Thursday, December 19, 2013

2010 Rutherford Ranch Old Vine ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, CA)

A unique style of Zinfandel.  But it's pretty good and not very expensive.

Startling light color for a Zin.  Basically a medium light ruby.  The first night, the nose was kind of funky, throwing off some stewed prune and acetate notes.  But the next night was much better.  There was a melange of superripe blackberry, fragrant baking spices, and warm sandstone.  Full-bodied and loose-jointed in the mouth, maybe lacking a bit of focus and concentration, but with lots of minerally blackberry fruit swimming around.  A bit of heat shows through in the finish (it's 15% for Pete's sake), but it's not out of balance.  Drink over the next year.  This would be very nice with winey beef stews and pot roasts.  B/B+.  Was $14.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2010 I Giusti & Zanza "Nemorino" (Tuscany, Italy)

I usually don't buy non-DOC Italian wines, especially from Tuscany, because they're usually non-indigenous varietals and tend to be heavily oaked and "international" in style.  I hate that shit on principle.  But my research indicated that this 60% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, 20% (f*cking) Merlot is aged only in large casks for a short period, and was grown organically near Pisa.  So I gave it a shot.  I like it.

The first night it was very tight and unyielding.  I got nothing out of it.  Good thing I didn't review it then.  But I put it under Vacu-Vin for two days and came back to on night 3.  Much better.

Very dark, black ruby with violet highlights.  On night 3 the nose showed very precise dark cherry fruit, framed nicely by slightly smoky, rock dusty- minerals.  Concentrated, focused fruit in the mouth, with nice persistence and texture.  Medium-full body and great acids.  Finishes just a tad shorter than I'd like, but is very pleasurable.  The fact that it took so long to show itself tells me this wine will age nicely for a few years.  If you're going to drink it in the next 12 months, be sure to decant it in a huge decanter several hours ahead of time.  This wine will go well with a wide range of dishes. B+.  Was $14.99 from  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

PS -- I have to say, the label just sucks.  Really stupid.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

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

A disappointing rendition of this usually outstanding value. I expected a lot more, especially from the terrific 2010 vintage.

Dark, blackish ruby.  The first night, the nose gave up nothing, and the flavors gave up nothing either.  There was some weight, but that was it.  The second night, after being re-opened a few hours, the nose showed some tangy berries and some high-pitched rock dust.  It was clean and minerally in the mouth, with good acids, showing some simple berry fruit and some underbrush notes.  Decent finish.   C+.  Was $14.99 from Table and Vine in West Springfield, MA. Imported by Ideal Wine & Spirits, Medford, MA.  Decent quaffing material, but not nearly the standard this domaine usually puts out.

(Sorry, 2007 depicted.)

Update:  Oddly, I just realized I previously reviewed this over a year ago and gave it a much better review then.  It was a different importer, which leads me to think there might be different cuvees for different buyers.  Or maybe it just got worse, but the notes are so different that it seems like a totally different wine.  Very odd.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2011 Allegrini VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy)

Solid, basic Valpo.  Nothing special, but it won't disappoint either.  A little on the burly side for this appellation.

Basic dark ruby color.  Vinous nose of dark cherry, with a slightly macerated note, along with some smoky, gravelly notes.  Mouthfilling, with loads of crunchy dark cherry fruit and a decent wallop of alcohol for a straight Valpo.   Pretty good acids, and just a wee bit of soft tannin.  Medium long, clean finish.  A good pasta/pizza/burgers choice.  I had it with braised pork chops, and it went very well.  B.  The $14.99 pricetag makes it only a "meh" value.  Got it at Total Wine in Mclean, VA.  Imported by Leonard LoCascio.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's been going on with Alsace Rieslings?

Is it me or . . . . does it seem like more and more Alsace Riesling producers are leaving significant residual sugar in their Rieslings?

This is a trend I've noticed over the last 10-15 years.  Before that, most Alsace Rieslings tended to be bone dry, very minerally and austere.  I loved them.  But in American retail stores back then, that presented a problem.  If you said "Riesling" to most customers back then, they shook their heads:  "No, I don't want a sweet wine."  If you tried to tell them that most Alsace Rieslings aren't sweet, it wouldn't change their mind.  They didn't want to try it.  And as for those who wanted sweet Rieslings, well, they would be disappointed.  So I suppose Alsace producers began to collectively realize that they may as well align the wines with (wrong-headed) consumer expectations.  And that's my theory on what happened.  Also, Parker's gushing on and on about Zind-Humbrecht's and Weinbach's sometimes sweeter cuvees didn't help, I'm sure.

But the problem is that Alsace producers pick their Riesling grapes at higher sugar and lower acid levels than, say, Rheingau and Mosel producers, so leaving residual sugar in a Riesling with 13% alcohol results in varying degrees of cloyingness.  Ironically, the big old line houses of Trimbach and Hugel still seem (at least with their higher level Rieslings) to have stuck with the more austere, dry style.  But I haven't recently had one of those, so maybe they've changed too.


Anyone have a different view?  Anyone know of any basic, entry level Alsace Rieslings that hew to the old, bone dry, austere style?

Update:  My brother sent me a link to a NY Times article about this issue that came our about 2 years ago.  Glad to see I'm not the only one who has noticed the problem, though the article suggests that Alsace producers may be going back to dry.  I hope so.

Monday, December 09, 2013

2012 Simonnet-Febvre SAINT-BRIS (Northern Burgundy, France)

I think the Saint-Bris area produces some of the best value Sauvignon Blancs in the world.  They're crisp, minerally, refreshing, and can serve as an aperitif or an accompaniment to a wide variety of lighter dinner fare.  This one's an excellent value and is a very typical, very well made exemplar.

