2006 Gainey Merlot

2006 Gainey Merlot
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 87

Uncorked: 2009.12.21 Sipped through the evening
Pretty tight in the nose and mouth when uncorked, but opened up very nicely over the evening. Deep ruby color. Fruity nose with black cherry and ripe plum, coffee, cigar, and pencil shavings. The fruit carried through into the mouth with concentrated, ripe cherry and plum. Herbal notes emerged late in the taste. Plenty of earthiness. Tannins will subdue a bit with another year or two in the bottle. Easy drinking wine.

$24.00 Gainey Cellar Club

Gainey Vineyard Website

2005 Château Greysac

2005 Château Greysac
France, Bordeaux, Médoc

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2009.12.23 Wine to sip through the evening, pizza dinner
Easy drinking Medoc and a steal at $9.89 (after case discount). A bit tight right out of the bottle, but fairly expressive after a few hours. Cherry, plum, tobacco, and cedar in the nose. Ripe fruit in the mouth with dark earthiness. Tannins are a bit thin. Nicely balanced but fiarly simple. Excellent QPR. Glad I bought a case.

$10.99 (case price = $9.89; normally approx. $25.00) Chuck’s Fine Wines

Chuck’s Fine Wines Website

2002 Zaca Mesa Syrah

2002 Zaca Mesa Syrah
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2009.12.04 Dinner at home – homemade pizza
Concentrated flavors and aromas with lots of subtleties. Dark red color with dark fruit, pepper, and a bit of smokiness on the nost. Nice fruit flavors in the mouth with plenty of earthiness. Blackberry, ripe cherry, and plum with ground pepper, red bell pepper, hints of smoke and toasted oak. Nicely balanced flavors throughout the palate, finishing with firm tannins. Nice drinking wine and excellent value.

$22.00 Zaca Mesa Wine Club

Zaca Mesa Winery Website

2006 Tercero Grenache/Mourvedre Rose

Tercero Rose 2006

2006 Tercero Grenache/Mourvedre Rose
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2009.09.11 Dinner on the Deck – served with grilled salmon & shrimp
I’ve been drinking several of the wines I discovered on my visit this summer in the Santa Ynez Valley. Some of the wines won’t find their way into these reviews for several years, but at least a case of the wine that came home with me is intended to be enjoyed in these final days of summer and early fall.

So there have been several notes about Larry Schaffer’s Tercero Wines. I have to say, this is a winemaker to watch out for. He is working magic with the fruit of the Santa Ynez Valley (with is a treasure to begin with), bringing a purity and clarity to wine that is pretty unique. His wines are an extension of the vineyard — good fruit into the process, tending it carefully, and bringing to the glass a wonderful sip of the Valley itself. Seriously — I taste the Santa Ynez Valley in every sip of these wines. But it’s not old musty “terroir” — it is the freshness and life of the vineyards and valley. Combine that purity and place with a luxurious feel in the mouth, and you’ve got Larry’s wines.

This wine is one of the first two wines that Larry Schaffer made. If he weren’t so ernest and honest, I wouldn’t believe him. This wine tastes like it was made by an experienced master. Yet it is fresh in style and exudes accessibility. It’s no surprise, then, that this is the third or fourth wine from Tercero that I have written about in the past few weeks. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I REALLY like these wines! The only reason I’d tell you to not go buy every bottle you can find (mostly from the winemaker himself — they’re small production and not yet widely available), it would be because I’m selfish and want to drink it all myself. It’s also an amazing bargain. GO BUY THIS WINE. On with the tasting notes…

Soft in color. texture, and flavors. Not wimpy, but gentle with a good backbone. Very well balanced in the nose and mouth. Citrus, honey, and strawberry on the nose. Cashmere feeling in the mouth with fresh summer fruit flavors and firm acid that make for a wonderfully balanced, easy drinking, summer wine. Wonderful to drink on the deck on a warm afternooon. Went very well with grilled salmon and shrimp.

$12.00 (special pricing right now for like $10) purchased from the winery

Tercero Wines Website

2006 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard

Tercero Grenache Blanc 2006

2006 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2009.09.06 Picnic at Blossom – Cleveland Orchestra
What a wonderful wine to enjoy on a summer evening, particularly at NE Ohio’s Blossom with the Cleveland Orchestra!

