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Saturday, January 15, 2011

NV Bourassa Vineyards Solera Port

Normally I review wines that are readily available in the retail market.  Sadly, I can't find this anywhere in retail or online, but it is so good that I had to share it with you.  With this sweet dessert wine, you get the impression that you are drinking a fine cognac.  The nose boasts caramel, semi sweet chocolate, vanilla, and spicy berry.  Tastes include a lot of blackberry fruit, spice, mint and dark brown sugar with a hint of pepper.  This is a perfect accompaniment to your mom's chocolate cake.  If you come across a bottle of this small production port, don't think about it - grab it!  Stunning!

Score:  95

NV Campbells Muscat Classic Rutherglen

Clear dark amber color with a full nose of cooked caramel, toffee and coffee bean.  The mouthfeel is warm and inviting with caramel, sweet baked bread, toasted cashew, and butterscotch.  If you like a sweet sipping or dessert wine, try this one at the end of your meal or serve with creme brulee.  The finish goes on and on and will drink wonderfully for at least another 5 years.

Score:  94

2009 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Let me start by saying that other than the fact that this wine is consistently delicious, it is also very affordable and can be found at big box retailers and wholesale clubs.  Don't be skeptical - this is VERY GOOD stuff.  A lot of people have had bad experiences with Sauvignon Blanc due to an overwhelming cat urine smell that turns them off (myself included).  But you don't find that here.  You get a straw colored wine with aromas of grapefruit, fresh cut grass, lime peel and vanilla.  And the taste is full crisp citrus, passionfruit, some pineapple and bean sprout.  Serve well chilled and enjoy this one anytime.

Score:  91

NV Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut

This is a good value and very tasty.  Pale straw color and green tea, fig, pear, apple and cinnamon on the nose.  Yeast, pear and honey dominate the flavors with a very crisp finish that lingers for moments.  These folks also get an extra mention because of the beautiful bottle!  For a Champagne (versus an American sparkling wine) this is a good buy at around $50 per 750ml bottle.  You can also find this in half bottles if you're drinking it alone. 

Score:  90

1998 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon

Light yellow color with notes of honey, tart lemon, fresh bread, and mineral on the nose.  The flavors in the glass are peach, pear, lemon zest, mineral and apple.  True DP lingering lovely finish and this will drink well for another 10 years.  If you're looking for a famously good Champagne, plan on dropping about $150 a bottle for this juice.

Score:  92

NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley

Yeast and green apple with creamy bubbles up front.  Lemon and lime on the back end with a hint of yeast and a wonderful long finish.  You'll like the $20 price tag too.

Score:  88

Friday, January 14, 2011

2008 J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese

Subdued semi-ripe peaches combine with fresh rain and wet rock with nutmeg and wild spice on the nose.  Lemon, vanilla, apricot and and tangerine dance with each other in this lively, bright textured finish.  This wine is very tasty but probably not at its full potential yet.  While this is very good stuff, it should be simply amazing in about 2 - 3 years and will drink well for another 10 without any issues.

Score:  91

2009 Pacific Rim Riesling

Made from organic grapes, this Washington state Riesling is pale golden in color, and full of big juicy slightly sweet fruit, mint, nutmeg and spices.  This is an off-dry medium body wine with pear, apple and apricot flavors.  Nice and young with a long crisp finish.  The people at Pacific Rim make a lot of Riesling - and they do it right.  And you get all of this for under $15.

Score:  89

2009 Kilikanoon Mort's Block Watervale Riesling

I've long been an Aussie red wine lover, especially Shiraz.  But I found a Riesling made down under that is a hidden gem in the United States.  Why this isn't on every retail shelf is beyond me.  I've consumed dozens of Rieslings and this one is unique and is a flavor explosion in your mouth.  Let me first start with the price - about $19 retail which is outstanding.  And the low 12.5% ABV is great for those who don't want to share the bottle.  Lemon lime in color and taste with a floral boquet and green apple, all leading to a very distinct crisp chalky finish with a pop.  This wine is very young and will drink beautifully for 10 years or more.  And for you cork snobs, don't pass this one by just because it has a screw cap.  A large number of Australian wines have a screw cap these days.  You want this wine!

