Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Peachy Keen

Peachy Canyon
Zin Incredible Red, Bin 119
Shane’s Notes

We received a comment on our blog suggesting we try a Peachy Canyon Zin. We were really surprised, because we didn’t realize that anyone outside of family and a few friends were actually reading the thing. Anyway, how could we disappoint a fan? We bought a bottle and drank it for part three of Jen’s birthday celebration (Jen’s mom and brother came to visit). Everyone really liked it. It had a juicy, tangy, red berry flavor that was very enjoyable. It was also quite dry. It was in a different style than the spicy zins we usually prefer, but we would definitely look for this one again.

We'll have a Martini

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Louis M. Martini, Sonoma County
Jen’s Notes

We had heard from several quarters that Martini was making good wine. Not only was this a pretty nice Cabernet, it was a surprising change from the more fruit-forward Cabs we tend to see from the new world. It was restrained, with roasted scents, and tart fruit on the palate. The flavors included cassis, herbs and spices. Good astringency on the finish, refreshing lack of tannin management.

I don't feel the need to stock the cellar with this, but it was a good value, and I'd probably buy this again at some point.

Friday, March 24, 2006

There’s a Banana in My Chardonnay

2004 Chardonnay
Casa Lapostolle
Casablanca Valley, Chile
Jen’s Notes

I should have hated this chardonnay - I am a longtime champion of racy, minerally chardonnays, especially from those stressed-out vines in Chablis.

But I didn't. Though undeniably ripe, this chardonnay's beautifully rounded palate is complex and balanced by just the right amount of smooth acidity, highlighted by a hint of bright apple fruit. The other flavors are softer and tropical, including banana and peach.

Lovely, and a very good value.

Aromas of Smoke and Wool

2004 Ludovicus
Terra Alta, Spain
Jen’s Notes

A great wine for the price; in fact, we were so impressed with it, that I picked up another bottle at K&L two days later!

This is an unusual blend of Grenache (25%), Tempranillo (30%), Syrah (25%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). It exhibits both concentration and complexity, probably due to the blending.
The nose is an interesting mix of warm wool, cherry and wood smoke. Yeah, wool. But trust me, it works. On the palate, we tasted black cherries, with hints of cedar, herbs and graphite. The flavors are focused and lingering. There's good astringency here, too, suggesting solid structure and a most welcome policy of non-interference with the tannins.

9th Annual Rhone Rangers Tasting

Rhone Rangers
Fort Mason, 3/18/06
Shane’s Notes

We traveled to Fort Mason on Saturday for our second Rhone Rangers festival. The Rhone Rangers festival attracts a lot of wine bores (Jen and I are wine geeks – not wine bores!). At our first stop, Tablas Creek, a guy ahead of us held up the line while he talked about some Tablas Creek varietal clones that he was growing. I can understand being excited about growing Tablas Creek clones and wanting to briefly discuss this with their representative. However, only a pompous, wine bore would hold up the tasting line while going over the minutiae of the purchase contract. We were becoming anxious because we only had two and a half hours to drink our forty dollar’s worth of wine. Next time, We’ll pull a “Mr. Burns” and bring a cattle prod to shock these bores and get them out of the way.

We finally got around the guy and sampled Tablas Creek’s offerings. We are huge fans of Tablas Creek so our expectations were high. Their wines were good, but we a little disappointed. They didn’t seem as fruit forward as the wines we tasted last year. Perhaps they just need some bottle age.

$27, 2005 Rosé Mourvedre/Grenache/Counoise – This was the best of the bunch. This Rosé has a juicy, tangy watermelon/raspberry palate. It seems like no one extracts as much flavor out of a Rosé as Tablas Creek.

$22, Red Blend Cotes de Tablas - The Cotes de Tablas from 2002 was one of my favorite wines of the year. The 2003 offering is well-structured with a cranberry palate, but it just isn’t as concentrated as the 2002. We liked it but we wouldn’t go out of our way to find it.

$22, 2004 White Blend Cotes de Tablas Blanc - The Cotes de Tablas Blanc was a little better than it’s red counterpart. It is perfumey, minerally and displays a taste of blood orange on the palate. With some bottle age, this could develop into a really good wine.

$35, 2004 White Blend Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc - We were really anxious to try the Esprit de Beaucastel White. We bought a bottle a few months ago but it was corked. The palate was minerally and earthy. The flavors were so subtle they were hard to detect. Once again, we hoped it would be more concentrated.