A bit softer than the 2008 we’ve already had, undoubtedly the result of more time in the bottle. The aromas were a bit muted, but still had plenty of citrus and honey with a refreshing smell of wet stones. Very round, almost velvety feel in the mouth. Plenty of fruit flavors, mostly sweet fruits, but without the accompanying sugar: apricot, honeydew, even slightly tart pineapple. Plenty of citrus and minerality with nicely balanced acid. Very enjoyable and easy to drink. Excellent QPR.

$18.00 retail Purchased from the winery

Tercero Wines Website

1992 Château Bel-Air (Domaines Henri Martin)

Chateau Bel Air

1992 Château Bel-Air (Domaines Henri Martin)
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc

Wine Rating: 83

Uncorked: 2009.09.04 Dinner with Neighbors
This poor little bottle had been forgotten in the cellar. I’ve got a couple more down there — an ’88 and a ’94. These are pretty simple, low-end Bordeaux bottlings, but it’s always fun to find forgotten bottles, and interesting to endulge in a bit of mystery since it’s hard to know what’s gone in under the cork over these several years.

We had dinner with some of our neighbors, and this was one of seveal wines we sampled. We opened the bottle and let it decant for about an hour. It was tight and a bit unwieldy. Not a crowd-pleaser, but I had a sense there was more to this little bottle than the turned-up noses as we first tasted the wine. So I drank it over the next three days. This was a good example of “good things come to those who wait.” While the wine never became anything extraordinary, it was fun to see that this little bottle wasn’t just going to roll over and be forgotten.

Obviously beyond prime, but surprising how it balanced out on day 3. Aromas of dark chocolate, elderberries, and smoke. Soft feel in the mouth with skin-on plum, currant, and bell pepper flavors. Softened but ripe tanins endured through a moderate finish. Remarkably easy to drink, even in its twilight.

I encourage even novice wine drinkers to find a couple of bottles that can be hidden away for a few years. It is a treat to see how wines develop over time. This one went beyond its best drinking window, but how fun it was to blow off the dust, wake it up a bit, and let it give the gifts of aromas and flavors that have been bottled up for fifteen or sixteen years.

$8.00 in 1994

2008 Foley Estates Pinot Gris Courtney’s Vineyard

Foley 2007 Pinot Gris SRH

2008 Foley Estates Pinot Gris Courtney’s Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2009.08.09 Kerri enjoyed this wine on Joyce Davis’ patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean
Crisp in color, aroma, and flavors. Floral hints in the nose with definite citrus and minerals. Bright melon and citrus in the mouth with an interestingly round mouthfeel. Perfect wine for a warm afternoon.

$23.00 Foley Estates Winery

Foley Estates Website

2007 Clean Slate Riesling

Clean Slate Riesling

2007 Clean Slate Riesling
Mosel, Germany

Rating: 87

Uncorked: 2009.07.06
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Wine Tastings
Monday, Wine No. 2

Provided by Stephen

Excellent QPR for an easy drinking, slightly sweet German Riesling. Very light color – almost clear. Minerals and citrus on the nose with hints of honeysuckle. Plenty of fruit and floral aromas that carry into the flavors of this wine. The mouthfeel is velvety and smooth. Pears, sweet lemon, nectarine, lavender, and mineral/slate flavors with hints of wildflower honey. Nicely acidic to balance the sweet flavors and offer a bit of crisp tartness, particularly on the finish. Nice wine for a summer afternoon.

$9.99 widely available

2002 Pillitteri Estates Gamay Noir Family Reserve

Pillitteri Estates Gamay Noir

2002 Pillitteri Estates Gamay Noir Family Reserve
Canada, Niagara Peninsula

Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2009.07.06
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Wine Tastings
Monday, Wine No. 4

This is a generous wine in every way – lots of fruit, good aromas, full body, and a joy to drink. The color is dark ruby – it is very jewel-toned, including a bit of sparkle in the light. Spicy nose with black pepper, dark fruits, cocoa, and toasty oak. Lots of fruit at the front of the palate with black cherries, black currants, and dark stone fruit. It is almost juicy with the amount of ripe fruit flavors. The fruit is balanced by rich, toasty oak in both the nose and mouth that leaves hints of spice, tobacco, and campfire. The terroir of the Niagara Peninsula and its dark soil certainly comes through. Nice lingering finish with soft tannins. This one was a hit with the tasting group.

