Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Taste of Spain: #4 of 5

The Wine: Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil 2003
Country: Spain
Region: Jumilla
Category: Mourvèdre
Vintage: 2003
Price: $14.99
Decanted or Not: No

Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Ruby

The Nose: Fruity bouquet, showing currants, raspberries, maybe even a touch strawberry and vanilla.

The Taste: As the nose would suggest, dried cherries and currant flavors, lots of fruit up front, mellowing out with some mineral notes, vanilla and spice from oak. Beautiful silky texture and mouthfeel. Just an all around well crafted wine. Highly recommended, delicious wine.

As many of you have probably noticed, I don't give out corks very easily, but I particularly liked this wine. I paired it with a pork braciole (did I spell that right?) and acted a worthy foil to the cheeses and hearty red sauce. Mrs. Grape Nut actually purchased this wine and it was a great find. She knows me well.

Verdict: 9

Taste of Spain: #3 of 5

The Wine: Bodega Felix Sanz Ciranza 2001
Country: Spain
Region Ribera Del Duero
Category: Monte Negro
Price: $20.99
Decanted or Not: Yes - 60 minutes

Tasting Notes:

Color: Deep ruby/purple

The Nose: Very big nose. Dark fruits and smoked wood. Cherries, currants and herbs.

The Taste: Flavors as big as the nose. Very powerful and dense fruit up front, without being over the top. Dark wood, earth and spices. Very nice, long finish with moderate tannins. Finish pushes those dark fruit flavors throught he back of your throat. Very, very good, but not for the faint at heart.
If you typically drink fruity Shiraz, this one may take you for a loop... it packs a nice punch! Highly recommend dacanting for at least an hour.

The Verdict: 8 corks

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Breaking News: U.S. to become world's biggest wine market

This just in...The United States is set to overtake France in the next five years as the world's largest wine market, according to an annual study commissioned by the organizers of the VinExpo trade fair in Bordeaux. The study predicted U.S. still wine consumption would rise to 27.3 million hectoliters in 2010 from 23.0 million in 2005, exceeding French consumption, which is set to fall to 24.9 million hl from 27.4 million hl.

In value terms, the U.S. still wine market is set to be worth $22.8 billion by 2010, up from $19.2 billion in 2005, with fastest growth rates expected for bottles costing more than $5 each -- a trend also expected in other industrialized countries.
If you recall, I posted a story here in early January that highlighted how US wine consumption was exploding (US Wine Explosion)...and this most recent study confirms it.

Nice job folks. Keep drinking!!!!!

Click here for the full story on the study results released Tuesday.

Taste of Spain: #2 of 5

Hello wine lovers. I hope you're enjoying the tour of Spain thus far...but remember there's plenty more to come. Grape Nut and I wanted to try to give you as many duel tastings for Spain as possible, so here is yet another one. This too is a bottle we had at the dinner party Grape Nut was served with lamb chops (season three different ways), veggies and some delicious horseradish mashed potatoes.

Quite honestly, of all the wines we drank that night (I lost track at 7), this Spanish Merlot was the one I enjoyed most. Perhaps adding to the enjoyment is the fact that getting a Spanish Merlot can be a difficult task since Merlot makes up only 2% of the wine produced in Spain. So this was a rare treat for me, and you'll see in the notes that it did not disappoint. Anyway, to the notes we go...

The Wine: Castillo de Monjardin Deyo Merlot
Country: Spain
Region: Navarra
Category: Merlot
Vintage: 2002
Price: $18.99
Decanted of not: No

Tasting Notes:

The Color: Deep ruby red

The Nose:
The Vine Guy: Beautiful bouquet of ripe dark fruit: cherries, plum and currants. Nice spice and oak.
Grape Nut: Lots of fruit, smells of currants, raspberries, other red fruits

The Taste:
The Vine Guy: Full and savoury in the mouth. Lots of sweet, juicy fruit up front. It starts rich and smooth. Nice touch of spice, and very slight oak lead to a long velvety finish. Aftertaste brings back a blast of the fruits. Delicious!

Grape Nut: Nice silky texture, great mouth feel, fruit upfront with currants and other red fruit; long finish with an earthy, chalky dryness.

