Sunday, December 14, 2008

1997 St. Supery Meritage Napa Valley Red

Drinking well, but near the end of its optimal drinking window.

Color: Dark red center, lightening edges, but still pretty dark for 11 years of age.

Nose: Dark red fruits - cherry and currants, sage and some dusty oak.

Palate: Cherry and currants, sage and savory herb flavors, some cedar. Well balanced, the tannins are mellowed but silky smooth, nice acidity. Well made wine.

I purchased this from the winery as a library selection a few years back. At the time it was a wine I had sought out but now for the life of me can’t remember why. Either way it was a nice and enjoyable wine that shows why 1997 was such a great year as this wine is nicely balanced from start to finish with ample fruit and silky tannins.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Syrah Streak!

Tonight we opened an old bottle of Syrah acquired from an auction back in 2003. Well, old from a New World perspective: 1999. This is probably the 4th wine in the last week or two that was Syrah or a blend that had Syrah in it. By the way, I mostly buy wines from auction to find rare under-priced wines of value, not expensive rare wines.

1999 The Ojai Vineyard Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard

USA, California, Central Coast
Santa Barbara County
Santa Maria Valley

In great shape for a New World Syrah from 1999! Decant for a minimum of 1.5 hours!

Color: Dark purple, red edges

Nose: Grapey at times, with white pepper and tar battling out. Dark chocolate and savory dark olives emerge defiantly after 2 hours!

Palate: Pepper, black fruits, some leather, tannins are still prevalent. After 2 hours cocoa mixes in with the aforementioned flavors.

Drink this now through 2011.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Great Wines and Home Made Dinners

Recent wines, December post wine tasting.

Since the wine party I have been on a streak of making some great dinners at home and pairing them with justifiably good wines to pair with them. Bordelaise sauce and New York Strip Steaks, whole roasted chicken, whole roasted snapper (see picture inset), and veal Paillards with Chasseur Sauce. I feel cooking to me is my creativity outlet - I am creating something. I feel it’s similar to when I was a child and would draw, sketch and paint. Something I abandoned once sports like football and lacrosse took hold. The chasseur and bordelaise sauce came from a recent article in savor magazine. I swear they have the best covers of any food magazine, though inside the details can be hit or miss. So flip through your next Savor enough to see if anything useful is in it to justify a buy as the covers will catch your eye.

So, on to the wines:

2004 E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane (France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Condrieu) $65 (lists at $90, WL had a great price!)

Grape: 100% Viognier from Condrieu

Color: Straw gold in color

Nose: Toasty oak, ripe peaches, white flowers

Palate: Smoky toasty oak frames ripe peach and apricots, some Meyer lemon peel, white flowers and nice minerality and acidity.

The "La La" Doriane was one of those bottles we bought and saved for a special day or dinner. Guigal makes some of the most revered wines in the northern Rhone, particularly Condrieu and Cote Rotie. Tonight was our first roasted fish made at home and we just finished trimming the Christmas tree. Special enough for us considering our lack of formal dining out of late! As per usual, the special saved wine did not live up to expectations. At first the wine was a little out of it. The mid-palate to finish was a bit delayed but after an hour that evened out nicely. The Condrieu evened out after about an hour and 30 minutes. I saw lots of talk of rich and powerful in other notes, but I had none of that. It was rich, but not overly so, just what is usual of Viognier, plus some good acidity and a nice shade of minerality. Over all we were a bit under whelmed considering it was a "La La" from Guigal, but it was still pretty good. I would buy La Doriane again in a great vintage at this price, but otherwise I will experiment with VdP bottlings and when priced right Guigal (regular Condrieu), Villard and Delas also from Condrieu.

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast) $42

Grape: Pinot Noir

Color: Deep Ruby Red, perfect color

Nose: Wild ripe strawberry, cherry, blackberry and cocoa

Palate: Same as nose, additional notes of earthy mushroom, and a touch savory, elegant, long velvety finish.

Lacking in much tannin and acidity that hint at a short drinking window, this is drinking nicely now and should for another 2-3 years. It’s a ready to drink, well made, smooth and polished Pinot Noir. This is a mail order list wine from my collection. Kosta Browne makes some of the hardest to get (at a good price) Pinot Noir. We had this with the roasted chicken that Lisa made – the combination rocked! We really enjoy Pinot and roasted chicken and turkey!

2004 Caldwell Rocket Science (USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville) $40

Lots of oak, big ripe flavors of black fruits: plum and blackberry, chewy tannins. It is a fun wine that we enjoyed with my parents after we brought the tree back, hoisted it high and strung it up with lights. Caldwell is a leader in the Coombsville section of the Napa Valley, east of the town of Napa.

Grapes: 33% Cabernet, 33% Syrah, 25% Merlot, 9% Malbec, 9% Petit Verdot

Color: Dark and brooding, opaque and almost black, dark red edges

Nose: Black fruits and oak, some heat (a term that means you can tell of the traces of alcohol)

Palate: Lots of big, toasty oak and big ripe flavors of spicy black plum and blackberry, chewy tannins.

