Category: Beverage Reviews



Here’s a wine I brought into the old shop a decade ago ago because I felt we needed a Malbec at an over $25/under $50 price-point on the shelf when Argentine Malbec was just hitting big in the U. S.. I certainly liked enough to bring in a couple six-packs back then, but what of it now?


50% Malbec/50% Cabernet Sauvignon

Appearance: deep ruby welling into black, grainy sediment in solution after a decanting and an hour-plus

Aroma: blackberry liqueur, a tinge of lime leaf, and leather

Palate: black currant, licorice, dark chocolate—all brooding, and dry

Finish: mouth-watering dryness and velvety leather-tinged tannins


This started badly—cork was engorged and broke apart. Filtered and decanted and everything was reassured.

Ultimately, a dark and mysterious beauty. Takes some patience to reveal itself, but, really, quite engaging when it does. A great winter warmer that would be ideal with grilled steaks or an earthy mushroom dish.



Haven’t opened a cellar wine in a while and simply felt the urge this evening. Went into this one with reasonably high expectations given how remarkably well Montiverde’s 1998 Vigneto Cipressone Chinati Classico showed a few months back.

Appearance: black-cored brick with terra cotta edges

Aroma: faint black cherry, tomato leaf, anise, and saddle leather

Palate: opens fruit-light and dominated by incredibly lively acidity, baking spices and leather. But, after an hour-plus, evolves into light black cherry liqueur; and overt tanginess

Finish: clove/leather sueded tannins

Certainly still alive and not over-the-hill, but a bit off-balance. Acid shows plenty of life but overwhelms the understated fruit. Overall, pleasant but a good bit of fruit shy of a success. Paired well with lentil loaf.


Gold juice.

My goal was to dress up a meal of diner-style open-faced roast turkey breast sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. That’s easy. Pairing is trickier than it seems because you want to avoid overt fruitiness and neutralize the saltiness of the dish while provding enough body richness to stand up to the full, earthy flavors. Fair roll of the dice, here.

  • Aroma: deep golden hay
  • Nose: beeswax, Bosc pear, lemon, delicate apricot
  • Taste: muted apricot and lemon pulp coated with (not-sweet) honey essence
  • Mouthfeel: viscous with a bit of mineral prickle cutting through a delicate waxiness
This is a classic Saint-Péray blend of of 50% Marsanne/50% Roussanne and all the requisite flavors and textures are here. On it’s own, many consumers might find this a bit too subtle fruit-wise and that is Marsanne doing its thing, providing the prevalent beeswax muting Roussanne’s fruity components. Paired against some salty food, though, the fruit pops beautifully while the wine retains its richness.
This is a lovely wine made from underrecognized varieties from an uner-the-radar Rhône region. Can be found in Maryland for $25-$30.

 

Hardy’s 2nd Label

It’s winter, so it’s time for rich brown spirits. Not that winter is a legit excuse for me—whiskey, añejo tequila, aged rum, and brandy et al. need no excuse for year-round consumption as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, I had grown somewhat weary of the Bourbons, ryes, and Scotches I had been drinking of late [though my hankering for some specific top-notch Irish whiskies will be sated shorty—review(s) to come] and thought I’d go in the direction of tried-and-true, great value brandy. 

Scanning the shelves for high QPR, straight drinkable and broadly mixable brandy, I chose a dry but intensely flavored entry-level Cognac. Maison Rouge is Hardy Cognac’s second label and flat-out represents some of the best values on the market.

  • Appearance: deep, varigated copper/mahogany
  • Nose: leather, sweet cigar wrap, cinnamon, Bosc pear
  • Palate: orange pekoe tea, candied dates, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg
  • Finish: lingering sweet honey and spice sliding into orange zest, boozy but with a viscosity that quells the heat
Really, you can’t do much better for less than $25, this has been a go-to for me for a few years now as an intro to Cognac for customers or as an everyday bar stock for me. With most anything else at this price you would likely have to settle for an almost syrupy-sweet brandy from elsewhere, but this is legit Cognac. Simple satisfaction with a seriousness married with drinkability hard to find at this price. Pretty much a must-buy.

