Domaine Serene ‘Yamhill Cuvee’ Pinot Noir 2016, Willamette Valley, USA

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This was the star of the 4th Virtual Wine Tasting.  I would normally taste a Pinot Noir right after the whites/Rosès and well before a hearty Merlot- but this wine was the ringer.  I knew it would be the overall favorite so I wanted it to come last and stand on it’s own merits.  It was stunning.  It showed very nicely in the glass, see through with medium shades of purple.  On the nose I immediately got the telltale cherry.  Others noted cinnamon, chocolate and strawberry.  It was not heavily tilted on any one component, rather a very nice melangè of all the smells.  On the palate it showed off black cherry, spice box, cedar in the form of cigar box.  Fine grained tannins and a very balanced acidity made this wine very balanced and gave it a nice crisp mouthfeel.  Many in the group did not like some of the tannic wines- this one was right up their alley.  Pinot, being such a delicate and light grape is difficult to grow and make into a balanced and delicious offering- once again this winery has done it very nicely.  This cuvee is their lower priced offering that hits on all cylinders.   I am going with 91 points and 5 stars for this $45 beaut.  Drink till 2028 with lighter fare.  Salut….

Tenuta di Nozzole Riserva 2016, Chianti Classico DOCG, Italy

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For thew 4th Virtual Tasting event I wanted a Sangiovese to go alongside the Pinot Noir I was planning to showcase.  I find the two varietals very similar in many traits, so the the challenge was to find a decent, ready to drink Chianti that hopefully would show off the core characteristics of the grape.  This one turned out to be too young, subdued and not very forthcoming with fruit albeit with strong structure.  It scored well with the pros but came in a very disappointing last place overall amongst our group.  The wine showed well in the glass, more opaque than I had expected but the nose was very hard to coax any cherry flavors out of.  Moxie noted salt on her initial sniff.  It did not open up much on the palate but did have a tannic backbone masking the fruit.  Acidity was medium but not overpowering.  I remember thinking this wine had a good dose of oak, charcoal and tobacco.  I did not write up any further notes but remember  the finish was not very satisfying or long.  It’s a shame as the big boys averaged 92 points.  I feel it might need a re-tasting in the future once it has mellowed out.  I will reserve judgement for now.  I paid $23 which would have technically made it a 5 star wine.  Salut….

Cameron Hughes Lot 680 Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Marlborough, New Zealand

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This wine kicked off our 4th Virtual Wine Tasting.   As in the past, I had all the attendees reserve half the bottle at room temperature and the other half chilled.  My brief notes include a very nice shade of light gold in the glass.  The nose was very floral and included grapefruit, citrus, green apple and pear.  The palate was very much in line with the nose and had a modicum of tangy acidity, citrus and floral notes with a decent length finish.  The room temperature version offered a much fuller nose, more emphasis on the flowers while the chilled version focused on the citrus and acidic components.  Both were delicious but I preferred the cold version whilst scoring the room temp slightly higher using my own 20 point scale.  Interestingly, the nose of this wine did not exhibit the telltale cat pee aromas that I usually note in Kiwi Sav-Blancs.  I don’t necessarily miss it, but I was hoping to showcase it as a prominent feature of the varietal from this region.  The wine did display some nice minerality that is reminiscent of a French Sancerre.  I am going with 90 points and 5 stars for this $14 deal.  Try and stock up for the hot summer and pair it with steamed shrimp, grilled fish or chicken breast and salad.  Drink till 2024.  Salut….

Barboursville Vineyards Phileo NV, Monticello, USA

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Very pale yellow in the glass.  The nose is very floral with strong peach and apricot notes. I also get walnut shells.  On the palate this wine is very sweet- but not unctuous like a Sauternes.  It’s got a silky mouthfeel but is quite refreshing as a chilled wine.  Mango, passion fruit and peach all hit my tastebuds.  There’s a very small trace of acidity which lends body to the mid palate.  It’s a unique wine for sure- a cross between Riesling, a big Napa Chard, Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Grigio.  Each of which give either to the flavors or the unique mouthfeel.  Lychees and tropical fruits are the finish, which is decent in length on this Moscato blend.  They say to pair this with dessert- without a doubt.  It’s working as an aperitif for me though.  Unique style, interesting flavors and the ability to start or finish an evening make this a special wine.  I love this winery and think this is a bottle you should look for.  89 points and 5 stars for this $15 treat.  Salut….

Clarendon Hills Piggott Range Syrah 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia

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I love this winery, they make very Old World style Syrah in Australia that is very rich, extracted but not jammy.  This one happens to be a younger version of the 2006 Syrah.

