Joe M. Wine Reviews



 

 

9998 - Unti Vineyards Syrah Petit Frere Syrah

Little Brother isn't sure of his parentage

Jun 24, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star
Unti Vineyards admits these are young vines, and yes, the wine is named Little Brother. A Chateauneuf de pape blend of Grenache (42%), Mourvedre (10%), and Syrah (52%), Petit Frere needs some growing up to do. As fitting young, newly grafted vines, the resulting wine is not terribly complex. It had a bit too much acidity for this taster's preferences and I didn't find it very "round" as promised on the label. The acidity and off-kilter balance made it seem sharp and rough, like a cheap local barrel French wine. It was not bad per se, I just couldn't help think someone else might have been able to make a better wine out of the same mix. The nose promised more than the taste delivered.The syrah seemed weak and so the grenache dominated-all the better notes came from the grenache profile: baked cherries, rhubarb, licorice. A decent bottle but there are better spanish garnaches and better Aussie GSM's for less money. It smoothed out a little with some time and some food to paired with it, but this never got past being just OK.
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2002 - Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard Syrah

A Perfect Rhone syrah from California's Edna Valley via John Alban

May 12, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
A sublime wine from the Edna Valley. Last Thursday night I opened a bottle of Alban, 2002, Reva syrah. John Alban is a genius. Old world, new world, who cares, this wine was sublime. Yes it's a California wine but I doubt French syrah fans could tell. A few years in the bottle made this wine integrate beautifully (though it would easily keep for another 15 years). Waves of dark fruit were washing over my palate, but so were those of roasted meat and earthy brown spice and black tea, and cacao. Super fleshy, silky mouthfeel, perfectly balanced and a nice fine grain tannic structure. The finish on this wine is a treat to experience, it went on forever but just made me want to drink some more. It just wouldn't quit. This powerful yet elegant wine is truly a joy for a syrah fan.
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2002 - Bogle Vineyards Phantom Proprietary Blend

Bogle's Phantom is always a sure bet.

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
But grab it quick as it always sells out immediately. This is not a wimpy wine. The 2002 comprised 56% Petite sirah, 41% old vine zin and 3% old vine mourvedre. I swear I can taste that 3% mourvedre. It's in that tart baked cherry afternote. This is a good wine. It's not a brilliant wine; it's not the most complex or balanced wine in the world, but for the price it delivers a lot of flavor and a very respectable amount of complexity. And it's different. It does well with a couple years laying down, but it also drinks impressively right out of the bottle. I always find this wine is very well received by the fledgling student wine connoissuer. They can pick up the two main grapes. And they seem to lift each other up to a new level. It's a good wine to call out flavors on. The tart blueberry and tannic edge of the PS compliments the jammy blackberry/raspberry and briar of the zin. And yes, that Mourvedre supplies the baked tart cherry afternote. It's viscous, lots of mouthfeel to go around. It's dark, very dark ruby. It's great on it's own, or with cheese. If you want to pair it with food, make sure it's charred, or spicy or both. Ribs on the grill. Lamb in a modest curry. Sausage pizza. - JM
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2004 - Norton, Bodega Malbec Reserve Malbec

Great malbec, great price, great value

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
Norton Reserva Malbec, 2004. A great example of the price/quality ratio coming out of Argentina these days. This a rich purple wine, just glows in the glass. The nose is all creamy fruit, not super complex in the nose but a nice hint at what's to come. In the mouth, first it's all about texture-creamy, silky, fine grained tannins coming floating their flavors onto your tongue. Creamy fig, plummy burnt earth, currants, blackberries and caramel mocha. Silkly caramel finish. Lots of fig and herbs. It paired wonderfully with torn rustic herbed bread, heaped with chunks of venison sausage, thin slices of heirloom tomatoes, and large shavings of ancient parmesan all run under a very hot broiler. Heaven. Dark creamy fruit. That's malbec Norton knows it backwards.
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2003 - Gamba Old Vine Zinfandel Moratto Vineyard Zinfandel

Zin for all the reasons you love it

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
Gamba Old Vine Zin. 2003. Dry farmed. Organic. Put a thick dark juicy raspberry in the sun and let it dry out to nothing. Then put it in your mouth and chew. There, you're tasting a Gamba zin. Pure dark red rasberry. A lot of it. You can still taste a bit of the briar patch too. And the sun on the leaves. Untainted by much else. Pure, concentrated berry jam in a bottle, balanced with some blackberry leaves, some pepper and not much else. It's pure and rich and gorgeous. You can tell this winemaker stepped aside and let mother nature, super old vines, and the wonderful terroir of the Moratto vineyard do it's voodoo. This is purple wine. And make sure the BBQ is hot when you open it. Keep it simple. A bison burger is perfect but ANY burger will do. And skewers of mushrooms, peppers and herloom tomatoes. Did I mention I love this wine?  - JM
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9998 - Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Vintner's Cuvee VIII Zinfandel

Even the cuvee is fantastic and about half the price of a CD!

