Thursday, July 28, 2005

Another Birthday Dinner

2002 T-Vine Merlot
Shane’s Notes

For my brother’s birthday dinner, we went to Black Angus. They did not charge us a corkage fee which proves that they are little embarrassed by their wine list which features a stunning array of plonk including Sutter Home, Turning Leaf and Fetzer. Jen and I brought a T-Vine Merlot for ourselves and a Krohn Colheita for the birthday boy. My parents brought a J. Lohr Riesling for themselves. If you know how we feel about J. Lohr, you know why my parents had the entire bottle to themselves (See “J Lohr Tasting,” 6/30/05).

My brother tasted the T-Vine and said it was the worst wine I had ever had him taste. That wasn’t quite the reaction I was expecting, so I poured a glass and tasted it. It was very tight and dry. While I explained to him that sometimes young wines need to aerate for as much as twenty to thirty minutes to get them to open up and reveal their flavors, he kept nodding his head and slurping down the T-Vine. His glass of T-Vine was gone before my dissertation was over. I immediately switched him over to the more accessible Krohn 1994 Colheita (See “Could be the Perfect Port,” 4/1/05).

Jen and I let the T-Vine sit for about twenty minutes and then tried it. It was stunning! It was so rich, plummy and jammy that I’m not even sure I would have identified it as a Merlot. It was mildly complex and had firm tannins with a dry finish that really complemented the rich, fruit flavors. It is drinkable now but could really improve with 3-5 years of aging. This is quite simply one of the best Merlots we have tasted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


1996 Cockburn’s LBV 1996
Bottled in 2003
Shane’s Notes

The aroma is almost sickeningly sweet with odors of cherry and black licorice. Fortunately, the palate is not as sweet as the aroma and exhibits a black and red licorice flavor with a medium finish. The tannins are very mild, and the palate is rather light and simple for an LBV. While we'd prefer that it be more complex, we have to admit that we found the taste to be quite pleasant. We like this one even though we admit that it is more like a Ruby than an LBV.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Giants get Pummeled (16-4)

Rosenblum Vintners Cuvee XXVII Zinfandel
2002 Robert Sinskey Carneros Pinot Noir
2003 Yasa Garnacha, Calatayud
Shane’s Notes

I’m an A’s fan and tailgating is common at A’s games – the A’s parking lot is always filled with barbecues, beer drinkers and people playing catch. So, when Jen obtained four free tickets to the Giants game from the law firm she no longer works for, I immediately made tailgating plans. For the four of us (she invited her brother and I invited my friend, Ron), we brought three bottles of wine and two pepperoni pizzas from Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria. We had a blast, but I didn’t see anyone else tailgating. Oh well, Giant’s “fans” are not interested in baseball, so why would they be interested in a baseball tradition like tailgating?

Unfortunately, Ron hit some Bay Bridge traffic, so he missed The Garnacha (100% Grenache) which was an interesting wine. It was simplistic but very fruity with nice tannins in the background. It was a bit too grapey for my taste but not a bad deal for the price. At least the vintner did not do anything to interfere with the taste of the varietal which is about all I ask from inexpensive wines. For wines costing under $10, Jen and I really like the South American wines.

I brought the Sinskey because Ron had recently seen “Sideways” and wondered what a good Pinot tasted like. So far, the Sinskey is my favorite Pinot in the under $30.00 range (See “A Lovely Pinot on the Embarcadero”). Ron enjoyed it, and it wasn’t long before we were on the third bottle.

The Rosenblum simply proved once again that it is nearly impossible to find a drinkable, American wine for under $10. Even after downing the other two bottles, we could barely drink it. The marketing department outdid themselves on this one by putting “Cuvee” and Roman numerals on the label (I initially thought that the XVII on the label stood for the 27 gigantic, oak chips they must have deposited in each barrel, but it simply means that this is the 27th vintage of this swill). Awful wines like this should simply have a generic label that reads “Over-Oaked Crap.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Nickel and Nickel Dinner

Nickel and Nickel
2002 Sori Bricco Merlot, $67 (restaurant price)
2000 Dolce, $19 a glass (restaurant price)

