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Top Twelve of ’12

December 30, 2012 12 comments

Here we are. 2012 is almost over. There were bad things, there were good things. And the world didn’t end on December 21st. Unexpected, huh? But we are talking about wine here, so let’s get to it. The time has come to finish summing up the year worth of wines, and come up with the dozen most memorable wines (my second dozen+ can be found here).

DSC_0185 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah12. 2004 Retro Petite Sirah Howell Mountain ($35) – Power. More power. And more power. One of the biggest wines I tasted in 2012. Not in Barolo sense, not with the tannins which just close up your taste buds, but in the sheer amount of dense, chewy, dark fruit. It will be interesting to see how this wine will evolve…

P1130822 Ethos Syrah

11. 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley ($36) – I love roasted, meaty notes of Syrah (I can even go as far as proclaiming Syrah being the favorite wine, but it wouldn’t be entirely true – still, Syrah is definitely one of my favorite wines). This Syrah had that roasted, smokey and peppery notes, multiplied by juicy fruit. Very delicious – you should try it with your next BBQ and tell me what you think.

10. 2007 Villa Mt Eden Pinot Noir Reserve, Russian River Valley ($25)I would typically describe California Pinot Noirs from the position of power – a lot of them are big wines, boasting of jammy fruit. And I would typically reserve the descriptor such as “finesse” for the Burgundy. When you taste this wine, actually the first word which comes to mind is finesse. It is absolutely elegant, with beautiful layered fruit, silky smooth tannins, and – very, very balanced.

Turley The Label - Label9. 2010 Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($40) – in the old style bottle came beautifully styled Cabernet Sauvignon (you can read my escapades around the subject of the bottle if you will click on the name of this wine). This wine had everything you want from your Cabernet Sauvignon – black currant, mint, eucalyptus, touch of dark chocolate, supple tannins, perfect acidity – and it was not in-your-face, perfectly restrained and elegant. This was the very first vintage of this wine, produced by the venerable Zinfandel maker Turley, and I believe this wine has long life ahead of it.

8. 2009 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) – And then there was Rutherford dust. Absolutely perfect Cabernet Sauvignon, with all the classic traits and flavors, impeccably balanced, with an added bonus – a sensation of tiny particles coating your mouth, a very unusual and very memorable texture, associated only with wines produced in the area of Rutherford in Napa Valley. Before I tried this wine, I heard the “Rutherford dust” expression, but never experienced it – this was my first encounter, and boy, was that delicious!

DSC_0864 Saint Prefert CdP White7. 2010 Domaine Saint Prefert Cuvee Speciale Vieilles Clairettes Chateauneuf du Pape ($125 for magnum) – let me give you a very short description for this wine – a symphony in a glass. Do I need to clarify it any further? You know, all the memorable wines provoke certain association. Power, balance, finesse, roasted meat, sunshine, fresh meadows – and then there is this wine which you want to associate with music. Perfect clarity of this wine only makes you think of precisely taken high notes and how beautiful the music is. The wine has very little availability and only produced in Magnums, if I’m not mistaken – but, if you can experience it, you will not regret.

P1120580 gloria Ferrer6. 1995 Gloria Ferrer Late Disgorged Carneros Sparkling Wine ($35) – who likes vintage sparklers – raise your hand! One of the best vintage sparkling wines I ever tried – perfectly mature fruit, yeast, brioche, toasted bread – everything in cohesive package, with enough acidity to support this massive sensation and keep the wine refreshing and enjoyable. I made a huge mistake with this wine – I bought only one bottle to try, and by the time I went back to the store, it was all gone… But – I’m glad I had a chance to experience it.

2010 Ornellaia Poggio Alle Gazze5. 2010 Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, Toscana IGT ($45) – let me ask you a question – do you associate Sauvignon Blanc with Italy? Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, New Zealand, California, Chile – but Italy? It turns out that Sauvignon Blanc does very well in Italy, definitely when it comes from such a coveted winery as Tenuta dell’Ornelaia. Medium to full bodies wine, with beautiful white fruit, perfect balance and craving to drink it until anything left in that bottle. You have to taste it to believe it.

