Saturday, November 28, 2009

2007 La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux

10$ for a magnum at Costco, which is dirt cheap. This is also from the Perrin family of Beaucastel; normally single bottles are about 7-10$. Bright cherries, maybe a bit of pepper. Soft and fruity; this certainly isn't complex. At the equivalent of 5$ a bottle though, this is a great deal for cheap wine that is actually drinkable. And it has a screw-cap, which makes it perfect for hotels. Not as good as the Perrin Cotes du Rhone, but still good for the price. C+/B-

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2007 Lucien Crochet "Croix du Roy" Sancerre

25$ at K&L. I was waiting for the right time to open this wine after it won the New York Times Sancerre tasting a few months back. So I figured Thanksgiving was as good a time as any. Neither Sarah or I go home anymore; we always cook dinner and then head up to Carmel the day after. Tonight we had chicken breasts with a tarragon sauce, portobello mushroom risotto, and green beans with caramelized red onions. This wine went great with all of them. It's excellent. Very nice nose of citrus and maybe just a touch of melon, with lots of minerality, and just a hint of greeness/grass. Once in the mouth, it's rich, with good acidity, nice citrus and melon flavors, and a nice stony finish. A

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2007 Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" Kabinett Riesling Mosel

Picked this up at Costco for 15$; almost opened it last night with dinner--thought it would go well with duck, but at the last moment, opened a red. Luckily, I had two more duck breasts, so since Sarah went to lunch with a friend, I drank this with another duck breast for lunch. I also had some fingerlings that I picked up at the Farmer's Market this morning--I roasted them up in some duck fat--and also had some left-over herbed polenta. Off-dry 7.5% ABV. Lightly fizzy. Nose of apples and stones. Similar in the mouth. Acidity balanced by sweetness. Finish has a lot of stone elements. Like "adult" Sprite, really. I'm not exactly blown away, although it certainly went pretty well with the duck breast and the potatoes. Would I buy it again? No, but who knows how this will be in, five years or so? Wine Spectator gave it a 90; I'm going to give this one a C+. Just not that exciting. Maybe it will really sing in 2014?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2005 Gianni Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino

This wine was originally 32$ at K&L and was in their Italian Wine Club one month--I've had the bottle for a couple of years. So why did it randomly get pulled out tonight? Great question. I'm not really sure myself. I made pan roasted duck breasts (along with herbed polenta and roasted butternut squash) from the Ad Hoc Cookbook, and was trying to decide what would go well with them wine-wise because I don't have a single bottle of Pinot in the house. (Yeah, I know, it's weird. I like Pinot plenty, but I always end up buying Rhone wines or Italian stuff. If anyone wants to give me some good Pinots/Burgundy, feel free, haha.) Riesling is off limits generally since Sarah doesn't really like riesling--especially not off-dry ones (although she liked the one last night), but the only one I have sitting around is off-dry. So that's how this bottle got picked. Seemed like the bright cherry of the Sangiovese and some earth would go well with the duck. It wasn't too far off.

Nose of cherries and a hint of leather. Good balance, nice acidity that's supported by good density and weight. You know what though? This wine isn't all that exciting. It's sort of a let down, actually. Definitely have had way better Rosso di Montalcino, and at the price, it's a little disapointing. There's nothing wrong with it, there's just a lack of fireworks. C

2006 Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling Finger Lakes (New York)

Trying to find wine from New York in California is damn near impossible without ordering a whole bunch of stuff on the internet. It isn't like you can really just walk into any wine store and say "Give me a Finger Lakes Riesling and a Long Island Merlot." That's not going to happen. It's too bad, if only for the fact that it's interesting to drink something other than the usual suspects, and New York is closer than Germany. The Finger Lakes AVA is located in upsate New York, roughly 75 miles from Rochester. The main grapes grown are cool-climate grapes--stuff like Riesling and Gewurztraminer, which can survive the cold climate. (The winters are cold. My girlfriend is from Rochester, so I've been there quite a few times and literally become frozen solid.) If you want more information on the Finger Lakes or New York Wine, there is only one resource--and that's the New York Cork Report. It's worth checking out. For what it's worth, the site is the reason that I went way out of my way to find this wine--the NYCR has a contagious enthusiasm for New York wines. It's beyond refreshing to hear someone lauding the values of local wine, from the US, consistently, and not mentioning California. Definitely a site to watch, even if you can't get 99% of the wines that they talk about easily.

