Thursday, December 31, 2009

2005 Chateau Bel Air (Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux)

This was -- surprise! -- a good value in a Bordeaux. Lots of character, very good balance.

Mellow, dark ruby with a plasma-like sultriness. Nose was initially closed at first, with a strong forest underbrush scent, but after I poured the second glass through a "Vinturi" aeration device (which I will post about next), it displayed loads of blackberry and cassis fruit, with a dry, baker's chocolate component, along with steely minerals and scorched gravel. Medium-full body, with mouthfilling flavors that initially show lots of briar-laced cassis, but display a growing liquid minerality as it lingers into a long finish. There is still a bit of tannin to resolve, but overall there is lovely balance. Hard to find Bordeaux of this quality under $20 -- this one was $14 and change at Spec's on Westheimer and Commonwealth. 88. Imported by Fruit of the Vine.

2008 Domaine Dupeuble BEAUJOLAIS (Burgundy, France)

A textbook Beaujolais!

Unbelievably peppy nose -- crunchy, zesty red grapes and cherry, along with freshly-split stones. Relatively concentrated, crisp flavors of vibrant cherry and liquid granite, with medium-light body and a long, pure, refreshing finish. Just a joy to drink with dinner. 89. Was $18 at Central Market, I think (can't find the receipt). Imported by Kermit Lynch.

(Photo thanks to

Monday, December 21, 2009

2005 Chante Cigale CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE (Southern Rhone, France)

A superb Chateauneuf at an outstanding price. Everything a Chateauneuf should be -- full-bodied, concentrated, classic flavor profile, great texture, nice complexity.

Dark black ruby with some softening at the rim. Nose was earthy and muted at first, but over the course of dinner it blossomed in the decanter to reveal a seductive raspberry/blackberry fruitiness, with notes of spiced lemon and smoky stones. Densely-flavored and full bodied, with a mouthcoating richness of inky, iodine-laced blackberry fruit, leaving a long, iron-rich aftertaste in the pleasantly peppery finish. Loads of soft tannin will ensure a few more years of nice ageing. 90. Was $25.99 at HEB on Buffalo Speedway, making it $10-$15 cheaper than any other Chateauneuf you are likely to find in its quality range.
Imported by Terrisson Wines.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2006 Clos des Allées MUSCADET de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie "Vieilles Vignes" (Loire, France)

A classic Muscadet -- crisp, bone dry, fresh, minerally.

Crystal clear pale gold with a greenish glint. Zesty nose of chalky lemon-lime fruity with some slightly smoky straw scents. Crisp and very stony & minerally in the mouth. Features crunchy green apple fruit. Medium-bodied and with good flavor concentration. Nice balance and crispness in the bone dry, refreshing finish. 88. Was $15 at Richard's on San Felipe and Voss. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2006 Yangarra Old Vines GRENACHE "Single Vineyard" (McLaren Vale, Australia)

A very good, not overly jammy Aussie Grenache.

Deep red ruby color. Intense nose of ripe blackberry juice, sweet, smoky sandstone, and a hint of menthol and dried herbs. Good weight initially in the mouth, with lots of dark berry and steely mineral flavors. Lots of the physical building blocks of wine present: tannin, alcohol, and acidity in good measure. A bit lacking in length, however, as the flavors fade pretty quickly, leaving tannin (fairly soft variety) and alcohol as the final impression. Would have been outstanding with more length. As it is, 88. Was $22 at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Domaine de Pallus CHINON "Les Pensees de Pallus" (Loire, France)

An excellent, traditional Cabernet Franc from the Loire. As with most Cabernet Franc wines from this region, this wine presents a flavor profile that may be outside the norm for those raised on really ripe California and Australian reds. I like it a lot, but it's one of those wines I have to specifically be in the mood for (and be cooking some sort of Frenchy-type chicken dish for it to accompany).

Dark, blackish ruby. Nose of fragrant, smoky embers, black cherries, machine oil, and loads of minerals. Mouthfilling and densely-flavored, yet with moderate alcohol. Flavors envelope the mouth and then linger -- bone dry black cherry and blackberry extracts, minerals and more minerals, and a freshly-fallen forest leaves component. Tremendous length, and good structure provided by loads of soft tannin. Outstanding. 90. Imported by the Rare Wine Company, Cal. About $21 at Spec's on Smith.

2008 Tenuta Cocci Grifoni "TELLUS" (50% Montepulciano, 25% Merlot, 25% Cabernet) (Marche, Italy)

A modern "international style" wine that, while technically good, tastes like an oaky wine that could have been made anywhere.

