Saturday, January 30, 2010

2006 Sidejob Cellars C5 ZINFANDEL "Stefani Vineyard" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

A terrific mouthful of Zin!

Crystalline black ruby/garnet. Gorgeous, open nose of bright, ripe blackberry and boysenberry fruit, along with high-toned smoky balsawood and spice notes. Rich, round, and densely-fruited, with deep, sweet, black raspberry fruit and loads of peppery minerals. Very full-bodied. Lengthy, rich finish, with some alcoholic heat peeking through. Drink over the next year before the alcohol burns through the gorgeous fruit. 92. Was $21 at Wines Til Sold Out.

2006 La Posta BONARDA "Estela Armando Vineyard" (Mendoza, Argentina)

Bonarda -- a grape that takes a back seat to Nebbiolo in the Novara area of Piemonte in Italy -- can produce wines of greater depth and distinction in Argentina. This Bonarda proves the point.

Fully saturated violet-tinged dark ruby. Lively and ripe nose -- sweet, smoky gravel, and lots of ripe blackberry fruit. Medium-full to full bodied, it has an intense initial attack of minerally blackberry fruit, which morphs quickly into a sequential parade of mixed berry extracts that clings to the palate. Lots and lots of youthful tannin to resolve, but it's not too rough to enjoy now. 88. Very nice value at $14 at the new Spec's at Weslayan and Bissonnet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

2004 Perticaia MONTEFALCO SAGRANTINO (Umbria, Italy)

A voluptuous wine made from the relatively rare and exclusive Sagrantino grape, which is grown (exclusively, I think) in Umbria.

Sultry black ruby with mulberry and brick highlights (indicating near full maturity). Extraordinarily rich and expressive nose of sappy, oozing mixed berries, smoky embers, cinnamon, and soft sweet spices. Mouthfilling and large in volume, this wine coated the palate with ripe, smoky flavors that lingered and lingered -- red berry compote, earth, and smoke. Loads of soft tannin. Really unique. 90. Was $24.99 from Wines Til Sold Out (which is about half of what these puppies usually go for).

(sorry -- 2001 depicted)

2006 Giubilo AGLIANICO IRPINIA (Campania, Italy)

A very good Aglianico, but not a particularly good buy at $20.

Very blackish ruby. Nose of tangy but ripe berries, with some dry, smoky gravel scents. Very low-toned, richly-fruited flavors of scorched earth, charcoal embers, and boysenberry jam. Medium length, decent depth, and full-bodied, but not particularly complex. 87. Was $19.99 at Central Market. Imported by Monarchia Matt International.

2007 Domaine Roc de Chateauvieux MALBEC TOURAINE (Loire Valley, France)

This was very high acid and tart, but went well with Szechuan Chicken.

Very dark, nearly saturated black ruby with magenta highlights. Medium intensity nose of smoke dried leaves and scorched earth, along with very tart berry aromas. Very high acidity in the mouth, with some decent if undernourished fruit underneath. Medium length finish. Not particularly distinguished on its own but, strangely, it paired nicely with a very spicy and salty Chinese dish. 78 on its own. 83 with the meal. Was $12.35 at the new Spec's in my neighborhood (at Weslayan & Bissonnet). Imported by Cannon Wines Limited.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2006 Domaine "La Garrigue" COTES DU RHONE "Cuvee Romaine" (France)

Holy cow! What a wine -- and what a value!

Starts off unassumingly with a medium dark ruby color of no real distinction, but after that . . . a ridiculously expressive nose leaps out of the glass with powdered rocks, spicy raspberries, with hints of pink grapefruit, herbs, and pine forest. Intense flavors grip the palate with aggressive minerals, blackberry and cassis fruit, along with excellent acidity and a boatload of youthful but soft tannin. Long, perfumed, resiny finish. Wow! 91. Was $16.99 at Houston Wine Merchant. I hope they still have some, because I want a couple more bottles. Imported by Eric Solomon European Selections.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2007 Simmonet-Fevre SAVIGNON SAINT-BRIS (Northern Burgundy, France)

This is a relatively hard-to-find Sauvignon Blanc from what is most certainly Chardonnay country -- the area around Chablis. But ZOUNDS, what a fun wine!

Very luminescent, bright gold. I mean, get the shades out. Fantastically lively nose of ripe, fresh squeezed lemons and limes, with flinty powdered stones, and freshly-mowed straw. Absolutely vibrant in the mouth, with (literally) mouth-watering flavors of ripe, juicy lemon juice-drenched grapes, bight stones, and, in the finish, an interesting marzipan note. Just delicious! Not a blockbuster in terms of concentration or body (it's relatively light-bodied), but really fun to drink. 90. Was a ridiculously cheap $11.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.

2006 San Leonino CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

A very nicely-done Chianti.

Very dark, plasma-like ruby. Textbook Chianti nose of ripe chokecherries, along with smoky gravel. Good concentration and weight, with good balancing acidity and a bit of soft tannin. Flavors of ripe cherries and dark berries, with loads of dried-earthy, stony minerals. Fairly long finish. A very solid effort. 88. Was $16.49 at Spec's on Smith, making it a good buy. Imported by Wilson Daniels.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2007 HRW (Hendry Winery) ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, Cal.)

This second label Zin is a solid, value-priced every-night style of red from this reputable Napa Valley winery.