Extremely pale, crystal clear gold color, with a slight greenish glint.  Lively nose of clean gooseberry/green apple fruit, with a squeeze of lemon, along with a gun flinty, stony mineraliness.  Bone dry, with loads of chalky minerals framing very clean, tart green apple fruit  Great acidity and a clean, fairly long finish punctuated by a tiny bitter herb note. B+.  Was $11.99 on sale at Whole Foods in Arlington.  Imported by Louis Latour, Inc. of San Rafael, CA.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

2009 Savignola Paolina CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

A darker-styled, minerally, low-toned Chianti.  Tending towards Brunello in style.  I usually am partial to the leaner, brighter, cherryish style, but this is still very nice.

Very dark black ruby color.  Very subtle nose of dark cherry/plum brandy, high-toned wood smoke, and schisty minerals.  Dark, clingy, and very minerally in the mouth.  Full-bodied, with a good amount of fine-grained tannins.  A roasted pine/rosemary resinous note lingers at the end of the finish.  B+.  While the higher-toned style of Chianti would be fine accompaniments to tomato-sauced pasta dishes and meat and tomato braises, this is a wine for grilled steaks or lamb chops.  Was $18.99 from  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

2012 Chateau de Segries COTES DU RHONE (Southern France)

This is a very good value.  Lots of character, nice texture, and it is pretty cheap.  50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, 10% Carignan. 

Very dark, black ruby with violet highlights.  Inviting nose of raspberry compote, baking spices, and minerally sandstone.  Loads of flavor, generally at the lower register.  Black raspberry, dark cherry, loads of dark minerals.  Full-bodied, but with pretty good acids.  It's also very clingy, with a long finish and a nice complement of dusty tannins.  Should last and improve over the next two years.  B+.  Was $12.99 at Total Wine in Mclean, VA.  Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

2012 "Los Colinas del Ebro" Syrah/Grenache (Terra Alta, Spain)

This 80% Grenache/20%Syrah (with the name Syrah listed first on the label to try to fool people into thinking that's the predominant grape varietal since Syrah is trendy and Grenache isn't) is a very good value.  Nice ripe fruit and minerality, well-balanced and smooth.

Rich dark ruby color.  Medium intensity nose of ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruit, along with hints of sweet baking spice and smokey stones (almost like the smell of a recently ignited caps for toy guns, if anyone can remember what that smells like).  Bone dry, with squeaky clean black raspberry fruit and loads of clean stony minerality.  Clean, medium-long, clingy finish.  Not super complex, but really nicely put together.  B+.  Was $12 at Whole Foods in Arlington in Clarendon.  Imported by Grapes of Spain (Aurelio Cabestreros) of Lorton, VA.

(The label depicted is for their white, but the Syrah/Grenaches's label is virtually identical.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2011 Domaine Guy Mousset COTES DU RHONE (Southern France)

Meh.  A CDR made to imitate a Beaujolais.  It's well made, but was purposefully crafted to hide the characteristics it was born with.  80% Grenache, 20% Syrah.
Medium dark ruby.  Loads of ripe, juicy, grapey/plummy fruit on the nose.  Fairly loose-limbed in the mouth, with average concentration, though the straightforward fruit is pleasant enough.  Fairly full-bodied.  Finish clean and short.  C+.  Was $11.99 at Total Wine in McLean, VA,  imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY.

Monday, November 11, 2013

2011 Tres Ojos GARNACHA (Calatayud, Spain)

This wine packs a wallop, though it is quite simple.  Hard to quibble, however, at $7.99.

Very dark ruby with violet overtones.  Nose features lots of black raspberry skins and dark cherry fruit.  Some stony mineraliness as well.  Highly extracted (for a Grenache), it blasts the palate with tannins and bone dry, slightly bitter black cherry fruit.  Very full bodied.  Finish leaves lots of puckery tannins.  This wine tastes very young and blunt right now.  It actually may soften a bit over the next 18 months, though I wouldn't keep it longer than that, as the high alcohol may start to burn through the fruit.  B-.  I got this a Whole Foods in Arlington.  Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, VA.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2010 Louis Boillot CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET Blanc (Burgundy, France)

 This wine took me on a surprise journey.  When I first opened it, it looked suspiciously dark gold.  And it smelled kind of flat, and felt flabby and tired in the mouth.  We finished off half the bottle without much enthusiasm the first night, although, over time the first night, it tightened up a bit, and the color lightened.  I put it under a Vacu-vin closure and stuck it back in the fridge.  Two days later, it was much, much improved.  I think this wine just needs a couple of years in the bottle.  If you open it now, I would actually recommend decanting it a few hours ahead of time -- which is usually unnecessary for a white.  Stick the decanter back in the fridge in the meantime.

The following notes are from 48 hours after opening.

Bright, luminescent medium light, brassy gold.  Wonderfully vibrant nose:  pristine apple fruit, a squeeze of lemon, a little whiff of light honey and toast, and a very clean, hay/limestoney earth note.  Lean, but with excellent flavor persistence, this wine has excellent acids (a characteristic of the 2010s from Burgundy).  Flavors of green apple, pear, and straw last a long time and leave on a very faint hazelnut note that lingers and lingers.  This wine kept getting better through the last sip.  That suggests this needs time and air.  By the end, I gave it a A-.  (Don't ask about when I first opened it.)  Was $24.99 from  Imported by MHW, Ltd., Manhasset, NY.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

2010 Quinta de Ventozelo DOURO (Portugal)

This is the antithesis of the overripe, overoaked, new world red style.  It's very defined, lean, and very stony/minerally, with lots of acidity, but not under-ripe at all.   I like it, but for those who demand jammy fruit and plushness, it's probably not gonna fly.