Dark, youthful black ruby. Lots of smoky, earthy, pencil lead scents, with substantial deep, dark cherry fruit and baker's chocolate underneath. Deep, low-toned concentrated flavors that tend toward the more oaky, chocolately side, with fruit again taking a back seat, this time in the form of smoked dark cherry liqueur. Fair amount of soft tannin. Flavorful, but in such a generic way that there is no way I would have picked this out as having been either from the Marche or from the Montepulciano grape if I hadn't looked at the label. 87. Lost the receipt, but I think I got this at Central Market for around $24.

2005 Chateau Duplessis (Cru Bourgeois, Moulis) (Bordeaux, France)

A middle of the road Bordeaux. Eh.

Soft, medium dark blackish ruby. Medium intensity nose of dry blackberry and cassis, with some high-toned smoke-laced gravelly scents. Cassis, pencil lead, and some peanutty/scorched earth flavors fill the mouth quickly, but then fade just as quickly, leaving a fair amount of puckery tannin and mouthwateringly crisp acidity as the only lingering notes in the short finish. 84. Was about $19 at Spec's Warehouse on Westheimer and Commonwealth.
(Sorry -- 2004 pictured)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

2004 Travaglini GATTINARA (Piemonte, Italy)

A decently-made Nebbiolo from a long-underachieving appellation in northern Piemonte. Unlike many of its more expensive and prestigious neighbors to the south in the Barolo and Barbaresco DOC, whose growers have all seemed to have changed over to a bland, no-doubt-technologically-sound modern method of making Nebbiolo based wines that strip Nebbiolo of the characterisitics that made it great, you can actually discern -- if you concentrate -- that this wine was made from the Nebbiolo grape.

From the region where Nebbiolo is locally called "Spanna" near the city of Turin, Gattinara used to be an amazing wine in the hands of long-gone masters such as Antonio Vallana, and the still-around-but-resting-on-its-laurels house of Luigi Dessilani. Travaglini has never been at the pinnacle of Gattinara producers, but was usually a dependable if unexciting wine. I think the fact that good Gattinaras are so rare in this country may have made me a bit more lenient in my assessment than usual, but anyway . . .

Medium-light ruby garnet. Somewhat shy nose of smoky, earthy, winey dried cherries. Has a weightiness in the mouth that contrasts with its light color and shy nose. Not a lot of initial, upfront fruit, but building weight in the cherry skins, minerally, peppery finish. A fair amount of tannin coats the mouth, but I wouldn't wait for it to drop out because I think this wine is fairly advanced in its evolution. 86. Was $24.99 on sale at Randall's on Weslayan. Imported by Palm Bay Imports.

2006 Castello La Leccia CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

A rather chunky and four-square Chianti. Satisfying, but neither elegant nor complex.

Very crystalline dark ruby. Somewhat reticent nose, but with coaxing, ripe, tangy dark cherry fruit, sweet cream, lemon juice, and hot gravel scents emerge. Focused and muscular in the mouth, with direct, dark cherry fruit and loads of slightly bitter minerals. Full-bodied (for a Chianti), with a slightly tannic mouthfeel. Its chunky, direct style would pair well with vary garlicky tomato sauces or a puttanesca sauce with lots of anchovies and olives. 86. Imported by Vituoso Selections (Austin, TX). Was about $16 and change at Spec's on Smith.
(Sorry, 2002 pictured).

2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards "SIN ZIN" (Zinfandel) (Cal.)

A decently-made, direct Zinfandel. Nothing to write home about, but a decent value that is widely-available. I remember back in the mid-1980s when Sin Zin was a seriously intense and complex Zin, but it is obviously directed to a different market segment now, as its ubiquitous presence in supermarkets can attest.

Bright and youthful dark ruby. Vibrant, fruity nose, with black rapsberry and rhubarb, along with a very teeny gingerbread-infused sweet cream note. Fairly full, featuring lots of simple berry fruit in the initial attack, but fading quickly into nothingness. 84. Was about $13 on sale at Randall's on Weslayan.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

2006 Remo Farina "RIPASSO" Valpolicella Classico Superiore (Veneto, Italy)

The best old-school Ripasso-method* Valpo I've had in years.

Very dark blackish ruby-garnet. Utterly classic Ripasso nose of earthy, brandy-macerated fresh and dried cherries, with a hint of tar and eucalyptus. Dense, full-bodied, yet with lively, almost prickly acidity. Intensely "winey" and dry flavors of dried chokecherries with a hint of prune (in a good way!). Lengthy, minerally finish. Very very nice. 90. Imported by Banville & Jones Wine Merchants (NJ). Was $18.95 at Central Market, making it a very good value for a Ripasso.

