Archive for Robert Parker

WINERY VISIT #3 – KAPCSANDY FAMILY WINERY

Posted in Info on Wine, Kapcsandy Family Winery, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by ballymote

We awoke early on Wednesday morning (Oct 6th) and drove to Yountville for a quick breakfast at Bouchon Bakery before heading up to meet with Lou Kapcsandy at his State Lane property. This was a visit I had been looking forward to with great anticipation. Kapcsandy Wines are quickly becoming one of the new California “cult” wines and everyone who has visited and posted reports of their visit on the wine boards seems to come away totally impressed with Lou and his operation.

 We arrived exactly at 10:00 A.M. and Lou was there to greet us and show us the grounds. His passion and pride was immediately apparent as he related how through persistence and a bit of luck he was able to purchase the former Beringer property back in 2000. Soon after purchase, and with the help of famed winemaker Helen Turley and her husband, John Wetlaufer, he replanted the entire vineyard and set about working toward his goal of producing world-class wines. His first few vintages, beginning in 2003, began to draw notice and good reviews and in 2007 he brought on Denis Malbec, winemaker at Chateau LaTour in France to work his magic. The results were almost immediate. Recent vintages of the Kapcsandy Cabernet Sauvignon, State Lane Vineyard (2007) and Roberta’s Reserve Merlot have, according to noted wine critic, Robert Parker, achieved perfection and Lou’s goal of having his wines reach the level of the First Growth’s of Bordeaux has been achieved. You can tell though that Lou is not about to rest on his laurels as he is as committed as ever to turning out the best possible wines each and every year.

We moved inside to the tasting room and Lou began pouring virtually the entire line-up including a 1995 Beringer Cabernet from State Lane that had served as a mentor wine for him. Lou, by the way, was, and continues to be a collector of fine wines and has a cellar that would make anyone envious. I was already aware of how good his wines were but it was a treat to watch the others in our group as they sampled one after another of the Kapcsandy wines. Naturally, the highlight of the tasting was the 100 point 2007 State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon but I think what stayed with everyone even more than the lingering finish of each of those wines was the cleanliness of the entire operation.

As Lou escorted us from one area of the plant to another it became apparent that what is clean by other’s standards is downright filthy by Lou’s standards. Every inch of floor space is immaculate to the point of being able to eat off it. The stainless steel sparkles. The barrels are spotless. Lou would have it no other way. His attention to the minutest detail is meticulous. He could be described as being a stern task-master except that he has an obvious softer side and a sense of humor. The two hours flew by and all of us learned so much and were totally impressed by the man and his wines. We made some purchases, begged to be remembered when the 2008’s were released for sale and thought that was the conclusion of our Kapcsandy experience. It was not.

On Friday, Gerry B. and I drove back up to Kapcsandy to pick up our wines. Much to our surprise and delight, we arrived just as last night’s harvest of merlot grapes was being sorted in the plant. Lou took us over and we had the opportunity to watch as the grapes were de-stemmed and moved slowly along the conveyor belt with nine pickers on each side scanning the grapes closely, removing the imperfections. By the time the grapes dropped gently onto the next area where they were gently prodded and suctioned into the tanks, they were perfect. It was fascinating to watch and observe as the climax to a year of growing took place. So much goes into the end product that we see as a bottle of wine. It starts in the soil, gets nurtured by Mother Nature, receives good “parenting” from Lou and his team, a touch of magic from Denis Malbec and all we see is the finished product on a shelf.

Thank you so much, Lou, for allowing us for taking the time during your busiest of seasons to both enlighten and entertain our group. Keep up the great work!!

POSSIBLY USELESS WINE & DINE INFO – VOL 1 #5

Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by ballymote

Lots of little events to mention and it’s been awhile since I did this, so here goes. First, it was very sad to hear that Bryan Sikura and Aimee Olexy, the dynamic duo that made Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, PA, the ultimate Delaware Valley BYOB, have split up. The rumors had been prevalent for months but a front page article in this past Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer gave all the sordid details. In fact, I felt it may have gone a little too far. Suffice to say, recent diners are saying that Talula’s continues to shine and gives every indication it’s popularity will continue going forward. We certainly wish both Bryan and Aimee the very best and ideally, if it’s meant to be, perhaps they can find again what they once had.

