Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shoo Fly Aussie Wine a Smooth Glass of Juice

Sometimes I buy a bottle of wine just out of curiosity. I picked up a bottle of 2005 Shoo Fly Aussie Salute at The Village Bottle Shoppe in West Lafayette this week. I opened it late tonight and found it most enjoyable for a darn low price point.

Above all else it's a very smooth red wine that you can drink by itself or with a little mild cheese and crackers. The blend is mostly Grenache, with a little Shiraz and a hit of Viognier. It's not a big wine but it does come across as rich with a soft finish that makes you want to promptly refill your glass with just a little more.

Big dark fruit on the front end makes it enjoyable with a ripe nose that will send you hints of the Syrah grapes. I paid $11 for the wine and found it online for as low as $9.

I'd use this wine for new wine drinkers or even experienced wine fans as an inexpensive introduction to blends or Australian wines.

Cheers matey, a darn fine glass of wine at 11 at night!

And, take a look at the label - but the best part is just above the label where they put a decal of a little fly! Wayyyy cool!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Italy's Favorite White Wine - Soave

Every time I have a nice white wine, I wonder why I don't drink more of it. I'm unquestionably a red wine kinda guy, but a nice light white on a summer evening or any time of year with fish is a nice change of pace.

I was mildy surprised how much I liked the Tamellini 2004 Soave. Soave is is a light dry wine from the Vento region of Italy. It is the country's most popular white wine.

This bottle was light with some apricot flavor and a hint of mineral. I've written before that I'm not always the best at identifying fruit so I try to stick to what I can pick up so my recommendations aren't off the mark. There is definitie apricot in this with a very smooth finish.

I was expecting more of an acidic flavor and finish but this wine really was more refreshing than acidic. I had it with a piece of salmon I seasoned with a little dill and fresh lime then seared on the stove top. It worked well together. It probably would be a better pairing with a white fish, but it was a nice refreshing change of pace from all the red I normally consume.

The best recommendation is that I'd buy it again. I'd highly recommend it to someone who wanted something different than a Chardonnay. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you'll really like this wine!

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Incredible Bang for Your Buck Cabernet

I get almost giddy (maybe more than giddy) when I find a wine that has quality far beyond its price point.

Let's just say I'm giddy tonight!

Duck Pond 20004 Cabernet Sauvignon is unbelieveable Cab for the $10.99 price. I bought it on the recommendation of Ashley, proprietor at Cork & Cracker in Indianapolis. (I know I've mentioned C&C a lot lately but I've bought a lot of wine there lately!)

I have found only a handful of Cabs worthy of such praise that come in under $20. The first was Green Lion's 2005 Cabernet with the funkly label that will remind you of Beatles' art. It should. The label artist did some work for the Fab Four.

I found Duck Pond Cab all over the net but couldn't find an exact replica of the label, which I found odd. It's Washington state cabernet. Ashley was quick to add how much she loves the Washington Cabernets, and I can add that I know they are usually great values.

This Cab comes from the Columbia River area in Eastern Washington. It is a complex and intense wine which just doesn't happen normally for $11. It has a big nose and a spicy, woodsy flavor. I think it would pair marvelously with any beef dish or big flavored food. I'm still learning a lot about tannins and this has a strong, but smooth tannic finish.

I'm just blown away by the wine for the price. Find it and buy it if you like Cabs.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

One of the Biggest Names in Zinfandel

Ravenswood wines really represent the entire spectrum of California Zinfandels.

Ravenswood was started by Joel Peterson who is one of the state's premier winemakers. They make grocery wines and higher-end fine Zins.

They've also been bought out by one of the big conglomerates which makes many worry about the future of the winery or quality of their wines. But there aren't many wineries now days which haven't come under the control of the really big companies.

I visted Ravenswood during a 2006 trip, which is a bit of a long story. But it's snuggled along a county road close to Sonoma, in the Sonoma Valley. I bought a half case of higher-end Ravenswood Zin that was about $32 a bottle. It was real big and super smooth fantastic Zinfandel.

Tonight, I opened a 2006 Ravenswood Old Vine Zin which I paid about $14.99 for when I picked it up. You can find Ravenswood and even the old vine in almost every wine shop and often grocery stores. They really are one of the premier producers in quantity and often in quality, depending on what yr picking up.

