Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another 2005 Bordeaux

I ordered this 2005 Bordeaux from Wine Library way back in January as a presale. It was supposed to come in some time last June but it didn't arrive until just yesterday. I've been dying to taste it. Some of the tasting notes on cellartracker for this wine are mixed. One guy even gives it 74 points because it has tannins! Not sure what to think of that review. Well, tonight I opened a bottle and I'll give you my opinion.

2005 Chateau Marjosse

Color: Deep, deep inky purple color. Looks young and will probably taste young.

Nose: Dark blackberries and black raspberries hit the nose. There is almost a sweet smell that reminds me of chocolate and coconut. It has some earthy notes with alot of complexity going on there.

Palate: Solid firm tannins that are gripping! It is definitely too young to drink and I can understand why people turn off to this. The tannins overwhelm the palate. However, this wine is full of vegetables mingling with those dark fruits. It has a nice balance of acidity. The alcohol is a little out of balance providing for a hotness that exacerbates the tannins. The earthy peaty fruit fills your mouth, though, with big robust flavor that lasts for days on the palate. I think there is a lot there and can't wait to taste this 5-10 years from now.

This wine has a lot of potential to evolve into something quite nice. It could, however, fall flat after aging if the fruit doesn't stand up to the high 14% alcohol. I can see this wine pairing very well with mushrooms and truffles. I should mention that I just popped the cork and tasted this one. I'll give it some time in the decanter and see if it improves. Given it's potential, I would probably give this one 90 points. That may change in a few years. Time will tell.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


2006 Alain Corcia Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Crème de la Crème"

Our AWS chapter will be tasting Rhone wines next week and I picked up this Chat du Pape for the tasting. I thought I would give it a go before the get together to see how it is.

The color is a gorgeous deep ruby red with purple tinges. Hints of youngness are apparent in the color. It is dark and you cannot see through it.

The nose is unusual with some very subtle hints of red cherries mixed with herbs, vegetables and eucalyptus.

On the palate there is a nice body and heaviness that wraps around the mouth. Very complex with flavors of mint, red raspberries and green peppers. It has a nice balance of tannin and acidity. It is nicely structured and rock solid. This is a delicious wine that should improve over the next 5 years.

I would rate it 90 points.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Older than I

What an experience. I was away at a conference this past week. Some friends and I have a tradition of bringing some unusual wines to this conference and tasting them together. This year was extra special. I got to taste a wine that was older than I. This was the oldest wine I have ever tasted. I'm talking about a 1964 Rioja Gran Reserva from the great Conde de Los Andes. When a wine is this old you are not sure what to expect. It is a delicate thing at this stage of its life. To think I was opening a bottle that has been sealed for as long as I have been alive. Regardless of how the wine tastes, it is truly like drinking history. I can't describe how amazing it is.

When the foil was removed and we saw the cork underneath we were just a bit concerned. The cork was completely blackened after decades of standing still. The black residue is likely lead tartrates produced from wine seeping through the cork and reacting with the all lead foil.

Very carefuly the corkscrew was inserted into the delicate cork. Twist after slow twist pushed the screw deeper and deeper into the bottle. Oh so gently the cork was pulled from the bottle. I don't think it would have mattered how gentle we were. That cork was destined to fall apart. Yes, it did break leaving a plug in the bottle. Surprisingly the cork looked quite good. It had kept it's integrity over these forty plus years well. Carefully the remaining cork was skewered by the corkscrew and lifted from the neck.

After all these years this rioja finally met air. Into a glass it went. The color was brown, of course, but it had a surprising amount of redness remaining.

After a quick swirl I brought the glass to my nose and inhaled deeply. Sherry acetaldehyde and earthy notes hit my nose like a sledge hammer. There was no fruit present. I could tell that it was still wine. There were no odors that would indicate spoilage, only oxidation.

As I lifted the glass to my lips I couldn't help wonder if the men who picked the grapes ever realized their efforts would last so long. I wondered if the winemaker who produced this wine was still alive. I wondered what the countryside of Spain looked like as the grapes were crushed. I wondered who carefully filled these bottles and sealed them with the cork that we just broke.

