Archive for the 'All Wines Reviewed' Category

Thorny Rose

Thorny RoseThorny Rose — Red Blend

Thorny Rose Wines, Columbia Valley

Washington USA,    2009

$5.99 for 750 ml (on sale), 13.5% Alc.

 

I discovered this wine on a sale rack at the local drugstore, discounted from the original $11.99 price.   A deal like that is hard to pass up!

And when I poured a glass of Thorny Rose Red Blend, I was glad I took a chance on it.  Everything about this wine is appealing.  The color is rich, much like a Cabernet or Merlot, and the aroma confirms a likely blend of the aforementioned two.   The taste is lovely, with the rich, round, silkiness that Merlot offers and just the right amount of grip from a Cabernet Sauvignon.   Although I think the Thorny Rose Red Blend description on its website is rather overboard (Sassafras?  Really?)  I do appreciate the fun attitude and unpretentious marketing.   This wine definitely has enough depth to enjoy entirely on its own, but it would also provide a great accompaniment to dinner.  And best of all, your guests will think you’ve uncorked (well, in this case, unscrewed) something special!

Definitely recommended.

Wine’s Website: www.thornyrosewines.com

 

 

 

Matua Valley Hawke’s Bay Merlot-Cabernet

Matua Valley Hawke’s Bay Merlot-Cabernet

Hawke’s Bay Region, New Zealand, 2010,  *$13.00 for 750 ml, 13.5% Alc.

Red Wine

 

It has been a while, I know!  This is partly due to the fact that my husband and I have been working in a rather remote, undeveloped country in the South Pacific where wine is anything but cheap!  So, I’m forced to break my ten-dollar-rule, hence the asterisk above.  The other note on the price is that, although the local cost translates to approximately thirteen USD, I imagine a bottle might cost slightly less elsewhere on the globe.

So, how was it?  I enjoyed this Merlot-Cab blend quite a bit.  I wouldn’t say it is vastly superior to less expensive wines (Lindemans comes immediately to mind) but it is still a good deal.   I also found the blend of  varietals nicely balanced.  I’ve no idea what percentage of each goes into a vat, but it had just enough tannin to keep a grip on the smooth, easy Merlot flavor.  None of this satisfied me in the wine-notes department, however.  I wanted something interested and fun to say!  Alas, my muse failed me.  The label describes the wine as showing “blends of ripe plum and berry fruits with a well balance, generous palate.”   That’s a bit generic, but true enough, I suppose.   It is also a fact that this blend goes excellently with shrimp pesto pizza,  if anyone is interested.

Bottom line:  This is a solid choice bound to please most red-wine drinkers who actually judge a drink on its merits and not on fancy prices.

Wine’s Website:  http://www.matua.co.nz

 

 

David Stone Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

David Stone Vineyards Cabernet SauvignonDavid Stone Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Modesto, California, $5.50 for 750ml, 12% Alc.
Red Wine

I would have never have guessed that this is a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Ever.  After trying it and then re-trying it, I checked the label just to make sure that I was not seeing things.  Nope.  It most definitely identified itself as a Cab.  How curious….

David Stone’s Cabernet Sauvignon is not what one might expect out of a Cabernet Sauvignon.  For starters, it is slightly sweet — not like a dessert wine, but rather like some Spanish or German reds I’ve tasted before.  Secondly, it is very low in tannins, which is really one of the more defining characteristics of most Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever had in the past.  Thirdly, to me at least, it simply does not taste like a Cabernet Sauvignon — it is just too mild, too sweet and, for lack of a better descriptor, too round.

In fact, the alcohol content and modest level of acidity (very modest, mind you) are the only things holding it together, convincing me that I have not just ingested some strange concoction of plain ol’ grape juice.  Not that I found it unpleasant; rather, just unexpected and slightly baffling.

Bottom line: If you are in the mood for a Cabernet Sauvignon, then you will probably be disappointed by David Stone Vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon.  If you simply like to try new wine and are looking for something affordable, mild and red, then you might have stumbled onto a bargain!

wine’s website:  couldn’t find

Stone Hill Vidal Blanc

Stone Hill Vidal BlancStone Hill Vidal Blanc
Herman, Missouri, 2008, $6.99 for 750 ml, 13.5% Alc
Dry White Wine

During a recent road-trip to Missouri, I spied this vino at a grocery store.  Resisting the instinct to purchase only luscious local reds, I grabbed a bottle and resolved to give it a try.  After all, a day riding bikes on the [stupendously fantastic] Katy Trail works up a thirst for something cool, crisp and refreshing!

The Vidal Blanc, described on the label as a dry white wine that is “fruity with a hint of spice”, was, to my parched palate, exactly what I had hoped for.  It was pleasantly tart, mixed with what I can only best describe as a round, fruity flavor akin to cantaloupe and something else mildly tropical — perhaps lychee (honest!), although I must disclose that this description gives me some feeling of AntiWineSnob hypocrisy.  Plus, I believe it was the aroma more than the flavor that conjured that last one to mind.   The heat exhaustion might have helped with that, too ….

Back to Stone Hill’s Vidal Blanc:  While certainly not a sweet wine, I would agree that the aroma and the flavor were fruity, but what “a hint of spice” is supposed to mean eludes me.  I did not decipher anything that would remind me of pepper or coriander or clove or anise or anything else that I might daydream of procuring at some exotic, faraway locale.

Regarding the actual identity of the wine itself, I am still a bit unsure of what exactly Vidal Blanc is.  I understand from some brief research that Vidal Blac is actually a fusion of Ugni Blanc, a widely used European grape that is apparently used primarily in cognac, and Rayon D’Or, which I have had difficulty finding much information on, other than one website that cited it as “rare”.   Hmm….  Well, if anyone has other information on this elusive grape, please feel free to post it in the comments.  It would be appreciated.

Bottom Line: If you are looking for a dry white wine that is a little less off the beaten path (than, say, Chardonnay), but hanker for a quaff that’s still casual, bright and fruity, then you may want to give Stone Hill’s Vidal Blanc a try.

wine’s website:  www.stonehillwinery.com

Alice White Red Lexia

Alice White Red LexiaAlice White Red Lexia
SE Australia, 2008, $6.00 for 750ml, 10% Alc.
Blush/Rose Wine (Muscat)

I’m on a roll with Muscat wine!  I discovered this particular treat while taking a little beach vacation on the Alabama Gulf Coast, and I have to say, it is the perfect quaff for a windy, sunny afternoon. 

I had originally thought that “Lexia” was a variety of Vitis vinifera, much like Zinfandel or Chardonnay, but upon researching further, discovered that Lexia (which comes in both white and red varietals) is actually make from the Muscat (see AWS’ review on Beringer Moscato for more info on this tasty grape).