The thing I've found with the inexpensive Ravenwood wines is they just have to have some air ... or decanting. Even if you don't own a decanter, just open the bottle and let it set an hour or so.

Ravenswood Zin, even at this price point, is a big Zin. It has big fruit and the distinctive Zinfandel peppery finish. And if you drink a lot of wine, you can almost taste the oak in the finish. I thought this was overly acidic, thought it did soften considerable with time, pasta, and a few bites of chocolate.

I'd recommend Ravenswood as much as any wine for those who want a really big flavor. it won't be for everyone. But I'd really empahsize that you should give it about an hour open before you drink it. If you don't have a decanter, and your drinking a lot of wine, find one. It's not unusual to see decanters in stores like Target now days near their wine glasses.

Ravenswood's more expensive wines are beautiful, not all available in Indiana. But Ravenswood is Zin!

On a side note, since I recently wrote about wine and chocolate. My dessert with the Ravenswood Zin was some 70 percent cocoa chocolate. The 70 percent chocolate is the really big stuff. The Ravenswood wine is one of the few less expensive wines that hold up to chocolate that big! It's a great pairing when it works!

Buy some Ravenswood, let it breathe and enjoy great wine for under $15.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Garnacha - Great Spanish Value Wine

There's nothing better than a smooth, easy to enjoy red wine with dinner. Robert Mondavi spent his life teaching American's about "the good life."

You can enjoy the good life for just a few bucks. Tonight I opened a Vega del Castillo Garnacha (grenache, if your French or English). The 2006 wine is a smooth and rich wine that goes great with food. The finish was a bit acidic by itself but with this evening's pasta, then by itself after having been open for awhile, was very nice.

The more I drink grenache or Garnacha, the more I like it. It's a soft and inexpensive wine that, so far, has been a good match to almost any food I've paired it with. The wine was very reasonable, under $15. I found it in the mid-teens all over the web.

You can learn more about Vega del Castillo because they have a website. Often it's hard to find a website for many of these European wineries, but Vega del Castillo has a nice site.

Garnacha or Grenache is easy to find. Pick one up during your next visit to a wine shop. Spanish wines are aged before they are released. They are just some of the very best value wines.

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A Decently Priced 2005 Bordeaux

There have been numerous times in this blogging adventure when I make sure to mention my ignorance, or as I prefer to call it - my lack of expertise.

My lack of expertise really comes out when it comes to French wine. I don't buy nor drink much French wine because I just don't have the time to figure out Chateau A vs. Chateau B.

But every now and then I give in to the allure of the romance of it all and buy a bottle of Bordeaux. Such was the case a couple of weeks ago during a trip to Jungle Jim's Supermarket in Cincinnati.

I purchased a 2005 Chateau Mylord wine. Now, for you newbies - with pardons to those who read and know a lot about wine - the 2005 vintage was one the wine world went crazy over. The 2005 vintage is considered to be outstanding.

I liked this wine and liked it even more after putting it into a decanter for a good hour. One of the aggravating things about the French, well ONE of them, is you never are quite sure what you're getting. Most French wines don't tell you the grape or the percentages of the blend.

Bordeaux's wines are always a blend. I thought this was pretty soft and smooth - after decanting - and felt certain it had a decent amount of Merlot. Goodness, I love it when I'm right!

I opened this bottle and enjoyed it Saturday night. I'm just getting around to writing about it. I went online Sunday and discovered this particular Bordeaux is 50 percent Merlot, 25 percent Cabernet Franc, and 25 percent Cab Sauvignon. So 75 percent of the grapes in this one are known as smooth-wine grapes.

The wine was ok. And for under $20, it's probably about as good as you're going to get from France at that price point. It's a very dark wine that goes down smooth, there wasn't much finish to talk about - good or bad.

Wine guru Robert Parker gave it an 88. I'm not sure it was that good I just don't drink enough Bordeaux. But I'd say it's worth a try if you run across it in a wine store somewhere. Just be sure to let it breathe for an hour before drinking.

I do love the stories behind wine and wineries. And the internet usually can track down about any winery in the world. Chateau Mylord was founded in 1763. Michel and Alain Large, father and son, are part of the fifth generation of farmers at Castle Mylord.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Something New for Me - Mencia

Thousands of grape varietals are made into wines around the world. So for we eonophiles its just work, work, work to try as many as possible.

