Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Italy
Thoughts: Whoo-hoo, pinot grigio, one of my favorites. And straight from the heartland. This one's gonna wipe up, right? Uh, not quite. Since its purchase from Total Wine, it enjoyed a nice cooling off process in the wine fridge, which is supposed to keep wine from getting too cold and, thus, muting the flavors and the aromas. Despite that, this wine suffered from just that. I damn near stuck my nose underwine - if you will - just for a glimpse of what was to come. After several attempts, I was able to latch onto a familiar aroma. But I shouldn't have to work that hard. On the tongue it was much the same; lots of tiny flavors floating around here and there, but nothing that jumped out. How, exactly, am I supposed to make a judgment on a wine that's barely perceptible? I mean, yeah, it was a pinot grigio, and I like those a lot. But the standard in that group is lush flavor, characteristics that have to fight to get your attention. In this one, had any flavor even been impish, that would have made it a standout. The weather outside when I tried this? We were under a tornado warning (fortunately we had little more than threatening thunder and lightning, a bit of rain and a soft breeze). That pronouncement commands your attention. Sadly, nothing about this wine did.
Do-over? Nope, better options are available
Final Grade: C

Misterio Chardonnay '07

Country: Argentina
Thoughts: Of the 21 chards we've gone through, only five have been from outside the U.S. We're happy to make that six (and, at the same time, welcome the first Argentinian wine to the Trial); I even had the lede written (borrowing a newspaper term) before I tried the wine: Misterio, but really no mystery at all... But, as any sportswriter will attest, one of the worst things you can do is to write the lede in your head before you actually experience the story. So here they are, unrehearsed thoughts about the Misterio: The nose was floral, one could almost mistake it for a pinot grigio; and that, in my experience, was a welcome departure from the typical California chards; it only takes one whiff and you know what you're getting into. The taste was quite curious; on the front of the tongue, it was biting, almost acidic. Everywhere else, it was mellow and very subdued. The label claimed it was aged in oak, but it was hard to pick that out - as it was for most any other flavor. The finish was non-existent as well. My wife, in an anti-drinking state because of some recent maintenance at the dentist, tried it anyway and liked it. I did too, but felt like so much potential was unrealized.
Do-over? If it's on sale, sure, but it won't be a label I seek out
Final Grade: B


CK Mondavi Willow Springs Pinot Grigio '07

Country: USA
Region: Napa
Thoughts: Obviously, we're about value here. The great majority of wines that we've gone over can be had for under $20; the few that aren't are a rare exception. So when you see the megasized jug like today's Mondavi - bought on sale by my wife - you may automatically think a lesser quality than, say, a smaller shop elsewhere in Napa. But we review each wine on its own merits; and if certain biases are brought beforehand, I do my best to make that clear. With no experience with Mondavi - that means any family member - we bring no biases here. (The only bias is with the sweet job I did installing our new dimmer, seen in the background. Borrowing a phrase from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: How domesticated am I? Let me count the ways...) Anyway, the wine spent the afternoon in the big fridge, so that may have lowered the volume on the nose - I found it to be very light and nearly impossible to pick out any distinct notes. It was equally mellow on the tongue, though hints of orange and vanilla popped up from time to time. Yes, the citrus is the hallmark of pinot grigio, but it really seemed to manifest itself in an orange flavor in this wine. Completing the theme, the finish was virtually unnoticeable as well. The character changed in the next few sips, as the wine seemed to get dryer. Though my wife said she was a fan, I - as often happens here - disagreed. It simply brought too little to the party.
Do-over? Maybe if it's on sale again - maybe
Final Grade: B-


Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: Maybe Sen. Barack Obama would like a glass of wine too. Actually, he was looking at debate moderator Jim Lehrer, but perhaps he was dreaming of a California chardonnay. And in this instance, I wouldn't recommend Wente to him. Really, the wine was like the first presidential debate on Friday night: Precisely what you'd expect and utterly forgettable. Both Obama and Sen. John McCain seemed glued to their talking points and unwilling to veer off them; the Wente was virtually no different than any number of other chardonnays I've tried. Both candidates reverted to tried and true campaign messages (McCain hammering on experience, Obama linking his rival to the current administration); the Wente was slightly buttery, moderately floral and slightly dry - ho hum. And neither's body language presented him as the picture of maturity, whether it was McCain's head-down approach as Obama talked or Obama's continuous interruptions; the Wente, meanwhile, was just good enough to make the pain of the debate a little more tolerable. On Friday night, neither man nor wine impressed.
Do-over? Nope
Final Grade: C


Thanks for stopping by, but... (UPDATED)

Perhaps some of you are stopping by after one of the posts here (this one, in fact) was picked up and placed on the Reuters' Web site.
Clearly, however, something is amiss. The post was placed in the Personal Finance section; the only link between this and that is choosing to use some of that personal finance on wine.
This blog is picked by Blogburst, which redistributes our content to a wider audience via various mainstream outlets. As of Sunday morning, snippets of our posts have been accessed 1,462 times (led by the Chicago Sun-Times' 845 views). Six other people have viewed the page above.
It's out of my hands which outlets pick up our content and what they do with it. I have e-mailed Reuters at one of the general e-mail address to make them aware of the discrepancy but have not heard back.
So if you've arrived here in error, I apologize for pushing you onto a page you may not have wanted to see in the first place. But if wine is your thing, have a look around and feel free to let me know what you think.

-- UPDATE: I got an e-mail from Blogburst editor Daysha Taylor, who assures me that nothing on their end is broken. The problem, apparently, is that Reuters uses a 'contextual' search to identify Blogburst-affiliated blogs that would seem to fit that particular story; that was my hunch in the first place (and something I certainly should have noted earlier). I'm guessing my Barons Bourdeaux somehow caught Reuters' computers' attention; my guess is that it had something to do with Barrons, even though the two are spelled slightly differently. I hope this clears things up, as I had no intention of blaming Blogburst for the misplaced post. I know it isn't their fault.


J. Vidal Fleury Cotes du Rhone '06

Country: France
Thoughts: Perhaps you've noticed the new feature to the right, down the page a little, which spells out what I'm looking for and what each of the grades mean. If not, go check it out. We'll be here when you get back. (Pause.) So this is another new one that we picked up on a recent Total Wine run; my wife was kind enough to pose the bottle in front of one of her birthday presents, even if the West Coast Huskies were enjoying a bye week. So this is a white rhone, with a decidedly German-looking label. And truly this was an adventurous wine, but not in the way I was expecting. Off the bat, the nose was intriguing, sweet and floral and soft but also, in a way, crisp (if all four of those things can co-exist in a single wine). On the tongue, it presented a dry front but, at times, came across sweet too, mostly on the back of the tongue. The finish was a trip at first, dry but fading into a long-lasting honey. At that point, I was debating whether to go A-minus; it would've been a tough sell for me - just a little too straightforward and the occasional sweetness was too fleeting - but I went over it in my head. As the glass went on - and this may purely be the fault of my own taste buds - the wine got dry and the other characteristics seemed to disappear. At that point, I was downgrading to a straight B. But toward the end of the glass, those fringe characteristics have seemed to reappear; so I'm settling on a B-plus, which is where it was originally. Phew.
Do-over? I would be OK with that
Final Grade: B+


(drumroll) No. 100: Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc '06

And here we are. The century mark: achieved.
Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: Well, we made it. Every endeavor gets a fair amount of help along the way, but I'll save that for after the review here. This was the first wine of the night with Andrew and Rebecca, celebrating my wife's birthday. I was tasked to pick the first, and this was the only one that jumped out at me (well, others did, but they were over $45). We had decent enough success with the only other fume blanc out of the 100, so this seemed wholly appropriate. The nose was interesting - sweet and very grapy, like one would expect from a whiff of Welch's. As I tried to delve deeper, there seemed to be a hint of grassiness as well, but that seemed rather fleeting. The taste was an interesting dance; as I swirled and tried to get a feel for it, distinct tastes darted about too. "Was that caramel?" I wrote in my notes, as silly as it sounds. As an overall impression, it was fresh and melon-like with an intensely dry finish - though it toned down quickly in subsequent sips. It's hard to say this was the most exciting wine I've ever had, but I kept coming back to it. In that regard, the wine passes just fine.
Do-over? When I'm looking for a good fume blanc, whenever that might be
Final Grade: B+

