Posts filed under ‘Price points’

October 2010: Holiday Gift Wines ~ $40 & Up

We’re back … leaner & meaner (Details?) … to taste, note & rank wines on any given theme in the Seattle marketplace.   This tasting focused on a lineup of HOLIDAY GIFT WINES (from around the world) which retail above $40.  We do this tasting every fall in preparation for the upcoming wine-giving season & it’s a great one as there’s never a bad wine in the bunch.  You should have seen Jens today, trying to decide which one of the 3 wines that scored 94 points should be his favorite for the unveiling, going with the one he noted as rocking!  And that’s our new thing, watching people discuss wine can be more fun (for some people) than reading wine notes, so if you’re interested … here’s the UNVEILING>

And for you old fashioned fans, here’s the final ranking with notes.  Wine receiving the same score are ordered alphabetically:

Cadaretta 2007 Syrah (94 points)
Region: Columba Valley, WA; Varietals: Syrah
Retail: $38.99 | Mixed Case $31.19
Tasting Notes: Nose: big, bold aromas of grilled & charred beast, dark berries, burnt vanilla, thick cut crispy bacon with raspberry jam. Palate: sweet rigpe fruit of brambleberries, roasted coffee beans, roasted beef, dried herbs – thyme + oregano & spices – coriander & clove. (Ken’s personal favorite – 93 points)
Finca La Anita 2006 Petit Verdot  (93 points) 
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Varietals: Petite Verdot
Retail: $39.99 | Mixed Case $31.99
Tasting Notes:  Very inviting aromas of dark fruit, blackberry pie with some spicy notes.  Aahhh … this is wonderful! Excellent mouthfeel. Wonderful acidity & tannic structure. Layers of red & dark fruit. Ripe black & blueberries, dark chocolate & mocha. Finish goes on forever.  Rocking!  (Jens’ personal favorite –94 points)

Vall Llach 2006 Priorat 
(93 points)
Region: Priorat, Spain; Varietals: Garnacha/Carinena/Cab/Syrah/Merlot
Retail: $39.99 | Mixed Case $31.99
Tasting Notes: Nose has nice spice, black pepper, nice amount of ripe black fruits, balanced light acidity. Very smooth, rich fruit on the palate. The fruit is ripe enough to pair with duck & raspberry sauce. Yum! (Gina, 93 points)

Chateau de Saint Cosme 2008 Gigondas (92 points)
Region: Southern Rhône, France; Varietals: Grenache/Syrah
Retail: $44.99  | Mixed Case $35.99
Tasting Notes:  Beautiful aromas of red & dark fruit with lots of pepper.  Intense, tight flavors of dark fruit – lots of blackberries & raspberries & lots of pepper … I mean pepper! Very long finish. Lots of potential! (Jens, 92 points)

Boekenhautskloof 2006 Syrah (92 points)
Region: Coastal Range, South Africa; Varietals: Syrah
Retail: $53.99 | Mixed Case $43.19
Tasting Notes:  Very lovely nose – lots of ripe dark fruit with some herbal notes. Big, full-bodied, but well-balanced. Excellent fruit. Again lots of dark fruit, mainly blackberries, blueberries, dark chocolate with some herbal notes. Long, elegant finish. (Jens, 94 points)

Mas Doix 2007 Salanques Priorat (92 points)
Region: Priorat, Spain; Varietals: Garnacha/Cariñena/Syrah/Merlot/Cab;
Retail: $44.99  | Mixed Case $35.99
Tasting Notes:  Nose: Cherry blossoms, sweet grass, raspberry pie, mocha on the nose, clove too. Palate: Dark berry, marionberry fruit, coca-cola, bramble, sticks & stones – very elegant & almost velvet on the palate. (Ken, 93 points)

