Chateau Leoville Barton, Bordeaux, 1989

This 1989 Bordeaux by Chateau Leoville Barton is extremely good. It was brought by a friend to another friend's farewell party. First, the color is truly unique to older wines, a red-brownish look in the middle and a more clear look around the edges. Then, at first sniff, a weak but clear smell of honey comes to mind. On the palate, it's smooth, dry but not super dry and that memory of honey comes back, without any of the sweetness, of course and with a hint of tobacco. Very decent fine wine for special occasions. Not sure how much it cost my friend, but online it retails for $100-$150. Definitely not on the affordable end of spectrum, but still a delicacy to try sometime.


St. Clement, Merlot, 2007

This 2007 Merlot from Napa Valley is good and bold. It was the third wine of the night, so I will refrain from making too many comments right now and will try it again some other time. I know the winery and they have mixed products, some really good, others not so much. For about $25 a bottle, the St. Clement needs to reach a higher expectation to be worth the price. Looking forward to trying another bottle.

Franciscan Magnificat, Bordeaux Blend, 2005

The 2005 Franciscan Magnificat is a Bordeaux blend from Napa. It went down very smoothly. I don't recall any specific characteristics that came to mind, but it's a decent wine overall. A bit pricey for about $40, so I'll probably have to try another one more carefully to have a more decent verdict on it.

Frei Brothers, Syrah, 2007

A simple wine. Not good, not bad, just a very inexpressive Syrah. This Frei Brothers 2007 had quite a bit of residue at the bottom too, which can be unattractive (I forgive it when it happens in really good wines, but in not-so-great ones, it's just an extra turn off). This was a gift, but I believe it's about $20 a bottle. Too pricey for the quality.


Achaval Ferrer, Malbec, 2009

I can't decide if I like this 2009 Malbec from Argentina or not. The Achaval Ferrer is not bad. It has a deep ruby red color and smells good. At first, a faint hint of vanilla comes to mind. The taste is that of a young malbec but it has a weird after taste. It leaves a bit a sticky and bitter flavor in the mouth. It  feels almost as if the skin of the grapes were still in there somehow. Overall, it's a nice experience but I think it should age some more before we call it a winner. At $15, it's a bit pricey.


Cantina Zaccagnini, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2007

Continuing with the Italian grape week, this 2007 Montepulciano from Cantina Zaccagnini is a little weird. At first, I was disappointed that it had no bouquet whatsoever. I thought I had a cold or a stuffy nose, but it wasn't me, it's the wine that doesn't offer much but a faint smell of alcohol. It's weak on the palate and feels watered down a bit, but offers some tannins alright, which guarantees its "dry wine" label. To compensate for its blandness, it does leave a nice after taste of mixed fruits behind. It did get a little better with time after opening. Overall, it's okay, but probably not a great buy for its $12 price tag. There are better options out there.


Villa Toscano, Barbera, 2007

Villa Toscano is a 2007 Barbera from the Shenandoah Valley in California. It's the first Barbera I'm reviewing here. It wasn't exactly what I had expected given that the usual Barbera tannins weren't so prominent. But Toscano is very decent and pleases the palate. It has a velvety finish where nuances of chocolate can be picked up (if somewhat mixed with some faint vanilla). I would repeat, depending on the situation.


Monte Velho, Alentejo, 2008

The 2008 Monte Velho from Alentejo, Portugal, is not exactly like its older brother. It's younger of course, and it shows. It's a little blander, a more watered down version of the 2007. Nonetheless, it's still a decent value for the modest $8 price tag. It leaves an almost sweet raspberry taste in the mouth.


Casa Lapostolle, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008

Like its older brother (2007), this 2008 Casa Lapostolle Cab from Chile is a very decent wine in its price category. It's neither too strong nor too bland. It does leave a strong feel in the mouth, a little bitter, but just a little. Otherwise, it's a fine young cabernet with hints of black currant and some mild spices. Definitely worth the $14 price tag. The 2007 is slightly better though.


Luca, Malbec, 2008

This 2008 Malbec from the Mendoza region in Argentina has a deep fruit flavor and is a bit chocolate-y. It is for sure still young and can probably rest for a couple years to get even better. It went really well with a beef stroganoff. But at $29 a bottle, it should probably stay in the cellar a little longer to be fully worth the price.


Alexander Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008

I first tried this Cab at a restaurant. It was decent enough to buy a bottle. Alexander Valley is one of my favorite locations in Sonoma. This 2008 Cab from Alexander Valley Vineyards is a young but full-bodied wine with a smoky oak finish. It can still age a little to gain a little more personality. But otherwise, for $15, it's a nice everyday wine.


