Friday, December 21, 2012

2010 Bodegas Olarra RIOJA CRIANZA "Cerro Anon" (Spain)

This is probably the cheap wine value of 2012.  I like it even better than its more expensive, older sibling, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.  This is akin to a balanced, soft, deep, very drinkable non-oaky Cabernet from California (or a newer style Bordeaux).

Deep, intensely red ruby color.  Deep and pure on the nose, with very ripe, rich cherry/berry fruit, augmented with very subtle smoky gravelly quality.  Ripe, pure, soft and intense on the attack, with excellent balance, and good cling.  This would pair well with lots of foods, and is also really nice on its own.  A-.  This was ... wait for it ... $9.99 from  If and when they list it again, get some.    Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2010 Porta RIESLING Reserva (Bio Bio Valley, Chile)

A fantastic value in a crisp, zingy, fragrant, bone dry Riesling.  Can easily compete with entry-level Alsace Rieslings costing 50%-100% more.

Very light silvery-gold color.  Vivid nose of crisp white grapes, lime, and petrol-inflected minerals.  Flavorful, dry, and with mouthwatering acids, there are loads of citrusy, green apple fruit and lots of clean minerality.  Medium-bodied, with a very clean, refreshing, and fairly long finish.  I'm very impressed this wine was this good at $9.99.  B+.  This tastes very young and should continue to drink well for 1-2 more years.  Got this at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports, Harrison, NY.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2007 Domaine de Beaurenard RASTEAU COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES "Les Argiles Bleues" (Rhone Valley, France)

A good, rich, ripe and flavorful Cotes du Rhone.  Not especially complex, but offers lots of oomph.  80% Grenache, 20% Syrah.

Nearly fully saturated, youthful black ruby.  Cassis, dark berries, and lots of very low-toned minerally stones in the nose.  Rich, large-framed, and mouthfilling.  Loads of deep, dark berries, and intense stony minerality.  Although weighty, intense, and well-extracted, it's pretty one-dimensional, but it's got good balance and a nice finish.  Not worth its $27 price tag, however.  B.  Got it from Flickinger Wines in Chicago.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2006 Fire Block Old Vine GRENACHE (Clare Valley, Australia)

A more measured, elegant rendition of one of Australia's undervalued specialties.  Everything in balance, this is very flexible with a wide range of stews, meats, and pastas.

Dark ruby color with the beginnings of some garnet hues.  very ripe cherry and rasspberry fruit, shot through with fragrant, sandstoney spice.  Very ripe, and a bit lower-toned in its fruitiness than I would have expected.  Very dark cherry cough syrup/black raspberry fruit, along with a leathery earthy quality.  Long finish with loads of body (a little heat, but not too much peeks through).  B+.  A good value for an immediately drinkable rich Grenache will a little bottle age at $16.99.  Got it at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by USA Wine West, Saucelito, CA.  Drink over the next year.

2008 Dierberg PINOT NOIR Estate (Santa Maria Valley, Cal.)

A fleshy, soft, aromatic P.N.  Drinking really well now, and should hold and improve for another 2-3 years.

Dark ruby color still with youthful violet highlights.  Rich nose of ripe sappy cherries and plums, augmented with warm fruitcake and moist gravelly scents.  Mouthfilling, clingy flavors of rich cherry, brown baking spices, and a gravelly/minerally note.  Full-bodied, yet not heavy, with an elegant texture and good acidity.  Very long finish.  Really fine.  A-.  Was $29.99 from

Sunday, December 09, 2012

2009 Chateau d'Estang CASTILLON-COTES DE BORDEAUX (France)

This 70% Merlot/30% Cab Franc was direct, fruity, and very soft.  At $9.99, it was a very good value weekday dinner wine.

Dark ruby-garnet.  Friendly nose of plummy, ripe, black cherry fruit, along with a hint of some fragrant dry gravelly/nutmeggy scents.  Very soft in the mouth, with sultry, direct black cherry skin fruitiness, no tannin whatsoever, and a nice, pure, if not particularly lengthy, finish.  Medium-full body.  Drink over the next two years.  B.  Was $9.99 from Wine Exchange (  Imported by Jeffrey M. Davies Selections, Illinois.

Friday, December 07, 2012

2005 Bodegas Olarra "Cerro Anon" RIOJA RESERVA (Spain)

I haven't had a good Rioja in a while.  I like them, but the old style, with its heavy-handed use of American oak, always leaves me wondering what the heck to eat with it.  This one is very good, but it shows the heavy oak.

Very dark, surprisingly youthful color: very dark ruby violet.  Intense concentrated cherry extract fruit on the nose, but it's in neck-and-neck competition with intensely -- almost resiny -- oakiness.  Youthful-tasting as well, with bring, penetrating flavors of  dark cherry, liquid graphite, and some intense oakiness.  Full-bodied, and with a nice freshness in the finish, this wine still has some youthfully tight, fine-grained tannin.  This will age slowly and nicely for at least another 5 years.  B+ if you are an admirer of this style.  Was $12.99 from, making it an excellent value.  Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT.

