Posts Tagged ‘wine review’

Wine Review: Stray Dog Zinfandel 2006

August 29th, 2011 No comments

What a name! Stray Dog Zinfandel, though it may be a fairly new name, is crafted by a man who’s been producing quality wine for 20+ years, Mark Gendron, who recently sold JanKris winery (founded in 1990.) Mark currently owns JK Estates, and the Wildfire Cellars brand. (Stray Dog Zinfandel is released with the JK Estates label.)

Stray Dog’s interesting, earthy nose contains aromas of wild berries, blackberries, raspberries, walnuts, chocolate, slight tar, and a note of grass. On the tongue, blackberries and black cherries dominate, but this wine is not sweet like other clichéd, “jammy” Zins. In fact, its taste and body are more akin to a good Merlot than a “typical” Zin. The finish, long, powerful, and filled with black cherry, is quite striking and, again, a bit uncharacteristic of traditional Zins. All of this, coupled with good acidity and adequate tannins, make this a wine worth trying. (This wine also took home the Silver Medal at the World Wine Championships.) Plus, Stray Dog Zinfandel paris well with pork, chicken, various seafood dishes, and can even be served with chocolate desserts. With such versatility, and a unique personality, Stray Dog Zinfandel 2006 is surprisingly inexpensive. Take home a bottle of Stray, today, and give it a whirl!

Wine Review: Schmitt Söhne Riesling Qualitätswein 2009

August 24th, 2011 No comments

This little guy’s not bad! And by “little guy” I mean the wine, though the wine’s “mascot” happens to be an adorable, little German man.

This good-value, summertime sipper proved exceptionally clear, with a shimmery, pale-yellow color. With an aroma of sufficient intensity, though a little plain, scents of lemon, berry, slight pear, apple, and honeysuckle became more pronounced as the wine opened. Though light-bodied and lean, the wine tasted pleasantly crisp with pronounced, lip-smacking sweet flavors of apple and pear. Though not a complex wine, this inexpensive, yummy delight (less than $10 a bottle) is well-balanced, easy to drink and, just as promised by the sign held by the little guy on the label, “will work with food.” The wine’s crispness allows it to pair easily with chicken, fish, pork, ham, salads, spicy summertime dishes and, of course, desserts, making it ideal for summertime picnics. This wine was an affordable summertime gem I’m glad I picked up! (In fact, I may pull over for a few more bottles the next time I’m out and about.)

Wine Review: Oracle of the Wind Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2009

August 10th, 2011 No comments

Oracle of the Wind Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2009This delicate white hails “from the sun, the rain, the wind, and the soil” of South Africa.  Though described as a “light yellow with flashes of green,” my glass appeared a surprising golden yellow of medium intensity, usually indicative of mature, concentrated whites.  Being a very affordable wine (I only paid $7.99 for a bottle), I knew not what to expect.  Although the nose is pleasant-but-weak, and somewhat plain, the wine makes up for it with a soft, creamy body and light crispness.  Flavors are subtle and playfully elusive.  They include guava, gooseberry, subdued mango, and other tropical flavors.  There are even light hints of lime and lemon.  This is not a “big” wine, and so it must be remembered that although this wine is well-structured, it is very delicate.  It will take many sips to appreciate and, like all wine, it gets better as it opens.  It is also a wine that can only be fully appreciated when chilled.  Serving this wine at room temperature will ruin it.  We recommend serving this wine between 46ºF and 48ºF.  For wines such as this, a Marvel Wine Refridgerator like the 23-Bottle Wine Grotto Wine Cellar  will help you attain the perfect serving temperature.  As a final note, if you’ve been following our blog, remember that long-term storage temperatures differ from serving temperatures, so don’t confuse the two!  Enjoy!

30 Bottle Marvel Wine Grotto wine refrigerator

Great Wines for Grilling

July 15th, 2011 No comments

It sometimes happens that we get fantastic wine recommendations we just have to pass along, and here are two by Natalie Maclean, the creator of the useful app Nat Decants we reviewed in May.  In a recent a e-mail, Natalie suggested we try the 2010 Sileni Estates Sauvignon Blanc Selection, and the 2009 Perrin Les Cornuds Vinsobres

Here’s what Natalie had to say about these winners:

“2010 Sileni Estates Sauvignon Blanc Selection, New Zealand: Vibrant lime and chive notes with some lemongrass zest on the finish. Pair with grilled veggies and seafood. $15.95  Score: 89/100”

“2009 Perrin Les Cornuds Vinsobres, Rhône, France: Juicy, chewy and satisfying, this full-bodied red is the Ultimate Barbecue Wine for steak and hamburgers. $15.00  Score: 90/100”

Needless to say, we were not disappointed with Natalie’s recommendations, hence this posting!  (And Nat is “right on” when she dubs the Perrin Les Cornuds Vinsobres the “Ultimate Barbecue Wine.”)  Enjoy!

