Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vieux Telegraphe "La Crau" Chateauneuf du Pape 2006

Recently, I've had Italy on the brain because I'm so excited about going to Rome for 2 weeks March and April. However, when it's wine-related thoughts I'm having, for some reason I lean a lot more French. Nothing wrong with Italy, but there is a certain something going on in a lot of French wines  that is decidedly different from a lot of the Italian wines. I've had the second wine of this estate, Telegramme, a few times, it's excellent (and I have both 07 and 05 still in my cellar), but I've been wanting to try this wine for ages--it's what I would describe as an iconic wine. Daniel Brunier makes this wine, Kermit Lynch imports it, and I get to drink it on my birthday. I picked this up for 40$ at K&L, which is crazy cheap. (If you're my neighbor, you apparently used to buy this wine for 15$. I don't know how long ago that was, and I don't know how much inflation there's been, but that's cheap.) That isn't the cheapest that I've seen this vintage though--if you wanted to buy a magnum, you could have gotten one at Wine Exchange in Orange County for 70$--the equivalent of 35$ a bottle. Normally, this is either 60$ or 70$ at good wine merchants. I purchased a couple of bottles of the 07 for 60$ at K&L (70$ now). If you want to give your money to someone else, you can buy it at Wally's for the unscrupulous price of 90$. Anyways...this was probably heavily discounted because of all the 05/07 hype AND the economic downturn, but it was a great deal for me.

Since it was my birthday, I decided to cook. (Yeah, probably not what most people would think of.) Went to Whole Foods, wanted to get some duck breasts, they didn't have them, so I just bought a whole duck. Cheaper that way anyways, and now I get enough duck fat to completely block my arteries, two legs to confit, the liver, and enough scraps and bones to make a kick ass pasta sauce or soup. Also went to the Farmer's Market on the way to the Getty Villa (Sarah and I had a picnic lunch there. I'm telling you, Italy on the brain.), and picked up some hedgehog mushrooms and assorted odds and ends. So for dinner, we had a green salad (I'm half-way to rabbit, I eat so many greens), pan-roasted duck breasts, and quinoa with caramelized onions, thyme, and hedgehog mushrooms.  No dessert. I am not that kind of person. Truth be told, I don't think this was the best match for Vieux Telegraphe--lamb or some roast would probably have been better--but it worked fine. The wine itself is a knockout. A seamless blend of power and balance--and this is from a merely good vintage. Can't wait to taste the 07. Figs, candied raspberry, black cherry, coffee, lavender, stones, chalk, apricot (yeah, that's really right), and a dozen other scents leap out of the glass. There is an intriguing interplay betwen the acidity, fruit, and tannin that ultimately leads you to ascertain that there is a lot of depth and balance to this wine. It can clearly come together more. For a brief instance, I think perhaps I have committed infanticide, but I haven't. This wine is awesome tonight. (The next bottle is not getting opened anytime soon.) Absurdly long finish by my standards, and I realize that this is probably straying into hyperbole territory, or gushing moron, but fuck it. This wine made me really happy. A+
For what it's worth, Sarah wanted an aperitivo, so I opened this Sauvignon Blanc too. In retrospect, a bad idea, because that means that we drank the rest of this bottle after the Vieux Telegraphe. We are turning into boring late 20 somethings, and a whole bottle of wine each is a recipe for a sluggish morning. Regardless, about 15$ at Costco. No denying that this is a Sauvignon Blanc--lots of grassy jalapeno leaping out, along with rocks, melon, and tropical fruit. An intriguing grapefruit accent shows up on the finish. The acidity of this wine is moderate and kept in check rather nicely. Most New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I've had in recent memory has been really sharp (not a bad thing); this is much more balanced. A very nice wine. Googling it, apparently it made the Wine Spectator top 100 for 2009. #28 A-

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bernard Baudry "Le Clos Guillot" Chinon 2007

