Posts Tagged ‘wine review’

How do I know if my wine’s gone bad?

October 22nd, 2013 No comments














You’re out to dinner at a restaurant and are served a bottle of wine you’ve never had before. The waiter arrives and pours you a taste. You take a sip. The flavor is…strange. Is the wine just new and unfamiliar, or is something wrong with it? Unsure of what to do, you tell the waiter it’s fine, then spend the rest of the dinner wondering if you did the right thing.

We’ve all tasted wine that’s gone unmistakably bad. But it isn’t always easy to tell. Here are our most frequently asked questions about wine faults, so that you never wonder again.

1. What is “corked” wine?

Corked wine is wine that has been contaminated with a chemical compound called TCA, commonly referred to as “cork taint.” TCA is formed when fungi (which often occur naturally in wine) come in contact with certain chemicals in wine sterilization products. Infected corks will taint the wine. You’ll know a wine is tainted if it has the smell and taste of damp, soggy, or even rotten cardboard. Cork taint also dampens the fruity taste of wine. Neither pieces of cork floating in the wine nor mold on the top of the cork means that the wine has been tainted.

2. My wine has crystals in it — what does that mean?

Sometimes, you’ll get a bottle of wine with what looks like sugar crystals in the bottom. They are called tartaric acid crystals or “tartrates.” Tartaric acid is naturally occurring in grapes. When wine becomes very cold, or old, it can crystallize. Tartrates are not harmful to the drinker or the wine. In fact, they can be a sign that the wine is high-quality and has not been over-treated while it was being made.

3. My wine is cloudy — is that bad?

Cloudy wine usually indicates that yeast or another kind of bacteria is growing in the wine. Fizziness in wine can signal the same thing. While cloudy or fizzy wine likely won’t hurt you, it probably won’t taste very good.

4. I know it’s bad if wine tastes like vinegar, but what does it mean?

Vinegar-tasting wine means that the wine has been infiltrated by a bacteria called Acetobacter. It usually happens when a bottle has been left open for too long, or can also be a fault of the wine-making process. The reaction of Acetobacter with oxygen creates vinegar, and is actually how vinegar is produced.

5. Can a wine be too old?

Aging wine isn’t always a good thing. Over time, wine undergoes oxidation (this process can happen faster than it should if the cork doesn’t fit correctly or the wine is stored improperly). Wines that have been spoiled by oxidation taste dull and flat, and often turn brownish in color.

6. My wine tastes like struck matches. What happened?

Nearly all wines are made using sulfur dioxide, which helps prevent oxidation. But too much sulfur dioxide causes unpleasant aromas in wine, which smell like struck matches, or sometimes, rotten eggs. Occasionally, the smell is accompanied by an unpleasant tingling sensation in the nose.

Wine Review: 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

August 30th, 2013 No comments

For many years, experts thought that the only worthwhile wines in the world came from Bordeaux, France. All that changed in 1976, at a wine competition in Paris known as the “Judgement of Paris.” There, French judges did a blind taste-test that pitted Bordeaux wines from France against Cabernet Sauvignons from California. Much to everyone’s surprise, the California wines blew away the competition.

Since the Judgement of Paris, California has been recognized as one of the world’s best wine regions. One grape California is especially known for is Cabernet Sauvignon. Different California regions produce different kinds of Cabernet Sauvignon. The hillside vineyards in areas like Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder have thin, less rich soils, producing intense wines that, very like the wines of Bordeaux, need to be aged for years to come to maturity. In contrast, wines from the more mountainous vineyards are often big, bold, and fruity, with deep, dark colors and intense berry characteristics.

In Healdsburg, California, above the Russian River Valley, below the hills of the Mayacamas Mountains, and east of the ocean, sits Clajeux Vineyards. Well-drained, rocky, volcanic soils and cooling breezes late in the day make this area a fantastic producer of Cabernet Sauvignon.

One wine that truly showcases this area is the 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has aromas of red licorice and black fruits that are sweet like jam or preserves. There is a hint of flowers: violets and roses. On the palate, the 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is loaded with blackberry and black cherry. The finish is long and complex, with solid but soft tannins.

The 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a rare wine that is suited to both be drunk while young, and also being aged for several years. If you want powerful fruit, drink it now. However, this is also an age-worthy Cab from the Mayacamas, and is likely to benefit from six to eight years in the cellar. For maximum enjoyment, purchase a case: drink one now, and open another every couple of years to experience how this wine changes with age and judge when it has matured to perfection.


