Thursday, April 30, 2009

2007 Now & Zen White Alsace

This is 5$ at TJ's. Yes, the label is tacky as hell. And from France? They must be trying to appeal with the animal wine crowd. It's 40% Sylvaner, 30% Pinot Blanc, 15% Riesling, 15% Gewurztraminer. I'm fairly impressed with this wine. It's a little reticent on the nose, but there are floral notes and tropical fruit. In the mouth, it's all grapefruit, maybe a little chalk. There's good acidity and the finish is nice and citrusy. For 5$, this has a lot if punch. A-

Monday, April 27, 2009

2005 Bodegas Alto Moncayo "Aquilon" might question the judgement of someone who chooses to purchase a wine that is 130$. One might further question the rationale for randomly, on a whim, deciding to open that bottle on a Monday night. So I might seem a little crazy, but I just felt like I had to open this wine tonight.

Aquilon is the flagship wine of Bodegas Alto Moncayo in the Camp de Borja. (There are a few "lesser" wines from this estate; they're good, and cheaper. Alto Moncayo is about 45$ and is tasty, and I've never had the "Veraton," which is the cheapest, but I hear it's great.) This wine is imported by Jorge Ordonez, who is probably just about as polarizing as this wine. This is a much bigger wine than I would normally purchase or drink. It's 16% alcohol. Yikes. There is a story as to why I have this bottle friends Aaron and Kiowa were both really into the Alto Moncayo bottling, which we had several times at Friends of the Vine in Redondo Beach. (I should probably mention that Fred, the owner, must be really into Jorge Ordonez because I've also had El Nido "Clio" there, and some other high-scoring Ordonez wines. FYI, Ordonez imports really traditional garnache too that is quite low in alcohol and cheap. TJ's even had one for 5$.) So I figured this wine would be kind of amusing to drink as a point of reference. Originally, I was going to bring this by and drink it with them more than one year after purchase. I decided that tonight was the night I was drinking this wine.

Every once in a while, I like to question what I like. I liked the Cab Franc last night a lot. I also am not into huge fruit bomb wines. But unless I taste them occasionally, how do I REALLY know? Tastes change...So what do I think of this wine?? I don't know. Aromatically, at first, I smelled toast. After an hour or so in the decanter, it's got an enormous cherry nose, spice, chocolate and heat (yes, you can smell that 16%). Sometimes I smell raspberries. This sort of reminds me of a chocolate covered-raspberry. Again, extraordinarily aromatic. In the mouth, this wine is thick, syrupy, and a little jammy. After a couple of hours, it still has the jammy edge, but turns plush and smooth. You get the fruit up-front again--sweet. In the mid-palate, the wine all of a sudden bursts with spice. I don't know what spice it is--it's almost like eating ground spices. It's somewhat shocking. The spice carries through on the finish with the fruit as well. There is the tell-tale heat element again, but this wine has a finish that is crazy long. The fruit and spice linger for what seems like minutes.

There's no question that this wine is a brute. Intense. Parker gave it a 97, Wine Spectator gave it a 94, and even Steven Tanzer gave it a 94. The critics like it. I am on the fence. It is really good, but there are problems for me. 1. It's expensive. 2. It's a little thick. Yes, it went okay with meatloaf...but it actually sort of overwhelmed it. I didn't think that was possible.'s good, but it's a cocktail wine or something. We drank the entire bottle, but towards the end, it was fatiguing. I don't drink Coke (or any soda for that matter), haven't for years, but that's what I felt like I was drinking. A for the nose, C for the palate, D- for the body, A for the finish, A+ for the experience of drinking a 100+$ bottle of wine made in a style that you aren't that into. My guess is that the reviewers all reviewed this "critically"--it's certainly a mind-numbingly intense wine, but one that has many desirable elements. But I bet they didn't have the whole bottle. They were sipping and spitting a small fraction of the bottle. Maybe a glass at most. One other thought to consider--a bottle of wine has a finite amount of flavor (in theory at least). To my knowledge, ethyl alcohol in it's purest form has little flavor(vodka, everclear). Impurities provide the flavors. So if something has a lot of alcohol, it would stand to reason that it has LESS flavor than a lower alcohol bottling. Just some food for thought. Because if the alcohol is present in a higher quantity, it MUST displace something else.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

