has loads of ripe blackberry, gravel, and tobacco flavors. Long, lingering finish. Very nice.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? This is drinking really well now, but has the stuffing to hold another 2-3 years.

Price/store: Lost the receipt, but I think this was about $15 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2006 Chateau de Lancyre PIC ST. LOUP Rosé (Southern France)

This was a strangely-colored but beautifully fruity rosé.

Eye: Very interesting orangey-copper color.

Nose: Despite the advanced looking color, the nose is redolent of fresh fruit (valencia oranges and cherries) with powdered stones and sweet cream in the background.

Mouth: Soft, round, and fruity, with excellent balance and absolutely pure flavors of sweet grapes, watermelon, and strawberry. Long, fruity finish. Fruit! Fruit! Fruit!

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink before Thanksgiving.

Price/store: $12.88 at most Spec's stores.

Sorry -- I could find a picture only of the 2004.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

2006 Castillo de Monseran GARNACHA (Carinena, Spain)

An outstanding buy in a flavorful, fun, soft red.

Eye: Dark ruby with a slight purple tinge at the rim.

Nose: Bright, ripe, fruity nose: raspberries and ripe cherries, along with a slight herbal, minerally component (but mostly it's about the fruit).

Mouth: Loads of crisp, minerally raspberry flavors, with good concentration and a soft texture. Nice balancing acidity too.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next year.

Price/store: Got this at Spec's for $6.83, but Whole Foods on Bellaire also has this for $7.99 (and still a very good buy at that price).

2005 Domaine Jean-Luc Dubois CHOREY-LES-BEAUNE "Clos Margot" (Burgundy, France)

A good (not great) Pinot Noir that is fairly priced, as PNs go. Features some bright, crisp Pinot fruit and good balance.

Eye: Medium dark ruby with purply highlights.

Nose: Bright, tart fruity nose of crisp cherries, crushed rock powder, and rhubarb.

Mouth: Tart cherry and stony mineral/graphite flavors. Very tightly-wound, but with decent concentration and length. The texture is quite light.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? I would cellar this one for 1 - 3 years, and it will likely soften and gain a little complexity.

Price/store: Was $21 and change at Spec's on Smith.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

2006 Trenel CHIROUBLES (Beaujolais, France)

Not bad, but kind of disappointingly thin and straightforward for a wine from a highly-regarded negociant and imported by what used to be one of the most hoidy-toidy (sp.?) importers around (Robert Chadderdon)*

Eye: Dark ruby.

Nose: Nice, fairly exuberant nose of straightforward cherry, grapey fruit, sweet cream, and hard stony scents.

Mouth: A bit thin, but with nice, clean flavors of cherry pit and stony minerals.

Score: 84.

Cellar or drink? Due to its lack of concentration, I'd say drink up before years' end.

Price/store: $18.50 at Spec's on Smith.

* When I was working in the wine business in NYC in the early to mid 80s, restaurants and retailer shops had to beg this importers rep to come by and sell some of the wines it imported(to be fair, they were largely really good!) Unless you were Lutece or one of the City's most prominent retailers, you were lucky if they came by once a year and deigned to sell you a few cases. I have no idea whether that's still the case, but it was then.

2004 Sieber Rd. GSM (60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre) (Barossa Valley, Australia)

A terrific red with ripeness, complexity, weight, and balance. Even though it's a blend, it's a great example of Aussie Grenache, which clearly is the most prominent component.

Eye: Dark, rich black ruby.

Nose: Gorgeously rich nose of ripe, oozing raspberries and cherries, with significant notes of baking spices and hot stones.

Mouth: Round, soft, and full, with minerally, dry raspberry flavors and a soft, peppery finish.

Score: 91.

Cellar or drink? Drinking beautifully now, this wine can probably hold (although I don't think it will improve) for another 2 years or so.

Price/store: Was $23.40 at Spec's on Smith.

Monday, September 01, 2008

2004 Domaine du Dragon COTES DE PROVENCE "Cuvee Saint-Michel" (Southern France)

Another "spoofulated," but good, wine in the "international" style, this time from the south of France. It doesn't say on the label, but I'm willing to bet this is largely composed of small barrel-aged Cabernet.* The south of France, and Provence in particular, was, along with Tuscany, one of the first European areas to heavily experiment in the 1970s with planting Cabernet Sauvignon (not a traditional varietal in that area, but, at the time, was as popular with the uninitiated as Merlot is now) and seeing what would happen. Domaine de Trevallon, Chateau Vignelaure, and Mas de Dumas Gaussac are three of the earliest and best-known of the experimenters.