* Ripasso refers to the dual fermentation this wine gets. In Valpolicella, they make both straight Valpo and Amarone di Valpolicella. Straight Valpo is usually fairly light and refreshing. Amarone is made from grapes left to dry for a few weeks before crushing. It makes a rich, high-alcohol wine with deep, dark, dried fruit and tar flavors. Ripasso Valpos are regular Valpos to which the crushed, used skins of the grapes used for Amarone are added just after the Valpo has fully fermented. This triggers additional fermentation and extraction of some of the flavors of the Amarone style wine.

2008 Viña Borgia (100% Grenache) (Campo de Borja, Spain)

Just an insane value. A really good wine for under $6.

Deep ruby with loads of youthful violet hues. Nose jumps out of the glass with fresh raspberry liqueur, flowers, and a hint of stone. Pure and intense, with tangy flavors of crushed back raspberries and minerals. Full-bodied, with lively acidity and a little pleasant pepperiness in the finish. A really lively mouthful of fruity goodness. 88. Imported by Jorge Ordoñez. Was $5.19 at Spec's, and is also currently on sale at Whole Foods on Bellaire for $5.99.

Thanksgiving wine #2: 2006 Louis M. Martini "Gnarly Vine" ZINFANDEL "Monte Rosso Vineyard" (Sonoma County, Cal.)

A dynamite Zin from arguably the single greatest Zinfandel vineyard in the world.

Vibrant, deep and dark ruby with violet highlights. Almost overwhelming nose of ripe, tangy blackberry and boysenberry fruit, with prominent smoke and crushed stone notes. Thick flavors that attach themselves to every corner of the inside of your mouth and don't quit -- loads of dark, port-like (but dry) blackberry fruit, a rich meatiness, and hot sandstone flavors. Lots of fine-grained tannins, but they are smothered by the richness of fruit. Very full bodied, with a finish that stays with you for well over a minute. Ridiculous. 93. Was about $36 at Spec's on Smith.

Thanksgiving wine #1: 2007 Argyle PINOT NOIR (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

An incredibly fragrant Pinot Noir, but lacking just a bit of concentration on the palate.

Shockingly light ruby color. Very fragrant nose of sappy, earthy cherries, pomegranate, and smoky peat. Low-toned attack in the mouth, with dark, macerated cherries and scorched earthy, iodiney minerals. A bit thinner in the mid-palate than the extraordinary nose would lead one to believe. Fairly long, resiny, minerally finish. 90 for the nose, 87 for the palate. Was $29 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2007 Morande CARMENERE Reserva (Maipo Valley, Chile)

Yet ANOTHER delicious Carmenere at a very good price.

Nearly fully-saturated black ruby with violet highlights. Incredibly fruity nose -- loads of ripe blackberry and cassis fruit, with background components of smoky gravel and bell pepper (just a touch). Round, rich, full, with deep, lingering fruit and very nice balance. This is a full-bodied, potent wine that goes down way too easily. Maybe lacking a bit of complexity but at this price no one can complain. 89. Was $11.99 at Spec's on Richmond (near West Loop).

2007 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie BOURGEUIL "Cuvee Alouettes" (Loire Valley, France)

A lighter, leaner style of Cabernet France. Went very well with a simple roast chicken.

Light, bright, crystalline ruby. High-toned nose of herby cassis, dried leaves, and machine oil. Bone dry and lively flavors of liquid minerals and cherry skins, with light body and terrific acidity. Very food-friendly. Finish is long, but light, lean, and dry. 86. Was $19.99 at Houston Wine Merchant (South Shepherd). Imported by Kermit Lynch.

2007 Hahn Estate "MERITAGE" (Central Coast, Cal.)

This was a soft, pleasurable red. I'm guessing there is a lot of Merlot in the blend (the label doesn't say what it is).

Nearly saturated black ruby. Soft, sweet, ripe nose of blackberry syrup and smoky balsa wood. Round, ripe, and soft, with mouthfilling and satisfying (if not complex) flavors of blackberries and smoke, with a tad bit of pencil lead. Long, soft, ripe finish with a barely noticeable level of very soft tannin. 87. Not sure how much this cost as it was a gift.
PS -- Hahn website indicates this is blend of 31% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot, 12% Malbec, and 9% Cabernet Franc.

2006 Domaine Brusset COTES DE VENTOUX "Les Boudalles" (Rhone, France)

A decent but generic tasting red.

