Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cap de Faugères 2004 - There are bargins in Bordeaux!

There is value in Bordeaux! It’s not just a myth! That’s what I discovered with the 2004 Cap de Faugères, a red blend from the Côtes de Castillon region of Bordeaux. The wine was part of the list of wines bought for my sister Cindy’s wedding at the beginning of October as the “cigar wine” for her husband (and my now brother in-law) Israel. The wine didn’t disappoint.

Very full bodied with a dark, inky purple or almost black color. Very much a smoky aroma mixed in with dark fruits. Blackberries most notably. There is also an earthy or possibly spicy element too that adds a nice sense of complexity I like. Very much a full bodied wine but not in an over the top way as some might characterize a new world wine. Really long finish that just coats your tongue with spices. Not only is the finish long but it really caresses as well. Not in a silky way but more like velvet.

Excellent wine especially when I tell you the price. $12 from Zachys, on sale from $20. I have theories as to why they are selling this wine at that price. One is that I don’t think people are lining up to buy the 2004 Bordeaux vintage right now. Not a great one according to the critics and everyone is focused on the 2005s. I also think they just need to move wine right now to make room.

Whatever the case, I like this wine a lot for the price and give it a solid B.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

2001 Falasco Amarone on a Tuesday Night

Sometimes you just want to open a good wine on a Tuesday night. Such was the case yesterday with the 2001 Falasco Cantina Valpantena, an Amarone from the Vento region of Italy.

In short is was a fantastic wine and exactly what I was looking for. Deep garnet color with strong nose of wood which I thought was more cedar and vanilla but also dark cherry and licorice. Full bodied with a long meaty finish.

A great way to end an otherwise bland day…

Monday, October 15, 2007

Writing notes at wine tastings. Can it be done?

I love wine tasting events. I think they are flat out fun and a great way to taste wines that I would normally never have thought to try before. For people just learning about their wine preferences, it’s a good way to taste your way through all different kinds of grapes and come away with something like “I think I like Riesling.” For someone on a wine budget, some tasting pour super premium bottles which, for a taste, might be worth the price of admission alone.

What’s not to like!

However…. Every time I go to one of these, which is twice a year at best, I struggle with how I’m going to write about it during and after. While at an event, I always take a small notepad and a pen, thinking I’m going to write some kind of detailed tasting note for most everything I taste. I’m lucky if I write even one down. Even after the event is over, I think I’m going to blog about the wines I’ve tasted, which ones I like, etc. But there are literally hundreds of wines to taste and with my memory, I’m lucky to remember anything beyond the top handful that really truly stood out. Because of that, I usually end up keeping my thoughts to myself.

Now, I think I’ve come up with a way to do it. Just write or mark down the wines I taste and very simply put a + sign(s) next to the ones I liked. In theory I could even do this after the event if I had a half-decent memory.

I got to try this out last week when I went to Wine Library’s Super Tasting as a guest of my friend Julanne, a regular at their shop in Springfield, NJ. The event is HUGE as they offer over 700 different wines to sample, all spread out over three huge rooms at The Manor in West Orange, NJ. The tasting can seem somewhat overwhelming with so many wines, no real way to find out what’s being poured until you get there, and the fact that they’re organized by distributor rather than region or type.

On the upside there are over 700 wines to taste. That’s a pretty big upside if you ask me and I found a lot I liked. My two favorites were dessert wines, the 2001 Filhot from Sauternes which at $14 a half bottle is an amazing bargain. My second favorite wine was slightly more expensive at $140 a bottle. That was the 2002 Gunderlock Nackenheim Rothenberg Berrenauslese from Germany. Taking the prize for “taste of wine that was worth price of admission” based purely on cost per bottle was the 2004 Haut Brion ($400 a bottle). Prize for “wines I was really excited to taste because I had never had them before” were both from Australia, Shiraz’s from Two Hands and Fetish.

Below is the list of the wines I tasted, keeping in mind that this list is literally less than 10% of what I could have tasted!

The Bordeaux Table
Chateau Beau Sejour Becot - 1988 (++)
Chateau Beychevelle - 2005
Chateau Beychevelle - 2006
Chateau Clarendelle Blanc
Chateau Clarendelle Rouge
Chateau d'Issan - 2001
Chateau Filhot - 2001 (+++ - the best wine I tasted that evening - $14 a half-bottle)
Chateau Grand Mayne - 1999 (+)
Chateau Haut Brion - 2004 (++)
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion (++)
Chateau Lanessan – 1996 (+)
Chateau Lascombes - 2001
Chateau Le Gay - 2004 (+)
Chateau Monbousquet Rouge - 2002

