Monday, December 29, 2008

An off beat Italian white

Last night we had Indian food for dinner and I thought it was a good opportunity to try a new Italian white I had gotten off of Liquor Direct's closeout rack. Casata Monfort Taminer Aromatico (also know as Gewurztraminer) from Trentino. I had had Traminer before and assumed this would be off dry, based on previous experience and it was. The wine also had orange and lemon peal notes with slate and saw dust. It complemented the food, which was slightly spicy, perfectly. This wine from northern Italy was similar to Alsatian whites. This was a nice wine that LD is closing out for $9.99 or 3 for $25. Check it out while it lasts, it is 2006, thus has a number of years left.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Felicity cabernet from Sodaro estates

This was a great value Cabernet that I purchased from The Wine Spies last September. For some reason I only bought one bottle and I could kick myself now that I have tasted it. This 2003 has loads of round fruit left and silky tannins. We had it with steaks and Bearnaise and it went perfectly. If anyone has access to this small producer, do not hesitate to purchase this wine!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Surprise

Last night my wife asked for a blend to go with our quickie hamburger helper dinner.
I selected a bottle I had passed over quite a few times, Jester from Peachy Canyon 2003. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauv., Syrah, Petite Sirah and a dash of Cabernet Franc. This is tooth stainer, deep and rich in color and loads of blue fruit. We got this through a wine club three years ago for around twenty dollars. Though the wine is very good and has a nice finish. I am surprised at the way the wine has held up, though it is not that expensive. This wine is a real fooler, more sophisticated than I would have expected.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Long on the tooth

Last night we shared a bottle of Sequoia Grove Cabernet 1991. This was still a vibrant wine with dried fruit notes of plum and dried raspberry. This wine was definitely ready to be drunk, but it had held up very well, particularly for a non reserve. I have a bottle of 1991 reserve and will review when we drink it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

An inexpensive old vines Zin

First the link to my article in Natural Awakenings does not work. My apologies, my technical abilities leave something to be desired. Just go to, click on web site, click on read this months edition. My article is on page 19. Thanks for your patience. Back to good wine. Last night my wife and I went to Indigo in Hyde Park Square for dinner. We wanted wine, but did not want to spend a fortune. The wine list ranged from $30 to the upper 50s. I saw a producer that I was familiar with, Mandolin. We h ad tried their Pinot Noir and enjoyed it, so we decided to try the old vines Zin. This is a lighter style Zin, but it still packs a punch with loads of strawberry and black raspberry. There are hints of pencil lead and cedar. This is a wine that will stand up to wide range of foods. It should retail for less than $15. If you are looking for a robust yet restrained Zin, with a good finish give it a try.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'm published!

I wrote an article on Bio dynamic and Organic wines for a publication called Natural Awakenings that is in the December issue on page 19. Here is a link to the article. I hope you all enjoy it.

A Refresher

The last couple of nights my wife and I had a bottle of Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel 2005. This wine is the big brother to the Sonoma Zin from Seghesio which has been winning such praise from the Wine Spectator. This wine steps up the level of sophistication, with big red fruit packed with red raspberry and bright Bing cherry. This is a satisfying wine that will go well with roasted meets this time of year. It is a little more expensive than the Sonoma bottling, but is worth the extra every so often. Try it and see what you think.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

wine with a sense of humor

I recently tried a bottle of CrauforD Tattoo Cabernet Sauvignon Maroon vineyard 2004. Boy was this a great bottle of wine after it got a little air. It had big black fruit, plum and boysenberry. It was a real mouthful that did not know when to quit, but this was a good thing! I purchased a case of this wine from wine express last month. It ran around $30 a bottle delivered. Their tag line is "What's under your Kilt?" It is dedicated to seven centuries of Clan Crauford ancestors and they have definitely not caused any embarrassment with this fine wine, which would complement a nice roast beef at the Christmas table as easily as it would fit with a cigar and a raging fire after dinner. It may no longer be available, but if you see it down the road, give it a try and see for yourself just how nice it is. Happy Thanksgiving all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's finally over.