K Vintners 2008 Morrison Lane Syrah
(91 points) 
Region: Walla Walla Valley, WA; Varietals: Syrah
Retail: $51.99 | Mixed Case $41.59
Tasting Notes:  This has a subtle nose, red fruits – raspberries & cranberries. The color isn’t as vibrant … perhaps has a few years on it.  Delightful, on the palate fruit is subtle like the nose. Earthy & nice acidity. Tart cherry but elegant. (Gina’s personal favorite – 88 points [not her highest ranking, but still her favorite wine])

October 2010 Tasting Panel:  Jens Strecker, Gina Gregory, Ken O’Hara

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at:
Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
phone: 206-783-2007


October 21, 2010 at 6:19 am Leave a comment

November 2009: Holiday Wines ~ $30-$50

Every wine in this lineup would make a stellar holiday gift; it just depends on what you’re looking for:  a more medium-bodied Pinot Noir from California?  a full-bodied, Cab blend from South Africa? We won’t pretend that this is an across the board representation of what’s available in Seattle in this price range (as the reps drop off their candidate bagged and so we don’t know what we’ve got for a price point tasting like this until the unveiling) but the fun thing about this tasting was the level of oohing and aahing going on in that back room! The lineup was superior as you can see from the scores and notes. And, with a wink at last November’s Holiday Wine Tasting, where the overall winner was the El Quintanal 2005 Ribera del Duero (95 points) … the Spaniards are kicking butt! Happy Holidays and happy reading:

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Arzuaga 2005 Ribera del Duero Crianza
(94 points)
Region: Ribera del Duero, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo/Cab Sauv/Merlot; Retail: $35
Notes: N: cherry candy, gamey, cola, vanilla, high toned – so much going on here – I feel I need night vision goggles just to capture all the elements I am missing. P: nose follows through on palate with big flavors, leather, blackberry, cherry, smooth oak, perfect balance. (Ken)
Notes: Dark, dark ruby color. Powerful, but delicate aromas of dark fruit, saddle leather and herbs. Lots going on here – layers over layers of dark fruit, leathers, with herbal and spicy notes. Wonderful. Full-bodied but elegant and complex. Great acidity and long finish. Tastes like high-end Spanish. (Jens)

Mas Doix 2005 Salangues Priorat (94 points)
Region: Priorat, Spain; Varietals: Garnacha/Carenena/Syrah/Merlot/Cab Sauv; Retail: $51
Notes: Wonderful, dark ruby color. Beautiful, powerful aromas of wild berries, dark fruits and wild flowers. Big, full-bodied, great concentration and depth. Wonderful acidity. Lots of dark fruit, boysenberries, blackberries with herbal notes and some spice. Long, long finish. Needs to age. (Jens)
Notes: N: still coy, closed on nose, needs to open yet, blueberries & spice, cloves & cardamom, French perfumes. P: taut still but good firm tannins, balanced flavors of candied black cherries, espresso mocha, spiced sugar plums, worn leather. (Ken)

De Toren 2006 Fusion V (93 points)
Region: Stellenbosch, South Africa; Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot; Retail: $50
Notes: N: roasted game meat, bacon, smoked spices, with a bright beam of blackberries & black pepper P: meaty wine with pomegranate, espresso, plum jam (Ken) Notes: Mature notes of prunes, almond and wet feather, very elegant on the palate delivering everything in the nose plus smoke, tobacco and leather on the finish. (A Pinotage style.) Rustic but yet smooth. Very good. (Giuseppe)

Capanna 2006 Rosso Di Montalcino (92 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese Grosso; Retail: $32
Notes: Little lighter on the nose – more red fruit – cherry/plum/raspberry. Great finish. Great balance of fruit/acid/oak/alcohol! This wine is awesome! (Mike) Notes: Framboise, black raspberries, has a sweet punch, gentle and feminine upfront yet juicy and firm. (Catherine)

Freeman 2005 Pinot Noir (92 points)
Region: Sonoma Coast, CA; Varietals: Pinot Noir; Retail: $47
Notes: N: Pinot Noir! Nutty huckleberries, forest twigs, pine, savory cherry sauce P: very perfumed plalate of butter simmered plums, fennel, pepper & roses (Ken)
Notes: Love the nose, bursting with berries on the vine, classy, violets, minerals strike through it, has intrigue, flinty finish, pine & fir needles. (Catherine)