$32.99 purchased at the winery in 2007

2005 Greg Norman California Estates Petite Sirah

2005 Greg Norman California Estates Petite Sirah
California, Central Coast, Paso Robles

Wine Rating: 85

Uncorked: 2008.07.06
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Sunday, Wine No. 3
Shared by Barbara

The Grape & Its Wine
Petit Sirah should not be confused with Syrah – they are completely different grapes and wines. Originally created by crossing a little-known Rhone grape, Peloursin, with Rhone’s noble Syrah, the resulting grape is known as Durif – from which Petit Sirah is made. The grapes are “petit” – that is, they are smaller than the average vinifera grape. This results in a greater skin-to-juice ratio and leads to more tannin in the juice. Carefully made Petit Sirahs therefore have the potential for deep flavors and long shelf life.

The Wine Maker
Greg Norman’s wine industry extends beyond his native Australia. This Petit Sirah is made in Napa Valley from vineyards Norman owns in California’s Central Coast. Consider the geography of the wine – Australian roots, Central Coast grapes, Napa winemaking. The result is both multivalent and, one could surmise, somewhat generic. Enough prologue…

The Wine
This wine is medium-bodied and presents with sweet cherry and pepper in the nose. After the initial alcohol heat in the back of the mouth, flavors of red fruits (sweet cherry, raspberry), blueberry, and plum give way to a very mild, almost flat mid-palate. The flavors reemerge with toast, spice, vanilla, and cedar. The tannins are a bit overpowering on the medium-length finish. The wine is a decent value, but there are so many Petit Sirahs with more character and balance. This wine is easily accessible and would serve well with food off the grill.

$11.99 widely available

2004 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Crianza

2004 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Crianza
Spain, La Rioja, Rioja

Wine Rating: 87

Uncorked: 2008.07.06
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Sunday, Wine No. 2
Shared by Lisa R.

Rioja is probably Spain’s signature wine. Rioja is characterized by its long aging in oak barrels. The Crianzas are the youngest of the Riojas, reflecting the flavors and style of their bigger reserve and gran reserve siblings, but without the structure and depth of the long barrel aging. What results is a vibrant and easy-drinking wine with plenty of fruit, spice, and earthiness.

The Montecillo is typical of Crianzas. Its color is bright garnet with an effusive bouquet of ripe berries and sweet oak. In the mouth there is lots of flavor – cherries, cranberries, and roasted peppers. The oak flavors are somewhat muted and it finishes with soft tannins that are almost musty. Nice layers of flavor and lots of wine for the money. Will go well with pizza, roasted meats, and grilled veggies.

REVIEWTEXT

$9.99 widely available

2006 Marquis Philips Shiraz

2006 Marquis Philips Shiraz
Australia, South Eastern

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2008.07.06
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Sunday, Wine No. 1

This is another fairly typical Aussie Shiraz with ripe fruit in the nose and on the palate. I am aware that other tasters of this wine rate it much higher, but it is too ordinary for me to give it 90+ points. Still, it is an excellent QPR (Quality Price Ratio) wine that makes a very nice “ordinary” wine for the table.

Aromas of very ripe fruit –black cherry, strawberries, and plum along with pencil lead and well-worn leather. In the mouth the jammy fruit is predominant – dark cherry, plum, and blackberry. Lots of mocha flavors and hints of chocolate. Some earthiness and wet wood in mid-palate. The finish is long and brash with bright tannins and lingering flavors of pepper and spice.

$9.99 widely available

2007 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Alamos

2007 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Alamos
Argentina, Mendoza

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2008.07.05
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Saturday, Wine No. 6
Shared by Paul C.

This was the favorite wine of this evening’s tasting, and was nearly the unanimous #1 pick of the flight. It is an outstanding value, as many of the Argentine Malbecs have become. I highly recommend this wine with its excellent QPR (Quality Price Ratio).

The color is very purple and dark. The nose is full of ripe fruit, spice, toast, and earth. The mouth is where the youthfulness of the wine is apparent. It is bold and brash with vibrant fruit and almost rustic flavors. Chewy mouth-feel with ripe blackberry, juicy cherry, and dark plum followed by hints of chocolate and espresso. There is definite earthiness in the flavors of this wine with wet wood and rich, loamy soil. Long finish with nice spice and velvety tannins.

$9.99 widely available

2006 Francis Coppola Pinot Noir Diamond Series Silver Label

2006 Francis Coppola Pinot Noir Diamond Series Silver Label
USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County

Wine Rating: 87

Uncorked: 2008.07.05
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Saturday, Wine No. 5

This wine was introduced in the tasting to introduce a fairly typical affordable California Pinot Noir. To be sure, this is not representative of the best of California Pinot Noir, but Coppola is making decent juice for a good price.

