Saturday, April 23, 2011

2009 REDS "Old Vines" (Lodi, Cal.)

Long-time readers know I'm usually pretty critical of wines from Lodi, but I wanted to give this one a shot because it's made by Patrick Campbell, former owner of Laurel Glen, who made his reputation making stellar Sonoma Cabernets, but apparently has quit that to focus on making Lodi wines.

This blend of primarily old vine Zin, along with old vine Carignane and Petite Sirah was a good, solid wine, with lots of flavor, but it's still got that muddled fruit thing that I find in lots and lots of Lodi reds. By muddled, I mean that the fruit just doesn't seem as vibrant and focused as that from similarly old vines in other well-regarded regions. But this doesn't have it nearly as much as most Lodi old vine Zins.

Almost saturated violet-tinged black ruby. Winey nose of minerals and ripe, tangy generic berry fruit. Lots of that generic berryness hits the palate right away but fades pretty quickly into a full-bodied winey character. Not as flabby, loamy, or muddled as most Lodi reds. B. For $8 and change (at Spec's on Smith), it's a good, solid value, but it's kind of a blunt instrument. Of course, at that price-point, there isn't much that's much better, but I generally prefer a good, cheap, zesty Spanish Garnacha or fuller, richer Monastrell.

(I also bought a bottle of Campbell's 2009 ZaZIN!, which is basically his best selection of super-old vine Zin from the best sub-area in Lodi, and am hopeful that that one will finally sell me on Lodi. We'll see.)

2009 Bernard Baudry CHINON ROSÉ (Loire Valley, France)

Wow. This was a fantastic rosé, and -- amazingly -- seems so youthful that it could last another year and maintain its current energy.

Gorgeous light salmon pink. Great nose -- strawberry, fresh, crisp grapes, saline chalk, rocky earth, and wisps of talcum powder. Outrageously pure and laser-focused flavors, with mouthwatering, crisp, ripe fruit, buoyant acids, and wonderfully clean, persistent minerality throughout. Great freshness and length too. Dang! A. Imported by Louis Dressner Selections. I can't remember where got this. I believe it was around $18-$20.

(Sorry: 2007 shown)

Monday, April 18, 2011

2007 Saintsbury "Cerise Vineyard" PINOT NOIR (Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, Cal.)

This Pinot Noir actually has a lot in common with some of the old school (70s era) Nebbiolo wines I've drunk from Barbaresco -- particularly in respect to its intense, piercing chokecherry fruit. If I were served this blind, I would have vacillated between the two varietals. It's very good.

Dark ruby color. The nose required a lot of air time to develop (that's even WITH pouring it through a Vinturi). It was only on the second night that it really showed, although even then it wasn't the most exuberant. Concentrated, almost resiny chokecherry extract, along with some maple syrup scents and warm gravelly notes. Intense, but almost restrained flavors -- you could almost taste the potential energy of this wine. Ripe chokecherry extract fruit, a toasty earthiness, and lots of minerality. Very long, powerful finish. This will improve in a cool cellar for a few years. A-. I bought this as part of a horizontal Saintsbury single vineyard set from awhile back for about $27/bottle.

2009 Domaine Couillaud CHARDONNAY (VDP Nantais, Loire Valley, France)

This Chardonnay was grown in the general vicinity of Muscadet, and I usually like the crisp, unoaked, minerally style of the Chardonnays from this region. This one is a nice, solid, Macon-style wine.

Light, bright gold color with a greenish glint. Lively, straw-inflected nose of bitter pear and juicy peach pits, along with a touch of grassiness included in its pungent mineral component. Full-flavored and dry, this features ripe, dry pear fruit, along with a bit more body than is usual for Chardonnays from this region (no doubt due to the hot 2009 growing season). Decent acidity buoys up this virtually unoaked style just enough to keep from getting tiring to drink. Imported by Vineyard Brands. B. Was $10 and change at Spec's on Richmond.

Friday, April 15, 2011

2006 Trinitas ZINFANDEL "Old Vine" (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

I really like the various "old vine" Zins and other varietals and blends I've had from this unique grape-growing area. The soil is absolutely unique in California in that its deep, almost pure sand with very little organic material. The wines tend to have a slow-building depth of flavor, and there's more similarities across varietals here than there are similarities with the same varietals grown in other areas of California.

This one -- made from 100+ year old vines -- was very nice and an excellent value.

Dark mulberryish ruby color. Looked more youthful than a 5-year old Zin. The first night there was a medium intensity, dark and brooding nose of baker's chocolate, dusty blackberries, and warm gravel scents. There were similarly dark, low-toned flavors that exuded a quiet power, with inky blackberry extract, charred sandstone, and lots of minerals (and a bit of black peppercorn). On night two, it was much more fruit-forward, with intense, clingy blackberry fruit throughout the palate and into the very long finish. Mouth-coating extract but no jamminess whatsoever. The second night it displayed a lot more tannic structure too. Unlike most Zinfandels, I think this one could age well another 2-3 years. The first night I gave it a B+, but on night 2 I upped it to an A-. Was $14 and change at Spec's on Smith.

