Saturday, March 27, 2010

2006 Domaine Mas du Bouquet VACQUEYRAS (Rhone Valley, France)

This was a very good buy, particularly for a Vacqueyras (an excellent appellation sandwiched between Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas), which typically cost a bit more that a regular ol' Cotes du Rhone. This one is 60% Grenache 30% Syrah 10% Mourvèdre, according to the importer's website.

Beautiful black ruby/garnet. Gorgeously ripe, fruity nose, with loads of sappy blackberries, sweet cream, and freshly-cracked stones. Fruit attacks the palate gradually, building to a deep-toned, mouth-watering fruity richness, with iodine/earthy notes. Lots of soft tannin in the long, pure-tasting finish. Nice balance. 88. Was $12 at HEB on Buffalo Speedway (but I think I have also seen this at Whole Foods on Bellaire for a little more). Imported by Laurent Terrisson Wines.

PLAN PEGAU "Lot #2007" (Southern France)

This is a grenache-based blend from the Rhone area, made by a respected producer of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is a soft, fruity, fun-to-drink red that would go well with lots of foods.

Dark ruby color. Direct, fruity, juicy nose. Tangy raspberry and boysenberry syrup, with a spiced peat component. Medium-bodied but densely-fruited, with a fleshy texture and a light mouthfeel. Kind of like a very ripe Beaujolais made from Rhone varietals. Mineral and berry flavors accented by a forest floor note. 87. Good value at $11.50 at Spec's on Richmond. Imported by Hand-Picked Selections.

2006 Umani Ronchi "Casal di Serra" VERDICCHIO DEI CASTELLI DE JESI Classico Superiore (Marche, Italy)

Probably better a year ago.

Medium light gold. Accessible, soft nose of pear/banana and sweet chalk. Round and soft, with full body and loads of earthy banana and pear-skin fruit, with a peppery, minerally, low acid, slightly flabby finish. Not bad, but I favor Verdicchios that are in a fresher, crisper, more minerally-stony style. 84. Was $16 at Houston Wine Merchant.

(Sorry, 2003 shown)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Great tasting of Silver Oak and Twomey wines

I was invited to a special private tasting last week with Daniel Baron, the winemaker at Silver Oak -- one of the most prestigious names in all of California winedom. For me, it was a real treat, because I have not attended many formal tastings since leaving the wine biz in the mid-1980s, and I actually have never had the pleasure of drinking a Silver Oak wine.

It occurred during my regular work hours, so I unfortunately had to religiously spit, but I enjoyed it immensely anyway. Not only were the wines very special (notes to follow), but Daniel Baron has been making wine in the highest eschelons for decades. As we were tasting, he regaled us not only with a wealth of winemaking information, but also some great anecdotes from his interesting career.

The wines comprised not only the two Silver Oak Cabernets (the Alexander Valley and the Napa Valley), but also from Twomey Vineyards, with is associated with Silver Oak, though it focuses on varietals other than Cabernet (a Sauvignon Blanc, several Pinot Noirs, and a Merlot). All the wines were either currently on the market or about to be released.

2008 Twomey Napa Valley SAUVIGNON BLANC -- from old vines formerly owned by the now defunct Stonegate Winery, this was a very tight, crisp, French-styled Sauvignon Blanc. Restrained nose with light earthy, toasty notes and citrusy fruit. Crisp as all heck in the mouth, with a pervasive minerality and a refreshing style. Long, lean finish. Would be a dynamite accompaniment to sweet shellfish such as shrimp or scallops.

The following Pinot Noirs are denominated by regional appellation only, as they are blended from multiple vineyards within the designated region.

2008 Twomey Santa Barbara PINOT NOIR -- Tart and very tight. Gorgeous light pomegranate ruby color. Bright, nervous nose of sappy yet crisp cherries. High acidity, razor-like focus, but good ripeness. Long cherry-skin finish. (Daniel said this P.N. was from the coolest climate of the four, and will open up with time.)

2008 Twomey Anderson Valley PINOT NOIR -- Slightly darker color. Deeper, sappier nose, with spice and earth notes. Lower-toned flavors, with more earthy, humus (not hummus) notes. Longer finish too. Drinking well already.

2008 Twomey Sonoma Coast PINOT NOIR -- Darker still, with purply-ruby hues. Sweeter, riper nose, with lots of fruit and cinnamon. Broader, expansive mouthfeel, with lots of secondary flavors already showing up in addition to great, sappy Pinot fruit. Tightens up in the long finish. Needs a little time to get itself fully together, but already very tasty.

2008 Twomey Russian River PINOT NOIR -- Wow! Of all these appellations, Russian River is usually my least favorite, but this was fantastic. Great fruit on the nose. Gobs of focused, ripe cherry and a few other berries in the background. Round, silky, and concentrated in the mouth, but with a light feel. Lovely, pure fruity, soft and extra-long finish. Great balance.

2006 Twomey Napa Valley MERLOT -- I'm not usually a huge Merlot guy, but this ROCKED! From a single vineyard in SE Napa near Stag's Leap (Daniel said the soil is very poor, volcanic pumice), made only with French clones of Merlot, and aged in French oak. An elegant, blackish ruby color. Intense, focused blackberry fruit on the nose. Tight in the mouth, with ripe fruit but avoiding any jamminess or perceptible residual sugar. Lots of gravelly, stony notes, and gobs of very fine-grained tannins. Full-bodied, with fantastic length. I thought this was very much like a top growth St. Emilion or Pomerol. I probably would not have picked this out as a California wine if I didn't know what it was.