Last night we celebrated the end of the seemingly never ending election season with a special bottle of Champagne from Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne 1996. This was a bottle we got last year. It was a splurge, but oh so worth it. It is rich and creamy with light green apple notes and a hint of citrus. We thoroughly enjoyed this wine and thankfully still have another bottle of it in our cellar.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Small but mighty

This past Saturday night we had a party to try and make some room in out overtaxed cellar. It being fall I selected a number of big reds, Cabernets, Zinfandels and Bordeaux. The wines I had mot anticipated sampling were the two Cabernet verticals. The first from a small family producer Adams Ridge( and the second from a slightly larger producer Barnett ( We sampled the Adams Ridge at A Dozen Vintners in northern Napa since they did not have a tasting room of their own. We tried the 2002 vintage and were impressed enough to purchase a three year vertical consisting of 2001, 2002 and 2003. We sampled these first Saturday night and it was interesting the development of the wine that could be seen in the three vintages. The 2001 was the weakest perhaps because the vines were still developing. The 2002 was as good as I remembered it. and finally the 2003 built on the promise of the 2002 and added more complexity. They were all good and I will try to find some of their newer vintages to track the further development of this promising small winery, that only produces Cabernet. The Barnett was staggered Vertical made up of the 1992, 1996 and 1999 Cabernet from Spring Mountain District.
These were also all good wines, however the 1992 had lost a lot of fruit and for me this is a flaw. At the same time this is to be expected from a sixteen year old wine. The 1996 and 1999 each still had a good amount of fruit and confirmed my love of this fantastic winery, which probably has one of the best views in all of California. If you want to visit the winery you must call for an appointment, but it is well worth the effort. They are on Spring Mountain next to Pride. If you can find the Adams Ridge check it out I bet that it is even more lush and incredible in the more recent vintages. Barnett is more available, but a little pricey in the $70 range. Barnett also makes a fantastic Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Merlot, they are all really good and worth trying. Either is a treat and should be tried at least once, just for the experience.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Great Washington State Wine

Last night we had pasta with red sauce and decided to complement it with syrah. I found a bottle of Three Rivers Winery from Walla Walla Valley Washington Ahler Vineyard, 2003. We purchased this at Randolph wines last year on a visit to Chicago and I put it in the cellar and forgot about it. What a treat. This is a lush velvety wine with dusty plum and currant notes. It has a finish that last seemingly for several minutes. There is perfect balance between acids and tannin. You can check out the web site ( , where they have info on their other wines, all of which are single vineyard and probably just as spectacular. This is another example of fantastic wines from Washington State.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Grown up blend from Sicily

Last night we were at City Cellars for a Duck Tour and tasting, which was a blast. Riding the Duck is a great way to tour the city and get a waters eye view. Anyway, as I usually do, I was checking out the new wines and found a neat new blend from Sicily. The wine is from Lagaria and is a 2006 blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Nero D'Avola. Brian said it was full bodied big wine. We opened it tonight and after some air this wine becomes a well balanced full bodied rich wine. At $12 this is a great buy. It would easily hold up to a big steak or ribs, but is elegant enough to be enjoyed on its own. Try this one, its an inexpensive treat!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Keeping the International Wine Festival Honest

Last night Jan & I attended the inaugural Jungle Jim's International Wine Festival. We had been told that there would be fantastic wines available for tasting. We opted for the VIP tickets, which got us a special rooms with gourmet foods and two special tastings, one champagnes/sparkling wines and the other Bordeaux. We also got in 15 minutes early. I would have to say that, for us, it was not worth the additional $45 to $50 dollars. The food was good and the VIP wines were good, but not worth the extra money. The main tasting was a very good deal for the $50 to $55. My only complaint was that there was not enough food available in the main tasting area. I would have a nice dinner beforehand next time and just concentrate on sampling. The wines were very good and in general much better than those at Cincinnati International Wine Festival. All in all for a first time event I was very impressed and I think that with a little tweaking it could be a great wine tasting. It will most certainly cause the Cincinnati Wine Festival to improve itself or they will eventually be eclipsed by the Jungle Jim event. Bravo!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Italy; Florence

