Tuesday, January 31, 2006

(Too) Many Wines from a Weekend in New England

I went to New England for a very brief visit this weekend, since I hadn't seen either of my brothers' respective new houses. So two big family dinners (one at each house) resulted. As you can see, we opened several interesting bottles. Notes, sans scores, are below. First, the wines from Angy and Susan's house in West Hartford:

2002 Potel-Aviron Cote de Brouilly Vieilles Vignes (Beaujolais, France) -- medium intensity color, but a slightly oxidized nose, with some hard cassis fruit and crushed rocks underneath. On the austere side for a Beaujolais, though this appellation isn't known for the softness of its wines.

2002 Furst Lowenstein Reicholzheimer Satzenberg Weisser Burgunder Spatlese Trocken (Baden region, Germany) -- Believe it or not the wine was a bigger mouthful than the name. A rare chardonnay from Germany. Beautiful nose of flowers, straw, minerals, and tangerine oil. Rich, minerally/stony flavors, with bright fruit (peaches, granny smith apples); great balance and acidity. Like a really good Maconnais, only livelier and fresher. Dad and Mom got this one on their canal trip through Europe.

2001 Guilhem Durand Syrah Vieilles Vignes (VDP Hauterive, France) -- This was a polarizingly controversial wine. Deep, youthful color. Intense nose of earthy, barnyard scents, aged meat, red fruit, and iodine. Rich, earthy flavors, with a long finish that I thought soft, but my dad thought bitter. Very distinctive.

2000 Moncano "Cimero" Rosso Conero Riserva (Marche, Italy) -- Intense nose of leather, prosciutto, and dark red grapes. Rich, hearty, not particularly complex, but very satisfying.

2000 Grachino Alberto Nebbiolo d'Alba (Piemonte, Italy) -- The red wine of the evening. Absolutely classic, old-style Nebbiolo scents of chokecherry brandy, earth, and baker's chocolate. Intensely "winey" flavors of sweet & sour cherries and leather. Not a blockbuster, but great flavors.

2000 Campo de Borja "Borsao Reserva" (Spain) -- A blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Cabernet, and 25% Tempranillo. The Cabernet dominates here, however. Olivey, oaky Cabernet fruit on the nose and throughout the flavors. Not bad, but tastes like a Cabernet from most anywhere.


That was Saturday. On Sunday, we all went to Danny and Deb's house in the boonies of Ludlow. There, we had several more interesting wines, including (I say "including" because, due to Saturday's consumption, I skipped the white and have totally forgotten the last red altogether):

2001 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Vinas Viejas (Calatayud, Spain) -- This wine was amazing! Inky black ruby color; completely saturated. Penetrating nose of spicy blackberries, framboise liqueur, and graphite. Full-bodied, intense, mouthfilling flavors. Almost port-like in its intensity, but dry. Long, lingering finish with some soft tannins nicely integrated. Could easily last and improve another 3-4 years. Totally different in style than the 2003 version of this wine, reviewed previously here.

2001 Domaine d'Andezon Cotes du Rhone (France) -- Medium-dark ruby color. Bright nose of cherry candy, strawberries, and stones. Beautiful balance and softness. Medium long finish. Not a blockbuster, but very nicely done.

2002 Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon Reservas Antiguas (Maipo Valley, Chile) -- I remember that the 2000 of this wine was amazing, although I drank it before starting this blog. It tasted like a dead-ringer for a really good Graves. The 2002 was nice, but didn't measure up to its older sibling. Lightish ruby color, with brick (already) at the edges. Weedy, herbal, blackcurranty, and dusty earth nose. Soft, relatively simple flavors of currants and earth. Medium length finish. Not a bad value, however, for a Bordeaux-style Cab, since I think it's around $11.

Monday, January 23, 2006

2004 Oxford Landing "GSM" (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre) South Australia

A very good buy in a gutsy red. Nice nose of peppery raspberries & kirsch, and steely, smoky minerals. The flavors are a bit less open and friendly than the nose would have you believe, with a somewhat austere streak of dry raspberry extract and leather pervading. Clean, simple, yet relatively persistent finish. I think the flavors may soften up over time, as it seemed to get softer with 1-2 hours of air time. (Wines that get softer and rounder as they sit after being opened tend to do the same, only slower, with time in the bottle.) 86+ Was $6.83 at Spec's on Smith, though it's probably available at most other Spec's locations too, I suspect.)

2001 Domaine Gramenon Cotes du Rhone "Cuvee Laurentides"

87. I think I could have picked this one out of a line-up blind from the color and nose. Medium lightish ruby color. Classic Domaine Gramenon nose of fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice, raspberries, and cigar box. (I have lost count of the number of wines I've had from this estate over the years in which I've detected varying levels of pink grapefruit juice in the nose. How they get Grenache to smell like this is beyond me.) Medium body. Fairly assertive flavors of dry raspberry and peach essences, grapefruit again, and iodine. Not particularly concentrated, but nicely-balanced, soft, interesting, and enjoyable. Drink now. Was $11.24 on sale at Richard's on San Felipe.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

2003 Chateau de Chatelard Beaujolais-Villages "Vieilles Vignes"

I am a great fan of Beaujolais, despite how uncool it may be among current wine geeks. And this is a really good, old-style Beaujolais.

Deep ruby with glints of purple. Intense nose of crunchy raspberries, spiced grape jelly, and pewtery minerals. Youthful and a tad angular at present, but with wonderfully penetrating flavors of raspberries, grapes, and crushed stones. A bit tannic(!) for a Beaujolais, but not unpleasantly so. Mouthfilling and rich, with a ridiculously long finish. This wine could benefit from another several months' worth of cellaring so it can settle down and soften up a bit more, but WOW! This is really fine old-fashioned Beaujolais! 90+ Only $10 at Spec's on Smith. GO GET SOME!

2003 Leaping Lizard Napa Valley Zinfandel

Since the 2000 vintage (I think), the Leaping Lizard wines I've tried have presented very good values. Their Napa Zins, Carneros Pinot Noirs, and Cabernets have been consistently good and cheap. This, however, is probably the least impressive LL Zin I've had, though it's still a decent value.

Medium deep ruby-purple color. Medium intensity nose of sweet cream, blackberries, sarsaparilla, and scorched earth. Relatively linear flavors of ripe, port-like blackberry fruit and minerals. A tad astringent on the finish, where a REAL Zin should have been a bit fleshier. A little short on the finish too. Not bad, and as I said, a decent value, but not good enough to repeat. 83. About $12 at all (most?) of the Spec's stores.

What the heck IS Leaping Lizard anyway? I can't find any information on this winery, and hadn't even heard of it until a few years ago.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Wines from Emma's Birthday Dinner

I'm not going to score these, and my comments are from memory, as we polished off these wines during my daughter Emma's birthday dinner without my having a chance to sit down and take notes. She requested "expensive pasta," which is our name for a pasta dish that calls for copious amounts of diced soppressata and diced prosciutto, along with lots of diced fresh mozzarella. Throw in tomatoes, lots of chopped fresh herbs, and use top quality pasta, and it takes the dish out of the thrifty realm of pasta with garlic and oil. Hence, the name. She also invited our friend (and my co-worker) Brian over, so it wasn't just Liz and me who finished off the wines.

2003 Ridge "Three Valleys" Sonoma County red -- Mostly Zinfandel, this blend was lighter than I expected from Ridge, although it had the aromatic complexity I expect from Ridge Zins. Beautiful ripe black fruits and smoky gravelly scents on the nose, primarily. Medium bodied, with nice but lightish flavors and average length. Would have been nice for under $10, but it was $18.99 on sale at Whole Foods, and therefore a bit pricey for this level of quality.

1999 Domaine Le Galantin Bandol -- I previously reviewed my last bottle of the 1998 of this wine here, and this was my last bottle of the '99. Similar aromatic and flavor profile to the '98, although a bit lighter and less complex. Still, it was a great buy (I bought about 6 bottles at around $12/per in 2001 I think). The '98 started out tighter, earthier, and more austere, but got deeper, softer and better over time. The '99 started out fruiter, softer, and more accessible, and it held up beautifully. But it didn't really improve at all over time, it just changed a bit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

2001 Zumaya Tempranillo (Ribera del Duero, Spain)

At $4.50 at Spec's on Holcombe, another GREAT buy from Spain. I'm usually not a big fan of the Tempranillo grape, but this is really nice. Dark black ruby color. Subtle nose with scents evoking ripe blackberries, cassis, peach jam, sweet cream, and earth. Soft, velvety texture, medium body with ripe cassis and earthy mineral flavors. Nicely balanced and relatively concentrated. Very nice. Load up on this puppy. 87.

2003 Villaroya de la Sierra "IA" Garnacha (Spain)

A GREAT buy! Got this Spanish Grenache for only $4.26 at Spec's Warehouse on Smith. Deep ruby color. Nose has scents of ripe raspberry, pine forest, and talcum powder. Simple but satisfying and relatively robust flavors of cherry-raspberry fruit and stones. Good, clean, soft finish with very nice balance. A real steal in a ridiculously cheap everyday or party red. 86.

2003 "The Lucky Country" Barossa Valley, Australia (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre)

I was a bit disappointed by this one, in that it was produced by a well-regarded Aussie winery (Two Hands), and was 85% Grenache, one of my favorite grapes.

Light ruby color. Shy nose of juicy fruit chewing gum, raspberries, and sharp leathery scents (which I usually associate with grapes from a hot growing season that have been overextracted, but that's inconsistent with the very light color, so I'm not sure what's going on). Not particularly concentrated, but pleasant to drink. Simple fruit and earth flavors, and a decent finish of raspberry essence. 84. About $12 and change at Spec's Warehouse.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

2003 Chateau de Pena Cotes du Roussillon Villages (SW France)

Dull blackish ruby color. Plum preserves, some spice, and earth on the nose. Simple, medium-bodied flavors of plummy blackberries and dry leather. A bit astringent and flat on the finish. Not bad, but it is interesting that the cheapest wine of this co-op (Cuvee de Pena, a VDP blend, the 2003 of which I reviewed back in August 2005) is almost always, in my view, better than this wine, its slightly more expensive AOC sibling. About $8 at Spec's. 80.

Monday, January 02, 2006

1999 Ferraton Crozes-Hermitage "La Matiniere"

An example of how educated guesses can sometimes be off-base. Ferraton -- a top-notch producer of Hermitages. 1999 -- a good year in the Northern Rhone. "La Matiniere" is one of Ferraton's negociant (not estate) wines. I didn't figure a good firm to buy mediocre juice when, since it wasn't even their own grapes, they had no downside to not buying it. So for $15, I thought this one would be at least good, and maybe amazing.

Not so. Lightish color, looking mature. Weak nose of leather, tart cherries, and acid. Washed out flavors. Hasn't aged well, and probably wasn't that good to begin with. Oh well. 71.