Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Merlot Madness Makes Me Merry

Z-Wineman has gone mad, but one of these Merlot wines is more like a Zinfandel wine than a number of Zinfandel wines I've tried, but I'll get to that.

Since a Merlot madness has overcome me, let me say that as a Newbie explorer in the wine world, I'm going to briefly give my impressions of a number of Merlot wines that is consistent with my youthful palate, a palate which simply wants a good tasting wine at a reasonable price; I think some of these wines I've reviewed will surprise you. As you know, if you follow this blog, I'm big on Zinfandel wine, big on Shiraz-Syrah, both are often  bold and spicy. Well, Merlot is known to be mellow, smooth, and fruity, light on tannin, none of which I'm opposed to, but I like a Longggggggggg finish sprinkled with Black, White, or Cayenne pepper, or a hint of ginger A assortment of acceptable flavors includes, but is not confined to chocolate, tobacco, or espresso, these are all okay, and with a tightly wound matrix of lush blackberry, mostly black current and or plum fruit, without any overwhelming floral notes, leather, horse-breath, or other intrusive notes that overshadow this matrix.
So what?
Well, what is your criterion for a good Merlot wine?
How do you buy your wine?
Do you just look at the price, the brand, vintage, or the varietal ? Do you just pick a wine by the label art (You might be surprised just how much a role the label plays in marketing wine)? There is no right or wrong answer to this.
For me, I'm looking for flavor, for the pleasure of the wine itself, and if I can keep the cost as low as possible, all the merrier.
Merlot is one of the main Bordeaux grapes, and is often blended with other Bordeaux grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Click on the Merlot for MUCH more information.

In another post I mentioned the NorthStar Columbia Valley 2006 Merlot this way: "Yes, I've gone "Sideways" and tried the very luscious NorthStar Columbia Valley 2006 Merlot, $23.30, 92 points, bought at Hannafords); a great and VERY drinkable wine that goes well with friends, fun, and food."
I'll just let that stand as is, but I never did get around to reviewing Frog's Leap 2007 Merlot, so I'll begin there.

Frog's Leap 2007 Merlot, $26.49-$29.99, 91 points is what a Rutherford appellation Merlot (To me) should taste like: fruity aromas sliding into a velvet feel, a balance of earthiness and plum-cherry, having a medium body that is a generous wine in its long finish and consistent quality; this Merlot is quite adaptable to many a cuisine.

Kelley Creek Alexander Valley 2007 Merlot, $10.99-$19.99, 90 points,  is an amazing wine, it possesses a beautiful aroma with hints of mocha.
Wow, I almost thought I was drinking a Zinfandel wine; could it be that the Kelley Creek's proximity to the Dry Creek Valley had some influence on this Merlot? Well it wasn't the medium body, it wasn't  the unusual cheek-puckering  tannins, and it sure wasn't the label describing this Merlot as having "subtle spice", but it was the white  pepper pasted licorice wrapped around a core of lush fruit that in a blind taste-test could have thrown me, and manifested this as a "Zinfandel wine".
With all of that,  The Kelley Creek 2007 Merlot is still a gentle-giant of a wine, singularly firm, with a sleek long finish.
Cheers to Scott! Thanks for the GREAT WINE!

Woodbridge 2008 Merlot by Robert Mondavi, $5.10, 74 points,was very different than the 2007 I tried, but the 2008 is my focus here.  The label describes this Woodbridge 2008 Merlot as "smooth and velvety. . ." To me, this Merlot is anything but smooth and velvety. Frankly I found it so bitter I lost the fruit-for-the-forest of green-grape feel and flavor. At this low price, I still cannot recommend this wine.

Duck Pond Washington State's Columbia Valley 2004 Merlot, $12.00, 86 points, has a sweet aroma, is not complex, but has a good balance of fruit, and is palate and finish pleasant.

Canoe Ridge Estate 2006 Merlot, $8.50, 87 points,  has a similar Columbia Valley flavor as the Duck Pond  or even the Columbia Crest Merlot, though they all have their own individual character, there seems to be that intangible familiarity which binds them together. The Canoe Ridge is tart and spicy. Having a timid aroma, and an appearance of dark rose pedal.