Gorgeously youthful-looking dark ruby.  Very unique nose, with crisp plummy fruit, a streak of rhubarb, and tons of stony minerals, along with a very subtle note of something kinda like, but not quite like, cinnamon.  Bone dry in the mouth, it's got good weight.  Flavors kind of like a blenderized mixture of rock dust and black cherry skins.  Lengthy, lean finish slows turns  a bit iodiney and bitter (but in a good way), and it's got very good acids.  Quite a unique character, this one.  B+.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY, I got this for $13.99 at Total Wine in Mclean, VA.

This will age nicely for 1-3 years, and will go with a wide variety of foods.

(Sorry, 2008 shown.)

2012 Masson-Blondelet POUILLY-FUMÉ (Loire Valley, France)

Strangely, Pouilly-Fumé seems harder to find these days than its kissing cousin, Sancerre.  Back in the very early 80s, when I was first learning about wine, Sancerre was dead.  Pouilly-Fumé was everywhere.  It had to do with the popularity of Robert Mondavi's "Fumé Blanc," as Cali Sauvignon Blanc was popularly called back then.  I find Sancerre to have more depth, but I'm overgeneralizing.

This is a good, reasonably-priced, entry level Pouilly Fumé.  A little on the lighter, herbal side, but very fresh and clean.

Extremely pale silvery-gold.  Very herbal, citrus pith nose, with the herbs tending toward the "cat pee" level of pungency initially, then calming down a bit on day two.  A very clean, precise gooseberry fruit element shoots through it.  Very crisp in the mouth, with mouthwatering acids.  Very nice green apply, gooseberry fruit, and a very clean finish.  Very little of the pierre-à-fusil (gun flint) smokiness that is characteristic of this appellation, but it's still quite enjoyable, particularly at $14.99, from  B.  Imported by Votto Vines, Hamden, CT.

Monday, October 28, 2013

2012 Nostrada GARNACHA (Campo de Borja, Spain)

I reviewed the 2011 earlier this year (I liked it), and this one is a very nice cheap wine as well.

Crystalline dark ruby with a bit of magenta (get out your damn 64 pack of Crayolas if you don't know what that is) at the rim.  Straightforward but very nice nose of dark, ripe raspberries and dark stony minerality.  Pure and richly fruity in the mouth, with loads of powdered stone minerality and a vigorous, athletic mouthfeel.  Nice weight and concentration, and a very nice, balanced finish with good acids counterbalancing full body.  B.   Was $9 at Total Wine in Mclean, VA.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY.

Monday, October 07, 2013

2009 Vignavecchia CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

Big and intense, this wine is not as elegant and precise as the excellent 2007 Riserva from this producer.  But it's still good.

Dark black ruby color.  Low-toned nose of ripe cherry and plummy fruit, some slightly scorchy minerality, and underbrush.  Dark and brooding in the mouth, with scorched earth driving the car and dark cherries in the back seat.  Acidity is pretty good for such a full-bodied wine, but it seems a bit unintegrated.  A bit bitter in the finish.  Not elegant, but doesn't skimp on bruising flavor and intensity.  B.  Was $19 from  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

2011 Chad PINOT NOIR (Anderson Valley, Cal.)

A fragrant, light, zesty Pinot Noir.  Varietally true, and fun to gulp, this wine is the antithesis of a "serious" Pinot.  But it's good anyway.

Light ruby color with a garnet tinge.  Lots going on in the nose: tart but sappy cherry, sandstone, a raw beef component, and a whiff of pine needles resting in moist soil.  Slams the palate with very pure-tasting cherry fruit and lots of stony minerals.  B one-dry and loaded with zesty acids too.  But the flavors fade pretty quickly, and there's not much concentration.  Compare this to a good quality Bourgogne Rouge.  B.  I think I got this for around $20 a bottle from

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2011 Trentadue ZINFANDEL "La Storia" (Alexander Valley, Cal.)

This is a very reticent, brooding Zin.  Unlike most Zins, this needs 2-3 years to be at its best.

Very dark violet-tinged ruby.  Low-toned nose of dark blackberry, fragrant, sweet woodsmoke, and chalk.  Mouthfilling and dense, yet with a surprisingly light mouthfeel.  Very pure, dark, monochromatic flavors of chalky, dense blackberry extract.  Loads of very soft tannin.  Finish lasts a long time.  This is all potential right now.  B+, with the potential to be an A in a couple of years.  I got this for $19 from

Sunday, September 22, 2013

2009 Mazzocco "Pony" ZINFANDEL (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

A rich, ripe, hedonistic Zin.  But not over the top.  I like it a lot.

Rich, deep, sultry dark ruby.  Richly fruity, strikingly pure nose, with loads of ultra-ripe black raspberry syrup notes, warm baking spices, and clean, stony minerals.  Concentrated, weighty, and deeply-flavored.  It's got loads of  stony mineraliness and blackberry and ripe cassis fruit. Very full bodied, and there's a bit of heat in the finish, but it's a feature, not a bug.  The finish goes on and one, with something like dry vintage port notes clinging for nearly a minute.  A very distinctive wine.  Try it with a grilled porterhouse.  A.  I don't know how much this cost.  My brother got it direct from the winery and gave it to me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2011 Jean-Marc Burgaud BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES "Les Vignes de Thulon" (Burgundy, France)

A great value in a crisp, flavorful Beaujolais.  Clean, fruity, crisp, minerally.  Gulp this sh*t down!

