Monthly Archive for March, 2008

Jacobs Creek Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine

Jacobs Creek Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Sparkling WineJacobs Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine (Brut)
(no vintage) SE Australia, $9.50 for 750 ml
(Sparkling White Wine)

Even if you’ve had a bad day, when you pop open a bottle of sparkling wine, you’ve just got to feel like you’re celebrating.  And in my case, I actually was! 

Not only does Jacobs Creek sparkling wine make a birthday meal seem that much more celebratory, but I also found that it is hard to get depressed about aging when you’re sipping on such a tasty beverage.  Now, that ‘s what I call strategy!

The taste? The JC Chardonnay-Pinot Noir was crisp and refreshing with a bit of green apple zing. I suppose that was the Chardonnay talking.  Although this wine was dry, it did have just a hint of sweetness that gave this bubbly a friendly, festive flair without hitting one over the head with cloying sugaryness as some sparkling wines are apt to do.

Bottom line? A bargain dry sparkling wine.  This sparkling JC Chardonnay Pinot Noir was actually served with a  turkey dinner, so the drier nature went well with our meal.  If you’re looking for a dessert sparkling wine however, (or just something a bit sweeter), I would go with something labeled “Sec”, “Demi-Sec” or for really, really sweet, “Doux”. For more info on Sparkling wines, see antiwinesnob’s article on What’s the Difference between Sweet Wine and Dry Wine and look to the last section on Sparkling Wines.

wine’s website:

Little Penguin Shiraz

Little Penguin Shirazthe Little Penguin Shiraz
2006 SE Australia $5.00 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)


The Little Penguin Shiraz packs a lot of flavor into such an inexpensive bottle. And, while its namesake might be the smallest species of penguin in the world (Little Penguins only weigh about 2.2 pounds!) this wine has a presence that’s anything but lightweight.

The color is velvety red and the taste reflects this opulence. Flavors of blackberry and oak—mixed with just a bit of spiciness—simply roll through your mouth (okay wine snobs, your palate) and leave you wanting more.

What’s not to like about this Shiraz? According to its website, it even helps support a penguin protection, rescue and rehabilitation group called The Penguin Foundation. Awww. Now, that just makes me feel even better about drinking this stuff. Am I a sucker for marketing or what?

Bottom line: Excellent wine for the price. And, it’s really fun to sip on while you research obscure facts about Little Penguins…. Did you know that they’re also called “Fairy Penguins” or that they often mate for life? Or that there are environmental groups that knit sweaters for them? Seriously. Or that their feathers are actually not black but blue? … Okay, I’ll stop.

wine’s website:

Marcus James Merlot

Marcus James MerlotMarcus James Merlot

2005 Mendoza Argentina. $4.25 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

Normally, I prefer Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot. I just like that extra bite that Cabernet offers. But in this case, I preferred the Marcus James 2005 Merlot to my earlier tasting of the Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.

How so? Well, as my previous review mentions, the Cabernet version had an underlying acetic acid flavor that rendered the experience unpleasant. Not the case with this Merlot. It was smooth, a tiny bit tangy (in a good way) and full of round, plumy flavors. I was quite surprised to discover how much I liked it.

Bottom line? The 2005 Marcus James Merlot is a bargain. For the price, I challenge you to find a better tasting Merlot. Actually, I hope you do. And if so, I hope you tell me about it. After all, anti-wine-snobs need to stick together….

wine’s website: couldn’t find

Lindemans Bin 50 Shiraz

Lindemans Bin 50 ShirazLindemans Bin 50 Shiraz
2005 SE Australia $7.35 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

Lindemans enjoys an excellent reputation for quality, affordable wines and the Bin 50 Shiraz is another illustration of why.

Intrigued a bit by this company, I checked out Lindemans’ website and read that Dr. Henry Lindeman decided to start a vineyard back in the 1800’s as a means to provide quality, everyday wines for everyday folks. Hmm. Sounds like he might have been an antiwinesnob….

Whatever the case, the Bin 50 Shiraz demonstrates a quality (of the wine) to quantity (in the cost) ratio that would be nice to be found more often.

This wine is full bodied and higher on the acidity than many Shiraz. And, it has a nice “dusty” amount of tannins; just enough to give it some substance, but otherwise, it lets the higher acid flavors of berries-mixed with a bit of woodiness–do the talking. The result is a deep, rich, luscious liquid that I very much appreciate. It is a yummy sipper all on its own or as an accompaniment to a meal.

Bottom line? The 2005 Lindemans Bin 50 Shiraz is a very good bargain. Thanks Dr. Henry for thinking of us antiwinesnobs way back when!

wine’s website:

Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir

Pepperwood Grove Pinot NoirPepperwood Grove Pinot Noir

2006,Valle Central, Chile. $7.65 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

Here’s a curious situation: I was all ready to do some research on the Valle Central region of Chile for your (and my own) edification, and I should probably still do this….

But I thought I should check out Pepperwood’s website first. So I googled the brand and perused their history.

Apparently, the company that produces Pepperwood Grove started off with an Italian immigrant named Samuele who moved to California and began a winery at the start of the 20th century. The business passed down the family line and today, the “3 Loose Screws Wine Company” produces varietal wines under an assorted number of brands such as Smoking Loon, Pepperwood Grove and Screw Kappa Napa.

