Monday, December 20, 2010

Long time no swig.......

I think it has been a good number of years since I have had any B.R. Cohn wine . This is the first time I have had a Merlot from B.R. Cohn so I really didn't know what to expect. If it had been a Cabernet I would have had a vague memory of the last one-I do remember that the few times I have had wine from this Sonoma vinyard I have enjoyed it. All the same , it wasn't a wine that I bought very often, if at all. This 2006 Sonoma Merlot came as a gift and what a wonderful gift it turned out to be. This is a well made wine with abundant flavoers, all of them good. Sometimes a Merlot will have some vegetal characteristic or a lack of real distinction. This is not the case's a great wine that I would serve to anyone. It just got better and better as we drank it. Since it was a gift I don't know where it was bought or for how much but B.R. Cohn is available in some of the larger wine shops and markets as well as at their tasting room. I'll give it 8 swiggs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Smells like Syrah....

There's been a bit of press about Copian vineyards as of late , most of it good. This Copain 2007 syrah " Tous ensamble" is an entry-level wine from this lable that specializes in single-vineyard Pinot, Syrah and Sauvignon blanc. The grapes are from Mendocino county and the wine is full bodied and really tasty. If this is their low end bottle , I'm very interested in trying their single vineyard version. While the price of this wine is more in line with a weekend treat, it is still on the affordable end of that price range. Copian vineyards in Healdsburg has sold out of this one but it can still be found at Arlequin wine merchant in S.F. for $ 20.00. I'll give it 8 1/2 swiggs, a really excellent syrah and probably a good cellar candidate for a couple of years.

First of the 2009 Bordeaux

The hype is up and so are the prices for the much lauded '09 Bordeaux. This bottle, however is affordable and not bad for the price. The only caveat for wine lovers is that Bordeaux wines tend to need a bit more air before drinking, at least this one does. Upon the first swig, I found the 2009 Haut Blaignan to be a bit tannic. Perhaps another year or two in the bottle or an hour or so in a decanter might mellow it out. I didn't have the patience to wait so I just poured in out and had it with dinner. While I liked it, I didn't feel I was tasting it for what it eventually could be, a nice dry earthy red wine. I'll give it 5 1/2 swiggs for now and maybe put a couple away for next year. The vintage is supposedly one of the best so it might prove out to be a better wine than it has shown at this time. $ 6.99 at Trader Joe's.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yes, I am drinking a G#$% D%^ Merlot !

I know that drinking California Merlot has fallen out of favor ever since the movie " Sideways" played in theaters across the country. This bad press, some of it deserved has created a slump in the Merlot market that has resulted in a lot of formerly high-priced fruit winding up either not selling or getting sold for really reduced prices to negociants. These bargain wines have been shoing up here and there....unfamiliar brands but familiar high profile appelations. The Bridgeway 2006 Napa Valley Merlot really tastes like one of the good Merlots that made the varietal popular in the '80's. I remember drinking some great Merlot back in the day-somehwere about 10 years ago the market got flooded with really crappy, vegetal Merlot and I, for one got rather disenchanted with the grape. The release of "Sideways" didn't help the image of the once all-popular grape and Pinot, Zin and Caberlet demand increased, virtually crushing( ironically , much of the Merlot remained uncrushed ..) the Merlot demand. This Red-headed stepchild is now the bargain wine and the Bridgeway really comes through with the richness and complexity of an expensive wine....kind of amazing as it is only $ 6.99 at Trader Joes. Try a bottle......maybe you'll start enjoying G** D*** Merlot again. 8 swiggs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

For special occasions only !

This might be one of my favorite wines, although I can count on one hand how many bottles I have opened. Randy Dunn on Howell mtn. in Napa has been making this wine for about 20 years. This was the cult cabernet before there were cult cabernets and Dunn really hasn't raised his prices in all those years. The Napa bottling is not as tannic and sought after as the Howell mtn. but it is superbe and can compare to the very pinnacle of Napa reds. 9.5 swiggs , this 2003 might not have been stored as well as it could but it was still excellent. $ 64.95 at U-save liquors in Santa Cruz.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Barossa for a deal

The Thorne Clarke 'Shotfire' Barossa shiraz is only $ 12.95 and widely available. I would rank it with other wines from this great winegrowing region of Australia costing twice as much. The richness and complexity of the Shotfire really make it a special treat, but at the low price it doesn't have to be something limited to special occasions. I think it would be hard to find a wine from Europe or the USA that has this much flavor and quality at this price. 9 swiggs.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Zin dosen't get any better than this.