Should You Decant Port?

July 8th, 2011 1 comment

“Do you decant Port?” is a question that often arises in whispered tones.  Though literature on the subject of decanting this special wine is extensive, most folks aren’t aware of it, and those who are are often scared off by the seeming complexity and effort such decanting–and timing– entails. Person pouring with Riedel Tyrol Wine Decanter
The other night I enjoyed a fantastic glass of Dow’s Late Bottle Vintage Port from 2000.  Though bottled in such a way to avoid getting sediment in the bottle (and supposedly not requiring decanting), this “meant to be enjoyed immediately” quasi-vintage Port underwent a decanting miracle.  With a complex bouquet of wild berries, floral notes, and even a hint of caramel, this rich, full-bodied wine was a symphony of plum, black cherry, fig, apricot, and even dark chocolate on my tongue.  Providing a satisfying, long-lasting finish, this exceptional wine made quite the impression! Interestingly enough, my friends who brought the bottle over were astonished that this was the same wine they selected; it was one of their favorites, too!  Apparently, they had never decanted their Port before, and were experiencing its magical transformation via decanting for the first time.

Decanting Port is often of greater importance than decanting other wines.  Port wines that age in bottles such as Late Bottled Vintage, Crushed Port, and Vintage Port, as opposed to those in casks, are not filtered before they are bottled.  This means that there are more deposits that will form in the bottle.  (Tawny Port, up to 40 years, has its deposits filtered before bottling so it won’t continue to age.)  If you’ve ever been turned off from Port because you once had a glass that contained solid, bitter sediment, your Port was not properly decanted.  But decanting, in addition to removing this safe-yet-unpleasant sediment, is essential to opening up a Vintage Port to bring out its bouquet and flavor.  Because such Ports contain a bit of sediment, it’s often suggested you stand a bottle upright a day or two before opening to get the majority of deposits to sink to the bottom.   Once you’re ready to open your Port, experiment until you find the tool that makes the task easiest for you.  There are a number of tongs, screw pulls, lever pulls, etc. to help you remove the old cork.  Beginners often find Port tongs the most difficult to master, and screw pulls the easiest.  (Many times, because of its age, the cork will break. Do not be discouraged; decanting will help you remove bits of cork that may have fallen into the bottle.)

Once opened, slowly and calmly pour your Port into the decanter of your choice being careful not to stir up the sediment at the bottom by moving the bottle back and forth too much.  Do this in a well-lit area, and with a clear decanter such as a Riedel Vinum Magnum Wine Decanter, so you can see what you’re doing.  When you observe the deposits rising to the neck of the bottle, stop pouring.  If you’re insistent on drinking the little bit of remaining sediment-rich wine, an unbleached coffee filter can be used.  With practice, your decanter will be filled by a majority of sediment-free wine.  Once in the decanter, let the wine sit for a few hours.  Typically, Vintage Port less than 20 years old should be decanted for 2 hours more more before drinking.  Vintage Port less than 10 years old requires more oxidation and should be decanted for three or four hours.  Older bottles are more difficult to gauge because of numerous variables.  That said, 40 year old bottles should receive one hour of air time, and older bottles can be decanted and served immediately.  Opinions on the proper amount of decanting time do differ, but I find these guidelines appropriate for the most common circumstances.  In short, decant your Port!  You’ll be amazed at how good it can be.

