Vecordia 2009 Ribera del Duero Roble

I am super amped to have the second bottle from my recent buying spree be something actually worth writing about.  I don’t normally go for bottles with a kitsch label like this, but the price was right and something about it told me to buy it. Possibly it was the lack of a back label with a panty-dropping description of how the oak and tannins were going to rock my world and that my mouth would explode with toasty peppermint and chocolate and gumdrop apple beans. I don’t know what that is supposed to mean, but I’m going to roll with it. So yeah. None of that. No real description of how it is supposed to taste.

Sexy little Tempernillo

The first thing you’ll notice about this wine is the violet color around the edges, and the luscious deep red of the body. Right away I was pretty stoked to suck on this wine.  Without letting the wine sit for too long, I gave the wine a thorough sniff, which revealed some tart and spicy notes.  There is a lot more structure to the nose of this than the Sangiovese from earlier this week. The initial nose is a little hot, as well.

So, let’s take a minute to discuss this Vecordia.  This is a Tempernillo grape aged in oak. The “Roble” on the bottle is Spanish for “Oak”.  The term Roble is also used to indicate that the wine has not been left to age in the oak for long enough to attain the “Crianza” label, or minimum 6 month oak aging (with 18 month bottle aging). Ribera del Duero, a DO region in northern Spain, is known for producing some excellent Tempernillo wines. Notable wineries include Vega Sicilia, Emilio Moro, and Cepa 21. The terroir consists mainly of silt and clay sand, layered with chalk, marl — a lime-rich mud — and limestone.

Boom. Now that you skipped that paragraph, I’m ready to taste this bad boy. Swish, swirl, aerate… And we have a winner! The tannic structure is good, even without letting the wine breathe (though I recommend you do let it breathe for about 10 minutes). These initial notes are tart blueberry, spice, and pepper. This wine is definitely medium-bodied with a great mouthfeel. The finish was lingering and tannic with a bit of fruit.

After it spent some time opening up, the harsh initial nose disappeared to leave a thick, sweet cherry smell (NOT overwhelming).  This note rang true in the taste, as well, with currant and blackberry coming through to accompany the sweet cherry.

I really liked this wine. Overall it’s well-structured and has the proper mixture of sweet red fruits and tannin-y goodness. I’d give it a solid 88-89.

Extra reading:

Interpreting the Spanish Wine Label

 Wikipedia entry on Ribera del Duero

Il Ginepro 2010 Sangiovese

I’m not in the business of reviewing shitty wine. It’s just a hobby I like to partake in from time-to-time. Last night accidentally became one of those times.

I went on a wine buying spree last night, determined to create some more content for this long-stagnant blog. The mix was pretty good: several Côtes du Rhones, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Rioja, Malbec. The Sangiovese was lauded as “pretty good” and “drinkable”. “Hints of anise and spice” were also listed on the little card that sold this bottle to me as a value-driven wine. Well, folks, I am here to tell you I plan on defacing that card.

Il Ginepro 2010 Sangiovese

The Culprit

The wine poured well, it looked good. No rust color on the edges, slight violet color, but mostly red. There was no heat on the nose, and it smelled of vanilla, tobacco, and spice. I was extremely excited by this wine! In addition to those notes, it smelled a little gritty. There was a heft to the nose.

Then I made the mistake of putting the wine in my mouth. At first there was no real taste, which confused me immensely. I’m not used to that. Usually wine either tastes good, or it tastes bad. This didn’t have a taste. The tannin stuck to my tongue and just sort of sat there. The finish was bland and quick. And then I realized that this wine was incredibly sweet. A sweetness that my taste buds outright rejected. And that tannin wasn’t really tannin, it was more of a sweet residue on my tongue, destroying my palate.

Here’s the truly disheartening thing: there is indeed some anise in the mouth, and this IS a medium bodied wine. Nothing that the card said was false, in fact. Tobacco, vanilla, spice, grit. But in the least complex, most poorly structured wine I’ve ever had. I don’t think this is expressive of the Sangiovese grape at all.  I understand that Sangiovese has traditionally been part of a blend due to its harsh acidity, but there’s no reason for this sweet hot mess.

Bottom Line: Undrinkable. Not a value. The card was not a liar, but it did not tell the whole truth.

2008 Bramare Vina Cobos Lujan de Cuyo Malbec

Ryan’s been keeping up lately, so I thought I’d step my game up and open a bottle I have been saving for about a month (long time, I know). I thought I’d take a minute while I’m waiting for the wine to open up to get this post started.

Bramare 2008 Bottle

Bramare 2008 Bottle

I’m a huge fan of Malbec, particularly the 2006 vintage. I posted last winter about two amazing 2006 bottles that I was fortunate enough to have before they started to disappear (or sell for $50+ per bottle). The inky texture, the blackberry and heavy, jammy flavor and mouth feel… well it’s like getting kicked in the face with awesome. Currently I’m getting some notes of actual ink off of this puppy, like the Bic pen kind. Sort of gummy. The nose is a little confusing, like sensory overload. Black and blueberry bubble gum. That’s what I’ve decided.

So, I’ve tasted this before and it’s overly hot if it doesn’t open up for a little while, so let’s learn some shit about Bramare together.

Bramare is the Italian word for “to yearn for”. The back of the bottle says that the grapes are “sourced from premier vineyards in the Lujan de Cuyo appellation, located at 945 to 1100 meters elevation in Mendoza. Aged 18 months in small oak barrels.” Wikipedia tells us that this particular area sits “on alluvial soils; sandy or stony surfaces on clay substrata.” I’m very interested to see how this plays out in the wine, as I’m a big fan of the sand and clay terroir. This is their “middle-tier” wine, by the way. Selling at a middle-tier price of around $42.

I have been having some rather long and intensely satisfying conversations with Ryan about what we’re going to be trying this winter, and after spending the last two or three years really delving into the wine world with him, it’s very interesting to see that we’re taking two distinctly different paths. From what I understand, Ryan broke his Cotes du Rhone cherry a few weeks ago–something I’m pretty thrilled about. CdR is one of my favorite regions. Syrah and Grenache are bomb-ass varietals, not to mention the insanely value-driven pricing on most CdRs. You can buy a (rated) bottle for $8.99-$12.99. Sure they can stretch up to $30 for the super high-end stuff, but who is going to drink that when there is so much good to be had in the 99%’s price range? Condescension! Fuck the proletariat! I just like good wine. I’d also like to say that Ryan is talking about getting into Chardonnays, and I’m very excited that he may be able to point me in the direction of some the more awesome, toasted apple, medium-bodied Chards that are out there. It’s beginning to get a little chilly in Michigan to be sucking down all those summer-month refreshing drinks, so something with a little toast and body to it sounds amazing.

This wine is totally bubblegum on the nose. Thick, jammy, succulent bubblegum. I can’t get my nose far enough into the glass. I think I’m going to start drinking it through my nostrils if I don’t start sipping. I’ll give you guys a little peek before I start, though:

triple threat.

Revised Conclusion

I had originally written a completely different conclusion, but upon completion, more tasting, and a little more waiting, this wine is starting to show more promise. I WILL leave the original conclusion after this post so you can see my first thoughts. Let me just tell you I’ve been letting this wine open for over an hour, I’ve been shaking, swirling, sloshing, letting it oxidize. This is not a “open and drink” kind of wine at all. It is hot. It is slightly unforgiving. My twisted taste buds think that the acid–and something… what I feel like is the beginning of sediment?–is sweet to the tongue. But this isn’t so bad. Third pour is revealing a more complex structure, a kinder tongue, and fuller mouth, and that INSANE tongue-biting finish you’d expect from a fucking Barbaresco. I don’t know what this wine is trying to be, but it’s not like any kind of Malbec I’ve ever had before. Tart blueberry is appearing in the mouth and nose, but there is still a lot of bubblegum ink. I’m raising my opinion of this to an 85, and recanting my “there is zero structure” statement. I will say with 100% certainty that this is a $12 bottle of Malbec that stole its older brother’s ID and went out drinking at dive bars until 12am trying to hook up with 5′s.

Original Conclusion

This is extremely disappointing, and I’m not sure what to think about it. Hot on the tongue, narrow mouth, and almost sickeningly sweet on the finish. There is acid, I will give it that much… But so much alcohol. My nose is running profusely after having tasted this. A few more rinses reveal that there is very little to this wine: tons of ink… The flavor IS like bubblegum–in that it loses its flavor far too quickly and it’s all just manufactured anyway. So disappointing. I was going to give the other bottle I have of this to someone as a present, but no way am I going to insult a wine drinker by giving him this wine. This will be another “oh I’ve run out of anything else to drink” bottle. I’m going to go make some pasta and red sauce, as it seems like that would be a good match. Plenty of red sauce.

I actually just looked at the bottle to see that this is 14.9% abv, a little on the high side for Malbec, which ranges from 13.5% to 14.5%.

I’m a pretty heavy drinker, and I like my booze–some would tell you I love it–but if I tasted this blind without knowing how much it cost, I’d spit it out and order a house cab before taking another sip. Suck it Bramare: 80.

Alright Mondavi, I See What Your Game Is

So, in spite of the so-so $17 bottle of wine-that-isn’t-impressing-anyone from last week, I’m after a merlot that soothes my deep-down need for a fruitbomb to go off in my mouth.

And folks, I think I’m as close as I’m going to get.

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2007

This wine is everything you’d expect at a gay rights parade. It’s young, it’s hot, it’s a little spicy and it’s EXTRA fruity.

The nose really gives off a lot of blueberry and alcohol, but the mouth actually helps to tone the latter down. It’s blueberry, it’s blackberry, it’s all the black fruit you can imagine, but with very little sweetness. The oak is not overdone like you might find in those less expensive Mondavi wines, and everything balances together rather nicely.

This is not a structured Napa cabernet with lots of wood and barnyard; this is a fruit explosion in which the oak is meant to help remind you that you’re not drinking Welch’s grape juice, and the tannins are there to cover your tongue for a while so you aren’t gulping it down in sinful bliss.

From my experience, Mondavi (like a lot of the other big names in Napa) have their various wines on a tiered system: the “private selection” being near the bottom, and this “Napa Valley” likely being the next step up. I’m not sure which other levels their are in the middle, but I know that the top has one of what I like to call my “bucket list” wines (Opus One), which means I’ll likely encounter them on the way.

Hopefully soon my California red obsession will fade away, and I can start turning toward some of the more obscure (read: affordable) wines from around the world which don’t seem to ever get enough review.

The fruit and the fun of this wine make me want to give it a 90, but the high alcohol makes me want to take a point away leaving it at a very healthy (and happy) 89.


Merlot: The Cabernet for the Impatient

It’s fall, it’s on the chilly side, and the leaves are starting to change color… It’s now that I turn my attention to the deeper and darker reds that are built for this kind of weather.

This week’s treat? The Markham Vineyards 2007 Napa Valley merlot.

A deal, but not necessarily a steal

The more I get into these Napa wines, the more I am reminded that Napa is not and Eden in which all the fruits plucked from the trees turn into beautiful wines. In fact, there are some that turn out to be good, but not great. And the more I lean toward merlot, and merlot blends, the more I realize that the characteristic jammy-ness and ripe fruit this grape is so known for are really what I’m looking for in a Napa cab. Sadly, I don’t have the $60 to $80 to spend on a single bottle of cabernet, so I am trying to cheat and get my smooth, oaky fruit bombs I would love to see from a cab through a merlot instead.
My first thoughts about this merlot is that it’s big. Like, greyhound bus big. And like it says on the label, it for sure has the “dark ruby hues”, but the wine feels like it’s holding something back. Instead of a deep velvety jammy merlot, I’ve got a big, neutral and oaky one. The tannins are prominent, but not overwhelming, and the nose has strong notes of dark fruit and much lighter ones of white pepper.

Overall, however, this wine is just ok. It is not that inky black/red that I’m looking for in a big bold Napa merlot, but it’s not a feeble extra green merlot like we make here in Traverse City..

All in all, I’d give this wine maybe 88 or 89 points. It’s been done right, but I presume most people would enjoy drinking it, but completely forget it by the next day.

Next week, (if I can maybe sell a kidney or start dealing drugs) I will try to get a bottle of Duckhorn merlot so I can show you all (and myself) just exactly what this grape is all about.

Yalumba 2010

It’s been a while, but I’m going to pick up where I left off: Viognier. It’s turning into fall here but we’ve still got some 65 degree days, and I thought I’d hit up the local market (now in Grand Rapids) for couple dozen bottles to kick off a new season. The first one I want to talk about is the Yalumba 2010 Viognier. This puppy is from the south of Australia, but it’s got a kick from the far east. The nose is green… very green. Which I’ve come to expect from Viognier. First smell is sawgrass and bitter green apples. They talk about apricots on the product description page, but I didn’t pull that on the first taste as much as I did the hint of wasabi. Not the smoking, nasally-decimating wasabi you get on your sushi, but the first taste, the front of your tongue when you set the sushi down in your mouth–before it rockets through your throat into your nose. It settled into the bitter flavor I’d associate with the few Viogniers that I’ve had. Chilling the wine to cellar temperature dulls the taste too much, and I think this is best consumed at about 65-68 degrees. I feel like the flaws and young, green content of this wine are its best qualities. I consider it value at around $13 per bottle, and I’d rate it an 87.

One Rioja to Rule Them All

Well folks, it’s that time again.

It’s September, and Burritt’s is having its annual wine sale which means there are scores of great wines to be had and prices that even lowly college students with meager living accommodations can afford. This month’s wine to be?

The gold standard Rioja this side of the atlantic.

2007 Muga Rioja

Tempranillo and Garnacha have never been so good.

As you may well expect, this producer, being one of the more notable Rioja producers one can find in northern Michigan, has the ability to create consistently great Rioja year after year. Unofficially labeled as “the Bordeaux of Spain” Rioja does have a long-rooted (pun intended) history in the production of great red wine, including somewhat secretly (and scandalously) selling their wines to the French when it was a bad season up north. Curiously, most of the wines purchased by the French to blend into their less-superior grapes were Bordeaux.

It is precisely this reason why Rioja gets this notorious designation, and after you have your first glass, you can absolutely see why.

Deep red color, but no hints of any blue around the edges. The nose was initially very hot and loaded with cassis and inky blackberry, but after letting it settle down a bit in the glass, it had a chance to give off a slight hint of some kind of earth. Upon tasting, the tannins were very pronounced at first, but then settled down quickly and dissolved into the silky feel that continued all the way to the finish. Wine in mouth, it became easy to see those wonderful qualities of cedar and smoke which we’re all hoping to find in our structured red wines. The comparison to a Bordeaux  starts to make sense as the wine makes its way down, but with one very prominent distinction; the fruit in this wine is clearly of great importance to its producers, as the blackcurrant and blackberry stick with you all throughout the drinking experience, whereas with many Bordeaux, the fruit shies away before the finish, leaving you feeling like someone left a tongue depressor in your mouth.

After a few sips, (which eventually turned into joyful gulps) small little marks around my glass proved exactly what the tasting had shown; lots of extract and a lingering finish. It seems this wine is destined to impart flavor wherever it touches, even if that’s only touching the rim of your glass.

That’s all for today, hopefully sometime soon I will make my way back to Burritt’s to score a nice Napa cab, or a Russian River Valley pinot.


It’s been a rough week. Problems at work, 45 miles on the bike this week (as well as many other issues). I’m hurting emotionally and physically. It’s the perfect time for a surreal wine experience. A taste sensation, if you will.

So, I hit up Binny’s and talked to my main man there (and by main man, I mean the guy I’ve talked to a few times in the last year). Pouilly Fumes and Viognier are his recs for non-Sancerre Sauv, and other-white picks. It was 60, sunny, and breezy today. I’m craving spring. I want flowers in my mouth, I want them in my nose, and I want fruit.

The Pouilly sucked. Not even worth mentioning. 75? Baby diapers and florals, medium to medium-low body, and nothing I wanted at all. I think the funk I’m looking for can only be found in a German Gewuerz. Fine, I’m okay with that.

But alas, the 2009 Viognier. Apple juice on the nose. Totally Mott up front. This is the first viognier I’ve ever had, so I didn’t know what to think. “This is cool, maybe this is incredibly juicy? Maybe this is incredibly sugary?” It didn’t smell sugary, so I dove in. I swished, I swirled, I sampled, I spit, I waited, I sampled again. The nose: Apple juice at its strongest. The mouth feel: medium-big. Green apple. Like you bit into a cantaloupe but instead of cantaloupe flavor you received Granny Smith apple. This is exactly how I described it to my partner in crime, Ryan. The finish is overly acidic and the alcohol bleeds through (though halfway through the bottle one will be so satisfied with the taste that this will make little difference). I will rate this lower than Parker at a solid 88. Don’t think that just because I’m rating this lower that you shouldn’t drink it. That is not the intention at all. This is good, but I just want you to know that I expect that there is much more complexity to be found somewhere in this grape.

Mmm, And!! To the foodies out there, try deglazing a white meat with this wine. In fact, cook the meat in the wine a bit as well. Succulent! I had a Pork Tenderloin cooked in this for about the last ten minutes, then I deglazed the pan with it as well. The sauce was thick and brown and perfect for the meat (as well as the bread). Lemon zest, garlic salt, butter, dalmatian rubbed sage, and olive oil were used to cook the pork, by the way.

Domaine Les Grands Bois
Côtes du Rhône AOC
2009 Viognier
$13 at Binny’s

White–Bianco–Blanc. SPRING.

Well hello there!  It’s been a while since we’ve had a real review.  It’s April, now, and it’s spring.  It might be 40 degrees outside right now in Chicago, but those days are numbered.  After wandering around Binny’s for 45 minutes this evening, I came home with 5 wines.  Three Sauvignon Blanc, one Pinot Grigio, and one Beaujolais Villages.  It’s clearly time for whites (and reds that act like whites).  Today I’m bringing you a Marlborough sauv, Churton 2009,  and the Italian grigio, Maso Canali 2009.

I’m a huge Marlborough fan. Since I was 22, I’ve been sucking Marlborough’s dick, and with good reason.  Their gooseberry, tobacco, dry, crisp, FRESH flavors have been a summertime pal for two years.  If I’m in sweltering heat and humidity, or even on a nice 70 degree porch night, I’m most likely downing a Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

Churton is a step in a different direction, however. They are claiming an “old world meets new world” sauvignon blanc, and boy are they right.  The Loire features on this wine are non-trivial.  It’s musky, it’s bone dry, it’s lemon and lime (mostly lime, in my opinion), and it’s a Hell of a spring wine.  Churton boasts that it has a terroir “not dissimilar” to central Sancerre, and I believe that to be totally true.  There are helpings of grass on the nose, and the finish leaves me feeling more like I’ve drank something with a bit of syrup in it.  I don’t want you to think that this is anything like the thickness on a riesling or gewuerztraminer.  No, this is just a light syrup that leads to an overall satisfyingly bigger mouth feel than your typical Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

The second wine I’ve tasted tonight is the Maso Canali 2009 Pinot Grigio. I had this earlier this week, and it paired perfectly with a vodka sauce penne at Tre Cugini.  But that was then, and this is now.  First, the bottle is corked, which I don’t really have an opinion on since this is one of my first forays into Pinot Grigio, but I get the feeling most of the wines are meant to be consumed young.  And I feel like this is one of those wines.  Although, interestingly enough, I was reading about how corks are made the other day, and apparently Portugal is the #1 producer of cork in the world, and while wine corks are only 15% of sales by weight, they account for 66% of cork revenue.  But I digress! I believe that Grigios are supposed to be fruit-forward and contain citrus and tropical fruit-like flavors.  Something like fruit cocktail, eh? I could be wrong, but that’s been my only experience with them.  This wine has a very subtle bouquet and an equally subtle palate.  I am not saying that it lacks structure or balance, but the mouth is small to medium and it takes time to enjoy the green pear, the lime, and everything else going into this wine. Overall a nice wine to pair with a spaghetti and white sauce dish, or perhaps with scallops.

Churton 2009 Malborough Sauvignon Blanc
I’m going to give this one an 87.  It’s good, it’s different.  It’s neither Marlborough nor Loire.
750ml - $16.99 @ Binny’s
Maso Canali 2009 Pinot Grigio
I’m not going to rate this wine because I don’t have enough experience with this grape yet.
750ml – $14.99 @ Binny’s

New Year–Toss out recap

So it’s been about a year since I’ve moved into my apartment, and my roommate and I were doing some spring cleaning last week. I have a penchant for saving my favorite bottles of wine, and I decided to clear them out for a new year.  These were my favorite selections from last year:

Some of these wines have been blogged about, but those that haven’t will get a bit of mention here.  First: the Groth 2007 was shit. And it won’t ever be anything but shit.  There’s no hint of complexity.  It’s easy to drink, and you can fool your unfamiliar friends with it, but you may as well add jello mix to some Mondavi and sell it as the same product.

Standouts: Whitehaven (any vintage, really… 2007, 2008, 2009 have all been fantastic), both of the Chateauneufs were fantastically complex and savory, the 2005 Grand Traverse was out of control and so expressive that there aren’t words to describe it.  The Sauternes was great, as far as young ones are concerned. The Cab Franc was titillating. Stags’ Leap was as expected: bold, full, and a complex enough to please a daily palette–the Stag’s Artemis, while on the subject, is also worth the dough.

Mediocre: The Muga and Jordan were not up to par. Perhaps more time was required. The Barbaresco was not worth the $35 that it was.  At best, $20. I think 85-87.

The surprise of the batch was the Davis Bynum.  For the price point, it’s 100% worth it. 90-91? I remember that being a standout.