Eye: Rich, saturated dark black ruby/mulberry color.

Nose: Shy and linear at first, with air time this wine developed a very nice nose that reminded me of an Australian Cabernet -- roasted herbs, toasty oak, and gobs of ripe, inky cassis and blackberry.

Mouth: Soft and concentrated, with very good depth but avoiding the sweet, jammy flavors and texture that sometime characterize Aussie Cabs. Full-bodied, with broad cassis and smoke flavors. Some soft but noticeable tannin in the long finish.

Score: 89.

Cellar or Drink? Delicious now, this wine should keep nicely for another 2-3 years in a cool cellar.

Price/store: Was about $15 at Spec's on Westheimer.

*UPDATE: I found the domaine's website, and it lists the blend for the 2004 vintage as: Syrah 50% - Cabernet Sauvignon 35% - Grenache 15%.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2005 Tikal "PATRIOTA" (60% Bonarda, 40% Malbec) (Mendoza, Argentina)

This was a very interesting red. The nose promised great weight and ripeness, but in the mouth it was leaner and crisper than expected, although still quite flavorful. It would pair very well with very rich braised meat dishes such as oxtails, beef or lamb shanks, or tripe.

Eye: Saturated ruby purple color.

Nose: Rich, deeply fruity nose of sweet cassis and very ripe raspberries, with a prominent smoky, gravelly component.

Mouth: Ripe and full, yet somewhat lean, with good weight and broad flavors of dry, ripe, blackberry extract and crushed stones. Long, lean, crisp finish. Would have been amazing with just a tad less acidity and tad more flesh.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? This wine's concentration indicates that a few more years of ageing may improve this wine a bit, though I have found that wines with high (as opposed to moderate) acidity like this one really don't fare well with longer term ageing.

Price/store: Was $23.78 at Spec's on Westheimer.

2004 Felsina-Berardenga CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA "Rancia" (Tuscany, Italy)

This was a very classy, well-constructed red.

Eye: Dark black ruby with the barest hint of brick.

Nose: Medium-intense nose of minerally gravel, chokecherry liqueur, and wood.

Mouth: Medium full bodied, with very good concentration of minerally cherry pit and cherry liqueur. Not weighty, but with very good flavor concentration nonetheless. Good length and balance too, with some soft, unresolved tannin in the finish.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drinking well now, I think this could keep and soften for another 2-3 years. I'm concerned about ageing it beyond that, however, given its relatively advanced color and modest weight.

Price/store: Was $27 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2007 Pierre-Marie Chermette "Domaine du Vissoux" BEAUJOLAIS "Cuvee Vieilles Vignes" (France)

This was a very light, yet extraordinarily refreshing wine.

Eye: Dark crystalline ruby with magenta highlights.

Nose: Refreshing, ripe, crisp nose of freshly-crushed grapes, strawberries, and plums, with a background notes of stoney minerals and maple syrup.

Mouth: Ripe, crisp, and refreshing (sorry to repeat myself, but it is), with light body and crisp but unobtrusive acidity. Just want to keep quaffing this stuff down! Seems to whet and quench the thirst at the same time. Lots of fun.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink before 2009 gets here for maximum fun.

Price/store: Was $17 at Spec's on Holcombe.

Friday, August 22, 2008

2005 Domaine Charles Joguet CHINON "Cuvee Terroir" (Loire Valley, France)

This was a TERRIFIC Cabernet Franc red from the Loire. Lots of character, flavor, and ageing potential.

Eye: Extremely saturated black mulberry color.

Nose: Ripe, complex nose of blackberry, smoky embers, baking spices, and intense, stony minerality.

Mouth: Concentrated, ripe, and tannic, with surprisingly full body (for a wine from this northerly, cool region) and unsurprisingly good acidity. Youthful flavors of ripe cassis and blackberry, with, again, lots of stony minerality.

Score: 90+

Cellar or drink? Although enjoyable now, this wine will clearly be better in 2-4 years.

Price/store: Was $22.99 at Houston Wine Merchant (on South Shepherd).

2006 Colterenzio PINOT GRIGIO (Alto Adige, Italy)

This Pinot Grigio from one of Italy's northernmost wine-growing regions was crisp and refreshing, but not much more.

Eye: Very light gold.

Nose: This was the best part of the wine -- fairly fragrant, with scents of pear, earthy stones, and milk.

Mouth: Light and lively, but with a fairly linear, austere flavor profile of minerals, acidity, and Granny Smith apples. Medium length finish.