DSC_0692 bv clone 64. 2007 Beaulieu Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 6 ($140) – what a beauty! You know, I once read review by Joe Roberts, where he compared one of Cathy Corison Cabernet wines with black panther. I tasted that same wine, and the panther didn’t come to me. With this BV Clone 6 wine, I think I found my black panther. Slick, muscled, dangerous and stunning, this wine brings all together in one grand package – dark fruit, earthiness, coffee and dark chocolate. Hello, gorgeous!

3. 2000 Carlisle Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($35) – luscious deliciousness. Sounds overly enthusiastic? May be. But I will not accept any criticism here, until you will have a taste of this wine. It is possible that you will still not be able to share my enthusiasm – but for me, this was one beautiful wine. Layers upon layers of the fruit, dark fruit, blue fruit – blueberries, plums, blackberries, dark chocolate, all with perfect acidity and in perfect harmony. You would never tell that this wine has ABV of 16.5% – this is how delicious this wine was.

Carlisle Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

2. 1947 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja ($400)65 years old wine  – still bright and youthful. This was one amazing experience – tasting the wine of such an age, and finding that you can really like it without looking for any  age discounts. Fruit was still bright, all wrapped into cedar box and eucalyptus notes, with soft tannins and fresh acidity.

P1130189 Rioja 1947

And now ( drum roll, please)

2012 Wine of the Year

1. 2010 Phantasi Oregon White Wine ($100, Magnum price in the restaurant) – wine geeks, rejoice! This is your wine! If you read this blog for a while, you already know that I’m self-admitted wine snob. But – you probably also know that compare to the wine snob, I’m somewhat of a 100-fold wine geek. I would try absolutely any wine and I purposefully seek odd and unusual bottles.

When this wine was offered to us in the restaurant $100 for a magnum, this was an offer I couldn’t pass by. And what the wine it was! This is 100% Roussanne wine from Oregon, made by Antica Terra – unfortunately, you can’t even find any information about this wine on the winery web site.

The wine was served at the room temperature. Deep, pungent, concentrated – in the blind tasting (actually blind, so you would not be able to see the color in your glass) I’m sure this wine would be easily identified as red. Good acidity, good balance, very food friendly – and very unique.

DSC_0793 Phantasi 2010

That concludes my Top Twelve of ’12. I would love to see your comments  and also to learn about your most memorable wines of the 2012.

Wishing you all wonderful wine, food and life experiences, each and every day. Cheers!

 

Big Time at the Big Winery: Visiting Chateau Ste. Michelle

September 23, 2012 15 comments

As you know, wine is my hobby – I don’t belong to the “wine trade”, but as wine aficionado (oenophile and occasional snob), I’m eternal student of wine (luckily, the world of wine happily offers eternal learning opportunities). How do you learn about wine? There are many ways, but tasting the wines and talking to the people who make them is probably one of the best – I just had a great learning experience which I want to share with you.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is located in State of Washington, about 30 miles north of Seattle. While visiting Seattle not long ago, I realized that I have enough time before my flight back to east coast to visit the winery and (yay!) try some wines.
The place looked pretty impressive as I drove in – I visited quite a few wineries over the years, and Chateau Ste. Michelle probably was the biggest one I ever being to. Took me a while even to realize that the big door was there with the purpose and not just a part of the old mansion. Here are few pictures from you so you will get the idea:

Here is the door I was contemplating to touch:

From here on, this will be pretty much a picture report with some tasting notes, of course.

By the way, just to give you an idea of the size of this winery – look at this conveyor belt – there are between 7,000 and 9,000 cases (!) of white wine made there per day (!):

And those barrels? They all hold white wine, and there are 28,000 barrels in that room (!). And the smell alone in that room – ahh, you really should experience it for yourself – the magnificent Chardonnay aromas filling up the air – you really can enjoy this smell countless amount of time.

Wait, here are the tanks first:

And now, the barrels (no, you can’t see all 28,000 in this picture):

Now, let’s talk about the wine – no more “supporting pictures”.

