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2007 Louis Latour CORTON (Burgundy, France)

Date: Fri, Nov 16, 2012

This wine embodies what is wrong with Burgundy. Even discounted to $39 from $50, it is a mediocre, characterless wine that had no business being sold under a Grand Cru appellation, and even if it were declassified, as it should have been, to a generic Bourgogne and sold for $15, it wouldn't have been a repeat purchase. Burgundy, unfortunately, is filled with wines like this, as soulless producers, in the name of making money, denigrate the amazing terroir and grapes God blessed them with.

Listless pale brick/ruby. Weak nose of some vaguely old cherry fruit, some mineral, and dried leaves. Lean and diluted in the mouth, with weak, drying flavors of bitter cherry. No finish whatsoever. D.Avoid.

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2009 Celler El Masroig "Sola Fred" MONTSANT (Spain)

Date: Wed, Nov 14, 2012

A solid, workman-like, flavorful red for simple weeknight dinners.

Dark black ruby color. Medium intensity nose of smoky peat and black cherry fruit. Hits the palate squarely with full body and loads of direct, dark black cherry fruit. A wee bit of tannin adds structure, and there's very good acidity. Lacks complexity, but it's primarily Carignane, which usually doesn't aspire to great heights of subtlety anyway. I'd give it a B-, but not in the sense of a really good student who disappoints, but of a C student who gives as good an effort as he can. Was $9.99 from Winex.com. Imported by Boutique Wine Collection, Phila., PA.

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2009 Felsina Berardenga CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

Date: Mon, Nov 12, 2012

A tangy, lean, but interesting Chianti.

Dark, blackish ruby with a brick tinge. Nose features sour cherry fruit, fruitcake, and lots of gravelly minerals. Lean and long in the mouth. Lots of soft tannin and acid, and bone dry flavors of tart cherry and mineral that cling to the palate. It went very nicely with a Tuscan braised meatloaf, but definitely needed the food to round out the lean texture. B.

Was $9.99 for a 375 ml (half bottle) from Winex.com. Imported by Wine Warehouse, Commerce, Cal.

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2008 Tahbilk SHIRAZ (Nagumbie Lkes, Central Victoria, Australia)

Date: Sun, Nov 11, 2012

I haven't had an Aussie Shiraz in a long time -- I find their typical jammy, oaky profile tiring and uninteresting. But I remember drinking some structured, earthy Chateau Tahbilk Shirazes in the late 80s and early 90s, so I picked this one up recently for $13.99 (at Winex.com). And, true to form, it's a bit more structured and interesting than the typical jam-fest.

Nearly saturated black ruby color. Needs some time for the nose to develop fully, but when it does it shows ripe blackberry and sweet cassis fruit, and iodine/graphite note and smoky embers. Full bodied and ripe, but not overripe or jammy, it fills the mouth with clingy deep fruit and smoky flavors. It has considerable but soft tannin, and surprisingly good acids. (And the acidity feels natural, as opposed to many Aussie reds, whose acidity seems so at odds with the jammy overripe fruit that it fairly screams "added by the winemaker.") Fairly lengthy, almost refreshing finish. B+/A-. Imported by Epic Wines, Aptos, Cal. This wine would go well with a wide range of meat and red-sauced pasta dishes.

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2010 Gilles Gelin BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES (Southern Burgundy, France)

Date: Thu, Nov 8, 2012

I drank a bottle of the a couple of weeks ago and didn't write about it because I didn't like it. It seemed overly lean, austere, and dried out.

It must have been an off bottle, because this, my second bottle, was really good.

I think this grower markets his wines under two labels: Gilles Gelin, and Domaine des Nugues. I've previously extolled the Domaine des Nugues Beaujolais wines, and this alternate label wine is also terrific. I'm not sure if they're different cuvees, or just different labels. Regardless, this wine is fruity, minerally, energetic, soft and very, very lively.

Highly saturated violet-inflected dark ruby. Unbelievably bright nose of ripe yet vibrantly crisp red fruits (you can actually smell the acids, making your nose tingle) and clean stoniness. Bright, refreshing, and nicely concentrated in the mouth. It's the kind of wine that both so cleanly-fruited, ripe, yet crisp that it's hard to get tired of drinking it. No it's not complex, just ridiculously addictive to drink. B+/A-. Imported by Fleet Street Wine Merchants, I got this for $16.99. Not cheap for a Beaujolais-Villages, but well worth it.

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St. Cosme NV "LIttle James' Basket Press" (2012 bottling) (Rhone Valley, France)

Date: Tue, Nov 6, 2012

Once again this is a terrific and cheap wine. Hard to find a better wine under $10. It's a non-vintage Rhone blend, mostly composed of Grenache, and it's balanced, complex, and fun to drink.

Very dark ruby-violet. Energetic nose of spicy blackberry/raspberry fruit, smoke, and minerally/sandstoney notes. Dark, clingy flavors of iodine-laced blackberry/cherry. A light veil of fine-grained tannin adds texture. Very good concentration of flavor, and good acids. Long finish. This will be very flexible with food. I like this a lot. B+/A-. Imported by Epic Wines, Aptos, Cal., I got this for $9.99 from Winex.com.

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2010 Thunevin-Clavet COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES "Cuvee Constance" (Southwest France)

Date: Fri, Nov 2, 2012

This is a serious, intense wine. A little on the rustic side, but tons of flavor and a very good value. It's a blend, mostly of Carignane and Grenache.

Deep dark ruby-violet color. Low-toned intense aromas of cracked stones, almost overwhelming the scents of blackberry and cassis. Mouthfillingly rich, but bone dry, this wine assaults the palate with clingy, intensely rocky/minerally-tinged flavors of scorched earth and blackberry skins. Loads of tannin. This will be a dynamite wine to have with beef stews in the cold months to come. And it will be softer and better in a couple of years. B+(+). Was $14.99 from WTSO.com. Imported by Serge Dore Selections, which clearly has some sort of business deal with WTSO.com. since that company's wines seem to constitute the majority of French wines offered on the site. Which doesn't really matter, however, since Dore's wines are consistently good.

(Sorry, 2008 depicted)

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2008 Domaine Dublere SAVINGY-LES-BEAUNE "Les Planchots du Nord" (Burgundy, France)

Date: Mon, Oct 29, 2012

A shockingly light-colored wine, but with real fragrance and flavor. A very good value Pinot Noir from the largely overpriced Burgundy region.

Very light garnet color -- almost like an old, oak-aged rose would look. Scents of minerally cherries and fresh-baked honey whole wheat bread. Lively, medium-light bodied flavors have surprising intensity, tenaciously clinging to the palate with earthy, crisp cherries. Long, vivacious finish, with good acidity. It's a unique style of Pinot Noir. It went very well with whole wheat macaroni with cheese and bacon, and would also do nicely with tomato-less chicken dishes. B+. Was about $22 on sale from Flickinger Wines, Chicago. Imported by Chelsea Ventures, Chicago.

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2010 Fattoria Vignavecchia CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

Date: Sun, Oct 28, 2012

A direct, lively, fruity, balanced, and flavorful entry level Chianti Classico. A good value wine to stockpile for weekday pasta dinners.

Surprisingly extracted black, black ruby color. Loads of youthful black cherry fruit and minerals on the nose. No hint of oak here, just pure fruit and stones. Decent weight, and a good, linear attack. A fair amount of tannin, as well as good acids. This will soften and get more fragrant over the next two years. B. Was $12.99 from WTSO.com, making it a really good value. Imported by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

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2009 Foris PINOT NOIR (Rogue Valley, Oregon)

Date: Fri, Oct 19, 2012

A tight, lean, but flavorful PN. Not as forward and fruity as California versions, but more along the spectrum toward a nice villages wine from the Cote de Beaune.

