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Jean Brislance

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  1. 2003 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County - Dark reddish-purple color. Nose is of dark berries, spice, dried herbs, and some black pepper. On the palate, more of the same, with the added presence of a little vanilla and some oak. The flavors are not very concentrated. In fact, this bottle seemed rather lean and watered down, missing that ripe, jammy quality that I often like in this wine. Also seemed pretty tight, with a tannic, slightly astringent finish. Not sure if this was an off bottle or what, but the 2002 was a much better wine, in my humble opinion. All the best, Jean
  2. 2003 Marcarini Nebbiolo Langhe “Lasarin” - A dark, yet very clear, ruby color. Nose shows predominately cherry and herbs. Flavors also of cherries and herbs, but also some red berry, flowers, and a little bit of licorice. Kind of tight, with some grippy but fine tannins. Finish is of medium length, and is fairly clean. This is the first 2003 Piedmont wine I have tried, and it did not strike me as overly ripe. There is decent balance here. Not overly complex or profound, just a serviceable weeknight pizza wine. $17. All the best, Jean
  3. 1997 Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino - A very deeply colored dark red. A fairly complex nose of sweet tobacco, earthy herbs, cherry, and flowers. Flavors of cherry, minerals, red berry, and herbs, with some subtle floral and tobacco notes as well. The flavors and aromas really opened up nicely after about an hour in the glass. The tannins had some firmness to them, but the wine was still very approachable, with the tannins being tamed by a rich Bolognese sauce. Very flavorful, with good balance and length, the acidity was cleansing, and it finishes on the herbal side. I found this to be both interesting and enjoyable. All the best, Jean
  4. 2001 Ridge Lytton Springs California - Dark red with a purple tint in color. A fairly complex and interesting nose, with crushed raspberry and blackberry, flowers, spice, and a little earth. It is satisfying just to smell. Flavors of mixed wild berries, cherry, black pepper, thyme, and spice. Long on the finish, closing with some bright fruit and spice. Medium-bodied, with fine-grained tannins. A very stylish and delicious wine. A blend of 76% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, and 7% Carignane. Jean
  5. 2000 Duckhorn Decoy “Migration” Napa Valley Red Wine - A very dark black-purple color. Initially a lot of spicy oak on the nose, but that gave way to a perfumed, sweet black fruit, with some bell pepper and raspberry. Flavors of sweet black fruit, a little blackberry, coffee, and oak. The tannins are on the firm side. The finish is of medium length, and seemed a little hot as well. This was kind of a weird wine. It got less oaky on the nose with air time, however it appeared to get more oaky on the palate as the night went on. Quite disjointed, and not entirely sure if it will come together. A blend of 57% Cab Franc, 23% Petit Verdot, and 20% Merlot. Jean
  6. 2002 d'Arenberg Shiraz-Viognier McLaren Vale "The Laughing Magpie" - A dark color, sort of a reddish-purple. Nose shows plenty of dark berry fruit, peppery spice, and vanilla. Flavors are very juicy, with raspberry jam, blackberry liqueur, plum, spice, black pepper, and floral notes. There is a bit of tightness initially, as the tannins are a little firm, but it is still very approachable. The finish is juicy and long. This is really delicious and fun. It is a fairly substantial wine, but it is also balanced. Overall, I liked this much better than the 2001 version. A blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier. All the best, Jean
  7. 1999 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - A very dark, blackish-red color. Nose is pretty intense, with aromas of sweet black fruit, red berry, coffee, and oak. On the palate, there is dark fruit, blackberry, coffee, licorice, and a cedary spice. Not an overblown, highly-extracted wine, just a good, balanced Cab with very nice flavor. Texturally, the wine starts out smooth, with the tannins applying some grip on the finish, which shows a bit of a drying effect right at the end. I really like this winery, and this wine. It is always a favorite moderately-priced Cab, and it is like a warm blanket on a chilly fall evening in Minnesota. All the best, Jean
  8. 2001 Cline Small Berry Mourvèdre Contra Costa County - Dark red color. The nose is very “Rhone-ish”, with a pleasant funk to it. There is also some red berry, mint, black pepper, and some floral nuances. Flavors of red berry, plum, and spice, with some minty and herbal notes. It shows some good concentration, with tannins that are fine-grained, yet somewhat gripping. Good length and balance, with some earthiness on the finish. I have to say this is very nice. It shows a lot of Rhone character, is kind of distinctive, and is very good with food. A most enjoyable wine. Yum! All the best, Jean
