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Exceptional Value from Columbia Valley in Washington State


I think this wine might be the value of the year so far. At a first taste, the wine opens with lush aromas of black fruit, tobacco and spice. On the palate, the wine is firm, rich and intense, with layers of black cherry, earth and cedar flavors. A wine exhibiting these characteristics in itself is a terrific wine. Now let’s consider this: The price of this wine was $11.00 upon release. I actually bought it for $10.00 at Woodman’s in Madison, WI. This bottle was part of a horizontal taste of international wines from the 2007 vintage that I conducted last Sunday for a group of wine enthusiasts. Among these fabulous wines were Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet, Allegrini Veronese, Joseph Phelps Le Mistral and Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec from Mendoza. The average rating for all the wines was 90 points taken from scores of Magazines ranging from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast to Wine and Spirits. Our wine enthusiast friends could not agree on which wine was the best and for good reasons. Every palate is different, we all know that our genes control the process of degustation and ultimately the selection of wines we like. However, the we all were able to agree in monetary terms. The Columbia Columbia Crest Grand Estates was the clear winner given that it was the only wine under $20.00, let alone it only costs $10.00!

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Amarone from South America? Not quite, but quite good!

Amarone from South America? Not quite, but quite good!

Enamore is a joint collaboration between Allegrini, the famed Italian producer of Amarone, and Bodegas Renacer, one of the top new-age producers in Argentina.
This wine is produced similarly to Amarone wine in that the grapes are subjected to appassimento, a process in which the grapes are dried outdoors in mats to shrivel until the grapes have lost about 1/3 of their mass, helping them increase sugar concentration. At a glance, the name Enamore is simply the Spanish term for falling in love [with this wine for example]. However, a closer examination of the term would reveal that the word Enamore is a play on Amarone. Scramble the letters in Amarone and you’ll get Enamore. The grapes are sourced mainly from Lujan de Cuyo which is located between 850 and 1000 meters over sea level. Without a doubt, the resulting wine is a complex blend which is composed of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bonarda. This fantastic wine exhibits aromas and flavors of earth, chocolate and dark, dried fruits. I would suggest to serve it with roasted meat, earthy dishes featuring mushrooms and game. I bought this bottle in New Hampshire Liquor Store for $23.00. Cheers

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Spicy Mouthfull of Blackberry and Currant from Down Under

Warm Climate Gem from Down Under

What a better way to combat Monday blues than sipping a Barossa Shiraz from South Australia. As the picture may suggest, I asked Dr. Cheryl Vaughan, biochemist and wine quality assurance extraordinaire, to do the honors of leading the tasting this evening.

What We Tasted Tonight


Wolf Blass Gold Label
This 2002 Barossa Shiraz from Wolf Blass is ripe and still vigorous for this vintage, explosive with its blueberry, currant and licorice aromas and flavors, which persist through the finely tuned finished. After about two hours of aeration, the wine started turning lighter and leafier, developing slightly metallic notes. I figured I would do an experiment and open a more recent vintage of the same wine for good measure, adding a system of control and minimize any prevailing biased. Predictably, the newer vintage was rich and spicy with more peppery and licorice notes than the older vintage. The result: The wine is definitely a value wine because while young is packed with fruit and spice. As it ages, it looses in a somewhat harmonious fashion the bulk of the fruit. But, after 12 years, it should be ready to be consumed now that it is at its peak. It should decline in a year or two.
I purchased all vintages of this wine at One Stop Liquors in Pawtucket, RI. The wine staff is not really friendly and they are not very knowledgeable about wine, but they certainly more than make up for their deficiencies with great prices at $16.00 per bottle.

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Great meritage, braised short ribs and great company.

Great meritage, meat and great company.

Yesterday I had the chance to open a bottle that I had been saving for quite some time: Chappellet. This Chappellet Mountain Cuvee is a classic Bordeaux blend. The Cuveé designation means that the wine is a blend and this particular cuveé was made by selecting the best batches produced from mountain slope fruit within the Chappellet Estate, consisting of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc.

Composition

This wine is fruit-forward, exhibiting a subtle juiciness without being jammy, an indication that the winemaker, Phillip Corallo-Titus, handled really well the challenges of the 2008 vintage. The wine maker suggests this wine is for near-term consumption. However, when I first tasted it in 2010 I thought it was complex enough to do some experimenting with mid-term cellaring. Now, the wine shows waning flavors of concentrated red cherry and plum, while oak-ageing adds a toasty note on the finish. The tannins are well integrated, providing a lingering and pleasant finish. The finish isn’t the memorable kind but the kind that will accompany braised meat well. I felt compelled to open this bottle while Ginny Garcia was visiting Providence. I had slow-cooked short ribs the previous night, leaving plenty of leftovers for next day. After a few minutes, our conversation lead us into tapas time. The short ribs were so tender, with all of their fat rendered and added roasted red peppers, this meat dish was crying for some tannic wine to help break down the proteins. Call it happenstance or call it organized chaos, the combination of conversation, short ribs and Chappellet worked out just fine. I purchased this wine at Yankee Spirits in Attleboro, MA for $26.00.