Plenty of fruit on the nose with strawberries, light cherries, and raspberries. There were hints of wood, but not oak – more like the smells of a forest floor. The medium bodied wine presents the mouth with a bit of an alcohol punch, but quickly moves to round flavors of berries and plums. The forest floor aromas continue on the palate along with some cinnamon and light smoke. The tannins are a bit uncontained on the finish leaving a somewhat bitter taste after the fairly well balanced flavors.

It’s a very affordable and drinkable California Pinot Noir.

$19.99 widely available

2005 Boutinot Côtes du Ventoux Chat-en-Oeuf

2005 Boutinot Côtes du Ventoux Chat-en-Oeuf
France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Ventoux

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2008.07.05
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Saturday, Wine No. 3

I am always cautious of cutely named wines – and this one certainly is clever (Chat-en-Oeuf translates “Cat-in-Egg” or “Cat-on-Egg” as the label illustration shows), and is a nod to its style namesake Chateneuf du Pape. While this is no premium CdP, it is a very tasty and affordable table wine.

The color is a bright ruby red. Aromas of red cherries, raspberries and pepper. It is fairly light in the mouth, but not thin. Flavors of cherry, blackberry, and strawberry with some spice and leather. The finish is medium and the tannins are mild. The flavors opened up and balanced with a bit of breathing out of the bottle.

It’s a wine to be consumed young. Excellent value and easy to recommend as an everyday table wine.

$8.99 widely available

2005 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti

2005 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti
Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d’Asti

Wine Rating: 87

Uncorked: 2008.07.05
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Saturday, Wine No. 2

This is a nice “pizza wine” or “pasta wine” with excellent QPR (Quality Price Ratio). It is smooth and simple with a medium body. Lots of fruit on the nose with muted steminess and soil. Tart cherry is the first flavor in the mouth, but quickly opens up with strawberry, plum, and cranberry. Hints of tobacco and licorice follow with a fairly short, tart finish.

Where the Bridgman Viognier was preferred by the women in the tasting, this Barbera d’Asti was the wine they liked least of all. The guys liked its bright, tart flavors, though clearly not the most preferred wine of this tasting.

$13.99 widely available

2006 W. B. Bridgman Cellars Viognier Yakima Valley

2006 W. B. Bridgman Cellars Viognier Yakima Valley
Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley

Wine Rating: 87

Uncorked: 2008.07.05
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Saturday, Wine No. 1
Shared by Lisa R.

Crisp aromas and flavors made this a nice wine to begin our tasting this evening. The nose has nice peach and apricot with floral and mineral overtones. More peach, flowers, and wet stone flavors in the mouth. Crisp acidity along with the typical Viognier flavors give this wine some good interest. More popular among the women in the tasting group, it is a nice wine to serve slightly chilled on a warm summer afternoon with fruit and light cheese.

$12.99 widely available

2006 Water Wheel Memsie

2006 Water Wheel Memsie
Australia, Victoria, Central Victoria, Bendigo

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2008.07.04
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Friday, Wine No. 1

An interesting blend of Shiraz (87%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), and Malbec (6%). It still has the typical Aussie “fruit bomb” flavors, but the wine opened up to some much more subtle flavors after some breathing time. I’d like to try this one again giving it the benefit of an hour or two in a decanter.

Lots of dark, ripe fruit in the nose with some hints of pepper and toast. Soft feel in the mouth, with juicy berries and dark plum exploding on the palate. Nice toasted oak flavors mid-palate followed by tobacco, tree bark, and spice. Finishes with firm tannins and a bit of heat. It didn’t hold together as well as I had hoped, but each of the varietal elements contributed to the flavors of the wine.

$14.99

2005 Cline Cellars Cashmere

2005 Cline Cellars Cashmere
California, Sonoma

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2008.07.03
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Thursday, Wine No. 5

Cline’s Cashmere is a pretty straightforward GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre) blend, very similar to a Cotes du Rhone in style and taste. Dark color and dark flavors. Lots of ripe cherry in the nose with a bit of soil aromas. In the mouth it is soft with a few layers of flavors — dark fruit, raspberries, a bit of plum, some mushroom or loam, and a bit of light toast. The tannins were confident enough to balance the fruit, but fairly soft. It’s a very easy wine to drink.