Very dark black ruby. Medium intensity, plummy nose. Good concentration of straightforward, plummy/berry fruit. Substantial, medium-soft tannin to give some structure. Good balance, but so middle-of-the-road in character as to lack any indication whatsoever where it came from or what grapes were in it. Clean finish. 83. Was $11 at Spec's on Westheimer (between Hillcroft and Dunvale). New Castle Imports, S.C.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2007 Erik Banti MORELLINO DI SCANSANO (Southern Tuscany, Italy)

This is a typical, solid Sangiovese from this reliable Morellino producer.

Dark, blackish ruby. Earthy, deep-toned nose of dark black cherries macerated in cherry eau-de-vie, with charcoal and balsa wood notes. Concentrated, medium-full bodied, with some rustic tannin, this wine is ripe, with good fruit/acid/alcohol balance and moathcoating, smoky dark fruit flavors. Very nice finish. Not elegant, but a satisfying mouthful. 87. Imported by Margaux and Associates. Once again, no receipt, but I think I got this one at Central Market for around $19.
(Sorry, 2005 label shown)
UPDATE -- Got this at Spec's on Smith for $14.99, so disregard the guess above.

2006 Domaine Seguin POUILLY-FUMÉ (Loire Valley, France)

This Sauvignon Blanc started out unimpressive and over time opened up into a very, very good wine.

Very light gold color. Nose weak at first, but then developed into a very "biological" nose of ripe gooseberries, earthy, crushed, wet limestone, and fresh oregano leaves (a lemony/herbal streak). Soft and mouthfilling, yet with sparklingly bright flavors -- great minerality and zesty lemon-lime fruit. Lots of length. You might even think about decanting this one to get it to open up quicker! 89.

Was $22.99 at Richard's on Voss and San Felipe. Imported by Robert Kacher.

2007 Jean Francois Merieau TOURAINE GAMAY "Le Bois Jacou" (Loire Valley, France)

A light and refreshing red.

Medium ruby garnet. Very Beaujolais-like nose (Gamay is the grape that is used in Beaujolais) but with a higher-toned minerality. I am guessing this has to do with the differences in the soil. In very broad generalities, Beaujolais is known for its granite rich soil, while the Loire is more known for its chalky, limestoney soil.

Crisp and light in the mouth, with a good initial attack that falls away quickly, leaving mostly crisp acids and some minerality in the finish. A palate-cleansing style for hot days (put a light chill on this wine for extra refreshment) or to cut through garlicky, tomatoey dishes. 85. Imported by Jon David Headrick Selections (a relatively new but very good importer). Don't quote me on this, but I think I got this at Central Market for around $15.

Monday, November 02, 2009

2005 "Volver" (100% Tempranillo) (La Mancha, Spain)

I'm usually not a huge Tempranillo fan, but this really impressed me.

Completely saturated, youthful ruby/violet color. With air, the nose displayed a lovely combination of sweet baking spices and vanilla, along with ripe raspberry syrup and gravel. Ripe, mouthfilling, and still a bit tannic, the flavors started off with dense, rich fruit (blackberry and blueberry) but then tapered off into a lean, long iodine and dry berry extract finish. Lots of alcohol, acidity, and structure. A large-scale, formidable wine. Still could use a year or two of cellaring, at which point it may be even better. 89+. Was a great buy at $14.88 at Whole Foods on Bellaire. Imported by Jorge Ordonez Selections.

2006 Domaine Durand CORNAS "Premices" (Northern Rhone, France)

A large-scaled and rustic Syrah.

Dark, vivid plum-ruby color. Although closed and giving up nothing but scorched earth scents initially, after significant air time it yielded scents of sweet, plummy fruit, smoky, meaty, almost bacon-y notes, and lemon-cream spices. Compact and tannic in the mouth, with lots of pencil shaving and scorched earth flavors, along with youthful and not-so-soft tannin and peppery piquancy obscuring some nice but shy cassis fruit. Long, dry finish. Needs another 2 - 4 years to drop out some of the tannin and open up a bit. 85+. Imported by Fruit of the Vine, Inc. Was $26 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

(Sorry -- this label looks a little different than the one I got, but it's close).

2006 Steele ZINFANDEL (Mendocino County, Cal.)

A good value, classy Zin. Not a ripe mouthfilling behemoth, but everything in nice harmony.

Bright, medium dark ruby. An initial, sharp acetate whiff on the nose blew off after about 20 minutes to reveal exuberant, focused, and fruity aromas of mixed wild berries, sweet cream, and caramelized baking spices. Full-bodied, with a soft texture, good concentration, and excellent balance of fruit, acids, and alcohol. Long, refreshing finish. 88. Will keep for another year or so, and was a pretty good value to boot. $16 at Spec's on Smith.