Two Wines Reviewed by Chris Noel of Vintage Cellars

July 2nd, 2013 No comments

For me, going wine tasting to me is like heading out to find new friends. You will find plenty that you only keep around for a short time, but every now and then you find those lifelong relationships that you want to last for years. I had the fortune to attend a wine tasting a few weeks ago, and just so happened to come across a couple of those wines I want keep around for a long time.

The first was the 2002 Lail Vineyard J. Daniel Cuvée. Lail Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley, and can trace its origins back five generations to 1879. Their 2002 Lail Vineyard J. Daniel Cuvée is made from lots of Cabernet Sauvignon. Abundant sunlight this season allowed the grapes to get extremely ripe. 900 cases of this wine were produced.

The wine is elegant and stylish, with a delicate, creamy texture leading to a tasty core of mocha-laced currant, anise, wild berry and plum flavors. The tight focus keeps the flavors flowing on a long luxurious finish. If you’re not in a hurry to enjoy this lovely wine, I would recommend laying it down for another 3 to 5 years to see its full potential.

Montalcino Italy

Montalcino, home of Brunello wines

The second wine that I enjoyed was a Argiano 2001 Brunello di Montalcino from Italy. Montalcino is well-known for its Sangiovese grapes. What might not be familiar to some is the name, “Brunello di Montalicino,” which is a red wine produced from grapes grown in the vineyards that surround the town of Montalcino, in the wine region of Tuscany. Originally, it was thought that a unique type of grape grew in this area, and it was given the name “Brunello.” But in 1879, experiments showed that Brunello grapes were, in fact, Sangiovese grapes, and now, “Brunello” means that the wine was produced with 100 percent Sangiovese grapes.

When tasting the Argiano 2001 Brunello di Montalcino, I received intense aromas of fresh raspberry and sliced mushrooms and a hint of black olives. The wine is full-bodied, with chewy tannins. It’s long and structured. This wine would pair perfectly with a hearty Italian gravy over your favorite pasta on a Sunday afternoon with family and friends. I really enjoyed this selection.

If you’re looking to add some new wines to your cellar, you can’t go wrong with these two choices. Cheers!

Jake’s Corner: A Great Cabernet Sauvignon

May 21st, 2013 No comments

Cabernet Sauvignon is often referred to as the “King of Red Wine Grapes.” Though it’s grown in nearly ever major wine-producing country, it is most famously cultivated both in the soils of the Left Band of Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley, Cabernet is one of the world’s most sought-after wine grapes.

Part of what makes Cabernet so special is its versatility. It yields many different styles of wine, from fruit-forward, smooth styles to big, complex wines that showcase their tannins. The flavors it imparts commonly include blackcurrant, plum, raisin chocolate, blackberry, spice and leather.

There are four distinct styles of Cabernet Sauvignon. First is the fruity, fresh, and easy-drinking style. These make great everyday wines, and are smooth with little to no tannins. Then there is the intense fruit category, which makes a big impact on the palate and has detectable tannins. Third is a more complex and elegant style, with soft tannins and smooth, rich fruit flavors. This type tends to be excellent with food. The fourth style is a big-bodied, dense one. These Cabernets tend to be big, with distinct tannins that soften well with aging.

Like most people, I love Cabernet Sauvignon, and am always on the hunt for a great one. On Saturday, I decided it was time to open my only bottle of Backus by Joseph Phelps. Back in 2007, I purchased one bottle of the 2004 vintage and have cellared in ever since waiting for the right time. Well, Saturday, with a dinner of a ribeye, creamed spinach and scalloped potatoes, was it. Here is my opinion:

The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus is absolutely mind-blowing. It has a deep ruby color with blackberries, licorice, and black cherry, with a hint of chocolate on the nose. The fruit is extremely well-focused and balanced. The 2004 Backus is a powerful wine with soft, elegant tannins. It is silky, yet pleasantly sweet. It’s a full-bodied, powerful Cabernet — very fruit-forward with balanced acid. The wine danced on my palate with cedar, ripe plums, black cherries and currant.  The finish had a nice hint of mineral a sweetness that lasted a long ten seconds.

After enjoying a wine like this, it makes me wish I had another glass (and an unlimited wine buying budget). If you can get your hands on a bottle (or a case), I’d highly recommend this great wine.

Jake’s Corner: Wine Spectator Grand Tour

May 2nd, 2013 No comments
Jake Austad at Wine Spectator tasting

Vintage Cellars’ Jake Austad at Wine Spectator Grand Tour

Last Saturday, on a warm Las Vegas evening, representing Vintage Cellars, my wife Lindsay and I were able to attend the Wine Spectator Grand Tour.  Wines were poured from more than 225 producers, representing 15 countries and four states.  If you’re interested in good wine or learning about good wine, this is the place to be.  Though I think it’s impossible to taste 225 different wines in 3 hours, by the end of the night, it looked like some people tried.

