The nose knows.

I don’t know very much about Italian wines. I have enjoyed many of them, but my knowledge of them is as limited as my knowledge of Italy and Italian itself. I went to Italy once, for two and a half days, and I very swiftly discovered how little I know. My AirBnB host had been using Google Translate to email me for weeks, but upon arrival I learned that she spoke about as much English as I spoke Italian… zero. Yeah, I can say “spaghetti” and “Lamborghini” and wave my hands a lot, but that only gets you so far. My host speaking Italian LOUDER didn’t help me use their Wi-Fi at all.

Even my school-boy French, which saved my ass at least three times in France, got me fuck all in Italy.

That said, I LOVE a good Italian wine and oftentimes they can be a real bargain. I bought this one about four years ago, on sale for about $10/bottle.

I’m now kicking myself for only buying three because it is absolutely amazeballs.

The nose this wine puts out is incroyable! It just bulldozes up your nasal passages like a wide ship in a narrow canal. “Coming through!” Big red fruits. Otherworldly earthiness. And a whole lot of notes I can’t even begin to describe. I could just sit and sniff this wine all night long.

In the mouth, it doesn’t quite live up to the nose, but it’s pretty damn close. Wonderfully dry. Paired amazingly well with some rosemary-crusted lamb chops.

Since my knowledge of Italian is so minuscule, I can’t tell you much about this wine beyond it being from Tuscany, and mostly (if not completely) Sangiovese grapes.


Nice Carmenere!

I’ve had this $16.98 2013 Santa Carolina Family Reserve Carmenere in my cellar for many years. The other night I finished a Carmenere from Washington state, and had a jonesing for some more Carm. Went digging around in the depths of the Southern Cone section of the cellar and pulled out this plum. Even with over five years of age, it was pretty tight upon opening, so I decanted it and let it breathe for a bit. Substantial improvement after an hour. Super earthy nose. Bone dry astringency in the mouth. Really mellows with more time to breathe. Mild fruit. Oaky finish. Nice Carmenere!

Cranberry Petrel

I have no recollection of buying this wine. My cellar tracking app says it came into my possession in October of 2016, which means it left the winery very soon beforehand, as it was harvested the previous Spring (on our side of the globe). I think it was a gift or perhaps someone left it here after a party. No idea really.

Normally I love Carmeneres.

Not this one. It’s terrible. Awful. Thin. Watery. Tart. Weak. Smells strongly of cranberry.

I disposed of it appropriately…

Best Adapted… anything. 2012 Adaptation, Napa Valley Petite Sirah

I bought this wine years ago from The Accidental Wine Company. Can’t recall what I paid, but I doubt it was very much. It’s been laying around my cellar for at least six years.

I opened it tonight. Wow!

I’m kicking myself for not buying a case when I could have. As you likely know by now, I REALLY like Petite Sirah. This one is one of the better ones I’ve had in quite a long time. Punching well above its weight class. It has a density that feels like licking Jupiter. (Aren’t you glad I didn’t say Uranus?) Deep, dark, and weighty, it will stain your teeth just holding the bottle in your hands.

The finish is akin to a Rutherford Cab… the tingly dust sensation.

Delicious and delightful.

Early Peak. CH Lot 530

I don’t drink a lot of Syrah these days. It seems to be at the same place where Merlot was in the late 90s. Overproduced.

That said, I seem to have a lot in my cellar. Most via wine clubs I belong to that send me bottles every year. This one isn’t just a Syrah, it has some Grenache in the (Rhône) blend.

Home alone last night I had a steak and some veggies in the pan as the sun approaches the horizon and I figure I should grab a bottle to round out the meal. This one is resting atop a rack within easy reach in the cellar… that’s the extent of thought that goes into my choice.

Upon opening, the wine is terrific. Softer and more subtle than I expect it to be. I enjoy a half glass as I cook, and a full glass along with dinner. I put a good quality stopper into the bottle and leave the half or so overnight…

This is where something goes terribly wrong. Today around mid-afternoon it is unseasonably warm and sunny and I think “wow, it would be great to sip a glass on the deck…”

The first sip is a shock. Harsh. Sour. Undrinkable. I never make it to the door; instead a swift U-turn to dump the remaining wine down the sink.

Some wines take a day or three to get to this stage. Not this one.

Aged Bordeaux Bargain! Chateau Thieuley 2001 Reserve

Intelligence is more than a capability you’re born with, it also accumulates with experience, which is how the word is used in military and governmental parlance. One “gathers intelligence” about a subject through inquiry and study. Rather than applying all that I have learned to, say… better my financial standing in the world, I have largely wasted my meager gifts on finding good, cheap wines. Since humans learn from their mistakes, and remarkably intelligent humans learn from other’s mistakes, you can be smarter and more wise than me by taking my intel gathered at not-so great cost and use it to your advantage, while focusing your brain on your retirement funds. That way you can drink well once you’re rich.

I first learned of the magic of Europe’s amazing 2001 vintage about a decade ago. I heard about some “recently released” 2001s around 2008 that seemed to turn the vintage’s early, disappointing reviews around. From that information I was able to find what I believe is the best, cheap wine I have ever tasted, a 2001 Viña Olabarri Rioja. I managed to snap up a case and a half of this amazing wine before it vanished into every smart persons cellar around 2013. I also picked up a few 2001 Burgundy and Bordeaux bargains from premier cru producers along the way.

To this day, I still troll online retailers for 2001s from Spain & France. A few months ago this one popped up: 2001 Chateaux Thieuley Reserve Courselle. It isn’t a 1er Cru, but a “Bordeaux Superieur”. No matter, because at under twenty bucks it is delightful.

Plenty of that funky forest floor & barnyard nose you expect from a French wine when you open it. Nice depth of color in the glass. Wonderful leatherish flavor. I drank this one over two nights and it never lost a step along the way. If anything it got better.

Grab a few bottles. You can thank me later by flipping me a few bucks when I’m living in a cardboard box.

The sweet, sweet taste of the Blood of Judas…

I don’t know what it is, but I love it.

Label says “2015 Conte Vistarino Sangue di Giuda Costiolo”. Google translate can only make out “Sangue di Giuda” to “Blood of Judas.” I’m totally Okay with this form of cannibalism.

On a whim I bought three bottles of this wine from The Accidental Wine Company. Accidental Wine started as a clearinghouse for wine with damaged labels, but has grown into a great little online wine shop. They often have unusual finds like this one from Italy. So I bought three bottles many months ago, and they’ve been sitting in the cellar since.

Had I known they were this delightful I would have opened them up a long time ago!

This wine is nothing like I’ve ever tasted before. Light for an Italian red, with just a *slight* amount of fizz, and a whiff of sweetness. Very low alcohol. Just delightfully different in every way. In fact I went back to TAWC and bought a few more bottles. They only have a few left. Move fast.

Yet Another Amazing Napa Cab…

Cameron Hughes Lot 601 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

This one weighs in at $32, so trending above were we usually talk about wines here on Vinagoth. But this one is a bargain as without the obfuscation by the Negociant, it would likely be an $80+ wine.

Typical of what Cameron Hughes sources out of Napa, this one is pretty amazing, with a lot of aging potential. Two bottles of this wine arrived in one of my CHWine Club shipments in the past year or two and opened one up earlier this week. It was a tad harsh upon opening, and took quite a while to open up. But once it did? Pretty damn good!

In fact this wine lasted several days after being opened (with a simple liquor bottle cork stopped in the opening) and at least three days after opening it was still amazingly good.

Highly recommend!

Worth what I paid…

This is a wine that I was served for “free” on a recent flight on a small, regional airline. The kind that uses propellers on its planes. It was worth exactly what I paid, which says a lot. I usually love red blends from Washington state. Perhaps it was the plastic cup? Maybe the droning of the turboprops? Maybe the turbulence? No matter, I could barely finish the cup of wine. Thankfully the flight was short enough that they only made one pass through the cabin with the beverage cart.

Not sure if it was stored improperly, or it was a bad bottle, or it is just a really bad wine – but I’m going to avoid this one in the future.

Don’t want to lay out Napa money? Try Walla Walla.

Napa Valley has redefined Cabernet Sauvignon, and along the way they have also redefined what it costs to enjoy a bottle. It doesn’t seem that long ago that great Cabs could still be found for well under forty bucks, but now unless you buy from a negociant you can’t find a great Napa Cab for under seventy five dollars. Perhaps even one hundred dollars is the new normal for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend that much more than maybe once or twice a year.

So where is a Cab Lover to look? Even Paso Robles stuff has gotten expensive!

Look North(west)!

Walla Walla, Washington is your best bet for value Cabernet Sauvignon these days. About ten years ago I stopped in Walla Walla on a trip. It wasn’t a planned stop, but a mechanical issue enforced a delay and to be honest you can’t image a better place to break down. What started as a frustration finished in absolute delight. I sampled quite a bit of the local product and left quite impressed. Since then I have signed up to some wine clubs in the area and regularly enjoy some truly great reds from Walla Walla. Not only Cabernet Sauvignon, but also Cab Francs, Malbecs, Merlots, and even some Petite Verdots, Sangiovese, Syrahs, and most astoundingly Petite Sirah. It honestly would not shock me if a Zinfandel vine or three are growing as we speak in southeast Washington state.

One of those wine clubs I joined is from Walla Walla Vintners. I first tried their Cab Franc which I found at one of my favorite local steakhouses as I preused my usual haunt… the “Interesting Reds” section of their wine list. One bottle and I fell in love, and eventually joined their list. For years now I have been receiving a mixed cases a year of their wonderful wines. Tonight I pulled out a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with a wonderfully thick prime strip steak from Costco.

If you’ve been tasting Napa Cabs for a long time (like I have, starting at my father’s table as a teenager in the late 70s) you’ll know they have evolved over time, from attempts to be like Bordeaux, to today’s enormous “bombs”. Somewhere in the middle they really hit their stride and became… just damn good. Now they’ve sort of gone overboard, espcially in price. While a few Walla Walla Valley winemakers are producing, big, Napa-style cabs, at big, Napa-style price points (such as one that starts with an “L” and ends with an “i”) the guys at Walla Walla Vintners have stuck to their roots and have developed a solid, consistent Cabernet style of their own. I’m happy to say it is absolutely delightful and delicious. Well worth you seeking it out for yourself.

This is a Cab you can buy for half the price (and often less) than a Napa, and to be honest it is a far better choice for almost every occasion.

I’m planning to go back to the Walla Walla Valley very soon, this time with the sole purpose of enjoying the wine. Grab a bottle or two and come along for the ride with me.