Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 2015, Clare Valley, Australia

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To say I am excited about today’s tasting would be an understatement.  Many years ago, I discovered this Shiraz in a wine shop in Anchorage, Alaska.  The local restaurant also carried it so it was easy to avail myself of this heady Shiraz, the little brother to the iconic Armagh.  I have searched high and low for over 10 years, until today.  Nestled into a corner of the local wine shop in Hong Kong were 5 bottles.  I’m trying this one out and will return for the others if it works out.  Here goes….

It has changed with the absence of a cork, replaced with the ease of a screw cap.  Fully opaque, dark and brooding…  Like I remember.  The nose offers up sweet damson,  charred oak, plums and lilac.  I get a little blackberry jam note as well.  The palate is as I remember- rich, deep, layered and chock full of flavors.  It’s a lighter, less jammy version of the older ones which makes it a bit fresher and easier to drink.  Blackberries, delicious oak, blueberry pie and vanilla all swirl around the palate.  There is a very gradual introduction to the tannins, which are super fine grained and not very obtrusive.  This wine has a very lush mouthfeel, it coats my gums and palate with delicious dark fruits from the front to the back.  The astringency is well in check and there is a touch of acidity that keeps it fresh.  This wine is a pleasure to drink, I am loving it.  I would imagine it would pair beautifully with Filet and Bearnaise, or you can just sip it alone like I am.  93 points from me for this $38 effort that gets 5 stars from me.  Drink till 2029.  Salut….

Luc Pirlet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, IGP Pays d’Oc, France

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Pretty purple color with long legs showing.  On the nose it is enticing with blackberry, cola, toasty oak and black cherry.  The palate echoes those dark notes alongside juicy acidity and tight grained tannins.  There’s an inky component on the mid palate and those tannins just keep on going.  The finish has some licorice alongside black cherry and that oak note.  It’s a very pleasurable wine with nice, young mouthfeel that will entertain a hearty meal, steaks, pasta or some rich cheese.  I really like it and for $12, would stock some for a dark stormy night to sip on by the fire.  Drink till 2026.  90 points and 5 stars.  Salut….

Kirkland Signature 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal

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I was at the world’s largest wine retailer the other day and saw their house brand Port.  They have a good reputation for picking decent items, so I thought I would give it a try for the $20 entrance fee.  It’s tawny all right.  It’s almost orange-purple and very see-through in the glass.  The nose offers up raisins, plum paste, Christmas cake and figs.  On the palate it is quite young and a touch thin.  There is a certain nuttiness that I’m enjoying.  There’s a warm toffee meets hazelnut note on the midpalate that I’m liking and the heat of the 20% alcohol is a welcome addition to the mix.  Dried figs come out on the finish alongside some very deep grained tannins.  A great mouthfeel.  I didn’t love this wine off the bat but it has grown on me.  90 points and 5 stars.  Salut….

Boeckel Riesling Wibelsberg 2016, Alsace Grand Cru, France

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Quite pale yellow in the glass with fine grained legs belying it’s 13% alcohol. On the nose I get lemon zest, minerality and slate.  I’m expecting a cutting wine versus a sweet version of this varietal.  On the palate I was wrong, it’s not tart, bracing or edgy.  It has a warmth that surrounds yellow apples with lemon curd.  The acidity is well in check but still obviously present.  There’s a raw lemon component that appears on the midpalate and there is a nuttiness too.  The mouthfeel transitions to a racier version with some nice honeyed notes on the mid-length finish.  Very tasty and flexible, this one is going to pair nicely with my blackened salmon.  Drink till 2030.  90 points and 4 stars for this $25 effort.  (The pro’s went way higher BTW).  Salut….

Vieux Chateau des Combes 2015, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, France

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Dark and brooding in the glass.  The nose offers up sweet blackberries, vanilla bean and tea.  On the palate that blackberry component is straight up in your face.  Lithe tannins are the second wave and then I get a wood note, well integrated.  The mid palate continues that dark berry theme alongside more astringent tea.  There’s a plum jam component that I get on the back end that adds to the equation, as well as some long toothed tannins that keep on delivering that mouth puckering goodness.  This wine is young but approachable if you like it this way.  You could cellar till 2022, or go for it now.  Drink till 2030.  90 points and for the $22 I paid- 5 stars.  Salut….

Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay 2014, Santa Cruz Mountains, USA

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Bright yellow/gold in the glass, a stunning color.  On the nose- creme brûlée, yellow apple, almond shavings… super complex.  The palate brings me back to reality.  Apple, pineapple and a nice acidic bite transition me to a midpalate of waxy apple, nutmeg and pineapple.  The finish has me wondering what is making my gums feel dry.  Acidity is on pointe and the creme brûlée reappears.  Fantastic wine.  93 points and for $55 I have to go with 5 stars.  It’s not for everyday, cellar a bottle or two and open on a special occasion- mine was Thanksgiving.  Salut….

Cellar Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica Old Vines 2016, Montsant, Spain

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Medium opacity with good purple color and very fine-stranded legs. The nose is dark.  Blackberry, hoisin, raisins and cinnamon.  On the palate it’s slightly lighter- sweet black cherries, violets and creosote.  Very lithe tannins sneak up on me and the mid palate becomes a mouth puckering event that allows waves of black cherry to mingle with rooibos tea and tar.  The tannic grip is further highlighted on the finish.  Evergreen, black tea and blackberries surrounded by that astringency take me to a medium length ending that has my mouth watering.  Delicious, youthful and cellarworthy.  This wine is versatile in its power and flavor profile.  Really yummy and worthy of 92 points from me.  One pro went as high as 94!  Great stuff for $11, a steal really.  Drink till 2026.  5 stars for sure for this 85% Grenache/15% Syrah blend.  Salut….

Bodegas Illana ‘Casa de Illana’ Tres de Cinco Crianza 2016, Ribera del Jucar, Spain

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A blend of 36% Petit Verdot, 28% Syrah, 20% Cab Sav and 16% Boral (Never heard of her)- got me excited to try this Spanish red that is a medium opacity purple in the glass.  On the nose it is reminds me of wild fruit, damson, red licorice and bramble.  There is a dustiness that is typical for Rioja’s but I have no experience with this appellation- Ribera del Jucar.  The initial palate is really nice with purple fruits galore.  Plum reduction, black cherry and really crispy tannins.  The structure is very solid with fine acidity balancing the tannic bite.  The mid palate has iodine and more black cherry with a touch of charcoal.  The finish is long and dry, the tannins starting to get hold of the gums.  It’s a nice feeling that I am enjoying for a good 30-45 seconds.  I like the combination of the blend, the Petit Verdot giving a nice backbone and some floral hints throughout.  Well made and drinkable till 2028 with some pasta, perhaps Strip Steak or even Osso Bucco.  91 points from me and 5 stars for this $13 gem.  Salut….

Los Clop Paraje Altamira Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Mendoza, Argentina

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Medium intensity purple in the glass with a nose of black cherries, eucalyptus and iodine.  The palate gives me a dry, tart opening of blackberry reduction coupled with balsamic and that iodine note.  The mid palate is very dry with the tannins coating my gums.  Black fruits and Ribena are prominent.  The finish is decent length with the tannins really gripping.  There’s black cherry and a hint of oak back there amongst the black tea reduction.  Well crafted and built for the long haul.  Drink now if you like em dry or cellar for 3 years, until 2029.  91 points.  For $30, this wine gets 4 stars.  Salut….

Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mouton Cadet 2016, Bordeaux, France

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It’s been a while since I drank some of this old perennial favorite.  This vintage shows dark purple in the glass.  On the nose- charcoal, blackberry and fig.  The palate is very pleasant and easy drinking.  There are blackberry notes, tar, wintergreen and crunchy tannins.  They dry the gums immediately but not excessively.  The mid palate is much the same, black fruits abound.  The tannins really go the distance and lead me to the finish of blackberry pie meets a slate.  There is quite a bit of minerality alongside the tannic thrust.  The wine is well balanced and well made.  There’s a reason I drank a crapload of it in the early days, it offers good value for money.  Drink till 2025 with a nice NY Strip and creamed spinach.  I’m going 88 points and 5 stars for $9. Salut….