Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The sky's the limit with personalized labeled or etched wine bottles!

I was looking around for a place to get some engraving done on a bottle of wine, a bottle of Vintage Port specifically. I've a son graduating this year and I thought a bottle of Port from the year he was born would be a great idea! But I wanted to personalize the bottle, to commemorate his commencement day, so they day he actually opened the bottle he could reflect not only on the wonderful Vintage Port, but also as a way to recall the enjoyment of that day.
Personalizing a bottle of wine is a great gift idea in many ways, including impressing a client, a thoughtful and unique gesture for a wedding gift, or birthday! Just about any occasion you may think of really. I mean who doesn't appreciate a good bottle of wine or spirits? A gift like this from Etching Expressions is what I would call a meaningful gift.
Since I thought it was such a wonderful way to express my love of wine to others and at the same time personalize the gift as well, I contacted them directly an asked if I could write something about this great idea. So they said sure, some free advertising would be great, and how about we make a bottle etched with your own logo from your blog. Since I don't have a logo Tasha @ Etching Expressions came up with a bottle design for my blog. I think it turned out nicely! Check the picture below!

They have so many great ideas on how to prepare the perfect gift for your friends, colleagues or business partners you will definitely find what you've been looking for and be completely satisfied. Whether you want to etch their wines bottles or maybe you have something you would like to send them and have them etch on your preferred bottle of wine, you do have a choice. Their wine choices include California blended wines as well as many name brand selections, which includes Champagne and Spirits. So if there is a specific wine you are interested in, and you do not see it on their site, please give them a call and they will do their best to accommodate you! Maybe your thinking you're not into having the bottle etched, maybe you want a custom labeled wine bottle ? Well they offer that too! The choice is yours and the sky is the limit! Just give them a call @ 866.944.ETCH (3824).
I asked Tasha my contact @ Etching Expressions about a concern of sending in my own bottles of wine. My questions was about the removal of the front label and or back labels to accommodate the etching process. Because of course I want the recipient of my gift to appreciate the caliber of wine I've sent in non-direct way.
Tasha replied, "When a customer sends in their wine it is typically because it is a specific brand name that they want, whether it be a friends winery, their winery, or their favorite brand. To keep that brand name relevant and visible on the etched bottle we keep the front label on. However, when done on our house wine, brand isn't really important so we remove the front label. Any other questions please let me know!" So you can see with great customer service and professionalism like Tasha, you and the recipient of your gift will be completely satisfied. If you have any further questions please check out their website and when you place your order tell them the Cuvee Corner Wine Blog sent you!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just Bordeaux! A tale of multiple tastings!

