Glenn R. Wine Reviews



1998 - Prager Riesling Smaragd Weissenkirchen Klaus Riesling

Why is Riesling the greatest white wine grape?

Nov 03, 2010
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the Weissenkirchner vineyardBecause even in "difficult" vintages, the best producers make wines that not only last, but continue to gain complexity and depth.This Riesling Smaragd (comparable to Auslese in Germany) from the tough 1998 vintage shows none of the high alcohol, and just the subtlest hint of the botrytis that plagued many of the best (dry) Austrian whites from this vintage.  The only hint that this wine is over 10 years old comes from the beautiful, bright green-gold color.  The bouquet offers ever-changing yet delicate aromas of lavender, acacia honey, dried apricots and almonds.  On the palate, a crisp, full entry, and flavors of apricot, honey,  nectarine, and minerals.  Though there is plenty of acidity (this would sing with almost any food), the wine's balance is uncanny, with a round and rich, almost saline quality and a long, juicy finish of unbelievable energy for a 10+ year old wine from a mediocre vintage. This wine is compelling proof that Prager is one of the world's great masters of dry Riesling.  If you find any of the very fine '06 vintage or the spectacular '07, I really hope you'll grab as much as you can afford--but please put a few bottles deep into the corners of your cellar, and forget about them for a decade or two!
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2004 - Hornillos Ballesteros, Bodegas Mibal Seleccion Proprietary Blend

Very fine "Nuevo" Ribera del Duero

Aug 13, 2009
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Despite the use of mostly American Oak, this Ribera del Duero is made in a decidedly modern style.  Almost black in color with a huge attack of black fruits and new oak aromas, this nevertheless tastes more like classic tempranillo than the bouquet would lead you to believe.  Loads of rich, silky black fruit flavors with hints of leather, coffee and chocolate, and a nice finish that is a bit more tannic than  one would find in traditional Spanish wine.  The tannins are sweet and ripe, however, and the considerable new wood treatment does not overwhelm the fruit, as I thought it would when it was tasted on release. 
During a tasting of non-Riserva Riberas, most 5-10 years old, we concluded that all but the most over-oaked of these 100% Tempranillo wines seem to shed their "woodiness" with a bit of bottle age (8-12 years seems to be the best time to drink them).
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2000 - Vega Sicilia Alion Proprietary Blend

Very fine Ribera, just beginning to mature.

Aug 13, 2009
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100% Tempranillo aged in mostly new French Oak. 

This Crianza from the owners of Vega Sicilia is almost 9 years old, and the wine has already shed its tannin and "new-wood" aromas.  It now shows a pretty bouquet of leather, bacon fat and raspberries.  On the palate, a rich silky mouthfeel with an intense core of black raspberry and cherry fruit with hints of coffee and cocoa.  Long, elegant finish, it carries its high alcohol (14%) seamlessly.  The folks at V-S claimed that they wanted to make Alion in a claret style, but this wine is more Burgundian than anything else.  Really 4.5 Stars.  Splendid! 

If this wine is typical, I would say that Ribera del Duero Crianzas from good vintages are best between 8-12 years from the vintage.
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1996 - Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate Nebbiolo

Ceretto's Best Barolo in at least 35 Years!

May 26, 2009
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When Barolo is on, it may be my favorite wine.  No other wine--not even Burgundy--can match its combination of richness, complexity and power with that ethereal, "light on its feet" quality that makes the wine feel weightless in the mouth, while marrying beautifully with food.

Sadly, for me, Ceretto's wines were never that wine, at least through most of the 80's and 90's.  Too often thin, overly austere, and sometimes even slightly oxidized  on release (!), they seldom merited their fame (or price!).  But oh, that '96 Brunate.................

Though still very young, it has hit the first phase of maturity, when the tannins have begun to meld in, but there is still fruit from the bouquet thru the finish.

To smell this wine is to be put into such a stuper of pleasure and contentment that everything seems to stop--I (almost) didn't even need to drink it!  I guess that's what the Italians mean by "Vino da Meditazione."  At first, the bouquet reveals aromas of wild red berries, rose petals, and tar, but with air, hints of white truffles, mint, camphor, and almond nougat come through.  On the palate (yes, I did finally succomb), a medium bodied entry of red berries, almond, truffles and mint showed none of the thin, sinewy, austere qualities of many Ceretto wines of the past.  Just wave after wave of new flavors with every sip, and a laser sharp finish that lingered on and on.

 So complex and complete a food was this wine, that it needed nothing else.  Fortunately, our host paired it with a delicious grilled Tuna steak, served almost rare.  The smoky, charry herbal flavors of the fish were perfect with the wine (like Pinot Noir and Salmon, Nebbiolo and grilled fleshy fish is a match made in heaven.).

It is impossible, if not just plain wrong, to assign a number to a wine like this, so I'll
steal a phrase from Steven Tanzer (used while describing another 1996), "the full Barolo experience, in 3D and technicolor!"  WOW.

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