Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another Winner from Knebel

2003 Knebel Winninger Bruckstuck Halbtrocken, QBA
Shane’s Notes

This half dry Riesling was very flavorful and we really enjoyed it. The palate showed tangy citrus flavors of sour lemon and lime with a hint of tangerine. It was very, very minerally and steely throughout the palate with a bone dry finish. I had long forgotten the price we paid for this one, and we were stunned to discover that it was a six dollar wine. It is rare to encounter complexity and minerality in such an inexpensive wine.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not a Great Wine Weekend

Jen’s Notes

2004 Condrieu "La Solarie"
Domaine Gilles Barge

A tentative Condrieu: it lacked both complexity and focus. There was a slight pineapple flavor, and off-putting kerosene taste at the back of the palate. Disappointing. We aren't sure if the wine is past it (Condrieus being quite short-lived as a general rule), or if it is just not a good wine.

NV Champagne
Diebolt-Vallois, Brut Tradition

Some nice flavors here, but with a high acidity that seemed slightly out of balance to me. The palate was pretty focused, including peach, a hint of fennel and mineral underneath. Nice, but would have been truly lovely with a bit less pucker-power.

Rare and Unusual German Wines

German Wine Society
Shane’s Notes

This tasting featured rare and unusual wines from members’ private cellars. Jen and I don’t have a cellar so this was an interesting tasting for us. We primarily drink young wines while a majority of the wines in this tasting were from 1976. We did taste a few spectacular wines but overall, this tasting did not change our preference for younger wines.

We did not take any notes, but here are some of our general impressions. The 1972’s were well past their prime but most of the 1976’s were still tasting well. They had good acidity which proves the aging potential of a good German Riesling. However, with over 30 years of bottle age, the fruit flavors had faded and were replaced by subtle, floral flavors. We prefer the fruit flavors.

The tasting featured several Scheurebe, and we are continually surprised by how much we enjoy this varietal. We have never bought a bottle of Scheurebe but we just might on our next wine buying trip. They age as well as Rieslings if not better.

The following two wines were absolutely amazing:

Egon Muller, 1976 Scharzhofberger Auslese – This was the only Riesling we tasted that still retained some of the fruitiness of a younger wine. Underneath a honeyed overlay, elegant palate showed an amazing array of tropical fruit flavors with hints of citrus underneath. The flavors were seamlessly integrated and the finish went on for minutes. It is one of the best Rieslings we have ever had the pleasure to drink.

Louis Guntrum, 1976 Niersteiner Paterberg Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese – The color of this wine was as dark as a Pedro Ximenez sherry. Even the taste was similar to a PX albeit without the raisiny overtones. The dense, rich palate was dominated by a brown sugar, caramelly flavor. As with the Egon Muller, the finish lasted for several minutes. It was our first TBA and we were very impressed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Serviceable PX

1927 Alvear “Solera 1927” Montilla Moriles Pedro Ximenez (375 ml)
Shane’s Notes

This wasn’t on a level with our favorite PX (Cardenal Cisneros) but it was a very solid wine. It was rich and creamy and the palate showed dried cherry, raisins and figs with some vanilla bean. It is a very serviceable dessert wine, and the half bottle is more than enough for two people.

A Good Giggy

2005 Chateau St. Cosme Gigondas
Shane’s Notes

While not a top tier Giggy, this is still a very good wine. It is a monster – it needs to be decanted for one to two hours. The palate shows a cherry/raspberry liqueur flavor accented with spices (Rosemary) and some funk. It is medium bodied and tasty, but I prefer Rhones that are fruitier.

A Fantastic Wine Weekend

Last weekend, we had two very good wines last weekend and one outstanding wine (the Chablis). Here are our notes.

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine, Tavel
Shane’s Notes

This was our second Tavel Rose and while quite different from the first, it was still excellent. It has a ruby red color and the palate showed floral notes with a slight cranberry flavor. The palate was also salty, herbal, tangy and fairly juicy. As it opened, it also developed a strawberry flavor. The finish was stony and very dry. This was a very unusual rose and it was a delight to drink. Tavel Rose’s will always have a place in our wine unit.