Ahh yes, just Bordeaux! I looked forward to this tasting all week and finally it had arrived. Like the title indicates this is purely an all "Bordeaux" event. I tasted through a series of six different wines, ranging in price from $92 to $31 a piece. The wine ranged in vintages from 1996 through the newly celebrated 2005 vintage.
We tasted these wines blind and the glasses were labeled 1-6 from left to right and the tasting notes and identities of the wines were revealed after evaluations. I am not sure if the wines were properly decanted before hand.
We started out with glass number one, The 2005 Chaumount, Premieres Cotes De Bordeaux, $31.00 and referred to in the tasting notes as a sexy, seductive ruby colored effort, exhibiting chocolate covered black cherries intermixed with tobacco. My notes: In the glass, displayed a dark velvet core,the nose was full of dark fruits, after the first sip, soft tannins and a velvet mouth feel with black cherry and touch of leather. This wine shows promise, that would be rewarded by further cellaring. However far from sexy or seductive, more like demure or coy! I scored this wine 86 Pt's. My Recommendation: Nothing special, definitely not worth $31.00 compared to it's peers in a similar price range.
Next in glass number two, the 1996 Lagrange Saint-Julien; composed of Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot. $92.00 Wine makers notes assert, opaque purple colored, with a backward yet promising nose, nicely layered, plenty of structure and a layered mouth feel. My notes: Looking at the wines brick orange rim and pale ruby core, I knew this was an older wine. So I allowed this wine to open further before tasting some 32 minutes. Upon first sip, essence of cherry cola, leather and earthiness and a sophisticated structure and but lacking any appreciable notes of dark fruits, in a word restrained. My Score: 88 Pt's. Seriously folks, this was disappointing. My recommendation: don't bother for $92.00 you could get much better wine for half of this price.
Next up in glass number three, the 2003 Ferriere, Margaux; composed of Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot. $40.00. Provided notes indicate, aromas of blackberry, toasted oak, a beautiful nose, chewy tannins and a austere finish. At first swirl, the core is a pale ruby and a fading to garnet colored watery rim, not much in the way extraction. Upon first swirl, the nose is not particularly inviting. Upon first sip, chewy tannins dominate the faint appearance of dark fruits with a subtle spicy finish. It did however nicely pair with the lamb ravioli, served at the tasting. My recommendation: The notes say best after 2008, but in my book this wine scored a paltry 84 Pt's and I would not waste my money on the asking price when there is wine of better of a better caliber for a lower price waiting upon the shelf of your local wine store.
Here comes wine number four, the 2005 Petit BOCQ, Saint-Estephe; composed of 80% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc with a $33 price tag. The back label notes refer to this wine as the "little bug" a primarily Merlot based, medium bodied with fine tannins and considered "fresh and fruity" with a fantastic black fruit finish! My notes: Upon first swirl, medium bodied ruby core and fading to garnet colored rim. Upon first sniff, I had to send out a search party as none could be found. Upon first sip, it has a nice mouth feel, some interesting yet tight intermingling of of dark fruits and the fully integrated tannins linger nicely into a complex yet austere finish! My recommendation: the lush fruit promised on the label does not exist, and I am not sure if the recommended 4-5 years of further cellaring will make a impact upon this wine. If you do decide you want to pursue this bottle, decant for at least 2-3 hours before hand as this wine is tightly wound.
Now we are getting somewhere, in glass number five the
2004 Lucia, 'Bortolussi', Saint Emilion Grand Cru with a price tag of $47. Wine makers notes: This Garagiste made wine is committed to the wine consumer and limited production winemaker/artist. This estate sits on a 'tiny' 7.5 acres and Stephane Derenoncourt Feature Teaser - Stéphane Derenoncourt Wine Spectator consults on the decisions surrounding this wine. Terrific textures, with a flamboyant modern style. (Read that as austerity is out the window) My notes: Here we go St. Emilion Grand Cru, upon first swirl a deep crimson core surround by a lighter ruby rim. Upon first Sniff, an elegant bouquet of cherry, and spice effortlessly float upward, delighting my senses. In the glass are what I would call super-ripe dark berry fruit and my palate spent an afternoon upon "blue-berry hill" lingering gracefully upon my mid-palate and with long but mildly restrained finish. This wine by the way paired the best with the Lamb Ravioli. In a word wonderful! My recommendation, make sure you have more than a few of these in your cellar. This wine is complex and is built to age and consume over the next 12 years! This vineyard takes boutique to a new new level, with fewer than a 1000 cases produced, run don't walk to snatch up a few of these beauties. I scored this wine 91 points and included availability and price in the score. Here's a link: Red Wine - Chateau Lucia 2004 - Vintage 2004 - Saint-Emilion Grand ...
Finally, last but not the least in glass number six, the 2001 Beau Soleil, Pomerol; Composed of Merlot and Cab. Franc and a price tag of $40.00. The winemakers notes, say this 2001 possesses abundant amounts of dark fruit flavors and notes of vanilla and espresso, completed with nice texture and structure and maybe the sleeper of the vintage. My notes: Upon first sniff, the nose is subdued and "chillin like a villAIN", but coat the glass nicely. Upon first swirl, the color is very interesting. The core is rose petal, and amber colored rim. Upon first sip, the wine featured a chunky personality of raspberry and blackberry melding nicely together with spicy vanilla notes leading to a persistent and long finish. Which paired ever so nicely with our meal much more eloquently and unobtrusively than the rest of the lineup, as if the meal was prepared with this wine in mind. My Recommendation: this wine is well built and a excellent food pairing gem. I would seek out 3-4 bottles to keep on hand as an food pairing friend and would consume within the next few years as this wine is already in it's maturity window. Enjoy!

Overall my advice (and I'm no expert), especially in buying Bordeaux is know what you like ahead of time. This means take some time to attend a few tastings and figure out if your a left or right bank kind of person. Many wine stores and wine bars will feature tastings of certain types of wine from different areas of the world. After attending a few of tastings you really start to get a sense of where your palate lies, so if you been drinking mainly California red wines or what some folks call "new world" wines. The wines of Bordeaux will take a little time to appreciate and understand their focus is different than many new world wines. So give it some time and go to a few tastings than you will get a better understanding of what New World vs. Old World means. Until next time, Cheers everyone!