It’s very inky and opaque in the glass.  The nose is brooding, and the 14.5% alcohol is evident.  Black plums, dark fruit melange and spicy oak are all present.  With a good deal more swirling I get violets, Boysenberry and a charred note.  On the palate it is very juicy right off the bat.  Figs, blackberry and espresso hit my palate alongside some slightly green tannins and a nice acidic cut.  The mid palate is quite focused on that tartness alongside a blueberry meets plum note.  Tannins take a step back while the acidity plays lead.  The finish is long, mouthwatering and modestly dry.  Black fruits dominate the back end with some Mocha, licorice and that burnt wood note.  I think I preferred the 2006, but this is a very tasty wine that I feel is acid dominated and slightly off balance.  Drink till 2026.  For $100, it’s quite pricy which gets 92 points and 4 stars from me.  Salut….

Vina Almaviva 2006, Puente Alto, Chile

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At 14 years of age this beauty is showing well in the glass.  Dark purple, opaque and leggy.  The cork was very soft so I had to pressurize it out, the corkscrew was going to crumble it otherwise.  On the nose I get blackberries, cigar box, plum and black licorice.  The initial palate is stunning- blue and blackberry ganache, cassis, leather, cedar and oregano.  Sublime tannins are ever present but very integrated.  The mid palate picks up some lapsang souchong tea, espresso and mocha.  The finish is finely balanced between the great tannins and a beautiful acidity that makes my jaw water on the long finish.  This is a sublime wine that has mellowed and matured to a great pinnacle.  Drink this wine by itself or pair it with char-grilled steaks and garlic mash.  95 points and 4 stars for this $140 blend of Cab Sav, Carmenere, Cab Franc and Merlot.  Drink till 2025.  Salut….

Cameron Hughes Cinergi Red Blend 2018, Lodi, California

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The second wine of our virtual tasting was this Lodi blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Cab Sav.  The nose was magnificent- lush, jammy blackberry, cocoa, dark plums.  The palate was a different matter.  We all immediately sensed a certain sweetness that we were not expecting.  The wine is very fruity and concentrated with loads of black fruits.  Tannins are apparent but not overbearing and there is a decent level of acidity to make for a nice mouthfeel.  The cloying fruit however was a detractor for many in the group.  Funnily enough, it was voted the best wine by a third of the attendees.  I guess that sweetness appeals to some but not all.  Each to his own.  For me it was an 86 point wine that I feel was a little too manufactured and lacked finesse relying heavily on gobs of jammy fruit.  Drink now.  For $14 it gets 3 stars.  Salut….

Cameron Hughes Lot 719 Rosé 2018, Mediteranée

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This Rosé started our third virtual wine tasting with friends.  I had everyone reserve half the bottle in another container at room temperature and the remainder in the fridge to be served chilled.  It was a gorgeous evening and all parties were on their respective patios with cheese and crackers at the ready.  We started off with the chilled version which I found to have a nice pinkish hue, good nose of strawberry, rhubarb and a touch of citrus.  The palate was very refreshing, lithe with some nice acidity exhibiting strawberry and red berry notes.  The room temperature version had a much fuller nose but was very flabby on the palate.  I enjoyed the chilled one more and would forgo some of the nose in return for that crisper body and more succinct flavor profile.  It’s an interesting experiment to try with whites and Rosès.  Overall I thought it was a nice drop which gets 87 points from me.  For $13 it’s a nice summer wine to have on hand, 3 stars.  Drink now.  Salut….

Clarendon Hills Brookman Merlot 2010, South Australia

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A slightly murky purple in the glass, which I find normal for this winery and their older vintages.  The nose is interesting, if not a touch gamy.  Ripe plums, violets, blackberry ganache and bacon fat.  On the palate it’s much more ‘normal’.  Mature purple fruits, black cherry kirsch, oak and stewed plum.  I also get some smoky wood notes that carry me into the mid palate where I’m greeted by some tame tannins that just add a nice touch of dryness to the gums.  More black fruits and tobacco. The finish is quite dry but not astringent.  The fruit fades quickly and the wine does show a balance of acidity.  It’s all black tea, dry gums and some blackberries.  Overall it’s tasty but lacks technical merit.  At 10 years of aging it should be showing stronger, perhaps this vintage peaked early.  I’m a huge fan of this winery, this being the first Merlot I have tried from them.  It’s a bit of a disappoint but still gets 90 points from me.  I was hoping for a showstopper.  Drink till 2025. $28 and 3 stars.   Salut….

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou ‘La Croix de Beaucaillou’ 2010, Saint-Julien, France

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It’s inky, brooding, opaque and shows fine legs in the glass.  On the nose I get graphite, plums, oaky vanilla and cedar.  On the palate there are black currants, green plums, black tea and dry tannins.  The mid palate is very astringent with more tea, strange tannins, some black fruit and not much acidity.  I’m not enjoying this wine very much, too off-balance and way too dry without fruit to back it up.  The finish is very dark and austere- over-steeped tea, some plums and a woodsy note.  The grip of the tannins hold on for a while but the fruit fades quickly.  Overall a disappointing wine from a great Bordeaux vintage.  86 points from me, the pros went much higher but I don’t see it.  It may mellow out in the near future.  Drink till 2025.  For $75 it gets  1 star and a pass from yours truly.  Salut….