Archive for the Favorite Wines 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.

OH WHAT A NIGHT – A GARDEN PARTY FOR STEFANIA WINES

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Stefania Wine Party, wine blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2010 by ballymote

A year ago, I had never heard of Stefania wines. Fellow blogger, Mark Jahnke, who writes the entertaining and informative Jersey Foodies blog, along with his lovely wife, Pam (link is in the column on the right)would post glowingly on the wines whenever he opened them. After reading several of these rave reviews I signed up on the mailing list. Stefania wines are not available in the local wine shops and can be purchased only thru the mailing list, which is currently filled, but has a waiting list.

Paul Romero is shown answering questions from a couple of male wine-lovers while Stefania does the same for two interested female guests.  The Romero’s, who make both their home and their wine in San Jose, California, are both passionate about their craft. As with any daring venture, becoming successful winemakers involves overcoming a great deal of obstacles, and both Paul and Stef enjoy telling the stories that brought them to where they are today. From those first 50 vines planted next their hot tub (Haut Tubee to Stefania fans), they now have an array of wines that are priced well below wines of comparable quality. I had tried most of their varietals prior to last evening but this was my first time sampling their very tasty Pinot Noir with it’s nose of garden flowers and sweet cherry cola. Get on that waiting list!!!

In addition to the great Stefania wines, all of the guests brought a bottle from home and later in the evening, Mark generously opened some fantastic wines from his own collection. I was thrilled to once again try the 2005 Lillian, Whitehawk Vineyard, Syrah and this was followed by a 2007 Sine Qua Non, “The Raven”. So many wines that it was hard to keep track of them but I do know we started in the late afternoon with one of Mark’s magnums of 2006 Sea Smoke, Chardonnay and later I had a small glass of the wine I brought with me, a 2006 Kongsgaard, Chardonnay. Both of these whites were crisp and delicious but none could ever replace a really good red wine. I know there was a 2007 Lafond, Pinot Noir and that my last wine of the evening was a 2005 Andrew Murray, Oak Savannah Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Syrah.

Was there any food you ask? I’ll just say that anyone who left Mark and Pam’s charming backyard bistro hungry has no one to blame but themselves. There was a veritable orgy of food available including some the tastiest sliders with beef from Flannery’s, I believe. A terrific brisket prepared in Mark’s new smoker and rubbed with Pam’s super-secret seasonings, barbecued chicken and plate after plate of side dishes to go with the meats.

As with any party of 40 people it’s difficult to meet everyone but in addition to the guests of honor, Paul and Stefania Romero, I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet another dynamic duo of food bloggers, John and Lisa Howard-Fusco who do a fantastic job on their very popular “Eating in South Jersey.”

John and Lisa put a lot of effort into their blog and have some great interviews with chefs (i.e. Paula Dean, Ted Allen), restaurant owners and others involved in fresh food and produce throughout the area. There is always something new on their site and it’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the Jersey food world from the seashore to the city. It’s obviously a labor of love and I totally enjoyed having the opportunity to spend some time with both of them in a great setting.

One other couple that deserves mention, simply because they were charming, would be Tom and Denise DeBiase. These Central Jersey wine-lovers will be out in Sonoma next month at the same time as my wife and I and two other couples who will be joining us. It would be nice to meet up at some point with Tom and Denise whose son is out in California pursuing his dream of becoming the next Paul and Stefania. From what I hear, he is off to a good start.

Paul and Stefania’s east coast trip took them to Washington DC on Thursday and Friday and they will be in New York City tomorrow. They had a great dinner the other night on the banks of the Potomac and I’m certain NYC will provide another super backdrop. Last night’s garden party, hosted by Mark and Pam, was a first-class affair and hopefully will provide the Romero’s with fond memories of the new fans they have made for themselves and their wines when they return to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thank you, Mark, for the invite.

THE FIVE TOP WINES OF THE PAST YEAR

Posted in Favorite Wines, Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine, Tasting Notes, Wine Lists with tags , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by ballymote

When it comes to choosing my Top Five wines of the past year a couple come quickly to mind. A few others take some thought. After giving it that needed amount of thought I have reduced a year of joyous wine consumption down to a quintet of memorable elixirs. The first three I mention were all extremely enjoyable and helped make either a dinner or get together a special event.

