Categories: "Varietals" or "Cabernet Sauvignon" or "Carmenère" or "Côtes du Rhône" or "Grenache/Garnacha" or "Malbec" or "Merlot" or "Orvieto" or "Petite Sirah" or "Pinot Noir" or "Red Blend" or "Rioja" or "Sangiovese" or "Sauvignon Blanc" or "Syrah/Shiraz" or "White Rioja" or "Zinfandel"

2007 Penner-Ash Oregon Syrah

September 20th, 2012

We had the 2009 on our trip to Willamette Valley earlier this year and it is, if you'll permit me to channel Jimmie "J. J." Walker, Dy-No-Mite! We have been asking around for it since we got back. Turns out that wine shop managers are familiar with it and love it, but never have it in stock; Penner-Ash just means Pinot Noir to too many people. I am not a fan of Penner-Ash Pinot, but the Syrah has my attention. And did I mention it is more affordable (than the Pinot)? We finally got our hands on the 2007, which is still good, but it might not be as good as the 2009. This bottle is a beautiful, inky purple and has well-structured, dark fruit. It's a little musty when you pop the cork, but it opens up wonderfully. This wine is good. Period.

2005 Orin Swift Papillon Cabernet Sauvignon

November 21st, 2011

We are working our way through anything and everything that Orin Swift can make. Papillon is the second-most-expensive wine they offer ($55-60), so purchase with caution. If you've ever browsed the wall of Cabernet at your local wine shop, there is a good chance you have seen the Papillon label, with its distinct knuckle tattoos. I know you've not been privy my written thoughts on all of the Orin Swift wine I've had (The Prisoner, Abstract, Machete, D66, Veladora), but Papillon is the most drinkable and probably a wine that everyone would like.

The wine blends 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc; it has great balance and I just wish it was one-third the price so I could drink this with everyone I know. Watch out for the 15.1% alcohol, because I do not think it was noticeable. I would gladly buy this again as an upscale wine to have with family and/or friends for a festive holiday meal. The easy part was picking the wine, the hard part will be parting with the $60.

2006 Starry Night Lodi Zinfandel

November 16th, 2011

I'm not sure how much more money I would have to make before a $15-20 bottle of wine became financially feasible as an "everyday" wine. If I ever make it there, I would like this to be my wine. That is fun to say. My wine. I do not produce this wine, obviously, but my thanks go out to the good people at the Starry Night Winery for all of the work they do to produce a wine that I love. I have had Starry Night's 2005 Tom Feeney Ranch Zinfandel and that was good, but a little rough around the edges. The Lodi Zin from Starry Night is thick and juicy, the big alcohol that Zin grapes bring was very well balanced.

2005 Luna Vineyards Reserve Sangiovese

October 25th, 2011

Luna Vineyards had more of a wine-lounge feel to it than a more casual place for wine tasting, which may be what people talk about with the commercialization of Napa Valley compared to its humble roots. I remember less light in the main tasting room than the pictures on the website suggest, which gave it more of that posh, European lounge feel. But this place has good wine. (It was fascinating to watch as a wine producer from nearby brought over a case of its latest release to trade. How cool would it be to do that?!) I was not put off by the decor, but did feel a little intimidated by the staff who had little time for me as a relative wine novice.

I haven't had much exposure to sangiovese beyond a few Super Tuscans that position their tannins on the brute-force offensive. When I had this wine I knew a bottle was coming home with me. There's some heat here, but it burns for only a second and washes away clean. It has held up incredibly well while it waited for me to get nostalgic enough to crack it open. Now I'm just left wishing I'd bought more. Luna is currently in the 2007 release, which is listed for $40. I really like this wine. Maybe I'll try the 2007 or maybe I'll break this bad habit I have developed recently of ordering wine directly from these boutique wineries and shipping it across the country. Anyone want to split S&H with me?

2007 Stags' Leap Winery Petite Syrah

October 3rd, 2011

Petite Syrah is a wine that has become synonymous with Stags’ Leap. The 30-year old Petite Syrah vineyards located in front of the Manor House on the estate’s deep, rocky soils form the backbone of this blend, to which we incorporate fruit from our established grower-partners throughout the Napa Valley.
-Stags' Leap Winery

This wine is awesome. Great thick and velvety texture; it is nearly a meal by itself. There is a big, punchy flavor without too much heat, spice or tannins. This is a well-crafted wine that you should find retailing around $38, so it is more affordable to maybe take to a dinner party (or buy for your favorite reviewer...ahem).

