Sunday, July 26, 2009

2007 Barrel 27 GRENACHE "Rock and a Hard Place" (Santa Barbara County, Cal.)

Very nearly outstanding. A very big, full flavored mouthful.

Nearly fully-saturated blood/ruby. Fragrant nose of dry raspberry syrup, yeasty notes, toasty baking spices, and dry stones. Concentrated, full-bodied, with focused flavors of port-like fruit (but dry) and tons of crushed stones. Excellent length. If these grapes had been harvested just a hair earlier, this wine would have been even better. I think the fruit would have veered away from its port-like quality more towards raspberry and it would have been even better with just a bit more acidity. What the heck do I know, though? I'm just a dang lawyer. I still liked it enough to give it a 90.
Was $24 at Spec's on Smith.

2007 Domaine Perraud ST. VÉRAN "Vieilles Vines" (White Burgundy, France)

I believe this is the best St. Véran I've ever had. St. Véran is one of the few villages in the Maconnais region in southern Burgundy whose wines are distinctive enough so that they can be called soley by the village itself without the prefix Macon-_____. (Pouilly-Fuissé and Viré-Clessé are two other examples). St. Vérans are usually good values in white burgundy; this was a great value.

Bright, vivid gold. Rich nose filled with yellow peach, pear, and loads of chalky, oceanic minerals. Soft, round, and ripe, with loads of ripe yellow fruit and intense stony flavors in the mouth. Excellent balancing acidity too. Not a subtle wine, but intense and vigorous. A big mouthful of pure, vibrant, unoaked Chardonnay. 90. Was $17 direct from North Berkeley Imports.
(Sorry, 2005 shown since I couldn't find an image of the 2007)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2006 Poderi Elia DOLCETTO D'ALBA (Piemonte, Italy)

Overextraction made this potentially excellent wine into a merely good one.

Black ruby color with some garnet. Piercing blackberry jam and mineral aromas are promising, but in the mouth the wine was overly tannic and astringent (particularly for a Dolcetto, which, at its best, is, to my mind, like the Italian sibling of a cru Beaujolais). Still, the wine had good depth and flavors, and was enjoyable. 82. Imported by Small Vineyards. Was $15 and change at Spec's on Smith.
(SORRY, I know the photo is of the Barbera, but it's very similar to the label for the Dolcetto, which I couldn't find).

2006 Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois FLEURIE (Beaujolais, France)

This wine was substantially better after three days under a vacuum wine plug, which indicates to me it would benefit from decanting several hours ahead of time (unusual, for a Beaujolais).

Bright dark ruby. Initially rustic smelling, it offered a tight nose of dry cherry extract, intense, sharp-edged stonyness, and some blueberry notes. Tight and earthy in the mouth, with intensely concentrated dry earthiness and lean cherry fruit. Slightly tannic finish. Days later, the lean-ness and angularity was gone, and the cherryish fruit had grown and smoothed out the rough edges. Perplexing. 84 on first opening, 87 three days later. Neal Rosenthal Vineyard Selections, importer. $22 at Spec's on Smith.

2007 August Kesseler SPATBURGUNDER (Pinot Noir rosé QBA) (Rheingau, Germany)

A very unusual, but very good, rosé.

Extremely light copper color (almost like a white wine color, but tinged with copper instead of gold). Spritely nose of ripe grapes, apple, and a hint of strawberry, along with creamed minerals. Bright, medium full bodied flavors, with a slight sweetness (Halbtrocken in style, I'd say). Zesty fruit with a very elegant, very minerally finish. 87. Was about $17 at Spec's on Smith. Imported by Vineyard Brands.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A sausage-making party at Angy & Susan's in West Hartford

We had a family Italian sausage making party at Angy & Susan's house in West Hartford toward the end of my stay, and what a feast it was. And, of course, Angy brought up some really good wines from his cellar.

2006 Donna Ginevra VERDICCHIO DI CASTELLI DI JESI (Marche, Italy) -- A big, fat, bruiser of a Verdicchio. Lots of minerals and pear skins on the nose. Broad, fat, low-acid flavors fill the mouth. Weighty and minerally.

2007 Costalgo ROSSO VERONESE (Veneto, Italy) -- This was a very drinkable "international style" red from the area near where Valpolicella, Bardolino, and Soave are grown. Medium deep colored, with magenta highlights, this wine sported aromas and flavors of cigar box, ashes, and sweet, spiced cherries. Soft and round, with a sweet earthiness in the finish.

2007 DASCHE "L'Enfant Terrible" (McFadden Farms, Potter Valley ZINFANDEL) -- this organically grown and naturally made wine tasted -- to me at least -- like a dead ringer for an Australian Grenache. Without the label, I would never have picked it out as a Zinfandel. That said, it was very nice. Light ruby color, with a ripe, fruit salad (yes, fruit salad) nose. Lots of ripe, pure-tasting fruit in a medium-full bodied package.

2005 Tenuta San Leone Montesalionze BARDOLINO SUPERIORE (Veneto, Italy) -- Every time I'm at Angy and Susan's house, I ask them to bring up a bottle of this from the cellar (they had purchased a case). It remains the best Bardolino, by far, I've ever had. I reviewed this twice before, so I won't bore you with another recapitulation.

