Saturday, May 31, 2008

2006 Domaine de Colette REGNIÉ "Selection Vieilles Vignes" (Beaujolais, France)

This Beaujolais had loads of old-fashioned Beaujolais character. A great pick for summer drinking. As with most Beaujolais, it tastes best when it's a little cooler that normal room temperature (but not chilled). Pop it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before drinking.

Eye: Beautiful, pure crystalline ruby, with a hint of violet at the rim.

Nose: Classic old-style Beaujolais scents of hard cherry candy, granite, and brambly earth.

Mouth: Very pure cherry/mineral flavors. Very good concentration and weight, yet with that sense of lightness and softness that good Beaujolais should possess. Long, pure-tasting finish.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? Drinking beautifully now, this wine has the concentration and balance to keep nicely for at least another year.

Price/store: Was $16.99 at Central Market.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

2002 Charles Schleret RIESLING "Herrenweg" (Alsace, France)

This is a beautiful Alsace wine at its peak! And I am a sucker for a good Alsace Riesling, especially from the outstanding 2002 vintage. This wine would shine with seared tuna or any grilled or simply prepared fish.

Eye: Beautiful bright brassy gold.

Nose: Just after I pulled the cork, the nose was dominated by pungent mineral scents, but it quickly changed, and soon outrageously perfumed scents of sweet peach and pear, bergamot, and tea were wafting out.

Mouth: Bright, balanced acidity buoyed up the beautiful flavors of apple/pear fruit, with a subtle minerality and a hint of chalk dust in the very long finish.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? This is absolutely at its peak right now.

Price/score: Was $27 and change at Spec's on Smith (hurry, before they run out!)

2004 Alcance CARMENERE (Maule Valley, Chile)

I think that this wine -- which is virtual dead-ringer for a very ripe wine from the Pessac-Leognan region of Bordeaux -- is the reserve bottling of the Calina winery's Carmenere, the 2004 vintage of which I previously reviewed here. This was very rich and interesting, though I'm not sure I liked it any better than the regular bottling.

Eye: Fully saturated plasma-like ruby with violet highlights.

Nose: Almost over-the-top richness: melted baker's chocolate, chalk, moist tobacco-leaf, loamy gravel. Oh yeah, and there's some rich blackberry fruit lurking beneath all that.

Mouth: Rich and earthy, with lots of stony minerals at first, giving way to chocolately, port-like fruit, and long, long finish full of soft tannin. Almost too much on the earthy side as opposed to the fruity side of the flavor spectrum.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drinking well now, I think this wine could improve over the next 3 years.

Price/store: Got this for $14.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Monday, May 26, 2008

2004 Verget Chablis "Cuvee de la Butte" (Burgundy, France)

(Truncated notes from memory.)

I had this unusually earthy Chablis (I'll skip any pun relating to the name of this cuvee) last night at the house of some good friends, but couldn't actually put my finger in the most prominent component of its nose and flavors until I woke up this morning: chicken broth!

Despite this uncommon aspect, it was still pleasurable and well-made. Underneath the broth were classic scents of lemony minerals and dry straw. It was medium-full bodied, and in the longish finish there was a nice purity to the lemon-limey fruit and the chalky minerals that emerged.

I got this for about $21 at Spec's on Smith, but it looked to be the last bottle on the shelf. I think I would have scored this somewhere in the 84-86 range, had I been scoring.

(Picture of 2006 -- couldn't find one of the 2004).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

2004 Querciabella CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

This was an intense, old-school Chianti.

Eye: Almost fully saturated, deep black-ruby.

Nose: Intensely extracted nose too -- earthy, schisty-gravel scents, delicately smoky balsa wood notes, and chokecherry liqueur.

Mouth: Large-framed and full-bodied, with old-school flavors of minerally gravel and peppery chokecherry liqueur (again). Structured and intense, with a long finish.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? This is starting to drink well now, yet I'm sure this wine would benefit from 2-3 more years of bottle age.

Price/store: Was $27.59 at Richard's on Richmond a few months ago, but I think they're on to the 2005 vintage now (although that year is also supposed to be very good in Tuscany).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

2004 Menguante GARNACHA "Seleccion" (Carinena, Spain)

This wine was seemingly made for stews, pot roasts, and meat sauces for pasta. Loaded with flavor, ripe, minerally, and with a great structural backbone of tannin and acid.

Eye: Bright, almost luminescent dark ruby with magenta highlights.

Nose: Very vivacious vapors vigorously vault vertically: tart raspberries and cherry liqueur, with lots of powdered stone and mineral scents, and a whiff of rising bread dough.

Mouth: Concentrated and athletic. Bright raspberry fruit, and lots of minerally brambly flavors as well. Long, minerally finish, with noticeable but well well-integrated tannin and bright acidity. We had this with pasta with a sauce that was essentially a leftover Italian pot roast and its gravy, pulsed in the food processor, and augmented with some diced tomatoes. This wine was an awesome complement to the dish.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? This will keep for another 2-3 years in a cool cellar, although I don't think it will improve.

Price/store: Was $16 and change at Spec's on Smith.

Monday, May 19, 2008

2006 "Ninet" Rosé (Grenache/Syrah) (Southwest France)

As in almost every vintage, this consistent, flavorful rosé was an excellent value.

Eye: Disconcerting color -- not pink or salmon like most rosés, but a diluted but almost fluorescent ruby/garnet color. Not to worry, though. It gets better.

Nose: Beautifully fruity noise, with ripe, crisp scents of strawberries, grapes, and watermelon. Maybe even a hint of banana. Just a hint of faintly bitterish minerals in the background to balance out all that fruit.

Mouth: Good concentration, length, and balance, especially for a wine at this bargain price point. Not complex, but lots of dry, refreshing fruit.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? As with all rosés, drink now now now.

Price/store: $8 at Spec's on Westheimer.

2004 Ambra CARMIGNANO "Santa Cristina in Pilli" (Tuscany, Italy)

This wine was just too extracted for its own good, resulting in too much tannin and an astringent quality that masked its otherwise nice flavors.

Eye: Deep, nearly fully-saturated black ruby.

Nose: Very astringent at first, but the astringency waned to tolerable levels after several hours of airing, revealing scents of yeasty bread, chokecherry liqueur, and warm, minerally gravel.

Mouth: Full-bodied, but if its flavors were a stereo, I'd say there was good treble, good bass, but little mid-range. High-toned winey-cherry flavors, with lots of deep-toned peppery minerality in the back half of the palate. Substantial, not-so-soft tannin as well.

Score: 85+

Cellar or drink? If you've got some, I'd cellar it for 3 or 4 years and hope that it drops some of its tannin and softens a bit, but I'm not sure it ever will.

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2006 Chateau du Donjon MINERVOIS "Grande Tradition" (Southwest France)

This was a nicely balanced red that would serve as a welcome accompaniment to a wide range of meat or fowl dishes. A quintessential "food wine" (which I mean in a good way). It's a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignane.

Eye: Bright, deep ruby with violet highlights at the rim.

Nose: Nice nose of sweet plummy/blackberry fruit, with slightly earthy, walnut oil-y scents.

Mouth: Soft, round, nicely-balanced, with flavors of dry blackberry extract, a walnut oil/brambly component, and minerals. Medium long, clean finish.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 18 months.

Price/store: Was $11 at Spec's on Holcombe.

2005 Domaine de Corbillieres TOURAINE "Sauvignon" (Loire Valley, France)

This is the second excellent wine I've had from this estate. The first was their Pinot Noir rosé, which was the best rosé I've ever drunk. This white would be a terrific summer seafood wine.

Eye: Very light gold color.

Nose: Wonderfully fragrant nose of ripe pear, crushed seashells, and sweet grass.

Mouth: Intensely fruity, yet bone dry and refreshing. Long, crisp, and pure, with salty-stony, slightly herbal fruit.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? Drink this summer.

Price/store: I think this was around $12, at Richard's on South Shepherd.

2005 Chateau de Cary-Potet MONTAGNY "Les Bassets" (Burgundy, France)

This was a delicate, nicely textured white burgundy.

Eye: Bright, light, brassy-gold with greenish glints.

Nose: Terrific nose of earthy straw and fresh-crushed Chardonnay grapes, with a hint of candied apples.

Mouth: Soft and round, with a light texture, yet possessing concentrated, balanced flavors of apple, barely ripe peach, lemon, and flint. Long, clean, minerally finish.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink now. This wine is built for immediate pleasure.

Price/store: Was $18.93 at Spec's on Smith

Thursday, May 08, 2008

2004 Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek Valley ZINFANDEL "Reserve" (Cal.)

This was a sultry, rather than vibrant or athletic, Zinfandel.

Eye: Dark mulberry/ruby color.

Nose: Rich, sultry nose of overripe mixed berries and spice, with earthy and balsa wood notes.

Mouth: Fat and soft in the mouth, with deep-toned juicy berry fruit and a velvety texture. Not particularly concentrated, however, and also kind of atypical from the tightly wound, densely fruited and minerally Zins I expect from the Dry Creek Valley. Still, I liked it.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink now. I find that Zins don't age really well anyway, and this is a looser, less concentrated style than most anyway.

Price/store: Good question. I lost the receipt, but I think I got it either at Randall's on Weslayan or Whole Foods on Bellaire for about $16 on sale.

2006 Torbreck Barossa Valley "Woodcutters' SEMILLON" (Australia)

This was a full-flavored, gangly-limbed white, with prominent peppery elements.

Eye: Light brassy gold color.

Nose: Sharp nose at first, but with airing it develops a rich, waxy lanolin character with pepper, as well as buttery pear and banana fruit.

Mouth: Deeply flavored, full-bodied, but soft, with peppery pear, grass, and stone flavors. Long finish.

Score: 88.

Drink or cellar? My experience with full-bodied semillons is that they age pretty well for a white. This one may keep and improve for a year or two, but is pleasurable now.

Price/store: $14.59 at Spec's on Richmond.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

2005 Elvio Cogno DOLCETTO D'ALBA "Vigna del Mandorlo" (Piemonte, Italy)

The acidity in this Dolcetto was too high, detracting from what other wise was a pretty good wine. Can't drink it by itself, but it might be a cleansing-type pairing with a rich, braised meat dish.

Eye: Deep ruby with magenta highlights.

Nose: Tart, pungent nose of lemons, berries, and lots of powdered chalk.

Mouth: Lean and crisp in the mouth, with mouthwatering acidity and some cherry/mountain berry fruit. High acidity in the medium-long, pure tasting finish.

Score: 81.

Drink or cellar? It may soften over the next year, but I wouldn't count on it.

Price/Store: Was about $18 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 William Fevre CHABLIS GRAND CRU BOUGROS "Cote Bouguerots" (Burgundy, France)

A great example of the barrel fermented school of Chablis winemaking.

Eye: Very light gold color.

Nose: This wines needed substantial airing before its nose opened up, but when it finally did, there were scents of smoke, ripe pears, and stony earth.

Mouth: Crisp, minerally, yet with a subtly earthy butteriness, this wine also featured pear and lemon oil fruit. It had a soft, rich texture as well, with a long, long finish.

Score: 91+

Drink or cellar? This wine felt much weightier in the mouth than its flavors would have seemed to indicate, which is a sign that lots of additional development will occur. Together with the inherent ability of great, barrel fermented Chablis to age, I'd say this one could easily improve for another 5 or more years in a cool cellar. If you drink it now, be sure to decant it (yes, I know it's a white. Decant it anyway!)

Price/store: Got this for $59 from

2005 Daniel Dampt CHABLIS PREMIER CRU - COTES DE LECHET (Burgundy, France_

This was a very nice example of the "nothing but steel" school of Chablis winemaking.

Eye: Light, bright gold with greenish glints.

Nose: Remarkably precise nose of lemon-lime and a hint of white peach fruit, with sea shell/minerally scents in the background.

Mouth: Soft-textured, with a light mouthfeel and yet with intense flavors: apples, lime zest, sea shells, steely minerals, and rock dust. Long, vibrant finish with perfectly integrated, crisp acidity.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? Chablis with this combination of intensity and yet crispness tend to age better than other Chardonnays. My own experience is that the "pure steel" ones, like this one, don't quite live and improve as long as the ones that have some combination of barrel fermentation of ageing, but still, this one will easily stay fresh, and maybe improve for another 3 to 4 years in a cool cellar.

Price/store: I got this for $29.90 at