Tasting Report: Current Releases from Banshee Wines

Monday, March 28, 2011

Purchase a half-case or more of our wines and receive 1/2 off shipping with checkout code "750m37"

Although I'm not reading as much doom and gloom about the economic state of the wine industry lately, there seems to be no shortage of high quality juice looking to be liquidated by relabelers. There was a good story in the Sunday Globe about Boston-based 90+ Cellars. Another label that's gaining notoriety amongst my deal hound friends thanks to a push from highly regarded local retailers is Banshee Wines.

Banshee's goal is "to delivery distinctive wines that beat the pants off many costing twice as much." Their focus is on domestic reds - mostly Cabernet and Pinot Noir - made in a plush, approachable style. In their best efforts they succeed in finding an intersection between high quality, deliciousness, and affordability I seek out as a deal hound.

I wrote about the 2007 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon previously - rating it 93/100 points and assigning it a "Value Alert" moniker.  I've recently tasted through more current releases from Banshee and although none rise to the level of the 2007, at least at this point in my opinion, I'm pleased with the pattern I'm seeing. They're putting some very good wine in the market at compelling prices.

Here are my notes:

2009 Banshee Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands
14.5% Alcohol
$27.50 Release Price

I read a lot of tasting notes saying how a wine really opened up after an hour our two. You're about to read another one of those.

I bought quite a bit of this wine so when I first opened it I was a little disappointed. It was a little tight, tart, and awkward. But after sipping on it over the course of an evening it really developed beautifully. The aromas and flavors get darker and and richer over time. Some slightly silty tannins in the background.

All in all I think it's great now and all indications are it would improve from just a little bottle age. Nothing crazy - just a year or two. If you want to drink it now, I'd recommend trying a sip, decanting or aerating, or saving a good portion of the bottle for the next night.

What was remaining in the bottle the 2nd day was very good which is unusual for a domestic Pinot Noir and a good indication this needs a little time. 

90/100 WWP: Outstanding 

2008 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% Alcohol
$35 Release Price
Medium to full bodied. Dusty blackberries on the nose. Satisfying velvety mouth feel. Some chalky tannins - a little grip. Some acidity. Quite smooth considering its youth. Might improve a little with 2 - 3 years of age but no reason to wait too long to open this one.

90/100 WWP: Outstanding

2009 Banshee Rickshaw Pinot Noir Sonoma County
14.6% Alcohol
$14 Release Price
If you can get past the label on their Rickshaw wines you're in for a treat.

This wine is nicely transparent visually but clings to the glass due to its 14.6% alcohol and resulting high viscosity. The nose lacks some markers that would otherwise tip its hand as being Pinot Noir when tasted blind, but in its place it there is ample round fruit and a hint of spice.

Really pleases with root beer flavors on the palate on top of supporting round fruit. Some acidity. Hard not to like this. 90 points if you're in the mood for a relaxing vacation in southern California, significantly lower if you'd rather be reading a book about Burgundy on a cold winter night. 

89/100 WWP: Very Good 

2009 Banshee Pinot Noir Sonoma County
14.4% Alcohol
$27.50 Release Price
So young it practically tastes unfinished to me. Won't open another bottle for a year.

Not Rated - will taste another bottle in a year.

Question of the Day: What do you think of Banshee Wines? What are some other relabeling operations you've been impressed with?


Scarecrow Second Label Unboxing Photos

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Flying high off a 100 point Wine Advocate rating for their 2007 Scarecrow, check out these shots for the packaging of Scarecrow's second label wine - the 2008 M. Etain:

 Pretty impressive - I wonder what kind of treatment the flagship wine receives?
With a $225/btl release price and current auction prices of the '07 Scarecrow approaching $600/btl it's intriguing to seek a taste of their wines. One way to taste the greatness is with this second label Monsieur Etain that goes for $125/btl.

Another is to seek out Scarecrow winemaker Celia Welch's Corra where she's the winemaker and owner: http://corrawines.com

Or you could just live vicariously through RJ's Wine Blog. His notes on the '06 Scarecrow and the '08 M. Etain. 

Question of the Day: Have you ever tasted a wine rated 100 points by Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate? If so was it a disappointment? Or could you see where their perfect rating was coming from?


Inside Scoop: Top Picks at Sunday's Bin Ends Fine Wine Flea Market

Saturday, March 26, 2011

On Sunday, March 27th 2011 from 1-5 pm Bin Ends Wine in Braintree, MA is having their monthly fine wine flea market where you get to try before you buy 50+ wines on sale at special event pricing.

