Thursday, October 29, 2009

2009 Fuerza Malbec

How come more people don't lampoon shitty wine? That's a question that I'm struggling with. In many ways, I think it's more entertaining and amusing to just totally rip on a terrible bottle of wine. There's a lot of crap out there, but it seems like no one bothers. Regular wine reviews are generally formulaic--nose, mouth, color, texture, points--you're done. (There are, of course, exceptions--The Dirty South's new scale is ridiculously hilarious--101.85 Silent Ferret Whistle!) We can't all be like that though. Most people get a kick out of watching someone take a crazy fall on You Tube...I think. How come no repository of reviews of shit wines? Seriously--are people afraid that they're going to offend someone? Are people embarrassed at their poor taste (most wine people seem to be a bit cocky with the good vs. bad thing--me included)? Do people just not want to waste their time? Is there too much crappy wine out there for consideration? I'd like to know...

The 2003 offering was one of the lamest wines that I've had in the last year, and they have a new vintage of it at Trader Joes. It was picked up with hopes of three things: 1. A good Malbec offering at Trader Joes, 2. It might be better, since the alcohol has gone from 15% to a more reasonable 13.5%. 3. I had a fair share of comments on the 03 Fuerza earlier in the year, a few of which told me "you're crazy this wine is great" (It's actually the first time that I remember anyone really commenting here.) and I was kind of thinking that maybe I should give it another shot, just to be fair.

I'm sorry to say that I did. This wine is absolute shit. It literally tastes like watery Kool-Aid mixed with vodka. It's mind-bendingly bad. I'll go out on a limb and say that Two Buck Chuck is better since it's total crap but it's only 2$ instead of 5$. It's the vinous equivalent of this Lyndsay Lohan Tattoo. It's trying really hard to twinkle. Look! I'm in a screw-cap, with a cool label! There's a little man trying to see what's behind the curtain! So exciting. Except that it isn't. Absolutely terrible. On the Dirty South Wine scale, this is a 101.00 Drunken Rabid Possum Roadkill Sandwich. F

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2003 Reserve de la Comtesse Lalande, Pauillac

46% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest Cabernet Franc. About 35$; I've had it in my cellar for a couple of years or so. Admittedly, I am not much of a Bordeaux drinker--not that I dislike it--it's just that Bordeaux can get really expensive, really fast, and there is cheaper stuff that is just as exciting to me. This is the second wine of the second growth estate Pichon-Lalande--in other words, a cheaper, and less age intensive way--to sample the house style. (For more history on Pichon-Lalande, I highly recommend checking out the Wine Doctor's site.) 03 was a visciously hot vintage in most of Europe, so perhaps this wine is not typical of Pichon-Lalande? I would have to taste more Pichon-Lalande to figure that out...luckily, the Wine Doctor has, and concludes that for wines from the Left Bank, it's "not a vintage for those that enjoy typicité." Now that we've gotten that out of the way, this wine has a nose full of chocolate, plum and berry fruit, plus baking spices. It's a nice nose. Very similar flavors once it's actually in your mouth--lots of chocolate character in particular. Silky smooth, with not a lot of tannin. Still, it has obvious structure, and while a little hollow, it's delicious and suave. However, it's quite expensive relative to what I know that I can get from places other than Bordeaux. This is one of those semantics things--it's Bordeaux! It doesn't break the bank! It must be worth paying for! Sadly, I don't think that's always only has to look to Argentina (and lots of other places too, for what it's worth) to find a wine that is less, but totally ass kicking. Maybe not quite as elegant, but give it six years, and it probably will be. C+/B- (The price is dragging it down)

Also--despite my initial reservations, I signed up for Twitter (just like the rest of the world, haha!). If you're so inclined, you can follow me (@vivalawino).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2006 Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon "Clos des Capucins"

Holy crap. This wine is rad. From the Clos des Capucins vineyard. 26$ at K&L, and unbeknowst to me until I looked just now, a 92 in the Wine Spectator. A 92 for a Cabernet Franc based wine in Wine Spectator? I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing...this is a bit more on the modern side, but has not lost it's Cab Franc-ness. Raffault has been owned by the same family since 1693. In other words, this is older than the US. The estate is just old period. The Clos des Capucins vineyard was orginally planted in 1790. So it's pretty damn old too. When I hear stuff like this, it really puts US wine in perspective. Afterall, this esate has been experimenting and growing Cabernet Franc for over 400 the US, the oldest estates aren't even close to that old--and the oldest probably went out of production during Prohibition. And I wonder why I don't find the US to be as exciting...

