The Best of

Bob’s Winings

Tasting Notes from a Beer Drinker


This page contains Winings from the 3rd Quarter of the year 2000.

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1996 Joseph Phelps Le Mistral $ (20.00)    A California wine from a major producer for 20 dollars, a needle in a hay stack.  This one is a great buy.  As a Rhone Blend, there is fruit and spice and complexity to this wine.  From the first taste, this wine was smooth, and flavorful.  It is hard to find, so when you see it, buy several bottles.  Once you taste this one, you will be glad you still have several bottles in the basement.  Your friends will be impressed and you will feel great that it only cost a Jackson.


Since I have not heard from my wino friends on their most memorable wine experiences, I figure I must start it.  Tonight, I had one of those wine moments that will burn long in my memory.  On a business trip in Chicago, I got together with customers for dinner at the world famous Harry Carey’s.  I made the selection because I wanted a Big-Ass steak and this is one for the books.  I also noticed on the wall of the restaurant that they have received the Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence from 1990-1999.  I selected the NY strip with a spicy peppercorn topping.  The wine choice for such a dinner??  Anyone?  Anyone?  Buehler?  Anyone?  Yes, that’s right, a Chateauneuf du Pape.  Unfortunately, this wine was not flavorful enough to bother writing down the name.  Then, several other people that we were expecting showed up and we retired to the bar area and ordered another bottle.  As we caught up on business issues, the wine spilled out an aroma that we all knew would be great.  The wine opened up, conversation flowed and the hours passed with laughter.  Bob Seger and CSN played in the background and the wine warmed us and made the conversation flow easily.  It was one of those times that conversation, company and the wine all worked together to make for a great night.

1994 Les Nobles River Hermitage $$ (though 54.00 at the restaurant- I guess this is a 30.00 bottle retail)     Rich fruit flavor, full chewy body, and a smooth finish put this Northern Rhone at the top of my list.  This wine gave a strong fruit aroma from the first swirl.  It warmed me in my stomach and showed strong jammy fruit from start to finish.  The only disappointment I had was seeing the empty bottle in front of me and not having ordered this wine with my meal.  God Speed Harry Carey.


1998 Lolonis Carignane $ (14.99)     This grape is a tough one to stand-alone.  Originating in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France, the Greek winemaking Lolonis brothers planted this in Redwood Valley, California.  Typically a blending grape, this could be dull and earthy.  This wine changed in the glass.  Unfortunately, it went from a fruity, smoky-cedar aroma and flavor, to a muted wine.  If the bottle held up like the first glass, this would have gotten 2.5 winos from me. 

1998 Bogle Petite Sirah $ (9.99)   Not much to say, there was a watery color to this wine and a faint nose.  The fruit was weak and the finish was short.  Why waste words, this was not enjoyable for me.



1997 Chateau Cabrieres Chateuneuf du Pape $ (19.00)  From the first look at this wine in my glass, it had all I wanted; a rich deep color, a spicy nose and good legs.  Now I know that legs do not carry any significance, but I still love to see them stream down the glass early.  This was a good value wine.  At less than 20 dollars, it had great fruit flavors, a peppery after-draft in the back of my throat, and a smooth finish.  I enjoyed this with a rack of lamb and garlic mashed potatoes.  Red meats and smoked fish will also compliment this wine well.


1998 French Creek Ridge Viognier  Although the bottle boasts that Pennsylvania will soon be the Rhone of the United States, that will not happen in my wine drinking days.  Viognier is a backbone white grape of the Rhone Region and should be refreshingly floral and fruity.  The disappointment with this wine comes from its short length on aroma and taste.  The hint is there, but it fades quickly and leaves a watery taste behind.  A good grape, not concentrated enough to challenge the likes of E. Gigal from the northern Rhone.


1997 Beaulieu Vineyard George DeLatour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon  $$$ (65.00)    This is a big, bold wine that fills your mouth and warms your throat from the first taste.  The only regret I have is that I tasted it so young.  This wine needs time to rest, quietly, in the corner of the cellar, hibernating for the next 5 years to let the tannins mute and the heritage of this wine to blossom.  As the bottle opened it gave indications that this will mature well and be a wine to serve to special dinner guests to complement a gourmet meal.  Fine crystal only…


I was given a book recently entitled “Wine Memories: Great Writers on the Pleasures of Wine”.  It is a small book, quick to read, with labels of memorable wines from writers Art Buchwald, Ernest Hemingway, Calvin Trillon, Francis Coppola, Spalding Grey, John Steinbeck, Truman Copote, and Henry Miller…. to name a few.  The thing I enjoyed most about it was that I have tasted 4 of the labels featured in the book.  Not bad for a beginner.  Remembering back to high school English class, these writers eloquently paint pictures into our imagination with the words and phrases they select.  Since English was never my strong suit, this was a great book to read but I needed a thesaurus to understand the content in several of the essays.  Since we all enjoy wine and, hopefully, we all can remember that dinner, that setting, that experience that forever branded us as grape-aholics,  I would like to hear your stories, comments and blurbs.   I’d like to  feature a wine experience each week from those who read our pages.  Email your favorite wine experience to us or post it in the guest book.  


