Topic: TN: My Vote for Values, Pt. 3: What is $10, Anyway?
Author: Manuel Camblor/NYC
Date: 20050608100926

Almost every single tasting note I have offered in this series has ended with a lie.

There, I said it because, frankly, I’m pissed off about it. That lie is the shortest part of each note, the given wine’s price.

You see, I have been omitting a crucial element that would put a great many wines out of the running for my “Under $10 QPR” category. I haven’t included the sales tax that is inevitably added to the price of each bottle at the cashier. A $9.99 bottle of wine would be over $10 and thus, above budget for the purposes of this silly experiment of mine. Which means I’ve wasted a lot of time, money and energy...

But I’ve come this far and can do very little to abolish the sales tax on wine, so I’ll just continue, hoping that this admission and the warning it implies suffice for you, gentle reader (sorry, couldn’t help it; every so often I’ll get an irresistible urge to do a Jane Austen...)

Of course, while on this subject I must give a small shout out to a couple of retailers I’ve visited that are actually doing something so that the price on the sticker or shelf at the store is the price one pays at the cashier. What they do is include the tax and show the buyer a net price, which, at least in my view (I’m lazy; can’t be bothered to remember what goes after the decimal point on the New York State sales tax, much less calculate it...), is helpful and healthy. I’ve seen this at Crush and best Cellars and must commend both establishments on the initiative.

Alas, at Best Cellars I also saw and heard a salesperson affirming that “$15 is the new $10,” something with which I... Well, but that’s another story.

Let’s get down to another fifty cheapies, shall we?

2003 Geografico, Vernacchia de San Gimigniano, Italy: So many 2003 white wines from so many places smell of overripe melon that I dread to imagine what a person first exposed to wine through them would think... No exception here. Melon laced with Goya™ tamarind nectar on the nose. Extremely vigorous swirling coaxes nots of golden apple and breadfruit out of my glass. A bit of spritz in the mouth. Shallow stuff, with flavors of cantaloupe and baked apple, plus the faintest of oxidative ltwangs. Flabby and focusless of finish, with some citrusy acidity making a desperate and utterly vain attempt at “grip”. $8.99

2000 Alvear, Fino en Rama, Montilla-Moriles, Spain: Okay, okay... This is $7.99 for a 500 ml. bottle, which, if one calculates proportional cost up to 750 ml., would place it outside my $10-and-under register of operations for this (by now too damn long) exercise. But considering that one only drinks a copita or two of the stuff as an aperitivo and that, at that rhythm the half liter is likely to stretch out over a few days, I’ll make an exception. Besides, it’s so damn good at its price... Made entirely of the Pedro Ximénez variety and, furthermore, being vintage-dated, this is not your typical Fino. I also gather that it’s a product made purely for export purposes. Very forward aromas after an opening shot of volatility: Dried herbs, raw almonds, orange peel, cardamom, lime, beachfront air and a light touch of honey. It’s bone-dry on the palate, with a mouthwatering bitter bite. Lemon, lime, Mandarin orange, a set of herbal notes and a strong sandy-mineral undercurrent. Vibrant acidity and lots of flesh. You take a small sip of this and it grabs hold of your tongue, shaking it vigorously into complete alertness. I love it. $7.99

2003 Domaine du Mage, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, France : Pretty citronelle. Lime and lemon nose with a streak of talcumish minerality. Straightforward on the palate, with a bit of spritz and a burst of fresh citrus. The mouthwatering acidity makes it feel very much not like a 2003. Clean, sprightly and very refreshing, with an interesting sappy quality on the finish. After a few hours, the aromas assume a passionfruity cast that’s quite pleasant. $8.99

2001 Château de la Roque, “Cuvée Les Vieilles Vignes de Mourvèdre,” Pic Saint-Loup, Côteaux de Languedoc, France : The nose is lifted and gorgeously complex, making me think that though this wine is inexpensive, it is in a different league from that of most others I’ve tried during this experiment. Plum, cranberry, a hint of barnyard, another of char, another of anise, then garrigue, leather and hot rocks. This smells warm and authentic, very inviting... The wine is full, round and plummy in the mouth, with a delicious acidic bite at midpalate and a brambly echo. Impeccable structure and length. Accents of black olive and raspberry on a long, fleshy finish. Truly remarkable stuff at the price. It could teach several winegrowers I know of in Spain a thing or two about working with Mourvèdre (or, as it is called in Spain, Monastrell). $9.99

