2008 Chateau Haut Rian Bordeaux Sec

The wine I was trying the end of last week was a French Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon mix, a 2008 Cheateau Haut Rian Bordeaux Sec.  It ran me in the $14 range.

This comes from Rions, which is SW of Bordeaux on the north bank of the Garonne River.  The grape blend is 65% Semiillon and 35% SB.  The bottle label describes the notes as 'pure and racy' (what does racy taste like?) with 'complex notes of melon, citrus and wet stone'.

My notes were rather poor, and it had to sit in the fridge 2 days after the first couple glasses; after 2 days, tasting notes aren't reliable.  What I did scribble down when I first opened it was I thought it tasted 'grapey', like the taste of eating whole grapes.  It certainly didn't have the wet meadow flavor of some SBs or the acidity of others.

It didn't blow me over, but not a bad dinner table white at a reasonable price.

Lapostolle 2008 Casa Sauvignon Blanc

Lapostolle is a Chilean label, and this is the first Sauvignon Blanc I've tried from that country.  The estate was founded by the great-grandaughter of the genius who invented Grand Marnier (who wasn't Chilean, of course).  It's located in the Rapel Valley, which is located in the central valley south of Santiago along the #5 highway.  These SBs are fermented in stainless steel vats, no oak.

This SB has a different fragrance in the nose that I couldn't put my finger on, but it's one I haven't picked up in other SBs I've drunk recently.  The wine has a subtle mix of notes and is also very different from New Zealand and California Chardonnays.  I think I finally got the famous 'gooseberries' in this one, and maybe an earthy flavor.  It's more acidic, though not as tart as some I've drunk.

This wine runs in the $16 range.  Very nice, I think it would go well with seafood, if the Gulf oil spill doesn't make that enjoyable only for the wealthy.

Chartreuse Cocktail

I was in the mood for something bourbony after work, and on Internet Cocktail Database I came across something called the Chartreuse Cocktail:  1 oz bourbon, 3/4 oz each dry vermouth and yellow chartreuse.  Shake over ice etc.

I was rather suspicious of the recipe; I don't tend to like bourbon drinks, like the Perfect Manhattan, that call for dry vermouth.  This isn't bad though.  The flavor is very herbal, sweet, and reminiscent of Benedictine.  For bourbon, I used Four Roses' Single Barrel.  Surprisingly, not a bad cocktail.

Back to the Shaker

I haven't reviewed a cocktail in a long time and was starting to miss them, so I've decided to intersperse my wine write-ups with occasional cocktails that I've tried.

Tonight was something called the Alice Mine Cocktail #2.  No idea where the name came from.  It's an easy one:  equal parts (I used 1 oz) bourbon (Jim Beam Distiller's line tonight), sweet vermouth, and Kummel (with an umlaut).  You don't find Kummel in very many recipes, but I've always liked caraway (Kummel is German for caraway), and this has a subtle sweet taste.  Shake over ice and strain.

The drink was pretty sweet for me, who prefers tart to sweet.  I might cut back on the sweet vermouth a bit, maybe even in half.  The caraway wasn't overwhelming and gives a nice spicy note.  The bourbon was great, of course.  I wouldn't drink it all the time, but not a bad drink if you want a change from a Manhattan.

Nobilo Icon 2007 Sauvignon Blanc

This week I've been drinking a 2007 Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc.  Nobilo is based in Auckland, on New Zealand's north island, but they get their grapes from various vineyards in the Marlborough region on the north end of the south island. 

This ran me in the $17-18 range, and it was worth it.  A very herby nose, with the famous SB asparagus coming out loud and clear.  I was looking for a white sauce to go with it.

The wine itself had complex, subtle flavors.  I got mineral notes from it, and maybe something oaky.  One flavor kept hitting the roof of my mouth that I couldn't put my finger (or tongue) on. 

The bottle says the predominant flavors are gooseberries (I guess I'm going to have to eat gooseberry pie this summer to remind myself what they taste like since every SB claims it tastes like them), passion fruit, and nettles.  What do nettles taste like?  Maybe that was the phantom flavor.

Anyway, a nice bottle of wine to enjoy with a nice meal.

2007 Starborough Sauvignon Blanc

Over the weekend I tried a 2007 Starborough Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.  It has an attractive green label with a starfish on it (Starborough = starfish, I guess).  I forgot to jot down the price, but I think it ran me in the lower teens.

This is by far the sweetest SB I've had this year, almost closer to a Chardonnay.  It also tasted very fruity--don't ask my which fruit, but that was my first impression when I tasted it.

I don't tend to like sweet wines or drinks in general, and it probably won't appeal to the purists who like their SB as dry as a martini that's had the vermouth bottle just in the general vicinity, but this was a nice change from some of the extra-tart ones I've drunk recently.

