The Best of

Bob’s Winings

Tasting Notes from a Beer Drinker


This page contains Winings from the 1st Quarter of the year 2000.

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In the months that I have tasted for this web page, I have finally come across a bottle of wine I just did not like.  In the archives, when I talk about Pinot Noir’s, I might mention they are NOT my style, but they are good wines.  This one was not my style, or, in my opinion, a good wine.

It is the Spadaio Red Tuscan Table Wine $ (23.00).   Yes folks, this is a half of rat friends and cheese.  As you can see from the description, there is little on the bottle, all I know is that it’s a blend, non-vintage and grape names that don’t make the top ten.  This was harsh with a lasting unpleasantness that made me serve this up to the sink drain without even getting a second glass.  We live and learn; I learned that this will not be served to my guests at the next Italian Pasta dinner we host.


Lunch, roast beef and Swiss cheese, business ideas, veggie sticks and a bottle of wine.  What wine, you ask?  A question most spend little time thinking about.  But, not I.  This is a question that hits me about 10:30 AM after my Dunkin' Donuts coffee is finished and it’s getting too close to lunch to buy another.  Yesterday, the choice was one that is harder to find, except on restaurant menus.

I washed my Roast Beef down with a 1997 Qupe Syrah $ $(26.00)   What did we learn last time?  Yes, this is NOT an Australian wine.  No, it comes from the up-and-coming part of California where the weather seems to make this grape thrive.  For those of you who care, find out and let me know what region I refer to.

This wine started out harsh, with a bite and a higher than enjoyable acidity.  Then, it sat in my glass awhile, it oxidized and, low and behold, the beauty of this wine came through.  The fruit lasted a long time and the thick purple color and deep aroma sent me to that little place on Earth I like to call wine heaven.  By my second glass, I was becoming sad, sad in the fact that the other people at lunch were not going to leave me a third fill.  This I like.  If you can find the '97 grab it, the '98 is around, but too young.



As March winds down and the hint of Spring is in the air, we look around to see the glimpse of buds fighting their way to the ends of each tree branch.  The grass seems to be yawning and running the sand out of its sleepy eyes and the air smells fresh.  This feeling has made me uncover the Weber grill and fire up the propane tank.  A favorite in the summer for an easy grill Sunday dinner is the good old London broil.  Not being a food critic, did this cut of meat originate in London?  What does London have to do with a cow in Texas?  From the pasty color and bad teeth of the Brits, they look like they have been protein deficient….  Anyway, since this cut of red meat was on the menu, I wanted to continue the tasting in areas other than California.  So I went to Aussie land for a bottle of good old SHER-RAZZZZZZ.  Yes, they spell it shiraz.  I think of it as Syrah; but all in all it is a great grape that makes some of the finest, full bodied wine.

I enjoyed a 1996 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz $ (11.00) This wine comes from the Barossa Valley and has roots back to the first plantings along the banks of Jacob’s creek in 1847 when all the good people were bad debtors whom the English no longer wanted clogging their jails.  This wine had a deep color and rich aroma, jammy and intense.  I finished this next to the fire as its deep fruit and low acidity made this a wine to serve again.  A very good value at 11.00, it is a wine you can bring to a guest party and not be embarrassed.  I enjoyed this very much and will be buying more. Although I have not saved an animal by drinking this, I have saved my wallet from over priced bad wine. 



Rickie Lake, yes Rickie Lake the talk show host, you owe me.  That’s right, you owe me for the humane thing I did by drinking a bottle of wine.  Yes, by drinking a bottle of wine, I provided funding to save an animal and, since Rickie Lake loves to get arrested by throwing blood on fur and spray painting little old blue-haired ladies in mink stoles, the whole damn PETA organization should reimburse me for the bottle of wine I just drank.

Trying to add variety to our reviews, since the fat guy prefers California cabs, I went to the store with a South African Pinotage in mind.  Pinotage (asked with confusion and an upturned tone)? What in the hell kinda grape is that?  This is a major grape for South Africa and it comes from the seed of the male Pinot Noir impregnating the seeds of the female Cinsaut.  This is South Africa’s equivalent to our loving Zinfandel.  This marriage makes a wine that ranges from a gamayish light berry fruit to a heavy Rhone-style peppery, deep ruby texture.

