St. Audette Nuit Pinot Noir 2019, Pays d’Oc, France

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This Pinot hails from the Pays d’Oc region in France. It is light purple and see through. The nose has light red fruit notes, boysenberry and a dusty earth component. On the palate it is richer than expected. Red raspberry, bramble and a cherry reduction with some lithe acidity greet me. The mid palate continues the red fruit theme with just a hint of tannin. The finish is very smooth and nicely balanced. Although not a very complex wine, it has some weight and good fruit flavor to handle many dishes. Roast chicken comes to mind, as does Salmon on the grill. I would drink till 2023. 90 points and for $20 it gets 4 stars. Salut….

Tasca d’Almerita Tenuta Regaleali Cabernet Sauvignon Sicilia IGT 2016, Sicily, Italy

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The finale for the 12th virtual wine tasting was a stunner. Dark purple, opaque and very powerful on the nose. Spice box, vanilla, cocoa powder, black cherry and jam were all noted as was, dare I say- plastic and banana. The palate gave us black fruit jam, black tea bursting with beautiful tannins that really coated the mouth. This wine was delicious and I made note that the oak use was very judicious and well played. There was a shot of pepper on the short finish, which took a few points off the table. Still young, it will develop nicely and drink well till 2030. I’m going lower than the pros with 92 points and 5 stars. $50 is not cheap, but this wine has loads of stuffing to it and will get better with time. Salut….

Pulenta Estate Malbec I 2017, Agrelo, Argentina

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This Malbec was the Wine of the Night (WOTN) for many at the 12th virtual wine tasting. We enjoyed menthol, lilac, raspberry, Damson plum, smoke tar, leather, violets and gravel on the nose. That’s a lot of descriptors. On the palate it is very fruity with just enough tannic grip to give it structure. Plums, dark fruit, licorice and ‘Cognac’ flavors were noted and I felt the wine had a jammy concentration to it. There was a definitive jab of acidity on the decent length finish and the wine had a very pleasing mouthfeel. It was elegant and full of flavor making it the go-to drink after the tasting was over. Well made and worthy of 92 points from me which gets it 5 stars for the $25 price tag. Drink till 2025. Salut….

Xavier Vins SM NV, Cotes du Rhone, France

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The second wine of the 12th virtual wine tasting was this NV blend of Grenache and Syrah. Semi opaque in the glass it had a medium purple shade. The tasters noted chocolate, white pepper, Kirsch, marshmallow s’mores, dark cherry, cedar, charcoal with earth, funk, spice and a nutty component. On the palate the wine had black pepper, lots of it. Cedar, cola, Birch and black cherry. For me, the tannins came out of nowhere to a big crescendo on the finish. The pepper component was a hit with some, for others it was just a tad overpowering. This wine was ranked very highly with the pros and cost us $23. I am giving it 89 points and 3 stars. Drink till 2022 (this wine is a mixed vintage of 2015/16). Salut….

San Antonio Winery San Simeon Viognier 2018, Paso Robles, California

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At the 12th virtual wine tasting we drank this Viognier at room temp first and then chilled. As usual there is a marked difference in both smell and taste, but this time I preferred the chilled version- it seemed more focused on fewer key flavors, the warm version was all over the place. Here are some of the notes I recorded from the group.

Pale gold, straw or even Goldenrod in the glass. The nose has a sweetness to it with orange, honey, apricot, pear and floral notes. On the palate we got apricots, orange rind, bakers spices, ‘Icewine’ and a yeasty/bready flavor. The chilled version had melon, pineapple and that bread component on the nose. The palate was softer and smoother with tangerine, honeysuckle and gingerbread with good acidity. One of the tasters remarked that it tasted like good Riesling. Overall it scored decently and I would give it 90 points. Drink till 2022. For $17, it’s a nice intro to the varietal and gets 4 stars from me. Salut….

