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Month in Wines – April 2014

May 4, 2014 4 comments

April was a good month for the good wines, with some of the gems worthy of Top Dozen consideration. Syrah and Pinot Noir were probably the biggest stars, but not the only stars. I already wrote about some of the wines before, so I will not inundate you with the repetitive details, and instead will simply give you the reference to the prior post. All the wines are rated on the 10 points scale, with + and – adjustments. These summary posts only include the wines with the ratings of 8- and higher – in the very very rare cases, I might include 7+ wines if I feel that the wine was simply unique.

Let’s go!

2010 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Oregon (14% ABV, $45) – dark and delicious, and will age well for the next 10-12 years. 8+

2010 Renieri Invetro Rosso Toscano IGT (14% ABV) – delicious Super-Tuscan, powerful, round, a pure joy. 8+

2011 Michel Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria, Australia (13% ABV, $14.99) – simply spectacular. A clear pepper profile on the nose and the palate. A stunning beauty. 9

2003 J.L. Chave Offerus Saint-Joseph, France (13.5% ABV) – Barnyard, touch of spice (pepper), dark and delicious. 8

2005 Domaine Philippe  Bornard Arbois Pupillin La Chamade Ploussard (12.8% ABV) – beautiful, powerful, multi-layred. Pleasure in every sip. 8+

2012 J Wrigley Estate Pinot Noir Proposal Block McMinnville AVA (14% ABV, aged 10 Month in French oak, 250 cases produced. $45 SRP) – chocolate, mocha, a bit of mushrooms. Nice and balanced, and will age well. 8-

2010 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (SRP: $47.99) – perfect Claret, if you will. This wine would rival many top California Cabernet Sauvignon wines, which would also cost at least 2-3 times as much. 8

2007 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Rioja Riserva, Spain (SRP: $19.99) – Perfect balance of fruit, structure, power and earthiness which only Rioja possess. Beautifully round and delicious. 8+

2001 La Rioja Alta 904 Rioja Gran Riserva, Spain (SRP: $47.99) – Mature and delicious, with lots of subtle nuances. A thought provoking wine. 8+

2009 Shiloh Legend Judean Hills, Israel (14.2% ABV, 45% Shiraz, 40% Petite Sirah, 9% Petite Verdot, 6% Merlot, each grape vinified and oak-cask aged separately for 8 month, then blended and aged for another 8 month) – round, velvety, delicious, with dark fruit core and firm structure. Perfect balance of power and concentration. 8

2012 Tousey Chardonnay Estate, Hudson River, New York (12% ABV) – a Chablis on Hudson would be a good way to define this wine. Chablis style minerality and hint of gunflint on the nose, creamy and round on the palate, with subtle apple and vanilla notes. Delicious Chardonnay. 8-

2012 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes des Bila-Haut White Côtes-du-Roussillon (13% ABV, $13.99, blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu) – in a word, delicious. Bright white fruit on the nose, fresh lemon, some earthiness. Perfect balance on the palate, each sip makes you crave for another. 8+

2004 Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva Rioja DOC (13% ABV) – dark fruit on the nose, with the hint of eucalyptus and cigar box. Palate full of dark fruit with earthy profile, supple tannins and bright acidity, very balanced. 8-

2010 Chapelle-St-Arnoux Côtes du Rhône  AOC (13.5 % ABV, $10.99) – nose of inviting dark fruit, the same on the palate with addition of dark chocolate notes and rounding acidity. Very dense and well structured for Côtes du Rhône. A steal for the price (sorry, it was some sort of closeout). 8

2010 Les Trois Chemins Côtes du Rhône AOP (13% ABV, $8.99) – fresh red fruit on the nose, blackberries and cherries, more of the same on the palate, coupled with bright acidity. Simple and elegant, and beyond steal at the price (again, a closeout of sorts). 8-

That concludes my report on the April wine highlights. Did you taste any of these wines? What were your best wine experiences of the month? Cheers!

Month in Wines – March 2014

April 4, 2014 7 comments

And the time has come to summarize another month in wines. March 2014 was quite wine eventful, especially from point of view of discovering of the new and unique wines. I already wrote about some of the wines before, so I will not inundate you with the repetitive details, and instead will simply give you the reference to the prior post. All the wines are rated on the 10 points scale, with + and – adjustments. These summary posts only include the wines with the ratings of 8- and higher – in the very very rare cases, I might include 7+ wines if I feel that the wine was simply unique.

Let’s go!

