Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Mi Cava es Tu Cava

Marques de Gelida, Cava Brut 2000 ($12) -- Sant Sadurni D'Anoia, Spain; imported by Cutting Edge Selections, Cincinnati; a very refreshing, slightly bubbly, lower alcohol (11.5%) alternative to Pinot Grigio/Gris or other light whites; light nose, clean soft taste and the bubbles really take a backseat here unlike a typical low-end Sparkler. This is a white wine first, a Sparkler second. You don't need a "special occassion" to pull this out. Just serve instead of white wine at a dinner or Sunday brunch, no questions asked. Maybe, it will become a special occassion. Muy Bueno!

Monday, November 29, 2004

What's for Dessert?

Chambers, Rosewood Vineyards, Rutherglen Muscadelle (Tokay) NV ($17 for 375ml) -- Australian dessert style wine (18.5% alcohol); delicate fragrant nose with a warm taste of silken, candied flavors which coat the tongue and drip down the throat. My prose is not capable of fully describing the taste sensations. Will keep for many months after opening. Parker gave it a 96 and called it a sensational bargain at $15. "Life is too short not to try one of the Muscats or Tokays from Chambers Rosewood, a true Australian treasure." 'Nuff Said!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Dinner and a Movie

"Sideways", 2004 ($16 for two) -- We had a very nice dinner tonight at the "Quarter", which included several salads, a butternut squash soup, steamed mussels in a delightful broth and beef medalions. There was a fine wine list (with no vintages listed) and I sampled a Da Vinci Chianti (OK, but a little thin and not much finish); a Benton Lane Pinot Noir (nice nose, pleasant fruit taste, medium weight and a medium finish); and a Cinnabar Meritage (fruit nose, structure and longer finish) but I had to rush off to the movie next door. My only complaint is the typical restaurant pricing on wines. When I see a $10 bottle of Paringa Shiraz (a great wine for the price!) listed at $24 on the menu, I am disinclined to buy. If the pricing were $5 to $10 over retail (to cover the cost of glasses, etc) I would not only buy one or more bottles, but I would go there ALOT! If they are selling older, back vintages which are not available, I can understand the 2 to 3 times retail mark-up (where there is already a mandatory state 50% mark-up over wholesale), but I know the wines, for the most part, are sitting in the local distributor's warehouse ready for just-in-time delivery.

The Buzz is hot. I smell some Oscars here. More importantly, this one is a classic. I am going to go out on a limb here and proclaim that this movie will be the "Caddyshack" of wine movies for all the wine geeks in the world. There are many more golfers (gophers) out there than wine geeks, but we need our "classic" movie too. "Sideways" is that and a great movie too, not that I am saying that "Caddyshack" is not a great movie. It is one of my favorites which I play about 4 times a year, but it is not a serious "movie". "Sideways" is. "Sideways" is not only a must see for wine-geeks, but very good, and sad and poignint and real, and outrageously funny at times, but a great movie for all non wine-geeks too. This movie has it all, from side-splitting humor, to deeply troubling moments of self-discovery, to spot on wine geek moments. From the naked tow-truck driver husband chasing the two protagonists (who are on a one week tour of the Santa Ynez Valley wine country before one of the duo is married on Saturday) after one is caught with a waitress wife, to the picnics on a blanket in wine country in a setting sun with cheese and wine, to Virginia Madsen's character proclaiming the greatness of wine as a living thing and all the people who toil to make it, and the people who have died while some of the older vines still live on, this movie has it all. (The report that I actually teared up during that last scene is completely false. Something flew into my eye.) And from this day forward I will be frequently using one of the lines from the movie, "If they order f*#&ing Merlot, I'm leaving!" Must See! And a Very Good Meal.

India's Chenin Blanc

Sula Vineyards, Chenin Blanc 2003 ($12) -- Nashik, India; Yes, India has wine and this Chenin Blanc is lovely. Grown 100 miles from Bombay at 2,000 ft elevations and cold-fermented in stainless steel. It has a light fruit nose, soft buttery melon and honey taste with a smooth finish. It is made "in a semi-dry style" and it is only slightly sweet, more viscous and syrup than sugar. If tasted blind, one might guess Bordeaux. I am not kidding. There is a good balance of the fruit, the acid and the light sweetness. There were some titrates in the wine (no problem) and I had a corked bottle at an Indian restaurant a few months back, but that happens to the best of them. Try It!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Dinner with the Cousins