Coming in at #5 of my best wines was the 2007 AUTEUR, Sonoma, Pinot Noir. I had this during a great meal at Blackbird in Collingswood, NJ back in March. Here is what I wrote in my post at that time “2007 Auteur, Sonoma, Pinot Noir. Everything I had heard about Auteur wines said they needed lots of time open to reflect their true flavors. I uncorked this bottle on Friday morning and left it in the fridge until it was time to go to dinner. The wine was a dark ruby color, much darker than most Pinots and actually drank more like a cabernet. Great, intense flavors that gave a rich mouthfeel and a lingering finish. It’s the kind of wine that you wish you had a case of in reserve.”

Checking in at #4 on my best wines list was the 2005 Larkmead, Oakville Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon. This one was enjoyed up in New York at the Marriott Hotel with Jerry and JoAnne B. prior to dinner at Tribeca Grill back in November. This is what I posted at that time “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. 

Numero 3 was another classic that helped make dinner at Gilmore’s in West Chester a Top 5 Dining Experience. The 2000 Phelps INSIGNIA was a first glass drinking treat that evening and prompted these words in that late March post “The  Insignia seemed to me to be underrated by the experts (94 WS, 91 Parker). It displayed class and strength and loads of smooth plum and blackberry flavors that could stand up to any steak or lamb dish. I’d compare this to any other Cabernet blend in the $100 price range.”

It was a tough decision on these next two wines because both of them were true highlights. After much soul-searching, my number 2 wine was the 2006 Mollydooker, VELVET GLOVE. This wine was so special I devoted an entire post to singing it’s praises. Here is what I wrote at that time. 

The Wine Advocate scored the 2006 Mollydooker Velvet Glove 99 points and Wine Spectator bestowed it with 97. Yesterday afternoon, with my wife Kathy and our friends Jerry B. and his wife, Joann,  we popped and poured this Aussie powerhouse. They had often teased me that I had a phobia about opening my “good stuff” and that one day, when I was gone, they would be toasting me with all of the bottles that I had never opened through the years. Well, the Velvet Glove will no longer be one of those wines.

Much too intense for even the heartiest of red meats we sipped this delicious wine with some cheese and crackers prior to going to dinner. There may not be another wine anywhere that is so appropriately named. The nose virtually filled the room with a sweet bouquet of berries and lavender before it even hit the glass. The first sip grabs you like, like…ok, I’ll say it, like a velvet glove!.  We all thought it reminded us of those 2001 and 2002 Shirvingtons which were also the handiwork of Sarah and Sparky Marquis. It should be mentioned this blockbuster wine checks in at 16.5% alcohol so be prepared.

Sweet, dark berries of all types, coated in vanilla cream and spice, fill the palate  with a liquid smorgasbord of flavors. The inky purple juice entices with a rich, smooth texture that is totally in balance and devoid of tannins. The finish lingers while you swirl and again breathe in the garden of intense scents that echo from the glass.  All  too soon the last of the magic elixir flows from the bottle and a special moment comes to an end. Mollydooker makes a great variety of wines but the Velvet Glove is their crowning jewel.

It was a great start to a wonderful evening of food and wine and very fitting that when I finally did open some of my “good stuff” that it was in the company of good friends who appreciate good wine.”

My number #1 wine of the past year, edging out the Velvet Glove only because I did not have the lofty expectations on this one, and at $75.00 a bottle it is only one-third the cost of the Velvet Glove is the 2005 Lillian, White Hawk Vineyard, Syrah. Created by winemaker, Maggie Harrison, former assistant to the legendary Manfred Krankl of cult wine SINE QUE NON, this was to me the ultimate in drinkability for the past year. Purchased from the wine list at Tribeca Grill in lower Manhattan, this wine made not only the dinner but the weekend. Here is what I posted at that time. ”  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”.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to finding five more gems like these in the coming year and when I do, all of you will be the first to know.

