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2008 Veranda Cabernet-Carménère

A well-made wine that shows both component grapes off very favorably. Intriguing nose of cedar, blackcurrant, thyme, and allspice. Blossoms open on the palate (after about 15 minutes to breathe, perhaps longer) with gobs of ripe fruit ferrying cranberry and blackberry overtones. A bit short in the mid-palate, with the lean Carménère a bit more dominant, but has a long, luscious finish. An interesting wine at a good price. Try with glazed pork chop or roast. Recommended. GT
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NV Sean Thackrey Pleiades XIX Old Vines

This particular Pleiades (XX has also been released) is a symphonic, multilayered blend that keeps changing at every sip, with spices jumping over red fruit, richness competing with acid, eucalyptus rolling in over earthy, gamey notes. It’s unlike anything else, for sure, an unidentifiable drinking object that defies definition and expands the possibilities of what wine can be. Highly recommended. RC
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2008 Girard Signature

The nose is a little tight, suggesting blueberries and tobacco along with a light background of red fruits and licorice. It offers some interesting complexity in the palate, too, with loads of dark fruit, blackberry, elderberry, and blueberry, with a bright red fruit background. The mid-palate has coffee and licorice, the finish adds unsweetened chocolate. Tannins are very sweet, mouth-feel is very smooth. Complexity seems to come from fruit (plus, perhaps, some extraction), not from wood. The wood effect is clear but light, adding touches of spice but not overwhelming the original juice. It would be at home with a steak or a great burger, or a fireplace and a friend. Highly recommended. DH
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2007 Bellview Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Blended with 8% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot (in addition to the Cabernet), this is fairly straightforward with currant and blackberry fruit and subtle earthy spice. The oak is a bit overt on the finish, which is also a bit short, but overall this is a solid Cab from a lesser-known region.
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2009 Ridge Geyserville

The bottle says 14.5% alcohol. My nose and eyeballs suspect if might be well north of 15%. This is a big wine, with brawny red fruits, a bowl of mixed cherries ranging from barely ripe to nearly black and strawberries to match, fighting it out with blackberries in a ring made of American Oak, refereed by a box of raisins. Sweet dusty tannins abound, but there is enough acid to match. This might settle down and blend together with a few years in the cellar. It is more a stand-alone snack than a food wine, but if you must, match it with a very sloppy cheese steak sandwich. Recommended.
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2009 Achaval-Ferrer Quimera

Achaval-Ferrer is famed for producing extremely complex—and extremely expensive—Malbec, but their Quimera blend (made from malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot from varying locations and in varying percentages) is a steal even at forty bucks. Quimera is a demanding wine, with huge structure, dark fruits, and savory, herbal notes. It’s also a unique wine, blending the best of Argentina’s Malbec qualities with those of red grapes usually associated with Bordeaux and California—and in the best years it can age for decades, gaining similar complexity, nuance and elegance as its much pricier counterparts north of the equator.
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2007 De Martino Las Cruces Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines

Winemaker Marcelo Retamal is developing a well deserved reputation as one of Chile’s visionaries, and this field blend red (made mostly from Malbec vines planted in the mid 1950s) shows why. This wine is the full package: tobacco smoke, meat, chocolate, dark plum, juicy and silky—which basically means that the tannins are rounder and approachable now. Focused, expressive, and sure to be empty at your dinner table in before-you-know-it timeframes.