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1987 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Date: Mon, Apr 5, 2010 Wine Tasting

It's always amazing to taste the older bottlings of Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I think the last one I tasted was a 1974 Mondavi Reserve with a bunch of friends. I didn't leave specific tasting notes for that bottle, but I remember it holding it's own against the 1974 Chateau Margaux that we tasted the same night, which if you read the review I gave it 98 points.

I'm not entirely sure how well the Mondavi wines are being made these days, but when the old man was still around and actively involved in the process, the wines were world class.

The bouquet of this wine was far superior to any of the wines we were tasting this night. In fact, in my notes I said it was a 100pt nose! Here's some of the descriptors I wrote: Spearmint, herb, bark, wet stone, and cherry. An amazing nose that evolves every 30 seconds in the glass.

On the palate the wine was also quite amazing but was just lacking a bit of intensity and finish. Flavors of stewy cherry tomato, leather, herb, cherry, and slight hints of spearmint were some of the descriptors I used to describe the wine. The tannins were totally integrated and the wine was soft and elegant. The finish was just slightly short, which was a bit disappointing. 92 points

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2005 Kistler Durell Vineyard Chardonnay

Date: Mon, Apr 5, 2010 Wine Tasting

The Durell Vineyard lies in the southwestern Sonoma Valley, almost in the Carneros appellation. This wine (as with most Kistler Chardonnay's) is a big, voluptuous, full-bodied effort, that will sing to most California Chardonnay lovers. I previously reviewed the 2004 Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay and thought it was quite good.

On the nose I get aromas of toast, butter, golden apple, caramel, and ribbon candy. Although I couldn't find the tech data regarding the barrel fermentation, I would bet this wine is aged for some time in new, heavy toast, French oak barrels. It has a distinct smokiness and weight that suggests heavy wood fermentation.

On the palate I get flavors of caramel apple pie, toasted oak, smoke, and butter. This wine (although very delicious) is somewhat one-dimensional in character. It's round and mouth coating, but extremely oak driven and buttery. It doesn't display enough fruit character and is almost all spice and wood. 89 points

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2005 Redoma Vinho Branco Reserva

Date: Fri, Apr 2, 2010 Wine Tasting

I really don't get the opportunity to taste a wide variety of dry, white wine from Portugal, so this wine definitely sparked a bit of interest for me. It's produced by Niepoort which is a winery that specializes in both still and fortified wines. Click here to find out about the winery.

This particular wine is composed of several native Portuguese varietals called Rabigato, Codega, Donzelinho, Viosinho and Arinto. The wine was barrel fermented in 90% French oak for a total of 8 months, but does not undergo malolactic fermentation.

When I first took a whiff of this wine I immediately thought of a classic white Burgundy. It has a bouquet that is very reminiscent of clean, fruit-focused Chardonnay. However, as the wine starts to open up in the glass, more mineral and grassy notes start to appear, which turned my thoughts to Sauvignon Blanc and perhaps Spain's famed Albarino. Some descriptors of what I smelt were mineral, lemon curd, toast, citrus, and fresh wild flowers.

On the palate the wine boasts a round and slightly oily texture and shows flavors of mineral, lime peel, wet pavement, and very light hints of toast.

To be completely honest, I was expecting a lot more from this wine in terms of overall complexity. I think the Wine Advocate scored this wine like 93 points or something.....Anyways, all in all it's a well crafted wine but I can easily see many $10-15 dollar wines showing as well as this. 88 points

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1989 Château Pichon-Baron

Date: Fri, Apr 2, 2010 Wine Tasting

Chateau Longueville au Baron de Pichon-Longueville is the actual title of this wine, but most refer to the wine as "Château Pichon-Baron". It's one of Bordeaux's fourteen "second growth" wines and like most famous Bordeaux Chateaux it has a history that extends back for centuries.

The vineyards at Pichon-Baron cover 73 hectares of typical gravel, and are planted with 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine is typically aged in French oak barrels for up to 18 months, using 70% new and 30% one-year old, with racking every 3 months.

I'd first like to thank a special friend for always being generous and sharing these beautifully aged gems with me. It's great to have the money and/or patience to be able to partake in wine experiences like these, but if your lucky enough to have generous friends like I am, then it borders on sublime!

The 1989 Pichon-Baron is still very deep in color and displays only slight discoloration or brick-like hues towards the edges of the glass.

