Saturday, August 29, 2009

2007 D'Arenberg The Laughing Magpie Shiraz/Viognier

Around 20$ at Costco. Screwcap. Plums, blueberries, raspberries, some floral elements and some chocolate. Rich, and balanced. B

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2007 Jean-Francois Merieau Touraine Sauvignon Blanc

14$ at K&L. Interesting that this bottle is a combination new world/old world labeling. It's still got the Touraine designation, but it calls out the grape--Sauvignon Blanc. A couple of tidbits about the wine--1. All hand harvested 2. 60ish year old vines 3. Organically farmed, and 4. It's fermented entirely in stainless steel. From the start, I could tell that I was going to like this wine. Not as pungent or sharp as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and not as austere as some Sancerre that I've had. This wine is the vinous equivalent of Goldilocks and the Three Bears--just right. Aromas of jalapeno, citrus, another fruit in between citrus and tropical (upon further reflection and reading some other tasting notes, I believe what my brain was trying to associate was melon), and very obvious mineral qualities. Rich fruit on the palette, with a pleasing snap of acidity, which leads to a mineral driven finish. A

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2007 Selvagrossa "Muschen" IGT

16$ at K&L. 60% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. In contrast to the other wine that I recently had from Selvagrossa, the "Trimpillin," this wine is fermented entirely in stainless steel. It's also cheaper. There is a wicked, huge cherry nose on this wine, just as there was in the "Trimpillin." Perhaps this is the hallmark of the wineries version of Sangiovese. There's also some mint in the background, but mainly, this is about the huge fresh cherry characteristics of the Sangiovese. This wine has a large amount of snappy acidity, and has considerable depth. This is definitely a food wine, and not one to really be drinking on it's own. Drinking this wine on it's own brings to mind semi-unpleasant thoughts. With food it's great, and the cherry in the nose is quite intense. This wine is way more interesting than it's sibling that is more expensive and saw lots of new barriques. B/B+

Sunday, August 23, 2009

2006 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon

This was 20$ at K&L. Imported by Kermit Lynch. Sold out now. Although it's labeled simply Chinon, this actually is not their entry level wine (Les Granges); it's their mid-level wine. Fermented in completely in cement. There is an excellent post on the Wine Doctor about this producer, which you should check out.

Cherries, blackberries, minerals, olive and leafy aromas. This wine has a lot of texture and weight to it. Impeccable balance, lots of depth, and a certain masculine, powerful quality. Minerally, stony finish--long. I am a bigger fan of this than the Frederic Mabileau I recently had. This wine (although from a completely different appellation, mind you), was more focused with more depth and had more intensity. Too bad that this is sold out. I would like to pick up a few more bottles. A

Saturday, August 22, 2009

2007 Allimant Laugner Muscat

16$ at K&L. This has been kicking around in the fridge for most of the summer, so I decided that after last nights Pinot Gris with Muscat in it, that it would be fun to just try a Muscat. I don't recall having any of these from Alsace--sure, I'm sure I've had a few, I just don't remember. I've had plenty of Moscato, from Italy, and some late-harvest dessert wine stuff too. This wine is a totally different beast from those.

According to K&L, the Allimant family has been making wine since 1724, ie a long time. Dry, or nearly dry at 12.5% alcohol. It comes off as maybe just a tad sweet, but I don't think that it is. Extremely floral nose with pungent tangerine and orange scents. (I haven't had these for a really long time (probably at least 15 years), but the nose reminds me of the scent of Fruit Loops cereal after they've been soaking in milk for 10 minutes. Don't ask me why. For whatever reason that's what my brain connected to this combination of aromas. Maybe I'm insane?) Orange/Tangerine continue along with mineral notes and eventually fade to grapefruit. Nice finish with lingering bitter notes that are an interesting contrast to the initial sweetness of the citrus. Lots of acids, supported by rich fruit. I'm going to have to check out some more wines from Alsace. Went great with Salmon and a roasted vegetable pasta. A

Friday, August 21, 2009

2007 Willamette Valley Vinyards Pinot Gris

Around 14$12$ at Costco here in Los Angeles. Pinot Gris is the Oregon bastardization of Pinot Grigio--kind of like the whole Syrah/Shiraz thing. Whatever. This is a cool wine in a lot of ways; if even half the shit they say on the label is true, then the Vintners are some cool ass dudes. The corks are Rainforest Alliance Certified, friendly to salmon fisheries (and for what it's worth, they recommend drinking this with salmon), and sustainable.

The wine itself is pretty good. I certainly enjoyed it. On the nose, it's really floral, and has some citrus character to it--almost reminds me of those weird Alsatian white grape blends. There's also just the slightest hint of spice. Once this bad boy hits your mouth, there's a lot of citrus--not orange, I'm thinking more along the lines of lemon, but a really sweet lemon. Also some minerals--like the mineral taste that you get out of some tap water, and green apple. The wine is medium-weight, fresh, and has a good balance of acidity and richness. The finish is fairly long and citrusy--it definitely is lingering. A couple more things that I found out after I drank this wine--1. I guess that this isn't a "straight" Pinot Gris. It's also got some Muscat added for...drum roll...floral characteristics! So that explains the really floral nose. 2. Although almost all of this wine is fermented in stainless steel, there is 1% that is barrel fermented. Which is where that faint hint of spice was coming from. So here I was thinking that I was a little nuts for smelling all the flowers and that tiny bit of spice and it turns out that's what the winemaker intended. So this wine is basically an Italian Grape, that smells like something from Alsace, but it's really from Oregon? Yeah, I think that's about right. It's fun to drink. B+

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lagranja 360 Tempranillo Carinena Spain

You can grab this for 4$ right now at TJ's. Screw-cap. I have to say, I like the label. There's nothing like a whimsical flying pig to brighten up your day. This wine is much better than the other 4$ wines that I have had recently from Trader Joes. There's something going on, and it's nicely drinkable. Tart red fruit (tending towards raspberry or a bit of plum), some earth, and some herbal notes. Enough tannin to stand up to something and enough acids to balance. Day two, it picks up some chocolatey-licorice character. Quite nice at 4$. B

We also had some friends over for lunch yesterday (herb-roasted pork tenderloin with first of the season chanterelles, roasted fingerlings, a tomato salad, and a bunch of fresh figs wrapped in prosciutto with blue cheese in the middle), and they brought a couple of bottles--2007 Cuvaison Chardonnay Carneros and 2007 Montgras Quatro, from Chile.

The Cuvaison was quite nice and went really well with the chanterelles. Spicy pears, and quite a bit of weight for a Chardonnay, but hey, it's Napa. Oaky...but it mellows with time in the glass. I feel almost sheepish since I love to rail against California, but I enjoyed this bottle. I don't know that I would buy it again, or that I would buy it unprovoked, but it's pretty good. 16$ at K&L. B+

The Montgras is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carmenere, and Syrah. Lots of oak here too...curranty fruit and herbal notes (other reviews say capsicum and leather, which I think is quite accurate). This was okay, but too oaky. Around 15$, which I think is a bit much. Perhaps this wine is a bit young. It seemed a bit on the austere side, but I imagine that this would probably show better in a couple of years. As an aside, I have had some other fruit bombs that were a lot nicer from Chile. They don't need all the oak...C

Friday, August 14, 2009

2005 Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico

This wine is around 25$ and is from Panzano, home of Dario, the famous butcher from the book Heat and a number of other media outlets. (As an aside, if you haven't read Heat, which is by Bill Buford, a former editor from the New Yorker, you ought to. It's a witty, funny book about him learning to cook in the Babbo kitchen and in Italy. It's a great read and inspiring, since he came to cooking later in life.) Anyways...this wine has a modern nose of black cherry and vanilla with just a hint of something floral in the background. Good acids, just a bit of tannin in the background, and almost a little bit creamy texture-wise. Well made, but the vanilla is off-putting. It brings up the question--what's good? My personal taste? What I know to be "technically" right, ie not plonk? I mean this isn't plonk by any means, but I don't know how much of a fan I am. I'm not that impressed. You might be. Who knows? What can i say but its ultimately personal? C

