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  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  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, 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, 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, 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  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