Thursday, November 29, 2007

St. Francis Cabernet

St. Francis
Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma, California, USA
$16.99 -- Total Wine, Durham, NC

Color: Dark red
Nose: Spicy, woodsy, minty
Body: Dense
Front: Blackberry, musty
Middle: Tannic, meaty
Back: Leather
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Fake cork (plastic)

When you smell it, it could be roasted something or preserved fruit, but it could be a car repair shop on a slow, rainy day. The taste at first is like licking the inside of the old moldy Chevy with the holes in the floor that we used to own. The finish is a little more conventionally fruity, so you're like, "O.K., I'll try another sip, despite having just been forced into the back seat for a slightly frightening trip down Mildew Memory Lane." Pretty good for under 20 bucks; and it's on the by-the-glass list all over town (or at least, at J. Alexander's).

Still good. I'd say the 2004 is better--more interesting, more smoky and spicy--than the 2003. The price increase is a little disturbing, but only a little; they're making tons of this stuff. I would drink it any day.

2008 (tasted 2014)
Also good, but I think a little unbalanced, by year six. I think perhaps the 2010 may be in the zone right now?

Domaine du Salvard Cheverny

Domaine du Salvard
Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc(?)

Loire, France
$15.99 -- Whole Foods, Durham, NC

Color: Light yellow
Nose: Tart fruit, a little peachy
Body: Light
Front: Peachy keen
Middle: Buttery; maybe a little limey?
Back: Minerals and a little flowery, like honeysuckle; long release
Burns clean?: Probably; I drank only one glass
Cap: Cork

I didn't think I liked Loire wines. This one I got principally to put in the fondue. Oooo... fondue. This happened last time, too; I got a Muscadet, thinking it'd be too sweet to drink, and I turned out to be totally wrong about it. Ignorance is bliss! This one is young, happy, dry, and interestingly structured, like a third-year English college boy raised in an intellectual family. (This is not, however, what I meant by "limey" above.)

Caveat: I think I probably paid higher than average for this wine; it ought to be in the $10-11 range.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chateau Fontalem L'Auriolle Bordeaux

Chateau Fontalem L'Auriolle (Renaud)
Merlot, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc
Bordeaux, France
$10.99 -- Parker & Otis, Durham, NC

Color: Deep red-brown
Nose: Raspberries, maybe even a little orangey
Body: Medium
Front: Minerals, then a little tannic
Middle: Dark fruits
Back: Nice leather and wood
Burns clean?: No
Cap: Short cork

This is a stately, reserved, bargain of a wine. It's like fall, bottled. Nothing is too big; all the flavors lurk low like you're feeling them through a fog. But it's a tasty fog.

Bonus tasting tip: If you drink it with raclette cheese, it tastes like marshmallows.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay

Frei Brothers
Reserve, Russian River Valley
Sonoma, California, USA
$14.99 -- Durham, NC

Color: Light gold
Nose: Pears
Body: Medium
Front: Minerals, then a little watery
Middle: Butter, steel
Back: Apples
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

It's a safe chardonnay. A walk on a nice city street, but not a walk in a beautiful forest.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Windy Ridge Cabernet

Windy Ridge
Cabernet Sauvignon
Central Coast, California, USA
$9.99 -- Whole Foods, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Dark but not obscure garnet
Nose: Raspberry, a little hot
Body: Medium
Front: Berries, creamy
Middle: Tannins, leather
Back: Peach
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a great deal. It's an interesting, simply structured Cabernet, not as huge as the fancy kinds, but with the California profile. It moves cleanly from a creamy berry front to a drier middle and a stone-fruit hint on the end of the palate. I got a case and a half of it and drink it with almost anything--sweet salami, baked chicken and sauteed spinach, tonight. It's one of these more or less mass-produced things where they aggregate berries from all over the central coast, but this vintage is largely Paso Robles grapes, if I remember right, and it shows: it's super, and way better than this price would indicate.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Possums Vineyard Shiraz

Possums McLaren Vineyards
ShirazMcLaren Vale, Australia
$25 – Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Deep red, a slight tinge of purple
Nose: Creamy, vanilla, coffee
Body: Dense
Front: Creamy caramel
Middle: Pepper, coffee, cedar
Back: Maybe a little plum
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

The cork on this wine smelled so good when I pulled it that I almost ate it for dinner. There's only the remotest hint that this substance was derived from fruit. It's an astounding synesthesia. At this percentage, it ought to be hot, but there's none of that. This is what cigars ought to taste like. This is what dessert ought to taste like. This is what everything ought to taste like.