The wine hit my palate and I was delighted. Well, the wine wasn't great. I would say it was 15-20 years past its prime. Ok, so I'm making up that number. I think it might have been good at 20 years old but I may be wrong. No, I wasn't delighted by good taste. I was delighted to find the wine was still wine in one form or another. In our old age we all get wrinkled and stained from years of toil. We may not be attractive on the outside but we have wonderful wisdom of the ages on the inside. That is how I thought about this wine. The fruit was depleted long ago. It still had a good acid but it tasted a bit flat. Left behind like a rotting corpse was a wine tasting of forest floor and age old compost. It was earthy and pungent. It tasted a lot like chewing on a brown paper bag that had been dumped in the compost bin. It was not offensive. I think that's about all you can ask of an old timer like this. Truly an experience that I will remember for a long long time. Thank you Richard.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


2003 Mas de la Barben syrah blend from Languedoc. This was a bit of a disappointment. I expected better from this wine. I could tell straight away when I poured it in the glass that it would not live up to expectations. It had a red brick color that was a little on the light side. The nose was vegetative with spice and a strange chemical component. Someone described insecticide for this wine and I think it does remind me of an ant spry we used to use. It was funky on the palate as well with barnyard and leather flavors. It had a good acidity and a pretty nice up front attack but the good flavors disappeared rather quickly leaving you with the taste like licking a saddle. Certainly an unusual wine. It is just ok. I don't think I would buy it again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Bordeaux Rosé

I picked up this 2006 Bordeaux rosé as part of a Wine Library TV secret four-pack. I never got around to drinking it with Gary V but I did enjoy it anyway. It was not a serious wine but was nice to have out on my patio with some grilled foods. It had nice strawberry flavors and was not sweet at all. I like my rosés dry, thank you very much. This one was dry. It had a bit more body than I expected which was nice. Overall it was a pretty decent bottle.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wine from Michigan

Yes, Michigan does make some pretty decent wines, especially white wines. About a year ago I was traveling through southwest Michigan and found a winery outlet just off of I-94. The Round Barn winery produced this pinot gris that was really very interesting. It had a great color, first of all. Not too dark but not too light. Definitely had some substance. The aromas of apples and honey and fruit loops greeted me when I brought the glass to my nose. It had a nice crisp acidity with flavors of pears, pineapple and bananas. The nice thing about this wine was how long it lasted in your mouth. Long lingering fruit eventually gave way to a fresh clean finish. I would score this one maybe 89 points. I liked it and now I remember why I bought it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Grand Cru

I don't often drink grand crus but this one came as a good deal from Wine Library. For $20 I think I got a good bargain. This was a very nice wine. As you can see from the back label, it is composed of 80% merlot, 10% cabernet sauvignon, and 10% cabernet franc; a classical Bordeaux blend if I've ever seen one.

First of all I was blown away by the color. You can see below it was a deep, rich, dark, purple/red color. You definitely could not see through it. On the nose I was presented with earthy musty notes mingling with ripe red cherries. Solid tannins, big fruit and hints of smoke greeted you on the palate. It also had a slight greenness to it. After a couple hours in the decanter the wine opened up beautifully.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Spanish Tempranillo

2004 Campo Viejo Crianza tempranillo from Rioja.

Light in color with an interesting nose of rusty nails and red plums. The prune fruits come through a little bit on the palate along with a nice acidity and light red fruits. Nothing serious here but a decent quaff for the price. 82 points.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A great QPR zin

I found a very nice value for under $10. I've had Kenwood before and it has always been a pretty ok wine. But this 2005 zinfandel really kicked it for the $9 I dropped for it. It was solid and interesting and quite tasty. Even the color was dark almost inky purple. It was black cherries for days and days on the nose combining with hints of purple plums and spices. Those flavors came through in the mouth as well. Black cherry mixing with spicy apple pie and plums. It was quite smooth with soft tannins. The fruit was pretty big but not over the top. It didn't reach that thick jammy stage. It was quite balanced and a very good value. I'd even serve this one to guests. I think it's good drinking now. I'm not sure how long it will last. Probably not more than a few years.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wow, I could have had a Vigna Traverso!

Seriously, this wine was like drinking your vegetables, which I love very much. This is the 2005 Vigna Traverso Refosco from the Colli Orientali del Friuli appellation of Italy. This DOC is in the province of Udine in the north east corner of Italy. Basically on the back of the boot rim. Red wines only account for about 35% of the wine production in this DOC and the main grape is typically merlot. But this one, obviously, is produced from the refosco grape. This is a deep violet colored grape with slight bitterness and powerful tannins. It is also know as the terlan or terlano grape and eastern France it goes by the name mondeuse.

