Sunday, December 25, 2011

2009 Fausto ROSSO PICENO (Marche, Italy)

Rosso Piceno is the basic everyday red of the Marche region, and this one is a very direct, typical example.  It's a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese.  Not sure of the proportions in this example.  No delusions of grandeur or pretension: just straightforward and satisfying.  And a decent value as well.

Very dark black ruby/violet.  Strong scents of pungent gravel and tangy plums, along with a hint of parmesan cheese rind.  Direct and mouthfilling.  Loads of winey berry fruit and some rustic tannin are the strongest impressions.  Good acidity too.  Medium full body.  Would work well with meat braised in tomatoes and wine, or pasta with a meat sauce.  B.  Was $13 and change at Spec's on Smith.  Imported by Angelini Selections.

2009 Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres RASTEAU (Cotes du Rhone Villages) (France)

Needs a little time to open up, but it's a solid effort and a decent value.

Crystal clear dark ruby garnet color.  Closed the first night, with earthy, brambly scents predominating; the second night it was more friendly-smelling, with sweet baking spices, plummy dark berry fruit, crushed stone and dry gravel scents.  Soft, enveloping, warm flavors of dry blackberry and slightly scorched dry gravel.  A fair amount of tannin in the medium length, pure finish.  B.  I can't find the receipt, and can't remember where I got this, but I seem to recall it was under $15.  I'll come back and update if my memory suddenly sparks.  A Douglas Skopp Selection imported by Dionysus Imports.

(Sorry, 2004 shown)

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I previously reviewed the 2006 iteration of this wine -- which I liked a lot -- and I like this one equally.  Very favorable smell-and-flavor-to-price ratio.  Lots of bang for the buck.

Dark ruby garnet color.  Exuberant nose of almost pungent cherry and plum extract, baking spices, and crushed stone.  Intensely flavorful -- but not heavy or jammy at all -- with penetrating fruit attacking the palate.  Some fine-grained tannins give texture, with dark cherry extract fruit then turning just a tad bitter (in a good way) and earthy as the finish wore on.  Full-bodied, but with respectable acidity.  No heat at all in the long finish.  A textbook ripasso-style Valpo with loads of character.  A.  Was $18.99 at Central Market, making it a very good value.  Imported by Banville & Jones Wines.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2010 Dauvergne Ranvier LUBERON "Vin Gourmand" (Rhone Valley, France)

This was a great value.  Very old-fashioned southern Rhone flavor profile in a smooth-textured package.  A must buy for holiday parties, to have on hand when guests unexpected pop by, and for weeknight dinners.

Dark black ruby with magenta highlights.  Closed nose at first, but with air it displayed a rich, iodiney nose of dark sweet berries, baking spices, warm sandstone, and sweet cream.  Mouthfilling, with loads of texture from smooth nano-tannin, it had inky, iodine-laced dark berry syrup flavors.  Good acids for balance.  Performing way above its pay grade.  Imported by The Sorting Table, this was $10 and change at Spec's on Smith.  B+

2007 James Petit "Cuvee Ronsard" BOURGUEIL (Loire Valley, France)

A nice lighter style Loire red, its nose and flavors could not have been more cognitively dissonant.

A medium black ruby color, this wine's floral and sweet berry fruit nose suggested that this wouldn't be a typical, earthy, machine oil-tinged, bitter herbal Cab France . . . but not so!  The flavors screamed Cab Franc and had all the clingy, slightly bitter, earthy/herbal components you'd ever want, but in a lighter style, with very nice acids as well.  It went very well with a simply roasted chicken.  B.  Imported by Neal Rosenthal, this was about $22 at Spec's on Smith.

(Sorry, 2005 depicted).

2008 Chateau St. Jean de la Gineste CORBIÈRES "Vieilles Vignes" (Southern France)

A wine a geologist could love.  Wicked gravelly and stony.