2005 Carlisle Syrah Bennett Valley (USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley) $35

I was expecting a Shiraz styled Syrah, but was pleasantly surprised at the character of this wine's lack of Cali-typicity. The nose was strikingly Northern Rhone, where Syrah reaches its apex and is considered its homeland, though slightly less peppery and no bacon fat goodness.

Color: Dark red, garnet edges

Nose: Meaty, some White Pepper, Underbrush, Blackberry

Palate: Blackberry and black cherry, licorice, some-what subtle mocha-choco-oak.

This was a well made wine, the flavors were integrated well and the wine was nicely balanced. I will buy more of this next year from Carlisle!

2001 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (USA, California, Napa Valley) Tasted at the wine party.

Color: Dark center, dark red edges.

Nose: Aromas of blackcurrant, spice, cedar, cherry.

Palate: Black spicy currants, cherry and cassis mesh well with the oak and tannins.

Maybe keep it horizontal - this bottle was a little shy. I had decanted for 2+ hours and it was still in slumber mode. It was still revealing that amazing flavor and complexity, just at a lesser intensity. It seemed youthful, tight and complex, many years ahead of this wine! It by no means was over the hill on in decline!

2002 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley) MAGNUM format, Tasted at the wine party.

Color: Dark ruby red, excellent color

Nose: Black Cherry, some spice, judicious oak

Palate: Cherry, some cocoa, cola Very tasty, not overcomplicated. Fine grained tannins, polished and smooth, nice acidity freshens it all up for more!

This was a very sophisticated and clean wine. I wish I had more! Most of this wine is now twice the price and bottled into Paul’s estate Lindsay Vineyard. We had the 2003 over the summer and it did not come close to as good as this wine!

Cheers! Here's to you drinking well over the next few weeks during the holidays!


Sunday, November 30, 2008

2008 Thanksgiving wines...and a few more too!

On Thanksgiving (and Christmas) I like to start with Champagne. It's a festive wine and celebratory after all! After that, its all about what we feel like drinking the rest of the day and of course the food. TG is a tough holiday meal to pair wine with as a cornucopia of flavors and textures fight for your palate's attention in abundance unlike any other meal of the year. Champagne and Riesling are the most versatile wines out there, however I favor Champagne over Riesling in most cases expect for Asian cuisine. Champagne is also more fun and popular with wine drinkers than the sommelier adored Riesling (Somms. love Reisling).

This day I was definitely on for champagne, no doubt I was gifted an excellent bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow label the week before at the Wine Party. It was perfect for the occasion. Then I wanted white to have with the Italian antipasti, but had none other on hand except a Shafer Chardonnay that was not such a great pairing. I needed more acidity and a Friuli or Tuscan white would have been perfect, I was unprepared! The Chardonnay was nice and we had some left to have with the birds, it was a great pairing.

Now for the red, Pinot Noir without a doubt was what I was feeling! Lisa and I decided to pop the cork on a Sea Smoke Southing. I am now so happy I have more of this wine and will be ordering the allocation of the 2007s coming in spring 2009. The 2007 vintage of wines in California is supposed to be the best in 10 years since the much heralded 2007 vintage.

I was thinking about also opening a Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir but decided we had enough wine for the time being as we had the Prosecco that my family likes to have with the Turkey. I and a few others passed on the Prosecco and enjoyed the Sea Smoke Pinot Noir and Veuve Champagne with dinner. I also wanted to save room for desert and to drink one more wine with desert. I had been jonesing for over a week for the 1994 Chappellet Moelleux that I had been sitting on for a few years, man was it worth the wait! I was hoping it was not past its prime, but showed to be in great shape with quite a few years left!

So, onto the wines:

NV Veuve Clicquot, Brut Champagne, Reims, France

Always a crowd pleaser. Biscuity, lemon and apple aromas. Tasty yeasty notes of bread and biscuit, apple and citrus. Great bubbles and acidity clean up the nicely dry finish.

2005 Shafer, Chardonnay "Red Shoulder Ranch", Carneros, Napa Valley

Color: Golden straw yellow

: Toasty hazelnut, ripe apple and Meyer lemon aromas.

: Apple and citrus flavors, nutty and strong acidic finish that mellow as the wine was open longer. If drinking, I would decant for 30 minutes or so to mellow out the finish.

2005 Sea Smoke, Pinot Noir "Southing", Santa Barbara Hills AVA, CA

Color: A rich velvety dark red hue, ruby edges

: Lush Blackberry and Blueberry, dusty oak

: Blackberry and Blueberry, dusty oak and some nice minerality. Excellent tannic structure, firm but not overdone.
This is a great example of a wine I love and hope to buy every year!

1994 Chappellet, Chenin Blanc Moelleux (Desert Wine)

Color: Rich and glowing dark gold

: Creamy peach and spicy apricots, some older subtle oak aromas tell of age. Some orange blossom emerges later.

: Rich flavors and texture, yet light on its feet - not cloying or overbearing. I can drink this all night! Creamy peach, apricot, orange blossoms and honeysuckle. Great acidity still remains in this wine and refreshes the palate!