2005 Seven Hills Merlot Columbia Valley, Washington (13% ABV, 88% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 18 month aging in French and American oak) – in a word, spectacular. Yes, I like my wines with a little age – decanters and all are nice, but can’t compare with the wine actually having a chance to age slowly and gracefully. This wine was phenomenal from the moment the cork was pulled. On the nose, it was an aroma exuberance, with lots of different flavors going on – plums, cassis, sweet oak, herbs – everything was happening. And palate followed the lead – silky smooth, with layers upon layers of mature fruit, soft tannins and perfect acidity. Exquisitely balanced, this was a pure pleasure in the glass. I think we got this wine at its peak – and it was my only bottle. Sigh. 9

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2011 Field Recordings “Neverland” Red Wine Grassini Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (15.1% ABV, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot. Aging: 50% new French barrels, 25% new American barrels, 25% seasoned French for 18 month) – Field Recordings never cease to amaze. Powerful and delicious. 8+

2012 Cane and Fable 373 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tempranillo, 5% Petit Verdot. Aging: 225L oak barriques, 25% new, 12 month) – This was very interesting ( in a good sense), and will wait for a while to see it evolve. 8-

2010 CVNE Monopole Rioja DOC (13% ABV, 100% Viura) – Delicious, refreshing – and age worthy. Will get back to it in a few years. 8

2012 Colline de l’Hirondelle Cocolico, France (15% ABV, 60% Chenançon Noir, 25% Grenache, 15% Syrah) – Powerful and different. Unique flavor profile, unique grape. 8-

2009 Pedro Luis Martínez  Arriba Término de Hilanda Monastrell, Jumilla DO (14.5%ABV, 100% Monastrell, 14 month aging in new American and French oak) – One of the very best Monastrell wines I ever tasted. Coffee, dark chocolate and a fruit, all weaved elegantly together in a tight, firmly structured body. 8-

2010 Bodegas Rafael Cambra Soplo Valencia DO (14% ABV, 100% Alicante Bouschet/Garnacha Tintorera, 3 month aging in oak) – Clearly outstanding, with the flavor profile rivaling best Cabernet Sauvignon. 8+

2011 Bodrog Borműhely Lapis Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary (13% ABV, 100% Furmint) – A pleasure in every sip. Different and delicious. 8

2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling, Somló, Hungary (14.5% ABV, 100% Olaszrizling) – Another case of absolutely unique wine. Flavor profile is fascinating, with explicit minerality and balance of herbs and fruit. 8

2008 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussilon Villages, France (13.5% ABV, blend of Grenache, Syrah , Carignan) – This is consistently one of the best wines for the money – in the $16 range, it is almost unbeatable. Besides, this wine can age very well – this 2008 was spectacular and it could go on and on and on. 8

2006 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand (14.5% ABV) – beautiful, simply beautiful. Perfectly clean and delightful Pinot Noir profile. 8+

2007 Krupp Brothers Black Bart’s Bounty Chardonnay Napa Valley (14.8% ABV) – had a very interesting experience with this wine. I had two bottles, and when I opened one recently, I didn’t like it – was too much of the malolactic processing, to me the wine acquires that strange and specific taste. But then I had a second bottle a few weeks after, and it was excellent – balanced, a bit of vanilla and butter, just right, very pleasant. The temperature might be a culprit, or just the difference between the bottles. 8-

2010 Turley Zinfandel Heminway Vineyard, Napa Valley (15.6& ABV) – Turley rarely disappoints, but this wine clearly needed more time… Dark, powerful, concentrated, balanced. 8-

2005 Quinta Ste Eufemia Porto LBV, Portugal (19% ABV)  – classic, with round sweetness of figs and prunes, good acidity, fresh and delicious. 8-

2004 Hobbs Barossa Frantignac, Barossa, Australia (10% ABV) – delicious. Perfectly balanced sweetness and acidity, very fragrant and easy to drink. 8

And we are done here. What were your wine highlights from the past month? Cheers!

Month in Wines – February 2014

March 3, 2014 3 comments

Here we go again – a summary of the best wine experiences of the February 2014. Reminder – I rate the wines on the 10 points scale, with pluses and minuses, so the wines typically included in this summary post are those starting with 8- ratings (yes, there can be exceptions). Here we go:

2013 Paumanok Chenin Blanc North Fork of Long Island, New York (11% ABV) – I had an interesting experience with this wine. I had it earlier in January, when it was not at the proper temperature (a bit too warm), and then later on another bottle which was properly chilled – and it was outstanding. Bright, refreshing, perfect acidity, white fruit notes with the touch of minerality, medium to full body, with pleasant creaminess. Very enjoyable. 8-

1966 Louis M. Martini California Mountain Pinot Noir (12.5% ABV) – incredible. Finesse, elegance, clear profile of a classic Pinot Noir – complete surprise and complete delight. 10

2012 Fiction by Field Recordings Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 40% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillo, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Touriga Nacional, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache, 6% Cinsault) – fresh meadows on the nose, perfectly elegant and balanced wine, with clean acidity and medium-long finish. 8+