Much like White Zinfandel or White Shiraz varietals, Alice White’s Red Lexia is crisp, pleasantly sweet (although not as much so as the white muscat varietals I’ve tasted) and just tart enough to keep things interesting.  Although I don’t know enough about this wine to speak with authority, I am guessing from the bright, transparent red hue and lack of tannins that the Red Lexia is made much like a White Zin or White Shiraz as well — that is to say, that the juice from the red skins is separated in the early stages of vatting, leaving a pleasant rose color but retaining the crisp, freshness of the juice without the heavier tannins and flavor that the skin itself bring. 

 Bottom line:  If you’re in the mood for a chilled, summery wine of medium sweetness, I’d definitely give Alice White’s Red Lexia a try.

wine’s website:  http://www.alicewhite.com/wines/redlexia.asp

Beringer Moscato

Beringer MoscatoBeringer Moscato
2008, Napa California, $6.00 for 750ml, 10% Alc. content
White Wine
 

My first experience with white wine was waaaaaay back in the 1990′s when I had just finished high school and had somehow managed to finagle a glass of Chardonnay from a disgruntled flight attendant.  I unpeeled my foil-wrapped chicken Marsala, opened up the individually-sized cheddar cheese (you know, the baby round ones in that red wax coating) and thrilled at the prospect of finally discovering what all the fuss was about.  Plastic glass in hand, I took a deep sip of my ill-gotten hooch.  Well, I was disappointed.  Not just that, but I truly hated it.  I couldn’t imagine why anyone would actually choose to drink this stuff!  (Of course, this was at a time when I drank copious amounts of kool aid and very, very, very sweet ice coffee.)  

At any rate, since then, I don’t know if I’ve ever met a Chardonnay that I have had strong positive feelings for.  But I think I’ve discovered the reason: I’m a sucker for sweet white wine.  It’s delicious and refreshing and (unless fortified or harvested late) often a little lower on the alcohol content.

Beringer’s Moscato is no different; it is crisp, brightly aromatic and just acidic enough to balance out the sweetness so you don’t feel like your drinking kool aid (no offense to the stuff — I’ve already confessed to having been an avid fan). Maybe it was the name “Moscato” which comes from the Muscat family within the Vitis vinifera species (the species that most of our well known wines come from such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc.), but the flavor did remind me some of apple mixed with muscadine — which is a totally different species of grape (Vitis rotundifolia) grown largely in the southeastern United States.  

Oh, and the Beringer Moscato is pretty, too.  It looks like pale, liquid gold in a glass.

Bottom line:  I like it!  It is perfect for a dessert wine or just alone, and I actually tried it both at room temperate and chilled; I enjoyed both versions, but the chilled went better with my dinner of chicken and veggie fried rice.  I’d would definitely be amenable to getting this again.

 One last tip: if you’re interested in trying this or other versions of Moscato, note that “Muscat, Moscatel or Moscato” are all the same thing, just different ways of identifying this variety.

 wine’s website: www.beringer.com

Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon

Fetzer Cabernet SauvignonFetzer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
2006, Valley Oaks, Mendocino CA, $8.99 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

This is my new favorite wine under $10.00.  It has a depth to it that really sets it apart from other wines reviewed so far.  In fact, I liked the Fetzer Cabernet Sauvignon so much that I also tried the Fetzer Merlot and Fetzer Pinot Noir.  While both were tasty, neither held the combination of deep, earthy taste combined with a nice bite of acidity and the pucker of tannins that the Cabernet Sauvignon offers.  (But, both the Merlot and the Pinot are still definitely worth a try!)

The Fetzer Cabernet Sauvignon has an unusual, rolling flavor to it that really distinguishes itself from comparably priced beverages (and I’m sure more expensive ones, too).  I tried to put a finger on it, but I’m not sure how to describe it.  It’s medium to high on both tannin and acidity levels (which I actually prefer) but there is also a deep, earthy, rich, vanilla-oakiness that creates dimension and adds contrast and balance to the sharp bite of acid and the drying effect of the tannins.    In short, it’s really, really good!

Bottom line?  Snatch this one up.  It’s delicious.

wine’s website:  http://www.fetzer.com

Big Ass Shiraz

Big Ass ShirazBig Ass Shiraz
2006, SE Australia, $8.50 for 750 ml, 13.5% Alc
Red Wine

I like Shiraz.  I really do.  But when my husband brought me this bottle to review, I wasn’t sure how to take it.  I mean, it isn’t a very subtle hint at one’s physical endowments, is it?  Well, upon seeing my arched eyebrow after viewing the label, he assured me there were no untoward messages involved with picking this particular bottle.  I told him he was a sucker for marketing.

Enough of domestic issues.  You want to know if this is just another whimsical label masquerading a less than stellar bottle of grape juice, or if there is really something to that Big … kangaroo.  The answer?  There is.

Big Ass Shiraz pours with a deep, rich-red color and the flavor is very raisin-plummy with medium tannin (that pleasant, drying undertone that seems to grip one’s tongue).  However, what makes this Shiraz interesting to me is that it has a much higher acid level than other Shiraz I’ve had.  The acid really zings the tip of one’s tongue and makes the unsuspecting sipper take notice. Most Australian Shiraz bottlings are very “juicy” (for lack of a better word) and don’t have the backbone of strong acidity that makes other reds like Pinot Noir or even Cabernet Sauvignon so interesting.  This vino had all the pleasant full flavor of most Shiraz, but it also had a firm slap of acidity that gave it some oomph and added a layer of texture missing in other bottlings of this varietal. 

Bottom Line?  The Big Ass Shiraz is quite good and is a unique version of the Aussie varietal.  Definitely worth a try.

 Wine’s Website:  (Couldn’t find.  The bottle indicates it as www.bigasswines.com, but it does not appear to be the correct address.)

Matties Perch White Shiraz

Matties Perch White ShirazMatties Perch White Shiraz

No Vintage, SE Austraila, $5.50 for 750ml

Blush Wine

Lately,  I’ve noticed that a lot of companies are putting out new varietal versions of the White Zinfandel that has been so loved since the 1970′s.  Wine stores now offer all kinds of interesting permutations like White Merlot or White Shiraz.   Makes sense I suppose since Merlot and Shiraz are both abundantly-grown grapes that may have more product than the red wine market knows what to do with.  (In case you are new to drinking blush wines, varietals such as White Zin, White Merlot or White Shiraz are all made with the red grape of its namesake.  The juice of the red grape is bled off with the skins still on.  This allows the juice to absorb some of the red pigmentation and a bit of the flavor from the skin before being vatted separately.)

I decided to give Matties Perch White Shiraz a whirl.  I like the rich, thick flavor of Shiraz and was interested in finding out how much of that richness might carry over to its blush counterpart. 