Crystal clear dark ruby violet color.  Fun, exuberant nose of crunchy berries, cold plums, and clean, stony minerals.  Very lively in the mouth.  Not a lot of concentration, but it's doing somersaults and ricocheting around with crisp berry fruit and stoniness, good acids, and a tad bit of tannin.  Very clean finish that invites sip after sip.  B+.  Fantastic value that I got for $9.99 at Table & Vine in West Springfield, MA.  Imported by Ideal Wines, Medford, MA.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2009 AnimaLibera MORELLINO DI SCANSANO (Tuscany, Italy)

This is a very outgoing Sangiovese, showing the darker side of the varietal.  Fully mature, however, or even a bit past its prime, so it needs to be drunk up.

Dark ruby with tawny hues.  Scorched earthy and closed at first pour, it quickly opened up to show a nose of deep-toned dark cherry fruit and an intense minerally streak.  The next day, the fruit was beginning to fade and be replaced with medicinal and oxidized notes on the nose.  Full-bodied yet quite soft, the wine has a very nice texture.  Not sure if it's just ageing rapidly or whether it was a bit heat-damaged.  Either way, I get the sense that this was better several months ago.  B on the first day. B-/C+ on the second.  Was $9.99 from  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

UPDATE (2/8/14):  subsequent bottles are oxidizing fast.  Using my remaining two bottles for cooking.  Revising score to D.  No excuse for making a Sangiovese that tanks this fast.  My comment about "fully mature" above?  Forget that.  This one's at the retirement home and too tired even for shuffleboard.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Three wines and lots of guests

We had people over for dinner Saturday and Sunday, so with all the talking and laughing etc., I didn't get to do detailed notes, but here are my impressions of three of the wines we popped.

2010 Domaine Vignaud CHABLIS PREMIER CRU Fourchaume -- Nice, minerally, brothy nose.  Nice entry, but then lean and a little hollow at present in the mid-palate.  Finishes with lots of clean, limestoney minerals in the finish.  Will be better in 2-4 years.

2005 Chateau Lascombes MARGAUX -- Much better than it was two years ago when I opened my first bottle.  Starting to develop some complexity, with the California-like primary fruit and oak I thought dominated the first bottle I popped a couple of years ago starting to subside and beginning to develop into a more sophisticated Bordeaux cedary character.  Very long finish.  Another wine that will be better still in 2-5 years.  Too bad that was my last bottle.  Paired well with Saturday's grilled steaks.

2006 Paul Pillot CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET PREMIER CRU CLOS SAINT JEAN (Rouge) -- a gorgeous, fully mature red burgundy.  Resiny cherry fruit, along with loads of gravelly minerals.  Leaner style, with very good acids.  Very nice with Coq au Vin.

Monday, August 12, 2013

2007 Vignavecchia CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA "Odoardo Beccari" (Tuscany, Italy)

A Chianti that thinks it's a Brunello.  I happen to like Chiantis that think they're Chiantis, but this is pretty good anyway.  Vignavecchia's str
aight CCR is, to my taste, more typical and more pleasurable.

Very dark black ruby.  On the first night, the nose and flavors were so closed, it wasn't particularly pleasurable.  All I got was dark, scorchy stuff. Night 2, after 24 hours under a Vacu-Vin enclosure, it was much better, much more open.  Still dark and relatively burly, but nice.  Very Brunello-ish.  Nose of charcoal, dark gravelly minerals, and scorched blackberry.  Very rich and tannic, with low-toned very scorched gravelly minerals and loads of sultry blackberry skins in the mouth.  A bit too much smoky oak, but pretty good.  Very full.  Still needs time to soften out.  Give it another year or two.  B.  I think I paid around $23 for this from over a year ago.  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

2011 Tenuta delle Terre Nere ETNA ROSSO (Sicily, Italy)

Very nice, very typical Etna Rosso.  That means it's good that clean, fruity, minerally flavor profile wrapped in a crisp, lively physical frame that is at total odds with what you'd expect from such a southern latitude.

Medium dark ruby garnet color.  Nice nose of ripe, macerated cherries and loads of clean stoniness.  Clean, fresh, and intense in the mouth.  Lots of ripe, winey cherries, a light, cedary component, and loads of minerality in the very long, lively finish.  fairly full-bodied, and with a decent amount of soft tannins.  Very nice.  Drink over the next 18 months.  B+.  I got this while at 2 Amy's Pizza in DC (excellent Neapolitan pizza) for $40.  I would think it would retail between $15-20.  Imported by daGrazia Imports, Winston-Salem, NC.

2011 Domaine de la Colline CHINON (Loire Valley, France)

A light, lively, flavorful wine.  I really liked it.

Very dark, jet black-ruby color.  Textbook Chinon/Cab Franc nose of black cherry, dry underbrush,  and a note that wavers between machine oil and toasted walnut oil.  Smooth and lively in the mouth, with intense flavors but in a medium-bodied frame.  Bone dry black cherry extract, loads of rocky minerals with a very slightly bitterish edge.  Long, pure finish.  Lots of soft micro-tannin adds a little texture as the finish fades.  B+.  Not sure what this would cost at retail, but it was $33 at Bistro du Coin in DC.  Imported by Monsieur Touton Selections.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

2010 Three Wine Company MATARO "Spinelli Vineyard" (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

From 125 year-old vines, this is a composed, low-toned, rich red.  Complex, intense, and smooth.