Look for this wine if you are a Zin fanatic.The Gia Domella 2005 Russian River Zin- It has it all.....richness, complexity and depth. There's a place where all great California Zins all converge. This place is the pinnicle of what intense expression lies in this wonderful grape and it is somewhere special in the world of good wine. The grapes are from the Passalaqua family, a line of folks that started growing grapes beore prohibition. I am not sure what this wine costs but I'll bet that this limited production ( 356 cases only! ) isn't cheap. I'll give it 9 1/2 swiggs, about the top for a Zin. It's Russian river fruit-same general location as the Geyserville and Lytton springs grapes that Ridge masterfully crafts into some of the great wines of the world.

Sometimes the critics are right.

I have walked past the Layer Cake wines thinking that they were probably generic supermarket-style characterless and boring. Lat week I read that the critics were lauding this particular bottle so I became interested....not interested enough to pay the $ 15.95 , though. As luck would have it, a friend dropped by a couple bottles as a gift and upon drinking it, my wife and I were inpressed. I'll give this 2009 Shiraz 8 swiggs and reccmend it highly. It is available at Trader Joes among other places.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A taste of the Ventoux , without the pain

The Mont Ventoux has been long known as a supreme challenge for cyclists pretty much since the beginning of the last century.This giant mountian rises high above the northern border of Provence and can be seen from many miles away. While it might be known as a meeca for masochistic bike riders, it is also blessed with many acres of grapevines , mostly Grenache, Syrah and the other popular varietels that make up the Rhone blends. This VMV cotes du Ventoux is a wonderful taste of the south of France and it's dry, spicy tastes suit food better than most harder-hitting domestic products. Also, there's more going on tastewise in a wine such as this compared to similarly priced editions from the local market. If you can find it, it is only $ 8.99 and authentically French. 7 1/2 swiggs , from Shopper's Corner.

Beyond catagory

Just when I thought that I had found the ceiling...the absolute best of what I could put on the table , along comes a wine with class beyond the rest. I am without adaquate words to describe the completeness and beauty of the Ridge '04 Santa Cruz mtns. blend. All I can say is that for as long as I have been drinking wine, Ridge has always stood out as a benchmark , something to compare not only domestic wines to, but all wines from all over the world. This blend of the classic Bordeaux varietels goes beyond anything that I have tasted from Cailfornia. This is not to say that it is better, just mor complete, more sophisticated and timeless. Ridge does not appear to follow trends or pay attention to what cult winemakers are doing elswhere in the state. Ridge wines seldom cost more than $ 40, except for thier Monte Bello estate Cabernet, a very rare and coveted wine. I bought this bottle a few years ago at the winery and saved it until last weekend. My reward was a perfectly aged wine experience that I'll not forget.Seek this one is probably the best red wine you'll ever have.

Zin from the Sierra foothills

It's not difficult to find a nice rich flavorful Zin from Amador county in the Sierra foothills but it is tough to find an affordable one that really has the intensity and full body that charcterizes the best from this region. The Karly 2008 Pokerville Zin is seldom available here in Santa Cruz but it is here now at New Leaf market for the price of $ 11.95. I believe this wine compares well with pricier versions in the $ 20-30 range and beats out most of the wines under $ 15 for flavor. I'll give it a solid 8 swiggs, good enough for the weekend, inexpensive enough to stock up on.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sierra foothills cab. franc

I like a lot of Sierra foothills zins and syrahs-they are often ultra-ripe and flavorful. With this thought I picked this wine, the Raven Oaks cabernet franc 2003 thinking that it might be a nice dark earthy wine to have with a mushroom pasta I was maikng that night. While the wine may have been pretty good, it wasn't earthy at all but fruity and almost like a petit sirah. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't what I thought I was getting but I still have to say that for $ 9.95 it is a good wine. The Raven Oaks is barrel aged for 22 months in new oak so it really should cost quite a bit more. Available at Shoppers corner. 6 1/2 swiggs.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No photo of the bottle ! For shame.....

Well, it isn't a perfect world and I took this excellent bottle to a restaurant and didn't get a photo of it. I'll just have to tell you that the Raymond Generations 2004 red wine is one to seek out. This is a real testimony to what quality Napa can produce .This Bordeaux style blend is good to drink right now and excellent with food. We really took our time with this bottle and it was improving as the dinner went on. I'll give it 10 swiggs without hesitation. This is a fairly widely distributed brand and can be found at better wine shops across the country.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Look out, it's a blockbuster !