Here's a sampling of notable wines being poured at the event: 
  • Wine/Retail/Sale Price/Savings
  • Burge Family D & OH    $49.00    $24.50    50% 
  • Artessa Reserve Cabernet 05    $43.00    $21.50    50%
  • Colonial Estates Chardonnay 05    $40.00    $20.00    50%
  • R Wines First Class Shiraz 07    $40.00    $20.00    50%
  • Conn Valley Chardonay 06    $36.00    $18.00    50%
  • Monastero Chianti Classico Reserva 03    $30.00    $15.00    50%
  • Cosentino Napa Cabernet 03    $25.00    $12.50    50%
  • B Cellars Blend 24  05    $40.00    $24.00    40%
  • Brothers in Arms Shiraz 01    $40.00    $24.00    40%
  • Tolaini Valdisanti IGT 06    $39.00    $23.35    40%
  • Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 05    $33.00    $19.80    40% 
  • Pra Soave Montegrande 07    $30.00     $20.00     33%
  • Herve Azo Sauvignon St Bris 09- Organic    $18.00    $12.00    33%
Save an additional 10% on each item ordered in quantities of 6 or more bottles.

Check 'em out:
Bin Ends Wine
236 Wood Road, Braintree, MA


World of Wine Tasting at Wine Nation: Start Building the Perfect Case

Wine Nation is having a big tasting today, Saturday March 26th from 1-5 pm at their store in the Shoppes at Blackstone Valley located in Millbury, MA:

World of Wine Tasting Event
March 26, Saturday | 1-5pm
Join us for this free tasting event.
Taste more than 100 wines from around the world including Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Chile, Argentina,
Hungary and California.
Beer and food will also be available for tasting. Special in-store pricing on the day of the event.

They're doing 15% off a mixed case of wines being sampled. They passed me a list of wines they'd be pouring at the tasting - here are some that caught my eye (prices quoted are after 15% mixed case discount):
  • Olson Ogden Persuasion ($16.99)
  • Londer Pinot Noir ($16.14)
  • Beckstoffer The Sum ($16.99)
  • Red Door Oregon Pinot Noir ($11.04)
  • Waterbrook Reserve Merlot ($18.69)
  • Di Majo Norante Sangiovese ($8.49)
  • Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay Unoaked ($18.69)
  • Foppiano Petite Sirah ($15.29)
  • King Estate Pinot Gris ($12.74)
  • King Estate Pinot Noir ($22.94)
  • Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier ($9.34)
  • Crios Torrontes ($11.04)
Further Reading:
Store Review: Wine Nation in Millbury, MA 

Bonus Content:
First Look: Old School Pizza in Wellesley, MA

Check 'em out:
Wine Nation
The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley
70 Worcester-Providence Turnpike
Millbury, MA 01527


Wednesday March 23rd: Spring Grand Tasting at Blanchard's West Roxbury

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blanchards Wine & Spirits in West Roxbury, MA is having their spring grand tasting this coming Wednesday March 23rd, 2010 from 6pm-9pm.  Wines poured at the event are discounted and light appetizers are served. The event is free.

Click here for more information 

Further Reading: Here are my notes from a similar event at Blanchards 

Check 'em out:
Blanchards Wine & Spirits
418 Lagrange St.
West Roxbury, MA 02132


Weekend Boston-area Wine Tastings

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lots of notable tastings in the Boston area this weekend (March 19th and 20th, 2011):

  1. Plumpjack/Cade tasting at Newton Lower Falls
    From noon - 4 pm Saturday they'll be pouring wines from Plumpjack along with their newer label Cade. I had an '06 Cade Howell Mountain recently and thought it was an incredible wine. I stopped in their yesterday and noticed they had some well-priced bottles of Seghesio (Sangiovese, Barbera) kicking around after their tasting earlier this week.
  2. Spanish Festival
    Wine ConneXtion in North Andover on Saturday from noon - 5 pm.
  3. Shawsheen Village Liquors Spring Tasting
    From 3 pm - 6pm on Saturday they're holding their Spring Grand Tasting.
  4. Spring Tasting Extravaganza at Fifth Ave. Liquors in Framingham
    From 2 pm - 5 pm on Sunday they're pouring 50+ wines at special event pricing. Visit their site to see a listing of the wines. Thanks to reader KC for the tip on this one.
For more events in your area check out LocalWineEvents.com

Any other wine related stuff going on in the Boston area you'd like to mention? Leave a comment to share a tip.