All the Twomey reds will retail at $50. (I can't remember what he said the Sauvignon Blanc sells for.)

2005 Silver Oak Alexander Valley CABERNET SAUVIGNON -- As all Silver Oak Cabs, this was 100% Cabernet and aged in 100% American Oak (50% was new for this wine). Dark black ruby color. Rich, earthy, cigar box, and humus notes along with ripe, dark fruit. Ripe and rich in the mouth, but with a nice, tight, concentrated core of fruit. Nice structure and balance. A very complete wine.

2004 Silver Oak Napa Valley CABERNET SAUVIGNON -- Very sedate color. Fantastic and unique nose, with sweet, perfumey cassis and cigar leaf, and a deep-toned inky component. Lots of minerally gravel notes in the mouth, with great focus and concentration. Impeccable balance. Still a fair amount of tannin, but a soft texture nonetheless. Very long finish.

Finally, Daniel explained a unique cork quality program that Silver Oak has instituted. I was amazed at how much thought and empirical data went into it, and the result, he said, was that, for their 750 ml bottles, the incidence of corked wine has been reduced from 2% (which seemed already pretty low to me), to an unheard of 0.67%. He also mentioned that for each and every bottle of 3L or larger, the corks are individually inspected! Amazing attention to quality.


All in all, a great experience!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2008 Elementos GARNACHA (Calatayud, Spain)

Another very good value, food-friendly Grenache from Calatayud. Surprise, surprise.

Dark ruby with a purple tinge near the rim. Lively, youthful nose of raspberries, pungent minerals, and scorched earth. Full-bodied, aggressively fruity flavors (mostly raspberry) attacking the palate with earnest determination. A really good weekday night pasta or stew wine. 87. Was $8.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

(Sorry, can't find a photo).

2007 Domaine du Bagnol CASSIS (Provence, France)

A flavorful, balanced, easy-going white from a tiny appellation near Marseille.

Light, bright gold. Ripe, soft nose of earthy peach and pear fruit, flowers, and bath powder. A soft, broad, low-acid mouthfeel, with ripe apple/pear fruit and a clean, lightly-minerally finish. Very easy to drink. Were it cheaper, it would be a great party white with broad appeal, and would also be ridiculously good with spicy Asian food. 88. Was $25 at Spec's on Smith, making it kind of pricy for such a casual style. Imported by Neal Rosenthal Selections.

2004 Optima CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Alexander Valley, Cal.)

Disappointing. An over-ripe, over-extracted, over-oaked behemoth. I usually love well-made Alexander Valley Cabs for their easy going texture, ripe berry fruit, and loamy gravel notes, but this had none of those qualities.

Nearly saturated black, black ruby. Rich nose of intensely oaky, scorched earth, with lots of baker's chocolate. Very little fruit. Tannic, massive, highly extracted flavors, again with little fruit and almost all inky, baker's chocolate flavors and lots of peppery heat from the too-high alcohol in the back of the throat. D. Was $18 from Wines 'til Sold Out. (I have 3 more bottles, so if the others turn out better, I will update with a new post. If not, I have a lot of expensive cooking wine).

2005 Chateau de Peyremorin (Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux)

A decent Bordeaux, but not a repeat purchase.

Dark ruby garnet with a tad bit of amber at the rim. No nose at first, but run through a Vinturi, it showed medium-intensity aromas of dark cherry, scorched earth, and smoky autumn leaves. A leaner, bone-dry style, with tight, dry black cherry fruit and some gravelly minerality. A fair amount of noticeable tannin. Probably not going to get any better. 85. Was about $15 at Spec's Warehouse on Westheimer and Montrose.

2007 Louis M. Martini CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Sonoma County)

This is the entry level Cabernet from this widely-available winery, and it's a solid effort.

Dark, blackish ruby. Ripe, inviting nose of ripe blackberry and sweet cream. Rich, mouthfilling blackberry fruit, with lots of soft, minerally-tinged tannin clinging to the palate. Not a complex or serious Cab, but satisfying, balanced, and fun to drink. 87. I believe I got this at Randall's on Weslayan for about $16, but it's available just about everywhere.

2006 Domaine Sorin BANDOL (Provence, France)

A very solid, classic Mourvedre from this appellation.

Very blackish ruby. Classic Bandol nose of smoky blackberry under a veneer of tree bark, with a touch of sweet cream. Tannic and ripe, with inky, palate-clinging flavors of dry blackberry extract, iodine, and gravel. Long, tannic finish. Needs another 2-4 years to soften and develop. 88+. Was about $26 at Spec's on Richmond. Imported by Bandol Wines LLC, of Houston.

2008 Ranch Zabaco ZINFANDEL "Sonoma Heritage Vines" (Sonoma County, Cal.)

Simple and grapy, but with a lot of flavor.

Nearly saturated purplish dark ruby. Nose of sweet crushed red grapes and boysenberries, with a touch of pine resin and sweet cream. Round, ripe, and soft, with simple, fruity, direct flavors. Full-bodies, with some tannin for physical structure underneath the thick fruit. Gutsy and direct, but not as complex as this wine usually is. 86. Decent value at $12.99 (just about everywhere).

2006 Quinta do Alqeve "Tradicional" (Ribatejo, Portugal)

I drank and enjoyed the 2001 of this several years ago, but this iteration was disappointing.

Thin, tight, with altogether too much acidity (much of it volatile acidity, i.e., acetic acid), with little redeeming flavor. Avoid. F.