Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rivetto Nebbiolo d'Alba Lirano 2004

Well, still no calls to do anything so I walked down to Subway and got a 6" Meatball Marinara for dinner (maybe it's all that Italian wine literature) and returning home opened up a bottle of Rivetto Nebbiolo d'Alba Lirano 2004. Turned out to be a nice choice. Cherry colored with cherry and light bell pepper on the nose, good fruit, soft tannins balanced with good alcohol and a touch high acidity made it mouth watering and a nice compliment to the meatball and marinara.

Saturday Tasting At San Diego Wine Company

Well, with my beau out of town and no phone calls from any of my friends to do something I decided to go to the weekly wine tasting at San Diego Wine Company. I've been there before to purchase wine but never for a tasting and I discovered I have been missing out! The offering of 11 wines for $10 was topped only by the fact that you serve yourself. Although there were signs everywhere asking patrons to hold themselves to one tasting per wine (no limit on the size of what you pour) I did notice two older guys taking this as an opportunity to turn it into a wine drinking rather than a tasting. You will be proud to know that I limited myself to the usual 1 - 2 oz pouring. Since there were so many I will briefly present my notes for you here:

First up (and the only white) was Villa Mt. Eden 2005 Grand Reserve Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay. Golden straw in color and oaky, buttery nose. Good acidity, oak, creamy butterscotch and fruit makes for a rich Chardonnay.

Next was Domaine de Montrabech 2006 Vin de Pays D'Oc, deep purple in color with oak and mushrooms on the nose. Light bodied, good acidity and light tannins make this a pretty decent sipping wine.

We turn to Italy (my current country under study for my certification) with Tenuta di Mormoraia 2006 Chianti Collo Senesi made from the Sangiovese grape. Pretty ruby red in color with oak, earth and cherry on the nose and red fruit and moderate tannins and balanced acidity with a medium length finish. Great little wine.

Next up is another Sangiovese, Ca Del Solo 2005 "San Benito" Sangiovese made by Bonny Doon from California's Central Coast. Ruby running almost to garnet, earth and spicy cherry on the nose with cherry and spice well delivered to the palate. Wine was a big bang but over quickly with a short finish.

The Vivir Vivir 2006 "Ribera Del Duero" made a nice change. 100% Tempranillo, purplish red in color, spicy red current and cherries on the nose and red fruits with supple tannins and good acidity made this wine a pleasure to taste.

The Jindalee Circle Collection 2007 Shiraz was a good example of a very approachable Shiraz for the non-Shiraz crowd with spice, plums and blueberries on the nose and a fruit-forward light tannin palate.

Summerland 2006 Grenache, light red in color, raspberry and plum with almost a "brandied" scent and finish.

2005 Lolonis Redwood Valley Zinfandel from Mendocino County, California was a bright clear red, hints of spice and peppers with red fruit, rounded tannins, good acidity culminating in a medium-length finish made this a fine little Zin.

The next one was a surprise, a $10 Cab that didn't taste like a $10 Cab. Stonehouse 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon was a nice red (leaning towards a deeper hue), the black fruit/cassis nose, rounded tannins and good acid with the promised fruit on the palate made this inexpensive Cab a rather enjoyable Cab.

I had not heard of Panacea Winery but their 2005 Vindetta was a nice meritage. Red in color with some depth, black fruit with a hint of licorice on the nose and spice and fruit delivered with mild tannins and balanced acid will have me looking for more of their product.

We end the tasting with Michael-David 2005 "Petite Petit" Petit Syrah. Deep purplish-red in color with blueberries and touch of vanilla on the nose delivering black fruit with oaky vanilla, rounded tannins and mouthwatering acidity. Yummy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Diving Into Italians - Gavi

It's nearing the end of summer, my best friend and college roommate has his oldest son starting college, and so it's time to transition my wine education into an area I know almost nothing about, Italian wines. Given the relatively hot temperature I need a white so I pull out a bottle of Stefano Massone Gavi Vigneto Masera 2007 to aid me through a reading of the Piedmont area. And here I thought France was confusing! Burgundy has nothing on Italy when it comes to names and types of wine. So let's start with the basics... Gavi is made from the Cortese grape grown primarily in the Piedmont region (in Northwest Italy... this wine was made in the Capriata d'Orba municipality in the Province of Alessandria). Being a DOCG, this wine was made under some pretty rigorous controls. It is a light crisp white wine, almost lemon yellow in color. Coming in at 12% alcohol you don't get knocked backwards when you bring the nose to the glass to be greeted with citrus, apple and pear aromas. The palate delivers nice light fruit, maybe some green apple (soft at first but gaining a little bite on the finish) and the pear I got from the nose. Light bodied and refreshing with a little minerality and a medium/short finish it makes for a good relaxing summer sipper. I think it would pair nicely with a pesto dish or a light sandwich.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Two Wineries In Three Hours