Mondavi 2006 Fumé Blanc and Honig 2008 SB

Today I'm writing capsule reviews of two Sauvignon Blancs (one a 'Fumé Blanc') that I've drunk in the last week.  I had help, I didn't down them both by myself.

The first was a Honig 2008 SB, made in Rutherford in Nappa Valley.  Unfortunately I didn't scribble down notes while I was drinking my first glass, and I've found that after a day in the fridge the taste changes a lot, so the second glass isn't too reliable as a guide.  I took it over to friends' house to drink with a meal, and they liked it.

It's been several days now, but I wasn't all that impressed by my first glass.  It ran in the $16 range, and I had doubts that it was worth that much.  It did have some subtlety of flavors.  The back of the Honig bottle just talks about helping the earth, nothing about the wine itself, so that's no help in jogging my memory.

The second bottle was a Robert Mondavi 2006 Fumé Blanc.  This one is more acidic, almost tart, which is how it's described on the back of the bottle.  Drinking the first glass I did get the 'minerality' mentioned on the back of the bottle, and maybe the silkiness from 'sur lie' barrel aging.

So what does that mean?  Some wines, most notably Chardonnay and Champagne, are aged on the lees (deposits of dead yeast or other bits of organic matter that have drifted downward) in the barrel instead of being transferred to a 'fresh', 'clean' barrel.  Supposedly that gives the wine a more 'yeasty' flavor.  If the winemaker stirs the yeast to give it even more of a kick, the French call that process batonnage.

How does a Fumé Blanc differ from SB?  It's all in the marketing.  SB grapes didn't have a good rep in California in the sixties because of the whole asparagus smell thing, so Robert Mondavi decided to try to tone down the grape's aggressiveness.  He barrel aged it and called it 'Fumé Blanc', as an allusion to France's Pouilly-Fumé. (Fumé means smoke in French.)  The name doesn't mean that the wine has necessarily been aged in oak barrels (or smoked, I guess).  It's just a marketing thing.

I picked up the Mondavi at Sam's in the $15 range, and I'd say it's worth it.  A nice summertime wine to drink with chicken salad or maybe fish from the grill.

Justin 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

This week I've been drinking a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Justin vineyards on the central California coast.  It costs in the $17 range.

This was one of my least favorite SBs.  It tasted overly acidic, one step away from vinegar.  I didn't get the nose from it that I'd gotten from a bottle or two last month.  On the other hand, after a day or 2 in the fridge it had mellowed out, not that it had the range of flavors that I've found in other SBs.

Interesting info from the bottle label:  The 2008 growing season "started cool, shifted into lots of wind, and eventually into scorching heat which resulted in a "shatter" berry set which reduced natural yields by up to 50%."

Here's what the nice people at Wikipedia say about it: "Coulure is triggered by periods of cold, cloudy, rainy weather or very high out-of-season temperatures. The condition is most often manifested in the spring. It also occurs in vines that have little sugar content in their tissue. Flowers stay closed and are not fertilized. Thus the vines are not pollinated as the grape fails to develop and falls off. Coulure can also cause irregular bunches of grapes which are less compact than normal. These bunches are more sensitive to developing various grape diseases. The yield of a vine with coulure will decrease substantially."

There seems to be a related problem (syndrome? drinker's dillema?) called "millernandage".  Wikipedia has a much shorter description of it:  "Millerandage or shot berries is a French term referring to an viticultural problem in which grape bunches contain berries of greatly different size and, most important, different levels of maturity. Its most common cause is too cold or otherwise bad weather during the flowering stage of the vines. The condition causes lower quality in affected wines, which are often French or German."

Centennial 2006 Bong Bong Sauvignon Blanc

I only drank one bottle of Sauvignon Blanc this week, a 2006 Bong Bong from Australia's Centennial Vineyards.  Bong Bong is the name of a village about an hour south of Sidney; the name means "meeting of the water".  You learn so much reading wine labels.

This wine was in the $8-9 range, and frankly it tasted like it.  When I poured the first glass, it didn't have nearly as much aroma/nose as the $19 one last week.  The wine itself was also much blander; it just tasted like a house wine without any of the subtleties of flavor. I wonder if that fact that it was an older vintage (2006) had anything to do with it, i.e., that the bottle had been sitting on the shelf at the liquor mart and should have been drunk sooner.

Interesting though, after a day in the fridge, I thought it had more flavor than when I'd first drunk it, unlike most of the SBs I've drunk recently that tend to dull down sitting in the fridge.

This would be an OK wine for a summer picnic but it's nothing out of the ordinary.