Wednesday, December 26, 2007



Happy Holidays from the WineSaver!

Our family holiday dinner on the 24th included several nice wines -

Gloria Ferrer Brut Sparking Wine - a wonderful winery that I have visited in Sonoma. Gloria Ferrer wines are an excellent value, beginning around $14.00 and going up into the $35 range.

2004 Arbor Crest Malbec - a nice Washington State wine. I purchased the Arbor Crest during a 2006 visit to Spokane - they have a tasting room in a downtown mall. The Arbor Crest Malbec was a favorite of everyone with the roast beef dinner. It held up well with a rich berry nose and flavors.

2005 Dover Canyon Reserve Zinfandel - a decent Zin - I was less impressed with this one than some of the other Dover Canyon Blends that I have tried. We visited the Dover Canyon Winery in the Paso Robles-Templeton area this past summer.

The Zin did lead to a great story by Steve, my step-brother-in-law (isn't family great?), who shared a story of a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris that he frequently visits. He and some friends wanted to take some wine that the owners (with an 18,000 bottle cellar) might not have much experience with. So they took a case of moderately-priced California Zinfandel (he did not share the winery). In gratitude, the restaurateur brought a number of amazing bottles from the cellar which were shared all around. A great wine story.

Last night with a prime rib dinner, Dorianne and I opened a 2002 Jordan Cambernet Sauvignon ($50), which is out of the WineSaver's price range, but a very nice special-occasion selection.

I truly hope that your Holiday was and is wonderful.

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Wednesday, December 19, 2007



The initial reports on the 2006 Penfold's Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet ($13.99), are very promising. It is rated from 90 to 91 in the reviews I have seen so far. You can look of the reviews of its predecessors in the archives of this blog.

This from Wine Enthusiast (via Gary's Wine and Marketplace Website):

Jay Miller, Wine Advocate: 91 points The Cabernet and Shiraz blends begin with the 2006 Shiraz (70%) - Cabernet Sauvignon (22%) 'Koonunga Hill". Purple-colored, the wine offers meaty black currant, blackberry, and blueberry aromas. On the palate the wine exhibits remarkable focus and structure for its humble price. The fruit is grapy and primary as well as intensely flavored. It should evolve for several years and drink well through 2022 if not longer. It is a fantastic value.

So far, the 2006 vintage has not shown up in area stores (Thousand Oaks/Westlake area), but I am sure it will in time.

In the meanwhile - if any of you have tried it, please comment!

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Wednesday, December 12, 2007



As I have noted before, my first introduction to wine beyond white Zinfandel was a Dolcetto d'Alba. That was over ten years ago, but I have never lost my taste for "the little sweet one," as it translates from the Italian. Made from a "secondary" grape in the Piedmot region of Italy, a region better known for its Nebbiolo wines Barolo and Barbaresco, Dolcetto often get lost in the background.

I was recently stuck in traffic on the way to LAX (not an unusual experience), and I exited the 405 freeway and entered The Wine House on Cotner Drive. The Wine House is a wine lover's dream, and the back-up gave me just the excuse I needed for a visit.

After perusing the aisles and their abundance of wines from every corner of the world, I settled on the section devoted to Italy's Piedmont region and zeroed in on the Dolcettos. I bought two and just consumed the first.

It is a 2005 Giacomo Grimaldi Dolcetto D'Alba ($14.00). It is drinkable now, or it could be laid down for a year or two. The wine gives aromas of cherry, blackberry, earth notes - terroir, and peppery spice. Dolcettos tend to be lighter than a Cabernet, and this one was no exception - it did have a nice balance of tannins - a very pleasant wine.

I am not sure how generally available this wine is - there are quite a few Internet hits, so it may not be too hard to find. I have found that Dolcettos in general are hard to come by in most retailers.

Let me know your experience with Dolcettos -

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Wednesday, November 28, 2007



The 2005 Alexander & Fitch Winery Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a bit of an anomaly. I get it at Trader Joe's for $5.99 - and I have not seen it anywhere else, although one wine blog I saw did mention that it was otherwise available, but did not indicate where.

The few reviews of this wine that I could find ranged from very positive to very negative. I my recent ratings of the Top Ten Everyday Reds, I had it at #10. Actually, since then, I would move it up the list a bit.

The wine is of mysterious provenance if you go by what is on the bottle - no contact information. Apparently, it is made by Bronco wines, a purveyor of "manufactured" wines and a provider of a number of wines found at Trader Joe's. Regardless, Dorianne and I drink it quite often and find it to be a nice everyday red for an amazing price.