2007 Brigaldara VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy)

A good, solid Valpo from this reliable producer.

Dark ruby/garnet color. The nose needed lots of time to open up, but then gave up pretty, medium intensity scents of sweet cherries and red berries, along with a touch of cinnamon and crushed stone. Medium-to-full bodied, with macerated, sweet/tart cherry flavors that pounce on the palate along with some slightly bitter, stony minerals. Some tannin perceptible, which is kind of unusual for basic entry-level Valpolicella. Decent finish. More of a palate-cleansing style that would counter highly-flavored rustic dishes. Drink over the next year. 86. Imported by Vinifera Imports. Was $19 at Spec's.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2006 Domaine de Cabasse SEGURET Côtes du Rhône Villages "Cuvée Garnacho" (Southern France)

Nice, but a bit disappointing for its pedigree. I usually expect individual village wines from the Rhône to have a bit more concentration and character than this one did.

Medium dark ruby color. Medium intensity, fruity nose of ripe raspberry and blackberry, with a little bit of sweet fruitcake and stone components way in the background. Low register, dark, almost bitter, medium intensity flavors of scorched earth and iodine, with some dry raspberry skin fruit taking a back seat. Peppery but pleasant finish with a bit of length and some barely-perceptible tannin too. 84. Was about $16 at Spec's on Richmond.

2006 Meia Encosta DÃO (Portugal)

A pretty solid $10 red.

Dark ruby garnet color.

Forthright nose of tangy mixed berries and spicy powdered rock. Medium full bodied and soft textured, with reasonably concentrated plum and pomegranate fruit and powdered stone flavors. Clean, balanced, medium length finish. While it's hard to get really excited about this wine, this is a wine that few people can dislike, making it a good choice for large, casual events. 86. Was around $10 at Spec's on Smith.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2007 Stinger ZINFANDEL (Paso Robles, Cal.)

Alliteration time: this was one zingy, zesty Zin. Talk about tangy acidity! But in a good way.

Dark black ruby with youthful violet highlights. Very good color extraction. Lively nose of spicy raspberry, pomegranate, and crushed rock. Rich in fruit, yet loaded with crisp acids to give it some true zing, this wine is tailor-made for rich meat braises. Full-bodied, smooth-textured, and featuring a long, lively finish. 87. Another purchase ($9.99) I made at a great sale that was going on at Houston Wine Merchant a couple of weeks ago.

2006 Lake Breeze "Langhorne Creek" GRENACHE (Australia)

A really nice Grenache. Loaded with ripe fruit, but with everything in balance.

Medium-bright ruby garnet. Vibrant, exuberant nose of sweet crushed raspberries, slightly smoky sandstone, and gingerbread. Mouthfilling flavors of black pepper, lusty raspberry syrup, and a bit of an iodine-y/minerally thing going on in the finish. Avoids the jamminess that one can get with a lot of Aussie reds while still displaying lots of ripeness and richness. 88. Drink over the next year before the pepperiness (from the alcohol) starts to burn through the fruit. I think I paid about $19 for this at Whole Foods on Bellaire several months ago.

2005 Georges Viorney COTE DE BROUILLY "Cuvée Vieilles Vignes" (Beaujolais, France)

This 4-year old Beaujolais tasted remarkably vibrant and refreshing for its age.

Youthful, crystalline dark black ruby. Great, classic Beaujolais nose of sweet, crunchy plums and cherries, along with lots of granite-y minerality. Zest and vibrant in the mouth, with peppery, clean cherry / berry fruit and lots of clean, stony minerals. Some very fine-grained, rounded tannins still noticeable, amazingly enough. This wine has aged beautifully for a Beaujolais. Only thing it lacked was just a tad more concentration to take it to that highest level. 87. Imported by North Berkeley Imports, I got it direct from them for about $15 several months ago.

2007 Sebastiani PINOT NOIR "Sonoma Coast" (Cal.)

A very good value at the ridiculously low price I paid ($9.99, on sale) at Houston Wine Merchant (South Shepherd).

Bright, medium dark ruby. Lots of sweet, sappy cherry and plum fruit on the nose along with a hint of smoky gravel. Rich, ripe flavors attack the palate (in a soft-textured frame) with juicy mulled cherries and root beer/cola components, tapering off with baking spice-laced earth notes. Very nice. I'll take this over 90% of the $30 burgundies out there any day. 88.
(Certain "terroirist" bloggers would, I'm sure, poo-poo my obviously pedestrian tastes claiming that "this biodynamic french microproducer and that organic microproducer make much more genuine a product" -- and their wines probably are really good, but where the heck does anyone not living in New York City find such wines without taking off two weeks from work to "seek the Grail"? So I'll happily find and drink this much more easily found "people's burg.")

