Various Wine Reviews by Celebrities and Other Notable People

March 8, 2011

Brett Favre on a German Riesling: I know I said this is the last time I would review wine but now I’m not so sure. I mean, some guys review wines into their eighties, right? Anyway, I’d be happy to tell you what I like about this wine during training camp…or not. Tell you what–I’ll text you my review.

Charlie Sheen on a Spanish Tempranillo: This wine won’t get me drunk. No, I’ll get this wine drunk! Its face will melt off and it will die! I can do that! I’m Charlie Sheen! Then it will tell all the other wines about me and soon all wines will love me! I wouldn’t, like, date any of them though. Just because they love me doesn’t mean I want to date them. Probably nothing good could come of that. Oh, and this wine has a nice little mid-palate. Did the president ask about me? I’m Charlie freakin’ Sheen!

Liberace on a French Bordeaux: A lovely, simple wine. Sometimes it’s good for a winemaker to strip down the wine. Get rid of the frills, the additions, the gaudy intervention, and show the grapes in their naked, au-natural form. This wine does just that. It’s like shedding my diamond studded Count Dracula/King Henry/marching band jacket for a simpler, subtler g-string and turban. Not that I would wear a g-string and turban just anywhere though–unless it’s to the beach with one of those feathery Mardi Gras masks on a stick.

Glenn Beck on a California Zinfandel: I don’t care for this wine. The winemaker is probably a Nazi. I fear for this country, my friends. 

Dr. Seuss on an Oregon Pinot: I taste some oak, I taste some cherry. I taste some smoke, I taste some berry.

That stinky, unkempt, obnoxious guy at the mall on an Italian Borolo as he struggles with security guards trying to carry him away: That’s right! That’s right! I said it! Weak fruit undertones and overdone tannins! I’m just keepin’ it real! That’s how I roll! A fine display of oak integration but the tannins outweigh the subtle floral notes on the finish! I gotta be me! That’s how I roll! I gotta be me! I’m just keepin’ it real!

The Wine Rogue on Flipflop 2009, Riesling ($6.99): A seven dollar Riesling can be a bit like the women on You know what you’ll find will likely be bad, but you’re still a little surprised at how bad. Not so with this bottle. Flavors of pineapple and a delicious minerality make this wine as much of a bargain as it is a treat.

First Date Dread

November 15, 2010

It was the first date I ever went on and I wasn’t going to get caught unprepared. I filled the tank with gas, I made sure I had plenty of cash, I knew exactly how to get from my date’s house to the theater, I checked the movie show times, and I wore my coolest sweater. I was ready for every eventuality—except the glass wall. The glass wall divided the ticket area from the lobby, and as I purchased the tickets, my date walked around the wall, through the doors, into the lobby, and back over next to me. She walked thirty feet but stood only five feet away behind the glass. I could see her perfectly.  

 As I put the change in my wallet, I looked up, smiled, and without seeing the wall, walked straight toward her. Up to this point, it had all gone so well. Up to this point, I was still living under the illusion that I was pretty cool. When I think of it, I’m still amazed at how quickly an illusion can be utterly annihilated. Let me give you the play by play: First contact was nose to glass. Next, my nose signaled my brain to commence emergency nose rescue sequence (ENRS) which involves wildly jerking my head back, instantly adopting an uncool panicky facial expression, increasing the flow of tears to the eyes, and letting out a puppy-like yelp (all directly in front of my date, mind you). Finally, my knees and chest hit the glass causing a giant Japanese gong-like noise alerting the entire lobby of movie-goers.

The aftermath was worse. As the entire crowd turned to look toward the source of the yelp/gong, they witnessed a scene that told them exactly what had happened. There on the glass wall at the exact height of my nose stood a single wet spot. And there, next to the wet spot, I stood with tear filled eyes holding my nose. Every picture tells a story.

In some ways, buying wine can be like that date. You can try to account for every eventuality—read reviews, try other wines from the same label, get a recommendation from a friend or the store clerk–and still end up purchasing the wine equivalent of a glass face-plant.

Try this week’s recommendation. It’s much more sophisticated than I was.

Concannon 2009, Central Coast Riesling ($9.99): At ten bucks this wine doesn’t act like a cheap date. It’s just a little sweet but deeply complex—in a “this evening could end up fun” kind of way.    

Canadian Wines Get Their Chance

May 6, 2010

“Well, what are you looking for?” asked Bradley. I knew his name was Bradley because he wore a nametag saying “Bradley”. That’s a hard question in a wine shop. It’s not like going to a store that sells, say, buckets, where you can say—“I’m looking for a bucket” and the clerk will happily point one out that’s virtually the same as all the other items in the store. And I couldn’t state the obvious—“I’m looking for a good wine,” either as I doubt any shoppers enter the store and ask for a delicate little wine that is bad to perhaps only slightly sub par.

