Friday, October 29, 2010

Laurent Reverdy Sancerre 2009

This wine is 10$ at TJ's; imported by Latitude Wines. I don't think I've ever seen Sancerre so cheap. Lots of Sauvignon Blanc is 10$ or under, but not Sancerre. So I don't have any 10$ Sancerre to compare it to. Of course, Sancerre is a unique and different expression of Sauvignon Blanc, so you can't really compare it to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. So the question becomes, is this wine any good? On the one hand, it's a little more than half of what you'd pay for a really good rendition of Sancerre. On the other hand, it's clearly not as good as something like the Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre from Kermit Lynch, and also not as good as many 10$ Sauvigon Blancs. For me, this wine is definitely a "never buy" again--but it isn't bad. In fact, for once, I think TJ's has a pretty solid offering from a major European appellation. That's shocking. Most of the French wines that they carry are absolute shit, although there are exceptions. It's just a complete crap-shoot, and the deck is stacked against you. The house holds the winning hand...My rule of thumb now is that if the wine is carried anywhere else, it will be a good value relative to the other people in the market place price wise. Perrin Cotes du Rhone is 6.99$ at TJ's, 7.99$ at K&L, and 9.99$ at Safeway. The Now and Zen White is 4.99 at TJ's, something like 8.99$ at F&E, and I've seen it for 9.99$ at other retailers. Those wines are both very good values for the price at Trader Joe's. If the wine is Trader Joe's specific, 90% of the time it will be awful and missing the nuances that a really great wine has. 

This particular wine is trying very hard to be interesting. It has a Sancerre-ish nose, with mineral notes, a little bit of jalapeno, and some very buried fruit along the lines of lime or something tropical. Once it's in your mouth, the fruit comes out--citrus and melons--before fading into a lackluster finish. The wine feels a bit out of whack. It is missing the stinging acidity of a good Sancerre, and the laser beam of pungent, well-delineated flavors that I have come to expect from Sancerre. On the flip side, if you've never had Sancerre, this isn't a bad place to start. It's certainly the cheapest place to start that I've seen. Personally, I would prefer one glass of something from Kermit Lynch to two glasses of this, but if you've never had Sancerre before and don't want to spring for something in the 20$ range, picking up a bottle of this wouldn't turn you off on Sancerre. I think you would be better served to get any New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, or one of the stranger appellations like Quincy or Cheverny instead, but if you really want Sancerre for 10$, well, here it is. C (If this was any more expensive, it would probably get a D.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Bourgueil 2009

This is another Kermit Lynch joint. My neighbor had me over to taste this; I've had the 2005 before. About 11$. This is a wine that reminds me I love Cab Franc. This wine is fresh and bright with superb balance. Red fruit (berries), along with an almost piney, earthy, peppery, cut-grass nose. The epitome of Cab Franc. I'm definitely going to have to get some of this. It's absolutely delicious. A

Monthaven Wines

I received all three boxes of these wines as samples. Retail should be around 24$. I probably got these wines because I was such a fan of the Big House Red in the Octavin. Each Octavin works out to 4 bottles of wine, so these are around 6$ a bottle or so, and you can drink them one glass at a time, which is good. I can attest to the fact that these wines were all fresh after about two weeks. However, these wines don't have the same spunk as the Big House Red, and I have to admit to being really jealous of Fredric Koeppel over at Bigger Than Your Head, because he got a really interesting box of Bierzo from Spain. If I could find wines like that in a box, I'd always have them around. Wouldn't it be cool to have a Chinon in a box? Or a Beaujolais? (As an aside, my neighbor gave me a glass of Domaine et Collette Beaujolais Village 2009 last night--all cranberries, cherries and dirt, with great balance, acids, and obvious depth--11$. An awesome deal.) Or Barbera d'Alba? Or Muscadet? It's insane that these things aren't available. I bet that ultimately, wineries et al would end up selling way more wine if good, cheap stuff came in a box and was easily obtainable. There's only a stigma attached to the box if you let it inflect your thinking. The reality is, it's more convenient, tastes the same, and is a better deal for you as a consumer. I can't imagine why people aren't down with that. Anyways...