The second portion of our adventure in Italy was in Florence. We spent 5 and a half days in Florence. During that time we walked almost 30 miles, drank a little over 5 bottles of wine and had a whirlwind tour of the Uffizi Palace and the Academia. We foolishly thought we could do a three hour walking tour of Florence in the morning, followed by tours of the Uffizi and Academia in the afternoon. We had a great city tour, but only and overview of the museums. Oh, we also ate a lot of great Italian food. One of our tour guides, who was from California pointed out something that should have been obvious, there is almost no other culinary ethnicity's available in Florence at the very least and Italy in general. Try and get a Taco or Cheddar cheese! We did find a great small tasting room on the south bank of the Arno, just up the street from the Ponte de Vechio across the street from the Pitti Palace. It is called Pitti Gola (phone 055/212704) and I believe it's address is E Cantina 16. One of the ppartners is agreat guy named Zeno Fioravanti. If you ask, he will put together a tasting menu. Jan & I spent six hours there and tried more than 8 wines as well as having a wonderful light dinner. Zeno's English is very good and he can advise you on not only the wines he carries, but others found in the region. On out last day in Florence we stumbled upon the Florence Synagogue which was finished in 1882. What makes this synagogue so interesting to Jan and myself is its similarity to Plum Street temple here in Cincinnati. The two structures where built around the same time and feature Moorish motifs. WE were not able to tour because it was after two on a Friday. I will give more wine info in the next instalment, our time in Siena and surroundings, I promise. Italy is a beautiful country and Tuscany is a magical part of that country.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Something new/ something old

The other night I was in the mood to try one of the premium wines from our cellar. I selected a bottle of Origin Napa 2002 Paramount red wine. This a venture with Bill Davies (Schramsberg) and Tom Gamble (entrepreneur) that was started in 2000. Producing Cabernet Sauvignon blends and Sauvignon Blanc. The two men have a life long relationship dating back to when where in nursery school. That nis the old, a life in wine for the two principals.
Now the new, Origin Napa, this is a rich full Bordeaux blend that is full of blackberry and bramble. There are nice hints of smoke and leather just under the surface of this fine wine. This is a handcrafted wine that can be enjoyed with or without food, but would complement a nice Fillet with port reduction or a grilled Portabello mushroom perfectly. Although this is not an inexpensive wine at $65 a bottle, it is a great bottle for when you want to treat yourself. It may be expensive, but it is a great value for the money. There are many wines out there with bigger names and price tags, but not more complexity and finish. This is a great wine for special occasions and will intrigue most seasoned wine drinkers with its pedigree.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Adventure in Italy

My wife and I have finally decompressed from our two week trip to Tuscany. It was a great trip, with lots of wonderful scenery, food, art and yes wine. We spent a couple days at a 14th century farm house living with an extended Italian family while we learned some traditional Italian cooking. It was called Toscano Mia and was located in a small village near Gaiole in Chianti and our hosts were sisters Simonetta and Paola de Mari. We were joined at meals by Paola's husband and two daughters and the sister's father. It was quite an adventure since Simonetta and Paola were the only English speaker in the family. They grew most all of the produce used in the kitchen and even grew their own olives which they had pressed into olive oil for their own use. Each day started with breakfast and then Jan and I would take a short walk while preparations were made for that days class. Each day we had another couple join us for class. The first day was a mother and daughter from the states and the second day it was a globe trotting Australian couple on vacation. Both experience were delightful. After lunch Paola took us into several nearby towns and we did a little touring. Our bed room was on the top floor in what had been a tower until a conquering warlord took off about 15 to 20 feet for greater security, it still had a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside which was a patchwork of Olive trees grape vine and forest. We sincerely appreciate the thoughtful conversations we had with Paola and Simonetta well into each of the evenings we were there despite the mounds of dishes that had too be washed before the next day as well as the preparations for the next day's class. This was a wonderful introduction to Italy for both Jan and myself. I will write about the rest of the vacation in following instalments.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back in the Saddle

I am finally back at my computer to talk about wine. We spent two weeks in Tuscany, and had a great time. More about that in a future post. Last night we shared a post blackout grill out with another couple who had meat that needed to be cooked. We had blackberry marinated pork chops, Caesar salad, garlic basil cous cous and mixed vegetables. Now for the wines, we started with a Brut rose from Shramsberg, a 2005 called Querencia (proceeds from this wine go to a fund that supports agricultural land preservation). This is a salmon colored sparkler composed of 82% chardonnay and 18% Pinot noir. It is a refreshing wine with hints of red and green apple and just a touch of citrus. All in all a great way to come down from a hectic day. With our meal we opened first a bottle of Papapietro Perry Russian River Zinfandel 2005. Papapietro is a great bridge producer for my wife and I because they make both great Pinot Noirs and great Zinfandels. The F\first is my favorite grape and the second is my wife's favorite, though even she likes their Pinot Noirs. Back to last night though, this was great Zin, big and bold, with currant and blackberry and hints of smoke and chocolate. It developed nicely in the glass and paired very nicely with the pork chops. One more word about Papapietro, I have found that these wines benefit from at least one additional year in the bottle after release, it is worth the wait, they become more complex and elegant with the additional bottle ageing. We then opened a bottle of Kay Brothers Amery Hillside Shiraz 2000. This one had enough power to follow the Papapietro, it was big and jammy, yet had developed sophistication with age and provided black and blue fruit notes and was surprisingly low in alcohol at 14.1%, very nice. Finally I got carried away and opened a bottle of Beeren Auslese from a producer I was not familiar with called Kafer Munchen from 1999. This was a nice bottle of wine, with a honeyed nuttiness, while not cloyingly sweet. All in all it was a great night with good company and good food and wine.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Great late summer sipper