2011 Montresor "Le Banche di San Lorenzo" BARDOLINO (Veneto, Italy)

Italy's answer to Beaujolais.  Fruity, fragrant, with loads of flavor in a medium-light bodied format.  Would go with just about anything.

Medium dark ruby/plum color.  very young, and so needs some time to hit its stride, but after a while, a richly fruity nose, with gobs of crunchy, plummy, stone-infused fruit emerges.  Loads of stony, plum and cherry candy fruit in the mouth, but it's quite dry and smooth, with decent acids and no tannin at all.  The only thing it lacks is complexity, but otherwise is an excellent mealtime accompaniment.  B+.  Was $12.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY.

Monday, December 03, 2012

2008 Ambra CARMIGNANO "Santa Cristina in Pilli" (Tuscany, Italy)

Disappointing.  I haven't had an exciting Carmigniano in decades.  Bad luck I guess.  This was deeply colored, but with a dried out flavor profile.

Dark ruby/garnet color.  Nose had a little dried cherry/prune-tinged fruit, but is mostly dominated by crackly old dried leaves aromas.  In the mouth, it's austere and mostly dried out, with only a fleeting hint of fruit.  The finish basically consists of vanishing flavors and lingering dry, leafy flavored tannin.  D+.  Was $19.99 at The Italian Store in Arlington.  Imported by the usually dependable deGarzia Imports.  Avoid at any price . . . it's just not very pleasant.

2010 Shenandoah Vineyards ZINFANDEL "Special Reserve" (Amador County, Cal.)

A terrific value Zinfandel.  Not a monster, but balanced, deep, fruity, and fresh.  A utility infielder comfortable in many contexts and with a wide variety of meals.

Dark ruby with a violet tinge.  Bright, lightly-spiced nose of black cherry and blackberry, along with a whiff of fruitcake and warm sandstoney gravel.  Nicely-concentrated, with full body and loads of clean, deep fruit in the fore-palate, with sweet dried cherry and sandstone in the long, lightly tannic finish.  Lacking that extra depth and complexity to catapult it into the elites, it's still and very nice B+.   Was $10.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, VA.

Friday, November 30, 2012

2007 Clos du Caillou "Les Quartz" COTES DU RHONE (Southern France)

This is a concentrated, balanced, deep and complex Cotes du Rhone.  85% Grenache, 15% Syrah.  Very good.

Saturated black ruby color.  Low-toned nose of roasted nuts, minerals, and dark dark blackberry extract.  Low-toned clingy, flavors of blackberry and black cherry extract, along with an iodiney/graphitey note.  Very weighty in the mouth and extremely full-bodied for a CDR.  A little heat and some tannin in the long finish.  Very ambitious.  Was $22.99 from Flickinger Wines in Chicago, pricing it in the category of many higher levels Rhones like Gigondas and Vacqueyras, but it would certainly compete with those wine on quality.  B+.   Imported by Chelsea ventures, Chicago.

(Sorry, 2006 depicted.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

2009 Wine Guerrilla "Harris-Kratka Vineyard" ZINFANDEL (Alexander Valley, Cal.)

Atypical for an Alexander Valley Zin, but really good!  I usually expect Alexander Valley Zins to be loamy/earthy and have sultry, low-toned ripe fruit.  This one is big and athletic, with surprisingly good acidity.  It still needs a year or two to settle down.

Almost fully-saturated black ruby.  Big nose of tangy, ripe blackberries and a resiny earthy note.  Mouthfilling and muscular, this wine has both very full body and tangy acidity, along with some noticeable tannin, giving it a very youthful, disjointed mouthfeel at present.  But it is very concentrated and long in the mouth, with tangy ripe black raspberry fruit and lots of clean, stony minerality.  Very very good.  A- now, with the possibility of a full "A" in a year or two.  Was $26.99 from

BTW, I haven't had anything but exemplary Zins from this Zinfandel specialist.  Their wines are always worth trying, in my view.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2010 Henri Boillot BOURGOGNE ROUGE (Burgundy, France)

I wanted to open this too-young half bottle of plain ol' generic Burgundy from a good producer close on the heels of the Louis Latour Corton I just panned to make sure I wasn't being too harsh on the Corton.  I wasn't.  This is very good, though too young.  The Corton is crap by comparison.

Medium dark, youthful ruby.  Still developing nose, but showing snappy aromas of sappy cherries, lemons, and clean stoniness.  Incredibly young in the mouth, but with lots of still-angular dark cherry skins and an intense amount of clean powdered stony minerality that clings to the sides of the mouth.  Crisp acids.  Not that much tannin.  This wine is very nice now if you appreciate wines in their extreme youthful state, but will be way better in a couple of years.  B.  Was $9.99 for a 375 ml (half bottle) from Flickinger Wines, Chicago.  Imported by Chelsea Ventures, Chicago.

