Thursday, April 28, 2011

Les Chataigniers Sancerre 2009

Picked this up for 15$ at Costco, because who doesn't like Sancerre when it's hot out? If you don't, I think you're crazy. This is imported by Frank-Lin Imports, which we've had pretty good luck with so far. They're no Kermit Lynch, or Louis/Dressner, but everything that we've had has been of relatively high quality and good value, if not exactly mind blowing in nature. I'm guessing that this is a negociant wine (?) as there isn't really a producer listed. "Les Chataigniers" means the chestnut in French--make of that what you will. This is fruit forward and a little modern for Sancerre. Initially, cantaloupe in abundance, before that calms down a bit, turning into grapefruit, other citrus, some flowers, and the "mineral" stone thing. Less acidic and more plush than a lot of Sancerre that I've had, although not in a bad way. The finish is fairly long and nuanced, with plenty of citrus and stone nuances. Overall, this is a pretty good value for the money, and worth a look if you like a Sauvignon Blanc that doesn't smell like a feral cat (New Zealand, I'm thinking of you). A-

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Basadone" Castello di Verduno 2008

This is a new grape for me--Pelavarga. To date, I've never had Pelavarga before, but it's something that is right up my alley--another weird Italian grape. Indigenous to Verduno, which is an area of Piedmonte. $25 at K&L locally for the 2009. This is spicy wine with licorice and a little bit of candied cherry and plum thrown in for good measure. Well balanced, long finish and a touch of tannin round this out. I was definitely a fan of this wine and enjoyed it a good bit. Italy's indigenous grapes have long fascinated me more because of the fact that they've been preserved and are still regularly consumed and made into wines. Pelavarga (or at least this version) seems to have a lot more going on than some of the other random lesser known varieties that I have tried. It's particularly interesting to view this wine in the context of the Barolo and Barbaresco zones, as it speaks to the quality of this wine (and Italian culture) that it is still being made when the vineyards could probably very well be turned into nebbiolo. B+/A-   

Thursday, April 21, 2011

William Cole Pinot Noir 2009

This was the second sample of Chilean Pinot that I received. This wine is cheaper than the Tobiano, with a suggested retail of about $12. William Cole is actually located in Saint Helena, but they have vineyards in Chile. This wine hails from the Casablanca region, but is for the most part missing the gout de Casablanca that was so prevalent in the Tobiano. I think that's a good thing. In many ways, this wine is more on in terms of QPR than the Tobiano. Although the Tobiano clearly has some more stuffing and is arguably a more serious wine, I like this wine more. Initially prominent oaky aromas, but these blow off to reveal some Pinot funk, with attractive sour cherry and cranberry notes. B 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tobiano Pinot Noir Kingston Family Vineyards 2008

I received this wine as a sample, along with another Chilean Pinot Noir. Retails for around $20, and can be purchased locally at K&L. This wine is a blend of several different vineyards. At first fairly reductive with a lot of rubbery, smoky aromas. Over the course of an hour or so in the glass, a lot of the reductive nature blows off, leaving behind a distinctive smoky quality. Apparently this is called the gout de Casablanca. In addition to the gout, there are red fruits leaning towards raspberry and cherry. This wine seems to be meant to be drunk young, as it's soft, round, and doesn't seem to have a lot of tannic bite. Lets also just get out with it and call it a tad corpulescent or a little flabby. If you're more into the fruit driven styles of Pinot, I'm going to be honest--this won't be your thing at all. The gout de Casablanca is really and truly pretty overpowering and unique. I enjoyed this wine more than Sarah, probably because it's a bit on the funky side. I don't know that I would buy this again though. For $20, you can get a much more serious wine from the Loire. C+/B-

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris 2009/Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone Villages

Grabbed this at Costco for $12. Screw-cap. A nice combination of richness and acidity, backed up by lots of citrus and floral notes. Made a tad bit richer than I would like, but a great deal for $12. We'll probably have a few more bottles of this wine through the Spring and Summer since it's getting hot in LA again. B+

