Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Executioner from Shinas Estates

George Shinas, Australian winemaker and judge, is a great character.  All of his wine labels feature judicial themes (The Guilty, The Innocent, The Verdict, The Executioner, and Sweet Justice) with awesome sepia-tone photography. I’m fortunate enough to have a signed poster from George, courtesy of the great sales job I did with his special reserve wine, The Executioner. And I’m cracking open a bottle of that for dinner tonight.


The Executioner is a blend of George’s best barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) and Shiraz (43%), with just a dash of Viognier (2%) to improve the aromatics – this wine is an Aussie twist on a Cotes du Rhone, and adding some white to a big red is a Rhone tradition from way back. I broke out one of the big Riedel glasses for this – it deserves nothing less.

I’ve got a chorizo pizza coming out of the oven, and I thought I’d share the before-and-after pictures of that as well. This is a whole-wheat crust with mushroom marinara and a blend of four Italian cheeses. It’s topped with Mexican chorizo, baby portabella mushrooms, onion, and kalamata olives.




The Executioner (2008) Victoria, Australia – $30

Photo0346Color: a deep purple-red, almost opaque in the center.

Aroma: plum, blackberry, and cassis dominate – you can just feel the Viognier trying to break through with some floral notes. There’s also some eucalyptus and mint in there as well.

Taste: powerful stuff; while Cabernet led on the nose, the Shiraz is noticeable right off the bat on the palate. Big notes of spice, with some of the eucalyptus, then followed in the mid-palate by Cabernet fruit. The finish is still ripe and juicy; this has several more good years in the bottle. Even though it has a whopping 15% alcohol, it’s not hot at all. The finish has just a bit of tannin coming through.

With the pizza, more floral notes come out on the palate, including some violets. A little extraPhoto0347 air and this is just overall pleasant, harmonious, and powerful. The interplay between the fruit notes and the other elements are fascinating – very bite and every sip is a new discovery. A fantastic wine; the supply of this is limited to just a few hundred cases in the US, so if you find some, snap it up. Highly recommended.

Winetasting Report: The Wine Gallery, Dayton

I braved the sub-zero temperatures to meet up with Dan, an old distributor colleague, for some glasses last night at The Wine Gallery in downtown Dayton. I really like how their space on Monument Avenue is laid out.

We started with one of the Thanisch Kabinett Rieslings from 2010 for $22 – unfortunately, that was the last bottle, and by the time we thought of completing our tasting notes, it had gone into the recycling and I didn’t have a chance to get all the vineyard details noted down. It had fine, crisp, juicy acidity, and barely needed to be cooled down before it was really drinking well. A little bit of oily nose, then good mouthfulls of minerality, lime zest, and ripe apple. An excellent bottle. Thanisch almost always does a great job.

I ordered a burger, and we then moved on to the Chateau Segries (2005) Lirac for $19. Lirac is one of the recognized villages in the Cotes du Rhone region, and it’s so well-regarded that wines from there are allowed to just use the village name on the label. Depending on the vintage characteristics, 8 years can be pushing the envelope for a Lirac, and we were a little concerned when we opened the bottle.

The color was just starting to go bricky, and there was noticeable sediment both adhering to the bottle and suspended in the wine. The nose was also hot, and we were afraid it had started to oxidize.  After 10 minutes in the glass, however, it started to open up nicely. Not the best Rhone I’ve ever had, but quite pleasant overall, with stewed prunes, warm herb and spice notes, and good acidity throughout. If you have any 2005s from that part of the Rhone, drink them up now!


Blue Fin Chardonnay

One of the original members of the Blue Fin line (along with the Pinot Noir) from Trader Joe’s. I’m having this with mushroom risotto and steamed broccoli this evening.

Blue Fin Chardonnay (2011) California – $5

Photo0339Color: pale golden-yellow, with a little bit of green – which indicates that it’s relatively young, and that pressing and fermentation were done with good temperature control.

Aroma: apple and pear mostly; the nose isn’t very big.

Taste: pretty fresh, with more apple and pear notes, a little bit of tropical fruit, and just a little butter. They probably used just a little induced malolactic fermentation to soften this up.

Good but not great. I would have liked a more pronounced aroma, a more complicated mix of flavors on the palate, and a longer finish.

Book Teaser: Wine for Beer-Lovers

Although I generally blog about wine, it’s not the only thing in my house that comes in a bottle. With the huge explosion of craft brewing and home brewing in the US in the last 15 years, dedicated beer drinkers are just as discerning and analytical about their tipple as wine drinkers.

If you’re a beer drinker who wants to branch out and appreciate wine, I’m working on the ebook for you. Think of it like those pocket language guides for travelers. I’ll start with a little introduction on the taste, body, and aroma properties of wine that beer-drinkers may not be aware of. Then I’ll present a lot of translations – if you like stout, then consider Zinfandel and Petite Sirah; if you drink a lot of weissebeer in the summer, look into Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc. And so forth.

But those translations won’t be bald lists – you’ll actually learn why those beverages have similarities, down to the organic chemistry level. Just like with languages, where learning Spanish helps to sharpen up your English grammar, the side-by-side comparison of beer and wine will get you thinking deeper thoughts on your brews. I’ll wrap up with a beginners guide to sampling and serving wine, from a beer-drinker’s perspective.

I’m just now in the outlining process, so look for this to hit the Amazon Kindle store at some point in the late spring.

Blue Fin Pinot Noir

One more of the Blue Fin label from Trader Joe’s – along with Chardonnay, this is one of their two original varietal wines. It was a great bargain back in 2006-2008, and our allotments sold out very quickly.

Blue Fin Pinot Noir (2012) California – $5

Photo0338Color: good Pinot color – ruby red and limpid.

Aroma: a feminine, fruity nose, but with some depth and darkness. Blackberry and black cherry with some bramble notes as well.

Taste: A little heavier up front than a Pinot should be; I suspect this has been stretched by 10% or 15% with some Syrah or Zin. Good fruit front to back, but the finish is too brambly and tough to be a good example of Pinot Noir.

This is fine for a big cocktail party, but I wouldn’t serve it with an elegant dinner. $5 is a ridiculously low price for Pinot Noir, since the grape is finicky and subject to a lot of damage in the fields, but even the private label buyers for TJ’s have their limits. If your budget for an event restricts you to $5 a bottle, you should resign yourself to skipping Pinot Noir and choosing a wine with better typicity.

Blue Fin Gewurztraminer

One of the newer bottlings in this brand; the Trader Joe’s staff promised me it wouldn’t be too sweet, so I’m cracking it open tonight with some of my home-made giardiniera and a pot of risotto.

Blue Fin Gewurztraminer (2012) California – $5

Photo0336Color: pale golden yellow.

Aroma: big, lush lychee and mango fruit, with some spiciness and apple blossom, and a touch of Golden Delicious apple.

Taste: a nice combination of fruit and spice up front, only moderately sweet, with good acidity. Towards the mid-palate it switches to a more austere, Alsace-style wine. The finish has some honeyed and candied fruit, then just a little gunpowder and flint.

I’ll put this in the good-but-not-great category. A decent Gewurztraminer for a beginner, but I suspect you’ll rapidly graduate beyond it.