Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Lesson in Evolution

2004 Valtorto
Shane’s Notes

When we initially drank this together, neither of us was too impressed. It showed a little dark fruit but that was about it. The palate was pretty tight and didn’t reveal much. We drank about ¾’s of the bottle and then Jen went to bed. I stayed up and played video games and drank the rest about 45 minutes later. The wine had opened so much that I almost didn’t even recognize it. It was very port-like. The dark fruit flavor was now complemented by a rich, creamy vanilla flavor (to my palate, this is the characteristic Krohn style) and reminded me of their 1994 Colheita. Usually, I’m not a fan of vanilla in wine, but I have to admit that I really like the flavor in the Krohn wines. This was a very tasty quaffer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


2006 Rose, Tablas Creek Vineyard
Jen’s Notes

This is one ass-kicking rosé. With it's deep color, you might as well call it a red. Except it's not: the juicy watermelon and plum flavors scream " ROSÉ!" It is bone-dry, though, creating a nice counterpoint to the concentrated flavors. A layer of smoke and herbal notes add an elegant touch, as does the wonderfully silky mouthfeel. This is a big, big wine. At 15% alcohol, my only complaint is that it tastes just a bit hot for about a nanosecond. But I won't complain too loudly. It is yummy and perfect for a warm spring evening.

p.s. We finally bought our Eurocave refrigerated wine cabinet. While not huge, it will still hold over 100 bottles so we can finally join some wine clubs. We immediately joined the Tablas Creek wine club, so there will be many more Tablas Creek reviews in the future.

A Zesty Chardonnay

2005 Nickel and Nickel Searby Chardonnay
Russian River Valley
Jen’s Notes

This might be heresy, but I think we're heading towards liking N&N's Chardonnays better than their Cabernets. Certainly, it is a little easier to get your hands on the Chards (except for the Medina), and the price of admission isn't quite as high. The Searby is fruity and pretty clean as California Chards go. The palate is dominated by fresh, perfectly ripe pineapple. It is juicy, with bright acidity and a long finish. It might be zestier and more acidic than the the Medina. Absolutely lovely and quite food friendly.

Light Lirac

2004 A. Jaume Lirac “Clos de Sixte”
Shane’s Notes

This was our first Lirac. Compared to a typical Gigondas, this Lirac had a lighter texture and was not quite as rich. The palate showed blackberry and tangy currant with some dirt underneath. It was okay and I’d be willing to give Lirac another shot. However, unless the next Lirac has a richer palate, I’ll stick with Giggy’s.

Vanilla, Apple and Lemon Curd

2003 Antinori Muffato
Shane’s Notes

We spent Saturday evening in Berkeley. We went to Moe’s used bookstore, had dinner at Top Dog, drank some outstanding expresso and capuccino at Sufficent Grounds and then walked over to a church to watch the last performance of the season of the American Bach Society. The performance was magnificent, and we wanted a night cap when we got home. We decided to drink our Antinori 500 ml Muffato. This muffato was sweet with vanilla, apple and some lemon curd underneath. It was a bit more acidic and closed than the aged muffo we had the other week. Muffos probably need to be aged for at least 5-7 years to hit their peak. Nonetheless, this is a very nice wine even now.

Peach and Sweet Spices

2005 Dr. Loosen Riesling Spatlese, Erdener Treppchen
Jen’s Notes

This is one we'd try ageing to get some of the sweetness off. But don't get me wrong, it is perfectly delightful now. I tend to think I drink Rieslings precisely for the slightly guilty pleasure of enjoying a sweet wine. I often want to slurp them down, but I make myself drink them slowly. More than being a "sweet wine," the best of German Rieslings are, to my way of thinking anyway, the best examples of what terroir really means.

Oh. Wait. We're actually supposed to be posting tasting notes, aren't we? Sorry about that. Here goes: this wine initially showed sweet florals and a slight tang. Not a whole lot of minerality here, but it is very focused and evolves nicely on the palate, ultimately giving up peach and sweet spices, with a slight dash of pineapple on the finish.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


2005 Cantina del Pino, Dolcetto d’Alba
Shane’s Notes

It has a grapey flavor with a hint of tangy cranberry. It is juicy up front and has a very dry finish. It is a nice quaffer.

Another Great Guilliams

Guilliams 2002 Merlot, Spring Mountain
(I think we paid around $40 and now we wish we had bought a case)
Shane’s Notes

We bought this one from the winery where we met the Guilliams. We really enjoyed talking to them, and we really enjoyed sipping their wines while overlooking Napa Valley from their vineyards. So, we really wanted to like their wines. Fortunately, their wines are magnificent.

This Merlot seemed tight when we tasted it, so I decided to decant it for at least 45 minutes. I thought Jen was aiming for a 5:30 for dinner so I decanted at 4:45. However, Jen had dinner ready at 5:00 (a very tasty tri trip), and a quick sip of the wine revealed that it needed at least another half hour in the decanter. We decided to eat dinner without the wine. I would rather enjoy the wine after dinner than drink it with dinner before the palate has revealed itself.

Our wait was richly rewarded. This is a magnificent, mouth-filling, Pantagruelian Merlot. It is rich and unctuous with sweet fruit up front (cherry and blueberry). There is also some tangy currant and just a hint of dark chocolate. It is cab like and quite stunning. We have now had the Guilliams Merlot and Cab from 2002, and we can only say “Congratulations!” We can’t wait to drop by for another visit.

Top Twelve

Here’s our ninth 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.

Italian wines dominate this top twelve. Five completely different styles of Italian wine made our list (Tocai Friulani, Valpolicella, Barbera d’Asti, Prosecco and Muffato) reflecting the incredibly diversity of Italian vino. All were excellent but the Muffato was clearly the most outstanding wine of the group. If you are fortunate enough to find a Muffato, you absolutely must buy it! Muffato is one the one of the most underrated styles of wine in the world. It is easily the equal of Sauternes and Tokaji.

As for the other wines on the list, I love German Riesling so one or two usually make the list. This time around, we discovered the wonderful Rieslings of Dr. Loosen, so one his wines made the list. We owe the Fleury to Terry Thiese who recommended trying champagnes from grower champagne houses at a tasting we attended. After sampling the Fleury and a few offerings from Pierre Peters, we are hooked on grower Champagnes. Aveleda’s Vino Verde (along with the Charamba) firmly entrenches Aveleda as a great bargain winery. And of course, there is always room for a Rhone among our favorite bargains and there is always room on the high end for a new offering from Nickel and Nickel, one of our favorite Napa wineries. The Medina Chardonnay is one of the best California Chardonnays we have encountered.

$8.99, Blason, 2005 Tocai Friulano
3/30/07, Tocai Friulano

$9.99, 2005 Aveleda Alvarinho Vino Verde
3/30/07, Another Aveleda
$10.99, 2004 Tardieu Laurent, Les Becs Fins
3/5/07, Fennel, Mint and Plum

$12.99, 2005 Allegrini Valpolicella Classico
An Italian Quaffer

$15.99, 2004 Vietti, Barbera d’Asti, “Tre Vigne”
4/13/07, Tremendous Tre Vigne

$18, Bisole “Crede” Prosecco di Valdobbiadene
3/14/07, Italian Bubbly

$18.99, 2005 Schmitt Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Kabinett, Mosel
Another Great Schmitt, 2/6/07

$19.50, Schweiger 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, Uboldi Vineyards, Sonoma
Bold from Uboldi, 3/19/07

$35.00, Fleury Champagne, Rose de Saignee, NV
Stunning Champagne

$36.99, Nickel and Nickel 2005 Medina Vineyard Chardonnay
3/15/07, Jen’s Birthday

$22 (375 ml), 2003 Dr. Loosen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel, Auslese
2/6/07, A Winner from Loosen

$44.99, 1999 Antinori Muffato della Sala
3/22/07, Domo Arigato, Mr. Muffato

German Wine Society

Shane's Notes

Jen and I joined the San Francisco Chapter of the German Wine Society and attended our first event on April 6, 2007 at the Fort Mason Gatehouse. We joined because we love German Rieslings. In fact, German Riesling is my favorite wine. So, we had to laugh when we saw the list of wines for this tasting – the list included everything but Rieslings. We have always figured that Riesling is the only German wine worth drinking and this event, while featuring a few interesting wines, did little to change our minds. Here are our recollections on a few of the wines we did enjoy (we didn’t take any notes).

2003 Bad Durkheimer Feuerberg Portugieser, Josef Friedrich (Pfalz). This was the first wine we tasted and it got the evening off to a good start. This wine reminded me of a light Gamay and was a decent quaffer.

2005 Fruhburgunder (Pinot Madeleine), Weingut Meyer-Nakel (Ahr). This was one of the two wines that I really enjoyed. The tasting notes we were given mentioned that Pinot Madeleine might be a Pinot Noir clone. After tasting it, we agree that this could easily be the case. In fact, in a blind tasting, I probably would have called it a Pinot Noir. It had a mild dark fruit flavor and a medium length finish. I might actually buy a Pinot Madeleine if I ever came across one.

The event included several Scheurebes (a Riesling/Silvaner cross) and they were drinkable, but they didn’t have us standing up and cheering. The exception was the 1976 Haardter Mandelring Scheurebe Beerenauslese, Weingut Muller-Catoir (Pfalz). This was clearly the best wine of the tasting. It looked like apple juice in the glass and was so sweet that you would swear those tartrate crystals were actually sugar crystals. This wine tasted like a sugary, cinnamon apple. It was magnificent. Judging by the other, younger Scheurebes we had, botrytis and age do wonders for this varietal.

The food at this event was incredible. We had dinner at the Asqew Grill prior to the event (and, if we are honest, we have to admit that we went to the Nectar Lounge after dinner and pre-loaded with Champagne and Savennieres). However, we could have easily made a meal of the wonderful hors d’oeuvres which included a variety of sausages, cheeses and bread.

Normally, Jen and I aren’t the most sociable couple, but we really enjoyed talking to the other members. People were genuinely enthusiastic about the wine and regaled us with stories of fabulous vacations. This of course gave us a chance to talk about our magnificent Italian honeymoon. We can’t wait for the next event.

More from Italy

Vietti Barbera
2001 Castiglione
Shane’s Notes

This one definitely needs some age. We decanted for about 90 minutes. The palate is moderately complex showing strawberry and orange peel with an herbal/smoky finish. The finish is medium length. It was enjoyable but we are not sure if it was worth the price.

Crazy Crawford

Kim Crawford, 2006 Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, NZ
Shane's Notes

Now that summer is almost here, it is once again time for Rose’s and SB’s. This SB is simply amazing. This wine explodes on the palate with a tangy, extracted style. The flavors include guava and green pepper with grassy and lime undertones. Each sip reveals a slightly different shading of flavors. I can just imagine a mad scientist concocting this SB in a laboratory and laughing while his assistant is screaming “You are insane, the wine can’t handle anymore flavor!” It is one of the best Marlborough SB’s we’ve tasted and a must buy at this price.