Red Bicyclette Syrah 2004

Red Bicyclette is a French import by Gallo aimed at what could be called the Yellow Tail market in the U.S. The cute wine label and the name Gallo could put off us Yellow Tail drinkers (who don’t like to think of ourselves as Yellow Tail drinkers), but this wine is quite good. With rich dark-fruit taste, chocolate overtones, and sufficient acidity, this wine could easily be mistaken for one of the $20 California cabernets that we’ve been drinking lately. (Although syrah is said to be synonymous with shiraz, this wine does not have the peppery flavor of many Australian shirazs. It tastes more like a cabernet.)

McManis Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

A California Cabernet. A lovely middle palate delight of bold wine with blackberry and coffee. Plenty of body. Wonderfully tannic. I will definitely buy this one again. It has all the right characteristics for my tastes. Firm and full. A great buy at $11/ bottle. Tom: This is a great find. It is very rich in fruit flavor, dark fruits with hints of chocolate, without being a grapy fruit bomb. It tastes ever so slightly sweet to me, but it passed Melody’s strict tannic taste. To me this shows what quality is out there at just a little over $10. It also shows the value of a good wine shop; Melody found this  McManis Cabernet Sauvignon at A&L Wine Castle, a true wine shop in Ann Arbor. We wouldn’t have found this at our local grocery store, and I’m not sure what determines whether a wine like this appears at our Sam’s Club.

Hamilton Estates 2003 California Merlot

Hamilton Merlot 2003We were laughing at the fact that we haven’t had a Merlot since we started this blog. And, for “Open That Bottle Night” we chose this one; the Hamilton Estates California Merlot. This was a gift from my father-in-law and mother-in-law. They sent us a case of wine with 6 reds and 6 whites. We love this Hamilton Estates Merlot 2003. It is smooth and exquisite. A bouquet of licorice and dark chocolate. The wine is full bodied. Round and supple. A perfect bottle for a night in front of the fireplace.

Tom: My parents gave us this Hamilton Merlot and we like it so much that we hoard it. So Open That Bottle Night is the perfect cue for us to have it. It is a delicious wine — softer than a cabernet, dry, dark fruits, hints of chocolate.

Lindemans ‘Bin 50’ Shiraz 2005 and Penfolds ‘Koonunga Hill’ Shiraz 2004

Dottie Gaiter and John Brecher, the wine writers at The Wall Street Journal, wrote about inexpensive Australian shiraz wines on February 16, 2007 (“The Wild World of Australian Shiraz,” page W6). They rated Lindemans ‘Bin 50’ 2005 Good/Very Good and named it the best value ($4.99): “Quite tasty, with plenty of blackberry fruit. No great complexity, and ready to drink this minute, but very easy to enjoy and excellent with hearty food. Repeat favorite. We also like the just-released 2006, which costs about $6.99.”

They rated Penfolds ‘Koonunga Hill’ 2004 ($9.99) Very Good: “Dark and rich, with real depth. Serious wine, with good spices. Reminded us of a good Rhone red.”

Both of these are available at our local grocery store, so we’ll be checking them out.

They also rated Deakin Estate 2004 ($5.49) as Good/Very Good: “True fruit and bracing acidity. It’s a tad thin, but so pleasant and drinkable that it’s an excellent bargain.” This we haven’t seen in our store, but we’ll be on the lookout for it.

Veo Grande Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

An earthy bold red with a nice balance of acidity and fruit. This has a minty finish. I like this but I don’t love it fresh out of the bottle. It will be interesting to see how it tastes after breathing. Tom: This is dry and tannic, tasting of bitter chocolate and dark fruit. Although it’s dry, it has a “big” fruit taste, so it seems new world rather than old world. This is very good, and I would definitely get this Veo Grande Cabernet Sauvignon again.

2004 Francis Coppola Cabernet and 2005 Louis Jadot Beaujolais

Tom: Tonight Melody is having dinner with colleagues and she called to say that she is having a 2004 Francis Ford Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon and that it is delicious. I’m sure she’ll have more to say later. Trigger and I are at home and I’m having a 2005 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages. After last night’s fruit-filled Little Penguin Shiraz, this Beaujolais is a lesson in old-world restraint. It tastes pleasantly dry and tannic, but not dramatically so like a Cabernet or Bordeaux. It tastes of dark fruit. It is not extremely complex like some of the expensive California Cabernets we’ve been drinking lately. It tastes very good and a bit mild, like a Bordeaux lite. I think of Beaujolais as everyday table wine and this is wonderful in that role. (I think however I would pick Coppola’s Rosso or Jacob’s Creek Cabernet, both even a bit lower in price than this, if I were to be trapped on a desert island with only one everyday red.) I think this Beaujolais is typically about $11 in our grocery story and that we got it on sale for about $9. A very nice return to old-world sensibilities. We should expand our forays into European wine.

the Little Penquin Shiraz 2005

Fruity, a bit flabby with shades of a cantaloupe finish. Smooth; I prefer more tannins, but this is a nice, everyday wine that is a very good value and an adequate mid-week indulgence. Tom: I remember Little Penquin Shiraz fondly from previous tastings, I guess because of the big fruit flavor. And you can’t beat the price…about $5.50. But the main taste here is the big fruit flavor. This is the “fruit bomb” that critics attribute to Australia: big fruit flavor, not very tannic. Despite my fond memories, I would lean toward Jacob’s Creek for an Australian wine in this price category.