Friday, February 29, 2008

Chateau Lanessan 2005 – Haut Medoc – Bordeaux

Garnet colored with blackberry and red currant notes. Also some scents of light oak, tar and maybe some floral essence. Medium bodied with a medium length finish.

A pleasant wine but I feel there are some better examples of (relatively) inexpensive Bordeaux from the much heralded 2005 vintage to sample. Including the ’05 Gigault Cuvee Viva which I tasted recently.

Overall this is a C+ wine for me. Bought for $22 at Garnet Wine on the Upper East Side.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2005 Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett - Bernkasteler Badstube - Mosel-Saar –Ruwer (Guest Blogger: Lisa Bocchini)

Guest Blogger Lisa Bocchini joins us again for her take on the 2005 Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett - Bernkasteler Badstube from Germany’s Mosel-Saar –Ruwer region.

The wine comes in at 9.5% alchohol and can be found at Sherry Lehmann for $20.

Nice light straw color, medium body. Floral,slightly citrus and a hint of lychee aromas. Richer than many Kabinetts, slightly effervescent. Has some sweetness without being cloying, but enough acidity to balance out the sugar. Really nice finish, with a flavor that lingers in the mouth.

Editors Note: Wanting to know more about Bernkasteler Badstube and what the phrase actually meant, I did an internet search and came up with the following from the importer Billington Wines which is located in Virginia.

“The vineyard of the Bernkasteler Doctor represents the finest tradition of grape growing. For centuries great Rieslings have been produced from this vineyard. According to legend, the Doctor vineyard was given its name in 1360 by Archbishop Boemond II of Trier when, after his doctor had given up hope on his health, he regained his strength by drinking wine from this vineyard. Bernkasteler Badstube is Germany’s smallest Grosslage (a collection of individual vineyards with similar environmental attributes that produce wines of comparable character and quality.) The Badstube (about 59 ha) covers the best-known vineyards of the Bernkastel site of Bernkastel-Kues: Lay, Graben, Matheisbildchen, Bratenhoefchen and Doctor.”

Monday, February 25, 2008

2006 4 Vines “Naked” Chardonnay – Santa Barbara County – Calif.

An unoaked chardonnay that comes from the Central Coast of California.

It’s straw yellowed colored with nice floral and lemon citrus scents with a possible touch of apricot. A medium weight wine with a relatively high 13.0% alcohol. It just shows that alcohol on the tongue and that’s the only real negative with this wine. Also on the taste, the apricot really expresses itself in a nice, bright way.

4 Vines is a new venture in Paso Robles, California which produces a line of Zinfandels, a Syrah, a Barbera, and a Tempranillo along with a couple Rhone blends in addition to its Chardonnay. I had been curious about as their Syrah and Zinfandels have been written up but are a little harder to fine on the East Coast.

The Chardonnay I found for $14 from Chelsea Wine Vault. It’s a good solid wine which I really envision as a great white alternative for a summer bar-b-que. At least that’s how I plan to use this. Overall, I give it a B.

Friday, February 22, 2008

2005 Gigault Cuvee Viva - Cotes de Blaye - The first of the 2005 Bordeaux

Deep ruby red color with an aroma of cedar and dark fruit, namely blackberry. There are also slight hints of chocolate and licorice. The licorice really opens up later on woth some aeration. Medium weight with soft tannins and a nice long finish.

The unique thing about this wine is that the finish really does taste something like licorice.

Excellent and a solid B+ wine. An excellent value at $22 from Astor Wines.

I haven’t had many of the 2005 Bordeaux but this is certainly the best one I’ve had to date.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

TN - 2004 d'Arenberg "The Footbolt" Shiraz - McLaren Vale - Australia

This is a BIG wine. Almost black in color. Heavy, ripe and dark fruit with wood that’s reminiscent of a cedar closet. Very earthy. Fruit is blackberry and cassis. Tannic and chewy. Slightly out of balance as it seems like there is just a little too much acidity. Long finish but one that is very dry.

This is a C+ wine that is 17% from Astor Wine and is also available at Chelsea Wine Vault for $18.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tasting Note: 2005 Sea Smoke Southing – Pinot Noir – Santa Barbara County

The 2005 Sea Smoke Southing is inky dark or deep purple in color with complex aromas of dark earthy fruit. Black cherry and/or boysenberry? Whatever it is, it reminds me of those dark berries you’d pick in the brush on one of those hot summer days in upstate New York. Intermingles are also some nice leather notes. Again, a really complex aroma and a rich one. Full bodied and very lush, almost velvety mouthfeel. Creamy with an extra long finish and slight hint of cola on the aftertaste. Excellent balance and an amazing wine. A+

Bought through the winery but can currently be found on

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wine Book Club: Vino Italiano by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch

At the beginning of January, fellow wine bloggers Dr. Debs and David McDuff proposed and are hosting a Wine Book Club with the inaugural tome being Vino Italiano by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch.

The book is a detailed to say the least and clocks in at over 500 pages. It starts off with a discourse on the culture of wine in Italy, gets into Italian wine laws, grapes and importing. Then we get to the meat of the book which details each of Italy’s 21 wine producing regions in 19 chapters and nearly 350 pages of text. The last section is a “data section” which defines the grapes, regions, and producers.

For each region there are basically three pieces. The first is a short anecdote about the wine region being covered and includes such scenes as boar hunting in Tuscany, horse butchers in the Veneto, soccer in Lazio or seeking out gelato in Sicily. The authors then break down the wines made in the region into sparkling, whites, reds and finally desserts wines, hitting on all even if the region produces only scant amounts of one. Finally, there is a “Fast Facts” section which basically reviews the pertinent data – reviewing the grapes most prominently used, acres under vine, styles, examples of wines and estimated costs.

Joe Bastianich and David Lynch are experts in the field of wine and it shows as the attention to detail is strong, leaving no region untouched and describing all wine styles, even the obscure ones, in such great detail that you can’t help but want to go out and try them.

It’s in the anecdotes though that really made me fall for this book though. For example, they describe the hillside fires of Festa di Sacro Cuore (Day of the Sacred Heart) which cast a “glow over the vineyards that cling to the steep mountain slopes” as “people sit in the cafés with places of bresaola (air-cured beef) and pitchers of wine, starring up at the blazes as if there were a movie playing.”

How can you not fall for imagery like that! Well, it did its trick and got me reading further to the details of the Trentino-Alto Adige region where they spent just as much time discussing the reds of the region as they did the whites they are more known for. They paint such a complete picture of the region that you almost feel like you have to sample the wines themselves to complete the scene.

From the entry, I felt like I had to familiarize myself with the schiava grape, the main red grape of the Alto Adige region and wine I wrote about for the last Wine Blogging Wednesday.

Bastianich and Lynch add another element to the book by including recipes from the region created by famous restaurateurs Lydia Bastianich (Joe’s Mom) and Mario Batali (Joe’s restaurant partner). Again, it’s easy to fall under the spell of these recipes which lead to me, or I should say my wife, trying our hands at the Braised Wild Boar and pairing it with a Brunello di Montalcino. Both were excellent.

All in all, I feel like this is THE book on Italian wine, at least that I’ve seen in my somewhat limited experience. The biggest takeaway for me is that I felt like I learned about Italy and its food, not just the wine. It does a great job of mashing it all together. My one complaint… 500+ pages is a lot to digest but then again, this isn’t just a wine book, it’s also a “have to have” reference.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Jancis Robinson's How to Taste - Lesson 1

I’ve taken my first steps from Jancis Robinson’s How to Taste book and it had nothing to do with wine.

On page 15 of her book, she suggests that the next time you taste something, try tasting a mouthful first with your nose pinched and then again with it open.

The point she’s looking to prove is that the nose has just as much if not more to do with how we experience wine than when the wine actually interacts with the tongue and taste.

To test this out, I had my wife put various pieces of vegetables behind her back while I tasted them with my eye’s shut. The exercise was meant to illustrate that it’s really hard to pick out what you’re tasting if you don’t have the aromatic information to help out.

She proved her point. While I found it relatively easy to pick out the vegetables based off texture, broccoli for example has a very distinct texture but when plugging up the nose, you really don’t get its essence. The same held true with the peppers, carrots, and cucumbers. This exercise was also particularly interesting with cheeses who get much of their character from aroma but that gets muted with a plugged up nose.

The practice makes sense when we think about how little we taste when we have a cold. She just wants to make sure we understand that wine gets most of its character from its aroma.
Tune in next time when we tackle acidity and bitterness in a relatively unpleasant way!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tasting Note: 2005 Greppicante – Bolgheri – Tuscany – Italy

Greppicante is a new wine venture in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany, Italy which is part owned by the Landini family of Fattoria Viticcio, makers of one of my favorite Chianti Classico wines.

Bolgheri is from the northern portion of Tuscany and the wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. This classic Bordeaux-type blend is more common in Bolgheri than it is in other regions of Tuscany.

The wine is rich ruby red in color with aromas of dark earthy fruits mixed in with leather and hints of oak. The fruits might be boysenberry or black currants but to be honest, I can’t really remember the last time I had boysenberries! There might also be a hint of tar. The bottom line is that there is a lot going on with this wine’s aromatics and others might be able to pick out different scents than me. The texture is tannic and slightly sharp but with a nice long finish. It could use a couple years bottle age but its enjoyable now and decanting definitely helps smooth it out. Excellent – A.

