As I, and no doubt you, have come to expect, we're drinking a wide array of beverages from a diverse group of locales. Some were better than others of course.

IMG00021-20091109-1724 From Lenn Thompson: Shinn Estate Vineyards 2008 Haven

The folks from Shinn Estate Vineyards are good at proving me wrong. Okay, that's probably an overstatement, but they sure are good at keeping me honest about making generalizations. I shouldn't make them at all.

I thought that some wineries went overboard in 2005, trying to make wines that aren't true to the region and its signature style. Shinn's 2005 show restraint and elegance — balancing ripeness and food-friendliness. I've said here on the site and in print that 2006 wasn't a great year for cabernet franc. But theirs is spicy and balanced and delicious. 

And then there were some negative comments I made about barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc. At the time, co-owner David Page told me "Just wait to you taste our version, Haven." Every owner probably thinks that his or her version is better than others, of course, so I didn't think much of it.

Then I tasted it.

Named for the type of soil found in their vineyard, this wine's combination of barrel fermentation, a significant portion of Semillon and extended skin contact gives this unique wine a nutty, faintly sherry-like quality along with flavors of dried apricot, peach and melon — all with citrusy acidity and a saline minerality.

It was particularly satisfying enjoyed during a lunch of cured meats and cheeses with great friends after a morning picking cabernet franc on Sunday.

Note to self: don't make generalizations.

Spottedcowshinerbock From Tom Mansell: Spoetzl Brewery Shiner Bock and New Gralus Brewing Company Spotted Cow

weekend I attended the wedding of two college friends (about my 12th
wedding in the past couple years). One was from Wisconsin and one from
Texas, so they both brought their respective hometown brews for the
enjoyment of their guests.

Shiner Bock I've had before (a lot actually… you can find $1
drafts pretty much every night in Austin and I spent a beer-soaked week
there in college). It's malty and clean drinking with fresh acidity.
It reminds me of my own hometown brew, Yuengling Lager, but I'll admit
it's much better than Yuengling from the bottle.  Unfortunately, while
it's available almost nationwide, it's practically impossible to obtain
in New York (outside of Manhattan), but it's good enough to seek out if
you're out of state.

Spotted Cow was much talked about and much hyped by some other
Wisconsinites I know (Has everybody from WI had
this beer?). In fact, it's only available in Wisconsin, so it was
smuggled to the reception in the trunk of the limo. Obviously it was
something special and I was eager to give it a shot. 

Well, it's
fantastic. It's cloudy with a creamy mouthfeel (cask-conditioned with
yeast in the bottle) with vanilla and nice fruity esters. Finishes
smooth and clean. Very enjoyable, even as one of.. er… many drinks
enjoyed at a wedding.

PoetsleapFrom Evan Dawson: Poet's Leap 2008 Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington

easy to develop a house palate and insulate ourselves from the rest of
American riesling, but it's nice to venture outside New York state and
taste new things. I've had a handful of West Coast rieslings in the
past year, the best coming from Washington state. That's where this
wine is from, and if you're a score hound it's worth noting that
critics have bestowed high marks on recent efforts from this producer.

should first say that most of the West Coast riesling I've tasted in
the past year has been fat. And that's an unfair generalization,
because no doubt there is plenty of balance to find.

And here we are.
This wine is perhaps the first or second West Coast riesling that
brings a Finger Lakes-kind of nose, and there's certainly a racy edge
that I like. But it finishes with a bizarre kind of metallic streak,
like licking a crowbar. Until the finish, I was really enjoying this

Not sure why the finish is that way (any help, Mr. Mansell?) but
this wine is otherwise a nice, balanced effort that signals very good
things for Washington riesling.

LuisEdwards_Carmenere_2007 From Bryan Calandrelli: Luis Felipe Edwards 2007 Carmenere, Chile

Chilly autumn temperatures usually force me to step out of my cool-climate red wine zone. When this happens I usually avoid California stuff and go to the inexpensive South American reds from Argentina and Chile, and when I'm shopping for a red under $10, I have a soft spot for Carmenere.

This bottle of Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva Carmenere 2007 is the result of my little boy crying before his father could make it to the badass wine store he was aiming for. Looking to avoid a total meltdown, I stopped into to a place called Wine World, which likes to use only the largest distributors.

I found this wine to have a typical sweet and spicy nose on this one, with plum, blackcurrant and some annoying over ripe raisin and prune notes. Its soft and sweet tannins provided for a plush mouth-feel and friendly finish. This was in no way special or memorable unless you count my memory of being frustrated at the flavor of prune juice.

Ive had better Carmenere at a fraction of the $11 price tag this one cost including the Calina Reserva, Casillero del Diablo, Santa Rita 120 and a number of others.

Wines like this really make me want to figure out what makes a Reserva in South America anyway. They sure don't have standards like Chianti or Rioja from what I can tell.

DSC_0044From Julia Burke: Brewster's Brewing Co. – Mata Hari ESB

picked up Mata Hari while browsing the British section of my local beer
market, seeking the understated elegance of a well-made British ESB.
Poured into a pint glass, it shows a one-finger head, spotty lacing
that vanishes quickly, and hazy desert brown color with a tint of

The nose is quite yeasty with lots of orange peel and a bit of
almond. British hops, especially Fuggles, carry throughout from nose to
mid-palate. Mouthfeel is well-carbonated but creamy with soft layers of
hops and a light, thin finish that disappears all too quickly.

Mata Hari is subtle and pleasing, but once you reach
the finish it becomes more like a cookie-baking grandma in an apron
than its armed-and-dangerous bombshell namesake. When you name a beer
after an exotic dancer-turned-WWI-spy, it should probably be a little
sexier than this, even for a British ale. I love the delicate,
soft-like-your-mom's-couch British hops – I just want to enjoy them a
little longer! I'm not one to bash UK ESBs for being slightly aloof.
However, a more complex finish would make this one a bit more
memorable. Not my favorite example of the style.