All red, all the time!


Labouré-Roi Borgogne Rouge Pinot Noir Barrel Aged 'Maximum' 2004 ($10). Smells almost inert, vague cherry-clove whispers, maybe a touch of toast and cement dust minerality. Tastes softish and vague, with aggressive tannins. Smallish in size and lightbodied, innocuous at first, then abrasive. No maximum fun, perhaps should be relabelled 'Minimum'? [Buy again? No.]

Domaine Dupueble Pere et Fils Beaujolais 2002 ($11). Corked. REALLY corked. Ugh.

Domaine des Terres Dorées (J-P. Brun) Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes l'Ancien 2005 ($13). Gentle bread-dough hints over dark cherryjuiciness. Tastes big and dark and juicy, an oversized Ancien with a lot of stuffing. Medium acidity, happily ripe, then a swarm of glassy mouthdrying tannins swoops in. Not for early drinking, this is a rich young Ancien that needs some time to calm down and come together. Hold until mid-June of 2009. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yup.]

Château des Vergers Beaujolais Villages 2004 ($10). Corked.

Nana Vins et Cie Vin de Table Francais 'la Pangée' NV ($11). Cheerful cherry strawberry juice mixed with a handful of mud, a tablespoon of mucilage and a soup¨on of iron filings. Very peculiar-smelling; Lisa finds it too flawed to drink, but I find it oddly charming in that Andrew Scott/homemade wine kind of way. After a few sips, though, it does get a little tiring. Bright acidity, friendly soft dirtfruit in the middle, a lightish wine with some sandy tannins on the finish. Strange enough to be likeable, but only that. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Er, maybe not.]

Domaine Peyrassol Vin de Pays des Maures 2004 ($10). There's a gentle hint of cow manure to the simple cherry-raspberry fruit. Tastes smooth and earthy-berried, loosely wrapped and soft out from a firm core. There's a slight metallic taste, but I'm not terribly brett-averse, so I accept what it has to offer. Loose and rather poofy in the middle, but pleasantly horsey and nicely balanced wine, decent quaffer with enough going on to hold my interest. [Buy again? Yup.]

Domaine des Soulanes Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Cuvée Jean Pull 2003 ($9). Shy smellies, light plummy leatherberry with a touch of thyme, simple smelling and friendly-ripe. Tastes medium-lightbodied, loosely wrapped and puppyish. A light licorice flavor saunters into the midpalate, adding a touch of complexity to what is basically a small, plump unassuming wine. Pretty decent, nothing profound but enough going on to rate a place as a chummy quaffer. [Buy again? Yup.]

Domaine Houchart Côtes de Provence 2003 ($9). Light peppery-redfruit aromatics, sage-laced redfruit with a shy saddle-leathery streak down deep. Tastes loose and light, softly fleshy and plump, with enough acidity to get by, but just barely. The shy herbaceousness emerges a bit more assertively on the finish, along with some glossy tannins. Amiable wine, light and just complex enough to avoid blandness. [Buy again? Almost.]

Les Vignerons d'Estézargues C™tes du Rh™ne 'les Grandes Vignes' 2004 ($11). Light leathery plum-berry-tar aromatics, smells nice and straightforwardly CôteduRhôney. Medium acidity, taut spine wrapped with some soft fleshy redfruit. Some surprising tannins give the finish some bite. Good combination of tanginess and calmly pillowy fruit, nice real wine, easy to sip, turns very plummy on the finish. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yup.]

Domaine la Montagnette Côtes du Rhône Villages 2004 ($10). Quiet dark berry-tar aromatics, rather nosally shy, but what's there is soft-smelling and pleasant, if rather smooth and undistinguished. Mediumlight-bodied, with a bright acidic spine wrapped with fleshy-velvety berry redness. Rather indistinct, but perfectly well-built, decently drinkable C™tes du Rh™ne that finishes with a slight tarry astingency. Nice, well built and quaffably bland. [Buy again? Not really.]

Château Proms-Bellevue Graves 2005 ($10). Aromatically shy, quiet hints of fruit-punchy cassis with a touch of smokiness. Tastes soft and watery, ripe but wan and hollowish, with some juicyfruitiness bit little else. Seems a bit like Bordeaux Nouveau. [Buy again? Nah.]

Château Lauriol Bordeaux Côtes de Francs 2003 ($10). Smoky tar-laced cassis, round juicy aromatics, blackcurrant jam and licorice, touch of graphite minerality. Tastes round and blowsy, Californiaish, with medium acidity. Pleasantly ripe, middleweight redfruity wine, I don't know the varietal composition, but I'd guess mostly merlot, as it's smooth and plush and berry-cassised without many edges. As things go it's not unappealing, ripe and plush and upfront fruity, but there's an unpleasant astringency on the finish, a sourness I find distracting, along with some aggressive gritty tannins. [Buy again? Nope.]