I've heard never to bite the hand that feeds me...but I'm not so much a fan of these wines. They're kind of boring. The wines all bear the generic Central Coast appellation, so who the hell knows where all the fruit came from. It scares the shit out of me that these wines come from a "20$ bottle program." And why does that scare me? Because that means that people are willing to pay a lot for stuff that isn't that interesting. Ah, marketing. Of course, on the other hand, you've got to ask yourself what you're looking for in a 6$ bottle of wine (or potentially less depending on the retailer). There is nothing wrong with these wines other than a bit of snooze factor. Are you looking to make sangria? These are good options. Looking for something to feed your friends that don't like wine? This is perfect. Just looking to get hammered? Ditto. Would I buy these wines for my own consumption? Nope. Anyways, of the three wines, I think that the Cab is perhaps the best, followed by the Chardonnay, and followed by the Merlot. 

Chardonnay: Tons of pineapple, guava and passion fruit character. Crisp acidity, with apple flavors. Similar body to apple juice, and sweet. Not my favorite. Not Sarah's favorite either. She was adding ice cubes to tone down the sweetness, despite her reservations about being tacky. A grudging C. This is like apple juice for adults.

Merlot: Chocolate, licorice, cherry pie, and just a hint of cinnamon. Smooth. My little brother called it: "Typical fruitbomb." C-

Cabernet Sauvignon: Cherries, currants, a little spice, and a little vanilla. Of the three, I think this is the best wine. It's a little cloying and definitely fruity, with decent balance, and a bit of tannin. C+

Big Sur

Sarah and I went on a little vacation up to Big Sur, which was a blast. The picture above is of the Rocky Creek Bridge on Highway 1 (the pic was taken with an iPhone 4...go figure. Accidentally, I took a good picture with it!). I guess it's sort of ironic that we went to Big Sur to get out into the woods, and I'm sticking a picture of a man-made object up here, but what the hell. Big Sur is as tangled with the building of Highway 1 and all of the free-thinkers that have lived there as it it is with the natural history of the place. If you've never been to Big Sur you have to go. It's a crazy combination of the woods and the sea. I don't think I've ever seen anything else like it. If you've never been there, you have to go see it. Anyways, we'll have more pics up on our site soon. 

This site is just about wine, and we did drink some wine while on vacation. The first night, we stayed in Cayucos, which is the sleepiest little town that I've encountered in quite a while. We stayed in a nice bed and breakfast called on the On The Beach. There wasn't much to do there except see the beach. Anyways, the Bed and Breakfast had a tasting with the winemaker from Red Zeppelin wines. I was going to rip on them based on name alone, but the two wines that I had were very good. One, an un-oaked Chardonnay, had great balance along with pear and lemon flavors. Crisp, even at 14.7%. Really well made. The other wine, a Riesling, was also quite good, with lots of diesel and citrus character. Almost no residual sugar. The only issue I have is the price. The Chardonnay was over 20$. You can get a lot of good wines for that price. Since there really isn't anything else to do in Cayucos other than sit on the beach or drink, we went out to dinner. Dinner was okay. We got a bottle of Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone 2008 for 32$, which, although a bit expensive relative to retail, was reasonable. Pepper, earth, raspberry, and cranberries, along with an obvious richness, lots of acidity and good balance. Just what I expect from Saint Cosme. B+

In Big Sur, we rented an awesome little cabin in the woods from Glen Oaks Big Sur. Super cool place. Vacation = easy to open, so I brought two bottles. The first, Crios Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Argentina (10$ at Costco), is all dirt, blackberries, cherry pie and good balance. For a Parker 90 pointer, it had a lot of balance. I suspect that this is one of those wines that non-Parker-ites would enjoy more than a 95 pointer...B. 

The second bottle of wine we got was the Kirkland Signature Brut Champagne (20$). This is Costco's private label--made by Janisson. For 20$, this is probably the cheapest Champagne that you can buy. Ginger, oranges, biscuits, and a little sweet with a lemony finish. Definitely a good deal. However, it is a bit sweet--I'm thinking there is a high dosage, probably because Veuve Clicquot has such a high dosage and American's love sugar. B+

Sarah and I also ate at a couple of interesting places. We ate at Deetjen's, which is a crazy place on the national historic register. We were going to stay there, but I couldn't find a room. The food is awesome, but expensive and rich. Sarah had a seafood paella; I had the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin. No wine. Have you seen Highway 1 in the dark? It's not like this is well lit LA with straight roads. A glass of wine or two with dinner most likely won't kill you. On Highway 1 it might...

Sarah and I also went to Passionfish in Pacific Grove. We've always gone different places in Pacific Grove because Passionfish always looked a little corny from the outside. But then I saw that it has a 27 from Zagat for food. And it happens to be very reasonably priced. We had a couple of glasses of Pascal Bellier Cheverny--a little grassy, melony and rich. They just said Sauvignon Blanc on the menu instead of Cheverny, so I was thinking that this was a bit rich for Sancerre. This has 20% Chardonnay blended that explains it. A very nice wine. The food was the star though: sturgeon with red curry vinaigrette, coleslaw, and jasmine rice was spectacular. Lots of ginger, lightly spicy. We had Morro Bay oysters with a carrot ginger thing on top--delicious. (So much fucking better than the east coast oysters we had in Cayucos. Really, when you have a restaurant in Cayucos, and Morro Bay is less than five miles away, why fly in middling oysters from the East Coast? WTF? Why, why, why?) The other awesome dish we had was a beet salad with fried onions and goat cheese. The ravioli we had, which were stuffed with cauliflower and coated with honey and citrus, were only okay. If you're in Monterey or Carmel, you'd be smart to go to Passionfish. It's awesome. The one complaint I have is the poor table next to us. This restaurant has an good wine list. Deep and interesting. So why is the waitress not bringing over the sommelier when a couple clearly confused about wine, and from out of town (Rhode Island, they said) asks what an Amarone is? And yes, that poor couple drank their Amarone with their Monterey Bay prawns (which are huge and like a small lobster) and a coconut based dipping sauce. ! WTF? I have to imagine the sommelier could have steered them in a much better direction...the waitress sure didn't. I see stuff like that and it's no wonder that people are confused about wine. Sheesh! I would have said something, but you know, that's awkward too. Anyways, aside from that faux pas, I highly recommend the restaurant. If we lived closer, I'd be there frequently.

Lastly, since we were at Big Sur, I had to include a picture of the forest.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Primus Veramonte Red Blend 2007

Picked this up for 15$ at the LA Wine Company. I've had a couple other wines from this winery, but it's been a long while. I think they were a Chardonnay and maybe a Cab. It was way back in 04 or 05 when I lived in Seattle. Initially blueberry and the tang of currants, with some mint notes, and dirt. Juicy blueberry flavors, and a silky mouthfeel, before consistent tannins come on the earthy finish. Initially, this wine seemed a bit hollow, shallow and lacking acidity. However, after a couple of hours this wine really gained nuance and balance. For a 15$ Bordeaux blend with big fruit, you could do way worse than this wine. Bordeaux and California should be ashamed. This wine is punching way above its weight. B+/A- 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mas Carlot Costieres de Nimes 2008

I picked this up for 8$ at LA Wine Company. Robert Kacher is the importer. This wine isn't as good as the Muscadet. In fact, when I opened this on Wednesday night, it was incredibly reductive, so I left it out for a day in a decanter. 60% Syrah, 40% Mouvedre. Pepper, licorice, chocolate and a bit of mint, before juicy blackberries and an earthy finish. This wine wasn't showing a whole lot. Also not a lot of fruit. Perhaps if I got a bottle that wasn't reductive this would have showed better? D+/C-

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oveja Negra Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2008

I received this wine as a sample. Should retail for about 12$. I wasn't going to open this up, but I opened up another bottle that was very reductive--and it wasn't even Pinotage. ( joke. Feel free to ignore if you're not some freak with Asperger's.) Anyways, I dumped that wine into a decanter because it still smelled like the Michelin Man after 45 minutes. We'll see if it's doing a little better tonight after 24 hours in a decanter. So this wine was just sitting there in its screw-cap, waiting to get drunk--I just didn't expect it to be with a roasted bronze chicken, some fingerlings, and some roasted broccoli. This wine was better than I expected. Critter-based labels aren't typically what I look for in a wine, even though I'm a bit of a black sheep myself. This wine is juicy, with currant, smoke, and plum aromas. Flavor wise, this leans in the blackberry direction, before a moderately tannic finish that has some pencil lead character. Not unbalanced and perhaps a bit on the simple side. You can definitely get some better, more interesting stuff out of Chile for about the same price. I'm thinking the Haras Cab that I had a few months ago, as well as Montes Alpha (despite Greg's experience with the Carmenere, I have had good experiences with their Cabernet). I couldn't find any pricing for this wine off the web, 11$ was the best I found. I bet that you can find it for less than the suggested retail of 12$. At around 8$ or 9$, this wine would actually be a pretty solid buy. It's got juicy fruit, just a hint of tannin, and it isn't spoofy. B-  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Venta Mazzaron Tempranillo Vinas del Cenit 2006

