Jul 11

Cat Amongst the Pigeons 2007 “Nine Lives” Shiraz

Winemaker: Cat Amongst the Pigeonscat amongst the pigeons nine lives shiraz 2007

Name: Nine Lives

Type: Shiraz

Origin: Barossa Valley Australia

Year: 2007

Cost: $16.99

Rating: 9/10

Value: 9/10

Alcohol: 14.5%

Our opinion:

For a special occasion we went all out and chose a random but pricier (not by much though..) bottle of red wine to enjoy along side a delicious meal of grilled lamb loin chops and a mezze of various finger foods and salads. This was a random selection from a local liquor store, and we probably chose it because the bottle looked neat and the points rating was high.. but still we went in blind.Cat amongst the pigeons shiraz with lamb loin chops

Naturally we aerated the wine before enjoying it but man was it good. The shiraz was complex, inky, rich, with hints of berry and oak. We raved about it the entire meal and were so sad when it was gone. Although the price tag placed it out of our everyday wine range, we would buy it again in a heartbeat for any small occasion if we could think of one. I’d easily say it was twice as good as many half as expensive wines, if not more.

We highly recommend this wine, and not only for the cute little cat silhouette on the bottle.

Others Say:

Wine Library: “The red wine lineup begins with the 2007 Shiraz. Opaque purple-colored, it has an enticing perfume of spice box, blue fruits, and smoked meat. This leads to a savory, ripe, full-flavored wine with layered fruit, excellent balance, and a lengthy close. Drink it over the next four years.”

Cellar Tracker comments:

Dark purple,knock you over scents and flavors, long finish, with a cheese plate of stinky rind washed cheeses it was the equivalent of the fruit on the side

“dark colored. the nose is lush with blackberries, chocolate and black plums. well-structured, this is not a flabby, hi-c, weak-kneed shiraz, rich fruit is balanced by strong tannins, medium acid and secondary flavors of pepper, bacon and chocolate. not overly alcoholic. a silky, fruity finish. nice qpr for sure.”

The Bottle Says:

Drink in moderation – then have a catnap!

Jul 01

Big House California white wine

I was making a seafood dish (linguine with shrimp and lemon oil to be exact) and wanted a white wine to go with it. We picked up Big House White last minute due to the fact that out of all the wines under $15, listed below it was a 90 point rating (out of 100) from wine enthusiast. We tend to agree. A big red wine lover myself, I usually do not like the pungency or, as one friend described, “baby vomit” taste of Chardonnay, yet Rieslings tend to be a bit to sweet. This had a perfect combination of light sweetness, yet not a sweetness that overpowers the meal. I frequently took sips between bites of pasta and shrimp and they complemented each other very well. Before dinner was even over, the bottle was empty. At $8.99 a bottle, this was well worth it.

winemaker’s notes:
A blend of 56% Malvasia Bianca, 22% Muscat Canelli, 18% Viognierand 4% Rousanne.

Big House wines are a rebellious mix of nontraditional grape varieties destined to give the imbiber a new experience. This year’s tipple is reminiscent of the Franco-Italian battle for the ’06 FIFA World Cup. The flamboyant Italians represented by Malvasia and Muscat Canelli and the much more austere and serious French led by Viognier and Rousanne.

May 30

Mirassou Pinot Grigio 2008

Type: Pinot Grigio

Mirassou Pinot Grigio

Origin: California

Year: 2008

Cost: $9.99

Rating: 8/10

Value: 8/10

Alcohol: 13.5%

Our opinion:

Tonight we decided to purchase a couple of whole striped bass from the market and grill them up on the BBQ for dinner.  We needed a decent white wine to go with the fish but didn’t have time to shop around, so ended up at a generic discount liquor store on Route 40 in Catonsville.

I couldn’t think of a good cheap white off hand but we were both in the mood for a Pinot Grigio.. probably because we haven’t had one in such a long time and it was a beautiful late spring day.   We hesitated near a Bolla 1.5 Liter for 13.99.. but decided on the Mirassou 1 L for 9.99 instead.  I don’t think I’ve ever tried anything other than the Pinot Noir from Mirassou, but we were impressed with that wine at the price point compared to others, so we thought it might be a safer bet.

I think we made a great choice.  Mirassou is a common wine and easily found in liquor stores in the area.  The Pinot Grigio was not overly acidic, it was not overly sweet or fruity and not tart at all.  It had none of the negative qualities we so frequently found in our random pinot grigio picks.  In fact, not only was it absolutely lovely on its own, but it went fantastically with our fish.    We detected a slight fruitiness, a crisp, citrusy flavor, but a well-balanced mouth feel.  We both agreed that in the absense of any other known white, we would reach for the Mirassou Pinot Grigio again in a pinch.

Others Say:

We were at a loss when looking for reviews of the 2008 Pinot Grigio, but this is what we could find:

Winemaker’s Notes:
Our 2008 Mirassou California Pinot Grigio reveals intense aromas and flavors of peach, pear and citrus with crisp, lively acidity create an exceptionally refreshing wine. This versatile wine pairs beautifully with spicy dishes as well as grilled poultry or seafood. Our Pinot Grigio is ready to enjoy immediately upon release and should be able to age in the bottle for one to two years.

The Bottle Says:

Offering flavors of lemon-lime and peach with subtle floral notes, Mirassou Pinot Grigio is a bright expression of California’s most celebrated growing regions.  This versatile wine pairs beautifully with spicy dishes as well as grilled poultry or seafood and embodies the optimistic spirit passed down through six enerations of America’s oldest winemaking family.  Enjoy!

May 16

Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Type: Cabernet Sauvignon

marcus-james-cabernet2007

Origin: Argentina

Year: 2007

Cost: $5.99

Rating: 4/10

Value: 5/10

Alcohol: 13%

Our opinion:

This was another one of our leftover “backup wines” for a party we had, along with the Marcus James Merlot.   We found it acidic and generally cheap tasting.   In fact, it was fairly offensive.  I suppose it was decent enough to finish 3/4 of the bottle, but leftover wine is a rare occurrence around here.  We saved it for cooking wine…

Marcus James seemed to have fairly decent reviews, but most of them for other years of the same or other varietals.  We didn’t think much of the 2007 wines.  In this price range we would stick with the Waltzing Vine shiraz.  For a lower price you could even crack open a Macaroni Grill Merlot 1.5 Liter and have plenty left over for cooking…

Others Say:

Once again we appear to be outnumbered.. general consensus seems to think this is a decent wine.  Perhaps we needed to aerate this one 5 times like we did with the Merlot, or maybe we needed to drink it with a meal. Or maybe it’s just not a good wine:

From antiwinesnob.com: “I truly remember this wine being pretty tasty on another occasion. And this time, I still thought it had a nice flavor with a good balance of tannins and acidity. But I also found it had a disagreeable sweet/sour twang to it that I suspect is acetic acid. This flavor really distracted me from the other more pleasing layers to a point where I did not enjoy it on its own….I tried it again the next day, thinking maybe the flavors would be different now that the bottle had been opened and recorked. While a sip confirmed that the acetic acid flavor was still there, to my surprise, I found that the unpleasant flavor more or less disappeared when I sipped it along with my dinner. In its place was a full, blackcurrant flavor with a pleasant bite of acidity-but not of the acetic acid variety.

From WineLegacy.com: “Marcus James has been one of Argentina’s top exports for years. When we tasted the recent releases we were jolted out of complacency by the quality and value they offer. With grapes sourced in the perpetually sunny Mendoza valley and vinified under the eye of a team of the world’s best international winemaking experts, Marcus James wines are consistently good year after year.”

May 16

2007 Marcus James Merlot

Type: Merlot

Origin: Argentina

Year: 2007

Cost: $5.99

Rating: 5/10

Value: 6/10

Alcohol: 13%

Our opinion:

We were having a lot of guests over for a party and decided we needed to fill our wine rack for the first time in a while, and not necessarily with anything expensive, should we need to crack into it.  We stocked up on several Marcus James wines as well as a few Crane Lakes.  The Marcus James Merlot was still in the rack at the end of the party, and we tentatively broke into it on a random weeknight with low expectations and a backup plan of hard liquor.

Bleah.  There was really nothing nice to say about this wine.  Drink out of necessity.  Though we did agree it was a shade tastier than the Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon, it wasn’t by much.  After the first sip, I passed the glass of wine back and forth through the Vinturi wine aerator about 5 times.  This seemed to slightly improve the taste and removed a bit of the bite to it.  Once it was smoothed out, we were able to finish our first glass, and about half of a second glass.

Unfortunately at the end of the night, wine still remained in the bottle.  Just like the Marcus James Cabernet.  Oh well… cooking wine?

As a side note, Marcus James has frequently been compared to the “two buck chuck” you can find in various places around the country.

Others Say:

Apparently there are other more positive reviews of this wine on the web, so maybe it’s up to you to decidel :

From winecurrent.com: “There are mixed spice, black plum and tarry aromas that segue smooth and plush flavours of black currant and ripe juicy black cherry. It’s medium in weight and texture with pleasing fruit flavours that carry through the balanced finish. It’s a lovely quaffing wine with the oomph and stuffing to pair with burgers, pizza, gourmet sausages and the like. Bistro-styled and uncomplicated, it warrants a buy given the attractive price-quality ratio.”

May 03

Nassau Valley Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Select

Type: Cabernet SauvignonNassau Valley 2006 Cabernet Suavignon Vineyard Select

Origin: Delaware

Year: 2006

Cost: $23.00

Rating: 8.5/10

Value: 7.5/10

Alcohol: 12.9%

Our opinion:

We visited Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes, Delaware during a weekend in good old Ocean City Maryland.  We were allowed to try 6 different wines from a list of about 12.  Both of us chose to try a few whites and reds, keeping primarily with the dry- and semi-dry-labeled wines.  This vineyard turns out a large number of very sweet vintages, which we don’t generally enjoy.

Unfortunately for us, this bottle was one of the most expensive ones they sold by a margin of about $10 over the standard, but rightfully so.  The bottle that we tasted in the store had a very distinct oak flavor to it, much more so than the 2005 bottle priced at $17.

The Cabernet Sauvignon tasted structured, smoky, and bold with a medium mouth feel and none of those harsh tannins that generally turns me off from the grape.  It was delicious and so we bought a bottle and drank it at home.

In the end it was nice to try a local wine that we thought competed with many of the California wines.  We really enjoyed the bottle we brought home with us.  In the end we do recommend this wine, but then again, for $23 there are probably a few we’d really enjoy in this price range.

Winemaker’s Notes:
Our 2006 Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot.  100% of the grapes used to make this wine come from the estate vineyard here in Lewes, DE.

Others Say:

Not much, at least that we could find.  If you’ve tasted this wine please share your opinion with us!

Feb 25

7 Deadly Zins Michael & David Phillips Zinfandel

Type: Zinfandelseven-deadly-zins

Origin: California

Year: 2007 ?

Cost: $15.00

Rating: 9/10

Value: 9/10

Alcohol: 14.5%

Our opinion:

The bottle doesn’t tell me much, other than the seven deadly “zins”.  I don’t know what year it is or where it’s from (without the help of the internet).  It doesn’t tell me much about itself, either.  I tend to think that wine bottles with gimicky names must be hiding something–namely, a bad wine.  However this wine was named thus because of the 7 different wines that went into the blend.  Not entirely gimicky, yet catchy.  Easier to remember than some random guy’s name, which is wise.

A friend brought this bottle for after dinner drinks.  YUMMY.  It might have been my favorite of all the wines we tried tonight (4?).  I don’t frequently purchase zinfandels, for no particular reason, so maybe I will have to start.  This wine has just the right amount of complexity, fruitiness, roundness, a slight spice to it, a beautiful smell, and all around it just plain pleases me. I’m glad there was a glass left over when my friends went home, because I’m certainly enjoying it now!

Wait.. is that GREED?  or is it GLUTTON?  Who cares.  It’s good wine.

It was bought to go along with several dark and bittersweet chocolates. However I’m not convinced that the chocolate really did much for the wine, compared to others that I’ve specifically tasted along with a bite of chocolate and noticed the difference. It still doesn’t matter… leave the chocolate and take the wine.

Winemaker’s Notes:
A vibrant, sweet bouquet of raspberry jam, molasses and cinnamon toast evoke the senses of carefree youthful nights.  Excellent oak integration provides silken tannins and spice to pair with Lodi’s unrestricted wild berry fruit.

Others Say:

From: Cheapwineratings.com

“…But it’s no joke that this is a good zin.  It has a spicy nose with a bit of raspberry, tomato, pepper and cola.  It’s very clearly a Lodi Zinfandel right from the first whiff.  Raisins, jammy blackberry, walnut and black pepper make for a big, bold palate with plenty of complexity.  It has good concentration too, and a fairly long finish with a hot spiciness.

Feb 25

Poppy Pinot Noir 2007

Wine: Poppy

poppy-pinot-noir

Type: Pinot Noir

Origin: California – Monterey County

Year: 2007

Cost: $15.00

Rating: 8.5/10

Value: 8/10

Alcohol: 13.5%

Our opinion:

A decent Pinot Noir is hard to find when you’re shopping with a budget of $20 and under.  This wine was recommended again by the folks at The Wine Bin in Ellicott City, when I asked for a wine to drink along side a coq au vin.  Everyone really enjoyed this wine.  It was very easy to drink, smooth, tasty, and balanced.  There was no awful “I’m going to have a hangover” taste to it like the Mirrasou Pinot Noir has despite it’s cheap adequateness.

I’d say this wine complemented, yet did not interfere in any way with, the food we enjoyed with it.  I think this wine would also taste delicious on it’s own.  Even those less familiar with red wines would enjoy this wine.  It’s very popular and several stores report selling out of this pinot frequently, as it is hugely popular with their customers.

Bottle Says:

Great Pinot Noir, like the Califonia Golden Poppy, thrives in cool coastal climates.  Our poppy Wines are a blend o fseveral carefully selected vineyards, all located in cool regions and meticulously farmed for intense ripe flavors.  We employ minimalist winemaking and use only a touch of oak because we feel the best flavors are those derived naturally from the soil, sun and grape.  We recommend serving this wine between two and seven years of its vintage date.

Others Say:

From Snooth.com

“Fresh, light, a tad sweet. This Pinot Noir has a very light color and is very refreshing… drinks like a darker Rose. Great with chicken, fish, sushi.

“This was the first wine I tried that I really liked, and I ended up buying 3 bottles. It’s very accessible, but still has a distinctive Pinot character. I’m not good with descriptions, but I’ve never offered it to anyone who wasn’t very surprised at how good it was. If you’re a beginner in wine, track this one down and give it a try.”

Feb 25

Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
los-vascos

Origin: Chile – Colchagua Valley

Year: 2007

Cost: $9.00

Rating: 5/10 ? (at least unpaired with food)

Value: 6/10

Alcohol: 13.5%

Our opinion:

No, thanks. At least not to drink with. Thanks to the lovely folks at The Wine Bin in Ellicott City, I puchased this wine to add to my coq au vin. I asked for a cheapish wine (pinot noir to be specific, since I figured I needed a burgundy), and they upgraded me to a more full-bodied cabernet. The wine itself wasn’t awful by any means, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it to drink. We had a bottle of white during appetizers, and while waiting for the food to finish cooking, I offered up a taste of this wine to those with an empty glass. A couple of those ‘tastes’ got ditched when it was time to open the pinot for dinner. Clearly not a crowd pleaser… in my opinion it was too tangy and difficult to drink. The coq au vin, however, turned out quite flavorful and tasty. Buy to cook, not to drink.

I must disclaim, however, that others seem to disagree with us.  This wine got great reviews online.  Perhaps it needs to be drunk with a strong meat such as lamb to really enjoy.  But not by itself.

Bottle says:
Under the direct technical supervision of the Domaines, Los Vascos is committed to producing the finests consistent and balanced wines whose elegance and harmony are to be shared with discriminating connaisseurs around the world. This wine is fresh, gentle, consistent and very fruity, with a slightly spicy finish.

Others Say:

From: ReviewJournal.com

“On the nose, there is serious concentration emanating from the glass with ripe crushed black fruit dominated by black cherries, loganberries and soft sweet currants, followed by jammy licorice-laced plums, phenolic compounds, oak references, spices, tobacco leaf and earth-driven minerals.

In the mouth, this wine is a big mouthful of spiced black currant juice — true to the cabernet structure — then layered soft blackberries, wild cherries and elderberry fruit, leading into a seamless midpalate that is just ripe with black fruit and hints of mint and black tea.

This well-made wine is big and heady with a full-bodied character, yet so supple and fine in the tannin structure that it has a smooth, long finish that lingers with black currant pastilles and tobacco. It’s probably one of the more accomplished cabernets tasted out of Chile at this price in a long time.

Drink it now at its peak through 2009, and try it with herb-crusted rack of lamb grilled perfectly medium-rare.”

Feb 25

Fontana Candida Frascati Superiore Secco 2007

Wine: Fontana Candida

fontana_candida_frascati

Type: Frascati

Origin: Italy

Year: 2007

Cost: $9.99

Rating: 8/10

Value: 8/10

Alcohol: 12.5%

Our opinion:

White wines are hard to agree with, at least for me.  I believe I’ve had this one before, but maybe missed out on the review.  A friend brought a bottle for pre-dinner drinks tonight and I remembered how enjoyable it was.   This white is very easily to drink, without all the harsh acidic bite that so many cheap whites have.  I think you can find it for under $10 in some stores, and certainly online.  This white is somewhat fruity, lightly sweet but not overly so, and well balanced.  It’s not exciting, but it’s good, and it’s a solid choice if you aren’t sure if your guests are huge wine drinkers.  Everyone enjoyed this bottle.   I recommend it, definitely for the price!

Bottle says:

In the hills near Rome are areas of volcanic  soil over 2000 years old.  Here the grapes for frascatia are grown.   Frascati has a delicate bouquet of wildflowers and fruit.  Its characteristic taste is fresh and distinctive, with just a hint of almond.  To enjoy Fontana Candida Frascati to its fullest, serve slightly chilled (55 degrees) to heighten the fruit and the iwne’s crispness, fontana candida frascati is a delightful complement to seafood, poultry and other light entrees.

Others Say:

From: TheWineBuyer.com

“EXCELLENT WINE FOR THE PRICE. FULL OF ROBUST FLAVORS. NOSE IS SPICEY AND CITRUS. VERY PLEASING PALATTE. REFRESHING. VERY LONG PLEASING FINISH. PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU SPENT TWICE THE PRICE ON THIS. ONE CAVEAT. CORK WAS A BIT BRITTLE. BEWARE HOW ITS STORED.”

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