Marchesi Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT 2009, Tuscany, Italy

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The second wine of the Birthday dinner at Chez Francois.  This one was stunning.  No notes were taken but I remember thinking that this is what being a wine lover is all about.  Near perfection in the bottle.  Rich, ripe, sumptuous, balanced, maturing yet showing youth and verve.  This wine blends some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with the majority Sangiovese.  It gets 94 points from me and 5 stars, even with its $125 current price tag.  I believe I have one left in storage and will look forward to the next opportunity.  Paired beautifully with Lamb Chops.  Salut….

Chateau Branaire-Ducru 2008, Saint-Julien, France

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Continuing on with the Birthday weekend celebration Moxie took us out for the most enjoyable dinner at my favorite restaurant.  L’Auberge Chez Francoise has been a local fixture for over 40 years and is consistently the best dining I have ever had.  Their wine list is extensive and meets all needs, but I really wanted to take two bottles from my cellar for the momentous occasion.  We started out with the 2008 Brainaire-Ducru, which runs about $65 currently.  I did not write notes on the wines, only a memory of the experience.

I was a little dismayed at the thinness of this wine.  It should have been at peak but instead I found it lacking much fruit, secondary flavors or even much tannic structure. I enjoyed it for what it was and would give it 90 points and 3 stars.  We drank it with Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks, then the salad course.  Salut….

Chateau Gloria 2010, Saint-Julien, France

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My buddy brought this wine, which I was really excited to try.  Unfortunately, it was a major let down.  Color was right but the nose and flavors were earthy with a tar note.  I did not bother to write further as I was really tired and just wanted to relax.  Overall, I would have given this wine 86 points and probably a pass for the $60 price tag….until I read some more posts about it on the web.  It rated very highly with the pros and sells for its price point, so maybe I got an off bottle.  I will reserve further judgement until I get another opportunity.  Too bad.  Salut….

Chateau Lynch-Bages 2000, Pauillac, France

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It’s my birthday.  I hit the big 5-Oh and pulled this one out the cellar to mark the occasion.  I bought 8 bottles of the 2000 vintage back in ’02 for $59 each, at Costco.  They go for $ 200+ nowadays.

The wine is still a vibrant purple with no signs of age, except the cork that broke in half on extraction.  The nose is heavenly.  Pure Pauillac, with loads of fruit, tobacco, leather, kirsch.  I have wondered for 16 years if this wine would open up like the amazing ’89.  So far, so good.  On the palate- it’s all I had hoped for and more.  Blackberry, cassis, leather, maduro leaf- to name a few of the initial components that meld right in with the fine-grained tannins.  The tannins are very fresh and vibrant, caressing the gums and balancing the gentle acidity to near perfection.  The mid plate is full of cassis and more tobacco leaf.  There is also a fig component that just hit me.  The finish exudes class.  Full of fruit, but with plenty of tertiary flavors mixed in.  Simply amazing.  This wine is young, fresh, vibrant and juicy yet displays grace, a maturity and great structure.  It fulfilled every possible desire I had for a super special treat and has truly rewarded my patience.  I am going with 96 points for this stunner and 5 stars.  It’s a privilege to be able to drink such magnificence.  The family are all working the kitchen to make a special meal, with my 15 year old manning the grill for the Ribeyes.  Salut….

Velata Premium Tempranillo 2016, Spain

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In my worldly travels I come across great finds, unique deals and then the ones you have to say hmmm.. This bottle was picked up at the local gas station in Tokyo, for about $5.  I don’t have much faith except it won Best Spanish Producer of 2014 at the Intl Wine Challenge, Vienna.  That was the selling point, plus I trust Tempranillo from Spain far more than other dodgy varietals that were on offer.  Here we go.

I am drinking it out of a water glass, so keep that in mind.  It appears a medium opacity, with nice purple tones.  On the nose- pure Tempranillo with a touch of oak.  Notes of Twizzlers and cherry cola come through.  On the palate it is a basic, decent drop.  Primary flavors roll out with some earthiness.  The lack of much tannic structure can be overlooked since this is an easy wine to drink.  Cherry and cola come to mind and the wine has a decent acidic component.  On the mid palate it gets a little bitter for some reason. The finish is all red fruit driven and I get a certain dryness, not tannic though.  Overall a decent drop for what I was looking for and where I was looking.  86 points and for the price I have to give it 3 stars.  I bought some ham and cheese sandwiches to go along, they hit the spot.  Salut….

Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley, USA

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If you know me you will remember that we are moving.  I transferred most of my wine into a climate controlled storage unit, but kept about 50 bottles in the wine fridge.  Some are really nice, pricey and supposed to be for special occasions.  Oh well, they are getting polished off now.  I include this particularly good wine in that group.  Bought for $65 and cellared since 2014 I am looking forward to comparing it to my earlier review.

