Tuesday, May 31, 2005

1 for 3: Good in baseball; bad in wine

Had a rough wine day yesterday. Had to open 3 bottles to get something good for dinner (Spanish chicken stewed with chick peas).

1st at bat: 2003 Onix Priorat (Spain). Oxidized, dammit! Color seemed OK, but make no mistake, this wine is on the way out. No ullage (cork leakage), bottle filled up to proper level -- so how does this happen? Beats me. Caught looking.

2nd at bat: 2001 "The Fifteen"Grenache (VDP Pyrennes Orientales, France). Smelled like tired old plum juice. Flabby, no structure. Cloying finish. The 2000 of this was way better. Weak pop-up to pitcher.

3rd at bat: 2003 St. Cosme "Little James' Basket Press" (VDP from the southern Rhone). 87. Very nice, gutsy red with some complexity. Ripe grenache (sappy cherry) scents augmented with lots of earthy, animal, and garrigue notes. Balanced and medium full, with a relatively long finish. I'm going to get a couple more of these for the closet this summer -- I think I paid $10 or $11 for this at Spec's on Westheimer a couple of months ago. Double down the right field line.

Monday, May 30, 2005

2001 Perrin Rasteau Côtes du Rhône Villages L'Andéol

89. A really nice, big, rustic Rhône. Intense nose, with ripe blackberries and earthy, iodine, tree bark and garrigue scents competing for prominence. Big and mouthfilling, with noticeable but realtively soft tannins. Long finish. I've had three bottles over the last year and a half, and based on its evolution, I think this wine will peak within the next year or so, if it hasn't already. Drink with rich stews and pot roasts. About $12 at Spec's.

2003 Chateau Menaut (white Graves)

83. A nice wine to quaff on a hot day. Nice fresh, grape/lime fruit on the nose. Light-bodied, very clean and refreshing in the mouth, with decent balancing acidity for such a hot year. I marked it down, however, for being significantly diluted, with a short (albeit pleasant) finish. If they hadn't overcropped the crap out of this, it would have been real winner. About $9.50 at Spec's.

Friday, May 27, 2005

2003 Vina Alarba Rosé (Calatayud, Spain)

86. Though into its second summer, this is still fresh and drinking well. A big, structured rosé, it whacks you with strong aromas of tomato skins right away, but with some scents of raspberry and cherry underneath. Full and intense for a rosé, and bone dry. Where the dish calls out for a vigorous young red, but it's just too damn hot, this would be a good choice. About $6 at Spec's on Westheimer or Holcombe.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

2002 Domaine Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Les Abbes (Alsace)

88. I love this wine. It is consistently one of the best buys in the market, and the 2002 is really tasty. Bright light gold color. Big nose of ripe peaches, straw, and apple. Lots of fruit, mouthfilling, low acidity, with a nice clean dry finish. Not a lot of complexity, but with all that fruit, who cares? A great summer white that would go well with grilled mild fish such as flounder, sole, or red snapper, or other mild seafood. I also like it with Chinese food. About $12 at Spec's on Westheimer.

Artificial corks and screw caps

Love 'em! I applaud the switch to these kinds of closures.

What's the benefit of real corks? To my thinking, the most logical (but still unproven) explanation I've heard is that they permit air into the wine (facilitating oxidation) at such a slow rate that the wine, as it ages, gains complexity.

But I've given up buying wines to lay down for more than a year or two at the most. 95% of what I buy I plan to drink within a year. And I drink a lot of stuff in the $6 - $15 range. In my experience, inexpensive wines are more frequently corked than expensive ones -- probably because producers want to keep costs down and buy lesser quality corks. So I've gotten more and more corked wines recently, it seems.

For these two reasons, I am positively ecstatic when I take off the capsule and see an artificial cork. I am less happy with screw caps for the simple reason that the aperture of the bottle is wider, and my "Vacu-vin" rubber stopper for unfinished bottles doesn't fit them well. Still, I'll make that trade-off to get fewer corked wines.

Monday, May 23, 2005

1998 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva

86. Very nice quasi-old style Rioja. Light garnet color. Fragrant with lots of American oaky, spicy scents on the nose. Medium light body, with beautiful balance and a reasonably long finish carrying flavors of oak and plums, with a little pruney component thrown in lightly. Drank it at "Rioja," a very nice, authentic tapas place at Westheimer and Kirkwood. Try the Madrid style tripe and the lamb stew -- both are really rich!

And, yes, I'm on a Spanish kick recently.

2003 Bodegas Ochoa 50% Garnacha/50% Graciano (Navarra)

75. Very disappointing. The 2002 of this wine was very good, but the 2003 was marred by way too much old leathery scents, bordering on wet cardboard (lots of brett?). Rich, but lots of coarse tannin in the finish. If you see the 2002 on the shelf, it's a balanced, clean wine with lots of pure raspberries in the mouth and a nice minerally quality peeking through on the finish, if memory serves.

UPDATE (5/30): Just had my last bottle of the 2002, and it was still drinking beautifully. Ripe, focused, and concentrated fruit. Beautiful balance. Too bad it's no longer available.

2003 Vina Alarba Old Vines Grenache (Spain)

87. This is a REALLY good buy. Deep, bright ruby color. Ripe, high-toned raspberries and cherries, with scents of crushed stones, on the nose. Ripe focused fruit in the mouth, with full body and a clean, medium long finish. Ready to drink, though seems like it will soften and broaden in the next year. Will go with lots of foods, and could take a little chill for summer drinking. About $7 at Spec's.

Friday, May 20, 2005

2002 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Zinfandel

88. Not quite the level of color saturation I like to see in Zins, but pretty deep ruby purple. Nose reticent at first, then offering minerally/stony ripe raspberry scents that deepened with air time. Full bodied, but lacking the level of concentration in the mid-palate that would have made it special. Lengthens out a bit on the nice fruity finish. Drunk at Greystone in San Diego with superb seared sesame blackpepper crusted ahi tuna.

2002 Martinelli Zio Tony Ranch Pinot Noir

95. WOW. Double WOW! The best Pinot Noir I can ever remember drinking. Intensely penetrating blueberry-cherry, mineral, and spice nose. Large-framed, intense, yet silky in the mouth, with a ridiculously long finish of fruit and spice gently waving good-bye as it sails slowly into the sunset of your tummy. Enjoyed this one with a phenomenal bone-in strip steak at Donovan's in La Jolla. Pretty amazing dinner.

Monday, May 09, 2005

2001 Rafanelli Dry Creek Valley Zin

86. While Rafanelli is, for reasons I won't bore you with, a sentimental favorite of my wife and mine, the 2001 isn't one of its best efforts. Lots of leather (brett?) on the nose, but with some nice brooding ripe red fruit underneath. Leather again, and ripe, sappy raspberries in the mouth, with a long, somewhat hot finish (kind of surprising, given that it's only 14.4% alcohol, which is pretty middle of the road for Zin). 36 bucks (ouch!) at Richard's on San Felipe. 2002 Rancho Zabaco Sonoma Heritage is a better wine at 1/3 the price, and a heck of a lot easier to find.

2003 DeBouef Regnie (Flower label)

91. Now THIS is Beaujolais. Big nose, with raspberry, grapey, hot stone scents. (None of that banana cookie-cutter crap DeBouef used to produce.) Fleshy, bright, rich, vibrant fruit in the mouth, with a ripe juicy long finish. I could drink this with anything! $9.79 at Spec's on Holcombe.

Friday, May 06, 2005

2003 DeBouef Julienas Prestige

88+ Very nice. Big and structured for a Beaujolais. Juicy nose. My younger daughter said it smelled like chicken, too. I couldn't quite identify chicken, but there is a little something animal in the nose. Broad ripe middle palate, narrows on finish. Little bit of tannin at the end. Will easily last for another year or more. In fact, the finish will probably broaden out by the end of 2005. $11.79 at Spec's on Holcombe.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

2000 Edmeades Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

88 Light color, but not showing much amber (age) at the rim. Very fragrant, with sappy & snappy cherry fruit and a little earth on the nose. Rich fruity middle palate, carrying through to a relatively long finish. Medium body. Good acidity (noticeable, but not too high) creates a bouyant mouthfeel that lends this one to a lot of different foods. For $16.99 at Cost Plus World Market, pretty good!