To celebrate Jen’s new job, we went for a fancy dinner at Harris’ Restaurant in San Francisco. I have to admit that I’m not too thrilled about paying between $30 to $40 for steak or prime rib, but this was definitely some of the best prime rib I’ve ever had. The wine list was amazing, and much to our delight, we found a Nickel and Nickel Merlot on the list that we hadn’t tried– the Sori Bricco Vineyard Merlot. It cost $67 so taking into account the typical restaurant mark-up, it probably retails around the $40 - $45 range. This Merlot is dense and chewy and exhibits a rich berry flavor with chocolate up front and vanilla on the finish. It is much more fruit forward than most of Nickel and Nickel’s offerings and we absolutely loved it. It went amazingly well with my prime rib and Jen’s Filet Mignon.

For an after dinner wine, we went with another Nickel and Nickel offering – the 2000 Dolce. Whenever I drink Dolce, I don’t even bother trying to describe the multitude of lush, rich, botrytized flavors that explode on the palate: I just sit back and enjoy it. Everyone should try this wine at least once in their lifetime.


Broadbent Madeira
Malmsey – 10 years old
Shane’s Notes

The great fortified wines of the world include Port, Sherry and Madeira (with all due respect to Guns ‘N Roses, we will leave Night Train off the list). We absolutely love Port and have mixed feelings about Sherry. If this Malmsey is representative of Madeiras, we have mixed feelings about Madeiras as well. The four types of Madeira, in order from driest to sweetest, are Sercial, Verdelho (Rainwater is a Verdelho), Boal and Malmsey. We decided to try a Malmsey figuring we would prefer a sweet Madeira. This Madeira is similar to a Sherry – it is Mahogany with an amber meniscus and smells like sweet, caramelized hazelnuts. It is very tangy and sweet and tastes a bit like a raisiny carrot cake. There may have been a hint of chocolate on the finish. It was mildly enjoyable, but the tangy taste was a bit too much for me. It reminds me more of sweetened brandy than of wine. We will probably try another Madeira or two in the future, but Port is definitely the king of fortified wines.

Another Bicycle Ride

Red Bicyclette
2003 Merlot
Vin de Pays D’Oc
Shane’s Notes

I like their Syrah better than this Merlot, but this is still a decent wine for the price. It has a cranberry flavor with firm tannins, but it tastes a bit over-oaked. I might buy it again but I prefer our house Merlot (Santa Ema) at half the price.

Yosemite Trip

2002 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Senechaux, $19.99
Kabinett Riesling
2004 Duckhorn Sauvigon Blanc, $21.99
2003 Tablas Creek, Cotes de Tablas Blanc, $19.99
Shane’s Notes

Jen is starting a new job this week so while she is acclimating herself to her new position, I’m drafting our reviews. We have to clear up our backlog before the big Silver Oak release Party on July 30th!

A few weeks ago, we went camping in Yosemite. We had an absolutely spectacular time. I have traveled extensively: I have seen the Dolomites in Italy, sipped a beer in Salzburg, trekked through Yellowstone, visited a castle in the German Alps, kayaked in Belize and journeyed down the Amazon. Without a doubt, Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The view from Glacier Point is so breathtaking and stunning that it’s hard to believe it’s real. It never ceases to amaze me how many people live in the Bay Area and have never been there. Take a few days off work and go.

We like to car camp in style. We have a four person tent, a high tech air mattress, telescoping skewers and of course, Lexan wine glasses. These sturdy, plastic wine glasses are a must for any camping oenophile. For our three night camping trip, we took four bottles of wine – a Rhone, a Riesling, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a white, Rhone style blend. Except for the last night, we always limit ourselves to one bottle a night around the campfire, because we don’t want any hangovers preventing the next day’s hike. I tried hiking on a hangover once, and let’s just say that it was about as fun as my last prostate exam.

We had the Senechaux on the first night. Unfortunately, the wine was ruined. The bottle had been overfilled and the wine was partially oxidized. We have encountered several ruined bottles of wine but have refrained from blogging them. Our new policy is to blog these ruined wines so that we can alert our public to the problems of overfill and cork taint. There is nothing more disappointing that shelling out twenty bucks for a bottle of wine that has to be poured down the sink.

