1989 Silver Oak Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Decent, but not amazing.

sept. 26, 2009: victoria had dinner with her parents and her father brought out this silver oak, which he was itching to try. it was slightly acidic when we opened it, so he let it decant for about 10 or 15 minutes. while the acidity dissipated, the flavor wasn't all that significant or memorable. alan said 1989 in general wasn't a good year for california, but it wasn't the worst it could have been. $165.80 according to snooth.com.


2004 Evans and Tate Margaret River Shiraz: Wonderful!

sept. 25, 2009: victoria whipped up a meal of grilled pork loins seasoned with garlic salt and st. louis-style peppery mustard, and steamed potatoes from nancy and fred's garden. she chilled this southwest australian shiraz in the freezer for about 25 minutes, then poured the first jammy glass. it was instant blackberry, smooth, cool, a fruit explosion. shirazes really do it, in terms of getting her to experience the wine ... here the texture and flavor and temperature all coalesce into one very fine experience, at least in this case. as it warms up in the glass, the tannins are more pronounced, and there is almost a thick line of bitterness drawn in the back of the mouth. it's not so overwhelming that you wouldn't want to drink it; rather, it's merely a trail that lets you know you just took a long, careful sip of something quite good. we'd get this again. 15.4 percent alcohol. $17.99 at winetree.

2007 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio Valdadige: Very good.

sept. 7, 2009: we had this at what has become one of our favorite restaurants in clayton, mo. oceana bistro is an excellent seafood restaurant considering it's smack-dab in the middle of the mid-west. victoria had a glazed salmon appetizer, with delicate, rich scallops as an entree. greg had the morel mushrooms and halibut, and he loved the mushrooms. this pinot grigio from trentino-alto adige, italy, was honey and grassy on the nose and crisp to the tongue, with light lemon. $19.99 at snooth.com.

2006 Chianti Colli Senesi Castello di Farnetella: Good.

sept. 5, 2009: this was our celebratory anniversary weekend, and greg ordered a glass of this with antipasto at mazaras in clayton, mo. greg had the veal, victoria shared the antipasto. we had intended to get some tapas but this restaurant ended up being more on the italian end of the spectrum. this tuscan sangiovese varietal was good; not as dry as the santedame ruffino chianti, but still crisp, with a refreshing flavor. about $16 on snooth.com.


2008 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec: Good and nicely priced.

sept. 22, 2009: we had this with sushi we bought at schnucks and some blue castello danish blue cheese (it didn't go with the cheese). greg said this argentinian wine has the tannic aroma that he always notices, with a cherry flavor and a smooth finish. victoria said it has a minimal tannic mouth feel with a cherry flavor. it's the first malbec we've had in several months, and it's a good one at a nice price. $13.99 with 5 percent case discount from friar tuck liquors in st. louis. 14 percent alcohol.


2003 Mission Hill Family Estate Ice Wine Riesling: Delicious with the apple dessert Teddy made.

sept. 20, 2009: teddy and gardar brought this delicious ice wine from okanogan valley, british columbia, canada, to have along with the apple oatmeal crisp that teddy had made with almond slivers. it was honey-ish with flints of citris, with a really golden color. a very good dessert wine. starts at $23.98 on snooth.com.

1989 Chateauneuf du Pape Clos des Papes: More flavor, good nose.

sept. 20, 2009: this wine came at the end, when we were starting to appreciate the salad alan marty had made with figs and port-marinated pears, wasabi-flavored goat cheese and what might have been aged gouda. starts at $168, according to wine-searcher.com. photo unavailable.

1989 Domaine du Vieux Telegraph Chateauneuf du Pape: Better than the Gardine, with a good nose.

sept. 20, 2009: when we started to *really* drink this wine, it was paired with a colorful collage of foods that alan marty had gathered from local asian markets: japanese sweet potatoes, eggplant, a phallic mushroom, sweet peas and duck breast. this wine had a good nose, but it was subtle in flavor. it was as if it didn't want to overwhelm the meal itself. alan said this wine was superb and complex, with an excellent nose. gardar loved it, too, as did marie-paule and teddy. this one definitely had less sediment than the chateau de la gardine. average current-day price of $112, according to snooth.com. photo unavailable.

1989 Gaston Philippe Cuvee des Generations Chateau de la Gardine: Past its prime.

sept. 20, 2009: victoria's dad brought this out of his cellar and by the time we had arrived for the meal he had already sifted through various drawers to pull out what turned out to be a requisite filtering screen to save us from the significant amounts of sediment. we should have had this wine years ago; that's when it probably would have had more flavor. as it was, even with the salmon roe and the boutargue on crackers, this wine didn't distinguish itself hardly at all. that's alright, though; there were three more wines to go. current day price: $173.35, according to snooth.com. photo unavailable.


