Thursday, July 30, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Red - 2012 Calcareous Vineyard Tres Violet

Calcareous is a winery I have on my list for our next trip to Paso Robles (October, but who's counting!).   I've never had their wine before, but have read some very good things... so when I came across this little number...let's drink!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Italian Rosé - 2014 Albino Armani Schiava Vallagarina IGT

On my last visit to Total Wine and More to stock up, as I was grabbing a bottle (or two) of Charles Smith Rosé, one of the Total Wine staff recommended this Italian Rosé.  Over 110 degrees here in Arizona, so a tasty chilled Rosé is a wonderful thing... so let's give it a try.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Red - 2010 Darioush Napa Valley Shiraz

Even though my less expensive class of wine I use for my wine rating scale is "Everyday", it doesn't mean that after a particularly rough Wednesday you have to settle for an Everyday selection. Even a Wednesday deserves a splurge wine, and this time it was a wine from one of my very favorite wineries. Dariush makes a great Cabernet that you will see on many restaurant lists, but my favorite from their offerings is they Shiraz.  Typically Australian wines  are the ones who use "Shiraz" instead of Syrah, but in this case it is the Persian ancestry of the winery owner and a nod to the city of Shiraz in Iran. Enough geography though... let's drink.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - French Red - 2009 Château Arnauton Fronsac

France was a big part in our fight for independence from England, so how better to say thanks this Independence Day than to imbibe in some of their wonderful export - wine! This wine is from Fronsac, an appellation within the Bordeaux region just northwest of more recognizable right bank appellations like Pomerol and St. Emilon. As a right bank appellation, Cabernet Sauvignon is not the star here - instead this wine is mostly Merlot with only a tough of Cabernet Franc.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2005 Señor de Lesmos Rioja Reserva

Wine aging is not always just about the oak barrels for Spanish reds. Take this wine, which is aged a total of 27 months in those good ole' oak barrels, but then is moved into concrete vats for more than a year. Some winemakers believe that cement provides cleaner flavors with less risk of imparting unwanted flavors compared to oak barrels.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Red Blend - 2012 ONX Reckoning

The folks at ONX (pronounced onyx) make some of my favorite Paso Robles wines, and actually some of my favorite wines period.  I very much appreciate their approach to focusing on creating the best blends they can, and don't pay much attention to varieties that are typically blended together (or wines that typically aren't used much in blends at all).  Take their wine Reckoning for example - which includes Rhone varietals Syrah and Grenache, Tempranillo which is typically the lead grape in Spanish wines such as Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Zinfandel which also normally plays the lead role, Petite Sirah which is sometimes added to a Zinfandel to provide additional acid and tannins, and Malbec which plays the starring role in South America, but is a minor blending partner in Bordeaux wines.  Forget the rules! Just make great wine... I love it!!!  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Red Blend - 2013 Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno

While shopping at Costco for 1,000 roll packs of toilet paper and 50 pound bags of Brussels Sprouts, I happened by the wine aisle (no accident there) and saw this wine - Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno (say it out loud if you don't get it immediately).  Oh yeah, no matter what I'm getting this wine.  Hmmm.... from Paso Robles - that's pretty cool.   A blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre... that's also pretty cool. Let's drink!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Red Blend - 2009 ONX Brainchild

I typically try and select wines that are available through retail. But ONX wines from Paso Robles are just so damn good that you need to find a way to try them!  Today I'm trying a new one for me - Brainchild, a blend of all sorts of grapes you don't usually  see together - Tempranillo, Cabernet, Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. There was only 108 cases of this wine produced, so I hope I don't like it too much!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Online Wine Shop Review: Wine Chateau -

I was contacted by the folks at about reviewing a free sampling of their wines. According to their website, Wine Chateau has three brick and mortar stores in New Jersey plus their on-line wine shop.  I found their website to be well designed, and I was able to easily navigate their selection of wines and spirits...with Scotch getting it's own category on the home page...bonus points for that!!!
I had never heard of Wine Chateau before, and I do quite a bit of my wine shopping and research online, so before receiving my wines from them I wanted to check out their overall offerings. My first impression was definitely the mammoth selection of wine available. In perusing their Red Wine section, I found a 750ml bottle of 2013 Santa Ema Select Terroir Merlot for $119.64 next to a 4L bottle of Carlo Rossi Sangria for $74.76. 

Overall the website had the types of filters you'd expect for efficient wine shopping: Category, Brand, Price, Grapes, Region, Sub-Region. My only criticism of my test drive of the website was that too many bottles had only a generic Wine Chateau bottle, instead of a picture of the actual bottle.  When I shop online, seeing the actual label helps me identify both old familiar favorites as well as new and exciting finds.  

After some general browsing I decided to drill down into the Spanish Wines - choosing Spain, then Rioja, then Rioja Alavesa (the Basque sub-region within Rioja).  Within Rioja there were about 180 wines, including familiar and widely marketed brands like Muga, Marques de Caceres, and Faustino,  great value wines like El Coto Crianza, plus some interesting names that were new to me.  Drilling down further into Rioja Alavesa there were an impressive 14 choices, again including familiar names like Marques de Riscal, plus an even more impressive choice of three different Artadi wines. Artadi is one of my personal favs from Rioja Alavesa, and typically are not easy to find even in Spain.