To be fair, this Chinon is more New World and fruity than I have come to expect from Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. Typically, there's a forward savory component and less fruit. This one is flip-flopped. There is a ton of stuff going on in the nose--blackberry, a bit of olive, cherry, raspberry, pencil lead, spices, and pepper. Flavor wise, it's raspberry-ish, with lots of cocoa and spice accents. It's a little hollow in the mid-palate, but that's the only flaw that I can find.  Minerally, raspberry finish. Killer. A

Monday, October 19, 2009

2008 Campos de Luz Old Vine Garnacha

7$ at Costco. Screw-cap. A good example of young, fruity, garnacha. Don't think this one saw any new oak. Fresh. Lots of sour cherry, raspberry and pepper. Good balance, good acidity, and nice fruit. Not overly complex, but an enjoyable, tasty, inexpensive quaff. I have a soft-spot for this style of garnacha. B/B+

Sunday, October 18, 2009

1999 Luna Beberide Tinto VdT Castilla y Leon (Bierzo)

First, thanks to David Driscoll David Othenin-Girard from K&L Hollywood for recommending this wine. I doubt if I would have come across this otherwise. 20$. Only 20$?? And 10 years old? Let's see....what was I up to in 1999? Hmm...stealing beer out of the garage from my dad with my friends and going to high school! Why the fuck would you buy anything from Napa--ever--when you can get stuff like this already aged for a lot less?? From K&L: "Produced from the steep, slate, terraced vineyards of Bierzo by Spain's legendary Mariano Garcia (while he was still making wine at Vega Sicilia!), here is a beautiful example of a perfectly aged Spanish wine that has developed quite beautifully in bottle. Produced from 40% Cabernet, 30% Merlot and 30% Mencia." No shit! This wine rules. Seriously good, especially for the age and the price. Primarily cherry on the nose, but a deep, pure cherry. The cherry scents are supported by a variety of different secondary characteristics that come and go: pipe tobacco, mint, pepper, and licorice. The tannins and the fruit are completely integrated, with just a little bit of tannic grip appearing at the end. Beautifully smooth, elegant, and poised with cherry and berry flavors that lead into a long finish with spicy nuances. Damn, I'm going to have to get me a couple more bottles of this...A+

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2007 Hogue Riesling Columbia Valley

This is only 5.89$ at Costco, so it's very affordable. Screw-cap. I wouldn't say that it's exciting, per se, but it is certainly tasty. Nose that is slightly floral, with lime peel and a little stone. Peachy flavors and a fruity finish. Lightly sweet. Good acidity. This is clean and varietally correct--but not really exciting. But it's cheap. This is a great one to have in the fridge when you don't want something too complicated. B

Monday, October 12, 2009

2006 Nerelo del Bastardo

No designation anywhere on this wine, although it seems to be from Piedmonte guessing by the portion of the label talking about how this is the same wine that ages for three years and the government only gives out so many neck labels...that leads me to guess Barbaresco? Everywhere on line says that older vintages are from Piedmonte, so that makes sense. It seems closer to Sangiovese though flavor-wise, so maybe it's a Chianti? Who knows...7$ at Trader Joes. There are lots of black cherries, a touch of leather, herbs, and a spicy finish. Maybe a little harsh at times and a bit simple, but for the price it's fairly good. B+/A-

2006 Domaine Ostertag Fronholz Vin d'Alsace Pinot Noir

Had this Saturday at Lucques with my parents. 70$. Somebody must be really into this wine there--a red from Alsace? I figured that it had to be good...Domaine Ostertag is more known for their Pinot Gris and Riesling. Completely bio-dynamic. Cherry, earthy funk and some spice. Nice balance, and a nice spicy finish. Went great with everything--duck with figs, jidori chicken, and short-ribs. Interesting wine, but maybe a bit on the spendy side. B

Last night, we also had another bottle of the '06 Quimera (which was drinking awesome), and another bottle of the Mas Belles, which was also absurdly good.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2006 Valpane Barbera del Monferrato Rosso Pietro

This wine is only 9$ in the K&L Italian Wine Club, which I quit, because they had a viscious streak of some really mediocre new world wines. Imported by Kermit Lynch (always a sign of quality in my book). Anyways, this wine doesn't really fit that bill. Definitely more up my alley than the Briccotondo, which takes on a different personality becuase of the barrique aging. No barrique, no plum, and no chocolate on this wine. Just fresh, wild fruit. Definitely traditionally Italian, although there is a bit of a twist to this wine. Barbera is generally acidic and can be perceived as "sharp." Now in my book, this isn't neccessarily a bad thing--it pairs really well with tons of tomatoey Italian food (last night with a "cooked water soup" we make frequently that has a tendency to be a "rough" pairing for most wines), pizza, and anything that's intensely rich because of all the acidity. This wine has a twist though--it's got a lot more ripeness and fruit than normal, which are balanced out by the acidity. Instead of being sharp, this wine comes off as having a lot more depth and is drinkable by itself. Lots of cherry character, as well as more savoury aromas in the background of tar, earth, and some pepper. Fleshy and ripe in the mouth, with the acidity well balanced by the rest of the wine. Finish is a bit short, but this is a pleasurable wine to drink, goes great with food, and is immensely enjoyable. A-

Sunday, October 4, 2009

2004 Ceretto Barolo Zonchera

Well, it's been quite a while since I've even had a drink--10 or 11 days. I just didn't want to. Drinking is an interesting double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is pleasurable and interesting, on the other hand, it fucks with a lot of essential functions of your body. Like sleeping for instance. I find that even a bottle split at a meal disrupts my sleep drastically...which I don't really enjoy. It's fascinating to look at the biological response that intoxication brings. Your brain actually tries to compensate for the depressive effect by releasing chemicals into your body that stimulate you a couple of hours after the fact. And for some reason, I have found myself to be increasingly disrupted by a couple of drinks as I get older. Maybe this is what getting old is like? Who knows, but it's a frustrating conundrum, because wine is so fascinating to me, but I also really like my sleep. Either way it sucks.

There's a great article in the NY Times this morning about E. Coli and slaughterhouses. To a certain extent, this article is preaching to the choir (IE me and the readership of the times I'm sure), and it's nothing that hasn't been revealed in works such as The Omnivores Dilemna, but it still demonstrates what an absolute joke/horror food safety, the industrial meat complex, and the government are. I haven't eaten a burger in a really long time (and with good reason, I might add), but the article still scares the shit out of me. I mean listen to the beef packers try and blame it on each other in the article, and then look at the government response, and it's clear that no one really cares about the consumer in all this. It's all based on plausible deniability. Everyone knows there's a real issue, but no one wants to be the first one to change. So they just deny that there's an issue. Fucked up. Here's hoping that there are changes to the way the vast majority of idiot Americans consume food. Eating random cow pieces from a sad animal fattened on food that it's body can't process is not only inhumane, but dangerous. Maybe the government should stop subsidizing corn so that it gets more expensive to eat meat and the economics of more local, humanely run, old-school operations would make better sense? Feedlot beef, pigs and chicken are whack, and it's too bad that those are not only the cheapest, but frequently the only, options available (even to me). It's hard, and expensive to find a better alternative, even in a humongous city like Los Angeles. That's got to change, but there have to be enough people on board for it to change. It can't just be all the bourgeois's got to be the whole fucking country, and all the apologists for the meat industry need to realize how fucked up the meat industry is. Yes, we'll all still eat meat, but we shouln't eat industrial, shit-infested meat from sad animals. 

Okay, now that I'm done ranting, on to this wine. Barolo is one of those things that's hard to get to know since it's so fucking expensive. Definitely more familiar with CDP, and CDR, but Barolo was my first "holy shit!" wine (it was a 1997 Livia Fontana Barolo at Volterra in Ballard with a veal chop that did it for me), and when I find bottles that are relatively affordable, I generally buy them and drink them. I don't have too much space for "safe" decade long wine storage anyways...Ceretto is a well-lauded producer and this is their base-level bottling. The single vineyard wines, such as "Bricco Rocche," are around 200$. So I figured that since Costco was carrying this wine for 37$, and it was from the awesome 2004 vintage, that this would be a slam-dunk. It's certainly good wine, but not 37$ good. I have had better, cheaper (25$ish) 04 Barolo (although admittedly, not many). Nose of cherries, chocolate, licorice, and berries after it's sat in the glass for a couple of hours. Once in the mouth, it's clear that this wine has some good structure, and there's definitely some tannin that is starting to integrate seamlessly with the fruit. On the rustic side. It's a bit hollow mid-palate, and the finish doesn't have a lot of oomph, although there are nice notes of chocolate and ginger that come through along with some traces of fruit. I was hoping that this would knock my socks off (I had firm intentions of getting several more bottles if it did), but it didn't. Too expensive, and not enough bang for the buck. Definitely better stuff out there are this price, both in Barolo, and other wines. C/C+