Thursday, June 23, 2005

2003 "Tres Ojos" Old Vines Garnacha (Calatayud, Spain)

89. What a find! This wine, produced by the San Gregorio cooperative and imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, has a bright, medium light ruby color. The fragrance of this wine is of the purest kirsch, ripe raspberries, and a hint of white pepper. Unbelievably soft and pure in the mouth, this wine coats the palate with fruit and minerals, and has a long, velvety soft, clean finish. Garnacha, of course, is Spanish for Grenache, and this wine is a textbook example of what kind of pure fruit the Grenache grape is capable of. This wine will go with a wide range of foods, from grilled meats, braised meats and stews, and pasta with tomato or meat sauces. $8.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Just Sniffin' -- Outside/Inside

Over the last year or so, I've noticed that a wine's nose is much more easily discernable outside my house than inside. When I really want to analyze and/or savor a wine's nose, I go out on to my front porch or back deck for a little "quality time" with the glass.

I think the reason may be that inside spaces, whether a house, a restaurant, or some other building, have their own unique baseline "ambient" smell. Ever notice that first smell as you walk in your house after being away several days? Each of the places I've lived has had a different characteristic baseline smell. But I only notice it when I've been away for a while. I think we tend to get used to it and, like ambient noise, only notice it when we go without it for a period of time.

Granted, I live in Houston, where people generally tend to keep their houses hermetically sealed nearly all year round to keep out that sticky humidity we have grown to know and love, but I think I remember the same phenomemon when I lived in Connecticut in the 1990s and had meals where we drank wine al fresco. So I don't think it's just a Houston phenomenon.

Nor do I think it's solely due to temperature differences. Sure, the hotter the surface of the wine becomes, the more volatile and noticeable its aromatic components become, but I have found the outside/inside dichotomy to occur even when the temperature is the same outside or in, or even is a bit lower outside.

Try it yourself. Swirl and sniff inside. Take note of the intensity and detail. Then go outside and try again. I bet you'll get more out of it. It's pretty neat.

Monday, June 20, 2005

2003 Saintsbury "Garnet" Carneros Pinot Noir

86+. Light, bright ruby color. Lovely, if relatively straightforward nose of strawberry and cola. Soft, fleshy, relatively simple flavors, with pretty good length and some soft ripe tannin. I suspect this one will improve and gain a bit of complexity over the next 2-3 years.

$16.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

1999 Cortes de Cima (Alentejano) (Portugal)

89. Very nice wine at its peak. Dark ruby with a thin line of brick at the rim. Nose of ripe cherries, Indian spices, incense, and tobacco leaf. On the palate, ripe chokecherries and mineral notes, good balancing acidity, and a reasonably long finish with some dusty tannins remaining. This wine reminds me of a mid-weight Barbaresco or Nebbiolo/Barbera blend such as Bricco Manzoni.

The back label says it's a blend of Aragonez (primary varietal), with some Trincadeira and Perequita. Most Perequita-based wines I've had are relatively simple, tart, cherryish wines, so I'm guessing it's the Aragonez -- a varietal I am unfamiliar with -- that made this wine as good as it is.

This was a gift from a friend, so I don't have purchase info -- thanks for the nice wine, Antonio!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

2002 Trimbach Gewurztraminer (Alsace)

88. This is one of the nicest basic Trimbach wines I've had in years. My usual complaint is that their entry level wines are on the thin and austere side. Not this one, though. Textbook gewurztraminer nose of lychee nuts, rose water, and a hint of grapefruit. Richly flavored, medium bodied, and balanced in the mouth. Off-dry in style. While not necessarily reflecting any particular terroir in Alsace, it represents a classic example of Alsace gewurz. With its balance, it will hold for another 2 years at least. $11.69 (a steal!) on sale at Cost Plus World Marketplace on Richmond. It went really well with spicy Thai squid with basil and peppers.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

2001 Lake Sonoma Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

90. A big, fleshy, ripe, flagrantly fragrant Zin at its peak. This is a hedonistic wine. The color isn't especially deep, but the fragrance of this wine is incredibly rich and brash. Raspberries, spice, minerals, and some toasty oak in the background. Mouthfilling, full-bodied, with flavors that strut all around your mouth. Rich, long, loose finish. If this wine were a woman . . . . shwinggg! Drink RIGHT NOW, as there's no place left for this one to go. About $12 at Spec's on Westheimer.

2003 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais

90. An ethereal wine. Gorgeous freshly crushed gamay grape and stone aromas. A fascinating contradiction on the palate: ripe, fresh, flavorful, and long, but with a silky soft texture that is so light-bodied it feels like it's hovering above your tongue. Superb summer red. And a from a simple Beaujolais AOC. About $11-12 at Spec's on Westheimer.