Wine review: 2001 Boundary, Te Awa Farms

7.5 winehiker points*

Every once in a while, we wine lovers find that promise does not deliver what expectation anticipates. You can read all the words that are written to describe a wine; most of us want to believe them enough to reach into our wallets if we are at all tantalized by the copywriter’s scribblings. But then you taste the wine, and you wonder if maybe you’ve had a head cold for a week.

Such was my experience with the 2001 Boundary, a Bordeaux blend from Te Awa Farms in the town of Hastings, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

The 2001 Te Awa Boundary from Hawkes Bay New Zealand. The copywriters quite obviously did not taste *this* wine.

The 2001 Te Awa Boundary from Hawkes Bay New Zealand. The copywriters quite obviously did not taste this wine.

A case in point on the copywriting, from The New Zealand House of Wine:

“A delicious wine with melting tannin and complex layers of flavour. Intertwined aromas of fresh leather, dark cherry, bramble and plum on the nose. A supple, round attack opens to show layers of flavour on the palate, which reflect those of the nose. The tannins are now well integrated giving the wine depth and length.”

From Bottlenotes, from whom I purchased the wine:

“A high quality, high value New World Bordeaux blend. Smooth and lush with aromas of cedar, sweet tobacco, blackberry and a bit of spice. On the palate, the wine is quite smooth with moderate tannin, a bit of leather and dark berry fruit flavors.”

My own tasting notes:

“Medium garnet-colored Bordeaux blend, strong earthiness on nose, but with mild elusive fruit aromas and slight fragrance of wood and spice. Moderate balance aspects, with slight tartness, agreeable bitterness. Medium body, good mouthfeel, but heavily lacking in fruit flavor; very short finish.”

Hmmm…. I was not attacked by supple round plums, especially on my nose. Which New World are we talking about here? Were my defenses too solidified? I thought I should clear my throat, blow my nose, and try again. So I did, three more times over the course of the evening. Up until I tried this particular wine from Bottlenotes, I had been pretty pleased with their selections. Fortunately with Bottlenotes you can share your tasting notes with them so they can further tailor their selections to your palate. In fact they actually ask you to do so.

And I’ve been doing that. Perhaps not enough, truth be told. I guess we still have some tailoring to do.

At any rate, I tried this wine again after 45 minutes in the decanter, then again after 2 hours of opening. Still, after four hours, the 2001 Boundary tasted way way way too [insert your own invective here] earthy. You know, being a winehiker and all, I’m a big fan of earth. I like it beneath my feet. A lot, in fact.

I just don’t like it in my mouth. At least not that [invective] much of it. I think I’ll stay on this side of the Boundary for a while.

Often I find that the earthiness aspects of some wines dissipate within a short time of opening or decanting. Perhaps my problem is that I didn’t try this wine with roast lamb, roast beef, game, or grilled duck, as suggested by the well-meaning folks at Bottlenotes. Heck, Te Awa Farms even has its own restaurant, which is considered to be one of New Zealand’s top six dining establishments. Says something about the NZ palate, perchance. They must quite naturally be pairing their foods with (or is that to?) their wines.

So, I suppose I’m remiss for not suckling on a duckling for this one. Nevertheless, good food does not make bad wine better.

So sayeth I.

OK, so that’s my first stellar review of a not-so-stellar wine. There are bound to be more.

$30.00 at; priced at $22 elsewhere online. That is, if you really want to buy it after reading this post.

Disclosure: I am a member of’s Limited Addictions club; this wine arrived in their summer shipment and was purchased by me.

*Rated on the 20-point Davis scale using my Wine Scoring Sheet.



Wine Review: The Amazing and Affordable 2001 Lindemans Pyrus

17.5 winehiker points*

Last month, my friend Kim passed along a personal wine recommendation to myself and to my friend Vindu. Vindu was the first to respond, saying:

Kim and Russ,

Finally found the 2001 Pyrus in my local Trader Joe’s today. Bought a bottle, cracked it open. OH. MY. GOD. It’s the most awesome $8 red I have ever tasted. Smooth like a Bordeaux blend, yet complex and with a nice warm finish. Low acidity, just pure grape perfection.

