Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wine Makes Me Love Everything, part 2.

I left you so suddenly last week, having only written about 3 wines that recently passed through my lips.

Well, I've got some more for you. God, I wish I could've taken these home. A few were merely solid deals. Some were absolute classics.

Here we go...

Marcel Deiss Pinot Blanc, Burgheim, Alsace, France, 2005: 8.2
Alsace is that tiny region in northeastern France, that along with Lorraine (as in the cheese) were involved in a not-so-lovely literal game of tug-of-war. Once part of Germany, now France, the culture is truly somewhere in between (or some might say realistically not truly part of either).

I noticed a pretty cashew/almond nose to the wine, leading into a nutty, mineral-rich wine. This was a fruit-neutral wine, with a mere touch of sweetness. There is no domination here, rather a kind of velvety expression. Definitely a good sushi wine. ($25-30)

Pairs with "Joga" by Bjork.

Schiopetto Pinot Bianco, Collio Goriziano, Friuli, Italy, 2004: 8.8
I love Northern Italy. This clinches it. There is so much diversity in that section of the world. From joyful juiciness, to legendary elegance. Simple wines here even have a way of feeling unique and exciting.

What a friggin' oddball, in comparison to what we usually know about wine. This was another seemingly "neutral" wine up front. But as I swirled it a wee bit, I found this pleasant orange-zest developing within the minerality.

And the body kept a touch of that characteristic, only to take a left-turn into something beautifully unusual: Dramatic oily texture, orange, pear, herbes de Provence, apple. You can't go wrong. ($38-50)

Pairs with "I'm on Fire" by Bruce Springsteen.

Delta Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2007: 8.3
I think I've had about 30 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs in the past year. I'm not kidding. I get kind of sick of it after awhile. But I have to be fair, and realize that's just my preference not to drink a ton of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs after about August.

Yep...the usual grapefruit/gooseberry vibe in here. And really, it's quite nice. I think it's almost a dead-ringer for Oyster Bay's recent Sauvignon Blanc release, except the way the mid-palate fruit shows is certainly more elegant in Delta's current release. ($18-25)

Pairs with "Sec Walkin" by My Morning Jacket.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wine Makes Me Love Everything

Considering I work in the wine industry, I kind of have to check myself every now and then for objectivity. After all, I loved wine years before I started working for my current company.

Trust me, I sell some shitty wine.

I try to minimize selling said scatological wines. And it's not always exactly terrible wine (well...some of them are). It's just that if one were to pay $10 for brand x's Chardonnay, I would say their money is better spent with dozens of other Chardonnays. The trick is to find the people like the brand, regardless of what I think of the taste, and cater the brand to those people.

But then there are days where the job can truly excite, invigorate, and get the juices flowing.

Before I get into that, I have to say this: I like my job. This job has given me many great experiences. And I've really broadened my depth of understanding, in some ways. While I used to taste dozens of wines a week when I worked in retail, the wines I *do* taste now, I can often taste with a hands on experience. I never feel obligated to rate my wines better, and other distributor's wines worse. I really try to avoid that. So, I'm certainly going to do what I can to show some fairness to all wines.

With that out of the way...holy crap.

I had a chance to try some real stars last week. Some pricey, some on the cheap. But not a single bottle could I say was truly overpriced.

Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Non Vintage, Champagne, France: 8.6 ($47-57)
This was a completely legitimate Champagne. 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Meunier, the Première Cuvee was a big guy. A strong, golden color alluded to an impressive nose of slight yeast and floral notes, along with sweet lemon. These flavors continued for a bit, sipping and slurping and such.

The toasty side did emerge with reasonable breadth, and rich (caramel?) apples and citrus flavors continued. While still beautiful, it was a touch heavy-handed. It may have been served too warm. If it was 3-4 degrees cooler, this would probably show around a 9.0.

Pairs with "Tangerine" by Led Zeppelin

Alma Rosa Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California, 2005: 8.8 ($22-27)
One of the most impressive California Chardonnays for the money. Print that. Or copy/paste. Whatever.

What starts out as a lush nose of bright fruit with a touch of oak evolves slightly into something more springlike and fun. I can't say exemplifies prototypical elegance. But the Alma Rosa was fruity (great peach/apricot flavors), and really clean and dry. A refreshing style of Chardonnay that still exudes some depth of character.

