The Best of

Bob’s Winings

Tasting Notes from a Beer Drinker

 


This page contains Winings from the 4th Quarter of the year 2000.

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12/31/00

As New Jersey got caught with the worst snowfall since 1996, I spent all day yesterday shoveling snow.  Yes, living on a corner lot, I have the pleasure of two long sidewalks and a deep driveway to clear.  Living near a school, the town pays special attention to my sidewalk.  

As 9:30 AM turned into 4:00PM, I loaded my shovel into my truck and headed to clean the sidewalk in front of my office.  This 6 mile drive was the most serene I have ever taken.  The streets were white, the Holiday decorations were aglow, kind of reminding me of the scene in It's A Wonderful Life.  Then reality set back in when I started shoveling what now was well-packed snow that was beginning to freeze.  With another 2 hours of shoveling under my belt, I headed towards home.  

As I looked out my side window about half way home, the glow of lights at Home Liquors shined like a beacon in the night.  The retail stores that lined this main street through the last 2 towns were locked and dark; but Home Liquors shone like a WELCOME sign at Motel 6.  I quickly backed up and pulled into their lot to venture in and see what they had on their shelves.  

Low and behold, there, in the Rhone aisle was a wine I liked with a special price staring me straight in the eye.  The post holiday sale had come to Home Liquors and a bottle of 1996 Rhone wine I enjoy was reduced from $64.00 to $49.99. 

As I came home fifty dollars lighter, I smiled all the way telling myself what a great shopper I am.  Yes, other times, I would have been sixty-four dollars lighter, but tonight, as a reward for all that manual labor of snow removal, I treated myself to only spending a fifty dollar bill.  

After a nice hot meal and a hot shower, I started a fire in the living room.  As you well know, the fireplace was well oaked.  I opened this gem of a bargain and poured it into the Riedel Rhone glass that I received from the Christmas Elves.  Let me be the latest to submit a testimonial for Riedel stemware.  I say this without being a shill for Riedel, without receiving a free glass for my comments (which I would have gladly accepted).  I say this from the pure love of wine, this glass gave me an experience like I had never had before.  The aroma of this wine rose in the glass like the smoke out my chimney.  Yes, the nose, the taste, the feel of this was utopia.  Though my arm pained me with every lift to my mouth, the reward was a pleasure that made it all worthwhile.

1996 Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne $$ (49.99)    If I ever have the opportunity to speak with anyone from M. Chapoutier, I will ask them two things.  First, I would like to know why they are the only producer to make their labels in Braille and secondly, would you adopt me.  As I sniffed this wine in my new Riedel, an idea hit me; I should call Hall’s and tell them to make a Chocolate Cough-drop.  The eucalyptus and chocolate were dominant, but fertilizer and saddle leather also came to mind.  This wine was a deep rich fruit and eucalyptus.  This is a wine to treat yourself to and enjoy with a fire and snow (on the outside) and holiday lights. 

12/30/00

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you exhibit A.  The reason I submit this to you at this time is due to the fact that this wine story is exactly the thing I am looking for regarding the contest I posted.  As I told you, this is open until Superbowl Sunday.  So then why are you posting this now you ask?  I will tell you.  As you read this, you will see the great time that was had with family and how central a role the 5 wines played.  You will also see that the author must have read the rules of my contest after the fifth bottle.  

Our own Wino Wally wrote this great story, which clearly could have been a serious contender.  If Wino Wally had read in the contest rules that he is one of the judges, he would have known he could not win the autographed book I am offering up.  It just goes to show you how valuable this prize is when a person ineligible would risk the chance of illegally competing just for the book.  Seriously, Wino Wally’s great story deserves publication and you will find it below.  I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did and as much as Wino Wally enjoyed the wine.

Regarding the contest, there is still plenty of time to get your wine stories in.  I must tell you, though, there is a leader currently so the pressure is on.  As you sit at work come Tuesday after New Years, and you don’t feel much like working,  as your memories of the Holiday season are still fresh in your mind, take a few minutes while in front of your computer and bang out a quick story of the wine that made that memory special.  

As I entered my 11th hour of shoveling the snow that dumped 25 inches in Northern New Jersey, my mind started wondering.  I’m not sure if it was the bitter cold, the lack of oxygen to my brain as my heart pumped as fast as it could, or the desire to be somewhere else; but I thought how tough this contest could get if some serious wine drinkers entered it.  As Robin Garr and Marvin R. Shanken have visited our site, they may want to submit a story.  As Kevin Zraly knows, his book is the prize.  He may set the bar by jotting down a few notes about his New Years celebration, or a lunch he had with friends at a well know New York restaurant.  

Then I thought of the author whose story could not be beat.  I thought of the one wine lover for whom I would have to end the contest early if he submitted a story.  Yes folks, if Wino Jesus wrote about one of his special celebrations with his closest friends, I would have to send him the book right now.  Now hold it right there.  I know what you are thinking, "Winobob, you are off the deep end.  Don’t even go there."  I know, I know, and tell me you didn’t see Monty Python’s Life of Brian and laugh your ass off. Or you never rented the Last Temptation of Christ.  

Now, for the record, I spent many a day at religious classes and sitting in the first pew at Church listening closely to Father Colburn.  I have a cousin, who is a Brother in the Benedictine Order and prior to 11 years old when I learned about girls, I thought of becoming a man of the cloth.  

So let’s get back to the story. As we all know, the Bible speaks volumes about wine and Noah is credited with observing two goat’s playful behavior as they ate grapes that had been moldy on the ground.  I know in my heart that Jesus would have been a reader of WinoStuff and a frequenter of the guest book.  Personally, I think Jesus was a white wine lover, but that was nowhere to be supported by the Bible. 

You know the story; Jesus would be with his closest friends sitting down to enjoy a great meal.  Wino Wally would break the news that he only had 3 clay pots of water for the meal.  As you know, water was not very healthy back then and Ron Popel had not yet invented the pocket water filtration system.  Jesus would have him bring the pots to him and they would snack on dried salty white fish as Jesus blessed the pots.  As Wino Wally took the first sip, I could hear his comments. “The aroma has too much Galilean Salt and green algae.  The taste is drinkable, but not your best stuff.”  Then, it turns to nectar, better than anything ever produced by Chateau d’ Yquem .  You know the rest; at that point, I would end the contest.  Since this will not happen, please take a moment and send us your stories.  With that I give you Wino Wally’s Wine story for your enjoyment.

Dear Wino Bob,

As you know, Wino John and I are brothers-in-law.  Our wives are sisters and have four brothers and no additional sisters.  Scattered hither and yon on the East Coast, the entire brood descends upon the humble Wally abode every Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas.  Wino Sharon (formerly known as "non-Wino Sharon" during her recent pregnancy) plays mother hen by hosting, planning, and cooking the meals during the three day stay for 24-27 of our in-laws.  It can get hectic, but Wino John and I are in charge of the wine selection and manage to remove ourselves from the mayhem by making sure that there's not an empty wine glass when there's a willing imbiber.  Wino Jocelyn (Wino John's better half) plays both sides of the fence by helping her sister and helping us when her sister's fully engaged in the meal preparation.

This year, the fray was heightened more than usual with the addition of my four month old twins and our niece's three month old son (yes, that makes Wino John and me Great Uncles).  When Wino John and his clan arrived on Thursday, it didn't take too long before I had talked him into a Zinfandel tasting (red zin, not the girly stuff).  Since it was Wino John, we broke out the good stuff and let him imbibe from the crystal Riedel glassware.

