Gabe's View

Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for June, 2009

Blackstone – 2006 Merlot

Posted by Gabe on June 28, 2009

Some wines are so ubiquitous that it strikes me as interesting to check in with them from time to time. My purpose in doing this is two-fold. On bmerlot-labelthe one hand I’m just curious to see how a wine is tasting from vintage to vintage. And on the other I’m always interested to taste something that has mass popularity; looking at that as a bit of a barometer of the general tastes of the average consumer. While not particularly scientific, it does fascinate me. Blackstome Merlot is such a case. For quite a number of years now this wine has been incredibly popular on store shelves, and in restaurants. I know that for many years this wine was the most popular Merlot in restaurants, it may still be the case but I’m not sure.

The 2006 Blackstone Winery Merlot carries a California designation. Fruit was sourced in a number of counties, Monterey at 58% was the most represented. The fruit is a blend of Merlot (85%), Syrah (9%), Cabernet Franc (2%), Cabernet Sauvignon (2%), Malbec (1%), and Petite Verdot (1%). French and American oak barrels were used to age 30% of the wine. While the suggested retail price is $12, this wine is widely available for between $8 and $10.

Ripe berry with a little lilt of jam fills the nose of this Merlot along with subtle violet and vanilla notes. Throughout the palate dark fruit notes such as blackberry, black cherry and plum are prominent. The medium length finish brings out white pepper spice and a touch of sour cherry. Overall this wine is approachable with a soft mouth-feel and gentle tannins. A grilled burger is the classic match for this wine.

The bottom line for me with the Blackstone Merlot is that it’s widely available and very reasonably priced. I find it to be a step up from the Yellowtails of the world in terms of varietal correctness and overall drinking pleasure. The fruit is perhaps a bit brighter than what I find in my favorite Merlots. But those aren’t available for $8 and aren’t necessarily made to satisfy a large gathering. For me that’s the appeal of the Blackstone Merlot. if you have a BBQ or party a lot of people who will drink a glass of wine but don’t necessarily spend countless hours obsessing over it are going to enjoy it. And the ones that do obsess over it, they’ll be glad it does in fact taste like Merlot.

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High Note- 2008 Elevated Malbec

Posted by Gabe on June 24, 2009

HighnoteOver the last several years the prominence of Malbec has grown in the United States. South American wines in general get more shelf space than they used to; Malbec is one of the leading growth categories within that. I for one am pretty happy about it. South America has long been a place to look towards for value. The increase in selection also means we’re getting more wines in every price range and that makes for more interesting choices. Today I’ll look at a value priced Malbec.

The 2008 High Note Elevated Malbec was produced by Vista del Sur Winery. Fruit was sourced in Argentina’s Uco Valley, which is part of Mendoza. Grapes for this selection were picked from five vineyards; they ranged in elevation fron 3,200 to 5,000 feet above sea level. In addition to Malbec (85%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), Cabernet Franc (4%), Viognier (2%) and Petit Verdot (2%) are blended in. This wine was aged in French (65%) and American (35%) oak; 24% of the barrels were new. This selection sell for around $12 but proficient shoppers will note that it can often be found for less than $10.

While there is only a small amount of Viognier blended in to this wine, it does wonders for the nose, adding a lovely floral quality. Blackberry, blueberry and vanilla bean are also part of the aromatics. The palate is rich, and tightly wound, with an array of deep, dark berry fruit flavors. The finish has continued vanilla, along with chicory notes and a dollop of lingering minerals. This Malbec has firm but approachable tannins and sufficient acidity. This offering, while tasty on it’s own will perform best when matched with rich, full flavored foods.

For a relatively low price point this Malbec offers good flavors and a particularly expressive nose. It’s a nice example of the varietal and indicative of the values coming out of Argentina. With BBQ season in full swing, here’s one to keep in mind

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Irony Wines – 2006 Monterey Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on June 23, 2009

As readers to this blog can attest I have a fickle relationship with Pinot Noir. irony PNIn theory I’m a huge fan. In fact if you force me to choose a favorite varietal, Pinot Noir is in the running, with a fighting chance to win. Sadly though there are a lot of Pinot’s from California, especially in the under $20 category that don’t live up to what this great grape should be. These subpar examples often have other varietals blended in to darken the hue or add something. The trouble is they take away more Pinot character than anything they add. So when I find an example in this price range that acquits itself nicely, I find it a reason for a minor celebration. Today I’ll look at one from Irony Wines.

