Tag Archives: wine review

More California Reds. A Pinot Noir and a Zinfandel.

Tonight we’re looking at a couple more California wines from outside Napa Valley. They’re also outside of the Cab Sauv thing we’ve had going on lately. It was a nice change of pace for sure.

Pinot Noir hails from Burgundy. Oregon has claimed it as its own. And California is not far behind. The PN for tonight comes from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, which is known for growing Burgundian grapes such as PN and Chardonnay. It works out because of the cool coastal breezes coming off the Pacific and the fog that tends to cover the valley. Good times.

The Zinfandel for tonight is actually a blend of mostly Zinfandel with some Petite Sirah, Carignane, and cool climate Syrah thrown in. The grapes come from Alexander Valley and they say it can age up to 15 years, but we’re not gonna let it get that far.


Fiddlehead Cellars – 2009 Seven Twenty Eight Pinot Noir – 14.1% alc – Santa Rita Hills, CA – about $35


Pours a bright red and smells of potpourri, rosey flowers, cinnamon, pepper, red fruits and cola. Very interesting and bright.

Tastes of red fruits (mostly raspberry and a little strawberry), cherry cola, slight spices, and flowers. Bright acidity. Nice balance of flavors. Very insteresting.

Mouthfeel is medium body with light dryness.

Finish is all cola and spices. Medium plus in length. Lightly flowered.

Not a ton of notes on this guy but the flavors are really well defined and it’s tough to put the glass down. It’s not a particularly big wine but it’s definitely a really good one. I’d recommend it for sure.



Marietta Cellars – 2010 Angeli Cuvee – Sonoma County, CA – 15.4% alc – about $30


This wine is a blend comprised mostly of Zinfandel, with some Petite Sirah and Carignane thrown in.

It pours an opaque dark purple and smells of dark fruits (blueberry, black raspberry), flowers, light cracker, spice and more spice. Lots of Cinnamon and nutmeg. Some liquorish and vanilla as well.

Taste is all big dark fruit with some spice, cinnamon, cracker and black pepper in there as well.

Mouthfeel is very full body with medium dryness.

Finish is medium plus in length with oak, flowers and dark fruits going on.

This would be a nice wine to share with some friends. Something different in the big and bold category. Not quite as bold as some of the Cab Sauv’s we’ve been trying lately but pretty good stuff.

Honestly I’m a little on the fence considering the price though. I liked it for sure, but I’d be more comfortable paying $22-25 a bottle instead of $30 and because of that I think I’m going to have to say



Napa Valley makes wine? (2 reviews)

Yeah. Napa Valley. California wine. We all know it. We’ve all heard/seen the accolades and the high scores and the higher prices. We’ve heard the history. The famous year of 1976 and how that changed everything. New world wine (can we really still call it that?).

You know what though? I haven’t done any reviews of California wine. I thought it might be time.. Actually I’m not sure if I have. But we’re gonna look at some anyway. This time around we have 2 Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley.

Are they cheap? Depends on your definition I suppose but if you asked me I’d say yes AND no (see what I did there?). For fine wine in today’s world, and by today’s standards, Yes, they’re kind of cheap. For a person on a budget (like yours truly) spending money out of their own pocket, No… not so cheap. But I digress.

For this foray into the world of wine, I was going for big. Extracted. Powerful. I think I did okay in that regard. But I didn’t exactly break the bank. And I also didn’t go into any great lengths to get either of these wines, so don’t expect a Screaming Eagle review here…

Anyway, let’s get to it I guess..


Venge Vineyards – 2011 Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon – about $47 – Napa Valley, CA – 14.7% alc


So, I gotta say, even with 1-2 hours of airtime on the bottle before I poured a glass, this wine was not ready yet. It screams for a decanter. Two hours in a decanter would’ve been perfect.

Day 1: Pours a deep deep purple.

Smell is heavy with vegetation, leaves, bushes and underbrush. Powerful dark fruit. Slight spiciness, almost gingery. Biscuits and a bit of chocolate with some mint.

Taste is huge spicy dark fruit. Almost stinging. Hot. Branches and vegetation.

Mouthfeel is big in body. Moderately drying.

Long, fruity, spicy finish.

The stinging hotness was honestly a little much on the first day. Very concentrated and felt a little closed off.

Day 2: Okay. Now it’s strutting its stuff. The body died down to a hefty medium and the heat has died down considerably, making way to sweet dark chocolate and plums with the underbrush thing going on underneath. Baking spices and vanilla. Peppery spice. Really really enjoyable. Complex. Interesting. Easy to drink.

Be patient with this one if you want a big Cab Sauv and don’t mind ponying up the dough needed to get a bottle of this. It’s definitely worth it if you can swing it and give it quite a bit of airtime.



