Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight Four

This week’s Penfolds Grange Flight Four tasting brought new meaning to the word “culmination”.

noun: culmination;
the highest or climactic point of something, especially as attained after a long time.
“the product was the culmination of 13 years of research”
synonyms: climax, pinnacle, peak, high point, highest point, height, high-water mark, top, summit, crest, apex, zenith, crowning moment, apotheosis, apogee

This fourth flight was pretty exciting, showing all of the nuances and variations found in Grange at 15 to 38 years of age. There simply were no slackers in this group. Certainly the fabulous 1976 vintage demonstrated the qualities of a WA 100 rating! This has certainly also created long term taste memories for all who were able to participate.

Penfolds Grange tasting

What an experience this has been to taste 27 consecutive vintages of Penfolds flagship Grange Hermitage wine from 1976 to 2002. Max Schubert certainly did craft a truly age-worthy Shiraz. It was also very enjoyable to hold this event at the Aurora Civic Association with wonderful food and service in a terrific space.

Not to be outdone, we also shared a wonderful bottle of Penfolds’ Great Grandfather Rare Tawny that was at least 30 years old… a special treat to us all… and hopefully one that we can look forward to enjoying again sometime in the future.

The following paragraphs contain Parker descriptions and club notes for the seven wines in this absolutely fabulous tasting!

Penfolds Grange tasting

1976 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 100 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2000-2020

Consistently one of the most awesome wines ever made at Grange, this blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon (13.9% alcohol) was the first Australian wine to cost $20 upon release. The color is an opaque purple, the wine massive, full bodies, the quintessential Grange. Notes of blackberry liqueur intermixed with cassis, charcoal, new saddle leather, and underbrush resonate from the glass. Huge, thick, unctously textured, with extraordinary concentration but perfect harmony among all of its elements, this is a prodigious Grange that is still not fully mature. A legend for sure! The club was waiting for this one and it did not disappoint! The most fine, soft, sweet, suptle, fruity unbelievable wine. We all saw clearly was this one was rated 100! Just incredible. Deepest darkest color. Not brawny like most others, as it has thinner ankles. This one is truly perfection!

1980 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 94 (June 2009); Drinkability range 2009-2029

The least impressive but still a very great wine, is the dark garnet-hued 1980. Still a young wine at age 29, it exhibits massive earthy, meaty, bacon fat notes intermixed with notions of scorched earth, blackberries, currants, pepper, and spice. Full and rich with slightly rustic tannins, it has good 20 years a life ahead of it. We encountered a floral nose with hints of olives. In the mouth, earthy minerals with some spice, road tar and grilled meats coat the palate. Nice tannins and finish.

1984 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 94 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2002-2020

The best showing ever for this wine from my perspective, this blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a relatively forward, accessible style of Grange. The color is still a dark plum/purple, and the wine shows plenty of wet cassis, with notes of chocolate and toasty oak. The wine is opulent and luscious, with great intensity, full body and fabulous extract. The acidity seems relatively low and integrated, and the tannins quite ripe. The club thought this wine was really approachable soft layered wine with awesome balance and an amazing finish. Hints of plumb, cherry, toast and red meat flavors. Another awesome example of the prestigious Grange.

1988 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 91 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2003-2016

A blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, this was considered to be “an uncharacteristically soft, fruity Grange”. This wine shows a syrupy creme de cassis, earthy note, some pepper and caramel. It is somewhat soft and accessible for such a relatively young Grange, but there is plenty of structure and tannin in the finish. It is certainly perfumed and more evolved than some of its siblings that are actually older, chronologically speaking. This wine has sweet, full bodies plum, cherry and cassis flavors, with some distinct truffle and asphalt notes. This one had a cherry cola nose that leads to a nice mouth coating wine with hints of cocoa, dark chocolate, ripe cherry, with some spice on the finish.

1992 Penfolds Grange – Rating: 92 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2002-2017

This is a very aromatic Grange that seems to be the product of a vintage where the wines are showing extremely well young. It is dense purple, with a sweet blackberry/cherry nose and some subtle cedar and licorice in the background, unctouusly textured, thick, full, without as many nuances of some of the greatest vintages of Grange, but very concentrated and dense. We had a strong cherry nose that leads to a thick, full bodied wine, with hints of blackberry and saddle leather. A well balanced crowd pleaser.

1996 Penfolds Grange – Rating:93 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2006-2025

This dark purple-colored wine exhibits notes of sweet plum, blackberry and cassis intermixed with some licorice, chocolate and espresso. It is a blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon that tips the scales at 14+% alcohol. The wine is layered, unctuously textured, full bodied with tremendous intensity, moderately high tannin, and a 40-second finish. This Grange should ultimately merit a higher score when it is closer to its plateau of drinkability. We thought this one had a very quiet nose, but a nice coffee flavor up front with a bit of heat on the mid and back palate. Soft tannins are present with hints of road tar, blueberries, blackberry, chocolate and tart cherry. The acid is bright in this full bodies wine.