Pairs with "Even if You Don't" by Ween

Telmo Rodriguez Basa White, Rueda, Spain, 2007: 7.5 ($13-17)
To be fair, this used to be a bit cheaper a few years back. I recall the 2004 vintage being about $9. But at least they've upped the ante a bit. Three grapes in this blend: Verdejo, Viura, Sauvignon Blanc. And Basa's chalky, nutty nose is quite a spectacle for itself. I's weird. But weird good.

The fruit profile is awfully heavy on the fresh melon, and that's going to make it a crowd-pleaser (for those who are a little adventurous when it comes to how wines smell). It even leans toward the grapefruit-like tendencies of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Pairs with "Genius of Love" by Tom Tom Club.

More coming soon...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Can't Stop the Beat

I was working a tasting this weekend, and lo and behold, I find the new vintage of white wine from Gascony that I'd just reviewed earlier this month. While I couldn't go back and taste them side by side, it's worth checking out if the '07 carries some freshness that the '06 now lacks.

And it did. But ultimately that did not move the wine in a way toward astounding balance. What I did get was this: Clarified mineral, lemon peel, an herbaceous tendency and good acid. Overall, this wasn't a surprise. Freshness is the way to go. And it's dry and easy, making a good wine for shellfish.

This wine needs a song that's got some zip. Something catchy and fun, but probably a bit too dragging in it's simplicity (but only a touch, insofar as to not impede it's exuberance).

Domaine de Pellehaut "Harmonie de Gascogne", 2007: 8.0
Pairs with "Move Your Feet" by Junior Senior.

In the next few days, I'll have a couple of sweet announcements for tasting events (oh yeah!) and a review of a dozen or so exceptional wines I tasted from around the world.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rock over London, Rock on Touraine

Summer is nearly gone, and I'm kind of pissed off about it. I don't really have a legit reason to be, though. I did get to do a lot of cool stuff. I camped all around Michigan's lake shore, including during an exceptional trip to Drummond Island.

Ultimately, it's easy to see the time hurry by. Working in the wine industry, we all start gearing up for the holidays pretty early. It's August, and plans are in the mix. We can all feel that transition starting, and there's a lot of great things that go along with it.

We don't sell a great amount of red wine in the summer. And hey, I've drunk exactly one bottle of red wine since Memorial Day, but probably about a case of rosés and 2-3 cases of whites. The latest adventure into finding an excellent but inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc led me to Loire. Usually, joyous and lively fruit is not part of the equation for *any* wine from Loire under $15. It simply does not come that cheap to us here in Michigan.

Domaine de la Charmoise is located in AC Touraine, a much more general (less lauded) area within the Loire. Really, it's a growing area around the city of Tours (about 13,000 acres worth of vines). Some of the better regarded areas within the AC Touraine are allowed to add the village name onto the bottle. Domaine de la Charmoise is not one of those examples.

Domaine de la Charmoise does come with some credentials. Henri Marrionet is the producer, and has honed in on crafting some good value-oriented wines from a region known for Sauvignon Blanc (usually for more than $20) from Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé.

Today's Sauvignon Blanc was decent. Some minerality and lemon on the nose, but the poor little guy didn't have a shot at complexity or depth. The body continued on as such: straightforward conflation of lemon and mineral. Yeah, it was refreshing (even with a slightly peculiar vegetal finish). But this was not an interesting gem wrested from obscurity.

Totally drinkable, totally enjoyable. Totally fine wine to drink on the porch and watch your neighbors change a tire.

Domaine de la Charmoise Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, 2006: 7.5 ($11-16)

Pairs with "Summer Breeze" by Seals & Crofts, or perhaps a little Trampled Rose from Robert Plant & Allison Krauss.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Blasphemy of Gascony?

From the rough-and-tumble lands of musketeers, you'll sometimes see some pretty thirst-quenching white wines, oft fruit-neutral and vibrant. And sometimes you'll be privy to some which exude citrus with a little zing. But there can be a problem. Quite often, you won't be able to tell what grapes are exactly in a bottle that reads Cotes de Gascogne.

