Crossings Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc '06

Country: New Zealand
Thoughts: I had read and heard good things about Crossings, so I was anticipating the chance of getting to open it up. OK, anticipating isn't the right word; I couldn't wait to try the wine, but was dreading actually opening it. Those damn screw-tops have given me a hell of a battle as of late - a source of considerable amusement to my wife who, of course, cranks the things open with an effortless flick of the wrist. Cripes. Anyway... I did look forward to trying this and initially it didn't disappoint. The bouquet was lush, almost overwhelming in a good way. On the tongue, there was a delectable combination of citrus and herbs that managed a nice balance, too; intense dryness and acidity were, thankfully, absent. Sadly, it was missing a certain pop to it. The taste was fine enough, but I kept waiting to be wowed by something. Nothing stepped forward; no flavor was particularly compelling and the finish was virtually absent. And that's the most disappointing aspect - that this wine felt like it was on the cusp of something wonderful but fell off on the follow-through.
Do-over? Sure; despite my criticism, it was still a decent wine
Final Grade: B


Barone Fini Valdadige Pinot Grigio '06

Country: Italy
Thoughts: In fairness, I bought this wine largely because I thought it was connected to La Baronne. (Yes, I know they're spelled differently and yes, I know they're from different countries entirely. But when you had the experience I did with La Baronne - the only A+ rated wine I've ever tried - you jump at the chance, particularly when it's on sale, as this was at Total Wine. So what if I failed miserably.) On its own, this wine held up serviceably (is that even a word?). Unlike the Sawtooth, the Barone's bouquet was subtle to the point that any elements were barely perceptible. The taste followed suit: mellower, less spiciness, the whole deal. The finish followed suit too: modest with a bit of excitement, though barely noticeable in the grand scheme. Trying Sawtooth then Barone was a bit of a challenge, but I came away with the knowledge that Barone was a perfectly acceptable wine for what it is: the old version of pinot grigio which - compared to Sawtooth anyway - was a much preferred version for me.
Do-over? Certainly, especially when it's on sale
Final Grade: B

Sawtooth Pinot Gris '04

Country: USA
Region: Idaho
Thoughts: This wine gave me a chance to thank two of the most important fellow fellas in my life: my brother-in-law Mark (and his wife, Maya) who absolutely rock in a resort area in Idaho, which brings us to this wine. (Mark, notice I didn't say town, which would indicate Ketchum, which is not where you are.) It also displays my brand-new XBox 360, which was a gift from my pal Matt, who gains no knowledge whatsoever from this blog (it's cool dude, you still kick ass in my book). At any rate, the bouquet of this wine was quite intensely pinot grigio-ish, which by instinct gave me pause. (Like one of those 'if it's too good to be true, it probably is' moments.) Indeed, the wine did not live up to the colorful nose it gave off. The taste was moderately fruity, but the crispness/spiciness was too much. Calling it harsh would be overly critical, but that crispness prevented it from becoming an A-grade wine. (And, for the record, Sawtooth - located in Nampa - is a 190-mile drive from Ketchum, a large part of which I have actually driven.)
Do-over? When I want to represent for my brother-in-law, which I am happy to do
Final Grade: B

EDITED to note that originally, I incorrectly listed the varietal for this wine. The wine is actually a pinot gris; the headline and the label have been corrected as well.


Pascal Jolivet Pouilly-Fume '06

Country: France
Thoughts: As we shopped at Costco on Thursday evening, my wife made the mistake of turning me loose in the wine aisle; I'm certain she expected me to come back with two bottles - in addition to our standard pair of Beringer mega-bottles - but I came back with three. The first was a no-brainer, the inexpensive but excellent Maso Canali; the second was this Pascal Jolivet selection. I admit I was drawn into by the little sign by the bottles; often, at Costco, it's a crapshoot. They'll tell you wine ratings for previous vintages, but getting current numbers is a rarity. The Pascal Jolivet did have a current rating, a 90 by Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast, I can't remember which. Still, it was good enough to sell me. And largely, the advice was spot on. The bouquet was a delight, a sweet floral aroma that was very inviting. The taste was a bit different, more dry than the nose would have indicated. Still, hints of fruitiness were there, just more in the background. There was a moderate excitement in the finish, though nothing that approached the likes of La Baronne. I found it to be a wonderful sipping wine, very smooth and a fine drink to have in your hand as you sit back to have a conversation with good friends.
Do-over? Absolutely
Final Grade: A-


Prince Michel Barrel Select Chardonnay '04

Country: USA
Region: Virginia
Thoughts: A few pre-review notes: First off, as I did with wines from Pennsylvania, I wanted to check out East Coast wines. Virginia was important to me since that's where I live now. Hopefully sometime soon I'll make it to Barboursville Vineyards - the only Virginia winery listed in this year's Wine Spectator buyer's guide - but Prince Michel has always been a more familiar name. See, whenever I make a trip to Roanoke (no more than three times a year), I head west on I-66, south on US-29, west on I-64 and south on I-81. During that portion on 29, I wind my way through Madison County and have passed Prince Michel numerous times. I never cared to stop until recently; I never did stop until my return trip from Salem for the Group AA/A state wrestling tournament. And, upon my stop, I sampled their selection of white wines; this is also a diversion from the norm, as most every other wine here - with two notable exceptions - are reviewed after my first taste. Anyway, on with it: The sad reality is that this wine tasted better at the winery. In my sample at home, the bouquet was overwhelmed by the smell of burnt something; I later settled on burnt almonds, but it could've been any combustible material. It was harsh and a turn-off from the get-go. The nose gave away the taste, and the smokiness was dominant - such that any fruitiness or the otherwise nice crispness was rendered all but undistinguishable. Subsequent sips didn't help; the smokiness remained and the finish - spicy though unremarkable at the beginning - turned overly dry. It was a disappointing exercise, particularly since the wine had shown modest potential at the winery.
Do-over? Can't see it happening
Final Grade: C-


VPA Special: Lindemans Bin 95 Sauvignon Blanc '07

Country: Australia
Thoughts: First off, an apology for not getting to any wines in the past week. With a brutal schedule at work, I just couldn't pull off any more thinking and writing than I already had. Fortunately, the weekend presented a perfect opportunity to add a wine not currently in the queue: Lindemans, an Australian selection that was one of a handful of full-bottle choices at Saturday night's Virginia Press Association banquet in Roanoke. The wine had been chilled in an ice bath before it was handed to me; perhaps the serving temperature was a bit low. There was a fruity nose in there somewhere - a bit fruitier than the sauvignon blancs I've had before - but I had to work for it. Take a sniff, let it sit, swirl it around. Repeat. After a few minutes, the bouquet began to show itself. The taste suffered the same sort of disappearing act. The fruitiness that the nose had promised was muted; the telltale earthiness muted even more than the fruitiness. What was left was a bland, sweet-ish wine with almost zero character. This grades low because of that, but I reserve the right to revisit the grade if I can retry it at a slightly higher serving temp.
Do-over? In the interest of completeness of grades, yes
Final Grade: C-


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Grand Pacific Starliner White '05

Country: USA
Region: Napa (St. Helena)
Thoughts: Throughout this experiment, I've promised myself two things: First, unless I had a damn good reason, I wasn't going to review anything from the mega-wineries; you know, Kendall-Jackson, Yellow Tail, those types. Second, I wasn't going to be influenced by a pretty label; maybe those wines are good and maybe they're not, but I can't help but feel the overly attractive label tries to make up for an underachieving wine. Admittedly, it's my own bias, but it seems like a warped Little Napoleon syndrome. And, on this wine, I was suckered in with the label of a 1950s era passenger train; trains have always been a love. (And note to winemakers: put a jetliner on your label, I'll probably buy a case.) I know, I know, on with it: The sauvignon blanc really came through in the nose, relegating any fruitiness to the deep background. But on the taste, the blanc was nowhere to be found, replaced by more muted fruitiness and a strong hint of vanilla, which seemed to mellow the wine out. During the finish, the vanilla remained before fading softly. My wife didn't seem to care for it, but I had no problem with it. It seemed to me to be a good sipping wine, but it didn't give me anything unexpected. What you saw was what you got; there were no adventures to be had, and that was a downer for me. (And, if you're wondering about the pic, it gave me a chance to show off our new bargain-basement wine fridge, an $80 steal off of Overstock.com, thanks to a tip on the Wine Woot forums.)
Ingredients: Proportions aren't listed, but the ingredients are sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and muscat canelli.
Do-over? I'm cool with it
Final Grade: B-


Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage Rhone '06

Country: France
Thoughts: My wife, as usual, described this wine best: "It's like a cross between sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio." The dryness came through like a champion in both the nose and the taste. The bouquet really reminded me of like a strong plastic smell, something from my childhood that I can't place at the moment. But I didn't mind it much, maybe because that smell meant I had just gotten something new. (Cripes, how much have I had to drink today? Anyway, bear with me.) The taste followed through nicely, leaving a bit of a pucker on my lips. The wine seemed to open a bit on the finish, but quickly faded into - what else? - dryness. The whole experiment was interesting because it wasn't a crisp, harsh dryness; instead of biting, it simply seemed to be the driving force (which makes sense enough in my mind, anyway). The closing though in my notes was this: "Good for a certain kind of mood - but what mood?" I'm still trying to figure that out.
Do-over? Maybe, maybe not
Ingredients: 100 percent Marsanne
Final Grade: C+
EDITED to to include winery in the header and to include ingredients.

Alfio Moriconi Doulce Vouvray White Loire '06 (No. 50)

Country: France
Thoughts: As I've noted more than once here, I tend to shy away from sweeter wines (like the rieslings I've had) and gravitate toward the dryer grapes. So it was quite interesting for me to try this vouvray; the nose came across as dry and slightly floral, but the taste tended toward sweet. "Tend" is the operative word, because there was a noticeable balance between sweet and dry. I'd put it at 65-35 sweet over dry. The sweetness seemed to come from a distinct fruitiness, but not the sort of fruitiness that I'd be able to pick out (a trait that, admittedly, is one of my shortcomings generally). Instead, it was fruity in a fruit salad kind of way; there's a common theme to be found, but picking out individual characteristics is considerably more difficult. I got the hint of some structure, but nothing that really grabbed my attention. (One final housekeeping note for those of you playing along at home: This wine appears to be made by someone named Jean-Claude Bougrier, but my complete lack of French translation skills leaves me unable to figure out just who made it.)
Ingredients: 100 percent chenin blanc
Do-over? My wife seems to like this a lot, and I like my happy home. So yes. (The sign says, "Love, Honor And Negotiate".)
Final Grade: B-
EDITED for a more specific name; a change in the label and the ingredient list