I just fell in love with this wine. It was the first time I've had this grape or any wine from this region, for that matter. It has the characteristic deep purple color. The nose was earthy and bright with hints of red cherries, twizzlers and a bit of forest floor. It really pleased me on the palate. Talk about old world! It was nicely balanced with fruit and vegetables. Think hints of raw green peppers blended with a can of V8 and some red cherry juice shaken on top. Very intriguing and delicious. It certainly had solid tannins but they weren't overpowering in any way. It was really well balanced. I would say it will last at least another 6-8 years.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A nice Tuscan

What goes better with pizza than a nice chianti classico? Friday night was pizza night at our house and I opened up a 2001 Fattoria Le Fonti chianti classico. If you don't know about chiantia, it is the largest region in Tuscany. This is made largely from the sangiovese grape. This bottle was pretty darn good. It had a nice color just edging on brick red. On the nose were aromas of berries and red fruits. Interestingly there was a subtle hint of furniture polish, kind of like lemon pledge. Strange, I know, but it wasn't a bad thing. The palate was very interesting. It was earthy with a medium body. There was a pronounced acidity that cut through the red fruits and I liked that very much. It had a solid tannin structure but they were nice and soft. There were nice hints of mocha and rusty nails dancing around my mouth. This was definitely a classic chianti classico in all respects.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Saint Émilion

Popped open a bottle of the 2005 Christian Moueix Saint Émilion tonight. This one is made from 85% merlot and 15% cabernet franc. I liked it very much even if it was a little bit light. It had a nice medium purple red color that you could easily see through, so it was obvious this would not be a heavy wine. On the nose I was presented with subtle ripe cherries and aromas of sweet tart candy. Very interesting to say the least. On the palate, however, there was nothing fruit or sweet about it. It was oh so vegetative. I enjoy that. It had a medium body, solid acidity and smooth tannins. Red fruits came across so very subtly however it was the roasted beets, cooked carrots and tomato sauce that dominated the flavors. It was a little bit chalky and a tiny bit disjointed on the finish but overall it was a nice Bordeaux red. I bought it for $14 on sale which was an ok price. I don't think I'd pay the $30 or so full price for it.

South Africa Shiraz

I tasted another red wine from the Dark Continent. The 2005 Neil Ellis Sincerely Shiraz. I think I liked the pinotage I had the other night better, but it was all right. It had a gorgeous dark purple color. I really liked the nose on this one. It was chock full of blueberries! I adore blueberries and haven't smelled or tasted it in a wine for a long time. However, along with the blueberries came an awkward petroleum/soak/plastic smell. It came across on the palate as well. It was not too heavy and hand sone nice red cherry and blueberry flavors that give way to more earthy notes on the mid palate. After an our or so the strange petroleum/soap had diminished significantly, but it was still there. It has a really nice mouth feel right up front but was a little thin on the end. Overall

Dark purple red color. Blueberries on the nose with hints of petroleum, like plastic and soap. Not too heavy on the palate with nice red cherry and blueberry flavors giving way to earthy flavors. It has a slightly soapy taste with that strange petroleum flavor that mostly blew off after an hour or so. It had a nice mouth feel up front but was a little thin on the end.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Let's go South

The Pinotage grape has been grown in South Africa for almost 100 years. It is a hybrid of pinot noir and cinsault. I like the big fruit that comes from this grape but it can be somewhat finicky to grow. During fermentation it has been known to produce a significant amount of isoamyl acetate giving it a paint-like smell and taste. This evening I opened a bottle of La Cave 2003 pinotage produced by the Wamakersvallei winery in Wellington, South Africa. This is a deeply colored wine with an inky quality. The nose I would say is terrific with gobs of dark red and black fruits and hints of tropical bananas (as the label says). I pick up cocoa and leather as well on the nose. On the palate the fruit is big and heavy. The tannins are very solid yet not too overpowering. Cherries and blackberries mingle with oak and chocolate in the mid-palate. Unfortunately this wine has a rather unpleasant finish reminiscent of gasoline and plastic. I wonder if that is some of the isoamyl acetate coming through. You don't notice it too much until the long lasting fruit wanes, but it leaves you with a chemical taste at the end that is hard to overcome. Because of that I have to score this wine lower. I would give it a 90 for the up front fruit and mid-palate but an 80 for what it does on the end.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spanish White

I am a huge fan of the Albariño grape grown mostly in the Rais Baixas region of Spain. This is a grape that expresses very interesting tropical fruit qualities that I just adore. When I saw this Oriel 2004 Albariño in my local shop for $11 I had to pick it up.

The wine had a delightful golden color and the nose did not disappoint. It had aromas of pear, pineapple, mango, papaya and all the things I usually associate with this grape. Aromatically it was quite interesting. It fell flat on the palate, however, in a big way. Oh, it had a nice acidity and flavors of pineapples and honey for days. There were hints of apricot and lemon (as in lemon pledge furniture polish). It was very light and overall not as interesting as I expected. I would give this one an 85 if I were to score it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Here and there

Greetings Wine Lovers! I want to share a couple of wines I had tonight. The first is a German pinot noir. A 2005 Hans Lang Maximilian Edition pinot noir to be exact. I haven't experienced red wines from Germany before so I was excited to try this. Not unexpectedly it had a nice light color and aromas of acid and strawberries mingling with sour cherry candy. On the palate it was very interesting. First you get hit with a spicy black pepper that I just adore. Then your mouth tingles with fresh red raspberries and strawberries. It is certainly light and low on tannins but very interesting overall. The finish is subdued but clean. The acid is nicely balanced. It wasn't razor sharp but did show its presence. Overall a very nice light pinot noir with an intriguing complexity.

I fell in love with zinfandel in the early 1990's when they were making big peppery zins in California. Lately the zins have been more sweet than spicy with tons of over the top jammy fruit. It's not that I don't like that but I miss the more refined fruit and black pepper of my youth. This 2003 Kenwood Jack London Vineyard zin is definitely made in the newer style. Right away on the nose you get huge blackberry jam. You can just tell it is fruity and almost sweet tasting from the aromas. On the palate, however, I was nicely surprised. It was jammy and full of black and red berries, but it wasn't the over the top fruit bomb that I expected. Nice wood mingling with fruits and just a hint of that spice that I like so much. It is definitely zinny in all aspects. It is actually a nice marriage of the zins I remember from long ago and the zins being made today.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My first Grüner

I've heard about this grape but never had it before. Grüner veltliner is a grape found largely in Austria and to some extent in the Czech Republic. The 2004 Oriel comes from the foot of the Falkenstein cliffs. There the soil is a mixture of weatherd limestone and clay. The grapes were picked between October 23-28, 2004. This wine was fermented slow under controlled temperature. I have to say I'm quite impressed. It has a really wonderful pear nose with some interesting hints of spice. On the palate it is silky and smooth with a nice crisp but balanced acidity. It has pear with green apple flavors and a slight stone quality. I guess that would be called minerality. Normally about $20, I picked this up on sale for half off. Not too shabby.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A couple of decent ones

I had a couple of wines last night that impressed me. Let me talk about the Cellar No. 8 first. This is a wine from the Asti winery in Sonoma. This label offers a very good QPR for what it is. They are not serious wines but are certainly quaffable and I picked up a few bottles of the 2005 zinfandel on a sale for $8 last week. So many of the zins today are coming in with way high alcohol and big candy-like fruit. Sometimes I feel like I'm drinking dessert wines, they are so sweet. I have been missing that black pepper that first made me fall in love with this grape. Well, for an everyday wine, the Cellar No. 8 brings something to the table. It had a nice cherry and raspberry nose but it was the black pepper on the palate that won me. I love that! It wasn't super complex but it certainly had a good structure. Dark fruits, raspberries and plums were present and it had a nice acidity that was obvious. It also had a nice clean lingering finish that was quite pleasant. Overall this was a good buy at $8.

Let's get a little bit more serious now. I don't remember where I picked up this Leone de Castris Salice Salentino Riserva, but it's been in my cellar for a while. Current wisdom (aka cellartracker) suggested that the drinking window for this wine was between 2005 and 2007, so I popped it open and decanted it for an hour. This was an interesting wine. Full of an earthiness mingling with red fruits on the nose and the palate. It had very smooth tannins and a good weight in the mouth. I noticed hints of asparagus and sour cherries too. Quite complex and difficult to describe. Definitely an old world style that I very much enjoyed. It paired well with a green olive stuffed chicken breast and polenta.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I've been a big fan of Joseph Phelps wine for a long time and I was pleased as punch to see Wine Spectator name the 2002 Insignia wine of the year for 2005. The insignia is a great wine. I have a bottle of the "off year" 2000 in my cellar. I'm waiting for a special occasion to drink that 92+ point wine. Perhaps not quite the same caliber but certainly a perfectly quaffable wine is the Phelps Innisfree cabernet sauvignon. I recently opened a bottle of the '04 vintage. For about 1/4 to 1/5 the price of the insignia you can spend only $25 for this really excellent wine. I've had several vintages of the innisfree and have enjoyed them all. I generally love this wine but I have to say I was a little disappointed in the body on this one. The nose was very nice with presentation of mocha, cherry and a hint of smoke. It was medium bodied on the palate with sweet strawberries and cherries. It had a lot of new world red fruits, soft tannins, and the mocha flavor came through nicely on the upper palate. It finishes long and smooth but it was a little bit awkward on the end. There were slight hints of maybe rotten tomatoes? I guess I just was expecting a heavier, satiny body that I've had before in the innisfree. Still, it's a 90 point wine for sure and we didn't waste a drop.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A hit and a miss

I've been a little lax about posting lately. You know, life gets in the way sometimes of the fun. It's not that I haven't been tasting. I have lots of tasting notes to share. I just haven't got around to putting them up here. So let me tell you about a couple of wines I had recently.

