Friday, February 27, 2009

Nahe Kreuznacher Kronenberg Spätlese, 2005

The 2005 Nahe Kreuznacher Kronenberg Riesling Spätlese was the third white selected for this past Thanksgiving, and made the cut because of the price ($17) and the distinct flavor profile I've come to expect from this maker. It's a good value, and demonstrates why this varietal deserves more popular recognition than it receives. The nose features nice peach notes, mineral and soft floral notes, with a mouthfeel showing mild acidity and apple fruit, with hints of figs. Finishes well, and has reasonable balance. Also a QmP wine. Pairs with baked turkey or glazed ham.

Weingut Schieler Spätlese Trocken, 2003

"Go into the woods after a rain, and try to describe that smell." These are the words of an Austrian winemaker, Willi Bründlmayer, and I think they also apply to this wine, the Weingut Schieler Spätlese Trocken 2003, a German Chardonnay with one of the most fascinating characters I've encountered in this varietal. Just try it; I'll let it remain mostly a mystery. A nose featuring citrus with a zingy effervescence, and a mouthfeel showing bright notes of apple and pear. Not much oak, but balanced acidity buttresses the fruit. $25 a bottle.

McManis Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005

It's really quite easy to buy delicious California red wine for under $20. Here's one way: get a case of McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented in stainless steel tanks and then aged in new and used French and American oak. The nose features aromas of blackberry and hints of clove and mocha, followed by a mouthful of rich black fruits, like blackcurrant and plum. This is accompanied by strong hints of chocolate, heavy toasted oak supported by potent tannins, and a lingering finish. Dense, round, huge. As Emeril Lagasse would put it, bam! Buy it. $15 a bottle; one of the great barbecue wines.

Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese, 2004

For another excellent Thanksgiving white wine, I turned to the 2004 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese, from the village of Erden, in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. This is a QmP wine, and really exceptional, transparent and delicate, yet possessed of a racy acidity. The nose shows concentrated citrus and mineral aromas, while the mouthfeel is soft and full of peaches and honeydew melon, along with exotic fruit and floral notes. Finishes long and elegantly, with classic Riesling flair. $16 a bottle. Quaff this down with heaping plates of turkey and potatoes, and buttered asparagus.

Seebrich Niersteiner Oelberg Spätlese, 2006

The 2006 Seebrich Niersteiner Oelberg Riesling Spätlese is two kinds of mouthful. Seebrich, a family estate in the Rheinhessen region, was founded in 1783, and has been run by successive sons ever since. I loved its soft fruity nose, followed by delicate notes of peaches and mild, elegant acidity in the mouth. It was a little sweeter than I expected. Golden straw color in the glass. All in all, it proved a basic Thanksgiving wine, and in any vintage is probably not meant for aging. About $15 per bottle. Pairs well with baked turkey or ham.

Château de Pizay, 2006

A modest, yet delicious estate-bottled Beaujolais, the 2006 Morgon Château de Pizay has a nose dominated by fairly intense blackberries and cherries, a silky palate with extremely gentle tannins, and notes of strawberry, raspberry, apricots and some earthiness. These combine to present a classic Morgon flavor profile. Beaujolais, located in Burgundy, is made from the Gamay grape, and enjoys a strong cult following. It is worth noting that this is not the same as the Beaujolais Nouveau that comes into our country every year. That is junk, plonk, and not meant to be tasted by serious wine drinkers. Morgon is one of the ten Cru level Beaujolais, the top of the wine-producing hierarchy in this region. Another I've tasted is a Brouilly, the Château de La Chaize. Château de Pizay was founded in the 14th Century, making it an extremely old site. About $15 a bottle. It's an outstanding value, good for cheerful entertaining, and pairs well with poultry or hearty stews.

Joseph Carr Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005

For an example of what the Napa Valley can really produce in reds, look no further than the Joseph Carr Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Although it's labeled as a varietal, it's actually a Bordeaux-style blend, comprised of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, and 2.5% Syrah.The vintage I tasted, the 2005, was utterly delicious. Strong notes of cherry, plum and leather on the nose, with a touch of cedar and smoke, featuring more black fruits and chocolate in the mouth, balanced to fine-grained tannins. Excellent structure and intensity, and it finished long, hinting at cinnamon. It blew me away, and it'll blow you away too. $20 a bottle.