Today Mr. Beau and I used the excuse of picking up my wine club shipment to do a little wine tasting in Temecula. Since we got a little late start we went to Leoness Cellars and had lunch at the wonderful Block Five restaurant. I had their flat bread "pizza" (crispy flat bread with pesto, roasted chicken and feta cheese) while my beau had their salmon. For an accompanying wine I had their 2006 Pinot Grigio (stainless steel fermentation allows the green apple and melon notes to speak uninfluenced by oak with nice crispness and refreshing finish) and he their 2006 Riesling (an off-dry offering with tasty apricot on the palate). After having satisfied our hunger we went to do a tasting and pick up our wine club shipment. I didn't go to any whites this time (having just had the Pinot Grigio) my taste buds lead me to the following standouts:

  • 2007 Lana~Lisa Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, named in honor of the wives of the owners of Leoness Cellars this rosé was made "saignee-style" made by running off or "bleeding" a certain amount of free run juice from the just crushed dark skinned grapes. A touch of sugar and nice raspberries on the tongue would make this a nice pairing for something spicy.

  • 2005 Cabernet Franc-Merlot, a nice nod to St. Emilion (could this become Temecula's Chateau Cheval Blanc?) this blend is wonderful with spicy notes on top of strong black cherry and blackberry, well rounded tannins balanced with good acidity and medium-long finish made me wish for a medium-rare steak to go with it. As I write I have a glass of this wonderful blend beside me.

  • 2005 Meritage, a tasty blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and just a touch of Petit Verdot carried aromas of tobacco and some hints of eucalyptus and brought black fruit and spice to the tongue. A fine blend.

  • There were others I could talk about (such as their yummy Zinfandel and Mr. Beau's ravings on their Muscat Canelli almost made me break my red binge) but you should be getting the idea I really, really like what Leoness Cellars produces.

    Our other tasting today took us to the other end of the Temecula Valley wine trail to Alex's Red Barn where we enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the place while being served by non-other than Alex himself! I have enjoyed his wines since my first trip to Temecula several years ago and today did not disappoint. As testament to the overall skill of Alex Mr. Beau told me that he enjoyed everything on the tasting list: Riesling, Viognier (one of the best I have tasted), Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon (and Mr. Beau almost never likes Cabs), Syrah, and Cream Sherry (a rare treat)! Alex doesn't "massage" his wines, letting the grapes speak for themselves. Many of the grapes come from vines that were planted over 40 years ago and have yielded fantastic fruit. As Alex told us, "When you have good grapes you don't have to "massage" the wine". One of the first wine courses I took said that the character of a wine is combination of "the grape, the ground, and the guy". Alex's Red Barn is a fine example of what can be done when the quality of all three is high.

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Charity Wine Tasting For Momma's Kitchen

    Last night my beau and I attended a charity wine tasting for Momma's Kitchen, a local organization that prepares and delivers food for people with HIV or other critical illnesses at no charge (a very worthy cause in my opinion). We arrived there at 7, just missing the whites being served but we did get a glass of sparkling wine before sampling the reds and diving into the finger food supplied by some of the better local restaurants (including one of my favorites, Bite). From what I could tell all of the wines were from one producer, Alice White. I was able to sample three:

    Alice White Shiraz 2007 - light plum and peppery nose (though I have to say, this was a smoking event so my sense of smell might have been a little off), very soft tannins for a young Shiraz, OK acid, short finish. A little soft for me, I like my Shiraz/Syrah to be a little more bold. Drinkable but nothing exciting.

    Alice White Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - better results than the Shiraz for me. Typical Cabernet Sauvignon with firmer tannins and better acidity than the Shiraz and a longer finish. Real Cab lovers might find it a little thin but again, drinkable.

    Alice White Lexia 2007 - a dessert wine from the Muscat grape. Nice honey-colored liquid with floral, peach, and apricot notes. A touch too sweet for me without something spicy to pair it with(a little more acid would have added some crispness that would have made it a better "drinking" wine) but a nice example of a dessert wine.

