Sunday, May 30, 2010

Charles Baur Pinot Blanc 2008

13$ at K&L. I like whites from Alsace--most of the time I get a huge kick out of them and they're delicious. It's not that this wine isn't--it's just that it didn't really reach out and grab me by the throat. There's certainly nothing wrong with the red/Fuji apple-ish and lemon flavors, nor with the subtle bit of mineral that sneaks in on the tail end of the rather Rubenesque frame, it's just that I didn't get all that excited by this wine. I definitely preferred the Rose Cremant d'Alsace that we had last summer from Charles Baur; I believe it was the same price. C

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dr. Loosen Riesling 2008

10$ at the LA Wine Company, but there are a lot of other places that you can get this as well. I drank this with more crab salad with paprika vinaigrette and also...huevos rancheros...smothered in salsa. I find drinking wine with Mexican food to be not only kind of a little bit curious and odd, but also kind of a challenge. I think beer probably works a little better most of the time...but sometimes you just want wine. Which is why I keep bottles of off-dry, not too expensive with screw-caps Riesling  around in the first place. Another bonus: You could probably drink the whole bottle if you wanted to, in a single sitting, because at 8.5% alcohol, you're not going to end up too smashed. This wine can really be summed up in one word; "limestone." Well, actually, I meant limes and stones. But whatever. B-/B 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Domaine des Ballandors Quincy 2007

Picked this up for 17$ the last time I was at K&L. I actually tasted this wine there, thought it was pretty good, and picked up a bottle. It basically comes off similar to a Sancerre, but a little riper. This particular wine has a lot of melon and mineral notes, citrus characteristics, and a touch of the grassy, herby aromas that Sauvignon Blanc is so well known for. It doesn't seem to be as stony or as angular as most of the Sancerre that I've had; it comes off as significantly rounder to me. Overall, fairly tasty, and a good compliment to a crab salad with paprika vinaigrette as well as sauteed green beans with caramelized red onions. I tend to be a fan of extremes though...and that means I might just prefer something as aggressively angular as Sancerre, or on the flip side, as pungent as a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, instead of this wine. This is lost in some sort of middle ground for me. It's certainly a good wine, however, I'm not enthused enough about it at the price to go and get more of it. C+/B-

Monday, May 24, 2010

Federico Tinto Roble Ribera del Duero 2007

I think this wine is a throw-back of sorts: it's cheap enough to drink damn near every day at 15$, it's got a retro label (really, there's not a chance in hell that any branded wine company would release a wine with a label like this), and it's low alcohol (12.5%).  It's also delicious. Lots of cherries, blackberries, some vanilla, and a touch of something savory--maybe spiciness, maybe a little bit of smoke, along with good balance and plenty of acidity. I really liked this wine; so did Sarah. Apparently, this guys brother is behind Pesquera (which is fairly iconic in terms of Spanish wine). When Spanish wines get it right, they get it right. This is not one of the New World-y oak bombs, but rather a refined, old school bottle of wine. Wines like this are why people must have gotten excited about Spain in the first place. A- Sarah and I drank this while we watched the finale of Lost.

Friday, May 21, 2010

San Francesco Ciro Rosso 2007

I picked this wine up for 13$ at K&L. From Calabria--further South in Italy than Naples--basically the toe of Italy. 100% Gaglioppo. Gaglioppo is another weird indigenous grape that I am so enamored with. There doesn't seem to be much information about it available.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect opening this wine; I vaguely remember Steve at K&L telling me something about it...but I can't quite remember. Oh well. This is what makes buying random things fun...you're never quite sure what to expect. Initially super tannic, but opened up quickly. I have to say, this wine reminded me of a youngish Chianti Classico because of the almost dried cherry flavors and acidity. If you had served this to me blind, that's what I would have guessed. There are also some spicy, earthy elements that show up in the nose, and for a brief instant, I thought that I smelled some incredibly ripe raspberry. An interesting, fruity wine that's a good food wine, and relatively cheap at 13$. When you can get wines like this for less than you can pick up your typical "branded" California Cab or Chardonnay, why on earth would you even bother with those? Not only is this better wine, but it's more interesting to drink. B/B+

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chateau de Campuget Rose 2009