Hermann Wiemer is from the Mosel region in Germany; his family has been making wine for over 300 years. Wiemer learned from some famous vintners--Dr. Thanisch is the most recognizeable. In 1973, he planted his first vines in New York, right next to Lake Seneca, because he saw similarities between the soils there and in the Mosel (which is obviosuly famous for Riesling). The winery grows several different Rieslings, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc.

This particular wine cost me 18$, and I had to have K&L ship it here from San Francisco (apparently, San Francisco is more open to trying new things than status conscious Los Angeles...). It's the only New York wine that K&L carries. As in singular. Aromas of green apple, peaches, and lime, with a stony streak right in the middle. Nice balance and acidity, with peach flavors, more minerals and a nice finish. Definitely Riesling. Sarah liked this wine, despite the fact that it's a Riesling (shocking, but yes, she's not a fan). Perhaps it was because this is essentially from where she grew up? I liked it too. I don't think that it has quite the same nervous tension and intense acidity that you get from German Kabinett Rieslings, but maybe it shouldn't, since this is a different place. It's going to be interesting to watch what happens with the Finger Lakes. Perhaps in a couple of years we'll have a Finger Lakes wine as top wine from Wine Spectator? B+

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2004 Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape

When I started drinking wine a few years ago, you'd still see Chateauneuf-du-Pape for 15$ or even less. I can remember seeing stuff for 13.99$. Maybe it wasn't all that great, but I yearn for the days of a stronger US dollar. They're probably gone for next few years, although who knows? The dollar could go on a tear relative to the Euro, resulting in lower prices for anything coming out of Europe. That happened this Spring, and it could happen again. In addition to the exchange rate, I would imagine that in the case of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, part of the increase in price is also due to the string of excellent vintages--05, 06, and obviously, 07 hype and demand, are all causing prices to go skywards. At least for now, the days of 15$ CDP are gone. 20$ seems to be the new "bottom" in CDP (although 25$-30$ is more typical). I've had one atrociously bad 20$ CDP, which prompted me to wonder if there were others, and whether they were better. Aside from the Cellier du Rhone, I was able find one other CDP that was 20$, and of course, I had to run out and try it.

I am happy to report that the 04 Beaurenard, which is available for 20$ at K&L (but not for much longer--only 7 left), is much, much better than the Cellier du Rhone CDP. The Cellier du Rhone CDP is the vinous equivalent of Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers--saccharin sweet, somehow oddly disjointed, strangely awful, and lacking any real complexity or worthwhile attributes. Perhaps it might smooth out some in the future, but in short, the wine sucked. In contrast, the Beaurenard is definitively more serious, with much more depth, and many more layers. While it is perhaps somewhat disjointed as well, and a little rough around the edges, it is nevertheless, a far superior product. In musical terms, it compares in my mind to early Miles Davis--think The Birth of the Cool era. There is clearly something going on; there is a certain grace and elegance; but it isn't brilliant like Kind of Blue, or Bitches' Brew. It's good, but not great. All sorts of CDP aromas of licorice, red fruits, coffee, fig, and a little chocolate that keep swirling around and around in the glass. In the mouth, sweet notes of cherry with a high-toned cedar note, rounded out by a licoricey, earthy, herbal, finish. A little bit hot. The wine has good acidity and slightly rustic tannins, but is decently balanced and certainly tasty. This wine doesn't have the poise, balance, or depth of the 04 Usseglio or 04 Saint Cosme, but that doesn't make it bad. I have definitely had better 20$ wines, but I don't know that I've had a better 20$ Chateauneuf-du-Pape. A- for CDP with price as a factor, B/B+ in the 20$ wine category. Day two, this wine is really singing. Was I too harsh on it last night?

On a side note, this is the first wine where I realized the spicey, resinous, high-toned note that I have never been able to identify is actually cedar...score one for me being less of a newb, and score one for looking at the tasting notes, scratching my head, and having a bit of an epiphany that will forever be cemented in my taste-memory.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where's the good wine in the US?

