Archive for November, 2009

Week 14: Burgundy Whites

30 Nov

Happy Cyber Monday!  I hope everyone had a happy and safe Thanksgiving.  J and I had a great time with the Lyman clan on Thursday followed by a relaxing and beautiful weekend at his family’s cabin up in the Sierra foothills.  We did a lot of cooking, eating, and drinking, which is, I suppose, not much different than a normal weekend for us, but this time we got to share it with both of our families.  Very fun.  We took some arancini di riso (fried risotto balls filled with cheese) to my family’s Thanksgiving gathering* and cooked some really fabulous meals (chicken stuffed with goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach on Friday night and pork and wild boar ribs braised in red wine on Saturday night) for J’s family up at the cabin.

Anyhoo, with Thanksgiving now behind us, I’m jumping right in to Week 14 of the CorkPopper project.  I’m leaving Italy behind (Ciao!) and heading to France (Bonjour!), stopping first for a couple of weeks in Burgundy.  Burgundy (or Bourgogne in French) is, of course, a very famous French wine region in eastern France.  Though you can also find wines made from other grape varietals (Gamay and Aligote, in particular), the two most famous Burgundian varietals are Chardonnay for white wines and Pinot Noir for red wines.  This week’s wines will all be Burgundian whites made from the Chardonnay grape…. and without further delay, here’s this week’s list!

First, we have a 2004 Emilian Gillet Vire Clesse Quintaine Jean Thevenet, which was given 90 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and is available at Wine Exchange for $17.99/bottle.

Second, is a 2007 Roger Lassarate Macon-Vergisson La Roche, which received 90 points from Stephen Tanzer and is available at for $17.79/bottle.

Finally, a 2007 Seguinot Bordet Chablis Fourchaumes Premier Cru, which received 90 points from BurgHound, a great resource for information on Burgundian wines.  This wine is available at Wine Exchange for $19.99/bottle.


* Though I’ve long warned J that newcomers to the Lyman family Thanksgiving must have an excellent sense of humor, J escaped mostly unscathed…. though he did take some ribbing about how good his “balls” were (meaning the arancini we brought, of course).


2006 Castello Monaci Liante Salice Salentino

28 Nov

Here we have another Sicilian red, although this is a blend made from two somewhat unusual grapes – Negroamaro (meaning black and bitter) and Malvasia.  It’s big and bold, with huge notes of prunes, leather, smoke and a bit of tar on the nose and dark ripe fruit and vanilla on the palate.  It’s more balanced than the Spadafora Don Pietro Rosso, with a long and pleasant finish, but is still a bit heavy handed for my tastes.

This wine is available at for just $13.49/bottle and is definitely worth a try if you like your red wines to pack a punch.  All in all, I’d give it about 3.5 corks popped.



Happy 100th Post! (and happy Thanksgiving, too!!)

26 Nov

Wow!  100 posts!!  In honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to announce a new CorkPopper feature.  A few readers have pointed out that it’s currently difficult to figure out how different wines I’ve reviewed compare to one another, and I absolutely agree.  So, from now on I will be giving wines a “Corks Popped” rating.  The scale will be from 1 – 5, with 1 being a wine you should avoid and 5 being an absolutely stellar wine that you should absolutely seek out.  I’ll also be going back and adding these ratings to wines that I’ve already reviewed, although the process might take a while to complete.
For now, I’m off to pop some corks with the Lyman clan!!  Happy Thanksgiving!!



2004 Spadafora Don Pietro Rosso

26 Nov

I am sad to report that I have never actually been to Sicily.  Don’t get me wrong.  I would love to go.  It’s such a mysterious and ruggedly beautiful place.  But I did most of my traveling through Italy on my own, and it was just one of those places that didn’t seem like the safest place for a 20-year old girl to be wandering through alone.

So for now, I am content to just “virtually” travel to Sicily through its wines.  They’re big and rich with a huge punch (that hot climate makes for some high sugar content in the grapes, leading to highly alcoholic wines) and lots of tannins.  This wine in particular wasn’t my favorite.  Although the flavors were less tart and more smooth than the Morgante Nero d’Avola, the tannins were a bit overwhelming, making the mouth extremely dry (and later causing a headache that actually woke me up in the middle of the night).  In short, while I would turn down a glass of this wine if it were offered to me, I don’t know that I’d necessarily seek it out either.  That said, it’s available at for $15.99/bottle.

The verdict?  2.5 corks popped…



2007 Morgante Nero d'Avola

26 Nov

J and I had some serious trouble getting into this bottle, and after a REALLY long day at work for both of us, I was not happy about it.  First, the cork broke on me (as you can imagine, I am practiced enough at opening wine bottles that this rarely, if ever, happens).  J was able to get the cork out rather than pushing it into the bottle, but, in the process, he chipped a shard of glass off which ended up impaling his finger.  Okay, maybe he wasn’t impaled, but he certainly bled like he was.  Oof.

Anyhoo, we did finally get into the bottle.  It was big and chewy, with lots of tart dark cherries and smoke, and went quite nicely with our Indian food (chicken tikka masala and lamb vindaloo).  It definitely needs to breathe a bit and could probably use a bit more age, but it’s definitely a decent bottle of wine.  If you’d like to try it yourself, you can find it at BevMo for $17.99/bottle.

