Monday, March 30, 2009
We also tasted a 2004 St. Innocent Anden Vineyard Pinot Noir ** as we waited for the Monte Bello to unwind. Violet color, with red notes in the glass, this was much better than I remember, with spicy berry notes on the nose and pine and menthol on the finish. A true Willamette Valley style pinot noir with another decade of life in it as well. I should pair these again in 2019.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I've been wondering recently what it would mean if Hanzell, which planted the first pinot noir vines in California in 1953, received 95+ points from the major trade press regularly. Hanzell is a story book vineyard (literally) that has all the makings to produce $600/bottle pinot noir. One 99 point score from Robert Parker is pretty much all it would take. In fact, Hanzell's ultra premium chardonnay recently received 96 points from Parker, and was priced at $175/bottle. A couple more scores like that, combined with their history and pedigree, and good luck finding a bottle for under $200. It wouldn't surprise me if a decade from now Hanzell was allocating its wines at grand cru prices.
Now I'm not really looking forward to that happening, but I've begun to think it's inevitable, because I think there is a real "grass roots" movement in the wine industry these days to have producers truly communicate with consumers about the story of their vineyard and their winemaking. It is my belief that the producers that are going to come out of this recession running are those who increase transparency with the consumer and tell a story about the history of their vineyard. Well, Hanzell's got a lot of history; they have good visibility and good transparency, and I think that these qualities are going to serve them well and will translate into continued consumer/price support.
Plus, the wines age really, really well.
Hanzell previously reviewed:
2005 Chardonnay ***
1995 Pinot Noir ***
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Proprietor Doug Crowell and Chef Ryan Angulo have pulled off the impossible for this neck of the woods. Quaint yet hip, cozy and uncomfortably loud, jam packed and undeniably good. The housemade pickles are delicious. So are the maple and bacon roasted almonds, and I don't even like nuts. The sweet potato croquettes with goat cheese are amazing. Our selection of East Coast osyters were perfect: clean, briney and fleshy. The duck meatloaf was a heavenly melt in your mouth experience. The ice cream and housemade donuts were a perfect end. I could go on and on, but I'll stop there.
I've come to find I enjoy these semi-cozy almost too loud and certainly too hip for me restaurants far far more than I ever enjoy the Grammery Taverns of the world.
I tasted two wines. A Brooklyn Oenology Merlot 2005 * I found utterly convincing (dark and dry, sparse fruits, but not to everyone's taste) and a 2007 Holdredge Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ** which displayed good acidity in a worn velvet like texture on the tongue, but very light with mild dry spices and mushroom notes as the wine emerged.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Part One of the 8th Annual Real Wine Assault took place at Chambers Street Wines yesterday. I think this free tasting in Chambers Street Wines's old, empty retail space is designed to introduce consumers to "real" wine. I don’t know if they’ve succeeded in that, because I’m not sure what that even really means, but for the most part the wines were very well received.
According to the tasting sheet, "All these growers work in the most 'natural' way possible, avoiding chemical treatments in the vineyards or the use of selected yeasts or additives of any kind in the cellar. Hand harvesting, low yields, old vines and minimal intervention in the winemaking process produce wines that brilliantly express their terroir and the hard work of these dedicated producers." Of the wines I tasted, and I didn't taste everything, only the following left a lasting impression.
Part Two is next Saturday. Try to get there early, by around 4, somewhere around 140 Chambers. A line forms rather quickly.
Domaine de la Pepiere
2007 Muscadet Sevre et Maine $13 *
2007 Clos des Briords $17 **
2005 "Cuvee Eden" from magnum $26 *
2007 "Cuvee Granit" $14 *
Domaine du Closel
2006 Savennieres "La Jalousie" $23 **
2005 Savennieres "Clos du Papillon" $35 *
Domaine Bernard Baudry
2007 Chinon "Les Granges" $18 **
2007 Chinon "Cuvee Domaine" $18 **
2006 Chinon "Le Clos Guillot" $30 ***
2006 Chinon Blanc "La Croix Boissee" $37 Wine of the Night ***
Pierre and Catherine Breton, Bourgueil
2007 "Trinch" $18
2007 Franc de Pied $23 *
2006 "Clos Senechal" $26 *
2006 "Les Perrieres" $30 **
(2006 "Nuits d'Ivresse" (No sulfites) $26 was off.)
