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Month in Wines – May 2014

June 9, 2014 10 comments

There was no shortage of the good and even great wines in May,  including some potential candidates for the Top Dozen list. The spread of wines origin-wise was mostly even, from New Zealand to Italy to Spain, France and California. As usual, the list includes only the wines rated 8- or higher, with some lower rated wines included on the exception basis. Let’s take a look.

2011 Sueño Tempranillo Ribera Del Jucar DO, Spain (14% ABV, $19,99) – a classic, round Tempranillo – eucalyptus, cigar box, perfect balance. 8-

2012 Centanni Pecorino Offida DOCG, Italy (14.5% ABV) – a supple white, with lots of big flavors, very concentrated, but still refreshing. Quite unique and different. 8-

2012 Centanni Rosso Di Forca Rosso Piceno DOP, Italy (13.5% ABV) – One of the best Pop-and-Pour wines I ever had. From the moment the glass “cork” was pulled off, a luscious, luxurious, round and delicious wine, one sip after another. It was gone in no time… 9-

2010 Rio Maggio Rosso Piceno DOC (13.5% ABV) – Another excellent Rosso Piceno wine, but very different from the previous one – dark restrained fruit, a touch of cherry pit, excellent acidity. 8-

2012 Borell-Diehl Pinot Noir Estate, Germany - probably the first German Pinot Noir I liked. While not super-sophisticated, it was simple enough and food food friendly. 7+

2011 Stephen Ross Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California  – Classic California Pinot, dark chocolate, pencil shavings, smoke, excellent balance. 8

2009 Maysara Pinot Noir, McMinniville AVA, Oregon – herbal profile on the nose, dark fruit, earthiness, balancing acidity. I can drink that every day. 8-

2012 Château Paul Mas Coteaux du Languedoc AOP (14,5% ABV, Syrah 85%, Grenache 10%, Mourvedre 5%) – dark fruit, earthiness, spicy cherries, pepper, espresso – lots of things going. Need time. 8-

2011 Château Paul Mas Clos de Savignac Grés de Montpellier (14.5% ABV, Mourvedre 50%, Syrah 30%, Grenache 20%) – Dark chocolate, loads of pepper, blueberries, perfectly balanced. 8

2012 Château Paul Mas Clos du Moulinas Pezenas Grand Terroir du Languedoc (14.5% ABV, 55% Syrah, 45% Grenache) – extremely complex, leather, tobacco, pepper, perfect balance, simply a wow. 9-

2012 Swedish Hill Reserve Chardonnay Finger lakes, New York (13% ABV) – Chablis-like personality,  with the hint of gunflint on the nose, also showing of as nice restrained California wine, with vanilla and oak, and everything in balance. 8-

2012 Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer Finger Lakes, New York (12.5% ABV) – beautiful honeysuckle and white peaches nose, coupled with exotic fruit and spices the palate, and most importantly, all nicely balanced. 8-

2013 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Rosé Paso Robles, California (13.5% ABV, $4.99 at Trader Joe’s , Mourvedre 49%, Grenache 26%, Syrah 25%) – simple, balanced, delicious, surprising. Yes, this was a perfect summer wine from Trader Joe’s – get it by the case. 8-

2010 Cairdean Vineyards Malbec Nape Valley (14.2% ABV) – My first experience with California Malbec. Very unusual – socks (yep, you can think whatever you want of me), baking spices, lavender, fresh cookies, very elegant. 8

2010 Cairdean Vineyards Chardonnay Russian River Valley (13.9% ABV) – touch of vanilla and butter, toasted bread, soft and round. 8-

2012 Matua Pinot Noir Marlboro New Zealand (13% ABV) – this wine screams “classic Marlboro” all the way – smokey nose, cherry on the palate, light and at the same time savory profile with cut-through acidity. 8-

2005 Dama de Toro Crianza Toro DO (13.5% ABV) – wonderful complexity, makes you smell this wine indefinitely, and then you can spend eternity analyzing each sip – herbs, lavender, sage, nutmeg, red and black fruit – just a wonderful example of the wine [probably] at its peak. 9-

2010 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.5% ABV) – great open Cabernet Sauvignon nose, bell peppers, black currants, very classic. Medium to full body on the palate, perfectly restrained, excellent balance. 8

2008 Tamaya Syrah Reserva Limari Valley, Chile (13.5% ABV) – this wine would perfectly impersonate a classic Northern Rhone Syrah – very restrained, dense, concentrates, pepper and spices on the palate, savory herbs. A Thought provoking wine. 8-

That completes my wine highlights report for May. Did you make any interesting discoveries in the last month? Did you have any of the wines I mentioned here? Cheers!

Month in Wines – April 2014

May 4, 2014 4 comments

April was a good month for the good wines, with some of the gems worthy of Top Dozen consideration. Syrah and Pinot Noir were probably the biggest stars, but not the only stars. I already wrote about some of the wines before, so I will not inundate you with the repetitive details, and instead will simply give you the reference to the prior post. All the wines are rated on the 10 points scale, with + and – adjustments. These summary posts only include the wines with the ratings of 8- and higher – in the very very rare cases, I might include 7+ wines if I feel that the wine was simply unique.

