Cellar Treasure: 2005 Marqués del Puerto.

2005 Marqués del Puerto Gran Reserva Rioja

Mind you, I haven’t had this in my cellar for very long. I purchased two bottles about eight months ago from one of my favorite online wine shops, Wine Exchange for less than $20 ($19.98 to be exact). I’ve been buying from them for over a decade. They seem to specialize in finding estate aged great value European wines. Some of my best French and Spanish wines have come from them. They send out emails almost every day with great deals. For far too long I’ve been grabbing some of those deals. I’ve recently broken that habit, as my cellar reached a state where I figured I could keep a buzz going for about a year straight.

So now I’m working through the cellar in the opposite direction, consuming rather than collecting. It’s like a whole new outlook on life.

I have learned that Riojas seem to be like old-school Barolos, or at least like one-third of an old-school Barolo in that they seem to hit a perfect note between ten and twenty years of age. I don’t know if that’s an accepted axiom, or not, but at least from my tasting seems to be true. I was going to grill some USDA Prime grade Ribeye steaks and figured I needed something special to pair it with but given the hot weather of late wasn’t really up to something big like a Cabernet or a Petite Sirah, so I thought “why not a Rioja?”

I likely have two cases of various Riojas, ranging in vintage from 2001 through 2015 and dove into the wine cooler to find something ready to drink. I pulled this one out with anticipation. I always uncork and have a glass while I’m prepping and cooking to get a sense of what is to come.

To start off the cork broke. A significant struggle ensued to get the remaining cork fragment out of the neck, a task at which I failed miserably. I gave up and decanted it through a strainer. The first taste was discouraging. It had a great nose, but a harsh flavor.

Thankfully it mellowed in the decanter for the hour or so it required to get dinner on the table. It paired perfectly with the steak and salad. Soft and supple. Absolutely delicious.

Life is too short for boring wine…

Sometimes a bargain isn’t really a good deal.

It’s been HOT recently. Really hot. Way hotter than I really can tolerate. I’m an autumn/winter sort of guy. Summer has never been my favorite season and in the times I was forced by life circumstances to live in hot places I have fled the area in summer and head north and/or higher in altitude to find cooler weather. Well, now I live both “north” and a relatively high in altitude, but even here it has been too hot of late. Perhaps it is climate change?

The only saving grace has been that once the sun goes down the latitude and altitude do kick in and things cool down quickly. Sadly, right as temps peaked recently our home’s air conditioning died. The day it happened we were forced outside for dinner and I had an inspiration: Rosé!

I went to the wine cooler and pulled this one out. A 2014 JCR Rosé of Pinot Noir from California’s central coast. I had picked it up a few months ago, for $19.98, marked down from almost thirty bucks.

It wasn’t cold enough at first sip, so I put the cork back in and placed the bottle in the fridge.

Even chilling it further didn’t really help. While it wasn’t really that bad (we finished the bottle over two nights), but it really wasn’t great either.

I’ve had some great Rosés over the past few summers but this one wasn’t even worth the twenty bucks I spent on it. Kind of disappointing. The best have been either from France or Oregon, perhaps I’ll stick to those.

In good news, our A/C has been fixed, though it took several days for the new part to arrive. Thankfully the weather cooled down two days after it broke and stayed cool until today, a week later. Hot temps are coming back tomorrow, so the pink stuff is going into the fridge now!

Sad Spumante is Sad. Pojer & Sandri N.V. Spumante

Overpriced at $29.98

It’s Sunday. It’s also Father’s Day. I got a bunch of stuff done today (including starting a project doing something I’ve never even tried before and so far, it is going well!) So I decided to celebrate, and what better way to celebrate than popping a cork from a bottle of bubbly?

Well, I wished I’d have picked another to be honest. Oh well.

I often celebrate Sunday with a bottle of bubbles… why not? I usually also stock up on a wide variety of sparkling wines around the holidays so my cellar is ready for these impromptu celebratory situations. This is an Italian wine, but from a German-speaking area they annexed from Austria in the aftermath of WW1. It’s a straight up Pinot Noir & Chardonnay methode Traditionale Champagne-style sparkler, despite the “Spumante” designation. In the bubbles department they nailed it an invasion of France in May 1940. Perfect tiny bubbles like you would expect from Champagne. But in every other aspect, it goes down like the subsequent strike through the Ardennes forest: falling short and missing the objectives. The flavor is far too light, and almost watermelon-like.

Not really that great. I’ve had much better sparkling wines for significantly less money.

Bougie Wougie baby! Or not, as the case may be…

About four years ago, my crack dealer… er Wine Merchant, emailed me with an offer for an aged Bordeaux nearing thirty years, but re-corked recently. Having had more than my share of cork-struggles with aged French & Spanish wines I figured this was worth having a go. This offer was a 1990 Chateaux Bel-Tire Lagrave, Moulis-en-Medoc “Cru Bourgeois” for just under $30 a bottle. What could possibly go wrong?