Chateau Ste Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Horse Heaven Hills 2006 Merlot, 17.80, 87 points, is an interesting and complex wine and with a surprising finish that is just that, surprising! A curious wine which I bought two or three bottles, but I found surprising in its nondescript uninspiring character, which in the near future I will taste again and will modify my critique. I   will not recommend this wine at this time.

Benziger Sonoma County 2006 Merlot, $13.99  85 points, was bottled in July 2009. It struck me as a so-so Red table wine. You might pair it with grilled beef, veal, lamb, or just your favorite light luncheon meats, but for $13.99 I'd rather go elsewhere!

Markham Vineyards Napa Valley 2006 Merlot, $16.99, 88 points, has a beautiful Burgundy color, and aromas of coffee and cigar-box. This is a well structured wine with a bit of a vegetive note wrapped in a core of plum and slightly less than ripe currant. This is a nice Merlot, a little one-dimensional and lacking a memorable finish.
Not a great buy at $16.99.

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley 2006 Merlot, $18,00, 88 points, has a gentle and distinctive aroma. It is rich enough, yet has a light palate presence, nothing that stands out , but its overall easy-going nature finishes with a "nice" nondescript fruit flavor. I enjoyed this with dark chocolate, a distinction that I have found typical of Merlot.
Another not so great a deal, considering the Rodney Strong 2007 Merlot.

Rodney Strong Sonoma County 2007 Merlot, $7.64, 89 points, is intensely fragrant (Wafts right out of the glass). The color is dark enough to go with its luscious nature, tightly rich with floral hints, just a bit too floral for me, but more of a wine than many-a-Cabernet I've tried. Some fussy people I know just loved this Merlot. Described on the label as having a "silky finish", and I found this to be absolutely true, and at $7.64, an incredible buy (Like taking candy from a baby) .

St. Supery Napa Valley 2004 Merlot, $ 14.99, 90 points is one of those wines which just had to be pawned-off to make room for the newer vintages, but at the bargain price of $14.99, I discovered a wine at its zenith: mellow Merlot true to its nature, palate rich, with gentle aromas and a long spicy finish; who could ask for anything more?

Well the Merlot Madness has finally left me.
I hope that if it hits you, you'll benefit by my reviews.


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Monday, January 24, 2011

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Red Label 2008 Zinfandel

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Red Label 2008 Zinfandel, $15.29, 87 points, is described on that red label as "succulent", and I agree; this is a lush, smooth, and a gulper of a wine. Having a typical Burgundy red appearance and aroma not of cherry, plum, or even blackberries, but of  (You guessed it) grape.

The smoothness of black current dominates as I find it, with a bit of bacon-fat, and the alcohol is almost unnoticeable at 13.5%. There was floral notes that were accentuated by day three, and once again reminded me of eucalyptus, a pleasure for some, but a distraction for me.
I'm starting to see a trend in Coppola's wines and I expect that to continue as I explore these wonderful wines.

This is a good wine at a good price, especially if you like a medium-bodied wine that is rich and light on the alcohol. My complaints are the finish is a bit short and very little in the way of zesty spice, more a Rich Red Table wine. The label does provide pairing suggestions, which often helps in a pinch, and with this Zinfandel I concur with those suggestions.


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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ridge Ponzo Vineyard 2008 Zinfandel Is Not A Mountain To Climb But Another Ridge-Well To Drink From

Ridge Ponzo Vineyard 2008 Zinfandel, $26.99, 92 points, has a vibrant, though not a dense ruby-color. This is a crystal gem of a wine.
The vibrant aroma resonated with each revolution of my glass, releasing wonderfully fragrant and rich blackberries and earth, each time more intensely than the first, all of which carried onto the palate.
This vibrant medium-bodied wine has bright acidity, moderate, but noticeable tannin, yet is early palate gentle, but as the finish approached there was a bursting of spice ending in a long finish of white pepper and a hint of ginger.
This is another in a growing list of wonderful Zinfandel Wines from Ridge, that like a Deep-Well, I keep going back to.
The 2008 Ponzo was bottled just about one year ago and its youth is noticeable only in its vibrant (word of the day) everything!
I would just like to say I'm so glad I didn't let my first impression of Ridge wines stop me from trying these other wonderful wines; similarly I have had two not so good tastings with Ravenswood Zinfandel wines (My Brother Peter's favorite), but Jim at the Bedford, New Hampshire Liquor Store persuaded me to try (BUY) one more: Ravenswood Single Vineyard BELLONI Russian River 2007 Zinfandel; I'll let you know how that goes.