Friday, November 16, 2012

2007 Louis Latour CORTON (Burgundy, France)

This wine embodies what is wrong with Burgundy.  Even discounted to $39 from $50, it is a mediocre, characterless wine that had no business being sold under a Grand Cru appellation, and even if it were declassified, as it should have been, to a generic Bourgogne and sold for $15, it wouldn't have been a repeat purchase.  Burgundy, unfortunately, is filled with wines like this, as soulless producers, in the name of making money, denigrate the amazing terroir and grapes God blessed them with.

Listless pale brick/ruby.  Weak nose of some vaguely old cherry fruit, some mineral, and dried leaves.  Lean and diluted in the mouth, with weak, drying flavors of bitter cherry.  No finish whatsoever.  D.  Avoid.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2009 Celler El Masroig "Sola Fred" MONTSANT (Spain)

A solid, workman-like, flavorful red for simple weeknight dinners.

Dark black ruby color.  Medium intensity nose of smoky peat and black cherry fruit.  Hits the palate squarely with full body and loads of direct, dark black cherry fruit.  A wee bit of tannin adds structure, and there's very good acidity.  Lacks complexity, but it's primarily Carignane, which usually doesn't aspire to great heights of subtlety anyway.  I'd give it a B-, but not in the sense of a really good student who disappoints, but of a C student who gives as good an effort as he can.  Was $9.99 from Imported by Boutique Wine Collection, Phila., PA.

Monday, November 12, 2012

2009 Felsina Berardenga CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

A tangy, lean, but interesting Chianti.

Dark, blackish ruby with a brick tinge.  Nose features sour cherry fruit, fruitcake, and lots of gravelly minerals.  Lean and long in the mouth.  Lots of soft tannin and acid, and bone dry flavors of tart cherry and mineral that cling to the palate.  It went very nicely with a Tuscan braised meatloaf, but definitely needed the food to round out the lean texture.  B.

Was $9.99 for a 375 ml (half bottle) from  Imported by Wine Warehouse, Commerce, Cal.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2008 Tahbilk SHIRAZ (Nagumbie Lkes, Central Victoria, Australia)

I haven't had an Aussie Shiraz in a long time -- I find their typical jammy, oaky profile tiring and uninteresting.  But I remember drinking some structured, earthy Chateau Tahbilk Shirazes in the late 80s and early 90s, so I picked this one up recently for $13.99 (at  And, true to form, it's a bit more structured and interesting than the typical jam-fest.

Nearly saturated black ruby color.  Needs some time for the nose to develop fully, but when it does it shows ripe blackberry and sweet cassis fruit, and iodine/graphite note and smoky embers.  Full bodied and ripe, but not overripe or jammy, it fills the mouth with clingy deep fruit and smoky flavors.  It has considerable but soft tannin, and surprisingly good acids.  (And the acidity feels natural, as opposed to many Aussie reds, whose acidity seems so at odds with the jammy overripe fruit that it fairly screams "added by the winemaker.")  Fairly lengthy, almost refreshing finish.  B+/A-.  Imported by Epic Wines, Aptos, Cal.  This wine would go well with a wide range of meat and red-sauced pasta dishes.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

2010 Gilles Gelin BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES (Southern Burgundy, France)

I drank a bottle of the a couple of weeks ago and didn't write about it because I didn't like it.  It seemed overly lean, austere, and dried out.
It must have been an off bottle, because this, my second bottle, was really good.

I think this grower markets his wines under two labels:  Gilles Gelin, and Domaine des Nugues.  I've previously extolled the Domaine des Nugues Beaujolais wines, and this alternate label wine is also terrific.  I'm not sure if they're different cuvees, or just different labels.  Regardless, this wine is fruity, minerally, energetic, soft and very, very lively.

Highly saturated violet-inflected dark ruby.  Unbelievably bright nose of ripe yet vibrantly crisp red fruits (you can actually smell the acids, making your nose tingle) and clean stoniness.  Bright, refreshing, and nicely concentrated in the mouth.  It's the kind of wine that both so cleanly-fruited, ripe, yet crisp that it's hard to get tired of drinking it.  No it's not complex, just ridiculously addictive to drink.  B+/A-.  Imported by Fleet Street Wine Merchants, I got this for $16.99.  Not cheap for a Beaujolais-Villages, but well worth it.

UPDATE:  I've now drunk the last of 6 bottles of this that I had, and the bottle variation was maddening.  3 bottles were fruity and nice, like the bottle described in detail above.  The other three were dried-out, lacking fruit, and hard as industrial steel -- like the first one described in the intro to this post.  This is Russian Roulette in bottles.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

St. Cosme NV "LIttle James' Basket Press" (2012 bottling) (Rhone Valley, France)

Once again this is a terrific and cheap wine.  Hard to find a better wine under $10.  It's a non-vintage Rhone blend, mostly composed of Grenache, and it's balanced, complex, and fun to drink.

Very dark ruby-violet.  Energetic nose of spicy blackberry/raspberry fruit, smoke, and minerally/sandstoney notes.  Dark, clingy flavors of iodine-laced blackberry/cherry.  A light veil of fine-grained tannin adds texture.  Very good concentration of flavor, and good acids.  Long finish.  This will be very flexible with food. I like this a lot.  B+/A-.  Imported by Epic Wines, Aptos, Cal., I got this for $9.99 from

Friday, November 02, 2012

2010 Thunevin-Clavet COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES "Cuvee Constance" (Southwest France)

This is a serious, intense wine.  A little on the rustic side, but tons of flavor and a very good value.  It's a blend, mostly of Carignane and Grenache.

