Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Robert's Thanksgiving list.

Hi everybody!

So Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and it's time for Robert Sharker's annual list of recommended Turkey Day wines!

Now before we begin, we should clarify a few things. My hi-tech tracking data tells me that the majority of my readers are land-dwelling humans, which means that your Thanksgiving celebrations are drastically different than mine. Whereas my family and I typically enjoy a steaming pile of dead sea lions or sometimes a two-ton roasted walrus for Thanksgiving dinner, I realize that the majority of my readers traditionally consume the large, stupid North American bird known as "Turkeys" for their respective Thanksgiving dinners. Now I have never seen one of these Turkey things before, but I've done some independent research and here are my recommended wines to accompany a traditional human-style Thanksgiving dinner:


-Andre Blanck Riesling 2007: Beautiful dry Riesling from Alsace. Bright acidity, nectarine, peach and lychee flavors, this makes Turkey or any other large, semi-flightless bird taste better!

-Terra Antiga Vinho Verde 2008: This Portuguese quaffer is a popular wine during the hot summer months, but its refreshing fruity flavors also help to improve the dry flesh of dead Turkeys. This one in particular has wonderful mango and pineapple flavors, along with a slightly spritzy texture. Its incredibly cheap price tag also helps during this period of extreme economic recession (...largely created by douchebag humans).

-D'Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne 2008: Lotta stuff going on in this white blend from Australia; we've got citrus, stone fruit, pear, and some savory, nutty flavors rounding it all out. All in all, it's full bodied and fresh. A fine partner with Turkey...and not a bad choice with stuck-up Sea Bass motherfuckers either.


-Domaine de Colette Regnie 2008: Excellent value in cru-Beaujolais here. Light-bodied strawberry, raspberry, and mineral notes make this a no-brainer. You could even slip some in at the kids table if you would like to enjoy a quiet ride home after dinner!

-Hartford Court Land's Edge Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007: Ripe cherries, red currant, and delicately balanced acid from this fantastic Sonoma Coast bottling. Especially good pairing if you like to go heavy on the cranberry sauce.

-Cantina Zaccagnini "Ikebana" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2007: Light. Really light. And juicy too. Like the blood from a freshly killed...oh never mind... my human audience could never fully understand. Anyway, this wine would be great with turkey. Freshly slaughtered, still warm, bleeding turkey...ok, moving along now...


-Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux d'Aix En Provence 2008: A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan. This is a full-bodied dry rose, with flavors of wild strawberry, it's an ideal distraction from the bland flesh of your mother-in-law's overcooked turkey (and her blah, blah, blah-ing...).

-Villa Wolf Rose of Pinot Noir 2008: From the Pfalz region of Germany. Joyfully light,juicy, raspberry and pomegranate flavors backed by some robust acidity and minerality. Makes it so easy to wash down an entire turkey...or some guy with a mustache from Tampa who fell off his jet ski!


-M. Chapoutier Banyuls 2007: Layers of chocolate, espresso, raspberry and raisins abound in this hedonistic bottling from southern France. Great with tiramisu, sharp cheeses, or humans with intense body odor.

That does it for Robert Sharker's 2009 Thanksgiving wine list! Needless to say, there are HUNDREDS, if not THOUSANDS of great wines out there to accompany your Thanksgiving dinner- these are just a few of my favorites of this year. Don't see your favorite Turkey wine on this list? You can tell me all about it at robertsharker@gmail.com.

Until next time,

Happy Thanksgiving from Robert!


Robert Sharker.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thornbury Marlborough Pinot Noir 2002: 92pts

Hello again wine-o's!

So last night I was perusing my underwater wine cellar (...location secret!) in search of something to go with a couple of manatees who had no idea they were about to get chomped in half. I had forgotten all about my stash of '02 Thornbury Pinot from Marlborough, which I had picked up years ago during one of my frequent trips to the waters off New Zealand. I remembered this being pretty bold in its youth, so I thought it would be fun to see how it was coming along.

I poured it into my decanter and gave it about an hour to open up. This gave my wife ample time to drag down those cocky manatees and get them on the table where they belong! Who's so cute and adorable now, huh!?? The wine poured out a deep, but slightly rusty purple with aromas of cinnamon, stewed cherries and some nice balsamic notes. On the palate is where it got really interesting- right up front was a powerful mesquite flavor backed by more cherries and some pretty firm tannins. The acidity was assertive but well balanced. Quite an interesting Pinot with plenty of life left ahead of it. I'd say this should continue to improve for another 5-7 years.

