Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Massive Pinot

2005 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir
Shane’s Notes

When we first tried a Sea Smoke several years ago, we absolutely loved it. While this 2005 version is relatively similar to our inaugural Sea Smoke, our palates have changed and we no longer like the style. The Sea Smokes (and Santa Rita Pinots in general) are very heavy in style, and we both prefer our Pinots to be ethereally complex. Jen’s favorite version of this varietal is Burgundy, while I haven’t found any region that I’ve liked on a consistent basis. I’ve liked a few from Oregon, a few from the Russian River area and yes, even a Burgundy or two.

We decanted for over an hour and probably should have decanted longer. The palate is massive and shows a mild berry flavor with hints of violet and cola. It has a long finish and is very well crafted.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shane's Ruminations on Three Years of Blogging

We have been blogging our wines notes for three years. My tastes have radically changed over time and I’m sure they will continue to change. For now, here is a list of my top tier wines, my second tier wines and some thoughts and ruminations on other varietals and styles.

Top Tier

German Riesling – This is absolutely my favorite style of wine. German Rieslings have everything I am looking for in a wine: complexity, pronounced flavors and good minerality. The sweetness of the upper pradikats is a bonus, and I can think of no other type of wine that produces so many truly great wines for under $40. I could almost exclusively drink German Riesling.

Rhones (More specifically, Cotes du Rhones and Gigondas) – These are my favorite reds. As with German Rieslings, they are flavorful and inexpensive. Most of them don’t have the complexity of a true world class wine, but their intense flavors keep my palate happy. We rarely encounter a bad Rhone.

Italian Wines – We like practically every Italian wine we drink. We primarily drink Dolcetto, Montepulicano (the varietal) and Barbera. However, we also like Amarone, Valpolicella, Vin Santo, Primitivo, Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, San Gimigiano, Moscato d’Asti and Barolo. I am not afraid to purchase almost any wine from Italy, although I do have to watch out for the few that are overoaked (The Gaja Gromis (Barolo) is a great example of an overoaked Italian wine). Most of the Italian wines are flavorful, a bit funky and great values.

Second Tier

Kunde (American individualism doesn’t necessarily lead to regional styles. Therefore, for America, I think it is more appropriate to name wineries rather than regions)
Tablas Creek
Nickel and Nickel Chardonnays
Chablis (Very close to moving up to the first tier)
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough)
LBV Ports (especially Dow)
Douro Table Wines (although less so the more I drink them. I have had too many overoaked wines – they are on the borderline of being dropped from the second tier)

I find most American Pinot Noir to be overextracted. Burgundies and Bordeaux usually just taste like the winemaker screwed up – he couldn’t have possibly have meant for the wine to taste that way, could he? I’m not a Cabernet Sauvignon fan either. I’m not sure why I don’t like Cabs but I do know that their palate just doesn’t excite me. Zins are pretty much a disaster. For every good one, there are at least a dozen undrinkable ones. I’m not a fan of Champagne or sparkling wine – I can’t get past the yeastiness. So far, I have not liked Aussie wines. It just always tastes like there is something fundamentally wrong with them. I used to really like Spanish and Chilean wines but have recently found too many of them overaked. Lastly, I do like a good Merlot although I haven’t found many.

Shane’s Top Wines of 2007

Here are my top twelve wines of 2007. I followed our rules for our quarterly top twelve lists (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).

$4.99, 2004 Aveleda Charamba, Douro
Aye Charamba Redux, 1/29/07

$10.99, 2004 Tardieu Laurent, Les Becs Fins
3/5/07, Fennel, Mint and Plum

$12.99, Chateau de Segries, 2006 Rosé, Tavel
7/5/07, Terrific Tavel

$14.99, Kim Crawford, 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ
5/8/07, Crazy Crawford
$15.99, 2004 Vietti, Barbera d’Asti, “Tre Vigne”
4/13/07, Tremendous Tre Vigne

$16, 2005 A to Z Pinot, Oregon
6/8/07, A Restrained New World Pinot

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

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

10/22/07, 2004 Chablis, William Fevre "Fourchaume," Premier Cru
$45, A Fantastic Wine Weekend

$55, 2003 Hyde de Villaine “HdV” Napa Red, Carneros
7/2/07, A Classic Carneros Red

$120, 1977 Dow Vintage Port.
8/14/07, Another Great Vintage Port

?, Egon Muller, 1976 Scharzhofberger Auslese, Mosel
10/29/07, Rare and Unusual German Wines

Top Twelve

Here’s our eleventh 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.

It’s not too hard to spot our biases – nine of the wines are German, Italian and French. In fact, I can foresee a time when our top twelve list contains only wines from our big three.

$6.00, 2003 Knebel Winninger Bruckstuck Halbtrocken, QBA
10/31/07, Another Winner from Knebel

$7.99, 2005 A-Mano Primitivo
10/8/07, Primitivo and Zin

$11.99, 2005 Roditis, Lafazanis Estate, Peleponnese, Greece
9/7/07, It's all Greek to Me

$14.99, 2005 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ
11/7/07, Kim Crawford Pinot

Around $15, Chateau Beauchene, Grand Reserve 2003 CDR
12/21/07, Vino 100

$15.99, 2004 Agostino Pavia Barbera d’Asti, Moliss
12/31/07, Christmas Dinner

$25, 2004 Chablis, Domaine de Vaudon, Joseph Drouhin
9/7/07, Lime and Pineapple

$21, East India Sherry, Lustau
9/7/07, Sherry

$35.50, 2005 Donnhoff Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg, Spatlese, Riesling, Nahe
12/21/07, Yes, Donnhoff is Worth the Premium

$37.99, 2004 Volnay-Santenots, Thierry et Pascal Matrot, Premier Cru
10/11/07, Volnay-Santenots

$45, 2004 Chablis, William Fevre "Fourchaume," Premier Cru
10/22/07, A Fantastic Wine Weekend

?, Egon Muller, 1976 Scharzhofberger Auslese
10/29/07, Rare and Unusual German Wines

A Must Buy

2006 Coteaux du Languedoc Viognier Laurent Miguel “Nord Sud”
Shane’s Notes

If I had tasted this wine blind, I probably would have guessed that it costs between $20 to $30. Heck, we’ve even paid $60 for Condrieu that hasn’t been as good as this offering from Laurent Miguel. The rich palate shows flavors of apricot and peach with a stony, dry finish. The dry finish is a delight as far too many inexpensive Viognier taste like monolithic sugar bombs . If you like Viognier, go buy a case of this. If you are curious about Viognier, go buy a half a case.

Kiwi and Musky Spices

Knebel 2003 Spatlese, Winninger Rottgen
Shane’s Notes

This wasn’t one of my favorite offerings from Knebel but I still enjoyed it. The palate is bit restrained (for Knebel) and shows good minerality with tropical fruit, kiwi and musky spices.

Melon and Cantaloupe

2005 Champalou Vouvray “La Cuvee des Fondraux”
Shane’s Notes

This wine reminded me how much I like Vouvray. While I like my Viognier dry, I prefer Chenin Blanc to be slightly sweet. This wine is probably a demi sec and the sweetness level is perfect for my palate. The palate shows bright melon, cantaloupe and very crisp acidity with a medium length finish. This Vouvray drinks well now but it would probably benefit from some bottle age.

New Year's Eve

1996 Champagne, Krug
Jen’s Notes

This one took a while to open up, which wasn't too surprising; we had heard people say it was a bit young. But, we ushered in 2008 with this Champagne anyway, along with Tsar Nicoulai's California Estate Osetra, a steak and scallop fondue, and some foie gras (great with the steak).

Initially, it was difficult to detect the wine's flavors, beyond the toasty/yeasty impression, similar to Krug's Grand Cuvee. As the wine opened, however, the complexity and mouth filling fruit took center stage. I tasted plum and gooseberry, apple, cardamom, and choux pastry. The caviar was a perfect accompaniment. Its buttery minerality doesn't need anything besides a lovely Champagne