2006 Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Claret: Eh. Greg liked it but Victoria thought it was too sweet.

sept. 18, 2009: we had this with stuffed peppers from our garden. victoria prepared the meal with this recipe: http://southernfood.about.com/od/stuffedpepperrecipes/r/bl30220q.htm and the recipe worked out well. we also had a starter of sliced tomatoes from our garden with mozzarella, basil, sea salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. we don't think the wine went with the meal. the british coined the term claret to describe cabernet-based wines. this claret is a cabernet sauvignon blend of five wine varietals (cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec) and it was smooth with slight tannins. but it was altogether too sweet for the meal. victoria didn't finish her glass. but greg liked it. $19.99 from friar tuck liquors in st. louis with five percent case discount. 13.5 percent alcohol.

UPDATE: sept. 21, 2009: several days later -- and with the chill of the refrigerator -- this wine has mellowed out and is much less sweet. it's actually pretty good, victoria said. maybe we had it too warm. with these types of recent temperatures, that would figure.

2007 Man Vintners Shiraz: Lighter than the Dead Letter Office, but still good.

sept. 13, 2009: this was our (rare) second bottle of the evening. immediately after the dead letter office, this south african shiraz was almost watery. but with some distance, it became clear that it was just as fruity, but with a different flair. it was lighter, looser, and more laid back. but it was also smooth and is a good summer wine, with less crispness than the dead letter office. victoria said it was somewhat creamy. greg said it had the tannic scent, and it's a hint more bitter at the beginning. he said it mellowed out after we first opened it. the grapes for this shiraz came from un-irrigated vineyards in the agter-paarl area north of cape town, which is about 15-25 kilometers from the atlantic ocean. these grapes were also co-fermented with a small portion of viognier grapes to lift the aromatics of the wine and soften the tannins, according to the MAN Vintners web site. 14 percent alcohol. $6.99 from friar tuck in st. louis (with five percent case discount).

2005 Henry's Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz: So, so good!

sept. 13, 2009: this wine was from australia. we had it with grilled chicken seasoned with garlic salt, red pepper and garlic, and homemade mashed potatoes and carrots. victoria thinks this is a substantial shiraz, with a very strong fruit flavor and a heavy, almost syrupy body. she'd get it again. greg says the wine has the tannic scent he is familiar with and the flavor is complex. he said it's smooth and simultaneously sweet and tart, with a dark cherry flavor. this padthaway, australia, wine is 98 percent shiraz with 2 percent cabernet sauvignon. 15 percent alcohol, with some sediment. $31.99 from friar tuck in st. louis (with five percent case discount).

2004 Chateau Mas Neuf: Too temperature-sensitive.

aug. 23, 2009: we had this with chicago-style grilled steak and potatoes au gratin with blue cheese. when we opened it, it was so acidic that we thought it was a bad bottle. so we opened the 2006 domaine du dragon that we had had before, and the difference was obvious. the dragon was just as smooth and balanced as we remembered. then greg thought to chill the mas neuf, and that really made a difference. chilled, it had a stronger nose and was much less acidic. you could finally feel the tannic dryness against your tongue and the sides of your mouth. we chilled the dragon, too, but it didn't seem as temperature-dependent as the mas neuf. the mas neuf is best between 60.8 and 64.4 degrees and has a strong cherry flavor. the dragon is the wine we would get again if forced to choose between the two of these. it is much less sensitive to temperature and is more flexible regardless of the season. the dragon was $17.09 at big red liquors with 10 percent case discount. the mas neuf was $17.99 (same place, same discount).

2008 Jean Reverdy et Fils La Reine Blanche Sancerre

aug. 21, 2009: we had this with monstrous lobsters from the asian market next to the vietnamese restaurant. don't tell anyone, but these were only $8 per pound, and even with that price we still got a deal -- they should have been $8.50 per pound, which is still much cheaper than elsewhere. total, these two lobsters were 10 pounds, and one had a claw the size of victoria's hand. we paired them with this sancerre. at first sip, victoria thought it was grassy and lemony, with definite acidity. it went very well with the richness and butteryness of the lobster, which wasn't that sweet this time (but it had a good solid salty flavor since we boiled it in layers and layers of sea salt.) greg enjoyed the sancerre. he was expecting the grapefruity-ness of a sauvignon blanc and was pleased that it didn't have any of that. $17.99 at big red liquors with 10 percent case discount.


2004 Tenuta Santedame Ruffino Chianti Classico: Success!

sept. 3, 2009: the meal failed miserably. turns out throwing a bunch of homegrown acidic tomatoes into a saucepan with garlic, onions, sweet italian sausage and a good amount of seasonings turns into a nice soup. but: the wine recommendation from dennis at winetree was perfectly played. this 13.5 percent has a high amount of tannins; it definitely had that cheek-pucker. but we decanted it for a half hour, and the effect was really good. we'd get this again, especially with a meal that is highly acidic. this santedame estate is located near the village of castellina in chianti, in the heart of the chianti classico area, according to snooth.com. about $27 at winetree.