Dark blackish ruby/garnet.  Intensely gravelly dark stony nose, with some dark berry fruit underneath.  Peppery, intensely stony flavors as well, with lots of cling and bite.  Good acidity and some tannic structure.  Shows loads of terroir but not a whole lot of friendly fruit.  Needs rustic food; not to be sipped by itself.  B-.  Was $11.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.  A Becky Wasserman Selection.

(Sorry, 2009 depicted)

Friday, December 09, 2011

2006 Ridge SYRAH "Lytton Estate" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

Our friends the Murphys bought this at Ridge when they were out there visiting a coupla months ago, and were nice enough to share it with us recently.  It's available only at the winery or if you're a member of the Ridge "Advanced Tasting Program" (which is well-worth being on if you have the wherewithal.)

It was outstanding.  Very much a "Ridge style" wine, with great depth, length, and linear flow, without being too heavy, too jammy, too alcoholic, or too tannic.  In other words, everything in perfect balance.  Great nose of dark, ripe berries, bacon drippings, and dry gravel.  Loved it.  Perfectly mature, though seemed like it could hold for several more years.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Mom & Dad's Visit -- last coupla rounds

Mom and Dad have gone back to Massachusetts, but we went through quite a few goods wines during the last week of their visit:

2007 "Rosso del Vulcano" AGLIANICO DEL VULTURE -- This was an excellent, balanced, flavorful, traditional styled Aglianico.  Great, minerally, gravelly nose with deep winey, berry fruit.  Excellent balance and persistence.  Not too tannic and, best of all, no smell or flavors of new French oak.  ($17.99 from Houston Wine Merchant).

2009 Chateau Thivin CÔTE DE BROUILLY  -- Outstanding old school Beaujolais.  Gobs of minerally, rich, crunchy cherry fruit.  Vivacious and deep-flavored.  Smooth, clingy, and refreshing.

2009 Domaine Diochon MOULIN-À-VENT "Cuvée Vieilles Vignes" -- This wine pointedly displayed  the typical difference between the neighboring Beaujolais applelations of Moulin-á-Vent and Cote de Brouilly (or the Moulins and ANY of the other Beaujolais appellations):  The Moulins are typically earthier, larger-framed, more structured and austere, and less overtly fruity.  (This one fit the profile to a "t".)  In a word, they are -- at least to me -- more challenging to drink.  Some would argue that makes it the best Beaujolais appellation.  I just think it's different, and I usually go for the non-Moulin style when I'm considering drinking a Beaujolais. 

2009 Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz RIESLING Spatlese (Rheingau, Germany) -- A fantastic, more than slightly sweet Riesling, with piercing peachy, apricot fruit, coupled with intensely minerally (almost petrolly) notes, and a dark tea leaf aspect.  Fantastically balanced, with outstanding acidity and a great, pure finish.  Loved it.

2010 King Estate "Vin Glacé" RIESLING (Oregon) -- This "fake" Eiswein (the grapes were harvested late and then frozen by the winemaker and crushed, as opposed to being harvested late while frozen, then crushed) was a fantastic buy in a dessert Riesling.  Intensely fruity, with loads of pure peach/apricot fruit, a tad bit of minerality, and intense acidity adding lift to the finish.  Was about $14 for the half bottle at Spec's on Smith, making it a steal for a delicious, lighter-styled  dessert wine.

2007 Selection Laurence Féraud GIGONDAS (Rhone Valley, France) -- A classically-styled Gigondas.  Loads of herbal, austere, iodiney-minerally fruit on the nose.  Fairly full, with that classic Gigondas austere feel, but with an excellent, clingy finish.  Great with winter stews and wine-braised pot roasts.

2008 Francine et Olivier Savary CHABLIS "Selection Vieilles Vignes" (No. Burgundy, France) -- A traditionally styled, austere, earthy, straw and broth-scented Chardonnay.  Lean, penetrating, and with loads of crisp, earth-tinged, apply fruit.  Very nice.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mom & Dad's Visit -- Round three

2009 Domaine Perraud MACON-VILLAGES "Vieilles Vignes" -- This unoaked Chardonnay was large-framed, earthy, with lots of wet straw and gravel scents, along with intense pear/apple fruit.  Very nice.