  9. Two from late this week... 2002 Red Car “Some Like It Red” Syrah - A Syrah-dominated blend, with 75% Syrah, 22% Pinot Noir, and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. I looked back at my previous note on this from early summer, and I said some complimentary things, but noted the wine seemed wild and untamed, with some distracting heat. This time, it was worse. The wine was nothing but alcohol, oak, and heat. Virtually undrinkable. I don’t know what else to say, it was just not good. 2003 Alfred Bonnet Riesling Spatlese Pfalz Friedelscheimer Schlossgarten - Pale golden color. Lots of minerals and stone on the nose, with some peach and tropical fruit. Lots of pretty fruit, with peach, pineapple, apple, lemon zest, along with some honey and minerals. A little fat in the mouth to start with some up-front sweetness, but there is eventually a cleansing acidity that comes into play on the finish. The finish is pretty zippy with decent length. All in all, not a bad $12 purchase. Yet another nice little bargain Riesling to accompany sushi. All the best, Jean
  10. On Saturday, I gathered with several friends for a dinner party. Everyone brought some appetizers and a little wine, and I brought my homemade Bolognese sauce. Here are the three Italians we drank: 2000 Masi Ripasso “Campofiorin” Rosso del Veronese - A rather rustic and earthy nose, with dark fruit, a nice bit of funk to it as well. Flavors of red berries, dark dried fruit, some pepper and spice. Some pleasant floral notes too as it opened up a little. The flavors leaned toward the subtle side, displaying restraint. Lighter to medium bodied, good acidity, tannins that are on the softer side, and well-balanced. I thought this was a solid food wine. Rustic, nothing fancy, but it was tasty and cleansing on the palate. 2001 Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore - Masi says “Ripasso”, Zenato says “Ripassa”! This wine showed more of a fruit presence on the nose than did the Masi. Definitely a more powerful wine than the Masi, showing lots of dark dried fruit aromas. Flavors of raisiny dark dried fruits, with a hint of sweetness, and also a nice herbaceous quality , showing some fresh thyme and mixed dried herbs as well. The texture was fairly smooth, with fine grained tannins, and the finish was long and flavorful. Very tasty and enjoyable. 2001 Planeta Nero d’Avola “Santa Cecilia” Sicilia - A pretty nose of red berries, flowers, and a hint of tar. Really nice fruit flavors in this one, with lovely red berry and cranberry notes, along with a pleasant smoky, tarry, and mineral presence as well. There is some oak here too, but it did not seem overblown. I thought this might be a powerful wine, but I found it displayed some elegance as opposed to power, which was nice. The flavors were very up front on the palate, and then the tannins clamp down and don’t give up very much at all. This was still very tight, even after a good hour in the glass. I will be giving my remaining bottle some time. I think this has a chance of being really lovely when the tannins settle down. There were two additional non-Italians opened that I did not take any notes on. From memory, one was a 2000 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley that showed a lot of dark fruit and oak, and also had a "green" edge to it. I didn’t find this to my liking at all. The other was a 2001 Toasted Head Meritage, which was a simple fruit bomb, with some powerful dark berry, dark fruit, and vanilla. A crowd-pleasing party wine...quaffable, fruit-forward, with a goopy deliciousness, and not a lot of structure. And, two Germans from yesterday… 2002 Schloss Schonborn Riesling Kabinett Rheingau - No village or vineyard designation on this one, just Rheingau grapes, I presume. Pale golden color. Nose of dried apricot and citrus fruits. Flavors of apricot, pear, lemon, and minerals. Acidity is there, and it is fairly crisp, but not terribly concentrated. The finish is fairly quick as well. Not unpleasant, but nothing terribly exciting or inspiring. A pretty simple and straightforward $10 bottle of wine. 2000 Joh. Jos. Prum Riesling Auslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Wehlener Sonnenuhr - My first Auslese. A pretty golden color, deeper than that of a Kabinett, and there are some microscopic bubbles present. Nose is rich and fragrant, with an intense diesel aroma, also with peach, dried apricot, and minerals. Somewhat restrained, muted, and firm on the palate initially, but becoming rich and expansive with extended air time (even more so on day two). Flavors of peach pit, petrol, wet stone, dried apricot, and some floral and spice notes towards the finish. A lively acidity, with an effervescent “spritziness.” Dense texture. Mmmmm, is this ever yummy. Seems as if it could use more time, and will age nicely. Very, very enjoyable. $26 on sale. All the best, Jean