Another loss, of a totally different nature took place yesterday when the Robert Parker Wine Board closed it’s internet doors to all but paid subscribers. For years it had been a source of great reading on every possible aspect of wine, food and travel. It was a place you could count on to hear first of new wines, wine regions, and opinions of all types. Henceforth, it will cost $99 a year to take part in the dialogue or even read what others have written. It feels like I have lost a friend as I spent many hours enjoying that board.

Saturday, May 8th, the Ninth Annual Philadelphia Wine Festival will take place at the Marriott Hotel. This is an excellent opportunity to sample lots of great wines and enjoy foods from local restaurants. If I were not doing a photography assignment at a friend’s wedding, I would be there myself. Tickets are $125.00 per person or $225.00 for early admittance which allows you to enter 90 minutes early when the REALLY good wines are offered. Here are the details:

Philadelphia magazine and The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Present The 9th Annual Philadelphia Wine FestivalSaturday May 8, 2010 The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. Over 150 of the world’s finest winemakers and winery representatives will be pouring their wine at a GrandTasting and an exclusive VIP Tasting.  At the VIP Tasting, guests will sample vintages of some of the most prestigious wineries from around the world in a more exclusive environment than the Grand Tasting. Winery representatives will include winemakers, presidents, and brand ambassadors, all available and interested in discussing your thoughts on their wines. Includes Grand Tasting Admission. $5 Processing fee per order. Admission is limited.    Philadelphia Wine Festival VIP Admission Saturday, May 08, 2010 at 5:00 PM.

Where: Philadelphia Marriott Downtown

Source: http://www.tix.com/Event.asp?Event=221614

When: 5:00pm Sat 5.08.10

 

 

The recent earthquake in Chile not only brought death and destruction to the people and structures of the country but it also proved devastating to the Chilean wine industry. The 6.9 tremblor resulted in a loss of over 100 million bottles and an estimated loss of as much as 30 BILLION to the country’s economy.

Wine from Chile has gained great acceptance in this country and despite the tremendous loss, sources say, there will be no noticeable shortage of these wines on the shelves at your local wine shop. The main wine producing region of Chile, the Casablanca Valley, was spared and only small losses were experienced there. The Maule Region was hit the hardest with an approximate 12% of their wine destroyed during the quake.

 

Now that I have been there and loaded up on my own supply I can tell you that the wine pictured on the right, The 2008 Pillar Box Red, one of the great QPR (Quality/Price Ratio) wines of all time, is available while supplies last at your neighborhood PA State Stores as a Chairman’s Selection at the ridiculous price of $6.99 a bottle. This wine normally sells (and currently sells in most NJ wine outlets) for $12.99 a bottle and that is not a bad buy. You can spend $12.99 for a lot of lesser wines than this one. If I were you, I’d stop reading this nonsense right now and hurry over to your nearest State Store while this yummy juice is still available.

FOUR FINE WINES

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2009 by ballymote

It’s not often I have the opportunity to experience a quartet of excellent wines on the same day. This past Saturday on a weekend trip to the Big Apple, that opportunity presented itself. My fellow oenophile, Gerry B. stopped by the New York Wine Exchange and picked up a bottle of the 2005 O’Shaughnessy, Howell Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon. I had brought with me from my humble collection, a 2005 Larkmead, Oakville Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon.

We popped both of these in our room at the Marriott prior to dinner. It probably wasn’t fair to the O’Shaughnessy because I know from past experience that this is a huge wine that needs to be open a couple of hours before drinking in order for its true flavors to show. Parker had scored this wine 95 points and it has a great bouquet of licorice, dark berry fruit and tobacco. It’s smooth but quite tannic and that’s where not allowing it to breathe serves as an injustice. I’d give this one a 92 and blame the score on our lack of patience.

