2007 Kaiken Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon

My first cabernet sauvignon of the season is a 2007 Kaiken from the Mendoza region of Argentina that ran me about $13.


Since this is the first one I don't have much to compare it to other than to say it has a lot more body than the pinots I drank last winter and was much more velvety on the tongue.  I will say it didn't overnight well.  I went to drink a 3rd glass the next day and it was just on the verge of being undrinkable so I tossed the rest.

A nice wine in general though to drink with a filet mignon.

2008 Vega del Castillo Grenacha/Grenache

So I started my fall red wines with a 2008 Vega del Castillo granacha/grenache from Navarre that ran me about $6.59


Since this is my first grenache of the season I don't have much to compare it to.  It seemed similar to pinot noirs but more interesting, not as bland as I found most of those.  Very berry, maybe some subtle spice.  The label says notes of violets (I didn't catch that) and black pepper (maybe) and "rich black fruit flavours" (like ... blackberry? plum? what?).

A nice wine at a good price, a good choice to grab if you're grilling steaks.

2010 Clarksburg Toolbox and 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris

For my last two pinot gris of the summer (actually Clarksburg calls theirs pinot grigio), one from Napa and one from the Lorane Valley, southeast of Eugene, Oregon.

(the usual picture, which I was too lazy to take this time, goes here)

So the Clarksburg is your Get You Where You Want to To pinot grigio, inexpensive (under $10), a little on the sweet side.  Screw top to make the drinking go quicker.  I didn't mind it but I didn't drink it all either.

The King Estate from Oregon ran me close to $18 and was very nice, a good blend of acidity and various notes.

So this wraps up my spring and summer of pinot gris/grigios and Gewurtzes.  To sum up, I'd way that PGs aren't my favorite whites but they're not my least favorite either.  I drank cheap ones and I drank expensive ones, and in general they don't have enough oomph for me.  Gewurtzes seem like variations on a riesling theme.  I didn't find any that were funky or overly spicy, which is what Gewurtz tends to be known, or infamous, for.  Except for the one a week ago with a lemony sheen that was distinctive, most of them seemed pretty close to riesling to my taste buds.

After much deliberation I've decided for the fall and winter to drink cabernet sauvignon and grenache.  I've had the occasional cab over the years but don't know the grape well at all.  My original thought was to pair that with Italian reds, but then grenache popped into my head.  And then, I was checking out at the Liquee Mart today, there was a bottle of grenache sitting on the counter next to the cash register.  It was a sign.  So that's what we have to look forward to for the next six months.

2010 Oregon Brandborg Gewurtz

A slight delay from my last posting because I only opened 1 bottle of wine, a pinot gris that I ultimately decided had started going bad, like a Pinot Walter White.

The last few nights I had a 2010 Brandborg gewurtz from Oregon's Umpqua Valley that ran me about $16.


I like this.  It isn't a quasi-riesling like so many gewurtzes I've drunk this summer.  It had a nice lemony/citrusy sheen to it on the first night that I opened it. (Which unfortunately didn't last after a night in the fridge.)

I can see this going very well with seafood, especially highly seasoned dishes.

Pfaltz Starling Castle Gewurtz

The last couple nights I drank a Starling Castle gewurtz from the Pfaltz region of Germany. It ran me about $12.


Nice enough but not my favorite this summer.  Mainly a sweet wine with not a whole lot of complexity to it.  If you're looking for something to sip on the patio it would be OK, but for a meal I would look for a gewurtz with more flavor and less sweetness.

2012 Brassfield Pinot Grigio

Two pinot grigios/gris today.  First off is a 2012 Brassfield pinot grigio from Brassfield in Clearlake Oaks, CA, northwest of Sacramento.  It ran me $14.


If you like very acidic, almost grapefruit juice quality pinot grigios, this is one for you.  I liked it.  Very tart, it would probably go well with rich seafood courses.

Second up is a 2006 Alsatian pinot gris from Sparr; I reviewed one of their rieslings a year ago.  This one ran me about $10.

I like this one a lot too and almost drank the whole bottle in one sitting.  It's not as acidic as the California one, more middle of the road, but a good drinking wine, though not overly sweet.  I might go with this as a go-to pinot gris/grigio choice.


2010 Oderro Italian White Blend

Today a 2010 white blend from Piedmont, the Langhe wine region around La Morra, which is south from Turin/Torino.  Bottled by Oderro.  I don't remember where I picked it up (either Morrell's or Invino) or what I paid for it.


No idea what grapes are schmushed up in it, but I like it.  Dry and very much on the acidic end of the spectrum.  Nice herbal notes to it.

I drank it solo, but I can see this going well with chicken done just about any way (except nuggets).  Maybe a tomato-based pasta? Look it up.

2009 Chateau St Jean Sonoma Gewurtz

This week I drank a 2009 Chateau St Jean gewurtz from Sonoma that ran me about $13.


This was slightly sweeter than the last one (which admittedly prided itself on how dry it was), almost to an apple juice level but not cloyingly sweet.  The notes were your standard gewurtz/riesling, not particularly funky as gewurtzes go.  So many of these gewurtzes say they have notes of lychees, I'm going to have to eat some lychees to get the flavor in my taste buds.

All in all a nice wine for just sipping or with a meal.  I'm thinking maybe shrimp in a cream-based sauce, or even maybe shrimp in a Thai chili-based sauce.

