Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Recession Has Hit Texas Midterm Political Functions and my wine recommedations....

All of these are good basic Pinot Noir... at Recession Prices.

Bicycle Pinot Noir 2009

Dressed in fresh purple red colour, this is a voluptuous Pinot Noir with rich fruit notes of cherry, raspberry, plum and strawberry – a red fruit party! – enhanced by subtle smoked hints. In mouth sweet fruit notes stand out, and its fine tannins give it a great texture and a mouth filling structure. Balanced and New World styled, this is a wine of personality and elegance.
100% Pinot Noir, pure and simple, it’s a young and refreshing.

Here is a review of the 2008 Vinetage....

I’ve got my comeuppance for slagging off Mark Hughes. Man City announced that the UEFA Cup quarter final home leg would be a “reward for the fans” and tickets were priced at only £5 so “ordinary fans” could come and watch. I am obviously not an ordinary fan since, despite numerous calls to the ticket office (engaged tone) the match is sold out and I have to watch on some backwater internet channel. Shame – I am in Manchester on 16 April when the town turns into a Hamburger for a night.

So perhaps I should be more complimentary about people I have never met.

Everyone knows that it is impossible to mass produce and mass market a decent wine – especially a Pinot Noir. Trouble is, nobody told Alfred Hurtado. His Chilean Cono Sur brand is taking over the world and rightly so.

A review of the 2007 Vinetage found on this blog....

A couple months ago I hosted a Wine Blogging Wednesday about red wines from Chile and wine bloggers all over the world wrote about different Chilean wines. One that caught my eye was an organic Pinot Noir from Cono Sur (Kevin, at Under the Grape Tree wrote that review). Cono Sur made a number of reviews that day, and with good reason since they are one of the best producers from Chile when it comes to quality to price ratio. And they are an innovative winery, producing a huge portfolio of different wines.

Cono Sur was established in 1993 and is part of the Concha y Toro wine group—a giant in Chilean wine. Cono Sur is based in Colchagua Valley, but produces wine from all regions in Chile.

Occasionally when I mention Chilean wine to those who aren’t very familiar with it they say that they avoid it because of all the chemicals used in producing grapes in Chile. I’m not sure where this perception comes from. I’m not aware of any excessive use of agricultural chemicals in Chilean winemaking. Regardless, I’m glad to see producers like Cono Sur bringing organically produced wines to the market as it helps change that perception of Chilean wine. I’m sure that the fact that Wine Spectator gave a Chilean wine its top honors in 2008 also helps elevate the perception of Chilean wine.

Although this wine is part of the Cono Sur organic line, it’s not technically 100% organic—yet. It is made from grapes in “conversion to organic” agriculture, as certified by BCS Oeko Garantie GmBH. This is a designation given for a period of time when organic practices are first employed on land that was previously farmed with non-organic techniques.

I should note that if you go looking for this wine, look closely. Cono Sur has at least five different Pinot Noir labels that they sell. I haven’t tried the others yet, but I can tell you that this one is good.

Earth and fruit blend together to provide a dynamic nose to this wine. On the earthy side there are notes of barnyard, moss and leather. The fruit brings cherry, strawberry and raspberry. There’s a rather floral aroma as well. Obviously, there’s quite a bit going on here. The palate is slightly off balance to the acid side, but I’d rather have too much acid than not enough… and it’s not excessively over acidic. Flavor-wise it has lots of cherry, plus some cranberry and raspberry. There’s quite a bit of heat on the finish. This wine could use some refinement, but it’s not bad at all for the price.

Wine: Cono Sur – Organic
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2007
Alcohol: 13%
Rating: 87
Price: $9.49

And it lead me to a great blog on wine for you to read as well:

I am slightly dissapointed that my first wine blog post is for an inexpensive, mass-produced vintage, but it's what I'm drinking, and I would guess a lot of other people are drinking it too.

I first learned about the Rex-Goliath Vin De Pays D'Oc Pinot Noir from my wife's aunt. She is studying to be a sommelier, currently works in a wine shop, and hopes to run a travel service that conducts tours of the Italian wine country. In other words, she has an appreciation for wines and a more refined palate than mine. She described a memorable experience for her. She and her husband picked up the Rex-Goliath Pinot Noir for it's normal $7. They took it home and found it was not the same as past bottles. They couldn't sort out what the difference was at first, but then they discovered that they had picked up the Rex-Goliath California Pinot Noir. In their experience, the Rex-Goliath California Pinot was not very good, but that the Vin De Pays D'Oc Pinot was excellent at the price point.

My wife and I are not wine experts and do not have a large cellar of wine. Even so, we enjoy drinking a good wine with dinner and we've been helped along in appreciating wine by my in-laws, particularly my father-in-law, who has developed a real penchant for fermented grape juice. We tended to lean toward Zinfandel (the red kind) or Cabernet Savignon over a Pinot Noir when choosing a red.

For whatever reason, as time has passed, I've learned to really enjoy a good Pinot Noir. Admittedly, the Rex-Goliath is not the best wine I have ever tasted, but for the price it is quite good. Regarding price, if you can find it on sale, you can buy a 750 ml bottle for as little as five dollars. A more typical price is between 7 and 9 dollars retail.

This Vin de Pays is not sweet, not dry. It's not overly fruity, but has a good balanced flavor. Try it.

The Lindemans Bin Series wines are made with the modern lifestyle in mind, produced in an easy-drinking, contemporary style that offers wine lovers outstanding quality, substance and consistency at an everyday price. The generous flavours of these wines combine easily with food and most social occasions delivering maximum enjoyment from the first glass to the last. .

Tasting notes
Colour: Vibrant, ripe, cherry red.
Nose: Inviting aromas of sweet raspberry, dark cherry and bramble leaf on the nose.

Palate: A delicate soft layer of sweet, red berry fruits overlays a subtle savoury layer of olives and bramble leaf. On the palate, this wine is medium weight with soft tannins and balanced acidity. The finish is of medium length with a clean, rich fruit finish. A great tasting Pinot!

Wine maker notes
Vineyard Region: A multi-regional blend, primarily from Adelaide Hills with significant proportions from Padthaway and Partalunga.
Vintage Conditions: The very cool spring and summer conditions were relieved to an extent by the long Indian summer, but there is no doubt the vintage was a challenge in cool-climate regions such as the Adelaide Hills. The low yielding, well maintained company vineyards ripened perfectly and produced a crop that whilst reduced in size was of excellent quality.

Grape Variety: Pinot Noir

Serving and Cellaring Suggestions: Drink Now to 2005. Ideally suited to Asian, pasta and vegetarian dishes.

Wine Analysis: Alc/Vol: 14.0%

Other text
2002 Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir Lindemans wines promise more than the partnering of quality grapes and craftsmanship. Every wine also contains the spirit and passion of our founder – Dr Henry J Lindeman. The Lindemans Bin Series wines are made with fruit sourced from key grape growing regions in Australia. This ability of Lindemans to source and blend wines from different regions produces wine of a consistently outstanding quality regardless of varying vintage conditions. The generous flavours and contemporary, easy-drinking style of Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir combines easily with food and most social occasions to deliver maximum enjoyment from the first glass to the last.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I have been playing with the Genache Grape this past month, but I found a nice Pinot Noir to share....

In truth, I was offered the 2008 tonight. A nice drinking wine... a true Pinot Noir! if you try the 2009, tell me what you think of it.

Ecco Domani 2009 Pinot Noir
Growing Region
Pinot Noir in Sicily has found the perfect home, thanks to the Sicilian sun and the fresh night breezes that sweep across the island. These factors create soft and mature tannins that enhance the structure of our Pinot Noir. Grapes for our Pinot Noir come from two different areas. On the southeast part of the island near the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, sandy soil and climate create grapes with great maturation and vibrant aromas and flavors. On the southwest part of the island close to the Valley of the Temples is a mountainous growing environment with heavy clay soil. Grapes mature slower here, resulting in deep color, extremely rich mouthfeel, and soft tannins.

