Spier Chenin Blanc '07

Country: South Africa
Thoughts: Although most of the observations here are derived from first tastings, that's not the case for all; a few - like Spier here - were sampled beforehand. Total Wine happens to offer weekend tastings and, when we're in the neighborhood, we're only too happy to take them up on it. Usually it's a collection that's on sale, but Spier had its own little stand with just its own wines. So we plowed through the whites and came away with bottles of chenin blanc and a sweet wine, which will appear here when we get to it. With precious little experience with chenin - just this one, actually - it's hard to tell how close the Spier came to the ideal wine for this grape. At any rate, the nose was half fruity - hints of orange - while the other half gave a pretty strong indication of dryness; it was clearly the dominant part of the bouquet, and it nearly bordered on a sour-type smell. There were hints of earthiness as well. The dryness from the nose was mostly absent from the taste, however. When the wine first hit my tongue, the texture seemed almost syrupy, but thinned out as the tasting went on. The actual taste was in the same ballpark as a pinot grigio, though not as loud and bold. The finish was restrained and I didn't really notice anything until the wine was well down the hatch; at that point, a hint of caramel - of all things - took over. All together, it was an eminently drinkable wine; a smooth, mellow finish to a Sunday that pulled together elements of several other, more popular, wines.
Do-over? When I'm in the mood to relax - which is pretty much all the time
Final Grade: B


Honig Sauvignon Blanc '06

Country: USA
Region: Napa
Thoughts: As I've mentioned before, one of life's pleasures - for me anyway - is cruising through Total Wine and finding highly-rated yet inexpensive wines. Honig happened to be one of those wines; good rating, low price. And it's been a little while since I messed with a sauvignon blanc, so what the hell. The nose, for me, was surprisingly light. Fruitiness was present, but I was more taken by a larger presence of sweetness than I would have expected. One ingredient that came through crystal clear was honey, making it considerably different than other sauvignons I've tried. But the taste didn't hold up; the mouthfeel was kind of light and a little sparkly, but as a whole, it failed to take me anywhere. The first sip was puckeringly dry, though it mellowed a bit as the glass went on. Still, the taste was just kind of there and didn't do much for me - not that it was terrible, but the experience was lacking considerably. I suppose I rate wines differently than the experts, who go by the 'ideal' of what a certain varietal should be. So it stood up as a fine example of sauvignon blanc, but just not a wine that took me anywhere I wasn't expecting.
Do-over? If options are limited
Final Grade: C+


Louis Latour White Burgundy 2006 (No. 75)

Country: France
Thoughts: OK, so I feel like a bit of a dunce. I've now come to realize that some of my reviews in the past have been mislabeled, particularly as it relates to French wines. I've been relying on the front of the label to tell me what the wine is; like in the past, I simply would have called this one Pouilly-Fuisse and moved on. But with age comes wisdom and I see the error of my ways; Pouilly-Fuisse is simply the appellation, not in any way indicative of what's actually in the bottle. Hey, you live and you learn. (I've gone back and edited a few where I could; there's one remaining - the Vouvray - that will be taken care of in the next few days.) On with it: This was an interesting wine, one that my wife and I agreed to disagree on. For me, the nose was rather grapy (for lack of a better term) that seemed to indicate some sparkle as well, like something gave me the hint I'd have a flavor or two pop out at me. But that wasn't the case; it was dry, dry, dry, almost incurring a degree of puckering on the first sip. My wife found that it mellowed nicely, but I didn't see that happening. My tongue got more used to it certainly, but it was hard to get past dryness. Its bite continued to the bottom of the glass.
Do-over? As a favor to my wife
Final Grade: C


Chateau de Nages Reserve '06

Country: France
Thoughts: My wife and I had an interesting discussion about this wine. She thought it was yummy; I thought it was perfectly serviceable but left something to be desired. She told me what she liked, I told her what I liked. My problem, I said, was that there was precious little experience to the wine; it wasn't like any of the ones with an A grade. Her response was something like, "Well, of course not!" But the thing is, I grade all of these wines on the same scale. de Nages has its commendable qualities, but nothing that would cause me to seek it out. It's just fine for sipping on the deck on a comfortable summer night - as her and I did - but little more, in my opinion, can be said about it. At any rate, the particulars: the nose was quite reminiscent of a fruity pinot grigio, but the taste failed to impress. Sure, it was smooth and even and had that hint of pinot citrus, but the mouthfeel was a bit watery and the finish, while present, had a bit of a bite. Very middle of the road as far as I could tell.
Ingredients: 60 percent grenache blanc, 40 percent rousanne
Do-over? Eh
Final Grade: B-


