Archive for the Info on Wine Category

SIX SCINTILLATING WINES IN SOUTH PHILLY

Posted in Favorite Wines, Tasting Notes, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2011 by ballymote

 In writing this blog, and in having the opportunity to dine out weekly at many of the wonderful BYOB’s in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area, it also presents an opportunity to taste a lot of different wines. Some dinners there is the surprise of discovering something really good. Once in a while the same dinner will present two wines of note. I must confess that I don’t get too many dinners where SIX of the wines were exceptional. Our dinner at Salt and Pepper in South Philly, which is reviewed elsewhere on this blog, is one such instance where the wines were all top-notch.

Now, it should be noted that one observer’s definition of top-notch may well differ from another’s and my wallet and the wallets of my friends may preclude some of the world’s best wines from our table but, the six we had on this cold January evening were just fine with all of us present. Additionally, there were some other wines on the table that I didn’t sample  for one reason or another. Here is what we enjoyed in no particular order:

 2007 B. R. Cohn, Silver Label, Cabernet Sauvignon

On plenty of other occasions this could have been the best wine at the table. Tonight, despite some nice black cherry and spice nuances, and a pleasant oak treatment this one was slightly lost in the presence of some real heavyweights. Still, at a price point in the $20.00 range, this North Coast cab from the excellent 2007 vintage offers great value.

 The 2005 Shirvington, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia is one of those wines that is always welcome at any table where I am eating. Once again, none of the recent vintages will ever match Sarah and Sparky’s magnificent 01 and 02 effort and, in fairness, that could well be because they are no longer responsible for Shirvington wines. Still, it always brings intense shiraz flavor and although it isn’t perfect with a lot of foods, it’s still a great wine for sipping and conversing and will work with many heavier meat items.

 2007 Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, Oregon. My affection for Pinot Noir isn’t shared by many of my wine-drinking friends. I do try to convert them every once in a while when I have a Pinot that I think is outstanding. This was one that they all seemed to enjoy, especially with the lighter foods on the menu. This 90 pointer exhibits a great nose of spring flowers and raspberries and soft flavors of cherry and spice. It is currently available as a Chairman’s Selection in the PA State stores for $29.99 which is almost $20.00 less that its normal retail price.

 2007 Mauritson,Rockpile Ridge Vineyard, Zinfandel. My wife, Kathy, has become a Zin-lover. She has become a zinfandel lover without being exposed to the really good 40.00+ wines that are available. In fact, this may have been her first. The rich blackberry flavors, the baked-pie with hints of Asian spices and the overall structure and balance of this wine made it, for both of us, our Wine of the Night. Considering the competition this was no small accomplishment. It may have been that I wasn’t expecting it to be so good and I knew the others would be.

2007 Kapcsandy, State Lane Vineyard, Estate Cuvee. I opened my first bottle of this superb wine at the end of the summer and was slightly disappointed because I expected more. In retrospect, it may have been my fault as I didn’t give it enough time to breathe before serving. This time, we had our server decant the wine for about 90 minutes before we could hold out no longer and started sampling the deep purple nectar. Much better this time and reminiscent of our sampling it last October with Lou Kapcsandy at his Tasting Room in Yountville, CA. This red blend which garnered 96 points from Robert Parker consists of 46% Cabernet and 46% Merlot with equal blends of Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. Made in the true Bordeaux fashion this is one terrific wine as evidenced by these remarks on Cellar Tracker

  Tasted by etherscreen on 1/29/2011: With such great Cali Cabernet produced by the likes of Rivers Marie, Lewelling, Karl Lawrence, and Stefania to name a few, available way below a c-note, why should one really look to those priced out of reach for many of us? Ok collectors (read not drinkers) can stockpile screaming eagle, harlan, etc., but those wines are nothing more than a distant dream to the vast majority of us. With this in mind, I am not looking to acquire many Cali Cabs north of $100, save Shafer Hillside Select and a few others. Why should we pay more???

Well my friends, the Kapcsandy 2007 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard is one profound example of why to pay more! This wine exemplifies the perfect marriage of Napa fruit with a Bordeaux sensibility. It’s color is nearly alive in the glass. Nose of cassis, wet earth, pencil lead, cigar box, minerals, and menthol. Powerful, but with restraint on the palate. Well proportioned. Finish captures the wonderful aromas noted on the nose as well a some chocolatey oak that sails a nice distance.