All in all, pretty impressive for such a modestly priced wine. You should be able to find current vintages of this Pinot in the lower teens. If you can still find some '02, pick it up! This is a Pinot Noir that can stand up to bolder cuisine than most; it was great with the manatees and would be a fine match with most large mammals.

That's all for now, friends. Until next time.

-Robert Sharker.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Sharkers visit Spain and I come to terms with my expensive tastes.

Hello again, wine lovers!

I haven't written to you in nearly two months and now it's time for me to make excuses. Are you ready? I've got some good ones:

1.Shitty phone and internet service in Europe.
In early October, my wife and I went to Spain! (more on that in a minute). Prior to to our trip, one of our offspring got me a new iPhone so I could update my blog on the go rather than bring my laptop and look for spotty WI-FI service. Sounds great right? Apparently these amazing devices don't work very well when submerged under 300 ft of saltwater! Thanks Apple. You're really making life easier for all of us. Of course there are internet cafes throughout the Mediterranean but those foreign keyboards might as well be from the moon.

2. Swine Flu.
So on the trip back from Spain, of course I get stuck sitting next to a couple of damn jellyfish. Ordinarily I would eat these spineless bastards without thinking twice about it, but my wife says I need to do a better job controlling my anger in public so instead I just make pleasant conversation. "How do you do? My name is Robert". "I'm retired and I write a wine blog. What do you do? Oh really? That must be very interesting. Wow. Oh really? That's nice." And so on... It was brutal but I did it.
It was about this time that one of them starts coughing and sneezing, and right away I knew what I was in for. As soon as we got home I went down hard with a 103 degree fever, which when you are cold-blooded can be very fatal! I couldn't get out of bed for nearly a month and needless to say, couldn't have a drop of wine! All thanks to these asshole, swine flu carrying jellyfish who refuse to get vaccinated because it violates their religious beliefs! C'mon, get real.

"That's great Robert. Can you please wrap it up and talk about wine?"

You're right! I am so sorry. Enough excuses. I wanted to tell you all about my wine-ephiphany while we were in Spain. We spent our time prowling the waters between Barcelona and the island of Mallorca. This was our first trip to this particular region and we were blown away by the beautiful warm water, the friendly locals, and the abundance of prey! We absolutely gorged ourselves on Catalan specialties like squid, octopus, anchovies, sea snails and stoned Barcelona teenagers who wandered too far into the surf at night!

Now being a famous wine critic, I must confess that I've gotten a bit too comfortable with my easy access to the world's finest wines. I mean, when I check my underwater P.O. box it's just overflowing with sample bottles of wines I could never afford if I weren't in this business. And when my wife and I dine in restaurants, the sommelier frequently comps us a bottle or two of some of their most exclusive wines. I realize this doesn't sound bad at all to most people but believe me, it can lead to a real sense of apathy.

On this particular trip, I wanted things to be different. I wanted to see what wine the local folks would be drinking with their meals. I wanted to get back to what wine is really about, which is enjoyment. Not reviews, scores, high price tags, or pedigree. So for almost every meal, we simply ordered a liter of the house wine (red, white, or rose as the situation demanded) and let me tell you, it was a real eye-opener. Typically, the wines were served in an anonymous glass carafe; no label, no names, just total anonymity. These wines were very inexpensive, locally produced and always complemented our meals perfectly. It was great! And best of all, it gave our food enough room to be the star of the show, rather than the other way around. Any serious predatory creature will agree that this is the way it oughta be!

Now that's not to say we only ordered the house wine. About halfway through a delightful homestyle Catalan meal at 4Gats in Barcelona, where our human disguises worked like a charm, I did order a bottle of 2005 Prior de Fic from Priorat and proceeded to drink the entire thing myself! I just couldn't resist the densely layered plum, boysenberry and vanilla cream flavors. After a week of drinking good but fairly pedestrian wines, it felt great to throw down something with some real backbone to it! In fact, this wine sent me into such a frenzy that I ate or maimed half the waitstaff in a matter of minutes and we had to make a hasty exit back to the sea!

And come to think of it, I did also splurge on a bottle of the venerable 2004 Vega Sicilia Tinto Valbuena. We'll save that one for a few years and I'll report back to you.

So at the end of the day, I guess I do prefer and appreciate the fancy stuff after all. Keep those free bottles coming!

Until next time,

-Robert Sharker.

Friday, September 18, 2009

No bloodshed at the Harvard Club. Just great wines.

