November 232004 San Marzano Negro Amaro
OK, you’ve probably noticed we’re in rut with Italian wines. Well, it isn’t so much that we’re trying to do that, but K&L recently had a clearance of Italian wines to make room for a new shipment… so we bought several. That said, you might make a note that I do tend to enjoy Italian wines quite a bit. I like that they haven’t sold out [as much] to the American driven fruit bomb style. Anyway, on with the review.
We didn’t like this wine too much. It was fruitier than the last 2 we reviewed, but lacked the depth we desire – which the other two had more of. C’est la vie… we paid 5 bucks for it and can’t expect much. It does, however, retail for $13, so should, in our opinion, taste better. That’s just a matter of taste preference, however, and we do realize that many people here in the U.S. will like this wine just fine, maybe even quite a bit. It is easy to drink and has no harshness anywhere.
November 232003 Le Cinciole Chianti Classico
We had this with pizza and it went well. Later, after the taste of the pizza was gone, the wine was basically pleasent but unmemorable. I would call this typical run of the mill chianti. We bought it on sale resently for $10, but retailed for $20 upon release. I’m very glad I didn’t pay full price. Not bad, really, but you can do better for the money.
November 232005 Vignamaggio Chianti Classico “Gherardino”
I rather liked this one, but Rika had a difference of opinion. To me it tasted very similar in profile to the Layer Cake, only to a lesser degree. It was actually your typical old world Italian wine… big on structure with plenty of vegetation, decent tannin, and good acidity. The very definition of food friendly wine. Rika felt is was overly vegetative and not enough fruitiness. The more I drank it, the more I agreed. Still, it is a pretty good wine, and for 10 bucks (retail $15) I felt like it was good wine for the money. On the other hand, the Durigutti Bonarda is less money and better wine… and a similar style.
July 62006 Clos de los Siete
If you have tried the “7 Layer Cake” wine we’ve reviewed, and liked it, you will almost without a doubt like (at least) this wine also. Depending on when you take a sniff, it smells very much like the 7LC, and depending one when you taste it, and what you drink it with, it also tastes a lot like it. Two of the major differences were the increased smokey/oakey-ness and acidity. The back of the bottle says a piece on the makers of this wine, but not much, other than a mention that it is rich, about the wine itself. It is, in fact, pretty rich, even decadent.
The color is, well, damn dark, ruby with a hint of purple. On the nose it is smokey/oakey, dark baked fruit, sweet tobacco, vanilla, and a hint of sulfur. It smells like some vanilla cakes I’ve made, but much more complex. Mouth-feel is rich and acidic. We had this wine by itself the first night… just one glass by the pool while star gazing. It was fabulous in this situation. The second (and final) night I made homemade tomato/basil/fresh mozzarella pizza, with left-over BBQ chicken on the side. This is where the wine really showed it’s stuff. This is probably the most diverse wine I’ve ever had. It tasted completely different with each food. It had enough acidity to cut the grease of the chicken, yet the smoke and subtlety to match beautifully with my pizza. In the end the flavor was back to the same as the night before, with a little added aroma and complexity since it had aired a bit more. I can’t imagine a meal too bold for this wine, but also, I think it has enough finesse to match up with more delicate meals. I don’t think I’d serve it with any kind of fish, but anything above that is fair game.
So, this now ranks as our top value red, since it is $2 cheaper than the 7 layer cake – our previous top value red. If you know of a red wine that is a greater value let us know. This wine is a serious wine, not a fruit bomb, but quite fruity. It has great complexity that will have you intellectualizing it until it runs out. What I like most about this wine is the amount of flavor, fruit and all, without tasting or smelling extracted. Seems impossible these days.
Price: $15 (K&L)
Sometimes you read reviews of wines that say you can enjoy it now… but your experience with wine tells you it is probably best to cellar it for at least a few years. Then you open the wine at the review’s recommendation, and you find you should have cellared it. This is one of those times. Oh, when will I learn? For the most part, if it is a French red, cellar it 3-5 years after release. It may or may not gain anything, but undoubtedly won’t lose anything. If you have a case, open a bottle a year upon release… who cares. We don’t have that kind of budget though, plus, we’d rather drink lots of different wines than more of the same.
The color is medium ruby, quite pretty. Aromatically it is pretty nice, after decanting, with some dustiness and a nice red fruit tart (not sure what, but maybe has some blackberry in it as well). I think what I’m also smelling is actually the tannins, which would be the first time I noticed that in a wine. Mouth-feel is probably what you’d expect from a Cotes Du Rhone… a little bit lighter than most of what we drink typically, with what I can only describe as perfect acidity – can be drank by itself or will probably go with just about anything. The fruit is pretty much a nice red fruit mix; strawberry, raspberry, and cranberry – and a nice surprise… orange and lime peel! Add a little black pepper (joy) and spice, very smooth and balanced oak and tannin, and you’ve got the flavor profile.
