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2009 Monteviejo Lindaflor Chardonnay

Golden with a greenish tinge, this Chardonnay has enough flavors of crème brûlée, vanilla, golden apples and apricot preserves—along with enough gorgeous, mouth filling complexity—to get Napa winemakers in a nervous sweat. It’s a steakhouse worthy Chardonnay, built for potatoes and lobster, for about half the price as you will find in Napa, and with what seems like twice the food friendly acidity.
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2009 Alamos Chardonnay

Alamos Chardonnay, made by the high-volume division of the Catena family’s Argentinean wine empire, is pretty good at being what it’s supposed to be. It’s a tasty Chardonnay, with a varietally correct profile of citrus, toasted bread, and vanilla. It’s not too big, drinks easily—and costs under $10 in most places in the US. Overall, the Alamos is actually a lot more pleasant than many other equivalent brands at equivalent prices. What’s missing is a sense of place, a more precise definition of character, beyond the varietal one. That extra layer of personality is something you’d be disappointed not to find in your glass, if you’re going to spend $50 on one of the higher end wines from the Catena Zapata range. But for a pleasant summer quaffer, technical achievement can do the trick. Recommended.
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2008 Trapiche Malbec

Interesting, and reasonably priced. A few extra dollars are worth it for a next-tier-up wine. Fruits are deep black, mostly blackberry, made darker with a generous helping of unsweetened chocolate and black pepper. It also has a surprising zing of cayenne pepper, showing through on the mid-palate. There is some wood effect but it is not overpowering. Acids are high, equally matching the generous tannins. It is a little one-dimensional, lacking much evolution from attack to finish, but has depth worth the price. Pair with a Flinstone-sized rack of beef ribs. Recommended.
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2008 Valentin Bianchi Chardonnay Famiglia Bianchi

This wine did not fare well in the Palate Press Grand Tasting, scoring only two stars out of five. The wine tastes of a laboratory, not a vineyard. Oak treatment is obvious. The classic apple of chardonnay appears here more like apple flavoring that apples from a tree. The finish falls off quickly, followed by a bitter after-taste. Not recommended.
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2007 Vina Alicia Paso de Piedra Malbec

A special Malbec indeed. An opulent nose with black currant and licorice with some oak (but not overwhelming) at the back. A lively follow through on the palate with soft tannins singing low harmony to a higher range of slightly bittersweet chocolate and dark plums. Finishes with perfect pitch. Very approachable now, should get even better with 2 or 3 more years on it. Match with grilled steak, just as they would do in Argentina. A lovely wine and a superb value. Kudos to the composer—er, winemaker.
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2007 Rutini Wines Trumpeter Malbec – Mendoza, Argentina

I held this a little longer than usual for a wine at this price point, and was rewarded with spicy black and red fruit. Elderberry, black and red raspberry, and black pepper, all with violet undertones, flowed through the glass. There is still wood, but the vanilla and touch of cedar complement, rather than overwhelm, the fruit. The finish is short, but good for the price point. Even better, at three years of age, this gem might be found in you local store's bargain bin. If it is, grab them all. Even if it isn't, at this price why not grab enough to get you through the summer? This would be a great match with burgers or steaks on the grill.
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2006 Familia Zuccardi Bonarda Serie A, Mendoza, Argentina

The use of wood is obvious and provides much of the flavor. There is a lot of fruit, cherries with a little blueberry, but vanilla, butter, baking spice, and tannins all come from the wood. Bonarda is usually lighter and brighter, with cherry, light tannins and light acids. In this wine the grapes are upstaged by the wood.