This wine is like a great red Bordeaux only BETTER and CHEAPER!

My wife was out of town so being a “bachelor”… I grilled my dinner (steak). I was looking for a good wine to pair with it and after I tasted this one, it blew me away.

May de Lencquesaing, then owner of the famous Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Bordeaux), purchased this South African property in 2003.

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Is Old Wine Better?

To join in the fun of Open That Bottle Night  I decided to open a wine special to me- a 1986 California Cabernet Sauvignon (this was the year I graduated High School).

Since I am often asked, “Are old wines better?” AND I had a younger   Napa Cab downstairs in the “cellar”- I opened them both.

2006 Atlas Peak (L) / 1986 Beringer (R)

About Older wines… Approximately 95% of wines are made to be consumed within 1 year of their release (when they are first on shelves).

As a general guide, the wines that usually reward aging are the robust reds – the better Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhones from France, their counterparts (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah) from the New World; sturdy Italian reds like Brunello and Barolo; and the rich, strong dessert wines like Port, Sauternes and the fine late-harvest Rieslings from Germany.

 On to the wines…

As you can see from the corks above there is a big difference in the color of the wines. Whites wines get darker as they age but red wines actually get lighter and less saturated (less colorful) as they age.

The 2006 Atlas Peak in the glass, was purple and opaque but the 1986 Beringer was more transparent and brick orange-red in color.

Tasting the wines proved they tasted as different as they appeared.

Atlas Peak 2006 is still a young wine and has some noticeable tannin that will soften as it ages. It had VERY ripe flavors of dark fruit (blackberry, currant), almost jammy, with noticeable OAK.

Made from Cabernet Sauvignon from different Napa Valley mountain vineyards it is a great wine for the price (around $25).

The 1986 Beringer, Knights Valley was much more subtle and restrained. As wine ages in barrel,   the tannins, imparted from the grape skins and stems, become less apparent. The flavors of this wine were less ripe fruit, but still darker fruits, like currant and black cherry, with some earth and iron. Although this wine still had some life left it was nowhere near as  fruit forward as the Atlas Peak.

So which is better?

Kinda like comparing your niece and your grandmother. One is youthful, carefree and full of life, the other has experience/wisdom and has “mellowed” a bit with life and age.

But you love them both.


“Top 100” Wine Values 2011

Every year at this time the wine world waits for the Wine Spectator to release their opinion of the top 100 Wines of the Year. Just because a publication rates and ranks them for you doesn’t guarantee you will like them.

However I think this list is a great place to search out value (under $20) wines/producers that you may not have tried.

Here is the short list of value wines from their list. There is something here for every wine type-why not try a few over the holidays?

#21 (94 Rating) 2009 Georges Duboeuf- Morgon Jean Descombes- $15. (Pictured here) If you like Beaujolais Nouveau you will love this wine! It is 100% Gamay grapes but has a little more body since it is a “higher” level wine. Tolerant Taster approved for the holidays.

Find it …

#23 (93 Rating) 2004 Bodegas Resalte de Peñafiel Ribera del Duero de Restia Crianza Selected Harvest- $15. I haven’t had this wine but I like the producer. If you like Spanish wine, this is a 2004 so it is probably drinking really well right now.  Why not give it a try?

#33 (92 Rating) 2008 Château Tanunda Shiraz Barossa Grand Barossa 2008- $18– Australian wine is still a great value. If you like Syrah it’s the same grape. This is on my list to try.

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#42 (90 Rating) 2008 Quinta de Cabriz Dão- $9. A full bodied Spicy red for under $10. Zinfandel or Cabernet alternative.

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#43 (90 Rating) Gruet Blanc de Noirs New Mexico NV (Non vintage)- $14. One of my favorite inexpensive USA sparkling wine producers. Made in New Mexico? Yes! And it is excellent, for the price. Tolerant Taster approved for the holidays.

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#59 (90 Rating) 2008 Bodegas Dinastía Vivanco Rioja Selección de Familia Crianza- $18. Spanish white that is an alternative to the common white wines.

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#60  (90 Rating) 2008 Allegrini Veronese Palazzo della Torre- $20. I know I said “under $20” but Allegrini makes great value Italian wines. Amarone lovers will enjoy this easy drinking red. Tolerant Taster approved for the holidays.

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#68 (90 Rating) 2009 Buehler Zinfandel Napa Valley- $18. Any wine with Napa Valley appellation listed on the label costs more (it’s true). Great value for Zin lovers.

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#70 (90 Rating) 2009 Morgan Chardonnay Monterey Metallico Un-Oaked-$20. The only Chardonnay on this short list. If you like a cleaner style chardonnay (crisp, fruity) this could be a great find.

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#71 (90 Rating) 2010 Bodegas Godeval Valdeorras Vina Godeval 2010-$18. I had to google this one… 100% Godello (native Spanish grape varietal). Sauvignon Blanc lovers should try this as it has similar flavor descriptions (grapefruit, minerality).

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#72 (90 Rating) 2009 Ravines Riesling Finger Lakes Dry-$16. Domestic, dry Riesling should go well with almost all foods including Chinese/thai takeout.

