Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2005 Hubert Brochard SANCERRE (Loire Valley, France)

This is a good value. It would be a very nice, very typical introduction to Sancerre for those unfamiliar with the Sauvignon Blanc made in the upper Loire area (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, and Menetou-Salon).

Eye: Light, bright gold. No glints of anything else, just light, bright gold.

Nose: Classic Sancerre nose of light, fresh-picked herbs, crisp Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and stoney minerals.

Mouth: Round and refreshing, with excellent balance, this wine lacked only a bit of extra concentration and complexity to make it outstanding. As it is, it has decent concentration and a lively batch of herby, gooseberry and mineral flavors. Vibrant mouthfeel. Very nice.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 6 months.

Price/store: $18.94 at Spec's on Richmond.

2004 Poggio Salvi MORELLINO DI SCANSANO "I Butteri" (Tuscany, Italy)

This was a funky but not totally unpleasant Morellino.

Eye: Black ruby with some amber tones.

Nose: Big, earthy nose, with lots of old leathery, pruney, and old wine barrel scents.

Mouth: Very rustic in the mouth, and not showing a lot of Sangiovese varietal character: full bodied, with lots of peppery pruney flavors, and a finish that tapered into dried leather.

Score: 77.

Cellar or drink? Drink now if you've already got some, as this is probably going to get more disjointed and funky as time goes on. If you don't already have some, don't bother.

Price/store: Was $17.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

2005 Rolf Binder "Halliwell" SHIRAZ (60%) / GRENACHE (40%) (Barossa Valley, Australia)

This was a terrific wine, with ripeness, balance, concentration, and complexity, all in good measure.

Eye: Saturated dark crystalline ruby.

Nose: Beautiful, ripe, rich scents of sweet blackberry and cassis, as well as smoky pencil lead. Makes you want to keep sticking your nose in the glass and keep sniffing.

Mouth: Rich, full, and smooth-textured. Complex flavors of ripe plum and cassis, as well as smoky oak and mineral-laced gravel. Decent balancing acidity in a long, pure finish.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? I would drink this over the next two years, as it is beautiful and soft right now.

Price/store: Was $23.88 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2006 Ponzi PINOT NOIR "Tavola" (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

This was a very nice Pinot with lots of straightforward character. More of a weekday P.N. rather than one to save for a special occasion, but that's not a criticism!

Eye: Dark ruby color.

Nose: Very fragrant, with snappy yet sappy cherry fruit, lots of resiny minerals, and sweet cream scents.

Mouth: Soft and medium-bodied, it had good concentration and loads of bright minerally cherry fruit, and a fairly long, balanced finish. Not particularly complex, but very enjoyable.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next two years.

Price/store: This was a gift, so I'm not sure where it was purchased, but a quick Google search indicates that most retailers sell it around $21 - $24, making it a pretty decent value in the Pinot Noir world.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2004 Verget CHABLIS 1er CRU "MONT DE MILIEU" (Burgundy, France)

Another terrific 2004 premier cru Chablis from Verget. This had crisp fruit, minerality, vibrancy, and length. Delicious. There's very little that ranks with a great Chablis in the white wine world.

Eye: Almost luminescent, light brassy gold with a slight lime glint.

Nose: Intense scents of lemon-lime fruit and slightly smoky, limestoney minerals.

Mouth: Soft yet focused and intense. Flavors change from moment-to-moment: crisp Chardonnay grapes with a squeeze of lemon and lime juice, intense and slightly salty, bright powdered stone flavors, and ultimately ending with a bone dry yet caramelly note. Longgggg finish.

Score: 92.

Cellar or drink? Like most classic Chablis, this could keep, and possibly even improve, in a cool cellar for a few more years.

Price/store: $44 at Spec's on Smith, and worth it.

(Sorry -- picture of 2002 vintage)

2006 Chateau Grande Cassagne COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES ROSÉ (Provence, France)

This had some nice flavor but was a bit lacking in the acidity needed to keep it fresh and vibrant, and so had a kind of dull mouthfeel.

Eye: Light bubblegum pink color.

Nose: Sweet strawberry/watermelon scents with a note of rhubarb and steely minerals.

Mouth: Very soft and round, with low-acid cherry/watermelon fruit and a cold stainless steel note. Long, but low-acid, somewhat meek finish.

Score: 85.

Cellar or drink? Drink up ASAP.

Price/store: This is about $9 at most Richard's stores.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2005 St. Cosme CÔTES DU RHÔNE "Les Deux Albion" (Rhône Valley, France)

This was a beautifully-rendered Côtes du Rhône, with excellent ripeness, concentration, and balance. I'd put this up against Chateauneufs and Gigondas's costing 2 to 3 times as much. I think I remember reading somewhere that this is a 50/50 Grenache/Syrah blend, though don't quote me on that.

