Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Bolder Style Garnacha Rose

I opened a bottle of Gran Feudo 2007 Rose Friday night and I'm just getting around to post an entry.

This is a widely distributed Rose from the Navarra region of Spain. If you've tried some Rose and it's not quite big enought to your tastes, you might try the Gran Feudo. It is 100 percent Garnacha and has a bit more of punch to the flavor.

It has a big fruity nose but you can immediately tell its not a light Rose. I thought it had some vanilla hints. Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator gave this wine an 85 - a good solid choice but not spectacular.

But if you are experimenting with Rose, this is one you should try. It's definitely got a bigger flavor.

Like mose Rose wine it's very affordable at $8.99-$12.98. I picked this one up from Jill Ditmire at Mass Ave Wine shop.

I have had Rose from several varieties now and still like the Spanish Garnacha-based wine the best. But that's just motivation to keep up the research!
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Go Find Some Castano - Here is Where You'll Find It

Though I know I do have some blog followers outside the Hoosier state, this entry is a quick reminder to mostly those folks. If you're outside of Indiana, try to find this wine.

Back on May 3 I wrote about Castano Monastrell.I called it the best bottle of wine I've ever had for under $10.

I picked up a case at Cork & Cracker in Indy but since then I've seen it at Village Bottle Shop in Lafayette and at Goose the Market on Delaware St. in Indianapolis.

Cork and Cracker sold something like 40 cases of this wine. Both of the other two outlets had a good amount of the wine when I was in their stores recently. The wine sells for an incredible $6.99 a bottle and got a 90-point rating from the Wine Advocate.

It's not huge but remarkably balanced and spicy at this price point. And the $6.99 most people are selling it for is a bargain. I've seen it up to $11 - which is still a bargain for this wine.

This is the first time I've re-visited a wine in this blog. If you can find some Castano Monastrell buy it and make a comment here on what you think about it!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

This Wine is Why I Do What I Do!

I think one of the most exciting things about drinking and enjoying wine is to find incredible wine at reasonable prices.

Tonight I found one of the very best I've enjoyed in a long time. I don't buy a lot of French wine, out of ignorance, but I opened a bottle of Les Verrieres Clos des Soutyeres 2006 blend of 70 percent Syrah, 20 percent Grenache and 10 percent Carignan.

This wine had tons of wow factor even before I did my online research. I discovered that Wine Spectator gave it the No. 80 spot on its list of Top 100 Wines of 2008. It rated the wine at 92 points on its 100-point scale.

There were only 1,000 cases made of this wine and how a few bottles landed in a Terre Haute supermarket I'll never know. I bought this at the recommendation of Reggie McConnell at Beaslers in Terre Haute. Even more amazing, I paid $13.99 for this fabulous bottle of grape juice - considerably lower than I found it online.

It's a deep purple, intense, big - big glass of wine. It has strong tannins and is intense from front of the palate to the back. The tasting notes suggested drinking from 2009 through 2014. I didn't decant the wine and should have done so. I read on another review a recommendation to decant it for up to three hours. While that seems long there is no doubt it improves the longer the wine is open.

I grilled a beef tenderloin, some nice asparagus, and Vidalia onion. The steak was rubbed with cracked black pepper, salt, and a smoke cherry rub. It was a perfect match. This was a big mouthful of flavor with a strong finish.

Simply put, incredible wine for $14.

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A Bit Bolder Dry Rose from Spain

I am playing catch up tonight and posting a very brief entry about a Rose I opened a couple nights ago.

I had a Calderona 2007 Rose' from Spain. I picked it up at Cork & Cracker for $11.99 and it was dynamite Rose.

It definitely has a stronger flavor than many Rose wines but it's an interesting blend of 70 percent Tempranillo, 20 percent Garache (how they spelled it on the bottle) and 10 percent Verdejo.

I had the wine with some grilled lamb chops on Saturday night and it was a wonderful pairing. It was well balanced with a bigger-than-you'd expect flavor. I didn't make notes, but when Ashley recommends trying a wine I often pick one up!

I love the Spanish Garnacha (how you'll often see it spelled) but found this Rose with mostly Tempranillo a great glass of juice!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Really Huge California Zinfandel

I often ask wine shop owners or those working the floor for a really big Syrah or Zinfandel. One of the best I've had in recent months was Klinker Brick, which I wrote about here a couple of months ago.

I visited Zionsville's Grapevine Cottage, home of "The Wine Guy," a couple of weeks ago and asked the same question. And, I wanted one under $20!