I’m reading Matt Kramer’s book on California wines and am really enjoying it. He raves about Beckman, so we headed over there for stop number two. Beckman turned out to be the best of the tasting. At Beckman’s, our way was blocked by another wine bore. This one delighted in showing off his wine acumen. He kept drunkenly asking Mr. Beckman for vital statistics on his wine, like the amount of sugar prior to fermentation. Mr. Beckman politely listened and then offered to email the information to him. Mr. Beckman handled the situation quite well, but I still would have preferred to shock the guy with a cattle prod.

$18, 2005 Grenache Rosé – Tablas Creek’s Rosé is a tough act to follow but Beckman’s Rosé is almost as good. It is juicy and sweet with a hint of watermelon on the palate. We really enjoyed it.

$25, 2004 Grenache Estate Santa Ynez Valley – We prefer our Grenaches blended, but this is one of the more interesting Grenaches we have tasted. It is smoky with a very distinct plummy flavor and good astringency. It is stylistically like a Syrah.

$38, 2004 Grenache Purissima Mountain Vineyard – We weren’t thrilled with this one. The flavors are really muted, and we suspect it may have been over oaked.

$16, 2004 Red Blend Cuvee Le Bec – The Cuvee was quite enjoyable and very French in style. It is smoky, woody and has sweet berry fruit.

$38, 2003 Syrah Purissima Mountain Vineyard – This is one of the better Syrahs I’ve had. It is peppery and has good concentration.

We next stop was Alexander Valley Vineyards. They craft a wide variety of wines and usually do a very good job of it.

$25, 2004 Viognier Alexander Valley, Wetzel Family Estate – This was one of the better Viogniers we tasted at the festival. It displayed a honeysuckle flavor and showed sweet spice (nutmeg). It had just a bit too much residual sugar. We tasted too many sweet Viogniers at this festival.

$20, 2003 Syrah Alexander Valley, Wetzel Family Estate – It was soft and perfumey. I thought it was generic and uninteresting but Jen liked it.

By the time we sauntered over to Kathryn Kennedy, we were feeling pretty good and Jen spilled a little wine. She said, “Geez, I’m not even drunk.” To which I replied “Yes, but you are always clumsy.” I’m still working on my relationship skills, but I have learned how to save face when I blurt out something inappropriate like that. I quickly smiled and gave Jen a big hug so that I wouldn’t be lonely in bed later that night.

$85, 2002 Syrah Reserve, Maridon Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains (Kathryn Kennedy) – It was spicy, oaky and woody. Definitely interesting. Pushing the line of well oaked versus too much oak - not bad but not worth the hefty price tag.

Justin Vineyards was our next stop.

$22.50, 2005 Mourvedre Rosé - You don’t see too many Mourvedre Rosés. It showed tea leaves on the nose and the palate was juicy with a touch of funk. It was dry with a lingering finish. Jen remarked that it was very much in the French style.

At this point, we noticed a man with a guide dog in training. It was a massive, black Labrador, and Jen couldn’t resist petting him. The man warned Jen that she might get a big, sloppy kiss, and she laughed as the dog slobbered all over her face. I didn’t get jealous but we had better keep it a secret from Pepper (our dog).

Jen didn’t want to try Fess Parker but I talked her into it (unfortunately).

$22, 2004 Viognier Santa Barbara County - The Viognier was absolutely awful. It was so sweet that it tasted like sugary syrup.

$10, Red Blend Lot 51 “California” - Their red blend was a touch spicy and juicy, but the palate was generic - not bad but not good either.

The last winery on our list was Qupe. We tasted their Viognier and several of their Syrahs. We only have notes on the Viognier. I don’t remember why we didn’t take notes on the Syrahs but not being able to remember why probably explains it.

$30, 2005 Viognier Ibarra Young Vineyard – This was the best Viognier we tasted at the festival. It was perfumey, floral and showed lemon curd on the palate. Most importantly, Qupe didn’t ruin it with too much residual sugar. Bravo Qupe!