 So in the end, and in the interest of saving time, I said, “Something I can take to a party that nobody has tried before and I can be sure won’t embarrass me.” Without hesitation the clerk led me to the back of the shop where a small group of Canadian Wines sat. “Canadian wines?’ I thought. In my mind I already saw how the party would go: The other party guests who got their recommendations from sommeliers and other enlightened Swamis would receive copious accolades for the bottles they brought while I spent the evening in the kitchen hiding behind the garbage can wondering why I just hadn’t stuck with California.

 “Trust me,” said Bradley. “If they don’t like it I’ll give you your money back.”

SOLD! I wondered if I could just blame the selection on my wife.

 Later that night, as the host opened the wine, I anxiously looked toward the exits. I still had time to visit Bradley for a refund. I imagined a wine from Canada would be something like an Amish electrician: good enough to service the locals but not really ready for the big-time. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Party goers loved it and quickly refilled their glasses as I began spewing the few facts about Canadian wine I learned from Bradley at the register.

 Canada has produced wine for over 200 years. The Niagara Peninsula in Ontario is about 100 miles due West of New York’s Finger Lakes region and currently hosts more than 70 wineries. The wine below is a perfect example of their quality.      

 Vineland Estates 2008, Semi Dry Riesling ($14.99): Sweet, yes but it’s kept in check by a hint of minerality that reminds me of tasting a wet stone. There’s also pear, grapefruit, and honey… 

The Great White Wine Migration

April 1, 2010

I can tell it’s spring again because the white wines are returning. One by one they show up, back again from whatever home they make for the winter, and settle into their summer grounds on porches and at picnics. As more and more arrive they begin to drive out the reds. With the warmer temps and longer days I start to spot the first Pinot Grigios here and there shortly after the snow is gone. Then, a few weeks after the last wind-chill advisories, the first Chenin Blancs appear. A friend of mine recently told me he spotted a Rose’ downtown someplace but that may just have been a fluke; one rogue glass that arrived too early and way ahead of the others. Or maybe my friend got it confused with a cranberry juice; the two have a very similar appearance.

The last to arrive are usually the Sauvignon Blancs. To attract them, try putting some goat cheese or feta on a small serving plate outside on a picnic table on a warm, sunny day. Last week my wife and I were excited to find a nesting pair in our refrigerator door so we expect to see a lot more of them this summer. Rieslings are attracted to almost anything but it’s still fun to see them show up. Chardonnay is one white that stays throughout the entire winter. To attract Chardonnay put out some Brie. I still have not spotted the more elusive Viognier or Gewurztraminer. I typically see them arrive with the summer salads, gathering around light fish and spicy Asian foods.

Although it varies greatly, around our household the whites stay in larger numbers through the summer months until the colder temperatures bring the reds back again. Following the great white migration is a great way to learn more about the variety and diversity represented within the world of wine. 

Below are a few whites that are easily spotted at local picnics and back porches on warmer weekend days.

Hermann J. Wiemer 2006, Dry Riesling ($17.99): This variety of white is easily identified by its lemon-lime mid palate. A complex specimen, it also has a unique eucalyptus element on its finish.

Kim Crawford 2009, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99): This white was introduced from New Zealand but large populations are doing very well competing against their relatives from California. Its grassy nose makes it easy to distinguish from other Sauvignon Blancs.

Weeknight Wines

January 14, 2010

As much as I would like to, I just can’t bust open a $40 bottle of wine every night. Unfortunately, buying some of the wines out of California today would require me to take out another student loan. Some of the wines from France would require a second mortgage. For that reason, I need a backup. I need something to drink when it’s not a special occasion. I need something to open for my neighbor who pours 7-Up in his wine because it “gives it more fizz”. Something that is good, yet affordable. I call wines for these occasions my “Weeknight Wines” and they are the equivalent of a good backup quarterback. They are good enough to rely on, yet don’t command the outrageous salaries of the franchise players.

After years of using Darwin’s natural selection, the weaker low cost wines in my rack are now extinct in favor of better performing price-conscious specimens. They display all the complexity, structure, balance, and taste that the more expensive wines possess but also cost less than $14.00. So for those of us who aren’t parking a boat somewhere in the South of France, here is a short list of some of my favorite Weeknight Wines.

Big House White 2008 ($8.99): This rated number one on Wine Enthusiast’s best buy wines of 2009 and is a blend of four lesser known varietals. On the nose there are peaches and mandarin oranges. It has flavors of citrus fruit, lemon grass, and a mineral element that keeps the light sweetness in check. If you’re missing summer right now, pick up a bottle.

Chateau St. Michelle 2008, Columbia Valley Riesling ($9.99): This wine shows a sweetness that continues throughout the finish. It displays flavors of apricots and pears with a drizzle of honey mixed in. If you like sweeter wines this one is done well.

Pascual Toso 2007, Malbec ($12.99): This Malbec is slightly fruitier than many and displays so many flavor profiles it’s hard to list them all. Coffee, cherries, violets, and blackberries are just a few. The tannins, typically big in Malbecs, are nicely integrated.

Montecillo 2005, Crianza ($12.99): With a light to medium body, this Spanish Crianza is European in style. Hints of smoke, hints of apples, and hints of copper are all tucked nicely into a very solid effort. Everything about this wine is subtle and tasteful.

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