I’m going back tomorrow for a case. At least.


Having tasted a fair amount of wine in the company of both friends, I figured I didn’t need to be told a third time. In fact, Vindu’s palate often appears to be similar to mine in that he tends to like many of the same flavor and body profiles that I do, plus he and I tend to vote the same group picks at tastings.

I high-tailed it over to Trader Joe’s after a recent local hike. You never know how fast word can spread, and I wanted to make sure I got at least one bottle before this $8 gem was all gone. I arrived at the Los Altos store, scanned the wine aisle, and though I did find some Lindeman’s wines, I didn’t find any Pyrus. The help staff made a call on my behalf to the Sunnyvale store where, sure enough, they had about 18 bottles on hand. A few minutes later, I walked out of that Sunnyvale store with 4 bottles of promise in my hands.

The 2001 Lindeman's Pyrus -- no decanting necessary, just drink it if you can still find it.

The 2001 Lindeman’s Pyrus — no decanting necessary, just drink it if you can still find it.


The 2001 vintage of Lindeman’s Pyrus, from the Coonawarra region of Australia, is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet Franc, and wholly drinkable right out of the bottle. It’s violet color in the glass is pleasing, and so are its immediate berry, cherry, and slight tobacco aromas. There’s even a slight hint of gold in the wine’s color, suggesting that the wine has aged nicely.

On balance, this wine is solid, with a mildly spicy sweetness and an acid/tannin structure that rocks steady. While smooth in body, presumably from the presence of the Merlot, it’s texture on the tongue is not entirely stellar, though it’s mighty close. With the Pyrus’ moderate fruit complexity, rounded balance aspects, medium-full body, and crowd-pleasing finish, I’d say that this wine is an excellent one to tell your friends about.

Thanks, Kim!

But you might just want to keep the Pyrus to yourself as a very well-made and affordable bottle of Bordeaux-style wine for everyday drinking. You better hurry, though — the way my buddy Vindu is buying this stuff, it’s flying off the shelves at Trader Joe’s.

Yep, Vindu has four cases already. And incidentally, Vindu’s got a friend in Australia who laments the current price of the 2001 Pyrus in the Land Down Under to be over $40 a bottle. Good enough reason to stock up now.

$7.99 at Trader Joe’s
Disclosure: I soon after purchased a case of this wine myself from Trader Joe’s. At this price, how could I not?

Also see guest author Vindu Goel’s follow-up post, Pyrus vs. Pyrus: Is the Lindemans Pyrus 2000 better than the 2001?

*Rated on the 20-point Davis scale.


Wine Review: 2005 Twisted Oak Viognier

18 winehiker points*

I’ve had a bit of a commitment lately. What a pain in the neck it has been. Shoot, if it hadn’t been for a nearly two-week-long bout of pinched nerves in the cervical spine – the recurring detritus of an old diving board injury – I would have helped myself to this lovely and complex Viognier from Twisted Oak a little sooner. After all, it’s been chilling in my fridge all this time just waiting for me to pop its Twisted cork.

But I wanted to wait until I could actually tilt my head back far enough to gargle it.

The winehiker rates the 2005 Viognier offering from Twisted Oak Winery of Vallecito, California. Note the handy rubber chicken.

The winehiker rates the 2005 Viognier offering from Twisted Oak Winery of Vallecito, California.
Note the handy rubber chicken.

You may recall a recent post in which I reviewed the 2004 Twisted Oak Tempranillo. Jeff Stai, owner of Twisted Oak Winery, had sent me the Tempranillo as well as this Viognier.** I admit that I am more a fan of reds (which good native Californian isn’t?), so I had tried the Tempranillo first, and liked it. But my coexisting notion at the time was that the Viognier would be even better.