There is no doubt that it is not a high-end wine in any sense of the world. That being said, it does have a nice cherry nose and soft fruit flavors - mainly berry, with a hint of leather that might be called terroir in a more expensive wine. The tannins are balanced and it has a relatively low alcohol percentage (13.6) for a California Cabernet.

Naturally, all wine tasting is subjective - so you may or may not like Alexander & Fitch. My recommendation is to try a bottle - at this price, you can just use it for cooking if you do not find it to your taste.

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Wednesday, November 21, 2007




So what wine to serve?

My good friend Steven Brabant just stopped by to gift me two bottles of wine - a 2004 Gainey Santa Rita Hills Limited Edition Chardonnay and a 2004 Tobin James Silver Reserve Zinfandel. Despite their high quality, neither one will be on our Thanksgiving table.

I've been scanning the wine experts and experimenting over the past few years. Here is what I've come up with:

1. There is no "perfect" choice for a traditional turkey dinner.
2. The main issue is the sweet dishes, like sweet potatoes with marshmallows, etc.
3. Turkey is not the easiest food to pair a wine with anyway.
4. You want wines that do not fight the foods served - no big fruit bombs.
5. If you will be drinking much of the day, you want wines with lower alcohol.

So there are my recommendations - not specific wines or vintages, but types of wine.

Dry sparkling wines are excellent, both with dinner and before with appetizers or munchies,

With the traditional dinner -
Reds - Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Tempranillo, Malbec, Barbera, Bordeaux - Cabernets and Zins are generally too much.

Whites - Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Grigio - oaky Chardonnay is too much, most Fume Blancs are too little.

Roses - a nice dry Rose is fine, but not one that runs sweet or semi-dry.

We will be serving the following wines for our guests - our red will be a 2003 Latetia Estate Pinot Noir; the white will be a 2005 Conundrum White Table Wine. We also have some bubbly available for the morning preparation time (maybe some Mimosas).

Whatever you decide, enjoy your holiday, and remember to be wise and safe when it comes to driving - whether for yourself or your guests.

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Sunday, November 18, 2007



Dorianne and I found a nice wine bar and restaurant in NoHo - The Eclectic Wine Bar and Grill - on Lankershim near Magnolia.

The place has a modern look with banquets and some tables with chairs (the cushions are a bit sparse, or am I getting old?). Lots of blue neon out front. The crowd was generally young (20's - 30's) with a few older folks mixed in.

They have a pretty nice wine list - not really extensive, but a good mix of choices. There were two wine flights offered the night we went - so we ordered one of each to start, along with some stuffed mushroom appetizers and garlic toast.

The first flight was from Tevenot Winery, a prolific winery from Calaveras County, CA. Their web site lists no less than 23 wines from the current vintage. The flight we ordered included a Danza Roja (Tempranillo/Garnacha/Mourverde/Graciano blend), which was very nice, rich and fruity; a Cabernet Sauvignon, which was smooth with nice hints of spice and fruit; and a Tempranillo Gran Reserva, a velvety Roja style that was the best of the flight. I am going to see if any of the Stevenot wines are available at local retailers.

The other flight was a Coppola Director's Cut flight from Niebaum - Coppola Winery in Napa. The flight included a Chardonnay, a Zinfandel, and a Cabernet. All were OK (the Zinfandel had the most character), but nothing stood out.

We both settled on seafood pasta for our main course, so we switched to a 2005 Jewel Viognier The wine was very light and smooth, but with a nice lemongrass bouquet and a fruity- citrus flavor that was a nice complement to the seafood pasta in a white wine & garlic sauce.

Our waitress, Jessica,was knowledgeable and just attentive enough. She easily answered questions about the wines and the food. We also met David, who was either owner and/or manager, who gave us some information about the Stevenot Winery and the wine bar.

We will definitely return to the Eclectic. Our bill was $95.00, including 2wine flights, two glasses of wine, and appetizers, so not bad at all for the quality of the experience, the food, and, of course, the chance to enjoy and learn something new about wine.

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Wednesday, November 7, 2007



This past weekend, I was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida visiting my daughter. A friend and I went to THE GRAPE, a wine bar on Las Olas Blvd - the upscale shopping and nightlife street between downtown and the beach.

The concept at The Grape is that they categorize wines into ten categories - from light bodied whites to full-bodied reds, plus sparkling and sweet wines, and a category of premium wines. The menu has a dozen or so wines in each category.