Monday, August 10, 2009

2005 Chateau Caronne Ste. Gemme Cru Bourgouis Haut-Medoc

I originally had this wine about 18 months or so ago at a friends house. It was basically undrinkable--tannic and not showing much of itself. I also had the 2003 of this wine a while back, and found it to be pretty nice. This was around 15$ at Costco and has been in my cellar for a year or so. We had some people over for dinner Saturday night and I made a rack of lamb (in addition to a bacon and sage risotto), so this got pulled out. After being decanted for about 3 hours, it was drinking well. Definitely not the steel-wooly mess that it was 18 months ago. Plums, currants, and some herbal notes. Nice depth, poised fruit and good balance of tannins and acidity. B+

We also had the 2007 Ermacora Friulano, which had nice citrus fruit, and a little bit of peach, to match up to a relatively fat frame. Didn't take a picture of that bottle. I was preoccupied for some reason. About 11$ at K&L. B

Friday, August 7, 2009

2006 Frédéric Mabileau St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Les Rouillères

When I opened up this wine, I was thinking about taste preferences. Sometimes it shocks people to know that I think Coke tastes like shit and I haven't had one in years. Same with McDonald's. A lot of people seem surprised that I also am not a huge fan of dessert. They generally think that I'm insane. And I was thinking about all this in the context of Cabernet Franc and pondering why exactly that is. I guess some of it has to come down to something primal about sugar. Like it or not, humans evolved in such a fashion that sugar is basically like crack. So since most people treat it that way, and since I'm not an addict (I guess a teetotaler in some sense with sugar...Haha...), I guess they think I have some screws loose. Are you a bit of a rebel if you like Cabernet Franc? I think so, but I really don't understand why. How could you dislike this wine? Sure, perhaps people get a bit turned off by sometimes leafy and green aromas, or perhaps you prefer wines that are full of raisiny, jammy flavors instead. I still don't get why y'all don't like Cabernet Franc. This wine is complex and absolutely delicious. The nose is incredibly complex with blackberry, cherry, minerally notes, earth, violets, and olive notes. Once in the mouth, it's all blackberries, more cherries, and mineral tones. Good balance, nice acids, some tannin in the background, and a good finish, but perhaps just a tad bit hollow and undefined. Still, at 16$, this wine is delicious and food friendly. A lot of times we make a "modified eggplant parmesan," that really is more like a lasagna where you replace the noodles with eggplant. It's a fairly robust dish. This wine rocked with it, and it has put many a wine to shame for all it's girth and tomatoey acidity. A

While thinking about all this, I was also thinking about "the tasting note." What a boring form of writing. It's specific to a fault, and a complete cliche. Definitely something that could only spill forth from the brain of an obsessed, complete, and utter nerd. Of course I suppose that we could divert back to the old-school British way and define wines like people. In which case, I would say that this wine is MILFY. Why? Well, it's got a nice figure, but it's a little (not too much) flabby. It's also more refined/elegant--it's a lived a bit more if you will, than something more new world and "younger." And it's a sexy wine. So yeah. I thought this wine was kind of MILFY. And I think that's a lot more descriptive than telling you all about all the fruits that I can smell.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

2007 Montirius Vacqueyras "Garriques"

I loved the Cotes du Rhone of from Montirius, and the 05 of this wine was drinking nicely at Lou. Since I drove Sarah to the Pantages, she bought me a couple of bottles of wine. 2 bottles of the Montirius Cotes du Rhone and this bottle. But there's a catch. She always makes fun of me for not wanting to let wine sit in a hot car in LA...and of course she did this will all three bottles. She let them sit in 95 degree heat for 3 hours while she went to lunch with a friend. So all three seeped. Oops. When she gave them to me (somewhat sheepishly I might add, since they had leaked all over), she was kind of disappointed. All three bottles were hot to the touch. And I'm not talking luke-warm...they were hot.

