Monday, December 31, 2007

2005 CAN BLAU (Montsant, Spain)

This is good, but not as good as the 2004 was.

Dark ruby/mulberry color. Big, galumphy, earthy nose: lots of spicy blackberry, olivey-vegetal scents, with some smoky earthy componenets too. Full-bodied, with broad flavors of mixed berries, granite, and lemon. Good, buoyant acidity helps prop up the large-boned physique (think Yao Ming). Fairly long finish. 88. Drink soon, as I think that this will become more angular with age. Was about $16 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2001 Badia a Coltibuono CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

This was a very elegant, restrained, yet characterful Chianti we enjoyed while entertaining our friends from Austin, the Hughens.

Dark ruby garnet color. Medium intensity nose of ripe chokecherries and smoky stones. Broad, soft, lightish mouthfeel, with flavors of cherry, new leather, and spice. Lovely, long finish. Not a blockbuster, but very polished. 89. I would drink this now, as I'm not convinced it's going to improve over the next few years. $29 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2002 Casa Lapostolle CABERNET SAUVUGNON (Rapel Valley, Chile)

This had been tucked away unseen in a corner of my wine closet for the last three years, forgotten. It had actually aged very well and was quite a surprise for an entry-level, cheap Cabernet.

Dark black ruby color with the barest hint of amber at the rim. Intense, low-toned nose of cassis, smoke, and a pencil lead/graphite component. Concentrated and medium full-bodies in the mouth, with flavors of dark cassis extract and minerals. Still lots of ripe tannins, which, in conjunction with the deep fruit, lead me to conclude that this guy could age for a few years further still. Impressive for an $8 bottle. 88. (Caveat: I've heard that the regular bottlings of this winery in more recent vintages are not up to the standards it set in 1999-2002 -- so more recent vintages might not measure up to this one.)

2005 Las Rocas GARNACHA "El Renegado" (Calatayud, Spain)

This was a relatively large-scaled but bony Grenache.

Black ruby color. Medium intensity nose of spicy raspberries, smoky gingerbread, and lemons. Very structured (for a Grenache) in the mouth, with big but kinda austere flavors of raspberry, briary underbrush, and earth. Substantial tannin in the fairly long finish. I'm not sure this is going to flesh out or get any better, so I'd drink it now. 85. Was $13.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

2001 Triacca VALTELLINA SUPERIORE RISERVA "La Gatta" (Lombardy, Italy)

In the early 1980s, Nebbiolo wines from the four towns comprising the Valtellina (Inferno, Grumella, Sassella, and Valgella) used to be some of my favorites -- they were cheap (always under $10), they were great examples of a lighter, leaner style of Nebbiolo, and, at least in NYC, where I lived, they were fairly widely available. Until I saw this one, I hadn't seen a Valtellina wine in literally decades.

This wine was very light and lean, but had correct Nebbiolo scents and flavors.

Very light ruby/garnet, with a hint of amber at the rim. Sweet, candied cherries and lemons on the nose, with a backdrop of smoky stones. Medium-light bodied, but with persistent flavors tart cherries, old oak barrels, and minerals, leading to a fairly long, but lean and somewhat tannic finish. It would be nice to age this to have the tannin drop out, but I think that the fruit is on the decline, so drink this now. 86. Was about $30 at Spec's on Smith. On its merits, definitely not worth the price, but for a personal trip down memory lane, not bad.

2005 Heartland South Australia SHIRAZ

This was a balanced, full-flavored, complex red.

Saturated black ruby, with some glints of purple still showing at the rim. Intense nose of blackberry and blueberry extract, with some sweet, spiced woodsmoke and hard lemon candy notes. Inky cassis and blackberry fruit, with a nice smoky, bacony component lurking in the background. Full and long in the mouth. Some very soft tannin in the finish augurs for the capability of 2 to 3 more years of aging. 90. Was $15.33 at Spec's on Smith.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

2004 Fattoria Selvapiana CHIANTI RUFINA (Tuscany, Italy)

This was a very elegant, medium-bodied Sangiovese.

Dark ruby-garnet. Complex nose of bright, sweet cherries, menthol, earth, and a sweet, high-toned woody component. Focused and concentrated cherry/mineral flavors, with a long, lean, youthful-feeling finish. There is some tannin for structure here, but it's ripe and soft, not gritty or chalky-textured. Will certainly soften and improve for a year or two. 88. Was $18.89 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Cortijo III Rioja (Spain)

Like the 2004, the 2005 version of this Rioja reminded me of a Beaujolais.

Medium dark ruby with magenta at the rim. Very nice, straightforward nose of ripe berries and fur. Clean, focused fruit in the mouth, with a nice, stony-minerally component. Good persistence. Based on the 2004 and 2005, I'm guessing that this winery goes in for carbonic maceration fermentation -- like they use in Beaujolais -- for all or at least part of the fruit for this wine. Good value, and would match well with a wide variety of foods. I'm not sure, but I think I got this at Central Market for about $7 or $8. 86.

2006 A to Z Oregon PINOT NOIR

This was disappointing in view of the successful 2005 this winery produced.

Garnet color. Muted nose, giving up only vague whiffs of hard cherry candy and metallic minerals. Soft and light, with tart cherry fruit and a lean, acidic finish. 78. I think this was around $15.

2006 Alois Lageder PINOT BIANCO (Alto Adige, Italy)

This is Italy's version of a good Maconnais white.

Very light straw color. Light intensity nose of chalky minerals, apples, and peach pits. Precise, light-bodied flavors of pear and stones. Although light-bodied, it had an interesting pleasantly oily texture. Lots of minerals in a medium-long finish. 86. Was $12.79 at Richard's on Shepherd.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

2005 Piping Shrike SHIRAZ (Barossa Valley, Australia)

This was a decent value Shiraz, though showing more of an angular (rather than fleshy) side of the grape.

Nearly saturated brooding black ruby. Medium intensity nose of blackberries, graphite, and toasty balsa wood notes. More angular in the mouth than the nose would lead you to believe -- blackberry extract competing with equal intensity components of peppery minerals and an unusual, high-toned perfumey earthiness. 87. Was $13.49 at Central Market.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

2005 Domaine la Montagnette COTES DU RHONE (France)

A very modern style, fruity, clean, and cheap, but uninspiring, Cotes du Rhone.

Dark ruby color. Straightforward, bright fruity nose -- lots of plum and boysenberry, with a barely discernible graphite-minerally component. Balanced, clean, gulpable, with pretty good concentration and length. No complexity or soul here, however, just lots of red berry flavors, leaving the taster wondering where this generic-tasting wine is from and what varietals it's made from. 85. Was $11.92 at Spec's on Holcombe.