This 2006 Irony Pinot Noir is produced from fruit sourced in Monterey. This wine is aged in a combination of both new and old French and American oak for eight months. 24,000 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $15.99.

Wild strawberries dominate the nose along with touches of vanilla and an inherent and appealing hint of cream. Throughout the palate, cherry and raspberry characteristics are on the forefront and underpinned by subtle spice. Earth, wild mushroom and white pepper are all part of a medium length finish. I found this wine went quite well with pork loin and rosemary roasted potatoes.

As I hinted at above what I like about this Pinot Noir is that it’s both true to the varietal and well priced. This is a genuine wine that’s widely available and sold at a reasonable cost. When it comes to California Pinot Noir those traits don’t intersect very often. This wine is made to drink now and will be enjoyable for the next couple of years. As far as everyday drinking Pinot goes, this is a solid choice.

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Cornerstone Cellars – 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on June 20, 2009

cornerstoneToday’s recommendation for a Father’s Day gift of Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Napa Valley. Travel to Napa and you’ll get to taste many different varietals, but one fact will quickly take hold; Cab is King. And with Dad being King on Father’s Day it’s only natural that a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon would make a nice gift. Today’s selection is from Cornerstone Cellars. This boutique producer of Cabernet makes just a few thousands cases of wine per year. At just over 1,200 cases their 2005 Napa Valley designated selection is their largest current production. Their wines are made by Celia Masyczek who is both highly regarded and sought after. Today I’m going to look at their, smaller production, Howell Mountain Cabernet.  This Napa Valley sub-appellation is located east of Calistoga. Elevations 1,400 feet and above, a lack of fog, early morning warmth and vineyards that fully ripen a bit later than the rest of the valley are all things that make Howell Mountain unique.

The Cornerstone Cellars 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of fruit harvested over a period of a month. This wine is 100% Howell Mountain and all Cabernet. Aging was accomplished over 22 months in French oak; 75% of the barrels were new. 620 cases of this vintage were produced. The suggested retail price for this wine is $100.

A couple of things are readily apparent about this Cabernet when you pour and taste it. The first thing is that it’s black as night; reminding me a bit of Petite Sirah in its hue. Second and not at all surprising is that it needs some air. There’s a lot going on the minute you pop the cork and taste it so you could be fooled into not decanting; don’t make that mistake. After an hour in the decanter the difference is beyond substantial. It’s like the distinction between taking a car with a big engine out on the highway and opening it up after having cruised neighborhood streets for an hour; only then can you truly appreciate the power of the engine. The same thing is true with this Cabernet Sauvignon.

Having given it that time to open up I found the nose to be full of effusive black raspberry, earth, mushroom and hints of leather. The palate is intense and layered with opulent fruit, bold spice and tremendous mineral notes that underpin things. The finish, which has terrific length, features ever emerging earth, dusty baker’s chocolate notes and echoing spices. This wine is very well structured.

What I like best about this offering is that it achieves its intent. The 2004 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a full throttle, ripe Napa wine with the added punch of mountain fruit intensity. All that said this wine is balanced and will age well. No doubt in fact that this Cabernet will improve for 15-20 in appropriate storage conditions. Personally though, I find its exuberance and explosive berry fruit hard to resist right now. So if Dad has been good this year and you decide to splurge on this wine for him, know that you are getting a tremendous example of Cabernet from one of the regions it flourishes in. If you’re lucky, he’ll share some with you.

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | 2 Comments »

Martin & Weyrich – 2005 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on June 19, 2009

Martin & Weyrich has become a standard bearer for me when it comes to MW-CABPaso Robles Wineries. They’re one of the larger producers and make a broad selection of offerings. They also manage to maintain a high level of quality across those offerings. It’s unlikely to love every selection from a winery, particularly one that makes as many releases as Martin & Weyrich does. The bottom line though is that by and large I find their wines, well made, appealing, and interesting. More often than not they are also priced fairly. All that said, when I decided to taste through about a dozen Cabernet Sauvignons so I could find a handful I felt comfortable recommending as Father’s Day gifts it seemed natural to check in with the latest one from Martin & Weyrich.

The Martin & Weyrich 2005 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is made from fruit sourced at the Weyrich Family Ranch. Aging was accomplished in French oak for 24 months. 188 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $30.

