Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Vigna Lazzairasco" Guido Porro Barolo 2005

I picked this wine up when Greg from The Cab Franco Files recommended it--he tasted a bottle this week too. Kermit Lynch imported it--something that we both definitely like. Kermit Lynch has style. I picked it up for 28$ from the LA Wine Company, although I know that it's a fair bit more everywhere else that I looked. You're out of luck if you want to get this wine at that price though--LA Wine Company is out. Guido Porro has a couple of other Barolo's that he makes--a normale, as well as one from the Santa Caterina Vineyard. The Santa Caterina is supposedly more serious than this vineyard, so this represents the mid-level offering. Immediately on opening, it's clear that this is a serious, well made wine. Initially scents of raspberries, tar, and roses. Textbook Barolo. As this wine stays open, the character definitely changes, and gets darker. Plums, a hint of blackberry, anise, tar, and some earthy character all come out on the nose. Similar flavors. Of particular interest is the mouth-feel, which is layered and satiny, before you hit the wall of tannin. I'm surprised by the plumminess, as it isn't something I've ever associated with Barolo in the past. This could be due to my relative inexperience, but plumminess seems to come from riper grapes than something that's a little lighter on the spectrum like cherries. On the other hand, this wine has lots of Barolo character like anise and tar, so maybe I'm just imagining things. Unlike Matt Kramer, I've had more random esoteric varieties than heavy hitters like Barolo! Anyways, clearly, this wine can soften up for a whole lot longer, and is built to age. This is extremely well made and interesting to drink, and a great deal at the price. Thank you very much to Greg, because I wouldn't have picked up this wine otherwise. Definitely an A grade for this one. You aren't going to find much nebbiolo that is this cheap, as well as this good, out there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Brut NV

I picked this up for 9.99$ at Costco. Says on the bottle that it's bottled by Cypress Ranch Cellars, but there isn't much about them online. Trader Joes also has a private label sparkling wine now from California, but it's a demi-sec. Maybe something to stay far away from? Probably. Anyways, I always like to have some bubbles around, and I figured this wouldn't be all that serious so I wouldn't feel guilty about opening it on a whim. There's something about opening expensive bottles of Champagne that doesn't really lend itself to "any old time." Although I've definitely done that before. At any rate, this particular wine is just about what I expected. Pears and toasty, gingery aromas. Citrusy flavors. Ripe fruit. Fairly long citrusy-pear finish. I feel like this is a tad bit flabby. Less elegant than it should be. Perhaps the dosage is a tad heavy? I probably shouldn't speculate. Still, if you were going to buy Domaine Chandon or something similar in the 15$ range, you might as well buy this--it's just as good. There's no way that this is as good as Roederer Estate, but then again, that's twice as much. Well worth picking up if you want something cheap. And as a bonus, this went awesome with heirloom tomatoes with salt, olive oil, basil--which are at their ripest right about now. Definitely one of my favorite summer things of all time. B-

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay 2008

Sent to me as a sample alongside the Garnet Pinot. 20$ California Chardonnay is a landmine category, although I suppose less so than 20$ Pinot. You probably have a better chance of getting something good in the 20$ range. Especially if you go somewhere like Pouilly-Fuisse, or Chile (if you want something more internationally styled). There's no doubt that this wine is quite a bit more interesting than the Garnet Pinot. Textbook Chardonnay, but also not terribly exciting. Intense pear nose, with some hints of toast in the background. Once it's in your mouth, there are oranges, which turn slightly creamy, before changing to lemons and back into pears again for the long finish. Nice balance between acidity and richness, judicious use of oak, and a good deal of detail. Competently made, but not terribly exciting. At 20$, I think you could probably find some better deals. If this were 10$ or 12$, I'd be rushing out to buy more. B-

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garnet Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 2009