2007 Pierre et Catherine Breton Bourgueil "Les Galichets"

This is a different appellation of Cab Franc than the Chinon that I had from Pierre and Catherine Breton last month. This wine has a leafy, earthy, cherry/blackberry nose that is text-book cab franc. It's nice that it's missing the bell pepper component that I'm sometimes a little put off by (it has its' time and place...haha). In the mouth, this wine has lots of cherries/blackberries, some more leafiness, and lots of mineral flavors that carry to the finish. This wine drinks more easily than the Chinon; that wine had a lot more structure to it. I like this wine--it's definitely my favorite of the weekend (same with Sarah surprisingly)--and the cheapest too--19$. A

Saturday, April 25, 2009

2005 Condado de Haza Ribero de Duero

About 22$ from K&L. 100% Tempranillo. This wine got 93 points from Wine Spectator and #34 on the Top 100 for 2008. This wine has lots going on, and judging by the amount of tannin and depth, it will get better for a long time. Right now, it's all fruit and smoke. I get a whole plethora of red fruits (cherries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries), smoke, and occasional chocolate. The finish is cherry-laden, and then the tannin comes on strong. This wine is great, and has lots of depth. However, I do feel as if we opened it too young... B+/A-

Friday, April 24, 2009

2003 Ca' del Bosco "Pinero"

This is very expensive wine. If you're not in K&L's wine club, it's 80$. If you're in the wine club, it's only 30$. Cheapest that I could find online is 76.80$. Not sure how they worked that out, but I guess it demonstrates one thing to me: there's a lot of margin embedded in each bottle of wine. It's kind of like Simon Staples, who recently estimated in the New York Times that a bottle of Lafite actually costs about 13$ US to make. (This wine probably costs about the same to make.) Of course, each bottle of Lafite gets sold to the consumer at around 350$. Thanks a lot three tier distribution system! It's good to know that you're taking your pound of flesh from everyone. And thanks to the government too, because we all know that regulating wine with a three-tier, consumer unfriendly system, and adding a massive sin tax to it serves the public by decreasing consumption. Right. Anyways, now that I'm done ranting...

This wine is from Ca' del Bosco, which is located in the Lombardy region of Italy. Ca' del Bosco was founded by Maurizio Zanella in 1968. In 1995, he got a DOCG for his sparkling wines made in the region of Franciacorta. Gambero Rosso really likes this winery; Maurizio Zanella is the only person besides Angelo Gaja to have more than 20 "Tre Bicchieri" awards. The winery is famous for its' Franciacorta sparkling wines, but makes a few other things too.

100% Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). They didn't spare much expense when it comes to the packaging--heavy bottle w/ huge punt, embossed labels, and an inch and a half high quality cork. (Perhaps this is an opportunity for them to lower the price?) This wine has a purple-reddish tint, and seems to be fairly dark for Pinot. The nose has some pinot funk, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, smoke, and oak (at times). In the mouth, it's smooth, with vanilla, raspberries, and blackberries. The finish has substantial berry character. There is depth, and the wine has some tannin on the end. The oak at times is a bit much. At times, the oak is very apparent, at other times, the fruit is more forefront. Interestingly shifty. This wine takes quite some time to open, even though it's got some bottle age. I would imagine that this will keep well for longer due to the tannin.

