Monday, February 8, 2010

Fransican Merlot 2004... 3 Liter

This bottle definitely turned the heads of my friends!  A great looking label and bottle doesn't do much for me though, I need to find out what's going on inside the bottle.  I was determined to try this wine, since I was told it may not last much longer, and so I began hacking away at the big wax covering the cork.  After about 10 minutes of using improper wax removal tools, I finally got to the cork... I think they used a whole cork tree on this one!  After making our "Big Cork" jokes, I was finally ready to try the wine...

Right out of the glass I could tell it was going to need some time to breathe, but I gave it a try anyway.  Sure enough, it was dry and tannic, in fact it was very tannic.  This made me question if I had made the right decision in opening the bottle in it's 5th year of development, but I believe I made the right choice.  It seemed like it was going to open up very nicely, so I remained patient as the game went on.

As the wine opened up throughout the evening, right around the middle of the second quarter, I enjoyed the big soft Merlot fruit that came through in every sip, surely a well made wine, but I noticed that the tannins were still very pronounced.  I was hoping that they would have softened up as time went on, but it seems that they are just a part of this wine.  If I had to guess, I would say that this wine definitely stayed in contact with stems and leaves for a bit longer than it was intended, or at least longer than I can appreciate in a Merlot.  Now with food, it was fine, and complemented the Cheese and Artichoke Dip rather well, but to stand alone the tannins were quite overpowering.

I am glad I was the only one to try the wine, because I don't think the others would have been able to appreciate the good merlot fruit, which it did display, through the mouth drying tannins that were practically unavoidable.

Now this bottle of merlot usually sells as  a 750ml for about $20, and I think there are much easier drinking merlots that show similar fruit for less.  So as I grade this wine, I will have to give it a NO GO, it is just Not Able!

Thank you for reading, I look forward to your comments and suggestions!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Averill Lake California Cabernet 2006 $12, round 2

I was recommended to try this wine, because I asked for an inexpensive Cabernet that was a good typical style of Cabernet Sauvignon.   I like to take a recommendation from the store clerks to see where there tastes are, and how accurate their recommendations are.  I should have remembered this guy's name, because I think he made a great recommendation on this one!

Averill Lake 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon drinks great right out of the bottle, and after 3 days of being "Vacuu'Vin'd", it is holding up quite well.  I like to see how much "mileage" I can get out of my bottle, and this one was just the same, if not better 4 days later!  It probably would have developed fine with the original cork put back in, giving it a little oxidation, but I didn't take any chances, now I know for the next time.

It has a clear dark ruby to purple color, and a pale rim.

On the nose, I smell sweet candy, ripe black fruit, black currant, a hint of chocolate, and vanilla.  The alcohol comes through a little on the nose, giving it a bit of spice.

On the palate, I get some nice fruit up front balanced well with medium acidity, and medium tannins.  The finish is short lived, but pleasant, making me want to go back for a second sip...

... I get that big candy fruit right away on the nose, and fresh fruit comes in right at the tip of the tongue.

This wine will drink well into next year and may last a few more, but I think it can be enjoyed perfectly now with your favorite red meats, burgers, and would go great with a wine cheese pairing, maybe some sharper cheeses that can cut into the fruit and tannins... if you have any ideas on cheeses, let me know!

I think this wine is well worth the money, and since I found it for $10, it's a bargain!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tasting Basics and Appropriate Temperature - Notable Wine Style

Now that I have given you a few suggestions of wines to try, I thought it would be a good time to give you some pointers on how to Appreciate your wine to the fullest.  After you get a few suggestions from your friends, the wine clerk, or most importantly me :-), you take your wine home and let the games begin...

A.  If it is a white wine or sparkling, you will chill it, and if it's red you'll want to keep it at around 55 to 60 degrees, just below room temperature.

B.  When you are ready to serve, open your red and pour it at least 10 minutes before you are going to drink it.  Most reds will benefit from being in contact with the air for a bit (there are some exceptions in really cheap, crappy wines, but we won't go there on this blog!)

1.  SEE THE WINE - This is your first step in appreciation.  Swirl it around in your glass, notice the color, is it yellow-gold?  is it pink?  is it light ruby?  is it dark purple?  Notice the rim or very edge of the wine, if it is older, it will have a darker, brownish hue, younger wines will maintain the same color throughout it's entire body.  Is the wine clear?  The answer to these questions can tell you so much about the wine before you even get to step 2...

2.  SMELL THE WINE - This is where so many people miss out on the true appreciation of what they are drinking.  I'm sure you've heard it before, but I can't say it enough, most of your wine appreciation will come through your sense of smell in one way or another.  We only taste 5 or six different senses, but our sense of smell is what gives us the great opportunity to enjoy and describe a beverage, all made from grapes, in so many differing and exciting ways.  Now when you first start tasting and appreciating wine, it probably will just taste like fermented grape juice... But your sense of smell will open up a whole new world, so get creative and sniff before you sip and think before you gulp.

3.  SIP THE WINE -  Take it in for the 3rd step.  Let the wine touch every part of your mouth, the tip of the tongue to find any sweetness and residual sugars, the middle probably won't get much since wine does not contain particularly salty components, the sides and back of the tongue will sense the acidity.  A good wine should have the perfect balance between sweetness (fruit) and sourness (acidity).  And finally the very back of the tongue and gums and cheeks will sense the tannins as a drying effect.  Tannins are a main ingredient in wines that are meant to age, high tannins = lasting wines, low tannins = drink now.

Since the sense of smell is so versatile, you will also be using it to describe how the wine tastes.  Although it is important to note the sweetness and acidity, doesn't it just sound nice to say a wine tastes like mushrooms, wet leaves, and tar???  Ok, not so much to me, but some people actually like that, go figure.

