Sunday, July 31, 2005

2004 d'Arenberg "The Stump Jump" White (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne) McLaren Vale, Australia

87. This is a really good wine to have with lighter fish and shellfish dishes. Unusually light silver-tinged gold color. Exuberant nose of limes, Alsace-like "goût de pétrol" (a distinctive earthy smell associated with Alsace Rieslings that reminds one of gasoline -- in a pleasant way!) with minor notes of grapes and peaches. Ripe pears and minerals in the mouth, with the minerals shining through on a relatively long finish. Smells like an Alsace Riesling/Sancerre hybrid, but on the palate the Marsanne seems to take over. $7.49 on sale at Cost Plus World Marketplace on Richmond.

2002 René Muré Pinot Blanc Tradition (Alsace)

A good, fleshy, but simple wine. Medium-to-darkish gold color. Rich but simple aromas of tangerines and straw, with a slight whiff of peach underneath. Mouthfilling at first, with an oilier texture than usual for a Pinot Blanc (texturally, it feels more like a Pinot Gris), but fades quickly on the palate. 85. About $14 at Richard's on San Felipe.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Wines from the New Orleans trip

My wife Liz and I just returned from a 2-day trip to New Orleans. It was the first time either of us had visited N'Awlins. Since I didn't bring my laptop, I'm going to blog from memory, so these notes will be a little less detailed than usual. And no scores, either.

2003 Domaine William Fevre Chablis -- Had this at The Gumbo Shop with a cup of gumbo and a bowl of jambalaya for lunch the first day. I remember it being a good example of the Chablis style of Chardonnay: steely, apply, straw-like elements on the nose; crisp minerals, apples, and a hint of peach in the mouth. Nice finish.

2002 Qupé Santa Barbara County 75% Marsanne, 25% Roussanne -- This one we drank with dinner the first night. Intense, brooding nose, with floral and minerally notes. Intense and full-bodied on the palate; not a show-off, but very deep. Had a flavor component that reminded me of dry essence of pears. A good choice with the intense food we had at Bacco, which is a phenomenal Italian restaurant.

2003 Talley Arroyo Vista Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Chardonnay -- A very Meursault-like Chardonnay. Toasty minerals on the nose, with great depth, balance, and length. I'm normally not a great fan of California chardonnay, but this was excellent. No sweet butterscotchy cheap oak; no watery overcropped finish. Had this one with excellent braised rabbit (Liz and her friend Flo had seafood, hence I went with a white) at Mr. B's Bistro.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

2002 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (Estate Grown)

This is a rarity, of sorts. A really high quality California Cabernet that is widely available and reasonably priced (for Sonoma County Cabernet, that is).

Dense dark saturated ruby color. Intense nose of pencil lead, charcoal, and cassis. On entry, sweet, round, ripe blackberry and cassis flavors hit you first, but on the finish the peppery charcoal notes predominate. Medium-full bodied, with noticeable quantities of soft tannin on the fairly long finish. I got this for $16 (I think) at Richard's on San Felipe (at Voss) -- the San Felipe/Voss location is the best Richard's store in the city in my view -- but I believe I've also seen it at various Spec's and Whole Foods on Bellaire. 88.

Friday, July 22, 2005

2000 Kempton Clark "Mendo Zin" (Mendocino County Zinfandel)

Mendocino County is one of my favorite appellations for Zinfandel. They usually feature penetrating ripe berry fruit with good, but not excessive acidity, sometimes undergirded with a fresh forest floor component.

This one has a bit of bottle age on it, which, with Zinfandel, doesn't really add complexity, but instead sort of shuffles around the existing flavor components to de-emphasize the fruit and bring out leathery, earthy scents. And while I usually like my Zins younger than 5 years old (I love the ripe fruit), this one has held up pretty nicely.

Ripe berries along with that Italian "winey-ness" on the nose. The ripe berries carry through in the mouth with a streak of leathery earthiness underneath. Full-bodied, with a medium long, slightly hot finish. 85. I'm not exactly sure where I got this one. I think it may have been Whole Foods on Bellaire for about $10, but don't quote me on that.

2003 Penascal Tempranillo Rose (Castilla y León, Spain)

87. A really refreshing and lively rosé. Light vibrant pink color. Scents of strawberries and cool watermelon on the nose. Vinous, fresh, light-to-medium bodied, fruity, with some minerally accents in the background. Even though this is entering its second summer, it's still a really refreshing rosé. Available at both Spec's ($6) and Whole Foods on Bellaire ($7). Either way, a good buy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

2003 Selbach Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Spatlese

81. A simple fruity Riesling that tastes more like a QBA than a Spatlese. Primary aromas of apples and ripe grapes. Simple, fruit flavors in a light-bodied format. Clean, short, finish. I know this is a simple regional appellation, but from a good producer in a good year, I expected more. Paid about $13 at a Whole Foods in Austin (off Route 183 in in the northwest part of the city).