Deep dark ruby-violet color.  Low-toned intense aromas of cracked stones, almost overwhelming the scents of blackberry and cassis.  Mouthfillingly rich, but bone dry, this wine assaults the palate with clingy, intensely rocky/minerally-tinged flavors of scorched earth and blackberry skins.  Loads of tannin.  This will be a dynamite wine to have with beef stews in the cold months to come.  And it will be softer and better in a couple of years.  B+(+).  Was $14.99 from  Imported by Serge Dore Selections, which clearly has some sort of business deal with since that company's wines seem to constitute the majority of French wines offered on the site.  Which doesn't really matter, however, since Dore's wines are consistently good.

(Sorry, 2008 depicted)

Monday, October 29, 2012

2008 Domaine Dublere SAVINGY-LES-BEAUNE "Les Planchots du Nord" (Burgundy, France)

A shockingly light-colored wine, but with real fragrance and flavor.  A very good value Pinot Noir from the largely overpriced Burgundy region.

Very light garnet color -- almost like an old, oak-aged rose would look.  Scents of minerally cherries and fresh-baked honey whole wheat bread.  Lively, medium-light bodied flavors have surprising intensity, tenaciously clinging to the palate with earthy, crisp cherries.  Long, vivacious finish, with good acidity.  It's a unique style of Pinot Noir.  It went very well with whole wheat macaroni with cheese and bacon, and would also do nicely with tomato-less chicken dishes.  B+.  Was about $22 on sale from Flickinger Wines, Chicago.  Imported by Chelsea Ventures, Chicago.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2010 Fattoria Vignavecchia CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

A direct, lively, fruity, balanced, and flavorful entry level Chianti Classico.  A good value wine to stockpile for weekday pasta dinners.

Surprisingly extracted black, black ruby color.  Loads of youthful black cherry fruit and minerals on the nose.  No hint of oak here, just pure fruit and stones.  Decent weight, and a good, linear attack.  A fair amount of tannin, as well as good acids.  This will soften and get more fragrant over the next two years.  B. Was $12.99 from, making it a really good value.  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

Friday, October 19, 2012

2009 Foris PINOT NOIR (Rogue Valley, Oregon)

A tight, lean, but flavorful PN.  Not as forward and fruity as California versions, but more along the spectrum toward a nice villages wine from the Cote de Beaune.

Dark, clear crystalline ruby.  Very tight at first, the wine reluctantly starts to give up scents of cherry syrup and loads of stony minerals.  Bone dry, with lean but persistent flavors of underbrush, dry cherry extract, and lots and lots of minerals.  Full-bodied, with average acids.  Needs some time in the cellar to soften, but it's still nice now.  B(+). Was about $20 from

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2010 Regis Minet POUILLY-FUME "Vieilles Vignes" (Loire Valley, France)

A slightly grassy, balanced, and refreshing Sauvignon-Blanc.  Not as flinty/minerally as I usually want out of this appellation, but very nice.

Light silvery/gold color.  Grassy herbs and fresh gooseberry fruit dominate the lively nose, with only a hint of minerality.  Bone dry, herbal, straw-inflected lime/gooseberry fruit, with crisp acids for freshness, and a clean but somewhat bitter finish.  Good, but not great.  Would be a really nice counterpoint with sweet grilled shrimp or seared sweet scallops.  B.  Was $18.99 from Imported by Kermit Lynch.

Monday, October 15, 2012

2010 Three Vineyards ZINFANDEL "Live Oak Vineyard" (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

From the last few remaining 125+ yr.-old ungrafted vines in this largely uprooted vineyard, this wine has a plush texture, and an intense concentration of flavor that is out of proportion to its weight (which is not heavy).  Very unique.  And really really good.

Nearly fully-saturated dark ruby violet.  Intense, nearly pungent boysenberry fruit, stony minerals, and bitter herbs leap out of the glass.  Intense, focused fruit immediately coats the mouth, with loads of mixed berry and berry skin flavors, and lots of high-toned minerality.  No discernable oak to obscure this tremendous character of the old vines and unique soil.  Full-bodied, with pretty decent acids.  Very long, pure finish.  Just outstanding to sip on its own, it would also complement a wide variety of dishes and cheeses.  A.  Was $27 from, but obviously worth the  high (for me) price.

2009 Tenuta Vicario AGLIANICO CAMPANIA (Southern Italy)

A big, rustic Aglianico, with a very roasted nose/flavor profile and a broad texture.