2012 Contrada Santa Croce Casteltermini Sicilia Cuvée Artisanale Chardonnay Grillot (13.5% ABV) – very unique and different wine. Finesse, balance, apricot and apricot pit, clean acidity. 8+

2011 Emile Beranger Pouilly-Fuissé AOC (13% ABV) – vanilla, butter, hint of toasted oak – all perfectly elegant and balanced in effervescent, cleanly structured package. 8+

2011 Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon AOC (12.9% ABV) – excellent earthy profile, good red fruit, good acidity, very enjoyable. 8-

1998 Ceretto Monsordo Langhe DOC (13% ABV) – Mature fruit, round, inviting and seductive. I think ‘sexy wine” will go fine as a descriptor. 8

1999 Philippe Prie Cuvée Love Flowers Champagne (12% ABV) – Great example of the vintage champagne – fresh bread, yeast, toasted apples, acidity – all together. 8

2011 Peter Lauer “Senior” Fass 6 Riesling, Saar, Germany (12.5% ABV) – A treat from our fellow Riesling guru, Oliver – perfect Riesling, balance, acidity, sunshine in every sip. 8

2008 Dr. Hermann Erdener Heremberg Riesling Eiswine (7% ABV) – Another treat from Oliver – and my first encounter with the actual German Eiswein (had only NY and Canadian wines before) – perfect complexity, perfect balance, good acidity – great finish of the meal, with or without desert. 8+

2009 Fat Cat Rotie Red Wine, California (13% ABV) – this is 100% Syrah, and it is nothing short of spectacular considering the QPR ( it retails for $17.99 is you can find it). Core of dark fruit with earthy profile, mocha and espresso, very balanced. 8+

2004 Carlisle Judge Family Vineyard Syrah Bennett Valley (15.9% ABV) – This is Carlisle – need I say more? Dark, concentrated, but elegant and perfectly balanced at the same time ( don’t even think of the ABV – you wouldn’t notice it unless you read the label). 9

2010 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.2% ABV, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon) – classic. Cassis on the nose and palate, touch of espresso, medium to full body, perfect balance. 8

2008 Shaya Verdejo Old Vines, Rueda DO, Spain (13.5% ABV) – one of my very favorite Spanish white wines. In general, it beats Chardonnay hands down, 9 times out of 10 – buttery complexity on the palate, roll-of-your-tongue goodness, round and perfectly balanced. 8+

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I also want to mention separately few of the rare grapes I added this month.

2011 I Borboni Vite Maritata Asprinio Aversa DOP, Campania (12% ABV) – very interesting wine which Stefano brought directly from Italy (it seems to be scarcely available in US). Made from the grape called Aspirinio –  the wine had very nice acidity, coupled with a plump body and nice lemon notes. 8-

2006 Azienda Agricola Vestini Campagnano Casa Vecchia Terre Del Volturino IGT, Campania (13.5% ABV) – another great treat from Stefano. Made from the grape called Casavecchia – very nice nose of plums with more plums on the palate, medium body, round and inviting, perfect balance. 8

2012 Sant’Isidoro Colli Maceratesi Ribona Pausula, Marche  – this wine is made of the grape called Maceratino – very nice with good acidity. I tasted it at the VinItaly expo, so no ratings.

That concludes February wine report. Cheers!

Month in Wines – January 2014

February 6, 2014 6 comments

Wow, it is hard to believe that the first month of 2014 is already a history. Well, it truly is, so as usual, it is the time to sum up the best wine experiences (quick reminder – I rate wines on the 10 point scale with pluses and minuses – with rare exceptions, the only wines included in this summary are those with rating 8- or above) of the January 2014. There were quite a few interesting experiences, so not in the any particular order, here we go:

2005 AR Pe Pe Grumello Riserva Buon Consiglio Valtelina Superiore DOCG (13% ABV, 100% Nebbiolo) – beautiful, fragrant, gentle, elegant. The wine for quiet, self-reflecting evening, to be shared only with the closest people. Would do fine for the cosy Valentine’s day evening. 8

NV Tsarine Champagne Cuvée Premium, Reims (12% ABV) – classic and substantial, has its own character as opposed to many universally boring sparklers. A beautiful packaging is definitely a plus… 8

2012 Cecilia Beretta Brut Millesimato Prosecco Superiore Coneglian Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy (11% ABV) – one of the very best Prosecco I ever tasted. ‘nuf said. 8-

2010 Artemovsk Krim Semi-Sweet Sparkling Wine, Ukraine (12% ABV) – touch of sweetness, nice, refreshing, balanced – definitely an excellent sparkler. 8

2002 Bollinger Ay Rouge La Cote Aux Enfant Coteaux Champenoisbeautiful, complex, red fruit on the nose and palate, delicate concentration of flavors, round and polished. Definitely an experience. 8

