Wednesday, August 31, 2005

2004 Novy "Four Mile Creek" Red (California)

This is a VERY distinctive wine. Very light color, but a striking and vibrant nose of sappy cherries, plum juice, watermelons, and cinnamon. Fruity but firm, with youthful angularity in the mouth, finishing with lots of fruit and a prickle of unresolved CO2 in the back of the tongue. There's got to be fair amounts of both Pinot Noir and Grenache in this puppy, what, with the light color coupled with this kind of fruit. Good now, and will certainly get better in the next few months as it softens, settles down, and stops acting like a kid. 87+. $9 @ Spec's on Westheimer.

2003 Las Rocas Garnacha (San Alejandro, Calatayud, Spain)

90. Wow, what a hedonistic wine. No subtlety, just pure pleasure. Deep, soft ruby color. Strikingly intense nose of rich, ripe, raspberry/plum fruit. Full, lush texture in the mouth, with wonderful purity of fruit, and maybe a little minerally undercurrent. Full-bodied and slow to leave. Really nice. $9.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Some thoughts on Australian Shiraz (and a note on the 2000 Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Shiraz)

I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm just not THAT big a fan of Australian Shiraz. Whether the inexpensive, modest ones, or the more expensive, high fallutin' ones. My issue is a flavor component I call "salty jamminess." It's almost always there, and it's the one thing that makes it easy to differentiate most Aussie Shirazes from the French ones.

Not that I don't like them. I do, but I REALLY have to be in the mood for it.

I actually WAS in the mood for it the other night at The Palm. Had the 2000 Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Shiraz (the wine list listed it as the 2002, but I didn't mind trading the depth of the Aussie 2002 vintage for 2 extra years of bottle age). It's a really nice wine, and although that salty jamminess was there, it also has an overlay of oak, and some Bordeaux-like cigar box and pencil lead flavors as well. And great depth and serious length too (which I would expect from a vineyard reputedly of some of the oldest Shiraz vines in Australia). The only downside was a slight tingle of obviously winemaker-added acidity at the end. (Why add acidity to a wine whose ripeness and depth is its strong suit? It's like blowing a police whistle at the end of a great symphony.) Anyway, the wine went very nicely with a flavorful, crusty aged NY Strip.

And at some point in the future, I'm going to ramble a bit about what the heck ever happened to REAL Nebbiolo?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

2003 "Cuvée de Peña" VDP Pyrenées Orientales (France)

86. A perfect wine for weeknight dinners and big parties! Cheap and very good. Focused nose of ripe cassis and blueberries, with hints of hot stones and pine forest. Nicely-balanced, tight, concentrated fruit in the mouth, with hints of baking chocolate and some light, well integrated tannin for structure (and a year or two of nice ageing). Medium body, and a clean, fruity finish. This is the kind of wine that it's hard to get tired of. About $6 at Spec's on Smith and the Spec's on Westheimer. Imported by Hand Picked Selections (Dan Kravitz's company, a really good importer).

Monday, August 22, 2005

2003 Bodegas Castaño Monastrell (Yecla, Spain)

72. Another bitter, astringent 2003 from Spain. Deep blood red color, but the overwhelming component on the nose and in the mouth is scorched astringency. Sharp, burnt earth scents and flavors smother the clearly ripe fruit underneath. Painfully sharp tannins. Too bad. It seems to me that Spain is very definitely a mixed bag in 2003, a year of record-setting heat. I've had some really nice wines, and some clearly flawed ones. This falls into the latter camp. Parker rated the 2002 and 2004 of this wine highly. I guess this one's the runt of the litter. Luckily, it was only $7.99.

2003 Bodegas Ochoa Garnacha Rosé (Navarra, Spain)

A flat, over-the-hill wine. Glints of orange at throughout the remaining pink hues. Flat strawberry jam aromas. Fleshy, but flabby and flat (alliteration!) in the mouth. 66. Read more detailed tasting notes, if you want, in the Obituaries.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

2002 Lake Sonoma Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

88. Lake Sonoma has done it again. Another value-priced, large-framed, voluptuous, jiggling hussy of a Zin -- Rubenesque is maybe a nicer way to put it. Black ruby color. Explosive nose of chocolate, oozingly ripe blackberries, peppercorns, caramel, and a hint of prunes. Rich, ripe -- almost overripe -- mouthfilling fruit. Long finish. Denser and fleshier than the 2001 (reviewed a couple of months ago here), but maybe a tad less complex in the mouth. I would drink this within the next year, as it is my experience that Zins of this style don't last long before they start to fall apart. But while they last, boy are they fun. About $12 at Spec's on Smith and on Westheimer.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