Friend Ashley, proprietor of Cork & Cracker in Indy, recently recommended a Spanish Mencia. The grape isn't widely known, I've learned that through a little research. It's grown in Spain in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. It dates back centuries.

It is an aromatic wine. The bottle I bought at Cork & Cracker, was just $9.99 and a good value bottle. It has a nice nose, it's very inky dark, and has a pleasant deep red fruit flavor .. very light actually. I like it. You can idenfity some of the oak used in this particular bottling from La Mano.

I enjoyed it with some chili I made a few weeks ago and had frozen. It was one of those wines that fall into a very broad category for me - not special, but good easy to drink Wednesday night wine. And very affordable, a trait not to be overlooked.

I'm anxious to try other Mencia wines at perhaps slightly higher price points to get a better feel for this grape. I liked it and would recommend it to friends who want to try new and affordable wines.

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Great, Detailed Story on Visiting Mendoza Valley

Every now and then I stumble across a great wine story and just have to share.

I found a detailed account of visiting Argentina's Mendoza Valley - home of some of the world's best emerging value wines. That is where the great Malbecs, Bonardas and more and more Cabernet and Syrah are being produced.

The story is from Budget Travel magazine and published online by

The author traveled to several of the regions within the Valley and stayed in Mendoza City as her home base. Take a look here. Let's charter a plane and all go!

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Jungle Jim's - One Crazy Supermarket

If you like wine, odds are you're also a foodie. It's hard to separate the two.

For the past several years I've been a semi-regular at one of the great, and yet very strange, supermarkets in the midwest. It's been featured on the Food Network and has national acclaim.

It's Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati, Ohio. Actually it's in Fairfield, a northern suburb up Ohio State Road 4 about six miles of Interstate 275. Here is a link to there site.

Jungle Jim's is 300,000 square feet of international market. It has an enormous cheese and meat department. It's fresh fish isn't just fresh - most of it is live in tanks. It has huge international food aisles from countries around the globe. It has a bakery where you can sample breads. There are tasting stations all around the massive store. They have a massive fresh fruit and vegetable department - including fruits and vegetables from around the world.

Oh yes, the decor is well .. a jungle!

It has an enormous wine selection with really great prices. JJ carries value through high-end wine. They have a bar for wine tasting thought that seems to be sporadic.

It's fun just to go to the place. They have some great lost leader bargains right when you enter the store. Not all of the prices are competitive even with your neighbor grocery, but it's hard to beat the selection. Their advertised specials are usually awesome deals.

If you're near Cincy and love such places, this one may be the granddaddy of them all!

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A Smooth Chianti Classico

Sangiovese is such a fickle grape. I have had many Italian wines and always find them some of the toughest for me to characterize. But I love the grape and love it with big and bold pasta dishes

I opened a bottle of 2003 Colle Lungo Chianti Classico Sunday night and finished it off tonight. By the way, this wine held up overnight about as well as any I've had of late.

The Chianti was a nice smooth wine with a hint of sour cherry but uber smooth with a nice finish. I was disappointed in the finish of the wine (the taste in the back of your mouth) on Sunday but its much smoother tonight. And I try to never be afraid to admit my ignorance. I couldn't describe the finish last night. It was odd and definitely a bit sour. Tonight that sour in the fruit is nice, last night it was not.

I also thought this wine was a little tired. A 2003 is not an old wine by any standard, but sometimes these value brands don't hold up to aging like the expensive Tuscan reds. I didn't get the fruit nearly as bold as I might normally expect. But, that being said, it was a good glass of wine.

And I got this at a very reasonable price. I paid $14.95 at Jungle Jim's Supermarket in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was released at $22 a bottle. Additionally, they only made 1,500 cases of this wine.

I'd like to buy a more recent vintage and compare it to this one. But I'd recommend the label for a value Italian wine.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Carmenere - Chile's Calling Card for Affordable Wine

The world has spent a lot of time lavishing praise on the wines of Argentina and particularly the Mendoza Valley.

But across the South American continent is Chile with its Colchagua Valley. There are great Cabernets, Syrah and many other wines making their way around the world from this long narrow country on the continent's west coast.

