26 February 2005

Tasting Notes for February 26, 2005

Wine 1: Roncier Blanc de Blancs. In my opinion, this wine is one of the best kept secrets on the shelf today. It's a white Burgundy, but is non-vintage and comes from a variety of fields, so it doesn't get the AOC designation. What this really means is that you're getting some of the leftover grapes from some of the great vineyards of the Burgundy region of France. There's no oak aging of this wine--no barrels, no wood chips, so it goes down smooth. The best part: it's only $8 a bottle, and easily has the taste of a domestic white three times the price. I drank quite a bit of this when I first saw it on the shelves a year ago, and have loved it ever since.

Wine 2: Fetzer Gewürztraminer. Another favorite. I've served this with roast pork and baked apples; it's a sweet wine that's easily accessible to the non-wine drinker, and it has another incredible attribute: it goes amazingly well with Thai food or other spicy fare. Sweet wines tend to stand up well to spicy foods--there's not a lot of subtle complexity that can get lost when your tongue is getting blasted. And another bargain at $7.

Wine 3: 2003 Castillo de Monséran Garnacha. Sorry, couldn't find a website. This comes from the Cariñena region of Spain, and is obviously made from grenache grapes. Again, another budget favorite. Smooth and silky, some good fruit flavors, and suitable for hearty fare like burgers, pizza, and Mexican food. At the same time, it has some lovely flavors and lacks many of the down sides of your cheaper reds. Highly recommended. $7.

Wine 4: 2001 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot. This one got a lot of attention for being in the recent Wine Spectator Top 100. It's a great wine, but I didn't get too excited about it--and that has nothing to do with the movie Sideways, a movie that I haven't even seen yet. (For those unfamilar, it's now fashionable to trash merlot and love pinot noir.) And while I agree with that general sentiment, I think that merlot has a much better place as a blending wine. I've had some expensive and high-end merlots in my day, and have just never been enthusiastic. For this price, this is great, but in my opinion it's just not that interesting. $11.

WIne 5: 2001 Napa Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Not a bad wine, this is from a vineyard that the Gallo family got its grubby paws on about fifty years ago. While obviously they're excited about being able to claim the "Napa Valley" name, it makes it damned hard to find information about the wine. Anyway, this wasn't bad, but I've had much better cab savs for the price. Some decent berry flavors, but for a 3.5 year old wine I would have expected something a little smoother. $17. (By the way, I have nothing against Gallo--they own a lot of vineyards, and often go out of their way to obscure said ownership, as the Gallo name has become associated with crap jug wine. I even met one person who bought one of their carafe-bottled wines because she needed a carafe, and it was cheaper to buy one of the Gallo wines than to buy an empty one from a department store.)

20 February 2005

Big Wine Dinner for February 19, 2005

Pictures, food descriptions, and notes on the wines (most of which have been reviewed here) can be found here.

Tasting Notes for February 19, 2005

Wine 1: 2003 Ruffino Pinot Grigio. (Warning: that site is all Flash-based, and I couldn't find any information on this specific wine.) Not bad, but I'm beginning to get turned off of Pinot Grigio. It goes down like water, because it... tastes like water. It's almost as clear as glass and no nose. This isn't a complaint just about this wine, it's been my usual experience. $13.

WIne 2: Sutter Home Moscato. This was the blind bottle, and I was all wrong. It's been a while since I've had a Moscato, but this one was really light and refreshing, not dark and syrupy. Very nice aromas, and a fun little dessert wine. Great quality for the price, and not a bad idea for those new to wine or those who have a sweet tooth. $4.

Wine 3: 2002 Ravenswood Chardonnay. A standard California Chardonnay. Fall fruit and a little buttery. It was OK, but I have difficulty getting excited about inexpensive Chardonnay. I've found in general that if you're drinking Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, you need to be spending at least $15 a bottle, and then know something about the vineyard before you buy. $10.

Wine 4: 2002 Bogle Petite Sirah. I loved this wine--it was really dark and tart, though not overly tannic. I think everyone needs to drink blending grapes like Petite Sirah once in a while. It will help you pinpoint when they're used as blending grapes in other wines. Highly recommended, and a good bargain. $11.

Wine 5: 2000 Chateau Greysac Cru Bourgeois Medoc. A great entry-level Bordeaux. Old enough to be smoothed out, but it still has those wonderful Medoc aromas and flavors of tobacco and tomato leaves. Good and solid, ought to be OK for a while if stored properly. $19.

18 February 2005

Preparation for Wine Dinner

Saturday night I'm hosting a big wine dinner over at Paul's... More details on that will follow late that night or sometime Sunday. I've spent today getting stuff ready and cooking what could be cooked ahead of time.

In the soup preparation, I used about a full glass of 2003 R.H. Phillips Chardonnay. These aren't spectacular wines, but they're not bad either. I tend to like them for cooking if I don't already have something better open with which to sacrifice a glass. They also use a metal screwcap, so you don't have to worry about corkage, and they store in the fridge easily. Not buttery, not acidic, just a simple chard. $7.

And in the evening, I had a spare bottle that I wanted to have as a backup for tomorrow night, but I think I've got more than enough wine as it is. The 2001 Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône Rouge is a mixture of Grenache, Syrah, Mourv├Ędre, and Cinsault. It's an unusual red, and it's why I've chosen this region for the pork dish tomorrow. It's a very light red (it's about half Grenache), but it has an earthy quality and an exceptionally mild aftertaste that makes it suitable for some odd meats, like duck, pork, or wild game. I don't know why these wines aren't more popular. This bottle was $10, and should be good for another year or two under proper conditions. I'm drinking it now with a bit of a chill on it, as close to cellar temperature as I can get. The flavor is more complex than it would first appear, so it merits some slow appreciation. And the bottle design is classy, though potentially confusing--the entire range of their products all share a same basic design, with minor color changes. So you can reasonably make someone believe that this is a more expensive wine.

13 February 2005

2002 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir

I grabbed a bottle of the 2002 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir on sale--$8. Not bad, but not spectacular. The link there goes to the notes for 2001, but I assume it's similar for the 2002. It's a got a slightly offputting aroma of ripe fruit and a tart initial flavor. Oddly the aftertaste is rather more pleasant, I suppose due to the oak aging. After two glasses, I think I'm going to stick it in the fridge and enjoy it cold tomorrow night. That ought to soften it out a bit.

Tasting Notes for February 12, 2005

Wine 1: Mionetto il Prosecco. This is a light sparkling wine from Italy. It's an interesting bottle--shaped like a bowling pin and topped with a metal bottlecap (like you'd see on glass beer bottles). It's only a frizzante, not a full spumante, so it's not a bear to open. It's got a light citrus flavor and no aftertaste--all agreed that it would be an excellent palate cleanser between courses or after a particularly strong wine. $13.

Wine 2: 2004 Spy Valley Riesling. From New Zealand, this is one of the stranger rieslings I've had. Slightly sweet, but it tended towards more of a sauvignon blanc flavor rather than a German riesling. Not bad, but confusing. $12.

Wine 3: 2002 Sterling Vintner's Collection Pinot Noir. This is a classic pinot noir, and while it tastes much younger than it is (lots of fun black cherry and a bit of jam flavors), I don't think it's going to hold up with age. Drink now. $14.

Wine 4: 2002 Leaping Lizard Cabernet Sauvignon. I couldn't find a website for this company, but it's a Napa Valley cab sav that supposedly won 90 points in Wine Spectator. I had mixed reactions to this; after the pinot noir it was pretty harsh--I actually coughed on it. High tannins, strong finish. Not bad, but requires a bit of forewarning and the proper food. $10.

WIne 5. 2001 Zenato Valpolicella. A solid Italian valpolicella, made mostly out of corvina grapes (85%). A little smoky with hints of black cherry and licorice. Smooth and classy, especially for the price. $11.

08 February 2005

Another Crap Wine

Again, I don't mean to be a snob, but it is possible to reach a point where you get angry at certain wines. Case in point: the 2003 Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir. Now, I was highly impressed with their 2002 Bin 75 Riesling. But this pinot... ehhh....

First off, it doesn't have any of the lovely flavors of a fun pinot--the black cherry and jam that comes from a young one, or the various complex flavors of an older one. Frankly, it tastes like it's about fifteen minutes away from being oxidized. But in fairness, I think I'll try it tomorrow with a fresh palate.

06 February 2005

Horrible Wine

I've had much bad wine in my day, but I'm always willing to give a new bottle a fighting chance.

Now, I try not to be a wine snob, and I'd never say an unkind word about a wine that was offered to me in a spirit of goodwill. However, since I'm trying to document all of the wines I'm drinking these days, here goes... At a Super Bowl party today, the booze scene was a bit weak. Coors Lite, various jug wines, and gin. I spotted a bottle of vermouth hiding in the back and resolved myself to martinis for the evening. However, right before leaving, I decided to try a splash of "Bob's Garage Chardonnay". That's not what it was called, but that conveys the general production method. The grapes (or juice thereof) supposedly came from California, but I didn't get any more information.

The nose: rotten peaches and gasoline.

The taste: after an initial burn, the flavor of warm vomit predominated.

While I'm wholly supportive of home brewing of beer--and I've had some incredible homebrews--I think winemaking needs to be done on a slightly larger scale than is economical for the hobbyist.

05 February 2005

Tasting Notes for February 5, 2005

Wine 1: 2003 Fairview Sauvignon Blanc. This is a South African wine, made on a goat farm. This company also produces a line of wines that play on the French region Côtes du Rhône--"Goats do Roam". This was a delightful, smooth sauvignon blanc. Hints of smoke and hay, and it tasted even better as it warmed up. I think this is one of the first South African wines I've ever tried. $9.

Wine 2: Banrock Station Sparkling Chardonnay. I was pretty impressed with this one. I've not had great luck with Aussie chardonnays, but this was surprising. There's almost no nose to it--which is sometimes nice for sparklers. It's easily drinkable, and tastes far better than the price would suggest. This would be a great wine for mimosas or for general toasting if you wanted something above a cheap California sparkler. $7.

Wine 3: 2001 Long Mountain Shiraz. This was the blind bottle, and I was completely off the mark. It tasted like a merlot at first, but had a really strong finish. Lots of delicious fruit aromas, and very smooth on the palate. But the structure--soft beginning, strong finish--is a little confusing, and made it extremely difficult to determine the grape. Incredibly smooth for the price. $10.

Wine 4: 2001 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. I love this grape, and not just because it's so much fun to say. This particular bottle is often referred to as "twig wine", as it comes with a bit of the grape vine tied to the neck of the bottle. Great marketing idea, and the rustic, handwritten look of the label makes it look suitably authentic, as if you'd picked it up from the back of an ox cart in Italy. Nice full-fruit flavor with very soft tannins, and for those of you who have been scared off Italian wines by cheap, baseball-bat-to-the-face chianti, it tastes nothing like that. Favorite memory of this grape: Dad and I split a magnum over the course of a long day of barbecuing. We cooked ribs, pork shoulders, chicken legs, all for about fifty people. Of course, we were eating samples of the meat all day long and drinking the wine, so by the time dinner rolled around we elected to retire to the shade with plates of fresh fruit and a light gamay rouge to refresh the palate.

Wine 5: 2001 Folie à Deux Amador County Zinfandel. I had the 2003 Folie à Deux Menage à Trois Blanc a few weeks ago, and I'm quite fond of the rouge version of that wine. This was my first taste of the pure zin, and I was amazed. It has that smoky black cherry aroma and flavor that one comes to know from zinfandel. It's a very earthy, primal sort of scent, hard to describe. This drinks smoothly, though I have no idea how long it will last. And at the price, I'd almost suggest it instead of the Menage à Trois Rouge, though that one is still more accessible to the casual wine drinker. $15.