For those that don't know, Kirkland Signature is Costco's Private Label. $7. This wine is fucking great for the price. It's a more fruit forward Cotes du Rhone, but really well done. As far as I'm concerned, this is a contender for best Cotes du Rhone value out there right now. It's as good as the Perrin, but in a different way. That's high praise coming from me. If you have a choice of any of the other $7 Cotes du Rhones (except the Perrin) from Trader Joes and this, go get this instead. This wine is like watching the Tour de France, while the TJ's wines are like watching a local Cat 5 race. Showing the ripeness of the vintage, with licorice, blackberry (almost bordering on jam), raspberry, and some herbal notes. Rich. Balanced, with fine-grained tannins that show up at the end. Superb value. I grabbed this wine on a whim as I've sometimes found the KS wines to be a bit too modern for me. I figured that for $7, I had nothing to lose. This wine is exactly right. I'm definitely grabbing more bottles. A/A+

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Genesis (Hogue) Columbia Valley Meritage 2007

You can grab this at TJ's right now for $8. If you have a tendency to drink a lot of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon (which I really don't), or you're in the habit of drinking any wine from California on a regular basis (excepting stuff like Donkey and Goat), this should be on your list of stuff to grab. I'm going to go out and say that it's the best value that Trader Joes is carrying for a New World wine at the moment under $10. Cherries, vanilla, tobacco, and just a touch of cocoa. Fleshy, with just a little tannin on the back end. Mostly in good proportion and balanced, but a little bit hot, and the finish is on the short side, but really, you can't do better for $8. You could do a lot worse. Definitely a solid deal for $8 and everyday. I would imagine that TJ's got a good deal on this wine since Wine Spectator gave it an 85. For most retailers, that equates to poison. Who wants an 85 point wine? Why would you bother with this wine if you think about wine in that fashion? It's a good thing for everyone that has their head screwed on straight, because this wine is a great value, and it's cheaper because of the short-sighted people out there. Is this wine spectacular? Absolutely not. But it's a great value for the price. A

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Benton Lane Pinot Noir 2008

This is post number 500. Somehow. I guess it's an arbitrary mile stone, dictated by human tendencies, and doesn't mean shit. Picked this up at Costco for $19 in a completely compulsive fashion. Tasted like Pinot, frankly, with a slightly New World bent (meaning that it felt more on the side of thick than on the side of austere and lean). Cinnamon, orange peel, some vanilla and baking spice, berries, ample acidity, subtle tannins and a suggestion of black tea on the finish. Frankly, this kind of smelled like Christmas. A tasty offering, with good balance. A pretty good deal, even though for $19 you can get a lot of pretty good wines. I guess that doesn't really apply to Pinot. B+/A-

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Cuvee Terroir" Chinon Charles Joguet 2007 was nice enough to send me a sample of this wine for free. Originally, they wanted me to try a Moscato, and I like Moscato just fine, but really, it's not my thing. So I was stoked when they just sent me a bottle of this instead. Charles Joguet is one of the benchmark producers in Chinon, blah, blah, blah. This is the base level bottling; imported by Kermit Lynch. Should retail for around $20 or so. This was typical Chinon--well made, with earthy notes, lots of acidity and raspberries. Elegant. Threw a ton of sediment. I wouldn't call this an in your face wine by any stretch of the imagination. We drank this with ratatouille and Sarah's parents, and it was a good match. This wine doesn't have a lot of fireworks, but it's well made and delicious. Greg from the Cab Franco Files tried the 08, and had some pretty similar thoughts. I definitely don't like this wine as much as Baudry, but I wouldn't turn it down. B/B+

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Pi Vigne" Barolo Silvio Grasso 2001

Sarah gave this to me when we were living in Oakland on our fifth anniversary, with the intention that we drink it on our tenth anniversary, which was yesterday. Purchased at Paul Marcus wines for around $40 or $50. At the time, it was an expensive bottle of wine for her, mainly because she couldn't find a job and we were both broke as a result.  This bottle has also traveled with us, and is pre-Vino Temp. The first year we lived in LA it was hot, so I was half expecting this bottle to be cooked or something. It also survived a ride in a car through the Central Valley in the middle of June. If you've been through the Central Valley, you know it's insanely hot. Hundreds of degrees. I'm happy to report that despite my fears, this bottle of wine definitely held up, and has lots of stuffing left. It could definitely have aged for longer. 