Now why does Rickie Lake owe me?  Because not only was my wine a drink, 5% of the purchase price goes to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a non-profit African Organization dedicated to protecting the cheetah and its wilderness habitat.  I, my friend, wish I had the money to start the Water Buffalo Wine.

The wine I drank was 1997 Cheetah Valley Pinotage $ (10.99)  From the pour, this wine bore characteristics of a male dominant Pinot Noir grape, light in color and a burgundyish nose.  You know that Pinots are a grape I stay away from because of their tenderness.  This showed a raspberry overtone and would be good for a mixed party of couples where the women want something light and mild in acidity and tannins.  Though this is the style of Pinotage, it is not my favorite.  This is a good value wine at 10.99, but definitely not for the Rhone-lovers among us.  


California, can you believe I spent 5 days in California and only had 2 opportunities to sample the fine nectar from the fruit on the vine?  Since this was a disappointment to one who enjoys wine, I booked myself to San Francisco next month to see a vineyard or two.

The hotel bar I stayed at was pouring a 1997 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon   $9.00 per glass  This wine was a pleasure to drink after dinner in a fine restaurant, Slight tannin with nice fruit.  A solid wine that made you think that a trip to the Valley is needed. 

With dinner one night, at a place called Captain Jacks, I ordered a bottle of 1991 Grgrich Cabernet Sauvignon $$$ (65.00 on the menu).     I once read an article and it stated that if you don’t want to go for your lungs on price, find an off year with bottle age.  The crowd I was with was more impressed with the Samuel Adams than wine, but all insisted they would have a glass.  My wine reputation on the line, I considered the 1994 Caymus or the 1990 Silver Oak.  The Captain was pushing BV Private Reserve George de Latour but then I thought they were not there for the wine.  They were just there to taste, and then glug brews.

This wine was soft and smooth with a strong fruit and a slight off finish.  Of course, they all discounted it as an enjoyable bottle, but that was what I expected. 

To show how much lack of appreciation, the most vocal of the crowd ordered a bottle of 1997 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon  $ (20.00 on the menu)    This wine was not the choice to follow the 1991 Grgich, it showed little fruit and high acidity.  But I do not want to comment too much at this point because the 1991 was over powering this Clos and over ruled it’s chances to show at its best.


Sometimes you never know what to bring to dinner.  Getting together with some friends, I thought I’d treat everyone to a good solid white wine so the women wouldn't complain about the red wine not being to their liking…’s too tangy, it’s hurts the back of my throat….

Little did I know that dinner was going to be a pepper crusted pork roast with apple stuffing.  What a wine mistake.  Thank God I didn’t bring a wimpy white wine.  This would have been the embarrassment of my drinking career (I don’t know if it’s been a career or not as of yet, maybe a part time job). I did have my buddy Steve at the wine place point me to the wine we enjoyed.

A delightful bottle of 1997 Joseph Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne  $$$ (84.00)     This gem is toasty and nutty and fills the mouth with that rich texture that lasts.  A wine I enjoyed with a meal best served with a Bold Syrah or a deep Meritage, but surprisingly Pork Roast with pepper crust did not kill this sexy wine.  The seasoning would have overpowered any white wine I could think of from my limited experience.  Though this wine did not enhance such a strong meal, it didn’t shy away either.  I wish I could afford another bottle to give this one a shot with a fish dish almandine.



Wine and cheese have been bedfellows since man discovered some mold is good.  Mold, especially the one so present in Blue Cheese, has a sharp bite that needs a wine with a backbone to stand up to.  So tonight I selected a wine from the up and coming Santa Barbara region that defined itself on the label as a wine fancied after the great French Rhone’s.  I selected:

A 1996 IO- yes folks that is the whole name, $$ (30.00)-   That, folks, is the best I can due for a half of a mouse.  This wine, patterned after the goddess who captivated Jupiter, needs some time to mellow.  Acid overtook the fruit through most of the taste as I sipped my first glass.  The Blue Cheese did compliment this wine well enough to give off the promise that time will bring this one to show.  This wine is composed of 64% Syrah, 19% Grenache and 17% Mourvedre.  More Grenache, less Mourvedre.   Who can even pronounce Mourvedre let alone want to drink it?  OK, but not one to write home about.