1994 Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT – beautiful complexity of cherries and leather both on the nose and the palate. Perfectly fresh, with good acidity and excellent balance. Still has many years to go. 9-

1999 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red Oakville – a classic with cassis, bell peppers and eucalyptus both on the palate and on the nose, soft tannins, good balance, very enjoyable. 8

1977 Grahams Port – delicious promising nose, wonderful complexity in the glass, with the aged, delicate fruit, figs and dates, with acidity still present. 8+

2009 Tallulah MD1 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.1% ABV) – this wine showed glimpses of greatness with clean fruit and cassis overtones, but it definitely needed more time, let’s say, at least 5 years… 8-

2010 Pedralonga doUmia Tinto Rias Baixas DO (12% ABV, blend of Mencía, Caíño and Espadeiro) – beautiful open nose with touch of barnyard and hint of complexity. Lots of herbs on the palate – sage, lavender, dark fruit, very good acidity and perfect balance. Very easy to drink. Besides, it adds two more grape to the collection. 8

2009 Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva, Mendoza (14.5% ABV) – very, very concentrated, mocha and espresso on the palate, dark fruit, good acidity, good balance. 8-

2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC (12% ABV, 100% Romorantin) – bright white stone fruit on the nose, citrus (lemon) notes on the palate, medium to full body, zinging acidity. It is getting there, but need another 4-5 years to achieve full beauty and grace. 8-

2008 Eurl Gilles Bonnefoy Rousanne de Madone Rousane sur Volcan (12% ABV) – plump, juicy, round, delicious. 8

The last 3 wines really surprised the inner snob in me. They are all made by the Rosenblum Cellars, and at the price of $9.99 each, I had really low expectations (so far, I didn’t have much luck with low-end wines from Rosenblum).

2012 The Great American Wine Company Chardonnay USA – light, simple, with hint of vanilla and butter, good acidity. Easy to drink. 7+

2012 The Great American Wine Company Red Blend USA (Zinfandel based) – good red fruit on the nose and on the palate, raspberries and blackberries, soft tannins, good acidity, good balance, easy to drink. 7+

2012 The Great American Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon USA  – good dark fruit on the nose with a hint of cassis, more dark fruit on the palate together with dark chocolate, good acidity, good balance. 7+

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That concludes the January report. Have you had any of this wines? Care to share your thoughts? Cheers!

 

 

Month in Wines (and Whiskys) – December 2013

January 3, 2014 2 comments

At first I wanted to preface this post with the notion of December being somewhat uneventful in terms of great wine experiences, but as I was thinking about it, I realized that this would be a mistake to put it like that. So yes, December brought quite a few of the great discoveries.

Here we go:

NV Ayala Brut Majeur Ay Champagne, France (12% ABV, 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier ) – one of the very best non-vintage champagne I ever tasted – perfectly complex, yeasty, showing aromas of the fresh bread and apples, all in a very bright and energetic package. Considering the price ($26.99 on special) is simply unbeatable (people, stop buying the yellow label, get the real thing and save some money!). 8

2011 Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury, New Zealand (14% ABV) – nice, restrained – recognizably New Zealand, but more in the Sancerre style, with grass and lemon prevailing over the grapefruit. Well balanced and very refreshing.  8-

2012 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury, New Zealand (13.5% ABV) – clean. delicate. perfectly balanced. perfectly delicious. Saying that Mt Beautiful Pinot Noir is beautiful sounds somewhat broken, but there is nothing I can do here – definitely an outstanding Pinot Noir of a rare precision. 8+

2010 Hooker Breakaway Chardonnay Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley (13.3% ABV) – Perfectly classic – vanilla, apple, butter and toasted oak, all elegantly connected, round and supple, perfectly balanced and supported by acidity. A pleasure. 8-

2011 Bogle Petite Sirah California (13.5% ABV) – probably one of the very best value wines in existence – I have to yet to taste a bad Bogle Petite Sirah. Amazingly consistent from vintage to a vintage – dark fruit on the nose and the palate, blackberries and raspberries, firm structure, powerful but elegant tannins, very good balance. 8-

2007 Talullah Syrah Bald Mountain Napa Valley (14.8% ABV) – inky black color in the glass, very restrained on the nose, nice dark fruit on the palate with the spicy notes. Definitely needs time to evolve. 8-

2004 Chateau Puy Arnaud Maureze Côtes de Castillon AOC (13.5% ABV) – very nice, rich, open and classic Bordeaux – hint of cassis, touch of bell peppers, well structured with firm tannins, good overall balance. 8-

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2008 Gorys Crespiello Cariñena DO (14% ABV, 100% Old Vine Vidadillo) – outstanding. Very restrained, with nice dark fruit on the nose, on the palate shows raspberries and elegant sweet oak undertones, nice earthiness. Well balanced and intriguing, a thought provoking wine. Medium to long, mellow finish. This is the wine to be enjoyed slowly, preferably with the book or by the fire. Highly, highly recommended. Ahh, and on top of everything – a new grape. 8