Monday, December 03, 2007

2005 Rosenblum Paso Robles ZINFANDEL "Richard Sauret Vineyard" (California)

A ripe, concentrated, flavorful Zin.

Saturated black ruby/purple color. Richly fruity nose of oozingly ripe spicy black raspberries and sweetly smoky scents. Round and soft on the palate, with great persistence of fruit -- mostly blackberry. Spicy and creamy components as well. Not the most complex or mach style of Zin, but very rich, flavorful, and hedonistic. Very nice balance too for a wine with 15.6 % alcohol. 89. Was $24 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Gary Farrell Sonoma County SAUVIGNON BLANC "Redwood Ranch" (California)

OK, but disappointing for the price.

Very light color. Delicate nose of herby gooseberries and chewy caramel, with a teensy amount of underlying earthiness. Broad mouthfeel, but with very understated, polite flavors -- the strongest being a metallic, minerally component, with bitter herbs too. 83. Nowhere near worth the 25 smackeroos I plunked down.

Nice label though.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

2005 Pascal Granger JULIENAS "Cuvee Speciale" (Beaujolais, France)

This was a VERY TIGHT wine that needs -- atypically for a Beaujolais -- a year or two in a cool cellar.

Dark very purply-ruby. Extremely tight nose of cherries, stony minerals, and hint of cinnamon in the background. Lots of tart cherries and stony flavors, with lots of acidity and some serious tannic structure. Long, austere finish. 87+. Was $18.99 at West Side Wines in West Hartford.

2005 Tenuta San Leone BARDOLINO SUPERIORE "Montesalionze" (Veneto, Italy)

This was one of the best, if not the best, wines I've ever had from the Veneto region -- which encompasses not only the Bardolino appellation, but the Valpolicella (and Amarone) appellation. Just amazing. Bardolino is usually a light, watery, faintly bitterish wine for uncritical guzzling. Not this one.

Started with a dark ruby purple color. Then the nose erupted out of the glass -- eucalyptus, ripe black cherries, fresh cinnamon stick, with a chalky earthiness in the background. Amazing. Haven't smelled anything quite like this in a long time -- bright, intense flavors of spicy cherry, minerals, and cinnamon. Long, long, concentrated finish, yet the wine retained a sense of lightness and balance throughout. I've never tasted a Veronese wine anything like this. Get some of this if you can find it (I've never seen it in Houston). 93. My brother got this for $15.99 at West Side Wines on Raymond Road in West Hartford -- an amazing value.

2002 Jean & Sebastien Dauvissat CHABLIS PREMIER CRU "Lechet" (France)

This was a very minerally, almost austere, but character-filled Chablis.

Very minerally, earthy nose, with lemony fruit opening up after a half hour or so. Very long, lean, bright finish.

Had this at my brother's house in West Hartford, CT. He got it for $38 at West Side Wines on Raymond Road in West Hartford.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

2005 Cousino-Macul CABERNET SAUVIGNON "Antiguas Reservas" (Maipo Valley, Chile)

This wine varies significantly in style from vintage to vintage in my experience. The 2005 is good, but somewhat lighter than usual and a bit on the herbal side.

Black ruby-garnet color. Lots of earthy, herbal scents -- verging on vegetal -- which overlay some ripe, plummy fruit. Medium bodied in the mouth, with lots of dark, earthy, graphite flavors up front, then morphing into herbal and black cherry flavors in the back end. Pretty good length, but not as concentrated as in other vintages. Some soft tannin as well may support a year or two of ageing. 85. This was about $12 and change at Spec's, but is widely available in other wine shops and bigger supermarkets.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

2005 Mutt Lynch Winery "Portrait of a Mutt" ZINFANDEL (Sonoma County)

If it weren't for just a tad of noticeable residual sugar, this wine would have been outstanding.

Deep ruby color with a tinge of purple. Almost overripe nose of spicy black raspberries, lemon juice, and rock dust. Soft, rich, and ripe in the mouth, with plenty of sweet, earthy blackberry juice flavors. The noticeable residual sugar, however, results in a certain cloyingness, though not enough to make the wine unpleasant, but only to keep it from reaching its full potential. 87. Was about $15 (which passes as cheap for Zinfandel these days) at Spec's on Smith.

2005 "MAROLA" (Emporda-Costa Brava, Spain)

This 65% Carinena/35% Garnacha was pretty good, in a funky way, but not worth a repeat purchase.

Deep, clear, dark ruby color with purple highlights. The nose was fruity but slightly medicinal, with deep grapey and blackberry jam scents. There was a whiff of a pungent, somewhat raw woody note (even though this wine isn't oak-aged), and another component in the background that reminded me of pickled fruit. It was round and soft, with decent concentration, but with moderately high levels of acidity. Not a bad quaffer with tomato-sauce based dishes. 85. Was $8 at Spec's on Smith.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Foley 2005 Rancho Santa Rosa PINOT NOIR (Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County)

I had this at America's restaurant, so these notes are from memory.

And my memory is that this was very, very good.

It had very focused, precise, and persistent cherry/pomegranate fruit, with very nice balancing acidity and a long, pure finish. Reminded me of an elegant Volnay or Pommard.

As to the food, my seared "Chilean Sea Bass" was immersed in too much of the clarified butter (or other fat) that the fish was sauteed in, but otherwise it was fresh and flavorful. Either as a result of my getting more sensitive to this as I get older, or because this is a trick that cooks use to get more flavor our of a dish, I notice more and more that fancy restaurants seem to leave way too much of the cooking fat in their finished dishes. Enough already!

2004 Castello di Selvole CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

This was a bit too light for my taste, but it went well with the Provencal braised chicken we had with it.

Medium dark, with garnet at the rim. Loads of high-toned cherry scents jump out of the glass, with notes of spicy sandalwood and granite. Precise, focused cherry/mineral flavors in the mouth, in a lively, medium-bodied frame. Some noticeable tannin, along with buoyant acidity lend a lean tactile impression, but the finish is pretty long. $25 at Spec's on Holcombe. 86.

2004 Hartford Sonoma Coast PINOT NOIR (California)

A very together Pinot Noir.

Bright ruby color. Gorgeous nose of cola, melted brown sugar, oozingly ripe cherries, minerals, and gravel. Intense and earthy flavors, with black cherry and cola flavors at the core, and lots of warm stones in the long finish. Reminded me of a very good Nuits St. George. 88. I got this at Spec's on Smith awhile back, and I think it was around $24.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

2004 Altos de Luzon JUMILLA (Spain)

This reserve bottling of 50% Monastrell, 25% Cabernet, and 25% Tempranillo is excellent. I had the amazing 2001 a while back, and while this is top notch, it's not quite up to that benchmark wine.

