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2008 Joseph Drouhin BEAUNE PREMIER CRU (Burgundy, France)

Date: Fri, Jan 24, 2014

This is from purchased (not estate) grapes. Made from a mixture of vineyards that are all premier cru level. This is a delicate yet persistent rendition of a Pinot Noir.

Light ruby garnet color. Delicate but interesting nose of ripe cherry extract with a slightly sour note, enveloped in warm, earthy, gravelly scents. Lithe in the mouth, bone dry flavors of earthy, winey cherries and loads of minerals immediately hit the palate, but in a very light framework. Very linear, the wine stays light and almost ethereal in texture yet the flavors linger. A wee bit of tannin adds a physical presence. Drinking really well now (though it likes air: it was better the second night after being under a Vacu-Vin enclosure), I think this will last another 1 to maybe 3 years. B+. Was $29.99 from WTSO.com, so not that great a bargain relative to other wines, but a good bargain as compared to usually fairly expensive Joseph Drouhin wines.

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2010 Luigi Righetti VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE RIPASSO "Campolieti" (Veneto, Italy)

Date: Wed, Jan 22, 2014

This was really good. Mouthwatering acids balanced nicely by beautifully ripe fruit. I really liked the 2009 of this wine, and this is just as good if not a bit better.

Vivid dark ruby color. Nose took a while to open up, but eventually yielded inviting scents of ripe mixed berries, ripe plums, fruitcake, and a wee bit of earthiness. Very crisp, but ripe and smooth in the mouth. Just a pure pleasure to drink. Medium full body, the antithesis of heavy, but with nice concentration of ripe, winey plums and blackberry. Long, pure-tasting finish. This is a great choice with any tomatoey Italian pasta or braise. Will last at least 2-3 years and maybe longer. Was $15.99 at Trader Joe's at Bailey's Crossroads. A-. Imported by Prestige Wine Imports, NYC.

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2008 Fontanabianca BARBARESCO "Bordini" (Piemonte, Italy)

Date: Mon, Jan 20, 2014

Jaysus! This was like putting a skinny badger in your mouth. Fiercely tannic and unfriendly. I kept the bottle open, uncorked, for a full 24 hours to see if it softened a bit, and it did, but not by much. If you have this, forget about it for 10 years, and maybe -- maybe -- it will come around. If you don't have it, don't get it.

Color is a deceptively unsaturated medium dark ruby garnet. The first night, the nose was all dry underbrush and scorchiness. Little fruit. Night two, it was a bit better. Dry gravel, minerals, and tart cherry on the nose. In the mouth, the first thing that hits isn't the flavor but the texture: very aggressive tannin puckers the mouth before it can register any flavors! On night one, I got nothing but tannin. On night two, I at least got some cherry fruit to go along with the "dried leaves"/scorchy trademark of an overextracted wine. I'm not sure this will ever come around. I can't give it a letter grade. Let's just say "?"I got this for $29.99 from WTSO.com, making it a bad value and making me feel foolish.

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Top 10 dirty words (or phrases) for wine

Date: Mon, Jan 20, 2014

When I see these words on the front label, back label, or in promotional materials or tasting notes for a wine, I immediately am skeptical:

  1. "Aged in French oak ___% new" -- if it's a Spanish or Italian wine;
  2. "Super Tuscan" -- I will not drink a f__cking Merlot (or Cab) from Tuscany (also, see #1 above), especially if the vines are taking up valuable space in the Chianti Classico zone;
  3. "Scorched earth" in tasting notes -- usually signifies a bitter, overextracted wine;
  4. Alcohol 15% or higher -- a few Zins and Grenache based wines can handle it, but not many;
  5. Chardonnays from anywhere but Burgundy;
  6. Riesling from California or Australia -- with certain exceptions. In lower latitudes where the sun is intense, wines picked early to mimic German low alcohol levels and high acidity usually aren't phenologically ripe yet, and so just taste green;
  7. Malbec -- Most of those from Argentina are overripe, overoaked, and many have gritty tannins. The ones from the Loire (where it's called "Cot") are lean and mean. Those from southwest France are frequently scorchy and bitter and too tannic. I just don't get why this crap is so popular, other than the easy-to-pronounce name, which people apparently enjoy saying;
  8. Georges Duboeuf -- industrial Beaujolais;
  9. Louis Latour reds -- do they still quasi-Pasteurize their reds? I don't know, but they did it for so long, with flat-tasting lifeless wine the result, that I will not throw money away on these unless I'm absolutely sure they don't anymore; and
  10. "Chocolate" in the tasting notes -- this means the combination of overripe fruit and way too much new, toasty French oak.
I know I'm overgeneralizing here, and there are exceptions, but I'm just telling you how I initially react to these words. I have limited money, so I don't usually plunk it down when these initial warning signs are present.

