Sunday, October 30, 2005

Excellent wines from Jonathan and Marge's visit

Our old friends Jonathan and Marge Levine from NY visited this weekend. Jonathan is an old friend who helped me get started in the wine business in New York. I've had some of the most memorable wines of my life at dinners at his house. At least I think I have. My memories of the dinners are not inexplicably spotty. Ahem. Anyway, here are the wines we had with truncated, scoreless tasting notes from memory.

2002 Domaine Vincent Girardin Meursault Narvaux -- a classic Meursault nose of smoky hazelnuts and straw. Great balance and richness, and a long finish. Very nice.

2001 Ansgar Clusserath Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Kabinett -- slightly corked, but you could still taste the vibrant, minerally flavors underneath the corkiness. Unfortunately, corkiness quickly gets worse with air, so we had to toss this one after the first glass.

2002 Domaine Ehrhart Gewurztraminer "Raisins Egrappes" (Alsace) -- Classic gewurz nose of spicy lychee nuts and fruit. A tad richer, lower in acidity, and sweeter than I would have expected from a 2002, but very good nonetheless.

1998 Eric Ross Old Vine Zinfandel Occidental Vineyard (Russian River Valley) -- Jonathan brought this one, and it was INTENSE. Really a prototypical Zin from old vines but grown in a cool climate region. Intensely ripe, peppery nose, but with acidity you could smell. The acidity helped buoy up what otherwise could have been ponderously heavily extracted fruit. At its peak and a real mouthful.

1998 Silvio Grasso Barolo Ciabot Manzoni -- A really good example of a well made modern style Barolo. Too bad I'm not a fan of modern style Barolo. To me, modern style Barolos taste like intense Merlots. They're soft, rich, have sedately rich fruit and even chocolatey flavors. But none of the piercing, dried rose petal, chokecherry, tarry fruit and mouthwatering acidity that made real Barolo so special. What I wouldn't give to drink some real Barolo again.

1997 Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella "Ca' Florian" -- An extremely elegant and deep rendition of Amarone. Not pruney or raisiney at all. Soft, intoxicatingly rich, ripe nose of macerated plums, blackberries, and spices. Rich, deep, yet soft and not overextracted on the palate like some Amarones. An Amarone you can drink with a rich main course, rather than wait for the cheese.

R.L. Buller & Sons Premium Fine Muscat (Victoria, Australia) -- a superb nonvintage Solera method dessert Muscat from down under. Rich, syrupy in texture, yet with excellent balancing acidity. Flavors of maple syrup, dates, and ripe grapes. Long finish. Outstanding and reasonably priced (about $15 per half bottle at Spec's).

A great array of wines, just like the good ol' days in NYC. Thanks for a nice visit, J & M!

2002 Nugan Family Vineyards S.E. Australia Shiraz

91. A terrific Aussie Shiraz. Complex nose of wood smoke, blueberries, blackberries, and graphite. Rich, soft, intense flavors of blackberries, cassis, and pencil lead. Full bodied, soft textured, with a long, rich, balanced finish. And NO salty jamminess! Will last another 2 or so years. $12 at Spec's on Westhiemer.

2004 Rudolf Mueller Riesling (QBA, Pfalz)

A very good, inexpensive Riesling. Nice, lively nose of limes, apples, and ripe grapes. Rich and mouthfillingfruit (peaches, mostly). Crisp acidity, slightly sweet (Kabinett style). Good finish for a QBA. The label just has a drawing of a rabbit on it and says "Riesling." I'm not sure I remember where I got it, but I think it may have been Whole Foods on Bellaire for about $8 or $9. 86.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

2004 Carchelo Monastrell (Jumilla, Spain)

87. A very good buy in a flavorful, balanced, ready-to-drink red. From the ridiculously stony, hot Jumilla region of Spain, this wine is based on the Monastrell grape. Monastrell is the Spanish name for the Mourvedre grape, which is most famous for its role in the great French reds from Bandol (and some really good US and Aussie versions). I've noticed, however, that Spanish Monastrells tend to be a lot less earthy than their French counterparts in Bandol, with the Spaniards seemingly much more able to make wines that highlight the depth of fruit this grape can produce. This wine is no exception.