We ordered reds from the medium and full-bodied categories. I had a 2004 Four Sisters Shiraz ($12.99 - retail), with a deep color, and nice fruit forward flavor. The wine is actually a blend of Shriaz, Sangiovese, and Viognier - with a very satisfying result. If you can find this wine, I recommend it.

And if you are in Ft. Lauderdale, try The Grape - I'm sure there are plans to franchise the concept.

Another stop in the beach town - Season's 52 - a wonderful place with 5 Florida locations and 2 in Atlanta. The menu at Season's 52 changes seasonally, is very eclectic and reasonably priced. The wine concept is very nice - glasses cost 1/4 the bottle price, and the pour is 1/4 of a glass - so there is no penalty for drinking by the glass. When the restaurant opened in the Galleria Mall in Ft. Lauderdale a few years back, a number of my good wine friends were in town for a conference. Many of us spend several meals at Season's 52 during the week - mainly trying wines.

On this trip I had lunch - a blackened grouper sandwich with a salad and a tomato and cheese flatbread. With the meal, I enjoyed a single glass of 2006 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc - Marlboro, NZ ($12.99 - retail). This is a nice, crisp, light wine with nice fruit components, and a grassy-green color. It was excellent with the fish.

It was a nice visit to an old home town - I took my daughter to visit colleges in Tampa and spent some time with friends in Cape Coral.

'Till Next Time,

The WineSaver

Monday, October 29, 2007



Been away for a while - so to get back into things, let me begin by jumping into the "Two Buck Chuck" controversy. As you probably heard, it was judged Best Chardonnay from California at the 2007 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

Since then, there have been a lot of back and forth comments on various wine blogs and in wine publications. These have ranged from "the judges were drunk" to "it's really a decent wine." One thing that can't be denied is that the outlet for this wine, Trader Joe's stores, can't keep it in stock. When I tried to buy some, it took three trips to the Thousand Oaks Trader Joe's before I could get any - then it was the last 3 bottles. I subsequently went back and secured a case ($23.52!!!!).

Dorianne and I had the first bottle with shrimp and pasta. The wine is very good cold - it depreciates quite a bit as it warms up. (The Wine Goof suggests putting a couple of frozen strawberries into the glass to keep it cold, then enjoying the wine-soaked berries). There are hints of oaky butter (although Charles Shaw does not use oak) which get there God knows how. We have had several bottles since, and I must say, it is decent and drinkable and would be a value at 4 or 5 times the $1.99 (in CA) price.

I should note that I am not a big Chardonnay fan - I prefer Fume Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, so I may not be the best source for those who are really into big buttery Chardonnays. But then again, the judges at the CA State Fair found it the best among those tasted - including many of the traditional top-shelf California producers.

My advice - for $1.99, buy a few bottles and try it. The worst case scenario is you have some cheap cooking wine (which is what I do with the Charles Shaw Merlot, by the way).

What do you think?

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Wednesday, October 10, 2007



I want to recommend Eric Asimov's "The Pour" article in today's New York Times -
You can use the link below.

Taking a Closer Look at Wine’s Conventional Wisdom
Published: October 10, 2007

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Friday, September 28, 2007


Hello Everyone:

Here is a list of WineSaver's top ten everyday reds. In order to make the list, a wine has to meet the following criteria:

1. Retail for under $25

2. Be generally available

3. Be something that I purchase again and again.

So, here, from #10 to #1, are the favorite reds:

10. Alexander and Fitch Anderson Vallen Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($6.00)

9. Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel 2005 ($12.00)

8. Beckman's Le Bec Red Wine 2005 ($18.00)

7. MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2005 ($16.00),

6. Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawara Shiraz 2004 ($24.99)

5. Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua 2005 ($12.00)

4. Qupe Syrah Central Coast 2005 ($16.00)

3. Greg Norman Estates Limestone Coast Shiraz 2004 ($13.99)

2. Penfold's Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet 2005 ($11.99)

1. Murphy-Goode Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($24.00)

What do you think?

'Till Next Time,
The WineSaver

Tuesday, September 25, 2007



The news about the projected effects of a massive drought on the Australian wine industry can be found at the following link:

As a big fan of Aussie wines, I trust that the effects are less than projected!

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Monday, September 24, 2007



A quick link to a great article on Pinotblogger - the Top Ten Wine Myths - enjoy!



Yesterday, I opened a bottle of a favorite Syrah.

The 2005 Qupe Central Coast Syrah ($16.50), is a very nice product. (label shown is from 2002).

