Monday, June 28, 2010

Haras de Pirque Character Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

This is another Costco wine that you can get right now for 15$. Normally, this would be something that I would pass over without a second thought, but Greg at the Cab Franco Files spoke very highly of this particular wine, and I trust his palate. Also, Haras is Sarah backwards, and she got a kick out of that. I wonder if there's some significance to that? Anyways, Sarah thought it was funny. The Haras features currants with tarry, smoky, rubbery, almost gamey scents, accompanied by ripe fruit and excellent balance. I like this wine. It's almost too much on the rubber (Pinotage, anyone?), but it's a good value, especially for a Cabernet Sauvignon. Definitely better than most of the California Cab that you can pick up for twice as much at Costco. B+/A-

Friday, June 25, 2010

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2008

Sarah's going off to New York tonight, so we figured we'd open a bottle of something interesting, like we always do before she takes off. Just not really drinking as much wine as we normally do recently, but it's always nice to have a couple glasses of something fun. I decided to open something Italian because my parents just went off to Italy for the first time--and I was thinking about how much fun they're going to have. There's nothing like coming into Rome and seeing the Coliseum for the first time, especially if you've just gotten off a long plane ride. It's a pretty surreal experience. It ties you into the history of the world and makes you realize just how old Rome is. It's a tangible tie to what came before. It's a compelling testament to the longevity of the human race.  It's a reminder of what a short period of time you spend alive, but also a reminder of how enduring things can be. It almost drives me to the point of existential crisis every single time I see it in person. It's a contemplative, iconic, and impressive structure. I'm stoked that my parents finally get to experience Italy. Sarah and I have had a lot of fun there. (By the way...if you're really interested, we built a whole website about our last stay in Rome in April, which can be accessed here. I think we've managed to fix all the problems with the photos loading...)

This wine was 18$ at LA Wine Company. It's imported by Palm Bay, which is a huge importer, and also boasts on the back that some of the money from this bottle goes to fighting AIDS in Africa. 60% Nero d'Avola and 40% Frappato. This wine is different from the last Cerasuolo di Vittoria that we had. It's a lot fresher and fruitier, and not quite as structured. Lots of strawberries, cherries, licorice, and herbal notes on the nose, leading through to a fairly acidic finish that highlights the fresh fruit character of this wine. This wine is interesting and different, fun and fresh. B

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils 2005

I picked this wine up well over 2 years ago for around 40$. I don't really know why I picked it up. This is a wine that I definitely wouldn't even consider grabbing today. First, it's 15% alcohol, which I really think is just too overwhelming for the vast majority of still wines. Second, it got a high score in the Wine Spectator--a 93--and that just doesn't matter to me that much anymore. In the past, it was at the very least, a curiosity. So anyway, I've been meaning to open this wine for a while, just because I viewed it as a "garbage bottle," meaning that it's a wine that I didn't think that I was going to like all that much. So I opened this on a lark. Initially, I thought that this wine might have been a little off. However, when I re-visited this wine the second day it was opened, I determined there was nothing wrong with it. This wine is quite fruity, with cherry, blackberry, figs, coffee, apparent alcohol, and some meatiness that is buried in the back. This wine was also quite closed; I'm sure that it could age for a lot longer. It's got good balance and structure, but unfortunately, it's showing a lot of alcoholic heat. This wine shows a lot of the character of 2005--much more refined than the bombastic fruitiness of 2007, but still, there's that alcohol thing, which dominates the character. However, not as plush and overwhelming as 2007. I could see how some people would be into this wine on a normal day, but it isn't for me. There is none of the graceful dance of cherries and spices that I really like...overall verdict...C. For what it's worth, Sarah didn't particularly care for this wine either, so I opened up a 2007 Perrin and Fils Cotes du Rhone Villages for her. I preferred the Cotes du Rhone by a significant margin, and so did she. You can grab the Cotes du Rhone for 9.79$ right now in SoCal at Costco, which is a lot less than the 15$ I spent on this in Seattle. A good deal; definitely worth checking out for 10$ if you like a fruitier style of Cotes du Rhone. Oh, and one "fruit" disclaimer: I don't dislike fruit, actually, I like it. It's just that "fruit" is cheap...and why pay a whole lot for something that only has one dimension of flavor? So a 10$ well balanced fruity wine is good in my book. The same wine at 40$? Rip-off.      

