Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2009 Xavier Vignon CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE "Cuvee Anonyme" (Rhone Valley, France)

I've now had two bottles of this wine, one today and one about 6 months ago.  Robert Parker rated it a 96.  But here's what I don't get.  To me, it tastes so young, unformed, and dumb, I don't understand how anybody could give it any rating whatsoever at this point.  It's hard, unforgiving, unyielding, tight, and tannic.  Imagine a wine glass filled with a hammer (in liquid form).  Frankly, neither bottle has been pleasurable.  I have no idea how this will develop, if at all.  I'm going to leave the last 2 bottles for 2020 (if I am blessed enough to still be around at that point).  I guess I'll have to wait until then to see how talented and prescient the master is.  'Cause right now, all I know is that I am just not psychic enough to say a damn thing about how it may or may not develop.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

2012 Clos du Mont Olivet COTES DU RHONE "Vieilles Vignes" (Southern France)

This was a delicious, balanced, pure-tasting red.  Nice now, it will keep and improve for a couple of years easily.

Gorgeous, youthful dark ruby/magenta color.  Pure, deep, primary scents of pristine black raspberry juice and a with of an herbal/rhubarb note.  Soft, mouthfilling, and full-bodied, it sports a dense yet soft mouthfeel, and is redolent of dark cherry, iodine-tinged fruit.  Loads of fine-grained tannins and clingy minerally notes appear in the back half of the mouth-life.  Nice length.  This wine is made by one of the top Chateauneuf-du-Pape producers, and at $14.99 a bottle represents an excellent value.  Got this at the Whole Foods in the Clarendon section of Arlington VA.  Imported by Dionysis Imports, Manassas, VA.  A-.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

2011 Thorn-Clarke "Shotfire" SHIRAZ (Barossa Valley, Australia)

This had everything in beautiful balance.  Nice body and concentration.  Velvety texture.  Nose had swirling mixture of smoke, gravelly minerals, gorgeous dark berry fruit, and a meaty element.  Deep flavors of iodiney/minerally blackberry extract.  A saline element in the finish, which is long.  Not overripe or hot, as many Aussie Shirazes can be.  Really fine.  A-.  Was about $15 at Total Wine in Fairfax.  Drink over the next two years.

(Sorry, 2009 shown.)

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Ask someone who's been a wine geek since before MTV was a channel. Global warming is real.

Bordeaux, Rhones, and Piemonte reds, on average, are 1%-1.5% higher in alcohol than they were in the 60s and 70s.  And that, along with the trend toward more "international"-style winemaking, makes them less interesting.  On the plus side, red Loire wines are better than they used to be,  More frequently than not in the old days, they were unripe and sucked.  Now, much better.

That is all.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Still here. Just unmotivated.

Yeah, I still drink wine.  It's just been a sucky summer, however, and that's sapped my motivation to blog.  I'll be back at some point.

And fuck Malbec.

Monday, June 09, 2014

2009 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano CHIANTI RUFINA RISERVA (Tuscany, Italy)

This is a very reliable wine that is always well-made and a good value.  The 2009 is reflective of the ripe, easy-going nature of the vintage in Tuscany.  A nice amalgam of of red fruits, subtle oak, and deep, gravelly minerality.

Medium deep blackish ruby with some brickishness. Low-toned nose of dark cherries, baking spice, and dark, gravelly minerals.  Mouthfilling and smooth, the wine has a flowing texture that slowly reveals a substantial amount of soft tannin.  Good weight and density. Acidity is relatively low, like many of the '09s.  This will drink well for the next 2-3 years, but it's not for long ageing.  B+.  I got this as a gift, but I think it's available for as low as $18 in some stores.  Imported by Folio Wine Partners.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

2011 Domaine La Soumade RASTEAU "Cuvee Prestige" (Southern Rhone Valley, France)

This 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre is dark, deep, rich, and soft.  Loads of mineraliness too.  Very nice.

Fully-saturated color:  dark, blackish plasma.  The nose is exceedingly low-toned, yielding dark scents of mineral oil, dark stones, and blackberry skins.  In the mouth it's rich and weighty, but surprisingly soft.  It coats the mouth with intense, dark minerality that clings and clings, leaving the dark, oozing blackberry fruit in the back seat.  Boatloads of very soft tannin.  Very full-bodied. Acid is a bit lowish.  It's hard to believe that there's any Grenache in this at all, let alone 70%, given how the Syrah and Mourvedre character seems to dominate.  B+.  This will likely improve over the next 2-3 years.  Was $19.99 from WTSO.  Imported by Serge Dore Selections, Chappaqua, NY.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2009 Chateau Haut-Canteloup MEDOC (Bordeaux, France)

A very nicely-balanced, velvety-soft Merlot-dominated blend.  No oak showing at all, and that's a nice thing.

