Thursday, January 29, 2009

Panarroz Jumilla Red 2006

Tonight I play the role of "grass widower" and needed a companion. I tend to haunt Bevmo and recently saw a wine that they advertised as a "Parker 90-point" for $8.99. That intrigued me enough tonight to pay for the little Spaniard and take him home. Panarroz Jumilla Red 2006 is a Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah blend (sort of a Spanish version of a Southern Rhone). I was so anxious I popped the cork and poured a taste. I was shocked at the first sniff, not what I was expecting at all. There was an expected smokiness, but it was accompanied by what almost smells like burning rubber. Hints here and there of fruit (and alcohol) but the harsh nose was a bit difficult to take. OK, I chalk it up to not decanting so I let it breathe. 20 minutes later it's still there, diminished but still makes its presence known. What about the taste? Nice acidity, some plum and dark cherries. The wine is young, grippy tannins combine with acidity to create an interesting "puckery" experience. I have to say, this wine doesn't do much for me. I agree with Gary Vaynerchuk who says "it's a love or hate wine - many won't like; I'm feeling this wine, many will love and many won't." (he gave it an 88 so obviously he liked it). I might try it again later but on the first tasting it's just not my kind of wine.

Wines Reported On In 2009: 69

Monday, January 26, 2009

Von Buhl 2005 Armand Riesling Kabinett (With Intro To German Wines)

Finally, my last "country-level" exam for wine certification! What I never realized is just how different Germany's wine classification is different from most of the rest of the world. Here German law makes classification a mix of region of origin, whether sugar has been added, and the ripeness of the grapes. The most recent overhaul of the German wine classification system occurred in 1971 creating four levels of "quality":

  • Deutscher Tafelwein: German table wine.

  • Deutscher Landwein: German country wine. Grapes must come from one of 19 Landwein regions and must be either dry or off-dry.

  • Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA):Quality wine from a specific region. This is the lower of the two "quality" levels. Wines are produced exclusively from allowed varieties in one of the 13 wine-growing regions and the region must be shown on the label.

  • Prädikatswein (until last 2007 these wines were known as Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)). Prädikatswein range from dry to very sweet (though most often dry or off-dry unless specifically stated)and always contain a noticeable amount of residual sugar. These wines are considered the top-quality wines.

  • Confused? Wait, it gets more fun. Depending on the amount of sugar level in the grape must there is a second classification:

  • Kabinett: Fully ripened light wines from the main harvest, typically semi-sweet with crisp acidity.

  • Spätlese: Literally "late harvest", typically semi-sweet and more full-bodied than a Kabinett but not anywhere nearly as sweet as a dessert wine.

  • Auslese: "Select harvest", semi-sweet or sweet wines (some botrytis allowed), covers the largest category of German quality wines.

  • Beerenauslese: "Select berry harvest", made from hand-selected extremely ripe, botrytis-affected grapes producing rich dessert wines.

  • Eiswein: "Ice wine", wine made from grapes frozen on the vine. Very concentrated wines with sugar levels at least that of Beerenauslese.

  • Trockenbeerenauslese: Something like "dry berry select harvest", these are the intensely sweet dessert wines.

    And this is just for starters! To save your sanity I'll stop here and get on with the specific wine tasted.

    Von Buhl 2005 Armand Riesling Kabinett is a Prädikatswein (or since it is a 2005, a QmP). This is a German Riesling, highest quality designation and lowest sugar classification. To be more specific, this is a semi-sweet wine, low alcohol (9.5%) and lovely racy acidity. Very clear and clean looking, this light wine is pretty tasty. The nose delivers an undertone of petrol covered by layers of peach and pineapple that bring to the mouth a lovely ripe stone-fruit flavor accompanied with very nice acidity with a medium-length finish that makes we wish I had some spicy Thai food. When you factor in the price it makes a great introduction to German wines (and a lovely certification companion).

    Wines Reported On In 2009: 68
  • Saturday, January 24, 2009

    Cabernet Wine Tasting At San Diego Wine Company

    Today my beau and I, after running some errands, went to San Diego Wine Company for what was a fun wine tasting. As the title of the post states, on deck today were Cab and Cab blends and while we both liked some more than other none of them bombed. This was a great tasting because it allowed me to find a couple of gems to take on my birthday outing that my beau has schedule (more on that next weekend). Today's tasting had eight wines, most from Napa but one gem came to us from Paso Robles and none that I had ever tasted before. Here was tasting in the order poured and my own notes:

  • Side Job Cellars 2005 "Sonoma County": This lovely blend (93% Cab, 5% Merlot, 2% Cab Fanc) was a great opener. Nice blend of cherries and black fruit on the noise that accompanied a little toasty oak and hings of chocolate in the mouth. Lovely balanced tannins and acidity and a steal at $14.95!

  • Ideology 2006 "Napa Valley" (Oak Knoll): A nice offering from Napa, darker than the Side Job Cellars, almost purple. Chocolate, "earth" on the nose. Very fruit forward, soft tannins, almost a "lite" aspect to it. Finish was a little short but a very drinkable wine.

  • X Winery 2004 "Napa Valley": Fantastic little wine, lovely fruit and milk chocolate on the nose, cherries and blue berries on the tongue with soft tannins and mouthwatering acid. If you are in the area, pick up a bottle... it's only $15.95!

  • John Alan 2006 "Paso Robles": Yum! Black cherries and chocolate on the nose delivering bigger fruit and chocolate on the tongue. Wonderfully balanced fruit, tannins, and mouthwatering acid producing a middle to longish finish.

  • Chappellet 2006 "Napa Valley": The first of two wines from Chappellet. Nicely made blend of Cab, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, slightly "rustic" in nature. Nice plum, cherries, chocolate, and a slight spiciness (cinnamon perhaps)? Nice, but between the two I'd splurge on the one coming up.

  • Turnbull 2005 "Napa Valley": Again nice, but I don't think it deserved the 90 points it got from Wine Spectator. Dark, deep, purplish hue. Nose seemed faint to me. Black Cherries, red cherries, and blue berries with slim tannins and good acidity producing a medium length finish. Probably worth a second tasting at another time. Again, nice but not sure if I would have rated it as high.

  • Stags Leap Winery 2005 "Napa Valley": Smooth! "Old world" type of nose with the wine components hitting all areas of the tongue with Black cherries, dark chocolate, and coffee along with lovely acidity combined with smooth tannins drawing out to a long finish that was a wonderful experience.

  • Chappellet 2006" "Napa Valley" Signature: What a closer! This has been Chappellet's flagship wine for three decades and no wonder, it is a hit. The pourer kept talking about cellaring it but I loved it as it was. Excellent. Extremely smooth, chocolate, caramel, blackberries, cherries, and cassis combine together to create a beautiful "jammy" experience for both nose and tongue. Stunningly balanced with a long, smooth finish. Definitely my favorite, but I am not sure I would want to cellar it instead of sharing it because this is one to experience.

    Wines Reported On In 2009: 67
  • Monday, January 19, 2009

    Syrah Wine Tasting

    Over the weekend I held a Syrah wine tasting for a small group of folks. I selected a few bottles from my collection to do a little compare/contrast the different styles out there. We were going to have 8 different wines to compare but due to a few drop outs (creating larger-sized "tastes") we made it through the six bottles in the picture.

    One of my biggest pet peeves with tastings is hearing the presenter talk about how a certain wine would go well with some type of food but not having any present for you to try out the pairing. In order to correct this, I created a few dishes and selected several cheeses and chocolates that I thought would pair with the Syrahs (if you want to try one, pick up Lindt's chili-infused dark chocolate). I grilled a peppered beef tenderloin and make a side of BBQ baby-back ribs for meats to try and for cheeses offered a Gouda (not smoked), a medium sharp cheddar, Emmentaler Premier Cru, and a Blue cheese along with the Lindt's mentioned above. All wines were stored at 55 degrees and decanted before serving. The wines we tasted (and my own tasting notes) were:

  • Hitching Post Purisima Mountain 2005 - A great wine! Probably the more subtle at first and slowly unfolding in the mouth. Great black fruits, "dusty" like a good Cote Rotie, hints of violet and a touch of what I consider tapenade on the tongue. Excellent tannin/acid balance with a nice long finish.