Impenetrably saturated black purple/ruby color. Rich, chocolatey fruit, with dusty earth, graphite, and eucalyptus notes. Rich, weighty, and very concentrated, with dense flavors of minerals, highly extracted blackberries and cassis immediately enveloping the tongue. Long, intense, and ultimately peppery finish. Not quite as complex as the 2001, at least as I remember it. Loads of soft, ripe tannins. This wine will last, and possibly improve, for another 2-3 years . . . . but it's really nice now too. 88+ Was $19.99 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Forchini ZINFANDEL Dry Creek Valley "Proprietor's Reserve" (California)

Disappointing. A hard, ungenerous style of Zin.

Black ruby with some purple highlights. Not entirely saturated color. The nose was tight and peppery, with lots of dry rock dust scents, hiding some nice spicy berry fruit. Tight and tannic in the mouth too, with astringent rock dust flavors overpowering the fruit. Very structured -- too structured -- at the expense of the ripe fleshiness I look for in Zins. 82. Was $23.40 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Palacio de Eza (Navarra, Spain)

This Merlot/Garnacha blend was uninspiring.

A dense, saturated black ruby color was promising, but gave way to a tight nose, with pungent earthy, minerally scents overpowering some nice ripe blueberry/cassis fruit underneath. Tight and dense in the mouth to, but again with the pungent, almost bitterish minerals going on. Some fairly hard tannins coat the mouth as well. Maybe time will soften it a bit, but I wouldn't count on it. 78. I can't remember where I got this, but I think it was around $10.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

2003 vs. 2004 in Tuscany (and Valpolicella)

I've drunk my last 2003 Tuscan wine. I've concluded that this vintage is a loser.

If you recall the news reports, this was the year that Europe sweltered under unprecedented, record-breaking heat. I've read some reports about how this affected the grapes' ripening, but the main thing I've noticed about every single bottle I've had from anywhere in Central Italy -- regardless of producer or appellation -- is the short, lean, drying and astringent finish. Some of the wines actually had nice noses; the noses of others were astringent and lacking fruit. Regardless of how they smelled and how they tasted on entry, however, they all finished lean and mean.

I had the same observations about several Valpolicellas (and other wines from the Veneto region ) I've had from that vintage too.

Now 2004, at least in Tuscany (I haven't had enough '04 Valpos to draw any tentative conclusions), seems to be a whole 'nuther story. Every '04 I've tasted has been bursting with fruit, concentrated and ripe from entry through the finish. But they've also had superb balance. They've not been New World fruit bombs, but quintessential, European-styled dinner wines. I've got a bunch more in the closet and I am looking forward to trying them.

2004 Santa Ema CABERNET SAUVIGNON Reserve (Maipo Valley, Chile)

Because the 2004 Merlot Reserve was outstanding, I gave its brother, the Cab, a shot. It was very good, but not up to the Merlot's level.

Saturated black ruby color. Sweet, medium intensity nose of cassis, blackberries, and a whiff of rhubarb, along with smoky, gravelly, graphite notes. Balanced, ripe, and decently concentrated, in a medium-bodied frame. Loads of very soft, well-integrated tannins. Very much Bordeaux, rather than New World, in style. 87. A good buy at $10 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Cline "CASHMERE" (Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache) (California)

Beautiful, dark ruby color with a hint of purple. Very forward fruity nose -- lots of black raspberry jam (replete with the tart pectin) with a hint of rock dust underneath. Lots of clean, peppery blackberry fruit in the mouth -- not complex, but fairly gutsy. Soft texture. Full-bodied, with some iodine-y notes in the finish. I think, however, it may have been a little over-enthusiastically sulfured, as my wife had her familiar flushed cheeks reaction to wines that have lots of sulfites. On taste, I'd give it an 85, but with the caveat about the possibly high level of sulfites. Was $13.99 at World Marketplace on Richmond.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

2003 Frescobaldi CHIANTI RUFINA RESERVA "Nipozanno" (Tuscany, Italy)

Another disappointing 2003 -- which I have now all but concluded is a vintage to avoid in central Italy.

Deep translucent black ruby color. Medium intensity nose of gingerbread spices, leather, and winey berries. Good weight and richness upon entry, with flavors of pencil lead and cassis, but as with many 2003s I've tried from this region, it fades in a flash to a clipped finish that is astringent, lean, and minerally. 82. Was about $19 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Jean-Luc Columbo CÔTES DU RHÔNE "Les Abeilles" (France)

A decent, inexpensive Côtes du Rhône, but nothing to write home about. A little disappointing given the reputation of this Cornas producer.

Medium dark ruby. Mid-intensity nose of lively cherry-raspberry fruit, not-quite-ripe peaches, and rock dust. Medium bodied in the mouth, with crisp cherry fruit and stony notes. 82. Was $8.50 at World Marketplace on Richmond.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

2005 WillaKenzie Estate PINOT GRIS (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

This was a really good white -- loaded with flavor. A white wine acting like a red wine.

Light gold color. Beautiful and intense nose -- melted butter, pear, spice, and stony minerals. Rich and balanced in the mouth, with good weight and an excellent texture. Mineral and fruit (pear/peach/grape) flavors explode on entry and then taper into a lengthy pure pear finish that goes on and on. Superb white. 90. Was about $15 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2004 Martinelli "Seven Mules Vineyard" PINOT NOIR (Russian River Valley, California)

This was only the second Pinot Noir I've ever had from this vaunted producer, and it was excellent.
Light ruby color with hints of both amber AND lavender at the rim. Phenomenal nose that seems to change with each sniff -- sappy cherries, musky fur, gingerbread, balsa wood, black peppercorns, caramel. Rich, deep, soft and full-bodied, though not as dense and concentrated as the last Martinelli Pinot I had. Lots of ripe berries, with musky minerals in the long finish. A little bit of alcoholic heat showing through at the end. Very powerful, yet seductive. 91. Was $48 at Flickinger Wines in the Chicago area.

2002 Louis Latour MEURSAULT-CHARMES (Burgundy, France)

A terrific, but rather restrained, white burgundy.