I couldn’t talk Jen into trying Renaissance so I sauntered over there myself. Once again, this was a Matt Kramer recommendation. They are a religious/philosophical organization up in the Sierra Foothills. I think Kramer compared them to a monastic order. I went up to the table and asked for the Viognier. The guy held up the bottle and robotically intoned “Viognier” ($20, 2004 Viognier) and poured it for me without saying another word. I felt like I was in some Invasion of the Body Snatchers horror movie. Anyway, the Viognier was absolutely awful and had to be spit into the bucket. There were so many problems with it that it’s not even worth discussing them. I decided to try the red blend. Once again, the guy held up the bottle and robotically intoned “Red Blend” ($35, Red Blend Le Provencal Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon). It was almost as bad as the Viognier. I thought about asking the guy if he was being held captive but let it go.

We tasted sundry, generically bland wines that just didn’t justify any note taking efforts. The Rhone Rangers are producing far too many of these wines. The Rhone Rangers’ wineries should adhere more closely to their French counterparts – red Rhone varietals (including Syrah) should be blended! Except for an occasional Grenache Rosé, the red Rhone varietals usually aren’t interesting enough to stand on their own. As for the Viogniers, quit making them sweet!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Get Jiggy with Gigondas

2003 Gigondas
Domaine les Pallieres
Jen’s Notes

We are falling in love with Gigondas. These Southern Rhone wines are often very full bodied, with herbal/floral scents and flavors.

This one was delicious, although a bit different than what we were expecting. The nose, for example, boasted scents of raspberry fruit, along with tobacco, herb and earth notes. The palate was slightly lighter in body than some of our other Gigondas. This went well, however, with the subtle herbal and floral flavors (think sage, tea, violets and lavender).

It was very elegant and well-structured; we tasted different combinations of flavors with almost every sip. Though drinkable now, we recommend decanting, or, if you're patient, two to three years bottle age.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Not Bad...

Lopez Islands Vineyards
2004 Siegerrebe
Puget Sound
Shane’s Notes

A friend of mine gave us this one and asked for our opinion. So, here’s the full treatment. The aroma is herbaceous and grassy with just a touch kerosene. The palate entry is tangy followed by a touch of sweetness. There is a hint of lemon/grapefruit on the palate and the finish is quick and watery. The healthy acidity provides a strong backbone.

It’s not bad but we would have definitely preferred more flavor. We are guessing that this is a sub $10 wine and while we probably wouldn’t drink it again, at least it was honest and let the varietal speak. With too many inexpensive wines, the juice is buried under interventionist wine making techniques like malolactic fermentation (producing a butter bomb) or over oaking (producing a heavy vanillin overlay).

John, we recommend that you pick up a Covey Run Gewurztraminer. It is similar to this wine but has a more interesting palate. You should be able to find it for about $7.00. See our review from March 10, 2006.

Jen's Birthday

Chateau St. Michelle
2002 Indian Wells Merlot

Sandeman’s Oloroso Cream Sherry

1996 Fleur du Champagne
Perrier Jouet
Epernay, France

Sevruga, Malossol
Lafayette Caviar
Orinda, CA
42.00/1 oz

This review covers parts one and two of Jen’s three-day birthday celebration. We had dinner at my parent’s house on Saturday, our private celebration took place on Sunday, and the last part of the celebration will take place in a few weeks when Jen’s family comes to visit us.

My parents wanted us to come over an hour before dinner for drinks. We didn’t really want any Andre’s Cold Duck or some type of Raspberry flavored “wine,” so we tried to find something that all of us could drink. My parents love Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry (which I have to admit that both Jen and I do like), so we tried to find a slightly higher grade cream sherry. We went to Beltramo’s and found a Sandeman’s Oloroso sweetened with our favorite, Pedro Ximenez grapes. We arrived at my parent’s and Jen was showered with “Happy Birthday” balloons and several presents from our wedding registry. While she was opening her presents, I opened the Sandeman’s and tasted it. The sweet and tangy flavors provided an interesting contrast but I was afraid that my parents wouldn’t like the tanginess (which is absent from regular cream sherries) . We all ended up enjoying it, and the entire bottle was gone long before dinner.

For dinner, Jen and I had the Indian Wells Merlot. We aren’t fans of Merlot (although we wouldn’t turn down a Petrus), because we find most of them rather bland. However, we are huge fans of Chateau St. Michelle so we took a chance on this one. We were not disappointed. It lacked complexity, but it did have a very concentrated blueberry flavor that was delicious.

Our private celebration the next evening included Champagne and caviar. Jen is the Champagne and caviar person in our relationship. I had never had caviar, and even Dom Perignon didn’t have my palate doing cartwheels. The caviar was interesting. I just had a little and found it salty and creamy. It’s hard to believe that it is considered a delicacy. I’ll stick with Port and dark chocolate.

