Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Saint-Jean Chateauneuf du Pape 2007

You can get this wine at Costco now for 24$ (I think...if it's not 24$ it's somewhere around there). I mainly picked this wine up to compare with the Cotes du Rhone. I liked the Cotes du Rhone okay--it wasn't my favorite Cotes du Rhone, and stylistically, it's not particularly interesting, but at the same time, for 7$, it's a relatively good bargain. This CdP is definitely outside what I normally like (although I really like CdP), as it sports a 15% alcohol content. That's too much in my book. Of course, this wine is also from the much heralded 07 vintage. What's funny about 07 is that a year plus ago when the wines started to get released, there was a ton of buzz about it being the vintage of the century in the Rhone. Fast forward a year, and the majority of the chatter I hear is that the wines are monolithic, one-dimensional, hugely ripe, and well, Parkerized. Not generally being a fan of this style, I'm glad that I didn't load up on a lot of 07's. 
All this chatter and thought about the "Parkerized" style got me thinking about my tastes and when they started to evolve. I can't place an exact date on it, but I think it was when I started to realize that points were bullshit and I had my first serious wines from the Loire. I suppose part of it is that I'm predisposed to being a punk and a bit of a snob, so there's something that draws me to any line of "anti-authority" thinking. I view points, Parker, and the traditional wine media as the wine equivalent of Ronald Reagan--full of shit establishment motherfuckers that are fucking up the world. This frame of mind has at least been partially responsible for my wine tastes. The other "nail in the coffin" was a 130$ bottle of hugely extracted prune juice from Spain, which received a 96 from Robert Parker. Now don't get me wrong, there are some perfectly likable elements in this wine. Prior to the Acquilon, I hadn't had more than fleeting tastes of such highly rated wines, and frankly, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. Is a 96 pointer any better than a 90 pointer? Or is it just all the people that can't think for themselves and Robert Parker who think so? I haven't had a lot of these wines--hell maybe some of them come off different (I'm sure some of them do), but after this one wine, I was basically done. In a moment of clarity a couple days after the fact, I realized that this was not what I liked in wine. I value style, substance, acidity, balance, interesting flavors, and weird obscure stuff. Not prune juice, oak, alcohol, hype, and bullshit--which were the primary ingredients of the Acquilon. Which brings me to this particular CdP...

On the nose it's a bit pruney, with some blackberry, blueberry, spice, heat, lavender, chocolate and vanilla notes that peek through. Once in your mouth, it's got a silky, silky, silky texture devoid of much acidity or crackle, lots of alcoholic heat and some mint on the finish. I'm sure some people will really like this wine. It's not as bad as the Acquilon (and you could have 6 bottles of this for the same price, so fuck it, why would you ever drink the Acquilon unless you were Scrooge McDuck and had a bathtub full of money?), and it also doesn't excite me like some of the superb CdP's that I've had from 04 and 06. The fact that 60% of this bottle is left on the counter tells me something about this wine, and that is, very simply, that I don't like it. Take my advice, if you want to try this estate, you might as well buy 3 bottles of the Cotes du Rhone, take your couple of dollars of change leftover, get a piece of pizza from Costco, and  get absolutely ripped. It will be a much better experience than drinking some of the CdP. D 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Numanthia "Termes" 2007

I picked this wine up for 24$ at Costco, which is a dollar lower than everyone online. Given the ratings pedigree of this wine (several past vintages in the mid-90's, and the 2005 with a 96 from the Wine Spectator), I'm certain that this is a "recession casualty" that Costco has been able to capitalize on. I'm thinking that typically, they wouldn't have access to a whole lot of this wine. Now, however, the cards have turned. Wholesalers and wineries are sitting on a lot of wine. Costco is probably one of the only people out there that can move a lot of this wine. Demographically, the typical Costco consumer is quite a bit different from the normal consumer...much higher average income is probably the biggest factor in this case.