We started with a 1995 Davis Bynum Old Vines Zinfandel.  Davis Bynum has produced some award winning Pinot Noirs and makes just enough Zinfandel for the locals to purchase.  However, Wino Sharon and I make periodic pilgrimages to Northern California and have managed to ship difficult-to-buy vintages back to the land of pleasant living.  The Bynum Old Vines Zin is crafted in a manner similar to the trademark Bynum Pinot Noirs and as a result, has less of an alcohol bite than other Zins and more of a fruity, Pinot taste.  I also opened the 1996 Bynum Old Vines, but didn't detect a change of heart by the winemaker in his style.

From the Bynums, we moved to Ravenswood and sampled both the Cooke 1997 Zinfandel and the Kunde 1997 Zinfandel.  Ravenswood is known for its Zins, but most of the stuff we get on the East Coast is a blend.  Cooke and Kunde refer to the vineyards where the grapes for each were grown.  To say that the Ravenswood was a contrast to the Bynum is an understatement.  Ravenswood crafted each of these so that the raw essence of the grape and its multiple rich flavors stood out amidst a stronger than normal alcohol content.  We quickly realized that the Riedel stems could not be filled otherwise we would not make it through the tasting.

Lastly, we opened two Robert Mondavi Zins, the 1997 and the 1998.  The 1997 was a mean, firebreathing machine similar to the Ravenswood Zin while the 1998 probably needs another year in the bottle before it exhibits the passion-enhancing characteristics of the Ravenswood.

After sampling these six Zins, Wino Sharon informed us that Thanksgiving Dinner was ready, so we left the wine cellar (I'll comment on your other article regarding inventory investment at a later date) but not before selecting a few Pinot Noirs to have with our turkey (Wino John and I are not fans of Gewurztraminer, so we opted for the more subtle Pinot to contrast with the turkey and its rich entrappings).

Up to the dining room we went, armed with a 1997 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve, a 1997 River Bend Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, and a 1997 Landmark Pinot Noir Kastania.  The Pinots were well received by the inlaws and were ok, but quite frankly, the six Zins blew out most of our ultra sensitive Pinot taste buds so I can't accurately comment on how good they were.  The good news is that I can dig down in the cellar for a future Pinot tasting and pull out these same vintages.  Wino John offered me a Cuban stogey for that after dinner pull, but I was so concerned about catching the remaining Zin fumes on fire that I passed on the opportunity.

The next day, Wino Sharon sent us to the butcher to pick up a few tenderloins for the Saturday Christmas dinner (it's a wonder Wino John and I don't weigh a few tons given the propensity for food that our inlaws have - alas, none of them weigh more than a bantam weight prize fighter).  Wino John and I were given dispensation to roam through the local wine shop and journeyed to a true shoppers emporium, Corridor Wine & Spirits, near Fort Meade and the NSA (super secret government agency portrayed in Enemy of the State, a techno geek cult movie).  Corridor stocks so much wine that they store it in rows sorted by country.  I gave Wino John some grief given that New Jersey wines were separated like New Jersey was its own country.  Well, we bought a few more cases and wouldn't you know it, I found another Zin, Valley of the Moon 1997 Zinfandel.

I don't know if others can top my story, but it isn't often that you run through six varieties of Zin and three Pinots all on Thanksgiving Day.

Wino Wally

 

12/28/00

On my drive home last night, after an absolutely delicious meal with close friends, I started thinking about the wine we enjoyed.  The trouble I have this morning in writing this review rests on the question: “Did the wine make the dinner great or did the great time make the wine great?”

We shared two wines from the Italian region known for producing Super Tuscans.  The wines were very high quality and from world-renowned producers, but in the back of my mind, I am wondering did the effect of the enjoyment and laughter of the evening make everything that much more positive.  I enjoyed a perfectly medium-rare NY strip with zesty peppercorn sauce.  We shared stories and caught up on life’s events that had us laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks and my stomach muscles were sore.  Yet, was it this powerfully seductive Roman libation that placed us in the mood to laugh harder and feel closer with our dinner guests; or was it the stories of life and marriage and work and kids that uplift our minds to associate enjoyment with all we ate and drank?

Though I will never be 100% sure of the answer, perhaps some things are better left undefined.  What I guess I am defining here is that great times and great bottles of wine make lasting memories.  I will never know if the great memories enhanced my impressions of the great wine, or if the great wine made for great times.  I will always remember sitting in the event room at Bacchus, surrounded by soft holiday music, comforted by the soft colored walls and glass window draped in pine roping.  I will feel the texture of the linen tablecloth under my fingertips as I slowly swirled my wine glass.  I will remember the laughter during the stories of work events and wiping tears away, I will remember the deepening of a friendship and I will remember a bottle of 1993 Sassicaia.

1993 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, Toscana $$$ (58.00)  As age in a bottle mellows a wine, this one poured a brownstone red, thin in appearance with a berry nose and brown spice.  This wine is made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.  The taste here was a full-bodied fruit-packed wine with cherries galore.  Mild tannins left me thinking this one could have slept in the cellar for 5 more years.  A hint of cassis on the lengthy finish gave this structure.  Do I love this wine due to it’s rebellion for the daring way Cabernet took hold in the region that gives us top quality Chianti?  Do I love this because of its bottle age?  Do I love this because I love Bordeaux grapes?  Or, as I asked at the top of the page, do I love this because of the fond memories of a great night out?  I guess for any of those reasons, the bottom line is that I love this Super Tuscan.

1997 Antinori Tignenello $$$ (65.00) This full-bodied wine is 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc with intense fruit and solid structure.  This blending gives great depth to this wine.  The fruit here is still cloaked in the tannins so if you buy this, rest it for several years.  To drink today, decant and let breathe so the fruit will move forward.  You can learn about all of Antinori’s great wines at www.antinori.it.  This is a great wine that needs time to become the wine that lives beneath the tannins.

12/24/00

This is the interim Holiday update as I have a moment to sip my coffee this Christmas morning.  As I slept last night all nestled in bed, visions of Wine Gods danced in my head and as I awoke from a dream since I heard such a clatter, I dashed downstairs to see what was the matter.  There tucked beneath my tree, was a box marked fragile with a tag, To WB.

Since I’m the only Winobob living in this place, I quickly tore it open and a smile came to my face.  For what the box held, I will cherish forever, a Riedel Sommelier Series Rhone/Syrah stemware to drink my bottle of 1997 Beaucastle Chateauneuf-du-Pape in.   Sorry, I got too damn excited and could not think of a word that rhythms with forever and fit Riedel, Sommelier, of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. 

Anyway, the wine elves have been great so far and the day is not done.  Since I did receive a bottle of Beaucastle as a gift and the wine elves brought me the pinnacle of stemware to enjoy it in, life is wonderful.  In addition, I received a 2001 wine calendar which features 365 great wines, 250 of them under $10.00.  Joshua Wesson and Richard Marmet, co-founders of Best Cellars, produced this .  Could a Winobob & Wino John calendar be far behind?  I also received a preserving system to save those opened bottles a bit longer.  I know the rat that lives in the sewer may be disappointed that I will not be spilling out as much wine this year, but he’s only a rat.

Clinging to the ethnic tradition my family holds so dear, Christmas Eve rituals had me drink a white wine.  A red would have overpowered the foods we enjoyed, so I dug out a California Chardonnay that sits lonely in the white wine racking in the cold cellar.  This wine was a delicious compliment to the dinner and, as white wines go, I enjoyed it.