2001 Quinta do Carmo "Dom Martinho" (Alentejano, Portugal)

78. A kinda complex, but austere, unfriendly wine. No sediment at all, indicating that they filtered the crap out of it. Earthy, gravelly, cigar box, dry leaf nose. Little fruit in the aromatics. Austere, yet flavorful in the mouth, with tight structure and lots of acidity. Reminds me of a basic Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux from a middlin' vintage. Like most affordable Bordeaux, this is not my cup of tea. Took a chance and paid $10.99 at Cost Plus World Marketplace on Richmond. Won't make that mistake twice.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

2001 Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico

90. One of the best straight Valpo's I've had in years. Unusually dark ruby color. Intense nose that runs the gamut from dark chocolate and prunes to flowers, exotic spice and chokecherries. Medium-full body, with deep, still youthful flavors of earth, cherries, and bitter chocolate. There's a substantial amount of soft tannin remaining, which, together with the still youthful color and vibrant fruit, says that this wine still has a couple of goods years left -- very unusual for a straight Valpo DOC. I wonder if this is made via the ripasso technique? -- it says 13.5% alcohol -- which would explain its intensity and vigor. Whatever the reason, this is plain excellent. If I were to taste this blind, I think I'd place it as a Brunello or Morellino di Scansano rather than a Valpolicella. I think I paid about $12 at Spec's on Smith for this.

2003 Georges DeBouef Mâcon-Villages (Flower Label)

86. A character-filled, satisfying wine. Darkish gold color, spicy baked apples and talcum powder nose. Full and mouthfilling, with low acidity and lots of alcohol, and with abundant (if simple) apple/pear extract and mineral flavors. A good value for about $9 at Spec's on Smith.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

2003 Edmeades Mendocino County Zinfandel

What a fun wine! The medium ruby color belies the pure fruit and intensity of this wine. Exuberant sappy mountain berry nose, with intense notes of gingerbread and fresh, warm vanilla bean extract. Full-bodied and richly fruity in the mouth, with some peppery heat (15% alc.) in the long, pure finish. Not as complex as, say, a Ridge Geyserville, but a heck of a kick to drink. 89. About $15 at Spec's Warehouse on Smith. Pure joy with a mesquite-grilled steak or an Italian braised pot roast (stracotto). (I have to disclose that I've been a real fan of Edmeades' reds since I sold them as a Mosswood Wines rep in NYC in the early 80s -- but this really is a cool wine!).

Sunday, August 07, 2005

2003 "Arcs" (Terra Alta, Spain)

This is the second flawed bottle I've had of this wine, which was rated pretty highly by Robert Parker. Both bottles were marred by excessive volatile acidity and an acetate aroma, which got worse as the wine sat. Although it's cheap (about $6 at Specs), and obviously ripe and concentrated, it's not drinkable. 60. Yuk.

2002 Paringa Shiraz (Murray River, South Australia)

Dense, saturated black ruby color. Intense nose of ripe blueberries and blackberries, lots of toasty oak and a background note of eucalyptus. In the mouth, lacks some concentration and presence in the mid-palate, but full-bodied, and meaty on the finish, with oak and berry fruit vying for attention. Lots of soft tannin. 87 (which would have been a lot higher with if this wine didn't have a hole in the mid-palate). About $8 at Spec's (and lots of other places, as Paringa seems to be widely available).

2003 Domaine des Fortières Beaujolais-Villages

84. This Beaujolais doesn't show the characteristics of a super-hot, ripe year like 2003. Hard cherry/plum candy and mineral nose. Not as ripe and plush as I would expect from a 2003. Firm texture, like a typical Chateau Thivin Côte de Brouilly, but without the refinement or depth of that wine. In other words, eh. Also, it oxidized very fast (within 48 hours) for a wine under a Vacu-Vin vacuum seal. That would indicate to me that this wine needs to be drunk up and fast.

Doesn't measure up to the standards set by the DeBoeuf Regnié or Pierre Chermette Beaujolais reviewed earlier. About $9 at Spec's Warehouse on Smith.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

2002 d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon "The High Trellis" (McLaren Vale, Australia)

An intense but sharp-elbowed wine. Nose has ripe grapes, bitter baker's chocolate, and sharply pungent dried leather scents, with a hint of eucalyptus. Lots of hard tannin in the mouth, overwhelming the fruit (which there is actually quite a bit of). Fairly long but bitterish finish. Needs a fatty red meat dish to counteract the hard tannin and help this wine "self actualize." Got it on sale for $14.79 at Cost Plus World Marketplace on Richmond. 80.

2002 Sierra Cantabria Rioja

A good, modern style, elegant Rioja. Medium dark ruby color. Nose of milk chocolate and high-toned spicy red fruit. Medium full-bodied in the mouth, with dusty, minerally flavors on center stage, and spicy cassis fruit playing a supporting role. Reasonably long, lean finish with chocolatey notes the theme, and texturally discernable tannin that would seem to augur for a couple years of ageing. 85. Got this one for $14.99 at Cost Plus, but then kicked myself because I saw it for under $10 at Spec's Warehouse on Smith.