Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chocolate? No thanks. But I'll take the Chocolate Box

First, happy birthday Kim.

Over the last several years, my neighbors, my wife and I have begun the tradition of celebrating birthdays with a nice dinner out.

Max's Alley, a locally-owned restaurant in Concord with an amazing wine menu has been the spot-du-jour on several occasions. I always enjoy eating there because the wine is always a treat.

Tonight was no different (and perhaps even more enjoyable because we lucked up on half price bottle night).

We started with a 2008 Chocolate Box Sauvignon Blanc. The discounted price was $15 a bottle. Special attention is paid in the wine-making process to ensure the sweet flavors of the grapes are preserved. The wine presents a full bouquet of lemon, gooseberry and grapefruit with a hint of asparagus. The palate is rich and creamy, with a smooth, crisp finish that pairs well with chicken and light pasta dishes.

For the red drinkers at the table, myself included, a bottle of 2006 Stags Leap Merlot (about $35) provided a great accompaniment to dinner, which for me was steak. The Nappa Valley merlot is complex, with notes of cherry, pomegranate, plum and strawberry, and hints of vanilla, white pepper and cinnamon. Fifteen months in French oak bring out the depth of the wine, which is certainly my merlot of the year to this point.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Black Swan bargain

Continuing on the theme of reds (but moving away from Malbecs, as promised), I bring you another Cabernet Sauvignon. And in the interest of a slumping economy, it's a cheap (read REALLY CHEAP) Cab.

I picked up a bottle of 2008 Black Swan Cabernet Sauvignon at Harris Teeter on sale for 2/$10. I figured, what's a $5 gamble on a young wine?

As it turns out, it was a good gamble. Because it's a 2008 vintage, it hasn't had time to really mature. If you're hesitant about reds, or just venturing into wines, it's a get place to start (and, if you don't like it, you're only out about the cost of a pint of beer out on the town).

The Black Swan hasn't fully matured, and as such is light on the palette. But hints of raspberry and chocolate give it great flavor. What sets this wine apart -- and will continue to do so, I would imagine, as it ages -- is the hint of eucalyptus this Australian wine offers as it finishes smooth.

Might I suggest buying a couple of bottles and keeping at least one of the shelf for a few years while it continues to mature. Doing so will only deepen and bring out more subtle hints of flavor.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Worth the wait

Sorry for the long delay in posting. My computer died about two weeks ago, and I've been suffering from blogger's withdrawl ever since.

In the meantime, I spent an amazing week in Belize. While there, I admittedly took a break from wines and enjoyed the local beer (Belikin) and the Belizan rum, both of which come highly recommended. One Barrell rum is up for a worldwine rum of the year award.

My one wine during the week, however, was a winner. It was a 2005 Trivento Golden Reserva Malbec. Yes, another Malbec. I'll work on tasting some other varieties soon enough, I promise. But in the meantime, if you can get your hands on this wine, do so.

From 100 - 120-year-old vineyards, this Argentinian wine's grapes are hand-harvested and cold macerated for two days to bring out the grapes' sweetness. Lots of huge, minty, very eucalypt and menthol character. All new French oak gives a charry quality. Sweet, creamy, black berry and plum fruit, with lots of glossy cherry and a real bite of tannin, but it is supple and fine, with a nice freshening acidity.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Per your request

At the request of a friend who was looking for a good deal on a good Cabernet Sauvignon, I began a quest to taste a few sub-$10 wines and offer my take on the best.

Meridian 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve took the cake. It's a medium-bodied wine with great balance and a full flavor. Hints of blackberry, currant and vanilla give way to a smooth, subtle finish that makes this a sure-fire hit with even the more refined palates. Aged for nearly eight months in oak, the wine's tannins give it great balance and texture.

Meridian wines are another product of the Central Coast in California, an area known for producing award-winning wines years after year because of the unique climate that allows the area's grapes to mature more slowly, capturing full flavors and developing unique characteristics that create equally unique wines.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tres Pinos

After a long day of work, I decided to open a white that had been chilling in my fridge for several weeks. The Tres Pinos 2007 Paso Robles Tierra Blanca was a welcome delight.

It's a blend of Gewuztraminer, Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat Canelli, and perhaps one of the most well-balanced wines I've tasted in a while. At this point, this is my top pick of 2009 for under $10.

Tres Pinos is a product of California's Central Coast, a features a bouquet of citrus fruit and wildflowers. It's a medium bodied wine with a smooth finish that pairs well with pastas, vegetables and chicken.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Really big (really good) rooster

Home for a long weekend that promises to produce future blogs (picked up two new wines that I'll review somewhere down the line, once I find the occasion to enjoy them), but wanted to update with two quick notes.

First, if you're in or around Durham, N.C., check out Brandywine Cellars across from Southpoint Mall.

The owner is a 30-something wine lover, and the shop is an upscale, classy little niche shop with great variety and great wine tastings. I picked up a Malbec that I'm looking forward to sharing more about in the future.

Then I headed back to Burlington for a nice Valentine's Day dinner with my wife. Among the highlights was a 2007 Giant 47 Pound Rooster Pinot Grigio by Rex Goliath. This light, crisp Pinot offers a mouthful of citrus undertones, with a light, smooth finish. For about $10, it's a nice offering to pear with pork, chicken or light pastas.

HRM ("His Royal Majesty") Rex Goliath is based out of Gonzalez, Calif., and gets the 47 pound rooster name from a a famous rooster (named His Royal Majesty) that traveled with a Texas circus. None of the HRM Rex Goliath wines are more than $10.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No Monkey business

New Zealand's 2007 Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc scored 87 pts. by Wine Spectator magazine. Not too shabby for a sub-$10 bottle of wine. This light-bodied white is defined by hints of lemon and grapefruit as well as gooseberry and grassy notes, with a dry, but quick finish.

It would pair best with seafood or other light offerings.

It's certainly not my favorite Sauvignon Blanc, but it's on the short list, if for no other reason than there's a monkey on the label.