Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Five Dollar Rosé

Las Rocas de San Alejandro, Calatayud
2004 Rosado
Shane’s Notes

We finally finished moving everything out of Jen’s old apartment and just wanted a light wine. We went with this Spanish Rosé. The sweet Raspberry aroma is mirrored on the palate by a light Raspberry flavor which is tangy and juicy. While not on a level with some other Rosés we have recently enjoyed, it was well worth the five bucks.

Holiday Quaffers

2002 Weingut Reinhard
Beate Knebel Winninger Rottgen
Riesling, Spatlese

Chateau St. Michelle
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon
Shane's Notes

We divided our time between the two sets of relatives this Christmas – we spent Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas day with Jen’s. We spared our relatives the complete wine tasting/note taking routine and just sketched some quick notes on these wines.

We had the Riesling with my parents. It was sweet and bursting with flavors of lemon curd and apricot. A strong acidity saved it from being cloying. We just don’t understand why German Rieslings aren’t more popular.

We took the Chateau St. Michelle to Jen’s house to accompany the standing rib roast we had for dinner. The roast was magnificent, and the wine proved that you can purchase a good quality cab for under $15 (you just have to go outside of Napa Valley). It had a juicy, black fruit flavor and was very well structured. If we had the room, we’d definitely buy a case of it. Chateau St. Michelle is rapidly becoming one of our favorite bargain wine labels.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Another Superannuated Wine

Freemark Abbey
1988 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Sycamore Vineyards
Shane's Notes

I finished cleaning my prior apartment the other night and headed home. Jen, thinking I would not be back until she was in bed, had broken into her private wine stash and was finishing off the last of a bottle of Red Bicyclette Syrah. I really wanted some wine, so I asked Jen if I could open our 1988 Freemark.

This wine had been given to us as a gift about 5 months ago, and we had been reluctant to open it. We usually enjoy Freemark Abbey’s wines but the Sycamore Vineyard Cabs just aren’t built to age for 17 years. We both suspected that the wine in this bottle had been transmogrified into vinegar.

I corked it and let it sit for a few minutes before taking the first sip. It was flavorless and set my throat on fire. Undaunted, I let it sit for another five minutes and took another sip. It now tasted like vinegar, so I performed last rites and poured the rest of the wine down the sink.

We want to emphasize that this is not a knock against Freemark. I absolutely loved their 1995 Sycamore Vineyards Cabernet and drank a bottle each year until around 2005. It had definitely peaked in around 2002 and was fading rapidly by 2005. Their Sycamore Vineyard Cabs are not built for long term aging but this is not a flaw: drink them young and enjoy them.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Won't you take me to.... Funky TOWN!

1997 Christian Clerget "Les Charmes"
Chambolle-Musigny, Premier Cru
Jen’s Notes

This was our first pinot with bottle age and... wow. The color was red, tinged with copper at the meniscus. The nose boasted strawberry jam with a hint of soy sauce-like funkiness.

The soy sauce was initially echoed on the palate but faded as the wine opened up. This Burgundy was quite full-bodied with well-balanced acidity. The palate was mostly herbal; the fruit tended to be more of a tangy, orange marmalade-like flavor than strawberries (which the nose suggested and is quite common in Pinots).

Although the wine was good, I can't say that I "enjoyed" it in the way we usually enjoy our wines. It required a bit more of us as drinkers. But I was pleased to have the opportunity to drink a well-aged Burgundy, and I would definitely explore this area a bit more.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ay, Charamba!

2002 Charamba
Douro, Portugal
Shane’s Notes

We are both Port aficionados so when we discovered the Charamba, a red table wine crafted from the Port varietals, we absolutely had to try it. The aroma is minerally, funky and displays some tart cherry. The wine is light-bodied and has a velvety texture. The palate shows light flavors that are perfumey, floral and just a bit spicy. The tannins are very smooth. We really enjoyed the unique flavors in this wine and will definitely be drinking it again. This is a great food wine, and it would be really fun to serve it to guests. They would absolutely love it and never guess how inexpensive it is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Vintage Port

Smith Woodhouse
1977 Vintage Port
Shane’s Notes

Most of my Christmas bonus went into the wedding the fund, but I couldn’t resist spending a $100 on a vintage port. James Suckling gave this port 99 points and said it was a must buy so we decided to try it.*

This is the oldest wine we have drunk together. We were relieved to pop the cork and find the wine in good shape. The aroma was floral and very sweet. The wine was brownish red as one would expect from an aged port. We took a sip and backed off – we let it sit for about a half an hour before approaching it again. The dominant flavor is maple syrup with subsidiary flavors of anise and cherry cough drop with some dark chocolate on the finish. There was nice minerality underneath the palate.

This port seemed fully developed: the palate was complex and the tannins were very smooth. In fact, it’s the first port we have drunk without the overpowering tannins. However, we both would have preferred a heavier fruit flavor on the palate. In our opinion, ports should be fruit bombs. We admired the structure of this one but were a bit disappointed with our $100 purchase.


After reading some more reviews of this one on, I’m left wondering if the bottle was slightly ruined.* We certainly did not detect the heavy fruit flavors everyone is raving about. The palate tasted a little flat to us.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Napa Style Sauternes

Beringer 2002 Nightingale
Napa Valley
(65% Semillion/ 35% Sauvignon Blanc)
Shane’s Notes

The Nightingale is Beringer’s Sauternes style wine. It has the classic, golden yellow color of a Sauternes and the typical honeyed aroma. It is very sweet and displays mild flavors of burnt caramel, honey and candied orange peel. Despite these flavors, the palate seems closed. It also lacks complexity and the finish is quite short. It was okay but we recommend Nickel & Nickel’s Dolce. It is a bargain at twice the price because it is four times as good.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Superannuated Le Mistral

Joseph Phelps “Le Mistral”
California - 1998
(51% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 9% Mourvedre, 7% Alicante Bouschet, 7% Zinfandel, 3% Carignane, and 2% Petite Syrah)
Shane’s Notes

The aroma is dominated by spices (pepper) and strawberry. It smelled like it would be fabulous. Unfortunately, the aroma was deceiving. The flavor palate was absolutely flat. We had to really concentrate to detect some faint flavors of strawberry and white pepper. The finish was clean and dry. We can only surmise that this one had too much bottle age and was past its peak. The Le Mistral should probably be consumed within a few years of bottling.

Add Spain to the List

Borsao 2004, Campo de Borja
Bodegas Borsao, S.A.
Borja, Spain
(75% Grenache, 25% Tempranillo)
Shane’s Notes

We are continually searching the globe for inexpensive, drinkable wines. We have been drinking wines from Chile, Southern France and from even more exotic locales like Washington. We heard that inexpensive Spanish wines are a great bargain so we bought three of them. The Finca Sobreno was incredible and the La Legua was barely drinkable. This Borsao was the tiebreaker.

It has a nearly opaque color and a strong cherry aroma. The palate is juicy, tart and tangy. The dominant flavors are blackberry, raspberry, cedar and some mid-palate cherry. The tannins are very smooth. This is an incredible bargain. The verdict is in – we are adding Spain to our list of countries producing excellent, inexpensive wines.

Friday, December 16, 2005

A Spicy Merlot

2002 Twenty Rows Merlot
Jen's Notes

This merlot had scents of cherry cordials and herbs and was deep garnet in color. The palate was quite unusual, with cherry cola, white pepper and cedar notes, softened only slightly with a touch of vanillin. With it's spiciness and grip, we would have guessed that this was a syrah, or perhaps a Zinfandel. It certainly wasn't the velvety chocolate-bomb that you often see in bottles labeled "Merlot"!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Flavorless from Cigales

La Legua – 2003
Bodegas Emeterio Fernandez
Cigales, Spain
$6.99 (on sale)
Shane’s Notes

I bought this one so long ago that we could not remember the price or the varietal(s). After a few sips, we placed the price in the under $10 range and were unsure about the varietal(s). It had a mildly dense mouth feel but barely any discernible flavor. We have noticed this characteristic in many cheaper wines (and a few expensive ones like Darioush) where the varietal flavor is almost non-existent. We are not sure what causes this (overoaking?), but we know we do not like it.

The only flavor Jen could detect was a mild flavor of black currant. The more we drank this one, the less we liked it. We finally guessed that the varietal was Grenache. The correct answer was 96% Tempranillo and 4% Grenache. Regardless, we do not recommend this one.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Peppery and Plummy

2003 T Vine Grenache
Napa Valley
Jen’s Notes

This wine boasted classic Grenache aromas of sweet, ripe berries. Initially, the palate was tight. Although the wine did continue to open, this was another lesson in patience: T Vines could definitely benefit from bottle age. Even so, we detected a concentrated core of plummy, dark fruit layered over peppery tannins. Hints of smoke rounded out the palate. Although I love the juicy, wildly fruity Grenaches, I truly enjoyed the refined elegance of T Vine's. You take it a bit more seriously, but it's still quite a lot of fun.

A Grand Crus Celebration

1986 Cos d'Estournel
Bordeaux, St. Estephe
Jen's Notes

We recommend decanting this wine for about an hour. Even with 19 years of bottle age, the Cos is a touch unapproachable at first.

The nose exhibits cedar (later, as the wine opened, it was more of a lavender scent), tobacco, cherry cordials, and a classic St. Estephe funkiness. It was garnet-hued and nearly opaque.

We decanted for approximately 20 minutes. Initially, the wine seemed monolithic; other than earthy notes and the barest hints of fruit, it was hard to tell what exactly was going on. Over the next half-hour or so, the fruit flavors really blossomed. We noted intensely plummy fruit, supported by earthy, herbal touches and still-firm tannins. The wine was super-dry, with a luxurious, slightly minty finish.

This was a spectacular wine: extraordinarily well-made and a testament to the aging power of a fine Bordeaux. It is our oldest wine so far and the highest scoring, according to the Wine Advocate. We chose it to mark our last night before we moved in together.

Rosé with a Screw Cap

2004 Tablas Creek Rosé
Paso Robles
Shane’s Notes

We spent all day moving into our new place on Sunday and finally gave ourselves a well-deserved wine break. We knew the corkscrew had to be in one of the fifty boxes in the living room, but we never even had to search for it. This Rosé has a screw cap! I promise to never bad mouth screw caps again.

The wine was very juicy. The dominant flavors are raspberry and watermelon. It is sweet up front, tart in the middle and has a lengthy, dry finish. There is also a nice minerality underneath. This is an outstanding, luscious Rosé.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Bubbly Celebration

Brut Rose
Jen’s Notes

This wine shows strong, small bubbles and a beautiful, light, well.... one hates to say it, but.... salmon color. The aromas include citrus and the barest hint of toast. On the palate, it is quite dry, but complex and full of intriguing flavors. Initially, it is yeasty and toasty, but as the wine opens up, these give way to florals, licorice and intense chardonnay fruit (if apples could aspire to be something more beguiling than apples, this would be it). The acidity is bright and zesty, tempered only by the wonderful flavors and a slightly creamy mouthfeel.

This absolutely delicious sparkler is suitable for the most special of occasions, such as you and your beloved's first apartment together (which is exactly what we celebrated).