Very sultry black ruby.  On day 1, the nose showed next-to-nothing.  Day 2 (after being under a Vacu-Vin closure, it exhibited a medium-intensity nose of plummy, dark cherry/blackberryish fruit, along with a scorchy gravel component.  Medium full bodied in the mouth.  It's bone dry, but very soft, with lots of plummy fruit and a gravelly/graphitey note.  Clean, clingy finish.  While the lack of discernible tannin would normally lead me to think it should be drunk in the short term, the tight, closed nose and flavors, which opened only on day 2 definitely augur for 1-2 more years of cellaring.  This will drink well until 2018 or so.  B+.  Nice value at $14.99 from WTSO.com.  Imported  by Serge Dore Selections, Chappaqua, NY.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

4 Wines with Great Friends

Jonathan L. is a long-time friend from NYC from when I was just out of college and starting in the wine business (pre-law school period).  He and his wonderful wife Marge were in DC to see some sights and visit friends, and luckily we were among the targeted friends!

As we're getting older now, and have to pace ourselves (unlike those hangover-inducing Grand Cru and Port benders we'd occasionally indulge in in the early 80s), the 4 of us paced ourselves through 4 bottles over the course over 6 or 7 hours.  Here are the notes from memory.

2011 Johann W. Schild Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett -- We used this inexpensive Mosel as our "pace car" to get things going.  It's fruity, with peachy apply notes.  Not much complexity but a decent enough mid-afternoon sipper.

2010 Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Premier Cru Cote de Lechet -- Although I'm partial to Chablis that is fermented and aged in seasoned (not new) barrels, this "stainless steel only" Chablis was really nicely-cut.  Medium bodied, fragrant with brothy, wet limestoney notes, straw, and apply fruit.  Very precise, and drinking well now but could certainly go another couple of years.  

2010 Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel (Dusi Ranch) -- Dusi Ranch has, over the last 10 years, become my favorite of Ridge's stable of Zins, with its remarkable, laser-like focus and purity.  Great fragrance, texture, depth, and freshness.  Could last and improve another 2-3 years.  

2005 Ridge Montebello -- It was hard to top the Dusi ranch Zin, but this did, and easily.  Jonathan brought this from his cellar (what, you think I can afford wines like this?), and it was amazing with grilled steaks topped with chimichurri.  Great depth and length with perfect balance, this iconic Cabernet was showing well yet seemed amazingly young.  I think this wine could go on for a long, long time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2004 Chateau La Tour de By MEDOC (Bordeaux, France)

This is a fully-mature, reasonably complex, smooth red.  Strangely, for decades I've been ambivalent about whether I really like the aged, tertiary aromas and flavors of "mature" Bordeaux.  After all this time, I just can't decide.  I feel like I should, because this is wine orthodoxy.  But, truth be told, I really do like wines on the younger side.  When they're younger, I feel like I can taste the terroir more acutely.  When they're older, I feel like I'm really just doing a science experiment on the effects of slow oxidation.  Well . . .  I guess I have decided.  My answer: not so much.  This one is about as far as I go.

Deep, mature ruby with a brickish tinge.  Nose showing lots of tertiary aromas of smoky gravel, dried fall leaves, old leather, a little menthol, and mulled cassis fruit.  Velvety soft in the mouth, with clingy flavors of leather, minerals, and some fading dark cherry fruit.  Clean, reasonably lengthy finish.  This needs a simple roasted chicken, steak with a red wine sauce, or a roast rib of beef to be at its best.  Any more vigorously-flavored food would destroy this wine.  B.  Was $24 from wineaccess.com.  Drink 'em if you got 'em.

Monday, May 12, 2014

2012 Chateau Pesquie "Terrasses" VENTOUX (Rhone Valley, France)

As it usually is in most vintages, this wine is a solid, ripe, minerally Rhone that will go with lots of foods.  This wine fleshes out a grows on you as it airs out.

Dark, youthful ruby violet.  Nose features loads of minerally scents, ranging from crushed sandstone to very dark, iodiney rocks.  Almost, but not quite in equipoise is spicy blackberry fruit.  In the mouth, the flavors are clingy and long, but while the wine has a good attack and is very persistent, it's not heavy at all.  Decent acidity and loads of medium-soft tannin.  Imagine a Domaine Tempier regular cuvee Bandol, but with more Grenache influence (and at half the price).  B+/A-.  I got this for $14.99 from zachys.com.  Pretty good value at that price.  Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars, Charlotte, NC.

(Sorry, 2008 depicted.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

2011 Three Wine Cellars Old Vines ZINFANDEL (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

Three Wine Cellars is one of the most consistent, and consistently good, wineries out there.  They don't try to do everything, but their reds from Contra Costa County's old immigrant-planted vineyards are delicious and food-friendly.  This one is typically excellent.  Ripe, balanced, and complex (for a Zin).

Youthful, very dark blackish ruby/violet.  Really nice nose of ripe blackberry fruit, with hints of baking spices, warm sandstone, and high-toned wood smoke.  Concentrated flavors immediately grip the palate, but it's not heavy.  Rich blackberry fruit, dark minerality, and a long, clingy finish.  Full, but no alcoholic hotness despite its 15.4%.  A barely-perceptible level of very soft tannins add some nice physicality.  A-.  Drink over the next 2-3 years.  Decent acids.  Got this for $19 from wineaccess.com.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

2012 Mockingbird Hill ZINFANDEL Reserve (Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California)

This wine is very young and, at present, needs a lot of time to breathe.  The first night I thought it was going to be mediocre, since it showed zero fruit and seemed to display nothing but vaguely oaky scents and alcohol.  Then I put it under a Vacu-Vin closure for two full nights and forgot about it.  I came back to it on the third day, and, in an Easter season miracle, it rose from the dead (i.e., it was a different wine altogether).  These notes are from day three.

Very dark, youthful-looking ruby.  Classic Dry Creek Valley scents of creamy, spicy black raspberry/blackberry fruit, augmented by some stony scents.  Soft, rich, and mouthfilling.  It's ripe, but not overripe, which seems to be a problem with Zins these days.  Loads of pure, ripe, dark berry fruit, and some darkly-minerally notes.  Full-bodied, and possessing loads of youthful but reasonably soft tannins.  Pure, long, juicy finish.  If you want to "pop-n-pour" this one, you're going to need to wait 2-3 years.  If you want to drink it before then, be sure to decant it (through a Vinturi) for several hours ahead of time.  B+(+).  Was $14.99 from WTSO.com, making it a pretty good value.

(Note:  Cabernet label shown, but the Zinfandel label has the same look.)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

2012 Domaine de le Potine TOURAINE Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc) (Loire Valley, France)

A zesty, refreshing wine.  Not a lot of depth, but, boy, is it easy to gulp down.

Nose has scents of lemon-lime, green apple, tarragon, and chalk.  Crisp, zingy, and minerally in the mouth.  Light-bodied, with loads of crisp acids, it has a solid beam of lemony, green apply fruit, and a very clean, refreshing finish.  Drink over the next 18 months (particularly on hot summer days and nights).  B/B+.  Was $13.99 from wineaccess.com.  Imported by Fleet Street Wine Merchants.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

2012 Michel Chapoutier "Bila-Haut" COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES (Southern France)

Not as extroverted as the 2011 or 2009 renditions, this blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignane is
very nicely proportioned and in nice balance.

Nearly saturated dark violet-ruby.  Subdued nose grudgingly yields scents of smoky, stony minerals and a shrinking note of ripe blackberry.  The mouth is a different story.  It aggressively leaps at and clings to the sides of your mouth with flavors of iodiney, dry blackberry extract and liquified dark stones.  Bone dry, with a significant amount of fine-grained tannin dustily coating the mouth.  This wine has decent acids and a reasonably long finish.  This wine wine likely be a little more aromatically expressive, and maybe a tad softer, in a year.  B.  Was $12.99 at Whole Foods in Arlington.  Imported by HB Wine Merchants, NYC.

Monday, March 31, 2014

2010 Domaine La Bastide "Les Genets" SYRAH Vieilles Vignes (Rhone Valley, France)

A terrific value in a deep-flavored, complex, well-balanced Syrah.  Very linear, and not a hint of flabbiness.

Saturated dark, plasma-like ruby.  Nose features smoke, dark minerals, roasted herbs, meat, and cassis fruit.  Flavorful on entry, with lean, clingy, iodiney/minerally notes overlaying dark, dry blackberry skins.  A fair amount of fine-grained tannin and a surprising level of acids lends structure and liveliness.  Full-bodied, bone dry.  All muscle with not fat.  This went very well with braised lambs shanks and grits.  B+/A-.  Imported by Paul Young Wines, Los Angeles, and purchased from Winex.com for a ridiculously low $9.99.  Get some of this.

PS -- I believe I had this wine in Houston several years ago (a different vintage, obviously, and liked it a lot).

PPS - It occured to me after I posted this review that this wine is basically a "Poor Man's Cornas."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2009 Clos Pegase PINOT NOIR "Mitsuka's Vineyard" (Carneros, Napa, Cal.)

A fragrant, balanced, fairly complex and ready-to-drink PN.  Very good value at the $15.99 I paid.

