Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cab from Mendoza delivers

There's a lot of buzz about the Mendoza valley in Argentina producing great reds-the classic Bordeaux varietals. Me, I have not had many of these wines and despite the critics going nuts over them, I have not really been impressed....that is until now. The Cassone Mendoza 2009 Cabernet is excellent-not only that, it is only $ 8.99 at Shopper's corner in Santa Cruz -this makes it into my 'weekday' price level . The wine is complex and not overly sweet like some Aussie and Calif. reds so it pairs well with main dishes rather than dessert. I'll give it 8 1/2 swiggs and say that it merits weekend status in spite of it's sub-$ 10.00 price.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Piedmont on the cheap from Trader Joe's.

Here are two Italian reds from very well regarded areas that usually are out of my price range.
Wine # 1 is the 2008 Barolo from Rocca Dell'Olmo. This might not be the deep rich Barolo that you would pay $ 40-60 for, but then it is $ 13.99 so you won't have a reason to complain. It isn't really complex but it is a nice dinner drink for the money. I'll give it 7 swiggs.
Wine # 2 is also from Rocca Dell'Olmo but it is a 2009 Barbaresco-lighter, fruitier and has a lot more going on flavor wise. I really feel that this is the killer deal of the two, only $ 9.99 and definitely more attractive than the Barolo. I really liked the black cherry flavors and depth of the wine, even though it was a lighter body and color than the Barolo. Normally, I would pick a Barolo over a Barbaresco hands down but this is an exception. I'll give it 8 swiggs-definitely the pick of the litter.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two weekday gems from T.J.'s.

 Wine # 1 is the Napa Station 2008 Cabernet. The grapes are supposedly from the Atlas peak area-this is textbook Napa Cab for $ 9.99 and it is ready to drink. I'm always on the lookout for wines like this-a big red you won't want every night but something to pair with hearty food. I'll give it 8 swiggs.
Wine # 2 is the Black Shiraz Barossa Berton vineyard 2010. Most wines from Barossa ( Australia) are big and jammy-this one is maybe a bit more understated and possibly a more versatile wine as a result. Reds from Barossa at under $ 10 are really rare, so this one at $ 6.99 is a steal. It is a bit lighter bodied than the Cab but has bold flavors that are charcteristic of the region. I'll give it 7 1/2 swiggs-a real weekday bargain.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Local Pinot is a blockbuster !

All the wines from Storr's in Santa Cruz are big and intense-even this 2008 Santa Cruz mtns. Pinot . These wines live by a different set of rules than most. The intensity of the flavors rivals wine from hotter climates such as the Sierra Foothills. I am very partial to this winery and find them to be extremely reliable from year to year for their quality and consistency. If you want big, look no further-this is no delicate Pinot. I'll give it 9 swiggs. Available at local stores and the winery.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ravenswood Zin comes through

I had this wine at a wedding last month and was pleasantly surprised with the quality-so much so that I bought a bottle to try to see if it would be a good budget weekday red. I think it passed the test. This Ravenswood old vine 2010 Zin  isn't a blockbuster but at $ 6.99 it delivers some good flavors. I think it is better than a lot of similarly priced wines and I'll give it 6 swiggs. From Trader Joes.

Well, this used to be a reliable cheapie.

Ten years ago when I was looking for a nice under $ 6 bottle I could always depend on the Perrin Reserve 2010 Cotes du Rhone. Well, times have changed and this wine was not as good as I remembered. It is drinakble and not offending but it might not stack up well against other $ 5.99 wine.....and that's kind of sad. I'll give it 5 will  do when you need a dry red for dinner and can't find something better at the price. From Trader Joes.

