Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Wines

I find it difficult to pair wines with turkey, so I usually don't break out the most expensive stuff on Thanksgiving. Generally, what I find I like best (or dislike the least) with the dang bird are deeply fruity, non-tannic reds (Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, 1-2 year old Beaujolais). For whites, I generally go with a German Kabinett Riesling, Alsace Gewurz, or off-dry to slightly sweet Chenin Blanc.

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

2002 L'Aventure (Stephan Vineyards) Paso Robles ZINFANDEL

This was an elegantly-styled, but flavorful, Zin. Black ruby color. Sweet nose of mixed mountain berries, melted brown sugar, and balsa wood. Soft, but concentrated fruit in the mouth, in a medium-bodied format that seemed at odds with its 15+% alcohol. Not a blockbuster, but a very tasty, feminine-style Zinfandel. 88. Was $24.82 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Beckmen Vineyards CUVEE LE BEC (Santa Ynez Valley, California)

This wine started out big and intense, but on the lean and austere side. After it was opened for about 2 hours, its nose became more fruity and accessible, and the palate rounded out nicely.

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.

2001 Villa di Vetrice CHIANTI RUFINA RESERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

Vetrice is one of my favorite good value sources for Chianti in recent years. This reserva is excellent.

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

2000 Brigaldara AMARONE della VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy)

A very distinctive wine from one of my favorite, non-stratospherically-priced Valpolicella producers. Dark ruby color with some brick at the rim. Unique nose of sweet, pruney fruit, gingerbread, and warm earth. Soft, intense and mouthfilling flavors of blackberries, choke cherries, and old barrels. LOTS of body, with some heat showing through. Some tannins remain but are relatively unobtrusive. Very long in the mouth. Essentially like a very good dry Port. Had this one with a unique and intensely flavored pot roast from Novara (braised in red wine vinegar with guanciale, anchovies, and garlic). Could age and round out a few more years because of the fruit density, but not too many years, what, with all that heat already peeking through. 89. Was $64 at Spec's on Smith -- cheap! compared to producers like Quintarelli and Romano dal Forno.

2004 Domaine Manciat-Poncet MACON-CHARNAY "Les Chenes" (Burgundy, France)

Startlingly deep, dark gold color. So dark I though the wine would surely be oxidized. It wasn't. Fresh nose of sweet flowers, grapes, white peaches, and earthy minerals. Velvety textured in the mouth, with ripe apple-pear fruit and lots of pungent mineral flavors. Still fresh, but with that dark color, I'd drink this one up soon just to be safe. 86. Was $11.99 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

2003 Vignobles Careme VOUVRAY Demi-Sec (Loire, France)

This was a nice, reasonably-priced dessert-style Chenin Blanc. Light, bright brassy gold. Ripe pears, quince, and chalky stones in the nose. Round, soft, ripe, and minerally in the mouth. Light body and very nice balance. Comparable to a Riesling Spatlese but a bit shyer due to Chenin Blanc's understated nature. 87. Was $11.99 on sale at Richard's on South Shepherd.

2002 Bodegas Castano SOLANERA "Vinas Viegas" (Yecla, Spain)

I've had some wines from this winery that have tended toward the overextracted, astringent side, but this 65% Monastrell 35% Cabernet was nice. Deep, saturated black ruby. Brooding nose of smoky charcoal embers and cassis. Inky, intense, masculine flavors of concentrated cassis and dry blackberry extract, with a chalky/minerally underlay. Almost austere, but concentrated enough to have some roundness. MACHO! Very good. 87. Will easily keep 2 to 4 more years in a cool cellar. Was $15 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Talley Arroyo Grande Valley PINOT NOIR (San Luis Obispo County, Cal.)

This was a superb P.N. Light ruby color with purple glints at the rim. Sweet, seductive nose of spiced blackberry juice, flowers, and cigar box. Round and plush in the mouth, with concentrated sweet fruit, toasty warm earth scents, and some well-integrated wood. Great length and beautiful balance. Very sexy, seductive, feminine style Pinot Noir. 91. $33 at Spec's on Smith.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

2005 Cousino-Macul RIESLING "Dona Isadora" (Maipo Valley, Chile)

A great buy in an Alsace-style Riesling. Light, bright silvery-straw color. Terrific nose of fresh grapes, cold steel, and Earl Grey tea. Intense, yet balanced and light-textured flavors of grapes, pear skins, and pungent minerals (gout de petrol, as the French say). Long, soft, dry finish. 88. Was about $9 at Whole Foods on Bellaire, but I think Spec's locations stock this too.

2003 Chateau de Chatelard BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES "Les Vieilles Vignes" (France)

I reviewed this one before here. This was my last bottle, and it still is great. Medium deep ruby. No real signs of age. Gorgeous nose of sweet grapes and raspberries, butterscotchy notes, earth and stony minerals. A contradiction in the mouth: mouthfilling flavors of bright, rich fruit, yet a silky, tip-toey, light mouthfeel. Lingering finish and perfect balance. 90. Could last another year, but why wait?

2005 Georges Duboeuf MORGON "Jean Descombes" (Beaujolais, France)

A cleanly-made but not terribly interesting Beaujolais.

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

2003 Elyse "Morisoli Vineyard" ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley)

Very good, but not nearly worth the price.

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.

2004 Bogle "Old Vines" ZINFANDEL (California)

A dark, but mature ruby color. Ripe, spicy nose of peaches mulled in raspberry/blueberry juice, with cinnamon and salt-air scents. Not classic Zinfandel aromas, but nice. Broad, low acid flavors of peach pit and gingerbread. Not terribly concentrated, but mouthfilling in a lighter way, with some heat in the finish. A nice quaffer to guzzle in the next few months. 86. Was about $8 and change on sale at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

2004 Bodegas Torremoron TEMPRANILLO (Ribera del Duero, Spain)

This wine is a good value. Though it's in a tighter, less fleshy style than I usually go for, I liked it -- it would go well with very rich meat sauces or stews or braised pot roasts.

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.