Feeling Autumnal.

 

I don’t believe I have done a whisky review here, so as the seasons change this just seems right. 

I taste a lot of whisky. It’s kinda my thing. Sure, I taste hundreds of wines every year, but whisky is second on the list. It is the one spirit category that intrigues me most and that, because of its ridiculous popularity of late, I have the opportunity to taste often. I tasted this with a rep one day and thought it a good value.

Canadian whisky is typically a category that does not inspire much interest (there are a few exceptions with Alberta Rye Dark Barrel, Forty Creek, Caribou Crossing, to name a handful of brilliant products that are not Canuck drams under the guise of US craft whiskies). Typically, I look to Canadians as whiskies of low impact on the palate and the wallet. Collingwood’s entry-level product is no different, though it has a bit more going on than those on the bottom shelf.

 

Appearance: copper-amber

Nose: caramel, rose, cinnamon

Palate: candied dates, caramel, cinnamon, maple taffy, wheat-heavy grassy grain

Mouthfeel: watery, unsubstantial

Finish: thins out fast and the low alcohol becomes readily evident with a charry astringency

 

A bit sweeter and more complex than Canadian Club or Crown Royal, but with a similar thinness expected of a blended whiskey. It is saved primarily by its sweetness which gives a superficial impression of character that just isn’t there under the surface. The added caramel color should fool no one on the palate as this is undeniably weak in richness and structure. The toasted maple staves show as just that on the palate, too—charry, sweet, and out of balance with the body-weight of the whiskey. The alcohol is definitely present but, fortunately, only as heat—not in that off-putting ethanol-y way. The 21 year-old expession shows richness and cohesiveness that this can’t even sniff (if you can find it, spend the scratch for it). Look, for under $30, this isn’t bad at all—I would just be inclined to relegate it to mixing.


 

Entry-level Cab Franc from François Plouzeau

 

It’s a rainy, early-Autumn day and I want to unwind with a bottle, damn’ it! After spending far too long cruising the aisles of a local shop, hemming-and-hawing (to myself, in my addled noggin)’ I finally settled on this.

I didn’t know what to expect, really. Loire Cabernet Franc seemed like a good idea—warming without being heavy or too brooding when at it’s best—but also a crap-shoot as it can be nigh undrinkable when executed poorly. However, it should be noted by all who read this, I trust Roy Cloud of Vintage ’59 Imports not to let me down.

 

Biodynamically-produced 100% Cabernet Franc from limestone soils in Touraine. No oak, as far as I can tell. Should find this for less than $25.

Appearance: medium plummy garnet

Nose: underripe blackberry, mineral-tinged pepperiness, a bit of alcohol

Palate: riper and lusher black cherry and blackberry on front-palate than expected but keen balsamic acidity cuts through from mid-to-back carrying on through the finish; roasted tarragon, maybe

Mouthfeel: pretty satiny on the front-end but the acidity brightens it up nicely

Finish: loooong and carried by a fruitful cherry and lime zest acidity with pleasant bitter herbs and anise on the very end showing soft tannins

 

This is perfect! Exactly what I wanted and better than expected. Juicy, mouthwatering, more complex than expected and never green or astringent. Thanks, again, Roy!

 

 

 

QWR: 2012 Paxis Red Blend


Bulldog? “Paxis!”

 

The goal was simple: find a fruity, no-fuss wine to pair with tacos and burritos (made with pork, jalepeños, avocado, tomato, red onion, cheddar, and a spicy yogurt sauce I like to make). The original plan was to go with Garnacha from NE Spain but I saw this on the shelf and just felt it was right. I had brought it into a shop I consult with several months ago and remembered its sweet fruit and thought of it as a nice spice-quelling match for the meal.

Appearance: ruby with a deep violet core

Nose: overt ripe, black cherry and plum

Palate: super-ripe black cherry and blackberry, not too heavy but hinting toward syrupy

Mouthfeel: ridiculously supple with sufficient fruit acid to peek through

Finish: vaguely velvety tannins and a touch of licorice-y astringency

Fun, early Autumn meal.

Well, it is certainly as fruity as I remembered. The sweetness definitely worked well with the spice of the dish, but those sugars provided a body richness that came close to being too much.

