Saturday, February 27, 2010

Screw Cap? Just Me? Wine Gone Bad?

I've bought some wine this week and picked up a couple of old favorites in the process. I made the decision early on that if I didn't like a wine I'd still write about it but note that it wasn't to my taste but might be to others.

And a few times I've written about a wine gone bad.

I'm giving the shop where I bought this bad boy a break because I'm not totally sure it's their fault. Tonight I had a Grenache-Syrah blend from Australia that I really enjoyed about a year ago.

As a matter of fact, I looked up my previous review and it was very positive. I opened the same bottle - same vintage tonight - and it had a funk. I tasted. I tasted. I tasted. And then, I poured it out. That is always a killer!

It had not gone to vinegar but it just wasn't right. I know that's not a very good wine geek explanation but sometimes that's the best I can do.

I'm a big fan of screw caps. I'm not sure I'd blame the screw cap though. The wine was a 2005 so it might have been pushing the outer limits of somthing not made of cork. I'm not so sure.

All that being said, any reputable wine merchant will credit yout purchase cost for a bad bottle of wine. First, don't pour it out. Re-Cork the wine or put whatever closure back into the bottle and return it as soon as possible.

If you bought it from a liquor store, good luck. But a wine dealer will take care of you. I of the absent mind, dumped the wine without thinking.

Live and learn!

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Picked Up Central Indiana's Biggest Weekly for Column

It takes time and effort to pick up newspapers and newspaper websites for Grape Sense - the newspaper column. I sent out an email pitch to quite a few state publications today and immediately heard back from the Hendricks County Flyer.

The Flyer is a three-times-a-week newspaper reaching 43,000 homes in Hendricks County - or largely Avon and Brownsburg!

Editor Kathy Linton is an old journalism friend and its exciting to add her newspaper!

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A Vouvray On The Sweeter Side Great with Cheese

I was engaged in great conversation Wednesday night and enjoyed a French Vouvray with some cow, goat, and sheep's milk cheese. That's living!

Domaine Pichot 2006 Vouvray Domaine Le Peu De La Moriette - was the Vouvray. This was a sweet treatment of the Chenin Blanc grape. Now, before you go running the other way the French make the sweeter wine with out the gooey, fruity palate mess that makes you think White Zinfandel, Concord, Niagra or any other such thoughts.

It was very aromatic. I was getting pear and maybe lime. It was just beautifully balanced, though admittedly, far sweeter than about anything I would ever drink.

This reminded me of the aged Vouvray I had in Italy that was so awesome with French cheeses. This wine was a great cheese pairing wine as well. It would also be great on the porch in the summer.

This wine ranges from $10-$15. I bought this bottle at Kahn's on Keystone in Indianapolis.

I have another Vouvray in the wine rack I'm now anxious to try. It continues to amaze me the very different styles of Chenin Blanc the French manage to produce!

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OTBN - Pick Out a Treasure This Saturday Night

The wine blogging world has had an impact in so many different ways on wine drinkers and the business.

There are wine bloggers who have suggested ideas which have become part of the oenophile landscape. Wine Blogging Wednesday has been a big success getting bloggers to review a particular type of wine or wine from a particular region. I'd have provided a link, but yikes - I was getting a virus warning! This is reputable site and I'm sure they'll have it cleaned up soon.

But the event I wanted to bring attention to is national "Open That Bottle Night" or OTBN. Palate Press has a great interview online with the couple who started OTBN 11 years ago.

The concept is rather simple. Most serious wine drinkers have a bottle, two, three or more they save for a special occasion. Often those bottles wait and wait for that milestone to approach.

So Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher started OTBN while writing for the Wall Street Journal 11 years ago. Celebrate the wine or celebrate the weekend but open something special. There is even a website celebrating OTBN.

I'm contemplating my choice. It's going to be Pinot Noir. I have some real gems I brought back from Oregon in April so I'm in for OTBN.

I'll have my OTBN review up Saturday night or Sunday morning. Would love to hear from anyone who joins in - leave a comment!

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tale of Two Cabernets: Washington vs. Chile!

It really is unusual for me to open Cabernet Sauvignon on back to back nights. But that happened Friday/Saturday.

Friday night I had a friend over for wine, cheese, crackers and Chile's Odfjell Armador's Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine got 90 points from Wine Enthusiast and is a real bargain at around $12 a bottle. I picked mine up at Grapevine Cottage in Zionsville

This was smooth, drinkable Cabernet with easy to handle tannins. It had ripe and flavorful fruit without being overpowering. I'd call this a good Cabernet for those looking for something a little different than the powerful/tannic California Cabs.

It isn't for big wine drinkers but darn good wine at the price point. I have contemplated adding a 100-point or four star system when writing about wine, I don't think this one is a 90 but maybe an 86-87 wine.