Completely saturated black black ruby.  Low-toned and woodsy/brambly on the nose, with very dark blackberry fruit, and dark baker's chocolate and scorched earth.  Bone dry in the mouth, with very minerally-tinged cassis fruit, with pungent roasted herbs abounding.  Loads of medium-fine-grained tannins coat the mouth.  Good acidity, and full-body too, so the balance is nice.  It's just that the flavor profile is kinda rustic.  B for now, but it might soften and improve over the next 2-3 years.  I got this while eating at Pupatella pizzeria in Arlington (which makes amazing true Napolitana pizzas and fritture), and then took the rest home.  Imported by Michael R. Downey Selections, Lorton, VA.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2007 Tedeschi "Capitel dei Nicalo" VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE (Veneto, Italy)

A good value, fully mature, fairly complex Valpo. Tedeschi has been a very good producer in this region for several decades.  I used to carry a Tedeschi Capitel San Rocco Valpo in the wine shop I managed back in the mid-80s, and it was very good as I recall.  This wine is neither fish nor fowl; it's a unique style. Weight and body-wise, it's mid-way between a normal Valpo and Ripasso style.

Dark blackish garnet color.  Big, animated, earthy, yeasty nose with loads of ripe but tartish berry fruit.  Mouthfilling and flavorful, this wine counterbalances intensity and a light mouthfeel.  Very earthy, mature, satisfying flavors, with dark, dry berry skin fruit.  Bone dry, with some drying but soft tannin that is slow to leave.  Bit of pleasant bitterness appears in the finish.  Good, lively acids.  I give it a B+, but others who aren't fond of earthy wines may not like it as much.  Was $14.99 from  Imported by Dreyfus/Ashby, NYC.

(Sorry, 2006 shown.)

Monday, October 08, 2012

2008 Saddleback Cellars ZINFANDEL "Old Vines" (Napa Valley, Cal.)

A big, dark low-toned, intensely-flavored, and significantly-oaked Zinfandel.  Not my favorite style, but still, very well done.

Fully-saturated, plasma-like, black ruby-crimson.  Low-toned nose of smoky sandstone and earth, minerals, dark blackberry skins, and espresso roast coffee.  Dense flavors immediately coat the mouth, with chocolatey-dark berry flavors and a lot of graphite-inflected minerals.  Dense and large-boned.  Loads of soft tannin and very full body.  Drink this one in mid-winter with a winey stew and it will shine.  B+.  Was $27 from

(Sorry, 2007 shown.)

Sunday, October 07, 2012

2010 Beckman Vineyards GRENACHE "Estate" (Santa Ynez Valley, Cal.)

A zesty, herb-tinged and very quaffable style of Grenache.  Not as big and earthy as Chateauneufs, or as powerful, weighty, and densely-fruity as the best old vine Spanish Garnachas.  This is a wine that doesn't necessarily shine on its own, but fits in beautifully with a meal.

Dark, magenta-shot ruby.  Bright, slightly tartish raspberry fruit coupled with mixed green herbs on the shy nose.  Much more animated in the mouth than the as yet undeveloped nose suggests, it fills the mouth with earthy, iodine-tinged, herby black raspberry fruit.  Lots of youthful but soft tannin, and very good acids provide nice framework.  Medium-full-bodied, with pretty good concentration.  As the finish wears on (it's a long one), the fruit lingers and comes more into focus.  This wine will age nicely for 2-3 years, but if you like them young, it works nicely now too (but run it through a Vinturi or decant it to allow it to develop.  B(+).  Was $22.99 from  Neither a good nor bad value at that price.

Friday, October 05, 2012

2007 Col d'Orcia ROSSO DI MONTALCINO "Banditella" (Tuscany, Italy)

One of the best, and best value Rosso di Montalcinos I've had.  Fragrant, deep, ripe, complex, and textured.

Very saturated black ruby/garnet with brick edges.  Deep, very ripe blackberry and plummy fruit together with loads of fragrant gravel and minerals on the nose.  Intense, deep-toned flavors of pungent graphite-laced earth and bone-dry essence of blackberry extract.  Lots of medium fine-grained tannins and full body give lots of oomph, and the finish is long and chewy.  I can't imagine this improving much, so drink over the next 18 months.  A-.  Was $14.99 from  Imported by Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, FL.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

2010 Mas de Gourgonnier LES BAUX DE PROVENCE (Southern France)

This wine is consistently a very good wine and very good value.  It's always organically made from 50-60 year-old vines, and tastes like a traditional Provencal red.  The 2010 is definitely up to past quality standards.

Very dark blackish ruby with a violet tinge.  Dark rich, ripe berry fruit, equaled measure-for-measure by scents of graphite and sandstone.  Low-toned minerally fruit coats the mouth, with lots of youthful tannin.  Full-bodied, with good concentration, but no alcohol peeking through.  It actually seems a bit tight.  Very long finish, and nice balance.  Will keep and improve for 2-4 years, but drinking well now for those who, like me, like 'em young (we're talking wines here, of course).  B+.  Was $15.99 at Whole Foods in Alexandria (Old Town).  Imported by Dionysos Imports, Manassas, VA.