Well, I have to say that the flavor left me feeling a little flat.  It was rather bland and uninteresting.  Almost like water.  It didn’t have the sweet zingyness that most White Zinfandels contain and lacked a tartness found in many white wines.   

I’ll say it is refreshing to sip on a hot day, but otherwise, I found the flavor to be too mild.  Not unpleasant, just not very interesting.

But, if you are throwing a pool party or a beach party or something equally active and outdoorsy, this might not be a bad wine to have in your ice chest.  It won’t cost you an arm and a leg and  the mildness of this quaff might be just what your guests are after.

Bottom line?  Pass it up if you are after an interesting blush to sip on.  But, if you are looking for a refreshing, cold light wine to bring to a summer party, it’s worth a try.

wine’s website:  http://www.mattiesperch.com/

the Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon

Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignonthe Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 SE Australia, $5.50 for 750 ml

(Red Wine)

The Little Penguin Shiraz was such a pleasant surprise that I thought I would give their Cabernet Sauvignon a run for the money. Plus, I like thinking of cute little penguins wobbling around in hand-knit sweaters somewhere in New Zealand (see Little Penguin Shiraz post). It makes me happy.

True to Cabernet form, I detected that pleasantly sour, blackcurrant flavor and a nice acidic bite. The tannins were a bit lower that I would have expected from a Cabernet and I discovered this with some level of disappointment. I’ve grown to enjoy a nice dose of puckering tannins in my Cabernet Sauvignon.

While the flavor was pleasant, I preferred the denser-almost chewy-Little Penguin Shiraz to their Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet was less complex and the flavor was of a sharper, less rolling-deep sensation.

Bottom line? I’m still KO’d by the Little Penguin. While the Shiraz is my favorite so far, the Cabernet also offers good value for the price.

wine’s website: www.thelittlepenguin.com

La Terre Merlot

La Terre MerlotLa Terre Merlot

(no vintage) California $4.24 for 750 ml

(Red Wine)

What’s in a name?  Well, if the name is “earthy,” there are certain expectations that accompany it.  Earthy should mean rich and layered. Maybe a little thick and with round, dusty flavors.  And when you name a red wine “earthy”, but in French, well, then, you’ve really upped the ante.  It just seems that much more poetic, right?  At least, that’s probably what the goal was.

Despite my hopes for this inexpensive Merlot hailing from Woodbridge, California, I was quickly let down by the first whiff of La Terre Merlot’s ascetic acid and nail polish remover fumes. Sharp, sickly sweet-sour and without any depth of flavor, this wine has no redeeming qualities that I can think of.

I’d say that maybe it was just a bad year, but since it doesn’t have a vintage, I can’t really blame it on that, either.

Now, to be fair, I tasted La Terre Merlot with a fellow wine drinker who admittedly does not share my acute dislike for any hint of ascetic acid flavor. To him, the wine tasted “okay” but that was about as positive as the tasting notes got. For me, I downright disliked it and truly, I can’t even offer a description of fruit or woody or any other common flavors as I was simply overwhelmed by the sharp, ascetic acid domination.

wine’s website:  couldn’t find

June 2012 Update:  While traveling a few weeks ago in the South Pacific, I happened upon a newer version of this wine!  I couldn’t resist taking a picture.  Who would have expected to find it — probably one out of a total of 20 brands altogether — at a store in Samoa!

 

 

Black Swan Shiraz

Black Swan ShirazBlack Swan Shiraz

2006, SE Australia, $8.00 for 1.5L

(Red Wine)

Amazing! For the price, I was so very happy with the Black Swan Shiraz.

I had read a review in the past that eschewed inexpensive wines as nothing but plonk and used inexpensive Australian versions-particularly naming Black Swan wines-as an example of cheap cost=cheap quality wine. So, maybe I entered into this tasting with lowered expectations. Or, maybe, my Black Swan was just trying to prove a point….

According to my research, the term “Black Swan” is a saying used back more commonly in the day when folks in Western Europe sipped their afternoon tea with curled pinkies. Apparently, it was (and still is) an expression employed when one meant to state that something was impossible or did not exist. As in, “a unicorn is nothing but a black swan.”

Well, leave it to the Australians to actually discover a species of black swan in the 17th century! In fact, black swans in Australia are a pretty common form of fowl. Kind of turns around the meaning behind the metaphor a bit, doesn’t it?

It makes me wonder about unicorns, too….

With such an independent spirit behind the name, it should come as no surprise that my Black Swan Shiraz defied expectations.

Was it inexpensive? Yes, very.

Was it poor quality? Not at all.

The Black Swan Shiraz isn’t necessarily a layered and complex wine, but it is definitely a berry filled, slurpy drink that is friendly and very easy to enjoy. Less caustic on the tannins and acidity, it still has a nice, easy going balance filled with juicy, almost strawberry-like flavors. It’s a pleasant sipper for an evening book reading, or as an accompaniment to dinner.

Bottom line? Good bargain and recommended if you want an easygoing red wine filled with lots of berry flavor. At least for this inexpensive and delicious Shiraz, harmony of economy and quality is not an impossibility.  It’s just a Black Swan.

wine’s website: www.blackswanwines.com

Barefoot Zinfandel

Barefoot ZinfandelBarefoot Zinfandel

(no vintage) California $5.50 for 750 ml

(Red Wine)

I have been a singer of praises for the Barefoot Cellars line of varietal wines. They’re inexpensive and reliably good. And when I discovered that they also have a Zinfandel, I was even more pleased. It’s pretty hard to find a good, inexpensive (as in, under $10.00) Zinfandel.

I pranced home with my newly acquired Zin and prepared for an inexpensive and tasty wine review. Worried that my Barefoot reviews were beginning to sound redundant, I paused before pouring a sample to consider how else I could review this varietal without readers suspecting I was being paid off or something…

One sniff put my worries to rest. The aroma had a bit of a sickeningly sweet smell that was not pleasing. A sip confirmed this aroma and while the Barefoot Zinfandel also had a pleasant spicy cherry and black tea flavor, the sickeningly sweet taste really ruined the wine’s potential.

I tried this wine again the next day and found that the unpleasant sensation had wafted off a bit. In it’s place, the deeper, spicier flavors that make Zinfandel so yummy were displayed. Still, it’s a bit rude to make a gal wait for so long, don’t you think?

Bottom line? The Zinfandel isn’t one of Barefoot Cellar’s finest varietals, but worth a try. I recommend letting the bottle breathe for a while before sipping.

wine’s website:  www.barefoot.com

Liberty Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

Liberty Creek Cabernet SauvignonLiberty Creek Cabernet Sauvignon
(no vintage) California $8.00 for 1.5 L
(Red Wine)

I’ve tried to think of something great to say about Liberty Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon.But, I just can’t.

