Thursday, December 30, 2010

Foley Chardonnay 2008 "Steel"

The more from Foley I try the more from Foley I like. This is a wonderful example of a Chardonnay that was stainless steel fermented (no oak, no "toastiness") and malolactic fermentation (no roundness and no buttery notes). Here we have a pure expression of Chardonnay. On the nose I get notes of citrus (mainly lime but a touch of lemon curd as well), some wet slate and just a touch of Riesling-like petrol. The wine is lean, lively acid and lemon/lime in the mouth with a slightly zesty, med/(+) length finish. Simply lovely, should hold well over the next couple of years.

Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 139

Monday, December 27, 2010

Castoro Cellars "Blind Faith" Syrah 2006

It's been a while since I have visited Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles so it was fun to find this particular offering at Trader Joe's in Hillcrest. With many pleasant memories of tastings and trips past I purchased a bottle and took it home. And a pleasure it was. This is not a big, overwhelming Syrah. Instead there is some subtly in this wine. The nose is loaded with anise, cherries, a touch of floral and spice scents and an undertone of earthiness. In the mouth, well, what you smell is what you get. The wine is medium bodied, smooth tannins, medium/(+) acidity, sour cherries and spice with a medium length finish with just a touch of heat at the end. Pleasant, fun, a little different than most from Paso Robles.

Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 138

Sunday, December 26, 2010

La Vielle Cure 2005

The Bordeaux 2005 vintage was hot and heavy, one of the best in 50 years. This of course means that if you look at any of the main names for Bordeaux reds you might get stick shock. At times like this it pays to look at some of the satellite regions around the better known ones. What we have here is an excellent wine from a lesser known (or at least lesser publicized) region of Fronsac. This appellation lies just to the west of the more celebrated areas of Pomerol and Saint Emilion. Being a "Right Bank" Bordeaux we would expect a higher concentration of Merlot and that is what we get here with this wine being around 80% Merlot. This lovely wine was inky/ruby in color with a loaded, layered nose of black cherry, cassis, blackberries, mocha, and a touch of minerality and spice. The wine is medium/(+) bodied, concentrated with still strong but not overly powerful tannins and a balanced acidity leading me to think we have a wine that is just now entering its real drinkability and should evolve more the next 5 years. We get nice black and red fruits blending with the tannins and acid to give a lovely long finish. If you want to experience a solid wine from a legendary region produced during a historically proclaimed year at a price that won't break the bank give this lovely wine a try. Pair it was a lovely cut of beef and you'll have a fabulous experience.

Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 137

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Playing Catch Up

With work picking up the last few weeks I've fallen behind putting up my reviews. In an effort to catch up here are 10 mini-reviews I've pulled from recent tastings:

Scott 2009 "Arroyo Seco" Chardonnay: Lemony-yellow, tropical fruits and lemon, buttery notes indicating malolactic fermentation. Med/(+) bodied Chardonnay with a med length finish. Good value, would wait another year before popping the cork.

Laird 2007 "Cold Creek" Chardonnay: Golden straw, buttery, tropicla fruits, hints of oak. Med bodied, "round" with enough acid to keep it from being flabby. Nice finish. Drink now.

Hitching Post 2008 "Santa Barbara" Hometown Pinot Noir: Redish-purple hue, med (-) intensity. Love the nose, cherry, dried roses, a littl earthiness and spice. Med bodied, nicely balanced. Only shortcoming was a med(-) length finish. Good value.

Kermit Lynch 2008 Cotes du rhone: Black cherry color, light nose withhints of blackberries and spice. Dusty tannins, slightly twiggy finish. Not a fan.

Cellars Baronia 2006 "Montsant": Blend of 63% Garnacha, 32% Carinena, and the balance Syrah and Merlot aged in stainless steel. Purple hue, med intensity. Black cherries, raspberries, hints of mulling spice and earthiness. Med bodied, good acidity, smooth tannins, med/(+) length spicy finish. Excellent value, should be lovely over the next 3 - 4 years. For those who care, Robert Parker gave it a 92 (and it's less than $10 a bottle).

Nozzole 2006 "Chianti Classico Riserva": Nice example of a good Chianti at a reasonable price. Dark brikc, broad core. Nice red and black fruits with good earthiness and mushrooms and a touch of tobacco. Med/(+) bodied, nice acidity, smooth tannins that firm on the finish.

Le Conseiller 2005 "Bordeaux Superieur": Parker gave it a 91 but I'm not sure why. Dark, deep core. Baked black fruit on the nose, fruit forward with ok acidity and fairly smooth tannins, not thrilled with the finish. OK, but didn't knock my socks off.

Hedges 2007 "Red Mountain" Meritage: Purple hued. Black fruit, sweet oak, mulberry and hints of baking spice on the nose. Good balance, med/(+) bodied, long finish. Good example of what a Washington state producers can do with a Bordeaux-style blend.

John Alan 2006 "Paso Robles" Meritage: Blackberry, mulling spices, touch of mocha. Nice fruit, smooth tannins and decent acid. med/(+) length finish.

Opolo 2008 "Summit Creek" Zinfandel: Garnet, med intensity. Black chery, raspberry nice with a touch of spice. Nice but I found it a touch muted and flabby overall.

Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 136

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Conn Creek Anthology 2003

Last night I was at my favorite place in Hillcrest, MA4 with a couple of friends. I brought along something that had been in my collection for a while now, Conn Creek Anthology. Conn Creek is a little boutique winery in the Rutherford AVA in Napa. Their Anthology cuvee is made from a collection of grapes sourced from Napa Valley’s finest vineyards and several diverse AVA's. Anthology is a Bordeaux blend (heavy on the Cabernet Sauvignon so more of a left bank than right bank) so here we have Cabernet Sauvignon from AVAs like St. Helena and Carneros, Cab Franc from St. Helena, Merlot from Atlas Peak, Petit Verdot from Yountville, etc. What you get is a fantastic blend that seems to bring out the best in each varietal to build something whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I really enjoyed this wine, deep black cherry in color, lovely nose of ripe currant, plum, black cherry, and lovely spicy oak. Nice balance of fruit, acid, and slightly dusty tannins all coming together to give a med/(+) length finish. Excellent, though I would say it is definitely hitting its peak so if you find a bottle drink now through next year.

Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 126

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chateau La Fleur De Jaugue 2005

Just as with the Gevrey-Chambertain let's have a little wine lesson. When you look at the Bordeaux region of France we see a large river (Gironde) opening into the Atlantic and running through the center having two major tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne. Everything you need to know to sound like you are an aficionado centers on knowing these rivers.

The region situated on the right bank of the Dordogne is called the "right bank", the "left bank" is the region situated on the left bank of the Garonne (which includes the city of Bordeaux itself). The land between these tributaries is called "Entre-deux-mers" (French for "between two seas"). In Bordeaux the concept of terroir plays an important role in wine production so as with housing it's all about location, location, location. Now why is knowing this important? Because for wines that are AOC you can give a good guess to the primary grape depending on whether the wine is a "left bank" or a "right bank" wine. Since most wines in Bordeaux are blends its difficult to be exact but you can tell at least major components. In general red "right bank wines" (including the big name regions of Pomerol and Saint Emilion) are dominated by Merlot while "left bank" reds (Key subregion is the Medoc) you get bolder wines with Cabernet Sauvignon the key component. Since Entre-Deux-Mers is primarily a white wine region we'll leave it out.

Chateau La Fleur De Jaugue is located in the Saint Emilion region where wines tend to be a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (with concentrations typically in that order decreasing). Given that we know immediately that this wine will be dominated by Merlot which will make it a little softer and more round than some other reds which is what we get. The wine is a dark ruby/purple and looks pretty in a proper wine glass :) The nose is a lovely black-fruit experience with blackberries, black plums, hints of tobacco and spicy cedar, maybe a little licorice. This is a med/(+) bodied wine, nice acidity and ripe, moderately sweet tannins that all come together to give a medium to med/(+) length finish. Very pure, smooth wine. Nice value introduction to the fabulous 2005 Bordeaux vintage which should hold up for at least five more years.

Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 125

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gevrey Chambertin Estournelles Saint Jacques 2006

Ah Burgundy, home to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, oh how you are loved... and misunderstood. Actually it's not our faults we don't understand you but it's your danged confusing classifications! So let's take a little jaunt into Burgundy wines before reviewing this lovely red.

Burgundy is located in the east-central area of France and is about one-quarter the size of Bordeaux. Part of the problem with the naming of Burgundy wines is that ownership of the vineyard lands is terribly splintered because of French inheritance laws. As a result you have a lot of land owners with small vineyards who have to sell grapes to negociants who will blend and sell the wine.