Yesterday I stopped in to Liquor Direct to see friends and check out what was new. Among other things, I picked up a bottle of Torri Mor Pinot Blanc 2005 that had been on release over $20 and is being closed out at Liquor Direct for 12.98. This is a fantastic white. It has lush floral notes with notes of fresh peach and melon. This is a wine with lots of life left in it and should easily last several more years before it begins to drop off. Torri Mor is a neat winery in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon. They specialise in Pinot Noirs, but they also make a chardonnay, pinot gris and viogner as well as the Pinot blanc I tasted. Give it a try while it lasts.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

where is the beef

Last night my wife and I had dinner at my brother and his wife's house and they served a traditional Pot Roast with carrots, potatoes and onions and brown gravy. It was great! I brought a bottle of St Francis McCoy vineyard Sonoma Malbec 2002. I figured that even though this was a cCalifornia Malbec, that if the Argentines found Malbec to be good with beef then I would try it. The wine was great on its own before we sat down at the dinner table, but it really paired well with the roast. There was rich black and red raspberry notes to the wine. The finish was strong and lasting. This was not super expensive ($26), but can only be had through the winery. There are many good Malbecs from Argentina available locally that range from $5 to $20 and up. Try one this fall with a hearty stew or roast.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bench Mark Pinot Noir

The last couple of nights, my wife and I shared a bottle of Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir, Russian River. I have been enjoying Papapietro Pinots for several years now and the 05 is no exception. These are beasts, with loads of sophisticated red fruit and subtle notes of baking spices such as nutmeg and Cinnamon. These pinots beautifully bridge the gap between California and Burgundy. They have a pride of place as do the Burgundies and still have bright fruit flavors like their California brethren. These folks do six or seven Pinot Noirs and a couple of Zinfandels. All of their wines benefit from several years in the bottle for best showing and though I have not yet tried any with more than a couple of years of aging, I suspect that they will hold up for four to eight years at the low end. The Papapietros and the Perrys started out about ten years ago as hobby wine makers and then decided that they could make it as full time wine makers and in my opinion they are among the best in their price bracket ($45 - 50). They are somewhat allocated, but still generally available at least part of the year. Give it a try if you like good pinot and don't mind splurging occasionally.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A couple of revelations

I opened a bottle of Hiedler Gruner Veltliner a couple of nights ago and was surprised at the zesty lemon peel and clove. It was perfect with a spicy burger concoction my wife had come up with, while still very refreshing on a hot evening. These wines are the Riesling of Austria and will often age in a similar fashion. Like Riesling they are usually dry and crisp and pair well with a wide variety of foods.
That was revelation number one. Number two occurred by mistake and involved a bottle of Wall Cellars Cabernet, which is a second label for 20 Rows. This is a wine I had tried before and not been overly impressed with, I had gotten this bottle by default and not intended to open, however it was opened without my knowledge. I ignored it for about 24 hours until my wife tried it and pronounced it very good. So I grudgingly sampled it and was really surprised. It was good, particularly for the price around $15. Now I must point out two things that might have lead to my change of opinion on this wine, besides the fickle nature of ones taste buds. First the bottle has a screw cap, which as I have previously pointed out means the wine needs to breath more than most wines. Secondly the wine was last years vintage and thus had an extra year in the bottle. Often more time in a bottle develops more flavors in red wines. It also moves it past the dreaded bottle shock, which often hurts wines taste in the period after bottling and shipping. So I had a new wine with great versatility and revisited a wine I had tried, but not liked before and saw it with new taste buds.
Just keep and open mind. If a wine is not expensive give it more than one chance to shine if it comes highly recommended!