 

1995 Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay $$ (26.00)    This wine poured out looking like a lager beer.  The rich golden color gave me the hint that I would find this white grape bold and big. This wine gave me the nose of pear and fine French oak.  This was a big-full wine that weighted on my tongue.  This is a great example of California’s sculpting of the Chardonnay grape.  It was a wine that worked well with the different styles of fish, from cooked shrimp with a zesty cocktail dip, to beer battered haddock with a tangy tarter sauce and lemon-broiled scrod, to the smoked white fish.  A strong backbone of oak makes this a wine for the red grape lover.

 

12/23/00

1996 Villa Artimino Barco Reale Di Carmignano  $?   Composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, this wine starts out wrapped in tannins.  It takes a while for this to settle down in the glass to let the fruit come out. There existed a tug-of-war with this wine on what characteristics would win out.  This blending did come together near the end of the bottle.  Artimino has been making wine since 1594 on this estate located just outside Florence, Italy.  In 1718, Artimino was awarded the first designation of appellation-controlled wine.  In 1975 it became recognized with the classification DOC and in 1988 it received the highest rating, DOCG.  As you know the G stands for Guaranteed.

Winos and Winettes, I write this not as a winings, but as a wish.  I wish you all a happy, healthy holiday season.  Most of all I wish you WINE.  Yes, my wish for you is that what happened to me last year does not happen to you.  Yes, after years of family and friends learning of my love of wine, they STOPPED giving me wine.  Yes, last year I got 5 bottles of Sambuca, 3 bottles of Bailey’s Irish Cream and one Grappa.  For some reason, people now think I am a wine snob, but as Wino John frequently reminds me in his comments, I am just an idiot.  For some strange reason, people now think I have become judgmental and they will offend me if they don’t bring the right wine.  Poppycock.  If you look at some of the cheap crap I bought and reviewed, I would never refuse a bottle of wine as a present.  Every once in a while, that cheap crap is good wine.  

So this year, as you share special times with family and friend, my wish to you is that your family and friends don’t stop giving you wine as they visit with you this season.  You know, dare I say, that it was only 8 years ago friends of ours would have pizza on a Friday night and we’d share a bottle of Ruinite Lambrusco.  OK, what did I know?  I was a beer drinker.  But now, since I can pronounce the name of a few grapes and tell the difference between white and red wine, I am a snob?

The worst is going to a restaurant and having the same people who don’t buy me wine anymore, place the wine list by me and stare.  This is the most awkward feeling for several reasons.  The biggest concern is that out of 6-8 people, not everyone is going to like the wine.  That’s just they way it goes.  Then they will grumble about the cost of the wine, and as you know, I do not control the mark-up a restaurant places on their wine.  So, do what I do.  Tell them you are still learning and trying something new is what wine is all about.  Sometimes you pick a winner and sometimes not.  Most of all, tell them for the love of your continuing education, PLEASE do not stop bringing a bottle of WINE to the house.  Besides, it will take me a decade to drink all the Sambuca I got last year.

Happy Holidays, I wish you Good Wine.

WinoBob

1996 Guenoc Beckstoffer IV Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon  $?   This wine was a treat from a friend who understands Merry Wine for the Holidays.  Deliciously fruitful with soft tannins give this wine highly drinkable rating.  Round and soft and lengthy gets this wine on the dinner table.  There is enough fruit in this wine to store in the cellar for years of enjoyment.  Buy this one to enjoy.

12/16/00

Oh I ain’t got a barrel of money, though writing this page is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  Sometimes the reviews come so easily; it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  Yet, there are times that I feel like I’m caught over a barrel. 

I spend a great deal of time investigating wine and wine stuff, but I never really gave much thought to the vessel that my favorite red wines and chardonnays live in for years to impart their telltale finger prints on the liquid I consume.  Today, I sat with a glass of wine and pondered this question about the profession of barrel making, cooperage, and an industry in the U.S. that is growing by the bushel due to the increased demand of wineries.  

As we all know the French have the best barrels and the French have the best labels and the French have the best terrior, and the French have the best ménage et ... Sorry, I digress.  The French barrel continues to be much sought after, fetching up to $650.00. Though this still remains the most respected way to impart that woody, toasty, and vanilla flavor to the wine.  Many lesser wines try short cuts to trick us into thinking this wine is barrel aged, therefore more expensive, when in reality, they have tried oak-lined steel tanks, or placing pouches of oak chips in the tank.  These alternatives save time since the surface area of chips and granules are larger then the area of the inside of a barrel. (As you can see, that’s about as scientific as I can get, but I’m sure Wino John will post the calculation for determining area of a barrel- science geek, plasma proton head). More importantly, this method allows a 7-10 dollar wine to give us a hint of toast and vanilla.

As usual, the entrepreneurial community in the US has realized the economic opportunity of barrel making.  As few as five years ago, the U.S. was a minor player in the industry.  Today, the top six coopers sell approximately 180,000 American oak barrels annually.  American oak has enjoyed this increase due to the fact that top wineries in California have used them in their finest wines; names like Caymus, Silver Oak and BV.  But as with everything these days, controversy prevails and the winemaking community feels that American oak imparts too much personality into a wine.  Therefore, those fleshy, more delicate wines like Pinot Noir and Burgundian-style Chardonnays would be stepped on.  Today, French barrel production output has not changed much since 1990, yet the demand is up by 60%.  Are we to sit back and let our syrah, Shiraz, kick-ass Cabs and Chardonnays go naked?  Hell no, I say let the games begin.  We have the technology, we have the manpower.  American oak, stand tall and tell those fleshy wines we will rock your world…. Spain and Australia love American oak, as well as our Kentucky sipping whiskey manufacturers. 

All this barrel talk made me look into the barrel making process and in a very brief outline, this is the process:

  • Select the finest white oak the world has to offer, primarily French, Midwestern U.S., Hungary, Slovenia and Russia.

  • Split wood, mill into staves, air dry for 2 years

  • Pick the best staves; align them in a metal jig

  • Hammer successive rings around staves

  • Heat barrel over small open fire

  • Wet wipe barrel inside and out

  • Arch staves and tighten into place

  • Toast barrel for 20-45 minutes- this allows vanilla flavor to develop

  • Trim stave ends and groove for barrelhead

  • Hand fit barrelhead

  • Place final hoops

  • Check for leaks

A side note, cooperage was a craft started thousands of years ago as a means of preventing boats from leaking.

Caymus Conundrum- Are these grapes for real?

Wino John, I know why Caymus shunned us.  Yes folks, they haven’t sent any wine for us to try.  Caymus ignored our web page, Caymus hasn’t called.  You know why?  They are too busy in court.  Yes, Caymus is in legal action against the largest supplier of grapevines in Sonoma County.  And what do we do when we are sued?  That’s right, we turn around and sue someone else.  In a nutshell, it turns out that this vine company is claiming to have purchased vines from the guru of Rhone style wine, Randall Grahm, owner of Bonny Doon Vineyards.  It seems that Caymus has been developing a release under the Mer Soleil label of a high end Roussanne.  Roussanne is a delicately perfumed white grape used in the Rhone Region of France.  But testing shows that these vines were actually Viognier.  The Viognier as we learned from last class provides a peach and apricot nose, not the floral scents and finesse of the Roussanne.  So once this 7 million dollar lawsuit concludes and if Caymus prevails, I’m sure they will have a few bottles of wine for us to try, even if it is a Viognier. 

12/14/00

Winostuff.com is being called the Matt Drudge of the grape vine.  Yes folks, in this month’s issue of Wine Enthusiast, the Vine Cuttings discusses a subject that Winostuff.com spoke out on months ago; “Cork, What The Future Holds For Wine Closures.”  Who was the first to bring you the 42 facts of the cork?  Yes, Winostuff.com.  Folks, this is testament that we are on the cutting edge, ahead of the curve of wine stuff.  Bob Woodward move over, we don’t even need a stinking Deep Throat!  Ah, hum, never mind.  

OK, so no one is crediting me with anything and no one called me the Matt Drudge of wine and no one probably even read my page on the Cork.  But you see, Geyser Peak is looking seriously into that thermoplastic fake cork stuff.  Really seriously.  And since they are real wine people, Wine Enthusiast interviews Daryl Groom, the winemaker at Geyser about the cork controversy.  I wonder if Joan Sullivan is a fan?  I guess I’ll never know.

1997 Quintessa $$$ (79.00)  This wine is crafted by wine mogul, August Huneeus, whose credits include Franciscan Estates, Estancia, Mt. Veeder, Pinnacles, and Veremonte.  Quintessa is his Ultra Premium Meritage comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Rich, dark cherry fruit and a balance of tannins make this a wine that can be savored now or cellared for years to come.  Depth is the reason I prefer blends and this echoes when you lift your glass.  This is big league, but not affordable for everyday winos.  Treat a close friend or relative to this gem.

1998 Trapiche Malbec $ (11.99)  

(I decided to post this pretentious review first and then explain below.)  I was reading a book that listed the language of wine and thought I would throw in a few words to make me sound more sophisticated.  As you can see, awkward is more like it.  Below I will define the words that I tried to use in the review:

Closed - Wine whose smell and flavor are hard to discern

Nose - A wine's smell, including both its aroma and its bouquet

Aroma - Describes fresh, grapey smells of a young unbottled wine

Bouquet - The smell of a wine maturing in the bottle.  Can also refer to the smell of wine generally

Dilue - Wine lacking concentration because of over cropping or a rainy harvest

Feminin - Delicate, light wine

Flabby - Wine lacking acidity, which will further deteriorate over time

Short - Describes a wine whose flavor fades fast

Friand - Wine, of any age, with good fruity balance of ripeness and acidity.

So there you have it, a small set of wine words-of-the-day that you could now work into your conversations to impress the hell out of your beer-drinking friends, not to be confused with friand.  Unfortunately for me, I probably will never use any of those words again.  That’s what separates me from the real wine reviewers up and down the Internet and in bookstores and on T.V.  Oh well, I guess I better keep the day job.

1992 Gallo Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon $ (11.00)  

1998 Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre $ (15.99)   I found this wine to be a wonderful olfactory sensation.  From the time I uncorked this wine, there was a cornucopia of aromas wafting in the glass.  As I smelled the cork, a strong cinnamon scent struck me.  As I swirled the glass, burnt wood, vanilla and a dried summer grass scent came to mind.  A spice rack, with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, a song all ran through my head. I was captured by the scent and spent a great deal of time just swirling the glass and smelling the explosion of great scents.  I even smelled the scent of evergreen.  Then I tasted this, and I was lost.  It did not have length and the dark cherry flavor was a bit thin.  I can understand how this grape adds depth to the Rhone blend, but as a stand alone, I was not that impressed.

 

12/12/00

I begin today’s notes with a confession.  I feel guilty calling today’s writing Winings.  Today, my fellow winos and winettes, was a wine day.  Many a time, people have said to me, “WinoBob, it’s the little things in life that count, now go read pages 3-6 in See Spot Run.”  Yes, Mrs. Prindle, God rest her soul, knew from first grade that I would eventually grow into her nickname for me, WinoBob.  As that fat critic, Wino John, has told you, we do this for the love and not the money, since there is no money.  

I came back to my office this afternoon and found two, two?; interesting wine items for today.  First and foremost, do not even question Wino John’s statements regarding the connection with technology and winos like us.  Today, my bible, the Wall Street Journal, had a front page story on the cottage industry of small vineyards in Silicon Valley owned by those that have helped you get on the internet faster, find porn in Technicolor and watch clips of Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee.  Oh, like I’m the only loser on those sites!  I see the hit counters, it’s not just me.  Sorry, anyway, yes, the Gobs of cash that techno geeks have made with this computer technology have them planting vines around their palatial estates because of their connection to wine.  Wino John could have submitted his introduction page to the WSJ and been ahead of those credible journalists.  Unfortunately, they read the part where Wino John just makes shit up and they figured they had to do some research.

Then, out of the goodness of her heart and the love of a great boss, my office manager gave me a small book called, “Wine Spectator’s Little Book of Wine”.  This was a most thoughtful gift, though she only spent $4.95, which leads me to believe it’s not the gift but the thought that counts.  And if I may quote from a page that beautifully transitions into my third wine moment for today:  “Every serious wine lover becomes a wine taster at some point.  To fully appreciate wine, you need to learn to taste it, not just drink it.” - Marvin R. Shanken.  Admittedly, I don’t know who Mr. Shanken is but anyone who uses his or her middle initial must be important. 

As some nights find me aimlessly roaming Northern NJ seeking warmth and shelter for the night, I wandered into a land of wine utopia, where I sat and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir.  Yes, yes, I know you are questioning my wits at this point.  You must be asking, "WinoBob, were you cold and delirious at this point?  Had hypothermia caused you to lose your way to the nectar of the Gods, those deep, rich Rhone’s you love so much?"  Then, out of this bright white light, I heard a voice that said, "Come back.  You must come back.  And there before me was a Petite Sirah, bolder, firmer, and deeper in intensity.  I shook my head and wiped my eyes, but still could not make out the figure with this golden halo and wings of pure white.  As I felt my body warming and my head clear, another glass was served before me, which snatched me from the throws of Pinot Noir and jolted me back to the grape I pray to.  This savior in white robes was no other than Joe the Wine Guy and he brought me back with a Shiraz whose weightiness pressed my tongue to the floor of my mouth and whose aroma reminded me of the heavy, hazy late August summer days in NJ, where the humidity is so high you can chew the air.  This Shiraz carried that full-bodied, heavy cream weight and rich deep flavor.  I was myself again, awakened by the mother’s milk that my thinned blood needed to survive in the arctic climate hitting NJ at this time.

1998 Ramsey Pinot Noir $ (14.00)   Not being a Pinot Noir guy, this wine started off very acidic, but after oxidation, this wine softened and drank fine.  Not very fruitful, not much on the finish.

1998 Pedroncelli Petite Sirah $ (15.00)   This was a wine that is very hard to find in NJ, but I had the pleasure to taste.  This has a good nose with solid fruit and a smooth finish.  Enjoy this one with a friend over dinner.  A good value wine.

1997 Chateau Tahbilk Shiraz $ (13.00)   I went to the Language of Wine section and these words fit this wine well: meaty, animal, voluptuous.  This wine had weight and density and texture and chewiness.  This is a Rhone lover’s wine.  Smokey leather and blackberry fruit gave this wine its structure.  Find this wine, drink this wine, it won’t disappoint.  

1997 Pepi Two Heart Sangiovese $ (14.00)  This fruity little firecracker wine has soft tannins and a load of black cherry flavor.  This wine comes from the heart of Oakville, California and is silky smooth.  Good value wine.   