Lots of ripe black and red fruit on the nose, with some minerally tones underneath. Mouthfilling fruit flavors, medium-full body, and a good, clean finish. Not complex, but quite satisfying.

About $8 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

2003 Calvet Reserve (white Bordeaux)

90. My white wine find of the year so far! 80% semillon, 20% sauvignon blanc. Given the heat of the 2003 growing season, I was half-expecting this wine to be flat, alcoholic and out of balance, but boy was I wrong. Wonderful and multi-faceted nose of flowers, tangerine, lemon oil, and lanolin. Soft, mouthfilling flavors of white peach and crisp apples, with minerals in the background. Medium-bodied, with a silky texture and a long finish. Character filled and beautifully balanced! Semillon is one of the most underrated varietals around, particularly when judiciously blended with sauvignon. Paid $10 at Whole Foods on Bellaire for this one. I went back a got a few more immediately! Only drawback is the label is pretty lame.

2003 Guigal Côtes du Rhône (red)

The best basic Côtes du Rhône from Guigal that I've had in a number of years. Deep ruby purple color. Nose tight and earthy at first, but after time in a large volume decanter, beautiful scents of stewed plums, blackberries, crushed stones and foresty scents emerge. Soft deep fruit in the mouth, with nice balance and some soft well-integrated tannin in the finish. Will last and improve for a couple of years. 89. Widely available. I think I got this at Cost Plus World Marketplace on Richmond for about $11.

Friday, October 14, 2005

2003 Chateau Montroche Costieres de Nimes (Rhone Valley, France)

A terrific reasonably priced red. Inviting, rich and subtle nose of plums, blackberries and gingerbread spices. Rich full fruit and earth flavors. Not terribly complex, but lots of flavor & body; round, with a bit of tannin at the end. Will go with lots of different foods -- pasta with meat sauces or tomato sauces, pot roasts, stews, braised chicken or pork dishes. Just a good wine to have around. 87. I got it for about $10 at Richard's on San Felipe a couple of months ago, so I'm not sure it's still available.

Friday, October 07, 2005

2003 Crios de Susana Balbo 50% Syrah / 50%Bonarda (Mendoza, Argentina)

Deep purple-ruby color. Unusual but not necessarily unpleasant nose of grapes, cassis, Tums (yes, Tums -- it took me a while to place this component), and lead. Simple, kinky fruit flavors, youthful and rich mouthfeel. Some lighly chalky tannin in the finish. I can't see this weird aroma/flavor profile dissipating with age, but, if you're not wedded to classic flavor ranges, it's not bad. Parker rated this an 88, I think, but, unfortunately, I can't get past the Tums thing. 79. About $11 at Cost Plus on Richmond/610.

2003 Patrick LeSec Cotes de Ventoux "Domaine de la Camarette (Vieille Vignes)

Bright nose of cherry-blueberry-cassis fruit with a hint of pine forest that benefits from airing. Dense but lively cassis fruit in the mouth, with a bit of pepperiness and tannin in the back of the palate. Simple, satisfying, fresh, and gutsy -- a nice weekday dinner red. Will last and improve the next few years. 87. About $8 at Spec's Warehouse on Smith.

2002 Chateau de la Greffiere Macon-La Roche Vineuse (Vieille Vignes)

Classic Maconnais nose of crushed stones, straw, and white peach/pear fruit. Rich mineral and pear extract flavors, with a relatively long clean finish. A really nice Chardonnay that, unlike most California Chardonnays, is not-at-all tiring to drink. 87. About $14, I think, at Spec's on Westheimer.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

2003 Beckmen Vineyards "Cuvee Le Bec" (Santa Ynez Valley, California)

A superb wine! A blend of 4 Rhone varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Counoise), this wine has a deep ruby color. Sweet ripe red fruits and spice on the nose; ripe, deep, and supple in the mouthy, with a teensy bit of earthiness in the background for a little complexity. Absolutely gorgeous balance, texture, and ripeness. $12 and change at Spec's (Westheimer, and at the Smith St. warehouse). 90.