Within the area of Burgundy we find four distinct vineyard areas:

  • Chablis: Known for its minerally Chardonnay.
  • Cote d'Or: Broken down into two segments, Cote de Nuits (where the wine to be reviewed comes from) and Cote de Beaune where we find both whites (primarily Chardonnay) and reds (Pinot Noir) with Cote de Nuits known more for red while Cote de Beaune is better known for whites.
  • Cote Chalonnaise: Like Cote d'Or but generally lighter in style.
  • Maconnais: Known mainly for its Chardonnay.

    Some people include Beaujolais but we'll leave it out at this time.

    Burgundy has a rather interesting classification of vineyards where the highest ranking sites (called climats) are designated grand cru or "great growth". Each of the 33 grand crus are granted an AOC of their own named after the vineyard (examples being Chambertin, Clos de Tart, Richebourg, Romanee-Conti). The next level are called premiers cru which fall under the appellation of their commune. As you can tell from the bottle this wine is a premier cru. Don't worry if this sounds confusing, it gets even worse and confuses even the best of us from time-to-time. In fact the Burgundy region contains 100 appellations for quality wines and over 4000 domaines (wine growing estates) and you can make a career studying just this region. What you really need to focus on is that Burgundy red is Pinot Noir and Burgundy white is Chardonnay (in general).

    So what about this wine? As the label says this is a "Red Burgundy Wine" so we have a Pinot Noir. It's from the Gevrey-Chambertain area of the Cote de Nuits so it's one of the better known regions for Pinot Noir which gives us high hopes for this wine and let me say it doesn't disappoint. The color is a lovely bright ruby red, very clean and med/light intensity. The nose is classic Pinot Noir, all cherries and red berries with a hint of oaky vanilla and spice and a touch of lovely earthiness I oh so love in a Pinot Noir. On the tongue we have lovely bright acidity but not racy in any reason, nice delivery structure for the berry/cherry fruit and chewy but not overpowering tannins that create an almost tobacco experience. The wine all comes together to give a med/long mouthwatering slithly spicy finish. Very nice now this wine should be able to age and develop over the next five years.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 124
  • Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Fess Parker Syrah "The Big Easy" 2006

    I know, I know people get tired of me talking about the great wines I get from Fess Parker but I can't help it, they make excellent wines. The other night I had yet another one in their 2006 "The Big Easy", a wonderful Syrah that I think would make most palates jump for joy during the fall/winter seasons. This wine is dark ruby in the glass promising a bold experience and it does not fail to deliver. But unlike some that are pretty one dimensional "The Big Easy", like NOLA itself, is deceptive. It's not a basic, laid back, one-note place. Just like the blues, this wine is layered and deep, bold and smooth. The nose opens with blackberry jam with hints of blueberry, cola, red currant, graham cracker, mocha, and a touch of vanilla. The wine is full bodied, round with slightly dusty tannins and a fine acid structure to carry the dark fruit and spicy toastiness throughout the mouth and provide a fine, long finish.

    This wine is just hitting its stride and should continue to evolve for another five years. Can't wait to see what happens then!

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 123

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Schilde Estate Shiraz 2007

    Ah Shiraz, just like the Aussies who made this wine are loud, playful, and energetic so too is this vintage of Schilde Estate Shiraz. It's funny that as I am finishing a book on the evils of "Parkerization" that I sip a wine that is truly in the "New World" style. You know what, screw 'em if they don't like it. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know that the Rhone region is the home of Syrah and that even the most bold of the ancestors of "Shiraz" pale against what the Yanks and the Aussies crank out. The big difference I guess between me and the the others is that I know and appreciate the differences and I take these wine for what they are, not what I think they should be. Aussie Shiraz (at least they call it something different than Syrah, points for that) is just like the good folks from down under... bowls you over upon first greeting but extends a hand to lift you up as you walk to the pub.

    OK, enough of that... there is a wine here to review.

    Very pretty in the glass, deep, dark red with a pretty broad core. The nose does lend itself to a touch of heat from the 14.5% alcohol but it's matched by lovely dark cherries, black currant, and dark chocolate along with a hint of "toastiness". This wine is full, slightly thick but not quite a cloyingly sweet wine, this is richness more like dark hot cocoa. The fruit remains and combines with solid but not overly tight tannins and enough acidity to carry it all over the mouth and linger to a medium/(+) length finish. Quite a lovely experience.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 122

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Argentina Tasting at San Diego Wine Company

    Seems like ages since I've written a review, the curse of having a day job I suppose but the day job does allow me to support my avocation. I was fortunate to attend a recent tasting at San Diego Wine Company where the lineup was all Argentina. In the United States we know Argentina for its Malbec (which actually has its roots in the Cahors area of France) so it does make a solid appearance here as well as the distinctive Torrontes whites.

    Crios 2009 "Salta" Torrontes: Clean, earl, lemon tinted wine. The nose is lightly floral. Palate is "green" with citrus, hints of lime, med/- acidity all coming together with a touch of minerality on a medium-length finish. Quite nice and well priced at under $10 a bottle.

    Colome 2009 "Salta" Torrontes: Another Torrontes, nice compare/contrast in styles. Clean, clear, lighter straw color than the Crios. Nose is more floral with hints of lime and grapefruit. similar palate as the Crios but with a touch more acidity creating another clean, medium-length finish.

    Graffigna 2005 "San Juan" Cabernet Sauvignon: Clean, ruby with a hint of purple in the core. Nice nose, ripe fruit, hints of cassis and chocolate. Med/+ body, fruit-froward, smooth tannins, balanced acity all coming together to give a pleasant medium/+ length finish.

    Tempus Alba 2007 "Mendoza" Tempranillo: Well made wine from a grape better known for wines from Spain. Clean, medium intensity with purple/black hues. Berries and cherries on the nose with a touch of earthiness that I found appealing. Lively palate, fruity and peppery giving a medium length finish. Nice.

    Tempus Alba 2008 "Mendoza" Malbec: Deeply purple, intense nose of plums, ripe berries, hint of smoke and vanilla. Lively mouthfeel, less pepper than the Tempranillo and tons of ripe fruit, long fun finish.

    Zolo 2009 "Mendoza" Malbec: Broad inky core, medium/+ intensity nose full of raspberries and violets. Very fruit-forward, balanced acid and tannins, nice pleasant medium-length finish. Pleasant, fun.

    La Madrid 2008 "Mendoza" Bonarda: Surprising unknown, Bonarda was until recently the most widely planted wine grape variety in Argentina (only recently been surpassed by Malbec). Dark broad core, fruity, ripe berry nose, hints of baked figs and maybe mulberries. Med/+ bodied wine, ripe fruit and smooth tannins, nice med/+ length finish. Give this a try.

    Kaiken Ultra 2007 "Mendoza" Malbec: Dark, opaque, broad core with little bleed at the edges. Nose loaded with berries, violets, figs but slightly "hot". full bodied, juicy, good balance of fruit, tannin, and acid. Quite a buy at $16.

    Ksana 2007 "Mendoza" Reserva, Malbec: Clean, med/+ intensity depth of purple hues. Big fruity nose with hints of earthiness, balanced palate giving me a nice medium/+ length finish.

    Good wines, for something different I definitely suggest the Bonarda jut to try something different.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 121

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Eathquake Zinfandel 2007

    There's been a lot of words in print and the ether of the WWW about wine style, especially the war between "New World" style and "Old World" style. I'll be writing on that topic a little later but for this posting we're talking definitely "New World" in this offering from the Lodi Appellation in central California. Old Vine Zin is Lodi’s specialty, with some families tending vines over 120 years old (there is no real formal definition of Old Vine but 120 years is pretty danged old) and some of the best Zinfandel today comes from Lodi. This wine is a great example of a big, expressive "New World" style wine. Deep ruby in color this wine opens with black cherry, plum, dark chocolate and a hint of white pepper on the nose. A full-bodied wine, the tannins were dusty with nicely balanced acidity and luscious dark fruits producing a long finish with a touch of spiciness that was delicious. If you like a juicy, fruit-forward wine with nice acid and tannin structure that packs a little punch you'll definitely enjoy this wine.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 112

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Brander Cuvee Nicolas 2009

    Brander was where I first came to enjoy white wine and with the latest release of their Cuvee Nicolas they just keep getting better. Best known for their Sauvignon Blanc wines in this blend we have a fine expression of Bordeaux white wine with a 75/25 mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes aged sur-lie in 50% new oak. This wonderful dry wine is fantastic bringing expression of lemon, a touch of gooseberry and lovely little floral and vanilla hints creating a complex, layered experience. The wine is refreshing without being racy, balancing acid and fruit that produce a medium length finish and this taster wanting more.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 111

