Thursday, February 20, 2014
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
What's A Black Talis?
Monday, June 03, 2013
Where's The Lamb?
The 2007 with a higher percentage of Gamache fruit, was lighter, fruitier, more forward, easier to drink, but not as complex and serious as the 2006 which had a higher amount of fruit from Stillwater vineyard. They both blew us away in their own ways - a fabulous pairing. As I said, better to eat and drink at home!
Larks - Send It Back Twice
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Sorry I disappeared for much of this year, but I've been working on a book. Didn't have the bandwidth for both the blog and the book. Not a wine book, but full of wine anecdotes. It's hard to describe, kind of Harry Potter meets Tom Clancy over a glass of wine. Well, not exactly, it's a bit of a spoof with many layers. Fun for those of you into references and allusions, but hopefully fun for everyone. It certainly has been fun for me. It's called The Black Talis. A Talis is a Jewish prayer shawl, but it really has very little to do things Jewish or with prayer shawls. In fact it's X rated. It's about a search for a magical solution. Is wine the solution?
Tune in for more hints and occasional posts on wine. I will only be posting from my iPad, so hopefully, they will be mercifully short and sweet. Adios for now!
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Oregon Reflections -II
Welcome to the feast, fellow wine bloggers!
My Refections On Oregon Wines
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Contrast this with the Trentadue Zinfandel Port. Exact opposites. First and last wines of the evening, aperatif and digestif. Different styles, but both WOW wines. The Trentadue is big and inky and tastes very similar to Porto from Portugal. In fact, it is one of the best American Ports I've had look for it or order from the winery or join their Port club
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Zapatistas Ride Into Seattle - Part I
Carol Shelton is not exactly a newbie. In fact, she is a pioneering woman winemaker. She got started shortly after Zelma Long, back in the 1970s. My mom was a fiminist, so I get excited about pioneering women, but that is not really the point about Coral Shelton Wines. The real point is incredible quality.The wines are organic and some are made with wild yeast fermentation. Anyone who wants to seriously tk about terroir needs to pay attention to the wild yeast in their neighborhood.
Where the wild things are! 2008 "Wild Thing" Old Vine Zinfandel is 83% Zin, 13% Carignane, 2% Petite Sirah, 2% Cabbernet. Get down on your hand an knees and worship. An amazing value at $15 a bottle. Search, search, search, cherchez le Zin!
Istanbul, Cucamonga - 2008 "Monga" Zin - Frankly, the only good wine I haveever tasted from Cucamonga grapes. Carol says rustic and tamed , I say fabulous with licorice and five spce in the nose. Hunt for this one at about $15.
Good Karma - 2008 "Karma Zin' - 3% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Syrah Carol says, "lusty, full- bodied, powerful, classic Sonoma Zin, I say soft pleaure with hints of chocolatefor only $25.
2008 Rockpile - Okay, so Mauritsen claims to whole RockpileAVA for themselves. Not so fast buddies, Carol says she staked a claim earlier than you guys and harvests a big substantial, serious wine from the the rockpile
Monday, July 16, 2012
Monte Ferro: A New Northwest Wine
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Independence Day In June?
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Nick's Wine: Amarone
Traditionally the grapes are laid out on bamboo racks to dry, thus concentrating the flavor. NIck brought us a 2004 Amarone Classico from Cantina Negrar. We served it with grilled quail over a bed of farro salad at room temperature. I must say it was a perfect pairing for lunch. The wine was big, rich, and complex, full of nuance and not at all jammy - a real treat! Thanks, Nick.
An Offer You Can't Refuse From The Wall Street Journal
The wines looked amazingly kosher, amazingly correct - nice shiny new bottles with impeccable labels, all the right language - vintage, wine name, country, region ,and certifications A.O.C., D.O.C.G., etc,.Very impressive, though I must admit I was skeptical. So far I've tasted three of them.
The first wine we tasted was a 2006 Torre Ercilla Reserva Rioja from Spain certified as a Rioja Reserva by Denomenacion de Origen Calificadaand garbed in the golden wire netting so often associated with Rioja. All we could taste was acid, no resemblance to a Rioja or Tempranillo. Actually, one of the worst wines I've ever tasted. Give it a 65. Not off to a very good start , but wait, there's more.
The second wine was a 2010 Chianti apparently from Collezione Di Paolo, Denominazione Di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This wasn't bad at all. Medium-bodied with lots of good berry fruit and just the right amount of tangy finish for a Chianti. Better than many Chiantis I've tasted in the past. This certainly was a worthy bonus. Give it an 84.
The third wine was a 2009 William Knuttel Sonoma Pinot Noir "Epee Cuvee". Light to medium-bodied with earth tones and cherry flavors. A little flat but in the same league with Erath Pinot Noir at $15-$20 a bottle. Give it an 86.
So, so far, batting two for one. Not a bad batting average at all. You will probably never read about these wines in Robert Parker, but for five bucks the good ones are a real bargain, for $12 or more the value is about the same as in the supermarket.Will the WSJ wines go down the drain the way Geerlings and Wade did? Who knows? Only the shadow knows! Stay tuned! There are six more wines to go.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
How To Ruin a Good Bordeaux
So what's the problem. Well, it appears that since the crash of 2008, the Australians have been using more and more Hydrogen Sulfide as a preservative. So not only is the meat vacuum packed, but the bag is imjected with Hydrogen Sufide to keep the oxygen out and thus add extra shelf life to the product. The problem is the product stinks! H2S smells like rotten eggs. If the right amount is used it usually dissipates and the meat smells reasonably fresh in a few minutes. On the other hand, if too much is used, the lamb continues to smell like rottens eggs right through cooking and onto the palate, Ugg! Yuck!!! Perhaps the only appropriate pairing at this poin twould be with a corked wine. Just think of the smell of rotten eggs paired with the smell of wet dog, sweat socks or wet cardboard. Let's give the TCA cheer - 2,4,6 trichloroanisole, rah, rah , rah! Nah, nah, nah! Take it back. Stick it in their face if necessary.