One thing that's cool about the internet is that you can be a total dick in relative anonymity. So take this site: in the grand scheme of things, there just aren't that many people reading it. There are some 6 billion people on the planet, but this site only gets 24,000 unique visitors a year. That's 0.0004% of the world's population. It's probably a higher percentage of the wine-drinking population, but it's not higher by much. So I can feel relatively secure in saying that when I saw Matt Kramer's piece from the Wine Spectator entitled "Are You Afraid of Italian Wines?," I was disappointed almost to the point of tears by what doofus he is. (I guess it takes one to know one, right?) Matt Kramer wrote a whole fucking book on Italian wine, entitled Making Sense of Italian Wine. And yet, he manages to be so clueless as to not have even grasped what is interesting about wine in Italy in a lifetime in the wine business. The soul of Italian food and wine culture (at least perceived by me--and I'm no expert, just a fan--correct me if I'm wrong) is the notion that what I grow in my town, be it grapes, or vegetables, or seafood, or bread, is the best. And it's better than yours. It's mine, and it's tied to the place I'm from. It's a terroir driven notion, impregnated with a sense of local pride--maybe even hubris. Anyways, I find it incredibly disheartening that Matt Kramer hasn't heard of Pecorino, or Cesanese. I would imagine that there are quite a few other varieties that he hasn't heard of either, which is a shame. He is, after all, paid to be an expert on wine--and yet he misses the point on Italian wines. He misses the quirky, strange, and bizarre that make them interesting. How is it that a neophyte wine drinker, with a non-unlimited budget, concern for his liver (ie consumes in moderation), and more limited travel experiences, has tried all these wines multiple times, whilst the expert with many more opportunities to explore and become a fucking expert, hasn't even heard of them? I really shouldn't care, what he drinks is his business, and I have no doubt that he drinks very well on a regular basis. Here's his problem: he has a narrow focus. I'm sure he drinks his fair share of Super Tuscans (ironically made from not very Italian grapes...Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), and probably indulges in more Syrah from Sicily than would be prudent. And because he has a limited focus, he's missing out on a whole lot of stuff. Maybe it's a good thing that he isn't talking too much about all the strange grapes from Italy. There aren't a lot of them, and I would hate for them to become more expensive and for people to recognize them. Selfishly, I might add. So Matt, keep your Super Tuscans and non-indigenous varietals and keep calling yourself an expert. The people that really know what's up aren't paying a whole hell of a lot of attention to what you have to say anyways.    

So after the above rant, it's kind of funny that there's a California Pinot Noir of all things at the bottom. It probably would have been better for me to drink some weird thing from Italy. But this is what I opened (because I thought it would go with dinner...), and for all my vitriol above, I don't think that you can accuse me of having a narrow focus. I'll try anything. I'll drink anything. If I like something, I'll tell you, even if I think upfront it's something I'm not going to like. Anyways...

This wine was sent to me as a sample by the winery. (Thank you! I'm still shocked that people send me wine.) Supposed to retail for 20$. I find it interesting that the only people sending me samples are California wineries. Why is this interesting to me you ask? Because I don't drink a whole lot of California wine. In fact, when I crunch the numbers for this blog, only about 18% of the wines I drink are domestic. California is even lower--just 9%. I suppose that I do live in California, but for those not familiar, LA isn't exactly close to what most people would consider the California Wine Country. About 6 hours from Napa, 5 hours from Monterey, a healthy 3-ish to Paso, and about 2 to Santa Barbara. Oh, and there's Temecula. I guess that's close. But I digress. Comes with a screw-cap, which I wholly approve of. Fresh. Strawberry, earth, and french vanilla aromas lead into flavors of raspberries, orange peel, and hints of tea on the finish. Decent balance of fruit to acid. This wine is "correct," but doesn't quite have the palmares that I'm expecting in 20$ domestic Pinot. 20$ seems a bit steep to me, especially with Cambria at 16$, and multiple Oregon wines that have a good deal more complexity for around the same price. C/C+

Monday, July 19, 2010

"The Watcher" Fetish Wines Shiraz 2006

The only reason that I grabbed this wine is because I thought it was kind of funny and amusing that Costco was carrying a wine from a winery called Fetish wines. A few years back, Australia was all the rage. Now, not so much. From what I gather, they have a massive over-supply of wine, leading to highly pointed wines that are dirt cheap. A boom-bust cycle is somewhat normal I would argue, especially when an industry is expanding quickly. It's a necessary way to rid the system of the weaker players. And that's why this wine is 9$. A couple other random thoughts: 1. They must have had this wine sitting around in a warehouse and need to get rid of it. 2006 was definitely released a while back (or should have been). 2. The average consumer must think this wine is a great deal--91 points for 9$. That's good QPR if points are your thing. 3. Naming this wine "The Watcher" is creepy. Really creepy. Especially coming from a winery called Fetish. I felt like that fucking owl was stalking me while I drank this bottle of wine. 4. This would be the perfect accompaniment to your next swinger party or your next "Eyes Wide Shut" themed gathering--if that's the sort of thing you're into. And it's cheap enough to consume with abandon, so that should at least make you a little bit less likely to be "The Watcher," and more of an active participant...