1998 La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain (12.5% ABV) – dialed back and elegant, needs time to open up. Nice fruit, cedar notes, well present tannins, good overall balance. Needs time. 8-

2010 Quota 31 Primitivo Menhir Salento, Salento IGT (14% ABV) – playful and elegant. Dark, dense fruit, raspberries and blackberries profile, round tannins, good balance. Very enjoyable. 8-

And here are few of the whisky discoveries:

Blue Ridge Distilling Defiant Whisky, North Carolina (41% ABV, 100% Malted Barley) – North Carolina, really? Well, I’m kidding, I’m not that surprised at all – after tasting great drams from Oregon, Utah, Texas and New York, I believe that great whisky can be made anywhere, as long as you apply enough passion. This whisky was unique and different, as it was the most scotch-like compare to all other US whiskeys I tasted. Very well balanced with nice viscosity, some caramel undertones, herbs and acidity.

The Lost Distillery Company Auchnagie Blended Malt Whisky (46% ABV) – one of the very best whiskys I ever tasted – touch of smoke, perfectly clean and balanced. It is also a very unique product – you can read my original post for more details about it.

Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park 8 yo (40% ABV) – I know that many people will just turn their nose away from this scotch simply based on the “low age” of 8 years. To me, this was absolutely delicious – excellent peatiness (I love peat in my scotch, if you don’t – this will not be your drink), clean, balanced – an excellent dram.

That’s all I have to report for December. Cheers!

Month in Wines (and Whiskeys and …) – November 2013

December 3, 2013 8 comments

Chamonix Pinot NoirIt is time to summarize yet another month in wines. This month, I decided to extend this summary to whiskeys and beyond, as I managed to make a number of very interesting discoveries.

Talking about wines, there were two clear standouts – Pinot Noir from South Africa and white Burgundy, but generally, there were quite a few good wines. Here we go:

2010 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (13.5% ABV) – nice round fruit, good acidity, hint of cassis on the nose and palate, soft tannins, light and balanced. 8-

2009 Chamonix Pinot Noir Reserve Franschhoek South Africa (13.5% ABV) – phenomenal. Muscular, powerful, intimidating – it attacks you with the dark smoky fruit right from the first sniff. An extremely pronounced gunflint, which has an effect of the light on the moth – you just can’t stop smelling this wine. Dark power on the palate, intense, dense, structured, full bodied and shameless. 9-

2008 Basel Cellars Merriment Estate Red Wine Pheasant Run Vineyard Walla Walla Washington (14.57% ABV) – Nice Bordeaux-style blend. Lots of depth, dark fruit, firm structure, good acidity and balance overall. 8-

2007 Mount Palomar Charbono Temecula Valley, California (13.2% ABV) – Mount Palomar is one of my all times favorite producer from the Temecula Valley. This wine was probably at it’s peak. Perfect nose of ripe raspberries. Raspberries and blueberries on the palate, dark chocolate, medium to full body, overall welcoming and heart-warming. Perfect. 8+

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County (13% ABV) – nice and clean. Beautiful nose of light cherries with a touch of herbal notes, a sage profile. Light, perfectly integrated fruit on the palate – fresh cranberries and tart cherries, nice underpinning of a touch of mint and sage. Easy to drink and delightful. 8

2010 Cala de Poet Maremma Toscana IGT, Italy – total surprise from Trader Joe’s considering the price of $5.99. Dark plums and herbs on the nose, tart raspberries, eucalyptus and dark chocolate on the palate, firm structure and nice tannins, very balanced. 8-

2012 Cecilia Beretta Brut Millesimato Prosecco Superiore Coneglian Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy (11% ABV) – another surprise from Trader Joe’s – tiny refreshing bubbles, notes of fresh apple on the nose, round and roll-of-your-tongue on the palate with more of the fresh apple and yeast notes. Excelllent sparkling wine (and a great value at $9.99). 8-

2013 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau (12% ABV) – Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau literally gets better and better every year. Young, fresh and inviting on the nose, with lots of juicy cherries. Very concentrated on the palate, with good, tightly knit, firm body, fruit and acidity fully in check, excellent balance. 8-

2004 Jade Mountain Syrah Napa Valley (14.6% ABV) – this was a total surprise. It was my last bottle from the case, and couple of the previous bottles were hinting that they are getting past prime. When I saw this bottle (unexpectedly) on the wine cabinet’s shelf, the first thought was “oops”. The first sniff and the first sip immediately proved me wrong. Fresh, dark fruit on the nose, same on the palate – nice, round, supple blackberries, dark chocolate, touch of espresso, full body, integrated tannins, overall excellent balance. Now I wish I had more left. 8

