Friday, July 27, 2007

Brambly Fruit and Roasted Meat

2003 Guigal Gigondas
Shane’s Notes

Jen was skeptical of this Guigal but I talked her into it. This wasn’t the best Giggy we’ve tasted but it was pretty darn good. The palate is rich and concentrated with firm tannins. The flavors include brambly fruit (maybe blackberry), Herbs de Provence and roasted meat on the finish. The texture is almost syrupy and the finish is medium length.


2005 La Cappuccina Soave Classico
Shane’s Notes

The aroma is smoky and rocky. The palate shows mango and is nutty. It is very tangy and has a very dry finish. It is a decent quaffer and worth the price.

The Typo Spectacular

2004 Vereinigte Hospitien Scharzhofberger
Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Jen’s Notes

The last two lines of the label are the only things I could type with complete confidence in my spelling. Happily, I have quite a bit of confidence in this Riesling, a surprisingly good wine for the price. It is very pleasant, with juicy tangerine and pear flavors. A dash of sweet spices and stone underneath add dimension.

Weeknight Bubbles

NV Aimery Grande Cuvee 1531
Cremant de Limoux, Brut
Jen’s Notes

This is what I'd call a casual bubbly. Perfect for a weeknight, pretty food-friendly, and easy to drink. It is clean, citrusy, and a little leesy. Steely finish. Pretty good value, but perhaps not to everyone's taste. If you like 'em fruitier, pick up a Chateau Ste. Michelle (Washington State) instead, for about the same price.

Versatile Bordeaux

1999 Chateau Lalande-Borie, St. Julien
Jen’s Notes

This Bordeaux showed fruity, spicy aromas, like a berry crisp. On the palate, it was moderately focused, with tart berry fruit. Clean finish with good astringency. Great with food or on its own. Excellent value.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Las Vegas, Part I

Shane’s and Jen’s notes

We took a rather unusual trip to Las Vegas: we did just about everything but gamble. We stayed in a spa room at the Excalibur and took in all the sights and attractions the casinos have to offer. We went to the Mirage and saw the white tigers and the dolphin habitat. We even got to see a baby dolphin at the birthing pool. We also saw the shark reef at Mandalay Bay which had many impressive species of fish and mammals including translucent jellyfish, gigantic turtles, a petting pool filled with rays and a shark whose teeth are visible even when its mouth is closed. We rode the roller coaster at New York, New York (it is scarier than it looks) and went on the motion simulator ride at the Luxor. We saw Jubilee at Ballys and it was the best Vegas show we have seen. Naturally, the bountiful nudity had no influence on Shane’s opinion.

Our main focus on this trip was to find the best wine on the strip. We did our due diligence and chose four wine bars to visit. Three out of the four were excellent. The really great thing about a trip to Vegas is that it inspires you to indulge. We bought many wines that we would not have ordinarily bought and fortunately, were richly rewarded. We drank several epic wines, several that were close to epic as well as a variety of really good wines. We did not take any tasting notes so this is more a review of the wine bars rather than of the wine we tasted.

Napoleon in Paris Las Vegas

The Paris Las Vegas website mentions that Napoleon offers over 100 Champagnes. We sat down and asked for a wine list and were stunned to see less than a dozen Champagnes on the list. Where were the hundred Champagnes? Maybe they rotate the selection and have a hundred total but only offer a few at a time. Regardless, the magical 100 appears to be a blatant deception. To make matters worse, the atmosphere was horrible. Some guy was blasting away on a piano playing bad pop tunes and making lame jokes. People in the bar were singing along and shouting cheers. Even tucked away in a corner, it was too loud and boisterous to enjoy a drink. This is not the right atmosphere for a French-themed Champagne bar. The French would be appalled. We walked out without ordering anything.

Petrossian in Bellagio

We really enjoyed this bar. Like everything in the Bellagio, this bar exudes class. The wine list is very nice and as the name implies, they serve caviar. We had a bottle of Rotari Brut from Italy and a plate of smoked salmon topped with caviar. Everything from the wine to the food to the service was exceptional. It was one of the highlights of the trip. Our only disappointment came when we tried to go there again on Friday. Half of the tables were empty but had “reserved” signs on them, and we were unable to find a seat. I suppose they were reserved for hotel guests but should a bar really be reserving tables?

The Wine Cellar at the Rio

This was an excellent wine bar/shop. The wine shop had a nice selection and included a wine museum with a Chateau d’Yquem vertical stretching back over 150 years. There was also a bottle of 1800 Madeira from Thomas Jefferson’s collection with a handwritten label. The wine bar offers over 20 flights and many of them are very interesting (and very expensive). That said, you seldom see flights of Bordeaux, which is what Jen had, or such big names as Krug Champagne or Silver Oak by the glass, so the price of admission on these offerings may well be worth it. Jen had the Bordeaux flight, which included a 1990 Pauillac, and two Margaux that were fun to compare. Shane’s flight featured 10, 20 and 30 year tawny Ports by Dow, his favorite house. Shane found it very interesting tasting these side by side and his enjoyment increased with each 10 year increment. The 30 year had flavors bordering on ephemeral, and he wishes that a 40 year had been included. After our flights, we retired to an over stuffed couch with glasses of wines and a cheese plate featuring two artisanal cheddar cheeses and a manchego. Jen had the Twenty Rows Merlot, which she remembered fondly and still loved. Shane had the Foley Pinot, which was not quite the style for his palate. The cheese plate, however, was great all-around. Our only complaint is that despite being far below the casino floor, the rather loud music from the casino wafts in and is a little annoying.

55 Degrees at the Mandalay Bay

55 Degrees is the clear winner – this is the best wine bar on the strip. The selection in the wine shop is outstanding. They even have a Cheval Blanc and a Richebourg. We drank at the wine bar on three separate occasions and had great wine and great service each time. The décor is very modern and they do play music a bit loudly but it all seems to go together. The wine staff is very knowledgeable, and we really enjoyed talking to them. Some of the memorable wines that we drank included a Pedro Ximenez Sherry, a German Eiswein and a Vouvray. One night, the staff even let us have a sip of a 1998 Rochioli East Block Pinot. It was stunning (Shane did think it was slightly past its peak while Jen thought it was at its peak). On our last night in Vegas, we dropped by for a half bottle of Champagne. We told them we were leaving, and they invited us to join them for a glass of 1998 Veuve Clicquot. How could we refuse? It was magnificent. It had great acidity and the very intense citrus flavors. We both prefer it to the 1996 Dom Perignon which is quite a bit more expensive. On our next trip to Vegas, we may be staying at Mandalay Bay so that we can be closer to 55 Degrees.

A Magical Donnhoff

We bought a bottle of 2005 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett (from 55 Degrees) to drink while enjoying the spa tub in our room. Shane has delayed buying a Donnhoff because they are expensive when compared to other German Rieslings. For this reason, he was really hoping that he would not like it. He was very disappointed as we both agreed that the Donnhoff was stunning. It had great acidity and spectacular, bright citrus flavors. We have had Rieslings as flavorful but none that have combined the intensity of flavors with crisp acidity. The finish was very long. It is definitely one of the best German Rieslings we have tasted.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Our First (and Last) Didier Dagueneau

2005 Didier Dagueneau Fume de Pouilly
Shane’s Notes

I violated two of my personal rules when I bought this wine – 1) never spend more than $30 for a Sauvignon Blanc and 2) quit buying Pouilly Fume (I much prefer the grassy/green bean style of the Marlborough SB’s). However, I keep hearing that Didier is the master of SB, so I decided to try one of his wines.

Jen agreed with me on this one – it’s good but not worth the price. It is very smooth and very well made. It is definitely the best Pouilly Fume we’ve tasted. The palate is concentrated and steely. The primary flavors are lemon and lime. I would have really enjoyed it if it had been half the price. I think I’ll stick to Cloudy Bay.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Another T-Vine

T-Vine Zinfandel, Napa
Shane’s Notes

T-Vine is one of those rarities - a Napa winery that is under the radar. This was an excellent if slightly idiosyncratic zin. The palate showed black cherry, raspberry, butter and had a spicy finish. It was very smooth and very enjoyable, but some might the fruit flavors a bit too sweet.

A Lousy Wine Weekend

2004 Post Scriptum, De Chryseia, Douro
2001 Knebel Winninger Bruckstuck, Auslese, Mosel
2005 Roar, Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot
Shane’s Notes

We drink so many good wines that it is simply amazing that we encountered three bad ones in a row. On Friday, we drank (or tried to drink) the Post Scriptum. This is simply the worst Douro table wine that we have had the displeasure of drinking. It was massively oaked and the oak drowned out all the other flavors. We decanted but it didn’t help. I was literally getting sick to my stomach drinking it. We poured it down the sink.

On Saturday, we opened the Knebel. I could have pulled the cork out with my fingers. For some reason, the cork did not form a tight seal and the wine was completely oxidized. Obviously, these things happen and we certainly don’t blame Knebel (one of our favorite wineries), but it was disappointing.

On Sunday, we tried to change our luck with the Roar. It wasn’t a disaster but it certainly was not good enough to justify the hefty price tag. It showed some black currant and herbs but the palate was rather simple and there certainly wasn’t anything distinctive about it. A pinot at this price point should be much more complex and interesting. We both agree that the 2005 A to Z Oregon Pinot for $16.99 is better.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Where's my Beeswax?

2002 Fouquet Bonnet, Vouvray
Shane’s Notes

I enjoy Vouvrays and love the beeswax flavor in some of them. This one completely lacked the beeswax flavor which of course cannot be classified as a flaw, but nonetheless, I was disappointed. The palate showed fresh melon and was almost too sweet up front. I usually love sweet wines but to my palate, Chenin Blanc shows better in a drier style. This was drinkable but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

Terrific Tavel

Chateau de Segries, 2006 Rosé, Tavel
Shane’s Notes

Jen and I love Rosé’s. We drink both Pinot and Grenache based Rosé’s and find the Grenache Rosé’s more flavorful. This particular Rosé is a powerful grenache based Rosé. It is easily the best Rosé we have tasted. It is mouthfilling, tangy and concentrated. In fact, I couldn’t believe how flavorful it is. The palate shows watermelon, blood orange and herbs. The finish is quite dry. This is a must buy.