One other important "tasting basic" to note is the decision to Spit or Swallow...  The decision will depend solely on your purpose for tasting the wine and only you can decide what you will do and when you will do it.  If you are enjoying your wine with a meal, chances are you are going to drink it down and enjoy every last drop!  However, if you are tasting in a class, something I will be doing very soon, you will be going through many wines, and cannot consume too much alcohol, otherwise you won't be able to appreciate all the subtle nuances in some of the later wines....  So though I do love to enjoy my wine and drink it down, there is always a time and place to spit it out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nanny's Wine Blend...

I will attempt to tell this story in the most positive way possible, though it will be tough due to the simple fact that my grandmother recently passed away.  She was an excellent cook, and though I appreciated her food immensely as a child, I didn't get a chance to do as many wine and food pairings as I would have liked to.

If I could rewind a few years, I would open a nice bottle of Martin Codax Albarino with her famous rice balls to start out a holiday dinner.  With the shrimp cocktail, we could open a nice bottle of bubbly, maybe something easy like Zardetto Prosecco.  Then while the lasagna, sausage and peppers, and meatballs were heating up, I could decant one of my favorites, a Brunello di Montalcino... but there was just one catch.  You see my grandmother, or nanny, as we called her, did something that is so unimaginable to so many wine lovers.  She would add a little soda to her wine!  Now, when I was just a little boy, this didn't seem to be a problem to me, I liked soda, but as I got older, I did find it quite peculiar.  And when I really started learning about wine and getting to truly enjoy it in my early to mid 20s, I realized why nanny had to go to church every Sunday to ask for forgiveness, what a sin!

A few weeks ago I was talking with her and she told me the story of how she started drinking wine and soda, and she told me, " Sean, my mother used to put the wine in the soda, every night for dinner."  Well, I'm glad that habit was not passed down to my generation (although a few of my aunts still do it, ugh!)   I can only imagine that if she had some better wine to drink, maybe she wouldn't have created such a blend.  Either way, that's just the way it was, and I have learned a great deal from her and will miss her dearly.

I guess looking back, it was better that I saved the Brunellos and Grand Crus for those who had a better appreciation for them, however, I would still open my favorite wine today and let nanny pour her soda in her glass just to enjoy one of her home cooked meals with the whole family again! (the recipe that Nanny's mother created is shared across the world!)

Monday, January 11, 2010

A New Year and a Whole New Format...

I started this blog last year as a way to get myself back into the wine business, and boy, am I glad I did.  I have had an absolute blast trying many of the wines posted, and I'm even more excited about my new adventure.  I decided I needed to make a change and really follow another one of my passions.  If you know me, you know there are really only 3 things I am truly passionate about in this world: Music, Women, and Wine, and not in any particular order, they all please me equally.  Now, I am already a professional DJ and I have the opportunity to listen to all the new music every week, and reach back for those old classics to entertain people at parties each and every weekend.  I recently got engaged to my favorite woman in the world,  and we are going to get married up in Lake Placid, in September.  I am excited to spend my life with the woman I love so passionately.

So that leaves me with one passion left virtually unexplored.  Wine.  I first found my passion for wine at the Wine Cellars of Bernardsville, then in Millburn, then at Artisan, Bread, Wine, & Cheese in Chester, NJ.   At Artisan, I really honed my skills for detecting good wines from bad wines, a corked wine from an oxidized wine , and great values from overrated wines.  I had a great teacher and realized that I need to learn as much as I can possible learn about wine, wine making, and wine sales, so I can teach the new world of wine drinkers and connoisseurs at the very least how to make value wine picks.  So, I am going to be taking Advanced Wine Classes at the International Wine Center this winter.  I plan to  earn a scholarship for doing great in the class, so I can move on to the Diploma class and become a Master of Wine.  Currently there are only about 250 Masters of Wine in the U.S., and I hope to become the first from NJ... of course, I know there are a few people in line ahead of me, and I wish them all the best!

In addition to taking classes, and writing about wines, I will be working on my Vin Vlog for  It is in it's very early stages, and may take me a while to really get up and running, since I will be going through some intensive training over the next few months... but I will be sure to keep you updated as often as possible, and who knows,  I may be able to get some amazing footage during my classes!

So stay tuned, and tell your friends who love wine or are interested in learning more about it... this will be the Best Wine Blog in the World!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2 For Tuesday Adventure

Today I ventured out to some of the local wine stores to see if I could find any great values...

Aresti "A" Carmenere 2006, Chile - $10 (on sale for $5)
I had to pick this one up because it was on such a great sale and I wanted to try this varietal on its own.  It is a very unique grape and it is often used in blending, but this seems to be 100% carmenere.  From the first whif, it seems a bit funky, but once you get past that, you'll notice some dark ripe fruit and berry.  The wine is pretty well balanced, heavier on the fruit side, but enough acid to make it palatable.  This is definitely a food wine and it's not for everyone because of it's "unique" style.  So if you are up to try something out of the ordinary, give it a try.

La Tenuta Rosso di Montalcino 2006, Tuscany - $18 (on sale for $10)
This is very typical of this style of wine, a rustic nose followed by big fruit, this wine is very juicy, but I have had better.  In fact, I believe I have written about another Rosso recently, so look back a few posts to see something a little better.  I like my Rosso di Montalcino to be as close as possible to Brunello, so I suppose my standards are unreasonable... Overall, a good wine, worth at least the sale price... but not much more.

A fine adventure,  an excellent learning experience.  Cheers and Buon Bere!