We once had lamb paired with 1995 Chateau Labegorce Zede, a Cru Bourgeois Margaux, a real treat.. Get yourself a real treat. Look for domestic or New Zealand lamb and pair it with Bordeaux, perhaps a 2009 Haut Sorillon from Trader Joe's (about $10) or a 2009 Bois Redon from Total Wines (about $9). Avoid that hydrogen sulfide and enjoy!
Thursday, January 12, 2012
2011 Unofficial Cassification Of Washington Wineries
This is the sixth annual Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries. The 2011 Unofficial Classification Of Washington State Wineries represents my personal, perhaps idiosyncratic or eccentric, opinions of the quality of Washington State wineries. Out of more than 700 wineries, there are well over a hundred producing great wine. About half of the wine produced in Washington comes from wineries owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. The other wineries are mostly small artesanal family enterprises typically producing 2000-3000 cases, in some cases up to 20,000 cases or more. In contrast to other classifications of wine such as the 1855 classification of Bordeaux, the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wineries can change every year. It is not set in stone. Since it is retrospective, it does not necessarily predict future rankings. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.Wines at the top of the list tend to be special wines for special occasions, whereas wines in the "Cinqieme" group tend to be outstanding values. Exclusion from this classification, in no way represents a commentary on the quality of a winery. In many cases, it may simply mean that I am not familiar enough with the wines or winemaker to form an opinion. On the other hand, not all Washington wines and wineries are great, so only the best that I am familiar with are listed here. Wineries are listed in alphabetical order and not ranked within each category. Wineries are listed as "deferred," if I have reason to believe they are worthy, but haven't tasted enough of their wines recently to form an opinion. There are well over 100 classified growths in Washington State. I would be happy to drink wine from any of these wineries and you will be, too.
Premier Grand Cru ( Extraordinary)
Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)
Troisieme Grand Cru ( Exceptional)
Canon De Sol
Sleight Of Hand
Quatrieme Grand Cru ( Excellent)
Vin Du Lac
Walla Walla Vineyards
Cinqieme Cru (Best Buys)
Columbia Crest "Two Vines"
Martinez & Martinez
Pavin & Riley
Pine & Post
Wines of Substance
Columbia Crest Reserve
Glacial Lake Missoula
Latitude 46 N
Local Wine Company
Terra Blanca - Onyx
Monday, January 02, 2012
The Best And Worst Wines Of 2011
- Roederer Brut - WhaT a disappointment!Neither fresh and elegant like Crystal, nor creamy like Napa Roederer Estate, I really wanted to send this one back. It tasted metallic, old or cooked, no pizzaz. Was it spoiled or poorly made? Fortunately we had a backup for New Year's Eve. The next day we tatsed it again. This time it was softer, less obnoxious. Still didn't like it Give it a 65
- 2009 Quivera Zinfandel This one reallywasn't that bad, only by comparison with the glorious 2007. Too much herbaceousness, eucalyotus, vegetative taste for me. Give it an 80
- 2006 Domaine Du Moulie -I was so excited to find a Madiran from the southwest of France Another disappointment! Lacking real Madiran quality, it was so acidic as to be undrinkable. We finally managed to use for cooking. Give it a 70.
- NV Chandon Brut - Fresh, lively, a lazer beam when really cold, fuller, softer, but still pleasingly dry when warmer. When it's on sale for $12 at Safeway, it's a great bargain .Give it an 88.
- 1998 Nelm's Road Merlot -This would have been one for Ryan's cellar. I purchased a case roughly ten years ago, and it has been getting better and better. The first bottline was, great, though high in tannin. The last bottle was beautifully complex with a panoply of dark fruit flavorsIn the old days Parker might have given it an 80, not it definitely rates a 90-good stuff at a reasonable price.
- NV Quail Oak Merlot - well, not quite the same as the Nelms Road, but we prefered it to Two Buck Chuck. and Southern from Walgreen's. Good basic Merlot, not too sweet or sappy - great for cooking. Call it Four Buck Chuck.
- 1991 Togni Cabernet Sauvignon - We first met Phillip in the 1970s when he was winemaker at Cuvaison up the Silverado Trail near Calistoga. We had done a tasting of three French White Burgundies and three Napa Chardonnays totally blind. Phillip"s Cuvaison won by far. When he read the results in the Northwest Consumer's Wine Guide, he invited us to visit. When he started his own "Togni" winery on Spring Mountain we continued to follow him..Tthe twenty year old 1991 Cab, not surprisingly, tastes like a well aged Bordeaux with a little more "stuffing as the English say. Let's give it a "91".
- 1975 Chateau Latour - The first Chateau Latour I tasted was a 1963 for which I paid $3. As a poor student that represeted approximately .001% of my yearly income, but it was worth it. Okay, you 1%ers, don't turn up your noses at a 1963. Yes it was a lousy year, but the Latour taste was there. Even though Robert Parker has always kind of panned 1975 it was mindblowing good - flowers, dark fruit, peonies, roses and tar = complex, holds your attention, soft and velvety, but with plenty of substance. Definitely better than Parker's "93+".
- -2009 Chateau Greteau - It's a good thing we didn't taste this after the Ch. Latour, but on it's own it is a delicious 2009 Bordeaux at Costco for about $10. A best buy and still, I think, available.
