June 3, 2008

Cameron Hughes Lot 51 Malbec 2004

btl_lot_51.pngVARIETAL: Malbec
REGION: Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza Argentina
PRICE: $11

Now this is an interesting concept -- buy surplus wine from purportedly high-end producers in all the major wine regions and sell it under one label, exclusively to Costco. My curiosity was certainly piqued when I was read the sell sheet for the Cameron Hughes Malbec, but I had my doubts as I am a little uncomfortable trying mysteriously sourced--as well as private label--wines. Part of my personal enjoyment of a wine is learning about the producer.

But I digress. You want to know what this juice is all about and I will tell you: it is not bad. I know, a little underwhelming, but frankly so is the wine. I LOVE malbec and am quite familiar with the varietal in all of its incarnations, but the style of this one just isn't quite what I was hoping for. It is quite aromatic and I did enjoy the ripe dark berry scents. However I found it a little too fruit forward for my taste. I like a malbec that shows great fruit as well as firm tannins and interesting spice. The Lot 51, to me was much more stylistically akin to an Aussie Shiraz. Again, not bad but not what I was expecting.

I will be investigating the other Cameron Hughes offerings at Costco so stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out their story for yourselves. Cameron Hughes Lot 51 Malbec

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

June 2, 2008

If I could save wine in a box. . . Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc 2006

winecube_images-thmb.jpgWhy is it that when I am in Target, things, all sorts of cheap things look cooler. I go in to buy laundry detergent and come out with new clothes, a set of unbreakable dishes for outdoor entertaining and a box of wine. A what? A book on wine? No, you heard me. A box of wine. A box of Wine Cube Sauvingon Blanc to be exact. I didn't know it at the time, but further investigation revealed that this particular California sauvignon blanc is made by Trinchero Family Estates. So I figured it was a crap shoot when I poured the first glass. Could be a hideously bitter glass of swill (a la Sutter Home) or it could the great wine find of the century - a real vinous coup. All I know was it was white, it was wine (in theory) and the bag-in-a-box contained 4 bottles for about $15.

As it happens, it was neither hideous nor outstanding. Rather, it was surprisingly okay. Bright, crisp and grassy with soft melon and apple notes. Not much of a finish, but for what amounted to $4 or so a bottle I found it pretty darn decent. AND it tasted exactly the same on day 25 as it did on day one. I would definitely serve this at parties (great for big shindigs and backyard BBQs) and most definitely would serve it to that certain set of friends who enjoy any wine you set before them. Of course, in shame I would probably put it in a carafe . . . but you won't tell, will you?

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 19, 2008

Sartori Pinot Grigio 2006

sartoripg.jpgVARIETAL: Pinot Gris (It. Grigio)
REGION: Veneto, Italia
PRICE: $10-$12

Although I am completely enamored with pinot gris, there are only a handful of pinot grigios that hold my interest. What is the difference, you ask? Well, the varietal is the same but growing conditions and harvesting practices are quite different and the resulting wines are like fraternal twins. Their flavor profiles are diametrically opposed: pinot gris - soft, lush, ripe, subtle floral and rich fruit aromas and flavors; pinot grigio - light, crisp, acidic and all too often (in my opinion) flat, thin and watery tasting. I had a real dilemma on my hands when I ordered this wine - a horrific and uninspiring list of whites to go with my delicate seared scallops and grilled shrimp dinner. I was unfamiliar with the Sartori so I decided, in desperation, to give it a try. As you can probably ascertain from my tone, my expectations were fairly low. So when the first sip passed my lips I was pleasantly surprised that I sensed hints of soft peach and melon on the nose and on the palate. Crisp and clean but decently balanced and not at all the devoid-of-flavor pinot grigio I was expecting. It was pleasantly soft as well as refreshing and it went perfectly with my dinner. I think I might even give it a second tasting in the future.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

May 6, 2008

Saludas Rose 2006

Thumbnail image for IMG_3599.JPG
VARIETAL: Tempranillo
REGION: Somewhere in Spain (possibly near Castilla)
PRICE: $4.99

