Sunday, November 27, 2005

2003 Allegrini Valpolicella Classico

Intense but simple nose of crunchy cherries and almond extract. Angular and vibrant in the mouth. Needs lots of exposure to air to calm down. Not bad, but not my style of Valpo. 84. About $10 or $11, I think, at Spec's (all stores).

2001 Patric LeSec Cotes du Rhone "Baumes" (red)

My last bottle of this superb value. Medium ruby color, tending toward brick at the edges. Big, juicy, earthy fragrances of peaches, plum juice, lemon, soy sauce, and roast pork. Rich, ripe plum & spicy raspberry fruit and earth flavors, with a hint of iodine. Silky textured and long in the mouth. Not particularly full-bodied, but very flavorful and complex. 90. Was about $12 at Spec's (on Holcombe and on Westheimer).

2002 Salomon Pfaffenberg Riesling (Austria)

Interesting greenish-pewtery gold color. Fascinating nose of limes, minerals, and Alsace Riesling-like "gout de petrol." Fresh, bright, citrusy/minerally flavors. Like a dry, austere style Alsace Riesling, but lighter in body and with higher acidity, like a German Mosel. Would be stunning with shellfish or shrimp. 87. About $15 at Spec's on Westheimer.

1999 Quilceda Creek "Red Table Wine" (Columbia Valley, Washington State)

This a Bordeaux-style Cabernet/Merlot/etc. blend. Great nose, although shy at first, of graphite/charcoal, oozingly sweet raspberry jam and blackberries, and spiced sweet cream. Flavors are nice, but don't quite meet the promise of the nose, with rich, full-bodied, smoky, peppery black fruit and scorched earth flavors. Long finish. 88. Bought this a year or two ago at Richard's on San Felipe. Don't remember the price, but it wasn't cheap.

1982 Chateau Leoville-Barton (St. Julien, Bordeaux)

Aarrgghh. Corked! And it was my last bottle, dammit.

2003 Josef Schmid Gruner Veltliner "Alte Reben Priorissa" (Kremstal, Austria)

Dad and Mom bought this in Austria on the recommendation of a Viennese wine shop owner. Grapefruit and green apple nose, with hints of sweet cream. Soft, alomost oily texture in the mouth, with contrasting flavors of ripe pears and peppery minerals. Clean, crisp, but hot finish. Maybe too angular as an aperitif wine (which is how we drank it) but I think it would shine with some shrimp or shellfish. 87.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

2002 Ridge "Geyserville" (Alexander Valley Zinfandel)

A really fine, but atypical Geyserville. Tastes more like an old style fully-extracted Napa Valley cabernet or a new style Amarone than an Alexander Valley Zin. Black ruby/violet color. Unbelievable but non-traditional nose of sweet graphite, prunes, blueberries, chokecherry brandy and scorched earth. Rich, tannic mouthfeel, with inky, Amarone-style fruit. Long, rich finish. Wow! 92. $22.50 at Spec's Warehouse on Smith. Would be amazing with a mesquite-grilled Porterhouse.

2003 Tenuta Barche Soave "Marcato"

A wine about to flame out, living dangerously. Very evolved brassy copper/gold color. Looks oxidized, but doesn't taste as old as it looks. Intense nose of almond paste and pear extract, with a hint of oxidation in the background. Intense almond paste/lemon/apple flavors. Decent finish. DRINK IT YESTERDAY! Obviously the intense heat of the 2003 European summer has resulted in the precarious structure of this wine. 84. $9.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2001 Quivira "Dry Creek Cuvée" (red)

Very nice Rhone style red from Sonoma County. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Zinfandel. Slightly evolved color -- dark ruby with some brick at the edges. Nose of sweet earthy, foresty, "garrigue" scents, with spicy plum juice and sweet creamy pastries. Rich flavors of earthy-licorice and inky blackberry essence, with a piney component in the background. Soft mouthfeel and long finish. Very nice and at its peak. 88. I've had this for quite a while. I vaguely remember getting it at Spec's on Westheimer a couple of years ago for about $13.

2000 Domaine du Pavillon-Mercurol Crozes-Hermitage (red)

A very classy red. Wonderful nose of earthy, licorice, Portuguese sausage, and spicy blueberries. Medium-bodied, intensely fruity flavors, good acidity (not noticeable but helping to provide a nice light mouthfeel). Long, fruity finish. Would go well with a wide range of dishes. One of the best Crozes-Hermitages I've ever had. 89. I think I paid around $14 or $15 at Richard's on San Felipe for this.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

2003 Hartford Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Intense nose of sappy cherries, cranberries, and cola syrup. Rich, intense, broad flavors, but a tad bitterish around the edges -- maybe trying to get too much out of the grapes. Long, intense cherry cough syrup and earthy/iodine finish. Lots of character, but lacking a bit of elegance. 88. I think I paid about $22 at Whole Foods on Bellaire a while back.

2002 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett

Beautiful crystal green-gold color. Reticent nose -- ripe apples, grapes, pear and custard. Intense, vibrant grape-appley fruit, with lively, buoyant acidity. A really intense but light-footed Riesling from the Mosel. Long finish of fruit and custard. Only drawback is some significant SO2. 88. $16.99 at Spec's Warehouse.

2004 Parker Station Central Coast Pinot Noir

Somewhat reticent nose of cherries and piney-eucalyptus scents. Austere, somewhat astringent flavors, with Pinot fruit underneath but sharp astringency taking the lead. The flavors almost make you want to sneeze. Interesting, but not particularly pleasurable. 80. $12.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Cost Plus World Marketplace: Off My List

This store--located on Richmond adjacent to Best Buy near the Loop--used to be one of my favorite places for wine bargain hunting. NO MORE.

Two primary reasons. First, and foremost, they've actually INCREASED their prices on many wines simply sitting on the shelf. What could possibly be the reason for doing that?? It's one thing if you re-order and your cost has gone up. It's entirely another to simply put a new sticker on an existing wine raising the price 20%. That ticks me off.

Second, the store has gotten much more commercial in its wine selections. My sense is that there are fewer and fewer off-the-beaten-path bargains, and more of the same stuff you see in Randall's or Krogers.

So, I'm crossing this store off my list. If I'm there for other things, I may look at the wine, but no more trips there just to check out the vino.

UPDATE (11/18): Roberto, in response to your comment: Cost Plus's pricing is, in my view, now higher than Spec's almost across the board.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

2001 Chateau de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhône

This wine is a sentimental favorite. On my wife Liz's and my first date (in March 1987), I made dinner for her--grilled lamb chops (grilled on my fire escape), green beans with tomatoes, onion, and basil, and rice. The wine was a 1983 Chateau de Fonsalette. So each year, either on our wedding anniversary or the anniversary of the first date, we make this dinner and try to have a bottle of Fonsalette if we can find it.

To my taste, it's always been one of the top Cotes du Rhones most vintages, with flavors, texture, and complexity that surpasses most Chateauneuf du Papes (Fonsalette is made by the same family that makes the elite Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape.) But it's expensive and hard to find.

The 2001 was dee-licious! Medium ruby colored with a touch of brick. An amazing nose of sweet cream ice cream, fresh-squeezed ripe plum juice, and fragrant cedar-tobacco scents. (As I wrote in an earlier post, the nose was much more animated when sniffed outside on the porch rather than inside the house.) Not weighty or particularly full-bodied, but concentrated fruit and hints of iodine and lightly-bitter minerals in the mouth. Very rich, lengthy finish.

A very complex Cotes du Rhone. 90. I got this shipped in from Zachys (in NY) a year or two ago. Can't remember what I paid, but I'm sure it was at least in the $30-40 range.

2003 Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz (Australia)

A medium bodied Shiraz emphasizing baker's chocolatey and woody aromas and flavors over fruit. Hint of eucalyptus as well. Not very complex; lacking the concentration of fruit I want in an Aussie Shiraz. A little chalky-textured in the mouth too. All this seems to add up to an overcropped vineyard, thinning the wine a bit, and a winemaker who tried to compensate by overextracting the grapes. 83. Was about $15 at Whole Foods on Bellaire. Eh.