 

12/8/00

Winos and Winettes, if you are like me, heaven forbid, you have read all the recommendations regarding starting your wine cellar.  The experts have these pie charts and bar graphs that tell you what type of wine to start your cellar with.  Recommendations talk about per cent by regions, per cent by price point…  One cellar plan I read said we should start with a $2,000 to $3,000 investment which will enable you to purchase 12 to 15 cases of wine in the $15 to $20 price range. These are wines that will be consumed within 3-5 years.  Hell, 3-5 years, that’s 3-5 months at the rate I’m going.  Did you get all that?  Then the above average plan talks about a $10,000 investment, which is an additional 25 cases of wine and needs 5-10 years (hell I may be dead by then).  These wines sell between $30 to $40 range.  Finally, for the BIG SPENDERS amongst us, and you know who you are, buy the big wines that need 20-30 years napping in the cave.

Make sure you have claret style wines, big Rhone Reds, wimpy fleshy reds, hearty whites and dessert wines and ports.

Can you tell I have been watching a lot of MSNBC, making sure I lay the foundation of my argument before the Supreme Court?  Two years ago, when I realized I wanted the social lubricant at my finger tips, I went to the stores, chart and calculator in hand, dividing the price by style, multiplying by the region and betting $20 on Red, so let it ride.  As the wine clerk snickered at my 15 dollars selections, my ego began guiding my hand to show this twenty-something stock boy that I had money to start my cellar.  Without a true plan, I went down the top ten list like Casey Kasem on a Sunday morning, packed my car up and headed home.  After the dust settled and the reality of the investment set in, I quickly segregated the drink 'em now from the hold 'ems.  This is the long story of how last night with dinner I enjoyed 14-year-old California Cabernet that still has me holding my bladder so as not to let any of this fine wine out before the rental price made it a frivolous purchase.

1986 Caymus Special Selection $$$$$$$$$(235.00)  This, my friends, is a beautiful wine.  With that said, I am going to lay it on the line.  I will not spend that amount of money on a bottle of wine again.  This wine needs a large amount of time for the air to let it unfold.  I swirled and swirled and swirled to untie the tannins and bring the fruit to its berry best.  Glass one was tough, but this dropped all pretence during the second glass and brought out a deliciously full-bodied Cabernet that lives at the top of the food chain.  However, the cost of this is far beyond what the rest of my cellar contains.  This is a once in a lifetime wine, the apex of California’s Cabernet. 

12/5/00

Yes someone was nice enough to respond to my Thanksgiving question, though it’s December 5th.  Maybe the wine has just worn off.  I submit for your approval, the first, the only to date, viewer feedback.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Hi there WinoBob.  First off, let me tell you that as someone who sees himself as what you probably were about 5 years ago, I truly enjoy your site.  Funny, entertaining and interesting.  My friend and I are about a year or two in to this whole wine thing and so far, all I can say is......What a hobby!

Anyway, Thanksgiving day wine feedback - I, like you, was searching everywhere to see what I was supposed to be serving with a big turkey and stuffing meal.  Someone told me that it doesn't matter because nothing goes with that meal.  This wouldn't do, so I trudged on.  I heard about Beaujolais, Riesling, chenin blanc and pinot noir.  To each his own, I suppose.

We finally decided to have a Riesling with all of our apps and into the meal.  About the time the turkey hit the table, we moved on to an Oregon Pinot Noir and it seemed to work OK.  Neither were spectacular with the turkey but here is the key to wine on Thanksgiving........Just serve enough so that you are so bombed that it doesn't really matter what  you are eating or drinking.

Have a good holiday season and I look forward to  more updates and reviews!

12/04/00

I have been thinking a great deal about Wino Wally.  Sorry, I mean I have been thinking a lot about the passion Wino Wally has for wine and golf.  And, I have been thinking about the movie Night Shift.  Did I tell you I invented the first wine by a golfer; but they already had it.  Note to self; call Caymus, "Feed the wine to the golfer…"   

This weekend I was out to dinner with friends and had a superbly prepared peppercorn ostrich in a mushroom reduction sauce, a special on the menu at Bacchus.  The other couple we were with are golf enthusiasts, so we found on the wine list a bottle of wine by the Great White Shark, Greg Norman.  Since he hails from the land down under, I had to try his Shiraz.

1998 Greg Norman Estates Limestone Coast Shiraz $ (15.00)  I come from the land down under, and I am a big bold Red Grape that is not for the light-hearted.  This is a collaboration of the Golfing Great and the Mildara Blass Winery.  My understanding is that Greg tasted his way from east to west to discover the “best” wine in Aussieland.  This wine showed good potential, it took a while for the fruit to come forward.  I would let this open in the glass for a while before I tried this on, otherwise brace yourself for the tannin rush that presents itself at first.

11/26/00

1998 Penfold Bin 2 $ (9.99)   Since I could not get the Cline Mourvedre, I found this blend which is 75% Shiraz and 25% Mourvedre.  This is a big, bold, deep ruby wine with a strong aroma that makes your mouth water as you sniff the glass.  The weight of this full-bodied wine presses your tongue to the floor of your mouth.  The downer for this wine is that it’s tannins push out the flavor and leave you smacking your lips searching for saliva.  This wine, I hope, with bottle age will cause the Rhone lovers in us to salute.  Buy it, at 9.99, buy a case and see what it yields next year.  That is what I am doing.

11/25/00

The beauty of life is that we learn something new everyday.  Though some days, my stubbornness overpowers the lesson of the day.  

Feeling compelled to try the Mourvedre (Moor-ved’r) that WinoDean recommended, I stopped into several local wine shops.  As I researched this grape, it seems that Cline controls about 90% of the 300 acres planted in California and not one of my local shops had a bottle.  I am still in search.  

The interesting discovery I made, and forgive me for taking so long to find this out, was a bottle of Chile’s grape.  "What? Chile’s grape?" you say.    Yes, like Zinfandel is to California, Tempranillo is to Spain, Shiraz is to Australia, and Pinotage is to South Africa, Carmenere is to Chile.  As I read up on this grape, it seems that it once held high honors in Bordeaux back in the 1800’s and survived the blights in 1890 in the remote area of Chile.  Bordeaux replanted the heartiest of the vines and moved forward with Merlot and Cabernet.  But for the grace of God, the Casablanca Valley of Chile stuck with Carmenere.   Today, carmenere is flourishing in Chile as a varietal, no longer blended and no longer confused with the Cabernet or Merlot grape.  So as any good student, I became a participant in my education by purchasing this bottle of wine and drinking it.

1998 Primus Veramonte $ (20.00)   Wow, this wine pours out blurple (that’s black and purple).  It is thick and full like a blackberry brandy.  I have never seen a wine so dark.  The aroma was very fruity and did remind me of a lightly oaked cabernet.  The first taste of this wine was wound tighter than the rubber band on my balsa wood airplane, but time allowed this to reveal its beauty.  Full-Bodied Red winos, find this grape.  This wine will coat your mouth and teeth and throat with thick syrupy nectar that dances between a Merlot and Cabernet with rich intense fruit and tannins that greet you but do not stay to ruin the party.  This wine is 85% Carmenere and 15% Cabernet and should be on your list for BIG RED WINES.  Do not serve this to the Pinot Noir fans, they will ask you for a steak knife to cut through this wine so they can chew it into the tiny portions they are used to.  Pour it an hour or two before serving and tell your guests to buckle up in your dining room chairs. Red wine, not for the faint of heart.

1998 Giovanni Viberti Barolo ?$  (It was served at a friend’s house)   I must confess, this wine followed the Primus and my pallet was still coated from the tar-like nectar from the bottom of the bottle.  Barolo wines are the big, bold Nebbiolos that fetch top dollars next to the Super Tuscans; yet this wine took a long time to develop.  Faint at heart with not much of an exciting finish left this wine disappointing to me.  To be totally fair, I will follow up with a tasting of this wine at the start of my evening so I can judge it on its own merits and not have the memory of a bolder wine in the forefront of my mind. 