Friday, August 1, 2008


The other night a group of us got together and shared five bottles of Zinfandel with a picnic of gourmet burgers, baked beans, and corn on the cob. The wines; Seghesio Cortina, Renwood Grandmere, Imagery Taylor vineyard and a blend from Linna Calodo Problem Child and Magito Panorama another blend. All of the wines were good, but of course some were better than others. The Renwood was a little past its prime ( 2002 ), however with it's dried plum and dusty notes it may well have appeal to some. The Magito, which was a kitchen sink blend anchored by 75% Zin, was a nice wine and would have shown better in less sophisticated company. It had good fruit and was not to jammy, a good Zin for the summer heat since it was a little lighter than the others. The Imagery is from a project that Benzinger started about ten years ago. It started as a boutique label within Benzinger and has evolved into its own winery with several labels of its own. This was a very nice wine that evolved as it got air, the wine was a 2003. It had a nice richness with ripe plum and a little black raspberry and spice. The Seghesio, what can I say, This is a wine from a producer that knows what to do with the grape. My wife and I have never had a bad Zin from Seghesio. The Cortina is one of their single vineyard products and was rich with fruit, while not being jammy. It had some restrained black pepper and the flavors coated your tongue like Greater's ice cream. The finished lingered and it complemented the spicy burgers beautifully. Finally the Linne Calodo, this was a Zin dominated blend with syrah and mourvedre which added lushness to the wine. I have been wanting to try this wine for over a year, but the right time just never presented itself. I am glad to have finally had the opportunity, it is a very nice wine with a complex blend of Red and Blue fruit and the same lushness that I associate with southern Rhone wines. Calodo actually has another Zin blend which I imagine is also very good and will now have to try. All of these wines went very well with our picnic fair. The Magito was over powered by the other wines, but this was not unexpected, as it is priced at less than half of the other four. I think the Seghesio for the money is worth the splurge, however for those of you on a budget, they also make a Sonoma label, which is in the mid teen price point and a very good wine. Finally, I have to mention alcohol levels, the Imagery at 14.5% was the lowest and the renwood at 15.5% the highest. People have gotten used to high levels of alcohol in wines, but it was only 12 to 15 years ago that Zins used to top out around 13.5%. While none of these wines were "hot" ( having noticeable alcohol flavor), I would just as soon see the levels drop some, as lower levels allow for safer enjoyment of this wonderful wine.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

a great time was had by all

Last night we hosted a tasting of Kinkead Ridge white wines (two verticals including four years of Riesling and four years of Viogner Rousanne) and for those who are partial to reds, I also opened 2004 Rochioli pinot noir, 2005 Emeritus pinot noir, 1996 Chateau St Michelle meritage, 2005 Bergevin Lane Calico red and 2001 Thomas Clay Counoise from Santa Barbara. For more on the wonderful Kinkead ridge wines check out , I think they were all fantastic and show the potential Kinkead Ridge wines, but I am going to talk about the reds tasted. First the Rochioli, my wife and I have visited this winery and tasted there entry level wines, they were good while not exceptional. This wine however was fantastic and points to the importance of time in the bottle. This bottle had gotten some bottle aging which made it rich and full bodied with dried cherry notes, just a stunner. Next the Emeritus, this is a new project from the former owner of Sonoma Cutrer winery, that though know for their chardonnays, produces a pinot noir, so exclusive that it is allocated to the club members. The point is that the producers of Emeritus were responsible for a highly sought after pinot, thus the interest in this wine. That said, I think the 05 will benefit from some more time in the bottle. To be continued.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A neat revelation

A couple of nights ago my wife and I decided to finish off a bottle of Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2003. We had opened this bottle almost a month before and kept it in our refrigerator sealed with a vacuvin. When we intially opened this wine it was bright and unsophisticated. I was somewhat disappointed because it did not exhibit any of the traits I look for in a sauterne. It was not lush! Now to the second go round. Boy did this wine change with time and oxygenation. It was now rich and full bodied. There was a fantastic carmel flavor up front and noted of butterscotch on the finish. This wine had become better than I could have expected. This exemplifies one of my credos for wine. That being :If you do not like a wine initially give it time, go back to it 24 hours later, it will probably be better, but if not you are no worse off. Often times wines just need to open up, particularly younger wines, so do not give up.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Good wine bad experience

