The Best of

Bob’s Winings

Tasting Notes from a Beer Drinker


This page contains Winings from the 2nd Quarter of the year 2000.

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As my partner and friend always says, "Wine and tech-head go together."  Unfortunately, I am drinking wine out of frustration with technology and not out of celebration of technology.  To stay connected in this fast paced world, I have ordered DSL service for my home.  I swallowed the bait; hook, line and ¾ of the sinker.  Fast service, use the phone and cruise the web simultaneously", read the ad.  They don’t warn you of the computer science degree necessary to configure your system to make it all work.  Maybe it’s just me, but I have been on the phone with tech help for hours.  I have been escalated to tech level one, and still no resolution.  So what did I do as I typed this out?  I opened a bottle of French wine to keep me from throwing my DSL modem out the 3rd floor window.

1997 M. Chapoutier La Sizeranne $$ (38.00)   To my knowledge, which I admit is very little, M. Chapoutier is the only producer which prints it’s labels in brail, from their low end Bellaruse, to the finer wines like La Sizeranne and La Chappell.  This, friends, is a kick-ass wine for those of us that like it big and bold and chewy.  This is not for the weak of heart or for those who get loopy on white zin.  From the strong fruit aroma of the syrah grape to the big, bold, mouth-filling texture of this wine, it is one to experience.  This wine will impress your friends and have them asking you to bring the wine to the next dinner party.  Even though this big wine is a 97, you can enjoy it now or save it for years to come.

1997 R.H. Phillips Toasted Head $ (16.67)  After my experience with a $5.99 bottle from R.H Phillips, I thought I would give them a shot at something more respectable.  This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet, 45% Syrah, for those of use that like the big wines.  This was much better than the $5.99 wine, but still did not have the character to hang with the big boys.  This is a wine with a better nose than taste.  I do not think I will be buying this again.  It just did not have the length and full fruit you would expect from a Cab/Syrah.


I stopped into a small store in my town that advertised a discount on wine during the week.  Being an opportunist, I took them up on their offer.  The woman behind the counter flashed a toothless grin and a warm welcome.  I did what any good wino does and found several selections that I was familiar with and checked the pricing.  As expected, a bit higher than the places I normally frequent, but with the discount it would come out the same. 

There wasn’t a large variety to choose from, so I looked for something that would go well with the fish I was having for dinner.  I selected 2 wines from different countries and headed to the register.  As the toothless lady rang me up, she asked me if I’d let her know how my Australian selection tasted.  “You know, I think that winery is owned by that model, Allie McPherson.  I always wanted to try that one.  Come back and tell me how you liked it.”  I smiled politely, nodded, and headed out the door.  Now I’m not one to follow the super model world, but I think she was referring to "Elle McPherson."  Naturally, I had to open that one and see if it tasted like…

1999 McPherson Chardonnay $ (7.95)  1999, in my opinion, is going to be a great year for wine, so I was interested in seeing if Australia will be a strong player.  Maybe this isn’t a good example since the $7.95 price is low for good Aussie wine.  It gave off a strong, peachy nose and the fruit was there in the first taste.  The disappointment in this wine is that the taste did not last.  There was little left after 30 seconds on my palette.  The only reason I added the half mice is in the hopes that Elle did stomp these grapes and the fact that the price was so low in the wine world these days.

1996 Mulderbosh Chardonnay $ (17.99)   This wine hails from the award-winning Stellenbosch Winery in South Africa.  After buying this wine from the toothless lady, I saw this in several other stores.  The write up is that this Chardonnay borders on the power of white Burgundy.  Liking full-bodied wines, I opened this for my Saturday Night wine experience and was disappointed by the preconception that this was going to stand up to a Latour.  The wine did not carry the thick, creamy texture of the white Burgundies, nor did it have the power and silky smooth finish.  Had I not been thinking Burgundy, this was an OK chardonnay.  It finished a bit too harsh for me but the fruit acid balance was good.


