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