For this tasting, the theme was Valentine's Day, sometimes by the name or label rather than the wine itself.
Wine 1: 2002 Domaine Carneros by Taittinger. Napa Valley, California. A wonderful sparkling wine with a lot of acclaim and a nice price tag. Yeasty aroma, a crisp start with a smooth finish. Spice cake flavors. Lovely wine. $27.
Wine 2: 2005 Arrogant Frog "Ribet White". Languedoc, France. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Viognier. Strong dried fruit aromas, very dry and mild, not tart. Slightly bitter. $10.
Wine 3: 2005 Little Black Dress Chardonnay. California. "Fashioned specifically to capture the pure essence of what a woman wants in a wine..." I've gotten mixed responses from female friends on wine marketing targeted at women. I'm just waiting for the day when Oprah starts her own on-air wine club. Bright fruit aromas, a little tart, and medium dry. Lovely balance and a good value. $10.
Wine 4: 2004 Virgin Vines Chardonnay. California. This one gets a lot of bad press, but I didn't think it was terrible. Little or no nose, creamy flavor with light citrus notes. $10.
Wine 5: 2005 Cycles Gladiator. Central Coast, California. This is a dry rosé from unknown grapes. Bright cherry aromas, but virtually no flavors discernible on the tongue. Bitter finish. $10.
Wine 6: 2005 Bodegas Ada "Red Guitar". Navarra, Spain. 55% Tempranillo and 45% Garnacha. Black cherry aromas and flavors, mild mouth feel with balanced tannins. Smooth finish. Great bargain. $13.
Wine 7: 2003 Reilly's "Barking Mad" Cabernet Sauvignon. Clare Valley, Australia. Slightly hot aroma, almost Zinfandel like. Firm tannins with a strong finish. Could use some breathing. $16.
Wine 8: 2004 Shannon Ridge "Two Angels" Petite Sirah. Lake County, California. Another slightly hot one, very spicy but with some berry flavors that develop on the finish. $27.
Wine 9: 2005 3 Rings Shiraz. Barossa Valley, Australia. Peppery, luscious fruit flavors, particularly blackberry. Excellent structure. Why doesn't Marquis Phillips have a website? $20.
Wine 10: NV Bleasdale "The Red Brute" Sparkling Shiraz. Langhorne Creek, Australia. Sparkling Shiraz is sort of a new thing around here, and it hasn't really caught on. And given the old geezer on the label, the packaging isn't exactly romantic. However, I was quite taken with the wine. Bright raspberry aroma, light bubbles, just a touch of tannins. I'm looking forward to experimenting with this class of wine in the future. $17.
Wine 11: 2005 Bonny Doon "The Heart Has Its Rieslings. Washington. Nice petrol aroma, sweet, but the sweetness fades quickly. Honey and nectar flavors. $18.
Wine 12: NV Bonny Doon Framboise. Washington. This is a raspberry liqueur, made from Meeker, Tulameen, and Morrison varieties of raspberry. Big raspberry aromas, but not quite as sweet as you might imagine. Excellent tartness and acidity. Would go great with high-quality vanilla ice cream, or even served in a cordial glass alongside a slice of cheesecake. I had something similar from Bonny Doon about eight years ago that was made from strawberries. This offering brought back many good memories. $16 (375mL bottle).