Medium ruby/garnet with a little tawny at the edge.  Lots going on in the nose:  sappy ripe cherry, a little tartish cranberry/rhubarb note, sweet, earthy baking spices, and some underlying minerality.  Lots of flavor in a smooth, fairly full-bodied (for a PN) frame.  Tart cherry and loads of dark, stony minerality.  The finish, which is very long, molts into a clingy, iodiney, sappy cherry melange.  It's bone dry.  I really like this.  A-/B+.  Got it from WTSO.com.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2009 Baloiro BIERZO Mencia Reserva (Spain)

Totally overblown.  This wine is a caricature of a what the Anti-Parkerites think Parker advocates (he's not as bad as they make him seem, but you get the point).  Overripe, flabby, overoaked, tasting of nowhere.  Tasted blind, I would have no idea where this wine came from.  Given the extract level, this could have been a great wine if they had picked it earlier and skipped the new oak.

Completely saturated, plasma-like black ruby.  The nose is intense, displaying loads of liquid baker's chocolate and overripe blackberry extract.  Underneath there's some nice minerality trying to make its way out, it's struggling, giving it a game try, but it's no use . . . the chocolate is too strong . . . must get air . . . can't go on . . . can't . . . aaarrrggghhh!  [Strangling gasps].  Back to reality.  The texture is nice, not too much tannin despite the heavy-handed extraction.  There is a dense weightiness of sweet blackberry extract and dark chocolate in the mouth.  But the acids are nonexistent, so it just seems heavy and one-dimensional.  C-.  Was $14.99 from WTSO.com.  Imported by Classic Wines, Stamford, CT.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

2011 Heinz Eifel "S" RIESLING SPATLESE (Mosel, Germany)

This is an excellent value in a slightly sweet, bright Riesling.

Very pale greenish-gold color.  All sorts of ripe fruit in the nose, with white peach, juicy pear, and ripe apple scents, augmented with a light dried tea note and some extraordinarily high-toned slatey/stoniness.   Fills the mouth with ripe, juicy fruit, yet has enough acids to keep it fresh and interesting.  A very mild bitter tea component comes through at the end.  Light-bodied and round-textured.  Not super complex, but really fun to drink.  B+.  Was $9.99 from Winex.com.  Imported by Winesellers, Ltd. of Niles, IL.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

2009 Clos des Menuts ST. EMILION Grand Cru (Bordeaux, France)

This is a style of Bordeaux I like.  Not trying to emulate a New World wine; structured, not overripe, not overoaked.  It needs a few more years, however. It is: Merlot 85%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%, Cabernet Franc 5%.

Dark black ruby.  Nose closed at first, but on the second night it was showing lovely, subtle dark cherry fruit, and a dark, gravelly earthiness, along with a lifting baked cake note.  Densely-fruited, but in a dry extract -- not jammy -- way, it packs the palate with dark fruit and loads of gravelly minerals.  Full-bodied, with lots of fine-grained tannins.  Still feels a bit tight.  It's very good, if a bit youthful now, but will certainly improve over the next 5 years.  B+ now, probably higher later on.  I'm not sure what this cost or where to get it around the DC area, as a good friend brought this wine to our Super Bowl party as a gift.  Nice gift!  Imported by Monsieur Touton Selections, NY.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Viña Alarba GARNACHA Viñas Viejas (Calatayud, Spain)

I haven't had this wine in 10 years or so.  It used to be a ridiculous bargain.  This one is still cheap, but it's thinner than I remember it being than the vintages I drank in the early 2000s.  Eh.

Dark ruby violet color.  Light intensity nose of raspberry and rock dust, with a teeny note of dried tarragon.  Bone dry in the mouth, with slightly bitter raspberry/cherry fruit, and loads of rocky minerality.  As it lingers it gets more bitter, and some medium-grained tannins show up.  Not very concentrated, and the texture isn't great either.  C.  Was $7.99 from Winex.com.  Imported by the Artisan Collection, NYC.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2011 Tilia BONARDA (Mendoza, Argentina)

This is a terrific value.  Vibrant, loaded with fruit, and balanced.  Buy cases of this to have on-hand for cookouts this upcoming summer (if it ever gets here).

Very dark, blackish ruby.  Fantastically lively nose with loads of bright, ripe raspberries and mixed red berries, along with rock dust.  The attack is intensely fruity, with excellent concentration.  Lots of pure dark and red fruits in the mouth, turning a bit minerally as the finish progresses.  A fair amount of soft tannin gives some structure.  It's not complex, but it's very flavorful and nicely-textured.  B+.  Was $7.99 from Winex.com.  Imported by Winebow, Inc., NYC.

PS, note that Bonarda in Argentina isn't the same thing as Bonarda in Italy.  It's actually the grape called Charbono in this country.

Monday, February 24, 2014

2011 Napa Wine Co. ZINFANDEL (Napa Valley, Cal.)

Organic!  I like that.  And it's a darn good Zin.  Tangy tangy tangy.  I wouldn't have been able to place it as a Napa Valley Zin if it had been served blind.  But it's got lots of character, nice texture, and would be great with Italian or Portuguese meat dishes, or grilled beef.

Very crystalline dark ruby color.  Exuberant nose was earthy and exhibited loads of tangy mixed red berries on the first night.  The earthiness was much more subdued on the second night, but the tangy berries were even tangier, and mixed with some fresh-cut herbs.  Round, vibrant, and dry in the mouth, with very nice concentration of fruit, full body, and pretty good acidity.  It weighs in at 13.9% alc., which is very low for a Zin these days.  Nice soft texture and good length.  B+.  Drink this over the next 1-2 years.  Was $19.99 from Total Wine in Fairfax.

(I remember buying a case of 1979 Napa Wine Co. Zin as a close-out in 1983 or thereabouts for about $5 a bottle at Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge, MA, and passing it out to my family.  That one was very nice as I recall.  I have not had a wine from these guys since then!)

(Sorry: 2009 depicted.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2010 Domaine Coudoulis LIRAC (Southern Rhone, France)

Liracs always seem to me to be the lazy sibling in the Cotes du Rhone family.  Never exuberant,  usually laid back.  Sometimes verging on boring.  This wine needs significant airing, but after it gets it, it's pretty nice in a typical Lirac-ian low-key sort of way.

Very dark, rich-looking black ruby.  The nose sucked on day one.  Nothing there but dark scents.  Like sniffing Darth Vader's helmet.  On day 2 (under a Vacu-vin enclosure), it exhibited low-toned, medium-intensity, rich, sweet dark crushed berry fruit, along with significant crushed stone minerality.  Soft, rich, and low-toned flavors of dark crushed berries and forest floor earthiness.  A little iodiney quality in the finish.  It's got loads of medium-grained tannin, but I wouldn't age it too much longer because as the second night wore on I detected some oxidation.  So give it some air and then kill the bottle.  B.  Was $14.99 from Total Wine in Fairfax.  Imported by Saranty Imports, White Plains, NY (which I think is Total Wine's importing arm . . .  because why not take the middle man's cut yourself?).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2009 Vecchia Cantina VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO (Tuscany, Italy)

I have never had great luck with Vino Nobiles.  They tend not to be great values, and I think many are basically clumsy relations of Chianti Classico.  But this one, produced by a co-op in the region, was reasonably priced and has very nice fruit and balance.

Dark ruby color.  Nice nose of macerated cherries, tobacco leaf, lemon zest, and gravel.  Lots of dark cherry fruit in the mouth, with a hint of unsweetened cocoa powder and lots of stony minerals.  Full-bodied, with loads of dusty tannins providing a nice framework for some additional aging.  Bright acids keep it fresh.  A touch of bitterness in the finish.  Would be excellent with meat-sauced pasta.  B+.  Was $15.99 from WTSO.com.  Imported  by Superior Wines, Cranford, NJ.

2012 Cottanera ETNA ROSSO "Barbazzale" (Sicily, Italy)

I love Etna Rossos.  They have a unique purity of fruit.  This one was very nice, with the purity thing augmented by a smoky note.

Medium dark ruby color.  Bright, vibrant ripe cherry fruit on the nose, along with loads of stony minerality and the aforementioned smoky note.  Bright, pure cherry fruit pounces in the mouth, riding a wave of fine-grained tannins, and there is a lot of clean minerality on the palate as well. It's a little more full-bodied than some other Etnas I've had.  Medium long finish.  A little loose, this would really kill it if it had just a touch more concentration.  But it's a cuspy B+/A-.  Was $15.99 from zachys.com.  Imported by Cottanera USA, Saucelito, CA.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

2010 Shingleback SHIRAZ "The Davey Estate" (McLaren Vale, Australia)

I don't buy many Aussie Shirazes, and I've had way too many oaky, liquid jam-jars, but this one was billed as a leaner, more minerally exhibition of the grape, and it actually is.  It's quite nice.  Still identifiably Aussie, but stripped down.

Impenetrable black ruby, with a violet tinge.  Loads of liquid, slightly saline dark minerals, cedar, and blackberry and cassis skins on the nose.  Bone dry, dark blackberry extract and a clingy, iodiney streak in the mouth initially.  Loads of soft tannin then announces itself, and the lean, concentrated flavor profile grows slightly riper and sweeter on the back end.  Full-bodied, but not nearly overbearingly huge like some of its Aussie cousins.  The finish is very long and linear.  There is a lot going on in this wine.  Really fine.  A-.  Was $14.99 from WTSO.com, making it a very good value.  Would be outstanding with a juicy, grilled prime porterhouse.  Imported by Precept Wine, Seattle, WA.

Friday, February 07, 2014

2011 Kupelweiser LAGREIN (Alto Adige, NE Italy)

I haven't had a Lagrein since the 1980s, I think.  This one is beautifully balanced, a little tight at first, but then opening up in to a food-friendly good value.  And this is yet another wine that was much better on the second night, so be sure to let this one breathe if you open it anytime soon.

Saturated, very crystalline blackish ruby violet.  The nose almost reminds me of a young, unoaked Medoc, with loads of tightly-wound cassis and blackberry fruit and gravelly minerals.  A little tight fist of youthful fruit punches the mouth on entry, but it's wrapped on a smooth-textured, medium-bodied package.  It is not weighty, but has good concentration of fruit and a linear timeline in the mouth.  Bone dry.  Just a wee bit of soft tannin, and really nice, slightly mouth-watering acids make it feel fresh.  The finish is very pure-tasting.  Very nice.  B+/A-.  Was about $18 from Total Wine in Fairfax.  This would be amazing with a basic Yankee Pot Roast.  Drink over the next 3 years.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

2009 Viticcio CHIANTI CLASSICO (Tuscany, Italy)

This is a textbook Chianti Classico.  And I got this for a song on sale (I bought a case for a price that netted out at $10.50/bottle, including shipping, from zachys.com on a close-out!).  I am an unabashed fan of the wines from this estate.

Very black-tinged ruby.  Lively nose of red berries, tangy rich cherries, and a whiff of dry, dusty gravel.  Smacks the mouth with ripe, zingy red fruits, wine-soaked gravel, and stony minerals.  Very nice acids and well-integrated soft tannin keep the mouthfeel interesting.  Nice length.  Just a pleasure to drink.  It's textbook Chianti Classico, which means not only is it fun to drink but it also will go well with a wide variety of foods.  B+/A-.  Will keep for at least another 2-3 years.  Imported by Massanois Imports, Washington DC.

Monday, February 03, 2014

2011 Cline Ancient Vines CARIGNANE (Contra Costa County, Cal.)

A big, deep, fruity, rich wine.  A bit more complexity and it would have been outstanding, but as is, it's really nice.

Saturated black ruby/violet.  Intense nose of ripe mixed berries and plums, along with wafts of sweet, high-toned smoke.  Intense and pure in the mouth.  Hits right away with weighty, dense ripe dark berry fruit and dark, gravelly minerals.  Lots of weight, but not overbearing, the flavors tenaciously cling to the mouth.  Very full bodied and moderately tannic.  This wine does not skimp on flavor.  A-/B+.  Was $14.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, VA.

Friday, January 31, 2014

2010 Romain Parisis "Cuvee Signee" CHINON (Loire Valley, France)

A straightforward, zesty, bone dry Cab Franc.  Not a lot of depth, and just barely ripe enough, but it's got a lot of vivacity.  It seemed thin and underripe on night one, but the second night it filled out a bit and was much more pleasurable.

Youthful medium ruby still with a hint of violet.  The nose has classic Chinon scents of machine oil, dried fall leaves, and tart black cherry.  You can smell the acidity that's about to hit you.  Lots of barely ripe cherry fruit in the mouth, with a substantial streak of dried underbrush and minerals.  Clean, medium-long finish with loads of acids, keeping it very fresh.  I had it with fried chicken and it went very well.  B, though if it had bit more depth I'd rank it higher.  This was $12.99 at Total Wine in Fairfax, making it a pretty decent value.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2010 La Celestiere CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE "Tradition" (Southern Rhone, France)

This is a chewy, extremely young wine.  Lots of potential, but not nearly ready to drink.  It really only opened up on the third night I had it open.

Saturated, youthful-looking black ruby.  The first night, the nose was somewhat reduced but showed lots of ripe, raw dark berry fruit.  On night three, the nose was still youthful and one-dimensional, but showed beautifully ripe dark cherry, plummy fruit and sweet, warm sandstone scents.  On entry, there's loads of ripe dark fruit, very good concentration, and a wheel barrow-full of chewy tannin.  The finish is long.  Each of the three nights a little more complexity came through, suggesting a wine that would benefit from several years of cellaring.  I'm going to try to forget about my other three bottles for at least a couple of years and then re-visit it.  Right now, a B.  In 5-8 years, maybe an A.  If you do open it over the next 2 years, decant it in a wide decanter and pour it through a Vinturi to try to aerate it as much as possible.  Was $24.99 from WTSO.com.  Imported by Votto Vines, Hamden, CT.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

2012 "Le Paradou" GRENACHE (Southern France)

This is a very food-friendly everynight wine.  It was actually like two different wines on night one and night two.