The Verdict:
The Vine Guy: 8 corks (would be 8 1/2 if we used half points)
Grape Nut: 8 corks


Monday, January 29, 2007

Taste of Spain: #1 of 5

I'm glad that our readers decided to choose Spain for our next stop. I am particularly fond of the great wines of Spain and in the past couple of years have really made an effort to taste as many different and unique wines from this beautiful country.

Today we're going to kick off the tour with a duel tasting, a bottle that both The Vine Guy and myself tasted at a dinner party on Saturday. Thanks to our newly engaged friends and of course Mrs. Grape Nut and Mrs. Vine Guy, we were able sample a few bottles that night. I believe the tally ended with 7 bottles but that may just be a rumor.

Enough jabbering, lets rate this wine.

The Wine: Altos de la Hoya 2005 Monastrell (Bodegas Olivares)

Country: Spain
Region: Jumilla
Category: Monastrell
Vintage: 2005
Price: $13
Decanted: No

Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Ruby
Nose: The Vine Guy: Cherries, raspberries, plum and melon; Very sweet fruity nose with light oak and leather.
Grape Nut: Lots of fruit on the nose, almost a tarty cranberry, with dried cherries, currants.
Taste: The Vine Guy: Intense fruit up front: cherry, plum and melon. Notes of liquorice and earth, smooth finish, but dry and slightly bitter.
Grape Nut: Fruit forward wine with cherries and other red fruit flavors. Certain tartness and bitterness, with a touch of earth, developed on finish. (A curious thing, bottle seemed to get more and more dry the more air it got. Not over period of hours, but a period of 20-30 minutes. Arriving at an almost overly dry finish.)

The Verdict:
The Vine Guy: 7
Grape Nut: 7

World Wine Tour: Welcome to Spain

Bien venido a Espana! Welcome to's a little background on this mega-wine producer. We'll introduce some wine reviews later today.

Spain has always produced quality wines, indeed some of the best in the world. The wines of Spain can be divided into several regions, each one very different from the rest. As far as types of wine is concerned, Spain produces about 11 varieties that range from the generous dry wines, through to the sparkling wines, the rose and the valuable gran reservas.
Spain is well known for its wine, best known are the quality reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, reds and whites from Penedes, fine whites from Rueda, "sherries" from Jerez, and a fine sparkling wine known as cava. However, almost every village in Spain produces its own wine, which is red, white, sparkling or sweet desert wine depending on the variety of grapes produced in each area.

Spain has a similar classification system to France and Italy, with all classified wine regions regulated under the Denominación de Origen (DO) system. Red wines are often labelled as Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. In Rioja and the Ribera del Duero, Crianza wines are two years old, with at least twelve months spent in cask (elsewhere the oak ageing may legally be restricted to just six months). Reservas are three years old (at least one year in cask), Gran Reservas five years old (two in cask, three in bottle).

Here's a list of the major wine producing regions in Spain.

The wines of this Dominación are famous and develop their best as mature quality wines. The following varieties can be distinguished according to their age:
- Vino de crianza is the one aged for at least one year in vats and another year in bottles. It is usually a three-, four- and five-year old wine.
- Vino de reserva is the one aged for at least two years in vats and another in bottles.
- Vino de gran reserva is aged in oak barrels for at least three years and another in bottles in the famous Rioja underground calaos (cellars). These wines are of the best years.
Denominaciones de Origin are Rueda, Ribera del Duero and Toro. They produce reds and light reds with between 13 and 17% alcohol. They mature exceptionally, well for which Bordeaux barrels and underground wine cellars are used. These wines have a limited production and sell at very high prices. Around Rueda very pale and transparent whites of excellent quality and 11.5-14% are produced. Dry, sherry-type wines are also made there.

It's Denominación de Origin includes Rias Baixas, Ribeiro and Valdeorras. They are light, agreeably acid white and red wines with low alcohol content, excellent companions of the typical Galician cuisine.
Denominación de Origen: Navarra. The area basically produces red wines, which at times reach 14.5% alcohol and are perfectly in tune with the heavy cuisine of the region.

Denominaciones de Origin exists for Campo de Borja, Cariñena and Somontano. In this area, the wines are very red with high alcohol content. Their aroma is very concentrated and their taste is powerful, ideal for very spicy meat and heavy dishes

Here the regions with a Denominación de Origin are Ampurdán-Costa Brava, Alella, Costers del Segre, Penedés, Priorato, Tarragona and Terra Alta. There are magnificent reds, whites and light reds in the area, all of which have a long tradition. All of them tend to be drunk young, not more than one or a maximum of two years old, while the alcohol content lies between 11 and 13%.

