Sunday, December 26, 2010

2009 Domaine des Corbillieres TOURAINE Pinot Noir Rose (Loire Valley, France)

Always a good value when you can find it at Richard's (it's a Robert Kacher Import, so that's the only place it will be in town). The 2009 iteration is very nice.

Light salmon pink color. A little earthier on the nose and less floral on the nose than past vintages, it still smells plenty inviting, with some floral, cherry and watermelony scents. Crisp, medium-bodied, and with refreshing acidity, this is a nice value. 87. I believe this was about $13 at Richard's at Westheimer/Kirby.

2008 Heretiers de Comte Lafon MACON (White Burgundy, France)

Lafon is one of my favorite producers of Macon Chardonnays. The house style, in my limited experience, tends to emphasize the riper, fruitier aspects of Chardonnay, rather than the earthy/stony nature the grape usually takes on in Macon. This basic Macon is the entry level wine.

Earthy, crushed stone, hay-infused chardonnay fruit on the nose. Also scents of metallic pear and peach pits. Steely, liquid minerally flavors of crisp pear and apple. Very clean finish. Very nicely put together. 88. Imported by Becky Wasserman. Can't remember where I got this (Richard's maybe?) but I think it was around $18.

2006 Peachy Canyon PETITE SIRAH (Paso Robles, Cal.)

Very approachable for a Petite Sirah, a varietal which usually is darkly-unfriendly until well-aged.

Impenetrable black plasma color (classic!). Rich, earthy nose, filled with liquefied graphite, sweet, caramelly oak, and sweet cassis. Dark, low-toned flavors of smoky embers, inky cassis extract, and black pepper. Copious amounts of soft tannin, very full body, and a long, minerally, peppery finish. Good value for a P.S., the good examples of which usually end up around $25/$30. 88. Was $18 at Spec's on Smith.

2008 Louis Jadot SANTENAY "Clos de Malte" (Burgundy, France)

A decent entry-level red burgundy. Closed and young, but not that much stuffing.

Dark ruby garnet. Very closed -- needed to be poured through a Vinturi to develop any aroma at all. After a long while, delicate scents of ripe cherry syrup and warm, fragrant, minerally earth developed. High-toned, minerally, crisp flavors, with fruit tending towards crisp cherry. Refreshing, lightly-minerally finish. 86. Was about $25 at Richard's on Kirby/Westheimer. Poor price-quality ratio, as is usual with red burgundies.

PS --did anyone else hear that Spec's quietly bought out the Richard's chain?? Is that true? If so, will Richard's stop getting wines from Robert Kacher Imports? I hope not. Spec's carries nothing from Kacher, and he's got a pretty good, value-friendly line-up.

2007 "Las Rocas" GARNACHA (Calatayud, Spain)

I hadn't tried a bottle of this ubiquitous Spanish red for many years. It's still very cheap and is a decent value.

Dark blackish ruby. Medium intensity nose -- smoky embers and spicy raspberry. Very low-toned, metallic-minerally flavors, with some vague raspberry and watermelon-extract fruit. Crisp acids. Fair amount of crushed black pepper in the the finish. Some tannin too. Kind of disjointed and rustic feeling. Lots of flavor though. 86. Was about $9 at Whole Foods on Bellaire, and is available at Spec's and elsewhere too.

2008 Domaine Giachino "Abymes Monfarina" Vin de Savoie (France)

A fresh, crisp, biodynamic white made from the Jacquère grape.

Very light gold with silver flashes. Loads of character in the intensely stony nose, with straw, pear, perfumed loam, and banana notes competing for attention. Less fruity in the mouth than the nose would lead you to believe: instead, it's crisp, dry, and minerally, with mouthwatering acids. Very refreshing. Sparkingly clean finish. Would be great with shellfish. 88. Imported by Eric Solomon. Was $15 from

2007 Thierry Puzelat "Pouille" TOURAINE (Loire Valley, France)

This really fun-to-smell-and-drink red is an unusual blend of 60% Grolleau (a varietal I don't believe I've ever knowingly drunk) and 40% Gamay. It is biodynamically grown and just loaded with character.

Medium light ruby garnet. Gorgeously fragrant nose of ripe plum, earthy sandstone, graham crackers, and lemon juice. Soft-textured and crisp in the mouth, with refreshing flavors of cherry, tart plum, and loads of stony, clean minerals. Light-bodied and addictively quaffable. Very distinctive. 89 for sheer fun. Imported by Louis/Dressner, I got this for $16 from in Scarsdale NY.