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Laird Pinot Noir 2007 "Ghost Ranch"

    I love a good Pinot Noir and I found one in Laird Pinot Noir 2007. The wine came from Ghost Ranch in the Carneros which is a wonderful AVA that straddles both Napa and Sonoma and known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (think Burgundy). The wine looks lovely in the glass, a light clean garnet. The nose was medium (-) intensity delivering cherries, rapsberry, a little strawberry and just a touch of earthiness that I really like in my Pinot Noir. The wine is medium (-) bodied, juicy acidity, almost mouthwatering with just enough smooth tannins to create a fine medium length finish. A juicy, subtle (for California) experience that I really enjoyed.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 110

    Mason Sauvignon Blanc 2007 "Napa"

    Dang it's been hot, so here we go for something nice and cool. The latest selection is Mason Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2007, a well-reviewed Sauvignon Blanc (Wine Spectator 90, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 88). Well, it was nice but it was a little bit of a disappointment... not bad, but a while the components were nice (pretty color, nice nose of pineapple, citrus and hints of grass), the oral experience was a letdown. I felt it wine coat my tongue due to a lack of acidity. There just wasn't enough acid in the wine to bring the flavors out, rather leaving them flat. A little sad, I was so looking forward to a refreshing experience.

    Number of wines reviewed on 2010: 109

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Beckman Grenache 2006

    I'm missing the wineries of the Santa Ynez area. While searching through my holdings I came across this bottle which brought back so many memories of travels to the that area and to Beckman Vineyards in particular. Since it's first offering Beckman has been a producer of extremely well made Rhone varietals. Their Syrahs tend to be superb so this Grenache should not disappoint... and it it didn't. This wine is made from 100% Grenache from the Purisima Mountain Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, barrel aged in 100% neutral oak so you get the full varietal experience. The nose on here is beautiful, full of red fruits (strawberry is the standout for me with maybe a little cranberry) along with a touch of vanilla. The wine is medium acidity, medium bodied with lovely black cherry along with hints of dark chocolate and spiciness on the tongue. Well made, well balanced, medium/(+) length finish all made this a lovely wine. If you have a bottle, drink it now.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 108

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Schloss Gobelsburger Gruner Veltliner 2008

    The August 2010 issue of Wine Enthusiast boldly stated on its cover "If you like Pinot Grigio you'll love Gruner Veltliner". Well, I do like Pinot Grigio, its light citrus notes and crisp acidity makes for a beautiful wine on a hot summer afternoon so I wondered if I really would love Gruner Veltliner. The Gruner Veltliner grape is found mainly in Austria and the Czech Republic and is made into white wines of many different styles, most of which are meant to be consumed young. The wine I selected to take up the Wine Enthusiast challenge was the 2008 Schloss Gobelsburger Gruner Veltliner. This wine was light lemon in the glass and though it may have been a trick of the light seemed to have a light sparkle in my glass. The nose was very nice bringing to mind pear, hints of lemon peel and a few spicy notes that made me think crisp but surprising with some body (go figure). What the wine delivered to the palate was exactly that... medium/(-) body, medium-to-medium(+) acidity, spicy pears and just a little citrus combining to a medium/(-) length crisp finish. Do I love Gruner Veltliner? Can't quite say that, haven't tried the different styles but I can say they were right, this is a very easy wine to branch out to for something different. If you like Pinot Grigio or even the Kabbinet style German Riesling, give this wine a try on a hot afternoon... you won't be disappointed.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 107

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Inama Soave Classico 2008

    Inama makes some wonderful wines in the Veneto region of Italy and this is a nice, reasonably priced addition that makes a fun summer drink. All of the Soaves are 100% Garganega which when given the proper treatment can produce light wines with hints of wild flowers, lemon curd and nuts. This crisp Italian white has a nose loaded with wild flowers, lemon zest and flinty minerals. The wine is medium/(-) bodied, nice acidity, and a palate that demonstrates hints of stone fruits, citrus and lovely Old World minerality on a pretty long finish. A delightful alternative to the usual summer selections.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 106

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    "Fabulously French" Tasting At Winesellar

    A little late in posting this wonderful excursion to Winesellar & Brasserie where the theme was French wines. Armed with a collection of W. H. Auden poems I passed the time tasting the following wines and enjoyed a lovely lunch. The wines for this tasting were:

    2007 Eric Morgat, L'Enclos, Savennieres, Loire Valley: A lovely 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley this wine had a lightly floral nose with hints of honey, peaches and lemons. Medium/(-) bodied, peach, lemon, a little spice on the rather lengthy finis.

    2007 Domaine Faiveley, Clos Rochette, Mercurey, Burgundy: A white Burgundian means Chardonnay. Here we have a touch of peach, apricot, spice, maybe honeysuckle on the nose, nice acidity with green apple, peach and a little cinnamon on the palate and a medium/(+) length finish. Very nice.

    2000 Chateau La Fleur Morange, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux: Yummy! clear, dark ruby core with just the slightest bleed of color at the rim. Nose promises spice, black fruits, plum. Medium body, good acid/tannin balance, dark fruits and spice with a touch of cocoa on the long tasty finish.

    2006 Chateau Pulingy-Montrachet, Nuits Saint Georges, Burgundy: Burgundy, the home to Pinot Noir and here we have a classic expression that is both full bodied and graceful. Medium (-) intensity nose full of rose petals, cherries, red berries and cola. Medium acidity, medium (-) smooth tannins, spicy cherries on a long silky finish.

    2006 Domaine Le Sang De Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras, Rhone: A masculine Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault blend showing very intense color and an interesting nose that is somewhat brambly, almost meaty with hints of spice and tobacco. Balanced acid/tannin, surprisingly smooth medium length finish.

    2006 Domaine De L'Hortus, Coteaux Du Languedoc: Clean, deep inky core with just the slightest bleed. Black fruits and tobacco nose, powerfully dry, firm tannins, good acid support, dark chocolate, blackberry taste and a long finish.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 105

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages 2008

    It's warm and summery, traditionally white wine weather but ya know there are just some times I get in the mood for a reds (actually in the grand scheme of things I am much more of red wine guy) so last night I opened a bottle of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages 2008. Beaujolais is a terribly misunderstood appellation of France because what the majority of wine drinkers know of Beaujolais is the fun, fruity must-be-consumed-immediately "nouveau" that comes out just in time for Thanksgiving (and makes a good pairing for traditional "turkey day" meals). Beaujolais is much, much more than that.

    *** Warning, educational material coming up ***

    Usually grouped in as part of Burgundy but apart from some blurring with the Maconnais area there isn't much they have in common. Beaujolais is dedicated to the Gamay grape and while the traditional production method is for "red fruit", smooth, kinda "happy" wines there is wide variation in wines that are from this region.

    There are 12 main appellations in the Beaujolas district that can be thought of as three groups:

  • Beaujolais, accounting for about half of the wine sold. This is the basic AOC. Usually drink within a year of production.
  • Beaujolais Villages, an intermediate level designation which includes wine from any one or more of 39 designated villages. Can hold its appeal for a two or three years.
  • Cru Beaujolais, the highest category of classification in Beaujolais, account for the production within ten villages. These wines do not usually show the word "Beaujolais" on the label and hold well for several years and each of the ten productions have their own characteristics that make them distinct from the others in this group.

    *** End of educational material ***

    In the glass this wine appears clear, medium (-) intensity bright cherry color. The nose is clean, lightly fragrant with wild flowers and red berries leading the way and just the slight undertone of what I initially got as orange peel. The wine is dry, light bodied, medium acidity, low smooth tannins and having a flavor profile of red berries and just the tiniest hint of spice on its medium length finish. This is a refreshing red wine, meant to be served chilled like a white and a lovely little red wine summer companion.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 99
  • Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Gris 2008

    It's a sunny, warm summer day so wanting something crisp and refreshing I reached for a bottle of King Estate's Pinot Gris. This Oregon winery always delivers so it was good to find out this wine was just one more in a long line of good valued wines. Pinot Gris is usually mildly floral with hints of citrus and that is definitely what you get here with a little something extra. In the glass the wine was clear with a light yellow-green tint. The nose was delicate but lovely yielding pear, hints of peach, lime zest and just a hint of floral notes. On the palate this is a dry wine, medium to medium (+) acidity with flavors of citrus, touch of apricots and peaches and a hint of minerality on the lovely long finish. Crisp, light, delicate... just what I needed.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 98

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Domaine Sylvain Bailly 2008 "Sancerre"

    In the eastern part of the Loire Valley in France you find the Sancerre which until the last century was known for its red wines, especially Pinot Noir. A bout of the root louse phylloxera devastated the crop and today it is known for its wonderfully expressed wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape which is dry, pretty acidic, loaded with gooseberry and peach and a minerally finish. Today's wine, Domaine Sylvain Bailly is a perfect example of what you can expect from a Sancerre. In the glass the wine is clean, clean, somewhat watery with just a touch of green. The nose was aromatic, citrus, a touch of melon, a little gooseberry and something that was reminiscent of mineral water (without the bubbles). The palate was dray, clean and crisp with medium-to-medium (+) acidity, green apple, touch of citrus all coming together to a medium length minerally finish (felt like I licked a rock which for this wine is a good thing). If you want to know what classic Sancerre is like this is a good, inexpensive way to find out.