2003 Technicas Agrícolas de Vinificación, “Equis” Viñas Viejas Sin Filtración, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain: The misspelling of “Técnicas” on the name of the bodega, plus the whole “viñas Viejas” and “unfiltered” things so prominently set forth on the label, prepare me for the very worst. New “old vines” seem to be appearing in Spain at an alarming rate. Everyone has an “old vines cuvée”. And, of course, the wine must be unfiltered or, as I prefer to think of it, “chunkstyle”. Well, all my expectations are met. And then some... This smells like a dirty old rubber flip flop (or, as I prefer to call it, a chancleta) left out in the sun. Beyond that, there’s a muted plum-cherry vibe, but really, it’s irrelevant... In the mouth it’s light-bodied and too simplistic. Grapeade with alcohol. After an hour or so, the chancleta stink disappears, which makes for a vast improvement in the wine. By this I mean that it is now merely grapeade devoid of any real interest. $6.75

2003 Javier Sanz Viticultor, “Villa Narcisa” Verdejo, Rueda, Spain: Oh, that much-meloned vintage! This smells like cantaloupe, canned pear and green pineapple. Tastes like that, too, after a bit of fizz on entering the mouth. Drab and vageu, with a short, uncomfortably candied finish. It’s clean enough and there is a hint of citrus to the whole, but that’s not enough to keep me interested. An overripe, graceless clunker. Perhaps I’ll give this bodega another chance in a healthy vintage. $8.49

2003 Dehesa Gago, “G,” Toro, Spain: Pruny, with a charred overthing... There are also notes of cherry, vanilla and loam. In the mouth it’s compact, chunky and alcoholic. The thing is that in a more rustic wine from Toro all this owuld have been quite forgivable, but this “G” seems rather too polished, tarted-up and contra natura. An uncomfortable wine that only deteriorates with a couple of days in the fridge, breaking down to disjointed aromas and flavors of prunes, alcohol and a hnt of dried thyme. $9.99

2000 Jose Carlos Monteiro Pinto, “Casalmonte,” Douro, Portugal: Malted chocolate, stewed cherries, blackberires, blackcurrants, raisins clay, olives and dried rosemary on a lifted, simpática sort of nose.Light and fruity on the palate, with bright redfruitiness and a savory-earthy aspect. It hollows out a little at midpalate, but then comes back for a nice, long, flavorful finish with chewy tannins and bright acidity. A great wine to wash down churrasco... $8.99

2003 La Ferme de Gison, Côtes du Rhône, France : Cran-raspberry with a subtle caramel-anise-dried lavender underscore. Juicy and spicy in the mouth, with nice acidity and very soft tannins. A simple, agreeable little wine. There is a kick of alcoholic heat on the finish, but it’s not strong enough to be particularly offensive. $8.99

2003 Louis Latour, Chardonnay, Ardèche, France : How to put this ? With this offering from Latour, I may have come across the most appalling “Chardonnay” concoction in my recent memory... Reeks of butter candies, overroasted peanuts, pound cake, Cheerios™ and gone-off milk. In the mouth it’s frontloaded with vanillaesque butteriness, cloyingly sweet, amorphous and, to add insult to injury, bitter and hot of finish. Truly terrible stuff. $8.49

2001 Monteviña, Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills, California: A smack of volatility, then oak, then wintergreen, then raspberry, then cherry, then menthol cigarettes... Medium-bodied and fruity in the mouth, with chewy tannins and decent length. Good balance. The finish is redolent of Red Hots™ or, if you will, “cinnamony spice”. Not bad, really... $9.99