Andeluna 2003 Grande Reserve Passionado (91 points)
Region: Mendoza, Argentina; Varietals: Cab Sauv, Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc; Retail $50
Notes: Dark intense red. Sweet aromas of stewed fruit and dried blueberries. Delicious. Truly sexy.Old world smell with new World finish. Very polished. Well done. (Giuseppe)
Notes: Beautiful, dark ruby color. Powerful aromas of ripe blackberries and cassis. Dense, complex, good concentration and elegance. Lots of dark fruit, boysenberries and black berries. Very good mouthfeel. Long finish with fine tannins. (Jens)

DeLille Cellars 2007 D2 (91 points)
Region: Yakima Valley, WA; Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot; Retail: $41
Notes: Dark ruby. Bright bouquet of sour cherries, dried apricots and peaches. Sexy but elgant. Powerful note of tobacco leaf. Superb red with strong blue cheeses. (Giuseppe)
Notes: Beautiful, dark ruby color. Fantastic nose of dark fruit, black currants. Very complex, well-balanced with great acidity which lifts the dark fruit flavors. Coffee, espresso, mocha notes. Beautiful long finish with fine tannins. (Jens)

Terra Valentine 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (91 points)
Region: Napa Valley, CA; Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon; Retail: $45
Notes: Great Old World/New World mix – all fruit up front, but the finish has this smoky/earthy thing going on – great wine. (Mike)
Notes: Beautiful bright ruby red. Very elegant. Silky long finish, mouthfeel. Well-balanced. Sexy, velvety red. A cross between Cabernet and Syrah? Great present. Friendly but a blockbuster! (Giuseppe)

November Tasting Panel:  Jens Strecker, Ken O’Hara, Catherine Reynolds, Giuseppe Carraturo, and guest taster: Michael Friesen.

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at the following local wine shops:
Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
phone: 206-783-2007

November 27, 2009 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

December 2008: Holiday Wines for $25 and up


These are your gift wines!  These are the special bottles you give to your wine loving friends, your father-in-law, your boss, or perhaps – better yet – the special bottle you open over the holidays while enjoying an evening with special family or friends.  These wines represent a broad range of grapes and wine producing regions around the world, some more obscure than others.  From the rugged Umbrian Montefalco di Sagrantino to the more refined Chateau Pichecan 2003 Margaux, a Left Bank Bordeaux, to the “hedonistic pleasure bomb” El Quintanal 2005 Ribera del Duero (that scored highest at the tasting), there are some interesting, delicious wines to be had.   Per the Tasting Circle’s stated goal, all wines are currently available in the Seattle marketplace and can be ordered if you don’t see them at your local wine shop or grocery store.


CLASSIC (95 – 100 points):
El Quintanal 2005 Ribera del Duero
  (95 points)
Region:  Ribera del Duero, Spain; Varietals: Tempranillo 
Beautiful, dark ruby color.  Wonderful plump aromas of red & dark fruit.  Beautiful, rich, velvety, blackberry/leather flavors.  Complex, elegant, great acidity.  Licorice and herbal notes. Long finish with full layers of well-balanced tannins.  A hedonistic pleasure bomb.  Retail: $28 

EXCELLENT (90 – 94 points):
Benegas 2005 Finco Libertad
(94 points)
Region:  Argentina; Varietals:  Cab Sauv/Cab Franc
Beautiful dark, ruby color.  Great aromas of wild & dark berries, coffee grounds.  Flavors of cooked dark fruit, blackberries and boysenberries, wood.  Smoother than it smells, well-balanced, gorgeous!  Retail: $28.50 

