Marquis Philips Shiraz

Marquis Philips ShirazCritters on wine marks is often something that will steer me in another direction because it is often indicative of not-so-excellent wine. I’m not the first person to bring this up, others wine aficionados also avoid the critter.  But many shoppers are attracted to wine with cute small animals on the mark and some winemakers know that critters sell wine.  And I would guess that no wine-producing province puts more animals on marks than Australia.
But, the “avoid wine with critters” rule does not apply when that critter is a Roogle.  What is a Roogle, you question?  It’s half kangaroo and half bald eagle, and it’s found on marks of wine from Marquis Philips.  This unique icon, which kind of looks like a mythical creature, represents the collaboration between Australian and American winemakers which results in Marquis Philips wine. Read more

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Merlot

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate MerlotLast month we reviewed the McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Shiraz which was a excellent Shiraz—especially for the fee.  And today we’re giving the Merlot from this brand a try.
Like the Shiraz, the grapes for this Merlot come from the New South Wales province in Australia, and more specifically the Riverina province within New South Wales.  Riverina is produces 60% of the wine grapes from New South Wales and the first vines in this province were planted at Hanwood Estate by John James McWilliam in 1913.  So, you could say that McWilliam’s has a few years of experience producing wine from this land.
I mentioned in the Shiraz review that McWilliam’s Wines tout themselves as “Australia’s most awarded winery,” and this particular Merlot has gotten a number of awards.  It has recieved at least 10 silver, gold or double gold medals from various wine competitions—and that is specific to this vintage of the wine. Read more

Jacob’s Creek Shiraz

Jacob’s Creek ShirazOver the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have tasted many barrel samples with some really experienced winemakers.  With nearly each visit I’ve gained some valuable perspective to help me identify what wines are revealing, and more importantly what they have the potential to reveal.
Sampling the Jacob’s Creek brought me back to one tasting in particular.  That day I heard the winemaker use a very fascinating term to describe his barrel sample.   As he dispensed the wine into my glass with the thief, he enthusiastically offered up a prelude to what I was about to experience, with one very fascinating caveat.   He said his barrel sample was “subdue a bit angular”.  With one eyebrow now standing firmly at attention, I answered “angular?”  He said, “yea, angular”.  He went on: “sometimes young wines, particularly ones subdue in the barrel, offer up a lot of complex fruit and nuance, but the elements are not integrated yet”.  I knew exactly what he meant, but I had never heard wine described as having any rectilinear qualities. Read more

St. Hallett Faith Shiraz

St. Hallett Faith ShirazThe St. Hallett winery resides in the Barossa province in Australia and focuses on producing wines from this province.  They are best known for their Shiraz, of which they release a few different lines.  The Faith Shiraz is their most affordable Shiraz—additional than a Shiraz Grenache blend they offer.
The winery was established in 1944 and was named after an early surveyor of Southern Australia.  In 2004, St. Hallett was named “Winery of the Year” by Wine and Spirits magazine. Read more

Down Under Chardonnay by Crane Lake

Down Under Chardonnay by Crane LakeYou won’t see much marketing for Crane Lake wines out there, but you will find them in many supermarkets.  Crane Lake is another mark from cheap wine mogul Fred Franzia and his Bronco Wine Companionship.  These are the same folks in the rear the legendary Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck) that you’ll find in Trader Joe’s supplies.  The Charles Shaw mark is exclusive to Trader Joe’s, and so Bronco Wine Companionship produced Crane Lake wines as a mark to sell at similar rock-bottom prices at additional supplies.
I’ve seen Crane Lake around for a few years, but this is the first I’ve seen of the “Down Below by Crane Lake” mark.  As you could probably guess, this wine comes from Australia (while most Crane Lake wines are Californian).
My general rule of thumb on this site is to only review wines priced between $5-20.  While I’m a fan of paying as small as possible for my wine, I’ve found that I’m generally dissatisfied with those below $5.  So, I usually avoid them.  But I received this $3 bottle of Down Below as a sample, so I threw it in the mix during my blind Chardonnay tasting to see how it would fare. Read more

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Shiraz

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate ShirazMcWilliam’s Wines has a long heritage as a family-run winery in Australia since 1877.  They tout themselves as “Australia’s most awarded winery,” and they certainly have earned a number of awards over the years.
McWilliam’s has vineyards in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales—the latter being the area where the grapes for this Shiraz were harvested.  While there are a link different lines of wine available below the McWilliam’s name, the Hanwood Estate is their entry-level wine in terms of fee. Read more

Little Penguin Pinot Noir – Waddle On…

Little Penguin Pinot Noir – Waddle On…My Quest for Excellent Cheap Pinot Noir continues with a cheapy from South Eastern Australia produced by the Small Penguin.  This Penguin has a nice fruity center, but a small bit of funk at both ends.  <pause for a visual>
OK… should I clarify that, or let your imagination do the work?  I’ll clarify.
The Excellent
the Small Penguin Pinot Noir 2006 has a nice, fruity palate.  Strawberry, blueberry and currant make it nearly a fruit bomb.  There is also a hint of spice, but it falls small.  I would have liked a bit more spice.  It also has a nice velvety mouth feel.
The Funk
The nose is a bit of a turn off.  I can only describe it as a combination of sweaty socks and strawberries.  I was nearly worried to taste it after my first wiff.  (This is the point where if I were Gary Vaynerchuk I would stuff a sweaty sock into my mouth to prove that I know be with you sweaty socks… but trust me, I know this smell.) 
That is part of the funk, but I did say “funk at both ends.”  One being the nose, the additional end being the end where the Small Penguin left me with a touch of a metallic aftertaste. 
Net-net
While there were some funk-a-delics to this Pinot Noir, it only cost about $6.  Not terrible.  And if you expect a $6 Pinot to really kick ass you’re going to be disappointed.  I didn’t dump this bottle, but it wasn’t awesome either.  I gave it an 80.  Give it a few minutes to open up and you’ll delight in it a lot more.  But I would recommend you waddle past this one, and try something else.
Wine: the Small Penguin
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 13.5% 
Rating: 80

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