The bouquet can be characterized by gorgeous aromas of cherry, leather, chocolate, cocoa powder, and slight nutty-cashew nuances. It's quite typical of an aged Bordeaux showing great complexity and intense, chameleon-like aromas.

On the Palate the wine is still rich and heavily structured, displaying the power of the 89' vintage. The fruit is very pure a delineated, showing flavors of black cherry, earth, chocolate, and subtle hints of herb. A classic representation of the strong Pauillac wines made in this remarkable vintage. 95+ points

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1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-St-Vivant

Date: Wed, Mar 31, 2010 Wine Tasting

For those of you who have ever tasted a bottling from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, you'll be able to attest to the greatness and fabulous complexity of their wines. Do they merit the price tag?($500 and up) Maybe not if you're comparing them to the kind of quality Pinot Noir you can obtain from both California and Oregon. However, what is unique to the tasting experience of a wine like this, is the incredibly history and exhilarating nostalgia involved in drinking something that only a small percentage of the world's population will ever have the chance of experiencing. That being said, this wine was great regardless of reputation and the awe that surrounds drinking a famous bottle of wine.

I'm not going to get into the history and story of this wine but if you're interested in the vineyard then check out the wiki on it here.

Important to note is the color of this wine which appears to be slightly fading and has a rusty and slightly brick red/orange hue. The core is still red though and the wine appears to be holding it's own after twenty years.

The bouquet of this wine is extremely complex and perplexing. I truly must have studied it for around 15 minutes before even taking a sip. It's an aroma profile that is constantly evolving throughout the tasting experience and one that is haunting and completely unique to the terroir of the vineyard. Some of the descriptors I wrote down to explain this phenomenon were: stew, earth, mushroom, red apple skin, cherry tomato, boiled potatoes, hint of mint, plum, and beef stew.

On the palate this wine showed flavors reminiscent of red apple skin, savory cherry sauce, mineral, stewy beef, and earth. It reminded me of blood for some reason! Maybe I was half in a coma by then, but I wrote the word "blood" like three times in my notes!!

What's strange is that I've certainly had wines that tasted better than this, but oddly enough I haven't had many that I have enjoyed or thought about more.....I guess that's really what these great Burgundies are all about....Mind-blowing Complexity. 95 points

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1993 Dominique Laurent Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru

Date: Tue, Mar 30, 2010 Wine Tasting

My experience with Grand Cru Brugundy is somewhat limited up until this point in my wine career. I've probably tasted a couple dozen of them both at trade events and at private parties. I do however, regard them as some of the best wines in the world when they are in prime drinking form. Burgundy as we know, is such a fickle wine region filled with so many great wines but very limited quantities and notoriously spotty vintages. The 1993 Dom. Laurent Mazis-Chambertin is a brilliant wine that is very much still an infant and is drinking amazingly.

The first thing to note about this wine is it's amazing color! It shows little to no signs of aging, besides a bit of sediment. The core is extremely dark red, with only the slightest bit of thinning toward the edges of the glass.

On the nose I get stunningly bright notes of cherry that combine with chalky-mineral, cola, sarsaparilla, herb, tea berry, sweet tobacco, anise (on the highest registry), and smoked meat. What is so great about this wine is the complexity and ever-changing bouquet. Every ten minutes this wine seems to morph into a completely different animal.

On the palate this wine is still very much heavy-laden with lots of tannin and acid, suggesting the youth and exuberance remaining after 17 years. I get flavors of cherry, leather, tobacco, black plum, tea leaf, and slight metallic notes on the finish. What immediately came to mind when tasting this wine is that it's incredibly dry and reminds me of a lot of Nebbiolo wines I've tasted. I immediately suggested that it tasted like Barolo to the tasting group and almost everyone agreed it had striking similarities.

As I mention previously, this wine is still incredibly youthful and I could easily see it aging another twenty years. In fact, I don't think it's nearly the wine it will someday become. 95+ points

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2001 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino

Date: Tue, Mar 30, 2010 Wine Tasting

I've had the opportunity to taste this wine on two other occasions and can honestly say that it's starting to really shine and become the wine that many thought it would be. The first time I tasted the wine about three years ago, it was no where near ready to drink and was far too massively structured and extracted to enjoy. It's quite possibly the boldest and most expressive wine from Montalcino to be made in the last couple decades.

The color of this wine is still extremely dark and almost black, showing little signs of discoloration from age.

