Thursday, November 30, 2006

Honeymoon, Part II

Shane’s Notes


We caught the train from Florence to Rome. On the train, I noticed that my wedding ring was not on my finger. The ring is about a half a size too large so I figured it slipped off my finger somewhere. I was right, but fortunately, it had slipped off my finger while I was looking through my backpack. I found it at the bottom of the backpack when we pulled into Rome. We took the metro to the Piazza del Popolo, found the correct bus station and took tram #2 out to the Hotel Astrid. The hotel was on the outskirts of Rome and provided Jen with one of her favorite sights in Rome – a bathtub.

After settling in, we headed out to the Spanish Steps and had an early dinner at an outdoor café. The food was decent. Our wine was the Rosato Salento 2005 Primoconte for 21 Euros. It was a very nice Rose – it was tangy, sweet and tart. The palate was dominated by cranberry with a touch of watermelon in the background. We scribbled down “Excellent!”

For our first full day in Rome, we visited the Coliseum, the Palatine Hill and the Forum. It was a long, hot day so we headed back to the hotel early. We ventured out again and went to a restaurant near our hotel. It was a local restaurant serving rustic, authentic Italian food. We enjoyed it so much that we ate there several times during our week in Rome. On this particular night, I had the Pasta Amitriciana – how can you pass up pasta with bacon? For wine, we had a Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2000, Core Alla Flora for 19 Euros. It was a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Prugnolo Gentili. It was tangy with a concentrated raspberry flavor. It had a long finish.

Back at the hotel, we went to the bar and I had a Brachetto d’Acqui for 5 Euros. It wasn’t bad. Although a red, I’d serve it very cold. It showed some sweet red fruit with cola and raspberry flavors. It’s definitely a dessert wine.

Our next day was spent at the Capitoline Museums and the Maria Maggiore. We had some time to waste before our evening concert so we stopped at a café and had a bottle of 2005 Terre dei Grifi Frascati, 2005. It was a very refreshing white wine. It was tangy with peach and melon flavors. It was very ripe, very concentrated and fun to drink.

Our next day in Rome was a very long day. The concert had kept us up late and we were tired. After going to the Etruscan museum in the morning, we had a short rest at the hotel before heading back out. We visited five churches in the afternoon and really enjoyed the last few. We found a nice outdoor café in the Trastavere and opened up our wallet for what turned out to be the best dinner of the trip. The restaurant was attached to a wine shop so the wine list was essentially as big as the wine shop.

We decided to try one of the Killer B’s, so we ordered a 2001 Barolo, Cantina Terre del Barolo (Il Pastarellaro). It was a powerful wine and could definitely use some bottle age. The waiter recommended that we let it sit for about 20 minutes and we complied. When it opened up, it was magnificent. The palate showed very subtle flavors and a high degree of complexity. The flavors were evanescent and each sip brought a different flavor – orange peel, violets, herbs, etc. It was truly amazing and reminded me of a great Pinot. It really complimented the rotisserie chicken with potatoes that we ordered. The chicken was as good as the wine. It was rich, very tasty and well spiced. I never knew you could get that much flavor out of chicken.

After the meal, Jen ordered a very fancy cheese plate and I asked for some Vin Santo. The wine shop owner personally delivered the cheese plate and gave us a description of all the cheeses. He then produced a bottle of wine that had “Muffo” on the label. He assured us it was better than Vin Santo and told us that he would bring the Vin Santo if we didn’t like the Muffo. We were very skeptical but agreed to take a sip. We tried it and were astounded – it was one of the best dessert wines we have ever tasted. We immediately recognized that the rich, unctuous texture could have only been produced by botrytis. However, the Muffo was richer then a Sauternes. It also lacked the minerality of a Sauternes, but the palate was so lush and complex that it hardly mattered. The palate showed Apricot, Apple and crème caramel. It was spicy and grapey with an ultra long finish. We couldn’t believe the richness and complexity. If you ever find a Muffo, you have to try it.

Our next day in Rome was the highlight of this leg of the trip. We visited St. Peter’s and the Vatican. The line for the Vatican Museums was gargantuan, but we actually only waited about an hour. Once inside, you just have to put up with the crowds that get worse the closer you get to the Sistine Chapel. It is worth it – the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel along with Michelangelo’s Last Judgment are two of the most spectacular works of art you will ever see. Unfortunately, this is the day the rain started and we had left our rain gear back at the hotel. We walked around for awhile and got soaked. We finally gave up and headed back to our hotel. We grabbed our rain resistant wind breakers and ventured back to our favorite local restaurant. We tried a carafe of the house red. I’m assuming it was a Chianti. There wasn’t much to it – it wasn’t fruity or concentrated. It was simply a little tangy and then it disappeared into a dry finish. It was serviceable and a decent food wine.

The next day, we headed over to the Doria Pamphilj and went to the Museo Nazionale Romano after lunch. The Pamphilj had some really nice paintings by Velazquez, Brughels and Lorrain. The Roman Museum (Museo Romano Nazionale) turned out to be one of our favorite sights in Rome. If you have any interest in Ancient Rome, this is a must see sight. It simply had a little of everything from the Roman period – a mummy, jewelry, everyday objects, a massive coin collection, great statuary and amazing wall paintings and floor mosaics.

I tried to talk Jen into going to the Hard Rock Café for dinner but I was unsuccessful. I did enjoy Italian food but I was also dying for good ol’ American hamburger! Instead, we went to the Alex Café on the Via Veneto. We had the Cordero di Montezemolo,
2001 Dolcetto d’Alba for 25 Euros with dinner. It was deeply scented with sweet berry fruit. That palate was jammy with dirt and mineral underneath. It was a serious wine with a long finish.

Back at the hotel, we went to the bar and I had a Barbera d’Alba, Fret Superiore 2003 for 6.5 Euros. It showed some mild red fruit but it was a bit dry and oaky for my tastes.

On our last day in Rome, we actually left Rome to see the ruins at Ostia Antica. We really enjoyed it, but once again, it was raining. We made sure we saw the well-preserved floor mosaics and the ancient Roman toilets and then headed to the café for some warmth. We each had a spliff of Prosecco with lunch – Cantine Maschio, Extra Dry. It had a sweet, tangy, intense lemony flavor. It was more bubbly and sweeter than California sparklers. I really enjoyed it.

For dinner that night, we had a Regret 2004 Langhe Nebbiolo for 18 Euros. Unfortunately, it was served too warm so it’s hard to give an accurate assessment of this one. It was perfumey and the palate showed orange peel. It had decent concentration but not the haunting complexity of a good Nebbiolo.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another Great Vouvray

2005 Vouvray
Jen's notes

Some folks would tell you that the only French whites worth drinking are from the Loire. While I would disagree with that (see the Chablis we just had), you could probably happily drink Vouvrays for a long time to come. This one is a great value, with its pretty floral aromas and interesting palate. It was minerally, with an overlay of herbal and floral flavors, a touch of steel, and a long finish.

Inexpensive Chablis

2005 Chablis, “Champs Royaux” William Fevre
Jen’s Notes

I am an admitted Chablis snob (premier cru only, thankyouverymuch), but when we saw this one at Beltramo's a couple of weeks ago, I figured we had to get it. Fevre is a reputable producer, and I had a feeling this would be an excellent value. We were not disappointed.

The wine boasted aromas of bright citrus and pear. It was very clean and fresh, providing a lovely preview of the flavors. On the palate, the wine was mouth-filling, including pear, apple and herb flavors. There was good minerality underneath, and a hint of steel before the smooth finish. This would be a superb choice for your first Chablis. Even Chablis aficionados would enjoy stepping back a bit, and having something charming and a little more easygoing.

An Uninteresting Bicycle Ride

2005 Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir
Shane’s Notes

The palate showed a bit of tangy plum and the finish was quick. There just wasn’t much to this one. It is not one of Red Bicyclette’s better offerings. Try their Syrah.

Fun to Drink

2004 Marchesy di Gresy “Monte Aribaldo”
Dolcetto D’Alba
Shane’s Notes

I am a very fussy eater so Jen comes up with most of our flavor descriptors. After all, how can I saw a wine tastes like strawberries and currant when I’ve never eaten either? Jen had a cold when we drank this wine so she didn’t trust her palate. Without the help of Jen’s palate, I am going to draft a very unusual review that will not contain any flavor descriptors. This wine was juicy and had medium concentration. It was a very simple wine with a short, dry finish. It was fun to drink but I certainly wouldn’t call it a serious wine. It would go great with turkey.

An Inexpensive Cab

2004 Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon
Shane’s Notes

The palate showed sweet currant and strawberry with just a hint of spice. It’s a little rough on the top of the mouth. It’s not bad for an inexpensive cab. We might buy it again.