Maybe its just hometown pride but I have to say, this is one heck of an impressive bottle from Storrs. The Lion Oaks Zinfandel is their flagship of that grape, which is saying a lot as Zins are what Storrs are all about. One of several bottlings , this 2005 Lion Oaks is a huge wine, almost like a vintage prt except for the fact that you can enjoy it with dinner, provided that the fare is up to the robust character of this wine. While it isn't cheap at $ 32.99 , it will rival many wines costing 2-3 times as much. We probably only get to drink this wine 3-4 times a year but it is very consistant from year to year. I doubt you'll find a more impressive Zin than this one . 10 swiggs.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lodi zin isn't bad.....

Two regions in Calif. that are noted for old vine Zinfandel that are not household names across the country are Lodi and Livermore. Long ago, there were vines planted-Zin vines that have been producing powerful, flavorful grapes for nearly a century. This offering 2007 " Old vine Zin" from Oak Ridge winery is not spectacular and at $ 10.99 , it isn't cheap enough to be a weekday swiller. That said, it lies somehwere between a bargain and a weekend wine-a gray area for sure. We found it to be pretty good but it didn't really impress us as something we would buy more of. Nevertheless, if you find it and want a tast of raisiny-Lodi style Zin, here's your wine. I'll give it 6 swiggs, although at the price it should be a little less. At Shopper's corner.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Special occasion dry Napa red

Sometimes high-end low production wineries offer lower cost " Cuvees", essentially blends of Bordeaux grapes that might be excess crop or maybe not quite good enough for a flagship $ 60.00 plus bottle. I believe that the Don Raffaele 2006 Melange de Vin is just that-maybe not the top end but still good Napa fruit and decent winemaking. It's a rich wine and pretty tanninc as well, maybe not good for folks who like a fruitier style. For fans of dry reds in the older California style this is a good example, kind of like Mondavi about 15 years ago. While it might not be the tip-top cult wine, it is still really good if you can deal with the tannins. I'll give it 8 swiggs and a good chioce for the weekend. $ 24.99 at Trader Joes.

Almost as good as it gets

Every once in awhile I'll review a wine such as this one. At $ 36.00 , it's something I will only have once or twice a year as my low income requires that I keep my wine purchases under $ 20.00 for the most part. This wine, however is probably the best one I have reviewed so far. The Paoletti 2002 Napa cabernet is really what a great Napa red wine should be : Rich, concentrated, flavorful -something that you'll take your time drinking.......a wine that gets your attention without making you forget about the rest of your meal. We were still drinking it with desert and it went equally well with the sweets. The wine is available from the winery online and they have quite a selection. It is a near-perfect statement of Napa cabernet and something that one should try. I had to hold back from giving it a perfect score but it wasn't easy, trust me. 9 1/2 swiggs.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Near perfection

The local favorite comes through again with a 2005 Petit Sirah that really shines. Tons of flavor, not very subtle but the flavors are soo good its really hard not to really like this wine. It's a weekend wine, of course being it the $ 20 plus range. Go to the winery or check your local wine store-this one isn't to be missed. 9 swiggs.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Weekday Bordeaux on the cheap

A perennial at Trader Joes, the Tour Bigorre 2005 Cotes de Castillion is a real surprise. Though not from the Medoc or St. Emelion or any other noted appelations of Bordeaux, the Bigorre delivers on taste for a mere $ 5.99 . You'll have a tough time finding a wine this tasty for under $ 10 from any country. 7 swiggs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

$ 19.99 Brunello from T.J.'s.

Italian wine at Trader Joes is a crapshoot for the most part. Reliable bottles aren't that cheap and cheap bottles aren't that interesting. When I spotted this 2003 Bonacci Brunello di Montalcino for under $ 20 , I had to try it. Good Brunellos are a real treat and if you are having pasta they really compliment the food. The price range for these wines usually starts at $ 35 and can go over $ 100 for the top lables . I knew that '03 was a pretty good year ( '02 was a washout with rain ruining most of the crop.) but was wondering why the price was so low. Upon opening the wine I noticed a very subtle sulphury rotten egg smell for the first few sips.....not good but it did go away soon. I'm sure that decantering 1/2 hour before serving would help. After the first bad smells went away , the wine showed true Brunello character-dry , complex and really tasty. This is one you will want to take your time with and really appreciate every sip. I'll give it 8 1/2 swiggs......not the very best of its type but still a real classy weekend drink, as long as you can get past the initial smell.

