2005 Blason Cabernet Franc

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

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Giovanni Blason and his consulting enologist Andrea Rossi have turned this 37-acre property into a juggernaut of affordable quality wines. Giovanni and his wife Valentina own this winery in Gradisca d’Inzonzo, 3.75 miles from the Slovenian border and about 20 miles north of Trieste. Generally I write about the easier-to-sell wines before the more difficult-to-figure-out. This time, I have to write about the 2005 Blason Cabernet Franc. This one is so good you won’t believe it! The flavor just bursts out of the glass, spice laden, black pepper, red fruits, vivacious, fresh and curvy all at the same time, and at an unbelievable price. Please try this wine if you haven’t or even if you have had Italian Cabernet Franc. (Greg St.Clair, K&L Italian buyer)”

What I Think:

I grabbed this one when my wife told me we were having hamburgers for dinner but by the time I got to the table the plans had changed. Not sure that it mattered…This wine was funky! On the nose the earthy, barnyard aromas seemed fairly typical but that is about where it ended. The wine seemed hot on the tongue and had a tart sour finish. Perhaps I need some food after all I thought. Not much difference. Still sour in the mouth, let me try and cleanse my palate to ensure the Amaicha Torrontes wasn’t throwing things askew.

Is it tart? Hot? Musty? Where is that wine aroma wheel. Unfortunately there is nothing pleasant resonating here. Chemical? Microbiological? Not even vegetal. It is bad but what is it? Nary a hint of fruit here. Headed towards the worst in a while. I’m even thinking I may dump the rest. I resisted and a few days later it started to show some fruit. Glad I didn’t dump it as it improved. That said it only made it to so/so by the end.

Rating: Skip It

2003 Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $11.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “94 points The Wine News: Lush, seamlessly integrated flavors of ripe, sweet blackberry, blueberry and minerals; totally in control in the face of so much rich fruit…” 90 points and 1 Puff from the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, “Ripe, rich, a bit spicy for its sins and full of black cherry and cassis fruitiness, this full-bodied wine takes a fairly direct line on the palate and garners its high points for its depth and flesh more than for complexity. Still, there is an awful lot of flavor and honest drinkability to be found here, and when its oh-so-inviting price tag is put into the calculus, this one adds up to a big winner for current consumption. (12/2006)”

What I Think:

This one came highly recommended to me from a friend at work. Given that my experience with Washington wines has been mostly pleasant I was keen to give it a try. On opening in a word Wow! Let us linger and enjoy that for a moment before getting into the specifics…

Pre-meal I gave this one a go and found mint and tannins on the nose. The front to mid palate showed dark cassis like fruit with the end showing well integrated tannins. It left me looking forward to adding some steak to the mix. What a pair. The steak brought our a bit of pepper and spice but the fruit remained lush. It went a bit dry towards the middle but then rounded out for a long pleasant finish. The experience lasted long after the wine was out of your mouth which is my tell tale sign for a good wine. I’m getting more at this price, heaven forbid this Hogue offering ever shows up at TJ’s (they have others). I’ll buy them out on day one.

Rating: Wow!

2004 Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône Marselan Domaine l’Attilon

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

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Marselan, a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, is a new grape variety being developed in the Aude and Bouches du Rhone areas of southern France. Vinified for the first time in 2002, Marselan has quickly become a darling of many French wine professionals and consumers. Domaine l’Attilon’s organic version of this new cepage is bursting with bright, crunchy black currant and cherry fruit balanced by violet floramatics and a vibrant acidity. This deliciously user friendly red is a wine you can feel good about on all levels, as it delivers delicious enjoyment at a fantastic price! Another terrific value from the South of France!”

They also said this in the May 2007 newsletter, “A dichotomy on the palate. Initially you get the levity and light temper of the grenache followed by the stern gravity of the cabernet. Overall this marriage is pleasing. Pronounced violets on the nose next to a mouthful of lively and snappy fruit with fresh, deep black currant flavors. There is nothing gushy or goopy about this wine. It’s got a strong acidic presence that mingles with dusty tannins. Enjoy this “little big guy” with bistro fare.”

What I Think:

A new grape, as usual, right up my alley. Anything to keep it interesting. As mentioned above this grape is a cross between cab and grenache mix. I had this one a few weeks back with steak while my wife was out of town. I sampled this side by side with the recently posted Guigal. My notes for this were more plentiful than for the other. Does that a winner make?