Chateau Pichecan 2003 Margaux (94 points)
Region:  Bordeaux, France; Varietals:  Cab Sauv/Merlot
Beautiful color.  Aromas of spicy cherry, sticky herbs.  Smooth, complex, elegant.  Medium-bodied, great texture and fruit flavors.  Wonderful, smooth finish with fine tannins.  Retail: $44   

D’Ahrenberg 2006 Laughing Magpie (92 points)
Region:  McLaren Vale Valley, Australia; Varietals: Shiraz/Viognier 
Wonderful dark, inky color.  Great aromas of spicy red berries, floral.  Elegant, concentrated, great acidity.  A little bit tight on the finish but good long finish. This would be a great dinner wine. Retail: $30 

Arnaldo-Caprai 2005 Rosso (91 points)
Region:  Umbria, Italy; Varietals: Sangiovese/Sagrantino 
Claret colored.  Aromas of strawberries, delicate cherry candy.  Medium- to full-bodied.  Great acidity, but still a little bit tart.  Beautiful dark fruit flavors with some cherries, dust, & sweat.  Tight finish with a strong tannic structure. Retail: $31.50 

Norton Arnold 2006 Red Wine (91 points)
Region:  Yakima, Washington; Varietals:  Cab Sauv/Merlot/Cab Franc
Wonderful dark, inky, color.  Aromas of canned pears, bright red and dark fruit.   Mulling spices, toasted, savory.  Smooth, medium-bodied but builds up on the palate. Beautiful dark fruit flavors.  Elegant finish. Retail: $29.50 

Andrew Will 2006 Two Blondes (90 points)
Region:  Yakima Valley, Washington; Varietals: Cab Sauv/Cab Franc
Beautiful aromas of dark fruit, spice & earthy truffle notes, pleasant, elegant, good acidity and balance; smooth tannins on the finish. Retail: $55 

Jimenez-Landi 2006 “Sotorontero” Mentrida (90 points)
Region:  Mentrida, Spain; Varietals:  Syrah/Merlot/Cab Sauv
Beautiful color.  Intense aromas of dark fruit, cherries, molasses cookie.  Medium- to full-bodied with dark fruit flavors, cherries, plum, tar.  Wonderful acidity and concentration.  Well-balanced.  Long finish w/ fine tannic structure.  Retail: TBA 

VERY GOOD (85 – 89 points):
Cuvaison 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
(Napa) (89 points)
Region:  Napa Valley, California; Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon 
Nice dark, inky color.  Spicy, intoxicating, rich layers of cooked black fruit.  Pleasant texture.  Good acidity.  A little bit tart on the finish.  Fine tannins & good body. Retail: $43 

Herdade do Mouchao 2002 Vinho Tinto (89 points)
Region: Regional Alentejo, Portugal; Varietals: Alicante/Bouschet/Trincadeira
Beautfiul dark, ruby color.  Pleasant aromas of dark fruit, black olives & oregano.  Great body & acidity.  Concentrated.  Flavors of dark fruit, black & blueberries.  A little bit tight on the finish, even slightly astringent.  Retail: $52 

Tasting Panel:
Catherine Reynolds – Sommelier; Owner, Vino y Queso
Gina Gregory – Sommelier; Manager Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
Giuseppe Carraturo – Owner, VI Wines Distributing; former NA Export Manager for Bertani
Jens Strecker – Owner & Wine Manager, Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
Ken O’Hara – Sales Manager, A&B Imports; former chef
Theresa Slechta – Domestic Portfolio Manager, Vinum Imports

For more info on these tasters, check out their bios under TASTERS.

December 11, 2008 at 6:32 am Leave a comment

November 2008: Holiday Wines for $25 or less


The inaugural tasting for the newly formed Tasting Circle was to taste 11 wines that would be suitable for the holiday season without breaking the bank.  Other than the mentioned price point (and the fact that all wines turned out to be red), they were different varietals from different regions around the world.  In some ways, comparing completely different wines is difficult and could even be considered unfair; however, for our purposes, it was a fun, enlightening tasting, and for wine buyers needing wine for a holiday party, a dinner party or gifts in this price range, it’s a list worth considering.  Per the Tasting Circle’s stated goal, all wines are currently available in the Seattle marketplace and can be ordered if you don’t see them at your local wine shop or grocery store.

