Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Time for the Honeymoon

We are leaving for Italy on September 1 for our honeymoon. This will be our last entry until we blog a slew of Italian wines when we return. Look for our next entry in early October.

1971 Pedro Ximenex Sherry
Bodegas Toro Albala, SL
Cordoba, Spain
Jen's Notes

This wine is older than I am, and might be our oldest so far (until we crack open a 66 Colheita tonight!). We love PX sherries, and this one probably runs a close second to the Cardenal Cisneros. It is rich and creamy, with honey, vanilla, and molasses flavors. So far, classic PX. This one, however, is unusually grapey, which provides a pleasantly fruity accent to this decadent wine.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


2004 Chateau des Cleons
Muscadet Sevre et Maines
Jen's Notes

Muscadet produces dry white, and, to my knowledge at least, you seldom see them from anywhere other than France. They are perfect for casual drinking. This one was quite pleasant, with fresh aromas and flavors. The palate was clean, citrusy, and very slightly yeasty. Muscadets are aged on the lees, and consequently have a yeasty/creamy characteristic.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Our First Sancerre

Lucien Crochet 2004 Sancerre
Shane’s Notes

The aroma is melony and citrussy. The palate is subtle and complex with cantaloupe, zesty lemon, tangy lime and grapefruit flavors. The flavors seamlessly melt into each other. Jen really enjoyed it. I’ll admit that it’s an outstanding wine, but I’m not thrilled with the style. I never liked Sauvignon Blanc until I tried those grassy, flavor-exploding-on-the-palate SB’s from Marlborough, New Zealand. They are still the only SB’s that I like. All other SB’s, including this Sancerre, just have palates that are too mild for me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A to Z Revisited

2003 Oregon Claret
A to Z
Jen’s Notes

Among other things, this wine brings us a new term for your wine lexicon. 'Claret' is Brit-speak for Bordeaux. This blend exhibits some of the restraint of Bordeaux, but lacks the funkiness that I and probably every Bordeaux fan likes and is used to. It wasn't terribly complex or concentrated, but it does have a pleasant fruit flavor and an appealing texture.

Columbia Crest Two Vines

2002 Columbia Crest
Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon and Two Vines Merlot, Columbia Valley
$5.99 for each
Shane’s Notes

Cab - It has a sweet, cherry flavor with a slight vanilla overlay and a short, rough, spicy finish. It’s a bit rustic but decent for the price.

Merlot – I didn’t like this as well as I liked the Cab. It has a sweet, raspberry flavor up front (too sweet for my palate) with some smoke underneath.

At this price point, we prefer Concho y Toro’s Xplorador wines (esp. the Cab and the Chardonnay).

Monday, August 07, 2006


2004 Puligny Montrachet
Les Pucelles, Premiere Cru, Domaine Marc Jomain
Shane’s Notes
Normally, Jen would write this review because she’s the Chardonnay person in our relationship. However, she was working on our Napa trip write-up so I took this one. It’s quite a responsibility – our first Montrachet, one of the world’s putative great wines.

The aroma is creamy with tart apple. My initial reaction on tasting this one was that we did not do it justice by drinking it so young. This is a massive wine and I can only imagine how long it should be aged to tame it – my guess is ten to fifteen years. The rich palate is slightly creamy and the texture is heavy for a Chardonnay. The palate shows peach and cinnamon apple. The finish is fairly long. Surprisingly, neither Jen nor I detected any minerality.

It is extremely well made and Jen loved it. I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled with the style. Years ago, I preferred butter bomb Chardonnays but as my tastes have changed, I prefer Chardonnays so racy that I think even this Montrachet was a bit too soft for me. I like high acidity and massive, tangy flavors. I’m kind of relieved that I don’t like this style because Montrachet is expensive and hard to find.


