Saturday, January 31, 2009

Monkey Bay Chardonnay 2007

In 1769 Captain James Cook, on his first voyage of exploration, dropped anchor in a New Zealand cove which was said to be inhabited by a reclusive monkey. The tale goes that, on catching sight of the explorers, the animal promptly drowned itself in the bay. The monkey knew what it was doing. At any rate, this was certainly no place to produce wine. What we have here is a sweetish, completely unripe product, aged, if at all, in steel wats, which exhibits the light fruit flavors which it lays claim to alright, but without any indication that they were ever subjected to fermentation. The price of $10.99 is ludicrous. (N.J. $7.99, and even that is way too much).

Friday, January 30, 2009

P. Jaboulet Parallel 45 Cotes du Rhone

This French red, from a region with a huge production that incorporates all parts of the qualitative spectrum, falls somewhere between the middle and the bottom. It has some of the warm character of the breed and a decent finish, but is disappointingly thin in character. A good Cotes du Rhone should have more body than this.The price of $12.99 is a bad joke. (N.J. $8.99, which is all that it's worth).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Estate Argyros Santorini 2004

Among the Greek whites only the Retsinas, with their pine tar quality that can appeal only to someone to the manner born, are widely known in this country. This is a shame, because there are a good many appealing well-made, modern bottlings. This Santorini is surely among them. It has a good nose and a refreshing mix of white fruit flavors, with just a hint of pine, but not to worry, this is no Retsina. At the present clearance price of $6.99 it is a genuine bargain.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Berberana Number One Shiraz/Tempranillo 2005

On the face of it, calling this Spanish red "Number One" is like insisting that Andorra is the largest country in Europe. I suppose that what the designation is meant to convey is that it is the entry wine of the Bodegas Unidas, one of the largest producers of the Rioja. What we have here is a modest, one dimensional wine with an unusual combination of chocolate and cherry flavors which will do well as an accompaniment to everyday meals.The price of $5.99 certainly makes it a good value.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Misterio Chardonnay 2007

This is the second of what will be (given PA conditions, a short) series on budget wines. Finca Flichman's Chardonnay is not quite as good as their Malbec, previously reviewed here, but the present sale price of $5.99 does call attention to itself. The wine has practically no nose, however there is a not altogether uninteresting, if decidedly unripe mix of light fruit flavors. Unfortunately, something goes wrong in the aftertaste, resulting in a vaguely medicinal effect. It's up to you, if you can put up with that, this is not a bad choice for a simple fish course.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Herding Cats Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2008

Nomen est omen. (The name says it all). Anyone who has ever owned a cat will instantly be aware of the difficulties inherent in such an enterprise. Indeed, this South African red is totally out of control. The overwhelming impression is that of spiciness, with sweetish pepper being the chief constituent. The wine is so assertive that it overwhelms any main dish that I could come up with to serve with it. It might do nicely as an aperitif, together with a rather bland cheese, or as a dessert wine to accompany some left over sponge cake. $ 9.99.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Misterio Malbec 2007

In these parlous times, if you really need to be frugal, and a great many of us do, this Argentinian Malbec may be just the thing for you. It is a little wine of no great distinction, but does exhibit most of the characteristics of the breed, if in somewhat subdued tones. Still, the always pleasing blend of oak and dark fruit flavors is there, and actually it stood up pretty well to our dinner of barbecued pork ribs, where many a finer wine would have capitulated. $6.99.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Navarro Correas Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

To be honest, I was expecting a disappointment: three good, moderately priced reds from the same vineyard seemed to be pressing one's luck. But I was quite mistaken, this wine is at least as good as the Shiraz and the Malbec. It has the same pronounced oaked quality as the others and if its dark fruit overtones are somewhat more muted, this is compensated for by a smoky quality that serves as an ideal background to them. There is a nice, fullbodied aftertaste. Recommended at $9.99.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Navarro Correas Malbec 2006

This Argentinian red has a considerable affinity to the vineyard's Syrah, previously reviewed here. It too is considerably, but not excessively, oaked, but the red fruit accents come through somewhat more perceptibly. Altogether, a most pleasant drinking experience, and it did splendidly with our lamb chops. I can truly recommend this at $9.99.

