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2007 Waboomsrivier Pinotage – Western Cape

I don't generally enjoy Pinotage, and this is very good wine. The typical Pinotage burnt rubber is nowhere to be found. Instead, it is a very nice glass of sweet toasty black fruit. Wood is obvious but not overwhelming. Instead, it adds a light background of sweet wood-burned maple to plums, boysenberry, and blueberry. This is a good food wine, too, for the sweet wood and fruit are balanced by acids that will happily complement well-marbled beef. Drink this with a big Ribeye and some creamed spinach.
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2007 Celler de Capçanes Mas Donís Barrica – Montsant

A pleasant and interesting wine, leading with plum, raspberry, cranberry, and spicy hints of cayenne and thyme. Light tannins and acids are there in good balance. The mid-palate is lacking, dropping from attack to simpler one-dimensional juice, but retaining the peppery pop. It's a good burger and fries wine but a ribeye would knock it out in the first round.
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2007 Domaine de Montcy Cheverny – Loire Valley

Standing alone this is thin and slightly sour, but as a food wine it comes into its own. It has some light red juiciness and a touch of licorice, but the unique and surprising flavor is a sea-spray saltiness. For many this will be a curiosity, and for some it will be a treat. Pair it with dry-rubbed barbecue on a hot afternoon.
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2008 Olson Ogden Pinot Noir, Manchester Ridge Vineyard – Mendocino

Gorgeous translucent ruby color with clear edges, pure Pinot noir, with no tell-tale purple edges hinting at Syrah in the mix. When first opened it is a full plate of heavily smoked meat, like slow-smoked pork with a perfect pink ring. After a couple of hours of decanting, though, the red fruit comes through with nuances of tiny wild strawberries, Michigan cherries, and some cranberries. It is all shot through with a healthy dose of smoke (more mesquite than hickory), and a bit of the aforementioned BBQ pork, but far milder than when first opened. The finish is long. This is very good wine and a terrific bargain. Good luck finding it, though. Only 155 cases were made.
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1997 Château Haut-Brion – Graves AOC, France

Tasted with 1997 Cheval Blanc, Château Margaux, and Mouton-Rothschild, the Haut-Brion clearly stood out as the most balanced and complex of this fine lot. Minerality was remarkable. Wet gravel and scorched earth formed the base for red currant, sweet wood, and smoked meat flavors. Tobacco and mint added counterpoints to the mild fruit flavors, clearly giving way to the secondary flavors of a mature Bordeaux. This is ready now and in this down ‘97 vintage unlikely to improve with additional age. If you are in New York, take it to Keen's, order the Mutton Chop, and pay the corkage fee. Don't forget to offer a taste to your waiter (and the envious wine steward).
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2006 Santa Quiteria Almansa Loma Gorda – Spain

This is just absurdly good for the price. Blackberry, mulberry, and black cherry all float above a cloud of cigar smoke and tar. There is also a tremendous mineral streak of molten rock. Tannins are taught but smooth. Drink with a pot roast and both will be better for the pairing.
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2008 Cave Spring Riesling – Niagara Peninsula VQA, Ontario

This wine is off-dry (17.5g/L residual sugar) with sufficient acid to give a sensation that it is drier. Floral aromas lead to pear, apricot and honey flavors, the sweetness counter-balanced by lightly tart key lime. Cloves and all-spice show on the mid-length finish. This uncloying but slightly sweet wine would be a great pairing with spicy Thai or Vietnamese food.
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2006 Robert Hall Rhône de Robles – Central Coast

This moderately priced Rhône blend spent 14 months in a blend of French and European oak, and it shows. There is plenty of cherry and a little rhubarb, but the wood is slathered all over the fruit, overwhelming it. Sweet tannins and a maple flavor are wood-derived, making a difficult food match. Not recommended.