This weekend we opened a bottle of 2001 Provenance Merlot. This is a wine that I have like for quiet some time. We visited the winery a couple of years ago when traveling in Napa Valley. I presented my business card expecting to be able to taste the full range of their wines for free( as a trade courtesy), which is customary and had been followed at every other winery we visited, only to be told I could try four wines for free, but would have to pay for the premium wines. I paid, but was put off by this poor treatment. This needless to say has colored my view of these wines since, even though I still think of them as superior wines I do not recommend them because of this event. Any way back to our Merlot, which not withstanding the above mentioned event, we thoroughly enjoyed, it was a rich wine with plum and black raspberry flavors laced throughout the lingering finish. This wine had held up beautifully and as I have commented before would easily rival a great many Cabernets on the market. Try it for yourself, form your own opinion. Just be a ware that there are other producers with comparable wines that have employees that know how to treat people who might be in a position to sell their products.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

An old friend

This weekend my wife and I went down to Vevay Indiana to spend a few nights at the Ogle Haus Best Western on the river. We had brought our own wine (of course) and on the first night we opened a bottle of Seghesio Old Vines Zinfandel. This is one of their lower production Zin's and Seghesio is our all time favorite Zin producer. We had not had any Seghesio in a while and we were blown away by this bottle which had big fruit and alcohol, yet was very reserved and sophisticated. It was a real mouth full, with red cherry and strawberry notes. The alcohol level is high, but well integrated and does not mar the wine. The bottle we opened was a 2004 and thus had some bottle age, yet was still bright and lively, not what you would expect from a four year old Zin. If you like Big wines and Big Zins treat yourselves to one of Seghesio's limited production wines. They retail in the mid thirties, but are worth it for that special occasion

Monday, June 30, 2008

Another Great Washington State Merlot

This past weekend my wife and I travelled to Chicago to celebrate her birthday and attend the Taste of Chicago. We took a bottle of Barnard & Griffin Merlot from the Columbia valley with us to enjoy in our room. I had not tried this producer before and we were both really impressed. This is an opulent and rich bottle of wine. It has notes of plum and black raspberry as well as satisfying smokiness. It made for a great interlude to the food fest that awaited us in Washington park. We tried over 30 food items over the course of three meals and had a ball. Chicago does it right, each booth featured a dish that was available in a taste portion for approximately $2.75 to $3.50. These portions were not skimpy, yet generally were not so much that you could only have a couple before getting filled up.
We also made a pilgrimage to our favorite tasting room in the world, The Tasting Room/Randolph Wine Cellars and enjoyed several wine flights and some appetizers. I tried a really good Napa Merlot from a winery called Bayfog (retail 17.99) and we had a great Brut Rose from Spain called Llopart which was creamy and very good (retail $19.99). It was great weekend away. I would recommend Taste of Chicago for those foodies looking for a road trip next year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Aussie Blast

Last night I finally got around to trying Molly Dooker "The Violinist" which is Verdelho grape grown in Australia and produced by Sparky and Sarah Marquis. This wine packs a punch at 15% alcohol, but it is not hot. You just have to watch yourself! It reminds me a little of a good Alsatian Gruener Veltliner with lots of peach and other stone fruits and good minerality. This wine has a stelvin screw cap and thus benefited from some air time like so many other screw cap wines I have tried recently. After some air it mellows to a rich full wine which paired well with the chicken in cream sauce we paired with it. Molly Dooker wines sell out quickly because of the Marquis mystique and the points and press that they attract, but if you can find this this fall when they are released it is worth it.
Finally a note about Sparky and Sarah. They used to be the Marquis in the Marquis Phillips wines, This was a partnership between importer Dan Phillips and Sparky and Sarah that flourished for many years until they had a falling out in 2004 and split. Sparky and Sarah went to court to stop Dan from using the Marquis Phillips label and they lost, so the label can be still found, with Chris Ringland as the new winemaker. He and Dan have set up a company called "R wines" and are releasing quite a few wines under this brand. They are also very good. Almost all of the "R" wines and the Molly Dooker wines are extremely high in alcohol, generally over 14.5%. This should not interfere with ones enjoyment of the wines after the alcohol blows off a little, but as mentioned above, be careful they pack a punch and will get you snockered quickly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Big Wine Small Price

