Thursday, January 31, 2008

2005 Tin Roof Merlot 91 points

Merlot, California, $13

A great value at 13 bucks, I find myself returning to this Merlot again and again, because it’s such a delious, gentle, easy sipper. It’s a pleasure to drink one that’s so nicely dry and balanced. Does a great job balancing ripe berry, black cherry and stone fruits with earthy herbs and spices. Buy this by the case drink thru 2010

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2006 Petaluma Hanlin Hill 91 points

Riesling, Clare Valley, $20

Crisp in texture with floral and minerally on the nose, the 2006 Hanlin Hill Riesling is an all-around delight. Filled with apple, nectarine, melon and lime fruit, it manages to conceal the Clare Valley’s sometimes hard edges with ripe fruit. Finishes dusty, minerally and long; this should have a long, positive evolution.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2006 Willamette Valley Vineyards 91 points

Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $16

Alsatian style Pinot Gris thats crisp, authoritative, dry and racy. The fruit mixes apple, pear, melon with a little spice then heads off into a finish that is underscored with mineral and light fennel. Well-balanced acidity, very refreshing and beautifully rendered.

Monday, January 28, 2008

2005 Hewitson Ned & Henry's 91 points

Shiraz, Barossa Valley, $19

Ned & Henry's is Hewitson’s best Shiraz to date with it's lush, creamy-textured offering. Filled with dense chocolate and blackberry aromas round out this full bodied red wine. Hints of black pepper and coffee linger on the long, velvety finish. The price is fair, too. Drink now–2015

Sunday, January 27, 2008

2003 Felipe Rutini Encuentro 91 points

Malbec-Merlot, Tupungato, $18

This blend of 53% Malbec and 47% Merlot is a bona fide winner, the polar opposite of boring, this lovely blend offers aromas of mint, herbs, flower petals and sandalwood. The palate, meanwhile, is all about pure, robust blackberry and plum. It’s a chunky, rich wine with a bit of burnt toast on the lusty finish. Thorough and textured.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

2006 Punto Final Malbec 91 points

Renacer, Malbec, Perdriel, $11

Color, power, flavor and commendable balance; that’s pretty much the format for Punto Final, one of Argentina’s go-to brands for Malbec. This is a wine of rich bouquet, lively mouth-feel, lingering flavors of red and black berries with undertones of black pepper and vanilla, and a velvet texture throughout.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Meerlust Rubicon 2001 95 points

Bordeaux Blend, Stellenbosch, $30

Over a quarter of a century ago, this was one of the first South African Bordeaux blends. It is still one of the best,Ultra dark, intense, opaque & concentrated. A classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this wine is the culmination of the Myburgh family's dream of making a truly remarkable Bordeaux-style wine. Meerlust Rubicon is well-balanced with a cigar box and spicy tobacco bouquet. Smooth, firm tannins provide structure and depth with excellent aging potential.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

2005 Bernardus Chardonnay 91 points

Chardonnay, Monterey County, $20

Bernardus’s regular Monterey Chard offers lots of bang for the buck, hard to find a better Chard at this price. Bright yellow hue thats dry and crisp in citrusy acids, it has complex flavors of pineapple, grapefruit, kiwi, lime and spicy coconut macaroon, with delicious oak influence.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NOBILO Sauvignon Blanc 91 points

Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Regional Collection 2007 $13

Supple, intense and straightforward from the Marlborough region. With a suave array of grapefruit, lime, mineral, herb and guava tones. Strong hints of spice add complexity, with generous fruit and minerals fleshing out the finish. Drink now and buy it by the case! 200,000 cases

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2004 Shingleback 93 points

Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, $22

This lizard-labeled wine puts other critter wines to shame, offering a well integrated and complex bouquet of coffee, leather, spice cake and dried fruit. Mouth coating flavors of dried cherries and plums are framed by coffee, spice and leather and carried across the palate by a lush, softly tannic texture. Drink now–2012.