This wine was recommended to me in November by John--the owner of Lang and Reed--who makes a  more modern "Loire-influenced," delicious, Napa Valley Cab Franc. Initially, you couldn't get this wine, except direct from Kermit Lynch, but that changed recently. The "Les Grezeaux," which is from older vines (~60 years of age), but a clay-based terroir, was an absolute knock-out. Of course, it's sold out now. (In a stroke of luck, even though they were sold out online, the last time I was at K&L Hollywood they had one bottle of "Les Grezeaux" that I snatched without a moments hesitation.) "Le Clos Guillot," along with the "La Croix Boisset," are the two flagship wines of Bernard Baudry. "Le Clos Guillot" is a younger vineyard--it was planted in the 90's--but is based on chalky limestone, which is considered a more ideal terroir. There's more info at the Wine Doctor, and let's face it: you should probably check out his site. He actually knows what he's talking about! Anyways...One final note of interest on this particular wine is that it snagged a 92 in the Wine Spectator. The "Les Grezeaux" got a 91. More on this in a bit.
24$ at K&L. Imported by Kermit Lynch (an obvious mark of quality, I think). Lots of raspberry, sour cherry, earth, tobacco, violets, and minerals. I even think there might be a little bit of brett hanging out, becuase for a brief instance, this smelled like wet, earthy manure (and I used to muck horse paddocks when I was 15--my first job). This is a juicy wine--lots of acidity. Great fruit, great finish. Undeniably Chinon. This wine is really good (and it's from a not that great vintage...I can only imagine what an 05 tastes like...I missed that boat though, because I wasn't on the Loire bandwagon yet), and it's going to get better. There is an obvious depth to this wine. Drinking well right now, but I could not help but think that this wine was hiding from me. It seemed as if it had more to reveal. This is in contrast to the "Les Grezeaux," which was a laser beam of sour cherries that, in my opinion, revealed most of itself the night I drank it. Will the "Les Grezeaux" get better? Maybe not, because what I really enjoyed was the clarity and snap of the fruit and that will fade some as it ages. This wine is a different story. It's got something else to reveal in the medium term. At least last night, I did not enjoy "Le Clos Guillot" as much as the "Les Grezeaux," although it is without a doubt, an excellent wine. An absolute steal at 24$. I think that perhaps in a year or two, as this wine unfolds, that it will be a different story...and I will have my one solitary bottle of the "Les Grezeaux" to compare with however many bottles "Le Clos Guillot" I end up buying. So I disagree for now with the Spectator ratings (although it should be noted that a 1 point difference is basically the same rating and useless bullshit), but I'm sure they gave that extra point to the "Le Clos Guillot" because it's more likely to improve with age. I give it an A, vs. the "Les Grezeaux," which I unflinchingly gave an A+. As an aside, I'm going to have to track down the "La Croix Boisset" to continue with my Baudry love fest... 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Zlatak Crljenak Kaštelanski (Zinfandel) 2007

Say what you want about Twitter (for what's it's worth, I have quickly tired of it), but I got this wine for free off of Twitter. I just happened to be perusing my timeline at work, and Blue Danube Wines, whom I was following because of the Babich by Bibich, sent out a tweet saying that for the next twelve hours, anyone who went to their site, found "a Croatian Zinfandel," and ordered a bottle would get it for free. Hence this wine. It's supposed to retail for 40$ US, which is a bit steep I think. However, this wine has good pedigree. Crljenak Kaštelanski was apparently almost extinct until Zlatan Plenkovic, researchers from the University of Zagreb and Paul Draper (of Ridge Vineyards fame) revived it. This is the first commercial vintage of this wine.