(Sorry, 2005 depicted)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

2010 Birichino GRENACHE "Vieilles Vignes Besson Vineyards" (Central Coast, Cal.)

Grown in the Santa Cruz Mountain area, this Grenache (from 101 year-old vines, grown on its original roots), shows off intense cherry fruit with a bit of black raspberry, along with a pungently stony minerality.  It's very good, balanced, and focused, and not at all the fruit bomb one would expect from such old Grenache vines in California.  In fact, it's a little on the lean side.  This wine would do very well with pasta in a good meat sauce or grilled burgers.

Deep violet-tinged ruby. Dry cherry extract coats the mouth, along with stony minerals.  Lots of soft tannin, as well as acids and alcohol.  Not very complex, but satisfying and athletic in a linear way.  B+.  Was $17.99 from

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2007 la Maia Lina CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

A solid Chianti with good depth of flavor and balance but a little shy on the nose.

Deep, youthful, vibrant dark ruby color.  Fantastic nose that I wish was a bit more animated, but as it is it shows rich, ripe, sweet cherry extract, warm gravel, and a bit of lemon juice.  Rich and mouthfilling, with deep cherry fruit and a nice, clean, minerally earthiness.  Lots of soft tannin and good acidity add structure and balance, and the finish is long.  Not a classically-built, old-school Chianti, but a very good example of the modern style.  A-/B+.  Was $13.99 from, making it a very good value.  Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates, NYC.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2004 La Lecciaia BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO RISERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

A big, earthy Brunello that, on the first night, almost seemed over the hill.  But I put it under a Vacu-Vin for a night, and on night two it seemed more youthful, with more fruit showing through.  That indicates this wine probably needs to be decanted for a few hours on the first night it's opened in order to shine.

Dark, very brickish red color.  Medium intensity nose of underbrush, warm sandstone, and dark winey black cherry syrup.  Intense, broad, and mouthfilling.  Loads of dark, rich roasted cherry fruit and earthy sandstone notes coat the mouth.  Loads of soft tannin and pretty decent acidity.  Long finish.  A bit earthier in style than I prefer, but those who like this side of Brunello will probably like this a lot.  B+.  Drink over the next 1-2 years, and be sure to give it plenty of time to breathe.  Imported by Monsieur Touton Selections, I got this for $24.99 (pretty cheap for a good quality Brunello, actually).

UPDATE (11/10/12):  A second bottle was older and more tired.   I would give #2 a C+.

Friday, September 21, 2012

2010 Vega Sindoa "EL CHAPARRAL" Old Vines Garnacha (Navarra, Spain)

A pure, balanced, deep red that shows off the cherryish side of garnacha.

Absolutely vibrating magenta ruby.  Nose of deep, ripe, but crisp black cherries, smoky embers, and minerals.  Wonderful, high-toned cherryish/slightly raspberryish fruit, with lots of limestony minerals.  Good concentration and depth.  Some soft tannins coat the mouth, and the finish is medium long, pure, and lively.  Very food-friendly, this wine is the furthest thing from tiring to drink.  It will keep well for a few more years and is a great value.  A-. $10.99 from  Imported by Jorge Ordonez.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2009 Domaine Mazilly Pere & Fils BEAUNE 1er CRU "VIGNES FRANCHES" (Burgundy, France)

This is an energetic, electric Pinot Noir that is way too young to drink now.  It deserves at least 2-3 years to settle down and mellow and fill out, but make no mistake, it's really nice right now if you like your PNs zingy and youthful.

Bright, crystalline dark ruby.  Piercing nose of crisp, tangy, ripe cherries, stony minerals, brown sugar, and a whiff of fruitcake.  An intense, linear streak of minerally cherries with a hint of dry barnyard gravel hits the palate immediately.  There's a bit of tannin and zesty acids to keep the vigorous sensations going.  Long, lean, clean finish.  Very, very good.  An A- now, this has the potential to be an "A" in 3-5 years.  Was $26.99 from, making it a bargain for a premier cru Beaune of this quality!  Imported by MHW, Ltd., Manhasset, NY.

(Sorry, 2008 depicted)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2009 Domaine Louis Boillot SAINT-AUBIN 1er CRU "LES CASTETS" (White Burgundy, France)

A fragrant wine, with nice flavors, balance, and length, but a little undernourished in the mid-palate.

Light gold with silver/greenish highlights.  Toasty, hazelnut and brown butter notes dominate the nose, with nice pear fruit and stony minerality underneath.  Soft and full in the mouth, with oaky and mineral flavors overshadowing the fruit a bit.  Bone-dry, with good acidity, and after the lean midpalate the finish stretches out and lasts for a while.  B/B+.  Was $23 fro  Imported  by MHW, Ltd, NYC.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2009 J. Lohr CABERNET SAUVIGNON "Seven Oaks" (Paso Robles, Cal.)

This wine was a gift, and I was ready to use it strictly for cooking, but it was actually pretty decent.  I'm not a huge fan of middle-of-the-road California Cabernet, but this was nicely done.  It's apparently widely available at around $11 or $12.

Pretty, dark ruby color.  Pleasant nose of dark berry fruit, vanillin from oak, and a touch of menthol.  Soft, round entry, with nice clean berry and oak flavors.  Not very concentrated or complex, but it's hard to find anything wrong with it.  It's just not my cup of tea, but plenty of folks will like it, I'm sure. C+/B-.