This wine is a fruit-bomb, pure and simple. Plums, along with tar and menthol. Hot. Alcohol content is listed as 14.5%, but that could mean it's as much as 15.5%. The heat definitely comes on strong in the nose, but there is decent balance to the wine. Like I said--this is a plush fruit-bomb. Good for what it is, even if it isn't really my thing. B

Friday, July 16, 2010

Moulin-a-Vent Louis Tete 2009

Sarah and I had the 07 of this particular wine a couple of months ago. Looks like they changed the label. I got this for 11$ at Costco--I like it when they have "companion" wines, or the chance to look at more than one wine from the same producer. At 11$, this is a great deal. This has everything that I liked in the 07--lots of plums, stone, and just a hint of spice. The profile is perhaps a little bit "darker" and focused more on plum than on cherries. Day two, a lot more bing cherry notes and the stony elements are amplified. I prefer this wine to the Morgon (which I've had 5 bottles of...that might be a new record for me), as well as to the 07. It seems to be a little bit more serious and has some more stuff going on. Well worht a look, especially for the price. A-

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dinner 7/14/2010

Sarah and I went over to our landlord's again for dinner last night. His friends nephew was in town from Lucca, and I guess he wanted to have some younger companions for Alessandro, who was 21. It was a good time, and we had some interesting wines.

The first wine that we had was the 2008 "Klee" from Racine Winery, which is a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. This wine was tasty--herbal nose (actually, smelled like weed to me at first), and sour cranberry-ish fruit. It had been open for a day or two, so maybe not showing its' best. Not anything to write home about, but good pinot under 20$ is always good.  

We brought over a bottle of 2007 Schiopetto Friulano, which we've had a couple of times, so we opened that as well. Interesting to have the middle vintage of this wine--2007 in comparison to 2008 and 2006. 2007 is made in a bit of a leaner style, but with "explosive" apricot aromas. Very stony and well made, but I don't think I liked it as much as 2008, which was a tad bit richer if memory serves me correctly. B+ Claude made his own smoked salmon and stuffed piquillo peppers with said salmon and jalapeno's, and then put it on top of a basil cream sauce with slices of avocado. Pretty damn good; definitely more creative than anything I would have thrown together. Went okay with the Friulano. Claude also made some deep fried squash blossoms that he picked up at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Not the best match for the Friulano. Something sparkling would have been better, but shit, I shouldn't complain. They were really good.

Next, we opened bottles of the 2005 "Cuvee Constance" VdP Cotes Catalanes Domaine Calvet-Thunevin and 2008 "Zenith Vineyard" St. Innocent Pinot Noir. The "Cuvee Constance" is Grenache, with 30% Syrah and 10 % Cinsault thrown in for good measure. Imported by Eric Solomon--generally a mark of quality. Around 15$ or so, even with 5 years of age. I had thought after smelling it that it must have had a good amount of Syrah in it due to the extremely peppery aromas. I guess I wasn't that far off. Drinking really well, but I don't know that there would be much point to keeping this one any longer. Fresh red fruits, lots of depth, and plenty of acidity to balance out all the pepper. I liked this wine quite a bit. B

Claude has been talking this winery up for a while, so I was excited to taste this wine. Also from the Willamette Valley--the Eola Amity Hills. St. Innocent purchased an interest in the Zenith Vineyard in 2006; it used to be called the O'Connor Vineyard. Killer nose. Definitely Pinot. Candied cherries and the "pinot funk," which in this case, I'm going to say is a little bit herbal. Definitely better than the Klee. A fruit bomb, but with a whole lot of acidity and grace to balance it all out. I like this wine. B+/A- Oh, and to eat with these wines we had some sliders. Yeah, sounds so white trash or something...except that we had sliders with foie gras and buffalo. Tasty stuff. Better than whatever I would have cooked up for dinner, I suppose. Then we had some cheese--La Tur from Piedmont (always delicious), and a crottin from Redwood Hills Farm. Claude speaks French (as well as something like 5 other languages fluently...we are humbled), and informed us that the word crottin means "turd." Anyways, I guess this cheese was quite a bit larger than what is typically called a crottin in French. He was thinking that perhaps the Redwood Hills Farm people weren't aware of what crottin meant. This was a good cheese too. The St. Innocent wasn't working out too well with the cheese for me, so I had a little bit more of the Cuvee Constance, which was a better match. Then we went home, and went for a walk, and went to bed. Because we have to work, and Claude doesn't.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Couly-Dutheil Rene Couly Chinon Rose 2009

You can get this wine for 11$ right now at Costco. Funny, this is the second wine from this estate that Costco has had recently. Again, shocked that Costco would have a wine from the Loire. Just doesn't seem to gel with their general mix of product--highly pointed wines. I guess it's worth pointing out that I haven't ever seen them carry a red Chinon--just this one--and the whites and roses are probably more likely to please a wide audience since the flavors aren't as divergent from what constitutes normal as the reds. Or I could be totally full of shit (which is likely). It doesn't really matter though, does it?

100% Cabernet Franc. This wine is fantastic--definitely the best rose that I've had yet this summer. All red berry fruit (maybe even a bit of strawberry), just a little bit of pepper, some grapefruity notes in the mouth, stony finish, juicy, and absolutely delicious. Perhaps this is just me being overly analytical, but I think you can taste the fact that this is made out of Cabernet Franc--it has echoes of red Chinon with the pepper and the stonyness. A splendid accompaniment to an eggplant, tomato, olive, garlic, and leftover-chicken thigh pasta dish that I threw together at the last moment. I'm definitely getting several more bottles of this wine. A

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dinner 7/10/2010

Didn't take any pictures--I really should have since I can't remember the name of the 1990 Vouvray that we had. I forgot my phone, but then figured, "fuck it," I don't want to be a bore taking pictures and being distracted--so I just left it at my house. I went over to our landlords place for dinner. Kathleen, our neighbor from across the street, was there, as were her parents. Good company. Kathleen's Mom was the maker of an amazing Key Lime Pie that we had with the 1990 Vouvray. In addition to the pie, we had some fried goat cheese with beets and a mustard vinaigrette, and ancho chili rubbed quail with foie gras sauce that came from the Boulevard cookbook (great restaurant in SF if you get a chance to go there). To start, we had a bottle of 2002 Cristal that Kathleen brought over. The first time that I've had Cristal--if you're not aware, that shit is expensive--around 200$ a bottle. It was pretty great--elegant, balanced, nutty, and a very long citrusy finish. Would I have paid 200$ for it? Probably not. Good, but not that good. I would rather have had 6 bottles of the NV Duval-Leroy that we had next. Next to the Cristal, it was obviously not as good, but it was still good. It was just more heavy handed, and for sure, no where near as elegant and well made. On the flip side, it was probably about 35$. So you could have 6 bottles of it for the one bottle of Cristal. If someone else is paying--Cristal would be my choice. If it's me paying, I'm sticking with the Duval-Leroy. Had a couple of interesting reds: a 2006 Mogor-Badan (Merlot Cabernet blend) from Baja (yes, that makes it Mexican wine, a first for me), a 2006 Sonoma County Rafanelli Cabernet, and I brought over a bottle of Vallardo from Portugal. The Mogor was interesting--definitely had a lot of cool climate characteristics, which was surprising. I was expecting a raisin-y mess. Kathleen thought it tasted a lot like orange peel, and she was spot on. It was an okay wine. Nothing to write home about though. Rafanelli is a small winery and is fairly famous for their Zinfandel. They also make a merlot that apparently you have to ask for? An interesting wine, with lots of currants, herbs (sage and mint), olives, and a decent sized serving of oak. Very unique, but reminded me a lot of Provenance--very savory. Then we had pie and the 1990 Vouvray--which was all mushrooms and apricots, with impeccable poise. It had a small amount of residual sugar...I think. It was 12%. It was the only wine that I had more than a glass of. For sure the wine of the night. Lastly, as a small night cap, I had some Stranahan's Snowflake Colorado Whiskey. Very interesting--a lot of brown sugar notes, plus it's from Colorado. A fun night. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Trinitas Mataro Contra Costa County 2006