Score: 83.

Cellar or drink? This style of Italian whites is for early drinking. Bottoms up before 2009.

Price/store: About $13 at Spec's on Holcombe.

Monday, August 18, 2008

2002 Domaine Laleure-Piot PERNAND-VERGELESSES Blanc (Burgundy, France)

I bought this 6-year old white burgundy from the close-out bin at Richard's on South Shepherd, so it was a calculated risk. It paid off! This wine had lots of character, was balanced, and performing at its peak.

Eye: Ridiculously intense, bright gold, with a fain greenish glint (still!)

Nose: Mature white burgundy nose of earthy, salty minerals, stones, spiced pears, and artichokes.

Mouth: Concentrated in flavors and weighty, but with medium-full body, this wine had intensely minerally flavors together with very dry notes of buttered pear essence. Long, stony finish. Nice balance.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink now. This is fully mature, and will only start to decline if cellared any longer.

Price/store: Was reduced from the mid-$20s to $19.99 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

Note about buying wines from the close-out bin: (1) Make sure it's a wine that should still theoretically be in its zone of maturity -- white burgundies can age better than most whites, and the 2002s had both great extract and acidity, a rare combination of two components required for graceful ageing; (2) look for a bottle that is filled as close to the cork as possible -- the more oxygen in a bottle, the quicker it will age; the less, the slower.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2004 Domaine Saint-Martin MARSANNAY "Les Finottes" (Burgundy, France)

This was a very soft, fragrant, enjoyable Pinot Noir that--amazingly for a Burgundy--was a pretty good value! I may try some more 2004s to see if this vintage is better than the critics would lead you to believe (they mostly criticized 2004s in Burgundy for being too light).

Eye: Darkish ruby with some amber highlights.

Nose: Exuberant nose of tangy rhubarb and sappy cherries, along with a pungent but pleasant earthy-vegetal component.

Mouth: Soft, broad, but light in the mouth, with flavors of crushed stones, cherries, and toasty oak in the background. Not particularly concentrated, but nicely-balanced, lively, and fun! Pretty good length too.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? The light color and weight, together with the lack of any discernible tannin indicate that this should be enjoyed over the next 12 months.

Price/store: Was only $19.33 at Spec's on Smith.

NOTE: Photo of label is for the 2005 vintage -- I couldn't find a picture of the 2004.

2005 Chateau de Valcombe COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES (60% Syrah, 40% Grenache) (Rhone, France)

This was a very nice, cheap, everyday wine with a lot of chunkiness and character.

Eye: Totally saturated black ruby-purple.

Nose: Intense nose, with raw meat and earthy scents in the lead, lots of powdered stones, and some blackberry/black cherry scents coming in last.

Mouth: Ripe, extracted, fairly concentrated flavors of stony minerals and blackberry, together with brambly notes. Long, simple, but pure-tasting finish, with plenty of tannin. Chunky and four-square, but satisfying.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? This will certainly keep, and maybe soften and improve, for another 1-2 years.

Price/store: $9.29 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

2005 Bruno Giacosa NEBBIOLO D'ALBA (Piemonte, Italy)

This Nebbiolo, from a highly-regarded producer, was a bit disappointing given the reputation of the producer and the quality of the 2005 vintage in northern Italy.

Eye: Medium ruby-garnet color.

Nose: Medium intensity nose of eucalyptus, chokecherries, and stony minerals.

Mouth: Medium-bodied and quite tannic in the mouth, with intense minerality but only moderate intensity of chokecherry fruit, with a touch of old wine barrels scent. Long, fairly peppery and somewhat astringent finish. Identifiably Nebbiolo, but kind of bony and spare.

Score: 84.

Cellar or drink? While the astringency and tannin would seem to require a bit of ageing, the advanced color and lack of fruit concentration seem to indicate that ageing won't help much, if at all. Drink up.

Price/store: Was $25 at Spec's on Smith.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

2005 Lolonis Redwood Valley ZINFANDEL (Mendocino County, California)

This organic winery consistently produces very good Zinfandels at very good prices, and the 2005 is yet another beauty. Ripe and vibrant, it's a beautifully balanced wine.

Eye: Nearly saturated, dark ruby with gem-like clarity.

Nose: Classic Zin -- ripe Zinfandel scents of wild, spicy berries, with brambly, maple-syrup undertones, and a hint of minerality.