    The event appeared to be a success with the bulk of the crowd staying the entire time allotted. We are now looking into ways we can further support this organization.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Bottle Shock

    Tonight my beau and I went to see Bottle Shock at the Landmark Theatre in Hillcrest. Happily we both enjoyed the movie based on the event that has become known within wine circles as The Judgment of Paris. I had just read George Taber's wonderfully written book by the same name (as the event, not the movie) so I was up to speed on all of the details. As is the case with most movies based on actual historical events or based on written works the "facts" in the movie are liberally expounded. I don't recall Jim Barrett (played by Bill Pullman) being so hard up for cash or divorced (not quite sure why that part was thrown in), I don't recall the part of Sam (played by Rachel Taylor) in the written account nor Jim's son Bo (played by Chris Pine) being such a druggie/slacker but these things aside (and with Alan Rickman being a great Steven Spurrier) the key affect of the movie was made... that France was no longer alone in producing "world class" wines. The analysis at the end of Taber's book makes for a good read for anyone interested in the effects of globalization and how the one event literally created an awakening within the world to what is possible outside traditional thinking.

    After the movie my beau took me across the street to Sushi Itto for a wonderful dinner. Traditionalists might throw a fit but we love this place (a little pricey but everything we've had thus far has been good). We're fans of the calamari and their Panama roll. To accompany dinner I had a glass of the Columbia Crest 2006 Grand Estates Chardonnay, one of the better Chardonnays you can get for under $30 a bottle (retail price closer to $10 in most places... a steal). A nice fruit-forward Chardonnay with hints of spicy apple and pear leading to melon and just a light touch of sweet buttery oak on tongue with a mid-length finish makes this a enjoyable summery wine.

    So if you are just a little curious I would recommend you (1) see Bottle Shock and (2) grab a bottle of the Columbia Crest. If you really want an excellent accounting of the Judgment of Paris (as well as one heck of a crash course in the world of fine wines) get Taber's book, and of course if you are in Hillcrest drop in to Sushi Itto. Most importantly, do any or all of the with someone you love.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    What a Coincidence

    I just finished reading Judgment of Paris by George Taber last night and TODAY is the opening of Bottle Shock with Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman. A local wine group is going tonight but my beau and I have theatre tickets to see Romeo and Juliette so I can't make the group outing but I intend to attend the cinema this weekend!

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Foxen Tasting At Wind Steals - Point Loma

    Today I passed my second wine certification test (Wines of the United States), so to celebrate I decided to attend the Foxen tasting at Wine Steals. Given how much I enjoy California Central Coast wines I was really looking forward to this. Wine Steals at Point Loma has a beautiful location but no parking so I went a little early to find the place already packed. I grabbed a glass of Primitivo and went to the patio to find a place to settle in and wait for the tasting. After about 30 minutes out the wines came and I happily took my place in line. The tasting (4 wines, $5) went as follows:

    2006 Chenin Blanc Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard “Old Vines”. Light and crisp, good acid balance and hints of apple and pear (in some ways I was being reminded of a clean Sauvignon Blanc).

    2007 Chardonnay, Tinaquaic Vineyard. Again, light colored with a little more yellow tint than the Chenin Blanc. The nose reminded me a bit of buttered popcorn (malolactic/Oak fermentation) with notes of peach and vanilla. Nice acidity and minerality, will want to see what this wine is like in another year.

    2006 Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard. A fine example of a young-ish Pinot Noir. Clean, translucent cherry red coloring, notes of raspberry and cherry, well balanced acidity, fruit and soft tannins with a nice finish. Nice work!

    2005 Sangiovese Volpino, "Little Fox". Technically a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot (78%/22%) producing tight nose of earth and what I could best describe as chocolate-covered cherries. Firm tannins, good acidity and a nice finish make this a good food wine to have on hand.

    The Chenin Blanc and Sangiovese are nice examples of what a good winery can do with some of the "non-standard" grapes one usually finds around here. Now on to studying for my next test over wines of Italy... Filippi's anyone?

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    (Not) Sharing a Bite in San Diego

    Today a friend of mine was lamenting that he was bored and that he had nothing planned for tonight. Since I could not be with my beau I decided (admittedly last minute) to go to Bite, a small-plate restaurant in Hillcrest in San Diego and texted him on when I would be there. Sadly, I wound up alone this evening but I happily continue to recommend Bite to anyone wanting a fun Epicurean experience. I've been to Bite several times, most notably when my beau took me and several of my friends there for my 45th birthday dinner and over the last couple of years the food has remained consistently good. The menu is playfully divided into "Field", "Ocean", "Farm" and "Sweet". For a nice little appetizer I ordered from "Field", the grilled cheese baguette of Cremini mushroom, thyme, roasted shallots and melted Fontina. Just perfect for a meal for one or to share with one or at most two others.