Amador zin

This Stonehedge Amador Zin 2010 is not typical of the wines from this region. That said, it is a pretty good drink for $9.99. There's an abundance of raspberry flavors in this rather light bodied entry from the Sierra foothills-most noted for high alcohol wines that will knock your socks off and pretty much clobber your tastebuds with goodness. This one is so light that it is in danger of being trampled by a dwarf. Still, tiny and thin though it may be, it is tasty. At Trader Joes.  6 1/2 swiggs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Old style Napa Merlot

Remember when red wines from Napa were dry ? -I was a long time ago. Some time in the early '90's the focus became extracted fruit blockbusters that were nothing like the French wines made from the same varietals. If you don't like the current style of Napa reds and are looking to have a real blast from the past try this Sean Minor 2008 Napa Valley Merlot. It is well made and terrific with food. It actually needs food like a Tuscan wine, otherwise it has the characteristic of etching at the roof of your mouth. Don't get me wrong, I really loved this wine and would buy it again. It was at Shopper's Corner for $ 14.99-it was almost hidden on a lower shelf so look carefully. 8 swiggs.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Nor Cal vintner with So Cal grapes

Carol Shelton is a Zin specialist in Sonoma but she sources grapes from other, sometimes unusual locales. The 2008 Monga Zin Lopez vineyard has fruit sourced from south of Los Angeles-the grapes were planted in 1918 and is one of the last surviving old So-Cal vineyards that were so plentiful before the area got urbanized. Grapes from this far south have a different taste that reflects the dry heat of the region.....I can't really explain it fully but the light body and ripe taste of this wine is a bit different from anything from further north. It is a real treat and a good wine to pour for folks who like Zin but are looking for something a little out of the ordinary. $ 19.95 at Shopper's Corner. 8 swiggs.

Bordeaux that is ready to drink

2008 was not too long ago and a lot of wines from Bordeaux will be sitting in cellars for years to come. Not the Sanctus Saint Emilion grand cru, though. This wine is sensational now and has no heavy tannins in the way of the pure fruit flavor. It is a dry red but not overly so,yet it isn't one of those French wines trying to appeal to Napa tastes. I highly recommend it-that is if you can find it. It is $ 44.95 but a really great drinking experience. 9 swiggs.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A taste of the Rhone

This Les Hauts Du Castellas 2007 Gigondas is just what one would hope to get from a southern Rhone wine-complexity and a sense of the area where the wine comes from. The blend is 75% Grenache 15% Strah and 10% Mourvedre , typical blend for the region. One tastes the lavender and spice that is planted all over the hills around the vineyards. There really isn't a new world version of this wine-no matter how hard the US wine makers try, there is no way to replicate the flavors that are present in this and other really great wines of the southern Rhone valley. I'll give it 8 1/2 swiggs. Imported by Fruit of the vines, inc. Long island city, N.Y.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ho-hummer from Italy

Whenever I hear  "Primitivo" come up in wine talk I think of bold flavors and easy to drink reds. This 2008 Primitivo del Salento was easy to drink but honestly, it didn't have the kind of distinction I would have expected . After a glass with dinner, if I were blindfolded I would not have been able to tell you what country or even the grape in this wine-it could have been anything. I would dub this an 'Airplane', not business or first. This isn't what I would call a real value at $ 12.99 and I doubt I will buy more. It wasn't horrible ,but I would expect a lot more from this wine at this price. 4 1/2 swiggs.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Amador Syrah

Scott Harvey has been making wine in Amador county for a long time. At one time he was a winemaker at Renwood and had access to some of the oldest vines in the country. Scott knows how to coax bold flavors out of Zin vines so I figured that this 2008 Amador county mountain selection Syrah would be in the style of his Zins. This was the case as the extracted concentrated flavors were impressive. If you like the style  , this is a wine for you. $ 15.99 at Shopper's corner-8 1/2 swiggs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nice weekend Zin

I read a review of some Sonoma Zins in the S.F. Chronicle the other day and saw one of the wines at the local market. At $ 23.99, this 2009 Hobo Rockpile Brennan vineyard  Zin is at the upper end of what I pay for a wine but it comes through with some big flavors. The tannins are up there as well, suggesting that hanging onto this one for a few years won't hurt it. -Of course, we drank it immediately with dinner. It's one of the better wines of its type and well worth the price. 9 swiggs.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Italo-California wine.

