Quick Takes Vol. II

Hi-Tech Tasting Notes…

Quick Takes Vol IIMy 2nd installment of “Quick Takes” as I aim to share some thoughts on wines that have made it across my table recently. Here we have a quick trip around the globe with a nice group of wines. Nothing disappointed here. The Buena Vista still deservingly holds the top spot in my Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List and is surprisingly still available. I’ve gone through 8+ bottles and just bought another half case. Though slightly more expensive the Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Spätlese was something else and at $8 the Tintara is certainly worth revisiting. Here’s the details (most links go to CellarTracker) on this group:

2008 Buena Vista Pinot Noir – (13.5%) Initially this one comes across as more earthy and minerally before opening up to dark, lush (mainly cherry) fruit with sandalwood and spice. The rich, creamy finish lingers softly with cherry-cola spice. Once given time to breathe this one is smooth and easy drinking throughout. That said be sure to crack the top on this one an hour or two prior to planned consumption. If you can handle that this one offers some nice QPR at $10.

2007 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape* – (14.5%) Grenache 48%, Syrah 28%, Mourvèdre 14%, Cinsault 5%, Divers 5% – Earthy and juicy with nice, ripe cherry and dark currant flavors that come across as a touch creamy here. The palate is backed by components of floral, graphite and mineral acidity before leading to a dry, herbal finish with lasting, smooth tannins. Nice depth to the rich fruit here but the complementary acidity it this balanced throughout. This wine is layered and enjoyable. 93pts Wine Advocate, $52.

2009 Hans Lang Riesling Vom Bunten Schiefer* – (12.5%) A QbA designate this is dry and clean on the tongue. Wound tight with lemon rock acidity (hints of orange peel) and grapefruit minerality it stays zingy and refreshing until the finish goes all wrong (charcoal, heat and totally counter to expectations). Not sure what is going on here but it certainly hurts my overall impression of the wine…

2009 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese* – (8%) Yes you read that right; 8%! This is what I am talking about. More rich then sweet with honey, apple and pears coupled with a bright lemon acidity through a nice crisp finish. Really digging this wine. Pure and delicious! At $33 it is a bit spendy but worth every penny and more…

2007 Tintara Shiraz – (14%) Picked this one up for $8 (marked down from $18) on sale. Smoky, rich and dark fruit on a spiced nose with hints of minerals and meats. Warm and juicy on the palate with a similar profile though perhaps a touch tarter than the nose would indicate. More mineral too which leads into a nice lasting finish with fine grained tannins. Smooth, balanced and nice acidity. I’m a fan. A nice QPR at 8; perhaps I should grab half a case for short term cellaring?

2010 Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley* – Lifted, grassy nose. bright citrus palate with refreshing acidity and a touch of dry mineral talc on the finish. New Zealand Sauv Blanc through and through. Nice but not a standout. Drink with company.

Those with * indicate wines that were received as samples.

Quick Takes Vol. I

Hi-Tech Tasting Notes…

Quick Takes v1 - Hi-tech tasting notes...As per usual just because the writing slows doesn’t mean the enjoyment does. To that end I have nearly thirty empties awaiting my attention before disposal. My wife asked nicely that some find there way out of the house very soon and given Mother’s Day is just around the corner I thought it would be wise to oblige. So the first group I grabbed? You guessed it! Those with the easy to find tasting notes. This was a steady and consistent group. If I were to buy one again it would be the Mas Carlot which I picked up on closeout from K&L Wines for $9.99. A nice, complex white and my first experience with Clairette to boot. Here’s the details (all links go to CellarTracker) on this group:

2008 Cavas De Crianza Malbec – (14.5%) Brief notes here as a friend brought this over and we opened it for dinner. Not bad but average and over oaked for me. That said nothing wrong here but given the plethora of values (Alamos, Pascual Toso, Terrazas de los Andes) in this category (at ~$12) wouldn’t buy again…

2010 Mas Carlot Costières-de-Nîmes Clairette de Bellegarde – (13.5%) 100% Clairette – My first experience with this varietal which starts crisp and floral with orange rinds. As it warms it turns to nectarine stone fruit with a nice mineral backbone and crisp, refreshing finish. This one is well worth the $10 introduction to the AOC Clairette de Bellegarde and its primary varietal. Grape explorers should definitely track this one down!

