Wednesday, April 02, 2014

2012 Michel Chapoutier "Bila-Haut" COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES (Southern France)

Not as extroverted as the 2011 or 2009 renditions, this blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignane is
very nicely proportioned and in nice balance.

Nearly saturated dark violet-ruby.  Subdued nose grudgingly yields scents of smoky, stony minerals and a shrinking note of ripe blackberry.  The mouth is a different story.  It aggressively leaps at and clings to the sides of your mouth with flavors of iodiney, dry blackberry extract and liquified dark stones.  Bone dry, with a significant amount of fine-grained tannin dustily coating the mouth.  This wine has decent acids and a reasonably long finish.  This wine wine likely be a little more aromatically expressive, and maybe a tad softer, in a year.  B.  Was $12.99 at Whole Foods in Arlington.  Imported by HB Wine Merchants, NYC.

Monday, March 31, 2014

2010 Domaine La Bastide "Les Genets" SYRAH Vieilles Vignes (Rhone Valley, France)

A terrific value in a deep-flavored, complex, well-balanced Syrah.  Very linear, and not a hint of flabbiness.

Saturated dark, plasma-like ruby.  Nose features smoke, dark minerals, roasted herbs, meat, and cassis fruit.  Flavorful on entry, with lean, clingy, iodiney/minerally notes overlaying dark, dry blackberry skins.  A fair amount of fine-grained tannin and a surprising level of acids lends structure and liveliness.  Full-bodied, bone dry.  All muscle with not fat.  This went very well with braised lambs shanks and grits.  B+/A-.  Imported by Paul Young Wines, Los Angeles, and purchased from for a ridiculously low $9.99.  Get some of this.

PS -- I believe I had this wine in Houston several years ago (a different vintage, obviously, and liked it a lot).

PPS - It occured to me after I posted this review that this wine is basically a "Poor Man's Cornas."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2009 Clos Pegase PINOT NOIR "Mitsuka's Vineyard" (Carneros, Napa, Cal.)

A fragrant, balanced, fairly complex and ready-to-drink PN.  Very good value at the $15.99 I paid.

Medium ruby/garnet with a little tawny at the edge.  Lots going on in the nose:  sappy ripe cherry, a little tartish cranberry/rhubarb note, sweet, earthy baking spices, and some underlying minerality.  Lots of flavor in a smooth, fairly full-bodied (for a PN) frame.  Tart cherry and loads of dark, stony minerality.  The finish, which is very long, molts into a clingy, iodiney, sappy cherry melange.  It's bone dry.  I really like this.  A-/B+.  Got it from

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2009 Baloiro BIERZO Mencia Reserva (Spain)

Totally overblown.  This wine is a caricature of a what the Anti-Parkerites think Parker advocates (he's not as bad as they make him seem, but you get the point).  Overripe, flabby, overoaked, tasting of nowhere.  Tasted blind, I would have no idea where this wine came from.  Given the extract level, this could have been a great wine if they had picked it earlier and skipped the new oak.

Completely saturated, plasma-like black ruby.  The nose is intense, displaying loads of liquid baker's chocolate and overripe blackberry extract.  Underneath there's some nice minerality trying to make its way out, it's struggling, giving it a game try, but it's no use . . . the chocolate is too strong . . . must get air . . . can't go on . . . can't . . . aaarrrggghhh!  [Strangling gasps].  Back to reality.  The texture is nice, not too much tannin despite the heavy-handed extraction.  There is a dense weightiness of sweet blackberry extract and dark chocolate in the mouth.  But the acids are nonexistent, so it just seems heavy and one-dimensional.  C-.  Was $14.99 from  Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

2011 Heinz Eifel "S" RIESLING SPATLESE (Mosel, Germany)

This is an excellent value in a slightly sweet, bright Riesling.

Very pale greenish-gold color.  All sorts of ripe fruit in the nose, with white peach, juicy pear, and ripe apple scents, augmented with a light dried tea note and some extraordinarily high-toned slatey/stoniness.   Fills the mouth with ripe, juicy fruit, yet has enough acids to keep it fresh and interesting.  A very mild bitter tea component comes through at the end.  Light-bodied and round-textured.  Not super complex, but really fun to drink.  B+.  Was $9.99 from  Imported by Winesellers, Ltd. of Niles, IL.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

2009 Clos des Menuts ST. EMILION Grand Cru (Bordeaux, France)

This is a style of Bordeaux I like.  Not trying to emulate a New World wine; structured, not overripe, not overoaked.  It needs a few more years, however. It is: Merlot 85%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%, Cabernet Franc 5%.

Dark black ruby.  Nose closed at first, but on the second night it was showing lovely, subtle dark cherry fruit, and a dark, gravelly earthiness, along with a lifting baked cake note.  Densely-fruited, but in a dry extract -- not jammy -- way, it packs the palate with dark fruit and loads of gravelly minerals.  Full-bodied, with lots of fine-grained tannins.  Still feels a bit tight.  It's very good, if a bit youthful now, but will certainly improve over the next 5 years.  B+ now, probably higher later on.  I'm not sure what this cost or where to get it around the DC area, as a good friend brought this wine to our Super Bowl party as a gift.  Nice gift!  Imported by Monsieur Touton Selections, NY.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Viña Alarba GARNACHA Viñas Viejas (Calatayud, Spain)

I haven't had this wine in 10 years or so.  It used to be a ridiculous bargain.  This one is still cheap, but it's thinner than I remember it being than the vintages I drank in the early 2000s.  Eh.

Dark ruby violet color.  Light intensity nose of raspberry and rock dust, with a teeny note of dried tarragon.  Bone dry in the mouth, with slightly bitter raspberry/cherry fruit, and loads of rocky minerality.  As it lingers it gets more bitter, and some medium-grained tannins show up.  Not very concentrated, and the texture isn't great either.  C.  Was $7.99 from  Imported by the Artisan Collection, NYC.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2011 Tilia BONARDA (Mendoza, Argentina)

This is a terrific value.  Vibrant, loaded with fruit, and balanced.  Buy cases of this to have on-hand for cookouts this upcoming summer (if it ever gets here).

Very dark, blackish ruby.  Fantastically lively nose with loads of bright, ripe raspberries and mixed red berries, along with rock dust.  The attack is intensely fruity, with excellent concentration.  Lots of pure dark and red fruits in the mouth, turning a bit minerally as the finish progresses.  A fair amount of soft tannin gives some structure.  It's not complex, but it's very flavorful and nicely-textured.  B+.  Was $7.99 from  Imported by Winebow, Inc., NYC.

PS, note that Bonarda in Argentina isn't the same thing as Bonarda in Italy.  It's actually the grape called Charbono in this country.

Monday, February 24, 2014

2011 Napa Wine Co. ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, Cal.)

Organic!  I like that.  And it's a darn good Zin.  Tangy tangy tangy.  I wouldn't have been able to place it as a Napa Valley Zin if it had been served blind.  But it's got lots of character, nice texture, and would be great with Italian or Portuguese meat dishes, or grilled beef.

Very crystalline dark ruby color.  Exuberant nose was earthy and exhibited loads of tangy mixed red berries on the first night.  The earthiness was much more subdued on the second night, but the tangy berries were even tangier, and mixed with some fresh-cut herbs.  Round, vibrant, and dry in the mouth, with very nice concentration of fruit, full body, and pretty good acidity.  It weighs in at 13.9% alc., which is very low for a Zin these days.  Nice soft texture and good length.  B+.  Drink this over the next 1-2 years.  Was $19.99 from Total Wine in Fairfax.

(I remember buying a case of 1979 Napa Wine Co. Zin as a close-out in 1983 or thereabouts for about $5 a bottle at Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge, MA, and passing it out to my family.  That one was very nice as I recall.  I have not had a wine from these guys since then!)

(Sorry: 2009 depicted.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2010 Domaine Coudoulis LIRAC (Southern Rhone, France)

Liracs always seem to me to be the lazy sibling in the Cotes du Rhone family.  Never exuberant,  usually laid back.  Sometimes verging on boring.  This wine needs significant airing, but after it gets it, it's pretty nice in a typical Lirac-ian low-key sort of way.