Schloss Schonborn
2005 Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg, Rheingau, Kabinett
Shane’s Notes

When we first tasted this one, we were disappointed. The palate was disjointed and discordant. However, as it opened, the flavors blended harmoniously and we really enjoyed it. Obviously, we should have decanted this one but it just didn’t occur to us. We simply aren’t in the habit of decanting whites (We learned our lesson and decanted the Chablis we drank the next night). The palate on this Riesling was rich with flavors of apricot, pear and tangerine. The finish was very minerally. This is an excellent QPR wine.

2004 Chablis
William Fevre "Fourchaume," Premier Cru
Jen’s Notes

At first sip, the same thought occurred to both of us: "infanticide." The wine did open up quite a bit (after an hour in the decanter), and we enjoyed it a great deal. A few years bottle age probably wouldn't hurt, though. The palate was the most intensely concentrated white I have ever tasted. If you had snuck up behind this wine when it was working hard at something, it would have screamed and jumped out of its chair; that's the level of focus we're talking about. But I digress. As the wine nearly sizzled on our palates, we detected tangy citrus and guava flavors, and much later, juicy pineapple. Underneath it all, like a particularly well-made brassiere, was a stony, granite foundation that is the hallmark of fine Chablis. In Shane's words, the best expression of Chardonnay.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Rieslings from Nahe

German Wine Society
Shane’s Notes

Once again, we headed to Fort Mason for another German Wine Society tasting. This particular tasting featured wines from the Nahe. Most of the German Rieslings that we drink are from Mosel so were interested in trying these wines. If we can even make such a sweeping generalization, we think the wines from Mosel are a little richer and fatter than the Nahe wines, and the Nahe wines might need a little age before drinking. However, we really enjoyed the Nahe wines and would not hesitate to buy Donnhoff and Emrich-Schonleber in the future.

2003 Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen Kabinett halbtrocken (Emrich-Schonleber)

This was my first halbtrocken Riesling and it was not a pleasant experience. The palate was floral with lemon curd and the finish was dry and steely. I prefer sweeter Rieslings.

2003 Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen Kabinett (Emrich-Schonleber)

Here’s the same Riesling as the previous one without the halbtrocken. I loved this one. The palate showed lemon and pear with nice concentration.

2006 Riesling Kabinett (Schafer-Frohlich)

The palate was lighter with this Riesling. The palate showed floral notes and rosewater.

2005 Bockenauer Kabinett (Schafer-Frohlich)

One of our least favorite wines of the tasting. The palate was sweet and that was about it. The finish was tangy.

2005 Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett (Donnhoff)

Interestingly, we had a bottle of this on our Vegas trip and I liked it much better in Vegas. I think it might have been served just a little too warm. The palate showed tangerine and was succulent with a long finish.

2006 Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen Kabinett (Emrich-Schonleber)

We both found this one to be almost completely closed down. We think it will be many years before this is ready to drink.

2005 Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen Kabinett (Emrich-Schonleber)

See above.

1999 Oberhauser Brucke Auslese (Donnhoff)

Jen wrote down that this was an epic wine. The palate was honeyed and showed peach and pear with a hint of citrus. The finish was very long.

2004 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Spatlese (Donnhoff)

The palate is floral but a little closed. This one needs more age.

2000 Oberhauser Brucke Spatlese Goldkapsel (Donnhoff)

This one really surprised us. We thought this might be the best of the tasting and it was nearly the opposite. The palate was slightly herbal and seemed faded. It tasted like a wine that was past its peak.

2005 Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Spatlese (Donnhoff)

We circled this as one of the best of the tasting. The palate showed fresh florals (Lilly of the Valley). It was focused and zesty.

Cloudy Bay, say it isn't so...