By the way, my birthday present to Jen was a hardcover edition of Robert Parker’s book on Bordeaux.

Here are Jen’s notes from the evening:

The bubbly presented an intense bouquet of sweet floral and fruity scents, with just a touch of toast. On the palate, the wine was nicely balanced between a toasty/yeasty style and a lighter, fruitier style. There was definite minerality, mingled with a bit of leesy, creamy richness. On top of this, however, was a refreshing raspberry flavor that made a lovely counterpoint. I could definitely see the Pinot influence here, with a hint of licorice before the long, elegant finish.

The caviar was a great accompaniment, with its minerally, creamy, rich texture and taste. It was nearly buttery, which accented the bass notes of the champagne. In the circumstances, it is a relief to know that we can get good domestic caviar.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

South Africa makes Wine?

2004 Kanu Chenin Blanc
Shane’s Notes

It is harsh and a bit hot. The palate shows a bit of key lime and is steely, but there’s really not much to it. I think we’ll stick with Vouvray.

A Quaffer

2003 Domaine Clavel "Le Mas"
Coteaux de Languedoc
Gres de Montpellier
Jen’s Notes

Not a lot going on here, unfortunately. There's tart fruit, with some juiceiness, and maybe some minerality underneath. But, lacking any real structure, it is hard to take this one seriously. That said, I'd take this over the new world answer to the simple wine question (i.e., lots of oak).

Friday, March 10, 2006

Spicy, Tangy & Honeyed

2004 Covey Run
Columbia Valley, WA
Jen’s Notes

This could be a nice choice for your house sweetie - good for an aperitif, good for dessert... pretty much any time you want a slightly sweet wine. I liked its subtle, honeyed aromas, which included an unexpected herbal note. The palate emphasized warm, sweet spices (like nutmeg and cardamom), and was a little tangy (think Lemon Meringue Pie) before finishing. This wine was pleasant and easy to drink, and just enough acidity to balance the honeyed sweetness. It lingers a bit, with some soft floral notes, and finishes clean.

Cheap Chilean Merlot

Castillo de Molina
Reserva Merlot 2003
Lontue Valley, Chile
Shane’s Notes

It definitely has the opulent New World aroma with a touch of funk underneath. The flavors are very light, in fact, they almost aren’t there. There is a plum flavor with some dirt (spice?) on the finish. It’s drinkable but tastes like it is over oaked.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tangy Pineapple

2004 Donnhoff Riesling
Nahe, Qualitatswein
Shane’s Notes

The aroma shows pear, lemon and pineapple. The palate is mirrors the aroma with pineapple being the dominant flavor. It is also tangy with a taste of slate. This Riesling had mild concentration, mild complexity and a medium length finish. You will probably not find a better Qualitatswein Riesling.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Stilton and Port

1997 Offley Boa Vista
Vintage Port
Shane’s Notes

We decanted for one hour because a 1997 Vintage Port is really too youthful to drink right now. The decanting helped, but this one should really be aged for another 3-5 years. The aroma is alcoholic and shows some licorice. This port has a medium rich texture and the palate displays licorice, molasses, brown sugar and some chocolate on the finish. It has moderate complexity and is about what you’d expect for this price range. The finish is a bit short.

I’m more of a New World style wine drinker so I rarely eat when I drink wine. However, I keep reading that you absolutely have to have Stilton with your port so I gave it a shot. I nibbled a crumb of the cheese and sipped my port with no noticeable result. Jen said that I would have to be more daring and actually take a mouthful of Stilton. I followed her directions and there was a slight difference. The cheese seemed to soften the harshness of the port but that was about all that I noticed. I think I’ll stick to port and dark chocolate.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Savvy Cellar

Jen’s Notes

A few Fridays ago, we checked out Savvy Cellar, a wine bar and shop in Redwood City. We had a great night, and discovered some interesting new wines. The tasting flights and by-the-glass selections rotate regularly. You can also pull anything off the shelves and drink it there for a small corkage fee.

The shop is organized around a radical concept: all of the wines they stock were scored at 90 points or above by any of the major wine publications and are also priced at 39.00 or less per bottle.

In addition to wine, Savvy Cellar offers a good selection of nibbles; we had a lovely cheese plate and marcona almonds.