Mouth: Ripe, yet lively and vibrant, with full body, good acidity, and a soft texture. Concentrated fruit in the mid-palate. Long, refreshing finish.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? Drink now and over the next year. I like my Zinfandels young. Don't listen to those wine guys who tell you it ages well. It doesn't improve with age. When they say it ages well, they mean that it maintains its fruit for a few years. But why tempt fate? Fruit is what a good Zin has when it's young, so drink it young!

Price/store: $17 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Domaine Santa Duc CÔTES DU RHÔNE "Les Quatre Terres" (Southern France)

This was a pleasant enough, straightforward Rhône wine. Technically, it's fine; it just didn't light my fire.

Eye: Dark black ruby with faintly violet highlights.

Nose: Very straightforward, fruity scents of plum juice and berries, with some stony minerality in the background.

Mouth: Full-bodied, and with some soft tannins, it featured non-complex, low-toned berryish flavors and a decent dosage of stony minerality. Good, balanced finish.

Score: 83.

Cellar or drink? Drinkable now, this wine will keep for another year or two.

Price/store: Was $12 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

2005 Tablas Creek COTES DE TABLAS (43% Grenache, 24% Mourvedre, 18% Syrah, 15% Counoise) (Paso Robles, Cal.)

This nicely-rendered Rhone varietal blend showed why it is important, particularly in the heat of the summer, to make sure reds are served, NOT at ACTUAL room temperature (which is invariably too hot), but at a temperature in the low to mid 60s.*

Eye: Dark, sultry black ruby.

Nose: When I popped the cork after taking the wine out of my wine closet (which is about 71 degrees in July and August), the nose was overwhelmingly dominated by peppery alcoholic scents. I could hardly smell anything else. Alcohol vaporizes quite readily as temperature increases. So I popped the wine in the fridge for about 20 - 30 minutes, and upon cooling down to the mid-60s, the alcohol receded and deep-toned scents of smoky earth, dark black berries, and pungent yet sweet balsa wood emerged.

Mouth: Rich, dark flavors of smoky, mineral-laced blackberry syrup, with good density and length, and lots of fairly soft tannic structure.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 2 years.

Price/store: I can't find my receipt, but I think this was about $21 at Spec's on Smith.

* The notion of reds being served at "room temperature" comes from a loose translation of the French word "chambre." But serving red wine "chambre" in the old days (when this truism was formed) referred to the temperature of a room in a typical French stone house, which were usually a lot cooler than modern American houses tend to be. So "room temperature" (chambre), as used in this rule, actually refers to temperatures between about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2005 Hubert Brochard SANCERRE (Loire Valley, France)

This is a good value. It would be a very nice, very typical introduction to Sancerre for those unfamiliar with the Sauvignon Blanc made in the upper Loire area (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, and Menetou-Salon).

Eye: Light, bright gold. No glints of anything else, just light, bright gold.

Nose: Classic Sancerre nose of light, fresh-picked herbs, crisp Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and stoney minerals.

Mouth: Round and refreshing, with excellent balance, this wine lacked only a bit of extra concentration and complexity to make it outstanding. As it is, it has decent concentration and a lively batch of herby, gooseberry and mineral flavors. Vibrant mouthfeel. Very nice.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 6 months.

Price/store: $18.94 at Spec's on Richmond.

2004 Poggio Salvi MORELLINO DI SCANSANO "I Butteri" (Tuscany, Italy)

This was a funky but not totally unpleasant Morellino.

Eye: Black ruby with some amber tones.

Nose: Big, earthy nose, with lots of old leathery, pruney, and old wine barrel scents.

Mouth: Very rustic in the mouth, and not showing a lot of Sangiovese varietal character: full bodied, with lots of peppery pruney flavors, and a finish that tapered into dried leather.

Score: 77.

Cellar or drink? Drink now if you've already got some, as this is probably going to get more disjointed and funky as time goes on. If you don't already have some, don't bother.

Price/store: Was $17.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

2005 Rolf Binder "Halliwell" SHIRAZ (60%) / GRENACHE (40%) (Barossa Valley, Australia)

This was a terrific wine, with ripeness, balance, concentration, and complexity, all in good measure.

Eye: Saturated dark crystalline ruby.

Nose: Beautiful, ripe, rich scents of sweet blackberry and cassis, as well as smoky pencil lead. Makes you want to keep sticking your nose in the glass and keep sniffing.

Mouth: Rich, full, and smooth-textured. Complex flavors of ripe plum and cassis, as well as smoky oak and mineral-laced gravel. Decent balancing acidity in a long, pure finish.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? I would drink this over the next two years, as it is beautiful and soft right now.