Let’s go!

2010 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Oregon (14% ABV, $45) – dark and delicious, and will age well for the next 10-12 years. 8+

2010 Renieri Invetro Rosso Toscano IGT (14% ABV) – delicious Super-Tuscan, powerful, round, a pure joy. 8+

2011 Michel Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda Shiraz Victoria, Australia (13% ABV, $14.99) – simply spectacular. A clear pepper profile on the nose and the palate. A stunning beauty. 9

2003 J.L. Chave Offerus Saint-Joseph, France (13.5% ABV) – Barnyard, touch of spice (pepper), dark and delicious. 8

2005 Domaine Philippe  Bornard Arbois Pupillin La Chamade Ploussard (12.8% ABV) – beautiful, powerful, multi-layred. Pleasure in every sip. 8+

2012 J Wrigley Estate Pinot Noir Proposal Block McMinnville AVA (14% ABV, aged 10 Month in French oak, 250 cases produced. $45 SRP) – chocolate, mocha, a bit of mushrooms. Nice and balanced, and will age well. 8-

2010 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (SRP: $47.99) – perfect Claret, if you will. This wine would rival many top California Cabernet Sauvignon wines, which would also cost at least 2-3 times as much. 8

2007 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Rioja Riserva, Spain (SRP: $19.99) – Perfect balance of fruit, structure, power and earthiness which only Rioja possess. Beautifully round and delicious. 8+

2001 La Rioja Alta 904 Rioja Gran Riserva, Spain (SRP: $47.99) – Mature and delicious, with lots of subtle nuances. A thought provoking wine. 8+

2009 Shiloh Legend Judean Hills, Israel (14.2% ABV, 45% Shiraz, 40% Petite Sirah, 9% Petite Verdot, 6% Merlot, each grape vinified and oak-cask aged separately for 8 month, then blended and aged for another 8 month) – round, velvety, delicious, with dark fruit core and firm structure. Perfect balance of power and concentration. 8

2012 Tousey Chardonnay Estate, Hudson River, New York (12% ABV) – a Chablis on Hudson would be a good way to define this wine. Chablis style minerality and hint of gunflint on the nose, creamy and round on the palate, with subtle apple and vanilla notes. Delicious Chardonnay. 8-

2012 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes des Bila-Haut White Côtes-du-Roussillon (13% ABV, $13.99, blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu) – in a word, delicious. Bright white fruit on the nose, fresh lemon, some earthiness. Perfect balance on the palate, each sip makes you crave for another. 8+

2004 Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva Rioja DOC (13% ABV) – dark fruit on the nose, with the hint of eucalyptus and cigar box. Palate full of dark fruit with earthy profile, supple tannins and bright acidity, very balanced. 8-

2010 Chapelle-St-Arnoux Côtes du Rhône  AOC (13.5 % ABV, $10.99) – nose of inviting dark fruit, the same on the palate with addition of dark chocolate notes and rounding acidity. Very dense and well structured for Côtes du Rhône. A steal for the price (sorry, it was some sort of closeout). 8

2010 Les Trois Chemins Côtes du Rhône AOP (13% ABV, $8.99) – fresh red fruit on the nose, blackberries and cherries, more of the same on the palate, coupled with bright acidity. Simple and elegant, and beyond steal at the price (again, a closeout of sorts). 8-

That concludes my report on the April wine highlights. Did you taste any of these wines? What were your best wine experiences of the month? Cheers!

Month in Wines – March 2014

April 4, 2014 7 comments

And the time has come to summarize another month in wines. March 2014 was quite wine eventful, especially from point of view of discovering of the new and unique wines. I already wrote about some of the wines before, so I will not inundate you with the repetitive details, and instead will simply give you the reference to the prior post. All the wines are rated on the 10 points scale, with + and – adjustments. These summary posts only include the wines with the ratings of 8- and higher – in the very very rare cases, I might include 7+ wines if I feel that the wine was simply unique.

Let’s go!

2005 Seven Hills Merlot Columbia Valley, Washington (13% ABV, 88% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 18 month aging in French and American oak) - in a word, spectacular. Yes, I like my wines with a little age – decanters and all are nice, but can’t compare with the wine actually having a chance to age slowly and gracefully. This wine was phenomenal from the moment the cork was pulled. On the nose, it was an aroma exuberance, with lots of different flavors going on – plums, cassis, sweet oak, herbs – everything was happening. And palate followed the lead – silky smooth, with layers upon layers of mature fruit, soft tannins and perfect acidity. Exquisitely balanced, this was a pure pleasure in the glass. I think we got this wine at its peak – and it was my only bottle. Sigh. 9

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2011 Field Recordings “Neverland” Red Wine Grassini Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (15.1% ABV, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot. Aging: 50% new French barrels, 25% new American barrels, 25% seasoned French for 18 month) – Field Recordings never cease to amaze. Powerful and delicious. 8+

