Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone 2008

Wine: Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone 2008

Price: $11.99 (on sale from $14.99)

Region: Rhone Valley, France

Grape Variety: 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah

Purchased: Haskell’s Wine & Spirits, Burnsville, MN

The impetus for purchasing this bottle of wine actually came because I wanted to buy a corkscrew.  We have plenty of wine in the cellar, but I needed to purchase an opener for a gift, so I stopped at our newest wine retailer in Burnsville, Haskell’s Wine & Spirits.  I’d shopped several of their locations in other parts of the Twin Cities, but this was my first foray into their Burnsville store.  Wow, what a great idea!  I’ve never liked their practice of overloading the aisles with cases of wine, and forcing you to navigate around all of the other hapless shoppers.  Not here.  This store was very nice, with the wines organized by region and country and plenty of space to browse and enjoy.  The prices were very comparable, and I’ll definitely be back.  Well done!

On to the wine.  As I toured the wine shop, I saw this bottle and decided to take a chance.  We’ve sampled several such bottles in the past, and I immediately had visions of enjoying this bottle with a meal of roasted chicken.  I’m not sure where that picture came from, it definitely started me on a mission.  More on that later.

This was a simple wine, not terribly complex at all.  Cath probably was a little tired watching me with my nose in the glass, but I worked for a long while to determine exactly what I was experiencing.  It was bright and fruity, and after a while I realized that I was getting vanilla.  I don’t recall having that sensation before, but it was good.  Different, but good.  The flavor of the wine was similarly fruity, and entirely enjoyable.  The finish was of a medium length, and very smooth.  We did drink this bottle with a meal of roasted chicken with earthy root vegetables, and the combination was outstanding.  I could honestly go back for this one on a weekly basis and be quite happy.

This was a spur-of-the moment purchase of an inexpensive wine which turned out quite well.  I learned about a wonderful wine shop and a great new wine!


Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2006

Wine: Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2006

Price: $64.99

Region: Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

Grape Variety: 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault

Purchased: Surdyk’s Wine & Liquor, Minneapolis, MN

This was our second bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and our first experience with Vieux Donjon.  I found it – once again – through Surdyk’s in Minneapolis, and while it’s a little expensive (okay, a lot) for an everyday wine, it seemed like it would be nice for a special occasion.  I feel confident in saying that I hit that one on the head!  I knew this would be a big, strong wine and so we decanted the bottle for 30 minutes before we enjoyed our first sip.  It would have been great to have a swallow of the wine beforehand, as a control sample, but I wasn’t smart enough to do that.  Regardless, it was supple and smooth and fantastic so I’m going to say I made the right decision.  Upon pouring, the wine had a deep ruby coloring.  We spent some time sampling the nose, and the first word out of Cathy’s mouth was “leather”.  I had to agree, and I added “musk” as well.  It was a complex and very pleasing union of leather and black cherry, with a mineral undertone of slate that made this wine extremely interesting.  The finish was smooth and wonderful, and lingered for several minutes.  We agreed that the wine was dry, in the best possible way, and it paired wonderfully with a meal of veal Osso Buco.  It was a fantastic wine, and we’d enjoy another bottle in a heartbeat.

Snoqualmie Naked Merlot 2006

Snoqualmie Naked Merlot 2006

Wine:  Snoqualmie Naked Merlot 2006

Price: $13.99

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State

Grape Variety: Merlot

Purchased: Surdyk’s Wine & Liquor, Minneapolis, MN

I think it may have been the “Naked” in the label that made me look at this wine, but it turns out that had more to do with it containing organic grapes than the clothing choice of the winegrowing team. No matter, it’s a very good wine, regardless the origin of the grapes.  This particular wine had a dark red appearance, and when swirled in the glass it had pronounced legs.  I’m not sure if that tells us much, but it was a favorite test of our friend Tom Lorentz, so I just have to do it for fun every time.  The nose  was bright, with the aroma of dark cherries.  When we tasted the wine, I was quite surprised to suddenly have a hit of leather with my stone fruit.  I just didn’t expect that at all, and it shocked me at first.  The mouthfeel was dry, with medium tannins, and I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it.  My opinion changed markedly, though, when I sampled another taste after the first bite of our meal.  Cath fixed a delicious pork tenderloin with pomegranate-cherry sauce, and the wine just seemed to open up when the two were combined.  At that point the tannins softened markedly, and the fruit flavor really came forward.  The finish was relatively warm, and while it wasn’t lengthy by any means the overall feel was quite good.  I don’t know if I could recommend this wine for sipping alone, but when combined with the meal I thought it was quite nice.  In all, I’d classify it a winner.

Like much of the wine we drink, we found this wine at the 2009 fall wine sale at Surdyks in Minneapolis, at a very reasonable cost.

Mark West Pinot Noir 2007


Wine:  Mark West Pinot Noir 2007

Price: $9.99

Region: Sonoma, California

Grape Variety: Pinot Noir

Purchased: Surdyk’s Wine & Liquor, Minneapolis, MN

I’m not sure where the recommendation originated for this wine, but it’s been our go-to pinot noir for a very long time.  This particular wine had a very light red color, almost reminiscent of a rose.  I’m sure that’s an side effect from the many bottles of very deep red carmenere and cabernets we’ve been drinking lately.  It took me a moment to remember that this was indeed more normal for this type of wine, and then my expectations were reset.  The nose was very fresh, plum with a hint of citrus, and this carried over to the taste as well.  The mouthfeel was very light and bright, but it was not unsubstantial.  The finish was smooth, but not lengthy by any means.  When we serve a dish heavy with mushrooms we generally think of pinot noir, and the Mark West has never failed us.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is complex in its flavor, but it very ably complemented a meal of Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom sauce.  We’ve always been able to trust the Mark West brand as an inexpensive, easy to drink red , and as such we have several more bottles waiting in our cellar for savory meals such as this.

Hogue Riesling 2006


Wine:  Hogue Riesling 2006

Price: $9.99

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State

Grape Variety: Riesling

Purchased: Surdyk’s Wine & Liquor, Minneapolis, MN

We purchased this wine as a result of a recommendation from Food & Wine Magazine, and it was another in a long line of stellar values.  We generally prefer red wines, so when we open a white it generally provides a welcome change.  This particular wine had a bright appearance with a golden hue, and we noticed that many small bubbles seemed to cling to the glass.  It wasn’t in the style of a sparkling wine, but it was definitely a change from the reds to which we’re accustomed.  The nose seemed a bit grassy, with a bit of golden straw.  In addition we found some light lemon scent.  Upon tasting the wine, we found that it was very crisp, with a predominance of honeydew melons and another hint of lemon.  The finish was relatively warm, and the overall feel was quite smooth.  We savored this bottle with a recipe of Roast Peppered Cornish Hens, and it was a terrific counterpoint for the mustard and currant jelly glaze on the birds.  In summary, we were quite pleased with this wine, and happy that we have another bottle cooling in our cellar for future enjoyment.

Like most of the wine we drink, we found this wine at the fall wine sale at Surdyks in Minneapolis, at a very reasonable cost.  It’s a terrific value, and we’ll gladly enjoy it again.

Blackstone Merlot 2006


Wine:  Blackstone Merlot 2006

Price: $6.99

Region: Woodbridge, California

Grape Variety: Merlot

Purchased: Surdyk’s Wine & Liquor, Minneapolis, MN

We had no previous experience with this particular wine, but I’d seen it mentioned in a variety of publications as one that was affordable and well-enjoyed.  It certainly delivers on both counts!  As with many merlots we’ve tasted, this was had a deep, ruby coloring which was brilliant when swirled in the glass.  The nose contained bright berries and a hint of vanilla, but it really didn’t hint at the combinations of flavor we found.  At first taste I recognized a bit of leather and some very firm tannins.  After a bit, black cherry and vanilla became more recognizable, although a low level of bitterness was there throughout the entire experience.  It wasn’t at all unpleasant, it was just another layer to the flavor.  The finish continued for some time, with the leather a just a bit of tar seeming to predominate.  We enjoyed this bottle with a Pork Roast with Whiskey Sauce, and it was when we combined the wine with the tender fats and proteins of the meat that the flavor really began to soften and shine.  It was a great combination, and we found that we both enjoyed the experience.

We found this wine at the fall wine sale at Surdyks in Minneapolis, at a very reasonable cost of $6.99 per bottle.  In our minds it’s very much a “with food” wine, but that’s no hardship at all.  It was a delicious experience, and we’ll gladly do it again.

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2006

Wine:  Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2006

Price: $17.99

Region: Sonoma, California

Grape Variety: Zinfandel

Purchased: Surdyk’s Wine & Liquor, Minneapolis, MN

This wine was a very much an enjoyable journey on an Saturday evening in autumn, paired with a meal of savory roasted butternut squash and shallots over pasta.  The wine had a brilliantly dark coloring, showed some legs when swirled in the glass.  The nose made us think of dark berries and pepper, and Cath found a certain level of heat from the alcohol.  It was pleasant, and provided a firm understory for the flavors to come.  I would describe this wine as having a “grownup” flavor, definitely not berries and candy like some other wines.  We spent some time rolling it around the tongue, and the sensations that dominated could be described with terms like leather and tar and tobacco.  It sounds harsh, but in fact it was quite pleasant.  We agreed that this was no “starter” wine, but worked very well for a taster with some experience in wines.  The tannins in this wine were present, but not overpowering, and in all I would say this wine had a very balanced mouthfeel.  The finish was not overly long, but it was quite smooth and pleasant.  We were impressed by the quality feel of this wine, and felt it was a terrific match for the peppery flavor of the roasted butternut squash.

To the winemakers at Cline:  Well done!