First let's talk about the miss.

I had high hopes for this Artesa 2003 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. A $40 bottle of wine on sale for $30. Not a bad deal, I thought. And it might have been good. It had a gorgeous deep dark color. On the nose aromas of dark red fruits and caramel wafted in. It almost reminded me of rollo candies. It also smelle of dusty wood. On the palate it had initial big red fruits and beautiful cherries, firm tannins, and a nice acidity. The big fruit dissipated quickly leaving a rather thin mid to end palate. However, it did linger for quite a while teasing you. I rate this wine a little bit lower because the alcohol was out of balance. It was noticeably hot. The label says 14.5% but it tasted like it was even higher. For $40, or even $30, I expect a balanced wine. I don't think I would spend that money again for this wine.

Now, for the hit I had to go across the pond to France.

The 2005 Domaine Grand Veneur Côte du Rhône Village I found to be extraordinary! Just what I like in a French wine. It had a really nice, dark, ruby red/purple color. The nose was amazing to me. On my first sniff my mind thought - "Hmmm, chokecherries!" It had bright red fruits, chokecherries, red licorice and raspberries on the nose. It was even better when I tasted it. Super balance of the red fruits, raspberries, cherries, licorice, and hints of like roasted green vegetables. It had smooth but firm tannins, a balanced acidity and a lingering long finish. Just delicious! It didn't taste hot at all, though the alcohol was the same 14.5% as the previous wine. This was one excellent bottle!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's Talk Turkey

Archeological evidence suggests that grape growing, and subsequently wine making, originated in the middle east. Asia MInor is thought to be the birth place of the grape. Traces of red win in King Tut's tomb have been confirmed showing that wine making has been around for a very very long time. However, it is Europe, and now the "New World" that gets accolades for producing oustanding wine. Well, that may be changing as wineries in the middle east take back their once lost heritage from Europe.

By far the greatest wine production in the middle east occurs in Israel. However, other countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Cyprus and the Georgia Republic are making their marks. Although wine making is quite old in these regions of the world, prohibition of alcohol in Islamic societies have kept them from truly reaching their potential. Several "noble" varieities of grapes that we know today as being developed in Europe are now making their way back to the Middle East.

In ancient Turkey, winemaking began in the region between Thrace and the Caucasian mountains. There are now about ten wineries in Turkey producing independently. Two of the best knowns are the Doluca winery and the Kavaklidere Winery. In the early 1990's the Doluca winery, under the Sarafin label brought the noble grapes of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot back to Turkey and planted them in the Gallipoli Peninsula on the shores of the Aegean Sea near Saros Bay. In 1996 they produced their first vintage and sold their first bottle from these grapes in 1998. They now offer five noble varietals (they added Fumé Blanc) and their wines are carefully produced by Doluca winery in Mürefte. The Doluca winery was established in 1926 and is one of the oldest in Turkey. They produce several red and white varieties from grapes local to Turkey as well. They produce red wines from the Karasakiz grape as well as from French Cinsault in the Marmara region. Another grape from eastern Anatolia is the Bogazkere grape. White grapes include Sultanina from the Aegian region and Semillon from Thrace. The Emir and Muscat grapes grows in the central Anatolia area. These and several others make for the production of distinctive Turkish wines.

Recently I had the great fortune to taste some Turkish wines from the Turasan winery in Cappadocia. My dear friends carried them back from Turkey and served them last weekend with a Turkish feast (thank you guys). It was a very memorable evening and the wines were quite impressive.

The first wine we tasted was a 2004 dry red wine made from a blend of okuzgozu and bogazkere grapes. This had a light red color. Bright red fruits were presented on the nose. It had a forward acidity that was quite sharp and an interesting blend of light black raspberries and cherries. There was something else in there that is hard to describe so I'll just say it reminded me of a mineraly dirt. I guess this would be the Turkish terroir influence. It was a light bodied wine that actually paired well with tomatoes and eggplant and olive oil in some of the Turkish food.