On the nose this wine is classically "Italian" showing a whirl of soil, leather, and hints of barnyard/brett character. There is also a solid core of black cherry, cassis, chocolate, vanilla, oak-spice, and dried raisin. When the wine opens up a bit more in the glass I get a slight hint of sweet tea and plum action appears as well. A complex and alluring bouquet to say the least!

On the palate the wine is packed with dense tannin and sharp acidity, flavors of black cherry, blackberry, leather, milk chocolate, and black plum, all combine to form an intense and delicious drinking experience.

The small group that I was tasting with all agreed that this wine had improved over the last few years and that it was amazingly unique for the region. 94+ Points

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1983 Château d'Yquem

Date: Tue, Mar 30, 2010 Wine Tasting

It's always an amazing privilege to taste any bottling of Yquem and especially one that has been waiting to be opened for 27 years! This vintage of Château d'Yquem is characterized by it's amazing unctuous texture and it's richly sweet and full bodied style. Parker describes it as "massive"....

The color is quite golden with the classic Yquem sediment that looks like tiny little crystals.

The bouquet of this wine is really one of the most profound I have ever smelt, with rich honey, apricot, cream brulee, and loads botrytis spice. Smelling this wine is truly an experience in it's own that is completely urethral and hedonistic.

On the palate the wine is "massive", rich, and unctuously textured, with intense flavors of apricot and orange marmalade, honey, buttered toast, cream brulee, nutmeg, caramel, and spice. It's as rich of an Yquem as I have ever tasted. However, the acidity is somewhat lacking and doesn't pierce the palate like most great vintages of this wine inevitably do. Does this make it any less of a wine.....? No, it just typifies the vintage and makes it unique and different. Amazing stuff....96+ points

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2008 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Date: Fri, Mar 26, 2010 Wine Tasting

The 2008 vintage of Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a blend of three vineyards. Two of the vineyards, "Gap’s Crown" and "Terra de Promissio", are located in the southern portion of the Sonoma Coast appellation lying directly in the path of the Petaluma Gap’s cooling influence. The third component is a new addition from the northwestern reaches near Annapolis, Walala.

The wine was aged in French oak barrels (44% new) for a total of 16 months. It was bottled just a few months ago on January 25, 2010. Really it's about as young as you could possibly imagine drinking it. However, I wanted to spread the word and was anxious to see if the quality still remains despite the recent business transactions with the sale of the label.

On the nose I get powerful wild strawberry and raspberry notes, combined with a meaty and smokey type element that reminds me of beef jerky. There is also a slight hint of mineral, crushed rock, cocoa powder, and herb.

On the palate the wine has a very razor-like acidity and powerful intensity. There's a nice, heavy dose of red raspberry sauce with crushed stone minerality, and a hints of sage. I immediately notice the alcohol on this wine, which suggests that perhaps the wine needs a few years in the bottle to calm down and for the flavors to meld together properly. The tannins are young, firm, and refined, and the wine finishes leaving your palate dry and full of fruit flavor.

Although I feel that this wine may drastically improve with cellar time, I do think that right now it's showing a bit poorly. It's true to the varietal character, and the fruit is delicious and intense, but the alcohol is completely overwhelming this wine. Will it get better when the alcohol is currently out of balance?? Not sure......Just not sure..... 88 points

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2003 Plumpjack Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Date: Thu, Mar 25, 2010 Wine Tasting

I apologize for the somewhat fuzzy picture of the label. The lighting and quality of my camera phone were slightly dodgy! Anyways, I should start off by saying that I think this wine and 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa are drinking exceptional at this point in time. The 03' vintage was a tad spotty in terms of overall quality, but I think it's time to start cracking them open and tasting a few right now.

As far as how the wine was made, I was only able to come up with the barrel regimen which was 27 months in 100% new French oak Barrels. I'm not entirely sure if the wine was made from all Estate fruit, but I'm confident that at least most of the harvest was from vineyards located in the Oakville AVA.

On the nose I got beautiful aromas of black plum, dried cherries, sandlewood, kola-nut, anise, and a quite pronounced black licorice aroma.

On the palate the wine is silky smooth with fully integrated tannins, flavors of rich black currant, black cherry, tea leaf, and chocolate all combine with grace and lasting intensity to the finish.

