Penner-Ash Wine Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017, Oregon, USA

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The star of the #7 virtual wine tasting event was this Pinot Noir for most of the attendees.  Dark cherry, cedar, cola, forest floor, chocolate, pepper, Rooibos tea, nutmeg cloves and Intensity were all mentioned.

I found this wine to be more of my style in Pinot offerings.  A blend of Old and New world, fruity yet earthy.  Not over the top, but still powerful and elegant.  I love drinking Pinots in the summer, it’s a great time for a more restrained wine before we get into the cold weather and big heavy Cabs.  This wine would pair beautifully with pork, a roast chicken, filet or even a mushroom tart.  Loved it.  92 points from me and at $35, 5 stars and a buy-by-case recommendation.  Drink till 2027.  Salut….

Chateau de Poncie Fleurie ‘Le Pre Roi’ 2016, Beaujolais, France

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My Virtual Wine Tasting Company is a group of friends who taste wines every two weeks or so.  The goal for me is to introduce new varietals and regions to them and try to educate as best I can with my knowledge and experience.  At the #7 tasting I presented the Gamay grape.  No one realized that Beaujolais wines were made from this grape.  We discussed regular maceration versus cold maceration and finally I talked about Carbonic Maceration used to produce the Nouveau Beaujolais.  I pre-empted the tasting with a few pointers on Gamay wines- they are very low in tannins and acidity, do not generally cellar past 6 years for Cru wines and are drunk in abundance in the French Bistros.  It is a lively, very fruity wine that is extremely easy to drink.  Some can present decent complexity, most are basic wines.  I chose this Cru that has a bit of age on it and is drinking nicely now.  It was exactly what I was hoping it would be, an elegant introduction to the varietal.  Some loved it, others hated it.  Each to his own.

Gamy, cranberry, pepper, black cherry, blueberry and mocha were all mentioned by the tasters.  The wine has little tannic grip but one can sense a tinge of acidity.  Most expected a sweet wine, but I mentioned that the Gamay grape is very fruity, hence the  expectation once they sniffed.  This wine gets 89 points from me, the only detractor being it’s cellaring potential.  I really liked it and will buy more at the $22 price point.  It gets 4 stars from me.  Drink now.  Salut….

F E Trimbach Riesling 2017, Alsace, France

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The second wine of our #7 virtual wine tasting was very disappointing.  I ordered this Trimbach having really enjoyed it before, the reviews were great and the brand is solid.  No one in the tasting group enjoyed either the room temp version nor the chilled.

Paint thinner, petrol, pine, grass and pineapple were descriptors that we heard.  Personally I found the wine disjointed, the nose muted and the flavors were just off.  I am going to re-taste tonight but don’t have much hope.  Interestingly, I tasted the 2013 Riesling twice in 2017 and had very different tasting notes, but they were both consistent 90 point wines.  This one is 86, and at $17 it’s a 2 point wine.  Salut….

Charles Smith CasaSmith ‘Vino’ Evergreen Vineyard Pinot Grigio 2018, Columbia Valley, USA

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This was our first wine at the #7 virtual tasting event.  It turned out to be my wine of the night.  Charles Smith makes good wine, and is very reasonable.  I’m a fan and was happy this wine rocked.

We tasted the wine at room temp and chilled.  I preferred the room temp wine as it had a far wider nose, more generous fruit flavors and was more complex.  The chilled version was still very good.  Apples, lemon, pineapple and pear notes were recorded with the first tasting while Granny Smith apples, honeysuckle and more acidity were noted with the chilled version.  It’s difficult for me to do a proper tasting while conducting the virtual tastings but this wine gets an overall score of 91 from me.  At $12 per bottle this needs to bought by the case, 5 stars.  Drink till 2023.  Salut….

Slang Wines Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma County, California

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It’s a broody looking Pinot, dark shade of purple and semi opaque in the glass.  The nose is clearly New World in style.  Ripe cranberry, rich cherry coulis and cloves.  On the palate it’s a touch sweet- like cherry jam and pomegranate syrup.  It’s got an intense spiciness that I am enjoying to go alongside the sweetness.  There is an underlying level of heat that I only sense on the mid palate- the 14.4% alcohol being well masked.  I also get a touch of fizziness which is intriguing.  The finish shows off some lithe tannins and more cherry coulis.  There’s a modicum of oak present that I am enjoying but I also get a touch of tartness, not from acidity, that is nagging at me.  Right at the end is where the acidity kicks in on the medium length finish.  Overall, not a bad drop to alongside T-Bones and hand cut fries with Bearnais.  I am giving this wine 90 points with a drinking window of 2020-2026.  No pricing info available as it was given to me by a friend.  Salut….