Monday, January 21, 2008

2005 Archetype Shiraz 90 points

Shiraz, Barossa, $14

Barossa doesn’t yield many Best Buys, but this one features aromatics that are complex with notes of pepper and spice atop stylish blackberry and blueberry fruit. With a little warmth, but also a pleasantly expansive mouthfeel. Drink now, great value.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rocky Gully 2005 Riesling 91 points

Riesling, Frankland River, $14

This is a tangy full-bodied, richly textured Riesling with aromas and flavors of honey, grapefruit, crushed stone and citrus. It’s surprisingly long on the finish with zing. Imported by USA Wine West. Drink now through 2012.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

2006 Brander Cuvée Nicolas 91 points

Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, $25

Brander’s barrel-fermented, new oaky Sauvignon Blanc. You can taste the creaminess and smokiness imparted by the wood with hints of guava nectar, peach marmalade and grapefruit. With 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon it marries nicely with the grape’s citrus and fig flavors and zippy acids, drink now only 401 cases produced

Friday, January 18, 2008

2004 Finca Luzón Altos de Luzón 92 points

Red Blend, Jumilla, $16

The seriously endowed 2004 Altos de Luzon is a blend of 50% old vine Mourvedre (52 years) and equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, aged 12 months in a combination of French and American oak. A dense ruby/purple color is followed by beautiful aromas of smoky licorice, black currants, cherries, and earth. Offering wonderful ripeness, an alluring texture, sweet tannin, and adequate acidity, it certainly over-delivers for its price. Drink it over the next 2-4 years."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

BERINGER Alluvium Blanc 93 points

Knights Valley 2006 ($16)

There's beautiful purity of fruit, with a rich and vibrant beam of tangerine, nectarine and subtle pear tingling. The finish is long and clean with a hint of sage. Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier. Drink now through 2011. 9,000 cases made.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2006 Snoqualmie Winemaker's Select 92 points

Riesling, Columbia Valley (WA), $8

With full ripeness, density and concentration, this keeps it well balanced at just 10.8% alcohol and 5% residual sugar. The dynamic tension plays out beautifully, and doesn’t veer into any sort of sugary slackness. This has the sort of weight and complexity you would expect in more expensive wines.

Fetzer 2006 Valley Oaks Pinot Grigio 87 points

Fetzer 2006 Valley Oaks Pinot Grigio (California); $9

Americans are nuts about Pinot Grigio, it’s due to wines like this that are so fruity delicious and a great value. What’s not to like about loads of spicy green apples, tart limes, and an exotic umami taste of candied ginger? Drink it with almost anything that has some heat to it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Martin Codax 2005 Ergo Tempranillo 88 points

Martín Códax 2005 Ergo Tempranillo (Rioja); $15

Dill and butter aromas announce aging in American oak, while the berry aromas are solid but common. This is a tightly wound wine with black cherry and olive flavors followed by length on the palate. It’s not edgy, complex or beguiling, but it is full of fruit and has good balance.

BOGLE Petit Sirah 89 points

Petite Sirah California 2005 ($10)

Wild huckleberry, blueberry, grapey and minerally notes are all intense and focused, with taut tannins and smoky aromatics. Drink now through 2012. 100,000 cases made.

Monday, January 14, 2008

2004 Quintessa 96 points

Bordeaux Blend, Rutherford, $99

WOW! 96 Points! A dramatic young wine from the Huneeus estate on the east side of Napa Valley in Rutherford, Quintessa is a selection from 170 acres of vineyards, mostly planted to cabernet sauvignon, along with merlot and small blocks of cabernet franc, petit verdot and carmenère. It’s beautiful the way the acid-tannin structure plays against the cherry, cassis and olive fruit, creating an architectural tension. If you open this wine now, decant for a few hours. Otherwise, it should hold for six to eight years, and develop further bottle complexity afterward. Get it while you can!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Milbrandt 2006 Legacy Chardonnay 91 points

Milbrandt 2006 Legacy Evergreen Vyd Chardonnay (Washington); $23

Concentrated, beautifully defined flavors of pear, apple and ripe pineapple drive a stake through the heart of this wine, blazing a trail across the palate with tongue-thrashing acids and bracing minerality. As it slowly unwinds it reveals a finish of banana caramel tart, luscious and long.