The 2004 pure okuzgozu had a lot of similarities with the blend. However, it was much smoother and had less of the mineralness that I detected in the first wine. The acid was softer and the bright fruits came out a little bit more. These had minimal tannins and were easy drinking wines.

The 2000 Senelar took me by surprise. It was much more earthy than the previous wines. It had a darker color and a little more body. It really tasted like an old world European wine. Imagine cherries mixed with olives, earth, and a touch of maple syrup aroma (not sweetness). It reminded me of a light sangiovese or a lighter French wine.

By far the most intense and full bodies wine we had was the 2004 cabernet sauvignon. It had a deep red color. On the nose among the red and black fruits I detected wisps of watermelon rind and leather. It also had a woody smell reminiscent of cedar planks. It had vegetable flavors mixing fruits with tomatoes and greens. The tannins were present but smooth and at the end of the palate I got dark chocolate and espresso. An interesting and unusual wine. I would say that Turkey can produce wines of excellent quality.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Over the Hill

Sometimes you keep a wine too long and it is past it's prime. Tonight I had such a wine. I bought this 1995 Brunello di Montalcino a few years ago and kept it stored away in my cellar. I've been waiting for a special occasion to open it. It happens to be my birthday, so I a grabbed it. It was good but I would say it fell flat with regards to my expectations. You can see in the glass below that the color was a bit over the edge. It was almost orange in color with a deep brick red. You could tell it had some age on it. On the nose you could not really discern any fruit other than perhaps something akin to warm stewed prunes. It had some barnyard manure smells and it just reminded me of old earth. On the palate it presented with a flash of fruit right up front along with a mineralness of rusty barbed wire and an interesting sharp acidity. It had absolutely no tannins to speak of. The fruit was not identifiable and it was a bit thin on the end. To its credit it opened up a little bit with some air to present more cherry notes in the flavor. I enjoyed it with a rosemary chicken creamy pasta.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The grape for sushi

Generally I don't usually think of wine when I have sushi. I much prefer a nice light crisp clean beer to cut through the wasabi and the vinegared rice. It is so difficult to pair a wine with all the flavors that are going on with sushi. I mean soy sauce, horseradish, ginger, fish, vinegar all together is bound to clash with wine. I know some people reach for a sweeter gewurztraminer or riesling and they are ok, but not great in my humble opinion. I would pair a crisp sparkling wine with sushi over a still wine any day. I am not the only one who thinks this way. There is a wine made especially for sushi and it comes from, of all places, Spain! That's right. Sushi wine from Spain. What an interesting story this is. This was introduced to America by Freixenet and it is produced in Tierra de Castilla, Spain. This is a creation of winemaker Yoko Sato who spent a year developing the perfect blend to compliment sushi. She chose a blend of grapes that bring together the crisp clean qualities that would be demanded of it. It's made from 60% airen, 30% macabeo and 10% muscat grapes. It has a lighter alcohol rolling in at around 11%. It is balanced with just a hint of sweetness to bring it off dry and it has a crisp acidity that helps cut through the spice and the oils of the fish. On my palate I found it to be quite enjoyable and yes, it did go well with sushi. It had a nose of citrus, grass and fruit that was hard to distinguish. It was crsip and light in the mouth with flavors of grapefruit and gooseberry. The muscat provided a nice lingering fruity finish. It was refreshing and clean, off dry but definitely not sweet. It actually paired very well with sushi as it was designed to do. All in all I would say if I had to pair a still wine with sushi I wouldn't think twice about reaching for a bottle of Oroya. I still prefer beer though.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

French Whites - Hit or Miss

This past weekend I opened up a couple bottles of French white wine. I thought they would pair well with a dinner I was making and I was right. While it's true that I much prefer red wines to white I have been trying to expand my palate to include interesting and unusual wines. I am getting tired of the usual California white wines. Never been a CA chardonnay drinker. I enjoy New Zealand sauvignon blanc now and then, but even that is getting old now. I want to find more refined, more complex, less sweet and less acidic whites to go with food.

I love Alsatian rieslings. Mostly for the fact that they pack unbelievably complex flavor in a nice dry white wine. I much prefer this style to sweeter style whites. The best one I can find locally is produced by Arthur Metz and comes under the label of Cuvée Anne-Laure. I have had previous vintages and found them full of interesting flowers and fruit. This was the first 2006 that I have tried. It was certainly different than previous vintages in that the floral notes were less apparent (though there) and honey predominated on the nose and on the palate. I could detect aromas of melons and, believe it or not, juicyfruit gum along with the honey. It wasn't sweet at all which I liked very much. I served this with some ham wrapped melon balls and it paired very nicely. I would say I was a little disappointed in the way the honey overpowered and I think I prefer the 2005 over the 2006. Never the less it is a solid effort from Asace.

