Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sauvignon Blanc Tasting: Sancerre vs.. Washington

Both of these come from Costco and are about 15$. The 2007 Sancerre from Michel Girard & Fils has aromas of chalk, minerals and grapefruit. The 2006 Chateau St. Michelle "Horse Heaven Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc has fruitier aromas, with flowers and pears. In the mouth, the Sancerre is rounded and balanced, with lots of minerality, tart citrus, and long finish. The Chateau St. Michelle surprisingly has more acidity and shares similar tart citrus flavors. The finish is not nearly as long as the Sancerre. Both of these wines are good; it's a question of which wine you like better. It would be interesting to toss a Napa Sauvignon Blanc into the mix because the Washington wine is balanced and well made, although fruitier, than Sancerre. It tastes like Sauvignon Blanc (a new world expression of it at least)--not some freakishly ripe monstrosity that is closer to Chardonnay. Overall, I prefer the Sancerre for the terroir and supporting mineral flavors, but I liked both. A- Sancerre, B+ Washington.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

2005 Bodegas Zifar Ribera del Duero

From Garagiste. 30$. 100% Tinto Fino (otherwise known as Tempranillo). Don't know too much about this wine but it's exceptionally well made. You can check out the winery here. Its all about balance. Velvety but dense, with power that is well balanced by the fruit and acidity. The flavors are intense and well defined. Aromas of plums and chocolate with just a hint of citrus. Similar flavors in the mouth. The citrus really shows up in the finish--it reminds me of one of those chocolate covered oranges. There is just a hint of tannin that shows up at the end. I have one more bottle of this, which I will sit on for a while. A

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2007 Briccotondo Barbera Fontanafredda

I had the 06 several times, and I have to say that I liked it more than this vintage. Perhaps this will settle down a bit with a few more months in bottle. The 07 takes quite some time to open up, but has a plummy, chocolately nose with a hint of baking spices. It's got a smooth texture, and a plummy finish. This is definitively new-world barbera. This is not a traditional wine--certainly no bracing acidity and bright cherry flavors. There are old-world elements after the wine opens up; there is acidity in the background that is nicely framed by the chocolate and plum flavors. The wood isn't over-powering, but is used tastefully. I like this wine, but it almost makes me a little sad. It brings up the question of what is good--is it a new world wine made with lots of new oak? Or is it a traditional wine that may have flaws but has more character? I like this wine, and it's a good value for 10$, but I would rather have an old style barbera 9 times out of 10. B

Monday, February 23, 2009

2007 Tormaresca "Neprica" Puglia

8$ at Costco; about 10$ everywhere else. Berries, licorice, and chocolate. This is a blend of Negroamaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Pretty tasty and well made for 8$. This winery is owned by the Antinori family...I guess that they decided to break out of Tuscany where they could still get land for cheap. I've read that there are some peculiar EU rules regarding vineyard land; since there is a glut of cheap wine, you have to buy an existing vineyard, as the EU is trying to support the price of grapes. B

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2001 Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee Brut

From Carneros. A blend of Pinot and Chardonnay that spends five years on the lees. This wine was first made especially for the King and Queen of Spain in 1997. 18.99$ at Costco, which is a great deal because K&L has it for 22$. This is a big sparkling wine; it definitely is a fruity, non yeasty, anti-Champagne. But it's damn good. There's a fine bead. Pears and citrus on the nose; apples and ginger in the mouth. There's a very long finish. Wine Spectator gave it a 93, as did the Wine Advocate. If you're expecting a yeasty Champagne, this will probably disappoint you. If you're expecting California, or don't have any pre-conceived notions, this wine is great. I enjoyed it, and I very infrequently like anything from California. B+

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2000 Cantina Vignaioli (Elvio Pertinace) Barbaresco “Marcarini” Bottle #2

This bottle was better than the first for some reason...much smoother, with more intense licorice and berry character than the first bottle. We drank this bottle with a truffle risotto made with white truffles that I picked up from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Although not from Italy (from Northern California) and small, they were only 240$ a pound, instead of 300$ an ounce like the real white truffles from Alba. The truffles are not as good--they have a powerful aroma, but a much more subtle taste. For 15$ though? Who cares? It was rad, and this wine went great with it. We also had a salad with arugula from the market, truffle oil, truffle cheese, and some tomatoes.