This wine is pleasurable to drink; it's quite good. It's a uniquely Italian expression of Pinot. This wine is more new world in style than old world, and I would more quickly guess Sonoma than Burgundy. However, the price is too much for this wine. In comparison to the Julia's Vineyard Pinot from Cambria, this wine has more structure, oak, and sweet fruit. It doesn't have near the elegance. I can say the same thing in comparison to some of the Burgundy that I've had recently. So this wine is unique, it tastes good, but I wouldn't pay 80$ for it. I would be quite disappointed at that price. Even at 30$, I think that it's a bit much. I like it, but am not blown away. C(Price!)/B taste

Update: I'm kind of tickled pink by the fact that the Italian Sommelier's Association picked up this post. In English, what their post translates to is roughly, you have to pay a lot of money to get quality. I particularly enjoyed "Questa è la legge del mercato, bellezza!" Which loosely translates to, "This is the law of the market." I have to categorically disagree. This particular wine was good, but 80$ good? At that price, I want to be absolutely, unequivocally blown away, and this wine didn't do it for me. Yes, it was good, but WAY over-priced. I guess some people, including Franco Ziliani, who wrote the post for the Italian Sommelier website, are gullible enough to believe that price=quality. Yes, Pinot is expensive, but I have had much better examples that were 25% of the retail price of this wine. Have the Italians really stooped to the level of California and Champagne brands owned by LVMH?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

2007 Heidler Gruner Veltliner Loss

Screw-top. Imported by Terry Theise. Got this at K&L for about 15$. During the spring and summer, it can get really hot here in LA, so I always try to have at least one bottle of Gruner, one bottle of Rose, and one bottle of something sparkling in the fridge at all times. Generally, I just can't bring myself to open a bottle of red when it's so freaking hot, and wines like this make me very happy when it's hot outside. Peach, citrus, and stones on the nose. In the mouth this wine is citrusy, peachy, a little peppery, and filled with wet stones. It's got a lot of acidity, but also a lot of fruit. Good finish, and long. The finish is a little salty. Sounds strange and different, but it's good. This Gruner is more lush and riper than most of the other Gruner's that I've had in my lifetime, yet paradoxically, it's only 11.5% alcohol. Oh, and I dig the little owl. I wonder if it's been around since before Yellowtail set off the "creature-wine" craze...A-

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2007 Convento Muri-Gries Lagrein Scuro/Dunkel

This wine comes from the monastery of Muri-Gries, located just south of the Bremmer Pass in Süd Tyrol. It's made from Lagrein, a local grape in Northern Italy derived from Teroldego. Lagrein is similar to Syrah. I got this wine from K&L's Italian Wine Club, and let's face it, unless someone directed you to it, you probably wouldn't try this wine (or be able to find it?). I like to try different random wines like this, especially when they're good, and it's one of the reasons that I like K&L--they have a lot of off the beaten path stuff. Their Italian wine guy, Greg St. Clair, always puts cool stuff in the club, which I appreciate immensely. Anyways, this was 16$.

When I pulled the cork, I initially thought of a lighter-bodied style of Syrah or Cotes du Rhone. The nose is herbal with berry fruit, and some chocolate, earth-notes. An interesting combination. Something about the herbal characteristics and the chocolate is quite different, but not in a bad way. The nose is quite complex and it's shifty. At some points, I literally thought that I was nuts because what I smelled a few minutes prior had disappeared and had been replaced with something else. In the mouth, the wine is tart--almost like cranberry or a really sour cherry. It's got a fairly light, soft, smooth, body, but picks up some weight and chocolate at the end with the tannins. Good balance too. This wine is an interesting, enjoyable experience. Totally different from the "soda pop" style that is so popular, and I imagine it's traditional. Plus, it was made by Benedictine monks, which is pretty cool. I thought monks only made beer! B

Sunday, April 19, 2009

2006 Bodega Norton "Privada" Mendoza

I picked this wine up at Costco for around 15$. 92 Points in the Wine Spectator and a "Best Buy" designation. 40% Malbec, 30% Merlot, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Initially on pulling the cork, all I could smell was clove. This quickly turned more interesting with blueberry, clove, plums, and chocolate on the nose. Once it hits your mouth, there are similar lingering flavors supported by a rich structure and dried fruit flavors. This is new world for sure. Like last night's wine, this wine is toeing the line artfully. This wine doesn't have the complexity or elegance of the 2006 Achaval Ferrer Quimera, but it's still tasty. B+

Sarah's never been to a taco stand before...

...she is not amused.