2009 Gundlach Bundschu Gewurtz

Over the weekend I drank a nice Gewurtz from Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma that ran me about $20.


The labels sums it up:  "aromatic, spicy, full-bodied and DRY."  Their caps, which they repeat later.  I like a dry Gewurtz or Riesling, and this one was just up my alley.  Nice notes without the funky ones you find in Gewurtzes sometimes (not that I've found those much this summer trying different ones).  A nice wine for shrimp or lobster or maybe something with lemongrass.

Middle Sister Moscato, Argentina

For something different, a no date moscato from Middle Sister, "sweet and sassy", from Argentina.  It ran me about $10 at my local Liquee Mart.


As I saw about once a month, I'm not a sweet wine fan, but this wasn't bad, not overly so, and it has nice spicy notes to it.  I'm betting it will go well with SE Asian cuisine.

Also pictured is a 2004 Spanish coupage with syrah, cab sauv, and garnacha from Terres de Vidalba.  This has been sitting for a few nights so I'll probably use the rest for cooking, but the first night or two it had a high alcohol content, meaty kick to it.  A nice Spanish red.

2010 Incognito White Blend, 2011 La Giiareta Veneto Pino Grigio

Two whites today, a 2010 Incognito white blend from Michael and David Phillips and a 2011 La Giareta pinot grigio from the Veneto.


The white blend, from around Graton in western Sonoma, was originally $18 and change, on sale for $13 and pennies.  It doesn't specify on the bottle what's in the blend.  My general reaction was drinkable but meh.  Nothing stood out about it, either nose or notes.  It would be fine to grab when you need something to go with chicken, but it's not notable.

The pinot was one of the best I've had this summer, with more distinction than the usual run of the mill of this varietal.  It was citrusy and acidic but not overly so.  Even after a night in the fridge it wasn't bad.  I'd grab this one first to go with seafood or chicken, or maybe SE Asian food.

2008 Max Wagner Kabinett Riesling

I got out of my writing routine the last couple weeks though I've been putting the wine away.  My ipad that I used to photograph the wine bottles died (KBK -- killed by kitty; long story) and it's taken me a while to wrap my head around using the new iphone to do it.

Anyway, to kickstart me back, a 2008 Max Wagner Mosel Kabinett riesling.  I think I've written this up a year or so ago.


Frankly, way too sweet for me without the notes to make the sweetness worthwhile.  Almost like drinking soda pop with a buzz.  Of course, I did knock off most of the bottle on the first evening, but it was with food.

If you like really sweet rieslings, this is very drinkable and the one for you.

2011 Domaine Jacob Bourgogne Aligoté

After 10 days of just drinking and not posting a 2011 Domaine Jacob aligoté from Ladoix-Serrigny in the Cote d'Or (missing hat on that -o-).


I really liked this white (although the back label says red wine) and downed it pretty much in one sitting.

I had never heard of aligoté before, so I looked it up on wikipedia.  Some interesting facts:  It's often used to make Crémant, the Burgundian version of champagne.  A kir cocktail is often made with this and cassis.

"In Burgundy, where it often loses land to more prestigious grape varieties, Aligoté is often planted only in the poorer vineyard sites at the tops and bottoms of the slopes. This variety is more tolerant to the cold. The grape ripens early with moderate yields and produces wines high in acidity that can be drunk young. "

I would agree with the statement on wikipedia that it has "a slightly herbal flavour and rather higher acidity than Chardonnay".  All in all I liked it and would make it one of my regular whites.

3 Whites

Three whites to race through and get caught up on my reviewing.


First is a 2011 Le Seudiero generic white from Pocapaglia in Piedmont.  It's been long enough that I don't remember much about it, but a nice all around white, good for chicken or cream sauced pasta or just about any summer dish (maybe not steaks on the grill).

Second is a 2010 Mutt Lynch sauvignon blanc from Livermore, CA.  I like sauvignon blancs, but I thought this one was a little thin and one dimensional and too sweet for the lack of well-rounded notes.  I drank it all over a couple nights.  It almost seemed a little better the second night after it had opened up.

Last, a 2008 Azienda Agricola Monte del Fra Ca del Magro Custoza Superiore.  No idea what most of that means.  This comes from Sommacompagna near Verona in the Veneto.  This was my favorite of the three:  nice citrus flavors, well rounded, not too sweet.  A great summer wine for just about any summertime meal.

2012 Crios Torrontes and 2011 Creekbend Traminette

Today 2 wines pretty different from one another: a 2012 Crios Torontes from Argentina and a 2011 Creekbed Tramiette from Oliver Winery in southern Indiana.


The tramiette first.  This is basically a Gewurtz clone.  According to wikipedia, it "is a cross of the French American hybrid Joannes Seyve 23.416 and the German Vitis vinifera cultivarGewürztraminer made by Herb C. Barrett ca. 1965 at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign. His intention was to produce a large clustered table grape with the flavor of Gewürztraminer. Traminette was found to have excellent wine quality, combined with good productivity, partial resistance to several fungal diseases, and cold hardiness superior to its acclaimed parent, Gewürztraminer, while retaining a similar character."

The Indiana wine grape council has named tramiette the signature wine of the state.  Not to be cynical, but who lobbied for that?

Anyway, it was sweet, as you'd expect, but very drinkable, not cloyingly sweet.  It had some of Gewurtz's funkiness but that wasn't overwhelming.  It's not a wine I'd drink all the time, as I'm not crazy about sweet wines, but it had nice flavor.