2003 Finca Hoya de Santa Ana, “Altos de la Hoya” Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain: Initially, this smells like Hostess Ho Hos™. To use Jay Miller’s unforgettable phrase, it’s very “purple stuff.” The aromatics veer abruptly toward Bonny Doon™ “Framboise...” And then one notices a bit of guey volatility. This is simple stuff, plushly berried, liquorous and—bless the souls of whomever made it!—moderately oaked. Short, with grainy tannins. Short and dimensionless. It’s drinkable, but so what? $8.99

2000 Taurino, Rosso Riserva, Salice Salentino, Italy: Back when I lived in Puerto Rico, this Salento red often graced my table, as a partner to simple pasta-and-meat-sauce preparations. It was earthy, fun, authentic and cheap... I decide to revisit it, hoping to see if it hasn’t lost that lioving feeling. On the nose I get a weird sort of volatility at first, a cross between China ink and Superglue. Beyond that I find chocolate-covered raisins, anise, cranberries, blackberries, coffee grounds and nutmeg. Medium-bodied and round in the mouth, with sweet cherry and raspberry flavors and an earthy underpinning. There is some of the familiar rusticity from back when, but I don’t remember Taurino making things quite this smooth. The finish is shortish. $8.49

2001 Cosme Palacio y Hnos., Rioja, Spain: A whistled plum-cherry-raspberry ditty of a nose with a hum of cedar and forest floor complimenting the melody. Light-bodied, juicy, simple and grapey in the mouth. The aromatics made me expect more, but altogether this is a very pleasant little drop of Rioja. $8.99

2002 Domaines Schlumberger, “Les Princes Abbés » Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France : A very nice nose that is upfront about its minerality, following it with nicely delineated aromas of grapefruit, green apple, wild strawberry and clementine. Forward and crisp in the mouth, with a layered fruitiness that goes from citrus to white peach to apple. Freshness, beautiful acidic-mineral backbone, nice body and good length make this a wine that I will pour frequently in the future. Good stuff. $9.99

2000 Candido, Rosso Riserva, Salice Salentino, Italy: Aromas of caramel, sweaty horse, old leather, anise, black olives, bay leaf, cherries and blackberries. A compelling nose. Juicy, blackfruity and earthy in the mouth, with a pleasing undercurrent of caramel and spices. Good length, withmedium-grain tannins and lively acidity. A very nice match for polenta with mascarpone, ricotta and a wild mushroom ragout. $7.99

2003 Pepperwood Grove, Pinot Noir, California: In these hady, post-Sideways times, it’s hard to imagine that most fashionable of commodities, a California Pinot Noir, retailing for less than $10. But this Pepperwood Grove does just that and, I must say this, it does so admirably... The nose starts off rather shy, with notes of plum, raspberry and dried leaves. With swirling, a brambly element becomes apparent and the red berries take center stage. In the mouth it’s supple, fresh and flavorful (cherry, raspberry, blackberry), if a little simplistic. But it would compete well with one of the more decent Bourgogne Passetoutgrain bottlings I know. One thing that makes it different from many California Pinot Noirs retailing for three to ten times as much is that this little Pepperwood Grove is clearly discernible as Pinot Noir. No excesses of extraction, new oak or alcohol. Which is sooooooo nice, for a change... $7.49

2003 Cantine Farro, Falanghina, Campi Flegrei, Italy: A shy, cheese-rindish beginning to the nose of this. Later, there emerge aromas of sultanas and golden apples. Deceptovely simplistic as it enters the mouth, but it quicly takes hold of the tongue with some very respectable acidity and interesting earthy notes. Alas, though this last is pleasant, it’s not enough to render this white especially interesting. $7.99

2001 El Coto de Rioja, “El Coto” Crianza, Rioja, Spain: A very cedary nose with aspects of blackberry and plum seeming almost secondary. Light in the mouth, striking two tones: A woody one and a plummy one”. The finish is of moderate length, but turns a bit vegetal at the end. As with many of the wines from this large company, this is very easy to drink, but ultimately rather boring. $9.99

