Friday, August 20, 2010

2008 ElementOs 70% Tempranillo/30% Garnacha (Calatayud, Spain)

A ridiculous bargain! A soft, well-made, flavorful red with a bit of complexity for $5.99? Pretty darn rare. I bought this to cook with and ended up drinking most of it.

Dark ruby color. Youthful nose of blueberries, cinnamon, and coffee. Mouthfilling clean blackberry fruit augmented with stony minerals. Pure-tasting, decently long finish, with good balancing acidity. 87. $5.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

(Sorry -- couldn't find a photo.)

2008 "THREE TREES" (100% Syrah) (VDP de Cotes Catalanes, southwest France)

This is a very good wine for the money. Tastes like a much more expensive Cornas.

Dark black ruby with violet highlights. Closed at first, with significant air time (and pouring through a Vinturi), it develops a big, dark, meaty, smoky blackcherry extract nose. The glory here, however, is in the mouth. These grapes must have been picked the perfect time. Loads of perfectly ripe, plummy, blackberry fruit, together with loads of smoky, sandstoney earth, Fantastic acidity. Lots of chewy, ripe tannins. Excellent! 90. Was $16.99 at Houston Wine Merchant on South Shepherd. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

2006 Eric Chevalier (Domaine de l'Aujardiere) CHARDONNAY (Loire Valley, France)

This is an outstanding value in a fresh, minerally, unoaked Chardonnay. Tastes a lot like a high quality Chablis.

Very light gold color. Nose of lemony-limey fresh grapes infused with chalky rock dust. Loads of lively, peachy fruit, with a clean, stony component throughout. Bone dry and very refreshing. Medium-light bodied, with a very pure-tasting finish. Very nice, and definitely a repeat purchase at $13 and change at Spec's on Smith. 88. A Kermit Lynch Selection.

2009 Chateau Saint-Pierre de Mejans ROSÉ (Cotes de Luberon, France)

This was a terrific, refreshing rose.

Very light, pinkish-copper color. Very fresh, ripe nose of earthy minerals and freshly-crushed plums. In the mouth, loads of ripe fruit and mineral flavors are delivered in a medium-bodied, dry format. Very good acidity, especially for a wine from southern France. 88. Was $14 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Masi "Brolo di Campofiorin" RIPASSO (Veneto, Italy)

An example of what would have been -- if not for the use of small oak instead of the typical large casks -- an excellent wine. The influence of the small barrels made it too oaky for its own good.

Sultry, black ruby/crimson color. Rich but intensely oaky nose, with ripe, sappy black cherry and smoky earth underneath. Dark, chocolatey, and intense, with good balancing acidity. Unfortunately, the taste of oak overshadows the fruit, detracting from what otherwise were obviously good raw materials. 84. Was $16 at Nundini's Deli -- a great Italian import store on North Shepherd.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2008 Zaumau (Priorat, Spain)

This garnacha (grenache) and samso (carignane) blend was excellent. Very soft, ripe, and balanced.

Vibrant dark black ruby. Textbook Spanish grenache nose of crushed-stone infused spicy dark raspberries and black cherry. Richly fruity and velvety soft, this mouthfilling yet not-heavy red offered lots of rich, up-front berry fruit, full-body, and a lengthy, pure-tasting finish. Some very fine-grained tannin and good acidity added structure. Very nice. Imported by one of my favorite Spanish importers, Jose Pastor Selections. 90. $20 at Spec's on Weslayan.

Coupla middlin' Italian wines

Not really worth their own blog entry.

2008 Pieropan SOAVE (Veneto, Italy) had a bitterish and sour component. Nice medium gold color, but the nose was kind of pungent, with lots of pungent minerals and sour pear fruit, with an interesting caramelized sugar crystal component. Some pear, apple, and lemon fruit, but led to a short, pungent, minerally finish. Funky. 78. Kind of disappointing, as Pieropan was one of the first producers to bring Soave out of the insipid, industrial acid water that used to pass as white wine in the appellation in the 1970s.

2006 Barberani "POLAGO" (Montepulciano-Sangiovese blend) (Umbria, Italy) -- This had some character but was too rustic. Med. dark ruby garnet. Straightforward, vinous nose of winey, old cherries, smoke, and moist, funky gravel. Medium body, with basic cherryish flavors that faded quickly into an acidy, rough, drying finish. A decent peasant wine to quaff with basic spaghetti and meatballs. 80.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A bunch of great wines drunk with Angy and Susan

My brother Angy and his wife Susan were visiting for several days from Connecticut (which answers the question, who ever comes to Houston in summer for vacation?). To try to revive them from heat shock, we opened up several great bottles. But I was feeling too hot myself to do any serious analysis, so these are just quick impressions from memory.

First, the whites. A 2007 Domaine Weinbach SYLVANER Reserve ($17 at Spec's/Smith) was well-balanced but did not have inspiring depth or complexity. Sylvaner is a rather neutral tasting grape, so I guess I shouldn't have expected more than what I got, even from a great estate. The 2007 Domaine de la Rossignole SANCERRE "Cuvée Vieilles Vignes" ($19 at Spec's/Weslayan) was excellent: super crisp, lemony, and redolent of chalky minerals. None of the herbal, grassy side of Sauvignon Blanc on display. Finally, the 2007 Jacky Preys TOURAINE "Cuvée de Fie Gris Vieille Vigne" (ordered direct from North Berkeley Imports, which no longer ships to Texas thanks to the Texas wine police) was excellent and unique, bone dry and round, with a unique pumpernickel/rye bread component along with minerals and pear fruit.

A 2009 Lucien Crochet SANCERRE Pinot Rosé was a star, with unbelievable freshness, and a light mouthfeel yet with persistent ripe, crisp fruit.

Now for the sick reds we had. The 2008 Jean-Paul Brun MOULIN A VENT "Terres Dorées" was utterly classic Beaujolais, juxtaposing great freshness and lightness with very intense cherry fruit and crushed stone flavors. The 2004 Perticaia MONTEFALCO SAGRANTINO (previously reviewed) was holding beautifully, displaying soft, lush, mouthcoating fruit and crushed sandstone notes but with good balance and structure. A 2004 Nino Negri INFERNO "Mazér ($34 at Houston Wine Merchant) was a really fine example of a textbook Valtellina Nebbiolo, with a lightish color, and a lithe, austere mouthfeel serving as the delivery system for rose-scented intensely cherryish fruit.

And then there was the king: the 2004 Renatto Ratti BAROLO "Rocche" ($69 at Spec's on Weslayan) was mind-blowing, old fashioned Barolo, the likes of which I haven't drunk in literally decades. Ridiculously rich and complex nose, which featured ripe chokecherry liqueur fruit and a constantly-evolving, earthy, peat-like like component, and staggering length, richness, and balance. This will likely age for several more years, but I can't imagine it getting any better than it is now (keep in mind that my personal tastes veer decidedly toward younger rather than more aged wines). The contrast in this Nebbiolo with the Valtellina Neb from Negri of the same vintage was really instructive.

No scores, but the Sancerre Rosé, Moulin a Vent, Inferno, Sagrantino, and (especially) the Barolo, would all have been 90+ wines for sure.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sorry about the lack of activity . . . .

. . . a hectic summer vacation travelling schedule (visiting family in New England) and heat/humidity in Houston have conspired to both prevent me from having the time, and to sap my energy, to blog.

Stay tuned for a possible guest blogger post on some recent, slightly-more-expensive-than-usual treats I have enjoyed, however . . . .