    Hoping that my friend would arrive I ordered a bottle of MacMurray Ranch 2006 Pinot Noir. For those of you old enough this is Fred MacMurray of My Three Sons and Disney's Flubber fame. Monday is a great day to go to Bite because bottles of wine are half-price! Anyway, the MacMurray was a nice little Pinot Noir, bright ruby in color with a nose that promised red cherry and cola (with a hint of vanilla) and it delivered what it promised with a decent if not blunt cherry finish. So while I was deprived of the company of my friend I was able to spend some time with this wine as well as enjoy the wonderful Breakfast at Tiffany's playing on the screen.

    On another note, my best friend from college has challenged me to taste some wines from our home state of Missouri. I'm trying to find good, tasty representatives of what the "Show Me" state can produce. Once I do, I will get back to you.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Warm Summer, Cool Wines

    Last night I gathered a few people together at the house for a little cookout. The afternoon was cool and breezy, one of the benefits of coastal living but since it was summer I decided to provide some nice dry and off-dry whites to go with the slightly spicy appetizers (a shrimp skewer where the shrimp was marinated in a nice little concoction that included cayenne pepper and habanero chile) and shirmp quesadillas with colby jack cheese). On the menu were Alex's Red Barn 2006 Viognier and Leoness 2006 Riesling both from Temecula and Kalyra 2007 Pinot Grigio from Santa Ynez. All three were yummy and a great compliment to the food. The Red Barn Viognier was crisp with wonderful balance of fruit, acid and alcohol that left the mouth feeling fresh and clean, a testament to how they make their wines. The Leonesse Riesling was fresh, full of apricot and peach (the color even had a hint to peach coloring in it) delivered to both the nose and palate. These two wineries are my favorites in Temecula and both delivered on their promises for the meal. The Kalyra Pinot Grigio was delicious as well, bright and clean with nice fruit and mouth feel that made the consumers quite happy.

    After a while I decided that it wasn't fair for whites to get all the attention so I broke out a bottle of Fess Parker 2006 Pinot Noir American Tradition Reserve showing lovely red color matching the cherry and plum fruits it promised and delivered with just a touch of earthiness I enjoy in my Pinot Noir and just continued to show me how good Dan'l Boone is at winemaking (or at hiring the right people to produce consistently excellent wine).

    At meal time I offered my guests the Château Petit Bocq 2005 which I reviewed before and paired wonderfully with the marinated beef that my beau grilled for us.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Kenneth Volk 2005 Négrette

    I'm having some sadness as of late. You see, I started my wine collection some years back with my ex before we knew much about wine, not properly storing them and not knowing that most wines are meant to be consumed 3 - 5 years of vintage (a good rule of thumb if you need one). As it is the start of fall shipments I wanted to make room in my racks for the new comers (I just received my Fess Parker shipment) so I opened a bottle and discovered to my dismay that it was turning. Sadly this experience was repeatable on 5 different bottles! Oh well, now I know better. Anyway, I came across one that I had not see in a while, Kenneth Volk 2005 Négrette. "Négrette?" I hear you query. Not something you come across in your typical supermarket or even big-box liquor store. The Négrette is a red grape typically found in the south of France in the Midi region. The grape is thin-skinned, small-clustered and bares some resemblance to the Pinot Noir in tis being difficult to grow (the French call it the "little black bitch". Kenneth Volk says, Négrette is "difficult to grow, difficult to make, and difficult to describe". Think of a Pinot - Syrah hybrid. Luckily for me 7 was a lucky number, the wine was not spoiled! Deep in color (almost purple), it gave me a mix of earthiness, plum, spice and black licorice on my first inhale. Swirling produced some nice thick legs bearing the deep color down the inside wall of my glass and brought a smile to my face. The wine is fairly light bodied with a nice balance of alcohol, soft tannins, and hints of strawberry. With a glass in hand I was starting not to feel quite so bad over my lost treasures and a new appreciation for Matthew 6:19.

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    Firestone 2006 Gewurztraminer

    After a long, hot day and a light sushi dinner my beau and I opened a bottle of 2006 Firestone Gewurztraminer. Light yellow with a green tinge and citrus blossoms and minerals on the nose, the delivery followed up nicely if a touch short on the tongue and in the finish. Definitely some tangerine and pineapple. Pretty dry (about 0.5% residual sugar), small mouth feel and some decent acid to make the mouth water. Not a bad example but one that is lacking a little something, maybe should have opened it up earlier. Would probably be enhanced if eaten with a spicy food like a Thai curry. Probably peaking now so if you have a bottle open it and enjoy it in the heat wave.