It’s not horrible; it’s just not that good.For a Cabernet, this wine is missing some umph.

It’s higher in acidity than a lot of Cabernet and rather thin-bodied.It tastes like the wine has been watered down a bit, and the tannins left a lot to be desired as well.In fact, I had trouble locating them.

The overall flavor of this Cabernet was a bit one-dimensional and I was left feeling like someone forgot to put half of the wine’s flavor into the bottle.Does that make sense?

Bottom line, Liberty Creek Cabernet Sauvignon is not a repulsive wine and for the price, some might want to at least give it a try. But, if you are desiring a layered and full-flavored experience, don’t take a dip in Liberty Creek.

Website: Update: At the time this review was written, no website could be found.  A reader has since informed me that one now exists.  It is LibertyCreekWine.com

Delicato Cabernet Sauvignon

Delicato
Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Manteca, CA $5.50 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

The Delicato Cabernet Sauvignon is a medium-bodied wine imbued with blackcurrant flavor.

For the price, I found this vino to be a pretty good deal.

While it doesn’t have the rolling layers that many other Cabernet Sauvignon offer, I found the Delicato Cab to be pleasant and a little less demanding, too. The flavors were smooth enough to offer the versatility of a wine to be sipped alone or with dinner.

That said, I’ve had other similarly priced Cabernet Sauvignon (think: Little Penguin or Barefoot) that I enjoyed better.

Bottom line: For the price alone, the Delicato Cabernet Sauvignon is worth a try. However, given similarly priced options that I find to be more complex and interesting, I don’t have a compelling reason to buy this again.

wine’s website: www.delicato.com

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: www.jacobscreek.com

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: www.thelittlepenguin.com

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: www.lindemans.com

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: www.donsebastianiandsons.com

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:  www.barefootwine.com


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.

Yum.

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: www.calina.com

Hardys Shiraz

Hardys ShirazHardys Shiraz

2006. Southeastern Australia $5.95 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

I soooo wanted to give the Hardys Shiraz a positive review.

Aside from its affordable price, Hardys Shiraz puts itself into boxed wine and bottles with screw caps.  I mean, how much more defiantly underdog can a wine get?

Lest you take me the wrong way, antiwinesnob does not disparage the use of screw caps or of boxed wine.  Rather, it applauds Hardys for doing this.

The fact of the matter is, both methods (boxed wine and screw-cap bottles) have been shown to actually preserve wine better than traditional corks or synthetic ones.  The problem is, there’s still a lot of snobbery out there regarding wines marketed in screw-cap bottles or in boxes.  It takes a certain level of gumption (and common sense) to market one’s wines this way and antiwinesnob is a fervent supporter of gumption and common sense.  And of underdogs.  I even had hopes of the Hardys Shiraz becoming the antiwinesnob mascot….

Alas, the search shall continue as one sip of the Hardys Shiraz revealed the lurking evil that is acetic acid (“AcAc”).  While the rich, berry flavors were all there, the sickeningly sour/sweet flavor of AcAc sabotaged any redeeming qualities along with my taste buds.

In an effort to be fair, I employed the same technique I tried with the Marcus James Cab: I sipped it with my dinner of turkey breast and steamed veggies with melted cheddar cheese in the hopes that the proteins in my food might masquerade the nasty AcAc flavor. This time, the trick did not work.  Instead, my dinner just tasted bad, too. Or maybe it was actually my cooking….

Bottom line?  Pass on the 2006 Hardys Shiraz.  But darn it, I’m still not ready to give up on them, so you might see another review in the future on a different Hardys wine.

wine’s website: www.hardys.com

Fish Eye Cabernet Sauvignon

Fish Eye Cabernet SauvignonFish Eye Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Ripon, California. $7.70 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

This Cabernet reminded me very much of the Coastal Ridge Cab I’ve reviewed earlier.

Except this time, alas, I did not smell any lavender. (Which I kind of liked about the Coastal Ridge Cab.) And, this time, it wasn’t so much an oxidized smell/flavor that bothered me as it was the hint of rotting vegetable undertones.

Suffice it to say that the Fish Eye Cabernet Sauvignon had some nice, round, berry-smooth flavors and was milder on the tannins than a lot of Cabernet. While it was a pleasant wine to sip, the vegetable flavors did interfere with an otherwise pleasing quaff.

Bottom Line? Pass it up for a better quality Cab sans vegetables at a comparable price.

wine’s website: www.fisheyewines.com

Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon

Marcus James Cabernet SauvignonMarcus James Cabernet Sauvignon

2006. Mendoza, Argentina $4.25 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

I’ve had the Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon before and thought it was a good deal. A gal would be hard pressed to find a better tasting wine for the price. Plus, it’s fun to drink something from Argentina.

“Inexpensive is great,” you may say, “but what about the taste?”

Yes, well, this is where I get a bit confused. I truly remember this wine being pretty tasty on another occasion. And this time, I still thought it had a nice flavor with a good balance of tannins and acidity. But I also found it had a disagreeable sweet/sour twang to it that I suspect is acetic acid. This flavor really distracted me from the other more pleasing layers to a point where I did not enjoy it on its own.

Now, I hate dismissing inexpensive wine so easily. It seems downright undemocratic. So, I tried it again the next day, thinking maybe the flavors would be different now that the bottle had been opened and recorked. While a sip confirmed that the acetic acid flavor was still there, to my surprise, I found that the unpleasant flavor more or less disappeared when I sipped it along with my dinner. In its place was a full, blackcurrant flavor with a pleasant bite of acidity-but not of the acetic acid variety. See? The sacrifices I make to give a thorough and fair review sometimes pay off!

Bottom line? While it wouldn’t be listed as one of my favorites, for the price, it’s definitely worth a try. And if you do decide to try it, make sure you’ve got some rich food to go along with it.

Camelot Pinot Noir

Camelot Pinot NoirCamelot Pinot Noir

2005, Vin de Pays D’Oc, $7.50 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

I was so enamored with Camelot’s Merlot, that I thought I’d give their Pinot Noir a try. But this time, I did a little research first.

The bottle of Camelot Pinot Noir indicates that the wine is from Vin de Pays D’Oc. On the back label, it is explained that the grapes are actually imported from France and bottled in California.

I googled Vin de Pays D’Oc and discovered that this region is located in Southern France, near the Mediterranean Sea. It is said to be the largest vineyard in the world and, unlike many other regions in France, wines from Vin de Pays actually label the wine by its grape variety. How nice of them. I wonder if they provide free tours of their vineyards as well….

But enough of import/export. What did the Camelot Pinot Noir taste like? I found it to be smooth, mild in tannins (which is to be expected in a Pinot) and–here’s what surprised me–mild in acid, too. Normally, I’ve found other Pinot Noir to be rather acidic and the other flavors a bit too weak or fragile for my taste. But this Pinot Noir tasted more like a Merlot to me than a Pinot. It was much mellower and round flavored than I expected.

Bottom Line? I liked it and the soft, round flavors surprised me. It was very smooth and quite different than other Pinot Noir I’ve sampled. But, out of the two Camelot wine’s I’ve tried, I prefer the Merlot.

wine’s website: www.camelotwines.com

Fat Croc Shiraz

fat croc shirazFat Croc Shiraz
South Eastern Australia, 2004, $6.15 for 750 ml

(Red Wine)

What more can I say? You’ve got a satiated, prehistoric reptilian creature on a bottle of wine.

Well, I might be able to push myself into verboseness.

The Fat Croc Shiraz from South Eastern Australia has got an impressive deep, red-purple color. With all that hue and a thicker viscosity going on, I was surprised to find that the smell was not that striking or singular. In fact, it smelled pretty mild and without much zing.

I took a sip and at first, it seemed juicy—like grape juice—and without much structure. My second and third sips, however, gave me more bang for the buck. I noticed a zingy-ness that kept the juicy flavors from falling flat and just enough tannin in it to give the wine some grip, but not so much as to make it imposing.

Overall, I’d describe this wine as juicy, smooth and pretty good. In fact, it might be too smooth: you might forget you’re drinking wine (it’s got 14 percent alcohol). So be careful—that croc’s fat for a reason!

Jakob Demmer Liebfraumilch

Jakob Demmer Liebfraumilch

Jakob Demmer Liebfraumilch,

Qualitatswein, 2004, Germany $6.50 for 750 ml (White wine)

Another tasty treat from Germany. And like the Webber Piesporter, this wine doesn’t state a varietal on its label, so I have to assume that it’s a blend of two or more grape varieties.

Whether it’s a blend of Riesling, Spaetburgunder (Pinot Noir), Gewuertztraminer, Scheurebe or other delicious white wines I’ve never heard of (and probably could never spell), all I care about is the fact that the Jakob Demmer Liebfraumilch is down right delicious. And in fact, it reminded me very much of the Webber Piesporter.

Crisp, slightly sweet, honey-ish and round flavored, this wine is very pleasing and fun to drink. It’s the kind of wine you would want around for pretty much any occasion. Plus, the name alone keeps things interesting. According to my Babel Fish translation, Liebfraumilch means “Love Woman’s Milk” or “Dear Woman’s Milk”….

Huh.

I don’t really get it, but if they’re going for the whole Nectar-of-Life theme, they just might be on to something….

Bottom line, this is a good white wine for parties, get togethers, book readings, cozy chats, etc. Although German wines labeled “Liebfraumilch” are apparently considered “cheap” by many and often sneered upon, I thought this stuff was quite good for a casual, fun drink. In fact, although it’s inevitable, I would nevertheless be surprised at a person who doesn’t like it. And awfully curious.

Camelot 2003 Merlot

Camelot Merlot WineCamelot Merlot
2003 Santa Rosa, California $7.05 for 750 ml (Red Wine)

This Merlot’s got sass. And … something that rhymes with it.

Meaning, this Merlot’s no wallflower just wanting to be casually enjoyed. Nope. This Merlot’s got a lot going on. And, it’s gonna slap your face if you don’t pay it some respect. Rightfully so.

When I first poured the Camelot Merlot and gave it the sniff test, I thought it smelled mellow and slightly sweet.

When I tasted it, those famous round, smooth, lighter-on-the-acid Merlot flavors came flowing through. But the tannins gave a nice grip to it so that an otherwise easy-going wine became a bit more attention getting. Also—and this is what I found most interesting–it had a pleasant, spicy kick that was a bit unusual. I even checked the bottle’s label to make sure it was a Merlot. I really did.

My friend who tasted this wine with me thought there were milk-chocolaty undertones to this beverage as well, but, to be honest, I didn’t quite get that. Nonetheless, to pay homage to my friend’s sacrificing an evening to taste test with me, I thought I would put those notes in there. Who knows? You might find those chocolaty flavors, too. And if you do, I envy you. After all, what’s better than combining chocolate with red wine? (No dirty thoughts allowed.)

Bottom line, I thought this was a righteous drink. I enjoyed it and would get it again.

wine’s website: www.camelotwines.com

HRM Rex Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster Merlot

HRM Rex Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster Merlot¿Free Range?

HRM Rex Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster Merlot

Monterey County, California (no vintage) $7.55 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

For such a long-winded and whimsical name, I expected something … interesting, I guess.

It wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong: this wine is not bad, but, for lack of a better word, I’d call it a bit boring.

Which I don’t like to do; I usually find something interesting in almost everything. But the flavor tasted kind of bland and it really didn’t have much personality to it. It wasn’t unpleasant; in fact, I’m sure a lot of people might enjoy sipping on this while they socialize or watch a movie or something. I mean, it wouldn’t be bad for that kind of thing as the flavors would certainly not be demanding or distracting.

My general impression of this wine surprised me as it appears to have won many awards from 2003 and 2004 (no mention on their website of more recent awards). I don’t know; maybe I was having an off taste bud day or something, because the website mentions the wine’s “good seam of acidity” and a “decidedly spicy nose of cherry, cassis and cedar”…???

Maybe so, but I didn’t quit get that. In fact, this wine seemed anything but spicy to me. It seemed pretty low on the acidity, too, which is one thing I noticed immediately and thought might help perk it up a bit.

Cassis? I was completely befuddled by this description as I had no idea what it meant. Thanks to www.m-w.online, however, I discovered that it is simply a French word for black currant. Oh. Well in that case, I did notice a general dark berry/fruit flavor so I’ll go along with this description.

And cedar? Well, I don’t know how to respond to that.

Bottom line, I just found this Merlot a bit flat. Not nasty or disgusting, but not good. It was just okay.

I’m sorry, ¿free range? rooster. At least you have a happy life….

wine’s website: www.rexgoliath.com

Montevina Zinfandel

Montevina ZinfandelMontevina Zinfandel

2002 Sierra Foothills, California. $9.50 for 750 ml (Red Wine)

California is known for its Zinfandels: both red and white. After all, this is where “White Zinfandel” was born back in the 1970’s. And do you know why White Zinfandel was created? According to what I’ve read, back in the age of earth-tone polyester and tight bell-bottom pants, no one wanted to drink red Zin. So, one California winemaker used the juice of the Zinfandel with just a bit of the skin’s pigments bled off to create White Zinfandel. It became a hit and today, both White Zinfandel and (red) Zinfandel are fabulously famous.

While the White Zinfandels are a tasty and refreshing drink, I prefer the red Zinfandel– (which is simply called “Zinfandel”)–overall. So off to the store I went to fetch a bottle of Zin.

The Zinfandel I chose is a bit higher in price than I would like, but at least in my store, there were no options for $7.00 or $8.00 dollar versions of Zinfandel. Ergo, $9.50 for the Montevina Zinfandel was the best I could do. I asked the woman who was helping me if the Montevina Zin was any good. “I don’t know,” she said, “but lots of people buy this one.”

Hmm. That sounds promising, I thought, so I plunked down the casheroo, brought it home and sat down with my husband. “This better be good,” I told him, “I almost went over my $10.00 rule.”

And you know what? It was good. It was what I expected a Zinfandel to be: spicy, fruity and with a medium acid twinge to it that seemed to zap through the pleasant thickness of the juice.

We both rolled this wine around in our mouths a while, trying our best to come up with some specific fruit or other flavor descriptions. But we really couldn’t name specific flavors. It just tasted fruity to me, as in a mix of black or dark berries and cherries with a nice tingle of peppery spiciness. The best description we could come up with was that it reminded us of a berry fruit-roll-up: it had a compact, zingy flavor balanced by a sweet, fruity chewiness. It also had quite a bit of alcohol in it at 14.2 percent!

Bottom line, the Montevina Zinfandel was quite good. And sneaky. That innocent, fun, fruit-roll-up sensation distracted me from the fact that I was drinking a pretty alcohol-laden wine. In fact, I might call this wine downright diabolical.

But what else should you expect from a wine that’s called “Zin”?

wine’s website: www.montevina.com

Coastal Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon

Coastal Ridge Cabernet SauvignonCoastal Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon

2004. California. $12.00 for 1.5L
(Red Wine)

You know how I said I haven’t met many Cabernet Sauvignons that I didn’t like?  Well, I think I just did. Or maybe, almost just did. I mean, it’s a pretty close call….

For some reason, I expected this wine to taste similar to a Barefoot Cabernet. As it turns out, not so much.

The color is a dark, thick red to almost brownish-purple and the smell is of dark berries and something … vegetably? At first, I also thought it smelled a tiny bit like lavender, which really impressed me. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled a hint of lavender before, but I honestly thought I detected it here. It was nice and it made me happy.

Anyway, the vegetably smell continued to bother me, so I took a sip.

Makes sense, right?

At first, the taste was okay, but as I had a few more sips, that vegetable flavor really started to come through and overtake the fruity, lavendery pleasantness. The vegetable taste was like rotting green veggies…. Yep, that’s what I tasted.

Also—and this might be tied in to the vegetable flavor—it tasted like it had been accidentally oxidized. As in, it tasted like the wine had been left open for a few days before someone decided to seal it with a cork. When I realized this, I had one of those surreal, creative-fiction experiences where in my mind, I saw this poor bottle of wine sitting in the bottom of a vintner’s cellar somewhere in Napa California, uncorked and shivering in a dark corner one Monday morning. Along comes the minimum wage employee* who had left work early the Friday before and sees the neglected bottle of wine. “Crud!” says the employee (or something akin to such language), “I totally forgot to seal that one.” Looking around and confirming no witnesses are present, the employee stealthily pops a cork in the wine, seals it with foil and scoots it into the appropriate bin. For him, all is well with the world.

Well, that bottle of wine made it to my living room where I sat on the couch, mouthful of vegetable with hints of lavender, and witnessed this injustice in my mind’s eye. Employee person in Napa, hear this: Karma.

The reason why I can’t say I just hated this wine is because I did enjoy the other fruity, lavender-like flavors. And I have to be fair: twelve bucks for a 1.5 liter of wine is a good deal and you can’t expect Cabernet nirvana. However, the vegetable/oxidized sensation bothered me to a point where I think it actually turned my stomach a little, but this is the thing: I was tasting the Coastal Ridge Cabernet with another person who didn’t seem to detect this less-than-pleasing nuance. He said he thought it tasted pretty good.

I looked him over closely and determined that he didn’t appear to be suffering from a cold, so I have to pay his sense of taste and smell at least some semblance of respect.

Bottom line: I didn’t really care for this wine. However, seeing the Napa employee was kind of fun, so if you’re bored …

*Disclaimer: Referring to a “minimum wage employee” is not snobbery on antiwinesnob’s part; creators of antiwinesnob have themselves spent the majority of their working lives as minimum wage employees and so can relate this vision as a testament to their own experiences while within that paradigm. Furthermore, aniwinesnob has no actual knowledge of the goings-on at any wineries located in Napa and has related their creative vision for entertainment purposes only.

Weber Piesporter Michelsberg

Webber Piesporter MichelsbergWeber Piesporter Michelsberg

2005 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Region, Germany, $7.00 for 750 ml
(White Wine)

This wine from the Mosel River Valley in Germany seems to actually embody the beauty and gentleness of the place it came from.

While the slate soil hills that the grapes grow on are indeed steep, and tower over the Mosel River that winds its way between them, the overall impression of this area is not what one might think. Steep cliffs with rocky soil would make a person assume the countryside is severe and intimidating, but in fact, the opposite is true. I don’t know if I’ve ever driven through a quainter, more charming and idyllic area than that of the Mosel River Valley. Especially when its in the fall and all the hills are turned golden by the vines and the cobblestone and half-timber villages dotting the countryside all host festivals celebrating the harvest of their grapes.

So enough of sentimentality. What does it taste like? A little sweet and crisp, but also gentle, fun and slightly round-flavored. Its fresh, friendly with just a bit of acidity to keep that zing, but not too much that it isn’t completely pleasant to drink all on its own. In fact, I recommend it. The flavors are very pleasantly perfumy, but to be honest, I couldn’t really single out the particular fruits it called to mind. It tasted of something I’ve had before, but the flavor is not common. Maybe a bit of melon mixed with honey and something else, but I’m not sure what.

While I would like to claim that this wine is a Riesling (due to where it grows and the fact that I’ve seen pictures of Weber Piesporter bottles that had “Riesling” printed on them), I’m not sure if this is a complete Riesling varietal or if it’s a blend. Why? Normally, German wines print both the appellation as well as the grape variety on the bottle if its not a blend. The fact that this bottle doesn’t have “Riesling” on it makes me assume it is a blend of Riesling with some other type of (equally scrumptious) grape.

Technicalities aside, in short, I loved this wine. It is delicious and perfect on its own or with food. Being a bargain wine, it isn’t considered fancy. But it is tasty and perfect for casual sipping. Definitely something I would get again, and, for the price, it’s an excellent find.