Has the following Denominaciones de Origin: Jerez-Xèrés-Sherry, Manzanilia-Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Málaga, Montilla-Moriles and Condado de Huelva. Its wines are the most characteristic of the country and internationally the most famous. They are produced by a unique method, since it is not a wine from one particular harvest, but the result of different mixtures made over the years. They are aged in oak vats and have subtle differences, which are classified into ten groups, Fino: straw colored and transparent, dry, light and very fragrant; 15 to 17% alcohol. Amontillado: amber colored; 16 to 18% alcohol. Oloroso: dark gold, powerful to the taste, yet light; 18 to 20% alcohol. Palo Cortado: halfway between amontillado and oloroso. Raya: of the oloroso family, but less fragrant and less strong to the taste. Pedro Ximenez: sweet and very fragrant. Moscatel: sweet raisin wine. Cream: wine produced by adding alcohol to grape juice which has not really begun to ferment. Color: a wine produced by mixing fresh and concentrated grape juice.Manzanilla: A wine produced in the township of Sanlúcar de Barrameda; very pale, very dry, with an alcohol content of 15-17%.

This region includes the following Denominaciones de Origin: Alicante, Valencia, Jumilla, Utiel-Requena and Yecla, which cover quite different wines. Those from Alicante are reds and rosés with a high alcohol content of between 12 and 16%. Those from Valencia are usually white, dry and very fresh. Jumilla wines are typically fruity red, white and rosé wines made from native grape varieties, particularly Monastrell, as well as imported Syrah and Merlot. Yecla has reds, rosés and light reds with between 13 and 15% alcohol and a very pleasant mild taste.

Anyway, there's a rundown of what Spain has to offer...this powerhouse has a wine for every occasion. I encourage you to try as many as you possibly can.

That's all for now. First Spanish wine rating coming later today...stay tuned.

Remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

World Wine Tour: Next Stop... Spain

Thanks for your stop Spain. Stay tuned, because Monday we'll start with a brief overview of Spanish wine country, and then we'll jump right into the reviews. Don't forget to cast your vote in our poll for where we should go after Spain...once again we've given you four choices.

Thanks again...have a great weekend.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Taste of Argentina: #5 of 5

Well folks, this review concludes our tour of Argentina. I hope you enjoyed reading about these 5 wines as much as we enjoyed drinking them. As a reminder, there is still time to vote for which country you'd like to see us visit next. The poll closes today at 6 pm...and at the moment Spain has a significant lead over the other options. If you have suggestions on how we can make this world tour more fun or interesting, please let us know. We'd really love to hear from you.

The Wine: Carlos Pulenta Vistalba Corte B 2003

Country: Argentina

Region: Mendoza

Category: Red Meritage

Vintage: 2003

Price: $19.99

Decanted or Not: Yes, 90 minutes

Tasting Notes:

The Color: Ruby Red

The Nose: Very Powerful. Ripe berries, plum, wood and spice

The Taste: Very lush and juicy from the start. Intense dark fruit, with very nice spice. Middle is a little bitter and earthy with wood and leather/coffee flavors. Finish is very smooth - coats your tongue gently with tannins, powerful and again spicy and fruity at the end. Alcohol lingers in the back of your throat.

Overall nice bottle. A little bit of a fruit bomb, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The Verdict: 8 corks

That's all for now. Remember to swirl, sniff, and swig. Cheers!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Taste of Argentina: #4 of 5

The Wine: Morichetti Malbec 2002 (from Lujan de Cuyo)

Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza
Category: Malbec
Vintage: 2002
Price: $15
Decanted: No

Tasting Notes
Color: Dark red, with almost earthy color

Nose: Not overpowering, lacked a bit, some floral and red fruit smells

Taste: Yes, I know, I'm reviewing another Malbec. I've been on a mission lately to find one that is worthy of being my house red.

This wine was very smooth, almost too smooth. I found it to be lacking the punch and the earthiness I generally find in a Malbec. There were slight hints of dried cherries and other red fruit but overall I found the wine underwhelming. Legs were not prominent, so I would assume it was pretty low in alcohol. I'm not sure I would want to pair this wine with anything stronger than a mild cheese or chicken. I allowed the wine to breath for quite awhile, in an attempt to let it open up to no avail. I would not recommend this wine, I guess what I am finding most on my mission is inconsistency.

