Monday, December 31, 2007

A Blind Test

2004 Guigal, Cotes du Rhone
Jen’s and Shane’s Notes

Shane – I pulled this one out of the wine fridge and served it to Jen blind. She wrote her tasting notes and tried to guess the region. Here are her notes:

Earthy aromas. Funky underneath palate. Tangy red fruit – plum? Herbal notes. Medium body. Tannins are pronounced but pleasant. Finish is astringent.

Guess - Bordeaux in the $15 – $20 range.

Shane - I was surprised that she guessed Bordeaux so I tried it – it did indeed taste a bit like a Bordeaux. It was very harsh. After about an hour in the decanter, it really opened up and tasted much more like a juicy Rhone. We really enjoyed it. It is amazing how much the wine changed with the decanting time. If Jen’s blind taste had started after the decanting time, I bet she would guessed Rhone.

This is our last post of the year. We will be ushering in the new year with a 1996 Krug. Notes to follow…

The Return of the Porcupine

2006 Orvieto, Sergio Mottura
Shane’s Notes

While Jen and I were browsing through Vin 100 in Los Altos, we noticed a very familiar porcupine on the label of this bottle. We drank a Sergio Mottura Moffato while on our honeymoon in Italy and it was simply the best wine of our trip. So, we were obligated to try this Orvieto. This is an unusual wine and we both enjoyed it. It is a blend of Procanico, Verdello and Grechetto. The palate is citrussy and the dominant flavor is probably grapefruit. The palate also shows a dash of herbs with nice minerality on the finish. We would definitely buy another bottle.

Dial Down the Oak!!!!

2003 Vinha da Palestra, Douro
Around $12
2005 Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon (Concho y Toro)
Shane’s Notes

We tried the Vinha da Palestra and were extremely disappointed. All we could taste was vanilla. We let it sit for a half an hour and it didn’t help. We poured it down the sink and opened the Marques Cabernet. The Cab was also horribly overoaked. It was drinkable but just barely. There was a hint of red fruit under the oak and the finish was spicy. We prefer Concha y Toro’s much cheaper Xplorador.

Christmas Dinner

Shane’s Notes

Jen and I hosted Christmas dinner this year. We served a variety of wines to please everyone’s palate. Although we hadn’t planned it this way, Italian wines dominated the evening. We started before dinner with a Roederer Brut (California) for those who prefer dry wine and two bottles of 2006 Saraccao Moscato d’Asti for those who prefer sweet wine. The Mosacato was a bit sweet for my mom but my dad absolutely loved it. Here is Jen’s 12/6/07 review of the Moscato. “The palate showed very bright flavors of papaya and lemon curd. It was honeyed, minerally and frizzy. Jen said the finish showed “lingering fruity succulence.” It was simple but absolutely delicious.”

While enjoying the opening round of wines, we opened presents. Jen and I received a Riedel magnum decanter, assorted bubble bars from Lush, a framed movie poster from Gone with the Wind, a DVD of 2001 A Space Odyssey (perhaps the greatest movie ever made) and Payne and Diel’s book on German wines. For our special presents to each other, Jen bought an Hermes tie for me (knowing that I would never buy one for myself) and I bought a set of Akoye pearl earrings with a matching necklace for her.

My brother announced that the Roederer was too dry and the Moscato was too sweet. So, I rummaged through our collection searching for something to satisfy him. Jen suggested the Ermacora Pinot Grigio. I reluctantly agreed. “Reluctantly” because I love it and we haven’t had a chance to blog it yet. However, your guests have to come first. I remember pouring some for my brother and then the bottle was empty. I’m not sure where it all went.

Soon, all the bottles went the way of the Ermacora. I had a Prosecco in the fridge that also meant for me and Jen but it too was sacrificed to our Christmas guests. My brother really enjoyed it and kept saying that it was sweet up front with a dry finish. What he really meant to say was that it was fruity yet dry.