  11. Same here! I never drank in high school. Jean
  12. 2001 Bischofliche Riesling Kabinett Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Piesporter Goldtropfchen - A bargain Riesling to fill out a mixed case of Germans over the weekend! An extremely light golden color. Nose is soft and delicate, with aromas of grapefruit, green apple, and a mineral quality. Flavors of green apple, lime, and wet stone. A little bit “spritzy” on the palate, with a zippy acidity. A criticism would be that the finish is kind of on the quick side, with not a lot of length. It is a pretty simple wine, but there is a nice balance to it with the sweetness and acidity. All in all, not a bad quaff for $11, and it was a very good accompaniment to my “dynamite” sushi roll with shrimp. All the best, Jean
  13. 2001 Renwood Zinfandel Amador County “Old Vine” - Dark red color. Nose is juicy and spicy, with raspberry, blueberry, vanilla, and black pepper. The palate pretty much mimics the nose, but with the addition of some tart cherry. A really firm wine that seems to get very austere and tannic on the finish. Quite drying. Lots of oak and alcohol stand out on the finish as well. Overall, pretty unbalanced, with the oak and tannins overpowering the fruit. I have really liked Renwood’s Zins in the past (in fact, these may have been some of the first red wines I fell in love with), so this was kind of disappointing to me. $14 on sale. Jean
  14. 1999 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - Opened with some braised short ribs. Dark reddish-purple color. Nose shows lots of sweet black fruit and berry, cedar, and vanilla. Flavors similar to the nose with plenty of black fruit, blackberry liqueur, coffee, vanilla, and oak. Quite smooth in texture. The tannins are relatively fine, and the finish is long and flavorful. This is drinking very well at the moment, and I can‘t imagine this being a long-term ager or anything. There really isn‘t anything terribly distinctive about this wine (which would be the criticism of it), but it tasted good, and it was something I was in the mood for last night. Nice to sip another glass on a crisp evening with some college football on TV. All the best, Jean
  15. 2002 Schloss Schonborn Riesling Kabinett Rheingau Erbacher Marcobrunn - A really pale light golden color. The nose is very fragrant, with citrus, peach, and floral aromas. Lots of nice fruit and a slight sweetness, with plenty of peach, pineapple, and lemon, along with some cool minerals that show up later on as the fruit begins to fade away. The acidity is quite lively, with a little bit of a refreshing prickle on the tongue. The finish is flavorful and clean. I think I found my sushi wine! This was delightful with last night’s dinner of a tuna and avocado roll, and it even held its own against a small dab of wasabi paste. I could really get into these wines. A good value at $17, too. All the best, Jean
  16. Jason, this wine was roughly in the same price range ($14, I think), so I didn't have tremendously high expectations. I have found that I generally like many of the value wines that Eric Solomon imports, so I thought I would give it a whirl! On the other hand, I do have a '99 Alvaro Palacios Priorat "Les Terrasses" waiting in the wings that should be drinking well right now. I may have to open that one soon. All the best, Jean
  17. 2002 Bellmunt del Priorat “GR-174” Priorat - Opened this with some homemade pizza. A reddish-purple color. Nose is very ripe with plenty of bright cherry, and also some black pepper and dried herbs, rounded out with a pleasant dustiness. Flavors are juicy with more cherry, some plum, red berry, herbal, and licorice notes. The finish is somewhat on the quick side, and there is some noticeable heat as well. The flavors are nice, but the heat just lingers and is somewhat distracting. The wine is very forward and one-dimensional, without a lot of tannic structure. Eh… Jean
  18. I would also add Wine For Dummies, one of the yellow and black "Dummies-series" books. It is inexpensive, and gives you a good introduction to, and a nice basic overview of, many aspects of the world of wine. I still find myself referencing it from time to time for general information. Jean