2007 Bisceglia AGLIANICO DEL VULTURE "Terra di Vulcano" (Basilicata, Southern Italy)

A very classically-styled Aglianico from this extraordinary, volcanic site.

Dark brickish ruby. Nose needs LOTS of air time to develop (use a Vinturi if you have one), as it was very closed for quite a while. Smoky, gravel and sandstone scents mingle with very ripe plum and blackberry juice. Very soft and lush-textured, with mineral/gravel-infused dark, ripe cherry fruit. Loads of fine-grained tannins. Finishes just a tad short, but still a very nice wine. 87. Imported by Winebow.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2008 Morisfarms MORELLINO DI SCANSANO (Southern Tuscany, Italy)

Comparing (very generally) the Sangiovese-based wines from Morellino di Scansano to Chianti Classicos, I'd have to say that the primary difference is that the Morellinos tend to have a more loamy earthiness and a darker-toned fruitiness, as opposed to the gravelly/schisty earthiness and piercing, more high-toned cherry fruit of the CC's. This Morisfarms (weird name) is a really nice example of a good Morellino.

Sultry dark ruby color. Medium intensity nose of earthy, dark berries, scorched earth, and cedar. Soft, ripe, and full-flavored, with lots of earthy minerals and brambly berry flavors the last to leave their impression in the mouth. Very good example of this rustic style of Sangiovese. 88. Imported by Polaner Selections. Can't remember where I got this, but I know it was under $20.

2008 Dashe ZINFANDEL (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

A classy Zin with everything in perfect balance, and in a textbook Dry Creek Valley style.

Dark ruby with a bare hint of violet. Beautiful nose of ripe, tangy raspberries and mountain berries; hints of lemon juice and smoky balsa wood. Gorgeously balanced in the mouth. Not too large in scale, with good acids and perfectly ripe fruit and stony minerals. Good concentration. Long finish with lots of soft tannins. Clearly this was consciously made in an elegant style that tries (successfully) to avoid "blockbuster syndrome" -- not that I'm against a big, dense Zin every now and again! 90. Was $22 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Otter RIESLING Kastelweg (Alsace, France)

This was a heavily botrytised, ripe, heavy Riesling. The polar opposite of, say, the austere, bone dry minerally style of a Trimbach Reserve. Of course, as is usually the case with Alsace Rieslings, you have no way of knowing that by looking at the label. But once I got over my shock at the color, nose, and first sip, I liked this quite a bit.

Very dark gold with some amber. So the color was suspect, right off the bat. A tremendously rich, earthy, deeply-honeyed nose, with Alsace "gout de petrol" lurking underneath, along with nearly overripe apricot. Broad, mouthfilling flavors, with some noticeable residual sugar: tea, apricot, earth, honey, and gravel. Lengthy finish lacked only a bit of acidity. Very nice -- if you like this style. It actually went very well with a rich pasta (made "risotto style" by adding homemade turkey broth a bit at a time) that featured carrots and green beans. 88. Was about $25 at Richard's on Kirby/Westheimer.

(Sorry -- 2004 pictured)

2008 Chateau de la Greffiere MACON-LA ROCHE VINEUSE "Vieille Vignes" (White Burgundy, France)

This was one of the tightest Macons I've ever had. So tightly wound and closed at first, but burgeoning over the course of several days (during which I had it sealed with a Vacu-Vin closure) into a really remarkable wine.

Light bright gold color. Closed nose at first. Days later, a very elegant, fragrant nose developed. Smoky, lemony, limestone & chalk, along with peach and white grape fruit. Smelled like a baby Puligny-Montrachet. No joke. Just beautiful. Rich, and packed with stones and vibrant, ripe apply fruit, this wine had nice concentration and acidity. Very clean, refreshing finish. GREAT value. 91. $15 at Spec's. Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. Make sure to let this wine AIR OUT!

Monday, December 06, 2010

2007 Mount Eden Vineyards PINOT NOIR "Saratoga Cuvee" (Santa Cruz Mountains, Cal.)

From an area that used to be the up-and-coming Pinot Noir area back in the early 80s but has lost the public's interest in the wake of new appellations such as Sonoma Coast and Santa Rita Hills. This was an outstanding wine, bridging the gap between California open , ripe fruit and Burgundian minerality.

Medium ruby garnet. Fragrant, high-toned nose of sweet, sappy cherries, lemon juice, and warm, incense-infused sandstone. Intense attack, with peppery, dried-cherry syrup fruit, and loads of smoky minerals throughout. Medium full body. Silky mouthfeel. Ridiculously long finish. 92. $30 at Spec's on Smith.

