Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Saturated, youthful black ruby with magenta glints at the rim. Tight nose of spicy cherries, wood smoke, and lemony minerals. Tannic, austere, but concentrated and full-bodied flavors (mostly cherries, stones, and smoky earthiness). Long, tannic finish. A real keeper that will definitely improve with significant bottle age. 88++. Got this on sale at Fiesta (near Reliant Stadium) for $31. Also available at Spec's for $33.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Medium ruby/garnet color. Interesting nose of herbal cherries, raspberry jam, and some pencil lead. Flavors of cassis and dusty baker's chocolate. Not a blockbuster, but everything in nice balance. Very Bordeaux-like . . . reminds me of a good Cru Bourgeois from the middle Medoc (Moulis or Listrac). Would go very well with grilled or roasted lamb. 87. Will hold a year or two. Was about $14 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
This is a TEXTBOOK, ripe, fully-extracted Semillon. Light bright, brassy gold. Very assertive nose of waxy lanolin scents, with ripe figs and toasty butterscotch. Full-bodied, concentrated, with low acidity and flavors of bitter pear, butter, and minerals. Long, minerally finish, with a tad of alcoholic heat lingering with the flavors in the back of the throat. A no-holds-barred white wine. 89. Drink in the next several months. Was a very good value for $13.22 at Spec's on Richmond (just outside the Loop).
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Although Petite Sirahs can be overly tannic and require lots of time in the bottle to drop that tannin, this one was clearly made to be friendly right away. Back label says the fruit was from Mendocino and Lake counties. 88+. Was $17.99 at Cova, on Kirby (which, by the way, looks to be an interesting wine bar/tapas joint/wine shop -- I'll have to eat there soon).
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Deep, rich, saturated ruby. Very pretty, medium intensity nose of fragrant wood smoke, sweet black raspberries, and lemon squares. Round, incredibly soft, and fairly concentrated in the mouth, with flavors of salty blackberry juice, sandstone, and spice. Long finish, with soft, ripe tannins. With hold another year or two. A subtle but impeccably made wine. 89. Was $16.99 at Spec's on Westheimer (near Fogo de Chao).
Dark black ruby-purple color. Somewhat funky, stinky notes (burnt rubber & acetate) pervade the nose when first opened. With air, these off-notes dissipate somewhat, and some blackberry scents emerge. Rather bony in the mouth, however, with tannin and acid taking the lead, but a little flesh and fruit in the form a tart black cherries, and some chalky minerals. 73. Was $11.25 at Spec's on Smith.
No more Verget reds for me (except I have one more in the closet to try soon).
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Deep, purplish black ruby. With an hour of air time, exhibited a great, high-toned nose of ripe mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries), sweet cream, and mocha. Medium to full bodied, with tight flavors of scorched earth and cassis, with lots of stony minerals on the finish. Some tannins to shed, though they are ripe and soft. This wine will only get better over the next 2-3 years. 88+ Can't remember precisely where I got it, but I distinctly remember it was in the $7 - $8 range. Outstanding value. (I'll update this entry if I see it in a store somewhere.)
UPDATE (12/11): I saw this yesterday at Whole Foods on Bellaire for $8.99.
Deep ruby color. Tart lemons and spicy raspberries and brambleberries on the nose, with cold steely minerals underneath. Lean and somewhat austere in the mouth, with more structure and acidity, but less fruit and flesh, than I want in a Zin. Feels overmanipulated by the winemaker. 83. Was $15.77 at Spec's on Holcombe.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Exceedingly pale brassy-gold color. Straw, sharp-ish chalky minerals, citrus peel and bitter, spiced peach on the medium intensity nose. Soft and straightforward in the mouth, with underripe peach and chalky-stone flavors. Not terribly concentrated, with a decent, but slightly bitter finish. Like a decent Macon wine. 84. Was $12.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
So for this Thanksgiving, I went with a coupla wines I've already reviewed here: the Lolonis Vineyards LADYBUG RED Cuvee V (Redwood Valley), previously reviewed here and here, and the 2002 Trimbach Gewurztraminer, previously reviewed here. Both were soft, fruity, and went (relatively) well with turkey.