This wine is a touch closed up at first and some time in the decanter is recommended if you’re drinking it now. Once it opens up, berry, bramble and cedar notes emerge in the nose of this Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. Black cherry, black raspberry, nutmeg and crushed white pepper are prominent throughout the palate. Dried cherry, earth and a touch of espresso all emerge in the finish which is of above average length. This wine is well structured and has firm acidity. Roasted game or pasta with a hearty meat sauce would be excellent matches for this Cabernet.

People are discovering Paso Robles, but it’s still not a household name, meaning there are still a lot of values to be had there. This Cabernet Sauvignon is one of them. It’s $30 but would be a lot more if it came from a region that was better known. In this price range it’s a bonus to get a Cab that you can easily lay down for 7-8 years. If you want to splurge a little on Dad get him two bottles of this wine; one to drink now and one to age.

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Two Angels – 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on June 18, 2009

2angelsThe second Cabernet Sauvignon I’m going to recommend as a Fathers Day gift is from Two Angels. The winemaker for the Two Angels releases is the Legendary Bob Pepi. He makes a wide range of quality wines for several producers in the US and abroad. The 2006 Two Angels Cabernet Sauvignon is made from fruit sourced on Sonoma’s Mayacamas Mountain, In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (76%), Merlot (18%) and Cabernet Franc (6%) were blended in. This offering was aged in a combination of French (85%) and American (15%) oak for 18 months; 40% of the barrels were new. This selection is finished in screw top. 600 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $27.

Leather, cherry and vanilla notes are all prominent on the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Throughout the palate, layer after layer of cherry and spice are present. Earth, mineral, black tea, pencil lead, tobacco and light truffle notes all emerge in the persistent finish. This wine has good structure and acidity. This Cabernet would be an excellent match for Pork Carnitas or other flavorful meats.

The elegance of this Cabernet is what stood out most to me about it. From the moment you open and pour this wine it’s immediately smooth and graceful. It’s gentle and refined but keeps coming at you with wave after wave of complex flavors and characteristics. This release will be enjoyable for the next several years. This is an offering that tastes more expensive than its $27 price point. Buy this Cabernet for Dad and he’s sure to think you spent more on his gift than you actually did.

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Martin Ray – 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on June 17, 2009

Father’s Day is coming up this week and I’m sure many people are still mr_cab_03_lbwondering what to get Dad this year. I can tell you, I’m pretty certain Dad does not want a tie. Somehow neckties have come to symbolize the classic bad Father’s Day gift, or at the very least the default one. This year get your Dad a bottle of wine. In particular I think you should get him a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Over the next few days I’m going to present several Cabs that I recommend at different price points. Depending on your budget and Dads taste there should be one in there that works for you. The first one up is from Martin Ray Winery.

The 2006 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from fruit sourced in Napa, Sonoma & Mendocino Counties. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), this wine has Merlot (18%), as well as Cabernet Franc & Syrah (2%) blended in. This offering was aged in French oak for 24 months. 9,500 cases of this Cabernet Sauvignon were produced and the suggested retail price is $20.

Dark berry fruit with a slightly funky edge, vanilla and eucalyptus are all part of this Cabernet’s nose. Throughout the palate there is a solid and persistent core of fruit as well as a significant spice component underpinning it. Chocolate, mineral, black tea, a touch of pencil lead and continued spice are all elements of the above average finish of this wine.

What I like best about this selection is that it has excellent balance and proportion. The blending of fruit from three diverse Cabernet Sauvignon producing counties helps make this wine multi-faceted in style. It’s got nice structure and tannins that yield with some air. While this isn’t a Cabernet that you’re going to lay down for a long time, it’ll drink nicely over the next 3-5 years. Shop around and you’ll find this wine for close to $15. The Martin Ray Tri-County Cabernet is a good value and a delicious gift for Dad.

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | 1 Comment »

Michael David – Sixth Sense Syrah

Posted by Gabe on June 15, 2009

6thlabelToday I’ll look at the third wine in a row from Michael David. The majority of the wines they make are produced from Lodi fruit. They’re clearly proud of their Lodi heritage, brandishing their appellation on their front or back labels. And it seems like a mutually beneficial situation. The wide availability of their wines has likely made many more people aware of their region than would have known about it otherwise. By and large their offerings are also excellent examples of the bold and sumptuous wines that Lodi fruit often produces. Today I’ll look at one of their Syrahs.