The torrontés is from the Mendoza wine-growing region of Argentina.  Wikipedia says about this grape:

Torrontés is a white Argentine wine grape variety, producing fresh, aromaticwines with moderate acidity, smooth texture and mouthfeel as well as distinctive peach and apricot aromas on the nose/ Three Torrontés varieties exist in Argentina: Torrontés Riojano, the most common, Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. It is primarily Torrontés Riojano that has received attention for the quality of its wines, and is the variety used for most Argentine wines simply labeled Torrontés.

The three grapes are relatively similar but do have some noticeable differences. Torrontés Riojano and Torrontés Sanjuanino both tend to have large loose bunches of pale grapes while Torrontés Mendocino, however, has smaller, tighter bunches of darker yellow grapes. Torrontés Riojano is the most aromatic of the three, with aromas reminiscent of Muscat and Gewürtztraminer wines. The least aromatic, and least widely planted, is Torrontés Mendocino with the aromatics and plantings of Torrontés Sanjuanino falling in between. All three Argentine Torrontés varieties belong to the Criollas group of grape varieties, which is a term used for presumably American-born cultivars of the European grapevine Vitis vinifera.


This was on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Indiana wine, drier though with some sweetness to it.  Definite citrus notes, maybe grapefruit, lemon, perhaps a touch of vanilla.  This reminded me of Sancerre or Loire wines.

The torrontés would go well with chicken, maybe a sauced pasta, Southeast Asian cuisine.  I liked it, had to keep myself from drinking the whole bottle in one sitting.

2009 Clos Robert Chardonnay and 2011 Burgans Rias Baixas

Two whites this last week, a 2009 chardonnay from Clos Robert in Mendocino County north of San Francisco and a 2011 Burgans Rias Baixas from Spain.


I've got to say I'm having a complete mental block on the Spanish white at the moment except that it was a screw top.  I couldn't tell you if it was sweet or dry if my life depended on it.

It's made from the Albariño grape. which is popular in the northwest of Spain.  Some think it's a riesling clone.  Wikipedia says that "The grape is noted for its distinctive aroma, very similar to that of Viognier,Gewurztraminer, and Petit Manseng, suggesting apricot and peach. The wine produced is unusually light, and generally high in acidity with alcohol levels of 11.5–12.5%.[3] Its thick skins and large number of pips can cause residual bitterness."

The chardonnay on the other hand is my second bottle from that grape in the last couple weeks.  I liked this one better than the first one: less oaky, less vanilla, a little drier.

It's a little more complex than the other chardonnay.  The label claims peach blossoms, apricot, and green apple; I'm not sure I got all of those (what does a peach blossom taste like?) but it wasn't bad.  The label also says that it's more in the French Burgundian chardonnay style.  I'm not expert on that, but since the oak is so much less prominent, I can probably see that.

Both were nice wines and very drinkable with a summer meal.

2009 Edmond Rentz Pinot Gris and 2010 Giacomo Vino Bianco

Two wines today:  a very sweet pinot gris from Zellenberg in Alsace and a white blend from Tuscany.  The pinot ran me $14 on sale; the white blend was $10.


The Edmond Rentz grand crus pinot is from Froehn, a vineyard in Zellenberg.  Here's what the vinalsace.com web site says about it:  "Situated on a knoll of calcareous sandstone, Zellenberg, a small winegrowing town to the east of Riquewihr, dominates a fine vineyard. Facing south-south-east, the 14.60 ha Frœhn lines the steep hillside at 270 to 300 metres of altitude. It is a marl-clay soil, made of dark grey schistous marl, showing some small white calcareous layers and also some carbonated and iron rich nodules. The Frœhn favours the cultivation of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. In his work of reference, Médard Barth cites the Frœhn as one of the finest vineyards of the period. Frœhn wines are noted for their fruitiness and full flavour. Their richness confers excellent ageing potential."

This is the sweetest pinot gris I've drunk, more along the lines of a riesling than an Italian or Californian pinot.   It was good, just very sweet.  Honey notes, citrusy, maybe apricot.  The notes at Invino suggest drinking it was scallops but I can't imagine that.  Lobster maybe since it tends to be sweeter.

I looked up the Giacomo and there's no description of what goes into the blend.  I'd guess a lot of pinot.  It's a drinkable, pull out to drink with the chicken, nice middle-of-the-road white.  For $10 it's worth it.

2008 Dona Paula Viognier and 2009 Clos du Bois Chardonnay

Combining 2 whites today, a 2008 Dona Paula Naked Pulp Series viognier from the mountains of Argentina and a 2009 Clos du Bois chardonnay from the Russian River.  The viognier was part of a mixed case; the chardonnay ran me about $14.


I like viognier, and I had to hold myself back from finishing the whole bottle of this in one sitting.  A very fragrant wine.  The label claims notes of apricots, orange peel, and flowers, which I'd agree with; flowers are what came to mind drinking it.  They also ascribe a "high natural acidity" to it, which I'll agree with, but it wasn't too much to the acidic end of the spectrum like in some whites.  I bet this would go great with SE Asian cuisine or maybe lobster.

This is my first chardonnay in several years actually, as witnessed in part by the fact that I didn't have a chardonnay label here yet.  It's not that I don't care for it, I just tend to avoid it since it used to be my Go To white ordering in a restaurant.

