2006 Valley of the Moon Pinot Noir

I picked up this 2006 Valley of the Moon pinot on the recommendation of my friend at the Liquee Mart.  She said after a red wine tasting they'd had recently, lots of people were buying this.  It ran me about $11. The winery is in Glen Ellen, CA, north of San Francisco and just south of Santa Rosa.

Last time I listen to her.  I aerate my red wines so that's not an issue.  This tasted bland/weak on first tasting, with no special notes to it or body.  It didn't hold up well either; the next night or two later I had another glass, and it was worse, with a bitter flavor.  I drank that glass but I poured out the rest of the bottle.  I should know better than to try wines with funky names!

2008 Rothschild and 2009 MacMurray Pinot Noirs

No pictures today, just trying to get a couple more bottles written up.

First is a 2008 Rothschild Vin de Pays d'Oc pinot noir that hails from the south of France.  The label touts morello cherry, black currant, and violet.  I don't have how much I paid for it, but I'm guessing in the low teens.

I aerate my reds instead of decanting them.  My notes say I could taste the black currant, but I might have been getting the morello cherry.  This was a sweeter pinot than many that I've drunk this season.  Less tannin maybe.  I don't tend to like sweeter wines, but this is my favorite pinot to date.

Second is a 2009 MacMurray pinot from the Central Coast of California.  This was property owned by actor Fred MacMurray (Double Indemnity, My Three Sons).  This one ran me just under $15 at Sam's Club.  The label of this one claims flavors of red cherry, cola, briar, and vanilla.  OK, what exactly does briar taste like, and who goes around chewing a piece to find out?

This one seemed to have what I describe as a slight "vinegary" taste to it.  Maybe the bottle was already past its prime.  Also slightly sweeter than other pinots.  I caught a note in it that I couldn't put my finger on, maybe the elusive briar.  Like the Rothschild, a nice wine.  If you're looking for a pinot for dinner with friends or for wine and cheese, either of these would go well.

2008 Mondavi Solaire Pinot Noir

A friend who works at the local Liquee Mart recommended this 2008 Robert Mondavi Solaire pinot noir, which was on sale for about $8, usually $13-something.

This pinot hails from the Santa Lucia Highlands [nothing else of note on the label about the wine], which is an AVA in Monterey County [i.e., the central coast of California].  This AVA has about 2,300 acres, some as high as 1,200 feet above sea level in the Santa Lucia Mountains, and half of them are planted with pinot.

Frankly, this didn't do it for me, and I both aerated it and drank a glass with food [brie].  It should be obvious, I suppose, but I'm discovering that food [esp. something relatively mild tasting like brie] really does bring out the flavors in some wines.  You get completely different notes drinking a glass from a freshly opened bottle from drinking a glass with a snack or a meal.

This pinot just seemed thin without a lot of flavor.  I may have gotten a bad bottle.  After a night in the fridge, it did taste a little fruitier but I still wasn't crazy about it.

A Bond, James Bond, Vodka Trick

Everyone knows that Agent 007 likes his martinis shaken, not stirred, and the film adaptation of Casino Royale familiarized people who hadn't read the book with Bond's Vesper Martini.

But Bond in Ian Fleming's books has another favorite cocktail trick, here in Moonraker:

M shrugged his shoulders. ‘You’ve got a head like a rock, James,’ he said. Drink as much as you like if it’s going to help. Ah, here’s the vodka.’ When M poured him three fingers from the frosted carafe Bond took a pinch of black pepper and dropped it on the surface of the vodka. The pepper slowly settled to the bottom of the glass leaving a few grains on the surface which Bond dabbed up with the tip of a finger. Then he tossed the cold liquor well to the back of his throat and put his glass, with the dregs of the pepper at the bottom, back on the table. M gave him a glance of rather ironical inquiry. ‘It’s a trick the Russians taught me that time you attached me to the Embassy in Moscow,’ apologized Bond. ‘There’s often quite a lot of fusel oil on the surface of this stuff—at least there used to be when it was badly distilled. Poisonous. In Russia, where you get a lot of bath-tub liquor, it’s an understood thing to sprinkle a little pepper in your glass. It takes the fusel oil to the bottom. I got to like the taste and now it’s a habit. But I shouldn’t have insulted the club Wolfschmidt,’ he added with a grin. M grunted. ‘So long as you don’t put pepper in Basildon’s favourite champagne,’ he said drily.
[Fleming, Ian (2008-06-03). Moonraker (pp. 47–48). Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. Kindle Edition.]

I tried this last night, and I couldn't really taste the pepper [I was using good quality pre-ground stuff.]  Freshly ground pepper would no doubt work better, and your vodka has to be ice cold, of course.  I like vodka [in small quantities] and I like pepper, so I may adopt this Bond affectation.

Evodia Spanish Red

This week I've been drinking a no-year Spanish red with the Evodia label.  It ran me in the lower teens.

This red is made from 100% garnacha grapes.  I wasn't familiar with garnacha.  Lo and behold, it's just plain ol' grenache.

The label says these grapes are grown in high-altitude (2400-3000 ft) vineyards near the village of Atea in the Calatayud wine region in the NE-central part of Spain.

I liked this wine, as I tend to like other Spanish wines I've tried.  The first glass was strikingly fruity, more so than just about any other red I've drunk recently, specifically cherry.  It would really go well with a roast or even burgers.

Interestingly, though, the wine didn't hold up that well overnight: the second day it had lost most of that fruit burst.  A nice wine if you can down it all in one sitting; I recommend it.

2005 Luigi Bosca Reserva Pinot Noir

My second [or am I up to three?] pinot noir of the season is a 2005 Luigi Bosca Reserva pinot.

This wine comes from the Maipú area of Mendoza in Argentina and was casked in oak for 8 months.  I got it on sale for about $12.

The label is very flowery on the wine's attributes: "Brilliant cherry red, clean, fresh, fruity and velvety"; "Aromas of red fruit, strawberries, violets and chocolates."

Unfortunately my reaction was along the lines of meh.  I didn't find it to have much subtlety of flavor, even after aerating it.  The label said it can be laid down for 5 to 8 years, so it wasn't over the hill [or over the Andes].  After a night on the fridge, I drank some with brie, and I liked it a little more; it tasted more mellow and slightly sweeter.

Not a bad wine; it might work well with chops or a roast for dinner.  Just not my first choice.

2007 Yarden Pinot Noir

Sharing pictures from the phone doesn't seem to be working tonight, so no picture of this wine.  [Oops; I lied, just AT&T taking their time:]

I tried a 2007 Yarden pinot noir from the Galilee in Israel, in particular the Golan Heights.  The label says this was aged for 16 months in oak.

I hate to say it, but I didn't care for this wine.  There was a sharpness to it.  I aerated it, which didn't help, and even going back to it the next night, it hadn't improved.  It had the usual pinot notes.

I drank less than half, but I can use the rest for cooking.  Maybe I just got a bad bottle.

2010 Michel Girard Pinot Sancerre

Moving on to another red from Sancerre, not known for their reds, I tried a 2010 Michel Girard pinot noir.

I don't have the price, but I bought it from Morrell's in NYC, whose customer service is excellent.

To make a long review short:  I didn't much care for it.  I don't have much experience with pinots (one reason I'm drinking them this fall and winter), but this wine didn't seem to have much nose or flavor.  I did aerate it, and it didn't improve the next night either.  It could have been a house red I ordered with pizza.  

This pinot is drinkable, but I didn't find it at all memorable or one that I'd buy again.

2010 Pascal Jolivet rosé

My first pinot of the season is a 2010 rosé from Pascal Jolivet in the Sancerre region. I forgot to jot down the price, but I believe it ran me in the low $20s, or maybe high teens.

I'll let the label speak for itself: "The Pascal Jolivet Domaine covers 49.5 acres in Sancere, with vineyards close to the villages of Bué, Verdigny, and Ste Gemme. 8.6 acres are planted in chalky clay soils with Pinot Noir. The PJ Rosé Pinot Noir is a 'saignée' wine. The juice is produced from macerated Pinot Noir grapes that have been not been sorted by hand or de-stemmed. ... The juice is fermented naturally, without adding cultivated yeasts."

Unfortunately, I didn't like it.  It packed a pretty acidic kick without much in terms of nose or subtlety of flavor.  Now, I didn't use my aerator for the first glass or two, which might have helped, because after a day or two I liked it better; it didn't seem as acidic.  It was definitely better with food; I don't think it's a sipping by itself wine.

2009 Christian Moreau Chablis & 2007 Makor of Elviwines Red

Transitioning here from the last chablis of the summer into my fall and winter reds.

First off is a 2009 Christian Moreau chablis.  The label says the family has been making wines for 200 years, and reminds American drinkers that it should be served cool, not cold.  Like another chablis I drank this summer, it says that this wine would be good as an aperitif.

This bottle ran me in the lower $20s.  This chablis was OK but it seemed a little flat without a lot of subtlety of flavor.  I jotted down that maybe I got the "minerality" that you find in chablis [chablises]. It was slightly sweeter than other chablis and had a slight kick of acidity.

On the whole, OK, not my favorite white, but I've said that about all the chablis I've drunk this summer.

Moving into fall is a kosher red from Spain made by "Makor of ELVIwines." This wine is 14% by volume and I believe ran me in the lower teens.

This red if 85% bobal and 15% cabarnet sauvignon.  I had no idea what bobal is [a grape; no kidding], so I looked it up.  Wikipedia says it's a variety of Vitis vinifera and native to Valencia, where this wine is from.  It's the third-most planted grape in Spain, after tempranillo (numero uno) and airen (never heard of that one either).  Further, "The wines produced tend to be fruity, low in alcohol content (around 11°) [not this one] and high in acidity (5.5 to 6.5 tartaric acid)."

The acidity is probably what turned me off about it.  I used an aerator for my first glass, but I didn't care for the taste.  It was too sharp and lacking in subtleties.  Frankly I let the bottle sit too many nights before my second glass so I shouldn't comment on old wine, but it hadn't improved over time, as some wines do.  

Maybe this wine is at a disadvantage by being the first of my move into reds this fall after a spring and summer of whites.  I'll try a few more wines made with bobal over the winter and see if I change my opinion.

2008 Brocard Chablis

Running a bit behind again, but my choice of white wines this summer hasn't been the best to get me writing about them.

It's now fall [by 2 days] and I'm wrapping up my summer whites.  I have one more chablis to go and then a higher-end Sancerre that won't get here till mid-October.  Lot18 apparently thinks it stays hot in the Midwest until mid-October.

This 2008 Jean-Marc Brocard chabils ran me in the mid-$20 range and is 12.5% alcohol with a straw color. It has a screw cap, if you have strong feelings about those.  My colleague at http://vinopelz.blogspot.com/2009/12/2007-jean-marc-brocard-chablis-domaine.html describes this as "the perfect everyday Chablis" [if you drink Chabils everyday] and I'm inclined to agree.

I liked this a lot better than the first chablis I reviewed a couple weeks ago, which was far too austere even for my dry white-preferring tastes.  I had a cold while I was drinking this, so I can't really comment on the nose (of which I couldn't smell much] or any subtlety of flavor.

It seemed a bit sweeter than the last chablis.  In general I don't like sweet wines, but anything sweeter than the other one is a good thing.  The acidity was fairly subdued and more subtle than a lot of whites, it didn't pack a kick.  In general a nice chablis at a good price.  It would go well with seafood or a seafood pasta.

2009 Gilbert Picq Chablis & 2007 Norton Cosecha Tardia

For the end of my summer wine tasting, I'm finally getting around to trying chablis.  Chablises?  Whites from the Chablis appelation, which is the northernmost wine region in Burgundy.

I believe this is the first true chablis I've ever drunk.  I may have had a California version at some point over the years.  This bottle is a long way from the Spanish whites and the Sancerres (made with sauvignon blanc) I've been drinking this summer.

The wikipedia entry on chablis wines says they're made with the chardonnay grape, don't tend to be oaked, and are "renowned for the purity of its aroma and taste."

I don't know that I'd describe the flavor and aroma of this 2009 Gilbert Picq [running me between $20 and $25] as pure, but I'd agree with wikipedia about the "steely" notes.  I tend to like anything minimal, but this wine was a bit too minimal and one-note and not very subtle for me.  Maybe because it's a long way from the whites I've been drinking, but I just didn't enjoy drinking it.  I didn't finish the bottle, though it would have been fine for cooking.  Others may like it; it just wasn't the wine for me.

A pocket review of a 2007 Argentinian sweet wine, a Bodega Norton Cosecha Tardia.  I bought this on clearance for about $7.  I would describe it as an Argentinian Sauterne.  

It's pretty sweet, no particular nose, no particular subtlety of flavor, though it does pack a slight acidic punch.  I was thinking what you would eat with it and decided that it would work well with a cheese and fruit plate.  The sweetness would work well with a cheese that can stand up to it.  Not a wine that I'd drink on a regular basis, but a good choice for a party.

Scotch Stinger

I'm going back to making cocktails once in a while, like when I started this blog.

To find drinks to try, I'm going to use Internet Cocktail Database's Random Drink Generator, which is always a lot of fun, kind of like Russian Roulette.

My first spin of the barrel today came up with a pousse café, and though I had the 4 ingredients it called for (including creme de violette, remarkably enough), I've never been good at pouring those, and I don't have a good glass to build it one.

Second up was a Scotch Stinger, so I went with that. 

These are easy enough: 2 to 1 blended Scotch to white creme de menthe.  Of course, who keeps white creme de menthe around.  When I went to the Liquee Mart to buy a bottle, all they had were the large ones, and only 1 small bottle of the green.  My friend who works there told me that actually they're going to discontinue the small bottles, that they sell the large ones about 10 to 1 over the small ones.  People drink that much creme de menthe?  Who knew?

I used Johnnie Walker Black for the scotch.  I'm not a big mint fan, I can take it or leave it, usually leave it, but this isn't a bad drink:  smokey, not overly minty.  I tend to be a minimalist, but this drink could use a little more complexity.  One more ingredient, I'm not sure what, and it would be a really good drink.  I wonder how a little bacon would be in it.  Really.  Just a thought.

2010 Domaine La Croix Saint-Laurent Sancerre

My next-to-last Sancerre review of the summer; I have one coming that I bought from Hops and Grapes.  After that, I have 3 chablis to drink before fall officially begins.

This bottle was a 2010 Domaine La Croix Saint-Laurent.  The label describes the wine as "dry, fruity and has the aroma of white flowers and exotic fruits," which I agree with [not sure about the white flowers--that covers a pretty wide spectrum].

This has been sitting around for 10 days since I finished the bottle so my memory of it is faded, but my notes say it has a Sauvignon Blanc nose and is fruity and slightly acidic.

The label says it would be good as an aperitif or with fish or shellfish, which I'd agree with.  A nice wine for the price [about $25].

2 Sancerres and a generic white

Somehow I've fallen behind on reviews again and the wine bottles are stacking up.

First up is a generic Mediterranean white made by Rene Barbier that ran me $6.00.  With my limited knowledge of Romance languages, it's apparently Spanish, in spite of the French maker's name.

This is an OK, everyday wine.  My notes from 3 weeks ago say that the nose was a little SB-ish, but the flavor wasn't.  It's citrusy and light with mild acidity, none of the strong hit of acidity on the finish that you get with some whites.  I used an aerator for the first time with this wine, and I think it really helped to open it up.

Next, I decided to try some Sancerres since I don't think I've ever drunk one.  Sancerres, of course, are made from the Sauvignon blanc grape.

First up is a 2008 Sancerre from La Poussie that I think ran me in the $25 range.  Sancerre is in the north-central part of the country, almost exact center, on the Loire.

This was ok, a little minerally, not that I walk around with gravel in my mouth so I know what it tastes like, more complex than most whites, slightly acidic, and it doesn't taste like a SB even though it's made from the same grape.

Second was was a 2008 Lucien Crochet, also in the $20-25 range.  This has a slightly higher alcohol content (13% vs. 12.5%) than the first one

I liked this one better than the La Poussie: it was slightly sweeter, less acidic, definitely more of a SB nose.  It doesn't go great with Havarti cheese though.

I used a new wine aerator with all three wines, and my impression is that really does help to open up the flavor if you drink straight away after opening the bottle.  The Lucien Crochet got forgotten in the fridge for a few days, and it definitely lost a lot of its nice subtlety of flavor sitting in there.  Next gadget to use: my new wine pump.

Both Sancerres would make for a great dinner wine to go with a variety of courses.

2006 Montecillo Blanco

Over a couple evenings I drank a 2006 Montecillo blanco from Rioja.  This was made with viura grapes using cold fermentation.

I'd never heard of viura grapes; they're also known as macabeo or macabeu. This is what wikipedia says about them:  "The grape is used to make mildly acidic and young white wines mostly suitable for early consumption or blending with other varieties, both red and white. It is often the main grape of white Rioja and is sometimes blended in small amounts with Tempranillo and red Garnacha, both in unoaked and oaked versions. It was introduced in Rioja after the phylloxera epidemic, where it largely replaced Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca, partially because of the ability of its wines to better withstand oxidation."

I got this on sale for under $5, and I'm guessing it was marked down because it was getting a bit long in the grape tooth.  I found it pretty acidic the first night; I could have poured it over scallops and made a nice ceviche.  After a night in the fridge the acidity mellowed, and it was more drinkable, though no great subtlety of nose or flavor.

In short, aeration might help.  Drinkable if you like a wine that's got more of a bite, and it would go well with fish.

2008 Le Haut-Lieu Sec Vouvray

The last couple nights I've enjoyed a 2008 Haut-Lieu sec vouvray. This wine is one of the more expensive I've drunk, running about $32.

(sorry for the askew picture)

This is one of the finest wines I've drunk in quite a while.  My glass wasn't right to get as much of the nose as I should have gotten, but the wine has wonderful subtlety of flavor. I was trying to identify what a predominant note was, I was thinking butterscotch, but I read that these wines often have honey notes, and I think that was it.  Maybe a little vanilla too.  It had a mild acidity that hit the back of the throat and a good finish.

Wikipedia says of these wines, almost all made from the chenin blanc grape, "Most of the vineyards are planted on a plateau with a southern aspect facing towards the river. Viticulture and wine production in the region is dictated almost completely by the climate characteristics of a particular vintage with cooler climate years shifting productions towards dry and sparkling wines while warmer vintages seeing increased production of sweet and even botrytized wines. The harvest in Vouvray is often the last in France to be completed, potentially lasting until November. When sweet and botrytized wine are being produced, the harvest is often very labor-intensive, involving successive tries or passages through the vineyards with harvesters hand-picking only the ripest berries."

As far as the 'sec' designation goes, "[This is] the driest level with 0-0.4% (less than 4 grams per liter) residual sugar. Sometimes producers will specify their bone dry wines as Sec-Sec or 'dry dry' and their slightly less dry wines as Sec-tendres or 'gently dry.'"

The entry says that vouvrays age well and begin to really show their stuff in about 4 years, so I may have drunk this a year or two too early.  A 1947 vouvray from this domaine was #6 in a 2005 listing of the "100 greatest wines."

Although I liked this wine, I wouldn't put it in the top 5 or maybe even 10 wines I've drunk.  To give one example, and perhaps comparing apples and oranges, the Spanish syrah I drank earlier this year was better.  There was just something about this (the immaturity maybe) that made me think it left something (still) to be desired.

2009 Naire Verdejo

I've been drinking an $8 Naire verdejo that hails from around Zamora, which is not too far northwest of Madrid and directly north of Salamanca in central Spain.

I looked up verdejo grapes to refresh my memory, and wikipedia says they're often harvested at night, resulting in a wine that's "aromatic, often soft and full-bodied."

I would agree with the soft for this bottle, if my definition of a 'soft' wine is the same as the writer of that article.  Full-bodied not so much.  I found this Naire to be on the thin side.  It had more flavor drunk with food, but it seemed to get more acidic after a night in the fridge [it has a screw cap], a little too much so for my taste.

Not a bad wine for the price, but I've drunk other verdejos that I preferred.

2007 Casa Silva Reserva Viognier

I tried a 2007 Casa Silva Reserva viognier that I found on sale for under $10.  This was produced by one of the oldest estates in Chile's Colchagua Valley.

This is a light viognier but it has more substantial nose than the California Kunde I drank last week. It has more subtlety of flavor than a lot of the whites I've drunk this summer. I couldn't identify the notes but I think I got oak.  A nice wine, good for a dinner party or friends over.

2006 Kunde Viognier

I couldn't find any French or Spanish whites locally, so I picked up a couple viogniers to fill the gap.

The first bottle I drank is a 2006 Kunde Estates from Sonoma. The label describes the wine as "aromatherapy in a glass. Thick with the scent of jasmine and orange marmalade and accented by exotic spice."

I didn't think the wine lived up to its billing.  I liked it least of any whites I've drunk lately and didn't think it had any subtleties of nose or flavor.  Wikipedia says "Viogniers more than three years old tend to lose many of the floral aromas that make this wine unique. Aging these wines will often yield a very crisp drinking wine which is almost completely flat in the nose" so this might have been part of the problem, it was past its prime.  It was on sale for a reason.  Actually, I liked it better after a day in the fridge; it has a screw cap.

Probably in general Kunde is a better wine than this bottle.

2009 Loire Vouvray and 2007 Gavi

I threw in an odd Italian white this time because I was having trouble at my local Liquee Mart finding French whites, besides chardonnays, that I hadn't tried.

This 2007 Gavi from Batasiolo is made from Cortese grapes and hails from the northwest part of the top of the boot.  This is a grape I wasn't familiar with, so I looked it up on wikipedia:  "Wines made from Cortese (particularly those from the DOCG Gavi) have long been favored by restaurants in the southern neighboring port of Genoa as a wine pairing with the local seafood caught off the Ligurian coast. The wine's moderate acidity and light, crisp flavors pair well with the delicate flavors of some fish."  It's also an old grape, with records of it going back to the mid-1600s.

I like the wine, which I got for $15.  It was a little more acidic than other whites I've drunk lately, but it also had more nose.  I found it fruity; the label makes claims for pear and lemon notes, which I'd agree with.  My notes say it reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc.

The other wine is a 2009 Vauvion Vouvray from the Loire Valley, which ran me ... well, check out the picture.  This one's made from Chenin Blanc grapes and hails from the the Touraine district.  

This is a sweeter wine and not particularly acidic.  My notes say pear and vanilla and that it would go well with cheese and fruit, not red meat.  The bottle label recommends it as an aperitif or with dessert, so I guess I was on the mark.  Two very drinkable and enjoyable whites.

2007 Amano Soave and 2008 Champalou Vouvray

An international pair of whites today, a vouvray and a soave.  I saw the soave mentioned on a cooking show so I decided to try it.

The Amano soave ran me about $13.  It hails from Gioia, which according to the map I pulled up is in the central part of the country east of Rome.

The soave had about the least acidity of any white I've drunk lately, nice fruity notes [the label says pears], maybe vanilla, slightly sweet.  It would be good with a light summer supper, maybe with a lighter meat like veal.

The vouvray ran me $18, and frankly wasn't worth the money.  It was drinkable, but you're paying for the import status, I think:  no nose to speak of or subtleties of flavor.  I've drunk better vouvrays.

2007 Marques de Caceres

Changing my Spanish whites slightly, I've been drinking a 2007 Marqués de Cáceres dry white from the Rioja region of Spain.  This is in the north central part of the country, not too far from the Pyrenees.

This wine is made from 100% viura grapes, which I'd never heard of.  Wikipedia has a good piece on them: "The grape is used to make mildly acidic and young white wines mostly suitable for early consumption or blending with other varieties, both red and white. It is often the main grape of white Rioja and is sometimes blended in small amounts with Tempranillo and red Garnacha, both in unoaked and oaked versions. It was introduced in Rioja after the phylloxera epidemic, where it largely replaced Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca, partially because of the ability of its wines to better withstand oxidation."