2010 Chateau Soucherie ROSE DE LOIRE "Cuvee L'Astree" -- This rose, which I believe is Cabernet Franc-based, was ridiculously crisp, fresh, floral and zesty, with excellent minerality and sweet/tart strawberry fruit.  Excellent.

2009 Three Vineyards "Old Vines Field Blend" (Contra Costa County, Cal.) -- Much bigger, riper, and in-your-face than the 2008 (which I've previously reviewed here), this wine would be an excellent choice on a cold fall or winter evening with a beef stew.

2008 Umani Ronchi LACRIMA DI MORRO D'ALBA "Fonte del Re" (Marche, Italy) -- This wine is grown in the hills where my grandfather was born, and is quite unique in its aromas and flavors.  It's got an intense, bitter dark plum/grape and licorice aroma, with a bit of dry gravelly earth, and is both mouth-filling and palate-cleansing at the same time.  Very nice accompaniment to rich, meat and tomato sauces and braises.

2002 Selbach RIESLING EISWEIN (Mosel, Germany) -- Wow.  Light tawny-copper color.  Intense, complex nose leaps out, with honey, apricot, bright citrusy acids, and sweet earth.  Utterly ridiculous in the mouth, with mouthfilling richness and honeyed, intensely sweet fruit, but juxtaposed with such vibrant intense acids that it literally makes your mouth water.  Fantastic, long finish.  In 500 ml bottle, so a little more to enjoy than the typical dessert 375.  This wine will last another several years.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mom & Dad's visit -- next few rounds

Louis Roederer CHAMPAGNE Brut Premier -- Very nice, toasty, yeasty, apply scented, on the lighter side but with a very long, crisp finish and great persistence of bubbles.

2010 Pascal Granger "La Jacarde" BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES BLANC (!) -- A rare white Beaujolais, from Chardonnay grapes and completely unoaked.  It has a ridiculously fresh, fruity fragrance with crisp peach and ripe apple fruit, and was nicely balanced, medium-light bodied, and as fresh as cotton sheets lined-dried on a crisp, sunny fall day.  ($21 at Houston Wine Merchant).  Get this.

2008 Core GRENACHE Santa Barbara County -- Tasted like freshly crushed plum and raspberry juice.  Very unusual, but good.  After a couple of days an herbal side came out.

2008 Chono SYRAH (Elqui Valley, Chile) -- Previously reviewed here, this wine remains a fantastic value.  (Available at Houston Wine Merchant and at Central Market).

2009 August Kesseler SPATBURGUNDER (Pinot Noir) ROSE (Rheingau, Germany) -- Fragrant, with crisp, light cherry and floral fruit, and surprisingly large -framed for a German wine.  Unique and good.

2006 Ottimino ZINFANDEL "Von Weidlich Vineyard" (Russian River Valley, Cal.) -- Very elegant Zin, showing the classic profile of a Zin with some bottle age, which tends to mute the up-front fruit and bring out a brambly quality.  More depth than the previously reviewed "Ottimino Vineyard" bottling from this producer.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mom & Dad's visit -- first few wines

Mom and Dad are down from New England for a visit, and that means breaking out some of the "non-value-oriented-stuff."  After all, they deserve it, and at their age, making the trip is pretty grueling.

2010 Cantina Terlan PINOT BIANCO (Alto Adige, Italy) -- I expected a leaner, more minerally expression of Pinot Bianco, given the climate and the vintage, but this was a bit fatter than I'm used to seeing in Italian whites, with very good, straightforward apple and slightly underripe peach fruit.

2008 Three Wine Company "OLD VINES FIELD BLEND" (Contra Costa County, Cal.) -- I previously reviewed and liked this very much, and it's still drinking really well.  Deep, soft, a little earthy, and with good weight and balance.