2000 Penfolds Grange – Rating 93 (October 2005); Drinkability range 2005-2021

Penfolds’ renowned 2000 Grange is only the fifth vintage to be made from 100% Shiraz (the others being the 1951, 19552, 1963 and 1999). It is also, atypically, 100% Barossa fruit. When it is not considered to be one of the top wines I tasted from this vintage (which has had to take a back seat to subsequent years), its dense ruby/purple color is followed by a big, sweet nose of blackberries, cherries, chocolate and earth. With decent acidity, ripe, silky tannin, superb intensity, wonderful equilibrium, and a more open-knit, softer, accessible style than usual, it can be drunk now or cellared for 15-16 years. While this is no wimpy wine, it is an ideal example for readers who are unwilling to invest the patience required for the big, blockbuster Granges. The club experienced aromas of cherry, chocolate and olives. We found the wine to be nicely balanced with a soft thick, velvety mouth feel, coating the entire pallet into a nice lingering finish. Some cherry, prunes with hints of chocolate and blackberry. The right amount of a lot of things! Touch of alcohol heat, soft tannins and low acid.

Well, after ending the first three flights off with some terrific Penfolds dessert wines like the Club, the Father and the Grandfather, everything was all topped off with the following…

Penfolds Grange tasting

NV Penfolds Great Granfather Rare Tawny – Rating 96 (October 2014); Drinkability range 2014-2024

A Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet, Mourvedre Sweet Red Table wine from South Australia. The 30 year old Penfolds Great Grandfather rare Tawny is pale tawny in color and has a more profound nose than the Grandfather or Father labels of this style. The nose presents some earthy notes that wrap a complex spiciness around a core of Christmas cake, dried fruits, milk chocolate and incense. It’s a huge wine in the mouth – very serous stuff – with tons of layers and racy acid to carry the flavor through the very long finish that also has a pleasant minerality.

Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight Three

What a streak we are on! Twenty bottles of Grange down so far and not a clunker in the lot, with 7 more in this tasting and another seven to enjoy in two weeks!

Penfolds Grange

This week’s tasting at Dante’s Kitchen in East Greenwich was enjoyed by all and in this flight, the “bookends” prevailed. Amazingly, the youngest wine, the 2001 (only 14 years of age) barely beat out the oldest wine, the 1977 (at 38 years of age) for the preference poll honors. This is a testimony to the quality, consistency and longevity of the Penfolds Grange wine. I guess we owe a debt of gratitude to Max Schubert and the Chief Winemakers who followed him in making this marvelous juice.

Penfolds Grange

The chef and staff at Dante’s went pretty much all out to treat us to some pretty fantastic food, although more than one participant was groaning on the quantity of great food provided. I still remember when we just shared an appetizer or two at our VR meetings years ago. As you look over the menu items in the notes, please reflect on the number of courses and the superb preparation of each item we were offered. Kudos and gratitude to all at Dante’s Kitchen for a much appreciated feast. We were especially fortunate to have the place to ourselves as they closed to the public to focus on our private function!

Flight Three of the infamous Penfolds Grange tasting did not disappoint. This was another tremendous lineup and included the following awesome vintages: 1977, 1981, 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2001. Here are some details regarding each of these tremendous wines, including Robert Parker review descriptions, as well as some tasting notes offered by the club members.

Penfolds Grange

1977 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 93 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2003-2018

This is considered a good rather than outstanding Grange (we beg to differ!). A blend of 91% and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon from a relatively cool growing year, this wine has a full body and a gorgeously complex nose of coffee, creme de cassis, caramel, leather, and a subtle hint of pepper and eucalyptus. This wine is a very rich, still somewhat unevolved, with more new oak showing through than most vintages of Grange. The wine still has a dense ruby/purple color and seems to need at least another 3-4 years to reach full maturity, with a very sweet chewy style but exceptional balance. We found this wine to have a strong nose out of the gates and a really elegant silky wine with awesome flavors layered like a cake. So refined! Another example of the Nectar of the Gods!

1981 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 97 (June 2009); Drinkability range 2000-2025

The 1981 stood out as slightly superior. Winemaker John Duval always felt this was a tannic style of Grange, but the wine has shed its tannins, and this is one of the few vintages where the percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon was above 10%. Sweet notes of creme de cassis, cedarwood, charcoal, and barbecue spices are followed by a full-bodied, opulent wine displaying heady amounts of alcohol, glycerin and density in its full-bodied, sky-scraper like texture. The club found this wine to be big and luscious for a short period of time with a very short finish with lingering back pallet tannins. This wine really drops off and maybe perhaps past its peak or was slightly tainted as a result of corkage leak.

1985 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 90 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2002-2015

Considered a more “restrained” Grange, this wine has balance but a somewhat foursquare/monolithic character with dry, astringent tannin in the finish, hence the question mark. The color is still a healthy dense purple and the wine shows the tell-tale peppery, asphalt, earthy, creme de cassis characteristics, but the tannin seems to be increasingly problematic. As always, it is still a young wine, so the question that begs to be answered with time is “Is it just unevolved and backward, or is it too tannic?” We found the wine to display a great nose of caramel, cedar, licorice and cola leading to a smokey almond flavor with hints of plum as the prominent fruit. Tannins still very strong, making it slightly out of balance.