The 2006 Sixth Sense Syrah has small amounts of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. The name of this wine comes from a nickname for the Phillips Grandpa Don. He’s known to have a knack for predicting certain things; This Syrah was aged in French oak for 18 months. The suggested retail price is $17.

Plum, blackberry and kirsch liqueur notes are prominent in the demonstrative nose of this wine. The palate is laden with rich, opulent ripe fruit flavors. While other berry notes are apparent, cherry is the star of the show. Imagine fresh cherry pie with a chocolate graham cracker crust, that’s what the middle of this wine reminds me of. Black pepper plays a role but doesn’t fully emerge until the finish which also shows earth and a touch of bramble.

What I like most about this wine is what strikes me about the Michael David Wines in general. That is, it’s an unabashed expression of big fruit and lavish flavors; still and all though these wines are not over the top. Not every big and boisterous wine is a good one. This Syrah from Michael David is an example of one that is.

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Michael David – 2007 Petite Petit

Posted by Gabe on June 14, 2009

As I mentioned yesterday I’ve had several of the Micahel David wines over the years. There are a handful of them that I keep in my cellar ppregularly. All that said there are a few that I’ve never had. The wine I’m looking at today, Petite Petit is one of them. I’m a huge fan of Petite Sirah which makes it surprising to me that I hadn’t gotten to this one before now. But that’s been corrected.

The 2007  Michael David Petite Petit is produced from Lodi fruit. This wine is a blend of Petite Sirah (85%) and Petit Verdot (15%). This offering was aged in French oak for 15 months. The suggested retail price for this selection is $18.

Violets, plum, blueberry and nutmeg are all part of this wine’s nose. The palate is rich, jammy, velvety and loaded with decadent and inviting berry fruit flavors. Blackberry is the standout characteristic. It’s not quite blackberry pie though. There are some vanilla elements and fresh pastry notes that put me in the mind of blackberry and currant scones. Dusty cocoa, white pepper and continued nutmeg are all part of a nice finish. Sufficient acidity keeps things in check.

As I mentioned I’m a sucker for good Petite Sirah. and while Petit Verdot is most often used in Bordeaux style blends I think it really adds a lot to this selection. The lush and velvety mid-palate is most likely a result of the healthy percentage of Petit Verdot in the blend. There are a handful of solid Petite Sirah’s in the budget category that have been consistent year after year. Concannon and Bogle are two that come to mind. This release from Michael David is a bit more than those, but for the extra money you get an additional wallop of flavor. I’ll be very curious to see if this wine is as consistent from vintage to vintage as the other Michael David wines. As it stands this wine is a nice value and a good example of both Petite Sirah and what adding Petit Verdot in can bring to the party.

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Posted in Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Wine | 1 Comment »

Michael David – Incognito Rhone Style Blend

Posted by Gabe on June 13, 2009

incognitoA number of years ago someone poured me a glass of Seven Deadly Zins, that was my first experience with the Michael David wines. Since that time I’ve gone on to have quite a few of their offerings. Their Earthquake Petite Sirah is one of my favorites, year to year. A couple of things always strike me about their wines. They tend to be big, bold, full throttle offerings, loaded with flavor and indicative of the Lodi region where fruit is predominately sourced. Secondly I’ve found their wines to be pretty consistent from vintage to vintage. Over the next few days I’m going to look at a few of their current releases, the first one up is a Rhone style blend.

The 2006 Incognito is a blend of Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Cinsault, Carignane and Grenache. This selection was aged in French oak barrels. The suggested retail price for this offering is $19.50.

This Rhone inspired blend has a pretty striking nose, filled with blackberry, blueberry, cinnamon and clove notes. The palate has a host of dark, juicy and inviting fruit prominently featured throughout. Smoke, licorice, chocolate, subtle earth and a hint of bacon fat all emerge in the finish which is of medium length. Firm acidity keeps everything in check.

What I like best about this wine is that by combining many of the varietals typically found in a Rhone blend with fruit from Lodi, what emerges is an offering that brings both regions to mind. This wine retails for close to $20, but if can often be found much closer to $15, sometimes less. At that price this is  great wine to reach for during a large gathering. The diverse flavors this blend offers will please a variety of palates.

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