2006 MOLLYDOOKER, “VELVET GLOVE”, SHIRAZ, MCLAREN VALE, AUSTRALIA

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Tasting Notes with tags , , , on March 28, 2010 by ballymote

The Wine Advocate scored the 2006 Mollydooker Velvet Glove 99 points and Wine Spectator bestowed it with 97. Yesterday afternoon, with my wife Kathy and our friends Jerry B. and his wife, Joann,  we popped and poured this Aussie powerhouse. They had often teased me that I had a phobia about opening my “good stuff” and that one day, when I was gone, they would be toasting me with all of the bottles that I had never opened through the years. Well, the Velvet Glove will no longer be one of those wines.

Much too intense for even the heartiest of red meats we sipped this delicious wine with some cheese and crackers prior to going to dinner. There may not be another wine anywhere that is so appropriately named. The nose virtually filled the room with a sweet bouquet of berries and lavender before it even hit the glass. The first sip grabs you like, like…ok, I’ll say it, like a velvet glove!.  We all thought it reminded us of those 2001 and 2002 Shirvingtons which were also the handiwork of Sarah and Sparky Marquis. It should be mentioned this blockbuster wine checks in at 16.5% alcohol so be prepared.

Sweet, dark berries of all types, coated in vanilla cream and spice, fill the palate  with a liquid smorgasbord of flavors. The inky purple juice entices with a rich, smooth texture that is totally in balance and devoid of tannins. The finish lingers while you swirl and again breathe in the garden of intense scents that echo from the glass.  All  too soon the last of the magic elixir flows from the bottle and a special moment comes to an end. Mollydooker makes a great variety of wines but the Velvet Glove is their crowning jewel.

It was a great start to a wonderful evening of food and wine and very fitting that when I finally did open some of my “good stuff” that it was in the company of good friends who appreciate good wine.

THE BIG HOUSE WINE COMPANY

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine, The Big House Wine Co. with tags , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by ballymote

If you’d like to drink good wine and don’t have the time to invest in learning a whole lot or the money to invest to assure quality in your wine purchases, then you need to know about the Big House Wine Company.

Based just a stones throw from the Soledad State Prison in California, The Big House Wine Company knows how to have fun with wine in addition to making some good juice. Their winemaker is known as The Warden and their wines all reflect names associated with the inner-workings of the criminal justice system. They make a Big House Red, a Big House White and a Big House Pink. In addition, Georgetta Dane, the Winemaker…..oops Warden, who hails from Romania and has a penchant for the more European grape varietals, produces a few other criminally indulgent wines. I would suggest you try all three of these.

THE SLAMMER – 85% Syrah 15%Petit Syrah

WARDEN’S COMMENTS
This is a full-bodied Syrah, forceful; perhaps even a bit “dangerous” dare I say (that’s why he’s locked up in solitary). Muscular and deeply concentrated this wine has a nose of sweet black berry jam and hints of dark chocolates. Balanced and well structured, it bodes a well-rounded mouthfeel and a long, pleasant aftertaste. This wine can be enjoyed now or cellared for several years.

THE LINEUP - 49% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre, 1% Mixed Red

WARDEN’S COMMENTS
GSM is a colloquial and friendly name attached to that venerable style developed within spitting distance from the Pope’s French incarceration camp (it was actually a palace, but hey he’s the Pope) in Avignon. While the Central Coast has many micro-climates, some are very similar to the Southern Rhone valley. Each variety plays a part in the overall gestalt of this wine; blackberries and spiciness from the Syrah, raspberries and a hint of rose petals from the Grenache, and Mourvedre offers hints of truffles as well as the structure of a muscular backbone.

THE PRODIGAL SON - 100% Petit Syrah

WARDEN’S COMMENTS
Arresting hue of this very deep and dark red, is an attesting to the beauty of the boy. The bouquet is muscular with black fruits, blackberries, and cassis dominating the introduction. Then a whiff of anise sets in, followed by a whisper of smoke and white pepper. The palate follows the nose with lip smacking blackberry and currant. Flavors then intertwine chocolate, spice in a swirl of bodacious body, that one would consider gravitas. All of this delight leaves you longing for another sip, before ending with a hint of vanilla, oak, and spice.

If you are not yet tempted to try one of the wines from Big House Wines, here are three more tidbits offered to tempt you. All of their wines are under $10.00. All of their wines come with twist-off caps. They have a web site that is fun to explore just based on the creativity and wit of the designers and you would enjoy touring the “correctional facility” even if you hate wine! So, do yourself a flavor favor and pick up a bottle of any of the Big House Wines. They are available almost anywhere that wines are sold. You can thank me later!

 

2007 VAYNIAC CABERNET SAUVIGNON, NAPA VALLEY

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Tasting Notes, Wine Ratings with tags , , , on December 19, 2009 by ballymote

The 2007 Vayniac Cabernet Sauvignon finally arrived at my house almost 2 years after purchase. It isn’t that Gary Vaynerchuk and the shipping department at the Wine Library in Springfield, NJ are dropping the ball, it’s because the wine was a “futures” purchase back in 2007. That means you buy the wine prior to it being ready for shipment. In this case, the wine was purchased prior to the grapes even being harvested.

This was the original announcement from 2 years ago:

As he announced in the special 305th episode of Wine Library TV (watch the video here), Gary V is offering all Vayniacs a unique opportunity to be a part of the wine making process! In collaboration with Crushpad, YOU can be involved with the crush and barrel tasting of the yet to be made 2007 Vayniac Napa Cabernet!

The production will be overseen by Kian Tavakoli (formerly of such California mainstays as Clos du Val and Opus One!) and Camille Benitah (assistant winemaker at cult winery Merus), with the fruit being sourced from such legendary Napa sites as Oakville, Mount Veeder, Coombsville and Howell Mountain. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many to be involved in the winemaking process and enjoy the wine for many years to come! Here is the final blend:

The Final Blend: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon from Suscol Bench (24.9%), Young Inglewood (24.9%), Godspeed (16.6%), and Carrefour (16.6%) Vineyards. 10% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc.

So, after years of anticipation, my wine arrives on my doorstep, I check all the boards and blogs for a review and find nothing. It’s hard to believe that with all the “Vayniac’s” out there, I can’t find a review on the 2007 Vayniac Cabernet. Anyway, here is mine. Uncorked last night at a restaurant in Cherry Hill, NJ (full review will appear on this blog shortly) while awaiting a nice filet mignon in a peppercorn sauce. Unfortunately, the wine didn’t last until the entree arrived. It was a VERY leisurely paced dinner.  The Vayniac was a very dark ruby bordering on black in the glass. The nose was magnificent. Black fruits and dark berries flooding the senses. Hints of dark chocolate and a floral bouquet in the background. Possibly as good as any nose as I have experienced in quite some  time. My own nose kept returning to the bowl of the glass at least 50 times. On the palate the wine was soft yet textured with many of the same fruits. The finish was smooth and close to 50 seconds. If I had one possible negative it would be that I felt it closed up in the second hour just a bit whereas many wines grow better with time in the glass. My wife, Kathy disagreed with my “closed up” verdict. She thought it stayed very good throughout.

The 2007 Vayniac Cabernet certainly drinks like a wine that could cost more than the $37.99 “futures” price. It now retails at the Wine Library for $44.99. I saw while looking for a review that someone had it for a short time on Craig’s List for $500.00, The ad was removed, most likely after the seller received hilarious responses to his offer. I’d rate this wine 93 points. I could have gone a point higher had it not appeared to fade in the end for me.

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.

WINE,WOMEN,SONG AND ORZO SALAD

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2009 by ballymote

Four couples got together last Friday evening for some good food, good wine and excellent conversation. My wife, Kathy and I made the long trek across the river to Warminster, PA to John and Caryl G’s house where we met up with more of her high school friends, Gerry and JoAnn and John B and his wife, Cathy. When we arrived they were just finishing a bottle of Montes Alpha “M” . The men gathered on chairs near the pool while the women remained on the porch. We munched on pre-dinner snacks prepared by the women, the guys smoked cigars and sipped some wonderful wines including one I had brought with me to celebrate a new job.IMG_2707 The 1997 Te Motu, Cabernet/Merlot is a unique blend from Waiheke Island in New Zealand. We first discovered this wine at the DuPont Hotel in Wilmington, DE during a wine tasting held there by a local wine store (Frank’s Union Wine Mart). The Te Motu had a little orange tinge to it and a lot of funk that needed time to blow off before revealing the soft flavors. It probably could have used a little more time out of the bottle to appreciate it’s true worth.

John G’s Ipod was playing songs from our past while the  four guys opened the next bottle lost in a scholarly discussion of female body parts. We weren’t quite sure what the women on the porch were talking about but we were pretty certain it wasn’t as intellectually stimulating as ours.

2005_zinfandelThe 2005 Blockheadia Ringosii, Sonoma, Zinfandel is a delicious fruit bomb that for a short while was available at the PA State Stores for $8.99.  That price is nearly 60% less than it’s suggested $21.00 selling price. This dark ruby beauty has tons of flavor and a smooth finish that make it an absolute steal. Don’t bother running out to your local PA Wine and Spirits Outlet as I am certain every last bottle has been accounted for already.

All of the appetizers went well with our wine choices but it was getting later and now time for some serious backyard eats. The trio of chefs ventured to the grillIMG_2710 as I volunteered to stay with the wine and make sure no thieving neighbors made off with our vino supply. I could smell the enticing aroma of cheeseburgers and hot dogs cooking on the grill and it wasn’t long before the guys headed for the porch to join our wives for some serious chow. I’m not sure where John G purchased the burgers but they were tender and juicy and totally worthy of high praise. There were plenty of condiments available to dress the sandwiches and some great sides to top off the meal. John B’s wife, Cathy had prepared an orzo salad, the recipe for which she had stolen from Rachel Ray, a name I seem to recall from our earlier discussion of female body parts. My plate was already full with burgers, hot dogs, a yummy potato salad and some cole slaw so that there was little room for what appeared to be one of, if not, THE best looking orzo salads I have ever laid eyes on. I did manage to sneak a sample and although I must confess to not being a huge orzo fan, this did definitely NOT suck.IMG_2715 Unfortunately, I was so engrossed in the food on my plate that I totally forgot to take a picture of the culinary delights. I did remember to snap this one of our wives who were responsible for not just the magnificent orzo salad but all of the other appetizers and side dishes as well. Had they been called upon to grill the burgers and doggies I feel certain they would have approached the same grill-master status that John G attained in preparing his mouth-watering food.

Gerry had brought with him a 2004 Les Verrieres, Clos de Soutyeres, Coteaux Du Languedoc. This is another Chairmen’s Selection from the PA stores that normally sells in the $22.00 range. I forgot what he said he paid for it but I am guessing it was in the $13.00 range. The wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carginane and is dark and brooding and full of great flavors that coat the palate and linger nicely on the finish. It was rated 91 points by Wine SpectatorIMG_2711 and it drinks like it deserves every one of those points. I stumbled across a Gary Vaynerchuk review of this wine on his Wine Library internet TV show. I must preface Gary’s account by saying that Gerry is NOT a fan of Gary or his reviews but I think he would agree with this one. Gary V raved about this wine calling it an “amazing effort” and a “steal at $20.00″. He felt Wine Spectator did not go high enough in their rating and he gave it 93+ points calling it one of the best QPR wines he had ever reviewed. It’s finding little treasures like the 04 Les Verrieres that make being a wine geek so much fun.

The night moved forward with a barrage of wonderful wines from John G’s constantly improving collection. We had the 2005 Parson’s Flat, Padthway Shiraz/Cab which went quickly and with great praise, we enjoyed a 2002 Bernardus “Marinus” still available in PA at most stores at a tremendous reduction from its original selling price. Continuing with his policy of over-serving guests who had made arrangements to stay over at his home John now produced a 2005 St. Francis, Sonoma, Syrah proving that this producer is capable of making good wines from all grape varietals.IMG_2719IMG_2722IMG_2723

 

It’s always fun to get together with this group. They have a great sense of humor and none of us take ourselves seriously. Once again, the wine, the food and the friendships took center stage to provide an enjoyable out door summer evening.

The recipe for Cathy B’s stolen orzo salad is available above by clicking on the “recipe” link in the text.

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!!

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