This particular wine is from the Toro region of Spain, and is composed of 100% Tinto de Toro, otherwise known as Tempranillo. I don't know shit about the Toro region, but I've had a fair amount of Tempranillo, and this is definitely a bit of a departure in my book. This is the "new" style of Tempranillo--meaning they've ditched the suave cherry fruit in favor of much darker and extracted plum and raspberry flavors cloaked in a sheath of toasty oak. Just for the sake of clarification, I don't think that there's anything wrong with the new style. People should drink and make what they like. I'm sure at one point, making wines that were not oxidated in some fashion was the "new style." Does anyone think non-oxidated wines are bad thing? I don't know. Quality is all in the eye of the beholder. On the flip side, there is a part of me that says this wine would be a lot more interesting if it wasn't all toast. Really, if I wanted to lick a toasted wood barrel, I'd just go buy a stave, light it up, and commence with the licking. I definitely opened it up too early--you can already smell the complex spices in amongst the rather oppressive toast, "pain grille" (to use a Parker-ism) and charcoal-y aromas. This wine will gain lots of interesting nuances as it gets older--some of them are already there, and the wine is still very young. In addition to the oak and the dark fruit, this wine has a very good balance of fruit, acids, and tannins and despite the oak, comes of as quite fresh. I'm disappointed that I opened this wine so soon, and despite my reservations about the amount of oak as well as the profile of the wine, I have to say, I can't knock it. It's one of those wines that is toeing the line, and doing it in a relatively artful manner. Would I like it to have less oak influence? Yes, but I'm sure that for every person like me that is whining about it, there are 10 people that would say it should have more. Are they right? I think not, but how can we know what's good and what isn't if we don't have contrasting examples to compare? B+/A-

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trimbach Riesling 2007

Picked this up at Costco for 15$. Number 55 on the Wine Spectator Top 100 for 2009. I guess that I'm a little surprised that this wine is at Costco (and has been for a couple of months by me), but all it highlights is 1. the state of the economy, and 2. how much of this wine Trimbach made. For me, a 15$ bottle of wine is par for the course, but I'm sure that there are lots of people out there who think $15 is an extravagant expense. This is especially true when you can get a couple fairly decent domestic Rieslings at Costco for about 6$ (Hogue and Chateau Ste. Michele, if  memory serves me right). Anyways...I didn't get to taste the first bottle of this wine that I bought; I brought it over to a friends house for brunch and we didn't end up opening it, so I bought another bottle. 

Sarah ended up liking this bottle--and she didn't even make her normal "Eww...this is Riesling face." (It's her one flaw, not liking Riesling...) On the nose, I get green apple, stone, peaches, and when the bottle is first opened some diesel. The diesel aromas quickly blow off into something else a little less Riesling like that I can't quite out my finger on. Reading all the reviews of this wine, some people say pine, some people say smoke. Either one is fairly accurate. An interesting nose. Once it's in your mouth, the most noticeable characteristic is the mineral character. It's right up front and is the defining quality of this wine. There are also some lemon and peach notes that come through. The finish is lingering, with lots of stoniness. This wine has a good amount of acidity, making it a great match for food (in this case, chicken apple sausages and some grilled asparagus with lemon--good with both). There is no doubt this is a well made wine, and is a great deal for 15$. It's perhaps a bit more on the subtle side than I normally would expect from a Wine Spectator pick, if I really start to think about it. Amusingly, given my disdain for the Wine Spectator, I am not that excited by this wine, despite its' departure from normal Wine Spectator trappings. Solid wine, but perhaps I am getting a bit jaded because to be honest, I was a little bit bored. B+/A- 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monte Ducay Reserva 2004 (Carinena)

I mainly picked this up because it was wrapped in paper...and I was curious. Normally, wrapped bottles are a lot more than $5.99, and they rarely show up at Trader Joes. It's not a mark of quality; if anything, it's a sign that you're paying to much for whatever you're drinking. It's at tip-off that the wine is "branded," at least to me, and isn't all about what's inside. Of course, you're going to see stuff like Mouton (I's one of the big Bordeaux houses) wrapped, and a variety of super high-end Napa Cabs. Anyways, I was curious, and was secretly hoping that I'd get home and have a poor man's version of a Gran Reserva Rioja. I pulled that paper off, expecting to see a label, but was greeted with an unlabeled bottle underneath. Curious. It's got to be more expensive to wrap the bottle in paper than to sticker it, right? At the end of the day though, I don't give a shit what the wine comes in, if it's good, it's good. 