This one is in Clos du Bois' Calcaire series.  What struck me on the first few tastes was vanilla -- lots of vanilla notes.  Also that after a night in the fridge (cork) the rest of the bottle had already lost a lot of the initial notes.  The label claims green apple, white peach, mandarin, and spice.  I can't distinguish all those in a glass of fruit juice; it seems a stretch catching all of them here, but everyone's palate is different.  A nice chardonnay, but as I haven't drunk one in a while, I'm not in a good position to make comparisons at this point.

2009 Deo Gratias Roussanne/Marsanne Blend

Next up in my grab bag of mixed whites this spring/summer is an 85% roussanne-15% marsanne blend from Deo Gratias, produced in Narbonne, France, which is one of the southernmost cities on the east side of France, across the (gulf of something?) from Marseille..


I wasn't familiar with roussanne or marsanne, so I looked them up.  They are the only whites allowed in certain appellations in the northern Rhone, and roussanne is just one of a handful of even more obscure whites allowed in the southern Rhone. Both can be blended with reds

Wikipedia says about roussanne, "The berries are distinguished by their russetcolor when ripe — roux is French for the reddish brown color russet, and is probably the root for the variety's name. The aroma of Roussanne is often reminiscent of a flowery herbal tea. In warm climates, it produces wines of richness, with flavors of honey and pear, and full body. In cooler climates it is more floral and more delicate, with higher acidity."

All that aside, I wasn't crazy about this blend though I drank all of it.  Very "different" notes from your usual whites.  I'm not sure I got the herbal tea, maybe the honey.  It reminded me of a "funky" Gewurtz that wasn't right close up next to a riesling in flavor like so many are, more at the "funkier" end of the spectrum.

I'd like to try another couple roussannes to see how they compare to this one.  I'm thinking I may come to appreciate this grape; it just didn't happen on the first try.

2011 Berger Grüner Veltliner

So here's a grape I knew next to nothing about, the grüner veltliner from Austria.  I got this bottle in a case of mixed whites so I can't give a price for it.


Here's how wikipedia describes it:  "Grüner Veltliner is a variety of white wine grape variety grown primarily in Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The leaves of the grape vine are five-lobed with bunches that are long but compact, and deep green grapes that ripen in mid-late October in the Northern Hemisphere."

This bottle was unique in wines I've bought in that it has a beer/pop bottle-type cap, no cork or screw top.

I liked it and can see how Austrians enjoy drinking this on the terrace of an inn or bar.  I would describe it as like a wine version of a hard cider, with apple notes to it.  Wikipedia says it has stood up to world-class chardonnays, which I don't quite see because this didn't have the chardonnay body and is much more acidic.

A nice white for summer drinking, and everyone has a bottle opener!

2008 Max Wagner Kabinett Riesling

The last couple nights I drank a 2008 Max Wagner Kabinett riesling from the Mosel region, almost equidistant between Luxembourg and Koblenz.  I got this as part of my mixed whites case from Morrell's.


I drank rieslings last summer so I'm fairly familiar with them.  I'm not crazy about sweet wines in general, and Kabinett wines are semi-sweet by default.  I'd say that this is maybe more on the sweet end of the spectrum than strictly semi-sweet, but I liked it.  It has a notable spiciness to it that balances the sugar.  I must have liked it; I drank almost the entire bottle in one sitting, which is unusual for me.

A nice riesling; I bet this would go great with Thai or Vietnamese food.

2011 Loire Charbonnier Sauvignon Blanc

I don't remember if I went into detail on that I'm working through different whites for a couple months rather than sticking with one or two varietals like I usually do (this year pinot gris/grigio and Gewurz), but if I didn't -- well, I am.


Last weekend I drank a 2011 sauvignon blanc from the Touraine appelation of the Loire Valley bottled by Charbonnier; it ran me in the mid-teens, part of a case of mixed whites from Morrell.

I didn't make notes at the time and waited too long to write it up, but in general a nice S.B. and I was glad to be back to them (I drank those a couple summers ago).  This one was very fragrant and herbal without the asparagus/cat urine notes that you get in so many.  I drank some Loire wines a summer or two ago and remember not being too crazy about them -- too austere for me -- but this one is very nice, a good complement to the usual summer chicken or seafood or pasta salads.

2009 Georgetown Divide Grenache Rouge

I reviewed my other bottle of this a few months back so just a capsule review of the second bottle.

This grenache rosé is from Geyserville in Sonoma Co.  It ran me around $10.

In short: not bad, but not my favorite rosé.  (See my reviews of pinot noir rosés from a few months ago for a couple of those.)  The first few sips seemed maybe a little on the vinegary side but it opened up as I drank it.

I can see this with fish or chicken breast on the grill, a nice summer BBQ wine.

2010 KC Jones White Blend & 2009 Loire Vouvray

I'm combining two bottles tonight, a 2010 KC Jones white blend from Sonoma and a 2009 Loire Vouvray from Philippe Brisebarre. I'm starting a couple months of mixed whites to try something different than my usual alternating of two wines per season.




The KC Jones is quite a mix: 34% chardonnay, 31% viognier, 12% pinot blanc, 8% sauvignon blanc, 6% pinot gris, 3% Gewurtz, and 3% riesling.  (Got that?)

After what must have been a lot of trial and error coming up with those proportions, frankly I thought the final result is a very middle-of-the-road blend, drinkable but not notable.  A couple bottles would be fine for a weekend BBQ with a couple of friends over, but I wouldn't buy it for a special occasion.

