I picked this one up at our local Wegmans having never heard anything about it. It was an act of faith as its retail price was $12.99/bottle and just about every Pinot Noir I've ever had at that low of a price point sucked! Every once in awhile you find a jewel in a lower priced wine and this is just such a jewel. My only hope is that it stays undiscovered for awhile as I'm sure once the word gets out on this wine the price is likely to shoot up. I opened it and allowed it to breathe for about 30 minutes. Not that 30 minutes is some magical number it just so happened that soon after I opened it #1 summoned me to attend to one of my many honey-dos on the old honey-do list and it was 30 minutes before my chore was complete. I poured that first glass and took a good look under the lights to see how "rich" it appeared. Not a deep ruby red like you see in Cabernet's, and some Pinot Noirs, but a medium bodied red. I've noticed that cheaper Pinots seem to be light red in color and easy to see through. Not scientific at all this peering through the glass but something I've found to be a good indicator. On the nose I picked up a little clove, cherry and maybe just a touch of vanilla. I took my first drink and slowly swirled. On the palate I noted that this was just bursting with all kinds of fruit. Cherry, strawberry, raspberry and even a little plum came to mind. A very smooth finish to say the least. I didn't taste any tannins at all. #1 was right behind me in tasting this one and also proclaimed how much she liked it. After I told her the price she liked it even more and promptly dispatched me to buy more the next day before the price went up. Haven't given a 5 Corkscrew rating in some time but this one made it easy. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine, especially this one!
After a lengthy layoff, incredible how much time a relocation takes, my New Year's resolution was to get back to writing about some of the wines, good and bad, that I've come across. Now that I live amongst the many vineyards of Northern Virginia, yes, Virginia has vineyards, I'm motivated to share some of my discoveries, as well as some of the duds I've come across. All that being said let's get busy.
Over the Christmas holidays I found myself back in Arkansas visiting relatives and had the opportunity to dine at Ristorante Capeo in the Argenta section of North Little Rock, Arkansas. Yes, North Little Rock actually has sections! There were four in our party and much good food was consumed. If you ever find yourself in North Little Rock/Little Rock, they are two separate cities, stop by and try their Lamb Shank, Double Cut Pork Chop, Chilean Sea Bass or their Halibut, all of which are excellent. I personally had the Pork Chop which was finished with a brandy and parsley butter that just made the dish. Of course the chop was man-sized which is not a bad thing. My only complaint about this restaurant is that their pacing is just a little off. There was enough time between the appetizers and the main courses that we ended up buying a second bottle of the 2007 Schug Carneros Pinot Noir and then a third about half way through our entrees. Come to think of it, their slow pacing may be by design? An excellent, excellent Pinot Noir that I highly recommend. A full nose of cherries and oak greeted me followed by flavors of blackberry, a little currant and a smoothy, is that a word?, oak flavored spicy kind of thing and a simply wonderful finish. Not sure what this cost in the restaurant as the uncle-in-law treated on this night but shows availability at the winery website at $24.00 which is outside my day-t0-day price point but fits nicely in my "special occasion" range. Right out of the box I gave this one 5 Corkscrews, which was a huge increase in my rating of the 2005 Schug Pinot Noir. Evidently the grapes that went into the 2007 bottling had a much better growing life than the 2005's. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, and Find the 2007 Schug Pinot Noir somewhere!
Well, I splurged on this one and it didn't pay off. Have you ever noticed how wine that tastes so good when being sampled at the store can end up tasting so bland when you get it home? What's that about? The Total Wine & More Store in Fredericksburg, Virginia was sampling this 2006 Taft Street Pinot Noir a few weekends ago and the sampling I had tasted decent. And they were offering a $1.00 off coupon so it had to be good. Right? Wrong! I shelled out $15.99 for this bottle and was met with one bland glass after another. Nothing much on the nose and no fruit that I could really identify on the tongue. I gave this one several days to change my mind but it just couldn't. It didn't get worse but it definitely didn't get any better and I tried it at different temperatures and different breathing times. I gave this one 2 Corkscrews because I didn't pour it down the sink, couldn't bare to at that price, but might have been tempted to had I paid a little less. Avoid this one. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Good Wine, Not This One!
