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.