2012 Cane and Fable 373 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tempranillo, 5% Petit Verdot. Aging: 225L oak barriques, 25% new, 12 month) – This was very interesting ( in a good sense), and will wait for a while to see it evolve. 8-

2010 CVNE Monopole Rioja DOC (13% ABV, 100% Viura) – Delicious, refreshing – and age worthy. Will get back to it in a few years. 8

2012 Colline de l’Hirondelle Cocolico, France (15% ABV, 60% Chenançon Noir, 25% Grenache, 15% Syrah) – Powerful and different. Unique flavor profile, unique grape. 8-

2009 Pedro Luis Martínez  Arriba Término de Hilanda Monastrell, Jumilla DO (14.5%ABV, 100% Monastrell, 14 month aging in new American and French oak) – One of the very best Monastrell wines I ever tasted. Coffee, dark chocolate and a fruit, all weaved elegantly together in a tight, firmly structured body. 8-

2010 Bodegas Rafael Cambra Soplo Valencia DO (14% ABV, 100% Alicante Bouschet/Garnacha Tintorera, 3 month aging in oak) – Clearly outstanding, with the flavor profile rivaling best Cabernet Sauvignon. 8+

2011 Bodrog Borműhely Lapis Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary (13% ABV, 100% Furmint) – A pleasure in every sip. Different and delicious. 8

2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling, Somló, Hungary (14.5% ABV, 100% Olaszrizling) – Another case of absolutely unique wine. Flavor profile is fascinating, with explicit minerality and balance of herbs and fruit. 8

2008 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussilon Villages, France (13.5% ABV, blend of Grenache, Syrah , Carignan) – This is consistently one of the best wines for the money – in the $16 range, it is almost unbeatable. Besides, this wine can age very well – this 2008 was spectacular and it could go on and on and on. 8

2006 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand (14.5% ABV) – beautiful, simply beautiful. Perfectly clean and delightful Pinot Noir profile. 8+

2007 Krupp Brothers Black Bart’s Bounty Chardonnay Nape Valley (14.8% ABV) – had a very interesting experience with this wine. I had two bottles, and when I opened one recently, I didn’t like it – was too much of the malolactic processing, to me the wine acquires that strange and specific taste. But then I had a second bottle a few weeks after, and it was excellent – balanced, a bit of vanilla and butter, just right, very pleasant. The temperature might be a culprit, or just the difference between the bottles. 8-

2010 Turley Zinfandel Heminway Vineyard, Napa Valley (15.6& ABV) – Turley rarely disappoints, but this wine clearly needed more time… Dark, powerful, concentrated, balanced. 8-

2005 Quinta Ste Eufemia Porto LBV, Portugal (19% ABV)  – classic, with round sweetness of figs and prunes, good acidity, fresh and delicious. 8-

2004 Hobbs Barossa Frantignac, Barossa, Australia (10% ABV) – delicious. Perfectly balanced sweetness and acidity, very fragrant and easy to drink. 8

And we are done here. What were your wine highlights from the past month? Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Month in Wines – September 2013

September 30, 2013 11 comments

Another month passed by, and it is time to create a summary of the best wines I came across during September. As funny as it sound, this is a very difficult task. The issue is that during September, I was lucky enough to attend 4 big trade wine tastings, going through tons of wines, many of which were just spectacular. I still planning to write few of the posts with the pictures about those tastings, so for now, here is just a traditional report with the few words about each and every wine I would highly recommend.

In no particular order, here we go:

2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle Orphelin Red Wine Columbia Valley – This used to be one of my favorite wines, but I had no expectations about this last bottle – I was sure the wine is past prime. To my big surprise, it was perfect – firm tannins, bright fruit, perfect acidity – overall outstanding. Pretty damn well done job of ageing for the blend of 9 grapes. 8+

2010 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso DOC – dark fruit, cherries, tobacco, playful with the perfect balance. 8+

2010 Le Cimate Montefalco Rosso DOC – supple, with ripe cherries. Lasted for 6 days after bottle was opened. 8+

2009 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso DOC – dark spicy fruit, some gaminess and minerality. Very balanced. 8+

2007 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG – I thought the wine is corked initially, but it came around in about 3-4 days. Very strong tannins, dark fruit, leather and dark tea. 8-

2008 Tenuta Bellafonte Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG – powerful, concentrated, cassis, plums, very tannic yet extremely drinkable. 8

2006 Chateau Rauzan-Segla Segla Margoux – perfectly drinkable, round. 8

2007 Muscat di Frontignan Vin de Constance, Constantia, South Africa – spectacular. The nose and balance are stunning. 9-

NV G.D. Vajra Barolo Chinato Barolo Piedmont – stunning. Barolo with addition of aromatic herbs – you have to taste it to believe it. 9-

NV Boroli Barolo Chinato Castiglione Falletto, Piedmont – double stunning. Next level of expression even comparing to the previous wine. 9

