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2011 Cono Sur RIESLING (Valle Central, Chile)

Date: Fri, Jan 4, 2013

A well-made good value Riesling. Made in a fuller-bodied Alsace style, but on the slightly sweet end of the spectrum.

Medium gold color. Loads of up-front fruit on the nose (ripe Delicious apples, pear), along with melted butter and slightly-petrolly minerals. Mouthfilling fruit, full-body, and with somewhat lower acid than I usually like in a Riesling, but it offers lots of clean, slightly sweet fruit and mineral flavors and has decent balance despite its size. B,but you have to be ready for the style. I think this was around $11 from Total Wine in Fairfax. Imported by Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL.

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2010 Bodegas Olarra RIOJA CRIANZA "Cerro Anon" (Spain)

Date: Fri, Dec 21, 2012

This is probably the cheap wine value of 2012. I like it even better than its more expensive, older sibling, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. This is akin to a balanced, soft, deep, very drinkable non-oaky Cabernet from California (or a newer style Bordeaux).

Deep, intensely red ruby color. Deep and pure on the nose, with very ripe, rich cherry/berry fruit, augmented with very subtle smoky gravelly quality. Ripe, pure, soft and intense on the attack, with excellent balance, and good cling. This would pair well with lots of foods, and is also really nice on its own. A-. This was ... wait for it ... $9.99 from WTSO.com. If and when they list it again, get some. Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT.

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2010 Porta RIESLING Reserva (Bio Bio Valley, Chile)

Date: Tue, Dec 18, 2012

A fantastic value in a crisp, zingy, fragrant, bone dry Riesling. Can easily compete with entry-level Alsace Rieslings costing 50%-100% more.

Very light silvery-gold color. Vivid nose of crisp white grapes, lime, and petrol-inflected minerals. Flavorful, dry, and with mouthwatering acids, there are loads of citrusy, green apple fruit and lots of clean minerality. Medium-bodied, with a very clean, refreshing, and fairly long finish. I'm very impressed this wine was this good at $9.99. B+. This tastes very young and should continue to drink well for 1-2 more years. Got this at Total Wine in Fairfax. Imported by Saranty Imports, Harrison, NY.

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2007 Domaine de Beaurenard RASTEAU COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES "Les Argiles Bleues" (Rhone Valley, France)

Date: Mon, Dec 17, 2012

A good, rich, ripe and flavorful Cotes du Rhone. Not especially complex, but offers lots of oomph. 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah.

Nearly fully saturated, youthful black ruby. Cassis, dark berries, and lots of very low-toned minerally stones in the nose. Rich, large-framed, and mouthfilling. Loads of deep, dark berries, and intense stony minerality. Although weighty, intense, and well-extracted, it's pretty one-dimensional, but it's got good balance and a nice finish. Not worth its $27 price tag, however. B. Got it from Flickinger Wines in Chicago.

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2006 Fire Block Old Vine GRENACHE (Clare Valley, Australia)

Date: Sat, Dec 15, 2012

A more measured, elegant rendition of one of Australia's undervalued specialties. Everything in balance, this is very flexible with a wide range of stews, meats, and pastas.

Dark ruby color with the beginnings of some garnet hues. very ripe cherry and rasspberry fruit, shot through with fragrant, sandstoney spice. Very ripe, and a bit lower-toned in its fruitiness than I would have expected. Very dark cherry cough syrup/black raspberry fruit, along with a leathery earthy quality. Long finish with loads of body (a little heat, but not too much peeks through). B+. A good value for an immediately drinkable rich Grenache will a little bottle age at $16.99. Got it at Total Wine in Fairfax. Imported by USA Wine West, Saucelito, CA. Drink over the next year.

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2008 Dierberg PINOT NOIR Estate (Santa Maria Valley, Cal.)

Date: Sat, Dec 15, 2012

A fleshy, soft, aromatic P.N. Drinking really well now, and should hold and improve for another 2-3 years.


Dark ruby color still with youthful violet highlights. Rich nose of ripe sappy cherries and plums, augmented with warm fruitcake and moist gravelly scents. Mouthfilling, clingy flavors of rich cherry, brown baking spices, and a gravelly/minerally note. Full-bodied, yet not heavy, with an elegant texture and good acidity. Very long finish. Really fine. A-. Was $29.99 from WineAccess.com.

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2009 Chateau d'Estang CASTILLON-COTES DE BORDEAUX (France)

Date: Sun, Dec 9, 2012

This 70% Merlot/30% Cab Franc was direct, fruity, and very soft. At $9.99, it was a very good value weekday dinner wine.

Dark ruby-garnet. Friendly nose of plummy, ripe, black cherry fruit, along with a hint of some fragrant dry gravelly/nutmeggy scents. Very soft in the mouth, with sultry, direct black cherry skin fruitiness, no tannin whatsoever, and a nice, pure, if not particularly lengthy, finish. Medium-full body. Drink over the next two years. B. Was $9.99 from Wine Exchange (winex.com). Imported by Jeffrey M. Davies Selections, Illinois.

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2005 Bodegas Olarra "Cerro Anon" RIOJA RESERVA (Spain)

Date: Fri, Dec 7, 2012

I haven't had a good Rioja in a while. I like them, but the old style, with its heavy-handed use of American oak, always leaves me wondering what the heck to eat with it. This one is very good, but it shows the heavy oak.