Wines tasted:

Mont Marcal Cava Reserva

This Spanish bubbly was clean and pleasant. Not very complex or concentrated, but boasted a silky texture and subtle nutty and floral flavors.

Baileyana Pinot Noir

True to varietal, with cranberry and smokey flavors. Restrained and classy.

Aglianico Di Majo "Contado"

This Italian red, pronounced all-YA-nico, was unlike any wine I had ever tasted before. It showed scents of eucalyptus on the nose. On the palate, the wine was mouthfilling and concentrated, with firm tannins and a nice minerality underneath. The flavors included blackberry, herbs and smoke.

Tinto Fino Legaris Reserva

This Portuguese wine showed minty, earthy aromas. The palate had similarly minty highlights and subtle berry fruit, in a smooth silky texture. It was brilliantly made and well-structured.

Nepenthe "Tryst"

This Australian white is an usual blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Pinot Gris. It shows tangy citrus and herbal aromas, with a softer base note of honey and vanilla. On the palate, it shows an unexpected richness and a long finish. Flavors included lemon and subtle honey.

3 Rings Shiraz

Another one from Australia! This was a big wine. Not complex, but keenly focused and smooth. Woody aromas. Juicy and supple fruit on the oalate, jammy and a little spicy. Long finish.

Felsina Vin Santo

Appropriately enough, we ended the tasting with this dessert wine from Italy. It was.... risking understatement, absolutely delicious. One of the best things my tongue has ever encountered. The nose was redolent of sweet, caramelized hazelnuts. My palate was enveloped in candied orange peel, more hazelnuts and, amazingly, florals as well. We loved it, and can't wait to try some others.

A Flavorless Cab

2002 Twin Fin Cabernet Sauvignon

This was a blind taste for Jen.

Shane’s Notes – sweet aroma, jammy. Palate – absolutely nothing to it. No distinctive flavor. Decent tannins. Very light in body. Drinkable but not worth taking seriously. It’s an “I just want to get drunk” wine.

Jen’s Notes – Aroma – ripe, sweet berry fruit. Definitely New World. Palate – tangy, currant, juicy. Tasty but not much to it.

Jen’s Guess – California Zinfandel in the $12-$15 range.

I think Jen went a little easy on this one. I had read that this was one of the best $10 California Cabs and if that is true, $10 California Cabs just aren’t worth drinking. For comparison, the Santa Ema and Xplorador Cabs, two Chilean Cabs under $10, are definitely better.

Monday, March 06, 2006

One from Argentina

Jacques Frances Lurton
Valle de Uco, Mendoza
2005 Pinot Gris
Shane’s Notes

The aroma shows pear, grapefruit and possibly some vanilla. This one delivers a quick burst of flavor. It is a little citrussy and there is some creaminess underneath. The aftertaste is slightly floral. It is a very pleasant bargain wine.

Subtle Pontet

1998 Chateau Pontet Canet
Bordeaux, Pauillac
Jen’s Notes

Decant approx. 20 minutes. This wine showed intense, heady aromas of cassis with earth underneath. The palate is subtle and elegant, with soft cassis fruit and integrated tannins. Good astringency underneath, and the fruit echoes nicely on the finish. Very slightly funky. Not a great Bordeaux, but still very enjoyable and a nice example of a more subtle style of winemaking.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Flavor Bomb

Quinta de Roriz
Reserva 2001
Shane’s Notes

I absolutely love table wines crafted from port varietals. We haven’t had two that are similar, and each one has had very interesting flavors. This wine explodes on your palate. This full-bodied monster displays rich flavors of chocolate and cassis. It is also very floral and a bit gamey. The flavors are so intense that it actually took us awhile to finish this one. If you can find it, buy it!

Respectable Rhone

2003 Domaine de la Mordoree
Cotes du Rhone
Shane’s Notes

The aroma exudes black cherry, thyme and a French-style funkiness. The palate shows a very light berry flavor with an herbal underpinning. It’s also a touch spicy. It’s a solid wine for this price point.

Great Gigondas

2004 Domaine de la Maurelle
Shane’s Notes

The aroma is floral and shows light cherry and blackberry. The palate is concentrated with heavy flavors of violets and lavender. There is also some ripe, plummy, sweet fruit There is a good minerality underneath, and it is just a little rough on the palate, probably a bit tannic. It has a very long finish. It was excellent. This one should probably be aged for a few years – we decanted for 30 minutes.