2007 Trader Joes Chilean Chardonnay

3$ This was purchased for cooking, but I figured I'd taste it. Passable, but not especially tasty or interesting. I definitely have had better Chardonnay. However, at the price, it's okay. Ripe pear, tropical fruit and lemon framed by some oaky notes. C- because of the price. You could do worse.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

2005 Zaca Mesa Santa Ynez Valley Syrah

I had a friend one time tell me that he didn't like syrah because it was "a weed." In a way, he's correct, because it grows lots of different places. I disagree with him about liking it though--it's one of my favorite grapes. From Cote-Rotie, to Aussie fruit-bombs, to California fruit bombs, and half old school, half new school Washington, as Gary Vaynerchuk, put it, "It's a good grape."

I picked this wine up at Costco. I think it was around 18$. I don't normally drink California wines, but every once in a while, I like to pick up a California wine that I've never heard of before that's supposed to be good and try it. I always say that I don't like California, but how do you know that you don't like something unless you try it? And wine is always changing--every single vintage, every single time you open a bottle, it's a different experience. So there's no way to know if you don't like a wine unless you have first-hand experience disliking it. The last two California wines I've had we're quite enjoyable...and fairly priced.

This wine is a dense purple color. You can definitely smell the ripeness in this wine. Unlike the more peppery, feminine wines from the Rhone, this wine smacks you in the face with ripe blackberries, blueberries, coffee, and beef. Once it hits your mouth, it's apparent that it's a new world wine because of the plush, satiny texture, and the ripe fruit. There are hints of pepper and sage to go along with the fruit. I perceive it to be a little hot, but I think in the end, this is really well made.

This wine is toeing the line as far as balance; if the fruit was any riper, I think that this wine would really taste off and not that great. As it is, this is tasty, drinks great, and is a reminder of why people like California so much. A

Friday, April 17, 2009

2007 La Ferme Julian Cotes du Ventoux Rose

This is another of the cheap Perrin family wines. It's 5$. I've had this quite a few times, and almost always have a bottle in the fridge during the summer. It's straight forward, tasty and un-complicated. Aromas of strawberries and wet stones. In the mouth, stones/minerals and cherry/strawberry flavors. A little flabby and undefined; there are definitely better roses out there. But they're almost always 10$+, and this is 5$. B/B+ for the value factor.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

2006 Ferrero Rosso di Montalcino

From K&L's wine club a few months ago. I like Rosso di Montalcino (actually most Sangiovese based wines), but the few that I've had from K&L's wine club have all been great. This is number three from the '06 vintage. I especially enjoyed the La Fortuna. I don't like this wine nearly as much, (even with the retro fake-wood station wagon panel label) but it still is enjoyable to drink and went well with our chicken parmegiano.

Initially this wine had some sulfery elements that took an hour or so to blow off. (I was almost ready to open something else actually). The nose has mainly fruit, with lots of plums, cherry, and some chocolate. In the mouth, this has plummy/bing cherry flavors, a silky entry, and then a segue into a tannic cherry-driven finish. There is a lot of depth of flavor in this wine, and I like it, although still not as much as the La Fortuna. It went great with dinner, and I enjoyed drinking it (other than the sulfur at the beginning). I'm sure that this will get better for a few more years. It has a lot of structure. B/B+

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

2005 Black Mountain Malbec "Watson's Grove"

This wine is 4$ at TJ's. It smells like tea. It tastes a lot like tea too, with some raspberries and cherries mixed in there. Actually okay. I'm a little put off by the tea flavors, but this isn't bad. C+/B-

Monday, April 13, 2009

2007 Cuvee de Nalys/Kirkland Signature Chateauneuf-du-Pape

I love Costco (I used to work at their corporate headquarters right out of college, plus I can remember my Mom taking me there when I was a kid)...and I believe that they are still the largest seller of wine in the entire United States. Not only that, but they're a really good company--they really care about their people, and it doesn't feel like it's a monster 75 billion dollar company. It seems a lot like a family.

