There’s a wine shop in North Andover, MA, about 8 miles from my house. It’s close but not so close that it isn’t just a little out of the way (do you have any idea how many wine shops and liquor stores there are in an 8 mile radius around my house, including the giant, tax free New Hampshire State Liquor Store and Wine Outlet?), but so worth the trip.
Wine Connextion at 117 Main Street, North Andover, MA 01845 is a family owned and operated wine shop that does a great job of serving the needs of both the novice and casual consumer, and the connoisseur. Their selection is well thought out, and rotates frequently, but also always manages to keep the perpetual bestsellers around too. No dust ever settles on their bottles. It’s set up like a big, bright, open space, nothing obscuring your eye level of the entire store. Every wine has a sheet explaining everything you may want to know about the wine – price, country, appellation, flavor description, food pairing, and more. You can literally walk around this shop and self-learn about wine. The selection ranges from the best of the value wines category to premium choice wines. They maintain a climate controlled wine cave for some of their best wines. The prices are very good, and extremely competitive with the nearby New Hampshire state controlled liquor store. For example, take a commonly available wine like Apothic Red. In just my immediate market I have seen it for $15, $11.99, even $9.99. Wine Connextion sells Apothic Red for $8.99!
They also have a large tasting bar and host many events throughout the year. Sam and Tina Messina, brother and sister owners, know how to throw a party. Yesterday was the third in a recent series, called 90 Points and Above. They served 12 wines, all rates 90 pts and over priced from $9.99 – $79.00. Regardless of where you fall on the 100 point rating system argument, most people, especially casual consumers, rely on these 100 point rating systems to give them some reasonable assurance that the wine will taste above the standard for that varietal or blend type. So here was an opportunity to taste for free 12 decent wines, none of which I had ever tasted before. I love these kinds of shopping trips! Who wouldn’t love to shop with a glass of wine in your hand? Suzanne and I realized too late that we perhaps should have eaten lunch first. 12 little tastes do add up and humus and chips was not enough.
Below are the names, tasting notes, and prices in order that they were served, white to red, light to full. The tasting notes they provided were so right on the money that I am re-printing them here, and adding a comment or two of my own. I really appreciate the opportunity to taste so many quality wines. We bought some wine but there were people there filling up shopping carts. My recommendation is if you live in Northeastern Massachusetts you should check out this wine shop. If not, find some place like it in your neck of the woods. A place with a large and changing selection, helpful, knowledgeable staff who love to talk about wine, and great prices.
Kilikanoon Mort’s Block Riesling 2009 (Australia) Robert Parker 91 pts. The Mort’s Block Riesling is an intense racy wine that showcases the strength of the Clare Valley with this varietal. Green apple, lemon blossom, and bath salts dominate the nose. The taut palate shows grapefruit and lemon zest with a stony mineral edge and crisp natural acidity. While irresistible now, this wine will age beautifully for 10+ years, developing toasty, honeyed characters. Me: I didn’t get the bath salts but everything else was in there. $15.99
Landmark Overlook Chardonnay 2009 (California) Robert Parker 91 pts. Overlook Chardonnay smells and tastes of peaches, butter-poached pears, allspice, hazelnuts, fresh pineapple, and apple pie. Its richness is balanced by good acidity and layers of flavor. Buttery Chardonnay lovers are sure to enjoy this. $21.99
Delas “Saint Esprit” Rouge Côtes-du-Rhône 2009 (France) Robert Parker 90 pts. The “Cuvee Saint Esprit” shows the strength and pepper taste typical of the Syrah grape. The color is deep garnet red and has intense red berry aromas. It is an exceptional full-bodied wine with fine tannins. Me: Yes, intense raspberry aromas. We bought some of this. This is an exceptional bottle for the price. $9.99
Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 (California) Robert Parker 91 pts. This wine is both extremely rich and super supple, with fine-grained, mouth-filling tannins, balanced oak and an intriguing dusty quality. The aromas are alluring and sophisticated, offering layers of raspberry, cranberry, blueberry, sassafras, milk chocolate, cinnamon, clove, and cassis. A classic expression of Hyde Vineyard – powerful, elegant, and intricate. Me: Extremely elegant and complex. $45.99
Meandro Do Vale Meão Douro 2007 (Portugal) Robert Parker 90 pts. Wine Spectator 91 pts. The 2007 Meandro Quinta Do Vale Meão is very fine wine, deep, bright, beautifully balanced and well-structured wine. It has great complexity. Full-bodied, ripe and plush with a surplus of dark plum, dark cherry, and Kirsch flavors. Silky tannins and creamy notes power the spicy finish. Drink now through 2014. Me: We bought some of this as well. This a versatile food wine or sipper. $22.99
Pio Cesare Barolo 2006 (Italy) Robert Parker 94 pts. Pio Cesare and the 2006 vintage marry beautifully to produce a layered, opulent, textured, rich wine that is bursting with zesty red fruit, sassy spice, leather and toasted espresso bean. What really sets this wine apart is the dense smoothness of its texture. Save this bottle in your cellar for 10 years or more. Me: I thought this wine should have been tasted after the John Duval Shiraz later in the tasting. Lots of texture and spice. Will definitely age well. $49.99
Kilikanoon Testament Shiraz 2006 (Australia) Robert Parker 94 pts. Testament expresses the opulence and density expected of wines from the legendary Barossa Valley. A nose of great intensity, ripe mulberry and cherry notes lead, complexed by roasted plums, quality dark chocolate and sweet molasses, all pulled together by ripe, gritty tannins and balanced acidity. $22.99
Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva Especial 2004 (Spain) Robert Parker 94 pts. The Castillo-Igay Gran Reserva Especial 2004 is a complex and elegant classic. This Gran Reserva Especial is made from Tempranillo and Mazuelo from vineyards located at 500 meter above sea level. Limited in production and sought after all over the world, it is the worthy choice for the emblematic Castillo-Igay label. $47.99
John Duval Entity Shiraz 20008 (Australia) Robert Parker 94 pts. A true reflection of Barossa’s soil and climate. Entity displays youthful dark fruits of blackberry and plum that combine with a hint of mocha and savory French oak. The long, rich palate is driven by concentrated dark fruit characters that are balanced by firm tannins, bright acidity and well-integrated French oak that adds structure and polish to the wine. Me: Made by former Penfolds winemaker responsible for making the stellar “Grange” before Peter Lago. A stunner. $29.99
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyard Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (California) Robert Parker 98 pts. One of the few wineries to make a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that eclipsed its 2007 counterpart in Anderson’s Conn Valley. A spectacular effort that is as black as a moonless night. This full-bodied wine boasts abundant aromas of creme de cassis, camphor and subtle oak presented in a voluptuously textured, full-bodied style with terrific richness and depth. Great intensity and opulence as well as a layered mouthfeel make for a remarkable wine that should age for 20-30 years. Me: Outstanding! $62.99
Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (California) Robert Parker 95 pts. Intensely fragrant with aromas of creme de cassis, graphite and notes of lavender and bay. Rich flavors of blackberry and huckleberry merge with earthiness and minerality. Tannins are generous and well-developed. $79.99
Chambers Rosewood Rutherglen Muscat NV (Australia) Wine Spectator 91 pts. A rare and delicious dessert wine from Australia; what Australians call a “sticky”. Renowned critic Robert Parker noted, “Chambers Rosewood Vineyards makes my short list of greatest fortified wine producers. The winery was started in 1858 and continues to be owned by the Chambers family. Some of the material for these blends is over 100 years old.” This Muscat has extraordinary layers of sweet flavors including maple, honey, orange, apricots, and nuts. A tremendous bargain. Me: I am a fan of dessert style wines, particularly those with a good balance between the sweetness and acidity. This wine has an extremely full-bodied mouthfeel, like heavy cream. Not my favorite but it is a great price. $12.99