Sterling, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

This Napa Valley cab smells fruity, and it does taste a lot like a blend of -- and I am trying to avoid the wine cliche here, but I can't -- raspberries and blackberries. It's your typical California cab that will age well. It's not too fruity, despite the fruit presence. I enjoyed it and it's pretty affordable, at about $15.


Glass Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

Not great, but not terrible either. This 2007 Cab has a berry smell and a somewhat fruity-oaky flavor, but at the same time is very dry and has a strong alcohol taste. The color is watered down red, which is a turn down for me. In general, this works for a glass or two but it's not a favorite. For $6, one can't expect much either.


Trefethen, Merlot, 2006

This 2006 Merlot from Napa Valley was recommended by a fellow wine enthusiast. Turns out it's a very decent Californian red full of tannins and flavor. It's full-bodied and only for those who can take the strength of a big red. It's not exactly cheap (about $35 at the winery, if memory serves) but worth it for once-in-a-while degustation.


Cartuxa, Alentejo, 2004

Cartuxa is a great portuguese wine from Evora, in the Alentejo region. It's a blend of local grapes. This 2004 is superb, the right amounts of tannins and the complexity of a six year-old full-bodied red. I did have this one with ahi tuna -- yes, fish, and it was delicious.


Selby, Merlot, 2006

This Selby is a Sonoma county 2006 merlot that is dry and high in tannins. It's best with a meal or with some decanting first, to let it mellow a bit. Not one of my favorites, but definitely not bad either.


Don Melchor, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

Don Melchor, from chilean Concha Y Toro is very smooth and round on the palate. Certainly a great wine with complex oak and fruit tastes. Its $50 price tag is well beyond its quality and hence I'd have to recommend another very similar chilean wine in its place, Casa Lapostolle.


Jacob Franklin, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1999

Only seven barrels of this 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hoffman Lane in Napa Valley were produced. The Jacob Franklin is a complex and round wine. It's rich in tannins, despite its older age and it's a very decent companion for a nice filet mignon with foie gras in a truffle reduction. It is priced as if these were the last seven barrels of wine on Earth though, which makes it too expensive for its value. I wouldn't pay more than $20 for this wine the second time around, even though the first time it was significantly higher (so much so that I'm ashamed to publish the number -- it was at a restaurant though, which adds insult to injury).


Yellow Tail, Shiraz Cabernet, 2008

This 2008 60% shiraz 40% cabernet sauvignon has an unbelievable intense smell and flavor of caramel flan. At first, it smells like vanilla and tastes like chocolate. A day later it's a clear caramel flan. For a non-dessert wine, this is a very surprising flavor/aroma combo. Simply too unexpected and pleasantly sweet to go unnoticed. Its $7 price tag makes this an all-time favorite party wine for many occasions. I'd expect even those who don't enjoy wine to make an exception for this extremely easy-to-drink wine.

Update: I realize this is was a super endorsement of this wine, but it really isn't. It was the first time I had tried such surprising and unexpected taste of caramel flan in a wine. But this is really a characteristic of low-quality wines. It now bothers me to find such flavors I don't usually find in wines I love. So, I'm scratching this one off my list of good wines.


Vina Tobia, Tempranillo, 2009

This 2009 Tempranillo is light on alcohol with an intense smell and flavor or cherries. It's a good call with pasta or pizza or even some light meat such as veal. For $9.99, it's a good addition to any cellar.


Bons Ventos, Estremadura, 2008

This 2008 portuguese wine from the Estremadura region is made of four portugues varietals: Castelao, Camarate, Tinta Miuda and Touriga Nacional. At first it reminded me of Luis Pato, except that it's much better. It's light, only 12.5% alcohol, but it doesn't feel watered down like the Luis Pato. It has a nice aroma and some hints of spices. I liked it. And for $9.99, it's a bargain. I'll get a case of this one next time I find it.


Luis Pato, Baga, 2007

This 2007 portuguese wine from the Baga grape is not strong in terms of alcohol (12.5%), but it has its personality. At a first sip it's not the most pleasant wine because of a slight bitterness. But its flavor can be appreciated with food, especially with the spaghetti bolognese I had with it. By itself though, I'm still not a big fan, because it can be at the same time bland (watered down) and a little bitter, which is somewhat of taste conundrum to me. For $12.99, it's definitely not a bargain, but not a rip-off either.


Wattle Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005

The Wattle Creek is a pretty decent 2005 Cab with well-rounded flavors and aromas typical of a California cab. This one is from the Alexander Valley, which is my favorite region in Sonoma county. It has complex tastes with an oaky finish and is on the mild side in terms of intensity so it's better suited for lighter foods such as pasta, salads and appetizers. Might go well with dark chocolate too, though I haven't tried that with this one yet. This bottle was a gift from friends who know their wine -- and my preferences! :-) Thanks!


Chateau St. Jean, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008

While I haven't had one in a little while, I'm a fan of Chateau St. Jean. I finally tried their 2008 vintage and found it to be reasonable, but not great. It's hard to say what's missing and it could very well be just more time in the bottle. In general, the quality is there, the flavors are all there (albeit, a bit faded) and it gets that initial impression of a great wine, but finishes like a decent-but-not-great one. I'll be waiting to taste some more of it next year.


Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

Mondavi is almost always a good wine. This one is no exception. But it's not exceptional either. It's somewhat fruity but generally well-rounded. For its $7 price tag, it can be an every day wine with no problem.


McManis, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008

Here's another McManis. This Cab'08 is decent, though it could use a few more years in the bottle. It's well-balanced throughout and a very decent companion for beef strogonoff. My guests loved it and so did I. For about ten George Washingtons, its cost-benefit is absurdly good.


Catena, Malbec, 2007

I love Malbec with a good meat -- ribs especially (beef, not pork, though pork is good too). This Catena 2007 is a great Malbec from Argentina. It's oaky just right and a bit spicy with hints of vanilla and peppercorn. Delicious. (Oh, and the ribs were melting in their own fat after 8 hours of slow roasting).


Monte Velho, Alentejo, 2007

First discovered in Portugal a few years ago, this mixed red from portuguese varietals from the Alentejo is also sold in the US for a not more than $16. It's very good, with hints of oak. 


Quinta de Pancas, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002

I'm a big fan of portuguese wine. But unlike Quinta de Pancas 2006 and 2007 reserve, this 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon one is not good. I'm a big fan of their younger reserve wines, but this is a bit too dry and bitter on the palate. It's the second time I give it a try and I'll definitely pass next time.


Chateau St. Jean, Merlot, 2005

This Merlot from Chateau St. Jean is one of my favorites. It's oaky, has hints of fruit and some smokiness that goes down well. Today, it accompanied a nice mushroom & meat marinara-sauce spaghetti, but it would work great with meat too. For $16 a pop, it's right for that weekend meal or even a party if you want to impress a little.


MontGras, Quatro, 2007

This is a decent chilean wine. Not impressive, not bad. It serves its purpose as a quasi-exotic combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carmenere and Syrah -- one of the most excentric of mixes I've tried. Decent, but not great.


Ferrari-Carano, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

Even though 2006 wasn't a very good year for California's crops (too much rain), this cab from the Alexander Valley is fabulous. It's well-finished, with a nice aroma and some berry-vanilla flavors. Well worth the $30 tag. Tres bien.


Chateau de Brandey, Bordeaux, 2008

This bordeaux didn't appeal to me. It was extremely dry and bitter and had no character, no distinguishing feature other than being extra dry. Given, it came after the Ferrari-Carano Tresor 2003, but still I was expecting at least something half decent. I'll pass on this one.


Robert Mondavi, Merlot, 2007

The Robert Mondavi Private Selection Merlot 2007 is a very decent every-day type of wine. It has that round Californian finish to it and is very amicable on the palate. It can probably get better with age as its 2007 vintage makes it still a bit young. Very good value for about $12.


Ferrari-Carano, Bordeaux blend, 2003

This Californian "Bordeaux" is an old favorite of mine. It's only available at the Alexander Valley winery Ferrari-Carano, where I first found it after tasting a vertical of the Tresor line. 2005 and 2004 were great, but the 2003 was spectacular. This was the third bottle I had, always with friends. This wine has the right amount of everything: it smells great, tastes accordingly and is very smooth with a light oaky finish. For $60 it's not terribly expensive, but is not an everyday type of wine either, sadly. Still, it's a good value.


Altano, Douro, 2005

I honestly didn't enjoy this red wine from Douro, Portugal, 2005, made from a blend of Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional. It's too bitter and lacking a proper taste. It might have been spoiled by transportation, storage at the store, or something else, but it didn't taste like it had oxidized. Anyway, not a wine I want to repeat, sadly.


Casa Silva, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

This 2006 Cab from Chile is a pretty good choice. It had to be chilled since the day was really hot -- I left some background image around the bottle to show the nice view. Since I drank this with friends, I don't know the actual price, but a quick search puts it into the $20 ball park. Very good value for the money.


El Cipres, Malbec, 2007

This Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina was accompanied by a delicious selection of pizzas. The wine is reasonable but not great. Maybe with age it would get better? I couldn't find the retail price (this was purchased at a restaurant).