2006 Cote de Brouilly, Chateau Thivin, Beaujolais, France

Color: Dusty maroon and red

: Earthy with herbal tea and some cherry

: More of the same, red fruits, herbal tea and earth, some minerality. Fine-grained tannins finish it off.
A Grand Cru Beaujolais is a great wine at a great price. They tend to be less complex and more accessible than a red Burgundy, but in great years the Cru Beaujolais are excellent wines.

1998 Ducru-Beaucaillou - La Croix de Beaucaillou, St. Julien, Bordeaux

Color: Dark red in the decanter. In the glass ruby center with light red/brick edges.

: Red currants, meat and cedar.

: Red currants and cherry, spicy cedar, older herbs like bay leaf, loads of tannin on the finish.
A great second wine from a superb 2nd Growth Producer Ducru-Beaucaillou, this wine is getting more expensive of late so get some before the price sky rockets and gets close to $50. You can get this for about $30 or so retail.

Cheers and enjoy the days leading up the big holidays coming up in December!


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Williams Selyem Pickup Weekend, Millbrook Winery, Hudson Valley

Nestled in the heart of the Hudson Valley, this Sunday Lisa and I ventured about 2 hours north to visit Millbrook Winery in upstate Millbrook, New York. Within the lofted tasting room of Millbrook Winery we tasted through a few Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay and a red Zinfandel – from California! The owners of WS are from NY and also owned Millbrook before they purchased WS in 1998. We made the trip to enjoy a leisurely Sunday drive upstate to pick up my recent order of Williams Selyem wine futures. The Dyson family are gracious enough to also provide a few goodies when you arrive, we tasted a few of the latest vintage wines of William Selyem and Millbrook Winery, as well as an Italian winery in Tuscany I was unaware they also owned – Villa Pillo. The drive was beautiful through the windy roads and rolling hills, colored red, gold and amber from the leaves changing colors and the sun shining down on them. Now, onto the wine:

2006 Drake Chardonnay (tasted last)
Like a cross between a classic made California Chardonnay and a well made white burgundy, this wine was showing well and made me think twice about passing on their Chardonnay offerings.
Color: Golden with green flecks
Nose: Mineral, apple and citrus aromas rise from the glass.
Palate: Lightly toasted oak frames apple, candied lemon.
Finish: Mineral and crisp acidity freshen the palate.

2006 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir
Color: Light ruby red
Nose: Candied cherry, cola and spicy aromas
Palate: Classic RR Pinot, not heavy, ethereal and full of finesse. Cherry, earth, and some dusty
Finish: Clean, refreshing, not long, but probably to young. I believe this is also a newly mature
vineyard; the next few vintages should attain more length and complexity.

2006 Weir Vineyard
Color: Ruby red
Nose: Strawberry, cinnamon and some mushroom notes.
Palate: More strawberry, some cola and spicy cedar/cinnamon secondary flavors.
Finish: Smooth, supple fruit and tannins carry a nice finish.

2007 Litton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
I can’t WAIT for the 2007 wines! I have been reading a lot lately that 2007 is going to be a banner year – what better way to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the 1997 vintage with what some are saying the best vintage since then. And that is for many grapes, Pinot, Cabernet and Syrah early reports are off the charts.

This was an awesome wine, young and pretty well together for such a new wine, it was showing depth and complexity the other wines just did not have – likely the premium site and also the stellar 2007 vintage. This is also typically the most full bodied Pinot that WS makes according to the pourer.

Color: Dark red and ruby, much darker than the last two
Nose: Black cherry, blackberry, full and inviting
Palate: Lush and expansive, ripe black cherry and black berry stand out the most, but the wine
was still light on its feet and not cloying.
Finish: Well balanced for such a young wine, the finish sailed on for a long time. The aromas,
palate and finish worked so well this is the best WS Pinot I have had to date.

I hope I will be allocated this next year!

2006 Forcini Vineyard Zinfandel
This was the wine I was coming to pick up – WS in known for making elegant red Zinfandel, not typical as many Zins can be jammy fruit bombs. I ordered my full allocation this year – 2 bottles!

Color: Dark red and ruby
Nose: Ripe blackberry and dusty mocha/chocolate notes, some oak.
Palate: Tasty blackberry and chocolate, some oak and tannin frame the wines finish.
Finish: A great example of elegant Zinfandel, restrained, but ripe black berries and supple
tannin leave the taster coming back for more.

We only had time for one winery and lunch so we will try to come back earlier in the day or stay later for the spring to pick up of the wines we may order.

Cheers from the wine trail!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Merlot? Blackbird Merlot!

Yes, I said Merlot! And it’s not just any Merlot, the 2006 Blackbird "Arise" from Napa Valley. This 100% Merlot comes from the Pomerol inspired Blackbird Vineyards in the Oak Knoll appellation in the Napa Valley. I received my 2006 wines from BB 3 weeks ago and have been very patient not to dig in too soon. If you drink a wine too soon after it has arrived from shipment, you may have a wine not ready to drink as it is in a form of shock from all of the movement involved in shipping a package. In short, let’s just say it pays to give it 2-4 weeks to let the wine settle down. The Arise is the intro-level wine, priced at $50 retail, and that is if you can find it in a store. You have to go to the winery to buy. This may be one of the best Merlots from the US I have ever had, better than the Paul Hobbs 2003 Michael Black Merlot I had the other day which can go for $25-50 more! OK, on to the notes:

Color: Dark red, ruby edges, a deep red that draws you color of a wine I have seen in a while.