Price/store: Was $23.88 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2006 Ponzi PINOT NOIR "Tavola" (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

This was a very nice Pinot with lots of straightforward character. More of a weekday P.N. rather than one to save for a special occasion, but that's not a criticism!

Eye: Dark ruby color.

Nose: Very fragrant, with snappy yet sappy cherry fruit, lots of resiny minerals, and sweet cream scents.

Mouth: Soft and medium-bodied, it had good concentration and loads of bright minerally cherry fruit, and a fairly long, balanced finish. Not particularly complex, but very enjoyable.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next two years.

Price/store: This was a gift, so I'm not sure where it was purchased, but a quick Google search indicates that most retailers sell it around $21 - $24, making it a pretty decent value in the Pinot Noir world.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2004 Verget CHABLIS 1er CRU "MONT DE MILIEU" (Burgundy, France)

Another terrific 2004 premier cru Chablis from Verget. This had crisp fruit, minerality, vibrancy, and length. Delicious. There's very little that ranks with a great Chablis in the white wine world.

Eye: Almost luminescent, light brassy gold with a slight lime glint.

Nose: Intense scents of lemon-lime fruit and slightly smoky, limestoney minerals.

Mouth: Soft yet focused and intense. Flavors change from moment-to-moment: crisp Chardonnay grapes with a squeeze of lemon and lime juice, intense and slightly salty, bright powdered stone flavors, and ultimately ending with a bone dry yet caramelly note. Longgggg finish.

Score: 92.

Cellar or drink? Like most classic Chablis, this could keep, and possibly even improve, in a cool cellar for a few more years.

Price/store: $44 at Spec's on Smith, and worth it.

(Sorry -- picture of 2002 vintage)

2006 Chateau Grande Cassagne COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES ROSÉ (Provence, France)

This had some nice flavor but was a bit lacking in the acidity needed to keep it fresh and vibrant, and so had a kind of dull mouthfeel.

Eye: Light bubblegum pink color.

Nose: Sweet strawberry/watermelon scents with a note of rhubarb and steely minerals.

Mouth: Very soft and round, with low-acid cherry/watermelon fruit and a cold stainless steel note. Long, but low-acid, somewhat meek finish.

Score: 85.

Cellar or drink? Drink up ASAP.

Price/store: This is about $9 at most Richard's stores.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2005 St. Cosme CÔTES DU RHÔNE "Les Deux Albion" (Rhône Valley, France)

This was a beautifully-rendered Côtes du Rhône, with excellent ripeness, concentration, and balance. I'd put this up against Chateauneufs and Gigondas's costing 2 to 3 times as much. I think I remember reading somewhere that this is a 50/50 Grenache/Syrah blend, though don't quote me on that.

Eye: Youthful and deep dark black ruby color.

Nose: Complex nose of crushed stones, crisp but ripe and spicy black raspberries, and some garrigue-like herbal-earthy scents in the background.

Mouth: Concentrated, full-bodied, and with loads of soft tannins, this wine had flavors of spicy, dark berries, stony minerals, and iodine-laced herbs. A very long finish with great tannins and acidity providing structure and balance.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? This wine's concentration, balance, and tannic structure augur well for another 2-4 years of aging in a cool cellar, although it's great right now.

Price/store: Was about $15 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Rusden "Driftsand" (Barossa Valley, Australia)

This Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre blend was very ripe but kind of on the dull side.

Eye: Fairly advanced-looking medium black ruby.

Nose: Soft, sweet nose of very ripe. spicy blackberries and raspberries, augmented with carrot-cake spices.

Mouth: Very soft, round, and medium-full in the mouth. Almost sweet flavors of ripe raspberry and peach (the latter being a dead giveaway in a red that the fruit was too ripe), with a faintly minerally, balsa wood component. A bit flabby and lacking some focus, but with lots of flavor.

Score: 84.

Cellar or drink? Drink up, because this will only get more disjointed as time goes on.

Price/store: About $25 at Spec's on Smith (also available at the Spec's on Richmond).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Zinfandel! (The Dog)

Our dog, Zinfandel, or "Zinny" for short.

Eye(s): Brown.

Nose: Wet.

Mouth: Likes to bite Gus in half. (Gus is the cat across the street that Zinny views as an arch-enemy of Zinny's sister, Salty, the cat.)

Score: 100.

Walk or Ride? Walk.

Price/store: Free from the H.O.P.E. Shelter in Houston. Good value.

