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Slurping Around with P.D.W. May 2012

Hi all: Lots to choose from, but the prices are steadily rising. Without exact numbers, wines under $20 are all about $3 more this year than last.


White Wines

2010 Kato Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough NZ, $9. Another typical, excellent NZAB at a lower than average price. Strong herbal gooseberry nose, very similar palate, very clean, viscous, with good length. The acidity is on the lower side for a NZSB.

2010 Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ $7. Here we go again. Great nose of herbal gooseberry. There is a very faint whiff of sulfur, which is not discerned on the palate. The taste is typical - herbal gooseberry and lime - with unusually low acidity. The low acid makes it taste almost sweet, and for me this means drinking it quite cold. But for those of you who find NZSB too bracingly tart, here is your wine.

2010 The NED Pinot Gris, Marlborough $12. This is the first Pinot Gris I have seen from NZ, and it is - surprise - excellent. The nose has stone fruit with a distinct minerally edge. The palate has forward peach and tropical fruit, and softer acids. It is viscous and long.

2010 Martin Codax Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain $13. I have developed an affinity for good Albarino, and this is certainly good. It has a clean aroma of lemons, with a similar palate. The acidity is high, but it is viscous and very tasty. It may be one-dimensional in flavor - citrus - but it is very nice.

2010 Martinsancho Verdejo, "Rueda" $14. Verdejo is an unusual varietal. The nose is stemmy, with grapefruit and honey. The palate is rich with melon and citrus. It is clean, with balanced acid. It is worth trying if you have not had the variety before.


Red Wines

2010 Columbia Crest Red Wine, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington $10. This is a really good party/BBQ wine, a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Red cherry and raspberry with a lot of sweet vanilla and some spice on both the nose and palate. Excellent bright acidity, medium body, light tannin, and lots of vanilla and almost sweet, briary (woody-stemmy) red berry palate with some spice. While this is not a wine to keep more than a year - not a lot of structure - it is very easy to drink right now.

2010 Primal Roots Red Blend, California $7. This has Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel and is quite similar to the Columbia crest in character - forward almost sweet spice red berry nose with vanilla oak, and a similar fruit-first berryish palate with vanilla. PS - this one was at Costco. Another tasty party wine.

2008 Cimicky Shiraz "Trumps" South Australia $15. Charles Cimicky is a first-tier winemaker from the southern Barossa Valley in SA, and he is known for great high-end reds. This one is affordable and interesting rather than high end. The nose has dark plums, some forest floor (earthy, mushroom) and a touch of oak char. The palate is full of dark plum and berries, again shows the forest floor features, and has a little dill. Medium acid and tannin. Probably needs an hour to open fully.

2009 Casa Silva Carmenere Reserva, Chile, Colchagua Valley $10. This dark wine has a nose of dark plums and red currants and a hint of orange peel. At first a hint of sulfur, this blew off. The palate is soft and rich with dark berry fruit, a little stemminess and hint of black pepper. Acid is balanced, tannins are soft, and length is very good.

2010 Easton Zinfandel, Amador county, California $13. Amador is a very hot climate in the Sierra Foothills, made hotter by being close to Sacramento politics. Surprisingly, this zin is not over the top and port-like as one might have thought. It has a jammy, raspberry nose with a touch of oak char. The palate is very forward with lovely raspberry fruit, excellent acidity and a light mouthfeel. It is bright and briary, neither tannic nor sweet, and has an interesting taste of sage (dry herbs).


Slurping Around with P.D.W. April 2012

Hi all: here are some nice bottles in which to drown your tax woes. I just hope you can find them. Remember the Internet and the local bottle shop both are ways to find wines you may not see in the supermarkets. Many wines can now be shipped between states. Here’s an idea: pick them up when you come to the ATS meeting in May. Pack them in your luggage in Styrofoam-lined boxes.