Nose: Crème d'cassis, some black cherry, sweet oak and vanil

Palate: Plum, black cherry, spicy oak, a tinge of savory herb with slightly rustic, yet youthful tannins.

Finish: Fresh! Long, classy finish that sails on and on.

*** (out of 4)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico 2005

In the Chianti Classico region the wines of Fattoria di Felsina make some of my favorite wines from Chianti. Located just outside Siena, Felsina and their vineyards lie near Castelnuovo Berardenga.

When it is made well, Chianti Classico is quite a versatile wine. Never the brashest of wines, rarely high in alcohol or sweet, they perfectly balance fruit, acidity and tannin. In fact when I think of Chianti I think of mouthwatering acidity that goes so well with Mediterranean cuisine, especially that of Tuscany. A touch of earthiness, dried cherries, and in some cases a meatiness, are classic Chianti flavors and aroma traits.

The rules of what you can make a Chianti Classico from have changed in recent years, but Felsina sticks to making their Chianti Classico wines of 100% Sangiovese, unless otherwise noted as being a Super Tuscan, or IGT. Traditional blends usually maintain a high percentage of indigenous grapes. Sangiovese anchors almost all Classico wines as the majority grape.

Color: Dark ruby red, lighter out to the edges.

Nose: Earthy, tart red fruits, tobacco

Palate: Medium bodied, tart cherry and other zesty red fruits, earthy, snappy acidity that refreshes with each sip.

Finish: Firm from the tannins, yet refreshing because of the solid backbone of acidity. A classic Italian Sangiovese!


Sunday, October 19, 2008

148th Hospice De Beaune Tasting at Christie' New York

Started 148 years ago by the Hospice De Beaune to raise money for the hospital, this annual auction event sells at auction red and white Burgundy wines by barrel to the highest bidder. This was just a promotional tasting event in New York to raise awareness of the auction and to allow the trade to get a taste of what lies in Burgundy up for auction. Buyers from Japan, the US, the UK and many more vie to take home the best and most prized barrels of wine from vineyards owned by the Hospice De Beaune. The Hospice, formerly a 15th century hotel called the Hotel-Dieu, turned into a hospital to serve the poor of the region and never looked back. Instead of monetary donations, the Hospice was quite often given a vineyard or plot of vineyard as a donation as the French in this region believed that if they gave a vineyard they would be guaranteed entry to heaven. What a brilliant idea because the gift gave every year by creating wine which could then be sold each year for use by the hospital.

Whites (Chardonnay)

2005 Pouilly Fuisse, Francoise Poisard2006 Pouilly Fuisse, Francoise Poisard
2004 Meursault-Charmes, 1er Cru "Cuvee de Bahezre de Lanlay"
2006 Meursault-Charmes, 1er Cru "Cuvee de Bahezre de Lanlay"
2004 Meursault-Genevrieres, 1er Cru "Cuvee Philippe Le Bon"
2006 Corton Charlemagne, Grand Cru "Cuvee Francois de Salins"
2005 Batard Montrachet, Grand Cru "Cuvee Dame de Flandres"

Reds (Pinot Noir)

2005 Beaune, 1er Cru "Cuvee Dames Hospitalieres"
2005 Beaune, 1er Cru "Cuvee Guigogne de Salins"
2005 Pommard, 1er Cru "Cuvee Dames de la Charite"
2005 Volnay Santenots, 1er Cru "Cuvee Jehan de Massol
2003 Savigny-les-Beaune, 1er Cru "Cuvee Arthur Giraud"
2005 Beaune, 1er Cru "Cuvee Nicolas Rolin"
2002 Corton, Grand Cru "Cuvee Charlotte Dumay"
2003 Corton, Grand Cru "Cuvee Charlotte Dumay"
2005 Corton, Grand Cru "Cuvee Charlotte Dumay"
2005 Clos De la Roche, Grand Cru "Cuvee George Kritter"
1999 Mazis Chambertin, Grand Cru "Cuvee Madelaine Collignon"

What a line-up! I will make this an annual event that I attend. This was for me the best Burgundy only tasting I have ever been to. Now, by Burgundy standards and representation of the region this is a drop in the bucket! Most of the wines were from the Beaune, known best for its whites and also for solid reds, and two wines were from the Cote de Nuits, known for the most complex and sought after reds. The vineyards of Burgundy are more or less named for the villages in which the vineyards lie. The designation Grand Cru is the best parcel(s) of the vineyard(s), Premier Cru, or 1er Cru, being the second best individual sections of a vineyard(s) and then followed by "Village" and then regional, such as "Burgundy" or "Bourgogne", the latter are typical blends of different villages from the Cote du Beaune or the Cote de Nuits. It’s the hardest region to get to know, but the best to discover as they have some of the wine world's most cherished wines and define terroir in the wine world. Burgundy is difficult to learn, not only because of the name designations, but there can be multiple Grand or 1er Cru versions of the same vineyard. Many of the vineyards are so divided because of inheritance that they are sometimes just a few rows amongst a large vineyard.