Howdy there, wine lovers!

So we have had an exciting week here in Boston! Fortunately, our human disguises seem to be working like a charm. We are enjoying ourselves quite much, and who knows? Maybe we'll even stay a little longer. Maybe Boston's mayor will even give us the key to the city for helping to reduce the city's homeless population!

But seriously, we are here mostly on business. We attended Ruby's wonderful annual wine tasting on Thursday night, and had a smashing time! In case you are unfamiliar, Ruby Wines is another major distributor of wine and spirits in Massachusetts; not the biggest, but certainly one of the best. Their portfolio contains a stunning array of fine, unique wines from all over the world in addition to some major brands such as Cavit, Beringer, and Wolf Blass. Held at the very exclusive Harvard Club, their annual tasting is one of the main events on Boston's social calendar. Should you be lucky enough to earn a spot on the guest list, you can expect an overwhelming selection of top-notch wines and finally, some fucking real FOOD!

Let's see...they had a sushi station, a pork tenderloin station, a fondue station, a prime rib station, a bruschetta station, bread, grilled vegetables, fresh fruit, little pizza slices, camembert, aged cheddar, smoked gouda, manchego, stilton, roquefort, brie, and CRABCAKES as far as the eye could see! Are you listening Carolina Wines? This is how you treat your guests, and this is why all of Ruby's senior management left with all of their limbs and genitals intact. Just feed the sharks and nobody gets hurt!

Now for some highlights of the vino variety...

No surprise here, I guess. Calera has long been making some of (...if not THE) best Pinot Noirs in all of California for some time now. Along with two excellent Chardonnays and a late harvest Viognier, Calera had four Pinot Noirs on display at the tasting, three of which were sourced from single vineyards. All of the Pinots show an extremely floral and fragrant nose with wonderful, wild strawberry, violet, and cherry notes. These are as close as you'll ever get to Burgundy in the Golden State. My favorite was the 2005 Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir (around $50).

Mas de la Dame 2003 "Le Stele" Rouge
This is a powerhouse Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Provence. Ah, just the word "Provence" conjures up memories of carefree days frollicking in the warm Mediterranean... absolutely ripping apart young French boys and girls. Anyway, this wine is a TITAN showing thick layers of ripe blackberry and plum, with a gravelly minerality and quite firm tannins. That deadly hot and dry '03 vintage sure produced some memorable wines all across Europe.

Again, not much of a surprise; this has long been my favorite producer out of Sicily. Whereas most Sicilian wines are soft, fruity and often a bit pedestrian, Planeta produces weighty, terroir-driven wines of real varietal character. Their 2007 "Cerasuolo di Vittoria" Nero d'Avola/Frappato blend presents a very focused beam of pure raspberry and blueberry, and framed by mouthwatering acidity. The 2004 "Burdese" Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc blend is a tightly-wound ball of leather, black currant, vanilla, and smoke.

Charles Smith Wines and K Vintners
Washington-based winemaker Charles Smith is the man behind the well-known and respected "House Wine"; you know the wine with the simple black and white drawing of a little house on the label? Gimmicky labels like this are normally worthy of suspicion but these are the real deal! The Charles Smith line and the higher-end K Vintners lineup all have some of the most eye-catching labels out there but make no mistake-these are quite serious, and often quite expensive wines. The 2006 "Phil Lane" Syrah from V Vintners is Washington State's answer to Hermitage. Enjoy it with some manatee osso bucco!

2004 Chateau Listran, Medoc
Nice, affordable wine from the Medoc here. Classic black cherry, graphite and an intriguing note of dill. I frequently swim up the Gironde river to do a little tasting (..haha!) each year, and the Medoc is my first stop on the right. I've had some previous vintages from this Chateau, but for some reason this '04 might be my favorite.

That's it for now, wine fanatics. We are checking out today and under the cover of darkness, will retreat back to the safety of the ocean. These disguises can't hold out forever and we shall not push our luck.

We've had a great time with you here in New England these past two weeks; we've made some world headlines, drank some stellar wines, and devoured many of your fine harbor seals! Perhaps we can do it again next year?

'til next time.

-Robert Sharker.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Minimal carnage at the Carolina Wine and Spirits Grand Tasting.

Ahoy friends!

Well things have cooled off quite a bit here in New England lately, both figuratively and literally. Yes literally, it's quite chilly here all of a sudden! Also, the hysteria surrounding shark sightings off Cape Cod has subsided due to the lack of any new sightings. Do you know the reason for that? Because we have donned our disguises and gotten a swank room in Boston's trendy Back Bay for the week! And no, I will not disclose what hotel we are staying at! Boston is a huge fishing town and swarming with many a grizzled, old sea-dog who would just love to harpoon us and sell our flesh to the Japanese!

I am here with my family and a couple of wine buddies for a pair of MAJOR tastings taking place in town this week. Last night was Carolina Wine and Spirits' annual Grand Tasting at the Wang Theater, and tomorrow we have Ruby Wines annual shindig at the Harvard Club. I am happy to report that our hotel room has ample Wi-Fi, so that I am able to adequately report my findings to you, my loyal audience.

So last night we had Carolina's big tasting at the beautiful, opulent, though unfortunately named Wang Theater. Where I come from, the Wang Theater isn't a place you would bring your parents, if you know what i mean! Now for those of you who don't know, Carolina Wine and Spirits is the largest wine distributor in Massachusetts, and lately, they've been swallowing up their competition like I swallow whole schools of sardines. Their portfolio contains many of the most recognizable brands in the world- Veuve Cliquot, Clos du Bois, Kendall Jackson, Moet Chandon, and Penfolds to name just a few. In addition to these mega-brands, their roster also includes a vast number of smaller, artisanal producers making excellent terrroir-driven wines and this is what I was there to see. Outlined below are a few of my highlights in no particular order:

-Tablas Creek
I have tasted the wines of Tablas Creek in passing and always enjoyed them, but this was my first chance to taste straight through a side by side lineup of their wines and I was quite impressed! Tablas Creek of course, is a winery located in Paso Robles and partially owned by the venerable Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel fame. They work exclusively with Rhone varietals, most of which are spawned from cuttings taken directly from the family's French estate. These wines have the lip-smacking, upfront fruit one would expect of any Paso Robles wine along with the layers of complexity, and balance you would expect from their Rhone counterparts. Most impressive to me was a 2005 Mouvedre. This was a beast of a wine! A concrete backbone with torrents of meaty, lush plum flavors. I could see this wine pairing well with Elephant Seal or even a Polar Bear cub. Expect to pay around $35 for this one.

-Diamond Creek Vineyards
I'll be honest- I was totally unfamiliar with this Napa Valley estate. And if I learned anything last night, it's that I have expensive tastes! Wow, these were perhaps the best wines I tried all night and I nearly fainted when I saw the price tag. They showcased three single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons which retail around the $200 mark. The three cabs were not extremely different from each other, but interesting in their subtle variations. All three posessed ballerina-like grace, balancing weighty tannins, with rich licorice, red currant, herbal and mineral notes. Despite having so much going on, the wines remained extremely friendly and approachable. Start saving your money and check these out!

-Pegasus Bay 2007 Riesling
Outstanding New Zealand estate located in the Waipara Valley. This Riesling is just over the top! Absolutely bursting with lychee, gooseberry, and peach flavors. One of the most full-bodied and satisfying whites I've had in a long time. Unless you count that fat, white porpoise I had the other night...

-Argyle Winery
Another excellent Oregon producer. Their 2005 sparkling brut is in my opinion, among the 3 or 4 best values in American sparkling wine. Retailing in the high $20's, it easily holds its own with many entry-level Champagnes at half the cost. Also worth seeking out is their 2006 Nuthouse Chardonnay, made in a wonderfully Burgundian style.

-St. George Absinthe Verte
This was a complete palate-buster but probably the best Absinthe I've ever had. It was actually drinkable, which is not a word often associated with Absinthe. Sure, it still felt like a mouthfull of fire afterwards, but all of the anise and licorice flavors actually came through very nicely on the palate. So strong and aromatic was this Absinthe, that I had to ditch my glass and get a new one. No amount of rinsing could remove the aroma! This stuff is NOT cheap either, my friends. A bottle of this stuff will set you back around $80. How is it that such an expensive beverage was made famous by a bunch of starving artists?

So all in all, not a bad tasting except for one thing- there was virtually NO food at this event! I was completely appalled by this. Sure there was a lady bringing around little pieces of toast with bacon on them, but come on! We hadn't eaten all day and since Carolina is such a HUGE company with deep pockets, we expected a first-class spread.

And I suppose it's my fault that the VP of Marketing got his legs and arms bitten off in a blood-soaked melee in the men's room. What's a shark supposed to do? I was starving.

Next up is Ruby's big tasting. I'll have lots more to report!