Very dark, rich-looking black ruby.  The nose sucked on day one.  Nothing there but dark scents.  Like sniffing Darth Vader's helmet.  On day 2 (under a Vacu-vin enclosure), it exhibited low-toned, medium-intensity, rich, sweet dark crushed berry fruit, along with significant crushed stone minerality.  Soft, rich, and low-toned flavors of dark crushed berries and forest floor earthiness.  A little iodiney quality in the finish.  It's got loads of medium-grained tannin, but I wouldn't age it too much longer because as the second night wore on I detected some oxidation.  So give it some air and then kill the bottle.  B.  Was $14.99 from Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY (which I think is Total Wine's importing arm . . .  because why not take the middle man's cut yourself?).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2009 Vecchia Cantina VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO (Tuscany, Italy)

I have never had great luck with Vino Nobiles.  They tend not to be great values, and I think many are basically clumsy relations of Chianti Classico.  But this one, produced by a co-op in the region, was reasonably priced and has very nice fruit and balance.

Dark ruby color.  Nice nose of macerated cherries, tobacco leaf, lemon zest, and gravel.  Lots of dark cherry fruit in the mouth, with a hint of unsweetened cocoa powder and lots of stony minerals.  Full-bodied, with loads of dusty tannins providing a nice framework for some additional aging.  Bright acids keep it fresh.  A touch of bitterness in the finish.  Would be excellent with meat-sauced pasta.  B+.  Was $15.99 from  Imported  by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

2012 Cottanera ETNA ROSSO "Barbazzale" (Sicily, Italy)

I love Etna Rossos.  They have a unique purity of fruit.  This one was very nice, with the purity thing augmented by a smoky note.

Medium dark ruby color.  Bright, vibrant ripe cherry fruit on the nose, along with loads of stony minerality and the aforementioned smoky note.  Bright, pure cherry fruit pounces in the mouth, riding a wave of fine-grained tannins, and there is a lot of clean minerality on the palate as well. It's a little more full-bodied than some other Etnas I've had.  Medium long finish.  A little loose, this would really kill it if it had just a touch more concentration.  But it's a cuspy B+/A-.  Was $15.99 from  Imported by Cottanera USA, Saucelito, CA.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

2010 Shingleback SHIRAZ "The Davey Estate" (McLaren Vale, Australia)

I don't buy many Aussie Shirazes, and I've had way too many oaky, liquid jam-jars, but this one was billed as a leaner, more minerally exhibition of the grape, and it actually is.  It's quite nice.  Still identifiably Aussie, but stripped down.

Impenetrable black ruby, with a violet tinge.  Loads of liquid, slightly saline dark minerals, cedar, and blackberry and cassis skins on the nose.  Bone dry, dark blackberry extract and a clingy, iodiney streak in the mouth initially.  Loads of soft tannin then announces itself, and the lean, concentrated flavor profile grows slightly riper and sweeter on the back end.  Full-bodied, but not nearly overbearingly huge like some of its Aussie cousins.  The finish is very long and linear.  There is a lot going on in this wine.  Really fine.  A-.  Was $14.99 from, making it a very good value.  Would be outstanding with a juicy, grilled prime porterhouse.  Imported by Precept Wine, Seattle, WA.

Friday, February 07, 2014

2011 Kupelweiser LAGREIN (Alto Adige, NE Italy)

I haven't had a Lagrein since the 1980s, I think.  This one is beautifully balanced, a little tight at first, but then opening up in to a food-friendly good value.  And this is yet another wine that was much better on the second night, so be sure to let this one breathe if you open it anytime soon.

Saturated, very crystalline blackish ruby violet.  The nose almost reminds me of a young, unoaked Medoc, with loads of tightly-wound cassis and blackberry fruit and gravelly minerals.  A little tight fist of youthful fruit punches the mouth on entry, but it's wrapped on a smooth-textured, medium-bodied package.  It is not weighty, but has good concentration of fruit and a linear timeline in the mouth.  Bone dry.  Just a wee bit of soft tannin, and really nice, slightly mouth-watering acids make it feel fresh.  The finish is very pure-tasting.  Very nice.  B+/A-.  Was about $18 from Total Wine in Fairfax.  This would be amazing with a basic Yankee Pot Roast.  Drink over the next 3 years.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

2009 Viticcio CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

This is a textbook Chianti Classico.  And I got this for a song on sale (I bought a case for a price that netted out at $10.50/bottle, including shipping, from on a close-out!).  I am an unabashed fan of the wines from this estate.