Picked this up at the LA Wine Company for 9$. A blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache Blanc. This wine hails from the Costieres di Nimes, (If you get a chance to go to Nimes, do it. Nimes is an awesome French Riviera town boasting not only one of the most well preserved Roman coliseums, but also lots of awesome beaches and the beautiful French coast. Plus, you can easily pop over to both Nice and Monacco from there, which are also both quite interesting and fun.) which used to be part of the Languedoc region, but now is part of the Rhone. Really, who cares? But I digress. This is definitely not as interesting as the Elk Cove Pinot Rose that we had the other night, but it's cheaper by a couple of dollars. Lots of strawberries and stones, with intriguing grapefruit-y notes. Juicy, and just like a rose is supposed to be--although not terribly exciting. Still for 9$, you can't knock it too much. C+/B-   

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Senorio de Barahonda "Nabuko" 2008

Normally, a Wine Advocate 90 rating sends me scurrying away like a cockroach into the shadows of a KFC. But somehow, the guy at the LA Wine Company sold me on this one (I will try lots of things once...I don't know if that makes me gullible or not). At 9$ (most other places I looked it was more like 15$), it isn't that expensive. I was willing to give it a try based on some of the other wines he had directed me to before this one. Although I haven't been there frequently, after talking with him for a bit, it seemed clear to me that he had a similar palate to mine and wasn't wooed by the point game at the expense of all else. I'm glad that I got a bottle of this--it's an excellent value for 9$. And I'm just going to say it--I thought it was really fucking good, despite the fact that I was expecting to want to spit it out and pour the remainder down the drain. To put it mildly, I was half expecting an "oak-shake..." and was really excited when I got an awesome 9$ wine. This wine is drinking way above 9$. It's interesting enough that I think it would be a decent value at twice the price.  

The winery, Senoria de Barahonda, has been around since 1925. They focus mainly on Monastrell (Mouvedre). The winery is in Yecla, which is roughly in the Eastern part of Spain and butts up against Jumilla and Alicante. The main grape grown in Yecla is Monastrell. This is an interesting wine, in that it combines 50% Monastrell (otherwise known as Mouvedre) and 50% Syrah--definitely a unique combination. You can definitely smell the Monastrell in this wine--lots of spiciness. You can also definitely smell the Syrah--lots of big, ripe blackberries, that thankfully, don't stray into raisin territory. There are also some plums, a little pepper, a little bit of greenness and licorice on the nose. Slight creaminess at first (definitely diminishes as the wine opens, as does the slight "milk chocolate" flavors), with licorice up front, leading into well-balanced, perfectly ripe (ie not raisined or pruney) and sweet blackberries/black raspberries, before a spicy, earthy finish. I wasn't expecting to like this, but for 9$ this is definitely over-delivering. Too bad that all of the 90 point Wine Advocate wines aren't this good. If they were, you could buy them with impunity! A

Monday, May 17, 2010

Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Rose 2009

I picked this up for 12$ at the LA Wine Company at the suggestion of their guy. After all, he and I agreed that it's not really worth it to spend 30$ for Rose--even if it's good. So that's how I got led to this wine, although he initially was telling me that the Bandol was pretty good. Really, who wants to spend more than 10$ or 15$ on a bottle of rose? Seems a bit ridiculous, no? Ideally, the roses that I end up drinking are less than 10$--and there certainly are decent ones to be had for that price. This particular rose is from one of the older wineries in Oregon--producing wine since 1977. Screw-cap. Initially, somewhat restrained on the nose and a little closed. As it opens up, it becomes clear that this wine is mostly about juicy, fresh fruit--strawberries and cherries, to be specific. Mineral/stone/chalk mix in quite nicely, creating a nice little package. This wine is perfect to drink when it's hot out. B/B+

Also, even though it has exactly zero to do with this wine, I listened to something that I probably haven't heard for at least five years this morning, and probably far longer than that: The White Pony, by the Deftones. Like I said, it has zero to do with this wine. (Because really, when I think of rose, I think of soccer moms, Dave Brubeck, and trailer parks--not circa 2000 alterna-metal.) I can very clearly remember the first time that I heard the Deftones on the radio. I was hooked. I can also remember going to get Around the Fir in the 10th or 11th grade, sticking it in my CD player, and being absolutely shocked by how brutally heavy "My Own Summer," was. I'd listened to Metallica, Rage Against the Machine and other heavy bands, but this was my first real foray into stuff that was actually heavy. Say what you want about the Deftones--they've certainly gotten lumped in with a lot of terrible bands--but they're pretty brilliant. For whatever reason, I stuck The White Pony in my car yesterday to listen to "Change in the House of Flies," which gave me chills when it came out in 2000 or so. I have vivid memories of smoking a cigar and listening to that song on a rooftop in Rome. Anyways, on the way to work, I forgot it was in the CD player, and was really kind of blown away by how good it is. Yeah, there are a of couple of terrible songs, and some of the lyrics are pretty awful. But overall, it's atmospheric, heavy, and really catchy...almost Radiohead like. And it was a perfect accompaniment to the urban wasteland that is the 105 East and 710 North in Los Angeles on a misty, cloudy, semi-raining day. A blast from the past, but worth checking out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chateau Reynon Bordeaux Blanc 2008 (Denis Dubourdieu)