Cade – 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley, CA – about $60 – 15% alc


The Napa Valley Cab Sauv from Cade is not the most renowned wine they make. That would be the Howell Mountain version that costs just 5-15 dollars more, depending on the vintage. But in an effort to buck a trend or two I was curious about the NV version. After the first day and about 2 hours open in the bottle, I was prepared to agree with some reviews I’d read saying this particular wine would best be served with several years in the cellar. Day 2 changed my mind yet again (a trend with these big Napa Cabs today).

Pours a dense purple. Smells of tightly packed plums, little bit of graham cracker/pie crust, super slight vegetation, blue/blackberry and surprisingly coffee with some airtime.

Taste is of plums/dark fruits. Concentrated. Huge flavors but has the feeling of being pretty wound up. Medium acidity. Jam. Light blueberry. Pie crust.

Mouthfeel is big. Huge big. Very drying.

Finish is long and dominated by the plummy dark fruits. And some pepper. Coffee hangs around a bit too.

Definitely big, concentrated, highly extracted. Gets a little savory and the dark fruits get a little bruised with even more airtime. Slight dirt to back up the little bit of vegetation. Good but a little closed off during the first day.

Day 2 evolved into even more savory components. More vegetation with some underbrush. Waaaayyyyy more spices (cracked black pepper, slight cinnamon maybe, baking spices) and a big chocolate component. Dark fruit flavors even bigger. Exploding from the glass. Honestly, day 2 gave way to a completely different wine, it seemed. Super big and complex. Amazing. Couldn’t help but say wow during the entire length of the last 2 or 3 glasses in the bottle.

YES. Worth it. Decant for several hours and this wine should reward you with big flavor and complexity. Get it.

Look out next time for some more California wines of a couple different varietals from some different towns.

White Burgundy and Red Northern Rhone wine reviews

Today, we are going to explore a bit more of France. 

On these pages, we’ve gone to Bourdeaux and France is mentioned quite a bit, but we’ve yet to get into Burgundy or anywhere close to Rhone.. so here we are. There’s obviously a lifetime of wines to explore in each of these areas alone, and many a person will spend that much time exploring everything they can in any one of them. I’d love to have that kind of dedication to a specific area, and maybe someday I will. But for now, I’m still getting my feet wet (or palate wet.. or, more to the point, myself drunk) in the wide world of wine.

Anyway, I was quite excited to pick up these wines and see what some of these regions have to offer. The issue much of the time with any of the wines of France seems to be price and getting good quality for said price; Cost of admission and all that. These are certainly not the cheapest wines on the market. They’re definitely not anywhere near the high end of the price spectrum either, but they are good quality. And that’s what matters.

In my studies so far, I’ve read quite a bit about Burgundy. It’s fascinating, and so vastly different from how things are done in the rest of France. Worth a read for sure to get a handle on how they do things there. Rhone on the other hand, I’ve yet to get to. So other than there being a Northern and a Southern portion, I know very little. Tonights red wine is a 100% Syrah from Northern Rhone, and a good one at that.

So without further ado, on to the wines…


Pouilly-Fuisse’ – Louis Jadot 2012 (White Burgundy) – 13% alc – Burgundy, France – about $24


If you see a White wine from Burgundy, you pretty much know it’s Chardonnay. That’s what they do (and their reds are generally Pinot Noir). They almost own the grape (although California seems to be trying to steal it from them…). There’s a lot of quality wine to be had, and some not so good. We’ll take a look at this one from Pouilly-Fuisse’, which incidentally, is fun to say (pooh-ee phwee-zay is my approximate phonetic attempt).

It pours a light, not quite golden, yellow. Smells nutty with a little bit of tropical fruits (namely pineapple) and a hint of peppery spice. I swear as time wore on I got some lovely hints of caramel and penuche, which brought about many a remembrance of growing up in Western PA making Penuche with my mom and stirring the pot of fudge on the cold tile floor. (We had to move the pot from tile to tile to help cool the fudge as we stirred to make it harden faster. A fun but tiring exercise where the reward for your efforts was the lovely, buttery, caramelly goodness that is penuche. If you’ve never had it, get some.. or better yet, make some for yourself.)

The taste is nicely balanced between a subtle sweetness and acidity. Fruit and nut bouquet. Light flowery perfume. Light vanilla as well. 

Mouthfeel is light to medium in body. Low drying. Refreshing but not too. Really nice for a white winter wine. 

Finish is medium in length. Flowers and nuts with light fruit. 

Nothing offensive. Nicely balanced. Not too assertive, but not exactly contemplative. Good though. Worth it?  I think so.