Score:  93

2008 King Estate Winery Signature Pinot Gris

Most of the Pinot Gris I have become familiar with have been bought on a whim at the grocery store during summer months.  And while you can find a lovely bottle of wine for $8 or so, I haven't been that lucky with a Pinot Gris.  This King Estate 2008 Pinot Gris nearly knocked my socks off.  This is, by far, one of the best Pinot Gris wines I have ever tried to date.  Bright golden color with tons of citrus and exotic fruits on the nose including lime, lemon peel, peach and pear.  It took two sips to fully appreciate those tropical fruits, natural honey and stone fruits in the glass. Very distinct layers of flavor and crisp with the first sip.  The citrus fruits provide a long lasting finish.  The Oregon winery knows how to make Pinot Gris!  I am genuinely impressed.

Score:  91

2009 Kenwood Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay

This might be the bargain wine of the day!  For under $20 you get a rich, mild-to-medium toasted oak buttery Chardonnay that is refreshing and well worth serving to your friends.  They might swear you spent $40 when they taste the pear, peach, cream cheese and light toast in this medium golden colored wine.  This young wine is 100% Chardonnay, very crisp and lingers for many moments. 

Score:  90

2009 Cline Cellars Viognier

Crisp, tropical fruity pale lemon colored wine with apricot, peach and pineapple on the nose and on the palate.  There are some spring floral aromas going on here too.  The finish is crisp and if you drink strictly Chardonnay or Riesling and haven't ventured into Viognier yet, this would be a great place to start, as it is flavorful, crisp and concentrated.  This wine has a broad appeal to many types of food - chicken, stews, spicy - or can be enjoyed on its own or with some sweet warm bread.

Score:  91

2009 Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay

Cakebread might not be the oldest winery in the Napa Valley, but you can taste the attention to detail and commitment to quality in their wines.  Their 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay is a wonderful tribute to all Chardonnay!  This golden wine pleasantly fumes of melon, peach, slate, citrus and toasty oak.  Concentrated wonderfully textured wine with peach, citrus, baked apple, cinnamon and nutmeg against a long and tasty semi-sweet buttery finish. 

Score:  92

2007 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay

Beautiful bring yellow color with pear, golden apple, melon and caramel on the nose.  Delicious flavors of ripe pear, melon, apricot, toasted hazelnut and cinnamon in a full feeling moderately oaked sweet smoky finish.  Consistenly the Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay is a quality and pleasurable.  The $30 price tag is enticing and you can find this easily as over 22,000 cases were made.

Score:  93

2008 Iron Horse Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay

If you like Chardonnay but are oak-shy, try this unoaked Chardonnay from Iron Horse Vineyards.  Their 2008 vintage has a lot of pizazz with its pear, wet rock minerality, pink grapefruit and seasalt in the glass.  This is a great accompaniment with a light lunch, hors d'oeuvres or creamy white cheeses.  And at 13.5% ABV you won't feel miserable after a couple of glasses.  Golden straw in color and a lingering finish.

Score:  90

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2006 Reynolds Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

I visited these folks last year on a trip to Napa and they were very accomodating.  They have a beautiful property and great tasting room.  You can meet the family and they are happy to tell you anything you want to know about their wines or the Napa Valley.  When I was there they were bottling so that was a treat to see.  This wine is a big bowl of dark chocolate, coffee bean, lavender and black raspberry on the nose.  Very full and rich in the mouth will dark and jammy fruit, baked apple and earth.  Smooth and memorable finish.  Production was under 1600 cases so go out and get you some now.  If you're used to drinking wines from one of the behemoth wineries around the world, try something different here.  Hand crafted wines with attention to detail.  That's what you'll find here.

Score:  91

2007 Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Merlot

You might notice that I've tasted a lot of 2007 vintage wines from California.  Well, let me tell you that if you're looking for great tasting wine, that's a good place to start.  2007 was an ideal growing season in California with lots of juicy flavors from the grapes and you can find some fantastic wines, as mentioned on this site.  The 2007 Whitehall Lane Merlot is no exception - it is REALLY good stuff!  Traditional Merlot flavors with plum, black cherry, oak and just a hint of toasted exotic nut on the hearty finish.  There is a lot of dark ripe fruit on the nose along with some spice and plum.  The production on this wine makes it readily and widely available, so I have to hand it to Whitehall Lane for making a wine that everyone can find and enjoy!