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2008 "DFJ" Touriga Nacional/Touriga Franga (Lisboa, Portugal)

Date: Sun, Jan 19, 2014

This was inexpensive, but I had reasonably high hopes for it, since it's from a relatively cool climate area. But it was like any typical overripe "international style" red you can get from some industrial Argentina Malbec or Chilean Carmenere. (I've never met a Malbec I really liked, though I have had a Carmenere or two that were quite good, though most are overripe fruit bombs.) Plus it's at the end of its life. The second day, it was flatness and showed a bit of oxidation, even though I had stored it under a Vacu-Vin. Not a good sign. C-. Was $10.99 from the European Import Store on Pershing and Washington in Arlington.

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2010 Jean-Paul Brun FLEURIE "Terres Dorées" (Beaujolais, France)

Date: Fri, Jan 17, 2014

Another old school Beaujolais from this producer. If you like your Beaujolais lean and minerally, this is for you.

Dark ruby garnet. Dark smoky, rocky minerals take the lead in the nose, with hard cherry candy fruit scents. Lean, crisp, and persistent in the mouth. With minerals from start to finish, and crunchy cherry, plum fruit. Great acids and some very fine tannins mark the finish. This is not vacuous, fruity, fun Beaujolais, but a wine made for dinner duty. B+. If memory serves, I got this for around $21 at table and Vine in West Springfield, MA when I was up there last fall. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

(Sorry, 2009 depicted.)

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2012 Altes Herencia GARNATXA NEGRA (Tierra Alta, Spain)

Date: Sat, Jan 11, 2014

This was a fantastic value, but it needs a lot of air to hit its stride.

Vibrant, dark, violet-tinged ruby. The first night, the nose was almost reduced, showing a little of that tank stink. Nights two and three it really started to shine. Loads of ripe, lively dark raspberry and dark cherry fruit, augmented by loads of stony minerality. Straightforward flavors of lightly spicy, very pure tasting dark raspberry extract. Fairly full-bodied but with really nice balance. Hard to stop drinking. A fantastic weeknight dinner wine. Decant this a few hours ahead of time, and use a Vinturi type aerator if you have one. B+. This was $10.99 from Zachys.com, making it, as mentioned above, a great value.


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2010 JL Chave COTES DU RHONE "Mon Coeur" (Southern France)

Date: Wed, Jan 8, 2014

A dark and clearly Syrah-based CDR. Nice if you like the style (I'm more of a Grenache man). But it's too pricey at this quality level.

Saturated black ruby with violet overtones. Nose leads with loads of rocky minerals and some lightly scorched earth. Dark and low-toned flavors, again showing scorched earth, blackberry skin, and aged beefy notes. Quite a bit of tannin and body, but it's got decent acids. Not a lot of complexity, but a bruiser that has lots of character. B. This was around $20, I believe, from Zachys.com. Imported by Erin Cannon Imports, Manhasset, NY.

(Sorry, 2008 depicted.)

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2012 Beckley Family Vineyards ZINFANDEL "Reserve" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

Date: Fri, Jan 3, 2014

Not my style of Zinfandel. Anymore, at least. 15 years ago, I think I liked this style a bit more. A massively ripe fruit bomb, with low acids and a fair amount of heat in the finish.

Dark blackish ruby. Rich nose of smoky ripe blackberry syrup and a bit of fruitcake. Weighty but a bit dead-textured in the mouth. Lots of low-toned blackberry ooze fruit. No acid to speak of and very heavy body. Fairly simple. Here's my simile: Like drinking the liquid version ofan old 20-lb. barbell you found at an estate sale of some guy who recently died at age 93. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Actually, there is.C-. Was $15.99 from WTSO.com.

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2010 Rutherford Ranch Old Vine ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, CA)

Date: Thu, Dec 19, 2013

A unique style of Zinfandel. But it's pretty good and not very expensive.