Bordeaux Tasting Reveals Affordable Gems

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sandwiched between the heralded 2005 and 2009 Bordeaux vintages lie three years I've bought very little of. Not so much because they're not good, but just because there's been so much positive hype about the '05s and '09s. A guy only has some much attention to devote to a region.

Vintage variation is a tricky thing for me on a number of levels. More experienced folks will tell you it's not a matter of good and bad - it's more a matter of appreciating vintage variation. Further, the way Bordeaux is priced, better vintages fetch higher prices. This is different than domestic wines and different from most regions. This presents an opportunity to pick up wines from quality producers in "off" vintages at a good price.

Bordeaux is a tricky thing to publicize and market. In one sense it's the noblest of wine regions, but in another I rarely find myself with a taste for Bordeaux on a weeknight - or even a weekend night for that matter. It's this quirky quandary - brand recognition many regions wish they had yet too fancy for many occasions and relegated to high holidays. Too much tradition for its own good?

Below high flying names costing $50 and up are Bordeaux Superieur wines costing $20 or less. As part of an live online tasting through TasteLive, Planet Bordeaux offered up five 2006-2008 Bordeaux to wine bloggers across the United States to get together online and concurrently share their thoughts.

Here are my notes:

2006 Chateau La Gatte La Butte
13.5% Alcohol

100% Merlot from old vines. Light magenta. Cherries and earth on the nose. A little Leuden's cough drop action. Earth too with undeniable Bordeaux markings. On first sip I get a twinge of acidity in my cheeks and even my ears. Comes together really nicely. Well balanced. Great start.

88+/100 WWP: Very Good

2008 Chateau Lugagnac
13% Alcohol

On the nose I get burnt earth, cocoa, some fruit. Grippy tannins. Surprisingly hot for only 13.5%. Needs some time to settle down, but still a pretty nice wine.

87/100 WWP: Very Good

2008 Chateau de Terrefort-Quancard
13% Alcohol

Tightly wound with tart cherry fruit and harsh tannins. Should improve with time but for now it's one of the more challenging wines in the lineup.

84/100 Good

2007 Chateau de Parenchere Cuvee Raphel
13.5% Alcohol

Medium-full bodied with a really enticing nose. A nice combination of fruity and savory components. Velvety mouthfeel. Low-medium acidity. Doesn't beg for food the way the others do but I think it's versatile enough to play well in a lot of settings. My wine of the night.

90/100 WWP: Outstanding

2008 Chateau Penin Tradition
13% Alcohol

Made in a soft, easy drinking style. Limited aromatically.

82/100 WWP: Good

My thanks to the folks from Planet Bordeaux for supporting wine bloggers with this tasting!

Samples for review.


Mondavi Winemaker Dinner at Morton's The Steakhouse Back Bay

Morton's The Steakhouse is hosting Peter Mondavi Jr. of Charles Krug Winery for a winemaker dinner this coming Tuesday March 22nd, 2011. Check it out:


Morton’s The Steakhouse Back Bay invites wine enthusiasts to dine and drink with one of the country’s foremost winemakers, Peter Mondavi Jr. of Charles Krug Winery.  Known for its extensive, award-winning wine list, Morton’s has cultivated relationships with some of the leading domestic wineries.  The Winemaker Dinners offer guests a glimpse into the inner-workings of these vineyards, as well as an interactive experience with the winemakers themselves. 

Hailing from Napa Valley’s first family of winemaking, Peter Mondavi Jr. was introduced to the process at a young age and quickly became versed in the world of wines.  In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Charles Krug Winery, third generation proprietor Peter explores some of the estate’s finest vintages, including the 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Selection.  Located in the heart of Napa Valley, the famed Charles Krug is home to super-premium and reserve wines made with estate-grown, sustainably farmed fruit representing the region’s most prized sub-appellations. 

