Thursday, February 25, 2010

PasoWine tasting

Whoa. My fisrt big commercial tasting event as part of "the industry" and I have to say I was unimpressed on many levels.

Firstly, a lot of the wine sucked and sucked in the same way. Meaning the wine was uniformally bad for similar reasons and was remarkably homogenous in nature.

Second, the area is becoming over infatuated with Rhone blends and everyone has the same exact clones and is trying to do essentially the same thing, which is probably why the above is true.

Third, Paso wine got expensive. I used enjoy the area for the multitude of high quality wines under $20. That number seems to have moved northwards towards $30 or so. However, I was impressed that Ancient Peaks and Robert Hall were making some excellent wines in the sub $20 price range.

Fourth, The wine industry is far too slick and douchey for me. Seriously, everyone looked like they were either a smooth city slicker or a contrived rough 'n tumble farmer type. Very little diversity in the crowd. I expected more.

Fifth, The huge number of wineries represented coupled with the small amount of time. This made it impossible to objectively assess all the produceres and wines.

Despite all my apparent negativity there were some good moments and wines at the event. The highlights are as follows:

Adelaida Cellars
I 've wanted to visit the tasting room for years but have never made it their in time. So iwas excited to try the wines for the first time. Despite the rep being a bit of a weirdo their wine was pretty damn good. Especially enjoyed the 2006 Version Red (9/10) for $30.

Alta Colina Cellars
Newer place which I had never heard of until yesterday. Maggie is the owners daughter and you can tell she really believes in the wine, which was very good as well, albeit a touch pricey. The 2008 Claudia cuvee (8.5/10) for $28 was one of the better Rhone style whites of the event.

Anglim Winery
Another place I had never heard of but was glad I stopped by. The owner, Steve Anglim, was a very congenial fellow and his wines were exceptional at their pricepoint. The 2008 Red Cedar Grenach Blanc (8/10) for $28 was refreshing and bright while the '07 Hastings Ranch Mourvedre (9/10) for $34 was among my favorites of the event.

This booth was busy the whole time and I never really got a chance to figure out what they were about but the wines were all good. I especially enjoyed the 2006 companion (8.5/10) for $40, a interesting blend of Cab and Syrah.

Halter Ranch
I must confess that I am a member of theire cellar club and this event showed why. They keep it simple and their wine is priced very well for it's high level of quality and craftmanship. Their new blend, Cotes de Paso Blanc was among the best Rhone style whites .

Hope Family Wines
I've been drinking Liberty School Cab for a few years and it never dissapoints for it's pricepoint. But the big news for me was the 2007 Treana White, a blend of Marsanne and Viognier that was tied (with '07 Espirit Blanc by Tablas) for the best white of the event. At the $25 pricepoint the wine was phenomenal and is worth picking up today (9.5/10)

Kenneth Volk
I really enjoyed speaking to some of the proprietors of the various wineries and Ken Volk was no exception. On of the few produced doing some truly unique stuff. The 2008 Verdelho for $22, was a refreshing departure from the glut of viognier (8/10) and the 2005 Cab franc for $36 was a change of pace from the many of the overdone GSM's presented (8/10).

Another owner, who had time to sit and talk with about his wines. The bordeaux styled 2006 Meritage for $32, featuring Cab, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Malbec was a standout (8.5/10)

Tablas Creek
The reason all these wineries are producing so much GSM and RMV ie. Rhone varietals. But alas they do it better than almost anyone. The 2007 Esprirt de Beaucastel Blanc is amazing and I can't wait to drink more (9.5/10). I must also confess that I have been a member of their cellar club for several years.

Well that's about the size of it. Nex time I go to a tasting I'll know what to expect and come with a different attitude.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

2008 Chateau des Cleons Muscadet

$5.99 from Trader Joes.

I had read somehting during the last week that really made me want to try some Muscadet. The whole concept of broken glass on the mouth really appealed to me. So I went down to TJ's and found the cheapest one I could find. Heres the review:

Pale straw hue. Crisp granny smith apple nose. Lemony, minerally mouth with sharp acidity. Crisp, bright finish. Very refreshing, albeit slightl one dimensional. 7/10

Go buy some if you have the same curiosity I did. I think I'm going to search for something in the $8-12 range next time.