My favorite white was the 2004 Meursault-Genevrieres, 1er Cru "Cuvee Philippe Le Bon" which was graceful, highly complex and very intriguing because of a note juniper I detected but could not pick out what it was. A purchasing agent from a NYC wine shop said it was a note of Juniper that came from the trees the bordered the vineyard - now THAT is terroir folks! These were great chardonnays, classic white Burgundy!

The reds were all delicious and varied in style. We were treated to a 3 year mini-vertical of Corton, Grand Cru "Cuvee Charlotte Dumay", 2002, 2003, and 2005 - 2002 being my favorite. The 1999 Mazis-Chambertin, Grand Cru "Cuvee Madelaine Collignon" was a real treat and a testament to what a great Burgundy with almost 10 years of age can be like. My favorite wine was the powerful 2005 Clos De la Roche, Grand Cru "Cuvee George Kritter". A true example of what 2005 red Burgundy is like, the wine was powerful and complex, yet still light on its feet and elegant. This was my first Clod de la Roche wine I have had. They are quite rare and are in high demand. Thus they are expensive and sell themselves because of their reputation and are not typically tasted at a public wine tasting.

Tomorrow is the Zachy’s Fall Wine & Food Extravaganza! Talk about wine sensory overload!


Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Altesino, Rosso di Altesino, Vendemmia 2006, Montalcino, Italy

One would hope to learn something new everyday - and hopefully for me it has to do with wine. While checking out the label of tonight’s wine I noticed to word “Vendemmia” on the label. After a quick Google search I found that it is the Italian and Spanish equivalent for Harvest or Vintage. Duh, it sure does make sense as it is next to the vintage date on the label.

And how is the wine? As good as it gets for $13.98!

A delicious blend of 80% young Sangiovese Grosso and 20% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon - a “Mini-Super Tuscan” of sorts, this is one of my favorite wines under $15. The Rosso di Altesino wine sees no oak and is typically aged in stainless steel tanks for 6-8 months. By young Sangiovese Grosso, I mean the fruit from Sangiovese Grosso vines likely 6-12 years old and not up to the quality standards used in the highly regarded Brunello di Montalcino’s that come from this and other estates in the village on Montalcino, Italy. Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese Grosso. A Rossi di Montalcino is 100% young Sangiovese Grosso, the more complex stuff goes into the Brunello. In a general sense, anytime you blend Merlot or any other non-native Italian varietal from Tuscany (i.e. Cabernet or Syrah) with native varieties (such as Malvasia, Canaiolo Nero, or most commonly Sangiovese) the wine can not be called Brunello or any other DOCG designation, but are commonly called Super Tuscans. For more details on the Italian wine designation system, see a past blog of mine here.

Color: Dark red and ruby

Aromas: Typical Sangiovese: tart cherry, some flower notes, some violets, a bit of leather and touch of spice

Palate: Well balanced, excellent fruit, mild tannin and that perfect acidity that Italian wines get so right! Bright cherry, some dark flowers, a touch of leather and plum detail the flavor spectrum.

Finish: Clean and refreshing, nice fruit some tannin on the back and acidity drive the finish.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bella 2003 Big River Ranch Syrah, Alexander Valley, Sonoma $35

Our last bottle of the Big Ranch Syrah that brings back memories of our New Year's day trip to Sonoma where there was torrential rains and flooding (Jan 2, 2006). Stored at home in the cellar for almost 3 years, upon opening it was in great shape. Could easily go a few more years, but is likely peaking now through the next 6-12 months.

Color: Dark purple center, dark red/ruby edges

Nose: Chocolate, blackberry, bacon fat, subtle sweet oak

Palate: Exploding with layers of chocolate and black fruits like cherry and blackberry. Some bacon fat and a touch of sweet oak and ripe structured tannins finish it off.

Finish: Outstanding 60+ second finish! More of the above flavors that draw you back for another sip!


Friday, September 26, 2008

2005 Realm Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Farella Vineyard (USA, California, Napa Valley)

SUPER complex. SOLID structure.

Napa should have more wines of this fold. I would wait at least 1 or 2 more years, though its definitely drinking just fine with 2 hours of decanting.

Color: Dark red, ruby edges

Nose: Cherry, licorice, spicy currants, some terroir driven earthy notes.

Palate: Still tight, but showing a solid core of black cherry and licorice, a savory wine, with a cedar and mint notes.

Finish: A solid tannic structure frames the wine nicely: fine, but well defined, very precise. The acidity on the finish refreshes the palate.

I had all of the Realm 2005 wines and this was my favorite.

What this wine is NOT: Black as night, super sweet oaky nose, syrupy droopy fruit flavors with a chunky flat finish.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

1999 Almaviva - Concha Y Toro/Baron Philippe de Rothschild

Excellent, and of course very Bordeaux in style as the Mouton Rothschild style is expressed here.

Color: Medium Purple-Red to ruby, just starting to brick at the edges. Age is starting to set in.

Nose: The aromas are starting to integrate the old and the new. Cherry, cedar, liquorice, plum, later pencil shavings and mocha.