Jen’s Notes

We had a modest agenda for this Napa trip:

Nickel & Nickel tour and tasting at 11:30
Silver Oak release party at approximately 1:30
Domaine Chandon to conclude

When we were on our timeline for the 8/26 wedding date, this weekend was to be Shane’s bachelor party – celebrated in Napa with the guys. But as Shane is no longer bachelor, we decided to revisit Nickel & Nickel, where we got engaged, and asked friends and family to meet us at Silver Oak. We had a pretty good turnout, including Shane’s parents, our friends Cam & Kim, Cam’s dad and step mom, and our friend Paul.

Nickel & Nickel

Although we had been to Nickel & Nickel on two previous occasions, we hadn’t yet taken the tour. We are glad that we did. Not only is the property exceptionally beautiful, the tour was very informative. And, of course, there is the thrill of seeing a place where skilled artisans make the wines that we truly love.

The tasting included four 2003 Cabernet Sauvignons, each a single vineyard, single varietal wine. These covered a lot of territory, each showing the distinction that most oenophiles will tell you only comes from the soil in which the grapes are grown. Though all the wines were exceptional in their own way, the two standouts for me were the Regusci and the Vogt. The Regusci was quite powerful and will be absolutely divine after a few years’ bottle age. The Vogt was more subtle, focusing on elegance and finesse. It was interesting to taste these more or less side by side and love them both equally.

The Cab tasting finished early so our docent said that he would see if he could find us some more wine to taste. During the tour, I happened to let slip that we had gotten engaged in the Gleason Barn at the winery. So, when Shane suggested to the docent that he break out the Dolce, he readily agreed. The Dolce was poured and everyone raised their glasses in a toast to us. The 2002 vintage heralds a new wine maker at Dolce. While the wine’s opulent style is still evident, it shows more minerality than some of the previous vintages. It was delicious. In fact, a lady who had barely touched her Cabs gulped down the Dolce in surprised delight.

Silver Oak

The occasion was the release of the 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was also our meeting place for the friends and family who joined us. As usual, it was quite a party, fueled by many pours of the famous red, and a selection of gourmet treats. The treats were served in tiny, ridged plastic cups that could be hung inside the Silver Oak glasses. You could place the cup in your glass, eat your treat, pop the cup out of your glass and then drink your wine. Talk about old fashioned American ingenuity!

As one might expect, a Monet-like blur overcame us as the afternoon wore on; a blur of laughing, smiling faces, broken wineglasses greeted by loud cheers, dogs, cute babies, women in inexplicably revealing clothing…There were even two women who spanked each other. After their raunchy display, one of them ran over to Paul and hugged him saying, “I don’t know you, but I’m going to hug you.”

We’re actually not huge fans of the wine, but this is always a party not to be missed.

Domaine Chandon

It would take a lot of Silver Oak to keep us from finishing a tasting trip at Domaine Chandon. Paul came with us, and we each had a glass of sparkling wine. Shane’s favorite is the Chandon Riche, a rich, slightly sweeter style. Paul and I went for the top shelf Etoile – the rose for me, and the classic one for him.

After the Silver Oak party, we were ready for some quiet time. We walked past the sign that said “No guests past this point” and laid down in the shady grass. I believe we may have even napped.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Jen's Aussie Adventure

Torbreck 2004 WoodCutter’s Shiraz
Shane’s Notes

This was a blind taste for Jen. We are still trying to find at least one Aussie wine that we really enjoy.

My notes: Aroma is very jammy. Obviously new world. Palate has some sweet, blackberry and blueberry flavors. The finish is bit spicy and alcoholic. Fairly elegant. It’s a decent wine, but I wouldn’t buy a second bottle. I just don’t find the flavors that exciting.

Jen’s Notes: Aroma – sweet, jammy fruit. The palate is tangy and smoky with tart berry fruit. Maybe black currant. It has a decent length finish. My guess is that it’s a new world Pinot costing around $20.

