Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Last Night At Temple With Friends And MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir

I was blessed to spend the last Temple night with my hubby, Sarah, Efrain, and Alana at temple. As per Tuesday night convention I brought along a bottle of wine, this time was MacMurray Ranch 2007 Pinot Noir, "Sonoma Coast". From the very beginning this wine was a joy. When "Bartender Mike" pulled the cork he said he could smell the fruit. The nose was extremely enticing, just bursting with red fruits (strawberry and red cherry) with hints of earthiness and cocoa. In the glass the color was red and bright ("Pretty" was the word everyone used). The wine is medium-bodied and elegant with soft tannins and good acidity leaving the mouth watering. It went well with the pork medallions that I had and would probably go well with a baked chicken and even a pasta with red sauce. A fine wine with good food and close friends... an all around enjoyable evening.

Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 225

Monday, December 28, 2009

Seghesio 2008 Zinfandel Sonoma County

It's winter and my tastes tend to turn to big reds. I had loved the 2007 vintage of Seghestio Zinfandel so thought I would try the latest offering and what fun it was! This wine is loaded with berries (particularly blackberry and raspberry) and spice and just a touch of licorice. Full bodied and layered it was a delight to drink. This wine has a taste palate that will go well most any food. The 2007 was given a 93 rating by Wine Spectator and flew off the shelves, I expect the same for the 2008!

Wines reviewed in 2009: 224

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Brander Christmas Eve

For Christmas Eve my partner and I were fortunate enough to have dinner with two friends Efrain and Sarah at Martinis Above Fourth. While we did have some lovely cocktails I brought along a couple of bottles from my private stash of wines. Interestingly enough both were from Brander, my favorite for Sauvignon Blanc in the Central coast as well a fine purveyor of Bordeaux reds. I brought two very special wines of theirs for the four of us to try with our dinners:

First up was the popular 2007 Au Naturel Sauvignon Blanc (which was recently rated a 91 by Wine Enthusiast magazine... ya Brander!). This is their flagship unoaked offering and provided a lovely lemony, limey, green appley nose, a citrusy taste with excellent acidity and a long finish that made it a delightful opener.

For a red I brought along their 2006 Bouchet. "Bouchet" is another name for a Cab Franc but from the good folks at Brander this wine is a blend of the traditional Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon but to keep it from being a traditional "Bordeaux style" blend they add just a touch of Syrah. Their use of new French oak adds a touch of spiciness to this wine, this full-bodied, fruit-forward wine was excellent! Loads of black cherry and cassis with just a hint of cocoa that was perfect with our entrees.

Wines reviewed in 2009: 223

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fess Parker 2005 American Tradition Reserve Syrah

OK, I think I've raved enough about the Fess Parker wines, especially their Syrah and Pinot offerings, to know what I am going to say. This wine, the 2005 American Tradition Reserve Syrah was fantastic, perfect on a chilly San Diego evening. The nose was a lovely blend of chocolate, anise, and black cherry with a promise of a little spicy heat which delivered on the palate. Black fruits, pepper and spice with a touch of heat from the alcohol all came together with the acid to make the mouth water and the combined with the smooth tannins created a tasty, long finish. They are now selling the 2006 on their Web site but I am expecting great things of that as well (will probably be reviewing that one next week... if I can wait that long).

Wines reviewed in 2009: 221

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What We Had For Thanksgiving

In a word... wine. This year we attended two Thanksgivings, one served at the house and one at a Tio Ely's. It made for an exhausting but fun day and of course an opportunity to share from the wine stash. The offerings we had were fairly traditional but of course there are reasons for traditions, in the case of wine, because they go well with the typical Thanksgiving meal. In no particular order those around us got to share the following:

2007 Louis Jadot Beaujolais: What a pretty wine, a lovely garnet in the glass that delivered what you would expect from a Thanksgiving wine. Very fruit forward with crushed strawberries, hints of cherry and peppercorn leading the way. Excellent acidity and gentle tannins make this a favorite of mine for Thanksgiving (or just when I want something light and fruity).

2008 Alex's Red Barn Grenache: A newer offering from one of my Temecula favorites, this wine is loaded with black fruits, high-finish acidity and smooth tannins. An extremely food-friendly wine for most any meal with roasted or braised meat.

2007 Fess Parker ATR Pinot Noir: Since I recently reviewed this wine I won't say anything more than this wine did not disappoint and was as expected a crowd pleaser.

2008 Baily's Temecula Valley Dry Riesling: Had to throw a white in and this one was lovely. Slightly less dry than the name suggests this wine, this was a crisp, lightly spicy, "appley" wine that blended stunningly with the turkey.

Wines reviewed in 2009: 220 (not counting the Fess Parker since it was recently reviewed)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bridlewood "Six Gun" Syrah 2006

Over the weekend I went to Martinis Above Fourth to listen to Chaz and Aaron perform (if you haven't gone you really should). Since it was going to be a long evening (your fearless wine reviewer was going about an hour and a half before the performance to have an early dinner) I decided to take along my own bottle of something to have while waiting (the cocktails are both potent and deceptive in taste... you don't know you're drinking an "adult beverage" until you get whacked by the vodka). Since I had a recent shipment from Bridlewood I took the 2006 "Six Gun" Syrah contained therein. Turned out to be an excellent decision. The "Six Gun" is a pretty rustic, in your face wine. Big and bold, full of dark fruits, white pepper, hints of smoke and cocoa (and a touch of cedar on the nose) with bold tannins and good acid support. While a big wine this is not at all harsh with all of the elements coming together quite nicely in the mouth and bringing about a longish finish. I still prefer the English Leather from this winery but this bottle showed a nice job by the folks at Bridlewood!

Wines reviewed in 2009: 217

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fess Parker American Tradition Reserve Pinot Noir, 2007

As any reader of this blog knows I am a big fan of the Fess Parker wines, especially their Syrah and Pinot Noir. Last night at "Temple" I brought a bottle of 2007 American Tradition Reserve Pinot Noir from my most recent shipment. It was a touch young but a lovely wine that lived up to my expectations for any wine from ol' Fess. The color was a beautiful red, I would venture garnet but the lighting was a little dim so exact determination eludes me. The nose was fruity, heavily strawberry and raspberry with a hint of smoke and vanilla that I adore. Medium-light bodied, the wine delivered a nice blend of strawberries, black cherries and chocolate supported with good acidity and tannins producing a medium-length finish. I paired it with the pork appetizer at Temple for a nice synergism of flavor.

Wines reviewed in 2009: 216

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Foley Chardonnay T Anchor Ranch

The other night I was sitting in my usual spot at Martinis Above Fourth (affectionately known as "Temple") with my friend Sarah. I had decided to bring along a wine to go with the yummy food they serve (since I have been on a diet recently I cut back a bit on anything harder than wine though from time-to-time I do get to have one of their many fantastic cocktails). I felt like a Chardonnay and after rummaging around the storage areas I pulled out a bottle of the 2007 Foley T Anchor Ranch. I had read a lot about Foley but hadn't sampled them until my last trip to the Santa Ynez valley. One tasting and I was hooked, joining the wine club. This bottle is from their "Brand Series" that commemorates one of the early relatives of the owners.

The grapes for this wine are sourced from the Foley estates, Rancho Santa Rosa and Courtney’s Vineyard to be more precise. You get something interesting in the blend as they come from different microclimates within the appellation. Although allowed to ferment for 16 months in Oak I was quite surprised at what came out. The wine was bright, just a hint of greenish gold in the glass. The nose was clean, quite a bit of fruit with a touch of green apple, pineapple, orange blending together. Usually with oak fermentation and malolactic fermentation I expect butteriness and roundness and while there was some roundness in texture it wasn't at all what I expected which was a pleasant surprise! There were hints of the usual suspects of the fermentation process but very subtle with the acidity shining through. Nothing about this wine was flabby or overly processed creating a lovely fruit / acid taste with a slightly rounded mouthfeel making for a bit more body without it just laying the on your tongue. The finish was a lovely medium length that provided the "appropriate" time between sips. Definitely worth picking up if you want to sample something good from this vintner... but hurry, they only produced about 450 cases!

Wines reviewed in 2009: 215

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Couple Of Old Friends: Curtis Crossroads and Leonesse Melange de Reves

As the weather gets cooler my palate yearns more and more for red elements (but don't worry white lovers, there will more postings of those lovely wines as well). But cooler weather makes me think of the reds of Bordeaux, but perhaps even more these days the Rhone-styles. I pulled out two old friends to help with this transition, both from Southern California. The first is the lovely little 2006 Melange de Reves from Leonesse Cellars in Temecula. This wine is a blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Grenache that produces a medium body wine of fantastic aroma and taste. The nose hints at pepper, spice, berries and just a touch of tobacco ina warming combination perfect for my balcony-sitting in the evening. The taste is well balanced with a nice little touch of heat, good fruit, firm but not demanding tannins and good acidity that yields a nice medium-length finish.

Continuing with the same theme I decided to open a bottle of Curtis Winery's 2005 The Crossroad - Santa Ynez Valley. This tasty offering is another Rhone-style blend, this time of Grenache and Syrah. Curtis is a Rhone-style specialist boutique winery in the best sense of the word. From the get-go the nose is teased with clove, black fruits, and just a touch of sandalwood. I swear I spend quite a minutes just letting the aroma linger before even tasting. On the palate we get lovely black cherries and vanilla with fine acidity and good tannins that carry the event to a tasty lingering finish.

