Wine rating: Seven stars
Today let us lift our eyes, and perhaps a glass filled with good red wine, toward the stars as we examine the latest rendition of a personal favorite, Sean H. Thackrey's "Pleiades XII" California red wine.
Thackrey may draw inspiration from the celestial sphere (his other wine is called "Orion"), but his hands clearly remain firmly in contact with his grapes.
In ancient Greek mythology, the Pleiades were the seven daughters of Atlas (the fellow who carried the Earth on his shoulder). One of the most eye-catching clusters of stars, prominent in the winter sky in the Northern Hemisphere, is named in their honor. It also formed a sort of early eye test, as only the keen of vision can easily pick out the seventh of these stellar sisters. (Actually, a quick peek through binoculars reveals dozens of stars in this grouping, and a telescope sees hundreds, but why let technology take the gloss off a delightful old story?)
Why the name? Neither Thackrey's hard-to-make-out brown-on-buff label nor his Website spells it out, but it's hard to miss the obvious: Seven sisters, seven grapes, a wild blend of Syrah, Barbera, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese plus a dash of white Viognier, a geographical and chronological mix of vineyards and vintages, version XII having been bottled in July 2003.
It's easy to drink, a robust and earthy dry red with plenty of oak but good structure and balance, a wine made for enjoyment but that won't resist at least a little age.
Contrary to the tongue-in-cheek headline on today's article, I don't really rate wines by symbol or number, preferring to describe wines in words so you can draw your own conclusions about whether you will like it too.
But in the spirit of the Oscars, if I did bestow a symbolic rating on the wines I like, it would be hard to resist giving Pleiades XII ... seven stars.
TALK ABOUT WINE ONLINE
If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at email@example.com. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.
Thackrey Pleiades XII Old Vines California Red Table Wine ($20.99)
The latest release in this consistently persuasive Roman-numeral series from Sean H. Thackrey, this dark-ruby wine is clear but not brilliant, showing a hint of haze in the glass. That's no flaw, though, as it foreshadows rich aromatics and good body in an unusually complex and pleasing red. Full plum and red-berry fruit aromas add an appealing "gamey" note that evokes the hearty reds of Southern France; juicy fruit and pleasantly earthy flavors are consistent with the nose, with 14 percent alcohol adding body and tart, lemon-squirt acidity to provide a cleansing edge. (Feb. 21, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: A food wine in the European style, it made a great match with a medium-rare New York strip steak with plenty of black pepper.
VALUE: A bit above everyday price, but justifies the toll with complexity, balance and character. Shop around, as vendors at Wine-Searcher.com show it for substantially less than I paid at local retail.
WHEN TO DRINK: Fine now, might gain even more flavor interest with a few years under good cellar conditions.
WEB LINK: Sean H. Thackrey offers an unusually personal and interesting Website, with a remarkable library of ancient wine-making texts online, at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Look for Thackrey's Pleiades on Wine-Searcher.com:
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
Enjoying wine with food
Wine and food - is this the perfect marriage? Some people demand food with their wine, while others are happy to relax in an easy chair, sipping our favorite beverage on its own.
For this week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth, we hope to find out the extent to which world wine lovers consider food a mandatory companion with wine. Please consider which of the suggested categories makes the closest match to your personal preference as we ask, "how often is your wine consumption accompanied by a meal, snack, or finger foods?"
Here's your link to the Voting Booth:
California Wine Club
Wine Sale Going On Now!
Save up to 58 percent with The California Wine Club's Spring Cleaning Wine Sale! Half, full and mixed cases okay! Super Savers for just $5.50/bottle. Award-winning selections for $99/case. Napa Valley "cult" Cabernet under $40! Sale ends March 31, 2004. Click here
Now, here are my tasting reports on two of the intriguing artisanal California wines currently featured in California Wine Club's Spring Cleaning Wine Sale. A sale price of $8.25 makes the Sylvester Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay remarkable bargains, worth stocking up by the case as your "house" red and white.
Sylvester 2000 Kiara Reserve Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.25)
Clear ruby, showing brilliant reddish-orange glints in the glass. Ripe cherry-berry fruit comes together with nuances of dill and vanilla in an appealing aroma, and the flavor is luscious and ripe, appetizing fruit and mouth-watering acidity in balance. Oak is certainly present, but it's judiciously handled, serving as a spice that enhances the good Cabernet fruit. (Feb. 29, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Delicious with a roast free-range chicken.
VALUE: Unbeatable, while supplies remain available, at California Wine Club's March 2004 sale price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Seems designed for enjoyment over the near term, not for cellaring, but a year or two on the wine rack shouldn't hurt.
WEB LINK: Here is a link to the winery Website:
FIND THESE WINES ONLINE: Click directly to the ordering page for this and many other $8.25 sale specials at California Wine Club,
Sylvester 2000 Kiara Reserve Paso Robles Chardonnay
This is a clear, straw-color wine, with intriguing scents of white fruit, acacia flowers and aromatic oak. Straight-up Chardonnay flavors and spicy oak appear in balance, gaining complexity as it warms in the glass, veering toward apple jelly and buttered toast, full-bodied with plenty of fresh-fruit acidity to provide good structure and balance in a benchmark California-style Chardonnay. (Jan 9, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with roast chicken, a classic foil for fuller Chardonnays.
VALUE: Could compete with Chardonnays at double to triple this single-digit CWC sale price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Best enjoyed within the next year or so.
WHERE TO BUY: California Wine Club Premier Club sale page,
Wine Advisor's Premium Edition
Cautious about risking $30 or more for a special bottle of wine? The 30 Second Wine Advisor Premium Edition covers wines in the $30 to $50 range. This trustworthy E-mail companion makes it easy to shop with confidence when you're spending a little more.
If you're not already on the subscription list, I hope you'll join us soon:
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Nat Decants: Hollywood and Vine
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Your worst best wine
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Introducing Burgundy: Generic to grand cru (Feb. 27, 2004)
Phew! What's that smell? (Feb. 25, 2004)
Red or white, fish or fowl? (Feb. 23, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Grits go uptown (Feb. 26, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
To subscribe or unsubscribe from The 30 Second Wine Advisor, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.
We do not use our E-mail list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail address to anyone. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. To contact me, please send E-mail to email@example.com
All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Monday, March 1, 2004