$15.99 widely available

N.V. Riondo Prosecco Veneto IGT

N.V. Riondo Prosecco Veneto IGT
Italy, Veneto, Veneto IGT

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2008.07.03
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Thursday, Wine No. 4

Previously reviewed, reposted here and edited for the current tasting

This wine is always a crowd-pleaser at tastings. It is just fun to drink.

Simple nose with honeysuckle, apple, and baked pear, each of which continued in the mouth. Nice small bubbles. The mouthfeel is lucious for a wine of this price. The fruit is balanced with plenty of minerality and toast on the finish. Very nice on its own, and a “party for your mouth” with the addition of a strawberry slice! This wine is an excellent value and quite accessible for less experienced wine drinkers and makes a nice alternative for non-Champagne drinkers.

I don’t think the typical wine drinker can ever go wrong serving this to friends. And for around $10 it is an excellent value.

$10.69 widely available

2005 Nine Stones Shiraz Barossa Valley

2005 Nine Stones Shiraz Barossa Valley
Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2008.07.03
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Thursday, Wine No. 2

This is a pretty typical Australian Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. The nose is huge with dark berries and plum with a bit of worn leather. In the mouth it is big, bold, and brash. It’s not refined. Rather, there are gobs of fruit flavors and big spices. Lots of ripe plum, dark strawberry, and grape jam flavors. Pepper and spicebox flavors emerge mid-palate. The finish is fairly tart and a bit hot. Big aromas and flavors, big alcohol, big tannins. We were looking for the textbook Aussie Shiraz and this provided a good sampling for us. It’s certainly a mouthful for $10!

$9.99 widely available

2006 J. Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône

2006 J. Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône
France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône

Wine Rating: 84

Uncorked: 2008.07.03
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Thursday, Wine No. 1
Shared by Paul C.

Light and fruity with distinct Syrah flavors. Young and a bit tight, opened up a bit in the glass. Lots of fruit in the nose, and almost a fruit bomb in the mouth. Nothing extraordinary, but for $6.99 from Trader Joe’s (and other markets) it’s a very good value and a decent table wine. Unfortunately, Paul paid a premium for this one at the Dekalb Farmers Market that sells it for $14.49. Good wine for $6.99, I’d pass on it for more than $10.

$6.99 Trader Joes, widely available

(Paul paid $14.49 at the Dekalb Farmers Market)

2006 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
California

Wine Rating: 86

Uncorked: 2008.07.02
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Wednesday, Wine No. 2

Nothing extraordinary about this wine, but it’s easy to drink and doesn’t demand much. Very dark purple in the glass – almost inky. The nose had some dark fruit and a very memorable smell of pencil shavings. It’s a fairly soft wine in the mouth with plenty of fruit – red currants, cherries, a bit of raspberry. It’s a little sweet in the mid-palate followed by a grand appearance of oak. The wine shows some steminess, minerality, and even some vegetal overtones – bell pepper perhaps. Fairly well balanced with smooth tannins on the finish.

$9.99 widely available

2005 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon H3

2005 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon H3
Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2008.07.02
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Wednesday, Wine No. 1

This is such an approachable Cabernet. It’s simple and well made. The color is a dark ruby color. Aromas of blueberries and black fruit, spicebox and vanilla, followed by a bit of dusty herbs. It is medium bodied and barely dry in the mouth with a full spectrum of flavors: dark berries, blueberries, plum, herbs, cocoa, and some gentle earthiness. Tannins were firm. Oak emerged on the medium finish. Nice wine, decent value. Could live in the bottle for another 5-7 years.

$19.99 widely available

2007 Senorio de Barahonda Yecla Carro Tinto Bellum

2007 Senorio de Barahonda Yecla Carro Tinto Bellum
Spain, Murcia, Yecla

Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2008.07.01
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Happy Hour
Week 1, Tuesday, Wine No. 2

This is an unoaked Spanish blend of:
50% Monastrel (aka Mouvedre)
20% Tempranillo
20% Syrah
10% Merlot

This wine is a great bargain for less than $10. It is big, bold, and brash. Decanting will help it stretch its legs a bit – very tight right out of the bottle. As it opened up the nose was full of ripe fruit, cassis, blueberry, peppery spices, and some woodiness – almost like fresh pencil shavings. Multiple layers of deep flavors for a wine of this youth and price: ripe, sweet fruit, mocha, cedar, and smoke. This wine has no hard edges and surprising balance for its youth and its bold 13.5% alcohol. It is an extraordinary value for a wine with this much going on.

$9.99 widely available