I've had plenty of Cameron Hughes wines, but not many Kirkland Signature wines (I've only had their Champagne a couple of times). Since '07 is shaping up to be a monster vintage, I figured that I'd give this a try to see if I like it since it's only 20$, which is dirt cheap for quality Chateauneuf-du-Pape. I also like that this wine is only 14.5% alcohol; I know that a lot of wines I have seen so far are tipping the scales at more than that. That was certainly the case on '05 and '06 too.

This wine is probably pretty young to be drinking, as it's pretty tight and closed right now. The wine starts with lots of pepper, some raspberries, a little heat, some mint, and some smoky, gamy aromas. The mouth has red fruit and pepper in the finish. The fruit is more cherry like after it's been open in a decanter for around 2 hours. It's finely textured and juicy. There's some structure to the wine; I've got to believe that this will come together some more in a couple of years. The wine is enjoyable now after 2+ hours in the decanter, and at 20$ it's fairly cheap for CDP. However--I believe there are much better values for less, just probably not many in CDP. But sometimes you just want CDP. This is certainly respectable and tasty. I perhaps will purchase a couple more bottles to see if they improve some since they are so cheap. B

2008 Espiral Vinho Verde

4$ at TJs. Certainly nothing wrong with this wine. Its off-dry (9% alcohol), and lightly fizzy. Doesn't have much complexity, but for the price it's okay. Lemony, and a little sweet. Great for a day at the beach. C-

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Providence LA

Sarah and I went to Providence to celebrate our anniversary. The chef, Michael Cimarusti, has worked in quite a few notable places. Anyways...this was one of the top three best meals that I have ever had. Providence has just the right amount of upscale, arty, elegant vibe without being pretentious. A lot of places are just too over the top with the pretentiousness, but Providence was just right. I felt really comfortable there.

We got the 9 course tasting menu and the wine pairings...which was a lot of food!

The amuse was in three pieces: first a gin and tonic gelee that you squeeze lime onto, second, a carrot soup with creme fraiche and coriander (or maybe it was curry), and third, a mojito gel. Two out of the three ventured into the "molecular gastronomy" realm, but weren't so esoteric as to be unenjoyable. All three were pretty great. My favorite was the gin and tonic. Sarah liked the mojito.

The first course was Japanese kanpachi sashimi with crispy rice crackers, flowering coriander, endive sous vide and soy crème fraiche. This was an elegant, tasty, and screamingly fresh dish. The sous vide endive was interesting and different--the bitterness had been toned down, leaving an interesting flavor. It was served with an unusual Spanish muscat. The name of the producer escapes me...but it had a lot of verve and citrusy flavors.

Then came the bread...there was a warm bacon brioche (which was REALLY good), a focaccia (also great), and something else. I had to have seconds on the bacon brioche.

The second course was a single Santa Barbara spot prawn in beurre blanc, with a single piece of dutch white asparagus. The sauce was dotted with roe. The prawn was a little over-cooked, but this dish was great. This was served with Nicolas Feuillatte Brut, which was an excellent choice. The tartness of this Champagne cut through all the butter in the beurre blanc.

Next, we had a scallop dish, with fresh ramps, almonds, and a red wine vinegar gastrique. As you can see in the photo, I was so excited to eat this dish that I took a bite before I took a photo. This had to have been my favorite of the seafood dishes...the single scallop was the best scallop that I've ever had. Really. This dish was served with a gewurztraminer from Alsace, which was an excellent foil to the sweetness of the scallop.

Next up was wild alaskan halibut, with burdock, shiso, and lemon beurre blanc. The texture of the halibut was amazing, and it was perfectly cooked. This was a subtle dish; all the flavors went very well together. It was served with an awesome white Burgundy from the Macon, Macon-Milly-Lamartine, Heritiers du Comte Lafon 2005. The wine was crisp and stony, with pear and apple aromas leading into a stony finish. I liked this wine; I'm going to have to go find it somewhere.