In the spirit of keeping this web review section as diverse as my liver can afford, I had a new experience recently.  A colleague of mine gave me several bottles of wine from the eastern part of the United States.  In my duty to the faithful readers, I have now tasted a wine which has rolled two new experiences into one.  First, the wine is 100% Cabernet Franc.  As a blending grape, I have enjoyed this many times over.  Second, this bottle was produced in the Southeastern part of Pennsylvania.  The label tells me this is the “premier wine-growing region of the state”.  The French Creek Ridge Vineyard is located in Elverson, PA and they list their phone number as 610-286-7754. 

1997 French Creek Ridge Cabernet Franc  The nose on this one was quite unique in that I was first greeted with the familiar scent of Cabernet Sauvignon.  The difference was that as the wine oxidized, a sweet scent reminiscent of toasted marshmallows stayed through the remainder of the glass.  The wine was fruitful and smooth, but lacks the depth to stand alone for the red wine lover in me.  I do have a bottle of their Merlot which I will be trying soon.  Maybe I can blend the two and lay the foundation for Pennsylvania Bordeaux.   


1997 Cuvee de La Couthiet $ (12.00)  This wine, not being from one of the major regions of the northern Rhone, shows promise. It starts off harsh but mellows nicely in the glass with time.  The short fall is that it never becomes the rich, thick fruity wine of its sister regions.  An OK wine but not one to rave about.


As the summer comes to a close and the last 3-day weekend is upon us for sometime, what better way to enjoy and celebrate than a bottle of wine.  I stopped in a local store on my way home from work and, once again, was “LABELIZED”.  Labelized, the word I use for being intrigued enough by the description on the back of the bottle to buy the wine.  As you know, I am always in search of the California value - flavorful, hard to find, and less than 20 dollars.  As I read the description and looked twice at the price, I figured I nailed a winner.  WRONG- disappointment came from the first sniff.  What promised to be a concentrated, well-balanced long-lasting wine was anything but, in my opinion.

1998 Castle Rock Rhone Series California Cuvee Syrah $ (9.99)   You would be better served buying lotto tickets with the 10 spot, or heading to the Meadowlands and boxing the exacta in the fifth race.  As the label correctly states,” the superb Syrah grape originated in the southern Rhone Valley of France.”  They go on to say, “ their wine is the most exciting Syrah to be introduced by a California Winery.”  The fruit was not rich and plum filled, jammy, bold or long lasting.  They list their web page at and even invite one to call Mr. Gregory Popovich at 888-327-3777.  Mr. Popovich will be on my Palm Pilot 'to do' list come this Tuesday.


Be prepared, I am about to whine big time.  This Friday I went to lunch at JR Tobacco, the place that I have spoken highly of in the past.  At the retail wine shop, I purchased 3 bottles of wine, one to enjoy with lunch and 2 to bring home.  After consuming one bottle on which I will comment below, we opened a bottle of what the other 2 winos with me described as a good wine that should be the apex of our lunch.  It was the 1996 Mt. Veeder Reserve Meritage. At the cost of $48.00, I was ready to be wowed.  Upon the first swirl and sniff of the glass, the comment was made that the wine smelled musty.  So the 3 of us swirled and sniffed and swilled and gagged.  The wine did not have the taste we anticipated.  Being a frequenter to JR, I sought out the wine manager, who was out for the afternoon.  The counter help was gone and the bartender never drinks wine.  For their expert, the bartender turned to an elderly patron at the bar, who just put down his second scotch, and asked for his opinion.  At which point I was told, I should let it breath, it will open up.  Well, after one hour in the glass, the wine never opened, because it WAS BAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   I don’t know if it was due to the fact that it was a Friday, or the place is changing, but no one there tried to help or even gave a crap.  I used to spend a lot of money on wine there.  They will not even know they lost a customer because no one thought it was their job to rectify the situation.  JR Tobacco in northern NJ has one less patron as of yesterday.

The wine I did have with lunch was:

1997 Voss Shiraz $ (20.00)   Although the spelling hints of down under, this California Syrah was rough at first.  The tannins softened as the wine oxidized, but never to the “pounding intense fruit” boasted on the description.  This was good, but not great.  If the wine let more of the fruit come forward, it would have been a better bottle.

1997 Kanonkop Kadette $ (9.99) This South African blend is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Ruby Cabernet.  The nose of this was all cab and the fruit came on strong during the course of the bottle.  This is a 10-dollar wine that drank as well as the 20-dollar wine I had for lunch.  Not one to bring to dinner, but definitely a wine for hacking around on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  I recommend a nice cheese platter and some London broil sliced thin over garlic toast.


1997 Fess Parker Syrah $ (17.00)     Looking to upgrade my image, I have gone to the more sophisticated wine sipper for the image.  I was not impressed with this Syrah, it was not the big full fruity impact wine I expected.  It drank thin and still had tannin, tannin everywhere from first sip through the end of the bottle.  Oxidation did little to bring the fruit forward in this wine.  Now I know who to serve the one in my cellar to…


“Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody, I got some money cause I just got paid."  And what did I do with that money?  I went right to the wine store and bought 2 bottles for twenty bucks.  Since gourmet pizza was on the menu, I didn’t want to open the Cask23 again.  There is this great pizza joint one block away from the house, which puts it in walking distance.  This means I can start drinking before I get the pizza.  I highly recommend the chicken Savoy pie.  With that, I opened a Chilean Cabernet to see how it would hold up.

1998 Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon $ (8.99)   This was not a wine I enjoyed.  There was not a great deal of fruit for palette to cling to.  Not overly tannin, not overly anything.  I actually did the unthinkable; I put an ice cube in to cool it down slightly so I could finish off the glass.  At the lower temperature, the wine did appear a bit more enjoyable, but still not one I will purchase again.

1998 Coppola Rosso $ (10.99)  As Francis Ford Coppola notes on the bottle, this is an every day table wine, one I could picture being served in a tumbler, on a red and white checkered table cloth.  This is a good pizza wine, and as the second pie we had was a rigatoni and vodka sauce pizza, the wine went well.  Rosso is made up of Zinfandel, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese grapes and brings up a nice fresh fruit taste.  This is not a dinning room wine, but a kitchen table Saturday night pizza wine that everyone will enjoy.


1997 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Petite Sirah  $$ (25.00)   I took the spelling of  Sirah from the label so don’t tell me I spelled it wrong.  This is a delightful wine, rich in fruit flavor, after the breathing time necessary to muffle the tannins that dance on your tongue at first sip.  A wine that will be great 5 years from now, but with if placed in a crystal decanter one hour before dinner, you will enjoy this wine with a nice juicy porterhouse grilled to medium rare.

1997 Campo Madonna Cabernet Sauvignon  I had this at a friend’s house, so I do not know the price.  This Italian Cab comes from Tuscany, but was watery and thin for a Cabernet.  I expected a strong, full wine, but was disappointed from the lack of staying power it had on the palette.  I guess I am a Super Tuscan Guy.   


Keeping with the Argentina wines for one more day, I purchased a bottle because of all the good things it stated on the box.  Yes, this wine was in the bin in individual boxes.  The words "Coleccion Privada" and the Santiago Cogorno painting caught my eye.  The box stated that this vineyard is widely recognized as Argentina’s finest estate winery.  This is the 2nd wine I tried from the Mendoza region that is stated to be the country’s premier wine growing region in the foothills of the Andes.  There is even a website plainly printed on the box at

1995 Navarro Correas Cabernet Sauvignon $ (11.99) This is a Cabernet-Merlot blend but the bottle did not have a percent of each listed.  The wine was good, but not long lasting.  The fruit was there in the beginning but quickly left your taste buds.  The color was a dark ruby hue and the wine had a good Cabernet aroma, but it left you wanting a big bold taste, which was not there.



My oldest nephew is about to embark on a two-year mission to Argentina.  As you can imagine, my family now knows everything and anything about this South American Country.  So, being the Wino that I am, I started reading about their wine.  There is not a great deal of information on wines available at this time, but I did manage to find a store locally that has a good selection so I bought several red wines.  I laughed as I walked out with a case of mixed Argentinean Reds for less then 125.00.  The most expensive wine in the cart was $27.00, a Grand Vin I am saving for his going away party.  With dinner, I enjoyed one of my purchases.  It was:


1996 Weinert Carrascal $ (9.00)



As I looked through the list of wines that I have commented on, and as I looked through the wines in my possession, I estimate that I am running at about six Reds to every one White I own and drink.  So tonight, with Salmon on the menu, I passed by the Pinot Noir that I was thinking about and grabbed a chardonnay.  To my delight, as you will see from the number of mice that join me, the only thing I could think of was how they made this red wine look like a chardonnay.  I mean this was a full-bodied wine, with the weight and feel of a red.  So without further ado, I bring you the Dead Guy’s recommendation for a wine we all can afford and, though a white, will satisfy the die-hard red wine drinkers amongst us.


1997 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay $ (11.00) Yes, $11.00 and 3 mice says it all.  This wine has a rich full body, creamy texture and a great fruit-acid balance.  Again, $11 make this, in my humble opinion, a Great Wine….  For those who enjoy the high priced White Burgundies, this is no Grand Cru; however, for $11, this is one of the best white wines this red wine drinker has had to date.  I can bring this to a dinner at the home of someone I respect and not be embarrassed by an $11 bottle of wine.  While some California Chards are at the $50 level, it is good to know that there is a solid white wine at a reasonable price.  Buy it, Drink it, Enjoy…


1997 Jayson Red Table Wine $$ 42.65   This is 1.75 mice.  For the cost of this wine, I expected more.  The label did not give the blending percent for the following grapes so I am assuming the label placed them in descending order.  A Meritage consisting of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Melbec.  I was unimpressed. The fruit was okay, but did not have the length and strength I expected from an Oakville, Ca., Bordeaux style wine.  In my humble opinion, save your money on this one.  I'd rather buy two bottles of BV Ensemble instead of the one Jayson.  



1996 Chateau Bel Air Haut-Medoc $$   I do not know the price of this wine, but I’m guessing 25-28 dollars.  This was a gift from a visitor to the Saturday night summer porch wine club.  Friends brought this and, to my amazement, this wine was drinkable.  No major tannins hiding the fruit here.  This wine smelled rich and full and drank well.  I recommend this for a great dinner compliment or sitting with friends on a summer’s evening.


Did you ever have one of those weeks when it feels like you lost a great many battles; at home, at work, with friends.  At the end of the week, one of the people you went head-to-head with calls on you and you do it with out a thought.  At the conclusion of last week, I was walking through the Kings supermarket, buying a frozen dinner for myself, when I sought refuge in the wine department.  Feeling sorry for myself, and singing Janis Ian songs in my head cause life was at the edge, I spotted a bottle of wine and laughed at the name.  It was so hitting that I bought it, not for the wine, not for the grape style, but for the story on the back of the label.  I quote, “The faithful Hound label celebrates the memory of the dog who, when abandoned by his master, kept a three year vigil outside an empty cottage on Mulderbosch Farm.  Sadly, he died unrewarded for his loyalty.”  I learned the truth at seventeen………JI

1996 Stellenbosch Mulderbosh Faithful Hound $$ (21.99) This Bordeaux style wine from one of South Africa’s premier wine families is comprised of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 9% Cabernet Franc.  As you can see by my mice count, this is a winner.  Great Bordeaux nose, drinkable now, under 25 dollars.  This will be a wine I introduce to friends, serve at dinner and give as gifts.  A great fruit-tannin balance which gives structure to the wine without taking away from the heartiness of the fruit.  Find it. Buy it. Drink it.


1997 Geyser Peaks Meritage $$ (38.00)   Soft and mellow, this wine showed little tannin for a 1997.  A great compliment to the cheese and fruit platter served.  The full body of this blend stood up well to the sharp Blue Cheese.  The fruit did not come through as boldly as I expected.  The label did not identify the grape varietals and percent used of each but, from my limited experience, it seemed like Merlot made up a significant portion of this wine.

1997 Fife Latitude 39 $$ (32.00)  I liked this one better tan the Fife Max, which was another Rhone style from Fife.  This wine got better by the glass, but still needs time in the bottle.  A harsh back draft killed the fruit on this wine in the beginning.  This diminished over time but leads me to believe that in 2 more years, this will be a very pleasant wine.


1995 E. Gigal Cote Rotie $$   I can only guess at the retail price, because I enjoyed this half bottle at a restaurant.  My guess is that this is a 35-40 dollar bottle of wine and I will seek it out in a store to confirm.  For lovers of the syrah grape, this is one of the two Mecca.  This wine was the perfect compliment to the rack of lamb I ordered.  Full body, jammy, deep fruit and soft tannins gave this a good structure.  This wine is not for the weak at heart.  Prepare for this, work up to it so it does not take your palette by storm.

1995 Cyrus $$ (32.00) This estate bottled, premier vintage from Cyrus is made up of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc.  Cyrus is the Wetzel family’s tribute to their 25th year of fine winemaking.  As I took in the aroma of this wine, it made me look at the label for the alcohol content.  This was high, just by the smell and the label declared 13.9%.  As the wine opened up in the glass, a powerful wine, though young, proudly brought forward the Cabernet sauvignon. The scent of oaked fruit overtook the alcohol aroma making me want to light up a fine cigar.  This wine should lie in the basement for the next 5 years with no problem.  Definitely a dinner table wine or one to bring to a well-respected associate's house.  



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