It shows bright purple in the glass with a nose of plum ganache, black tea, figs and a touch of oak.  On the palate it is super smooth with a tannic bite right upfront.  Flavors of blueberry compote, plum, anise and black olives.  The tannins are pretty forceful as the wine transitions to the mid palate.  A dryness hits the gums and makes me pucker up.  I do like that some times!  The plum theme continues on to the long finish where I  also get cherry cola and another touch of oak.  The tannins peak at the very end, and the acidity balances it all out.  Overall, a very nice package that has matured nicely and is drinking perfectly now.  Not an everyday drinker, I would certainly pull this out for a special occasion.  93 points holds and 4 stars awarded.  Tonight we pair it with Tomahawk Pork Chops, Flat Iron steaks, a Bratwurst, some Cauliflower Cheese and grilled Broccoli.  Salut….

Mollydooker The Scooter Merlot 2012, McLaren Vale, Australia

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In the glass this Merlot shows a slightly paler purple than I was expecting.  The nose, after I performed the ‘Shake‘ exhibits gorgeous black berry and cinnamon notes.  On the palate I am greeted with a really smooth dose of Ribena, some meaty notes, and a fresh ensemble of tannins that are ever present but not cloying.  The wine is full flavored, make no mistake- but it does so with a very gentle build-up.  Extraction is at its fullest and with that comes a well hidden 14.5% alcohol.  The mid palate is somewhat muted after the initial uptake, the finish is where it’s at.  More dark berries emerge as well as a blueberry pie component.  I hate to say it, but this wine needs a touch more oak.  Yup, I said it.  Not lashings, but a tiny more vanilla, perhaps a little more tannic bite.  At one point I’m sure the wine had plenty of it, perhaps just fading at this point.  The structure is good though and the wine is balanced.  I would drink up as the wine is at peak and there is not much in the way of tertiary flavors.  It is relatively easy-going and will do well with a variety of dishes.  I am going with 90 points and 4 stars for this $28 effort.  Salut….

Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007, Rhone, France

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It’s a murky purple with a hint of bricking, not unusual for an 11 year old wine, but not likely for a CDP.  The nose gives it away I’m afraid.  This wine is over the hill, cooked.  Aromas of stewed prunes and bacon hit me right away.  I managed to coax a little plum out of the melange, but I was searching for it.  The gaminess is a little much for me.  On the palate there exists a port like profile.  It smacks of dark fruits, cooked plums and blackberry jam.  It is not a bad experience, just a shame really.  This wine has some very interesting components that were probably on pointe a few years ago.  I cannot determine if it is really over the hill (doubtful considering the heritage) or has been improperly cellared (it was a gift to my father).  Either way, I cannot imagine this to be representative of the wine and will therefore pass on scoring this $50 effort.  Sucks.  Salut….

King Estate Pinot Gris 2015, Willamette Valley Oregon, USA

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I bought Moxie a few bottles of Pinot Gris at Christmas, she was making white Sangria.  As usual, I overbought.  This one broke the bank at $13.  It has a peachy yellow color to it and a nose of lemon peel, pineapple and ginger.  On the palate it is very approachable.  Refreshing citrus, not overly acidic with hints of beeswax and more of that ginger, but like ginger-ale, not the sliced and raw version.  The wine slides nicely without being tart or bitter.  It offers a nice mid palate waxiness and the finish is medium in length and packed with pineapple curd.  I am really enjoying this wine after being in the car all day.  Serving it up with some fish filets, smoky bacon Quinoa and buttered Brussel Sprouts.  It firing on all cylinders.  90 points and 5 stars, buy it by the dozen for the summer.  Drink now till 2020.  Salut….

Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy

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The first thing I noticed was the length of the cork.  It was super long, Magnum size.  Made me wonder…  In the glass this wine is somewhat opaque with a lighter purple hue. On the nose it offers tart cherry, red berries and muted barnyard.  On the palate I get some really refreshing strawberry and cherry notes.  Crisp acidity and gentle tannins are also present.  The wine is young, very young.  Nutmeg and kirsch appear later on, a strange combination but I’m liking it.  The tannins are really kicking in towards the mid to finish leaving me with a very dry sensation on the seemingly long finish.  More classic Sangiovese flavors of tobacco and leather are evident in small amounts but the main thrust is the dominant cherry.  Delicious, but I would love to see evolution, say another 5 years minimum.  92 points from me and for the hefty $80 price tag, 4 stars.  If you are a cellaring type, this one will rock a roasted Cornish Hen some day.  Salut….

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