Thursday, March 29, 2007

2005 CAMPOS REALES (La Mancha, Spain)

A very good value. Lots of flavor for the money.

Deep, bright, luminescent ruby. Super-rich, ripe plummy-blackberry nose, with some gingerbread/scorched balsa wood notes. Rich, dense, ripe, and full-bodied. Not a heck of a lot of complexity, but lots of flavor and a rich texture. Big and satisfying. 100% Tempranillo grape, which is surprising to me because I usually figure Tempranillo based wines to be more the elegant, medium-bodied type. This was under $10, but I can't remember if I got it at Spec's or Central Market. 88.

UPDATE (4/3): Saw this last night at Central Market for $7.99.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

2003 Domaine Fourrier MOREY-ST. DENIS "Clos Solon" Vieille Vigne (Burgundy, France)

This was a truly decadent wine.

Rich, vibrant ruby, with no trace of lightening or ambering at the rim. Extravagantly perfumed, almost indescribable nose: watermelon, black cherry cola, ginger root, spearmint, freshly-baked bread, and minerals. Intense, forward, full-bodied flavors of cherry liqueur, minerals, pepper, and scorched earth. Long, perfumey finish with a little heat and tannin in the back end. With just a touch more concentration in the back of the palate, this would have been nearly perfect. As it is, it is superb, and is a great example of why Pinot Noir is such an amazing grape. 92. Was $29.99 -- and worth every penny and more -- from Flickinger Wines in Chicago.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

2005 Abrazo GARNACHA (Carinena, Spain)

This is a fantastic value. At $6.99, it's a great choice for a big party or cook-out.

Medium ruby withbright magenta glints. Bright, sassy nose of spicy raspberr juice and flinty minerals. Soft, round, mouthfilling flavors of sappy raspberries -- not that concentrated, complex, or deep, but lots of fun, upfront fruit. Pretty good, balanced finish. Drink by the fall. This wine could even take a slight chill for summertime drinking. 87. Got it at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2004 Cambria Santa Maria Valley CHARDONNAY "Katherine's Vineyard" (California)

This widely-available white is very good, and shows a much more restrained use of oak than most other California chardonnays, and so avoids that cloying, overly-sweet butterscotchy character I've grown sick of. It also avoids the slight residual sugar sweetness that many California producers leave in their Chardonnays.

Light straw gold color. Sweet nose of tropical fruit, with wet stones and some subtle butterscotch in the background. Rich, intense flavors of minerals, pear, and grape skins. Full-bodied, long, dry finish. A hybrid California/French style, but show more resemblance to the French branch of the family. Reminiscent of a top-flight Pouilly-Fuisse. 88. Was $16 on sale at Randall's a couple of months ago, but I think most stores now stock the 2005, which I haven't had yet.

Monday, March 19, 2007

2005 A to Z Oregon PINOT NOIR

Now here's a very nice French-styled Pinot Noir. Medium garnet/ruby. Delicate nose of spicy cherries, minerals, earth, and birch beer. Soft, silky, and dry in the mouth, with a feminine style and lengthy, light-bodied flavors. No jammy-ness at all. In fact, it's almost on the austere side. Like a very good village wine from Beaune or Volnay. 87. $17.99 at Central Market.

2003 Echelon "Driving Range Vineyard" ZINFANDEL (Contra Costa County)

Here's a repulsive glass of wine. Smells and tastes of nail polish remover and rancid prunes. F. Is it just this bottle? Or all of this lot? I'm not going to find out. If someone cares enough to find out, please let me know.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

2005 "GARNACHA de Fuego" Old Vines (Bodegas Zabrin) (Calatayud, Spain)

This was a very good value. Imported by Jorge Ordonez, a great source for Spanish wines, this wine had a vivid dark ruby color. Vibrant nose of crunchy raspberries & blueberries, with some of the classic rock dust-y/minerally scents that frequently grace the Grenache-based wines of the Calatayud region. Dense and youthful in the mouth, with lots of straightforward raspberry/black cherry fruit, and some noticeable rustic tannin as well. Needs a year or so to settle down and drop some of the coarser tannin, but hard to resist now with pasta dishes and stews. Nice balance and length. 87+. Was $7.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2002 Peteroa CARMENERE Reserve (Central Valley, Chile)

This wine wasn't bad, but was made in a style that I don't like much.