Wines reviewed in 2009: 214

Monday, October 26, 2009

Battling Pinots At WineSellar

Saturday for lunch I decided to attend the wine tasting at The WineSellar and Brasserie, Pinot Noir "taste-off" between Sonoma and Oregon. It looked delicious on the announcement and I was not disappointed. For a pairing I selected the braised pork which was fantastic. Since the tasting was blind I will post my notes in the order poured and give the name of the wine after each note.

  • Wine 1: Light, "cherry red" in color. Light nose, slightly floral with cherry and raspberry notes. Fine acid/fruit bend, lighter bored. enough tannins to help create a longer finish than expected. Excellent with the braised pork! William Selyem 2007, Russian River Valley

  • Wine 2: Deeper in color than the first wine. Violets and blueberries on the nose, hint of cola here. Light bodied, nice blend but not as pleasing for me as wine #1. A littler shorter finish but there was some enhancement of taste with the braised pork. Merry Edwards, 2007, Russian River Valley

  • Wine 3: Red with hint of violet in color. Nose brings hints of earth and coffee along with red fruit. A little more dry than the first two wines. Not thrilled with the finish and no real synergy for me with the meal. Et Fille 2007, Willamette Valley

  • Wine 4: More deeply colored than wine 1. Big cola, vanilla, and fruit on the nose with lovely notes of spice. Bigger tannins than the other three but not overpowering. Excellent with the braised pork. Hartford Court 2006, Fog Dance Vineyard, Russian River Valley

  • Wine 5: Back to slightly deeper cherry red. Pretty nose full of cherries, berries, hints of herbs and earthiness that I love. Lovely mouthfeel, a bit fuller than the others but not at all flabby. Fine acid/fruit/tannin combo making for an excellent finish. Blends well with the lunch, my favorite thus far. Dusky Goose 2006, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley

  • Wine 6: Deepest red of the six. Cola, violets, maybe blueberries and nuts on the nose, quite a pretty blend. Lovely, lively mouthfeel, medium finish. Works quite well with lunch. Cristom 2004, Eileen Vineyard, Willamette Valley

  • So at the end of the day I would say that the 2006 Dusky Goose (Oregon) and the 2007 Williams Selyem (Sonoma) were my favorites but it's hard to go wrong with any of these beautiful Pinots.

    Wines tasted in 2009: 212

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Alamos Malbec 2007 - Almost A Year Later

    Well, in November of 2008 I posted a review of Alamos Malbec 2007. Looking for something to sip tonight I happened across another bottle in the cooler and thought "Why not?" The wine is still an inky black in appearance with lovely legs as I swirl the nectar around in the Riedel. The nose has a strong black fruit component as well as hints of leather, tobacco and a touch of earthy spice. The wine is still on the lighter side of medium, lovely balance of fruit and acidity with just a hint of tannin to come together in a short/medium finish that is very pleasing. So one year later I can still recommend this inexpensive yet lovely little wine.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 206

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    We're Back... And With A Missouri Wine

    Thanks for sticking with me folks, it's been a hectic few months with family problems, reorgs at work, and then finishing up my thesis for a master's program. But now I'm back and ready to make up for lost ground.

    Tonight's little gem hails from my home state of Missouri. Yes, wine from Missouri, and if you've read any of my past posts about Missouri wines you'll know that they turn out some pretty danged good stuff (why, a Missouri wine won the "Judgment of Ocean Beach" contest we had earlier). Montelle Winery lies in the area that was was the first AVA (America's way of denoting geographic locations of grape growing), Augusta. If you've never been I highly recommend a trip to and through the Missouri wine region that hugs the banks of the Missouri River, it is both charming and breathtaking in it's beauty.

    This wine is made with the Chambourcin grape, a hybrid that has shown to be particularly resistant to fungus infections. It has a fairly wide growing area in the midwest and eastern United States was well as some areas in France and Australia. The wine I poured tonight was of a deep cherry red color. After a few swirls around the glass I was greeted by the aroma of blackberries, a touch of cherry, a little "woody vanilla", and I would swear just a hint of smoke (though that could just be the pollutants of LA County burning but since it's pleasant I'll attribute it to the wine). The wine is medium bodied and dry but not puckeringly so. There is a good acid/fruit balance with enough tannin to support but not overwhelm. On the tongue I get red fruits (cherries prominent) and spice. There is a certain overall "rustic-ness" to the wine which is pleasant, all coming together in a medium length finish. If you're looking for something different to have with your BBQ I would say give this wine a shot.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 205

    Thursday, August 13, 2009


    It's been over a month since I reviewed something for y'all. Between work and school I have been swamped but bear with me, I should have something up for you soon.



    Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    2007 Foley Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

    Today is a day for me to celebrate. I got the results back from my comprehensive exam and passed with high honors (yeah me). To celebrate I opened a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir, my lone bottle of Foley 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills and opened a Fuente Opus X Cigar. Obviously I tasted the wine (well, "tasted" a glass) before smoking the cigar. The wine is absolutely lovely (Wine Enthusiast gave it a 92). The color is a beautiful deep cherry red hinting at what is to come. On the nose hints of cherry, cranberry and a touch of cola. The wine is a medium-light body, lovely mouthfeel and my salivary glands worked overtime. The fruit was "bright", making the wine seem a little light but lovely with soft tannins combining with the other parts to create a medium-length finish that brings a touch of spice into the mix. Perfect for an evening like this.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 204

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    Two New From Leonesse

    On a quick trip to Temecula I made my obligatory stop at Leonesse Cellars and was presented with a couple of new offerings that I had to write about. The first was their 2005 Port, a wonderful Port-style wine made from 100% Cinsault. This newest addition to their Port-style family was delicious. There is a wonderful "raisiny" nose hinting at the richness of the wine to come. This port is smooth, creamy, fruit driven (blackberry, black cherry) with hints of dark chocolate. The other was a barrel draw of their 2007 Syrah, deep purple in color with a nose of smoke, tobacco, dark fruits and spice. This is a very dry, very young offering but the structure is there to make an excellent offering to watch for when it hits the marke

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 203

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009


    I was rummaging through the cooler for something to sip tonight to help relax after a mentally taxing day when what did my eyes spy but a hidden bottle of Alex's Red Barn 2005 Viognier. Since I had two bottles of the 2007 stored it was quite a fun little find and after the momentary debate of holding my own private vertical tasting I decided to not waste any more time and opened up my find. In the glass this white Rhone varietal is nothing but pretty, clean, clean looking with just the slightest touch of golden sun in color. Now I know that it is not uncommon for a Viognier to lose a large part of it's nose after a few years but as I brought the glass up after a few healthy swirl I was greeted with the heavenly scent of honeysuckle and apricots with a slight floral underpinning. The wine smelled like a warm summer evening just as a cool breeze was working through (OK, that was kind of muddled but I hope you get the idea). In the mouth this wine shows a little body with bold fruits that might make you think sweet but you really get fruit more than sugar. There is some acid, moderate alcohol and fruitiness that leaves a little spiciness lingering on the finish. Even after a few years this wine can hold its own with much of what is out on the market.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 201

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Revisiting Baily 2004 Cabernet Franc

    Well, our flying trip through Temecula didn't allow for time to taste at Baily Winery so tonight, after working out and having dinner with the hubby we settled down with a glass of a fine product of our nearby AVA. Baily's 2004 Cabernet Franc is a lovely wine in the glass, an almost translucent cherry color that just invites you to sip. After a couple of swirls the nose that greats you is just as enticing, offering up lovely spicy dark fruit that makes the mouth water before a drop enters it. The wine is lean, very good acidity and solid tannins supporting dark cherries and hints of cassis that slowly fade to a slightly peppery finish. Very nice! Wish I had more than one bottle left, I'd share it with you. ;-)

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 200

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Alex's Red Barn's New Grenache 2008

    Today after doing the Father's Day stuff my partner and I went to Temecula to pick up my wine shipments from Leonesse and Baily's. On the way home we stopped by Alex's Red Barn Winery where some of the cleanest, least manipulated hand-crafted wines in Temecula, if not SoCal, can be found. The whole reason for the detour (other than I have enjoyed their wines since I first tasted them nearly a decade ago) was I had been told of a new offering, a Grenache! I love a well-made Grenache which can range from light and fruity to some of the heavier Rhone productions. The moment I inhaled from the glass I knew I would enjoy it. The experience put it somewhere in the middle of Grenache spectrum. The nose was fruity with hints of spice and vanilla and just the slightest touch of green pepper. On the tongue I experienced cherries and blackberries exploding, supported by mouthwatering acid and smooth tannins with a little spice kicking in on the finish to carry it one a bit longer. This medium-light bodied wine makes a fine summer red, an excellent companion for grilled meat as well as a hearty stew or roasted lamb. The wine is a winner, enough to make me sign up for the wine club.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 199

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Brander 2007 Uno Mas

    With the arrival of my shipment as part of Brander Vineyard wine club I decided to celebrate by opening a bottle of their interesting Uno Mas 2007. This lovely little wine is blend of Grenache Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc (70% - 30%). The nose on this wine is extremely pretty, slightly floral with undertones of grapefruit, orange peel, and something hinting at a touch of minerality. The wine presents a touch more body than one would expect with a lovely flash of fruit, nice acidity (though to make it "perfect" I would like a touch more), and a fine medium-length finish where I got my touch of minerality again. A wonderful wine with which to finish a warm day.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 198

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Pinot Noir Tasting At San Diego Wine Company

    Saturday my beau and I went to the weekly tasting at San Diego Wine Company. On deck for this tasting was a nice selection of Pinot Noirs. None were from Burgundy, in fact all were from either California or Oregon with two of them awarded 90+ points from Wine Spectator. The wines were, in order of presentation:

  • Willakenzie 2006 Pinot Noir: From the Willamette Valley comes a nice little Pinot, a good opener showing traditional nose of earth, red cherries, just a hint of coffee and plum. Slightly thin, good fruit and nice acidity with a balanced, fruity slighly short finish.