Palate: Plum, cedar, cherry and a touch of mocha. Good acidity and slightly chewy tannins. It definitely tastes like a mature wine, not robust and supremely tannic, but rather sublime, complex.

This wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, some Cabernet Franc, and Carmenere. Carmenere is a varietal native to Bordeaux but grown sparsely in its home region these days. Chile has taken a liking to it and it grows best here in Chile based on the comparative results with Bordeaux. However, I think it is not going to have the impact like Shiraz did in Australia or Malbec in Argentina. The high end Cabernet Sauvignon they make is way too good to focus primarily on Carmenere. Or maybe the winemakers in Chile have not found the right combination of rootstock and soil? Whatever it is, don't expect Carmenere to be the next big thing, yet.

Drink by the end of 2010.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Dinner Party

Saturday night was dinner party night. We all enjoyed the friendly company, great food and excellent wines. To start, we opened a few favorites and moved on to a nice selection of Cabernet Sauvignon from California and South Africa.

It was great getting together with everyone as most of us had not seen each other in a few weeks or months because of the busy summer schedules, baby's arriving and mayhem at work.

Here are the wines and my scores:

NV Perrier Jouet Champagne, France $25-35 Score: 91
NV Raventos i Blanc - Brut Cava Reserva, Spain $12-16 Score:88
2007 Argiolas Costamolino, Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy $9-14 Score:91
2006 Los Vascos Chardonnay, Chile $10-14 Score:85
2005 Rocket Science Red Blend, Napa Valley $35 Score: 90
2005 Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon, Franschoek Valley, South Africa $40 Score:94-96 (too young to tell, but tasted twice with different notes)
2003 Vincent Arroyo Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA $50 Score: 93
2005 Tom's Caldwell Cuvee - Score: Blech! Hand made gimmick wine from the Caldwell Vineyards

Both bubblies were great in different ways. They contrasted each other in color, texture and flavors. The Perrier Jouet was a gold in color with green flecks, a toasty bread and baked apple nose. Rich in flavor, the PJ was generous on the palate with brioche, baked pears, and granny smith apples - quite delicious and lots of bubbles, classic champagne! The Raventos Cava was lighter straw yellow in color, with crisp pear and citrus on the nose, and a slight hint of fresh bread. On the palate was more of the same pear, lemons and limes - the acidity was precise and cleansed the palate, excellent with the hors d’vors!

The 2007 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino from Sardegna is our house white wine. I have to say for the money there is no other white wine in the world that I would rather have for around $9-12 a bottle. Costamolino is 100% Vermentino. Vinfied only in stainless steel, it sees no oak. For those not familiar with this grape it has many great qualities of some of the best white grapes. If I were to take those best traits and try to create a “theoretical blend”, it would be something like this: 35% Pinot Grigio, 40% un-oaked Chardonnay and 25% Viognier/Roussanne. It has the richness and minerality of un-oaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay, but without the oak or over-ripe sweetness. The Costamolino has the mouth feel and floral aromas flavors of Viognier and Roussanne, and the apparent lightness and essential acidity reminiscent of a Pinot Grigio.

The Cabernet lineup was eclectic and varied, with 3 different styles to compare against. We will start with the more austere and work our way up the concentration and ripeness scale.

The most austere of the 3 was the 2005 Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon from the Franschoek Valley in South Africa - this was my contribution and a wine Lisa and I first had on our honeymoon this past May - it as the BEST wine we had on the whole trip. However this one was not ready and I should have opened something a little bit older. At least I have a few more of these to lie down and not touch for a few years. I went back to my notes from the trip and then realized the wine had been open 24 hours when we last had it at the winery. It was much more generous and more reminiscent of an Oakville Cabernet from Napa to me at that time. However for now it was closed up and more reminiscent of an old world Bordeaux - classic in style with a touch more oomph, or fruit and extraction. I still decanted the wine for about 3 hours before we started to drink it and it was still super tight, but generous enough to show what this wine will become with a few more years of age. Check back in maybe 5 years, this baby can easily go the distance of 12-15 years from the vintage date!
The next wine, a 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the Vincent Arroyo Winery located in Calistoga, CA, was a notch up in ripeness and size. More a classic example of what Cabernet was before riper wines became all the rage, this wine is more reminiscent of an older Napa style, the wine is a classic example of what wines in the early to mid-nineties were like. Though I am lost at the alcohol level of 14.7%, then again this was a really hot year too. Some wineries still adhere to this style or a style with less alcohol, but the rage now is for riper fruit, riper tannins and higher alcohol levels - big wines! The Vincent Arroyo displays pure fruit flavors, supple tannins and an acidity not common in many Napa wines, some herbs, cedar, dusty cherry and mineral notes also highlight this wine's flavor and aroma profile.

The last wine was the 2005 Rocket Science Red Blend from Caldwell Vineyards located in Coombsville, CA in the far south east region of the Napa Valley. This wine is not 100% Cabernet, but a blend that also consists of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Tannat. The Rocket science was dark and brooding, a big wine that was probably in the high 14 or low 15%'s. The palate consisted of brambly black cherry and rich currant flavors, almost like a baked black cherry pie. The Fine grained tannins completed the wine's smooth finish.