    Number of wines reviewed in 201: 97

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 "Marlborough"

    When you are tasting your way through Sauvignon Blanc wines there are basically three styles you can look forward to: "Loire" style which is minerally, "steely", slightly "green" herbal and probably the most elegant style for Sauvignon Blanc, "Bordeaux" style where you get more blends of this grape with Semillon where the wine is a little more "round", hints of citrus, then there is "New Zealand" style where you get excellent expression of gooseberry and grassiness with more steel fermentation to get leanness but not quite the minerality of a Loire. California tends to be all over the map though it seems that quite a few producers lean toward the Bordeaux styles. So here we have Spy Valley's wonderful entry, a definitive New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. Compared to the last two of this variety I have to say this one is a powerhouse and gives you a great introduction to Sauvignon Blanc without being expensive. In the glass the wine was very pale straw with just a touch of green showing both varietal expression and youth. The nose was fantastic expressing limes, gooseberry, a little grapefruit and green grassiness. Commit this nose to memory and you will always tell a Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is zippy, medium (+) acidity, lean but not so racy as to make you shudder or hurt your teeth. There is a touch of fruity sweetness that works well with the acidity, hints of lime, tangerine and grapefruit all rolling together to provide a lip-smacking medium length finish that somehow produced the slightest hint of flint. Go get it and see why it earned a Wine Spectator 91... hard to beat for the less than $13 a bottle price.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 96

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Wine Tasting At San Diego Wine Company

    Today I went to the weekly tasting at San Diego Wine Company. As usual an enjoyable time (until the two women who seemed to bath in perfume came in). Here are my notes on the nine wines presented:

  • Tin Barn 2009 Sauvignon Blanc "Hi Vista Vineyard": Clear, light; lemony tint. Nose is slightly grassy, citrus, slight hint of melon and oak. Crisp palate, med acidity, green apple and citrus with a touch of minerality on the finish. Good example of California Sauvignon Blanc at a very reasonable price.

  • Fort Ross 2009 Rosé of Pinot Noir: Clean, pink core, fades a bit toward the rim. Nose is strawberry with just a touch of peach. Palate is clean, a touch "prickly", light/medium (-) bodied, juicy strawberry and stone fruit with the slightest hint of oak. Medium (-) length finish, very pleasant.

  • Fort Ross 2007 Chardonnay "Sonoma Coast": Clean, bright lemony-buttery color uniform to the rim. Nose is a nice lemon meringue, hints of buttery popcorn. Palate is medium (+)/full bodied, medium acidity, malolactic butteriness, citrus, nice medium length finish.

  • Jocelyn Lonen 2008 Chardonnay "Napa Valley": clear, bright, lighter intensity than the Fort Ross. Nose shows malolatic fermentation and oak along with melon and a touch of citrus. Palate was surprisingly lively, medium acidity, decent fruit delivery and a medium length round finish.

  • Tin Barn 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon "Sonoma County": Opaque, deep core with slight bleeding to the rim. Big black fruit on the nose with hints of dark chocolate and cloves. Wine is full bodied, medium acidity and tannins, good black fruit, smooth tannins, just a touch of sweet oak. Medium finish that had a little heat toward the end.

  • John Alan 2007 Cabernet Franc "Paso Robles": Deep, not quite opaque, tight core with significant bleeding to the edge. Nose very fruit-forward, black fruits, stewed prunes, dark chocolate. Palate is dry, strong but smooth tannins, medium acidity, good fruit, touch young, good now but better next year.

  • Jocelyn Lonen 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon "Napa Valley": Deep, opaque, red with touch of purple with uniformity of color to the rim. Nose is blackberry, cassis, runs a touch hot. Full bodied wine that delivers smooth tannins, medium acidity, nice black fruit with a medium length finish. Drink now through the next couple of years.

  • John Alan 2007 Malbec "Paso Robles": Inky red with just a hint of purple in the core. Nose is dark fruits, hints of smoke and a tiny bit vegetal. Medium acidity, smooth tannins, red fruits, touch hot on the finish.

  • Tin Barn 2007 Zinfandel "Russian River": Opaque, deep ruby core, slight bleeding at the rim. Nose shows heat, red fruits, touch of cinnamon. Palate is dry, hot, big spicy fruit, medium acidity, hot medium finish.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 95
  • Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2007 "Napa Valley"

    Ah, if you're looking for a good priced, high quality zingy summer wine this is it. But first, let's get something out of the way. Fume Blanc is a marketing creation from the mind of Robert Mondavi to circumvent the negative image people had of wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape in the 1970s. In fact, in many ways we have Robert Mondavi to thank for saving this lovely varietal from the many, many insipid sweet wines that went by that name. So Mondavi's Fume Blanc wine is Sauvignon Blanc (with a splash of Semillon). Mondavi's Fume Blanc leans toward the Loire style which is a little less "ripe" than the similar Bordeaux blend, hence the opening line in this review. Now, back to this wine... lovely appearance, clean, bright, watery appearance with just a tinge of yellow. The nose is clean, crisp, loaded with fruit (citrus, orange blossoms, hints of melon and peaches). On the palate this was a little lighter in body than the Gainey and while had similar notes and tastes was more zingy and zippy (drinking it side-by-side with the Gainey would be a good Bordeaux style vs Loire style comparison) with medium (+) acidity, lime, lemon and a touch of white peach and picking up just the slightest echo of slate in the medium length finish. This wine was made for warm summer afternoons spent with friends.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 86

    Gainey Sauvignon Blanc 2007 "Limited Selection"

    Yes, another Gainey. Why not? Gainey puts out quality stuff and with my current tasting of Bordeaux varietals I should open with a good one moving to the whites. The Limited Selection is not a pure varietal but like its Bordeaux cousin it is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc with just a touch of Semillon to add a little roundness. This wine is very pretty, clean, light yellow with just a touch of green in it. On the nose I got some good notes of green apple, lemon, lime, melon and a tiny whiff of grassiness. The palate was a nice reflection of the nose, a dry, medium/medium (+) acidity with nice citrus flavors, a touch of melon and some minerality on the pretty long finish. This is a fun, refreshing, drink it now and maybe over the next year wine.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 85

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Gainey Merlot 2007 "Limited Selection, Santa Ynez Valley"

    When I first sampled Gainey wines several years ago I wasn't a big fan. At that initial tasting almost a decade ago I thought they over-oaked their wines. They weren't bad, just took oaky on the nose and palate. Well, in recent years that view has changed and I am a fan so when it came to finish my Merlot varietal tasting I pulled a bottle of their 2007 Merlot Limited Selection". Now this isn't a pure Merlot, closer to a right-bank Bordeaux (as if that is a bad thing) but what I like is that it is a Merlot that doesn't try to be a Cabernet Sauvignon as so many do. I loved the look of this Merlot, clear, medium intensity ruby with a tiny touch of youthful purple and uniform color bleed out to the rim. The nose was also clean with nice black cherry, plum and hints of blackberry and spicy sweet oak. The taste is quite lovely, medium bodied, medium/medium (+) acidity, smooth tannins and the promised flavors of black cherry, plum, sweet oakiness and some chocolate at the open that gave this taster a lovely, long, mouthwatering finish. I would say this wine is hitting its stride and will continue to build over the next year or two.