They pointed me to Frei Brothers "Reserve" 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Wow! Now this is a BIG Zin! A really big Zin for the price point.

I poured the wine into my glass and immediately noticed how dark purple the wine looked and it had a huge nose. It's a robust wine that packs a punch. This is not a wine for new wine drinkers.

I thought there were strong dark fruit flavors in the wine, some spice, a wonderful balance with pretty distinct tannins on the finish.

Frei Brothers is an interesting story. You can click here to go to their website and read the history. Like so many California wineries, they are owned by one of the big boys - Gallo in this case. But the vineyards and the property has produced wine since the late 1800s.

Seldom does a wine over-power food, but this was a big and very tasty complement to some pasta with a bit of zing to it tonight. Just a little mild spice Italian sausage helped the dish hold it's own against this big boy!

I paid $16.99 in Zionsville, but did find it even lower online. Simply, for under $20its a dynamite great big mouthful of wine. I thought the Klinker Brick was better structured, while also giving a big bang of flavor. This wine would no doubt sit nicely for a year or two before drinking. But under $20 wines are meant to be enjoyed.

Oh, and for those who care - Robert Parker gave this juice 90 points!

Frei wine will knock yr socks off if you're not used to really big Zinfandel! If you are, you'll love it for the price.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Nice Recognition from Lange Winery

This wine blogging and newspaper column has been a lot of fun. I do hear from people around the state. It also afforded me the chance to talk to winemakers and winery owners in Oregon when I visited in April.

A work connection allowed me to spend some time with Jesse Lange of Lange Estate Vineyards. My last newspaper column was about Lange wines. I visited the Lange website just the other day to find they had picked up the column via a Google alert when it ran in the Seymour Tribune.

So my column is linked to their site. You can see it here.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My First Torrontes Proved Disappointing

I had a taste for seafood today but being in landlocked Indiana the best you can do is the local markets' fresh frozen (isn't that an oxymoron?) department.

I didn't find anything that looked appetizing but they did have some cooked shrimp that looked nice enough so I bought a pound. I brought it home and cleaned it up, gave it light splash of olive oil, fresh squeezed lime, some salt, pepper and garlic powder and threw it on the Bar-Bee ... I don't know how the Australians spell that, so I did it phonetically! Ha!

Ok, I had to make a wine decision. I've been buying some whites this spring and generally whites go best with seafood or chicken. So I picked out a bottle of 2007 Pascual Toso Torrontes.

Torrontes is the most widely grown white grape in Argentina and Pascual Toso has drawn raves for its Malbec so I thought this $11 bottle was a sure thing.

See where this is headed?

Frankly, my first Torrontes proved to be disappointing. First it didn't have the necessary acidity and balance to hold up to my yummy shrimp. A nice Sauvignon Blanc would have worked much better.

This was my first Torrontes so I'll definitely buy more and maybe this was just one less-than-stellar bottle. But it wasn't bad, just not to my taste. It had a rich fruit flavor which to me was odd. When I think of the word 'rich' in wines I think of big red wines with a nice balanced tannic finish.

Additionally, there wasn't much going on with the nose of this white and usually you get some citrus or something. It was medium bodied, initially pretty sweet, and not as much acid as I wanted or expected on the finish.

Looking at online reviews I found a lot of lower to mid 80 ratings. I definitely will try more Torrontos because I'm a big fan of Argentina's wines. But I may buy some different producers Torrontos next time.

It's not bad and will fit some tastes at $7-99-$12.95 ... but just disappeared against my lightly-seasoned shrimp!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Very Tasty Cabernet Sauvignon from Chili's Maipo Valley

Usually I warn people to beware of celebrity wine. You've seen it! You know it! You may have actually bought some. Now that being said there are some good ones. Greg Norman's Australian wines come to mind as good value wines.

I was in Zionsville Grapevine Cottage and a 2004 Unico Luis Miguel Gran Reserva Cab caught my eye.

If you are not familiar with Luis Miguel, and I was not, he is a multi-Grammy award winning Latin singer with 35 Platinum albums. He partnered with a Chilean winemaker for his wines.

His 2003 Cabernet made Wine Spectator's Top 100 for 2007. Most of the reviews I found on the 2004 were equally effusive for a wine that sells from $12-$16. I paid $15, a very fair price for a nicely balanced Cabernet.

This is a pretty big flavored wine for the price. It has enough fruit up front and nicely balanced tannins for a smooth glass of Cabernet. It was great with a New York strip. This is a little hidden gem to me.

This particular vintage got an 89 in Wine Spectator. You might not find it, but I am becoming more and more impressed with Chilean wines.

