I actually enjoyed this tasting... The theme was good wines under $15 in honor of tax day, and upon arrival I discovered a heavy southern French slate (all of which happened to come from importer Robert Kacher). Hurrah!
Wine 1: 2003 Robert's Rock Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay. From South Africa, this was a fun surprise. Soft and fruity, no oak. Great balance and an amazing value at $6.
Wine 2: 2003 Cline Pinot Gris/Chardonnay. Cline Cellars produces a lot of interesting wines, including the beloved Red Truck brand. I felt this wine was unbalanced; too much fall fruit, and a weird aftertaste that I couldn't pin down. I'm not sure how much the Pinot Gris (Grigio) was helping--it really tasted like bad California Chardonnay. $10.
Wine 3: 2003 Geyser Peak Alexander Valley Chardonnay. Another standard California Chardonnay. Nothing special. $13.
Wine 4: 2003 Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc. A nice sampling of Rhône white grapes. I love this region, and the wines don't disappoint. Light and easily drinkable, but with good flavor. $12.
Wine 5: 2002 Hope Estate Hunter Valley Verdelho. A big surprise here, and my first tasting of this native Portuguese grape. Good balance of fruit, acid, and crispness without being sweet. I'd love to try it with Mexican food. $9.
Wine 6: 2003 Mirassou Pinot Noir. It was interesting to revisit this wine. It tasted better this time--not sure if it was a breathing or temperature issue, or if I just had an off bottle earlier. Still not overly excited about it, though. $10.
Wine 7: 2003 Cline Cashmere. This is a GSM Côtes du Rhône style wine. Quite good, and I've always loved that combination. However, this wine was shipped to the store by mistake, and is only available to club members. A dollar from each bottle of this wine sold goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. $16.
Wine 8: 2001 Mas de Guiot Grenache-Syrah. A good combination from Languedoc, just south and west of Côtes du Rhône. This wine should be a big hit among Americans, but it's not marketed like that. In fact, it's a pretty serious looking label, austere white with black text in Shelley Allegro. The one nod to American audiences is the simple "40% Grenache/60% Syrah" below the vineyard name. $13.
Wine 9: 2001 Domaine Saint-Antoine Syrah. I think this bottle was off, but no one wanted to step up and say it. Brett maybe? I thought it tasted like running the lawnmower through a patch of slightly rotten and noxious weeds. $13.
Wine 10: 2001 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot. My second tasting of this Washington wine that scored in the Wine Spectator Top 100 last year. I thought it was better this time around, and I may even grab a bottle at some point. Well balanced without that candy flavor you get in California. I still prefer the Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon from that year. $13.
Wine 11: 2000 Mas de Guiot Cabernet-Syrah. Another great blend from Languedoc. If you didn't see the label, you might even think this was a restrained offering from Australia. $14.
Wine 12: 2002 Paul Hobbs Cocodrilo Cabernet Sauvignon. Good for the price, this Argentine wine is smooth with good dark fruit flavors. With a name like Cocodrilo it's certainly something unique to put on the table. $15.