  • Kali Hart 2007 Pinot Noir: A California wine from Monterey County, part of the Talbott Vineyards family of wines, we have a Pinot Noir that was a little darker than the Willakenzie (and a year younger). Strawberries on the nose, sour fruits (cherry and strawberry) in the mouth with an almost strawberry jam finish. Very fruity compared to the Willakenzie.

  • Au Bon Climat 2007 "Santa Barbara": This is Jim McClendenen's entry-level Pinot. Pretty nose, hints of chocolate and red fruits but I have to say while a decent wine I expected a little more. Lighter bodied than I had expected, good acidity but short on fruit delivery.

  • O'Reilly's 2007 "Oregon" Pinot Noir: Sadly, I got almost nothing off of this wine. not very deep in color, a little fruit on the nose but it was very faint. Not much delivery, a brief flash of taste rapidly evaporating away

  • Daedalus 2006 "Willamette Valley": Dark chocolate and coffee are heavy on the nose and almost overpower the fruit. A bit more body the most of the others, this wine delivers some sour cherry and cranberry with tight tannins and some good acidity.

  • Stephen Ross 2007 "Central Coast": My partner really liked this one and it was an excellent value. Darkest wine thus far in the line up, fuller bodied than the others. Nice strawberries and hints of chocolate good acidity and soft tannins with a medium-length finish. A fine Pinot Noir for the price (offered at $15.95).

  • Bogle 2007 "Russian River": Bogle is a good producer, offering drinkable wines at an excellent price and this is no exception. The nose was almost floral with hints of cherry and a little cocoa (my partner swore caramel but I'll hold with cocoa). Good body, nice fruit delivery with balanced acidity and tannin with a touch of spice on the finish. This with the Ross make two very fine affordable Pinots.

  • Elke 2006 "Anderson Valley" Donnelly Creek Vineyard: Earthy nose (which I tend to like, reminds me of Burgundy) with underlying ripe red fruits. Medium bodied, soft tannins, decent acidity with just a touch of spice on the finish. At over 14$ alcohol seemed to run a little hot compared to the rest of the contenders (they should check with Fess Parker on how to do it a little better though this was not a bad wine at all).

  • Roessler 2007 "Sonoma Coast" La Brisa: This wine was rewarded 92 points from Wine Spectator. Good depth of color, pretty nice with solid red fruits (red currant and cranberry) and a hit of chocolate. The taste is very fruit driven with tight tannins leading to a medium-long finish.

  • Laird 2007 "Carneros" Ghost Ranch: My favorite and a 93 point Wine Spectator wine, this wine is the first Pinot Noir from the Laird family property at Ghost Ranch and what an offering. The nose is toasty spice, strawberry and chocolate. Excellent combination of fruit, acid and tannins ending in a long, delicious finish.

  • So for nice wines that won't break the bank go for the Bogle or Stephen Ross. If you want an excellent Pinot Noir splurge an extra $10 and get the Laird.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 197.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Alex's Red Barn Syrah 2005

    I didn't know what to drink last night while reading. I wasn't in the mood for a lighter summer wine because when you live a few blocks from the ocean in San Diego you typically do not have hot evenings (in fact, it was pretty overcast most of the day). I was hunting through my red wines and came across a bottle of Alex's Red Barn Syrah, 2005. As regular readers know I really enjoy the wines from Alex's Red Barn. They have a nice, minimal-touch style that really lets the wine speak without a lot of prodding and twisting from the winemaker. How this little gem escaped me I don't know but I eagerly popped the cork to be greeted with the lovely nose of cassis, plum, a touch of smoke, and an undertone of spice to come. The wine was pretty lean for what is often known as a big red. Good acidity and just enough tannin to make you appreciate it without overwhelming the taste buds. The flavors were a blend of spice (hints of white pepper) and black fruit blending with the lightish tannins and a touch of heat from the alcohol to provide a lovely medium-length finish.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 187

    Sunday, June 7, 2009

    Weingut Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Klosterlay Riesling Kabinett 2007

    It's the end of a warm (nearly) summer day and after a lot of activity with my beau it's time to wind down by watching American Psycho (you know, Christian Bale is wearing far too much make up, terribly prominent when you watch it on Blu-Ray). I'd had a bottle of Weingut Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Klosterlay Riesling Kabinett in the cooler for a couple of months and for some reason this seemed the perfect time to open it. Lightly golden and slightly frizzante this wine looks light and friendly in the glass. This wine has a pretty nose, full of honeysuckle and nectarine and promises to be loaded with fruit. On the palate you get a full mouth of lovely fruit balanced with zippy acidity and just a hint of minerality. There appears to be some sweetness but I chalk it up to fruit rather than simple sugar, something I like within the Kabinett style of wines. A near perfect wine for a warm summer day.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009:186

    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Philosophy and Wine - Aquinas 2007 Pinot Noir

    While in my local Von's I spotted this black labeled little wine on the bottom shelf of the Pinot Noir section and was taken immediately by the name. After all, something that combines three of my favorite interests (Christianity, Philosophy, and Wine) must have something going for it, so into the basket it went. What a happy bit of serendipity (after all, I wasn't there looking for wine but on my way to the bakery section). This lovely little wine made for a pleasant tasting experience. First the color, a pretty rose petal red, light (I could read the page on the journal I had under it). The nose was extremely pleasing, full of cherries and rose petals (to match the color) and just a hint of plum and a little tiny "gaminess" coming through. Nice, medium-light bodied with plenty of raspberries, hints of clove and cinnamon (with just a touch of cedar on the finish), good acid, soft tannins all coming together for a medium-length finish that made the mouth want a second sip. A fine job by this Napa producer at an excellent price. I'm going to pick up a couple of bottles to hold for Thanksgiving.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 185

    Sunday, May 31, 2009

    A Merlot And A Shiraz

    This weekend I was able to try a couple of nice, straightforward wines that are pleasant but won't break the bank.

  • Sycamore Lane Cellars 2006 Merlot: This is a decent little Merlot from Napa. Ruby hued, hints of floral and fruit on the nose. Not a bad delivery of fruit combined with smooth tannins, ok acidity and a good level of alcohol. Bit of a short finish but not bad. A decent introductory Merlot.

  • Shoo-Fly 2006 Shiraz: Another nice Aussie offering. Big and bold, nice spices and pepper with berries, plums, and just a touch of mint with a great acid/tannin structure that makes the mouth water. I had this with a pulled pork BBQ sandwich and loved the synergy between the wine and the BBQ.

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 184

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Memorial Day BBQ

    My honey and I has a few friends over Sunday for a Memorial Day weekend BBQ. Last minute improvisation wrecked havoc with the menu but the food and drinks flowed for several hours and I don't think anyone went away hungry. While margaritas, beer, and mojitos were the mainstays several bottles of wine were opened. Strangely, people avoided the whites (since they kept their corks on they will live to serve another day). For the red drinkers (your author included) we had a lively little offering:

  • Beckman Estate Grenache 2006: I tell ya, every time I taste a Beckman wine I am happy and this time was no exception. Aged in 100% neutral barrels you get the full head-on expression of the fruit. The bouquet is lively with wonderful red fruits (especially strawberries) and just a hint of vanilla set the mouth to water. The medium-bodied wine delivers fantastic fruit and soft tannins with good acidity to swirl around the mouth and ending in a nice lingering finish. The alcohol runs a little on the high side but you don't really notice it (at least not in the first glass). Brilliant job and I loved it as a summer BBQ wine.

  • Francis Coppola 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Collection Ivory Label: What a mouthful that is... and so is the wine. Big, bold, expressive, rich. Beautiful nose of red currant, plum, and a hint of vanilla this wine was delicious delivery just the right mix of blackberries, mellow tannins (surprising in a pretty young wine) and alcohol in a concentration that produced a lingering finish well received buy the assembled company.

  • Fess Parker 2005 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard: Believing you should always share your good stuff with friends I broke open a bottle of one of Fess' great Pinots. I gotta tell you, I love Fess Parker wines more and more and I think I am winning converts. This is a GREAT wine for any New World Pinot Noir lover. The nose is a wonderful blend of plumb, currants, and I swear a hint of smoky meat linger in there (which of course could have been the ribs on the grill but since I liked the hint of smoke I'll keep it in the review). This wine was bold with the structure behind it to make it more than just a flash in the pan (or mouth in this case). The blend of red fruits, solid but not harsh tannin, fantastic acid, and alcohol was a near perfect blend for me on this day delivering a lip-smacking joy that lingered for a long, long time.

  • Leonesse 2006 White Merlot: From the best reds on the Central Coast (Beckman, Fess Parker) I decided to throw in something from probably the best wine maker in our own Temecula, Leonesse. Wanting something that looked like a summer wine but was unusual I chose the Leonesse White Merlot. I confess, I like this wine for a warm-weather, spicy food companion. This fruity wine bursts with strawberries and cherries both on the nose and palate without being a "sweet" wine. The folks at Leonesse have been dabbling in this area (fruity wines that aren't cloyingly sweet) with some good success and the White Merlot is just one more example of this.

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 182

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Charity Tasting At San Diego Wine Company

    I was happy to attend a charity tasting for Southern Caregiver Resource Center, a local charity that helps families and caregivers by providing services that are inclusive of all issues related to caring for adults with chronic and/or disabling conditions held at San Diego Wine Company. The theme for the tasting was "Big Gun" and offered several higher-end wines from the store's inventory. There were 9 wines of which I sampled all 9 (naturally) and hors d'oeuvres provided by Metro Gourmet. The wines tasted in order poured an my hastily scribbled notes were:

  • Cakebread 2007 Sauvignon Blanc: Traditional Sauv Blanc, tart with bright citrus and light minerality delivering a nice finish. Good apèritif.

  • Shafer 2006 Chardonnay: Crisp, green apple and apricot. No malolactic fermentation so you don't get any buttery weight, this is a summer Chardonnay. Nice acid with a good finish that paired nicely with many of the food offerings.

  • Radio Coteau 2007 "La Neblina": A Pinot Noir from the Sonoma area that earned a 93 from Robert Parker. Smoke, red fruit, a little hint of choclate on the nose delivering big fruit with some fine acid and smooth tannins blending to a delicious finish.

  • Celani 2006 "Tenacious Red": An offering from nearby Napa that is a Cab Frac/Merlot blend. The nose promised big fruit and spice but I wasn't terribly impressed. Might have been the bottle but this one just didn't speak to me.

  • Don Melchor 2006 "Maipo": A well-regarded Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile's Concha y Toro. I was expecting wow and the nose indicated I would get that will big fruits, tar and tobacco. On the tasting, great opening but something happened on the finish that just wasn't agreeable. It seemed that the the hints of tobacco turned into ash and just turned me off. I definitely want to try it again but this night I wasn't happy.

  • Silver Oak 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: OK, now we're talkin' again. Dark ruby red color, blackberries and cassis, licorice and hints of spice combine with mouthwatering acidity and smooth tannins makes for a fine experience.

  • Ghost Block 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: Nice! Black Cherry, blackberry, cassis, hints of chocolate and toasty oak. Great mouthfeel, good acid/tannin/fruit balance with a lovely lingering finish.

  • Duckhorn 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: Pleasant Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and just a touch of Cab Franc. Rich color, nose promises big fruit (Currant, black cherries, hint of plum). Good acidity, smooth tannins and nice fruit delivery. Big, will be better next year but fine right now.

  • Caymus 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: A wine with a LONG distinguished pedigree. DEEP! Nose indicates power in its delivery of dark fruits and a hint of rose petal and hints of Old Worldliness to it. Full bodied, powerful yet balanced in its acid/tannin/fruit combo resulting in a long finish.

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 178

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    Cinq de Mayo?

    Well, didn't hit any of the typical Mexican places for Cinco de Mayo but instead hit one of the local OB joints, The Vine. One recent update, they serve wines in half-glass portions now, allowing for you to taste more without paying more. The food, as always, was great (I tried to get a little "South of the Border" by having Empanadas for dinner). The wines I enjoyed were:

  • Molitor Riesling 2007: A lovely little Kabinett from the Mosel region in Germany, all peaches and spice with good acidity. Refreshing and a lovely opener with the cheese board.

  • Vincent Girardin, Rully 1er Cru, 2004: From Germany to France, a nice Burgundy (Chardonnay for those who want the varietal and don't know the AOC rules). Medium to full bodied, good acidity, hints of green apple tartness and yeast, nice finish.

  • Ca de Rocchi Valpolicella Montere Ripasso: Let's just make it all European with this little Italian. Lovely wine to go with dinner.Bright ruby red in color, hints of prunes and sour cherries with a touch of earthiness. Bright acidity, smooth tannins and a medium finish made this an excellent choice.

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 169

    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    Sunday Wine Tasting At Wine Steals

    After studying a bit this morning I decided to venture out to Wine Steals in Hillcrest. They have an interesting "leftovers" tasting that provides a pretty good deal if you want to try a large selection of wines for a reasonable price. I like to go before the crowds appear so I can spend a little time in reflection on what it is I am tasting without excess perfume and noise interfering with my concentration and sense of smell. From the wide range of wines available I chose the following:

  • Chateau St. Martin de la Garrigue 2006 "Bronzinelle": A decent, rustic wine from the Coteaux du Languedoc region of France. The wine gave off hints of oak, cherry, and plum. The temperature was working against it as the alcohol was evaporating at a pretty high rate masking the fruits. Good mouthfeel, chewy tannins and good acidity with a short finish. Not bad, probably would have been a better show at a lower temp.

  • Jenke 2002 Merlot: From the Languedoc we go to the Barossa Valley in Australia for a nice Merlot. Pretty garnet in color with hints of chocolate, plum, and herbs on the nose. Very dry, good alcohol, dusty tannins and decent fruit. Nice complexity and shows some depth. At its peak.

  • Rockledge 2003 Primitivo: Now to California, Napa's St. Helena AVA to be more precise for this "hot" little number... and by hot I mean a 15.2% alcohol content that you definitely detect. This deep cherry-red wine is a blend of Primitivo, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon delivering spice, red berry fruits and a little "gaminess" to the nose. Jammy fruits, solid tannins and good acidity helps me overlook the heat I get on the finish. Solid but runs on a little higher octane than I like. They might take a look at Fess Parker to see how to handle the higher alcohol a little better but overall not a bad wine for the bucks.

  • Domaine des Escaravailles 2007 "Les Sablières": Back to France, this time Cotes du Rhone. Heavily Grenache. Dark ruby with hints of violet. Lots of fruit (good raspberry) and hints of oak and earthiness. Lively acidity and good tannins delivering lots of red berry fruits. Medium/light bodied. Medium finish. An excellent offering for the price.

  • Jazz 2006 Napa Red Wine: From Branham Winery in Napa we have a lovely blend of Zin, Petite Sirah, Cab, and Syrah. Deep red with hiints of purple. Very fruit-forward (plum and dark fruits), soft tannins, decent acidity. A good "up the middle" wine that should please most people looking for a friendly red wine. While sipping I had a craving for food.

  • Camponova 2007 Toscana Rosso: This lovely Italian blend was one of my top two (the Jazz being the other) in this tasting. Cherry red in color, light fruity nose. Nice acidity, light bodied, almost tangy. Good tannins and delicious red fruits. Lean, clean, simple and very enjoyable. Should go well with a simple red sauce and pasta or a broiled flank steak.

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 166

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    90 Points and Higher Tasting

    This last weekend my love and I attend a "90 Points and Higher Tasting" at San Diego Wine Company. This was an interesting tasting, all of the wines selected had been rated 90 points or higher using either Robert Parker or Wine Spectator ratings. The selection came from a broad selection of geographical areas including the United States, Chile, Argentina, Spain, and France. Here are my notes from this event along with the stated points (RP = Robert Parker, WS = Wine Spectator):

  • Albert Mann 2007 "Vin D'Alsace" Pinot Blanc: Light straw color, herbal and appl on the nose, lean, good acid. Nicely refreshing wine. (RP: 90)

  • Vina Cobos 2007 "Chardonnay: From the Mendoza region in Argentina come a lovely little Chardonnay. Yellow-gold in color (reminded me a bit of Mountain Dew in its coloration), this wine delivers a nice beldn of oak, pear, melon and fig to the nose and having a lingering buttery citrus finish. (RP: 91)

  • Vignerons de Tavel 2007 Cuvee Royale: Light cherry/strawberry in color. Hints of strawberry on the nose. Fruity, hints of sour-cherry, soft tannins and good acidity with a medium-length finish. (WS: 90)

  • Ercavio 2005 "La Mancha": What a great little wine from Spain! 100% Tempranillo, this wine is dark garnet in color with some oak, black fruits, and tobacco on the nose. Dark chocolate, black fruits with a lean feel to it (quite an accomplishment). Lively spice on the finish. At $6.99 a bottle this is a great deal! One of our two top picks of the day. (RP: 90)

  • Bodegas Sabor Real 2006 "Toro": Another Tempranillo. Not as deep in color as the Ercavio. Lovely nose, seemed lighter and more fruity. Shorter finish. Good, but when compared with Ercavio not worth twice the price. (RP: 90)

  • Vina Santa Ema 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon: Lovely Chilean Cab from the Maipo Valley. Deep purple in color, lovely nose of black fruis, tobacco and dark chocolate. Mouthwatering acidity, soft tannins, excellent fruit all combinings into a great finish. (WS: 90)

  • Clos De Los Siete 2007 "Red Blend": Another fine offering from Argentina, a country that continues to deliver a good product at reasonable price. This is a Michel Rolland product (so you'll either enjoy it or turn your nose up at wine globalization at this point). This wine is a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Very dark purple in color. Earth, cassis, tobacco nose. Nice mouthfeel, good body, fine balance of acid, tannin, and big fruit with a lingering lovely finish. (RP: 91 - surprised?)