The Vouvray, on the other hand, had more interesting notes to it and more nose.  (And my notes of what those notes are have disappeared into the cloud.)  It went well with a chicken breast on the grill, as well as with some salsa and chips.  I'm not always crazy about Loire wines, but I liked this one.  It's the one I would buy for a special occasion.

2010 Two Vines Gewurztraminer

The last Gewurz for a while is a 2010 Two Vines from Washington State in the Columbia Valley that ran me about $10.



This is another very drinkable one with good body.  The label claims anonymous citrus notes for it.  I didn't get the "exotic spice" that they think it has.

In general, having drunk 3 or 4 Gewurzes now, my general impression is they're so close to Rieslings as to not be very different.  I guess I'm going to have to buy 1 of each, hopefully from the same place, and do a compare and contrast to understand the differences.

Now that I have 6 weeks of pinot gris/grigios and Gewurzes under my belt, for the next couple months I'm going to try something different.  I've bought a couple mixed cases of whites, and I have enough to last me through June.

So I'll be comparing those for 8 weeks or so, and later this summer I'll come back to pinot gris and Gewurzes and pick them up again.  (Not that I'm bored with them and think they all taste pretty much the same.) (Maybe.)

2008 Kim Crawford Pinot Grigio

Up today is a 2008 Kim Crawford pinot grigio from New Zealand's east coast that ran me in the low teens.



Another nice pinot with notes of apple and pear and good body, but another one that wasn't nearly as tasty after a night in the fridge.  Maybe they're too chilled and I should try warming them up slightly before I drink them on the second day?

Since this review is pretty much a clone of my last one, here's some interesting background on pinot gris/grigio grapes from wikipedia: "Pinot gris (also known as Pinot grigio) is a white wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. Thought to be a mutant clone of the Pinot noir grape, it normally has a grayish-blue fruit, accounting for its name (gris meaning "grey" in French) but the grape can have a brownish pink to black and even white appearance. The word pinot, which comes from the word meaning "pine cone" in French, could have been given to it because the grapes grow in small pine cone-shaped clusters. The wines produced from this grape also vary in colour from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink."

2010 Al Fresco Pinot Grigio

Earlier this week I drank a 2010 Al Fresco Pinot Grigio from the Veneto that ran me about $10.



I was trying to identify the notes in this wine; the label says pear, and I guess that's as good a guess as any.  Fairly fragrant on the first night.

Most wines overnight ok in the fridge corked back up, but for some reason this one didn't, and I only went one day before returningto finish it.  On the second day, the flavor was gone and it was almost offputting.  I didn't finish the bottle.

But for pasta salad or a light summer grill, if you'll be downing the bottle in one sitting, a nice pinot grigio.

2007 Viña Esmerelda

The last couple nights I drank a 2007 Viña Esmerelda from Catalonia that ran me in the low teens.  I think I may have reviewed this a summer or two ago but it's not coming up in a quick search.



This wine is 85% muscat of Alexandria and 15% gewurztraminer, so that's how it fits into my current pinot grigio/gewurz drinking regime.

It's a pleasant enough wine, sweet but not overly so.  Frankly, just drinking it as a sipping wine didn't do that much for me.  I did look for chicken breasts at the store a couple days ago, which might have gone well with it, but didn't find anything that would feed less than a family of 5. (Yes, I could have frozen some.  Let's move on.)

The label recommends it with shrimp/seafood cocktails (I also thought about getting some of those) (shouldve wouldve couldve), fish, and pates, and I can see this pairing well with any of those.  Also pasta salad maybe.

Not a standout but a nice refreshing white.

2007 Firestone Gewurtztraminer

Over the weekend I drank a 2007 Firestone Gewurztraminer from California's Santa Ynez Valley just north of Los Angeles.  (I'm going to use the French spelling so I don't have to mess with the umlaut.)  This ran me about $13.



This one much more body than the first one.  Very fruity, either apple or pear notes.  Not terribly "spicy" but that's ok.  I drank some with both a grilled pork chop and a snack later one evening, and it went well with both.  I probably could have drunk the whole bottle at a sitting if I hadn't watched myself.

In short: very nice wine, and it's close enough to a Riesling that people who think they don't like Gewurztraminers should like it too.

2011 Alexander Valley Gewürztraminer

I started my gewürztraminer drinking for the summer that will provide a contrast to the pinot gris/grigios.  The first one is a 2011 from Alexander Valley Vineyards in Mendocino County.  It ran me about $10.



First, a little introduction to gewürztraminer from Wikipedia: "Gewürztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin colour, which makes it a "white wine grape" as opposed to the blue to black-skinned varieties commonly referred to as "red wine grapes". The variety has high natural sugar and the wines are white and usually off-dry, with a flamboyantbouquet of lychees. Indeed, Gewürztraminer and lychees share the same aroma compounds. Dry Gewürztraminers may also have aromas of roses, passion fruit and floral notes."  I'll be telling more about it as the summer goes on.

So on to this first one.  It was ok, kind of on the meh end of the spectrum.  The label says it has notes of grapefruit and pear and some minerality.  Their recommendation is to pair it with spicy food, which of course is what it's famous for in the Old Country, with Alsatian cuisine.

Since this is my first one of the season, I don't have anything to compare it to.  Not a bad wine, just not the one for me.

2010 Girlan Pinot Grigio

Today a 2010 Girlan pinot grigio from the Veneto that ran me about $12.