I braised some short ribs on Thursday and let them cool in the fridge so that I wouldn't really have to do too much on Friday night. On Friday night, I made a risotto alla Milanese (which is basically risotto with saffron in it), roasted some cauliflower, and uncorked this wine. This wine is textbook Barolo, right down to how tightly wound and tannic it was. Despite that, it was still impeccably fresh, but was just starting to show some secondary types of characteristics, like cinnamon. Dried cherries, strawberries, herbs, licorice, some cinnamon notes right at the tail end, and some earthy stuff thrown in for good measure. Lots of tannins, but sufficient fruit and acidity to balance it all out. Overall, this wine was great with the short ribs, although maybe it needed more time (either a decant or aging in the cellar) to really open up. It seemed to be a bit shy. The real interesting part of this bottle was the fact that it's been around for five years, and we got to drink it. It was interesting to reflect on the last five years and how much we've changed, because that isn't something that we often have the opportunity to do. We need to set aside bottles for a specific date like this more often. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Vitae Springs Pinot Gris St. Innocent 2009

Grabbed this at the LA Wine Company for $17. Made in the Alsatian style (as opposed to the Italian one), this is a rich, balanced, wine with good acidity and good fruit. Takes a significant amount of time to show itself, as this wine is particularly closed at first. Melons, spiciness almost bordering on oak, and just a hint of creaminess on the back end. Nice length. Feels a little out of whack to me. Interesting to read the technical notes on this wine; the first time that I had it, I was convinced that it had spent some time in oak. However, this is not the case, as this particular wine, even with its spicy characteristics and almost oaky smell at first, is completely tank fermented. The creaminess makes sense, as this wine is aged on the lees for a full 8 months. Anyways, perhaps this wine would benefit from some further age to really come together. This is a solid wine, but not near as good as the Pinot Noir that I have had from St. Innocent courtesy of my neighbor. B-

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Random Wines

I guess I am succumbing to laziness...meaning that these wines, while all good drinking for the price, don't really merit a separate post each:

90 Point Cellars Columbia Valley Riesling 2008 Grabbed this at the LA Wine Company for $7. Lots of lime, tropical elements, lychee, a little bit of cheesiness, and a crisp persistent citrus finish. They told me at the wine shop that this was actually from Eroica. I don't know if that's really true--seemed to not quite have as much cut as Eroica and a considerable amount of tropical stuff going on, which was not what I experienced the last time I tasted Eroica. Regardless, this is an excellent bottle of wine for $7. B+/A-

Burgenlander Rot Zweigelt Pittnauer Austria 2009 (I think...might have been 08) This was a screw-capped liter of wine of the list at the Lazy Ox Canteen downtown/Little Tokyo. The Lazy Ox was awesome. Sarah and I went there with my parents, her parents, and Diana. I don't know if my mother really enjoyed it; I think everyone else did. We had a lot of dishes: sugar snap peas with quinoa, some marinated anchovies, asparagus with romesco and manchego (absurdly delicious), polenta with enoki mushrooms and kale (rich), ricotta fritters, braised pork shoulder for two with pickled vegetables and a mashed butter with potatoes (that's probably a more accurate description than mashed potatoes), grilled branzino (delicious and "Thai style"), a salad, grilled cabbage (awesome), and the burger. The burger came out really late, which sucked. Anyways, we had this wine, which was exactly as expected and a pretty good deal at 40$ off the list. Peppery, with lots of sappy fruit and acidity. Tasted like Zweigelt, and was enough of a chameleon to do pretty well with all this random stuff. I know this sounds like a lot of stuff, but for 7 people, the bill was remarkably reasonable. Sarah and I will be back to the Lazy Ox. B 

Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2008 Grabbed this at Costco so I would have some easy drinking stuff for my parents. This was 6$ at Costco on sale; normally $8. Complex and relatively interesting--cherries, berries, vanilla, some smoke, licorice, and herbal characteristics. Well balanced, with a pretty bitter finish. We had two bottles of this and the bitter finish was there for both. Definitely a wine that could use some food and a good decant to show it's best. Regardless, the level of quality for 6$ is pretty good, even if on some level the wine falls a bit flat for me. B+/A-

Lastly, I had a chance to go to Wine Expo's Tasting Bar in Santa Monica and split three flights of wine with my Dad and future father in law. It's a cool place. Roberto was playing Charlie Hunter (awesome), the smoked olives were good, the wines rocked, it was cheap, and I found out that they are the only direct importer of Marcella Giuliani Cesanese in the US. Perhaps one of the better wines that I have had in the last year or so, the Cesanese that Sarah and I had at Checchino dal 1887 in Rome rocked, and I've wanted to have another bottle ever since.