Both bottles of Cotes du Rhone turned out to be fine. They actually, surprisingly, drank just as well as the first bottle that I had (not heat damaged). This wine though, I felt like there was something off. I know it's a bit young to be drinking this wine at two years of age, but since it was seeping, and I figured it was ruined, and I opened it up. The texture was nice; very smooth and velvety. Really trying, I got some spice and some berry fruit. There was definitely something missing. It was way too austere, and not really showing much of itself. Not sure if this is the wine being shut-down, or if this was some damage. So, no grade. I am going to get another bottle that hasn't been damaged.

Monday, August 3, 2009

2008 Crane Lake Southeastern Australia Chardonnay

Crane Lake is owned by Fred Franzia of Two Buck Chuck fame. Normally, that means that I wouldn't touch this bottle unless you gave it to me gratis or I had to be polite or something. However, recently, this wine was in the Wall Street Journal, in the Tastings column of all places (if you can't read the article because the WSJ says it's paid content, just go to Google and Google "Australian Chardonnay: Not Back Yet." You should be able to read it for free...) And the surprise? This wine not only was the best value, but it was one of only two wines that they liked out of about 25. They paid $5.03, but right now at TJ's, you can get this wine for $2.99. So I just had to try it to see if it was any good. A couple of other notes--this is Australian bulk wine that's blended/bottled in the US, so it's a bit of a departure from normal Bronco Wine Company fare, and 2. Australia has a huge glut of grapes right now. Some of them are great, and the market for them has pretty much collapsed from everything that I've read.

I was expecting to slam this wine. Here's the thing: it's actually insanely good for 3$. Simple, but it's varietally correct, has good acidity, nice fruit, and it's cheap. Pears and some citrus. Nice balance. How is this 3$? You could have 6 bottles of this, or 1 mediocre bottle of California Chardonnay...I wonder if perhaps this is what Two Buck Chuck used to taste like in the beginning (because it tastes like shit now...), and that they lowered the quality after everyone got hooked? A

UPDATE 8/21: I would recommend that you drink this wine the same day you open it. Because I had a bottle hanging out in my fridge half drunk for 3 days, and when I poured my self a glass, it wasn't exactly what I would call good. Definitely had fallen apart and had oxidized to an excessive degree, which wasn't something that bodes well for drinking this wine. All those more nutty, sherry-like characteristics do not flatter this wine.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lou Wine Bar

Sarah went to Fiddler on the Roof at the Pantages last night with one of her friends. I didn't want to go, because let's face it--musical theater is generally lame. However, despite the fact that we've lived here for over three years, Sarah didn't know how to get from Manhattan Beach to Hollywood...The show was at 8, and considering that she hadn't left our place by 6:30, she was a little worried that she wouldn't make it in time (yes, traffic is a bitch in Los Angeles, especially if you have to get to the 101), and she didn't know where she was going, I decided that I was just going to drive her there. Of course, that meant that I had 3 hours to kill in Hollywood by myself. Not normally something that I'm all that into. I mean really, it isn't all that fun to "go out" by yourself. It doesn't really make me all that uncomfortable, it's just that it's kind of lame. I hate being that guy at the bar reading a book or something with no one to talk to. Anyways, I ended up at Lou, (which Sarah probably would have been underwhelmed with anyway) and I had a great time.

Lou is definitely an LA thing. It's in a fucking strip-mall. I don't know that there is any other city on the planet that has such a laissez-faire attitude about institutions in strip malls. This is a pretty serious place, but it's in a strip mall next to a laundromat or something. You can't even see inside because of the curtains that are hung on the windows. So you'd NEVER end up here unless you had read about it, or you happened to be in the strip mall (which is small). It's just plain weird for anywhere but LA, but I guess that's what makes LA so interesting. Lou is on the small side inside; there are maybe 20 small tables for two. They've got lots of great food, and a nifty map showing where all of their food comes from on a chalkboard. It's pretty cool and something I've never seen in a restaurant before.

I have to complement all the servers because they were all really cool. Not only were they all talkative (even to the weird dude sitting by himself at the bar), but they poured me lots of tastes of the wines they liked just because I was there. Really cool. So many people have a chip on their shoulder in LA, and it was refreshing to meet some really fucking cool ass people.

I had several things: a fig salad with with melon, some arugula, a balsamic reduction and almonds, a smoked pork chop with potatoes, maitake mushrooms, and a broth, and a cheese plate. Salad was great; the figs and melon were perfectly ripe, and the balsamic reduction gave the salad a nice tang. The pork chop was also great; cooked medium rare (it's sad when people murder meat), juicy, and smokey. The maitake's were a little boring, but they were still good. The broth was great, and they let me have some bread to mop it up with. The cheese plate was tasty; my favorite cheese was a moo-buzz cheese that had been rubbed with coffee. Awesome cheese. I'm going to have to track it down. There was also Cook's 10 Year cheddar (quite nice, but actually my least favorite), a Cowgirl Creamery cheese with peppercorns, a Rogue Smoked Blue Cheese, and one other thing (which I can't remember). It wasn't Sally Jackson though. Maybe next time. The cheese plate also had some really nice cornichons, some dates, and a fig-nut thing.

Lou is all about bio-dynamic wine and terroir driven wine. There aren't any oak bombs on the list...which is awesome. Every single wine that I had there had depth and complexity, which generally isn't what you get by the glass. At the recommendation of the first server, I had a glass of the Quivira Vineyards 2008 Rose. Made from Grenache and great--lots of minerality, nice depth, some nice strawberry fruit, and here's the shocker: it's from California. Honestly? I thought it was a Bandol. It's funny because the servers felt the same way about the wine as I did. I guess they aren't generally friendly with California at Lou.

Next, I had a glass of the 2007 Thierry Germain Samur Champigny. A cab franc from the Loire by the glass? You don't see that every day. Very nice wine--leafy, tobacco aromas (strangely enough smelled like peanuts to me at first), lots of minerals, and some berry fruit in the background. This wine had a lot of poise, balance and depth and went pretty well with the pork chop. They also poured me a taste of a 2007 Alsace Gewurztraminer from Boesch (I think...not quite sure, and their menu changes a lot). Whatever, it was pretty great. A soaring perfumy nose, lots of tropical fruit, and minerals. Another poised, balanced, delicious wine. This went a lot better with the pork chop...

With the cheese plate, I had a glass of a 2004 Cahors (made from Malbec), which I'd never had before. Unfortunately, I assumed that it would be online...and it isn't. So I don't really know what it was. Too bad, because it was a nice wine as well. Totally different from any new world malbec. I don't think it had any oak--just nice fruit and minerals. I also had a taste of a zinfandel that was almost a rose (seriously light in color), that was very nice and different--ie not an oak bomb. That doesn't seem to be online either. Too bad again! It had a little spice, and some nice strawberry fruit. They let me have a taste of the 2005 Montirius Vacqueyras (not as good as the Cotes du Rhone in my opinion), which was huge and meaty, with some leather and the same bright wild cherry note in the Cotes du Rhone. And finally, I had a taste of a 2006 German Pinot Noir, which was super piney, and to the bartenders point, grapefruity. And damn it, not online! Too bad, because that was good too.

And after all this wine, they only charged me for 2 glasses. Pretty fucking cool. If you're in LA, you need to check Lou out. It's pretty rad.