We tried our Kabinett Riesling the second night (sorry, we forgot to record the winemaker). Each time we have a German Riesling, we are amazed at the lush, tropical flavors that envelop the palate. Even the Kabinett, whose grapes are the least ripe of the German Rieslings, displayed this trait. We both agree that the Riesling, when grown in Germany, is our favorite white varietal.

On the last night of our trip, we had the Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc and the Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc – two of our favorites in this price range. The Duckhorn is crisp with a touch of complexity and the Tablas Creek displays mild tropical fruit flavors with a slightly racey finish.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Are YOU Krug-worthy?

Krug Grande Cuvee
$125.00/750 ml
Jen’s notes

Believe it or not, this was sort of an impulse purchase for the weekend. I went to the wine shop in the Ferry Building to pick up a nice Cabernet and then sauntered over to the Champagne section, just for a casual look, you understand.

And there it was: the best Champagne I had ever tasted, and which Shane hadn’t tried. I looked at it, said “awww, f**k it,” picked up the bottle and went to the counter, whereupon I was asked “but are you Krug-worthy?”

I am. And fortunately, Shane is, too (since we are getting married next year and all…). To determine if you are up to snuff, read the following tasting notes and think verrrrrry hard about it. It may be the most important question ever asked of you, next to “Do you take this person to be your lawfully wedded husband (or wife)?”

This champagne is quite effervescent and boasts a lovely straw color. It is Catherine Deneuve-blonde and just as elegant. A lovely, complex nose of truffles, Meyer lemon and, somehow, of Autumn leaves. Of all Champagnes, this one is the most like wine: intense and complex on the palate, and a densely creamy mouthfeel. It even has that Pinot reverb (Pinot Noir is one of three varietals used to make Champagne). The most prominent flavors include softened citrus notes, perhaps lemon meringue pie, cedar and truffles.

And, last things last – an endless, silky finish.

Shane’s notes

This was definitely the best Champagne I have tasted. Actually, it is about the only champagne I have tasted since I have mostly drunk sparkling wine from Napa. I agree with everything Jen says about the aromas and the palate, but I just did enjoy it quite as much as she did. There is a yeasty, toasty flavor in Champagne, probaby the result of the secondary fermentation, that I just don’t like. It is like a barrier that you have to punch your way through to find the underlying flavors. I prefer the luscious, voluptuous, sumptuous flavors of a well-aged vintage port: I prefer Jayne Mansfield to Catherine Deneuve.

As a compromise, I guess we will have to celebrate our nuptials with a bottle of Krug and a bottle of Taylor Fladgate 1977 Vintage Port. I’m sure we’ll manage…

Not Quite Our Paradigmatic Napa Cab

Paradigm, 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
Shane’s Notes

The Paradigm is dark red with spicy, cherry aromas. The palate is fairly sweet up front followed by a slightly graphitic, tart cherry flavor. There is just a hint of dark chocolate on the backside. The tannins are smooth and firm and well integrated into the wine. The finish is medium length. We both enjoyed it but for the price, we also both thought it should be more complex. It is definitely drinkable now and probably would not benefit much from aging. Unfortunately, it is another example of an overpriced Napa Cab.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Poor Oenophile's Cult Cab (sort of)

Kirkham Peak
Cabernet Sauvignon
Shane’s Notes

Kirkham Peak is K&L Wine Merchants’ house brand so you have to trek to K&L in either Redwood City or San Francisco if you want this one. They wouldn’t tell me who makes it: only that it is made by a Napa Valley Winery and that it rivals a Nickel and Nickel Cab. Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion. This Cab is deep red with a sweet, fruity aroma (cherry predominates). The palate is very fruity but not complex. After the initial burst of flavor, this wine doesn’t offer much else. It is like a cheap simulacrum of Silver Oak. However, if you are an avid reader of this blog, you know that Jen and I are a bit dismissive of Silver Oak’s flamboyant style. The Kirkham Peak is worth $19.99 but not a penny more.