Archive for Wine Spectator

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.

ANY VINTAGE PORT IN A STORM

Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , on December 17, 2009 by ballymote

For those of you who have never experienced the joys of Port you owe it to yourself to part with more than a few bucks for a bottle of Vintage Port. There are several different types of Port wine, Ruby, Tawny, Late Bottled and some others. Vintage port is in a league of its own. Here is a little bit of what it’s all about.

Port wine comes from the Douro region in the north of Portugal. Port retains its unique sweetness in contrast to other wines because the fermentation process that greatly reduces the sugar content of the grapes is halted halfway through by the addition of a special grape brandy that is added to the mix. The addition of the brandy raises the alcohol level of the wine to nearly 20%. In very good years, those characterized by mild winters and hot summers, a vintage year is declared. This happens, on average, about 3 times a decade.

 Vintage port spends two years in a cask and is then bottled. It has the ability to age for many years.  The declared vintages for this first decade of the 21st century are the 2000, 2003 and 2007. Two Vintage ports from 1994 were rated 100 points by Wine Spectator magazine and the prices, if you can find a bottle of either, skyrocketed from the mid $50.00 mark to several hundred dollars per bottle.  Vintage port should be allowed to stand upright for a while before opening to allow the “crust” or sediment to float to the bottom. Once opened, Vintage port should be decanted and allowed to “breathe” for 2 to 3 hours before serving. They should also be consumed within 24 to 48 hours after opening as oxidation begins to take place almost immediately.

 Vintage ports are not wines to serve with food. They go well with a Stilton Cheese or other cheeses from the “bleu” family. Some prefer chocolates with port. It is definitely a dessert type wine. Many connoisseurs enjoy a cigar or pipe with a glass of Vintage port.

It may not be for everyone but Vintage Port is something totally unique in the world of wine and certainly worthy of a try. You may become a fan!

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!!

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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