Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Another Pinot Blanc

Trimbach, 2002 Pinot Blanc
Shane’s Notes

We really enjoyed our Oregonian Pinot Blanc so we though we’d try an Alsation Pinot Blanc. The aroma and palate on this one were reminiscent of a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc. The aromas included citrus and hay, and the palate was grassy, limey, and creamy with a long finish. It was racy and tangy. We liked it but preferred it’s more tropical Oregonian cousin (see review on June 9, 2006).

Raspberry, Violets and Blueberry

Chateau de Pizay, Morgan
(Crus Beaujolais)
Shane’s Notes

I was able to sneak a Crus Beaujolais into our basket without Jen noticing. Okay, as she keeps pointing out to me, she doesn’t mind Crus Beaujolais. It is Beaujolais Nouveau that I’m not allowed to bring into the house. I go beyond just not minding Crus Beaujolais – I will actually admit to enjoying them for what they are – simple, summer quaffers. This one boasted aromas of raspberry and sweet fruit. The palate showed a little complexity with flavors of raspberry, violets and blueberry. It had good mid palate concentration and was the best Crus Beaujolais we’ve had. If you don’t like this one, you just aren’t a fan.

Our Last Sea Smoke

2004 Pinot Noir "Ten"
Sea Smoke
Jen's Notes

This is definitely a candidate for your cellar. While very aromatic, the palate was still a bit closed. We expect that both with open up gracefully over the next few years. Aromas included strawberry jam, with graphite underneath. On the palate, the wine showed good concentration, with herbal, cola and wood notes. It had a long finish and pronounced astringency.

Summer is Rosé Season

Domaine Saint Andre Figuiere
2004 Vielles Vignes, Provence (Rosé)
Shane’s Notes

This Rosé was slightly orangish in color and had a tangy, melon flavor. It was tart, dry and a bit steely. We liked it, but we prefer Rosés made predominantly from Grenache (this one was 50% Mourvedre, 25% Cinsault and 25% Grenache).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lafite in Chile

Los Vascos
2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile
Jen's Notes

We enjoyed this Chilean cab. It is an impressive middle ground between a fruit-forward style and something funkier. I think the funk must come from France, for Los Vascos is the Chilean outpost of the family behind Chateau Lafite, the famed First Growth. This wine's flavors include slightly tangy cassis and cranberry fruit, spiked with herbs and pepper. It is focused, dry, and shows good length and astringency on the finish. It is very well structured, which is something many cabs at this price point couldn't say with a straight face.


1998 Chablis Valmur, Albert Pic, Grand Cru
Jen's Notes

Most Chardonnay nerds, myself included, agree that Chablis needs bottle age. At 8 years old, this one still showed good acidity, tempered by a slight roundness and good fruit. Flavors included zesty apple (probably Granny Smiths - 'wine flavor descriptor' being their only form suitable for consumption, in my opinion!) subtly highlighted with citrus. There is pronounced minerality underneath, and a long finish. A truly wonderful wine, and a good deal for Grand Cru Chablis.

NB: there is one hard and fast rule regarding Chablis, which I am obliged to pass on: Chablis are not made in America. The American whites that call themselves Chablis are plonk and bear no resemblance to the real thing. Jay McInerney, in his book Bacchus and Me, relates an amusing anecdote about this distinction.

There is also a semi-firm and relatively speedy rule regarding Chablis, or at least, one's first foray into it, which is that you should stick with the Grand and Premier Crus. There are, occasionally, some values to be found further down the ladder, but you'll want some experience and research under your belt before you go there.

A Disappearing Act

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, “Mudge Hills of Gold”
Shane’s Notes

What in the heck are the Aussies doing to their wine? We’ve probably had a half dozen Aussie wines now, and they have just about all tasted very bizarre to our palates. We haven’t liked them and this one was no exception. It showed powerful aromas of dark fruit. The palate is concentrated up front with some mint underneath but then the bottom drops out. The flavors in the palate just lose focus and disappear into an astringent finish. It is most unpleasant.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Marriage Celebration

2001 E. Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape, $87
Sandemans’ 40 year tawny, $24.50/glass
Grahams 1994 vintage port, $21.50/glass
(restaurant prices)
Shane’s Notes

Jen and I got married on June 14th in a civil ceremony at the city hall in San Francisco. To celebrate our nuptials, we had dinner at the Sundance Steakhouse in Palo Alto.

The wine list was good but not great. Jen decided to have the Fillet Mignon while I went with a massive slab of Prime Rib. We perused the wine list searching for an affordable, food friendly red. We went with the 2001 Guigal from Chateauneuf. When I gave our order to the waiter, he drew a blank. He confessed to having trouble with French names and opened the wine list so I could point out our selection to him. He opened the wine list to the Bordeaux section. Shouldn’t a waiter at fancy restaurant know that a Chateauneuf is a Rhone?