For dessert, we had a 2004 Rudolf Muller Hainfelder Ordensgut RIESLING EISWEIN. It was surprisingly inexpensive for a true Eiswein -- $19.99 at Central Market. Not the most complex Eiswein around, but very nice. Piercing nose of contrasting smells -- honeyed peaches and tart granny smith apples. Fairly sweet, fruity and long in the mouth, with mouthwatering acidity keeping everything very fresh tasting and light. It was gone before I could go outside and take some more critical notes about it. I'm going to get more of this!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Dense saturated black ruby color. At first, the most prevalent aromas were those of scorched earth, iodine, and balsa wood. With substantial air time, big aromas of blackberry liqueur came out. Concentrated sweet blackberry and scorched earth flavors. This wine needs full flavored food to really shine. Long finish, with substantial but ripe tanin. Will definitely improve over the next 2-3 years. 88+ . Was $13.60 at Spec's on Smith.
Deep, youthful, sparkling dark ruby. Very elegant nose of spicy, ripe cherries and smokey, earthy scents. Medium-bodied, yet concentrated flavors of earthy cherries and smokey minerals. Lengthy finish with very nice fruit/acid balance. 90. A very good value at $16.50 at Spec's on Smith.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Medium dark, crystal ruby/purple. Bright, straightforward fruit nose of crunchy blueberries, with some cold steely minerals in the background. Bright, up-front crunchy berry flavors, but they fade quickly and leave lots of minerally notes in the back half of the palate. 83. Was about $13 at Spec's on Holcombe.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Black ruby-garnet. Lively nose of mountain berries, blood oranges, gingerbread, and earth. Concentrated, but not as fleshy as I expected, with tightly-wound berry fruit and good length. Some tannin still remains as well. Leave this another year to soften texturally, but not much longer than that, as my experience with Zinfandels is that they drop their vibrant fruit much faster than other big reds, like Cabs and Syrah-based wines. 88. Was $31 at Spec's on Smith.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Medium dark ruby, with magenta glints at the rim. Very bright, fruity/steely nose, with crisp raspberries and blueberries predominating. Medium-bodied, but tight and concentrated in the mouth, with good length and crisp acidity buoying up the finish. Flavors of dry essence of raspberry/blueberry liqueur. Maybe it'll soften and broaden over the next year, but I wouldn't bank on it, as wines with this level of acidity tend to stay pretty tight and focused, in my experience. Still, as I said, I liked it. 86. Was $8 and change at Spec's on Smith.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
2004 Domaine de Gournier GRENACHE NOIR (Rhone region, France) -- An estate imported by Robert Kacher, which is usually a good sign. This wine, however, while it had good color, was austere and acidic, with sharp, scorched earth and tart cherry flavors. Lots of acid on the finish. Heartburn city. 70.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
This one is very inexpensive, but not bad. Bright, crystalline light brassy-gold. Very fruity nose of tropical fruit (mango?), with apple and ruby red grapefruit scents as well. Medium bodied, with lots of up-front fruit and fruit-pit flavors, with citrusy notes. Fades fast in the mid-palate, however. Short, clean finish. 82. Was $7 at Spec's on Westheimer (near Fogo de Chao).
Surprisingly for a wide-distribution wine, this has some character. A saturated dark ruby/purple color, with a fragrant nose of spicy ripe raspberries, cinnamon, stones, and cream. Medium full-bodied and pure in the mouth, with penetrating, tight fruit, some youthful, but soft, tannin, and a clean, spicy fruit and mineral finish. Will soften and expand in flavor over the next year. Very good value at $9 at Whole Foods on Bellaire (also available at Spec's and some supermarkets). 87+
Bright, light nose of crisp apples, pears, and chalky minerals. Tight, fresh and minerally in the mouth; not terribly concentrated, but very clean and balanced. A nice oddity, but not a repeat purchase. 86. Was about $10 at Spec's on Smith.
Medium light ruby. Snappy nose of tart cherries, plums, and lots of sweet, pungent minerals. Dry and austere texture, this wine has lots of bone-dry cherry and mineral flavors, with some crisp acidity and peppery heat. Distinctive, and an interesting wine to sip and ponder, but not the most hedonistic of wines. 84. Was about $19 at Spec's on Smith.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Beautiful saturated black purple/ruby color. Classic Zin nose of crisp, ripe, penetrating mountain berries, creamed caramel, and lemony spice. Round, soft, and full, yet vibrant mouthfeel. Perfect fruit/acid/ alcohol/tannin balance. Ooodles of pure fruit with an undercurrent of toasty balsa wood. A big, beautiful, food-friendly Zin. I think it's organically grown too. 90. A very good value at $15.20 at Spec's on Westheimer (near Fogo de Chao).
