Sunday, March 30, 2008

Charles de Fère Brut Blanc de Blancs Réserve NV

The Charles de Fère Brut Blanc de Blancs Réserve NV was a nice find. A French sparkler for $13 that drank well above its economical $13 I bought it for at T.B. Ackerson in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.

The interesting things about this wine is that its really a blend of white grapes around France rather than being from one white grape, for example Chardonnay, from a particular region.

In that sense, it might seem a bit more “manufactured” price like new work wine rather than a traditional old world one.

In this case the grapes are Chardonnay, Chenin Blan, Macabeu and Uni Blanc grapes from Charentes and the Rhone and Loire Valleys of France and it’s made in the traditional method.

The sparkler is straw yellow in color with medium sized bubbles with a light citrus aroma along with some peach and maybe another stone fruit which I can’t quite put my finger on. There is also a subtle nutty aroma and a yeast like character. It’s bright with an effervescent texture that lingers a bit.

I think this is a really good find and a great QPR (Quality Price Ratio) wine for the upcoming summer month. A solid B.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

2006 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara County

According to the Au Bon Climat website, the 2006 Pinot Noir – Santa Barbara County is “… just easy to drink. There is nothing pretentious here, just well balanced, nicely textured, brightly fruity wine that seems to go with everything.” This is the winery’s entry level Pinot Noir that sells for a reasonable $20 or so and I wouldn’t argue too much with their statement. This is an average wine as they also attest but there are a couple of characteristic that make is a little less easy to drink in my opinion.

It’s cherry red in color with a very strong cherry cola taste, too much so in my opinion. That’s the first thing that stands out. It also has a bit of a tart edge to it and the combo between to two moves it from “easy to drink” and “goes with everything” to something that stands out and not always for the right reason.

I don’t want to be too harsh on the wine because it is drinkable but I would be more pleased with it if it kind of “faded into the background” as their website notes tend to suggest.

I think it’s a C- wine. It was purchased at T.B. Ackerson Wines in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn for $24.

Friday, March 28, 2008

2006 Ravines Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes)

Ravines tends to be one of my favorite Finger Lake Rieslings on a yearly basis. The 2006 edition is a lighter hay color than the 2005 with strong floral notes, a more slight hint of lemon/citrus and a heavy mineral character. On the taste, there is a definite green apple character which gives the wine a bit of tartness, something I don’t think I’ve seen with this wine before. The strong minerality which might be slate, also comes across here. Medium weight with nice balance and a nice, subtle acidity. This is a solid food wine and another good effort from Ravines.

This is a good wine but I have to say that the strong green apple is somewhat of a detractor for me. I’d grade this as a B- for that reason but I still have to say that this would be great and refreshing in the heat of summer. Bought for $15 at GCP Wine and Liquors in Horseheads, New York.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Vintage 2008

Although nothing can come close to this, here's to hoping that 2008 is also a good year for wine in regions with some longevity. I'm crossing my fingers for either Bordeaux or Tuscany!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Wine Cellar

Here is a picture of “My New Cellar.” I like to call it new but in reality, I’ve been keeping my wine in the basement of our home since we moved in about two years ago. However, it’s been boxed up in cardboard and wood with no real easy access.

In addition to accessibility, I also had the issues of a gradual heat increase in the summertime and lower than ideal humidity in the winter.

The cornerstone of the cellar is a Vintage Keeper 500 which I purchased to hold the bulk of my wine collection and to store all the wines I plan on holding onto for long term aging. By comparison to other units like Eurocave and the like, this is on the budget side which fit… well, my budget.

The Vintage Keeper 500 will help with the temperature during the spring, summer and early fall where basement temperatures can get beyond 65 degrees and sometimes 70 degrees in the height of summer when its 90 and 100 outside.

There are two smaller “wine fridges” off to the left. One holds Pinot Noir and the other holds whites and rose wines. These “wine fridges” I’ve had for a few years and brought over from my previous apartment where they lived in the closet.

I also have a section of reclaimed wood wine boxes that I’ve stacked for decorative purposes but also use to put my everyday drinkers in. These are wines that I buy and try to consume shortly thereafter.

So now I have much easier access to all the wine in my collection and I have more control over the temperature. However, in the cooler weather, the ambient temperature is between 50 and 55 degrees so I don’t have to plug any of the units in until the temperature starts to approach 60.

The only unanswered issue I have to deal with is humidity. It gets dry in the wintertime and hovers around the 35% range when the ideal is 70%. It gets a little better in the summertime, approaching 50%. However, that is also short of the ideal.

Feel free to leave suggestions on how to improve the humidity if you have any tricks I might use. Other than that, I’m pretty pleased with my new set-up if I may say so myself!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chateau d’Arcins 2005 – Haut Médoc – Bordeaux

I should mention first that the 2005 Chateau d’Arcins was used by myself and my friend Lisa as part of a podcast we’re putting together, taking lessons from Jancis Robinson’s How to Taste. This particular lesson was on decanting and we thought a 2005 Bordeaux would be perfect. One that could be drunk now but could use a few years of age. Hence this wine.

Pre-decanting: Ruby red in color with cherry, tar and dark fruit. Possibly even a slight floral note, but a muted one. Blackberry and oak are also noteable but again, soft notes. Texture is chewy but not overly tannic. But they are there. Tannins hold back the fruit some. Medium-long finish and just slightly off balance.

Post-decanting: WOW! This wine really changed in the decanter! It really opened us and had become very fruit forward and really lovely. Black cherry. The oak had turned into cedar. Some chocolate notes also emerged. It became slightly more complex in the decanter and had also developed a softer texture. The finish remained medium long but was much less tannic. Really nice.

This is a solid B wine after decanting and a good value at $15 on sale from Astor Wine in the East Village.

Look for the podcast soon!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

2005 Louro Do Bolo – Valdeorras – Spain – Godello

This was bought at Astor in an effort to break out of my French wine rut and try something different. This is a Spanish white which I decided to try after my interest in these were peked after reading a New York Times article by Eric Asimov where he talked about white wines from the Rueda region of Spain. This is not from there. It’s from Valdeorras.

To be honest, I struck out here.

It’s golden hued with notes of caramel and banana and a certain “sweet” smell. Fuller bodied but it comes across as somewhat flat and flabby. Not complex. Medium finish that coats the mouth. This wine is not really all that great. The banana is unfortunately one of the predominate features here and the flabby texture doesn’t help.

$15 from Astor Wine.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

2006 La Rouge de la Garreliere – Cabernet Franc – Loire

Ruby red. Very peppery aroma with strong raspberry fruit and a minerally and slate character. Soft texture and a long finish. Nice balance. Medium to full bodied and very nice.

$16 from Slope Cellars.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Domaine de Jaugaret '02, '03 and '04 - A Classic Styled Bordeaux

Today I figured out what a truly “classic styled” Bordeaux taste like. On the advice of Eric Asimov’s “Pour” blog, I headed to Rosenthal Wine Merchants on East 84th St. for a tasting of Domaine de Jaugaret from the St. Julien region of Bordeaux.

According to Rosenthal Wine Merchants…

“The petite estate of Domaine de Jaugaret has been in the Fillastre family since 1654. Jean-Fancois Fillastre is dedicated to preserving the traditions not only of Jaugaret but of the St. Julien appellation. Stepping into the cellars of Jaugaret brings one back to an era when the Bordelais were modest and the wines were grand. Here is an estate where one finds neither pretense nor hubris, just the essence of the appellation.”

“Domaine Jaugaret comprises a mere 1.3 hectares of vineyards, made almost exclusively of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) with some Petit Verdot and Malbac to supplement this classic Medoc structure. The average age of the vines is over 50 years and some of the Malbec vineyards are in excess of 100 years old. This combination of grape varieties permits Jaugaret to find the ultimate expression of the terroir of St. Julien taking advantage of the deep gravel beds and the long growing season that mark St. Julien. The old vines of Jaugaret combined the unfertile, gravelly soils leads to naturally low yields again providing M. Fillasstre with a concentration virtually unequalled in the appellation. Here is a truly unique wine from a gentleman who follows the most classical traditions.”

“Vinification: After being hand-harvested and hand-pressed, the cuvaison is long, frequently lasting for three weeks or more. The wines are then racked into small barrels to complete the malolactic fermentation and are left to age in a small, damp underground cellar with minimal racking. In substantial vintages (e.g. 1996 or 2000) the wines are bottled (always unfiltered) after 30 months of aging. The wines of Jaugaret, relying so extensively on Cabernet, are built to last”

At Rosenthal, where I had to ring the front doorbell and then be lead downstairs to the tasting room. Slightly odd but also kinda cool too… In the tasting room with about 10 others, I was able to taste the 2002, 2003 and 2004 vintages. As they state, they are certainly built to last, being some of the most tannic wines I’ve ever tasted and very classic in structure… What does “classic” mean? While, now I think I know. Tannins are more upfront. Fruit more in the back. Slightly less ripe. Slightly less alcohol. Certainly not approachable when young and you have to use your imagination to figure what they might taste like ten to a dozen years from now at least. I can safly say that I had tasted nothing like these wines ever before.

2004 Domaine de Jaugaret: The 2004 was ruby red in color with red fruit. Cherry. Red currant. Possibly cranberry. And definitely smoke. Tannic and dry but it was also the brightest and most approachable of the three wines tasted. Long finish.

2003 Domaine de Jaugaret: The 2003 was also ruby red in color with light cedar, some cherry and other brighter red fruit. It was almost like a pinot noir in its aroma profile. Heavy on the smoke and tar. Very tannic and dry to the point that it sucks all moisture out of the mouth. Slightly acidic and just a touch out of balance.

2002 Domaine de Jaugaret: The 2002 is another ruby red wine with smoky aroma and stronger fruit than the 2003. Here its blackberry and cassis. Bright and smoother in texture than either the ’02 or ‘03. It has a very lush long finish. Not incredibly complex but well balanced and approachable now. Even so, it still needs aging.

As I said, it was an experience to taste these wine. Although I found all three to be a bit tough to drink now, even with food, it was still a great education to what Bourdeaux was probably like back in the day. And I mean the day… 100 years ago?

All three are approximately $75 a bottle from Rosenthal Wine Merchants.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

2004 Monsanto – Chianti Classico Riserva. – Tuscany

This is the best Chianti I’ve had in a long long time. A very classically styled wine.

When first opened, the 2004 Monsanto exhibits a very earthy and woodsy character that takes over for the first few moments. Then it begins to reveal the fruit and its red fruit more than anything else. Cherry. Raspberry to a lesser extent. A little later on the “woodsy-ness” recedes to reveal a more cigar box character. Medium bodied with a long finish. The wine is also minerally with bright acidity and nice balance.

This is an excellent wine and an A- for me. It can be had for $18 at Astor Wines.