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.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

2007 Scilio ETNA ROSSO (Sicily, Italy)

I'm seeing many more Sicilian wines on the market these days, and to my taste Etna Rosso is usually one of the most elegant ones.  Even though Sicily bakes under an intense sun, Etnas tend to retain good acidity and balance.

This one was a little older than I usually look for in an Etna, but it was still drinking very well, and was one of the most minerally wines I've ever drunk.  Like drinking the liquid essence of barren volcanic soil.  Very good, and very unique.  Terroir freaks (I guess I'm kind of one) may enjoy it more than those who like lots of fruit or lots of oak or both.

Dark ruby garnet in color.  Loads of minerals and smoky, gun flinty gravel beat out the winey cherry and plummy fruit.  Full-bodied (14.5% alc.), but had a soft texture and good acidity.  Not much tannin.  Nothing but smoky minerals on the finish.  B+/A-.  Drink over the next year so the fruit doesn't totally pack up and leave.  Was about $20 at Houston Wine Merchant.  Imported by North Berkeley Imports.