On the nose you were greeted with aromas that tended towards barnyard and dust. On the palate the fruit was subtle. Overall I would say the wine has sturdy flavors and dry overtones. The finish was a bit on the tart side. Given the uniqueness factor perhaps this wine may have seemed more compelling than it otherwise could have been. I am guessing the second bottle I have will tell the story. For now I will remain on the fence.

Rating: Pricey

2005 Senorio de Barahonda Carro Tinto

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Ole Imports

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “90 points from the Wine Advocate! They say, “The 2005 Carro is an unoaked blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Tempranillo, 20% Syrah, and 10% Merlot. Medium ruby-colored, it has a lovely perfume of damp earth, pepper, cassis, and blackberry. This is followed by a sumptuous wine with layers of ripe, sweet fruit, excellent balance, and no hard edges which totally belie its ridiculously silly price point. The wine is an awesome value. I had thoughts of a higher score but readers might think I’d lost my mind. The Bellum project, in which Ole Imports is involved, started in 2002. It is dedicated to showing what can be achieved from 100% old-vine Monastrell in the up-and-coming D.O. of Yecla. It goes without saying that the price-to-quality relationship of these wines is extraordinary. 2/28/2007″

This winery owns what amounts to among the oldest Monastrell vineyards in Spain. This rich and mouth-filling red, made from a blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot, offers that value that is almost our of this world!”

What I Think:

I had a bottle of this Monastrell a few weeks back and was thoroughly impressed so with tacos on the menu it didn’t take me long to choose a wine. Given previous positive experiences I think I built up my expectations, like the summer blockbuster movies, a little too high. That said I quickly moved past some initial let down and found myself once again really enjoying this wine. That dark purple color and chewy texture kept me coming back for more. Even with nary a tannin it still paired nicely with the food. I am ready to go pick up a half case of this one. The shopping list is growing.

Rating: Bulk Buy

2006 Burgans Albariño

Price: $9.99 @ K&L Wines imported by European Cellars

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “89 points from the Wine Advocate! They say, “The 2006 Burgans Albarino, a custom cuvee chosen by importer Eric Solomon, is a candidate for Best Buy in the Albarino category. Medium gold-colored, the wine has excellent honey, mineral, orange marmalade and peach aromas and flavors in a just off-dry format. Drink it over the next 12-18 months with grilled salmon, tuna, and roast chicken. 6/18/2007″ ”

What I Think:

A friend of mine had just returned from fishing in San Diego and came home with a cooler full of fresh albacore. He invited us over to dinner and I certainly didn’t take me long to agree. As we were headed out the door I shuffled through the whites and pulled this one out. When I saw this one in the K&L email it was a no-brainer. It was albarino which I have much enjoyed in the past and it was imported by Eric Solomon how has a perfect track record with the many bottles of his Masia M that I have enjoyed.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about this wine because the food was so incredible. I do remember the pairing being great. From what I can recall this wine was on the dryer side with a mineral backbone and flavors of fruit rinds (orange or lemon) with a hint of hay. Looks like K&L has some more at this point so perhaps I will give it another go and pay more attention. That said for the time being will give it a pricey designation but this poor bottle was just a victim of circumstance.

Rating: Pricey

2004 Montebuena Rioja

Price: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by J & D Selections

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “90 points Robert Parker: “A contender for best value in my Spanish tastings, this delicious Rioja is dark ruby in color, with aromas of earth, spice, and red fruits. It has surprising depth, ripe, smoky, cherry flavors, light tannin, and an excellent pure finish. This terrific bargain can be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years.” (02/07)”

What I Think:

While I gave my guests the option of the Gewurztraminer or this one, there was no doubt which was going in my glass. This was part of the two case set I bought back in early May from K&L. The results for this group had been favorable to date. Given that I had recently red that Rioja and Merlot were the food friendliest red wines I figured with enchiladas on the table we give this one a go. On the nose this seemed hot and showed spiciness with light fruit lingering on top of a drier backbone. On the palate these light fruits continued to lead the way. I caught hints of cherry and some lighter berries flavors that had a light touch of brambles towards the mid-palate. There was no fruit that made it to the finish as this wine faded quickly and ended spicy and dry. A nice wine, but despite what they said there is nothing to get excited about here. It must be a bad career move not to agree with Parker, especially given the praise he lavished above. Fortunately, I have a day job as I much prefer this Barahonda Carro Tinto (to which he also gave 90 points) I had a while back. Perhaps I am wrong. We will get a chance to see soon as there is still another bottle in the rack. I’m guessing Parker is the safer bet for your money in that showdown.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Blason Pinot Grigio

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

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Giovanni Blason and his consulting enologist Andrea Rossi have turned this 37-acre property into a juggernaut of affordable quality wines. Giovanni and his wife Valentina own this winery in Gradisca d’Inzonzo, 3.75 miles from the Slovenian border and about 20 miles north of Trieste. The 2005 Blason Pinot Grigio is the best Pinot Grigio Giovanni and Andrea have made to this day. The vines are maturing, and the addition of the temperature-controlled fermentation has added a level of spice to the already wonderful fruit, with body, freshness, balance, and well… it’s just damned refreshing. Last vintage we sold our 200-case allotment in 10 weeks. This year we’ve ordered 400 cases, but with the addition of our new Hollywood location this wine won’t last long. Buy now!”

They also said this in the May 2007 newsletter,”One of our BEST VALUE wines at K&L! Simply sensational! Perfect balance of acidity and is very aromatic, loaded with pear, apple, citrus and tropical fruit in an elegant, concentrated and superbly balanced wine. This is a perfect wine to serve for Mothers’ Day.”

What I Think:

After seeing this wine pimped at me from so many different angles I had to give it a try. So when I concocted a clam sauce pasta (my first) I thought I would give it a go. White wine with white sauce seemed like a good idea. On opening this the nose seemed racy. There were hints of fruit but it was clear this wine was going to have a zing to it. On the palate there were nice citrusy notes that quickly gave way to a tight-knit acidic backbone. The wine was very light and it was most certainly crisp and refreshing. I could have imagined drinking this on a sunny patio with a burger or something of the sort. This pairing was not made in heaven. In hindsight, checking my favorite pairing site an Arneis would have been a better call. Darn, should have checked ahead of time as I have been wanting to try one of those!

On a side note, in a recent post I was lamenting my ability to pick good wines over at The Wine Club. Given that I figured I would check on how I was doing over at K&L. I bought a couple cases back in May and have so far had 7 of the 24. Three of the four reds have been a hit while only one of the whites has delivered. Much better ratios here, especially with the reds. When I buy at K&L it is usually from reading their new arrivals email or newsletter. Then I order online and pick it up in the store. Seems to work better. Not sure why I care, sometimes I like doing analysis for the sake of doing analysis.

Back to this wine, it is a good effort. I didn’t find it nearly as riveting as the folks over at K&L seemed to. I find myself likening it to the Kono Sauvignon Blanc which I would certainly prefer to this. Given that I can get that one a few bucks cheaper, I’ll be sticking to that. That said if you love Italian Pinot Grigio feel free to give this one a go.

Rating: Skip It

2005 La Cappuccina Soave Classico

Price: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Vinity Wine Company

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “The wine is produced from Garganega grapes, harvested during the first ten days of October, carefully selected to insure that only ripe and healthy berries are used for the wine, and pressed softly with a whole-bunch pressing. The must undergoes a static, cold settling and the fermentation temperature is controlled. The wine is then aged for five months in stainless steel tanks. Tastings of older vintages have demonstrated that the wine ages well and attains an even greater complexity. Ripe, rich and opulent in style. Far fuller than most Soaves, and fairly New World in character, it’s got bags of rich flavour with some lovely tropical fruit tones. A classy glassful on its own and a good companion on the dinner table.”

They also said this in the May 2007 newsletter,”The main grape of Soave is garganega, which is believed to be of Greek origin. Citrusy fragrance and floral tones will be found the bouquet of the wine, while the palate is rich with ripe apricot and peaches and a long creamy finish.Try with fresh water fish or grilled poultry.”

What I Think:

For starters I really wanted to like this wine. The story above was very compelling to me. Affordable, Age-able and Italian all seemed like good things. So when it landed in the fridge it did so with higher than average expectations, especially for a grape variety that I had never tried before. After giving it some time to chill we pulled it out and pulled the cork.

To the eye the color looked deep and golden. On the nose my expectations start to look more reasonable. The citrus notes on the nose were overpowering. I’m not sure that you can smell richness or opulence but I sure thought I could with this one. My mind racing, imagining the complexity… On the palate it seemed a bit racy with citrus flavor up front leading to a mineral laced mid-palate and finish. My wife actually thought it taste like beer (Hefeweizen to be exact). For me it tasted slightly Sauvignon Blanc-ish. After my first taste I actually got up from the dinner table and put it back in the fridge as I was worried it may have been a bit to warm as it lacked crispness. Looking at the bottle said that it should be consumed at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That seems really cold. Upon taking it out a bit more chilled I found some melons aromas and flavors present. I certainly never found the creamy finish which leads me to believe this may benefit from aging. It definitely seemed to be clashing now; perhaps some time to become integrated would be beneficial. As I don’t plan on giving this a second chance I will never know…

Rating: Skip It

2006 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Schieffelin & Co

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Its deep dark violet color prepares you for the wonderful aromatics of this value-packed Malbec. On the nose mingle blackberries, plums, strawberries and more violets, while the palate is soft and refreshing, with a concentrated fruit core along with licorice notes and savory tannins. Oh so easy to drink, too!”

And the wine spectator had this to say; “A fresh, easygoing style, with raspberry and briar notes backed by a touch of toast. Drink now. 44,000 cases imported.” – James Molesworth, June 4, 2007 (85 points, $10)

What I Think:

I had this wine with some friends, turkey tacos and a bottle of 2006 Alamos Malbec which was the first wine from this evening to be written up. For this to make the most sense probably best to check that one first.

In comparison to the Alamos this wine was much more complex. On opening the bottle this wine was a little closed. You could get traces of darker fruit but the tannins and spices were more forward. On initial taste the palate reflected much of the same, you could see the fruit was there but was having difficulty making it to the forefront. We opened both of these together and sampled side by side and I believe we were all unanimously in favor of the Alamos in the early going. As this started to get some air and begin to open that tune would begin to change. The fruit began to come through showing layers of darkness, at times it seemed like blackberry and then more like raspberry. The tannins began to fade a bit and a much better integrated wine started to appear. The Alamos was beginning to lose its faithful. By the end of the night we had a split decision. Ideally you can take both of these home and try this exercise on your own. I know I’d like to give it another try. If forced to decide you can’t go wrong with either, but if this is your choice make sure to let it get some air. I always hate finding myself over half way through a bottle before I realize what I really have.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Senorio de Barahonda Carro Tinto

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Ole Imports

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “90 points from the Wine Advocate! They say, “The 2005 Carro is an unoaked blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Tempranillo, 20% Syrah, and 10% Merlot. Medium ruby-colored, it has a lovely perfume of damp earth, pepper, cassis, and blackberry. This is followed by a sumptuous wine with layers of ripe, sweet fruit, excellent balance, and no hard edges which totally belie its ridiculously silly price point. The wine is an awesome value. I had thoughts of a higher score but readers might think I’d lost my mind. The Bellum project, in which Ole Imports is involved, started in 2002. It is dedicated to showing what can be achieved from 100% old-vine Monastrell in the up-and-coming D.O. of Yecla. It goes without saying that the price-to-quality relationship of these wines is extraordinary. 2/28/2007″

This winery owns what amounts to among the oldest Monastrell vineyards in Spain. This rich and mouth-filling red, made from a blend of 50% Monastrell, 20% Syrah, 20% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot, offers that value that is almost our of this world!”

What I Think:

Monastrell is known as Mourvedre over here in the states. 100% bottlings of Monastrell have made appearances at TJ’s before and they are usually enjoyable and on the cusp of being good which made this one quickly attractive to me. Coupled with my pleasurable disposition to all things Spanish, especially wine, and it was pretty easy to see this one finding its way to my house. Boy, am I glad it did. On pulling the cork I was immediately greeted with a blast of berries with peppery and wooden/vanilla barrelish aromas in the background. On the first sip it seems somewhat unremarkable, you don’t immediately recognize what a nice wine it is but it grows on you…In the mouth up get blueberries, or berries of some type that certainly aren’t brambly. The texture is nice and smooth, almost a bit chewy; it makes you want to smack your lips. The wine has great depth and balance, no tannins to be found. The long, lingering, smooth finish last and lasts, ending with almost a hint of sweetness.

This was the fifth bottle from the two cases I bought at K&L a few months back and four of them have been remarkable wines. Let’s hope the trend continues. I bought two bottles of this one from the get go so I already have another one to look forward to.

Rating: Buy It