Wine Reviews

Wine Tasting and Reviews From Around the World

Wine Tasting
Ciccone 2005 Lee La Tage

Winery: Ciccone Vineyards
Brand/Type: Lee La Tage
Vintage: 2005
Country: USA
Region: Leelanau Peninsula
Alcohol content: 12.9%
Closure: Natural cork
Appearance: Ruby
Aroma/Bouquet: Strawberry jam, spice

Estate bottled. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec.
Full bodied, a big wine, black cherry and black pepper finish.
The Leelanau Peninsula is best known for whites but Ciccone does very well with reds!

The Spanish Quarter Cabernet Sauvignon – Tempranilo

Winery: The Spanish Quarter
Brand/Type: Cabernet Sauvignon – Tempranilo
Country: Spain
Alcohol content: 13.6%
Closure: Natural Cork
Appearance: Dark Garnet
Aroma/Bouquet: Cherry, Blackberry, hint of Oak

A well rounded fruitful off dry Cabernet that is soft shouldered with a clean and smooth finish. A wine suitable for a summer evening’s dinner with friends on the veranda overlooking the Mediterranean or Trenton. Yes this is a versatile wine without apologies or pretension.

This is a nice medium bodied dry wine that has a good balance of fruit and tannins. While we did not decant this, it would be beneficial if you have the time to do so.

Wine Tasting
Cycles Gladiator Dry Rosé

Winery: Cycles Gladiator
Brand/Type: Dry Rosé
Country: USA
Region: California
Alcohol content: 13.5%
Closure: Synthetic
Appearance: Pale cherry
Aroma/Bouquet: Cherry, cranberry, pomegranate

Cycles Gladiator adorns their label with some very pretty art by French painter G. Massias.

Bait and switch warning!
The label (with pretty art) claims this wine to be dry. The truth is that it is sweet. Not Boones Farm or Arbor Mist sweet, but in no way, shape, or form, can this be considered dry. It is certainly not off-dry either.

This is a fruity sweet wine. It does have a reasonable aroma that is reminiscent of cherries, cranberry, and pomegranate. It tastes strongly of cranberry and strawberries and has a poor and slightly bitter finish

This is a fairly inexpensive wine and performs as such. Did we mention that they have pretty art on their labels?

Wine Tasting
Pentamere Rosé Table Wine

Winery: Pentamere
Brand/Type: Rosé Table Wine
Vintage: N/A
Country: USA
Region: Michigan
Alcohol content: 12%
Closure: Natural cork
Appearance: Cerise
Aroma/Bouquet: Hay and strawberries.

Pentamere is a unique winery; they have no vines. Located in Tecumseh, Michigan, only an hour from Detroit, this is probably one of the last places you would expect to find a winery. Tecumseh is better known for its architecture and antiques. Their website even makes light of their location.

Pentamere instead buys grapes from various vineyards throughout Michigan and produces their own wine. Now this isn’t a new idea or a radical concept, plenty of the huge wine labels do this. Pentamere isn’t huge. Instead they choose to make fine wine in a quaint little town off the beaten track and concentrate their energy on making wine versus growing grapes and making wine. Seems like more fun to me!

This wine is bears a resemblance to a Cabernet Sauvignon “lite”. It has a good body to it for a Rosé. Much more complex than most but not a full bodied red either. Full of fruit flavors and a slight hint of oak, this has soft tannins and a nice clean finish. This is a Rose` for the red wine drinker who doesn’t like Rosé. It’s also a good wine for those white wine drinkers who want to step up to reds.

Pentamere has many good and interesting wines. They’re worthy of a look. Like many Michigan wines, distribution outside of the state is scant. Pentamere does offer online sales however.

Wine Tasting
Ca’ De’ Medici White Lambrusco

Winery: Ca’ De’ Medici
Brand/Type: White Lambrusco
Vintage: n/a
Country: Italy
Region: Reggio Emilia
Alcohol content: 7%
Closure: Natural cork
Appearance: Very pale straw
Aroma/Bouquet: Musty grapes and strawberries.

Lambrusco. The name alone for many over the age of 40, conjures up memories of discos full of sweat and polyester – Wide lapel wearing lounge lizards hitting on free love disco dollies. Lambrusco was indeed a popular drink of that era. A sweet red wine that seemed to give the drinker a (false) sense of sophistication and still get their date drunk. Hindsight is 20-20 and Lambrusco has not been seen in a good light for many years.

So it was with special intrigue that this writer felt awkwardly embarrassed to purchase this wine. Luckily the clerk was far too young to make any association with my purchase.

Our review is of Ca’ De’ Medici’s White Lambrusco. A semi-sweet sparkling white Lambrusco. Yes, that is correct. A sparkling, white, Lambrusco. This is an uncommon find.

Ca’ De’ Medici is a small producer especially when compared to better known Riunite. Ca’ De’ Medici wines are crafted, not mass produced. Their production is 3 million liters compared to 132 million. Our bottle was proof of that. The wine tasted of sweet ripe berries but not overwhelmingly sweet as you might expect. Instead it showed good structure and a tart finish. Of course the carbonation takes the sweet edge off.

Perfect for desert or the patio; celebrate something special! Go ahead and drink this without shame, the past is forgotten.

Wine Tasting
Peter Mertes Spatlese Riesling

Winery: Peter Mertes
Brand/Type: Spatlese Riesling
Vintage: N/A
Country: Germany
Region: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Alcohol content: 9%
Closure: Synthetic
Appearance: Pale straw
Aroma/Bouquet: Pears, peaches, apricot

This being a non-vintage bottling with the label boasting the distinction of being “privatekellerei” or private cellar seemed a bit odd. This combined with a very low price; we didn’t hold many positive expectations. Sometimes Germany floods the market with cheap, poor quality Rieslings that give both the grape and Germany a black eye with many wine drinkers. This however is not one of those…

Happily this wine was quite a pleasant surprise; expecting a cheap, syrupy sweet wine with little if any character, instead we found it to be a nicely complex, off dry, that paired well with seafood, salads, and even Thai! It also lends itself to drinking it alone without a meal just as well.

Peter Mertes has produced a very good, low priced wine. Despite being a later harvest, this Spatlese isn’t overly sweet like many Spatlese’s tend to be. It has a perfectly punctuated sweet note, but only a very short one on the initial taste. After that first impression you discover the pear flavors that dissolve into a light lemon finish that was bright and clean. The acidity and mineral is nearly perfect in balance.

We suspect that Peter Mertes doesn’t indicate a vintage and uses the private cellar distinction to represent a wine made from grapes sourced throughout the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. It’s certainly understated and the wine is truly great. Highly recommended.

Wine Tasting
Gill’s Pier Ice box Apple

Winery: Gill’s Pier
Brand/Type: Ice box Apple
Country: USA
Region: Leelanau Peninsula
Alcohol content: 10%
Closure: Synthetic cork
Appearance: Pale straw
Aroma/Bouquet: Green apple

Gill’s Pier is a small winery with only four acres of vines. Given their small size, they concentrate on quality. Like many Northern Michigan wineries, they specialize in Whites. Northern Michigan has an ideal climate for whites and the Leelanau Peninsula boasts some of the very best white wines anywhere.

Northern Michigan is also renowned for cherries and with that most wineries offer some sort of cherry wine. Yes, Gill’s Pier does too but this review is about their Ice Box Apple.

Ice Box Apple is for certain a niche wine. Don’t confuse this with Boone’s Farm, Annie Green Springs or some sort of bottom shelf wine-like substitute. This is a serious wine!

Semi-sweet with complexity rarely found, your palate is treated to a wonderful parade of flavors. The label boasts “Crisp, Tart, Bright, Bold, Misty, Smart, Sassy, Earthy”. While I can’t say much for the “Misty, Smart, Sassy” portion of the label, the rest is indeed true.

It begins with a slightly sweet beginning rich with tangy sweet red apples and then melts into a tart green apple taste with a crisply light mineral finish.

This pairs very well with spicy foods like Indian, Thai or Chinese. It’s probably not a wine that you drink alone but certainly with a meal or as an aperitif.

This is a hard to find yet very worth your effort. If you are ever in Michigan, by all means stop by their tasting room. Their website has online sales as well as list retailers throughout Michigan.

Wine Tasting
2005 Arcturos Black Star Farms Pinot Grigio

Winery: Arcturos Black Star Farms
Brand/Type: Pinot Grigio
Vintage: 2005
Country: USA
Region: Leelanau Peninsula
Alcohol content: 12%
Closure: Synthetic cork
Appearance: Pale honey
Aroma/Bouquet: Honeydew melon

Black Star Farms is one of Michigan’s finest wineries. Their wines are consistently excellent in both reds and whites. Black Star is an outstanding example of how Michigan has become one of the better wine producing regions of the world. Unfortunately their low volume prevents most wine lovers from experiencing what Michigan has to offer.

This wine has a slight herbal flavor along with a citrus note and slate finish. Tasting distinctly like a dry Pinot Gris but with a softer edge; this wine pairs well with delicate seafood. It won’t overpower your meal like some harsh Pinot’s can. Buy it if you can find it!

Wine Tasting
1999 Chateau Potelle Sauvignon Blanc

Winery: Chateau Potelle
Brand/Type: Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage: 1999
Country: USA
Region: Napa Valley
Alcohol content: 13.8%
Closure: Synthetic
Appearance: Light green/gold
Aroma/Bouquet: Bourbon

Wine & Spirits magazine named this one of 1999’s best wines in a Sauvignon Blanc. We don’t know what sample they received but we found this to be a horrible wine! At nearly 14% alcohol it’s damn hard to avoid an obvious alcohol scent and flavor. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous amount of oak you would taste only the alcohol. This smells like Bourbon and unfortunately it tastes like watered down Bourbon. There is no fruit present at all. Just alcohol, oak, lots of oak, and Bourbon. This wine was so bad that the bottle was not finished.

Wine Tasting
2000 Hirsch Zobing Riesling

Winery: Hirsch
Brand/Type: Zobing Riesling
Vintage: 2000
Country: Austria
Region: Kamptal
Alcohol content: 12%
Closure: Synthetic
Appearance: Pale straw
Aroma/Bouquet: Musty sweet silage, pears

As many Austrian Rieslings go, this one has a unique character compared to most German Rieslings. With a distinct, yet not overbearing oaking, Hirsch offers a Riesling that maintains an old world sensibility but with their own unique style. The oak takes away any overly sweet flavor that many German Rieslings are known for but yet still maintaining a degree of syrupy texture. It has a fruity taste, apricot and pears mostly but the oak and acidity tend to cut into the fruit flavors. Not much mineral but again, a definite abundance of acidity. This is a Jekyll and Hyde wine for certain. Perhaps time has been cruel to this and it would have been better drunk young?

This isn’t a Riesling with a crisp, clean finish but it’s definitely not a soda pop like one either. If you can’t make your mind up between a dry Kabinet or a sweet Auslese, this could be your pick.