Score:  92

2007 Cakebread Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

You're going to get a lot in the glass with this classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  Deep red and the dark fruits are well in check with the coffee and chocolate aromas that are beautifully integrated here.  The palate gives you dark berry, coffee, plum and fig throughout and there is balance in all of the flavor - nothing overwhelming here.  You don't get turned off by an "in your face" fruit with this one.  The tannins mesh fine against a smooth silky finish.  This wine will age well for 10 years but can be enjoyed right now too.

Score:  91

2007 d'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache

What a powerful and lush wine that should drink beautifully for another 5 years or so.  Medium to dark garnet color and semi sweet from the first to last sip.  Lots of bright fruit with an emphasis on ripe cherry and raspberry.  Great spice and licorice flavor with a bit of earthy funk in the end.  You'll love this wine, no matter what type of red drinker you normally may be.  Tangy and mildly tannic with a lovely lingering finish.  I really enjoyed this wine and for under $20 you have a great bargain here.

Score:  90

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2006 Andretti Napa Valley Merlot

Good flavors in this Napa Cab.  And for the price you'll enjoy this one.  Blueberry, floral and cherry on the nose.  The palate is smooth with silky tannin and the fruit is joined by smoky cedar, violet, dusty book leather and herbs.  Complex for a $40 Cabernet and very enjoyable.

If you're ever in the Napa area, stop by the Andretti Winery.  I love the property there and the folks in the tasting room are very generous.  I have several photos from Andretti posted on this site.

Score:  90

2007 Luna Vineyards Petite Sirah

Incredibly intense near-opaque wine with a great integration of chocolate, blackberry and warm coffee bean and oak on the nose.  Much of the same emerges in flavor with a butter nut and plum finish in tow.  The finish feels like cashmere and each sip is more beautiful than the previous.  Wonderful structure and the tannins are well in check here.  Drink this one easily for the next 10+ years.  Just delicious!

Score:  93

2006 Camelot Cabernet Sauvignon

If you're looking for a bargain priced tasty Cabernet, look no further.  This 2006 Camelot Cabernet has all of the nuances of a top shelf Cab without the hefty price tag.  You get black cherry, gooseberry, clove, dark chocolate and mocha on the palate and a pleasant nose of dark cherry, plum and cassis.  Soft medium tannins help give you a pleasant and effortless finish.  This could easily become your daily drinker of 2011.

Score:  88

2006 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

Much different that many of the Cabernets I've tasted in recent weeks.  You get a great blueberry and cedar smoke on the nose intertwined with classic Cabernet aromas of dark fruit and cassis.  There's a lot going on in the mouth here too - dark blackberry, marionberry, cedar, exotic nuts, vanilla and medium rare big game meats.  Medium tannin for such a young wine and a lingering finish worthy of your attention.  This is a wine that deserves to be decanted but can be enjoyed straight from the bottle without any distraction.  You will find this drinkable for the next dozen years or more and can find it retail online for about $45 - $50.

Score:  92

2006 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon beauty is less than 6 months into release and looks like a winner.  It's very tight right now, which is expected, so don't even think about doing a pop and pour on this one.  Medium dark color which reaches to the rim of the glass.  Cherries, red current, cassis, chocoate, mocha and mint on the palate make for a very enjoyable long finish.  This wine will probably be best approachable in about 4 years and should drink easily for another 15 years.  If you're looking for a good bottle to cellar, spend the $70 on this one and wait.  You'll be glad you did.

Score:  93

2007 Cameron Hughes Lot 174 Sonoma County Syrah

You're going to be very happy that I found this wine and I'm telling you about it!  As soon as you're done reading this, you'll want to rush to their web site and order a few (or several) bottles because this wine is only.........wait for it.........$13 a bottle!  You'd swear it cost at least twice that.  Beautiful dark red, tettering on black in the glass.  Dark rich fruits with mint, pepper and a little bit of tar on the nose here.  The palate has great forward fruit and spice but just the right amount.  I picked up a little mineral and soy sauce towards the end with a very lush and smooth finish.  Go get this wine!  It will be drinking wonderfully for several years.

Score:  90

2006 Monticello Vineyards "Tietjen Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon

I had the chance to visit this winery last year and enjoyed their wines and the atmosphere very much.  Their single vineyard wines are produced in low quantity, and very fair for the price and quality.  This Cabernet Sauvignon contains some classic Cabernet aromas - dark fruit, vanilla, cherry pipe tobacco and spice.  On the palate is the same with a natural leather and a long smooth finish.  This wine is drinking beautifully right now and should easily for another 8 years or more. 

