Archive for Wine Ratings

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!!

VINO ON VACATION: A WEEK’S WORTH OF GOOD WINES

Posted in Info on Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2009 by ballymote

Blog Pics #001It just wouldn’t be a perfect vacation without a nice assortment of good wines to drink while sitting on the deck, reading a good book or dining at a local restaurant. Fortunately, last week in Avalon provided the opportunity to sip quite a few good wines. Here is a list of what we drank during those seven days with ratings and, in some cases, a comment or two where appropriate.

2007 St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Reisling Spatlese, a delicious white, summer wine, I give this one 91 points.

2002 Thorn-Clarke Barossa Shiraz, great for sipping with some cheese and crackers, 89 points.

2000 St. Francis, Nuns Canyon Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, took some time for this to lose it’s funk in the glass, then it was very good, 89 points.

2006 Kaiken Ultra, Cabernet Sauvignon, I had always liked the Malbec version of this one and the Cab proved a worthy partner, lots of flavor, 90 points.

2007 Landmark, Overlook, Chardonnay, just the right amount of oak, 90 points.

2005 Franciscan, Magnificat, Red Wine, excellent with a variety of meals we had all week, smooth and graceful, 93 points.

2004 Shirvington, McLarenVale, Shiraz, the four of us split on which of the Shirvington’s was better, I opted for this one and gave it 94 points for a barrage of red fruits.

2005 Shirvington, McLaren Vale, Shiraz, almost as good but slightly tamer than the 2004, which appealed to the others, 93 points.

2006 Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir, Oregon, a little pricey, but excellent with my halibut, however, the other three in our group decided they were not huge Pinot Noir fans, more for me, 93 points.

2005 Mollydooker, Enchanted Path, McLaren Vale, Shiraz/Cab, just stunning and we all agreed, Sparky and Sarah have done it again! 96 points.

2004 Whitehall Lane, Cabernet Sauvignon, this cab and stand with the best of them, goes well with red meat and pasta, 91 points.

I’ll have a little more on some of these wines when I do the BYOB reviews in a day or two. Overall, they were some good choices for the week.

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!

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