Very light silvery-brass color. Gorgeous nose of sweet grapes, talcum powder, vanillin spice, and flowers. Medium bodied, with persistent flavors of marzipan, stones, and pear skins. Long, minerally finish. I usually expect Meursaults to have more buttery, hazelnutty richness than this one, but although this one was atypical, it was very distinctive and elegant. 89. I ordered this one from Flickinger Wines for $39 -- a very good price for a top notch premier cru white burgundy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

2004 Luigi Righetti "Campolieti" VALPOLICELLA Classico Superiore (Veneto, Italy)

This wine isn't bad, but it doesn't taste like Valpolicella -- whether Ripasso style or regular style.

Crystalline dark ruby color. Boisterous nose of very tightly-wound fruit (berries, cherries, and plums) and pungent minerally scents (almost verging into acetate). Tight, simple, and crisp in the mouth, , with focused fruit on entry, fading quickly into a metallic/minerally finish. 81. Was $10.65 at Spec's on Smith.

2003 Ridge York Creek ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, California)

This was a terrific, Bordeaux-styled Zinfandel.

Dark black ruby color. Extremely complex nose -- smoky wood, eucalyptus, tobacco leaf, oozingly ripe mountain berries, and a dusty gravel note. Very structured (for a Zinfandel) and intense flavors of cherry syrup and blackberry, together with a smoky iodine-y component. The flavors were almost Rhone-like (like a big Gigondas mixed with some Hermitage). Significant but well-integrated tannin in the very long, minerally finish. 90. Would be killer with mesquite-grilled lamb chops. I got this a while ago for around $26, but I'm not sure where. I do know that most stores are now carrying the 2004s and 2005 Ridge releases, however, so it may be hard to find this one.

2005 Cellier Pinol LUDOVICUS (Tierra Alta, Spain)

A good wine with an unusual texture.

Very dark ruby with purple highlights. Forceful nose of sweet blackberry and peach juice, together with sweet warm cream, and sharp scents of scorched earth, smoky graphite, and dried brambly notes.

Ripe, but with lots of seemingly large-grained, yet not coarse, tannins in the mouth, creating an unusual mouthfeel. Full bodied, with a long, fruity finish, but with lots of the tannins remaining on the tongue. Maybe these tannins will drop out with a year or so in a cool cellar. 85+. Was $9.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

2005 Fournier SAUVIGNON (Blanc) (VDP, Loire, France)

This was a great buy in a crisp, flavorful, refreshing white. Tastes like a baby Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume, but at 1/3 the price.

Extremely light color -- light gold, with greenish and silvery glints. Inviting nose of peaches covered with freshly-squeezed lime and lemon juice, and a little pungent chalky/minerally stuff in the background. Lively and fruity in the mouth, with light body and refreshing crisp-appley fruit and a steely dry finish. I could drink this style of wine forever without tiring of it. 88. I think this was about $8 at Richard's. I got it at the one on Richmond (near Chimney Rock), but I've seen this wine at other Richard's as well. GET SOME!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

2005 CUVÉE DE PEÑA (VDP, Southwest France)

This cheap red -- which I am guessing has a lot of Grenache in it -- is a GREAT buy.

Medium dark crystal ruby color. Lively, fruity nose: cleam plummy and boysenberry fruit, sweet cream, smoky, stony minerals. Fresh, lively, and fruity in the mouth, with bright cherry/berry fruit, and a crisp, balanced finish. A terrific everyday dinner wine with character, balance, and freshness. 87. A great buy at $6 at Spec's on Westheimer.

Nonvintage TARANTAS Rosé (Spain)

This is a cheap, organic, generic, and, most importantly, GOOD Spanish rose.

Deep bubble gum pink color. Deeply fruity nose, with plum juice, strawberry juice, and bubble gum scents. Lots of up-front fruit in the mouth -- mostly cherry and watermelon -- with a touch of tomato skin. Long steely finish. Fairly full-bodied. Very good value at about $6 at Whole Foods on Bellaire. 86.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

2005 Verget BOURGOGNE "Terroirs de Cote d'Or" (White Burgundy)

A very subtle, balanced, unoaked Chardonnay with Verget's typically minerality in check.

Very light, bright brassy gold color. Beautiful, subtle nose of buttered minerals, caramel, and pear. Soft, medium-light bodied flavors of apples, lemons, chalky minerals, with an unbelievably soft mouthfeel. Medium-long finish, with very nice balance. Would be great with light-flavored fish such as flounder, sole, or red snapper. 87. Was $14.29 at Spec's on Westheimer.

2004 Brigaldara VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO (Veneto, Italy)

Not very Valpolicella-like and disappointing. I haven't been impressed with a regular Valpo from this producer since the outstanding 2001.

Mostly crystalline black with ruby highlights. Pungent nose of tar, scorched earth, burnt gingerbread, prunes, and blackberries. Dark, mostly bass-note flavors of prunes, old oak, and scorched earth, with a fairly long, although somewhat hot, minerally finish. 83. Too big-boned for its own good. Was $16 and change at Spec's on Smith.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

2005 Viu Manent CARMENERE Reserve (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

This was a deep, rich, complex red at a fair price.

Dark blood/mulberry color. Rich, earthy nose with lots of deep blackberry fruit and an earthy, almost composty, wet tobacco leafy component, as well as a strong graphite edge. Rich, earthy, chocolately flavors, again with the tobacco leaf thing going on. Long fruity finish, with substantial but very soft and well-integrated tannin. Got better with significant air time, indicating to me that it will improve with a year or two of bottle age. 88+. Was $14.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2005 Paul Zinck RIESLING (Alsace, France)

A very flavorful dry Riesling.

Light, bright greenish gold color. Exuberant nose of lemons, citrus oil, candied chalk dust, sweet flowers, and pungent minerals. Loads of soft, mouthwatering, crisp-apply fruit, with a bright mineral/herbal component taking over in the finish. Very refreshing. Lots of depth, if not complexity, with a long, clean finish. 88. Was about $16 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Pascal Granger JULIENAS (Beaujolais, France)

This was a terrific, traditionally styled Beaujolais.

Medium dark crystal black ruby. Deeply minerally nose (powdered granite) with hard cherry/plum candy scents. Soft, but forceful flavors paralleling the nose. Beautiful balance, medium body, and a lengthy, stone-filled finish. Superb, old-style Beaujolais, emphasizing texture, crisp fruit, and minerality rather than the now ubiquitous ripe grape/banana candy stuff. 88. Was $16.80 at Spec's on Smith.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

2004 Kilikanoon SHIRAZ "Killerman's Run" (South Australia)

This was outstanding.