2004 Santa Rita, “120” Sauvignon Blanc, Lontue Valley, Chile: The bottom rung on the Santa Rita ladder, this basic Sauvignon is clean and simple, with the expectable industrial green pineapple-passionfruit-and-grass spectrum of aromas and flavors. Too bad it takes more than that to get me interested... $5.99

2003 Tenuta de Pietra Porzia, “Regullo,” Frascati Superiore, Italy: Forward aromas of crushed leaves and sap, with accents of green apple, lime and wet cement. Compact in the mouth, with flavors of citrus and golden apple, plus a very nice underlay of stoniness. Medium finish with a refreshing citrusy bite. Manages quite a bit of freshness for a 2003. $8.99

2001 Château de la Moulinière, Bordeaux Supérieur, France : A peppery, faintly floral nose that feels a bit too green and low-end for its own good. There’s a hint of turpentine to the whole that doesn’t particularly help matters. Watery in the mouth, with some plum, some gritty tannins and nothing else. Mediocre. $8.99

2002 Viña Rey, “Cuvée Tres Reyes,” Vinos de Madrid, Spain: An evl stik of rotten eggs and acetonish volatility morphs into prune juice and compost. Though the composty air never fades away enough, I can discern a little something of blackberry... Against any possible better judgment, I put this foul-smelling substance in my mout. It is pruney, with a vague blackberry thing and a very unflattering metallic edge. The finish is hot and as composty as the nose seemed to promise. Undrinkable. Horrible. I pour the contents of my glass and Josie’s, then the rest of the bottle down the kitchen sink and leave the water running for a couple of minutes, to wash it away as completely as possible. $8.99

2003 Nine Stones, Shiraz “Barossa,” Barossa Valey, Australia: I have to confess I went ot my “cheapies” bin and grabbed a replacement for that incredibly awful Madrid red without looking. At Garnet, I had asked for a red from Australia that members of the staff found even remotely drinkable. I was pointed to the screw-capped bottle of Nine Stones Shiraz. I said “oaky” and it got put into one of my boxes for delivery. I hadn’t bothered to look at the label on the bottle, but upon lifting a glass of this Shiraz to my nose, I was instantly obligated to. The aromas are hugely oaky, alcoholic and aggressively jammy, as if raspberry preserves, kirsch, vodka and a truckload of wood shavings were thrown into an industiral mixer... On the label I find an arresting bit of information: This thing has 15.5% alcohol by volume!!! Oooooooooooohhhh, baby, as the New York says when a bottle of fine old Armagnac is pulled at the end of a long night of jeebusing, “this will fuck you up...” Of course, there won’t be any of the pleasures of fine old Armagnac involved in this particular instance of fucking you up, let it be clear... Or well, no, since II only take a small sip into my mouth, which I quickly spit out. The “wine” tastes just like it smells and it cauterizes your palate and tonsils with alcohol and oak. A mighty blob of heavy soullessness... And one more bottle down the drain. $9.99

2003 Château la Caussade, Bordeaux Blanc, France : This wine doesn’t make a very good first impression if you pour it right after opening the bottle... Smells diluted and candied and in the mouth it has an ill-defined apple-and-melon entry. It offers up some vague citrus and gravel notes in the end, but overall it seems hollow and useless. But then, if you’re at all like me, you let it sit for a little bit and osmething nice happens; the wine firms up significantly and the citrus comes into precise focus, iwth the minerality right behind. A great comeback... Medium length aftertaste with herbal, mineral, apple and citrus notes ringing clearly throughout. $8.99

2001 Domaine Monpertuis, “Vignoble de la Ramière” Counoise, Vin de Pays du Gard, France : My first encounter with a (well, I guess, if the label is to be taken literally)) varietal wine from this relatively obscure Southern French grape. Beyond some volatility, an earthy, smoky, sweaty-saddleish, plummy, raspberryish, crystallized-gingery aroma with an intriguing aspect of wild flowers. Light and wonderfully detailed on the palate, with the same elements one finds on the nose coming across very precisely. The fruit is very pure and yummy at midpalate and on the long finish, where some herbal notes appear. Eminently drinkable and intellectualy stimulating, to boot... $8.99

