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….

Chateau de Landiras 2014, Graves, France

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Very dark bluish purple in the glass with very fine legs, indicative of the 12.5% alcohol.  On the nose it is purple fruit, blackberry, damson and cinnamon.  The palate is surprisingly fresh, I was expecting a more traditional attack.  This one pops with plums, black cherry and lithe tannins.  The mid palate gives me cola, black cherry and some strawberry jam.  Strange, I know.  The finale is really a nice, smooth, fruity affair with really well tamed tannins holding the blackberry and cola flavors on for a good 30 seconds.  There is a trace of acidic bite, but it is appropriate and balances the nice tannins.  This is a tasty, decent wine that gets 91 points from me.  I would drink right away until 2024 with lighter meat dishes, perhaps beer-can chicken or even roast duck breast.  Strangely enough the Decanter score of 95 was opposite to the mid 80’s score given by others.  I think this is a steal at $20 and it gets 5 stars from me.  Salut….

Castillo de Monseran ‘Evil Eye Mal de Ojo’ 2013, Carinena, Spain

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Good blackish color.  The nose is smoky, meaty and has hints of fig and charcoal.  This 50% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo and 20% Carignan blend is right up my alley.  The nose leads me to a delightful palate of blackberry, more charcoal, some tar and really tight tannins.  The mid palate concentrates on the fruit with tasty blackberries and some currant.  The tannins are ever-present but not overpowering, they caress instead of attack.  There is a juicy acidity towards the finish that reveals a touch of wood.  The oak is nicely integrated and gives a touch of vanilla.  The finish is medium length and really tasty.  I’m digging this wine- 91 points and 5 stars for this $15 effort.  I’m pairing it with Bacon Alfredo and it’s on pointe.  Salut….

Uggiano Roccialta Chianti Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy

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I have really started to enjoy Sangiovese lately and seek out different variants.  This Chianti weighs in at 13.5% alcohol and is medium purple with little opacity.  Kinda what I expect from this varietal as well as Pinot.  On the nose it is fresh with strawberries, cedar plank, a green capsicum component and garigue.  The palate is refreshing with red fruits, crunchy tannins and a touch of wood.  The strawberry I initially sensed gives way to red cherry and currants.  There’s a rhubarb component on the mid palate that marries well with the acidity and tannins.  The finish is lightweight but decent in length and continues the red fruit theme very nicely.  The tannins slowly fade after leaving my gums rather dry.  It’s a young wine which is drinking nicely and will cellar for another 10 years minimum.  Drink till 2029 with eggplant parmigiana, beef stew or slow cooked chicken cacciatore.  90 points from me make this $17 wine a 4 star effort. Salut….

I Giusti & Zanza Rosso Vigna Vecchia Toscana IGT 2015, Tuscany, Italy

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It’s quite bright and fresh looking in the glass with a deep garnet shade.  On the nose – rhubarb crumble, cherry and chocolate dust.  On the palate it is refreshing, tart and brimming with red fruits.  There’s a hint of balsamic as well as coconut on the initial.  The mid palate gives me some woody notes alongside the red currants and cherry.  The tartness gets a little spiky and herbaceous on the finish, a little off-putting.  Overall this is a tasty wine that has some structure to last a few years in cellar but is drinking nicely now.  I’m gonna bury the others I have as I believe they will improve vastly with a bit of age.  Made from Organic grapes and costing $50 makes it a wee bit pricy.  Pair it with Fettucine or pot roast, perhaps Osso Bucco..  Drink till 2035.  90 points from me (the pros went as high as 95!) and 3 stars.  Salut….