2006 Qupé GRENACHE "Purisima Vineyard" (Santa Ynez Valley, Cal.)

Showing the herbal side of Grenache, this was a distinctive wine.

Medium dark ruby/garnet color. Scents of rhubarb, raspberry, herbs, and intense powdered stone notes. Lean but intense in the mouth, with herby, minerally raspberry flavors and a very noticeable peppery component. Long, minerally, peppery finish. 87. Was $19.99 on sale at Houston Wine Merchant (on South Shepherd).

Saturday, October 03, 2009

2005 Charles Koehly RIESLING "Saint Hippolyte" (Alsace, France)

Aaaah -- good Riesling from Alsace. Always one of my favorite types of whites. This Riesling, while dry in the typical Alsace style, is actually a bit more fruit-forward, and less austere, than many Alsace Rieslings.

Light gold color. Beautiful, yet somewhat reserved nose of crushed white grapes, slate, and a hint of yeasty-cinnamon. Soft-textured and medium-bodied, it has ripe, almost exotic flavors of grape, peach, gingerbread, and milky tea. Good balancing acidity as well. Will easily hold for another 1-2 years. 88. Imported by Neal Rosenthal.

2007 Domaine de Colette RÉGNIÉ "Séléction Vieilles Vignes" (Beaujolais, France)

This is consistently one of my favorite estates for crisp, intense, refreshing old-school Beaujolais.

The 2007 has a beautiful, crystal clear dark ruby color. Pure, piercing nose of sweet cherries and plums, along with freshly-cracked stones -- but this emerges only after it's been opened for over an hour. At first, the nose was quite closed.

Silky-smooth textured in the mouth, but with nervous, bone-dry flavors of crisp cherry, loads of stony minerals, and bit of cracked black peppercorns. A very lively mouthful of wine. 87. Imported by Charles Neal Selections, I got this for $18.99 at Central Market.

(Non-vintage) Duval-Leroy "Rosé de Saignée" CHAMPAGNE (France)

This is one of my very favorite non-vintage champagnes year in and year out. It always has a gorgeous color, an accessible Pinot Noir-fruit driven nose, and good concentration, good balance, and persistent bubbles. This latest iteration did not disappoint.

Gorgeous pale salmon color with pink glints. Fresh, pretty nose of yeasty bread, minerals, cherries and tart apples. Crisp, dry, and full-flavored, with a long, zesty finish. I love this stuff. 90. Was $45 at Spec's on Smith a few months ago, but I think the price has gone up. (Why can Champagne defy the recession?)

2005 Casanova di Neri ROSSO DI MONTALCINO (Tuscany, Italy)

A very classy Sangiovese Grosso from southern Tuscany.
Dark black ruby garnet. Deep-toned nose of dark, earthy, macerated black cherries, incense, and smoky embers. Densely-fruited, but tightly-wound, it featured rich, dark cherry fruit, with loads of crushed stone and gravel notes. Full and bone-dry, with excellent acid balance. Lots of soft tannin still resides in the long finish. Drink over the next two years. 88. Was $25 and change at Richard's on Richmond just west of Chimney Rock. Sorry, forgot to note the importer.

2006 Finca Flichman MALBEC (Mendoza, Argentina)

Call this ridiculous value "Recession Red." $4.99 for a solid, well-made red with some real character.

Dark ruby garnet. Interesting nose of plums, sweet lemon juice, and angel food cake crust. Medium full-bodied, with medium intensity flavors of blackberry, brambly earth, and minerals, with a long, dry, slightly tannic finish. Drink over the next year. 86. Got is, as I said, for $4.99 on sale at Fiesta (Old Spanish Trail and Kirby), but I think the regular price is $5.99, which still qualifies as an excellent value.
(Sorry -- 2008 pictured).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2006 Domaine des Ormousseaux COTEAUX DU GIENNOIS PINOT NOIR (Loire Valley, France)

This was a very light but flavorful Pinot Noir from a backwater region in the Loire (near Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé).

Extremely light ruby with garnet highlights. Nose of spiced, sweet/tart cherry candy, with some high-toned, smoky minerality. Light-bodied, crisp, yet flavorful, with loads of sweet/tart cherry fruit and mineral flavors. Not complex, but good, straightforward Pinot Noir flavors in a refreshing, balanced style. It paired very well with Liz's fabulous roast chicken. 87. I can't remember where I got this, and I can't find the receipt, dammit. Will update when I remember. Imported by Fruit of the Vine, NYC.

