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Posts Tagged ‘Wine Review’

If there was ever a wine that I could really enjoy endorsing to readers, this would be it.

I learned a long time ago, that despite the uncontrollable determinants of grape growing, winemaking is generally in a constant state of improvement. When I first started collecting wine, I was constantly buzzing about after good deals and good wine as if it would elude me and disappear forever; it ultimately made me a bit nuts. Now, I have no interest in hoarding cases of solid $14 Rioja—instead, my search for the next best thing never stops. Rarely do I buy more than 6 bottles of anything anymore. Unless you’re purchasing legendary wine from the most sought-after vineyards in the world, it’s best to keep the wheels turning, let your palate grow and expand; we’re not at the top yet. (more…)

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A goodbye to a good town. Carey fired-up the stove for the last time tonight and I picked the last bottle of wine out fridge. I poured a glass and sat down on the couch and asked Eli to join me for a talk.

“E, it’s time we told you. If you haven’t noticed, the reason we have been packing the boxes you’ve been chewing holes in for the last month is because we are moving away. That’s right; this is our second to last night.”

He did not react well:

[What…?]

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A worthy wine and a pretty lady on a snowy Vermont night. Not so bad. I like photographing wine bottles—they stand still and don’t talk back—but it can be predictable so I turned my camera on the crazy Aquarian. (more…)

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A sinister snowflake? A sparsely-spined sea urchin? A magnified mini Koosh?  Nope!

The artwork for Alta Maria Vineyards features hand-hewn iron nails used by homesteaders in Santa Maria before the Industrial Revolution introduced mass-produced, machine-cut nails. Despite its lowly function, each nail is unique from the next according to the conditions in which it was made and the expertise of the craftsman.

I can’t remember the last time I hefted a bottle with such artistic presence: lower-case, undersized embossed text on a heavy, matte-finish label with rounded edges, a weighty, sweeping bottle of green-yellow glass, and v-notched accents highlighting the vintage year on the label’s flanks. Badass. (more…)

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Gypsy Dancer first caught my eye when a glut of bottles, the A & G Estates Pinot Noir and the Cuvée Romy Pinot Noir, appeared on WineBid.com. They sat for months, getting chipped away at, before I plucked a bottle for myself. It wasn’t until it got home did I realize what that atypical quantity available for auction meant.

Sadly, with the passing of Gary Andrus, Gypsy Dancer founder and winemaker, the label will be no more. Inventories are being sold off. Ironically, I came across a paragraph on the Gypsy Dancer Facebook page written by Katherine Cole from The Oregonian.[Katherine recently wrote a blurb on  C+C , also in The Oregonian.]

Cheers to the memory of Gary Andrus, the former Olympic skier who founded Archery Summit, and later, Gypsy Dancer, in the Willamette Valley, before dying last year. -Kathernine Cole The Oregonian (more…)

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This intensely fruity and distinctive Port was produced from a specially selected section of our home vineyard on Taplin Road and bottled December 2007. Bottle no. 7446 of 8026.

I have to admit, when Carey and I arrived in Napa on the 3rd day of our honeymoon, I really had no concept of the scene we were stepping into. Months before our arrival a close family friend and restauranteur had arranged tours and tastings throughout the valley. In my head, the lead-up felt like we were being granted permission to pass through the gates of a tightly guarded club, which only proper tugs on proper strings could initiate. This was the allure and mystique Napa Valley held in my imagination. (more…)

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It’s restrained, floral, and light of tannins. Intensely cherried, tobacco and chocolate-packed, with a base of ripe stewed tomatoes. You will notice very little oak, a hefty yogurt-covered raisin, sans the raisin, on the mid-palate, and pencil lead metallic all over the nose and palate.

Everything about this Cabernet is atypical—multidimensional and complex, but fleeting at the same time. Flashes of diverse aromas and flavors advance on the nose and tongue, but modify or fade quickly, so I find myself quickly digging memory banks in those ephemeral moments.

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Shea Wine Cellars, Ken Wright, St. Innocent, Penner-Ash, Alexana, Panther Creek, Berström, Auteur, Sin Qua Non, Loring Wine Co., Raptor Ridge, J.K. Carrier, Elk Cove, Patricia Green, Stevenson Barrie, Westrey, Rex Hill, Broadly and Beaux Frères. All these wineries have, or have had, something in common, and that is: Shea Vineyard, one of America’s great vineyards. I was pretty shocked by the length of the vineyard designation list; only 3 or 4 came to mind before I did some research. (more…)

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Go cheap. Go Washington.

If you find yourself in a grocery store with a $20 bill in your pocket and happen to need a six pack of Bud Light Wheat and a bottle of wine but just don’t feel like swiping the plastic, I have a solution. Actually, a few solutions.