I’m glad I waited. After a number of missed days at the office, the hot showers, the ice packs, the constant stretching, and the multiple chiropractic visits, finally, a relatively relaxing day at work and a night with no commitments — other than making a date to contemplate the sound of one cork popping.

So I opened, and I poured.

I am no longer tense. I live, now, in the present. Cool, clear, and golden it is. Even chilled, the scent of this Viognier bears promise, with a characteristic floral note. As it warms over the course of a few minutes’ hand-swirling, I detect layers of apples, pears, apricots, nutmeg.

I am pretty sure I have a winner on my hands. But at this point, I haven’t yet engaged my tongue.

I sip. And I savor. My eyeballs rush involuntarily, sanguinely, up into my head.

A lingering moment on the palate yields a near-perfect blend of sweetness and acidity that I find most refreshing. With a balanced astringency and a super-silky, almost chewy mouthfeel, plus a taste of allspice and white raisins, this wine breathes, tastes, and feels like a wine that my friends (and yours) will find memorable, whether on a Summer day or a Fall evening. As for the finish, I say “hello” to only an acquaintance of acidity and tannin.

I like Viognier this way – tapered layers of sweetness, structure, and finish. And I’m not typically a white wine drinker.

Nevertheless, I’ve grown to love Viognier, and nearly all of them from the Sierra Foothills of California, in my experience, have been top-notch concoctions. It’s no less so for this fruit of the proud and merry folk at Twisted Oak up in Calaveras County. Just ask El Jefe and Fermento – they know what they’re doing.

$22.00 at Twisted Oak Winery.
Disclosure: This wine was sent to me for review courtesy of Twisted Oak Winery.

*Rated on the 20-point Davis scale with this wine scoring sheet.
**Jeff also sent me a rubber chicken.


When liking a wine is not enough

There’s a lot of debate out there in the Great Blogosphere about wine scores and wine-scoring systems. Some suggest that wine tasting is too subjective a practice to quantify with objective numerals. Seasoned wine tasters would have you distrust someone else’s (e.g., Robert Parker’s) seasoned palate. Yet I’ve learned that knowing that I like a wine is not enough – I want to know why I prefer one wine over another. Because other people do, too, I believe that’s where a wine scoring system can help.

I had a lot of help from my wine-tasting friends developing a 20-point scoring sheet that I use quite frequently. We’ve found that a 20-point system is definitely more manageable than a 100-point system such as Parker’s and others – I think they’re too difficult to attempt by most people who would taste wine. A 5-star system, I’ve found, is just too simple, because it doesn’t offer any real educational value.

The winehiker’s 20-point wine scoring sheet for individuals and groups.

The winehiker’s 20-point wine scoring sheet
works well for both individuals and groups.

This wine scoring sheet is broken into seven criteria with numeric values assigned to each; sample descriptive adjectives are offered within each tasting criterion (aroma, body, finish, etc.). It also is two-sided, allowing input for individual wine scores for seven wines, as well as space for tasting notes and group scoring on the second page to aggregate a group’s individual ratings. A third page includes instructions for how to use it.

Jeff Stai, owner of Twisted Oak Winery remarks:

“While it can argued as to whether “taste/flavor” should be 4 points and “finish” only 2, the winehiker’s system can be a big help for people who want to learn to taste more thoughtfully by breaking a rating down into more manageable chunks.”

Most of my guests are new tasters who want to learn why they like a wine (or why they don’t); many return for follow-up tastings. That’s a vote of confidence, indicating that they derive value from this scoring system.  Perhaps you will too!

————————— ♦ —————————

Have you scored any wines using this or any other 20-point wine scoring sheet?
If you have, please let me know what you think.

If you haven’t used it, this scoring sheet can be
a valuable learning tool to help you train your palate.
Try it at your next tasting!

