Over two thousand wine reviews! While most of our reviews focus on great wines under $20, we also offer reviews of luxury and collectible wines. As we are located in Philadelphia, most wines reviewed here are available via PLCB Wine & Spirits Shops in Pennsylvania. Our main reviewer is Keith Wallace, the executive director and founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia.
There is no shame in not knowing Mill Creek Vineyards. It is easy to miss.
This is a tiny, family-run operation covering 55 acres in Sonoma County. Its focus is on high quality wines, and has been since its founding in the 1960s. Jeremy Kreck is a third generation winemaker: he and his extended family do it all themselves. This is pretty remarkable when most wineries outsource some (or all) elements of grape growing, winemaking, bottling, or sales.
A decadent and lush offering of drop-dead beautiful Merlot. Round and soft on the tongue, it offers up a complex potion of milk chocolate, rum raisin, and vanilla cola. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some serious bone fides, though. Aromas of graphite and currant and a finish of bay leaves and cherry stones shows a level of sophistication that often is missing from such a luxury-driven wine.
The winery dates back as far as the 14th Century. At the time, it was labelled the “Cahago,” the Tuscan term for a walled field. It was bought by the Farkas family in the 1960′s and has gone through consecutive rounds of modernization and revitalization under their care. Four generations tilled the vineyards at this villa. However, the winery was bought in 2006 by La Vis, a winery cooperative. Despite that, quality levels have continued to rise.
A tight balance between rich earthen flavors and dynamic fruit notes intertwine; aromas of cedar and tobacco echo through the nose. Added notes of allspice and fresh raspberry unfold on the palate, while flavors of fresh fruit and savory oak add to a lustrous finish. An excellent bottle of Sangiovese.
Domaine Des Ardoisieres is a tiny, 17 acre winery in Savoie. This mountainous French wine region is located near the border of Switzerland, below Jura, and is producing some of the most exciting white wines in France right now.
This wine is a vineyard blend of Jacquère, Mondeuse Blanche, and Chardonnay from forty-year old vines. It is one of the most beautiful white wines to be found under $50.
The flavors and scents of this wine are truly transformative, pushing to a poetic beauty that’s staggering. I’ll try to make sense of it in words, but this wine truly defies both words and logic. Sea smoke rises out of the glass. A scent of sweet toasted pine nuts and lemon oil flickers by. A richness on the palate stretches tight with a laser cut clarity. Flavors of white peaches, nectarines, and chestnut honey ripen into fully formed fruit with a touch of ocean brine above a wet granite beach.
Zocker, which is the Austria word for “gambler”, is a new project by the Niven Family Wine Estates, already a top producer in California’s central coast.
The Gruner Veltliner varietal is a rare and idiosyncratic pleasure in California. It’s a grape much more known in its homeland of Austria, where it makes crisp and mineral-laden wines of great vigor.
This bottling by Zocker offers similar pleasures, but is in a league all its own. Crystalline flavors of peach, ginger, and grapefruit comprise the nose, very similar to a high-toned Sauvignon Blanc. Secondary flavors of iron, ocean air, and peaches add a wonderful complexity to this exotic wine. Strongly recommended for the coming summer months.
Domaine Durand is an old family estate that was taken over by the dynamic duo of two brothers, Eric and Joel Durand, in 1991. It’s a small, 13 hectare property that straddles the wine regions of Cornas and St. Joseph. Here, the approach to winemaking is modern and minimalist. Their moderate yields and judicious use of new oak frame their remarkable wines perfectly.
Deep layers of black currant, burnt sandalwood, and fennel open into a loose framework of rosemary, garrigue, and laurel. The rich weight of creamy tannin and lilac are ladled over a luscious core of blackberries. A luxuriously delicious wine.
A lovely bottle of dry bubbly. This is the top bottling of the Cave des Producteurs de Vouvray, which itself is run by Alliance Loire. Made from Chenin Blanc, the flavors veer toward quince, hazelnuts and ginger. While the bubbles are not as tight as Champagne, the wine is well-structured and delightful. A zing of lemon and wet stone in the finish is coupled with a touch of spice.
A great bottle of bubbly for the price.
Maison Bouachon has a long history in the Rhone Valley. It began as a cooperage for other wineries in the 19th century. The Bouachons family operated the winery for four generations, until they sold it to another local family, the Skallis, in 2001.
The Skallis are one of the most interesting vigneron families in France. In 1920, Robert-Elie Skalli was a winemaker in Algeria. In the 1950s, he moved his family to France, and acquired several more wineries. Now they have significant holdings in the Rhone, Provence, Langudedoc, and Corsica. They also own the Napa winery St. Supery.
Full-bodied and densely tannic, this is an aggressively attractive wine. It offers up great pleasure and layers of flavor. A lick of burnt cedar and rosewood on the nose, followed by notes of lavender and licorice. Ripe blackberry is married with the smoky elements of charcoal and roasting coffee. The finish is long and lingers beautifully.
A decadent bottle of right bank Bordeaux.
This chateau is part of the budding Bordeaux empire of Françoise Lannoye and her husband, Philippe. They purchased their first property, Château Lanbersac, in Puisseguin in 2001. Since then, they have purchased and renovated Château Moulin de Clotte in Côtes de Castillon and Chateau Ambe Tour Pourret in Saint Emilion. The well-regarded winemaker François Despagne oversees all the properties.
Starting off with pomegranate and iron, it quickly escalates into cherry preserves and smoked chocolate. Tannins close off the finish slightly, but notes of cherry and allspice sneak past on the finish. A year or two of cellaring will do wonders for this bottle.
Expression Wines is a new project by William Hill, and it’s all about the Pinot. The conceit of the labeling is that each Pinot is designated by its northern latitude: Santa Rita Hills (34°), Sonoma Coast (38°), Anderson Valley (39°), and the Eola-Amity Hills (44°) of Willamette Valley, Oregon.
You may recognize Hill’s name from a bottle of wine or two (he sold his namesake winery to Gallo back in the 70′s). He has been involved with at least 40 other wineries since, and owns a significant acreage of vineyards throughout Oregon and California. The fruit is largely sourced from his own vineyards.
Whiffs of elegant perfume waft from the glass. Lively cranberry and blackberry are elevated, with steely mineral notes juxtaposed against warm, earth flavors. Elegantly structured with delineated layers that ebb into currant and chocolate on the finish.
Beaumes de Venise, in the Southern Rhone, is most known for its dessert wines. But it also produces excellent old vine reds, mostly from the Grenache varietals. The region is located on the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range, close to Gigondas and Vacqueras.
This winery is part of the Vignerons de Caractere, an excellent local wine co-op. Over the past five years, a lot of their wines – ranging from good to excellent – are being discounted in the PLCB shops. It seems they have opted to use Philly and nearby environs to dump excess product.
Excellent depth and concentration. On the nose, blueberry bush (yes, briars and all), cherry and lilac. Flavors are rich and lush with distinct notes of herbes de provence. Fig and olive notes give way to blackberry and licorice on the finish.