I would compare the variety available at Wine Chateau with the mega Liquor Stores like Total Wine or BevMo where you can find every type of Barefoot wine made, with the added  (and crucial) bonus of a much greater selection of higher end wines, plus unique wines...did I mention Artadi wines from Rioja Alavesa? If you like to shop online or don't have easy access to one of those mega stores, check out this site...I have no doubt you will find an old favorite or two, and maybe some new and interesting things to try.

Now for the wine sample the generous folks at Wine Chateau shipped to me.  My first impression was quite positive, as I recognized two of the three offerings:
  • 2011 Chateau de Jau Cotes de Roussillon Villages from Roussillon, Southern France ($13.97). This was not a wine I recognized, but admittedly I am not very familiar with wines  from Southern France.

2013 Decoy Pinot Noir
You can see by the color that Pinot is a lighter style. I am typically a fan of the bigger, more concentrated Pinots, but I must say this one was really fantastic.  Lots of cherry and a nice tart cranberry aromas, with a bit of toasted wood. Great acidity like you'd expect from Pinot Noir, with a long, lingering delicious finish.  I am a big fan of second labels where wineries that typically offer more expensive wines use the same winemaking skill but towards making a more value priced offering.  I have often admitted to being a bit of a Pinot snob and not easy impressed, but this wine...ESPECIALLY at under $20 is excellent!

2011 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec Reserva
Malbecs, especially from South America are my go to wines for many purposes... just to sip and enjoy, pairing with all kinds of food, even spicier Korean dishes, and a red that I often use to entice those that tell me they don't like red wine into understanding that they just don't like red wine "yet"!  This wine was one I figured would be a hit as I first unpacked the box from Wine Chateau.  I was very surprised that the wine was very closed off, almost no aromas present.  The flavor was not unpleasant, but lacked that fruit forward kick I expect from Malbec.  I left the bottle open a few hours and tried again, but no change.  My suspicion is that this bottle was impacted by cork taint.  Not significant enough to show those wet cardboard characteristics, but enough to rob the wine of it's aromas and flavors.  When I experience this in tasting a wine I do consult other reviews just to check and see if others have experienced the same characteristics, or if it may be just a bad bottle. My friends at Wine Spectator spoke highly of the wine, noting "Intense dark currant and spiced cherry flavors", none of which I experienced.  Hey this happens sometimes in the world of wine - so if you do get a chance to try this wine, I very much believe the bottle will be fine and you will enjoy it a lot!

2011 Chateau de Jau Cotes de Roussillon Villages
I save the most unknown wine (to me) for last - a blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre from the Cotes de Roussillon region in Southern France near the border with Spain.  Beautiful deep dark color with aromas of black cherry and smoke. More of a new world style that a typical French wine (if there is such a thing anymore).  A nice amount of tannins, but very drinkable now, a great food wine for your next dinner party. For under $15, this is really a stellar wine and one that I will look for in the future.

This sampling of wine was a great example of one of the great quests as a wine drinker - excellent value. A rare as a Bigfoot sighting tasty Pinot for under $20 and an incredible French wine for under $15... all I can say to you winos is check out Wine Chateau.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Italian Red - 2009 Tolaini Valdisanti Tenuta S. Giovanni Toscana IGT

Wine labels from Europe can be a bit intimidating. Take this wine for instance...the wine's full name (spread across various parts of the label) is Tolaini Valdisanti Tenuta S. Giovanni Toscana IGT.  What the hell does all that mean??? Just a few tricks will help you find very interesting and very unique wines. Tuscany is the land of Chianti wines made from Sangiovese. There are strict rules about the amount of Sangiovese that must be in Chianti, what other grapes can be used, and even rules about how the wine is made. Versions of these rules exist in wine regions throughout Europe including wonderful wine making countries like Spain, Italy, Germany, and Portugal.  In Italy, there is another classification of wine referred to as IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica or typical wines of the area).  These IGT wines have more flexibility than wines like Chianti, and most likely use Sangiovese, but can create blends like today' s wine - mostly Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc.  Wine's like these from Tuscany (Toscana in Italian) are sometimes referred to as "Super Tuscans."  Some Super Tuscans are quite expensive, but check your wine shop for Italian wines labeled as "IGT" - you can find some very interesting and value priced wines from a great wine region - but just made a bit differently from the more classic wines of the region.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Chilean Red - 2009 Viña Cono Sur Pinot Noir Ocio

I have stated before that while I strive not to be a big ole' wine snob, I do fail when it comes to Pinot Noir. Only certain regions, and certain wineries within those regions are able to coax something wonderful from this temperamental grape.  However, I'm not too big a Pinot Snob to admit when I'm wrong.  Recently I was very surprised by a wonderfully old world style Pinot from...are you ready???... CANADA!!!  I have six bottles being graciously stored for me in Chicago by a generous comrade in wine as we found that wine at a big Pinot fest in Chicago.  So... while thinking that lightning likely won't strike twice, here is a bottle that we were gifted at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Vegas - but didn't get a chance to taste while we were there.  This one is from Chile, mostly know for Cabernet... but you never know!