2009 Jakob Schneider NIEDERHAUSER HERMANNSHOHLE RIESLING SPATLESE (Nahe, Germany) -- A ridiculously pure, sweet, and crisp Riesling.  Unbelievable purity and intensity of fruit.  Sweeter and riper (seemed more like an Auslese) and would have served beautifully as a refreshing dessert wine.  As it an aperitif, which was how we drank it, it was maybe a tad too sweet for most tastes, but we all thought it was killer.

 2008 Poggio Antico ROSSO DI MONTALCINO (Tuscany, Italy) -- Very low-toned in the nose and flavors, with deep bass berry fruit buried under loads of minerally, schist-rich gravelly scents. Drinking very well now.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

2009 Chateau La Tour Beraud COSTIERES DE NIMES (Southern Rhone, France)

Go to Spec's on Smith and get some of the value-priced, loaded-with-character gem!  This blend of Syrah, Grenache, Marselan (a grape that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache), and Mourvedre was intensely-flavored, balanced, and very old school in style, with lots of earthy, iodiney notes augmenting the spicy fruit.

Dark black ruby with a bit of magenta-tinting.  Intense nose of tangy blackberry and boysenberry fruit, accented with quite a snootful of iodine-infused dark stony gravel scents.  Intensely clingy, dark flavors of deeply-roasted herbs, slightly bitter blackberry extract, and scorched, iodiney earth.  Full-bodied, but with good overall balance.  This is a muscular, old-fashioned style Southern Rhone with lots of oomph but in a slightly more civilized frame than you'd expect.  A-.  Was $13 and change at Spec's on Smith.  Imported by Rhone specialist J&R Selections.

2006 Ottimino ZINFANDEL "Ottimino Vineyard" (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Cal.)

Ottimino is a relatively small production Zinfandel specialist known for making structured, age-worthy, balanced Zins that have lower alcohol and less jamminess than many of Zin producers that get more press.  The Russian River Valley is a little cooler than most of the other regions where Zin is grown in Sonoma and Napa, so I imagine that makes it a bit easier to achieve this style there.  This wine, from one of the younger vineyards Ottimino bottles, was very good.  As the vines get older, I expect wines from this vineyard to add a little more depth to the mid-palate.

Surprisingly youthful (for a 5 year old Zin) dark ruby color.  Deep nose of ripe blackberry, smoky peat, and baker's chocolate (the latter probably from new oak).  In the mouth, an immediate rich presence of inky, chocolatey, plummy fruit coats the mouth, and there quite a bit of tannin too.  A little hollowness in the mid-palate then leads to a dark, smoky, chocolatey finish where the tannin coating the sides of your mouth is the last thing to leave.  Drink over the next 2 years.  B+.    I got this as part of a 6-bottle Ottimino sampler from, at a price that worked out to about $22 per bottle.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

2007 "El Castro de Valtuille" MENCIA Joven (Bierzo, Spain)

This intensely-extracted wine, made from the indigenous Mencia varietal, needs 3-5 more years of cellaring, but is enjoyable now if you're not averse to a bit of a tannic blast.

Almost completely saturated black ruby.  Rich nose of dark, blackberry extract, scorched earth, and pungent crushed stones.  Tannic, rich, dry, and slightly astringent in the mouth.  A highly-extracted bruiser of a wine.  Good length, bone dry.  B(+).  Was $16.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.  Imported by Boutique Wine Collection, Phila., PA.

2007 Louis Jadot SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE PREMIER CRU "LA DOMINODE" (Red Burgundy, France)

Not worth the $30 price or up to the premier cru pedigree.  Too thin and angular.

Medium light ruby garnet.  Medium intensity nose of tart, wild cherry fruit and pungent crushed stones, with a hint of freshly-baked bread.  Loose, somewhat diluted flavors of sharp, bone dry, winey cherry fruit and dry, stony minerals, with a squeeze of lemon rind.  Good acidity, a little bit of tannin.  A bit of bitterness in the disappointingly short finish.  This wouldn't be worth complaining about if it were a $15 generic Bourgogne Rouge, but at double that price and from a premier cru vineyard, disappointing.  B-.  Was $30 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2006 Terra del Re AGLIANICO DEL VULTURE "Vultui" (Campagnia, Southern Italy)

A highly-extracted, tannic red that may not have the fruit to outlive the tannin.  Fairly nice now if you don't mind a bit of rusticity.