On another note... I was thinking today as I took a stroll with my family about how my palate has changed and evolved over the course of my wine drinking career. I used to only care for fruit forward zinfandels and off-dry reislings, everything else seemed kind of blah for what ever reason. It was a random surf trip to the central coast in 2005 that really sparked my interest in some of the different varietals available to me. I remember visiting Domaine Alfred because it was organic and trying a few of their Califa Pinot Noir's that were unlike anything I'd ever tasted. I also remember visiting Turley and trying some sort of Viognier based blend which truly blew my mind. I think we bought the bottle for $36, making it the most expensive bottle of wine I'd ever purchased. Sometimes I can look back to that summer just 5 years ago and think that in some ways it was so much simpler to be impressed by something different. I was like a newborn child thrust into a world of sensation that was very foreign in comparison to where I had spent the preceding portion of my life. Now, some of the wonderment and amazingness has subsided, yet my love for wine had grown stronger. How can that be? I believe it stems from my desire to find a wine experience which can recreate the magic of some of those initial experiences.

While I do have considerable more knowledge and experience in wine just a few years later, I am still essentially in preschool or kindergarten compared to many people who have spent a lifetime cultivating their own experiences in the world of wine. I started this blog to share my experiences and occasionally wax poetic about a subject that had come to take such a important part of my life. I hope that you the reader can enjoy my meanderings as much as I do writing them and I hope to continue to be amazed by wine and all that it offers.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some great wines from the last few weeks

The dog days of summer have arrived here in Southern California and I've been drinking alot of good wines to cool off in the afternoon. Here are a few favorites from the last few weeks.

2007 Domain Alfred Chardonnay- $12.99 from Trader Joes. I finally found out why TJ's got all this excellent DA wine. It seems as if a Napa conglomerate has purchased the winery and plans to "reinvent" the label. As a result they have wholesaled all the old bottles to TJ's ofr a tremendous discount. DA makes top notch central coast Pinot Noir and a pretty solid Syrah as well. I reviewed their unaoked Chardonnay a few weeks back with mild disappointment, but this time I was very pleased. Wow. Pungent nose of toasted almond, oak and vanilla. Palate continues on that path with fruity nuances interspersed with notes of fresh ginger and coriander. Amazing value. 9/10

2005 Wurz and Weinmann Spatburgunder - $15ish from Garagiste. I always wanted to try a German Pinot and I was given an excellent opportunity to purchase several bottles earlier this spring. Light color. Floral and fruity nose which is reinforced on the palate. Very smooth in the mouth with little tannins. Time reveals notes of raspberry cola along with a lovely smattering of bacon fat. Another exceptional value, especialy for Pinot. 9/10

2007 Handley Sauvignon Blanc, Ferrington Vineyard- $12 from winery. One of the first California SB's that really made me say "Hmm". Ideal straw hue. Grassy vegetal nose alongside green apples and under ripe pears. Palate complements with citrus notes, smooth mouth feel and medium weight. Finishes with very pleasant acidic crispness that should not be missed. Exceptional varietal value. 9/10

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Back to White Wine

I'm a vegetarian at least 5 days a week. In my humble opinion white wine is generally a better partner to the vegetarian fare I consume, especially in the summer when food is lighter in nature. As I've mentioned in previous posts I'm currently hunting for the ultimate summer white wine to enjoy out on the patio or in the park for a reasonable price. To date the best value wine I've tasted is the 2006 Le Chetau Vouvray which is an amazing wine for $5.99, go buy some now.

This week I'll be reviewing a 2006 Estate AV Chardonnay made by the good people up at Handely Cellars in Arnderson Valley, CA. I've been a member of the cellar club for a little over a year and I've always found their white wines to be incredible values when compared with some of their counterparst both in the Anderson Valley and in other regions to the south ( ie. Napa, Sonoma, Monterrey, SLO and Santa Barbara). Their alsatian varietals are always top notch and their Water Tower White is one the better value white blends I've ever tasted. On our last trip up their I picked up a bottle of the Estate Chardonnay on a whim and have been itching to try it.

In the glass the color is a perfect straw tone. The nose reveals deep notes of pears, raw almonds, vanilla and a touch of oak. The palate continues in that vein and reveals mild citrus and spice notes to complement the nose. Where this wine really shines is in it's depth of body and creamy mouthfeel. The malolactic fermentation is ideal providing excellent weight, but not overshadowing the fruit. It's finish lingers for a while and is a perfect wine to sit and ruminate on.