This had interesting notes that I couldn't identify.  Lemongrass came to mind as one possibility.  In general the wine was lemony.  The acidity wasn't overwhelming, and it was balanced by just the right degree of sweetness.  I used some for making soup; it might not have been the wine for that, though.

In general a nice pinot grigio to go with chicken or maybe Asian cuisine.

2009 Oliver Pinot Grigio

Today a 2009 Oliver pinot grigio from southern Indiana that ran me about $10.



Oliver is based not too far from me in southern Indiana, and I really haven't tried their wines as often as I should.

This wine was nice but nothing special as pinot grigios go.  As the label says, "light, crisp flavor and fresh acidity."  A little sweeter (which I expected as it's aimed at the Indiana market) (not to be snarky there, but let me introduce you to my sister).  The sweetness balances a nice dollop of acidity, and it has nice fresh fruit notes.  My main complaint with it is it just doesn't have much body.

Certainly worth checking out for the price to go with seafood or a light summer meal.

2011 Villa Malizia Pinot Grigio

Today's moral:  If you buy a $5 wine, it will probably taste like a $5 wine.



This pinot grigio was on sale at Aldi's so I thought I'd try it.  Drinkable, but that's about all I can say about it.  More towards the acidic end of the spectrum, not much sweetness to balance.  The label claims notes of pear and peach and floral aromas but I didn't get any of those.

OK to have on hand to pull out in a pinch to drink with fish or use for fishing, but spend a little more for a better wine.

2011 Rose'N'Blum Pinot Grigio

Today a 2011 Rosenblum pinot grigio from Sonoma that ran me about $12.



Of the handful of pinot g's I've drunk thus far this spring, this would be my favorite.  A nice balance of sweetness and acidity, not as tart as the last one.

It also has some interesting notes.  I initially thought rose water, maybe influenced by the bottle.  The label claims lemon sorbet and orange sherbet (a classic example of silly label writing, as if anyone can tell the difference between a sorbet and a sherbet note).  But I would agree that this is very citrusy, close to drinking a sorbet from a bottle.

All in all a nice pinot grigio.  I bet it would go great with shrimp.  Maybe even some cheeses.

2011 Joel Gott and 2011 Be Bright Pinot Gris/Grigios

I've started my pinot gris/grigios summer with a 2011 Joel Gott from Oregon (bottled in Napa) and a 2011 Be Bright from Beringer in Napa.  (To be exact: the Joel Gott is a gris and the Be Bright is a grigio.)  Both cost me about $12.



Since these are my first of the season I'm not in a position to comment much on them.  The Be Bright has orange in the nose, a tad sweet for me generally, and in general on the bland side.

The Joel Gott was decidedly more acidic, like a lot of sauvignon blancs.  Perhaps a little lemony.  In general it was a little too acidic for my taste.

Neither one is a bad white for the price.  They'd be good with seafood.  I'm looking forward to trying others.


2010 Albert Bichot Secret de Famille pinot noir

To wrap up this pinot noir winter I drank a 2010 Albert Bichot Burgundy pinot that ran me $17 from invino.com



In a word: meh.  Ok but a typical pinot, it didn't blow me away at all or even make me want to finish the whole bottle.  No different subtleties of flavor.

The label says this would be good with grilled salmon, and I would agree with that, though the price might be a little high for a weeknight grilling out.  Not a bad wine but not a favorite.

I have one bottle of pinot noir left, but I'm going ahead and switching over to spring and summer pinot grigios/gris and Gewürztraminers.  To sum up my experience with pinot noirs this winter, again, in a word: meh.  If I never drink a pinot again I doubt if I'll miss them.  They're lightweight for my taste.  I just read an interview with Chris Noth, and he seems to agree with me; he said he thinks the pinot fad is overdone.  On the other hand, I really liked most of the petite sirahs I drank over the fall and winter.  They had more body and interesting flavors and were a lot more to my taste.

I hope you've enjoyed reading my tasting reports.

2006 Iron Horse Sangiovese Rosé

The last couple nights I was sipping a 2006 Iron Horse Vineyards sangiovese rosé that ran me about $11.



Iron Horse is in Sonoma County near Sebastopol.  (A nice web site at www.ironhorsevineyards.com.)

I was developing a taste for rosés with the pinot-based ones I've been drinking lately, but this one set me back.

It wasn't bad, but the fruitiness was on the cranberry end of the spectrum, a little too tart for my taste.  I did like the spice notes in it.

I mainly drank this without food.  I'm guessing it might pair well with a good tomato sauced pasta or a pizza with lots of tomato.

2009 Stickybeak Pinot Noir

Today I've got a 2009 Stickybeak pinot noir from Sonoma.  It ran me $12 at invino.com.



This one didn't bowl me over.  The first glass or two I wasn't crazy about it all.  No special subtleties of flavor.  However, when I finished up the bottle the next night I liked it better.  Maybe it just needed more time to open up?

Not my favorite pinot but not a bad one either for the price.

2011 Lyric Pinot Noir

Next up is a 2011 Lyric pinot noir from Santa Barbara.  It ran me $19 from invino.com.



As I said last time, maybe pinot is finally growing on me, but I liked this one too and finished most of it the first night.  I used some of it to cook some corned beef for St Patrick's Day (forgetting that it was $19 ...).

I caught notes of what I thought were violets when I poured the first glass.  In terms of drinkability, no special subtlety of flavor, but it hangs together well.

In general a nice wine, and I'm betting it would pair great with grilled chops.

