2004 Tessier Cour Cheverny “La Porte Doree”

Price: $11.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Premier Wine Company

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “This is from very old vines, 60-85 years of age, to be exact, and these aren’t your average white grape vines, either. This wine is made from the rare Romorantin grape, grown on heavy clay soils. The wine is fermented in three to five-year old Burgundy barrels and undergoes partial malo-lactic fermentation, which lends a very rich, almost viscous mouthfeel to an otherwise extremely mineral white. You can taste this beautiful, esoteric white for days after you’ve enjoyed a glass. Wow! Philippe Tessier has just converted the domaine to totally organic viticulture, too.”

What I Think:

This wine, from the Loire value caught my eye in the K&L newsletter based on the description above. After that I did a little research and found the following: Romorantin is a traditional French variety of white wine grape, that is a sibling of Chardonnay. Once quite widely grown in the Loire, it has now only seen in the Cour-Cheverny AOC. It produces intense, minerally wines somewhat reminiscent of Chablis. I found elsewhere that Cour-Cheverny has a total of 11 wineries that call it home. Love to find these types of bottles.

Now on to the wine which we served it with Mediterranean style fish. Interesting I find a golden brown coloring, not the straw or yellow you may expect. Also interesting as the texture on the tongue is that of a dessert wine but the taste is something altogether different. Here you find almost zero sweetness. The nose shows mostly mineral leaving the texture to come as an even larger surprise. You get citrus notes to accompany this on the palate before a finish advertised as long that I found somewhat disappointing based on all the hype. At the end of the day this wine was extremely interesting but I didn’t dig it. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t but either way I guarantee you’ll have an interesting experience. The kind you only need once.

Rating: Pricey

2006 Pascual Toso Maipu Valley Malbec

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by TGIC Importers

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines ”91 points and the #1 wine on the “Top 100 Best Buys of 2007″ from Wine Enthusiast: “A year or two ago when Paul Hobbs began consulting for Toso things changed for the better. This is the rare Best Buy that can swim with the big fish and give them a run for the money. Pop the cork and enjoy lusty dark aromas of Turkish tobacco and berry compote. In the mouth, there’s a riot of fruit flavors to ponder followed by a smooth, lusty finish.” (12/1/2007) 90 points and a “Best Buy” in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. (no tasting note given, Dec. 2007) That’s right we can actually offer you a #1 wine from someone’s list. Those end of the year best lists are so frustrating for us. We usually have our stock answer, “Sorry, it sold out months ago.” But not this time, this time we can say, “How much would you like?” And I couldn’t think of a better wine to give to any customer looking for sheer value. This Malbec is attached to Paul Hobbs and it shows. His trademark velvety texture and boisterous fruit flavors are all on display here. The solid tannins keep everything held together while the sappy boysenberry fruit, clove spice and vanilla laced finish are sure to please. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

I had been meaning to grab this one for a while. Ever since K&L sent out an email proclaiming this the “Best Red Available under $10” it has been hard to come by. Couple that with being ranked the “#1 wine on the “Top 100 Best Buys of 2007″ from Wine Enthusiast and you can imagine it is getting difficult. The third feather in the cap was Paul Hobbs involvement who made this “Cocodrilo” that I just had to grab a case of. And I still haven’t mentioned a price tag of single digits ($9). And uh, oh yah, it is a single vineyard offering. It’s been a struggle but recently a friend of mine scored me a bottle and it was worth the wait!

Loads of dark fruit and smoke on the nose, on the palate the fruit delivers with hints of vanilla and barrel spice making the finish as velvety as can be. The combination makes this a hands down winner. To be fair, value wines are plentiful coming out of Argentina. I’ve had offerings from Alamos and Terrazas de los Andes that blow the quality to price ratio straight out of the water. That said those two were enjoyable based on the forwardness of their fruit and didn’t display near the complexity of this one. Wonder if I can find anymore! I’ll sure be looking…

Rating: Bulk Buy

2005 Bibi Graetz Casamatta Bianco

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Trilussa Wine Company

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “With a super fragrant nose exploding with fresh nectarine, grassy notes, sage, rosemary and lime, this 100% Vermentino aged in stainless steel is crisp and refreshing, loaded with citrus and hints of peach. This is an outstanding effort at an incredibly affordable price.”

