Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Tale of Two Cabernet Francs

I had a Chinon this past Saturday night and it blew me away so I wanted to have a Cabernet Franc from my stash with dinner tonight. Chinon is located in the Loire Valley of France and is famous for its Cabernet Franc based red wines. I was so impressed last night that tonight I wanted to have another Cabernet Franc. The peppery and earthy Chinon was fresh on my brain and taste buds, what better time to double dip and see how a new world version compares. Also, Lisa did not want any wine and dislikes most Cabernet Franc so I figured this was my chance. I personally only have Cabernet Franc from the US so since I have had the Pride a few times I passed on that and went straight for my only bottle of the 2002 Soter "Little Creek" Cabernet Franc. I have to say historically Chinon and I got off to a bad start. I bought a bottle of Chinon a few years back with huge hopes and it ended up being one of the few bottles I have ever poured down the drain, not even good enough to use as cooking wine as it tasted like iron, overwrought green and black tea and under-ripe green bell peppers. That wine was obviously not a great example because it was out of balance and literally under-ripe. Too someone new to Chinon they may liken it to overly stinky cheese - one may have to be in an adventurous mood as most are so distinct and not what one reaches for on a regular basis. I have had many since that have had those flavors and aromas in better harmony with the acidity, tannin and fruit in an exceptional Chinon (or Bourgeuil its neighbor to the north in the Loire Valley). Saturday's wine was one of those exceptional examples: 2004 Domaine de la Noblaie, Chinon Les Chiens-Chiens.

The Chinon from la Noblaie had a medium to dark red color. The bouquet jumped out at us with notes of green pepper, spice, cherry/cassis, and slight notes of meat and iron. Medium bodied, the palate was still peppery but focused as it meshed well with the cherry and cedary spice box flavors. I thought this wine is not for everyone but Lisa did say it was the best CF she has ever had. I have a good friend who I think could really like this wine. Brad, check this one out!

Tonight the 2002 Soter Cabernet Franc "Little Creek" is dark ruby red in color. Earth, spice, and black cherry dominate the nose with some coffee notes. Green bell pepper is there but more in the background. The green pepper is more noticeable after an hour. Definitely medium bodied (13.6% alc.). In the mouth spicy cedar frames beautiful cherry, pepper and sage flavors. Oak (sparingly) iron and ripe berry fruits fan out on a smooth lengthy finish. Some meat notes enter the fray after about an hour being open. Not as much of the green pepper and black tea thing going on as I would have hoped, but likely not the goal of Mr. Soter. This is still a very delicious wine and a notch up from the Pride made on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. This wine is composed of 75% Cabernet Franc, 20% Malbec, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Soter is based in Oregon in the Willamette Valley but the fruit for this wine is from the Napa Valley in a little known area east of the city of Napa called Tulocay. Tony Soter ships the grapes north to Oregon. Tony Soter has been in Napa for over 20 years as a consultant and is most famous for making the Etude wines from inception. Etude is a favorite stop of mine when I visit Napa as they roll out the red carpet for visitors and allow you to taste their whole portfolio of premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir wines they are selling at that time.

Maybe I am so excited because I had been so under-whelmed by Cab Franc in the past or maybe it was the fact I was furniture shopping right before I had this wine. Either way I will be looking out for more well priced Chinon and Bourgeuil to drink in the coming months. Even in the summer a nicely chilled Cab Franc goes great with any cookouts or grilled meats, even tuna and swordfish.

I will likely experiment with fewer new world examples as they seem to be generic and not very varietal specific. The Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Les Chiens-Chiens 2004 goes for about $15-20. I can by 3-4 of for the cost of the Soter which retails at $75+. If I want to splurge, the Soter is a great wine and very delicious. But for my money the complexity and character of CF from the Loire Valley regions of Chinon and Bourgeuil will be where I will be focusing.


Monday, January 07, 2008

2004 Mascarello Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco - Giuseppe E. Figlio $19.99

Color: Scarlet red on the edges with darker hues at the center
Nose: Earthy, mineral, herbal notes with hints of berry fruit
Palate: Earthy and mineral, plum, herbal with firm tannins and acidity
Finish: Clean and refreshing from the acidity, earthy and plumy fruits echo the aromas and flavors
Tonight Lisa made some Porcini Mushroom ravioli in a Pomodoro sauce. Lisa made the Pomodoro from scratch, with tomatoes, olive oil, grated Romano (an adequate and much cheaper substitute for Parmesan Reggiano) and garlic. The ravioli were from Vito’s in Hoboken who makes their own fresh and frozen. To pair with the ravioli we needed a wine that would match well with the earthy mushroom, subtle Ricotta/Romano cheese filling, and the acid in the Pomodoro tomato sauce. We would need a wine with fresh acidity and an earthiness a Sangiovese based wine like Chianti Classico or a lighter Italian red like Dolcetto can deliver. I decided on a Dolcetto (fresh out of drinking priced Chianti or Sangiovese). If I had my druthers or the inventory for it I may have tried a Pinot Nero, aka Pinot Noir, because of the earthiness of the mushroom ravs but I have none on hand. I chose a 2004 Mascarello Dolcetto D'Alba Bricco by Giuseppe E. Figlio. Bricco is the name of the vineyard. Bricco is a famous vineyard that produces world class Barolos for the few wine makers that have access to its fruit. Giuseppe also makes 3 different Barbera, as well as 5 classic Piedmontese Barolos made from the Nebbiolo grape from other single vineyards in Barolo.

The Mascarello Dolcetto Bricco thoroughly impressed Lisa a few months back and when I saw the bottle in a shop a few weeks ago I had to snap one up. The first time we had this wine it was at the bar at Cru, a great restaurant in New York City that has a deep and high quality wines by the glass menu. Not to mention two enormous wine lists; one each for red and white and each the size of the Bible! Cru is a special place to grab a glass of wine and a cheese plate if in the area or planned out. Dinner is fabulous and one can have dinner about 20 different ways in 3-9 course creations; made to order with as many or little courses as you wish or can eat based on your tastes and preferences (off menu), a seasonal 7 course tasting menu, or create your own prix fixe dinner based on the usual 11 First Courses and 8 Main Courses and 5 deserts. You can also pair with your meal with the premium wines by the glass poured at the bar or maybe talk the sommelier into some 1990 DRC and 82 Mouton! For my 30th birthday Lisa and I dined here and had the 4 course prix fixe (I had 5).

At first I was surprised how dark the wine was. The first time around I guess I did not notice it as the bar area at Cru is pretty dim. The nose had old northern Italian smells of earthiness, minerality and herbal notes with some red berry fruit. The herbal notes were not easy to pick out but I would say sage bay leaf, and maybe some tobacco. On the palate we had plum fruit, with tastes of the herbal notes, leather and lots of minerality and earthiness. It tasted like the wine was made in the large Italian casks and after some research I found out they were raised in large Slovenian oak casks (see picture at right). Highly structured with firm tannin and acid structure, this wine had a lot of stuffing and was excellent. This is not a wine for beginners; those without proper palate appreciation would think this is bitter and tannic. I thought it was a great Dolcetto, even at an uncharacteristically freakish 14.5% alcohol because of the super high tannin and acid content that balanced the high alcohol content. I can still taste the finish, delicious!


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Marlborough Man Wine?
"The Show", 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, California

bought this wine after seeing it was under $15 and a California wine from a Napa Valley incorporation (Rebel Wine Co.). How much of it is Napa? Not very much, supposedly just a pinch as the label designates a California Appellation, not any specific region such as Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, etc. This wine is likely left over or bulk juice not good enough for a better bottling and sold off to the “Three Thieves” that created Rebel Wine and slapped a clever label on the wine. I will give them that, the label is pretty cool. It would have to be as it from a very popular concert poster publisher (Hatch Show Print). 80% Cabernet, 8% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 35 Petit Sirah, and 3% Petit Verdot.

The color was ruby and medium purple. At first you can tell from the nose the wine was overly oaked with dominating scents of smoke and wood. I was certain it was once I tasted it. It smelled like vanilla and later tasted like chocolate. It smelled and especially tasted out of balance with cedar and milk chocolate from the wood, green pepper and tobacco with additional smoky meat notes. Lisa said it tasted like mesquite beef jerky dipped in caramel. I felt it was more like a wood flavored ice cream pop dipped in milk chocolate.
I only write this blog entry to deter you from making the same mistake I did. This wine was totally out of balance and overly oaked.
Good talk.

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