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Justin Isosceles Reserve 2005

My wife and I first visited Justin just last year, toured the facilities and became members of the Justin Wine Society. This was not something we did lightly, but being so impressed with the caliber of the the red wines and the fact that you are unable to purchase the Isosceles Reserve from Justin unless you are a Wine Society Member. So with that little bit of arm twisting we decided to sign on the dotted line.
Now we had not tasted the "Reserve" but had tasted the Non-Reserve bottling while at a wine-makers dinner hosted by the Wine Vault Bistro here in San Diego. We loved this Bordeaux type variety so much we reasoned the "reserve" had to be so much better! It was a good bet and paid off in spades!
The first time we drank this wine, we were celebrating my wife's birthday, so we dressed to the "nines" and took our Isosceles 2005 Reserve along for the ride to one of our favorite restaurants in town, Donovans Steak & Chop House Steakhouse San Diego, CA 92101.
So we get there a bit early before the time of our reservation and with our bottle in tow, the hostess offers to hold on to it for us and will place it on the table for us. So whilst waiting, we reclined in the bar and the restaurant manager seeing our wine at the hostess station, exclaimed out loud "who brought this wonderful wine" my wife and I looked over in surprise to see her hoisting our bottle of Justin Isosceles 2005 Reserve high in the air. We acknowledge somewhat shyly that we had brought in that label as a companion for our forthcoming meal. She went on to extol her love for the Justin Isosceles and engaged us with small talk about Paso and the wonderful wine scene there, we couldn't agree more. Our trip to Justin and the Paso wine scene helped us broaden our palates and appreciation for the diverse wines coming from the area.
Upon first Swirl: In the glass the 2005 possesses a dense ruby core, followed by a pale ruby rim and the color is like dark brooding rain clouds ready to burst upon the palates with hedonistic delight.
Upon first Sniff: Our wine was decanted for us (about an 1/2 hour) and even our waiter who is in general opposed to California's fruit-forward styles, found praise for the Isosceles. In the nose it exhibits ripe aromas of blackberry and currant with some hints of toasted oak melding nicely in the background, in a word stunning!
Upon first Sip: This wine displayed what I would call a full-throttled personality displaying abundant amounts of of blackberry and smaller notes of cassis flavors delicately balanced and fully intermixed with subtle notes of vanillin and expresso leading to a long and sumptuous finish
Weighing in: 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot
1% Malbec blended and aged together in 100% New Nevers French Oak for 26 months and Alc. of 15.5.
My Recommendation: This is a brilliant wine and I would acquire a few bottles for special occasions or for those with a fat-wallet I would recommend a few cases. Compared to some of this wines counterparts in Bordeaux the price is very reasonable for a wine of this caliber. Ranging in price from over a hundred to $75.00 dollars per it is a good deal! If you do buy yourself a few open one now and see what all the fuss is about, then cellar the rest for a 3-5 years for even more intense flavors to develop.
Wine Makers Notes: Inky black in color with a slightly purple rim, this wine shows its youth and power. Aromas of black cherry, red currant and leather combine with mushroom, minerality and a complex assortment of spices from the new French oak. The soft entry is layered with red and black fruit, while the mid palate seamlessly flows into a round, rich mouth feel characteristic of a warm, consistent vintage. The finish exhibits rich, soft, yet complex flavors resulting from the extended ageing (26 months) in new French oak
Other voices: February 2007 On the Cover, by Chris Rubin, Interview with Jaime Pressly, Actress, “My Name is Earl”: “’JUSTIN ISOSCELES changed my whole perception of wine’, she says.”
Bright Future: The 2006 will be leaving the Justin wine cave in November of this year, so this is your chance to jump on the Justin Band Wagon. By the way the 2006 Reserve Cabernet got 95 points from Wine Enthusiast.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."

As this most mis-assigned phrase in American political history is, so too maybe the goal of Mr. Two Buck Chuck, also known as Fred Franzia. The famed (depending on your perspective) maker of $2 Chuck and of course the favorite of many Trader Joe's customers! Mr. Franzias stated goal it is "to have an inexpensive wine that everybody in the U.S. can afford." a quote from Harvey Posert, a spokesman for Bronco.
According to Fred, who will be marketing his newest inexpensive wine to the likes of Ruby Tuesday, with his new $3.00 chuck! Oh boy I can't wait, and in turn you can buy this wine for $10.00 which is only a 235% mark-up! This in my opinion is not a good trend! Like the famous phrase above in the title, perhaps the unintended goal of Mr. Franzia and Bronco is to have a "cheap wine in every restaurant and a marginal wine in every glass!" who knows?
Now according to a Bronco Wines Mr. Harvey Posert, a spokesman for Bronco, "Bronco is also one of the largest wineries(loose translation) in the country and it has enormous efficiencies of scale". As quoted in the Press Democrat. Yep that is what I look for in my wine, "enormous efficiencies of scale", which begs the question "please could I have some more sir?" Doubtful anyone will want more, but hey anything is possible.
There are many folks drinking Two-Buck Chuck (it goes out by the case at TJ's) and are perfectly content and yes maybe 235% markup on $3.00 is what the doctor has ordered for these economic times which we are living in, what do you think? Would you pay $10.00 to drink Two-Buck Chuck in a restaurant? I think for a few dollars more you could get a respectable wine like Toasted Head Chardonnay (also mass produced) which is sold in many restaurants and is on the inexpensive side of the wine menu!