Penfolds Grange

1989 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 93 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2002-2018

A very hedonistic, almost decadent style of Grange. This blend of 91% Shiraz and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon from three grape sources – Kalimna in the Barossa, Penfolds’ other sources in the Barossa, and McLaren Vale – is a gorgeously opulent, almost Pomerol-like Grange with an over-ripe characteristic to the fruit. Cherry liqueur intermixed with cranberry and cassis presented in a seductive, full bodies, very soft, forward style is truly not the classic Grange in the sense of having huge structure and massive concentration, but this wine is loaded, very corpulent and fleshy. Among the young vintages of Grange, this is perhaps the most flattering wine that they have produced over the last 20 years. We found touches of licorice, prune and raisins on the nose, leading to a luscious mouth coating cherry bomb with hints of creme de cassis, raisins and a touch of burnt caramel. Not a thick juice…more soft, lush and feminine.

1993 Penfolds Grange – Rating: 91 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2000-2018

1993 was a very light harvest because of excessive rainfall and mild growing conditions. This wine performed well, although it would not appear to have the nuances of the finest vintages of Grange. The wine, a blend of 86% Shiraz and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, has an opaque purple color, a sweet nose of black currants intermixed with cedar and earth, almost truffle-like noted intermixed with camphor. The wine is full-bodies, dense, somewhat monolithic, but very concentrated, powerful and long. The club experienced hints of citrus and olives on the nose,, which leads to a slightly acidic well balanced wine that shows the 14% Cabernet, with tastes of dill and celery salt.

1997 Penfolds Grange – Rating: 94 (October 2002); Drinkability range 2005-2022

The 1997 Grange (a blend of 96% Shiraz and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon) looks to be a classic Grange , although slightly softer and more forward than the backward 1996. The saturated purple colored 1997 offers a gorgeously sweet nose of blackberry liqueur, cherries, camphor, chocolate, plums and mocha. The wine is opulently textured, extremely soft, layered and seductive, with Grange’s tell-tale personality well displayed, but in a seamless seductive style. This a superb Grange and the club thought so too. We encountered a slightly green (unripe) nose initially. This is a light bodies wine with cherry fruit and a silky mouthfeel with hints of espresso and chocolate. Less acid and tannins upfront and dissolved. Earthy finish for this elegant wine.

2001 Penfolds Grange – Rating: 98 (October 2006); Drinkability range 2010-2030

The 2001 Grange is one of the few vintages of this cuvee to be composed of 100% Shiraz (the others being 1951, 1952, 1963, 1999 and 2000). Aged 17 months in 100% American oak, and tipping the scales at 14.5% alcohol, the 2001 is undeniably one of the top examples of this wine. At this stage, it appears to eclipse the 1998 and 1996. Inky blue purple to the rim, with a stunning perfume of blueberries, blackberries, chocolate, graphite and earth. It boasts good acidity, huge tannins, magnificent concentration and a multi-layered, textured mouthfeel. It is a big, but impeccably well-balanced Shiraz that should shed some of its structure and tannin over the next 4-5 years. The 50th Anniversary Bottling!

As mush as we savored these wines over the evening, eventually our glasses became empty and that could not be tolerated. As such we ended this magnificent evening with following blockbuster dessert…

Penfolds Grange

NV Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny – Rating: 92 (October 2014); Drinkability range 2014-2020

A Shiraz, Mourvedre, Cabernet sweet table wine from South Australia. The 20 year old Penfolds Grandfatrher Rare Tawny is a pale tawny color with a touch of brick. On the nose it is a bit spirituous ans shows notes of raisins and fruit cake, some hazelnut and creme brulee. The palate shows even more nuttiness and depth along with greater freshness and acidity, though it seems drier than the Father, It finishes very long almost like a sweet oloroso or amontillado. Fabulous!

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting May 6, 2015

Perhaps it is no surprise that Tom has Syrah on his mind since we are in the midst of our historic Grange-A-Thon. This month’s tasting featured four California Syrahs and two Aussie Shiraz wines. The Victor Hugo and River Star Syrahs were newcomers to the club. The Victor Hugo was a light bodied wine which tasted quite like a California Pinot Noir. The Hugo and River Star Syrahs gathered the fewest amounts of votes.

