Thursday, December 17, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Arizona Red - 2012 Caduceus Nagual de La Naga

A Super Tuscan style wine from Arizona? Why not.  This beauty is from Graham County in southeastern Arizona.  Caduceus makes some serious wines... good wines, not just "good wine for Arizona."  Maynard Keenan from the band Tool is the winemaker... so their is a good chance it rocks!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Argentinian Red - 2011 Finca Flichman Dedicado

I am a big fan of Finca Flichman Malbecs.  Great tasting - and great value wines, many at around $15.  They also make a line of Malbec based blends, including this one with Cabernet and Syrah - called Dedicado. It even comes with special instructions on the back label - "Uncork a good while before drinking"... I love it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wine Tip of the Week - Give Thanks for... and with... Pinot Noir

Now that the Jack-o-Lantern is shriveled and in the compost heap, it is time to start planning for your Thanksgiving shindig or choosing a wine to take to someone else's feast.
The typical Thanksgiving day spread is a myriad of wonderful foods with a myriad of different and (mostly) wonderful flavors.  Your meal will very likely consist of the classics - Turkey (have you tried deep fried...awesome - but be careful!!!), ham, stuffing, cranberry, sweet potatoes, gravy, various salads from recipes old and new. These are all delicious foods, but they can present quite a challenge when trying to select one wine to hang in with so many different flavor profiles. Turkey and ham have both fairly mellow flavors; stuffing will have various herbs, spices, nuts, oysters; sweet potatoes may have a sugary sweet glaze; gravy may be from the "extra" bits of the turkey and have a slightly gamy aspect.

A nice fruity, lighter bodied Pinot Noir from Oregon or California can provide an excellent option that will pair nicely with just about all the flavors that your feast provides.  The key aspects of a lighter bodied Pinot Noir is that the fruit flavor will have a perceived sweetness (typically not actual sugary sweetness - read more), and Pinot Noir wines are fairly high in acidity. A little sweetness and a little acid will help complement and not clash with most dishes - provided they are not dessert level sweetness (beware that canned fruit cocktail salad!). 

While you guests are waiting for dinner and your Pinot Noir is chilling to the right serving temperature (55-ish degrees), severing some sparkling wine provides a nice palate cleanser, and would go nicely with some light appetizers to keep those big appetites at bay!  Try a Spanish Cava as a nice, value priced alternative to Champagne or California Sparkling.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 1994 R. López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia

López de Heredia is one of my favorite wineries in Rioja.  They age their wines beyond the requirements of the Rioja wine region.  Their white Rioja (Rioja blanco) is one of my favorite white wines of all time. Today's gem stowed away in our luggage from our last trip to Spain, and I'm soooo glad it did!  We stopped by just to pick up a few bottles, and were lucky enough to find some Gran Reserva level wine available. A splurge wine price point, but some wines are just worth it... let's see if this one is!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - German White - 2013 Weingut Geil Riesling Kabinett

If you keep only one wine on hand, I suggest a dry or off-dry Riesling.  A great pairing for many types of foods - seafood, lighter pastas, and oh, ever seen the smoked gouda pasta salad at Whole Foods?  Try it with a Riesling and prepare to be amazed!  Today's wine is a Kabinett level from the Rheinhessen region of Germany.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - French Red - 2011 Cave de Tain l'Hermitage Crozes-Hermitage Les Nobles Rives

I don't drink a lot of French wines for no other reason than I don't know or read as much about French wine as I do wines from America and Spain. But when I do drink French wines, some of my favs are from Crozes-Hermitage. Syrah based wines that are from very close to where the super-expensive Hermitage wines are made, but available at closer to $20 than $100 or more.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2011 Bodegas Surco Ribera del Duero Quintana de Cue Crianza

My enamored feelings about the Total Wine & More store I frequent is beginning to wane.  At first it was the Disneyland of wine stores... row after row of wine, wine, wine (oh and some spirits and beer as well). But after shopping there for years now, I begin to see the variety does not change frequently.  Adding to my displeasure is the fact that the aisle of Spanish wine is slowly shrinking, with Rosés from around the world now encroaching on at least 25% on my favorite wine country...  However, during my last trip I did see a new Ribero del Duero at $20... so I had to give it a try! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Check Out this Great Blog Post!

Great blog post from Uncorked Ventures on the future of wine in america. Check out the article and also check out Uncorked Ventures -  The Best of Wine Country!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - South American Red - 2012 Pisano Tannat Reserva Personal de la Familia

Tannat is to Uruguay as Malbec is to Argentina... sort of... I bet you've at least heard of, and probably even tried quite a few Argentinian Malbecs. But how many Tannats have you tried?   Chances are you've tried exactly none.  Tannat is not as easy drinking or food friendly as Malbec, but if you are looking for something different - and aren't afraid of a big tannic monster of a wine - seek one out! Today's wine is a 100% Tannat from Pisano, who also makes a number of blends using Tannat.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Italian Red - 2011 One True Vine If You See Kay

Sometimes it's just about the name and the label.  Should I factor in more when picking out a wine... probably... but sometimes it's just about the name and the label. Say the name of this wine out loud and see if you agree!

Let's drink!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Red - 2013 Rhythm Wine Co Lagrein

Today's wine is very interesting for two key reasons. First up is the grape used - Lagrein.  This grape is very unusual to see outside of its main home in Italy's Alto Adige region.  The grape can be tough to grow, often producing irregular yields year to year. It can also produce harsh, overly tannic wines.  See why not many people want to tangle with this grape?

The second interesting aspect of the wine is the winemaker. Jasper Dickson is very young, and his Rhythm Wine label is more of a side project, producing only about 400 cases per year.  He makes only two wines, this Lagrein and a Syrah.  Enough wine geek-speak...let's drink!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2004 Casado Morales Rioja Gran Reserva

Since our trip to Spain last year when we spent a few great days in the Rioja Alavesa area (the Basque portion of Rioja), I have been very intrigued with wineries from this area, producing wines with grapes purely from this area. Historically, grapes from the Alavesa sub-region have been blended with grapes from Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. In this case, a Gran Reserva level Rioja for only $35 only added to the intrigue.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - Argentina Red - 2012 Fabre Montmayou Malbec Phebus Gran Reserva

The term "Gran Reserva" on a wine bottle makes me think of the oldest and the best that a winery has to offer.  Even though the definition of the term varies between Spain (means 5 years of aging for a red wine) and Argentina (means 2 years of aging), the general concept of the longest aged wine, typically with the best grapes that will benefit from extended aging - is the same.  Today I'll be tasting an Argentinian Gran Reserva Malbec from Phebus winery in Mendoza.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Red - 2011 Oak Ridge Ancient Vine Reserve Zinfandel

This week's wine is a Zinfandel from Oak Ridge - who bottle a "regular" Zin, as well as this Reserve-level wine. The promise of ancient vines makes me think of a big, delicious, jammy California wine... let's see if this wine delivers!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Weekly Wine Review - California Red - 2013 Line Shack Winery Petite Sirah

San Antonio Valley is a relatively new "official" wine region (a.k.a. an AVA or American Viticultural Area) that has existed just since 2006 in Monterey County, California. A creation of a new AVA can denote a new area of grape growing or an area that has distinguished itself as being unique from a larger AVA that may have originally contained the area.  In this case, growers in the area believed that there were specific characteristics of the San Antonio Valley that set it apart (and perhaps even above) the larger Monterey County AVA.

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.