As for Lindsay and I, we had a specific tasting plan that started with Champagne/Sparkling wines.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Nicolas Fuillatte Brut Rose.  I wanted to do a true side by side comparison of the Pinot Noir grape.  I selected Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Cote-D’ Or (France), Kosta Brown Russian River Valley (CA) and Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills (OR).  The Latour was a deep ruby color & showed a great expression of red fruits, raspberry & strawberry.  The silky tannins were exactly what I expected from a Burgundy Grand Cru.  The Domaine Droughin was a vivid red with berries fading into a very floral nose.   I picked up cola and licorice on the palate.  And finally the Kosta Brown had a ruby red color with nose and palate moving to from red to black fruits, strawberry to dark cherry.  I loved the long mineral, spicy finish.  I knew from the start I was destined to return to the Latour for another sip before the evening ended.

At this point, I had to change up my palate.   We were pleasantly surprised by the light buffet provided at the event.  From artisan cheeses, a couple of pasta dishes, a carving station and desert plate, it was enough to satisfy our dinner plans.  Just a quick stop before we were back focused on the next stop.

Next was the face off of California Cabernet and Bordeaux.  Though the list was extensive (and we eventually tasted more), I focused on 2 of each to start.  From France,  I selected Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Chateau Lynch-Bages.  From CA, I selected a couple of Napa Cabs, Kathryn Hall and Joseph Phelps.  To be completely honest, the Bordeaux’s were young and they need some time to rest.  Sure it would have been nice if there were a Premier Cru there, but I guess when you sell bottles for over $1000, you don’t pour them in Vegas.  I enjoyed the Joseph Phelps but the 2009 Kathryn Hall Napa Valley Cabernet stole the show.  A deep ruby-red. Ripe aromas of dark fruits, baked berries and a hint of chocolate. Sweet , intense but balanced and ends a hint of oak, coffee and black licorice.  This was powerful wine with plenty of ripeness and depth.  In my opinion, buy now or forever hold your peace.  Put a case in your cellar and enjoy today, opening one every year to follow its development.

From this point on, I was done with the “professional” portion of the evening.  Lindsay had been enjoying all along and it was time for me to drink the wines and not spit.  Together we did a tour through Italy, Spain, Portugal and some new world wines (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa).   I found the Sangiovese grape to be a favorite, especially from Brunello di Montalcino.  Riojo might be my favorite region in Spain, especially the Grand Riserva’s which have a minimum of 5 years of aging.  There is so much more “research” to be done in both of these countries.  I enjoyed the Graham’s 20 year Tawny Port, but then again, who doesn’t like the rich toffee notes a good tawny provides?  As for the new world, I found something I don’t like, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  I couldn’t find any fruit notes over the green pepper and jalapeno nose.  The palate had an intense salsa punch.  I like salsa with chips but not in my Sav Blanc.

Of the 225 producers, we did our best.  I took tasting notes on 37 wines (remember, I had to spit for about half of those).  One last highlight, we did finish with the 2005 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes.  If you have no experience with Sauternes, I highly recommend you take your nose and palate for a ride.   We are looking forward to the event again in the future.  The Grand Tour was classy, with quality wines, good food and surprisingly not crowded (even though the tickets were sold out).  A fantastic experience, as long as you can control yourself in the casino before the 7PM start time.

Jake is Vintage Cellars’ Wine Cellar Specialist.  Each month in Jake’s Corner, he shares his wine insights, reviews, and tips with you! Check out Jake’s last post here.

Wine Review: Frey Pinot Noir 2009

October 20th, 2011 No comments

It may be September, but it’s not too early to start planning your trip to the 2012 Millésime Bio, Europe’s largest and most impressive organic wine conference that takes place yearly in Montpellier, France.  Among the winning wines from 2011 was a curious 2009 Pinot Noir from Frey Vineyards.  (It won a bronze medal.)  What is most interesting is that this wine hails from America’s first organic winery.  That’s right… it’s an organic wine from a “recent” American company founded in 1980!  With no added sulfites, this wine came in 3rd at a French wine competition.  Given that the conference featured over 500 organic winemakers, this is quite impressive.  So of course we had to try it!bottle of Frey Pinot Noir 2009

With flavors of strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, and a hint of unsweetened jam, this very smooth wine is sure to make your tastebuds happy.  It’s a great fall wine, perfect for accompanying chicken, duck, goose, and even turkey meals.  (If pairing with turkey, for best results place a bit of sausage alongside the turkey meat; the sausage helps bring out the wine’s unique French oak flavor.)  This 2009 Pinot Noir also pairs well with flavor-rich fishes like salmon or red snapper.  Try a glass, and see what the French critics found so delightful!  You may be surprised an organic wine can taste this good!