Very dark black-ruby.  Complex nose of toasted baking spices, rich blackberry, and pungent rock dust.  Low-toned and quite concentrated, this wine has rich flavors of ripe blackberry and dark minerals.  Pretty good acids for such a weighty wine.  Very full, and there's very slight peppery bite of alcohol at the end (heck, it is 15.2% for Pete's sake).  This will drink nicely for at least another 2 years, maybe more -- but with wines with this much alcohol, I'm always nervous about long aging, because the alcohol seems to take over after a few years and burn through the fruit.  B+.  Got this for $22 and change from as part of a mixed half-case of Three Wine Company wine
several months ago.

Friday, August 02, 2013

2012 Domaine La Rabiotte COTEAUX D'AIX EN PROVENCE ROSE (Southern France)

A fresh, lively, fun-to-drink rosé.

Light salmon pink color.  Fruity nose of watermelon, grapes, and strawberry, with a little metallic/mineral note.  Bone dry, rather full, with decent acidity.  Very slightly bitterish watermelony/cherry fruit flavors (I like the slight bitterness, or else the wine would have been too simple.)  Clean, refreshing finish.  A definite summer cookout rosé.   B.  Was $11.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, VA.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2011 Truscott "Old Vine" ZINFANDEL (Mendocino County, Cal.)

This is a very burgundian-styled (that is to say, Pinot Noir-styled) Zinfandel.  I this was served blind to me, I'd guess a solid village level wine from the Cote de Beaune or sure. Unusual, but very nice.

Light, very crystalline ruby color.  Medium intensity nose of sweet, sappy cherry, a little blackberry, dark baking spices, and a lightly-minerally note.  Mouthfilling, but light on its feet, with very Bourgogne-like flavors of dry, sappy cherry extract and light stoniness.  Very pure tasting.  Fairly full bodied, and good acidity too.  Bone dry.  Good length.  B+.  Was $15.99 from Total Wine in Fairfax, VA.  So it's a good value too.  But drink up over the next year.  It's not made to age.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2009 Ramon Valle "Peique" BIERZO (Spain)

This is another excellent value from Bierzo.  Very minerally and clingy, with the sometimes rough tannins of Bierzo under control.  I like that there's no overtly noticeable oak.

Very dark ruby/violet.  Gorgeously pure scents of violets and perfectly ripe blackberry juice poured over a pile of powdery crushed stone . . . with a note of dried citrus peel.  Very concentrated flavors fill the mouth, but it's not heavy or jammy.  Iodine, lightly scorched gravel, and blackberry skins.  Loads of soft tannin provide nice texture.  Full bodied.  Long, clingy, chewy finish.  B+.  Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT, this wine was a remarkable $10.99 from  Get some.

(Sorry, 2008 shown).

Friday, July 12, 2013

2010 Raimbault SANCERRE "Vieilles Vignes" (Loire Valley, France)

This is a terrific, crisp, fragrant, flavorful white.  One of the nicest Sancerres I've had in years.

Light gold color.  Amazing nose of crushed limestone, wet clay, gooseberries, green apples, and a citrusy component.  Bone dry, with intense but mouth-wateringly crisp flavors, showing chalky minerals, a saline note, green apply fruit, and a blazingly pure, long, 'nuther-sip-inducing finish.  Love it.  A.  Was $22.99 from, and well-worth it.  Imported by Sege Dore Selections.

(Sorry, 2009 shown)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

UPDATE: 2010 Thunevin-Calvet "Cuvee Constance" COTES DU ROUSSILLON-VILLAGES (Southwest France)

This wine, which I previously reviewed several months ago, has softened and opened up appreciably.  It now warrants an A-.  Fragrant, intense, very linear, loads of intense stony minerals.  Very clingy flavor persistence.  I have one bottle left, which I'll try to hold off on drinking for at least another year.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

2010 Three Wine Company OLD VINE FIELD BLEND (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

I really like old vine reds from the freakishly deep sands of Contra Costa County.  They really represent a unique American terroir.  This wine is composed of 100+ yr. old vines from 26% Zinfandel, 25% Petite Sirah, 25% Mataro, 20% Carignane, 3% Alicante Bouschet and 1% Black Malvoisie.  And it's really good.

Very dark, plasma-like ruby/violet.  Enchanting nose of rich berries, cocoa powder, minerals, and ashy embers, with a single line of tangy rhubarb at the end.  Rich, low-toned, and darkly berryish, with a the cocoa component still there.  It's quite dry, with lots of soft tannin coating the sides of the mouth.  And despite the 15.2% alcohol, there's some very nice acidity buoying everything up.  Although this winery's single varietal wines tend to be a little more expensive than its "field blend," I think I usually like the field blend a little more.  A-.  If I'm remembering correctly, I think I got this several months ago for around $18 from

Sunday, June 30, 2013

2010 Simmonet-Fevre CHABLIS PREMIER CRU MONTMAINS (Northern Burgundy, France)

This is a big, extroverted Chablis.

Very pale gold.  Nose burbling over with green apple, peach, lemon, and chalky minerals.  Fleshy, flashy, and vigorous in the mouth.  The first day the fruit was at the fore, and it seemed ripe, intense, and somewhat simple.  But the next day, the minerals were out in force, with intense chalky-stoniness overshadowing the still ample fruit.  The first night it seemed almost -- unusually for a Chablis -- like there was a bit of residual sugar, but as it aired, that sweetness decreased.  By the second day it seemed bone dry.  Good acids for such a large-limbed Chablis.  What it lacks in complexity and elegance it makes up in sheer force and vigor.  B+.  Drink over the next 2 years, over which it will probably gain a bit of complexity.  Was $21.99 from, and imported by Louis Latour, San Rafael, CA.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

2010 Tommasi "Vigneto Rafael" VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy)

This wine has been consistently very good, year-after-year, since I can remember first trying it (in the early 80s).  It usually walks a line somewhere between the lighter, fresher regular Valpos many wineries offer as their entry level wine and their somewhat denser, riper, earthier Ripassos.  The 2010 is really nice.