EXCELLENT (90 – 94 points):
Mannucci Droandi 2004 Chianti Classico Ceppeto (90 points)
Region: Tuscany, Italy; Varietal:  Sangiovese
Vibrant nose of bright red fruit.  Good acidity. Rustic flavor profile, plum with delicate oak.  Bigger on the palate. Drink now.  Delicious with tomato based pasta.

VERY GOOD (85 – 89 points):
Fess Parker Winery 2005 Syrah (88 points)
Region: Santa Barbara Country, CA; Varietal:  Syrah
Deep, smoky, spicy aromas, an intoxicating nose.  Slightly sweet flavors of dark fruit, bacon.  Chewy texture.  Large finish.  Drink within a year.

Graham Beck 2005 The William (88 points)
Region: Stellenbosch, South Africa; Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon/Pinotage
Smoky, bacony aromas.  Beautiful dark fruit, leather, smoke and a little earthy.  Excellent body & concentration.  Finish could be stronger.  One of the best wines at the tasting.  Drink now.  Needs a steak.

Filippo Galino 2006 Barbera d’Alba (87 points)
Region: Piedmont, Italy; Varietal:  Barbera
Beautiful nose of roses & raspberries.  Flavors of tart red cherries, violets, fennel.  Fine acidity.  Good body & concentration.  Short finish.  Drink now to a year. 

Viñedos de El Sequé 2006 Monastrell (87 points)
Region: Alicante, Spain; Varietal: Monastrell (Mourvedre)
Aromas subdued.  Flavors of rich, bold fruit.  Intense, heavy wine.  Good tannic structure on the finish.

Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2005 Téte-à-Téte (86 points)
Region:  Sierra Foothills, CA; Varietals: Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache
Aromas of dark fruit, smoke, even ashes.  Delicate flavors of black cherry, smoke, leather & spice.  Great acidity.  Short finish.


Herdade dos Grous 2006 Vinho Regional Alentejano (86 points)
Nice red fruit, strawberry aromas with spice & mint. Good acidity with flavors of bright red & blue fruits and a little pepper at the end.  Short finish. 


Bricco 2005 Red Wine (86 points)
Region:  Washington; Varietals: TBA
Light & translucent in color.  Nice bouquet.  Pleasant flavors of forest & dark fruit, dry cherry.  Great body & elegance.  Nice tannins on long finish.

Joan d’Anguera 2006 Planella (86 points)
Region:  Montsant, Spain; Varietals: Carignan/Grenache/Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah
Faint nose of cooked berry, raspberry.  Good blueberry/raspberry fruit, concentration & body.  Light spice on the finish.  One of the more interesting wines in the lineup.

Vigna della Rivolia du Renzo Castella 2006 Dolcetto Diano d’Alba  (85 points)
Region:  Piedmont, Italy; Varietal:  Dolcetto
Light spice & raspberry on the nose. Flavors of bright, red fruit.  Good acidity & balance.  Short finish.  Drink now.


GOOD (80 – 84 points):
Delta Vineyard 2006 Pinot Noir (84 points)
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand; Varietal:  Pinot Noir
Elegant smoky, spicy nose (the best part of this wine).  Bright cherry, fruit with warm earth; a little disappointing after the nose.  Good acidity.  Very short finish.  Drink now. 

Tasting Panel:
Ari Manzin – Owner, Bianco Rosso Imports
Catherine Reynolds – Sommelier; Owner, Vino y Queso
Gina Gregory – Sommelier; Manager Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
Jens Strecker – Owner & Wine Manager, Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
Ken O’Hara – Sales Manager, A&B Imports; former chef
Theresa Slechta – Domestic Portfolio Manager, Vinum Imports

For more info on these tasters, check out their bios under TASTERS.

December 7, 2008 at 7:50 am Leave a comment