         While Sarah and I were having dinner at Drago, the sommelier (not David Shearin, another guy) asked me what kind of wine I liked since we were having a "free" bottle that I had won. He actually offered to switch it out for something that I might enjoy with our meal, if we weren't feeling the Nero d'Avola. In the ensuing conversation, he mentioned to us that he had just returned from France, and that he had been drinking Grand Cru Saint Emilion Bordeaux for 9 Euro every night. I'm no expert on Bordeaux, and I know that according to Decanter, 2002 was a "modest to decent vintage," but that comment got me thinking.
         First, I know that people drink a lot of wine in France. It's more of a part of life than it is in the United States. But this would be a wine in the US that is probably at the least, 30$. Maybe K&L or someone else would have this for cheaper (I find Wally's to be excessivley expensive and precious, ie not worth going too, but if you live on the West side and don't want to go far, or if you want the latest Parker hysteria, hey, knock yourself out. They certainly have an impressive selection of "status-conscious" wine. I bet the stupid chicks from The Hills go their to they probably get bottle service at the club, they don't drink wine. But whatever, Wally's is where the style cognoscenti go, you know. Maybe the paparazzi should go hang there? So LA!) I digress though--it's basically not an everyday wine. I understand why it's more expensive in the US--it has to be shipped here, there are shipping costs, customs fees, taxes, currency exchange risks, and the importer, wholesaler, and retailer that have to make money off of importing/selling the wine. Everyone takes their cut, and it adds up. If this didn't happen, they wouldn't be able to import/sell wine for all that long and would go out of business (unless they were a bank, or maybe a car company, in which case, they'd just get bailed out by the government and the taxpayers). This doesn't surprise me at all. I know that people have to have an economic incentive to do something. I do purchasing for a living, and I work for a business. I get it. Here's what I don't get--there is practically nothing, I repeat nothing, that you can realistically get in the US that is comparable for the same price.
            Is it significantly different cost wise to operate a vineyard/winery in the US? Is it prohibitively expensive to employ people and make wine in France as opposed to the US? My instinct tells me no. There may be differences, and France has a restrictive labor environment, restrictive tax structure, VAT, and a high cost of land, so seriously, what gives? If anything, it's probably more expensive to make wine in France. Oui? Where are the 10$-15$, 7 year old (ie relatively mature), killer wines for drinking with dinner on a Tuesday night on the shelf at the supermarket or your local wine shop that hail from the good old US of A? I don't think that they exist. Sure, you can get great 10ish$ wines--Kung Fu Girl Riesling, or Columbia Crest Estates Merlot, but I'm going to tell you something--they sure as shit are not 7 year old Grand Cru Bordeaux from a decent vintage. So, I'd like to know. Where the fuck are the 7 year old, great drinking, terroir driven wines in the United States for 10-15$. Do they exist? Or am I an insane, blathering idiot?     

Monday, November 16, 2009

2007 J. Vidal Fleury Cotes du Rhone

The 2006 of this wine was fairly good. 2007 is the same price--6.99 at Trader Joes. Peppery nose, with cherries and berries, and a little bit of heat. Mouthfeel wise, this wine is a lot riper than the 06, and is a little sleeker in my opinion. There's a little bit of an earthy, beefy, gamey note that comes out on the finish (which is a bit short). This is not a bad value by any means. Some people might prefer this to the Perrin Cotes du Rhone, which is the same price. Personally, I like the Perrin, but I wouldn't complain about this. The Perrin is quite a bit more balanced, has more depth and, frankly, has better bones. For 7$, though this is fairly good. B+/A- Interestingly, my palate has clearly changed, because I do not view this wine in the same light as the 06. I've had the 06 recently, and it is good, but I think this is a great illustration of the fact that the more you drink, and the more you have the ability to taste some really good shit, the more likely it is that you will find a lot of bottles in this price range to be a bit lacking. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2006 Gulfi "Nerojbleo" Nero d'Avola/Drago Centro

Drago Centro, in Downtown LA, has this contest called "Tweet for Wine," and I won it. Basically, the sommelier, Michael Shearin, gives out random clues about a wine from the list and you have to guess it. The clues are fairly nebulous, but I've almost won it twice now. Anyways, the deal is you win whatever bottle of wine you guess correctly. The wine that I won was a supposedly a 2004 Vasari Mamertino "Timpanara," which is obviously not the wine we drank if you look at the title of this post or the picture...They substituted a cheaper bottle. I don't really know why, I don't really care (after all, it's free wine, hell maybe they ran out of the Vasari?), and I wasn't going to argue with them and ruin my evening.

Gulfi is an old producer in Sicily that only started estate bottling their wines in the mid-90's. Previosuly, they had all been sold in bulk. This is from the Nerojbleo vineyard. Nice nose of cherries (bordering on dried) and just a tiny little hint of licorice, that is supported by acidic and well-balanced flavors of more of the same and just a streak of minerality. A nice little food wine, and if we'd paid for it, only 40$ on the wine list, so cheap. I was relieved that this wasn't in the bombastic new world, super-extracted, vanilla camp of Nero d'Avola. Went well with a wide variety of dishes--pork belly with farro and grape reduction, dungeness crab tagliatti with tomatoes and basil, a veal chop with sweetbreads, and truffle crusted chicken. B (The food is fantastic, but very rich. I didn't know that butter played a role in a Sicilian chefs' palate of flavors...surprised me. Service was, well, let's face it Italian, which meant that it was slow. To be fair, they had a mad rush right at 7 when we got there--mainly old ladies in furs rushing out the door to the symphony, but it's a cool place to hang out and we had a good time. It feels like it's located in a city, which is a rarity for Los Angeles area; most of the restaurants are in "the sprawl." It was strange to venture into downtown to eat, even though that is a fairly typical thing in San Francisco, Seattle, or anywhere else you go. Definitely worth checking out.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

