Clear Bottle Bay Pinot Grigio '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: I don't know what's going on, but we've had terrible luck with pinot grigios lately. Sure, when you buy for value you can't always expect a winner; still, even by chance, it seems we'd have come across a hidden gem by now. Alas, the streak continues. The Clear Bottle Bay - which really isn't a geographic location - was drinkable enough despite my reservations. First off, there was no nose to speak of. The wine was kept in the wine fridge and opened straight from there, so too cold a temperature shouldn't have been a concern. The wine itself was too mellow and it was well nigh impossible to pick out even one flavor. Sure, it was a pinot, but I'd love to tell you what characteristics came through. I can't. The finish, however was nice; a light honey came through. I think it was honey anyway, since I was expecting a lame finish and it caught me completely off guard. But it was a surprisingly good end to an otherwise undistinguised wine. Yet I cannot recommend a wine solely on how it finishes...
Do-over? Doubtful
Final Grade: C+

Ironstone Vineyards Obsession Symphony '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: This was another of the pickups on sale at World Market. I can't say why, but I kept coming back to this wine; I wasn't sure if I should get it, but something compelled me to. Perhaps it was the chance to try a different grape. The Symphony - according to the label, confirmed by Wiki - is a hybrid of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris. It was planted some 25 years ago and is usually used in blends. However, I must say this grape stands quite well on its own; I'd like to think it's intuition that kept me coming back to this wine, but I probably know better and should realize it was just dumb luck. The nose was delightful, very floral and fresh, and had a good bit of staying power. Too often, I realize I need to take full advantage of bouquets when I can; the smell fades quickly. This, to its credit, didn't. On the tongue it was slightly sweet - there was a trace of some flavors below the surface, but not enough to really quantify - and very smooth. It finished dry with a hint of grapiness, but not so much that it was a distraction. My wife, helpfully enough, described it as a combination of viognier, riesling and pinot grigio; if you like any of those, you'd be in for a real treat.
Do-over? Absolutely
Final Grade: A-

What could have been...

Sigh. I was all set to have a new wine to add the burgeoning collection of reds; I had heard so much about beaujolais noveau that I thought, at some point, I simply must give it a try.

Today was the day; or so I thought.

We picked up a bottle at Costco and were planning on trying it this evening. At least until I brought the groceries inside, and the bottle fell and split into a million pieces on the front porch.

It was on sale, so no big loss. I'll pick one up this week and I'll give it a try then.

I'm happier now, but man that pissed me off when it happened.


Balducci's Pinot Grigio '07

Country: Italy
Thoughts: Tonight was Below Average Italian Pinot Grigio Night at the Hustle house, apparently... It's made and bottled for Balducci's, the DC/New York deli chain. So it'd be wise not to expect Opus, you know? Still, I was hoping for something better. The nose here was quite dry, which made for an interesting opening salvo. But from there it went downhill, unfortunately; the taste was on the dry side, but it seemed very restrained to me. Perhaps that's good in some instances, but not this one; it just didn't feel like there was a whole lot there to work with. Topping it off, the finish was rough, with a burnt or charred taste to it. It mellowed after a few sips and took a few steps closer to passable, but the best wines shouldn't be like that. I want to fall in love from the first sip and find myself disappointed when the bottle's finished. Clearly, that wasn't the case here.
Do-over? Nope
Final Grade: C-

Pinot Evil Pinot Grigio

Country: Italy
Thoughts: Yes, I know, I fell for the catchy label again. But you have to admit, Pinot Evil (and the requisite drawing of the three monkeys) is pretty clever. Fortunately, my wife and I are happy to take one for the team; you may admire the label from afar, while not actually having to sample this beast. But really, it's my own fault; it was on sale at World Market for a really paltry sum. Furthermore, I failed to read the label to see 1) it was non-vintage and 2) it was marked "Indicazione geografica tipica," which isn't the most stringent of Italian labels. So there's no one to blame but me. The bouquet was quite undistinguished; it smelled like any other pinot I've ever had. The taste, however, was different; jarring, in fact. The taste was overly grapy, almost like I was having Saturday night communion (at least at the services where they serve a wine alternative). The finish was equally unattractive, turning into a tinny dryness before the sip had finally come to its end. Sigh. Maybe one of these days I'll learn...
Do-over? Slim and none, and Slim just left town
Final Grade: D+


MonteVina Pinot Grigio '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: Ah, yes, it's upkeep time at the ol' homestead. My wife concocted a plan for her four-day weekend (must be nice) to redo our mid-level bathroom. Wallpaper is out, forest green is in. (At least I think it was forest green.) My wife worked valiantly to get the wallpaper down, which came in sheets at first but later more resembled confetti. Still, kudos to her for her work over the past two days. (And yes, I was able to lend a hand in spots.) After she surrendered to the more difficult areas of the wallpaper, she made a Home Depot run to get a little scoring device and the chemical to remove the old stuff. She pit-stopped at the supermarket too, and randomly grabbed a new bottle. Hey, I was up for it. We got an unremarkable pinot in most areas, unusual in some. The citrus both on the nose and in the taste was abnormally heavy; it was not a detriment to the wine, mind you, but it did seem more pronounced than most. It carried all the way to the finish, which also included a late tinge of honey that hung on for quite a while. Still, it seemed rather one-dimensional, and there are a lot better options out there.
Do-over? Nah
Final Grade: C+


Big House White '06

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: My wife raved over it, so you know it's got an automatic in. Unfortunately, I didn't get the same vibe. The nose was non-existent; I may have caught a whiff of something faint, but it wasn't enough to register. Given that it takes seven different grapes to make this blend, I found that kind of odd. On the tongue, it started sweet and finished dry; I tried to find some flavors to pick out, but there weren't any that were terribly perceptible. As a result, I found this one kind of bland and unexciting. My wife found it to be similar to a pinot, and I would tend to agree. But I also wonder: If you went to all this trouble to find a combination that would mimic a pinot, why not just use that grape instead?
Ingredients: Percentages weren't readily available, but the blend includes Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malvasia Bianco, Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli and Marsanne
Do-over? I'm certain I could find better
Final Grade: C

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River Crest Vintners Pinot Gris '07

Country: USA
Region: California
Thoughts: So this is the second that my wonderful brother- and sister-in-law sent as part of the ongoing Christmas gift. And again, the thanks flow from here to Idaho that you've added a bit to keep us going. This package arrived just this week; it went into the fridge yesterday and was ready for consumption this evening. (And, a small note on the pic: I know it's hard to see, but the pic was taken with my favorite coasters. All four have scenes I clipped from Golf Digest. So, with high temperatures scheduled for the low 20s later this week, I steel myself be chanting, over and over again, "Think spring. Think spring. Think golf." Rinse and repeat.) Anyway, the wine was a rather typical pinot grigio/pinot gris with a bit of a twist. The nose and initial taste were precisely what one would expect from such a grape: citrusy, fruity and all of that. The difference was that the taste, for me, inevitably started off sweet and finished dry. Like if I just gave it a few seconds on the tongue, it would turn dry; the finish started well before it went down the hatch though. Interesting. It gets a good grade because, well, I love PG.
Do-over? Why not?
Final Grade: B

Chateau Haut-Belian Entre-Deux-Mers '06

Country: France
Thoughts: My word, 11 days since I tried a wine? Sad but true. Instead, I was preoccupied with cleaning out the beer in the fridge and enjoying the two bottles of Gentleman Jack that I got for Christmas. Hey, I still like testing wine, but Gentleman Jack is a fine drink as well. But, Saturday night, after working a bit during the day and watching competitive and uncompetitive games later on, we dipped back into the wine fridge. We finished off the second bottle of Lion's Crest; a second shipment was already waiting for a home in the fridge. Since it wasn't at the optimum temperature, I pored through the selections and came up with this. I think my wife was right when she said I got this across the street at Whole Foods; I honestly can't remember. But I do think I picked it up because of the name. While not the same, it is reminiscent of the famous French winemaker, Chateau Haut-Brion. Having read The Wine Bible - and if you have any interest in this subject, you should be too - I remember Ms. MacNeil saying that many French vintners offer other, lesser products under different but similar names (lesser in relation to the vineyard's famous wines, which means they aren't as good as them but are still miles from sucking). So that's how this landed in our abode. The wine itself was excellent; my only major complaint was a smoky, harsh nose. But if you could get past that, you were rewarded with an excellent wine. Sweet and dry were well balanced, and a hint of citrus could be found as well. It was a superb sipping wine, a delightful drink one that you could easily pass the time with. In some respects, it was almost too mellow, so it was low on the adventure scale. But it seems downright wrong to penalize such a solid wine for such a superficial reason. So I'll let the letter grade speak for itself and recommend this as a super value.
Do-over? Unquestionably
Final Grade: A-