Vibrant ruby with a purply tinge.   Gobs of ripe, dark, crunchy berry fruit on the nose.  The first night, the fruit obscured all else.  Then I left it under a Vacu-Vin for 48 hours, and it had developed some of the almondy characteristics frequently associated with Valpos.  Wonderful concentration and vibrancy in the mouth; a wine that just begets sip after sip, and would pair with all sorts of meals. Nice length and wonderful purity.  A-.  Was $16.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, VA.  Imported by Vintus LLC, Pleasantville, NY.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2009 Jean-Paul Brun CÔTE DE BROUILLY "Terres Dorées" (Beaujolais, France)

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A mature, smooth, flavorful, old-school Beaujolais.  A little bottle age really smooths out some of the better, tightly-constructed Beaujolais, and that's what's happened here.  Me likee.

Dark ruby color.  Really rich nose of dark mixed berries and lots of clean stony and vaguely foresty notes.  Soft, lithe, and intensely fruity in the mouth initially, showing lots of pure berry fruit, then the mineraliness kicks in quickly and clings tenaciously to the tongue and the insides of your cheeks.  Pretty full bodied for a Beaujolais (probably due to the warm '09 growing season), but with good purity and liveliness, despite low-ish acids for a Beaujolais.  A-.  Drink over the next 8-12 months.  Was $18.99 from Wine Exchange, Los Angeles, Cal.  Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

Monday, June 10, 2013

2010 Buti Nages COSTIERES DE NIMES (Rhone Valley, France)

This excellent value red is fruity, deep, balanced, and soft.  A fantastic choice for summer cook-outs.  45% Grenache, 45% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre.

Deep ruby with purply highlights.  Lively, straightforward nose of crunchy, ripe dark berries and clean stony mineraliness.  Lovely, tight, ripe berry fruit in the mouth.  Very soft.  Decent acids, and some very fine tannins for a bit of structure on the finish.  Not complex, but fun to drink and flavorful.  Calls out for mesquite-grilled grilled burgers.  B/B+.  Was $9.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

2008 Santbru MONTSANT "Carinyenes Velles" (Catalunya, Spain)

A deep, full-bodied, minerally, fully-mature and smooth red.  Think of this as a Spanish Gigondas from a very warm vintage.

Almost jet black, fully saturated color . . . ruby adds the highlights to the black, rather than the other way around.  Striking, low-toned nose of a squished carton of uber-ripe blackberries, whisked together with crushed stones and a hint of dark baking spices.  Massively rich in the mouth, with dark, brooding flavors of dark stones and blackberry syrup/skin extract.  Great intensity yet not overblown.  Dry and full-bodied, sporting a texture akin to hot chocolate due to loads of medium-fine-grained tannins.  It went well with a braised brisket.  This is a wine that will overpower anything less than a stew or pot roast type dinner, although it may pair well with after dinner cheese too.  Drinking very well now, this wine will soften further over the next 2 years.  B+.  Was $14.99 from  Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT.

(Sorry, 2007 shown)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

2008 Castello di Bibbione CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

A very large-framed, delicious Sangiovese.  Color, body, tannins, acids.  This is a wine that hits the gym.

Luxurious-looking saturated dark ruby.  Rich nose of tangy but ripe black raspberries and black cherries, with sweet-scented smoky-gravelly notes.  Mouthfilling dark cherry fruit, quickly molting into loads of chalky, stony minerals.  Bone dry, with lots of fine-grained tannin and lots acidity, giving it a lean, muscular, very vigorous mouthfeel.  Lots of crushed stones as the finish resolves.  A-.  Youthful but starting to drink very well now, this wine will improve over the next three years in a cool cellar.  Was $18.99 from, which is cheap for a CC Riserva.  Imported by Castelli del Gevepesa, Manhasset, NY.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

2009 Chateau L'Ermitage COSTIERES DE NIMES (Rhone Valley, France)

A really good value in a tasty, mature, flavorful, balanced, soft Rhone red.  50% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache.

Dark, black-ruby.  Nose full of ripe, rich blackberry essence and pungent, slightly scorchy minerally-stony scents.  Very soft and mouthfilling, with nose-paralleling, bone dry blackberry and scorched gravelly flavors, along with a dry underbrush component.  Full-bodied, but with good balancing acids.  A bit drying as the latter half of the finish, but this is a minor quibble, particularly if, like me, you're using this wine to wash down a bowl of pasta-and-meat sauce, or some such dish.  B/B+.  Was $9.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I made this up the other night, and had the Aglianico reviewed below with it.  I think I read a recipe that had the spinach/almond thing a few years ago, so I can't take credit for that concept.