I guess I really brought two different issues to the discussion table here, one the over inflated price of buying wine @ at a restaurant (with an average markup of over 400%) and two the promulgation of inexpensive quaffers flooding wine menus across the country, posing as something palatable at inflated prices. Which is why on count one, I whole heartily believe in BYOB! and in the future and my god I know this will sound pretentious as hell, but BYOG as well. Once you are comfortable with the practice it is relatively seamless! My wife just rolled her eye's at me, for the mere suggestion of BYOG and a carrying case! You know she's thinking, "someone stop him please, he is out of control!"

That said, yes I'll will admit it I have become a "cork-dork" ! Some might say I've become a wine snob! But I am tired of drinking wine from glasses thicker than Aunt Mildred's glasses, so thick and clunky you could potentially take out a mugger with the damn thing! So if you see me with my "little wine purse", please don't disparage me too harshly as I imagine you have wished that you too had the temerity to do the same! Also very tired of drinking "plonk" wine with over inflated prices, I mean c'mon on folks (speaking to restaurateur's) do you really think I don't know what you paid for that wine on the menu? A 400% markup is ridiculous by any standard, I know you need to make a profit but c'mon! (you can also see that statement posted at J/k.So for me to BYOB for a $10.00 -$15.00 corkage it is so worth it! If I am out and about happen to want to dine without my little wine-purse, then I will stop by a grocery store pick up a similar bottle and pay corkage. Saves me some green and little frustration!

The second point about this story which Dennis, a wine maker I know brought up in a discussion about this article is about "boutique" wine that he makes and the cost per bottle difference, frankly there is no comparison! In reference to Bronco Wines Charles Shaw brand they make plonk (yes it's a real word), pure and simple! Dennis the wine you and other boutique winemaker like you, produce wine that is not only on another level, it's on another playing field!

I'm saying it's the little league vs. the major league comparison. I told Dennis your wine is suave and sophisticated and theirs (the Charles Shaw brand ) is insipid and boring! Purple kool-aid for adults! But some folks are happy to drink these wines, but what they don't know is that for maybe a few dollars more they could be drinking an Italian wine like the one featured in my blog for $7.99! Click on this link: and see you don't have to spend a fortune to buy a some-what serious wine, that definitely has some refinement and special qualities compared to drinking plonk for $2!
In the interest of fairness, Bronco wines also also controls its own distribution company, Classic Wines of California, which like the name says have some classic wines in their portfolio! I made ascribed a few unintentional comments about "boxed wine" to Mr. Franzia, which I have cleared up after further research. Thanks for stopping by and Cheers everyone!

2006 Linne Calodo Problem Child

Ever have a problem child? Many of have seen one, known one or raised one and in a word they're difficult! Entitled a P/C because of the difficulty of this blend. But not to many folks are seeing a problem in this child, in fact many folks including myself have greatly enjoyed the Linne Calodo 2006 Problem Child! Unfortunately this baby is sold out at the winery, but maybe it can be picked via online or brick n mortar retailers!
According to the Linne Calodo website their philophy toward winemaking is very simple here it is from the website "The Linne Calodo wines are driven by four factors: vineyard location, uncompromising viticultural practices, minimalist winemaking, and the desire to learn from experience. The vineyards are farmed sustainably and the crop loads reflect the natural balance of the vine. We believe in harvesting at the peak of ripeness to produce wines that are rich and concentrated."

Having been there and tasted the wines in the old tasting room/barrel room I have to say Linne Calodo delivers on on all four factors on a consistent basis!

They are making some great Rhone style blends and Zinfandels, a little on the expensive side. Not your everyday drinker, but definitely one (I mean a 1/2 case) to have in the cellar! Full bodied, fruit driven, and great acidity balance perfectly upon the palate, melding flavors of wild boysenberries, licorice, and subtle spice and utlra fine tannin components dancing delightfully together on a very enjoyable long finsish. Looking at the wine in the glass, that's what I call extraction baby of deep garnet and ruby!! A structured wine, however built for minimal aging!

Linne Calodo describes the soils type that makes up most of the terrior on the west side of the 101 in Paso! They have a new tasting room, which I have not seen! But I am sure it's fabulous! But stop by and see'em! A very good selection of wine, it will be hard to choose a favorite! For more about the Paso Wine Scene, please check out my four part series at the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog. Btw, WS gave the 2006 PC a whopping 95 points! So seek it this one and enjoy, tell them CCWB sent ya!

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