Catherine and Claude Marechal
2006 Borgogne Cuvee Gravel $24 *
2006 Savigny-les-Beaune Vieilles Vignes $40 **
2007 Chorey-les-Beaune $34 *
2007 Auxey-Duresses $34 **
2007 Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Lavieres $50 ***
2007 Domaine Girard Sancerre "La Garenne" $24 **
Friday, March 20, 2009
From 51 barrels of 88% syrah and 12% cofermented viognier from Dry Creek Valley, the 1997 Lytton Estate Syrah 1997 **** is drinking perfectly now. Smells like strawberries, black tea and green olive tapenade, with mild notes of raisin and bubblegum, pine and mellow menthol on the finish. Good acidity under the tongue balanced by 14.6% alcohol. This wine, which saw 17% new American wood, coats the mouth and finishes strong.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I'm not sure what it means to apply a numerical score to the taste of a wine. Even my four-star deliciousness scale leaves something to be desired. But if there is one thing I've noticed recently about Robert Parker Jr. scoring 95 point wines, it's the fact that they taste almost purely, and almost identically, like blueberry, and not much else.
The following were easy drinking, nearly sweet wines that I had trouble putting down. Cynics and critics may take issue with a lack of secondary aromatics in these wines, but I'd challenge them to cellar the wines for a decade and then get back to me.
Pax Cellars Syrah Vine Hill Vineyard 2004 **** was dark purple, nearly opaque. 100% syrah from 80% new French Oak (15.55% alc/vol and a 3.85 pH) there's not very much pepper on the nose and both oak and alcohol are very well concealed by pure blue fruit notes. Velvety texture leads to pure blueberry compote on the mid note, with a long soft finish of dried herbs.
Ojai Vineyard's White Hawk Vineyard 2004 Syrah **** ditto above, but add a little spice to the mid palate.
And as posted earlier, the 2005 Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon **** was deep and brooding; virtually opaque, with stewed plums and black cherries on the nose, surprising acidity, a velvety texture, and mild blueberry jam notes.
We also tasted a 1993 Ridge Vineyards York Creek Merlot ** from the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley. I picked this up for $25 at WineBid.com. Still dark garnet, with voluble, chunky tannin in the mouth, black cherry fruit on the mid note and smoky notes on the finish. For the money, this offers nearly as much pleasure as the 1993 Monte Bello **/*** which sells for 3-4 times more.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I opened and decanted this 2005 Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vinyard Cabernet Sauvignon **** from winemaker Robert Foley for two hours before pouring the first glass. Deep and brooding; virtually opaque. The nose was stewed plums and black cherries. Highly extracted and dense, with suprising acidity, a velvety texture, and mild blueberry jam notes. The new oak is very well concealed.
The first glass will leave you calm. The second and you won't want to get out of your seat. If you can finish a third glass, you should go straight to bed. You will be tempted to finish it. Try not to. At 15.5% alcohol by volume, you'll be happy to have that third and fourth glass by day two, when the wine develops secondary characteristics.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Welcome Napa Valley Vintners! Yes, it’s cold and dreary in New York. It’s the kind of wet chill that gets under the skin. And you’re probably remembering just how nice it is to live in California. But you've made it through the first round of events and there’s only two days left, so things could be worse.
First, I’d like to apologize for the boorish NY rogues who elbow their ways to the front of the tables and stick their glasses under your noses as they demand, “Cabernet please!” Really, they don’t speak for all of New York’s wine lovers, especially those of us patiently waiting for our turn to sample and move on.