2003 Parker Station Central Coast Pinot Noir

82. A simple but relatively flavorful Pinot. Aromas of Dr. Pepper and cola dominate. Soft broad flavors of plums and cola fill the mouth. Finishes a bit flat, with a bitter, stemmy note. The 2002 Parker Station, which sported the Santa Barbara County appellation, was superior to this edition. About $13 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

2003 "Full Circle" California Zinfandel

Here's your party red for the summer! $6.99 @ Whole Foods on Bellaire. Never heard of this label before (it may be a private label for Whole Foods), but took a chance on it because the back label says most of the fruit was sourced in Amador County (the Sierra Foothills), a very good area for Zin. (Most simple "California" appellation Zins are sourced from the Central Valley, where the wines tend to be dull and characterless). Plus it's cheap.

Intense and lively bramble-berry, raspberry & spice nose -- classic Zinfandel profile. Medium-light bodied, with beautiful sappy berries and foresty-cedar flavors in the mouth. Decent balancing acidity and a pretty long, clean, fruity finish. Not an especially complex or powerful Zin, but really fun to drink. Could take a little chill if desired. An unbelievable value, really, and organically-grown to boot! 87.

2003 Chateau de la Ragotière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine

88. An excellent Muscadet. I'm usually not a big Muscadet guy; most are too unripe and acidic for me. But in hot vintages, I'll spring for a few bottles to try. 2003, of course, was a year of record-setting heat in France, and as a result this Muscadet is very much to my liking. Intense ripe crisp apple-pear nose, with a note of sweet almond extract underneath. Rich, yet light-bodied and fresh in the mouth, with a silky mouthfeel and lots of crisp apple-lemon and mineral flavors vying for attention. Long finish for a wine of this modest genome. I think this one was around $9 a bottle at Spec's on Westheimer if memory serves. (Each bottle comes wrapped in paper -- nice elegant packaging!). A really good choice for hot summer day sipping.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Two Rhônes and a Rant

2001 Domaine de l'Espigouette Côtes du Rhône Vieille Vignes. Mid-quality, gutsy Rhône. Medium deep ruby color, showing no age yet. Intense nose of berries, spice, earth, forest floor, with a hint of menthol. The mouth shows less fruit and more of the earthy component and alcohol than the nose would suggest, but pretty mouthfilling. Medium length, slightly hot finish with some dry, harsh tannin. Drink up, as the remaining fruit will fade and the tannins and alcohol will increasingly take over. Purchased in Austin, TX at Grapevine Connection (off MoPac) for about $15 last summer. 84.

2003 Château Maucoil Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A rip-off. Medium ruby color. Gangly nose of overripe cherries (cherry cough syrup?), pepper, and foresty scents. Lots of somewhat flat cherry cough syrup flavors in the mouth. Big, but a bit hot and disjointed. Fades quickly in the mid-palate. 82. Reasonable price for Châteauneuf these days ($19.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire),

but . . .

[here comes the rant]

I'm really unhappy with the trend that has begun to take over among Châteauneuf estates to make two or three cuvées. It used to be that only the real, de facto "first growth" Châteauneuf domaines (Rayas, Beaucastel, Bonneau, etc.) put out two or three cuvées. And that was OK. The regular cuvée would still be really good and relatively affordable. The reserve or special cuvée, while expensive, would be correspondingly above and beyond the normal Châteauneuf.

Nowadays, however, it seems that everyone and their chien in Châteauneuf puts out at least two, and sometimes more, cuvées. While the regular cuvée remains "Châteauneuf-priced," the price of the special cuvées has gone through the roof. The problem is, the regular cuvées taste like second wines rather than real Châteauneuf. The Château Maucoil reviewed above is a case in point. It's more like a decent Côtes du Rhône than a real Châteauneuf. None of that special fragrance, depth, and "tèrroir" one expects from Châteauneuf. Instead, it tastes like what it probably is: leftover barrels and wine from young vines thrown together after all the good stuff was chosen for the more expensive cuvées.

Of course, there are (mercifully) still many exceptions to this rule. But this seems to me to be the increasing trend. And I don't like it un peu bit.