- 2004 Andrew Will- An outstanding wine from Chris Carmada. This Washington State beauty is mad from Champoux vineyard grapes. I keep debating with myself about which is better - Champoux or Ciel Du Cheval. I'll take either one. Fabulously rich, fruity and complex. A delight to drink. Give it a 94.
- 2003 Peppe Bridge Walla Walla Pepper Bridge Vineyard Reserve - Another fabulous wine from Washington State. Jean Francois Pellet has fashioned a big rich velvety red an outstanding flaor profile. If you want to debate more terroir, compare Jean Francois' wines from Peper Bridge Vineyard with those from neighbor Seven Hills Vineyard. Give it a 91
- 2005 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise - You will feel like you've been hit by a bowling ball that splits open to reveala spicy fruitbomb. Give it a 92
- 1997 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon - With this one a baseball bat will hit it out of the park. A BIG, linear, powerful gamma knife that that will cut your steak for you. Belive it or not, it is only 13% alcohol. It's a style! Give it a 90.
- 1997 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - Winner of the 1976 Spurrier tasting in Paris, Warren Winiarski launched Napa and California on a journay to the top of the wine world with his 1973 "Cask 23" Cab. Robert Parker has bee poohpoohing the winery since to 90s saying the winery is living on it's reputation. Rollover Robert, this is possibly the best California wine I've tasted. At 14.5% alcohol it is a velvet tapistry or soft textures and complex flavors. No jammy in-your-face here. Reminiscent of a really big but soft St. Julien from Bordeaux Diane and I decided to give it a "110".
- 2009 Chateau Bois Redon - This Bordeaux Superior is a Right Bank style red with 75% Merlot. It is an amazing value at $10 from Total Wines. Give it an 85.
- 2009 Ch Haut Sorillon - Perhaps the best value I've tasted this year at $9 from Trader Joe's. Delicious Bordeaux at a great price (85)
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Happy New Year Champagne
For the 1%
- Piper Heidsick
- Chandon Napa
- Mumm's Napa
- Roederer Estate
- Mountain Dome
- Ch Ste. Michelle
Happy New Year!
Friday, November 11, 2011
Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California which I'll tell you about soon, but first the low down on the annual showdown with all those turkeys out there (no, not the politicans, the birds).
Food pairings can be overdone. Basically you can drink any wine you like with any food. Red wine with fish, white wine with red meat. Bordeaux with salmon, Chardonnay with steak. It does happen that some pairings are exquisite together such as foie gras and Sauternes, blue cheese, walnuts and Port, rack of lamb and Bordeaux, T-bone steak with big Napa Cab, Salmon and Pinot Noir, Barolo and Osso Buco to name a few examples. So even though you can drink anything with Turkey there are some pairings that work better than others
You can always drink Champagne or other sparklers with anything including Turkey. Even though I don't generally like sweeter Champagnes, they do go well with Turkey. Try Prosecco or Sparkling Vouvray. Vouvray, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley might just be the perfect wine with Turkey. Sparkling Vouvray has the added advantage of being festive and generally less expensive than Champagne. Vouvray, both sparkling and plain come in varying degrees of sweetness, so it might be best to ask someone in the store. Semillon is another great match. Of course, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris would work well, too. Gnerally speaking, whites go better than reds, but if you prefer reds try Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, or Pinot Noir. If Turkey's not you thing, try Rose with Ham and Burgundy or Pinot Noir with Roast Beef.
Here are ten specific suggestions:
1) Chandon Napa Sparkling Wine
2) Mumm's Napa Sparkling Wine
3) Gruet New Mexico Sparkling Wine
4) Mountain Dome Washington Sparkling Wine
5) Zardetto Prosecco - Italy
6) Vouvray - Loire Valley, France
7) Sparkling Vouvray, Loire, France
8) L'Ecole Semillon, Washington State
9) L'Ecole Walla Voila(Chenin Blanc) - Washington State
10) Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau - France
Enjoy! Have a Happy Holiday!
Monday, August 22, 2011
One Of The Best Kept Wine Secrets In America
So many great wines, so little time. Yesterday we took our friends, Alan & Judy, on a brief tour of some of our faves. Alas, we didn't get to Novelty Hill, Januik, Brian Carter or Adam's Bench to name a few, but we did manage to stop in at Hestia's new digs where Shannon et al were busily hammering away in their new winery. Shannon was kind enough to take some time out from construction to taste us on his two flagship wines. The 2008 Syrah was spectacular and full flavored. The2008 Cab more linear. Judy couldn't resist the Syrah.
Pondera just across the allet was open for business so we mosied over there. We first tasted Pondera wines at one of David Le Cl;aire's Discoveries and Debuts a few years ago and even then they really stood out. All the wine were good, but the 2008 Cuvee and 2008 Sericus really stood out for us The Cuvee so flavorful, so balancd, so appealing, for only twenty bucks and the Sericus, more serious, bigger, full flavored. To heck with school, to heck with Davis, the heck with Boing, these guys know what they are doing. And the artistry entends beyond winemaking, to painting. Judy couldn't resist a fabulous print of a wild horse for only twenty bucks.
South a few miles to DeLille's new tasting room. DeLille is one of those wineries that is not only totally reliable, but spectacular at the same time. After a little chat with Jay Soloff, we tasted through three of their Rhone style wines and three of their Bordeaux style wines. Of the wines poured, our favorites this time around were the 2008 Harrison Hill and the 2010 Doyenne Rousanne. The 2008 Harrison Hill comes from one of the oldest vineyards in Washington. The Cabernet Sauvignon was softened up and balanced out by 25% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot - supple, silky and pure. Yum! The 2008 Rousanne was mindblowingly magnificent. Probably the best Rousanne I 've ever had. Truly spectacular - a virtual mountain water fall flowing down my gullet with all the flavor of the stones in a Cascade stream -Wow!
