Tuesday, May 29, 2007



Well, the WineSaver Red Wine Tasting on Sunday was a great success.

The eight of us shared some very interesting wines and had a very convivial time. Dorianne cooked up a storm (I did the grilling), and everyone left well-sated.

I want to thank our guests, Steven & Diane, Rob and Leila, and Tom and Kim for participating and giving their opinions and bringing their wines to share.

Here are the wines that we tasted in order:

1. Castle Rock Reserve Pinot Noir 2005 ($15)

2. Penfold's Koonunga Hills Shiraz/Cabernet 2003 ($12)

3. Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($12)

4. Cedar Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($20)

5. Solis Merlot Ciello 1998 ($18)

6. Tikal Patriota 2005 ($24)

7. Stonehenge Petit Syrah 2003 ($11)

8. Rancho Sisquoc Cellar Select Meritage 2001 ($23) - winery price

I will pass on the comments and evaluations of the wines during the upcoming week. Note that the tasting notes tend to get a little thin as the evening wears on. Also note that yours truly made a rookie mistake of doing more drinking than dumping, leading to the inevitable state of "wine-induced blurriness" and the diminishing returns that come with such a state. Note that I was at home and did not drive.
To that, I will add my apologies for not being in condition to help much with the evening's end
clean-up, although to my credit, I did assist in the morning with the remainders of the dishes, pots & pans, etc..

Here is the scene the morning after . . .
So I will be going through the tasting notes of the eight of us and bringing you two of the wines each day (or so) for the next four days (or so). It was a very fun and educational evening, as each of us, no matter how well founded in our knowledge of wine met some new wines and discovered more about each other - which is what it is all about.

'Till Next Time,

The WineSaver

Friday, May 25, 2007



Well, we have decided on the wines that Dorianne and I will bring to the WineSaver Red Wine Tasting this Sunday, the 27th.

First, a 2004 Penfold's Koonunga Hills Shiraz/Cabernet ($11), my favorite everyday red wine. You can check out a review in the archives.

Second, a 2005 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon ($12), the first serious wine I ever drank. The Los Vascos is from Chile and is out of the Baron Phillipe de Rothschild family - perhaps one of the greatest wine values in existence. I'll tell a great story about it when I blog about the tasting next week. By the way, I found it at World Market for $6.99 - the price that it was selling for about 14 years ago when I first drank it in Florida.

The plan is to blog each day next week (probably beginning Tuesday) about what each couple brought - so two reds each day. Remember, that the idea is for each person to bring a "gem" of an inexpensive red wine.

So have a great holiday weekend, and remember what Monday's Memorial Day is all about - honoring those who serve.

'Till next time.

The Wine Saver

Tuesday, May 22, 2007



My second encounter with William Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($22), when I was upgraded to First Class on an American Airlines Flight on the Dallas to Burbank leg of a Ft. Lauderdale to Burbank flight. They were serving it as their red wine in First Class that day.

Oddly enough, my first encounter was less than 24 hours earlier when I had purchased a bottle to take to a dinner party. For some reason, the bottle spoke to me from the shelf and I picked it up. Who says that wine packaging is not important?

Dorianne and I shared a bottle of the 2003 vintage last night with BBQ chicken breasts, penne pasta with garlic, butter & Parmesan, and grilled eggplant and peppers. The wine went well with the food.

The notes from the William Hill website: http://williamhillestate.com/home.cfm

Wine Maker's Notes: The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a supple yet substantial wine, exhibiting aromas of cassis, currant and raspberry. A small percentage of grapes are whole berry fermented, contributing softness in the tannin structure and an added richness, polished texture and body.

The William Hill Cabernet is 100% Cabernet grapes. The 2003 vintage was aged in oak for 15.5 months. A nice wine for the price.

I find that its strength is in the structure and softness, giving the wine a nice mouth-feel. It is not as fruity as another favorite in the same price range, Murphy-Goode, and it give the impression of being a more expensive wine. While I prefer the Murphy-Goode, the William Hill is a nice wine.

Again, I found this wine on sale for $15.99 at Pavillion's Grocery and bought a couple of bottles. Also, today at Bev-Mo in Westlake, I discovered a cache of 2003 Greg Norman Limestone Ridge Shiraz on sale for $9.99. Most places have the 2005 in, so the 2003 must have been in a warehouse or the back of the store for a while. I didn't leave much there, so if you are in the area . . .

What do you think?

'Till next time,
The Wine Saver

Thursday, May 17, 2007



The first WineSaver red wine tasting is set for Memorial Weekend! Four couples will come together, each bringing one bottle per person of red wine that retails for under $25.

I'll be grilling steak and Dorianne will be preparing a cheese plate for openers and doing some special veggies to go with the steak, and making a special dessert.

Each participant has been asked to bring a "special find" inexpensive wine (the less expensive the better) to share. So after the tasting, I'll be writing for a day or two and giving you up to eight great WineSaver red wine finds!
Look for the entries after Memorial Weekend.

Each couple brings quite a bit of experience with wine, so it should be quite and event. The WineSaver white wine tasting will be scheduled around the 4th of July. Seafood will definately be on the menu.

I notices that Eric Asimov, the NY Times wine columnist recently wrote about purchasing a case of wine, based on the advice of a couple of wine experts, for new wine drinkers. Check the link at http://thepour.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/04/10/.