Viticultural Notes
2009 was a fairly typical year for Sicily, with regular spring rainfall and warm, dry weather through the summer, culminating in a hot August. Crisp nights contributed to large grape bunches with deep colour. Shortly before harvest, the warm days were accompanied with a slight shortage of rain. However, our grower cooperatives use modern cultivation techniques that include water storage and estate water wells, which overcame the challenge of low rainfall.

Thanks to the ideal harvest conditions and modern technology, 2009 promises to be a strong vintage for Pinot Noir.

Winemaker Notes
The 2009 Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, which were harvested at full maturity near the end of August. They were then macerated for ten days in small stainless steel tanks to increase the surface contact between the juice and the skins, at a temperature of 25°C. After separation from the must and alcoholic fermentation, the wine remained on the lees until the end of malolactic fermentation. Finally, the wine was refined in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fruit flavors that are characteristic of this varietal.

Tasting Notes
Ecco Domani 2009 Pinot Noir displays a deep red color tinged with ruby-red reflections. It expresses ripe cherry aromas and a soft, plush blackberry palate with supporting structure.

Pinot Noir is a perfect match for a wide range of foods, particularly tomato-based pasta dishes, poultry and grilled meats.

Varietal Content: 100% Pinot Noir
Appellation: IGT Sicilia
Alcohol Level: 12.7%
Residual Sugar: 0.59g/100ml
Total Acidity: 0.61g/100ml
pH: 3.53

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tasted two reds this week. One was so dark you could not see light through it... The other one is a new light, cheap Pinot Noir from the Gallo Group.

The Naked Grape and the The Naked Grape logo are registered trademarks of E. & J. Gallo Winery. California Table Wine, © 2010 Grape Valley Wine Company, Modesto, CA. All Rights Reserved.

As one Naked Grape ad put it:
Naked Grape wines boldly reveal themselves as they really are. Our winemaker’s choice against oak aging ensures freshness and allows our crisp fruit flavours to shine through without being masked by the flavour of oak barrels. It takes confidence to go unoaked.

Like the Bare Foot Wines that preceded it, Gallo has started another NO GALLO NAME wine selection for lower cost wines.

I will keep it simple:
Try them. I liked their unoaked, light Pinot Noir.
And I was not paying for it... or being paid to say it.

A smooth, easy drinking, and full bodied wine; a perfect match for BEEF.
Looking back over my postings, this one shows up TWICE: Trapiche, Oak Cask, Malbec, Mendoza 2008... interesting wine. The color of blood in the glass.

Tasting Notes:
The wine has a rich, red color with violet highlights, with plum and cherry aromas. In the mouth, the fruit is round and supple, with a note of truffle and vanilla.

Producer Background:
Established in 1883, Trapiche is the most widely recognized Argentinean wine producer in the world. Located in Mendoza at the foothills of the Andes mountains, Trapiche has some of the most extensive landholdings in the area, with over 2,500 acres of its own vineyards.

Under the guidance of Chief Winemaker, Daniel Pi, Trapiche has consolidated all of its winemaking and viticulture, creating a synergy between winemaking and agriculture. Along with his team of winemakers and Marcelo Belmonte, Director of Viticulture, Daniel Pi’s vision for Trapiche is to express the richness of diversity of the terroir in Argentina.

An innovative and forward thinking winery, Trapiche is always looking for new ways to for their wines to express their passion for the land and its people. Realizing that Argentina is the best place in the world to grow Malbec, Trapiche embarked on a project to showcase what they consider to be the three best malbecs of any given year. The project pays homage to the grape growers and features their names prominently on the label. With the first vintage, 2003, the three single vineyard Malbecs have already won worldwide acclaim.

All Trapiche wines are hand-harvested, hand-sorted and vinified at their winery. The wines have a new international style, fruit-driven and consumer friendly, and representing the best of what Argentina has to offer. Trapiche’s goal is to exceed expectations at every level.

Lettie Teague on Wine by the Glass -

Lettie Teague on Wine by the Glass - "And yet no one seems to be protesting. In fact, there are more and more places that focus on wines by the glass. Take the number of wine bars that have opened in this country in recent years. (Wine bars are all about selling wine by the glass.) In New York alone, 69 new wine bars opened in 2010 as of late summer, making a total of 237 in the city. Many restaurants feature very large by-the-glass offerings, like Fleming's Steakhouse, which famously touts its '100 wines by the glass' program at all 64 locations in 28 states. Fleming's has even trademarked the amount, calling it 'The New Fleming's 100' (which sounds to me like a Nascar event).
My sister in Dallas loves this sort of program. She loves to order wine by the glass because 'you can try a bunch of different ones and if you don't like one you can throw it out—or finish it off—and try another.' When I informed her that every glass she consumed—fully or otherwise—was actually funding the entire cost of the bottle, she affected a level of indifference that could best be described as Texas-sized. 'I don't care. I would never bother to add it up,' she said.
This is no doubt an attitude that restaurateurs hope all their customers will adopt. I suspect that the same people who aren't considering the cost of a glass aren't thinking much about the condition of the bottle either. They're unlikely to ask the waiter or bartender how long it was open, or for that matter, how it was stored. Yet both of these facts are tremendously important. An open bottle of wine on a warm bar deteriorates more rapidly than a bottle stored on a refrigerator shelf, while a wine open for five days or a week will taste very different than one just opened that day."

Since I live in Texas and have sisters here, I thought this was a very good argument for not buying wine by the glass in bars... but if you buy the bottle you are paying a 100% mark-up over the RETAIL PRICE of the wine...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rating Airlines' Wines in First-Class and Business-Class | Lettie Teague on Wine -

Rating Airlines' Wines in First-Class and Business-Class Lettie Teague on Wine - "But of all the wines that I tasted, those chosen by Air Zealand were the most remarkable in terms of selection, both in business and coach (the airline has no first class). The panelists encourage all New Zealand wineries to submit wines (they choose only domestic wines), and remarkably, they ask the wineries to self-designate whether their wines belong in business or coach. Further, the panelists aren't told the prices of the wines, which Mr. Barrie said was also unusual: 'I have friends who are involved with other airlines and they all have a price tag per bottle,' he noted.
Indeed, I couldn't distinguish the Pinot Noirs or Sauvignon Blancs by class. The two coach-class Sauvignons, the 2009 Mudhouse and 2009 Spy Valley, were vibrant and lively (both about $15), while the 2008 Deep Cove Pinot Noir (coach) was every bit as delicious as the deeply flavored 2008 Framingham Pinot from business—both are around $20 a bottle. In fact, the only critical difference between the two classes was that business received a much wider selection and some more serious reds, such as the 2008 Craggy Range Te Kahu ($20), a Bordeaux-style blend.
By the end of my tastings, I'd acquired valuable insight into the selection (and storage) of airline wines—to say nothing of all their rules and regulations. I'd also reached a few class-specific conclusions: I'd fly Singapore for first class, United for business and I'd be happy on Air New Zealand drinking in coach. What of those coach wines anyway? As Doug Frost had said, 'Coach is the big question for every airline.' Perhaps it's a question I'll pose soon. I can even conduct some in-flight research"

KERA | Public Television, Radio and Online Media for North Texas | Think

KERA Public Television, Radio and Online Media for North Texas Think: "Wednesday, 02.24.10
An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine
Max Watman
What does your choice of beverage say about you? We'll explore the arcane world of personal distilling, legal and otherwise with journalist and Guggenheim recipient Max Watman. His new book is 'Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine' (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

'Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine' (Simon & Schuster, 2010)"

NPR has featured reviews (good ones) of Max Watman's new book "Chasing the White Dog", I showed up at Big Daddy's and tried Buffalo Trace's White Dog.

CHASING THE WHITE DOG: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine by Max Watman (Simon & Schuster, 9781416571780).

“This book is a good ol’ time! A heady mix of history, personal narrative, how-to, road tripping, taste-testing, legend-meeting and more. It’s a fun taste of moonshine and the people around it, from the backwoods of Appalachia to the gritty nip joints of Philadelphia. Even for those with no interest in NASCAR. Fun, informative, and—dare I say—inspiring?”

