Bodegas Manzanos Voche Reserva 2013, Rioja DOCa, Spain

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I find Spanish wine to be the most consistent.  You always know what to expect and you know it will taste great- it’s my go-to in a pinch.  This particular bottle is short and squat, unlike any other wine bottle I have seen so I had to try it.  The wine is semi opaque and a nice shade of ruby.  On the nose it’s a medium intensity with aromas of stewed black plum, graphite, blackberry and that earthy/dusty quality I love in Riojas. The palate is dry and offers up rich blackberry, black plum, dust, charred wood and chocolate.  The tannins are grippy and the acidity is quite lithe.  I get black tea and earthy bramble on the mid plate and the finish is a dry affair with medium length.  Overall its a decent wine that I would cellar for another year or two unless you like them tannic.  It should drink well after that till 2028.  I’m pairing mine with Honey Bourbon London Broil.  90 points for this $40 wine makes it a 4 star effort.  Salut….

Ixsir Altitudes Rouge 2016, Batroun, Lebanon

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It’s Middle Eastern cuisine tonight so I pulled out this Lebanese blend of 35% Cab Sav, 26% Caladoc (?), 22% Syrah and 17% Tempranillo.  Interesting varietals all mixed together.  The wine itself is semi opaque in the glass and has medium intensity aromas of red currants, raspberry, blackberry and cloves.  The palate is dry but has a blackberry jam sweetness to it, I doubt there’s any residual sugar here, it just tastes that way.  The black and red fruit components are well balanced with the lithe tannins and medium acidity.  There is a black tea hint on the mid-palate and I also get charcoal on the back end.  The finish is mid length and tasty.  There is a medium weight body to this wine and good mouthfeel.  I am enjoying it and think it’s a 90 pointer that gets 5 stars for the reasonable $15 price point.  Drink till 2025 with grilled meats aka shish kebab!  Salut….

Two Hands Wines Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2016, Barossa Valley, Australia

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I’ve been a fan of this winery for many years.  In fact I have written about several wines from them and each one got a glowing review.  I just realized that this bottling  is named after the founder’s daughter who is but 3 days older than my youngest son, Jet.  This vintage runs a little less ABV than previous, 14.2%.  In the glass it is deep purple and showing youth rather than maturity.  The nose is very pronounced with aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant and white pepper.  There’s oak for sure, it’s just seamless and presents itself in vanilla and perhaps some chocolate notes.  As I swirl the flavor profile shifts towards blue fruit- think blueberry and plum.  There is a sweetness to this wine that might manifest into a jammy component on the palate- let’s see.

On the initial attack I get blueberry cobbler, vanilla, grippy tannins, juicy acidity and ever so slight jamminess.  It’s not overly thick like some Aussie Shirtaz-bombs can be, more subtle.  I get a distinct smoky note which is actually not playing well into my aspirations, it’s a bit disjointed.  The mid palate is quite dry and the finish is definitely where the tannins are showing up.  It’s quite a long affair with plenty of fruit flavors, but the grip is very present.  I like it.  This wine will pair well with my char-grilled strip steak and Chorizo sausages.  I think it drinks nicely now and will continue to evolve and get better with time.  Cellar or drink till 2028 for this 91 point wine that gets 4 stars for it’s $55 entry fee.  Salut….

Gen F Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, California

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Semi opaque in the glass- this Cabernet has lithe legs, an indicator of the lower 13.5% ABV?  On the nose I get quite a few things going on- black cherry, black plum, toasty oak notes, bramble, eucalyptus, and tomato leaf.  It’s quite complex and sweet smelling.  The palate is dry, smooth and very balanced with lithe tannins and medium acidity.  The dark fruit flavors are evident and the mouthfeel is great.  The very judicious oak use is appreciated.  The freshness of the lush fruit carries on to the medium finish that  is very smooth.  I really like the very gentle tannins here as I am not pairing with any food and did not want a tannic, astringent wine.  Definitely a sipping wine that could work with lighter fare- roast chicken, veal scallopini, even fettuccine Alfredo.  I am really enjoying this $25 wine but get black fruit instead of red, per the label.  I guess the flavors have mutated in the 6 years since it was made. 91 points from me and 5 stars.  Drink till 2027.  Salut….

Michael David Winery Petite Petit 2018, Lodi, California

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Moxie and I were at a resort in Texas this past weekend.  Our last night was spent at the flagship restaurant where we dined on their speciality- Chicken Fried Lobster.  Choosing a wine before ordering the main course is always a bit of a challenge but I saw this label and remembered enjoying the 2014 vintage so it was a no-brainer.  Petite Sirah is my current flavor of the day varietal, I love its richness, the jammy black fruits, the medium tannins and the full body.  This bottle did not disappoint.  I took zero notes, reveling in its silky smoothness and full flavor profile.  One thing I will say about the eventual pairing:  it worked beautifully.  The wine really made the crunchy Lobster pop in my mouth.  I cannot explain it, just to say I would do it over again.  At $14 per bottle, this 91 point wine is a steal.  If ever in doubt at a restaurant, any Michael David Winery bottle will get you gratification at a fair price.  5 stars.  Salut….

