Saturday, April 30, 2005

Party Favorite

Elyse, Cabernet Sauvignon, Morisoli Vineyard 2001 ($60 approx.) - As a wine geek I am often faced with the social dilemna of, upon bringing a wine to a party, whether to open it right away for all to sample, or to let the hosts stick it in their cellar for later consumption. I know it is social convention to offer the bottle to the host and then he/she can decide to stash it away for later use, or serve it then. I have decided that it makes the most sense to bring two bottles, one to consume right then, and a second for the hosts to put away. I then head straight to the kitchen or bar to find an opener. In this way I am guaranteed at least a few sips of some good wine and the hosts are happy. I guess as a wine retailer, I'm allowed.

This wine was brought to my party recently and quickly opened up by a guest who is also not shy about bringing and drinking good wines. Among the nine wines I served and the other four that were gifts, this was the "best of show". Briefly (as it was late by the time this beauty got tasted), it had a warm alluring nose, full fruit flavors with very smooth, almost silky, integrated tannins. Even the wine distributor, who had brought other wines and does not sell Elyse, ackowledged this to be the best that night.

The other wines consumed that night were, 2000 Luca Beso de Dante from Argentina, 1997 Anderson's Conn Valley Napa Cab, 2002 Finca de Sandoval from Spain, 2002 Tikal Patriota from Argentina, 2002 Tim Adamas Shiraz from Australia, 1998 Wightman Napa Cab, 2002 St. John's Road Shiraz from Australia, 2000 T'Gallant Pinot Noir from Australia, 2003 Castle Rock Reserve Napa Chardonnay, 2001 Strewn Pinot Blanc from Niagara, 2004 Enotria Moscato from California, 2000 Eola Hills Vin d'Or Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Oregon, Marques de Gelida Brut Sparkling Cava from Spain, and Fox Creek's Vixen Sparking Shiraz from Australia.

The Vixen got the most interesting comments of the night from, "I've never tasted anything like this before" as she raced off to find her husband to get him to try it, to "This tastes like kool-aid", to which I replied, "You need to drink more wines and less kool-aid. This Sparkling Shiraz is the hottest wine of the year!"

Friday, April 29, 2005

Jug Wine

Martin Ray, Red 2001 ($13 for 1L) - Central Coast, California Red Table Wine. This really is jug wine with the handle, the one liter jug bottle and the screwcap. According to the website it is made from Syrah, Merlot and select red Rhone varietals. (I heard a rumor that the Angeline Syrah will be discontinued and blended into this wine.) If, by definition, jug wine is affordable - comparable to a $10 75cl - , quaffable wine, then this fits the bill and more. It is not only drinkable, it is chuggable. This is good wine and good fun.

Not a big nose, but fruit flavors - mostly from the Syrah - with smooth integrated tannins, yes tannins in a jug wine, and a moderate finish, although not a lot of complexity. (Hey, it's jug wine!) But I did not grow weary of this wine as the night progressed.

I can't wait to show up at the next cocktail party in Hyde Park with this baby swinging from my finger ready to P A R T A Y!!!! Now, if they came out with a two liter jug, we'd be dangerous!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Purple Wine Company

I just got back from tasting 7 wines from the Purple Wine Company which was started by one of the former principals of the Blackstone Winery which was sold a few years ago. The notes are brief as I sipped while enjoying some Chicken Tikki Masala and Naan. I ordered some of these wines for the shop, but not all, more due to my current inventory situation at certain price points.