Sorry, no photo.

UPDATE -- I paid about $25 at Spec's on Smith for this. So it's not a particularly good buy, although it still was quite nice.

10/15/09 UPDATE: Whole Foods on Bellaire has this on sale for $12.99 -- making it a GREAT BUY! (Maybe that's where I got it -- I don't remember paying $25 for it . . . .)

2007 Altovinum EVODIA "Old Vines Garnacha" (Calatayud, Spain)

This was a very tight but concentrated red.

Dark black ruby. Lots of steely and stony minerals in the nose, accenting deep, spiced black raspberry fruit. Seemed both lean and weighty in the mouth, with tight-knit scorched earth, dark raspberry, and mineral flavors. Displays a much more stony and minerally side of Grenache. It paired very well with a rich, Florentine beef stew. 88. Should keep for a couple of years. Was $9 and change at Spec's Warehouse on Westheimer in Montrose, making it a great buy. Imported by Eric Solomon European Cellars.

Monday, September 21, 2009

2006 Tormaresca "NEPRICA" (40% Negroamaro, 30% Primitivo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon) (Puglia, Italy)

Usually I shy away from non-DOC blends that include non-indigenous varietals like Cabernet, so I'm not sure what prompted me to get this, but it was surprisingly good after it aired out several hours. It had a gorgeously focused and unique fruitiness to it.

Fully saturated bloody-rich black ruby. The nose was closed for quite a wile, giving up only closed, dry earthy scents until a few hours later it developed a lovely, focused, freshly-crushed spiced blackberriness, with a hint of smoky gravel in the background. Full-bodied, but balanced and smooth, it featured tightly-wound blackberry fruit with a bit of a dark licorice note, along with a steely minerality. A fair amount of smooth tannins. 89 (after it blossomed). Be sure to give this lots of air time. Was a great value at $10.71 -- I'll call it "under $10, since it's close enough -- at Spec's on Richmond. Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

2007 Cline "Ancient Vines" MOURVEDRE (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

This winery really has hit a consistent groove over the last several years with its "Ancient Vines" Zins and Mourvedres. This latest iteration of the Mourvedre is excellent and a very good value. Again.

Youthfully bright, dark black ruby. Deeply fruity nose, with loads of dark plums, blackberries, and even a hint of peach, along with a sweet, high-toned balsa smoke note. Rich, fruity, and balanced in the mouth, with concentrated plummy fruit accented with a vaguely bitter dark chocolate note. Lots of soft tannins in the long fruit-and-spice finish. 89. Widely available, I got mine for under $14 at Spec's on Westheimer near Montrose.

2007 Mas Carlot ROSÉ (VDP de Pays d'Oc, Southern France)

A flavorful but simple rosé.

Bubble gum pink color with orangey highlights. Big but simple, fruity nose -- lots of cherry juice, grapes, and fruit salad. Full-flavored and direct, with refreshing acidity for such a big, juicy wine. A nice, relatively cheap quaffer. Drink soon. 86. Was $9 at Richard's on San Felipe. Imported by Robert Kacher.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2008 Domaine des Cassagnoles VDP Cotes de Gascogne (SW France)

This was an outstanding buy in a fresh, crisp, character-filled dry white. Worth buying by the case if you like to have a fair amount of everyday white wine on hand.

Exceedingly pale, greenish straw gold. Beautifully fresh nose of herbs, pear, stones, and clover blossoms. Smells like there's a fair amount of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend. Crisp, lip-smacking mouthfeel, with loads of focused, green appley fruit and a lightly chalky minerality. A ridiculously refreshing, light-bodied dry white. 88. Was $8.76 at Spec's on Westheimer (outside the Loop near Fogo de Chao). Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.
(Sorry: 2005 label shown)

2006 Wine Guerilla "Forchini Vineyards - Old Vines" ZINFANDEL (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

Another terrific, hedonistically-styled Zin from this relatively new Zinfandel specialist.

Sultry, dark black ruby, though not fully-saturated. Decadent, rich, incredibly ripe, fruity nose of crushed, sweet mixed berries, with peach, lemon, and spice notes. Mouthfilling flavors of blackberry/cassis liqueur, crushed sandstone, and carmelized baking spices. Lots of body, lots of soft tannin, and a bit of alcohol showing through on the finish. But I can't get all dogmatic about the high alcohol (I think it was 16.5% or something like that), despite the fact that it's all trendy these days to denigrate wines like this as "Parkerized" fruit bombs. This wine was just too much fun and too tasty. 89. I think this was around $30 at Spec's on Smith, but given that there were only 48 cases made (what's that, one barrel?), that's not too bad.
(Sorry: 2007 shown)

2007 Viu Manent CARMENERE Reserva (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

Jeez, I'm really getting to LOVE this varietal. Carmeneres mostly fall in the $10 - 15 range, and have a flavor profile that goes well with the stews, braises, and pasta dishes I love to cook.