I can't remember the last time that I had a Bordeaux Blanc. It might have actually been never. It's one of those weird categories of wine that I've just never really delved into. These wines are made with Sauvignon Blanc and blended with Semillon. This particular wine is 89% Sauvignon Blanc, with the reminder being Semillon. 14$ right now at K&L and was recommended by Steve Greer (great palate...). 

I've been feeling a bit jaded about wine lately. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's because I'm drinking less, maybe it's because of something else? Maybe it's because I recently caught a glimpse of a 20 year old Produttori Barbaresco that I can't drink every day? Regardless, this wine jolted me out of my little pity party and made me a happy dude. I was browsing for something to go with a bunch of oven roasted asparagus, fried eggs, pecorino and toasted bread, and this was calling out to me. People say asparagus is a tough match for wine; I think that's a bunch of bullshit. When asparagus is in season, we eat a lot of it. As much as we can actually, because after mid-June, it isn't good anymore. So there's only a small window to go nuts with it. I have successfully had lots of white wine with asparagus and been delighted. I think the key is to go with something that isn't oaky, has a lot of acidity, and just a little bit of green to it. Gruner Veltiner, Kabinett Riesling, Pinot Blanc--they're all fair game and have worked for me in the past. I would even be so bold as to say that Chablis or Pouilly-Fuisse would work out well.  Now artichokes, well, that's another matter. (Frascati! I say, preferably out of a carafe.)

The first thing that I thought when I pulled the cork on this delightful bottle was peaches! (and with an exclamation point mind you). That's not what I was expecting from a Sauvignon Blanc based wine; perhaps this is the influence of the Semillon? There's a little bit of the grassy jalapeno thing, along with floral elements that are mingling with the explosive peach. Sarah says it reminds her of pineapple and motor oil. I know that doesn't sound like the most enticing combination, but that's an accurate description, and it's a hell of a lot more delicious than it sounds. Once this wine is in your mouth, there's a little bit of oiliness, to back up the crisp acidity, slightly chalky mid-palate, and the lemony, minerally finish. I know this wine is probably "pedestrian," in the world of Bordeaux Blanc, but man was it tasty last night--and cheap too. A    

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cave de Saumur Selection Rouge 2007

I picked this up at K&L on closeout for 8$. Initially on opening, leafy with a little bit of bell pepper--definitely cab franc. After a while, this blows off to reveal plums, raspberries, and dark cherries with a lot of mineral/stone character, and just a hint of earthiness. Light bodied, with lots of acidity and a relatively lithe, silky feel to the sour cherry and stone flavors. This isn't what I would describe as earth shattering, but for 8$ it's definitely a solid deal if you like cab franc. B

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Paitin di Pasquero Elia Barbaresco "Sori Paitin" 2004

This bottle of wine has been kicking around in my cellar now for over 2 years, and I'm sorry to say that I opened it last night. It was bordering on mistake territory--the bottle was great, but still somewhat tightly wound. It's funny to reflect on a bottle that you've looked at for so long, wondering what it was going to taste like, what you were going to eat it with, who you were going to drink it with, whether the damn thing would be corked, and whether or not you'll end up actually liking the wine. In regards to liking the wine, yes, I definitely liked it, but I don't know that it's a bottle of wine that I would pick up with my current palate. For starters, it was 40$--which is pretty pricey for a bottle of wine in my book. Not splurge territory, but spendy nonetheless. Second, it got scored relatively highly by Parker (92). In the past, that was something that I was unerringly curious about (not really so much now). The saving grace is that Steven Tanzer also scored it highly, although I can't say that that would sway me these days. It might serve as a deterrent.