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Wine Tasting in Chicago, IL @ Loop Liquors

Wine Tasting in Chicago, IL @ Loop Liquors

On a recent trip to Wisconsin, I stopped by Loop Liquors in Chicago for a collaborative engagement with Ted Kontos. He is the owner of Loop Liquors and his place is totally awesome. How many liquor stores would let you open and drink the wines you purchase? Next time you’re in Chicago please visit Loop Liquors at 1610 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622. The selection is modest but well worth it

What we had

90 + Lot 71

Among the many bottles we feature that afternoon, this Malbec was the clear winner. The point of the tasting was to showcase the best wines in the store under $20.00; this bottle really delivered. A fairly elegant expression of Malbec from Valle de Uco in Mendoza, Argentina. The wine opens up with violet and cherry aromas, underscored by a touch of sandalwood. Upon tasting the wine, there is an unresolved tension between its juiciness and its acidity. This tension however, is nicely framed by soft velvety tannins. Perfect for “Empanadas de Carne” estilo pampero, or meat turnover Argentinian style.

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A Gem from Spain: Abadia Retuerta Selección Especial

A Gem from Spain: Abadia Retuerta

This wine hails from Castilla y León, by El Duero region in Spain. However this is NOT a Ribera Del Duero! Instead, the village Sardón del Duero has lent its name to this wine which is produced just outside DO Ribera del Duero by Abadía Retuerta. After opening, the wine is restraint at first, but it gradually shows off its charming side. A classic old-world style with subtle flavors of blackberries and minerals. With additional aeration, it comes out of its shell exuding wild herbs and vanillin scents, gaining power and texture with every sip. The exact composition of Selección Especial varies from year to year, but one can find in different ratios traces of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes. Further flavors are enhanced by 16 months of aging in French and American Oak barrels. Purchased at NH Liquor Outlet for $22.00. One would be hard-pressed to find a bottle from the fantastic 2003 vintage. But essentially any vintage of Selección Especial would satisfy old-world palates.

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Fruit bombs also count!

Fruit bombs also count!

Consider this 2006 Napa County Merlot a fabulous one. This Merlot from Folie à Deux is fruit-centric, like many of its Sonoma Valley counterparts. This incantation is well-balanced and loaded with cherry and blackberry scents. On the palate, the wine remains fruit-centric showcasing notes of red plum and red cherries. The tannins are subtle and yet polished. Finishes with good length, perfect for grilled meats, grilled mushrooms and mild cheeses. Folie à Deux typically produces excellent wines sourced from Sonoma Valley, particularly from Alexander Valley. This Napa version is not only rare, but a true gem! I bought this bottle at Stop One Liquors in Pawtucket, RI for $19.00.

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2007 Napa Cabs are holding on steadily. Here is a great example

2007 Napa Cabs are holding on steadily.  Here is a great example

I opened this BV Napa Valley wine last night as a quality assurance exercise since I will be holding a horizontal tasting of 2007 this weekend. Mind you, I paid $16.00 for these bottles at Yankee Spirits in Attleboro, MA. This wine is a solid value. You’ll find plenty of red fruit notes that give way to nuances of cedar and ‘Rutherford dust’. The integrated tannins makes the finish long and extremely pleasant. Initially, I thought I would need a slab of meat to help tame the tannins, but after 60-90 minutes of aeration, this wine is quite food friendly. Think cheeses, charcuterie, tapas and the likes. Cheers!

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What does Traveling, Visualization and Wine have in common?

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That I have a keen interest in all three. Through this blog however, I invite you to explore one of my true passion: the world of wine. I have a knack to find true gems which allows me to explore beyond the established flavor boundaries, re-educating and expanding my own palate. True gems for me represent quality wines of any varietal or blend at affordable prices from any region in the world. I am a wine enthusiast; some may say I am a wine philosopher. I am currently serving as the wine resident for Harvard Neighbors at Harvard University. I have taught wine classes and led wine tasting in Argentina, Canada, England, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain and of course in the USA. Nevertheless, I am intent on providing a thorough representation of my own palate and sharing my views about the wines I taste for the benefit of other wine enthusiasts–friends and family in particular.

Code of Ethics
I believe that everyone deserves a thoroughly pleasant experience while visiting this blog. Everyone deserves an opportunity to express their views on any topic discussed in this blog regardless of who they are and regardless of their views in topics discussed in this forum. I will also write only about my own experience while reporting on wines I have tasted and I will not get my views be influenced by factors other than my palate and my wallet. I shall adhere to the this Code of Ethics and I request that all visitors, contributors, and volunteers will do the same.