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#73 (90 Rating) 2007 Fratelli Oddero Barbera d’Alba-$20. Barbera is one of my favorite everyday red wines-due to it’s high acidity it goes really well with pizza, pasta. Chianti alternative. This is on my list to purchase.

Find it …

 As always, please let me know if you like these wines…




What adult loves a big pile of leaves…Cabernet Franc anyone?

This weekend I traveled to the North Fork Wine Trail but when I returned home I needed to clean up  the many scattered leaves that are a constant reminder that winter is soon approaching.

The smell of the leaves swirling in the fall wind took me back to the vineyards and tasting Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Franc is native to Bordeaux, France. Generally it is used as a blending grape along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  But in some areas of the Right Bank of France (Pomeral and St. Emilion) along with the Loire Valley, they use Cabernet Franc to make a single varietal wine.

These wines have aromas of fall leaves, potting soil, wet bark as well as tea, and some other spices. If you have ever stuck your head into a damp pile of raked leaves you will recognize the scent.

Cabernet Franc is called by many names: Bouchy (in the Southwest of France), Bretton, in the Loire Valley, and Bouchet on the Right Bank of Bordeaux.

The grape has more recently found a home on Long Island where the conditions are well suited for growing single varietals that share the same woodsy components of the French wines.

Cabernet Franc actually crossed with Sauvignon Blanc, to create Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is lighter in tannin and color (pigment) than Cabernet Sauvignon. The lower tannin makes it is easier to drink on it’s own, yet it is also very food-friendly, easily pairing with a number of fall dishes like roasted butternut squash or pumpkin soup.


Some of my favorites producers of Cabernet Franc in New York :

Castello di Borghese

Shinn Vineyards


If you would like to try an example of a French Cab Franc, Bourgueil Nuits d`Ivresse Breton is an easy drinking excellent value from the Loire Valley. The name of the wine translates into “Drunken Nights”.



Silver Oak vertical tasting…Does vintage matter?

Silver Oak Napa Valley- 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

The year, or vintage, listed on a the wine label is the year that the grapes were harvested. It is a snapshot of the entire year, in a bottle, (the weather in the region, the weather in the vineyard, and it’s effect on the fruit.)

In wine regions with cooler climates, like Germany or France, there is wider variation in the growing conditions so it is more difficult to consistently get fully ripe fruit. Experts say vintage is VERY important with these wines.

In hotter wine regions like California, the conditions are much more reliable and therefore the wines vary less from vintage to vintage. Let’s see if this is true.

The best way to taste the TRUE difference vintage makes, in a wine, is to drink them side by side, in a vertical tasting. Basically drinking many glasses of the same wine, from different vintages. I know…I know, it sounds like work, but someone has to do it.

I was invited to a vertical tasting, by friends from #Westchester Wine Meetup, of a classic California Cabernet, Silver Oak. My wife and I biked around Napa several years ago and tasted wines at Silver Oak so I know a little about them.

Silver Oak Vineyard- Napa

• They produce full bodied wine, yet they make it ready to drink upon release.

They use 100% American Oak, which gives the wine a spicy quality.

• Silver Oak Cabernet vines are HUGE and are actually a part of the Tolerant Taster web page header above.

• They started out making one wine that contained only 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Now they produce two wines:

1. Silver Oak Alexander Valley- still 100% Cab blended from several of their vineyards.

2. Silver Oak Napa Valley- a Bordeaux style Blend that is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (around 80%). See my tasting notes for actuals.

Now…can I tell the difference from one year to another…

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“Bottle Shock”- Drinking Wine with Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and Heidi Barrett of La Sirena.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to take advantage of an opportunity to taste wine with 2 legends of Napa Valley, Bo and Heidi Barrett.

A little about them…

In 1976, Bo Barrett, working at Chateau Montelena with his father, submitted Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay to the “Judgment of Paris” competition. The Napa Valley wine was up against several top white French Burgundies – and Montelena won. The American victory stunned the wine world and put Napa on the wine map overnight. What’s even more impressive is that the wines were rated by French wine experts.

Click to read more about the Judgement of Paris, and what happened at the “rematch”.

Heidi Barrett, Bo’s wife, was THE wine maker responsible for Screaming Eagle, a California cult Cab, when the wines achieved 99 and 100 point ratings from Robert Parker and  started commanding in excess of $1,000 PER BOTTLE.

Click here to see current prices for Screaming Eagle.

At the event, Bo gave his take on biodynamics: “It’s bullshit.” He talked about how difficult it is Continue reading

My Super Bowl picks (wine and recipes)


Ticket created at CupCake Cards

Looking forward to Superbowl XLV? I am.

Pittsburgh and Green Bay are “old school” football teams. This is the first title game with 2 teams more than 75 years old. Combined, these two teams account for 9 Super Bowl titles.

Football, at it’s best, is testosterone-fueled, hard hitting action. To compete with this level of intensity we need BIG, BOLD, teeth-staining wine.

Keep reading for a couple of my favorite “gridiron greats”- hearty recipes and wines for the big game.


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