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Thursday, January 20, 2011

2007 Freemark Abbey Merlot

Do you like Merlot?  Face it, you do.  Don't be a Merlot snob just because the movie "Sideways" planted the notion in your mind!  There is a lot going on here with this dark purple Merlot.  You get a lot on the nose here - red currant, plum, cherry, vanilla, and cedar.  Wonderful nose!  On the palate you get an open wine with the plum, juicy cherries, vanilla and chocolate balanced with a lush but drier finish that lingers for moments.  Drink now or within the next 5 years for best enjoyment.  Retail is a comfortable $30 US but you can find this generally for around $25 or less online.  This is a bolder Merlot than many I've had, and that's one thing I really enjoy about this wine.  So no more avoiding the Merlot.  This is how Merlot is meant to be!

Score:  90

NV Cooper's Hawk Winery Winemaker's Barrel Reserve Red

Having just tried Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant for the first time, I was cautiously optimistic about what I would find.  Knowing that much of the midwest has a palate that craves sweet and overboard fruit, I was anxious to see if top quality wines could be made from a mass producer who hocks only their own brand.  Cooper's Hawk has nearly 50 varietals on the menu, so there is literally something for everyone!  The winemaker's Barrel Reserve wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petite Verdot.  With that colorful combination its difficult for this wine to not have mass appeal to nearly every red wine drinker.

Great dark violet color in the glass and forward fruit, spices and mocha on the nose.  As most barrel sample wines are strong in tannin, I was pleasantly surprised to find smooth rounded micro tannins in this velvety smooth wine.  You get a lot of flavor in the mouth - very luscious medium ripe cherry and blackberry fruit, cassis, leather, sweet tobacco and mild oak.  Lovely medium lingering finish and lip smacking goodness is what you get here.  This wine gets a couple of extra points due to the uniqueness of offering a barrel wine, which is not an option for most people who don't belong to a top tier wine club at exclusive wineries.  This barrel was about 2/3 empty so the air introduced to the wine most likely accounted for some of the rounded off smooth edges, which was perfect and made it easy to drink a full glass.  If you haven't been to Cooper's Hawk, they have 4 restaurants in Chicagoland and 1 in Indianapolis.  You can also order online.  Check it out.

Score:  92

2006 Curtis Syrah Crossroads Vineyard

Drinking very well right now.  Dried cherry and floral potpourri on the nose.  Firm tannins combine with a cherry and black raspberry flavor, blood red meats, leather, clove, oak and peppery spice to give you a long lasting and memorable finish.  This will drink very well for 5-7 years or more.

Score:  89

2008 Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Oh boy!  What a mouthfull in this Aussie Cabernet!  Dark ink in color and plenty of fragrant dark fruits concentrating on plum and red currant on the nose.  Incredible structure against small but firm tannin gives a fleshy dark fruit, dark chocolate, oak, spices, earth and leather in the mouth.  Intense finish with a long mouth watering linger that will please any Cabernet lover's palate.  Young and tight, this wine is cellar worthy and will drink wonderfully for the next 15 years.  A great buy under $30 US.

Score:  95

2007 Mantra Old Vines Reserve Zinfandel

Bright red with resonating stewed red ripe fruit and black currant on the nose.  Young, hot and tight wine with strong tannin and juicy jammy flavors of cherry and blackberry.  Presents with fresh cut tobacco, pepper and coffee bean mid palate.  Strong lingering finish.  Strong rich wine that should settle down a bit in the next couple of years.  Very good drinking and great zing!

Score:  88

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2009 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Barbera

You don't see a lot of Barbera in the United States, so I was excited for the opportunity to find and taste this wine.  Great medium to dark red color with a pronounced black cherry and juicy red fruit nose.  Firm and crisp wine with layered red raspberry, cherry pipe tobacco, sweet spices and mild oak in the mouth.  Very tasty and a nice change from most traditional red wines.  For $25 US you can't go wrong.  This wine has a broad appeal to most red wine drinkers, no matter what their preferred varietal.

Score:  90

2005 Hopper Creek Winery Estate Merlot

This boutique winery produces some wonderful estate wines, and the Merlot is grown on their property and fermented in French Oak.  I had the opportunity to visit Hopper Creek about 2 years ago and had a blast.  Great people and had a nice conversation with Barry, the wine maker.  Very accomodating folks.  This wine is a dark ruby red with blackberry, fruity jam, and earth on the nose.  The palate gives you the blackberry, lovely cedar, and dust in the glass.  The color goes to the edge of the glass and this wine has a wonderful refreshing mouth watering finish. Great balance of flavor and a fine wine indeed.  Small production, but worth picking up and tasting this!