Stolpman has been making strong Syrahs from the South Central coast of California for some time now. Whenever I think of Stolpman a canine image comes to mind because each time I have visited their tasting room in Los Olivos, there has been a large motionless dog lying on the floor in the room. If you ever visit, make sure you take your sunglasses off before entering the room and look down in order to avoid tripping over the mascot of the winery. I don’t recall having tasted the attractive Originals Cuvee which impressed me as being less full bodied than their other Cuvees. The most lush and hedonistic of the California wines was an old favorite from Dehlinger. Goldridge was the most appreciated of the California wines.

wine tasting

Club members favored the two Australian Shiraz wines and perhaps since the Mollydooker was the bigger of the two big wallops it was the number one favorite wine of the tasting. Both Australian Shirazes were bigger and thicker than the California Syrahs. The answer to the question posed by Tom Clarkin, “Syrah or Shiraz?” is that one ought to bet on a big Shiraz to score high in a Vin Rouge Club meeting favorite wine poll.

wine tasting

Tom presented a quality 10 year old Tawny Port from Quinta Infantado, a port producer which I experienced for the first time at the tasting. Guest Kevin Thibeault offered a lovely 2010 ice wine from Joseph Phelps. The ice wine had that unmistakable thick, lush body with exotic apricot, pineapple and pear flavors and an amazing ethereal bouquet.

wine tasting

It appears that the Valley burgers were a hit.

Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight Two

Well, no one promised that a Penfolds Grange Vertical would be boring! Unlike the results from Flight ONE, the Flight TWO wines showed considerably more differences and the top two preference poll wines garnered 82 percent of the points and three vintages received zero points. In fact, the top scoring 1982 vintage received 50% of all of the points, albeit deservedly. This wine was truly fabulous with lots of open fruit and spices and a very long finish…very impressive for a 33 year old wine. Interestingly, the Wine Advocate suggested a drinking period that was to end in 2010, but in my opinion it still has years of life yet, though I cannot imagine it getting any better.

Penfolds Grange

Bistro 45 did a marvelous job with the special menu they prepared for us; everything we tasted was wonderful and very well prepared; there were just too many courses. Thanks also go to Don, who worked with the restaurant to make the table seating pretty roomy and comfortable, using the available small tables and adding a top cover.

Penfolds Grange

The wines tasted spanned 20 years and included the 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and the 2002. Prior to the tasting, the wines were prepared using a decant procedure that included filtering the wine through cheese cloth twice and completing a double rinse of the bottles using Peregrine water, after which the wine was re-poured in the rinsed bottles and vacuum sealed.

As previously stated, the club overwhelmingly chose the 1982 as the favorite of the night, followed by the 1986 and then the 1998. Collective tasting notes from the club for these and the other remaining wines in this second of four verticals are woven into the following wine descriptions.

Penfolds Grange

1978 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 93 (Feb 2002); Drink Range – 2002-2022
A blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, has turned out to be a blockbuster wine with extraordinary intensity, a voluptuous palate, notes of camphor, coffee, jammy black fruits, leather and creme de casis. As the wine sits in the glass, pepper and melted asphalt make an appearance. Very unctuously textured, thick and chewy, this wine is soft, with a very succulent style. The club encountered a subtle nose of tea and spice with a big old world earthy port-like flavor on the palate. Another luscious Grange with hints of chocolate, leather, blackberry and tar with peppery spice. For a 1978, this is acting young and not old. This will go another 10+ years, easy.

1982 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 97 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2000-2010
One of the jammiest, most precocious Granges when it was released, it has never gone through a closed stage and continues to drink beautifully. A full bodied, opulent Grange, it reveals an inky/purple color to the rim as well as a beautiful nose of crushed blueberries, black-berries, smoke, toast, roasted herbs and road tar. This dense, plush, expansive, seamless, seductive 1982 has not changed much over the last decade. The club noted a vibrant nose of roasted herbs and raw asparagus, leading to a voluptuous flavor profile of coffee, raisins, black currant and some spice, ans seems to be totally evolved at its very peak right now. Soft tannin lead to a fruity finish that are elegantly balanced.

1986 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 98 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2005-2039
A blend of 87% Shiraz and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1986 is one of the most powerful Granges produced (14% alcohol). Inky/purple to the rim with an extraordinary perfume of sweet licorice, crushed pepper, blackberry liqueur, camphor and barbecue spices, this sensationally full bodied, concentrated, layered 1986 is still an infant in terms of its ultimate potential. While a quiet nose, the club noted a great mouth feel similar to the 1998. A luscious Wow Wow wine with an awesome balance. Tannins very soft with some smoke and tar on corners of back palate on the finish. Interesting in that flavors and expand on the palate like a ramp up.

1990 Penfolds – Rating: 94 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2000-2020
The 1990 performed well in the tasting, but, along with the 1980, was the least impressive of these Granges. The 1990 is loosely knit, seems to border on over-ripeness with its jammy character, and has a slightly more aggressive style of tannin… or are the acids more pronounced? It is certainly outstanding, displaying full body along with a classic smoky, blackberry, cassis, pepper and forest floor-scented bouquet. The club echoed a nose described as “slightly off”, with a bricky edge. It was a jammy wine with a distinctive different style. A background dryness and not as fruity as the others, although there is still plenty of earthy fruit with a nice finish.

