De Toren Fusion V 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa

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Another of my mate Johnny’s wines, this was a stunner.  Simply breathtaking.  A Bordeaux Blend with depth, richness and staying power.  Deep purple in the glass with a  rich and layered nose of gorgeous cassis, mint, stewed blackcurrants, cooked blueberry, coffee, smoke and cloves.  Stunning.  On the palate it is full bodied with well melded tannins, good acidity and complexity with flavors of blackberry, mint, tar, oak by way of smoke, clove and a medicinal note.  There’s a touch of bitterness on the back end to remind me that the tannins are still young.  This wine is well developed but has years ahead with potential for tertiary development.  I’m excited to have tried it and wish I could get more to watch for development. 93 points and at $45 it’s a 5 star effort.  Drink till 2028.  Well done!  Salut….

Mac Forbes Pinot Noir 2016, Yarra Valley, Australia

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When I drank this wine at my mates place, I was thinking of my wine course so I used the standard lexicon to describe it.  Having said that, I will add a few personal notes.  I’ve never had a wine from Yarra Valley.  A cooler climate area that allows Pinot to grow, I found this wine to be well developed, almost over the hill at a mere 6 years of age.  Perhaps my mate Johny stored it incorrectly?  It was tasty to be sure, but was very much ripe and stewed.  It may have a few years left but drink now to enjoy it the most.  I give it 90 points even though it got upwards of 93 from the pros.  At $30 plus, it gets 3 stars from me.  Salut…

  • Pale tawny
  • Nose- medium intensity strawberry, cranberry, red cherry, earth and game.  Developing
  • Palate-dry, medium – acidity, medium – body, medium – tannins, medium intensity flavors of strawberry, red cherry, earth, cooked strawberry and sour?.  Medium finish.
  • Conclusion- acceptable quality to be drunk now, but has potential for ageing.

Chris Baker Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir 2019, Willamette Valley, Oregon

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This Pinot is pretty opaque for the varietal.  A lovely shade of ruby with watery legs that give clue to the low 13% ABV.  On the nose I get spice box, red cherry, pomegranate and cranberry.  On the palate this wine is a touch tart and lacks any discernible tannins- not that I am complaining.  I like Pinot with a touch of sourness and no dryness, makes for a crisp mouthfeel.  The red fruit flavors are quite pronounced and balanced but I also get blueberry on the mid palate.  I like the weight but the finish is a touch short.  This bottle has what I really like in Pinot Noir- elegance and lightness with freshness and not too much oak influence.  It is seductive and lithe, maybe not very complex but it delivers lots of fruit flavors.  I would drink this one till 2025, perhaps pairing with Duck or Strip steak.  89 points from me and at $20 it’s a good deal that gets 4 stars.  Salut….

Marchesi Frescobaldi Castello di Nipozzano 2014, Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG, Italy

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I had to buy this funky bottle, it is gold.  As in they sprayed the bottle, there is no looking through the glass.  With a bit of age on it, there may be some hope of tertiary development in this Reserva.  It’s pretty dark in the glass, a lovely shade of ruby.  On the nose I get red cherry, cooked red cherry, earth, mushroom, pomegranate and oak.  The palate is very delicious, smooth and not biting.  I am really enjoying lush flavors of dark cherry, earth, game and cooked red cherry.  The tannins are really well integrated and meet up on the back end with some vibrant acidity.  The body is decent, heavier than I was expecting and certainly welcome, the mouthfeel is balanced and smooth.  I am thoroughly enjoying this Sangiovese, and feeling that most people would not buy it due to the strange packaging- I’m off to get the remnants, it’s that yummy for the barebones price of $15.  A veritable steal that gets 91 points and 5 stars.  Drink till 2025 with pasta, duh!  Salut….

Chateau Musar White 2010, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

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Here is my class note on a wine I have tasted before that is divine and should feature in any cellar worth its salt. For $55, it’s not a cheap intro to these two unique grapes that make the blend, but this winery has done something very special here and it needs to be tried. I am going with 91 points and 4 stars. Salut….

Chateau Musar White 2010, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 12.5% ABV

  • Appearance- deep gold.
  • Nose- pronounced aromas of lemon, grapefruit, quince, wet stones, passion fruit, blossom, acacia and nuts.  Developing.
  • Palate- dry, medium acidity, medium alcohol, medium (+) body, medium (+) intensity flavors of lemon, grapefruit, quince, wet stones, passion fruit, blossom, acacia and nuts with a long finish.
  • Conclusion- very good quality wine that can be drunk now, but has potential for aging.