I reached that age, you know, when it’s time to rotate the tires and check under the hood.  So I found a local doctor and had blood drawn, waited a week, and Saturday I went back for the results.  Now, what the hell does this all have to do with wine?  Hang in there, I have a long way to make it all work, but I will, I promise.  So after being poked, yes I mean poked and prodded and jabbed (it’s been too long for a tetanus shot), they came to the reading of the blood work. In general all is well.  The only bad news came from the cholesterol results.  Well my number is 265, which is not good, as we all know.  But as we look into the details, the positive is that the good cholesterol reading is above average.  Yes, the good cholesterol count for the average person my age is 40, mine is 61.  So the doctor said that it is all related to genetics.  I told him that my mother’s cholesterol number was over 400, so genetics can’t be the reason.  Yes folks, I am telling myself that it is the love of red wine that has my good cholesterol count 50% above the average male of my age.  So you see there is a medical benefit, in my personal opinion, of which I have no authority to claim, but rather it is my sole opinion that my good cholesterol count is due to the love of red wine…

So when I returned from the doctor’s office, I went to the basement and brought up a bottle of:

1995 Cain Cuvee $(16.00)    This wine is made from 79% cabernet sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 4% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc.  Yes, a minor sibling to Cain Five, but for the price, this wine has a good Cabernet nose and a smooth, fruity finish. This wine actually got better the second day as it oxidized.  The first glass or two carried a bit more tannin then I enjoy, but the tannin softened on Sunday and I drank this with my salmon dinner.  Yes, more fish, less lamb in the diet.   This can only mean that the 1995 Cain Five is superb.



Well, I stand here before you with egg on my face.  I am amending a rating I did earlier.  Today, we visited friends and I brought with me a bottle of IO, a California Rhone style wine that I previously had rated 1.5 drunken mice.  However, tonight, as I enjoyed this wine and watched it open up very nicely, I felt I had to come back and increase the rating to 2.5 drunken mice.  Yes, folks, I allowed my wine senses to be objective and open-minded.  I now salute it with 2.5 drunken mice…

Last night, dinner was easy so I grabbed a bottle of wine from the basement and wanted to comment on:

1997 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon $ (18.00)  Call me a softy, but since this wine is from California and under 20 bucks, I feel like I needed to add the extra half drunken mice.  This is a good solid Cab that smells like a Cab and drinks like a Cab.  This wine can be a great one to bring to friends or serve pre-dinner.  I like this one, but think I will like it more in a few years as the tannins soften.  Actually, half way through the first glass, I was ready to complain about the harshness of the tannins and how they were overriding the fruit, but this oxidized well and brought out a robust flavor that convinced me to pour up a glass the next day.  This will drink well in about 2 years, but buy it now before the price makes it above 20 bucks.

An update to my story about the visit to Silver Oak: Today I received a bottle of 1995 Silver Oak, Napa, as a gift from the winery for the trouble they caused me during my trip to California.  The wine is in my basement and resting well after its long journey.  Because of the fine way they chose to make up for the confusion of my tasting, I will remain a fan, though it will NOT taint my reviews as any good commentator must stay neutral.  If the wine sucks, I will tell you…


I was in Southern Rhone today, or should I say, Southern Rhone is in me.  As I look for that spicy, peppery wine, the Chateauneuf-Du-Pape grabs my attention.  And as marketing goes, so did this bottle.  As it lay there on the shelf, though the label said 1997, it looked more like a hand blown bottle that had been maturing in a wine cellar for years, letting the richness of the fruit reach its finest hour.  Call me a sucker, I bought the wine.

1997 Pere Anselme La Fiole du Pape $ (17.99)   As I took in the aroma of this wine, it spoke to me, in French.  Come taste my spicy berry flavor and the long lingering pleasure that a full French Red wine has to offer.  So I tasted and was disappointed that the flavor did not have the power that the nose of this wine had.  I expected more, but as I swirled the wine in my glass, the color was not as deep and dark as other Chateauneuf-Du-Papes that I have enjoyed.  This wine was OK, not gooood, definitely not great.  If I were you, I would leave a glass at the table so the rich aroma will make you think of Rhone, Southern Rhone.  


1996 Cuvee du Vatican Cote du Rhone $ (8.95)  As Rhones go, this was a good bottle, full of spice and fruit.  The only down side to this wine is that it did not have the length to make this a great buy.  Not too tannic, not too heavy, not too long.  This wine can be a fun bottle for the porch on a summer’s eve, but will not make the dinner table. 