2005 "Venta la Ossa" (La Mancha, Spain)

This wine was done in what is euphemistically called the "international style" -- which some critics call "spoofulated." It usually signals a wine made in a very ripe style and aged in lots of new french oak. Almost invariably, regardless of the varietal, it ends up tasting to some degree like an oaky Merlot. Usually, I'm not crazy for this style. And although this wine was made in that style . . . it nevertheless was a very tasty and pleasurable Tempranillo.

Eye: Fully saturated impenetrable black color with ruby purple highlights.

Nose: Extremely rich, oaky nose with lots of fresh ground coffee notes, dark chocolate, fresh bread, and, oh yeah, some ripe fruit underneath all that.

Mouth: Huge, ripe, mouthfilling oaky flavors coat the palate. Not much, if any complexity, but doesn't skimp on flavor and has lots of "oomph." Long, oaky, peppery blackberry juice finish.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next year, as it is my experience that whatever fruit is there will be dwarfed by the oak pretty soon.

Price/store: $13 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Artezin ZINFANDEL (Mendocino County, Cal.)

A flabby, out-of-balance disappointment.

Eye: Medium plummy ruby color.

Nose: Nose of spicy, tart/sweet brambleberries, pine forest and anchovy paste.

Mouth: Very simple, flat, plummy/metallic-minerally flavors, with a toasty, resiny, low acid, almost cloying finish. Flabby and not very Zin-typical.

Score: 74.

Cellar or drink? Neither, really.

Price/store: $16.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Monday, July 07, 2008

2006 Mommessin BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES "Old Vines - Gamay" (France)

This is your cheap summer party/cookout wine for 2008. Tremendous value in a crowd-pleasing style.

Eye: Dark crystalline ruby.

Nose: Ripe fruity scents of hard chery candy and a bit of a minerally backdrop.

Mouth: Ripe, soft, and with beautiful balance, this wines has lots of straightforward cherry, grapey fruit with a touch of stones in the background. Not complex, but very fun to drink, particularly with a slight chill on it.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next few months.

Price/store: Was $8 and change at Spec's on Holcombe.

2005 Chateau Thivin Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France)

This was a very good, large-scaled, structured Beaujolais. I used to sell this when I worked at Mosswood Wines in the early 1980s, and have seen it only rarely since. I was glad to see that Spec's had picked it up.

Eye: Saturated dark ruby with violet highlights.

Nose: Gorgeous, lively nose of crunchy, ripe plums and berries, with sweet cream and granite scents as well.

Mouth: Focused, lively, concentrated, and structured (for a Beaujolais), with crisp fruit, refreshing but not overdone acidity, and great balance. Very nice, and loaded with character.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? Drinking well now, this wine has the structure and depth to age 1-2 years.

Price/store: Was $19 at Spec's on Smith.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

2006 Frederic Mabileau ST. NICOLAS DE BOURGUEIL "La Boullieres" (Loire Valley, France)

I really like the 2005 version, reviewed previously, of this French Cabernet Franc, and the 2006, while good, was just short of the level of the 2005.

Eye: Medium dark crystalline ruby color.

Nose: Bright but still seemingly reductive aromas of minerally cherries and brambles, with a pungent mineral oil note.

Mouth: Light to medium bodied, with linear flavors of crisp, dry cherry syrup and pungent minerals. Fairly long finish, with a slightly bitterish note at the end. No real tannin to speak of.

Score: 85.

Cellar or drink? I would bet that another year or two in the cellar would result in a change in the flavor profile toward the more openly fruity and less pungent end of the spectrum.

Price/store: Was $16.99 at Central Market in Austin.

2005 Fattoria la Peschiera MORELLINO DI SCANSANO (Tuscany, Italy)

This wine was a bit of a disappointment, delivering some nice fragrance and nice, crisp acidity, but was hollow in the middle palate. When I was looking at the label at Central Market in Austin, one of the wine guys accosted me and started extolling the heck out of this one, so I gave it a shot, but alas.

Eye: Very bright, almost pulsating ruby-crimson color.

Nose: Spry aromas of winey cherries and sweat (in a kinda pleasant way).

Mouth: Flavors of minerals, sweat, and cherries flare quickly on the palate, then die, leaving a finish dominated by tannin and acidity.

Score: 80.

Cellar or drink? I'd drink this over the next year as it simply lacks the concentration of fruit needed to develop with age.

Price/store: Was $18.99 at Central Market in Austin.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

2005 Domaine Talmard MÂCON-CHARDONNAY (Burgundy, France)

This very good value was a big, bruiser of an unoaked, flavorful French Chardonnay. In an interesting side note, the word "Chardonnay" in the name of this wine refers not to the grape, but to the village of Chardonnay in the Maconnias.