White Wines

2009 Landmark Chardonnay “Overlook”, Sonoma, CA $20. Yes, a chardonnay for $20 in this column!! This is the new style: a nose of citrus and baked apple and slight vanilla. Forward clean apple and lemon fruit, excellent, crisp acid, and little oak. Nice viscosity. A total contrast to the big buttery oaky style of yesteryear.

2010 Franciscan Chardonnay, Napa Valley $12. Yes, a second chardonnay in one column!! This is for those of you who still yearn for the big buttery oaky style of yesteryear. Butterscotch and tropical fruit on the nose and palate. Clean, viscous, big, buttery, an oak bomb with decent citrus/tropical fruit.

2010 L’Oliveto Chardonnay, Russian River $15. Three in one column?? Must have lost my marbles. The nose took a while to open, but the palate was right there from the start – clean and crisp, apply, with low oak. Back to the new style, with good acidity and very little oak.

2010 Carmel Road Chardonnay, Monterey $12. Another damn chard. This none has a forward, clean, fresh tropical fruit nose. The palate is complex and creamy with lychee, citrus, apricot and tropical fruit. Good acid, not too heavy and light oak.

2011 Crios Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina $10. This is typical of the Torrontes grape with a very forward lychee/raisiny nose, making you think a dessert wine is in the glass. But there is a clean lemony dry palate with very good acidity. This wine has a rich finish, not at all hard or lean as some tend to be.

Red Wines

Alas! Cheap GOOD reds are harder and harder to find. Trust me, I will keep looking. In the meantime…..

2009 Lucienne Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Doctor’s vineyard $20. Ever since that (@#$%^&*) movie, Pinot has been disproportionately expensive. Surprise: here is a terrific Pinot at, for this grape, a great price. This is a special occasion wine. The nose is forward with lots of cherry fruit, and sweet oak and vanilla. None of that @#$%^&* pickle barrel character from the oak and stems, just lush fruit. The palate is lush and viscous and varietal. There is a little tannin and good acid for structure; there is great balance and considerable depth and length.

2009 Bonneau Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sangiacomo vineyard $23. Lots of cherry fruit, slight oak char on the nose. The palate has smooth, lush varietal cherry fruit, light oak, slight oak char, good acid, some earth and cola, and is clean and balanced.

2008 Bonneau Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, $28. Yes, expensive, but better than more notorious wines costing two and three times as much. This has very deep color, and a tight nose that took a while to open (which is actually a good thing). This is a big, extracted wine with strong but balanced tannins and great dark berry fruit. There are dried herbs, earthiness, good acid, and excellent balance and length. There is evident American oak (dill), but this is not over the top. Special occasion wine.

2009 Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma $13. About half the price and half as good as the Bonneau, but still a very nice wine. The nose has lots of dark cherry and some dill and a hint of yeast. There is forward red/dark cherry fruit, some dill, good acid and medium soft tannins.

2007 Benziger Merlot, Sonoma $14. This wine smells and tastes quite young. It has a forward, fresh, slightly grapey nose with a little green pepper. On the palate, there is lots of red/dark cherry fruit; some dill; soft tannin, and slight green pepper. It is a fairly light style wine. It is good, not great.

2010 R Cabernet Franc, Clarksburg, Salman vineyard $19. While a bit costly, I wanted to mention this if you wanted to try a rarely bottled grape variety (usually used as a blending wine in Bordeaux reds). This is typical of the grape – floral red cherry and slight stemmy herbal green characters on the nose and palate; fairly light in style, clean, not too tannic, with bright acid and a touch of black pepper.

These should keep you going for a while – if you can find them. Hope so. I did.


Slurping Around with P.D.W. March 2012

March 2012

Hi all. I know I am late. Blame it on NIH grant reviews. Got the chance to compare a few New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (NZ SB) recently. Rather than waste your time with enobabble about each, I will just list them in order of goodness. Basically to appear here they must be a) clean b) herbal-gooseberry-lime flavored c) not watery thin d) possessed of good acidity but not astringent

White Wines

Really good:

  • 2011 Spy Valley, Marlborough $11
  • 2011 Cloudy Bay, Marlborough $22
  • 2011 Kim Crawford, Marlborough $13
  • 2011 Villa Maria, Marlborough $10


  • 2011 The Crossings, Marlborough $8
  • 2011 Dashwood, Marlborough $12
  • 2011 Babich, Marlborough $9

NZ SB’s I would suggest not buying (dirty, lack of flavor, thin, too tart):

  • 2009 Kumeu River, Kumeu $13
  • 2011 Oyster Bay, Marlborough $13
  • 2011 Brancott, Marlborough $10
  • 2011 Saint Clair, Marlborough $12

Try this SB from South Africa:

2009 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape $12. This wine is very grassy, with an interesting citrus-herbal palate. It is clean, not too tart, with medium light body.

And this California Chardonnay

2010 Foxglove Chardonnay, Central Coast, $11. A nice nose of baked apples and spice. The palate is full bodied, but also crisp and tart with mostly apple flavors. There is almost no oak. Refreshing, and not too expensive.

Red Wines

As threatened last month, the $3/bottle Crane Lake repertoire now follows. Recall, in my January column I praised their Petite Sirah, which was really tasty stuff. Alas, the other reds are not of the same quality.

2011 Crane Lake Pinot Noir, California $3. This is actually OK, and at the price, a worthy party wine. Quite dark for a Pinot, it has a varietal cherry nose and not too much oak. The palate is similar with good acidity and light oak/tannin and some cola.

2010 Crane Lake Shiraz, California $3. This has a simple, light bodied, red cherry and vanilla taste, with a touch of oak char (aka burnt newspaper). There is slight cashew nuttiness, it is almost sweet. The best I can suggest is as a cheap party wine for folks who don’t really care about wine.

2010 Crane Lake Cabernet Sauvignon, California $3. This is actually drinkable, but comes over more as a Zinfandel because of its stemmy, briary nose and palate, medium to light body and tannin and medium high acid. The fruit is “red berry-ish”. Again, a party wine, perhaps.

2010 Crane Lake Malbec, California $3. Interesting nose of forest floor, dark plums and tobacco. The palate is a bit herbaceous with lots of cedary oak and tobacco with the plum fruit. Again, a barely OK party wine.

2009 Crane Lake white Zinfandel, California $3. Light strawberry nose and palate, and very, very sweet. Simple, a bit thin, in need of more acid to balance the sweetness.

Now for some real wines

2009 Clos du Bois Red Blend, California $9. This is a blend of Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in undisclosed proportions. The nose has lots of red berry fruit, dry herbs and dill. The palate has fresh, forward slightly sweet/ripe red and dark cherries, slight coffee, dry herbs, and is clean with a fairly light body. Tannins are soft, and length is good. This would be a very good party wine.

2008 Two-Up Shiraz, South Australia $8. Another good deal from Oz. Forward nose of plums, spice and very evident eucalyptus. The palate is velvety smooth, with fresh dark fruit (plums and cherries), definite eucalyptus and spice. Tannins are soft; acidity is just right. Lush and long, this is a great pork ribs BBQ wine.

After several years of doing this column, it struck me that letting you know about wines to steer clear of might also be useful, so in case you wondered why in the preceding there are admonishments to avoid, that is the reason.


Slurping Around with P.D.W. February 2012

                    Hi, Gnarly Dudes (see below).

Sadly, things are on the up and up. Wine prices, I mean. Used to be, you could get a quite decent cabernet for $10. Same quality is now $15. A really drinkable cabernet used to be $20, now $30. And the “name brands” will cost you

$50 +++++. So my column is having to reflect those trends. The fact that I am listing ever higher priced wines is therefore not due to a drift in my criteria, it is precisely due to adherence to those criteria.

But let me start you off with some not so bad news: Based on the tasty Crane Lake 2010 petite sirah I told you about last month, we went out and bought one bottle of every varietal they make. Five whites, one pink, and three other reds. Got a discount of 10 percent as a result, making them $2.70 each. That’s almost in the Two Buck Chuck universe. Here I tell you about the whites, next time the reds.