    Number of wines reviewed in 201: 84

    Saturday, June 19, 2010

    Mirassou Merlot 2007

    Next up on the hit parade of Merlot varietals is the widely available Mirassou Merlot 2007. This wine is lovely to look at, clear, deep purple core with a color bleed to a ruby-purple toward the rim, nice legs after a couple of swirls. The nose is clean, medium intensity black-blue fruits (got pretty good blackberry and black cherry with a hint of blueberry and oak). This is a dry medium bodied wine with medium-to-medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, cherry and blackberry coming through as well as some sweet oakiness all rolling up to a decent medium-length finish. It's wasn't bad but I have to say while all of the components were there the wine left me feeling as if the sum was not greater than the parts, as if part of the promise left unfulfilled. Perhaps having it was food might mellow and bind the components together a little more and help out, but I don't see myself drinking it on its own.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 83

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    On The Road To The CSW: Part One

    With the arrival yesterday of a certain package from Amazon my study material is complete. For those who don't know I am working toward earning my "Certified Specialist of Wine" from the Society of Wine Educators. There aren't that many globally and getting this certification will push me from about the top 15% to around the top 10% globally in terms of demonstrated knowledge (my current certification, "AW" from the Parker-Zraly Institute got me to my current designation). Why? Because I want to. Really, that's it. Oh, there may be a career change at some point, especially if I go on to earn a CWE (which would place me in the top 5% of wine experts) but with the CSW it is strictly something I want to do. Most people designate a good year or two of intensive study after a few years of being in the trade to get this level of certification but I've decided to be a bit more ambitious and have given myself 3 months (end of September) to get through the examination process.

    For study material I have assembled the following:

  • Society of Wine Educators CSW Study Guide: The canon for the exam, rather expensive as far as books go but it provides the foundational material for the exam.

  • Essential Winetasting: I have to say, from what I have seen thus far if there is one book I can recommend to people wanting to get a solid introduction to the basics this would be the book. If you know the material in here you can ace the WSET Level 1 and probably even Level 2 tests. Plus it's pretty, glossy color pictures showing you what you need to see in vivid color.

  • The Art And Science Of Wine: Probably the book you need to understand the wine making process. Since a good portion of the SWE exams cover the science of wine this is a must (as well as a good reference to have if I ever get the nutty idea of going for a MW which is quite literally like getting yet another PhD).

  • The Sommelier Prep Course: Covers much the same material as the official SWE guide but includes chapters on beer and spirits, the things a truly good sommelier needs to know to provide full adult beverage service in a high-end establishment.

    And that's it... four books, three months. Let the fun begin.
  • Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Ghost Pines Merlot 2006

    So here I am at one of my favorite establishments in Hillcrest (some of you might recognize the place from that small bit of background showing through) with my friend Sarah and a bottle of Ghost Pines Merlot 2006. I've reviewed their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon already and since my varietals review moved into the Merlot grape I thought trying out their offering would be a pleasant experience... and I was right. This wine is clean, deep ruby with a tint of purple, consistent color saturation almost to the rim. The nose is lean, medium-to-medium (+) in intensity with lovely blackberry, black cherry, and just a hint of dusty chocolate on the nose. The wine is dry and delivery a juicy fruit-forward experience with medium (to medium (+)) acidity and very smooth tannins all flowing together to a medium length mouthwatering finish that only wants more.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 82

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Leonesse Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 "Sperling Cellars"

    I've been a fan of Leonesse for a rather long time and it was very convenient that my latest Vineyard Select shipment contained this Cabernet Sauvignon to round out my Cabernet Sauvignon varietal review. This wine was lovely in the class, clern with a medium (+)/ deep intensity ruby with just the slightest touch of purple in the core. The nose is clean with medium/medium (+) intensity cassis, black cerry and some underlying herbaceous notes of eucalyptus and bell pepper. The palate was dry with medium acidity and tannins creating a medium/medium (+) bodied wine with flavors of black fruits and just a hint of sweet oak. Medium length finish with the tannins tightening up just a touch toward the end of the finish. Very, very good now, will probably peak next year as a knock out.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 81

    Bodega Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 "Mendoza"

    When it comes to Argentinian wines few names stand out like Catena so during my varietal review I selected their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon as an example of South American, New World styles (The Wine Advocate goes so far as to say "Bodegas Catena-Zapata remains the reference point for Argentina wines" so it seemed like a good choice. The wine was lovely in the glass, clear, deep purplish core with a more ruby-hued color extending to the rim. The nose was clean, medium intensity with blackberry and cassis with just the slightest hint of smoke and cedar. This dry wine is medium bodied with medium to medium (+) acidity, very smooth tannins and juicy fruit (again blackberry and what I got as some black cherry) with a good, medium length finish. All-in-all a nice wine and tough to beat for a solid example of a well priced wine from Argentina.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 80

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    An Interesting Three Way

    Three way comparison that is. Given that I am sticking with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape this week I decided to do a little comparison between a local, Alex's Red Barn Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, against the popular Michael Pozzan Cabernet Sauvignon "Knights Valley" 2007 and the well respected Argentina Bodega Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza 2007 (which was awarded a 90 by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and the producer Nicolas Catena was named "Decanter Man of the Year" in 2009). I have to say that in all three main areas: sight, nose, and palate the local Red Barn offering held its own again the larger, better know producers. Visually the two slightly younger wines were a bit darker and had more of a purple tint to them which was to be expected. On the nose the Red Barn Cabernet Sauvignon was a touch more intense and the finish was a little longer (both the Pozzan and Catena were for this reviewer toward the medium (-)/medium length). So for those who are downplaying the local producers I think you really should put out of your mind the fact that Temecula doesn't have any big blockbuster names and instead view it as a place to find some very respectable undiscovered gems.

    For the Catena review look to my next posting for the details.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Michael Pozzan Cabernet Sauvignon "Knights Valley" 2007

    I've been seeing more and more of Michael Pozzan Winery products in the trades so in kicking off my review for the CSW exam with Bordeaux varietals I thought getting a bottle of the winery's Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Knights Valley AVA (viticultural designation for a region in Sonoma) would be a fun time. Given this AVA is known for Bordeaux varietals (as well as a few Rhone varietals) I had pretty high expectations. The wine was clean, deep ruby-purple with a pretty broad core. The nose was clean, medium (+) intensity of blackberries and cassis with some nice earthiness undertones. So far so good... looks good, smells good. That leaves one more things, taste. The wine is dry, medium acidity and smooth tannins, very juicy in the mouth with some blackberry and what I swear is black cherry. What surprised me was the finish... the fruit seemed to go away pretty rapidly with the overall finish being pretty short (I would call it in WSET terms a medium (-) finish). Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad wine, far from it, but I was hoping for a little longer making out after the date.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 79

    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    Alex's Red Barn Winery

    Today the hubby and I took a trip to our local wine country located in the Temecula AVA. Our first stop was to Alex's Red Barn Winery. This boutique winery is one of my favorites, making wine that the is true to the grape. As I was taught years ago, wine is a reflection of three basic things: "the grape, the ground and the guy" (okay that last bit is a little sexist sounding but that was the quote). In other words, wine is the production of the varietal (or type), the area where it is cultivated (the idea of "terroir", that the wine will have characteristics of where the grape is grown), and the winemaker ("guy", or as I should say, "person") and his or her idea of what the wine is supposed to be. Alex's Red Barn Winery is a wonderful expression of this combination. Alex Yakut, proprietor and winemaker, does a fantastic job of creating clean, grape and ground expressed wines that are consistently high quality and today's tasting was no exception. Below are the wines that we tasted and my notes in WSET format.

    Old-vine Johannisberg Riesling 2009: Clean, clear, light colored lemony tinted in color. The nose was clean, light (+) intensity with hints of petroleum, peaches and apricot creating a lovely aroma. With a touch of residual sugar the wine is off-dry, medium (-) bodied , medium to medium (+) acidity with nice stone fruits coming together to deliver a refreshing, medium length finish.

    Old-vine Sauvignon Blanc 2009: Clear and clean with light greenish-yellow hue. Clean nose, medium (-) to medium intensity of grassy honeysuckle and gooseberries and just a touch of wet slate. In the mouth one gets a clean, medium bodied wine of medium (+) acidity, grassy citrus flavors and good mineral on the finish. This wine shows excellent structure and balance.

    White Cabernet Sauvignon 2009: This is a lovely summer wine, clean and light (+) salmon-colored hue in the glass. The nose has a lovely light floral fragrance with hints of cherry and strawberry. The wine is off-dry, a touch of residual sugar combining with medium acidity and a bright strawberry and cherry forward finish that lengthens to a dry, lip smacking finish at the end.

    Grenache 2008: This is a relative newcomer to the Red Barn Winery lineup and quite a lovely one. Clean, medium intensity ruby in the glass with a smallish core but good uniform intensity to the rim. The nose was clean, medium intensity aroma of cherry, touch of black currant and just the slight hint of sweet smoke. On the palate the wine is dry, medium intensity and tannins with lovely bright black cherry all coming together to a surprisingly medium (+) length finish with lingering fruity tannins.

    Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic wine from a classic grape and what you get here is a fine expression of a New World Cab. The wine is clear with medium (+) intensity that is ruby to garnet in the glass with a nice uniform color bleed to the rim. The nose is clean with bits of smoke, black cherries, black currant and just a touch of green peppers. The palate comes off dry with excellent medium to medium (+) acidity and tannins, black cherry, black currant, a touch of smokey raspberry blending to a medium to medium (+) finish that ends with just the slight hint of minerality.

    Syrah: The Red Barn Winery Syrah is clear, medium (+) intensity with a small, deep core with good color to the rim. The nose is clean, smokey black curreant and hints of black pepper. The wine is medium to medium (+) bodied with medium to medium (+) tannins, medium acidity, black fruits and peppery spices providing for a medium (+) length strong finish. This wine could lay down another year for a little more tannin softening but quite fine was it is.

    Cream Sherry: The Red Barn Winery is the only place in Temecula I know that makes this type of sherry. This is an "oloroso" style sherry meaning it is produced by a method of oxidative aging producing a darker colored, so this is a sweetened sherry having the color, nose, taste of a nutty butterscotch and caramel. You can almost think of it like a fortified liquid brittle or less-sweet "Sugar Daddy" candy. Lovely.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 78

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Alex's Red Barn "Old Vine" Sauvignon Blanc 2007

    If you've been reading my blog for a while you know by now I have a few wineries in the local Temecula Valley AVA that I really like. One of the most consistent producers of good quality wines is Alex's Red Barn Winery and on a warm afternoon I reached for their Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc, 2007. This was a lovely, very clear lemony hued wine with the color extending out to the rim (a nice sign). The nose was clean, medium intensity with notes of grass, lime, green apple and a little gooseberry, a lovely style of Sauvignon Blanc. In the mouth you get a lovely dry medium bodied wine with good acidity and flavors of citrus and green apple that all combine to give a nice medium length mouthwatering finish. An excellent refreshing wine that should pair well with salads and fish dishes (especially when using a citrus-based sauce).

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 71

    Friday, May 28, 2010

    Torre Zambra Winery 2005 Colle Maggio/Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

    Italy. Everyone knows Chianti (from the Sangiovese grape) and Barolo (from the Nebbiolo grape), but how many know the Montepulciano grape? Well if you don't know about it I have to say the search can definitely be worth it. Here I was able to sample a lovely Italian wine that was a little off the American beaten path that didn't make me sweat when I paid for it. The wine was deeply colored, sill a little purple with a deep core and color bleeding out to the rim. On the nose I was greeted with black almost jammy fruits, dark chocolate, a hint of espresso and what I could best describe as "sweet oak". The wine was medium-full bodied, excellent acidity, smooth, almost sweet tannins and loaded with ripe black fruit all swirling together to give a medium-long finish. A fine companion to any roasted or grilled meat.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 70

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Old World vs New World: Red Flight At Jake's On Sixth

    What better way to spend time waiting for friends for dinner than to do a flight of wines. Saturday night I was at Jake's On Sixth and decided to try their Old World vs New World red flight, two Pinot Noirs and two Tempranillos with one entrant in each from "Old World" and one in each from the "New World".

    For the Pinot Noir wines I sampled (with WSET notes):

    Queen of Hearts Pinot Noir 2008 "Santa Barbara"
  • Appearance: Clear, medium (-) intensity ruby with a broad core, defined meniscus.
  • Nose: Clean. Wine was served a tad warm so got a whiff of the 14% alcohol. Got some red fruits, strawberry, oak, a touch of cherry cola.
  • Palate: Definitely dry, medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, tart and tangy, got black cherries, cranberrie, almost a peppery spice. Medium length finish.

    Overall, ok but didn't do anything for me.

    Hob Nob Pinot Noir 2007, France
  • Appearance: Clear, medium intensity ruby/purple Much deeper, darker core than the Queen of Hearts.
  • Nose: Clean. medium intensity cherries, cranberries, touch of violets.
  • Palate: Dry, medium acidity and tannins. more smooth than Queen of Hearts (but to be fair it's also a year older). Medium (-) bodied, balanced fruit, acid, tannin and alcohol with just a touch of spice on the medium length finish.

    Winner: Hob Nob, Old World

    Now on to the Tempranillo...

    Campo Reales Joven Tempranillo, 2009 "La Mancha"
  • Appearance: Clear, deep, almost opaque purple. Deep core almost to the rather thin meniscus.
  • Nose: Clean, meidum (+) intensity of earth, leather, tobacco and darker fruits.
  • Palate: Dry, medium (+) acidity and tannins with very good fruit. Medium bodied, nice flavors of tart cherries, touch of black pepper, medium length finish. Made me want some grilled steak.

    Duende Tempranillo 2007 "Lodi"
  • Appearance: clean, again a deep purple but not quite as deep as the Campo Reales. Color goes to a defined meniscus but lightens up a bit the closer it gets.
  • Nose: Clean, medium (-) intensity in fruit. Similar notes of smokiness, earth, cherries. Either a very dark chocolate or espresso, difficult to tell because some woman thought it a good idea to wear heavy perfume to a wine bar.
  • Palate: OK, here I get the chocolate rather than the espresso. Medium acidity, medium (+) tannin. Medium bodied, nice hints of tobacco, dark chocolate and cherry flavors. Medium length finish.

    This judgment was more difficult than the Pinot Noir but I give a slight edge to the Duende. Have to say, either would be a good choice for an outdoor BBQ.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 69
  • Kenwood Zinfandel 2007 "Sonoma County"

    It's a cool, windy evening so I turned to a fun little wine, Kenwood Zindanfel 2007 "Sonoma County". The wine had a pretty good pedigree so I was looking forward to this younger addition to the line. If you like fruity Zinfandels then this is a wine for you. The wine poured a medium intensity ruby with a tinge of purple into my class. Small deep core but a pretty uniform color out to a well-defined meniscus. The nose was lovely, clean with bright jammy red fruits (cherry and raspberry) with just a hint of spice (coriander and white pepper). in the mouth you get a medium-bodied dry wine with bold fruit, medium acidity and smooth tannins that all come together in a medium length finish. You get just a hint of the 14.5% alcohol but not so much that it throws the wine out of balance. A nice, fruity Zinfandel. Personally I like a little more spice but I can definitely see this being a crowd pleaser.

    Number of wines reviewed in 201: 65

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Saturday BBQ

    Last Saturday we held a little BBQ at the house and for the event I pulled a few bottles of wine to sample and pair with the food. Here, in WSET format, are my tasting notes:

    Abbaye De Saint Ferme, 2005: A Bordeaux Superieur wine this one was the gamble since I picked it up for $5 but oh what $5 can buy you. Moderately clear appearance, ruby color, dark butr not opaque. Broad core, color almost out to the meniscus. The nose was clean with medicum intensity of black fruits, touch of cherry, rather "jammy", maybe just a hint of cinnamon. This is a dry, medium bodied, medium acid, medium tannin wine that starts smooth but firms up a bit toward the finish. Dark fruits, blackberry and cherry with a medium length finish. The fruit seemed to disappear a little early but still a good experience and a great value!

    Chateau Tour St. Bonnet, 2005: A Bordeaux from the Medoc, this wine was clear with a pretty intensely deep purple color. The nose was clean with medium intensity of black currant and blackberries with just a touch of some kind of sweet spice. The palate was delivered smooth tannins, medium acidity and nice dark fruits lingering quite a while. Good buy for around $15.

    The Stump Jump "McLaren Vale" Shiraz, 2008: If Australian wines are anything they are enjoyable at a very reasonable price point. This $10 bottle of wine had a lovely inky color with a clean nose of intense plum, raspberry and sweet spices. On the tongue I got a fruit-forward experience of raspberries, cherries and licorice that when combined with the good acid and smooth tannins created a medium length finish that was a hit.

    Frei Brothers Zinfandel "Dry Creek Valley" 2008: OK, I know, a two year old Zinfandel, what was I thinking? Well in this case it paid off. The wine poured clean with an intense purple hue. The nose was clean with a pretty intense aroma of red currant, sweet spices and a hint of white pepper. The wine was medium-full bodied with good acidity and tannins and loaded with black cherry and spices creating a medium length finish that was very enjoyable.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 64

    Fess Parker Pinot Noir "Bien Nacido" 2008

    I was ever so happy to get my latest shipment from Fess Parker and it was time to open one of the bottle. I was a little worried that the 2008 was too young (even for a Pinot Noir) but hey, it was from Fess Parker and they have become one producer that I have problems not opening the day the shipment arrives. So after proper chilling off came the foil, out came the cork and into the glass it went. The wine was a lovely medium intensity ruby in color. The nose was clean with the expected aroma of cherry, strawberry, cola and just a little bit of earthiness that I love so much. I think on the back end of the nose I detected just the slightest touch of "game" which went well in the melange of scents. So look, swirl, sniff then taste. Nice. The wine is dry, tannins a little tight because of the youthfulness of the wine (give it another year and it will be fantastic). Wonderful flavors of cherry, red currant and just a touch of sweet spice that all comes together in a medium length finish. Yum. I need to order a second bottle for next year just to test my theory of age on this wine but even in its youth is quite a fine wine.

    Wines reviewed in 2010: 60

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Wine Tasting Class 2: Whites

    Below are my notes from my last wine tasting class:

    L'Ecole Number 41 2007 "Columbia Valley": This was a clear wine, somewhat pale with a lemony, slightly gold coloring. The nose was clean with hints of apple pie. The palate was nice, a dry wine, slightly high acidity, medium-light bodied presenting citrus with a touch of minerality providing a medium-long finish.

    Villanova Pinot Grigio 2005 "Fruili": Nice little Italian Pinot Grigio. Clear in appearance with a hint more gold in the color than the L'Ecole. Very pronounced honey on the nose with an undertone of florals. The palate runs just a little to off-dry, decent acidity, medium bodied with flavors of honey and silver. Medium finish with just a touch of bitter rind on the finish.

    Victor Hugo Viognier 2008 "Paso Robles": A nice example of a California Viognier, clear and lemony in appearance with a clean nose loaded with honeysuckle and apricots and some lovely floral notes. The wine presents the palate with a good acid level, medium bodied texture and fantastic apricots and kiwi all coming together for a long finish.

    Hayman & Hill Riesling 2007: An entrant from the Columbia Valley, this wine was clear and pale in the glass and presented the traditional petroleum notes as well as a light green apple to the nose. The wine seemed to be off dry with good acidity, medium-light body and flavors of green apple and peaches and just a hint of slate on a somewhat short finish.

    Georges Duboeuf Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise 2001: Now for the sweets. This wine is a little dull in the glass with a somewhat intense golden hue. The nose reminded me of orange syrup with raisins and slight perfumy undertone. The wine is sweet, low acid but not cloyingly so. Medium bodied, made me think of apricot brandy and gave a not bad medium finish.

    Number of wines reviewed in 201: 59

    Saturday, May 8, 2010

    Wine Class Tastings

    To help further my wine knowledge I enrolled in a local class for professionals in the wine trade. We meet weekly for about three hours refining our tasting skills as well as overall wine knowledge. This week we tasted the following wine to get into practice of paying attention to the wine:

    Red Diamond Zinfandel, NV: A cheap Zinfandel that isn't a bad value (hey, what do you expect for something that typically runs less than $7 a bottle?). Somewhat lighter in color than I expected, the color bleeds out to the meniscus to a very, very faint rosewookd. Slightly dull garnet in color. The nose is clean, light/medium fruit and spice (sweet spices, touch of clove perhaps). The wine is dry with medium acidity and tannins, flavors of sour cherry, red currant and touch of peppery cedar providing a medium finish. Didn't knock me out but a good wine for the price.

    Martin Fierro Malbec "San Juan", 2007: An Argentinian Malbec. Clear, medium intensity purple with a larger core and very clear meniscus (indicative of a younger wine). The nose is clean, a pretty blend of floral and cherry with just a touch of chocolate. The palate comes off dry with medium acidity and tannins but runs a little hot (alcohol) with an interesting undercurrent of burnt caramel. Somewhat short finish.

    BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve 2004: A lovely Cabernet Sauvignon with a fantastic heritage. This is THE classic, original "Reserve" California wine. The appearance is clear, deep, opaque, strong color all the way out to the meniscus. On the nose a lovely complex layering of cassis, licorice, cedar, smoke, chocolate and just at touch of green pepper. The full-bodied wine has a great balance of acid, tannin, black fruits, spice, mocha that all comes together to give a medium-long finish. Lovely.

    Argiolas Costera 2007: Interesting, a wine from Sardinia made from 100% Cannonau grown. The appearance is slightly dull with a deep, deep color at the core. The nose is clean with a medium intensity of black cherries, pepper, and a hint of clove, quite nice. The palate is dry, pretty good balance of acid and tannins with nice ripe fruit and spice. I would definitely see this as a good pairing with grilled steak or even a nice tomato and sausage pasta.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 54

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    Wine Tasting: May 1, 2010

    Yesterday the hubby took me out for wine tasting at San Diego Wine Company. Always a great value in a relaxed environment as usual I found nothing bad but a few that were so nice I brought them home. Here are the wines we tasted with my notes for each wine:

    Morgan 2009 "Santa Lucia Highlands" Pinot Gris: Clear, light wheat tinted wine. Hints of orange blossom and caramel. Good balance, light, just a touch of a bite but a good finish.

    Laetitia 2008 "Arroyo Grande" Chardonnay: Pear, melon, and a hint of buttered popcorn. Lovely color. Fruit a bit light. Decent balance but finish comes up a bit short.

    Core 2007 "Santa Barbara County" Grenache: Nice, big red fruit bomb with just a hint of spice. Slightly sweet, juicy.

    Tamarack 2007 "Columbia Valley" Firehouse Red: Tasty little blend of blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sangiovese, Carmenere and Petite Verdot from Washington's Tamarack Cellars. Good fruit/acid/tannin balance. medium finish.

    Tarrica 2008 "Monterey" Pinot Noir: Pretty garnet, hints of cherries, cranberries, vanilla, and "earth". Nice palate but slightly tannic to me, could age another year but promises to be a fine wine at some point.

    Gozzo 2008 "Mendoza" Cabernet Sauvignon: Dark and rich, loaded with cassis and chocolate. A touch "flabby" but a decent drink.

    Amancaya 2008 "Mendoza" Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon: Deep purple, fruit driven, dark fruits, hints of chocolate and vanilla, juicy! Slightly leaner than expected, excellent fruit/tannin/acid balance, long finish. Brought this one home, great find for less than $15.

    St. Francis 2006 "Sonoma" Old Vine Zinfandel: Yum. Garnet with lovely dried cherries, plum, and spice (hints of white pepper). Lively palate, good balance makes for a medium-long finish. Since the Amancaya would be lonely brought this one home as well ($12 a bottle, nice).

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 50

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Finnegan's Lake Chardonnay 2007

    It's warm outside so I'm looking for something a little lighter to sip after dinner. Wanting something a little different I opted for a wine from a vintner I hadn't encountered before and chose this Chardonnay from Finnegan's Lake whose philosophy is "to make an everyday Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon that are fresh, lively, and complex while at the same time bringing to the market wines that are keeping with the environmental sustainability of the community in which they are grown." Well having tried their Chardonnay I would definitely like to taste their Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay is rather French in style, possibly Chablis or maybe Macon. It's a lighter Chardonnay and while oaked it doesn't overwhelm you with what can often be the California style of heavy-handedness with the oak. The wine is bright, nice notes of citrus (lemon) with traces of green apple and spice on the nose. The palate gets what the nose promises with just the slightest trace of creaminess. Add to this a solid acid structure and you get a pleasant, light but lingering finish that made this a happy surprise I picked up for $10. Now the hard part, finding their Cab!

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 42

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Fess Parker "American Tradition Reserve" Chardonnay 2006

    Tuesday night found me yet again at MA4 with my friend Sarah. She was running late having had to do an emergency "bead stop" to replenish her supply for some fantastic faire garb so I was already well into my first glass of this lovely Chardonnay from Fess Parker. The wine had a beautiful straw tint to it that I find pleasing in Chardonnay. The nose was pretty, hints of orange blossom, a little pear, some honey, with the promise of a light creamy experience to come... and boy did it deliver. I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of Chardonnay except from a few places and Fess Parker has become one of those places. This wine had a hint of body perfect (to me) for a Chardonnay with good acid structure and alcohol without the usual heat or sharpness you can get from an unbalanced wine. The flavors delivered what was expected, pears, very light citrus and a slight buttery creaminess that was delicious. Not as elegant as the Ashley's Vineyard but another solid Chardonnay performance. This wine went quite well with the cheese and fruit plate I had as well as the calamari.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 41

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva 2005

    A pasta night, a little home cooking for me and the hubby. Wanting to go the traditional route with the pairing I pulled a bottle of Querceto Chianti Classico. Let's take a minute to do a quick review of Italian wines using this lovely wine as an example.

