Archive for the ‘Pinot Noir’ Category

I was excited to re-try the Tasmanian wines I had lugged back. DGS was a cozy affair – about a dozen people, just enough to squeeze around the dining table. For food, we prepared cheese and chocolate fondue, along with chicken and steak, tons of fruits, bread, and mum-made walnut brownies. Very nice (and affordable) spread, if I say so myself. 🙂

We kicked off the evening with the bright and refreshing Riesling from Stefano Lubiana, the Stefano Lubiana Alfresco Riesling 2008. Everyone really enjoyed the slight tinge of sweetness and the fizz on their tongues. Wonderful way to get the taste buds alive.

We opened the Bay of Fires Chardonnay 2008 next. In comparison to the Riesling, this was heavy, but with enough acidity to make it lively and not dumb. Now this is a nicely balanced Chardonnay – just a touch of butter and lemon.

We moved on to the Moorilla Estate Praxis Pinot Noir 2008 from Hobart next. Now this one had a lovely nose – fruity, with some earth, just the way I like my Pinots. It had a nice solid body too, though still smooth.

Our next wine, the Pipers Brook Tamar 2004, elicited mixed responses. Everyone fervently agreed that it did smell like ketchup, but some, like RX, was not a fan. Where’s the fries, she asked.

We then went back to Stefano Lubiana, for the Stefano Lubiana Merlot 2006. Now, I remember that it wasn’t my favorite wine from the trip; we just felt like we had to buy at least two bottles from that winery, since we were getting Lubiana to help us ship a case of wine back to Singapore. Nonetheless, it was a solid wine, and RX expressed her enthusiasm for it.

At this point, people were starting to flag a little from the hearty food and wine. So I broke out the Delamere Blanc de Blanc 2004, a beautifully made sparkling that had just the right touch of yeast, bubbles, and sweetness. Loved it!

We sat around chatting and laughing for a while more, about all things irreverent, and then I decided to open another bottle, the Frogmore Creek Ruby Pinot Noir Port NV. I loved this port. The Frogmore Creek tasting was our last winery tasting, and I had resolved not to buy any more. However, the port was so delicious I couldn’t help it. So it was a delight to drink it again, and a bonus when RX decided she had had enough and gave me the rest of her glass. 🙂

Fun times, great wines. I didn’t check, but I do hope that everyone went away with similarly favorable impressions of Tasmanian wines.


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New York is actually the oldest wine region in the U.S., but is obviously shadowed by Napa. Nonetheless, New York native Jeff bravely decided to tackle wines from that state last night, going where most wine distributors in Chicago haven’t dared to tread – I know, because we have been asking around. He’d gotten most of the wines shipped back from a previous visit, and carried the rest back in his suitcase on other trips.

So it was that we held our DGS New York wines tasting at Jeff and Zhen’s Saturday night. For the most part, we tried established grape varietals, and didn’t taste native grapes such as the Concord and Seyval Blanc. There were around twenty people in attendance, including three new folks whom I think enjoyed themselves, and would hopefully be around in the future. And even though we tried to end earlier by starting at the much earlier time of 6pm, the tasting only concluded at midnight. Hehe.

We started the ball rolling with a couple of fun wines, a pear wine, Goose Watch Bartlett Pear $12. It was fun, with clear pear notes but not too cloyingly sweet on the palate.


Next up was a strawberry wine, Baldwin Strawberry $16. Sadly, that was the only bottle that lay unfinished at the end, no mean feat considering we went through 12 bottles in total. It had a bold nose, big, ripe strawberry jam. Alas, it was sweet, waaaaaaaay too sweet, and most people had to cut it with a couple of ice cubes or water it down.


The Viognier, Casa Larga Viognier $20, we were served next was almost a relief from the lingering sweetness. I say almost because it tasted a little too green and tight, maybe a result of an unfortunate contrast with the syrupy strawberry wine. It’s definitely not my favorite examples of viognier; I could name a dozen more that had showed a much better structure of the woodiness. Bruce and a couple others said it smelled musty. No matter, Aaron and Yeming found that they quite enjoyed the almost refreshing crispness of the wine.