For Rhones, we have mostly been drinking Gigondas, so I was curious to taste a Chateauneuf. This one was quite a contrast to a Gigondas. It was more refined and elegant and not as fruit forward. It was like drinking a Gigondas light. The palate showed similar Giggy flavors – violets and lavendar – just more subtle. We really enjoyed it.

We splurged on our dessert wines. Jen had the Sandemans’s 40 year tawny and I had the Graham’s 1994 vintage port. I’m not a fan of tawnies, but this 40 year tawny was amazing. I always figured a 40 year tawny would suffer from too much age but I was wrong. It had a massive buttery, nutty flavor and was extremely smooth. It just might be the best tawny we’ve had.

I went with the 94 Grahams over the 85 Taylor, because I prefer relatively young wines. I like the complexity that comes with age but I’ll give up some complexity for a more vibrant palate. This one did not disappoint. It was a bit tannic and the palate had a wonderful, concentrated, brown sugar flavor. It is one of the better vintage ports I’ve drunk. For my palate, it is near its peak right now.


Hartley and Gibson’s Choice Old Solera Pedro Ximenez
Shane’s Notes

The color of this PX is lighter than the motor oil black of other PX’s we have enjoyed. The aroma is pure, burnt molasses. The palate is very rich, very creamy and a bit hot. The flavors include brown sugar, molasses, caramel, vanilla and raisins. It’s not very complex and the finish is long. It is a decent, entry level PX although some might find it cloying. I’d almost recommend dropping an ice cube into it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Violets and Dark Chocolate

Duas Quintas (Ramos Pinto)
2002 Douro Table Wine
Shane’s Notes

The aroma is pungent with violets and a touch of funk. The palate is smoother and more food friendly than we expected. It shows violets and dark chocolate. We hoped it would be more concentrated, but it was still a good $10 quaffer.


2004 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir
Shane’s Notes
June 20, 2006

We opened this one and decanted for 45 minutes. The massive aroma consists of perfume, vanilla, wool socks and raspberry. The palate is perfumey with a very concentrated flavor of tangy, vanilla-blueberry. It lacks complexity but we can’t overstate the massive concentration of the palate. I wasn’t sure what to make of this one. Pinots are usually light-bodied but this one bordered on medium-bodied. It was so rich that I don’t think I would have recognized it as a Pinot.

A Tablas Creek White

Tablas Creek, 2002 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc
Shane’s Notes,
June 20, 2006

When we initially reviewed this wine, it tasted like kerosene so we suspected that the bottle was ruined. We mentioned this on our blog, and a Tablas Creek representative read the post and replaced the bottle for free. How’s that for customer service? Anyway, after tasting this bottle, we can now say for certain that the first bottle was ruined. We really enjoyed this wine. The aroma displays pear and honey. The palate is minerally with guava, herbal and anise. It has mild complexity and a medium length finish. There are a lot of interesting flavors in this one that are hard to identify. It is drinkable now but would probably benefit from a few years of bottle age to soften the acidity.

No More Chianti

2004 Querceto Chianti
Shane’s Notes
June 20, 2006

The aroma showed berry and funk. The palate had a deep, black, cherry flavor and was tangy. This is the best Chianti we’ve had, and I still couldn’t drink it. Jen drank it but it won’t exactly make her top twelve list either. We just don’t like the Sangiovese varietal.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Floral and Smoky

Williams Selyem 2004 Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley
Jen’s Notes

When I decanted this wine in the kitchen, Shane could smell it in the living room. The intense aromas included cedar, tobacco and florals. On the palate, it was definitely tightly wound, even after decanting. Bottle age is definitely in order. Even so, we could tell that this is an extremely well structured wine with good acidity. Now, the flavors were primarily floral and smoky. There seemed to be some fruit deep down, which should appear with bottle age.

Why so Sweet?

Columbia Crest
2004 Gewurztraminer
Shane’s Notes
June 9, 2006

We were not too thrilled with this one. It crossed the line from sweet to cloying and that was about it for us. It was a little spicy and did have a tangy finish. To be fair, it tasted like a $6 bottle of wine.

The Opposite of Pinot Noir

Oregon 2004 A to Z
Pinot Blanc
Shane’s Notes

The aroma consisted of melon and citrus. The palate was very smooth with citrus, peach, cantaloupe, pepper and a slight creaminess in the middle. It had a nice lingering finish. This wine had much more complexity than you would expect for a wine in this price range. We really enjoyed it and are anxious to try some more Pinot Blancs.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Vin Santo

Villa Torrigiani Vin Santo
Shane’s Notes

We didn’t take any notes on this one, but it is such an amazing deal that we have to mention it. It has a pleasant sweetness to it, and we would have paid as much as $20 for it and still considered it a good deal. We had drunk less than half the bottle when Jen left for Vegas for the weekend. When she got back home, there was an empty bottle on the table.