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star
Okay, Kent Rosenblum makes some terrific zins. The guy certainly knows his stuff. He knows it so well he can even make a blend of leftovers in the kitchen sink into a decent cuvee. Okay, well must have a BIG kitchen sink because he makes a small lake of the stuff, but he cleary applies all his knowledge, passion and a helluva-high standards to making this "gallery opening" wine. All the zinfandel identifiers are intact - raspberry, blackberry, jammy generic berry, a nice hint of briar, licorice and pepper. What more could you ask for? More? Okay, it actually comes up, not down, in the glass or decanter. it actually tastes better than some $15 front of the shelf zins. I haven't had it every year but it wouldn't surprise me if Kent even pulled "consistant" out of his hat too.  Pour this blind with a couple of those other zins and you'll see what I mean.
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2003 - Guigal Crozes Hermitage Syrah

Hot year in the Rhone = syrupy syrah

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star
E. Guigal Croze-Hermitage 2003. Big critic gave it a big number. It's a good wine, just very atypical for it's heritage. This wine maintains a 12.5 alcohol level yet stills manages to taste big and ripe and jammy. After a couple years laid down in the bottle it's getting better but it's still ripe and some might find it over the top. It's got a lot of fruit, and a wee bit rustic on the nose, which is nice, but it's not multi-dimensional. Granted it is a Croze-Hermitage not a Cote-Rotie, and is (was) fairly inexpensive so it still delivers a lot of wine for the bick, unlike many other Crozes-Hermitages. It's deep purple with a hint of glowstick pink on the rim. In the mouth it's got a lot of decently-balanced black fruits, medium but hidden tannins, and a modest finish. If Turley made a Crozes-Hermitage this is what it would taste like. Along with your shopping bag of fruit, there is also tar and scorched earth, a wet cigarette and some forgotten mushrooms WAY down at the bottom of the bag. It tastes yummy despite my whining.
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2001 - Franciscan Magnificat Proprietary Red Wine Proprietary Blend

An underrated Napa Bordeaux blend, Magnificat

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
Franciscan Oakville Estate's Magnificat, 2001. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec. This wine is always well made. It's a quiet, elegant Bordeaux blend that is supple and finely balanced. It's not a screaming tannic monster nor is it wimpy. It's a just-right sort of Cab that is very food friendly. It's color is dark purple with garnet edges. The nose has a rustic aroma of dark fruit, especially black cherries and a hint of mocha, with a background of rain on wood, and herbs. In the mouth it's full bodied and silky, with black fruits well-balanced with the earthier and leathier tones. A little tobacco on the end. Fine grained tannins and a decent finish. It's easy to smile with a glass of this wine, and it's a must for food. Any steak, particulary with a little marbeling. Also great with slow-cooked short ribs and root vegetables.
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2001 - Family, Neal Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Mark Neal makes a great Napa Cab at half the price of its delivery

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
Neal Family Vineyards 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001. This was the first year I discovered this wine and is still my favorite year and it's drinking perfectly right now, though it's got the stuffing to ride out another decade. This is a difficult to describe Cab. Someho, I just can't get my vocabulary around all the flavors. Of course all the regular great Napa cabs flavors are there-and Mark Neal sources his grapes from his own stellar family vineyards which date back to 1968-cassis, blackberries, sweet oak and caramel, fine dusky tannins, and lip-smacking tannins. This is NOT a lightweight wine. Mark's only partly tongue-in-cheek advice is "Call your friends at 2 pm and invite thm for dinner at 8. Open and decant the wine at 2pm. Then hope they never show for dinner." Ths wine needs time. Still. But the rewards are great. Classic Napa Cab for half the price. Drinks better than half the valley.
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2003 - Girard Cabernet Franc Cabernet Franc

Girard makes a Cheval blanc lookalike, or should I say taste-alike.