The Verdict: 6 Corks

Has anyone out there tried this bottle? If so, let me hear how off base I am (maybe I had an off bottle). Lets hear it!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Taste of Argentina: #3 of 5


The Wine: 2005 Jacques & Francois Lurton Pinot Gris
Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza
Category: Pinot Gris
Vintage: 2005
Price: $7.99
Decanted or not: No

Tasting Notes:

The Color: Light Yellow

The Nose: Big citrus aromasand pineapple, little smoke, slightly metallic

The Taste: Big and fruity at the start, with lingering flavors of orange, pineapple and pear. The oak is noticeable, but not overbearing. Finish is smooth, flavorful, and a little bitter but refreshing. Also dryer than I expected. Tastes more like a dry chardonnay than a true pinot gris.

Overall a nice bottle, but I'm not a fan of dry whites. Not the kind of wine you can drink all day at a summer BBQ, if you ask me. At the price, however, it may be worth a shot for all you white wine drinkers out there. Probably be great with some grilled chicken, clams and shrimp.

The Verdict: 7 Corks

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Taste of Argentina: #2 of 5

The Wine: Familia Rutini Trumpeter Tupungato Malbec 2004

Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza, Tupungato
Category: Malbec
Vintage: 2004
Price: $8.99
Decanted or Not: No

Tasting Notes:

  • The Color: Nice dark ruby color you expect from a Malbec

  • The Nose: Nice nose, fruity, perfumy, but not overwhelming. Was a bit slow to open up.
  • The Taste: Nice fruit, well constructed wine with a fine silky, mineral finish that lasts.
This wine hails from the Tupangato, a mountainous region located in the Argentinian region of Mendoza near the border of Chili. I am consistantly impressed with Argentinian wines, as I've mentioned before. I have never heard of the subset region of Tupangato, but will look to learn more about the specific regions of Mendoza in the future. (Feild trip anyone?) Overall, I found the wine very pleasant, both on the palate and the wallet. If you're looking for a solid wine for yourself, but not trying to wow anyone, this is a good pick up.

Let us know what you think? Have you tried this wine?

The Verdict: 7 corks

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Taste of Argentina: #1 of 5

The Wine: Nieto Cadus Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza
Category: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage: 2002
Price: $31.99 (I know, I know, a bit pricey)
Decanted or Not: No

Tasting Notes:

  • The Color: Ruby red

  • The Nose: Deep, dark, very ripe plum and berries. Smokey and earthy.
  • The Taste: Very plump and very juicy. Intense spice. Smokey and earthy, with a little creaminess. Very smooth and sexy finish, with a burst of sweetness at the end.

This wine is so sexy your clothes just might fall off and sounds of Barry White will fill the room. Delightful, and even better after an hour of breathing. Best Cabernet I’ve had from Argentina. Worth every penny.

The Verdict: 9 corks

Destination Argentina: The World Wine Tour Begins Today

Ladies and gentlemen we are about to depart for Argentina. Please ensure that your carry-on items are securely stowed, and that your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright positions. Oh, and get ready to drink some wine!

Argentina is one of the world's top five largest wine producing nations. Argentine wines are made from grapes such as traditional Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and also varieties like Tempranillo, Bonarda, Barbera, Torrontés and Malbec.

Demarcated Wine Regions
This is Argentina's powerhouse, accounting for over 80% of total production (or to put it another way, over half of the entire wine production of South America). Producers in this region make fine Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay with increasingly impressive Syrahs and Malbecs.

Sitting in the very far north of the country, Salta is a region of generally high quality with fine Cabernets Sauvignons and, Torrontés wines.

Rio Negro
This region lies at the southern end of wine production, in the fringes of Patagonia. Rio Negro is earmarked by many as one to watch, not only for cool-climate varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, but high quality sparkling wines.

San Juan and La Rioja
These long-standing regions still produce plenty of wine, but as yet mostly of mediocre quality for purely local consumption.

Let this info soak in for a while...we'll be posting a wine rating later today, so stay tuned. Also, be sure to vote for where you think our tour should go next week, by clicking on the poll in the upper right corner. You can vote as many times as you'd like.

That's all for now. Remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wine Blogs – Righteous or Rubbish?