Max Watman is a celebrated journalist and an unrepentant lover of moonshine. In this perfect moonshine primer, he chronicles his hilarious attempts to distill his own moonshine—the essential ingredients and the many ways it can all go wrong—from his initial ill-fated batch to his first successful jar of ‘shine.

i suggest you taste it from a Mason/Ball jar... read on!

Buffalo Trace White Dog (New Make Whiskey)

Chasing the New Make: Buffalo Trace White Dog

There has been a lot of interest lately in unaged whiskey, alternately referred to as moonshine, white dog, white whiskey and new make.

To clarify the terminology, moonshine is the name used for illegally distilled liquor, but to capitalize on the rebellious and romantic associations that the term conjures, several new distilleries are calling their unaged (legal) whiskeys moonshine. (Most illegal moonshines are actually made from sugar according to Max Watman, author of the recently released moonshine chronicle, Chasing the White Dog. SEE POSTING BELOW).

White dog is the name used by distillers for unaged American whiskey, and new make is a term meaning the same thing but used by Scotch and Irish distillers.

Legally, most unaged spirits cannot be called whiskey. In Scotland, a spirit must be aged for three years to be called whisky, and it is unclear whether unaged spirits can even include the name of the distillery on their label, hence Glenglassaugh's release of its new make under the label, The Spirit Drink that Dare not Speak its Name. In American whiskey, only corn whiskey can be bottled straight off the still without being stored in wood. All other whiskeys must be stored, for some time, in wooden containers.

Why the sudden interest in this type of spirit?

There are likely several reasons. First is the proliferation of new microdistilleries. New distilleries that want to make Bourbon or rye have to age it, which deprives them of any immediate return on their investment. As a result, to get some immediate cash flow, many new micros release unaged spirits such as corn whiskey or white whiskey. The result has been a corn whiskey boom. For years, there were only one or two distilleries that produced unaged, American corn whiskey. Now, in the midst of a microdistilling boom, there are more than a dozen.

Second, the growth of whiskey connoisseurship has produced an interest in new make among whiskey aficionados.

Tasting your favorite Scotch or Bourbon fresh off the still is an educational exercise which can give you new insight into how the whiskey matures and the dramatic effect of oak. Maker's Mark, in its whiskey tastings and master classes, has long offered samples of its white dog along side other samples of various ages of whiskey to shed light on the aging process. The logical next step was for distilleries to start bottling the stuff. Along with the previously mentioned Glenglassaugh, several Scotch distilleries are releasing new make as is the Buffalo Trace Bourbon distillery

Third, the cocktail/bar chef/mixology renaissance has led to the (re)introduction of all sorts of old and obscure spirits and cocktails.

The release of these new make spirits fits right into that movement as recently chronicled by Watman in the Huffington Post.

Tasting: Let's get to the point!

As I noted, Buffalo Trace is now marketing their new make, White Dog spirit. When first released, it was only available in Kentucky and at Binny's, but it seems to be slowly spreading (I have yet to see it on the shelf in LA); it goes for around $17 for a 375 ml bottle. The Buffalo Trace white dog is made from their Mash #1, a low rye Bourbon mash which is the same grain combination used in Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and the legendary George T. Stagg Bourbon. It comes off the still and into the bottle at 62.5% alcohol.

The nose on this stuff has lots of sugar cane with a bit of a raw alcohol note.

It smells much more like a white rum than any sort of Bourbon. The first thing that hits me is the syrupy mouthfeel and a surprisingly sweet flavor. Only at the end of the palate and on into the finish is there anything resembling whiskey. On that finish, I can feel the Bourbon and even a hint of rye spice.

The presence of rye is what separates the Buffalo Trace white dog from corn whiskey, which must be a whopping 80% corn and generally, doesn't include rye.

In addition, the Buffalo Trace White Dog is cask strength, while most corn whiskey on the market hovers around 40% alcohol. Compared to corn whiskeys I've had, I definitely prefer the Buffalo Trace. The rye gives it a more complex flavor and the higher strength accentuates the flavor. Regular strength corn whiskey tastes pretty watered down and one dimensional in comparison.

I have to say, I quite enjoy this stuff, though it's more interesting as an academic exercise. It's hard to picture grabbing it off the shelf for a relaxing drink, more of a, "hey, you gotta' taste this" experience for Bourbon fans

Chasing the White Dog... Moon Shine.

Chasing the White Dog with Max Watman
Max Watman is author of Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine. He spoke with the Booze Blog about the history of American moonshine, the culture of modern distilling, and his own short career as a moonshiner.

What is “the white dog” in your title, and how does it compare to the whiskeys our readers are more familiar with?

White dog is what legit American distillers call whiskey when it comes off the still, at its raw state, before the barrel has turned it brown and given it all that caramel and vanilla we get from the oak. I used the phrase in the title for a few reasons (including a self-indulgent desire to link my American search, my quest, to Moby Dick) but, most importantly, I think that the line between legal and illegal whiskey is somewhat arbitrary, and I wanted to begin by blurring the separation.

White Dog, which is available from micro-distillers like Koval, House Spirits, and Death’s Door as well as (major distiller) Buffalo Trace, is more complicated than vodka. It is the framework upon which those oak flavors hang. The grain profile of the spirit is very present, the taste is undeniably the taste of whiskey, but it is young and raw, like beaujolais nouveau is to burgundy.

In your book you describe moonshines from the poisonously bad to the transcendent. In your opinion, how do the best illegal whiskeys stack up against their legitimate counterparts?

The best illegal spirits are fantastic. They are different than the best whiskey available, if for no other reason than no illicit distiller that I know of keeps a barrel of the stuff around for a dozen years. Of course, the best illegal spirits aren’t necessarily whiskeys. If you’re working on your own, you can do anything you want. You can make a distillate that is half apricot brandy and half rum, and the result is amazing. I’ve had moonshine made out of tomatoes, which had a nose that reminded me of brushing up against a tomato plant in the garden in August — find me a product on the shelf at the store that smells like August.
You describe your first taste of moonshine simply as “searing.” From that less than auspicious start, how did you get hooked on the topic?

Searing isn’t a bad thing, of course. I like the sear of high-proof liquor. That said: my initial motivation was romantic and nostalgic. I wanted to explore this bit of Americana and I assumed that I would spend a lot of pleasant time in the hillbilly hills. Once I started researching, I was surprised at every turn. Every door I opened had something behind it, and rarely was it what I had expected. My creekside pastoral became a federal courtroom, my imagined hillbillies became black marketeers selling their hooch in rough cities.

The issue of authenticity – specifically authentic moonshine culture – runs throughout the book. Who are today’s modern moonshiners and what traditions would you say they’ve preserved?

I’d say there are two answers to this question. Two answers and a pre-amble, perhaps. Authenticity in America is weird, slippery stuff. We celebrate the idea to no end: we want artisanal cheeses and farm fresh eggs. I think the food truck phenomenon has to do with our search for authentic food. Documentary film is popular, it seems to me, because it gives us something unscripted, something authentic.

At the same time, all of that is packaged for us. I find myself buying packaged authenticity all the time. I was just on Block Island, digging clams, and I’m writing about it now, so I was researching the clams there. I found a newspaper article from 1912 that detailed how they’d run out of clams and had to seed them. There aren’t actually any clams there anymore, we ate them all a hundred years ago. So they plant clams, and I gather them. Am I doing something authentic or not? I can’t even answer that question. I can say that the clams I dug were delicious.

I would say that the line between “moonshiner” and “distiller” is fraught. Micro distillers are reclaiming an authentic American tradition. The colonists distilled because it was good farming. It was a way to store, preserve, and transport their grain. It was a part of their culture. Spirits were a vital part of our early economy.