The Larkmead showed much better and although Parker gave it a 92, I think all of us thought it deserved higher. I’d give this one a 94. It’s not quite as full-bodied as the O’Shaughnessy but it felt more balanced and the flavors were crisp and precise with undertones of rich spices and blackberries.  We could probably have finished both bottles but it was time to get ready for dinner and more wine at Tribeca Grill.

Aside from the food, Tribeca Grill is a consistent winner of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award for their extensive 1800 selection wine list. I was thrilled to find the 2005 Lillian’s White Hawk Vineyard Syrah.  I had always wanted to try this wine having read so many rave reviews on the various wine boards. The fact that winemaker, Maggie Harrison, was the former assistant winemaker at Sine Que Non, which I have also never experienced, added to my excitement. The first taste was magical. Very seldom to you get a wine that delivers everything you are looking for in the beverage you are so passionate about. The Lillian Syrah delivers on so many different levels. It’s dark and brooding and packs so much flavor that you grasp for the right words. If Sarah and Sparky Marquis didn’t already capture the name “Velvet Glove” for their ultra-premium Mollydooker Wine, it would be perfect for the Lillian. It’s like getting hit with a velvet glove. The wine has smoothness down to a science and drinking it with my duck breast entree was like a meal designed in heaven. I’d give this one a 98 and place it #2 on my all-time list of wines. It was, as the sommelier mentioned when pouring at our table, “like drinking Sine Qua Non for one-third the price”.

Gerry had chosen the 2005 Venge Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This was an interesting wine. Parker had scored it a 92 with these remarks in December of 2007 “exhibits a deep ruby/purple color, loads of new oak, plenty of cassis fruit, high tannins and a noticeable acidity.”

I found it to be the lightest Cabernet, in color, of any I have ever had. It almost looked light for a Pinot Noir. It has a beautiful nose and is exceptionally smooth but I found the fruit flavors subtle, not bold, and almost, not just Bordeaux like, but  Burgundian. It was good, but so different that I could never pin it down and I gave it a 90. I think both wives agreed with me but Gerry loved it; even more than the Lillian Syrah. I guess that’s why they make more than one type of wine and why the true way to judge a wine is by your own palate and not by high scores or the opinion of others.

The truth is that all four of these fine wines were excellent. They each had their own story to tell and all of them added to my own personal history of wine drinking pleasure.

EVERYDAY WINES – AFFORDABLE PRICES

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Wine Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2009 by ballymote

We can’t always afford to drink the absolute best wines. Well, maybe some of us can but, I’m not in that elite group. That’s why I am constantly searching for the best QPR wines. QPR stands for Quality Price Ratio and simply means that for the money spent you are getting a better wine than what you might expect at that price point. Defined in other terms it means you are drinking a $12.00 wine that tastes like a $30 wine. These are wines that don’t break our budget. They are wines we can open with pizza or just to sip on the deck on a warm summer evening. There are many such wines and each person has their own favorites. here are a few of my current favorites:IMG_2503

Keep in mind that “everyday wines” can be constantly changing and are certainly not limited in any way to the six bottles pictured above. These are simply good representatives of the group. From left to right these wines are

2002 Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz

2005 Domaine “La Garrigue” Cotes Du Rhone

2005 Sainte Leocadie, Les Clauses, Minervois

2005 Green Lion, Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Chateau Pesquie, Terrasses, Cotes du Ventoux

and resting comfortably in the forefront is my perennial favorite in the QPR group the

2007 Pillar Box RED

The Pillar Box Red is from Australia and each year is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot. Some years are better than others but all of them are very good. A couple of years ago this was available for $7.99 but obviously the word got out and it’s now going for $12.99 in most stores (Circle Liquors has it for $10.99 (shhhhhhhhhh..don’t tell anyone).

The Thorn-Clark Terra Barossa Shiraz is also from Australia and is loaded with lots of berry fruit flavors and usually sells for about $15.00.

The Chateau Pesquie, Terrasses is a steal at $14.00 and is a delicious blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah from the Cotes du Ventoux. It almost always scores 90 points from Parker and Wine Spectator.

The Sainte Leocadie, Les Clauses is from the Minervois region of France, it is light and fragrant and matches up well with a wide variety of food items from pasta to beef. It usually sells for about $13.00 but I bought a case for $9 per bottle from the Wine Library in North Jersey after watching Gary Vaynerchuk, the marketing mastermind from Wine Library TV. Great Value!!