Salmon, it always has me caught on what wine to have.  Sunday dinner, Salmon cooked in white wine lemon and butter.  Logical thought… white wine.  But wait, that article in Food and Wine magazine touted a Pinot Noir.  But wait, Burgundy’s are not my grape, too finicky, too expensive, and too hard to decide.  So back to thought one, white wine.  Let me see, this bottle looks good, I should give it a try.  I gave it to an associate as a gift, they said it was good, let me see if they were just being polite.

Meritage was the word this weekend, this one is a white Meritage

Langtry 1997  $ (16.00)    As I read the label, I am intrigued, “ considered to be the most romantic wine,” French oak barrel fermented, perfect synergy of sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.  I didn’t think Sauvignon Blanc handled oak well.  A vineyard once owned by the actress Lillie Langtry…the first single-proprietor American Viticulture Appellation in California.  And the best words on the label, Table suggestions- grilled scallops, herb quiche and smoked salmon.  I’m in.  This was an enjoyable wine, low acidity and good fruit.  Its color was golden and it lasted long.  A definite keeper for the white wine lovers in the house, well the ones that come visit.  I never heard the word synergy used in relationship to wine, but the combination of these grapes in whatever percent (not spelled out on the label) made this the perfect compliment to my dinner.  Thank you Lillie.


A bottle of red, a bottle of white… whatever kinda mood you’re in tonite……I always wanted to be a song writer, but all the good ones are written.  I fetched the Californians from the cellar this weekend and warmed up on Friday night with a white wine, I knew I only wanted a glass or two so why waste the good stuff.

A California Blended white from Francis Coppola 1998 Bianco  $ (8.95)  which represents 1.5 drunken mice buddies and cheese eaters.  This is a good wine for under 10 bucks and would go fine on a hot Sunday afternoon.  This wine is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and Malvasia.  Malvasia, what in the hell kind of grape is that?  Mr. C must have had his winemaker up at one of those Hollywood parties and the dreamed this one up at 2 AM .  It is a fresh, fruity taste and a lunch in the park with some Brie and bread would find this a way to refresh you.

On to a red, which turns out to be a blend containing grapes I have heard of in the fashion that Bordeaux intended for grapes to be blended, here we simply call it a Meritage (remember it rhymes with heritage).  I am sitting here enjoying a Franciscan Oakville Estates 1996 Magnifical  $$ (26.00)    This is a solid 2 bunch of drunken mice with the price just borderline 2 $.  I bet if I shopped, I could get this one into the 1 $ class which would make this a Bucky Dent.  An all around good wine, not a super star, but consistent.  This wine, when poured, gave off a magnificent Cabernet aroma.  But the acid at this point still over powers the fruit, making me look for one to put a years time longer in the bottle and this will be a pleasant wine to grace the dinner table.  


Well, this weekend, I took one for the team.  Trying to be well-rounded and as broad as possible, I faced my biggest fear.  I walked into my local wine store and spoke with Steve.  I told him, not by choice, I needed to buy a French wine.  As you know by the reviews section, California Reds are the wine John and I dabble in most often.  Yet, needing to give our readers what they want, France is the place where all this grape crushing became world famous.  So off to the French section of the store and off to the ATM for a pocket full of dollars to make my purchase.  Being conservative, I crossed the French White Wine line and saved myself about  $50-100. 

The reservations I have are that I am not a white wine kinda guy, neither foreign nor domestic.  This put me at a state of heightened trepidation.  With Steve’s help, I received a quick overview and as most things in my live, I took the road less traveled.  The hot choice was 1997 White Burgundy, however, I went to the Southern Rhone region first and selected a Beaucastel Blanc.

The wine I enjoyed was a 1996 Chateau de Beaucastel  Chateauneuf-Du-Pape  $$ (36.00)

Right from the start, the golden color of this wine was very impressive, comprised of 80% Roussanne grapes with the balance a mix of Grenache Blanc, picarddan, bourboulene and clairette.  This was a red wine hiding in a white grape cloak.  I am not one to be able to describe the scents and tastes in flowery terms, but the immediate scent of pear was right up front.  This full body wine coated my mouth and slid south with a silken texture.  I would love to serve this with next year's Thanksgiving dinner; I think this wine would stand up well with turkey and gravy, potatoes and corn.  The impressive quality I found was the length the wine lingered in my mouth after swallowing each sip.  This will find its way to the French white rack for times I want a red wine but don’t want to stain my tongue.


Well, I had to do it; I had to balance my system with a bottle of Red last night.  I had a business associate come over for dinner and he enjoys red wine.  His choice is a Wolf Blass Cab from down under, which I do not have in my cellar, so I gave him a choice from the racks.  We wanted something from France, which I have very few.  I pulled out a good solid selection from the Rhone Valley.  Whether he complimented the wine out of politeness or enjoyment, I didn’t much care because it was a delight to me.

We enjoyed a 1994 Paul Jaboulet Aine  Hermitage- La Chapelle  $$$ (64.00)   As this wine opened up, it revealed a full-bodied gem that was a pleasure from the first sip to the last drops.  Strong fruit with mellowed tannins made this a treat.  I only wish I was dining on a medium rare rack of lamb with garlic mashed potatoes.  This was the pride of my French reds, as you know I run from the cost of French wines, I stammer at their names, Cote Rotie, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage… Though I can’t pronounce them, they are a pleasure to drink.  


From this point forward I am thinking of changing my column title to "The Dead Guy’s Winings."  Over the weekend I had to attend a wedding of someone I didn’t know in a place I had never been.  But knowing a wedding means drinks; I went to see what wine would be served.  Before entering the reception, I stopped at the bar in the lobby of the hotel and purchased a glass of California cabernet.

At $6.50 per glass, I will venture to guess at the cost of the bottle---- What I enjoyed was a glass of 1997 Robert Mondavi Coastal,  $, .  This wine was delicious, showing a lot of up-front fruit and just enough tannin to stiffen its backbone.  I think this one will be delicious 2 years from now and at a reasonable price, I think this is a great weekend wine for casual drinking.

The wine they served with dinner did not get my attention for the enjoyment meter.  It was a 1997 Vichon, cost unknown to me at this point, but I will update this later on, .  This wine paled in comparison, showing little fruit and harsh tannins.  This leaves a lot to be desired.  If I were the host, I would have brought in the Coastal from the bar.

Recently, I broke my 48-hour rule of my sink drinking the wine I can’t finish.  Saturday evening, my wife decided to make Beef Burgundy, and I was supposed to run out and get a cheap bottle of Pinot Noir for the backbone of this gravy.  Being tired and lazy, I ran downstairs and located the only Pinot Noir I own.  Knowing she only needed a quarter cup, and feeling like sitting down after dinner with a good glass of wine, I brought it upstairs for an experience that I am savoring. 

Being scared off of Burgundy because of their delicate nature and high price, I had the best experience since my tasting for this Web page began.  It was …………….. 1997 Iron Horse Pinot Noir. $$ (25.99)   This wine, after breathing in the glass, unveiled rich cherry flavor and a finish that lasted 3 days (since I saved this and enjoyed a glass with Sunday dinner and Monday dinner and Tuesday dinner.)  At $25.99 I think this is a winner and as the label challenges “This delicious wine is naturally rich, brimming with dark berry fruit, silky texture and lingering finish.  This wine is delicious now, but should have great aging potential-if only you can wait.”  My next trip to the store will find a bottle or two of this gem walking down to my basement, calling the top shelf of rack number 2 home for the next several years.  


I was faced with a dilemma Thursday night as I flipped through the 7 HBO channels searching for something other than the 4th viewing of the Sapranos.  But caught in the culture of the moment, I watched Tony sipping wine with a beautiful Italian woman and the voices started again.  You know the voice I’m speaking of, the one calling out from the wood of my wine racks, “Bob, Bob, we're down here and you haven’t visited since Sunday.  Bob, you haven’t come and picked a bottle, rearranged us by date and grape.  Bob, open the basement door and turn on the light.  Bob, walk down the stairs and get the flash light.  Bob, visit  us in our new home”  So it wasn’t but a minute later, I was down the stairs, flashlight in hand (you see I have a closed off stairwell in my fieldstone basement that is the perfect out of the way place for my bottles to hibernate).