I wasn't really sure what to expect on opening this wine...haven't had much wine from Croatia, and it's been a while since Sarah and I had a Zinfandel. As in years. I think I may have had a random glass of Twisted Oak or something at my parents a while back, but my memory is foggy. I wouldn't say that we dislike Zinfandel, we just quickly got interested in other stuff and Zinfandel fell by the way. Of course, we aren't big fans of hugely fruity, hugely ripe and extracted wines, and I suppose that has hurt Zinfandel (seems that that style is more often than not, the norm). Despite all this, we went into this wine with a mind open for a new experience. Immediately, you are hit with a spicy nose filled with strawberry and berry fruits--reminded me a bit of cherry coke (if I'm being honest). Eventually, I got some licorice, and some earth tones as well. This is a big, fruity wine. Initially fairly tannic and chewy, this wine eventually settles down and mellows. It stays rather chewy, with a tannic bite at the end, but with a decent amount of acidity, and a nice finish. This wine is flirting with the edge of being overripe, but it's pretty good and stays on the right side, in my opinion. No raisin (fine in port, but in still wine?), and it has decent acidity. I don't know that I would have been enthralled if I had paid 40$ for it. Let's face it, for 40$, you could be drinking Ridge, you could be drinking some really good shit from the Rhone, or you could have 2 kick-ass bottles of Chinon. Still, this is an interesting wine, and we both liked it. We've got to seek out more wines from Croatia. B

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saint Cosme Saint-Joseph 2007

I'm a big fan of Luis Barruol's wines, even though I've only had a few of them. I would love to have the opportunity to try more of his Gigondas, as those are the only wines where the family actually owns the vineyards. My understanding is that the rest of the wines are negociant wines, including this one. I picked this up for slighlty under 30$ from Garagiste. I believe that it's sold out everywhere at this point, but there may be a few bottles floating around somewhere. I have 2 bottles left, which I am going to sit on for at least the next year. Saint-Joseph is the "lesser" syrah appelation in the Northern Rhone, and this wine actually is a good case study in why that is, at least as far as I'm concerned. It's definitely a nice bottle of wine--don't get me wrong--but it does seem as if it's a bit disjointed and not coming together in a cohesive fashion like I would expect. It seems slightly muddled, although there is a pure beam of blackberry, animal leathery scents, earth, and a lot of floral essence that ooze out. These scents and flavors are balanced by juicy acidity, some tannin at the end, and a smooth mouth feel. Yes, it seems muddled, but it is an approachable, elegant style--what I have come to expect from Luis Barruol. Sarah likes it more than I do, I think. Perhaps this will improve with some more time in the cellar so that it will knit together more. B+

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jacuss "Fuc e Flamis" Schioppettino 2005

Sarah and I are obsessed with Italy. Sarah lived in Rome in 2004; I went to visit her, and we haven't been back since. I don't really know why--we definitely could have before, we just haven't. Anyways, yesterday we bought tickets to go spend a little over two weeks in Rome this Spring. We are extremely excited to eat and drink our way through Rome and perhaps some of the surrounding areas, like Viterbo, as well. I am excited to see some of the things that I haven't gotten a chance to see before--like Villa Borghese. To celebrate, I opened a bottle of Schioppettino because Rome was the first place that I discovered Schioppettino. From Ermacora, to be specific, at a cultural association called Il Tajut.

I picked this bottle up at Wine Expo in Santa Monica. 36$, so a little pricey. Jacuss is mainly famous for their white wines. Their website is pretty much all in Italian, so I can't tell too much about what the whole "Fuc e Flamis" thing. Single vineyard, maybe? Perhaps someone with a command of Italian can enlighten me. This wine reminds me of the other Schioppettino based wines that I've had--lots of pepper, earth, mineral, and red berry scents on the nose. Reminds me a little of Cab Franc. Lots of acidity built around a fairly light frame and not much of a finish. Fairly subtle, I would say, although it does have some good intensity of flavor. This wine is unapologetically Italian, and meant to be a compliment to food--it's not made in a blockbuster, super extracted style, has a lot of acids, low alcohol (13% ABV) and is from a whacky indigenous grape varietal. Went great with a more "white wine friendly" risotto of leftover roast chicken, roasted garlic, and roasted broccoli. Such is the power of acidity. A fun wine to try, but not a great deal by any means. If you can find it, I would recommend the Ermacora over this since it's about half the price and is a little bit more interesting. C   

Sarah wanted some more wine, so I cracked open a bottle of Il Conte D'Alba Moscato d'Asti that I got as a gift from a vendor. 9$ online. Nothing wrong with Moscato--it has its' time and place and can be fun to drink--but it's super sweet. 5.5% ABV. Tropical and limey, frizzante, extra sweet. Great with blue cheese that I drizzled a bit of honey on with some crackers. Overall, not really my style, but still OK for drinking. with some cheese or fresh fruit. If I were you, I'd grab a riesling instead. C-

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Domaine de Pallus "Les Pensées de Pallus" Chinon 2006

I paid 20$ for this at K&L...and it marked down to 12$, so I guess I got screwed. Oh well. This is the first wine that I've had from this Domaine. There is a lot of acidity, but there are also some distinct tannins present at the beginning of this wine. Lots of raspberry and mineral character. Nothing green. Takes an hour or two to really open up and shed its rusticity (ie, I'd decant this or let it sit an hour before drinking). This is a delicious, fresh, terroir-driven wine, but I find myself comparing it to Baudry (albeit it a different vintage). The "Les Grezeaux" really rung my bell. B+ We drank this with a honey-mustard crusted rack of lamb (if you've never mashed a bunch of anchovies into bread crumbs with roasted garlic and butter, you haven't lived, my friend), broccoli rabe with chilies and garlic, and some weird mix of orzo, Israeli cous cous, and quinoa that I picked up from Trader Joes. The rack of lamb preparation was courtesy of the Ad Hoc cookbook (Thomas Keller), which is fantastic. I have all of Keller's cook-books, and have made stuff from the French Laundry and Bouchon not infrequently. However, the Ad Hoc cookbook is much more accessible because the preparations are simple and take less time than Bouchon (which is a like a 100M sprint to the French Laundy's marathon). After having Ad Hoc for a couple of months, I've made about 10 things from it, and I'll make everything again, just because they're so easy and delicious. The other great thing about it is that it's a tad bit corny--and no, the cookbook is not from Iowa. There's something funny about a picture of Thomas Keller telling you "Shh!!! The lamb is resting!" and it makes the book a lot more enjoyable. I guess there's also something sinister about it (because let's face it, you're probably not using whatever sustainably farmed meat he's using, you're using meat from a sad industrial animal that led a terrible life), but perhaps I'm a tad too cynical. Great book for a novice cook as well. I know that if I'd had the photos in there, I would have had a lot easier time learning to truss a chicken. Anyways, between the humor, the recipes, and the instructional aspect, this is a great book to have around. I highly recommend it. Lastly, I'd like to share a guilty pleasure: No Doubt. I know what you're thinking. What a lame-ass. But I have to confess, ever since I saw Gwen Stefani in the 7th grade in the "About a Girl" video and developed one of the major crushes of my adolescent life, I've been a little intrigued. I guess it's not particularly surprising--I like a lot of bands like the Clash, the Specials, Bob Marley, Black Flag, Dead Kennedies, etc, and No Doubt is derivative of all of them. Anyways, for some reason, I've been digging some of their stuff recently. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lane Tanner "Block 4" Pinot Noir 2008

 For some reason this weekend I ended up drinking wines recommended by other people. This particular wine was recommended by the Cab Franco Files. It's always nice to have a guinea pig for the 20$ Trader Joe's wines, which are normally not that great. I still have a bad taste over the 2007 Cellier du Rhone Chateauneuf du Pape--probably in the running for worst wine that I have had in a long while. Anyways, decided to check this one out because the Cab Franco File said this was the best wine he'd ever gotten from Trader Joes--period--and I wouldn't really put him in the "gushing praise" camp about most wines. He seems to take a very moderate, reasoned approach about wine in general, and rarely seems to be so enthusiastic. Anyways, it seemed like something worth a try.

Under 20$ Pinot seems like a dicey proposistion to me, just in general. However, I was certainly pleased with the Cambria "Julia's Vienyard" Pinot that I had about a year ago. It was from Santa Maria County, just like this wine. Lane Tanner doesn't own any vineyards, and makes her wine in a wine co-op, although she has been affiliated with Ken Brown and Hitching Post. She seems like a character. You don't see many 40ish year old women sticking pictures of themselves naked in a bathtub front and center on their websites. I seem to recall Jay McInerney talking about Lane Tanners' nudity in a Hedonist in the Cellar...but my memory is foggy of it. (Just as an aside, this wine has to be going more after women than men from a marketing perspective because pretty much all that is on the back is the statement "This is a wine to cuddle with," which elicted an "Oh, cute!" from Sarah.) 13.2 ABV, so definitely on the more reserved side of that spectrum--a good thing. Sarah says this smells like pomegranates and flowers, which I think is pretty accurate. I get a lot of cherries and earthy "pinot-funk." Really, we're smelling the same thing, just describing it differently. Good amount of acidity on this wine, and a lot of sour cherry character going on in the mouth. Sarah thinks that the finish is a little short, and I concur. It's just not that persistent. When I think of wines that ring my bell, I think of them as having a beginning, a middle, and an end, all seamless and flowing  in a logical progression. A good wine is the same as a good piece of music or literature, at least conceptually. It takes you on a journey. This wine doens't have that. Tasty wine, but I'm not as enthusiastic about it as the Cab Franco File. For the same price I could have had another bottle of the Baudry "Les Grezeuax," which honestly, smokes the shit out of this wine (at least to me). But that isn't a fair comparison, becuase this is under 20$ Pinot, which is a landmine wine category if there ever was one. If you had no budget, you could drink great Pinot every day. DRC (well, I'm assuming since I've never had it) or  Dehlinger (yes, it's pretty fucking good--had it twice now), hell, the sky is the limit, right? But under 20$? I'm thinking that you don't find a whole heck of a lot. From what I can recall, I liked the Cambria "Julia's Vineyard" more and geographically, it's in the same neighborhood, but this is a solid effort, especially if you like lower alcohol wines and cheap(er) Pinot. B+/A-  

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vajra Langhe Rosso 2007

Picked this wine up at Elvino wines, which is a newish shop on Abbot Kinney in Venice. They've got a really nice selection--some interesting stuff--and also have tastings every weekend. Worth checking out, especially if you live near Venice. I initially heard about Vajra from Do Bianchi, and I think Brooklyn Wine Guy also. So I saw this, thought it might be interesting, and picked up a bottle. Not really cheap for Langhe Rosso, at around 30$, because you can get decent Barolo for the same price. I've had a lot of Langhe Rosso mainly in the 20$ range.

Sarah and I decided to have an Italian distraction for whatever reason--I got a coupon for 30% off takeout at Mozza2go, so we decided to watch "La Dolce Vita," drink some Italian wine, and eat some Mozza (panino with mole salami, spicy peppers, scamorza cheese, pizza margherita, and a farro salad). They were out of porchetta, which almost made me cry. Oh well. Better luck next time.

The nose sort of screams "nebbiolo!" on this wine: cherries, strawberries, licorice, some tar, leather, and roses. Tannic, but eventually opens up a fair amount to reveal ripe fruit flavors that are framed by softened, but still present tannins. I have no doubt that this wine will keep for a few years. Finish is flecked with mineral and rose nuances. I would say this wine tasted a little muddled to me--meaning that it never really came around and hit me between the eyes to give me a really good sense of it. The whole time I was drinking it, I kind of felt like I was grasping for straws. The wine is good, I just think that perhaps it needs a longer decant or more time in bottle to really come together. And also, this is a Langhe Rosso--not a Barolo, so perhaps I should expect it to act this way. I don't think anyone puts their best shit in their Langhe Rosso...B 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Owen Roe "Ex Umbris" 2006

Ah, Owen Roe. Perhaps the first winery that I got a serious jones for, at least that I can remember. "Malcovitch" over at Madison Cellars in Seattle was the first person to turn me on to the Abbott's Table Wine, and shortly thereafter, I began to seek out other Owen Roe wines. The hallmark of their wines for me is a balance between old world and new world styles. Specifically, ripe and rich, but balanced by good acidity and definite varietal character. I like this style because a lot of the time, it ends up being better and more interesting than either end of the spectrum. I've had one other vintage of this wine, which, at least originally, was created from a Syrah vineyard that was damaged in a forest fire. ("Ex Umbris" means out of the shadows in Latin, apparently. So I guess that makes sense...) Pretty neat. The 06 is a combination of Elephant Moutain Vineyard, and Lewis Vineyards fruit. This wine is textbook Syrah for me. 22$ 14.1% ABV The nose has lots of Syrah aromatics (It will be interesting to see whether they become more well-defined tonight when I drink the rest of this...last night they were shifting so much that it was hard to get anyone particular component that popped out for long.) that pop out: blackberry, blueberry, bacon, pepper, licorice, earth, smoke (that's what this vineyard is known for...although in the 06,  I think not as much as the 05, at least that I can remember), even a little bit of lavender. Rich, ripe, smooth, sweet, but not cloying or over the top. Dare I say it, this has balance in spades. (In contrast to the Koehler Syrah that I recently had at over 15% ABV, which was an absolute alcoholic, sugar-bomb mess.) There is a nice tingle of acidity supporting the rich, smokey, brown sugar, and blueberry flavors all leading into a lengthy finish. I like this wine a lot; it's totally worth checking out. The current vintage is the 07--I picked this bottle up well over a year ago. A-

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Martina Pariente Verdejo 2007

I picked this wine up from Garagiste about 2 years ago, although it just got to me recently. 17$. Martina Pariente is in her mid-20's, and is the daughter of Jose Pariente, who is a famous producer of Verdejo. No oak. I'm guessing 100% Verdejo. Immediately, this wine sort of reminded me of a Sancerre--it's very stony. There's also a green note in the background (jalapeno), and a lot of tropical fruit character. Once it's in your mouth, it's leaning more towards citrus (grapefruit) than tropical fruit, but has its' moments of drifting off into melon and mango. Surprisingly rich, but with good acidity, a lot of snap, layers of flavor, and a nice finish. This was a surprising wine. I wasn't expecting it to suck, but this is probably the first random wine I've had from Garagiste that really blew me away and excited me. Apparently, only 50 cases of this came into the US. I'm stoked that I have one more bottle left. If you can find it in a restaurant somewheres, this is definitely worth a look, I think. A very nice accompaniment to left-over roast chicken, roast potatoes, and butternut squash. A- 

Friday, January 1, 2010

R. Dumont and Fils Brut Champagne NV

Picked this wine up at Pete's too--28$. Never heard of this producer/house, but it was pretty all right by me. A little yeasty, with lots of lemon character. Ripe and full bodied, with a lemony finish. Comes off as being a bit flabby to me, and viscous/syrupy/sweet. Maybe this has a really high dosage? Would be interesting to know. B- Also drank some Cristalino Cava with my friend Pete and his girlfriend Alex, which was quite light-bodied in comparison to this. We went to Lo-Fi again (did last year too) for soul night--which has to be the most entertaining New Year's thing to do in Seattle. And what New Year's Eve would be complete with out lots of cheap beer (PBR), and beyond awful Andre (I think?) at midnight. And then we got tacos, which, I have to say, were awful. Seattle has nothing on Los Angeles, at least in the taco department.