  • Trinitas 2005 Petite Sirah "Old Vine": Finally a California offering, and what an offering. Lodi has been the source of some fantastic wines and this one is no different. Deep, dark in color. Heavier bodied than the others, a full, rich, mouthwatering wine delivering fruit, fruit, and more fruit with some lively spice (pepper?) on the lingering finish! This wine was the other on our top two list and a steal at $11.95 per bottle. (WS: 90)

  • Celler Bartolome 2006 "El Mirador": Back to Spain for a fantastic Grenache.Carignena blend. Black fruit, vanilla and milk chocolate nose (almost a caramel). Great fruit delivery with good tannin and acid support. Lean and clean with a nice finish. (RP: 91)

  • Landmark 2006 "Steel Plow" Syrah: This California winery delivers some stellar wines and this is just one more example. Pretty color, garnet with a nice bleed out to the edge. Fruit and "gaminess" on the nose. Fine fruit and hints of spice and tobacco with excellent tannins and acid. Long spicy finish. (WS: 94)

  • Sand Diego Wine Company continues to offer a great Saturday tasting experience with far, far more hits than misses from their hand-picked store offerings.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 160

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    A Bit Of This, A Bit Of That

    Went wine tasting at the San Diego Wine Company. This week it was a selection of wines new to the shop. There were some definite hits but a few misses as well:

  • Luna 2007 "Freakout": Quite an interesting blend of white wine grapes - 7% Ribolla Gialla, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 33% Pinot Grigio, 35% Chardonnay (wow). Light straw in color, I felt that the Chardonnay over shadowed the other, somewhat lighter grapes. Smokey, toasty and melon were what I picked up most. Not bad, not impressed.

  • Kunde 2006 "Sonoma Valley" Chardonnay: Again light straw in color, blend of apples, pears, and butter on the nose with decent fruit delivery. Good acid, medium finish. Good everyday kind of Chard and at the price ($9.95) it really could be.

  • Manu 2008 "Marlborough" Sauvignon Blanc: Nice stone fruits and citrus, hints of herbaceousness, good acidity. A tad tight but nice.

  • Mont Gras 2007 "Quatro": A Chilean blend of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec, 25% Syrah and 15% Carmenere, this is a lovely little wine. Deep ruby shading to purple. Nice black currant, cherries, hint of "gaminess" on the nose. A medium bodied wine delivering good fruit and a hint of oak along with balanced acidity and tannins leading to a medium length enjoyable finish.

  • Eberle 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: Solid offering by a Paso Robles mainstay (gotta love the pig logo). Nice deep garnet, excellent black fruits and berries on the nose, hints of tobacco and chocolate. Nice mouthfeel and acid/tannin balance. Longish finish, a fine product.

  • Brassfield 2004 "High Valley" Monte Sereno Zinfandel: From the High Valley appellation just north of Napa comes a nice Zin (currently on sale at SD Wine Company). Deep rich color, fruit-forward nose and nice, good mouthfeel, decent acid/tannin/fruit balance.

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 150

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    Back To Cafe Bleu

    My beau and I went to Cafe Bleu for happy hour... great deal on the food and glasses of good wine for $5 each. During this outing I sampled the following:

  • Valdivieso Sauvignon Blanc, 2007: A pleasant Chilean offering delivering a slightly grassy and citric nose, hints of lime on the tongue combined with a refreshing acidity. Nice opener.

  • Clos LaChance Zinfandel "Hummingbird Series", 2005: From California's own Central Coast we have a deep cherry-red Zin. Berries, spice (cinnamon?), vanilla on the nose, nice tannin/acid fruit balance with noticeable black fruits and lingering peppery/spicy finish. Somewhat closed out of the bottle, really opened up after about 15 minutes.

  • Nine Stones Shiraz, 2005: From the Barossa Valley, a pleasant Aussi-style Shiraz. Extremely fruit-forward (dark berries and plum), juicy acidity. Not complex but very drinkable. Finish runs a little hot but can be tempered with some food.

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 144

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Four Vines Zinfandel Old Vine Cuvee 2006

    Last night my love and I spent the evening with Tio Ely and Cory. Tio Ely made dinner, a delicious spaghetti. I brought over a couple of bottles of wine including Four Vines Zinfandel Old Vine Cuvee 2006. The pairing was, I thought, excellent. This fruit-forward wine brought lovely notes of black fruits and spice to the nose while delivering blackberry, plum, and spices to the palate. The flavors combining with smooth tannins and mouthwatering acidity combined with the peppery spiciness of the spaghetti to create a delicious synergy. For $10 a bottle this is a fantastic, food-friendly Zin (and it makes a tasty little drink on its own).

    Strangely enough I think it went well with RuPaul's Drag Race too.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 141

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Maipe Malbec 2008

    I have got to start taking pictures with something other than my phone.

    Tonight's entry into the blog is the Maipe Malbec 2008 from the Mendoza region of Argentina. For those of you who don't know it already, only four countries in the world produce more wine than Argentina and for the time being some of the best vino bang for the buck can be found here and in neighboring Chile. I picked up this wine for $8 from San Diego Wine Company and it's a real winner. Beautiful purple bleeding out to a red rim in the glass the wine visually shouts "body" and it does have it. Here we get a wonderful blend of blackberries, plums, "gaminess" and hints of spice greeting the noise while it delivers black fruits, pepper, smooth tannins and a fine acidity slowly tapering off into a lovely finish. Well worth it for twice the price (but don't tell anyone I said that).

    Number of wines reviewed in 2009: 140

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Wine Tasting At WineSteals

    Well, they call it a tasting but on Sunday afternoons it is more "getting snockered with wine" since they have a $10 for 6 tastes but what they don't always tell you is that on Sunday they change over their by-the-glass offering and to move last week's product the "taste" gets to be rather large in the glass. Most of them I stopped myself at about one-third of the pour just as not to (1) get drunk and (2) dull my taste buds so I can fairly access the other wines. From the vat-o-bottles my love and I selected the following:

  • Qupe 2007 Marsanne: Qupe makes great Rhone wines. This is the first white wine of theirs I have tasted and it was good. As typical with this Marsanne has a little Roussanne blended in producing a nice citrusy/honey nose, good fruit and a definite minerality on the tongue and finish that is quite nice. Enough acidity to make it crisp and moderately lower in alcohol made this a delightful opener.

  • Macon Uge 2007:Macon, Burgundy, so if it's white it's Chardonnay (amazing how many people there seemed confused by this). Macon will always hold a special place for me because it was the place where being American got me out of a traffic ticket (long story). Nice Chardonnay, full of fruit and hints of citronella and toast on the nose. Crisp acidity, some minerality in the finish.

  • Martin Alfaro 2006 Pinot Noir: Medium ruby color, aromas of red raspberries and cherries and a hint of spice. Good acidity, felt the tannins a little harsh but my partner seemed not to thing so. Overall good Pinot Noir.

  • Tres Ojos 2006 Old Vines, Garnacha, Calatayud: Definitely made to be a crowd pleaser. Not complex but a delighful, fruit-forward wine. Medium bodied, dark chocolate, cherries, pepper and spice on the nose, good fruit, balanced acidity and tannins leading to a medium-length finish. Well worth seeking out if you want to try a Spanish Grenache.

  • Montebuena 2006 Rioja: Got a strange look from the lady pouring when I said "I like Tempranillo", not sure if she disagreed with my assessment of that varietal or was confused because I gave the varietal rather than the winery (or region) name. Either way, a nice example of Tempranillo that is still affordable. Deep, ruby-red in color with a fruity bouquet laced with vanilla and spice. Smooth and fruity on the tongue with good tannin/acid balance.

  • Chateau du Claray Muscadet Savre et Maine sur Lie: Yeah, a white after reds, so sue me. This was a pleasant, not overly serious Loire wine made from the Melon-de-Bourgogne grape. Light, almost effervescent, with lemon leading the way to a nice, minerally finish. Probably should have had it first but heck, this is WineSteals so who noticed? LOL

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 139

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Revisiting Firestone Gewurztraminer 2006

    Decided I wanted something light and fruity (and my beau isn't light) so I opened a bottle of Firestone Gewurztraminer 2006 which I had reviewed before. Most of the review still holds true except I found that, for whatever reason, I enjoyed it even more. Whatever it seemed to be lacking last year this year I didn't detect. Again, green tinge, very aromatic (citrus blossoms, hints of lychee), nice mouth feel, not too sweet, good acidity. Maybe it hadn't peaked but was still peaking.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 133

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Words Sent From My Mother...

    (She enjoys chain letters and this one is a hoot):

    To my "Happy Hour" buddies...

    To my friends who enjoy a glass of wine, and those who don't. As Ben Franklin said: In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.

    In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. coli) - bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of poop.

    However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine & beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting.

    Water = Poop,
    Wine = Health

    Therefore, it's better to drink wine and talk stupid, than to drink water and be full of sh*t.