Most people drink this wine chilled. But you know what? I actually like it better at room temperature where the flavors are even more aromatic.

Bolla Valpolicella

Bolla ValpolicellaBolla Valpolicella

2005 Veneto Region Italy, $6.99 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

Near the fair city of Verona, grows a grape called Corvina. And like many other grapes in this region, it doesn’t even get credit for its wine on the label. Sigh.

In particular, the Corvina makes a red wine called Valpolicella, and while there are a number of variations on Valpolicella–such as Valpolicella Ripasso or Amarone di Valpolicella–I bought a bottle of plain old Valpolicella.

The color of this wine is a bright, cheerful red and the smell and taste pretty much echo that theme. The taste was bright, fruity and crisp and I actually could distinguish cherry–and a little raisin—flavor. The Bolla Valpolicella struck me as higher in acidity and with less of a body than a Cabernet or Shiraz. I’d probably call it a medium body, high acid/dry wine. It went really well with my pasta and red sauce and I enjoyed it with some cheddar as well.

The overall texture and flavor is not as round or smooth as other red wines due to the sharp, crispness of it. I think this is a great wine to eat with your classic spaghetti and red sauce or pizza. If you want something just to sip on its own, I might go for something a little mellower and round.

Bottom line: Good pasta-with-red-sauce-dinner kind of drink.

Wine’s website: www.bolla.com

Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet SauvignonWoodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 California. $12.00 for 1.5 Liters (Red Wine)

I feel I must disclose that I haven’t found very many Cabernet Sauvignons that I didn’t like.

I know; I spread myself too thin.

Emotional issues aside, I have to say that one of the things I like most about Cabernet Sauvignon is that its got a wonderful tannin presence that really grips your tongue and makes you notice it. You can’t just casually sip most Cabernet Sauvignons and gaze vaguely at the bottle, wondering what exactly it is you’re drinking. No. A good Cabernet Sauvignon makes you pause after the first sip and give it a little consideration.

Now, I need to be honest: I tried this Cabernet a few weeks ago with no food at all and found that I had to give it too much consideration as the flavors and tannins were a bit overpowering. At that time, I made a note that this might be the case because I did not have any food to go along with it.

Not one to be deterred, I tried the Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon again, but this time, with some cold cuts and cheese.

Before taking a sip, I gave it a good sniff to see if I could distinguish any particular aromas. I was hoping I could impose an impressive soliloquy on its nose of smelt rubber and hints of durian or something. Alas, all I could really distinguish was a dark, fruity aroma wafting from the glass, along with a slight burn of alcohol.

I took a sip. The taste was thick in tannins and deep. Maybe just a little peppery and with a zing of mild to medium acidity. I also noticed a general flavor of black currants.

Overall, this time, I thought the Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon was pleasantly layered and complex and went very well with my tasty snacks. It had a presence to it that one generally encounters in a bit pricier wines, I think. And, it didn’t have that vegetable smell and flavor that I’ve unfortunately encountered in other similarly priced Cabs.

It was dark and bold and … firm.

Bottom line? The Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely a great wine to go along with meats and cheeses, but I wouldn’t recommend it for sipping without any accompaniments. The rich flavors and tannins need something to cling to and might otherwise overpower your tongue if it’s all by it’s lonesome self.

So, give it some company!

wine’s website: www.woodbridgewines.com

Bolla Chianti

Bolla ChiantiBolla Chianti

2006. Italy. $6.99 for 750 ml.
(Red Wine)

Like many wines from Europe (and unlike wines from U.S.A. or Australia for example that are identified by the type of grape, as in Cabernet Sauvignon), “Chianti” is not a type of grape.

Rather, it is a region in Tuscany, Italy which boasts the prominent status of producing Italy’s most popular wine.

The main grape in Chianti is actually Sangiovese and, depending on the category of Chianti, can be mixed with other grapes such as Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and two “Tuscan grapes”: Canaiolo and Colorino. Mostly though, a Chianti is made up of Sangiovese.

So enough of that. What does Chianti taste like? Well, it depends on the Chianti, but I gave Bolla Chianti a little taste test to get things started. At first, the smell reminded me of dried cherries, and I was pleased to read that this is one of the characteristics common to Chianti! Bravo to me. Next, I thought the taste was what I would call drier and more acidic. Especially next to having tasted the Mattie’s Perch Cabernet-Shiraz before this. The differences were stark.

I have to say that, while I liked the acidity and I did like the dried cherry-ish flavor, I didn’t care for it as much as other reds such as most Cabernets or Shiraz’. It is good, and I liked the fresh zingy-ness to it. But I did miss the deep, round flavors that I like so much in a Cab, Shiraz, Merlot or Zinfandel.

My husband, on the other hand, really liked it and said it tasted a bit peppery to him as well. All in all, I would say it was good, but not one of my favorites. In retrospect, I probably should have had this wine with some food like pizza or a pasta with lots of parmesan cheese as that tangy acidity that I thought was a bit much would probably be balanced out perfectly with the food flavors. Um, duh, right? What a concept: a red wine from Tuscany to be drank with food? Hmm.

wine’s website: www.bolla.com

Papio Cabernet Sauvignon

Papio Cabernet SauvignonPapio Cabernet Sauvignon

California. $10.83 for 1.5 Liters
(Red Wine)

If you want some inexpensive wine for a party and don’t want to make your friends run gagging into the streets, this is a good find. In fact, I think a party is where this wine belongs as I would probably describe it as a sociable drink.

The Papio Cabernet Sauvignon is kind of like a polite guest: pleasant and enjoyable and without any extreme, attention-seeking qualities. It’s rounder, sweeter and gentler than most Cabernet Sauvignon and actually, much more like a Merlot. It has a nice mellow cherry flavor, but nothing too demanding. No striking tannins or acidity here.

See what I mean? Good party drink.

wine’s website: www.papiowines.com

Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon

Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon[yellow tail] Cabernet Sauvignon

Southeast Australia. $7.00 for 750 ml (Red Wine)

I really like the Yellow Tail Cab.

It has a thick, round, blackcurrant flavor that is also (at least to me) slightly smoky … in a good way. I thought the tannin flavor and feel was well balanced; the wine has a smooth, deep flavor but with enough zing and grip in it to keep things interesting.

And, best of all, this wine is versatile. It’s very pleasant to sip all on its own, or to be paired with your favorite tapas.

Bottom line? This is a tasty and friendly Cabernet at a great price.

wine’s website: www.yellowtailwine.com

Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon

Barefoot Cabernet SauvignonBarefoot Cabernet Sauvignon

(no vintage) California. $5.50 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

This wine has won a lot of awards and I can understand why.

