2006 Steltzner Vineyards Claret – $15.19

This is perennially a bargain priced, good quality, Bordeaux blend from the Napa Valley.  This vintage is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Merlot that was aged 16 months in mixed French oak barrels.  I have always felt the Steltzner Claret tastes good upon release, but is much better with a couple years in the cellar.


Steltzner Vineyards is a nice place to visit when you are in the Napa Valley.  It is directly across the Silverado Trail from Pine Ridge Winery.  I don’t know if they still make it, but they used to make a Stags Leap District Pinotage that was available to buy and on occasion to taste at the winery.


The wine is a fairly dark ruby color.  There is cassis, dried herbs, cigar box, black cherry, licorice, and some dark chocolate on the very nice and inviting nose.  This is medium body with fairly integrated tannins and very nice acidity.  Nice lush berries and dried herbs dominate the palate initially with some spicy oak and a bit of earthiness and cherry coming in later.  Decent length on the finish which leans heavily on the dried herbs and spicy oak.  This is a nice, low cost, Bordeaux blend in its’ prime drinking window.  (89 pts)




2011 Finca Constancia Altozano – $24.00

I’m spending some time on the road for my real job this week.  I went to dinner with a few coworkers from around the country to a “gastropub” that had an Irish Pub theme.  The wine list was very low end, since I’m sure most diners go there for the beers.  A few people wanted wine, so I was assigned the task of selecting a bottle that would work with some very varied selections.  I always feel lower end Spanish Tempranillo is a decent crowd pleaser so I selected this wine.


The price is what was paid at a decent Irish Pub styled restaurant in Pinehurst, NC.  I’m sure this is available at retail for well under $10.  This is a dark cherry red color.  The nose has candied cherries, dark chocolate, some earthy underbrush, and plums on the easy going nose.  The wine is medium bodied with soft, ripe tannins and decent acidity, at best.  On the palate the wine seems a touch off dry with the candied fruit and savory elements more or less coexisting without melding together into one entity.  In a dinner with a few coworkers, the wine was decent, in any critical situation this would not show real well.  (83 pts)




2006 Torzi Matthews Shiraz “Schist Rock” – $16.99

This is a purchase from Garagiste Wine from a few years ago.  I’ve liked past bottles even though it is not your usual Barossa Shiraz.  Past bottles have shown nice ripeness, but the wine doesn’t push the ripeness level like some of these wines tend to do.


The wine is a deep maroon color.  On the very nice and fresh smelling nose there are blackberries, cherries, dark chocolate, smoked meat, black pepper, vanilla, and some fresh wild flowers, with just a hint of dried herbs.  This is medium body with ripe, integrated tannins and very nice acidity.  Nice tart berries, cherries, and dried herbs hit the palate first with some black pepper and meat juices in the background.  This has decent length on the finish.  Not your typical Australian Shiraz that pushes the ripeness level to the edge.  This is a very nice week night wine that could use a bit more complexity on the palate and a touch more length on the finish.  (90 pts)




2008 Araldica Vini Piemontesi Barbera d’Asti Superiore Albera – $24.00

Once again we had a group going to dinner and once again the wine list was passed to me.  I like a nice Italian Barbera, and I felt it would pair fairly nicely with the varied dishes that were ordered.  Let’s see if I pick a winner or fall flat on my face.


The wine was a lighter maroon color.  This has a nice earthy nose with cherries, spice, and some underbrush.  The wine was medium body, at best with soft tannins and very nice acidity.  The palate had nice cherries with a fairly solid earthy overlay.  The finish showed a touch more fruit but was a bit short.  A decent value at a restaurant for mid 20’s, but there are much better Barbera wines out there that would fit in that price range.  The wine was dry and held up to the various meals, so I consider it a success.  On the critical end of the spectrum, a bit more complexity and more oomph on the finish would have helped.  (86 pts)




2005 Renard Grenache Unti Vineyards – $19.99

I bought several bottles of this from my local wine store on an end of vintage blow out sale at an exceptional price.  Past bottles have been very nice though a step or two away from being memorable.