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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hullabaloo 2008 Lodi Zinfandel Is A Bit Of A Hollow Holler

Hullabaloo 2008 Lodi Zinfandel, $14.60-$21.00, 86 points, began our tasting a bit cool (53 degrees) with an over-ripe-melon aroma that morphed into a more pleasant and grape-like aroma at room temperature. Having a burgundy color, this medium bodied wine had fair acidity and moderate tannin, the flavors of licorice and a hint of coffee made for an interesting  "Red Table Wine", though almost devoid of a finish; as a Zinfandel this Hullabaloo falls short, but as a Red Wine, this Zin wasn't bad at all, not a note-worthy, nor an offensive Zin. The label says that the Hullabaloo is 14.9% alcohol, but you would never have noticed as the alcohol was well integrated into the wine structure.
At the original price this was not a buy, but the sale price makes the Hullabaloo an okay purchase.
This is another wine that I could only find at Hannaford's supper market, but if you are interested, I would call ahead for availability; I know That Todd still has some, as of this morning, at the Londonderry store.


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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Paso Creek Zinfandel-Paso Robles California

Paso Creek Zinfandel Paso Robles 2008 California Zinfandel, $14.50, 88 points, poured a deep-flint-red, still youthful and aromatic with cherry-plum and just a hint of fresh cut hay (Very nice).
Early palate light to medium bodied with fair acidity and mild tannin, Flavors of licorice and red fruit lead the way to a bursting spicy finish.
On the second day, Paso Creek Zin was still tight, but with a slight tang.
This is a competent, well structured Zinfandel from Paso Robles, which is described on the back panel as: "lays claim to the widest temperature swings of any grape growing region in California." (I TOLD YOU THAT YOU WOULD LEARN SOMETHING HERE!)
Paso Creek Zinfandel was bought at Hanaford's super market.


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Saturday, January 15, 2011

In-Cline-d Toward Contra Costa County and De-Cline from Ancient Vines, Yet York Creek Has The Edge

Cline Bridgehead 2008 Zinfandel, $12.24, 90 points, a wine of Contra Costa County's Vineyard, located in Oakley, California is a wonderful Zin with spring-earth aromas reminiscent of my youthful digging for earth worms on my Huck-Finn adventures at the lake, earthy yet fragrant. Having a Royal purple color yielding to a supple-smooth singularly delicious Zinfandel experience; having a refined white-pepper finish, this Zin is a bit novel for me, with an almost unnoticeable 15% alcohol. This gulper of a Zin paired well with a Flat-bread Chipotle pizza. The alcohol was more noticeable on day two, and even more on day three.
If this wine interests you, I would hurry to the New Hampshire Liquor store near you, because this price and maybe this Zin will not be available for very long (Power-buy).

Cline Ancient Vines 2008 Zinfandel, $13.59, 86 points, was more a disappointment, but not a bad wine: burgundy color, having the aroma of earthy grape, a medium bodied wine with fair acidity and mild tannin, rolling easily into early palate Black-pepper, finishing well with mixed pepper, floral notes and licorice. Not as lush or as smooth as its cousin the Bridgehead Zin.

