Monday, August 24, 2009

2007 Domaine Sauvette TOURAINE "Les Gravouilles" (Loire Valley, France)

A Gamay-based wine from the Loire -- think of it as the Loire's Beaujolais -- that is both cheap and really good. A superbly-refreshing wine.

Medium dark dusty ruby color. Bright nose of cold stones, candied tart cherries, and fresh, ripe grapes. Crystal clean Beaujolais-style mouthfeel, with zero tannins. Lots of tangy, stony, tartish berry/cherry flavors. Very nice acid balance. Maybe a bit higher-toned stoniness, but same refreshing appeal, as top-notch Beaujolais. 88. North Berkeley Imports sells this direct for $13.50, making it a great buy.
(Sorry: Sauvignon label shown.)

2005 Cuvee des Messes Basses COTES DE VENTOUX (Rhone Valley, France)

Nothing wrong with this wine, but not much to recommend either.

Medium dark ruby. Straightforward, vaguely earthy, plummy nose. In the mouth, the will is relatively light, with the fruit seemingly on the decline. Decent balance, and relatively soft. 79. $13 at Spec's on Westheimer.

2007 La Playa "Block Selection" CARMENERE (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

This was an excellent value in a full-flavored, complex red.

Almost completely saturated black ruby color. Great nose of sweet cigar smoke, gravel, ripe blackberries, and cassis. Very much like a really good red from the Pessac-Leognan/Graves area of Bordeaux. Rich and weighty in the mouth, with deep, dark berry and earth flavors. Full-bodies, but not overly alcoholic. Lots of tannin, of the medium-soft variety, in the long, rich finish. Will clearly improve over the next 1-2 years. 88. Was $10.99 at Spec's on Westheimer. Imported by Cabernet Corporation (whatever that is).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

2004 Meo-Camuzet MOREY-ST.-DENIS (Burgundy, France)

This was marked down by half (from $52 to $26) at Richard's on Voss so I thought I'd try it. Not bad, but kind of loose and starting to fade a bit (as are a lot of 2004 red burgundies I've tried -- they're clearly to be drunk up).

Light amberish ruby. Initially intensely earthy (in a barnyard-y kind of way), but with air more fruit emerged and the earthiness took a back seat. Lots of soft, flowing, schisty-minerally flavors, with mushrooms and baking-spice laced mulled cherries. Tightened up on the finish, with hard, dry cherry extract flavors the last to leave. Zero tannin. 80.
(Note: Fixin shown, but label design same for the Morey)

2007 Domaine Cabirau GRENACHE "Serge & Tony" (VDP Cotes de Catalanes, SW France)

I liked this a lot. Lots of ripe grenache fruit, but with some earthy complexity and a soft texture.

Deep, luminescent black ruby. Rich and deep-toned nose of spiced raspberry syrup, baking spices, and crushed stones. Round, rich, full, and lively, with concentrated black raspberry and mineral flavors. Lots of soft tannin in the long finish. This will keep and soften for 1-2 years in a cool cellar or storage place. 90. $15 at Spec's on Westheimer. Importer by Dan Kravitz Hand-Picked Selections.

2004 ColdiSole ROSSO DI MONTALCINO (Tuscany, Italy)

This wine was, to my mind, clearly heat-damaged at some point.

Very advanced brownish-ruby color. Intensely "winey" nose of sweet-and-sour cherry liqueur (some volatile acidity, i.e., acetic acid, lurking in the background), vanilla, and old leather. Extremely tannic, with a very flat, dead feel in the mouth. Slightly stewed flavor of flat old cherry juice and old leaves. What a shame, particularly since I dropped $26 smackers on this at Spec's.

Friday, August 21, 2009

And now for something completely different: A personal list of my 13 favorite jazz discs of the 1990s and 2000s

I love jazz. But in a kind of idiosyncratic way. Not free-form dissonant stuff. No Dixieland. I know there are names (like post-bop or whatever) that jazz geeks use for various genres, but I don't know what any of them mean. I just like what I like. And here are some of my favorites of the last two decades:

Joshua Redman -- "Elastic" -- This trio recording with Sam Yahel and Brian Blade has some riveting sax solos, funky changes, and catchy melodies. These guys click.