The wine is a fairly deep ruby color.  There are cherries, earthy underbrush, dried herbs, some black pepper, and a slight herbal or stemmy note on the very nice nose.  This is fairly full bodied with fairly solid tannins and very nice acidity.  There is nice spicy red fruit and spice on the palate with some earthiness in the background.  The slightly herbal note creeps in on the backend.  The finish is of nice length, but one again the herbal/stemmy note makes an appearance.  I would have preferred not having the herbal element, but it was not that distracting.  (89 pts)




2007 Estancia Reserve Meritage – $22.50

Still on the road, but we were able to hit a restaurant for steaks and their Thursday Special, half price for all wines.  I was able to get this wine for less than the average price paid on CellarTracker.  This is unheard of for a wine purchased at a restaurant.  This earns Tripp’s a gold best buy.  This appears to be a regional chain in North Carolina and Virginia.  If you see one on a Thursday, stop in for good food and great wine prices.


The wine is a deep maroon color.  The very nice nose has cassis, licorice, baking spices, black cherry, dusty minerality, dried herbs, and a touch of eucalyptus.  This was medium body with soft tannins and good acidity.  On the palate the wine had nice spicy fruit with dried herbs in the background and just a hint of eucalyptus adding a nice element.  The finish had decent length and nice spicy fruit.  Not a world beater, but a nice wine to pair with a steak, especially for just a touch over $20 at a restaurant.  (88 pts)




2008 C.G. di Arie Interlude Estate Grown – $14.24

This has been a favorite since I grabbed a few bottles at a killer price on a close out sale at the local wine store.  This is a blend of 40% Zinfandel, 25% Syrah, 22.5% Petite Sirah, and 12.5% Primitivo from the Sierra Foothills of California.


A touch lighter than medium ruby color.  Brambly berries, white pepper, cherries, baking spices, dark chocolate, and a bit of earthiness on the open and inviting nose.  Medium body at best with ripe tannins and very nice acidity.  Tart, spicy fruit on the palate with a touch of earthiness on the back end.  Decent length on the finish with spicy, tart cherries with a bit of earthiness and spicy oak.  This is not a big, overly ripe style of wine.  Much more delicate and balanced.  Outstanding for under $15.  (90 pts)




Mailing Lists




I’ve been on the Rudius mailing list since the beginning.  Rudius is Jeff and Brittany Ames.  Jeff’s name may not ring a bell, but here’s a bit of his bio:

In 2001 Jeff became Thomas Brown’s assistant winemaker at brands including Schrader, Maybach, Outpost, and Tor.  Two years later, Jeff was named the head winemaker at Tor, a position he still commands.   Rudius is the culmination of Jeff’s goal of owning his own wine brand.


I have purchased a fair amount of Jeff’s wines and every one that I have opened has been outstanding.  I have had several of his cabernets and wines made by the Rhone varietals.  I highly recommend the Rudius mailing list.  More information about Jeff and Brittany, Rudius, and most importantly a link to join the mailing list is available on their site.  Visit http://www.rudiuswines.com/



Elyse Winery

This is Elyse’s 25th year.  You can help them celebrate the momentous occasion.  They are offering 25% off all purchases made through September 25th.  I have been a big fan of the winery since my first visit there in 2000.  They make some of my favorite, mid-priced, red wines.  I think their Cabernets, Zinfandels, Petite Sirahs, and Rhone blends are all very good to outstanding.  Visit http://www.elysewinery.com/25.html for more information.



Ledge Vineyards

This is one of my latest “finds”.  Mark Adams is the owner/winemaker for this family owned winery.  He releases one wine, and the grapes all come from the family owned vineyard.  The vineyard is about 7 acres currently and is located in Paso Robles not far from Denner and the James Berry Vineyards.  Mark is also been the assistant winemaker at Saxum where he has worked since 2004.  I highly recommend getting in on the ground floor of this exciting list.  Visit http://www.ledgevineyards.com/index.php for more information or to join the list.




Remember to support your local wine store!




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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 www.cellartracker.com.  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.