The label describes the wine has having a silky texture, which I'd agree with.  I didn't get their "floral aromas", and it definitely wasn't as fruity as the Spanish whites I've been drinking the last month or so.  It's definitely more acidic, though not obnoxiously so.  

The labels says it would pair well with seafood or hors d'oeuvres, which I think is pretty much on the mark.  I finished up the bottle with hamburgers [doctored up], and that wasn't the best pairing.

Not my favorite white, but it definitely has its place.

Two Ruedas

I've let this blog slip the last month.  I've drunk a few Spanish wines but haven't gotten around to writing them up.

Two ruedas today.  The first is a $9 2009 Emina Verdjo.  This is from a 'green' winery where they use a lot of recycled materials etc.  Hopefully not grapes.  They describe the wine as 'fresh and zingy like a great Sauvignon Blanc, but deep and expressive like a white wine grown in a high-plains dessert.'

I frankly didn't find it 'deep and expressive'.  It was fruity and good with a nice piece of Parmesan, but not much nose and no subtle depth of flavor.  It's a good everyday wine for $9.

The second wine is a 2009 Damana Verdejo that ran me $16.  Both of these are 100% verdejos.

I liked this one more; for $16, I should.  I noted honey flavors, maybe vanilla, and it was *really* good with Parmesan, they complimented each other.  This reminded me more of a good Sauvignon Blanc than the other one.  This would be a good wine for a nice dinner party.

Switching to Whites

Three very quick write-ups--hopefully the pictures will say 1000 words--to get some empty bottles out of here.

It's spring so I'm switching to whites.  I'm still debating exactly what whites to focus on through September, so today's report is a bit of a grab bag.

My friend at the local Liquee Mart recommended this blanc de blanc that they had featured at a wine tasting a few days before, so I picked it up.  It ran me roughly $10.

I've never had a blanc de blanc before.  This is a Marquis de Perlade that hails from Sigolsheim in Alsace.  If you, like me, don't/didn't know what a blanc de blanc is: it's a sparkling wine, usually made exclusively from chardonnay grapes. The label doesn't say if this is 100% chardonnay.

I liked it.  The wine seemed a little dry at first, though I tend to prefer dry wines, but a sweetness comes through.  A good balance of the two. I'm not that big on sparkling wines from anywhere, but this one isn't bad and would be nice with a meal.

The second wine is a 2009 Damana Verdejo from Rueda, Spain, which ran me $15.  Rueda is in the NW part of Spain a little south of the latitude line going through the northern border of Portugal, and is a major wine-growing region best known for its wines made from verdejo grapes.

Verdejo grapes are very interesting. I'll try to talk more about them again, but I'll start by saying they were used to make a sherry-type wine until the 1970s, when a move began to make whites from them.

My first take is if you drank this without knowing what it was, you'd think it was a Sauvignon Blanc [and it's often mixed with SB for blends].  Both the nose and the taste, though I didn't get any of SB's infamous 'cat pee'.  I like SBs, and this one was full of subtle notes.  I think I got some vanilla, and it was very fruity, tending towards apple.  I drank most of this bottle in one sitting [and didn't get a major buzz from it].  I really recommend it.

Last, a bit of an oddity, is a white from Crete, a 2006 Kretikos Boutari from the northern part of the island made with the indigenous Vilana grapes.  I picked this up on sale for $10.

I drank this a couple weeks ago so my tasting memory has faded, but it reminded me a little of retsina.  I'm one of the 5 Americans not of Greek extraction who like retsina, so I liked this wine.  It wasn't stellar but it was enjoyable.  This would go well with appetizers or maybe more strongly flavored fish or octopus/calamari.

Last Syrah and Chianti of the Season

To wrap up my fall-winter syrahs and chiantis, I tried a shiraz-viognier blend from Australia (which ran me about $20) and a classic Ruffino chianti (about $14).

The syrah [properly shiraz] is a 2007 Black Chook from Australia.  This is a 95-5 shiraz-viognier blend, made by Ben Riggs in South Australia and aged in French Oak.

I found this a little sweeter than other syrahs/shirazes, maybe because of the viognier?, but less tannic (if that's a word) than most of them I've tried.

This isn't a bad wine, although I didn't find its flavors terribly subtle or distinguished.  But after spending $20 for it, I felt obliged to finish the bottle.

I read somewhere that Ruffinos are the archetypal chiantis, so I figured I should try one.  This 2007 Chianti Classico was a good one to wrap up with because it was one of the few that I didn't find flat and rather tasteless.  I didn't find it full of subtle flavors, my complaint with almost all the chiantis I tried, but it was drinkable, which some bottles weren't.

To sum up my winter drinking: my favorite syrahs/shirazes were the subtle and flavorful 2003 Marques de Grinon syrah from Spain and the very smoky 2004 Sincerely shiraz from South Africa.  A lot of the syrahs were just too sharp for my tastebuds.