And here I thought that the Elyse Winery Petite Sirah would reign unopposed as my favorite Petite Sirah. Please don't make me choose.

2007 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon

September 21st, 2011

Artemis. The name has some impressive social capital in the wine community. It belongs to a wine that I've always heard to be a good wine. No, that's not right. I'd always heard that this was a very good wine. And at $50+ per bottle, I'm not really one to buy a bottle to disprove anything I'd heard. And now that I've finally had it I will only confirm. This wine is very good. I got enough of a hint of some sour fruit to not go nuts for it, but it was just a hint and that is not a problem with the wine, I just don't like sour/bitter. Give me a $50 gift certificate to my local wine shop and there is certainly a chance Artemis and I go home together.

2007 Elyse Petite Sirah

September 15th, 2011

I went to some amazing places on my trip to Napa Valley and Elyse Winery was a particular delight. I remember the puzzled look on the young man's face when we showed up at about 10:30am for a tasting...but hey, he was open, right? I believe we sampled all of the wines they offer and each was better than the last. Since then I have stared at this bottle of Petite Sirah at the wine shop, daring myself to spend the money (about $40) to relive that morning, even a little bit. I finally broke down. This was quickly noted to be far and away my favorite Petite Sirah. I like the varietal for its boldness and the Elyse is that boldness with a level of class I've not seen matched. I am thirsty for any challengers.

On a rare personal note, we went to Elyse Winery on the recommendation of a friend. I did not have any way to keep in touch with her and her husband after she and the company where we worked went different ways. I think she would be thrilled to know how much I still enjoy Elyse and will continue to enjoy Elyse (when I can afford it). So, thank you, Sally. I hope you and Don are well, wherever you are.

2009 Orin Swift D66 Grenache

September 5th, 2011

The Orin Swift Winery is best known for its flagship wine, "The Prisoner," a predominantly-Zinfandel blend that you should definitely try. To its presence in northern California the winery has now added over 200 acres in Maury, France, near the Spanish border in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. D66 (Department66) is the inaugural wine from that new project. It is 80% Grenache, 12% Syrah and 8% Carignan. When I saw that Orin Swift made a Grenache, I had to have it. This is a big, bold and beautiful wine. I am glad I bought 4 bottles.

2007 Alto Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja Veraton

April 11th, 2011

Grenache is in danger of really becoming a pet project for me -- one where I seemingly forego other wines and buy (and obviously drink) as much Grenache as I can find. I have only had a few different Grenache/Garnachas but they all have captured my attention, even at different price points. So I went out on a limb, slightly, to order this wine at dinner recently. I had hopes, but I wasn't sure how I would like it, how my guests would like it or how it would hold up with our food. It was a success across the board. I have found Grenache to be smooth and complex. This Veraton was both and more, adding some nice spice notes. Unfortunately, this is too expensive to be an everyday wine as my search suggests a wide range of $25-$40 per bottle. But look to this wine with confidence if you are in need of a tantalizing wine that is both beautiful in color and delicious across your palate.

2006 Robert Stemmler Nugent Vineyard Pinot Noir

March 31st, 2011

I did not pick this bottle out, nor do I think I ever would have. I like Pinot Noir, but I typically find it to be a safe pick with guests and generally unremarkable. This wine was picked out for me at a dinner recently and I had an open mind. Delicious. Russian River Pinots, in my experience, have a reputation for minerality. And that quality is something that I feel needs to be handled with care. Robert Stemmler made it easy for me; this wine did not have that Earthy flavor. It was probably a little more "new world," so keep that in mind if you prefer the old style. According to the website this producer has an intense focus on Pinot Noir (they feature 3 different Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay). From that specialization you hope to taste the expertise and I certainly did. A quick google search suggests this is a $40 bottle. On my budget, this is a celebration wine, but maybe I will be more lenient now with what qualifies as a celebration so I can have another bottle of the 2006 Robert Stemmler Nugent Vineyard Pinot Noir.