Completely saturated black ruby with a brickish tint.  Reasonably deep, low-toned nose of dark plummy fruit, menthol, and pungently minerally earth.  Intensely tannic in the mouth, with somewhat rough, mouthcoating flavors of dry blackberry and scorched, stony minerals.  Good acidity for such a big boy.  The tannin suggests more age is required to smooth it out, but the modest fruit concentration might not be up to the task.  I'm on the fence as to whether to drink this now or risk it and wait another 2-3 years.  B.  Was $22.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.  Imported by Empson Selections.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

2010 Domaine Balandras MÂCON-SERRIÈRES "Les Gravières" (Red!) (Southern Burgundy, France)

A very fun 100% Gamay red from the Mâcon region, which is almost exclusively known for its inexpensive whites from the Chardonnay grape.  Consider it a nice, but obscure, alternative to Beaujolais (which is the adjoining region known for its reds).

Dark ruby garnet color.  Direct, crushed rock-infused crisp dark cherry and grape aromas.  Lively, medium-bodied and flavorful, this wine isn't very concentrated or complex, but balanced, crisp, and untiring to drink.  Lots of crisp, dark cherry flavors.  Clean, medium long finish.  When you are in the mood for a refreshing wine to have with dinner, this is a great choice.  Will go well with a wide range of dishes.  B.  Imported by Fruit of the Vines.  I can't find the receipt for this one.  I think I may have gotten it for about $15 at Central Market, but don't quote me on that.

(Sorry - 2005 depicted).

2009 Domaine la Soleiade VACQUEYRAS (Southern Rhône, France)

A solid value, flavorful Côtes du Rhône.  55% Grenache, 45% Syrah.

 Very dark dark mulberry ruby.  Medium intensity nose of cassis, sweet blackberry extract, crushed dark stones, and a bit of scorched earth.  Rich, deep, and tannic, with extracted dark berry fruit and stony earth/iodiney flavors.  Good weight, good balance, and good length.  Could use, and should improve with, 2-3 years of cellaring.  B+.  $14.99 on sale at Whole Foods on Bellaire.  Imported by Fruit of the Vines.

2009 Palama "Arcangelo" PRIMITIVO (Puglia, Italy)

Simple, flavorful, and interesting, with a tad of residual sugar, but definitely worth the on-sale price of $5.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.

Medium soft ruby garnet color.  Sweet tangy, plummy/grapy fruit, with a tiny bit of high-toned rock dust.  Soft and ripe, with jiggly plum and very slightly prunish fruit.  Unstructured and fleshy, in a loose sort of way.  A tad bit of residual sugar, but otherwise a clean, pure, fruity finish.  Medium full body.  B-.  Imported by Small Vineyards Selections.

2007 Lolonis ZINFANDEL (Redwood Valley, Mendocino County)

A lively, full-flavored good value, and organic to boot!

Very bright crystalline dark ruby/garnet.  Bright, spicy black raspberry and black cherry fruit, accented with some noticeable but unobtrusive American oak.  Vigorous spicy black raspberry fruit in the mouth.  Some tannin clings the walls of your mouth, but it's soft.  Good acids.  Finish is fairly long and has some nice zing to it.  Not a complex or super-deep Zin, but a total pleasure to drink either alone or with a meal.  B+.  Was $16.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

2007 Hans Wirsching SILVANER Dry (Franken, Germany)

This was a fragrant, fun white that would be a great wine to bring to a friend's house for dinner in a brown bag to stump all the guests.