My favorite chiantis were the very inexpensive Candoni chianti and the much more expensive ($30) Querceto from my last posting, although this Ruffino was almost as good as the Querceto at half the price.

2003 Querceto Chianti Classico, 2008 Red Bicyclette Syrarh, & 2007 Castle Rock Syrah

I'm falling farther behind again on my reviews, so I'll whip through these 3 bottles of vino drunk over the last 3 weeks, 2 syrahs and a chianti (the whipping witnessed by the rather slapdash quality of my photos of these).

The first is a 2007 Red Bicyclette syrah.  I'd heard good press on Red Bicyclette, but I didn't like it.  I thought the flavor was pretty thin and not much nose.  I don't think I even finished the bottle, though I can say that about 9 out of 10 syrahs I've drunk this winter.

Next is a 2007 Castle Rock syrah from the Russian River.  My local Liquee Mart had a tasting of Castle Rock this past Thursday and I'm sorry I couldn't get there because I rather liked this syrah.  It's about the only American syrah that I've drunk this winter that I did like.  I got a bit of a molasses note from it, and I drank the whole bottle pretty quickly.

Last is a 2003 Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva, which ran me $30.  This was tied with the $10 Candoni from a month or so ago for the best [and only] chiantis that I liked.  This would be a good wine to match with a nice Italian spread of antipasti and the whole shebang.  My only complaint is I had to spread drinking it over several days, and it definitely lost a lot of its flavor.  But my fault to blow a $30 wine, not the $30 wine's.

I'm going to review one more syrah and one more chianti to finish up my winter drinking--though we're already 2 weeks into spring--and then I'll switch to a couple whites for summer.  I haven't decided for sure which, but maybe pinot blanc and chablis. And I'll try to post more regularly [hopefully I'll be drinking wines I like the next 6 months].

2005 Rosenblum Syrah & 2008 Fleur de Cap Pinotage

At the end of the month I'm switching to whites for the summer, and it'll be none too soon.  I still haven't found my perfect syrah or chiantis.

No chianti to report on this time, but a pinotage, which I don't think I've drunk before.

This 2008 pinotage comes from Stellenbosch, South Africa, which is about 30 miles east of Cape Town.

Pinotage was first developed in 1927 from a cross between pinot noir and cinsaut [also known as Hermitage thus the name of the grape].  The wikipedia entry says: "It typically produces deep red varietal wines with smoky, bramble and earthy flavors, sometimes with notes of bananas and tropical fruit, but has been criticized for sometimes smelling of acetone. Pinotage is often blended, and also made into fortified wine and even red sparkling wine."  It's mainly produced in South Africa, though it's not a huge part even of their production.

I liked it.  I also liked the South African syarh that I had a couple months back; that one had a pronounced smoky note.  My friend at the local Liquee Mart says she and the owner don't care for South African wines, I don't remember what her reason was, but I've liked the 2 I've had.

The label says this is made in oak barrels and has notes of cloves, vanilla, and berries with a distinctive finish; that's pretty much what I got from it.  It would be great with a nice steak.  

The other wine comes from closer to home, a 2005 Sonoma County Rosenblum Cellars syrah.

My tasting notes for this [I drank it a couple weeks ago so don't remember much about it now] say it's lighter than other syrahs I've drunk this winter, not as sharp, definitely fruity and maybe even some caramel notes.

I liked this wine and finished the bottle.  This would be a nice addition to a dinner party.  I didn't jot down the price of either of these, but neither one was more than $20.

3 Syrah Reviews

I'm catching up on a couple weeks of drinking syrahs in this review.

The first is a 2007 Big Tattoo Red, which is a blend of half syrah and half cabernet sauvignon, from Chile's Colchagua Valley.  This winery donates 50 cents of every bottle sold to the local community in memory of the owners' mother, who died of cancer.

This bottle ran me about $12.  I found a slightly offputting note to it, maybe more tannins.  It has slightly different notes, which I couldn't identify [I'm working on that], than other syrahs I've drunk recently.  The label boasts its fruitiness, but I noticed the oaky notes.  I didn't finish the bottle.

Next is a Spanish shiraz from the La Mancha region, a 2007 Rojo Mojo.  This one ran me $10.50; the label boasts the usual fruits, as well as cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves.

The more expensive Spanish syrah that I reviewed a month or so ago was one of my favorites this winter, and I liked this one too.  There must be something about Spanish syrahs.  I didn't jot any tasting notes other than I liked it.  I drank the whole bottle, which I haven't done too often with the syrahs this winter, so that's a recommendation for it.

Last is a 2008 Michael & David Phillips syrah; they're based in Graton, California.  Graton was the farthest that Russian settlers moved into North America, and they planted the first grapes.

This bottle ran me $15; maybe I was paying for the fancier than usual label and some of the pretentious twaddle on the back.  