More and more Carmenere has become Chile's calling card. Like so many grapes which have become great wine varietals, Carmenere comes from the Medoc area of Bordeaux. It was used as a blending grape and much like Argentinian Malbe it's now scarce in France and flourishing south of the border.

The largest concentration of Carmenere is in South America. Tonight I opened a 2005 bottle of Casa Sliva Carmenere Reserve. I paid a tidy $14.99 at West Lafayette's Village Bottle Shoppe.

This wine had a mild but fruity taste with low acidity but enough tannin to give you a mouthful of texture.

Casa Silva was founded in the late 1800s by French wine icon Emilio Bouchon. Today the Silva family is in its fifth generation as wine makers. Many of their vineyards are nearly 100 years old, brought over from France.

Silva has been widely recognized in Chile as the country's best Carmenere producer.

Most Carmenere can be found from $7 and up. While I paid a reasonable $15 for the Silva Reserve Carmenere, I did see the same wine pushing $20 on various web sites. The critics seem to like the Silva wine. Guru Robert Parker gave this specific vintage 90 points in Wine Advocate.

This was a nice bottle of wine and if you see Casa Silva wines I'd definitely recommend giving them a try. I have had a good bit of Carmenere and frankly I have a hard time describing it. It's pleasant, and easy to drink - but I can't put a finger on the fruit from this wine for some reason. And it often needs a little oxygen before the taste really becomes enjoyable - at least for me.

But I think it's a great value wine you should try. Many wine shops will have a Carmenere or two or four. If you're always on the hunt for a good value wine you won't go wrong with Casa Silva or a Chilean Carmenere by any of the country's Colchagua Valley producers!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

A Solid Representation of Zinfandel

The more you drink and the more you learn about wine, you find yourself looking for bottles that are a "true representation" of the grape.

Zinfandel is usually a big, high-alcohol wine with a mouthful of fruit and a pepper finish. On Super Bowl evening I opened a bottle of Renwood 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel. And the Renwood was a fine Zin for $14.99. I bought it at Cork and Cracker, Indianapolis.

Click here for the winery's notes.

I like the big Zins with real big fruit on the first sip to a big peppery finish at the back. I don't like the really, really high alcohol Zins. This one is a really good representation of Zinfandel. Their wines are in most wine shops. I found this particular Zin priced anywhere from $13.59 to $19.95, so I felt good about the $15 I paid in Indianapolis.

The Renwood is a nicely balanced, spicy-flavored wine that held up to my Super Bowl chili and to an overnight in the fridge! What more can you ask?

A note to newcomers or those not familiar with Zin. Be wary of some California Zins that are off the charts high on alcohol. The Renwood is 15 percent alcohol and that is substantial, but you'll find California Zins at 16 and 16.5 - you can feel the burn in the throat. A couple of glasses of wine at that alcohol point should be plenty for anyone!

This is a wine I'd buy over and over when in the mood for Zins. At the price, it's a great bottle of wine!

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wow - He Makes 59 Seem Young!

Just watched Super Bowl halftime with a glass of Renwood Zinfandel! My birthday is this week, and though I'm younger than Bruce Springsteen (not much) - he makes 59 look and sound good!

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An Inexpensive French Pinot - Wow!

Call it Pinot Noir or call it Burgundy, you usually just don't find inexpensive French wine by either name.

I dropped some serious bucks on Pinot Noir when I visited Oregon July 2008, so imagine my surprise when browsing the Bottle Shop, W. Lafayette, and found a Joseph Drouhin Pinot Noir for $15!

First, Drouhin is one of the major names in French Burgundy. Joseph Droughin founded the winery in 1880. And not only do they have their famous landmark winery in France, but also have one of Oregon's Wilammette Valley's most famous Pinot Noir wineries as well.

As opposed to many French wines, Drouhin recommends drinking this wine young. It's a bright and light-flavored Pinot. I got some raspberry on the palate and a very smooth, enjoyable finish. It definitely has some great structure and the taste is what I would call refined. It's not a big Pinot by any imagine, remember the price point! But this is a very enjoyable bottle of wine.

Though it is obviously Drouhin's lowest end wine, the fact outstanding winemakers are behind it really shines through.

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