Dark-ish black ruby. Extroverted nose of brambly/cedary blackberry juice. Soft, fleshy, and loose-limbed in the mouth, with lots of straightforward Zin fruit, lots of balsa/cedar notes, and a good bit of (pleasant) heat in the fairly long finish (notwithstanding that it has a relatively low stated alcohol content of 13.8%). 87. Drink over the next 6-12 months. Was $15 at Spec's on Smith.

2004 Corte Campagnola AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy)

A really good, really rich Amarone. Pretty close to textbook.

Deep, mature black ruby/garnet. Rich, almost port-like nose of blackberry and cherry compote with warm, earthy baking spices, together with a hint of prune. Extraordinarily full-bodied, with warm flavors of tarry, dense, roasted black berries and dried cherry jam. Long, powerful finish. Very soft, and fully mature. Drink over the next year or two. 90.

Got this for $29.99 (pretty unheard-of for a high quality Amarone) on-line at Wines Til Sold Out -- a unique online wine close-out service that I subscribe to. They send daily (and sometimes 2 or 3 times daily) emails containing their offerings, which frequently are well below market prices. I recommend this service, with the caveat that if you live in Texas, ordering wines to be shipped in the summer months is a no-no.
Imported by Monarchia Matt International.

2008 MontGras CARMENERE RESERVA (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

A good, solid Carmenere.
Completely saturated black ruby. Low-toned nose of scorched earth, dark minerals, and iodine-y blackberries. Dense, low-toned flavors too, redolent of cassis, blackberry, and tinged with burnt herbs. Long, dry finish with lots of fairly soft tannin still to resolve. 87+ Was $12 at Kroger's on Buffalo Speedway & Westpark. Palm Bay Imports.

2008 Chateau de Chenas BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES (Burgundy, France)

A straightforward, lighter and tarter style of Beaujolais.

Bright, medium ruby. Bright, zesty aromas of sweet/tart cherries and crushed chilled grapes, with hints of flowers and salty stones. Bone dry and tart in the mouth, with lots of direct, tart cherry fruit and a crisp, if not long, finish. Not bad, and will be enjoyed by those who like a crisper, leaner style of Beaujolais. 84. Imported by Cellar Door Selections. Was about $12 at Central Market.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2006 Le Roc FRONTON "Classique" (60% Negrette, 30% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) (Southwest France)

Wow! What a discovery (well, it was a discovery for me, anyway). Fronton is an appellation, and Negrette is a varietal, that I have no experience with, but this was an excellent and unique wine at a very good price.

Amazingly sharp color of jewel-like black ruby with subtle violet highlights. Remarkable nose of powdered stones, and candied black cherries and raspberries. Round in the mouth, with medium weight but waves of ripe, up-front, intensely minerally black cherry/blackberry fruit. Lengthy, pure finish with a subtle but pleasant resiny quality. Lots of incredibly fine-grained, soft tannin. 89. Was $11.99 at Central Market. Imported by Charles Neal Selections.

2007 Cristom PINOT GRIS "Estate" (Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR)

This was a full-flavored yet nicely balanced Pinot Gris, a varietal which, particularly in Alsace, can in my view be too buttery and viscous for its own good.

Bright, pale gold with pewter highlights. Stony, buttered pears in the subtle nose. Vary soft, luscious texture but with a refreshing mouthfeel nonetheless. Rich, stony mineral-infused pear and peach pit flavors. Very long finish, with fairly good acidity. 88. Was $23.99 at Central Market.

Friday, January 01, 2010

VINTURI -- a wine gadget that actually works

I'm not big on wine gadgets. My favorite decanter is a huge old chemistry lab beaker I bought at a garage sale for $2. But a friend at work prevailed upon me to try this gadget.

It's a simple wine aeration device. You hold it over your glass, pour wine into it, and the scientific "Venturi Principle" (which is based on the pressure gradient caused by a flowing liquid) causes two small jets of air to be sucked into and aerate the wine as it speeds through the device into your glass.

The result is that, for wines that are closed initially and usually don't start to hit their stride until the bottle has been open a couple of hours, the wine actually smells more open and intense from the first pour. The flavors are also more developed right away.

I have found that the improvement varies depending on how tight the wine is when first opened. For wines that drink well immediately upon opening (usually wine thats are near their maturity), there's not much difference. But for wines that are in their youthful apogee, the effect is greater. I haven't been using it that long, but so far the greatest difference I noticed was in the Chateau Bel Air reviewed below.

I have done the test where you try try one glass poured straight from the bottle and one glass poured through the Vinturi, and it really does work.

I got mine at Bed Bath and Beyond for $39 (minus the 20% because I had one of those mailer coupons), but I have also seen them at Spec's.

I recommend this device!

Two good value sparkling wines

Lucien Albrecht CREMANT D'ALSACE BRUT ROSE (Alsace, France) -- Gorgeous pinkish-salmon color. Amazingly effervescent, with tons of tightly bunched bubbles that persist and persist. Lots of dry raspberries and steely minerals on the nose. Crisp and dry, with loads of clean, refreshing fruit. This was around $20 at Spec's on Smith. With Champagne prices going up and up, I have been looking more and more to Cremant d'Alsace and Cremant de Bourgogne when I need sparkling wine. They are made by the same method as Champagne, and I would put a good Cremant up against any of the big Champagne house non-vintage wines any day.

Capasaldo PROSECCO (Veneto, Italy) -- While not as bubbly as the Cremant, this Italian sparkler had stunning apply/pear fruit and a refreshing mouthfeel. This was a gift, so I'm not sure where to get it, but from a quick Google search it looks to retail for $15 or so.