2003 Villa Antinori, Bianco, Toscana, Italy: Appleskin, wet leaves and honeydew melon are all very subtly present on the nose of this generic little white. Simple and watery in the mouth; green apple with a healthy acidic bite. The finish falls apart a bit, with a couple of discordant bitter notes. $6.99

2003 Domaine de Fenouillet, Côtes de Ventoux, France : Very ripe cherry and blackberry fruit on the nose, quite pure and only disturbed by the slightest whiff of volatility. Some alcohol comes through on the nose as the wine warms up to room temperature. Ultimately, it’s that purity of fruit that wins out, making any small sins or vintage faults forgivable. In the mouth it’s simple, powerfully berried and with chewy tannins. An earthy, clayish underpinning becoms apparent on the finish. $9.99

2002 Domaine de Vaufuget, Vouvray, France:Very nice burst of minerality upfront, quartzy, limestony... Beyond that, there are pretty notes of apple, peach, lemon zest, grass and the oceanside. Off-dry in the mouth, with a very grapey feel on the attack, followed by flavors of lemon, grapefruit and peach. Excellent acidity that stays in the middle of the tongue, along with some welcome minerality, throughout the long, mouthwatering finish. Quite nice, especially for its price. $8.99

2004 Ruffino, Orvieto Classico, Italy: Light, citrusy nose with accents of green apple and a pleasant salty twang. That’s it for nose and mouth. A fresh, citrusy and very correct little quaffer. Very good when paired iwth boiled shrimp dressed extra virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt, parsley and chervil. $6.99

2001 Mastroberardino, Lachryma Christi del Vesuvio, Italy: Sweaty horse glaore on the nose, along with oregano, tobacco, cherry, cranberry, blackberry. char, soy sauce, dried bay leaf, orange zest, green olives and cedar on the nose. Attractive, earthy and complex, this one has me at “hello.” Full-bodied and forward in the mouth, with delicious fruit and plenty of earthy and herbal nuances. Long and graceful, with excellent depth. An outstanding value. $9.99

2002 Domaine de Belle Mare, Blanc, Vin de Pays des Collines de la Moure, France : Aromas of grilled bread, lemongrass, grapefruit, lime and a granitic mineral note. Big and lush in the mouth, with the citrus veering attractively towards kumquat. Long, firm finish with bracing acidity and lovely mineral notes. $8.99

2001 Domaine de Tabatau, “Geneviève,” Vin de Pays des Monts de la Grage, France : On first sniffing the utterly weird aroma of this wine, I think I may be in the presence of a Southern Puzelat. Smells like apple cider, chicken broth, hot sand and something not unlike ginger ale. There is a generous dose of spritz when it enters the mouth. It’s a lush, round, earthy palateload of golden apple, ginger, ginseng and interesting savory notes. Medium finish, spiccy, if somewhat diffuse. $8.99

2002 Domaine d’Esperance, “Cuvée d’Or,” Vin de Pays des Landes, France : A strong impact of sulfur on the nose. One has to whiff deeply in order to get to aromas of lime, lemon, orange zest, strawberry, peach, hay and chalky minerality. Smae in the mouth. It’s al there. Shame about the sulfury pong. $9.99

2003 Inama, Vin Soave, Soave Classico, Verona, Italy: A fleshy, musky nose. Melon, green banana, lime and savory herb notes. Same in mouth. Well on the flabby side, this could have used a generous dose of acidity. Drinkable, but not a particularly good buy. $9.99

2003 Bodegas Virgen de la Sierra, Garnacha “ía → ∞,” Villaroya de la Sierra, Calatayud, Spain: I’m not sure how one pronounces the name of this wine, involving as it does a couple of letters, that suspicious arrow and the symbol of the city of Seville. But it’s just as well that I don’t remember, since I’m not likely to be buying the stuff again. Opaque purple and chunky, this, with plum and raspberry preserves aromas and flavors disrupted by an obnoxiously out-of-place streak of vanilla shrieking at their side. Hint of dried herbs on the short, slightly hot finish. $8.29