From the Qupe website: The wine is: 93% Syrah, 4% Grenache, 2% Mourvèdre and 1% Counoise. The grapes come from 16 different vineyards in the Central Coast – 55% from Santa Barbara County; 39% from Paso Robles and 6% from the Arroyo Grande Valley. The most significant vineyard components in order of percentage are: Bien Nacido in Santa Maria, French Camp and Lonesome Oak in Paso Robles, and Chalbot Vineyard, a cool climate vineyard near Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County. Some of the other vineyards included in the blend are Vogelzang, Alisos, Stolpman, Colson Canyon, Black Oak, Windmill and Ibarra-Young (all Santa Barbara County).

It is generally available and is a very good value. I find it the equal of their single vineyard wines such as the Ben Nacido, which costs quite a bit more.

Look for spices, vanilla, strong fruit and great mouth feel - all at less than 14% alcohol. This is a nice wine to drink now or over the next two years.

Qupe's web site is: They have tasting rooms in Solvang and Los Olivos.

Let me know what you think of Qupe wines.

'Till Next Time,
The Winesaver

Wednesday, September 12, 2007



I enjoyed a nice Pinot Noir with dinner the other evening while attending a meeting at the LAX Hilton.

The 2005 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir ($16.00), from the Sonoma Coast, went well with a Caesar Salad and a wonderful Cioppino. The wine can be had for $13.95 or so. It cost $45 at the restaurant. (I know.)

The wine has nice forward-fruit, black cherry and berry flavors, along with a sense of vanilla from the oak storage. You get a definite sense of an earthy terroir as well.

All in all, this is a wine I recommend.

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Tuesday, September 4, 2007



Dorianne and I took a 4100 mile road trip last month, with stops in some interesting wine locations, specifically, the Okanagen region in British Columbia and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Here are a couple of highlights from the trip:

One was Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, BC. Their specialty is sparkling wines. Like many of the 80 wineries surrounding Lake Kelowna, a 90 mile long glacial lake in central BC, Summerhill specializes in white grapes. Those who offer red wines (other than Pinot Noir, which can grow around the lake), grow their red grapes to the south, near the US border.

Summerhill ages their wines in a Pyramid - a unique feature that gets lots of attention. And yes, Californians, you can meditate in the Pyramid!

We had a fabulous Sunday brunch at Summerhill's beautiful winery. A number of Okanagen wineries have restaurants, and Summerhill's is excellent. A buffet featuring seafood and other items accompanied the sparkling wine very nicely. We sat on a patio with lake views.

We were joined by our hosts in Kelowna, Dr. Kenn and Rev. Deborah Gordon.

The Okanagen region is beautiful, but has a short growing season. The winters are mild by Canada standards, but not mild enough to provide a long enough season for most red grapes. Of course, Ice Wine is featured - which is harvested after the first freeze.

Summerhill is the largest organic winery in Canada. You can visit their site at

Later in the trip, we visited Oregon's Willamette Valley, the home of some of the finest Pinot Noir on the planet. We only had a short stop - a late afternoon and an early morning, so we visited only two wineries. The highlight was definitely Adelsheim Vineyards in Newberg. After a 5 hour drive, it was nice to have a tasting in their beautiful tasting room, then a picnic lunch (with goodies purchased that morning from Pikes Place Market in Seattle) and a half-bottle of Adelshien's 2006 Pinot Gris. Dave Page, in the tasting room, was both knowledgeable and helpful.

This was a nice, crisp wine with dominant pear and apple flavors that were a wonderful complement to our picnic goodies.

We also purchased some of Adelshein's 2005 Pinot Noir. This is their standard Pinot, and I found it to have the nicest character of the several we tasted. It's not that the higher-end Pinots were not wonderful - it's just that THIS Pinot was just as wonderful, if not more so. This signature wine can be found at better wine stores, at least on the west coast (where you can usually get it at Bev-Mo).

These are a couple of the highlights of the trip. One more was the Dreamgiver's Inn, the B&B just outside of Newberg, OR, where we stayed. Just 2 years old, the home is beautiful and the hospitality of owner Linda Kessler is just what you want. We highly recommend it.
'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Wednesday, August 29, 2007



Just a quick note to let folks who live near a Cost Plus World Market that they have Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon on sale for $6.99.

This is a great wine at an incredible price - see the archives for a review!

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



We are back from vacation - with lots to blog about, including visits to the Okanagen region in British Columbia, the Williamette Valley in Oregon, and a few other choice tidbits.

But I'm not ready to list everything just yet, so I'll just make this entry a tribute to a really nice wine that will be pretty hard to find -

Bearitage, Lot #12, from Gundlach-Bundschu ($11.99), last produced a few years back. The label shown here is from an earlier release - Lot #12 is from 2001 & 2002 Grapes.