White wines:

2009 Crane Lake Sauvignon Blanc, California $3. Bad stuff. Dirty, sulfurous and good only for cleaning mineral deposits off surfaces like teeth, glasses, and drains.

2010 Crane Lake Chardonnay, California $3. Actually quite drinkable. An excellent party wine when you have large numbers of enological newbies attending. It is simple, but clean, citric/apply in flavor, but balanced in acidity, light in oak, and dry on the finish.

2010 Crane Lake Riesling, California $3. Started off with a little “wet socks” nose (meaning a bit of sulfur smelling truly like woolen socks out of the washing machine). This blew off. The palate was better; lemon and floral notes. It lacked the characteristic kerosene element that makes this grape interesting. It was also quite sweet, but because the acid was not high, this wine is OK only when drunk really cold. But then it is actually drinkable if you like sweet Riesling.

2011 Crane Lake Gewurtztraminer, California $3. This wine was quite clean, with a sweet floral nose and palate and a touch of the spiciness associated with the grape. Nice flavors of peach/lime/apricot. If the Riesling was sweet, this was very sweet, but again, drunk cold, it had enough acid to cope. Ya gotta like sweet.

2011 Crane Lake Moscato, California $3. If the prior wine was very sweet, this one was very, very sweet. However, the fruit was clean, floral and intense, and drunk cold……

2010 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $13. This wine appears in this column every year. This vintage is unmistakable NZ SB. It probably was better a year ago. Right now it seems a bit overripe with herbaceous gooseberry but a dry grassy edge to stop it from being cloying. Nonetheless, very tasty, with good acid, and a nice, clean, passionfruit finish. I include one non-Crane Lake on the off chance that you might argue Crane Lake is not really wine.

Red wines:

2009 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma $15. This wine has a forward blackberry/blackcurrant nose, and a fruit-driven dark berry palate. There is a touch of herbalness (that’s OK). It has excellent structure with medium tannin and good acid.

2009 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles $13. Rents are lower in Paso, which explains the $2 lower price…..I think. The nose is intense with lots of dark berry fruit. This is a rich, extracted wine with ripe, almost jammy fruit. (Almost jammy is good; jammy is bad). Medium oak and tannin and balanced acid, blackberry fruit and good length.

2010 Mollydooker “Two Left Feet” red blend, South Australia $22. I don’t recall the label indicating the blend, but who cares. At 16 percent alcohol you would forget it anyway. The nose is forward with plums and vanilla and seems very fresh. The palate is lush, with dark plum, and some vanilla/caramel. Acid is balanced, tannins soft, length is good, and there is touch of heat (ethanol) at the end. But who cares? Not me. Yum.

2010 Two Hands Shiraz “Gnarly Dudes”,  Barossa Valley, South Australia $22. Don’t know whether I would prefer being labeled as having two left feet or as a gnarly dude, but who cares (there is a theme here). Almost 15 percent alcohol, this wine has a gnarly nose of dark berry, earth and oak. A gnarly palate too, with tons of ripe dark fruit. There is a bit of gnarly forest floor (the elitist version of earthiness). It is a big, extracted, gnarly wine with lots of gnarly balance and gnarly length. Dude, try some.


Slurping Around with P.D.W. January, 2012

Hi all,

Apologies for being a week late, but I was away all last weekend and had no opportunity to find wines you may like. I made up for that yesterday.


2010 Scloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner, Austria ($14). GV is a grape variety tightly associated with Austria, and may be a new experience for many of you, so I thought to add it. Many are somewhat “generic white wine” in character, but this one is a step above. It is clean, with a citrus/tropical nose, and on the palate has good bright acidity, and citrus/tropical fruit that is rich and viscous.

2010 Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch Reserve ($12). This wine has stonefruit and citrus in the nose and palate. It is clean, with good acid and is not sweet at all. The finish has a lot of vanilla-caramel.