In 1800, there were 14,000 distilleries in America. Over the course of the Nineteenth Century, that industry experienced a natural consolidation — with better transportation, bigger cities, bigger commerce, it was only natural that distilling would commercialize. Still, in 1900, there were about 1,000 distilleries. After prohibition, and for the next 60 years or so, there were about a dozen. Small distilleries are a part of the American landscape that vanished. They are coming back. We’ve got about 200 now, and to me they speak to a historical authenticity. They make something with care, they use local products, and they sell to people with whom they have a connection. That’s authentic.

Among the moonshiners, the illegal distillers, there is a group of people who work very hard to carry on the mountain traditions and to make whiskey in what I’ve come to think of as the “bluegrass” way. They are few, but they are up there in the hills, making liquor the way that it’s always been made. Hats off to them.

Of course, there’s nothing inauthentic about the new, foodie, explorations of the crazy folks haunting the farmer’s market for overripe fruit. That’s new, but new can be authentic, too.

Some of the funniest scenes in the book involve your own adventures (and misadventures) as an illegal still operator. When in the writing process did you decide that you were going to break the law and create your own still? And how do you rate yourself as a distiller?

I like to put my hands on what I’m writing about. I like to get mud on my boots. I realized early on that if I was going to write it, I was going to do it. I learned a lot about distilling, and I think if I was dropped into an actual distillery, with real equipment, I could do pretty well. I worked at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey for a spell while writing this book, and I don’t think I ruined any of their whiskey. (It’s great whiskey, it’d break my heart to screw it up.) My experiments… well, I don’t know. I got close.

I found your discussion of the historical role of moonshine to be politically resonant with our own times. I could hear an echo of the conflict between moonshiners and the government in the rhetoric of contemporary right. What does the history of whiskey tell us about our modern political landscape?

History resonates. Things are as they always were. The conflict between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson is at our core. Are we, when it comes right down to it, a nation of individuals or a nation of corporations? The regulation of liquor, and therefore the role of moonshine in history, has a lot to do with to whom the benefits will fall. Hamilton envisioned America as a machine designed to enrich the few — the cost of throwing advantages to the few has certainly come up again recently. Jefferson’s vision was focused on individuals, on small scale economies loosely connected. Hamilton wanted to tax whiskey, Jefferson repealed that tax. Left/right: divisions like that don’t actually work all that well, I think.

Another striking feature of modern moonshine culture is the symmetry between the legitimate distilling business and it’s illegitimate shadow. Just as the legal market features small-scale producers and large volume distillers, the black market features micro-distillers and large-scale producers.

There is a real symmetry there. While researching the book, I got so close to the details of the business that the parallels where sometimes obscured, but both sides have big producers and little guys. On both sides, your smaller producers are more experimental, less consistent, and more interested in the art and craft of it. The bigger producers want to quickly produce a consistent product that they can sell easily. One of the key differences is that the large legitimate producers actually produce quality stuff. The big illegal producers tend to make poor stuff. Not all the time. Some of the large production moonshine is very good quality. In North Carolina I saw a large-scale illegal operation with stainless steel stills, dairy-grade equipment, and the mash was high quality. I’d have drank it.

How big do these illegal producers get?

There are no business records from these producers, of course. But you can get a good sense of the size of these organizations from Operation Lightning Strike, the crack down on the Helms Farmers’ Exchange. The Helms Farmers’ Exchange was the worst kept secret in moonshine. It was allegedly selling fertilizer. Between 1992 and 1999, the Exchange sold more than 12 million pounds of sugar. That turns into about 2 million gallons of liquor. At the time, that was nearly equal to the production of Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark is one of the smallest big producers, but still, there’s a bottle of Maker’s Mark in nearly every bar I walk into.

Is there an argument for deregulating alcohol in such a way as to make moonshine legal?

Certainly. At the same time, if you are introducing something into a marketplace, it should be held to certain standards. There’s a lot of really horrible hooch floating around out there. Studies at UVA found that 60% of the seized bootleg they studied had staggering lead content. That’s poison. It should be illegal to poison people.

Most importantly, however, the hobby distiller should be released from penalty. We can make 300 gallons of beer or wine at home per year, and to say that we can’t get the alcohol out of that beer or wine with another tool is just absurd. Regulating a marketplace is one thing, regulating a hobby is just silly. It’s an arbitrary line and it should be erased.

Any advice for would-be home distillers?

Write your congressman. Get it legalized.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Have you tasted a clone wine? I have tonight... very nice.

This wine is produced from three sought-after Pinot Noir clones, 667, 777 and 115. Each clone is harvested and fermented separately before it is blended and aged in French oak.

The wine displays a bouquet of dark cherries, plums and cinnamon.
It has rich and generous flavours, excellent balance and silky tannins.

Winemaker Neill Culley
Vintage 2008
Region Marlborough
Wine Style This Pinot Noir displays fragrant cherry and red berry aromas with traces of thyme, mushroom and other earthy characters. The palate is lively, but also generous, with a long, silky finish. The wine is crafted to be enjoyed while youthful, fresh and vibrant.
Vineyards A selection of Pinot Noir clones (667, 777, 115 and 5) are grown on the stony, infertile soils of the Rapaura sub-region in Marlborough. Each clone contributesa unique characteristic to the final blend. Despite a cool start, the 2007-2008 growing season experienced warmer than average temperatures which contributed to good flavour development in the grapes. Higher than average rainfall during October and December promoted good canopy growth, which allowed us to pick slightly early and retain the delicate aromas.
Winemaking When the grape flavours and maturity were considered to be optimal, each clone was harvested separately. In the winery, the fruit was destemmed and cold soaked for 4 days, prior to fermentation in open vats. Hand plunging was used for the gentle extraction of colour and tannin. The wine was then lightly pressed and matured in French oak.
Cellaring Best enjoyed upon release and over the next 3 years
Accolades 2007 Culley Marlborough Pinot Noir:
Bronze Medal - Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2008
Bronze Medal - Decanter World Wine Awards 2008
Commended - International Wine Challenge 2008

Cable Bay Vineyards
12 Nick Johnstone Dr,
(PO Box 320, Oneroa) Church Bay
Ph: 09-372 5889, fax: 09-372 5869

Managing director/Winemaker: Neill Culley
Marketing manager: Anthony Mills
Wine sales: Mail order, retail, Internet
Price range: $22-$35
Winery tastings: At the Waiheke Island Wine Festival, Sat 5 Feb 2005; otherwise
by appointment
Vineyard accommodation: The Winemaker’s Loft; self-contained accommodation
overlooking the vineyards and out
to the Hauraki Gulf

When Neill Culley made the decision to resign after a distinguished career as the winemaker for Babich Wines, he could have gone just about anywhere. He chose Waiheke Island for several reasons: it had a proven track record as a wine region, it offered a point of difference in marketing terms and it appealed to him and his wife personally. He didn’t want to live in a “wine monoculture”, where the only company was other winemakers and the only subject of conversation was wine.

Neill and his partners have five vineyards, totalling about 20 hectares, dotted over the island. Site diversification not only provides more blending options, but also spreads the risk because, even on the relatively small (26km x 19km) island, both climate and soils can vary markedly. “We have pulled out some vineyards because they didn’t perform,” says Neill.
The plantings are split roughly equally between the Chardonnay and Bordeaux varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

Neill says Waiheke’s clay soils and warm climate produce a Chardonnay that is not overly aromatic, but has good texture and depth, making it an ideal food wine. The same conditions imbue red wines with a warmth and sweetness that Neill believes is characteristic of Waiheke.

Cable Bay also has another vineyard in Marlborough that is producing Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, two wines that overseas distributors expect – and even demand – New Zealand producers to have in their portfolios.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Wall Street Journal has a new blog for Wine... read on!

2007 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières, $150
From the greatest of all Puligny producers, the kind of wine that should be delivered by Grace Kelly. Very vibrant and intense, with a honeysuckle nose, a silky texture and a heart of stone.

2007 Carillon Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes, $119
A stunning wine, with piercing high notes that reminded me why Daniel Johnnes compares great Puligny to a violin concerto.

Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet Clos des Mouchère, $100
From a privileged site in the premier-cru Perrières vineyard, this is a very rich, fleshy Puligny with a powerful underlying structure.