Mark Isham -- "Blue Sun" -- Mark Isham is a spooky trumpet player, and this album catches an "L.A. late at night" kind of vibe. I love Doug Lunn's electric bass lines.

Arild Andersen w/ Vassilis Tsabropoulos and John Marshall -- "The Triangle" -- A piano trio that rumbles like tectonic plates moving. I'm not sure how they manage such a powerful yet melodic sound.

Marc Johnson -- "Shades of Jade" -- Some really haunting melodies, with the unique piano style of his wife, Eliane Elias, and Joey Baron's ridiculous drumming.

Pat Metheny -- "Secret Story" -- Really ambitious, complex waves of sound, drawing from classical, world music, and modern jazz, yet always melodic, with some really quiet, emotional numbers changing the mood just before it gets to be too much.

Peter Erskine, Palle Danielsson, and John Taylor -- "You Never Know" -- This piano trio does a lot of somewhat free-form stuff, but they mostly maintain a sense of structure and melody. This was the first of this trio's four discs, and to my ears the best.

Steve Khan -- "Got My Mental" -- I love Steve Khan's unique guitar playing, and in this trio setting (with some additional percussion giving it a slightly Latin feel at times) with Jack Dejohnette and John Patitucci, it's like a sound convoy.

Peter Erskine, Alan Pasqua, and Dave Carpenter -- "Badlands" -- Another piano trio featuring the amazingly tasteful drumming of Peter Erskine, this disc features Alan Pasqua's unique piano playing and compositions, which are at once incredibly melodic yet have surprising changes.

John Scofield -- "Bump" -- I love John Scofield's guitar playing. His style changes from album to album, ranging from classic jazz guitar to distorted electrified funk. This is more on the electric side, and kind of brings up images of a funky jazz bar in a distant galaxy.

Marc Johnson -- "Sounds of Summer Running" -- This disc conjures up exactly what the titles says. It sounds like a gorgeously sunny morning in a beautiful small farm town somewhere in the heartland of America. Featuring two great and very different guitarists meshing surprisingly well together (Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell). Plus Joey Baron on drums. 'Nuff said.

Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz -- "Trio" -- This young Polish piano trio's first album is quietly sublime. As delicate as a butterfly's wings.

Jonathan Kreisberg -- "The South of Everywhere" -- One of my very favorite young jazz guitarists, this album has drive, melody, and fantastic musicianship.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

2005 "Nectar du Terroir" GIGONDAS (Rhone, France)

Gigondas can be one of the tougher Rhone wines to love. It's a higher altitude, cooler appellation than the other Southern Rhone villages that have their own appellation (e.g., Chateauneuf, Beaumes-de-Venise). So the wines can be a bit leaner, less overtly fruity, and more on the austere, minerally side. But when they're on, they're really good dinner wines.

This one was really good, and produced not by a private estate, but by a co-op no less.

Dark black ruby. Intensely garrigue-y nose -- lots of dry, minerally, gravel & herb scents, but in equal measure with nicely focused, spicy raspberry fruit. Lively, concentrated, and with Gigondas's typical sense of structure. Loads of minerals, iodine-y notes, and concentrated dry black cherry fruit. Lots of tannin, but it's more of the soft, rather than coarse variety. Long, lean finish. 88. Was $19.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.
Imported by Fruit Of The Vine, NYC, NY.

2006 Summers Napa Valley ZINFANDEL "Villa Andriana Vineyard" (Cal.)

WARNING: Pompously-written tasting notes that do a disservice to all who love wine to follow (according to one commenter whose comment I chose not to publish*).

I really loved this Zin. Texturally, it was structured and restrained enough that it reminded me of a really good classified growth Bordeaux, but flavor-wise it was all Zin.

Mostly saturated black ruby. The nose was awesome and complex. Deep-toned, laid-back plummy, blackberry fruit, augmented with lots of sweet, dusty, smoky gravelly scents. Concentrated and nicely-structured in the mouth, lots of deep but not over-the-top blackberry fruit. Full-bodied, but just barely. Not a massive, fruit bomb style (although I occasionally like those too.) Long, ripe, and smoky finish. 91. Was $23 at Spec's on Smith.