So now the secret is out! Where else can you find so many great wineries concentrated in just a a few square miles? Well there is one other place - the South Park area just south of Seattle. There you can taste amazing wines from the likes of Cadence, Fall Line, Note Bene, Falling Rain, Smasne and others.
Don't want to spend a bundle on a wine vacation? Seattle wineries and tasting rooms are still the best kept secret treasure in the wine world.Save on airfare and spend on wine.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Tales From My Father By Charlie
Complexity is too much for the human brain, even though consequences are multi-determined to borrow a phrase from Freud. Although there is no single cause, we tend to look for a simple explanation and a simple solution. So if we want to play the blame game, we could finger Greenspan, Barney Frank, greedy mortgage brokers, sub-prime mortgages, Fannie & Freddie, the big banks, CDOs and SIVs, greedy speculators, Washington and Wall Street. Anyway here we are in this mess "Round Two.". Governments bailed out the banks, will the banks bail out the governments?
So here we are, and Charlie is angry. Do you think he is the only one? Do you think the Tea Partiers are the only ones? What did his Dad have to say? Here are the laws of the father. Here are the ten commandments
- Don't borrow
- Don't get into debt
- Never a lender nor a borrower be
- Don't overspend
- Pay off your debts every month
- Work hard
- Be innovative
- Take care of yourself, your family, your community
- Cut back
- Get a job
Since WWII, thery've called it demand pull. A house for every American and three SUV's in every garage. Greenspan thought it was fine to take out a second "home equity loan" when Charlie's father was saying, if you must borrow to buy a house to live in, pay it off asap. What happened to integrity, waht happened to civility, what happened to bipartisanship, what happened to our country, what happened to the world. Turn over any rock and you find money. Turn over any financial transaction and you find greed. "Greed is good?" Up to a point! Aren't rapacious capitalism and extreme socialism ( i.e., communism) two sides of the same coin?
Doe Charlie drink wine? I never asked him, but I wouldn't be surprised. In fact, I'll bet he he's drinking more and paying less just like in 2008-2009. Over 50 restaurants closed in Tucson in the fall of 2008. How many wineries will close this time around. Cheers!
Thursday, July 21, 2011
About that picnic, shift to 2010 for one of the best Roses I've ever tasted. My friend Carol doesn't like Rose I think because she associates it with sweet white Zinfandel. Personally, I don't like sweet Roses either whether from France or the U.S. I have never had a Rose from the Loire Valley of France that I found enjoyable. Similarly, most American Roses are too sweet for my taste. A number of years ago I visited the Enotheque in Les Arcs - more than 50 Cotes de Provence wines to taste almost all Roses. I wished I could take them all home with me. So when I opened Carol & Stevens fridge in Morro Bay and saw a 2010 Cotes de Provence Rose, I couldn't resist a little sip. WOW! The perfect Provencale Rose! It is hard to describe the essence of this bliss producing wine. Of course, the salmon color is pleasing, flavors superb and the dryness of the wine just right. Perhaps it is the restraint and incredible lightness that is so magical - the essence of the sun and sea of Provence in a glass. You might think you would pay over $20 for a wine made so close to the famous Bandol, but Luc & Serine Sorin have kept the price amazingly reasonable. I got my bottles at McCarthy & Schiering for $12 a bottle. Where else can you buy such wine in Seattle? Tune in ...
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Bordeaux With Pizza?
Thursday, June 23, 2011
What Am I Drinking?
Here are some Bordeaux I've tasted:
- 2009 Chateau Grand Pierre, Bordeaux Superior, about $10 at K&L - This wine grabbed us - medium bodied, delicious black fruit some soft tannins and good backbone this will probably get even better over the next year or two. Drink now to 2015 - definitely our favorite.
- 2009 Grand Bateau, Bordeaux about$10 at K&L. This seems to be a negociants blend kind of like Mouton Cadet only infinitely superior. Mainly Merlot, this is pure simple fruit. A good quaff, but not too interesting
- 2009 Chateau de Riberbon, Bordeaux Superior, about $15 from WTSO online. Good fruit with enough tannin so that it really needs at least two years before it wil come around to easy drinkability
- 2009 Chateau Haut Sorillon, Bordeaux Superior, about $9 at Trader Joe's. That's not a typo! Eight bucks for a delicious, balanced, fruity red with a nose of violets and lavander. Ready to drink, good for at least four more years. A best buy!
Next on my list to check out are 2009 Reserve de L'Estay and 2009 Moulin de Beausejour both from Trader Joe's.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Seattle Makes The New York Times
Where Bruni missed the ferry, or the boat, was in the wine department. He did have the good sense to recommend DeLille Chaleur Blanc and give a nod to the Buty Sauvignon blend, but where are the Chards from Buty, Amaurice, and Cougar Crest. Somehow Bruni managed to find his way to Willows Lodge, but avoided the excellent Herbfarm and Barking Frog. What about Betz and Brian Carter and Hestia and Adam's Bench, Novelty Hill, Januik, Gorman, Sparkman, Mark Ryan to name just a few. Apparently, Frank stayed downtown just a hop skip and a jump from Cadence, Fall Line, O-S, and Note Bene. The man seems to prefer Vodka and speakeasies to the garagistes of Seattle. Tant pis pour lui, too bad for him. Maybe he only stayed a weekend and fled the rain. Still, not bad for a New Yorker!