Bottom line: 2.5 corks popped



Week 13: Southern Italian Reds

24 Nov

Phew!  After a crazy weekend participating in G’s Birthday Surprise-a-thon and what is turning out to be a crazy (albeit short) week at work, I’m afraid I’m a bit behind on the blogging…. Woops!

That said, I’m very excited about this, my last week “in” Italy, when I’ll be tasting three reds from Southern Italy.  So, without further delay, here’s the list….

First, a 2006 Castello Monaci Liante Salice Salentino, which was given 90 points by Robert Parker and is available at for just $13.49/bottle.

Second, a 2004 Spadafora Don Pietro Rosso, which received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast and can be purchased at for $15.99/bottle.

Finally, a 2007 Morgante Nero d’Avola, which garnered 89 points from Robert Parker and is available at BevMo for $17.99/bottle.



2007 Conterno Fantino Vignota Barbera d'Alba

20 Nov

Now, I know what you’re thinking… $22.99 isn’t exactly a “budget” wine, especially during these days of economic difficulty.  And while I generally agree and have made every effort to keep the prices down on the wines reviewed on this blog, I have had this wine before and couldn’t pass it up this week.

This wine is inky purple in color with a big, bold aroma of juicy dark fruit that washes over the tongue and fills the whole mouth with luxurious complexity.  In other words, this wine may be $22.99/bottle, but it drinks like a wine that costs two to three times that.  So don’t let the price tag scare you….go out and get a bottle.  Enjoy it now or, better yet, save it for a special occasion.  Your patience will only be rewarded.

4 corks popped!


P.S.  I’m headed up to the Bay to visit the girls this weekend, so there is a chance that there won’t be a CorkPopper dinner on Sunday.  My apologies, but please stay tuned for next week.  We’ve got lots in store for Thanksgiving!!!


2006 Vietti Tre Vigne Barbera d'Alba

19 Nov

Here we have the second of this week’s Barbera d’Alba, the 2007 Vietti Tre Vigne.  With lots of super-ripe dark blackberries and plum, some earthiness, and a bit of smoky leather, this wine has a lot of amazing depth, especially at this price point ($19.99/bottle from Wine Exchange).  Though it’s a bit tart on its own, it’s a great wine to pair with food…. I had a glass with crackers and a St. Andre brie, and the creaminess of the cheese balanced out the tart acid in the wine wonderfully.

3 corks popped!!



Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

19 Nov
It’s 12:01 a.m. on the third Thursday of November, and you know what that means…. It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day!!  Every year on this day and at this time, the producers of Beaujolais Nouveau simultaneously release the latest vintage, made from grapes harvested just 6-8 weeks prior.  Shipments are then whisked off to wine distributors throughout the world for immediate release to consumers – lots of consumers.  By the time the day is over, nearly 65 million bottles will be distributed and drunk around the world.  In short, it’s the closest thing there currently is to an International Day of Wine.
If you’re unfamilar with Beaujolais Nouveau, it’s a red wine made from the Gamay grape in the southernmost region of Burgundy.  It’s made using a special process called carbonic maceration in which whole grape clusters are placed in a carbon-dioxide rich environment so that the juice actually begins to ferment while still inside the skin, eventually bursting the grape open.  This somewhat violent fermentation process is what gives Beaujolais wines that almost effervescent, lively mouthfeel and also what makes Beaujolais Nouveau such a great wine to drink young.                                *

Though many consider Beaujolais Nouveau a simple or immature wine, such criticism mostly misses the point from my perspective.  Of course Beaujolais Nouveau isn’t a serious or complex wine; it has never laid claim to being such.  Rather, it is simply fun and easy-to-drink, especially on the third Thursday in November, when you know that millions of people around the world are doing exactly the same thing.  Is this just brilliant marketing?  Perhaps.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy it…


* I haven’t had a chance to buy any Beaujolais Nouveau of my own yet, so I borrowed this image from wikipedia.


Ask L: What Kind of Wine Should I Serve at Thanksgiving Dinner?

19 Nov

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  I mean, how could it not be?  It’s an entire day dedicated to doing nothing but cooking, eating, drinking, and spending time getting increasingly inebriated with your closest friends and family.  This great American holiday is nearly upon us again, of course, and I’ve been receiving quite a few requests for Thanksgiving wine recommedations.  Well, I’d just like to say that I’m not ignoring those requests.  On the contrary, I’ve been thinking a lot about them and trying to figure out how best to respond.

Earlier today, however, as I was scanning some of my favorite wine blogs, I came across this great post over at Vinography, which sums up quite succinctly exactly how I feel about wine at Thanksgiving (but was having trouble articulating).  For those who might not have time to read it on your own, let me sum it up: Thanksgiving wine recommendations are useless.  There are too many kinds of food and too many competing flavors (not to mention attendee preferences) to ever come up with the “perfect” pairing for Thanksgiving dinner.  So, you ask, what should one do when trying to decide what wine to bring to Thanksgiving dinner?  Easy.  Open several bottles of various kinds of wine and let people choose for themselves.  At the very least, it’s an interesting social experiment.  Just make sure to get something you know YOU like!


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