I've always thought some description of the wine is what for those who read Grape Sense are looking for. If you have tried a few of the wines I've written about in a year and a half - you decide if our palates match!

Wine number two is from Washington State's iconic Chateau Ste Michelle. It was a 2006 Columbia Valley Cab. Prunes, dried fruit and a little spice with much bigger fruit highlight this $15.99 wine.

This wine is a blend of predominantly Cabernet with some Syrah and still other grapes in some vintages. But this wine had the big fruit-forward and richness I've experienced in other Washington State red wines.

I picked up this bottle at Bar Berry in Lafayette - not one of my normal spots but I stopped by on a visit to Village Bottle Shoppe in W. Lafayette.

Duck Pond, Milbrandt, and Chateau Ste Michelle are all Washington Cabs I've enjoyed in the last year and I'd heartily recommend to Cab drinkers.

Now I'm doing points - well, tonight I'm doing points. I had this wine with some nicely pan seared, then roasted, beef tenderloin with lots of cracked black pepper. The wine held up nicely. I'd call this one the 90-point wine!

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Remember that So-So Bicyclette Pinot Noir You Had?

There's a really interesting wine story out there today if you hit a few internet sites that carry such things.

There has been an on-going dispute in France charging 12 growers and businessmen with selling - what we shall call 'fraudulent" - Pinot Noir to U.S.-based Gallo. Fraudulent Pinot because it wasn't 100 percent Pinot at all! The juice shipped to Gallo included smaller amounts of, much cheaper, Merlot and Syrah.

Gallo marketed the wine as Red Bicyclette, which is widely available in liquor stores and supermarkets. Gallo says that wine disappeared with the 2006 vintage and there was nothing wrong with the wine but you weren't getting what you thought was supposed to be in the bottle.

This week a French tribunal (do the French take wine seriously - a tribunal?) found the group guilty and imposed substantial fines.

Here are a couple of takes on the story from and wine writer Edward Deitch.

I found it interesting the European report took jabs at Gallo for not knowing any better. While Deitch, a respected media voice on wine, pointed out how this hurts France worldwide at a time they're trying to better market French wine.

But read for yourselves at the links above.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Interesting to See How Fast/Slow Napa Adjusts

The proliferation of wine sites like and has helped to illustrate the wine glut that's happening in the U.S.

I posted a link to a story about that glut just two entries down. It's surprising how slow some companies have been to change their marketing and prices.

Here is a link to a really good New York Times story on that topic. Some wineries have just refused to lower the prices on wine they're sitting on, many others are jumping into social media seeking ways to get their juice direct to the consumer.

It's great reading for anyone interested in wine.

Oh, and I intend on writing more about the two websites mentioned in the first paragraph soon. I have bought from WTSO (Wine Till Sold Out) but not yet from Cinderella.

Both are offering mid- to high-priced wines at significantly reduced prices. I have not seen big drops anywhere yet except for a recent visit to Cincinnati's famous Jungle Jim's market. During a visit to Fairfield, Ohio, and JJ's about three weeks ago I saw quite a bit of Bordeaux down 50 percent or more.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

An Affordable, Tasty Bordeaux Merlot-Based Wine

I'm not a big fan of Merlot. Okay, that makes me a cartoon character in a bad animated wine movie I guess. But I've never been a fan, even before seeing "Sideways."

But last summer I was in Kahn's, Indianapolis, and they were tasting French wines. I tasted this particular blend and thought it was pretty darn good.

I dug it out of the wine storage cooler the other night because I was doing some beef tenderloin. I knew it was largely Merlot-based when I bought it but liked the taste poured for me.

Apparently, from my research, it does come from a very respected producer - Cap des Faugeres Cotes de Castillons. It was a 2006, not a classic vintage for those who track such things, but it was a nice red wine.

It was well balance with pretty strong tannins the first night - much better on the scond night. It had the big ol' heavy blackberry thing going that seems to go hand-in-hand with Merlot. Wine Spectator gave the juice 89 points so they liked it.

Kahn's was having a special on the wine the day I bought it. I recall paying about $17 and it was normally $23-$24. I found it online at %16-$20.

If you like a big smooth Merlot, you're going to like this wine.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Wine Glut Boosting Quality of Lower End Wines

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to add more wine news and such here. Today I saw a story that really is a must read for real wine enthusiasts.

There are lots of interesting things happening around the world in wine with the economic downturn and the glut of grapes available on the market.

Read this story I found on written by Corie Brown for

I saw a lot of Bordeaux in Cincinnati recently marked 50 percent off. I have recently found two online wine sites, which I'll write about soon, selling higher end wines at significantly reduced prices.

Give the story a read and you'll gain perspective!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

On A Roll With French Cotes du Rhone Wines

I tend to fall in love with certain wines every few months, but I think this one will last.