Plenty to like here as a sipper and will certainly appeal to the modern American red blend drinker despite Portugal (Lisboa, to be specific) nor the grapes Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Caladoc—neither listed on the bottle—being part of the typical knowledge-base. Nothing spectacular, but I certainly can’t argue with the relative value with the price at around $10.

 


Come to me, la Comme!

From a lovely little winery I visited in Beaune, March 2013 (see this post for details about the visit).

I had the fortune to impress upon a (now defunct) distributor to bring into the Maryland market a selection of these wines from a (now defunct) importer. Another fortune bestowed upon me was the opportunity to bring a six-bottle cross-section of these home for personal consumption. Down to my last two, I was faced with two premier cru Pinot Noir bottlings: a Pommard (which, by my estimation, likely has several years more life in bottle—for another, special day) and this, a Santenay (which by some accounts is in the latter third of its drinking window).

 

Appearance: deep, black-cored ruby—like The Dark Crystal

Nose: bright red cherry, cinnamon, licorice

Palate: high-toned red cherry, lemon, blood orange, pomegranate, delicate cinnamon/clove, licorice

Mouthfeel: lean and acidically gripping—like sucking a fresh lemon

Finish: fine, chalky tannins; long-lingering citrus acidity and delicate, high-toned pomegranate spice

 

Tasty, but the acidity demands food. Lean and not readily approachable solely due to the bracing acid as all other elements are really quite pleasant. Still young yet—well within its drinking window (I’d say, another decade lies in this bottle) despite the gentle tannins given the assertive acid. The fruit may never come into balance with the acid here, however.

I like this, but another several years may not be enough to make it accessible to the masses.

2015 Los Dos Rosado


Well, that went quickly.

 

After a week of menu planning, I knew I wanted a Spanish (or Argentine) rosé to go with my gazpacho and avocado grilled cheese sandwiches. Linda went to the local shop with a short list and the store employee suggested this. I was indifferent toward it after a few “meh” vintages. This turned out to be the best value choice in the store.

 

2015 Los Dos Rosado (85% Garnacha/15% Cabernet Sauvignon) Campo de Borja 13.5%

A: shimmery peach skin pink with slight blue cast

N: straight-up ripe strawberry juice

T: soft, creamy strawberry and raspberry with gorgeous tangerine and strawberry acidity 

F: bright, refreshing acidity and faint anise-tinged tannins 

 

This is the absolute best choice for our dinner. Easily the best Los Dos (red or rosé) I have ever had. Juicy, but thirt-quenching. Enough fruit to work against the acidity of gazpacho as well as more than enough crisp acidity to blast off of the creamy avocado grilled cheese on brioche. Just right, baby bear!


 

2012 Fattorie Melini Terrarosa Chianti Classico

It’s not exactly big Chianti season, but it’s what I was in the mood for, so there you have it.

Sangiovese and Merlot from vineyards in the Sienese region of Chianti Classio.

2012 Fattorie Melini Terrarossa Chianti Classico DOCG 13.5%

A: Medium black-cored ruby no signs of oxidation

N: rich, plummy/black cherry, slight vanilla, dried violets

T: full and soft, plum and cherry front- to mid-palate

F: fairly soft tannins, licorice, mint, subtle dried violets

 

It’s Chianti, all right, but nothing special. 

Super-easy-drinking but there is little here to excite to sustain interest. What makes the best mid-priced Chianti exciting is overt secondary characteristics. Those are here—suppressed and obscured by a new-world ripe, plummy fruit—but not present enough to keep me interested. Don’t get me wrong, this is plenty tasty. For $20 I want more depth and engaging character.

 

Lane Violation Blog

Stay in your lane!

Fresh Ingredients

“You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.” ― Julia Child

A Word in Your Ear

Stories and Photographs of my travels, Tales of friends, family, animals and my life

wpawinepirate

Wine news about Western Pennsylvania and beyond

In the glass

wine, spirits and beer and sake

restaurantbastards

Let me tell you what I'm really thinking

clementine baltimore

Dang good food with a story

Healthymaura's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

%d bloggers like this: