Yes, it was in my possession.

Yes, it was in my possession.

The hundred point scoring system is merely a gauge for determining how much the reviewer that uses it likes the wine, based on their experience and personal preferences. No system, whether it be stars, grades, points or glasses should be used to define a wine, only to define the palate of the reviewer. So, when someone tells me a wine scored a 98, I am curious of course, but not entirely convinced its going to be a great wine. All it tells me is that someone who has tasted many wines in their career liked the wine a lot and felt that it passed certain criteria that they use. I realize having tasted many wines myself, that there are components that are necessary to make it either a mediocre wine or a great wine. Things like fruit quality, tannins, acidity and the integration of all those components. When you find a wine, no matter the cost, that hits all those elements, it is an exciting experience.

As a lot of my readers know, I have a friend (Dionysus) that loves wine and loves to share. His employee ( also a friend of mine), will often get wine from Dionysus and has on many occasions shared them with me. I often wonder why, since some of the wines have just a few sips left, and he could easily take them home and enjoy them solo. Thankfully, like Dionysus, he loves to share and converse with me about the wine that we are enjoying together. Isn’t that what wine is all about after all?

Not too long ago, he stopped by the store with a bottle of ’97 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon with a couple of tastes left that he scored from Dionysus. I was eager to try a Napa Valley Cab that was older than most of the courtesy clerks at the grocery store I work at. It also was given a 98-100 point score from Robert Parker Jr., which merely meant that he liked it quite a bit. I also believe that if someone who has tasted a boat-load of great wines liked it that much, it certainly deserves a try. So, I shared the experience with Bob, and I thought you might enjoy hearing the results.

The wine had been uncorked for a while, so it had plenty of time to open up. It was as smooth as you might expect from a wine with this much experience. Like a jazz piece by Miles Davis, if you know what I mean. No rough edges, just pure smooth. I was particularly impressed with the complexity. Ripe currants, anise, vanilla, mocha and just a hint of herbaceous. It was very close to raisin, but never got there. The tannins were smooth, the acidity was there and not faded into memory…It still had structure, but I felt it was at its peak for drinking. In about three years, it will start it’s decline down the hill into raisin juice history.

Byrant Family Vineyard’s first vintage was 1992 and has become a cult winery demanding a lot of money for a bottle of its coveted Cabernet Sauvignon. A favorite of Robert Parker Jr., garnering some serious scores. This ’97 vintage as I mentioned, received 98-100 points from him. Like many of the pricey wines out of Napa such as Screaming Eagle, Bryant Family Vineyard seeks the services of world-renowned consultant Michel Rolland. Whenever Rolland is in the picture, you can expect a premium price for the wines. In 2014 Bryant Family Vineyard’s wine maker Todd Alexander left the winery to become head wine maker for Force Majeure in Washington State. As he put it, he wanted to make wines that he could afford.

I give the ’97 Bryant Family Vineyard an A-, which means that I enjoyed it just as much as Parker. High-five to my friend for sharing with me, and a shout-put to Dionysus for handing it off. I may never buy a bottle myself, but I am not foolish enough to turn down the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.

Stan The Wine Man

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Here in the San Juan Islands, we had one of the hottest 4th of July’s in a long time. I think the last time I remember it being this warm for a long stretch through June into July was back in ’03 or ’04. The weather has a lot to do with where I go for my pick of the month. I’m sure you have already deduced that it is a white wine. I always get excited when I find an interesting wine for under nine bucks, and this white is more than just interesting…It is downright excellent!

Pick Of The Month.

Pick Of The Month.

2014 Domaine De Pajot Le 4 Cepages (Vins De Gascogne, France)… $8.

Yes it’s true…Eight bucks for a white from France that rocks. Hailing from southwest France near the Pyrenees mountains is the Cotes De Gascogne region. This is an area that produces a ton of table whites and reds that are meant to be consumed at a young age. What I like about this region is the quality of whites that can be found readily. This Pajot is a classic example.

A blend of four white grapes (cepages), 35% Sauvignon blanc, 35% Colombard, 20% Ugni blanc and 10% Gros manseng. Aromas of melon, honey, herbs, ripe lemons and apple blossoms come through in spades on the nose. Loads of zesty apple notes blended with lime juice and hints of crushed rock with a splash of kiwi. Wet stone and steel front to back with a lemon-honey backdrop. Throw that all together and you get a zippy, tasty white that makes your mouth water for more. It certainly can be drunk all by itself, but also think oysters, clams or mussels. For eight bucks, this is a stupid value that should be taken advantage of during these warm summer days. (B+/A-)

Stan The Wine Man

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A boatload of wine

A boatload of wine

In a weeks time, I taste a boatload of wine (seriously). I lot of my friends think that I’m lucky. Well, they’re right, and I wouldn’t give this job up for the world. The only thing that makes my job hard, is my feeling of responsibility to taste the samples given to me as quickly as possible and to put my reviews either in my Moleskine, on my Youtube channel (Stan The Wine Man TV), or right here on Here for your reading pleasure, are thirteen wines that I have reviewed in my Moleskine (good or bad), this past week.

2013 Novelty Hill Roussanne Stillwater Creek Vineyard (Columbia Valley, WA)… $20.

Aromas of melon, banana, Meyers Lemons and orange blossoms. Creamy mouth-feel with notes of melon, cut grass and orange blossoms front to back. Very fresh on the palate but somewhat closed, not showing off what it has and certainly making it a little boring on the palate. (C)

2013 Novelty Hill Sauvignon Blanc Stillwater Creek Vineyard (Columbia Valley, WA)… $15. ‘

Steely on the nose with notes of white flowers apples and melon rind. Soft mouth-feel with notes of apples, melon, cut grass and wet stone coming through. Green apple and banana skin notes finish it off. I always like a little more acidity in my Suav. Blancs, but this one shows some interesting complexity. (C+)

2013 Colle Stefano Verdicchio (Verdicchio Di Matelica, Italy)… $15.

Interesting aromas of walnuts and apples with a little slate, white flowers and honeysuckle thrown in. Walnuts and honeysuckle served up on a plate of slate and steel. Crushed rock notes show up on the mid-palate leading into a clean, slate driven finish joined by notes of white flowers and a hit of lemon. (B-)

Rochiolo Sauvignon Blanc (Russian River Valley, CA)… $40.

A little stink action on the nose with notes of grapefruit pith, diesel, white flowers and hits of apples. Solid fruit on the front of the palate with notes of apples, white flowers and diesel coming through (very interesting). Good structure and balance with a very clean and tight finish (age this one, I dare you), showing notes of white flowers, crushed rock, grass and slight hits of grapefruit. I know it’s hard to spend forty bucks on a Sauvignon blanc unless it has Sancerre on the label, but this one may well be worth the price tag. (A-)

2013 Montebruno Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR)… $27.

Very elegant on the nose with notes of rose petal, cherries and wet stone with a little perfumed soap action. Bright raspberry and cherry notes on the palate backed by notes of black tea and Root beer. The fruit notes are sweet as they dance on notes of wet stone. The acidity and fruit are well-integrated, with the Root beer and cherry notes lingering. This Pinot shows really well for under thirty bucks. (B+)

2012 Rojac Refosk (Istra, Slovenia) … $18.

Brooding aromas of perfumed blackberries and dark cherries with underlying crushed rock, wilted rose petal and violet notes. Crushed rock and violets all day on the palate with a backbone of cranberries and cherries. The acidity lifts the fruit notes into a crushed rock, violets and sweet cranberry finish. This baby screams for grilled meats. (B-/B)

Austin Hope Wine Co. Troublemaker Red Blend 8 (Central Coast, CA)… $20.

