Monday, January 2, 2012

Holiday Wines

We spent the holidays in St. Louis with my wife's family. While there, we hit up one of the local Schnuck's grocery stores that was having a clearance sale on a number of wine selections. My father-in-law, brother-in-law and I really cleaned up purchasing 6 or 7 cases. Some of the wines in this report came from that purchase. Others I'll try later and report on. The prices there were approximately 50% off retail and they took another 10% off if you bought 6 bottles (snicker). My favorite purchases were 4 bottles of 2008 Seghesio Barbera for $9 each and a lonely bottle of Domaine de Baumard Cremant de Loire Carte Turquoise for $10.

Anyway, here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the last week:

2007 Alto Moncayo Garnacha, Campo de Borja - fabulous nose of black and red fruits, spice and hints of meat and menthol. Alcoholic. Some Bourbon/American oak comes out, but only after extended time in the glass. Sadly, the palate isn't quite as dynamic with its tart raspberry fruit and spice. Ferocious tannins and acidity. Could this one age? Regularly $45 (yikes!) on closeout for $20.

2010 667 Pinot Noir, Monterey - Super sweet, almost candied cherry nose. Borderline overripe and negligible tannins and low acid. A simple, refreshing, quaffing style Pinot Noir. $10

2008 Ramspeck Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley - Nice balance of sweet/tart cherry fruit and oak notes with nice bit of smoky bacon and graham cracker in there, too. Good tannins, acidity. Long finish accentuates the mouth-watering acidity. Solid effort. Price unknown.

2008 Bogle Vineyards Phantom, California - Old Vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Old Vine Mourvedre. Charred blackberry with considerable mineral/wet stone character. Mouth-filling with nice acidic structure, but not quite as tannic as I had expected. Turns a bit bitter on the finish. I used to love this wine, but now I'm not so sure. About $17

2009 Avante Mencia, Castilla y Leon - Wow. Just way too much poopy diaper for me. Sorry, not my cup o' feces. Not even worth the $6 closeout tariff.

2010 Apotheic Red Blend, California - This winery's advertising keeps showing up on my Facebook page, but the wine isn't available in Kansas. Saw it marked down from $15 to $10 at a St. Louis area grocery store and decided to take a chance on it based on the blend. Might be a bit on the tooty-fruity side, but this blend of Zin, Syrah, Cab and Merlot shows a lot of depth with its blueberry and coffee flavors. My idea of a good wine for burgers or pizza. I ended up buying 8 bottles.

2008 Dunning Vineyards Chardonnay, Paso Robles - From my father-in-law's stash. Quite frankly, a bit lighter than I had expected. Light color. Thin palate, lemony, waxy flavor and texture with a bit of earthy mushroom. Great acidity and a not-so-great sulfuric finish. The acidity is the wine's saving grace and it makes for a nice pairing with seafood risotto. Unique, but I think I'll stay in the "all red" club for my Dunning shipments.

2001 Casisano-Colombaio Brunello di Montalcino - Just an amazing nose of dusty cherry and freakish fennel bulb. Hint of smoked tea in there, too. Medium-bodied with more dust and crazy licorice on the palate. Nicely balanced acidity and tannins. Ready to drink right now, but could probably hold for another 5-10 years. Thoroughly enjoyed this one with braised chuck roast with porcini sauce over soft polenta.

2003 Tenuta Luia Luia, Rosso di Toscana - Wow, what a difference a night made with this one. Didn't hold my interest at all during dinner as it was simple and dusty with hardly any discernible features. On day 2 with heavy appetizers, it shows decadent blue and black fruits, hickory-scented wood and anise. Rally thick and unctuous texture. Guess we should've decanted this one before dinner, huh?. Still, a bit pricey at $60

2006 le Clos du Caillou Cuvee Unique, Cotes du Rhone - Beautiful old vine declassified Chateauneuf-du-Pape here. All the deep red fruits and herbs de Provence One expects from a wine like this, but with some really intense, dry chocolate flavors, too. Raspberry finish goes on forever. Throwing considerable sediment. Good value at $25.


  1. Bill, I remember my first comment on your blog had to do with giving the cold honest opinion of a wine, and I still hold to it, and further-more it's the best blog I know of for scoring a wine without any point system involved.
    Good show!
    One of my best wine-buddies has as a favorite wine, the Apotheic red (I have another for a re-taste), and it does score well, but it was too syrupy for me where I liked the 667 and sent that bud one for Christmas (still waiting for a comment, but your comment has peaked my interest.
    All the comments are very interesting, but except for the Bogle, I've not seen any of the others.
    As for my blog, I try to be relevant to NH wine buyers, because only a few of us want to look at wines we can't purchase.
    Happy New Year,

  2. Yeah, it's kind of a bummer that a lot of the wines you, me and other bloggers review don't have more consistent distribution. But I guess that's the nature of seeking out interesting, smaller production wines.

    I've never been a fan of assigning numbers to a wine. My stubborn refusal to do so has driven numerous employers, wine club members, friends, etc. NUTS over the years. :-)

  3. Not me. It is what it is, and if the comments are good enough, a numerical value can be redundant.
    I did speak this morning to my friend whose favorite wine is the Apotheic, and she said she too liked the 667 though the profile is lighter.

  4. I was a judge once at the Atlanta International Wine fair. It was a long time ago and when I was just getting into wine. Of course, all the vets grabbed the places at the tables designated for Napa reds and the so-called "good" wines. I got stuck at a table handing out scores and medals to whites and sparkling wines from all over America made from French-American hybrid grapes; something, of course, I knew nothing about.

    Suffice to say, after that experience I no longer put any faith into any wine that boasted of a gold medal at some fair or expo. But I also had an epiphany about the 100-point scale.

    When we were scoring, we had to rank clarity, nose, flavor, finish, etc. on a scale of 1-5. So when I looked back at my numerical rating I could justify why a wine only got 14 or 15.5 or however many points. I could defend my criticism by saying "it lost a point for clarity, half a point for too much acid and another point for a short finish."

    But that's what's missing from most numerical ratings I see in magazines. You read a review of a wine that gets 93 points and it reads about the same as a wine that gets 88 points. So I'm left wondering "what's the difference?" WHY did this one get 93 and the other one only get 88? Is it just a color thing? Is one of them just a little bit more tannic or more acidic than the other? Without knowing how the points were distributed, the numbers are pretty meaningless to me.

    Did I make way too much out of this? Perhaps. Anyway, that's my thought on the whole 20-point or 100-point scale. I know it's a valuable tool used by millions to influence their purchases and investments. And I'll readily admit to leaning on it quite heavily when I was just getting into wine 20 years ago. But it doesn't really do much for me any more.

  5. Very well said Bill. You did not make too much of the subject, and one of the best essays I've read on the subject. Thanks for taking the time to express your experience and impressions. For the time being I'll keep the 100 point system going as it helps me to to judge how much I like a wine and that is mostly based upon how delicious it is to me regardless of the tannin or acid, but on reflection I tend toward higher acid and moderate tannin.

    1. St. Louis??? *I* live in St. Louis! How much fun it could've been to meet up for a glass/bottle/magnum... =P

      I'll get back to this later - I want to read it more thoroughly & check out the comments.