2010 Domaine de Moulines Vin de Pays de l’Hérault – (13.5%) Pitched to me as a marriage saver (my wife loves CA cab, me not so much) this one starts with green apple on the nose and a zesty, mineral driven palate framed with lemon rind acidity. The backbone is crisp and surprisingly rich yet focused which I am always happy to find in a Chard. That said my wife not so much. So while we both found it quaffable it didn’t hit the target for either of us. At ~$12 that seems fair enough…

2009 Navarro Vineyards Grenache – (14.6%) Very nice, balanced and bursting with red (cherry) and purple (plum) fruit flavors. A little too rich for me to be in love but I sure enjoyed flirting with the “new”. That said at ~$23 I still prefer something a bit more earthy and nuanced in style.

2008 St. Supéry Vineyards Moscato – (9.6%) Had some friends bring this one over. Ripe and sweet with lush peaches. This isn’t your light and crisp Moscato. A bit too sweet for me to enjoy with anything besides desert. If you want to serve this as an aperitif I recommend doing so over chilled. That said a nice wine if served within the proper context.

How about you? Drink anything worth sharing this week?

Sampling South African wines from Cape Classics

tasting South African wines of Cape ClassicsLast year I had the chance to attend the Celebrate South Africa tasting and like many of these events do it whetted my appetite to explore these wines further. And that I did. My favorite of the lot was the Kanonkop Kadette and it just so happened that my post captured the attention of their importer; Cape Classics. They reached out to see if I might be interested in sampling some more wines for their portfolio and were kind enough to send a case of South African wines my way.

While you will find detailed notes for each below I’ll share some highlights before we dive in. These wines, an even mix of reds and whites, ranged from $10 to $22. Keep in mind that these are suggested retail prices and can likely be found at least a few bucks cheaper at your favorite wine store. Overall I preferred the whites to the reds and tasting this lineup reconfirmed my belief that South Africa is a great place to look for value. Specifically Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc where these wines consistently deliver a nice QPR. The Beyond Sauvignon Blanc and Kanu Chenin Blanc were my favorite from this lineup. Nonetheless of the 20 South African wines I tasted last year the Kanonkop Kadette remains my favorite. Before we jump in if you have any favorite South African wines of your own to share please drop me a comment below. I’d love to give them a try. Now onto the details. Happy Reading!

a flight of South African whites...

  • 2010 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé ($12) – (12.5%) – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – This one is overly red instead of pink lowering my expectations straight off the bat which is too bad as I really want to like this wine. Word to the wise; don’t drink this one too cold. If the nose is muted give this one a nice hand warm until it starts to express itself. It will be a much more interesting wine that way. The nose shows nice floral and citrus fruit notes. The palate starts full and juicy showing strawberry flavors. From there acidity emerges that turns this one bone dry. The finish combines mineral (almost talc like) and white pepper components that ends on a crisp, slightly bitter note that makes it slightly less refreshing than it otherwise would have been.
  • 2009 Kanu Chenin Blanc ($10) – (12.5%) – 92% Chenin Blanc, 7% Viognier, 1% Sauvignon Blanc – Nice melon/citrus aromas on the nose. The palate is surprisingly smooth with floral notes upfront. Not the cutting acidity you sometimes see but instead a nice mineral, stony backbone that merges with cantaloupe and peach fruit flavors to deliver a crisp, refreshing finish (with hints of nuttiness). An easy drinker that at $10 is well worth the price of entry. Pair it with a flaky, white fish or a sunny fall day on the patio and I’m guessing you’ll be glad you did. An interesting side note on this one is that it comes from 32 year old vines. Rare you see that kind of age at this kind of price point.
  • 2010 Excelsior Chardonnay ($10) – (14%) If I had a kind of Chardonnay this might be it. Slightly candied on the nose the palate starts with tart lemon and loads of green apples. Nice acidity emerges to keep this one crisp and refreshing. The finish begins with a mineral component with just a hint of barrel creaminess and ends with a nice lemon custard flavor. Out of curiosity I checked and this was fermented in 75% stainless steel and 25% on French oak (aged I’m guessing). A nice, easy drinker here, don’t hesitate to grab one if this sounds like your kind of wine.

a flight of South African reds...

  • 2008 De Morgenzon Shiraz DMZ ($15) – (14.5%) 100% Syrah – The first vintage of this label shows warm cherry and spice on the nose. From there it starts rich on the palate where lively pepper notes intermingle with plum fruit flavors. A heavy barrel component; oak and vanilla, emerges towards the end of the mid-palate leading to a dry, dusty, tannic finish that lingers on pleasantly.
  • 2009 Indaba Merlot ($10) – (14.5%) – 96% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot – Barnyard, dark fruits and heat on the nose. The palate starts dry showing plum and dusty chocolate aromas before a heavy acidity emerges on the mid-palate. From there it turns dry and smoky with brambly fruit flavors mixing with a white pepper component on a slightly harsh finish. This one goes better with food than on its own. Given the prevalent acidity pairing it with a tomato based sauce may suit it well.
  • 2008 Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) – (14.5%) – 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot – Dry, brambly blackberry on the nose with loads of barnyard notes lurking beneath. The palate delivers bright cherries on top of a nice acidity with grippy tannins. The finish is tart with a dusty, earthy component that lingers on. While eminently drinkable at 14.5% this one runs hot and is certainly rough around the edges. That said I have heard wonderful things about this label and am likely to try it again sometime in the future.

more from South Africa...

    2009 Beyond Sauvignon Blanc ($12) – (13%) Nice, pure straw color in the glass with loads of gooseberry on the nose. This one starts clean and pure on the palate with a nice racy acidity and vibrant, bright lime fruit flavors. From there a firm, stony structure emerges and leads to a tangy minerality on a crisp, refreshing finish that lingers with tinges of white pepper while not being overpowering. This is a very well made wine that seems to garner accolades vintage after vintage (Tanzer was a fan of the ’09). On par with many of my favorites (Veramonte, Dashwood) and will be a wine I seek out in the future. At $10 you are likely to find this for it represents a very nice value.

  • 2009 Jam Jar Shiraz ($12) – This wine and I were not made to get along. If the words “Sweet Shiraz” raises your guard as much as they did mine be sure to steer clear of this one…
  • 2006 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound ($22) – (13.5%) 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot, 4% Malbec – An earthy nose that shows some fruit along with a barn yard funk (this is not a bad thing) that never cleared off. This one has lot going on under the hood; green pepper, blackberry fruit, black licorice and spice. The mid-palate shows a mineral, graphite component that evens this one out before a load of creamy oak (42% new oak, 58% second fill) arrives. These merge with dry coffee, tobacco and black pepper flavors on an earthy finish that lingers with lightly puckering tannins. This one received 90 points from the Wine Spectator and is a good all around effort that is sure to keep your attention while in the glass. While a bit pricey at $22 it is an enjoyable offering that consistently garners high scores from vintage to vintage.

a flight of South African whites to close...

  • 2009 Raats Chenin Blanc ($13) – (13.5%) 100% Chenin Blanc – Orange blossoms with nice tropical and stone fruit notes on the nose. Starts light & crisp on the palate with glimpses of white fruit before bright lemon rock flavors take over. A steely (this one sees no oak) minerality emerges which lasts (with the lemon) all the way through the finish where it lingers nicely. This one lacked the crispness I’ve come to expect of South African Chenin Blanc on the finish which makes this one much more food friendly though it is quite quaffable on its own as well. Feel free to pair it with fish, salad or a sunny day.
  • 2009 Indaba Chardonnay ($10) – (13%) nice orange blossoms and floral notes on the nose. The same plays through to the palate as well. Nice weight, crisp and acidic throughout. The finish has a pleasant citrus twang but still shows more oak than I like. Or am I imaging that? Overall this is a pleasing wine and at $8 it delivers more than fairly from a quality to price ratio perspective.
  • 2009 Rustenberg Chardonnay ($20) – (13.5%) 100% Chardonnay – Straight California Chardonnay on the nose (12 months in 40% new oak and 60% 2nd use). Lots of oak on the palate as well with baked apples and marzipan. On the mid-palate bright citrus flavors begin to poke through on the edges. From there a juicy acidity emerges and leads to a slightly toasty but short finish. I’m not a fan of Chardonnay’s made of this style but I know many are and they include the Wine Spectator who have scored the last four vintages of this offering at 90 points plus.