  • 2004 Rock Rabbit, Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast ($10) - Good fruit with a little bit of grapefruit. Made in stainless tanks with no Oak or Malo. Good price for a summer wine. Good with food.
  • 2003 Mark West, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County ($11) - Good traditional California Chardonnay with some butter, but not overdone. Some Malo here, I was told. I would load up , but I have 15 cases of another $14 Chardonnay to chew through.
  • 2003 Mark West, Pinot Noir, Central Coast ($11) - Moderate nose, subtle Burgundian style. Great value. One of the best $10 California Pinots.
  • 2002 Mark West, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County ($19) - Moderate nose with more fruit flavors and tannins. Also Burgundian. Very good and fairly valued.
  • 2003 Rock Rabbit, Syrah, Central Coast ($11) - Big nose and full flavors. Deep purple color (see Company name!). 12% Cab and some Petite Syrah. Sold! I bought a case as Martin Ray has stopped making the Angeline Syrah.
  • 2002 Avalon, Cabernet Sauvignon, California ($8) - 1% Syrah and 1% Tempranillo add some zest and aromas. I liked the wine and loved the price. It's on the list! Good fruit, smooth with tannins and a medium finish. Drinkable $8 California Cab! Will go well with a mixed case of Spanish Grenache, Argentine Malbec and Chilean Carmenere as a great value mixed case.
  • 2002 Avalon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($14) - 90% Cabernet with other Bordeaux varietals. Smooth integrated tannins and good fruit. A good wine, but is among a crowded field of good, drinkable $15 California Cabs.

Overall, a good quiver of tasty value wines!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Don't Panic, It's Organic

Lolonis, Redwood Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 ($21) - Mendocino, California. No pesticides or herbicides are used and the wine is produced from organically grown grapes. Ladybugs Love Lolonis! Vines are 35 to 40 years-old. Warm appealing aromas of dark fruit followed by full fruit with hints of chocolate and a long finish. Good stuff! Don't tell anyone it's organic!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Ventana Syrah

Ventana, Syrah "Monterey" 2001 ($18) - Arroyo Seco, California. Single Vineyard and Estate Bottled. Big fruit and smooth tannins. Would have done well last Tuesday in the blind tasting. Good for sipping, and would pair well with roasted meats.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Chateau Beauchene

Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone 2001 ($15) - France. Premier Terrior. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre (70%, 25%, 5%). I enjoyed this everyday drinker before heading out to the Playhouse last night, but it would also work very well with food. It has good balance, fruit flavors and a medium finish with enough soft tannins to hold it all together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Erie Avenue Blind - $30 Syrahs

This is getting old! Ceja again wins top honors. Not that we mind honoring a good winemaker, but Renee will now be impossible to live with after two first places in a row. The trash talking is becoming unbearable. The streak will end however, as next month we will be reviewing $20 Rose's. As Ceja doesn't make a Rose, Renee lobbied hard to change varietals. That having failed, she vowed to call Armando to see if he could whip up a special cuve'e. For the record, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot won't cut it, and we will need to see Ohio label approval!

Ten "judges" reviewed 8 Syrahs from $10 to just over $30, from Spain, Washington and California. To cleanse the palate we started with a bottle of Fox Creek's Vixen, a sparkling blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon (54%, 32%, 14%). Afterwards, we were treated to a cellar selection of a 1996 Edmunds St. John, Durrell Vineyard Syrah from Sonoma that showed a softened elegance of 8 years of bottle age. And a surprise blind bag of 1999 Burnet Ridge Que Syrah was well received and would have, in my opinion, done well tonight in the contest. Finally, the 2002 Inniskillin Ice Wine Vidal was a special treat and made for a great dessert after assorted curries and tandori chicken.

The results are slightly different than announced last night due to continuing mathematical programming errors. Someone besides me needs to do the math if we want the correct results!

