Monday, December 28, 2009

Heaven on Earth!

Today my definition of joy is being home alone with five different kinds of wine. I finally have time to do the new taste test I've been itching for. I am so happy that, not only am I showing you my own sorry attempt at photography, but I am also allowing you to see that I drink my wine out of water goblets. (Gasp!)

The five contenders are my four most recent acquisitions previously blogged about (Forest Glen White Merlot, Sebeka Cabernet Pinotage, Le Grand Pinot Noir, Blackstone Cabernet Sauvignon), and Franzia Merlot in a box. (Yes, in a box, but I have an excuse. I always keep some sort of boxed wine on hand just to make sure I don't run out. These things are necessary when you live in a dry county and you have to drive to Arkansas to restock).

That's the White Merlot in the foreground, of course, and then the other four are rather indistinguishable from each other in the picture. The boxed Merlot is not quite as inky as the other three, and the Cabernet Sauvignon is maybe slightly more purplish, but I really don't think there's any way I could tell the true reds apart by just by looking at them. OK, truth be told, I probably couldn't tell them apart by tasting them, either. I'm not that good (yet. But I'll keep working on it).

The White Merlot is definitely the lightest and sweetest of the bunch. No surprise there. The boxed Merlot is not quite as sweet as the white, but is a little plain compared to the other three. Unfortunately, I can smell nail-polish remover in the Cabernet Pinotage (just like wikipedia warned me), though it is faint. Odd that I didn't catch this scent previously. Even more odd is that I still like the taste. I mean, it's nothing like what I imagine drinking nail-polish remover would be like.

The Blackstone Cabernet Sauvignon has the most unique bouquet of the five, and I am trying to put my thumb on what I'm smelling, but I'm having no luck. I called it green banana before, and I guess that's the closest I can manage this time too. I think the Pinot Noir smells the most fruity, the Cabernet Pinotage has a tangy whiff, the Cabernet Sauvignon smells heavy and somehow bright, and the boxed merlot kind of reminds me of smoky barbecue or Worcestershire sauce . . . ? Oh, and by the way, yes I DO realize I am comparing what amounts to apples, oranges, peaches and carrots. But I see no problem in this, since I am trying to decide what I like best.

The White Merlot kind of seems to have a beer-y aftertaste. This may be because it is better straight from the fridge (and I have allowed it to sit out and breathe just as long as the true reds for this taste test). I may make this my summer wine, for a chilled drink, but for the purposes of this taste test, it just does not stand up to the other four. So White Merlot is low man on the totem pole this time around.

The Pinot Noir is a very pleasant wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon has a nice zippy feel to its finish. The Cabernet Pinotage has a really good flavor. Even the boxed Merlot is nice. I can't decide which one I like best! Fortunately for me, I don't have to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sebeka Cabernet Pinotage 2007 Western Cape, South Africa

We were given this bottle at a Christmas party last Saturday night, which would have made attending worthwhile even if the party hadn't been any fun. Wine from South Africa had really never even crossed my mind before. Likewise, "Cabernet Pinotage" was a new one on me. Apparently this is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Pinotage--but even that last bit threw me. So in case Pinotage is new to you, too, here's what I found out on Pinotage is a red wine grape that is South Africa's signature variety. The Pinotage grape is a "viticultural cross" (not a hybrid! don't ask me what the difference is) between Pinot noir and Cinsaut (which, in South Africa, is known by the name Hermitage). "It typically produces deep red varietal wines with smoky, bramble, and earthy flavors, sometimes with notes of bananas and tropical fruit, but has been criticized for sometimes smelling of acetone," which doesn't sound great to me, mainly because of that last part.

In the glass, the wine is inky dark and opaque, a slightly brownish red. It smells a lot like one of my favorite dark chocolates, which happens to be the Choxie Espresso truffle bar, but with a fruity tone also. (Speaking of my Choxie bars, it seems I need to find a new hiding place for them, because just yesterday my three-year-old found my last two squares and polished them off. But back to the wine.) The taste is smooth and rich with a distinct coffee flavor and a tangy finish. I like it! Maybe the added Cab enhances the good stuff and drowns out the acetone. It's definitely worth noting that I let this glass breathe for more than two hours before drinking it, not purposefully but because I got distracted by wrapping Christmas presents.