I have gone through a Cotes du Rhone period before but never found as many great, great wines as I have recently. The beautiful thing about these grenache-based wines is even with one dominant grape they can still be very different.

Wednesday night I shared a bottle of Alain Jaume 2007 Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages. We had it with some crackers and a couple of different cheeses. It was just awesome red wine for good conversation, good cheese, and easy drinking.

The wine is mostly Grenache with a little bit of Syrah and Mourvedre. It had a deep red color and was very fresh on the palate. The young friend I was sharing it with has a developing palate and we both got a bit of a candy like sensation on the back of the palate. I thought it was a little like a cough drop and he looked at me like I was silly - and suggested, 'yea, candy maybe!'

Do you dare disagree when the other guy is buying the wine?

It's aged in stainless steel so it has that uber-smooth texture that is great to sip with a log on the fire!

The point is it has big fruit and incredible balance. I liked this wine a lot. It comes from a prestigious producer in the southern Rhone area. This is a classic $14.95 wine that could easily fool you to think it was more like $25.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Este’ de Bodegas Alto Almanzora Wonderful Red Wine

I like to find good value wines that I can go back to time and again as well as recomment to others.

I've added another to my list: ‘Este’ de Bodegas Alto Almanzora from Almeria Spain. The critics love this wine. I didn't care whether they did or not when I sat down to write this one up, because I thought it was dynamite.

It turns out its a favorite Spanish value wine of many. It gets high praise from Robert Parker and others. It is a blend of a bunch of things, research revealed, but it's not on the bottle. Apparently it's largely Monastrell (Mourvedre), with a little Garnacha and Tempranillo, plus smaller amounts of Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz.

Wine Advocate
gave the wine an impressive 90 points! I would heartily agree!

It's a big flavorful wine that has a clean fruity taste - certainly some bold raspberry is what I got. It has a huge rich nose where I got a little vanilla.

Here's the best part, you can often find this wine under $10. The various vintages range from 13.5-14 percent alcohol. Anyone looking to expand their palate even a little and/or looking for a good house red that's great with food or by itself should give Este a try!

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Monday, February 8, 2010

New Tasting Bar Concept Opens in Indy

One of the latest ways to taste and enjoy different wines has landed in Indianapolis. Tastings, a wine bar in the Conrad Hotel downtown, opened late last fall.

I haven't had the chance to check it out yet but hope to soon. Here is a link to part of the Conrad site that gives a brief description.

The cool thing about Tastings, and I've seen similar setups elsewhere, is their wine serving system. You buy credit onto a card then you can choose from nearly 100 wines. For a low of $2.50 - up to $50 - you get a two ounce pour of the wine of your choosing.

I hope to get by there soon and check it out. I'll be sure to write about the experience.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Montes "Folly" No Joke - It's Big, Bold Syrah

This sample for review certainly surprised me a bit when I opened a shipment of Montes Alpha. I was expecting the respected Chilean winery's Cabernet, Syrah, and Carmenere. But there were two more bottles in the shipment. They included a bottle of their highly-regarded premium Carmenere Purple Angel and this 2006 bottle of Folly.

Why was I suprrised? The Purple Angel, which was the top scoring wine at a Palate Press grand tasting, sells for a suggested $65 a bottle. The bottle of Syran sells for a suggested $98. I found the wine online ranging from $79-$110.

I opened the Folly on my birthday. The name comes from some of the ridicule the winery came under when they decided to plant Syrah on the upper slopes of Apalta Valley. The grape had never been grown in the area before. Well, Montes Alpha gets the last laugh for sure!

This is a really dark purple wine with lots of spice and some definite pepper. It's not for anyone who doesn't like their wine really big and really bold.

This is a wine that's only going to get better and better - but hey, Saturday was my birthday! 29 again! AND again! Ok, maybe more than a couple times!

But back to the wine. This was big and jammy with huge tannins and bite. It was still pretty darn good with some beef tenderloin I roasted Saturday night.

Another of the unique aspects of this bottle of good juice is the art of Ralph Steadman. He worked frequently with Hunter S. Thompson and has been doing the artwork for Montes Alpha.

This wine is a keeper if you love big Syrah and can afford the price point. It's beautifully crafted, but just needs some more time in bottle I think. I decanted it for nearly two hours and it was wonderful, but with the big finish it's easy to see how this wine will really come around in a few more years.

For most of us, getting to drink a wine like this is a real treat. But it's also further evidence on price structure and the quality you get for the bigger buck!

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Check out Palate Press's Wine for Haiti

Nearly everyone helps out when it comes to a good cause. Sometimes you can get a tangible return beyond the satisfaction of being part of the solution.

I've had the "Wine for Haiti" logo on the left rail of my blog for several weeks now. I hope you've checked it out. And if you haven't done that yet, this is just a short plug asking you to do so. Just click here and go directly to the auction catalogue.