“A Sugary, Appley, Honey Flavor”

2000 Royal Tokaji, Red Label
Aszu, 5 Puttonyos
Shane’s Notes

It had a beautiful golden color. The powerful aroma exuded honey, cinnamon and apple. The rich palate showed a sugary, appley, honey flavor. The texture was unctious and the finish was long. This young Tokaji has very firm acidity and would probably benefit from long term cellaring, but it is also very enjoyable right now. Tokaji is one of the best dessert wines in the world and while the expensive ones are much more complex, this is a great Tokaji for the price.

Russian River S.B.

2004 Davis Bynum Russian River Fume Blanc
Shane’s Notes

The palate showed pink grapefruit and was mildly citrussy up front. And…that was about it. This S.B. lacked complexity and concentration and didn’t have that knee bracing acidity that I love from my S.B’s. Considering the price, we were disappointed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another Aussie Wine (Sigh….)

Lindemans Reserve
Padthaway Shiraz 2004
Shane’s Notes

We still haven’t had an Aussie wine that has convinced us to add Aussie wines to our repertoire. In fact, I poured this for Jen without telling her which bottle I had opened so she would give it a fair tasting. The description on the back label is fairly accurate: it says that the palate shows “plum, raspberry, black pepper and vanilla oak.” It all sounds wonderful but the vanilla flavor tends to drown out the other flavors. It was okay (or should I say oaky?) but we probably wouldn’t buy it again.

A Russian River Pinot

2003 Walter Hansel Russian River Pinot
Shane’s Notes

We saved this wine for a special meal. Jen prepared her famous roast chicken seasoned with spices and stuffed with butter. She also made mashed potatoes with chives and steamed some green beans. We even used our new china and, of course, ate by candlelight.

I have recently drunk some American Pinots with a texture so heavy that they reminded me of Syrahs. I’m not too thrilled with this style. I prefer the lighter textured Pinots like this one. The aroma boasted raspberry, licorice and sweetness. The flavors of the mildly concentrated palate included thyme, plum, black raspberry and a little funk. The texture was silky and the finish was long. It was very elegant and an outstanding Pinot for the price.

There’s an Orange in my Wine

2003 Vina Honda Tinto Cosecha
Bodegas Silvano Garcia, Jumilla
Shane’s Notes

The aroma showed sweet violets and oranges (our regular readers may notice that I smell sweet violets in a lot of wine). Surprisingly, the palate mirrored the aroma. The mid palate was dominated by an orangish flavor and the finish was quite dry. The wine was initially a little rough but smoothed out by the last half of the bottle. This was a very interesting wine and definitely worth the price.

Jost Good Enough

Toni Jost, 2003 Wallufer Walkenberg Riesling Spatlese Rheingau
Shane’s Notes

The palate displays a sweet, tangy lemon flavor with a hint of stoniness underneath. The finish is fairly short. It was enjoyable, but I prefer Spatlesen that are more concentrated and more complex. It was Jost good enough to justify the price.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Beauty from Bomfim

Vale do Bomfim, 2004 Douro Reserva
Shane’s Notes

We are continually amazed at the quality of the inexpensive table wines from the Douro. When we saw this offering from Dow at K&L, we couldn’t resist buying it. The aroma shows violet and perfume. The palate is elegant and typical of the Dow style – very restrained for a Douro blend. The palate shows cherry and wild berry flavor with hints of chocolate and spices. It somehow manages to be a bit sweet, tangy and slightly sour all at the same time. It has very firm tannins and a lengthy finish. It drinks well now with about 15 minutes of decanting, or you could age it for a few years. If you are a fan of Dow’s style (and we are), this will not disappoint. You won’t believe it only costs ten bucks.

A Stunning Wine

2005 Condrieu
Yves Cuilleron "Les Chaillets"
Jen’s Notes

My goal was to spend $75 on one good bottle of wine. This is, of course, always a worthy goal, but even more fun this time because it was essentially free money for participating in a market research focus group.

Shane said I should have free rein, so naturally, I went for the rare and ethereal Viognier of the Northern Rhone. Condrieu.

This was an absolutely beautiful, stunning wine. It was intensely fruity on the nose, with a hint of exotic spices. On the palate, it was both complex and concentrated, giving pretty much everything I want in a high-class white: elegance, florals (I would say honeysuckle), interesting fruit (guava, anyone?), hints of sweet spices, burnt caramel and vanilla, all culminating in a nearly endless finish with a little zing.

Top Twelve

Here’s our seventh top twelve list. A quick review of the rules that we follow: we choose 4 wines in the under $15 category, 4 in the $15 - $30 category and four in the over $30 category. Also, a winery can only appear once on the list.

Two wines from our honeymoon made the list. Unfortunately, we haven’t finished editing the notes yet so those reviews haven’t been posted. Hopefully, they will be posted in the near future. We were a few wines short in the mid range category this quarter, so we went back through our reviews and included a few great wines that were somehow left off prior top twelve lists.

The Sammarco is absolutely the best under $5 wine we have ever tasted. The Muffo was a revelation. It is a botrytized wine that is much richer than a Sauternes. It ranks up there with the best dessert wines in the world. The rest of the wines on the list are the usual suspects: French wines, a Marlborough S.B., a few from the Douro, a few from California and of course, a Chardonnay for Jen.

2.5 Euros, Ettore Sammarco, Ravella Rosso, Costa d’ Amalfi
Honeymoon – Praiano, Review not yet Posted

$7.99, 2004 Chateau des Cleons, Muscadet Sevre et Maines
Muscadet, 8/17/06

$12.99, Babich 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Lime and Apricot, 10/6/06

$13.99, Domaine Chandon Riche
Napa, 8/7/06

$15.99, Los Vascos, 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile
Lafite in Chile, 6/22/06

$19.99, 2005 Qupe Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyard “Y” BlockPeach Pie and Cardamom, 11/6/06

$25, Quinta de Roriz, Reserva 2001
Flavor Bomb, 3/1/06

$27.99, Lucien Crochet 2004 Sancerre
Our First Sancerre, 8/10/06

$35.99, Roederer Estate, L’Ermitage 1999, Anderson Valley
Cristal Lite, 10/19/06
$54.99, 2004 Puligny Montrachet, Les Pucelles, Premiere Cru, Domaine Marc Jomain
Montrachet, 8/7/06

N.A, Muffo, Sergio Mottura Cantina
Honeymoon – Rome, Review not yet Posted

$79.99, 1966 Krohn Colheita Port
A Sublime Port, 10/6/06

Honeymoon, Part I

Honeymoon, Part I
Shane’s Notes


We were in Italy for three weeks and paid from around 3 to 30 Euros for our bottles of wine (1 Euro is around 1.4 dollars). We noticed that most of the mid-priced wines were very good, but not the type of wine you sit down and contemplate. It was refreshing to drink this unpretentious wine. It was as if the wine were telling us to quit analyzing it and just enjoy it. The wines were not complex but usually had good concentration, a few really nice flavors and were very enjoyable to drink. Only a few were overoaked. We didn’t take detailed notes – after all, we were on our honeymoon. We just scribbled down some quick impressions of most of the wines we drank.

It took us 36 hours to travel from San Francisco to Florence. We flew into London and had to travel from the Heathrow airport to Gatwick. This transfer was more difficult than we had anticipated. We had to shell out $70 for the bus tickets, wait an hour in the rain for the next bus and then endure a one hour bus ride. We finally caught our next flight and arrived in Pisa past midnight. Because of the late hour, we decided to catch a cab to our hotel. The Pisa airport appears to have only four cabs, and there were literally over a hundred people in the cab line. We waited at least 45 minutes before finally getting a cab, and our cabbie took every right and left turn he could find until I had no idea where we were. After driving about four times as long as we should have, we arrived at the hotel and the enterprising cabbie hit a button which immediately doubled the fare. It was quite a trick! Anyway, we spent a restful night in the hotel before getting up in the morning and catching a train to Florence.

We arrived in Florence around noon and caught a bus to our hotel. We quickly unpacked and headed into the city center. We immediately had to see a sight so we went to Santa Croce. It is a magnificent church and was one of the highlights of Florence. The Giotto frescos in the church are absolutely stunning. We then went to the outdoor statue gallery at the Piazza della Signoria and saw a variety of statues including the Medusa, the Rape of the Sabine Women and a copy of David. We had our first Italian wine of the trip at an outdoor café on this plaza, a Vernaccia di San Gmigiano (Melini). It was a white wine and a nice quaffer at 13 Euros. It was a touch creamy; and the palate included grapefruit with maybe a touch of herbs. It was a nice wine to inaugurate our Florence leg of the trip.

