Monte Antico Toscano

You know, a lot of people buy highly-rated wines and just don’t know what to expect. Some people end up pleasantly surprised at the combination of value and quality that they are able to find. Others pour a 90 point wine and think they are decanting the next Opus One.

The truth about 90+ point rated wines is the same with any bottle of wine. Everything is subjective, and one man’s Abacus may be another’s Yellow Tail. What you can find in highly-rated wines is consistency, meaning that you are more likely to enjoy it over other wines, that it shares a balance of color, appearance, aroma and bouquet and flavor that will make it an overall higher quality wine.

At a suggested retail value of $11 and a Wine Spectator rating of 90 points,, the 2006 Monte Antico Toscano is a great example of a highly-rated wine with an exceptional value. It’s a great example of a wine that should be decanted, not so much for sediment as for letting the wine breath to reach it’s maximum potential. I definitely found more life in the last glass than I did the first.

It’s not an overbearing wine. It’s smooth and easy on the tannins, and would make a great wine for beginning wine lovers looking to venture from lighter, sweeter wines into the heavier, red wine market. After letting it breath for a half an hour, the Monte Antico Toscano had a light bouquet of leather, earth, herbs, black cherries, licorice and plums. The scent, much like the taste, was not overly expressive so it isn’t a particularly overpowering wine.

Don’t drink the Monte Antico Toscano expecting a striking taste. It’s round, a bit spicy with a balanced level of fruitiness. The taste doesn’t linger in your mouth for long which makes it less attractive as a stand-alone wine but a great pick for pairing with food. At the price, it’s easily the kind of wine you could keep a case of around the house for an everyday drinker.

If I had to choose a food for pairing, I’d go with just about any type of tomato-based pasta entrees, fowl or red meat. It would also do well as a cheese pairing wine for an informal movie night or other get-together.

All in all, I think the Monte Antico Toscano derserves every point it received from Wine Spectator and everyone else who has discovered this everyday treasure. I doubt you’ll find many $11 bottles of wine as surprisingly good as the Monte Antico Toscano.

Overall rating [rating=4]

Steele Stymie Merlot 2006

I am NOT drinking any f***ing Merlot! (Paul Giamatti in Sideways)

For as many reasons as pop culture has made wine as popular as it is today, the same number of reasons can be said to have led to the consumption of Merlot spiraling downwards after the release of the movie Sideways in 2004.

Which is just a shame, considering the extensive list of great varietals in production. [Read more...]

2005 Arietta Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Review

arietta1Having wonderful clients to entertain that are experienced wine drinkers can be a challenge. Over the years of dining with us, they have come to expect the “unexpected”. We try to accommodate them by pouring wines at dinner that they have never experienced. At Aureole in Las Vegas, we had just that opportunity.

When Robert Parker originally reviewed the 2005 Arietta Cabernet, he gave it mediocre reviews citing that he thought in 3-4 years it had some potential.

Boy was he right. The 2005 Arietta begins as a classic Cabernet to my taste. It starts with rich, ripe dark fruits and classic hints of licorice and cassis.

But what made this wine so unique was that it had a distinctive “violet” taste to it. It could be described as floral, but it created a light, pale purple image as I tasted it. The taste in your mouth goes from powerful to delicate seamlessly, with smooth tannins and a great finish. This wine was recommended by the Sommelier at Aureole, and I enjoyed it tremendously.

If it were not for the color, mouth-feel and tannins, I would have had a challenge guessing that it was a Cabernet.

Merryvale Profile 1993 Wine Review

profileThe 1993 Merryvale Profile that we had last night was surprisingly good. The wine had not been well reviewed originally, and a subsequent tasting of it in 2003 by Wine Spectator said that it was past it’s prime and metallic. My feelings were a little different.

When first opened, the wine had the classic “old wine” smell. Not distasteful in any way, but definitely showing age. However, the first small taste showed dark fruit, some leather and a rich, almost chewy texture. We did not decant the wine, and let it sit in the glass for about five minutes. The second taste had less fruit, and almost a metallic “penny like” hint to it. You could pick up green herbs in the wine – almost grass like. It wasn’t bad, but we thought that maybe it past it’s prime. There was no tannin at all in the wine. (I had not read the WS review until today, so I can see what they were thinking).

However, by the second glass, after the wine had been open for about 20 minutes in the bottle – it was back to being a complex blend. There was good, soft fruit – you could taste plum, currant and something else that I can’t describe. The bouquet of the wine was that of a more traditional blend, and none of the original “old wine” smell. There were still no tannins, and the finish was short, but overall the wine was very nice. WS had scored it with an 82 when it was released. That’s probably accurate. However, the bottle we opened in 2010 was definitely not past its prime. It was delicate and graceful, and a pleasure to drink. We enjoyed it during the entire dinner.

Now, if the wait staff could have avoided pouring all of the sediment into my last glass – that would have been appreciated!