I did some looking online for this wine; information is scarce. I'm just guessing at what's in it--I'm going to say Tempranillo, maybe blended with something else. However, I did find a reference to being able to purchase this wine for 2.75 Euro (about US $3.69 at the current exchange rate) directly from the winery in Spain. That's certainly a cheap bottle of wine. I've never had a sub-4$ bottle of US wine that's this good...too bad we have to pay for the importer to import it, and for Trader Joe's mark-up. It's imported into the US by Latitude Imports, who I've had okay luck with in the past. (I'm a fan of the Now & Zen White for 5$, and I had a couple bottles of Grand Cru Saint Emilion that weren't bad either.) This wine isn't going to floor you, or baffle you with its' complexity and poise. I can say that it is a solid 6$ bottle of wine, and worth picking up to quaff with something rustic--I'm thinking sausages, or maybe a roast chicken. There's a lot of cherry/berry fruit, as well as lots of earth, some herbal qualities, and a healthy dollop of vanilla. As the wine opens up, it reveals some tannin, and a little bit of structure. Not out of whack balance wise. Not much of a finish, but hey--this wine is 6$. It's probably a "carafe wine" in Spain--this is a lot more than I expect from a typical 6$ bottle of wine, and worth picking up and trying once if you're at all interested in Spanish wine. B+/A-  

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fess Parker "Ashley's Vineyard" Chardonnay 2007 & 2008

Fess Parker sent these two Chardonnay's along with the suggestion to taste them side by side and compare the differences in the two vintages. Although Sarah and I are normally in the "ABC" crowd as far as white wine goes (we have been known to drink some Pouilly-Fuisse or Chablis from time to time), and typically are more into Gruner, Riesling and weird Italian stuff, we thought this sounded like a splendid thing to drink with the chicken-barley-portabella soup I made. (What's really cool about the soup--that I jacked from a Laurent Tourondel cookbook--is that you make the chicken stock out of the chicken instead of assembling everything separately. Of course, it's delicious.)

Both of these bottles are around $30 retail (although looking online, you can get the 07 for 24$), which is part of the reason we don't drink tons of Chardonnay based wines. Simply put, you can get really good whites for quite a bit less. Regardless, we enjoyed both of these wines. "Ashley's Vineyard" is named after Fess Parker's daughter and is located in the Santa Rita Hills AVA. Both wines are tastefully done, with lots of varietal character. The 07 is a bit leaner in terms of style, with lots of pear and apple on the nose, a little toast, some vanilla/custard character, and lots of lemon once it's in your mouth. There's also more acidity, slight creaminess, and a nice finish. The 08, in contrast, is definitely riper, with more oak on the nose (I suppose this could have something to do with just going in the bottle), figs, and some spice notes that come out. In the mouth, this wine is more orange than lemon, and is much more along the "vanilla, creamy, butter-thing." There's also less acidity, and a lingering honey-vanilla finish.

The 07 was an awesome pairing with the soup, bringing the parsley flavors to the forefront. The 08 didn't work as well. For what it's worth, I believe that it scored higher in the Wine Enthusiast (95 as opposed to a 93 that the 07 received). It makes sense that Sarah and I would prefer the lower-pointed wine, since we typically dig acidity and balance more than other characteristics. Both wines are definitely more California than Chablis--fruit, and not much austerity. I was impressed that neither of these wines went to popcorn territory--although I hear that that isn't the style anymore. We liked the 07 much more than the Pinot and Syrah that we received, and would consider purchasing it again. The 07 is an A-/A, and the 08 is a B/B+. And somehow, I'm not quite sure how, we drank both bottles. That's a lot of wine for us. I guess that the moral of the story is that we shouldn't open two bottles and have two glasses in front of each of us, because that makes it really easy to drink two bottles of wine...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Perrin & Fils "Peyre Blanche" Cairanne 2007

I've been a fan of Perrin and Fils for quite a while now; I haven't really ever gotten a bottle from them that I thought was bad. The last one we had was pretty bretty, but all told, there have been a lot of awesome, good value bottles that we've had out of their portfolio. (Although they must have some holes, as The Cab Franco Files notes...) In any event, this wine is widely available in Costco in Southern California for 17$ or 18$ right now, and is from the much heralded 2007 Southern Rhone vintage. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. Initially on popping the cork, this one is all fruit. Eventually, you get lots of kirsch, blackberry, and anise, along with some earthy hints. Not a ton of acidity; this wine comes off as ripe and soft before devolving into an earthy finish with hints of raspberry. Day two, it's a hell of a lot more figgy, inexplicably gained a bit of an edge, and surprisingly to me, I think it's really come into it's own (despite the fact that I panned this wine to myself day 1). It's a lot smoother and silky than most Cotes du Rhones that I've had. However, it certainly isn't the best embodiment of what I really like in a Cotes du Rhone. Just as an exercise in "for instance," I think this wine lacks a lot of the rustic, savory crackle of pepper, garrique, and acidity that I so adore in my idea of a good Cotes du Rhone. This wine is a lot more polished than that. Maybe it's 07, maybe it's the fact that this is a Cairanne and not a regular Cotes du Rhone Villages, or maybe it's something else, but I am not as into this wine as I thought I would be. If your idea of awesome is low-acid high pointed wines, I think this might be up your alley. It would be worth giving this wine a while to open too--on day one, I completely panned this wine, but on day two, after pouring a glass, it was clear that this wine picked up a lot of steam and came into its' own. Still, this wine isn't as much my liking as it could be.  As an aside, Wine Spectator gave it a "91," and suggests that it needs some short-term cellaring to come together--which would completely support how much better this wine became on day two.  B+

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2008

There's nothing lamer than being in Rome for almost three weeks, having a great time, and then coming back and having to go back to work. Work is a necessary evil, and I don't dislike it entirely, but I am much more in the "work to live," as opposed to the "live to work" camp. Given all the lameness that was about to ensure on Monday morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find four bottles of wine from Fess Parker waiting for me. In truth, it made my day, if for no other reason than all the bottles are adorned with a coonskin cap (because Fess Parker played Davey Crockett on TV back in the day), and I was obsessed with Davey Crockett when I was a kid. Not really sure why they sent me free wine, as I certainly have what I would describe as an anti-California bent where wine is related. I'm also going to let you in on a secret: (well, not really, I think it's probably fairly obvious) most of the people stumble upon this site because of something I wrote about some random Trader Joe's offering. (Seriously, that's 70% of the traffic of this site). But, let's put that aside--you really shouldn't complain about getting free wine, especially when it's from a "legit" winery (as opposed to free samples from say, Bronco). 

With all that in mind, I popped the cork on the 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. Synthetic cork. Supposedly, this wine should retail for 27$, although I can't find any reference to this wine online. I would assume that it hasn't been released yet. Restrained use of new oak on this one (perhaps because it's a blend of about 7 different vineyards)--the technical sheet says 40%. One dimensional and a little closed at first. First thing that I noticed was a a little bit of blueberry/currant, followed by some strawberry and some spice. After some aeration, the wine opens up to reveal lots of cranberry, orange, and spice elements on the nose, with tart red fruits, a hint of vanilla, a fairly silky-plush texture, and a spicy finish. The wine reminds me of Christmas or Thanksgiving. It's a relatively ripe and fruity Pinot with a little bit of creaminess in the mid-palate and a touch of alcohol heat--about what I expect from California Pinot. I'm glad this Pinot doesn't "go to 11," as some of the more full throttle ones from warmer climes do. I think that the price may be a bit steep on this one for me, although I do think it's good wine. It's just somewhat pricey at 27$. If it was more like 15-20$, I might be more inclined to be into it. I wasn't blown away--and I dare say that there are some similarly priced Burgundy's that I might better suit my palate--but there's nothing wrong with this wine either. C+ (Mainly because I think the price is pretty steep.)

Fess Parket Syrah Santa Barbara County 2007

This was the second wine in the series of 4 wines that I received from the nice folks over at Fess Parker. I've never had a Fess Parker wine before yesterday, and I've been pleasantly surprised by them. I was expecting them to be a bit out of whack in terms of balance, but I think these are actually delicious, balanced wines so far, if perhaps they are a little on the expensive side. Suggested retail on this wine is about 25$. Right up front, I should say that there is a lot of Syrah that you can procure that rocks for this price point--there is some healthy competition. As one of my buddies says "Syrah is a fucking weed. It grows everywhere." How true that statement is...seems like Syrah is pretty ubiquitous, and comes in a lot of different configurations, from the more restrained and aromatic Syrah's of the Northern Rhone, to the more bombastic fruit bombs from Australia. Anyways, I'm just going to say right up front that I liked this wine better than the Pinot, despite the fact that this is a bit more on the bombastic side, and boasts a relatively high (for me) ABV of 14.9%.

There's a lot going on in the nose--lots of smoke, tons of different fruits that change constantly, some oak and spice elements. A very complex interesting nose. Once in the mouth, it's pleasantly lush, perhaps flirting with a bit of raisin character, but mainly I notice layered, nuanced fruit flavors, as well as herbal and spice accents that lead into a cherry and spice laden finish. I like this wine, although I think there is a lot of competition out there for this wine. If you're looking for a well-made, fruity Syrah from California, this is a good choice that won't break the bank (although for 25$ you have a lot of options for other places). B+

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Les Charmeuses" Morgon Louis Tete 2009

After all the Italian wines that we drank recently (and really, more often than not, whatever they had in a carafe), I was kind of thirsty for something that was, well, not Italian. Italian wines were my first fascination as a serious wine nerd, and I still really dig them (especially indigenous varietals), but I have certainly gravitated more towards France. I think France as a general rule is a little bit more polished, and less rustic at the same price point as Italy. That's just my observation. I sure that other people feel differently (I've certainly had my fair share of rustic French wine too), but France always seems to have a little more grace, a little less of the razor-sharp acidity, and a little more balance. I'd also like to note that this is a blatant, silly generalization on my part because both the French and the Italians have their own wine culture and traditions that have existed forever, and there are a multitude of exceptions. As such, making sweeping statements about France and Italy as they pertain to each other is a stupid exercise, since at a certain point, it becomes asinine to compare them at all. Nevertheless, I needed something that was not Italian to drink.

I happened upon this Morgon at Costco for 11$, and figured that I had to give it a try. I don't drink much Beaujolais--I think one terrible banana-esque bottle of Georges Dubouef was enough for me--but I have had several Cru Beaujolais, like Morgon, in the last few years that I liked. The one that every one seems to talk about is Marcel Lapierre, imported by Kermit Lynch. The 05 version of that wine was fantastic; I enjoyed it, like seemingly everyone else. I don't know much about Beaujolais...but that's never stopped me from making sweeping judgments before. The wine went great with dinner--a tomato based chard soup, topped with a fried egg, toasted bread, and pecorino. An earthy, delicate berry-cherry nose, nice freshness, and a graceful frame to support the earthy finish, make this a great cheap alternative to Pinot next time you need a lighter bodied red to go with something. A steal at 11$ I think. A-    

Ill Grotto Della Sole Finao di Avellino 2009

Well, this takes the cake for worst photo ever. To all you people that like a nice photo, well, you're just going to have to deal with it. In fact, it's so bad that I can't even really read what the name of the producer is...oh well, I don't think it matters too much. This wine is a food wine--a nice one--although not really complicated. Sarah and I consumed it at Al Pompiere, in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. I've eaten there one other time; Sarah multiple times. It's Sarah's favorite restaurant in Rome. I have to say, that hands down, this was the best meal that we ate in a restaurant in Rome. Although I was still recovering from the after effects of the flu, and really, felt like absolute shit, I suffered through it, and am glad I did. We had the best carciofi alla giudia, spaghetti all'amatriciana, and puntarelle that we ate in Rome, as well as truffled gnocchi and grilled squid. The waiters flat out thought we were crazy--we didn't finish the gnocchi (I literally couldn't eat anymore because my stomach was cramping in a terrible way and was close to turning, and Sarah was full), and we left some squid (again, I could not eat another bite, and neither could Sarah). This was the equivalent of not eating your vegetables, as far as they were concerned, and we were the "bad kids." To top it all off, I asked our awesome waiter (seriously, this place has the best service we encountered in a restaurant in Rome), if I could have some 0.50 Euro pieces so that Sarah could buy some of the disposable toothbrushes out of the dispenser in the bathroom. Yes, he thought we were hopping mad, I'm sure, but was super nice. The wine itself was a great accompaniment to everything we ate, with pungent green apple scents, tart lemony flavors, just a hint of mineral, and sharp acidity. This wine is built for seafood. 18 Euro is maybe a bit steep (another example of what would have probably been Frascati in a carafe probably sufficing), but this wine was inexpensive for a restaurant wine at the equivalent of 25$ US. C+/B-