I spoke with Lou for a fair amount of time discussing his wines, his history, and his philosophy. He struck me as an extraordinary guy with a clear vision and purpose in his wine making. While I am not in the business of drinking over priced Cali Cab, I am, from this point forward, in the business of cellaring and drinking Kapcsandy wines. (137 views)

  Tasted by Wine-Strategies on 12/25/2010 & rated 97 points: opened on Thursday, tasted (yikes, this is young!) and re-corked for Saturday’s Christmas dinner. Let me begin by saying this is the finest North American wine I’ve ever had, and I’ve had lots. Shafer, not even close. Araujo, whatever. Abreu, Colgin, etc., nah. This wine is like one of the first dates you ever had, with the girl you just knew was for you; when you knew in your heart that the feelings would run deep, and the experience was one you’d never forget. A medium-weight entry gives way to a full-bodied, sophisticated and regal mouthfeel. It’s as if this wine weighs nothing and is as dense as a star, all in the same moment. The structure and blend (they nailed it) is fit not for kings or gods, but for the purest of the pure. The chosen. Loving, caressing, layered in purity and focus. This is worth every penny, and then some. Highly recommended. Drink thru 2030, approx $135, 14,1% abv (576 views)
  Tasted by hrl on 12/24/2010 & rated 95 points: From 375. This is just stellar. Very classy and complex nose that comes across like classified Bordeaux. The palate is very ethereal as the wine is powerful yet restrained. This is a great meeting of Napa ripeness and restrained French winemaking. As someone who finds many of the Napa cults far too big and ripe, this is ideal. My first bottle from this estate and I plan on buying many more. (635 views).

 

 

 
 

2008 Alpha Omega ERA. We barrel tasted this wine during our October California visit and my friend, Gerry B. decided right there that he had to have this when the folks at A-O finally bottled it. From the monster-size impressive bottle to the equally impressive juice contained therein this is one major red wine endeavor. Certainly this was too early to be opening a wine of such magnitude but one sip and you can already see the lushness and velvet texture of this wine. It will be even better in five or ten years but it delivers much even at this early stage. This is not only a great wine but if you are ever out Napa way, Alpha Omega should be near the top of your “Must Visit” list not just for the great wines but it’s in a beautiful location and the folks, headed by the charming Jean Hoefliger and his entire staff, make you feel totally welcome.

So, there you have them. A great beginning to 2011 and if once a month brings wines of equal quality, it will be a wonderful year.

PORK & SAUERKRAUT….AND A WINE THAT WORKS WITH THEM

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Dinners with tags , , on February 2, 2011 by ballymote

 Matching wine with food isn’t always the mass confusion that many declare it to be. There are some combinations that almost everyone knows. For instance, a nice filet, T-Bone or sirloin steak certainly deserves a big California cabernet by its side for maximum enjoyment. All out of cab at the moment?  Not to worry, simply substitute a nice Malbec, a syrah or a hearty zinfandel and you have hardly lost a beat with your beefy meal. On the other hand, some foods do offer much more of a challenge in finding the right wine to highlight their flavors.

One such meal was our dinner on Sunday evening, Pork and Sauerkraut slow cooked overnight in a crock pot and accompanied by some buttery, fluffy mashed potatoes. Of course, it’s not really the pork or the potatoes that cry for something special, it’s clearly the acidic, tongue-curling flavors of the sauerkraut that cries out for something special. The wine we chose to match with this dish worked perfectly.

 The 2007 St. Urbans – Hof, Ockfener Bockstein, Riesling Spatlese proved to be an excellent match for this entree. Crisp and silky smooth with just the right minerality and soft hints of pear and melon, grapefruit and lemon oil. It was right on target in helping to negate the stringent flavors of the dish. In the German hierarchy, spatleses are just a bit sweeter that the kabinetts and you may personally find that the kabinetts provide an even better match with this type of food. It’s not surprising that this wine received a 92 from the Wine Advocate and a 91 from Wine Spectator and is available locally for about $25.00.  It’s the type of white wine that makes a red wine aficionado like myself admit that there is room for both in the world of vino.