Friday, June 11, 2010

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2009

I've had a couple of Riesling's from this producer before--they were quite good, and most importantly, cheap. I've never had their Sauvignon Blanc, but I was definitely willing to give it a try for 12$ (I think) at Costco. I've found that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of those categories of wine where you always pretty much know what you're going to get. This is both useful and maddening at the same time. Take Cotes du Rhone for instance--you don't know what you're going to get unless you do your homework. It could be many different grapes--anything from Grenache to Syrah, maybe Mourvedre, and any number of combinations of other grapes. It could be New World and monolithic. It could be tart and acidic. It could be anywhere in between. The point being, there is a ton of variation. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, doesn't seem to suffer from the same fate. Sure, there are differences, but when I get a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I can be pretty sure that I'm going to get some tropical fruit, lots of acidity, and above all else, that jalapeno-cut grass thing. This particular bottle, although plagued by "marketing," is quintessential New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and a ripping example of it. Lots of melon, lime, jalapeno and grass, and a perfect balance of acidity and ripe fruit. Finely textured, layered, and nuanced. This is a fantastic bottle of wine--I'm definitely picking up a few of these to have around the house this summer. Now briefly back to the marketing--it says "Cellar Selection" on the bottle. Are we too dumb to figure out what's good and what's bad? What happened to "reserve?" Who the fuck ages Sauvignon Blanc for long anyways? Is this a sign that the category of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is off to face the same problems as Aussie Shiraz--and thus needs crappy marketing terms like "Cellar Selection" to appear on bottle for gullible consumers? My guess is that with little distinction between wines in the category, and good wines available for around 10$, yes. Although you should definitely try this wine--over-supply is a good thing, and I think this wine is a fantastic deal. A

Also--if you have a second, you owe it to yourself to check out W. Blake Gray's posts on Mega Purple. It's crazy that wine is so un-regulated/un-transparent that wineries aren't required to list what goes into their wines. And also, really, who fucking cares about color in a wine? I stopped paying attention a long time ago, for a really specific reason--it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is how the wine tastes, smells, and goes with food. What it looks like is completely irrelevant. People should glom onto W. Blake Gray--he's seems like he's one smart dude, and I like his stuff.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2008

I picked this up as a companion to the Baur Pinot Bianco so that we would have a comparison piece. 12$ at Costco. We haven't exactly had a lot of Pinot Blanc; that definitely makes it harder to figure out whether or not a particular example is good or not. This wine is extremely floral (smells exactly like those little white flowers outside of my office), with a ton of apple, mango, and apricot. Some stone/mineral character, a good amount of richness, and some acidity to balance it out. Maybe could be interpreted as being a bit flabby. This is a more interesting wine than the Baur, but I'm also not all that floored by it. Kind of seemed like an un-oaked Chardonnay that some really pungent lilacs petals had fallen into or something. Still, interesting to see a different expression from a different region. Goes okay with crab, but honestly, there was a bit too much spice for this wine to handle adequately. B    

Justin "Justification" Paso Robles 2007

I'm not normally a big California wine consumer...however, I'd heard really good things about both the Isosceles (Cab Blend) and the Justification. I figured that I might as well pick up a bottle of this at Costco and try it out--even though 34$ (at Costco...recession wine too...there's no way in hell they would have had this two years ago) is what I consider to be getting up there in price. Justification is a Cheval Blanc style blend (I'm guessing anyways...) that is 65% Cabernet Franc and 35% Merlot. 14.5% alcohol It's no secret that I love Cabernet Franc, but this wine represents the stylistic Yang to the Yin of Chinon. Instead of having slightly herbaceous flavors and being lighter as opposed to darker, this wine is big and rich. I have to say, I was floored by this wine, and Sarah liked it a lot too. When people say they are into California wine, I can only hope they're talking about wines like this. It's a deft combination of power, grace, and ripe fruit. It's paradoxical--huge monster red fruit flavors ranging from cherry to raspberry and beyond, but also balance and acidity that supports it all. And then all of the more savory almost herbal, tobacco-ish flavors come in. I realize that this wine is fairly expensive, but it's cheap compared to what I imagine the equivalent must be out of any other Cab Franc based Bordeaux blend, and cheap compared to the most of California. It's also a great pairing for a grass fed rib-eye. And boy does it deliver. I'm definitely going to get another bottle of this while I still can. A

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Domaine Saint Roch Fitou 2005

11$ at the LA Wine Company. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, as I never had had something from the Fitou AOC previously. I guess I was expecting value Rhone-style wine? It's probably worth reading the recap from the Wine Doctor rather than me paraphrasing what he says so expertly. Let's just leave it at this: Fitou is a village in the Languedoc, much like Minervois. I don't know too much else about this wine--it's what makes funky little wines from tiny little places more interesting. I do know that it's composed of 45% Grenache, 45% Cinsault, and 10% Syrah. Initially candied cherry (typical grenache), but over time develops into raspberry, blackberry, and maybe even some vanilla, along with several more savory and spicy scents, including tar, pipe tobacco, and earth. Medium to light bodied, with ample acidity and some tannin on the back end. The finish is a little flat, and the wine is somewhat "rustic." However, it reminds me a lot of Cotes du Rhone. You could spend a lot more on Cotes du Rhone or even some CdP, and they might not be as good as this wine for the price. This wine is a good value, and is interesting to drink. Went pretty well with some really fatty pork chops (As pork should be-- fuck all that uber-lean factory pork!) that I picked up at the Farmer's Market. Oh, and I know that the photo doesn't show it, but what's with the weird bottle shape?? Actually, what's with bottles in "table wines" period? If I could get a wine like this in a 3-liter bag in box, I would always have a box on hand. And I would probably turn into a drunk. Vintners and importers--meaning not huge multi-nationals--get on it. If you give consumers good wine in boxes, they will find it and buy it. In this case, you would have sold 4 bottles instead of just 1. B/B+

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Quinto do Vallardo Douro 2007

Picked this up at K&L for 20$. Then I saw it at Costco for 15$, so I picked up another bottle of it. I figure if K&L and Costco are overlapping on something, it's probably a pretty good bet. Then I saw that this was the wine of the week in the LA Times. I'm not really a fan of Irene Virbila (personally, I find her to be picky and ridiculous...actually, no I think the right way to describe her is "too LA" for my tastes. She's certainly no Sam Sifton, Frank Bruni, or Ruth Reichl...although Ruth Reichl held the same job at one point.), but I have had a few of her wine selections and been into or fairly pleased with them. Wine Spectator gave this a 93...and although I certainly didn't buy the wine because of that, I'm sure that it's part of the allure for Costco and the status-conscious LA Times in particular. 93 points for 15$!!! OMFG!!! Anyways, there seem to be a lot of people that are into this wine. 

I haven't had a lot of Portugese wine, but the ones that I've had have been interesting. The main thing that I've found interesting about the Portugese reds that I've had is how similar they taste to Port--which really shouldn't be surprising--but for some reason is. This wine has a similar thing going on, in that it's got lots of almost dried cherry fruit and spices. Nuanced and detailed, with great balance and a whole lot of grip, before leading into a savory earthy/herbal finish. Glad that I have another bottle of this wine. At 15$ or 20$, it's definitely something worth drinking. The only thing that I didn't like with this wine is that it seemed to be lacking a little bit in the complexity department, meaning that it came off a little bit one-dimensional, but one-dimensional in the sense that it seemed to be hiding a substantial amount of its' character. I would imagine with some more bottle age, this wine will get more compelling. Sarah liked this wine a lot. A-

Shramsberg "Mirabelle" Brut Rose NV

I had this about a month ago at my neighbors and thought it was fantastic, so I bought a bottle at Costco for 19$. A blend of Pinot and Chardonnay. Lots of strawberries and some biscuit-y notes. Very French in comparison to many of the California sparkling wines that I've had. The first time I tasted this, I was pretty shocked how French it was. I was expecting something that was fairly bombastic, but instead was greeted with a delicious, elegant, well-balanced wine. This is definitely worth checking out for 19$. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than any comparable Rose Champagne that you're going to find...the last bottle of Rose Champagne that I had was really good--but it was also twice as much as this bottle, and personally, I prefer the Mirabelle. Incidentally, the Mirabelle stood up well to a Habanero chicken sausage (not quite as hot as you think)...perhaps this would be a good match for other spicy food? It's not Riesling, and it's not off-dry, but I think it's fruity enough as long as the spice level isn't nuclear. A-