There aren't many Montepulciano's from a matter of fact , this might be the first one I have had. I find it to be more like an old world wine, not overly sweet or concetrated-drier and more of a food-wine. Unti makes Zin, Syrah , grenache and Petit Sirah in addition to this 2008 Dry Creek valley Montepulciano but this one really stands out as an homage to the dry red wines of Italy. This is not a fruit bomb but a nice wine to have with dinner. It is fine on its own but it really shines when the pasta is on the table. You can find it at the winery and at a few upper-end wine shops like K&L. At  around $ 25, I regard this as a weekend wine and give it 8 swiggs.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Near perfection from Ridge

Lots of people make terrific Zinfandel in California from all sorts of locations but to me, one label stands out as the one I measure all the others by. Ridge has a long history of finding great fruit from all over the state to make their wines , particularly the Zin blends. this 2007 York Creek is really about as good as it gets. The wine is not all Zin as there's some Petit Sirah and a couple others that add depth and complexity. We did not finish the bottle with our dinner at a local restaurant and brought it home. The next night the wine was even better than the night before. I'm not sure the '07 is still available but it is worth looking for. The price I have seen is $ 26.95 so it is definitely a weekend and special occasion wine. 9 1/2 swiggs.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Weekday Merlot bargain

At the risk of shooting myself in the foot and giving everyone a chance to scoop up this wine before I can by some. This Buena Vista Carneros 2006 Merlot speaks of Sonoma. The nice earthy dry flavors were really great with the lunch I had today and for the price of $ 8.99 I feel this is one I'll want to stock up on. Trader Joe's has this and I'll bet that they didn't get a lot of it. I'm getting mine tomorrow....are you ? If so, I hope I get there before you ! 7 swiggs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Washington Cabernet

A certain wine publication trumpeted this wine as a real great deal and gave it a high rating. I have thought that Columbia Crest wines were occasionally good for the money so I plunked down the $ 9.95 at Trader Joes for this 2009 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet to try it out. At first I was was kind of uninteresting and run of the mill tasting. Since we were having dinner we were stuck with this bottle for the duration of the meal but fortunately the wine began to change and get some nice flavors coming through. I may have been put off at first and I have definitely had better wines at the price but I'll say that it isn't bad if you give it a chance. I'll give it 5 1/2 swiggs.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

One of the 2006 wines that is still available

I do review a lot of Storr's wines as they are a local producer and we get a quarterly shipment as we are members of their wine club. It's a good thing as we regard these wines as among the best in the new world.....I'm not kidding ! This 2006 St. Clare is a Bordeaux style blend , complex and satisfying in a big way. This wine is drinking perfectly now. It is $ 19.95 at Shopper's corner while they still have it. 9 swiggs.

San Benito county Zin

There are some really hot days where this wine comes from. The heat does similar things to the wine that characterizes Sierra foothill wines but there is a difference. There's something a little lighter, maybe a little brighter when the wine comes from a hundred miles-or-so west. The De Rose 2007 Cienega valley dry farmed old vine Zin is a very nice example of the area.....high in alcohol but lots of flavor to balance it. I'm a fan, especially as it is available close by at New Leaf market and it is only $ 14.95....a lot of wine for that price. 8 swiggs.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dry Creek Petit Sirah

The wines from Unti always impress me. I don't think they are following any popular winemaking trends to satisfy the wine writers-I feel that they are making wines that really speak to the grape and the location of the vines. This 2007 Dry Creek Valley Petit Sirah is really great in that it does not go for the super high alcohol fruit bomb formula but retains the nice dry earthiness of the fruit. This approach makes for a wine that really compliments meals rather than dominates with jammy, overbearing raisiny flavors. I'll give this 8 1/2 swiggs-available at the winery and through K&L liquors.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blockbuster local Pinot

A couple of vineyards here in Santa Cruz make seriously extracted full throttle wines and Ahlgren is definitely that type of wine. This '08 Pinot from the Veranda vineyard may not be what Pinot lovers would expect as the flavor is ballistic like a sierra foothills Zin or Barbera. This might not be the choice for a compliment to a delicate fish dinner but really is impressive. For this type of flavor experience I'll have to give it 9 swiggs but if you are looking for a Burgundian Pinot Noir expeirence, best not mess with this's like bringing a bazooka to a water baloon fight.

Washington merlot , just like you would get in coach

Yeah, sad to say-this wine did not display the kind of earthy richness I have experienced from Washington state reds-at least it wasn't too expensive . The Buried Cane '08 Washington state Merlot $ 6.99. does not really say much other than " I am red wine" It does not say 'Merlot' or just is. While I have had much worse wines I have had much better, even at this price. I'll give it the neutral 5 swiggs......good enough to drink but not really distinctive. The screw cap is handy, though......