Next up was arctic char (iceland) with carrot-miso butter, tokyo negi, carrots braised with lime, and chinese black bean. This was served with a very unusual German wine--a 2007 Spatlese Spurgunder (pinot noir) from Robert Frankenthal. This dish was great; I loved the earthiness and sweetness of the carrots as a foil to the richness of the char. The wine pairing was brilliant and different. This was perhaps the most esoteric of the wines that we had; it was almost like a rose in the sense that there were a lot of earthy elements to it--pinot funk really, but it was sweet. I don't know that Sarah was such a fan of this wine, but I enjoyed it.

Next up was roasted tenderloin of veal, sweet peas, celery root, and shimeji mushrooms. This dish was my favorite besides the cheese plate. I was a little too excited to eat this one too because I forgot to take a picture at the beginning. Oops. The veal was cooked sous vide, so it was extremely tender, with a great flavor. All of the other elements went great together, with all of the spring-time produce acting as a green foil to the richness of the veal. This dish was served with an interesting Croatian wine--2006 Babich Riserva Bibich. Bibich is the grape, which is a relative of primitivo. Similar to a zinfandel, with earthy/leathery/mineral aromas supported by red fruits. In the mouth it veered to the mineral side of things, with acidity that cut through. This wine took a bit for me to get into it; it's definitely a food wine, but it went well with this dish and was another esoteric choice.

Next, we had the cheese tray. First, let me say that the cheese plate was rad, and so was our waiter (waiters...I think I counted 5 different servers for us) for the latter half of the evening. He seemed like he was pretty cool and was just the right amount of laid back for us. Completely unpretentious, which is always a relief because Sarah and I are fairly casual. I felt completely comfortable. Anyways...the cheese was great. We ended up with 4 cheeses, and unfortunately, I can't remember everything about them. We had a cheese from the Washington cheesemaker Sally Jackson that I loved. It was wraped in grape leaves, and I believe this was a cow's milk cheese. Awesome. We also had a fantastic Epoisses, a semi-hard goat cheese designed to fool Sarah (because she doesn't really like goat cheese and she told the waiter that), and an ash covered soft goat cheese to serve as a foil to the other goat cheese. Also on the board was a riesling vinegar, peppercorn, apricot jelly, an apple jelly, 2 figs, some bread hazelnut raisin(?) bread, and some candied walnuts. The cheese tray was served with a 2006 Poggio la Guardia Frasinello Super Tuscan (60% Sangiovese, I think the rest merlot), that had a piney, leathery aroma. It was had excellent balance, nice cherry fruit, lots of earthy flavors. Reminded me of a Brunello. Sarah liked this wine. So did I. It went great with the cheese...which is difficult to pull off.

Next, we had the first dessert. I forgot to take a picture. It was a strawberry rhubarb concoction that was tasty. I don't remember what else was in it. No wine with this course.

Lastly, there was the kalamansi gelée with white chocolate coconut soy milk soup and litchi-shiso sorbet. This was served with a late harvest Napa Chardonnay. Unfortunately, the menu online is slightly different then the one we had, and some of the wines are different. I just don't remember who the producer was for this. It was fantastic. Maybe I'll call the restaurant and find out. Huge aromas of pears and apples; when you drank it with the coconot soy milk soup, it brought out caramelized/white chooclate flavors and enhanced the dessert greatly. I'm not normally one for dessert, but this dessert was just the right amount of light for me to enjoy it greatly. The white chocolate coconut soup sort of reminded me of tapioca pudding, but way more refined and tasty.

Then I had some coffee from LA Mill, and Sarah had some Rooibos tea. They were served with some little candies; the caramel was awesome. This was a great experience; although it was expensive, we will be going back. Everything was pretty much perfect. The space was cool, the people were great, the wines were interesting, the silverware was cool, the food was perfect, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. A++

Friday, April 10, 2009

2006 Epicuro Aglianico

5$. This smells like cherry coke. Kind of tastes like it too. It has been open for 1 day (girlfriend opened it last night), but this is pretty bad. Cherry coke is cheaper. If you mix it with some vodka, it's probably about the same. D-

2007 Caves des Papes Cote du Rhone

5$, and in the weird bottle. Peppery, spicy nose. Cherries/plums, pepper and in the mouth. Tannic and grippy finish. Pretty good for 5$, but still not as good as the Perrin Reserve. B/B+

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

1990 Kirchmayr Riesling “Altenberg” Solist (Weinviertel)

I was trying to find something from 2001 (which was the year Sarah and I started dating), but Burgundy wasn't that great that year, there weren't any Oregon pinots, and couldn't really find any other lighter reds from 2001 (no Loire, Rioja, etc...), and this was the last hence this riseling. I got this wine from Garagiste and saved it for a special occasion, since it isn't often that I drink wines almost as old as I am. Or some other things that come to mind...this wine was made before the first gulf war, before the internet existed to the public, while Michael Jordan was still playing basketball, while Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were just starting to break it big...right, I get it. It's old. So, good wine for an anniversary.

This is not the oldest riesling I've had (that would be a 1979 Spatlese from the Mosel, but I've forgotten the producer etc...). This riesling is also from Austria and not Germany. This wine is really good; I'm not blown away by it at around 60$. Nevertheless, it is quite tasty. Golden color. Completely dry, with 12.5% alcohol. It's got the mature riesling thing going on, with petrol, lots of stone fruit (peaches, apricot), a healthy dose of stone, flowers, a touch of citrus, and even a touch of honey. Once it enters the mouth, it's apparent that there is great balance that supports the richness. It's a little sweet. There is lots of peach upfront that gradually changes over to grapefruit. The finish is long. I like this wine; it's just super expensive. I suppose that if I'd bought it in 1991 or something it would have been relatively cheaper, so I don't know if it's a bad deal. I'd give this a B+/A-, but because of the price, a B. Sarah liked this wine even though she doesn't like riesling...or at least claims not to. There's still time I suppose, it's only been 8 years.

Sarah and I drank this with whole roasted fish basquaise, which was awesome (except that you really ought to eat the fish with your hands because of the bones and the poor job scaling the fish guy at Whole Foods on Rosecrans did). I jacked the recipe from the Les Halles cookbook. I'll be making this fish again.

Monday, April 6, 2009

2005 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva

5$ at TJ's. Berries, a lot of wood. A slight hint of licorice. The wine is balanced and lively, with some structure and tannin. Not bad for 5$, but for 1$ more, I still am enthusiastically all for the Perrin Reserve instead of this. This wine is a little boring. C+/B-

Sunday, April 5, 2009

2007 Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone Blanc

Chateau Saint-Cosme is one winery that I am becoming infatuated with. Starting with the '98 "Valbelle" Gigondas , I've been pretty enamored with Louis Barruol. I'm going to have to go out of my way and find some more of his wines.

Part of the reason why I like the wines so much is that the winery has been around since 1570. The property is situated on an old Roman villa, which apparently had its' own vineyards. The drawing on every bottle of Gigondas is of the chapel that was built in 1109. You're not going to find that anywhere in California...

I don't think that I've ever had a decent Cotes-du-Rhone blanc. I've had a few, but they were all pretty bad. This is a different story. Around 20$, this wine is a blend of 30% Roussanne, 30% Viognier, 20% Marsanne, 10% Clairette, and 10% Picpoul de Pinet. A bunch of random stuff--and I'm sure that the blend is better than the sum of all the individual parts. The nose is full of fragrant honey, citrus, apples, and wet stone. The mouth is full of tart apples, some stone fruit, and stoniness. The mouthfeel is a little waxy. There's great balance and richness in this wine. The acidity is well supported by the fruit; the finish is long and stony. This is interesting and fun to drink. B+