As you scan the auction items click on the image to get more detail. At the bottom of that window, you can bid on the wine items. Payment, shipping and all of the other details are explained at the top of the page.

It's a great cause. And Palate Press publisher David Honig has put together some great wine items. Check it out.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Vouvray - A Beautiful French Chenin Blanc

I mentioned in a previous post that one of my most remarkable wine finds in Italy was a French wine!

At a wonderful little wine bar (enoteca) just across the famed Ponte Vecchio bridge I discovered French "Vouvray." The particular wine was a 1996 Domaine Freslier Vouvray. Vouvray is a region in the Loire Valley known for its Chenin Blanc wines.

Chenin Blanc can be dry, sweet and several spots in between. It is a beautiful grape that allows winemakers great latitude in how they'll make their wines.

The Vouvray I enjoed in Florence was aged, and rich, with a creamy texture. We enjoyed it with some smooth French cheeses for a marvelous lunch. It retailed at about $20 (U.S.)

I have bought a couple Vouvray wines since my return. I opened one tonight - a 2008 Remy Pannier Vouvray. I found this wine in the $13-$16 range online. I bought it at Kahn's on Keystone in Indianapolis.

The white wine had a beautiful nose and a very light color. Even though this was a very young wine, the rich flavor still grabbed my attention. It's sweet without really being sweet and acidic without clobbering you with the burn. I'd call it subtle. It's full and rich wine.

Remy wines date back to 1885. Remy Pannier has been one of the dominant names in white wine in the Loire valley.

Try some Vouvray. I can't wait to try more and get a better grasp on how to describe it. But I sure know I've enjoyed it.

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Check Out These Great National Geographic Photos

There's a lot more to wine than just drinking it. That's something that is often difficult to explain to those not into wine.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately and thinking about my writing, this blog, and such things. I want to continue to review the wines I'm drinking but I also want to do other things here.

I've recently found a couple of very unique and interesting wine sites that offer really great deals. No, I mean really great deals. I ordered wine from one today and want to see how it proceeds. I want to check them out and then I'll share them with you.

I want to do more video interviews of shop owners, winemakers and winery visits. I want to direct blog visitors to other interesting blog sites and wine stories. I want my blog to be a little different than so many others by being more of a clearing house.

It will evolve, but there ya go - it's off my chest.

For example, today I got a link from National Geographic about a new vineyard photo gallery. Take a look, it's really great stuff.

Now for the record, the picture at the top of this blog is one I took during my recent trip to Italy. It was one of my favorite shots .... our college guys on a Tuscan hillside with an old villa down the hill, olive trees, and a vineyard!

I love the shot! Enjoy the National Geographic shots too - good stuff!

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Luna Vineyards Sangiovese Good Non-Italian Example

I like my Pinot from Oregon and the Russian River Valley. Nothing like a Napa Cabernet. And I'm partial to Sangiovese from Tuscany, Italy.

But whoa!!!! I was surprised when I opened a bottle of Luna Vineyard's 2007 Sangiovese Sunday night. First, the wine is a blend. It's 90 percent Sangiovese with seven percent Cabernet Sauvignon and three percent Petite Syrah.

The winery says this wine should peak in 2016. But how many of us, really, buy $20 wine to put away for six or seven years?

When I first opened this bottle I'll admit I was not impressed. Sangiovese can be very acidic and this juice was burning. But, I have to give it some credit because about two hours later I was loving it. (And no, not because I was continually consuming it!)

The wine got noticably softer and richer with some definite raspberry and perhaps a floral scent. I like raspberry in about anything. As a matter of fact, I returned from a weekend trip with a homemade (mother made) black raspberry pie!

But I digrees! (Thanks Mom!)

The wine spends time in new French oak ... so time or some air is going to really open it up. The wine sells for around $20, though this particular bottle was a sample for review.

There is more and more Sangiovese being planted on the west coast. That's a good thing. It's always great to see wineries branching out and trying new things.

Luna Vineyards does a nice job with Sangiovese. It's worth the price point.

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M. Chapoutier's Belleruche Just 'OK' in My Book

This old Cotes du Rhone estate, M. Chapoutier which dates back to early 1800s, makes a smooth 2007 red wine.

It's a 50-50 Grenache-Syrah blend that you'll find easy to drink. It's a purple wine with some oak on the nose and a hint of spice. I found the tannins and acids both well under control for a young wine.

I liked this wine but didn't love it. I thought it was a little light on the palate. I picked it up at Cork & Cracker in Indianapolis. You'll find it anywhere from $10-$13.

Nothing wrong with this wine and it was good with food. Robert Parker gave this wine 89 points. I think you can easily find better Cotes du Rhone wines in the price point sith similar ratings.

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