Domaine du Colombier – Cuvee Gaby Crozes-Hermitage 2011 – 13% alc – Northern Rhone, France – about $30


Ok, I’m going to give it away right in the beginning. YES. Like go-buy-this-right-now-don’t-even-bother-reading-this-review, holy crap this is good, YES. Actually, now that I’m thinking of it, yeah you probably should at least read the review. If for no other reason than to decide if this is your cup o’ tea or not. I can see certain aspects of this wine turning some people off. So…

Pours a deep dark purple. Inky. Awesome. Feels heavy in the glass. 

The first thing I noticed in the smell was meat. Game. Earth. Spices, more specifically pepper and cinnamon. That cinnamon element is fascinating. And then the dark dark fruits; mostly plums. 

Taste is a wonderful balance of meat and plummy dark fruit. Then come waves of baking spices, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg. It’s like a damn baking cabinet with the cabinet itself broken into kindling and thrown in for good measure. Not a ton of oak is noticeable but it’s there. Again. Balance. It’s balanced in it’s unbalanced fruity beauty. Hard to describe (apparently) but definitely not messing around.

Mouthfeel is big. Full bodied. But not a huge smack in the face. More like a plush, velvety, bigness. Awesome.

Finish is complex and long. Ever changing. Hits all the notes above and more. Goes on forever. 

Worth it. Every penny. 


You’re once, twice, four times Italian…

On the docket (I love that word) tonight.. well actually, it’s not like I drank all these in one night. That would be CRAZY… But on the menu tonight (from a review POV) are 4 Italian wines. 3 Reds and 1 White. 

When it comes to Italian wines, I know almost nothing. Chianti and Tuscany. Barolo and Barbaresco…. Annnnd I’m out. But that doesn’t mean I can’t drink and enjoy them. Which is exactly what we did over the last several days. 

(I feel compelled to mention that my not knowing much of anything about the winegrowing regions in Italy will soon come to an end. Mostly because I really don’t like not knowing things. But for now, we’ll leave it be.)

So let’s get to it then, eh?


Tasca d’Almerita – 2010 Lamuri Nero d’Avola – 14% ALC – Sicily, Italy – about $17


Pours a lighter red fading to pink shades on edges. Very translucent, looking pretty thin in the glass.

Smells of red red red fruits. Raspberry and light strawberry. Light spices. Light earthy aromas. Tea coming out over time. Jammy-ness coming out a bit as well.

Taste is mostly bright red fruits. RASPBERRY. SO MUCH RASPBERRY. after some time, pencil shavings and mint.

Mouthfeel on the low end of medium with moderate dryness.

Finish is medium plus in length with aftertones of acidity and raspberry fruits. Black tea lingers after the raspberry fades.

For this price I’d definitely have to say…



Il Poggione – Rosso di Montalcino 2011 – Tuscany, Italy – about $20 – 14% alc


Pours light purple. Looks thin in the glass. Smells of savory, gamey meats. Red fruits and lightly buttered biscuits with a hint of rose pedals. Taste was all red fruits and acidity. Those savory meats come in as well. Medium body that’s quite grippy and drying. Finish is medium in length and fruity. 

Overall good to very good. Has something different going on with those meaty, savory notes. Worth it if you see it.



Sergio Mottura – Poggio Della Costa Grechetto 2012 – 13.5% alc – Ci Vitella d’Agliano, Italy – about $19


Pours a vibrant, golden yellow.

Smell is very light. Flowery perfume and pineapple/tropical fruits. Some minerality as well.

Taste is bright with medium plus acidity. A little fruity and flowery.

Rather short finish. 

Might pair pretty well with food but probably too acidic on its own. For the money I really can’t say it’s definitely worth it.



Azelia de Luigi Scavino – 2009 Barolo – 14.5% alc – Piedmont, Italy – about $30


This guy pours a nice shade of purple with the edges fading to almost brown.

Smells of dark plummy fruits, dusty chocolate, slight vegetation, light acidity.

Taste is mostly plums and dark fruits with light spices and chocolate hints that come more and more to the fore with air time.

Mouthfeel is medium, grippy and drying.

Finish is long in length with the flavors pretty much following the smell/taste.

Honestly, this sounds very straightforward, and it is. But what it lacks in complexity it makes up for in power. It’s not exactly subtle in its flavor. As kristy said, “it’s stimulating without too much or too little of anything.” That sums it up pretty well if you ask me.

I know it’s not the cheapest wine in the world, and it’s not as challenging as a lot of Barolo tends to be (there’s no mention of tar in this review so it doesn’t exactly follow the Barolo MO), but it is a damn good wine. Is it worth the price of admission? Barely. 