2006 Mazzocco "Kenneth Carl" Reserve Dry Creek Valley ZINFANDEL -- the culmination of the wines was this monster Zin, which they bought directly from the winery. Dense, powerful, and almost portlike in its richness. Would shine best with rich cheese at the end of a meal. A week after the meal, I can still taste it!

A second dinner in Massachusetts

I must be getting old. I can't remember the food we had with the following wines at another family dinner. Good thing I took notes on the wines.

2004 Piantate Lunghe ROSSO CONERO (Marche, Italy) -- this wine was primarily (or maybe all) derived from the dark-colored Montepulciano grape. Saturated color. Deep-toned nose of earthy, winey blackberries. Lots of soft tannins and good balance.

2004 Mas de Boislauzon CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE (Rhone Vally, France) -- Textbook Chateauneuf du Pape aromas of garrigue, stones, and spicy raspberries. Great length and balance. Could benefit from another 1-2 years of cellaring.

2004 Don Ramon CAMPO DE BORJA (75% Garnacha, 25% Tempranillo) (Spain) -- loads of sweet, ripe raspberry fruit. Not great complexity but very nice.

Wines from a steak dinner in Massachusetts

I recently returned from a trip back to New England to visit family and friends. The first night there, we had a steak cook-out and some excellent (and one very old) wines.

2005 Rijckaert POUILLY-FUISSE (White Burgundy, France) -- a fragrant, lively, chalky/minerally Chardonnay with peach pit fruit. Very nice balance and great length.

2007 Terra Vignata VERDICCHIO DI MATELICA (Marche, Italy) -- inexpensive, yet one of the best Verdicchios I ever had: crisp, zesty, with very persistent and focused minerally, lemon-lime flavors. Very refreshing!

1978 Chateau de Beaucastel CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE (Rhone Valley, France) -- Yes, that's right, 1978. My brother Angy and I bought this for my Dad for Christmas (in 1981?). I remember we shelled out $12.99 for it, which I thought was expensive at the time. It has held up remarkably well (my Dad has a very cool wine cellar). Intensely earthy but still with a core of vinous fruit. Not as mouthfilling as many young Beaucastels I've had, but holding its own. Like an old professor emeritus who still knows his sh*t even if the tweed jacket is frayed.

2000 Domain Tempier BANDOL "Cuvee Speciale La Migoua" (Provence, France) -- Still youthful, this wine was lean but concentrated, with typically Bandol-ish tree barky earthiness and a core of deep-toned berry fruit underneath. Classic Mourvedre with great length.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

2007 Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek Valley Reserve ZINFANDEL (Cal.)

Here's a really fine Zin that should be relatively easy to find because of the wide distribution of Rancho Zabaco wines. On the 4th of July, what better wine to drink than the uniquely American Zinfandel. (Yeah, yeah, I know there's a theory that it's related to the Croatian Plavic Mali (sp.?), but nowhere else on earth does this grape taste as great as from California.)

Almost fully saturated luminescent violet ruby. Richly fragrant nose of ripe, sweet spiced blackberries and sweet stony minerals. Mouth-filling, ripe, and full, with concentrated fruit and very good balance for such a ripe wine. very long, spicy, richly-fruited finish, with a bit of gravel making itself known at the end. Has a fair amount of soft tannin to add a bit of structure. 90. Got this for $16 and change at Spec's on Smith, making it an excellent buy.

NOTE: Rancho Zabaco makes several different grades of Zin, so be careful to look for the Dry Creek Valley appellation if you're looking for this one.

(Sorry, can't find a photo of the label, but it's all black and more elegant looking than Rancho Zabaco's usual labels).

Thursday, July 02, 2009

2007 "Petit Caprice" Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (75% Grenache, 25% Syrah) (Rhone Valley, France)

What a great buy! Apparently made by a "sustainable agriculture" co-op, this is a really good wine to buy in bulk for summer parties or cook-outs.

Dark crystal ruby. Beautifully forthright and fruity nose: ripe blackberries and plum juice, with sweet cream and caramel notes. Round, ripe, and soft, this wine has got lots of up-front berry fruit, medium-full body, and a clean, balanced finish. Got this at Whole Foods on Bellaire for (I think) around $8. Whatever it was, it was definitely under 10 bucks. Imported by Fruit Of The Vine, NYC, NY. 88.

2006 Fattoria di Vetrice CHIANTI RUFINA (Tuscany, Italy)

This wine, which is the basic, entry-level non-Riserva from this winery, is usually a good buy. The 2006 is good, but a bit earthier than usual.

Very dark blackish ruby. Very earthy but identifiably "Chianti" nose of spicy, gravelly earth, sour dried cherries, and cedar. Lean but flavorful, with lots of earthy, dark cherry fruit up front, but quickly leading to a drying, fairly rustic finish. Gutsy and a bit rough around the edges, but not bad. 85. Was $14 and change from Spec's on Smith. Imported by Ideal Wines and Spirits.
(Sorry, 2002 vintage shown)