2005 Domaine du Murinais CROZES-HERMITAGE "Cuvee Vieilles Vignes" (Rhone Valley, France)

This Syrah was good, but nothing more.

Youthful dark black ruby. Meaty, earthy nose with warm sandstone scents and some faint, slightly yeasty cassis fruit. Tight and crisp in the mouth, and actually a bit thin and lacking concentration. The modest fruit quickly transitioned in the mouth to a clingy, brambly component. Not bad, but not a repeat purchase. 80.

2006 Castello di Rampolla CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

I think I'm getting to the point where I generally like the regular Chianti Classicos better than the more expensive Riserva bottlings. More accessible in aromas and texture when young and completely unobscured by any noticeable oakiness. Not to mention much cheaper.

This one rocked! Very rich dark ruby color. Fantastically fragrant nosed morphed over time. Started out really earthy but then the fruit emerged. Sweet, smoky schist/gravel and rich, plummy fruit. Intensely concentrated and ripe, with quartz-laced earthiness throughout the rich, ripe cherry fruit, and excellent acidity adding freshness. Still loads of fine0grained tannin in the long, mineral-laced finish. Fantastic, old-school Chianti. 90. Imported by Vias Imports. $30 from (New York)

2005 Thierry Germain "Domaine des Roches Neuves" SAUMUR CHAMPIGNY (Loire Valley, France)

This organic (biodynamic, actually) Cabernet Franc-based wine was very elegant and distinctive. Like most Loire Valley Cab Francs, however, its unique aromas and flavors may not be for everybody.

Very dark ruby garnet. Laid-back aromas of toasted walnut, melted caramel, blackberry/cassis fruit, mineral oil, and smoky embers. Soft in texture, bone dry, with cassis and mineral oil flavors. Nicely-balanced, fully mature. Went well with post-Thanksgiving hot turkey and gravy sandwiches. 87. Imported by Jon David Headrick Selections. $16 at (New York).

2007 Jean Foillard MORGON "Cote du Py" (Beaujolais, France)

A beautifully balanced, elegant, refreshing Beaujolais. Went down way too easily.

Medium ruby garnet. Gorgeously sweet nose of spiced ripe plums and fragrant powdered stones, with a squeeze of lemon juice. Soft but persistent fruit, in a fresh, medium-bodied package. Stone-infused, fruity finish. Very approachable and fun. 88. I think I got this at Houston Wine Merchant a while back, and it was around $25, but I can't be sure. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grandma, Nonno, and Molly's visit -- night 5

Every 5 years or so, I put a white in the freezer to chill it fast, but then forget I put it in there and by the time I remember it has frozen solid. The cork typically blows out as the liquid expands (water expands when frozen, and wine contains lots of water). It happened again. Good thing it wasn't a screw cap wine. It was an excellent German dry Riesling I previously reviewed, and after thawing it actually tasted pretty good, though not up to the standard of the unneglected bottle I had a few months ago. It was a 2008 Schafer-Frohlich RIESLING Trocken "Bockenauer" (Nahe, Germany). I won't review the frozen bottle.

Next up was the 2001 Chateau Haut-Bergey (Pessac-Leognan), one of my sentimental favorite estates in the Graves region of Bordeaux (I used to sell this when I worked for Paramount Wines in NY back in the early 80s). It's way more expensive now, but it's also stepped up in quality. It had a dark black, brickish ruby color befitting a mature Graves, and sported an intensely fragrant smoky, spiced gravel, and sweet cassis nose. Rich and soft, with deep, ripe fruit, and a smoky, earthy, oaky finish. It would have preferred the oak to be a bit less overt, but still it was very, very good, and peaking. 89.

Grandma, Nonno, and Molly's visit -- night 4

Polpetonne alla Toscana with two great wines I have enjoyed before and wanted to share with M&D:

2005 Chante Cigale CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE (Southern Rhone, France) -- I have reviewed this wine previously, and it remains very very good. Medium dark black ruby. Elegant, intensely minerally nose, with warm, dry gravel scents, incense, iodine, and dry blackberry extract. Dark and tannic, with deep-toned, iodine-rich blackberry fruit. Long finish coats the mouth with soft tannin on the physical side and clinging minerals on the taste side. Very nice. Drink in the next 2-3 years. 89.

2004 Renato Ratti BAROLO Rocche "Marcenasco" (Piemonte, Italy) -- Previously reviewed here, this remains a great Barolo. Dark black ruby with a hint of amber at the rim. Rich nose of dark cherries, cherry liqueur, and smoky earth. Soft, but with a dense concentration of dark cherry and dried cherry fruit. Fair amount of tannin in the back half of the palate. An excellent Barolo for drinking with special meals over the next 2-4 years. 91.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grandma, Nonno, and Molly's visit -- night 3

2009 Hippolyte-Reverdy SANCERRE ROSE (Loire Valley, France) -- I think I've decided that the Pinot Noir roses from Sancerre are my favorites. This one was remarkable. Gorgeously light salmon color, gorgeously fruity nose of strawberries, cherries, and a light floral component. Perfumed as all get-out. Gorgeously light texture, but with intense yet vivacious fruit. Very nice acidity and a clean clean finish. Loved it. 90. $19.99 from B-21 Wines in Florida.

2005 Guigal GIGONDAS (Southern Rhone, France) -- Gigondas can be an unforgiving wine, sometimes too angular, lean, and/or rustic/coarse. But when it hits, it hits, and this one hit. Black ruby-garnet. Fantastic old-school spicy, gravelly-stony, dark berries and garrigue nose. Smells like the arid southern French countryside in a bottle. Dark, intensely rich, iodine-infused blackberry extract flavors. Full-bodied frame (just the teeniest bit of heat noticeable on the finish), and a fair amount of tannin. Very expressive and satisfying. Textbook Gigondas. 91. (Can't remember where I got this, but it wasn't in Houston).

2007 Domaine Weinbach RIESLING Schlossberg "Cuvee Saint Catherine L'Inedit" (Alsace France) -- this half bottle of late-picked Riesling (from a Grand Crus vineyard) was very backward at first, but then blossomed after about an hour. Extraordinarily pale gold color, and an amazingly rich, complex nose of deeply-spiced grapes and tropical fruit, brown sugar, and the sweetest minerals imaginable. Intensely flavorful, with earthy, spiced peach extract, ending in a long cling peach syrup and liquid mineral finish. Fairly full-bodied for a Riesling with a little heat in the long, long finish. Redunculous. 93. Was $46 per 375 ml at Houston Wine Merchant.

Grandma, Nonno, and Molly's visit -- night 2

2007 Darting Durkheimer Nonnengarten GEWURZTRAMINER Kabinett (Rheinpfalz, Germany) -- A relatively rare German Gewurz (Grandma's favorite grape?). A lilting and light nose of sweet, musky, tropical fruit, ripe pear and a teeny bit of Gewurz lychee nut. Gentler fruit (pear, grapefruit, guava) coats the mouth, but with a light texture, leaving a clean, lingering finish with the barest hint of bitterness. Slightly sweet, light bodied (only 9.5%). Terrific aperitif style Gewurz. 87. $20 at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Rainoldi SASSELLA Valtellina Superiore (Lombardy, Italy) -- Disappointing. In my view the main flaw in the Nebbiolo wines from the Valtellina is that they are frequently maddeningly thin. Like this one. Medium-light ruby garnet. With lots of airing, it exhibited a medium intensity nose of spiced cherries, balsa wood, and crushed stones. Medium-light bodied, with refreshing, focused, if somewhat thinnish flavors -- cherry fruit and an earthy, woodsy component. Still a little tannin present, which actually helps give the wine some textural interest. 85. Drink soon. $16.99 from (NY).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grandma, Nonno, and Molly's visit -- night 1

Grandma, Nonno, and our niece Molly are visiting. So we're breaking out the good stuff.

2007 Leitz Rudesheimer Klosterlay RIESLING Kabinett (Rheingau, Germany) -- Outrageous nose of ripe grapes and peach, slate and sea shells, and a lightly floral component. Piercing up-front fruit coats the mouth, wrapped in a thin veneer of minerals. Light to medium-bodied, slightly sweet, but with very good balancing acidity. A long, lithe, ridiculously pure finish. 91. Was around $18 at Spec's awhile ago, so I am not sure they still have it. Imported by Michael Skurnick Wines.

2007 Herman Story Winery GRENACHE "Larner Vineyard" (Santa Barbara County, Cal.) -- From a teeny, weeny winery, this was a brooding but civilized monster. Completely saturated ruby purple. Intense nose of crushed rocks, gravel, and spicy raspberry syrup, as well as warm, just-out-of-the-oven baking spices. Huge body, with almost port-like richness, but dry. Deep favors of liquefied stony minerals, dried raspberry syrup. Long, long finish, with some peppery warmth from the alcohol (16.1%), but it's actually hidden well. 90. Was $39 at Spec's on Smith.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2008 Bishop's Peak PINOT NOIR (Central Coast, Cal.)

