Category Archives: Rated C+

Review: Lights Out Relaxation Products

Relaxation mania continues with Lights Out, a whole series of products designed to help you sleep more evenly, fight stress, anxiety, jet lag, and all that other bad stuff.

Lights Out contains chamomile, skullcap, rose hips, valerian root, L-theanine, and GABA, but it’s probably the 5mg of melatonin that really does the trick.

The 2-oz. shot comes in two sucralose-sweetened flavors — tropical and, oddly, cloud berry — and both tastes are fair enough. The cloud berry version is largely innocuous and vaguely citrus and apple in character. The tropical is stronger, primarily redolent of coconut.

Strangely, the product is unique in that it also comes in a solid form: a chocolate brownie and a chocolate chip cookie. Both were exceedingly dry and crumbly, and hardly the delicious dessert confection you might be expecting.

As for the effects, with both the shot and the dessert products, I found myself falling asleep relatively quickly, with vivid and rather intrusive dreams to follow. Both times I woke up around six in the morning and had difficulty getting back to sleep — though the six-hour release time of Lights Out may have something to do with that. Still not sure how effective these are, though I felt fine and productive the following day. That said, I’m not exactly clamoring for another brownie.

C+ / about $4 per product /

lights out Review: Lights Out Relaxation Products

Tasting Report: White Wines of Australia’s Old Bridge Cellars

Previously we found Australia’s Old Bridge Cellars red wines to be hit and miss, so we turned our attention to its whites, a wide variety of varietals representing white wine’s greatest hits. Still hit and miss, but on the whole a solid improvement over the reds. Thoughts on each — reasonably affordable, every one of them — follow.

2011 d’Arenberg Riesling The Dry Dam McLaren Vale – A tart and easy Riesling, with distinct grapefruit notes. Good balance, some minerals, and a lightly (and lightly pleasant) sour finish. B+ / $15

2010 Plantagenet Hazard Hill Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Western Australia – Also quite tart, with good tropical (pineapple) notes and a very long, lasting, lemon-flecked finish. B+ / $13

2010 Brokenwood Cricket Pitch Sauvignon Blanc Semillon – As simple as this wine looks — both in the bottle and the glass — it unsurprisingly follows through on the palate: refreshing and clean. Lemony, lightly grassy, and with good acid, it isn’t a challenge but it’s quite delightful. A- / $19

2009 d’Arenberg Viognier Last Ditch – Very easy for a Viognier, including lighter nectarine and lightly sour gooseberry character. Unusual. A slightly meaty nose is the only failing here. B / $23

2010 Leeuwin Estate Riesling Art Series Margaret River – Lots of lemon, big mineral character, moderate body, and a good balance. Nice for a Riesling, but nothing fancy. A- / $25

2009 Plantagenet Chardonnay Mount Barker – The sole bomb in this group, a sour and unripe Chardonnay that tries to cover up its grape problems with oak. C+ / $16


Review: Haras Wines

Haras de Pirque, or just “Haras,” hails from Chile’s Maipo Valley, where it produces a series of very affordable wines, inspired by the winery’s love of horses.

Tasted twice. The first round of wines were clearly damaged by heat in shipping.

2010 Haras Sauvignon Blanc Maipo Valley – Tropical nose, with a touch of lemon character. Slight vegetal finish, but otherwise quite drinkable, particularly at this price. B / $10

2010 Haras Chardonnay Maipo Valley – Simple and inoffensive, with a mild body compared to most Chilean Chardonnays. A bit buttery, and a bit of lemon, but not a lot of nuance or, surprisingly, fruit character beyond that. B / $12

2009 Haras Carmenere Maipo Valley – A big licorice thing, funky on the nose with raisin and prune notes. Incredibly over-jammy, with some black pepper, but not really in balance. C- / $12

2008 Haras Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley –  Similar character, but with a slightly better balance than the Carmenere. Just too much fruit.C / $12

2007 Haras Character Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenere Maipo Valley (pictured) – A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Carmenere, 10% Syrah, and 13% Cabernet Franc. Easily the best red in this crowd, but still intense with prune and cooked fruit character. Mildly better balance than either of the prior two wines, but still has room for improvement. C+ / $20

haras character Review: Haras Wines

Review: 2010 Budget White Wines from McManis

McManis Family Vineyards is a budget outfit with vast vineyard holdings in inland California. A step above ultra-cheap wines, McManis aims to offer quality while keeping prices as low as possible. We sampled three whites from the 2010 vintage, with generally acceptable results.

2010 McManis Pinot Grigio California – Extremely tart but overall fairly pleasant. Intense lemon/lime notes. A bit sour on the finish, and better on its own than with food. B / $11

2010 McManis Chardonnay River Junction California – Simplistic, with overly buttery texture and that meat-like finish that mars so many inexpensive Chardonnays. A touch of peaches and lemons somewhere in the mix. Hints of cinnamon on the finish. Basically drinkable. C+ / $11

2010 McManis Viognier California – I love Viognier, but this might as well be Chardonnay, it’s so lacking the peach/apricot character that solid Viognier should have. That said, the more balanced body actually makes it an improvement on the Chardonnay. A good Viognier if you’re not usually a fan of this style. B- / $12

Review: Baileys Mudslide

Few cocktails in the panopticon of chain restaurant beverages imbue the spirit — the very heart — of panty peeler so thoroughly as the Mudslide. A chocolate, creamy, boozy frozen concoction, this is dessert — and usually drunkenness — in a glass.

Now Baileys brings the Mudslide to ready-made status, or as near as is humanly possible. Just take this 1.75-liter jug of “vodka, chocolate, coffee, and cream liqueurs,” pour into a blender with an equal amount of ice, and pulverize until it’s smooth. You can make it as thick or as thin as you’d like. The more ice you add, the more you cut down the (admittedly weak) 25 proof alcohol level.

When complete (I didn’t even try to taste this unblended and sans ice), it’s a credible beach beverage, but hardly a knockout. The booziness comes off as much harsher than the alcohol level would indicate — more rum-like than vodka-like — and the sweetness is cloying. Chocolate and coffee are almost afterthoughts to the raw sugar notes, and the mass — which separates after about 10 minutes into a creamy tan-and-foam cocktail — is tasty enough in a sorority sister way, but it just doesn’t come together as a composed whole.

Frankly, I think you’d get better results from putting regular Baileys, a squirt of chocolate syrup, and some ice into a blender, and you wouldn’t spend much more, either.

C+ / $16 per 1.75-liter bottle /

Baileys Mudslide Review: Baileys Mudslide

Review: Hpnotiq Harmonie Liqueur

You can put “A refreshing blend of premium French vodka, infused natural fruits, flowers, and a touch of Cognac” on the label, but Hpno is always gonna be Hpno.

An icon of the hip-hop crowd, the electric blue Hpnotiq is an icon of da club. It was only a matter of time before it spawned a sibling… or rather a “stylish BFF,” as the company terms it. Hpnotiq Harmonie, put simply, is a pinkish purple, and if you’re looking for the girliest drink on earth, you have arrived.

The flavor is equally pinkish purple. While Hpnotiq insists that lavender, violets, and berries set it apart from standard Hpno, it’s as overwhelmingly sweet as the original… just, different. Lavender is actually noticeable if you push past the sugar. There’s a sort of floral earthiness on the nose that is intriguing and promising. But a sip reveals Harmonie’s true intentions: To mask a moderate amount of alcohol in a candy-coated glaze. Harmonie is even sweeter than (my memory of, anyway) regular Hpnotiq, which is a shame, because there is some curious flower character under the surface here. It’s just too bad that with that mountain of sweetness what comes across is a thickened version of grape Kool-Aid.

34 proof.

C+ / $25 /

Hpnotiq Harmonie Review: Hpnotiq Harmonie Liqueur

Review: Hardy Vanille Cognac & Vanilla

Flavored cognac is not exactly a big market, but let’s run with it (particularly since a reader requested coverage of this very spirit): A. Hardy blends authentic, French, 8-year old Hardy VSOP Cognac with natural vanilla (plus caramel color) to come up with, well, a vanilla-flavored Cognac. Bottled at 80 proof, if nothing else it sure does look enticing in its frosted glass.

Initially mild, as the cognac character is at the forefront of the spirit. But give it just a couple of minutes and, wham, the vanilla takes hold. It’s hugely sweet and dessert-like, almost like a big vanilla milkshake. While reasonably authentic in flavor, it’s ultimately just too much. As any baker knows, a little vanilla goes a very long way in a dish, especially in liquid form. Here it completely overpowers the cognac character, especially on the finish, where the vanilla becomes cloying and uninviting. One is not encouraged to take sip after sip but rather to switch to a straight, unflavored brandy in short order. Likely better as a mixer or, come to think of it, as a substitute for vanilla in your favorite baking recipes.

C+ / $22 /

hardy vanille Review: Hardy Vanille Cognac & Vanilla

Tasting the Shiraz Wines of Australia’s Old Bridge Cellars

Old Bridge Cellars, “The Face of Australian Wine,” is a consortium of sorts spanning more than 20 wineries sprawling across the entire continent of Australia. The focus, of course, is Shiraz, and recently the company sent a range of its offerings — in sample bottles — to experience how Shiraz varies from the eastern shores of Oz to the west. Some notes follow.

2007 Brokenwood Shiraz Hunter Valley / $36 / C+ / (Hunter Valley, on the east coast near Sydney) overwhelming, pruny, and a bit astringent; difficult despite a light (13.5%) alcohol level

2007 Innocent Bystander Shiraz Viognier / $20 / B+ / (Victoria region, near Melbourne) a blend of 94% shiraz and 6% viognier; easier and full of life, good acid level, with a touch of herbs on the finish

2007 Plantaganet Great Southern Shiraz / $29 / B / (Western Australia region, near the southern coast) from the far west of Australia, this is a brash and hefty, traditional shiraz; good fruit but a bit like being hit with a 2×4

2006 Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz / $40 / B- / (Clare Valley, South Australia, inland from Adelaide) 15% alcohol, big and extracted, showing some premature age

2007 d’Arenberg The Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier / $29 / B+ / (McLaren Vale, in South-Central Australia) another “big” wine, with lots of fruit and some pepper notes

2007 John Duval Entity Shiraz / $40 / B / (South Australia, near Adelaide, perhaps Oz’s most reknowned wine region) again a very extracted wine but one with some guts; could use some bottle aging


Review: Tres Agaves Tequila

The spawn of some old-school tequila execs (and a spinoff of the Tres Agaves restaurant, now just called Tres), Tres Agaves burst on the scene last year as another producer of high-quality, 100% agave tequilas. The company also makes a very good agave nectar and naturally-flavored margarita mix, with key lime and agave nectar as main ingredients.

We tasted both the blanco and reposado tequilas. Both are 80 proof.

Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila - A very archetypal blanco, with a big agave nose, punchy agave on the palate, then a finish that soothes that beast with a touch of sweet vanilla and lemon. Some lingering bitterness follows. I was a bit curious that this might have actually seen a week or two of barrel time before release as a way to rest the spirit, but that seems not to be the case? All in all, a solid margarita tequila. B / $28

Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila - Aged in ex-Bourbon barrels (a variety of companies’ barrels are used) for 6 to 9 months. This tequila is a total surprise. Very green in character, perhaps more so even than the blanco. Big agave notes remain surprisingly prominent, punctuated with black pepper, lemongrass, and wood. But the sweetness of the blanco is inexplicably gone here, leaving you with a punchy and quite bitter finish. C+ / $33

tres agaves tequila Review: Tres Agaves Tequila

Review: Jose Cuervo Low-Cal Margarita/No-Cal Margarita Mixes

Pre-bottled margarita mix is certainly one of the biggest scams perpetrated on the American public since the Flowbee. Really, people, how hard is squeezing out some lime juice and adding a little sweetener, if you’re so inclined?

And yet the just-add-tequila margarita mix remains and, judging by the vast amount of shelf space these mixes command, it remains a top seller.

Now Cuervo is taking things to an extreme: Ripping the calories out of margarita mix with a no-calorie mix and, if you’re too lazy to dump in your own tequila, by offering a sub-100-calorie pre-mixed “Light Margarita” as well.

It’s not our usual bailiwick, but we took a stab at tasting them both.

Jose Cuervo “Zero Calorie” Margarita Mix isn’t terribly surprising: It’s simply a blend of artificial sweetener and some kind of lime essence (sans calories). The flavor is a bit like a diet Sprite that’s gone flat, which could be worse, and if you’re on an extreme diet, well, you probably shouldn’t be drinking margaritas but, if you can’t stop yourself, then I guess this will do in a pinch. Adding tequila (even 100% agave good stuff) actually doesn’t help things at all: It gives the mix a bitter edge and brings out its artificial character. Bottom line: If you want to save calories, skip the mix altogether and just add lime juice the way you’re supposed to. C- / $7 per 1.75-liter bottle

Jose Cuervo Authentic Light Margarita (pictured) – I’m not sure how Cuervo can put the words “authentic” and “light” right next to each other, considering this product certainly has no actual lime juice and is flavored with the same artificial sweetener as the “zero calorie” mix above. This one works better, probably because there is so little alcohol in it. (Cuervo claims it is composed of Cuervo Gold, triple sec, and “a twist of lime.”) And yet somehow this ends up at just 9.95% alcohol. It’s not awful, with real tequila bite, better and more authentic-tasting citrus character, and only a mildly cloying finish. If you need something for a tailgate party in a plastic bottle and there’s a diabetic in the crowd, well, I suppose it will do.* C+ / $15 per 1.75-liter bottle

Cuervo Authentic Light Margarita Review: Jose Cuervo Low Cal Margarita/No Cal Margarita Mixes


* Drinkhacker does not offer medical advice and has no idea if this stuff is diabetic-friendly.


Book Review: Oz Clarke’s “Let Me Tell You About Wine”

oz clarke let me tell you about wine 264x300 Book Review: Oz Clarke’s “Let Me Tell You About Wine”The venerable – unavoidable, even – Oz Clarke continues to grind out book after book, and this almost-coffee-table-sized tome is designed to make wine accessible to even the most rank novice.

If you know nothing, you’ll probably get sucked in by the pictures of strawberries and chocolate, part of Clarke’s goal to get you thinking about the character of a wine instead of just whether it is “good” or “bad.” I especially enjoyed the book’s “wine wheels,” which put the spectrum of reds and whites each on their own circle, with a range of broad flavors around the circumference and intensity representing the distance from the center. While I doubt many readers will ever wonder where Bulgarian Chardonnay is plotted (light, between “oaky” and “oaky and fruity,” by the by), it’s a helpful way to start thinking about how various styles of wine are made.

But so much of this book is targeted at those oblivious about wine that it’s hard to really savor its lessons. There are sections about how to use a corkscrew, how to order a bottle of wine, and of course lengthy treatises on how wine is made. The book really starts to falter though in its discussion of winemaking regions: The United States is dispatched in 10 pages, one of which is devoted to the wines of Texas. Clarke then gives specific wine recommendations for each region: His list of 30 California wines to try include a hodgepodge ranging from supermarket swill (two Ravenswood bottlings) to cult wines most readers of this book will never encounter (Thackrey, Viader).

All along the way there is a surfeit of photographs of Oz mugging for the camera, glass in hand, and many, many, many stock art selections of grape vines and picnic tables overflowing with full wine glasses. Sure, if you are completely oblivious and need guidance on what wine to pair with “chilli con carne,” well, Clarke will get you there eventually (an Italian red, he would advise), though even that is a bit of a challenge due to the book’s odd organization. All the better for it to sit on the coffee table instead of in the library, I suppose.

C+ / $14 / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Mercer Wines

This Washington winery produces a full line of affordable whites and reds. We tasted three of its newest releases. (The photo below isn’t one of the actual wines reviewed but will give you a sense of the label at least.)

2009 Mercer Pinot Gris Yakima Valley – Light and pleasant, and quite fruity for Pinot Gris. Citrus, pineapple, and a touch of chalky mineral on the finish. Very drinkable. B+ / $14

2009 Mercer Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley – Intense Sauvignon Blanc, with big mango and pineapple notes. Not much acid, but tons of fruit, making it an easy-drinking wine that works best as an aperitif. B+ / $14

2008 Mercer Merlot Columbia Valley – A big, smoky, somewhat skunky red. Subtle plum fruit is there, but it’s muddy and buried under a lot of funk. That smokiness just taints the whole experience. C+ / $24

mercer wines Review: Mercer Wines

Review: Alex Elman Wines

Sometimes the wines we get aren’t our favorites. But we review them anyway, especially when the story behind them is so lovely.

This line of inexpensive whites and reds from Argentina are created by a young, blind winemaker (Alex Elman, of course) and are produced sustainably (and affordably). The inaugural releases arrive this month on U.S. shelves.

2010 Alex Elman Torrontes Mendoza – Nice, lemony nose, but the body is green, weedy, and unripe. C

2010 Alex Elman Chardonnay Mendoza – Overly buttery, which saps the fruit (evident in the nose) from the palate. Some melon and more lemon charms here, but nothing that will bowl you over. C+

2009 Alex Elman Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza – Thin and a little weedy, lots of meat and smoke character. Not great. D+

2009 Alex Elman Malbec Mendoza – My favorite of the bunch, which is fitting considering Malbec is essentially Argentina’s national grape. This one has real fruit character, plummy and slightly jammy. Easygoing finish and, at last, balanced. B+

$13 each /

alex elman collection wine Review: Alex Elman Wines

Tasting Report: Discover 2009 Beaujolais – Blanc et Rouge

Beaujolais is home to more than just Beaujolais Nouveau, it’s also home to more upscale reds and whites, primarily made with the Gamay and Chardonnay grapes. These light, very affordable wines are often served chilled or even with ice — even the reds.

We sat down with the folks at Discover Beaujolais to taste through four 2009 releases of these non-Nouveau wines. Just remember: Don’t call it Burgundy! (“Bojo” is located just to the south of that famed wine region.)

2009 Chateau du Chatelard Beaujolais Blanc – Inviting melon nose, but very green and a little bitter on the palate. Finish is a little meaty. C / $15

2009 Jean-Paul Brun, Terres Dorees, Beaujolais Chardonnay – A much greater success with crisp acidity and lots of fresh fig, pear, and apple fruit. Creamy body coats the mouth as you go, but the acidity loosens it up. A winner. A- / $15

2009 Christophe Pacalet Beaujolais-Villages – Licorice is big on the nose, and the body screams cinnamon, allspice, and exotic Eastern spices. Huge and daunting, and no match whatsoever for the thin body. C+ / $12

2009 Chateau du Chatelard Moulin-a-Vent – Old-vine Gamay, a little rounder than the Pacalet but still full of spice. The body is bigger at least and can hold up to some of the punch here, but it’s still a big of a palate buster. Pruny finish. B- / $19

discover beaujolais Tasting Report: Discover 2009 Beaujolais   Blanc et Rouge

Tasting Report: Red Wines of Chile

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a live, online tasting event featuring the red wines of Chile. While Chile is primarily known as Cabernet country, I was surprised to find that it is home to several other widely-planted grapes. Its Pinot Noirs shocked me with their sophistication and quality. Its Syrahs, however, were another story…

Eight wines were tasted. Here’s how they shook out.

2009 Valdivieso Reserva Pinot Noir – A solid Pinot. Bright cherry fruit, tart with good acid. Light body, solid flavor, exactly what a good, new world-style Pinot should be. A- / $17

2009 Vina Casablanca Nimbus Estate Pinot Noir - Bolder, with a fuller body but just as much fruit as the Valdivieso. Some lightly smoky and tobacco notes. Also enjoyable, though the finish is a little too herbal to stand up to the fruit in the wine. B+ / $20

2009 Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley - Similar tone to the Nimbus, perhaps a little smoother and more refined. Balanced, with interesting eucalyptus and evergreen notes in the finish. A- / $20

2008 Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley – Intense and jammy, rich, Zinfandel-like body combined with tart, black cherry character. Disarming, and imminently drinkable, but the massively tart and slightly bitter finish gives it a rough conclusion. B+ / $65

2009 Tamaya Syrah Limari Valley Reserva – The first miss of the evening, a Syrah with off menthol notes, skunky earth, and burned wood. Off finish. D+ / $18

2006 Loma Larga Syrah Bk-Bl Casablanca Valley – Bitter green pepper notes, overwhelming bitterness in the finish. Earthy to a fault. Unpleasant. D / $29

2009 Underraga T.H. Syrah Leyda Valley - Better, showing a little of what Chilean Syrah can be: Dark black fruit with intense herbal notes. Still, the balance is wrong and the finish is off, but the intensity marks a good effort. C+ / $25

2009 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Syrah Francois Lurton Lolol Valley – Dark chocolate character meats bitter, earth, and meat notes. Tolerable, but far too intense, with a bracing (not in a good way) finish. C- / $13

Review: Three New Argentina Malbecs

Don’t cry for me, Argentina: These wines are all made using sustainable practices and will be on shelves just in time for both World Malbec Day (4/17) and Earth Day (4/20). Drink up!

2010 Bodini Malbec Mendoza – 2010? For real. This screwcap wine offers minimal character, a somewhat watery wine that smells of simple plum and tastes of little more. Not very interesting, but fairly harmless. C+ / $13

2008 Lunta Malbec Mendoza – My favorite of the bunch, a rich and vibrant Malbec with cherry, licorice, and cedar notes. Balanced and easy drinking, but complex and full of body. A- / $20

2008 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec Mendoza – Dusty and dense, this is a big wine that could stand a few years in the cellar. Hugely spicy and powerful, Susana Balbo has massive notes of plum, tobacco, and a jammy, slightly sweet finish. Give it time in the glass or decant and it will show its stuff. A- / $25

Review: Lunazul Anejo Tequila

Lunazul: “When the night calls.” Hmmm.

From rather cheesy beginnings come this workmanlike product, designed to bring 100% agave, anejo-class tequila (aged 18 months in oak) to the masses, with a $22 price tag.

That kind of pricing is completely unheard of in the work of 100% agave anejo tequilas, and Lunazul is proof that maybe it isn’t wholly doable. I’m not saying producer Heaven Hill — best known as a bourbon outfit — is cutting corners, but this tequila just doesn’t measure up to its pricier competition.

It’s all about the body. While I expect anejo to be a smooth, vanilla-infused, whiskey-like experience, Lunazul is muddy. The nose evokes a younger tequila, with green agave notes overwhelming the spirit. The body is similar, with a hard, vegetal edge and a pungent agave body. You’ll find tantalizingly sweet vanilla notes only hinted at, which is frustrating. The finish is overly herbal and hard. It doesn’t have that rotgut burn, mind you, but it has a rocky edge that makes it unthrilling.