1998 Ca Del Solo Big House Red $ (9.99) The label on the back of the bottle amused me enough to purchase this wine.  The ransom-style lettering reminded me a Patty Hearst letter home.  More intriguing is the variety of grapes used to concoct this wine.  Listed like an all-you-can-eat $3.99 buffet at a Vegas Casino, this wine has "sangiovese, carignane, zinfandel, Mourvedre, voldiguie, barberre and too many others to mention".  Awaiting a chewy, full-bodied red, this wine didn’t do it for me at all.  I will stick with the dominant grape, since they make great wine and great wine is made from dominant grapes.

1998 Parallel 45 Cote-du-Rhone $ (7.99)   A great value wine that does have the chewiness and body one wants from their Rhones, even if that one is me.  The wine, for the price, is a good solid red that the majority will enjoy.  I got spice, I got body, I got the aroma of my humidor and the wine was good, too.  Keep bottles of this on hand and you won’t go broke as your friends come over to drink you dry.  Drink this for fun, no heavy client meetings, just Friday night with friends.  

11/23/00

Who invented French?  If I believe the Discovery Channel, the human race began on the continent of Africa.  We left the trees, learned to walk upright, and sought vacations in the northern land mass.  From this migration, life has become what we know of it today.  As part of this development, we moved from pointing and grunting to clicking and clucking sounds that became a verbal communication pattern.  As the vacationing caveman found new areas, they developed nuances for these clucks and clicks that became words.  Then, thank God, Webster came along and made things easier to understand by writing every word in a book in an order that made sense. (I know all you linguists are screaming at me right now because I skipped ahead so quickly).  Remember, this is not a thesis, just my wino thoughts, so sit back, sip your wine and follow me on this one. 

Having read the dictionary, I now have read every novel written, I just have to unscramble it.  I digress, now this is where I have the question of who invented the French language.  As I remember my own development, born in 1960, as I went through school, they made us use this method called inventive spelling.  Being a practical kind of guy, I would write stories using inventive spelling with sentences like this: “ The butifull red rose bush lined the way to the manshun.”  Economy of letters to get the thought across was my aim, since I was graded on the ability to convey my ideas and not the technicalities of the spelling.  So you can imagine the sheer panic I face in reading a French wine label and writing, half sauced, about wine from the Mecca of this vice I love so much.  Did some chucking French caveman send his tongue into somersaults to develop the words Nouveau Beaujolais?  Did he get paid by the letter or was he playing scrabble and wanted to be the Al Gore of the class?  Let me see, I have seven letters a,e,o,u,u,v,n.  Can I spell something nu?  Hell, that is only 5 points.  Let me think, boy this shato LaFeet is great, just another sip, hey what a minute, look, N-O-U-V-E-A-U.  What?  That is not a word!  Take that off the board.  No, it is a new word, meaning…. “NEW”.  There, 22 points, I win.  Go back to Bocastle and crush grapes……

As you can see, I have had some wine today and wanted to share my thoughts after these French wines and, lest you think I sip and spit, the above should prove I drink my wine.

2000 George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau $ (6.88)   I selected this wine since George is credited with saving the Beaujolais business in the 1960’s from the fate of mere jug wine.  This wine delivered a light, raspberry aroma, but high acidity on the pallet that killed any fruit flavor.  Has this year’s crop lived up to the criticism of the snobs that nouveau is rushed to market in haste to line the pockets of the winery owners?  The strong alcohol scent lead me to believe that cellaring this Beaujolais will reap a more enjoyable wine in the future.

1996 Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet $$ (30.00)  Selecting from a region that has a reputation for great whites, full of flavor, was a complement to my turkey dinner.  This wine gave me a scent of toasted marshmallows and caramel.  The wine was full and creamy, but had a bit more acid than fruit for making this a great wine.    The mineral flavors over-powered the richness of the chardonnay grape.  Good, but not great, as a complement to dinner.  Maybe I am just a red wine guy.

Question of the Day

What wine do you serve at Thanksgiving.  I watched a segment on TV this morning where some “expert” was telling me what wine I should serve with the turkey.  He suggested the following: Albrino, Riesling, Zinfandel, Chianti, or a Sparkling wine.   I have read articles that prefer Pinot Noir or White Burgundy.  What about an Alsace Gewürztraminer?  What will you be having?  I’m interested in hearing.

11/19/00

BACCHUS, the God of wine has been brought to life in a restaurant in Northern NJ.  Last night I dined at Bacchus Chop House and Wine Bar, on Passaic Ave. in Fairfield, NJ.  This newly opened eatery caught my eye with their Bacchus fountain and wine-friendly message on their sign.

Over dinner I got to chat with Joe Iurato, the sommelier, about their wine offerings and future plans for those of us who go to places to eat the food but love the wine.  Joe has set up a program to encourage experimentation into new wines with their wine-by-the-glass selection.  Larger than most restaurants in the area, they will change the selections frequently to attract you to their cellar.  They have a good selection of reds, though I told him- MORE Rhones…

The most exciting aspect of this new restaurant is the tasting and wine class program Joe is designing.  They have a room designed for cooking and wine pairing classes that will be scheduled in the near future.  I will post those schedules when they become available.  Good luck Joe, you have brought the winos of North Jersey a unique experience.

As you can see, I haven’t even mentioned the food… the NY strip, medium rare with the house special Bacchus sauce; a spicy barbecue base was the perfect compliment to my syrah.

Now back to the wine.  I did not get the chance to walk in the wine cellar so I mention this with a caution, from what I saw and heard, most of the wine is from vintages 1996 to the present.  I will correct this if this is not the case.  The only other comment I will make is that the pricing structure on some of the lower end wines was a bit high.

Make reservations, this place was packed on a Saturday night.

1998 Liberty School Cabernet $ (22.00)   Still tightly wrapped in the bottle, this cab was harsh and tannic, which totally overrode the fruit.  Half way through, this wine showed signs of the positive qualities of the grape that made me order it.  This needs plenty of oxidation for enjoyment so open it,  pour it, and let it breathe long before you plan on bringing it to your lips.

1998 Stone Haven Shiraz $ (11.00)    If you see this wine, run away.  This is not a syrah with any of the flavors or aroma of a beautiful, full bodied Rhone.  This was an imposture. I will try different wines for the good of the web site, but I do not have to finish the glass. 

J. Lohr Syrah $ (14.00)   This was enjoyable as it opened up.  A strong syrah aroma had me sniffing my glass frequently.  Although, this wine did not have the length and back draft to keep me interested in this as a "must have".  It’s OK to complement cheese and conversation on a light Saturday night, but it would not pass my Lamb test.  The spicy meat quickly separates the boys from the men and Lamb would over rule this wine.  

11/15/00

Listening to your comments, I have gotten the message.  WinoBob, you have totally neglected the grape that the US of A has made famous.  You have not been doing your job; you have tasted the minor Gewurztraminer but have nothing on the Zinfandel.  

Now for you beginners amongst us, Zinfandel is a red grape. Unfortunately Sutter Home has molded many minds of mush into apoplectic twitching when they first pour a Zinfandel and see that dark red color.  I admit up front that Zin’s are not deep in my knowledge bank so I bought a few this weekends. 