½ chicken, but up into 5 pieces
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly
Good handful raw almonds
¼ large red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
¾ cup dry sherry (fino or manzanilla)
¾ cup chicken broth
Olive oil salt pepper

Toast up the almonds in a dry skillet or in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  Don’t burn.  Put in a bowl and set aside to cool. 
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then brown well in a bit of olive oil a sauté pan.  When you flip them, add the garlic.  Try not to let the garlic burn too much while the chicken is browning or it will get bitter.  When the chicken is nicely browned, turn up the heat and add the sherry and broth, bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes, then turn down to very low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
While the chicken’s simmering, splash 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large coverable skillet or pot, and add the onions.  Soften over medium-low heat until they start to color.  Add the spinach with whatever water is clinging to the leaves (or, if the leaves are dry, add ¼ cup water), mix well with the sautéed onions and then cover and turn the heat down to low and stem until wilty-soft (5-6 minutes).
While the spinach is steaming, put the cooled toasted almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  When the spinach/onion mixture is done, squeeze out most of the liquid into a bowl, reserving the liquid).  Then add the spinach mixture to the food processor and pulse until it’s pureed with the almonds.
After the chicken has simmered for 30 minutes covered, turn the pieces and continue to simmer over low heat for 15-20 more minutes with the cover slightly askew.
When the chicken’s done, remove the pieces from the pan, and put them in a nice serving dish (the serving dish should be warm).  Season the braising liquid in the pan liberally with salt and pepper.  Return the pan to the heat and then mix in the pureed spinach/onion/almond mixture.  If there’s not much braising liquid left add some of the reserved spinach water.  When this sauce is heated through, pour over the chicken pieces.  Taste to see if the sauce needs more salt and pepper, since the spinach/almond puree needs a lot of both.  Serve over rice.
Serves 2-3 people, depending how big the chicken is.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

2008 Vigna Alta AGLIANICO DEL VULTURE (Southern Italy)

A very good value, this wine is fragrant, soft, full-flavored, and has a bit of complexity.  Hard to beat at $12.99.

Very dark black ruby.  Surprisingly youthful-looking for a 5-year old wine.  With air, the nosy displays lots of smoky, fragrant embers and sun-dried gravel, together with very nice blackberryish fruit.  Fairly full-bodied, but with excellent acidity for a southern Italian red, it got ripe, winey, dark berry fruit, with a nice gravelly overlay.  Fairly long finish, and loads of palate-refreshing acids.  This will work very well with pasta and meat sauce, or Italian tomatoey braises.  B+.  Got this from  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

2011 Saladini Pilastri OFFIDA Pecorino (Marche, Italy)

I have drunk some Pecorinos before, but this is the first I've heard about "Offida" being a DOC . . . "G" to boot!  Pecorino is a white Italian varietal that's typically fragrant, fruity, crisp, and simple.  This one is a very nice example.

Light brassy gold color.  Fragrant nose of pears, citrus zest, chalky minerals, and a fleeting note that reminded me of the smell of largemouth bass slime (fishermen will know what I'm talking about).  A weird note in this context, but not unpleasant.  Mouthfilling, dry, gentle flavors of pear and minerals.  Very clean in the mouth.  I think this was about $12.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White PLains, NY.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2010 Columbia Crest CABERNET SAUVIGNON "Grand Estates" (Columbia Valley, Washington)

A simple but very flavorful red that shows off a very sweet, black cherryish side of Cabernet.  This wine does not skimp on flavor.  My main criticism is some noticeable residual sugar.

Black black ruby. Nose dominated by sweet, very ripe black cherry syrup scents, along with some nice fruitcake notes.  In the mouth, loads of very ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit, but little else.  Mercifully, no oakiness, but this wine, while very flavorful, is very simple.  While I got this at a chain restaurant (CPK) for $24, I imagine it should be around $10 in stores and supermarkets.  I'd rather drink this wine, which is true to its grapes, than some god-awful chocolatey, cab in the same price (that got its oak from chips), it's still way too simple to be recommended.  C+.

(Sorry, 2007 shown).

2010 Pithon-Paille CHINON "Vieilles Vignes" (Loire Valley, France)

A really zesty wine that is both drinking well now and will age.  Keeps changing as it gets exposed to more and more air.

Black ruby purple color.  The first night, it showed mostly the typical mineral oil, toasted walnut oil, and brambly underbrush I associate with Cab Francs from this northerly clime.  Then after two days under a Vacu-Vin, it started to display a lot more tangy, black cherry fruit.  It kept evolving over that third night, hitting notes of licorice and barnyard at various times, all the while keeping the faith with the black cherry fruit.  Fantastic acids, keeping this thing tangy and electric on the palate.  Bone dry, fresh, medium-bodied, soft-textured, and possessing a really pure, medium long finish.  Very engaging.  A-.  Was $25.99 from  Imported by Aliane Wines, San Diego.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

2009 Domaine La Florane VISAN Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (Southern France)

Liquid minerals!  Terroir freaks will go ga-ga over this one.  Actually, I did too.  It's really fine.

Very dark ruby but still with significant violet highlights.  Incredibly mute upon first being poured without a Vinturi, it was a little more forthcoming when I used the Vinturi.  But it still needed an hour to start showing itself.  When it did, however, it was really nice.  Nose completely dominated by all manner of minerals:  powdered stone, liquid metallic/iodiney, and lightly scorched earth scent.  Under all that tectonic stuff was some ripe, oozy, sultry blackberry fruit.  In the mouth, the flavors immediately migrate, as though drawn by a powerful magnet, to the sides of the tongue and mouth, and tenaciously cling there, showing loads of melted minerals and hard blackberry jam candy fruit.  Loads of soft tannin and decent acids provide the structure for the full-bodied wine.  Very long finish.  A.  I really like this very unique style.  Was $18.99 from  Imported by Fleet Street Wine Merchants.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

2010 Paul Jaboulet Aine COTES DU RHONE "Parallel 45" (Rhone Valey, France)

This widely available Toyota Corolla of reds is, as almost always, a flavorful, good value.  Not the most fragrant wine, but delivers lots of ripe, concentrated flavors in a very soft, easygoing style.  60% Grenache/40% Syrah.

