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.