Some nice diversity in this week's peek at our cellars.

Wwd1 From Evan Dawson: Epicuro 2007 Aglianico Beneventano (Italy)

A lot of people are going to drink this wine because you can find it at Trader Joe's for about $5. And a lot of people are going to say, "Wow, Aglianico really sucks."

That's the danger in trying a new varietal if it comes from a large or bulk producer. Certainly some wines made by larger producers are outstanding. But it's easy to try one bottle and say, "Yeah, I've had Zweigelt. Didn't love it." (That has been me before). 

I have deeply enjoyed the aglianico I've had preceding this bottle, and I'll keep exploring it. I just shudder to think of the consumer who tries one bottle of Finger Lakes riesling or Long Island merlot from one of the producers that is not as tireless in seeking quality. One bottle can color a person's entire view of a region. It's entirely unfair, and it's even more off-base if that region has a unique sense of place that contributes to the wines.

If you're wondering, this wine smells like acrid citrus Lik-M-Aid candy. It tastes like a rusted bayonet dipped in blackberry jam. Buy it as a gift for someone you intensely dislike.

Wwd2 From Tom Mansell: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

I love fall, but I don't often love pumpkin ales.  They normally come in spiced like crazy and tasting like neither pumpkin nor ale.  This one, though, I liked.

It's from Dogfish Head, a Delaware-based brewery, and weighs in at 7% ABV.  It's made with real pumpkin meat, brown sugar, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  The spice aroma reminded me not of pumpkin pie (i.e., blast of nutmeg, though there is still considerable nutmeg) but rather of the Indian rice pudding dessert kheer.  Maybe it's the allspice.  On it's own, this brew's spice rack might have turned me off, but I paired it with an awesome chili-chocolate mousse from the Northstar (public) House (, which recently opened a few blocks' walk from my house (dangerous!).  The heat of the chili and the rich cocoa married really nicely with this malty brew, which also seemed to bring out a savory umami component.  This was one of those times where the synergy of a great pairing can elevate two things that are pretty good on their own to an truly magnificent experience.

WWD3 From Lenn Thompson: Pollak Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve (Virginia

It won't surprise anyone reading this blog to hear me say again how much I love finding delicious wines not made in the same old regions. Wines like this one from Virginia wine country.

Fellow East Coast bloggers John and Megan Witherspoon spent a few days touring Long Island winerieslast week and brought this bottle over to dinner at our place. John, a fellow franc fanatic, was excited to pour this for me and I can see why. It is ripe (apparently 2007 was a great year for VA reds as well) with red cherry, cranberry and spice flavors, smooth, almost supple texture and a long, black pepper-tinged finish. John was picking up a cooked green bean note, but I thought it was more of a faint herb note that could have been a bit more pronounced for my tastes. 

Once the 'Spoons left and headed back to their room at the Shinn Farmhouse, I finished the bottle. 

Wwd4 From Jason Feulner: Dr. Konstantin Frank 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes)

As I taste more and more 2008 rieslings the more impressed I become with the vintage. This semi-dry version from Dr. Frank's is wonderful wine with the beautiful minerality and fruit bound with zippy acidity. The tropical fruit and melon flavors are reminiscient of past Dr. Frank rieslings, which I have almost begun to suspect share something of a distinct fruit profile. It's not better or worse than other wines, but its simply hits my palate with an "Aha, a Dr. Frank!" type of impression. The honey notes, of course, are found in other wines from the region and are a welcome backdrop for this accomplished riesling. 

Wwd5 From Julia Burke: Maipe 2008 Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina

My first experience with Bonarda came on recommendation from my fellow Niagara correspondent while browsing the South American section of a large wine shop in Buffalo. At $12 it was an inexpensive way to try a new varietal, though I would've liked to try something older than '08. I brought it home to pair with homemade pizza topped with soppressata, caramelized cipollini onions, mushrooms, and gruyere. 

The nose was pretty locked up at first but showed bitter chocolate, cinnamon and some dark fruit. A peppery finish with firm tannins was sexy but teasingly tight. As good as it was with the pizza, I forced myself to give it another day.

The next night I expected more fruit and smoother tannins, but this firecracker of a wine was almost more fierce on day two with intense blackcurrant and bitter cocoa. The nose reminded me of a zinfandel with stewed cherries and even liqueur-soaked dried apricot as well as anise, and the veiny tannins on the finish had softened only slightly but still packed a wallop. 

I'll definitely be seeking out more Bonarda and more wine from this producer, though I'll be looking for earlier vintages – this wine really needs time but is already provocative and delicious. 

Wwd6 From Bryan Calandrelli: Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva 2004

I rarely get wine samples sent to my home, but when I do, they don¹t last long in my wine rack, and a home cooked meal of coffee and ancho chile braised short ribs last night necessitated the uncorking of this Rioja Reserva.

I¹ve had enough tempranillo to know that reserva means it has to spend two full years in oak before at least another year of bottle aging. I¹m not sure this one had the fruit at the start to stand up to two years in American oak though.

With aromas of vanilla, toast and strawberry jam, this wine needed several hours open for the smell of wet new oak barrels to fade. Luckily the mouth-feel didn¹t feel like it was packing oak tannins and the finish had a decent balance of red fruit and toast. At my dinner table this wine paired wonderfully with the short ribs. Without the ribs though, I¹m not sure I¹d have all that much to say about the wine.