I must admit that I was a little suspicious of today's reviewed wine. The 2006, 3 Trees Pinot Noir, from Australia, was on sale for $11.99. In the past I've been mostly unimpressed with Pinot's at this price point. Well, I'm still unimpressed. This wine had very little flavor that I could pick up and seemed somewhat uninspired. Not much to note on the nose and when I took the first sip Pinot Noir was the last thing that came to mind. After it warmed a little I was able to pick up a little blackberry and spice but nothing that overwhelmed me. Kind of a blah finish as well. I gave this one 2 Corkscrews because it was drinkable, barely, and I didn't pour it down the sink. Avoid this one if you can. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine (Something Else for sure)!
There is no joy in Hawgville as the mighty Razorbacks have lost to the Wildcats from the Bluegrass state. No heartburn on my part as I didn't go to the U of A, or just Fayetteville, as it is known. We had our neighbors over for the game and ended up trying two different bottles of the Smoking Loon Pinot Noir. We tried the 2006 bottle first, followed by the 2005. Dark, ruby red in color, they both exhibited a strong nose with lots of strawberry/cherry aromas. On the tongue we noted the strawberry, cherry, light spice and a touch of oak. Smooth, excellent finish made both of these winners. No real difference was noted between the 2006 and 2005 as both were equally good. Based on the absurdly, at least for a Pinot Noir, low price of $9.99 each, it was extremely easy to award both of these 4 Corkscrews. Smoking Loon is part of the Don Sebastiani chain and I've been surprised how consistent their Pinots have been and am sure we'll be picking up more bottles in the future. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!
Friday, August 24, Little Rock, AR
After another hot week in The Rock, I was surprisingly looking forward to tasting the 2005 Echelon Vineyards Pinot Noir. All of a sudden during the last two weeks a switch has gone off that has me craving reds and not uncorking the whites as much. Must be the fact that we've enjoyed whites almost exclusively all summer with a few, notable exceptions. My thirst for red was richly rewarded with this pinot noir. Upon pouring in the glass, I noted a rich, ruby-garnet color which exhibited a nose of clove, cherry and a hint of strawberry. On the palate more of the cherry and clove, a hint of oak, and a long, full finish. Nothing but good in this wine! Unbelievably this was retailed at $12.99/bottle, and that wasn't even a sale price. It is a steal at anywhere near that price point and I suggest grabbing a case or two before Echelon, and it's owner, Diaego, find out how good of a wine they've produced. Easily gave it 5 Corkscrews without a second thought. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!
Tuesday, August 21, Little Rock, AR
I found today's reviewed wine on the sale rack, (I've really got to get over to my wine connection), of my local, overpriced retail store. O'Looney's you know who you are! If they would offer more wine in the $8-10 range I would go by there at least every other week. As it is, I only go there under dire circumstances, i.e. I forget to go somewhere affordable. Very knowledgeable staff, for the most part, but they are consistently $2-3/bottle higher than a store 5 miles away. But on with the review.
A Pinot Noir from Chile? That was my thought but I was feeling adventurous, and couldn't stand to pay any more than the $11.49/bottle I ended up paying for this. I unscrewed the cap, yes another screw top, and poured a glass. On the nose I picked up a little bit of strawberry but not a whole lot else. On the palate I noted cherry and strawberry that came across as bitter at first. After it had been opened an hour or so, the flavors seemed to balance out a little better and the bitterness went away. A little oak noted as well with a so-so finish. I gave this one 3 Corkscrews because it wasn't terrible for a $12 Pinot Noir but it is also not one I would actively seek. Maybe you can find it cheaper where you live and it might actually be a bargain at $8/bottle. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!