We got a bottle of Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling $24 next. Aaron and I both agreed that the wine showed a lot of potential in the nose and body… alas only to suddenly disappoint with a finish that plunged into nothingness.


Happily, the next dry Riesling, Hermman Wiemer Dry Riesling $30, showed really beautifully. It was my favorite bottles of the night, with an elegantly light nose and dancing aromas of pineapple and floral notes, and a soft finish.


Wine Number 6 was a late harvest Riesling from the same vineyard, the Hermann Wiemer Late Harvest Riesling $30, and again, this one thrilled, though I’d much rather the drier version.


We tried a third bottle from the same vineyard, this one the Hermann Wiemer gewurztraminer $25 that had the clearest example of lychee notes so far. Beautiful nose, and the slight spiciness of the body was a delight.


Wine Number 8 was a Chardonnay, the Palmer Reserve Chardonnay $17, and Natalie, upon lifting the glass to her nose, immediately pointed out the buttery popcorn notes, and not just buttery, mind you, but with a little bit of burnt edge to it, as if the popcorn had been in the microwave for a couple seconds too long. How true! I loved it, and especially savored the slight salty edge in the wine.


We had a Pinot Grigio next, the Hunt Country Pinot Gris $16, and I stand by my statement that I’ve not had many Pinot Grigios that have wowed me, one excellent exception being the Pinot Grigio from Rocca, Italy. This was not it, but tasted pleasant enough, even if it didn’t give a lasting memory.


After all the whites, we finally moved on to the reds. My second favorite of the night, a Merlot blend, the Rivendell Merlot $17. This one had a funky-ish nose, not quite merlot tasting with its smell of wet earth/wood, but I loved the soft tannins in the mouthfeel and found myself reaching out for refills a couple times afterwards.


The next red was a Pinot Noir, the Six Mile Pinot Noir $22, and this was a surprising version, the color so light that it could almost pass for a rose. Not quite what I’d expect from a Pinot Noir – a little too tart and almost sweet for my liking?


The last wine of the night, a Salmon Run Petit Noir from Dr. Konstantin Frank, was interesting. The color wasn’t quite as light as that Pinot Noir, but still a lighter shade than the Merlot. Light and fruity. Apparently a blend of Gamay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvginon (how the hell did they come up with the name Petit Noir???).


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At a work dinner recently, we ordered a bottle of wine for our table. Being the most junior person, I of course didn’t have any say in the selection, so it was like a single blind tasting. It was a fun challenge, and I delighted in it, firstly because I guessed it right on my initial try, and secondly because it’s one of my favorite grapes and regions. Yep, it was a young Pinot Noir from Oregon. The recently released 2005 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir, with a suggested retail price of $27.

A beautiful deep red color, it had a slight smoldering, wet wood and earth sort of smell that I associate with a cool fall night in front of a campfire. The wine tasted full in my mouth, with smooth tannins, bright cherry and blackberries, with an almost sweet aftertaste that lingered pleasantly.



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This Memorial Day Weekend, I decided to take a trip to the nearby Michigan wineries – and then on to the not-so-nearby Canadian wineries…

Early Saturday morning, a group of eight of us from the Dead Grapes Society (DGS) made the 1.5 hour drive to St. Joseph, Michigan, where a whole belt of wineries is located. Our first stop was Tabor Hills, where we sampled over five glasses of wines each. Aza, with his sweet tooth, bypassed all the reds and dove straight into the demi-sweet wines and ice wines. He and Amelia quickly found that they didn’t like the vineyard’s rendition of Gerwerstraminer, which had spicy overtones. While he waxed lyrical over the $78 bottle of icewine that the manager Bob kindly let him try (it was noted down on the tasting sheet as “unavailable”), Amelia was taken with a bottle of semi-sweet Riesling Bob called the “romance wine” – evidently, everyone he’d recommended the wine to subsequently gotten married or engaged. I liked the ice wine tasting – in my notes, I’d written: “HONEY SUCKLE, HONEY, in the nose, body and finish. Beautiful.” I found the other whites – a couple of blends, the Riesling, and a Chardonnay pleasant-tasting but simple. They were all on the sweeter end of the scale, but then, the sweeter ones tend to sell better. I was disappointed with the reds that I tried – a Merlot, and a Cabernet Franc. Both wines were weak, watery, and flat in the finish.

Since it was noon (eastern time) at this point, we headed over to Tabor Hill’s restaurant for lunch. The restaurant is set on top of a hill and the tall elegant french windows offer a beautiful view of the green vines below. I could see why the vineyard is a favorite with the locals; it’s a relaxing and pleasant way to spend the weekend. I had grilled white fish washed down with a glass of Blanc de Blanc. The steady stream of bubbles from the light and semi-sweet sparkling wine nicely complemented the creamy fish. Quite a delicious combination actually.

Next, we drove around the corner to Round Barns, where we were treated to a long tasting list: 5 wine samples, 3 pis and/or brandy samples, a sampling of their famous grape vodka, four tastings from their still-in-barrel-wines-that-are-only-to-be-bottled-this-July, and two samplings of their own-brewed beer. Bruce was in high heavens over the grape vodka, so much so he was tempted to purchase a bottle ($39.95) right then and there, even though the manager told us that due to Michigan tax laws (a cool $20 per bottle), it was actually cheaper to buy it in Sam’s in Chicago. I had a glass of Cabernet that had a strong “steamed towel” nose – odd I know, but everyone else agreed with my declaration. Again, I wasn’t impressed by the red wine offerings – a Cabernet Sauvignon limited edition, a Merlot limited edition. Steve sampled a Pinot Noveau, which wasn’t actually on the list. That was a much livelier wine, bright and fruity, perfect for a light meat meal. The apricot brandy took me by surprise – its scent, and even mouthfeel reminded me of apricot-flavored hookah, and left a lingering spicy aftertaste. The cranberry pi was interesting – sort of a cross between a madeira (toasted nose) and a port, with a generous serving of cranberries. I enjoyed the yet-unbottled Pinot Noir that is still sitting in the barrel, served by the youthful-looking winemaker who began learning the art at the tender age of 6. The wine was still young, tasted a little rough on the edges and sourish, but evidently the vineyard thought it warranted the $36 price tag – $10 off if you pre-purchased it now, and then picked it up once it’s bottled in July. I think, my favorite Pinot Noirs still hail from Oregon, but Jonathan liked it enough to buy a bottle.

<b>Tabor Hill</b>

Lake Michigan Shore Barrel Select Chardonnay, $22.95
“Our 2003 vintage is one of our best efforts with this grape. Aged 18 months in French and American oak, this Chardonnay displays well-developed varietal character, great balance and a toasted, buttery finish.” –> It tasted very alcoholic; sour punch.

Lake Michigan Shore Dry Traminette, $13.95
“Made in a dry style, this wine is very much like a traditional Alsatian Gewurztraminer. It has a very fruity, complex bouquet and finishes slightly spicy. It will pair well with most foods.” –> I got a whiff of honeysuckle in the nose; body felt watery but also alcoholic.

Lake Michigan Shore Cabernet Franc 2004, $24.95
“The release of our 2004 vintage shows great varietal characteristics. this Cabernet has a luscious black cherry and berry nose with a soft pepper, chocolate and oak predominating the finish.” –> Smells: hay, farm, sweat; tuna mouthfeel, spicy; slightly bitter finish

Lake Michigan Share Merlot 2005, $31,95
“Our 2005 is one of the best in recent years. Deep color with a plum, dark chocolate and cherry nose. Big cherry, oak and tannin caress the palate with a smooth finish.”

Classic Demi-Sec, $9.45
“Our most consistent winner!!! Soft, slightly fruity and semi-dry… by far our most popular wine.”

Michigan Cherry, $10.45
“The closest thing to cherry pie in a bottle! Made from 100% Michigan Cherries, this wine is softly sweet with a spicy, yet tart finish.” –> Smells like a candy store; interesting nose, but REALLY not wine. Hooch??

Lake Michigan Shore Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 2005, $78
“Intense, vibrant fruit flavors and aromas, blanaced with fine acidity, caress the palate leaving a lasting smooth finish.” –> HONEY, consistently thick throughout the nose, body, finish.

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