2012 Atalon (Napa) Sauvignon Blanc, $16

For a sauvignon blanc this wine seemed to lack anticipated intensity of bouquet.  Was drinkable with very good balance but not very memorable.

Paired with vegetarian refried bean tacos and guacamole.

Would likely not buy again.

Sipped: 2+/6 (very good)

Paired: 3-/6 (very good)

NV (2014) Sokol Blosser Evolution White, $12


This is a blend of 9 varietals, although the riesling seems to stand out.

The wine is well balanced and with sufficient backbone (ie. not diluted or weak).  Like a semi-dry riesling, this wine pairs well with food, and paired well Malaysian curry.  I would buy again.

Sipped: 3-/6 (very good)

Paired: 3/6 (very good)

2012 Charles and Charles (Washington) Cab and Syrah Blend, $9

Like other wines from Charles Smith this wine follows a drink now philosophy and not surprisingly was quite drinkable.  Low acidity, subtle tannins, low complexity, and a little heavy handed on the alcohol taste in the overall balance.  Taste of anise.

Paired well but not as well as expected with rubbed and salted steak.

Good picnic wine, I would by again at $9 a bottle.

Sipped: 3-/6 (very good)

Paired: 3-/6 (very good)

2012 Kudos (Oregon) Pinot Noir, $16

This was Total Wine's "#1" Pinot Noir, so tried it...and was disappointed.

It is drinkable, but just seemed diluted and not showing any sophistication at all.  The Italian and French Pinot Noir's at half the price were better, IMHO.

 Sipped/Paired: 1+/6 (Not recommended)

2013 Conte Priola Delle Venezie (Italy) Pinot Noir, $8

While picking up a few more bottles of our favorite rioja at Total Wines I impulsively purchased a handful of fairly inexpensive pinot noir wines.  We have several bottles in the $15-$35 range, but no less expensive pinot noirs.

This $8 italian wine did not disappoint.

On the nose was nothing notable.  Other than slightly higher acidity the wine was well balanced and very drinkable.  

The wine did not overly "wow" us but had some complexity.  NIce to find a low alcohol wine to drink during week (12% ABV).

Decently paired with brussels sprout risotto with Gruyere cheese.  

Good pinot noir.  Would buy again.

Sipped: 2+/6 (good)

Paired: 3-/6 (very good)

2012 Montinore Gewürztraminer Willamette Valley, $15

Beautiful on the nose, meaty, slightly overly acidic.  Delicious with long, lingering after taste.  Not overly sweet.

Paired extremely well with pork and brussels sprout Malaysian-style curry.  The coconut milk cut through the acid and fully balanced the wine.

Well done!

Sipped: 3+/6 (very good)

Paired: 4-/6 (excellent)


2008 Valserrano Rioja Reserva (Saranty Imports), $17

Hefty on the nose and taste for tempranillo.  Spicy.  Has some complexity and good balance although slightly heavy on the acid.

Paired very well with brie, less so with stronger tasting cheeses. Good with pizza, and with very hot peppers (a type of yellow chili pepper) from our garden.

Recommended as good table wine by Total Wine gal.  WS 88, Vivino 4.5  Drink by 2017.  14% ABV.  Liked it well enough but seems like better values out there.

Sipped: 3/6 (very good)

Paired: 3/6 (very good)

2011 Almodi Petit (Spain, Terra Alta), $10

 Good cheese wine

Good cheese wine

This blend is simple, and very good.  I purchased at the recommendation of an elderly and enthusiastic female wine associate at Total Wines (MD Corridor).  She identified it as a terrific table wine for weekdays, a good table wine.  Her assessment was correct.

The Almodi Petit contains 34% syrah, 28% grenache, 20% samso (carignan or cinsault), 18% merlot. 

This is a low acid, fruit forward wine with 14.5% alcohol content by volume.  Smooth and very drinkable.  The flavor dissipates rapidly.  This could be a dangerous wine at a free flowing dinner party. Or happy hour.  Would be great for a picnic.

We enjoyed the wine with a delicious cheese board.  It paired very well.  From most favorite to least, see pairing notes:

1) Brie - completely removed the acidity and accentuated the fruit in the wine

2) Smelly Virginia cheese which tastes like smoke gouda, only much more complex and moody - delicious fruit and cheese fusion

3) Goat cheese - again blended well with wine

4) Aged white cheddar - transformed cheese into a more buttery flavor.