1997 Rombauer Zinfandel $$ (26.00)  This wine has a heady aroma and, as you will find out, a kick-ass alcohol content.  Soft, spicy and smooth came immediately to mind.  This was full bodied but did not have the finish that I had hoped for upon sniffing this beauty.  The back draft was tannic which stepped on the otherwise pleasant experience this wine brought to my glass.

1997 Zebra Zin $ (18.00)   A medium-bodied harshness assaulted my mouth as I drank this wine.  A pleasant aroma was present as I lifted the glass to my nose, but the drinking was not fun.  I still have a half-opened bottle at the house if anyone wants a taste.  I tried, but this is not one I would bring to friends.

11/11/00

Rhone Ranger, Rhonie, Rhonophile, call me any of those names and I will smile and graciously accept the compliment.  I love wine from the South of France, but continually support the hearty band of US vintners who have been planting and promoting the varietals of The French Rhone Valley.  To me, they have the full body and rich, dense red flavor that I look for in my wine.  The grouping of grapes give depth from the time the wine first touches my tongue, to the back draft (for the firefighters in the audience).  Back draft that forced bit of air that runs through your sinus cavity after swallowing.  Back draft, the finish of the wine that tells me if this has length, or tannin or depth of fruit.  

Well, last night, I had my second favorite California Rhone; only upon my deathbed will I be able to crown my favorite of all time.  And yes, while drinking this, I did help keep the plant safe from flying saucers.  FLYING SAUCERS- "what have you been smoking?", you ask.  Well this wine I enjoyed was named to honor the village Council of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, who in 1954 passed an ordinance prohibiting the landing of flying saucers or flying cigars in their vineyards.  The ordinance further stated that any flying saucer or flying cigar, if landed would be immediately taken to the pound.  Thank God the ordinance is on the books and by my drinking the dark ruby nectar, I continued the enforcement of protecting the vineyards from flying saucers.  No thanks are necessary, I do this for the good of the website.

1997 Bonny Doon Vineyards Le Cigare Volant $$ (26.00)  From stem to stern, or should I say from stem to juice, this luscious ruby-red nectar could not hold one more grape in the bottle.  The blending of 40.2% Grenache, 39.5% Syrah, 13.6% Cinsault and 6.7% Mourvedre is like a symphony on your palette. The grapes in perfect harmony give the richest, deepest fruit flavors in the back draft.  This, friends, is a wine I could bathe in... Sorry, I got lost in the moment.  Find this wine, buy enough to keep for yourself.   When you want a special treat, bring it to friends and have them admire your ability to select the hit wine of the night.  This wine hides beneath a gray marbleized synthetic cork.  It could cause me to switch my position on synthetics if all wines that are capped with a plastic stopper taste this rich.

11/7/00

Winos and Winettes, up until now, I have only reviewed wines and left the eatery info to others.  Tonight, though, I had a perchance find of a restaurant, not owned by a friend or family member, that was so wino friendly I had to post it.  As tonight is election night and I wanted to watch the results like I watch the NFL ticket on the satellite dish (switching to the coverage from every major market), I selected a place to eat that fit the night.  The City Tavern in Philly, PA.  This is a place where Thomas Jefferson quaffed ale while contemplating legislation.  Unfortunately, they were closed.  So I wandered up Front Street and the gas lanterns in front of the Penn’s View Hotel were enough to draw me inside.  As I opened the wine list at the Panorama Ristorante in the lobby of the Penn’s View (I’ll tell you right now, there is NO view), the header on the first page read’ “Best Wine by the Glass Program in North America” Decanter Magazine.   Other awards followed  from Wine Spectator, Gourmet Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Food & Wine…

What I saw before me for the first time at any restaurant was a selection of 120 wines by the glass.  "So what?", you say.  Well, the hook that has me in front of my computer at midnight typing this out is what they call their "Panoramic Flights".  This is a personal tasting of five different wines in a select group, 1.5 ounces of each. The first 6 pages of the wine list contain 22-26 different flights from which to choose.   This is a wine tasting #*@ dream. 

Since I am a red wine lover I will give one example (since I had a 2 hour drive home, I did not partake in a flight). The Western Muscle Flight #803 cost $35.00 and you get 1.5 ounce servings of:

Barbera “Dry Creek Valley”, Preston 1996
Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” Merryvale 1998
Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma County” Jordan 1996
Petite Sirah “Russian River Valley Estate Bottled” Christopher Creek 1997
Meritage “Opus One,” Mondavi/Rothschild 1997

Some other flight names:

Tuscan Tour - Italian greats
Anything But Cabernet - Syrahs, Zins, dolcetto
Juicey Juice - Merlots
Gusty Gusto - heavy duty reds
Chateau Shuttle - Bordeaux
The White Stuff - mixed
Rhone Rangers - white Rhone styles
Chardonnay Shootout
Anything But Chardonnay - Viognier, Semillon, marsanne
Riesling Roulette
Muscat Lover
California Dreamin’
Franco File
Tiny Bubbles

The great thing is that this restaurant has a hotel connected so after your flight(s), you can crash upstairs. 

11/5/00

Saturday night dinner party, what to serve.  That question rattles around my head even if we don’t have company coming over.  I love to think about what wine would be a hit and bring me high praise by my dinner guests.  Yes, I want the people that eat at my table to really enjoy their wine; I want them to think the wine was better than the food.  I want them to leave my house thinking they want to come back just to sit around the fireplace (since fall is here, sitting on the porch has been moved inside) and drink wine and eat cheese and not even want to have dinner.  I want people to have a passion for wine that makes that the reason we get together.   

1993 Tenuta dell Ornellaia Bolgheri Ornellaia $$ (50.00) As I decanted this wine, a rich deep ruby liquid flowed through the sieve.  I let this sit for an hour before dinner in a wide decanter to open the fruit that slept in this bottle since 1993. This region of Tuscany (Bolgheri) produces the super Tuscan wines that provide Italy with world-class recognition.  This region is most famous for Sassicaia, nectar of the Italian Gods.  These are the Bordeaux style wines of Italy.  I must confess that the rich color of this wine left me disappointed when I swirled and sniffed.  There was not much of a heady fruit smell from the decanter or the glass.  The taste was a delicious plum-fruit and mild tannins gave this a solid structure.  But for me, wine is as much an olfactory sensation and this one fell short.  Many times, I will just sniff the glass without a sip, just to ingrain the wines signature into my head.  This one did not have fingerprints.  

10/29/00

1999 French Creek Ridge Gewurztraminer $ (11.00)   This is a grape I have little experience with, so after tasting this wine, I looked up in the World Encyclopedia of Wine the properties of this grape.  What French Creek Ridge produced fell far short of the floral, spicy rich character this grape should display.  In the right hands, this can produce a wine with fruit and sweetness like a dessert style; but if not picked at the right times, it can be muddy and unfocused.  The word unfocused rings true to this one.  Acidic, pale, thin and the scent of “Beer” have this one not making its way to my Thanksgiving dessert cart.

 

10/27/00

1994 Balbas Reserva $ (15.99) Trying to stay away from the hot Rioja region, I selected a reserva from the Ribera del Duero, the up-and-coming wine region of Spain.  Now I know why Rioja is the choice region.  This wine was thin and watery and had nothing of a finish.  Next time I will stick to the wine region that made Spain famous.  Save your cash.

1997 BV Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon $ (19.99)  This is a solid cab from a strong producer.  A good solid fruit aroma and a lush body make this enjoyable.  The finish on this one was a bit harsh which kept this from rating higher.  Let this settle down for another year and the fruit will be luscious.  Just under 20 dollars, this is a good one to bring to friends house.

