Saturday, March 8, 2008

A couple of decent ones

I had a couple of wines last night that impressed me. Let me talk about the Cellar No. 8 first. This is a wine from the Asti winery in Sonoma. This label offers a very good QPR for what it is. They are not serious wines but are certainly quaffable and I picked up a few bottles of the 2005 zinfandel on a sale for $8 last week. So many of the zins today are coming in with way high alcohol and big candy-like fruit. Sometimes I feel like I'm drinking dessert wines, they are so sweet. I have been missing that black pepper that first made me fall in love with this grape. Well, for an everyday wine, the Cellar No. 8 brings something to the table. It had a nice cherry and raspberry nose but it was the black pepper on the palate that won me. I love that! It wasn't super complex but it certainly had a good structure. Dark fruits, raspberries and plums were present and it had a nice acidity that was obvious. It also had a nice clean lingering finish that was quite pleasant. Overall this was a good buy at $8.

Let's get a little bit more serious now. I don't remember where I picked up this Leone de Castris Salice Salentino Riserva, but it's been in my cellar for a while. Current wisdom (aka cellartracker) suggested that the drinking window for this wine was between 2005 and 2007, so I popped it open and decanted it for an hour. This was an interesting wine. Full of an earthiness mingling with red fruits on the nose and the palate. It had very smooth tannins and a good weight in the mouth. I noticed hints of asparagus and sour cherries too. Quite complex and difficult to describe. Definitely an old world style that I very much enjoyed. It paired well with a green olive stuffed chicken breast and polenta.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I've been a big fan of Joseph Phelps wine for a long time and I was pleased as punch to see Wine Spectator name the 2002 Insignia wine of the year for 2005. The insignia is a great wine. I have a bottle of the "off year" 2000 in my cellar. I'm waiting for a special occasion to drink that 92+ point wine. Perhaps not quite the same caliber but certainly a perfectly quaffable wine is the Phelps Innisfree cabernet sauvignon. I recently opened a bottle of the '04 vintage. For about 1/4 to 1/5 the price of the insignia you can spend only $25 for this really excellent wine. I've had several vintages of the innisfree and have enjoyed them all. I generally love this wine but I have to say I was a little disappointed in the body on this one. The nose was very nice with presentation of mocha, cherry and a hint of smoke. It was medium bodied on the palate with sweet strawberries and cherries. It had a lot of new world red fruits, soft tannins, and the mocha flavor came through nicely on the upper palate. It finishes long and smooth but it was a little bit awkward on the end. There were slight hints of maybe rotten tomatoes? I guess I just was expecting a heavier, satiny body that I've had before in the innisfree. Still, it's a 90 point wine for sure and we didn't waste a drop.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A hit and a miss

I've been a little lax about posting lately. You know, life gets in the way sometimes of the fun. It's not that I haven't been tasting. I have lots of tasting notes to share. I just haven't got around to putting them up here. So let me tell you about a couple of wines I had recently.

First let's talk about the miss.

I had high hopes for this Artesa 2003 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. A $40 bottle of wine on sale for $30. Not a bad deal, I thought. And it might have been good. It had a gorgeous deep dark color. On the nose aromas of dark red fruits and caramel wafted in. It almost reminded me of rollo candies. It also smelle of dusty wood. On the palate it had initial big red fruits and beautiful cherries, firm tannins, and a nice acidity. The big fruit dissipated quickly leaving a rather thin mid to end palate. However, it did linger for quite a while teasing you. I rate this wine a little bit lower because the alcohol was out of balance. It was noticeably hot. The label says 14.5% but it tasted like it was even higher. For $40, or even $30, I expect a balanced wine. I don't think I would spend that money again for this wine.

Now, for the hit I had to go across the pond to France.

The 2005 Domaine Grand Veneur Côte du Rhône Village I found to be extraordinary! Just what I like in a French wine. It had a really nice, dark, ruby red/purple color. The nose was amazing to me. On my first sniff my mind thought - "Hmmm, chokecherries!" It had bright red fruits, chokecherries, red licorice and raspberries on the nose. It was even better when I tasted it. Super balance of the red fruits, raspberries, cherries, licorice, and hints of like roasted green vegetables. It had smooth but firm tannins, a balanced acidity and a lingering long finish. Just delicious! It didn't taste hot at all, though the alcohol was the same 14.5% as the previous wine. This was one excellent bottle!