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.