Wednesday, August 1, Little Rock, AR
It's 95 going on 10,000 degrees today in Little Rock and the 100% humidity isn't helping anything. August can be a tough month here to say the least. After cutting the grass this early evening, and sweating off about 5 pounds that I didn't really need to lose, I showered up and #1 and I met her aunt and uncle at the new Bonefish Grill that just opened up. I'd seen this chain in Virginia but had never tried it. My loss! Everything we had was excellent plus. We started with the Bang Bang Shrimp and Maryland Crab Cakes starters, followed with four different fish entrees. #1 had the parmesan encrusted trout, I had the Alaskan halibut and her aunt and uncle had the salmon and grouper. I highly recommend any of those items as well as the restaurant in general. Great service, great ambiance, and we'll definitely be making a return visit real soon. Now, you ask. Surely there must have been wine consumed? Yes, there was indeed. And good wine at that! So good that we ended up buying a second bottle after the first one was gone. Our choice was the 2006 Bridgeview Blue Moon Pinot Noir from Oregon's Bridgeview Vineyards. Perfectly balanced in every way that exhibited a dark, ruby color in the glass giving way to a wonderful nose of luscious cherry and raspberries. In the mouth a wonderful mix of fruit and spices with a finish that couldn't have been better planned by the winemaker. So good I wanted each sip to last and last. Not sure what this retails for in the store but it is listed on the vineyard website at $17.95/bottle. Worth every penny! Get some wherever you can! One of the easiest 5 Corkscrew ratings I've given this year. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Bridgeview Pinot Noir!
Wed-Thur., 7/25-26, Little Rock, AR
Still working on the rap up of the Illinois trip and promise to finish this weekend. I did have a wine the last couple of days that I wanted to write a quick review of. The 2006 Parker Station Pinot Noir. Now, I know this label says 2005, but evidently the 2006 is so new that there are no jpegs online of the label but the only change is the year. I bought this one at Heights Fine Wine & Spirits in the older part of Little Rock. I came to know this store when we lived right around the corner from it in the mid-90's. I'm still somewhat nostalgic about it and try and stop by once a month, or so, but their prices are almost over the top. I've had a hard time finding the affordable wines I'm looking for there, and even their off-brand Australians are getting pricey. But I digress. This pinot exhibited lots of cherry and plum on the nose. After pouring in the stem, I noticed that it appeared light-to-medium bodied, which is the way I like my pinot noirs. On the palate I picked up flavors of strawberry, a little clove and oak, and just a touch of the plums I noted on the nose. Very nice, balanced finish made this one very drinkable. I easily gave this one 4 Corkscrews for its excellent characteristics and value at $12.99/bottle. This is the kind of pinot you can afford to drink on a regular basis with the flavor to make you want to. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!
Tues-Wed, 6/11-12, Little Rock, AR
I bought this with some trepidation as I had tried their Chardonnay offering and was very disappointed which my review revealed. At $13.76/bottle I had to give the 2005 Angeline Pinot Noir from Mendocino County a try. If you read my reviews in the past you know that I'm always on the prowl for a Pinot Noir under $20 that is actually drinkable. I've had some success in finding a few but have been disappointed in several under the $20 price point. #1 and I reviewed this over a two-day period as it presented itself so well on day 1 and I wanted to see if it would be as good the second day. It was! When I poured this one I was greeted with a mid-to-dark, ruby red colored wine in the glass. Not so dark that it reminded me of a cabernet, in fact, if you looked into the glass from the top you could see your hand holding the stem. Nice color none the less. Aromas of blueberry and strawberry, as well as a slight hint of vanilla, greeted my nose. Once I tasted this one I found a little bit of raspberry, more of the blueberry with maybe a little hint of black currant, and a nice mix of oak. The tannin was almost non-existent which is the way I like it and the finish was perfect. This Pinot is a blend of 88% Pinot, 7% Syrah and 5% Merlot. Based on the excellent flavor and value, I gave this one 4Corkscrews. Almost 5Corkscrew-worthy but a wine really needs to have a little something "extra", that is hard to explain, to receive 5. Great wine, however, at a great price point. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!