So if you see it and you have the means and you want some plummy goodness then grab it.



I think next time we are going to do some French wines. A red and a white. 

A couple from Bourdeaux

I know when I was just getting into wine I was pretty intimidated by Bourdeaux.

Of course, when I was just getting into wine I was honestly intimidated by the entire wine section at Binnys (my local jaunt). There’s a ridiculous amount of wines and almost infinite choice. Walking over there for the first time immediately made me extremely nervous. So I just picked a couple and got out of there as soon as I could.

But I remember being especially intimidated by Bourdeaux. Really I never thought I’d have to deal with them at all. I thought they were all out of my price range. And the whole idea of Bourdeaux wines just seemed so snooty to me.

Then I started reading about them. And wow. It’s even more intimidating than I thought. There’s a lot going on. Between the Cru system and the seemingly endless subregions and appelations within the overall region of Bourdeaux it gets pretty involved.

But that intimidation is not to say it isn’t a region worth exploring. It definitely is. And it can be very rewarding.

The thing to keep in mind is that they aren’t all ridiculously expensive. They can certainly get there, but those prices are reserved mostly for the Grand Crus of the very famous Chateaus and the First and Second Growths. The pricing of many other subregions are very reasonable. I’ve found several within St Emilion that are a good value. They tend to focus more on Merlot in that area than those found on the other bank of the river that runs through the Bourdeaux region. The other side focuses more on Cabernet Sauvignon and many wines over there tend to be more expensive. Of course there are some really great values over there as well.

One of tonight’s wines is from St Emilion.

The other is a Loupiac. Basically across the river from where Sauternes are made. It’s like the little brother to Sauternes. Dessert wines for the win! (I almost typed “for the wine” there… hah.)

So let’s get to it eh?

Chateau Haut Brisson – Saint Emilion 2010 – Bourdeaux, France – 13.5% alc – about $28


One thing to look for when you are looking at Bourdeaux bottles is “mis en bouteille au chateau” which means it was bottled by the winery that grew the grapes. It’s similar to other areas that label their wines as Estate Bottled. Generally you can look forward to higher quality, of course it’s not 100% but it helps.

This wine pours a deep purple/red color. Has the look of somewhere in the medium range in terms of body from how it swirls in the glass.

Smells of deep red fruits with raspberries, cocoa, vanilla, coffee grounds/espresso. I can smell some oak with light alcohol heat. There were random wafts of gingerbread cookies and light pie crust. Those gave way over time to increased levels of cocoa and espresso beans.

Taste was of gobs and gobs of red fruits. Medium acidity. Spices (baking and otherwise) and oak.

Mouthfeel was medium to medium plus. Extremely grippy. Wonderful texture. Almost coating. Silky works as a descriptor.

Finish was long and vibrant with fruit and oak. Vanilla came in and out at times.

This bottle made me (and Kristy) want to keep coming back for more. It was seriously tough to put down. Totally worth the splurge if you see it and you want a seriously good Red Bourdeaux Blend.



Chateau Les Roques – 2009 Loupiac – Bergerac, France – 13.5% alc – about $15


So this guy is a dessert wine. It comes in a 375mL bottle. Which, honestly, is a good thing since a 750mL would be far too much unless you’re having a fairly large dinner party. That said, this isn’t exactly cheap considering you’re getting a half bottle.

So it pours a golden yellow. Looks very thick in the glass.

Smells of sweet fruit, light flowers, nutty undercurrent, light cream. At times a bit of bubblegum. Light rubber.

Taste is extremely rich. Very sweet. Nutty. Marmelade, oranges, pineapple, other tropical fruits, and a tinge of acidity.

Mouthfeel is full bodied and creamy.

Finish is long and lingering. Fruit and nuts.

Day 2 was even more aromatic and flowery. This is one of the first whites I’ve had that could use a little time to open up. Super intense.

This is seriously good stuff if you’re in the market for a dessert wine. They call them that for a reason. Just know that going in. If you don’t like sweet wines this might not be for you, but I think it’s certainly worth a try for anyone. And honestly I don’t think it’s all that expensive when you consider that you’re probably not going to drink glass after glass over one evening. We’ve had this open for 3 or 4 days in the fridge and it’s still holding up (of course we are using our trusty bottle stopper/pourer combination thingys). It’s a good nightcap until it runs its course.

I’d say..



Not sure what the next review(s) will be. We just stocked up pretty hard here so I’ll have to plan out the tastings for the coming weeks. It’s exciting times here lately on the wine front.

Until next time..

Ohio Yes’s and No’s.. and a comparitive german riesling… you know, for research.

So we took an actual trip to Ohio about a month ago… or a couple weeks ago (who’s counting?). And while we were there we picked up some wines from one of our favorite Ohio wineries. Kristy had the idea to review several of their wines so here we are. Yay for good original post ideas!

We have 4 wines tonight. so they are going to be kind of shotgun style. I’ll insert some pics as we go (as per usual) and we’ll talk about the wines and whether they’re worth it. Not sure why I put that last part in since that’s kind of the usual format but I like to have more than a couple sentences before we get to the reviews.

These were all consumed over the last week. Here we go!

Chalet Debonne – River Rouge Semi-sweet red – Madison, OH – 12% alc – about $8


Looking into Chalet Debonne there’s a pretty unanimous consensus that their reds aren’t quite as good as their whites. And here we can see that in action, unfortunately. It’s pretty much grape juice with alcohol. Overly sweet. Not my thing.


Chalet Debonne – Holiday Rouge – 12% alc – Madison, OH – about $8

This used to be one we would look forward to for the holidays. Pretty much showed the same as the River Rouge but with added cinnamon flavor… from the cinnamon and other spices they added to it. Better than the Rouge but only just.


Chalet Debonne – 2012 Riesling Reserve Lot 907 – 11% alc – Madison, OH – about $15


Pours pale straw yellow. Slightly mineral on the nose with some peach and apricot and light acidity. Taste is all peaches and cream. Clean and refreshing with medium body. Not super complex but super drinkable. Good stuff!


Georg Albrecht Schneider – 2011 Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spatlese – 10.5% alc – Nierstein, Germany – about $17


Pours a medium deep golden. First scent is light petrol, then sweetness and acidity. Light citrus and cream with slight pepper. High levels of sweetness on the drink. Very creamy with medium acidity.

Mouthfeel is on the lighter side of full and quite creamy. Finish is medium-long, with a random light dryness coming through. Cream cream cream. Almost like whipped cream or vanilla pudding maybe.

I’m a fan. Especially for the money. Nice solid Spatlese that’s not closer to $30? Sign me up every time!


Side note, between the Ohio riesling and the German Spatlese I’d give the nod to the German. Slightly more complex and just a little more Oohmph. And the petrol thing it has going on is really nice.

Next thing I’m planning is a couple of showings from Bordeaux.

The Girlfriend Addendum:  This is just my (Kristy’s) tidbit about the aforementioned wines.  Feel free to skip this if you’re sick of reading or its already past your bedtime or you hate people from Ohio.

Iain generously gave me some space at the end here to give my two cents.  First of all, you are all lucky that you are experiencing this road trip from afar.  I’m originally from Northeast Ohio so we end up there at least a couple times a year.  Over the years we’ve noticed a pattern.  As soon as we cross state lines into Ohio Iain becomes 20% more argumentative (in a silly way).

We really do enjoy our trips to Ohio, mostly spending time with my family and old friends.  My mother happens to work at a beverage distributor in Ohio, and she originally introduced us to the wines of Chalet Debonne.  We have also had the chance to visit the winery, which was a good time .  That being said, it’s disappointing to admit that I agree with Iain’s decision in regard to the reds.  They were very, very sweet. In the past I might have enjoyed that, but the more wine we try, the more I find myself appreciating dry, bold reds.  I am actually sad that I didn’t enjoy the Holiday Rouge because I was really looking forward to it.  It tastes like someone added cinnamon to grape juice.  It was drinkable, but not something I would spend my own money on in the future.

Chalet Debonne’s Rieslings are a different story altogether.  All of their rieslings are enjoyable, but the Riesling Reserve Lot 907 is the best of the bunch.  It’s sweet without being cloying, but admittedly less complex than the Spatlese mentioned in this post.

Now a quick word on the 2011 Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spatlese. Iain has been trying for a while now to find a Riesling I enjoy more  than the Chalet Debonne Riesling Reserve Lot 907. I will not give him the pleasure just yet of finding said wine, but I do like this Spatlese quite a bit. I found it sharper than Chalet Debonne’s Riesling Reserve. The sweetness was noticeable but concise, and it was definitely more complex.

I also want to mention that yesterday when we cracked open the Spatlese we got very excited when we realized it was imported from the Wine Seller in Niles. We thought “Niles, OH!  Great!  This gives us a link to the whole Ohio theme!”  But tonight we realized that it was Niles, IL.  So there goes the fluidity and our feeble excuse for including it in this post.

Last Trip to Argentina for the Foreseeable Future, but Today’s A TWO-FER!

I know we’ve done a lot of Argentinian wines (or it seriously seems that way at least).
I know that. But they’re so good. And so cheap. And usually YES’s so please forgive me.
This will be our last foray into Argentina for awhile I think. France and Italy and Ohio are nipping at our heels here
and I honestly can’t wait to see what they all have in store. But those are for another day.

This is kind of a funny story. Well maybe not a “funny haha” as much as a “oh shit I didn’t realize I did that” kind of funny. But we’ll call it funny all the same.

So I was at THE STORE. (Random tangent: Usually I’d refer to most liquor/wine/spirits/beer stores as Beer Stores as I’ve always done when referring to my local haunts out here in Chicago. Reason being is when I lived in PA there were only two types of stores you could really go to get your alcohol; beer distributors ‘which eventually gave way to Giant Eagle, a grocery store, being able to sell beer’ and State Stores for your liquor and wine and whatnot. And when I lived there I really only went to the places that sold beer. So since I would now just as well walk into a place that sells everything like we have here in Chicago and walk out with some combination of all of them, I’ll probably stop calling it the beer store and just refer to it as THE STORE.)

So I was at The Store and I was kind of in a hurry to get a couple bottles. I saw a Malbec with a nice description and grabbed it. Then I saw another Malbec (one I’ll be reviewing tonight) that I’d been on the lookout for and grabbed that as well. Then I passed a Cabernet Sauvignon with a nice write-up and a good price and thought “what the hell” and grabbed that too. Can’t really remember what else I grabbed that day, but I’m sure there were a few more. Turns out all three of those that I earlier referred to are from Mendoza, Argentina and TWO of them are from the same producer!

So I thought, “Great! Now I have a theme for a blog post.” and went with it. Yeah, in retrospect, just a random coincidence and not so much funny but I got a chuckle out of it.

On to the wines!!

Chakana Wines – Maipe Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2012 – 14.5% alc – Mendoza, Argentina – about $13


This Cab pours dark and inky. Brooding even. Purple, garnet, deep red. I don’t wanna say blood red but I can’t think of another descriptor.

First thing that hits with my nose to the glass is vegetation. That Green Bell Pepper smell. More whiffs and a few swirls brings out super concentrated dark fruits, brown sugar, sugar cookie, vannila, oak and a bit of heat (detectable but not overwhelming). Other baking spices present as well. Little bit of tar and tire rubber eventually. Cracked black pepper as well.

First thing that hits when tasting is the vegetation and the green pepper. Then the big fruits and that sticky brown sugar sticking around. Hints of smoke, tar and pepper in there as well. Medium complexity. Seems a little tight. A little closed. Opened up nicely over time and over the second day.

This might be a good candidate to decant if you know you’re going to finish the bottle in a night. Give it an hour or 2 and you should be good. Otherwise open it and let the bottle breathe for a good hour or so and give your glasses a few good swirls to bring it to life.

Mouthfeel is BIG. Like really big. Huge. Wow. Not syrupy or cloying in any way. Just… BIG.

Finish is medium in length. My notes again mention the tightness of the wine on the first night. Nothing else sticking out. Fresh dark cherry and other dark fruits stick around awhile with a little bit of everything else mixed in. Oak is definitely felt on the finish as well.

(Straight from the Night One notes: “so far so good on night one. really excited to see how this keeps opening up. pretty sure it’s not slowing down any time soon.)

Night two is still big and bold. Acidity and juicy fruits coming to the fore and the vegetal notes of yesterday kept in check.

Okay. So, a big ass wine for 13 bucks? Ageability if you wanna go there for sure. Really a lot going on for the money. Gotta be…


Chakana Wines – Chakana Estate Selection Malbec 2012 – 14.5% alc – Mendoza, Argentina – about $20


So this guy is a 100% Malbec aged 18 months in French Oak. Crazy that you can get something that spent the last year and a half in oak for $20 with this kind of quality. Gotta love Argentina and Malbec. No wonder people are eating them up (or drinking as it were) these days.

This one pours deep purple/red. Lookin good my friend.

Aromas of bright red cherries, plum, a little bit of chocolate, and some baking spices. Eventually, after many hours there’s a floral, almost potpourri aroma wafting from the glass. This is complex as hell actually. Everytime you go back to it there’s something else there. Or some other crazy combination of all of the above. Nice.

Taste is of cherry and plum up front. Small hits of acidity. Super slight vegetation but really hardly any at all compared to the Cab. Not apparently drying on day one. Day two, however, gets really grippy in a great way. Cocoa peaks out here and there. Spices, and maybe a little bit of cinnamon as well.

Mouthfeel is medium plus in body. Not as big as the Cab, but still very satisfying for sure.