Stags' Leap Karia Chardonnay '05

Country: USA
Region: Napa
Thoughts: A wine such as this is typically beyond our price range. Yet it jumped out to me at Costco as a good celebration wine - we (and especially I) are celebrating the end of the prep sports season. That means I've got, oh, six weeks or so before Redskins camp begins (it happens early this year because they're playing in the Hall of Fame Game). Cripes... But I digress. What a great celebration wine this is; it's too pricey for us for everyday drinking, but I can't think of a better one for a special occasion. The bouquet was nice and relaxed; a smooth fruitiness with a hint of butter - so immediately, I had reservations. The taste was much the same: smooth with fruity notes jumping to the fore and a thankfully tame butter backdrop. It was nearly too mellow for me, but the whole thing came alive on the finish, making any shortcomings - no matter how minor - an old memory. Definitely a superior wine of those I've had so far.
Do-over? Absolutely - but when the occasion calls for it
Final Grade: A


The Lodge Hill Riesling '04

Country: South Africa
Thoughts: Maybe it's just the late hour or the lack of sleep, but I'm not too high on any of the wines we sampled this evening. The nose was sweet (duh) but there was an undercurrent of oakiness. I was, however, expecting a little more sweetness - it's a riesling, after all. The wine itself wasn't horrible; but a largely unnoticeable taste beyond the oakiness provided a reason for pause. The grassy finish was an interesting way to end a sip - certainly something I'd not experienced before. It occurred to me that this wine would provide a superb reason for taking a break on a hot Sunday afternoon - as we're scheduled to have - still, like the one below it, it left something to be desired. It was drinkable, but I was hoping for a little better wine experience, if you know what I mean.
Do-over? On days like this - 91 degrees at 10:42 a.m. - it'd be hard to go wrong
Final Grade: C
EDITED to make the thing semi-readable. I had considerable difficulty keeping myself awake while I typed this, so one of my goals for the day was to come back and re-read this to see if it made sense. I'm glad I did... I sounded like I was completely off the rocker.

Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Australia
Thoughts: You may recall Lindemans from our VPA special edition; but that was sauvignon blanc; this was pinot grigio. In addition, the bins were a full 10 slots away from each; though that's neither here nor there. At any rate, I guess I've finally learned my lesson with Lindemans; the sauvignon blanc wasn't much to write home about. This wasn't either. The nose held some sort of hint of dryness; it was hard to tell exactly what, however, because the bouquet as a whole had no discernible scents beyond the dryness. The only thing that save this wine from the realm of its brethren was that it actually tasted decent; there was a luscious citusness to it, almost to the point of being savory. I'd write about the finish too, if there were any palatable. This wine, for me, started off flat and did little in the rest of the areas to make up for the shortcomings. The potential was there - after all, it is all about taste - but, as one of my coaches once said, "You can take potential and 50 cents and walk into the field house and buy a soda." The Lindemans will have a Diet Coke, thanks.
Do-over? Nah
Final Grade: C-


Galen Glen Corkscrew Willow White

Country: USA
Region: Pennsylvania
Thoughts: Remember back when? I tried two selections from the winery nearest to my hometown; the results were varied. The truth is, we were lucky enough to receive four bottles from Galen Glen from my dad, who went shopping for them some time ago. So this is the third of three bottles and I do hope that my hometown winery can do better. I didn't really know what to expect with this; its name gave no clue as to what to expect. So I figured what the hell, tonight was as good as any - particularly since my wife was focused on the Cavit that was was still in the fridge. Though I partook of the wine before dinner, clearly it was not meant for such a spot. The nose gave it away: sweet, sweet, sweet. It was hard trying to pick anything else out of the nose - beyond sweetness and grapiness, I noticed little - and the taste was no different: sweet, sweet, sweet with an occasional hint of dryness (which, in truth, bordered on rubbery). My wife killed it; she panned the thing from the beginning. I found it moderately tolerable, though she urged me to ditch the thing quickly and move on to something. (I did, eventually, bailing on the final 1/4 of the glass to break out some Dewar's.) Really, the nose got annoying after a while; all the sweetness there and the sweetness in the taste was just too overwhelming. As I've said before, I desperately want my hometown winery to succeed; but, in all truthfulness, they came up well short in this case.
Do-over? Nope
Final Grade: D