Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2009 "Picos del Montgo" Old Vines GARNACHA (Carinena, Spain)

Raspberries, raspberries, raspberries.  This wine has a one-track mind, but I'm not arguing.  It's delicious and cheap.

Deep and vibrant ruby with violet highlights.  The nose of this wine is buckets of super pure, ripe, tangy oozing raspberries.  Unbelievable purity.  Lively and full-bodied, this wine features perfectly ripe, balanced raspberry fruit along with juts a wee bit of dry, minerally, stony gravel.  Finish is decently long but very pure, with some soft tannin on display.  Not complex, and lacking just a bit of concentration in the second half of the palate, but otherwise a real kick to sniff and drink.  Drink over the next 12-18 months.  B+.  Imported by Regency Wine Group (a California outfit I've never heard of), I got this from World Marketplace on Richmond near the West Loop for about $9 and change.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2008 Durigutti BONARDA (Mendoza, Argentina)

Bonarda is a grape native to northwest Italy, in the Novara region, where it typically is blended with Nebbiolo (Spanna) in several of the DOC wines of the area (like Ghemme, Boca, Fara, etc.).  On its own there, it's no great shakes, but in the Mendoza region of Argentina it seems to have more character.  This one is a very good, flavor-filled everynight dinner wine, and an excellent value.

Very vivid, dark ruby/violet.  Vivacious nose of tangy plum and mixed berry fruit, along with loads of chalky rock dust and a high-toned smoky component.  Richly-fruited in the mouth, yet with a vibrancy that buoys up its full-bodied frame.  Loads of rich, earthy, dry dark berry fruit fills the mouth, and leads to a long, clean, clingy finish with some noticeable but soft tannin.  Not super complex, but very satisfying.  B+.  Will go with lots of pastas and Italian meat dishes, stews, and braises.  Was $11 and change at Spec's on Smith.

UPDATE (11/28/11):  I just read somewhere that Argentine Bonarda is NOT the same thing as the Bonarda grown in the Novara region of Italy, but, in fact, is the Charbono grape native to the Savoie region of France.  Well, I guess that would explain why Argentine Bonarda tastes and feels very different from its Italian namesake. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2007 Domaine de la Terre Rouge TÊTE-À-TÊTE (Sierra Foothills, California)

This was a very nice surprise!  I'd seen this blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache (according to the winery website)  in Spec's several times and almost picked it up, and finally my curiosity got the best of me.  And I was glad it did.  It reminded me of a very well done, drinkable style Vacqueyras from the Rhone.

Blackish dark ruby.  Loads of stony minerals and spicy blackberry fruit in the nose.  Mouthfilling and medium full-bodied, it was filled with sandstoney, stony, iodine-laced dark berry fruit.  Loads of soft tannin are present, and the flavors are very clingy in the long, pleasurable finish.  A-.  Was $14 at Spec's on Weslayan/Bissonnett.  Get some of this!

2009 Atteca "Old Vines" GARNACHA (Grenache) (Calatayud, Spain)

An excellent buy in a pure-tasting, very full-bodied but balanced red.

Rich, almost completely saturated black ruby/violet color.  Inviting, forceful aromas of tangy, ripe, oozing blackberries and raspberries over fragrant, dry, stony gravel notes.  Weighty and mouthfilling, this had very pure-tasting dark raspberry syrup fruit accented with smoky stoniness.  Not very complex but very satisfying.  Very full, but with good enough acids to carry it off.  A bit of tannin and a tad bit of heat on the finish, but I wouldn't age a wine this high in alcohol that long; drink within the next 18 months.  B+/A-.  Imported by Jorge Ordonez, this was about $12 at Spec's.

2009 Foxglove ZINFANDEL (Paso Robles, Cal.)

AVOID.  This was flat, heavy, and lifeless.  D-  It was moderately-priced ($14 and change at Spec's), but it sucked.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2009 Domaine de le Chapelle MÂCON SOLUTRÉ POUILLY (White Burgundy, France)

A superb, crisp, minerally, flavorful, unoaked Chardonnay.  If you like Chablis Premier Crus but don't want to spend $30+ for a good one, this is your poor man's version.

Very unusual gold color that was inflected with almost a very light tan tint.  Gorgeously fragrant nose of bright, chalky earth and crisp pear/green apple/not-quite-ripe-peach fruit.  Bright, mouthwatering, pure flavors of slightly bitter citrus and pear over crushed limestone.  Long, pure, clean finish.  Very nicely done.  A-.  Was about $18 at Spec's on Smith.  Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.

(Sorry, 2007 shown)

2009 Frey ZINFANDEL (Mendocino County, Cal.)

This completely organic, sulfite-free wine was a decent value in a simple, balanced, everynight meal wine, but it didn't taste like a typical Zin.

Fairly-deep plummy ruby-garnet color.  Direct and pure-smelling with spiced plum and cherry syrup fruit.  Decently mouthfilling, with soft ripe red fruit that morphs in the finish into a toasted nut quality.  Went really well with Chicken Parm with over spaghetti.  Some tannin, but it's soft.  B-.  Was about $15 at Spec's on Weslayan/Bissonnett.

2007 Domaine de le Rossignole SANCERRE "Cuvée Vieilles Vignes" (Loire Valley, France)

Liquid extract of the chalky, prehistoric seashell-laden soil of this region.  Old school.  I love the Sauvignon Blancs from this "tri-town" area (encompassing Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, and Menetou-Salon).

Light, bright pure gold color. Very chalky, earthy (not in a barnyardy way, however) nose, with notes of tart citrus and chicken broth.  Intensely limestone-y minerally flavors, with some lightly herbal, bone dry, crisp gooseberry fruit.  Minerally finish goes on and on.  Good acids and balance.  Those who like fruitier or more overtly herbal styled Sancerres may not go for this one, but I did.  A-.  I got this for around $18 at Spec's on Richmond near the West Loop a few months ago, so they may be on to a more recent vintage by now.

2009 Chateau Robin (Lussac-St.-Emilion, Bordeaux, France)

Solid, decent value, old-fashioned everyday Bordeaux.  Mostly Merlot, with some Cab Franc and a little Cabernet Sauvignon blended in.  Typical proportions for the St. Emilion side of the Gironde River.

Vivid blackish ruby.  Nice, youthful nose of dried underbrush and plummy fruit, along with a bit of fragrant crushed stone.  Bone dry and surprisingly tannic for a lower-end St. Emilion (which are usually made for short-term drinking), this wine grips the palate with dry cassis extract and brambly gravel flavors.  Pretty good concentration, medium-full body, but a somewhat short finish.  Not bad for the price.  B-.  Needs a year or two to settle down a bit more.  Was $13.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

Monday, September 05, 2011

2008 Firriato ETNA ROSSO (Sicily, Italy)

This is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese 20% Nerello Cappuccio grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, and it is a WINNER.  Just electric in its nose and mouthfeel, with complexity and great balance.

Vibrant dark ruby color.  Fantastic nose of electric, stony/mineral-infused dark cherries with subtle wisps of fragrant woodsmoke.  (Those words don't do it justice -- it smells captivating.)  Intensely minerally and bright flavors.  Like sucking on a mouthful of freshly chipped rocks and ripe/tart cherries mixed with cherry jam.  Excellent acids make this thing dance, and the finish is long, clingy, and pure.  It went awesomely (can awesome be an adverb?) with a spinach pasta in a rich, cured meats, basil and parsley laced tomato sauce with squares of melting fresh mozzarella.  It will be a great accompaniment to any Italian tomatoey/winey braise or pasta dish.  A.  Imported by Margaux and Associates, I got this for about $20 at Spec's on Smith. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

2009 Domaine La Manarine CÔTES DU RHÔNE (France)

This is an extraordinarily elegant and balanced wine, particularly from such a "lowly" appellation.  Excellent!  A bit more expensive than most Côtes du Rhônes, but worth every penny.

Clear dark ruby with garnet highlights.  Very pure nose of spicy blackberry, lightly roasted dried herbs, stony minerals, and a wisp of fragrant smoke.  Very soft, mouthfilling flavors, yet with a light mouthfeel.  Lots of herb/iodine-inflected dark berry fruit, followed by a clingy finish gradually revealing quite a bit of very soft tannin as the minerally notes fade away to show the structure underneath.  Couldn't stop sniffing and sipping this one.  A.  Was $18.99 at Houston Wine Merchant on South Shepherd.  Imported by Neal Rosenthal.

(Sorry:  2004 label depicted)

PS:  Some Internet research reveals that ubiquitous Rhône consultant Phillipe Cambie lists this estate as one of the estates he consults on.  I have criticized the growing use of Cambie before as a homogenizing force in the region (as other celebrity consultants are in other regions), but I have to admit, this is a really nice wine.  I will have to put aside my predispositions/prejudices and give the guy's wines a fresh assessment.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

2009 "Beso de Vino" (85% Syrah, 15% Garnacha) (Carinena, Spain)

This was a pure tasting, simple but satisfying value-priced red.  Great for weeknight meals.

Nearly saturated black ruby.  Nose very fruity with loads of tangy raspberry and boysenberry scents over a little bit of smoky gravel.  Soft and fleshy in the mouth, medium-full bodied, with nicely concentrated, direct berry fruit.  Some very soft tannin lends a little structure.  Decently long, pure-tasting finish.  Everything nicely in balance.  Drink over the next year.  B+  Was $9 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.  Imported by Steve Miles Selections.