The tasting was conducted in the library room, were I was surrounded by the wines I really (REALLY!!!) wanted to try – but I had to only look at them… Here are some of the wines I didn’t try:

1977 Cabernet Sauvignon:

Then I didn’t try this 1993 Meritage:

1994 Meritage? Nope, still nothing…

And I didn’t try this 1998 Meritage:

Another wine I missed on, 2000 Meritage:

2004 Meritage? I could touch…the bottle, that’s all:

Okay, that’s it. Yes, I just wanted to share some pictures with you, so it would mean that I didn’t take those pictures for nothing.

And now, let’s talk about wines I actually tasted.

The tasting started with Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut NV. As a confession of the wine snob (wow! need to patent that – should be a great name for a series of posts) I have to admit that I always passed that sparkler in the wine stores. I will not make this mistake anymore! Perfectly balanced, with the nice notes of green apple, and fresh, clean, high note acidity (and the price of $11 or so), this can be your perfect everyday bottle of sparkling wine.

On a related note I would like to also give you a mini-quiz (the answer will be at the bottom of the post) – below is a picture of the cork – what do you think those numbers mean and why are they there?

Next we moved to the 2009 Canoe Ridge Chardonnay  – it had a touch of butter and toasted oak on the nose, but was somewhat green on the palate – I was hoping for a bit more round profile on the palate.

Next wine was 2008 Artist Series Meritage – 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% malbec and 1% Petit Verdot – this was actually a first year for the whole period of Meritage production when all 5 classic Bordeaux varieties had being used. The wine was beautiful, perfectly balanced and reminiscent of a classic Bordeaux.

2009 Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – single vineyard Cabernet was perfectly clean with eucalyptus and earthy notes, soft fruit and long finish. As Renee ( my host) explained, this wine is usually not really welcomed by guests from California, as it shows much less exuberance compare to the traditional California Cab.

However, Washington Merlot, such as 2009 Ethos Reserve Merlot is fully redeeming the softness of Cabernet – this wine has broad shoulders, very big, powerful, with blueberries and blueberry jam, tobacco and dark chocolate  notes – very impressive wine.

Last in that line of tasting was 2006 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, single vineyards from Horse Heaven Hills, RS 17.8% – this wine was perfectly balanced, with notes of honey and apricots, and clean, fresh acidity – very nice.

You think we are done? Nope. There are few more wines to report: 2008 Stone Tree Vineyard Syrah Wahluke Slope was soft and supple, with a touch of spice:

And then there was 2008 Ethos Reserve Syrah, which I have to simply call Best of Tasting – it was a “wow” wine, perfect BBQ wine with the nose of smokey roast, perfect power, balance and beauty:

And… We are not done yet! Then I had an opportunity to try Col Solare wines, which are a product of partnership between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori. The winery is situated on the Red Mountain in Washington, a part of Columbia Valley appellation, and the vineyards and the whole winery are resembling sun rays – you can see it for yourself in this picture on the web site.

The wines are done in the true Super Tuscan style, powerful but reserved. I had an opportunity to try 2006, 2007 and 2008, and as a common point I can only say – these wines need more time…

Dense and a touch chewy, with nice dark fruit, cherries and plums, earthy notes and good acidity, very balanced. This wines are not easy to find, but worth seeking.

And for me – here is something again which I didn’t try:

Okay, your photo-torture is done. I’m taking complains in the comment section. And I’m pretty much done with my report. Ahh, yes, almost forgot – that mini-quiz… Did you figure out those numbers on the cork? Of course you did, it is a production date. But I managed to surprise even my host Renee, who didn’t know about that date being printed on the cork (I even surprised myself as I never saw it before and only red about it) – the importance of this information is that with this date, you can know how long ago that non-vintage sparkling wine was produced. And I don’t know if you tasted a NV sparkler which was laying around for 5-6 years – it tastes very different from the fresh made version. And with the date on the cork – now you know.

Now I’m done with this post for sure. Find the bottle of Chateau Ste Michelle wine and have a glass – if you managed to read up to this point,  you definitely deserve it. And if you are visiting Seattle – well, now you know what  you shouldn’t miss. Cheers!

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