Dark, clear crystalline ruby. Very tight at first, the wine reluctantly starts to give up scents of cherry syrup and loads of stony minerals. Bone dry, with lean but persistent flavors of underbrush, dry cherry extract, and lots and lots of minerals. Full-bodied, with average acids. Needs some time in the cellar to soften, but it's still nice now. B(+). Was about $20 from wineaccess.com.

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2010 Regis Minet POUILLY-FUME "Vieilles Vignes" (Loire Valley, France)

Date: Tue, Oct 16, 2012

A slightly grassy, balanced, and refreshing Sauvignon-Blanc. Not as flinty/minerally as I usually want out of this appellation, but very nice.

Light silvery/gold color. Grassy herbs and fresh gooseberry fruit dominate the lively nose, with only a hint of minerality. Bone dry, herbal, straw-inflected lime/gooseberry fruit, with crisp acids for freshness, and a clean but somewhat bitter finish. Good, but not great. Would be a really nice counterpoint with sweet grilled shrimp or seared sweet scallops. B. Was $18.99 from Winex.com. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

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2010 Three Vineyards ZINFANDEL "Live Oak Vineyard" (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

Date: Mon, Oct 15, 2012

From the last few remaining 125+ yr.-old ungrafted vines in this largely uprooted vineyard, this wine has a plush texture, and an intense concentration of flavor that is out of proportion to its weight (which is not heavy). Very unique. And really really good.

Nearly fully-saturated dark ruby violet. Intense, nearly pungent boysenberry fruit, stony minerals, and bitter herbs leap out of the glass. Intense, focused fruit immediately coats the mouth, with loads of mixed berry and berry skin flavors, and lots of high-toned minerality. No discernable oak to obscure this tremendous character of the old vines and unique soil. Full-bodied, with pretty decent acids. Very long, pure finish. Just outstanding to sip on its own, it would also complement a wide variety of dishes and cheeses. A. Was $27 from WineAccess.com, but obviously worth the high (for me) price.

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2009 Tenuta Vicario AGLIANICO CAMPANIA (Southern Italy)

Date: Mon, Oct 15, 2012

A big, rustic Aglianico, with a very roasted nose/flavor profile and a broad texture.

Completely saturated black black ruby. Low-toned and woodsy/brambly on the nose, with very dark blackberry fruit, and dark baker's chocolate and scorched earth. Bone dry in the mouth, with very minerally-tinged cassis fruit, with pungent roasted herbs abounding. Loads of medium-fine-grained tannins coat the mouth. Good acidity, and full-body too, so the balance is nice. It's just that the flavor profile is kinda rustic. Bfor now, but it might soften and improve over the next 2-3 years. I got this while eating at Pupatella pizzeria in Arlington (which makes amazing true Napolitana pizzas and fritture), and then took the rest home. Imported by Michael R. Downey Selections, Lorton, VA.

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2007 Tedeschi "Capitel dei Nicalo" VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE (Veneto, Italy)

Date: Wed, Oct 10, 2012

A good value, fully mature, fairly complex Valpo. Tedeschi has been a very good producer in this region for several decades. I used to carry a Tedeschi Capitel San Rocco Valpo in the wine shop I managed back in the mid-80s, and it was very good as I recall. This wine is neither fish nor fowl; it's a unique style. Weight and body-wise, it's mid-way between a normal Valpo and Ripasso style.

Dark blackish garnet color. Big, animated, earthy, yeasty nose with loads of ripe but tartish berry fruit. Mouthfilling and flavorful, this wine counterbalances intensity and a light mouthfeel. Very earthy, mature, satisfying flavors, with dark, dry berry skin fruit. Bone dry, with some drying but soft tannin that is slow to leave. Bit of pleasant bitterness appears in the finish. Good, lively acids. I give it a B+, but others who aren't fond of earthy wines may not like it as much. Was $14.99 from Winex.com. Imported by Dreyfus/Ashby, NYC.

(Sorry, 2006 shown.)

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