Canard Sauvage Petite Syrah, 2009

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Canard Sauvage Petite Syrah2009
Sonoma County, California
Dry Creek Valley

So big, so firm, yet smooth, too…a noble savage is this. Inky black-red with some solid legs and a definite spice character. Cardamon, clove and blueberries in the nose, and jammy berries with a hint of smoky oak on the tongue. I liked that touch of tannin in the finish; it hasn’t been tamed into submission. I love me some wild duck.

Da Vinci Chianti, 2008

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Da Vinci Chianti2008

Ah, chianti…that unassuming pizza and pasta standard best drunk from an old fashioned glass. Well, break out the Riedel, because Da Vinci elevates the light and lively varietal to an impressive level of sophistication. Smells so good — berries and plums and spice. It’s a study in contrasts, too. Deep, dark red color…but light legs. Medium bodied…but chewy tannins and a dry, leathery finish. Lush with strawberry and bittersweet chocolate flavors. Surprisingly luscious and balanced. A Renaissance masterpiece!

Da Vinci 2006 Riserva Chianti – Sangiovese Red Wine Note, this is a different vintage.

Norton Bodega Malbec, 2010

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Norton Bodega Malbec2010
Mendoza, Argentina

Norton was my intro into South American wines years ago, and the label remains as reliable as an old pair of jeans. This malbec is a perfect pizza wine, and at just $8 a great value, too. It’s that smoky edge that makes it so special, I think — and a good foil for rich tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms. Beautiful garnet color, plum and tobacco scented, dry, lingering oak finish that bites back…gently. A fantastic standard for everyday drinking.

Bodega Norton 2010 Malbec – Red Wine

Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat Shiraz-Cabernet, 2009

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Penfolds Rawson's Retreat Shiraz Cabernet2009

KO! The deep, inky red color is the first thing that you’ll notice with this heavyweight contendah. It’s got some stout legs, too. Plums and raspberries in the nose with a tickle of nutmeg. A great spicy-sweet beginning gives way to a berry-licious center and a long, lingering cocoa finish. Gives a one-two punch with Shiraz (60%) boldness and Cab (40%) jamminess. If you like ’em big, this is your champion!

Martin Ray Pinot Noir

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Santa Barbara County

Vanilla and spice and everything nice! This festive, garnet-hued beauty is loaded with warm vanilla, toasty oak, allspice and nutmeg. The smooth tannins have just enough leather and pepper to keep the wine from getting too jammy, and a hint of berry rounds things out nicely. A well-structured, easy-drinking, satiny pinot that’s perfect for the holidays!

Martin Ray 2008 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir – Red Wine

Cave Cellars Syrah

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Cave Cellars Syrah2009
Happy Canyon
Santa Barbara County

You’d know this was a Syrah at the first sip. Very classic: rich, full, smooth and meaty. And so pretty! Garnet-hued with a gemlike clarity and nice, strong legs. Heady scent of allspice and cherries. Faint raspberry and plum flavors give way to leather and a lingering cardamon finish.

Delicious from the get go, but really improved over time: a few hours of breathing (yes, somehow I managed to control myself…and kept Hubbs’s greedy palate at bay, too) mellowed out that spicy/peppery edge and transformed the brashness to a smooth elegance.

Poet’s Row Merlot

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Poet's Row Merlot2008
Sonoma County

I’m not in love with this wine, but it has some nice characteristics and Hubbs enjoyed it. Lovely blackberry bouquet, dry and lightly chewy tannins with a bit of cedar and a smoky finish. This is a pretty full-bodied wine. I drank it on its own, but I think my impressions would have been better if I’d had a meal with it; it’s got the muscle to stand up to a nice, meaty dish. Beef stew, lamb chops… OK, now I’m hungry.

[Edit: Poet’s Row 2008 Cab is $9 at Trader Joe’s.]

Three Wishes Cabernet Sauvignon

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Three Wishes CabernetCalifornia

I really wanted to like this wine. It’s dirt cheap, and came highly recommended from the guy at Whole Foods. But the truth is that I didn’t even finish my glass. Having said that, for $2.99, you could do worse.

It smells horrible: musty, old cherries and rotting cedar. Luckily, it tastes better. Strawberries at the start, cranberries at the end, and kind of sweet in the middle. Surprisingly light bodied for a Cab. My problems with it: just not a lot of “there” there (where did the tannins go?), and a nasty aftertaste.

At the risk of sounding like a snob, I suspect those who aren’t particularly discriminating will enjoy this wine. It’s got that fruity, slightly sweet, everyman’s quality that makes a wine “easy drinking.” It beats Two-Buck Chuck by several lengths, and the price is right. Good for a party of not-so-choosy drinkers, or better yet: turn it into sangria or hot spiced wine for seasonal celebrating on the cheap.

Enlace 2008 Cabernet

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Enlace 2008Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

Take a deep sniff, and you’ll be thinking turkey dinner at the Bradys. Cranberry sauce is the front runner here–and I don’t mean the homemade stuff. Think Grandma opening a can and sliding the gelatinous form onto the Princess House crystal serving boat.

Which totally belies every other characteristic of this luscious and refined wine. Yes, it’s lighter bodied compared to most Cabs, but Enlace has *so* much going on! Sophisticated, cultured, a touch courtly, maybe–don’t even *think* “big and jammy.” That deep, inky red color seems practically medieval, like papal vestments or royal robes. Surrender to the fruit-forward boysenberries; savor the dark chocolate and clove; let your tongue be seduced by the smooth tannins and leather; embrace the long, elegant finish. Enlace demands to be taken seriously.

7 Deadly Zins 2007

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7 Deadly Zins 2007Lodi Appellation
Zinfandel 2007
Old Vine

This wine is not particularly envious, greedy, slothful, lustful, enraged, vain or gluttonous. But it IS made from grapes that come from seven different growers in the Lodi region. A dirty little whore of a wine, dry and spicy from the get-go; almost medicinal, actually. Loads of allspice and cardamon balance out that cough syrup-esque tinge. Not particularly fruity, which is surprising for a zin. There’s a nice blackberry character in the middle, which quickly gives way to a tobacco edge and a smoky finish that wisps away like the one that got away…leaving your tongue waiting for more. With that deep-scarlet color, the lady is a tramp. Seven Deadly Zins 2008