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.

A Cotes du Rhone at Age 6 -- 2001 Perrin RASTEAU "L'Andeol" Cotes du Rhone-Villages (Southern France)

I had this wine last 2 years ago, rating it an 89 and opining that it was at or near its peak. Found a bottle in the closet and tried it recently, and it was definitely on the decline.

Deep black ruby with a brickish tint. Spicy nose at first with scorched earth, menthol, and some plummy fruit. Peppery, scorched-earthy, winey, but surprisingly deep flavors at first, with some astringency and still some sharp tannins in the finish. As it sat, however, the fruit faded and the wine's astringency took over, as frequently happens with fairly full-bodied reds on the decline. 86 at first, and declining from there as the night went on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

2004 Rene Mure PINOT BLANC "Tradition" (Alsace, France)

I love Alsace whites. This one's a very good value entry-level Alsace wine with lots of flavor and nice balance.

Very light gold color with a slightly greenish tint. Beautifully fruity, bright nose of peach and citrus oil, with toasty minerals. Soft, round, and relatively concentrated and persistent flavors of apples and pungent minerals. Medium-full body, with a little heat showing through at the end of a pretty long, clean finish. 87. Was a very good value at $11.99 at Richard's on Shepherd.

2004 d'Arenberg GRENACHE "The Custodian" (McLaren Vale, Australia)

This wine shows the rustic side of Grenache.

Dark black ruby. Nose very peppery and woodsy, with ripe, spicy raspberry fruit taking a secondary role instead of its usual position in the driver's seat. Full-bodied, with lots of deep-toned minerals, pepper, and ripe black raspberry fruit. Long, peppery finish. 86. I think this was around $16-$17, but I can't remember where I got it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Steaks and wine in Chicago

Went to the annual INTA (International Trademark Association) conference earlier this week. This year was in Chicago. My buddy Frank Duffin and I, as per tradition, hit the steak houses for a couple of nice dinners. First was Gene and Georgetti's. Not the most refined setting, and the wine list wasn't so hot, but the prime, dry-aged T-bone was tremendous. Had a 2004 St. Hallet Shiraz from Australia with it. The wine was not as jammy as many Aussie Shirazes, with somewhat higher acidity and tighter than I expected. Not bad, but not great.

The next night Frank and I, along with our friend Alex from Madrid, hit the Chicago Chop House, one of my favorite steak houses in the country. Their daily "off the menu" special, which I've had several times, is the Chop House Prime Rib. It's a prime, dry-aged ribeye cooked a special way: first it's roasted on the entire rib rack until just bloody, bloody rare, then sliced into individual ribeye steaks and seared to order. Even though I usually order a Strip, T-bone, or Porterhouse everywhere else, here, this cut is amazing. The wine was a 2004 J. Rochioli Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir -- a perfumed, concentrated, extraordinary PN whose ethereally light mouthfeel was hard to believe given its concentration of sappy, fragrant Pinot fruit and its length.

For dessert, we walked over to oENOlogy, a nearby wine, cheese, and chocolate joint in the Intercontinental Hotel. Amazingly, they had three different half bottles of Alois Kracher Austrian dessert wines on their list. We ordered a 1999 Alois Kracher #6 - Grande Cuvee Nouvelle Vague Trockenbeerenauslese. This wine was tremendously honeyed and rich, with lots of apricot and date fruit, and high enough acidity to buoy it all up. A great way to end the evening.