I used to drink this wine often when I lived in Florida, and the suppliers in Southern California have gradually run out.

I found a bottle at Bev-Mo, where I had not seen it for about 18 months. The bottle was just sitting there on the shelf. I took it to the register and it did not come up in the computer - apparently, it has been sitting there mixed in with other wines for quite a while.

Dorianne and I took the wine to a conference in Pacific Grove, CA in July, anticipating sharing it with a friend and fellow Bearitage lover from Ft Lauderdale, Tom Schon. Well, Tom had to cancel his attendance, and the bottle came back to Westlake with us.

Then, after our trip in August (4100 miles of driving), Tom came to LA for another conference, and he stopped by the house for dinner. We opened the Bearitage and it was excellent - a very lush wine, with heavy fruit - cherry mostly - and spice. It has an excellent finish - a really nice wine.

From the Winemaker:

Intense red currant and clove aromas with cedar accents lead to lush, mouth-filling flavors of red cherry and spice. Cabernet Sauvignon gives this lush wine its weight and firm structure, while the opulent Zinfandel fruit contributes the long, fruit-drenched finish. Bearitage may benefit from additional cellaring, but is ready to drink upon release.

If anyone knows where I can get some more, please let me know!

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Monday, July 30, 2007



We just returned from 10 days in Monterey/Pacific Grove, CA, where we attended the Religious Science International Annual Conference at Asilomar. A wonderful event.

We had some wonderful restaurant experiences there, including CASSANOVA in Carmel, FANDANGO in Pacific Grove, and THE FISH WIFE, also in Pacific Grove. I highly recommend them all when you visit. Both CASSANOVA and FANDANGO have extensive wine lists - CASSANOVA has 5 pages of half-bottles alone!

On the drive back down to Thousand Oaks, we made our annual stop at the LAETITIA and BARNWOOD tasting room, and for the first time, we stopped at DOVER CANYON winery in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles.

We had a Dover Canyon wine called "Bone Lore" at a tasting in Monterey earlier in the week, and were intrigued enough to stop on the way south. After a lunch at McFEE'S GRILL on Main Street in Templeton (another great restaurant), we drove west toward Dover Canyon Winery.

The location is very picturesque, with orchards and vineyards on the property, a quaint farmhouse, and a modest tasting room. Dover Canyon specializes in Zinfandels. There were three whites and nine reds on the tasting list (2 of the reds were reserved for wine club members only).

Dorianne and I bought bottles of the 2004 Viognier, a very nice white wine, with tropical fruit flavors and a very nice dry finish. Only 8 barrels were produced. We also purchased some of the Bone Lore, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah blend - smooth and very nice nose and flavor.

At Laetitia, where we are members of the wine club, we tasted a number of wines from a large selection of reds, whites, roses, and sparkling wines. We purchased two nice whites, a 2004 Barnwood Sauvignon Blanc, a real bargain at just $8 per bottle, and their 2005 Laetitia Pino Blanc, a wonderful white wine at just $18 ($14.40 for wine club members).

Laetitia is available at select retailers, such a Bev-Mo, and Dover Canyon is available at a few selections (listed on the website) and through the winery. Their web sites are: and

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Wednesday, July 18, 2007



Last week, Dorianne and I flew to Traverse City, Michigan, at the top of the state, to pick up our daughter from camp. While there, we took a day (my birthday, in fact) to drive out to the Old Mission Peninsula and visit some wineries. I must say that the experience was better than I expected.

First of all, the area is beautiful. It's green, it's surrounded by lakes, there are cherry orchards, vineyards, and rolling countryside. Beautiful. And, you could not see the air, which is nice for someone from near Los Angeles.

Second, the wines were very nice. We visited three wineries, Brys Estates, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, and Peninsula Cellars. Each was charming, set in a beautiful location, and had some nice wines. The best, in our opinion, was Brys Estates. They have obviously put a lot of capital into their operation, with 24 acres under cultivation, a state of the art tasting room and winery, and a very knowledgeable staff.

It was a great trip, and I recommend it to anyone who likes beautiful countryside, nice wines, and by the way, very nice dining. We took some pictures, but I don't have access to them right now - I'll post some later.

Tomorrow, we leave for 10 days on the Monterey Peninsula where we will attend a conference. I'm sure there will be some excuse to have some wine. Stay tuned.