Saturated black ruby color, with purple at the rim. Rich, complex nose of blackberries, cassis, graphite, lemons, and smoky spices. Rich, deep flavors of salted cassis extract coated in smoky minerals. Some soft tannin in the long, dark finish. 91. Drink over the next year. Was $16 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

UPDATE (9/19): Whole Foods has jacked the price on this to $22 and change.

UPDATE (12/8): Price back down to $16.99!

2005 La Posta MALBEC "Pizzella Family Vineyard" (Mendoza, Argentina)

Avoid this one. Earthy, sour, old leather nose. Tart, overly earthy and leathery flavors. Very austere. 70.

2004 Zenato VALPOLICELLA RIPASSA (Veneto, Italy)

My brother told me this was good, and he was right. This was big, soft, ripe, and rich.

Deep, rich black ruby color. Really fruity nose -- overripe raspberries, sweet cream, lemon juice, and smoky earth. Extraordinarily soft-textured and full in the mouth. Lush with ripe fruit, and minerals dancing quietly in the background. Long, full finish. 89. Was about $25 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Pierre Riffault SANCERRE "Domaine du Carroir Perrin" (Loire, France)

This was a classic grassy, minerally Sancerre.

Very light, bright gold with greenish glints. Nose of bright, tart gooseberries, lemons, and creamed grassy/chalky scents. Lively and focused in the mouth, with refreshing lemony/mineral flavors, and a long, crisp finish. Would be fantastic with shellfish. 87. Was $19 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Curtis "HERITAGE CUVEE" (50% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 13% Cinsault (Santa Barbara County, Cal.)

I knew nothing about this winery, but it looked interesting, so I tried a bottle. What a nice surprise!

Compare this to a big, ripe Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Medium dark ruby color with magenta highlights. Big, galumphy nose of spicy raspberries, black olives, and smoky balsa wood. Intense, earthy "garrigue" and black raspberry flavors, with lots of body and a soft, rich texture. Long, dark fruit and iodine-laced finish. Not elegant, but lots of character. 88. Was about $14 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Avignonesi VINO NOBILE DE MONTEPULCIANO (Tuscany)

This was a bit disappointing.

Medium ruby color. Big, earthy nose -- barnyard, gingerbready, old leather, sour cherries. Medium-bodied, with modest cherry/strawberry fruit, along with dried underbrush and minerals. Lean but reasonably long finish. Not bad, but I expected more ripeness and density. 84. Available at Spec's ($19) and Central Market ($21).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

2004 MontGras "Quatro" Reserva (35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Malbec, 22% Merlot, 15% Carmenere) (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

For the second vintage in a row -- the 2003 was excellent -- this wine is tremendous.

Impenetrable black ruby color. Ridiculously rich nose of liquid dark chocolate, earth, toast, cassis and blackberries. Dense and deep, featuring rich flavors of chocolate, toasty oak, and ripe cassis. Long and quite full-bodied, with lots of soft, ripe tannins in the finish. 90. In addition to being excellent, it's an excellent value at $12.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

2005 Almira "Los Dos" GRENACHE/SYRAH (Campo de Borja)

This was an outrageous value.

Dark soft ruby color. Massively fruity nose erupts from the glass, with ripe fresh raspberries and crushed, smoky stones. Soft, dense, and ripe in the mouth, with lots of concentration, soft, spicy raspberry fruit, transitioning to minerals in the long finish. Great balance too. A knock-out value at $5.99 at World Marketplace on Richmond (where it was tucked away in a corner of the wine section). 89. Drink in the next few months for the soft, rich fruit.

2005 XYZin California ZINFANDEL "10 Year Old Vines"

This was a fruity, straightforward Zinfandel.
Deep black garnet color. Deeply fruity nose -- blackberries, loamy earth, and sweet malty scents. (This nose would indicate lots of Lodi fruit, to me.) Good concentration and flesh, if not a lot of definition or complexity. Lots of "oomph." It was a gift, so I don't know where it came from, but a quick Internet search shows that many stores sell this at arounf $15. 87.

2006 Cono Sur PINOT NOIR (Central Valley, Chile)

A great value in Pinot Noir. Not very complex, but true Pinot flavors and texture for under $10 -- unheard of.

Very bright ruby. Intensely fruity nose: grapes, plum, strawberry, rhubarb, with some steely minerals and spearmint leaves waaay in the background. Bright flavors of cherry, root beer, and high-toned woody notes. Not burgundian at all, but lots of flavor and character. Was about $8 at Spec's on Smith. 87.

2002 Domaine Billaud-Simon CHABLIS PREMIER CRU MONT DE MILIEU "Vieilles Vignes" (Burgundy, France)

(Unscored notes from memory). This was a primo example of the 2002 vintage in Chablis: bright, focused, minerally, stony, lemony flavors, with a weightless texture and tremendous length. Tremendous. Got this one from Flickinger Wines in Chicago.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

2003 Saint-Cosme COTES DU RHONE (France)

This schizophrenic wine was both over-the-hill and youthful at the same time. Clearly displaying the weirdness of the historically hot 2003 vintage.

Deep ruby garnet with some browning. Interesting nose of brown sugar, pepperoni, and lemon peel, with peachy-plummy fruit buried down under those initial notes. Tangy in the mouth, with bizarre flavors of earth, raw meat, and, in the mid- and end-palate, nutty (pecan) and rancid butter notes. Very high acidity. Not unpleasant, but quite bizarre. 78. I bought this at Spec's over a year ago and it's been in the wine closet since. Was around $10 if I remember correctly.

2006 Cousino-Macul SAUVIGNON GRIS (Maipo Valley, Chile)

This was a very distinctive and flavorful white.

Very light, bright straw gold. Broad nose of earth, ripe honeydew melons, and mowed grass and herbs. Broad, dry, and deeply flavored, with concentrated herby, minerally, peachy flavors, and an almost oily texture. Very long finish. Maybe not for everybody, but I thought this to be a very good value in a character-filled white made from a rare varietal. 89. Was $11.50 at Spec's on Smith.

2003 Fattoria di Vetrice CHIANTI RUFINA (Italy)

This wasn't bad, but reflected its origins in the historically hot 2003 vintage.

Medium ruby color with a hint of garnet. Elegant nose of roasted pork and sweet berries, with some earthy, old leathery notes as well. Very high-toned flavors of old wines barrels, cherry syrup, and minerals, with a distinct, astringent prickle on the tongue (seemingly not from dissolved CO2 but from something else). Short, drying finish. 82. Was about $12 at Spec's a year ago (it was sitting in my wine closet for a while -- I would expect the 2004s and 2005s that are currently available to be better), but I've seen this at Richard's stores too.