How cozy, right? Well, I’m sure it is, but what confuses me is that my wine says, “Valle Central, Chile.” On the website, the “Three Loose Screws Wine Company” avers their Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir ( with “notes of rose water and cherry preserves”) as having been grown in the [very specific?] appellation of “California”.

Is it just me, or does there seem to be another continent involved on my bottle of wine?

I researched the Pepperwood Pinot (“PP”) some more and found other reviews of the PP hailing from Italy, Australia and (of course) California. Huh.

In any case, whether the wine is from Australia, Chile, Italy, California or the tundra of Siberia, what I’m here to do is tell you of the taste. And I don’t take my duty lightly. So I put away the globe, uncorked the Pinot, poured a glass and gave it a sniff. The smell was actually not to my liking. It smelled a bit sour or tart.Moving on, I took a sip. The flavor was much more pleasant than the smell and had a bit more body than I expected. There was an undercurrent of sweetness to the wine that I’m not sure if I cared for or not, but there was also a pleasant bite of acidity and a deeper taste that left me interested. And while the Pepperwood Pinot tasting notes cited a gamut of cherry, rose water, plum, clove, strawberry and “earthy tones” flavors, I don’t think I caught all of that. Honestly, I don’t think this wine was that complex.

Bottom line? The 2006 Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir from Valle Central, Chile isn’t bad if you’re not expecting anything in particular. I’m not a big Pinot fan, but I get the feeling that if I were, I might be rather disappointed. However, if you’re just interested in trying different wines and are curious, I say give it a try. It’s certainly not one of my favorites, but, for the price, it’s worth the experience I think.

Besides, it’s kind of a sci-fi, Doctor-Who moment to be drinking a wine labeled from Chile, only to find no trace of such a thing on its own website…. Do you think there is a conspiracy involved?

wine’s website:

Barefoot Chardonnay

Barefoot ChardonnayBarefoot Chardonnay
(no vintage) Modesto, California $5.50 for 750 ml
(White Wine)

If you are new to wine and want to try a few different varietals without committing too much of your paycheck, I recommend patronizing the bottlings of Barefoot Cellars.  Not only are they consistently inexpensive and good, but trying varietals from the same vintner can help one compare and discern different flavors and characteristics in grape varieties.

Logical incentives aside, I live on the coast, so I particularly like the advice printed on my Barefoot Chardonnay bottle: “Get barefoot and have a good time.”  Thanks! I think I will.

The Barefoot Chardonnay is the perfect beach-picnic beverage as the crisp, mild apple and smooth vanilla undertones of this quaff really hit the spot.  I had a few sips all on its own before giving it a little company with my picnic snacks (big fan of Brie and crackers).   This Chardonnay is tasty and has just enough layers to make it interesting while retaining an easygoing, sip-inducing quality.

Bottom line?  Try it.  And, while you’re at it, try taking it up on its advice, too!

wines website:

JackaRoo Big Red (Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz blend)

Jackaroo Big RedJackaRoo Big Red
2003, SE Australia, $7.35 for 750 ml
(49% Cab, 44% Shiraz, 7% Merlot)
(Red Wine)

According to my Google search, “Jackaroo” is an Australian term for an apprentice on a cattle station or ranch…. Well, that makes me want to say something cutesy involving Australian slang and barbecue, but I shall refrain from doing so. You’re welcome.

In short, “Big Red” is a good description for this JackaRoo wine. While it doesn’t have a lot of depth, it is full of easygoing, juicy, round flavors, and it also has a good dose of tannins that save the wine from simply tasting like a fat, fermented grape.

The tasting notes cite flavors of blackberry, spicy aromas and a hint of vanilla oak. The Big Red did have a plump, berryness that I can see described as blackberry, and I did get the vanilla oak flavor (more oak than vanilla), but honestly, I would never describe the aroma of this wine as “spicy.” It just isn’t.

While I would have said that this wine was okay (not great, but okay), unfortunately, my Big Red had an undercurrent of unpleasant spoiled, nutty flavors that tasted as though it had not been properly sealed. In other words, it tasted oxidized. I don’t know if this is a problem with all JackaRoo Big Reds, or just a flaw in the bottling that I happened upon.

Bottom line? While the JackaRoo has potential, the flavors I found were ruined by the funky, old taste of oxidization. For the price, I have found other wines that have a bit more depth and taste much fresher. Sorry, apprentice. I think you’re fired.

wine’s website: couldn’t find

Calina Reserva Merlot

Calina Reserva MerlotCalina Reserva Merlot

2006 Valle Del Maule, Chile. $8.00 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

Oh, my goodness. This Merlot is sip-licious.

And, thank heavens–I was beginning to get worried as I’ve had to post some rather negative reviews lately, but this wine has restored my faith in inexpensive grape juice.

The Calina Reserva Merlot is a luscious, dark red-purple nectar with a round, full-bodied balance of juicy blackberryness, firm tannins and a perfect bite of acidity.


This one’s great to sip on its own or with dinner. And, the bottle is pretty.

I liked this wine so much that I decided to take a little field trip to its website. In addition to providing some helpful information on all of their wines, the site also has a fun, interactive diagram that illustrates the wine making process. If you’re new to wine, you might want to check it out. The site is simple and friendly.

Bottom line? Loved it. Even if you’re one of those folks who typically eschew Merlot, I would recommend you give the Calina Reserva a try and see what you think. Who knows? You might be converted.

wine’s website:

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