Louis Guntrum '06 Dry Riesling 90 points

Louis Guntrum 2006 Dry Riesling (Rheinhessen); $12

Rather full and round in the mouth—the combined effect of 12.5% alcohol and a touch (0.6%) of residual sugar—this nevertheless does taste pretty dry. It’s a minerally version, with smoky minerality and powdered—almost liquified—stone notes fleshed out by hints of tangerine and peach. Drink now.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Piper Sonoma NV Select Cuvee Brut 89 points

Piper Sonoma NV Select Cuvée Brut (Sonoma County); $15

This has subtle flavors of strawberries, limes, dough and a hint of vanilla smoke. It’s a little rough in the mouth, but easy to drink with a scoury texture, but it’s a great buy at this price.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lancaster Estate '04 Cabernet Sauvignon 98 points

Lancaster Estate 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley); $65

WOW 98 Points! Lancaster burst on the scene with enormous buzz, before they had really earned it. Steadily but surely, they’ve built up the wine, and the ’04 is the best ever. It’s a gorgeous Cab, softly complex, rich in cassis, cherry, spice and oak flavors anchored with warm and earthy tannins. In fact, the earthiness stands it in good contrast to Napa Valley, making it wholesome and complete. Drink now if you can find it and enjoy!

Glen Carlou 2003 Grand Classique Meritage 92 points

Glen Carlou 2003 Grand Classique Meritage (Paarl); $20

Glen Carlou’s wines are far from shy and this delicious Meritage from Paarl has all of the bold notes you’d expect from this producer. The nose is elegant, with waves of cinnamon, tobacco and spice, and on the palate, flavors of red berry, spice and smoke are distinctive but harmonious. This is a wine that will continue to unfold as it ages, which is an exciting prospect.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cedar Knoll 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon 90 points

Cedar Knoll 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $35

This is a second wine from Palmaz. It’s a big Cabernet, dry and full-bodied, with extravagant cassis, cherry and oak flavors that contain riper notes of red currants and licorice. Gets better as it sits in the glass and breathes, and could benefit from up to five years in the cellar.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps

Zirbenz, Austria, 35.0% abv, $42

The intriguing bouquet offers a pine cone, cedar, alpine-forest perfume and little else. The palate entry is intensely piny and sappy and marginally sweet; the midpalate highlights the menthol aspect. Finishes bitter with waves of menthol or camphor and pinesap. An idiosyncratic liqueur made with highly skilled distilling and blending craftsmanship.

Milbrandt 2005 Legacy Syrah 92 points

Milbrandt 2005 Legacy Syrah (Washington); $25

Many winemakers use Milbrandt fruit for their Syrahs, so it’s no surprise that the brothers’ own winery has a Syrah that stands at the top of the product line. There is precision and power here, with deep cherry and boysenberry fruit, tart acids that hint at lemon rind, a sharp peppery streak and a finish that somehow suggests chocolate and pineapple candy. Complex, muscular and delicious.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Amicus 2004 Special Blend 92 points

Amicus 2004 Special Blend (Spring Mountain); $40

This is a Cabernet-based Bordeaux blend, and quite a good one. It has a classic mountain profile of intense cassis, cherry and cedar flavors, with firm, astringent tannins. Decanting will help it soften, but you’re better off cellaring this polished wine for a few years.

Leaping Lizard 2004 Zinfandel 92 points

Leaping Lizard 2004 Zinfandel (Sonoma County); $12

What a great success. It brings to mind that old saying, less is more. This a wonderfully balanced wine with tons of Zinny flavor. Wild black, blue and red berries, sweet cocoa, root beer and all kinds of dusty Asian spices spread over the palate, leading to a dry, satisfying aftertaste. Buy this one by the case and drink now!

Monday, January 7, 2008

B Cellars 2006 Blend 23 92 points

B Cellars 2006 Blend 23 Sauvignon Blanc-Viogner-Chardonnay (Napa Valley); $28

This wonderfully rich wine combines the best of all three varieties to produce a complex white. It shows rich green apple, pineapple jam, superripe apricot, honeysuckle and smoky oak flavors, and while it’s tremendously honeyed on the finish, it is basically dry. Crisp acidity, probably from the Carneros Chardonnay, provides needed balance.

Depaz Blue Cane Rhum Agricole

Depaz Blue Cane Rhum Agricole (Martinique) $42

The compellingly complex and multi-layered bouquet includes fragrances of nutmeg, oak, wet grass, rubber pencil eraser, white pepper and carnations. The palate entry has flavors of herbs, caney sweetness and flower garden; the midpalate features elements of smoke, tobacco leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, vanilla bean, nut paste and honey. Stupendous.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pure Love Wines 2005 Layer Cake Shiraz 91 points

Pure Love Wines 2005 Layer Cake Shiraz (Barossa Valley); $15

A new project from Jayson Woodbridge (the owner of Napa’s Hundred Acre label), Layer Cake refers to the soils of his Barossa Vineyard, but it could equally apply to the richness and density of the wine. It’s creamy in texture, and filled with blueberries, spice and everything nice, finally ending with hints of coffee and chocolate.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sebeka 2006 Cape Blend Shiraz-Pinotage 89 points