Finish is relatively long. Call it medium plus. Cherry and cocoa with a small amount of sneaky dryness throughout most of the first day. Day two brought out a lot more of that wonderful grippy dryness as mentioned before. Heat is felt but not tasted on the finish. Baking spices and vanilla come to the party at times as well.

Pie crust and a nice pleasing vanilla dryness come more and more to the fore as it opens up. Slight savory notes hit eventually as well.

This is quite complex. Different flavors coming out each time I touch my lips to the glass. It’s big-ish but not a super bold wine. More silky and elegant instead of a big bruiser like the Cab. Not as much weight in comparison.

This one I’d honestly drink more just for enjoyment than for analyzing and looking at the technical aspects, which you certainly need sometimes. This would be awesome to open with friends and family. It’s an easy drinker, as are most Malbecs, which only adds to their appeal. Definitely recommended.


See you next time folks.


California makes Chardonnay. This one’s pretty good.

















I’m not usually a Chardonnay drinker, which is precisely why I bought one. There’s quite a range of flavors you can get out of a Chardonnay; dry, buttery, oaky, sweet, tropical, and probably some others. 

I’ll get to where this one stands below..

For now I’m gonna take a side quest to talk about serving temps (feel free to skip to the review if you don’t care about what is to follow..).

Red wines I’ll generally just serve at the temperature they’re stored at. Some would say that’s a smidge too warm but I’ve had good luck with it so far. Whites I’ll usually pull from the fridge and open up and go. I read something interesting the other day alluding to most people drinking white wines too cold so that got me thinking I’d try something different.

So for this guy I put it in the fridge for a bit, then opened it and gave it some time. I like it; works pretty good. Nothing too crazy or mind blowing here. Just leave the bottle out after you serve a white wine that was chilled until you’re ready to call it a night.. more or less.

Anyway, let’s talk about sex. Oh shit. Wine… That song just popped in my head randomly.


Mt Eden Vineyards – 2011 Edna Valley Chardonnay – 13.8% alc – Central Coast, California – about $20



This wine was aged in assorted barrels for 8 months.  Assume all tasting notes are referring to both Day 1 and Day 2 unless otherwise noted.

Poured a pale straw yellow color. Reminded me of many Berlinerweisse beers or possibly an Ardbeg 10 year Scotch. Yup. So there’s that.

On the nose I got tropical fruit first, followed by a slight buttery note. The alcohol heat was extremely well hidden. Hints of vanilla, honey and a dash of ginger came a little later. Almost a floral perfume-y smell popped up every other whiff or so. Eventually candied dried pineapples and maybe apricots. Very nice complexity if you look for it.

The taste was initially sweet. Then the acidity hits you. Dry without FEELING dry. Pretty cool. I’d say this is definitely on the sweeter side of Chardonnays in my limited experience with them. The buttery note (and really it’s just a whisper on Day 1) wafts every so gently under the tropical fruits. The dried fruit flavors hit hardest after the initial tropical juicy pineapple blasts, and that spice sneaks in there a little as well.

Mouthfeel is a solid medium. Nice refreshing consistency. At first I thought it would be better suited to cooler nights such as these we’re enjoying now (well not so much enjoying as we are experiencing, really…), but then it occurred to me this would work really well on a cool summer evening with some friends on a back porch. Probably with chicken or even a bowl of homemade popcorn. At least, this kind of made me crave popcorn…

The finish is also of medium length and pretty warming (in a creep-up-the-back-of-your-throat-after-you-swallow kind of way). Biggest thing that lingers after you swallow is the candied fruit flavors and vanilla with that little hit of ginger spices. after 15 seconds or so there’s a lingering nutty/biscuity flavor as well. Day 2 brought buttered then eventually caramel covered popcorn to the finish line.

So. $20. Refreshing. Complex. Good overall. Buy it if you see it, especially if it’s on sale.


A 2005 Rioja. Classy or Bust?

Tonight we travel back to Spain, as promised. This being a 2005, it’s the oldest wine I’ve had. Yeah, I know, it’s really not that old. I need to get out more.. or spend more money at the store. But a milestone is a milestone and here we are.

It’s a fairly standard blend: mostly Tempranillo (65%), with Garnacha taking up another 25%, and Graciano and Mazuelo rounding out the rest at 5% each.

It’s also a Crianza, so it spends a decent amount of time in Oak and in the bottle before release. This particular wine spend the better part of 2 years in American Oak and then 2 more years hanging out with its makers before being released into the wild.

In my experience with beer and barrels, many times the beer can end up thinner than the maker intended, so I was curious to see what the mouthfeel would be like in this wine. Although, I don’t know the intentions of the winemaker in this particular case.. Anywho it’s just something to think about.