I bought four, and as per my modus operand tasted the first one about five months after it arrived. It was quite nice. Nutty and forest floor nose, and medium-bodied, at least as Bordeaux wines go. Testa Rossa guessed it was a Burgundy at first, and I can’t blame her as it has a distinctly French nose and a pale ruby color in the glass… but no, this is an old world Left Bank Bordeaux. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot – but age and it’s origin had changed it beyond what she has experienced from those grapes here in the USA. Tonight, we polished off the second bottle with a nice strip steak and some salad.

Truly a delightful experience, at a very reasonable price!

I studied French in primary and high school, and frankly (pardon the pun) didn’t learn very much. I have a toddler’s grasp of the language, but have met and befriended several French folks in my adulthood, and even spent some time there.The more I learn about the French, the less I comprehend about them. I imagine they prefer it that way as well. Being the sort of guy who is comfortable with uncertainty, I’m okay with that situation as well.

For example, I’ll never fully comprehend the French classifications of terroir. This wine is labeled “Cru Bourgeois”… Go ahead and read that linked article. You’ll be as baffled as I am. To me there is great terroir, great vintages, and great winemakers. All of these elements are in flux, and like a biorhythm wheel, will occasionally align to make an amazing wine. Sometimes only two of the three will hit, while another will miss. These things change year to year, decade to decade, and generation to generation. Fighting over them in court seems a waste of everyone’s time. Just make good wine!

I’ve tasted “1er Cru” and “Grand Cru” wines that have not been anywhere as good as this Bougie-Crew bottle. How? Well those slot machine wheels didn’t land on Sevens that year… one of those three elements didn’t deliver on its promise. That just is what it is.

Perhaps the French know this deep down inside, and just fight over nomenclature and details for the sake of their own particular Frenchness, or… je ne sais quoi.

I’ll just sign off with a Gallic shrug and a good buzz.

Bon Soir!

Sometimes a Rose isn’t a Rosé…


I have always loved Brut Rosés, that is “pink champagne” to the lowbrow folk. That prototypical rosé of Pinot Noir produced wherever great Pinots are made, but then subjected to the process that makes it into sparkling wine. The brighter and dryer the better if you ask me.

I always keep a few bottles of sparkling wine in the cellar and at least one chilled in the fridge to pop the cork and enjoy. No better way to initiate a celebration than popping a champagne cork! Even if it is just celebrating the end of a good day (as this one is this evening.)

I bought this bottle in the spring of 2016. It is a “2010 Cuvée Cima Coppola Rosé Corsa” from the Trento D.O.C. It’s been in the cellar for a while and for one reason or another was moved to the garage fridge at some point. Testa Rossa shouted to me from a distance suggesting we enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine. It was after all, the vernal equinox, and an unseasonably warm day so far. We recently had an anniversary, but had to cancel our plans due to the viral pandemic going on… so as I walked into the house to grab a bottle, I saw the champagne glasses we used at our wedding and a lightbulb went off…

I grabbed the flutes and the Brut Rosé and went into the backyard to set up for the sunset. Testa Rossa smiles when she walked to our setting and recognized immediately the significance of my gesture.

The wine was delightful, as was the sunset (and the company.) The only surprises were how very cold the ambient temps went after the sun went down and the total lack of “rosé” in our glasses. A little research lead me to the reason: this Prosecco was made with mostly Chardonnay, with some Pinot Noir (or as the Italians say “Pinot Nero”) so I guess technically it can be called a “rosé” but the French would say “Blanc de noirs” (White from black).

No matter. It was a nice vintage Prosecco at a very reasonable price ($20). Cheers!

Cellar Treasure: 2010 Oveja Negra Carignan.

About five years ago I bought a few bottles of this wine out of sheer curiosity (and likely some irresistible sales pitch found in an email from one of my dealers… er wine merchants.) As we all know, the Vinagoth loves Chilean wine… but Carignan? What’s Carignan? It’s an odd Spanish varietal more commonly found in cheap jug wine, or from some fanatical pre-Prohibition old-vine loving weirdos in Contra Costa or Sonoma Counties in California. The only other times I’ve even seen Carignan bottled on its own has been from those obscure NorCal weirdos.

Since these bottles were less than thirteen bucks, I grabbed three to round out an order into a full case to make my shipping free. What could possibly go wrong?

I remember that I opened one and drank it soon after that box arrived and it was just “okay”.

Last night I stumbled upon this one while searching for something Spanish in the cellar. Well, the grape is Spanish, but this wine is from Chile. Whatever works!

Opened it and it drank wonderfully. Mildly peppery on the nose, but smooth and supple in the mouth. Age has worked it’s miracles upon this juice, that’s for sure. There’s another bottle buried somewhere down there, so I’ll have to save it for some future dinner with a wine-snobby friend who’s likely never heard of this grape, nor drank anything under fifty bucks unless it was from Costco. Always fun to do that sort of thing.

Cellar Treasure: 2009 Tinto Figuero Ribera del Duero

A friend visited recently, whose grandparents came from Spain. They had fled Spain in the 1930s to escape from the revolution there, and thought they had found a safe haven in Cuba.