We decided to hit the main tourist sights on the second day of the trip – the Duomo, the bell tower, the Baptistery and the Duomo museum. The most impressive sight was the interior of the dome in the Duomo. We had to climb up about 400 stairs to see it and my poor cartilage damaged knees were sore for days, but it was worth it. Vasari’s “Last Judgment” covers the interior of the dome. I knew about Vasari’s book about the painters of the Renaissance, but I didn’t know he was a painter himself. I’m sure we had some wine somewhere on this day but our tasting notes are blank.

Our third morning was spent at the Accademia. Obviously, the Michelangelo statues are the big attraction and really about all that is worth seeing in the museum. We actually preferred the unfinished Pieta to the more famous David. Afterwards, we headed over to the Florentine Leather School to get Jen a purse. The guild is housed in a church, and you can actually watch the workers hand stitching the purses. Jen bought a purse and we then discovered one of our favorite drinking spots. It was a small snack bar near the Ponte Vecchio. We bought a half bottle of wine and enjoyed it outdoors in the Piazza di San Stefano. Our half bottle was a 2004 Chianti Classico by Banfi for 6 Euros. Unfortunately, it was served a little too warm. The palate showed cherry and lavender and it was a decent wine if not spectacular. That’s practically a ringing endorsement from us, because we usually aren’t too thrilled with Chianti.

The next day took us to Fiesole, a pretty town on the Florentine hillside. We sauntered around Roman ruins and then walked down the hill to San Domenico. We had hoped to visit the church but it was closed. So, we naturally headed to an outdoor café for some wine. The bartender poured us a Pinot Grigio. It was light, tangy and showed grapefruit. It was very refreshing.

On one of these days, we managed to find a decent wine bar. We had a heckuva time finding a wine bar as we think of them in the U.S. Most of the places mentioned in our guidebooks turned out to simply be wine shops that may or may not be having tastings. Anyway, this particular wine shop was tasting about a dozen wines. We started out with a glass of Brunello di Montelpuciano for 6 Euros a glass. This was one of the best wines of the trip. It was incredibly concentrated and the flavors unfolded in waves of licorice and red fruit with a very long finish. It was amazing. Next, I tried a Malvasia and Jen had a Chianti Classico. I didn’t like the Malvasia. It was disturbingly frizzy and much too sweet even for me. Jen liked her Chianti and found it to be very concentrated. Lastly, we each had a glass of Vin Santo at 2.5 Euros a glass. It was much different than what we were expecting. Instead of a rich sweetness, it was more grappa-like. It was a touch sweet and very grapey. It was okay.

We also, of course, had a few bottles at the hotel over the first few nights. We had a 2003 Amarone della Valpolicella Val Pantena Carlevari for 20 Euros. This was one of my favorite wines of the trip. Jen also really liked it but not quite as much as I did. It reminded me of a Gigondas – the dominant flavor was a concentrated lavender and the texture was very heavy. Jen described the palate as having violet candy and prunes. It was not as dry as other Amarones I’ve had. The finish was endless. I had heard that we had to try a Bolgheri so we bought one of those as well. We had the Il Bruciato 2004 Bolgheri. It was a mixture of Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot. On the palate, the Syrah really comes through. It is fruity and funky with sweet red fruit and some currant in the background. It was a playful wine and fun to drink.

We spent the next day wandering around the Boboli Gardens and visiting a few museums on the premises. The museums were nothing special but the gardens are beautiful. I think what Jen remembers most about this day is that she had the best sandwich of the trip at their café. After a long day of walking, we went back to our snack bar near the Ponte Vecchio and drank a half bottle of 2005 Le Rime Banfi for 6 euros. It was a Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio mix. It was tart, metallic and a touch grapey. It was serviceable.

Later that night, we discovered one of our favorite restaurants of the entire trip, the Golden View. It was just on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio and was about 80% Italian and 20% touristy. It fit the bill because they were open at 5 and as we were still adjusting to the time change, we just couldn’t wait until 7:30 to eat. We had pizza and it was great. I had the Pizza Fuego which was topped with red and green peppers, onions and salami. Jen’s pizza was a deadly rich combination of Porcini Mushrooms, scamorza and white truffle cream. They had a very good wine list so we went with a moderately priced wine. We tried a 2004 Rosso di Montepulciano Dei for 20 Euros. As we noticed time and time again with Italian wines, it was very focused had good concentration. It showed prunes and herbal notes and had a long finish. We followed dinner with an incredible Vin Santo. It had a very rich texture and tasted of sweet vanilla, brown sugar, and burnt caramel. The brown sugar and caramel appeared on the nose as well. It was a bit nutty. It was wonderfully complex and concentrated – this is what Vin Santo is all about.