2003 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon Neyres Ranch – Conn Valley Napa Valley (14.5% ABV) – one of my favorite cabernet Sauvignon wines. A classic, cassis nose with a touch of bell peppers. Dark fruit on the palate, more cassis with some blackberries, round, warm and supple. Full body, acidity and tannins are in check. Excellent balance.  8

2006 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, California (14.5% ABV) – Dark garnet color, nice touch of smoke on the nose, cherries. Classic California Pinot Noir. Fresh cherries on the palate, medium to full body, round tannins and acidity. Drinkability: 8

2005 Domaine Laleure-Piot Pernand-Vergelesses AOC, Burgundy (13% ABV) – I have no idea how this bottle ended up in my cellar. I also had no expectations, as previously I had bad luck with older white Burgundies. Boy, what a treat this wine was! Pale yellow in the glass, hint of an apple and gunflint on the nose. Touch of vanilla and more fresh apples on the palate, round, inviting, effervescent but perfectly present. Delicious! 8+

Whew, done with wines!

Regarding the whiskeys – I already had a separate post about them, but I want to specifically include them here:

Catskill Distilling Company Wicked White Whiskey – this is six-grain (corn, wheat, buckwheat, rye, smoked corn, malt), un-aged whiskey. Absolutely spectacular nose and flavor – complete impression of delicate single-grape grappa with round sweet fruit and all around delicious. You have to taste it to believe it.

Catskill Distilling Company Most Righteous Bourbon (70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% malt) – round, clean, caramel, butterscotch, all perfectly balanced together. One of the best bourbons I ever tasted.

Catskill Distilling Company One and only Buckwheat (80% buckwheat, 20% small grains) – unique and different. Nose is absolutely unusual, reminiscent of sun flower oil. Viscous, roll-of-your-tongue delicious concoction. Great complexity, another drink you have to taste to believe it.

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin

Last but not least – Gin! Yes, I know – if you ask an audience of 10 “who likes Gin”, you might be lucky if you will get one enthusiastic “yes”. However, this Gin was truly something else.

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin, locally produced in Vermont, made out of Juniper berries and honey – absolutely spectacular on the nose and the palate, with the refreshing scent of juniper berries and a touch of honey sweetness. Perfect balance. Ability to convert people – two of the gin haters became gin lovers after they tasted this nectar. If you will have an opportunity – find it and taste it for yourself, and let me know if you will become a convert too.

And we are done here. If you tasted any of the wines and spirits I mentioned – don’t be shy, and comment away. And just as a feature preview, the next up in the “best wines” posts is my personal Top Dozen wines of 2013. Don’t miss it… Cheers!

Month in Wines – October 2013

November 1, 2013 5 comments
Montesco Passionate Wine

Montesco Passionate Wine

Another month is passing by, and it is the time to summarize the best experiences. Definite highlight of this month were all the wonderful wines I tasted in Portugal – the 1970 White Port is hard to topple –  but there were other great wines…

Without any particular order, here we go:

2010 Montesco Passionate Wine Parral, Tupungato, Mendoza (14% ABV, 40% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Bonarda) – the name says it all. Very inviting nose, layers of fruit, dark cherries, blackberries, supple tannins, energetic acidity and joy in every sip – excellent wine all around. 8+

2009 Turley Zinfandel Tofanelli Vineyard, Napa Valley (15.2% ABV) – dark, concentrated, with the core of traditional Zinfandel’s blackberry aromatics and palate, perfectly accentuated by espresso and dark chocolate notes. Perfectly dry, structured, firm and balanced, with a long finish. 9-

NV Lagranja 360 Cava Brut (11.5% ABV, 70% Xarel-lo, 30% Parellada) – simple and elegant, perfectly refreshing, just a touch of sweetness, good acidity, very balanced overall. 8-

NV Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru, Ambonay (70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay) – a beautiful wine. Touch of yeast on the nose, crisp acidity and noticeable fruit notes on the palate. Outstanding. 8+

NV H. Blin Brut, Vincelles (80% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay) – perfect acidity with somewhat of a medium body, nice mid-palate weight, very round. Excellent. 8-

NV Pierre Gimonnet & Fils 1er Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Sélection Belles Anneés (100% Charodnnay) – very nice nose of brioche and touch of apple, same on the palate with some interesting mineral undertones. Very good. 8-

2003 Quevedo Colheita Tawny Port (barrel tasted) – mature, dried fruit, like figs and may be dried apricots, but it was very balanced and still perfectly fresh. 8+

1996 Quevedo Colheita Tawny Port (barrel tasted) – outstanding, mature, with the perfect medley of dried fruit, figs, raisins, and excellent supporting acidity. 9-

1970 Quevedo White Port (barrel tasted) – Elegant, complex, somewhat reminiscent of the mature Pedro Ximenez sherry, but with the dialed back sweetness, perfectly mature fruit, hazelnuts and, believe it or not, still very refreshing and all around spectacular. 9+

