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.


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