Clos Siguier Cahors 2003 ($8). I've liked past vintages of this consistently underpriced wine, but this one is another vintage victim. Smells generically blackberry-cherried, , quiet hints of earth underneath blandly ripe fruit. Tastes watery, vague and slightly metallic on the finish, with some agressive glassy tannins. Pass. [Buy again? I said pass, right?]


Bodegas Ugalde Rioja Tinto 'Señorial' 2004 ($6). Simple cherry-berry aromatics wrapped in a camisole of vanilla-scented candlewax. Medium acidity, touch of black licorice, bit of astringency on the finish. Decent, generic. [Buy again? Nah.]

Porca de Murca Vinho Tinto Douro 2003 ($5). Corked. Try again.

Porca de Murca Vinho Tinto Douro 2003 ($5). Corked. Move on.

Pedra do Urso Portuguese Red Wine NV ($5). Corked. Try again.

Pedra do Urso Portuguese Red Wine NV ($5). Corked. Move on.

Santa Sara Vinho Tinto Regional Alentejano 2005 (60% aragonez, 20% trincadeira, 20% alicante bouschet)($5). Corked. Try again.

Santa Sara Vinho Tinto Regional Alentejano 2005 (60% aragonez, 20% trincadeira, 20% alicante bouschet)($5). Dark tarry plum-raspberry aromatics, touch of woodsmoke, touch of licorice, touch of VA. Tastes roughish, medium-lowish acidity, fleshy-chewy red and blackfruit, roughedged and sandily tannic on the finish. Simple and rustic, but plenty of wine for five bucks. [Buy again? Yup.]

[On an historic note, five corked bottles in a row is a new record for us. We'd only ever had three in a row twice over a ten year period, and never four in a row, five is an honor we dreamt not of!

Shaken to the core, for the next two weeks I buy only wine under screwcap.]

Quinta dos Aciprestes Tinto Douro 2001 ($9). Medium garnet color. Quiet barky-redfruit aromatics, raspberry-black cherry laced with tree bark. Tastes dense, simple, pleasantly rough edged. Medium acidity, good balance, some rough sandy tannins on the finish. The wine comes across as pleasantly rustic and loose, but straightforward and honest. [Buy again? Yup.]

Caves Dom Teod—sio Touriga Nacional Dão Reserva 'Cardeal' 2001 ($9). Medium dark muddy garnet color. Smells darkly berried, lots of earth and tobacco and a light barky streak. Tastes taut and a bit on the hard side, aggressive acidity wrapping around soddy berryfruit. Rustic wine, rich and rough-edged, with a flurry of sandy tannins to cap thing off. A little tough on the tongue, but if you're feeling like a brawl in your mouth it's a nice ride. [Buy again? Sure.]

Bodegas Campos Reales Tempranillo la Mancha 2004 ($6). Medium purply-garnet color, more purple at the rim. Smells ripe and plummy-raspberried, with tarry undertones. Fleshy-fruity and pillowy tasting, medium low acidity, amiable well-flavored wine, simple and just a bit too dark to be fruit-punchy, with some rather aggressive tannins on the finish. Undemanding ripe pizza wine, decent and flavorful. [Buy again? Yep.]


Saint Clair Pinot Noir Marlborough 2005 ($12). Gentle, quiet aromatics, plum-cherry and a hint of clove, simple fruit with a dusting of spice. Medium-lightbodied, crisp but rather soft around the edges, a pleasant velvety little pinot noir with a little bit of complexity and some varietal character. Not bad, if a bit by the numbers. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? I guess.]

Marybank Pinot Noir Nelson (New Zealand) 2004 ($12): Pale garnet color, translucent, just a shade past rosˇ. Smells very clovey-colaish, dark spice being the dominant aroma over gentle muted redfruit. Light bodied and relatively uncomplex, but gentle and expressive little pinot, like a generic Bourgogne mixed 60/40 with overpriced Napa Valley pinot noir. Medium acidity, with a gentle softness and a light feathery quality. Insubstantial, simple and decent. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? Why shore.]

Dundee's Cabernet Sauvignon (75%) Merlot (24%) Petit Verdot (1%) South Australia 2001 ($10). Plushly fruited nose, black cherry and cassis laced with cedar hints and a touch of African violet. Tastes juicy and plump, with some slightly spiky acidity, like a dark dry fruit punch. Simple, straightforward fruitiness, moderately composed, just enough spine to get by. The small amount of petit verdot adds structure and backbone, its presence is appreciated. Decent pizza wine. [Buy again? Yup.]