Startling light color for a Zin. Basically a medium light ruby. The first night, the nose was kind of funky, throwing off some stewed prune and acetate notes. But the next night was much better. There was a melange of superripe blackberry, fragrant baking spices, and warm sandstone. Full-bodied and loose-jointed in the mouth, maybe lacking a bit of focus and concentration, but with lots of minerally blackberry fruit swimming around. A bit of heat shows through in the finish (it's 15% for Pete's sake), but it's not out of balance. Drink over the next year. This would be very nice with winey beef stews and pot roasts. B/B+. Was $14.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax.

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2010 I Giusti & Zanza "Nemorino" (Tuscany, Italy)

Date: Tue, Dec 17, 2013

I usually don't buy non-DOC Italian wines, especially from Tuscany, because they're usually non-indigenous varietals and tend to be heavily oaked and "international" in style. I hate that shit on principle. But my research indicated that this 60% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, 20% (f*cking) Merlot is aged only in large casks for a short period, and was grown organically near Pisa. So I gave it a shot. I like it.

The first night it was very tight and unyielding. I got nothing out of it. Good thing I didn't review it then. But I put it under Vacu-Vin for two days and came back to on night 3. Much better.

Very dark, black ruby with violet highlights. On night 3 the nose showed very precise dark cherry fruit, framed nicely by slightly smoky, rock dusty- minerals. Concentrated, focused fruit in the mouth, with nice persistence and texture. Medium-full body and great acids. Finishes just a tad shorter than I'd like, but is very pleasurable. The fact that it took so long to show itself tells me this wine will age nicely for a few years. If you're going to drink it in the next 12 months, be sure to decant it in a huge decanter several hours ahead of time. This wine will go well with a wide range of dishes.B+. Was $14.99 from WTSO.com. Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

PS -- I have to say, the label just sucks. Really stupid.


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UPDATE: 2010 Thunevin-Calvet "Cuvee Constance" COTES DU ROUSSILLON-VILLAGES (Southwest France)

Date: Wed, Jul 10, 2013

This wine, which I previously reviewed several months ago, has softened and opened up appreciably. It now warrants an A-. Fragrant, intense, very linear, loads of intense stony minerals. Very clingy flavor persistence. I have one bottle left, which I'll try to hold off on drinking for at least another year.

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2010 Three Wine Company OLD VINE FIELD BLEND (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

Date: Sat, Jul 6, 2013

I really like old vine reds from the freakishly deep sands of Contra Costa County. They really represent a unique American terroir. This wine is composed of 100+ yr. old vines from26% Zinfandel, 25% Petite Sirah, 25% Mataro, 20% Carignane, 3% Alicante Bouschet and 1% Black Malvoisie. And it's really good.

Very dark, plasma-like ruby/violet. Enchanting nose of rich berries, cocoa powder, minerals, and ashy embers, with a single line of tangy rhubarb at the end. Rich, low-toned, and darkly berryish, with a the cocoa component still there. It's quite dry, with lots of soft tannin coating the sides of the mouth. And despite the 15.2% alcohol, there's some very nice acidity buoying everything up. Although this winery's single varietal wines tend to be a little mote expensive than its "field blend," I think I usually like the filed blend a little more. A-. If I'm remembering correctly, I think I got this several months ago for around $18 from WineAccess.com.

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2010 Simmonet-Fevre CHABLIS PREMIER CRU MONTMAINS (Northern Burgundy, France)

Date: Sun, Jun 30, 2013

This is a big, extroverted Chablis.

Very pale gold. Nose burbling over with green apple, peach, lemon, and chalky minerals. Fleshy, flashy, and vigorous in the mouth. The first day the fruit was at the fore, and it seemed ripe, intense, and somewhat simple. But the next day, the minerals were out in force, with intense chalky-stoniness overshadowing the still ample fruit. The first night it seemed almost -- unusually for a Chablis -- like there was a bit of residual sugar, but as it aired, that sweetness decreased. By the second day it seemed bone dry. Good acids for such a large-limbed Chablis. What it lacks in complexity and elegance it makes up in sheer force and vigor. B+. Drink over the next 2 years, over which it will probably gain a bit of complexity. Was $21.99 from WTSO.com, and imported by Louis Latour, San Rafael, CA.

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