This wine was recently part of a weekend blowout sale at Zachys for $14 at which point I picked up a couple bottles. They are currently selling it for $22 which I still think is a decent value for a wine like this.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Guest Blooger - Lisa Bocchini and Chablis and Cotes du Rhone

The following tasting notes come from my good friend and fellow wine lover Lisa Bocchini. Lisa nd her husband Brian are "co-conspirators" in our project to tackle Jancis Robinson's book "How to Taste".

Enjoy the notes!

2006 Gilbert Picq & ses Fils Chablis 12.5%
$15.99 at Slope Cellars, Brooklyn

I mentioned to someone who knows nothing about wine that I had a Chablis the other night and I could see her grimace. What she was thinking of was the crap that our parents drank in the 70s and 80s: California “Chablis” -- which was, of course, not real Chablis. The real stuff comes from the region so named in France. That plonk was probably just crappy overly oaked Chardonnay. Real Chablis is quite nice. Honestly.

I wanted to see if I could really taste what makes a Chablis a Chablis. I’ve always liked Chablis because it is generally unoaked and crisp. What I honestly didn’t realize until more recently is that yes, it’s gasp! made from Chardonnay, my least favorite grape. This just goes to show that it’s not just the grape that makes the wine, it’s what the winemaker does with it. This is especially true of Chardonnay, which is kind of a bland grape that is easily manipulated and hence comes in a variety of styles.

Jancis Robinson says the following about Chablis:

Chablis is a uniquely lean, green form of Chardonnay that, because in most years the grapes have to struggle to ripen, needs and repays years of maturing in the bottle…When it is young, it tastes almost Sauvignon-like in its appetizing, piercingly high acid form, although it is much more likely to smell of cool, damp stones than green fruits or grass.

That summed up almost exactly this Chablis I had. I would add, however, that its mouthfeel is slightly creamier than a Sauvignon. It also has a bit more body. I wasn’t blown away by the aroma, but it definitely had a stone/almost slate thing going on. It was very acidic, but fairly food friendly. I like Robinson’s descriptive of “piercingly”. I enjoyed drinking this food-friendly wine.

Robinson suggests tasting a young Chablis and an older one (she says middle age Chablis of 5-6 years old can be rather funky and off-putting), but that older ones are hard to find and you may have to do the aging yourself. I don’t know if this was of a quality that would allow one to age it, but I’d sure like to try.

2005 Val Bruyere Cotes du Rhones Villages 13.5%
$10.99 Slope Cellars, Brooklyn

Dark purple in color, with a violet tinge, it took a while for me to figure out what I was tasting, although the aroma was fairly fruity. This wine is mainly Grenache, with some Syrah, Cargnian, and Cinsault. High in alcohol, it tasted rather “tight”. It did open up after about an hour of breathing, and became easier to drink. The finish is very tannic and somewhat spicy. It has a light to medium body. I’m not sure exactly what food would go with this, as it was a pretty overpowering, tannic wine. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I wasn’t eating the right food for it, which didn’t help.

I didn’t get the herbiness that Robinson says Grenache has, but maybe that was the blend. She does say that Grenache is “sweet, ripe, spicy , and alcoholic”. I got a lot of that from this wine, although I wouldn’t really call it ripe. It also doesn’t have the light color that characterizes Grenache.

Tasting this makes me want to do a comparison tasting of Northern Rhone vs. Southern Rhone wines, as she suggests in her book, How to Taste.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday Tasting Note – 2006 Cantina Nalles - Schiava – Italy - Alto Adige

Earthy but bright.
Shift Finish.

My tasting note for the 2006 Cantina Nalles - Schiava, the main red grape of the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. If the tasting note above is compelling, you can find a bottle at Astor Wine & Spirits for $12.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tasting Note: 2003 Chateau Piada - Sauternes-Bordeaux

Below is a quick tasting note from a Sauternes I recently had with my friends Brian and Lisa while we were attempting to podcast (more on that soon).

I don’t know much about Chateau Piada except that they are in Sauternes and that Sherry Lehmann has the 2003 vintage on sale for $15 a half bottle.

It’s a light gold color with a honeyed nose. It’s really the essence of honey more than anything else with some floral notes intermingled in. It’s really honeysuckle when I think about it which makes is somewhat distinctive from the more deliberate honeyed Sauternes and other dessert wines I’ve had in the past.

It’s definitely mouth coating, not unlike syrup but not necessarily in a bad way. It also has just a touch of acidity to cut through that.

This is not a great wine by any stretch but as far as $15 Sauternes go (when it seems the median price is more like $40 a half bottle), I would feel comfortable bringing this to a dinner or dessert party. B-