Another Dee Vine Tasting

Shane's Notes

We attended an incredible tasting at Dee Vine wines in San Francisco. Beate Knebel and Fred Prinz poured an assortment of their 2005 Rieslings. There was a distinct difference between the wines – Knebel’s wines were more concentrated and sweeter than Prinz’s. Each of Knebel’s wines tasted as if the classifications were one grade too low – the Kabinett tasted like a Spatlese, the Spatlese tasted like an Auslese, etc. Prinz’s wines were drier and zestier at all levels. Upon tasting his Kabinett, Jen exclaimed, “Wow, this actually is dry.”

We enjoyed everything we tasted but preferred Knebel’s wines. We are huge fans of massively concentrated Rieslings. Our notes are a bit sparse. We did want the note taking to detract from the sheer joy of drinking these wines. It is one of the best tastings we’ve attended.

$20 - 2005 Knebel Winninger Rottgen Kabinett
This is very concentrated for a Kabinett. The palate shows a sweet, heavy lemon flavor. It reminded us of a Spatlese.

$25 - 2005 Reinhard & Beate Knebel Winninger Rottgen Spatlese
Another very concentrated wine. The palate shows guava and sweet tropical fruits. It is very focused.

$32 - 2005 Reinhard & Beate Knebel Winninger Rottgen Spatlese Alte Reben
This one tastes like pear syrup. It is sweet and fruity with a bit of a tang on the finish.

$44 (375 ml) - 2005 Weingut Reinhard & Beate Knebel Winninger Rottgen Auslese
Almost a Sauternes-like sweetness. Soft, sugary pear.

$44 (375 ml) - 2005 Reinhard & Beate Knebel Winninger Uhlen Auslese
Brown sugar, maple and honey.

We were thrilled to notice that Knebel was pouring two of her Beerenauslesen. These are the first two that we have tasted. They are so concentrated and rich that they almost don’t even taste like wine. It is an amazing experience to taste one.

$165 (375ml) - 2005 Reinhard & Beate Knebel Winninger Rottgen Beerenauslese
Nectar layered over funky minerality. Proves that too much of a good thing is wonderful.

$185 (375 ml) - 2005 Reinhard & Beate Knebel Winninger Uhlen Beerenauslese
Sweet baked apple. Sweet spices and graphite underneath.

$19 - 2005 Fred Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Kabinett
Dry, racy, steely, creamy lemon.

$27 - 2005 Fred Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Spatlese
Subtle but well made. Sweet fruit and minerality. Nutmeg on the finish.

$32 - 2005 Fred Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Spatlese Goldkapsel
Perfumey, floral and herbal. A subtle tanginess on the finish.

$39 (375 ml) - 2005 Fred Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Auslese
Elegant, concentrated and sweet but not overpowering. Best of his wines.

Violets, Wool & Cedar

2003 Domaine Raspail-Ay, Gigondas
Shane’s Notes

The aroma is massive, with sweet violets, wet wool and cedar. The palate is concentrated, floral and herbal with moderate complexity. The floral and herbal flavors are sweet and there is a tanginess on the finish. This one reminds me of a sweet tart. This is an excellent Rhone.


Heitz "Ink Grade" Port
$20/375 ml
Jen’s Notes

This is one of the few American Port style wines made with the traditional Portueguese varietals. Most are made with more familiar varietals, such as Zinfandel, and with mixed results. Here, we've got a pretty straightforward wine, somewhat evocative of true Port, but it still doesn't quite get you there.

Both the aroma and palate are reminiscent of chocolate and cherries. It is nice and sweet, with a bit of concentration, although it does lack the depth and complexity of the sweet stuff from the Douro. It is, however, quite pleasant and well-made. I would be likely to choose this over most other American Port style wines.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Grass, Key Limes & Wet Rocks

2005 Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, New Zealand
Jen’s Notes

This wine was a refreshing and pleasant balance between the esoteric Cloudy Bay, and something fruitier and more accessible. It boasted intense aromas of grass/hay, key limes and wet rocks.

On the palate, the lime and minerality were evident, as well as a peppery spice. These flavors were anchored by an earthy base note that reminded me of Cloudy Bay's funkiness. However, I have to say I enjoyed this one a lot more, because of its refreshing and pleasant fruit. It finished long, with a creamy lemon flavor.

Drylands’ SB is delicious, complex, and a fantastic value!

Orange Rosé

Marques de Caceres
2004 Rosé, Rioja (80% Tempranillo)
Shane’s Notes

The color is almost orange. The palate displays a blood orange flavor and is light and tangy with a lingering finish. It was okay, but I just didn’t like the flavor palate. I prefer Grenache rosés.