Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2004 Poggio Salvi CHIANTI COLLI SENESI (Tuscany, Italy)

This is a terrific, rustic Tuscan wine -- loaded with flavor -- from the region in Chianti that is closest to the adjoining and much more prestigious Brunello di Montalcino DOC.

Color: Opaque dark black ruby.

Nose: Big, deep, fruity/earthy. Cherries, balsamic notes, old barrels and gravel.

Mouth: Lots of dark chokecherry syrup flavors upon entry, with earthy minerals and iodine flavors. Full-bodied, with some fairly soft tannins making themselves known.

Cellar or drink?: With air, this wine drinks well now, but should keep and perhaps improve for another 2 years.

Score: 90.

Price/store: This wine was a gift from my friend Robert Finley, and I’m not sure where he got it, but Spec’s on Smith lists this one for $12 and change.

2006 Pascual Toso MALBEC (Maipu Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina)

An outstanding value, this wine had loads of flavor for under $10.

Color: Dense purple-tinged ruby.

Nose: Interesting nose of buttered wheat toast, gravel, and ripe plums and cassis.

Mouth: Round, ripe, soft, and concentrated. Persistent flavors of blackberries and sandstone. Full-bodied, with a long, balanced finish, and lots of soft, ripe tannin.

Cellar or drink?: Drinking very well now, but will age nicely for the next three years or so.

Score: 90.

Price/store: Was $9 and change at Spec’s on Westheimer.

Friday, February 15, 2008

2006 Steele Vineyard "Pacini Vineyard" "Old Vine" ZINFANDEL (Mendocino County, California)

This was a terrific youthful Zin that is really good now but will benefit from another year in the bottle.

Color: Very dark black ruby color.

Nose: Gorgeous and intense -- spicy black raspberry fruit, sweet cream, and a background note of pine forest.

Mouth: Intensely concentrated, but not overblown, with a youthful angularity in the mouthfeel. Lots of focused fruit and black pepper flavors. Some heat in the long finish (which didn't seem to jibe with the relatively low 13.5% alcohol listed on the label).

Cellar or drink?: It will be hard to resist this focused, yummy, concentrated Zin now, but the angularity should settle down over the next year or so.

Score: 90+.

Price/store: Was $16.99 at Spec's on Smith, making it an excellent value in the brave new world of inflated-price Zins.

2005 Domaine Massamier La Mignarde "Cuvée des Oliviers" (Southwest France)

This wine, from the Coteaux des Peyriac region in southwest France near Minervois, was cheap but just so-so.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Cinsault, and Grenache, this wine has a dark ruby color, but only a medium-intensity nose of very bland berry fruit and stones. Medium-bodied and balanced, but with almost non-descript flavors of generic berries and minerals. Not bad swigging at a party (it was only $7 a bottle), but little else. Got it at Spec's on Richmond. 79.

2005 Domaine du Bouqueteau CHINON (Loire, France)

Just when I finish a post about how unusually ripe the 2005 Loire reds are , I get an unripe one. Figures.

This 100% Cabernet Franc was too unripe and vegetal for my taste.

Dark black ruby color. Interesting but not altogether pleasant nose. On the good side, there were some nice cherry and underbrush scents. On the bad side, there was a persistent vegetal (bell peppers and green beans). Surprisingly full and concentrated given its unripeness. Soft-textured as well, but the overriding impression is that of the unripe flavors. With several hours of air the vegetal scents receded just a tad, but still was disappointing. 79. I believe this was about $14 at Central Market.

2006 Commanderie de la Bargemone COTEAUX D'AIX EN PROVENCE ROSÉ (France)

This was a light, fresh, but very austere rosé.

Very light coppery/cantaloupe color. Light intensity nose of tomato skins, tropical fruit and bananas, and some pungent briny stones. Crisp and very minerally in the mouth, with fruit in the background instead of in the fore. Focused and austere, this rosé isn't so great on its own, but would be a nice foil to a sweet, unctuous seafood like scallops. 84. Was $9 and change at Spec's on Smith.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

2004 San Felice CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

This wine is downright cranky at first, but after a few hours of air time, really opened up into a very high class Sangiovese.

Very dark ruby garnet. Nose very closed at first, but after it opened, it displayed some real elegance, with scents of spiced, sweet balsa wood, cherry, granite, and earth. Concentrated, medium-bodied flavors of cherry liqueur, menthol, and lots of liquid minerals. Long finish, with substantial, but fine-grained, tannins. 89. This will will likely age and improve over the next 3-4 years. Was $18 at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Domaine Dupeuble BEAUJOLAIS (France)

Nice nose, but a bit thin in the mouth.

Crystalline ruby with bright magenta highlights. Lively nose of crunchy, grapey cherry fruit and smokey granite. Crisp and light in the mouth, with dry, dry cherry and stone flavors. Lacking concentration, even for a Beaujolais, which is supposed to be somewhat lighter in style. Lean, medium length finish. This was refreshing to drink with a meal, but was meager on its own. 82. Was about $14 at Central Market.

2006 Doña Paula MALBEC "Los Cardos" (Mendoza, Argentina)

This was a very ripe, well-balanced red with a lot of character.

Saturated black ruby/mulberry color. The nose needs a lot of air time to develop, but then displays deep fruit (crushed, oozing blackberries, sweet cream, coffee and balsa wood. Rich, spicy black raspberry fruit, with a smokey granite component as well. Full-bodioes and mouthfilling. Substantial tannin in the finish, but it's relatively ripe for Malbec. Reminded me of a very ripe, old vine Zin from Contra Costa County like Rosenblum or Cline make. Very nice. 89. Was about $14 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

2005 Frederic Mabileau ST. NICOLAS DE BOURGUEIL "Les Roullieres" (Loire Valley, France)

2005 looks to have been a terrific year for the Cabernet Franc-based reds (Chinon, St. Nicolas de Bourgueil) of the Loire Valley. This is a region where, traditionally, the reds struggled (not always succesfully) to fully ripen. But one convenient truth about global warming is that recently, this region has experienced warmer summers, and, consequently, the reds have been more consistent (and good!). There are still many good reds under $20 to try, and I have a few in my wine closet I'm going to be opening in the next few weeks.

This one is very good -- lots of flavor but with alcohol levels much lower than reds from other regions around the world. The lower alcohol levels create a really elegant, almost ethereal mouthfeel.

Black ruby color with bright purple highlights. Medium intensity but gorgeously perfumey nose of black cherries, stony minerals, and a briary/walnut-oily scent in the background. Concentrated and bright, with flavors of dry cassis extract and briary underbrush. Very light-feeling in the mouth, but with good concentration nonetheless. Long, balanced, lithe finish. Very distinctive. 88. Was $16.99 at Central Market.

2005 Morgan PINOT GRIS "R & D Franscioni Vineyard" (Santa Lucia Highlands, Cal.)

California Pinot Gris -- which is sometimes called Pinot Grigio -- to my taste can frequently feel and taste too flat and lifeless to me. From Italy, they're a bit livelier, but frequently have virtually no taste. From Alsace, they have lots of flavor, but can be overbearing buttery or cloyingly fruity. I've had quite a few from Oregon that I've liked over the years, however (like this WillaKenzie one).

This here's one of the classic California flat ones.

Very light and amazingly transparent gold color. Interesting nose of creamed minerals, spiced pear, and quince. Broad, flat mouthfeel, with almost cloying flavors of earthy marzipan and pear, that grows more bitter in the long, but not particularly pleasant, finish. 78. Not gonna tell you what I paid for this -- it's embarassing.