Well known New York Times columnist Eric Asimov recently added a post to his blog (The Pour) titled “Let a Thousand Critics Blossom.” To sum it up in a nut shell, Mr. Asimov was intrigued at how quickly the blog culture caught on…especially on the subjects of food and wine. He points out that there are hundreds, if not zillions, of blogs written about wine, beer and spirits. And surprisingly, many of them are interesting.

Now, maybe it’s because Grape Nut and I just started this blog (make it a zillion and 1 wine blogs now), but I find that blogs in general serve a major purpose. Consider the fact that wine, like style, is subjective. Just because I like a certain wine doesn’t mean somebody else will (see Grape Nut’s post from last Friday Doesn’t it make sense that there would be a multitude of avenues for people to gather information? Also consider that wine buying, to a great many people, can be an extremely intimidating task. Perhaps it’s because of the enormous selection, or prices, or quite simply the notion that people who drink wine are snobs. In my opinion, if a person feels they have an opinion on what they like to drink, then they should be able to share it with anyone who’s interested.

Grape Nut and I have openly stated that we are not “wine experts.” And I actually think that’s a good thing. I think the “experts” such as Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer, and James Suckling are the ones who make wine intimidating to so many people. Decipher this rating by Mr. Parker if you will:

Inky/purple to the rim, with that extraordinary liqueur of minerals interwoven with creme de cassis, blackberries, and juicy cherries, it reveals a subtle note of smoky oak, massive body, a multilayered mid-palate and texture, incredibly high tannin, and dramatic levels of fruit, glycerin, and extract. The alcohol came in at 14% naturally in 2005, higher than in either 2000 or 2003. This is a wine of extraordinary purity, precision, and monumental aspirations.

What-choo talkin' bout Willis? While I personally respect and read the opinions of all three of these gentlemen, many people don’t understand their tasting notes or ratings. To the occasional wine drinker, this is the equivalent of asking my computer-illiterate father to follow directions on disassembling the motherboard of a computer to upgrade the processor, ram and video card. Don’t get me wrong…Robert Parker is a genius, and arguably the most influential person in the world of wine. But, he is also light-years ahead of 99% of the wine consuming public.

SO surely there must be another place to turn for wine advice and information…and that’s where blogs like this one come to the forefront. We’re just starting out, but there are a great many blogs that provide fantastic everyday, average Joe wine drinker with some really great information and wine reviews. And the best part is they are understandable.

Where do you turn for wine buying advice? Do you just tear out the Wine Spectator Top 100 list and run to the store, or do you heed the counsel of someone else? Perhaps an everyday, average Joe wine drinker with a blog? Tell us who your counselors are.

That’s all for now. Remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

We're Going on a World Wine Tour, and You’re Invited.

So Grape Nut and I were sitting around thinking about an editorial calendar for Drink the Vine. In the world of wine there is sooooo much to talk about, that we didn't quite know where to start. We knew one thing for addition to doing some news and opinion pieces, we wanted to be more active with wine reviews and ratings. Well, we're about to do just that. Starting Monday, January 22, we are going on a world tour, and you're coming with us. First stop is Argentina!

Each week we will pick (with your votes) a different wine producing country. We will provide you with a general description of that country's wine region(s), and then we will taste and review a wine each day (both red and white). We will track our progress along the way, and will most definitely be looking for your feedback/suggestions on where to go next.

We will start in Argentina next week, but where we go after that is entirely up to you. In the top righthand corner of this page is a poll with several countries to choose from...whichever location receives the most reader votes is where we'll go next. So let us hear from you.

Have you ever stood in a wine shop thinking "I would really like to try this bottle from South Africa, but don't want to spend the money if it sucks."? Well now's your chance to let us two suckers (Grape Nut and me) go out and buy wines from around the world and taste them for you. We're sort of like the royal tasters who would eat food before the king to make sure it wasn't poisoned, but instead of poison we're looking for liquid delight.

So prepare yourselves for a head spinning tour of the world of wine. First stop, Argentina. Where we go after that is up to don't be shy, step right up and let us hear from you. You never know, we might just find your next favorite wine.

That's all for now. Remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers!

Friday, January 12, 2007

WSJ - Tastings Column

Not sure if you have read Friday's TASTINGS column by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, but I generally enjoy their reviews. (Click here, but password is required)

I believe this husband and wife team tend to emulate a lot of households out there. When you go to the wine store do you buy for just your palate or do you have another constituent in the household who is influencing your purchase?

For example, I love Rieslings. My wife, is for the most part not a fan. Because of this, I find I only buy Rieslings on special occasion or to pair with a specific food. I guess this is because I'm trying to please both our palates. One solution would be to just buy more wine, wines for both our palates. (And I do sometimes) But in order to stay within the budget, I tend to try to find the middle ground.

What do you do? Do you try and please a spouse, partner, hell a roommate with your purchases? Or do you just say damn them and buy whatever you like?

US Wine Production Explosion: Is NJ in the Mix?

When you think of US wine production, the first thing that pops into your head is likely California, right? Maybe more specifically Napa or Sonoma. So what are the other 4 states in the top 5 for US wine production? Depending on how long you’ve been drinking wine, and how much you read about it, you may be able to guess a few. And the reason for that is because wine production in this country has just absolutely exploded. All 50 of the United States are now producing wine. In addition, since 1995 the number of wineries nationwide has gone from 1,187 to nearly 4,000. That is just incredible growth! Could that have something to do with the fact that more US consumers are buying wine (see my post below “To the Moon Alice”). Anyway back to the point of this post.

I’m willing to bet that some of the top 5 would likely never cross your mind. I’ll tell you what they are, but you have to promise that if you haven’t had a bottle from one of the states I’m about to mention, you will go out and buy one in the next few weeks and post your thoughts on it here.

So you got California (#1), big deal. And maybe you know that Washington (#3) produces some wine you’ve tried. And of course, if you live in the tri-state area you know that New York’s (#4) Long Island (my old stomping grounds) is known for its east end vineyards. Yeah, hmmm, now where do you go? Well, Oregon (#2) has risen on the scene and is producing some beautiful wines from chateaus such as Bethel Heights Vineyards, Adea Winery and Elk Cove. Now who the heck is #5? Here’s a hint…the HBO hit The Sopranos often does a good job of making this state look sketchy. That’s right, New Jersey is the #5 wine producing state in the nation. Are you surprised? Don’t be.

According to the NJ Dept of Agriculture, New Jersey has approximately 30 wineries in 10 of the state's 21 counties, on 2,000 acres of land - that number is growing rapidly. It is expected that by 2007 the state will have around 40 wineries and from the number of inquiries, there will be a steady increase for the next few years. What’s more impressive is that even in our climate and geologically diverse state, there are more than 40 varieties now growing here - from Pinot Noir and Riesling in the North, to some of the more popular Italian varieties such as Sangiovese and Barbera in the South.

Apparently though, NJ wineries are not completely unknown. The state's wine industry has received many awards locally, nationally and internationally.

So go out and support your local wineries, NJ residents. There are plenty of vineyards to visit. If you’re interested, visit the Garden Stat Wine Grower’s Association website at ( And for crying out loud, grab yourself a bottle of some local juice and support your local wineries.

That’s all for now. Remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Drink the Vine Rating #2: Malbec; Hype or More Hype

After opening a second bottle of this Malbec I realize I may have underrated this fine wine. With a little more air, I found this wine to be very good. I will be purchasing this wine again and maybe even a half case of it. It opened up with much more fruit (plum, dried cherries) and had a beautiful, long finish. I would now give this wine an eight on our ten cork scale and give it a strong recommendation for the value. Just try to be a little more patient than I was the first time. Grape Nut (impatient wine drinker)

The Wine: Bodegas Senetiner Nieto Reserva Malbec
Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza
Category: Red, 100% Malbec, 12 months in French Oak
Vintage: 2004
Price: $8.00
Decanted or Not: No

I decided to review a malbec, because I generally like the bang for the buck you get from this wine. If you stick to certain Bodegas (wineries) you will generally do pretty well. You will most likely get a big, bold red showing a little terrior and don't usually have to pay too much to get it. Other times you end up with complete crap.
This wine, I feel, falls somewhere in between.

I had heard good things about the Bodegas Senetiner. I saw it, saw the price, I bought it. I wish I could claim more research or a more esoteric reason, but not much more went into the purchase.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Dark ruby red

Legs: Good legs, bottles states it has an alcohol level of 13.5% by volume

Nose: Strong scent of dried cranberries and cherries on the nose. Almost a hint of flowers.