Last night we had dinner at a friends house and they shared a Barbera from their favorite winery. The winery is a small winery in Amador county called Macchia. These wines do not make it out of California except through their wine club. They are priced from the mid teens to the upper twenties. They specialize in Italian varietals, but also produce a nice Zinfandel. But back to last night. The Barbera we had was their "Infamous" Amador county Cooper Ranch 2006. This wine had loads of fruit black raspberry and rich plum. It sang in the glass and complemented the steaks wonderfully. This is a great wine at a great price. Macchia will ship to Ohio and they have several wine clubs, even with shipping they are still great wines for the money. The web site is

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Kid on the Block

Last night we opened a bottle of Pinot Noir from one of the many new boutique producers to hit the market in recent years. The one we tried was the Clos Pepe vineyard from Loring Wine Co. Brian Loring makes up to ten different single vineyard Pinot Noirs in any given year. These wines are all closed with stelvin screw caps. Now before you get the wrong impression, these wines are not bargain basement, they all retail in the $50 range. I have been wanting to try one of their wines since I first saw them several years ago and last night was the time. We had left over chicken and garlic sausage and mac & cheese. At first blush after cracking the seal the wine was kind of flat, but after about ten minutes in the glass the wine started to blossom and fill out. There was lots of rich black cherry and currant. This is a big pinot, kind of a hybrid of California (fruit) and Burgundy (body). One note; it is my feeling that red wines with screw caps are not a bad thing (no cork taint), however I have come to believe that they require special handling after being opened. Specifically, I feel they need time to breath because the seal is so complete with the screw cap, these wine do not get the opportunity to develop in the bottle as wines with natural cork do. This is a producer to watch, he has only been making wine for several years, but he has better than a dozen years of apprenticeship behind him. Just remember screw cap red wine needs air.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summertime wines

This weekend we tried two great summer time wines, first a Rose of Syrah from Ortman Family vineyards. This was a Rose that would appeal to red wine drinkers. It is full bodied with loads of Strawberry and Red Raspberry fruit. We found this to be a good complement for the marinated pork chops and macaroni and cheese. The Ortman wines are not available in Kentucky, but this wines is available in Ohio for around $15. Do not confuse Rose's with white Zinfandel. These are dry and very sophisticated wines and should not be overlooked.

The other wine we tried is not available locally, but a visit to the winery in Sonoma presents a wealth of opportunity to try different types of grapes. The wine is Wow Oui a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Canelli from a winery called Imagery. This winery started as creative spin off of Benizinger and allowed Joe Benzinger to experiment with grapes not usually found in California. Some of those are Malbec, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc and a hand full of others. The wine we tried had many of the common traits of Savignon Blanc such as Grapefruit and Tangerine. The Muscat Canelli brings a hint of minerality to the wine and moderates the the citrus. This wine worked well with the fried chicken we had for dinner last night and proved to be very refreshing on a hot evening. Though this wine is not available locally, there are many California and Washington State Sauvignon Blancs with similar characteristics.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A real treat

Last night we had a few people over, which gave us an opportunity to open more wine than we would normally be able to drink. We tried to bottles from a project called Long Shadows out of Washington State and a Chardonnay from a winery called Tandem and a Late disgorged Sparkler from Schramsberg. First the Sparkler (1996 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs late disgorged) , Late disgorged is a sparkling wine that is aged longer than normal before getting it's cork. This typically produces a richer, creamy and nutty sparkling wine. This one is no exception. You can always tell how long that mushroom style cork has been in the bottle, by how straight the portion of the cork that comes out of the neck of the bottle remains. The straighter it remains the longer that cork has been in the bottle. The reason I bring this up is that even the sparkler we had last night was vintage 1996 the cork was still quiet flared, because it had only recently been put in the bottle. So much for that, if you ever have an opportunity to try an older vintage Sparkling wine give it a shot. They are a treat.

The Tandem Chardonnay was a nice oaky chardonnay from a winery that specializes in Single vineyard wine ( Site specific, grapes all coming from a small block) This particular one is from the Ritchie vineyard. This was a wine that I thought paired well with the burgers we served. It was rich and creamy with buttery notes from the oak aging.