2010 Dumol Pinot Noir Russian River – just a beautiful wine. 8+

2010 DumolSyrah Russian River – great wine, perfect balance, classic spiciness and tight fruit. 8+

2008 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon – lots of power, needs time. 8

2008 Viader Proprietary Red – very restrained and different. Excellent wine. 8

2012 Botani Dry Muscat, Spain – year into a year, one of my favorites. Perfect contrast of perfumed nose and dry palate. 8

2012 La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas, Spain – one of my favorite Albariño wines ever – very consistent year into a year. 8

2009 Borsao Berola, Spain -outstanding Grenache-based blend. Powerful and supple. Double-amazing at the priced ( about $12 retail). 8

2011 Volver Old Vines Tempranillo – pure power, dense tannins, bright fruit and perfect balance. One of my favorite wines. 8+

2011 Loring Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard  – my first time trying Loring Pinot Noir. In a word, spectacular. 9

2011 Loring Pinot Noir Durell Vineyard – perfect balance, beautiful wine. 9-

2011 Loring Pinot Noir Aubaine Vineyard – another spectacular wine. Perfect fruit, balance, acidity. 9-

2012 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro New Zealand – spectacular. Made me rediscover NZ Sauvignon Blanc. While it is more expensive than most, it is worth experiencing. 9-

2009 Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro New Zealand – single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Tremendous complexity, very unique wine. 9-

2011 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Rosso, Veneto – very simple, clean and easy to drink. For about $10 retail, you literally can’t beat it. 8-

2009 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Cabernet Sauvignon “Torre Mellotti”, Veneto – outstanding, classic Cabernet flavor profile (cassis, touch of oak, coffee notes) – all for about $12 retail. 8

2007 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone “Campo dei Gigli” Amarone della Valpolicella DOC – best Amarone I tasted in 2013. Period. At 16% ABV, this wine is perfectly balanced, with all the sweet fruit and powerful dry wine combination. At about $60 retail, this is also a great value for Amarone. 9-

I’m not done, but I have to stop somewhere. If you tasted any of these wines, or want to share your best wines of the month – please don’t be shy! Cheers!

And All The Fuss About Wine Reviews…

September 24, 2013 10 comments

wine ratingsFew days ago I read an article by Joe Roberts, talking about wine reviews. The article, called “Does The Wisdom Of The Crowd Provide Better Wine Reviews Than The Experts?“, and the subsequent comments were evolving around the role of the “crowd-sourcing” in the wine reviews from the sites such as Cellar Tracker versus traditional wine critics and wine experts, the value of wine ratings and all the other critical analysis of wine. Instead of commenting in the thread, I decided to express my thoughts in the form of this post.

Warning – this might be long. You might want to arm yourself at least with one glass of wine. Or more…

It is very interesting to observe “are the wine reviews and wine critics relevant” discussions to periodically flare up all over the blogosphere and all of the digital media. Some of those discussions and opinions are quite antagonistic, from “death of Wine Advocate predicted” to “the number of wine bloggers will decrease dramatically” to “blind tasting puts wine experts to shame again”. Some of them are supported by some facts and findings which authors deem indisputable. And some are written just purely for the entertainment or quick publicity purposes.

For all of us obsessed with wine, the subject of wine ratings and wine reviews is near and dear to the heart. The world seems to rotate around those 98s, A and B, 4 stars and all other metrics. Meanwhile, majority of the wine consumers couldn’t care less. Based on the number of studies, people buy wine based on the label, advice of the store associate and the price. By the way, the price factor is funniest of all (should be a subject of a separate post) – when we buy for ourselves, we always want to find $10 wine which will taste like a $100; when we need to bring a present, we ask for the advice to find the best wine at the top of our budget, and then spend a few extra bucks just not to look cheap. In any case, very few consumers concern themselves with the ratings which are abundantly displayed in many stores (interestingly enough, there are quite a few stores nowadays which are doing away with all those rating displays). Yes, the people who buy more expensive wines are interested to know what the experts think about the wine they are about to shell $50, $80, or a $150 for. Of course wine collectors track all those ratings as they are stock tickers (well, they kind of are). But considering the world of wine, those people are an absolute minority (okay, don’t bring up the 80/20 or 90/10 – that is not the subject of the post).

So Joe Roberts argues that Cellar Tracker ratings might replace all the expert opinions simply because they are the crowd sourced and it is proven by many sources, which Joe is citing, that crowd-sourcing is the way to go in today’s world. It is stated that the crowd-sourcing works because it is proven by TripAdvisor, Yelp, Amazon and thousands of other sources soliciting people opinions. Well, may be, but it depends. Let’s look at Yelp, as the food world is probably more related to the wine world than travel or gadget shopping.

Different people review restaurant on Yelp, and for the most of the cases the reader of the review doesn’t know anything about the writer. But if you think about an average restaurant, a lot of aspects of the review are based on the common sense. The understanding of the “good service” is pretty much universal. The understanding of “clean” versus “dirty” is also quite universal. “Run down” is pretty well understood. When the food is served cold, or you have to wait for 30 minutes for a cup of coffee, you don’t have to be an expert to universally recognize it. And if you ordered steak in a restaurant, I have reasonable expectations that you know how good steak tastes like.