Very jammy om the nose with notes of raspberries and cherries with hits of marshmallow and licorice. Cherries big-time on the palate backed by notes of licorice and tobacco. The ripe fruit expands on the mid-palate, but then the wine thins out on the finish with an edge of brown sugar coming through. There are some that will love this wine, and some that will hate it. 46% Syrah, 25% Zinfandel, 14% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre (C+)

2013 Pierre Chanier 1749 Sauvignon Blanc (Vin de France) … $10.

Lemon drop candy, wet stone and cut grass on the nose. Notes of Granny Smithy apples, lemongrass, kumquat and kiwi on the palate with a strong backbone of bright acidity. Very steely in the mouth front to back with a clean, dry finish. This would be awesome with oysters or clams. (B/B+)

2013 Chateau De La Roches Sauvignon Blanc Touraine (Loire Valley, France)… $16.

Aromas of sweaty armpits (not stinky), wet stone, grapefruit pith and white flowers. Notes of grapefruit pith, rocks, slate, cut grass, kiwi and kumquat come through on the palate with a solid core of acid. There is good balance in this wine and a mouth-watering finish featuring notes of lemon and slate. Another great wine for shellfish. (B)

2013 Gravel Bar Chardonnay (Columbia Valley, WA)… $16.

Slight butter element on the nose, joined by pineapple and apple notes. Nice buttery apple notes front to back on the palate with a fresh edge to it. The finish is clean, but a little light. (C+/B-)

2012 Robert Hall Cuvee De Robles Red (Paso Robles, CA)… $18.

Aromas of perfumed blackberries and plums with an edge of smoke and red flowers. Smooth and seamless across the palate with notes of charcoal, plums, boysenberries and a touch of smoke. Minerals and a hint of smoke join the party on the mid-palate with a hint of mocha. The finish is plum driven joined by notes of smoked meat and a hit of black olive. A nice complex red that should get better over the next five years. 37% Grenache, 24% Syrah, 17% Petite sirah, 13% Cinsault and 9% Cinsault. (B+)

2012 Big Guy Red (California)… $16.

Violets and red currants on the nose, joined by blueberries and raspberries with a touch of baked earth, vanilla and black tea. Silky tannins support notes of violets, black olives, currants and mocha with a hint of powdered chocolate. Seamless flow across the palate leading into a violets and chocolate finish with a hint of tobacco and minerals. (B/B+)

2013 Gravel Bar Alluvial Red (Columbia Valley, WA)… $18.

A little challenged on the nose with hints of candied cherries and rose petal coming through. Sweet tannins support notes of ripe cherries and chocolate notes front to back. Just a touch of tobacco shows up on the finish. Fresh on the palate with good balance, but slightly thin. (B-)

Stan The Wine Man

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I rarely if ever use this word to describe wine, but according to Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator fame, it should be one of seven essential words to describe wine. To be fair, Matt has been published and I haven’t. Matt also has a pretty good gig at the Spectator, I work in the wine department at a grocery store. So, from most people’s viewpoint, he has better creds than myself. Good for him. I have wine street smarts, he has wine book smarts.

In the streets, layered is a fancy version of complex, and complex is much easier to wrap your mind around. A wine that is layered, would be a wine that has more to than alcohol and moisture. The opposite of layered would be simple, and I think any of us who have drunk enough know what a simple wine is.

A layered (complex) wine has more to it. It may have an initial attack of cherries and acidity on the front of the palate, evolving in the mouth with an expanded mid-palate featuring perhaps notes of chocolate, flowers and another fruit profile. Tannins would be involved in the picture and would be present underneath the flavors and more prominent on the finish. A layered wine would stop and make you think while you drink it, if that is what you like to do. Simple wines can be good, and enjoyable at the dinner table to wash down the meal. So can a layered wine. However, if you are into collecting wine and you have a small or large cellar (or just a place to store wine), you may want to search out layered (complex) wines. They will in most cases get better with a little more age on them.

It’s entirely up to you which words you want to use to describe a wine, whether it be layered or complex. I would be o.k. with interesting, because in the streets that is what a layered wine would be…Simply interesting. There really are no essential words for wine. Use whatever speaks to you, and never let anyone tell you differently. I for one, never used the words “fun” or “pretty” when it comes to wine. I do have acquaintances who love to use those very words, and I have asked them to educate me on what they mean. I now understand those descriptors and have been caught using them from time to time. That’s the way I roll.

Stan The Wine Man

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