————————— ♦ —————————


Wine Review: 2004 Twisted Oak Tempranillo

16½ winehiker points*

Here’s that post I promised y’all way back on September 20th. After the novelty of the rubber chicken came the novelty of opening the wine and instantly smelling the herbal muskiness of cat pee.

Cat pee is good, mind you, as long as you’re smelling it in something you’re about to drink and not hosing it off your patio. Fortunately, this aromatic aspect of the 2004 Tempranillo from Twisted Oak Winery of Calaveras County, California, is fleeting, and the wine that follows is worthy of tasting.

Upon my first swirl, sniff and resultantly halting sip, I chose to decant the entire bottle into my glass duck, the most pungent fragrance of this wine plus the tannic notes characteristic of the Tempranillo grape dictating my decision. I returned in a little over an hour to a fruity sweetness on the nose and a balanced acidity on the palate.

2004 Twisted Oak Tempranillo

The tannins are not low in this wine, but are not so high as to be a turn-off; astringency is lower than I expected. With a moderate mouthfeel (medium body), moderately powerful cherry flavors and a medium-long finish — about a minute — I feel this wine is a well-balanced accompaniment to food.

In fact, after my initial sips, I savored this wine with a hot plate of liver and onions with potatoes and gravy, and found the combination fabulous. But even without food, quite possibly this wine is light enough on body and heat (13.9%) for warm-weather slurping.

“OK fine,” you lament, “but what about the rubber chicken?”

Oh yes — the rubber chicken. Suffice to say that a rubber chicken actually did arrive inside my shipment of wine from the twisted folks at Twisted Oak. I won’t tell you what I’m doing with mine, but you can read about what Dr. Fermento is doing with his up in Vallecito.

But even if you consider yourself to be twisted, too, don’t order this wine for the rubber chicken — order it for what’s waiting for you inside the bottle.

$24.00 at Twisted Oak Winery.
Disclosure: This wine was sent to me for review courtesy of Twisted Oak Winery.

*Rated on the 20-point Davis scale.


Wine Review: 2001 Langhe Rosso “Jula”

18½ winehiker points*

From the district of Langhe in Italy’s Piemonte region comes the Barbera grape, characterized by intense, robust fruit flavor. From the same region comes the Nebbiolo grape, Nature’s herald of “the wine of kings, the king of wines;” this is the grape behind Barolo and Barbaresco wines, and it earns its marks.

The 2001 vintage of Jula, a 1-to-1 blend of these two grapes from Cascina Adelaide, is plainly astonishing, at once offering a glimpse into its deep, sensuous character. I let it breathe off its dusky vapors over the course of 30 minutes as I tend to my garden. I return to a round fullness that speaks the wine’s readiness to be sampled.

Label from the 2001 Langhe Rosso “Jula” by Cascina Adelaide.

Label from the 2001 Langhe Rosso “Jula” by Cascina Adelaide.

Myriad colors splash into the glass – deep ink, chocolate, and garnet, with golden-hued edges. Imagine rich, smoky leather and deep complexity in your first whiff of the glass’ contents – this wine is laced with oporto overtones. It’s a wine that, at five years of aging, could be labeled “Riserva” with all due recognition. And that’s apparent just on observing appearance and aroma.

Oh my, but I can vouch for my visual and olfactory senses with the Jula. Everything my eyes and nose tell me are confirmed. A near-perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness is present; heat in this wine, at 14%, is virtually undetectable. The high-tannin Nebbiolo has been exquisitely matched to the low-tannin Barbera to form an ever-so-slight tartness that begs for another sip.

I willingly oblige.

The velvety chewiness and multilayered fruit textures of this rosso blend are scrumptious and extravagant, showing a fine maturity at five years’ aging. It lasts on my palate well, the fruity smokiness lingering for many pleasant moments.

$32.00 at
Disclosure: I am a member of’s “Limited Addictions” club; this wine arrived in their summer shipment and was purchased by me.

*Rated on the 20-point Davis scale.