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver

Monday, July 9, 2007



The final white wine at the White Wine Tasting was:

2005 Andrew Murray Enchante, 50% Rouanne, 50% Marsanne ($22).

The wine was brought by Brad & Karen, who also brought the Dutcher Crossing Sauvignon Blanc.

The Enchante represents an unusual blend of grapes for the Central Coast of California. I have been to the winery, and Andrew Murray is one of the more serious winemakers in the area. They make a very nice product. Their website is

So to the wine.

The nose was noted as being crisp, with pear, apple, peaches, and a hint of oak.

The taste was noted as complex, with mineral, honey, pear, butter, peach, honeysuckle, and jasmine.

The wine was rated #1 by two people, then #2, #5, #6 - it is a wine that makes a definite impression.

Again, the final bottle opened, a 2005 Murphy-Goode Fume Blanc, was tainted and undrinkable. Again, I note that this is a very nice wine, one I have reviewed on the site before, and an excellent everyday white wine.

So thanks to Dennis, Diane, Brad, Karen, Marge for joining Dorianne and I for the 4th festivities.

'Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Friday, July 6, 2007


A wonderful statement about drinking wine . . .


Tell me what you ate with the wine.
Tell me how the wine made you feel.
Tell me how it smelled.
Tell me what memories the wine evoked.
Tell me what senses were engaged. Tell me what flavors excited you.
Tell me how it connected you with the people who made the wine, the people that grew it, the people who thought to share it with you.
Tell me about your friends, tell me about your family, tell me about the lover you shared the wine with.
Tell me about their passions.
Tell me about your passions.
Next time you make love, tell me how it rated on a five star scale.

'Till Next Time,
The Wine Saver



The second two wines at our White Wine Tasting on July 4th were two Sauvignon Blancs from Napa Valley:

2006 Groth Sauvignon Blanc, Napa ($21) and

2005 Panacea Sauvignon Blanc, Napa ($17)

I brought the Groth which I got at Bev-Mo (on sale for $16.99), and Marge brought the Panacea, which she purchased at Wades Wines in Westlake Village.

The tasters were all over the place on the Groth. Some did not comment on the nose, others listed straw, light, crisp apple, mineral, grapefruit, floral, apple, grassy, mineral notes.

The taste was noted as grassy, mild citrus, grapefruit, pear, apricot, nutty, rich, delicious and light. Two noted a high alcohol flavor. The ratings ran from #1 (by me), to #3 by 3 people, to #6 by one.
The Groth is a complex wine, very nice with shellfish, although we had it with the salad, which was also a nice pairing. It is generally my choice when I am looking for a higher end Sauvignon Blanc.

The next wine is the Panacea - one that most of us were unfamiliar with. Marge knows her wines, and she brought a good one.
The nose was straw, light, crisp, apple. The taste was lemon grass and citrus, with hints of apricot and pear, mango. A very pleasing wine. It was my #2, right after the Groth. It was rated #1 by two people, #2 by three, and had a low of #5.

The Panacea is actually a blend, 86% Sauvignon Blanc and 14% Semillon grapes, both from St. Helena and Carneros. The website,, list the following tasting notes: The nose has a broad sequence of citrus and minerals, integrated with subtle sweet banana. Complex on the palate, while showing good viscosity on the mid palate, then finishes with a crisp mouth feel and plenty of acidity to support the bounty of lingering flavors.

We all missed the banana.

My next post will review the next two wines (an the final ones), the Trevor Jones Virgin Chardonnay and the Andrew Murray Enchante.

'Till Next Time,

The WineSaver

Thursday, July 5, 2007



Well, the first annual WineSaver White Wine Tasting was successfully held on July 4th. There were seven people in attendance and we began with seven wines. One, the Murphy-Goode Fume Blanc, had to be eliminated because the wine was spoiled upon opening - too bad, it's one of my favorites.

Remember that the idea is to bring a white wine that retails for under $25 that is a "true find" and/or a personal favorite.

The attendees were Dennis and Diane, Brad and Karen, Marge, and Dorianne and me. It was a very warm day, so we had appetizers inside (oysters on the half-shell, my version of clams casino, brie & Boursin cheeses, and tomato & mozzarella salad).

The first two wines were a 2006 Dutcher Crossing Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($21) brought by Brad & Karen, and a 2006 Kim Crawford Marlboro Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($15) brought by Dennis & Diane.

This is a very nice wine - the nose was reported as lemongrass, grapefruit, apple, pear, grassy, and wonderful.

The taste contained primarily citrus and grass, with notes of grapefruit, lime, lemongrass, and pear. It went very well with the shellfish. The winery notes indicated gooseberry, which eluded everyone at the tasting (what does gooseberry taste like, anyway?).