Monday, October 09, 2006
Anyway, this is a very distinctive wine, but it's not for everybody. It's like a big, plush ball of viscous fruit plasma . . . what some wine geeks now pejoratively call a "fruit bomb."
Medium dark ruby/garnet. Oozingly sweet peaches and raspberries on the nose, with steely minerals underneath. Plush and richly fruity in the mouth, with salty peach pit and raspberry flavors, and a nice hint of charcoal in the finish. Full-bodied and very voluptuous. Hedonistic, even. Drink right now. Do not age. 90 points based on pure pleasure, even if it's not very complex. Was $18.90 at Spec's at Richmond & The Loop.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Saturated black-ruby/purple color. Very unusual nose for a Monastrell: lemons,peach pit, sweet raspberry, sweet cream,and just a tad of earth. Big and intense, yet very nicely balanced, with flavors that emphasize the fruity rather than the earthy side of the Monastrell grape -- blueberries, cassis, and minerals. Lots of well-integrated tannin and good acidity too. Drinks well now, but I think it will soften considerably over the next two years. Less than $10 at Spec's on Smith. 88+
Saturday, September 30, 2006
WHAT A LOAD OF IGNORANT CRAP.
Zinfandel is a wine that naturally ripens at higher sugar levels than other varietals. So guess what? When it's fermented, turning the sugar into alcohol, there's more alcohol and therefore more body. It's been my experience that it's hard to find it hard to find a Zinfandel that tastes like Zinfandel at lower than 14% alcohol. The lower alcohol Zins I've had tend to have less varietal character, because (all other variables being equal) they're picked earlier when they're less ripe. To try to produce a lower alcohol Zin than nature wants to give you is like trying to make Anna Nicole Smith or Queen Latifah look like Gwynneth Paltrow. It doesn't work, and the world becomes less interesting as a result.
And it's a false premise that big Zins don't go with food. Yeah, maybe if you're eating seared tuna, some fancy pants veal or chicken breast dish, or some restaurant pasta dish finished with the now ubiquitous "touch of cream," then a big fleshy Zin isn't the way to go. But I cook lots of stuff like braised lamb shanks, pasta with long simmered meat sauces, oxtail Roman style, steak grilled over mesquite, winey pot roasts and stews. With big boldly-flavored food like that, it's hard for me NOT to reach for a big, ripe Zin when I go to the wine closet.
If the writer wants lower alcohol, more restrained Zins, he or she can get some by being selective about what regions to look for. For example, I'm not a big fan of Zins from the cooler Russian River Valley, and they aren't usually as ripe as I 'd like and they tend to have higher acids. Some wineries are known for their more restrained style of Zins, too, like Storybook Mountain or Quivira.
If they aren't "restained" enough for for the writer of this ridiculous article, then my advice would be to drink a damn Cabernet or Merlot. But don't go trying to make my hound dog (we actually have a hound dog mutt named Zinny) into a miniature poodle.
In any event, the Sangiovese was a solid, gutsy wine, but true to form it was simple, and really not recognizable as a Sangiovese. Dark black ruby color. Big, grapey, chocolately, resiny, smoky nose. Simple, rich, broad chocolate and cassis flavors. Lots of body and guts, but really simple and goofy. A great wine to guzzle at a big spaghetti supper. Widely available at around $8. 85.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Dark ruby/brick color. Plummy, sweet, curranty nose with lots of typical Graves cigar box and sandstone scents. Soft, rich, earthy flavors in a medium-to-light-bodied frame. Beautiful structure and texture, nice length. Not super-concentrated, but very well done. This is why I like Cabernet blends from the Graves region (or its sub-region, Pessac-Leognan) better than Cabernets from anywhere else on earth: the balance, softness, and earthy complexity. 87. I think this was about $20, but I can't remember where I got it.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Beautiful light yellow-gold color. Medium intensity nose of minerals, honey, and marzipan, with some bitter pear-skin scents. Bright, intense flavors of stones, bitter pear again, and flowers. 87. Was about $13 at Spec's on Westheimer (near Fogo de Chao).
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Deep, saturated ruby color. Sweet aromas of crushed ripe blackberries, stones, and smoky cappuccino. Ripe and round in the mouth, with lots of fruit on entry and trailing off into a long, minerally/iodine, dry blackberry syrup finish. Lacking just that extra tad of concentration and weight in the middle palate that would have made it extra special. Nevertheless, lots to like here for the money. 87. Was under $9 at Spec's (several locations).