Sebeka 2006 Cape Blend Shiraz-Pinotage (Western Cape); $9

This Cape Blend (so-called because it has Pinotage in it) is juicy, structured and easy-drinking. An enjoyable food wine to boot, it has an expressive, approachable character—jammy fruit of the Shiraz gives it life—but has Pinotage reserve and backbone, too. Pair this with grilled ribs or lamb or drink it alone

Hagen Heights 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon 91 points

Hagen Heights 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $48

Here’s one for the cellar. You could drink it now, with a little decanting, but such is the structural youth that you’d miss this Bordeaux blend at its best. Rich and savory in spicy black and red currant, cherry and cedar flavors, the wine shows a firm tannic structure, with a crisp bite of acidity. Hold until late 2008; should evolve over the next six to eight years.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Cycles Gladiator 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon 90 points

Cycles Gladiator 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Central Coast); $10

It’s not quite a cult Napa Cab, but you’d be surprised how close the profile fits with this soft, sumptuous wine. Like its competitors costing 10 times as much, it’s velvety smooth, with enormously ripe cassis, milk chocolate, cherry pie, vanilla and cinnamon spice flavors. At this price, it’s a steal, and easy to find, with 15,000 cases produced.

PINK Caffeine and Guarana Infused Vodka

P.I.N.K. Caffeine & Guarana Infused Vodka

The bouquet offers off-dry, delicate aromas of yellow fruit and wet earth with deft touches of vanilla. The palate entry is almost liqueur-like with its fruitiness and coffee bean-like character; the midpalate features bittersweet tastes of cocoa and coffee bean. Finish is bittersweet and beany.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Beauregard 2004 Zinfandel 95 points

Beauregard 2004 Beauregard Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel (Ben Lomond Mountain); $45

The product of a warm vintage in a cool-climate region, this is a very good Zin. It achieves interest and complexity. Structured like a good Cab Sauvignon, it has impressively deep blue and black wild berry and stone fruit, coffee, dried herb and spice flavors, wrapped into firm, dusty tannins.

Yangarra Estate 2005 Estate Shiraz 94 points

Yangarra Estate Vineyard 2005 Single Vineyard Shiraz (McLaren Vale); $20

An impressively endowed effort, this features a slightly lifted, floral component to its bouquet that adds to its complexity, blending seamlessly with scents of dark plum, vanilla, smoke, coffee and spice. The mouthfilling flavors frame bold fruit in firm spice, giving this wine ample structure and length. Drink now–2015

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

AsomBroso El Platino (silver) Tequila

Opening nose emits zesty scents of fennel, licorice, anise and dried herbs; aeration brings out off-dry elements of milk chocolate, agave juice, olive brine, rye bread and green olive. Palate entry is peppery and astringent, then at midpalate flavors of sweet pepper and ripe agave meld. Concludes toasty and mellow.

Palmaz 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon 93 points

Palmaz 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $100

Few Cabs on earth are riper than this, with its enormous flavors of black currants, cherry-pie filling, plum jam and chocolate that overwhelm the mouth with decadence. It’s modern in tannins, which are soft and finely ground, and opulent in smoky, spicy new oak. It is, in short, the very model of a Napa cult Cab.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Don Miguel 2006 Gascon Malbec 88 points

Gascón Malbec (Mendoza); $12

Getting past the giant blast of oak that dominates the bouquet is not an easy task, but the intrepid wood chopper will find another side to this wine, one that’s full of bright, juicy black fruit and syrupy core sweetness. Of course, the oak is always present and with that comes mocha, coffee and vanilla notes.

Jekel 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon 86 points

Jekel 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Arroyo Seco); $15

Jekel has long experience with Cabs from Arroyo Seco, a cool region better known for whites. This Bordeaux blend shows the region’s classic dryness and acidity, and flavors of blackberries and currants.

Des Voigne Cellars 92 points

Des Voigne 2005 Montreux Syrah (Columbia Valley); $27

Here’s Washington Syrah in the flesh, unadulterated, unblended, blasting out aromas of wild berries, spicy cranberry and rhubarb. It leads into a tart and peppery wine with whiffs of smoke and herb; young, wild and just slightly raw. A flavor parade for your mouth.