2007 Francis Coppola Claret and a little wine trivia

Well, I don’t usually cover single wines unless they made the “Most Wanted” list, but I wanted to talk about this wine more for the sake of discussing “claret” in general.

claretFirst off, the Francis Coppola Diamond Collection 2007 Black Label Claret (1910 Type) has a very long name. This is due, in part, because of a slight case of over-marketing. But, when you’re bold enough to make a wine using all five of the Bordeaux varietals, I guess you can call it whatever you want to.

FFC’s 2007 Claret is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The dark blend of grapes  coupled with what turned out to be a pretty warm year in Napa and Sonoma creates a smooth tasting and pleasant smelling red that’s still tough enough to go head-to-head with a big bowl of beef stroganoff.

Overall, it turned out to be a good wine. It was worth the $20 a paid for it, but I doubt I would have paid a dollar more.

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Campo Viejo 2002 Gran Reserva Wine Review

campo-viejoA blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo.

Maroon cherry red color. Aroma of jam and wood, spicey tones. This is a wine with character and persistance.

Accompanying roast meat or meat in sauce, stews and cured cheese.

“Still fresh and generous for the vintage, this red offers plum and black cherry fruit with cedar and leaf notes. Balanced and lively, with a floral and minty finish. Drink now through 2012.” 89 Points
Wine Spectator
May 31, 2009

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Perrier-Jouet 2000 Fleur de Champagne Wine Review

perrier-joult“The invitingly refined, slightly rounded, elusively ethereal house style comes roaring through in this wine’s dried rose, vanilla bean, yeasty aromas and in its refined, balanced, crisp and incredibly easy to like flavors. It comes with complex nuances that lift it into the highly rated ranks, and, in every way, from its handsome bottle to its lasting, pleasing aftertaste, this wine speaks of celebration.” 92 Points
Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine

“The 2000 Brut Fleur de Champagne Cuvee Belle Epoque is a powerful, tightly-wound wine that needs at least a few years in the cellar to come together. Smoke, minerals, earthiness, pears and apricots are just some of the nuances that emerge from this sinewy, structured Champagne. Though quite closed today, this shows quite a bit of promise for the future.” 91 Points
Wine Advocate
December 2008

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J.J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2007 Wine Review

jj-prum-spatleseDespite its still youthful freshness, this rich and at the same time elegant Spätlese (literally: “late-harvest”)from the famous Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard shows a fine fruity, floral Riesling characteristic and an underlying hint of mineral from the grey Devonian slate soil.

Serve this refreshing wine slightly chilled! Enjoy it just by itself, if young with spicy dishes and – especially when more matured – in combination with seafood or poultry, but also red meat.

Rich and bright, offering a nice backdrop for its peach, nectarine and slate flavors. Though juicy and defined, this lingers on the finish, with a citrus and mineral aftertaste. Drink now through 2025.” 91 Points
Wine Spectator
December 15, 2008

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Frescobaldi Castel Giocondo Brunello di Montalcino Wine Review

castelgiocondoThe Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino has consistently been one of the most highly acclaimed wines in Italy. 100% Sangiovese, past vintages have received high ratings, including the 1997 vintage, rated as the 8th Best Wine in the World by Wine Spectator.

Tasting Notes
The eye is immediately drawn to its pronounced ruby red tonality, dense but vividly clear. It exudes expansive, multi-layered aromas, ripe-fruit fragrances of dark cherry and dried plum melding into more pronounced, minerally essences of pencil lead and stone, while suggestions of tobacco leaf seem to bring a sense of balance and completeness. Pulpy fruit comes to the fore in the attack, with tannins that are expressive but not invasive; they ably balance a nice vein of crisp acidity that makes the flavours sing. The long-lingering finale flaunts a rich mosaic of nuanced flavours.
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Food Pairing Suggestions
With a bit of daring, this could be savoured as a vino da meditazione, a sipping wine all on its own. Or certainly in accompaniment to end-of-dinner sweets, such as panforte. And, of course, with beef stews, braised meats with potatoes, cheeses that are aged but not too pungent, and large game, such as boar.

Ratings & Reviews
2004 Vintage
95 points – Wine Spectator, April 30 2009
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2003 Vintage
90 points – Wine Spectator, May 15 2008
89 points – Wine Advocate #176, April 2008

2002 Vintage
87 points – Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, June 2007

2001 Vintage
89 points – Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, July/August 2006
88 points – Wine Advocate, December 2006
94 points – Wine Spectator, April 30, 2006
#27 in Top 100 wines of 2006 – Wine Spectator, April 30, 2006

2000 Vintage
92 points – Wine Spectator, May 31, 2005
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ROYAL TOKAJI – Aszu 5 puttonyos Wine Review


This perfectly balanced 5 puttonyos wine is now widely available throughout the world. Royal Tokaji’s 1st growth Nyualszo vineyard is the benchmark for quality. Sometimes referred to by its label colour, Red Label in the USA and Blue Label in the rest of the world.

As in all aszu wines, the three grape varieties are Furmint, Harslevelu and Muscat de Lunel. The characteristics are a vivid gold colour with honeyed apricot and orange peel flavours which are uplifted with dramatic acidity.

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