In addition to several courses of Morton’s signature cuisine, guests sample Peter’s hand-selected Charles Krug wine pairings.  The menu and wines include:

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
Belgian Endive with Blue Cheese
Tuna Tartare, Diced Tomato and Avocado
Charles Krug, St. Helena - Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

First Course
Mixed Field Greens topped with Grilled Colossal Shrimp
Charles Krug, Carneros Chardonnay, 2009

Second Course
Filet Mignon served with Chive Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Tomato stuffed with Sautéed Spinach, Shiitake Mushrooms
Charles Krug, Vintage Selection - 125th Anniversary, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1980
Charles Krug, Vintage Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006
Charles Krug, Vintage Selection - 150th Anniversary, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008  
Cheese Course
Green Hill (Jersey Cow Milk Cheese)
Roasted Wild Rice (Gouda)
GoreDawnZola (Gorgonzola)
Snow Drop (Goat Cheese)
Charles Krug, Zinfandel Port, Lot XIV

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
6:30 PM - Reception; 7:00 PM - Dinner
$150 per guest, inclusive of tax and gratuity
Call 617-266-5108 for reservations

699 Boylston Street
Boston, MA

Valet parking available.

More Info


Affordable, Expensive Washington Wines Upstage Napa Cab Blind Tasting

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What started off as a chance to taste small production 2007 Napa Cabs turned into an intriguing game of "guess which one is from Washington?" at a recent blind tasting. Fellow Boston-area wine blogger Adam Japko (Wine-Zag.com) lined up 6 2007 Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley ranging from $30 to $125 then added a twist: Two of the wines mixed into the lineup were from Washington State.

The Washington vs. California angle wasn't so much the story as the specific wines he chose to throw into the mix: The $125 2007 Quilceda Creek Galatzine Vineyard Cabernet (97 Wine Advocate) and a $10 wine you can find in any supermarket in America: The 2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet. The results might surprise you...read on.

The evening started off with a tasting of older Stony Hill Chardonnays: 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1997. These wines weren't my favorites - they were kind of just "there" at best and in one case they took on spirit-like flavors (the 1991). I thought the 1997 was slightly corked. Overall, I was reminded of a recent Tweet from Garagiste: "alcohol never dissipates- fruit does". These wines were at a reasonable 13% - how will wines north of 15% fare in 20 years? Not so well I think.

We tasted the Cabernets in two flights of 4. For whatever reason I liked the wines from the first flight a lot more than the second.

Here are my notes on the wines, ranked in order from what I thought was best to worst: 

2007 Stanton Cabernet Sauvignon

Most tannic of the first flight. A big wine with a delicious Napa Cab flavor profile of blackberries, black currant, and some savory notes. Great now but will get better as the tannins integrate. I guessed this was the Realm for whatever reason but I was mistaken.

This wine was also the crowd favorite.

93/100 WWP: Outstanding 

2007 Quilceda Creek Galatzine Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington State)
$125/97 Wine Advocate

Herbaceous eucalyptus and bell pepper notes. Powerful with gritty tannins. Long finish.Very high quality, but not my style.

The crowd voted this wine 5th place out of 8 - a surprisingly low showing for a $125 wine rated 97 points.

92/100 WWP: Outstanding

2007 Taken Napa Valley Cabernet

Slightly sweet fruit. Some pleasant coconut aromas. Smooth. Quite nice. Drinking nicely for such a young wine.

90/100 WWP: Outstanding

2007 Mica Napa Valley Cabernet

A delicious and flavorful fruit-forward single-note kind of wine. Is this the Columbia Crest?

No, it wasn't the Columbia Crest - though others thought it might be too.

89/100 WWP: Outstanding

Emerson Brown Napa Valley Cabernet

Closed nose. Awkward, but I can see this one improving with time. Caught some acetone aromas perhaps?

86/100 WWP: Very Good

Ad Vivum Napa Valley Cabernet
$125/89 Wine Advocate

Grippy. Kind of bitter. Very tannic. Hot.

A pretty poor showing for a $125 wine.

84/100 WWP: Good

Realm Farella Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet
$95/91+ Wine Advocate/90 Wine Spectator

Meaty. Smells like a ball park hot dog, and a bit like spoiled produce behind a grocery store. Smoky. Lots of grip. Drying tannins.

Finished 2nd amongst the crowd.

83/100 WWP: Good

2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet
$10/89 Wine Spectator

Flat, bitter, rough. Caramel. Smells like a wood shop.

3rd place amongst the crowd which is quite an accomplishment considering it sells for 90% less than the top wines in the tasting and a-third the most affordable wine.

82/100 WWP: Good

Conclusions and Outlook

I'm a big fan of Napa Cab and I've had some good experiences with the vintage so far. But trying to guess which wine was the famous Quilceda Creek and which was the lowly Grand Estates was so much fun - it stole the show!

I was surprised how well the Columbia Crest did with the crowd as well as how little I thought of it personally - I've really enjoyed that wine in prior vintages. The Columbia Crest Grand Estate Cab and Merlot (along with their next-level-up H3 bottling) are my go-to grocery store recommendations. I'm still a fan - just not of this bottle on this night.

It was a treat trying the Quilceda Creek. I've heard so much about their wines, and although I'd never tasted it before I wasn't surprised which it was. The quality was undeniable even if its flavor profile didn't align with what I'm looking for in a domestic Cab.

Almost all of these wines will benefit from bottle age, but it's fun checking out wines when they're more readily available. Stanton, my top pick and the crowd favorite as well, doesn't seem to be widely distributed at retail. Here's a link to their website if you're interested in checking them out.

I was surprised and kind of bummed the Realm didn't show better for me. That was one of the few producers I'd heard of before and I was looking forward to trying it. Others liked it so maybe I was off my game after the intermission. Oh well - I guess I saved myself $95 tasting it instead of buying a bottle.

Adam puts on great tastings - my thanks to him for hosting me and others at this event. He's such a generous, kind, and wide open kind of guy. Definitely check out his wine blog when you have a chance - especially his piece that focuses on the Stony Hill Chardonnays at this tasting.

Question of the Day: Have you had any of these wines? If so what do you think of these results? If not, what are some of your recent discoveries in Napa or Washington Cab?


Value Alert: 2006 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

After enjoying a taste of the 2007 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir at Cochon 555 I've been on the hunt for their wines in Massachusetts. The wine had this focused laser beam of flavors I found tremendously appealing. It's a tough wine to find around here -- let alone at a good price -- so I was pleasantly surprised to find the 2006 on sale at West Concord Liquors for $24.99.

The 2006 carries a release price of $38 and was rated 90 points by Wine Spectator. 2006 is considered a ripe vintage by Oregon standards, and given that so many entry-level Oregon Pinot Noirs from the heralded 2008 vintage have been disappointing I was excited to try this wine.

It hit the spot - here are my notes:

2006 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Dundee Hills
$38 Release Price
14.5% Alcohol
5,671 Cases Produced
$24.99 at West Concord Liquors

Light ruby red with viscosity aligned with its 14.5% alcohol. Vibrant and focused. Aromas of earth, strawberry, and match stick continue on to the palate. Long finish. A really beautiful Oregon Pinot Noir that delivers an appreciated step up from others retailing under $30 which I've frequently found to be lacking. 

93/100 WWP: Outstanding 

Check 'em out:
Sokol Blosser
West Concord Liquors

It was my first time in West Concord Liquors but they had some great prices on bin ends of high end wines:
  • 1998 Phelps Insignia for $75 (wine-searcher.com national best $107)
  • 2006 Cakebread Reserve Chard for $41.99 (one retailer on wine-searcher at $40, most at $50+)
  • 2004 Opus One for $120 (wine-searcher.com national best $149)
Plus - no sales tax in Massachusetts. Pretty good deals.

Question of the Day: Where have you been snagging wine deals lately? Any off the beaten path stores or online retailers we should all be aware of?


This Weekend: Barbaresco Tasting at Vintages in Belmont and Concord, MA

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vintages - Adventures in Wine is having a free tasting of Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Friday March 11th from 4-7 pm at their Belmont, MA location -and- Saturday March 12th from 1-5 pm at their Concord, MA location.

The tasting will feature the 2006 Cantina del Pino Albesani, Ovello, and their regular Barbaresco at special pricing. There will also be some Grand Cru Chablis at the tasting as well.

Owner Eric Broege's passion for Piedmont borders on an obsession and his knowledge of the region is invaluable for those trying to find their way to value. Highly recommended.

Check 'em out:
Vintages- Adventures in Wine
Locations in West Concord and Belmont, MA
On Twitter: @VINTAGESvino

Further Reading: A Passageway to Italian Wine through Barbaresco

PS: Don't forget to support direct shipment of wine to Massachusetts by sending an E-mail to your state representative encouraging them to Free the Grapes!


Massachusetts House Bills Would Enable Winery Direct Shipment

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A couple weeks ago David Wade from Boston's CBS affiliate WBZ-TV came over for an update on Massachusetts wine shipping laws. In 2010 courts ruled that direct shipments should take place but little has changed since then. Many wondered - why?

I explained in the interview that we needed additional changes to Massachusetts law to enable wineries to ship to us. At a high level we need to define how licensing and shipments should take place. Beyond that there are a few key sticking points.

Most of the relevant laws are within Chapter 139 Section 19F of the Massachusetts General Laws. Two bills are currently being considered that would address problematic issues with current laws: HB 1029 and HB 1883

Three sticking points with current laws are:
  • Large wineries with distribution in Massachusetts
    19F (a) allows for direct shipment for large wineries provided they don't already have distribution in Massachusetts. Both bills strike 19F (a) and replace it with no mention of whether the winery has distribution in the state.
  • Per-consumer volume caps
    19F (e) says that no household can receive more than 240 liters of wine annually. The problem with the current arrangement isn't the amount of wine allowed - it's that any given winery wouldn't know whether they were the ones who tipped a consumer over the 240 liter cap (about 26 cases).

    HB 1029 imposes a 24 case annual cap for each winery per consumer. HB1883 strikes the mention of a per-household cap without imposing a per-winery cap.
  • Fleet licensing for "Common Carriers" (FedEx and UPS)
    This is by far the most important issue, and it's what has long been limiting small wineries from shipping to Massachusetts. If you consult the FedEx and UPS websites they say they don't ship wine to Massachusetts. Chapter 139 Section 22 requires that each truck that carries wine has a $150 permit.

    I'm not sure how many trucks FedEx and UPS have, and which of their trucks are currently licensed (I've been trying to contact FedEx for clarity on this issue for weeks - if you know someone at FedEx or UPS who could speak to this issue please have them contact me at wellesleywinepress@gmail.com) but the two bills vary in how they'd change licensing.

    HB 1029 offers a $5,000 annual fleet license. HB 1883 simply says that any firm doing business as a parcel delivery service can deliver wine without an additional permit. HB 1883 sounds preferable in this respect since FedEx and UPS might balk at the $5,000 figure and decide it's not worth their while to pay the $5k each year.
So there you have it. If our laws are amended according to this bill (or either one really - I'd expect the two bills to be merged) direct shipment of wine could finally be a reality in Massachusetts.

Note that this would not enable shipments from out of state retailers - this only applies to wineries. As I've said before retailer direct shipment would be much more meaningful to consumers as it opens up competition on price on all wines and especially selection on imported wines. More on that issue in a future post. 

Your call to action right now:

If you live in Massachusetts and favor winery direct shipment visit the Free the Grapes website and use their sample letter to E-mail state senators and representative to explain why this issue is important and to request their support.


West Concord Wine & Spirits: 25% Off and Grand Reopening Tasting

Friday, March 4, 2011

West Concord Wine & Spirits is having a Grand Reopening tasting this Saturday March 5th, 2011 from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. They'll be offering 25% off a mixed case and pouring 50+ wines along with light snacks.

For more info including a list of the wines being poured along with discount pricing click here.


25% Off and Grand Tasting at Upper Falls and Post Road Liquors

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Upper Falls Liquors in Newton and their sister stores Post Road Liquors in Wayland and Auburndale Wine & Spirits in Newton are offering 25% of 6 or more bottles this weekend (Friday through Sunday March 4 - 6 2011).

On Saturday from 1-4pm at each location is their Grand Tasting. Here’s some High End/Interesting wines that will be open:

  • 2007 Darioush Cab
  • 2006 Frescobaldi Mormoretto
  • 2008 “Expression” Amity Hills Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Bordeaux
  • 2007 Antica Cab
  • 2007 Li Veli “Masseria” (Negromaro/Cab)
  • 2007 Montes “Purple Angel” Carmenere
  • 2007 BV Tapestry
  • 2007 Querciabella Mongrana
  • 2007 Rosenblum “Rockpile” Zin
Along with like 50 other wines, and food.

Check 'em out:


Cochon 555: Pork and Pinot Noir in Boston

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cochon 555 -  a national culinary competition promoting heritage breed pigs - came to Boston January 30th, 2011. The event challenges five local chefs to prepare a three course meal for attendees who then vote to determine which will advance to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen to compete against winners from the other ten cities where Cochon 555 is held.

If you're a fan of Top Chef the format felt very similar to the challenges contestants go through each week where they need to prepare food for a large audience within a challenging set of constraints.

The event is all about pork, but for me it was all about the wine. I enjoyed the mix of top-flight wines from family owned wineries pouring mostly domestic Pinot Noir. Because the primary focus was on food, the lines at the wine tables were relatively short which provided an excellent opportunity to get to know the winery reps present at the event.

The 2011 Boston event was held at the Fairmont Copley Hotel.  A VIP hour kicked off the event with something for everyone. Beer, sustainable oysters, artisan cheeses, bacon-themed appetizers, and an impressive selection of wines from West Sonoma Coast Vintners Peay, Freeman, Red Car, Ramey, Boheme, Martinelli, Freestone, and Littorai.

In Boston the chefs competing were:
  • Matt Jennings from Farmstead
  • Barry Maiden from Hungry Mother
  • Lydia Shire from Scampo & Locke-Ober
  • Mary Dumont from Harvest
  • Will Gilson Garden at the Cellar
As the chefs were preparing, plating, and serving their dishes I made my way around to the wine tables. I've been having a hard time finding value from the highly-regarded 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir vintage. The event provides an opportunity to taste higher end bottlings from well regarded producers so I was excited to see what was in store. First stop: Elk Cove.

I enjoyed talking with Elk Cove's Sales Manager Craig Hedstrom as he described each of their wines. We started off with a couple whites - a Pinot Blanc and a Pinot Gris. The 2009 Elk Cove Pinot Gris really caught my attention. I've had this wine in prior vintages and it felt a little lean but this 09 was impressive. More luscious and generous but balanced nicely with acidity. Crisp and clean yet round and delicious.

Craig Hedstrom
Sales Manager, Elk Cove
Then we tasted through their 2008 Pinot Noirs. The 2008 Willamette Valley, the Mount Richmond, and the Five Mountains.  The Willamette Valley sells for around $25 here in Massachusetts and the single vineyards sell for $40 and up.

For immediate consumption, I think the 2008 Elk Cove Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is the value play. It's one of the few entry-level 2008 Oregon Pinot Noirs I'd call outstanding and it's been reliably delicious across multiple bottles. It's one of those wines that no matter how many bottles I buy I know I'll run out of them in a year or two. The single vineyard wines are great, but they're expensive and I think they need bottle age to show their stuff.

Next stop was Sokol Blosser.

They were pouring their 2007 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir which sells for around $38. 2007 wasn't a well-regarded vintage for Oregon Pinot Noir but this wine was one of my favorites of the entire evening.

I thought it was vibrant with elegant, focused flavors. Nice acidity and no green/stemmy aromas or flavors to distract from the fruit. Wow.

Hard to find in Massachusetts but I'll keep my eye out for this wine for sure.

I took a little break from the wine tasting and checked out the food. The Harvest table was serving one of the more unique things I've ever tasted: Bacon cotton candy. Just as I was wondering how they injected bacon flavor into cotton candy I realized - the cotton candy was wrapped around a stick of bacon! It was actually a pretty pleasing combination of sweet and savory.

Chefs were working hard to get things prepared and plated in time for guests:

Here's Tiffani from Top Chef talking with an attendee. She was working with the folks at Harvest:

Here's Lydia Shire from Scampo & Locke-Ober:

The day after the event I had lunch at Scampo with Paul Sequeria from Red Car Wine Co.  I learned of the event from the Red Car Facebook Page and the 2007 Red Car Heaven & Earth La Boheme Pinot Noir was one of the best Pinot Noirs I've ever tasted.

At the event Paul was pouring the 2007 Red Car Tomorrowland Syrah and the 2009 Trolley Pinot Noir. Both were showing nicely.

More on Red Car in a future blog post for sure. Subscribe to the WWP so we can keep in touch.

Domaine Serene was pouring their plush 2006 Evenstad. I've heard good things about Domaine Serene and this was my first chance to try it. I wasn't disappointed - very round and satisfying. No green notes. I like their labels too. The 06 Evenstad retails for $58.
I've heard good things about Peay's Pinot Noirs. They were at the event but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to taste their wines:
Conclusions and recommendations:

Cochon 555 is a pork-focused event that offers something for almost everyone. Beer, wine, oysters, cheese, and even some vegetarian options. As a wine enthusiast, especially one who enjoys domestic Pinot Noir, this event was very enjoyable.

The tour is just getting started. Check out these links for an upcoming Cochon555 event near you:
I attended the event on a press pass. 

Question of the Day: Have you been to Cochon555? If so what did you think?



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