Monday, June 13, 2011
I can't wait to taste the "09 Zins. I would definitely start with Mazocco and Quivera, I.m hoping that the '09 Quivera Zin will be as good as the '07
Monday, May 30, 2011
The End of the Road Less Traveled
On to Riverbench winery, no longer really in Foxen Canyon, but sitting on the south river bench of the Santa Maria river, home to the best commercial strawberries grown in the U.S. First out of the shoot was a nice 2010 Pinot Noir Rose that was fresh and fruity and tasted of... strawberries. Next up the crisp and citrusy, stainless fermented 2009 Bedrock Chardonnay followed by the oaked 2007 Estate Chardonnay which had a very nice nose and was balanced and round with a nice touch of vanilla.The 2008 Estate Pinot Noir had a nose of smoke, tobacco, and leather followed by rhubarb flavors. The 2008 Reserve Pinot was light in color with cherry flavors and leather accents. The 2008 Mesa was the standout, again with light color, and round full fruit flavors - here is an Oregon style Pinot to go with your locally caught salmon.
Several years ago, I tasted a Kenneth Volk Chardonnay that made me want to taste more from the former owner of Wild Horse winery. Now, out on his own, Ken seems to be brewing up a storm. I counted approximately twenty different wines on the list. Ken seems to love to experiment with different varietals, Verdelho, Negrette, Touriga, and Aglianca for example, The wonderful 2008 Verdelho reminded me of figs, the 2009 Viognier was round and fruity, the 2009 Rose of Grenache, very fruity and sweet, the 2008 regular Grenache light and pleasant, a good patio or hamburger wine. The 2008 Negrette had a sweet mouthfeel like a perfect French Aperitif. The 2008 Touriga had the feel and flavor of Port , but without the sweetness - a perfect Port for diabetics? The 2006 Tempranillo also had the same sweet mouthfeel. Ken appears to have a distinctive signature of full roundness and fruit with some "sweet" mouthfeel. He certainly leaves his mark on the wine. Among my faves were 2008 Mourvedre, Enz Vineyard which had a fabulous nose and the 2006 Sierra Madre Chardonnay which really expressed and benefited from Ken's stylistic preferences with its full creamy mouthfeel. The highlight, though, was a comparison tasting of two very different 2007 Pinot Noirs - same vintage, same winemaker, but different clones, different styles. The "Old School" Pinot made from Pommard clones was light, elegant and silky on the palate with complex fruit flavors - very Oregon in style, perfect with salmon. The "New School" Pinot made from Dijon clones was big, spicy and full, - very California in style, perfect with buffalo steaks. The New School" reminds me of a good Nuits St. Georges, while the "Old School" is reminiscent of a Savigny Les Beaune. Kenneth Volk's prices in the 20s and 30s are very reasonable these days for what you get. It was definitely worth it to finally get to the end of the road. BTW, Kenneth Volk is very close to Cambria winery whose excellent Chardonnay is widely available, frequently at Costco for a very reasonable price. On to Paso Robles!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Fortunately, the tasting room person at Stolpman recommended the new kid on the block. Just across the street we found Steve Dragonette of Dragonette Cellars. Famous opera singer Aunt Jessica changed the name from Dragonetti. No matter the name, a bunch of winners here. Dragonette specializes in Sauvignon Blanc making three different bottlings. The three star 2009 Santa Ynez Sauvignon Blanc was beautiful, round, and fruity with none of that in your face grapefruit so common in Sauv Blancs. The 2009 SB from Vogelzang Vineyard was balanced and carefully crafted, too. A good 2009 Pinot Noir was followed the 2008 Syrah with hint of eucalyptus and mint in the nose. The bombshell, 2008 MJM, named after the owners' wives was big and beautiful with a fabulous nose. This is definitely a winery to watch..
Every year I seem to have missed Tensley winery, but not this year. The wines were all good, but a little light for my taste. The most interesting wine was Detente a combined effort of Joey Tensley and Cecile Dussurre. The wine is a blend of 50% Domaine de Montavac Gigondas and 50% 2008 Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah.We first tasted Gigondas in a small Rhone style restaurant in the Maubert Mutualite area of Paris in 1970. The 1962 Gigondas was unforgettable. Gigondas could be called the poor man's Chateauneuf Du Papes, but in my book, anyone who gets to drink Gigondas is rich. BTW, Gigondas is another one of those reliable, not well known wines that you should jump at on a restaurant wist list.
Qupe has become one of my favorite wineries in Los Olivos. This is truly a family winery. Every family member makes wine - Bob, the father, Louisa, the wife, and Ethan the son. Louisa's Spanish style wines are bottled under the Verdad label. 2010 Verdad Rose was a little sweet for my taste, but the 2009 Albarino was wonderfully dry with good fruit that gave it a fuller mouthfeel, almost like a Galacian Albarino, but with riper California fruit.The 2008 Qupe Roussanne "Bien Nacido Hillside Estate" had a nose of pear and fruit, and a fruity big bodied mouthfeel. The widely available Qupe Los Olivos Cuvee was excellent as usual and the even more widely distributed 2008 Qupe Syrah "Bien Nacido Vineyard" was even better Virtually all of the Qupe wines were excellent, esepcially the 2009 Sawyer Lindquist - "amazing", "fantastic", leather, tobacco, panoply of spice, garam masala.
I got to Los Olivos early so I had a cup of coffee and an egg croissant at Corner House Coffee.
Los Olivos is a lovely place with great tasting rooms, but the city, which only offers portable restrooms to tourists and wine tasters really had better clean up its act. As Jimmy Durante used to say only the nose knows!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
The Next New "Other" White Meat
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Crush pARTy In The Desert
Tucson restaurants really put their best feet forward. Pulled pork sliders were the thing. At least half a dozen versions were presented - all good. Fabulous scallops prepared perfectly by the Grille at Hacienda del Sol greeted you just after the entrance. Scallops in the desert, tuna sashimi in the desert, marlin in the desert - a throwback to geologic times in Arizona? Nah, just fresh ingredients from some of Tucson's top restaurants.
So many restaurants, so little wine, but some of the wine was exceptional. We'll get to that in a minute. First, a list of restaurants to check out in Tucson: El Charro - a local chain of Mexican restaurants, Downtown - a bistro avatar of Janos , one of the top restauranteurs in the city, Harvest & Zona 78 new avatars of the Grille at Haciendo del Sol.
Survivors of the Depression II, excuse me, the Great Recession ( 45 Tucson restaurants closed in the fall of 2008): Vivace - old Italian standby, Acacia - moved North, Flemings - corporate steak house, Armitage - uptight apparently cool wine bar in the Foothills, Lodge On The Desert - remodeled and retrofitted just in time for the "recovery", Feast - still there, Azul - en el norte de Tucson a La Encantada. Pastiche - restaurant, wine bar and wine shop offered a unique and very useful feature - business cards with the wine name on the back and a brief description of the wine. The descriptions weren't that accurate, but then how many tasting notes are? Just to have the name of a wine that you like on a card is a tremendous help and reminder, clever marketing, too. How many times have you tasted a wine that you loved and you couldn't remember the name. What a great innovation which should be imitated at every wine event. Bravo, T.M.A. and Pastiche!
These little cards helped me to easily note the remarkable wines of the evening, Between all the food booths some interesting wines could be found. Although many of the wines seemed like the usual commercial fare, some wines stood out.In addition to the Chards already mentioned, The Henriot Champagne was a cooling fresh beverage that was a perfect match with the tuna shashimi. The reds that most stand out in my mindare from Niner, especially the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. While the 2005 Heitz Cabernet wasn't exactly on a par with the famous 1974, it was quite good, a significant improvement from recent decades of mediocre wine. The 2008 Robert Craig Affinity was delicious as usual, but surpassed UMHO by the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are looking for a monster Cabernet, look no farther than The Sledgehammer - big with explosive flavors. Doube T Red from Napa had a more modest profile, but full of black fruit flavors - a little friendlier, not such a brute.If fruit bombs are your thing, the 2009 Manifesto from Lodi will be your friend..If you are looking for something lighter still, become a fan of 2008 Dutton Goldfield Pinot Noir.
If you don't follow California wines, poke around the wide selection of Italian wines from Zonin.The Prosecco was light and fruity - a perfect wine to start the evening on the patio. Seeing a Vermentino brought back wonderful memories of the Cinque Terra, but alas, this version from the Maremma was so fruity it tasted American, at least wasn't defective like so many Vermentinos from Sardinia. The big event was the Zonin Amarone, a beautiful, big rich version of this wine made from the unusual Corvino grape partially dried on bamboo racks in Valpollicella -rich, velvety, smooth, flavorful -perfect.
If you didn't make it to Crush this year, put it on your Facebook page next year. If you were there, we had a great time, didn't we? I even copped a few bottles of white Burgundy in the silent auction, maybe you will next year.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Crush : A Moveable Feast @ Tucson Museum of Art
Monday, February 14, 2011
2010 Unofficial Classification of Washington Wineries
Premier Grand Cru ( Extraordinary)
Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)
Troisieme Grand Cru ( Exceptional)
Canon De Sol
Sleight Of Hand
Quatrieme Grand Cru ( Excellent)
Vin Du Lac
Walla Walla Vineyards
Cinqieme Cru (Best Buys)
Columbia Crest "Two Vines"
Martinez & Martinez
Pavin & Riley
Pine & Post
Wines of Substance
Columbia Crest Reserve
Glacial Lake Missoula
Latitude 46 N
Local wine Company
Terra Blanca - Onyx
Friday, January 28, 2011
American Sketches of Spain -Tempranillo
Tempranillo is the flagship grape of Spain. Originally the main grape in the Rioja region, it has spread throughout the counrtry and around the world. As a result of globalization, Spain adopted American technology such as stainless steel fermentation tanks, and America adopted Tempranillo. We wanted to see the result so we had a comparison tasting of Tempranillo from Spain, Washington, Oregon and California. Five of the wines were tasted single blind with our friends, Hans and Trude, and three were tasted stark naked with our friends Norm and Verni. The results were eye-opening.
Here are the results of the blind tasting ( 1=highest)
1.75 2006 Lan Rioja, Rioja, Spain - about $15 in supermarkets
2.13 2007 Pomum Tinto, Columbia Valley, Wa.- about $30 at the winery
2.37 2007 Opolo Tempranillo, Paso Robles, Ca. - about $30 at the winery
3.13 2009 Temenal, Yecla, Spain - about $4 at Trader Joe's
3.50 2006 Dominio IV "Sketches of Spain", Columbia Gorge, Or.- about $25
So, one could simplistically say that the Rioja was the winner and the Sketches of Spain the loser, but this is not so. There was so much variability among ratings that these are probably not meaningful differences. One of our number was a winemaker who was rating to his prototype of Tempranillo rather than simple hedonistic pleasure. All of the wines were good, but made in different styles. The blow away wine was the "Tinto" from Washington. So Spanish in style, yet fresher, fruitier and rounder than the Lan. Perhaps this should be no surprise as it was made by a winemaker from Spain, Javier Alfonso, a Boeing engineer who lives in Seattle.The Opolo was big, round and fruity, very American, very California. The Dominio had more tannin and seemed to need some more age, though it would be fine now with a roast or stew. The "Joker" or "Ringer", the "Four Buck Tempranillo" from Trader Joe did quite well. It was much rougher with too much tannin and acid, but it, too would go well with food. Don't try this one as a cocktail alone!
Is Tempranillo the next new thing? It may be a little early to tell ( tempranillo means a little early in Spanish), but it definitely is a candidate, especially in Washington. Since the overall quality in this tasting was so high, we thought we would check out a few more wines. We tasted two different vintages of Montobuena Rioja (about $10 at Total Wines), the 07 and 09. The 09 was lighter brighter and more acidic than the 07 which was more structured, more balanced and fuller flavored. We had the the 09 with the salad, the 07 with the Chicken Tagine, and the 06 Abecela Tempranillo, from Rio Vineyard in Southern Oregon, with the appetizer. Abecela was a Northwest pioneer with Tempranillo, but I've always found it to be kind of flat and dry. It did have enough fruit in it for one taster to describe it as being like Merlot. More good Tempranillo!
It looks like Spain has joined its former colonies in the New World, Argentina and Chile, in making high quality wine at reasonable prices. And North America, seems to have taken Tempranillo to a new level of fullness and fruitiness. Is Tempranillo the next new thing? It's a lttle early to tell.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The Caviar Indicator
Still, this doesn't stop me from searching every year. In the current century, the sweet spot for me has been American Sturgeon and Paddlefish caviar, farmed or wild. Of course, I never object to Ikura, or red salmon caviar. This year turned up very little in this middle range. The Romanoff on the supermarket shelf hardly qualifies as caviar. The other available option - Osetra for $100 an ounce and up is equally unworkable! Luckily I coped a jar of wild American Paddlefish for $20 an ounce at trader Joe's early, just before it disappeared for the season.
What's this got to do with wine? First, it appears that people are buying caviar, but not the ultra expensive varieties. So it's like they don't want to spend an arm and a leg, but are willing to spend for good value.
No two buck chuck, but no Opus one either. To put it another way, no Cold Duck, but no Crystal either.
So it appears that under $20 or $30 at the most is the new normal. Sure I saw lots of folks walking off with cases of $45 Mauritson Zin at the barrel tasting in December, but how many wineries can sell at $30 or $45 price points? How many have the magic of Mauritson?
I recently read an interview with the CEO of the company that produces Ugg boots. He figured he was right in the sweet spot between Family Dollar and Tiffany. Similarly Coach offers value luxury that appeals to the new consumer. It seems there are too many wineries trying to sell $45 bottles of wine. I'm sure most of them are conviced that their wine is worth it and in most cases the wines are probably quite good, but why should I fork over $45 for your Merlot, when it is so similar to Joe's and Tom's and Dick's and Harry's.
My advice for the New Year to my winemaking friends? You need an under $20 bottle, good value and some character in your wine that distinguishes it from the rest of the shelf. Happy New Year everyone.Look for the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wines coming soon.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Dry Creek - The Sequal
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
OMG The Season Is Upon Us
Last minute rush? Can't make it to the wineries? Try Trader Joe's or Costco. I recently picked up a fabulous bottle of 2008 William Fevre Chablis for only twenty bucks at Costco. If you "need" a bottle of Dom Perignon, Costco is the place to buy it for only $120 or so, some odd dollars. At TJ's, try the 2009 Chablis from Jean or was it Jacques, Bourguignon ( a made up name, but good stuff for $8). The 2009 Chateauneuf Du Papes "Valle De La Pierre" is a little rough, more like a Cotes du Rhones, but it will work well with a rich stew and is appropirately priced at $10. For the same price you can pick up a decent Pinot Noir which is as good as Pinots costing $15 -$20 - 2009 Sebastopol Hills. Finally the ultimate Holiday wine, Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Port, at about $20, is perfect with fruitcake, walnuts, blue cheese and and dessert. Cigar anyone? Happy Holidays.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Holiday Gifts - II Dry Creek Valley
Here are three wineries where you can't lose - Mazzocco, Quivera, and Gustafson. Mazzocco offers Zins from more than half a dozen different vineyards at about $30, each one a little different from the others and all excellent. This is a great opportunity to get a sense of terroir. A selection of Zins from each of six vineyards would make a sensational gift for your wine loving friend or family member and, of course, they will have to invite you to the comparison tasting.
At Quivira there was not a bad one in the bunch. They all got a "swallow", like one star. Of the '07 Zinfandel, '08 Grenache, '07 Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre, '07 Syrah Hommage a Ampuis, and '07 Mourvedre, we liked the Zin the best. It is the quintessential Zin, full of fruit, but not forward and in you face and very drinakable now, even though it has enough soft tannins to age a few years. At $20, it could be your gift for every adult on your list.
Far above Lake Sonoma is almost unmarked Gustafson winery, home to many remarkable wines. The 2008 Estate Mountain Cuvee Zinfandel is a smooth, easy, friendly wine at only $18. The 2006 Mountain Cuvee is the big brother to the '08 but still smooth and balanced. The 2007 Estate Petite Sirah is an amazingly rich "Two Swallow" wine full of spice and dark fruit. The 2007 Estate Zinfandel was our favorite with its big briary flavors and backbone of soft tannin. Delicious now, it will definitely improve with several years of ageing.
Okay, so you don't like Zin, then go to Michel Schlumberger where you will sit down to an elegant tasting of the whole range of varietals. We particularly liked some of the Cabs and thought the fabulously cherry flavored 2007 Mobius Malbec was a steal at $22. Unfortunately, only 25 cases were made.