2002 Domaine de la Belle Mare, Rouge, Vin de Pays des Collines de la Moure, France : A plummy quaffer with some pleasant earthy undertones. Fresh, with nice ripeness and pert tannins. Good length. It’s well-focused, even if that focus only reveals a simple little bistro wine. Quite drinkable, yes, but overpriced for what it is. $9.99

2003 Maison Galhaud, Viognier-Muscat, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes : A pleasant aroma—pear, peach, lillies, white grapefruit and tangerine. There’s a candied something behind it all that is a little distracting, but overall, the wine makes a very nice first impression. Full and sweetly fruity on entering the mouth. The telltale Viognier fatness is there, but there’s also a nice citrusy cut. Clean and very much okay on a medium finish that somehow manages to remind me of freshly picked ears of corn. $8.99

2003 Ransom, Riesling “Chehalem Mountain Vineyard,” Willamette Valley, Oregon: I picked this out at Astor Wines because it was within the price range of this experiment and because thus far I had yet to report on an under-$10 American Riesling. I was all good will and hope... Which tends to be a mistaken set of feelings for yours faithfully. To say the least, I should have inspected the label very carefully at the shop. On pulling the bottle from my fridge, I did read the details on that label and found, much to my dismay, that this Riesling clocks in at an absurd 14.2% alcohol. Of course, I could have spared myself. But I let my curiosity win out and opened the thing.

This is a very weird concoction, smelling of warm apple compote, canned chicken broth and melted orange popsicles at first, then developing a decidedly distressing profile of Nestea™ and hospital oatmeal. I’m still wondering what possessed me to ignore this awful aromatic mishmash and put such an unattractively-scented liquid l into my mouth... Flabby, all over the place and hot is what it was, with a touch of cloying sweetness adding insult to injury and making the alcoholic smack seem especially vulgar. This doesn’t work on so many levels... What was in my mouth, what remained in my glass and the rest of the bottle went down the kitchen drain immediately. I kept Josie oblivious as to the existence of this awfulness. Dreadful. Really. $9.99

2003 Paringa, Cabernet Sauvignon “Individual Vineyard,” South Australia: A leafy, prune-juicy little thing on nose and palate that seems to have taken a bath in Listerine™ just because it knew it was coming to meet me... Well, it’s prune-juicy, but it also bears a strong family resemblance to spiked Welch’s™ grape juice. And Froot Loops™. Gritty tannins and plenty of alcohol start off a weird finish where everything seems to fall away, leaving only a wildly disjointed streak of acidity. $8.99

2001 Vinicola de Nela, “Escancão” Reserva, Dão, Portugal: After a wee excremental thing that blows away quickly, a whiff of volatility, then plums, cherry, clay and milk chocolate. The volatility is protagonistic, but not bothersome; it just makes the wine seem high-toned. On the palate, the wine is light, plummy and a bit rustic, but very tasty. Good acidity and soft tannins on a simple, earthy finish. Another very decent match for churrasco (something about these little Portuguese reds just screams for Argentinian-style grilled skirt steak), or maybe a burger. $7.99

2003 Alois Lageder, Pinot Bianco, Alto Adige, Italy: Lemon, golden apple and green beans on the nose, with a subtle savory-brothy undercurrent and the faintest hint of chalk. Light and clean in the mouth, but also quite bland. Quite dry, with rahter nodescript fruitiness. Candied and creamy notes on the finish. Okay, but only just so. $8.29

2004 Château Grande Cassagne, Rosé, Costières de Nîmes, France : Strong raspberryish pink color with fuchsia glints. The aroma reminds me of strawberry Jell-O™ , but it also has accents of candied redcurrant. Notes of preserved peach, nice acidic grip and a rose-petalish vibe save it from being too much like red Ribena™ in the mouth. A pleasant enough Southern rosé. $8.99

2004 Château Lamothe de Haux, Blanc, Bordeaux, France: Clean and simple on the nose; herbaceous, then citrusy, then going off on a tropical sort of tangent (green pineapple and guava). Crisp in the mouth, with a decent citrus bite. Quite correct, in a Chilean sort of way. $8.99