Built in brown-bag bottle from Spain

Every once in awhile I'll see an odd bottle from Spain at Trader joes wrapped in something like foil or paper. While this added covering is supposed to indicate a reserve or special bottle of some sort , the inability to see what is in the bottle can be a little off-putting. Nevertheless I figured for $ 6.99 I would give this 2005 Mote Ducay a try , despite the brown paper exterior. Tasting notes: Some Spanish wines have strange tastes and the first two things I noticed when tipping the glass were bug spray and raspberries.....I'm not kidding. As dinner went on, the bug spray eased off and the berry and some earthier flavors took over. All in all, I thought that the Ducay was o.k. , not a bad weekday wine-odd but still pleasant after the initial insecticide hints wore off. I'll give it 5 swiggs.......I probably won't buy it again but it really wasn't that bad.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Barossa on the cheap

If you get to Trader Joes in the next couple of days and don't mind the taste of prunes, look for this Australian red.My two favorite regions for red wines in Australia are Barossa and Maclaren-Vale. These two areas produce some of the most flavorful and intense cabernet , shiraz and Rhone grapes in the world. I equate the style of wines with the powerful zins and syrahs from the Sierra foothills here in California. The nice thing about most Aussie wines is that they are underpriced and come with the convenient screw-top. As I mentioned earlier, prunes is the big taste , along with all the nice richness you find in a Barossa shiraz. At $ 7.99 , this Cook Shed Barossa shiraz is the least expensive wine from this area I have ever seen-inspite of the low price I feel it is not the bottom of the heap in's actually really good and something to get before it is gone, which should be soon. I give it a solid 7 swiggs.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Syrah from Oakville for $ 8.99

Trader Joes every onece in awhile comes up with a ringer from Napa for under $ 10. Having had a ton of Syrahs from central Calif. in the last 4-5 months I was anxious to try something from Nor-Cal for a change. This bottle has the Napa valley Oakville apellation.....serious high end wine-grape country....Mondavi amongst others have their home there. You will find the typical big Syrah taste but with more complexity than wines from the other side of the state. -not to take anything away from So-Cal., but this wine offers a nice change from hotter climate high-alcohol Syrahs. Check it out......I give it 7 1/2 swiggs.

Friday, February 26, 2010

North coast that tastes like Napa

This Havens 2006 North coast cabernet is much better than the other 'north coast' bottles I have had from other wineries . At $ 9.95 it isn't much to pay for something this good and really fits the weekend wine catagory even though it is less expensive than most that I feature on this blog. I'll give it 8 swiggs and very enthusiatically say that it is ready to need to cellar this one. From Shopper's Corner.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A taste of the sierra foothills

Remeber when you were a kid, maybe your family went out to a pancake house every once in awhile. I always went for the boysenberry syrup on my waffles. This zin from Shenandoah really has a big hit of boysenberry......a real blast from my past and an unusual taste that only seems to happen in sierra foothill old vine zins. This isn't a particularly expensive wine at just under $ 12 but it is an excellent example of what these wines are all about which is massive berry flavors combined with spicy sweetness, almost like an apertif. It's excellent and I'll give it 8 swiggs. Some of the more high-end zins from this region can be more complex , maybe a bit earthier and richer but the Shenandoah really hits the mark of showing you the style present in nearly all the wines of that area.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

two $ 7.99 gems

Shopper's Corner has two excellent sub $ 8.00 reds right now. # 1, Cavedog NV Napa Valley cabernet is a real surprise. Usually non-vintage means bottom of the barrel. This is not the case with this's great and I would have it any night with dinner. It's a solid 7 swiggs and a screw-top as well......makes it easy when you can't find the corkscrew. # 2, Lily Pond syrah Carneros 2006 is one of those wines that makes you wonder why similar quality wines from the same region can cost five times as much. This is a bit fuller bodied than the Cavedog and maybe a bit more sophisticated....I don't know a better way to put it. I'll give this one 7 swiggs as well , but it is a completely different animal than the more mainstream Cavedog. Save this one for your snobbier friends that need to see a vintage on the lable.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Local Pinot worth seeking out

I have long been a fan of the wines from Santa Cruz mountians vinyard . I have enjoyed the Cabernet, the Durif but the winery has always kept pinot as their flagship wine. This 2006 Branciforte Creek vinyard pinot is one of the best and most authentic wines I have had in a long time. Pinot used to be a floral scented lighter colored wine than you find these days. It is almost that the modern producers want to make something on the order of a zin or syrah-concentrated and full bodied. I don't really go for the modern take on the pinot grape and I don't think that SCMV does, either. If you want something that will go great with food and also stays true to the more traditional style of pinot noir , this is your wine. I can't say enough about how I really enjoyed this one. 9 1/2 swiggs. Available at the tasting room in Santa Cruz.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Napa for less than $ 15.00