2007 "Possessione del Console" Fratelli Agnes Oltrepò Pavese Bonarda

This is another off the beaten path selection from Wine Expo in Santa Monica. What, you couldn't tell by the ridiculous label? It is a little bit on the silly side. I'm digging the dogs though. They look friendly to humans, but like they might chase down a duck for dinner. If only the old man had a shotgun instead of a walking stick. 25$. This particular wine is made from "an old clone called Pignolo for its tiny, pine cone shaped clusters but no relation to the Friulian wine of the same name." It comes from the Oltrepo Pavese DOC, which is located in the province of Pavia, which is part of Lombardy. 

Nose of dusty cocoa, tart red fruit (cranberry), and other fruits that eventually show up after 2-3 hours of aeration.  Plush, with more berry, currant fruit that comes across on the palate. I would have pegged the wine as a Sangiovese if I hadn't known that it was something different because of the acidic nature. Definitely Italian in style. (This wine reminded me lots of the Rocca di Montegrossi Chainti Classico that we had last weekend because of the sharp acidity and the fresh, primary fruit component.) A big wine, but went very well with pizza due to the acidity. I wish that I had decanted this wine for a few hours prior to drinking, because the aromatic complexity grew the longer the wine was open. I don't know where the cocoa note comes from. For what it's worth the first thing that Sarah said was, "Oh, cocoa." Is this typical of the grape? It was a bit over-whelming. Eventually, it faded away, but this wine certainly didn't see much time (I'm guessing any) in a toasty oak barrel. I  guess this will have to be a mystery, unless someone can enlighten me. Perhaps another bottle would be worth exploring. I think perhaps a bit expensive at 25$, but it's certainly pretty unique, and always a good experience to drink something way off the beaten path. B-/B (If this were cheaper, I would toss up a higher score. Oh no, I said score. What a dirty word.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2007 Alonso Family Vineyards "Adrian" Tannat California

Hmmm...Wine Expo is certainly an interesting place. There doesn't seem to be many places that are selling Tannat, much less Tannat from a vienyard located just about an hour outside of Los Angeles.

For those not familiar with Tannat (and I'm guessing that's probably 99% of the wine-drinking public, myself included), it's a grape that originated in the Basque country of Spain. It's also the grape that makes up the French AOC of Madiran, which is located next to the Basque country in Spain right along the Pyrenees. Basque settlers brought the grape to Uruguay in the 1800's, where it's become the leading grape. Tannat was first brought to the US by professor Eugene W. Hilgard, who grew it at UC Berkeley. In the 90's, Bonny Doon and Tablas Creek started to use it as a blending grape in some of their wines. It's still pretty rare; as of 2005 there were only 140 acres. California has over 400,000 acres of vines, so that isn't a lot.

This particular wine comes from Camarillo, CA. For those of you not familiar with Los Angeles, that's right outside of Thousand Oaks. Within an hour of Los Angeles. Alonso Family Vineyards is owned by Juan Alonso, who owns the restaurant Le Chene. 14$ at Wine Expo. Initially on opening this wine, I was greeted with what I can only describe as one of the most off-putting aromas I've ever experienced in a wine. It wasn't corked--just seemed very green--so I dumped it into a decanter for a couple of hours and shook it up quite a bit. Eventually, the wine exhibited aromas of licorice, mint, and cassis, which were followed up by fairly sweet fruit, more herbal notes, and a plush texture. Despite the fact that this wine is made from Tannat, it isn't overtly tannic--it's plush and fruity. Not too much of a finish. You know, I really wanted to like this wine. It's local, it's weird, and it's way off the beaten path.  It's not bad, but it isn't a good deal, and it isn't that exciting other than the "I'm drinking Tannat! From Los Angeles! WTF?" factor. C-/C   

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

1998 Ronchi di Cialla Ciallarosso Colli Orientali del Friuli-Cialla (DOC)

If you somehow managed to get all the way here and are reading this sentence, it means that you made it past the title...which is really no small feat if you're not all that into anything but the usual suspects. Colli Orientali del Friuli-Cialla is located in North-Eastern Italy. It's a way off the beaten path DOC (by the way, EU regulations on wine are changing...see here), that is mainly known for dry whites and sweet wines made from Verduzzo and Picolit. This wine is a bit of an odd-ball. Italy is known for what I'm going to loosely describe as a shit-load of indigenous grapes...Refosco and Schippettino are two of them. Refosco is native to Northern Italy and is also grown in Croatia and Slovenia. Unfortuantely, there isn't too much information about it available. (This seems to be the case with many of Italy's unique grapes.) Schioppettino, on the other hand, has a story surrounding it.

Schioppettino is also known as Ribolla Nera, means something akin to "gunshot" in Italian, and was first mentioned in the 13th century. Despite all of its' history, it almost went extinct when vineyard owners planted more international vines in response to the phylloxera outbreak. Schioppettino was literally saved from extinction by one man--Paolo Rapuzzi. Paolo Rapuzzi planted his vineyards in the late 1960's in Cialla. For unknown reasons, he scoured Northern Italy looking for Schioppettino. There apparently were less than 100 vines in existence. However, he ended up planting Schioppettino (despite the fact that it wasn't a legal variety to plant), most likely saving it from extinction in the process. All of the "known" Schioppettino comes from his root-stock now. (I suppose there could be some growing wild, or someone inadvertantly growing it in their backyard.)

This wine is from the Rapuzzi family winery--Ronchi di Cialla. 9$ at Wine Expo. (9$ is a crazy price for an 11 year old wine. Just saying.) 12% ABV. A blend of 50% Refosco, and 50% Schioppettino. Slightly green aromas, a bit of pepper, earth, wild cherries, and pine. As the wine opens up more, the green aromas fade away and turn mainly to cherry. Slightly earthy, slightly green flavors and cherries are backed by an acidic, rounded mouth feel. Not much in the way of a finish. This wine is most certainly meant to go with food, due to all of its' acidity and the light frame. In many ways, this reminded me of Dolcetto becuase of its' brisk acidity, friendliness with food, and fruity flavors. This wine went quite well with tomato sauce as well as with chicken. It's an interesting wine, and with food, it shines. The story is definitely interesting, and this is good way to try two unique grapes at once. This wine is certainly not as good as the Ermacora Schioppettino, but if you're interested in the viticultural history of Italy and indigenous grapes, this is worth checking out and is relatively inexpensive (if you can find it!). I've certainly had worse wines than this in many ways! C/C+ (For this history/Unique factor)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2007 Cellier du Rhone Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Some more random thoughts:

1. I'm generally not a fan of points, but I was thinking about the fact that I grade everything that I drink. So do a lot of people. If I taste something great, it knocks something else off it's pedestal. If I taste something positively atrocious, it elevates something else. What's good is always in flux for me. It's all relative to a certain degree, and there are certainly wines that I think suck, but I'll be honest--I don't taste a lot of wine compared to some people. I do, however, have what I consider to be a decent filter--generally buying wine from a good wine shop that has already selected good stuff. Regardless, I sort of feel like there's a bit of inflation going on. In other words, the more wine I drink that is good, the more a good wine becomes average. Scary thought. Perhaps an incredibly jaded one. I think the real answer is to throw out the grade. Easier said than done, just because I'm always comparing and contrasting in my head, but that's probably the best decision. I'll just have to keep in mind that what might have been a B six months ago may be a C today. Anyone else have some thoughts on this?
2. Viva la wino is a shitty name. What started off as some spur of the moment silliness after a few glasses of wine has morphed into something that is vaguely embarrassing. It's not correct grammatically in any language, and it happens to sound ridiculous. I'm on the hunt for a new name. While I'm on the subject, Bloggers' interface looks like shit compared to Word Press. I'm thinking that I will switch. Anyone have some thoughts? Word Press definitely looks a hell of a lot nicer.
3. Twitter...hmm...too much inane information. Too many people, too many tiny little 140 characterthoughts. Overwhelming. Even worse than the blog wilderness.
4. I was in Trader Joe's the other day, and saw this on the shelf. I'm a sucker for Chateauneuf-du-Pape, especially at $19.99. When I see a wine like Chateauneuf-du-Pape at such a cheap price, a couple of things come to mind--1. How bad can it be? and 2. Are they only able to buy this wine because someone didn't think it was good enough to bottle under their own name? 20$ is cheap for Chateauneuf, especially for a 2007. This wine comes from the negociant Pasquier Desvignes. Doesn't seem to be too much information regarding their operation. The 07 Cotes du Rhone that they have for 6$ is OK, but no where near as good as the other Cotes du Rhone that TJ's has available. I would actually say that their's is the bottom of the barrel. (Of course, if you start to compare their CdR to most California wines, I think it's wildly superior at the 6$ price if you compare to 6$ California wines.) This wine certainly smells like a Chateauneuf-du-Pape--it's got that a plum, cherry, lavender nose with just a hint of earth or meat in the background. Nothing too exciting, but not that bad either. There are similar flavors in the mouth, but they are marked by what I describe as "Kool-Aid" wateriness. In other words, the wine kind of tastes like sugar water. Not a lot of weight to the wine. Hollow in the mid-palate. Not much of a finish.

So how to grade this (not that anyone cares)? At 20$ a bottle, I think this is a fairly bad deal compared to other wines at 20$. Definitely a lot more interesting shit out there that is cheaper. For fucks sake, you can get a ton of wines from the Languedoc, the Loire, or even Cotes du Rhone, that are a lot better, and a lot cheaper. Within the context of CDP, I think it would be worth your while to spend a couple of extra dollars and get something different. I have seen two other wines that are 20$ from CDP in LA--2004 Domaine Beaurenard and 07 Cuvee de Nalys from Costco. The Kirkland Signature (Costco's private label) Cuvee de Nalys was fantastic in comparison to Cellier du Rhone, although it wasn't knocking my socks off. Still, it had some structure and will probably be a nice wine to drink in 5 years. Too bad it's sold out. I might have to check the Beaurenard out to get some more context on cheap CDP. What does bottom end CDP taste like? I think it tastes like Cellier du Rhone. I violated my own rule for buying wine at TJ's--never buy anything that isn't weird. You'll almost always get burned. If it's really good from a big appelation, they're going to be able to sell it somewhere else...they won't be selling it at TJ's. I'd stay away and thank me for saving you 20$ on this one. Go buy a different CDP. D+

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2008 Falernia Pedro Ximenez Elqui Valley, Chile

Before today, I had never been to Wine Expo in Santa Monica. I don't really know why, I've just never been there. It's a pretty wacky place. It's for the most part, all weird Italian wine and Champagne. I absolutely love it. They direct import a lot of the stuff, so it's all pretty unique. I bought quite a few interesting things, which will obviously show up here in the future. Some of them are way off the beaten Italian path, especially if your only frame of reference is Chianti, Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco...they're going to be interesting., and of course, probably better values too. You gotta have some love to be bringing these things in, right? Anyways, definitely worth a look.

I picked this wine up too, at the recommendation of Erik, who is far too knowledgable about all the weird Italian stuff. Seriously. Guy can drop some major cork. Anyways, this is weird for Wine Expo, which should probably tell you something about it. It's from Chile after all. Why would an almost exlusively weird Italian shop bring in something from Chile? Becuase it's really good. That's why. 9$ with a screw-cap. Pedro Ximenez, obviously, is a sweet dessert Sherry (and if you've ever had one, with all of its' raisiny goodness, you're in for a treat. I had a '79 years ago at Portalis in's still etched in my memory after all these years.). Wikipedia tells me that this version of Pedro Ximenez might not actually be the same grape, but whatever. They also use this grape to make Pisco. This is a unique and different wine, whether it's the same grape they use to make Sherry or not. Extremely floral nose, with pear accents. Racy acidity, great body (this wine is aged on the lees in stainless steel) lots of pear flavors, a good apple-pear finish, and a little bit of stone mixed in. Very much reminds me of a mutant cross between a new world Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay. Absolutely worth checking out, and a great value. Delicious. A

2004 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva "Bucerchiale" vs. 2007 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico

We went over to our friend's house for dinner last night and brought a couple of wines to go with roast pork. Normally, I'm thinking white, but there were two people that aren't really fans of white...hence Chianti. The Italians are normally right about these things, you know? Plus, all that acidity works well with food. I thought it would be interesting (in my head, because frankly, no one else really cared) to compare two different expressions of Chianti side by side. The 2007 Montegrossi hails from the Chianti Classico (this is the area the Cosimo III de' Medici outlined as Chianti in 1716) zone, which is directly south of Florence, and closer to Siena, whereas the Selvapiana hails from the lesser known apellation of Rufina, which is to the east of Florence, and situated in the foothills. While there are many producers in Chianti Classico, Rufina is dominated by Selvapiana and Frescobaldi (you see the Nipozzano everywhere for about 20$).

Both wines are roughly the same price--the Montegrossi was 20$, and the Selvapiana was 27$. The Montegrossi is a regular Chianti and the Selvapiana is a Riserva, which means that instead of the year in wood that the Montegrossi saw, the Selvapiana saw two years. To make matters even more interesting, Robert Parker gave both of these wines roughly the same score--a 91 for the Montegrossi, and a 92 for the Selvapiana. Basically, as far as Parker is concerned, there is no quantitative difference between the two wines. I disagree, and for that matter, so did our non-wine consumer friends Steven and Catie (they're big drinkers, just not discriminating).

The Montegrossi opens up extremely tight, which makes sense, since it's a young wine. After an initial sulphery nose blew off, this was all classic bright Sangiovese scents of cherry (specifically black) and earth. This is a big wine, and it has fierce (ah, yes, channeling Tyra Banks...) acidity that really needs some food (Not really a sipping wine...). Fruit is at the forefront, and you can tell that this is a ripe wine with lots of structure. To sum it up in a single word, this wine is raw. Reminds me of Conan the Barbarian. 

In comparison, the Selvapiana is immediately drinkable, softer, and offers up a much more elegant nose of regular cherry, spice, herbs and some earthy notes. It's immediately apparent that the Selvapiana has more bottle age. It's got all sorts of secondary aromas, and while the fruit is virbrant it isn't the bitch-slap of the Montegrossi. Much smoother mouth-feel, and a lightness that is in direct contrast to the brawn of the Montegrossi. This wine is more like Aubrey Hepburn--refined and elegant. 

I don't see how these could possible have only scored one point apart. It really doesn't make much sense to a certain degree. Yes, they are different stylistically, but I think this demonstrates how bunk the point system is. For all intents and purposes, these wines have the same score, but there is an enormous difference. For my money, the Montegrossi is a B-/B, and the Selvapiana is more like a B+. I think both are a bit on the pricey side. The thing that interests me about these wines is that I know they're good--they both are well-made--but I don't find either one to be particularly exciting on its' own. To me, these are wines that are made to go with food, and lose much of their context if consumed on their own.

Friday, November 6, 2009

2007 Passopisciaro Sicily IGT (Franchetti)

Some more random ramblings:

1.The CabFrancoPhile made mention of the "Blog Wilderness." What an apt phrase. Got me thinking: Who the fuck reads this thing anyways? (Disclaimer: I don't really care if people are reading it or not, it's just a virtual place for me to collect my thoughts.) Anyways, if you read this site regularly, and have never left a comment, please leave me one. I'm just curious to know how you found me in the depths of the "blog wilderness." I'm guessing it was Google, but hell, maybe some other reason? I'm as elusive as a Sasquatch, so it must have taken some looking. 
2. W Blake Gray has a hilarious post where he goes after Wine Spectator and they respond. To be fair, it is a fairly inflammatory headline--Wine Spectator Manages to Screw Up Pairing Wine With Steak, but the response from the Wine Spectator is pretty funny. W. Blake Gray skewers Thomas Matthews. Just for what it's worth, the sentiments expressed in the article are why I canceled my Wine Spectator subscription. Plus, I couldn't stand Sam Gugino's column. He came off sounding prissy and snobbish. Wine and food are supposed to be fun. I think he forgot that and instead became neurotic. I've already wasted too much time talking about Wine Spectator, but W. Blake Grey's conversation with Wine Spectator is worth a read--damn funny. And out here in the blog wilderness, you need something to keep you busy. Sometimes the sounds of the frogs and the crickets get to you and overwhelm you.
3. Superpoop. If you haven't read this site before, you should check it out. It's geek humor, but it's really funny. Anyways, I like this particular comic. Yeah, Wal-Mart sells shotguns. Crazy.
4. Passopisciaro is perhaps that most annoying wine name I have ever had to spell. It's a mouth-full. This wine hails from Franchetti, who is quite the character... It's worth it to read this article by Jancis Robinson about him. He owns the Tenuta di Trinoro estate in Tuscany, and has since moved South.

Passpisciaro is from the province of Catania, which is part of Sicily--specifically Mount Etna. This is the second wine that I have had recently from Mount Etna that has been spectacular.100% Nerello Mascalese (or at least the 06 was), which is indigenous to Sicily. Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio both grow in the sandy, volcanic soils that surround Mount Etna. For this particular wine, the vines are located at about 3,000 feet of elevation, and were planted in 2001. I normally don't talk too much about color, becuase I just don't see how it has all that much relevance for most practical purposes, but I did notice when I first poured some of this in the glass that it was rather light in color--almost Pinot Noirish. (Comparing Nerello Mascalese to Pinot is not that far off base. The San Francisco Chronicle and others have called it "Pinot Noir's new alternative.") Immediately, you can tell this is a well made wine just by smelling it. Lots of complexity. Spices, cherries, flowers (roses, according to Sarah, which makes sense since the other grape NM is compared to is Nebbiolo), herbs, earth, berries. All shifty. All changing and evolving. In the process of shifting, this wine goes from rather light-bodied to intense and weighty, as the fruit takes hold. I took three hours drinking my portion of this bottle of wine--just smelling it over and over again because it was so interesting. In the beginning, it's actually sort of a mess--there's a lot of stuff fighting for your attention. It really takes a couple of hours of breathing to come together. But once it does, the cherry, herb, and earth complex take you for a ride. There are particular flavors of cherry and herbs that come across the mid-palate, and a lingering finish. There is just a hint of creaminess to the texture of the wine (probably from New Oak), but the wine never comes across as oaky--just well balanced and delicious. At 30$, this isn't cheap in my book, but it's definitely worth a splurge to check out a new and different Italian grape. B+/A-

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2007 Domaine Roland Schmitt Riesling Glintzberg

I'm in a mood tonight...a few random thoughts:

1. I read on another site that wine bloggers should use press photos if they can't take a good photo. Umm. Really? Who cares. Most of us do this because we're nerds and we like wine. We aren't into photography (at least I'm not), so fuck off. I don't have time for light boxes. Plus, I like my pictures. I kind of think they have character--they always have random stuff in the background, although more often than not, they show my surfboards and crap on my kitchen counter. Character is more important than technical proficiency anyways.
2. Risotto. Why don't more people make risotto? It isn't that hard (despite what people say), and it's great. Very versatile. People take it too seriously. You don't really have to constantly stir. That's bullshit--I'm no Thomas Keller, but my risotto is fairly good. I learned from an Italian. Mario Batali has said the same thing (although I didn't learn from him).
3. Punctuation, grammar, spelling. Have we all lost our taste for convention? Seems like the more mobile and "real-time" we become, the less we care about rules. Just a thought. I know that I am not perfect by any means, and I don't necessarily want to be perfect, but it is interesting what a pervasive effect the internet has had on the English language.
4. By the way, when was the last time you saw someone use a semi-colon? Now that's a thought that's good for some LOLZ!

This wine came about in my quest to try some different stuff. Feeling a bit stagnant, and my significant other isn't all that into wine. That means that if I say "Hey, let's go to a tasting," I get met with a glazed over stare. Anyways, love Riesling, haven't had too many from Alsace. 16$. This is from the Glintzberg Vineyaard, whcih is right next to the Grand Cru Vineyard "Altenberg de Bergbieten." This is a good demonstration of the limitations of my knowledge. Once we start getting into Grand Cru, my knowledge starts to fall apart since they tend to be expensive and I haven't had them. I probably should start to seek some of them out. Just some food for thought. Completely dry. No residual suagr. A little on the austere side. Lots of quince, citrus, and a definite mineral streak--smells a lot like chalk or wet stones to me. Also a lot of acid. The wine has great structure, and clearly has good balance. Nice finish that is minerally with melony, almost peachy over-tones. I like it, it's well-made and intersting, but it's not really blowing me away. Was a great compliment to a butternut squash risotto. B

Sunday, November 1, 2009

2007 Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc

Sarah and I went to Tuscon this weekend to visit her friends Katie and Marc from High School. We had a great time. On the way out, we went to Jax restaurant. They have half price wine on Sundays, which turns out to be a a great deal. Food is pretty good. Only 24$ at half price and close to retail for this wine.  Thanks to Jason (by way of Alder at Vinography) for pointing it out. It wouldn't have been on my radar otherwise. I liked this wine quite a bit, but it certainly is not a "Loire-ish" expression of Cab Franc. It's definitely more New World, but it isn't taken to the extreme, becuase it still maintains its' lightness. I get mint, black cherries, and especially a violet/candied violet note. As Jason pointed out, once this is in your mouth, it has an almost Sangiovese wild cherry type of note. Fresh with a lot of fruit. It's a nice wine, although I honestly think that you get a lot more bang for your buck if you know what you're looking for in Chinon or another area of the Loire. Those wines have a little something extra lurking in the background--call it terroir or what you will. There's something that's missing from this expression, which is really more fruit driven, and seemingly less complex. However, this is still a solid B/B+. Within the context of California, I this is a great deal and worth checking out. I would definitely like to try some more wines from Lang & Reed.