Cheap wine is the most difficult to buy—especially if you don’t want it tasting like sun or sap, or as real as plastic surgery. Best universal bets: Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest Grand Estates of Washington or Bogle (namely the Petite Sirah) of California.

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There are probably only a handful of producers growing and bottling this ancient grape in the United States. Seghesio is obviously one. Caparone Winery and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards are two other players that come to mind.

Aglianico is bold and tannic, late ripening and incredibly age worthy. Most importantly, it gloriously resides under the warm sun of southern Italy—Campania and Basilicata to be exact. I must go visit and report back. Its history is lengthy and tangled, and had something to do with ancient Greece, volcanos, and a wooden boat. But I’ll spare you all that—I took a cue from the sleepiness that overcame me during my Google search.

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We drank a lot of wine this summer—some great, but most good. For the first time in a while, I had little interest in taking risks. Schedules were insane and time was precious—my tolerance for sifting through bargain fails to find the occasional gem was fleeting at best. I found myself relying more on repeats and old favorites. When I ventured off the plantation, my flags were planted in New Zealand and Oregon and my pleasure receptors remained properly topped-off.

In the Pinot Noir category, 2 wines stood out as the best of the summer—and they happen to be neighbors.

And they are:

1. 2008 · Vista Hills · Rollins · Pinot Noir · Willamette Valley, OR
I am attempting to not sound like a wine shill while I offer yet another endorsement for a Vista Hills Pinot Noir. Because it’s fairly unusual for readers to hang on every review as it comes in, I am going to use this opportunity to recap. (more…)

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Track season has passed here in Saratoga Springs. Small town life has returned. Don’t get me wrong; the booze still flows on Caroline Street, just with a more personal, homey vibe. More familiar faces in the room. Restaurants are once again approachable. Reservations for times other than 4:30 and 10:00 can be had, and in some spots, prices leveled back out.

The economic batteries of our local spots are hopefully charged for passage through the off season. It also means the return of Tuesday night wine deals at Maestro’s—last year it was half-priced on any bottle on the list! That included the bottle I’m reviewing tonight.

[After a 3-hour decant, we line Termes and Termanthia up for the initial tasting]

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Monday morning, 7:00 am. I drive 50 miles to Vermont for work, avoid hitting deer in rut while listening to audio books on my Kindle. [The author used the word “phallus” today, which I revealed to a giggly Carey when I got home.]

4:00 pm. I drive 50 miles back, tail the honey wagon toting cow diarrhea to spray on the fields, wave to the Shushan skate kids at the midpoint, and race to get changed to be at the gym by 5:30. I’m too skinny in the arms for sleeveless t’s; I think about that on the 3-minute drive, hoping it will change soon, regardless of whether I decide to wear sleeveless t’s or not.

Home by 7:30, shower, repeat on Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday is much the same, except I stay over in Vermont at my folks’ place to preserve my sanity and my auto, which is sadly in its seasoned years.

As a result, my blog attentiveness has suffered lately. To those who care, I apologize. I have 4 wines, including this one, that I am dying to share with you. Luckily, my notes are pretty thorough and my memory is good. I was clued into this Carneros Pinot Noir after its success at a Friday Purdy’s tasting, which I was unable to attend due to my commute.

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See that bottle with the brown label tucked away in the top-right corner of the above photo? That is also a Pinot Noir, the Block F5 to be exact, also from Cuvaison. That will probably be the last bottle I drink from that particular row. It’s the best of the lot—I thought that 2 years ago when I was still a grounded Pinot Noir fan.

I can only imagine what I would think of it now. My goal is that, by the time I get to it, I will be be an official Cuvaison club member and detaching from this particular bottle will be a breeze. But, forget all that. The Estate Pinot is absolute bliss. I wish I had more. (more…)

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The most elusive, easy to find New Zealand Pinot Noir in NY’s Capital District. I knew nothing about it, other than an empty rack that was all that remained of this wine in three out of the four wine stores I frequent. It’s also $18, which is a lot for a New Zealand Pinot in a casual sense. Perhaps that’s why I have been putting off trying it for a few months, despite really wanting to.

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To start, I had as much fun on Otto’s website as I had drinking their Pinot Noir.

Well, not really. The wine was more fun, but their website was nearly as fun and surprisingly useful—especially to someone who has a limited attention span and shies away from the overly technical. I found their site very Bonny Doon-esque, just without the alien stuff and dizzying moving parts. Lots of flow charts, and flow charts make sense to me (example of sensical charting).

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Carey went through a nesting period in the weeks and months after our marriage. The result, among many various odds and ends around our apartment, is a diverse array of coffee table books. Too many to set on our coffee table without risking a collapse, so we established a few zones around our apartment where they now reside. “A good home has many interesting books,” says Carey. Now that she has pointed that out, I tend to agree.