1997 Anapamu Pinot Noir $ (14.00)  Pinot Noir is something I am scared of.  Yes, this delicate wine can be very difficult to buy.  Price is the first problem, thin skin on the grape is the second problem.  The thin skin makes this susceptible to every minor climate change.  When everything is right, this is nectar.  This wine, especially for 14 bucks is a great buy.  Drinkable, with a great fruit/acid balance makes this the perfect wine to bring to dinner.  Light enough to go with fish and enough fruit for mildly seasoned meats.  I liked this one, but please don’t think I am comparing this to the best of Vosne-Romanee.  Buy it, share it with friends, and enjoy it.

10/21/00

1997 Penfold Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon $$$ (79.50)    This big Aussie Cab reminded me of a Jim Croce song, “Time in a Bottle”.  This wine is too young to enjoy now, since tannins dominate the glass. Buy it and place it in the back of your rack.  If I could save this in the bottle for 5 years, this will be a big cab from the great producer of Penfold.  If I can last long enough to enjoy this in 2007, there will be at least one more sommelier in this review.  So let this rest and enjoy its time in a bottle.

1994 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Bosche Estates $$ (39.00) This came from the strong 1994 California Cab crop allowing this to have had time in the bottle.  The tannins were mild and a moderately full-bodied lush wine appeared.  Then, quickly, it faded. I expected this wine to reveal a long chewy finish from the strong fruit nose. Could this one have had too much time in the bottle?

10/15/00

This wine page has several ancillary forces orbiting the love of wine, like Wino John’s tie to technology and Wino Wally’s love of golf and Wino Hondo’s interest in single malt scotches.  So today, I bring the movies as my tangential influence.  Last night, I took the kids to see, “Remember the Titans” and it inspired me to act in a manner that all of us who played high schools sports lived those glory days so long ago.  First let me say, the movie has a great message that you can feel good about taking your kids to see and not feel uncomfortable with the language and situations.  Based on a true situation, this film lets you walk away from the theater talking about the differences in the world with your kids and showing the positive sides of people from which they can learn to assimilate into their own situations.  This movie and “Rudy” are two that I, as a parent, can discuss the tenets of a “never give up, work hard, live honest lives” attitude with my 10 and 12 year old.  Now, "what does this have to do with wine?", you ask.  Let me tell you, Tim, this brought me back to the feelings of sacrifice for the good of the team (website) and giving 110% all the time to get the results you want.  So I sacrificed.  Yes, I opened wine that has me at the edge, like running stairs at the stadium, leaving it all on the field.  My wine choices this weekend were:

1996 Chateau Vaugelas Cuvee Prestige $ (9.99)    As with most sporting events, there is a winner and a loser, and unfortunately this was a loser.  This wine is from the Corbieris region of southern France.  With the nobility of Syrah and Grenache running through the vines of this region, I thought this would be a good value wine.  Unfortunately, it did not even meet the structure of the Vin de Pays I had several weeks ago.  Thin, weak, and watery describe the disappointment I tasted.  The aroma in the glass did make me think this would be a much better tasting wine than it was. I took the path less traveled in the South of France.

1995 Palmer Vineyards Estate Chardonnay $ (11.99)  That’s 2.5 sommeliers on this one, yes it is a winner.  But you must understand that reviewing white wine is my sacrifice and reviewing one from the North Fork of Long Island is my giving 110% to find value wines for you guys (I say that generically not to insult my female fans).  As I have been reading, Long Island has been gaining prominence for chardonnay and the 1999 vintage is supposed to be one of the best ever.  The concern I had was this was a 1995 vintage. With even great Chards fading after 5 years, a local Long Island wine could have been past its peak.  This wine gave a great fruit nose and a strong Cortland apple and citrus flavor.  I do not think they carry this all over the country, it was hard to find in NJ, but this is worth the price if you can locate it.  I do want to qualify that as white wines go, I still rank white Burgundy, Australian chard, and California Chards above this, but for the region that it hales from and the fruit it delivers, I liked this one.  Do not expect buttery rich weightiness from this chard, enjoy it for the fruit and low acidity.

10/7/00

As are most winos, I am always in search of that user-friendly, inexpensive, varietally-labeled wine.  This niche was fulfilled by the Midi section of France, the heartland of “vin ordinaire”; that region that covers Languedoc-Roussillon.  These wines are called Vin de Pays and are regional wines that are not subject to the complex laws of the wine police in France.  These are generic wines that can tell you what you are drinking without needing the advanced course on France wines and a book to know from the label if it is a Grand Cru, Premier Cru or Village wine.  This is the wine of the people.  The down side to this fact is that the wine can be poor to decent, though pricing is starting to flirt with wines of distinction.  So as the sacrificial lamb that I am, for the good of the web site, I brought home a Vin de Pays and have the following to note.

1998 Domaine Des Tours Vin de Pays de Vaucluse $ (7.49)  As the cork slid out of the bottle on this red Vin de Pays, the familiar scent of southern Rhone hit me immediately, the cedar nose of a good cigar box.  As the Pavlovian dog that I am, I could not wait to chew into this one.  Could it be the diamond in the rough?", I thought.  Then I poured a small amount and the sinking feeling that came over me lasted the rest of the bottle.  No, this was not the hearty wine of Chateauneuf or even a Cote du Rhone; this was light in color and watery to the taste.  There was no big finish to this blend of my favorite grapes (Syrah and Grenache).  I do suggest you buy this for the times you need to spice up a recipe with a red wine for a sauce, but keep the bottle off the table lest someone mistakenly pours it in a glass.

 

10/2/00

I recently read an article entitled, “Open that Bottle”.  It centered on the struggle I constantly have when I look through the bottles in the cellar.  Lest you think I’m a snob, I have an old house that still has a dirt floor in a section, so I use the term cellar to describe, appropriately, the fieldstone-lined, musty, dank cellar that my house stands upon.  I do not have a wine cellar like you see in those great ads in Wine Enthusiast with racks and racks and a tasting table and tile floor and high hat lighting and artwork and, and… I digress.  The situation is that I don’t buy cases and cases of wine, I buy mixed cases of the ones I read about and people recommend.  So, on many occasions, I am holding a bottle of a higher priced wine, only to put it back for that time in the future I will deem as a special occasion.  At that point, it will be the moment of pure elation when I taste that wine that has been sitting on the rack, which has been picked up hundreds of times only to be put back because it just was not special enough a time to open that wine.

Personally, I treat wines above twenty-five dollars in that special category.  So this past weekend, I figured I would warm up with an expensive Argentinean (remember, I qualified this by the place it came from) and I would end the weekend with family in celebration of a birthday party for my kids, which made this a special occasion.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed with both wines I tasted and the feeling of holding bottles that may not live up to expectations has me less likely to keep putting back the wines I stare at each week thinking them not worthy of a Saturday night opening.

1995 Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon $ (18.00)  being impressed with Weinert’s Carrascal, a less expensive blend, I had high hopes for this wine.  Cabernet is a main grape of all the great wine countries and with the impressive Chilean Cabs; I waited for a big bold wine.  This had unimpressive fruit and tannins that kept me from forming enough saliva to spit until Sunday morning.  This will not make my list again, in fact I would much rather buy 2 bottles of Carrascal then 1 bottle of the Cab.

1997 Behrens & Hitchcock Syrah $$ (35.00)  disappointing, what else can I say.  No major fruit here, short finish and lighter in weight then expected.  The most impressive part of this wine for me was the blue synthetic cork.  I know what I like in a syrah and this was not it.  


 

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