Wine Review: Block Nine Caiden’s Vineyards Pinot Noir 2009

October 11th, 2011 No comments

Wine bottle of Block 9 Pinot Noir 2009

This relatively inexpensive Pinot Noir is quite a treat!  Beautiful garnet in color, its nose consists of violet, iris, strawberries, and black cherries.  Its velvet-like texture is soothing to the tongue, and its body is solid.  For fans of sweeter Pinot Noirs, the Block Nine 2009 is a good find; the typical earthiness that turns people off from many Pinots is very subdued in this one.  Flavors of semi-sweet black cherries delight the tongue, and the spicy finish is very satisfying.  Though not an extremely complex wine, it is incredibly well-balanced (which is quite nice, considering its low price).  Because of its well-integrated taste, plus its balanced tannins and acidity, this is a wine that really “works.”  It’s a sure winner, and is guaranteed to please most wine and non-wine drinkers, alike.  Consider storing a few bottles in a 23-Bottle Wine Grotto Wine Cellar, or an elegant Vinotheque Boxed Up-3 Door Double Deep Credenza, to pull out for unexpected company.  No matter the occasion, this wine will help make it memorable.  Cheers!

Wine Review: Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence 2007

September 30th, 2011 No comments
Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence 2007

Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence 2007

A “Red Rhone Blend” (a wine made from two or more traditional Southern Rhone grape varieties), this rustic French wine is a well-balanced, fantastic find!  Consisting of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Carignan, 20% Grenache, and 9% Syrah, its slight barnyard nose, common to many “old world” wines, also includes blackberries, raspberries, and candied scents.  On the tongue, wild berries, raspberries, wood, herb, smoke, and a candied grape taste give this wine quite a unique-yet-well-integrated personality.  With good texture and a medium body, this complex wine will pair successfully with virtually any meal.  Its finish is excellent, being long, satisfying, and persistent; the intensities of the dissipating flavors are close to equal, which helps one better appreciate the counterpoint of flavors.  Riedel Tyrol wine decanterBecause of its age and complexity, this wine is best served decanted.  A decanter like the Riedel Tyrol wine decanter does justice to this “old world” wine quite nicely.  (Plus, you and your guests will be able to better see and appreciate this special wine’s beautiful, dark blue-red hue.)  Though the prominent aromas and flavors are  even better if decanted an hour before consumption, any length of time this wine spends mingling with the air helps to maximize enjoyment.  Cheers!

Wine Review: Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

September 22nd, 2011 No comments
Gnarly Head 2009 California Cabernet Sauvignon

Gnarly Head 2009 California Cab

I’ve been a big fan of Gnarly Head’s Cabs for many years, and the Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is no exception.  This regal, concentrated wine is rich with dark fruit flavor (currants, black cherries, and tart cranberries), and has a velvety “cab” texture that briefly exposes its well-integrated tannins just before a subtle taste of cloves and violets.  Its consistent, black peppercorn “spice” Riedel Sommeliers Magnum Wine Decantermakes it a perfect companion for meals with meats.  Traditional “steak and potatoes” will always be a good combo, but the wine seems to pair even better with lamb dishes; lamb chops, roast leg of lamb and rack of lamb are perfect companions for the Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.  The wine works cooperatively with Italian dishes, too, especially pastas with tomato or cheese sauces, or meatballs.  A glass to accompany a robust cheese ravioli or tortellini plate is quite nice!  And decanting a bottle makes it even more immediately amazing.  Try using a stately Riedel Sommeliers Magnum wine decanter to help you quickly open this impressive wine. Cheers!

Wine Review: Casa Julia Sauvignon Blanc 2009

September 2nd, 2011 No comments

Casa Julia Sauvignon Blanc 2009

The affordable Casa Julia Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is a delicious white that hails from Chile’s Aconcagua region.  Similar to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but with tamer acidity, this wine is full of vitality and great, well-blended flavors.  Following a full, satisfying nose, the wine delights the tongue with lush fruit, tropical fruit flavors, and tasteful citrus notes.  With good body and texture, this chipper young Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with chicken, shrimp, oysters, clams, lobster, salad, fusion cuisine, and lighter cheese appetizers.  If chilling several Franciscan Three Door Vinotheque 3 door wine storage credenzabottles for a summer celebration, why not use an impressive Franciscan wine credenza?  (Can you tell we looooove wine credenzas?)