  • 8th - 68 points - 2002 Robert Hall, Paso Robles ($17) - This tasted great in the warehouse, but the last two bottles were, in my opinion, "off, medicinal, funky". I wasn't alone in ranking it last. It got four 8th place votes, and three 7th place votes. Now, what to do with the 5 cases I ordered!
  • 7th - 61 points - 1999 Andrew Murray, Roasted Slope ($30) - Five 8th and 7th place votes. This was supposed to be a ringer and therefore demonstrates the beauty of blind tasting. [Ed. note: It has been recently brought to my attention that at least one taster thought this bottle was off and that is why it showed so poorly.]
  • 6th - 56 points - 2003 Michael & David Phillips, Sixth Sense, Lodi ($15) - Three votes for 8th and 7th, then mostly 6ths and some 3rds.
  • 5th - 48 points - 2001 Martin Ray, Angeline, Paso Robles ($10) - One vote for 1st, two votes for 7th, then mostly 4ths and 5ths. Not bad for a $10 Syrah against a bunch of $30 bottles. A little simple but well made. Martin Ray has stopped bottling this varietal and will mix their Syrah into other blends. There are 8 cases left in the warehouse!
  • 4th - 36 points - 2001 Finca Sandoval, Manchuela ($33) - A blend of 93% Syrah and 7% Mourvedre from Spain. Three votes for 2nd, and then mostly 4ths and 5ths. Only 1 point behind 3rd place. Some commented on it being "fat, thick, spicey, smokey".
  • 3rd - 35 points - 2002 Melville, Estate, Lompoc ($25) - Two votes for 1st, one vote for 2nd, but one vote each for 7th and 8th. Some commented on its "depth and finish."
  • 2nd - 31 points - 2002 L'Ecole No. 41, Columbia Valley ($32) - Four votes for 1st and one vote for 2nd, but several votes for 5th and 6th hurt. This was my favorite and others liked the "balance and silkiness."
  • 1st - 25 points - 2002 Ceja, Sonoma Coast ($32) - Seven votes for 1st or 2nd and only one vote for 7th. This time it wasn't me. I gave it a 2nd. People liked the "balance of fruit and tannins" and enjoyed the "finish." I remember this wine being "bigger" when I tasted at the Wine Festival, but now it was refined and elegant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Allyn's Cafe

I stopped in Saturday for a late dinner and to listen to the music. I kick myself for not stopping in more often. If you love wine and music stop in. I also heard that they have a BIG beer list:

  • They have a wine store of about 200 labels that you can drag into the restaurant for a $5 corkage fee. The list is full of treats in the $10 to $40 range, and includes many of the wines in my shop. Obviously, the owner has great taste in wines! I had the Ceja, Vino de Casa which is a Pinot/Merlot/Syrah blend (60/32/8) for about $20. Big fruit and complexity with 22 months in French and American barrels. If this is Armando's house wine, I'm coming over!
  • The music tonight was acoustic guitar with covers from Van Morrison to Steely Dan. I did not get the musician's name but he had a good voice and it was very entertaining sitting in the booth with a front row seat. I read someplace that they also have amateur nights and a regular band on Sundays.
  • The cajun filet was great as a split entre along with popcorn shrimp.
  • And the best part is I could walk home from here if I had to. I know a trail through Larz Anderson Park that will take me to my back door in 15 minutes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cincinnati Nature Center

For the next fundraising event the Director wanted to select wines that match the principles of the organization which include sustainability and locality. Unfortunately, we are hard pressed in Cincinnati to offer local organic wines, but I offered to review other organic wines from the United States. Here are my first reviews for Badger Mountain:

  • Badger Mountain "Vintner Estate Series" Rose of Cabernet 2003 ($8) -- Columbia Valley, Washington. Certified organic. 100% Cabernet Franc. Pale strawberry colors; not much nose; full fruit flavors with noticeable residual sugar; good structure, balance with some meat on it. This is a big Rose for $8. Perfect for Spring or Summer. And although I am not a fan of White Zin, lovers of that "varietal" will also enjoy this wine, even if it is a dry wine. The guy who delivered the hay today for Cody, the pony (it rhymes), who never drinks wine, said he liked it. (He and Polly were my guinea pigs tonight.) Of course, Polly loved it! I liked it too.
  • Badger Mountain Chardonnay 2003 ($11) -- Columbia Valley, Washington. Estate grown. Certified organic, No Sulfites Added. Contains naturally occurring sulfites, which are a product of fermentation. No additional preservatives are used. I tasted at room temperature at first and on first opening got an almost foxey aroma and flavor. (I like to taste whites wines warm at first to see what kind of suff they have.) When properly chilled after 20 minutes in a bath of iced water, I got clean, crisp, refreshing flavors that, I am guessing, saw little or no wood. No luxurious butter here, but I am told that the butter flavor profile is a tough order for organic wines that have no sulfites. Serve well chilled with food.