  • Fess Parker "Santa Barbara County" 2005 - Fess' entry-level Syrah but still quite nice. Ran a bit "hot" after the Hitching Post but nice blackberry, black cherry and peppery notes.

  • Mitolo "Jester" 2006 - Probably the crowd pleaser (and definitely the wallet pleaser), a great easy drinking Syrah that hits all of the traditional descriptions of black pepper, black fruits, black currant and some notes of spice. Easy tannins and nice acidity made it the best stand alone (that is, without food). The one wine where most of the people said food actually diminished the taste.

  • Brander "Santa Ynez Valley" 2007 - a little young but a nice dry Syrah. Bit of a flash in the pan though, lots of raspberry and pepper up front but I didn't get much finish. Tannins could relax a little with time.

  • Curtis "Ambassador's Vineyard" 2005 - Black currents, pepper, hints of oak (vanilla?). Most people thought it could use a little more time as well but showed promise.

  • Gainey "Santa Ynez Valley" 2006 - Nicely done. Blackberry and raspberry, hints of earth and a peppery spice, jammy on the tongue with ripe tannins and tasted oak notes creating a nice medium length finish.

    I think that if you just want to pop open a bottle of Syrah for consumption you can't go wrong with the Mitolo. If you want something "serious" and want to spend a little more ($33) definitely pick up the Hitching Post (but hurry, they are a boutique producer and make only a few hundred cases).

    Wines Reported On In 2009: 59
  • Tuesday, January 6, 2009

    Return To Santa Ynez Wine Country - Part Three

    Our final day in the Santa Ynez wine country found us having breakfast at Paula's Pancake House. After a quick walking trip through Solvang it was off to the last of the two "free" tastings along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

    First up was Curtis, an old favorite of mine. Here we tasted 10 wines, four of them not on the tasting menu:

  • 2006 Viognier: This is 100% Viognier, two-thirds aged in stainless steel, one-third aged in oak to add just a hint of creaminess. Beautiful bouquet of honeysuckle and apricot with come citrus at the finish.

  • 2007 Heritage Blanc: This vintage is a traditional Rhone-style blend of Viognier (55%), Roussanne (27%) and Marsanne (18%). I detected hints of pineapple and peach on the nose. Good acid, has a little bite in it, fresh and clean tasting.

  • 2005 Crossroads Grenache: I have to say, a little disappointed in it. Tobacco and blackberries on the nose but not much fruit on the tongue. Good tannins and acid but the fruit just didn't produce for me.

  • 2005 Heritage Cuvee: Another classic Rhone style, this time red, of Grenache (50%), Syrah (19%), Mourvèdre (18%) and Cinsault (13%). My notes read light spice/peppery, "jammy" black fruits, soft tannins, good acid, nice medium-length finish. Excellent wine for everyday enjoyment.

  • 2005 Syrah, Ambassador's Vineyard: Yummy! Peppery and floral on the nose, flavors of black cherries and blueberry with a long, lingering finish make this one a keeper!

  • 2005 Syrah, Rock Hollow Vineyard: When the Firestone Winery was sold, Curtis and Rock Hollow (Adam Firestone's little patch of heaven in the area) combined and we tasted one of the remaining bottle of the Rock Hollow Syrah before they become totally assimilated into Curtis. Beautiful Syrah, big aromas of raspberry and red fruit with just a touch of pepper giving over to bold fruit, chewy tannins, and a lingering finish.

    Off the menu we tasted...

  • 2007 Roussanne: Barrel aged in French oak and some malolactic fermentation gave this nice little wine some needed weight. Not bad, didn't do much for me.

  • 2005 Cabernet Franc, Rock Hollow: Our second pour from Rock Hollow and it was lovely. Chocolaty flavored red and black fruits, good acid backbone and tannin structure made this a delicious little Cab Franc.

  • 2005 Cabernet Syrah: First time I have tried a Cab blend from Curtis. Very nice. Deep color, spicy plums, a hint of smoke with a lingering finish. Wish they were producing more of this.

  • Jarhead Red: I've seen it, even bought a bottle for a gift (loved the name and the label) but never tasted it. I would call it a decent everyday red wine. A tad thin for me but not bad at all.

    Our final stop of the wine club wineries was Fess Parker. Every time I have been to Fess Parker I have come away more impressed than then last time and this time was no different. Here we tasted seven wines:

  • 2006 Chardonnay "Ashley's": 100% Chardonnay with 10 months in oak produced a lovely Chardonnay with good apple and pear on the nose and green apple, sweet oak and touch of butter on the tongue.

  • 2006 Viognier, Rodney's Vineyard": Aged 9 months in oak this pleasant little wine brought hints of peaches and lychee with just a touch of cinnamon to the nose and a clean taste of peach and honeysuckle with a nice bit of minerality packed into the finish.

  • 2007 White Riesling, "Santa Barbara County": nice tropical fruit and floral notes on the nose with a hint of gasoline (don't worry, this is somewhat traditional for Rieslings) delivering melon and a little citrus flavor for this taster. Sweet, but not overly so.

  • 2006 Pinot Noir, "Ashley's Vineyard": Beautiful pinot, all smoke and black cherries with moderate tannins, solid acidity and a long finish. The 15 months in oak brings a little weight which makes this a fantastic wine.

  • 2005 Syrah, "Santa Barbara County": One word... BIG! Black cherry, plum, black pepper and hints of chocolate. Indication of being "hot" on the nose but it wasn't in the throat which was a delight. Well made wine!

  • 2005 Syrah "The Big Easy": Robert Parker gave this one a 91 and I know why. Rich, smooth, hints of game, smoke, violets, vanilla and pepper make your mouth water as the elixir brings flavors of blackberry, blueberry, vanilla and light chocolate to the palate with a finish that just goes on and on.

  • 2005 Syrah, "Rodney's Vineyard": Rodney's Vineyard is where the attention is today and with good reason. Smoke, spice, plum, and even a little tar on the nose with luscious dark chocolate, cherry, vanilla and a little "fat" on the tongue. Another Parker high scorer.

    To make this a true adventure we decided to make one more stop. Following Matt Kramer's advice we decided to hit Foley Estates towards Lompoc (Tio Ely claims I was calling him a Lompoc but nothing could be farther from the truth). It definitely wasn't a bad selection and it came with an added bonus... by joining Foley I gained "free" tastings at three wineries! Can't beat that. We tasted a few wines, I will write about the ones that stood out to me:

  • 2006 Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay, Rancho Santa Rosa. I really enjoyed this Chardonnay. Aged 10 months in French oak, 100% barrel fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation... everything said not to like it but dang it I did. Hints of tangerine and grapefruit rather than the green apple I usually got along with creamy texture and a mineral finish made this a pleasure.

  • 2006 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, Barrel Select: Yum! Powerful wine yet not heavy. Lovely hints of cherries and spice with an underlying touch of vanilla, fuller mouthfeel than one expects but lovely texture and beautiful acid with a touch of "Pinot sweetness". Excellent balance and lingering finish made this a joy.

  • 2006 Santa Rita Hills Syrah, Rancho Santa Rosa: Bold. Deep color, rich aroma of blueberry and spices delivering a mouthful of bursting fruit, strong but not raw tannins and excellent acid.

    So, there you have it... our little adventure in a nutshell. Seven wineries, about 53 wines (sorry, left a few off), and two fun days with friends.
  • Monday, January 5, 2009

    Return To Santa Ynez Wine Country - Part Two

    The afternoon of the first day took us to the winery that my beau had longed to return to... Beckman. He didn't want to return just for the wine (Beckman is often noted as a winery to watch). No, he wanted to come back because of the Aussie that caught his eye when we were last there. Alas, "Patrick" had moved on to another winery, so we had to settle for the lovely wines. Here the tasting was of seven wines:

  • 2007 Purisima Mountain Sauvignon Blanc: lots of tropical fruits and apricot on the nose, but I think the nose overpromised the palate. I found the finish to be a bit on the short side, the experience being a flash of potential but failing to follow through.

  • 2006 Purisima Marsanne: Relecting a Northern Rhone approach this white contains 20% Roussanne in the final blend creating a creamy, clean wine of peachy notes and a nice minerality. Didn't knock my socks off but a good wine nonetheless.

  • 2006 Estate Grenache. I enjoyed this Grenache more than I did at Bridlewood. Strawberry jam and hints of oak with a touch of pepper. A very versatile wine, very nicely made.

  • 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: Aged for about 19 months in a combination of new and neutral barrels, this wine brought aromas of dried cranberries and flavors of chocolate and spicy cloves. My one complaint was that the finish seemed way too short for a wine with this much promise. Good, but coming up a little "short" to this taster.

  • 2007 Estate Syrah: I agreed with Cory when he said "pot roast" (a hint of gaminess I think). Black fruit, smoke, black pepper and solid tannins all combine to make a big wine that definitely benefits from decanting and shows good cellaring aspects.

  • 2006 Purisima Mountain Syrah: Here we get Beckman at their best. Spicy chocolate strawberries, gives the impression of being "hot" until you take that sip and get wonderful rich mouthfeel and soft texture to aid the fruit and acid tapering out to a long, delicious finish.

  • 2005 Purisima: A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah the notes said "This wine captures the soul of Purisima Mountain". If that is true what a wonderful soul it has. Chocolate covered raspberries, blackberries and cherries with a hint of smoke and spice that literally evolves in the mouth from very good to excellent and a lingering finish that is hard to interrupt for the next taste (but go ahead, you know you want to).

    With my disappointed beau in tow we went to our final winery for the day, Gainey. Gainey makes solid, reliable wines and they did not disappoint. The only kink was two of the pourers called out sick so one person was doing the pouring for the rather large group, so "Tio Ely" and I batted our eyes at our significant others and off they went to stand in line for us to get each subsequent pour. While there we tasted:

  • 2007 Limited Selection Riesling: A touch of residual sugar shaped up nicely with the good acid of this wine. The nose is greated with floral fragrances (mainly Honeysuckle) and apricot. The palate tasted peach, pears, spice and a touch of minerality on the finish. A nice, well-made Riesling.

  • 2006 Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc: 50% barrel fermentation with 8 months barrel fermentation makes this Sauvignon Blanc a little different than those we had tasted. Hints of melon and pineapple are present, a slighly creamier texture than the typical Sauvignon Blanc. The palate picks up a little citrus towards the mineraly finish.

  • 2006 Limited Selection Chardonnay: 100% barrel fermented, 11 months barrel aged in 45% new oak. This is a California Chardonnay (but not in a bad way). Intense, complex aromas and flavors that keep popping up as this taster continued through the pour. Light toasty oak, almost creme brulee or butterscotch. Fruits appeared... mostly peach and mango with a touch of apple and I recall a little peach. Good acidity with a lingering minerality on the finish makes this a wonderful wine.

  • 2005 Limited Selection Merlot: Gainey does a nice Merlot. Spending 21 months in oak makes for a nice complex wine. Chocolate, toasted hazelnuts, black cherries all together made for a wonderful mouthful of well-made Merlot wine.

  • 2006 Limited Selection Pinot Noir: Again, hints of the oak come through but not in a bad way. Raspberry, cherries, maybe a hint of tea and spice on the nose combine to make the mouth want a sip. That sip brings excellent acidity with the above mentioned fruits and soft tannins for an enjoyable experience.

    Unfortunately I don't have my notes so I don't remember the rest of what we tried. If you have had Gainey or if you like most of your wines to have a kiss of oak then you will enjoy what they produce.

    After Gainey it was time to check in to the motel (my tradition, The Windmill Inn as featured in Sideways) for a clean up and a short walk to dinner at the delicious Hitching Post 2!

    Next up... day two!
  • Return To Santa Ynez Wine Country - Part One

    This past weekend my wonderful beau arranged for a short getaway with our friends Cory and Elbert (see pic above). As they are both interested in studying wine and just enjoy the whole wine experience we went up for a two-day trip to the Santa Ynez wine area north of Santa Barbara. So, we rented a car and early Friday morning off we went. Since this is an off season trip the rental cost and the hotel room was very reasonable and given that I have wine club memberships at six wineries in the area tasting would cost nothing. After only one mistaken exit in the LA area, we arrived at the first winery, Brander.

    As regular readers know, I love Brander and it tends to be my traditional first stop. Fred Brander makes what I consider to be some of the most pure Sauvignon Blanc I have tasted in California and his Cuvee Nicholas, a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend is a delight to the senses. At Brander we were fortunate to taste nine of their wonderful offerings:

  • 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, au Naturel: no oak, no malolactic fermentation, just pure grape expression. Hints of lemon and a bit of "citrisy zing", refreshing, excellent acid structure. If you want to taste Sauvignon Blanc this is it. This one was offered to us "off menu" and made a great beginning for the tasting.

  • 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Purisima Mountain Vineyard: another unoaked Sauvignon Blanc which brought hints of tropical fruit to the nose and a beautiful, terroir-induced hint of minerality in the finish that one finds in the classic Sancerre.

  • 2006 Cuvée Nicolas: Aged sur-lie for 3 months in French oak you start to get a little more richness and silkiness to the texture of this Sauvignon Blanc. Hints of vanilla and butterscotch on the nose, the mild oak adds a little more body to a wine which continues to have a little citrus zest to it.

  • 2007 Uno Mas de Brander, Grenache Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc: another one not offered on the menu, this is a fabulous wine with the two grapes putting together any orange and lemon combo of scent and taste with the more fuller bodied Grenache Blanc supporting the leaner Sauvignon Blanc. Bravo!

  • 2007 Merlot: four months in oak was just enough to add a little body and soften the tannins of this tasty red. I immediately got the impression of chocolate covered cherries. Very drinkable now but I might hold it another 6 months.

  • 2007 Syrah: Light pepper, black currents and blackberry all come together with moderate tannins and good acid for a solid Syrah.

  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: Cherry and vanilla were the first to hit me. Not a bad combination, especially with the soft tannins and good acid combine to deliver a lovely medium-length finish.

  • 2006 Bouchet; Bouchet is another name for Cabernet Franc and this blend is 50% Cab Franc, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Syrah (we're in the Central Coast after all). Full of black fruits, silky tannins, nice acid, a long finish... this wine can be enjoyed now or held for up to 5 more years. Excellent stuff!

  • 2007 Moscato Di Fredi: a lovely finish to this part of the trip... the tasting notes got it right "low alcohol, moderately sweet, and slightly sparkling".

    Next on our trip, we literally went around the corner to Bridlewood (another wine club to which I belong). Perhaps the prettiest property, when I first went tasting here their wines were "ok" but I had detected a steady improvement over the years and was happy to see that this improvement was continuing. Here we were offered eight tastings (three off the printed list):

  • 2006 Chardonnay: A nice Chardonnay (93% with at least 6% Viognier) with aromas and flavors of green apples, hints of vanilla and a touch of spice ending with a little minerality on the medium-length finish.

  • 2007 Central Coast Reserve Viognier: Pretty nose, all honeysuckle and light tangerine leading to a flavor blend of peach and guava all with a creamy texture. Lots of fruit with enough acidity not to be flabby makes it a fun drink.

  • 2006 Arabesque: A southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah, and others aged in oak for a wine that is very fruit forward bringing aromas of cherries, plum, hints of chocolate and a touch of spice added to the taste bringing this taster a long, enjoyable finish.

  • 2006 Grenache: Nice, but not the best I've had from them. Hints of spice and strawberry jam. Not bad, but didn't bowl me over.

  • 2005 English Pleasure Syrah: Now we are off the tasting list and what a wonderful detour it was. Black fruit, smoke, violets, cedar, spice (cinnamon maybe?) all combined to join soft tannins and excellent acid to make all of us go "wow". Well done!

  • 2004 Dusty Trails Syrah: Well named, hints of leather and smokey-oak, plums, quite dry. Big wine with strong earthy components.

  • 2005 Estate Syrah: Allowed to rest in small French oak barrels to age for 24 months prior to bottling this wine, once uncorked, gives up spicy cocoa with hints of vanilla. After letting it breathe the rich black fruit comes forward with Cassis leading the way and finishing with licorice and herbs.

  • 2005 Syrah Port: 100% Syrah barrel aged for 24 months, 9.03% residual sugar, 18.25% alcohol. A nice port-style offering... hints of blackberry and licorice, chocolate, some nutty aspects that all come together for a nice finish.

    That's the morning... will write more a little later.