Thursday, March 30, 2006

2003 Patient Cottat Sancerre "Vieilles Vignes"

Since good Sancerres (one of my favorite expressions of the Sauvignon Blanc grape) tend to cost between $15 - $30, this wine was a pretty good value at $14.88.

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.

2004 Coron Pere & Fils St. Veran "Domaine de Montagny"

This wine is usually a good value in a soft, flavorful, unoaked white burgundy (i.e., French Chardonnay). The 2004 is no exception (though the 2003, which I had just before I started this blog, was flabby, tired, and out-of-balance, no doubt due to the ridiculous heat that year). Coron's style -- at least for the Maconais wines I've tried from this producer -- seem to play up the soft, ripe (even peachy) fruit that ripe Chardonnay can produce. This style is in sharp, stark contrast to the style of the Verget white burgundies I've tried. Verget is another producer whose wines are featured at Spec's. While both producers' wines from the Maconais taste unoaked, it's clear, at least to me, that Verget clearly strives for the austere, minerally side of Chardonnay. I definitely favor the Coron house style.

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

Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission Engaging in Petty Protectionism

I'm on the e-mailing lists for a bunch of retail stores around the country from which I've ordered small amounts of hard-to-get wines over the last several years. One of them, Sherry-Lehmann in NYC, sent me an e-mail today saying that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission had sent them a cease-and-desist letter threatening criminal prosecution if they continued to ship wine to Texas consumers. As a result, they'll no longer ship to me.

Here's an excerpt from the e-mail:

An Official Announcement from Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits


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

2002 Yalumba "Bush Vines" Grenache (Barossa Valley, Australia)

Despite the word "Bush" in the name of this wine, I really like this one a lot. It will be hard to find the 2002 vintage of this wine in stores, however, as most of the places I shop have been stocking only the 2003 for a several months now. But if you see some 2002 lying around -- SNAP IT UP!

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.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

2003 Mas Carlot Costieres de Nimes "Les Enfants Terrible"

Of the mixed bag that is 2003 in the south of France, this is one of the good ones. Deep, soft, black-ruby. Very ripe, deep-toned nose of sweet cream, soft cigar smoke, and blackberries. Soft, broad, low acid palate impression, with flavors of iodine, blackberry liqueur, and scorched earth. Lots of soft but unobtrusive tannin. Drink over the next year. 87. Was $11.99 at Richard's on San Felipe.

2004 Bonny Doon "Vin Gris de Cigare" Rosé

A perfect for rosé for immediate drinking. Bright salmon pink color. Vivacious nose of sweet oranges and strawberries. Fleshy, lively, weighty (for a rosé) and dry in the mouth. I like rosés to be fresh and young, so I wouldn't leave this one until the summer, but for right now, it's really fun to drink. 88. Was $10 at Spec's (just about all of them).

Sunday, March 19, 2006

2003 Domaine Paul Blanck Alsace Riesling (France)

Here's a very nice, if atypical, Alsace Riesling. Deepish straw-gold with brassy highlights. Big, fruity nose of lemon/lime, skins of ripe Red Delicious apples, and chalky/petrolly minerals. Big in the mouth too, with rich apply/pear flavors, with stones in the background. Full-bodied, with just barely perceptible residual sweetness. Not complex, but quite satisfying -- kind of like a big, goofy friend. Very low acidity gives it a flatter mouthfeel than most Alsace Rieslings, but I liked it despite this small criticism. Not a Riesling to age, but to drink now. 87. $16.43 (which isn't bad for an Alsace Riesling) at the Spec's on Westheimer & Waugh.

2003 Cline "Ancient Vines" Zinfandel (California)

I was expecting to be down on this wine because Robert Parker has been dissing Cline Zins of late, but this was quite nice. Deep, soft blackish ruby color. Atypical nose for a Zin, with plums, spice, hickory smoke and caramel. Absolutely sexy, voluptuous mouthfeel. Honestly, there are other ways to describe the texture, but this is a family blog. Almost port-like ripeness, with a long, lush finish. Not complex, but very fun to drink. My bud Robert, who gave me this, said it needs to be drunk right away, and he's right. 88. I think I've seen this in several places for about $13-14.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

2002 Hill of Content Grenache/Shiraz (South Australia)

89. A very pleasure-giving wine. Gorgeous nose of raspberries and ripe, sweet lemons, with chalky minerals in the background. Soft, salty raspberry flavors in the mouth, with a long, pure, fruity finish. Just perfect balance. Would go nicely with any number of dishes, from red-sauced pastas to roast chicken to grilled or roasted meats. Not complex so much as hedonistic. Kinda like an Australian version of Beaujolais, but with a different flavor profile. Was about $12 at Spec's on Smith.

2003 Finca Luzon Jumilla (Spain)

Nice value, but not a star. Dark, crystalline ruby color. Fresh, intersting high-toned nose of crushed stones, plums, English Leather cologne, and peanuts. Soft-textured in the mouth, yet with an austere flavor profile, tending toward minerally rather than fruity flavors. Some tannin yet to be resolved in the finish. An idiosyncratic, yet fairly well made wine. 84. Was $8.77 at Spec's on Smith.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

2004 Viña Antigua Sangiovese/Bonarda (Maipu, Argentina)

For the second year in a row, this is a tremendous buy in a dirt-cheapo red. I reviewed the 2003 here, and this wine is just as good, at least.

Medium ruby-garnet color. Bright cherry-strawberry aromas in the nose, with crusty bread in the background. Vibrant cherry and mineral flavors, with medium body, good acidity, and a fairly long finish. A great value at $4.20 at Spec's. Reminiscent of a good entry level Chianti, but at 1/2 to 1/3 the price. 85.

2003 Perrin Chateauneuf du Pape "Les Sinards" (Rhone, France)

A disappointment. Robert Parker wrote this up in Decemeber '04 and gave it a great review, saying that it had managed to avoid the harsh tannin and astringency that has plagued many wines from the south of France (and Spain) in this vintage of unprecedented heat. On the strength of that review, I snagged a couple of bottles at Cost Plus several months ago at $23.99 (a great price for a good Chateauneuf!). Stashed 'em in the closet. In the most recent Wine Advocate, however, he re-reviewed it and apparently changed his mind: says it's astringent and tannic.

So I opened a bottle to see what was up. Crap. It was indeed astringent and harsh.

Deep, yet dullish black ruby color (I've noticed that many 2003s from the Southern Rhone, Provence, and the Languedoc have dull color). Nose of scorched earth and graphite, with some simple blackberry fruit in the background. Fairly full-bodied, with straightforward black fruit and peppery charcoal flavors. Rough tannin and astringency are the main components of the finish. Rustic and simple, this wine is not in any way identifiable as a Chateauneuf -- tastes like a generic and pedestrian Cotes du Rhone instead. 79.

I'm going to let the second bottle sit for a year or so and see if anything changes for the better, but I doubt it will.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

2004 Woop Woop Shiraz (Southeast Australia)

88. Here's a really good, inexpensive red. Deep, saturated black ruby color. Intense, rich nose of jammy blackberries, vanilla extract, and earthy graphite. Deep flavors of creamy blackberries and pencil lead. Some ripe, well-integrated tannin in the finish. Very nicely done -- gutsy and suave. Will last and perhaps improve over the next 2-3 years. Was $8.76 at Spec's Warehouse on Smith.