I didn't like this syrah at all and drank at most half the bottle.  It had a bit of an off-taste, almost medicinal to my taste buds.  It also had a slight smoky note, which was ok, like the South African shiraz from a couple months ago. 

I thought it might be better the second day.  It was, slightly.  Not as medicinal, but it still seemed a bit sharp.

I've about decided I'm just not a fan of syrahs, or else I'm not finding the good ones.

2008 McWilliam's Syrah

A week ago I tried a 2008 McWilliam's syrah from southeastern Australia; it ran me in the $10 range.

This wine wasn't bad, though I still can't say I've found a syrah/shiraz that really bowled me over.  The McWilliams seemed a little sweeter than some.  The label claims the usual plum and raspberry notes, with vanilla from French oak.  This would be good with ribs.

2003 Marques de Grinon Syrah and Candoni Chianti

I've been too busy with work and haven't posted in a couple weeks but I haven't stopped drinking. With all the work I've needed it.

First off is probably the best syrah I've drunk all fall and winter, a 2003 Marques de Grinon [with a curly thing over the n] syrah from Spain.  I didn't even know Spain produced Syrahs; this is from the Dominio de Valdepusa estate.  This wine is aged in oak for a year and ran me in the mid-$20 range. 

My tasting notes file disappeared [new laptop; you know how that goes], but I remember this having just a tad more sweetness, which helped ameliorate the tannins, which I've decided are a main reason I haven't been big on syrahs.  It had strong vanilla notes, and I also remember thinking that 'Oh, this is what oak tastes like'.  I finally got that.

All in all, a very fine syrah and a good choice for a higher-end dinner.  It didn't hold up particularly well over several days; I forgot I had it and didn't get back to it for at least 2 days, and by then it had lost a lot of its delicacy of flavor.

Next up is a chianti, no date, just commercial, made by Candoni.  I was talking to a good friend who works at the local Liquee Mart, and I was telling her I haven't been impressed by any of the chiantis I've been drinking, they taste like pizzaria vino.  She agreed that she doesn't care for chiantis either; she said they taste flat, and I would agree with her 100 percent.

That being said, this is probably my favorite of the chiantis thus far.  My friend recommended it; she said Candoni makes other good wines and I should try it.  It ran me about $10.

It's a tad sweeter than the other chiantis I've tried, and like the Spanish syrah, I think that helped make it palatable for me.  It didn't have any particular delicacy of flavor or nose, but it was drinkable.  This is one of the few chiantis where I drank the whole bottle. The bottle says it would be good with cheese, and I can see that.

Last, as a bonus review: my friend also recommended a 2008 Apothic Red from California (specifically Modesto).  This is a blend of syrah, zinfandel, and merlot and ran me $10.

She said this is a big seller, and I can see why:  it's very flavorful.  It's one of the fruitiest reds I've drunk.  The label says vanilla and mocha; I was catching plum maybe.  It's also a sweeter red, a little too sweet for my taste, but I could see why it's popular.  A good everyday red blend for just casual evening sipping.

2008 Greg Norman Shiraz-Cabernet and 2003 Chianti Rufina

2011 begins with me still searching for a syrah/shiraz and a chianti that I really like.  Haven't found one yet.

However, a 2008 Greg Norman shiraz-cabernet sauvignon blend that ran me in the mid- to high teens went down a lot more smoothly than most of the syrahs I've tried.

I took this over to my sister's when she invited me for lasagna after a tiring evening of shopping at Sam's Club [and expensive; never shop for groceries on an empty stomach].  She said she's not big on syrahs, but she liked this too.  She let her son taste it, and he made a face and said it was too dry for him.  Kids.

This Greg Norman was sweeter than most of the syrahs I've had. The label says it has dark cherry, plum, and blackberry notes, which I'd agree with.  This is one syrah that I'd drink again.  It's a little higher priced but would be good at a dinner party.

I don't have much to say about this 2003 Colognole chianti rufina except to say I drank it.  I don't think I finished the bottle.  It ran me $16 on sale.  It tasted like chianti to me.

I looked up chianti rufina, and Rufina is at the top of the pyramid of the Chianti areas.  I'll keep trying, but I haven't discovered yet what people see in chianti.  Maybe I need to eat it with an Italian meal?

2003 Domaine Hatzimichalis Syrah

I stumbled across this Greek syrah from the Atalanti Valley at Kahn's on the east side of Indianapolis; I didn't know that Greece produced syrahs.  I looked up the Atalanti Valley, and assuming it's near the town of the same name, this wine is from the east central part of the country.

This syrah had some interesting flavors.  I got some "earthiness" from it, and maybe pine, like retsina, and licorice/anise.  The licorice came through more strongly the second day.  This was sweeter than other syrahs, though the body seemed a little thin.

Ultimately I didn't like it all that much.  Admittedly, red wine usually isn't at its best the next day after it's been opened, but I didn't finish the glass I poured, and I emptied the rest of the bottle.  Other people might like the licorice/pine more than I did.