Saturday, April 4, 2009

2004 Gigondas Raspail-Ay Reserve

I bought this wine over a year ago from K&L. I think it was around 25$. The label is cool and medieval looking, plus it's got the cool embossed bottle a la Chateuaneuf-du-Pape. Gigondas is basically a Cotes-du-Rhone, but long ago, Gigondas was awarded cru status (meaning that they only have to refer to their wine by the village name), and most Domaines dropped the Cotes-du-Rhone in favor of Gigondas. This particular wine still says Cotes-du-Rhone on it. This is an aromatic, pretty wine. There are a lot of berries in it, with raspberry being the most prominent. It reminds me of my great grandmother's raspberry farm in the middle of July. There is also a floral element, some garrigue, and a mineral/iron tug going on. The berry and mineral notes continue once it hits your mouth, and there is a hint of chocolate. The long finish is steely and mineral driven. Sarah didn't like this as much as last nights merlot; I am on the fence. The wines are quite different in terms of style. They're both good. A

I had this with a rack of lamb, that I placed on top of a puree of fresh peas (from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market), mint, and Bellwether Farms creme fraiche. It went well with it; I wish that I would have saved some of last nights merlot for this, because the minty flavors would have went great with the lamb. It's pretty easy to make. Marinate the lamb in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and mint. Let it come to room temp while preheating the oven to 400F. Sear the lamb on all sides and then toss in the oven about 15 minutes (for medium-rare). When you pull out the lamb to rest, toss half of your fresh mint (not the lamby mint) and all the peas in salted boiling water for a couple minutes. Drain. Put in the blender with the fresh mint. Add a splash of the cooking water (which should be really minty). Blend until smooth. Add creme fraiche. Season to taste. Put underneath the lamb and devour.

Friday, April 3, 2009

2004 North Star Columbia Valley Merlot

I bought this wine on a whim at Costco (around $30) because I vowed to myself that I would always have at least one bottle of wine from my home state ready for drinking. For some strange reason, in California, you really have to go out of your way to find wine from Washington and Oregon. I'm sure that some of this is because California's wine industry is massive, and a lot of folks in California suffer from "the blinders" (as in, I only drink Napa cabs and Napa Chardonnay...). I don't get it, because Washington and Oregon have so many awesome wines that really, when it gets down to it, are more intriguing to drink than California. To top it off, they're generally cheaper. I could have bought a bottle of 2004 Duckhorn from Napa/Anderson Valley (which is a fantastic Merlot that I have enjoyed on occasion), but it would have been at least 80% more expensive. Hmmm...

I'm not that interested in merlot (this wine has dashes of cabernet sauvignon and petite verdot as well), because I am normally more excited by less prevalent grapes. I have been known to quote Miles ...however, just like any good wine, a good merlot is a real hedonistic pleasure.

This particular wine has layers of flavor. On the nose at first, there are raspberries, cherries, brown sugar, and perhaps some cedar. Eventually, the cedar disappears, and there is mint. In the mouth the wine goes from cherries and vanilla, to raspberry, and then to some tart cranberry that mingles with the mint. This wine delivers on a number of fronts--it's intellectually stimulating, tasty, has a great finish, and let's face it, it's a wake-up call for all the folks out there that are still quoting Miles. Because merlot can be GOOD. A

Thursday, April 2, 2009

2007 Cellier du Rhone Cotes du Rhone

5$. This wine is fairly good. Plums and a lot of pepper. Drinks easy. Not even close to as good the Perrin Reserve, but it's 1$ more than this wine. Not exciting, but for 5$, I'm all over it. B

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

2005 Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial Sardon de Duero

About 16$ from Costco. Imported by Kobrand. This wine comes from Castilla y Leon in Northern Spain. It's a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot. This wine is a fruity, ripe wine, but it's not unbalanced. Dark purple. The nose has cherries, plums, strawberries, chocolate/coffee, and licorice with a strain of vanilla in the background. On the palate, vanilla and cherry character dominate. There's some tannin in the background--just the right amount for the fruit. This wine is drinking well right now. It's a little sweet, and the vanilla is quite prevalent, which suggests the use of a lot of new oak, but I think this wine is still in the tasteful arena, and not tacky. It certainly isn't almost Pinot-like Tempranillo, and it is blended with non-Spanish varietals, but I enjoyed it. It's New World in style, but well done, and not over the top. Day 2, the plummy character of this wine really emerges, as well as some of the tannin. This wine would undoubtedly please a diverse group of people. B/B+