Monday, April 5, 2010

Muller Thurgau Balzano 2009

This was 6 Euro at Punta SMA. Light, lively, and leaning towards lime
and floral scents. Reminds me of what I would imagine a totally dry
Vinho Verde would taste and smell like. The finish is juicy, with just
a hint of peach, and picks up some mineral notes. This wine is great
for 6 Euro. B+

Rubrato Aglianico Feudi di San Gregorio 2007

9 Euro at the Punta SMA by the apartment we rented in Rome. We've had a lot of wines from Feudi San Gregorio in the past, but they've been mostly white. They're quite a large producer, with reliably high quality. This wine is no exception. Lots of tannin, with blackberry, dried cherry, allspice, and a hint of vanilla. Sort of reminds me of well made Zinfandel that is low alcohol (this is 13.5%). Comes off a bit rustic, but is an awesome accompaniment to Barolo salame, grocery store Taleggio (which is better than any Taleggio I've had had in the states), pig candy (!!! called coppiette), and smoked mozzarella. Really, this wine isn't too polished--it's got rustic tannins and acidity, but it's pretty good for the price. Its probably more in the states too. B/B+

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dives Marcella Giuliani Cesanese del Piglio 2003

Sarah and I picked this wine at Checchino dal 1887, a restaurant in the Testaccio neighborhood (way off the tourist path) of Rome, that's been open since...1887. Lots of tradition. We went on Easter, which is the only Sunday all year it's open. This wine was 28 Euro--pretty cheap by restaurant standards. Lots of dried cherry and pipe tobacco. Ripe and full, but with enough of everything to make a well rounded, delicious wine. A- we drank this with a bunch of traditional Roman stuff--favas, artichokes, baby lamb, and then went to see the ancient cellar built on top of the broken amphorae that make up Romes unofficial eighth "mountain." a cool experience to say the least.

Update: I was looking around, seeing if it might be possible to get this wine in the US, because I would love to have another bottle or two or three. Unfortunately, I think the answer might be no. However, I do have a really good field trip planned for the next time we go to Rome. We're going to go visit Marcella Giuliani, and I'm sure it will be a blast.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mario Schiopetto Friulano 2008

Sarah and I had this at Pierluigi, which is close to us. It's the most expensive meal we've had in Rome. It's one of those joints where you pick your fish from the case...anyways this was 35 Euro, or about 45$ US. When I had the 07 in the states, it was 70$ I think. This wine is great--lots of peach, some almondy, floral notes, tons of poise, richness and balance. By far the best bottle of wine we've had in Rome. A-

Friday, April 2, 2010

Canal del Ronco Schioppettino

I picked this up at Punta SMA in Rome, otherwise known as the grocery store, for 5 or 6 Euro (about 7$ US). The grocery stores here are different than the US--way less selection (at least compared to something like a Ralph's or whatever your typical craptastic supermarket is), and mostly fresh stuff (ie non pre-packaged food). The center aisles that you see in the US are quite small. It's refreshing. They only have about 6 feet worth of wine--probably about what you'd find at your typical 7-11, to be honest about it--and it's all Italian, save a couple bottles of Champagne. Anyways...I grabbed this wine because it was the only schioppettino they had, so I figured that it would be good. Very fruity, with lots of blackberry, cherry, pepper and herbal accents. Light-bodied with lots of crackle and acidity make it an ideal food wine for rustic stuff like salami and cheese. We drank this at 4 in the afternoon (something we are not typically in the habit of doing, but fuck it, we are on vacation), with bread from the Campo forno, pig candy from Ruggeri in the Campo, ricotta and bufallo mozzarella from the cheese co-op in the Campo, and barolo-washed salame from Norcieria Voila in the Campo. A feast from our neighborhood...B+