Until then,

-Robert Sharker.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shark hysteria in New England and some exciting dinner reservations!

Ahoy, friends!

Wow, things are getting crazy up here in New England!

First and foremost, the secret is obviously out- that is in fact me, my wife, my parents, and a couple of my wine buddies you have been watching on your TV, swimming off the coast of Cape Cod in recent days. My, we have certainly caused quite a media feeding frenzy haven't we? Those dramatic aerial shots of the big, menacing shark cruising along just off the shore of Chatham? Yes, that's me, though not from my most flattering angle.

And congratulations to the "scientists" who managed to attach satellite trackers to my poor, elderly parents. All they ever do is slowly swim between Wal-Mart and the Ninety-Nine restaurant for the early bird special...man, that satellite data is going to get boring real fast! That was grant money EXTREMELY well spent, sirs!

You can read the full, disgusting story here.

And for more biased, sensationalized "news", here you go:


Look people, I'll lay it out for you. We are in the area for a number of world-class wine tastings taking place in Boston this month (which will be the focus of numerouse future blog posts). We're not going to eat any of you. With the abundance of juicy, fat harbor seals in the area this time of year, why would we settle for some bitter, stringy Massholes? The Liberal Media has always had it in for us sharks, so try to ignore them. Please, just leave us alone and stop trying to tag us!

But if you did manage to tag me and my wife, I bet you would be very surprised to track our movements all the way to Le Bernardin in Manhattan next month! I was going to surprise her for our anniversary, but I just can't keep the secret any longer!

"But, why would sharks choose to dine at a seafood restaurant?"

It's an obvious question. It does seem rather strange that of all the fine restaurants in the world to choose from, a couple of sharks would choose a seafood restaurant for their anniversary dinner. The reason is chef Eric Ripert's bold and imaginative interpretation of a cuisine that I take for granted on a daily basis, often swallowing whole before it has a chance to swim away! His wine staff also does a great job with some outside-the-box food pairings. I've never seen so many older red Burgundies on a seafood restaurant's wine list, but somehow it works.

Eric Ripert and I are actually old friends and he always treats us very well at his restaurant. He always provides us with a private dining booth where we can remove our disguises and enjoy our meal in peace. Nothing ruins my Escolar with seared Kobe beef like some old broad shrieking in horror just because there are a couple of Great White Sharks sitting at the table next to her!

For years, I have been encouraging Eric to add Seal and Walrus dishes to his menu; Walrus Carpaccio being one of my absolute faves! But he keeps telling me "Zee FDA zimply vould not allow eet". Whatever the hell that means...

Nobody listens to Sharks.

-Robert Sharker.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tierra de Luna Torrontes 2008. 85 points.

Howdy wine lovers!

Summer is winding down here in the North Atlantic and I am not ready to migrate just yet! My wife and I have been eating light and we have been on a real streak of crisp and refreshing summer-y whites. I've made it a summer project to explore more thoroughly some grape varietals that I have often overlooked in the past. Chief among them lately has been Argentina's Torrontes.

To me, Argentine Torrontes is like that quiet, plain-looking female shark that the guys all ignore at the feeding frenzy; you know if you just pay her a little attention, make her feel pretty, maybe tell her how nice her fin looks in the moonlight, she will be an utter demon in the sack and shower you with hordes of offspring!

I'll admit that Torrontes has been growing on me lately, but I'm wondering if I just expect too much from the grape. I don't think it's ever going to floor me, but they do seem consistently pleasant and drinkable. The best among them are to me, reminiscent of a decent Muscadet but with a highly floral nose. The worst I've had are at least quaffable but very nearly flavorless.

One that falls directly in the middle is the '08 Torrontes from Tierra de Luna, which is a Francois Lurton venture down there in Mendoza, Argentina. Crisp and mildly effervescent, it shows some pleasant stone fruit and melon flavors with a pretty firm backbone of acidity. One thing that was difficult to get past was a persistent whiff of sulfur on the nose that didn't let up the entire time the bottle was open. I'm not sure if this was just my bottle, or perhaps it's a trait of the entire vintage.

To be fair, this wine is cheap. You should find this bottle for well under $10 at your local retailer. And despite it's flaws, I still enjoyed it thoroughly. Hell, I would even buy it again; and it turned out to be a great complement to that zesty Greek tourist who thought night swimming was a good idea...

There must be some GREAT Torrontes out there that I haven't had yet. I'd love to hear about your favorite if you have a recommendation. Summer isn't over yet!


-Robert Sharker.