Score:  90

2007 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is rich, powerful and just a lot of fun to drink.  Many people may not realize, but 2007 was generally a great year for Napa wines due to optimal growing conditions and extremely flavorful fruit that was produced.  I have tasted Hall wines before, but never their Cabernet Sauvignon until now.  Deep eggplant color with a wonderful combination of plum, spices, black licorice and black cherry.  You pick up some mocha and cocoa flavors in this long finish with supple tannin.  You really want to get lost in this bottle!

Score:  95

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2009 Mollydooker Two Left Feet Red Proprietary

After tasting the 2009 Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz, I felt compelled to pull another bottle of Mollydooker from the cellar and give it a whirl.  For the price conscious wine lovers, this bottle can be found for around $23 retail and you get a delicious quality Mollydooker wine for that price.  This red blend wine is surprisingly dark and has black cherry, blackberry, tar and cedar on the nose.  In the mouth this wine is juicy dark fruits, creamy black licorice (but not overpowering), vanilla and cherry against a very soft finish.  Drinking this in the next 2 1/2 years will give you the most pleasure.

Score:  91

2009 Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz

Put your nose into a glass of this!  If you're not familiar with Mollydooker wines, I would be so bold to say that you might be cheating yourself.  These folks want you to tast their wines and say "WOW" and that's exactly what you'll do if you love Shiraz like I do.  This is 100% dark purple Shiraz goodness.  Lots of complexity against medium tannin in a ripe wine that shines with plum, blueberry, sundried tomatoes and spices.  I like that such a great wine was made in plentiful production - 19,000 cases!  And you can drink this now or be equally amazed in 5 years from now.  And the price point is around $50, which is reasonable for what you get inside.  One thing I love about Mollydooker is their very wide range of price points and their consistent quality of wines.  They also get kudos for great looking mass-appeal labels and catchy wine titles.

Score:  93

Monday, January 10, 2011

2008 Hagafen Riesling Mayeri Vineyard Napa Valley

I had the pleasure of visiting this Kosher winery while in Napa and we immediately fell in love with their white wines.  We also enjoyed hearing the story of how Hagafen has been served in the White House since the Reagan era.  Neat history!  This is wonderfully sweet with tropical fruit hints against peach and candied apricot.  There is a clean crisp linen finish and a long lingering voluptuous feeling in the throat.  If you get a chance to get to Napa, stop by and see them.  Their staff is very friendly and their quaint tasting room will make you feel right at home.

Score:  92

2003 Curtis Syrah Ambassador's Vineyard

Allowed to decant for about 90 minutes prior to pouring.  The nose was closed at first and the decanting is just what this Syrah needed.  Great blackberry, plum and pepper on the nose.  Smoked red meat, spice, cedar and mouth watering dark fruits on the palate.  Everything blended very nice and didn't overwhelm you.  Drink within the next 3 years, but I definitely suggest a bit of time in the decanter before enjoying this one.  And you will enjoy it!

Score:  89

2007 Luigi Bosca Pinot Noir Reserva

Dark color and medium bodied hardwood smelling Pinot Noir with some chocolate and a little earthy.  Tart black cherry, cola and mineral round out a medium finish.  Very mild tannins and should drink well for a couple more years.

Score:  88

2007 Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Muscat Canelli

I love a good Muscat Canelli because its something different that I don't drink a lot of, and it provides a true refreshing alternative to heavier wines.  This KJ Muscat Canelli is actually pretty dry but has a finish that takes you back to the bottle quickly with an empty glass.  Great layers of citrus, honeysuckle, nutmeg, spice and pear in a $12 bottle of wine.  And at only 12% ABV this 100% Muscat Canelli is an easy drinker and a great bargain!

Score:  88

2009 Ambiente Mendoza Chardonnay

If you're a Chardonnay fan and and looking for an every day drinker, I think this is what you're looking for.  If you're on a budget but would rather give up your Starbucks than your wine, you'll keep your pocketbook pleased with this tasty Chardonnay under $8.  I've seen this for sale as low as $5.99 per bottle!  This Argentinian Chardonnay is made of 85% Chardonnay, 10% Chenin Blanc and 5% Viognier, so it is a bit on the sweet side with floral aromas, peach, lemon, citrus and fresh air all packed into 750ml of great tasting juice.  If you're having a party this summer and grilling out some chicken or fish, serve this well appropriately chilled to your guests and you'll have some happy partygoers!