*as mentioned above these wines were received as press samples

Revisiting the Epicuro red wines

I remember when these wines burst onto the scene late 2007/early 2008 and how much I enjoyed them back then. I’ve certainly drank more than my fair share of these over the years but haven’t posted my thoughts in quite some time. Given I slotted the Aglianico into the 10th position of my Top 10 list and the 8th in the classics I thought it would be prudent to revisit the lineup. With that here we go….
Revisiting the Epicuro red wines

  • 2008 Epicuro Aglianico ($5) – (13.5%) Juicy blackberry and clove notes on the nose. The palate starts with lots of oak and big fruit completely lacking of acidity and/or balance. A jammy mid-palate serves tart blackberries and sage, herbal spice on a quick finish with harsh tannins. Such a shame it makes me wish I had more of the ’05 left. This serves as a textbook case study in the economics of Trader Joe’s wine. It generally follows these steps: 1) Source a new wine. 2) Wine sells well. 3) Ask winemaker to produce more quantity next year but price can’t change. 4) Next vintage is not as good as previous vintage. Snowball that by a few vintages and you have a sad story. Unless you are just looking for something to cook with (and steal a few sips from) I’d steer clear of this one…
  • 2008 Epicuro Nero d’Avola ($5) – (13%) Light fruit and wood on the nose. Juicy with soft, warm fruit on the palate, Despite being only 13% this one seems to be lacking the acidity I would like to see. A bit flabby all the way to the finish before grippy tannins appear in an attempt to rescue this one. While quaffable and fine for everyday “drinking” I would steer well clear if you are looking for a wine to spend some quality time with…
  • 2006 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva ($5) – (13%) 80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera – Dark purple in the glass, ruby on the edges with dusty, warm fruit and barrel spice on the nose. The palate starts with a mouthful of sweet, juicy cherry and raspberry flavors shrouded in oak which is readily apparent throughout. Despite this shortcoming this wine is light bodied and well balanced with a firm acidic structure that makes it food friendly and a fine companion for cooking. The finish is of dry, tongue smacking tannins that lingers moderately. At this price there is little to complain about…

So there you have it. Disappointing but can’t say I didn’t expect it. My little rant within the Aglianico review rings true for many offerings that start out as great values at Trader Joe’s dating back all the way to Charles Shaw. That one will definitely be falling off both of my lists and the Salice Salentino could be a potential replacement. How about you? Have you had any of the Epicuro offerings as of late? If so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

Tasting the wines of Montes Alpha

Now I said Montes Alpha like that was the name of the winery. It is not. Vina Montes makes wine under a variety of “Montes” labels including the Classic Series, Limited Selection, Folly, Cherub and more. The Alpha, as the name implies, is their top rated offering and certainly it’s most well known. Now I’ve been lucky enough to try many quality offerings from Chile and given that when these samples arrived I was anxious to give them a try. How did they stack up?

Montes Alpha Wines

  • 2008 Montes Alpha Syrah ($18) – (14.5%) Bit of green on the nose with dark fruit (black cherry) notes and briar spice. Initially creamy and juicy, and a bit sweet, with loads of blueberries on the palate but quickly met with nice acidity and tight, tart tannins. Barrel oak and spice lead the finish followed by tart cranberry flavors and tingly tannins that linger on. As it is drinking today I can’t quite get to the 90 points this one garnered from the Wine Spectator. That said with a few more years to integrate this one has the potential to punch well behind its weight…
  • 2008 Montes Alpha Carménère ($18) – (14.5%) 90% Carmenere, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon – Nice deep purple fruits, floral notes and spice on the nose. On the palate a superb structure is readily apparent on entry to the palate and lasts throughout. Warm, plush blueberry and plum flavors greet you on the palate. This one is a fruit forward but balanced offering as some acidity emerges before creamy barrel spices take over and lead to a smooth, effortless finish with black pepper and gentle tannins that lingers nicely. Certainly not your typical Carmenere (lacking the green pepper and smoky components I am so used to) but an enjoyable wine to say the least. Drinking very well right now and will certainly last for quite a few more years should you have the patience.
  • 2008 Montes Alpha Chardonnay ($18) – (14%) 100% Chardonnay – Pale gold in the glass the nose here started muted which is always a sign that the wine is too cold to move forward. Returning after giving it ten minutes to warm I found buttery notes with fruit; predominantly banana with muted lemon notes. The palate starts creamy from the get go and the white fruit flavors (pear and apple) are hard pressed to emerge through. A decent acidic structure does manage to maintain balance here until late in the mid-palate when it briefly spirals before subsiding to a creamy, vanilla finish that lingers with lemon notes and a tinge of floral spiciness. This is certainly made with a new world chardonnay palate in mind. If that is you (it’s not me) I would trust in the 88 points this one got from both the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast rather than this review…
  • 2008 Kaiken Corte ($12) – (14.8%) 80% Malbec, 12% Bonarda, 8% Petite Verdot – Kaiken is the Argentine off shoot of the Montes Alpha team from Chile and this one in particular is a relatively new offering. Super dark purple in the glass with cherries and floral notes on the nose. The initial weight and mouth feel are quite nice. This one starts juicy then turns earthy and dry on the palate. The edges are hot and slightly harsh with some mineral, graphite notes emerging before a barrel driven finish of cedar and spice emerges. While a unique blend and drinkable there are many better offerings out there for the money.