2006 "No" Sauvignon Blanc Lake County California

I couldn't have thought of a more apt name for this wine than no. It has many positive things about it: "No oak aging. No cork. No maloactic fermentation. No attitude. No kidding," but it's ironic that this wine is basically a marketing gimmick, because it's trying not to be. I purchased this wine for 7$ at Whole Foods because I needed a cheap un-oaked white to use in risotto. I don't normally buy wine at Whole Foods because it's REALLY expensive. I remember buying a bottle of 2002 Gaja Ca'Marcando at Costco for 52$ and seeing it at Whole Foods for 70$. Ouch. What a rip off (although there are lots of things that I do buy at Whole Foods because you can't get them anywhere else. Dry-aged beef, heritage pork, heritage chickens, good fish (ever bought fish at Ralph's? Yech.), certain types of produce...). Anyways--this wine is awful. It's has a slightly grassy nose, and it tastes like sugar water with a dash of lemon. This is the worst wine that I've had in a long time. I'm sad that there are people that will think that this wine is a good expression of Sauvignon Blanc. I don't see how if you'd had a good Sancerre or Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc that you wouldn't just dump this swill down the drain in disapointment. And 7$? I've had better Sauvignon Blanc from TJ's for 2.99. Shame on you Whole Foods wine buyer--have you no sense of what a good sauvignon blanc is? It was fine to cook with...just not to drink. F

Friday, February 20, 2009

2003 Castel Ruggero Chianti Classico

This wine is about 30$ retail at K&L; from their Italian wine club about 8 months ago. The wine-maker, Nicolo' d'Afflitto is a Bordeaux trained enologist, but this still tastes like Chianti Classico. Unfortunately this is now out of stock. 2003 was a super hot vintage in Tuscany. I was expecting this wine to be a bit of a fruit-bomb...but instead got greeted with a very intense, dense, and complex wine. Closed for the first hour, but then opened up. The nose has cherries, spice (almost like coriander), herbs (at one point mint), licorice, and mineral-like smells reminiscent of the air before a rain storm. There is a considerable amount of tannin, framed by the cherries and herbs, which come off being fairly bitter. There is a long finish that is full of licorice and herbal elements. This is an interesting effort, and quite the wine. A+

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2007 Fuerza Blancos

Also 4$. A blend of Chardonnay and Torrontes. This wine is a lot better than the malbec from last night. Pears, with slightly green aromas. This wine has good acidity and body, but a short finish. It's pretty good for 4$. Not complex, but certainly not that bad. I would opt for this over the red every day of the week. B-/C+

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2003 Fuerza Malbec Mendoza Argentina

4$ at TJs. First, who can hold and cellar a wine for 5ish years and still sell it for 4$? Seems a bit nuts to me. There's something a bit lacking about this wine. This wine doesn't appear to have any new oak. I get a lot of dense, raisiny fruit (prunes), maybe a bit of blackberry, alcohol, and a hint of chocolate. One dimensional, and high in alcohol (15%). On the other hand, this was 4$, and not 15 or 20. D+/C-

Update: I never envisioned that this would happen, but it seems that someone else has actually read this blog, which is cool. Thanks Jason/Danny!