You also need to notice the super-cool, cheetah-spotted cork. That was a fun surprise.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cool idea

I was flipping through a Signals catalog this evening and something caught my eye: recycled wine bottle glasses. I've been looking for some unique drinking glasses (not for drinking wine, just for water or whatever). These only cost $30 for a set, and I briefly thought about buying some for myself for Christmas, until I realized they were only 4 to a set, and I thought . . . why not make my own?? I don't have the tools to actually do it myself, but I plan to call our local glass shop and see if they could handle a project like this. I have 8 bottles in varying colors (blues and greens, though 3 of them need to be emptied first . . . shouldn't be a problem) but I'll post a picture if I ever get around to doing this. (The picture here, of course, is just for the concept.)

Black Sheep Le Grand Noir Pinot Noir 2008 Limoux, France

The wine guy at the Party Factory picked this one out for me. It had a sign next to it saying it was great with turkey; I didn't try this pairing myself, though I thought about it, but it's too late now, as we've already polished off all the Thanksgiving leftovers.

This wine is a deep ruby red, dark but clear. It has the nicest legs I've ever noticed on a wine before, which is supposed to be a good thing, but I'm not sure I understand why. The label claims flavors of spiced cherries, and I definitely get the spice, but I'm having a hard time picking out cherries--though I do think I can smell a little bit of a strawberry scent. It's very acidic (which is, I learned just recently, what you call it when the wine has a sour taste) and dry. Excellent with cheese!

I'm sorry to report that the bottle has a screwcap instead of a cork, which seems slightly ghetto, but I guess it's good news for the cork oak trees. I wonder if that colors my opinion? Because, while this is a decent wine and I'm enjoying it fairly well, I don't love it like the previous two bottles. I feel another comparison post coming on . . .

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blackstone Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 California

Two for two! Woooohoo! This wine is awesome. It's wildly different from the white merlot, but I like it just as much, if not more! It's an inky, opaque, dark purply red, and it almost has a slight smell of green banana. (Normally I don't care for banana smells or flavors unless it's in a real banana, but in this case I don't mind it). It has a great, spicy flavor and is pretty dry. Thumbs up!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Forest Glen Forest Fire White Merlot 2008 California

I love this wine! I had never even heard of White Merlot until three weeks ago, when it was recommended to me. This is good stuff! It has a beautiful color--a clear but rich garnet. It's light and fresh but also spicy. It is slightly sweet, but not too much for my taste. I wish I had some White Zinfandel to compare it to. Zin is easy to drink (as is this) but I really think the White Merlot is superior, with a zippy kick that the Zin doesn't have. I like that I can smell the raspberry in this one!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cavit Collection Pinot Grigio 2008 Delle Venezie Italy

Since I couldn't recall ever having tried Pinot Grigio, I thought I'd give it a go, all in the name of giving whites a chance. This wine is light, not too sweet for me, and passable, but it has an almost musty taste to it that I really don't like. Of course it could just be this vintner. Since it's possible that I would prefer another one, I wouldn't turn down a different Pinot Grigio, just like I wouldn't kick Brad Pitt out of bed (well, maybe not just like that), but I won't be buying the Cavit 2008 again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bosca Verdi Spumante Canelli-Asti, Piedmont, Italy

This sparkling Italian wine was actually pretty decent. It has a slight but welcome and unique beer flavor. It is sweeter than the wines I usually prefer, and certainly won't be usurping the position of Red as King, but I enjoyed it. It's not quite as sweet and fruity as the Marco Negri, and the taste of beer kept it from being too cloying.