    There is no need to thank me for this valuable information: I'm doing it as a public service.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    A Two Pinot Night

    Feeling a bit blue I was approached by my friend Bacchus and invited out for a drink. Upon reaching the establishment (location to remain a secret because if people found out he was showing up they would crowd the place) we decided to sip something delicate and deep to reflect the mood.

    First up was Handley 2006 Pinot Noir "Anderson Valley". Anderson Valley in California’s Mendocino County now ranks with the top Pinot Noir regions in North America so expectations were high. The wine was a deep cherry red in color with lovely legs as I swirled the glass. The nose delivered cherry with hints of chocolate and spice (cloves perhaps). The wine is light-to-medium bodied, fruit forward with smooth tannins and nice acidity culminating in a medium-length finish. Definitely a "New World" Pinot, quite enjoyable.

    The second wine for the evening was Perfecta 2006 Pinot Noir "Edna Valley". California's Edna Valley is located in the southern corner of San Luis Obispo County and developing quite a reputation for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. AGain the wine was cherry red with nice legs on the glass. The nose was not as fruit forward as the Handley but there was a hint of cherries, but I also detected a slight something that I will call "vegetalness" that while not off-putting didn't stimulate me positively either. There was a bit of "heat" translating through the nose, perhaps due to the fact that the bottle was not chilled. The mouthfeel was more full than the Handley which was nice, but then something strange happened... I got almost nothing from the taste. The tannins were extremely soft, there was some acidity, but when it comes to fruit it seemed like I wasn't getting anything. My friend Sarah described it to me via text as "red water" and in a way it did seem like colored water that had been through a water softener. Given the reputation of the AVA I won't give up on it and will try it again, but this time it made me terribly disappointed.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 132

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    Custom Made Wine Glass Charms

    After complaining about the dearth of wine charms in the area my very creative friend Sarah made the following for me. Being a wiz with glass she created the beads and constructed what you see below:

    If you'd like to have some commissioned let me know and I'll make the connection.

    Monday, March 2, 2009


    My first OTBN (Open That Bottle Night). While the turnout was light it was enjoyable. The night's offerings our guests experienced:

  • Gainey "Limited Selection" Sauvignon Blanc, 2007: Lovely Sauvignon Blanc, grassiness and citrus on the nose, crisp acidity with just a kiss of oak. A great opener for the evening.

  • Fess Parker Pinot Noir "Ashley's Vineyard" 2006: I've written about this one before, raved actually, but it deserved it and even more so now. Deep red, bouquet bursting with cherry, rose petal, spice and a hint of smoke in there delivering red berry fruits, smooth almost sweet tannins and fantastic acidity with a hint of minerality in the finish. Bravo.

  • Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel 2006: A surprise. I loved this Zin all full of ripe fruits, good acidity... "jammy" (a word I tend not to use with Zins) with notes of cracked pepper and a hint of vanilla. A real pleaser.

  • Château Haut-Canteloup, 2005, Médoc: Our French contribution for the evening. Medium bodied, purple colored delivering black currants and spice rounding out well with good tannins and acid for a medium finish.

  • Baily 2003 Meritage: I like Baily, enjoy then more and more every time I go. Tio Ely and Cory brought this one over and I am so glad they did. Baily does a great Cabernet Sauvignon and creates solid Cab Francs and Merlots, so this blend showed off what happens when they all come together just right. Excellent fruit concentration, solid tannins and a fine supporting acid backbone all flow together to give one a long, tasty finish.

  • Merryvale Starmont Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: A pretty Cab even for those who aren't Cab drinkers. Very fruit-forward, rich, intense but not overpowering. Nice tannins, mouthwatering acid, medium finish makes it an enjoyable wine.

  • Epsilon Shiraz 2006 Barossa Valley: Raspberries, blueberries, violets and spice all rolled up and delivered in a velvety package. Medium bodied, ripe tannins, definitely a wine created to please.

  • Wines reviewed in 2009: 130

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Curtis Mourvedre 2005

    I've always enjoyed the product of Curtis Winery. Tonight I had to work rather than attend the Mardi Gras festivities in Hillcrest so I selected a bottle of their 2005 Mourvedre. Mourvedre is best known as a blending grape of the Southern Rhone valley and even this offering is a Mourvedre/Syrah blend (85%/15%).

    The wine is a beautiful deep cherry red in the glass and leaves lovely legs when you swirl. The nose is pleasant, a combination of violets, blackberries, hints of cherry and smoky oak and just a tiny touch of gaminess that one often gets from French Rhones. The mouthfeel is nice, good acidity and solid but not harsh tannins combine with the fruit to make for an enjoyable medium length finish.

    Sadly, no one to toss beads at me... oh well, there's always next year. This year I will just enjoy the wine.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 123

    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    Ghost Pine 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

    What a day/week/month. Recent events are really weighing on the mind and soul and deprived of my beau or any other social interaction I decided to spend some time out in the cool of the afternoon just sitting and thinking. Since there was no human companionship I choose to pass the time with one of the offspring of Bacchus, Ghost Pine 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from both Napa and Sonoma allowing for a melange of smells and tastes from the two northern California regions. Yeah, I know, a 2006 Cab would lead one to think "too tannic" and "needs time" but this youngster makes a good companion. Nice deep, rich color in the bowl the nose is greeted with lovely blackberry, black cherry, and notes of spicy oak. But as we know the nose can deceive but not in this case. This wine is bursting with fruit backed up by smooth tannins and mouthwatering acidity combining to produce a medium length finish. The effect is as desired, a relaxing communion with something basic. Bacchus speaks, hopefully not too loudly in the morning.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 122

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Cougar Winery

    Tio Ely calls me a gay "cougar" so I decided to scope out Cougar Winery in Temecula. I've seen the sign before and even been to their neighbor Frangipani, so this time I took the winding road up to their tasting room. It was not a disappointing detour. Rather than trying to move into an already crowed Bordeaux group, Cougar is making a nice name for itself with some Italian and Argentine grapes (including but not limited to Malbec, Sangiovese, Arneis, Nero d'Avola (which I am really wanting to try), Malvasia Bianca, and Aglianico). Ambitious, but what I tasted today definitely shows there is some skill at this winery and they may just pull it off. Some of the highlights of today's tasting:

  • Arneis 2008. Lovely little wine, full of peaches and apricots. Difficult to grow and often used as a blending wine in its native Piedmont region of Italy, this is a nice, crisp. "fruit-sweet" wine perfect for a hot summer's day.

  • Sangiovese 2006. This is actually a super Tuscan blend creating a nice medium-bodied wine, lots of fruit and a touch of spice, soft tannins and good acidity. If you're looking for a grill wine or a pizza wine this should be on your shopping list.

  • Malbec 2006. I really enjoyed this wine. Deep puple bleeding out to the edges of the bowl, aromas of plum and I swear smokey bacon, very fruit forward on the tongue, nice tannins and the acid made my mouth water. This was definitely a keeper.

  • Malvasia Bianca 2008. Green apples and honey. Sweet but not cloying, just enough acidity that it could be a sipping wine for those who like their wines sweeter but for me would make a nice dessert wine.

  • So if you're in the area and looking for something a little different Cougar is well worth the stop.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 121

    My Two Temecula Favorites

    Well, it was time to pick up my shipment from Baily so today after breakfast with my beau it was up to Temecula. Of course, it didn't make sense driving up just to pick up one wine club shipment so I made it a threesome by dropping my Leonesse and picking a winery I had not been to before (Cougar Winery which gets its own posting). Since I have written extensively about Baily and Leonesse before I will just highlight some new findings in their every growing and increasingly excellent wines.

    Two newbies for me at Baily are:

  • Montage 2007. This is a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion blend which is somewhat typical in Bordeaux but relatively new here in the states and somewhat of a trend I have been seeing lately (Brander, a California star of the White Bordeaux, has been making this for years but it seems to be spreading). The Montage is very lightly gold in color. Hints of figs and melon on the nose while on the tongue the fruits and a hint of the "herbaceousness" one gets from Sauvignon Blancs does peek out. Very nice acidity, this is a good little wine to drink now and through the next year or so.

  • Riesling - Dry, 2008. Baily offers two Rieslings, this one is a special one produced for the 150th anniversary of Temecula. Very light color in the glass, lovely notes of apple and apricot on the nose while in the mouth one gets good fruit, and nice acidity for a light-bodied wine experience. At first I thought I detected more sugar than I should have but then decided it was really the fruit-forwardness of the wine that was creating an apple-cinnamon combo that was delicious.

  • And a non-newbie but a new release:

  • Merlot 2005. Recently released, this fruit-forward wine delivered strawberries and hint of vanilla, nice acid, and solid tannins but I think it is still a bit young and could profit from another year or so resting in a nice, cool, dark cellar. Quite drinkable but not at its peak yet.

  • Once again, Baily's confirmed my decision to join its wine club.

    Leonesse, as always, was a joy to visit. What was fun this time was nothing I tasted was on the tasting list, so you get some idea here from what can be purchased at the barrel room tasting area but you won't find on the shelves. Today, the cute and articulate attendant Mike poured me the following:

  • Compilation 2006. This was something new and pretty exciting, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cinsault, and Zinfandel. Very fruit forward, spicy and peppery, soft tannins, good acidity, all components clicking together to create a medium/full bodied wine with a long delicious finish.

  • Dry Muscat 2008. Brand new and just out on the floor this was an interesting experience. Everyone wants to think of Muscat as sweet but this wine proves that need not be the case. The nose promises apricot and just a little hint of peach which gets delivered with an interesting "green" (Mike's term) on the finish (I was saying "grassy" but I think we meant the same thing) which took a little getting used to because it was a total surprise. The wine maker said that this "green" was produced by the wine skins so I'll take his word for it. The natural fruit flavors and acidity combine to make a definitely not sweet, fruit forward enjoyable wine... once you get over the "green" surprise.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 "Signature Selection". A veriable fruit explosion in the mouth! Nice tannins, lovely acid, very well integrated components, all you could hope for in a Cab but alas, not scheduled for release until 2010 so get up there, join the club, go on a weekend tasting and beg to get a sample.

  • Zinfandel 2006. Yum. Beautiful fruit and peppery spice. Medium bodied, soft, almost sweet tannins, mouthwatering acids, long lovely finish. Soon to be released (March I think).

  • Barrel sample Merlot/Cab Franc Blend. Light bodied, nice fruit, very soft tannins and good acid. I will be anxious to try it when it grows up.

  • Barrel Pull Cabernet Sauvignon. No release date, this one was "special". Oak and fruit on the nose and tonuge, soft tannins (somehow Leonesse has great control of the tannin components of their red wines), good acid. The finish was a little harsh and Mike said that it seemed like there was something missing at this stage. I agree, it was like all of the kids showed up but they don't yet know how to play well together. Shows promise though and I will keep an eye on this one for you.

  • Once again, Leonesse has shown why they are my favorite in Temecula.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 117

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Queen of Hearts Pinot Noir

    Today after work was hair cut day and after Diego got me all ready for Valentine's Day I decided to stop for a glass of wine at Wine Steals in Hillcrest. Normally I don't go there because it tends to be way too crowded and the depth of perfume and cologne in the room often makes it difficult to determine the nose of your wine. This time though the place was almost empty as it was just at the start of "Happy Hour", so I settled in at the bar and ordered a glass of Queen of Hearts Pinot Noir. Sadly I didn't catch the vintage of this Santa Barbara Pinot, I need to make sure to start asking when I order wine by the glass.

    The was rather pretty in the glass, a clear garnet, but I have to say that right from the bottle it didn't impress me. The nose was almost non-existent except for a little spice and the indication of "heat". The first sip was alright, some cherry and spice, soft tannins and decent acid but nothing exciting. After putting the glass down and reading an article in Wine and Spirits I picked up the glass, stuck in my nose and was greeted by a much more pleasant aroma of cherries, red fruits, and the same spice with a hint of oak. The taste was of a light-bodied Pinot, nice cherries, a little spice and oak, soft tannins and nice acidity. Over the span of about 30 minutes the wine unfolded quite nicely. It was never complex, never what the heavy hitters would call a "serious" Pinot, but it was a very drinkable, fruit-forward, short-finish Pinot. A nice Pinot for those nights you just want a Pinot and not think about it. With a price point of around $10 a bottle it's a decent drink, just remember to decant first to let it find its voice.

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 109

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    A Bite At Bite

    One of my favorite places in Hillcrest is Bite. Recently they have made a few changes to both their menu (moving from a strict "small plate" venue to offering some "larger plates" of their seasonal offerings) as well as their wine offering (such as 1/2 price bottle Mondays). They've started offering a limited selection of wines at happy hour for $4.50 per glass and it was this that drew me out. Tio Ely joined me and we had some lovely appetizers (at incredibly reasonable prices): chicken liver mousse and their always tasty grilled flat bread with white bean and roasted garlic "hummus". For wines I had a glass of the following three (sadly I don't have vintages for them):

  • Cono Sur Viognier: A nice opener, this Chilean wine delivers quite well what I would expect from a Vigonier. The nose is floral with hints of apricots, citrus, and I would swear a little "grassiness" (though my nose could be a little off due to the change in weather). Delivers good fruit and lively acidity on the tongue, nice, slightly short finish.

  • Calina Cabernet Sauvignon: The other night I had a good experience with the Calina Merlot so I thought "Wow, what a great chance to try another Calina". Sadly for this taster at this time it turned into "Wow, what the heck happened?" The nose wasn't bad at all... cassis, blackberry, hints of chocolate and a touch of oak, pretty typical for a Cab. The delivery to the mouth was another story. Something about this wine just set me off. The tannins seemed really rough, the acidity too low making it flabby, and nothing seemed integrated with what fruit was there. My tasting notes have the word "ash" scribbled in them and this was how I best described what I tasted. The experience was so bad that I asked the server to take it away because it was so disagreeable to me. I'm not giving up on Calina, they have a good track record but this was a shocker for me.

  • Doña Paula Cabernet Sauvignon: OK, leaving Chile I jumped the Andes and went for an Argentine producer. Better. A little lighter in color than the Calina. Cherries, black fruit, hints of bell pepper, lighter, softer tannins and pretty good acidity combine to deliver a drinkable medium finish. Not a favorite but orders of magnitude better than what I experienced with the Calina.

  • Wines Reviewed In 2009: 108

    Note To Servers On A Pet Peeve Of Mine

    DON'T try to correct my pronunciation of varietals or wine names. Trust me, I know the proper pronunciation of "Carménère" and "Viognier" (as well as many others) and if I have doubt I will ask (though probably not you since you butchered your attempted correction). Your job is to get me what I want even if I simply point at the list and grunt. You may be young and cute and work in a wine bar but that doesn't mean you know Vitis vinifera. Next time you're in the Central Coast area, stop in at Bridlewood and check out the shirts with the various pronunciation guides on them.

    Thank you and good night.


    Sunday, February 8, 2009

    Calina Reserva Merlot 2007

    A while back Gary Vaynerchuk talked about the Merlots from Chile being good and exciting enough to bring interest in that varietal to him and ever since I have been on the watch for Chlean Merlot. Both Chile and Argentina are great places to get excellent value for the wine produced, but imagine my surprise at finding a $7 Merlot at San Diego Wine Company. Come on now, I know what you're thinking... a $7 Merlot? How good can it be? Well in this case pretty darned good. Is it a keeper? Naw, I wouldn't make room in my smaller cellar area for it, but for a friendly, fruit forward wine to wet your whistle it fills the bill quite nicely.

    If you like fruit you'll love this wine. Deep purplish in color, very clear (looks quite pretty in crystal). Lovely cherry and blackberry on the nose and tongue with just a hint of vanilla. Very soft tannings, nice acidity (makes the mouth water), short finish. A great little wine to take to a party for those who "don't drink red wine".

    Wines reviewed in 2009: 105

    Saturday, February 7, 2009

    Folie a Deux Menage a Trois Red 2006

    Being home alone tonight I decided to look through my wine collection. I had been watching Bottle Shock (lovely follow up to the morning's Cabernet Sauvignon tasting) and much to my surprise I am terribly Rhone heavy with respect to reds. My home collection is not huge (coming in at a little over 100 bottles) but a good 65% are Rhone varietals (Syrahs and said blends, etc). However, I was still in the mood for a Bordeaux red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, etc) when I found a bottle of Folie a Deux Menage a Trois. This is an interesting little wine, a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In many ways it is to me the typical California "drinking" wine (not meant in any way disparaging)... lots and lots of blended jammy red and black fruits, little hints of spice, low tannins and moderate acid, a combo that someone just wanting a red wine to drink would have fun with. This is not in any way, shape, or form an "intellectual" wine, but it is a fun wine and I'm glad I found it. If you're wanting something that says "fun" that almost anyone will enjoy I recommend it (the modest price makes it a great buy).

    Wines Reviewed In 2009: 104

    Upscaling It A Bit

    This morning being a grass widower today I decided to go to the weekly Saturday tasting at WineSellar & Brasserie, one of the best restaurants (and wine merchants) in San Diego. Today's tasting was "Cabernet Confidential" and featured six lovely wines that you can purchase on site. If you haven't been, they pour the wines blind and give you tasting descriptions of the wines so you can play a guessing game of which wine is which on the list. Here are the wines not in pour order or price (just for the record, the most expensive was the one I liked least but it just needs time) but in the order that I liked them:

  • Camellia Cellars 2002 "Dry Creek Valley": Deep, right color. Nose a little closed at first but opens to a lovely bouquet. Juicy, deep flavors, soft tannins fantastic acidity with a lovely long finish.

  • Laird 2006 Estate: Fruit-forward nose, deep purplish color. Smooth. Black cherries and currnts, dusty tannins, nice acide blending to a medium-length finish. Lovely.

  • Old River Road 2005 "Ponderossa Vineyard": A little lighter in color than the others, strong but pleasant cherry on the nose. Lovely hints of cherry and herbs in the mouth, almost explodes in the mouth with flavor.

  • Fontella 2006 "Napa Valley": Something "old world" on the nose that was absent from the others. Good black and red fruit blend with soft tannins making this a pleasant drink.

  • Fritz 2005 "Dry Creek Valley": Nose not as proniyubced as some of the others but nice. Blackberry, cassis and coffee with firm tannins and moderate acid. This one is a blend with Malbec (not sure of the percentages).

  • Caymus 2006 "Napa Valley": Powerful, definitely needs some time to rest. Deep rich color, seductive nose of blackberry, cherry, and rose petals. Low acidity, very firm tannins. Nice now but not at its peak.

  • Wines Reports On In 2009: 103

    Wednesday, February 4, 2009

    Back To Cafe Bleu

    At five bucks a glass during happy hour can you blame me? Didn't think so. Kept it easy as this really was by the glass and not a tasting. The crowd was smaller this time which was to be expected since it was a Tuesday night around 6. For the evening's libation I chose the following:

  • Cantina di Soave 2007: Nice, straightforward offering of this Italian wine. Lightly floral nose, tasted like a non-sweet Jolly Rancher. Good acidity, light mineral finish. Very nice opening wine.

  • Costa Azul Grenache 2006:From Baja California, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico. Jammy strawberries and raspberries on the nose and palate. Tannins seems a little rough, might have stood decanting or given more time to breathe as they did soften over time.

  • Wines Reported On In 2009: 97

    Tuesday, February 3, 2009

    Tasting In Style - Escondido and Temecula (Part Two)

    The next stop was a favorite of mine Alex's Red Barn. I've written about them before and nothing has changed. They produce some of the cleanest, more "fruit-speaking" wine in Temecula. While it's tough to go wrong with any of their wines some of my favorites are:

  • Viognier: Very elegant, beautiful floral nose with hints of the apricot and peaches to come. Wonderful acidity, almost worth the trip to Temecula itself (and this from a "red wine" guy).

  • Old-vine Johannisberg Riesling: Slightly sweet, lovely fruit (apricot and peaches) along with mouth-watering acidity makes this a favorite of mine.

  • Solera-Type Cream Sherry: Lovely Sherry made from the Palomino grape. Full-bodied and as they say "candy in a glass". A lovely after dinner drink.

  • Last on the list was another new winery for me, Hart Family Winery. Loved the little tasting room, reminded me a bit of Foxen in the Santa Ynez area. During this the inaugral visit to Hart some real finds I tasted were:

  • 2005 Viognier: Lovely floral nose, hints of oak, nice acidity. Nice, but not something I should have had after Alex's offering but nice for the price.

  • 2006 Sauvignong blanc: Nice offering, floral nose, fresh fruit and good acidity makes for a mouthweatering finish.

  • 2005 Syrah: Lovely peppery spice and fruit on the nose, lovely mouthfeel, good tannins and acid leading to a medium-long finish

  • For the price, Hart shows some excellent value for the wines offered. Definitely worth a try.

    So I really enjoyed our outing to Temecula... not just the wines and the limo, but spending time sharing with friends. I think this is the real spirit of wine.

    Wines Reported On In 2009: 95

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Tasting In Style - Escondido and Temecula (Part One)

    Of course, by "in style" I mean with friends (though the limo rented by my beau didn't hurt either). On this the day after my birthday (and the day before Cory and Elbert's anniversary) Sarah, Elbert, Cory, Heather, my beau and I spent the day sampling local vino offerings.

    The day began with us all meeting at Orfila, a local award winning winery in Escondido. To be honest, for all of its accolades I have never had one of their wines and I now regret this oversight. Their method of tasting was basically you get to pick six of anything they offer for an exceptionally reasonable price. I have to say, nothing disappointed me which makes me so happy they are close to home! For this outing I tasted the following:

  • Estate Viognier "Lotus" Lot 67: Nice light gold tint, floral notes with a hint of vanilla. Crisp, lovely balanced furit and acidity providing a lovely medium-length finish.

  • "Bien Nacido" Chardonnay 2007: Orfila offered a couple of Chardonnays and I decided to go with their "no oak" offering. Stainless steel fermentation really let the fruit shine. Greenish-yellow tinge, loads of melon and green apple, very crsip with a lovely citrus finish makes this something I intent to have on hand this summer.

  • Pinot Noir Lot 37: This wine is made from grapes grown in SLO. Deep lovely red in color and a nose of cherries and raspberries and just a hint of vanilla delivering the fruit on a beautifully balanced acid/tannin backbone. Very classic Pinot Noir.

  • Estate Sangiovese 2006: Nice raspberries on the nose and tongue. Tannins were a little rough, good acid though. I think this wine shows great potential but needs to rest another year before its beauty really show through.

  • Merlot 2007 - Barrel Sample: I love getting barrel samples and this one filled my expectations of what I was coming to learn about Orfila. Purplish youth, fruit forward, young tannins. Good now, will be very good with a little more time to rest.

  • "Seasons" Syrah 2005: A nice "everyday" Syrah. Hints of pepper and black fruit, good tannins and acid. Not a cellar wine but definitely good to pick up this year.

  • Estate Heritage Syrah 2005: A limited selection offering showing some excellent wine making. Cherries and blackberries, solid tannins, long finish. Very good now, shows potential for drinkability over the next 5 years or so, but why wait???

  • With near perfect timing the limo that my beau reserved for us arrived and off we went to Temecula. Along the way we "sampled" two Cabernets I had pulled from my collection to help pass the time to our first destination, Leonesse. I enjoy Leonesse, it is the first winery in Temecula whose wine club I joined and this visit simply reinforced the reasons. On this trip down to the "member's tasting area" I tried:

  • Viognier 2007: Lovely honeysuckle and orange blossoms, crisp acidity. This was my palate cleanser for the rest of the tasting.

  • VS Chardonnay 2006: This is their "Vineyard Selection" Chardonnay offering. Hints of oaky spice, melon and apple, nice acidity but I would let it rest just a little longer, perhaps another 6 months (just in time for summer)

  • Riesling 2007: Classic Riesling, clean, notes of petroleum on the nose unlying the floral and peach smells with lovely fruit and acidity.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: Hints of pepper, spice and currants all blended together. Lovely structure ending in a soft, medium-long finish.

  • Zinfandel 2006: Nice offering from a Temecula winery. Black pepper, blackberries and hints of clove makes for a lip-smacking wine with a long finish.

  • Back up the hill, we loaded into the limo and headed to another place I have not been, Oak Mountain Winery. It had gotten good reviews and I did find some offering that I enjoyed. For this tasting I had the following:

  • "No Oak" Chardonnay 2005: Another nice stainless-steel offering. Greenish tint, hints of green apple and melon on the nose and tongue with lovely acidity. I got some light spice on the finish, not sure where it comes from but it made for a lovely ending.

  • Sauvignon Blanc 2006: An off-dry Sauv blanc with pretty peaches on the nose and nice slightly-sweet fruit on the tongue with decent acidity. Made me want some spicy Thai food.

  • Miscela di Sangiovese 2005: This is a "Super Tuscan" blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc. Spicy strawberry and cherry, excellent acidity and nice tannins made me look for some tomato-based pasta offering around the area (alas, there wasn't any). A very good offering.

  • Cabernet Franc 2005: Deep, clean ruby colored wine, loaded with cherries and black fruit. Tannins were pretty powerful, might let it rest a little longer but there is potential here, definitely not a whimpy Cab Franc.

  • Brut Champagne: Not sure if I would classify it as a brut, seemed more dry to me. Nice, lively, good sipping bubbly. I prefer it to most of the other local sparklings.

  • Thus ends part one of the trip. I'll write about the remainder tomorrow when I again get to talk about my other overall favorite winery in the area...

    Wines Reported On In 2009: 89

    Birthday At Cafe Bleu

    Last Friday was my birthday and since my beau was out of town my friends Cory and Elbert took me out for drinks and dinner at Cafe Bleu. As I got out of work earlier than they did I arrived for happy hour and decided to add to my tastings count while waiting for them. I have to say, I enjoyed every wine I tasted:

  • Brandal Albarino 2005: From the Rias Baixas region of Spain. My notes from the evening: Floral nose. Bracing acidity. Grapefruit. Hints of minerality leading into a nice medium-length finish. Tasty.

  • Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2007: Another tasty little offering from Chile. My self-texted notes read "Cherry color. Earth, asphalt, cherry fruit on the nose. Lean. A touch young but won't cellar long but very drinkable now"

  • Les Jamelles Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d'Oc 2007: Ah, France. Even "country wines" can be fun. My quicky texted notes read "Dark color with ruby tints. Red berries on the nose, hints of oak (vanilla?). Jammy blackberries and cherries, nice tannins, smooth for a "country wine".

  • As I tasted I watched the staff who were very attentive to those at the bar and at the increasingly busy restaurant area. Cory and Elbert arrived and we were immediately seated. The ambiant noise level was a little high, the place showing good energy. For an appetizer we ordered calimari (my beau's favorite) and it quickly arrived hot with two dipping sauces. Nice texture, very yummy, hints of herbs and lemon and a great food to eat while chatting.

    Time to order dinner. Cory and I ordered the same thing, Coq au Vin, "Chicken with wine" while Elbert selected their Bleu Burger, an 8oz Kobe beef burger with bleu cheese (Tio Ely has an interesting story around his selection, ask him about it when you see him). The dishes arrived and I loved the Coq au Vin. The wine-braised meat was soooo tender it fell off the bone, the veggies showing the proper resistence to the bite while the "pomme souffle" was pretty fluffy for potatoes. During the meal Heather arrived and as good friends do only added to the enjoyment of the evening.

    I enjoyed my birthday (the enjoyment only increased when my beau came home that evening). I know that I will definitely go back to Cafe Bleu to explore more of their wines and their lovely food.

    Wines Reported On In 2009: 72