Wine List

E: So for some time I’ve been keeping an informal list of wines and my opinions of them. And I’ve had enough interest from friends of mine that I figured it was time that it went live. A good number of these were tried and shared with Joanna, so due thanks to her in all such cases. I’ve noted her opinions where they differ from mine.

Keep in mind these are just my very-unofficial opinions, based on my own tastes and preferences. I am highly opinionated, but don’t claim to be an expert, so if your tastes differ from mine don’t take my reviews at face-value. By all means let me know in the comments if you think anything deserves another look with a different point of view. I’m not associated with any of these companies, nor do any of them supply me with samples, so my reviews are monetarily unbiased. I am still a bigger fan of whites, particularly Chardonnay and Riesling, than reds, but I’ve found quite a few nice Italian reds that I like. I do try to be fair to the strengths of wines that are outside of my preferences, but take my own biases into account.

how can you have a wine list without a picture of wine?

A note on categories:  I try to arrange the wines in categories by the varietal names under which they are sold. This doesn’t always work out. And yes, I am aware that some of the categories may be equivalent to others, or subcategories of them (Bordeaux and Claret). I decided to do this for clarity, so that the information in the reviews matches the labels on the bottles; however the organizational scheme may change at some point to better deal with the wines that are causing this one problems.

Price Key


$ – < $8
$$ – $9 –> $19
$$$ – $20 –> $35
$$$$ – $35 –> $60
$$$$$ – $65 –> $100
$$$$$+ – $100+

Wines


red

-Aglianico
Vinosia, 2009. Campania, Italy. :: Really good and totally distinctive. Orange and peppercorns. Medium bodied, with a little honeylike floweryness. Great! ($$)

-Alentejo
Marques de Borba, 2007. Portugal. :: Good. Starts smooth and transitions to a dry finish, with a vague mintyness that lingers on the palate. Not very full-bodied though, a little thin. ($$)

-Barbera
Casalone, Barbera Del Monferrato, 2007. Italy. :: Really quite excellent. Full, smooth. Fresh fruit and spices. Around the suggested temperature range it is fantastic. (~$$)
Oddero, Barbera d’Aste, 2008. Italy. :: An excellent wine, and a unique Barbera. I’d call it an adventure. Strong, full, with a bit of spice. Lovely mouthfeel. Great with simple flavors, like some cheese and crackers, so its complexity can shine. ($$$)
Cascina Roera, Cardin. Costigliole d’Asti, Italy. :: Not labeled as Barbera because it is a blend, but Cascina Roera makes several good Barberas and this is where it seems to fit. Bold and pure, dry with a pleasant light spiciness—exciting. Really good. ($$$)

-Beaujolais
Chateau de Lavernette, 2009. France. :: Full and balanced. Smooth. Tastes of raspberries and spice. No headaches. The best. ($$$)

-Bordeaux
Chateau Chabiran, 2007. Gironde, France. :: Spicy, full, rounded. Tastes like a pricier wine. Excellent. ($$)

-Cabernet Sauvignon
Excelsior, 2007. South Africa. :: Warm and full bodied. Not the smoothest red, quite dry. Good. ($$)
Smith & Hook, 2007. Central Coast, CA. :: Good. Has full body and flavor, spicy but not biting, with a nice roundness to it. Recommended. ($$$).
Charles Shaw, 2008. California. :: Harsh and tasteless. (I’m told some years are ok, but I haven’t had good luck with three-buck-chuck.) (~$)

-Carignan (Carignano)
Sardus Pater, Is Solus, 2007. Sardinia, IT. :: Wonderfully dark and smooth on the tongue, with just a touch of dryness. Elevated nose but not sharp:  fruity, deep, comforting. Highly recommended—one of my absolute favorites next to PietraLuna and Di Majo Norante. ($$)

-Claret
Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, 2007 Black Label. Sonoma, CA :: Hearty, notes of charcoal, patchouli, and cumin. Long, dry finish. Good. (~$$$)

-Dolcetto
San Fereolo, Valdiba, 2008. Piedmont, IT. :: Dry, spicy, with a light nose. Strongly, but not violently, acidic. A little in-your-face, with notes of flowers and coriander. ($$)

-Malbec
Trapiche, 2008. Mendoza, Argentina. :: Acceptable wine–too fruity and ovedone for my tastes. A bit thin. (~$)
Gascón, 2010.Mendoza, Argentina. :: Mild, dry, with smoky barbecue flavors finished with a plum-like sweetness. Good, much better than the above. ($$)

-Mayolet
L’Enfer Coenfer, Vin des Seigneurs, 2009. Vallée d’Aoste, Italy. :: Really fantastic. Highly recommended. ($$$)

-Merlot
Santa Ema, 2007. Maipo Valley, Chile. :: Good, but didn’t stand out. Would drink again, but not before trying some other choices. (~$$)
Estancia, 2004. Central Coast, CA. :: Hearty and spicy, with good body, but went bad quickly. Excellent the first day. ($$)
Lindemans, Bin 40, 2010. Australia. :: A reasonable, basic Merlot. A little harsh. For the price, I would buy it again. ($)

-Negramaro
PietraLuna, 2010. Italy. :: A great Italian red, which I put about even with the Di Majo Norante Sangiovese in my affections. A little less outspoken, but still complex and satisfying. To my tastes it is without fault. ($$)

-Rioja
Campo Viejo, Reserva, 2006. Spain. (Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo) :: Quite good. Rich and flavorful. Would buy again. ($$)

-Sangiovese
Di Majo Norante, 2009. Molise, Italy. :: Totally exquisite. Moves from slighty saline to creamy to crisp. Savory and spicy, edge of smokyness and a hint of flowers. Pleasantly dry, beautifully complex, with hints of vanilla and cumin. I am in awe. Serve slightly chilled. This wine is a steal at $14! Buy a case. Or two. ($$)
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, 2008. Tuscany. :: Really strong on the fruit flavors:  a berry explosion. Definitely on the smooth/sweet side to start, but with pleasant dryness in the finish. A bit of spice and wood in there too. A great wine–but for people who have different tastes than I. [Update: excellent paired with strong Asian spice/umami.] ($$)

-Shiraz
Penfolds Thomas Hyland, 2008. Adelaide, Australia. :: A good Shiraz. Reminds me a lot of the Rosemount, in its hearty-ness and its flavors, but smoother and deeper. A good compliment to meats, mushrooms, or chili. (Joanna likes this one too.) (~$$)
Greg Norman, 2007.
Limestone Coast, Australia. :: Had a bit of an edge even after it opened up. Not exactly off-putting but not quite to our tastes, and made it hard to judge otherwise. We preferred the Penfolds. ($$)
Two Hands, Angels’ Share, 2009.
McLaren Vale, Australia. :: Very smooth, rich, and strong. Highly recommended if you can get any. (?)
Liebich, The Darkie 2003.
Barossa Valley. :: Smoky and full. with a nice sharpness and acidity. Dry but balanced, with a smooth finish. Very, very nice. (?)
Yellow Tail, 2007.
Australia. :: Acceptable red table wine. Not outstanding but plainly drinkable. (~$)
Rosemount 2007. NSW, Australia. :: Excellent for the price. Not overly bitter or harsh. Smooth. Simple, but pleasant. (Note that Joanna, more of a red wine fan, finds it harsh. Take that as you will.) (~$)

-Blends
Paul Mas Estate, Single Vineyard Collection, 2008. Coteaux de Languedoc, France. (Grenache, Syrah, & Mourvèdre) :: Very smooth with a pleasant edge of dryness. Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, smoked wood, an edge of spiciness:  exquisite. ($$)
Rosemount 2007.
NSW, Australia. (Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon) :: Excellent for the price. Smooth and easy to drink. (~$)
Sebeka 2007. South Africa. (Shiraz & Pinotage) :: Dark, woody, spicy, and dry. Up-front and honest. (~$$)
Santa Cristina 2008. Tuscany. (Sangiovese & Merlot) :: Thin and metallic. Drinkable but not good. (~$$)
d’Arenberg, The Laughing Magpie, 2007. McLaren Vale, Australia. (Shiraz & Viognier) :: Good. A little sharp, but a decent wine with a great name. (?)
Henschke, Keyneton Estate Euphonium, 2005. Barossa, Australia. (Shiraz, CS, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) :: Dark, smoky, a little sweet, with flavors of currants and blackberries. Powerful, but good. (?)

white

-Bellone
Castore Lazio, 2010. Cori, Italy. :: Easy to drink. Neither too sweet nor too dry, with strong fresh flavors. A bit of oak flavor, creamy with a nice bite. ($$)

-Bordeaux Blanc
La Freynelle, 2008. Sauvignon/Semillon de Bordeaux, France. :: Good. I’d need to try it again to give tasting notes. ($$)

-Burgundy Blanc
Bertheir Macon Chaintre, 2009. France. :: Intriguing. This was strongly citrus-flavored, with loads of character. A bit light, “high,” without a lot of deepness  or body to it, but crisp. Tasty. ($$)

-Chardonnay
Alondra, 2008. California. Mendocino CA. Complex and fruity. Give it time to breathe. (~$$)
Columbia Crest, 2007. Washington. :: Creamy, soft, sweet, can be a little overpowering, but it is an incredibly unique wine. (~$$)
Columbia Crest, 2008. Washington. :: Creamy start with a more cognac-y and aromatic finish than the ’07. More complex and more balanced, but a bit less distinctive. (~$$)
Chateau Ste Michelle, 2008. Columbia Valley, WA. :: Creamy like the CC. Balanced and tasty, with a pleasing bite. (~$$)
Louis Jadot Macon-Villages, 2009. :: A solid standard. But I find the Washington ones more unique. ($$)
Excelsior, 2009. South Africa. :: Smooth, with a zesty nose and a sweet finish. Hint of musty oak. An honest and simple Chardonnay. Recommended. (~$$)
Nederburg, 2007. South Africa. :: Quite good. Similar to Excelsior if memory serves. ($$)
Tierra Brisa, 2008. Mendoza, Argentina. :: Unique. Starts sweet and fruity, with a dry and vermouth-like finish. Doesn’t taste heavily oaked. Highly recommended. (~$$)
Yellow Tail [Reserve], 2007. Australia. :: A little harsh, but perfectly acceptable standard. I originally had it in the normal distribution, before they started selling it as Reserve, and my thoughts are the same on both. (~$ [$$])
Yellow Tail, 2008. Australia. :: Harsh, astringent, tasteless. Properly aerated it is drinkable, barely. (Maybe it will mellow with time, but disappointing after the 07.) (~$)

-Chenin Blanc
Cave des Producteurs, VOUVRAY Demi-sec, 2009. Loire, France. :: Particularly fruity (lots of apple flavor) but certainly a demi-sec. Fairly well-balanced. Would buy again. ($$)

-Grüner Veltliner
Domäne Wachau, 2009. Wachau, Austria. :: Much like a Riesling, but less sweet, fuller and a touch drier. Very good. ($$)

-Gewürztraminer
René MURÉ, 2007. Alsace, France. :: Quite sweet. Tastes strongly of apple. Seems like it would be a great, sweet white dessert wine. Recommended. ($$)

-Frascati
Casale Marchese, 2009. Frascati, Italy. :: A dry white. Crisp and a little tart. Hints of apple, but mostly sharp and flowery. A fairly balanced dry white until the finish, which is bitter, and tastes oddly like asparagus. Could stand up to stronger foods, but off-putting on its own. ($$)

-Inzolia
Cusumano Insolia. Italy. :: Pleasant and fruity, a bit dry but not overly so. Simple. A good standard. I buy it a lot. (~$$)
Regaleali. Sicily. :: As good or better than Cusumano. Perhaps a touch sweeter and fuller. ($$)

-Malvasia
Poderi Sanguineto I e II. Montepulciano, Tuscany. :: Peppery, spicy, and light, with a bite to the nose. Dry without being harsh. Very interesting and distinct. Worth trying with savory food. ($$) [Note it is labeled as Bianco, not by varietal.]

-Moscato
Jacob’s Creek, 2010. Australia. :: Very sweet, very fruity. A little bit of a harsh metallicity in the aftertaste. An ok wine, especially for a summer evening of casual drinking. ($)

-Muscadet
Chateau de la Dimerie, 2004. Loire, France (Sur Lie). :: Strange. Tastes like chalk, stone, with a more fruity finish. (Went bad very quickly, so it may have been slightly off: try a more recent year). ($$)
Selection des Cognettes, 2008. Sur Lie. :: Good. Sweet with a touch of dryness. [Online commentary seems to agree has a slightly saline, marine flavour.] Distinctive. ($$)
Alfred Pery – Vallée Loire Sèvre & Maine,  2010. Sur Lie. :: Quite good; superficially similar to the Selection des Cognettes but it has been too long to say which is better. Fruity punch with some nice salinity. ($$)

-Orvieto
Santa Cristina, Campogrande, 2010. Cortona, Italy. :: Fruity and full of personality. It can stand up to stronger foods, and has mostly-balanced finish with a dry aftertaste. Good, though not exceptional. ($$)

-Pinot Gris/Grigio
Westport Rivers. :: Interesting, but not in a good way. Sharp with a metallic bite that lingers on the palate. (~$$$)
Yellow Tail, 2008. Australia. :: Harsh and fairly tasteless. Leave it a while and it is drinkable, but there are better choices. (~$)
Mirassou, 2007. California. :: Dry, pleasant and light. Surprisingly spicy with a lot of nose, but has some strange over-notes. ($$)
Acrobat, King Estate Winery, 2010. Eugene, Oregon. :: Light, almost too weak for my tastes. It has a soft creamyness and an even finish with very light flowery notes. Very subtle but distinctly “Oregon.” ($$)

-Riesling
Starling Castle, 2008. Mosel, Germany. :: Sweet and fruity. Crisp with notes of wildflowers and pear. Recommended for light meals or dessert. (~$$)
Saarstein, 2007. Mosel, Germany. :: Sweet and crisp. Tart but still refreshing, with just a hint of oak in the finish. Very good. (~$$)
Silvan Ridge, 2007. Columbia Valley, Oregon. :: Very dry, different but reasonably good. Not exceptional in my opinion. (Joanna loved it, so give it a try.) ($$)
Hugel, 2006. Alsace, France. :: Starts sweet with a dry finish. Creamy, with notes of caramel and a lingering light sweetness. Really quite excellent. ($$)
Fritz Zimmer, Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay Spatlese, 2009. :: A good wine that compares well with others listed here. Nicely tempered sweetness. Smooth. (?)
Würtz, 2006. Rhinehessen, Germany. :: Like a sweet Mosel Reisling, but slightly dry. I’d call it semi-sweet. Fruity, but with overtones of Klasse car polish (strangely, that isn’t a bad thing). ($$)
Flying Fish, 2008. Washington. :: Worth a try. Nothing special though. ($$)

-Sauvignon Blanc
Cupcake Vineyards, 2009. Marlborough, NZ. :: Refreshing and reasonably good. Fruity, but a little odd. I think the Mohua and Oyster Bay are better wines. ($$)
Matua, 2009. Marlborough, NZ. :: A touch of dryness. A little weak in flavor, but not bad. Second taste: A decent wine, but doesn’t stand out. ($$)
Mohua, 2009. Marlborough, NZ. :: Fresh and crisp, but with a nice creamy feel and aftertaste that reminds me of a Columbia Valley chardonnay. Highly recommended ($$)
Oyster Bay, 2009. Marlborough, NZ. :: A good wine, with a nice, light sweetness to it. I’d call it fruity. Refreshing. ($$)
Bogle Vineyards, 2010. Clarksburg, CA. :: Really, really fruity. Sweet with a bit of tang. Not my favorite but I would definitely buy it again. ($$)
Monkey Bay, 2009. Marlborough, NZ. :: This is the worst so far in this category, a little below the Matua in my opinion. Sharp, but not in a pleasant way, and oddly fruit-juicy. Ended up using this for cooking. I can’t recommend it when a few more dollars will get a much better wine. ($$)
Chateu Ste Michelle, 2010. Columbia Valley, WA. :: Dryer than the Australian wines of this varietal. Nice crisp fruit flavors, on top of a subtle, savory, earthy and sort of creamy base. Good. ($$)
Whitehaven, 2010. Marlborough, NZ. :: A good wine, that fits in between the Matua and the Mohua/Oyster Bay in my opinion. ($$)
Murphy Goode, The Fumé, 2010. Santa Rosa, CA. :: They portray this as a fun wine, and it isn’t bad. But I think there are better wines on this list. ($)
Pouilly Fumé, Domaine de Belair 2010. Pouilly sur Loire, France. :: A classic Loire wine: a touch sweet, smooth and nicely oaked. Good. ($$$)

