Saturday, August 26, 2006

It's Baaa-ack!

My best value of the last year is available at Spec's on Westheimer (out west, near Fogo de Chao). I just picked up a few more bottles of the 2004 "Carro" -- a Mourvedre blend from southeastern Spain -- for $6.99. Do your tastebuds and wallet a favor -- go get some.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

2002 Rocking Horse ZINFANDEL (65% Napa, 35% Sonoma)

This was a very satisfying Zin.

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.

2004 Schlumberger PINOT BLANC "Les Abbes" (Alsace, France)

I've had this wine over several vintages, and this one was OK, but a bit disappointing given the track record of this producer. Usually, you can count on Schlumberger wines to be big, ripe galoots. Not a lot of complexity, but a lot of ripeness and character. This one was on the austere side.

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

Four Excellent Wines from a Steak Dinner

Dinner with the Murphys (+1) at our house. With mesquite-grilled steaks (no one on Marquette Street called the fire department on me this time!), we had the following line-up up excellent reds (abbreviated notes from memory, no scores):

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

2004 Vina Alarba Old Vines GRENACHE (Calatayud, Spain)

This wine is always at least a good value, and sometimes a great one. The 2004 is closer to the "good" end of the scale. Saturated dark ruby-purple. Intense nose of crushed, hot stones, sweet cream, and spicy raspberry/cherry liqueur. Tight, minerally, crisp, raspberry flavors, with relatively high acidity making for a nervous, edgy mouthfeel. Some tannin to shed as well. This wine should be a little softer in texture in a year, but time won't take away the acidity. A good, boisterous, but somewhat uncivilized glass of wine. 86+. Was $6.99 at Spec's.

2003 ZIG ZAG ZIN (Mendocino County Zinfandel)

Medium ruby color with some lightening toward the rim. Spicy, gingerbready nose, with spicy berries and scorched earth underneath. Lively in the mouth at first, assertive berry, mineral, and black pepper flavors. But some dryish tannins then quickly become apparent as the flavors quickly fade in the very short finish. Not bad, but nowhere near worth the price of $15.99 at Central Market. 83.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

2004 Chateau Calabre (Montravel, France)

This is a white Sauvignon Blanc (60%) - Semillion (40%) blend from an outlying region near Bordeaux. Very light brassy-gold color. Initially the nose featured grassy herbs, chalk, and gooseberries (which comes from the Sauvignon Blanc side of the family), but after it had been opened an hour or so, the lanolin scent of Semillion started to feel its oats. Large-framed with big, straightforward flavors of chalky minerals, cut grass, lime, and marzipan. Finishes clean, but with a little heat. 85. Not bad, but not a repeat purchase candidate. Was $9.99 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

2004 Sebastiani Sonoma County ZINFANDEL

This is the best value Zin I've had in the last 3 years. Not a full-bodied blockbuster, but just spot-on Zin flavors and great balance. Black ruby color. Nose shy at first, but within an hour had blossomed to reveal classic ripe Zin fruit (brambly blackberries) and creamy, smoky molasses undertones. Medium-bodied, with ripe, soft blackberry fruit, and a clean, pure, and relatively long finish. A wine I could drink way too much of. At $8.50 a bottle at Spec's on Smith, this one is worth stocking up on, if you, like me, are a Zin fan. 88.

2002 Zaca Mesa "Z CUVEE" (Santa Ynez Valley, CA)

Zaca Mesa has for years been one of the most underrated wineries in California. I've never had a wine I didn't like from these folks, and they're usually not that expensive. This blend of 45% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 16% Syrah, and 9% Cinsault (all Rhone varietals), was very good and a pretty good value. Dark, bright ruby. Gorgeous, complex nose of cigar box, crushed rocks, baker's chocolate, earthy plums and blueberries. Intense, yet relatively austere flavors of iodine, dry blackberry extract, scorched earth, and salt. Long, dry, spicy & salty finish, with excellent length. A little heat and tannin on the tail. Drink now. 88. Would go very nicely with braised beef or lamb dishes. Was about $15 at Spec's on Smith, I think, a few months ago (I lost the receipt).

2004 VINA BORGIA (Campo de Borja, Spain)

This Garnacha (or Grenache)-based wine is usually a good buy in any vintage, and the 2004 is no exception. Medium blackish ruby color. Spicy cherry-raspberry fruit on the nose, with a scorched earth, minerally component. Solid, straightforward dry cherry-raspberry fruit, with decent amounts of character and concerntration for a wine this cheap. I think I got this at Central Market for about $6, but it's available elsewhere too. 86.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

1999 Domaine de Grand Tinel CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE (Southern Rhone, France)

(Truncated, non-scored notes from memory). I was expecting more from this one. It seemed just a tad past its peak. Earthy, leathery, cherry and raspberry scents. Full and peppery on the palate, but it seemed to lack the depth and concentration I expect from a good estate in Chateauneuf in a very good vintage. Interestingly, this 7-year old wine had thrown no discernible sediment, strongly suggesting that overzealous filtering may be to blame.

2004 Quinta dos Grilos DAO (Portugal)

(Truncated, non-scored notes from memory). This was a GREAT value. Got it for $7.99 at Pop 'N Cork in Ludlow, MA (which has a nice selection of interesting and moderately priced Portuguese wines). Deep blackish ruby. Great nose of ripe, spicy raspberries, peppercorns, and granite dust. Medium-full bodied flavors of ripe fruit and spicy minerals. Drink now or age a year or two.

2001 Finca Luzon ALTOS DE LUZON (Jumilla, Spain)

(Truncated, non-scored notes from memory). This was outstanding. 50% Monastrell, 25% Tempranillo, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky black ruby color. Big, rich nose of chocolate, vanilla, blueberry liqueur, and earth. Massive, concentrated, yet soft on the palate. Reminded me of a mature high-end Petite Sirah from Northern California. Was $14.99 at Table & Vine (Big Y Liquors) in Northampton, MA.