2010 Cupcake and 2010 SeaGlass Pinot Noirs

Today I'm killing 2 bottles with 1 stone, both 2010 pinots from California, a Cupcake from around Livermore in the north and a SeaGlass from around Santa Barbara.




(The iPhone is going for fuzzy chic, as you can see; it's not your eyesight.)

Either pinots are finally growing on me towards the end of my pinot drinking season, or else I'm stumbling on some that I just like better.  I liked both of these with a slight edge to the Cupcake.

I was thinking I've had a Cupcake varietal in one of my past drinking seasons (Sauvignon blanc maybe?) and wasn't all that crazy about it.  The label describes it as very cherry with a spice edge to it.  It wasn't as cherryish as the one a few weeks ago, but this is certainly very fruity and went well with food.  The label suggests pairing it with a mushroom risotto (which seems to be the new hot food on wine labels to suggest pairing with), and I'd agree with that.

The SeaGlass also wasn't bad although I didn't like it quite as much as the Cupcake; it was more of a generic pinot.  The label claims "juicy cherry flavors ... [and] vibrant acidity".  I don't know about the acidity bit, which you don't tend to find on pinot labels, but it was certainly a nice wine.  I'll agree with their suggestion of a pairing with roast turkey.  Sounds good right now, actually.

Earthquake Petite Sirah

The last couple nights I drank a no date petite sirah from Lodi Vineyards in Grafton, CA, a suburb of Santa Barbara.  It ran me about $25 (mostly for the cut-out label and silly poem on the back, apparently; and the bottle weighs as much empty as most bottles weigh full).



Honestly, it was well worth the $25.  Maybe not the top petite sirah I've drunk this winter, but deep and rich with a note I couldn't quite put my taste buds on -- smokey maybe?  It was like drinking a fine balsamic vinegar.

As I was drinking it I was thinking this would go great with a London broil.  Nice wine; poem kind of lame.

2008 Rothschild Pinot Noir

The last couple nights I drank a 2008 Baron Philippe de Rothschild pinot noir from France's Pays d'Oc that ran me in the low teens.



I wanted to like it, but in general my reaction was meh.  The first sip or two right out of the bottle (aerated) tended towards the vinegar end of the scale.  After a few minutes it opened up and more sweetness came into the mix.  It wasn't bad with food.

The label claims notes of morello cherry (I don't know what those taste like), blackcurrant (sort of, dried ones), and violets (I've had violet liqueur), but in general this struck me as a pretty generic pinot noir.

On the second night I liked it less than the first and didn't finish the bottle.  I may have gotten stuck with a lemon bottle, but in general I'd recommend other pinots for the price.

Waterford, Part I

I've start acquiring Waterford pieces in the last 6 months or so, some from the Shop NBC Waterford shows with the debonair Jorge Pérez, others from ebay.  I'm not into matchy-matchy, so I've been buying 2 and 4 of a particular stem.  Waterford has so many interesting suites (as they call them) or patterns (as we tend to call them) that I'm trying to get as many different ones as I can without going overboard (which, for me, will be hard).



This stem is a port glass in the Lismore pattern, one of their most popular suites.  Everyone you know has port glasses, don't they?  This is one of the few that I have 4 stems in one pattern.  (I have a purchase of 4 champagne flutes in an unidentified pattern coming from an ebay seller, and I'm looking forward to figuring out what pattern those are in.)

So I'm going to start a series here on Waterford as related to wines and other alcoholic beverages, and I hope you find it interesting.  I'll start by throwing out a few random facts that I find interesting.

Marquis by Waterford:  Patterns like Brookside and Sheridan -- Jorge will never admit it on air, but this is Waterford for the masses.  I haven't confirmed what I suspect, that it's cut by machine, instead of by hand like many of the more expensive patterns.  I also wonder if it has a lesser lead content.  Now, that's not to say you should stick your nose up at it.  I bought some for everyday use, and it's great for that.  One of the cats knocked a glass off the counter and broke it, and at roughly $6 a stem, you don't mind that as much as you would a $50 a stem wine glass.  And, if you bought 12 (now 11) of a stem and you find you really don't like it, you don't hesitate to give it to a friend who does or sell it at a rummage sale (the Marquis Brookside iced beverage glasses; anybody want them?).

Lismore:  It's a very popular pattern/suite now celebrating its 60th anniversary, but I find it a little uninteresting compared to some of the older patterns.  Look at some of the more complex (and pricey) ones like Maeve or Hibernia or Castlemaine.  This port glass is in Lismore and it's a very nice glass.  I'm just saying, for your wine glasses or other larger pieces, look around at the older patterns too.

One final thing for today:  Competing crystal -- You have Riedel from Austria, which is very nice but doesn't tend to have cut patterns, Nachtmann from Germany (now owned by Riedel), Cristal d'Arques, the big French company; Tyrone, a now closed Irish manufacturer but you can still find their products secondhand; and others like Edinburgh (intricate thistle designs) and Rosenthal and of course Baccarat (which I find boring).  I bought some Cristal d'Arques flutes at about $15 a stem, and they definitely have much less heft than comparable Waterford flutes, which is not saying I don't like them or they're not worth the money.

Next time I'll go into the history of Waterford.  If you see a listing on eBay like I just did claiming a set of sherry glasses dates from the 1930s -- don't believe it.

2008 Brancott Pinot Noir

In this issue of The Amazing Spider-Man our intrepid hero fights ... oops, wrong blog.  Today we have a 2008 Brancott pino noir from New Zealand's South Island.  It ran me about $11.



