29 May 2005

Tasting Notes for May 28, 2005

No real links here, but most of the wines came from one Australian producer, Trever Jones. To fill out the list, there were three wines from Marquis Philips, also Australian. All of the info on the Trever Jones wines can be found here, and I came across a page with brief reviews of the Marquis Philips.

Trever Jones was there to promote his wines, and was an incredibly nice chap. Ruddy complexion, big handlebar moustache, and the thick, calloused hands of a farmer who actually gets his hands dirty. I got to sit with him for a spell while trying the wines, and learned a good bit about Australian winemaking. He hails from the Barossa Valley in South Australia.

Wine 1: 2004 Marquis Philips Holly's Blend. 100% Verdelho, this was a great little wine. Great fruit flavors, and a good sipper for the summer. This is an interesting grape, and a good change of pace from Chardonnay or some of the other big whites. Great bargain, too. $10.
Wine 2: 2004 Trevor Jones Boots White. A blend of Muscat and Riesling, this isn't as sweet as you'd expect, though it's not dry either. I had mixed feelings about this wine, but I know a lot of people who would love it. Might be fun with spicy Asian food. $13.

Wine 3: 2003 Trevor Jones Virgin Chardonnay. I'd never heard of "Virgin" Chardonnay, and the guy pouring the wine didn't know what it was either. This is the best thing about having the winemaker right there. "Hey Trevor, what's Virgin Chardonnay?" His explanation: it's 100% pure Chardonnay, made without oak. But putting "unoaked" or "no oak" on a bottle would sound cheap, so he started calling it Virgin. This wine had good fruit, a soft feel in the mouth, and low acids. While I love unoaked Chardonnay, you can get much better deals from Burgundy. $20.

Wine 4: 2002 Trevor Jones Boots Grenache. A favorite of everyone--this is a Spanish-style Grenache with a little Cabernet Franc mixed in. According to Trevor, this was made from vines that are 70-80 years old. I'd love to eat this with roast pork. It screams for a hearty pork sandwich. $14.

Wine 5: 2000 Trevor Jones Cabernet-Merlot. I didn't think this was very well balanced. There was a lemony acidity to the wine that made it difficult to appreciate the fruit. Might be a bit too old. $38.

Wine 6: 2001 Trevor Jones Dry Grown Shiraz. Good black pepper on the nose, and amazing black cherry flavors on the tongue. A great wine, but a bit steep for me. "Dry grown" means that the grapes were grown without any irrigation or watering, just from the natural rainfall, which tends to result in very low, intense yields. $37.

Wine 7: 2003 Marquis Philips Cabernet Sauvignon. I've had this wine a couple of times before, and have always loved it. Amazing complexity for such a young wine. Soft tannins, a short finish, and delicious dark flavors. $18.

Wine 8: 2003 Marquis Philips Shiraz 9. I first saw this wine a few months ago when I was purchasing a bottle of the above cab sav. The guy at the wine shop pointed out the Shiraz 9, and drew my attention to its 16% alcohol content, though due to the wiggle room in Aussie labeling, it may be as much as 17%. Way too much for a wine. It tasted like a thin port. It's not a bad wine, but I don't know if I'd pay for it, and I think it would be difficult to serve. $37.

Wine 9: Trevor Jones Sparkling Red NV. We were all excited about trying this wine. Unlike some of the Italian red sparklers I've tried, this was not sweet. It's 60% Grenache and 40% Shiraz, with a medium level of fizz. Maybe I'd built it up too much, but I found this wine lacking. There was a good flavor, but it tasted watered down, almost as if you'd taken a Rhone-style wine and diluted it with sparkling mineral water. $18.

Wine 10: Trevor Jones Jonsey Tawny Port NV. The Robert Parker review of this wine gave it 93 points, but falsely claimed that it was 46 years old. In fact, it's four to six years old. It looked more like sherry than port, i.e. dark brown like coffee with no red tint. And it tasted a lot like sherry, probably due to the Pedro Ximenez grape, but it also contains Shiraz and Grenache. A good value, but I don't think I'd buy it. $11.

22 May 2005

2004 House of Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

I know this has been a theme recently, but in the heat of summer (which arrives early here in Memphis), it's really nice to turn to light whites and sparklers that can be chilled and enjoyed early in the meal so that you can cool off. Thus I grabbed a bottle of the 2004 House of Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a great little wine from New Zealand. All you need to know about this is grapefruit, grapefruit, grapefruit. It tastes and smells like unsweetened grapefruit juice, though not as bitter or acidic. I had it with some leftover pizza, and it was a happy combination. $11.

Tasting Notes for May 19, 2005

Wine 1: Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvée Brut. Now I've tried 3 of the 4 basic sparklers from Domaine Ste. Michelle. I still like the blanc de noirs best. This one didn't impress me--I got mostly yeast aromas on the nose, and it was crisp and dry but with little or no flavors. $11.