No, you can’t take the ratings on Yelp for granted. People get upset, people get unreasonable – true. But this is where crowd-sourcing works the best. If a restaurant on Yelp has four stars out of five, based on the average of a 150, or 300, or better yet, 1000 reviews, you know that your chances of good experience are pretty high. If the restaurant has five stars based on 3 reviews, you know that means nothing in terms of your potential experience. The fact that that restaurants are judged on the multitude of factors, many of which are universal and even independent of the type of restaurant (clean Thai restaurant with good service is not any different from clean steakhouse with good service), gives you a certain level of reliability of the crowd-sourced ratings.

Wine is different. There is no foundation to all those ratings, outside of smell, taste and ability to deliver pleasure. But – “tastes good” is highly individual. If someone only likes to drink California Cabernet, convincing the person that this Sagrantino was a great wine might be difficult. Now, if you look at the crowd-sourced ratings, like Cellar Tracker offers, it means nothing, as based on the rating alone you can’t align your base with the people who wrote the reviews. You don’t know if the person who rated that St. Joseph Syrah at 78 simply doesn’t like barnyard undertones, or the wine is actually bad. You have to read the review to try to figure out what is wrong with the wine, and why the reviewer didn’t like it, may be he was just in a bad mood or had the wrong food with it.

When it comes to the wine critics, the situation is different. Yes, I know, the most famous of them are periodically accused of bias and various forms of dishonesty, but this is not relevant here. As the critics, they are able (and expected) to judge the wine objectively. Also, wine critics typically have their area of expertise, like James Suckling focusing on Italian wines, Steve Heimoff on California or Allen Meadows on Burgundy. I’m not trying to say that if a critic rated the wine at 95, it means that this will be a great wine for you no matter what – but at the same time, that objective persistency, consistency of the ratings and narrow focus of the critic allows you to align the base, and then have a quick opinion, a probability of liking the wine based on the given rating by a known critic. I don’t buy my wines based on the ratings, and I’m not willing to pay $100 more for the bottle of Cabernet only because Parker gave it 96 versus the wine next to it with only a 90 rating – but that rating allows me to establish a frame of reference.

Let’s look at the big picture. We can see an increased interest to wine all over the world. We also see an increased wine production all over the world. People “en mass” are increasingly more comfortable and more knowledgeable about the wine, especially if we are talking about Millenials and younger generations. And that does lead to the reduced role of “The Wine Critic” (Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, etc). But – the need for the critical information about the wine is increasing, and as people gain more knowledge and learn to trust their own palates, they are willing to take wine advice from the lesser figures than Parker or Suckling, and they are willing to take it from many different sources – blogs, twitter, web sites and other digital media outlets. People are building their own tribes. This is where Cellar Tracker comes to play – but only for the people who are inside, only for the people who uses the service and is able to align the base. My personal “wine experts” tribe consists of many bloggers I started following over the years, one by one. Reading their posts, tasting the wines they are talking about, having a dialog, I was able to build my alignment, little by little, one glass at a time. I know that I can rely on and willing to take Jeff’s (the drunken cyclist) advice for the Pinot Noir, or Oliver’s (the winegetter) for German Rieslings, Julian (VinoInLove) and Stefano (Clicks & Corks) for any of the Italian wine, or Alissa (SAHMmelier) for the wines of Texas. This is not my unique experience – I truly believe this “tribe concept” works for everybody, more and more so.

Are you still with me? Wow, I really have to thank you for sticking along. Let’s round this up. No, the wine world is not going to rotate around Cellar Tracker. Yes, the role of The Wine Critic will decrease, but in the end of the day we will still have more of them. There will be ever increasing number of people who will be willing to share their experiences (and sometimes put it in the form of numbers), and there will be ever increasing number of people willing to take that advice. Crowd-sourcing? Kind of, but very different. May be “Tribe-sourcing” is the word. The world of wine is big, and it is only getting bigger – I think we all can perfectly get along.

Don’t know about you, but I need a glass of wine. Cheers!

Wines, Wines, Wines

August 16, 2013 24 comments

A couple of weeks ago, an interesting (concerning, rather?) thought came in – this is the wine blog. I’m doing my best to keep you entertained and informed, with all the weekly quizzes and potpourri wine news (a.k.a. Wednesday’s Meritage), but I don’t do enough of the core wine blogging stuff – namely, the wine reviews.  No, I don’t have a plan to address this radically – say, but introducing a new weekly topic or so. But during the past month, I had quite a few wines worth talking about, so this is exactly what I’m going to do – write a post to review those wines. Well, yeah, I guess you are already reading this very post… The usual warning – there will be pictures,… many pictures…

It is still summer, so let’s start with super-quaffable Prosecco. It is not even Prosecco, it is pretty much a complete cocktail in the bottle. The wine is made by Mionetto, a well known Prosecco producer in Valdobbiadene region in Italy.