Ah, Chateauneuf du Pape! I adore Rhone wines. I had a bottle of the 2003 Eric Texier Chateauneuf du Pape blanc about a year ago and I have very fond memories of it. A gorgeous dry fruity Rhone white that was extremely food friendly. When I made a chicken and cheese soufflé on Sunday this is the wine I had in mind. Unfortunately my expectations fell short when I found the bottle was flawed. I had a feeling when I pulled the cork that it would not be ideal. The cork was brittle and you could tell that the wine had seeped all the way to the end. Not a good sign. The bottle wasn't ruined but it was certainly off. It had a slightly floral nose with eucalyptus aromas. I could also smell ethyl acetate indicating that there was something amiss. The wine did have some very nice flavors of pears and dried apricots that were unfortunately covered up by a bitter off taste that I would compare to a saccharin aftertaste. So, this one was a miss. I know this is usually a solid solid white wine and will definitely seek it out again.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

From CA to Australia

I've got three wines to talk about tonight. The first is from Australia. Everyone has heard of Yellow Tail. I find their mainstream wines to be rather boring and one dimensional. However, if you pay just a couple bucks more you get something actually worth drinking. Their "reserve" line of wines tend to be a significant step up from their regular fare. I like their reserve shiraz the best I would say. The 2006 had a gorgeous deep dark color. On the nose I got a complex mixture of vanilla and spice mingling with blackberries and coffee. There were nice big dark fruit flavors and cocoa on the palate and the wine had solid tannins. The only flaw I detected was that the alcohol was out of balance a bit. You did notice the hotness of the ethanol. Other than that for it's 12 buck price point it is not a bad wine at all.

I also got a taste of California recently. The first is a cabernet sauvignon from Napa valley. This is also a step up from their average "California" cabernet. I had the 2004 vintage last evening. It had nice plum and cherry aromas that carried through on the palate. There were chocolate flavors mingling with the fruit. The chocolate mostly came out on the mid palate. The finish was a little bit short but it was certainly a solid cab for $12.

This evening I made a wonderful garlic, ginger, soy, mirin glazed fish for dinner. I was looking for a crisp fruit sauvignon blanc to go with it. I was first thinking of one from New Zealand but I stumbled across a bottle fo the 2005 Kenwood from Sonoma county. This one paired very nicely with the steelhead trout tonight. It had a very pleasant nose of pears and grapefruit. It tasted of green apples and citrus. It had a nice silky texture and a reasonably long finish. There were also very nice grass and herbal components that married with dinner. It had a crisp enough acidity to cut through the fish. Overall I've had 3 for 3 this weekend.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A couple for the weekend

I just acquired a case of the 2005 High Trellis cabernet sauvignon from d'Arenberg and I had to pop a bottle open this evening. I liked it! It was one of those Australian fruit bombs that didn't taste fake. It was not cloyingly sweet. It had structure and complication and interesting flavors. It also had a deep deep red color that I can only describe as blood with a bit of a purple hue. See the picture below. It had fantastic color.

Of course you need to know how it tasted. d'Arenberg is a favorite of mine. I like most of the wine they produce and this one was no exception. On the nose I smelled chocolate covered dark cherries an blackberries. There were wisps of black current and a hint of leather. On the palate you were immediately attacked by huge dark cherry flavors that mingled with leather, tobacco, wood and cocoa. The mid palate was exciting and the wine had a rich flavor that weighted heavily on the palate. Currant and mulberry flavors danced along on the lingering finish. There was an interesting note of cowhide that reminds me of chewing on a leather shoe lace on a pair of work boots. It was a big fruit bomb but nicely balanced. If I were to score it I'd say it was a 90 point wine.