Finally the real treat Long Shadows, we had two of the half a dozen or so wines they produce. Both were blends, both Bordeaux blends plus syrah Chester-Kidder 2004 (Allen Shoup & Giles Nicault) and Pirouette 2005 (Phillipe Melka & Agustin Huneeus). First the Piroutte a Cabernet dominant blend This was a big wine with loads of red fruit; raspberry and strawberry. Still slightly tannic, but this should mellow with a little more age. This wine is good on its own or with food. Finally the Chester-Kidder, this wine was good out of the gate. It definitely benefited from the extra year of age. It was mellow and rich with red and black fruit: red & black raspberry and hints of plum. This was the better of the two reds, but not by much. Just a brief note on Long Shadows. This is project started by Allen Shoup several years ago and involves top winemakers from all over the world, who come to Washington to collaborate with Shoup to make wine with his fruit in the style they are noted for. For those interested the web site has more information about these particular wines and the others they produce.

These were all great wines and went well with the onion tarts, burgers, mac & cheese and pasta salad we served. Would they have been better with a more sophisticated meal? Perhaps, but they worked very well with this combination. One should not be afraid to experiment with pairings. They can be magical, but if you are having food and wine you like, you really cannot go to far off of the mark.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Something Different

Last night my wife and I tried a bottle scheurebe. If you are not familiar with this grape, neither was I until I ran into it a a tasting at City Cellars earlier this year. It is an eighty year old cross between Silvaner and Riesling. It was developed to allow for a grape that would ripen early and have good structure and finesse. Wine importer Terry Theise describes it as "all that's dirty and fun". I found it to be a fun wine with hints of citrus, mild sweetness and full body. The particular one we tried was Guntrum Scheurebe Kabinett 2005 vintage. It is similar to Riesling in that it would pair fantastically with Asian and Indian foods. As some of you will know Kabinett is the earliest harvest and thus the least sugar, typically the driest style of German or Austrian wines. This wine is dry, but features good rich fruit flavors which might fool the casual drinker to believe that this wine has sweetness, though technically there is none. If you have the opportunity, try the grape, its reasonably priced in the low to mid teens.
PS we finished the Brewer Clifton Pinot and it had held up very well over night with a vacuvin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

trust your own taste

Today I was at the car dealership waiting for my car and got into a conversation about wine with another customer. He asked about the copy of Wine Spectator I was reading. Once we got talking he said he really did not know that much about wine, but was starting to learn. He was almost apologetic. I told him the one piece of advice I have given hundreds of customers, that the only bit of wine knowledge anybody really needs is to know what they like and to be able to express that to someone else. The more one tastes the more likes and dislikes will be fine tuned. People are not born knowing what there preferences in food are, one learns this through experimentation. The same is true for wine, it is not mystical, but merely a beverage to be enjoyed alone or among good company. One should never be intimidated by wine. There are know mistakes only learning experiences.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tonights wine - older can be good

I have been wanting to sample a bottle of Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir for some time. I purchase a 1998 Santa Maria Hills from Wine Bid several years ago and tonight was the night to finally crack it open. I had heard that Brewer Clifton makes its wines in the Burgundian style (more reflective of the earth that the fruit comes from), this had at first put me off of the producer since I am not a fan of earthy Pinot Noirs. However, now that I have tried the Santa Maria Hills, and reading the Philosophy of the wine makers at Brewer Clifton, I realize that in this case the style mainly refers to site specific, but not very earthy. This was a remarkable wine for a ten year old Pinot. It was still full of rich fruit flavors, though now more dried fruit. There was dried black cherry and hints of plum. Much of the zestiness that may have been present in this unfiltered wine has become muted, but it still held up very well to the fillet mignon that we had for dinner. This also goes to the Burgundian heritage, which allows for long lived Pinots. The wine still has ample acid and rich full mouth feel. This is yet another Pinot that belies the notion that American Pinots generally do not age well. Do not discount older wines based on conventional wisdom. You never know when there will be a pleasant surprise.

first time

I have started this blog to work out my frustration at being away from retail and perhaps to connect with people unsure about where they are going in their new found or on going wine appreciation. This year I was told that I was no longer needed at my wine sales job. I thought after four years I had proven myself to be useful and good at what I did. I guess not, at least not there. I am more frustrated at losing the interaction with my customers than the loss of income. I have spent the past months regrouping and weighing my options. I am still not sure where I will end up, but with any luck my wife and I will soon become owners of our own wine store, where I can once again begin to help people find that special bottle of wine at an acceptable price.