The wine was generally rated #4 or #5, with Karen picking it as her favorite.

The second wine, served along with the Dutcher Crossing, was a 2006 Kim Crawford Marlboro Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($15).

This wine has a stronger bouquet, with grapefruit, peach, hints of green apple, and pear.

Taste was citrusy, with grapefruit, and grassy notes, with a bit more sweetness than the Dutcher Crossing. Melon, apricot and pineapple hints were noted.

The final ratings of this wine ranges from #4 to #6 out of 6 wines rated.

Here is the entire list of wines in the order consumed - the others will be reviewed in coming days.

2006 Dutcher Crossing Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($21)

2006 Kim Crawford Marlboro Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($15)
2006 Groth Sauvignon Blanc, Napa ($21)

2005 Panacea Sauvignon Blanc, Napa ($17)

2005 Trevor Jones Virgin Charonnay, Australia ($15)

2005 Andrew Murray Enchante, 50% Marsanne, 50% Rouanne ($19)

2003 Murphy-Goode Fume Blanc ($11)

The rest of the menu included a green salad, the main course - grilled mahi-mahi with mango salsa, green beans, and rice with currants & almonds, dessert was a lemon souffle with berries.

My thanks to everyone who came and made their notes - it was a wonderful social event and a great way to celebrate the 4th of July, with almost entirely American wines.

"Till Next Time,

The Wine Saver

Friday, June 29, 2007



Finally, here are the notes on the final two wines - the ones that Dorianne and I brought to the party.

They represent two of our favorite everyday reds - wines that we really enjoy with a variety of foods, alone, or with a cigar (me, not Dorianne).

They are Penfold's koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet ($12) - we drank the 2004 at the tasting; and 2005 Los Vascos Cabernet, Colchauga ($11).

First, the Penfold's: Most of the wine tasters noted little to no noticable nose on the Penfold's. One noted "fragrant, fruity."

The tasting notes indicate flavors ranging from pepper, to high tannins, black currant, cherry, licorice, goon on the back of the tongue, nice finish. Dorianne rated it #8 of 8 (maybe it's not one of our favorites), noting "nose not remarkable, full-bodied, balanced, some tannins, but not overly complex; great blend of Shiraz/Cabernet, has good 'legs.'"

Next, the Los Vascos: The nose was described as, fruity, hints of licorice, fragrant, berry, sweet, floral, lite chocolate notes, hint of pepper.

The tasting remarks included: peppery, good back of tongue, lasting oak, good finish, rose, raspberry, tannic, young - needs more time, good long taste, can't beat the price (I paid $6.99 at World Market). Dorianne rated it #5 of 8, noting "nose - complex, fruit and chocolate, hint of pepper; taste - good tannins, great with Manchego cheese, amazing for the price."

So that concludes the notes from the first annual WineSaver Red Wine Tasting. My thanks to everyone who came and participated. Here is a shot of the morning after . . .

Next week is the White Wine Tasting, so look for notes on that after July 4th.

'Till Next Time,

The WineSaver

Thursday, June 28, 2007



An aside before publishing the final two reds from the Red Wine Tasting, and as Dorianne and I prepare for the White Wine Tasting on July 4th:

We spend Sunday - Tuesday in Santa Barbara. Stayed at the incredible San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito - the place where JFK & Jackie honeymooned among others. The ranch is beautiful, the cabins incredibly comfortable and inviting, with quiet enclosed porches front and rear (with a jacuzzi), the bathroom floors have radiant heating, etc., etc.

We spent Monday in the Santa Ynez area, visiting three wineries - Sunstone, Artiste, and Rideau. Pretty much all of the wines exceeded the WineSaver price level of $25 and under retail price, so I won't go into tasting reviews. Suffice to say that Artiste was the hit of the trip - wonderful wines with the "gimmick" being that art is the complement of the wine - the tasting room is filled with art and each label is an artistic piece on canvass actually applied to the bottle.

The wines at Artiste are blends from all over California, with an emphasis on the local area. The winemaker, Bion Rice, is the son of the family who runs Sunstone. He has a true gift for blending wine - those that we tasted were the best of the day, and we bought a few bottles and joined the wine club. Their site is

We had dinner at the Stone House Restaurant at the ranch on Sunday - prime rib featuring a bottle of Qupe Syrah "Purisima Mountain Vineyard" 2002 - a wonderful wine.