2006 Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc
Shane’s Notes

The 2004 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best wines I have ever tasted at any price. I couldn’t wait to try the 2006, but alas, it is a mere echo of the 2004. The 2004 showed a wonderful aroma of rotting hay and the palate had intense citrussy and grassy flavors – it was funky enough to surprise a burgundianophile. The 2006 is more like a pleasant Savennieres, and while citrussy, it is missing most of the funkiness and rotting hay. The 2006 Kim Crawford S.B. was much better.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Vivacious Volnay

2004 Volnay-Santenots
Thierry et Pascal Matrot
Premier Cru
Jen's Notes

This is an absolutely gorgeous Burgundy. Even the first scents are packed with berry cobbler aromas. The palate is densely fruity as well, but smoky and tart (blood orange, perhaps?) accents give an elegance and complexity that you might not see in similarly fruity Pinots from the new world. The finish is nearly endless. When we went back to K&L to buy more, I couldn't believe it was only $37.99.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jost a Fantastic Riesling

2004 Toni Jost Bacharacher Hahn Auslese
Shane’s Notes

This is a magnificent wine. The entry is sweet and the palate expands to reveal flavors of peach, pear, honeysuckle and floral notes with a hint of orange on the finish. A stony flavor quickly follows the concentrated mid palate but it does not signal the finish. After the stony flavor, the mid palate flavors echo for at least a minute. It is sweet, complex, has great balancing acidity and a long finish – it is a fantastic German Riesling.

Montgras Quatro

2005 Montgras Quatro, Reserva, Chile
Shane’s Notes

We had not drunk a Chilean wine in quite a while, so I picked up this Bordeaux-style Chilean wine from the Colchauga Valley. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t very good. The texture is very smooth but the palate lacks flavor. If you strain, you might be able to detect a tiny blueberry/cherry flavor but that’s about it (other than the offensive, oaky finish). Skip this one.

Montgras Quatro

2005 Montgras Quatro, Reserva, Chile
Shane’s Notes

We had not drunk a Chilean wine in quite a while, so I picked up this Bordeaux-style Chilean wine from the Colchauga Valley. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t very good. The texture is very smooth but the palate lacks flavor. If you strain, you might be able to detect a tiny blueberry/cherry flavor but that’s about it (other than the offensive, oaky finish). Skip this one.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Not Quite Fit for a Prince

1997 Prince Poniatowski, Clos de l’Avenir, Vouvray
$25 (to the best of my recollection)
Shane’s Notes

The palate up front is slightly honeyed and the texture is very rich. The mid palate shows melon with tangerine and a hint of orange on the finish. The finish is tangy and short. The level of sweetness is not indicated on the label but this has to be a demi sec. Normally, I love sweet wines but I think Vouvray tastes better dry. This is a very tasty wine but it is not quite magical.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Primitivo and Zinfandel

2005 A-Mano Primitivo
2005 4 Vines Zinfandel
Shane’s Notes

I’ve read that Primitivo and Zinfandel are closely related, and I’ve read that they are genetically the same. I’m not sure which is correct but they certainly have similar palates. We are not huge Zinfandel fans but we do drink them occasionally, and we thought it would be interesting to try the Italian version.

We took the Primitivo to Armadillo Willys to have with our barbecue ribs and chicken. It was a great choice as this Primitivo is an excellent barbecue wine. The palate entry is spicy and there is good mid palate concentration. It showed tangy, chewy fruit and there was a nice astringency on the finish. It reminded me of a Dry Creek Zinfandel. It’s a steal for $8.00.

We were very disappointed with the Four Vines Zin. Four Vines crafts an excellent unoaked Chardonnay, but this Zin is definitely overoaked. There is the barest hint of fruit flavor up front which quickly gets buried in a flood of harsh oak. The texture is so heavy that I difficulty drinking it. Peachy Canyon produces a much better zin at the same price level.

Trip to Monterey and Ben Lomond

Shane's Notes

We originally planned this trip around dinner at the Tyrolean Inn in Ben Lomond. I didn’t want to make the round trip in one day so we decided to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and spend the night at the Fairview Manor in Ben Lomond. Unfortunately, after we had already booked the Manor, we discovered that the Tyrolean Inn was having an Oktoberfest celebration that weekend and would not be serving from their regular menu. After much exhaustive research, we replaced the German restaurant with an Italian one and the trip was under way.

I had not been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in over twenty years and Jen had never been. We enjoyed the aquarium but with reservations. We really enjoyed seeing a Great White Shark (on temporary exhibit), the jelly fish exhibits and the sea otter exhibits. However, I quickly tired of the educational exhibits and the liberal palaver in the form of exhortations to save the sea and the environment. I want to be entertained on our Saturday trip to the aquarium, not educated. It was also much too crowded.

We had some spare time before heading up to Ben Lomond, so we naturally hunted for a wine bar. The first one we found was simply the Monterey tourist wine bar on cannery row. Jen had the reserve tasting and I had the regular tasting. The only stand out wine was the San Simeon 2004 Pinot Noir. It had a nice, light berry flavor with a good mid palate expansion. It reminded me of a dialed down Santa Lucia Pinot which is definitely a good thing. If I could find more inexpensive Pinots in this style (as opposed to the ever popular Syranots), I would be a bigger fan of American Pinots.

I was really disappointed in the Syrah and Riesling from Paraiso. I remember liking their Pinot, but these offerings were insipid, especially the Riesling. In fact, I could have mistaken their Riesling for a White Zinfandel. When I expressed my displeasure, our server agreed with me and said that she would give me a better Riesling. I almost laughed when she set a Wente on the table but I gave it a fair tasting. It was at least as bad as the Paraiso. White Riezins are even worse than Syranots.

We hopped in the car and were heading to Ben Lomond when we spotted a few more wine bars on the drive out of Cannery Row. We parked and decided to try the Silver Mountain Winery tasting room. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of all the wines we tasted. Not one of the wines was overoaked (a minor miracle) and all showed good varietal flavor. We even bought a few bottles (one is reviewed at the end of this posting and the other will be reviewed in the near future).

We drove to Ben Lomond and checked into the Fairview Manor. It was nestled in the Redwoods and our hosts were very personable. We took a short walk through the Redwoods down to the local creek. We then headed back to the Manor and sipped some wine on the porch before taking full advantage of the claw foot tub. Then, it was off to La Bruschetta.

We had read many wonderful reviews about La Bruschetta but were naturally skeptical of any Italian restaurant in Ben Lomond. We were thrilled with the wine list. It was only two pages long but it contained a remarkable variety of inexpensive Italian wines. We could have easily ordered any of the Italian wines on the list. Also, many of the wines were available by the glass. I gave the list to Jen, and she naturally gravitated to the most expensive Italian wine on the list: the 2003 Stefano Farino Barolo ($78). The wine was served a little too cold, and the palate was very closed. We let the wine open while we ate our salads.

I’m not a huge salad fan and will usually forego a salad at a restaurant. However, I was intrigued by their Spinach salad which came topped with a pancetta filled red wine vinegar sauce. It was served warm and was thick and rich. It is the best salad I’ve ever tasted albeit it was so rich that I had difficulty even finishing a half portion.

For the main course, I ordered a Filet Mignon topped with a pancetta red wine marinade (yes, I like pancetta) and Jen ordered the lamb. The food was simply stunning. Jen declared that her lamb was the best she had ever tasted, and my Filet was one of the most tender and flavorful filets that I’ve ever tasted. It is simply amazing that a restaurant of this quality is in a tiny town like Ben Lomond.

As the wine opened, it revealed a tangy, berry flavor with a very nice mid palate expansion. The finish was medium length and it was a very enjoyable Nebbiolo. It would have been fantastic if the palate had been more complex. These days, I’m just thrilled when a red isn’t over oaked.

We were both much too full for dessert (although Jen did order some Canolli to go), so we asked if they had any Vin Santo. They did not have any but the waitress said they did offer a passito wine by the glass. She brought us the wine list again and the passito was a Sicilian white. We have only had red passitos and I didn’t even realize that white passitos existed. We both had a glass and it was excellent. The palate showed apricot with some nuttiness on the finish. The texture was light and not unctuous like we expected. It put an exclamation point on a great dinner.

We headed home the next morning and opened up a bottle of the 2004 Silver Mountain Pinot, Santa Cruz Mountains, Miller Hill Vineyard later that night. Jen had tasted this one and described it as “Burgundian” which filled me with trepidation. After a few sips, I agreed with Jen. You would never mistake this for a Burgundy, but it certainly had some of the Burgundian funkiness that I don’t like and Jen loves. The palate showed rosewater, smoke and a hint of strawberry. The palate entry was slightly fruity and then the funkiness kicked in mid palate to finish. It had good concentration with a medium length finish. Although I’m not a fan of the style, I recognize that this is a well-made wine and Jen, as a fan of the style, absolutely loved it.