Very dark, nearly saturated ruby-violet.  On night one, the nose was very typical of a wine bottled early without any oak aging -- tight, slightly reduced pungent berry extract.  Night two (after being under a Vacu-Vin enclosure for 24 hours), it was much softer and loose-limbed, displaying richly fruity scents of blackberry, plummy juice, and a bit of rhubarb. A pungent, metallic minerally note was present too.  Rich, concentrated enough, and bone dry in the mouth, with flavors of slightly dried raspberry skins and lots of stony minerality.  Relatively full bodied, this wine had lots of soft tannin, and a very clean finish.  There's no complexity, but it's got nice flavor and texture, and it avoids the high alcohol/low acid issue that is a risk with Grenache.  B.  I got mine for $9.99 from Zachys.com.  Imported by IPO Wines, NYC.

Friday, January 24, 2014

2008 Joseph Drouhin BEAUNE PREMIER CRU (Burgundy, France)

This is from purchased (not estate) grapes.  Made from a mixture of vineyards that are all premier cru level.  This is a delicate yet persistent rendition of a Pinot Noir.

Light ruby garnet color.  Delicate but interesting nose of ripe cherry extract with a slightly sour note, enveloped in warm, earthy, gravelly scents.  Lithe in the mouth, bone dry flavors of earthy, winey cherries and loads of minerals immediately hit the palate, but in a very light framework.  Very linear, the wine stays light and almost ethereal in texture yet the flavors linger.  A wee bit of tannin adds a physical presence.  Drinking really well now (though it likes air: it was better the second night after being under  a Vacu-Vin enclosure), I think this will last another 1 to maybe 3 years.  B+.  Was $29.99 from WTSO.com, so not that great a bargain relative to other wines, but a good bargain as compared to usually fairly expensive Joseph Drouhin wines.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2010 Luigi Righetti VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE RIPASSO "Campolieti" (Veneto, Italy)

This was really good.  Mouthwatering acids balanced nicely by beautifully ripe fruit.  I really liked the 2009 of this wine, and this is just as good if not a bit better.

Vivid dark ruby color.  Nose took a while to open up, but eventually yielded inviting scents of ripe mixed berries, ripe plums, fruitcake, and a wee bit of earthiness.  Very crisp, but ripe and smooth in the mouth.  Just a pure pleasure to drink.  Medium full body, the antithesis of heavy, but with nice concentration of ripe, winey plums and blackberry.  Long, pure-tasting finish.  This is a great choice with any tomatoey Italian pasta or braise.  Will last at least 2-3 years and maybe longer. Was $15.99 at Trader Joe's at Bailey's Crossroads.  A-.  Imported by Prestige Wine Imports, NYC.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2008 Fontanabianca BARBARESCO "Bordini" (Piemonte, Italy)

Jaysus!  This was like putting a skinny badger in your mouth.  Fiercely tannic and unfriendly.  I kept the bottle open, uncorked, for a full 24 hours to see if it softened a bit, and it did, but not by much.  If you have this, forget about it for 10 years, and maybe -- maybe -- it will come around.  If you don't have it, don't get it.

Color is a deceptively unsaturated medium dark ruby garnet.  The first night, the nose was all dry underbrush and scorchiness.  Little fruit.  Night two, it was a bit better.  Dry gravel, minerals, and tart cherry on the nose.  In the mouth, the first thing that hits isn't the flavor but the texture: very aggressive tannin puckers the mouth before it can register any flavors!  On night one, I got nothing but tannin. On night two, I at least got some cherry fruit to go along with the "dried leaves"/scorchy trademark of an overextracted wine.  I'm not sure this will ever come around.  I can't give it a letter grade.  Let's just say "?" I got this for $29.99 from WTSO.com, making it a bad value and making me feel foolish.

Top 10 dirty words (or phrases) for wine

When I see these words on the front label, back label, or in promotional materials or tasting notes for a wine, I immediately am skeptical:

  1. "Aged in French oak ___% new" -- if it's a Spanish or Italian wine;
  2. "Super Tuscan" -- I will not drink a f__cking Merlot (or Cab) from Tuscany (also, see #1 above), especially if the vines are taking up valuable space in the Chianti Classico zone;
  3. "Scorched earth" in tasting notes -- usually signifies a bitter, overextracted wine;
  4. Alcohol 15% or higher -- a few Zins and Grenache based wines can handle it, but not many;
  5. Chardonnays from anywhere but Burgundy;
  6. Riesling from California or Australia -- with certain exceptions.  In lower latitudes where the sun is intense, wines picked early to mimic German low alcohol levels and high acidity usually aren't phenologically ripe yet, and so just taste green;
  7. Malbec --  Most of those from Argentina are overripe, overoaked, and many have gritty tannins.  The ones from the Loire (where it's called "Cot") are lean and mean.  Those from southwest France are frequently scorchy and bitter and too tannic.  I just don't get why this crap is so popular, other than the easy-to-pronounce name, which people apparently enjoy saying;
  8. Georges Duboeuf -- industrial Beaujolais;
  9. Louis Latour reds -- do they still quasi-Pasteurize their reds?  I don't know, but they did it for so long, with flat-tasting lifeless wine the result, that I will not throw money away on these unless I'm absolutely sure they don't anymore; and
  10. "Chocolate" in the tasting notes -- this means the combination of overripe fruit and way too much new, toasty French oak.
I know I'm overgeneralizing here, and there are exceptions, but I'm just telling you how I initially react to these words.  I have limited money, so I don't usually plunk it down when these initial warning signs are present.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2008 "DFJ" Touriga Nacional/Touriga Franga (Lisboa, Portugal)

This was inexpensive, but I had reasonably high hopes for it, since it's from a relatively cool climate area.  But it was like any typical overripe "international style" red you can get from some industrial Argentina Malbec or Chilean Carmenere.  (I've never met a Malbec I really liked, though I have had a Carmenere or two that were quite good, though most are overripe fruit bombs.)  Plus it's at the end of its life.  The second day, it was flatness and showed a bit of oxidation, even though I had stored it under a Vacu-Vin.  Not a good sign.  C-.  Was $10.99 from the European Import Store on Pershing and Washington in Arlington.

Friday, January 17, 2014

2010 Jean-Paul Brun FLEURIE "Terres Dorées" (Beaujolais, France)

Another old school Beaujolais from this producer.  If you like your Beaujolais lean and minerally, this is for you.

Dark ruby garnet.  Dark smoky, rocky minerals take the lead in the nose, with hard cherry candy fruit scents.  Lean, crisp, and persistent in the mouth.  With minerals from start to finish, and crunchy cherry, plum fruit.  Great acids and some very fine tannins mark the finish.  This is not vacuous, fruity, fun Beaujolais, but a wine made for dinner duty.  B+.  If memory serves, I got this for around $21 at table and Vine in West Springfield, MA when I was up there last fall.  Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

(Sorry, 2009 depicted.)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2012 Altes Herencia GARNATXA NEGRA (Tierra Alta, Spain)

This was a fantastic value, but it needs a lot of air to hit its stride.

Vibrant, dark, violet-tinged ruby.  The first night, the nose was almost reduced, showing a little of that tank stink.  Nights two and three it really started to shine.  Loads of ripe, lively dark raspberry and dark cherry fruit, augmented by loads of stony minerality.  Straightforward flavors of lightly spicy, very pure tasting dark raspberry extract.  Fairly full-bodied but with really nice balance.  Hard to stop drinking.  A fantastic weeknight dinner wine.  Decant this a few hours ahead of time, and use a Vinturi type aerator if you have one.  B+.  This was $10.99 from Zachys.com, making it, as mentioned above, a great value.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

2010 JL Chave COTES DU RHONE "Mon Coeur" (Southern France)

A dark and clearly Syrah-based CDR.  Nice if you like the style (I'm more of a Grenache man).  But it's too pricey at this quality level.

Saturated black ruby with violet overtones.  Nose leads with loads of rocky minerals and some lightly scorched earth.  Dark and low-toned flavors, again showing scorched earth, blackberry skin, and aged beefy notes.  Quite a bit of tannin and body, but it's got decent acids.  Not a lot of complexity, but a bruiser that has lots of character.  B.  This was around $20, I believe, from Zachys.com.  Imported by Erin Cannon Imports, Manhasset, NY.

(Sorry, 2008 depicted.)

Friday, January 03, 2014

2012 Beckley Family Vineyards ZINFANDEL "Reserve" (Dry Creek Valley, Cal.)

Not my style of Zinfandel.  Anymore, at least.  15 years ago, I think I liked this style a bit more.  A massively ripe fruit bomb, with low acids and a fair amount of heat in the finish.

Dark blackish ruby.  Rich nose of smoky ripe blackberry syrup and a bit of fruitcake.  Weighty but a bit dead-textured in the mouth.  Lots of low-toned blackberry ooze fruit.  No acid to speak of and very heavy body.  Fairly simple.  Here's my simile: Like drinking the liquid version of an old 20-lb. barbell you found at an estate sale of some guy who recently died at age 93.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Actually, there is. C-.  Was $15.99 from WTSO.com.