Ridge Zinfandels are one of the famous five Rs in California Zinfandel wines, and the
Ridge York Creek 2005 Zinfandel, $24.64, 92 points, is one reason that Ridge is still a hallmark in the Zinfandel world: black-ruby-red with a bursting bouquet (I just sat there with my nose in that glass for fifteen minutes) of blackberries soaked in an August afternoon sun, blackberry patches melting into the forest flora fragrances, aided by toasty cranberry bagels. What you say? Yes, yes, yes, this is the way it should be if you have such a wine, get carried away, be enriched, because this isn't the way Zinfandel wines usually are.
But, it is not aromas that usually cause you to buy one Zinfandel over another, but what of its flavor?
Multiply your olfactory senses with those of you mouth and the gentle clove, slight minty White-pepper, and bright cherry finish will reward you with a wonderful wine experience.
Ask someone else about Ridge Zinfandel wines:
"Hard to find from a cult vineyard synonymous with craftsmanship and greatness. A blend of 92% Zinfandel and 8% Petite Sirah (sic). A wine described at a tasting as "big, full fleshy fruit, still SO lively, with focused mouth coating flavors and long finish. One of the stars of the day."
1981 Ridge Zinfandel York Creek Napa"

This, from Wine Commune dated 12/29/10, gives an interesting view into the supposed quality, of the Ridge York Creek Zinfandel.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winter's Cabin Fever Brings out the Cabernet In Me. Three under $15.00!

Francis Coppola's Ivory Label 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, $14.99, 88 points, (Todd Kosha got me to try this) dark purple, with an aroma "to die for" (Black Raspberry wrapped in smoky milk chocolate), a smooth medium bodied Cab that rings with a gentle floral-spearmint, almost hibiscus, but with a spicy edge to its fair finish. Coppola's Ivory Label 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is very similar to the the Whitehall 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon but less than half the price at $14.99 vs. the Whitehall's $35.00, I would say that your best bet is the Ivory Label which I scored 88 points.
Todd is the Assistant Store Manager at Hannaford Bros. Market at 6 Hampton Dr. Londonderry, New Hampshire. Todd has some good suggestions and does a great job of presenting very interesting wines (Maybe the best of all their markets), and if you buy 6 or more bottles you get 10% off your wine purchase. You can call him for information at 603-421-0921

Ferrari-Carano Alexander Valley 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, $22.99, 88 points, is aromatic, quite fruit forward with a wonderful lush feel and palate rich, but being scored 88 points and costing $22.99 begs the question of value; for me it was worth buying, but maybe not again. Also posted on: Cabernet Sauvignon Vignette #9

Santa Rita Medalla Real 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon,
$7.65-$12.00, 87 points, from Chile's Maipo Valley blends a near perfect combination of Quality Price Ratio; Santa Rita Medalla Real 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is a very competent, somewhat complex and a balanced wine (Should be room temperature), palate rich and flavorful fruit, with a fair aroma and finish, but at $7.65-$12.00, a no can beat 87 point Cab.

Murphy-Goode Alexander Valley 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, $14.00, 88 points, is another Q-P-R value which I found to be fruit-forward, but not offensively so, in character, gentle spice and fair finish, having a pleasant aroma; however the redundant score of 88 points is accented by a price equally as pleasant as the price.

All these wines can be readily found in New Hampshire, all are very good, but different, and some are incredible values. Keep in mind that prices change all the time, and what I paid maybe different from current prices, but any of these wines are worth $15-$25.00, the value of which will be reflected in your own enjoyment; for me they represent a walk on the beach, a ride on my mountain bike, watching the clouds stream by atop Mount Liberty, or just watching a Pileated woodpecker foraging for food, maybe one of these wines will someday remind you of eating-out with your lady (or gentleman) at a good restaurant, but however you muse with wine, do it safely and responsibly.


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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sanctuary Scores A Near Zinfandel Zero

With a hand-written and numbered information panel on the back label, I was so looking forward to tasting this Sanctuary Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge 2005 Zinfandel, $24.94, 82 points; that back label begins with "The Promise Of Red" and the bottle was numbered 11478 out of 12060 bottles.

The color was coppery red, the aroma (A spicy cinnamon plum) was interesting and pleasant, but that was the end of my optimism for a Zin I had never heard of: early-palate light lead to mid-palate floral bitterness that carried over right through a long unpleasant finish. Was it awful? No, but at $24.94 I was greatly disappointed.
To be fair, this Zin was okay paired with a rich American chop suey..
If you are interested in a good Mendocino Zinfandel, try this!

Or, if you're interested in all my reviews: Index-of-reviewed-wines

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