1974 Quevedo Colheita Tawny Port (tasted pre-bottled) – very complex, with the good amount of dried fruit, that nuttiness which only well aged Port or Jerez can demonstrate, all with still very present acidity. 9

2007 Arrayán Petit Verdot, DO Mentrida, Spain (14% ABV, 100% Petit Verdot) – concentrated, powerful, very dense, firm and structured, but showing some nice blueberries. Noticeable earthiness with some pencil shavings. 8

2007 Jamesport Vineyards Petit Verdot Reserve, Long Island, NY – powerful, all around dark fruit, notes of the dark chocolate, soft tannins, balancing acidity. Needs some time to open. Will age nicely for the next 10-15 years. 8

2005 Jamesport Vineyards Merlot Block E, Long Island, NY (13.5% ABV, 80% Merlot, 10% cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah) – beautiful nose of dark fruit and chocolate. Velvety, silky slick on the palate, layers of supple dark fruit, soft tannins, clean acidity, overall very balanced with long, sexy finish. 8+

2012 Ernie Els “Big Easy” Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa – nice body presence – medium to full body, somewhat plump with white stone fruit notes and soft acidity. Overall, very pleasant. 8-

That should be about all for the month of October. Did you have any memorable wine experiences? Care to share? Cheers!

Month in Wines – September 2013

September 30, 2013 11 comments

Another month passed by, and it is time to create a summary of the best wines I came across during September. As funny as it sound, this is a very difficult task. The issue is that during September, I was lucky enough to attend 4 big trade wine tastings, going through tons of wines, many of which were just spectacular. I still planning to write few of the posts with the pictures about those tastings, so for now, here is just a traditional report with the few words about each and every wine I would highly recommend.

In no particular order, here we go:

2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle Orphelin Red Wine Columbia Valley – This used to be one of my favorite wines, but I had no expectations about this last bottle – I was sure the wine is past prime. To my big surprise, it was perfect – firm tannins, bright fruit, perfect acidity – overall outstanding. Pretty damn well done job of ageing for the blend of 9 grapes. 8+

2010 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso DOC – dark fruit, cherries, tobacco, playful with the perfect balance. 8+

2010 Le Cimate Montefalco Rosso DOC – supple, with ripe cherries. Lasted for 6 days after bottle was opened. 8+

2009 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso DOC – dark spicy fruit, some gaminess and minerality. Very balanced. 8+

2007 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG – I thought the wine is corked initially, but it came around in about 3-4 days. Very strong tannins, dark fruit, leather and dark tea. 8-

2008 Tenuta Bellafonte Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG – powerful, concentrated, cassis, plums, very tannic yet extremely drinkable. 8

2006 Chateau Rauzan-Segla Segla Margoux – perfectly drinkable, round. 8

2007 Muscat di Frontignan Vin de Constance, Constantia, South Africa – spectacular. The nose and balance are stunning. 9-

NV G.D. Vajra Barolo Chinato Barolo Piedmont – stunning. Barolo with addition of aromatic herbs – you have to taste it to believe it. 9-

NV Boroli Barolo Chinato Castiglione Falletto, Piedmont – double stunning. Next level of expression even comparing to the previous wine. 9

2010 Dumol Pinot Noir Russian River – just a beautiful wine. 8+

2010 DumolSyrah Russian River – great wine, perfect balance, classic spiciness and tight fruit. 8+

2008 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon – lots of power, needs time. 8

2008 Viader Proprietary Red – very restrained and different. Excellent wine. 8

2012 Botani Dry Muscat, Spain – year into a year, one of my favorites. Perfect contrast of perfumed nose and dry palate. 8

2012 La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas, Spain – one of my favorite Albariño wines ever – very consistent year into a year. 8

2009 Borsao Berola, Spain -outstanding Grenache-based blend. Powerful and supple. Double-amazing at the priced ( about $12 retail). 8

2011 Volver Old Vines Tempranillo – pure power, dense tannins, bright fruit and perfect balance. One of my favorite wines. 8+

2011 Loring Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard  – my first time trying Loring Pinot Noir. In a word, spectacular. 9

2011 Loring Pinot Noir Durell Vineyard – perfect balance, beautiful wine. 9-

2011 Loring Pinot Noir Aubaine Vineyard – another spectacular wine. Perfect fruit, balance, acidity. 9-

2012 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro New Zealand – spectacular. Made me rediscover NZ Sauvignon Blanc. While it is more expensive than most, it is worth experiencing. 9-

2009 Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro New Zealand – single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Tremendous complexity, very unique wine. 9-

2011 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Rosso, Veneto – very simple, clean and easy to drink. For about $10 retail, you literally can’t beat it. 8-

2009 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Cabernet Sauvignon “Torre Mellotti”, Veneto – outstanding, classic Cabernet flavor profile (cassis, touch of oak, coffee notes) – all for about $12 retail. 8

2007 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone “Campo dei Gigli” Amarone della Valpolicella DOC – best Amarone I tasted in 2013. Period. At 16% ABV, this wine is perfectly balanced, with all the sweet fruit and powerful dry wine combination. At about $60 retail, this is also a great value for Amarone. 9-

I’m not done, but I have to stop somewhere. If you tasted any of these wines, or want to share your best wines of the month – please don’t be shy! Cheers!