Spicewood Vineyards Winery

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Moxie and I took a trip to Austin and a nearby resort recently. On our drive out of town, headed to Hill Country we stopped at this quaint winery and enjoyed the wares. The drive off the main road was down a near-single lane country road with cattle fencing and massive Texas cows.  We ended up drinking most of the offerings which seem to have Tempranillo as the common varietal.  My favorite was the Cabernet/Merlot blend and we did not care for the sparkling wines- way too yeasty.  The winery offers a tasting of grapes grown on property or wines from sourced fruit.  Overall it was a very pleasant afternoon, lazing around with a full glass of red after working through the list.  I gave rough scores and tried some note taking but in the end these are 85-87 point wines that retail for between $20-$40+.  A fun place to go if you are in the area.  Salut….

Xavier Vignon Arcane XIX Le Soleil 2015, Cotes du Rhone, France

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Fall has kicked off, and with the chillier weather I feel the need for some heart-warming fare.  Cassoulet is on the books and it requires a hearty French red in my opinion.   This wine is a Grenache based blend with some Syrah and Mourvedre that packs a 15% ABV punch and is pretty opaque in the glass.  Ruby in color, it looks a touch cloudy.  On the nose I get white pepper, red plum, red cherry, coffee and charred wood.  The palate is delicious- raspberry and red cherry with lush oak by way of coffee and charcoal.  White pepper notes come out on the mid palate where the tannins start to gently grip.  The acidity is finely balanced and the mouthfeel is great.  Medium to full bodied, this wine has depth and complexity.  The finish is mid length and really shows off the red fruit and tannins.  I am enjoying this wine pre-dinner but think it will go well with my pairing.  Other ideas would be grilled chops, hearty stews or the obvious- a thick steak.  Drink this rather young wine till 2028.  91 points from me and at $27 a pop, 5 stars.  Salut….

Nysa Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, Oregon

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When pairing Asian food, there are so many variables- spice, complexity and flavor profiles to mention a few. Tonight we are making self-rolled Vietnamese style wraps with choices of ground chicken, thin grilled beef or steamed shrimp to go alongside the myriad of veggies that all get wrapped into a thin rice paper and adorned with sweet or spicy sauces.  I figured a lighter wine would carry the freshness of the meal better than a big, tannic monster so Pinot was the obvious choice.

This Oregonian wine is see-through and a nice shade of ruby, perhaps even starting to turn garnet (it is 7 years old by now).  The nose has fresh aromas of strawberry, red cherry, cinnamon, cedar and raspberry coulis.  On the palate it is spectacular- rich with warm red fruit alongside spicebox, cedar and cinnamon.  Gentle acidity, low tannins and a relatively full body make for a great mouthfeel that will pair as hoped.  It is drinking beautifully right now and will continue to do so until 2026 at the least.  92 points from me and at $75 per bottle, 4 stars.  Salut….

 

Vega de Yuso ‘Virtus’ Riserva 2014, Ribera del Duero, Spain

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I have a lineup of wines that are waiting to be tasted, I call them the ‘bench wines’.  Tonight’s dinner is a vegetable tart with tomato reduction so I could go anywhere as far as region or varietal.  I asked Moxie to choose one, she stated ‘Number 5″.  This Tempranillo might just hit the spot.  Rich, bold, earthy and probably a great choice for the puff pastry shrouded veggies that have been caramelizing in the oven.

In the glass it is very opaque- deep purple to be precise. The 15% ABV is evident by the thick legs on the glass walls.  On the nose I get spicy oak, earthy bramble, rich blackberry, blackcurrant and roasted coffee.  There is a whiff of heat, but not obnoxiously overpowering.  There is complexity to this nose that I can’t wait to taste.  On the palate it is all I hoped for, classic Spanish Tempranillo- rich black fruit, good acidity, full body and grippy tannins that make for a great mouthfeel and long finish.  The blackberry fruit is almost jammy and somewhat hides the coffee I got earlier but it re-appears on the back end.  Good oak integration here folks, not overdone yet present.  I believe it scored highly with a commensurate price north of fifty bones.  For me, it’s a 92 pointer that gets 5 stars cause I got it for $20.  Drink till 2030 with grilled meat.  Salut….

Comartin Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel 2018, Lodi, California

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Smoked beef brisket is a tough pairing- the flavors are so rich and smoky that the wine needs to have spice, body and high levels of alcohol.  A Zinfandel seems as close as possible to the perfect match.  This one is semi opaque with thick legs showing off its 14.8% ABV.  The nose is very aromatic- rich red fruits, spice, black and white pepper alongside toasty oak.  The palate is very full bodied with great balance between the rich fruit, medium tannins and medium acidity.  Ripe raspberry, redcurrant jam, white pepper and blackberry flavors are all present.  It’s not a blockbuster in style but its rich fruit is very enticing.  I dig this wine and for $30 it’s a good drop that gets 91 points from me and 5 stars.  Drink till 2027.  Salut….