Egads--where to begin? As I have mentioned once or twice previously, I am a fan of good roses. On a recent outing to Fresh & Easy I was intrigued by a few of their private label selections and decided to take a few home. The Saludas, a tempranillo from Spain, looked promising and I couldn't resist the price tag. My knowledge of the vinification and origins of this wine is limited--see above. But what I can tell you is that I wouldn't buy it again if it was on sale for 50 cents. When I first poured myself a glass I thought it smelled a little off. Maybe just a little past its prime. I was sorry my curiosity could not be quelled before the first sip. Sour, tart and off-putting are the first words that come to mind. Not fresh, lacking flavor and substance are terms that might also describe my experience. I would not recommend it to my cheapest friends with the worst taste in wine. And I certainly will not be buying it again.

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

April 29, 2008

Regaleali Rosso 2005

regalealirosso.jpgVARIETAL: 90% Nero d'Avola, 10% Perricone
REGION: Sicily, Italy
PRICE: $16

Italian wines, for me are incredibly food specific and when I choose one, it is usually a food driven choice. That said, there are so many interesting varietals, particularly in southern Italy and in Sicily that thrive in the hot arid climate and produce wines that are riper and rounder than many of the north's more acidic styles. The Regaleali Rosso is a prime example. It hails from a noble estate that produces a number of higher end wines and that is certainly reflected in this blend. It possesses a stunning garnet hue that perfectly complements the crushed, ripe cherry and berry scents. But the Regaleali isn't just about the fruit. You do get crazy notes of dried varieties including currants, dried blueberries and dried cherries, along with a current of crushed sage and a hint of vanilla. This would be outstanding with roast venison or if you are a little more traditional, with stracotto (Italian pot roast made with about a bottle of wine and earthy porcini mushrooms). However, I'm throwing caution to the wind and having it with a kalamata olive and crumbled sausage topped thin crust pizza.
Give it a shot: Regaleali Rosso

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

April 24, 2008

Brampton Sauvignon Blanc 2006

VARIETAL: Sauvignon Blanc
REGION: South Africa
PRICE: $10

The Brampton is a tough little wine to find. They are the value arm of Rustenberg Winery, but you'd never guess it. This sauvignon blanc has a whole lot going on and tastes way better than most $10 pours. Right upfront you get a blast of fresh cut grass and zesty citrus on the nose. Then the lemon-lime zinger gives way to a rounder palate bursting with soft, juicy honeydew, passionfruit and lychee. I love that it is super refreshing but also substantial and constantly changing as you swirl it over your tongue. This wine makes a great warm weather quaffer and is also well suited for light seafood dishes and salads.
Get ready for summer: Brampton Sauvignon Blanc

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

April 3, 2008

Is it a Cabernet Franc ... or Chinon ... or both?

Hmmm . . . I am famished and I'm feeling a little bit naughty tonight. I'm tired of salads and seafood and cooking things that look pretty and are fairly nutritious. Tonight I want a cheesesteak. Soft, fresh bun with tender, paper-thin sliced sirloin, gooey cheese and the sweet and savory kick of sauteed peppers and onions. So here, my friends is my dilemma . . . am I in the mood for an herbaceous yet fruity Cabernet Franc from sunny California or an earthy and spicy Chinon (aka Cabernet Franc) from the Loire Valley? I just might have to taste a little of both in order to decide.ironstonecabfranc.jpg

Ironstone Cabernet Franc 2004 $11
I can't say that I'm a huge fan of Ironstone wines in general, but I can tell you that this wine consistently knocks my socks off for the money. While Cabernet Franc is a little off-putting to some, I think most people who try the new world incarnations are expecting something quite like a Cabernet Sauvignon. However, I love that you get a mouthful of ripe, juicy dark cherry fruit contrasting with layers of fresh cut dill and peppers and laced together with a current of creamy vanilla and toasty oak. Sounds a little weird, I know, but somehow it really works because it isn't too fruity, or too vegetal or too creamy.

bredifchinonlabel.jpgMarc Bredif Chinon 2005 $16
One the other hand, the Marc Bredif Chinon (which is 100% Cabernet Franc), is much more restrained, or shall I say less overt, but no less interesting. The fruit flavors are intense, but they are distinctly dried--blueberries, strawberries and cherries--rather than fresh notes of those fruits. And you definitely get a lighter, tighter and spicier feel on the palate.