1994 Penfolds – Rating: 91 (Feb 2002); Drink Range – 2004-2020
Interestingly enough, this is the first vintage where Grange went to a bottle with laser-etched identification numbers to preclude the possibility of fraudulent bottles. The wine, a blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, shows some toasty oak mixed with notes of root vegetables, damp earth, blackberry liqueur, prune and licorice. The wine is dense, full-bodied, not terribly complex in the mouth, but layered and rich. We noted a sugary butterscotch nose that leads to the same damp earthy taste with hints of raisins, cotton candy, caramel, with red plum as the main fruit.

1998 Penfolds – Rating: 99 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2009-2039
A wine that flirts with perfection, the 1998 has one of the highest alcohol contents (nearly 15%) as well as one of the highest percentages of Shiraz in the blend (97%). Its stunning purple color is accompanied by exceptionally sweet aromas of black-berry liquer intermixed with barbeque spices, an endearing, smoky earthiness, pepper, roasted meats, and coffee. Huge, massive, unctuously textured, and extraordinary youthful, this impressive wine is a candidate for perfection. my notes indicated a velvety, elegant coating wine with earthy hints of almonds, coffee and ripe plums with hints of cherry and black berries, a real nectar of the Gods and rated a 99 by Parker for a reason. Alcohol balances well with acidity and tannins for a long lingering finish that changes to black cherry flavors.

2002 Penfolds – Rating: 98 (Oct 2007); Drink Range – 2007-2050
The 2002 Shiraz Grange was sourced from 77.5% Barossa Valley and 22.5% from McLaren Vale. Included in the blend is a 1.5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opaque purple, it gives off an ethereal bouquet of violets, saddle leather, blueberry, blackberry, pencil lead and chocolate. This is followed by a full bodied wine with tremendous concentration, multiple layers of flavor, ripe tannins, and great balance. Thick and rich with a 60 second finish. The club observed loads of glycerin with a nose of butterscotch, cola and saddle soap, with nice blackberry on the mid-palate, with a lingering finish. Taste the youth in this one, as it is still wrapped-up tight. , although big dry cherry fruit is the prominent characteristic of the full bodied soft tannin wine.

Penfolds Grange

How about closing with a NV Penfolds Father Grand Tawny – a Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet, Mataro Dry Red Table Wine from South Australia. The 10 year old, pale amber-tawny colored Father Grand Tawny is intensely scented of dried mulberries, sultanas, treacle and caramel with a marmalade lift. Big, expressive and rich with a nuttiness in the mouth, it finishes very long and very sweet.

Penfolds Grange

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting April 8, 2015

Including the bonus bottle, Jay presented six Bordeauxs and one Rhone. Two of the Bordeauxs were from the Medoc with Cabernet Sauvignon being the predominant varietal in the blend. At seven years old, the Margaux from Tayac was not very active in the mouth or on the nose and received no votes. At nine years old, the Gloria from Saint-Julien was appreciated for its ripe fruit, balanced in Bordeaux fashion.

wine reviews

The eight year old Branon and seven year old Haut-Gravet both were crowd pleasers with the Branon scoring 17 votes for first place and the Haut- Gravet scoring 13 votes for third place. The Branon from Pessac and Haut-Gravet from Saint-Emilion have Merlot as the predominant varietal in the blend. These wines were generous in a medium bodied way with modest Bordeaux qualities featuring mocha and espresso flavors along with pleasing minerality. The eight year old Chateauneuf Du Pape from the great 2007 vintage scored 15 points for second favorite wine due to its plush body and mature grenache mouth feel with cherry and licorice flavors.

We thank Jay for a lesson in less expensive Bordeaux. The best price to quality ratio was found in the Haut-Gravet. The Marcard at $15.00 was strong enough to obtain 10 votes for its pleasing Bordeaux package. These are Bordeauxs which are versatile food wines and not tannic monsters or heavy handed or clumsy. I love Bordeaux and believe that it makes sense to enjoy wines like these rather than spending hundreds of dollars per bottle for high profile classified growth Bordeauxs which used to sell for $15.00 – $50.00 per bottle fifteen to thirty years ago.

wine reviews

Specific details on these fine wines can be found below:

2006 Chateau Franc Cardinal Francs Cotes De Bordeaux – 72% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec
This delicious, deep, dense vintage a full bodies wine packed with fruit flavors, elegance and warmth.

2007 Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf du Pape – 60 Grenache, 30% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, 2% Cinsault
Powerful, heady, deep and full of harmony. The tannins are very qualitative, they are silky and delicate, giving an impression of volume and length in the mouth. A wine with exceptional cellaring potential than can already be enjoyable.

2007 Chateau Branon Pessac Leognan – 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine offers a smoke, espresso, blackberry, licorice, tobacco,, cocoa and black raspberry filled perfume. The wine is soft, round and supple textured, but it lacks the density found in the better vintages of this small production.

2008 Chateau Haut-Gravet Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
The fruit in this wine is fresh and pure, with flavors of dark berries and elegant tannins. Ac certain mineral undertone hints at the flint soils in a most seductive way. A true pleasure.

2008 Chateau Grand Tayac Margaux – 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot
A textbook introduction to Margaux, with lilac, crushed raspberry and plum fruit. Iron tinged but silky tannins carry the lengthy, perfumed finish, which shows latent depth.