Jen agreed with me that the wine was okay but that she wouldn’t buy another bottle. The bottom line is that neither of us have really liked Aussie wines, and neither of us have liked Syrah from anywhere in the world. We taste Syrahs and can never figure out why the varietal is so popular. I guess it just doesn’t mesh with our palates.

A Syrah should have a much heavier texture than a Pinot, so you wouldn’t think you would confuse the two. However, we have recently had the Sea Smoke Southing Pinot, and its texture was heavier than the texture on this Syrah (I have no idea why its texture was so heavy). Anyway, I think this Pinot was still fresh in Jen’s mind when she drank this Syrah.

We have now done several blind tastings. We have both done a good job assessing quality and price range, and we have both done a lousy job guessing the varietals. I think we need to have a few tastings where we try some of the major varietals side by side and really focus on their (supposedly) unique features.

Top Twelve

Shane's Notes

Here’s our sixth top twelve list. A quick review of the rules that we follow: we choose 4 wines in the under $15 category, 4 in the $15 - $30 category and four in the over $30 category. Also, a winery can only appear once on the list.

In the beginning, our top twelve lists were dominated by American wines. Our tastes have become much more diverse and only three American wines made this list. Six of the wines are French and France is rapidly catching America for the most appearances on our top twelve lists (26 American and 21 French). The two Viognier on the list show Jen’s increasing fascination with this varietal, and the New Zealand SB reflects my admiration for the pungent, Marlborough SB’s. I had practically given up on SB’s until I found the Marlboroughs. I usually find room for a German Riesling (probably my favorite type of wine) on the list, and Jen usually places a Pinot (probably her favorite varietal) on the list. The unoaked Chardonnay was a revelation to us. If you are used to buttery, vanilla Chardonnays, you simply have to try an unoaked version for the contrast.

$10.99, Chateau de Pizay, Morgan (Crus Beaujolais)
Raspberry, Violets and Blueberry, 6/27/06

$9.99. 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc Viognier, Laurent Miguel “Nord Sud”
A Languedoc Viognier, 7/6/06

$9.99, 2004 Four Vines Naked Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County
Oak vs. No Oak, July 18, 2006

$9.99, Monkey Bay, 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
The Monkey is Less Funky, 7/21/06

$25, 2005 Preston Viognier
Sonoma Trip, 7/28/06

$25, 2005 Reinhard & Beate Knebel Winninger Rottgen Spatlese
Another Dee Vine Tasting, 6/2/06

$29.99, 1996 Pagodes de Cos d’Estournel, St. Estephe
Barbecue and Bordeaux, 7/13/06

$29.99, Castelmau de Suduiraut, 2001 Sauternes
Apple and Butterscotch, 7/3/06

$60, Williams Selyem 2004 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Floral and Smoky, June 9, 2006

$43, 1998 Chablis Valmur, Albert Pic, Grand Cru
Chablis, 6/22/06
$87 (restaurant price, $40 in a store), 2001 E. Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape
Marriage Celebration, 6/21/06

$24.50/glass (restaurant price, $120 in a store), Sandemans’ 40 year tawny
Marriage Celebration, 6/21/06

Grassy and Pungent

Northrow 2004 Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, N.Z.
Shane’s Notes

Here’s another stunning SB from Marlborough. Once again, this one has that gorgeous, grassy aroma. One sip and the pungent, citrus flavors (lemon and lime) explode in your mouth. It is also a bit grassy and has a funky, peppery finish. The flavors are massive and the finish is long! We immediately went out and bought another bottle.

So far, my three favorite Marlborough SB’s are Cloudy Bay, Northrow and Oyster Bay (Drylands and Monkey Bay aren’t far behind).


Moillard, Les Violettes
2004 Cotes du Rhone
Shane’s Notes

It is very fragrant and yes, the aroma does suggest violets. The palate is smooth with some sweet, dark fruit up front. The finish is very quick and dry. It’s a decent quaffer for the price.