Some interesting tidbits from the Bosca website:

"Among the many ingredients used in the research done at the Boglietto laboratory, beer had made an appearance. It immediately became clear that the addition of beer to moscato made it far more interesting to drink. The final version was finally reached when the decision was made to add various grains to the malt in a ratio that was gradually calibrated until an exceptional spumante was developed. 'Verdi' is actually an acronym, the initials standing for “versatile, enchanting, revolutionary, daring, Italian'."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bodega Norton Torrontes 2006 Mendoza Argentina

I am about to come to the conclusion that I just don't like white wine. Well, I did like the Gewürztraminer I had last May. But so far with every other white I've been striking out. I guess I'd never even heard of a Torrontes before I saw this one at the Party Factory, but I think I wasn't missing anything.

I will admit that with this one I wasn't paying enough attention as I drank (I really didn't note any specific scents or flavors this first time around) because I was just drinking it with dinner, but I really didn't enjoy it much. Wait, back up. I want to make sure you realize that, for the most part, even wine I don't like very much is still enjoyable. But for me, this wine just widened the gap between reds and whites.

I will say that, as I mentioned before, I started off drinking this wine with supper, which was fish with broccoli and carrots. But I finished it off with a square of dark chocolate, which improved my opinion of the wine quite a bit!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marco Negri Moscato D'Asti DOCG 2008 Piedmont Italy

I'm pretty disappointed in this bottle. There's nothing wrong with it; it's just not my kind of wine. It's very sweet, a little bit bubbly, and it tastes just like a wine cooler. Maybe I'll enjoy my next glass more since I know what to expect now, but I'm really not looking forward to it. I didn't even like it enough to spend more time online looking for a better picture. I'd take a good strong red over this any day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time for another experiment!

This time it's a Malbec, the Lindemans Pinot Noir, and a boxed Merlot. The Malbec is a Don Miguel Gascon 2008 from Argentina's Mendoza wine region. I did another blind taste test and here is what I found:

First, I was not able to guess which wine was which. I had never tasted the Malbec before, but I got it and the Pinot Noir mixed up. (That means I guessed the Merlot correctly, though!) All three wines were very similar in color, with the Malbec perhaps a slightly more purplish dark red. The nose varied very slightly between the three, though I liked the smell of the Malbec the best--it almost had a hint of vanilla and nutmeg hiding in it. I had trouble describing the smell of the Merlot; all I could come up with was buttery garlic, but that's not quite right. The Pinot smelled somewhat sour (but not in a bad way), with a strong smell of alcohol, and a greenish, almost asparagus-like odor. All three wines had a very smooth taste and for some reason even seemed almost bland to me, which is odd because I normally think of Pinot Noirs as quite spicy. The most interesting flavor I noticed was that the Malbec had a distinctly tea-like taste, which is all the more odd because I originally found this Pinot Noir to have a tea flavor but I didn't notice that at all this time around.

No clear winner in this round. (Unless it's me!) All three wines get two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir 2008 Australia

I was pleased to find that my local Party Factory carries Lindemans. I had enjoyed their Chardonnay that Carole gave me, and I was tempted to buy the same again but at this point am more interested in tasting what I haven't tried before, so I got their Pinot Noir instead.

This is a very pleasant wine, slightly sweet with a spicy finish. The bottle describes it as "juicy raspberry flavours with a soft finish" and the Lindemans web site says it has "sweet strawberry and spice flavours." I'm really not very good at distinguishing the flavors of specific fruits in a wine, but when I smell this wine I would lean more towards calling it a tart raspberry than a sweet strawberry, mixed in with almost a tea scent. You know, what it really smells like to me is Raspberry Zinger tea! And no, in case you were wondering, I am not in the habit of spiking my tea. But maybe I should be. It would certainly make for more interesting mornings.

Extra note: My second glass seemed to smell more like coffee or chocolate. (Not more like coffee or chocolate than like wine, but more like coffee or chocolate than like Raspberry Zinger tea). Not that this is a bad thing. There are certainly worse odors.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz 2006 South Australia

It took me a while to polish off the wines used for my taste test in my last post, but now I am fresh off a trip to the Party Factory and am in the midst of enjoying a glass of this Shiraz. I have tried Shiraz just two or three other times. I'm pretty sure the first time was at Old Chicago in Denver with the Finlaysons in November 2007, but of course I don't remember anything about the vintner or vintage; by now, I just remember the good times.