* I probably should have published the comment, but since I mostly do this blog for family and friends, I figured what's the point? If the person doesn't want to read it, he or she doesn't have to.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

2007 MontGras "QUATRO" (30% Cabernet Suavignon, 30% Malbec, 25% Carmenere, 15% Syrah) (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

Outstanding. I believe this is the third vintage I've had of this wine, and they've all been excellent. Stylistically, it seems to be a hybrid of New World and Europe.

Almost completely saturated black ruby. Big, rich, ripe chocolatey nose filled with deep-toned cassis and blackberry fruit. Mouthfilling flavors of dark chocolate, ripe blackberry, and smoky, dusty gravel. It had a hair less weight and jamminess in the mouth than the nose led me to expect, but avoiding "fruit bombiness" is not a bad thing. It's flavorful, concentrated, with everything seemingly in balance. Long finish. 90. I believe I got his one at Whole Foods on Bellaire a while back for about $15, and I recently saw it at Kroger's on Buffalo Speedway and Westpark for the same price. (Spec's doesn't stock any MontGras wines.)

2008 Bonterra Vineyards ROSÉ (Mendocino County, Cal.)

A solid, relatively full-bodied, dry rosé. Fuller and riper than many Provencal rosés, but very nice.

Bright, light, bubble-gum pink color. Flowers, minerals, watermelon juice, and strawberry/cherry fruit on the nose. Full-flavored and full-bodied, with lots of oomphy ripe, tangy red fruit and light mineral flavors. Not complex, but gutsy, dry, and refreshing. With all that flavor it can even take a good cold chill to make it extra refreshing on a hot day. Adequate acidity to keep it in balance. Good value. 87. I lost the receipt but I believe I got this for around $10 at Whole Foods on Bellaire. It's also widely available in other supermarkets and wine shops.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

2005 Quinta do Valdoeiro BAIRRADA (Portugal)

Bairrada is in my view an underrated region in Portugal, with lots of good values to be had. This is one.

Dark black ruby. Subtle nose of ripe, red fruit (cherry, plum), smoky balsa wood, baking spices, and dry gravel. Ripe, lively entry, with medium body, and an elegant personality. Spritely acidity lends to a lively mouthfeel, with equal measures of tangy plummy fruit and crushed stone flavors. 88. Was $11.40 at Spec's. Imported by Direct Wines Imports of Texas.
(Hat tip to VINEgeek for the photo.)

2007 Tres Ojos Old Vines GARNACHA (Calatayud, Spain)

A very good value in a cheap red.

Dense black ruby. Intense nose of meaty, stoney notes over dry raspberry powder. Full, bone dry, and very minerally in the mouth, with somewhat bitterish raspberry fruit, and a fair amount of fine-grained tannin. This will be better in a year or two as the tannin settles out. At present, though, it's a muscular companion for chunky, meaty stews and pastas. 86. Was $7.99 at Spec's. Imported by Kysela Pere Fils.

2006 Frey-Sohler RIESLING "Rittersberg" (Alsace, France)

A decent starter Riesling from Alsace.

Crystal light gold with greenish glints. Identifiably Alsace Riesling nose of apply fruit (hint of peach too), sweet Earl Grey tea leaves, and deep-toned minerals. Intensely minerally in the mouth -- a lot more austere than the nose would indicate. Long and zesty, but too lean and unidimensionally minerally in the finish. 86 (based primarily on the strength of the nose). Was $19 and change at Spec's on Smith. Importer: J&R Selections.

2004 Domaine de la Garenne BANDOL (Provence, France)

A very good but not great Bandol (an appellation that is a personal favorite of mine). Worth the price ($26)? I'm on the fence.

Dark ruby garnet. Color looks kind of advanced for its type (Bandol can be a notoriously slow ager), but everything else says cellar a few more years. Classic Mourvedre nose of sweet, fragrant tree bark with lots of black raspberry fruit underneath. Ripe and round in the mouth, with lots of soft tannin still to shed. There's a lot of ripe blackberry and iodine-y/earthy flavors, with a long though not especially elegant finish. Note: This wine needed to be decanted several hours before it really showed its stuff. 88. Got it at Spec's on Smith. Imported by Bandol Wines LLC, of Houston -- I haven't heard of this company before but (a) I've recently purchased several of their wines here and am looking forward to trying them, and (b) I'm glad to see a new importer that appears to be focusing on this unique but underpublicized region.