I like this wine a lot and would reccomment to most people. However at $18 I get a little less excited about it. Most of Handley's other wines are a better value at $8-$14. But that being said, good Chardonnay is always more expensive than other white varietals. 8/10.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pretty Sally 2004 Estate Shiraz

I've been drinking almost exclusively white wine for the last six weeks or so and I have been getting a bit bored. So in order to spice things up a bit I decided to open this bottle of Shiraz that I bought from Garagiste a few months back. For those of you unfamiliar with this Seattle based online retailer, I highly recommend subscribing to their daily e-mail update list and purchasing a few bottles.

According to my email the Pretty Sally 2004 Estate Shiraz was:

Known for their cool-toned take on Victorian Shiraz, Pretty Sally has been featured here many times but this is the slimmest tariff (by far) we’ve ever offered on the Estate Shiraz. If it means anything, this is the highest rated Pretty Sally wine ever from Tanzer’s IWC and it represents a Victorian take on ripeness with a more regal approach. The 2004 Estate Shiraz is the grand vin from the estate (not a second wine) and it was never intended to trade for a bargain price (let alone $13.99).

If you read the review below, this sounds like one of the very best price/value examples we’ve offered in 2009:

Tanzer’s IWC (Josh Raynolds): “($25) Ruby-red. Smoky aromas of fresh blackberry, cassis and candied cherry lifted by sweet licorice and bright minerality. The flavors offer a compelling combination of power and focus; raspberry and blackberry notes build and sweeten through the finish but there's also juicy quality providing focus and vivacity. Finishes supple and sweet, with lingering flavors of dark fruit liqueur. A rather graceful style of shiraz, with impressive concentration. 91pts”

Unfortunately I was not quite as impressed. After opening the bottle I noticed it's beautiful color and big jammy nose of raspberry, boysenberry and dried cherries. There was also a tangy sour note which reminded me of a Jolly Rancher candy and was enjoyable. After 30 minutes in the decanter the wine opened up a bit further and nuances of cocoa and cloves emerged. However at this point the finish became a bit more sharp and lost the Jolly Rancher feel, which was kind of upsetting. While Tanzer compares this to dark fruit liquers, I would say it bore more resemblance to cherry cough syrup. We enjoyed this wine with a nice mushroom pasta with grilled green beans. The undecanted portion of the wine was sealed and left overnight in the fridge. Unfortunatley the wine deteriorated significantly overnight and lost most all of it's charming characteristics.

At $13.99 I expected a little bit more and I think that there are substantially better deals out their in the red wine universe, especially if you want to enjoy the wine of two nights. Worth a try if you are big fan of the varietal, otherwise I would recommend looking elsewhere. 7/10

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer White #5

One of my favorite wineries on the the Central Coast is Domaine Alfred. Their organic vineyard is located in the heart of the Edna valley and for the last several years has put out some excellent examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

When I found their Stainless Chardonnay on sale for $9.99 at Trader Joes I was at once surprised and excited. I remember their regular Chardonnay being amazing, but expensive at about the $25 mark. So I bought the bottle without hesitation and opened it up with some summer veggies and tofu.

The color was very pale in comparsion your typical chardonnay. The nose was both fruity and floral, which reminded me of rosehips, cucumbers and honeydew. The palate was bright, almost to a fault, with a limelike zing to the finish. Their was a peculiar aftertaste which I did not particularly care for.

Overall this was a bit dissapointing given my memories of their standard Chard, but still a decent buy for those interested in the nuances of unoaked Chardonnay. I'd prefer several of the other wines tasted this summer when given the choice. 7/10

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer White #4

This time I ventured down to see Bob at Grape Connections to see what kind of summer whites he would recommend for summer quaffing. Bob always comes up with a good wine to suit my requests and this time was no exception.

He chose a 2007 wine from Languedoc composed of 80% Chard and 20% Muscat called Domain de Bonal produced by Domain Auzias Paretlongue. A google search yielded little information about the wine, which made the prospect of tasting it even more exciting.

The wine had a beautiful honey color with an expressive nose of pears, peaches and honeysuckle. A medium mouth weight and palate of plums & apples gave way to an slightly off dry finish. The whole experience was reminiscent of drinking really complex plum wine, highly original and enjoyable. Served alongside Indian dumplings stuffed with vegetables and served with spicy eggplant relish.

Overall this wine was slightly more expensive at $9.99, than the other wines tasted thus far but nonethless represents an excellent value. Those looking for a decidely different look at Chardonnay will find much delight in this refreshing summer white. 8/10