By the way, the guy can sing! Check out the YouTube video below!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Nice Bottle of that Great 2005 Bordeaux

I've never bought a lot of French wine, at least not from Bordeaux.

I do enjoy the Cotes' du Rhone syrah and grenache blends. And I've occasionally picked up a Tavel dry Rose'.

But a student-friend was going to France for a week so I gave him $25 and told him to bring back whatever it would buy. I'm grateful he used his logical and critical thinking skills to go to a Paris wine shop and take the owner's recommendation.

For just under $25, he brought back a Cassini Saint-Emilion 2005 Bordeaux wine. For the relative newcomers to wine, you must understand that some years are much better than others for the grape crop. And in France, 2005 has been hailed as a great year.

These wines normally need some aging and this one could have stayed in the rack a little longer. But it was a nice smooth Bordeaux with a balanced finish. While not being a big wine, it was a very nice smooth and well-crafted glass of grape juice!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

One of Those Great Oregon Pinot Noirs

I opened a bottle of my Oregon Pinot Noir stash last night with a friend and enjoyed every sip. This was a winery I visited in 2008 at the end of a long day.

Vista Hills in the Dundee Hills region has a beautiful "treehouse" tasting room and incredible view off a back deck of their vineyards and the Willamette Valley.

Again, this is not a price-point wine I normally write about but I share these as my all time favorite wines. Oregon Pinot Noir has really become one of my favorite treats. This wine, depending on vintage, is a $40 bottle of Pinot.

It has a big, big nose in the glass. It also had the familiar "barnyard stank" for those of you who like a good stinky Pinot Noir. My experience is the more they stink they better they're going to taste. This one didn't disappoint. It was a big fruity Pinot with something of an uneven finish I couldn't quite get my finger on. But darn fine Pinot Noir regardless!

The wines come from Burgundy Pinot Noir clones from France. The winery owners are also very involved in a foundation set up to assist college students. They have an internship program for college students interest in the wine business. You can find a lot about them on the internet and at their website here.

As I've said before, you might not find Vista Hills and you might not be ready to put down $40 for a bottle of Pinot. But try an Oregon Pinot Noir the next chance you get!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Popular Choices May Not Match Your Taste

I try real hard to make sure the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. I do some research on every wine - but only after tasting whatever I've opened on a given night.

Tonight was a really interesting selection. I had recently visited Zionsivlle's Grapevine Cottage - a great wine shop. I bought six bottles of wine and picked up a Marquis Phillips Sarah's Blend 2007. The gentleman assisting me said he really loved it and they had sold a lot of this particular Australian blend.

It is largely Shiraz at 62 percent, with 25 percent Cabernet, 10 percent Merlot and 3 percent Cab Franc. This is not a wimpy wine. And, the Wine People (gurus and big publications) love this value wine.

Wine Advocate gave this nifty blend 91 points - big numbers!

I found this to be a big fruit-forward blend, with some earthiness and a really big body - a lot going on! You can taste the French Oak aging of the wine and that helps provide a rather intense wine experience. The finish definitely lingers in your mouth a while. If you like tannins, you'll like this wine.

This would work for those who like that "big ol' mouthful of wine" I occasionally refer to here. Wine Advocate's Robert Parker says this will age nicely over 8 years.

But at the price point of $15.99, that I paid in Zionsville, most people are going to drink it. Perhaps if you buy several bottles or a case, you might put some away. My knowledge tells me it will definitely improve with age. It has all the characteristics of a young wine: Nice structure, but also a bit brash or harsh in some ways.

Online, I found prices ranging from $14.99 up to nearly $18. So the Grapevine Cottage price was a good buy.

I've had Syrah or Shiraz I've enjoyed more. I'd like to find this wine again or get back to Zionsville and buy another bottle - put it away for awhile and see if it doesn't become more interesting with a couple years aging.

Most of the reviews I found loved this wine. My advice to beginners and novices is read those things but dont' be driven by an expert's opinion. This is a big, nicely made wine - no doubt. It didn't fit my taste at just two years removed from the vineyard, but I didn't dislike it either. Use the expert to guide your tasting experience. Then as you develop your palate you take those "expert" comments with your own level of expertise.

At the price point, it's a nice big blend. It held up ok to my grilled ribeye, but the chef burned the ribeye a bit - that idiot!

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Second Try With Spanish Mencia

I opened up a bottle of "Mencia" tonight. Mencia is one of those somewhat lesser-known grapes grown in Spain. I had a bottle a couple months back and wrote about it here.