R Lopez de Heredia – 2005 Vina Cubillo Crianza – 13.5% alc – Rioja, Spain – about $23


I’m the type of person that is extremely influenced by expectations.

For example, I honestly was not expecting to like the movie “The Hangover.” Frankly, it looked stupid to me. However, when I finally got around to seeing it (on DVD no less because I didn’t want to spend the Million Dollars it takes to get into a movie theater to see a movie I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing) I LOVED IT. It was really funny. And I think I really only liked it as much as I did because I didn’t expect to like it at all, when in fact it was a pretty decent comedy by all accounts.

I have plenty of examples to illustrate the other side of the coin as well but we’ll leave them for another time.

I mention all this because I was very very excited to open this bottle. Due to my blooming love affair with Spanish reds and the fact this is the oldest wine I’ve tried thus far, my expectations were quite high. Also, I liked what I had read about it.

(Ed. note:  What Iain is getting at is that if he likes this wine, it must meet or exceed his high expectations.  When he says he is influenced by expectations, he truly means it.  Ask him about the movie Kick Ass.)


(Iain Note: As an aside, this has got to be one of the best bargains for the price if you consider the fact this is an 8/9 year old wine for $23.)

So I poured this thing into a glass. This wine started out almost burnt-orange and then became a deep, dark red as it filled the glass. The burnt-orange stuck around towards the outside of the glass. I’d like to think that attributes to the relative age of the wine.

Smelling it I got bright juicy red fruits, a slight sour note, tobacco, what I at first thought of as Cedar that then revealed itself to be that of a Cigarbox, and some spices. Pretty nice and tidy. Day 2 reveals much of the same.

I was kind of disappointed with the first sip, to be honest. It hit me hard with that sour note. I seriously got flashbacks to the last wine I reviewed. My stomach sank.

Then it occurred to me I may not have let it breathe as much as I needed to. It had really only been open 30-40 minutes. So I set the glass down, let the bottle breathe, and watched another episode of Supernatural before going back to it.

That made all the difference. This time, big cherry flavor, then sour and oak intermingling. Spices hit at the beginning and then very end of each sip. The balance of sweet, sour and oak is really nice. Nothing too forward. Nothing out of balance really.

Giving this even more time to breathe (this is especially true on the second evening spent with it), candied oranges and lemons and a slight hint of honey come in somewhere in the midpalate. This is certainly finely crafted.

It is, however, delicate. Put this next to some big Napa Cabs or even many Pinot Noirs and it’s barely a blip on the radar. Give this a night out alone and take your time with it. Get to know it. It’s really got a lot to say.

The mouthfeel is on the lighter side of medium (winemakers choice or all that time in oak?), but it definitely works here.

Finish is medium length with that cigarbox and red fruit carrying the load. The dryness will sneak up on you the more you drink, slowly enveloping the mouth.. all sneaky-like.


Black Slate lacks faith in itself

Tonight and through the weekend, we’re gonna take a trip through Spain! “Where the beer flows like wine…” 

Oh wait.. That’s Aspen (bonus points if you guess the reference). 

Spain! Where the wine flows like, uh.. well. Wine I guess.

Okay, tonight’s wine is a Priorat by Black Slate. From what I’d read, I was expecting to fall in love with it. Big, full and a lot going on. Hard to argue with that, but does it work (for me at least)?


Black Slate – 2011 Porrera Vi de la Vila, Priorat D.O.Q. – 14.5% alc – Porrera, Spain – about $20


Two nights. 
One bottle.
First night: Pours thick and dark. Deep garnet colored. Syrupy and heavy in the glass. I gotta say it looked like a big wine, which I was anticipating. First sensation that I noticed upon smelling was a big hit of savory soy sauce notes. Those quickly gave way to Luden’s Cherry Cough drops (I felt like I was back in middle school eating those babies like candy), black cherries, menthol and a bit of brambly bushes. It definitely took me off guard.

The taste was sweet up front, with a big hit of balsamic (almost acetone-like) in the middle. Cherries, chocolate.. cough syrup? Drying to the back of the mouth after swallow. The mouthfeel?  Sticky and thick . Medium finish with chocolate covered cherries poking out of the cough syrup. 

And I gotta say, night 2 was much of the same, possibly even falling off a bit more. Just sweet all the way through with that distracting sour note in the middle, then the oak on the back of the tongue. 

This seems like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. I liked the thickness for the most part, except the balance is way off. I really can’t go through more than a couple glasses, to be honest. For some this may be perfectly fine. If you’re a fan of sweet and sour it might hit the right spot for you.

Unfortunately, I can’t justify the price. The $20 would be better spent somewhere else I’m afraid.


Next time we’ll take a trip through Rioja. Let’s see how that one does over the next few nights.