What I Think:

A white from Tuscany the Vermentino grape is suppose to be a late ripening grape which would lead you to believe it may be a sweeter bottling. Not the case, it was much more towards the lighter, crisper side. The nose was fragrant with melons and lemon showing predominately. On the palate cantaloupe came to the fore. Though worth the try if you have the inclination if you’re going to grab an unheard of white I would strongly recommend you grab this Mesache Blanco instead.

Rating: Skip It

2006 Milton Park Thorn Clarke Shiraz

Price: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Kysela Pere Et Fils

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines According to Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar: “Ruby-red. Jammy blackberry and mulberry on the nose; reminds me of a zinfandel. Fresh, juicy dark berry flavors display a nice combination of poise and sweetness, with mocha and candied licorice notes adding complexity. Soft, silky and sweet on the concentrated, persistent finish. There are no apparent tannins to get in the way of the vibrant fruit. This is one serious bargain.” (Jul/Aug 07) 89pts

The Wine Advocate Wine Advocate # 173 Oct 2007 Jay Miller 89 Drink – $8-$12 (12) “The 2006 Shiraz contains 6% Nebbiolo. Crimson-colored, it has an attractive nose of spice box, blueberry, and blackberry. Medium-bodied, it has more than ample ripe fruit, good depth, and solid length. It is a Best Buy in savory Shiraz. The Milton Park label is produced by Thorn-Clarke. The wines have been Best Buys year after year and the current releases continue the pattern.”

What I Think:

I’ve long heard good things about Thorne Clark’s offerings, at this price I was more than willing to give it a try…Good decision! Very fresh with bursts of light, ripe fruit on the palate over a nice mulled spice background. I liked this one enough to get a case for office Xmas gifts. Now I just have to get myself some more!

Rating: Buy It

2006 Copain “L’Automne” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

Price: $19.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Made from 100% pinot noir from the Anderson Valley, this is yet another release from rising star winemaker Wells Guthrie. Completely destemmed and cold soaked for five days, the grapes were fermented using their native yeasts, finishing malolactic fermentation in a combination of new and used French oak barrels (15% new/remainder twice used). But enough with the technical mumbo-jumbo. This is simply a great value in the world of pinot noir. So many pinots these days have well surpased the $30 dollar mark leaving this loved varetial unaffordable for most “everyday drinkers.” Well look no further. This bright tangy pinot is full of freshly cut roses and spiced orange peel aromatics. Turning to more lip-smacking pomegranate fruit and a deep core of supple black cherry on the palate, this is a crowd pleasing pinot sure to quench most peoples deepest thirsts. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

I am predisposed to Anderson Valley based on years of Navarro Pinot Noir’s exceeding expectations. When my wife bought me this one for our anniversary I was keen to give it a try. After cheffing up an, what turned out to be, awesome steak tenderloin filet this was on the table for pairing. And boy what a pairing it was. Earth on nose, nice harmonious red fruit on the palate and just getting better with every sip. Incredibly elegant at the end, if only there was some left.

Rating: Wow!

2005 Bodega Pirineos Mesache Blanco

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Winebow Brands International

What They Said:

Per Wine Advocate “The 2005 Mesache Blanco is an intriguing blend of 35% late-harvested Macabeo, 35% Gewurztraminer, and 30% Chardonnay fermented and aged in stainless steel. Light gold in color, the bouquet of this crisp, refreshing effort is given a lift by the Gewurztraminer component. In addition to the lychees, there is a hint a banana and other tropical fruits. On the palate, this dry, medium-bodied wine is surprisingly ripe, rich, and long. Drink it over the next two years. 2/28/2007″

What I Think:

Wow! Nice stuff! I was shocked here…A very unique mixture that attracted me as something new. This was a winner, a lovely combination. Chard usually leads to my dismay but provided great balance here vs. the sweet, crispness of the gewurzt which introduced the hints of citrus fruits. Amazingly full bodied with a long finish. Like nothing you have ever had before, get some now.

Rating: Bulk Buy

2006 Viña Cobos “Cocodrilo” Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $15.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Paul Hobbs Imports

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “The big pull for this wine has always been that it is made by the seemingly infallible Paul Hobbs, and that surely hasn’t changed. The other big pull is that it has always been the tastiest of Cabs from Mendoza. Full of the polish and sweet ripeness that Hobbs is know for this is packed with slick, creamy currant puree, unsweetened black chocolate, and loveable mouth-filling texture. Compare this to his cabs out of Napa for $60+ and you have yourself a bargain.” (Bryan Brick, K&L)

What I Think:

As easy sale for me, everything Hobbs touches goes for a mint. To get my hands on this one even at the upper end of my personal price range was a no brainer. The first bottle knocked my socks off. Robust and smooth at the same time if that even makes sense. Loads of dark fruit on a chocolate back bone that last forever. The finish could not be smoother or longer. I put another case in the cellar. This could compete with the Ridge for the best bottle I’ve had since starting this blog!

Rating: Cellar It

2006 Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $13.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “This 2006 Sauvignon Blanc was produced from grapes grown in various microclimates of the Napa Valley. The warmer Napa Valley microclimates give us grapes that result in wines with a lush, full melon/citrus character in the aroma and in the flavor. The cooler Napa Valley fruit provides a solid, crisp backbone that gives the wine an exciting liveliness that balances the rich creaminess from “sur lie” aging.”

What I Think:

You know those friends you’re lucky to have? Well we had one of those over the other night and the same couple kind enough to share the impressive 2005 with us brought this ’06 to the table. Since I had already put this 06 Santa Ynez in the fridge I figured we had an excellent chance to do some true side by side tasting. Two similar bottlings from the same year and region but from different areas and at different price points. Now onto the results…

When compared to the Santa Ynez this seemed much more classic to me. It was light, dry and tart on the tongue with flavors hinting towards melon tied together on a backbone of mineral and stone. It in now way resembled its tasting partner and would have been better suited to pair with this New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. That said this wine was and is a clear winner. If you’re looking to splurge don’t hesitate to grab it, you can’t go wrong.

Rating: Wow!

2005 Ridge York Creek Zinfandel

Price: $27.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Located high on Spring Mountain, overlooking the Napa Valley, York Creek Vineyard has been the source for some of Ridge’s most notable zins. Aged in a combination of new, two and four year old oak allows the vineyard and the varietal’s mountain iterations to shine through. The addition of petite sirah adds richness and structure. Bound to be another Ridge favorite, grab some for your cellar and watch this develop over the next five or six years.”

What I Think:

This is a wine recently given to me by my wife to celebrate a special occasion. I loved the 2003 Ridge, put a half case of the ’04 in the cellar and decided to open this one to celebrate New Year’s. Given the write-up above has no mention of tasting notes it likely should have been an indicator to let it lie a little longer. Of course I didn’t heed the advice. Like the others I had tried the Petite Sirah in this field blend already added a subtleness that you wouldn’t expect in a Zinfandel. Unfortunately the time in the bottle has yet to allow the flavors to shine through. Or perhaps it was the sub-optimal pairing with roasted chicken. Either way this wasn’t the revelation I was hoping for. It doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the offering but should this make it my way again I’ll give it a couple more years in the bottle. I recommend you do the same.

By the way, interestingly I noticed that the blend does change slightly from year to year which I initially did not expect from a field blend, guessing it is based on yields, any other thoughts?

Rating: Pricey

2005 Frédéric Mabileau St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Les Rouillères

Price: $13.99 @ K&L Wines imported by USA Wine Imports

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “90 points Wine Spectator: “Solid, with lots of gutsy briar, black olive, black currant and tobacco flavors that pump through the finish, which puts it all together. Drink now through 2008. 3,000 cases made.” (12/06)

What I Think:

My third Cabernet Franc of late, doing a pseudo-tour through different countries ala the Malbec adventure previously. California whipped Italy and was now ready to square off with France. France was coming in with some big credentials. 90 points from the Wine Spectator and a nice review in the San Francisco Chronicle.

On my end this wine was nice. The nose showed some fruit. On the palate there were metallic hints overlaid with tobacco-ish flavors on a well balanced frame. The end was pleasant but short. A fine effort but there wasn’t much to set it apart from the norm. The Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Franc was a clear winner at half the price.

Rating: Pricey