Taste: Wine showed nice dried fruit up front, with cherries being the most prominent (in my opinion). Strong tannins with an almost chalky, earthy finish. Mouth feel was good, with a nice velvet finish, but lacks a bit.

Not a bottle I would serve with the first course, more like the last the last course when company has been properly over served. I won't be purchasing it again, but I am not kicking my self for buying it.

THE UPDATED The Verdict: 8 Corks

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Drink the Vine Rating #1: A Taste of Portugal

The Wine: Quinta Do Vale Meao Meandro 2004
Country: Portugal
Region: Duoro
Category: Red Table Wine
Vintage: 2004
Price: $18.99
Decanted or Not: Decanted ~ 1 hour

I know, I know. You guys are thinking "how predictable he picks a wine from Portugal." But, I wanted to kickoff the our wine ratings with this bottle for a number of reasons. First, to toot the Portuguese horn. Second, and more importantly, I have been drinking Portuguese red wine ever since I was a kid. It is something I am extremely familiar with, and that will play into the review later. While most of you know the Duoro region in Portugal for it world renowned Port wines, this region is finally starting to creat a buzz in the red table wine arena. Anyway, here we go:

Tasting Notes:

  • The Color: Very dark ruby red

  • The Legs: This one really lingers on the side of the glass...almost like throwing wet gummy bears on a mirror.

  • The Nose: Grabs you by the nostrils with aggressive scents very dark, ripe fruit; and strong oak.

  • The Taste: In a word, powerful. Very intense rich, ripe fruit, with surprising amount of spice. Taste the oak but not overbearing, as can be the case with some of these Portuguse table wines. Burst of smokeyness and plum right at the end. Very smooth and moderate finish (20 seconds). Not nearly as dry as some other reds I've had from this region. Very nice.

The Verdict: 8 corks

To the Moon, Alice – US Wine Consumption Takes Off

Wine consumption worldwide is absolutely immense, however in the U.S. wine consumption only now appears to be fermenting. Unlike soccer viewer ship, data shows that wine consumption is on a significant upswing in the U.S. We’re still well behind our European friends, but we’re beginning to embrace wine on a more large-scale and demographically diverse level. Is it possible we silly Americans are beginning to appreciate the finer things in life? You be the judge.

According to research commissioned by The Wine Institute, U.S. consumers swirled, sniffed and swigged a total of 703 million gallons of wine. That is 35 million gallons more than 2004, or 5.2 percent. What’s more, the 703 million gallons of wine consumed is an increase of 133 million gallons over the 570 million consumed in 2000 – or an astonishing 23.3 percent.

In fact, according to data provided on The Wine Institute website, 2000-2005 saw the greatest gallon consumption increase of any five year span since the Institute started tracking in 1934. The consumption increase, 23.3 percent, also saw the total wine per resident increase from 2.03 gallons in 2000 to 2.37 gallons in 2005.

Similar data from Impact Databank's 2006 report on the U.S. wine market, published by M. Shanken Communications, shows a 45 percent increase in wine consumption over 30 years. According to their data, per capita, Americans in 1975 drank 2.18 gallons of wine compared with 3.17 gallons in 2005.

Is wine consumption entering the mainstream U.S. lifestyle? Perhaps this statement says it best of all. Wine Enthusiast published a story in one of its 2006 issues that stated wine consumption surpassed beer consumption in the U.S. in 2006. How’s that you ask? I have no idea. It could be any number of factors, but according to the article, millennials (young adults defined as age 29 and under), have embraced the sophisticated image that wine imparts to them, just like their baby boomer parents. Sophisticated image? Interesting.

Could it be that soon we will walk into the local watering hole and ask “what do you have decanting?” instead of “what do you have on tap?” My guess would be not quite yet, but apparently we wine aficionados are growing in force. Either that, or our alcohol tolerance has increased immensely causing each of us to drink more. Whatever the case, we should be happy about it.

While we can’t pinpoint the cause of the trend, let’s hope it continues because more demanding consumers will keep wine producers on their toes…striving to create a perfect wine to sooth all palates. And that my friends benefits us all.

For more information on the data used for this article, please visit
Until next time, remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers.