Nearly fully-saturated black ruby with still some violet glints.  Reluctantly gives up subtle aromas of ripe blackberries and smoky sandstone.  Concentrated rich fruit fills the mouth.  Dark blackberry and scorched earth flavors.  Loads of reasonably fine-grained (for a $12.99 wine) tannins.  Long, clingy, if not very complex finish.  This is a very good value.  B/B+.  Got this at Whole Foods in Arlington.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

2008 Domaine Dublere VOLNAY 1er CRU LES PITURES (Burgundy, France)

This is a complex, leaner styled Burgundy.  Fragrant, balanced.  All it lacks is a little more oomph in the mid-palate.

Medium ruby color with garnet highlights, and some browning at the rim.  With air, the nose reveals multiple scents:  ripe yet slightly sour cherry, pleasantly subdued woody notes, damp, gravelly earth, maple syrup.  Initially fills the mouth, then leans out quickly, but minerally, sour cherry syrup notes cling in the finish.  A very nice wine to have with a roast chicken.  Drink up over the next 18 months.  B+.  Imported by Chelsea Ventures, Chicago, this was $29.99 from

Monday, May 06, 2013

2011 Chapoutier "Bila-Haut" COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES (South Central France)

A fleshy, meaty, soft, wine that is full of character and modestly priced.  Fantastic cookout wine.

Dark blackish ruby with a slight violet tinge.  Animated, ripe nose of meaty notes, ripe blackberries, and a combination of spice cake and warm crushed rocks and sandstone.  Mouthfilling flavors, but fairly easy-going texture.  Full body and lots of fine-grained tannins.  Loads of pure blackberry skin fruit along with a very clingy, roasted herb/iodiney, minerals component that clings to the sides of the mouth. Long, pure finish.  B+/A-.  Was $12.99 at Whole Foods in Arlington/Clarendon.  Imported by HB Wine Merchants, NY, NY.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

2010 Domaine du Galet des Papes CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE "Vieilles Vignes" (Rhone Valley, France)

A deceptively easy-going yet potentially serious wine.  Still very young, it is quite primary now but shows nice texture and very good length.

Very dark ruby/violet.  Straightforward scents of ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruit, accented by notes of hot stones and dry underbrush.  Soft, mouthfilling, ripe, and full-bodied in the mouth.  Lots of incredibly fine-grained nano-tannins.  Very nice concentration and length with loads of licorice, cassis, and minerals.  This wine will by dynamite in 2-4 years.  B+(+).  Was $24.99 from, making it a very good buy for a Rhone wine of this aging ability and class.    Imported by Citadel Trading Co., NY, NY.

(Sorry, 2001 label shown, but the 2010 looks the same.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2008 Talty ZINFANDEL "Estate" "William Talty Vineyard" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

A vibrant, fruity, direct Zinfandel.  Not overblown.  Very nice on its own or with dinner.  A bit pricey though.  Surprisingly, comes in a Burgundy-shaped bottle.

Dark ruby color.  Intense, perfumey nose of spiced blackberries (like blackberry pie) and steely, stony minerals.  Soft, balanced, and quite concentrated in the mouth, with loads of fruit and minerals, and very nice acids to boot.  Full-bodied, with good length.  No great complexity of flavors, but lots of character.  B/B+.  Was $21.99 from

(Sorry, 2010 shown.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

2011 Domaine du Salvard CHEVERNY Rose (Loire Valley, France)

A full-flavored, juicy, dry, mouth-wateringly crisp rose.  Not a lot of complexity or elegance, but it's balanced and fun.  I think that the roses from this area comprise Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Pineau d'Aunis, but I'm not sure of which ones and in which amounts they're in this wine.

Gorgeous pinky/salmon color.  Tons of fruit on the loud nose, watermelon, grapes, lemon juice, strawberry, cherry.  A bit of minerality, but, mostly, this is about the fruit.  Great acids keep this very lively.  A great wine to have on hand for those May/June picnics.  B+.

Imported by Kermit Lynch, I got this wine for $13.99 from B-21 Wines in Florida.  Great buy!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

2007 Domaine Haut du Terres Blanches CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE (Rhone Valley, Southern France)

A quick note on this amazing wine, which I had at the relatively new French bistro in Houston, L'Olivier.  In a word:  amazing.  One of the best CDPs I've had in a very long time.  A solid A.  Unbelievably fragrant, balanced, full flavored, and long.  Sweet berry fruit, loads of garrigue scents.  This is from memory, so sorry it's not more detailed, but if you see this wine, get some!  At its peak right now.  Will hold for 4-5 years.

BTW, the food at L'Olivier was excellent.  Classic bistro fare, beautifully executed.

2009 Domaine de la Janasse COTES DU RHONE (Southern France)

Well, my sinus infection has finally subsided to the point where my sense of smell has returned.  So I popped the cork on a Cotes du Rhone that turned out to be funky and have a lot of character.

Nearly fully saturated color -- black violet-tinged ruby.  Funky nose, but in a Rhone-y way.  Loads of faintly barnyardy earth, iodine, smoky gravel, and spicy black raspberry and black cherry.  Big and flavorful, but with excellent acids, this wine has full-throttle flavors but not a whole lot of elegance.  Ripe fruit, but very dry and minerally, with those liquid minerals clinging for dear life to the insides of your mouth.  Long finish.  B+.
Was a remarkable $12.99 from B-21 Wines in Florida.  That's a great buy for this much character.  Imported by Eric Solomon Selections.