Regarding the other questions surrounding the bottle of wine that are unanswered from above, I drank this with Sarah (not much of a surprise there), it was absolutely not corked, and we drank this with some braised short ribs that I made on Sunday from Free Range grass fed beef that I picked up at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. I also made some thyme polenta to go with it, as well as some favas that I sauteed with garlic and olive oil (By the way--fava's are a pain in the ass to make...I'd forgotten in the year since I've made them.) The short ribs were awesome--I took the recipe from the Ad Hoc cookbook (Thomas Keller), which is sort of the French Laundry made easy, and made a couple of substitutions. I forgot to get leeks at the farmer's market, so I just added some extra shallots, and I didn't bother with separating the meat from the braising liquid with a cheesecloth...it seemed like a bit of overkill for what's really something that's basically fancy pot roast. I knew this was a Thomas Keller recipe when I discarded well over a pound of vegetables from the braising liquid. To be fair, I tasted a little of everything, and they really had given all of their flavor to the liquid (which is later reduced to a silky, out of this world sauce). It still felt a little funny to discard so many vegetables--a whole onion, 5 carrots, 1/2 pound of mushrooms, and a whole bunch of shallots--but as I discovered, they didn't taste like much anyways. The short ribs were nothing short of a rousing success--they aren't hard to make, and they're impossible to mess up. On top of that, they're delicious, and an awesome red wine dish, not only for the beef aspect, but also for the entire bottle of wine that goes into the braising liquid. 

This particular wine was extremely tight when first opened. Definitely a tannic nebbiolo. As the night wore on, and I let this sit in the glass, it opened up. This is on the darker side of Barbaresco (especially when viewed in the context of the 1990 Produttori Barbaresco that we had last week) with blackberries, licorice, lots of almost minty/lavender nuances, tar/earth/whatever the fuck else you want to call it, occasional strawberries, and vanilla on the nose.  Once this gets in your mouth, there's a lot of sweet fruit, tannin, awesome balance, and then a terrifically long strawberry earth finish. This is a layered wine, with a lot of nuance. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Serious. I couldn't help but wonder if this wine was "Barbaresco on steroids," because of the masculine posture and all of the darker fruit influences. Not being a wine critic, and not being ridiculously wealthy and/or profligate with my spending, I haven't had the chance to taste gobs of Barbaresco from lots of different vintages. I do know that this particular wine is much darker than I normally have associated with nebbiolo in the past. How characteristic this is of Barbaresco, I'm not sure, but I definitely liked it. Too bad that there isn't any of it left for me to drink in another 5 years or so. Maybe someone will stumble across this and gift me another bottle. (Please?) A (Even though this is kind of spendy, the finish on this wine is killer and makes it worth every penny.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Moulin-a-Vent Louis Tete 2007

I picked this up for 16$ at K&L thinking that it would be fun to try another Cru Beaujolais after my delight in the 2009 Morgon that Costco has from Louis Tete (FYI, K&L has the same wine at 15$...it's 11$ at Costco.). There's something that I find quite compelling about these fleeting glimpses of Cru Beaujolais that I've had recently--I am a big fan of the stony, juicy, acid driven flavor profile, relatively low alcohol, and lighter body--and also quite enthralled with how well the wines go with food. I've bought three bottles of the Morgon at this point, which is basically unheard of for me. When it comes to wine, I definitely like an adventure. If I really like a bottle, I might by two of them, but that doesn't happen all that often. It is quite rare for me to three-peat. Cru Beaujolais is also a great demonstration to me about how my tastes have changed. I do not think that I would have been so enthused with these wines 3 years ago, but now, they make me a happy guy. 

