Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2001 Ruffino CHIANTI CLASSICO "Reserva Ducale Oro" (Tuscany, Italy)

Infanticide. I committed infanticide. This highly-structured, concentrated wine needs at least 4 or 5 more years to grow up and settle down. I don't think I've ever had a Chianti this structured, backward, and concentrated (and it's already age 5!).

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


A Bordeaux varietal blend, though it doesn't say anywhere on the label how much of what kind of grapes. Interestingly, it's from a state more known for its Burgundy and Alsace varietals (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris).

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

2004 Torbreck "Woodcutter's SEMILLON" (Barossa Valley, Australia)

I occasionally have a hankerin' for a Semillon. Semillon, typically blended with Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux, gives, to my taste, a broad, horizontal palate impression and has a unique aromatic profile.

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

2004 Trentadue PETITE SIRAH "North Coast" (California)

A nice, relatively accessible Petite Sirah. Dense black ruby, saturated to the rim, with purple highlights. Rich, sweet, earthy blackberry and cassis nose, with pencil lead notes . . . smelled almost like a densely-extracted Cabernet. Medium to full-bodied, with lots of ripe tannin. Concentrated, focused flavors of cassis, pencil lead, and charcoal (again with the Cabernet-like thing going on!). Fairly long finish. Will certainly keep and improve in a cool cellar over the next five years.

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

2004 EQUIS "Vinas Viejas" (Tierra de Castilla, Spain)

Too tannic and rustic for my taste. Dark black ruby. Very closed, astringent nose at first, but with an hour of air time, scents of blackberry and lemon juice, with a little cinnamon component, emerge from underneath the scorched earth scents. Full bodied, but with boatloads of coarse, rustic tannin obscuring the ripe fruit and stony mineral flavors. Another year or two in a cool cellar could result in the wine dropping some of this coarse tannin and make the wine more pleasurable. 82+. Was $9.99 at Central Market.

2004 Verasol GARNACHA (Campo de Borja, Spain)

Medium-light ruby color. Lively nose of strawberry, raspberry, and minerally candied lemon peel. Very light, with flavors of minerally red fruit, marred by some bitterness. Seems like a wine made with overcropped grapes that the winemaker tried to overextract to make up for the diluted quality of the juice. Still, I put it in the fridge for a few minutes and a slight chill took some of the bitter edge off. 82. Was $9 at Central Market.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

2004 Longwood SHIRAZ "The Sheep Shearer" (McLaren Vale, Australia)

This was really nice.

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).

2005 Verget du Sud PETITE SYRAH "Endes" (Rhone, France)

This was disappointing. It's actually been quite a while since I LIKED a red wine by this producer (who makes good, albeit minerally & austere, white burgundies as well.

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

2004 Calina CARMENERE Reserva (Valle del Maule, Chile)

This was an excellent value. Carmenere is a varietal that used to be grown in Bordeaux in the 1800s, but was largely wiped out when the phylloxera "plague" struck Europe's vineyards, and then not re-planted after that. But it had already been brought to Chile by then, and was thriving there even more so than in Bordeaux. So Chile is really the only place left on earth where this varietal is planted in commercial significant quantities.

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.

2004 PILLAR BOX RED (57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Shiraz, 11% Merlot) (Australia)

A terrific buy in a big, full-flavored red. Fully saturated opaque black ruby color. Intense nose of cassis and hot sandstone, with some spicy cigar box scents. Concentrated, deep flavors of salty scorched earth and dry blackberry extract. Tightly wound and very dense, but with light, soft, tannins, and a lengthy, balanced finish. A somewhat lean, but muscular and athletic, full-bodied wine. It will keep nicely, and round out and soften, for at least another year or two. 89+ A great value at $9.59 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

2003 Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek Valley ZINFANDEL "Reserve"

Disappointing. I've had many bottles of RZ's regular Sonoma County "Heritage Vines" Zins -- which are cheaper -- that have been better.

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

2005 Morin Père & Fils POUILLY-FUISSÉ (Burgundy, France)

Not bad, but not up to its pedigree.

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


Thanks to some new features added to Blogger by Google, I'm in the process of updating all my old entries to add categories that readers can click on to see the entries arranged by region, varietal, "under $10," and other categories. I'll try to get this done ASAP.

2004 Concannon PETITE SIRAH "Limited Release" (Central Coast, Cal.)

Didn't like this one. Saturated black ruby-purple. Medium intensity nose of scorched earth, creosote, lemons, and blackberry extract (in descending order of magnitude). All structure and no flavor on the palate. Like drinking a wine skeleton. Some minimal tart blackberry fruit is discernable, but other than that, it's just tannin, acid, and alcohol. 69. Was $6.99 at Kroger's on sale, but even if free it wasn't really worth the effort of popping the cork.

2003 Turkey Flat Vineyards GRENACHE (Barossa Valley, Australia)

Dark, black ruby. Rich, sweet, pungent nose of spicy raspberries, rhubarb, and yeasty, gingerbready scents. Intense, herbal, berry, and iodine flavors. Fairly high acidity helps buoy it up. Long finish. Not as plush as the 2002, reviewed here, but gutsy and gawky at the same time. A flavorful lunk of a wine. 88. Was about $17 at Whole Foods on Bellaire some time ago.

2004 Robert Biale "Black Chicken" ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, Cal.)

Rich-looking, saturated black ruby. Almost indescribably ripe, sexy nose of sappy, oozing blackberries and gingerbread. Soft, heavy palate impression, with huge body, great ripeness and richness, and almost port-like flavors (though it was dry). Some peppery heat at the end of the verrrrry long finish. My experience is that Zins like this crack up quickly, so, if you can find this limited production gem, enjoy it now while it's in full bloom. 91. I got this for around $30-35 at Richard's on South Shepherd a couple of months ago.