2007 Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet, $45
A very well balanced, crisp, classic Puligny with a touch of green apple, citrus and stone.

2007 Ramonet Puligny-Montrachet Les Ensegnières, $42
A medium-bodied, complex Puligny from the great maker of Chassagne Montrachet, more elegant and mineral than his wines from the rival commune.

2008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Puligny-Montrachet Le Trezin, $50
A really intense village wine from high up on the slope the hill where the soil is thin and the vines struggle. Really fine, vibrant

Ms. Kelly brought Montrachet and a meal from the '21' club to Jimmy Stewart in 'Rear Window.'

The first time I remember drinking white Burgundy was in 1985, shortly after I returned to Manhattan after a sojourn at graduate school. The bottle in question was a birthday present from my second wife, a 1982 Carillon Puligny-Montrachet. I'm not entirely sure whether it was a premier cru, from one of the vineyards on the middle slope of the gentle rising hillside adjacent to the famous grand-cru Montrachet vineyard, or a simple village wine from the lowland vineyards, but I was blown away when I tasted the wine and Puligny-Montrachet immediately became my favorite special-occasion white.

Over the years I've learned to love Meursault, Chassagne Montrachet and even select New World Chardonnays, but I've always maintained a soft spot for the wines of Puligny, a small village on the lower slope of the famous hillside known as the Côtes d'Or. Puligny-Montrachet is located in the southernmost part of the region, the Côtes de Beaune, home of the best white Burgundies, made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape. In 1879 the tiny village of Puligny, in an effort to boost its own profile and the price of its wine, attached its own name to that of its most famous vineyard. Le Montrachet had long been hailed as the world's greatest dry white wine; Claude Arnoux, writing in 1728 could find no words in either French or Latin to describe its splendors (an example that wine critics should sometimes ponder) and Thomas Jefferson was a big fan; after tasting the 1782 vintage he ordered an entire 130-gallon cask, according to John Hallman's "Thomas Jefferson on Wine." Must have been some party. More recently, Montrachet was the wine that Grace Kelly brought over to wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart's apartment in "Rear Window," along with a meal from the '21' club. I think I'd willingly break my own leg for that kind of delivery.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ten Worthwhile Wine Words

The following 10 words are simple, straightforward and readily understandable. Suggested wine(s) that you're likely to be offered by a sommelier or retailer if you use them to describe the wine. The list is on the link below.

Crisp—a fresh, bright generally young wine with perceptible acidity. Wines like Sauvignon Blanc (from all over the world) and Italian whites like Vermentino, Verdicchio and Arneis fall into this category, as well as Alabarinos from Spain and Chablis from France.

Fruity—a wine with a pronounced fruit flavors and aromas that may be completely dry or "off-dry" (which is to say "perceived as sweet.") Rieslings, Muscats and Gewurztraminers are among the fruitiest wines and Zinfandel and Gamay are among the fruitiest reds.

Grassy—a wine with an herbal character; a classic term to describe Sauvignon Blanc.

Hearty—this is a word used almost exclusively to describe red wines like Syrahs and Malbecs that are fairly substantial in terms of structure and tannins.

Oaky—this is pretty much as it sounds; an oaky wine has a pronounced oak character. It's most often used to describe Chardonnay and Cabernet, though it could describe any wine where the oak is the most dominant feature.

Rich—wines that are viscous, weighty and lush like Chardonnay and Viognier are generally referred to as "rich," as are reds with a lot of extract and flavor like Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot.

Soft—wines that are round and fairly fruity with low or well-integrated tannins and fairly low acidity. The word applies to certain whites, such as Semillon, and reds, such as Gamay and Grenache.

Spicy—this word is associated with the Syrah grape ("peppery" is another) that's grown in the Rhone Valley, Australia and various parts of the world including California and Washington.

Supple—this is usually what people mean when they say they like a "smooth" wine. It's applicable to wines with fairly soft tannins and texture such as a Pinot Noir.

Velvety—this word is all about texture. It generally characterizes a wine that is rich and supple as well. See suggestions above for "supple" and "rich."

You will find more words for wines here:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

WSJ has started a NEW Wine Column Series... with Chianti.

Chianti: Telling the Good From the Bad On Wine by Lettie Teague - "At a certain point in American history, people stopped saying hello and goodbye and began saying ciao. On the streets of Manhattan, Seattle and even Greenwich, Conn., I've overheard otherwise non-Italian speakers madly ciao-ing each another when they arrived or departed. The only other Italian word I've heard uttered as often may be Chianti. And like ciao, Chianti has more than one meaning: It can stand for a cheap, simple bottle or a wine made by a world-class producer. Anyone who isn't a student of Italian winemaking (or, for that matter, Italian history and politics) may have a hard time discerning the difference between the two.

For a long time, there was only one type of Chianti: a cheap straw-covered bottle called a fiasco—which doubled as a good description of the wine itself. A bottle of Chianti was better suited to candle-holding than collecting. The reasons were numerous but mostly had to do with mass production and poor-quality grapes. Sometimes Chianti could contain as much as 30% cheap white grapes like Trebbiano in the blend—never mind that the wine Chianti producers were making was a red.

But by the mid-1980s, things started to change. Prominent Chianti producers took a more worldly view; they reduced their yields, eliminated the cheap white grapes and began experimenting with nontraditional varietals like Cabernet and Merlot. Some producers even made all-Sangiovese wines, which, though Sangiovese is the main grape of Chianti, was considered heretical at the time."

This about sums it up:

That may be the most important fact to know about Chianti today: Despite sharing a single grape—Sangiovese—and a similar climate and growing conditions, Chiantis are some of the most diverse wines in the world. But there's really no easy way for anyone who's not a serious wine drinker to tell the good Chianti from bad, the quality-minded producers from the also-rans. (The Chianti Classico Consorzio's gallo nero (black rooster) neck label is a guarantee of origin and proof of more selective standards—though a barnyard fowl isn't exactly a grand cru designation.) The fact is, a good Chianti can be found only through investigation and study—the opposite of what most people expect when they're choosing Chianti. And so I decided to hold my own tasting to see what, exactly, a Chianti buyer might find.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I tasted this wine recently. It was not pleasant... but it brought me in touch with an interesting blogger for you with great reviews of wines ....

Notice that this wine does not have a vintage date:

Therefore, under California law, this "wine" can contain up to 30% of something else...

I was trying to express how this wine tasted, when I noticed that a fellow blogger, Brian on Wine, had a great review that sums it up quite well.

"Brian On Wine is my personal opinion on various wines. These wine reviews are solely my personal opinion. I have no formal training in wine tasting, and am not involved in the wine industry in any way. I am just a regular guy who appreciates a nice glass of wine now and then and I'd like to share my experiences with you. Hopefully I will turn you on to a nice wine at a nice price, or help you to avoid a less than perfect wine."

The Winery: Fetzer
The Wine: 2007 Pinot Noir
The Price: $6.98 at Safeway (marked down from $8.99)

I was shocked to find a Pinot Noir for less than $7. I don't see how they can produce a $7 Pinot Noir. Needless to say, I'm not expecting to find greatness here.

Fetzer is a California winery. They seem to focus on making mass-produced wines for the masses.

The bottle was stopped with a composite cork. The wine is a deep, dark red.

The wine has aromas of plum and berries, whith a fairly strong alcohol odor. It also has a bit of a plasticy aroma to it.

The wine is fairly harsh. It has flavors of berries and plum that are overwhelmed by the alcohol flavor. It is an eye-watering red wine. If you want to dip your toes into Pinot Noir for the first time, skip on this one. It is not a good representative of Pinot Noir.

That said, it is a servicable red wine for $7. This is, afterall, a recession review. This wine is the homely person on the bar stool at last call. It's not what you were hoping for when you walked it, but it'll get the job done.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Importance of Shippers and Importers... like Frederick Wildman & Sons.

A great importer or shipper of foreign wines. Lots from South America...
When looking for something new to try, consider the name of the shipper or importer.