MIonetto Il Ugo

Mionetto Il Ugo

Mionetto Il Ugo, a blend of Prosecco with elderflower blossoms and wildflowers – bright and uplifting on the nose, touch of sweetness with a charismatic bitterness and enough acidity – it is so refreshing, you don’t want to put the glass down. Yes, I know, the purists will disagree – but this is an outstanding wine in my book. Drinkability: 8

Now, a couple of value wines for your consideration. These wines come from Chile under the brand name of the Beach Kite. While you can’t find this information on the wine label, Beach Kite is presumable affiliated with 90+ Cellars. 90+ Cellars has a similar model of operation to Hughes Wines and Oriel (at least the two that I’m familiar with), which is: find good wines which well-known wineries have a hard time selling, bottle under your own private label, and sell for the reasonable price at around $20. Beach Kite seems to be more of a “second label” to the 90+ Cellars wines, considering the price of $7.99 per bottle. But – don’t judge the wine by its price.

2012 Beach Kite Sauvignon Blanc Central Valley Chile (13% ABV) had herbaceous nose, and zesty grapefruit on the palate, a bit more restrained compare to the typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but still  fruit forward next to Sancerre. Refreshing, with good acidity. Drinkability: 7

2012 Beach Kite Pinot Noir Central Valley Chile (13% ABV) – simple, round, good red fruit on the nose and the palate, touch of plums, good acidity – perfect sipping wine for a hot summer day. Drinkability: 7

Next I want to talk about few wines, sorted by the grape.

Riesling

While this is not how I rate the wines, but I would say that I had two Rieslings which were outstanding, and one which was … just spectacular.

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Paritua Riesling Central Otago

2008 Paritua Riesling Central Otago New Zealand (11.5% ABV). I got this wine for $6/bottle at Last Bottle Wines. I was questioning myself a bit when placing an order for this wine, as I never heard of Riesling from Central Otago – a region in New Zealand known for their world-class Pinot Noir, but not Riesling. I’m glad I took my chances and got this wine, as it was outstanding. Perfect ripe peach flavors on the nose with the hint of petrol (yes, I know some people are not very happy about this flavor, but I personally love  it). Very delicate on the palate, with some honey and apricot notes, perfect acidity and very restrained sweetness. This New Zealand Riesling would rival many of the German Rieslings at Kabinett level. One night we had it with Thai food, and [as expected] it paired perfectly. Drinkability: 8

2005 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (9% ABV) – what I value the most in Riesling (any Riesling) is balance. My sweet tooth is not any smaller than the one any sweets lover would have out there. But I can’t take bottomless sweetness in the wine – I need acidity to come and play it supportive and refreshing role right next to the sweetness. This Riesling is perfectly balanced, with excellent acidity – and showing no signs of age.  Just had an interesting revelation – may be I should replace my “drinkability” ratings with “quaffability”, as this wine was not just drinkable, it was perfectly quaffable. Anyway, I digress. This is not the first Riesling I had from Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg  – and it seems to be a very interesting winery – but I need to refer you to the Riesling expert Oliver TheWinegetter if you want to learn more. Here is a link to the comment Oliver left on one of my previous posts where he is talking about this winery. Drinkability: 8+

Curt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling

Kurt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling

1999 Kurt Rasmussen Late Harvest Riesling Dry Creek Valley (13%ABV) – I’m not sure I can do justice to this wine trying to describe it. In a word – spectacular. Liquid viscous dark gold in the glass, honey, honeydew, caramelized pecan, apricot notes all over, both on the nose and the palate – and perfectly balanced (I’m know I’m abusing this one), with still bright supporting acidity. Drinkability: 9

Next up – Gewurztraminer

To be honest, I don’t drink Gewurztraminer all that often. I find a lot of Gewurztraminer wines to be all over the place in terms of taste – many of them have wonderful nose, but then on the palate the wine often doesn’t appear to be “together”, it shows up quite disjointed. But – not this wine.

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer

Domain Zind-Humbrecht is one of the best producers in Alsace, probably best known for its Pinot Gris wines. Just to put things in perspective, 36 wines of Domain Zind-Humbrecht have classic ratings from Wine Spectator (95-100), including perfect score 100 point 2001 Pinot Gris. Well, this is not the wine I’m talking about here.

2002 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Gewurztraminer Alsace (15.5% ABV) – I got two bottles of this wine at Bottle King in New Jersey on a big sale for about $20 each – this wine typically retails for $60 or so. I had a bottle few years back, and was not impressed. So when I pulled this bottle out, I was not expecting much ( it was more like “yeah,  let’s free some space in the wine fridge”). My, was I wrong! In one word, I have to use again my abused wine definition of the day – spectacular. Dark golden color, beautiful nose of candied apricot, perfect honey tones on the palate, fresh acidity, more candied apricot, perfectly balanced. Drinkability: 9

Food break

Tired of wine? Let’s make a short break for some food pictures. First, I promised to Food and Wine Hedonist that when I will make Elotes according to his recipe, I will share my impressions. Elotes is Mexican street food which is essentially a grilled corn with spicy mayo and Cotija cheese – this is precisely what I did and it was tasty! For the recipe, use the link above, and here are the pictures:

Yes, I continue admiring my “mangal”, a special charcoal grill – here are few pictures for your drooling pleasure:

You know what – I think this is enough for one post. Let’s stop here. In the next post – Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and may be something else.