I found this at Trader Joes for $9.99, and thought that it was a relatively interesting wine for them to be stocking, especially at the price. Mataro is just another word for Mouvedre. Do we grow a lot of Mouvedre in California? I don't think much. Anyways, seemed like something interesting to at least try. You can buy this direct from Trinitas for 25$. The price and availability of this wine at Trader Joe's is probably as much a product of the current economic environment as anything else. As companion pieces to this thought, there is an interesting post on Vinography that is basically a shout out to a Good Grape post about all the deep discount online outlets and the glut of wine currently on the market. For the most part, I don't think Trader Joe's is all that different than the online deep discounters. I bet that Trader Joe's just bought a few cases of this wine and Trinitas knew that they could sell it quickly and relatively anonymously. One last thought about this wine before my thoughts on how good or bad it is--in an environment where people are spending less on wine, I bet it makes them even more cautious about what to buy. In other words, buying a grape you've never heard of will be out of the question. I'm adventurous, but your typical "California Cab or Chardonnay" drinker isn't so. And a Mouvedre-based wine is probably going to fall pretty flat with all those weary, wary consumers. Thus, you've got to off-load it somewhere, lest it fuck up your cash flow.

Anyways, here's the rub on this wine: not my favorite. It's okay. If I would have paid 25$ for it, I would have been really disappointed. 10$ is fair, but to be honest, I've had a lot of wines that are much more satisfying that feature Mouvedre in some guise. There's a lot of Cotes du Rhone out there for around 10$. Interesting aromatically, and similar to other Mouvedre-based wines. Berry, mint, Indian spices, a little raisin, a little licorice, chocolate and vanilla. Slightly hot and sticky once it's in your mouth--relatively plush. Hate to sound like a broken record, but it's got the same mouth-feel as a Coke. Sort of overly sugary. Also lacks some poise and acidity, and comes off as particularly hollow upfront. Spicy finish, but it's relatively short and falls a bit flat. C-

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fourth of July Wines

I went home for the 4th of July to Seattle. Typically, a few of my friends come over and then we watch fireworks. My parents house is a good place for this since they live on a lake and all of the neighbors light off a ton of fireworks. It's a fair amount of fun. The last couple of years we've had really good weather; this year it rained. As far as I'm concerned, it's fun to watch fireworks in the rain. (I miss the rain more than anything else about Seattle. I know it seems weird to most people, but I get bored of it being 70 and sunny 12 months a year. Variety is a good thing...)

Anyways, the first wine that I opened was the D2 from Delille Cellars. It's their second wine to the Grand Ciel, hence the name. My parents gave me this wine for Christmas in my stocking because their neighbor works for Delille. 51% Merlot, 40% Cabernet, 7.5% Cab Franc and dashes of Petit Verdot. 14.9% and about 35$. Lots of berries, cinnamon, and a fairly long finish. Pretty tightly wound and relatively tannic. Maybe a tad hot. About what I expect from a New World Bordeaux-style blend, to be honest, but maybe a bit more tastefully done than the majority. B/B+

My Mom wanted a white wine, so I opened the O'Reilly 2008 Pinot Gris. I picked this up for 10$ at QFC. About what I expect from a Pinot Gris. More on the mineral side, and less ripe than some Pinot Gris I've had, which is more refreshing. Crisp, with lots of tarter citrus notes, a hint of some melon on the nose and minerals. B

The last wine that I we opened was the 2006 Delille Cellars Doyenne Syrah. This was easily the best wine of the night. Boysenberry, meat, leather, brown sugar, a bit of chocolate and some spice notes. Extremely well balanced and juicy. Smooth. About 35$ or so. A slam dunk. Really good. I would buy this again. A

I also had a chance to eat at two Tom Douglas restaurants--the Palace Kitchen and Etta's. I tried to go to Salumi yesterday, but it was closed. (Second time it's happened to me...too bad. I love that place.) Palace Kitchen was great this time--I went with my friend John and his wife Aubrey. We split the pork belly with nectarines and mustard (awesome), some bocquerones with tomatoes, lots of garlic and artichokes (also awesome), and then I had a perfectly cooked piece of halibut with morels, and peas. Killer. We also had another bottle of the Chinook Cabernet Franc which I had last time I was there. Also very good. Yesterday I went to Etta's for lunch and had another piece of halibut--this time with olive oil, fried potatoes, parsley and lemon. Very good, if simple. I also had some beets with smoked pistachios. Tasty. I miss Seattle...