Well, the major players are Ugni Blanc (a.k.a. Trebbiano) and Colombard. have grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gros Manseng kickin' around as well. This lack of identity doesn't mean much to most people, and really it shouldn't. Don't worry too much about the makeup; just get the most recent vintage possible.

I dig the Cotes de Gascogne. I've had some good cheap wines from here, and I'll always recommend them. But tonight's drink of choice has a slight touch of age (2006) and it already shows, albeit just a touch. For $7, I can't be picky. It's still thoroughly enjoyable as a quaffer (I've downed a full glass while writing the first 3 paragraphs of this post).

Domaine de Pellehaut is responsible for the wine tonight. And it does a decent job. I've got no A/C, so I need a crisp and fun white wine. All of my reds are staying downstairs in my typically-Michigan basement for the next few weeks, that's for damn sure. And yes, it's crisp. It's fun. There's a bit of golden apple, green melon and seaweed on the nose and palate, with establishing a presence void of rank sulfur or grapey, whiny "look at me" poses.

If you can find this (or any) wines from Cotes de Gascogne for under $8 that are less than 2 years old, I'd pounce on them. Just be okay with the fact that there's no way to really tell what the exact grape makeup is in the wine.

So what tune goes well with such a dependable but fleeting guzzler? WELL...let's narrow this down: Best while young. Still pretty solid. Good for a quick fix of simplicity. it.

Domaine de Pellehaut "Harmonie de Gascogne" Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne, 2006: 7.6
Pairs with "Surrender" by Cheap Trick.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A lot of drinking left to do...

Okay, I apologize. Work and life have taken me away from doing one of the things I enjoy most: talking about what I drank. No, for real. See, maybe some consider it fluff. Everyone's a writer, no one's an author. But I do love this experience.

So with that said, I've got quite a few wines to report back on.

I must also divulge the fact that I do in fact work for the company that sells all of these wines.

None of these were truly poor wines, which I think is indicative of the industry. You won't find a great deal of undrinkable abominations (unless you take a trip down to North Carolina and accidentally try some Scuppernong) standing on the shelves. You will find some below average, most average, and some shining over everything else. That's generally how it works.

The excitement always comes in those spurts. It's what wine lovers strive for (or hope for)...

I wish I had time to take notes on the wines. Due to time constraints and sheer quantity, that would've been an impossible task.

My favorites have the "***" added to them. If you have any questions on the wines, please leave a comment.

On with it!

Aalto Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2004 - 9.2 ($55-65)
Robert Craig Affinity, California, 2005 - 8.9 ($41-45)
Crescendo Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2004 - 8.9 ($36-40)
Bodegas Materredonda Juan Rojo, Spain, 2004 - 8.8 ($19-23)***
Lafond Pinot Noir, California, 2005 - 8.7 ($21-25)***
Chateau de la Chaize Brouilly, Beaujolais, 2005 - 8.6 ($16-20)***
Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2005 - 8.6 ($34-38)
Marquis Philips Shiraz, Australia, 2006 - 8.5 ($16-20)
Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage "Les Jalets", Rhone, 2004 - 8.4 ($21-25)
Prevail West Face, California, 2003 - 8.4 ($55-60)
Bethel Heights Pinot Noir, Oregon, 2006 - 8.4 ($31-35)
Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee, California, 2004 - 8.4 ($15-19)
Santa Ema Reserve Merlot, Chile, 2005 - 8.3 ($11-15)***
Las Rocas Garnacha, Spain, 2005 - 8.3 ($15-19)
Artesa Pinot Noir, California, 2006 - 8.3 ($23-27)
Andretti Zinfandel, California, 2005 - 8.3 ($27-31)
Pietra Santa Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2002 - 8.2 ($14-18)
Sonoma Creek Pinot Noir, California, 2006 - 8.2 ($12-15)
Cono Sur Vision Pinot Noir, Chile, 2007 - 8.2 ($13-16)
Spelletich Bodog Red, California, 2002 - 8.2 ($25-29)
Parson's Flat Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia, 2004 - 8.1 ($36-42)
Petra Zingari Sangiovese, Italy, 2005 - 8.1 ($16-20)
Kunde Cabernet Sauvignon, California - 8.0 ($17-21)
Omaka Springs Pinot Noir, New Zealand, 2006 - 8.0 ($20-24)
Buena Vista Pinot Noir, California, 2005 - 8.0 ($23-27)
Renwood Zinfandel Old Vine, California, 2004 - 8.0 ($18-22)
Waterstone Pinot Noir, California, 2004 - 7.7
Georges Duboeuf Julienas Chat. des Capitans, Beaujolais, 2006 - 7.5 ($15-19)
Torlasco Pinot Noir, Italy, 2005 - 7.4 ($13-16)

