Latest Wine Finds

Sometime in March, the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits stores sent an email advertising “March Gladness” specials. All the specials were available for order on the internet only, but then delivered to your local retail store at no charge. Among the discounted items were two absolute bargains.

Whitehall Lane Cabernet SauvignonThe first bargain was the Whitehall Lane 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (California). Whitehall Lane is a perennially good cabernet. Normally it retails for between $35 and $45 a bottle, and so, for obvious budgetary reasons has not made too many appearance in my wine cellar since becoming a Ph.D. student. However, discounted to $19.99 a bottle, it is an absolute steal. Although 2004 was not a crowning achievement for Whitehall Lane, there is nothing disappointing about this wine. Expecting it would be worth every penny, I splurged and picked up a case — we have not been disappointed.

In some ways, my second bargain was both a bigger leap into the unknown, and yet, an even safer bet. The Rolf Binder 2004 “Hales” Shiraz Barossa Valley (Australia) normally retails in the $25 to $30 range, though you can find it discounted for $18 to $22. However, the state store was offering it for $7.99 a bottle. Robert Parker rated the wine 90 points, and described it as:

An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. It was aged for 12 months in French and American oak; 10% of the latter was new. It offers an enticing bouquet of wood-smoke, earth, bacon, and blueberry. Supple-textured, plush, and friendly, it has gobs of flavor, excellent grip and length, and enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years. Drink it through 2016. (Source: Wine Advocate, August 2008 as cited on

Rolf Binder "Hales" ShirazA Robert Parker 90 point wine for $8!?!? Despite never having tasted other vintages of Rolf Binder, I settled on 2-1/2 cases — enough in case it was good, not too much in case it wasn’t all that. Suffice to say I should have bought more like 5 cases. This is an amazingly complex and well integrated wine. It has a very lush mouth feel, a long finish, and lots of fine tannins. For $8!?!? Amazing. Also, as I know some people who are not huge fans of shiraz, it is worth mentioning that this wine feels more like a cabernet than a shiraz.


d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz 2005

d’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2005
$14.99 — 89 WA | 89 ST 

d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz 2005
d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz

According to the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits website, the Atherton Street location is a Premium Collection Store with more than 2,000 selections. Far from premium, this week the store looked like a cross between a warehouse and a warzone, with literally dozens of specials occupying every bit of free space. In some places they had aisles blocked in order to accommodate everything. 

And yet, despite the abundance of choices, finding any wines worth buying proved to be a real challenge.   Most of what they were peddling was either worthless swill or just simply too expensive for everyday enjoyment. Having 2,000 selections is of no benefit if the wines are not not worth drinking in the first place. 

After what felt like an hour in the store, I finally found one worth bringing home in quantity: d’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2005. The Footbolt is a consistently good offering (so too are many of the other bottlings from d’Arenberg). The 2005 vintage is no exception. And at $14.99, the Pennsylvania Wines and Spirits price is actually very, very competitve, on par with the best I can find on the internet. I picked up a case and a half, nearly cleaning them out. 

The Footbolt scores 89 points from both Robert Parker / Wine Advocate, and from Stephen Tanzer / International Wine Cellar.  After drinking the first bottle I can see why.  This wine has a beautiful nose, a lot on the palate and a decently long finish.  The Footbolt is clearly ready to drink now, but I suspect that it will taste like a $30 bottle of Shiraz if you give it about 12 to 18 months of cellaring. 

As for me, one case went onto the “everyday” shelf of our Eurocave, and the other half a case went onto one of the “save for later” shelves.  If the latter 6 bottles manage to last 12 or 18 months, I’ll let you know how it is holding up.  Also, if I get a chance, I plan to stop back and clean out any remaining bottles.

BTW — The producer is spelled d’Arenberg with an E, not d’Arenburg with an U.