Monday, we had dinner at the new Hungry Cat Restaurant in Santa Barbara - wonderful and inventive seafood with a glass of Chablis - after all that tasting, we were not wanting a whole bottle.

So a great couple of days of R&R - I highly recommend the hotel, the restaurants, and the wineries we visited.

'Till Next Time.

The Wine Saver

Tuesday, June 19, 2007



It's time to look at the third pair of reds from the WineSaver Red Wine Tasting on May 27th. Blogging time has been infrequent this month, so I appreciate your patience.

Today, we look at the wines brought by Steven & Diane:
A 1997 Solis Cielo Vinyard Merlot ($18), and a 2001 Rancho Sisquoc Cellar Select Meritage ($25 - not really a wine that is readily available).

You must note that Steven is the most knowledgeable and erudite of the group when it comes to wines, so leave it to him to bring one that no one can find without going to a great deal of trouble, or having some connections at Rancho Sisquoc. Naturally, the Meritage was rated the best wine of the evening.

First, the Solis Merlot:

The nose was peppery (the most frequent comment), with a mineral background, blackberry, currant, and hints of terroir.

The taste was fruity, jammy, with rich blackberry and currant, with a smooth flavor. Dorianne rated it #4, noting a "jammy blackberry, fruity, rich flavor - perfect with steak (which is what it was served with).

Second, the Rancho Sisquoc Meritage:

Given that it was the final wine of the evening, it is somewhat surprising that the Meritage was just about everyone's favorite.

It was served with a chocolate souffle, made by Dorianne, and it closed the meal beautifully.

The nose was full, fruity, elegant, berry.

The flavor was full fruit, smooth, moderate tannins. Comments included "Yum!" "Smooth & Elegant." Dorianne, rating it #1 noted "chocolate, blackberry, smooth, rich, luxurious."

So 6 down and 2 to go - next time, I'll cover the two wines that I brought to the Red Wine Tasting.

The White Wine Tasting happens on July 4th - so look for the blog to cover that starting on July 5th.

'Till then,

The WineSaver

Monday, June 11, 2007


Here are two more of the wines from the Red Wine Tasting on May 27th. Life is pretty busy, and I've been slow in posting, but such is life.

These wines were brought by Rob & Lelia.
First is 2003 Stonehenge Reserve Petit Syrah ($11). This wine had a nose that was reported as berry with whiskey overtones; peppery; hot.

The flavor was noted as oakey, with prominent tannins, peppery, thin for a petit syrah. Dorianne rated it #3 of the eith wines, calling it yummy! complex and different, very delicious. So a nice wine!

The Second is the 2005 Tikal Patriota Red Wine ($25). This Argentine is composed of Bonarda and Malbec grapes. The nose was noted to have aspects of tobacco, clay; was noted as smooth.

The taste was tannic, astringent, pepper on the back side, some fruit influence, very deep. At least two people noted a bad aftertaste. Dorianne rated it #6 of 8, and noted rose, raspberry, and pepper.

Rob seemed to enjoy both wines:

Till Next Time . . .
The WineSaver

Monday, June 4, 2007



Well, it took a bit longer than anticipated, but here is the first review of wines from the WineSaver Red Wine Tasting from last week.

Today, we look at the 2005 Castle Rock Russian River Reserve Pinot Noir ($15) and the 2002 Cedar Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon ($20).

Both of these wines were brought by Tom and Kim.

The Castle Rock was the first wine tasted. Dorianne, who rated the wines from 1 to 8 at the end of the evening, had it at #7. It was noted as having a light to nonexistent nose. Most of those who detected something in the nose noted berry, pepper, and floral influences. I noted currant, licorice and pepper.

Tasting, the wine was smooth and light, with light hints of fruit and minerals. Dorianne noted a hint of sweet raspberry; Tom noted that it was slow to open up, noted berry flavors and called it "just okay."

The Cedar Knoll (interestingly, Dorianne and I have the identical vintage in our collection - neither of us are sure where it came from), got a warmer reception from the tasting group. Dorianne rated it #2, noting a "heady bouquet, blackberry & raspberry; and good tannins, nice complexity, great with meat; not a tasty as the nose would suggest."

Other cooments included Rob, who noted that it had a "light nose for a Cab"; Tom noted "light tannin, no aftertaste, great flavor"; Diane noted "pepper, flat aftertaste - which is good"; I noted the presence of "terroir and pepper."

So overall, the Cedar Knoll Cab was a hit and the Castle Rock a miss, at least for this group. Two more wines will be reviewed in the next installment.

What do you think?

The Wine Saver

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:

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

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