Fetish The Watcher, 2004

One thing I love about Australian wines is their consistent intensity, but the real essence of Australian wine goes deeper than that. Something about the terroir, the essence of the landscape and its climate, lends bold and blustering aspects of flavor to Australian wine, reds especially, which I find irresistible. And here is one reason why: The 2004 Fetish showcase, The Watcher. This is 100% Barossa Valley Shiraz, a proprietary brand by Joshua Tree Imports, with Rolf Binder as the winemaker. The wine has complex blue-black fruit and pepper aromas on the nose, with more jammy blueberries, violets, and plums on the palate. It has soft tannins and a long finish, featuring interesting cinnamon notes. A damn steal at $20 a bottle. Pair with any powerfully-seasoned grilled red meat.

Hess Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003

This is a classic Napa-style Cabernet Sauvignon; and an exceptional wine for steak. The nose brings aromas of cherry, with some rich spice and nutmeg notes. The mouthfeel has a rich velvety texture and a balanced tannic structure, with berries, cassis, red licorice, and other black fruits. It finishes long, with strong toasted oak elements. Some definite chocolate hints too, which I just love in domestic Cabernet! $25.

Domaine de Pouy, 2004

I wanted a zingy white wine for sipping, and this little gem, Domaine de Pouy, did the trick. Made from Colombard and Ugni Blanc, it has a bright and floral nose. In the mouth it is crisp, has great acidity and citrus fruit, particularly lemon, and finishes with a definite hint of grapefruit. The fruit flavors are backed up by solid minerals and an herbaceous note in the mouth. This Vin de Pays is from the Côtes des Gasgogne, a region most notable for Armagnac. It retails for about $10, and is an exceptional value. Stands on its own as an aperitif, or pairs with seafood of all kinds, including basa, sole, or mussels.

Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002

The 2002 Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon is another fantastic offering from the Napa Valley. It has an ideal deep ruby red color in the glass. In both the nose and mouth it's packed with bold fruit, blackberries and blackcurrents, with a hint of jamminess. Not much weird stuff here: no tea leaves, mocha, no chocolate, not much earthiness... just a well-balanced wine with big, upfront, mouth-coating California style. The wine was aged in pure French oak, but isn't toasted or full of smoky flavors. Full-bodied and subtle in its structure, with soft tannins and some spice just before the long finish, but the exuberant juiciness of the wine smoothes the spice out. Retails at about $25. Try any vintage of this wine, as soon as possible. Pairs well with all types of barbecued beef, particularly seasoned steaks. Very versatile.

Rowland Wild Thyme Vineyard, 2003

An obscure find from New Zealand, the 2003 Rowland Wild Thyme Vineyard Pinot Noir is a gem, and not to be passed up. At $25 a bottle, this wine has a flavor profile that bewilders anybody used to tasting Oregonian or French versions of this varietal. Bright cherries and earthiness on the nose, with more raspberries, hints of herb, and cedar in the mouth; light-bodied, with great balance and a lingering finish. This wine stands on its own, but would be a great companion to many a dish, including those with creamy sauces.

Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Kabinett, 2005

Here we have one of my favorite Easter wines! We matched this with ham last year. It's worth noting that white wine is the preferred match for glazed ham. We went with a bottle of 2005 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Kabinett, a delicious wine from one of the world's premier makers, from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region in Germany. With floral notes, fresh peaches, and a hint of grapefruit on the nose, this light-bodied gem was a perfect match for the honey glaze. Flavors of melon on the mouth, well-balanced, some crisp acidity and good mineral in the finish. $25 a bottle, pretty standard for good Riesling. I should also list the different general levels of grape ripeness - and thus tendencies towards sweetness - for German Rieslings, all QmP (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat), in ascending order: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Eiswein. Enjoy!

Hubert Veneau Pouilly Fumé, 2005

The 2005 Hubert Veneau Pouilly Fumé, a straight-up Sauvignon Blanc from this appellation east of Sancerre in the Loire Valley, has great intensity and structure, with strong notes of lemon and grapefruit, and a strangely sweet herbaceous backing. Dry and medium-bodied. There were some hints of peach towards the end. Unbelievable finish! The limestone soil in this region shows well. Absolutely ready to drink now, and it's a steal at around $20 a bottle. Pairs with oysters or any other shellfish, many types of sushi, and tangy goat cheeses.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cloudline Pinot Noir, 2005

A stellar example of Pinot Noir, much closer to home than the great Burgundies. The 2005 Cloudline, from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, shows an upfront nose of raspberries and floral aromas, particularly violets, with cherries and other red berry fruit in the mouth. This is then backed by soft, supple tannins and marvelous complexity, with a delicious earthy finish, tending towards mushrooms and dried leaves. True varietal character! It seems that 2005 in Oregon provided an extremely rainy September, extending the harvest into October; this in turn led to extra ripening. What results is a fascinating wine, and unusually good in balance and depth for a domestic Pinot Noir. $20. Pairs well with beef roasts or stews.

Renzo Masi Sangiovese di Toscana, 2004

The best casual table wine for Italian food. A bottle of 2004 Renzo Masi Sangiovese di Toscana presents you with near-Chianti quality at rock-bottom price. It features a smoky, earthy aroma followed by a supple, lean fruitiness on the palate, in turn balanced with the brisk acidity typical of Sangiovese. Light-bodied, and a quick finish. I have frequently detected some effervescence resulting from secondary fermentation in the bottle (also something I've found in cheaper Valpolicellas), but it only enhances the wine at this price. Tasty! Any pasta with red sauce, such as spaghetti or lasagna, would be nicely complemented by this wine. It is also simply the best pizza wine in existence. On a totally separate note, I would like to note that Trader Joe's stocks some excellent Chiantis at this price point: $7 a bottle.

Domaine de la Cote de l'Ange, 2005

The 2001 Domaine de la Cote de l'Ange is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, an appellation located in the southern Rhône Valley. Like all wines of this sort, it is a blend of many varieties, in this case Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Syrah. In all, thirteen grape varieties are permitted for use in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This particular specimen had intense red fruits with smoky notes and mineral on the nose. The palate featured earthy black fruit balanced with nice tannins and a long finish hinting at coffee. An awesome wine, overall. $24. Drink it with lamb, prepared however you like; I'd prefer a roast.

Raimat Cabernet Sauvignon, 1999

The 1999 Spanish Raimat Cabernet Sauvignon hails from Cataluna. It is blended with a tiny bit of Merlot. This stuff is great: aromas of plum and tobacco on the nose, with a very dense and opulent mouthfeel. Serious complexity at this value, and great structure. Rustic, with black fruits and chocolate on the palate, some earthy character, and moderate oak. Medium finish. $15. Enjoy with hard cheeses or chocolate-based desserts.

Mollydooker Two Left Feet, 2005

The other Mollydooker I've encountered. Two Left Feet, like its companion The Boxer, is just packed with fruit; in fact, it has even more, primarily cherry and cassis, and has almost as much spice, about as much body, and almost overwhelms (in a good way) with the massive finish. A blend of Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Serious oak character, showing as a deep smoky quality. It also has a definite cedary element. Don't drink this alone. Be brave! $24. This needed decanting when I tried it, but by now should be drinking very well. Enjoy with rare peppered or seasoned steak.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finca Luzon, 2006

Finca Luzon! From the Jumilla region in Spain, this everyday drinking red is a blend of Monastrell (Mourvèdre) and Syrah. A delicious dark purple in the glass. It's big, ripe, and round, just loaded with cassis, licorice and truffles, and pretty intense for its price point, with smooth tannins paired to decent acidity. Also organic! $8 a bottle, so buy a case. This would be an excellent match for grilled beef tenderloin, or some braised lamb shoulder.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marco Real Tempranillo, 2006

This interesting Tempranillo from Spain has lingering floral aromas and nice red fruits. Medium-bodied, with blue and black fruits on the palate. Unlike a lot of wines at this price point, I detected no secondary fermentation happening. Great finish! This is perhaps the best bargain I've ever encountered in Spanish wine: $6 a bottle. I bought a case at cost for $48. Bahahaha! Pairs nicely with tapas.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Montsant Falset, 2005

A Spanish triumph equal to any Rioja Riserva, the 2005 Montsant Falset is just great. Full-bodied, with lingering red fruits and firm tannin. A blend of Tempranillo, Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah, the Falset is just loaded with with lots of berries, leather, and cherries, with stony minerals and spice on the nose and palate. Some nice acidity balances the fruit. I think decanting it would soften it nicely, since it's a little tight. This Spanish wine speaks to me as a Cabernet drinker, and overall is just worth buying. $10. Pairs well with herb-encrusted lamb, tapas, or more robust venison dishes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Olivier Leflaive Rully 1er Cru, 2004

Olivier Leflaive Rully 1er Cru. I must make a big deal about this white Burgundy. If you get a chance to drink this, do so. Rully is located in the Côte Chalonnaise, in the south of Burgundy. 1er Cru means Premier Cru, which of course means First Growth. It's got floral and honey aromas with a hint of citrus, and is beautifully well-balanced, with creamy oak complementing fresh acidity and vibrant fruit. Full-bodied, soft, and a lingering finish. When people think buttery French Chardonnay, they're thinking of something like this. $20. Get a case. A bottle of this will compliment roasted chicken, halibut, or boiled lobster with pepper butter.

Thibert Mâcon-Fuissé, 2005

This Thibert Mâcon-Fuissé presents a great value in white Burgundy. Pure Chardonnay, moderately oaked, the result a well-balanced, full-bodied wine with hints of citrus and mineral on the nose, and buttery mouthfeel on the palate complemented by hints of peach and white plums. This is one of the Mâcon appellations allowed to hyphenate the town's name into the wine region, allowing a more specific designation than just "Mâcon" or "Mâcon Villages." Such specificity is supposed to indicate higher quality, and does in this case. Worth trying at $15.

Chateau La Croix de Queynac, 2005

I will freely admit that I am a Bordeaux fiend. No other wine generally excites me as much as Bordeaux; its beautiful structure and complexity make it a gripping experience. The Chateau La Croix de Queynac, with its blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, is easy drinking, and ready now. Soft mouthfeel, solid black fruit, and moderate tannin. Its finish is long and fascinating, with a hint of burnt match, or tar. Probably the result of natural sulfur dioxide. Definitely a good, complex wine for the $10 price tag.

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon, from South Africa. Buy this. Today. Buy a case. If you do, you'll find that fun wines can be dirt cheap: this retails for about $7 a bottle. Huge fruits, well-balanced tannins, lots of raspberry on the nose, blackberries, plums, and extremely potent mineral in the mouth. Full-bodied, with a smooth, spicy finish. It's downright effervescent for a Cabernet Sauvignon. Just switched over to screwcaps! Ridiculously good for the money, but definitely only suited to certain palates.

Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc, 2005

Here's another one from South Africa: Stellenbosch, home to some new stars in the wine world. Ken Forrester's Petit Chenin Blanc is completely delicious. Fresh, fruity aromas precede a crisp and captivating experience, with melon and hints of honey flavors on the palate. South Africa's major white grape is Sauvignon Blanc, and that is probably the future of white wine in this region, but this wine puts on quite a show for $9! A long and nicely refreshing finish. Drink it on a hot summer day, or a cool spring evening. Cook with it if you must, but stop to quaff. This is a great buy.

Curious Beagle Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004

This was voted the most popular wine at an annual grand tasting I worked in 2007. An approachable Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, the 2004 Curious Beagle is a great example of how delicious domestic Cabernet can be. Both 2004 and 2005 have been great years for West Coast vineyards in general. This wine is rich with juicy red berries on the nose, black fruit in the mouth, and an enticing smoothness. Not too complex, but has great structure thanks to 18 months of barrel aging. It has a nice long finish; I would rank it far beyond its price point. Ready to drink now. $12.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chateau Bonnet Blanc, 2005

The 2005 Chateau Bonnet Blanc, a white Bordeaux from the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation, is comprised of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. At first, the nose wasn't expressive, but as the wine opened up I was increasingly impressed with its distinct citrus overtones, focused on lemon and grapefruit. Light-bodied, good balance of sweetness and acidity, and the flavors play well together. Soft mouthfeel thanks to the Muscadelle, with some good lemon fruitiness and a quick tingling finish. At around $12 a bottle, this is a surefire keeper to watch in future vintages.

Chateau des Graves, 2001

Here we have some 2001 Chateau des Graves, a straightforward Bordeaux from the Graves region, where the reds are generally of higher quality than the whites (particularly those of Pessac-Leognan). Though Château de Graves evokes a famous appellation in Bordeaux, its name is
actually derived from the gravelly soil composing part of this vineyard’s terroir. This wine had a distinctly earthy quality to it, with aromas of ripe red berries, and was nice and soft, probably due to a high percentage of Merlot in the blend. Tasty, and a good introductory Bordeaux Supérieur. 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. $12 in more recent vintages.


Ok, the next few posts will be the major reviews I have written about wines in a previous forum, which I need to move here for the sake of continuity. Enjoy.

Another blog for wine lovers with no money.

I will not pretend that there are no other sites on the internet for wine lovers on a budget. Many of them are actually quite well-written, and display a delightful breadth of knowledge and experience. In establishing this one, I hope to distinguish myself by two means: my palate, and the prices of my finds.

Wines recommended in this blog will never exceed $30; while I do pay homage to the great nobles of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont and elsewhere, living in Manhattan makes actual purchases of these wines nigh impossible. As a result, I've made it my unending mission to find and make known to friends the good deals, the collectible steals. After months of urging by these same friends, I am bringing my knowledge to this public forum, hopefully to bear the scrutiny of fellow enthusiasts.

Hello, world. Drink with me.