All in all we drank a lot of great wines, nothing too expensive, but most you would never find on your local grocer's shelf.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Pax Castelli-Knight Ranch Syrah 2005

Tasted over 4 hours and decanted.

Color - Dark red with garnet edges, not inky black - but it did gain weight and seem to darken with airtime in the decanter.

Nose - Tight at first and needed air to coax out after an hour or so the pepper aromas, blackberry fruit, crushed flowers: maybe lilac/purple flowers. Subtle leather and some meat notes emerged later after a few hours.

Palate - That wonderful pepper again, refreshing blackberry and some blueberry, crushed rocks and minerality. Firm tannins and refreshing acidity clean the palate and leave behind a long minute plus finish of blackberry and spicy pepper notes. Very well made and a true tribute to the Rhone - just as the folks at Pax Wine Cellars try to do it.

The most Rhone like wine I have had from outside the Rhone Valley. It can easily age another 8-12 years. I can't wait to get my 2006 Griffin's Lair, Kobler, Castelli-Knight, and Cuvee Keltie. I will try to not touch this wine again for a while or the 2005 Griffin's Lair Syrah.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2002 Ehlers Estate Merlot, Napa Valley - $25

Most Merlot I would not usually keep longer than 5 years from the date of the vintage but this wine is an exception. I bought half a case a few years ago of this exceptionally made Merlot, a rarity in California and a bastardized wine varietal of sorts because of the Sideways movie.

I opened this wine specifically to test my palate. Yesterday Lisa and I attended a California wine tasting that highlighted wines from all of the big regions: Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Mendocino, Carneros (half Napa and half Sonoma), Lodi, Monterrey and Santa Barbara. It was great and for only $40 we had some really good wine. The variety of wines available to taste was quite varied and in most cases friendly wine makers poured their creations for us (Gary from the Hitching Post come to mind as a favorite of ours - funny and personable). Though we both left the tasting satisfied, we felt too many of the wines were sweet, in many cases overly sweet. For a while in my past I liked the fruit forward style and still do when it's in balance, but most of these wines were not that. Many were just way too sweet. The Ehlers was a test to see if my palate 4 years ago was just picking the wine because of the abundant ripeness or that it was well made and in fact a non-fruit bomb. The test is a draw. Had I known the wine would have evolved this way I would have drunk more of it earlier, though it still retained a lot of the character from when I bought it.

Color: Garnet center with ruby edges, a tad hazy at first from the sediment
Nose: Not fruity, cedar and tobacco leaf with an appealing chocolaty mocha nose, currants.
Palate: Fine tannins frame the mocha, coffee and plum flavors abundant in this wine. Subtle notes or tobacco and spice accent the wines solid finish.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Week in Wines – Labor Day – August 25-September 2

This week included a nice variety of wines this week from Napa, Oz, France and Sonoma.


Le Paradou Viognier 2007 VDP, Provence $11

This is a young, crisp, leaner styled Viognier. Nice citrus fruits mingle with stony, mineral laced stone fruit flavors to complete this acid driven fresh tasting wine. I would pair this with leaner white fish and light shellfish dishes, even lighter poultry dishes.

Color – Bright yellow

Nose – Stony minerals, lemons and limes

Palate/Finish – The entry is light and laser like with lemons and limes. By mid-palate this Viognier gains some weight from the peachy stone fruit and sweeter lemon flavors that peak through. The finish is clean and crisp, typical “rocks and fruit” from this Provencal wine.

This wine paired well with sushi one night and cheese the next night!

Stony Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay 2005 - $36

Another light white wine – must be the theme of the week, though this is probably to balance out the really big reds we’ve had so far this week. Elegant and well made, this is an ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) drinker’s Chardonnay – very reminiscent of a Chablis from the northern reaches of Burgundy or a very complex Poilly Fuisse from the southern reaches of Burgundy. Stony Hill happens to be the longest running commercial winery in the Napa Valley since they are the first new winery after prohibition. The McCrea family were true visionaries - way ahead of their time in planting Burgundy varietals in the Napa Valley. Even today the McCrea’s vision remains ahead of its time as their style of wine is fast becoming the preference for wine drinkers the world round that are tired of the flabby, over-oaked, sweet butter bomb Chardonnays. But if you drink White Burgundy now and always have, you know exactly what style I am talking about.

Color - Light gold, green flecks on the edges

Nose - Slate, minerals, crispy granny smith apples and warm pear.

Palate/Finish - I almost feel like we opened it too soon and should have let it age and mellow some more. This wine was UBER complex, yet super light on its feet. Like a riverbed of slate and pebbly rocks, the palate was mineral driven, with very crisp lemon and fresh, yet gripping granny smith apples. The finish was crisp, dry and razor like in its bracing acidity!
We had this wine with the wrong food, grilled thick pork chops with grilled peaches, blue cheese, balsamic vinegar, pine nuts and red onion. The wine was too elegant and was screaming for a Sole Meunière. It was still enjoyable, but I saved more of the wine for after dinner.


Mollydooker “The Boxer” Shiraz 2006, McClaren Vale, South Australia $20

This is the third time I have had this wine and it was showing its best this time around. Big and powerful, yet so well balanced it was not heavy nor cloying in the way that very ripe wines with lots of oak can unfortunately seem when they are not well balanced or as well made as this Mollydooker. One simple word describes the Mollydooker line of wines: “Yummy”

Color - Dark purple with dark ruby red edges

Nose - Lilacs, Ripe and jammy Blackberry and blueberry fruits, sweet oak and chocolate aromas
Palate - The texture was light for a wine with such rich and strong flavors. This wine was not too complex - it was all there and easy to pick out for the palate to savor and enjoy: ripe fruits of black raspberry and black cherry, milk chocolate and savory spice notes highlighted the long tasty finish! Some acidity on the back end helped clean up the palate for the next bite of lamb chops!

Worthy “Sophia’s Cuvee” 2003 Napa Valley, California $32

This is my last bottle of the 2003 vintage, and probably the last from this and all future vintages without further tasting. The 2001 was a stunning wine of which I still have about 3 bottles from a case I bought of few years back. The 2002 was great, but not even close to the 2001 in overall quality. The 2003 was great up front on the attack but fell flat on its face on the mid-palate and the balsamic and pencil like finish. The gritty tannins did not help matters here either. My last bottle of the 2003 was similar, but with more fruit up front and a more subtle finish, not as flat and disjointed as this wine. If you have ANY 2003 drink them up now or sell them at auction if you can! I rarely rate wines with a number but this is barely an 83! Worthy is officially coming off of the $50 and under Napa Valley Cabernet recommendations.

Color - Dark red, almost black purple, ruby red edges

Nose - Graphite, Black Cherry and spicy Cedar notes

Palate - Big cassis and cherry fruit up front on the attack, with a mid-palate of mocha that loses grip and turn balsamic and pencil like on the finish. Gritty tannins. Great start, but a weak finish. This wine is past its peak. The Wagyu skirt steaks we had with it were however excellent!

Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2005 $42

If only more California Pinot Noir could be so Burgundian with a slight Californian twist. I thought this wine was elegantly styled, complex, and Burgundian even with its Northern California roots. William Selyem have been making great California Pinot way before the Sideways Pinot effect gave way to Merlot’s demise. William Selyem are inspired by Burgundy and it shows in the depth and restraint in their wines.

Nose: Redolent of Spices, bright red fruits, Sandalwood and Minerality

Palate/Finish: Fresh tasting, very bright, slight mineral streak on the finish. Great acidity. Red berry flavors of raspberry and dried cranberry. A touch of earthy truffle and some orange zest. Great wine! Atypical of California Pinot of late! Glad I bought two of these!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wines of the Week August 11th-17th

1) Clos De Rochegres, Moulin-A-Vent, Chateau Des Jacques, Louis Jadot 2003 $12 (Auction Price – Retails is about $40)

What a surprise, the best Beaujolais I have ever had, hands down. If it were tasted blind I would have thought it to be a Pinot Noir. I got this at auction for a steal, as I looked it up and saw that it was retailing for $40+! Then I researched it more and it is a “Cru” Beaujolais of great pedigree!

Color: Deep ruby red, light ruby on the edges
Nose: Gushing aromas of cherry, raspberries and vanilla. As soon as I uncorked the bottle, red heady fruit smells jumped from the bottle!
Palate: Bursts of red fruit! Cherry, raspberry, sweet oak and an edge of minerality make up this wine’s palate of flavors.
Finish: Super long and tasty! Clean and refreshing tannin and acid structure.

2) Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $12 ($30 at Ox)
We had a cheapo bottle with dinner last night before going to see the new Batman movie and were quite happy with this value wine. Made from Cabernet grapes from the Central Coast region of Paso Robles, Liberty School is the value line of wines from the Treana Winery. Dark in color, the wine had a nice blackberry and oak vanillin nose, with a slight herbal whiff. In the mouth the wine was full of tasty dark fruits, a slight tinge of green pepper making it clear it was a cabernet sauvignon, and a nice fruit driven herbal finish with supple tannins framing out the finish.

3) Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Fay Vineyard Block 5C Merlot Estate Napa Valley 2000 $60

I dug this one out from the “back of the cellar” yesterday as I was preparing a few wines for auctions ending this evening that I was selling. I had not had this wine in a few years and had a few left so I figured I would give it a try. This is the best of these Single Vineyard Fay Merlots that I remember having. Of late the SLWC wines have been getting bashed by the wine press for being old and tired in style. Well, for me, I like to try many different wines and tasting new styles. The SLWC style is one that I like and now will do better to go back to.

Color: Dark Red, very Claret-like, light purple/red edges
Nose: Ripe Plum, Leather, Cedar and Anise – like eating a ripe plum in an old country club oak lounge.
Palate: Primary Plum and cherry fruit give way to more subtle stewed fruits with fine herbal notes. Some iron and mineral notes linger slightly on the finish. Very subtle oak notes frame in all those herbs and fruit.
Finish: A hint of acidity and plush, classic, Stag’s Leap velvety tannins finish the wine.

That’s all for this past week!

My Favorites