Houghton Wines Cabernet-Shiraz-Merlot Western Australia 2004 ($12). The label isn't clear on which cabernet, I guess cabernet franc? Deep saturated garnet color, purple at the rim. Ripe plummy-rich smoky aromatics, lightly lactic, like scorched milk amidst the dark purple-redfruit. A bit of herbaceousness, other than that there's smoky-generic plum-cassis-raspberry fruit, medium acidity, plush velvety wash of ripeness. Amiable, but quite generic. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Not really.]

Sextant Red Wine South Eastern Australia 2005 ($7). Simple plum-raspberry-shoe polish aromatics, loose and lightly jammy wine, ripe but bland and watery, with spiky SweeTart acidity. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? No.]

Sextant Shiraz South Eastern Australia 2005 ($7). Jammy purple aromatics, plum and grapeskin, shoe polish. Tastes like ripe purple plum jam diluted with water and bootblack. Odd, only for fans of the style. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Nope.]


Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon South Africa 2004 ($7). Classic blackberry-blackcurrant aromatics, light oregano hint, touch of cedar, fairly routine but enough complexity on a small scale to maintain interest. Medium bodied, medium acidity, gently fleshy cassisberry fruit, some slightly spiky acidity. Seems manufactured, but small and composed and balanced, a lot of wine for seven bucks. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Oh yeah.]

Indaba Merlot Wine of Western Cape (South Africa) 2004 ($9). Simple toast-laden cassisberry aromatics, hint of milkiness. Tastes one-note cherried, with a candyglossy mouthfeel. Bland and fakey-tasting, that's four minutes of my life I'll never have back. I bought this because after I panned the shiraz, Grossman told me the merlot was better. Grossman lied. A plague on both his harpsichords! FAKE CORK! [Buy again? No. No.]


Villa Pillo Borgoforte Toscana 2003 ($10). Smells ripe and chocolatey, dark berry and cocoa powder, maybe a hint of raisin in the mix. Fleshy, low acidity, gruff tannins, seems like a pointy international-style wannabee type of wine. Could be central coast merlot, really. That said, it's friendly and plush and velvety-rich, cocoaberried milkshakey kind of wine. Shrug. [Buy again? Nah.]


Huarpe Wines Malbec Mendoza 'Lancatay' 2003 ($10). Smells gently purple-coffeed, like a blend of blackberry-grape juice and espresso. Tastes loose and ripe and diffuse, with an unpleasant sourness on the finish. Mostly generic and inoffensive, except for that persistent sourness. Me no like. [Buy again? No.]


Blackstone Merlot California 2003 ($10). Calm, shy smoky berry-blackcurrant aromatics, smells small but borderline complex, with a good blend of shy toastiness and dark redfruit. Surprisingly crisp, with firm acidity buoying some loose fleshy fruit, giving it decent lift. I'm quite ready to dislike this wine on principle, but it's firm at the core and unassuming enough to win me over. Maybe the only cheap merlot I've ever given a thumb's-up to. [Buy again? Just barely.]

Pellegrini Vineyards Merlot North Fork of Long Island 'Eastend Select' 2002 ($7). This wine goes in with at least two strikes against it. Wine from the island next door has long represented the most ludicrously overpriced wines outside of Canada, and merlot is a grape I have little use for outside of Pomerol or St. Emilion. Yet here's a decent little quaffer for seven bucks, ripe in a cool-climate kind of way, dark berry redfruit mingling with cedar and oregano hints, kind of hard around the edges, kind of twotone, but pretty decent all in all. Damn, knock me down with a feather. [Buy again? Yup.]

Green-Grow Vintners Meritage Mexicano Baja California 'Jubileo' 2004 (46% cabernet sauvignon, 42% merlot, 12% petit verdot) ($12). Very cedary-smelling, pencil shavings and grilled plums. Quite roasty-ripe, rather ponderous despite some spiky acidity, there's lots of ripe fleshy red-purple fruit but little else in terms of interest. FAKE CORK! {Buy again? Don't think so.]

Red Flyer California Red Table Wine 2003 ($10). Smells broadly frooty-ripe, plum candy and black cherry soda mixed with burnt toast. Tastes soft, plump and loose, grapey and cedar-chippy. Plump and blandly generic fruitcracker. [Buy again? Nope.]

Sagelands Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 'Four Corners' 2002 ($9). Ripe creamy creme-de-cassis aromatics laced with cedar chip and coconut cream. Tastes creamy-rich and lightly jammy, with good structure; firm acidity buoys up the fleshy ripeness. Has the air of a lean Penfold's cabernet, with a clear sense of manufacture about it, but lots of good richness and even a sense of balance. Ripe, fleshy balance, but balance still. Pretty decent for fans of the style. [Buy again? Yup.]

Castle Rock Petite Sirah Lodi 2004 ($10). Deep saturated purply-red color. Dark pomegranate-black raspberry fruit infused with tar. Dark and monolithic, simple purplefruity PS, medium acidity and strangely nontannic, given the variety. A bit edgeless, like a PS for beginners, but I kind of like it. [Buy again? Okay, yeah.]

Geyser Peak Winery Shiraz Sonoma County 2001 ($14). Dark garnet color, purpling at the rim. Rich smelling, spicy plum-blackberry-shoe polish-toast aromatics. Tastes smooth, velvety, kinda glossy. Medium low acidity, simple, rich, velvety-smooth, blandly ripe but well built, rich without being overblown. Decent enough, not quite interesting. [Buy again? No.]

Wayward Pilgrims of the Vine Syrah California 'The Shadow' 2002 ($12). Corked. Try again.

Wayward Pilgrims of the Vine Syrah California 'The Shadow' 2002 ($12). Corked. Try again.

Wayward Pilgrims of the Vine Syrah California 'The Shadow' 2002 ($12). Phew. Smells darkly leatherberried, smoky-hued ripe raspberry-blackberry plushness. Tastes velvety, possessed of a gentle smoky-plumpness, it's Californian all the way, but in a restrained way. Medium-firm acidity supports the ripeness, nice depth of flavor, subtle dark notes in the middle add a dollop of complexity. Medium-length finish, with some quiet tannins giving a bit of rasp. After an hour or so the plushness has receded, leaving a more structured, leaner impression. Very nice syrah, a blend of old world styling and new world juiciness. Not one I'd age for too long, but drinking very well now. I'm told this is really an Edmunds St. John wine, which would explain the startling quality, but the label gives no hint of that except an URL listing in small print at the bottom. A lot of wine for the money, a living example for those who assume California wine is invariably overpriced and overgobbified. FAKE CORK NEEDED! [Buy again? Despite the poor corked-to-pristine ratio, I bought three more right away.]


Peterson Winery Zinfandel Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley 'Zero Manipulation' 2002 ($14). Gently plush black cherry-blackberry aromatics, smells warm and ripe and dark, with just a hint of licorice. Tastes smooth, velvety and chewy-textured, medium acidity, broadshouldered but by no means oversized. Some rough tannins on the finish, but really a rather supple, juicy zinfandel with a sense of restraint and some complexity. Very nice. [Buy again? Yup.]

R&B Cellars Zinfandel California 'Swingsville Zin' 2003 ($8). Simple rich black cherry/raspberry aromatics, tastes ripe and a bit roughedged, with a bit of heat on the finish. Straightforward, plush zin, delivers the goods, nice burger wine. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yup.]

Ravenswood Zinfandel Sierra Foothills 'Sierra Series' 2002 ($12). Corked. Try again.

Ravenswood Zinfandel Sierra Foothills 'Sierra Series' 2002 ($12). Simple candied black cherry aromatics. Tastes loose, ripe and a bit watery, with a spiky-tart streak poking out of the gently watery redfruit. Juicy in the middle, finishes tarry, but disjointed, bland and forgettable wine, blandly decent. [Buy again? No.]

Ravenswood Zinfandel California 'Vintner's Blend' 2004 ($8). Simple black cherry-raspberry aromatics, hints of pepper, actually smells a bit darker and deeper than the more expensive Sierra Series. Tastes round and smoothly slick, perhaps a hint of sweetness? Middling acidity with a similarly spiky character, cherryberry fruit, on the Velveeta side, agreeable but blandly juicy. [Buy again? Nah.]

Rock River Zinfandel California 2004 ($8). Dark black cherry-raspberry aromatics, touch of licorice, touch of pepper, touch of sod. Nice richness, more substantial than either of the Ravenswood wines, chewier texture. Rather fleshy, medium acidity, some heft to the midpalate redfruit, a gentle muddiness wanders through the middle, lingers on a mediumlength finish. Just enough richness, balance and interest to be a nice burger wine. [Buy again? Yup.]

Here mercifully ends the most TCA-tainted month of our lives. It got to the point when Lisa sniffed the second tainted Shadow syrah she shrieked "Where are you getting all these corked wines? Who's selling them to you? Don't buy from them anymore!" A devoted rationalist, she's only superstitious about wine and baseball. But that's how crazy it got for a while there, and there's no mention in this report of the several more corked bottles we had while jeebing with friends. I believe our final tally was thirteen corked bottles this month, an apt number for a strikingly unlucky run that I'm hoping is over and done.

Knock wood.

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