Domaine Paul Autard Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011, Rhone, France

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Dark purple and semi opaque.  The nose is rich, spicy with black pepper and gamy with bacon fat plus plum reduction. On the palate this wine is mature- rich plums, raspberry extract, gamy notes and earthiness.  Slightly stewed prunes hint at the age of this wine.  Bakers spice and super fine grained tannins highlight the midpalate but it’s the flavor of dried mushrooms being reconstituted with a salty umami component that really carry the moment.  The finish is rather short but l get sour cherry, raspberries and dark chocolate.  This wine will appeal to lovers of mature old world wines that are earthy, loaded with terroir and have tones of tertiary flavors.  For me- 89 points but drink sooner rather than later.  A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Muscardin and Counoise that runs $40 and gets 3 stars. Salut….

Pip + Plow Merlot 2018, Washington

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This Merlot is nearly opaque in the glass and shows a deep purple color, albeit slightly murky. On the nose I get cranberry, plum and spice box. On the palate it has an upfront astringency that catches me off-guard. Once past that the fruit flavors are very interesting- Pomegranate, blackberry and plum. There is a peppery note as well. The mid palate is quite tannic and the wine gets darker in the fruit flavor department. That spice box I got on the nose plays a bigger part as the wine progresses. The finish is a juicy affair with loads of acidity and tannins. Blackberry notes come through right at the end. I get the impression that this wine is a touch young and could use a few years in cellar. It feels a bit disjointed, with a bit of greeness showing through. I’m enjoying it now but recommend a drinking window of 2022-2026. It’s going with Alfredo tonight, a good pairing methinks. 89 points and 3 stars for this $17 effort. Salut….

Rabbit and Spaghetti Tempranillo – Mataro – Grenache 2018, Clare Valley, Australia

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This is an interesting blend out of Oz, it’s more Spanish in composition but here goes! Semi opaque and light purple in the glass. The nose is red in nature… currants, raspberry and orange peel. On the palate it’s a racy wine, if not a touch thin. Sour cherry, red currants and judicious oak are all present. The mid palate continues the sour theme and some very fine grained tannins start to coat the gums. The acid component is really making my jaw water. The finish is short in length and pleasant with more red fruit and an intro to some rhubarb. It’s an interesting blend that unfortunately was a little too thin for my liking. Technically I would give it an 86 point score and 2 stars for its $30 retail price. Drink now. Salut….

Scott Peterson ROX All Blacks 2018, Sonoma, California

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This blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet is quite brooding in the glass. Dark purple and completely opaque. On the nose it has a sweet blackberry note alongside earthy herbs and violets. The palate is fruit forward with black cherry, blackberries and steeped plum notes. A dusty earthiness is ever present and some lithe tannins present at the mid palate. I sense the alcohol and just read the content- 14.9%…. careful out there. Black tea and iodine hit me on the back end as the tannic grip envelopes the mouth and melds with the fruit. It’s a tasty one for sure and I like the blend. It’s rich, rewarding and the structure is decent for medium term cellaring. Moxie is cooking up some stuffed Green Peppers, I think it will work nicely. Drink till 2023. 89 points and 3 stars for this $45 wine. Salut….

Rancho Campo Malbec 2019, Mendoza, Argentina

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I’m cooking Lamb Shanks tonight so a Malbec made sense. This one is semi opaque and a medium shade of purple. Blueberry reduction, smoky wood and black licorice hit the nose. The palate has got a delightful sweet blackberry entrance with plums, anise and a very smooth mouthfeel. I sense raspberry on the mid palate, could that be? More licorice and that red fruit note are dominant with very svelte tannins and a touch of acidity. The finish is refreshing- it has an earthy minerality with some raspberry. The mouthfeel is great if you are looking for an easygoing wine that will not bite with tannins or acidity. Built for the present with tons of fruit, it will drink well till 2023 and gets 88 points from me. 3 stars for this $22 effort. Salut….