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
For me, Girard Winery can do no wrong. From their Sauv Blanc to their Artistry (Bordeaux blend) to their reserve Cab, I love their gentle approach to winemaking. They only make their Cabernet Franc once in a while, in a year that warrants it (it's used in their Artistry blend every year). 2003 was one of those years, but less than 800 6-bottle cases were made (though last I checked one could still find some out there). This is a Cab Franc that would sit confidently amongst many right bank Bordeaux in a blind tasting. Deep purple with just a hint of a garnet rim. Killer nose right off - plum, blackberry, violets and a little pleasant smoke. The taste is a pleasurable medley of said fruits, cocoa & coconut, game, caramel, a little meat (bacon?), herbs and sweet oak. Super balanced (despite my supermarket full of descriptors), complex for a Cab Franc, and long finish of juicy meat and fruit, slightly drying on the inish but still delicious. A super bargain for the goods. - JM
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2005 - Worthy (Axios) Sophias Cuvee Proprietary Blend

Axios' second label, Worthy is fantastically worthy!

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
Gus Kalaris is the owner of Axios, one of the stellar expensive Napa cult cabs made by winemaker Bob Egelhoff. But Bob is also responsible for their second label, Worthy (Axios is "wrothy" in greek) in their attempt to make a fantastic Napa cab for a fraction of the price of Axios, or jsut about any other quality Napa Cab. This 2005 bottle of Worthy's Sophia's Cuvee is well worth the modest price. I know there are diffrent camps on decanting but this is another wine that benefits immensely from a few hours in the decanter; it literally becomes a different wine. Right out of the bottle it's closed on the nose, all tight and bright red fruit. Given some time though, the nose opens beautifully to dark fruits, cassis and rich earth and tobacco. On the palate, the red fruits and cassis persist, as do the earthier flavors and the cigar box and clove backnotes. The tannins are nicely integrated and cap off a warm and slky mouthfeel. If you like your cabs that don't apologize for their (well-integrated) oak and just a hint of rusticity to meet their ample fruit, and don't want to break the bank, Worthy is your go-to cab, as it is mine. Simply delicious now with some time in the decanter. With the fruit and the winemaker staus here, this one will lay down beautifully for years to come. -JM
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2004 - Alto Moncayo, Bodegas Alto Moncayo Grenache

This is not your grandmother's grenache!

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
Alto Moncayo, 2004 Grenacha. 100% Grenache. Hard to believe this Spanish Grencahe monster has a big brother (The $100ish Aquilon) because this is perhaps the biggest Grenache I've tasted. Topping out at a whopping Port-level 16% alcohol, this big brooding grenache would do fine with 4 or even 6 hours in the decanter. Those who wait it out will be rewarded with a concentrated but superbly balanced wine. After opening up a bit the nose gives up some amazing aromas of sun-baked red fruits, crushed raspberries, and a hint of allspice, and even a bit of fennel. In the mouth, the flavors roll to the red fruits and even some blueberry, cherries and a nice background of leather, flint(?) and chocolate. This is a major wine-richly complex, balanced (like a bear on a bicycle), and with a finish that never quits, one that in fact keeps rolling on and on in waves. I'd pair this equally masculine foods, a slow cooked lamb with a hint of spice; a charred and crackling New York steak, or a vegatarian BBQ skewers of portabello mushrooms and eggplant marinated in a not-too-spicy curry.  Definitely 4.5 stars.
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2005 - Hartford Court Pinot Noir Land's Edge Vineyard Pinot Noir

Big baked but elegant Pinot Style

Apr 28, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
A very big Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. It starts with a fantastic nose of crushed berries, baked cherries, mushrooms and various forest floor goodies. In the mouth is some nice red fruits, even a hint of darker fruit (unripe plum?) and asian spices and lovely earthyness framed by fine grained tannins. Great mouthfeel (this wine nears medium weight) and a long finish redollent of rhubarb pie. A great bottle of wine in very much a new World style. Not inexpensive but a substantial bottle of wine, great with heartier chicken dishes, but it paired especially well with both a veal dish and ground beef pitas.
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2005 - Unti Vineyards Grenache Grenache

Blockbuster Grenache blend

Apr 25, 2008
1 star 1 star 1 star 1 star
Unti Vineyards' Dry Creek Valley 2005 Grenache (84% grenache, 14% syrah, 2% mourvedre) is not a light rustic grenache; it is a fairly big (14.9% alcohol), fruit-powered wine but is balanced by near-perfect acidity, very decent complexity, and a lip-smacking finish. A nose of red berries, baked cherry pie cooling on grandma's windowsill, and some allspice. All those come through on tasting as well, with some rhubarb, mushroom and black teas elements. A really delicious wine, that gets a little more brooding and serious after an hour or more in the decanter. Most interesting is that all-important mid-palate, which this wine satisfies beautifully. Highly recommend.
4.5 stars.

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