I'm calling this a good bottle but not a gotta-have-it or gotta-buy-it-again wine. The label claims it is "a rich, well-structured Shiraz that exhibits attractive plum, spice and pepper characters" and "good length of flavour." Too bad the bottle has a screwcap rather than a cork. I can't say that his affects the wine any, but it somehow adds to the experience to pull a cork when you open the bottle.

I'm not sure if it's my nose or the wine, but I can't smell much in my glass. It has a fresh green taste with a lingering bold spiciness--so much so, that after I swallow it almost prickles as if I'm holding Coke in my mouth. I'm pairing it with some dark chocolate (as usual) but this would be a great complement to a thick juicy steak.

Friday, July 10, 2009

An Experiment

I have four kinds of red wine in the house right now: A box of Chianti, a bottle of 2007 Ruffino Chianti, the Crane Lake Merlot I've been working on, and my prized bottle of Vino Nobile. I decided to try a little experiment tonight: a taste test. I tried to do a blind test by myself, by numbering the bottom of each glass and then switching them around like a shell game. I first assessed the color of each wine, then the nose, and ended with multiple taste tests. 

The first glass was a clear garnet wine which smelled fresh, clear, bright and green. My first thought on tasting it: "This is GOOD!" I was pretty sure it wasn't the Vino Nobile; this one, to me, seemed to have a sharp finish as opposed to the smoothness of the Nobile. It was spicy, not dry, and went down easy. My guess was the Ruffino Chianti.

The second glass was a clear garnet wine with a heavy, soft smell, almost of sour cream or vanilla; of the four wines, this one smelled the most different. The wine seemed thick as I swirled it. Right away I was thinking Vino Nobile, because I remember it being heavy and velvety. It tasted smooth, velvety, soft and buttery, with low acid.

The third glass was a clear purplish-red. This was a pretty good clue to me that this was the Merlot, as it was the only one of the four that looked different. It smelled very much like alcohol, with perhaps a faint cherry smell. I thought the taste was the worst of the four; it was tart, and it made me make a face when I drank it.

The fourth glass was a clear garnet and smelled like some sort of nut; perphaps hazelnut. Next to the Merlot, this had the worst taste. It was perhaps the most dry of the four (it certainly left my mouth with a strange dry feeling) and it had a bad aftertaste, almost sour. My guess was that this was the boxed Chianti.

Well, I was correct about the first glass (Ruffino Chianti--good!!) and the third glass (Merlot--no reason to bother buying this one again). But, surprise surprise! I mixed up the boxed Chianti and the Vino Nobile!! I can't believe I loved the Vino Nobile so much when I tried it in Montepulciano, but I didn't even like it compared to Chianti in a box!! I guess that answers my question about whether I want to spend a bunch of money getting some Vino Nobile shipped to me (Um, no). An eye-opener! 

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ruffino Chianti DOCG 2007 Italy

Recommended by a friend as one of her favorites. I think I have only tried Chianti twice before; once was probably more than ten years ago, and more recently was from a box, so neither time was especially memorable. Looking forward to the experience!

This Chianti is described as having "a deliciously vinous bouquet, where the floral and fruity notes lead towards a finish of slightly spicy scents of white pepper and hazelnuts."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Crane Lake Merlot 2007 California

Another Crane Lake El Cheapo. Here's how they describe it: "A medium-bodied, round wine with classic black currant and plum fruit flavors on the palate and a smooth finish." Well, that description makes it sound really good, but after my previous Crane Lake experience, I was rather leery. 

But good news! I like it!! Surprising, after the other bottle of Crane Lake. I have a hard time tasting the black currant and plum (I would have called it cherry... but maybe that is just because I ate a bunch of cherries today and they're on my mind). So, this may not be the best wine I've ever had (Vino Nobile still holds that title for me) but for $3.99, not bad! And it was really good with a square of Choxie dark chocolate espresso bar. Mmmmmm. It doesn't get much better than this!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crane Lake Sauvignon Blanc 2006 California

An embarrassingly cheap bottle of wine (can't you tell just by looking at it?), but hey, at least it's in a bottle instead of a box! Here is what the bottle told me I had to look forward to: "Gooseberry, grapefruit and pear flavors. Beautifully balanced, clean and crisp, smooth acidity, medium (not too dry)."