Score:  91

2006 Grover Vineyards La Reserve

This is my first experience with Grover Vineyards and I received this bottle as a gift.  If this is any example of what India's wine is about, it is a true testament of what can be done in non-traditional wine country.  Wonderful strong nose of dark ripe fruits, spice and a touch of mocha.  This wine presents flavors of juicy dark and red fruits, vanilla, coffee, damp earth and a small amount of oak.  Easily approachable with a surprising and enjoyable long finish.  Well rounded and comparable to many big French wines.  The only drawback is that this wine is difficult to find in the United States, so you'll want to consult your top tier wine merchant to seek this one out.

Score:  92

2006 Slipstream Shiraz Grenache

This beautiful red Shiraz Grenache blend works very well together, and the Grenache takes some of the bite out of the Shiraz if you're not completely sold on Shiraz.  The nose is full of red raspberry, blackberry, black currant and cinnamon.  You get a full mouthfeel of blackberry, spice, cinnamon and vanilla from this medium tannic wine.  Medium dry finish and a good buy at $20 US.  The optimal drinking window will be before the end of 2013.

Score:  90

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2006 Girard Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain

For a young Cabernet, this is a very smooth and mildly tannic wine.  Dark violet in the glass with blackberry, dark cherry, mocha and spice on the nose.  Wonderful silky feel in the mouth with blackberry, chocolate, mint and asparagus.  You pick up some smoky oak near the end of the medium and mouth watering finish.  Should drink very nicely for the next 10 years or more.

Score:  91

Monday, January 17, 2011

2006 d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz

I can't remember who turned me onto d'Arenberg wines several years ago, but I sure wish I remembered so I could shake their hand and buy them a bottle.  I should start by saying that I've never met a bottle of d'Arenberg wines that I didn't absolutely love.  No, I don't work for the winery, but I am a huge fan and a cheerleader of sorts.  When you get onto something good, you stick with it.  And I'm happy to report that this 2006 Dead Arm Shiraz is nothing short of spectacular.  I've been fortunate enough to taste other vintages, and this one is spot on excellent!

As dark as night in the glass, there are aromas of blackberry, blueberry, big bold bloody game steak, and spices.  This wine is very firm and young, so you can cellar this easily for another 15 - 20 years and it might be one of the best wines you've ever tasted.  The palate brings tons of sweet blackberry jam, dark chocolate, pepper, and a little mocha in a finish that is lip-smacking good and goes on forever with the tight tannins. 

Score:  97

2009 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec

This is quite possibly the bargain of the day or week.  Dark plum color with a floral aroma combined with mocha, bright red ripe fruits and some toast.  Lots of forward fruit in the glass with light pepper, blueberry, and vanilla.  Soft tannins make this one as sooth as velvet and it is hard not to drink this one quickly.  You'll be refilling your glass before you know it with this incredibly tasty wine.  I almost forgot why this is the bargain of the day.  You get all of this flavor for about $13 US retail.  I've been able to find this for as low as $10 at some stores.  The best drinking window is through the end of 2012. 

Score:  91

2008 Red Bicyclette Merlot

For the budget-minded wine lover, the Red Bicylette isn't a bad bet.  In fact, for the price point (under $10 US) you'll receive a quality wine and keep a few bucks in your wallet.  Jammy predominant red fruit with oak on the nose.  Lots of forward fruit, very light tannin and vanilla on the palate.  You can find this mass produced wine in most liquor stores and grocery stores in the majority of the United States.  Why not try it?

Score:  86

2006 Baldacci Brenda's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

If you are into smaller boutique wineries that create hand crafted luxurious wines, you should check out Baldacci.  If you're lucky you might even get a tour, including a look at their very cool wine cave.  Baldacci touts the Brenda's Vineyard Cabernet as their "best of the best" and it is very easy to see why in this world class wine.  Not an overly fruity wine, but presenting with dark fruit, coffee and dusty barn floor on the nose.  The palate also has dark fruits, mocha, light tar and a floral bouquet that is faintly noticeable in the glass-like smooth lingering finish.  This wine is multi-layered and drinking exceptionally well.  It would be fun to see where this one is in 5 years or so.  If you're looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon to put away for a special celebration or a fine steak celebratory dinner, this one will last another 15 years without any problem.  Very small production, so get it now if you're in the market for a fine Cab.

Score:  95

2007 Rubicon Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 'Twenty Two'

Well balanced dark wine with smooth tannin.  Smoky ripe dark cherries with a woody accent on the nose.  The palate presents a lot of cherry, spice and smoky oak with a wet gravel taste alongside a nice lingering finish.  Another fine example from Rubicon.

Score:  91