    First off, Chianti is a wine region in Tuscany and not the name of a grape. In fact for both Chianti and Chianti Classico the main grape is Sangiovese. What makes Chianti Classico a "classico" is where in the region it is produced. Chianti Classico comes from the original core region of the Chianti region situated between the cities of Florence and Siena ("Classico" is used to indicate a "classical" or "traditional" region). There are different laws regarding the production of Chianti Classico including region, amount of Sangiovese required (80% for the Classico designation vs. 75% for "regular" Chianti), minimum alcohol levels, harvest yields, etc.

    Like other Chianti Classico wines this one is designated Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, DOCG for short. DOCG labelled wines are analyzed and tasted by government licensed personnel before being bottled (hence the G - "guaranteed"). To prevent later manipulation, DOCG wine bottles then are sealed with a numbered governmental seal across the cap or cork.

    This wine is also a "riserva", telling us that this wine was aged at least two years longer than normal, usually resulting in more depth and layering of experience for the taster.

    OK, now that we're up to speed on some of the rules about Italian wines we get to this particular one. It is, in a word, lovely. In the glass the wine showed a deep ruby red with fine legs on the glass. The bouquet was big and full, loaded with black cherries, blackberry, hints of violet and currants with just a hint of oak. This wine is medium-to-full bodied loaded with fruit, good acid and excellent tannins and a touch of minerality creating a long, lovely finish that went wonderfully with the pasta. I can see it going well with grilled meats as well, making it a fantastic wine to have at the BBQ grill. You should be able to find this for around $20 and it's and experience far above the price.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 40

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Edna Valley 'Paragon Vineyard' Pinot Noir 2007

    Tonight is a night to relax, a simple dinner of roasted chicken, green salad, a slice of garlic bread... easy, simple. To drink I decided to open a bottle of Edna Valley 'Paragon Vineyard' Pinot Noir 2007, a wine from an SLO vineyard that showed itself to be a good choice. A beautiful garnet color in the glass the nose was delightful showing cherries, cola all lightly tinged with rose petal... think of a sniffing a cherry cola in a rose garden and you get the idea. The wine is light bodied, good acidity without being racy, smooth supple tannins and jammy fruit all coming together to create a lingering finish that brought out wonderful flavor in an already juicy roasted chicken. A great little wine to drink now that you can easily find for about $15 a bottle.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 39

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    Fort Ross Pinot Noir "Sea Cliff Cuvee" 2006

    After a long Saturday spent working what better way to relax that with a nice glass of wine. Tonight that glass was filled with Sonoma's Fort Ross "Sea Cliff Cuvee". I was looking forward to this for several reasons. When it comes to California wines a good general rule of thumb is Sonoma = Burgundy, Napa = Bordeaux, which means for Pinot (and Chardonnay) look to Sonoma while Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are generally best from Napa (no religious wars here, just speaking in broad terms). This being a Pinot Noir I was on the right track going with one from Sonoma. Also, Fort Ross has a good track record with their wines, known for their "Burgundian" styles and I love that traditional Burgundian "funkiness" on the nose. Luckily this wine didn't disappoint. The wine was a clear garnet that created lovely legs in the glass when swirled. After letting it breath I got my desired funkiness, a combination of earthiness with dried herbs and mushrooms that was taking me back to wine tasting in Burgundy. Mingled with the earthiness were hints of cherries and strawberries, delicious! In the mouth the wine displayed decent fruit with more strawberries, good acidity, soft tannins and a touch of "Old World" minerality that all come together to provide a lingering, mouthwatering finish.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 38

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon (Reserve) 2006

    It's been a stressful week... hints of illness, the loss of my long time pet (Romeo), working 76 hours. Finally time to unwind and relax. Searching through the wine vault I decided to try something familiar with a twist so I chose a Chilean wine, Veramonte Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006. The wine poured beautifully into the glass, a lovely rich deep garnet and some nice legs on the swirl. The nose is interesting, lovely blackberry with hints of cherry and just a touch of smoke and earthiness. The taste is quite good, dark fruits, smooth tannins, nice acidity with just a touch of "dustiness" reminiscent of the earthiness I got on the nose. The finish is medium-long and leaves the taste buds watering. Would be fantastic with a burger.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 37

    Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    Bridlewood Zinfandel 2008

    Another Tuesday night so time to go to MA4. Tonight I chose to bring along a bottle of Bridlewood's Zinfandel. Now I've had a lot of Bridlewood Syrah and it's been quite lovely so I had high expectations for their Zinfandel. Alas the hope was not fulfilled. At first it showed great promise, a deep dark rudy in the glass and a lovely nose of blackberry and spicy cedar with a hint of smoke. Once in the mouth though I was crestfallen. After a very brief flash of raspberries I was overwhelmed with a gamey, smokey taste and hits of what seemed to me to be ash. My friend Sarah agreed that the little bit of fruit evaporated quickly in the mouth so I don't think it was just my tongue was off. Now I will say that the cheeseburger I ordered seemed to improve the taste of the wine, but on its own I was disappointed. Oh well, Bridlewood has many lovely Syrahs to try.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 35

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Di Majo Norante Sangiovese 2006

    When having a spicy, tomato-based pasta I turned to an interesting little wine on the list at Racines in Denver, an IGT classified wine, Di Majo Norante Sangiovese. As you can see from the picture the wine is a lovely bright violet in the glass, hinting at the nose of violets, blackberries, and currants, with just a touch of spice. The wine is medium bodied and being a Sangiovese it had a pretty high level of acidity with good dark fruits and a spicy oakish taste and tight tannins that combined to give a long finish.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 34

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Brassfield Estate Zinfandel, Monte Sereno Vineyard 2004

    Last night I met my friends Sarah and Efrain at temple for our usual Tuesday night libations. For fun I bought along a bottle of Brassfield Estate Zinfandel, Monte Sereno Vineyard. The High Valley region of Lake County was declared an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2005 and is home to some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California. Brassfield has produced a great little Zin that contrary to the trend isn't super hot (14.8% alcohol) but rather very balanced. The nose is greeted by blackberries, cedar, and a touch of peppery mint. The wine is medium-full bodied with supple tannins and good acidity combining with the jammy fruit created a lingering finish that was a great experience.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 33

    Brander Cabernet Sauvignon "Santa Ynez Valley Reserve" 2006

    Ah Brander, one of my favorite wineries (regardless of the pink chateau). It was nice to take a break from the delicious whites and open a bottle of their sadly sold out 2006 Santa Ynez Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was quite bright for a younger vintage with a lovely bouquet of currants, blackberries, black cherries, and green olives with just a touch of earthiness on the nose. The wine is medium bodied with soft tannins and a good level of acidity that all comes together with the fruit to create a silky, medium length finish. If you do come across a bottle be sure to let it breathe, it's still a youngster and should age quite well for the next 5 years.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 32

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Fess Parker "Ashley's Vineyard" Chardonnay 2007

    Another Tuesday, another evening at temple with my friend Sarah. It had been a long day (starting about 1 am and going non-stop until 4:30pm) and I was definitely in need of leisurely conversation in a comforting environment... and a glass of good wine. The bottle I brought with me, Fess Parker's Chardonnay "Ashley's Vineyard" 2007 was, as expected, lovely. The nose was fruitful with hints of citrus, apple and pear (and Sarah got melon) with a touch of butter that was delightful, all of which appeared on the palate to combine with just the right amount of acidity to create an elegant experience providing a medium-long finish. I am not a huge fan of Chardonnay but this I liked... another excellent offering from the folks who wear the coon skin cap.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 31

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    Two Fine Wines For One Fine Night

    Saturday night was housewarming night for my hubby and me. For that special event I had two excellent Cabernet Sauvignons: Beaulieu Vineyard "George De LaTour" Private Reserve 2006 and Chateau St. Jean "Cinq Cepages" 2005 (thanks for that gift Dustin!).

    The George De LaTour (a prize from a drawing at temple) is the flagship of the BV offerings and it definitely showed why. The color is deeply violet indicating a richness that was to come. The wine is medium-to-full bodied with concentrated black fruits (blackberries are very prominent) with a hint of dustiness. The wine was strong yet supple with fine black fruit and licorice with silky tannins and a nice dryness that was hinted in the dusty nose, all coming together to a long delicious finish.

    The Chateau St. Jean "Cinq Cepages" was a treasure. A Bordeaux-style blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Each component is aged separately for two years in small French oak barrels (47% new) before blending. Once the wine is assembled, it spends six months in the bottle before release. Wow! This wine was a deep violet as well with a beautiful nose of black and blue fruits with just a hint of cola. This full-bodied wine had dryness similar to the De LaTour with likewise silky tannins and hint of red cherries wrapped up in the finish that made it a pleasure to imbibe.

    Number of wines reviewed in 2010: 30 (boy am I behind)