Delicious wine to pair with cheese!

Sipped: 3/6 (very good)

Paired: 3/6 (very good)

2011 Catena Zapata Malbec (Argentina), $20

I would describe this wine as "spicy".  Had a nice burst of flavor at the onset, followed by the the unique malbec aftertaste.  

Very drinkable, fairly smooth, limited complexity, and short on aftertaste.

Although malbec is not my thing, this wine was good.  At $20, I probably will not purchase again although with 90,000 cases produced, it would likely not be hard to find.  I simple like other varietals at a lower cost better.  

However, I would like to try the Bodega Norton Malbec Mendoza Reserva 2011 which ranked #36 on the Wine Spectator Top 100 for 2013 and is readily available at Costco.

Pairing the Catena malbec with leftover meatballs and pasta increased the aftertaste acidity unpleasantly.  Unfortunately, not a good pairing.

Sipped: 3/6 (very good)

Paired: 3-/6 (very good)


2011 San Lorenzo Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, $11

My experience with the 2011 Cantina Zaccagnini Riserva Montepulciano d'Abruzzo tempered my expectations.  I thought this might be the last time I drink this varietal.

I purchased on a whim during one of my wine buying binges.

After decanting for short period of time the San Lorenzo still tasted somewhat heavy handed on the tannins, but mellowed out nicely after about an hour, and continued to improve throughout the night.

The Montepulciano wine grape in the Abruzzo region of east-central Italy is clearly not one of my favorites but would drink again.

Paired very well with Ginny's Mom's go to meatball dish with vinaigrette salad. 

sipped: 3-/6 (very good)

paired: 3/6 (very good)


2013 Palamà Negroamaro Arcangelo Rosato Salento IGT, $15

After spending the day at the river kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding in perhaps the final days of Summer, we wanted something light and refreshing.

We purchased this bottle at the Metro Wine Bar in Asheville, NC on the recommendation from one of the shop owners.  It did not disappoint.

This is the first wine we have tried made from the negroamaro varietal.  This Italian rose was much less dry than the typical French roses.  Light on the nose, relatively long on flavor.  Not complex but with more notes than other rose wines we have tasted this year.  Refreshing and not heavy handed on the alcohol content/taste, as we experienced with Miraval.  

Paired very well with a spicy arugula, scallion, basil, mint, and peanut salad with fish lime/fish sauce dressing, as well as butter/parmesan pasta.

Although twice the price of our favorite rose of 2013 ( La Vieille Ferme Rose, $7.50), I would still buy again.

Sipped: 3+/6 (very good)

Paired: 4-/6 (excellent)

2009 Santa Rita Maipo (Chile) Reserve Syrah, $10

The Chilean wines represent some of the best values in red wine.  

This was our third bottle, and like the first two, it shined.  Deep flavors, complexity, beautiful color.  Lighter on the nose but long in taste.  Power with finesse.

Apparently will age gracefully until 2020.  We purchased two cases.

Paired really well with the pre-seasoned Costco pork ribs.

Sipped: 5-/6 (fantastic)

Paired: 5/6 (fantastic)


2012 Erath Oregon Pinor Noir, $15

This was one of the trios of Oregon Pinor Noir wines I purchased from Costco for close to $15 a bottle.

Perhaps I am not appreciating the sophistication of this wine, but it it tastes a little young, light (diluted?), and of average complexity.

We paired with slightly sweet, medium heat curry.  The Erath Pinot Noir paired well.

Very drinkable, and perhaps the two remaining bottles will grow in me, but currently not a bottle I would buy again.

Sipped: 3/6 (very good)

Paired: 3/6 (very good)

2011 Maryland Sugarloaf Mountain Comus, $25

This is delicious bottle of wine, gifted to us several parties ago.  It is a semi-dry red that is remarkable smooth, very well balanced, and long on taste. 

From a internet search, I learned that Sugarloaf Mountain Winery and Comus wine are both highly acclaimed.  2011 was an especially good year.

We paired with bison / pork sausage from the Dupont Circle Farmers Market and cilantro sweet potato.  Delicious pairing.