Well, we all know what happened next. His family fled Cuba to escape from that revolution, and ended up (like so many others) in Miami. My friend was born in Miami. We share a few things in common; a former employer, love for our region of the world, and a deep appreciation for Spanish wines.

Several years ago we made a bargain: he brings the steaks, and I’ll serve up the best Rioja he would ever taste, specifically my last bottle of 2001 Viña Olabarri Gran Reserva.

He was here a few nights ago, and we drank that, and a 1964 Rioja I’ve had in my cellar as well. It was a good night.

But as often happens with me once I’m in a groove, it’s hard to get out. Last night I was grilling a pepper-crusted pork tenderloin and was thinking of what I would pair it with from the cellar. I went to the wine cooler and dug around in the Spanish section and found a ten year old Ribera del Duero. Perfect!

I uncorked it and was immediately happy with the choice. Delicious and delightful! I’ve always said Spanish Tempranillos seem to really come into their own around ten years in. This one is no exception. Light nose. Wonderful ruby color. Amazing with the pork with it’s strong pepper flavor. Silky smooth mouthfeel from the wine, with a long oaky finish.

Looking at my notes I see that I purchased this as a single bottle about four years ago. I must have been the only one available, as it has a “CLEARANCE” sticker on it with a price tag of $21.98. Can’t beat that!

A Napa Valley wine of this quality would cost triple digit dollars.

I note that I have four bottles of a later vintage from the same bodegas in the cooler. They should be ready to go in a few years. Stay tuned…

Amazing Petite Sirah: 2009 Marietta, Alexander Valley

I bought two bottles of this wine many years ago. Paid around $15/bottle. One of the benefits of having an extensive cellar is forgetting/losing/ignoring items for a while. While that would fail miserably in any other foodstuff, with wine it often pays dividends.

From my notes I see that I drank one bottle in 2017, well over two years ago. I rated it four stars and spoke highly of its density, flavor, and overall deliciousness. Now, in the latter half of 2019 it is even better! It has lost a lot of its tannic edge, but gained an amazing amount of softness, and subtlety of the oak it was initially aged within. I opened the second of my two bottles two nights ago, and have enjoyed it over that time period. Nowhere along the way did it lose anything after uncorking.

This just serves to remind me what an underrated grape Petite Sirah is in today’s world. A Cabernet THIS GOOD would cost you ten times what I paid for this wine. Maybe more. Petite Sirah is California’s undiscovered gold mine. Perhaps long after I’m dead the world will wake up to this fact.

You heard it here first.

Best value Oregon Pinot Noir… ever. Bradley Vineyards Shea 2016

Full disclosure: I drink a LOT of Oregon Pinot Noirs. A LOT. I’ve likely rated close to 100 of them on my cellar tracking app, yet I rarely, if ever write about them here. Why? As I’ve often said, Pinot’s are like Porsches, they can be great, or they can be terrible, but they’re always expensive. The focus of this website is to find and share value priced wines. Well, this one is great, and it’s also very reasonably priced, which I find astounding.

It is a Broadley Vineyards 2016 Shea Vineyards Pinot Noir. I bought it online at The Wine Exchange last week for less than $25/bottle. This tastes better than several $40 Oregon Pinot’s I’ve tasted, and it fact punches at the $70/bottle weight class all day long.

Not sure if they have any left at that price, but give it a try and let me know what you think.

I have two more bottles after this one to savor and reflect on my good fortune with.

Missing the Merlot Mark: J. Bookwalter 2015 “Readers Blend” Merlot.

Bought this Merlot for $19.98, as you can see. It is a mostly Merlot blend, with 90% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve enjoyed a lot of great Bordeaux blends in my lifetime, including some amazing Grand Cru’s, and some of the New World’s best. I’ve also always had a soft spot in my heart for Merlot. Yes, it was over-produced in the nineties, and became something of a parody of itself for a while, at least until one throwaway joke in the movie “Sideways” sent sales into a nosedive. This was actually a good thing, as it left making Merlot to the folks that do it well, and passionately. Of course there is some great irony in the character of Miles in Sideways, and his most treasured bottle, but that is an Easter egg for all of you to discover… I’m not in the business of spoilers.

Merlot is indeed one of the noble grapes and a good Merlot is a wondrous thing to behold on one’s palette. A well-made Merlot is silky-smooth and supple, like sipping velvet or doeskin. It is worth your while to seek out a good Merlot now and then to remind yourself why it has earned its place among the greats.

This one though? Not that great. It is a GOOD WINE, but it is not a great Merlot, sadly. Not even a good one to be honest. Not really sure why, other than perhaps the 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. If I were to taste it blind I’d guess the blend to be opposite of what we have, with 90% Cabernet, and 10% Merlot.

I had it with a nice, perfectly medium-rare T-bone steak and some roasted sweet potatoes. As I was grilling I imagined how the flavors would all blend in my meal and experienced one of those wine-nerd record scratch moments when I tasted the wine at the table.

Oh well. As I said, not a bad wine, but not the Merlot experience I was looking forward to having.