3 of My Definitive Benchmark Wines

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Friday night I got together with friends to record a podcast about another interest of mine - points & miles. There's certain occasions when I want to share esoteric recent finds, but this was an occasion to introduce wines I have a personal connection with. And for times like these I want to "pay it forward" and share wines that friends shared with me that got me into wine.

Here are three wines I chose and why...

2008 Cakebread Cellars Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon

Cakebread Benchland Select was the wine that go me into wine. Me and my wife were newly married and transitioning from drinking mostly beer to wine. A friend came over with a bottle of Cakebread Benchland Select and it was transformative. This 2008 was showing every bit as well. A superb Napa Cab that displayed both rich, inviting fruit with serious supporting balance.


2013 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

For me, there's no more utterly enjoyable wine to drink than Kosta Browne's rich, fruit forward Pinot Noir. I'm just hard-wired biased towards the flavor profile of California Pinot Noir and KB always delivers. In isolation it's splendid but in comparison it's extraordinary. The stuff just tastes amazing, and it goes much deeper than that.


2009 Alto Moncayo

Two definitive wines I consistently adore from Spain are El Nido Clio and Alto Moncayo. I went with the 2009 Alto Moncayo because it's always fun to break out a "100 point wine". The 2009 is a stunning 16% alcohol (how do they hide it?) but showed so well. Spectacular wine. A crowd-favorite among giants.


Question of the Day: What are some of the benchmark wines you've discovered over the years? What wines would you break out with friends who aren't yet obsessed with wine to help them understand what makes wine special to you? 

I find that wine pairs brilliantly with travel. And points & miles are one way to make travelling to wine destinations possible. I'd love it if you gave this podcast and a listen and if you've got any questions on points & miles to connect on Twitter (@RobertDwyer) and/or drop me an e-mail.


$30 off $100 Expires Soon: Top 10 Wines to Buy in Wisconsin from Wine.com

Friday, September 25, 2015

Wine.com's amazing $30 off $100 deal ends soon. You can use DISCOVER30A (expires 9/30/2015) and WINEAMX (expires 10/9/2015) once each per email address.

I received a request via email to share some picks for the best wines available on Wine.com for shipment to Wisconsin. Wine.com inventory and pricing varies by state because they're individually licensed as a retailer in each state and therefore buy wine for shipment in each state from distributors in that state.

You can't stack other discount codes with this $30 off $100 since Wine.com only allows one promo code per order. But you can get free shipping by signing up for Steward Ship (then subsequently cancelling it before your free trial is over). More on this at the bottom of the post.

If you'd like to use my affiliate link (where I get a commission for your order) click this link or the banner image below:

Shop the largest selection of 90+ point rated wines under $20.


The rest of the links in this post are *not* affiliate links. So if you want to get a little extra off your order compare portal rates here, shop through your preferred portal and save a little extra.

Here's 10 wines I'd recommend, and why:

  1. Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2011
    It's been long enough since our trip at the beginning of summer to Italy that I'm looking back on it longingly. Visiting Allegrini was a highlight and Palazzo della Torre is the first wine I'd recommend trying for an introduction to their lineup.
  2. Walt Blue Jay Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2010
    Here's one I haven't tried in a while but jumped out at me for it's reduced price and pedigree. Formerly labeled Roessler, when acquired by Hall Winery these were renamed "Walt". I remember it being really solid and I like it at $29.99 down from $40 (before discounts).
  3. Losada Bierzo 2011
    I've been trying to track this down locally for a couple years now. Wine.com doesn't seem to restock it in Massachusetts and I've not seen it come up for convenient purchase. I'd love to try more wines from Bierzo (Spain) for their insane QPR proposition one and this one as a great place to start.
  4. Michael David Winery Petite Petit 2013
    I haven't written much about Michael David's wines here but I find them to be a realiably luscious, enjoyable, affordable producer. Check 'em out.
  5. Juan Gil Monastrell Silver Label 2013
    No Top 10 list would be complete without a shout out to Juan Gil. A bit more on why here.
  6. Balletto Winery Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir 2012
    It's been a while since I discovered this by the glass at Sorellina in Boston, but it's an example of a $20-$25 California Pinot Noir that hits the mark. Thanks to $30 off $100 this falls down to just over $18, and that's a bargain for a wine this good.
  7. Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno 2013
    Oreno is Sette Ponti's flagship wine. After trying them at a Wine Spectator tasting in Boston a few years back I visited them in Italy. Although I like their Crognolo more for daily drinking, Oreno is a very nice splurge when you can get it for less than $50. And thanks to $30 off $100, plus a sale on this wine in Wisconsin currently, you can.
  8. Meiomi Pinot Noir 2014
    Meiomi and Juan Gil. There's only so much of it you can drink. But if you haven't grown tired of it yet, here comes the 2014. This will be the last vintage before people start decrying it wasn't as good as it was when Joe Wagner owned it (he recently sold the brand). Better stockpile it now if you love Meiomi.
  9. Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos 2013
    I mentioned the baller Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi earlier in the week. That might be a little pricey to experiment with at around $70. But This Petalos from Bierzo is a terrific affordable introduction to his offerings.
  10. Sojourn Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013
    This bottle from Sojourn is my go-to "reliably oustanding, utterly satisfying every time, but not so expensive I'll feel guility about opening it" play. Definititely try this if you haven't before, then join their mailing list and buy some every year. Terrific winery to do business with - they know how to run a mailing list.
Remember, to maximize this deal:
  • Sign up for a Steward Ship trial (one per email address).
  • To get $30 off $100 you have to hit $100 but try go overshoot as little as possible.
  • You can use DISCOVER30A (expires 9/30/2015) and WINEAMX (expires 10/9/2015) once each per email address.
  • The discount should apply immediately on the order. If it hasn't, something has gone wrong.
  • You don't actually have to pay with a Discover or AmEx to use the codes.
  • Don't forget to cancel Steward Ship once the orders have shipped.
Looking for the best deals in your state? Drop me an email or ping me on Twitter (@RobertDwyer) and I'll have a look. Thanks!


Tasting Report and Opportunity: Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When I visited Spain a couple years ago, I was chatting with Loren Gil of Gil Family Estates and asked him: If I like Juan Gil Monastrell, El Nido Clio, and Alto Moncayo - what are some other Spanish wines I should check out?

I had a hard time understanding the pronunciation of the specific bottlings he mentioned so I gave him my iPhone and had him type them out. The first wine he listed: Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi.

The wines I mentioned as examples are big wines. They're high in alcohol and can get a bit thick and chewy at times. Even boozy. But when they're presented in the right setting I think they do pull it together successfully thanks to high acidity and overall lusciousness. But I think he mentioned the Finca Dofi for its pedigree and as a gateway to exploring a different style of Spanish wines than what I'd been enjoying.


Priorat is a wine region, quite prestigious, located in Northeast Spain not too far from Barcelona. The grapes used in Priorat are Garnacha and Cariñena - along with Bordeaux varietals.

Finca Dofi is the name of a vineyard, acquired in the 1990s.

Alvaro Palacios is the producer.

The overall style is often compared to Napa Valley Cabernet. But I think this one succeeds for the depth of flavor intensity it achieves while remaining decidedly medium bodied.

Tasting Notes

2010 Alvaro Palacio Finca Dofi
14.5% Alcohol
Around $70

It's all here with fresh, elegant fruit accompanied by appealing earthy notes. It's a complete wine with depth of character in the front, back, and mid-palate. Meticulously balanced. Quite an achievement.

94/100 WWP: Oustanding

Tasting Opportunity

If you live in the Boston area and want to try Finca Dofi, along with other wines from Alvaro Palacios (including his terrific Descendientes di J. Palacios wines from Bierzo) you're in luck. Lower Falls Wine Co. in Newton, MA is having a tasting today at 5p.

Bottom Line

Sometimes when I want to check out whether I'll like the style of a certain wine region I nibble around the edges at affordable but well regarded offerings. But perhaps a better approach is to just go for it and try one of the benchmark bottlings from a well-regarded producer. At around $70, Finca Dofi isn't cheap. But it delivers substantial enjoyment and I'll look forward to trying more wines from the Alvaro Palacios portfolio and from Priorat as well.

Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite wines from Priorat?



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