This is yet another winner from Viu Manent, although it is a little less overtly fruity than other vintages, maybe due to the slightly cooler year Chile had in '07.

Fully saturated black black ruby color. Intensely low-toned nose that got sweeter with air time, displaying cassis, iodine notes, pencil lead, and sweetish, smoky cinnamon component. Soft, ripe, mouthcoating flavors of cassis, blackberry, and lightly scorched earth. Extremely long, rich finish, displaying lots of soft tannin. This wine could benefit from another 2-4 years of cellaring. 89+. Was $14.99 at Whole Foods. Imported by Bacchus International (Longview, TX).

2005 Montebuena RIOJA (Spain)

This was a very straightforward, middle-of-the-road red. It's hard to get up any emotion to write about.

Had a nice, vibrant dark ruby color. Pleasant, low intensity nose of crushed, nameless berries. Medium-bodied, decently balanced and structured, but really devoid of any interesting flavors in the mouth. The finish consists more of the feeling of the physical structure of the wine than any memorable flavors. Quintessentially forgettable. 70. Was $14.99 at Whole Foods.

2004 Michele Castellani CORVINA ROSSO VERONESE "Seral" (Veneto, Italy)

This is a single varietal wine made from the dominant varietal in the Valpolicella blend (and therefore cannot be called Valpolicella). A year ago, it would have been a bit better. As it is, it's still pretty good, but it needs to be drunk up.

Medium dark ruby with some amber at the rim. Big, earthy nose, with lots of blackberry extract, and pungent, smoky balsa wood. Also, incongruously, a squeeze of lemon juice. Low-toned and intense in the mouth, with cassis fruit and woody flavors vying for attention, with a vaguely tarry note in the background. Seemed a bit flat-feeling at first, but then developed a bit more vibrancy with air. 87. Imported by Bedford International. Lost the receipt, but I think this was about $20 at Central Market.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

2008 Domaine La Suffrene BANDOL ROSÉ (Provence, France)

A crisp, dry, and unique rosé. Not to mention expensive.

Gorgeously bright, light copper-tangerine color. Refreshing nose of flowers, peaches, fruit salad, and earthy minerals. Round and silky in the mouth, with flavors of mixed, ripe fruit skins and lots of stony minerals. Long finish. Bone dry, full-bodied, and had decent acidity too. (Just a tad more acidity would have catapulted this one into the 90s.) As it is, I gave it an 88. $21.99 at Spec's on Richmond. Imported by Bandol Wines LLC of Houston.

2006 Felsina-Berardenga CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

This "entry-level" Chianti from a respected producer is very nice. A classic-styled Sangiovese from a classic terroir.

Youthful, medium-saturation black ruby. Nice, exuberant nose of sweet cream, macerated, tangy bu ripe cherries, and gravelly minerals. Nicely-focused, medium weight flavors of winey cherries and dried gravelly earth. A fair amount of tannin and a tight core of fruit augur for 1-2 more years of beneficial cellaring to soften and expand. 87+. Was $18.99 at Spec's on Smith, making it a fairly good value for a Chianti Classico. (Sorry, forgot to make a note of the importer.)

2005 Verget MACON-CHARNAY "Les Clos St-Pierre" (Burgundy, France)

Yet another terrific 2005 from Verget. This unoaked Chardonnay was round, minerally, vibrant, complex.

Crystal clear, almost luminescent light gold with greenish glints. Interesting and complex nose of creamed crushed stones, and spiced pear juice. Round and flavorful, with bright acidity and a nice, insistent but subtle minerality over dry pear and apply fruit. Long finish. Refreshing and satisfying. 89. Was $18.46 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Villa Matilde AGLIANICO "Rocca dei Leoni" (Campania, Italy)

A big, but austere and tannic red. Just missed the mark.

Sultry black ruby. Deeply earthy, gravelly nose, with high-toned minerality and some macerated dark cherry fruit. Weighty but austere in the mouth. Lots of tannin and acidity, with little fruit, and lean, minerally flavors. Despite not being the friendliest style, it actually went pretty well with stracotto (Italian pot roast braised in red wine), though it wasn't nearly as good on its own. 85. Imported by Empson. Was $24.95 at Central Market (which, judging for what it goes for on the Internet, was a rip-off).