Wednesday, January 31, 2007

2004 Domaine de L'Espigouette "Plan de Dieu" CÔTES DU RHÔNES VILLAGES (Rhône Valley, France)

A fabulous example of an old-fashioned red from the Southern Rhône.

Medium ruby color belies the intense nose and flavors that follow. Intense nose of herbs, iodine, olives, and earth. With air, sappy, oozing spicy raspberry juice shows up also. A dead ringer for a good, old style Gigondas. Lean, intense flavors of earth, olives, and berries. Full-bodied, with still a bit of soft tannin. Very distinctive. 90. Was $14.99 at Spec's on Richmond.

(For Austin readers, this is listed on the Austin Wine Merchant website for the same price.)

2005 Régis Minet POUILLY-FUMÉ "Vieille Vignes" (Loire Valley, France)

A textbook Pouilly-Fumé. Beautiful light silvery-gold color. Distinctive nose of salty seashells, wet metal, gun flint, and grape skins. Bracing and intense in the mouth, with tangy, minerally, lemon-herb flavors. Bone dry and strikingly delineated. Would be a beautiful counterpoint to sweet seafoods like shrimp or scallops. 89. Was $22.99 at Central Market. (The 2005 looks just like the phot of the 2003 pictured here.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Night of Crappy Wines

Well, I must have done something bad this week. Popped the cork on three crappy wines in a row tonight.

1998 Philippe Naddef GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN "Vieilles Vignes" -- A 9-year old red with no sediment: a bad sign right from the get-go. Means that someone filtered the living s___ out of it. Sour, barnyard-y nose. Nail polish too! Oh happy day! Sour flavors with lots of harsh tannin and loads of acid. F. Crickey, it's easy to get burned in Burgundy.

2004 Leapin Lizard Sonoma County ZINFANDEL -- Usually a good value winery, Leapin Lizard disappointed with this one. Pungent aroma of acetate kept the Zinfandel berries cowering like frightened Chihuahuas underneath. A bit more fruit than the preceding plonk, but acidic and diluted. 65.

2003 Cellier de Capcanes MAS DONIS "barrica" (Montsant, Spain) -- Parker gave this a glowing review, and it's imported by my favorite importer (Eric Solomon), but I think the winery pulled the ol' bait-and-switch. This wine literally tasted like someone dumped an equal amount of water into it. What flavors remained weren't bad, but the phrase "weak, watery, and worthless" pretty much sums this one up 69.

Burned the steak too. I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

2005 Bodegas Juan Gil "WRONGO DONGO" (Jumilla, Spain)

Now here's a widely-available red that's actually pretty good. I'm guessing that, since it's from the Jumilla region in Spain, it's all or mostly Monastrell (Mourvedre) grape. Medium intensity nose of raspberries and blueberries, with smoky minerals. Medium-bodied in the mouth, with decent (not great) concentration, and flavors of blueberries and the same smoky minerals. Decent finish. A good quality, widely-available red for weeknight dinners. 86. About $10 or $11 at Spec's, this wine is frequently discounted at lots of other places for less than $10.

2004 Dancing Bull California ZINFANDEL (and Lodi Zins in general)

I haven't had the basic Dancing Bull low-priced Zin in years, so I thought I'd try it again. I was not impressed.

The back label says the grapes were from the Lodi region, and the look, smell, and taste of this wine (unfortunately) confirmed that. A dullish black ruby color, this wine has a very loamy, earthy nose with ripe but slightly stale berries underneath. As it aired out, the earthiness subsided and the fruit freshened somewhat, but this style of Zin (loamy earthiness and dull fruit) is, to my mind, a dead giveaway that the grapes were sourced from the Lodi region.

Here's my biased take on Lodi Zins: in general, I'm not a fan. A little background is necessary. Zinfandel has become much more popular over the last 10 years. In the mid-1990s, it was the ugly duckling of California. As it began to gain in popularity, folks also started catching on to the fact that, all other things being equal, old vines make better wines. As these two phenomena occurred, the demand for "old vine" Zins from top-flight regions (such as Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, Napa, Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Paso Robles, and Amador County) began to outstrip the remaining supply. Zin producers, to be able to continue to grow their Zin production to meet supply, began buying more and more Zin grapes from Lodi. (Lodi has LOTS of Zinfandel acreage, and before real Zinfandel re-surged in popularity, I imagine that most of it went into the crappy White Zinfandels that plagued dinner parties in the 1980s.) Initially, wineries didn't put the "Lodi" appellation on the bottle, presumably because no one knew where that was. (Lodi? Isn't that an old Creedence song?) They were sold under general appellations like "California" or "North Coast." But there were (and still are) lots of old vines there, so as "Old Vine" Zinfandel continued to regain in popularity, someone had the great idea to begin touting Lodi as a specific appellation for "old vine" Zin. Now, lots of producers actually put "Lodi" on the label.

Now to the part about taste and smell. Lodi is in the north part of the Central Valley, famous for huge fruit and veggie farms. Good wines are typically made in crappy, stony soil. Fruits and veggies like rich, fertile soil. My guess is that there's either something about the Lodi soil or the climate (or both) that is much more conducive to fruits and veggies than great Zin. Nonetheless, because it allows wineries to put "old vines" on the label, wineries are buying Zinfandel grapes there in increasing amounts. But I almost invariably find these wines to lack the vibrancy, depth, and complexity of Zins grown in the better regions listed above. Generally speaking, Lodi Zins are duller in color, duller in smell, and duller in taste. And they can have a wet-loamy earthiness. So don't be fooled -- this is not Class A real estate for Zinfandel. Sure, there's a few nice ones, but they're the exception, not the rule.

Back to Dancing Bull. Although I don't taste wines blind, I would like to think that I could have pegged this one as being from Lodi. It had the decent, simple, dullish, earthy fruit that I think is typical of Lodi. Nothing wrong with it, just a dullard. A non-repeat purchase. But because it's widely-available and cheap, you have my blessing to buy it if you're racing off to a party and have to stop at the local supermarket for something to shove at the hostess. $10 or under just about everywhere. 78.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

2004 Trentadue "OLD PATCH RED" (Sonoma County, California)

Tasted pretty good, but I think this one was loaded with sulfites. My wife is a "canary in a coal mine" when it comes to sulfites. If she drinks a wine with lots of sulfites, her face flushes red and feels hot. That happened with this one. (It happens a lot to her at receptions and parties where cheap, mass-produced, industrial reds are served.)

To me it tasted fine and seemed like a very good value. Very classic sweet cream and mountain berry nose (very Zinfandel, which makes up 76% of the blend). Medium full body and rich ripe raspberry and earth flavors. Good finish, though not quite concentrated enough to make it outstanding. If I didn't know about the sulfite thing, I'd rate it an 87. But with the sulfite reaction my wife had, I won't get another bottle. Was $11.79 at Spec's on Richmond.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

2003 Tommasi "Vigneto Rafael" VALPOLICELLA Classico Superiore (Veneto, Italy)

Textbook Valpo! Medium ruby color. Pretty nose of cherry candy, sweet lemons, and stones. Bright, light-bodied flavors of cherry-berry fruit, and smoky, high-toned minerals. A very food-friendly wine -- refreshing, flavorful, and balanced. 88. Easily the best 2003 I've had from the region. This is not a rich, blockbuster of a wine (which I like too), but is a wine that makes a perfect, restrained complement to a simple Italian meal (we had it with a great pasta dish*). Was about $12 at Spec's on Smith.
* The pasta was "Zita with Tomatoes, Capocollo, and Diced Mozzarella," from one of my favorite cookbooks, "The Italian Country Table," by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Fortuitously, someone re-printed the recipe on the Internet -- in violation of copyright law! -- here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Feature, Voting Reminder

I will be adding graphics depicting the labels of wines I really liked a lot (if I can find pictures in the "Internets"). I've done it for a few of the more recent highly-recommended wines. I hope this will aid in finding these wines when out shopping.

In addition, here's a reminder that there are only 3 more days left to vote in the Wine Blog Awards thing. If you're inclined to vote, here's the link. The deadline is January 18.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

2004 Can Blau MONTSANT (Spain)

This wine has a very funky label that is made up primarily of a bunch of diamond shapes arranged into a cross. Very little writing on it.

Anyway, it's excellent. A blend of basically 1/3 each of Carinena, Syrah, and Garnacha, this wine reminds me of a Spanish rendition of a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.

Medium dark black ruby. Nose was meaty and leathery at first, but then after 20 minutes or so began to showcase sweet, upfront ripe raspberry and blueberry syrup and wet granite. Soft, yet quite concentrated and balanced, this wine has full body and intense flavors of black raspberries and minerals. Long finish, with a barely perceptible bit of heat showing through at the end. Drinking really well right now. 89. Was about $13.49 at Richard's on South Shepherd (making it a very good value), but also available around $16 at Spec's.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

2003 Ramos Pinto "ADRIANA" (Duoro, Portugal)

I expected more from a table wine from this long-established port house. Dark ruby color, but not particularly saturated. Light intensity nose of sweet cream and tart raspberries. Chalky flavors of cherry and crushed rock powder. Medium bodied, but with a decent finish. 81. Was about $11 or $12 at Kroger's on Westpark.

2005 Muirwood Arroyo Seco PINOT NOIR (Monterey County, California)

A cheap, but mediocre, Pinot Noir.

Medium light ruby. Decent, vaguely Pinot nose of cherry cough syrup, scorched earth, and pumpkin bread. Straightforward cherry flavors are marred somewhat by high acidity and some tannic astringency. A decent quaff, but there's so many better wines out there there's no reason to get a wine like this. 77. Was about $12 at Spec's on Richmond.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2005 BORSAO (Campo de Borja, Spain)

This perennial best buy is a best buy again in 2005.

Deep, fairly saturated purply/ruby color. Ripe, sweet blackberries augmented with crushed gravel on the nose. Round and full-bodied in the mouth, with rich, extracted flavors or berries and scorched earth. A bit of semi-course tannin and a little angularity on the finish are the only detractions, but that should resolve over the next year as the wine settles down and softens. Lots of wine for the money. 87. Was an unbelievable $5.67 at Spec's on Smith, but widely available elsewhere too.

Wine Blog Awards Voting

Unlike in regular politics, I'm not gonna tell ya how to vote in this election. But if you're interested in voting, here's the link. The deadline is January 18.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2003 Andezon CÔTES DU RHÔNE (France)

This supposed 100% Syrah Côtes du Rhône is nothing to write home about. Dark ruby color. Medium intensity nose: smoky balsa wood, peanuts, lemons, spicy strawberries. Medium-bodied, crisp, fairly intense flavors of straightforward fruit and earth. Fairly high acidity, particularly for a wine from such a hot year. But not the level of richness I expected from a Rhône wine imported by Eric Solomon, who is probably my favorite importer. 84. Would be OK with pizza or simple pasta dishes. Was $13.44 at Spec's on Smith.