Gougenheim Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Unlike the Malbec from the same Argentinian vineyard, previously reviewed here, which, for what it is, represents an unqualified success, this is a nice if not particularly distinguished wine. My impression is that it has not yet settled in, the melange of dark fruit has something a little unripe and not absolutely blended about it. I'd give it a couple more years in the bottle to see what happens. Still, at $8.99, it'ss worth taking a chance on.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vionta Albarino 2006

What we have here is a decent Rios Baixas white from Spanish Galicia, with a pronounced straw color and heavy citrus and mineral overtones. It is a wine that knows its mind and will stand up to complicated dishes. Moreover, it stays on the tongue for a goodly while. $9.99

Vivir, Vivir, Ribeira del Duero 2004

This, in spite of the exceedingly silly name, is a decent, if not outstanding Spanish red. It displays the mix of dark fruit flavors characteristic of Ribeiras (N.W. Castille), and if it lacks the smoothness and deep certainty of some of the better known labels, and doesn't have their legs, it doesn't cost nearly as much as they do either. $10.49.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Legado Munoz Garnacha 2004

You should not look for subtlety here. This is a good, honest country wine from Castille. The predominant impression is of oak, with a slightly dark, smoky flavor. It has some legs and will do well with red meats or chicken. 8.99.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vina Reboreda Ribeiro 2006

This Spanish white from Ourense Province in Galicia has a less than firm finish, but is otherwise highly desirable. It is straw colored, has a distinctly nutty, slightly acidic character, and very much brings to mind a French Pouilly Fume, to which it provides an acceptable alternative at roughly half the price ($9.99). We found this as the last bottle on clearance, if you can locate some I would recommend you get it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007

This New Zealand white comes from a German owned winery which does not always get high marks, but this is a very nice wine. It has a good nose of freshly cut grass, typical of Sauvignon Blanc, and a really quite delightful combination of white fruit flavors that is relatively long lasting. It will do well either as an aperitiff, or in company with white meats. It is, however, expensive: $12.99.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Navarro Correas Syrah 2005

This Argentinian lacks any very distinctive fruit accents but to make up for that displays a nice, deep oaky flavor. Some would call it over oaked, but I must say I found it pleasing. Not only does it last a good long time on the tongue, but it seems to grow on you after the first glass. Very good as a subtle accompaniment to red meats, and the price, at $9.99, for once does not strike me as outlandish.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pascual Toso Torrontes 2007

This is by way of a caveat, do not buy this wine! The PLCB is displaying it prominently and pushing it as a great bargain at $7.99 in every store around Harrisburg, and normally it would be, but evidently, either by design or because of a miscalculation, it was left on the vine too long before picking. The result, unlike with a German Spatlese, is not a rich, if sweet desert wine, but something that navigates uncomfortably between the sacharine and the vinegary. It's not absolutely undrinkable, but comes close enough.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Norton Chardonnay 2007

The Argentinian way with Chardonnay is not to age it in oak, which results in a light, refreshing product, with a strongly perceived mixture of white fruit flavors. That is about the best that can be said for this wine, which otherwise is wholly unremarkable. It can be recommended as an accompaniment to light foods that would be drowned by something more assertive (it went well with our banana omelet) but is definitely overpriced at $9.99.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Freixenet Cava Brut

And so, back to reality. I have to admit that I'm not a great lover of Champagne -- I forget who it was that first called it "a good white wine spoiled but I tend to agree -- so I'd be the last man to spend a lot of money on the French product, even for the traditional bottle of New Year's Eve bubbly. Thus I picked out a Catalonian Cava which, like the French Champagnes, is made from local grapes and acquires its bubbles from a second fermentation in the bottle, not from some unspeakable process of artificial aeration. The Freixenet, although a mass production item, is nice and dry and relatively aromatic, which is all I ask of it. It is, that goes almost without saying, massively overpriced in PA at $9.99. (NJ $7.99).

Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino 2002

Alright, this falls totally outside the parameters of this blog, but it was New Year's Eve and I wanted to remind myself of what life might be like in an ideal world. We got this bottle a year or so ago, at the vineyard, and brought it back with us. It cost 25 Euros there (anywhere from $35 to S50, depending on the fluctuations of the dollar). Given what Brunellos go for in PA, it would certainly cost $100 here. Montalcino is a tiny village South Of Siena, and the Brunello produced there is by general consensus one of the great growths of Italy. The hue of this wine is a deep ruby red, and depth is what it's all about. After a taut entry, it leads to an incredibly full bodied mix of dark fruit flavors, tempered by tannins that are not the least bit harsh, but effectively silky; There is a very considerable complexity of sensations going on here and there is great length in the finish. One should treat oneself this well at least once a year -- you see, people, I can wax unreservedly enthusiastic about a wine.