This week was a bit light, wine wise.  We left for vacation on Saturday morning, so we dialed down the wine list a bit.  I selected wine we would like but with an eye towards value priced wines.



2008 Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red – $13.29

This wine is usually a house favorite.  This is a kitchen sink blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 16% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc, 3% Malbec, 3% Sangiovese, 3% Petite Verdot, and 1% Carmenere.  This is usually a very nice wine with fantastic QPR when you can find it for under $15.

The wine is a fairly dark ruby color.  On the nose, this has blackberries, charcoal, smoke, vanilla, meat juices, earthy underbrush, some cherries and a faint herbal note.  Medium body with fairly solid, ripe tannins and very nice acidity.  Nice fruit and savory flavors on the palate which carries no extra heavy extraction or over ripe elements.   Decent length on the finish which again, shows no excess weight.  I think this is a wine most Francophiles would enjoy, to me it seems more styled like a French wine than one from California.  (90 pts)




2008 Schild Estate Shiraz – $19.00

This was a very highly rated wine that was a major disappointment when tasted not long after release.  This was very disjointed, syrupy, and tart.  After about a year in the cellar it started to come together.  It’s been several months since my last bottle, time to see if the improvement has continued.


This bottle was decanted about an hour.  The wine is a deep, dark, maroon color.  There are blackberries, baking spices, licorice, blueberries, vanilla, pepper, bittersweet chocolate, a touch of cherry, and a slight herbal note on the nice nose.  This is medium to full body with fairly solid, ripe tannins and tart acidity.  There is a big blast of up front fruit and spice with dark chocolate and herbal elements in the background.  The finish is again fairly tart with some herbal notes over riding the fruit.  This bottle was again a disappointment.  I will either not touch a bottle for another year or allow for a much longer decant.  (85 pts)


This wine was number 7 on the Wine Spectator, Top 100 Wines of 2010.





2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rosé – $18.00

We’re on vacation in South Carolina and it’s a very hot and humid day.  That makes it a perfect time to enjoy a nice Rosé, and this wine is guaranteed to be a perfect way to tame the weather.   This is one of my summer Rosé wines we enjoy.


A nice, light, pinkish salmon color. Minerals, strawberry, white pepper, melons, orange zest, and a bit of dusty earthiness on the very appealing nose. Light body with crisp acidity. A very dry rose with nice minerality and fruit with the white pepper and citrus making an appearance on the back end. Nice, lingering, mouthwatering finish. The real deal. Even those who like a crisp French Rose will find pleasure in this wine. (92 pts)


** Note copied from the July 30, 2012 To August 2, 2012 edition of Cliff’s Wine Picks. **





2007 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon – $19.00

Freemark Abbey was a winery I used to really like, but they seemed to go through a few off years.  Starting with the 2004 vintage they seemed to change course and put renewed vigor and effort into their wines.  The changes were fairly obvious by what they put in the bottle.  To me, they are once again a good, value priced winery putting out outstanding values.


This was decanted about an hour.  The wine is a deep, dark, inky ruby color.  Cassis, cigar box, vanilla, dried herbs, cherry, plum, and just a touch of licorice are on the very nice and inviting nose.  This is medium body with fairly solid but ripe tannins and nice acidity.  There are nice berries and spice on the palate with just a touch of oak peeking through on the backend.  This has nice length on the finish which picks up some dried herbs.  This was an absolute steal at $19.  No hurry, a little more cellar time will be rewarded.  (91 pts)



2008 Stanley Lambert Chardonnay Pristine – $7.13

One of our favorite, inexpensive white wines.  This is an unoaked Chardonnay from the Barossa Valley in Australia.  This wine doesn’t have the greatest distribution network, but luckily it is available in Wisconsin.  I’ve met the now retired winemaker, Lindsey Stanley multiple times and he is the epitome of every Australian stereo types out there.


The wine is a yellow to straw color.  On the nose, this wine has apples, pears, orange blossoms, minerals, and orange zest.  This is light to medium body with crisp acidity.  Nice apples and pears on the palate with the citrus kicking in on the backend with some minerality in the background.  This has a nice finish with the orange zest and minerals lingering and slowly fading.  This is still drinking very nicely and for a low cost Australian Chardonnay, there is no hurry on killing these off.  (90 pts)



2008 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Prologue – $17.09

I took a bottle of this to a friend’s home not long after it was released and it was a bit hit.  We both wanted to load up, but unfortunately it was sold out at the local store.  Luckily, I had bought 3 bottles, so I still had a couple in the cellar.  Tonight is bottle number two.


This is from a bottle that had been opened about two hours, but not decanted.  The wine is a deep, dark ruby to maroon color.  A very nice and appealing nose of cassis, fresh ground espresso, dark chocolate, smoke, dried herbs, and a touch of toasty oak.  Medium body with solid, ripe tannins and very nice acidity.  Nice spicy berries and oak influences on the very expressive palate.  One of the best California Cabs I’ve had for well south of $20.  I assume this has some purchased fruit since it is now designated as North Coast instead of Napa.  For the $17.09 I paid, I wish I had loaded up.  (91 pts)




Mailing Lists



Jean Edwards Cellars

This is the home of some fantastic Napa Valley cabernets at unbelievable prices.  Their latest offer includes their 2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet and the 2009 Seventy Four – Forty One Howell Mountain Cab came out of Friday.  If you can bribe your way onto their pre-release mailing list, these are 25% off the normal, release price.  As a bonus, they also have a Library Release of their first commercial offering, the 2004 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet.  Visit and tell Karen I sent you.  I have an earlier blog here with a review of the 2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet.


Turley Wine Cellars

Turley’s latest release with a dozen assorted zinfandel and Petite Syrahs (their spelling) came out this week.  Am I the only person who loves a nice zin but just isn’t as enthusiastic over a new Turley release?  I may actually pass this time.



Keplinger Wines

Their Fall Release will open on Wednesday, September 12th at 8:30am PST.

This offer will include the first half of our 2010 vintage wines, all of which hail from our Sierra Foothills vineyards:

2010 Caldera, El Dorado

2010 Lithic, Amador

2010 Sumo, Amador




Save the Date: August 30, 2012 will be the third annual global celebration of Cabernet.  You have a couple weeks to pick out a bottle to open.  Let us know which wine you choose.  #Cabernet Day



Remember to support your local wine store!


Nice Wine Stuff


A Facebook friend, Heidi McLain, has a very nice product and is looking for some startup funding.  The product is the To Your Taste!® Wine Party Kit.  As an incentive to donate, she has some really nice “pledge rewards” for pledges of as little as $25.  Visit to see the marvelous product or even better to assist in the funding effort.  You can also visit the Facebook page at


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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines.  I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar.  I highly recommend checking it out at  Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear.  There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.


Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase.  I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive.  I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount.  Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges.  None of the prices include the sales tax.


All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.