Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tocai Friulano Feresin Davide 2008

Sarah and I had this tonight at La Scalla in Trastevere. Lots of lemon and apple, with tart acidity. A good match for all the food, but perhaps a wee bit underwhelming. Still at 17 Euro, a bargain. B+ Food was good--antipasto misto di mare platter (but not as good as Naples yesterday), fettucine with artichokes and lamb (quite good), and grilled calamari (fucking great). We also went to Contucci in Montepulciano today--more on that later, I guess. And right now, I'm sitting in Trastevere drinking Nero d'Avola at In Vino Veritas. Forget the producer, but it's good.

Castelvecchio Carso Cabernet Franc 2006

Sarah and I picked this off the list at Il Tajut, in the San Giovanni neighborhood of Rome. Il Tajut specializes in the food of Friuli, so there's lots of Refosco, Cab Franc, aromatic whites, and Merlot. This was 19 Euro--crazy cheap, and recommended over a "more important" cab franc by our waitress. It should be noted said other wine was all of 28 Euro--ridiculously cheap by my standards. Especially in a restaurant. Anyways, typical cab franc, with leafy, herbacious aromas and nice cherry flavors that eventually emerge. Great food wine--good acidity, nice poise and immensely enjoyable. Finish was a little short, but had nice earthy elements. Paired well with pancetta wrapped figs, prosciutto, Salame fresce with loads of good olive oil and red onions, and funghi misti. B+/A- We had strocchi for dessert--sort of mini croissant, I guess--and asked the waitress in extremely broken Italian (seriously--she was a saint putting up with my American bullshit) for some vini dolci. She returned with two--a rose pocolit, and a fragilino bianco. The pivolit was almost a little nutty--pretty good. The fragilino is one of the best sweet wines I've ever consumed. Period. It was fucking amazing. Extremely floral--lilacs, says Sarah, with tropical, almost banana-esque flavors. A+ We bought a bottle, and it didn't even have a label. Seriously. I'm not sure what the deal is exactly, but it's something unique, and it ain't coming to the states any time soon. Ah, Italy. More stuff from our travels (photos, etc), at ffejandpal.com when we post it (assuming your read this far and are still interested).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Falanghina La Vinicola del Vecchio 2008

Sarah and I picked this off the list at Foccaccia, a little restaurant just off the  Piazza Navona. Place was okay--we ended up here because a couple places we wanted to go didn't look that appealing and this was crowded. 15 Euro off the list--cheap, and from Lazio region...I think. Most of the other wine I've seen in Rome that I've seen in the US is essentially a wash on price--same price with exchange as the US. Anyways, lots of apple and stones--quite nice with food, but I think that perhaps their house white would have pleased us the same. C+ Eggplant involtini were lame; prosciutto with tomatoes and mozzarella and the spaghetti alla carbonara were awesome. Of course, I don't know that you can fuck up prosciutto and mozzarella?? In the US, of course. But in Italy? Oh, and earlier, we watched Roma play another Italian team and win (thankfully...) at a bar. The whole city shuts down, and people go crazy. Anyways great game. Also, last night we went to Cul de Sac for a drink and got a barrique aged Cesanese (from Lazio, of course) that rocked. Tar, wood, and gentle cherry berriness abounded. A bargain for 5 Euro a glass. I'm bummed my Italian is so shoddy--otherwise, I would have had them bring back the bottle for me so I could see the producer. A-

Monday, March 22, 2010

Couly-Dutheil Les Chanteaux Chinon 2008

I like Couly-Dutheil--the Clos d' Le Echo we had a few years ago was awesome. I picked up this wine for 18$ at Costco. I was seriously surprised to see anything from the Loire at Costco. Occasionally, you'll see a Sancerre, or a Pouilly-Fuisse. But other than that, it's kind of a rare occurrence, and this is a wine that most people would find a bit on the weird side--100% Chenin Blanc. Dry (as opposed to a lot of the styles of Chenin Blanc that have some residual sugar left), with floral, chalky/minerally, and pineapple. Rich, but with good acidity, a slightly waxy texture, and a nice finish. For me, this wine is interesting in that it combines some of the elements that you normally see in both more austere white wines, such as Sancerre (stony, mineral, chalky feel), and the elements that you more often see in extremely ripe new world whites--think California Chardonnay (like pineapple and other tropical fruit). Dave and Emily both seemed to like this wine; so did I. B+ 

