Kolobarra Hills Shiraz Cabernet
If you're a fan of Australian wines -- or a red wine beginner -- this one's for you. It's VERY Australian, from the hint of eucalyptus on the nose to ripe, sweet fruit with spicy undertones. Simple and easy to slurp.
A pleasant surprise -- crisp, bracing, lemony. Not much oak, no residual sugar, and nice acidity on the finish. Think Granny Smith apples!
Roberto Cohen Pouilly Fuisse
A refined, pleasant Burgundy without any significant individual vineyard character. Shy nose with some up-front apple fruit, decent acidity and balance, and a short but pleasant finish. Will go well with food, but definitely not a wine for lovers of big California Chardonnay!
Eshkol Cabernet Sauvignon
A pleasant surprise! Aggressively New World in its style, unlike many South African reds -- concentrated, ripe, very spicy fruit, vanillins that scream American Oak, lengthy berry finish. A real crowd-pleaser.
Yes, 1999 is the currently available release (March, 2005). But not to worry -- this is just what you're looking for if you appreciate the differences between Alsace and German Riesling. A dash of petrol on the nose, medium-bodied, bone-dry and spritzy acidity with simple but spot-on varietal character. Our tasting crew immediately labeled it a great aperitif wine.
Hagafen Estate White Riesling Napa Valley
I have to wonder if our crew tasted the same wine the other reviewers did, from the 2002 vintage. While Riesling frequently offers up hints of diesel or petrol aromas, this one fairly shrieked "charcoal lighter fluid." If you can get past that, it's a medium-bodied, slightly sweet, well balanced offering. But I couldn't.
Plessis Sancerre 2001
As a Sancerre fan, I parted company with some in our tasting crew on this one -- I loved the tart grapefruit aroma, great acidity, dusty minerality, and nice viscosity. Probably best as a food wine -- think of lighter fish preparations. Definitely not for wine beginners, though.
Borgo Reale Moscato D'Asti
Moscato d'Asti doesn't get much better than this one -- light-bodied, sweet (but not cloying), spritzy and bursting full of citrus fruit flavors and aromas. We enjoyed it as a dessert wine with some homemade mandelbread -- an amazingly wonderful combo!
Ramon Cardova Rioja
I was eager to try the 2003 vintage of this one -- and it didn't disappoint. Classic Rioja, soft, lush, well-balanced, lightly oaked. Nice finish. Equally good for sipping or with food. The rest of the tasting crew concurred!
Tierra Salvaje Monastrell
Most people in the US know Monastrel by its French name -- Mourvedre, the dense, tannic, ageworthy grape of Bandol and elsewhere in southern France. This Spanish version is a steal for the money -- a dark, almost tarry flavor profile accompanying a silken palate. Great wine with cheese.
Herzog Selection Chardonnay Vin De Pays
Bargain Alert! Its simple "Vin de Pays" pedigree puts it into the price range of the lower-end Californians, but that's where the resemblance ends. Aromatic, fresh, slightly sweet apple fruit (though the wine itself is dry), rich, smooth, nice mouthfeel. Yes, it's a simple and fairly one-dimensional -- what were you expecting for under $8? Our crowd loved it with a Moroccan chicken, chick peas and raisin dish.
Langer Tokaji Furmint
Well, this may not be the ULTIMATE dessert wine, but it's an interesting poor man's Sauternes. Medium gold color with the seriously luscious honeyed nose and palate you'd expect from a Botrytis wine. A bit of mustiness and astringency kept it from being a unanimous rave.