Eye: Youthful and deep dark black ruby color.

Nose: Complex nose of crushed stones, crisp but ripe and spicy black raspberries, and some garrigue-like herbal-earthy scents in the background.

Mouth: Concentrated, full-bodied, and with loads of soft tannins, this wine had flavors of spicy, dark berries, stony minerals, and iodine-laced herbs. A very long finish with great tannins and acidity providing structure and balance.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? This wine's concentration, balance, and tannic structure augur well for another 2-4 years of aging in a cool cellar, although it's great right now.

Price/store: Was about $15 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Rusden "Driftsand" (Barossa Valley, Australia)

This Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre blend was very ripe but kind of on the dull side.

Eye: Fairly advanced-looking medium black ruby.

Nose: Soft, sweet nose of very ripe. spicy blackberries and raspberries, augmented with carrot-cake spices.

Mouth: Very soft, round, and medium-full in the mouth. Almost sweet flavors of ripe raspberry and peach (the latter being a dead giveaway in a red that the fruit was too ripe), with a faintly minerally, balsa wood component. A bit flabby and lacking some focus, but with lots of flavor.

Score: 84.

Cellar or drink? Drink up, because this will only get more disjointed as time goes on.

Price/store: About $25 at Spec's on Smith (also available at the Spec's on Richmond).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Zinfandel! (The Dog)

Our dog, Zinfandel, or "Zinny" for short.

Eye(s): Brown.

Nose: Wet.

Mouth: Likes to bite Gus in half. (Gus is the cat across the street that Zinny views as an arch-enemy of Zinny's sister, Salty, the cat.)

Score: 100.

Walk or Ride? Walk.

Price/store: Free from the H.O.P.E. Shelter in Houston. Good value.

2005 "Venta la Ossa" (La Mancha, Spain)

This wine was done in what is euphemistically called the "international style" -- which some critics call "spoofulated." It usually signals a wine made in a very ripe style and aged in lots of new french oak. Almost invariably, regardless of the varietal, it ends up tasting to some degree like an oaky Merlot. Usually, I'm not crazy for this style. And although this wine was made in that style . . . it nevertheless was a very tasty and pleasurable Tempranillo.

Eye: Fully saturated impenetrable black color with ruby purple highlights.

Nose: Extremely rich, oaky nose with lots of fresh ground coffee notes, dark chocolate, fresh bread, and, oh yeah, some ripe fruit underneath all that.

Mouth: Huge, ripe, mouthfilling oaky flavors coat the palate. Not much, if any complexity, but doesn't skimp on flavor and has lots of "oomph." Long, oaky, peppery blackberry juice finish.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next year, as it is my experience that whatever fruit is there will be dwarfed by the oak pretty soon.

Price/store: $13 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Artezin ZINFANDEL (Mendocino County, Cal.)

A flabby, out-of-balance disappointment.

Eye: Medium plummy ruby color.

Nose: Nose of spicy, tart/sweet brambleberries, pine forest and anchovy paste.

Mouth: Very simple, flat, plummy/metallic-minerally flavors, with a toasty, resiny, low acid, almost cloying finish. Flabby and not very Zin-typical.

Score: 74.

Cellar or drink? Neither, really.

Price/store: $16.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Monday, July 07, 2008

2006 Mommessin BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES "Old Vines - Gamay" (France)

This is your cheap summer party/cookout wine for 2008. Tremendous value in a crowd-pleasing style.

Eye: Dark crystalline ruby.

Nose: Ripe fruity scents of hard chery candy and a bit of a minerally backdrop.

Mouth: Ripe, soft, and with beautiful balance, this wines has lots of straightforward cherry, grapey fruit with a touch of stones in the background. Not complex, but very fun to drink, particularly with a slight chill on it.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next few months.

Price/store: Was $8 and change at Spec's on Holcombe.

2005 Chateau Thivin Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France)

This was a very good, large-scaled, structured Beaujolais. I used to sell this when I worked at Mosswood Wines in the early 1980s, and have seen it only rarely since. I was glad to see that Spec's had picked it up.

Eye: Saturated dark ruby with violet highlights.

Nose: Gorgeous, lively nose of crunchy, ripe plums and berries, with sweet cream and granite scents as well.

Mouth: Focused, lively, concentrated, and structured (for a Beaujolais), with crisp fruit, refreshing but not overdone acidity, and great balance. Very nice, and loaded with character.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? Drinking well now, this wine has the structure and depth to age 1-2 years.

Price/store: Was $19 at Spec's on Smith.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

2006 Frederic Mabileau ST. NICOLAS DE BOURGUEIL "La Boullieres" (Loire Valley, France)

I really like the 2005 version, reviewed previously, of this French Cabernet Franc, and the 2006, while good, was just short of the level of the 2005.

Eye: Medium dark crystalline ruby color.

Nose: Bright but still seemingly reductive aromas of minerally cherries and brambles, with a pungent mineral oil note.

Mouth: Light to medium bodied, with linear flavors of crisp, dry cherry syrup and pungent minerals. Fairly long finish, with a slightly bitterish note at the end. No real tannin to speak of.

Score: 85.

Cellar or drink? I would bet that another year or two in the cellar would result in a change in the flavor profile toward the more openly fruity and less pungent end of the spectrum.

Price/store: Was $16.99 at Central Market in Austin.

2005 Fattoria la Peschiera MORELLINO DI SCANSANO (Tuscany, Italy)

This wine was a bit of a disappointment, delivering some nice fragrance and nice, crisp acidity, but was hollow in the middle palate. When I was looking at the label at Central Market in Austin, one of the wine guys accosted me and started extolling the heck out of this one, so I gave it a shot, but alas.

Eye: Very bright, almost pulsating ruby-crimson color.

Nose: Spry aromas of winey cherries and sweat (in a kinda pleasant way).

Mouth: Flavors of minerals, sweat, and cherries flare quickly on the palate, then die, leaving a finish dominated by tannin and acidity.

Score: 80.

Cellar or drink? I'd drink this over the next year as it simply lacks the concentration of fruit needed to develop with age.

Price/store: Was $18.99 at Central Market in Austin.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

2005 Domaine Talmard MÂCON-CHARDONNAY (Burgundy, France)

This very good value was a big, bruiser of an unoaked, flavorful French Chardonnay. In an interesting side note, the word "Chardonnay" in the name of this wine refers not to the grape, but to the village of Chardonnay in the Maconnias.

Eye: Medium dark brassy gold.

Nose: Intense Chardonnay fruit on the nose -- ripe apples, peach pit, and sweet stone-scented talcum powder.

Mouth: Rich, ripe, and full in the mouth, with lots of peach, peach pit, and dense minerally flavors. Not exactly elegant, but a big mouthful of ripe, unoaked virgin Chardonnay.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 6-12 months.

Price/store: Was $11.29 at Richard's on South Voss near San Felipe.

2005 Salentein MALBEC (Mendoza, Argentina)

This was a very nicely-crafted red. Soft, rich, and complex.

Eye: Completely saturated dark ruby-purple.

Nose: Intense and complex nose of minerally gravel, lemon juice, and ripe blackberries.

Mouth: Full-bodied, with complex flavors of coffee, cassis, blackberry, and peppery iodine. Lots of medium-soft tannins in the lengthy, minerally finish.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 3-5 years.

Price/store: This was a gift, but Spec's lists this for $19.

2005 Nigl GRÜNER VELTLINER "Kremser Freiheit" (Kremstal, Austria)

To my taste, Grüner Veltliner at its best displays beautiful pink grapefruit scents with lots of mineral undertones -- and that's what this one had.

Eye: Light gold with greenish glints.

Nose: Creamed minerals, lots of pink grapefruit and apply fruit, with some straw undertones.

Mouth: Soft-textured, yet with a crisp, zesty mouthfeel. Fresh stoniness with lots of dry bitter-apple and lemon-lime fruit. Long, refreshing finish. Very distinctive.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next year.

Price/store: $17 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Hospices de Beaujeu MORGON "Cuvee Jean Gaudet" (Beaujolais, France)

I'm always excited to find additional Beaujolais producers besides the ubiquitous and bland Georges DeBoeuf offerings that monopolizes most retailers' shelves, so I grabbed a bottle of this one when it showed up at Spec's. Alas, it was pretty bland too.

Eye: Medium dark ruby color.

Nose: Lots of very straightforward plummy-grapey fruit and a bit of pungent stony scents in the background.

Mouth: Lots of simple, overly clean tasting plummy fruit. Very much in the DeBoeuf style of commercial Beaujolais.

Score: 83.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next few months.

Price/store: Was $14.20 at Spec's on Smith.

Vacation wines -- Day 7

2005 Herdade das Servas "Monte das Servas" (Alentejano, Portugal) -- This wine was extraordinarily soft and velvety textured, with nicely integrated red berry fruit and cigar box scents. I liked it a lot.

2006 Altos las Hormigas Malbec Reserva (Mendoza, Argentina) -- A dense, ripe, highly extracted and very tannic Malbec. My brother Angy liked it a lot more than I did, as I thought the level of tannins was a bit over the top.

Dinner: Beef Stew "in the Italian fashion" with lots of red wine and tomatoes.