Monday, February 16, 2009

2005 Podere Ruggeri Corsini Nebbiolo delle Langhe

From K and L's Italian wine club. This wine received 2 glasses from Gambero Rosso. This wine is the antithesis of a fruit bomb. There is lots of earth (bordering on manure actually--this wine toes the border skillfully), smoke, cinnamon, and roses. It's got a fair amount of tannin, but is perfectly drinkable and is well balanced. I imagine that this is what a lot of Nebbiolo based wines must have tasted like prior to the "quality revolution" and Parkerization of Italy. Interestingly enough this winery was started in 1995...go figure. Although not as immediately enjoyable as the 04 Barolos I've had, I enjoyed this wine because of it's savory characteristics and anti-fruit bomb style. 18$, but out of stock now. B+

Sunday, February 15, 2009

2006 Achaval Ferrer Quimera

I received this bottle as a gift from someone that I work with. He actually brought it back for me after visiting the vineyard in Argentina, which is pretty damn cool. This was about 6 months ago, before the Parker review. After I saw the review, I was a bit skeptical that I would like this wine--I figured that it would be hugely oaky, over the top, and like licking a jar of jam.

The Quimera is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet, and Merlot. At first whiff, the wine has a nose of rubber and wood, but as it opens up, it reveals smoke, berries, and a very pure streak of cherry. The wine is impeccably balanced, with many layers and nuances of flavor. So I guess that means that I was wrong about what a 94 from Parker means (at least in this case)... This wine is fantastic and is drinking great right now. Currently, you can pick this wine up at K&L for 26$ if you're in one of their wine clubs. I liked this wine so much that I'm going to get a couple more bottles today. A

Saturday, February 14, 2009

2006 Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fume de Pouilly

Sarah and I went to Campanile for Valentines Day. It was a pretty good deal for 45$--5 courses. Most of the courses were probably more white wine friendly--squid with saffron risotto, a salad with poached fruit, spaghetti with pancetta and cream, and lobster bisque. Didier Dagueneau died in a plane crash this year, which was pretty tragic. He was highly acclaimed in the Loire, the international wine press, and grew everything biodynamically. I've had this wine one other time, when a vendor that I know brought it to a party. This wine was barrel-fermented and aged half in stainless steel and half in large, neutral barrels. We enjoyed it a lot--it was fantastic, with a more rounded and rich character than a lot of Sauvignon Blanc. A nose verging on tropical fruit, but still retaining sauvignon blanc's more herbal, grassy notes. A ton of minerals. Rich, but with acidity, balance and poise. It's a blend of all of Dagueneau's vineyards, including Silex, Pur Sang, and Buisson Renard. 94$ on Campanile's list, which was plenty fair for a wine of this quality. A

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2007 Cameron Hughes "Lot 98" Campo de Borja GSM

Cameron Hughes plus Spain has got to be better than Cameron Hughes plus California...people were actually supposed to grow wine in Spain and have been doing so for a long time. Cameron Hughes consistently has enjoyable, cheap, new world style wines. A lot of them are sort of over the top, but that's not always bad, especially if they're cheap. Apparently, this is from a co-op that the winemaker for Cameron Hughes found in Spain. It's not really something I would call a "traditional" Spanish wine--it's basically a fruit bomb. This is a huge wine. Thick--bordering on syrupy. No earthy, tobacco infused flavors with impeccable balance. Oh, and there's the "GSM" bit, which is kind of an Aussie thing. Not exactly Spanish...Garnache is certainly Spanish, but I don't know that this blend is. Syrah? In Spain? Really? I didn't know. Anyways, there's a lot of fruit here. I smell a lot of plums and some blackberry depending on how hard I swirl. Doesn't seem to be a lot else going on except for some pepper, but the pepper isn't all that prominent. Did I mention there was a lot of fruit? Despite all of its' new world leanings, and the fact that this really could just as easily be from Australia, or Napa, or anywhere for that matter, it's plenty enjoyable for 8$ and a Wednesday night. This is actually a lot more enjoyable than the "Mas Donis" that I had recently, which is a similar style, but was filled with cheap vanilla flavors. Blech. B- (But only cause it's cheap. If this were more than 7.99$, I'd be screaming bloody murder about being swindled.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Courtisan" Cava