So my sister and family arrive from Boston for the holidays and 20 people (kids and adults) descend on the house for a pot luck dinner of grilled flank steak on salad with the fixings, bread and many cheeses and many desserts. The kids (ages 10 to 18) were in one room huddled around the large table in the living room and the adults were in the dining room with a fire and great conversation. I look forward to seeing about half this group and a few other families in Park City for our ski trip after Christmas. So onto the wines in order of appearance:

  • Rubia al Colle, Vino da tavola rosso, Olpaio, Red Tuscan, bottled by Muratori 2000 ($30) -- I was introduced to this wine by an acquaintance in Maine last summer and managed to track it down when I arrived home via the internet at Sokolins. I was told that I had bought the last case. (Do they say that to everyone?) The wine is full bodied, fruity pleasant nose with good weight, structure and nice finish. It was well received. Buy It! Oh, That's Right, I Have the Last Case!
  • Tikal, Patriota 2002 ($26) -- Mendoza, Argentina; a Bonarda/Malbec blend (60/40) in perhaps the heaviest wine bottle made. If you are in a bar room brawl, grab the Tikal bottle. This is one of my favorite wines. I decanted it for a good hour before serving at dinner. Large fruit, complex nose with lush flavors and long finish. Heavy weight and tasty. Buy a Case! I bought 4!
  • Penner-Ash, Rubeo 2002 ($23) -- Oregon; an "irreverent" Pinot/Syrah blend from Lynn Penner-Ash, a great winemaker who used to work at Rex Hill before starting her own label. Her husband tends the vines. Her 2002 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is one of the best Pinots I have tasted (and although I have not tasted the high-end Burgundys like DRC, etc, I think the best Pinots are coming out of the West Coast now.) Many of the mid-priced Burgundys I have tasted recently are elegant but thin with too much cherry. The first bottle of Rubeo I tasted didn't impress me (but I had just tasted the 2002 Pinot minutes earlier!), but subsequent bottles have grown on me as a well made wine with wonderful flavors and aromas with weight and finish. You Guessed It, Buy It!
  • Chateau Margaux, Premier Grand Cru Classe 1997 ($260) -- I quietly slipped this on the table while no one was watching and I had not planned on serving this wine that night (which is why off-site wine storage is a great, economical idea). But the dinner was special, and I knew the wine would be very appreciated. Within about 30 seconds, my Dutch brother-in-law, who scavenges the wine periodicals and wine shops of Cambridge for deals and who had just finished a story about a great dinner where Petrus was served, eagle-eyed the bottle. "Oh my, what do we have here?!" I quickly poured small glasses for everyone and we sat back and enjoyed the wine. I am not sure how 1997 stacks up against the other vintages, but I had enjoyed this same wine last summer in Maine where I had found it in a tiny grocery store in Biddeford Pool. When I opened it at the cottage, I called the manager of the store over to taste with me and he arrived in less than 2 minutes. The store business could wait for 30 minutes while he tasted a First Growth! I remember the wine to be one of the most elegant, smoothest, longest finishes I have ever tasted. "So this is what really expensive tastes like!" Back at the dinner, the wine was once again very smooth, very elegant and very long finish. I remember at one point, while the dinner conversation was filled with laughter and loud outbursts about past adventures (after 40+ years together, there are many!), I sat there and admired how this wine rolled all over my tongue and coated it and then hung on for a good 30+ seconds. It did not have the fruit forwards and meat of the other wines, but this is a great wine in my short-lived wine life. As to value, I will leave that up to you. Yet, I will always remember the two times I served this wine. It was a special wine for a special night. But there is more.
  • Alvear, Fino En Rama 2000 ($10 for 500ml) -- Montilla Moriles, Spain; a wine distributor offered these two after-dinner wines for possible use at an upcoming wine tasting. The first, had a flowery (dandelions was suggested) nose with an off-putting woody, nutty taste and little finish. My Dutch brother-in-law snorted some Dutch expression that he said does not translate well to English but I do not think it was complimentary. Sorry Guys, Pass!
  • Alvear, Oloroso Ascuncion NV ($20 for 500ml) -- Montilla Moriles, Spain; this one had much more appealing fragrance with a syrupy but not too sweet flavor and the same woody, nutty flavor, but this time it melted away nicely and was pleasant with a smooth finish as an after dinner-drink should be. I could not stay with it for very long though. I will continue the search for new and different after-dinner wines and have spied some very exotic Australian Tokays and Muscats.
  • Robert Mondavi, Reserve Cabernet 1999 ($60) -- Napa Valley, California; I guess with the upcoming purchase by Constellation brands, the Mondavis are blowing out old inventory as this wine was offered at a very discounted price to the normal price so I snapped up a mixed case of 1998, 1999 and 2000. I pulled this because the party was still on and I was curious. Although it is a fine wine, it needs to sit down for 5 more years (that is just my guess) as the tannins overshadow everything else. Also, I am not a big fan of overly tannic, dry California Cabs. Maybe over time it will smooth out and offer a wonderful taste. There is certainly enough stuff in there to keep for many years. Time Will Tell!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

You Like Sake?

Daimon Shuzo, Junmai Ginjo MUKUNE "Roots of Innocence" Sake ($22 for 300ml)-- Osaka, Japan; A premium sake made from rice after milling away a portion (30 to 50%) of the outside shell. Delicate rice fragrance, extremely dry, balanced smooth taste and finish. If you think sake is the warm stuff in the little bowls at Benihana, then you must experience this wine. On the wine list at Sake Bomb. Serve slightly chilled in a real wine glass. A real treat. Must Try!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Hot Food, Cold Wine

Santi Pinot Grigio -- Dont know much about this wine that I had while waiting for Thai take-out. Food was good. Wine sucked. Served at minus 20 degrees. No nose, no taste. Cold liquid with some alcohol I suppose. I should say that I will try it again to give it a fair report, but then again, "so many wines, so little time!". Pass!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Chewy Toro

Telmo Rodriguez, Dehesa Gago "G", Toro '01 ($12) -- Northern Castille, Spain; imported by Cutting Edge Selections, Cincinnati; I get a full-bodied appealing earthy nose, with structure and balance. No discernable fruit but robust chewey body. Good finish, well made wine. This is my second tasting of this wine and I still like it. Buy It And Store It, If You Can Find It!

It's So Risque!

Toad Hollow Vineyards (Imported by), "Risque" NV ($15) -- Produced and bottled by Les Vignerons du Sier d'Arcues from Limoux, France by the blanquette methode ancestrale. OK, so it's a fizzy, fuzzy sparkler with an explosion of white creamy bubbles and a crispy, somewhat sweet taste that quickly gives way to a "yummy" finish. The adjective is from Polly and others who really liked it. I do not usually like sweeter wines (except for Ice Wines, Rieslings, etc), but I found this fun wine a blast. I then tried it with a chunk of strawberry wedged on the glass and the aromas married perfectly. "Marvelous!" What a great aperitif and due to the low 6% alcohol, it is fun for the whole family. Buy It For The Holidays!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Delightful Gigondas

Troubadour, Gigondas "Nectar du Terroir" Rouge 2002 ($17) -- Imported by Vintner Select, Cincinnati; A smooth, well balanced and elegant wine from next to Chauteanuef du Pape. A good value with medium weight and body. Not much nose.

French Rant (and Italy too)

When will the French figure out that if they want to build brand loyalty in the American market (and maybe sell more product!), they need to make their labels more user-friendly. I understand that the antiquated wine regulations require that the front label be formatted a specific way, but - hey! - what about the back label. Instead of only listing the Importers name and the pregnancy/health warning, why don't they include some winemaking notes about the style, varietal content, production levels. And maybe include the producer's name in a manner that we ignorant Americans can understand. After a 10 minute google search and some rough French translations (I only read Spanglish), I was able to find the producer's name of the last French wine I tasted. Notes to follow. It was a very pleasant Gigondas from Les Vins du Troubadour S.C.A. a Vacqueyars Vaucluse France.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Saturday Night

Down and dirty: the Rosenblum Zinfandel at the "Precinct" was very tasty after a private function in the east end; the Port at "Beluga" was cute in the small stemware; but the first and last glass of Charlie's Champagne with a fresh strawberry (at press time we were unable to confirm the origin) at "Sake Bomb" was the best tasting wine all night -- crisp with hints of warm apple and a slightly yeasty undercurrent. I'm not sure what he and the crowd of 20 were celebrating, but we'll drink to that! We will pass from detailing the subsequent forays to "Haps", "Tellers", "Arthurs" and back to "Beluga" as wine was not on the menu.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Rabbit Ridge Tasting

Rabbit Ridge, Paso Robles Pinot Noir 2003 ($17) -- California; I thought the Rabbit was supermarket wine (and the lower priced cuvees are), but the small production Paso Robles was very nice. I tasted the Cab and the Barrel Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc, but liked the Pinot the best. 600 cases, 100% French oak; very smooth with structure.

Side note: having tasted 3 high-end wines by the glass in a certain $8,000 gas box, I would be very suspicious of its value. All the wines had a funny (not ha-ha) medicinal, off-putting nose and were closed and received no more than 2 star ratings (out of 5). I will need to re-taste the wines in question (Mt Veeder, Per Siempe, La Jota Howell Mountain). I know commercial operations have special requirements, but so far I have found that Private Reserve gas and into the 'fridge works best for keeping wines overnight. Of course, I don't serve 10 wines by the glass, so I can sympathize with the logistical problems of keeping so many wines fresh. I recommend going to the busiest wine bar in town to be sure you're getting the freshest stuff!

Very Interesting Malbec

Bodegas Terrazas de los Andes, "Alto" Malbec 2003 ($11) -- Mendoza, Argentina, imported by Domaine Chandon -- Appealling earthy, almost barnyard nose that reminds me of a Cote du Rhone, but then closed with medium finish, good structure. I suspected that decanting would greatly improve this and after 2 hours it evolved into a very smooth, seductive, satisfying taste with great aromas and finish. Buy It!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Value Italian

Fusione, Rossa Salento, "Promessa" 2001 ($10) -- Dark mysterious fruit; Negroamaro and Primitivo (related to Zinfandel) grapes (70/30); southern Italy. This $10 wine has "stuff": mid-palate, structure, sweet, smooth fruit, tannins, nice finish. Not a big nose or complexity, but hey, we're talking 10 bucks here. Buy It!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Squash Wines

Tonight, we featured at the Old Woody doubles squash dinner, the Gun Bun Bearitage No.11 NV, the Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc 2003, Hangtime Chardonnay 2002 and the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2003. The Bonny Doon as usual was overlooked (and often is unless forcibly poured) -- people need to think pink -- while the Bearitage was a hit! The Wightman Cab 1998 stayed in the cellar for a next time. Another day, another wine(s).

Friday, November 12, 2004

Party Wines for Less Than $12

I served the following wines at a local church art show (Episcopalians, of course!) in lieu of last year's jug/box wines (you want red or white?) All are less than $12, mostly $9 and $10 and are from California, Argentina, and Spain. I think these are great values and great tasting for a little more than jug wine. They offer a nose, fruit flavors, a touch of complexity, structure and finish. These are well made wines that even a wine geek would enjoy. And you won't find these, for the most part, in Krogers or Sams. These are relatively small production wines from solid producers and not million case numbers from the big houses. They are not machine made, mass-produced, overly fined, filtered and possibly dead. (Don't you wonder why most of the mass-produced wines can last so long after being opened.) By contrast, the following wines are alive with flavors! All Must Haves for Everyday Wine!
  • Castle Rock, Sauvignon Blanc 2003 ($10) -- Napa; negociant wine maker with access to surplus fruit and capacity. Delicious lush flavors of orange peel, citrus with a touch of herbs. Harmonious and complex. Wine Spectator Best Buy. 5,600 cases.
  • Hedges Cellars, Fume Chardonnay 2003 ($10) -- Washington; Sauvingon (63%) and Chardonnay (37%) blend; 86 and 87 ratings from the usual suspects; Best Buy from WE; nicely blended smoothness of the Chard with the fruit and flavors of the Sauv. 18,000 cases.
  • Boony Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare 2003 ($12) -- California from those crazy people in Santa Cruz; this is NOT white zin even if it is PINK! A very dry rose that is great as an aperitif and for Sunday brunch. Produced from six Rhone grape varieties. Great for the white wine drinkers who want to go to the other side, and fun for the red wine drinkers who want to enjoy a light chilled wine with complexity. 6,900 cases.
  • Los Cardos, Malbec 2003 ($8) -- Mendoza, Argentina; Tanzer 85 rating -- "Full, bright red. Red berries, tobacco, mocha and wild herbs on the nose, with a lightly stewed note that reminded me of a wine from Mediterranean France. Then supple, juicy and reasonably fresh, with red berry and spice flavors showing modest complexity and delineation. Possesses decent sweetness and intensity."
  • Bodegas Campos Reales, Tempranillo 2003 ($9) -- La Mancha, Spain; Tanzer 87 rating -- "From the largest wine growing area in the world, near Madrid, this pure Tempranillo has fruit intensity, yet never loses its precise, focussed berryish demeanor." Parker says, "An excellent value."
  • Bodegas Vina Alarba, Calatayud Old Vine Grenache 2003 ($9) -- Calatayud, Spain; Tanzer 87 rating -- "Good full ruby-red. Superripe aromas of peppery black fruits. Sweet, pure flavors of roasted black fruits and tar. Not complex but creamy and strong. Done entirely in tank."