To be continued…

Taste Of Wine – Engineering Approach

November 13, 2010 17 comments

You might be baffled by the title of this post, but I promise to explain. I even expect that it will make sense in the end and will not be boring. No, this post will not be talking about kinds of machinery necessary to properly taste wine.  Wine, in its seeming simplicity, has a mystic aura surrounding it. Perceived taste of wine is definitely one of the areas where mystery of wine unfolds – and this is what I want to discuss.

Quite frankly, blog post by W. Blake Gray “Why expensive wines taste better: Psychology 101” prompted me to think about subject of taste of wine, and the factors which affect the perceived taste. Being a computer engineer by education, I like to use an orderly approach when a phenomena needs to be analyzed. But wine has nothing to do with computer engineering you contend? True, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t use some interesting tools to put the thoughts in order. As a side note, I want to mention that I have experience successfully using engineer approach in totally non-engineering subjects – in college, together with my friend Alexander (Sasha) we converted whole semester course of philosophy into block-charts, one night before exam. It worked!

Please relax – there will be no block-charts or algorithms in this post. For putting the thoughts in order I would like to use tool from the Mind Mapping category, called FreeMind – you can find it on internet, and if not – send me a message and I will help. This tool allows you to put your thoughts in order, and then do the analysis. How? Let’s see. So here is the group of factors which affect the perceived taste of wine (good/bad, tasty/disguising and so on): Organoleptic (smell, color, taste and so on), Tools which can alter the taste, Expectations and Environment – note, that these are only my thoughts, though. Here is the same – but in the format of the mind map:

What are this “Expectations”, or what does “Environment” means, and do I include screwdriver into the “Tools” and why, you may ask? Let’s add one more level of details and then talk about it. So here is the expanded picture:


Now, there is a lot more we can talk about. Let’s start with expectations. There is a lot of factors which might influence our opinion about the wine by setting our expectations prior to opening the bottle. Do Ratings affect perceived taste of wine? You bet! “Robert Parker gave this wine 97 rating, I’m sure it should taste amazing”. “This wine is rated at 95 by Wine Spectator – I’m sure it will taste great!”. And then it does not – for you personally, it doesn’t. And there is nothing wrong with you – may be you are just in bad mood, or may be this magnificent Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley simply doesn’t work well with Chinese sweet and sour chicken, or may be this is just not the wine you like. Those critics who rated the wine 95 points have to be objective ( this is their job), but you, consumer, don’t have to – like/don’t like is the best rating (we will discuss this in the future).

Where the wine was made (“I love the wines from Napa”, “German wines are the best in the world”…), who made it (“ahh, it is Petrus”, “oh my, this wine is made by Screaming Eagle”) and the price (“I paid $100 for this bottle!”, “yeah, I only paid $10 for this bottle”) – all will (or at least, might) influence the perceived taste. Do other people opinions affect our expectations? Absolutely. What about books, articles and advertisements? Yep, most definitely. However, it is very important to note that the more you learn about wines, and by learning I mostly mean trying different styles of wines coming from different regions, the less “affecting” these factors become.

Will the temperature affect the taste of wine? Of course. Will proper (or improper) decanting affect taste of wine – yes, in many cases. Some of the factors, such as decanting, might affect the taste in the two different ways – one is simply aesthetics, with the expectations are set with the sheer “wow” factor of the proper decanting, and another one is a physical effect, by allowing the wine to “breathe” , open up to reach the optimum flavor profile (yes, there is more to the decanting, but this is not what this post is all about).

We can go and discuss the factors one by one for a long time – it will make this post very long – and probably equally boring. But as we have an advantage of playing with the mind map, let me simply give you more food for thought – here is fully expanded version of this mind map. Remember, it is just a momentary snapshot of your thought process, and it is as fluid as thoughts themselves:

Before we conclude, I would like to touch on of the important factors which is hiding there in the “Environment” group – blind wine tasting. Of course there are different levels of “blindness”. When you taste the wines as part of the Master Sommelier exams, you have no information about the wine, outside of what you can see, smell and taste. In many other cases, you know only a small piece of information – for instance, tasting the wines during the Windows of the World Wine School classes, we knew the region (Bordeaux, California…), but nothing beyond that. Why it is important to taste the wine blind? It eliminates most of the influencing factors which get in the way of you establishing very simple relationship with the glass of wine you have in your hand – I like it, or I don’t.

Well, I think it is enough for this post. I would love to hear from you – was it boring, was it interesting, am I totally off in my thought process. If you want more information on the mind mapping – I will be glad to send you links. If you want the mind map file for the Taste of Wine – drop me a note, I will be glad to send it to you. And most importantly, tell me your wine tasting stories – and keep learning about the wines!