Okay. This was 6$ at TJ's and the only reason that I picked it up is because of the name...a courtesan (maybe they misspelled by accident?) is basically a high class hooker. Right. Sort of the white man's equivalent of a Geisha. Great name for cheap sparkling wine, except that this is probably better suited for just a plain old hooker and not a courtesan. I'm thinking that the courtesan might prefer something that tastes better--say, a grower Champagne or Pol Roger for instance! Not that great; green apple, some citrus, and a little bit of bread. In the mouth, this wine is cloying and a little flabby. Cheap cava is normally pretty good in my book, but this one has something off and artificial about it. D

Saturday, February 7, 2009

2000 Cantina Vignaioli (Elvio Pertinace) Barbaresco “Marcarini”

I picked up this wine from Garagiste in June. This single vineyard Barbaresco made the Top 100 list from Wine Spectator in 2004, scoring 93 points. This wine is drinking well right now--the tannin has melted into the wine, making it velvety and rich. As it opens up, it gets bigger. The nose is complex and filed with aromas of licorice, tar, blackberries, and almost a little pine. There are similar flavors in the mouth, and a long finish filled with berries and licorice. Pretty good for 30$, and certainly a great deal. The Prunotto Barbaresco that I had a couple of months ago was 10$ more! A

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2005 Celler de Capcanes "Mas Donis" Barrica Montsant, Spain

Picked this up for about 11$ at K&L, but it's out of stock now. 85% old vine grenache and 15% syrah. Imported by Eric Solomon. Parker gave it a 91 in the Wine Advocate. Cherries, raspberries, and vanilla. After it opens up, the wine develops a nose of violets, and some meat. At one point, strangely, the wine smelled like birthday candles--perhaps nostalgic, but not delicious. Lots of berry and vanilla character to it. The wine is okay, but doesn't blow me away. It seems a little on the generic side, what with all of the vanilla and cherries. Also fascinating for me is that it appears Tanzer and Parker decided to write tasting notes at different points--Tanzer right after the wine was opened and Parker after it had been open for a while. Either way, I enjoyed the Artazuri lots more, because it was more expressive and interesting. This wine has way too much vanilla character, and it's just boring. C-

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2007 Vina Cobos "Felino" Malbec Mendoza Argentina

First, let me just say that this wine is not even close to as good as the Layer Cake I had recently. The Layer Cake was really something else in terms of purity of fruit and intense aromatics.

This wine is from Paul Hobbs, who also makes some famous wines in Sebastopol--some of which have gotten 100 points from Robert Parker. Vina Cobos is his Argentinean operation that he started with Catena Zapata in 1988. This is not a normal wine for me to be drinking. There is a fruity nose of blackberries and plums, some spice, licorice, and a little oak. In the mouth, the wine is jammy at first, but turns silky after a couple of hours, with plums, blackberries, and an earthy finish. It has a lot of depth, but it's missing something. Overall, it's a good wine, it's tasty, it's a good value, it's big, and it's a fruit bomb. B

Sunday, February 1, 2009

2005 Campion Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands

We had this wine at Lucques, which is a great restaurant in LA. Sarah took me to dinner there for my birthday. The chef, Suzanne Goin, has a "Sunday Supper," where you get three courses for 45$. Tonight we had:

Seal bay triple creme toast with arugula salad and kumquat marmalade

sautéed mexican shrimp with red rice, baby bok choy and ginger-mint chutney or grilled lamb loin chops with turnip purée, citrus-glazed carrots, tamarind and roasted dates

wattleseed and macadamia nut ice cream sandwich with cocoa-caramel sauce

I had the lamb; Sarah had the shrimp. Everything was great. The wattleseed was new and something that I'd never even heard of before. Seems like that was the case at the next table too, since the two ladies basically quoted this Wikipedia entry that I looked up about the wattleseed, which is an interesting Australian seed/food product. Seal Bay triple creme is a cheese from Australia--maybe they've got a thing for Aussie's that I didn't know about at Lucques?

The Campion Pinot that we had was perfectly adequate, although not mind-blowing. Lots of red fruit (raspberry, strawberry) and earthy, tarry, creosote character. Not over the top, the finish was a bit lacking, but the wine went with everything and wasn't too pricey. Food A, Wine C+