2008 Marquis Philips GRENACHE (McLaren Vale, Australia)

This was a loose, jiggly harlot of a wine. A bit too ripe and jammy for me, but very flavorful.

Medium light ruby color. Rich nose of baked raspberries, sandstone dust, and baking spices. Big, blowsy, almost overripe high-alcohol flavors of warm raspberry syrup and melted metallic minerals. Lots of heat and jammy fruit on the finish. Is there such a thing as a promiscuous wine? It was a good buy (if you like this style) at $7.99 on sale at World Marketplace (I think the regular price was $10). B-.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2008 Clos Chanteduc COTES DU RHONE (65% Grenache, 35% Syrah) (France)

Very straightforward, although well made. It just didn't spark anything more than casual interest.

Dark ruby with magenta highlights. Clean, moderately fragrant nose of plummy, blackberry fruit and high-toned, Pez-inflected rock dust. Soft, mouthfilling, fruity, and direct, with full body and decent acid balance. No complexity to speak of, but has a nice, clean finish with a tiny bit of bitterness and tannin noticeable in the finish. B-. Imported by Eric Solomon. Was $18 at

Friday, April 08, 2011

2007 Catherine & Pierre Breton BOURGUEIL "Les Galichets" (Loire Valley, France)

A lighter, more terroir-driven style of Cab Franc than I usually go for, but I liked it a lot. Unfiltered and made from organically grown grapes.

Very dark, clear black ruby with a bit of youthful violet highlighting remaining. Interesting nose of smoky caramel, dry underbrush, black cherry, licorice, and the classic Cab Franc "mineral oil" scents. Round, soft-textured, and vibrant in the mouth, with crisp acids and dark cherry fruit accompanied by a woodsy note. Medium-light bodied, with a pure, crisp, but lengthy finish. It went really nicely with baked macaroni with cheese. Might not be everyone's style, but I was very happy with it. B+. Imported by Louis Dressner Selections, I got this for $25 from in Scarsdale.

2006 d'Arenberg GRENACHE "The Derelict Vineyard" (McLaren Vale, Australia)

This was really good. I just love good Aussie Grenaches. They're the AC/DC of reds. Put on "For Those About to [Drink], We Salute You," and have at it. Anyway, this one was a bit less jammy and corpulent, and a bit more structured, than many from down under. But all the better for it.

Bright black ruby. Fragrant nose of bright, mineral-infused raspberry extract. Concentrated flavors, and a bit tighter in the mouth than most high-end Aussie Grenaches, it features intensely stony, spicy, raspberry fruit, as well as good weight and acids. Clingy, still somewhat tannic finish. This wine, atypically, will benefit from another year or two of aging. A-. Was $26 at Spec's on Smith.

2008 LE PIGEOULET EN PROVENCE VDP Vaucluse (Rhone Valley, France

I had higher hopes for this wine, since it was about $20 and imported by Kermit Lynch. But, alas, it tasted like a cheap-o, mediocre Cotes du Rhone.

Dark ruby/garnet. Medium intensity nose of scorched earth, some vaguely stony minerals, and a bit of black cherry. Lean in the mouth, with some sharp, angular edges initially, giving way to some spicy cherry fruit in the still-lean mid palate. C. I wouldn't complain at $8, but at $20, I am. Got it at Houston Wine Merchant.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

2008 Yalumba SHIRAZ "Patchwork" (Barossa Valley, Australia)

A very nice, not over-blown or overly jammy Shiraz.

Almost completely saturated soft, blackish plasma color. Rich and inviting nose of sappy blackberry, salty, warm sandstone, and creamy baking spices. Dark, low-toned, ripe flavors of rich plum/blackberry juice, saline sandstone-infused earthiness, and smoky balsa wood. Clingy finish with a tad bit of peppery bite, low-ish acidity (but not too low), and a bit of soft tannin. Fun to drink and actually pretty elegant for an Aussie Shiraz. B+. Was $14 and change at Spec's on Richmond.

2008 Leonce Bocquet MACON (Rouge) (Southern Burgundy, France)

It's funny. Macon and Beaujolais are right next to each other. Both make Chardonnay based whites and Gamay based reds. But Beaujolais' reds are better than their whites, and Macon's whites better than their reds. But when I ever see a Macon rouge, I always give it a try and root for the exception. This was not it, but it was a decent quaffing wine.

Very light bright ruby. High-toned nose of almost Kool Aid-like blackberry and cherry, along with rock dust. Light, gulpable flavors of cherry and light minerality. Slug this back with a plate of good salami, coppa, or other good quality cured meats and bread. B-. Imported by Patriarche Pere . Was $12 and change at Spec's on Richmond.

(Sorry, can't find a photo.)