Wine 2: San Simone Di Paolo Prosecco. A frizzante style sparkling wine, meaning it's only lightly fizzy. Made in the northeast corner of Italy near Venice, this is a great little sipper--light, dry, and mild citrus flavors. I don't know how well it would go with food, but I enjoyed it the more I drank it. (So there was a spare bottle left over at the end... Always make friends with the people that do the pouring.) I picked up a bottle the following day, and I think it will be great on a hot day this summer. $10.

Wine 3: 2001 Montevina Amador Zinfandel. I tasted this back in January, but liked it a lot better this round. Maybe it was the increased age, maybe it was the individual bottle, but there was something magical here. The wine smelled and tasted like Christmas. Seriously, we were all getting peppermint and pine and gingerbread aromas and flavors. It tasted great, though it felt a little out of place in the heat of May. Doesn't have a lot of strong Zinfandel flavor, but I think it's serviceable. $12.

Wine 4: 2002 A Mano Primitivo. The ancestor of Zinfandel, this wine was made in the bootheel of Italy. Personally, I thought it was a little thin, but for that reason, I think it would make an amazing reduction sauce for grilled pork. $11.

15 May 2005

Tasting Notes for May 14, 2005

The theme for this tasting was "Sippable Summer Wines", and I think the slate fit that bill fairly well.

Wine 1: Candoni Prosecco NV. Very interesting bottle design. I love this grape, though this sparkler was a little too brut for sipping on its own. Needs food. $14.

Wine 2: 2003 Cavalchina Bianco di Custoza. Fairly boring Italian white, lots of different grapes, but the fruit and acids fell completely flat. Could have been an off bottle. $15.

Wine 3: 2003 Domaine Félines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet. Great basic white wine from the south of France. Good acid levels and light citrus flavors. $13.

Wine 4: 2003 Castle Rock Sauvignon Blanc. I got a lot of pine aromas on top, though it's a reasonably rounded wine. That pine scent really lingered--I had to rinse my glass twice before the next pour. $10.

Wine 5: 2004 Paringa Chardonnay-Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc. Too much going on in this wine. Firm acids, but too many competing flavors. $12.

Wine 6: 2003 Pepi Pinot Grigio. A flat pinot grigio, nothing spectacular. Surprise, surprise. $12.

Wine 7: 2004 Don Rudolpho Torrentes. (No web info found.) The first time I'd ever had the Torrentes grape, which is the big white of Argentina. Very enjoyable--great fruit and balance, with just a bit of dusky flavor that reminded me of muscadines. $12.

Wine 8: 2004 Saint M Riesling. Made by Ste. Michelle in Washington, this isn't a bad riesling. Nothing special, but a good basic wine for introductory wine drinkers. $13.

Wine 9: 2004 Bonny Doon Big House Pink. A bood basic Italian-style rosé, ought to be perfect with fish or chicken, though it drinks smoothly enough for casual sipping. Also comes with a screwcap, making it perfect for impromptu occasions. $13.

Wine 10: 2003 Georges Dubœuf Beaujolais-Villages. From the famous "Vintage of the Sun" in 2003, this is holding up quite well. More tannins than you'd expect, but there's still that lovely aroma of bananas on top. Another great one for the introductory wine drinker, as well as something to show more experienced drinkers that there's life beyond Beaujolais Nouveau. $10.

Wine 11: 2003 Jumilla "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon-Monastrell. From the Jumilla region in Spain, this is a hearty red that takes its name from the famous quote from Noel Coward, that "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun." Herbal and grassy, but I think it needs a little time to soften. $10.

Wine 12: 2002 Ravenswood California Zinfandel. Firm tannins, not much in the way of good Zinfandel flavor. Take it or leave it. $13.

01 May 2005

On Wine Websites and Names

Consider this an addendum to the manifesto... I'm deeply annoyed by the number of wine-related websites that make you jump through an age verification hurdle in order to just read about the wine. Because we all know that if kids read about malolactic fermentation, they'll become drug addicts and cook a baby in a microwave. One of the big arguments against online sales of wine in certain states is that kids will order wine over the internet. Yep, a kid will take a credit card and order a case of $350 a bottle Montrachet (plus tax and shipping) and ditch school in order to meet the UPS man at the door and wear a false beard and glasses in order to fool the delivery driver. Puh-leeze. Any kid that wants a drink will do one of three things: 1) steal sips from Mom and Dad's stash; 2) get an older friend to buy it; or 3) pay a homeless guy to buy something for them. Meanwhile in the state of Tennessee, there's no way for me to legally consume the products of many smaller wineries. I'm anxious to try some of the creative offerings of Virginia and Texas, but I can't unless I beg one of my distributor friends to get it for me. Which is basically just like #2 above, except that I'm an adult now and refuse to engage in such behavior.

Unrelated, but I guess it's part of the manifesto: In these reviews, I attempt to properly spell all elements of the wine's name. I realize I probably don't get everything 100% correct, but I do make the attempt. And since they influence pronunciation, I dig up all the ASCII codes to properly display letters with the proper diacritical marks above or below them. In a few cases, I think that going to the trouble of spelling these wines properly will actually reduce the number of Google hits that show up. Also, why do I always put the year first? It's a habit. It's also pretty much the only wine label info that's standard across the entire globe, and if a wine is non-vintage, you can generally assume it's of table quality or fairly informal. Generally I try to do Year - Producer - Grape, simplifying everything to the vaguely Californian label convention. Naturally for Old World wines, I stick to region or family or whatever is appropriate. And a lot of domestic wines tend to place the subregion on the label, but I don't typically include that unless the producer has a line of similar products from slightly different regions.

2002 Don Miguel Gascón Mendoza Malbec

The proprietor of one of my local haunts pressed this bottle into my hand the other day... It wasn't on the shelf, and there's not much of it in town: 2002 Don Miguel Gascón Mendoza Malbec. It's a $10 Malbec, which is a grape that I've been loving lately. This is kind of an odd wine, it's what I tend to think of as backwards--smooth on the front, high tannins and acid as you swallow. Not much on the nose, but the flavor is pleasant enough. Definitely better with food. I had a glass with another BBQ pork sandwich, where it matched beautifully. The second glass on its own, not as good.

Tasting Notes for April 30, 2005

Yesterday's wine tasting had a fun theme, the "Anti-Miles Merlot Tasting". As a retort against the declining Merlot sales sparked by Sideways, we ran through eleven decent Merlots from around the world. Since this grape tends to have a short aftertaste, it was possible to still appreciate flavors in the last couple of wines.

Wine 1: 2001 Christian Moueix Merlot. From Bordeaux, this had a pretty agressive start. Not sure that I liked it, but a good bargain. $11.

Wine 2: 2001 Mirassou Merlot. California, but not as fruit-forward as you'd think. Apparently it's got Pinot Noir in there too. Well balanced, but not exciting. I just haven't had great luck with this winery. $10.

Wine 3: 2001 Recanati Merlot. With a vaguely Italian name and an Old World label, I thought this was from Italy or the south of France. But the region name at the bottom of the label said "Galilee". I picked up the bottle and read the back, only to discover that it was made in Israel. L'chaim! With firm tannins and a bright flavor, this would be a fun substitute for Chianti or other Italian wines. $16.

Wine 4: 2003 Penfolds Rawson's Retreat Merlot. This particular product line, at the bottom of the Penfolds offerings, can be fun, but I wasn't really happy with this wine. There was a musky aroma and fairly harsh tannins. Could have been an off bottle. $8.

Wine 5: 2002 Castle Rock Napa Valley Merlot. Great fruit flavors, soft tannins, everything that you're supposed to hate about California merlot, but I like it. $10.

Wine 6: 2001 Red Diamond Merlot. From Washington state, supposedly owned by Ste. Michelle. It's soft and rounded, easily drinkable. $11.

Wine 7: 2001 Crane Family Merlot. Great black cherry flavors, don't know if it's worth the price. $40.

Wine 8: 2000 Chappellet Napa Valley Merlot. Good plum flavors, strong tannins. Could probably age for a while longer. $27.

Wine 9: 2001 Pine Ridge Crimson Creek Merlot. Amazing balance, it's always nice to find a wine that feels perfectly put together. $30.

Wine 10: 2003 Bookwalter Columbia Valley Merlot. Great fruit on the nose, but not so much on the tongue. $25.

Wine 11: 2000 Chateau Jean Voisin St. Emilion Grand Cru 2000. (Couldn't find a website with good info in English.) And now we're back to Bordeaux. I loved this wine, I mean really loved it. You wouldn't think that it's a Merlot, as it's rich and complex. It has a great herbal, freshly chopped vegetation aroma, with good spice on the tongue. So nice, but out of my range. $40.

Korbel Extra Dry

In my continuing quest for an inexpensive (but tasty) sparkling wine to use for my brother's wedding, I decided to try the Korbel Extra Dry. Made from Chenin Blanc and Colombard, there's some decent citrus flavors, but it's not spectacular. I served it with pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans, where it performed admirably, so think about it as a good picnic or cookout wine rather than one to enjoy on its own. $10.

Even though it's called "Extra Dry", it's actually in the middle range of sweetness. For marketing reasons that go back centuries and have to do with differing French and English tastes, here's the range of sweetness, listed here from driest to sweetest:
  • Extra Brut - probably the driest you'll see, though there are sparklers out there with no sugar at all (Brut Nature, Pas Dosé or Dosage Zero)
  • Brut - considered the proper choice for serious Champagne
  • Extra Dry - sometimes called Extra Sec, it's actually not that dry
  • Sec - the word means "dry", but it's actually sweet
  • Demi Sec - ditto
  • Doux - sweet like soda