2005 Falset MONSANT (Spain)

This 50% Garnacha, 30% Carignan, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon was a good value. Lots of fruit for the money.

Dark black ruby color. Big fruity nose with lots of berries and pungent stony minerals. Straightforward, big, fruity flavors. Good concentration but not a lot of complexity. At this price, however ($10), who really cares? Would be good with a very slight chill, and will go with lots of summer dishes and cookouts. 87. Available at Spec's on Smith. Drink this right away, as this style of wine is best for immediate consumption.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2004 Casa Emma CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

I liked this so much when I tried it in New England that when I saw it here I wanted to try it again to see if I liked it as much outside the context of a fun family dinner. I did.

This is a very youthful, vibrant, aggressive Chianti.

Very bright, dark ruby color. Extroverted nose with lots of ripe chokecherries, licorice, earth, and fragrant wood smoke scents. Forceful, vibrant flavors -- cherries, leather, and stony minerals predominate. Bright acidity and lots of youthful tannin lend an attractive if not soft texture. A nice wine to have with Italian braised meats and stews, as well as pasta with tomato & meat sauces. Should be even better in a year or two. 88+. Was $19 and change at Spec's on Holcombe (and I've seen it at other Spec's stores).

UPDATE 1/31/08: Sorry -- I had inadvertently listed this as the 2005 vintage, when it in fact was the 2004.

2006 "Balandran" ROSE "Les Mugues" (Costieres de Nimes, France)

This was a delicate, dry rose.

Very light pink-peach skin color. Nice nose of strawberry, bubble gum, and sweet, smoky minerals. Bone dry, refreshing, and light-bodied in the mouth, with austere flavors of chalky minerals and dry strawberry extract. Crisp, balanced finish. Very refreshing on this 100 degree+ day. 88. $10.47 at Spec's on Smith, making it a good value.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

2005 Mommessin FLEURIE "Les Roches" (Beaujolais, France)

Mommessin is a Burgundy house that has been increasing in quality lately, and this is one of its reserve bottlings. That said, I expected more from this wine.

Dark, crystalline ruby with purple highlights. Medium intensity nose, very austere and minerally. Lots of stones, spicy underbrush notes, and scorched earth in the mouth. The cranberry/blueberry fruit that is there is nice, but it is overshadowed by the austere non-fruit aspects of the nose. Intense but austere in the mouth too. Good length and acid balance, along with a soft texture, but more fruit would have been nice. I'm no winemaker, but I get the feeling that if they had just waited a bit longer to pick the grapes that this wine would have been the better for it. 86. Was $19.50 (pricey for a Fleurie/Beaujolais) at Spec's on Richmond.

A Has-Been and a Star

I brought a coupla French whites the other day to a dinner at the home of my good friends, the Finleys. The food was phenomenal (as usual), but the wines I brought were a mixed bag. Here are my short "from memory" notes:

The Has-Been: 2002 Verget CHABLIS "Terroirs de Chablis" (France) -- I thought this one would be peaking, but I had the wrong tense: it is on the decline. Light and minerally, to be sure, but with noticeable maderization (oxidation) on the nose and palate.

The Star: Château La Bidière MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE Sur Lie "Vieilles Vignes (Loire, France) -- this was a beautiful, textbook Muscadet. Fragrant, with fresh, minerally and lemon-lime scents. Intense, lively, balanced, refreshing, and pure tasting, with nice concentration and length. Bone dry. Spec's has this for about $12, making it a good value.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

2005 Sebastiani Sonoma County ZINFANDEL

Not bad, and a good value for an under $10 Zin, but not up to the standard set by the 2004 version, previously reviewed here.

Dark ruby color. Gentle nose of sweet cream, brambleberries, blackberries, and gingerbread. Soft, medium bodied flavors of mulled berries and vaguely minerally notes. Lacks the concentration of the 2004, but still a decent value, true-tasting Zin. 85. Was $9.72 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 CARRO (Southeast Spain)

While the 2005 edition is still a good value, I liked this wine less than the phenomenal 2004, previously reviewed here.

Dark ruby color. Sweet, fruity nose of fruit salad and milky, earthy scents. Soft, ripe, straightforward flavors, with good concentration for this price point, but not much complexity. This wine would be great for summer cookouts and parties, and could take a little chill. 86. Was about $7 at Spec's on Smith.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

2004 Santa Ema MERLOT "Reserve" (Maipo Valley, Chile)

I'm not usually a big Merlot fan, but this was an awesome value.

Deep ruby purple color. Luxurious, complex nose of rich, spiced blackberries, smoky creosote (clay-ey, earthy), and stony minerals. Deep, forward flavors of blackberry, cassis, graphite, and metallic minerals. Long, powerful finish, with lots of very fine, soft, integrated tannins. A superb wine at a bargain price. Was $9.79 at Richard's on Shepherd, but I've seen this at other places too. 90.

UPDATE (10/3/07): Whole Foods on Bellaire still has this for $9.88.

2005 Cono Sur CABERNET SAUVIGNON "Vision" (Maipo Valley, Chile)

Saturated blood-like ruby color. Spicy nose of cassis, smoke, and menthol. Rich flavors of dark cassis liqueur, cigarette ashes, and chalky earth. Fairly good concentration, with some firm tannin showing through a bit, suggesting that this wine could age and soften a few years. Good value. 87. Was $10.75 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Borsao "Crianza" (Campo de Borja, Spain)

This garnacha blend was a pretty decent wine.

Soft, blackish ruby color. Ripe, fragrant nose of smoke, pencil shavings, blackberries, and rosemary. Soft, ripe entry in the mouth, but it firms up quickly with some tannin and bright acidity showing through in the back half of the palate. Flavors were of blackberry, chocolate, and scorched earth. Lean but fairly long on the finish. 87. Was about $11 at Spec's on Holcombe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

2005 "Mano a Mano" (100% Tempranillo) (La Mancha, Spain)

A very good buy -- lots of clean fruit and character.

Dark, black ruby. Fairly saturated color. Intensely grapey-blackberry scents leap from the glass, with undertones of smoke and stony, steely minerals. Forceful flavors too, with intense minerals and dry blackberry extract. Medium-full body, and a long pure finish. A nicely, balanced, athletic wine with plenty of soft, ripe, well-integrated tannins. 89. Was $11.93 at Spec's on Smith, but I've seen this available in lots of other stores at about the same price.

2005 Torbreck "Woodcutter's SHIRAZ" (Barossa Valley, Australia)

This was a superb bottle of wine.

Dense, saturated black ruby with purple highlights. Rich, sweet nose of charcoal, fragrant high-toned (balsa?) wood smoke, and spicy blackberry and cassis extract. Rich, densely concentrated flavors delivered in a light, almost weightless chassis. The almost inky flavors were redolent of balckberries and hot sandstone. Long, soft, perfectly balanced finish. 91. Was $16 at Spec's on Richmond.

2005 Saintsbury Carneros "VIN GRIS DE PINOT NOIR" (California)

A well-built rose that's holding up nicely.

Light, bright pink color. Lively, yet subdued nose of strawberries, flowers, and tomato skins. Fairly rich and minerally in the mouth, with deep flavors, and bass notes of strawberry and watermelon. Long, pure finish. 87. Was $13 and change at Spec's on Smith.

In the summer, I usually like roses from the previous year's vintage, but this one is still drinking very well despite its additional year of age.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

2004 Matua Valley PINOT NOIR (Marlborough, New Zealand)

Took a chance on this because it was so cheap for a P.N. ($11.99 on sale at Whole Foods on Bellaire, down from $14.99). It was so-so.

Light garnet ruby. Sweet, yet sharp nose of sappy cherry juice, maple syrup, and scorched earth. Somewhat bitter flavors of cherry and minerals, with some excess heat and acidity showing through in the finish. Not bad -- like a decent generic Bourgogne. 82.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

2004 Rancho Zabaco Sonoma County ZINFANDEL "Sonoma Heritage Vines" (California)

This was a good value Zin.

Dark blackish ruby garnet. Deep, reserved nose of spicy blackberries, charcoal, and rock dust. Ripe, round, deep fruit in the mouth, with lots of concentration, length, and body. Not the most complex Zin I've drunk, but for around $14, this is an excellent buy, particularly in face of the trend toward ever-thinner Zins with ever-higher prices. 87. Available at wine shops, supermarkets, Midas Muffler shops, doctors' offices, and FedEx/Kinko's everywhere.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wines from Our Vacation

Here are some truncated notes, mostly from memory, concerning wines we had on our trip to visit family in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

2005 Alois Lageder Chardonnay (Alto Adige, Italy) -- This was a VERY minerally, unoaked, refreshing and dry Chardonnay from a region in extreme northeast Italy known for its crisp whites.

2004 Plantate Lunghe ROSSO CONERO (Marche, Italy) -- This was an outstanding red from a region in Italy that nearly every store in Houston overlooks. Probably mostly or all Montepulciano grape, this wine had a complex perfume, and deep, winey-earthy flavors, with a leathery component, and was soft and concentrated.

2003 Bodegas Carrau TANNAT Reserve (Uruguay) -- This grape is used in FRance to make the usually-too-tannic-and-astringent wines from Madiran, and apparently is also used to make too-tannic-and-astringent wines from Uruguay as well.

2005 Poggio Argentiera MORELLINO DI SCANSANO "Bellamarsilia" (Tuscany, Italy) -- Medium-bodied, soft and perfumed, but not that concentrated.

2004 Casa Emma CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy) -- For a non-riserva Chianti, this was fabulous. Concentrated and tight, yet with a forceful nose of candied cherry syrup and smokey, earthy notes. Very concentrated, with a soft texture despite substantial tannic backbone (the tannins were ripe and soft). Excellent length. Got this one for $16.99 at Spiritus, on Main Street in Hartford. Spiritus used to be one of my favorite wine stores when I lived in Connecticut, and I used to stop in just about every time I had a hearing or conference at the U.S. Courthouse in Hartford, as it is almost right across the street from it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

2005 CARRIL DE COTOS (Tierra de Castilla, Spain)

Another excellent value Tempranillo (100%) from Castilla in Spain.

This wine is stylistically akin to a high quality Beaujolais. Blackish crystalline ruby color. Bright nose of grape and raspberry jam, granite, and sweet cream. Lots of crunchy fruit and stony minerals in the mouth, with a long, dry finish containing only a wisp of soft tannin. Very nice wine for summer cookouts and tomato-ey pasta dishes. 87. Was about $8 at Central Market.

2004 Ercavio TEMPRANILLO Roble (Tierra de Castilla, Spain)

This was a flavorful, balanced wine.
Dark black ruby. Sweet nose of fresh plum and blackberry juice, lemon peel, charcoal, and sweet cream. Concentrated, medium-bodied, with ripe, balanced flavors of black fruit and smoky, chalky minerals. Long, balanced finish. An elegant wine at a bargain price: $9 at Central Market. 88.

1 + 1 = 3 CABERNET SAUVIGNON ROSE (Penedes, Spain)

A very powerful, intense rose.

Deep pink/garnet color. Terrific, forceful nose of strawberries and cold plums, tomato skins, and minerals. Vigorous, lively flavors of cherries and chalky minerals. Big but balanced, this wine was also crisp, dry, and refreshing. Loaded with character. 88. Great for summer cookouts.

2003 Chateau Signac COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES-CHUSCLAN "Cuvee Terra Amata" (France)

This was pretty good, but not worth the price.

Dark black ruby. Light intensity nose of scorched earth and mixed berries. Round and full in the mouth, with nice but subdued flavors -- blackberries, chocolate, charcoal. Balanced, mellow finish. A very "laid back" wine. 86. Was about $17 at Spec's on Richmond.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

2001 Marchesi di Barolo BAROLO (Piemonte, Italy)

This was so cheap for a Barolo -- $18 at Kroger's at Buffalo Speedway -- that I had to try it. It wasn't bad, but, objectively speaking, it wasn't worth the money.

Medium light garnet color. The first night I opened it, the nose and flavors were very tight and closed. I put it under a Vacu-vin closure and then didn't get around to re-tasting it until 4 days later. It was much better then. Lots of chokecherry and menthol on the nose. Not very concentrated, but correct Nebbiolo flavors (winey cherries & minerals). Pretty good finish. Would have been good if it were a generic Nebbiolo d'Alba appellation, but for a Barolo, it was disappointing. 86.

2005 Peachy Canyon "Westside" ZINFANDEL (Paso Robles, California)

From one of my favorite regions for Zinfandel (Paso Robles), this wine was good, but not quite up to expectations.

Dark ruby color, but not as saturated as I like. Classic Zin nose of briary, spicy raspberries, with lots of Paso Robles minerality. A tad on the lean side, but still fairly concentrated, this wine had dark, ripe, minerally fruit and full body. Fairly long, balanced finish. Were it a bit lush and concentrated, this could have been very special. 87. Was $19.99 at Central Market (and I've seen it at the Richard's at Welayan & Bissonnet for the same price).