Month(s) in Wines – July and August 2013

September 10, 2013 9 comments

Don’t know if you noticed, but one of the pages in this blog is designated to my Top Rated Wines – and it is actually one of my pain points, as I fail to properly maintain it. The idea behind that page was that every month I would add there best wines tasted during the month. I rate the wines on the 10 point scale, also using + and – with the numbers (so 7, 7-, 7+ are all possible). The hallmark of this rating system is 7 – wine rated 7 means “it is an okay wine, I can drink it again, but will not proactively seek it”. The wines I want to drink again start at 8-. As we drink the wine every day, I only wanted to include monthly highlights into that page, which would mean the wines rated 8- and higher.

The “table” format I have chosen for this page is missing even basic descriptions and proven to be hard to maintain (at least in the realm of WordPress.com), so I’m changing my approach. Once a month, I’m going to publish a post with the wine highlights of the past month, and link to the post from the Top Ratings page. As I’m trying to catch up here, today’s post includes best wines of July and August 2013, and I hope to maintain the regular schedule from here on.

One last thing – if you had any of the wines below, I’m curious to know what do you think.

In no particular order, here we go:

2006 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, Israel – pure Cab Franc expression, luscious wine. 8+

1996 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release Nape Valley – Claret style Cab, still going strong but starts sun-setting. 8-

2005 Henry’s Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz, Australia – spectacular – young, fresh and velvety. 9-

2011 Rio Madre Rioja DOC – 100% Graciano, soft, open and balanced. 8-

2009 Odisea Veritable Quandary, California – touch of barnyard, spices and herbs – very balanced. 8

2009 Odisea Devil’s Share, California – round and [too] easy to drink. 8

2011 Shatter Grenache Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, France – perfectly balanced despite 15.9% ABV. Great power. 8

2008 Seresin Chardonnay Reserve Marlboro New Zealand – outstanding classical version, with vanilla and apples and perfect balance. 8+

2005 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis Les Grandes Vignes – spectacular nose, perfectly clean and balanced on the palate. 8+

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County – classic example of California Pinot Noir, clean and round. 8-

2008 Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey – raspberries, cranberries, cherries and a little smoke. Perfect balance. 8+

2010 Field Recordings Three Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc Santa Barbara – spectacular bright fruit and balance. 9

2010 Villa Pillo Syrah Toscana IGT – dark fruit, pepper and tobacco notes, very elegant. 8

NV Mionetto Il Ugo Prosecco Blend – incredible aromatics, very playful and refreshing. 8-

2008 Paritua Riesling Central Otago New Zealand – clean, refreshing, perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, plus a hint of petrol. 8

2005 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – clean balance and perfection. 8+

1999 Kurt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling Dry Creek Valley – spectacular. Honeyd apricot, perfectly clean and fresh acidity. 9

2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurztraminer Alsace – candied apricot, honey and balancing acidity. wow. 9

2012 Williams Selyem Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley –  strawberries, cranberries and perfect acidity. 8-

2010 Ramon Bilbao Crianza Rioja – luscious dark fruit, eucalyptus, balance. 8

2008 Cruz de Alba Crianza Ribera del Duero – power, cherries and structure. 8

NV Result Of A Crush Red Table Wine – bright, sexy, uplifting, cherries and cranberries. 8-

2007 Magnet Pinot Noir Sonoma County – dark, concentrated, smoky. 8-

2003 Swanson La Ti Da Estate Red Wine, Oakville, Napa – mature wine with still enough of fruit and acidity. 8

2010 Anakena Indo Sauvignon Blanc D.O. San Antonio Valley – grapefruit, lemon zest, bright acidity. 8

2007 Thelema Chardonnay South Africa – vanilla, white apples, touch of butter, perfect balance. 8-

2004 Coume Del Mas Quintessence Banyuls Red Dessert Wine – perfect balance of dark fruit and sweetness, soft tannins, very unique experience. 8+

2011 Tenute Loacker Valdifalco Vermentino Maremma Toscana – bright white fruit, medium to full body, hint of sweetness. 8-

2004 Viña Mayor Ribera Del Duero – dark, dense, concentrated, lots of cherries plus some dark chocolate. Soft tannins. 8-

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