It is a tough call, but I think I'm leaning toward the Ironstone tonight. That vegetal kick will really work well with the peppers and onions. Then again, I do love Chinon. Perhaps I'll have just a little more of each before I decide . . .

Noël Wallace at Permalink social bookmarking

February 4, 2008

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 2008 Edition

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course is simply the bestselling wine book in North America--it's a classic. The 2007 edition alone has sold over 100,000 copies and reorders continue to pour in. Along with the expanded text that has made last year's update so successful, the 2008 revision will include a special 16-page supplement on "How to Taste Wine," taken directly from Kevin's world-famous class. This new material will include more than 100 wines that Zraly selects for his students to taste, along with the tasting sheet they use for their evaluations. 

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December 14, 2006

Southern Right Pinotage (2002) Review

Southern Right
Varietal: Pinotage
Year: 2002
Origination: South Africa
ABV: 14%
We Paid: $15.99

Southern Right Pinotage labelWe did a little piece on the appeal of Pinotage wines from South Africa, and it has left us mildly obsessed. We like the big flavors associated with the Pinotages we've tried, and they're usually a great match for spicy foods with equally big flavors, which we love. While we have read people using terms like "old band aids" or "rusty nails" to describe some Pinotages, we haven't encountered those (thankfully) and we wanted to let you know about the one we've tried most recently, Southern Right.

They Say: A wonderfully ripe, voluptuous wine with concentrated dark berry fruit, beautifully balanced wood spice and fine-grained tannins. By fully ripening our Pinotage at low yields in clay-rich soil, we have avoided simple, estery fruit and rustic tannins, while filling out the middle palate and ensuring length and complexity. (from

We Say: This is another big, full-flavored Pinotage, full of berries and plums and spices. One taster called it "Chipotle Wine" because she found it to be so smokey. We thought it was a bit leathery too, which didn't detract from our enjoyment. Drink this one if you need a big, burly flavor to go along with spicy foods and red sauces.

Interesting Note: Southern Right is named after a rare type of whale that visits Walker Bay in South Africa every year, and the Southern Right winery donates a contribution to their conservation for every bottle sold. You know how much of a sucker we are for good wines going to good causes - we're thinking of Big Tattoo Red right now.

Head Wino at Permalink social bookmarking

September 21, 2006

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Excelsior 2004
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Origination: South Africa
14.5% ABV
We Paid: $9 (MSRP: $9)
More Info

Excelsior Cabernet SauvignonWe picked up a bottle of Cabernet last night as we headed over to game night with our friends. We weren't looking for anything too high shelf - in fact we set a price cap of ten bucks. We were there to play games, not review wine, so we didn't want to take over the focus. We figured we'd share a bottle, get some notes from our friends, and share them with you. Turned out the bottle got more attention than we'd expected, and people were pleasantly surprised with what they found in this South African red.

Tasting Notes:
They Say: We found some tasting notes that describe Excelsior Cabernet as "dark plum red in color with a nose of black currant, plum, earth and spice. Medium-full in body, it is dry with moderate acidity and soft, ripe tannins. It offers rich, intense flavors of plums, black currant and toasty oak."

We Say: After the requisite calls of "Excelsior" from our nerdy brethren at game night (y'know, from when Bart joins the nerd club) we sat down to sipping. We all were struck by how the high alcohol content came through in the nose, followed by plum and berries. The initial taste was a tart plum, with berries and cherries and a slightly bitter finish. After it sat in the glass for a few minutes it definitely mellowed out and lost the bitterness, replacing it with a smokey flavor that impressed us.

Bottom Line: For nine bucks, this was a great deal. You don't have to worry about decanting it but you'll do well to let it sit in the glass for a few minutes. Everyone was shocked that it cost less than ten dollars, and we all thought it was a great value for what we paid. If you can find it, we recommend you pick up a couple bottles.

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