Riedel Vinum Magnum Wine Decanter

Wine Review: 2007 Forefront Cabernet Sauvignon by Pine Ridge

July 4th, 2011 Comments off
2007 Forefront Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon

Image courtesy of

The delicious, first-class 2007 Forefront Cabernet Sauvignon pours out a regal, dark purple.  With a powerful nose consisting of aromas including blueberries, raspberries, slight truffle, leather, and light vegetable notes, this scintillating wine pleases before it is even sipped.  On the tongue, it certainly demands attention, too!  Surprisingly well-balanced for such a young Cabernet, it is mouth-watering, rich, and meaty.  Its pleasant berry tastes also mix splendidly with well-integrated, smooth tannins.  The finish, excellent and long, gives rise to hidden coffee, dark cherry, and chocolate flavors.  Try a bottle with steak and butter-rich dishes to neutralize the tannins and bring out the wine’s inherent fruit flavors.  Or, match the wine’s oak influences by serving with grilled or smoked meats.  And for tasty dessert ideas, this wine pairs exceptionally well with dark chocolate recipes.  This is a big, harmonious, excellent wine worth every penny!  Open a bottle today, and consider saving a few sips for friends using The Keeper Wine Preservation System.

The Keeper Nitrogen Wine Preservation System

Wine Review: “Ottone I” Piemont doc Barbera 2009

June 15th, 2011 No comments

Ottone I Bottle Image
I picked up a bottle of Cantine San Silvestro’s “Ottone I” Piemont doc Barbera 2009 the other night on a whim, not sure what to expect.  Consisting of 100% pure Barbera grapes from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, this full red was simply bursting with big fruit flavors.  Ruby red in color with a soft-but-sound nose including black raspberry, raspberry, cherry, and hints of strawberry, my initial reaction was most positive.  With a rounded body, this delicious wine is filled with luscious cherry, berry, and even dark jam flavors.  The finish, though not too long, was crisp and pleasing.  This is a quality wine that pairs well with a variety of foods. While moderately tannic, the tannins are very well integrated and will complement saucy pasta dishes, beef, pork, and recipes that utilize robust cheeses.  For meals with these components, San Silvestro’s  “Ottone I” Piemont doc Barbera 2009 is a sure winner.  It can even be served slightly chilled with cold meat platters, and with salads rich with black olives.  Talk about versatility!  (If you choose to chill it, why not look into an affordable and stylish Wine Credenza for optimal temperature control?)  So go ahead!  Grab a few bottles, and enjoy the “Ottone I” Piemont doc Barbera 2009 wine now, or through 2012.  I know I will.

Virtual Wine Communities

June 13th, 2011 No comments

There really is no substitute to being a part of a friendly group of wine tasters!  Not only do you come to know one another’s preferences, you are also exposed to numerous wines you might not try if left to your own devices.  In addition to broadening your horizons, your close group of enthusiastic wine peers can make recommendations based on what they’ve come to learn about your palate, and you can do the same for them.  What is more, and self-evident, “live” group wine tasting involves real-time contact with actual wine!  Unlike one-sided online reviews, real-time conversation is dynamic with the emphasis being on the wines at hand.

Sometimes, however, finding a wine group to join can be difficult.  Other times travel may prevent you from meeting as regularly with such a group as you’d like.  This is where a “virtual” wine group enters!  In addition to your “real life” club, internet wine communities offer valuable tips, advice, and recommendations often suited to your preferences.  It’s even possible, with various apps and sites, to virtually befriend or “follow” knowledgeable online personalities with similar tastes.  With literally hundreds of online wine communities at your fingertips, choosing which ones to join can be a daunting task.

While you can choose a group or site for its ordered content, it is also fun to visit a very informal, unstructured online group like the “Facebook Wine Club” for its random presentation of reviews, opinions, and info.  Free to Facebook users, this group boasts to “appeal to all wine drinkers, from the seasoned pro to those who just wanna know more!! You can choose to read, discuss, add and request information on wine. Let’s discover wine together…”  Featuring a random mix of wine reviews, app recommendations, info about wineries and tours, plus the “quintessential”, incidental Facebook pics and spam wall posts Facebook users have come to expect, this fun page provides good fodder for casual browsing.  Similar to a “real” wine group event, you never quite know what you’re going to find!
A more ordered, less unruly community can be found at  Here, membership is also free.  You can create your own wine log, befriend members with similar tastes (without sharing your entire life story, unlike “friending” on Facebook), get custom wine recommendations, and view a host of wine blogs.  There’s also a handy search feature, similar to those found on other quality wine community sites.