2010 Martinsancho Verdejo “Rueda” ($14). This is an interesting white with a slightly green, stemmy nose that also has honey and grapefruit. The palate is rich if a bit short with melon and citrus. Acid balance is very nice.

2010 Backhouse Chardonnay, California ($6). This is unusual wine. The nose is clean, with green apple and slight passionfruit, both of which appear on the palate too. Nice acidity, no discernible oak, it is almost like a sauvignon blanc. But at this price, what’s not to like? Bought a few myself.

2010 Wisteria Cellars Chardonnay, California ($6). A little wet socks on the nose that cleared quickly, with nice citrus and tropical fruit on the nose and palate, which was clean from the start. It is creamy and viscous, but very light on oak, and quite crisp.


2008 Columbia Crest Cabernet, “Horse Heaven Hills”, Washington ($10). This is very tasty stuff. Lots of dark berry fruit and quite a bit of American oak (dill) on the nose, the palate has very forward, ripe, dark cherry fruit, quite a bit of vanilla, and no green characters. The palate is similar, with excellent fruit intensity but a lot of vanilla, dill, almost caramel. Tannins are soft, acid is medium and length is very good. While I would not age it more than a year or two, it is very easy to drink right now.

Petite Sirah’s:

In this column a year ago, I wrote up 2005 La Storia Petite Sirah, Alexander Valley, CA  ($19). This wine “was stunning (I said), not because of the 15.2% alcohol, but because it is new age Petite Sirah. That means there is actually some fruit (truly, loads of the stuff) and yet the tannins are actually in check and not tooth-rotting or mouth drying.” So, we have more of the same to recommend a year later–in fact three more, that together you can buy for less than one bottle of La Storia. Go get them and see for yourself.

2010 Crane Lake Petite Sirah, California ($3). Yes, I made no mistake, $3. This stuff is, well, really very good. Yes, the fruit tastes a bit grapey and young, but it is mouthfilling in red and dark berry/blueberry flavors and is moderately soft in tannins. It has some vanilla oak, but not much, excellent balanced acidity, and good length. I have no idea if it is at all ageworthy, but why wait. It may not be very complex, but it is so tasty……p.s.: has only 12.5% alcohol, and comes in flat-bottomed bottle, something one hardly ever sees.

2007 Napa Ridge Petite Sirah, Napa Valley ($5). Yes, I made no mistake, $5–for a Napa grown wine. This is quite extracted and has considerable structure, yet it too has only 12.5% alcohol. Although 5 years old, it tastes quite young and fresh. It has blueberry on the nose and palate, with some anise, sage, cedar, and earth. The tannins are not soft, but the fruit is good enough to give balance. As a big wine, it needs good red meat (actually, you need the meat, the wine doesn’t really care), but overall for the price, it is great.

2009 Bogle Petite Sirah, California ($8-50). I tasted these three PS’s blindly side by side, and both of the above beat out the Bogle by a little bit. Bogle is a bit lighter in style this year, with blueberries on the nose and palate. It is a bit one-dimensional in taste – a bit simple. It is all good, but not great, so I am happy with one bottle each of Napa Ridge and Crane Lake for the same price as one Bogle.

2008 Vina Zaco, Tempranillo, Rioja ($10). If this all sounds Greek to you, Vina Zaco is the winery; Tempranillo the grape and Rioja the region. Spain, duh. This is a deeply colored wine with a complex nose of dark berry, spice, oak, dill and vanilla. All these same features appear on the palate. It is a full-bodied wine, with medium tannin. It is clean, with good acid and decent length.

2009 Chateau Baby red wine, Bordeaux, France ($9). I am not a “…..” crook? Nah,try Francophobe. I like $200 French wines just as much as you do. I just have trouble with the $10-15 French reds that make it to the USA. This wine is the exception. It has dried herbs and cherry fruit on the nose and palate, is a touch green, has some vanilla and is a generally pleasant lighter style party wine with soft tannins. Chateau Baby? Come on!!

Good drinking,

Peter, January 2012