The idea is to create a case of wine to give a new drinker the experience of a number of types of wines, then, based on your response to the first case, create a second case. Sounds like a great idea - maybe the Wine Saver should repeat the exercise with budget wines.

Until next time.

The Wine Saver

Saturday, May 12, 2007



Last night, Dorianne and I went to a local Italian restaurant called Dolcetto's in Agoura, on Kanan Road. It was the first time I have eaten there, although I pass it regularly.

Once inside, I reviewed the wine list - searching for that elusive Italian red wine that I grew to love in the mid 90's while living in Baltimore - Dolcetto D'Alba.

Dolcetto is the wine, D'Alba is the appellation, Piedmont is the region. Docletto means "sweet," yet the wine is very dry. It is low is acidity, however. Some Dolcettos are fruity and some are more earthy/spicy. They are not complex wines, but I find them very pleasant and easy to drink, in some ways similar to Malbec.

The only Dolcetto that Dolcetto's had last night was the Marcarini Fontanazza Dolcetto D'Alba 2004 ($15) - $35 at the restaurant. Since Dolcetto is a wine to drink young (be wary of anything older that 3-4 years), the 2004 was prime in terms of age.

The Fontanazza has a rich floral nose and fruit and almonds on the palate. The tannins are pretty light, making for a smooth drinking experience.

I had a salad followed by linguine with white clam sauce. Dorianne had a wonderful red pepper soup followed by a beautiful salmon with red sauce. The Dolcetto was a pleasing companion to the meal. We will return to Dolcetto's.

You can find Dolcettos in wine store with large stocks of Italian wines. I hardly ever find it in restaurants. It is not an expensive wine, so I guess it does not get written about too often. It is a red wine that I enjoy, in part from a sentimental stance, as it was one of the first wines I had when I was being introduced to the world of wine.

What do you think?

The Wine Saver

Friday, May 4, 2007



Today, my favorite reasonably-priced Shiraz: Greg Norman Estates Limestone Coast Shiraz ($13.99). The currently available vintage is 2005.

This wine has been a favorite for 3-4 years, and is second only to the Penfold's Koonunga Hills Shiraz-Cabernet in frequency of consumption in our home.

Here is what http://wine.com has to say about the 2005 Greg Norman Shiraz:

"The 2005 Greg Norman Estates Limestone Coast Shiraz is deep, dark red with purple hues. Intense, lifted aromas of ripe, dark plum, blackberry, sweet vanillin and spice with light subtle hints of blueberry and blackcurrant fruit, all portend to a generous palate that is full flavored, balanced and long. The palate, though big and opulent, has an elegant, smooth texture, some mocha and cedar oak character combined with ripe, dark berry fruit and fine tannins. The mid palate's ripe berry flavors will, with time, reveal more complex characters such as dark chocolate, licorice, wood smoke and warm leather, as the wine ages and evolves. A full bodied, rich, rewarding Shiraz that expresses the warmth of the Australian vintage and the riper flavors, obtainable from the renowned Limestone Coast regions - a wine both generous and harmonious."

The wine's rating in Wine Spectator has ranged from 88-90 over the last few years - the 2005 has not been rated. All I know is that this is a wonderful, full-bodied wine. I am a big fan of Shiraz, particularly Australian Shiraz, and the Greg Norman equals or betters much more expensive wines in my opinion.

By the way, I purchased this wine for $8.99 at Pavillion's Food Market in Oak Park, CA - a huge discount off of the regular $14 price. So needless to say I bought more than one bottle.

The Shiraz goes well with most meat dishes. Last night, it went very well with pizza and salad. I also enjoy it with a cigar.

I have not tried Norman's new California wines - that is in my plans for the near future. Let me know if you have experienced them and what you think.

All the best.

The Wine Saver

Thursday, May 3, 2007



I first tried MONKEY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC, Marlborough, New Zealand ($10) at Legal Sea Food Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale a couple of years ago. I was struck by the tart citrus flavor which went so well with the plate of oysters on the half shell that I was enjoying at the time.

Since then, there has almost always been a bottle or two of Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc in the house. Last night, Dorianne and I had a bottle with baked chicken with a sweet glaze, baked potatoes, and Chinese style green beans. Before dinner, we had some Edam cheese and Cheddar cheese with crackers. The wine also went into the chicken glaze.

Here is my impression of the wine:

Color: Light lemon-straw. Aromas: grapefruit, sage and pineapple. The mouth feel is light-bodied, lively, with tart acidity, and refreshing crisp tropical fruit (pineapple, peach and grapefruit) flavors. The finish is crisp with lingering tartness. This wine will go with any seafood, particularly shellfish, chicken dishes, and most light cheeses (the Cheddar was not the best pairing).

Monkey Bay is available generally - I purchased last night's bottle at Pavillions' Grocery Store on sale for $7.29.

Oh, the trip to Vegas was great. We stayed at the Bellagio for a corporate event (Dorianne's). Mostly ballroom meals, meaning the choice between house Merlot and Chardonnay. Nothing worth commenting on. Usually at this semi-annual event, there is a lunch gathering one day based around wine. For some reason, everyone went for a cocktail instead this time.

If you have some comments on the Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc, I'd love to hear them.

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver