Monday, January 31, 2011

2008 Domaine Sarrabelle GAILLAC "Croix Blanche" (Southwest France)

This is the best value I've had in many months! And from an area of France I know little about, and from two varietals (80% Duras, 20% Braucol) that I know nothing about. (Braucol is also known elsewhere as Fer Servadou.)
I love making discoveries like this!

Dark black ruby with bright magenta highlights. Poured through a Vinturi, it displayed a gorgeous nose of high-toned, spiced berries with dense plumes of wispy rock microdust. Lively and fairly concentrated, with crisp yet ripe berry fruit in the mouth, along with the cleanest, most refreshing and pure-tasting stony finish. This was fantastic with roast chicken, and would also pair nicely with grilled red or white meats. Bone dry, and with still some unresolved tannin, this wine is wonderful now and should last nicely another year or two. A. Imported by Jon-David Headrick Selections, this wine was only $9.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire. Get some!

2009 Villa Ponciago FLEURIE "La Reserve" (Beaujolais, France)

A good, solid cru Beaujolais. Pretty decent value for its pedigree.

Dark, vivid ruby with magenta highlights. Initially, a low-toned, very "animal" nose. The next day (after being under a Vacu-Vin closure), loads of very juicy fruit led off, with grapey berries, mixed with earthy, stony dust, and a spiced lemon component. Round, direct flavors ripe cherry fruit and liquid minerals. The finish is all minerals. Make sure to let this puppy breathe to get the fruit to come through. B+. Imported by Henriot Imports. Was $16.99 at Spec's on Richmond.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Going from numeric scores to A+, A, A-, B+, B, etc.

You know, I'm just not sure I really can consistently cut it quite that fine. About the only real difference for me between what I consider to be an 87 point wine and an 88 point wine is that I usually am willing to buy an 88 point wine again if it's a good value. Beyond that, who knows what the difference is? But that's just me. It's way more important to read the tasting notes and see if that sounds like something that would taste good to you.

On a related note, I've been asked why I don't have many wines in the C range or below. Many times, if the wine really sucks, I won't blog on it. But if the wine really should have been good but wasn't, I'll try to let my 7 readers know so they won't make the same mistake I did. Also, from experience, I'm pretty good at making educated guesses at what's going to be good or not. (Turning the label around and checking for a top-flight importer is a big headstart.)

Anyway, so long numeric scores. Hello, slightly-fudgier letter grades. (Anything A- or higher I will continue to label as "90 or better.")

2009 M5 Monastrell (Yecla, Spain)

A very good value, ripe, soft, concentrated red -- in the smoother, lower-acid style.

Vivid dark black ruby. Ripe, low-toned, friendly aromas of woodsy blackberry juice and crushed rocks. Soft, concentrated, and juicy in the mouth. loads of very pure blackberry fruit and a finish that morphs into cocoa-y, clingy, smoky, gravelly flavors. Loads of very soft tannin. Very drinkable right now, it will last another year or so at this level. A sure crowd-pleaser. B+/A-. Imported by Patrick Mata's Olé Imports. Was $12 at World Market Place (Richmond/West Loop).

2008 Speri "Vigneto La Roverina" VALPOLICELLA (Veneto, Italy)

Another textbook, flavorful, light-ish, food-friendly Valpo.

Medium dark ruby garnet. Nice nose of almond paste and ripe, winey cherries, along with crushed stones. High-toned, bright flavors of crisp cherries and minerals. Medium light bodied, with refreshing acids. Bone dry, minerally finish. B+/A-. I think this was around $16 at Central market, but I can't find the receipt. Imported by Empson USA.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2007 Marietta CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Alexander Valley, Cal.)

Very nice example of the big, ripe, earthy Alexander Valley style, but not overblown or overoaked, as so many California Cabernets are these days.

Saturated black ruby. Rich and intense nose: ripe cassis syrup, pungent graphite and liquid minerals. Attacks the palate with almost overripe dark berry and cassis fruit, giving way to smoky, sweet earth and tobacco notes. Lots of mouthcoating but fairly soft tannin. Very full-bodied. 88. Was $25.99 at Central Market.

2008 Casal Farneto LACRIMA DI MORRO D'ALBA "Rosae" (Marche, Italy)

Unfamiliar with this wine, I wrongly assumed it was from Piemonte because of the word "Alba" in the name, but my brother set me straight: it's from the Marche, where my ancestors are from, so I should have known!

In any event, this is a unique and really good wine.

Dense purple-tinged ruby. Big, crunchy, grapey nose with fair amount of minerals. Massive amounts of dense, crunchy, richly grapey fruit in a very outgoing style. Direct and mouthfilling. Dry, but as fruit-filled as can be. This would be really fun to drink in the summertime with a little chill on it. Loads of pure fruit in the finish but with a touch of bitterness to offset all that fruit. Nice change of pace! 88. Imported by Enotec Imports, Denver. Was $15.99 at Houston Wine Merchant. (We'll just click on "under $15" so I can get you to try it.)

2007 Albert Seltz RIESLING (Alsace, France)

A chunky, dry style of Riesling. Not elegant, but full of flavor.

Medium gold color. Earthy, peach pit and dark mineral nose. Round, mouthfilling, and ripe. Loads of peach/pear fruit and lots of earthy/chalky minerals. Full-bodied. Dry, or nearly so, with a long finish. Very good value -- this was about $18 at Central Market, if I remember correctly. 88. Domaine Select Imports.

2007 Isole e Olena CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

A ripe, earthy, fleshy style of Chianti. Not what I normally go for, but I liked it a lot anyway.

Medium ruby garnet. Fragrant nose of wet gravel, sandstone, smoky balsa wood, blackberries, and sweet, dried cherries. Rich, ripe, and complex -- a lower acid, riper style -- with broad flavors of sweet cherri liqueur, smoke, tobacco, and minerally earth. Very good concentration. Very long finish. 90. Drink over the next 18 months. Was $17.99 from B-21 Wines in Florida. Imported by Stacole Wines.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2009 Artazuri GARNACHA (Navarra, Spain)

A ripe, flavorful, soft, food-friendly bargain for drinking over the next year.

Dark ruby with magenta highlights. After airing, a vividly ripe nose featuring ripe raspberries, tomatoes, and wet stones. Mouthfilling, ripe, direct fruit coats the mouth, with some briary earthiness in the back half of the palate. Not a complex wine, but soft and flavorful. Medium length, clean finish. A very good value and would work with lots of foods (pastas with red sauces, pizza, grilled burgers, fajitas, etc.) Nice weekday wine. 87. Was about $10 at Spec's. Imported by Eric Solomon.

2009 Nobilo Icon PINOT NOIR (Marlborough, New Zealand)

An open, flavorful P.N. that was slightly marred by a flat-feeling vegetal component in the back half of the palate.

Dark ruby garnet. Ripe, open, inviting nose of sweet, sappy cherries (identifiably P.N.), brown sugar, crushed rocks, and a freshly-mowed weeds component. Mouthfilling, direct Pinot flavors on entry (ripe cherry and subtle, minerally earth), but developing the aforementioned slightly flat, vegetal component as the seconds went by. Still, hard to complain at this price point (under $20 at Central Market), since modestly-priced, good P.N.s are very hard to find. 86.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

2008 Les Clos de Caillou COTES DU RHONE "Vieilles Vignes" (France)

Fantastic Cotes du Rhone, although not cheap either. Showing off the Grenache side of the Rhone family.

(These notes are from memory, as I had this at the house of some friends and didn't take contemporaneous notes). Medium dark black ruby. Sinfully pure nose of spicy, tangy dark raspberries, crushed stones and roasted herbs. Pure, soft, and mouthfilling, with great fruit/acid balance. Long, pure, soft finish. 90. I got this in northwest Austin at the Whole Foods just off of 183. It was $23. Imported by North Berkeley Imports.

2006 Domaine Gouron CHINON "Terroir" (Loire Valley, France)

A classic Cab Franc from Chinon. It's a style of wine that really takes awhile to develop a taste for, but it has slowly grown on me over the last 10 years and I find it pairs with lots of foods. I had this with nicely-browned pork chops finished in a white wine, mustard and cream sauce.

Dark, charcoalish ruby. Closed, tight, and earthy the first day. After three days in a Vacu-Vin closure, it was superb. (Would it be sacrilegious to say that on the third day, it rose?) Fragrant nose of black cherry, cherry cake icing, toasted walnut oil, and burning fall leaves. Ripe, dark cherry fruit, with crisp, refreshing acidity and a fair amount of chalky tannin. This wine will improve over the next two years or so. 88+. Imported by Massanois Imports (a Francks Signature Wines selection). Was about $15 from Zachys in NY, making it an excellent value.

2009 Eve & Michel Rey JULIENAS "Les Paquelets Tres Vieilles Vignes" (Beaujolais, France)

Outstanding! My kind of wine. Damn, I love good, old-fashioned Beaujolais. Interestingly, the magenta capsule presages the vivid ruby-magenta color of the wine.

Piercing, ripe but tangy scents of plum and boysenberry, along with abundant crushed rock notes. Lithe in the mouth, yet with concentrated fruit and stony mineral flavors that cling and linger. Actually a fair amount of tannin (surprising for a Beaujolais -- even a cru like this one). Excellent and vigorous now, this will easily keep for a year or 2. 90. Was $29.99 at Houston Wine Merchant (expensive for a Beaujolais cru, but worth it for a special occasion dinner). Imported by North Berkeley Imports.

2006 Produttori di Barbaresco BARBARESCO (Piemonte, Italy)

This was a very good Barbaresco that is drinking well now but will benefit from 1-2 more years of cellaring.

Medium dark ruby garnet with just a bit of nascent orange at the rim. Medium intensity, slightly disjointed nose of earthy cherries, rose petals, and schisty gravel. Intense, clingy flavors of winey, earthy cherries and dark liquid minerals. Lots of puckery tannin throughout the finish. Comes across as lean but flavorful. Very long finish. 88. Was $29.99 from Zachys in NY.

2008 Three "Old Vines Field Blend" (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

This was a dense, brooding, macho-styled wine that needs lots of air time (or multiple Vinturi pours) if opened in the next few months. It should definitely be cellared for a couple of years if possible. It's a blend of 34% Zinfandel, 21% Carignane, 19% Mataro, 16% Petite Sirah, 8% Alicante Bouschet, and 2% Black Malvoisie from 100+ yr.-old vines.

Jet black violet color. Brooding, reticent nose of baker's chocolate, roasted earth, and concentrated cassis and blackberry extract. Dark, tannic, and powerfully concentrated, with very low-toned dark berry and dark chocolate notes. Long, clingy finish with some cracked black peppercorn bite. Reminds me of a young theoretical California Bandol. Very good potential. Drinkable (barely) now. 88+. Was $16 from

UPDATE 3/3/11: Just had another bottle of this that was significantly more open than the first bottle -- not nearly as "brooding." I opened the first bottle about 2 weeks after receiving shipment, so maybe it hadn't yet recovered from the travel. The bottle I just had was still very deep and vibrant, with great concentration yet no jamminess whatsoever. Just a lot more open. Really delicious. Solid A-.

2005 Chateau Lascombes (Margaux, Bordeaux)

This nearly half-and-half Cabernet/Merlot was very California in style. I would have not picked it out as a Bordeaux if I was served it blind. As such, it was stylistically disappointing, but well made.

Very dense, soft color -- rich black ruby. Very California nose of plush, ultraripe blackberry, graphite, and smoky oak. Very dense, low-toned flavors of graphite and dark cassis syrup. Very long finish of mineral-infused, ripe fruit. Will probably age for another 2-4 years. 87. Was $49 from Wines Til Sold Out back in February 2010.


Very young and direct now, but needs several years to develop more complexity.

Pale light gold color with light greenish glints. Young, assertive nose of ripe Riesling fruit (mouthwatering white peach and apples) with a very deep-toned minerality. Fantastic ripeness of fruit (almost Spatlese in style). Mouthwatering, piercing acidity. Not complex but wicked fun. Amazing purity. Slightly sweet in the finish but with great balancing acids and that remarkable purity. Cellar this a few years. 89+. Imported by Rudi Wiest. Was $19.99 from B-21 Wines in Florida.

(Sorry, 2005 shown)