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.