Eye: Medium dark brassy gold.

Nose: Intense Chardonnay fruit on the nose -- ripe apples, peach pit, and sweet stone-scented talcum powder.

Mouth: Rich, ripe, and full in the mouth, with lots of peach, peach pit, and dense minerally flavors. Not exactly elegant, but a big mouthful of ripe, unoaked virgin Chardonnay.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 6-12 months.

Price/store: Was $11.29 at Richard's on South Voss near San Felipe.

2005 Salentein MALBEC (Mendoza, Argentina)

This was a very nicely-crafted red. Soft, rich, and complex.

Eye: Completely saturated dark ruby-purple.

Nose: Intense and complex nose of minerally gravel, lemon juice, and ripe blackberries.

Mouth: Full-bodied, with complex flavors of coffee, cassis, blackberry, and peppery iodine. Lots of medium-soft tannins in the lengthy, minerally finish.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 3-5 years.

Price/store: This was a gift, but Spec's lists this for $19.

2005 Nigl GRÜNER VELTLINER "Kremser Freiheit" (Kremstal, Austria)

To my taste, Grüner Veltliner at its best displays beautiful pink grapefruit scents with lots of mineral undertones -- and that's what this one had.

Eye: Light gold with greenish glints.

Nose: Creamed minerals, lots of pink grapefruit and apply fruit, with some straw undertones.

Mouth: Soft-textured, yet with a crisp, zesty mouthfeel. Fresh stoniness with lots of dry bitter-apple and lemon-lime fruit. Long, refreshing finish. Very distinctive.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next year.

Price/store: $17 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Hospices de Beaujeu MORGON "Cuvee Jean Gaudet" (Beaujolais, France)

I'm always excited to find additional Beaujolais producers besides the ubiquitous and bland Georges DeBoeuf offerings that monopolizes most retailers' shelves, so I grabbed a bottle of this one when it showed up at Spec's. Alas, it was pretty bland too.

Eye: Medium dark ruby color.

Nose: Lots of very straightforward plummy-grapey fruit and a bit of pungent stony scents in the background.

Mouth: Lots of simple, overly clean tasting plummy fruit. Very much in the DeBoeuf style of commercial Beaujolais.

Score: 83.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next few months.

Price/store: Was $14.20 at Spec's on Smith.

Vacation wines -- Day 7

2005 Herdade das Servas "Monte das Servas" (Alentejano, Portugal) -- This wine was extraordinarily soft and velvety textured, with nicely integrated red berry fruit and cigar box scents. I liked it a lot.

2006 Altos las Hormigas Malbec Reserva (Mendoza, Argentina) -- A dense, ripe, highly extracted and very tannic Malbec. My brother Angy liked it a lot more than I did, as I thought the level of tannins was a bit over the top.

Dinner: Beef Stew "in the Italian fashion" with lots of red wine and tomatoes.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Vacation wines -- Day 6

2006 Widmer Brickstone Cellars Semi-Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, NY) -- This wine was a dead-ringer for a Kabinett from the Rheingau. Beautiful nose of bright green apples and slate-y minerals. Crisp, refreshing, and full of flavor, all in a wonderful, light-bodied frame.

2007 Cairnbrae "The Stones" Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) -- This wine had a striking and unusual color -- pure pewtery silver. Crisp scents of herbs and grass, with a nice artichoke component to the flavors.

2006 "Montenovo" Godello (Valdeorras, Spain) -- This wine was similar to a simple Maconnais white. Not bad, but not distinguished.

2006 Alvarinho Primaz Vinho Verde (Portugal) -- I'm usually not a Vinho Verde fan, but this had great minerally flavors and a crisp, beautiful texture . . . in other words, it had FLAVOR! Very nice.

Dinner: grilled red snapper, flounder, and shrimp (Marche style)

Vacation Wines -- Day 5

2004 Saladini Pilastri "Pregio del Conte" Rosso (Marche, Italy) -- This Montepulciano/Aglianico blend had a wonderful tobacco-ey earthy nose. It was a bit clipped in the finish, however, but still was quite nice.

2006 Tenuta San Leone Bardolino Superiore "Montesalionze" -- The 2005 of this wine, which I previously reviewed, was phenomenal. This vintage had a lot in common with the 2005 on the nose (concentrated cherry and cinnamon scents), but was a little lighter and had crisper acidity. Still excellent, but not quite up to its older sibling's standards.