Daily Glass: Claraval, Another Dangerous Wine

October 9, 2010 2 comments

In one of the previous posts, I came up with the term “dangerous wine” – the wine which is so smooth and so good, once you start drinking it, you pretty much can’t put the glass down until the wine is all gone.  Here come the second wine from Spain which I also have to declare “dangerous”.

It is called Claraval and it is coming from the Calatayud region. This wine is a blend of four grapes – Garnacha (50%), Tempranillo (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Syrah (10%). The wine has sour cherries on the nose, and it opens up into a beautiful array of spices and fruit, with earthy notes coming through, all complemented by balancing acidity and tannins. If anything, this wine is reminiscent of good Southern Rhone wines (which is not surprising as it shares the same main grape, Grenache, known as Garnacha in Spain), but it definitely has its own character. Judging by the mid-palate weight and tannins, this wine will also do well in the cellar – and I was glad to see that Robert Parker think the same, giving this wine 91 rating and saying that wine will evolve all the way into 2020.

So, how much do you think such wine should cost? Nope, it is not $30, which would not be surprising at such a level of quality, it is only… $11.99, so it definitely has very high QPR. This is definitely the wine to buy by the case.

And now, it is time for the verdict (of course you already guessed it):

Drinkability: 8

What is next? The trip to Long Island wineries, which is almost a annual tradition by now – a trip to Long Island wineries in the Fall, when it is already not hot, and still very beautiful. Off we go (well, the team members have to wake up first). Report to follow…

Treble Journey: Two Rosé Closer to the Goal, Grapes #264 – #266

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

While I’m trying to avoid repeating the same category, I guess the desire to reach the coveted 300 grape varieties (honestly – sometimes I really wonder why…) is forcing my daily glass choices… So here is a quick report on two new varieties (well, actually 3, but more details are down below) – Freisa and Rufete.

Freisa - Monferrato Chiaretto Berro Rosato Pico Maccario 2009. Nice clean Rose, with aromas of the fresh fruit, strawberries and slightly under-ripe  plums and refreshing acidity. Very nice wine, I would rate it at 7+.

Rufete – Gazela Rose N/V, Portugal. Interesting wine (you can see my true meaning of “interesting” here). This wine doesn’t have much going, except slight effervescence and nice pink color. But at least it is +1 grape.

From time to time we make some unexpected ( and pleasant ) discoveries. While looking through the list of the wine grapes on Wikipedia in a search of “what else can I reasonably find in order to get to 300 grapes”, I noticed the grape with then name I never heard of (of course it was not the only one, but nevertheless) – the grape called Alexandrouli. It appears that this grape is used to produce a Georgian semi-sweet wine called Khvanchkara, which I had before a number of times. End result – one additional grape to the list

Alexandruli - Khvanchkara, Georgia

Whatever it is to this Treble Journey, but now I’m getting questions and advises – how about this grape, and what about that grape – and I really appreciate all the help! If anyone got any suggestions about finding wines with unique grapes – that would be simply great! 34 more to go – come on, people!

Treble Journey: Definitely Not Enough Of A Good Thing, Grapes #248 – #263

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

For those who is just joining us and for those who forgot: if you wonder what this mysterious journey is, please take a look at this post. As I was wondering in my last post if there can be too many wines in the tasting, I’m continuing here with the update on the progress of the “treble journey”, inching on the ultimate destination point – 300 different grapes. Well, if tasting of the new grape can be defined as  “inching”, or in other words, moving forward by an inch, then as a result of the last wine tasting I made more than a foot of the progress – 16 different grapes in one day. Considering that we are talking about that many grapes, I will simply list grapes and wines without providing much of the detailed notes or ratings (besides, with some of the wines, I will be very happy to never try them again…). Here is the list:

Ansonica – Donnafugata Anthilia White 2008, Sicily

Bovale Sardo – Serralori Rosato IGT 2009, Italy

Drupeggio – Palazzone Orvieto 2009, Italy

Frapatto, Nerello Capuccio – Dievole Fourplay Rosso 2007, Italy

Mantonico – Efeso Bianco IGT 2005, Italy

Moristel = Marbore 2003, Spain

Moscato Reale – Apianae 2007, Italy

Muscardin, Terret, Vaccarese - Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf duPape Boisrenard Red 2007, France

Muscat de Frontignan – Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2005, South Africa

Nuragus - Selegas DOC 2009, Italy

Rabo de Ovelha – Loios White 2009, Portugal

Roscetto - Ferentano Bianco Lazio IGT 2007

Scheurebe - Joseph Phelps Eisrebe 2005, California

So while it is great to add a big number of new grapes, each additional grape makes the “journey” more and more difficult, as now you need to search far and wide in order to find the new grape. But – this search and anticipation are big part of the process, so lets enjoy it.

To sum up – there are still 38 more grapes to go… Unique grape suggestions, anyone?

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