I picked this up for 12$. This wine represents an interesting balance between old world and new world. Initially, when I opened this wine up and took a sniff, my first thought was a WTF moment. Tempranillo definitely should not smell like fucking bacon. Not that I don't like the whole gamy smoke thing, it's just something that I generally reserve for Syrah--not Tempranillo. The bacon blew of pretty quickly--I think that it may have been a product of how cold the wine was. Pulled straight out of the ol' Vino Temp, it was definitely cold. Aromatically, this wine has a lot of spiciness, as well as some cedary, oaky characteristics, licorice, dusty leather, and red berry scents. Slightly creamy, but with good balance, rich fruit, ample acidity to support its frame, and some definite tannic grip. The finish features blackberry character with a touch of vanilla. 12$ is maybe a tad bit on the pricey side for this wine, but overall, I think it's a good deal. It's about what I'd expect--competently made, tasty, and just a little bit lacking in the refinement department. B 

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Telegramme" Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005/"Justification" Justin 2007

I'm not going to lie--I thought that the Telegramme would fare a little better than it did...but the fact is, the Justification absolutely destroyed this bottle. Of course, it's probably not fair to compare them; old world vs. new world, different grapes, etc, but still. The Justification is pretty fucking awesome. No questions at all about it. The Telegramme is also very good, but perhaps this was the wrong venue for it.

This was my last bottle of the 05 Telegramme. Lots of licorice, raspberry, and even a bit of vanilla on the nose. Acidic and poised, with elegant style. Great balance. I paid about 30$ or so three years ago. I like this wine better than the 07, as it is less about primary fruit and heft and more about balance. A-

The Justification, which was 33$ at Costco, on the other hand, is ripe and in your face along with impeccable balance. There's no question this wine is California. Seems to have settled a little bit in the last three months or so; this bottle had a lot more pipe tobacco character on the rose in addition to the beautiful fruit and pretty amazing balance. A+ 

I drank both of these bottles with my little brother, his girlfriend and Sarah. We drank these with boeuf Bourgignon. My little brother definitely preferred the Justification. As much as I like Telegramme, Kermit Lynch and Vieux Telegraphe, I'm hard pressed to say anything different. As I said last time I had the Justification, in my mind, the Justification is a Justification for California wine, and why people like it. It's perhaps somewhat atypical for its' balance, poise and acidity (you aren't going to find acidity in California Cabs), but it shows what California is capable of in the hands of people that know what they're doing and don't need to create a hedonistic fruit bomb that's 16% alcohol. People like Greg and I get it, and I hope that Justin keeps it up. I don't think I've ever been this excited about any California wine. It's that good.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Muscadet Muscadet Sevre et Maine Domaine del la Quilla 2009

Picked this wine up for 9$, and because I liked the Muscadet yesterday so much, and I was seriously jonesing for some more Muscadet, I opened this. We drank this with some baked Sole seasoned with lemon and salt (simple, I know, but tasty), along with some roasted broccoli and bread. Very simple stuff; this wine was a nice accompaniment. I also made beef Bourguignon (Although lets be honest, I did not use Burgundy! California Merlot, actually. So maybe it should be called beef a la Central Coast or something.) for tonight (that stuff only gets better if it sits), so that I have something to feed my little brother and his girlfriend when they get here. We're going to drink some good stuff...Justin "Justification" 07 and "Telegramme" CdP 2005...