A second label of Talley Vineyard (an excellent Pinot producer), this wine was a decent value as Pinot Noirs go, showing off mostly the earthy side of the grape.

Medium light ruby garnet. Rich nose of wet, earthy cherry syrup and cola, along with some sweet high-toned smoke. Soft, medium-bodied, and ripe, this wine had ripe, earthy, cherry flavors and a long, sandstone-infused finish. Low acidity makes for a broad mouthfeel, and there's a bit of heat on the finish. A pretty good example of the traditional, earthy, ripe California style of old. Was $19 at Spec's on Smith. 87.

2006 Chateau Patache d'Aux MEDOC (Bordeaux, France)

I used to drink wines from this chateau in the early 80s but haven't had it since. They were good, solid, inexpensive wines then. The 2006 was lacked fragrance and was thinnish.

Sedate black ruby. Very shy nose gives up little: some cassis, some gravel and some green bell pepper. Tannic and bone dry, with some scorched earth and dark cherry/cassis fruit, but not much. Lean, medium length, somewhat bitter finish. 74. $17 at Spec's on Smith.

2007 "Quatro Pasos" MENCIA (Bierzo, Spain)

A decent Mencia (a grape apparently indigenous to the Iberian peninsula).

Fully saturated, violet-stained bloody ruby. Earthy, sweaty, humus-like fragrance, with dried balsa wood and blackberry notes. Tannic, highly-extracted flavors of scorched earth, baker's chocolate, with blackberry extract taking a back seat. Long, peppery finish. An angular, earthy bruiser. 84. $13 and change at Spec's on Weslayan & Bissonnet.

2007 Peter Franus ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, Cal.)

A big, ripe, but still-in-balance Zin.

Fairly saturated dark black ruby. Big, briary, spicy black raspberry "Zin" nose, with some sweet smoky scents and some chalky, powdered minerals. Deep, weighty, full-bodied, with flavors dark raspberry and baker's chocolate. Gobs of soft tannin and very good, fairly crisp acidity for its size. Massive, but not too ripe or heavy. Will keep another 2 years or so. 89. $24 at Spec's on Smith.

2007 Pierre Morey BOURGOGNE ALIGOTÉ (White Burgundy)

Not bad.

Very pale grey gold. Medium intensity nose of earthy minerals, toasted nuts, and crisp, citrusy apples. Bone dry, crisp, liquid minerals in the mouth, with some vague lemon lime notes and a tart, refreshing finish. A light-bodied, palate-cleansing sort of wine that would pair nicely with New Orleans Barbequed Shrimp or an Italian fish stew like a brodetto. 85. Was $18 at Central Market. Imported by Wilson Daniels.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Miscellaneous food notes about Houston, etc.

Best French Fries -- Palace Bowling Lanes, 4191 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, Texas 77025. No joke. I am not a bowling fan, but when I have to go there for birthday parties, etc., I love the meaty, potatoey, perfectly golden fries!

Best Canned Tomatoes -- Strianese brand whole San Marzano tomatoes (the real McCoy, from the official D.O.P. in the Sarnese - Mocerino area in Campania, near Naples). They taste so ripe and tomatoey, yet have good acidity.
Available in a big (96 oz., I think) can for $10 at Nundini Italian Market and Deli, 500 N Shepherd Dr., which is a fantastic Italian deli and food store.

Favorite Quick Snack -- Spanish-seasoned olive oil-fried almonds. Take a handful of raw almonds, and gently fry them in 1/4 cup good olive oil for 5 minutes. Drain, then toss them with 40 turns of freshly ground sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of sweet paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper. Let cool for 15 minutes. Addictive and healthy.

Best Pasta Brand I Can No Longer Find -- Giuseppe Cocco Fara St. Martino. Central Market used to carry it, but no longer. Has a ridiculously pure pasta flavor and soaks up any kind of sauce beautifully. Note to Central Market: BRING THIS BACK per piacere!

Favorite Olive Oil for Salads and Dipping Bread -- Montebello
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. From an organic monastery in Marche, Italy, this olive oil is light, fragrantly herbal at first, and then with a nice, subdued peppery bite kicks in at the back of the palate. 12 oz. bottle is about $15 at Whole Foods on Bellaire. Here's a photo of their pasta (which is very good), because I can't find an image of the olive oil and the labels are similar: