RedcatFrom Tom Mansell: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards NV Red Cat

Not every wine experience has to be mind-blowing.    Sometimes you're
in a hurry and you just want a good, cheap quaff. 

My friends and I
enjoyed this before heading to our department holiday party, where I
knew the wine would be much worse. 

It's grapey but not overwhelmingly
so, with nondescript fruit at first and a tart cranberry finish (it's
tough to nail down descriptors when you're drinking from a red plastic
cup.) And when it's ice cold, it's pretty refreshing. 

Red Cat is traditionally a blend of Catawba (which I just now
realized is where the "Cat" in the name comes from) and Baco Noir, but
the red grapes vary year to year. 

Hey, for $12 a mag, I'll bet it's
better than 90% of wines from California.

For the record, the one
wine I had at the party was a Pinot Grigio/Chenin Blanc blend (?) and
tasted like green tea. Blech. And no, I don't drink hybrids solely to
rile up certain people who post in the comments section.

Nieto_SenetinerREs_2009 From Bryan Calandrelli: Nieto Senetiner Pinot Noir 2009

Southern Hemisphere wines always seem so young until my brain processes that they are actually one vintage ahead of us, but even after I made that connection this pinot noir, it still seemed way early. A back label investigation revealed that this is a unoaked pinot and then it all made sense.

Mendoza is typically not a region I browse when looking for pinot so this was a new experience. I usually stick with Chilean pinot from Bio Bio if I'm looking for South American pinot but this one was worth trying.

Super fruity aromas of cherries and strawberries with hints of some darker forest aromas as well. Smooth mouth feel and an overall clean flavor made this extremely quaffable.

For $9 or so, a decent buy especially if you are buying wine for a large get together and need some reds to please several tastes.

DSC_0052 From Julia Burke: Finlayson 2008 The Pepper Pot

Being scheduled to leave for South
Africa in four weeks and still without a visa, I attempted to pacify
myself on Sunday by opening a South African red that I felt certain
would lay me flat: The Pepper Pot 2008, produced by the Finlayson
family in Stellenbosch.

It's a blend of 58% Syrah, 32% Mourvedre and
10% Tannat, and I was immediately sorry I hadn't opened it earlier
because it definitely needed some time and a well-planned meal. I had
neither, though, so I made do with vigorous swirling and soppressata

It's a beautiful, intense blend, everything I love
about South African wine. The nose initially reminded me of the
zinfandel produced by another winery in Stellenbosch: dried fig,
apricot and cherry as well as a torrent of indistinguishable spices.

it opened up a bit I began to get more meaty, gamey Brett, lots of
black and white pepper (it's an aptly named wine), and maybe some
turmeric; the next morning it showed a smooth vanilla/berry nose, again
like a Stellenbosch zin, with cranberry and some floral notes.

I can't
wait to pair the rest of this bottle (even in my traumatized state I
knew it was too good to waste on leftover pizza) with some quail or
other game bird and a thick sauce of mushrooms and dried fruit.

Foxrunriesling From Evan Dawson: Fox Run Vineyards 2006 Reserve Riesling

The 2008 version of this wine is one of the finalists for Wine of
the Year, but more on that wine later this week. And so it was a treat
when a friend opened a bottle of the 2006.

First of all, cheers to Fox Run, where the reserve program means
something. Winemakers Peter Bell and Tricia Renshaw don't simply slap a
reserve label on for no reason. This is the best, most expressive
bottling of their Riesling, and they don't do it every year (you won't
find a 2007 version of this wine).

What we learned is that this wine is just now seeing the peak of its
primary flavors. I'd expect this wine to slowly and beautifully reveal
its secondary characteristics over the next five years, but I'd love to
discover one of these in my cellar a decade or more down the line.

And as for the '08? The lesson is that there is a long, fritful life ahead for one of the region's top bottlings.

Churchill's PortFrom Jason Feulner: Churchill's Crusted Porto

Drinking this port was like chewing a sweet fig — it had a weight that
was palpable and a slight burst of strong tea or coffee surrounded the

It finished something short of an all-star but was satisfying

While this Port was good, it lacked refinement and structure. I
realize port is relatively low in acidity, I think this specimen could
have used just a touch more. In any case, I would recommend this one
since it was not extremely expensive and it had some merits as a
blended, non-vintage version.