Imported by Robert Kacher. Anyways, this Muscadet is similar in many respects to last nights Muscadet. The main difference is that this wine is less detailed, and much more primary in terms of its' acidity. It hasn't mellowed, which makes sense, because this wine is only a year old, not five. The other thing that I noticed is that this wine really took a good while to open up and show its' character. I'm thinking well over an hour. Could this benefit from a decant or just sitting in the glass? I think it definitely could. Lots of saltiness, limes, stone and chalk on the nose. Richness, acidity, peaches and chalk once it's in your mouth. This wine is tasty, and well balanced. I'm sensing the development of a new obsession...why on earth haven't I been chugging Muscadet in excessive quantities for years? This isn't as good as yesterday's wine, but it's about half the price, so it gets a better grade for being such a good value. A-

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Cuvee des Ceps Centenaires" Muscadet Sevre et Main Sur Lie Chateau de Chasseloir Comte Leloup de Chasseloir 2005

If there ever was a mouthful of a wine name, this is it. Man, that's long. I've never thought the length of the name of the wine had anything to do with the quality, but this wine is absurdly good. Fucking awesome. I've been in a rut lately with wine. This snapped me out of it. It's really fucking good. You can get it at K&L or the LA Wine Company. LA Wine Company is cheaper by a few dollars. Don't let it deter you if you can't find it somewhere for 17$ like it is at the LA Wine Company and you have to pay 20$ for it at K&L. Go get this wine and drink a bottle of it as soon as you can, preferably with something like fish--although I actually drank it with an fritatta. (Heresy, I know. Where's my bouillabaisse and oysters?) Anyways...I am a Loire whore, and I am finding that I don't like red wine all that much anymore. Is this the geek in me coming out? You constantly hear about sommeliers and their ilk swearing off anything but riesling and other delicate white wines...I'm here to tell you that lately, I've been in that camp too. So, I'm asking myself why haven't I been drinking any Muscadet (or Muscadet Sevre et Main, which is one of the three appellations inside Muscadet)? This wine is dirt fucking cheap for how good it is. 17$??!! 

Lots of lemon, lime, green apple, salt and stone on the nose. Almost like drinking a margarita, but in a good way. Although this is from France, it smells like Mexico to me (Haha.). Once this is in your mouth, the stony character and peaches are apparent, as is the impeccable balance and awesome, food-friendly acidity. This has structure, richness, depth, and an abundance of chalky stone flavors. The finish is absurdly long, and tinged with lemons and stone. I fucking love this wine. It's absurd how good it is. A+

Monday, October 11, 2010

Domaine Reverdy Sancerre 2009

About 19$ at the LA Wine Company. The one good thing about the LA Wine Company is that they stock a lot of Kermit Lynch. Cognitive dissonance for me, what with the thorny emphasis they have on points. Have I ever had a Kermit Lynch wine that I really thought sucked? No. Does Kermit Lynch ever import shitty wine? Probably, I just haven't had it yet. I remember having one bottle of his Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhone about five years ago--it must have been an '02 or '03--and I was nonplussed. But it was 9$, and that's the only time. Do I trust Kermit Lynch implicitly to have nothing but good shit? Yes. Is it possible to hate an old dude that wears hip glasses, makes music, and is a lush? No. Oh, and his store in Berkeley? The facade is a wine barrel. Yep, he's seems like one cool-ass dude. 

Anyways, this is text-book Sancerre, and not too expensive either. At this point, seems like most good bottles are in the 20$ plus range. I do not think that this wine is as good as the Lucien Crochet that I've had a couple of bottles of, but it's a different vintage, different producer, blah, blah, blah. Regardless, this wine is definitely good, featuring a deft interplay between high acid, and shimmering, lush, well-textured fruit. Lots of melon and tropical fruit, with tons of stony character, and some jalapeno sharpness. In short: Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of mangoish flavors, a long finish, and again, the deft interplay between high acid, stone, and lush fruit. Kermit strikes again. A-/A  

