Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2005 Tikal "PATRIOTA" (60% Bonarda, 40% Malbec) (Mendoza, Argentina)

This was a very interesting red. The nose promised great weight and ripeness, but in the mouth it was leaner and crisper than expected, although still quite flavorful. It would pair very well with very rich braised meat dishes such as oxtails, beef or lamb shanks, or tripe.

Eye: Saturated ruby purple color.

Nose: Rich, deeply fruity nose of sweet cassis and very ripe raspberries, with a prominent smoky, gravelly component.

Mouth: Ripe and full, yet somewhat lean, with good weight and broad flavors of dry, ripe, blackberry extract and crushed stones. Long, lean, crisp finish. Would have been amazing with just a tad less acidity and tad more flesh.

Score: 89.

Cellar or drink? This wine's concentration indicates that a few more years of ageing may improve this wine a bit, though I have found that wines with high (as opposed to moderate) acidity like this one really don't fare well with longer term ageing.

Price/store: Was $23.78 at Spec's on Westheimer.

2004 Felsina-Berardenga CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA "Rancia" (Tuscany, Italy)

This was a very classy, well-constructed red.

Eye: Dark black ruby with the barest hint of brick.

Nose: Medium-intense nose of minerally gravel, chokecherry liqueur, and wood.

Mouth: Medium full bodied, with very good concentration of minerally cherry pit and cherry liqueur. Not weighty, but with very good flavor concentration nonetheless. Good length and balance too, with some soft, unresolved tannin in the finish.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drinking well now, I think this could keep and soften for another 2-3 years. I'm concerned about ageing it beyond that, however, given its relatively advanced color and modest weight.

Price/store: Was $27 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2007 Pierre-Marie Chermette "Domaine du Vissoux" BEAUJOLAIS "Cuvee Vieilles Vignes" (France)

This was a very light, yet extraordinarily refreshing wine.

Eye: Dark crystalline ruby with magenta highlights.

Nose: Refreshing, ripe, crisp nose of freshly-crushed grapes, strawberries, and plums, with a background notes of stoney minerals and maple syrup.

Mouth: Ripe, crisp, and refreshing (sorry to repeat myself, but it is), with light body and crisp but unobtrusive acidity. Just want to keep quaffing this stuff down! Seems to whet and quench the thirst at the same time. Lots of fun.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink before 2009 gets here for maximum fun.

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

Friday, August 22, 2008

2005 Domaine Charles Joguet CHINON "Cuvee Terroir" (Loire Valley, France)

This was a TERRIFIC Cabernet Franc red from the Loire. Lots of character, flavor, and ageing potential.

Eye: Extremely saturated black mulberry color.

Nose: Ripe, complex nose of blackberry, smoky embers, baking spices, and intense, stony minerality.

Mouth: Concentrated, ripe, and tannic, with surprisingly full body (for a wine from this northerly, cool region) and unsurprisingly good acidity. Youthful flavors of ripe cassis and blackberry, with, again, lots of stony minerality.

Score: 90+

Cellar or drink? Although enjoyable now, this wine will clearly be better in 2-4 years.

Price/store: Was $22.99 at Houston Wine Merchant (on South Shepherd).

2006 Colterenzio PINOT GRIGIO (Alto Adige, Italy)

This Pinot Grigio from one of Italy's northernmost wine-growing regions was crisp and refreshing, but not much more.

Eye: Very light gold.

Nose: This was the best part of the wine -- fairly fragrant, with scents of pear, earthy stones, and milk.

Mouth: Light and lively, but with a fairly linear, austere flavor profile of minerals, acidity, and Granny Smith apples. Medium length finish.

Score: 83.

Cellar or drink? This style of Italian whites is for early drinking. Bottoms up before 2009.

Price/store: About $13 at Spec's on Holcombe.

Monday, August 18, 2008

2002 Domaine Laleure-Piot PERNAND-VERGELESSES Blanc (Burgundy, France)

I bought this 6-year old white burgundy from the close-out bin at Richard's on South Shepherd, so it was a calculated risk. It paid off! This wine had lots of character, was balanced, and performing at its peak.

Eye: Ridiculously intense, bright gold, with a fain greenish glint (still!)

Nose: Mature white burgundy nose of earthy, salty minerals, stones, spiced pears, and artichokes.

Mouth: Concentrated in flavors and weighty, but with medium-full body, this wine had intensely minerally flavors together with very dry notes of buttered pear essence. Long, stony finish. Nice balance.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink now. This is fully mature, and will only start to decline if cellared any longer.

Price/store: Was reduced from the mid-$20s to $19.99 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

Note about buying wines from the close-out bin: (1) Make sure it's a wine that should still theoretically be in its zone of maturity -- white burgundies can age better than most whites, and the 2002s had both great extract and acidity, a rare combination of two components required for graceful ageing; (2) look for a bottle that is filled as close to the cork as possible -- the more oxygen in a bottle, the quicker it will age; the less, the slower.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2004 Domaine Saint-Martin MARSANNAY "Les Finottes" (Burgundy, France)

This was a very soft, fragrant, enjoyable Pinot Noir that--amazingly for a Burgundy--was a pretty good value! I may try some more 2004s to see if this vintage is better than the critics would lead you to believe (they mostly criticized 2004s in Burgundy for being too light).

Eye: Darkish ruby with some amber highlights.

Nose: Exuberant nose of tangy rhubarb and sappy cherries, along with a pungent but pleasant earthy-vegetal component.

Mouth: Soft, broad, but light in the mouth, with flavors of crushed stones, cherries, and toasty oak in the background. Not particularly concentrated, but nicely-balanced, lively, and fun! Pretty good length too.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? The light color and weight, together with the lack of any discernible tannin indicate that this should be enjoyed over the next 12 months.

Price/store: Was only $19.33 at Spec's on Smith.

NOTE: Photo of label is for the 2005 vintage -- I couldn't find a picture of the 2004.

2005 Chateau de Valcombe COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES (60% Syrah, 40% Grenache) (Rhone, France)

This was a very nice, cheap, everyday wine with a lot of chunkiness and character.

Eye: Totally saturated black ruby-purple.

Nose: Intense nose, with raw meat and earthy scents in the lead, lots of powdered stones, and some blackberry/black cherry scents coming in last.

Mouth: Ripe, extracted, fairly concentrated flavors of stony minerals and blackberry, together with brambly notes. Long, simple, but pure-tasting finish, with plenty of tannin. Chunky and four-square, but satisfying.

Score: 87.

Cellar or drink? This will certainly keep, and maybe soften and improve, for another 1-2 years.

Price/store: $9.29 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

2005 Bruno Giacosa NEBBIOLO D'ALBA (Piemonte, Italy)

This Nebbiolo, from a highly-regarded producer, was a bit disappointing given the reputation of the producer and the quality of the 2005 vintage in northern Italy.

Eye: Medium ruby-garnet color.

Nose: Medium intensity nose of eucalyptus, chokecherries, and stony minerals.

Mouth: Medium-bodied and quite tannic in the mouth, with intense minerality but only moderate intensity of chokecherry fruit, with a touch of old wine barrels scent. Long, fairly peppery and somewhat astringent finish. Identifiably Nebbiolo, but kind of bony and spare.

Score: 84.

Cellar or drink? While the astringency and tannin would seem to require a bit of ageing, the advanced color and lack of fruit concentration seem to indicate that ageing won't help much, if at all. Drink up.

Price/store: Was $25 at Spec's on Smith.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

2005 Lolonis Redwood Valley ZINFANDEL (Mendocino County, California)

This organic winery consistently produces very good Zinfandels at very good prices, and the 2005 is yet another beauty. Ripe and vibrant, it's a beautifully balanced wine.

Eye: Nearly saturated, dark ruby with gem-like clarity.

Nose: Classic Zin -- ripe Zinfandel scents of wild, spicy berries, with brambly, maple-syrup undertones, and a hint of minerality.

Mouth: Ripe, yet lively and vibrant, with full body, good acidity, and a soft texture. Concentrated fruit in the mid-palate. Long, refreshing finish.

Score: 90.

Cellar or drink? Drink now and over the next year. I like my Zinfandels young. Don't listen to those wine guys who tell you it ages well. It doesn't improve with age. When they say it ages well, they mean that it maintains its fruit for a few years. But why tempt fate? Fruit is what a good Zin has when it's young, so drink it young!

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

2005 Domaine Santa Duc CÔTES DU RHÔNE "Les Quatre Terres" (Southern France)

This was a pleasant enough, straightforward Rhône wine. Technically, it's fine; it just didn't light my fire.

Eye: Dark black ruby with faintly violet highlights.

Nose: Very straightforward, fruity scents of plum juice and berries, with some stony minerality in the background.

Mouth: Full-bodied, and with some soft tannins, it featured non-complex, low-toned berryish flavors and a decent dosage of stony minerality. Good, balanced finish.

Score: 83.

Cellar or drink? Drinkable now, this wine will keep for another year or two.

Price/store: Was $12 at Richard's on South Shepherd.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

2005 Tablas Creek COTES DE TABLAS (43% Grenache, 24% Mourvedre, 18% Syrah, 15% Counoise) (Paso Robles, Cal.)

This nicely-rendered Rhone varietal blend showed why it is important, particularly in the heat of the summer, to make sure reds are served, NOT at ACTUAL room temperature (which is invariably too hot), but at a temperature in the low to mid 60s.*

Eye: Dark, sultry black ruby.

Nose: When I popped the cork after taking the wine out of my wine closet (which is about 71 degrees in July and August), the nose was overwhelmingly dominated by peppery alcoholic scents. I could hardly smell anything else. Alcohol vaporizes quite readily as temperature increases. So I popped the wine in the fridge for about 20 - 30 minutes, and upon cooling down to the mid-60s, the alcohol receded and deep-toned scents of smoky earth, dark black berries, and pungent yet sweet balsa wood emerged.

Mouth: Rich, dark flavors of smoky, mineral-laced blackberry syrup, with good density and length, and lots of fairly soft tannic structure.

Score: 88.

Cellar or drink? Drink over the next 2 years.

Price/store: I can't find my receipt, but I think this was about $21 at Spec's on Smith.

* The notion of reds being served at "room temperature" comes from a loose translation of the French word "chambre." But serving red wine "chambre" in the old days (when this truism was formed) referred to the temperature of a room in a typical French stone house, which were usually a lot cooler than modern American houses tend to be. So "room temperature" (chambre), as used in this rule, actually refers to temperatures between about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.