2003 Gallo of Sonoma, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California: Overripe, almost gone-off cherries and raspberries weighed down by cinnamony, vanillaish, burnt-buttery oak on the nose. Pruney and lacking in acidity on the palate, with jarring alcoholic heat and wood smacks on the finish. The worst part is that it could have been made from any grape, since there isn’t the faintest trait to make one think of Pinot Noir when imbibing it. $9.99

2004 La Yunta, Torrontés, Famatina Valley, La Rioja, Argentina: Aromas of green melon, gardenia, kumquat, green apple, with a spicy-candied note that reminds me of Apple Jacks™ and suggests this white may have seen some oak. Melony, citrusy and floral in the mouth, with good acidity on a medium-long aftertaste that goes south at the very end by burning a bit. $7.99

2002 Mastroberardino, Greco di Tufo, Italy: The nose starts out with a whiff of Play-Doh™, then peach, wet leaves, lemon, crushed sugarcane and a volcanic sort of minerality. A big-bodied white on the palate, iwth flavors of apple, pear, lemon, thyme and cardamom. Bright acidity and nice complexity on the finish. Very interesting. $9.99

2002 Château Cour de Goupin, Blanc, Bordeaux: An obnoxious hit of sulfur is the first impression I get from this wine. That this aroma turns into a plasticky tennis-ballish element doesn’t help matter much. I set the bottle aside for a few hours and when I return to it, the offending odors have dissipated, leaving in their place aromas of whipping cream, wet earth, lemon, grapes, smoke and a nice gravelly something. Fruity in the mouth, with lemon, apple preserves and an interesting mineral streak. Turns decent enough, after an iffy start.$8.99

2003 Coltibuono, “Cetamura,” Chianti Classico DOCG, Italy: A whiff of VA, then earth, thyme, black plums, cherries and turmeric on nose and mouth. A medium-bodied red with good acidity and chewy tannins. It even manages some freshness of finish, in spite of its accursed vintage. The first glass is quite drinkable. My personal complaint is that subsequent pours start seeming bland. Could be me, though. $8.49

2001 Saint-Hilaire, Brut Blanc de Blancs, Blanquette de Limoux, France : The lovely young lady pouring samples of this at garnet is very adamant in informing me that this is the oldest sparkling wine in France and that “Thomas Jefferson had some of it in his cellar”. Weak as I am in the presence of beauty and well aware of the nature of my mission here, I don’t really question those assertions. I let her pour me a plastic cup of the stuff. A pleasant nose of hazelnut, lime, apple and white flowers, with each aroma expressing itself clearly. Pretty much the same in the mouth. The bubbles aren’t the finest or most orderly-looking, but the wine is forward, easygoing, fruity and fresh. I buy a bottle and try it at home with Josie a little later. $8.49

2003 Craftsman, “Cobbler’s White” Gewurztraminer, Mór Region, Hungary: No, it’s not a liquid supplement to te popular line of tools from Sears... I had been looking for some Hungarina cheapies to review, but much to my chagrin I found that most of the old “Bull’s Blood” I used to drink in college now retails in the $12-15 range. In the end I just bought this Gewurztraminer, which seemed an unrisky enough bet. Varietally correct, with floral, spun-sugary accents over aromas of peach and crushed strawberries. Light and short in the mouth, but clean and quaffable. $7.99

2003 Matua Valley, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand: My previous experience dictated that New Zealnad Pinot Noir was generally overpriced, overhyped stuff I didn’t like, anyway. So I was very surprised to see one specimen retailing under $10 at Garnet. I even asked if there could be a pricing error, but was reassured that no, the price was the price. And so, I took the bottle home and opened it. Nice ruby color. The nose is all oak at the start,(coconut, maple syrup, pencil shavings), but miraculously this element pipes down considerably after a few minutes, giving way to aromas of plum, cherry and cranberry. Pretty much the same in the mouth. If one gets past the wood, there’s some quite-okay fruit with lively tannins and a refreshing acidic bite. $9.99

To Be Continued...