As you can see from my tasting card, I didn’t get to taste all of the wines at last night’s A Taste of Napa Valley with Morrell & Co. I didn’t even try. Taking a cue from wine blog guru Alder Yarrow, I went for the wines I’d never had before, and in some cases, wines that I had not even heard of. This included eschewing some major wineries, including Atalon, Cakebread, Diamond Creek, Franciscan Estate, Freemark Abbey, Grgich Hills Estate, Heitz Wine Cellars, Saintsbury, and Silver Oak Cellars.
The wine of the night for me was the Staglin Family Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon *** I’m no stranger to Staglin’s reputation, but I had never tasted the wine before, and quite frankly, it was superb. Their Chardonnay ** and second red wine, called Salus ** were also very good. Shari Staglin was pouring the wines, and I mentioned to her that I thought she’d been unfairly portrayed in the documentary Mondovino. I think she was a little taken aback by that. Apparently no one had mentioned the movie to her in about two years. Sorry to break the streak, but how often do I get to talk to Shari Staglin?
Lail Vineyards was pouring the Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc 2007 *** which is just such an individualistic Napa Valley white that it really needs to be tasted to be understood. I can’t decide if it’s a perfect aperitif or needs food. Either way, it leaves me eagerly awaiting the release of their premier sauvignon, Georgia. The Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon * was less thrilling than previous vintages, but hinted at boysenberry and dark cocoa.
The big surprise of the night for me came with Larkin Wines. Sean Larkin is producing exceptional cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot (on the Jack Larkin label). His vineyard sources change every year, but the wine remains exceptional. I’m not the first to tout this producer (Rober Parker Jr. apparently beat me to it) but the 2006 Jack Larkin Merlot *** should be on the list of hot new wines from Napa.
Blackbird Vineyard’s ** wines were elegant, restrained, and complex. I’d like to see how these develop over the next decade.
Lieff Wines ** located adjacent to Auberge du Soleil, poured their 100% Cabernet Sauvignon ** and Sauvignon Blanc ** Both clearly stood out from the pack.
Clos Du Val * was pouring very good wines, too. This is a big operation and one that should be on the radar. Other wineries honorably mentioned:
Clos Pegase *
Vineyard 7 & 8 **
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Purple color, with a reticent nose of tart boysenberry, American oak, and orange pith. The wine is closed and tight right now, displaying just American oak and young red fruit notes. (If someone had poured this straight from a barrel of 2007 cabernet, I wouldn't have been surprised.) We left three quarters of the bottle to decant for two days, and the wine softened up considerably, gaining depth and structure. The oak and fruit synergized and secondary notes of orange emerged. While this lacks the concentration of the Lytton Springs, it has more complexity to my mind than many of the other 2005 ATP wines released last year, and is without question one of my favorite wines from John Olney, Vice Presidenct, Winemaking, at Ridge's Lytton Springs estate.
For near term drinking I recommend a double decanting. Then give this a year in the cellar and drink over the next 5-7.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Dom. Clape Le Vin des Amis 2007 *** is living proof that succulent, rich, fruity and peppery red wine is a salve to one's mid-winter woes. Eat this with hearty Shepherd's Pie or Beef Bourguignon. The casserole is making a comeback.
Likewise, Paul Jaboulet Aine's Cotes du Rhone Parallele 45 2006 ** is brick-ish purple with briar patch and blackberry notes and whole, crunchy blank peppercorns underneath. Let this breath an hour and serve with shell or strip steaks or, if you want to splurge, prime rib.
If you liked the 2004 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano Riserva ** then this is the wine for you: Chateau de Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone 2006 ** Bigger darker and meaner than the Cantina Zaccagnini, closed and tight on the nose, with absorbent tannin, pungent and ripe red fruit notes over mixed crushed peppercorns on the mid palate. A great bargain - this should receive 90 points from the major trade press.
Finally, Dom. Monpertuis Cotes du Rhone Vignoble de la Ramiere 2007 * is a lighter styled, more elegant Cotes du Rhone than those above. This gained depth and clarity with air, and reminded me of tart summer raspberries, juniper berries and coriander. Serve this with seared pork loin and boiled potatoes in butter and dill.