For the price alone, there are obvious reasons to appreciate its existence. But when you taste the rich, smooth round flavor with just enough kick in it from tannins and acidity (have you checked out my article on this subject?), you’ll be a little surprised that so much flavor was condensed into a bottle for such little cost.

I thought the fruit flavors where pleasant but I had trouble singling out any particular fruit on my own. Thanks to the bottle’s tasting notes, however, I can tell you that it has been described as “jammy” with “wild berry” and “currant” flavors with hints of oak and clove. Hmm. “Jammy” is usually used as an insult in wine to describe a lack of structure….

In any case, I did get the fruity berry and currant flavors, but in regards to it being jammy, I thought there was enough acidity mixed with it to keep the flavors from falling flat.

I also caught a little of the oak flavor, which makes sense since it was most likely aged in an oak barrel.

But cloves? Not so much for me, anyway.

Bottom line? I’ll be getting this one again.

wine’s website: www.barefootwine.com

3 Blind Moose Cabernet Sauvignon

3 Blind Moose Cabernet Sauvignon

California (Woodbridge) $8.89 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

Some people call me cheap, but I prefer, frugal and unpretentious. So, for me, almost 9 bucks for a 750 ml bottle of wine was on the steeper end of things. Shut up and don’t laugh at me. I’m being serious.

My personal scruples being set aside, I thought the price of 3 Blind Moose Cabernet Sauvignon still reasonable enough to be included on this website. And, its got a cool name.

So how was it?

Well, I thought it smelled very strong of alcohol with an almost peppery scent. That said, the smell was pleasant and strong.

The taste was tannin-laden with what I can only describe as a sour black currant flavor. Now, I know I keep using black currant in my descriptions for (mostly) Cabernets, but the truth is, it really does taste like black currants. To me, much more so than other berry or fruit flavors. In 3 Blind Moose’s case however, it tasted like sour black currants; as in, slightly sour or bitter or unripe.

The website’s tasting notes describe the wine as having “flavors of dark berry, plum, chocolate, clove and spice”.

I don’t think I caught many of these unless, by dark berries, they mean black currants. In that case, yes, I scored a point. And maybe I sensed some plum and spice (I did detect a peppery smell at first).

Unfortunately, I really didn’t catch a hint of chocolate or clove.

Oh well.

The tasting notes also described the wine as being “medium-bodied, soft palate”. Now, I know what a soft palate is and, on a personal level, I’m familiar with my own. But I’m not sure what is meant when a wine is said to be “soft palate”. The notes don’t say that the wine will flow gently on my soft palate. No. Instead, the notes say the wine itself is soft palate.

This perplexes me.

Do they really mean that the wine itself is a mouth with a soft, fleshy area located near the oropharynx? I’m thinking probably not.

Do they mean that the wine rolls softly on my soft palate? I hope it does. I don’t want something hard on my soft palate, that would just be confusing.

Do they mean that the wine is gentle and smooth in one’s mouth and general-palate-area? I’m thinking probably. But in that case, they should say the wine is soft on one’s palate. Not that the wine is soft palate….

Still, I’m left scratching my head, poking my palate and wondering about the meaning of it all. More on this later, but for now, I’ll say that soft palates aside, 3 Blind Moose Cab did have a nice full flavor that I enjoyed. But for the price, next time, I’ll probably save almost 2 bucks and opt for a more inexpensive wine that I like better.

wine’s website: www.3blindmoose.com

Yellow Tail Shiraz

Yellow Tail Shiraz wine[yellow tail] Shiraz

2006. Southeast Australia. $7.00 for 750 ml
(Red Wine)

Here’s something that you might have wondered for a while: Syrah (originally from France) and Shiraz (from Australia) are the same grape. Shiraz is also the most widely grown variety in Australia (smart folks, those Aussies are!).

Lots of other places like California and Washington make Syrah/Shiraz, too, and depending on whether or not the wine will have a more Aussie-angle or a more Franco-flair will decide the spelling of the grape. Kind of fun, right?

The Australian style has often been described as “plump”, “dense” or “juicy” while the Franco version seems to be defined as more restrained and peppery. While I would agree that the Australian Shiraz is plump, dense, juicy and then some, I’ve really no idea if the French style Syrah description is accurate as I’ve never had much opportunity to really sample these. While I’ve no doubt the Syrah are delicious, I have to say, I’ve grown quite fond of the Australian style!

The Yellow Tail Shiraz seems to be very popular red wine, so I thought I would give it an audition on my taste buds. Maybe it was the expectation after hearing so much about the Yellow Tail Shiraz, but, while I did think it was a good wine, I like the Yellow Tail Cabernet better.
I think this is why: The smell isn’t super strong but a sip of it is. I think it’s more of a high tannin and alcohol flavor than anything else. Those flavors overpowered the cherry and blackcurrant, slightly sweet flavor behind it and left me feeling a bit confused. It seemed a bit tongue-drying to a point where I felt like I couldn’t taste anything else.

Now, this description sounds very negative, so I’d like to have a little disclaimer here. I still think this is a good wine and it’s also a great price. Others really really seem to like it, so it’s certainly worth a try to see what you think. Also, like all wine, what one eats (or doesn’t eat) while drinking it changes the whole experience. Because of that tanniny, alcoholy flavor, I might have had a very different experience if I’d had a rich meal with my wine to help balance things out. In fact, I think I’ll have to try it again, only this time, with some sharp cheddar cheese or a bit of steak.

Bottom line? It’s certainly worth a try but I would recommend having it with foods.

wine’s website: www.yellowtailwine.com

Mattie’s Perch

Matties Perch Cabernet/ShirazMattie’s Perch. Cabernet-Shiraz

Australia. On sale for $3.99 for 750 ml (normally$6.99)
(Red Wine)

Australia is famous for its good, inexpensive red wines; particularly, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. While many folks turn their nose up at the low-end prices and dismiss these wines as just “big red juiciness”, I say phooey on them. It is true that the land of Auz has put out tons of red wine for people like me to drink. And for that, I thank the good vintners from down under.

Now, I’ve read some good and bad things about this particular wine, so I thought I should explore it on my own. Here’s what I thought:

Mattie’s Perch Cabernet-Shiraz from Australia smells sweet and fruity. Tastes pretty much the same: a lot like drinking grape juice, but with alcohol and just a tiny bit of acid to twang your tongue. It’s a little softer than a lot of other reds and doesn’t have the strong flavors that a lot of folks acquire a taste for. For the price, it’s not a bad wine if you’re just looking for something casual to sip on.

But, if you like the complex feel and layered texture that a lot of Cabernet Sauvignons or Shiraz offer, you might not like this one as much. It’s a little less complicated, I think, and just plain friendly. Not recommended for wine snobs.

wine’s website: www.mattiesperch.com







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