Monday, September 10, 2012

2010 Chapoutier CÔTES DU RHÔNE "Belleruche" (Southern France)

A mediocre Cotes du Rhone, but at least I didn't spend too much for it.  Not nearly up to the level of their excellent 2007.

Deep violet-tinged ruby color.  Reticent nose of meat, iron, scorched gravel and blackberry.  Drying tannins coat the mouth from the get-go, detracting from the fruit and lending a coarser than usual texture.  Lean, with a dried leaves-type scorchiness obscuring the fruit.  A disappointing effort from this normally superlative house.  C-.  Was $11.99 on sale at the Giant supermarket, Columbia Pike and S. Barton.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

2010 Chateau Thivin CÔTE DE BROUILLY (Beaujolais, France)

A vigorous, lean and intensely minerally Beaujolais.  This is typically one of my favorite estates in Beaujolais, but I think they've recently started making different cuvees, and this is the basic bottling.  I am a little fearful that this will result in the same thing that's pervading Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where reserve cuvees have led to diminishing quality in the wines bearing the regular (and previously only) label.

Medium dark violet-tinged grapey ruby color.  A nose reminiscent of crisp plum and cherry juice poured over sharp, just-cracked stones.  Lots of crisp, minerally and grapey/cherry fruit hit the palate immediately, but there's a little hollowness in the middle.  A crisp, zesty finish carries with it a surprising amount of soft tannin.  A little angular but a very pleasant dinner wine with rustic food.  B.  Was $19.99, but I forgot where I got it.  Imported by Kermit Lynch.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

2009 Luigi Righetti VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE RIPASSO "Campolieti" (Veneto, Italy)

This was a classically-dilineated Ripasso Valpolicella.  Exactly mid-point between a crisp, light, cherryish straight-up Valpo and a rich, deeply-fruited and large-boned Amarone.

Dark brickish ruby.  Medium intensity nose, which repays patient sniffing with scents of deep, dried cherries, tobacco, fruitcake, and earthy minerals.  Medium-full bodied, with flavors of intense, winey cherries and minerally gravel.  It's bone dry, with lots of extract, a fair amount of tannin, and good acidity.  I think this will age nicely for another 2-3 years.  This would pair nicely with a wide range of Italian meat stews, pot roasts, and meat-sauced pastas.  B+.  Was $15.99 at Trader Joe's in Clarendon/Arlington, so it's a pretty good value.  Imported by Prestige Wine Imports.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

2010 Domaine Brazilier CÔTEAUX du VENDÔMOIS (Loire, France)

A good, lively, bone dry red weeknight dinner wine from a relatively new appellation in the Loire Valley.  It's 50% Cab Franc, 30% Pinot Noir, and 30% Pinot d'Aunis.  (Good thing the proprietor is a better winemaker than mathematician.)

It's got a clear, vivid ruby violet color.  The nose was quite closed the night I opened it, and then I forgot to put a Vacu-Vin (or any kind of) closure on it, and 2 nights later the nose was really nice and open:  brambly underbrush, cassis, and an herbal/machine oil note (from the Cab Franc no doubt).  Clean, fruity, and brisk in the mouth.  Soft-textured and bone dry, with crisp cherry fruit with a mineral/limestoney edge, turning more minerally as the finish faded.  Crisp acids.  Drink this in the same situations you'd normally reach for a Beaujolais for a change of pace, but make sure to decant it through a Vacu-Vin several hours before serving to let it come around.  B+.  An excellent value at $12.99 at Arrowine in Arlington.

2007 Stroppiana BAROLO "Gabutti Bussia" (Piemonte, Italy)

An excellent, vigorous, big, exuberant wine.  Lots going on and packed with aromas and flavor.

Very dark black ruby with a brickish tinge.  Intense, complex nose of moist, warm earth, deep-toned chokecherry syrup, smoke, and with a whiff of balsamic vinegar (yes, there was a bit of volatile acidity, but it only added to the complexity of the wine, at least at this point).  Intensely earthy in the mouth, with tons of mineral-infused moist gravelly notes framing dark cherries and graphite.  Very full-bodied, with correspondingly large amounts of tannin and a high level of acidity.  Even with the v.a. I see this aging well for another 5 years.  A.  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford NJ, it was $29.99 from a few months ago.  That's a good price for a Barolo this good.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2010 Truett-Hurst ZINFANDEL "Three Vineyards Old Vines" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

A massive, low-toned bruiser of a Zin.

Fully-saturated, black black black ruby.  Deep nose of black raspberry preserves, a tangy vegetal/rhubarby component, and dark minerals.  Huge body (the label says 15.1% alcohol), and some alcoholic heat in the finish, this is the sort of wine that needs to be drunk over the next 18 months, before the alcohol burns through the fruit.  This should go really well with hearty stews this winter.  B+.  Was $16 and change (if I'm remembering correctly) from Total Wine in McLean, VA.