The label describes this pinot as having "silky, smooth tannins" and "ripe cherry and red berry fruit flavors".  Not to be snarky, but what pinot couldn't this description go with?

Like the label description, I thought this wine was ok if generic -- one that I'd drink with a good pizza (not store bought frozen).  The first night I drank it I thought the first glass had a few off notes, although I'd aerated it.  The next night I liked it a little better.  It wasn't undrinkable like the pinot a week or so ago, but not more than average either.

Even if you're just eating pizza or spaghetti and meatballs you can find a better pinot for the price.

2009 Nicodemi Cerasuolo Rosé

The last couple nights I've been sipping a 2009 Nicodemi Cerasuolo rosé from Abruzzo (across the boot from Rome) made from Montepulciano.  It ran me $13 at invino.com.



I'm just going to quote invino here:  "The 2009 Nicodemi Cerasuolo Rosé is made in the only appellation in Italy that’s regulated to make rosé by the traditional technique, which is setting aside a certain lot of fruit for rosé alone - hence, the deep and dark (yet romantically elegant) color of this wine."

Cherry is the distinguishing note in this rosé, and I'd agree with that.  It tastes a bit like drinking cherry Jello.  The invino description also gives notes of macerated strawberries and marzipan (=almonds), which I'd agree with too.

A bit on the Montepulciano grape from wikipedia: "The grape is widely planted throughout central and southern Italy, most notably in AbruzziLatiumMarche,MoliseUmbria and Apulia, and is a permitted variety in DOC wines produced in 20 of Italy's 95 provinces. Montepulciano is rarely found in northern Italy because the grape has a tendency to ripen late and can be excessively "green" if harvested too early."

The invino description says this works as an aperitif or with desserts, both of which I'd agree with.  A nice, flavorful rosé for people who don't think they like rosés.

2011 The Other Guys Petite Sirah

This week I tried a 2011 petite sirah bottled by The Other Guys that ran me about $12.  TOG are based in Napa (www.togwines.com).



I liked it, but this is one of those rare wines that I liked better by itself, not with food.  When I drank it with food, it just didn't seem as subtle as it had going solo.

When I sipped it without food, I got an unusual note that I couldn't identify.  I looked at the label, which claims 'delicate fig aromas', and I knew right away that that's what I was getting.  (Not so sure about the 'deep old vine flavors'.)  I'll also agree that it has a 'delightfully sweet finish'.

A nice petite sirah at a good price.

Wine and Food Pairing Chart

Lifehacker.com linked to this chart for matching food (including vegetables) (as if those all taste the same ...) to wines.  It looks a bit like an electrical schematic but interesting and probably helpful.

Wine Chart

2008 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir

The last couple nights I drank a 2008 Kim Crawford pinot noir from New Zeland's Marlborough region.  It ran me about $16.



The label claims oak, red berries, the usual dark cherries.  A nice wine, perhaps a little sweeter than a lot of high end pinots, but not bad by itself or with some pasta and gravy that I had tonight.

Well worth checking out for the price.

2010 Trivento Reserve Pinot Noir

The last couple nights I drank (or tried to) a 2010 Trivento Reserve from the Mendoza region of Argentina that cost me about $10.



In a word: Yuck.  When I first opened it and aerated it, I got a small glassful down.  I wasn't crazy about it, lots of unpleasant notes, but it at least tasted like red wine.  I thought it might be better after sitting overnight.

I wuz wrong.  When I tried it the next night, I took one drink and threw the rest out.  Very unpleasant taste.  I might have just gotten a bad bottle, but I'm not putting out another $10 to find out.

You can find some decent pinots for $10 (so I've heard, can't say I have), but this one isn't one of them.

2011 Cameron Hughes Lot 391 Field Blend

Last weekend I drank a 2011 Cameron Hughes Lot 391 red Field Blend, which is a mix of zin, petite sirah, and syrah.  It ran mne about $15.


The label describes it as having "aromatics of cassis and raspberry" with "ripe texture and pure fruit deftly ... in a lovely mouthful."

It was ok but it didn't blow me away.  I drank a glass with chips and salsa, and it did go very well with the spicy salsa

I bet this would go well with ribs or grilled burgers.

2010 Napa Cellars Pinot Noir

Today a 2010 Napa Cellars pinot noir that ran me in the mid-teens.



Not a bad pinot and drinkable, but pretty generic, no special notes to my taste.  The label claims notes of cherry, strawberry, and spice--again, all pretty generic to most pinots.

I drank it with some bean soup and it went well with that, and with white cheddar for a snack.  The label suggests trying it with salmon, tuna (I agree it would go well with either of those), and grilled chicken.

An OK wine for the price, good choice for a dinner party or grilling.

2010 HandCraft Pinot Noir

Last week I drank a 2010 HandCraft Artisan Collection pinot noir that ran me about $25.



Frankly I've drunk other pinots that were cheaper and that I liked better.  I had their petite sirah a few weeks back and my reaction to that was sort of meh too.

Nothing wrong with this wine; if you want a nice red for, say, chicken or sipping in the evening it should be fine.  I just didn't think it was very distinctive.  The label says they add a bit of sangiovese, which adds spice and berry notes to the mix.  Pinot already is known for "berriness" just by itself although I may have picked up the additional spice notes.

An OK wine but if you like pinot you can do better for the money.