1997 McDowell Syrah $ (9.99)    For under 10.00 this was a good hearty, spicy, nosey syrah.  I had this as a compliment to teriyaki marinated London broil.  This wine is a best buy of the Dead Guy.  This showed a lot of blackberry fruit.  Don’t be afraid to buy it and bring to a friend’s house.  Buy it, drink it, and enjoy it….

1997 The OJAI Vineyard Syrah $ (24.99)      Hold on to your hats, this is a winner!  The power of this wine is evident in the  statement that came from my brother-in-law sitting next to me at the dinner table, “That smells real fruity”.  Now that comment came as my glass sat breathing in front of my plate.  The aroma from this was full and rich and powerful enough for the guy next to me to enjoy it.  This wine was deep purple and soft and full and chewy and and and… I recommend this wine for all those full-bodied wine lovers.  This is not for the Chardonnay sippers in the crowd, they would not know how to swallow this one.  Rich and creamy, carrying the weight of heavy cream on your tongue, this is a gem of a wine.


1996 BV Signet Ensemble $ (18.00)  Ladies and gentleman, just as you had given up hope that there were no  good wines from California under $20.00, look no further.  As the new wave in California is going, the Rhone blend surge is heading up and down the coast.  This wine, folks, is a winner. The fruit aroma and berry flavors make this wine drinkable NOW.  I call this a cross over wine, one that you can drink for fun with friends at $18.00, but has the body and legs to be a great compliment to a hearty dinner in the dining room.  This will be on my list of cellaring a case to be able to grab for those times when you are heading to someone’s home (a person you like).  Buy it, drink it, enjoy



1997 Vers Cras Domaine Cordier Pere & Fils Pouilly-Fuisse  $$ (28.00?).   Pride of Maconnais, this white wine was light and pleasant, with simple fruit peaches and citrus and not a long finish.  For me, the heavy oaked white Burgundies are tops.  This is a simpler wine that went well with the lemon sole we had with dinner.  It would not stand well with a cream sauce or much seasoning.  This is the top of the food chain for Macon and, as Pouilly’s go, this was not bad and could bring in another ½ mouse if I were a white wine lover.

1994 Bon Terra Syrah $ (21.00)   This Northern California syrah had a nose that almost kept me from drinking it.  The initial aroma coming off the glass reminded me of dirty diapers.  I seriously thought of dumping this before the first sip.  The first sip had me somewhat disappointed also.  I let the glass sit for a while and came back to a very flavorful wine.  The tannin mellowed and the pepper-rich berry taste of syrah came racing through.  I enjoyed this wine more the second day as oxidation helped it to reach its full potential.  A great wine to enjoy with a grilled red meat dish.

1998 KWV Pinotage $ (8.99)  I give this 3 mice not because it is a wine on the level with world famous California Cabs or Bordeaux’s.  I give this 3 mice because it is a great value wine.  For 9 dollars, you can enjoy a very drinkable young wine with low tannins and good forward fruit.  This is a porch wine, to drink with friends, not a formal dinner table wine. It is a wine that is reasonable by the case and will go with a wide variety of dishes from heavier fish to meats without too many spices.  Buy it, drink it, enjoy it and share it with your friends.


I have two to talk about today, the second one is easy and it’s a white wine, I never thought I would be saying that.  The first one, though, is a bit of a tough call so I will lay it out.  On Sunday, I went to an engagement party and, as a guest, was subject to the wine of the host.  I nosed around and found a very limited red selection.  Tougher yet was the fact that 2 large bottles were Merlot; nice red for those who wear panties.  But there in the back was a bottle of Cabernet, so I helped myself to the corkscrew and opened it up.  Now the thing I feel is so unfair is that I didn’t research the price, but I will take a stab, and I had to drink this out of a plastic cup.  So here goes….

I drank a 1996 Foppiano Cabernet Sauvignon $ (21.00 ?)    I will be generous and say that this wine will be enhanced with a large bowl glass.  This did show soft tannins and decent fruit and I will have to buy a bottle just to review it on par with the rest of the wine I drink, not in plastic.  If the price for this is higher than the 21 dollars I think, then the value of this wine is not there, but if I get a few cents back from a 20 dollar bill and drink this out of a glass, I will rate this as a great value wine.

The white wine is much easier for me to talk about.  Two years ago, I met one of those guys who talk as if they run the world.  You know, the guy who makes a statement like this, “Let me tell you, this is the best…”

You know something, even if I drink a bottle of wine from now until the day I die, I don’t think I will ever say this is the best anything.

I do have to say, though I am NOT a white wine drinker, I did enjoy this bottle of wine which I was given by such a person.

I am sipping on a 1998 RomBauer Chardonnay $$ (28.95)  It’s not too hard to find a good bottle of wine from the Carneros section of California.  This wine, from the fruity nose to the low acidity, had me enjoying this from the first taste.  I had a pasta dish tonight that my wife and daughter whipped up and the grated cheese did not overpower this wine.  It has length and a smooth finish.  The fruit lies all over this wine and my reluctance was to drink the 1998.  If the 98 was this good, I will be searching the shelves for any remaining 97, THE year for  California wine.  Although I will not drink a lot of white wine, this is a dining room table wine, not a front porch wine.  This will be a lobster complement.  Not White Burgundy, no, this is a rich, oaked California Chard full with ripe fruit.


I’m drinking tonight, and you know why…because I just got back from Atlantic City.  No, I did not lose money, I didn’t even gamble.  No, the reason I am drinking is to kill the pain.  I went to the Atlantic City Convention Center and visited The Boat and Yacht Show.  Why is there so much expendable cash and I have none of it?  The highlight of the day was when I got to take my shoes off and board the Viking Sport Cruiser 50.  This was a steal at $730,000 base price.  The Yacht was 1.1 million.  Last month at the in-water boat show, they took 35 orders.  That’s why I’m drinking.  I took out financing for a 7-foot rubber raft, in 5 years, it will be mine.

So with an ocean of disappointments, I went to the island that makes great red wine for less than California. Yes I opened a bottle of 1996 Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon $ (23.00)    This wine comes from the world renowned Coonawarra region.  This wine has more to give over the next few years, this should be opened in 2 more years.  The tannin cuts into the fruit a bit too much at this time.  The promise is there for this to be a great wine, but in 2 years the fruit will be graceful and the body and structure of this big, little b, cab has to offer.  I liked this wine to drown my sorrows; I will love this wine over the next few years.  The nose is all fruit and at 14% alcohol, this wine is one for serious drinkers.  If there is any left in any of the stores you see, pick it up and lay it down.


For dinner tonight, I opened a bottle from the South, what, the South you say?  Home of Jefferson, wine from the land where the colonists drafted the words to forge this great nation?  No, further South, Peach wine, was it Georgia Peach Wine?  No—further South.  Florida??  NO, no, no, I’m taking about the land of wine opportunity where yuppie-dom hasn’t jettisoned pricing beyond reach.  The place that in 1997 had a great crop of Cabernet Sauvignon.  The place? Chile.

 Yes, even my cheap bottle of Chilean wine was good.  I enjoyed a bottle of  1997 Los Vascos (8.99)   This was not the reserve which sells for about 14.95, this was the basic crop and it is a good wine to have any time. You don’t mind opening this one any day of the week.  Low tannins and decent fruit flavors make this a table wine for causal suppers at home or when visiting friends.  Part of the Domaines Barons De Rothschild (Lafite) property, I recommend this to all and for those with a few extra bucks in their pocket, treat yourself to the 1997 Los Vascos Reserve, this was a strong year for the cab grape South of the Border.  


I am in need of help from my fellow wine drinkers, will someone please explain the bottle I had this weekend.  I’ll get right into it so you can see my confusion.

I had a 1996 Shooting Star Cote de Columbia $ (9.99)  Ok, here we go, it states on the label that it is made from Washington State Grenache, the cork carries the Steele Winery logo and the back label reads “bottled by Shooting Star Wines, Lake County Kelseyville California.  So my question, is this a Calif, or Washington State entry into the category??

This wine typifies why I think Grenache is a blending grape.  This has a real fruity flavor, low tannin, low acidity, by no depth and no length.  The fruit comes and goes much too quickly for a wine to accompany food.  But I will say, for hacking around on a Saturday with casual wine drinkers, this is a good value wine.  Do not serve this to the company that would have high hopes for a Rhone when they saw the Cote de Columbia on the label.



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