Back at the hotel, we opened a bottle of Santo Spirito by Frescobaldi for 7.5 Euros. It was a high octane white dessert wine. This was our cheapie to save some money. It was decent for the money. The palate was very sweet and showed a tart orange flavor. It was most likely orange muscat.

The next day was interesting. We headed over to the Uffizi with our reservations only to find out that I had just made the biggest mistake of the trip – our reservations were for the prior day. Fortunately, I was able to get reservations for the late afternoon, so we headed over to the Brancacci Chapel in the morning. We absolutely loved the Masaccio frescos there, especially the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. As for the Uffizi, it deserves it’s reputation. There are literally dozens of masterpieces there that everyone should see at least once. My personal favorites were the works by Lippi and Botticelli. We both agreed that the Botticellis were the best works in the museum. Jen preferred the Birth of Venus while I preferred the Rites of Spring. Once again, my notes are hazy but somewhere along the way, we had a white wine that day - aVermentino Maremma Toscano Tenuta Perolla Massa Marittima San Felice for 12 Euros. It was creamy with a dry, metallic finish.

I didn’t have any plans for our last day in Florence. We poured through the guidebook and chose two churches. We began the day at the Convent of San Marco. Our guidebook called it the most religious place in Florence and I would have to agree. You are allowed to look inside the individual cells where the monks lived and each cell contains a fresco by Fra Angelico. The paintings are remarkable and extremely well preserved. In the afternoon, we went to Piazzale Michelangelo and joined the hordes of tourists for our obligatory picture of us with Florence in the background. We asked an Aussie couple to do the honors. They took our photo and we reciprocated. They admitted that they had wanted someone to take their picture but their dislike of people had prevented them from asking anyone.

From there, we hiked to San Miniato. Jen liked this church even better than San Marco. For our last dinner in Florence, we headed back to the Golden View. I had another Pizza Fuego and Jen happily discovered a different truffle pizza with black truffles. We took our waiter’s recommendation and had the 2000 La Forra Chianti Classico Riserva for 30 Euros. I wasn’t too thrilled with spending that much on a Chianti but this one was pretty darn good. It was minty and funky and reminded Jen of a Bordeaux. There was a slight red fruit flavor underneath (cherry) and the wine finished dry. It was not at all like the chiantis we have had back in the states.

We walked back to the hotel and to prolong the evening, we stopped in a park near our hotel on the bank of the Arno. We ordered a couple glasses of Prosecco and had a toast to Florence. We suspect they slipped us Spumante because the sparkler was fairly sweet but it was still a nice way to end this leg of the trip.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A South African S.B.

2005 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Shane’s Notes

We had been looking for this S.B. for quite awhile. It scored a very high rating in one of Andrea Immer’s books so our expectations were high. The aroma was very promising showing citrus, grass and green beans. The palate was not as grassy as the nose suggests. There was a nice citrus flavor with creamy lemon and green beans. It is smooth and very well structured. It is a very good S.B., but the flavors never quite go into overdrive. If my expectations hadn’t been so high, I would have really enjoyed it.

Rosé from the Caves of the Popes

2005 Caves du Papes Heritage Rosé
Shane’s Notes

We weren’t too thrilled with their cheapie Rhone but I managed to convince Jen that we should give Caves du Papes another chance. The color was very dark for a Rosé. The palate showed blood orange and watermelon. It was very tangy. The finish was medium length and dry. It was a decent Rosé but we probably wouldn’t buy it again.

Not quite Paradise

Paradiso Vernaccia
San Gmigiano, Italy
Shane’s Notes

This wine reminded me of a fruity Sauvignon Blanc. The palate was citrussy, a little creamy and a bit heavy. The dominant flavors were Sage and Grapefruit. It was not as good as the San Gmigiano we had in Italy, but it was a nice, tangy quaffer.

Peach Pie and Cardamom

2005 Qupe Chardonnay
Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyard “Y” Block
Jen's Notes

We've had several Qupe wines at various tastings, and I have been a fan of their Syrahs for some time. So, we were curious to try their Chardonnay. This one was a touch young, I think, and needed some time in the glass to open up. The nose was creamy, redolent of fresh peach pie and spices. The palate was similarly rich, full-bodied and powerful. Initially, it seemed a little closed, but later opened up with sweet spices (cardamom) and a tangy, slightly peachy flavor. Bright acidity balanced the richness. It had a long finish with a little zesty note. Not a whole lot of fruit but nicely made and worth the price.