-- ANYWAY, THANKS and gratitude go out to my wife, who got me hooked on this. May we share many more drinks together... You guys, for sticking it out with me even though sometimes I felt like I hadn't a clue what in the hell I was writing about... Special thanks to my brother-in-law, Mark, who has always been a valuable resource; and to Matt, my non-drinking friend who is always around for support... And big thanks to the bartenders and servers at our neighborhood haunts (tonight it was Carlyle, as you can see, but that also goes for our friends at Clyde's and the good folks at Portello's Winecafe in Bend). It was they who put up with my questions - would they mind if I just borrowed the bottle a second to snap a pic - in stride. Thanks to all of you; here's hoping we can find some more winners in the next hundred and beyond.

-- MILESTONES: I've also added a new tag, appropriately named Milestones. It's for pure fun, but it includes every 25th wine. I'll try to keep up with that as we move forward...

-- AND, LASTLY, it appears Blogger has moved this up in the order. If you can count, you realize I tried three wines on Saturday night; the fume blanc is the official No. 100, while the viognier was No. 101 and the chard was No. 102. I try to post in the exact order they were consumed and I'd prefer there not be any discrepancies.

Meridian Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: We finished up Thursday night strong, getting back to one of our more familiar varietals. Like the viognier below, the Meridian Chard was also rather unique, though it had a much better upside, I thought, than the viognier. The nose was a new one, a light sort of mint hit my nose, like I held my nose above a pack of really nice smelling Halls. There was also another element to it that I debated in my head for several minutes; there seemed to be a chalkiness to the bouquet, too, strange as it may seem. The taste was unusual too, smooth and dry; the finish was almost tart and definitely crisp. I thought that this was a taste that would take some getting used to, and luckily the orientation didn't last long. It was an intriguing drink, if for no other reason than it was something different; anyone can make a chard and oak the hell out of it, I suppose. So when one crosses in front of you that steps out of the norm, you're forced to take notice.
Do-over? Yes, I would say so
Final Grade: B+

Longview Adelaide Hills Beau Sea Viognier '05

Country: Australia
Thoughts: Why yes, it was underserved grape night. Our first drink, as seen below, was the fume blanc (the second one listed here); there are only two other viogniers as well out of the now 101. This was an interesting wine, and not always in a good way. For some reason, my mind was thinking sweet when this one got ordered; my wife gently reminded me that that wasn't the case (must've been thinking riesling... hey, they both have lots of i's and e's). The nose was among the most interesting we've come across. It smelled fresh, like the aroma that hits you when you walk out to a dewey early morning. I think labeling it musty would be going a little far, but it did fall just short of that. On the tongue, it seemed rather one dimensional - and that one dimension wasn't all that alluring, either. There was a hint of something burnt, but that didn't stick around long. The finish was just kind of there.
Do-over? I'm certain we could find something better
Final Grade: C


Ovacion Verdejo-Viura '06

Country: Spain
Thoughts: A quick lesson in two minor grapes (assuming you're OK believing what's on Wikipedia): Verdejo is a grape concentrated in the Rueda region of Spain, where this is from. It's supposed to be aromatic, soft and full-bodied; it imparts some characteristics that remind you of sauvignon blanc. Viuri - which has a bunch of names, including Macabeo, which is how its referred to on Wiki - is primarily a complimentary grape, used in a blend or to make "young white wines suitable for early consumption," the entry reads. Well, somewhere along the line, one of the grapes failed to do its job. The hints of sauvignon blanc came through in the nose, but it was more rough and tumble than an SB. The nose was powerful, and you couldn't get away from the fact that there was an intense oakiness, almost to the point that it smelled like something had burned. (I checked, and nothing had actually burned, thankfully.) For all its nosy bluster, the taste was light; I didn't even note what was in there. But as it started, so to it ended: The finish was stout, big and again rough and tumble. It was like a sauvignon on steroids. Maybe that's good for a wine trying to bench 550, but I prefer something more manageable.
Do-over? No thanks
Final Grade: D

And with that, we're one away from the big 1-0-0. We will celebrate appropriately when the time comes...

Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc '07

Country: Chile
Thoughts: First off, I have to apologize for the photo; it was taken in a bar, after all. I'll keep the pic in my e-mail and maybe I can lighten it up at work tomorrow. Photoshop is a wonderful program... Anyway, I don't really recall why this jumped off the wine list at me. Maybe it was because Chile is represented by only four other wines on here (only Germany has fewer) or maybe it just reminded me of Big Sur and the days of my youth when I naively thought a kid from landlocked Pennsylvania could be a kick-ass surfer. I dunno. No matter the reason, I'm glad I took the chance. It had all the elements of your normal sauv, but it was big and in your face; it was impossible to overlook all that it had to offer. The nose was bold and dominated by grasses and pine needles, yet it wasn't overwhelming. The taste was a tour de force of citrus at first, but mellowed nicely. The finish was intense - in a similar way as when it hit the tongue - but faded to the same grassiness from which it began. It rated very high on the adventure scale and, thus, gets a high grade overall. The clear class of the field of the now 18 sauvignon blancs we've tried.
Do-over? Absolutely
Final Grade: A-

EDIT to add that Photoshop is a wonderful tool...

Caposaldo Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Italy
Thoughts: This was the wine I started off with, after the obligatory Yuengling, of course. (Though you all know I have taken this experiment seriously, I have yet to find a wine as dependable as our old friend Yuengling.) The nose on this was sweet, your usual hints of citrus came through. On the second attempt, it was noticeably musty; but I'm willing to chalk that up to some mistake I made. On the tongue it was pretty tropical (again, no surprise) but as I swished it around, it seemed to feel very light. The initial lushness faded quickly, and it turned a little too think for my liking. It mostly held together, though, and the finish was crisp - almost like what I'd expect from a sauvignon blanc. So while it was a typical pinot grigio - always good for me - I would've liked a little more weight, a little better mouthfeel.
Do-over? I could do either way
Final Grade: B-


Horse Heaven Hills Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: Washington
Thoughts: Why, it's the lovely and talented Rebecca presenting the evening's wine. (In truth, I had a lot of wine, but all of them - except this one - have appeared before.) Rebecca and her husband, Andrew, came over for dinner tonight. This used to be a regular occurrence until the two of them moved back west to Phoenix. Luckily for us, they're in town this week, and we're able to share some time with them; how we do miss them, so I'm happy to enjoy as much of this week as possible. If I remember the chain of events correctly, my wife had passed along the link here to Rebecca, who shared it with Andrew. I asked which of them would want to appear in the blog, and Rebecca (was) gamely volunteered. Anyway, I picked this one up during wine shopping for tonight; it was a highly-rated selection (91 points, if you believe the little shelf cards at Total Wine) but at the very affordable price of under $15. The nose was fresh and gave little hints of flower and pine needles; but mostly it was light and challenging to get a full reading. On the tongue, it was light yet rather dry, moreso than many other chards (and there are a lot) on the list. The finish was slightly buttery - not enough to make me cringe - and again re-emphasized the dryness. Though it was a bit of a departure from the typical chard, it was a solid drink.
Do-over? Tough to beat the price
Final Grade: B+