The mission of Cincinnati Nature Center is to inspire passion for nature and promote environmentally responsible choices through experience and education.

Charles Joguet

Charles Joguet, Chinon, Les Varennes du Grand Clos, 2000 ($17) -- France, imported by Kermit Lynch. At first I wasn't going to look up all the winemaking notes (there are none on the back label), but I quickly found the producer's website. I had first guessed Grenache with little wood from a mediocre year. It seems it is actually Cabernet Franc from a "tough" year with 5 to 8 months of wood aging in unknown barrels. I got soft barnyard aromas with a thin cherry flavor and not much finish. Try serving with food to take the edge off. Not one to sip late into the night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Colosi Sicilia for Wine Blog Wed #9

Colosi Sicilia 2002 ($10) -- Messina Italy. 100% Nero D'Avola. The theme for Wine Blog Wednesday #9 is Sicilian Reds. After reviewing most of the distributor books, and not finding much, a wine rep brought by a single sample to taste and said that it is her favorite spahgetti wine for mid-week. (Usually I can convince the reps to leave the bottle behind for more extensive analysis, but this wine was quickly gathered up and taken away!) She said it was great with tomato and garlic which can be a hard match for most wines. On the nose I got a somewhat musty, dense aroma that I could not pin down, though not bad, and the flavors were almost sweet with good balance and there is some tannic structure, but also there is the acidity to match well with an Italian menu. A very good $10 food wine. I would probably get bored with this wine without food after the second glass, but that's me. I would prefer to languish over an open bottle for hours after dinner versus sitting at a table surrounded by plates of food.

From Vias, the importer:

Origin: Sicilia Rosso is a tribute to the oldest and most typical Sicilian grapes, Nero d`Avola, also called Calabrese. The synonym Calabrese is an “Italianization” of the old Sicilian dialect name for the spiecies “Calavrisi” which means literally “Avolla grape” or” grape originating in Avola”. Perhaps first used in the provinces of Siracusa and Ragusa, over the years it spread to some extent throughout Sicily but not Etna. Great red wines can be made from this species. The most important and typical feature is the bouquet of red fruit, which remains after long years of aging. But the great diversity of the production areas in the North, South, East and West of the island gives special character to the Nero d`Avola they produce.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sparkling Shiraz

Leconfield, Coonawarra Sparkling Shiraz 2003 ($30) -- Australia by the Hamilton Wine Group. My recent gushing review of Fox Creek's Vixen led another rep to offer his Sparkling Shiraz at a recent wine tasting. I thought that this wine went very well with the Saturday afternoon Master's coverage! Here are some winemaking notes. I assume it is 100% Shiraz versus the Vixen's blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

"A careful selection of Shiraz from Leconfield’s 29 year old estate vineyards underwent its primary fermentation in stainless steel prior to maturation in French and American oak barrels. Various components were selected for their complexity and deep fruit character. Secondary fermentation took place in the bottle with the final liquoring adding further complexity and balance. A wonderful example of this unique Australian style, showing the depth of ripe fruit characters and elegance for which Coonawarra is famous."