We opened another bottle this evening from California. The 2004 Bogle Phantom. This is a meritage blend of 54% Petite Sirah, 43% old vine zinfandel and 3% old vine mourvedre. If you like petite syrah you'll like this wine. The zin gives it a spice that is very interesting. It displayed black currants, raisins and spice on the nose. On the palate it was big, jammy and spicy. It had a lush dried fruit component that reminded me of chocolate covered raisins, dried figs, currants and prunes. The chocolate really came out on the mid palate. One the end there were flavors of mocha, black dirt, vanilla, a tiny trace of cumin and coffee. A quite interesting wine. It developed more as it was allowed to breathe. Definitely worth the $17 I paid for it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Verget Saint Veran Les Cras Caniculus

I was looking in my cellar for something that would go well with roasted chicken. So I pulled out this bottle of the 2003 Verget Les Cras Caniculus from the Saint Veran region of Burgundy. Another French delight for me. I am not really much of a chardonnay drinker. I think that is because my palate has been spoiled over the years by over oaked unbalanced California chardonnays. This, on the other hand, puts all of California to shame. It had a beautiful light golden color. On the nose it presented solid apple pie and pears with some hints of minerals sort of like stones. There was also just the tiniest hint of lightly toasted oak. The same was observed on the palate. It was supple and silky in texture and there was a very nice crescendo of tons of fruit that lingered for quite a long time. I detected just a tiny hint of cinnamon and nutmeg on the back of the roof of my mouth. It had a really nice balanced acidity. I think this is a great effort in a white wine. I definitely need to try more white burgundies. This paired brilliantly with a roasted chicken dinner.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I am learning to love Bordeaux

You may have noticed that my posting has slowed down just a little bit lately. After the over excesses of the holidays I've had to cut down on my calories and alcohol. So, I've been saving the wine for the weekends. Earlier this week a case of 2005 Bordeaux arrived from Wine Library. I have been dying to taste this all week. I am beginning to really appreciate the old world style wines from Bordeaux and am learning a lot as I taste more and more.

The 2005 Chateau Clos du Moulin comes from the St. Estèphe commune at the northernmost part of Médoc. Wines from this region are typically tannic and slower maturing than other areas of Bordeaux. According to Robert Joseph (French Wines The essential guide to the wines and wine-growing regions of France, DK Publishing) when the classification of vineyards in Bordeaux was happening in 1855 the wines from this region were considered to be of lesser quality than other areas of Médoc. Thus, it was only awarded 5 crus classés. Forty vineyards were deemed to be crus bourgeois. I never realized that the classes were designated more than 150 years ago. See, I'm learning! I think a lot can change in 150 years and now I wonder how much stake to put in the vineyard classifications of France. I would welcome comments and discussion about this point. Anyway, I digress. St. Estèphe has a soil that is a mix of gravel and clay. This is a combination that can make Cabernet Sauvignon rather rough. Thus more merlot was planted in this area in the late 1980's and the wines have become softer and more supple than before.

The 2005 Chateau Clos du Moulin is comprised of 40% merlot, 40% cabernet sauvignon and 20% cabernet franc and petit verdot. I found it to be a super interesting wine and one that a novice like I could guarantee will age nicely for at least the next 10 years. When I first opened the bottle the nose was a bit closed. After a few minutes and warming the glass with my hands I began to notice aromas of cherries and some spice, maybe anise. Interestingly I noted the tiniest hint of caramel on the nose. Drinking this was an experience, I tell you. At first I was attacked by alcohol. My first tasting of this right after opening made me think this was out of balance. The alcohol level is 13%, by the way. But the more I tasted it and the more it aired out and opened up, the more excited I got about this wine. It had quite firm tannins that probably exaggerated the alcohol at first. But I also tasted lots of long lingering fruits. They were a mix of black currant, blueberry and cherry. There was a distinct minerality on the palate as well mixing with an earthy moss flavor. Some spice perked up the flavor and just on the very back sides of my tongue I could detect what to me tasted like rollo candy. You know those candies with creamy caramel in the center covered in chocolate. It was definitely the caramel chocolate combination, not one or the other alone. It had a long finish and pleasant aftertaste. All in all this was a solid bottle of Bordeaux for under $20. If I were to drink it now I'd definitely decant it for at least a couple of hours. Better yet, leave this one in the cellar for a few years and I think you will be rewarded with a beautiful, balanced, and supple wine.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Getting Organized

For years I have just stacked my wine in the cellar without any organization at all. I only have about 200 bottles so it wasn't so bad. But it was bad enough that I had trouble finding things. Well, recently I put all of my inventory into the on-line cellartracker database. What a fantastic resource that is! I was able to download labels for my entire inventory which I formatted to my liking and printed out. I placed these labels onto bottle tags so everything is readable without having to remove the bottle from the rack. I have organized the wines into categories - some regions (France) and some by varietal. Each column in my wine rack is assigned a bin letter and the inventory has all the location data for every bottle. Now, when I drink a wine, I can just keep the wine tag so I can remember to consume it from my library. Finally getting organized!