Light pink color. Lively, high-toned nose of strawberries, watermelons, flowers, and fresh-picked green beans. Fresh, light-bodied, but fairly intense fruit flavors cavort in the mouth: watermelon, strawberries, pear. Just barely off-dry, with a crisp, fairly long finish. Was $4.98 on sale at Whole Foods on Bellaire. 87.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Ruby garnet color with some amber at the rim. Spicy, winey, somewhat astringent nose. Some fruit in the mouth, but little concentration and a clipped finish. If you've got this, drink up, because it's on the way out. If this wine wasn't cooked in storage, then I'm not sure whether its mediocrity was the result of the torrid '03 vintage or just poor winemaking. 73. Was about $15 at Spec's on Smith.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Friday, September 01, 2006
Actually, the wine is very good. It reminded me of one of my perennial good buys from down under, d'Arenberg "The Stump Jump."
Deep, bright ruby. Richly and vibrantly fruity nose of raspberries, peaches, and lemons, with a steely minerality underneath. Round, rich, and soft in the mouth, with raspberry liqueur, iodine, and graphite flavors. Fairly long finish, with little tannin, but some alcoholic heat showing through. Not complex, but satisfying and full of character, and a good buy to boot. 87. Was $9.50 at Spec's out west on Westheimer (near Fogo de Chao).
Dark ruby garnet color. Wonderful nose of road tar, winey blackberries and cherries, with peachy and earthy components as well. It actually reminded me of the nose of the 60s and 70s Spannas from Antonio Vallana that I used to drink years ago. (Vallana was rumored to have "enriched" his Piemontese wines with bulk wine trucked up from the south of Italy, so maybe he was using some good Nero d'Avola!).
The taste didn't quite meet the expectations set by the nose, but it was quite good nevertheless. Lots of fruit, earth, and old wine barrel flavors up front, but it wasn't as concentrated and weighty in the mid-palate as I thought it should have been. Finish was a tad shorter than I like too. Overall, I would rate the nose as excellent but the flavors and texture as good. 87. I don't remember how much it was, but I think it was around $10 or $12. I'll have to try the latest vintage to see if this wine is meant to be drunk a little younger than 5 years old.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Dark black ruby. Tremendously exuberant nose of spicy black-raspberry liqueur, dry sandstone, baker's chocolate, and cream. Rich and intense, this wine has excellent ripeness (almost port-like, but dry), and a long, intense, richly fruity finish. Very full-bodied. Not great complexity, but lots of "oomph." Me likey, me. 89. Drink now. Zins like this don't age well at all. Good value at $14.59 at Spec's on Smith.
Very pale straw gold color. Nose of chalky minerals, herbs, white grape skins, and tangerine peel. Crisp, minerally, bitter citrus flavors. Refreshing and nicely balanced, with a steely, crisp finish. A little more ripe fruit would have been welcome, but it wasn't bad, by any stretch. 84. Was $11.80 at Spec's on Smith.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
2002 Landmark "Grand Detour" PINOT NOIR (Sonoma County) -- Earthy and oaky, with refined cherry/rhubarb fruit. Smooth and sophisticated. Reminded me of a good Nuits-St. George.
2003 Lake Breeze Langhorne Creek GRENACHE (Australia) -- A big, intense, old vines (71 yrs. old) Grenache, with concentrated earthy, iodine, salty raspberry flavors. Big and mouthfilling, but not tannic at all.
2003 MontGras "QUATTRO" Reserva (Colchagua, Chile) -- A very suave, subtle, and deep-toned blend of Carmenere, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Drinking beautifully. Last of three bottles I had of this. Sorry to see it go.
2002 Wynns Coonawarra Estate CABERNET SHIRAZ MERLOT (Australia) -- Leather and ripe berries on the nose, with a hint of eucalyptus. Medium-bodied and soft, but concentrated. Long, soft finish.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Sunday, July 23, 2006
2005 A to Z Pinot Noir Rose (Oregon) -- Bright pink. Gorgeous nose of ripe cherries with earthy undertones. Big flavors.
My brother also uncorked several nice Spanish Albarinos -- a new favorite white of his:
2004 Bodegas del Palacios de Fefinanes ALBARINO d FEFINANES Rias Baixas -- Flinty, minerally, herbal, with gooseberry fruit on the nose. Crisp, minerally flavors -- almost Sancerre-like.
2005 D. Pedro de Soutemaior ALBARINO Rias Baixas -- Another, even more herbal, but still Sancerre-like Albarino. Citrusy and minerally.
2003 Vergadanes Rias Baixas ALBARINO -- An oak-aged Albarino. Like a minor new world chardonnay. I like the non-oak-aged style better.
And then some reds:
2000 Ridge "COAST RANGE" (California) -- A bare-majority Zinfandel blend, this wine was displaying how a well-made Zinfandel can age. Now, I like the young ones better, but this was very nice. Great fragrance -- almost like a Barbaresco. Complex, soft, and with nice balance.
Sean Thackrey PLEIADES XI "Old Vines" (California) -- A blend of about a dozen different grape varietals, all from small patches of old vines. Earthy and funky at first, this wine showed more fruit and less earth as it aired out. Large-boned, fleshy, and complex. Really good.
2004 Fess Parker Santa Barbara County PINOT NOIR -- Very good. Previously reviewed here.
And then a dessert wine:
R.H. Bueller "FINE MUSCAT" (Victoria, Australia) -- Figs and maple syrup. Nice balance. A very rich, if not particularly complex, wine.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
And this educated guess paid off. This is a really fun summer red. Medium ruby purple color. Sweet, ripe nose of oozingly sweet raspberry juice, sweet lemons, and fresh whipped cream. Velvety soft, round, and ripe in the mouth, with pure flavors of raspberries and an undercurrent of minerality. Not complex, by any stretch, but impeccably made, full of character, and FUN -- it would be a particularly cookout or party wine. 88. And a really good value to boot: $7.99 at Cost Plus on Richmond. Stock up on this one!
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Sunday, June 04, 2006
2004 LUDOVICUS (35% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo, 25% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) (Tierra Alta, Spain) -- this was a very good value at $11. Lots of ripe cherry fruit and minerally flavors. Medium full body, with a nice finish and very good balance.
2004 "Yasa" GARNACHA (Calatayud, Spain) -- This was a GREAT buy at $6.99. Textbook grenache nose of spicy ripe raspberry liqueur. Good concentration and loads of clean, ripe fruit in the mouth, with a soft finish with lots of fruit and mineral flavors.
2005 Seifried GEWURZTRAMINER "Nelson" (New Zealand) -- This was my second Gewurz ever from New Zealand, and it was very nice. Ripe, lychee fruit nose. Full and round in the mouth. Off-dry, with great balance and tremendously pure fruit. Was $15.99. This wine has moved up "learning more about New Zealand's wine regions" on my "to do" list. Apparently, Nelson is the northern-most wine region on New Zealand's south island.
The meatiness, leathery, scorched earth flavors, along with the not-so-soft tannin, the heat, and the astringency in the finish are all, to my mind, trademarks of the 2003 vintage in regions that are usually hot to begin with, and thus were REALLY hot in 2003. I'm thinking the southern Rhone, Provence, the Languedoc and other parts of southwest France, many areas in Spain, and pretty much all of Italy. More and more, my instincts are "caveat emptor" concerning wines from these regions in '03. (And best to avoid taking chances on 2002's from these regions as well for just the opposite reason: too much rain and lack of sun leading to unripe, diluted wines.)
Saturday, May 27, 2006
2004 "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" Cabernet (20%) Syrah (20%) Monastrell (60%) (a/k/a Bodegas y Vinedos Murcia Jumilla) (Spain)
Apart from the condescending label, this is a large-bodied lunk of a wine. Not real complex, but darn mouthfilling. Deep ruby color. Sweet, ripe nose of sweet cream, ripe blackberries, prunes, and sweet pipe tobacco smoke. Rich, port-like fruit in the mouth -- dense and full. Some perceptible residual sugar in the mid-palate and finish. With its lack of complexity and very slight residual sugar, it wasn't very enjoyable on its own before dinner, but it actually went very well with the whole wheat pasta and sauteed peppers and bacon dish (recipe below) I made for dinner. I could see this going well with lots of different pasta dishes. 85. $10.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Peppers and Bacon
1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 bunch green onions, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 pound good quality bacon (or pancetta, if you don't want the smoky flavor), sliced into 1/4 inch strips
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound good quality whole wheat (or regular) pasta
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
freshly-ground sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
Get a big pot of salted water boiling. While it's getting there, fry up the bacon in a 12" saute pan until crisp or chewy, whatever you like. Remove bacon, pour off all but about 1 or 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and reserve it. Add the olive oil to the remaining bacon fat, then add the sliced peppers, the green onions, and the clove of garlic, and saute over medium high heat until the peppers start to soften a bit. Add back in the bacon, pour in the white wine, turn up heat and boil off for a minute or so, then add sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. When the pasta is done, drain, pour into a big dish, add the sauteed pepper sauce (sans the garlic clove), chopped parsley, and toss. To add some richness, you can listen to the bad angel on your left shoulder and drizzle in a little of the bacon drippings you poured off earlier. A bit of freshly grated parmesan is a nice addition at the end.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
This wine was very much like a Spanish version of a well-made, but straightforward, DeBouef Beaujolais, although it is 100% Tempranillo. Medium garnet ruby color. Bright cherry, strawberry fruit on the nose. Soft, lush fruit flavors with wet stone, minerally elements in the background. No tannin at all -- for drinking this summer, perhaps even with a little chill on it, just as with Beaujolais. 87. Was $7 at Spec's on Smith.
1997 was a highly touted vintage in Northern Italy, so I was expecting a wine of substantial concentration and still a bit on the youthful side. But this wine showed significant browning at the edges. It was also quite fragrant, but definitely showed up the funky/earthy side of the Spanna (Nebbiolo) grape, with chokecherry and barnyardy, earthy scents competing for attention. Earthy, evolved flavors with cherries again, with noticeable acidity. I would drink this up, as any more aging will only play up the earthiness and acidity. 84.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Thursday, May 11, 2006
For dinner, we had our traditional Tuesday night steakhouse trek. Each year, Frank and I "stake" out, as best we can determine, the best steakhouse in whatever city the INTA conference is in, and this year our research led us to Barberian's Steak House, 7 Elm Street, (416) 597-0335. While wicked expensive, the steaks were excellent. The wine list had pages upon pages of great wines from everywhere, but the prices were outrageous -- which I think has to do with the Ontario government-run distribution system. It was hard to find anything first rate that was under $100. Although these were Canadian dollars, the poor exchange rate meant that we were only getting $1.05 Canadian dollars for each U.S. dollar.
Anyway, we settled on the 2000 Dessilani Fara "Lochera," a full-bodied Nebbiolo-based wine from the Novara region west of Milan (the most famous wine from this region is Gattinara; Fara is less well-known but can be just as good, in my view). This wine was deep in color, very fragrant of cherry liqueur, leather, and earth, with lots of body and concentration. It had some tannin, but they were ripe and smooth. This wine will improve over the next five years. For dessert, we tried two glasses of 2004 Henry of Pelham Winery Ontario Peninsula Riesling Icewine. My expectations were not that high -- Canadian Riesling Icewine??? -- but this wine was amazing. Intense, rich, honeyed peachy nose, with bracing acidity to balance the intense richness. Absolutely classic Icewine, which I would happily compare to the Germans'. It was so good I made sure to find a state wine shop (the "LLBO") before I left so I could buy a half bottle ($54!) to bring back. State-run wine distribution, with its attendant high wine prices, have got to be the single biggest negative about living in Toronto, which really otherwise impressed me as a sophisticated, diverse, HUGE, and very interesting city.
Friday, May 05, 2006
I said evil at the beginning. After half a bottle the first night, I was totally zonked. As it was a Friday night, I chalked it up to a hard week. Two days later, finishing the remaining half of the bottle, I was zonked again! The label says only 14.3% alcohol, which is middlin' for good zin, so I don't know what's going on here, but, in any event, C. Everett Koop's warning about not operating heavy machinery applies to this one.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Their produce selection is amazing, and very fresh-looking too. All manner of greens (I picked up some broccoli rabe for pasta). Prices a bit high (like Whole Foods, but seemed even a tad higher). But probably worth it for the selection and the freshness.
And, on a Monday after work, it wasn't that jammed with the high-fallutin', moneyed crowd that usually gives me the willies. (That's why I usually avoid formal wine tastings these days -- I really need to talk to a therapist about this "issue.") So, the bottom line is: I'll be back.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Sunday, April 16, 2006
2005 Vida Organica Malbec Rose (Mendoza, Argentina) -- I think I previously reviewed (and definitely remember liking) the 2004 version of this wine, and this one is just as good. Fresh nose of strawberry and cherry fruit, with a tad of earthiness too -- unusual for a rose. Great balance, and clean, refreshing flavors. Very nicely done dry rose for drinking throughout the summer months ahead. Was about $8 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.
2000 Tardieu-Laurent Cotes du Rhone "Guy Louis" -- Tardieu-Laurent is probably THE best negociant in the south of France, in my view. Their wines are always more expensive in every appellation, but are frequently so far superior to the competition (particularly in the less prestigious appellations) so as to warrant the extra cost. This wine was amazing, and not only would blow away almost any other Cotes du Rhone I've had in the last 20 years, but also most regular Chateauneuf-du-Papes as well. Remarkable nose of rich blackberry, cassis, incense and earthy-iodine scents. Still young in the mouth, with some tannic structure for a few more years' development (if you've got a cellar or good temperature controlled wine storage unit -- I don't). Great length and concentration. I think I paid about $24 a couple of years ago for this, but Specs on Smith still has some left, albeit at $29 now.
Recipe for "Egyptian Lamb" -- This is a recipe I got from Liz's mom, and it's become our Easter tradition. We had it yesterday with the wines listed above. It results in a well-done roast (not rare, so beware), but it's very flavorful and moist. The presentation is nice because you've got a leg of lamb surrounded by neat piles of many different-colored roasted veggies, all of whose flavors have mingled with the roast juices.
1 6 to 8 lb. leg of lamb
1 large clove garlic (crushed)
2 onions or leeks, roughly minced
1 lb green beans
2-4 eggplants, depending on size (I like smaller ones), cut into 1" cubes
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, cut in half, lengthwise, then into 1/2 " slices
2 green bell peppers
3-4 tomatoes, cut into large chunks
1/2 teas. marjoram
2 bay leaves
2 tblsp. chopped parsley
3 tblsp. tomato paste
Preheat over to 450. Bone leg of lamb. Rub lamb all over with crushed garlic. Sprinkle and rub in salt, pepper, and oregano. (Optionally, then put bone back in and tie meat up around it since bones add flavor).
Allow 30 minutes per pound total cooking time. Place leg in a LARGE roasting pan in oven, and roast at high heat for 20 minutes or so. Then reduce heat to 325. When you've got about 2 1/2 hours to go (which may be right away if you've got a smaller leg), add the onions or leeks, and soften them in the roast juices for 10 minutes or so. While that's going on, parboil the green beans in 1 cup water, reserving the water. Push the onions/leeks into a pile, then add the green beans and all the other veggies, in separate mounds surrounding the leg. Season with salt and pepper. Add marjoram, bay leaves, and parsley. Dissolve tomato paste in reserved green bean water, and pour over all veggies.
Roast, uncovered, until lamb is done, basting occasionally.
Carve into thick slices and arrange on plates with desired veggies. Spoon on pan juices.
VARIATIONS: Yesterday, I tried a few variations, and we all liked them. First, instead of rubbing with one clove of garlic, I pressed three finely chopped cloves of garlic into the meat (both outside and inside where I replaced and tied in the bone). Second, instead of oregano, marjoram, and bay leaf, I used the leaves of several sprigs of fresh rosemary, again, pressed into the meat. Third, I've taken to using Indian eggplant (available at Fiesta near Reliant Stadium). They're smaller (about the size of an egg), firmer, and have a better flavor than the big spongy monstrosities that pass for regular eggplant these days.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Sunday, April 09, 2006
I got this wine a couple of months ago at Spec's, when it was first released, at $19.10, but Spec's is now selling it for $22 and change. Still, given how hard it is to find Pinots this good for under $30-35, this is an excellent buy.
This wine is 50% Monastrell (Mourvedre), with Syrah, Tempranillo, and Merlot blended in. Deep black ruby color. Rich, deep aromas of ripe blackberries, roasted meat, and vanilla spices. Concentrated, intense blackberry, plummy flavors, with some earthiness way in the background. Full-bodied, with a long, pure finish. Some soft, ripe tannin in the back of the mouth. Will soften and improve over the next couple of years. An unbelievable value at $7 and change at Spec's on Smith. 90+
To help you find this, the label is very simple looking -- it's a chestnut brown, with a stick figure drawing of a old-fashioned farmer's cart, and simply says "Carro" on the front.
One more thing: To show just how ludicrous Christopher's Fine Wines' pricing is (see my post immediately below), this wine is $12 there. That's about 70% more expensive than at Spec's.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Coming up soon, I will bite the bullet and go rub shoulders with the swells from River Oaks to see what Central Market is doing these days with their wine selection. I was last there about a year ago (I really don't like the crowd there--too many Jags, Range Rovers, and surgically altered bodies), and from what I recall they had a very good selection with generally high prices. I'm interested to see if that's still the case.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet is typical of the region, typical of Chateau Souverain's style, and darn good. Sporting a deep, saturated black ruby color, with a purple tinge to it, the wine leads with terrific, deep-toned scents of sweet cassis and blueberries, with caramelly-sweet, smoky, gravelly scents as well. Very concentrated smoky fruit, with full body, nice length, and great balance. Very drinkable now, this wine will easily last and improve for 3 to 4 years, minimum. 90+
I got this for $19.50 on sale at Fiesta (the one near Reliant Stadium, which, by the way, is my favorite grocery store in the city! . . . incredible selection of fresh produce, diverse ethnic foods, and unusual cuts of meat). It was my "Saturday night splurge" wine, but that's still a great price for Cabernet of this quality.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Because of the hot 2003 vintage, I expected this wine to have slightly lower acidity than typical Sancerres, and that was indeed the case. Bright greenish-tinged pale gold. Spritely nose of lemon-lime, ripe grapes, and sea shells. Round mouthfeel, medium-full body, with apple/pear and herb flavors. Good length, though there was a little pepperiness on the finish. Got it at Spec's on Smith. 87. Drink over the next year or two.
Bright yellow gold with greenish glints. Gorgeous nose of white peaches, smoky minerals, and talcum powder. Soft, rich fruit in the mouth, with lingering minerally flavors in the long, low acid finish. Soft, friendly, and accessible. Drink before the year is up. 87. Was $13.22 at Spec's on Holcombe (and I've seen it at other Spec's too.)
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Here's an excerpt from the e-mail:
An Official Announcement from Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits
WE ARE SORRY, BUT WE CAN NO LONGER SHIP TO TEXAS
In spite of a recent Supreme Court ruling (Granholm v. Heald) in favor of free trade, the state of Texas has passed new, anti-consumer legislation forbidding out-of-state retailers and auction houses from shipping wine to their customers in Texas.
Sherry-Lehmann has just received a formal cease-and-desist letter from the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission. The letter states that if we continue to ship wine into Texas, we will be subject to criminal prosecution.
This law violates the United State's Supreme Court's ruling that practices permitted for in-state wine businesses must also be extended to out-of-state wine businesses.
It is unconstitutional to permit in-state wine retailers the right to ship wine, but to prohibit the practice for out-of-state retailers.
What a colossal waste of my Texas taxes. Threatening hoidy-toidy, high-end wine retailers who sell what must be miniscule amounts of classified growth Bordeaux and snooty Burgundies to a few Texas connoisseurs is ridiculous.
While Sherry-Lehmann says this is contrary to the US Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Granholm v. Heald, I don't know if that's right. Granholm says that a state can't treat out-of-state wineries worse than in-state wineries by allowing the in-state ones to ship out but not the out-of-state ones to ship in. I don't know if Texas liquor stores can ship out-of-state, so I don't know if Granholm applies to the Texas scheme. Be that as it may, the point is: THIS IS A STUPID RULE. What is the cost to benefit ratio here?? By going after Sherry-Lehmann, and probably others, Texas is essentially saying, "Oh my God, we need to stop this influx of Premier Cru Cotes de Nuits from leading to the decay of the moral fiber of the state! Whatever will we do if too many people get their lips on a glasses of limited production Brunellos or single vineyard "garagiste" Pomerols? Heavens to Betsy!"
Get a grip. Doesn't the state have better ways to spend its money?
(UPDATE): And another thing. Even as protectionism, this fails. I don't order wines from out of state retailers unless I CAN'T get it from the several Houston (and sometimes Austin) retailers I patronize. I mean, why have to pay the expensive additional shipping if you can get it at your local retailers? Extrapolating from my own experience and using common sense, does the sporadic ordering by wine collectors from out-of-state retailers REALLY have any economic effect on Texas wine retailers??? The answer is pretty obviously NO.
Monday, March 27, 2006
The last bottle of this I had was about a year ago, and it's held up really nicely since then. Almost fully saturated black ruby color (more like a Shiraz than a Grenache). Beautiful nose of smoky balsa wood, raspberry liqueur, and minerals. Rich, soft, concentrated mouthfeel, with flavors of salty raspberry extract and a hint of iodine. Long, intense finish. This would blow away most Chateauneuf-du-Papes (the most famous Grenache-based wine) costing 3 times as much. 90. Was about $12 at Spec's on Westheimer (near Fogo de Chao) when I got this about a year ago.