Monday, January 8, 2007

A Veritable Vino Smorgasbord

Remember the feeling of walking into a Toys R’ Us for the very first time and seeing that new GI Joe action figure you wanted so badly? Well I experienced something like that this past weekend. No, I didn’t go to the toy store for an action figure…my experience was much more grand and relevant to this blog. This weekend was the first time I walked into the Wine Library, a wine specialty store located at 586 Morris Avenue in Springfield, NJ. It was like something out of a movie: I walk in and all of the sudden I hear almost heavenly music – harps, violins, chanting, the whole bit.

Now, those of you who’ve never been will tell me to get a grip, but those of you lucky enough to have walked through those doors, will understand exactly what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about your run of the mill wine shop. I’m talking about a wine Mecca, the aisles of which seemingly never end. Rows and rows of wines, and stacks and stacks of even more wine. Everything from Alberino to Zinfindel; $5 bottles to $5,000 bottles. The place was amazing.

The inventory was truly impressive (even intimidating). But fear not young oenephiles, the service in this store is just as impressive as the inventory. They weren’t right on top of you, don’t snicker at your silly questions, and generally are knowledgeable of the inventory in the store. The guy who helped me presented me with an Argentine Malbec that he highly recommended. The best part was, he saw the bottle of Malbec I had in my hand and offered a cheaper alternative that he deemed was just as good. The same guy also helped me find Riesling.

I think I know enough about wine to navigate a store with a large selection, but it’s always helpful to hear from the people who do it every day. I had ordered several times from Wine Library’s website (, but I will now make a point of going to this amazing Mecca of wine at least once a month. I would also like to point out that I am not an employee of the store, nor affiliated with it in any way. If you spend any amount of time blogging or surfing the web for wine info, you may be familiar with the name Gary Vaynerchuk, the direction of operation at Wine Library, who also produces, a series of video wine tastings and wine commentary.

In fact, I was so impressed with the store that I got to thinking…wouldn’t it be cool to take a poll and see what you folks thought was the best wine shop in every NJ county? Stay tuned, because I’m working on putting together that poll (likely a 3 month poll), and will post when it’s ready for your feedback.

Until next time, remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers.

Friday, January 5, 2007

A Love Affair Begins

It all began when I was six years old. My family and I had just moved to a new house on eastern Long Island, NY. My parents, both immigrants from Portugal, finally had the space and cellar to continue what had been an annual September tradition when they grew up.

The tradition, you guessed right, was making wine. Now, this was my very first experience with what for me would also become an annual tradition. I remember it late August my dad called me outside to help him with something. That something was adjusting the hoops of the barrel to tighten the staves. While I didn't know what the heck we were doing, it was fun helping him with the bilge and quarter hoops, etc, as he tried his best to explain the process to me. Anyway I'll get on with it.

Two weeks later, a big flatbed truck pulled into the driveway one Saturday morning loaded with wooden boxes bursting with red and white grapes. Not having any idea then that wine came from grapes, I admit they had piqued my interest. So me, my mom and dad unloaded the truck and put all the boxes in the underground cellar. This is where the process got fun...

Now, you have to remember that this was in 1981, well before today's modern wine making technology. I wish I could say it was as entertaining as the famed I Love Lucy episode, but it wasn't. We lifted the heavy, manual crank wine press on top of the barrel and I started cranking as my dad dumped the grapes in. The squashing and slushy sounds were pretty funny, as were the random juice squirts like rockets. After what seemed like hours turning the crank, I thought my arm was going to fall me and dad switched spots. And that was the moment that hooked me. Seeing the grapes inside the press, churning and spouting juice.

I thought that was the end of it..thought they were ready to start drinking. That when my dad tried to explain the fermentation process to me. Needless to say, I didn't get it. Anyway, after several days, it was time to continue with the process. So we drain the the juice that is now wine from the barrels, and pull out the remaining grape skins/stems that remained and put them in a different kind of wine press. Like the first press, this thing was old school - we had to literally walk around in circles pushing two levers that made the top depress and squeeze the rest of the juice out of the fruit. After all the juice was squeezed out, it went back into the barrels, and was left there to age. Now this wine was for immediate consumption, so there wasn't a 9 or 12 or 18 month aging process. This wine was pulled several weeks after pressing.

And, for all my hard work, my reward was a little tiny sampling of the wine. It was delicious. To this day, my dad's wine is some of my favorite...of course it doesn't compare to a fine Bordeaux or Burgundy, but to me it's home. I don't need an expert rating to tell me that.

Anyway, until next time, remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers.