Friday, April 27, 2007
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Penfold's Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cabernet ($12) as my favorite everyday red wine. Today, we look at the 2004 Koonunga Hill Shiraz ($12).
This is a very good value, as are most of Penfold's wines. It is a blend of Shiraz grapes from several locations, so no appellation Koonunga Hill is not an appellation). Some of the more expensive Penfold's Shiraz wines, like Bin 22 and Henri's Shiraz are more complex and are, well, better wines, but they cost 2 to 3 times as much as this wine.
The Shiraz has a nice structure, with strong fruit and a mineral and spice background. The 2005 is now out, so you may not find the 2004 vintage much longer. My guess is that the 2005 will not be very different, as this is a wine crafted for consistency.
I enjoyed a first glass with a nice Costa Rican cigar purchased on my recent visit there. The wine went nicely with the cigar, providing a nice contrast and merging well with the flavor of the cigar.
The second glass was with a solitary dinner - what I call a "Mediterranean" Dinner of olives, cheddar and Edam cheeses on French bread, grapes, and some smoked salmon. The Koonunga Hills Shiraz went well with the food, making for a very enjoyable late afternoon and early evening.
Given that the Shiraz/Cabernet blend is the same price as the Shiraz, my preference is for the former. The Cabernet adds body and a richer fruit experience. In either case, at the $12 retail price (I got mine on sale for $7.99 at Bev-Mo), either wine is an excellent value.
What do you think?
The Wine Saver
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I'm just returning from a trip to Costa Rica, where the wine picture is pretty non-existent. Where restaurants have wine, it is served too warm and very overpriced (a $10 bottle goes for as much as $60 U.S.). So, with nothing to report this week, I am re-posting the Wine Saver Welcome statement which says what this blog is all about.
WELCOME TO THE WINE SAVER
I have been at least semi-seriously interested in wine for about eight years. I don’t really remember what got me interested, but something did. I mark the point at which I stopped ordering white zinfandel and started ordering Cabernet Sauvignon as the time that I moved to semi-serious status. Since then, I have found all things wine-related to be of interest, from what wine to order at a restaurant, to viticulture, to attending and even hosting wine tastings.
I consume wine most every day, around and during dinner time. I enjoy tasting new wines and have identified a number that I return to time and time again. My preferences run to reds over whites and roses. In a world of wine experts, I would put myself somewhere in the middle of the pack – I do not spend hundreds of dollars for wines or attend the high-end wine auctions, nor do I drink low-end jug wine. I do not know every appellation, every winemaker, and every vintage, but I am aware of many regions, wines, and winemakers in California, Washington State, Australia, Argentina, and France.
If I spend $50+ on a bottle of wine (a rare occurrence), I EXPECT it to be very good. When I find a bottle that costs $8 to $12 and it is good, I tend to enjoy it more than the $50+ bottle. Better yet if the $8 to $12 bottle is on sale!In restaurants, when I purchase wine, I stay in the $40 to $75 range, which means that with the average markup of 200 to 250% that restaurants charge, I am ordering wines that cost $15 to $30 retail. I favor the few restaurants that do not mark up their wine so high. I also may take a bottle of a favorite wine to a restaurant and pay the corkage fee. So I guess you would say that I try to stay at the lower end of the wine cost spectrum – not the very bottom, but just above that level, where there are many, many wonderful wines to be had.
I believe in everyday wines and special occasion wines, a status that is determined primarily by price and reputation. I like to cook with wine (always cheap wines) and to savor various wines with various foods.So this blog will focus on what I know – which means that it will expand as I expand my knowledge. My selfish reason for writing it is that it will lead me to learn and experience more of the world of wine. A more altruistic reason is to give those who are just beginning or are journeymen on the path to wine appreciation some guidance and a place to argue that I have missed the point. The column is also for the casual wine enthusiast who is looking for some good tips and is not necessarily interested in comparing the terroirs of $200 per bottle burgundies.I have found that wine has the capacity to enrich one’s life. If you enjoy drinking it and can drink it responsibly, you will find that the more knowledge that you have, the more that enjoyment increases.
I moved to California in 2005, and have found a much greater interest in wine than in South Florida, where I lived before. Given the huge California wine industry, this is not surprising. I am enjoying the seemingly endless ways to enjoy and learn about wine in my new home.
Future posts will cover wines that I have enjoyed for some time and some new discoveries. I will also chronicle some tastings and other events. I look forward to your comments as we go along.
The Wine Saver
Thursday, April 5, 2007
We opened a bottle of 2004 Barnwood "3200" Cabernet Sauvingnon the other night. The wine retails for $22.00 at the Barnwood Site, http://www.barnwoodwine,com, and I found it at Gelson's Market for $11.99 for some reason.
Dorianne and I are members of the Laetitia Wine Club, and Barnwood is a subsidiary of Laetitia. Located right on the 101 Highway in northern Santa Barbara County, Laetitia is a must-stop for us as we travel between Los Angeles and Monterey or Paso Robles each year. We have received the Barnwood 3200' in wine club shipments, and although I am not a huge fan, the $11.99 sale price was too good to pass up.
Barnwood does not have a tasting room. The Barnwood wines are available at Laetitia for tasting.
From the Barnwood site: Barnwood 2004 3200' Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has a rich, deep garnet color with elegant blackberry, raspberry, licorice and spice nuances on the nose. Ripe, firm tannins frame the fresh black plum and cassis flavors giving it excellent balance and a soft midpalate impression. Hints of cocoa and French oak aging come through on the long, rich finish. This wine has an early approachability as well as wonderful aging potential.
I would agree with much of this assessment, but add that the wine is beyond "firm" in tannins - it is a bit harsh for my taste. Decanting helps a bit, and perhaps laying this one down for a longer term will also be a good idea. I have two bottles left, and will store them for at least another year.
I can highly recommend the Barnwood Sauvingnon Blanc, both the 2004 & 2005 vintages are crisp and fruity - very nice. And their excellent TRIO, a red blend. More about them in a later post.
I will be traveling in Central America through April 14th - when I return, I will report on any good wine experiences there (who can tell?). In the meantime, keep looking for those Wine Saver bargains!
The Wine Saver
Monday, April 2, 2007
I am taking a brief detour from the $20 and under wines today. That is because I had occasion to dip into our small cellar this weekend for a very special bottle of wine. It was such a pleasant experience, that I thought I would share it with you.
The wine, a 1998 Insignia by Joseph Phelps winery, is a very well-regarded Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Dorianne and I purchased it at a church charity auction in 2006 as part of a six pack of wines of various sources - the Insignia was the "pick of the litter," needless to say. The 1998 Insignia currently retails for around $120.
Here are some notes from the Phelps Website http://www.jpvwines.com:
BLEND & GRAPE SOURCES: 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Merlot, primarily from estate-owned vineyards in Stag's Leap and Rutherford, with additional fruit coming from independent growers in Rutherford, Carneros and Coombsville.
HARVEST DATES: Sep. 30 - Oct. 20, 1998.
WINEMAKING DATA: Grapes were harvested between September 21, - October 29, 1998 at an average 24.0° - 25.0° Brix, fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged 20 months in new French oak barrels before being blended and bottled in September, 2000.
The occasion was a dinner for two good friends, one an avid if inexperienced wine enthusiast, the other a non-drinker. They had gifted Dorianne and I with a 2003 Opus One this past holiday season, hence the uncorking of the Insignia for dinner.
I decanted the wine about 45 minutes before serving, as we had a Chardonnay with some St. Andre and Edam cheese accompanied by a medley of olives before dining. The appetizers were served in the kitchen while Dorianne cooked and I grilled outside. The dinner menu: a very tender skirt steak marinated in champagne vinaigrette, roasted new red potatoes with fresh garlic, asparagus spears, and a fresh sourdough loaf.
The Insignia opened the meal with a toast - and instant comments by Dorianne and our wine-drinking guest about the quality of the wine. The Insignia had a wonderful full bouquet, a rich mouth-feel, and the flavors of smoky spice and cassis. It was a perfect complement to the steak and potatoes dinner. I was secretly glad to have a non-drinker at the table, as there were refills for the three drinkers.
Here are the notes from Robert Parker (from the Phelps website):
"The 1998 Insignia . . . is a fabulous wine from a . . . challenging vintage. More evolved than the 1997, with a saturated ruby/purple color, it possesses a sumptuous bouquet of smoke, cedar, licorice and cassis. This full-bodied, fat, succulent effort reveals admirable purity and symmetry, and a soft finish with remarkably deep flavors that caress the palate." Score: 91. Robert M. Parker, Jr.s' The Wine Advocate. 12-23-00
The Wine Saver