Medium ruby with some brick at the rim. Nose very closed at first, giving up only vaguely cardboardy scents. I then put it under a Vacu-Vin closure for almost a week and forgot about it (I would estimate that this is the equivalent of about 4-8 hours in a decanter). When I later re-opened it, somewhat more pleasant (though not particularly assertive) scents of sweet cream, boysenberries, and dusty earth came forward. In the mouth, it reminded me of a middle of the road Bordeaux from a relatively cool year. It was kind of austere, but had decent concentration and length. 84. If you want to try this, I would definitely recommend opening and decanting it several hours ahead of time. Would match nicely with simple roasted or grilled lamb, but little else. $10.40 at Spec's on Richmond.

Friday, March 09, 2007

2004 Lengs & Cooter "The Victor" SHIRAZ (South Australia)

This wine is usually a decent value and not that expensive.

Deep ruby color. Rich nose of blackberries, cedary pencil-shavings, and sweet cream. Soft, ripe, salty fruit in the mouth: sappy raspberry and blackberry, with some minerality underneath. Soft, relatively long finish, with no tannin left to speak of and relatively full body. Very nice, balanced, if not complex, Shiraz. 88. Was $14 and change at Spec's on Richmond.

2005 Sebastiani Sonoma Coast PINOT NOIR (California)

This was a pretty good value for a Pinot Noir.

Bright, sparkling ruby with purplish glints. Sweet nose of cherry cola, pomegranate, and fragrant foresty scents. Rich, ripe fruit (dry blackberry and plum essences) with lots of stony mineral flavors. Very expressive. Not complex or Burgundian, but lots of character. 87. Very good value (for a Pinot Noir) at $14.50 at Spec's on Richmond.

Caveat: I had a couple of glasses of this two nights in a row, and each night, it clobbered me. I felt completely bombed. Every once in a while, a wine will do this to me. It usually doesn't have any correlation to the stated alcohol level. I have no idea what causes this, although the last time it happened it was also a pretty good-tasting California wine (reviewed here.)

2004 Espelt SAULO (Emporado, Spain)

A gutsy blend of Garnacha and Carinena (grenache and carignane), but too tannic at present.

Saturated, blood-like black ruby. Medium intensity, deep-toned nose of blackberry liqueur, graphite, and sweet cream. Deep-toned flavors as well, with lots of scorched earth and a tad of cassis. Some chalky tannins and lemony astringency shorten up the finish. Needs a couple of years to drop some of the coarse tannins, and I bet when it does, the finish will lengthen and smooth out a bit. 84+ Was $10 at Central Market.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

2005 Mas Carlot ROSE "Cuvée Tradition" (Rhone Valley, France)

This was an excellent, food-friendly rosé.

Bright pink color with a slight orangey tint. Although an orangey tint in a rosé isn't usually a good thing -- usually it means the wine is losing freshness -- this wine was in perfect condition and will drink well for another several months.

Fresh ripe nose of raspberries and strawberries, with a bit of fragrant, earthy minerality. Beautiful, fruity, bright, mouthfilling flavors. Not complex, but who cares. Lots of fun to drink with spicy dishes. 89. $9 at many Richard's stores.

2003 Alexander Valley Vineyards "TWO BARREL" (50% Syrah, 50% Merlot)

I've seen this around for a while and have had it on my mind to try. Not bad, but not a repeat purchase.

Dark ruby color. Nose promises more than the flavors deliver. Sweet scents of blackberries and graphite, with a lemony component that's nice on the nose but hints at the excess acidity that mars the palate. In the mouth, the acidity pinches the flavors and shortens the finish. I'm pretty sure it was added by the winemaking crew, since the alcohol is listed at 14%, and it doesn't seem likely that that much acidity was present in grapes that had enough sugar to reach that level of alcohol. 83. Was about $14 or $15 at Spec's on Smith.