Hanna Chardonnay '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: How apropos. Hanna visited us twice today; for much of the day, she rained and blew and made for a rather ugly day. After she left, she returned in the form a very typical California chardonnay. But hey, at least the latter doesn't threaten damage to life and limb and does the very admirable job of getting me drunk. (And, while I'm thinking of it, I'm loving the idea of using our wireless network with a reliable and decidedly unshitty laptop. In terms of insta-blogging, there's nothing better. My old, POS laptop - a $300 eBay special - was far too clunky to enjoy in the living room.) Anyway, this had all the hallmarks of a typical California chardonnay but nothing to distinguish it from the others. The nose, taste and finish were all precisely what I'd expect from a well-oaked Cali chard. I really wish there was something more to it than that - you all know the joy I take in verbosity - but it's really kind of blah, with nothing that's remotely remarkable. This is chardonnay No. 18 (skip to :48) and there's really nothing I can detect that sets it apart in any way from any of the other 17. But, then again, it's getting me drunk at the end of a wet day, so I can't complain too much, can I?
Do-over? Can't see a reason for it
Final Grade: C+
-- UPCOMING MILESTONE: If you haven't been keeping count, this is wine No. 95 (:30). That means only five more until the century mark. We'll have something special when we hit 100, but I'm still deciding what that celebration will be.
As always, thanks for reading along!


Barons de Rothschild Lafite Bordeaux '06

Country: France
Thoughts: Fine, nitpickers, I realize that a white Bordeaux has nothing to do with Seattle Metro magazine or any of the 100 best wines of the Northwest (which really was only a boon to cab, pinot noir and syrah drinkers). But hey, I needed a different background. Luckily enough, the sentiment carries over as well. As one would expect from such a wine, it was a 60-40 blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc, and it shone brightly. I couldn't really grasp any sort of nose, which was a disappointment, so I had no clue as to what to expect. It started off really dry; I don't doubt that the wine I'd just finished had something to do with that. Despite that, it still had a semblance of balance to it and mellowed nicely as it got swished. It finished dry but not harshly; instead, it was more of a warm glow (and yes, nitpickers, I realize the difficulty of translating a visual into something tangible on the palette). But it was an excellent wine, one I'd have no problem picking up again. Though we couldn't remember, this selection may have come to us during a visit from Mark, my brother-in-law and new dad. (Let me also say publicly congrats to Mark and his wife, Maya, and may they rest assured that young Drake will never lack for sources of football knowledge). So, if this was Mark's pick, we owe him big-time. He got us a winner.
Ingredients: 60 percent semillon, 40 percent sauvignon blanc
Do-over? Yes, and we will be certain to toast our closest family in Idaho
Final Grade: A-

Spier Discover Sweet '07

Country: South Africa
Thoughts: As noted in our previous stab at Spier, we stumbled upon the brand while touring through Total Wine a few months ago. We picked three that we liked; the chenin blanc earned a solid B. This one's a bit different; the name alone is confusing, but 'Discover' seems to be an offshoot of the regular Spier label (at least according to their site). So this is their sweet wine; it's a blend of some type, but the label didn't include the ingredients, the aforementioned site makes no reference to the '07 version of the wine and only the '04 vintage relays what's actually in there (Bukettraube and Weiser Riesling; the former isn't even spelled right, according to Wikipedia). So heaven only knows. Anyway, the nose was an unusual one, rather sugary - almost like if you'd take a hearty whiff of an open watermelon, but slightly more intense. The taste did quite a turnaround though, starting with a nice balance of sweet and dry; the more it swished around the back of my tongue, the more sweet it tasted. It went quite well with our pre-dinner crackers and bologna and, on the whole, was very drinkable. It fell short on the journey for me, however; though the dichotomy of the sweet/dry was the hallmark of the wine, it felt merely like they were representative flavors. I didn't feel encouraged to really try to figure out what the flavors were, as they only seemed to be sweet and dry. A major concern for our purposes here, but that shouldn't be taken as a slam.
Ingredients: Something sweet, something not quite as sweet and perhaps something else
Do-over? Sure; it's perfectly acceptable
Final Grade: B