Steelhead Zinfandel Quivira Vineyards 2007

Despite any reservations about bio-dynamics, and how it's all a hoax, and the fact that Rudolf Steiner may have been certifiably insane and unversed in the scientific method, it doesn't mean that bio-dynamic estates don't produce good wines. In fact, they make a lot of great wines, all kookiness aside. I think it might have to do with the fact that they're actively more involved with the "political" action that is farming. Basically, they are paying more attention to what they're putting in their fields. Sure, they may be off their rockers, but they're paying attention to the world in a different way, and I think it's for the most part, a good thing. Anyways, Quivira is a proponent of bio-dynamics, and their rose is, without a doubt, the best rose that I have ever had from the state of California. The first time that I had it, at Lou, I seriously thought it was a Bandol. I was pretty shocked that it was coming out of Sonoma, of all places. I saw this wine for 7$ at Trader Joes and thought it might be a good shot. This is certainly the the polar opposite of whatever TJ's is getting from Bronco, plus, the wine is celebrating the fact that Quivira, working with Trout Unlimited, has helped to restore Steelhead habitat, and convinced other growers to do the same

Lots of raspberry, clove, and vanilla on the nose, before leading into slightly earthy, berry flavors, a little bit of bramble, a little bit of rustic tannin, and a modest finish. Good balance and low alcohol (13.8%). No off raisin flavors. Went pretty well with takeout from Mozza. If you like less bombastic Zinfandel, this is well worth a look, and it's a good way to sample some of what Quivira is doing. It's certainly inexpensive, and the story behind it is cool too. B   

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chateau Charmail Haut-Medoc 2005

I'm really sorry that I got this wine. It's not that good. It's partially my fault, and this wine is a lesson to me--there is one guy at the LA Wine Company that is a shitty sales guy, and I'm never going to ask him for a recommendation again. Caveat Emptor, people. Lesson two: I need to research wine (no buying "cold") at the LA Wine Company to determine whether it might be shitty before I go there. It would probably help to only talk to the sales guy that's given me solid recommendations as well (the Asian one). I probably should have been wary of this wine, but I've had good luck with cheaper 2005 Bordeaux. Anyways, The Wine Advocate terms this a "sleeper of the vintage," and rarely have they been more correct. This wine is about as interesting as baseball--it's sleep inducing. This wine is also a lesson about Parker et al, I suppose. Looking into the background of this wine (and scores are probably why LA Wine Company is carrying this in the first place, can't underestimate the appeal of a Wine Advocate 90 rating for the Baby Boomer set), you get an interesting twist. Wine Advocate 90, IWC 88-90, and here's the kicker: Wine Spectator 85. Ouch. As far as the Spectator is concerned, that's a barely drinkable or printable wine. But anyways, this is a lesson in how Parker 90 point wines (well, some of them anyways) age. The answer? Not well. Lesson three: if you're going to buy Bordeaux, buy it at K&L. They know what they're doing with Bordeaux, and I'm sure there's no way in hell they would have carried this wine. You know why? Because it sucks. K&L has a good filter. Even if I occasionally get lame wine there, it will be a good example of what it's trying to be. If it's modern, it will be modern. If it's shitty, well it will be shitty and they won't carry it. The sales people are much better there too. LA Wine Company is cheap, but you can't underestimate the value of a really good wine shop. For me, that's K&L.

24$. A blend of 45% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the remainder Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. On the nose, very closed at first. Eventually opens to reveal raspberry, currant, a bit of vanilla and mint. There is a savory background to the nose. In the mouth, similar flavors, as well as a low-acid, soft mouthfeel. Not much of a finish. Went well with our lamb. Nothing technically wrong with this wine per se, it's just not that good or interesting. Much better options at this price. If it was spoofier, it would have been an F, but unfortunately, there's nothing wrong with it. I would love to give it a DNPIM, but I think it deserves a D-. 

I had an epiphany of sorts the other day, and that's what we had for dinner. Rack of lamb has always frustrated me. I make it frequently because it's good and it's cheap, but cooking it is always a bit of a puzzle for me. The ribs have tons of fat, and for them to be easy to eat, you have to render all the fat. The loin/rib-eye is all meat, but if you cook it for as long as it takes to render all the fat out of the ribs, you get overcooked loin/rib-eye. Solution? Deconstruct the rack. I wasn't sure if this was harebrained or not. But it worked. I believe the two pieces you "create" from the rack would be a rib-eye (it may be that it's called a tenderloin) and then ribs. Forgive me for not being a butcher. Anyways, it's easy to do, and then you can cook the ribs and the loin/rib-eye separately. I roasted the ribs with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and I seared the loin/rib-eye (which still has lots of fat to keep it tasty) before throwing it into a 325 degree oven. Meanwhile, I made a lamb stock with a couple of the ribs that I didn't roast. I later reduced that with some red wine and butter to make a pan sauce for the lamb. All in all, delicious stuff--I highly recommend this method. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bodegas Castano "Solanera Vinas Viejas" Yecla 2005

Picked this wine up for 7$ at LA Wine Company. It's 8$ at K&L, and an unconscionable 17.29$ on Don't pay 17.29$ for this wine. Definitely not worth it. However, at 7$, I figured that this was at least good, since it's an Eric Solomon thing. It's the same winery as the "Hecula" that I had several bottles of a while back. This wine is a blend of 65% Monastrell (Mouvedre), 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Tintorera Garnacha (a blending grape, otherwise known as Alicante Bouschet). Initially on the nose, this smells spicy, just like a Mouvedre should. Sarah says cinnamon. There's an array of smoky fruit ranging from cherry to raspberry, and I think a bit of blackberry character as well.  Low-medium acidity, but doesn't feel out of balance or flabby. This wine didn't hit me between the eyes; it seemed a bit muddled and closed. However, this is far more interesting than your typical fruit bomb, and at the right price. If you can find this for 7$ or around there, it's definitely worth a look. 17.29$ is completely outrageous. Does anyone buy wine from They always seem to be really expensive, plus you have to mess around with shipping. Maybe it's just me, but I prefer going to the wine shop, even if they're trying to hawk "Parker 90 pointers" at me like they're going out of style. Just for what it's worth, this got 91 points from Parker...but the key here is that the wine "only" got 91 points. Which means that it didn't have enough "gobs of concentrated fruit" to garner a 92, 93, or higher, and furthermore, instead of the typical 20$+ (shit, probably upwards of 40$ if it got more than a 93...those couple extra points sure are worth it for the consumer, right?) just for the privilege of drinking something anointed by the master himself, it's only 7$. Fruit bombs and Parker et al can be good and satisfying...if they're cheap. Anything more than 10$ for this wine is an obnoxious affront to fans of moderation and balance everywhere. B/B+ 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Famega Vinho Verde 2009

I've had this once before--the 2008 version, way back in June of 09. This time, the wine is only 6$ instead of 8$. Although the LA Wine Company has its foibles, such as a predilection for 90 point Parker wines, and a predilection to recommend them indiscriminately (they're targeting the "Parker Generation," not Millenials--who are perhaps more forward thinking, value conscious, and more likely to try new things than Boomers), when they have a good deal, it's a really good deal. In this instance, they even beat K&L. And despite the their occasionally distasteful predilections regarding the recommendation of 15% new-world-styled Tempranillo and Petit Syrah when I ask for high acid mineral-driven whites (seriously? WTF. Do you think I'm a rube when I ask for something like that? Is your customer base so seriously retarded that you need to sell a customer asking for something so specific with points?! Bordering on offensive, I say.), they did eventually recommend this wine to me as well. Since I'd already had it and liked it, I figured I'd get another bottle. And you know what? I like this vintage a lot more than 2008. I remember 2008 being somewhat sweeter, whereas this wine is much drier, with lots of citrus and chalky, minerally driven flavors supported by crisp acidity and just a little bit of fizz. Perhaps the wine is drier? It's 10% this year instead of 9.5%. Anyways, I like this wine a lot more than the 2008, and at two dollars cheaper, it's a great accompaniment to a salad--a very tough thing indeed. This is an awesome value, and much better than the prior vintage. A   

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chariot (Jim Neal) White Wine 2009

I just had to pick this wine up when I saw it. I have no idea why, but the posts on the previous two vintages of the red Chartiot are the two of the most read posts on this site by a pretty wide margin. A couple of people seemed really offended that I compared the Chariot red to's just cheap wine. Take it easy. It's built for your unsophisticated fat-ass, sugar-loving, potentially diabetic American palate. Just like Coke. I've mentioned it before, but for whatever reason, I get more hits on this site from Trader Joe's wines than anything else. I guess that TJ's wines are a crap-shoot (speaking of which, you should read this funny thing over at the Cab Franco Files...), so maybe people are trying to flesh out the rare gem from the garbage? I guess there's also a significantly smaller market for what I tend to drink most often, which is stuff in the 10-30$ price range, so maybe that explains why people aren't interested in reading about wines that are, well, better, probably more expensive, and definitely less available. Anyways, enough bullshit, what's up with this wine?

5$ at Trader Joe's. Sarah had a glass of this before me and said the following: "It smells like something...and I just can't place it." I poured a glass, and immediately said "Milk left-over after you've had a bowl of Fruit Loops." Yeah, I know it sounds insane, and I haven't had Fruit Loops in, I don't know, 15 years? Maybe longer? Anyways, Sarah immediately said "Oh my God! You're right!" So somehow, both of us have a pretty vivid memory of eating Fruit Loops (maybe that explains why I was a tubby little fat-ass when I was a kid?), that neither one of us want to revisit, and yet it's stuck in our sub-conscious as a specific enough smell to become a wine descriptor. (And that should tell you why you should trust your own palate...I mean really, Fruit Loops? Is anyone taking me seriously now other than Sarah?) Here's what the Fruit Loop thing breaks down too: I think it's got a lot of candied lemon and some other lime-ish citrus to it, although I'm sure there are some other things in there too. The nose has some floral characteristics to go with all the citrus. Once the Chariot gets in your mouth, it's obvious that it's off-dry to a certain extent (and if it isn't, it sure is sweet), but still has enough acid to balance it all out before leading into a finish with hints of peach. I don't really know what to think of this wine. Hand's down, I do not think it is as good or as interesting as the Red. This is a style of wine that is sort of in no-man's land as far as I'm concerned. Why? The wine-maker has painted himself in a weird stylistic corner. Everyone was probably expecting something like this to be completely dry, or God forbid, Chardonnay-ish. Consumers are confused by wines like this. What the fuck do you do with them? That's the age old question, isn't it? Go grab some Thai food, some Mexican food, or basically anything that's nuclear spicy. I also happen to think that there are a lot of other semi-dryish wines that are a whole lot better. Alsace comes to mind; so does the Loire; so does Riesling. All of them have good values to drink that are far superior to this particular wine, although they may be twice as much. For me, I'd be happier with something that wasn't so syrupy this case, I'm going to acknowledge my bias and compare this to Sprite. This tastes like industrial food. (How else do you get Fruit Loops? Is there a chemical that pertains to "Fruit Loop" scent? It's scary as fuck, but there probably is some industrial chemist that has created exactly that. How else would the taste of Fruit Loops be so fucking consistent?) I'd prefer a 9 or 10$ Kabinett Riesling, or even a domestic one. Lots of choices out there. If you're cheap and like Sprite, have at this--it's not too bad. C+/B-

"Equinoxe" Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Lises 2009

I picked this wine up for 15$ at the LA Wine Company. I figured a 15$ Crozes-Hermitage was worth a shot, regardless of the quality. This particular wine is imported by Chambers & Chambers, which I've heard of for some reason I can't think of currently. This wine is made by Maxime Graillot, son of Alain Graillot, who is more famous. He's imported by Michael Skurnik, which is a mark of quality in my book. He also is in to farming his vineyards organically, which is a good thing. I've never had his wines, but I would like to try them. I haven't had a whole lot of Crozes-Hermitage, but I've had a lot of Syrah. This brings up an interesting point: Do you rate a wine by its' place, or do you rate a wine by its' varietal? For me, it's definitely place specific for the most part, although with more modern wines, there can often be less a sense of place, so you have to lump them in with other modern wines. And then you're rating on style. All so confusing, and in the end, the only thing that matters is whether the wine is good or not. This wine is just okay. 

Screw-cap. Immediately plummy/blueberry, violet, with a touch of meat and a little smokiness. Lithe, with good acidic snap, lots of dark fruits, and slight stoniness on the finish. This wine seemed a bit reticent to me; even on the second day, it wasn't really jumping out and smacking me in the face. Having said that, it's definitely a cooler climate Syrah, and is well made. I might have to get another bottle and try it again, just to question what I'm about to say. For the most part, I don't think that this is worth 15$ in the pantheon of Syrah--you can get a lot of interesting Syrah from all over the place at that price point. In the pantheon of Crozes-Hermitage, this may be just about the cheapest example that you can pick up. But I like that little gremlin guy on the label...that's one psycho looking blueberry. C+