Our Anniversary

2005 Rasteau Cave de Rasteau, Dame Victoria
2000 Barolo, Gromis, Gaja
$146 at the restaurant, $85 retail
Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenhur Kabinett, 2005
Shane’s and Jen's Notes

Our one year wedding anniversary was on June 14, 2007. We had dinner at San Remo’s in San Carlos to celebrate the actual day, and then we had the big celebration on Saturday – dinner at Harris’ in San Francisco.

We love going to San Remos because it reminds us of our honeymoon. San Remos serves authentic Italian pizza and if you suspend disbelief for just a moment, you can imagine that you are in Florence. Alas, the wine list leaves much to be desired (a reminder that you aren’t in Italy), so we always bring our own bottle. We brought the Dame Victoria and it was outstanding. I detected violet, cherries and dirt on the palate while Jen detected currant, fennel and orange peel. Either way, we both agree that it was supple, mildly complex and just a bit hot on the finish. It is a great QPR wine.

Part Two of our celebration took place at Harris’. This was the huge blowout and we indulged. We began the evening with a couple of gin martinis that were outstanding. They were made with Duckhorn Vermouth and Bombay Sapphire Gin. They were the smoothest martinis we have tasted, and we are guessing that the Duckhorn Vermouth makes the difference.

We were determined to have an “epic” wine with dinner and our first choice was a Pride Cab. Unfortunately, they were out of the Pride that we could afford so we went with a Gaja. The “wine purchaser” (his term, not ours) came out to discuss the wine with us. He brought us a decanter and replaced the generic stems with Riedels. He mentioned that he loved this particular wine and we, of course, mentioned that it was our anniversary and told him how we had discovered Italian wines on our honeymoon.

We let the wine decant for around a half an hour before tasting it. We're not going to tell you it was the best wine we’ve tasted -- for our palates, we like a bit less oak. But it was perfectly made and went wonderfully with our magnificent steaks.

As mentioned, this wine was definitely oaked, though with a pretty gentle and purposeful hand. We detected orange peel and cigar box flavors. The wine was very concentrated, and totally seamless. The spice notes were particularly lovely. As the wine opened, its perfume really blossomed.

We finished the meal with glasses of Tokaji and Inniskillin Eiswein (Riesling). Shane loved the Tokaji and Jen loved the Eiswein, albeit not as much as a good German Eiswein.

We drove home and opened the Dr. Loosen. Dr. Loosen is quickly becoming one of our favorite wineries. This kabinett was amazing. The palate showed a laser beam of tangy lemon with citrus flavors and maybe a bit of minerality on the finish. It put the exclamation point on our celebration.

Napa SB

2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Provenance
Napa Valley
Jen’s Notes

In our estimation, Provenance serves up some solid wines. Though usually not wow-me distinctive, they are consistently well made, tasty, and lovely to drink. Their SB is actually really interesting - a little of that herbal/grassy character we usually see from Marlborough, NZ offerings, but without the funk. We love the funk, but if you don't, this should be at the top of your list. Citrus flavors (lemon, key lime, tangerine) and a dash of something tropical (guava?) round out the palate. It is clean, focused and thoroughly enjoyable. Going out on a limb: probably Napa's best SB.

The Monkey is Back

2005 Rose, Monkey Bay, New Zealand
Jen’s Notes

The Monkey is at it again, this time with a lighthearted rose that goes well with an evening on the couch watching Law & Order reruns (Not that we ever do that). Interesting aromas of smoke and graphite give way to juicy raspberries on the palate. A hint of tartness and a dry finish add a refreshing note to this very pleasant wine.

Trippy Trimbach

2002 Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris, Alsace
Shane’s Notes

We thought we’d give an Alsatian version of Pinot Grigio a try. This wine was really surprising – it tastes so different from an Italian Pinot Grigio that I would not have guessed it was the same varietal. It was much richer and showed flavors of kiwi and tart citrus. The finish was funky and quick. It was very interesting and we both liked it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Classic Carneros Red

2003 Hyde de Villaine “HdV” Napa Red, Carneros
Shane’s Notes

Because of the high prices, we rarely drink the famous reds from Napa. This one was a gift from my brother, and we didn’t know anything about it. We were immediately skeptical because of the region – Carneros isn’t exactly famous for its reds. We decanted and tried it after fifteen minutes. It was very tight so we set the decanter aside and waited another 45 minutes. It opened up beautifully. It had a rich, smooth texture and showed dark fruit, mint and a plethora of spices on the finish. This is a magnificently crafted wine, and easily stands up to any of Napa’s epic reds. We were amazed to discover that it is 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet. We both would have sworn that it was primarily Cabernet. I did some research on the winery and discovered that it is a joint venture between the Hyde family of Napa and the de Villaine family of Romanee Conti fame. With that pedigree and with the quality of this wine, it is surprising that this winery isn’t more famous.