These stacked up quite well! Even better they seem to be broadly available so your chances of finding these should be pretty good. You can start at your local Costco where these seem to be regularly stocked. I know I’ll be looking for the Carmenere next time I am there! How about you? Have you tried any of the Montes Alpha wines? Any other Chilean favorites to share?

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as press samples

Razor’s Edge Wines

The Razor’s Edge (per their site) is “the thin line representing a perfect balance between extremes. It is here that our wines can be found, perfectly combining quality and value, complexity and approachability, power and elegance, regional character and purity of flavor. Razor’s Edge wines not only walk the line, they dance upon it.”

Now anyone that knows me is well aware that I would find that a compelling tale. However in this case I had some apprehension as I had tried one of their wines, the Shiraz, long ago and came away disappointed. Nonetheless with a mantra like that I couldn’t help but be eager to give them a try when I received these samples. How did they fare?
Razor's Edge Wines

  • 2009 Razor’s Edge Chardonnay ($12) – (12.5%) 100% Chardonnay – Lighter in color with floral and white citrus fruit on the nose. Juicy and vibrant on the palate with white apple, peach and nectarine flavors. The oak (15% new oak barriques) appears towards the middle and adds a creamy texture but is immediately balanced by a nice adicity which drives through to a clean and pleasant finish. A simple and enjoyable wine for any occasion.
  • 2008 Razor’s Edge Shiraz-Grenache ($12) – (14.5%) 75% Shiraz, 25% Grenache – Medium purple in color; violet on the edges. The nose shows sweet fruits, earth and spice. Starts big and jammy with luscious dark berry fruit on the palate. It remains soft and approachable as the fruit thins and is joined by a peppery, mineral component on the mid-palate. The finish remains fruity but brings in dry, leathery tannins with barrel driven creaminess that linger on nicely together. Nicely structured throughout. I think the Wine Enthusiast liked this one more than me as they named it the number 22 wine in their Top 100 Best Buys of 2010. That said I enjoyed it nonetheless.

So do these wines find the Razor’s Edge? My take is not quite. While both drink nicely and deliver fair value for the price neither make a lasting impression. That said if you have tried these wines I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not have any tips to share on wines that you thought found the “razor’s edge”

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as press samples

Ortman Family Vineyards “O2″ Wines

I’ve heard many good things about Ortman Family Vineyards but never had the chance to try their wines. So when offered the chance to sample the inaugural release of their “O2” series I was glad to have the chance. The “O2” wines were positioned to serve as “A fresh, new generation of affordable wines from the Ortman family”.

Before we answer whether or not they lived up to their positioning there are two important disclaimers. The first being that this is their second label and I have never tasted their first. Given that I can’t offer any comparisons. The second being that this is their inaugural release. Like opening night at a restaurant there are always some kinks to be worked out. With that let’s get to the wines…
3 from Ortman Family...

  • 2009 Ortman Family “O2″ Chardonnay ($18) – (14.2%) This one, hailing from the Central Coast, starts promising when I read “Simply put, overly oaky, cloying Chardonnay is just not our style” from the winery brochure. And this delivers as well. Not your standard butterball turkey here. Nice crispness with peach and apricot on the nose. Crisp on entry with the same fruit flavors before mineral and oak components emerge on the mid-palate. These lead to a first oaky & creamy then tangy, tart lasting finish. This is not your regular Chardonnay as it shows racy acidity throughout. Pleasant but pricey at $18.
  • 2008 Ortman Family “O2″ Sangiovese ($20) – (13.8%) Short on notes for this one hailing from Paso Robles but this was indeed again a nice wine. Starts lively and juicy with cherry cola flavors and dark fruit. A nice acidity emerges mid-palate and leads to dry sage notes on a soft spice finish with lingering tannins. This one shows nice balance throughout.
  • 2007 Ortman Family “O2″ Cuvée Eddy ($20) – (14.2%) Syrah 42%, Grenache 30%, Mourvèdre 19%, Petite Sirah 9% – This one, hailing from San Luis Obispo, starts with plush fruit and barrel spice on the nose. Bright fruit on entry that turns almost creamy on the mid-palate where a nice acidity emerges before a spicy, blackberry briar finish with just a touch of sweetness. A nice wine and an easy drinker but at $20 I can’t say it is worth stretching your budget for.