Tonight's 2006 Mencia was from The Pilgramage and the Bierzo region. Bierzo is in the northwest of Spain.

I struggled getting a handle on this wine. I frankly didn't like it much sipping it before dinner. But with some pasta and then a little bit of chocolate, not to mention the extra time out of the bottle, it improved.

My experience with two Mencias is that it is a smooth, inky wine, with mild tannins. There's a big nose on Mencia. This one was quite dry I thought. But there also has been a tartness with both wines that I didn't particularly enjoy.

My first bottle was $9.99 and can be found for up to $12-$13.

Robert Parker gave this wine 89 points. The Wine Advocate gave it 88 points. That's what makes wine so much fun, we all don't have to agree! I just don't get Mencia, I guess. I wouldn't rule out buying another bottle though - just to give it one more try.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

A Delightful Light, French Dry Rose'

I picked up the bottle of dry Rose I opened tonight at Sahara Mart in Bloomington. If you ever have reason to be downtown, you have got to stop by this unique market.

I purchased, for a very reasonable $10.95, a Rose de Pavie Macquin. This was a nicely balanced and very fruity dry rose. I've seen the word "juicy" to describe some wines and this was first one I've had in long time that I'd use that word. It's very pleasant across the palate.

I love the beautiful Valentine's Day red color of this nice wine.

It's a Bordeaux blend rose' from Pavie Macquin. I couldn't find the grapes anywhere on the web but the more I sipped the less I cared!

It's a soft and lighter style rose that is awesome well chilled. It would be great on a summer day.

If you haven't dived into dry rose, buy some today. Sales have skyrocketed in recent years and any decent wine shop will have plenty of choices. Explore them all!

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Best Bottle of Wine Under $10 I've Ever Had!!

In the newspaper column and here I've urged readers to find a wine shop and wine proprietor they're comfortable with and can recommend wines to your taste.

Bob and Ashley at Indy's Cork and Cracker hit it out of the park Saturday. I had made a couple stops in the area and wasn't really buying wine. But I stopped in the shop to pick up a bottle of the Furmint I had enjoyed and blogged about here a couple weeks ago.

Bob was excited about an Italian Chardonnay. Yes, you read that correctly! There are two words you don't see in the same sentence often. It was a light, non oaky, Chard. I just had a small sip but did bring a bottle home for under $10. And note, I'm just not a Chardonnay drinker.

But the real find was a Castano Monastrell from Spain. I had not had the grape before and when Ashley emerged from the backroom she described it somewhat similar to Garnacha or a Syrah. The only link I could find on Monastrell was Wikipedia, which I generally don't send people to, but it had a lot of information that seemed consistent with shorter entries elsewhere. You can read about the grape here.

They bought a bunch of the Castano and have sold a bunch of it. It has gotten nice ratings from several wine writers in the 87-90 range.

I would compare it favorably to the same two grapes as Ashley, leaning more toward a Spanish Garnacha. It was fruity, yet dry, a big-bodied wine with some spice. It was smooth with a pleasant finish. That's sort of a generic description, I know, but that is one of the strengths of this wine. I don't think many would call it complex, but it's definitely an interesting glass of wine.

Now here is the board-the-side-of-head on this wine: $7! Yes, SEVEN dollars a bottle! If you see it, I'd strongly recommend buying it. If you are near the old Glendale Mall in Indy, get to Cork & Cracker and buy some ... but don't wait. Wine this good at that price is not going to last long. Very impressive!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

A Big French Grenache/Syrah - A Mouthful!

I made it over to The Grapevine Cottage briefly this morning while having to visit Zionsville, Indiana, on business. Wow, what a great shop!

The Cottage is located in the beautiful downtown village and has an impressive wine selection. But I only had about 15 minutes, which didn't stop me from grabbing several bottles.

First there was a French Grenache/Syrah blend from Chateau Pesquie and that's the one I opened tonight. It's 70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah. Wine guru Robert Parker gave this wine a 92. And the Grapevine Cottage price was a remarkable $10.99. I found it on the web for a $3-$6 more.

It's a dark purple color with with a mild nose but a big taste. It has a rich berry texture and taste with big enough tannins to satisfy serious wine drinkers. It might be a bit much for some new wine people but it's a really nice wine in the price range and a pretty great wine at the $10.99 I paid.

And with most young, bigger-flavored, red wines it was better after being open for awhile. I did not decant this wine but did pour it into the glass for a short bit before drinking.

I would think it would be great with grilled meats. I almost always like Grenache and Syrah with pork, as long as you give it a rub or some pepper. And it would be a nice pair with most zesty pasta.

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