Trevor Jones Virgin Chardonnay, Australia, 2006 - 8.6 ($17-19)***
Oak Knoll Pinot Gris, Oregon, 2005 - 8.5 ($14-16)
Tablas Creek Cotes du Tablas Blanc, California, 2006 - 8.4 ($22-25)
Domaine de Pouy, Gascogne, 2006 - 8.3 ($10-12)
Burgans Albarino, Spain, 2006 - 8.2 ($11-14)
Hope Estate Verdelho, 2006 - 8.2 ($11-14)***
Omaka Springs Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2007 - 8.1 ($15-18)
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier, California, 2006 - 8.1 ($14-16)
Les Charmes Macon-Lugny, Burgundy, 2006 - 8.0 ($12-14)***
Kunde Sauvignon Blanc, California, 2006 - 8.0 ($14-16)
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2006 - 7.8 ($12-15)
Novellum Chardonnay, France, 2006 - 7.7($11-14)
Bodegas Villar Ipsum Rueda, Spain, 2006 - 7.7 ($9-12)
Villa Pozzi Pinot Grigio, Italy, 2006 - 7.5 ($8-10)
Marques de Riscal Rueda, Spain, 2005 - 7.4 ($9-11)
Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc, Chile, 2007 - 7.1 ($12-15)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Now That’s What I Call Hits of the ‘90s! (volume one)

Sometimes its not too early for nostalgia and sometimes that ship has since sailed. In fact, some wines- like many a party jam or dance craze- were fashioned for immediate and fleeting consumption. The “Macarena” will always sound the same, no matter how long it sits untouched in a climate-controlled cellar, there’s nothing new to offer.

While this isn’t really all about temporality- no vertical tasting, and I certainly didn’t try these upon original release (or even knew they existed at the time), it is about having had the pleasure to enjoy some awesome wines recently from the 1990s. This is undeniably a great perk of my line of work and its not everyday that someone pulls gems like these out of the cellar, and I compile them into one, easy-to-read blog! You (probably) can’t find hits like these at the store!

Domaine Rene Leclerc, Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru, Burgundy, France, 1999: 8.8

An unexpected flavor profile that was quite enjoyable. This Burgundy poured a bit opaque and had a very garnet hue. I suppose I was expecting a meatier, manure-y, masculine wine- like the other G.C.s I’ve had. However, at nearly ten years old, this drank very brightly. Acidity is in the driver’s seat here, but it doesn’t drown out the riders. Mulch, wet earth, wet cherries, and a hint of burnt leaves were all there. Structured and satin-y. This is why there are superfans (and why it’s so pricey).
Pairs with: "The Boy with the Arab Strap," by Belle and Sebastian

Miguel Merino Reserva, Rioja, Spain, 1994: 9.0

Sure, this wine spent a lot of time in oak- French and American. But there’s so much more going on. A basement full of cranberries and black raspberries, as it opened up, it revealed some petrol, lime and citrus. A wonderfully salty red (high compliment) with a spicy finish that recalled some of the flavors used in Spanish cuisine. Eccentric and oh-so-enjoyable.
Pairs with: "Dr. Octagonecologyst", by Dr. Octagon

Mount Eden Estate, Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay, California, 1997: 9.2

Ya mo have another Chardonnay! This is the oldest Cali Chard that I’ve tasted and, suffice to say, I’m really excited about their uncanny ability to age. Now, this is likely only true for the best of the best, and the Mount Eden belongs in that class. This is a very clean wine that had great bookends of nose and finish- nuanced and zesty. Dill, scallions, cream, butterscotch and fresh linens with a light peach gracing the mid-palate. This is not the last you’ll hear from us on the topic of Chard.
Pairs with: "69 Love Songs," by The Magnetic Fields