Now keep in mind when it comes to $20 wines there are few harsher critics out there than me. These wines all offer a fair quality to price ratio, are well made and I enjoyed each one of them. That said at this price point I want a wine to distinguish itself and I didn’t see that here. Reminder that this is the inaugural vintage so as the “kinks” get worked out I am sure we can look forward to better things. Either way if $20 is within your price range give these a try. You’ll be sure to enjoy and they are twist off to boot!

Interested in reading more about the Ortman “O2″ Series?

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as press samples

Summer Stash: A load of Sauvignon Blanc…

The summer brings warm temperatures (okay well maybe not so warm this year) which tend to solar power my appetite for crisp, refreshing white wines and Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorites. As you’ll see below I had a chance to drink quite a few (all samples) over the last six months. What was my overall take? There is a lot of very good Sauvignon Blanc available for less than $12 and for a man like me on a strict budget that is good news. All of the prices below are suggested retail and you can expect to find these cheaper at your local wine outlet. So what have I been drinking?

a few from Chile...

The Veramonte is one of my favorites and is a bottle I buy regularly (last reviewed the ’08). This ’09 vintage once again offered solid value with nice lemon, vibrant minerality and great acidity. An easy wine to like. The Cono Sur was quite nice as well and was a bit fuller and rounder than the Veramonte. Definitely a more food friendly wine which again offers very good QPR. The Los Vascos (the Rothschild joint venture in Chile) is likely the most widely available and makes a fine choice for the $8 or so it will be going for.

a few more from Chile...

Here we see the price points start to jump a bit. Is it justified? The Casa Silva was certainly unique starting with a slight spritz and showing some lingering (talc like) spice on the finish but I found it more tight and biting than crisp. The Valdivieso while dramatically different from your traditional Sauvignon Blanc. Yet it was more a fun, challenging and enjoyable experience than it was a pleasure to drink. The Haras showed tight acidity with stony minerality and layers of lemon flavors. While nice it came across as a bit closed. The Undarraga was enjoyable with beautiful honeydew notes and a flinty finish. The Ventisquero was the most memorable of this lot. A nice mouth feel and a rotisserie of flavors on the mid-palate (predominately cantaloupe) leading to a lingering finish with white pepper notes. If I were to buy one of these the Ventisquero would likely be my pick.

and some potential values...

The Dashwood (’08 review) is another ultra popular value choice. I found the Morro Bay to be a bit uninspired. That said the Jaja de Jau was a pleasant surprise. Super light (11.5%) but bright, clean and crisp. Given you can pick this one up for around $7 it is a winner; simple and enjoyable.

There you have it. Did you have a favorite Sauvignon Blanc this summer? (PSA: my favorite has yet to be revealed) Have you had any of these? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as a press sample. That said I have purchased many bottles of the Veramonte using my very own wallet.

Summer Stash: A load from Argentina…

I long to go back to Mendoza and often practice the reverse mantra that if you can’t be there bring it to you. Malbec, asada and flipping through pictures from our visit a few years back usually tends to scratch the itch. That said sooner or later I am going to have to book my return trip but until then I’ll just keep drinking more than my fair share of Argentinean wines. Again here I had a chance to drink quite a few (all samples) over the last six months. What was my overall take? Malbec, to me, is still one of the most consistent places to find value offerings and furthermore some of the $20 wines more than delivered on their price points. So what have I been drinking you ask?a few from Terrazas de los Andes...

Terrazas Los Andes and I go way back. Their Malbec (I last reviewed the ’06) is one of the wines I most often recommend to people. This was my first experiences with the Malbec Reserva (which I drank from a 375ml bottle) and it certainly showed more restraint and a few extra layers of complexity. As for the Torrontes Reserva the aromatics on the nose weren’t quite as exciting as I usually find them. Why the wine itself was fine I wouldn’t stretch your budget for this one with so many $10 (See Finca La Linda below) options readily available.

a few from Luigi Bosca...