An amazing blend of Merwah and Obaideh from my native Lebanon.  These two grapes are thought to be closely related to Semillon and Chardonnay.  This is a young wine at 10 years of age from this iconic winery who make whites that will outlast their reds.  A cellar tour in 2008 showed thousands of bottles that were vinted in the 1930’s and ‘40s.  Their wines are long lived even though the acidity is not high, a strange phenomenon.  The body is quite weighty even though the alcohol is relatively low.  Delicious now, this will no doubt start to gain more tertiary flavors and aromas and continue to evolve for many years to come.  Unique stuff.

The Messenger Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Napa Valley, California

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I’m looking forward to this wine, to be paired with grilled Tri-Tip. For a Napa Cab, it shows a little lighter in the glass, with medium ruby color and thin legs. On the nose I have to battle the alcohol first, swirling like mad and blowing the fumes away. Once there I get blackberry, blackcurrant, black plum, cloves, smoke and yet more alcohol. On the palate this wine is dry with medium acidity, medium tannins which are softened by the addition of Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It has a good body and the flavors are really juicy- more of the black fruits, the oak influence and I also get a black tea component. The alcohol is making it fuller on the mouthfeel but I can feel it on the back end, definitely present in this one. The finish is pretty decent in length with the tea outlasting the fruit. I think this is a decent wine, but not something to rave about. It will drink well till 2026 and pair great with steaks. 88 points from me and for $ 22 it gets 3 stars. Salut….

Clarendon Hills Romas Grenache 2011, McLaren Vale, Australia

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This week I am focusing on New World wines for my course. I have selected this bottle to kick off the festivities and here is my official tasting note for class:

Clarendon Hills Grenache ‘Romas’ 2011, Australia 14.5% ABV

  • Appearance- Deep ruby with thick legs.
  • Nose- Pronounced aromas of red plum, raspberry, blackcurrants, chocolate, coffee and smoke. Developing.
  • Palate- Dry, medium acidity, medium+ tannins, high alcohol, medium+ body, medium+ intensity flavors of raspberry, red plum, chocolate, coffee, licorice. Medium finish.
  • Conclusion- good quality, drink now but has potential for aging.

I have drunk many different vintages and varietals from this winery.  Their Syrah mimics Rhone wines rather than jammy Shiraz.  This particular bottle of Grenache was somewhat one-dimensional and lacked much development, even with 10+ years of aging.  It was very tasty but had a bit of astringency that bothered me.  

It ran me $30 per bottle and I am going with 89 points- kind of disappointing, I know. 2 stars, hopefully the other bottles show better as the original pro review gave it upwards of 95 points. Drink till 2030, served mine with grilled Hangar steak and Chimichurri. Salut….

Luis Felipe Edwards Merlot Gran Reserva, Los Vasco Sauvignon Blanc and Santa Rita Reserva Carmenere paper.

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You may or may not know that I am taking a wine course. As we progress, it is getting more difficult yet intriguing. This past week one of our assignments was to look at three wine labels from Chile and write a blog post based purely on knowledge of the varietal, the region and the winemaker.

  1. For each of the wine labels below, describe the style of wine in as much detail as you can; use the Systematic Approach to Tasting as guidance to give a comprehensive description.
  2. Explain in your own words how the factors in the vineyard and winery have influenced these wines styles.

Here is my submission

I love Chilean wines, of all varietals.  The wine country spans over 500 miles north to south and is wedged in between the Andes mountains to the east and the cool Pacific Ocean to the west.  With such a range of Latitude in addition to altitude there are numerous climates for winemakers to grow many different grapes according to their own unique needs.  Take for instance a Merlot grown in Colchagua.  The warm valley coupled by the cool Pacific moderates the temperature in the valley allowing for good ripening, especially for this varietal and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Drinking the Luis Felipe Edwards Merlot Gran Reserva one would expect fruity, medium bodied wines that show a medium ruby in the glass.  I would expect this type of wine, especially a Gran Reserva, to have a medium intensity nose with aromas of plum, black cherry, blackberry, perhaps a touch of oak influence by way of cedar and clove.  Drunk young, it would be considered youthful.  On the palate, softness awaits as the wine would be a dry, medium acidity wine with medium tannins, high alcohol and medium plus body.  When discussing Chilean Reservas and Gran Reservas there are no technical points that delineate the different levels, it is implied by the winemaker that his wine is of a better quality.  In this case I would look forward to medium plus intensity flavors of plum, blackberry and cedar with a medium finish.  Overall, this wine would be considered good and could be drunk now, but has potential for aging or further aging.  