I had the good fortune of meeting a work related goal this week....a small goal , but one that was significant nonetheless so I broke out this bottle. Since the celebration wasn't a big one , this wine at $ 12.95 fit the bill......not a bargain weekday price but well under the $ 20.00 mark. This Rutherford Ranch '07 Napa Valley cabernet is a ready to drink light-bodied wine that isn't overpowering and/or tannic. While it may not be the blockbuster rich cab , it isn't in the price range of those wines and has appeal for its immediate swiggability , something you won't get out of a bigger wine. No need to decant this one, just pour it out and enjoy it. I'll give it 7 swiggs.......not the very best but pretty darn good for the price. Available at Cost Plus imports.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weekend special

I have no idea what this wine costs as it was a gift but I'll say that it was a really fine swigg, indeed. This Peju Napa Cabernet 2006 could probably have been cellared another few years and been better but I had to check it out. I'll say that the tannins are strong but there's a lot of very nice flavors that come through . I'll give it a solid 8 1/2 swiggs-a mighty big wine that would reward a more patient drinker than myself. This is a good one to hold onto for that special occasion. I guess my special occasion was a little early........

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rosenblum redemption !

When Kent Rosenblum sold his winery recently I was saddened at the possiblity that the wonderful quality of the zins would suffer. I bought one of my favorites , the Richard Suaret vinyard cuvee. The recent purchase pretty much confirmed my was a big step down in overall quality . I have avoided Rosenblum wines since but decided to try this one, the 2006 north coast zinfandel as it was $ 9.95 at Trader Joes. Expecting something sub par , I was amazed to find the old complexity and wonderful flavors of my old favorite were back. Here's my verdict : Maybe no all the Rosenblum wines are as good as they used to be but take a chance on this will not dissapoint. I give it 8 swiggs , fully good enough for a weekend dinner with folks that don't drive you crazy ! My faith in my old favorite has been restored.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

$ 4.99 Napa Cabernet ???

Yes, that is correct. With a glut of grapes , an economic downturn and a sluggish market , the possibilty of good fruit winding up in an affordable bottle is better than in the past. This wine is really something that one couldn't purchase for less than about $ 15.00 maybe 10 years ago but times have changed. The Spiral Wines 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet is actually very tasty and could easily be a weekend wine but at this low price it is affordable any day of the week for most folks. The Spiral Wines really has Napa Cabernet characteristics although it isn't a really rich , full bodied wine. I don't mind the light body as it works better with food and the 13.9 % alcohol isn't overpowering like many Napa wines. I give this one 7 1/2 swiggs....quite high for the price point .....this one is a real bargain. You'll find it at Trader Joes if it isn't all gone yet.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Old world red , 2003 La Gardine Chateauneuf du Pape

My wife and I have been to this town.....we were lucky to get a hotel room in this tiny but supremely famous source for the best grenache-based blends in the world.Whe we were there the dollar was strong so we got to really try many of the Chateauneuf du Papes that we can rarely afford now. La Gardine is one of our favorites and its earthy taste isn't like any of the new world versions of the same blend of grapes . It is impossible to compare the original with California versions, although the local editions can be outstanding. While not overly fruity and alcoholic like California wines , this wine posesses a wonderful array of flavors that speak of the lavendar and soil of the area....something you'll have a tough time picking out from say ,a zin with %16 alcohol. While the zin is a real treat by itself, La Gardine is really part of dinner. At $ 36.95 this wine will have to be a special occasion bottle. I give it 9.5 swiggs.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Near perfection from a legendary winery

I like 2004 for red wines from California and Washington state. I don't think I have had one that I was disappointed with so I was excited on new year's eve to open up this Ridge Geyserville 2004, a wine I consider to be one of the great wines of the world . the 2004 Geyserville is a blend of zin, carignane and petit sirah but it can also have mataro, grenache and other varietals in other vintages. I can't say that this is the best Geyserville I have had but it still is exceptional, even at $ 32.95. I can't quite give it a perfect score but it rates a 9.5 swiggs and should be on your short list of epic wines for special occasions. I always try to have two or three vintages in my cellar-the Geyserville can hold up to many years of aging, unlike a lot of Calif. zins.

Syrah from a local establishment

Ahlgren is a local small lot winery that produces some boldly flavored reds. This Syrah from the central coast is no exception and it is super good. There's a 'meatyness' about the flavor and body..I can't really describe it any other way. There's a big hit of raspberry on the palate.......I know, yeah...the dreaded wine speak-but taste this wine and tell me it dosen't taste like fresh raspberries . The price makes it almost a weekday special but it is good enough for a weekend dinner. I'll give it 8 swiggs. This one is the 2003 but I think the 2004 os all you'll be able to find right now and I have yet to try it. Knowing Ahlgren, it will probably be every bit as good. $ 8.99.