Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I picked this particular bottle up from Vinfolio, a retail site which, I must confess, hasn't sent me a bad bottle yet, despite their rather inflated pricing.
My quest to drink every Monte Bello produced continues. You might have noticed I did not post about the 1993, and jumped straight to the 1992. I skipped the 1993 this time around (most recently tasted at Christmas 2007) because I only have one bottle of that vintage left. If I remember correctly, the 1993 was a **/*** wine...very mellow, with soft round tannin and ripe strawberry, pine and cedar typical of the vineyard.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Aged zinfandel can be deep, velvety and utterly complex, if considerably less racy and brash than their younger siblings. The wines from Ridge Vineyard's Lytton Estate can age as well as, if not better than, many Rhone Ranger and cabernet based wines, and 1994 seems to have been a particularly good vintage across the board for California.
The 1994 ATP Zinfandel Lytton Estate was dark -- nearly opaque. Soft notes of dried flowers and prunes emanated from the glass. Shy acidity, but soft tannin, allowed the hidden red and purple fruits to surface, reminding me of hand-picking blackberries in eastern Washington.
If you're looking for the type of grab-your-ass sex appeal notable in high-price new vintages of zinfandel (Turley's wines come to mind) this may not be your thing. But there are many notable proponents of the wonders of aged zinfandel, and I now count myself among them.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
It was interesting to note how these wines had evolved over the past 3-6 days. The Mondavi 2005 Merlot, which we had opened the night before but left half-full, uncovered, had already spoiled. The wines closed with Vacuum Sealers had performed the best, clearly evolving in bottle (Girard and Charmail). The wines on which we'd just put back the corks had stayed good, but had been better fresh (La Crema and Haut Gravet). The wine left open had spoiled (duh).
The backbone in Girard's 2002 Cabernet Franc *** had emerged finally and it showed complex notes of spice, fresh red bell pepper, celery and a strong coconut note on the finish. This had deepened and evolved well beyond the bright and luscious strawberry notes it displayed upon first opening.
The 2000 Chateau Haut Gravet * a little known St. Emilion Grand Cru, displayed strong but round, dry tannins, with mint and pine on the back end, and I would have fingered it for a Heitz Cellars Napa Valley. This had a mild strawberry bubblegum tinge that had not been there when we opened it.
Chateau Charmail 2000 ** received 92 points from Robert Parker. This was a near ringer for aged Chateauneuf du Pape. It displayed rich caramel notes with mild CdP spice, burnt toast, and rich round tannin on the finish.
After the spoiled Mondavi merlot, the La Crema pinot noir * was easy to spot. Light to medium bodied now, with some overripe vegetable notes, and sweet but elegant scents of dried herbs, this was strong on the attack and mellow on the finish.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Lucky for me, Veritas is right across the street, and Veritas is a nice place to have a drink for an hour. I'm not sure exactly which vineyard it was, but I had a glass of J. Faiveley's 2006 Mercurey ** Amethyst in color, with wonderful tart raspberry and very striking acidity made this a pleasure to drink before dinner. Later, across the street at Gramercy Tavern, we pulled the trigger on a Robert Chevillon Les Pruliers 2004 *** from Nuit St Georges. The Chevillon was medium bodied, ultra dry, nearly velvety, with freeze dried strawberries, brine, asian spices and a mild perfume on the nose. Sage, moss, and complex woodsy notes developed as the wine breathed. The purity of the fruit -- the characterization of the pinot noir varietal -- is what makes this Burgundy striking.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The La Crema Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2005 ** from the "cool" region of Mendocino ($35) made by winemaker Melissa Stackhouse is by far and away the best wine I have tasted from here in years. The website states, "Vineyards are 10-15 miles from the rugged Mendocino coast, and vines struggle on steep slopes, developing complex, small berries." From 98% Anderson Valley fruit with 2% Russian River Valley blended in, this purple tinged pinot noir with minor iridescence spent nine months in 100% French oak, 35% new. Predominantly mixed berry notes without overt sweetness but sweet soft tannin, mild woodsy mid palate notes and good intensity on the palate. This is a good find. 2000 cases produced.
A leg up in quality, we also tasted the Hartford Court Pinot Noir Fog Dance Vineyards *** from the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley AVA ($45). The winery will tell you, "This wine reflects its cool Green Valley terroir, showing the brightness and purity of cherry and cranberry flavors along with an elegant and refined texture." But that's not right at all. This is darker and more concentrated than many Green Valley pinot noirs I have tasted, and has a pine, woodsy, damp earth and musk complexity that confounded me at first. Aged 11 months in 100% French oak, 55% of which was new, the oak is completely hidden. 1000 cases produced. Get one if you can.
Many thanks to our friends at the Kendall Jackson legal department for bringing these wines to our attention!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
As Greg Linn explains at his Ambullneo Vineyards website, the Canis Major is a selection of barrels to produce "the best of the best. As always, this is the wine that combines all the superior aspects of our northern and southern programs and blends them for harmony, structure for a long-lived creation that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It is by nature, extremely limited."
I tasted this wine only once since that rainy Napa night and I was unimpressed, but I was probably unimpressed because soon after I purchased this lot I learned that all of Ambullneo's wines - and in fact the name itself - are dog-related. As it turns out, Linn is a big dog guy, not just a big pinot noir guy. Don't get me wrong - I love dogs. I own a dog. I think dogs are great. Man's best friend and all that. But somehow naming one's entire operation after a dog breed is, even for me, a dog lover, over the top. Marketing aside, we opened the 2004 Canis Major *** to enjoy The Empire Strikes Back last weekend, and as my tasting notes indicate, this wine kicked ass.
A pinot noir cum Chateauneuf du Pape without the pepper/spice, this wine has at least two decades of aging potential. It is still an infant; well protected by the heavy glass bottle and deep punt. I double decanted it and it lay open for at least four hours before we finally finished it off. Deep purple color (rare for a California pinot noir) with strong dried herbs, mud, and raspberry jam on the nose. The wine is full-bodied, with good acidity and flash, lots of wow in the mouth, dry enough with a note of lamp chop juice and rosemary on a finish lasting well over a minute. Overall a hell of a cuvee, and worth a spot in the cellar.
On New Year's day we opened a couple new zinfandels from the 2005 vintage to bring in the new year with hearty fare (chips and salsa) as we watched the Big 10 get eviscerated, once again, in the BCS bowls. Our first wine, a 2005 Hendry Zinfandel Block 28 Napa ** put on weight after decanting but failed to achieve the qualitative heights of the 2004 in terms of concentration and depth. Look for good dark fruits and mild loam, but no "wow."
Likewise, the last Advanced Tasting Program release of 2008, Ridge Vineyards 2005 Zinfandel Nervo Vineyard ** from Sonoma, gained depth and complexity 30 minutes after opening. This has the myriad red fruits and scorched barrel note evident in the Carmichael and, to a less extant, the Lytton Springs, but lacks the concentration of either. An interesting wine nonetheless, and this will only get more interesting with a couple years in the cellar, but not as good for me as the 2006 offerings.