I have actually previous reviewed the Finca La Linda and as mentioned while I found it nice next time I would prefer to give some others; like this Zolo, a try. The Pinot I found very new world in style. This wine is big and powerful with oak influencing throughout. Well made but not a match for my palate as at this price point I want something more restrained and elegant. The Merlot was an easy and enjoyable drinker but north of the price point I’m willing to pay for that type of offering. But oh the Malbec! This one has a nose of dark berries, dusty chocolate and black pepper. A brooding wine that could knock you over with fruit if it pleased that instead chooses to some nice values...show restraint and layers of flavor. A sure winner and the best of the Argentinean wines I sampled this summer.

This Santa Ana really surprised me as despite my travels through Australia I had come across very few Shiraz blends I had enjoyed. This one was spicy and juicy on the palate with a nice structure. Firm acidity kept it balanced and made it food friendly. The Bodega Norton was a Bordeaux-ish blend that showed sweet fruit and nice meaty characteristics. I’d love to try it with a few more years in the bottle as this has the potential to be something else. As for the Alamos this is another long time favorite (last reviewed the ’06). and a few nice Malbecs...My notes on the ’09 say: “Young, light & juicy w/ loads of stawberries on balanced acidity with a dry spicy finish. Crowdpleaser! Buy this one more often.”

The Nieto Senetiner was new to me. It showed bold red fruit and soft, velvety tannins with pepper spice on the finish. Well balanced with layers of flavors. Yet another very good value. The Dona Paula is a big wine with rich fruit that dries quickly showing a leathery, pepper finish that is laden with barrel notes and tannins. For this price I’m tempted to buy a few and sit them as again this one seems to have the opportunity to evolve into something special.

There you have it. Did you have a favorite Argentinean wine this summer? Have you had any of these? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as a press sample. That said I have purchased many bottles of the Terrazas de los Andes and Alamos with my very own wallet.

Summer Stash: Some Riesling and a Grüner Veltliner…

Riesling has always been intriguing to me and I’ve long wanted to explore it further but yet to do so. On the other hand Grüner Veltliner is quite new to me but quite intriguing as well. Why? Because both can deliver loads of value. You can drink some very high quality offerings of these at affordable prices. This is even more true (at least in the case of Riesling, does Grüner Veltliner age well?) when you are looking to cellar some wines. Over the past few months I’ve had a chance to sample a handful of these. What was my overall take? That I need to do a lot more exploring with these two grapes! So let’s take a look at those I have been drinking…two rielsings and a gruner...

Both of these Rieslings are designated as Kabinett which is on the lower end of the sweetness scale (and to my liking). Did I mention the other thing I love about Riesling? The low ABV (10.5% and 9.5% here). The Pfeffo has a great nose of plush white fruit over a nice mineral bed. The palate shows more of the same with juicy apple flavors and a firm acidity that shines through to keep this one balanced. Very nice but I would have preferred a bit more crispness here. The Marcobrunn was totally lacking the fruit on the nose yet much sweeter (and slightly syrupy) on the palate. Both are well suited to be paired with spicy Asian cuisine. As for Forstreiter; it showed rock, talc and mineral on the nose with loads of white pepper lingering nearby. The palate starts with racy grapefruit flavors before the acidity kicks in and leads to a tangy, mineral finish. Next time I have to pair this one with food!
and the wines of Heinz Eifel...

Warning! Wine geekery adhead… When I first started learning about Riesling the thing I struggled most with was what the difference between the designations meant. Spätlese vs. Auslese? Say what? Eventually I realized the easiest way to think about these is by their level of sweetness. The designations, starting with least sweet, are rank ordered above. So what did I love most about these wines? The chance to try them all at once! We had an Indian dinner party and brought these all out. It was a wonderful tasting opportunity to try different wines with the same foods (my tip is the spicier the food the sweeter the wine) and was a really enjoyable evening for all involved. So my wine geek friends go grab these and give it a try on your own. You’ll be glad you did!

There you have it. Have you had any of these? Any similar favorites to share? (PSA: my favorite has yet to be revealed) Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*as indicated above these wines were indeed all received as press samples.