2009 Chateau de Marcard – 50% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot
Ripe and dense, but fresh, with silky-textured plum, blackberry and blueberry fruit carried by sweet spice and maduro tobacco notes. The fleshy finish shows nice drive. Should open up more with brief cellaring.

Bonus bottle:
2006 Chateau Gloria Saint Julien – 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot
Sweet cedary, cigar box, roasted herb, and black currant fruit aromas are followed by a lush, full bodied, textured, concentrated wine. Beautiful and refined.

Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight One

Setting the bar higher than we ever have before, the Vino Rouge club will be enjoying four unbelievable flights of the infamous Penfolds Grange, covering 27 consecutive vintages from 1976 through 2002!

Penfolds Grange tasting

The first flight was held at Basta in Pawtuxet Village on March 25, 2015, and really was a terrific start to a truly amazing vertical.

Penfolds Grange tasting

The wines tasted spanned 20 years and included the 1979, 1983, 1987, 1991, 1995 and the 1999. Prior to the tasting, the wines were prepared using a decant procedure that included filtering the wine through cheese cloth twice and completing a double rinse of the bottles using Peligrino water, after which the wine was repoured in the rinsed bottles and vacuum sealed.

Penfolds Grange tasting

While it was extremely difficult to pick a favorite, the club managed to do so and it was the 1987, followed by the 1983 and then the 1999. Collective tasting notes from the club for these and the other remaining wines in this first of four verticals are woven into the following wine descriptions.

1979 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating 90 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2000-2015

A blend of 87% Shiraz and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, Max Schubert commented in 1983 that this vintage was “not quite up to the mark”. For technicians, this was the last vintage to use white capsules on the bottle, with Penfolds moving to the crimson red foils in 1980. The wine is deep ruby garnet with an unusual nose of root vegetables mixed with cola, caramel, black currant and tar. The club thought the wine had a quiet nose with a touch of cola and mint chocolate. Really nice mouth feel with cherry cola, vanilla with great balance and the best finish of the bunch, with a lingering buzz on the back pallet. Still a lot of fruit and still seems young, in the opinion of most (i.e. look, feel, glycerin)

1983 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating 92 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2006-2020

The earliest harvest on record at Penfolds, the 1983 vintage was characterized by devastating bush fires, followed by enormous flooding in March. A blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine has a surprisingly low pH (3.41) for a Grange, with an amazing 7.1 grams of acid per liter. We experienced an earthy milkshed nose and found the wine more refined, with some acidity and dark fruit, although starting to separate out. Not a bold attack, but with consistent monolithic fruit, with a silky feel. Seems to be at a peak and should be consumed as opposed to cellared much longer.

1987 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating 90 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2003-2016

A light, elegant style of Grange made with a blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine has a deep ruby/purple color and a spicy, peppery nose with some new oak, black cherry and blackberry flavors. The club noted a really robust nose of earth and cranberry and all expressed delight in the unbelievable coating of sweet vanilla, caramel and luscious fruit with hints of mocha coffee and butterscotch. Absolutely perfectly balanced with a syrupy heavenly mouth feel that just coats the palate. Super lush bomb!

1991 Penfolds Grange – Rating 93 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2002-2017

This wine is generous, open, and sweet in its personality Dense purple, this blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon shows great fruit, a very lush, open-knit style with full body, high glycerin, low acidity and superb purity. My notes show a sweet creamy milk sugar nose. Awesome mouth feel with an explosion of cherry, jammy fruit, roasted meat and licorice on a nice pleasant finish.

1995 Penfolds Grange – Rating 92 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2004-2018

An impressive Grange that may ultimately prove to be underrated, like many wines from this vintage, the 1995, a blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, exhibits a saturated plum/purple color and a sweet blackberry liqueur nose intermixed with cassis, licorice and new oak. The wine is textured, jammy, fill-bodied, with impressive levels of extract, glycerin and black fruit flavors. We found the nose to be subtle, with touches of raspberry and blackberry. This full bodied wine coats the pallet with chewy and sexy fruit with a long ripe finish with unobtrusive acidity and tannin.

1999 Penfolds Grange – Rating 92 (Oct 2004) Suggested drinking range 2006-2019

The 1999 Grange is a dense ruby/purple to the edge, with a bouquet of blackberries, mulberries, and floral-like aromas. Medium to full body, the 1999 has an acid punch, but also tremendous layers of fruit and extract. Not massive, but elegant and nicely layered. We discovered lead pencil on the nose with hints of cranberry too. Layored balance gives a great mouth feel with tart cranberry on a long lasting finish. Has a strong acid backbone with soft round pronounced tannins. More of an elegant profile, although still a little tight.

Penfolds Grange tasting


NV Penfolds Club Austalian Tawny – A proprietary blend dry red fortified Mataro, Shiraz, Grenache wine from South Australia

Pale tawny-amber colored, the NV Club Australian Tawny expresses a lovely nose of raisins, sultana, toffee and dates with hints of dried figs and caramel. Full-bodies, it is nicely poised in the mouth with rich, sweet and concentrated flavors that finish long.

Welcome to, a Private Wine Club

Hello and welcome to  While we are a private red wine club, we have collectively decided to share the information we collect in hopes of benefiting others who enjoy red wine!  We will be updating this wine club website often with new monthly tasting reviews, as well as tasting reviews from the last 20+ years that this red wine club has been doing these tastings.  We love your feedback, so feel free to get in touch with us through our Contact Us page.

Below you can find our most recent and historical red wine reviews from our monthly tastings.

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting March 4, 2015

Another great tasting to report and a new venue outside of Rhode Island to boot. This month, we held our tasting at Porto Bello Cafe, located in downtown North Attleboro. Quarters were a little tight for our table of 12, but that only sparks more conversation! Wow, did they aim to please our motley crew, with a multitude of appetizers, great meals and dessert sweets to close things out.

red wine reviews

Norm did an excellent job providing the wines for the evening and fooled almost everybody by having our second blind Italian wine tasting in a row, entitle “Super Tuscans”. Some of us would be happy to taste Italian wines every month, as the wines were all tantalizing and appeared to get better and better with each glass! Only one of the six wines failed to obtain a preference poll vote, but that was only because they were all so good. The following paragraphs discuss each of the wines we shared, with the first three representing the top three wines as determined through our monthly preference poll.

Tenuta Arceno il Fauno di Arcanum Toscana IGT 2009 – Deep, brilliant black cherry color and elegant aromas of peppery spice and minerality. On the palate, the oak is discreet with a strong presence of spice and salted nutmeg. This a balanced wine with beautiful length and bright acidity that comes together for a smooth finish of soft tannins and black pepper noted. 61% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, 2% Sangiovese and 1% Petit Verdot

Luce della Vite Luce Toscana IGT 2008 – Luce is a very dense, concentrated purple-red. The nose exhibits remarkable finesse, releasing notes of wild blackberry and sour cherry, backgrounded by peppery eucalyptus and minerally impressions of pencil lead. Capping the aromatic array are appealing notes of baker’s chocolate and tobacco leaf. This wine shows a superb attack, with the densest of tannic suites. The palate expands impressively, with a tasty vein of acidity that beautifully knits together all of its constituents. A near-endless finish adds the final harmonious touch. Sangiovese 45%, Merlot 55%

Brancaia Ilatraia Rosso Maremma Toscana IGT 2011 – A fine wine with intense aromas and flavors of liquorice and blueberry, with leather and sweet spice accents. This is firm wine, revealing finesse and a rich texture with air. Dense tannins show on the finish. Consists of a mix of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Petit Verdot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

red wine reviews

Felsina Fontalloro Toscana IGT 2010 – Ruby red appearance with rich, intense tonality. Complex, multi-layered nose, with generous notes of tobacco leaf and moist earth (dry earth as well), black currant, wild bramble and black liquorice. The palate exhibits a generous mass of tannins, fairly supple, perfect for lengthy ageing. Good weight and structure, and elegant breed on the finish. 100% Sangiovese

Monte Antico Supremus Toscana Rosso IGT 2007 – Deep ruby red in color, with purple reflections. Its intense, persistent bouquet of violets, cherries and red berry fruit shows subtle, elegant notes of vanilla and toasted wood, minerally nuances and hints of leather, chocolate, black pepper, and cinnamon…an exquisite palate of aromas confirmed on the full, lush, flavorful palate characterize by sweet mellow tannins and velvet texture. Long, lingering finish. 75% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon

San Felice Pugnitello Rosso Toscana IGT 2008 – A very deep purple-red greets the eye, then the wine develops a multi-layered bouquet that foregrounds tanned leather and animal skin over ripe drid plum and a subtle herbaceousness. The wine is massive in the mouth, and exhibits velvety tannins and a warm alcohol complemented by a tasty vein of acidity. 75% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting February 4, 2015

As expected, Steve Carlino had a great show of wines! An Italian theme of excellent red wines the I can still taste as I write this!!!

red wine reviews

Straight to the preference poll…

Our first place wine was a 2005 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superior Ornellaia. A fantastic Red Bordeaux Blend, displaying beautiful aromas of ripe fruit, with currant, plum and blackberry. This complex and full-bodied Tuscan red has soft, polished tannins and a long, long finish. Wine Spectator gave it 95 points.

Second place wine was a 2009 Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classic Riserva. Another excellent Sangiovese Blend wine. A big dark chewy red wine bursting with dark cherries, licorice, tobacco, smoke and dried flowers. This hearty, full-bodied Riserva is long on personality and sheer character. Wine Advocate gave it 90 points

Third place wine was a 2005 Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornettia, a Red Bordeaux Blend. This 2005 Le Serre Nuove is the second wine of Ornellaia. In top vintages it is the hidden gem in this line up from a price to quality perspective. The 2005 reveals gorgeous aromatics along with sweet black cherries, black berries, spices, smoke and toasted oak. It is a delicate and feminine wine to enjoy over the next decade or so. Wine advocate gave it 90 Points.