I don't have the wine snob vocabulary to describe this wine in my own words, but I do know that I didn't especially like the flavor (when I tried to pick out different notes unfortunately all I could think of was urine), and I won't be buying this kind again. I did, of course, finish the bottle, because it's still wine, and I wouldn't let it go to waste! I even had some hope that perhaps I would enjoy it more the second time around (although my doubts outweighed my hope). Well, although I will admit that my second and third glass didn't seem to be as awful as the first, I theorize that this may be because, meanwhile, I forgot how good wine can be. Final verdict: Swill.

Now here is the question I have. I don't like Crane Lake's Sauvignon Blanc. Would I like a sauvignon blanc from a different vintner? Or do I write off all sauvignon blancs? I think sometime in the future I should try perhaps a slightly more expensive one before I make my final decision.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cantina Crociani Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2006 Montepulciano, Siena, Italy

I think I have found my perfect wine. Sure, it's a cuvée, but it works for me. So smooth and rich! I can't wait to open my bottle... but I don't want to open it yet because then it will be gone. Twelfth anniversary coming up in about two weeks... I sniff a good reason to open that bottle! After that, what will I do?? I am trying to decide if it is really good enough to have six bottles shipped to me... for 162€. At least that would be cheaper than going back to Italy to get some, and anyway, if I did that I could only bring 2 bottles back with me! Meanwhile I'll keep trying other kinds that are easier to get.

A side note on Crociani wines: I also tasted their Rosso, which was good but nothing compared to the Vino Nobile, and the 2005 Riserva which was better than the red but more dry and less velvety as compared to the 2006. The reserve was good enough to buy a bottle but I liked the 2006 the best! I think the reserve is supposed to be better, judging by the fact that it was slightly more expensive, but what do I know. As Hud says, I'm a cheap date.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2006 Australia

Another good gimme from Carole (thank you, Carole!) although I do remember preferring the other bottle she gave me. Too bad I can't remember it enough to describe it, BUT here is how it is described on the bottle: "Stonefruit and melon flavors with a soft, smooth finish." I don't even know what a stonefruit is. Must be an Aussie thing.

Here is a more flowery description I found on the same web site where I found this picture of the bottle: "A delightful Chardonnay nose with touches of melon, tropical fruit, peaches and nectarines. A subtle note of spice completes the offering. Full bodied and soft with bright varietal flavours of pineapple and fig. The palate is creamy and smooth with light touches of spice that define the long, stylish finish." Funny thing is, to me it sounds like those could be descriptions of two completely different bottles of wine...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Schlink Haus Auslese 2004 QmP Germany (Nahe)

A dessert wine and rather sweet, but mmmmm I liked it. Acquired thanks to my friend Carole who doesn't care for wine (!!)--what is wrong with her?? Well, her loss was my gain. Thank you Carole!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Firesteed Pinot Noir 2006 Oregon

I followed the Mark West with this "more adventurous" Pinot Noir, described on the bottle as "Bright, easy to drink... exuberant cherry and berry fruit flavors and aromas." Again, I found a wildly different description online: "The wine's aromas of strawberry and raspberry mingle with the distinct sensation of vanilla-cream."

Honestly... even though this bottle was more expensive, I liked the Mark West better. And the search continues...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mark West Pinot Noir 2006 California

My friend Amy turned me on to Pinot Noir after her stint in New Zealand. (She is still looking for the perfect American pinot noir as it is not easy to find a good selection of NZ wines here. I hope she remembers to tell me if she finds it). When I went to the Party Factory in search of a bottle of pinot noir to try, the wine guy sold this Mark West to me as a good baseline; he said if I liked this I could try something a little more "adventurous" next time. The bottle description: "Red and black cherry flavors abound with a note of spice from oak aging... rich in texture with a lingering finish." My verdict: I really, really liked it. But it was not Vino Nobile.