As I turned the corner and shinned the light on my racks, I stopped cold in my tracks, hit in the chest with that “Thursday Night Wine Decision”.  You see, work comes early on Friday and I am one whom strictly adheres to the rule-what doesn’t get consumed within 48 hours goes down the kitchen drain.  Knowing that I could not consume a bottle at 10:00PM and function at 6:00AM, I felt my heart pound with trepidation; do I go back upstairs empty handed and lay tossing all night wondering what that wine would have tasted like, or do I bite the bullet and uncork a bottle knowing the majority will be sewer bound in the morning?

Then, as if my hand was guided by the wine God himself, my flashlight shown on a bottle whose label boasted “ideal for drinking now or for short to medium term cellaring.”  Well, this bottle wasn’t long for the keep so upstairs we went to see if Tony and the girl enjoy desert.

The wine I opened was 1998 Penfold Koununga Hill  52% Shiraz-48% Cabernet Sauvignon $ (12.00)   Drink now?  Oh no, Jerry.  Cellaring short term is what I need to do.  Whoever said that this wine is ready to be consumed was mistaken.  The Cabernet still young carries acids and tannin that stifle the length and beauty of the shiraz.  I gave myself a second chance before spilling this one out.  After a night on the counter with maximum oxidation providing a glimpse into the future, this wine still carried acid levels that reminded one of a sour apple.  


Living in Northern NJ affords wine lovers like myself the distinct opportunity to enjoy a new bottle of crushed grapes in a relaxed atmosphere.  This is not a commercial for the establishment, but JR Tobacco in East Hanover, NJ is the perfect place to continue the never-ending task of finding that perfect wine.  The Home Depot for cigars and retail wine, JR is set up for one to purchase a bottle off the shelf, hand it to the waitress and retreat to the comfort of a well worn wing back leather chair.  Enveloped by the soft cow skin, surrounded by hunter green walls and rich Mahogany trim, one is reminded of the speak easy of the 20’s.

In my favorite leather chair near the fireplace, I experienced 2 wines for my first time:

1996 Ristow a big California Cab $$- (45.00)    This wine poured out rich in color, almost plum purple with a strong nose of fruit from the get go.  The tannins were mellow giving this fullness on the palette.  I enjoyed this wine and it complimented the blue cheese and pear slices to perfection.

1995 Gianni Paoletti California Cab-$$ (45.00)   I’m glad I had this one before the Ristow because this cab would not have held up to the full body of the other bottle.  Medium color with tannins ever present, I will seek this one out to age in my basement and try again at another time.  This wine could not withstand the onslaught of the sharpness in the blue cheese and held its own with the Brie.  A good wine, but dollar for dollar, not as bold and powerful as the aforementioned Ristow.  


As I find myself on most evenings sitting in front of the tube, my thoughts wander down to my basement wondering what delights await me in my wine rack. As any good wine drinker knows, you must spend hundreds of dollars on a good racking system so you can categorize your wines. I have my largest area reserved for California reds, and smaller sections devoted to California whites, French whites, French reds, Italian Reds, and an "all other" area for some Spanish, Australian, Chilean and South African samples.

Last night I journeyed to Spain for a taste of Tempranillo out of the Rioja region. I selected a1993 Vina Alberti -$

As soon as I opened this bottle, and looked at the color, I knew this was going to be disappointing, the wine showed very thin and the taste followed suite. I love a good Rioja in summertime while sitting on the porch on a Sunday evening. The wines usually show a great fruit flavor and stand up well to add sliced peaches and orange slices. But this wine had little depth. For a Reserva wine, this will not be on my purchase list anytime soon. I always look for red wines that I wouldn’t care if my old aunt wants to add ice to during our next house party. This one qualifies. Ice might actually dress this one up.



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