Very black-tinged ruby.  Lively nose of red berries, tangy rich cherries, and a whiff of dry, dusty gravel.  Smacks the mouth with ripe, zingy red fruits, wine-soaked gravel, and stony minerals.  Very nice acids and well-integrated soft tannin keep the mouthfeel interesting.  Nice length.  Just a pleasure to drink.  It's textbook Chianti Classico, which means not only is it fun to drink but it also will go well with a wide variety of foods.  B+/A-.  Will keep for at least another 2-3 years.  Imported by Massanois Imports, Washington DC.

Monday, February 03, 2014

2011 Cline Ancient Vines CARIGNANE (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

A big, deep, fruity, rich wine.  A bit more complexity and it would have been outstanding, but as is, it's really nice.

Saturated black ruby/violet.  Intense nose of ripe mixed berries and plums, along with wafts of sweet, high-toned smoke.  Intense and pure in the mouth.  Hits right away with weighty, dense ripe dark berry fruit and dark, gravelly minerals.  Lots of weight, but not overbearing, the flavors tenaciously cling to the mouth.  Very full bodied and moderately tannic.  This wine does not skimp on flavor.  A-/B+.  Was $14.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, VA.

Friday, January 31, 2014

2010 Romain Parisis "Cuvee Signee" CHINON (Loire Valley, France)

A straightforward, zesty, bone dry Cab Franc.  Not a lot of depth, and just barely ripe enough, but it's got a lot of vivacity.  It seemed thin and underripe on night one, but the second night it filled out a bit and was much more pleasurable.

Youthful medium ruby still with a hint of violet.  The nose has classic Chinon scents of machine oil, dried fall leaves, and tart black cherry.  You can smell the acidity that's about to hit you.  Lots of barely ripe cherry fruit in the mouth, with a substantial streak of dried underbrush and minerals.  Clean, medium-long finish with loads of acids, keeping it very fresh.  I had it with fried chicken and it went very well.  B, though if it had bit more depth I'd rank it higher.  This was $12.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, making it a pretty decent value.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2010 La Celestiere CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE "Tradition" (Southern Rhone, France)

This is a chewy, extremely young wine.  Lots of potential, but not nearly ready to drink.  It really only opened up on the third night I had it open.

Saturated, youthful-looking black ruby.  The first night, the nose was somewhat reduced but showed lots of ripe, raw dark berry fruit.  On night three, the nose was still youthful and one-dimensional, but showed beautifully ripe dark cherry, plummy fruit and sweet, warm sandstone scents.  On entry, there's loads of ripe dark fruit, very good concentration, and a wheel barrow-full of chewy tannin.  The finish is long.  Each of the three nights a little more complexity came through, suggesting a wine that would benefit from several years of cellaring.  I'm going to try to forget about my other three bottles for at least a couple of years and then re-visit it.  Right now, a B.  In 5-8 years, maybe an A.  If you do open it over the next 2 years, decant it in a wide decanter and pour it through a Vinturi to try to aerate it as much as possible.  Was $24.99 from  Imported by Votto Vines, Hamden, CT.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

2012 "Le Paradou" GRENACHE (Southern France)

This is a very food-friendly everynight wine.  It was actually like two different wines on night one and night two.

Very dark, nearly saturated ruby-violet.  On night one, the nose was very typical of a wine bottled early without any oak aging -- tight, slightly reduced pungent berry extract.  Night two (after being under a Vacu-Vin enclosure for 24 hours), it was much softer and loose-limbed, displaying richly fruity scents of blackberry, plummy juice, and a bit of rhubarb. A pungent, metallic minerally note was present too.  Rich, concentrated enough, and bone dry in the mouth, with flavors of slightly dried raspberry skins and lots of stony minerality.  Relatively full bodied, this wine had lots of soft tannin, and a very clean finish.  There's no complexity, but it's got nice flavor and texture, and it avoids the high alcohol/low acid issue that is a risk with Grenache.  B.  I got mine for $9.99 from  Imported by IPO Wines, NYC.

Friday, January 24, 2014

2008 Joseph Drouhin BEAUNE PREMIER CRU (Burgundy, France)

This is from purchased (not estate) grapes.  Made from a mixture of vineyards that are all premier cru level.  This is a delicate yet persistent rendition of a Pinot Noir.

Light ruby garnet color.  Delicate but interesting nose of ripe cherry extract with a slightly sour note, enveloped in warm, earthy, gravelly scents.  Lithe in the mouth, bone dry flavors of earthy, winey cherries and loads of minerals immediately hit the palate, but in a very light framework.  Very linear, the wine stays light and almost ethereal in texture yet the flavors linger.  A wee bit of tannin adds a physical presence.  Drinking really well now (though it likes air: it was better the second night after being under  a Vacu-Vin enclosure), I think this will last another 1 to maybe 3 years.  B+.  Was $29.99 from, so not that great a bargain relative to other wines, but a good bargain as compared to usually fairly expensive Joseph Drouhin wines.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2010 Luigi Righetti VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE RIPASSO "Campolieti" (Veneto, Italy)

This was really good.  Mouthwatering acids balanced nicely by beautifully ripe fruit.  I really liked the 2009 of this wine, and this is just as good if not a bit better.

Vivid dark ruby color.  Nose took a while to open up, but eventually yielded inviting scents of ripe mixed berries, ripe plums, fruitcake, and a wee bit of earthiness.  Very crisp, but ripe and smooth in the mouth.  Just a pure pleasure to drink.  Medium full body, the antithesis of heavy, but with nice concentration of ripe, winey plums and blackberry.  Long, pure-tasting finish.  This is a great choice with any tomatoey Italian pasta or braise.  Will last at least 2-3 years and maybe longer. Was $15.99 at Trader Joe's at Bailey's Crossroads.  A-.  Imported by Prestige Wine Imports, NYC.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2008 Fontanabianca BARBARESCO "Bordini" (Piemonte, Italy)

Jaysus!  This was like putting a skinny badger in your mouth.  Fiercely tannic and unfriendly.  I kept the bottle open, uncorked, for a full 24 hours to see if it softened a bit, and it did, but not by much.  If you have this, forget about it for 10 years, and maybe -- maybe -- it will come around.  If you don't have it, don't get it.

Color is a deceptively unsaturated medium dark ruby garnet.  The first night, the nose was all dry underbrush and scorchiness.  Little fruit.  Night two, it was a bit better.  Dry gravel, minerals, and tart cherry on the nose.  In the mouth, the first thing that hits isn't the flavor but the texture: very aggressive tannin puckers the mouth before it can register any flavors!  On night one, I got nothing but tannin. On night two, I at least got some cherry fruit to go along with the "dried leaves"/scorchy trademark of an overextracted wine.  I'm not sure this will ever come around.  I can't give it a letter grade.  Let's just say "?" I got this for $29.99 from, making it a bad value and making me feel foolish.

Top 10 dirty words (or phrases) for wine

When I see these words on the front label, back label, or in promotional materials or tasting notes for a wine, I immediately am skeptical:

  1. "Aged in French oak ___% new" -- if it's a Spanish or Italian wine;
  2. "Super Tuscan" -- I will not drink a f__cking Merlot (or Cab) from Tuscany (also, see #1 above), especially if the vines are taking up valuable space in the Chianti Classico zone;
  3. "Scorched earth" in tasting notes -- usually signifies a bitter, overextracted wine;
  4. Alcohol 15% or higher -- a few Zins and Grenache based wines can handle it, but not many;
  5. Chardonnays from anywhere but Burgundy;
  6. Riesling from California or Australia -- with certain exceptions.  In lower latitudes where the sun is intense, wines picked early to mimic German low alcohol levels and high acidity usually aren't phenologically ripe yet, and so just taste green;
  7. Malbec --  Most of those from Argentina are overripe, overoaked, and many have gritty tannins.  The ones from the Loire (where it's called "Cot") are lean and mean.  Those from southwest France are frequently scorchy and bitter and too tannic.  I just don't get why this crap is so popular, other than the easy-to-pronounce name, which people apparently enjoy saying;
  8. Georges Duboeuf -- industrial Beaujolais;
  9. Louis Latour reds -- do they still quasi-Pasteurize their reds?  I don't know, but they did it for so long, with flat-tasting lifeless wine the result, that I will not throw money away on these unless I'm absolutely sure they don't anymore; and
  10. "Chocolate" in the tasting notes -- this means the combination of overripe fruit and way too much new, toasty French oak.
I know I'm overgeneralizing here, and there are exceptions, but I'm just telling you how I initially react to these words.  I have limited money, so I don't usually plunk it down when these initial warning signs are present.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2008 "DFJ" Touriga Nacional/Touriga Franga (Lisboa, Portugal)

This was inexpensive, but I had reasonably high hopes for it, since it's from a relatively cool climate area.  But it was like any typical overripe "international style" red you can get from some industrial Argentina Malbec or Chilean Carmenere.  (I've never met a Malbec I really liked, though I have had a Carmenere or two that were quite good, though most are overripe fruit bombs.)  Plus it's at the end of its life.  The second day, it was flatness and showed a bit of oxidation, even though I had stored it under a Vacu-Vin.  Not a good sign.  C-.  Was $10.99 from the European Import Store on Pershing and Washington in Arlington.

Friday, January 17, 2014

2010 Jean-Paul Brun FLEURIE "Terres Dorées" (Beaujolais, France)

Another old school Beaujolais from this producer.  If you like your Beaujolais lean and minerally, this is for you.

Dark ruby garnet.  Dark smoky, rocky minerals take the lead in the nose, with hard cherry candy fruit scents.  Lean, crisp, and persistent in the mouth.  With minerals from start to finish, and crunchy cherry, plum fruit.  Great acids and some very fine tannins mark the finish.  This is not vacuous, fruity, fun Beaujolais, but a wine made for dinner duty.  B+.  If memory serves, I got this for around $21 at table and Vine in West Springfield, MA when I was up there last fall.  Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

(Sorry, 2009 depicted.)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2012 Altes Herencia GARNATXA NEGRA (Tierra Alta, Spain)

This was a fantastic value, but it needs a lot of air to hit its stride.

Vibrant, dark, violet-tinged ruby.  The first night, the nose was almost reduced, showing a little of that tank stink.  Nights two and three it really started to shine.  Loads of ripe, lively dark raspberry and dark cherry fruit, augmented by loads of stony minerality.  Straightforward flavors of lightly spicy, very pure tasting dark raspberry extract.  Fairly full-bodied but with really nice balance.  Hard to stop drinking.  A fantastic weeknight dinner wine.  Decant this a few hours ahead of time, and use a Vinturi type aerator if you have one.  B+.  This was $10.99 from, making it, as mentioned above, a great value.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

2010 JL Chave COTES DU RHONE "Mon Coeur" (Southern France)

A dark and clearly Syrah-based CDR.  Nice if you like the style (I'm more of a Grenache man).  But it's too pricey at this quality level.

Saturated black ruby with violet overtones.  Nose leads with loads of rocky minerals and some lightly scorched earth.  Dark and low-toned flavors, again showing scorched earth, blackberry skin, and aged beefy notes.  Quite a bit of tannin and body, but it's got decent acids.  Not a lot of complexity, but a bruiser that has lots of character.  B.  This was around $20, I believe, from  Imported by Erin Cannon Imports, Manhasset, NY.

(Sorry, 2008 depicted.)

Friday, January 03, 2014

2012 Beckley Family Vineyards ZINFANDEL "Reserve" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

Not my style of Zinfandel.  Anymore, at least.  15 years ago, I think I liked this style a bit more.  A massively ripe fruit bomb, with low acids and a fair amount of heat in the finish.

Dark blackish ruby.  Rich nose of smoky ripe blackberry syrup and a bit of fruitcake.  Weighty but a bit dead-textured in the mouth.  Lots of low-toned blackberry ooze fruit.  No acid to speak of and very heavy body.  Fairly simple.  Here's my simile: Like drinking the liquid version of an old 20-lb. barbell you found at an estate sale of some guy who recently died at age 93.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Actually, there is. C-.  Was $15.99 from

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2010 Rutherford Ranch Old Vine ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, CA)

A unique style of Zinfandel.  But it's pretty good and not very expensive.

Startling light color for a Zin.  Basically a medium light ruby.  The first night, the nose was kind of funky, throwing off some stewed prune and acetate notes.  But the next night was much better.  There was a melange of superripe blackberry, fragrant baking spices, and warm sandstone.  Full-bodied and loose-jointed in the mouth, maybe lacking a bit of focus and concentration, but with lots of minerally blackberry fruit swimming around.  A bit of heat shows through in the finish (it's 15% for Pete's sake), but it's not out of balance.  Drink over the next year.  This would be very nice with winey beef stews and pot roasts.  B/B+.  Was $14.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2010 I Giusti & Zanza "Nemorino" (Tuscany, Italy)

I usually don't buy non-DOC Italian wines, especially from Tuscany, because they're usually non-indigenous varietals and tend to be heavily oaked and "international" in style.  I hate that shit on principle.  But my research indicated that this 60% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, 20% (f*cking) Merlot is aged only in large casks for a short period, and was grown organically near Pisa.  So I gave it a shot.  I like it.

The first night it was very tight and unyielding.  I got nothing out of it.  Good thing I didn't review it then.  But I put it under Vacu-Vin for two days and came back to on night 3.  Much better.

Very dark, black ruby with violet highlights.  On night 3 the nose showed very precise dark cherry fruit, framed nicely by slightly smoky, rock dusty- minerals.  Concentrated, focused fruit in the mouth, with nice persistence and texture.  Medium-full body and great acids.  Finishes just a tad shorter than I'd like, but is very pleasurable.  The fact that it took so long to show itself tells me this wine will age nicely for a few years.  If you're going to drink it in the next 12 months, be sure to decant it in a huge decanter several hours ahead of time.  This wine will go well with a wide range of dishes. B+.  Was $14.99 from  Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

PS -- I have to say, the label just sucks.  Really stupid.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2010 Mas de Gourgonnier LES BAUX DE PROVENCE (Southern France)

A disappointing rendition of this usually outstanding value. I expected a lot more, especially from the terrific 2010 vintage.

Dark, blackish ruby.  The first night, the nose gave up nothing, and the flavors gave up nothing either.  There was some weight, but that was it.  The second night, after being re-opened a few hours, the nose showed some tangy berries and some high-pitched rock dust.  It was clean and minerally in the mouth, with good acids, showing some simple berry fruit and some underbrush notes.  Decent finish.   C+.  Was $14.99 from Table and Vine in West Springfield, MA. Imported by Ideal Wine & Spirits, Medford, MA.  Decent quaffing material, but not nearly the standard this domaine usually puts out.

(Sorry, 2007 depicted.)

Update:  Oddly, I just realized I previously reviewed this over a year ago and gave it a much better review then.  It was a different importer, which leads me to think there might be different cuvees for different buyers.  Or maybe it just got worse, but the notes are so different that it seems like a totally different wine.  Very odd.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2011 Allegrini VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy)

Solid, basic Valpo.  Nothing special, but it won't disappoint either.  A little on the burly side for this appellation.

Basic dark ruby color.  Vinous nose of dark cherry, with a slightly macerated note, along with some smoky, gravelly notes.  Mouthfilling, with loads of crunchy dark cherry fruit and a decent wallop of alcohol for a straight Valpo.   Pretty good acids, and just a wee bit of soft tannin.  Medium long, clean finish.  A good pasta/pizza/burgers choice.  I had it with braised pork chops, and it went very well.  B.  The $14.99 pricetag makes it only a "meh" value.  Got it at Total Wine in Mclean, VA.  Imported by Leonard LoCascio.