Very dark, surprisingly youthful color: very dark ruby violet. Intense concentrated cherry extract fruit on the nose, but it's in neck-and-neck competition with intensely -- almost resiny -- oakiness. Youthful-tasting as well, with bring, penetrating flavors of dark cherry, liquid graphite, and some intense oakiness. Full-bodied, and with a nice freshness in the finish, this wine still has some youthfully tight, fine-grained tannin. This will age slowly and nicely for at least another 5 years. B+if you are an admirer of this style. Was $12.99 from WTSO.com, making it an excellent value. Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT.

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2011 Montresor "Le Banche di San Lorenzo" BARDOLINO (Veneto, Italy)

Date: Fri, Dec 7, 2012

Italy's answer to Beaujolais. Fruity, fragrant, with loads of flavor in a medium-light bodied format. Would go with just about anything.

Medium dark ruby/plum color. very young, and so needs some time to hit its stride, but after a while, a richly fruity nose, with gobs of crunchy, plummy, stone-infused fruit emerges. Loads of stony, plum and cherry candy fruit in the mouth, but it's quite dry and smooth, with decent acids and no tannin at all. The only thing it lacks is complexity, but otherwise is an excellent mealtime accompaniment. B+. Was $12.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax. Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY.

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2008 Ambra CARMIGNANO "Santa Cristina in Pilli" (Tuscany, Italy)

Date: Mon, Dec 3, 2012

Disappointing. I haven't had an exciting Carmigniano in decades. Bad luck I guess. This was deeply colored, but with a dried out flavor profile.

Dark ruby/garnet color. Nose had a little dried cherry/prune-tinged fruit, but is mostly dominated by crackly old dried leaves aromas. In the mouth, it's austere and mostly dried out, with only a fleeting hint of fruit. The finish basically consists of vanishing flavors and lingering dry, leafy flavored tannin. D+. Was $19.99 at The Italian Store in Arlington. Imported by the usually dependable deGarzia Imports. Avoid at any price . . . it's just not very pleasant.

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2010 Shenandoah Vineyards ZINFANDEL "Special Reserve" (Amador County, Cal.)

Date: Mon, Dec 3, 2012

A terrific value Zinfandel. Not a monster, but balanced, deep, fruity, and fresh. A utility infielder comfortable in many contexts and with a wide variety of meals.

Dark ruby with a violet tinge. Bright, lightly-spiced nose of black cherry and blackberry, along with a whiff of fruitcake and warm sandstoney gravel. Nicely-concentrated, with full body and loads of clean, deep fruit in the fore-palate, with sweet dried cherry and sandstone in the long, lightly tannic finish. Lacking that extra depth and complexity to catapult it into the elites, it's still and very nice B+. Was $10.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, VA.

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2007 Clos du Caillou "Les Quartz" COTES DU RHONE (Southern France)

Date: Fri, Nov 30, 2012

This is a concentrated, balanced, deep and complex Cotes du Rhone. 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah. Very good.

Saturated black ruby color. Low-toned nose of roasted nuts, minerals, and dark dark blackberry extract. Low-toned clingy, flavors of blackberry and black cherry extract, along with an iodiney/graphitey nose. Very weighty in the mouth and extremely full-bodied for a CDR. A little heat and some tannin in the long finish. Very ambitious. Was $22.99 from Flickinger Wines in Chicago, pricing it in the category of many higher levels Rhones like Gigondas and Vacqueyras, but it would certainly compete with those wine on quality. B+. Imported by Chelsea ventures, Chicago.

(Sorry, 2006 depicted.)

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2009 Wine Guerrilla "Harris-Kratka Vineyard" ZINFANDEL (Alexander Valley, Cal.)

Date: Mon, Nov 26, 2012

Atypical for an Alexander Valley Zin, but really good! I usually expect Alexander Valley Zins to be loamy/earthy and have sultry, low-toned ripe fruit. This one is big and athletic, with surprisingly good acidity. It still needs a year or two to settle down.

Almost fully-saturated black ruby. Big nose of tangy, ripe blackberries and a resiny earthy note. Mouthfilling and muscular, this wine has both very full body and tangy acidity, along with some noticeable tannin, giving it a very youthful, disjointed mouthfeel at present. But it is very concentrated and long in the mouth, with tangy ripe black raspberry fruit and lots of clean, stony minerality. Very very good. A-now, with the possibility of a full "A" in a year or two. Was $26.99 from Winex.com.

BTW, I haven't had anything but exemplary Zins from this Zinfandel specialist. Their wines are always worth trying, in my view.

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2010 Henri Boillot BOURGOGNE ROUGE (Burgundy, France)

Date: Sun, Nov 18, 2012

I wanted to open this too-young half bottle of plain ol' generic Burgundy from a good producer close on the heels of the Louis Latour Corton I just panned to make sure I wasn't being too harsh on the Corton. I wasn't. This is very good, though too young. The Corton is crap by comparison.

Medium dark, youthful ruby. Still developing nose, but showing snappy aromas of sappy cherries, lemons, and clean stoniness. Incredibly young in the mouth, but with lots of still-angular dark cherry skins and an intense amount of clean powdered stony minerality that clings to the sides of the mouth. Crisp acids. Not that much tannin. This wine is very nice now if you appreciate wines in their extreme youthful state, but will be way better in a couple of years. B. Was $9.99 for a 375 ml (half bottle) from Flickinger Wines, Chicago. Imported by Chelsea Ventures, Chicago.

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