Dinner: Risotto with "salcheech" (wine marinated sausage); risotto with green onions and spinach.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vacation wines -- Day 4

2007 Anakena Pinot Noir (Rapel Valley, Chile) -- This was a simple, yet varietally correct Pinot from Chile. Soft and fragrant, with a pine forest earthiness.

2005 Mazzocco Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel "West Dry Creek" -- This was an outstanding Zin. Large-boned, ripe, soft, with rich spicy blackberry fruit and nice underlying mineraliness.

2006 Bassermann-Jordan Estate Riesling Trocken (Rheinpfalz, Germany) -- This was a very refreshing off-dry Riesling with lots of crisp, appley-peachy fruit and nice underlying steely minerality. I'm usually not a Trocken fan, as the wines sometimes tend to suppress Riesling's beautiful fruitiness in favor of just getting the damn thing fermented dry, but this was an exception. Very nice.

Dinner: Grilled T-bones and Strips with fresh chimichurri; sauteed greens with salt pork, garlic, rosemary, and oil.

Vacation wines -- Day 3

2005 Vincent Arroyo Napa Valley Petite Sirah -- This is a small Calistoga winery that Liz and I visited in 1993, and that my brother and his wife visited last year. Usually the wines he makes are very soft, ripe, balanced, and drinkable upon release. This one was just bizarre. Everyone agreed it smelled like lemon-lime Gatorade powder.

2006 Edmeades Mendocino County Zinfandel -- Atypical, but very nice. Soft, berryish fruit, very fleshy and ripe. Won't age well, but nice for current drinking.

2006 Jean Albrecht Pinot Blanc (Alsace) -- This was very clean and fresh, with nice peachy fruit. Not complex or distinguished, but fun to drink.

2002 Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer "Vendages Tardives" (Alsace) -- This late harvest Gewurz was really nice. Lots of apricot and lychee nut fruit, long fresh finish. Not cloyingly sweet.

Dinner: Pasta with meat sauce; pasta with garlic, oil, and broccoli.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vacation wines -- Day 2

2006 Ferrando Erbaluce di Caluso "La Torrazza" -- This was a very refreshing, dry white. Stylistically like a good Sancerre or Chablis, this wine had great minerality and refreshing dry fruit.

2005 Tenuta San Leone Bardolino Superiore "Montesalionze" -- This wine, which I previously raved about, is still drinking wonderfully, and has lots of life left. An amazing Veronese wine.

2004 Edmunds St. John "Rocks and Gravel"
-- This was a really French-styled Rhone blend from California. The label doesn't give info about the varietal(s), but from the spicy blackberry, olive, iodine, and gravelly-earthy scents and flavors, I'm guessing that this has lots of Grenache and a bit of Mourvedre and maybe some Carignane in it. Very elegant.

2005 Guigal Cotes du Rhone -- To see just how French the previous wine actually was, we opened this one next. Though tight upon opening opening, it developed a rich, spicy cassis fruitiness, with earthy, iodine, and herbal undertones. It was really good, and, if anything, it was even more Californian in style than the previous (California) wine.

Dinner: Pollo in potacchio Marchegiana

Vacation wines -- Day 1

We're on a huge extended family vacation at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It's not avenue conducive to measured, objective note-taking, but I'll try, amidst the chaos, to write a few quick notes about the wines we're drinking. Here's the first day.

2004 Pillar Box Red -- I previously reviewed (and really liked) this Australian Shiraz-Cabernet blend. It's still drinking beautifully. Rich cassis fruit and a charcoally, smoky component. Full and soft.

2006 "Peace" -- This 1.5 liter Cabernet-Shiraz blend from southeast Australia was fruity, clean, and well-balanced.

Dinner: grilled hamburgers and hot dogs (hey, we'd just arrived at the beach house -- give me a break).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

2007 Domaine de Corbillières PINOT NOIR ROSÉ (Touraine, France)

Another winner from this outstanding Loire Valley domaine. While not as amazing as the 2005 rosé, reviewed previously here, this was really enjoyable. And a GREAT value as well.
Eye: Beautiful light pinkish-cantaloupe color.

Nose: Really exuberant nose of strawberries, powdered stony minerals, and a tres leches-like, cream-laden angel cake component.

Mouth: Bright, fresh, and fruity, with medium-light body and loads of crisp fruit, and a nice "lift" and clarity to the long finish.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? It's a dang rosé, for Pete's sake. You know what to do: chill it and drink it this summer!

Price/store: Was $10.99 at Richard's on Voss (near San Felipe).