The consensus was that this was a better wine than the Vixen (yeh, we had popped one already earlier in the day!) with more fruit and a softer finish. If you want to cause a stir at your next function, pull one of these wines and watch as your guests are amazed to be drinking a blood-red Sparkler, which is also a very good wine!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mi Sueno Winery

I just tasted through five of their wines when Tom, the Director of Sales, and Renee, from Wide World of Wines, stopped by today. I don't rate wines in my reviews, but when I review wines for purchasing for the shop I score the wines for ordering. Three stars is a good wine, but I will not order the wine unless someone wants it. Three and a half stars is a buy. Four stars is a very good wine that I will promote and recommend. All five wines today were four stars, which is very unusual. Here are my quick notes:

  • 2002 Chardonnay Los Carneros ($37) -- Balanced, Clean, Burgundian. Exceptional
  • 2002 Pinot Noir Los Carneros ($40) -- 2,800 cases. Big nose, which I like, but also elegant flavors. This would have done very well at the last Erie Avenue Blind Tasting.
  • 2001 Syrah Los Carneros ($42) -- 100% Syrah. Big flavors with tannins and will age.
  • 2002 "El Llano" Napa Valley ($37) -- 68% Cab, 32% Syrah. This was probably the pick of the litter with great flavors, great balance and a good price.
  • 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($62) -- Classic California Cab that is drinking great right now.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson

The recent issue of Rolling Stone that covers the life of Hunter S. Thompson is a must read for all and, through the many tributes to his life and wild antics revealed, paints a picture of another lost generation. Here is a short snippet from Semmes Luckett, whose job it was to mind the good Doctor for a stretch (good luck!):

"It was the mid-seventies, sometime after "Rolling Stone" had just moved to New York, and Hunter had been up for five days. He had a deadline, and it just wasn't working. There wasn't anything happening. We need to shut it down. So I composed a very reasonable telegram to send to Jann. We are professionals, after all. It listed the various reasons why the piece would be late. At the end of the telegram, I told the lady to put in: "On top of everything else, there's a raging blizzard outside. Yours, Semmes." I don't know if they still do telegrams like this, but you did this over the phone, and they'd send you a copy later. I didn't open it for a day or two and, of course, it listed everything, just as I had said it - until the last line where it said, "On top of everything else, there's a raging lizard outside."

And Rolling Stone accepted that -- to them it was reasonable. There was a "raging lizard outside" and they understood."

Sometimes there is a raging lizard outside, but you got to just keep going on!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sweet Angeline

Martin Ray, "Angeline" Paso Robles Syrah 2001 ($10) -- Santa Rosa, California. This is a 2nd/Value label from Martin Ray, a "legendary" winemaker as the website proclaims. Under new ownership, they have rolled out a few new labels. I have heard good reports on "Angeline", and had tasted this Syrah at Trios recently at $10 per glass (do the math!). I got a big fruit nose with soft, appealing flavors, good balance and a medium finish. Not a lot of depth or complexity, but may be one of the best $10 Syrahs ($10 for the bottle that is!).

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Hess Select

Hess Select, Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($15) -- California. Cab/Syrah/Merlot blend (82%/15%/3%). Entry level line. Warm fruit nose from the Syrah, I guess; tannins and fruit flavors. Medium finish. Good value for an everyday California Cab. Mostly North Coast fruit with some from Napa.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Louie Louie, We Got To Go Now

I know my generation has finally arrived when I am standing in the License Divsion of the State of Ohio BMV trying to renew my expired car tags, when I hear over the stereo system, "Louie Louie". When I first heard this song in the sixties by the Kingsmen, it was scandalous as everyone thought they heard some pretty explicit language about what was going to happen every night at ten! The FBI investigated, but they couldn't prove what was on the record as the words really are indecipherable, but that didn't keep many radio stations from banning the song.

Now along with the ATM and cell phones in the BMV offices, I can sing along to one of the most notorious songs in Rock history, along with "Gloria". This is progress, and 'My Generation" rules! Of course, my generation will soon lose out to my kid's, and we will be listening to Gangsta Rap while renewing our tags in twenty years. That is, if I can still pass the vision test.

Oh baby, a-way we go!