  19. Two from the weekend... 2001 Chateau La Dournie “Elise” Saint-Chinian - Had on Saturday with some braised lamb shanks. Deep dark red in color. Nose is really interesting. It seems soft and powdery, with aromas of black cherry, dark dried fruit, chocolate, and smoke. The flavors also show a very smoky quality, with some red berry, dark fruit, chocolate, spice. Medium-bodied, with a finish that is flavorful, but also a little quick. There is some noticeable heat on the finish as well. The tannins are fine, but they also show some firmness. An OK wine. It tasted good, and the nose was really quite nice, but I would have liked to have seen some more with the finish. Around $18. 2002 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett - Extremely pale color, light golden. Nose is bright and lively, with tropical fruit, stone, and floral notes. Initially quite explosive on the palate, with lots of pretty fruit. There is some initial sweetness up front with quite a bit of pineapple, along with crisp green apple, a little honey, and a subtle floral and mineral quality. The flavors seem very compact and hit you right away when you take a sip. They really linger, and then fade into a nice and clean finish with good acidity. I have little experience with German Riesling, but I thought this was outstanding. A really nice value at $17. This makes me want to explore German wines more. Jean
  20. Great post, Rob! Here are some $10 or < wines I have had over the last several months that have been very drinkable... France 2002 Domaine Merieau Gamay Touraine - $9 2001 Louis Bernard Cotes-du-Luberon - $6.85 Spain 2002 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha - $10 2001 Castano Hecula - $9 2002 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha - $9 USA 2002 Leaping Lizard Pinot Noir Los Carneros - $10
  21. A couple bargains from Friday night, one not so good, the other kind of interesting... 2002 Nadaria Inzolia Sicilia - A grape that I am not familiar with! Pale golden color. Nose is kind of pretty, with some pear, honey, and a caramel note. Flavors show a lot of bright, green apple up front, with some secondary elements of minerals and flowers. The texture in the mouth is a little oily, and the finish is pretty quick. Somewhat flabby, with not a lot of structure or acidity. Nothing worth buying again, even for $10. 1999 Domaine du Joncier Lirac - A dark red color. Hello, funk! The nose shows a lot of funk, with earthy, fresh turned soil, wet leaves, cigar ash, and some cherry and berry fruit in the background. The cherry and berry continue on the palate, along with more earth, spicy black pepper, and minerals. Lighter bodied, with tannins that are fine, but still have a little grip to them. Lively in the mouth, with good acidity. Not a blockbuster, but a fairly interesting wine that would appeal to those who like stinky Rhones. Kind of fun for $12. All the best, Jean
  22. Say what you will about Gallo, but their '97 Barrelli Creek Cabernet Sauvignon is still one of the absolute best bargain Cabernets I have ever tried. All the best, Jean
  23. 2000 G.D. Vajra Nebbiolo Langhe - Darker shade of ruby with some faint orange at the rim. Nose shows some really amazing cherry fruit with some extended air time, along with some floral notes and dried herbs. Flavors have somewhat earthy and herbal characteristics, with some more cherry, spice, minerals, and a little bit of tar. A very clean wine with fine tannins, a nice acidity, and a lot of flavor on the finish. Really a nice food wine. These Nebbiolo Langhe’s and Nebbiolo d’Alba’s are fast becoming favorite “go to” wines for my weeknight pizza and pasta meals. Nice stuff, quite enjoyable. I think I paid around $20 for this, so not a bad value, either. Jean
  24. Andrea, thanks so much for taking my question. As for my opinion, I am really just beginning to learn about traditional vs. modern styles of Piedmont wine. I think I can appreciate aspects of both. I love the idea of maintaining tradition, but I also love the idea of breaking new ground. Just last week, I had my first Barolo from what would be considered a "traditional" producer (it was a '97 Marcarini Barolo La Serra), and I thought it was wonderful, subtle, and elegant. I liked what you said in the quote that I selected above. I personally think there is room for both styles (and even incorporating aspects of both styles), but like you said, I hope the differences come from the soil. That is what makes things distinctive, in my opinion. Thanks very much, Andrea! All the best, Jean
  25. 2002 Leaping Lizard Pinot Noir Los Carneros - This was an impulse buy to fill out a case, and I am pleasantly surprised. Dark ruby color. Nose shows lots of pretty fruit, with strawberry and cranberry, along with a little smoke and spice. Flavors are juicy, reminding me of Mom’s strawberry-rhubarb jam, with bright cherry, and some black pepper. A spicy finish that has some brightness to it, and decent length. Nothing complex or profound, but it just tastes good and is totally slurpable. One for drinking without thinking too much, and perfect for serving at a party. Only $10, too. Jean
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