Lucky you, you get to travel one of the wine roads less traveled and come up with great gifts that will wow your friends at reasonable prices for you.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Holiday Gifts - I Oregon
Here are the Gene Stein Recommendations from Oregon:
- 2006 Anthony Dell Pinot Noir - under $20
- 2008 Crowley Pinot Noir - about $20
- 2007 Stevenson-Barrie Pinot Noirs - $30
- 2008 Libra Pinot Noirs -$20-$35
- 2007 Dominio Pinot Noir - $28
- NV 1789 Pinot Noir - about $35
- 2007 Panther Creek Winemaker's Cuvee ($25), Verde Vineyards ($25), Freedom Hill ($35), Shea ($35)
- 2007 Montebruno Pinot Noir - $33
- 2007 Lazy River Pinot Noir - $33
- 2007 Wahle Pinot Noir - $45
- 2007 Brittan Pinot Noir $45
- 2008 Ken Wright Pimot Noir - Canary Hill & Carter Vineyard - about $60
- 2008 Ayoub Pinot Noir - $65-$85?
- 2007 Retour Pinot Noir - $65?
- 2009 De Ponte "Melon" -about $20
- 2008 Westrey Chardonnay - about $20
- 2009 Bethel Heights Unoaked Chardonnay - $18
- 2009 Dominio IV Viognier - $22
- 2009 St Innocent "Vitae Springs" Pinot Gris - $20
- 2009 Lazy River Pinot Gris
Friday, November 19, 2010
Seattle Wine Blog In Top Ten
Here are the top ten out of the top one hundred:
2) Wine Library TV
3) Dr. Vino
4) The Pour
6) Sharon's Wine Blog
8) Seattle Wine Blog
9) The Oregon Wine Blog
10) REthink Wine
Good company, eh?
Monday, October 18, 2010
Oregon Pinot Underground
If you have the bread it is easy to buy the big names in Oregon, but almost all of us are spending half of what we used to on a bottle of wine. Oregon has a reputation as a place where you can hardly get a bottle of Pinot for under twenty-five dollars and very little else for less than that price, too. But if you hunt and peck, you can find some great wine below that price point. Not everything in the underground is that inexpensive, but it is almost uniformly excellent wine.
Let's start with Panther Creek which is definitely above ground for everyone to see with a tasting room that is open virtually every day. Ken Wright, maker of Oregon's only "cult" wine, started here, but he has since moved on to God -like status at his two wineries in Carlton. His wines can be heavenly and it used to be that you could only obtain them by getting on the mailing list for which there was a long wait. Now for about $360 you can buy the minimum six pack of Pinot at the Tyrus Evan winery where he sells his non-Pinots from other Oregon wine areas such as Walla Walla. When I tasted four of the 2008 Pinots, I most liked the Canary Hill and Carter wines. These wines are not just above ground, they are in the Au Dela, in outer space, sometimes in terms of quality and definitely in terms of price. I you get on the mailing list you will be required to buy two six packs. I think the current mailing list price comes to $55 a bottle. You had better be a nasty banker or stockbroker to afford this one. BTW, Ken's Celilo Chardonnay is a fabulous wine with great minerality for about $30 a bottle and your don't have to fork over for a six pack
Panther Creek, on the other hand, offers vineyard designate wines at $30 to $50 a bottle and you don't have to buy a six pack. Not only that but they are on sale! Winemaker Mike Stevenson and Assistant Winemaker Bill Hanson make a half dozen vineyard designate wines and virtually all of them are superb. The 2007 Winemaker's Cuvee* is medium bodied and quite fruity - an excellent buy at $25 on sale. The 2007 Verde Vineyards* is also on sale at $25, while the Vista Hills*, Freedom Hill*, and Shea Vineyard* are all on sale at $35 and all are one swallow or one star wines, a score of 90 in Parker parlance. These wines have great fruit, bigger than medium body and are sure to please you.
Now, if you really want to go underground ask the very able Kendra if you can cop a few bottles of Stevenson-Barrie Pinot. Winemaker Mike makes this wine under his own label. While you can't taste it in the tasting room, trust me, it's great stuff. The 2007 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir** initially seemed well balanced with a nose of tobacco and leather. Over the course of four days it just kept getting better annd better - round softer, cherry smooth and cool. Initial note - OMG, WOW! The 2007 Freedom Hill** was bigger with an initial nose of smoke and leather. Over four days, the nose evolved into mint, herbs, cedar, and black fruit. This one could age for ten years, while the Shea will probably get better over another four years at the least.
In the same underground den, the other wine making denizen of Panther Creek Cellars, Bill Hanson, offers up four more beauties.The '09 Libra Pinot Gris is very crisp and fresh with a citrus nose and lemon/vanilla flavors. In the Italian Pinot Grigio style, it is the perfect oyster wine for under $20. The 2008 Willamette Pinot Noir** comes from the Eola Amity Hillls AVA and was fermented with the native yeast of the grapes. You might expect a wild thing, but in fact the wine is light and easy with fabulous black cherry fruit. The beautiful color is seductive and leads you right into nose of black cherry, forest and mushrooms. WOW! Definitely a couple of swallows and two stars and only twenty bucks. The 2008 Mystic Vineyard* is also in the Eola Hills. The brilliant garnet color is satisfying in itself. While there is little or no nose, this fairly big wine tastes of cherry, blueberry and plum. It was an amazing match with pate. Another swallow for this one - a great bargain at $25. Finally, 2008 Momtazi Vineyard* - fruit and licorice in the nose, spices, cinnamom, strawberries and cream in the mouth with lots of structure and backbone. This is a keeper if you want one for the cellar though it tastes great right now. Only $35 for such a big wine. BTW, it's biodynamique and sustainable, too.
These are all fabulous wines. Impress your friends with your impeccable taste and ability to cop rare wines at reasonable prices. Screaming Eagle move over. To order Panther Creek, Stevenson-Barrie or Libra wines, call or email, Kendra, Mike or Bill at 503-550-1963 or email Kendra@panthercreekcellars.com. Twitter @panther_creek or Kendra @winesentry.