This is a really nice little wine for the money. Made me want pizza for some reason… a nice gourmet basil and mozzarella, not Pizza Hut anything. Basically, something simple but delicious. This isn’t weak like a white, so it doesn’t require weak flavored food. You just want to be able to appreciate the wine, so don’t blow it out with something too complex or intense.
My advice is to find this wine, cellar it for a few years, decant it for an hour, and enjoy. Even if you can’t/don’t want to decant, it is very enjoyable right now. I do think it has the structure/backbone to continue to blossom for another couple of years at least, so if you can, drink in 2010.
Price: $13 (K&L)
The nose have it! Big black fruit aroma, with a little smoke, spice, and veggies. Mouth-feel is solid, lush, with light to medium acidity. This wine is BIG on fruit! Black plum, black and blue berries… you can imagine that the grapes themselves must have been heavenly delicious. Nice long finish. Goes great with Gumbo! A big recommend for the price!
April 6Wine, Friends, and Food
Last night we had a couple of good friends over for dinner and shared a few wines that were pretty good. For starters we had the 2005 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot, from the Columbia Valley in Washington. This was the lightest of the three, which we mostly drank before the meal. It wasn’t bad, but not impressive. There was a fairly good balance of oak, red fruit, spice, and acidity. My “problem” with it was that it was a little weak for my tastes (this is strictly a matter of personal preference), and the fruit was a bit too extracted tasting.
Since we were serving a grilled roast, we decided to have a little tasting of two Australian wines since I knew they’d be pretty hearty. To make it fun we used two different wines from the same maker, Marquis Phillips… the 2006 Shiraz and the 2006 “Sarah’s Blend”. As expected, they were big fruity wines, and per our preference, were pretty dense. Sarah’s blend, which is a blend of composed of 60% Shiraz, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This was the “smoother” of the two, but less complex, ironically. The Shiraz, while largely a fruit bomb like the blend, was a bit more complex with a more identifiable tannin structure. These were both delicious wines.
Basically, we have to agree with the critics on this one, but with about a point subtraction each. The critics rated them (in order that I listed the wines above) 90, 91, and 92 points. We’ll be giving them 89, 90, and 91. I don’t know if we’re just picky, but it seems we rarely give the same point score as the critics. But then, same with Gary V. on Wine Library TV. I’ve seen him up the point score, but this is a very rare occasion. We probably give the same score as the critics about 3-5% of the time, but typically not that far off otherwise (this is not intentional, we’re just being honest, after all, this blog is for our own “logging” of what we try, for our own purposes). But I digress. Prices paid, $10, $13, and $13.
We got lucky with this one. I’m not sure how K&L got it, but I think I got the only bottle.. which was at one time owned by a private party. There was even a message written on the bottle with a grease pen, which said "Enjoy this puppy in 10 years, [guy's name], and the date, which was in ’95. So, I think it was a gift back then. Not sure why it wasn’t enjoyed in 2005, but we enjoyed it at 16 years old, in 2008. It isn’t every day we get to drink 16 year old wine, so I jumped at the chance, since it was only $15 (the wine originally sold for $20).
It is a lightly filtered wine with some sentiment in the bottle. It was pretty dark – like a dark plum (on the outside). Aromatically it was pretty earthy and smoky with a little floral action mixed in… and you could smell the fruit, which was a mix of red and dark. The flavor was a good portion of the barrel, which I would guess was mostly used toasted french oak, along with a healthy dose of mostly black and some red fruit. It had near perfect acidity for most "regular" meals and not much tannins. The finish was about average, with mostly the fruit lingering behind.
Not that you’ll be able to find this wine anywhere at this point (or us), but if you do, and can get it for $20 or less, I say go for it. With this much age you never know what happened to the bottle, but its probably worth the risk. We enjoyed it.
Price: $15 (K&L Wines) $20 new
I read that this wine was a good example of the classic taste of Pinot Noir, and for only $11. How could I pass that up? Turns out, the reviews are right, it is a [pretty much] text book example of the Pinot Noir Variety. It isn’t special, but it is good, with nothing to complain about, and nothing to shout about. It is enjoyable by itself, or with not too strong flavored food… basically anything but BBQ. It has enough acidity to cut through some fat, and enough complex structure to compliment most meals. It has one component that I love in any wine and have been missing lately… black pepper. The wine has a light to medium body and flavors consist of mostly red fruit and fine tannins, and of course, black pepper. Strangely, right after opening the bottle we smelled a good dose of oak, which scared me, but it didn’t follow through to the palate fortunately. I did like the nose… mostly red fruit with a dose of floral aromas. It is a very balanced wine with a pretty long finish, considering it isn’t a very dense wine. All in all I’d recommend this wine to anyone who isn’t looking for a “stout” kind of wine, and isn’t looking to pair it with BBQ.
Price $11 (K&L Wines)
February 102004 Kirkham Peak McLaren Vale Shiraz
Color was dark ruby with a touch of purple. Aroma was of tar, red and black fruit, woody, and very floral. Mouth-feel is medium to heavy weight, light acid, very little tannins. It tastes of black cherry, plum, and rose petals primarily, and finishes with plum peel and edible flowers. Very drinkable, but nothing really special.