Light, brassy gold with greenish glints.  Exuberant, and, surprisingly for a 4 year old white, youthful scents of green apples, gooseberries, and dark, sweet stony minerals.  After that nose, one would expect the wine to have some significant weight in the mouth, but unbelievably, it has virtually no weight at all.  Despite its weightlessness, it's got some nice, dry flavors of green apple juice and stones.  Good acidity keeps it lively, and it has a clean, herb-tinged finish.  Very unique!  B+ on an absolute quality scale, but maybe an A- if you factor in uniqueness.  A Rudi Wiest Selection (great German importer), this wine was $13 at Spec's on Weslayan/Bissonnett.

"Little James Basket Press" (St. Cosme) (non-vintage, but says "Bottled in year 2010) (Rhone Valley, France)

This non-vintage Rhone blend is always a good value.

Sultry, nearly saturated black ruby.  Earthy, gravelly nose with ripe, low-toned raspberryish fruit.  Soft, mouthfilling flavors feature lots of minerally stoniness and bone dry dark berry fruit, along with a bit of scorched earth.  Little bit of tannin in the finish.  Good balance and relatively full body.  Excellent choice for a very good weekday dinner wine.  Solid B.  Imported by The Stacole Company.  Was about $10 at Spec's on Smith.

2009 Christophe Cordier "Les Grandes Plantes" BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES (France)

A simple, modern-style Beaujolais in the Georges Deboeuf style.  I'm not a fan of this style, but if you like Deboeuf wines you will certainly like this better than I did.

Vibrant, purple-tinged dark ruby.  Straightforward black cherry and berry fruit on the nose.  Lacks that piercing cracked-stone minerality of the old-school Beaujolais I like.  Direct, mouthfilling ripe fruit coats the mouth, but at least it's completely dry, so cloyingness is minimized.  Good acidity, and a short, direct finish, with a surprising amount of tannin.  C+/B-.  Imported by Robert Kacher, this wine was $18 at Spec's on Weslayan/Bissonnett.

2009 Cartlidge & Brown ZINFANDEL (Sonoma County, Cal.)

Cheap and flavorful but not in the style I prefer -- it was very oaky.

Dark ruby color with a slight brickish tinge.  Ripe, low-toned sweet berry and vanilla-oak scents, with some loamy soil notes underneath.  Ripe, mouthfilling, soft, and full.  A tad of residual sugar.  Simple red berry and oak flavors, with a clean, decent finish.  B-.  About $12 at Spec's.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2008 Cuvée de Peña VDP Pyrénées Orientales (Southwest France)

Grown not too far from Basque country the Catalonia region of Spain, I haven't seen this value red in several years.  It's still a great value, and still very good.  Ugly label, however.  One of the ugliest I've seen in a while.  A blend of 40% Grenache, 38% Carignan, 12% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre.

Dark blackish ruby.  After significant airing, a medium intensity nose of mixed berry fruit and smoky, slightly scorched earth emerges.  Very nice in the mouth -- soft, but with some nice tannic structure; ripe and mouthfilling, but not too heavy or too low in acidity.  Long, minerally finish.  B+.  Fantastic buy at around $8 at Spec's on Weslayan/Bissonnett.  Imported by Hand Picked Selections.

2008 Domaine de Fontsainte CORBIÈRES (Southern France)

Good, solid red, but not a repeat purchase.  It's a blend of 60% Carignan; 30% Grenache Noir; 10% Syrah.

Very dark, blackish ruby.  Soft, somewhat shy nose of gently-smoky gravel and crushed blackberries.  Soft-textured in the mouth, with medium intensity dark berry fruit and a slight unsweetened cocoa-tinged gravelly earthiness.  Finishes a bit short, but the medium-bodied wine has nice balance and is easy to drink.  B.  Drink over the next 18 months.  Imported by Kermit Lynch, I got this for $14.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.

2009 VIÑA BORGIA (Campo de Borja, Spain)

This dirt cheap 100% Garnacha is usually an excellent and reliable value, but the 2009 was not quite as good as in previous vintages.