I think I must be getting slightly jaded about wine--nothing that I've had recently has really blown me away in unequivocal terms. Had lot's of wines that are good...but nothing recently that's really rung my bell in a serious way since the Vieux Telegraphe in January and the Launois Blanc de Blanc. I think in some ways, that's the terrible thing about learning about something--eventually, you end up comparing it to past experiences that can't be created and are romanticized to a certain degree. You also realize that what might have been fascinating or great in the past maybe isn't as good as you thought it was because something else knocks it off its' pedestal.

I took this picture at the Getty yesterday with Dave and Emily. There was shit traffic (and I almost killed us twice in terrible marathon traffic--sorry guys--I am a crappy, aggressive driver), but hanging at the Getty was totally worth it. I love the view. One other interesting thing is that there's a really long, skinny (like 18" wide) wall off to the right of this photo that extends out over a big drop--probably 20-30 feet to the ground. All the travertine is slippery. And there were three teenagers that decided to walk out on the wall. I was shocked for two reasons: 1. No one stopped them (how European of the Getty!)! 2. They walked out there at all. I would have been a bit scared of falling of to my death below. Anyways, I think they probably got a pretty good photo out of the experience. A fun day, despite the crazy traffic and terrible driving on my part...Sarah and I are excited to leave LA and go to Rome for a couple of weeks though. We leave on Wednesday.  

Santa Helena Notas de Guarda Carmenère 2008

Picked this up at Costco for 20$. Sarah and I popped this with our friends Dave and Emily, who are down in LA for the week rather unexpectedly. Dave's in law school (which I think means he's a little busier than us), and they're staying in Santa Barbara for spring break. We stayed up later than we have in a long while...2:30AM is late, because we are old farts. Anyways, drank this with some cheese leftover from when Sarah's parents were here. Lot's of berries, along with minty, chocolately notes. This is a total fruit bomb, but it's delicious. It has just enough acidity to balance out the gigantic, silky, frame. I like the minty green notes. B+

Monday, March 15, 2010

Perrin & Fils "Les Sinards" Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005

Can't remember how much this was--I think around 25$ or so--as it's been sitting in my cellar for about 2 years. Anyways, apparently this wine uses some of the young vines from Beaucastel and then blends them with some other parcels. Mainly Grenache, but there are some other grapes in here as well. Initially on opening, lots of olive. Then there are glimmers of lavender, mint, cherry, vanilla, cassis, earth and a dozen other things. Nicely balanced, with a very nice finish. Sarah is not too big a fan of this wine--way too bretty for her taste. In her words, "It smells like...poop!" Not too surprising from what I hear about Beaucastel, I guess. Just Google "Beaucastel Brett," and you'll get a whole bunch of shit (haha) that comes up. Anyways, I didn't find this to be as bretty as she did, although women do tend to have more sensitive noses than men...or so I hear. I still liked this wine, although not nearly as much as I thought I would. After the initial bout of olive-ness (it was extremely Kalamatish), it wasn't nearly as interesting or enticing as I thought it would be, although the flavors kept shifting and developing, never really settling on any one particular spectrum for too long. B/B+

Lastly, I'd like to extend a big, hearty, "fuck you" to the Redondo Beach police department. You know that a city really doesn't have anything better to be doing when they ticket a bicycle for rolling through an intersection at a low speed (ie under 5 mph). Give me a break. How can ticketing a bicyclist be the number one priority for law enforcement on a Saturday morning? Must be nice to live in such a safe city. However, I'd like to point out that the bike path is overrun by inattentive pedestrians and their inattentive children, but you aren't ticketing them--because apparently it's LA County jurisdiction and not Redondo Beach. It's perhaps amusingly ironic that the beach-adjacent bike path in Redondo Beach is an area where the Redondo Beach police won't ticket pedestrians using said clearly marked "bike path" for walking purposes, creating a dangerous situation for bikers (as well as pedestrians), and forcing them onto the more public streets. Why is it that bike riders are essentially second class citizens? The area where we are SUPPOSED to ride is overun with inattentive pedestrians, and the areas where we end up riding because of said law-breaking scofflaw pedestrians, are inhabited by inattentive drivers. And then of course, we get the ticket? WTF? Seriously? There were no cars, or pedestrians for that matter, coming (and I happen to have a clear, unobstructed view of the intersection). Becuase it was 10 AM in a residential area on Saturday. For crying out loud, cars are a more imminent danger to the general populace than a bicycle in a residential area. I'll be fighting this ticket, which amusingly, will end up decreasing the amount of revenue that you generate by giving out ticky-tack bullshit tickets to bike riders. Come on Redondo Beach, grow up and stop being such a pathetic city.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pier "Asnas" Langhe Rosso 2007

Hey Russell--Sarah tells me you read this thing?? WTF? I'm surprised it doesn't put you to sleep...anyways, next time you and Marc come out here, we'll drink some good wine--whatever you want--and I'll cook you guys dinner. 

Picked this up for 29$ off of Garagiste. The whole reason that I picked this wine up is that this is where the Dante Scaglione, formerly the enologist for Giacosa, went off too after he quit Giacosa. This wine is a blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Petit Verdot. For the life of me, I don't know why  there is Petit Verdot in this wine. I guess this is the modern influence of guys like Gaja in Piedmont? Who knows, I am by no means an expert...

I don't normally pay any attention to color whatsoever, but this wine is quite a bit darker red than your typical nebbiolo based wine, probably from the Barbera and the Petit Verdot. Anyways, this wine has a killer nose--strawberry, lots of spices, cherry, roses, earth, a smidgeon of chocolate, and eventually licorice. I'd even go so far as to say that initially, this wine smelled a lot like apple-cinnamon oatmeal. Well balanced cherry flavors with accents of oak lead into a somewhat tannic finish. I really liked the nose on this wine--really complex. Overall, a pretty good package, if perhaps a bit spendy for a Langhe Rosso (afterall, you can get decent Barolo and Barbaresco for less than this). I've got a couple more bottles of this; it will be interesting to see how they evolve. B/B+

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley Merlot 2008

9$. This is Costco's private label, which they increasingly have been releasing wines under. I've yet to have a Kirkland Signature wine that I thought was a total dud (although I've stayed away from some of them that I figured were more likely to suck--California Pinot, anyone?). Of course, that makes sense, because by some accounts, Costco is the largest seller of wine in the United States. Furthermore, their whole corporate ethos is basically about giving consumers a great deal. Polished, slick and new-world in style, with an oaky nose, thick texture, and notes of cherries, chocolate, tobacco, and vanilla. This wine is exactly what I expect from a new world merlot. Verging on the edge of over-extraction, and a lot of oak. However, there is a lot of fruit and tannnin to balance the whole package. For 9$, I think you could do a whole lot worse. This is real wine, at an attractive price, and although it's not my style, I can't knock it. B- 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba 2007

We had this with Sarah's parents at dinner tonight. 45$ off the list. Berries and vanilla, along with enough acidity to complement food. Modern styling, old world charm. B

Chateau Laroque Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2000 & 2005

I picked up both of these wines at Costco for 25$ each. Not really sure why they were both there--I would imagine that someone wanted to get rid of some inventory or something. They're gone now--I only saw them one time. Anyways, I thought it would be interesting to have the two of them side by side. That's what we did last night. Sarah's parents are here, and while Sarah and her Mom got their eyebrows done in Beverly Hills, Sarah's Dad and I went to the Beverly Hills Cheese store, which fucking rules. You might pay less for cheese elsewhere, but they probably don't have the selection or the quality. We chose 4 cheeses--a really salty farmhouse taleggio, a hard goat's milk cheese from the French Basque region, a Hempkase (there's an umlaut in there somewhere's) cheese with Hemp seeds from Switzerland, and our favorite, a Basajo Sheep's milk blue cheese from the Veneto, aged in passito malvasia grapes. (Seriously, the Basajo is out of this world good--fruity, super stinky, and creamy.) We also picked up some saucisson sec and some wild boar salame. This whole board we created, along with some bread from Le Pain Quotidien, was arguably a landmine for wine. What was going to go with taleggio probably wasn't going to go with the blue cheese and vice versa. (As an aside, wine/cheese pairing successfully is what I would call a "difficult task," fraught with peril.) Anyways, thank god that I made a rack of lamb (I know, I know, I'm really boring--it's just so easy and good), along with some broccoli rabe that had a lot of garlic and chili. Onto the wine...

The 00 was obviously a little bit older and was more reserved than the 05. It had aromas of earth, pipe tobacco, iron, and cherry fruit, backed by a fleshy (although not tannic) frame and mouthfeel. In contrast, the 05 was way more tannic, as well as fruity, and took a couple of hours to mellow out. It was leaning a little more towards the blackberry side of things, and also had an earthy, iron streak. This was a fun exercise, although neither Sarah or myself were blown away with the wines, even though they are both solid. It would be interesting to follow the evolution of the 05 to see if it eventually becomes more like the 00 in terms of mouthfeel, texture, and secondary aromas. If I had to pick one of these wines (and there are really only subtle differences for the most part), at this point, I prefer the 00. It's a more complete package, and it's a satisfying wine to drink--a good middle ground of fruit and secondary characteristics, and good balance. I give it the slight edge. However, Sarah's parents liked the 05 more, I'm guessing because it was fruitier and a little bit more in your face. For me, 00 B, 05 B-.

Lastly, for lunch yesterday before our eyebrow and cheese escapade, we went to Pizzeria Mozza and ate a bunch of stuff--poached baby artichokes with ricotta crostini, romanesque broccoli with vinegar and chile, white anchovy, tomato, and chili pizza, taleggio with mushroom pizza, and the meatlover's pizza. We also shared some gelati--olive oil (awesome), greek yogurt (different and tangy--delicious), and stracciatella (which is Sarah's favorite). Mozza is quite good--every time I go there, I am impressed. And all four of us ate there for 100$. A bargain.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bodegas Bilainas Rioja Viña Zaco 2006

Picked this wine up at Costco 10$. Although clearly a riper, more modern style (as opposed to traditional Rioja), this is pretty good for 10$. It goes without saying that this particular wine could, to a certain degree, just as easily come off as a Petite Sirah, or Syrah, or a Napa Merlot or some other fucking thing. Such is the modern wine world. I don't know that it's bad--after all, this is solidly made wine, but it is disappointing to me in the same way that a Foster Farms chicken is. Sure, that chicken satisfies a lot of folks and is inexpensive, but I have to tell you something--a chicken from the Farmer's Market or one of the pasture-raised Bronze chickens tastes incomparably better. Not to be disingenuous, but it must have something to do with a chicken being a chicken, and not some hyper-steroidal piece of protein. The bronze chicken will cost you around 12$, which is admittedly more expensive upfront. However, you get bigger legs, smaller breasts, the giblets, a tastier piece of meat, and a chicken that lived like a chicken, not a prisoner at Gitmo. Although people may take umbrage with this statement, that Foster Farms chicken is probably more expensive in the long run--just like a lot of industrial food. Poor dietary habits and obesity costs America (meaning you, me and everyone else) a lot of money each year. Every time I see some land whale running around with a cheeseburger, KFC, or whatever else, I get pissed because I end up subsidizing their craptastic habits. (Fuck you, land whales.) These costs are not reflected in the cost of subsidized corn and cheap meat that everyone is inexplicably eating. Anyways, I must be a hypocrite because I drank this wine, redolent of blackberries, smoke, cinnamon, and earth, with a fleshy frame but ample acidity, and enjoyed it. No chickens died to make this wine (er...well I'm pretty sure at least), but there is no denying that this is the vinous equivalent of a Foster Farms chicken. Despite my reservations, this is solid. B/B+ 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Saint-Jean Cotes du Rhone 2007

Picked this up at Costco for $7.89. Fruit forward and definitely showing the ripeness of 2007. Ripe plums, blueberries, blackberries and lavender. Shows a little bit of creaminess in the mid-palate, and then goes off into an earthy finish. For under 8$, this is a great deal. However, it's not really the style of Cotes du Rhone that I like. This is frankly not nearly as enjoyable to me as the lighter, more acidic, and more peppery Cotes du Rhones. B- As an aside, I picked up the Chateuaneuf du Pape from them for 25$--ripe at 15%--and will review that too.