The Moulin-a-Vent is from a different vintage, so perhaps I should just throw all comparison to the Morgon out the window as it's really not particularly relevant--different village, different vintage, different terroir. (Actually, this brings up a question that I think is really interesting, which is, should you be comparing wines if they aren't apples to apples? How can you compare a Napa Cab with a Beaujolais anyways? It doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense when you really break it down. They're quite a bit different. And this is where I think that "point-driven" wine drinking fails--there's not much context. Different styles can be good in different ways, but to just dumb them down to a point score is asinine.) The Moulin-a-Vent worked great with what we had for dinner--some chicken thighs that I pan-roasted and then broiled with some parmigiano and tomato sauce on top (sort of a riff on chicken parmigiano, without the pasta), as well as a farro salad spiked with cucumbers, red wine vinegar, red onion, olives, and chile pepper. This Moulin-a-Vent had aromas of lightly candied cherry, plums, maybe just a touch of spice right when it was opened, and stones, before leading into tarter, more cranberry-like flavors on the palate. Juicy, lighter bodied, not particularly complex, and the finish isn't really a blockbuster, but it's definitely a great food wine. In particular, the wine showed its' versatility with the farro salad--fairly spicy, but the wine held up admirably. It also played well with the chicken, which was tomatoe-y--a tough match for many red wines if they don't have a lot of acids to back them up. All told, I enjoyed this wine, and think that it's a great wine to pick up to go with a wide-variety of things. It's also perfect for Spring, because it takes a chill, so it's a great pick if you don't want a rose or a white wine and want something that's lighter, but still somewhat substantial. B/B+  

Monday, May 3, 2010

Joel Taluau/ Produttori

A while back, I saw magnums of 1989 Joel Taluau "Cuvee de Domaine" St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil at K&L for 60$. I'm a big cab franc guy, but unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to try a whole lot of older cab francs. In fact, I can count on one hand the number that I've had that have been over 5 years old. This bottle of wine was enticing me, for sure. I ended up buying a bottle, but letting it sit in K&L's will-call for a couple of months because I don't have anywhere that's large enough to stack a magnum (wine fridges are great, but my Vino Temp doesn't have a big enough space for a magnum). I also figured that it would be more wine than Sarah and I could drink in one evening, so I asked our neighbor/landlord if he wanted to split it with us. (Ironically, we both ended up drinking way more than the magnum...)
Our neighbor is a generous guy, and as I've said before, a bit of a bon vivant. For what's it's worth, our bedroom is directly above his cellar. Since I brought over the Taluau, he decided that he was going to open something, because one magnum is not enough for 7 people (also present were our neighbors from across the street). Of course, he's got a cellar full of well-aged wine, and decided to completely trump my humble little cab franc by opening up a magnum of 1990 Produttori Barbaresco. (One interesting thing to note is that the label is not the normal label that you're accustomed to seeing for Produttori, as this was a special blend to commemorate the 100th year of the winery.) He bought it for 25$ or 30$ in 1996 he said--and therein is why people age wine, because I have no doubt that the wine would be quite a lot more expensive now.

 We started dinner off with some bruschetta, some rose from Provence, and glasses of Mirabelle rose sparkling wine from Schramsberg (an absolute steal for 19$, by the way--totally French and delicate, with gentle yeasty, creamy, strawberry notes and a refreshing absence of the hugely ripe fruit that one often finds in California sparklers), before moving on to a salad that Sarah made with dried figs, blue cheese, mache, arugula, apples, and a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Then, it was off to have the more serious wines with croquettes and delicious veal/beef tournedos.

I was a little worried about the Taluau--21 years old is pretty old a wine like this. However, no problems...Much fresher than I thought it would be and oozing with peppery cab franc aromas, with a little bit of tomato thrown in for good measure. Surprisingly light and delicate on the palate, but as the night wore on, the fruit started to emerge a bit more and you could tell that there was, in fact, some structure to the wine. This was a very interesting wine to drink--and shit, I was 7 years old when the grapes got picked, which befuddles me to a certain extent--but I don't know that it really floored me. No doubt, it's a very cool wine to drink, but I don't know that I'd spring for another bottle over something else. B+/A-

The Produttori was off the chain. The essence of Nebbiolo--roses, some berry fruit, tar, and earth. The tannin had dissipated and resolved into the wine, leaving behind a sumptuous texture, but still showing signs of the structure that allowed it to age well. A killer finish too, and superbly elegant. This was, really and truly, a pretty fucking great bottle of wine. Although the Taluau was good too, the Produttori made it look like Charles Shaw. A+

Our neighbor also carted out a 1987 Dunn Cab, which ended up being corked. Damn.(By the way, I must not be that sensitive to cork taint because it was pretty subtle. I probably would have drank the bottle...) Then we had some tequila, but neither were as good as the Tesoro that I had with my neighbor a few months back. They were both pretty awesome--one reposado, one silver--but the Tesoro has a presence that was missing in these two. Maybe I was drunker then or something. Taste is fleeting sensation, but I know that I'm not forgetting the Taluau or the Produttori anytime soon.