The 2005 Domaine “La Garrigue” Cotes du Rhone is good stuff. Here is what Robert Parker had to say about it in his rating:

91 Points – Robert Parker (Wine Advocate)

“The 2005 Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine, a blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah, is a fabulous example of how high quality Cotes du Rhones can be. Made under the auspices of the brilliant oenologist Philippe Cambie, this wine comes from the estate`s oldest head-pruned vines of 60 to 90 years old. Dense ruby/purple with terrific black cherry and black currant fruit, full-bodied essence of Provencal fruit, herbs, incense, and spice, this essentially tastes more like a Vacqueyras than a Cotes du Rhone and is beautifully ripe, full-bodied, opulent, and also vibrant, which is in keeping with this top-notch vintage.”

I would simply add that if you are lost in a wine store with NO IDEA what to buy. It’s hard to go wrong with any Cotes du Rhone as they usually are priced very reasonably between $10.00 and $15.00 with a large selection to choose from. Do I have to tell you they’d be located in the section that reads “FRANCE”??

2005 Green Lion, Napa, Cabernet is a Chris Ringland product. Chris is a talented winemaker from “down under” who makes a wide range of excellent wines under the “R Wines” brand. He is teamed with importer, Dan Phillips who carries the Grateful Palate lineup of wines. It’s a wonderful example of a Napa Cab that could sell for 2 to 3 times it’s $16.00 price tag.

OK, there are 6 wines that should keep you heart-healthy and your thirst quenched. Enjoy!!

MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE WINE – 2001 SHIRVINGTON

Posted in Favorite Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by ballymote

There is a hierarchy within the world of wine geeks. I’m afraid I am not in the upper echelon of wine geeks. There are probably a few reasons for that but the primary one might be that my budget does not enable me to drink the high end wines very often and precludes me from drinking the highest of the high at any time. At least, so far. One never knows when a wine miracle might take place.

If I were a member in good standing of the highest echelon of wine geeks my favorite wine might be one of the true classics like Chateau Petrus, Screaming Eagle, or a Domaine Romanee Conti. Unfortunately, none of those grape spectaculars has ever met my palate. I have had the opportunity to taste a couple of the first growth from Bordeaux at a wine tasting but they didn’t impress me all that much.

The wine that did make me go “wow”, and it has done so on more than one ocassion was the 2001 Shirvington Shiraz from McLaren Vale in Australia.IMG_2436

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This beauty from the land of Oz has it all; a nose of incredible scent that simply intoxicates the senses. There is a bouquet of rose petals, soft cherries, ripe raspberries, chocolate and even cotton candy. The first sip brings a powerful taste of an array of red and black fruits mingled with that same cotton candy with a touch of licorice all balanced perfectly with tannins that are soft and warm. The finish continues for a full 60 seconds and you just know you are experiencing near perfection in a wine.

The 2002 Shirvington was equally enjoyable and was rated 99 points by Robert Parker. I believe the 2001 garnered 98 points. Both of these superb wines were crafted by the outstanding Aussie winemaker, Sparky Marquis. He no longer makes Shirvington as he was replaced by Kim Johnston in 2004. The current Shirvingtons are still excellent but none have achieved the greatness of the 01 and 02′s. Sparky Marquis and his wife Sarah are now owners and winemakers for a brand called Mollydooker and I will write at length on those excellent products in a future post. There are still a few of the 2001 and 2002 Shirvington’s available online at prices starting around $125.00. If you can afford them and want to experience a truly great wine then I would suggest you grab one or more before they are extinct.

WINE RATINGS – HOW TO USE THEM

Posted in Info on Wine, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , , , on July 13, 2009 by ballymote

You are strolling the aisles of your favorite South Jersey wine outlet searching for that perfect red wine to accompany that scrumptious steak you are planning for Saturday night. Your eye catches one of those “shelf-talkers”, those obtrusive little “ads” highlighting the wine just above it on the shelf. This one says something like “deep flavors of blueberry and anise, with soft tannins and a super long finish, 92PTS-RP”. What’s it all mean?? Well, basically it means that RP, that would be Robert Parker, arguably the world’s foremost wine critic, likes this wine very much and awards it 92 points on his 100 point wine scale. Here is what his point scale looks like:

96-100:
An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.