Sauvignon Blanc enjoys a more moderate climate and has done very well in the Casablanca Valley where the proximity to the Pacific coupled with morning fog allow this grape to ripen fully whilst retaining its crisp acidity.  Los Vascos is a well known Chilean winemaker who produces delicious and refreshing Sauvignon Blancs.  Opening a bottle of their latest release I would expect a pale lemon-green wine with medium plus intensity aromas of lemon, green apple, asparagus, grass and wet stone- that flintiness that one gets when wines are grown in cool regions.  The palate would be crisp- the lack of any oak or Malolactic Fermentation would leave the wine with only primary flavors which would refresh on a hot afternoon.  I would expect a dry wine with high acidity, medium alcohol, medium minus body that has medium plus flavors of lemon peel, asparagus, grass and green apple which would end with a medium finish.  These wines are not expensive- the winemaker looking for a decent pop-n-pour wine that is refreshing, easy to drink and pairs well with lighter fare.  Quality wise this wine is good and should be drunk now: not suitable for aging or further aging.

Carmenere is Chile’s signature grape.  This example, the Santa Rita Reserva comes from Rapel Valley, part of the Central Valley Region which is known for its warmer climate on the valley floor, a feature that suits this varietal well as it is late ripening.  The tempering effects of the Pacific are not in play so one would expect full bodied, fruity and tannic wines, especially those that the winemaker feels are of Reserva quality.  This wine would have a deep ruby color with watery legs, belying it’s modest 13% alcohol.  On the nose- medium plus intensity aromas of black cherry, blackberry, tomato leaf, prune, coffee and a medicinal note which is a trademark of this grape as well as an indicator of some oak usage.  The palate would be dry with medium plus acidity.  High tannins coupled with medium alcohol would give me a medium plus body.  Medium plus intensity flavors of black cherry, blackberry, tomato leaf, coffee and that medicinal note would be evident.  Seeing as this wine is a Reserva, the winemaker has carefully selected only the ripest berries, avoiding that overly herbaceous note Carmenere is known for.   A medium plus finish would be enjoyed on this good quality red that can be drunk now, but has potential for aging.  I could picture myself back in Santiago, sitting in a Bistro and gazing at the Andes, sipping this red elixir once again whilst devouring a signature Chacarero.

Guardians Rkatsiteli 2019, Kakheti, Georgia

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A medium lemon-green in the glass with watery legs. The nose of this indigenous Georgian wine is very crisp and refreshing with lemon, lime, apricot and a floral component. On the palate it is dry and tart, with crisp flavors of citrus, sour green apple and elderflower. The acidity is medium but the palate is definitely tart. I get a medium finish that is very refreshing, perfect for a hot evening. I am pairing mine with grilled shrimp on a bed of salad. It will go well with a charcuterie board, tapas or just by itself poolside. Delicious and reasonable at $13 it gets 88 points from me making it a 4 star wine. Drink soon. Salut….

Sutter Home White Zinfandel NV, California

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Every 28 years or so, I drink some of this stuff….. You see, when Moxie and I got married, she bought 130 small bottles and removed the labels in a bathtub full of water. She hand made labels with our names, the date and some curly-hues plus a green ribbon. The bottles were placed in front of every guest setting at the reception as a parting gift. We kept one bottle, the label has faded , the ribbon fell off and the contents are probably vinegar. So, on the anniversary of our magical day we happened to be in a liquor store and bought a 4 pack of 187 ml bottles, plastic bottles to be precise- for old time’s sake. Today was beach day and it was hot. We were ordering Thai food for dinner so I popped a few of these little charmers and we thoroughly enjoyed them for what they were- light, refreshing, a touch sweet and cheap as hell. I wrote up the notes for my course, here they are. (I can’t even rate this stuff to be honest, just sit back and enjoy one). Salut….

Sutter Home White Zinfandel NV, California 9.5% ABV

  • Appearance- Deep Salmon color.
  • Nose- medium (-) intensity with aromas of strawberry, orange peel, acacia, honeysuckle and wet stone.  Youthful.
  • Palate- medium sweet, medium (-) acidity, low alcohol, light body, medium intensity flavors of strawberry, orange peel, honeysuckle. Medium (-) finish.
  • Conclusion- acceptable quality, drink now, not suitable for aging or further aging.

I know, it’s crazy that I selected this wine to taste- long story.  What’s even crazier is that I actually enjoyed it!  Refreshing after a hot day at the beach and at 9.5% -a welcome change from the last few bombs. A 4-pack of 187ml plastic bottles.  Such a bargain at $6.50! Paired with Thai food for the win.