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I have a shelf in my wine refrigerator dedicated to prematurely rejected and/or implausible Seghesio vintages—’98 Barbera, ’95 and ’97 Sangiovese, ’02-’04 Zinfandel to name a few. Actually, they were only implausible to the fools who gave them up. Enter Rob who swipes them up as they appear on WineBid.com. Since then, I have enjoyed some of the most artful examples of Seghesio’s work over the past 15 years.

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Not a week goes by where I am not dropping by Purdy’s at least twice. Combing over the racks, waiting for something to catch my eye that I may have missed. This past week I noticed an Oakville district Merlot from one of the original Silver Oak founders, Ray Duncan. The bottle that caught my eye was elegant with a paper-less label—just a shiny, gold, negative space Twomey banner and simple, uncluttered white script outlining the pertinent information. But, that mattered little next to the price: $24.99. More importantly, the suggested retail price, an out-of-my-league $54.99.

It wasn’t until I went back today to snap a Twitpic shot with my Blackberry and inquire about my new find that I realized that I’d been walking past this bottle for 6 months. While I haven’t been buying much Merlot this past spring and summer, this shows the importance of a flea market approach to wine shopping.

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2007 · Vista Hills · Treehouse · Estate Pinot Noir · Dundee Hills · Willamette Valley, OR

I let go of my membership to the Justin Wine Society about 6 months ago. Another one of my remaining 3 is on the chopping block. Lean times.

Vista Hills, however, is not going anywhere—ironically, there is no doubt that had they not contacted us a day prior to our visit to Oregon and invited us to swing by, I would have no idea who they are and what makes them special. I adore their Pinot Noir of course, but I also admire their people, their location, and their unique combination of winemaking talent and collaborative cellar work (White Rose, De Ponte, Northwest Wine Company, Panther Creek).

The result is a very small production winery that shows real bottle diversity—not just a cost corresponding pecking order based on fundamentally similar wine. Oh, and everything I’ve seen on club price lists has been under $39. Did I mention I could hit Domaine Serene with a 9 iron from there? (more…)

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I had a bad week of work last week. Well, tough more than bad. Scraped knees, dust-filled nostrils, and trunk full of sweaty t-shirts was the norm Monday thru Friday. But, despite my grungy appearance, I stopped in Exit 9 Wine and Liquor Warehouse for the first time after listening to their radio jingle at least a thousand times on the radio over the last 4 years. I always wanted to go there, but never knew whether to exit off the highway heading east or west. East it is.

They have a nice little New Zealand rack, much better than most, but not quite the range of Purdy’s. I was most surprised by some small production Zinfandels from Cline that I have never seen in a retail store on the east coast.

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I am a huge supporter of direct-to-consumer wine purchasing. While most of my everyday wine consumption is still satisfied through retail channels, more and more of my special bottles are being delivered directly from the source. From a consumer perspective, this has some serious advantages. Access to small production, artisan releases and producers being the most obvious benefit.

Direct to consumer also allows wineries and winemakers to keep costs down at a retail level. Eliminate direct sales through mailing lists and the prices in stores would naturally rise. It is great for both consumers and sellers—wholesalers and governments, on the other hand, are not as happy. Get ready, a fight is in the works—HR 5034. (more…)

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I once heard a wine writer dismiss New Zealand as serious Pinot Noir producer. If I wanted proper Pinot I must look to France, like the Côte-d’Or, and portions of California, Santa Barbara perhaps. But New Zealand and Chile are not excelling at making world class Pinot. Translation: you are an asshole if you buy from these sub-par regions and you are a bigger asshole for not being able to afford the proper ones. Best you just avoid Pinot Noir altogether—rather, enjoy it vicariously through my musings. Feel free to trust your palate, just understand it’s wrong.

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Carey has been having a tough couple of weeks at work, so when I saw this label, which happened to be on an Australian Pinot Noir in my price range, I was able to relate for her. A simple, effective flow chart:

Your former life → START→ Wake up → Think too much→ Get up → Do job → Go home → Open bottle → Good food → Peace on earth!

Not to mention it’s from R Wines, producer of Chris Ringland Ebenezer Shiraz, a wine I have been an ardent supporter of since I first tasted the 2006 vintage.

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New Zealand is filling a personal void by delivering affordable, expressive Pinot Noir that is refreshing during the hot summer months. If I could afford to drink French and American Pinot Noir religiously, I would drink more, but it wouldn’t stop me from exploring.

[Went well with chicken, goat cheese and red onion endive and arugula salad.]

Few grapes inspire such intense reverence and curiosity for me. Pinot Noir is capable of producing such a profound, almost spiritual, representation of the ground on which it’s grown. The diversity of flavor and character this grape is able to demonstrate, even within a single growing region, is astounding, and it’s quite feasible to have a strong preference or aversion toward an entire Pinot-producing region over another. Its scope can be that broad. (more…)

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