Jen and I opened the 2004 Agostino Pavia Barbera d’Asti, Moliss ($15.99) for ourselves
for dinner. I decanted for about a half an hour and was glad I did. It was an excellent Barbera and a great food wine. The palate showed red and black fruit up front sweetened by oak. This was a great example of using oak to amplify rather than bury the flavors.

Dessert included a rich, chocolate cake, so I broke out a Dow 2000 LBV ($19.99). I looked back through our notes and, to my amazement, we have never blogged this wine. I’m sure we’ve had at least a half dozen bottles of it. We absolutely love Dow’s slightly drier style with a subtle, complex, elegant palate. We will blog it the next time we drink it.

After everyone left, Jen I finished off the Dow. It was a great way to cap off a really magnificent Christmas.

Mark West, Young Man!

2006 Mark West Pinot Noir, California
Jen’s Notes

A bit simple, but pleasant. Fruitier/heavier than I ordinarily like, but still with a classic Pinot tang on the finish. Flavors included something reminiscent of my homemade cranberry relish (featuring marsala, rosemary and cherries, in addition to the obvious), with hints of orange and smoke. A good value for those who want to change up their house reds.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Yes, Donnhoff is Worth the Premium

2005 Donnhoff Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg
Spatlese, Riesling, Nahe
Shane’s Notes

I’m always hoping that I won’t like Donnhoffs because they are quite expensive compared to other German Rieslings. $35.50 for a high quality Pinot or Bordeaux would be a bargain, but there are many great German Rieslings on the market south of $30. However, this Donnhoff does stand out from the crowd. It is simply magnificent. The rich palate is slightly honeyed and overflowing with flavors of papaya, orange and lemon curd. The finish is minerally, slightly metallic and long. The structure is seamless.

Vino 100

Chateau Beauchene, Grand Reserve 2003 CDR
Around $15
Shane’s Notes

Jen and I were doing some Christmas shopping in Los Altos over the weekend. Jen loves her Radko Christmas ornaments and we found some great ones. We also found a new wine shop called Vino 100. The idea behind this wine store is that they will always have 100 wines in stock that cost less than $25. They have an excellent selection and most wine regions from around the world are well represented. The wines are rated on two scales – light to full body and fruity to dry. The “fruity to dry” scale doesn’t make any sense to me as sweet is the opposite of dry. After all, many wines are dry and fruity. Anyway, we bought several bottles (although our wine fridge is practically full) including this Cotes du Rhone.

This was a very good Rhone for the price. It showed sweet, spicy black raspberry with hints of blood orange and smoke. In the under $25 range, it is hard to beat the two R’s – Rhones and Rieslings (German).

Aged CDR

2001 Chateau Saint-Roch Cotes du Rhone
Around $15
Shane’s Notes

This is one of those wines that got buried in the wine fridge. We think we bought it at a fancy wine shop in Los Gatos, but we aren’t certain. Anyway, this was an excellent Cotes du Rhone and it aged very well. It may have been a year or two past it’s prime but it was still delicious. The palate showed black cherry, smoked meat, tobacco and pepper. It was rich and smooth with a velvety texture.

Inexpensive Sauternes

2003 Chateau La Clotte-Cazalis, Sauternes
14.99/375 ml
Shane’s Notes

We didn’t expect much from this one because of the price, but we were pleasantly surprised. The palate is like a honeyed apple smothered in bitter, burnt caramel. It is delicious with a touch of complexity. What more could you ask for from an inexpensive Sauternes? We went back and bought another bottle.


2005 Ermacora Schioppettino
Shane’s Notes

We had never heard of this varietal so we had to buy this bottle. The palate shows black raspberry with pepper. The finish is very dry and very short. This Schioppettino barely has the tannins to hold it together and is more of a “slurper” than a serious wine. That said, it is a fun change of pace. Think of it as a lighter bodied Beaujolais.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Let This Convict Escape

Paradise Ridge, 2005 Rockpile Zinfandel “The Convict”
Shane’s Notes

This wine is well-crafted with good fruit, but it just has too much oak for my palate. The light raspberry flavor is buried under vanilla. Jen liked it better than I did but neither of us would buy it again.

A Decent Rhone

Domaine Soumade Rasteau
Shane’s Notes

This was nice but a bit light for my palate. It is very perfumey and herbal as opposed to fruity. It is a bit sweet up front with a hint of roughness on the palate. I don’t think I’d buy this one again.

A Few More Rieslings

$22, 2005 Emrich Schonleber Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen Nahe Kabinett
$17, 2004 Grans Fassian Piesporter Kabinett
Shane’s Notes

We really enjoyed both of these wines. Neither was stellar but both were certainly worth the price of admission.

Schonleber – The palate showed gooseberry and kiwi and was steely from start to finish. It’s a bit simple but nice. I suspect this one might need some bottle age to really shine.

Grans Fassian – The palate was very minerally in the beginning but the minerality softened after about twenty minutes. The primary fruit flavor was a bright burst of apricot with kiwi undertones. Another fine effort from Grans Fassian.

Let this Sleeping Dog Lie

2005 Sleeping Dogs Pinot, Central Otago, New Zealand
Shane’s Notes

This is a decent effort and almost worth the money. The palate is a perfumey and shows cranberry. It is very reminiscent of a Santa Rita pinot. The palate is light (which we prefer) enough but it lacks complexity. We both prefer Oregon’s A-Z pinot at about half the price.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

An Amazing Discovery

2006 Moscato d’Asti by Ceretto
$13.99, 2006 Saracco Moscato d’Asti
Shane’s Notes

Jen and I have tried a wide variety of wines so it always surprises me when we discover a new type of wine that is absolute amazing. I had been perusing my Italian wine book by Kramer and came upon the chapter on Moscato d’Asti. I was intrigued so I bought a bottle at K&L. We stored the bottle in our wine fridge and forgot about it. Then, we had dinner at El Fornaio prior to the opera (Werther by Massenet – another great performance by the San Jose Opera even if the opera itself left a little to be desired). I noticed a 2006 Moscato d’Asti by Ceretto on the menu. I ordered a glass as an aperitif and couldn’t believe how tasty it was. It was sweet, frizzy and showed moderate complexity – apricot and pears with a slightly syrupy texture. It reminded me a Mosel Auslese Riesling. I told Jen how great it was so she ordered a glass after dinner. She agreed with me and we couldn’t wait to try the Moscato d’Asti resting in our wine fridge.

A few days later, we drank our 2006 Saracco Moscato d’Asti. The palate showed very bright flavors of papaya and lemon curd. It was honeyed, minerally and frizzy. Jen said the finish showed “lingering fruity succulence.” It was simple but absolutely delicious.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Kunde Cab

2004 Kunde Cabernet Sauvignon
Shane’s Notes

I know, I know – Kunde is a mass produced wine (14,000 cases) so it can’t possibly be any good but we like it. While not exceptional, it is also not overoaked and exhibits a dark berry flavor with a hint of spice. It is pleasant to drink and a very good deal.

Another Cuilleron

2006 Condrieu
La Petite Cote, Yves Cuilleron
Jen's Notes

At first taste, this was a fierce little thing! As the wine opened, however, we tasted peach cobbler a la mode, dripping all over pronounced minerality and citrus zest. There seemed to be some herbal notes as well. Not as ethereal as the other Cuilleron we had, but excellent just the same.

It Ain't Easy Bein' Red

2003 Bordeaux
Chateau Aney, Haut-Medoc
Jen’s Notes

If memory serves, this was one of my picks from Kermit Lynch in Berkeley. We weren't thrilled with the Rhones we bought there, but the Burgs were quite good. This Bordeaux was pleasant, but not exceptional. It showed pretty berry aromas; on the palate I detected cassis, herbs and earthy notes. My chief complaint is that it finished too quickly, though with a subtle astringency I really liked.