90 – 95:
An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.

80 – 89:
A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.

70 – 79:
An average wine with little distinction except that it is a soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.

60 – 69:
A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor, or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.

50 – 59:
A wine deemed to be unacceptable.

Does this mean YOU will like this wine? No, it does not.  It simply means HE likes this wine. In addition to wine scores from Robert Parker, who publishes the Wine Advocate, a wine rating guide available by subscription both on line and thru the mail, you will also find wine ratings offered by, the Wine Spectator, a big glossy semi-monthly magazine on wine. These are the two PRIMARY wine rating sources. Here is what the Wine Spectator’s 100 point guide looks like:

* 95-100 Classic: a great wine
* 90-94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
* 85-89 Very good: a wine with special qualities
* 80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
* 75-79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
* 50-74 Not recommended

You will also see scores given by a wide array of secondary wine sources such as, Stephen Tanzer of the International Wine Cellar, the Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits Magazine and The Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wines.

Many times the “shelf talker” will simply abbreviate the name of the rating source so you may see something like this on the card:

  • WA or RP =The Wine Advocate, or Robert Parker
  • WS = Wine Spectator
  • ST = Stephen Tanzer
  • WE = Wine Enthusiast
  • W & S = Wine and Spirits
  • CG = Connoisseur’s Guide

Keep in mind that these scores only reflect what that individual critic felt about the wine.  They do tell you that SOMEONE likes this wine and as a starting point for you, who at the moment is looking for a good wine that you will enjoy, this might be all you need to give that particular wine a try. As you progress and gain experience with your own palate you may find that you have a tendency to like the same wines as Stephen Tanzer or Robert Parker and seek out wines that have received high scores from them. These ratings can be especially helpful when a wine with a high score is accompanied by a low price. This is known as QPR or Quality Price Ratio but that is something for another day.

Finally, a word of caution concerning these wine ratings found on “shelf talkers”. You have to check to be certain the wine mentioned on the “shelf talker” is the exact same wine on the shelf above. Remember, these “cardboard ads” are placed there by the salesmen who sell these wines and often they will use a high rating from one year for a wine made in another year. Wines can vary from year to year and if it is not the same wine that scored the high points you may be disappointed with what you are drinking. So, Buyer Beware, check the vintage (year wine was made) on the label to be sure it matches with the wine being rated on the “shelf talker”. Enjoy!

12 WONDERS OF SPANISH WINES (all under $10.00)

Posted in Info on Wine, Wine Lists with tags , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2009 by ballymote

In keeping with my theory that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to drink good wine here are 12 wines from Spain that offer tremendous value and will compliment virtually any meal.

All of these wines are currently available at Hops n Grape’s in Glassboro, NJ but should also be available at your local Canal’s.

The main grape varietals of Spain are Tempranillo, Garnache and Monastrell (Mourvedre). All of the wines listed here contain one of these three grapes as the primary flavor agent.

2007 Panarroz $7.99

2007 Wrongo Dongo $6.99

2005 Flavium Crianza $9.99 *

2007 Borsao Red Wine $6.99 *

2007 Paso a Paso Tempranillo $7.98

2007 Castano Monastrell Yecla $7.98

2006 Merum Monastrell $8.98

2007 Finca Luzon Jumilla $7.98

2005 Campo Viejo Temranillo $9.99

2007 Evodia Garnacha $8.98

2005 Capcanis Monsant Mas Donis Barrica $9.98

2006 Barahonda Nabuko $9.98

* PERSONAL FAVORITES

If you can be tempted to part with an extra dollar you can partake of one of the truly excellent values from Spain that is rated 91 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. That wine would be

2006 Las Rocas Grenache $10.98

With this many good wines available at these great prices you are sure to find a personal  favorite without breaking your budget. ENJOY!!

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