This wine is drinking absolutely brilliantly and could easily hold up for 5-10 years, but I believe it's probably starting to peak in terms of perfect fruit-acid-tannin balance. 93 Points

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2006 Antica Terra Pinot Noir

Date: Thu, Mar 25, 2010 Wine Tasting

Antica Terra is a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that is made by Maggie Harrison, who was the assistant winemaker at the famed Sine Qua Non and apprenticed under Manfred Krankl for ten years. I'm sure she would like us to focus on the quality of her new wine and not so much the reputation of her previous employer and the wines she no longer makes.

Antica Terra is a 40 acre parcel located in Willamette Valley's Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The vineyard was originally planted in 1989, and when Maggie and her partners acquired the parcel in 2005 they began to further the develop the estate by updating the rootstock and fine tuning the clonal selections.

As for the availability of this wine in the retail market, I believe it's mailing list only.....??

On the nose I get a quite distinct Oregon "terroir" and soil component that is surrounded by hearty and rich fruit aromas of black cherry and raspberry pie. There's a salty-playdough type thing going on as well that I think is quite interesting. Reminds me a bit of certain Syrah's I've smelt......over-extraction perhaps?

On the palate the wine is rich, round, and massively extracted. The color alone gives you the impression that this wine was made with lots of skin contact and modern day winery techniques. The tannins are very prevalent still, but also quite silky in nature. Flavors of raspberry and cherry dominate proceedings and slight hints of soil and herb also linger about.

My initial impression with this wine is that it's well crafted. However, having tasted so much Willamette Valley Pinot Noir over the last few years, I'm confident in expressing that this wine is somewhat atypical of the regions natural intonation. Whereas most Oregon Pinot Noir relies on delicacy and grace, my opinion is that the tone of this wine is dictated by innovation. Cool stuff, but not my style. 87 points

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2006 Saunter Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Date: Tue, Mar 23, 2010 Wine Tasting

Wines like these are a real passion of mine. Small production wines (200 cases) where the winery sources amazing fruit from the hidden corners of the Napa Valley. Wines that aren't very well know yet but have the potential to become the next "mailing list only" gems.

The 2006 Saunter Cabernet Sauvignon was sourced from the Clark-Claudon vineyard on the backside of Howell Mountain. The wine was made by winemaker Thomas Brown, who consults for several really great wineries and also has his own project called "Rivers Marie". I actually reviewed the Cabernet from Rivers Marie a couple weeks ago and thought it was amazing stuff.

First thing I notice when I pour this wine into the glass is it's amazing deep color and an aroma that immediately fills the room. It's a richly intoxicating aroma of blackberry and cassis accompanied by a textbook Napa Valley cocoa. The nose also shows secondary aromas of cedar and slight hints of vanilla.

On the palate the wine has an mouth-coating affect and is just as rich as the nose suggests. The fruit is stunning and pure and reminds me of ripe black cherry, savory milk chocolate, with subtle hints of ripe plum and spice.

I must comment on the ripeness and delicious factor of this wine. I knew I would probably dig this stuff because Howell Mountain rarely lets me down in terms of quality, but ggg's this stuff is really amazing wine. The nose evolves every few minutes in the glass and the finish is literally minutes long. 94 Points

Click here to visit Saunter Wines and get on their mailing list!

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Fess Parker Passes to the Other Side, Age 85

Date: Fri, Mar 19, 2010 Wine Tasting

Legendary Santa Barbara vintner and TV icon Fess Parker passed away yesterday at the age of 85. The Texas-born Parker first made his name during the dawn of the TV era playing Davy Crockett, serialized on the popular Disneyland show. Parker followed that in the 1960s with a successful run on TV's Daniel Boone.

By the late 1970s, Parker was focusing on real-estate investment in Santa Barbara and developed numerous projects over the years. In 1989 Fess and his family turned an interest in fine wine into an adventure now 20 years in the making.

The Fess Parker Winery is a highly regarded and popular destination on the Foxen Canyon wine trail in Los Olivos, CA. The family also farms over 300 acres of vineyard in the Santa Ynez valley. Creating a successful business with his family was one of Fess' proudest achievements.

Parker and his wife, Marcella, marked their 50th wedding anniversary in January of this year. He had remained active up until a year ago when his health began to fail. Tim Snider, who is married to Parker's daughter, Ashley, is president of the winery and has been overseeing day-to-day operations.

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Saber your Champagne!

Date: Tue, Mar 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

If you're looking for a fun event to pull off at your next party, try Champagne Sabering! Here's a video about how to pull it off without hurting yourself or any of your friends. Yes, the guy is a bit dull but he'll show you how to do it the right way.....Master Somm style.

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