Although not placing in the top three, the remaining three wines were just as good and included…

1997 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli, a nice Sangiovesi. A deep garnet color accompanies huge, sweet aromas of roasted herbs, red and black currants, cherries, earth, incense and tobacco. A chewy and full bodied wine that can go another 7 years. Wine Advocate gave it a 93.

2007 Castello di Monsanto, a Chianti Classico Reserva. A ripe juicy red with lots of black cherry and blackberry fruit. Tannins are well coated by fleshy fruit and it lingers with a long spicy aftertaste, drinking through 2022. Wine Spectator gave it a 92.

The last wine was a 2004 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino, another Sangiovese. This is an earthy full bodies wine with aromas of roses and other flowers, leather and grilled herbs. On the pallet flows decadent berry and mushroom flavors, with a firm structure. Wine Advocate gave it a 93.

red wine reviews

You can see here that was also had a nice dessert wine. Specifically, thanks to Steve, we also enjoyed a 2004 Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Occhio di Pernice.

The tasting was held at the Aurora Club, which was outstanding!!! The club feasted on fried clams and cheese tray appetizers, followed by some soup and salad, an entree of choice and only to be capped off with a platter of biscotti for dessert with Espresso.

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting January 7, 2015

2015 began on a high note for our club indeed. Brother Don Oldmixon came up with an intriguing tasting theme when he presented 7 wines from Mountain Vineyards in northern California. We tasted wines made from elevated terroirs with elevated acid levels and since they were all from Napa, elevated price tags as well.

All the wines had a very similar tart mouth feel which caused several members to believe that we were tasting Cabernet Franc based wines. Tannin levels were also elevated in the rugged chewy wines which were corseted by nearly searing levels of acid. It was amazing how similar all 7 wines were, which provided a firm foundation for what we learned about high quality Napa Mountain wine making. Would these masculine wines be tamed by 10 more years of aging? Don’s tasting also reinforced our observations that when we have good tasting big wines which don’t fit a recognizable regional style, we’re probably drinking California Cabernet based wines.

Bold cuisine featuring fatty red meats is a good compliment to these wines. The frigid cold night may have kept other diners away so that we had a room at the Aurora Club in Providence, RI all to ourselves. The food service and hospitality extended to us by the Aurora Club were very good as usual. Beneath the photo is the lineup, with the first three paragraphs being the first, second and third place for our preference poll.

red wine reviews

2006 CASTELLO DI AMOROSA CABERNET SAUVIGNON, DIAMOND MOUNTAIN – With vineyards high above the fog and facing west, Castello di Amorosa’s wine grapes receive an extended exposure to the sun assuring their full ripeness at harvest. Castello di Amorosa’s Cabernet is a rich and powerful wine with chewy textures and diamond-hard tannins.

2007 KRUPP BROS VERAISON SYNCHRONY, ATLAS PEAK – Deep red with black hues; Aromas of violets, cassis, plums, and dark cherries layered with dusty earth, bay leaf, cedary oak and sage. It has a sweet fruit center showing ripe fruit flavors of blueberries, framboise, black currant and dark cherry. The mouth feel is soft yet displays tannins with a silky-velvety, supple finish.

2005 EAGLES TRACE LATITUDE 38, HOWELL MOUNTAIN – This Bordeaux style belnd consists of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. It is dark ruby/purple in color and presents aromas of violets, vanilla, spice and black fruits. The wine makes a beautiful entry to the palate with black berries, black currant and plums. It has great depth and concentration with lingering flavors of chocolate as a background to compliment the complex ripe tannins and long lingering finish.

2004 CAIN FIVE, SPRING MOUNTAIN – This is a classic Cain Five in the mold of 1991 and 1994 vintages, but more refined. The final blend incorporated more Merlot and less Petit Verdot than in some previous years. There was less heat , which in turn, gave us good concentration along with deeper and “sweeter” tannins.

2005 CHAPPELLET CABERNET SAUVIGNON, PRITCHARD HILL – Tightly wound, well-focused, intense and concentrated, with a dusty berry and spicy, leathery edge that sits on the palate and ends up dominating the flavor and texture. Revealing a deeper ruby/purple color as well as a classic bouquet of blueberries, creme de cassis, spring flowers, and background earth. Young, deep and promising.

2007 VOLKER ESTATES CABERNET SAUVIGNON, CHILES VALLEY – This a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc is a medium dark ruby wine with fragrant, spicy, currant and blackberry fruit aromas. The wine is a medium to full bodied delight of tight spicy currant and berry fruit flavors with medium full to full tannins.

2009 AMIZETTA CABERNET, HOWELL MOUNTAIN – Dark megenta color, with aromas of cedar, briar and cigar box. This great red offers bold flavors of blackberries and dew berries dominate the palate with this powerful focused wine. Sweet French oak with touch smole shows up on the aftertaste with medium yet rounded tannins.