While Maryland wines are not cheap in general, I found this one quite good and would consider buying again.

Sipped: 3+/6 (very good)

Paired: 4-/6 (excellent)

2007 Cameron Hughes Yountville (Napa) Cabernet Sauvignon, Lot 157, $15

This was one of two bottles remaining from a case purchased in 2010.  Lot 157 received much critical acclaim for its very moderate Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon price, and accompanied many delicious meat-intensive dinners.

However, a nagging concern has continued to grow.  I wondered if transport and improper storage would negatively impact this bottle.  Unfortunately, it did.

While drinkable, Ginny noted there seemed to be a lack of flavor.  For me, the wine tasted more strongly of alcohol and less of fruit.  We enjoyed with a 1.5 inch T-bone steak.

While disappointing, Lot 157 was still very drinkable.

Sipping: 3-/6 (very good)

Pairing: 3/6 (very good)

2009, Muga Rioja Seleccion Especial, $30

We tried this wine with great anticipation.  Online reviews were good, and this bottle received a 95 from Wine Spectator - a "classic", and one of 9 highest rated rioja wines at this time.  I have a theory that ratings do not follow a linear path and that probably anything above a 90 is pretty close in taste.  Perhaps I am wrong?

I am thinking "Seleccion Especial" Reserva is somewhere between the mid-level "reserva" and the highest level of gran reserva.

The rioja reserva was silky smooth and very well balanced.  Desirable complexity for a middle-weight red wine.  Definitely ready to drink.  We savored each sip.  Pairing with Korean style chicken did not significantly change the taste.

Sipped: 5/6 (fantastic)

Paired: 5/6 (fantastic)

This if our first wine rated at a 5 on our scale of 1 to 6.  We purchased the five remaining bottles.  I think we will pair next bottle with paella, lamb, or a heavy stew.

2013 Hugues Beauvignac PicPoul De Pinet, $7.50

This wine was recommended by a very enthusiastic Total Wine employee.  Apparently this used to be the house wine at The Inn at Little Washington, an $800 a night stay with highly renowned cuisine and an amazing wine cellar.  The grape is grown in southern France in the Picpoul de Pinet appellation.  Picpoul is the varietal.

Regardless, we thoroughly enjoyed this wine, and promptly purchased more.

Essentially tasted like a very well balanced sauvignon blanc with a kick.  I tasted pepper.  Paired well with fresh corn polenta with tomato sauce.

At $7.50 a bottle, the value of this wine really helped the score.

Sipped: 4-/6 (excellent)

Paired: 4-/6 (excellent)


2012 Greg Norman Limestone Shiraz, $15

This Shiraz was quite good.  There are several good Shiraz / Syrah offerings available at reasonable prices.  Consider other Shiraz / Syrah's from Australia (like Jacob's Creek), as well as Chile (like Santa Rita), all around $10-$15. 

We paired this wine with "beef and leaf", a korean dish that combines kalbi (marinated beef) with sesame leafs and gochujang (spicy fermented red chili paste) into a sort of lettuce taco.  Nice pairing.

Sipped: 3/6 (very good)

Pairing: 3+/6 (very good)





2012 Clos du Bois North Coast Chardonnay, $9, 3rd of 12

For us a quintessential California chardonnay.  Ginny's college friend  Quinn used to call it "Closet boys".  I am not sure why but was funny.

Floral, heavily oaky, well balanced between acid and sweet.  Helps that 2012 vintage in northern California is fantastic.

A highly mass produced wine found everywhere and inexpensive, it is still delicious.

Paired with eggplant rollups with salsa verde and freekah burgers with bacon mustard whip from Cape May.  Delicious!

Sipped: 3/6 (very good)

Paired: 3+/6 (very good)

2011 Gerard Bertrand Minervois Syrah / Carignan, $16

A good wine but somewhat timid.  Decently balanced but lacks complexity and memorability.  

Paired well with merguez sausage from the farmers market and freekah salad.

Gerard Bertrand wines had a good year with 18 wines in the 2011 vintage between 86 and 92 from wine spectator.  This was good but I will probably not try another.

Sipping: 2-/6 (good)

Paired: 2-/6 (good)