(Sorry, 2006 depicted)

Friday, August 24, 2012

2009 Conte di Breganzo AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy)

Not the most complex or balanced Amarone, but a very flavorful introduction to the genre of wine made from partially-dried grapes at a bargain price.

Earthy, deeply-fruity, with some pleasant pruney and tarry notes.
Very dark brickish ruby color.  Very fragrant, with low-toned, deep scents of ripe dark berries, prune brandy, and rich earth.  Mouthfilling, with huge body and deep fruit consisting mostly of oozing black and red berries and prunes.  Long if not complex finish clings to the inside of the mouth.  Not as hot on the finish as I expected.  This was only $16.99 at Trader Joe's in Clarendon.  It's made by a co-op in the region and represents an excellent value.  B.  Imported by Santini Fine Wines in San Lorenzo, Cal.

(Sorry, 2006 depicted.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2007 Rainoldi GRUMELLO (Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy)

A light, fragrant, high-altitude mountain Nebbiolo.  Very typical of this region (when done right).

Very mature color: light garnet/ruby with lots of amber at the rim.  Nose and flavors, however, are still very much alive.  Fragrant, high-toned, earthy/minerally nose with loads of winey-cherry and pomegranate fruit.  Ripe, earthy, flavorful, but lean in the mouth.  Lots of minerally cherry fruit builds after an initially earthy entry and leaves slowly.  Good acids, and surprisingly full body.  Lengthy, lean finish.  A decent value at $18.99 from  B+, but you have to like this unique style.  Imported by Wine Warehouse, Commerce, Cal.

Friday, August 03, 2012

2009 Comte de Louis Clermont-Tonnerre CAIRANNE Cotes du Rhone Villages (Rhone Valley, France)

A solid Cotes du Rhone Villages.  Needs a lot of time to breathe, but eventually shows itself to be a nice, broodingly deep wine.

Very dark, nearly saturated ruby violet.  After being opened a day under Vacu-Vin and given another hour of airing, the wine's initially very shy nose opened up nicely, showing slightly-scorched, sweet sandstone, a woodsy-brown sugar note, and rich blackberry.  Low-toned, rich, ripe fruit with a dark, low-toned blackberry and stony notes.  Loads of softly-grainy tannin, and a very pure, fairly long finish.  This wine just keeps getting better the longer it breathes.  B+.  Was $13.99 at International Wine & Beverage, a small wine shop on Lee Highway in Arlington.  An Alan Corcia Selection, imported by Monsieur Touton.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

2009 Domaine Antonin Rodet RULLY "Chateau de Rully" (Southern Burgundy, France)

A decent Pinot Noir, but not worth the price (a statement I find myself making time after time about moderately-priced Burgundies).

Medium ruby/garnet color that looks too advanced for a 3-year old PN.  Nose of dry leaves, scorched earth, and some vaguely cherryish scents.  Dry, dessicated flavors are uncharacteristically austere for an '09.  Nothing wrong with it, but highly-disappointing for a $20 wine.  When it comes to red burgundies, I'm like a dysfunctional addict.  I keep going back, trying to find one I'll really like, only to be disappointed time and time again.  C.  Was $19.99 at Total Wine in McLean.  Imported by Boisset America.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2010 Azienda Santa Barbara ROSSO PICENO (Marche, Italy)

Rosso Piceno is the workman's wine of the Marche, and this is a decent one.  Not bad for under 10 bucks.  Picenos are a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano, and you can usually tell which is present in the greater proportion by how dark the wine looks and how low-toned the flavor profile is.  Dark color and low-toned fruit means lots of Montepulciano.  Sangiovese is not particularly distinguished in this region, and just tastes kind of winey.  Nowhere near the electricity it displays in the Chianti Classico or Rufina regions in Tuscany.  I bet this one was mostly Sangiovese.

Dark ruby/garnet.  Shy nose that benefits from being poured through a Vinturi.  Modest scents of   minerally, dry gravel and cherries.  Very dry and lean, with earthy gravel the predominant component and cherry skins taking a back seat.  Soft texture, with a lean, austere, and slightly bitter finish.  It's got good acidity.  A decent choice to wash down pasta on a weeknight.  B-.  Was $9.99 at The Italian Store on Lee Highway in Arlington.  Imported by Michael R. Downey Selections, Lorton, VA.

Monday, July 16, 2012

2007 Viticcio CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

A stunning wine.  Doesn't try to do too much, just stays within itself and ends up being an absolutely spot-on, sweet-spot CC.

Dark ruby with just the slightest lightening at the rim.  Amazingly pure nose of the sweetest, highest toned cherry extract, fruitcake, and pure, focused Chianti earth.  A floral note too.  Linear, bone dry, generous flavors.  No fat, but not an iota too lean either.  Got that great, cherry fruit-mixed-with-schisty-Tuscan gravel thing going on.  Excellent acids keep it energetic.  Long, clingy finish, with a barely perceptible dose of micro-tannin.  Killer.  A.  F*ck that new school stuff, this is the real deal.  Was $21.99 from, but I've also seen this at Spec's (on Bissonnet) in Houston.  Get some.