The Rest
Abadia Retuerta Selection Especial - 2003
Adelsheim Pinot Noir - 2006
Angel's Cuvee Ripasso de Tannat Amarone - 2005
Au Bon Climat Chardonnay - 2006
Banfi Brunello di Montalcino - 2001 (+)
Bethel Heights Pinot Noir "Eola-Amity Cuvee" - 2005 (I like this a lot)
Bravante Merlot - 2004
Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva - 2003
Caymus Conundrum - 2005 (+)
Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - 2005 (+)
Cesari "Il Bosco" Amarone - 2001
Cesari Amarone - 2004
Chapelle St-Arnoux Vacqyeras Reserve Vielles Vignes -2003 (+)
Chateau Franc Maillet "Cuvee Jean Baptiste" Pomerol - 2001 (+)
Chateau Fuisse - Pouilly Fuisse Vielles Vignes - 2004
Chateau Rontets Pouilly Fuisse "Les Birbettes" - 2005 (++)
Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004
Duckhorn Napa Merlot - 2005
Falesco Marciliano - 2003 (+)
Fattoria La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - 2001 (+)
Fetish - Playmates Shiraz/Grenache/Mataro - 2005
Fetish - The Watcher Shiraz - 2004 (++ - really good and I thought better than the 2005)
Fetish - The Watcher Shiraz - 2005 (+)
Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett Riesling - 2006 (+)
Gaja Magari - 2005 (++)
Groth Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004 (+)
Gunderlock Dry Estate Riesling - 2005 (+)
Gunderlock Nackenheim Rothenberg Berrenauslese - 2002 (+++ - 2nd best wine of the evening and it should be at $140 a bottle!)
Hitching Post Pinot Noir Highliner - 2005
L'Aventure Optimus Cabernet/Syrah - 2004 (++)
Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino - 2001 (++ - best Brunello of the evening)
Le Volte Tuscany - 2005
Moulin du Duhart Pauillac - 2002
Nickel & Nickel Sullenger Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004 (++)
Parusso Barolo - 2003 (+)
Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon - 2003 (++)
Prunotto Barolo - 2003 (+)
Sanford Pinot Noir - 2005 (+)
Santi Amarone della Valpollicella - 2003
Schafer Frohlich Bockenauer Felseneck Spatlese Riesling - 2006
Sebastiani Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon - 2005
Stag's Leap Artemis - 2004 (+)
Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz - 2006 (++)
Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz - 2005 (+)
Two Hands Lily's Garden Shiraz - 2005 (+)
Von Buhl Armand Kabinett Riesling - 2005
Von Hovel Qba Riesling - 2004
Wegeler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese Riesling - 1994 (++)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hypothesis: A wine tasted at a winery is often better than the same wine tasted at home. True or False?

The 2006 Pellegrini Unoaked Chardonnay makes a case for this to be a true statement. This Sonoma County winery was the first stop on our trip out to the area this July, a day that took us from here to Freeman, Moshin, and finally Inman Family, these last three all being among the best winery visits I’ve had to date.

Pellegrini, not so much as myself, my wife, and Jesse (the best man at our wedding and our designated driver that day) had made arrangements with the winery manager for a tour which we were very much looking forward to as the vineyard setting and the winery looked beautiful and the wines themselves had been highly recommended by the locals we were relying on for help in setting up the day of winery hopping.

Well… the short story made short is that they had no record of us making these arrangements despite me confirming just two days earlier and so we were unceremoniously shuffled off to the somewhat crowded tasting room. Well, at least we got to taste through their line-up of wines, including their Pinot Noirs which they were supposedly well know for, according to the locals, but which we found slightly disappointing. However, one of the bright spots were their whites, including the 2006 Unoaked Chardonnay. Not only did I like it but at $17 a bottle, I thought it was good price per quality and picked up a bottle. That was in July and just two days ago, we opened it up to go along with baked cod and corn on the cob which is in season now in New York and is sweet as can be. Get some!

The wine… Well… It was straw yellow in color with notes of green apples and some tropical fruits, including banana. (This is where the wine started to lose me.) There was a slight zip of acidity, likely evident from seeing no wood. However, it threw the wine off balance rather than pairing with the fruit. The finish was long, lingering on the tongue. However, the banana flavors came back on the end. (This is where the wine definitely lost me and I’d have to give it a D.)

Was this the same wine I tasted at the winery? I thought it was but I certainly don’t remember it like this. This is where hypothesis gets tested. In this case, the winery DID make the wine taste better than it did. I’m not sure how. That’s for future tests.

Overall, disappointing but not the end of the world. And, Pellegrini is still a nice place to stop by and visit if you’re in Sonoma. Just don’t expect the tour.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

2005 Mon Coeur - Cotes du Rhone

The 2005 Mon Coeur is a Cotes du Rhone from J.L. Chave which I picked up for $15 from Garnet Wines on the Upper East Side.

It was ruby red in color with spicy aromas lingering above the dark fruit. The spice was white pepper. Fruits were blackberry and a hint of blueberry. There might have been some dark cherry buried underneath there too. The aromatics were really lovely. Medium bodied with a soft, long, spicy finish.

Very good. B+.

So… I felt I had to write that note in past tense as it comes to me from a scrap piece of paper found in my jean pants after they had gone through the washer and dryer. Now you know how my note taking often works. Drink a wine, reflect, and write something down on the closest piece of paper. They more than likely make it in some form on the blog. Sometimes they don’t make it. Sometime the path is a bit circular as it was here. At least it made it. Whew!

P.S. On the same sheet of paper, it says to drink your bottles of 1996 Brico Manzoni. The essence of the dark fruit is there but its lost some of its complexity. Tar notes are more predominant now. Drink up!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Oregon Pinot Gris! Try it!

Oregon Pinot Gris! Try it!

The 2006 Ponzi Pinot Gris is straw yellow in color with wonderful floral aromatics mixed in with some orange peel and a hint of lemon. The floral notes really come out when the wine has a chill on and some mineral elements come out when the wine opens up some. It has fantastic balance and a soft mouthfeel with citrus coming through on the tongue with a little bit of spice. Medium long finish.

Really one of the best Pinot Gris I’ve had and it makes me want to explore the varietal a little bit more. Especially from Oregon. I’m two for two with the ones I’ve tried.