Frederick Wildman & Sons offers reviews and Point Scores for their wines:

I was in a grocery store this weekend.
Sampled two nice red wines: Both from the same shipper - Frederick Wildman & Sons.

Trapiche - Broquel Malbec 2007

88 Points
Wine Spectator
publication date: Nov 15 2009

“Racy dark raspberry ganache and boysenberry notes are laced with fig cake and graphite. Toasty, but stays fresh. Very solid.”

Trapiche - Broquel - Cabernet Sauvignon - Argentina

Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

87 Points
Wine Spectator
publication date: Aug 31 2008

“Fresh, with good focus to the raspberry, licorice and graphite notes, followed by a toasty finish."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One of our candidates in Texas was pouring Santa Rita 120 Cab, and I found it very good with interesting favor... but then, I have a cold this week...

From Chile ...

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Winemaker's comments :
Our ruby red 120 Cabernet Sauvignon is dominated by aromas of red and forest fruits, with additional notes of leather, cloves, and vanilla on the palate. This is a wine that develops on the palate, juicy, with soft, ripe tannins and a very elegant finish.

Winemaker : Carlos Gatica

Variety: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region : Central Valley

Climate & Soil : The central zone climate is mainly Mediterranean with a broad thermal oscillation between day and night, an average humidity between 55% and 60% and maximum summer temperatures over 30°C. In the lands nestled alongside the Andes Mountains, night temperatures are usually low due to the cold winds blowing down from the mountains. Along the Coastal range, the thermal variation is lower due to the maritime influence. A selection of vineyards of loamy soils and excellent drainage, located in the foothills of the Andes, is carefully combined with vineyards of heavier textured, loamy clay soils spread out along the Coastal range.

Vinification : The grapes were hand picked in April, destemmed, and gently crushed. Fermentation took place at 24º to 28ºC (75º–82ºF), depending on the lot and zone. 10% oak was used during fermentation to improve color fixation and stability in the wines. Once alcoholic fermentation was completed, 20% of the wine was aged in French oak for 8 months for added sweetness and increase complexity.

Suggested Food : Ideal to combine with red meats, pork, spicy sauces and cheese soufflés.

Technical Details :
pH: 3.72
acidity: 3.19 g/l (exp. sulfuric acid)
alcohol: 13,9 % vol
residual sugar: 2.6 g/l

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I present one of the mysteries of wine - location. I like German Riesling (which I have always called "Liebfraumilch") but not US Riesling. Try both

Here you'll learn everything you ever wanted to know about great German Riesling wines! Browse by the subject that interests you - or read the whole thing, take the final exam and get your Certificate of Applied Rieslingology!

What is Riesling?
It's a grape - one of the world's noblest, yet accommodating of the "great" white varieties because of its wide range of tastes and incomparable food-friendliness.

Where does Riesling come from?
Riesling grapes were first cultivated in and around modern-day Germany, and experts agree that the world's best still come from there. Read More

What does Riesling taste like?
Some people think of Riesling as a sweet wine, but that would be like saying all chocolate is sweet, rather than coming in the variety of styles it actually does. Read More

What does Riesling go with?
In a word: Everything. Riesling's unique balance of fruit to acidity makes it the world's most deliciously versatile and food-friendly wine.

What's special about Schmitt Söhne Riesling?
Schmitt Sohne is the leading importer of German Rieslings. Read More
With a search of Liebfraumilch (Lovely Woman's Milk),
I came across another BLOG for you to explore: Anti-Wine Snob...

Welcome to Anti Wine Snob™—an entire website devoted to exploring, learning, tasting and reading about bargain wine in a defiantly non-snobby way!

Why? Visit Anti Wine Snob’s “About” page for a full-on illumination. But the short answer is, to provide a humble, real website developed by real people who love wine but don’t like to blow loads of money on it. Or sound like pretentious blow-hards. Or anything else blow-related for that matter.

If you want to sip your Pinot Noir at a trendy café with people wearing stylishly black-on-black outfits using words that make them sound like they all grew up with butlers, go to the other wine sites. This one’s not for you.

If you’ve come here to find non-phony baloney discourse on wine related topics, then welcome to this site!

Fun facts? Got ‘em. They’re sprinkled in with the Reviews and Articles. We’ve also got a “Wine Words and Slurs” Wine Glossary above, as well as Wine Tips and Tricks.

Helpful articles? Check. Take a look at our Wine Articles tab above or peruse our itemized menu to the right.

Cool pictures of wine? I hope so. Anti Wine Snob has original photos of the reviewed wines. We’ve also got a whole section devoted to free wine-related pics! Just click on the Wine Pics tab above.

Down-to-earth descriptions of bargain wine? You’ve definitely come to the right place. You can look at Anti Wine Snob’s Wine Reviews tab above or check out our drop-down menu located on the top right hand side of this page. We’re updating these constantly so you can stay up-to-date with down-to-earth info.

Anti Wine Snob hopes to add more and more researched, original and helpful content as we grow, so bear with us as we get this site started.

Comments? Please do. Send them to or, if you have a comment to make on any of the wines reviewed thus far, you can post your comments there.
Only nice people, please.

Jakob Demmer Liebfraumilch,

Qualitatswein, 2004, Germany $6.50 for 750 ml (White wine)

Another tasty treat from Germany. And like the Webber Piesporter, this wine doesn’t state a varietal on its label, so I have to assume that it’s a blend of two or more grape varieties.

Whether it’s a blend of Riesling, Spaetburgunder (Pinot Noir), Gewuertztraminer, Scheurebe or other delicious white wines I’ve never heard of (and probably could never spell), all I care about is the fact that the Jakob Demmer Liebfraumilch is down right delicious. And in fact, it reminded me very much of the Webber Piesporter.

Crisp, slightly sweet, honey-ish and round flavored, this wine is very pleasing and fun to drink. It’s the kind of wine you would want around for pretty much any occasion. Plus, the name alone keeps things interesting. According to my Babel Fish translation, Liebfraumilch means “Love Woman’s Milk” or “Dear Woman’s Milk”….


I don’t really get it, but if they’re going for the whole Nectar-of-Life theme, they just might be on to something….

Bottom line, this is a good white wine for parties, get togethers, book readings, cozy chats, etc. Although German wines labeled “Liebfraumilch” are apparently considered “cheap” by many and often sneered upon, I thought this stuff was quite good for a casual, fun drink. In fact, although it’s inevitable, I would nevertheless be surprised at a person who doesn’t like it. And awfully curious.

3 Responses to “Jakob Demmer Liebfraumilch”
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1 M. Brown
Jun 24th, 2008 at 6:38 pm

My mother translates Liebfraumilch as “Sweet Mothers Milk”. I think that translates into what qualities are expected in a good wine!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

I was more curious about what a Claret wine would taste like... and then I discovered that this is more than just a trashed $5 bottle of wine ,,,

Welcome to The Homestead Bed and Breakfast. Located beside the Becker Vineyards winery, it is the original homestead log cabin of the Heinrick Peese Family.

Richard and Bunny Becker now own the Peese log cabin - the Homestead Bed and Breakfast. They renovated the log cabin into a bed and breakfast. The décor is rustic and accented with antiques. In the living room, you’ll find a charming wooden couch and a potbelly stove. There are two staircases (one inside, one outside the cabin) to the loft where a snug queen size bed awaits. The bathroom, with a claw foot tub, and kitchen are located off the living room.

Click here for an in-depth look into the B&B history.
Becker Vineyards can only ship wine to the following states:

A person of legal age must sign to receive the wine shipment. Please choose an address where someone can sign for it. Shipping companies cannot leave packages containing alcohol if someone is not home nor of legal age.

For orders needed by Christmas: Please place your Out of State orders by Monday, Dec. 14 and Texas orders by Thursday, Dec. 17.

For orders exceeding 5 cases or other
wine shipping questions please call 830-644-2681
or email

2007 Claret

It was carefully matured in French and American oak barrels for 15 months.