I love the idea of an affordable 100% agave tequila — that’s what Cuervo Tradicional was made for — but Lunazul just doesn’t quite cut it.

80 proof.

C+ / $22 /

lunazul anejo tequila Review: Lunazul Anejo Tequila

Review: Three Soave Wines

rocca sveva soave Review: Three Soave WinesDrinkhacker’s been flooded with Soave of late, and we aren’t complaining: This crisp Italian white is making a huge comeback and is worthy of attention, particularly since it is so affordable. These three wines show what a wide range of styles Soave can exhibit.

2009 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico (pictured)- Crisp and very acidic, almost exactly like a Sauvignon Blanc. Tart with lemon notes and quite intense. Hints of figs on the finish. Very easy drinking but can overpower some foods. Have it with your salad, not your roast fish. Amazing value for the quality. A- / $12

2007 Foscarin Slavinus Soave Superiore Classico – More buttery in style (a la Chardonnay), with lightly sweet dessert notes — creme brulee, bananas — and laced with citrus fruit. Interesting balance, but the creamy body is a little surprising. B+ / $30

2009 Fattori Danieli Soave – Here we see a Soave veering into a Riesling style, with perfumed and aromatic notes overpowering the fruit. Not well balanced, with a tight, green finish. The least impressive of the trio, but proof that Soave has additional tricks up its sleeve. C+ / $13


Review: 2009 Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Why aren’t you drinking Israeli wine? Perhaps because you didn’t know it existed, no?

Galil Mountain is one of the country’s most exported labels. That may not be saying a whole lot, but it does at least give you a chance to try these unique and interesting reds.

2009 Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee is a big, burly red, thick with pruny, raisiny notes, heavy with tar and cedar notes. This would all be OK, but the finish is off, tough as nails and intense with coal and hardened leather. Needs time, but I’m not sure the fruit that remains after all that tannic terroir that lives in this wine would survive for long in the cellar. C+

2009 Galil Mountain Merlot Galilee is surprisingly far more successful, a soft and easy Merlot with mild plum fruit and chocolate notes. Some greenness around the edges, but this one goes down quite well and is a stark contrast to the meaty, rough-hewn Cab. B+

both $15 /

Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauignon Review: 2009 Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Book Review: Whiskey & Philosophy

whiskey and philosophy Book Review: Whiskey & PhilosophyIt is try that whiskey has a tendency to make philosophers out of all of us, but I didn’t know that would lead anyone to actually write a book on the topic.

Truth be told, Whiskey & Philosophy is not really a study of drinking dogma but an anthology (written by 20 different authors or teams of writers — when you drink, it sometimes takes more than one person to make a coherent thought, I guess) covering everything there is to cover about the world of whiskey.

There are the expected treatises on the origins of whiskey, various types of whiskey (there’s even a chapter/installment on Japanese whiskey), whiskey drinks (there are 15 pages about the Manhattan), and the appropriateness of judging/grading/describing whiskey. And eventually we get to philosophy. Both Hegel and Kant are invoked.

Perhaps a standout is Ada Brunstein’s essay on female whiskey drinkers, and why the hell they’re so rare. (I can count the number of women I know who genuinely like whiskey on one hand.) It starts with the story of Hillary Clinton drinking Crown Royal on the campaign trail… and the backlash she got for it.

Even better: Ian J. Dove’s treatise on reviews and tasting notes, and how one can rarely tell if a whiskey is actually any good by reading them without a grade or rating. And what’s the difference between a 92 and a 95 anyway? Jim Murray gets a hearty raking over the coals here.

But almost all of this (a few stories excepted) is very dry stuff. Written academically — every essay is footnoted extensively — this is a textbook for that class in college that sounds like it’s going to be awesome… until you get there and realize that no booze is allowed in the classroom.

In other words: Perfect for the whiskey-lover’s bookshelf. But not a book you should expect him to actually read much of.

C+ / $15 / [BUY IT HERE]