Score:  87

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2008 Conundrum White Table Wine

I was first turned onto Conundrum about 2 1/2 years ago while out to eat and in a mood for a white wine.  But I knew I didn't want a Chardonnay.  I blindly allowed the sommelier to suggest Conundrum and I've been a fan since.  I'm primarily a red drinker but this wine has great appeal to me and my wife who is solely a white drinker.  From the first sip to the last of a single glass, you are treated to a plethora of wonderful flavors that change throughout the glass - melon, pear, peach, fig, molasses, vanilla, spice and even........wait for it........sea salt.  Lots of goodies on the nose here with tropical fruit, lavender, lemon zest and apple.  This is a delicious wine that can be enjoyed with a wide variety of meals and grilled fish or chicken.  It's also just a great chilled sipping wine with friends.  I highly recommend you try it.  But do yourself a favor and buy two bottles to start!

Score:  92

2008 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot

This is Duckhorn's entry level Merlot, but not "entry level" by any means.  What I mean is that just because this isn't a reserve or a single vineyard wine certainly doesn't mean it isn't worth your time.  Duckhorn will be celebrating their 35 year anniversary this year and they have consistently made wonderfully expressive wines for the past three and a half decades.  These people have a big focus on Merlot, where many other Napa wineries use it primarily as a blending grape.  Yes indeed.  Duckhorn knows Merlot and I know you'll love this.  Bright fruit with spice, ginger, wet stone, some beef steak and a touch of brown sugary goodness that rounds out a Merlot so smooth you'll start to judge all others by it.  Sure, you can go to your big box retailer and buy a $10 bottle of Merlot, and if that's your thing go for it.  But if you want to give your palate a real treat or you're wanting to make a leap into finer wines, you won't mind the $50 price tag on this bottle.  It will be worth every penny!

Score:  94

2007 Gilbert Cellars Petite Verdot

This wine is incredibly good, and I like their label.  I know a label doesn't mean that much to everyone, but it does to me.  Ok, not as much as the wine, but the label is part of the entire package.  This dark purple wine has it all - coffee bean, cedar smoke, pepper, blackberry, and graphite.  Very ripe fruit that probably hasn't even reached its full potential yet.  What I mean is that this wine is still very young and probably needs a few years in the bottle before you can enjoy it how it was meant to be.  This wine really is a fine example of a great Washington winery and can easily compete with wines around the world. 

Score:  91

2007 Pepper Bridge Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

These folks make Cabernet Sauvignon just how I like it - lots of flavors and wonderful layers on the nose, but not an "in your face" overpowering fruit bomb.  Breathe this one in deeply and you can feel the fruit, damp earthy, dusty road and leather go deep into your soul.  Ok, that might sound a little crazy, but you get the idea.  This wine is almost as enjoyable to smell as it is to drink!  I'm not kidding.  The tannins are smooth and there is an smoky oaked flavor that presents intself in this lingering finish.  These folks are proud to say they were named a Top 100 Winery worldwide by Food and Wine Magazine.  And its no surprise if all of their wines are this good.  What I really like about these folks is that they consider themselves farmers and stewards of the land. 

Score:  92

2006 Maryhill Winery Proprietor's Reserve Malbec

Received this bottle as a gift and quickly determined that I need to add these folks to my favorite Malbec producers.  The best Malbec wines in the world are generally produced in Argentina, but this 2009 Washington Winery of the Year knows their stuff.  There's a lot of spice, earthy, black fruits with a great oak flavor, but not overwhelming.  I am genuinely impressed with this wine and think you will be too.  If you like Malbec, check out this Maryhill Winery Proprietor's Reserve Malbec.

Score:  91

2006 Chateau Julien Private Reserve Merlot

The color of this private reserve Merlot is nearly black, which is a stark contrast from most Merlot, even private reserve.  Complex full bodied wine with blackberry, mocha, rose petal and sundried tomatoes on the nose.  The flavor of this wine is equally complex, but layers nicely with powerful tannins, providing a long lasting finish.  This stellar wine will drink easily for 15+ years without any problem. 

Score:  93