-Trebbiano
Masciarelli, 2009. San Martino sulla Marrucina, Italy. :: Light, balanced (but on the sweet side), and flavorful. Phenomenally easy to drink, but not boring or lacking in personality. Fresh, and a good match for lighter fare. ($$)

-Verdicchio
Fontezoppa, 2009. Civitanova Marche, Italy. :: Zesty. Dryish. I’d certainly serve this to anyone without fear. A good,  bright, white wine. ($$)

-Vermentino
Sada Toscana I.G.T., 2010. Toscana, Italy. :: Zesty and a little sharp. Incredibly interesting:  peach and apricot flavors. A bit of creamy oak far in the background. Smoother after 2-3 days. Try it. ($$$)

-Viognier
Domaine de Château d’Eau, 2009. Pays d’Oc, France. :: Fresh and fruity wine. Nice balance of sweet and dry, unlikely to offend anyone. Refreshing finish lingers, turning a little bitter. Good for the price, but better with food. ($$)
Cline, 2009.
California. :: Fruity and flowery, with a hint of peaty-ness in the finish. A bit too fruity for my tastes, but quite respectable. ($$)

-Blends
Kukkula Vaalea Paso Robles, 2008. Templeton, CA. (Viognier & Roussanne):: Fresh white wine, with notes of flowers, apple, and pear. (~$$)
Vendemmia Coenobium, 2009. Italy. (Trebbiano, Malvasia, Verdicchio) :: “The wine that peasants drank.” A Trappiste wine that isn’t one of my favorites, but it certainly interesting. Sharp, a little watery but unique and therefore worth a try. ($$)

rosé

Murphy’s Law, 2008. Columbia V. WA, Willamette V. OR. :: Acidic. Tastes like vinegar until warmed and aerated, at which point it becomes drinkable, but still sharp and astringent. Murphy’s Law is an oddly appropriate name.

white zinfandel

Beringer, 2008. California. :: Tastes of fresh fruit and strawberries. More like punch than wine. Not bad for a refreshing drink I suppose, but not wine. Left me feeling unsatisfied. (~$)

sparkling

-Blanc de Blanc
Charles De Fère Reserve Brut. France. :: Drier and less complex than the “Tradition”, but with a pleasant Champagne bite. (~$$)

-Champagne
Moet Imperial. France. :: A good champagne. A little too sharp, but flavourful. Roughly on a level with the Charles de Fere Blanc de Blanc. ($$$)
Billetcart & Salmon. (Black Label) France. :: A very different champagne than Moet. Sweet, with a slightly dry finish. Tastes of peach, slightly flowery, and solidly oaked. ($$$$)

-Chardonnay
Charles De Fère Tradition Brut. France. :: Fruity and flowery notes with depth and complexity. Some hints of nuts. Pleasantly sweet, not too dry. Highly recommended for a reasonably-priced Champagne-substitute. (~$$)
Bellavista, Cuvee Brut. Lombardy, Italy. :: (90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot) Delicious. Beautiful. One of the best I’ve had. Fresh and lively, with pleasant roundness and fullness. Fruity, with an excellent perfume. ($$$$)

-Muscat (Moscato)
Silvan Ridge Early Muscat, 2008. Oregon. :: Semi-sparkling, light and sweet with a lot of pear. Very smooth. Excellent dessert wine. ($$)
Borgo Maragliano ‘El Calié’ Mosto d’Uva, 2010. Piedmont, Italy. :: Sweet and fruity. Unabashedly dessert-y, simple, drinkable and really excellent for the price. ($$)

-Pinot Nero
Contratto Millesimato, 2007. Piedmont, IT. :: A champagne-process (methodo classico) sparkling wine from Italy. Rich, complex, and strongly oaked. Hits with the best of its French competitors. Recommended. ($$$$)

-Prosecco
ADAMI Adriano Bosca di Gica Brut. Italy. :: Simple but good. Apples and flowers. (~$$$)
ADAMI Adriano Garbel. Italy. :: Not bad at all for the price of the bottle. Worlds above cheaper alternatives. Not quite as good as the Bosca di Gica:  a bit sharp and plain. (~$$)

-Rosé
Hesketh, The Proposition. Australia. :: Light, sweet, fruity and pleasant. Grape, raspberry, and apple. A good dessert or appetizer wine, but I’d stay away from serving it with main courses. (A note to the purist:  it is a bit like sparkling fruit juice.) (~$$)

-Unknown
Westport Brut by Westport Rivers, 2005. Westport, New England. :: Unlike anything else here, and that may or may not be a good thing. Sharp with a bit of bitterness even. A little shocking. But wonderful with spicy food. (~$$)

Eau de Vie


-Poire William
Marie Brizard. France. :: Very, very sweet. A bit harsh and metallic. Probably best for cooking/using as a liqueur. It pales next to the real stuff. ($$$)
Mathilde Poire. France. :: Better than MB. Sweet but without harshness. Ripe pears with hints of spices and cinnamon. Much sweeter than La Captive and Westford Hill. ($$ for 375ml)
La Captive. France. :: Quite good. A cognac-like nose. Very strongly vaporous. Ripe pear taste. ($$$$)
Westford Hill. Connecticut. :: Subtle nose with a medium-strong bite on the tongue. Oils of skin and seeds lend an early, green, pear taste. Recommended. ($$ for 200ml)

Cognac


Remy Martin VS. Petit Champagne. :: A cost-conscious and acceptable cognac. Harsh, ethanol overtones. Nutty and fruity, apples, pear. Quick finish. (~$$$)
Remy Martin VSOP. “Fine” Champagne. :: It is a mix of Petit & Grand Champagne grapes. Not worth the cost over the VS. A longer finish, but similar taste. (~$$$$)
Pierre Ferrand Ambre. Grand Champagne. :: Wonderful. Light, complex, enjoyable. Light notes of flowers and fruit. Sensuous. (One taste of their Reserve has me convinced it is as close as we’ll ever get to ambrosia, but it is even pricier.) (~$$$$)

Vermouth


Martini & Rossi Extra Dry. French Dry. :: Crystal clear, with a strong herb smell. Smooth and fairly dry. I will use it for cooking if I need a white and I don’t have other options–it works pretty well–but for consuming directly I’d pick Dolin. (~$)
Dolin. French Dry. :: Clear, more mature and balanced than M&R. Much better product, with a lingering pleasant aftertaste. Makes a great martini and I use it for cooking quite a bit if I’m not opening a bottle of something. (~$$)

Sweet/Fortified Wines


Ferreira Ruby Porto. Portugal. :: Sweet, spicy, warming. Delicious with chocolate (and cookies). ($$)
Di Majo Norante Apianae. Sweet white wine of Molise, Italy. :: Sweet but nicely saline. Good mouthfeel. An edge of spiciness but overall very smooth. A bit lighter than port or sherry. Excellent. ($$$)
Westport Rivers Pineau de Pinot. Westport, New England. :: It’s complicated. Lots of subtle flavors, a bit like the Apianae but a little bit more imposing. I think it is delicious and different. ($$$)
Warre’s Otima 10 year tawny. Portugal. :: A reddish tawny, with a flavor that tends to the ruby port side of the spectrum. Comfortingly sweet, but doesn’t have the complexity of the 20. ($$$)
Warre’s Otima 20 year tawny. Portugal. :: A beautiful dark amber color. Give it time to breathe, because it is sharp when first opened. Ends up wonderfully deep, complex, and interesting. A solid choice. ($$$$)
Trentino, Vino Santo, 1998. Italy. :: Warm, golden, and glorious. An amazing sweet wine. Lighter than port but no less opulent. Well worth the extravagant price. ($$$$$)

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