Is it just me, or are Zinfandels getting leaner and less concentrated across the board? My current thesis is that this varietal's gain in popularity over the last 10 years has led growers to increasingly overcrop (so they can sell more grapes or wine), leading to thinner, less concentrated wines.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

2004 Alto Moncayo "VERATON" (Campo de Borja, Spain)

This 100% Grenache (Garnacha) wine was amazing.

Deep black ruby. Nose roars out of the glass with deep scents of vanilla and gingerbread, fragrant woodsmoke, and richly oozing blackberries and raspberries. Rich, massive, and balanced in the mouth, all at once. Intense flavors of ripe cassis and blackberry, roasted coffee beans and smoke, and a minerally undercurrent. Very long finish.

Reminded me of a top-notch Pomerol (yes, I know those are largely Merlot, but that's what this tasted like). This is a very special wine for the price (around $20 at Spec's on Richmond). 93.

2005 Gallo Family PINOT NOIR "Sonoma Reserve" (Sonoma County, California)

This was kind of thin and undernourished. Bright crystalline ruby. Light intensity nose of minerals, vaguely gingerbready spice, and tart cherries. Pleasant, but rather thin flavors of cherries and bitterish minerals. Finish fades quickly, with too much acid showing through. 78. About $13 at Spec's.

2005 Artazuri GARNACHA (Navarra, Spain)

A pretty good value. Deep ruby with magenta at the rim. Bright nose of crushed rock dust and spicy raspberries. Lively mouthfeel, with flavors of raspberry, cherry, and stony minerals. Not complex,but very pure-tasting. Would go well with a wide variety of foods: pasta dishes, braised meats, grilled burgers, pizza, etc. Think of it as a Spanish version of a Brouilly or Fleurie with a tad more tannic structure. Drink over the next year. 86. Was $8 or $9 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2005 Alfred Merkelbach Kinheimer Rosenberg RIESLING Kabinett (Mosel, Germany)

Very light, bright, silvery-gold. Fresh nose of flowers, peaches, and ripe, crisp apples, with a lightly minerally undertones. Soft, ripe, and balanced in the mouth, with light body, and fairly straightforward but refreshing flavors of crisp apples. Fairly sweetish, rather simple finish. 85.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

2004 Casa Castillo JUMILLA Monastrell (Spain)

A pretty good, kinda funky wine.

Deep, saturated ruby garnet color. very deep-toned nose of scorched earth, and roasted fruit and meat. Massive in the mouth, with lots of very dark, black fruits, unsweetened dark chocolate, and iodine flavors. Some heat and a fair amount of tannin (not coarse) in the finish. The grapes were probably picked just a tad too ripe, resulting in a huge wine -- on the verge of being overly-extracted and overblown, but still pretty good in a unique way. 85. Was about $12 at Spec's on Richmond.

2005 Verget du Sud Grenache-Cabernet Sauvignon "Endes" (Southern France)

Another unpleasant wine from this formerly reliable producer. Nose primarily revealing scents of alcohol, acetate, and acid, obscuring a limited amount of fruit underneath from all but the least recoiling sniffers. Flavors to match. D-. Was less than $10 at Spec's, but I probably wouldn't drink a full glass if you paid me 10 bucks. Avoid.

Friday, May 25, 2007

2004 Viu Manent MALBEC "Reserve" (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

This was an excellent value. Worth seeking out and comparing to $50+ Bordeaux. Malbecs can frequently be a little on the rustic and earthy side for me, but this one kept those characteristics in check and was superb.

Deep ruby garnet. Enthralling nose of wood smoke, freshly roasted coffee beans, and dark current jam. Deep and flavorful in the mouth, with some noticeable but fairly soft (for Malbec, anyway) tannin. Deep, long flavors of earth, crushed rocks, coffee, and dry cassis extract. Very, very nice, and has such nice depth that a year or two of cellaring will probably soften it a bit without drying up. Was $12.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire a couple of months ago (so I'm not sure whether it's still there). 89.

2005 Charles Koehly RIESLING "Saint Hippolyte" (Alsace, France)

This dry French Riesling was very good-to-excellent.

Darkish brassy gold color. Striking nose of bright peach/pear/apple fruit, stony minerals, with notes of flowers and sweet, milky tea. Soft, round, and very minerally in the mouth, with persistent flavors and balanced acidity. While the flavors were very good, they didn't quite live up the the amazing nose. 88. (91 for the nose by itself!). Was about $20 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Cellier Pinol "PORTAL" (Tierra Alta, Spain)

This wine is 20% Cabernet, 20% Garnacha, 20% Merlot, 20% Tempranillo, and 20% Syrah. The Wine Advocate gave this a glowing review but I didn't like it that well: too tannic and rustic for my taste.

Saturated black ruby color. Closed nose, with scorched earth and some cassis being the primary discernible components. Rich, but coarsely tannic in the mouth. Somewhat astringent as well. To its credit, there is a lot of deep fruit underneath the tannic veil, but this style is just way too rustic for me. Also, my experience is that age doesn't help wines this grittily tannic soften up at all. 79. Was $12 at Spec's on Smith.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

2005 "Menage a Trois" (California Red Table Wine)

This is an under $10, widely-available blend of 80% Zin, and 10% each Cabernet and Merlot. It's not bad in a pinch, and is perfectly well-made, but it's got so much fruit and so little else that its lack of any complexity is noticeable.

Deep ruby with purple highlights. Ripe grapey, blackberry, plummy aromas dominate, with a tad of gingerbready spice WAY in the background. Round, flavorful, and soft in the mouth, with lots of sweet, ripe fruit, but there is such little body/alcohol for this level of ripeness that it almost seems like a soft drink. This leads me to wonder whether the winery carted this wine off in bulk to undergo reverse osmosis or some other alcohol reduction manipulation. Some residual sugar in the finish as well. Can take a little chill for summertime quaffing. 81. Is less than $10 at Spec's and lots of supermarkets.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

2005 Vincent Girardin RULLY "Vieilles Vignes" (White Burgundy)

Superb, precisely-focused Chardonnay.

Exceedingly pale gold color. Gorgeously vibrant nose of grass, sweet spices with a hint of butter, stony minerals, and appley/pear-like fruit. Soft, sensually-textured mouthfeel, with gentle but concentrated, persistent flavors of citrus oil, stones, and crisp apples. A very elegant Chardonnay done in a style that is the antithesis of its often flabby, buttery, oaky, cloying California cousins. 90. Was about $21 at Spec's on Smith.