Friday, February 8, 2008

Two DOWN, Two UP!

A Review That's Not Much More Than A Mixed-Bag

So many of you have commented to me on my usual propensity to give favorable reviews to wines I have tasted and have asked how do I so often find GREAT wines when other people's experiences are a lot less positive. I can attribute it to three things:

1. Using the services of a professional - As I often comment, I frequent the Buy-Rite in Tinton Falls and have become a protege of Kevin Flanagan, resident wine expert at the store. He has turned me on to more wines that have been exemplary than most people taste in a lifetime. Using the skills of a professional can minimize your guesswork, simple as that.

2. Reading the trades: There are so many worthwhile blogs, ezines, periodicals and the like where the novice and expert alike can find tasting notes, scores or other information on wines of their preference that this too can minimize the guesswork, if you can find the wines you read about....

3. Taste the best reviewed of many different varietals to allow YOUR palate to become trained to tasting varietally-correct wines. This way, within the first tastes of a wine, you will know what to look for in a positive or negative way. For example: If you choose a Merlot to taste, and the wine brings heat to your palate and some astringency to the finish, you are tasting a higher alcohol content. This is not a normal experience in Merlot which tends to be more lush and full bodied without the zestiness of higher alcohol. You would notice this right away if you had experienced varietally-correct Merlot.

HOWEVER, sometimes the best information can't help you dislike a wine that seemed to have such promise or pedigree. You can't love every wine you taste, and not all wines will resonate with you as a goor or GREAT wine to drink. You can rely on all of the above-mentioned tools and still come up a LOSER, as I recently did. Below I list two wines that BADLY missed and two wines that ROCKED in recent tastings. Enjoy:

The Two Down.......

1. I purchased a bottle of 2005 Fabre Montmayou Gran Riserva Malbec ($19US)from Argentina, while waiting for my own bottles of Catena Alta Mendoza arrived from Buy-Rite. The wine has received pretty significant scores from the major review publications, and I had a Malbec jones..... BLECH....not good at all. It tasted like raisin juice that was soaked in ink. The wine had very little character or body. It was flat, uninteresting and even a bit chalky, which was not appealing at all. And this was a wine that won a best of Argentina Malbec award. Not good the next day either. I committed drain-ocide with the rest of this bottle.

2. 2006 Stickleback Red from Heartland produced in South Australia ($8) I was leaving the store at Buy-Rite last week and Kevin grabbed the bottle and said, "HERE: you gotta take this and try it. Eight bucks and it drinks like a $25 bottle. A great wine." Now as a QPR Big-Game hunter, I was intrigued....tell me about an $8 bottle that drinks at 3X's its price! I'm interested........until I tasted it. This was no $25 bottle of wine, friends. This was a hodgepodge of flavors, none especially great, and had a heat to it and a bitterness as well. It was very confusing to my palate. The blend is 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Shiraz and 27% Grenache. The wine received 90 pts. from Wine Advocate. Probably because it is a sweet, fruit bomb from Australia which generally gets those types of scores, but the wine lacked focus. It came at you hard on the nose with varied flavors and then just overwhelmed on the palate. I tried it again later that night (no change) and the next night, when it WAS a little better but still not something that impressed me. I would buy it and decant for several hours and try again because of that QPR factor, but I wouldn't give it more than a 87 and I would say it drank like a $15 bottle....which is still a pretty good QPR!


1. 2005 Ring Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia ($12) - This was a find of my brother Eric's. A friend of his is a manager of a Costco in NJ that sells wines. He recommended the Ring Bolt to Eric and Eric brought a bottle to the Super Bowl bash at my house. The wine was a BIG QPR winner, in that the wine tasted more like a $25+ wine than an $11 effort. The wine was balanced, full of fruit, but not over-extracted flavors. The wine held up well against some other big wines we had that night, including a $40+ Malbec! The wine is garnet colored with tobacco and earthy spices on the nose. The flavor was all fruit though, with black currants and red cherries. Its a really good wine for the price which is what we are all striving the way, Ring Bolt is not only available in Costco. You can purchase it at many local package stores.

2. 2003 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Merlot ($44) - I received this as a gift from a friend for helping them out in a business venture. It was an unexpected treat, since I LOVE Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and I have a few special SLWC bottles in the basement waiting for a special occaision. We opened the SLWC last Sat. night and found it to be incredibly ready to drink, although most SLWC wines have legs enough to last ofor many years in the cellar. Stags' Leap's wines have a signature brambly character which is immediately recognizable in this elegant, rich wine. The wine features a bright, well-integrated acidity and a LONG full-bodied finish. Such a nice treat to receive a wine that had such a wonderfully enjoyable flavor.

Enjoy the wines you like, Try wines you have never had and SHARE your knowledge!


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