For a well-versed community with expertise on both wine and food pairing, check out a new site by certified sommelier Natalie MacLean.  (Does that name ring a bell?  We found and reviewed her handy wine app, Nat Decants, back in May.)  Not only is this app still free, but so is a large portion of Natalie’s new site.  Subscribers receive a regular newsletter packed with wine articles and tips, plus you can create your own profile page.  Doing this lets you instantly access online community reviews (many of which are from educated wine enthusiasts), create a wine wish list, catalog your wine cellar, review wines and share them with the community, as well as devise shopping lists.  Similar to, showcases “featured bloggers” and contributors.  With emphasis on food as well as wine, this community is a welcomed “holistic” resource for chefs and hosts. There is also a search feature on the site.
While hundreds of online wine communities abound, give these three different sites a glace over for starters to help you discover what it is you most want to find in a virtual wine community: surprise, order, convenience, conversation, food pairings, tips, etc…  With that knowledge, we wish you the best of luck finding a virtual community that’s a good fit and complement to your “live” club!  Cheers!

Riesling: The Chameleon Grape

June 10th, 2011 No comments

Rieslings are fantastic wines that wear many hats.  Often referred to as being a “chameleon grape”, Riesling grapes really do play many roles.  In fact, the wines they produce range from those that are completely dry to wines that are insatiably sweet!  While “Zinfandel” makes us think of California, “Riesling” instantly brings Germany to mind, though good Rieslings can be found elsewhere, too.  Dry Rieslings, Rieslings packed with fresh citrus and peach flavors, Rieslings containing honey scents and fruity notes, and spectacular dessert Rieslings utilizing the same grapes are waiting for you at your local wine store!

Riedel Riesling wine glass

To further demonstrate the delightful versatility of this grape, we compare two different Rieslings: the C.H. Berres Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 1997 (produced in Germany), and the Montinore Estate Almost Dry Riesling 2009 (produced in America).  Using Riedel Sommeliers Riesling Grand Cru Wine Glasses for optimal visual comparison, we find the appearance of both wines strikingly similar.  Each has a crystal-clear, pale-to-golden yellow color, bordering on cream.  This, however, is where the similarities end.  Though the nose of each wine can be described as clean, fine, and sufficient, the Riesling Spatlese contains notes of violet, iris, honeysuckle, and a touch of berry, while the Almost Dry Riesling possesses a rich citrus fragrance of oranges and lemons, and also sports a soft peach aroma.  While both wines are smooth and delicious to taste, the Riesling Spatlese is much more round; the Almost Dry Reisling is light-bodied and lean.  The Riesling Spatlese is also quite sweet, while the Almost Dry Riesling (true to its name) is nearly void of any sugary taste.  Although both wines are harmonious, elegant Rieslings, the Riesling Spatlese can be described as being more “velvety” when compared to the “sincere” nature of the Almost Dry Riesling.  Though these two wines are delightfully similar in appearance, their distinct personalities are made apparent by comparison.

As in our previous Red and White Zinfandel blog post, it’s quite amazing how the same grape can yield two very good-but-different wines!  But, no matter how sweet or dry, Rieslings are a perfect wine to enjoy on a hot, summer day! Why not conduct your own Riesling comparison this season?

 C.H. Berres Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 1997Montinore Estate Almost Dry Riesling 2009

Wine Review: Le Grand Pinot Noir 2009

June 6th, 2011 No comments

This rich, dark red hails from the Limoux region of Southern France.  With sufficient aroma, the Le Grand Pinot Noir 2009’s nose consists of delightful red berries, cherries, raspberries, currants, and a note of fig.  The wine is rounded, and delights the taste buds with exploding flavors of red berries, cherries, and currants.  Its semi-spicy kick is nicely countered by its smooth, balanced, satisfying finish rich with tannins.  Though not an extremely complex wine, the Le Grand Pinot Noir 2009 is quite good considering its average low price of $8.99 a bottle.  In fact, I find the wine to be better than some higher-priced red Burgundies.  Pairing well with salads, various cheese platters, game birds, and fish dishes including salmon and tuna, this is a good wine to enjoy with light, summertime fare, as well as with hearty pork!  Although Le Grand Pinot Noir’s logo may contain a black sheep, this wine is certainly an inexpensive winner in my book!

Because this is a such an inexpensive, versatile wine, this would be an excellent choice to purchase by the case when throwing a party. To really impress your guests, store and serve from an elegant wine credenza, a combination wine storage cabinet and serving table!

Le Grand Pinot Noir 2009