Jim Barry ‘The Barry Bros’ 2015, Clare Valley, Australia

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I was super excited to see this wine for sale being a huge fan of their Shiraz lineup.  This one is more on the budget side and includes a dollop (31%) of Cabernet Sauvignon and a hint(4%) of Malbec- here goes.

Dark purple, opaque but not showing legs in the glass.  The nose is briary with some poached plums, a touch of charred wood and coffee bean.  The palate is very rich with black fruits, cedar box, leather and espresso.  There is a hint of tannins, but loads of acidity.  Very tart on the mid palate but refreshing.  I start to get sour blueberry as well as the black fruit compote, leading to a bit of mouth watering.  A very interesting melange of flavors and mouthfeel.  The finish is medium length, tasty and really juicy. The black fruit theme continues as does that charred note.  It’s a very fruit forward wine meant to enjoyed in the short term.  It’s no Armagh or MacRae Wood- but it has evidence of deft winemaking and decent fruit.  Enjoy till 2023 with grilled steaks.  89 points from me and 5 stars for this $15 effort.  Salut….

Gundlach-Bundschu Estate Vineyard Merlot 2016, Sonoma Valley, USA

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Pretty dark and broody in the glass.  The nose gives me leather, smoke and a touch of oak alongside dark plums.  The palate is a bit obscure, the fruit is battling with a volatility that’s throwing me off.  I do get Charcoal, blackberries, more plum and that smoky leathery component.  It’s a rather interesting combo that really takes off on the mid palate, where the wine finally comes together.  Medium grade tannins don’t punish the gums but give the wine a nice structure.  They caress over the decent length finish that has a long, dry presence to go with the black berry and charcoal notes I tasted.  Overall this wine was much better on night 2, after the Virtual tasting #6.  I’m going 89 points and for $29 it gets 3 stars.  Drink till 2024.  Salut….

Hartford Family Winery Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018, Sonoma County, USA

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Typical for the varietal, it shows a semi opaque light purple color in the glass.  The nose is stunning- cherries, cinnamon, blackberry.  On the palate this wine is fruity, New World in style but somewhat restrained.  Red fruit galore, some pepper and a hint of upfront acidity.  The midpalate gives me cherry jam, some cedar and an intro to the very lithe tannins.  This is some lip smacking juice people, absolutely delicious with a very nice mouthfeel and great balance.  The finish is medium in length, juicy with some sour cherry and mid length.  For $30 this is a great Pinot from one of my favorite wine making regions, the Russian River Valley.  92 points from me and 5 stars, buy it by the case.  Drink till 2030.  Salut….

Domäne Wachau – Freie Weingartner Terrassen Gruner Veltliner Federspiel 2018, Wachau, Austria

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Pale shade of yellow, this Austrian native kicked off the Virtual Wine Tasting Company’s 6th event.  We drank it at room temp as well as chilled.  I did not think it performed well at the tasting and am now re-tasting the following night indoors.  The nose exhibits tons of citrus, some lanolin and green apple.  The palate has minerality and a nice acidic cut.  Lemon/lime like a 7-Up alongside an austere green streak that make this a very sharp wine.  It cuts in the right places and refreshes as it goes.  I did not care for it initially, but I now think it fits the billing for a decent, inexpensive Gruner.  The finish is very refreshing and would pair well with seafood, perhaps a spicy Arrabiata but it will shine poolside on a hot day.  88 points and 3 stars for this $15 white.  Salut….

Chateau Musar 1998, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

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I bought two Magnums of the 1998 vintage from the winery, back in 2009.  This particular bottle was opened for a Middle Eastern themed dinner of Meze and Shish Kebabs.  Being a huge fan of Chateau Musar, I could hardly contain myself.  My cellaring proved worthwhile.

Semi opaque with a touch of orange bricking which I see on every bottle I have drunk, regardless of age. On the nose- classic Musar. Cherry reduction, cinnamon, integrated oak, spice box and dried cranberry. On the palate it is super smooth, with red fruit compote, cherry and tobacco.  The mid palate is really juicy with nice acidity.  A faint note of super integrated tannins are evident.  This 22 year old wine is still young. The finish is long, with cranberries, more cherry and complex flavors melding.  I find that Musar has a consistent flavor reminiscent of Brettanomyces (Brett), which gives it a peculiar barnyard note.  It is controlled and in such a low dose that it adds flavor, complexity and signature to this iconic brand.  I am giving this wine 94 points, drink till 2040.  Found online for $80, it’s a 5 star wine that you really should look for.  Spectacular, but not to everyone’s taste.  The Cinsault dominates the flavors, with Cab Sav and Carignan supporting.  Shish Kebabs are an obvious pairing!  Salut….