This rich and complex wine produces essences of raspberries, chocolate and spices.

Blends: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Petite Verdot.

Food Compliments: lamb, burgers, pheasant or quail.

$16.95 per bottle

Wow... I picked this one out of the Albertson's $5 a bottle basket today.
Nice full red from Texas!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

As life goes, I bumped into the Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir 2000 at Tom Thumb today... I don't like it as much as the Little Penquin...

And so it goes... I compared the prices at Tom Thumb.
The Lindemans is a buck more than the Little Penquin.
Both are from Australia. The Lindemans is dated. The Little Penquin is not. If you google Lindemans Pinot Noir 2009, you come up with no meaningful review, I will list two...
For my money, and I am not planning to buy a bottle of Lindemans to prove my point, I would just purchase the Little Penquin for about the same money as the Lindemans.

Review #1

skbreese's Full Review: 1999 Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir 2006
Australian Wines have grown in worldwide popularity within the last few years. In fact, the Australian wine industry is currently the 4th largest exporter of wines in the world. I have recently begun sampling a variety of Australian wines, the latest of which is Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir. Lindemans produces a variety of wines under the Bin series including the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Reisling, Semillion Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Company:

Founded by Dr. Henry J. Lindeman, a graduate of London's St. Bartholomew Hospital, Dr. Lindeman discovered wine making while traveling in Europe in the 1830's, when he became fascinated by wine's health benefits. He planted his first vineyard in 1843 in New South Wales, Australia. According to the company's website, Lindemans has emerged as the number one Australian wine brand in the world, with Lindeman's simple philosophy, "the purpose of wine is to bring happiness.


The Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir is a soft, red, wine with a fresh, fruity fragrance. It is a moderately complex, balanced, semi-dry wine with a hint of spice and strawberry, and a rather weak, slightly musty finish. Due to it's lack of bold flavor, I recommend paring it with pasta, poultry, veal, or vegetarian dishes that will compliment its medium bodied, semi-sweet, quality.


Color: Ruby red
Complexity: medium
Fragrance: Light, fruity
ABV: 13.5%

Overal Recommendation:

Those looking for a bold tasting, semi-dry, wine will likely be disappointed with Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir. However, is an affordable, widely available, red wine, perfect for those looking for the health advantages of a red wine, without an overpowering flavor. It is a nice compliment to blander dishes such as poultry and pasta. Although there are more flavorful Australian wines available on the market, Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir is a nicely balanced, easy drinking wine, for those who enjoy slightly sweet, fruity, semi-dry wines, without a strong aftertaste. Although, I'm not sure it lives up to its purpose of bringing happiness, this wine offers a pleasant enough taste for casual wine drinkers.


Year: Earlier
Winery Name: Lindemans
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Designation: Australian
Country: Australia
State or Region: Hunter Valley
Price: 5.99
Wine Rating Scale: Drinkable

Review #2

Saturday, April 18, 2009
Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir 2008 $5.49 ***

This is my fourth outing with a Lindemans wine. It is all things Australia today, Australia in the bottle, Australia on the TV (way too long a movie - but not AS awful as the critics said). I am skipping the Vegemite though (shudder). Since I have enjoyed all of the Lindemans so far, I am expecting that this Pinot Noir will hold to the status quo.

First sip as the pilaf is simmering and the steak is sizzling on the grill, this is a perfectly adequate wine. Fresh, fruity with a dry bite as an aftertaste. No tannins. For the price, I'd keep a couple of bottles on hand for those nights when you want wine but don't want to open up an exceptional bottle. There is a sharp aftertaste. Next glass will be with a run through the Vinturi - and I am curious to see what the change will be.

Well, I have to say that the vinturi is still my best purchase of 2009. It brought this wine to a new mellow level. The weirdness is, now I can taste some tannin (furryish tongue) but the wine is ever so better. Totally quaffable. I'd serve it for a dinner when I want to impress people (and still be cheap).

Caprese Salad
Skirt Steak
Broccoli Pilaf
Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream

The wine was GREAT with the Steak. Lindeman's, even your fake cork is a good one. A good utilitarian way to save some money and enjoy a good wine. Trader Joe's Wine Shop and the Linedman's Winery are a good match.

Oh, and if you are reading this blog because you are trying to save some money and still live well, I have a tip for you - regarding chef's knives. Ditch your ego and forgo designer knives (and knife sets). I invested $13.10 on a Victorinox 8" Chef's knife and $25.42 7" Victrorinox Santoku along with the 3" Pradel Inox that I bought in Paris at a grocery store, are the knives I use the most - and I love them (my other designer knives languish in their Wustoff block). My guests care about the food that I serve them, not the label on the utensil that I prepped the food with. I've found that keeping my ego in check has saved me thousands - well worth it!
Posted by ALBinNYC at 6:17 PM
Labels: *** Three Star, Australia, beef, Red

Friday, January 22, 2010

I was at a grocery store on Saturday, and a product demonstrator was offering little sips of the Little Penquin Pinot Noir... I liked this one..

But... I did a short google search and found someone online that in 2007, did not like this wine all that much. So, why post it?

Because, you need to develop a nose for what YOU LIKE.

You also need to find some reviewer that likes what you like or at least can give you a consistant base line for judgement - someone that has a developed nose.

For that purpose, I think you will find Cheap Wine Reviews (see below) a useful website.

I like Tim Lemke's writing style and his tasting note for this wine, even if I did not have the same problem with the NOSE of this wine... it might just be MY NOSE is no longer any good for writing wine reviews or notes.

In any case , I still like this Little Red Wine from Down Under, the country of Australia, where they do have Little Penguins.


NOTE about Vinetage Date on the Label : When the bottle does not have a vinetage or year date on the label, you have no way of knowing what year(s) of grape crops were blended to make the wine. In the case of a Varietal like Pinot Noir, you have no way of knowing how much Pinot Noir is in the wine itself --- No date tells you that the wine in the bottle is LESS of the Pinot Noir grape that you might expect... it can drop off to 51% in some countries and some states in the USA if there is NO DATE on the label.

The date might tell you what year's crop was used and how much of a specific varietal grape is used in the blending, but it will not tell you how it tastes.
That comes when you open it.

Notice that in Tim Lemke 's review below that Wine, unlike Coke, varies from year to year, even for the same Brand/Wineyard offering. That's both the joy and disappointment of drinking wine, folks!

Freddallas.... now on to Little Penquin Pinot Noir!

How to get the most out of drinking the Little Penguin wines.

The Basics:
1.Open a bottle of wine.
2.Pour it in a glass.
3.Open your mouth.
4.Tip wine into your mouth.
5.Swallow. (preferably before reaching full capacity)
6.Enjoy. (In moderation, of course.)
This may sound simple to you, but to a penguin this is no small task. There are some more advanced steps that can make you look like an experienced wine drinker. (If that kind of thing is important to you.)

1.Look at the wine.
Hold the glass by the stem (It's called stemware, get it?) and tip it away from you, preferably against a white background. Examine it carefully for color and clarity. (A furrowed brow or inquisitive gaze may enhance the authoritarian effect here.) Is it bright or dull? Intense or muted? Clear or cloudy?

2.Smell the wine.
Swirl the wine in the glass, paying special attention to avoid wearing it on your shirt or blouse. Then smell the wine. Unlike penguins (for obvious reasons when you consider their diet) our sense of smell is incredibly important in how our sense of taste works. Swirling enhances the smell of the wine by releasing any exciting fruit aromas and allowing it to react with air. You will want to take one big sniff. Go ahead stick your schnoz all the way in there. Then describe what you smell.

3.Sip the wine.
Finally, take a generous sip and let the wine rest in your mouth. It may help to aspirate, or draw a little air into your mouth, but gargling is considered inappropriate. Consider the wine. What does it taste like? How does it feel? At this point, you can either choose to spit or to swallow the wine. Either way, you will get the full effect of the taste. If spitting, try to avoid the general direction of other people and restrain from making loogy sounds.

4.Take note.
So, what did you think? Write it down - what it smelled like, your first impressions, the aftertaste. More importantly, did you like it? If you did, go ahead and have another sip, no one will blame you.

Do it all over again, just with a different wine. You might want to have a drink of water and a bite of bread to "cleanse your palate" before moving to the next wine.


Little Penguin Pinot Noir – Waddle On…My Quest for Good Cheap Pinot Noir continues with a cheapy from South Eastern Australia produced by the Little Penguin. This Penguin has a nice fruity center, but a little bit of funk at both ends.

OK… should I explain that, or let your imagination do the work?

I’ll explain.

The Good

the Little Penguin Pinot Noir 2006 has a nice, fruity palate. Strawberry, blueberry and currant make it almost a fruit bomb. There is also a hint of spice, but it falls short. I would have liked a bit more spice. It also has a nice velvety mouth feel.

The Funk

The nose is a bit of a turn off. I can only describe it as a combination of sweaty socks and strawberries. I was almost afraid to taste it after my first wiff. (This is the point where if I were Gary Vaynerchuk I would stuff a sweaty sock into my mouth to prove that I know understand sweaty socks… but trust me, I know this smell.)

That is part of the funk, but I did say “funk at both ends.” One being the nose, the other end being the finish where the Little Penguin left me with a touch of a metallic aftertaste.


While there were some funk-a-delics to this Pinot Noir, it only cost about $6. Not bad. And if you expect a $6 Pinot to totally kick ass you’re going to be disappointed. I didn’t dump this bottle, but it wasn’t awesome either. I gave it an 80. Give it a few minutes to open up and you’ll enjoy it a lot more. But, I would recommend you waddle past this one, and try something else.

Wine: the Little Penguin
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 80

A Quest for Good Cheap Pinot Noir

I was almost ready to write up this summary on my Quest for a Good, Cheap Pinot Noir when I noticed that more recent vintages of my top two picks were on the shelves. To be relevant to those shopping now, I had to pick them up to ensure they are worthy of top picks.

And wouldn’t you know it… the newer vintages didn’t hold up.

So what does that mean?
There is no clear winner.
Yep, the naysayers won (those bastards). There is not a great, cheap pinot noir that I could find. That said, there are some decent mediocre ones.

One of the frustrations of a cheap wine aficionado is that sometimes your picks just don’t work out. The good news is, when that happens it’s only a few bucks and not a $40+ bottle of disappointing wine.

So what were the top picks that didn’t work out with more recent vintages?

•Rosemount Estate Pinot Noir 2004 was my original top pick with a rating of 89.
•Mark West Vin de Corse Pinot Noir 2005 was my second pick with an 88.
The 2006 vintage of Rosemount Estate Pinot Noir dropped to an 84 rating. It’s still an OK bottle of wine, but it’s nothing exceptional. It offers cherry, apple and vanilla on the nose. It has a somewhat fruity palate with strawberry, plum and apple, but all are subtle. The tannins are soft and it has a medium length finish that lacks complexity. It also cost a dollar more than the 2004 vintage cost me… damn inflation!

The 2006 vintage of Mark West Pinot Noir fared a little better. Now I should note that Mark West puts out Pinot Noir from different regions and the only 2006 release that I’ve found is from California versus the 2005 I tasted with French grapes. The 2006 Mark West has a smoke, vanilla, red raspberry and cherry on the nose. I did enjoy the nice, warm mouth feel. Plum, cherry, raspberry and earth make up the palate. It has dry tannins and a medium length finish. I gave it an 86.

Others Worth Mentioning

I gave a reluctant 88 to 47 Pound Rooster Pinot Noir from HRM Rex-Goliath! Wines. The reason it’s a reluctant 88 is that it has no vintage. As you can see with the Rosemount Estate example above, there can be quite a difference from one vintage to the next. I don’t like wines that keep vintage a mystery as I just don’t know what I’m getting.

Another worth mentioning is the Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir 2005. I gave it an 87 and I can still remember the crisp spiciness of this wine. It was enjoyable. I’m sure the 2006 is on the shelves by now and I haven’t tried it yet… that will be up to you.

The Ratings Chart

As a part of my summaries I like to include a chart of all my wine ratings for that category so that you can get a quick glance at what I tasted and how it rated.


Rosemount Estate

Mark West – Vin de Corse

47 Pound Rooster

Pepperwood Grove

Mark West – Appelation California


Castle Rock

Rosemount Estate

Beringer Founder’s Estate

Robert Mondavi – Woodbridge

Three Thieves

The Little Penguin



About Cheap Wine Ratings

Cheap Wine Ratings is all about finding good wine at affordable prices.

For years we’ve been searching for the best value wines. It’s a quest to identify good wines for everyday drinking and hidden gems that you may have to hunt a little bit to find. Wading through all the choices and finding the best picks is no easy task, so we wanted to share our findings with other wine lovers like you. And thus, was born.

The process for rating wines on this site is systematic, with numerous qualitative characteristics evaluated to determine a wine’s rating. That rating is coupled with a descriptive review to give you a sense of how good a wine is and why you’ll enjoy it—or not. We provide ratings based on a 100 point system, but don’t just go by the numbers… there are a lot nuances and personal preferences that will determine your personal favorites and we hope that our tasting notes help you pick those out.

While we use a 100 point system, most wines we review end up somewhere between the mid-70’s to the low-90’s. If you go by the numbers, here’s a good way to think about them:

•80 and below: Don’t bother
•81-83: Drinkable wine
•84-86: Good
•87-89: Very good
•90+: Exceptional
The general rule of thumb on is that wines featured will be $20 or less. We may go over that price occasionally, but that will be rare and noted. In our opinion, you don’t need to spend a lot to get great wine, you just need to make informed choices.

Who’s Behind Cheap Wine Ratings?

This site was founded by Tim Lemke in Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s not a sommelier or anything fancy like that. But he is an avid wine consumer with a knowledgeable palate and a diligent approach to evaluating wines. Tim does most of the reviews on the site, with a little help from wife, Robyn.

Feedback and suggestions are encouraged.
You can contact Tim by sending an e-mail to

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 is an election year, so it is a great time to sample wines at fund raisers and party club meetings...

I was at a Texas Democrat fund raiser where they were pouring (Gallo) Turning Leaf Pinot Noir. Not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised. For what must be $8 wine, I found some actual varietal character. There was a definite hint of good old Pinot on the nose and the mouth had the classic cherry taste I associate with Pinot Noirs from the lighter side of the spectrum. It looks like a Rose, so this is not a big surprise either. There was even a hint of tannins on the (admittedly short) finish. It went perfectly with a Greek pizza from Pizza Hut as I listened to the party faithful hope that Texas would be a bit less RED this year.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

I was at a New Years supper and they were serving Smoking Loon wines... wonderful Merlot and my favorite Pinot Noir

Tasting notes: Smoking Loon Pinot Noir is a classic Pinot Noir.

The nose of this light burgundy-hued wine is packed with fresh raspberries, integrated oak, and bright rose petal aromatics. Fresh and nuanced, Smooking Loon Pinot Noir shows really nice dark fruit flavor, full of marionberry and bourbon-soaked cherries. A touch of French oak gives this wine ample body and balance, and it finishes with just a hint of cassis and blueberry jam. Fruit-forward and with good acidity, this wine can be served on its own or paired with food equally well.

Tasting Notes: Smoking Loon Merlot is NOT JUST ANOTHER California Merlot

This Merlot is dark garnet in color and has aromas of fresh basil, blueberries, and Bing cherries. With good richness without being too heavy on the palate, the flavors of fresh cherry pie, sweet plum, and soft cinnamon spiked cranberry dressing finishing with notes of rich, vanilla French oak and delicate cherry and strawberry flavors.

Smoking Loon is the creation of Don Sebastiani and his two sons. Read the history, the Sebastiani family has been in the wine making business in California for over 150 years. The Sebastiani Brand was sold in 2000: Smooking Loon was born from Don Sebastiani and his sons. Wine craftmanship you can taste in their wines.

Their wines.