A TALE OF TWO WINES

Posted in Info on Wine, Tasting Notes with tags , , , , , on January 24, 2011 by ballymote

 They always claim there are two kinds of knowledge, “knowing something, or knowing where to find something.” With the dawn of the computer age the “knowing where to find something” has become even easier. I certainly don’t claim to know everything about wine but I do know places where I can go to look when I have something Id like to learn more about. Two such places are the popular wine “chat boards”, Wine Spectator and Wine Berserker. I make sure I stop by these two fonts of knowledge several times a week. In so doing, I often pick up ideas for new wines to try. A few weeks ago one of the main topics of conversation on Wine Berserker was “your favorite Under $15.00 wines”. There was lively discussion with scores of posters volunteering their personal favorites. One wine that garnered several mentions was the 2008 Altovinum “Evodia” Calatayud Garnacha from Spain. I have seen that wine many times on the shelves of local wine shops but it became just one of many Spanish wines I hoped to try one day. The chatter on the boards though was so favorable that the next day I picked up a bottle for $9.99 at a PA State Store near where I work.

 My wife, Kathy, and I opened the bottle at a local restaurant on New Years Day and were both immensely disappointed. Kathy went so far as to call it “horrible’ and I struggled to find something redeeming about it to no avail. It could have been that the bottle was “corked” but it’s more likely that this wine just didn’t appeal to our palates. Remember, just because the majority may like something it’s no guarantee you will find the same wine equally charming.

 Less than 24 hours later we were at my brother Tom’s house for a delayed family Christmas celebration. Tom has a very nice wine cellar and we can always count on him having something good in his wine fridge. This day was no exception and one of the wines we popped was a 2000 Justin, Isosceles, a Cabernet based blend from Paso Robles, CA. I have had other vintages of this same wine and it has always been enjoyable but this 2000 was absolutely stellar. A decade in the bottle had brought out all of the highlights of this delicious nectar. Bright strawberry, subdued blackberry, hints of caramel and some cotton candy, all perfectly balanced and topped off with a long, smooth finish. This was really a wine that had reached its apex of flavor.

That’s the amazing thing about wine. The Justin Isosceles sells for about $50.00. This one was worth it. Often times you can find a $15.00 bottle that drinks like a $50 bottle. It’s the experimentation and thrill of discovery that makes drinking wine such a unique pleasure.

2010 WINE AND FOOD CLASSIC AT THE MANSION, VOORHEES, NJ

Posted in Info on Wine, Tasting Notes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by ballymote

 Several weeks ago, on a wine-buying visit to Canal’s BottleStop in Marlton, Charlie Beatty, who has built the best selection of wines in any store in South Jersey, mentioned that Canal’s would be hosting a wine tasting at The Mansion in Voorhees, NJ on Friday evening November 5th, to benefit the Burlington County YMCA. It sounded good but we usually go out for dinner on Friday nights so I didn’t think it would be likely I’d be in attendance. As fate would have it, our friends had prior commitments for that evening, my wife, Kathy, wasn’t interested, so I e-mailed my wine drinking buddy, Gerry B. and next thing I knew we were both buying our tickets online and heading up for a Friday night of hopefully, great wines and terrific food.

The Mansion is a beautiful complex and a favorite site for weddings and special functions in South Jersey. It made the perfect setting for a wine tasting. The second and third floors were packed with over 700 wines spread among a dozen rooms with other rooms set aside for food servings. We looked over the program that were available in the lobby and circled the wines we wanted to make sure and try as we began our assault on the gathered distributors tables. Rather than list the scores of different wines we sampled I will focus on the ones that appealed to us the most.

 The only white wine that really struck the right notes with me was the 2008 Rombauer Chardonnay , soft and creamy with pear, pineapple and vanilla this is one of the most popular chardonnays on the market and it’s easy to see why. It was one of my Top Three wines of the evening.

 The 2008 Gary Farrell, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir was subtle and smooth with candied red fruits with a hint of cinnamon and had great structure and balance and would go perfectly with a roast pork or a nicely done halibut filet.

  I was very happy to see that the good folks at Winebow Distributors had brought with them one of my favorite wines, the 2008 Caymus “Special Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon. This, in my estimation, is what fine cabernet should taste like, and year after year this one performs like a Napa champion. Smooth and elegant the fruits flow over the tongue like velvet and that soft hint of chocolate on the long and lingering finish makes this wine well worth its loft price tag.

Gerry B. had broken his favorites down into two groups. His “A” group were wines that he knew about and expected to be good while his “B” group were wines that he was not familiar with and pleasantly surprised at the taste and quality of them. His top three in the “A” group were:

2007 Beaulieu Vineyards, Georges de Latour

2006 Rubicon Estate “Rubicon”

2007 Beringer Private Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon

In the “B” Group his Top Three were:

2007 Tenuta San Guido Sassacaia

2008 Faust, Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Hess “Allomi” Cabernet Sauvignon

Here were the overall winners in his estimation:

 Here is how the Wine Advocate felt about this offering: 95 points Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate): “The 2007 Sassicaia (Cabernet Sauvignon) explodes onto the palate with masses of rich, opulent fruit that caress the palate with gorgeous length and a seamless beauty that is hard to fully capture. Dark wild cherries, plums, spices, minerals and herbs develop in the glass. This is an especially bold, perhaps slightly uncharacteristic Sassicaia in its extroverted personality, but it is beautiful all the same. The inner perfume and sweetness carries through the long finish, where the sheer weight and glycerol of the fruit leaves a lasting impression. The 2007 is more than a worthy follow-up to the profound 2006. While it may lack that wine’s freshness, structure and potential longevity, the 2007 is immensely appealing today, and should drink beautifully pretty much out of the gate. That said, Sassicaia is always the most restrained of Bolgheri’s heavy hitters. This is a superb effort from Tenuta San Guido. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2037.

 This is another wine that can be counted on year after year to deliver the goods. This one also received 95 points from the Wine Advocate. Here is Parker’s review:

95 points Robert Parker: “The phenomenal 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve Georges de Latour is the greatest BV Private Reserve made since the 1970 and 1968. The good news is 11,000 cases were produced. The return of this superb Napa classic is fabulous news, and the brilliance of this wine is evidenced by its opaque purple color and its big, sweet, blackberry, cassis, subtle smoke, graphite, and spicy oak-scented nose. Dense and full-bodied with sweet but substantial tannins, thrilling levels of concentration, texture, and richness, and a heady finish, this wine will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age, and last three decades or more. It’s time to once again fill your cellars with the BV Private Reserve, one of the historic names in California wine folklore.

Here’s what The Wine Enthusiast offered on the 2006 Rubicon:

“The new Rubicon, which is almost all Cabernet Sauvignon, brings to mind the 2003 and 2004. It doesn’t have the sheer force of 2002 or 2005, but it’s certainly a classic Rutherford wine, and has a good future. Bone dry, it shows herb-infused flavors of blackberries, cocoa, spices and smoky sandalwood, and yes, the tannins are dusty. Drinkable now, with a good decant, and should develop in the bottle over the next 6–8 years.”94 Points Wine Enthusiast.

We both awarded the 2007 Girard Zinfandel an Honorable Mention. In addition to all the great wines we enjoyed some good food compliments of Flemings Prime Steakhouse. It was a fun evening and we were both glad we made the effort to attend.

HOPS N GRIPES – GLASSBORO, NJ

Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by ballymote

I want to like Hops n Grapes, honest, I really do. It’s my closest wine store. It’s way better than Canal’s on the Black Horse Pike and I even give it the edge over Monster Beverage, their neighbor in Glassboro. It’s just that there is something that irks me about their daily “e-mail specials” and this false sense of urgency they try to create in order to get what basically amounts to “two dollars” off of a bottle of mediocre wine. I know I am going to hear from Patrick on this one!!

What bothers me most though is that recently, with each visit, I find some little thing that pushes me away from my case purchases. On my most recent encounter I spotted the Mollydooker line-up of Australian wines priced at a not very enticing $28.99 when I can purchase them elsewhere for $24.99. I could have forgiven them the disparity, but then, they take what is probably the most popular of the Mollydooker wines, The Boxer Shiraz, and make that one an extra dollar higher at $29.99. Give me a break!!

I wander around the store checking out their selection. I read a shelf-talker for a WA92 rated 2007 wine. The actual wine available for sale above the shelf-talker is the 2008. Out of 10 shelf-talkers I look at FIVE of them do not represent the wines being offered (off the top of my head, two of the E. Guigal wines in the French section come to mind). It’s not unlike a car salesman selling you on the merits of a BMW and then after you sign for the car, delivering you a Toyota. Are they purposely trying to deceive the customer? I doubt it. Most likely, it’s simply a matter of not thinking it’s important. No one checks to assure that the shelf-talkers match the wines above them and most customers wouldn’t think to check, anyway. It’s just a lazy way to do business. They would probably also tell you that the distributor puts those on there, not them. That might be true but it’s YOUR store, YOUR integrity on the line, not the distributors or the salesmen.

I’m not a beer guy, I don’t drink much spirits. I’m a wine guy and I want to like Hops n Grapes, honest, I do. I’ll keep trying. It’s just a little harder now that Vladi isn’t with them. HE was a wine guy.

WINERY VISIT #5 – BELLA VINEYARDS AND WINE CAVES

Posted in Bella Winery and Caves, California Wine Country, Info on Wine, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by ballymote

Bella means “beautiful” and that’s just what the views from this Dry Creek property are. The views at Bella are not the only thing they have going for them. Their zinfandel is first-class and the syrah they make is also some very good juice.

A former co-worker from years ago lives not far from Sonoma and when this trip was being planned I had asked her to try to arrange a tour at Bella which has long been her favorite winery. We arrived in the early afternoon and after a quick tour of the caves, which have lots of side rooms used for special dinners and events at the winery, our guide Ross Clendennon, loaded the eight of us into their thirty year-old all-terrain vehicle for the climb up the hill to their “Lily Hill” Vineyard.

Everywhere you turned there was one magnificent view of the valley after another.  Ross described the harvesting process and pointed out some of their neighbors including Ferrari-Carano pictured on the right above.

The grapes that go into making their signature wine, the “Lily’s Hill” Zinfandel, are grown near the top of the vineyard and benefit from both the afternoon sun and the soft breezes from the Pacific. Ross had us sampling the wines as we toured and made sure we never had an empty glass.

Eventually, he led us to a picnic table where we tasted thru much of the Bella line-up. This was the first year that Bella did a Chardonnay, a major departure from what was always nothing but red wine. He ended the tasting with an interesting pairing, chocolate peanut butter cups with a delicious late harvest zinfandel. Ross was the perfect host and even confided that he and his friends had recently produced a “mockumentary” on the entire Napa/Sonoma wine industry titled “Corked: The Movie”, which is apparently a satirical look at the entire wine scene.

We went back to the office area and made some purchases and thanked Ross for the tour and Carolyn and her husband, Dick, for taking time out of their schedule to set this up for us and spend some quality time with us. The memories of the beauty and serenity of the Dry Creek Valley will stay with all of us for a very long time.

WINERY VISIT #4 – MAYO FAMILY WINES RESERVE TASTING ROOM

Posted in Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine, Mayo Family Wines Reserve Tasting Room, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , on October 14, 2010 by ballymote

The Mayo Family Wines Reserve Tasting Room in Kenwood offers a unique seven course wine and food pairing. Do not confuse this with their regular wine tasting room in Glen Ellen. The Mayo Family wines aren’t in the same class with our first three visits but our group was looking forward to this pairing and we arrived at the Sonoma location eager to enjoy our 1:00 P.M. appointment.

The cost for the Food and Wine pairing is $35.00 per person and the fee is waived if a certain amount of wine is purchased. Each course is prepared by Chef Max Porter-Elliott.

Max is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and his skills at matching food and wine are evident in the pairings. We started with Crab Salad, Whole Grain Mustard with Pumpkin Seed Brittle, this was matched with a  2006 Brut, Laurel Hill Vineyard, Sonoma and the match was spot on. Course #2 was Marin French Cheese Cous Cous Pearls San Andreas Gratin paired with a tangy 2007 Voignier, Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley. It was scrumptious. This was followed with AllSpice Apple Butter Sweet Potato Pork Dumpling accompanied by a 2008 Grenache, Judge Family Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Many of our group chose this as their favorite pairing. The tasting proceeds at a comfortable pace and Chef Max entertains us with stories of his past life back on the East Coast. The 4th course is an O’Neil Farms Squash Truffle Ravioli Sherry Apple with a 2008 Zinfandel, Ricci Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The majority of us thought this zinfandel was the best of the wines served.

Next up we enjoyed the Smoked Pumpkin Soup, Chili Oil, Star Anise and Creme Fraiche served with the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Delaney Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. The next course was the Fruit Foie Preserve Fig Honey Compote which was paired with a wine which just recently was awarded Best of Class at the 2010 Sonoma County Harvest Fair, the 2007 Meritage, Los Chamizal Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. This was an excellent wine. Max shared with us that the final course was actually created by his girlfriend, so naturally, all of us declared this one to be our favorite just to see how he would handle the situation. We concluded with Cardomom Spiced Brioche Pears Pomogranate alongside a 2008 Gewurstraminer, Kunde Ranch, Sonoma Valley.

It was a nice substitute for a lunch-time burger and Max proved to be not only a very good chef but a personable guy who also gave us a great dinner recommendation in Sonoma. A very enjoyable visit and I would certainly recommend the experience to anyone planning a trip to Napa/Sonoma.

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