Very dark ruby with a slight violet tinge.  Angular nose of dried wicker and dusty black cherry.  Chalky, slightly bitter dry cherry syrup flavors, leaving a flat-ish bitter note coating the mouth.  Not bad, but I'd skip this vintage wait until the 2010s appear.  C+.  About $7 at Spec's.

2009 Chono Chardonnay "San Lorenzo Estate" (Maipo Valley, Chile)

Great value in a bright, flavorful, unoaked Chardonnay.

Very light, bright gold color.  Bright, intense nose of crushed limestone powder and crisp apply fruit.  So bright and tingly on the nose it almost makes you want to sneeze.  Smells like a good Macon on steroids and caffeine.  Intensely minerally, stony flavors with puckery lemon juice and green apple fruit.  No traces of oak whatsoever, and all the better for it.  Not complex, but loaded with true character.  B+.  Was $12.99 at Houston Wine Merchant.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2005 Tabarrini MONTEFALCO SAGRANTINO "Grimaldesco" (Umbria, Italy)

Another wine Angy & I opened during his visit, from the unique Sagrantino varietal that is, I believe, grown only in Umbria.  This one shared the unique intensely spiced nose (cinnamon was closest I could come to describing it) and huge weight I've seen in the few other Sagrantinos I've drunk, but it was more minerally than others I've had.  It was also extremely tannic.  A large framed, chiseled wine for the long haul.  Pretty good acids.  It was a little rough to sip on its own, but once we started in on the rich braised lamb shanks we had, it went very well, cutting through the richness of the dish.  I think I got this from B-21 Wines in Florida several months ago for $39.

Short notes on wines from my brother's visit

My brother Angy (Angelo) was visiting over the weekend.  Drank some good stuff and cooked some good Italian food.  Here are the quick notes from memory (I didn't have time in all the activity to take contemporaneous, detailed notes).

2006 Nino Negri VALTELLINA SUPERIORE "Quadrio" (Lombardy, Italy) -- Nebbiolos from the Valtellina are an inconsistent lot.  At their best, they are fragrant, lean, lighter versions of the more familiar Nebs from Piemonte.  At their worst, they are just plain thin.  Not sure if it's a tendency to overcrop in this region or just the difficulty of growing Nebbiolo in the Alpine foothills.  This was a good one.  Classic Nebbiolo nose of piercing dried cherry, laced with the stoney minerals this region can display.  ($20 from Houston Wine Merchant.)

2005 Nicolas Joly SAVENNIERES "Les Clos Sacres" (Loire Valley) -- Try as I might I just haven't been able to get into dry Chenin Blancs.  I don't get the allure.  Even this biodynamically grown version from one of the region's most respected winemakers wasn't all that pleasurable.  Pungent nose showing some intensely-petrolly (verging on nail polish) scents overpowering some ripe guava fruit.  Some oxidation showed though in the back half of the palate, which is disappointing given this wine's reputation to age for a few years.

2000 Giuseppi Quintarelli VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy) -- From one of Italy's most revered and iconoclastic old-school winemakers, this cult Valpo absolutely ROCKED.  Every sniff and sip was different as this wine went through an amazing metamorphosis.  Plums, berries, smoke, earth, humus, baking spices, peat, this list of flavors and smells went on until we killed it.  Was $70 from Houston Wine Merchant.  Outrageously pricey for a Valpo, I know, but I hadn't had a Quintarelli wine since I was living in NYC in the 80s, and when I saw it just before Angy's trip, I had to get it.  (Sorry, 1999 shown.)

2007 Storybook Mountain Vineyards ZINFANDEL "Mayacamas Range" (Napa Valley, Cal.) -- I vacillate between Storybook and Ridge as my favorite Zin producer, but I guess I have to give a slight edge to Storybook.  The purity, elegance, and understatedly firm structure is unique among California Zins.  This one was a real treat, showing ridiculously pure cherry/black raspberry fruit, excellent stony minerality, and no noticeable oak intruding on any of its inherent virtues.  Fantastic balance, texture, and length.  Was around $30 at Spec's on Smith a couple of months ago . . . not sure if they have any left.