Note (Dec. 2, 2007): A friend shared the 2002 vintage of this wine with me last night and it was fabulastic; even better than the '03.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Seigneur de Lauris Côtes du Rhône

Arnoux et Fils
Seigneur de LaurisCôtes du Rhône, Vacqueyras, France
$8 – Parker & Otis, Durham, NC

Color: Medium red, a tinge of brown at the edges
Nose: Musty, tart fruit
Body: Medium, a little thin in the middle
Front: Cassis
Middle: Gravelly and aromatic, orange
Back: A hint of green fig
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is an interesting, but none too intense Cotes du Rhone. Heavy on the grenache. It's notably tart, but since it's not heavy, it's all cool. It wouldn't stand up to intense foods, though. Bread and cheese, one glass all around, and something bigger with dinner.... See the interesting review at the blog 750mL. After it was open about an hour, it became much more structured and way tastier.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

V. Sattui Mt. Veeder Cabernet

V. Sattui Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon
Mt. Veeder
Napa Valley, USA
$38 – Sattui Winery, Napa, CA

Color: Deep red, a tinge of purple
Nose: Raspberry, a little olive
Body: Full
Front: Raspberry
Middle: Spicy, woody--like oak or beech
Back: Creamy; after it's been open awhile, there's a sort of apricotty aftertaste
Burns clean?: Not entirely! But then, I drank four glasses...
Cap: Cork

This wine has legs like a ZZ Top song. It smells wonderful, it's complex--not as sharp on the front as Sattui's cherryish Preston, not as creamily cinnamony as the Suzanne's. The spice is more like pepper. But it's divine all put together and I bet better in a few years.

Note, 1-21-2011: Broke into my 2006 (14%, $40) stash of this; decanted for an hour, and it's lovely and soft--the nose smells a little like burned earth (but not peat, unfortunately) but the flavor is wonderful. In effect, it tastes like a smore with a blueberry on top.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Henry's Drive Shiraz

Henry's Drive Vignerons
Padthaway, Australia
$36 – Somewhere in Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Thick ruby red, a very slight tinge of purple
Nose: Almost amarettoey, cedar, surprisingly unhot given the %
Body: Full
Front: Creamy cassis
Middle: Spicy--outright peppery, then just a peek of something flowery like honeysuckle, even
Back: A trifle hot; but like a sipping whiskey--wood, leathery like a football. That's right, I said football. An American football.
Burns clean?: Yes; in fact, might be a bit binding!
Cap: Cork

The transitions between the structural stages of this wine are very, very smooth. The hotness in the end of the taste fades after it's been open awhile, and that's when you can get in trouble, because it stays smooth and gets even more complex. There's something slightly overripe (maybe meaty?) in the nose that makes the bouquet really interesting; I'm as happy to sniff it as to drink it. This is made by the Australian half of the Aussie-CA combo who make Marquis-Phillips wines, and like the Sarah's Blend (named for Sarah Marquis) it's a whopper. I like this one better, though.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dogridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

DogRidge Vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon DV3 (single-vineyard)
McLaren Vale, Australia
$24 – Parker and Otis, Durham, NC

Color: Deep ruby red
Nose: Spicy and plummy, a little cherry
Body: Full
Front: Plum and raspberry
Middle: Spicy
Back: Woody (oak), a little graphite
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screwcap

This is a nice cabernet, stands up to all kinds of food and great with cheese. It collapses pretty quickly though, after a couple of hours--I've had three bottles and none has been worth anything the next day--so it's great for serving to guests. (It's not the screw cap that's to blame; the Shiraz from this vintage is extraordinary and keeps for a day just fine.) It's got a little heat, but not as much as the listed percentage would seem to suggest.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Domaine St.-Damien Gigondas

Domaine Saint-Damien
La Louisianne
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre
Gigondas (Vaucluse), France
$22? – Chapel Hill Wine, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Lovely medium cherry red
Nose: Spicy and bready, a little cherry
Body: Medium, easy drinkin’
Front: Cherry and raspberry, but not sharp
Middle: Spice and yeasty, a little anise
Back: Woody
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a damn tasty before-dinner wine. Good with blue cheese; not bad with Wisantigo stravecchio parmesan. Nice now, probably even better in 2 years. I left it open and it’s still great hours later, but I’m not sure it has long aging potential. Despite the alcohol, it’s not hot. I’m not feeling it, either, so it may not in fact be that high. Unfiltered.

Tenuta Casabianca Super Tuscan

Oct. 29, 2007
Tenuta Casabianca
Toscana IGT

Merlot, Cabernet, Sangiovese
Murlo (Siena) Italy
$25? – Weaver St. Market, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Beautiful deep cherry red, tinged brown at the edge
Nose: Meaty, spicy strawberry
Body: Medium—not heavy, but not thin
Front: A little fruit--cassis
Middle: Fuzzy and tannic
Back: Leathery, blackberryish
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Long cork

This one takes time to open up. It’s all old world leather and tannin, with three distinct stages of structural unfolding and an awesome shift in mouthfeel from watery to tannic to chewy. It’s not great with salty cheese, interestingly—but something medium would be good. As it sits open, it gets better: cherry enters the front of the taste, a little wood and vanilla enter the nose, and the end of the taste gets more rounded and soft.

Martin Ray Reserve Chardonnay

Oct. 26, 2007
Martin Ray
Yountville – Reserve
About $27 – Total Wine, Durham, NC

Color: A pale yellow, almost a tinge of green
Nose: Oaky apple
Body: Medium; not overheavy, but not thin
Front: Minerals and tangy fruit; lemony almost
Middle: Buttery
Back: Wood, Apple
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a lovely chardonnay; it’s frenchy but not as buttery as a good Bourgogne and without quite as long a delivery at the end of the taste. Damn tasty with roasted chicken.

Fife Syrah

Oct. 24, 2007
About $14 (on sale) – Weaver St. Market, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: A dark, but not obscure, ruby red
Nose: Blackberry, maybe a little orange (not quite hot, but a little zesty)
Body: Medium bodied; for a Syrah, especially, not dense
Front: More blackberries, some inner tube. Yes, I said inner tube.
Middle: Still dark fruit. A little spice, almost like pop rocks. Yes, I said pop rocks. After being open awhile, starts to get a little more earthy
Back: Doesn’t develop much at the end; perhaps a little grassy; texturally dusty, which is nice after the fruit.
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

I am still waiting for the promised chocolatey taste. Maybe I shouldn’t be eating cheese with it. But let it sit for awhile before you taste it. Even then, its structure never really gets more than 2 layers deep.

Fife Zinfandel (Whaler Vineyard)

Whaler Vineyard
About $13 (on sale) – Weaver St. Market, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Medium-dark strawberry with peachy colors at the edges
Nose: Spicy fruit, then smoky, of all things, but then hot
Body: Not dense but not light
Front: Blueberry
Middle: A little cream, a little smoke and spice, sometimes coffeeish
Back: A little hot, but then a nice compote aftertaste, actually, because of the hotness, almost like a cognac.
Burns clean?: No
Cap: Cork

A more elegant Zin than usual at this price. At times it’s almost like a Pinot Noir. This vintage I think is at or just slightly past its peak. I say that because it’s not evolving much as it stays open and because of the quite long structural unfolding.

V. Sattui Morisoli Cabernet

Oct. 22, 2007
V. Sattui
Cabernet Sauvignon
Morisoli Vineyard
Napa Valley
About $51 – Sattui Winery, Napa, CA

Color: Deep, rich red
Nose: Not super intense: cherryish and a little woody
Body: Pretty dense, but varies as the structure develops: heavy in the middle
Front: Cherry
Middle: Plum and a little spice, a little leather, dusty
Back: Early on, blackberryish; after 1.5 hrs open, more hollow but not in a bad way--almost like Pinot Noir clarity
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is an extraordinary wine. Complex, evolutionary (in the sense that the taste changes as the bottle stays open; it’s young yet at 3 so decanting would probably enhance it a lot), good with all kinds of food, powerful, and despite its alcohol level, not in the least bit hot. In a few years it’s going to be more subtle, just as structured, and just as evolutionary. Slap ya mama good.

Courtney Benham Chardonnay

Oct. 21, 2007
Courtney Benham (Vinted & Bottled at Martin Ray)
Napa Valley
About $17 – Total Wine, Durham, NC

Color: Light yellow
Nose: Fruity and a little hot; a little like a Sauv. Blanc nose
Body: Pretty dense
Front: Tart fruit -- apricotty
Middle: Buttery (more so the second day—fridge, stoppered, no gas)
Back: A little hot, but there’s some mineral type stuff in there
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Not super-good with food, but cheese is ok. I think 2 glasses gave me a headache. The structure is nice, very French, but it’s so intense that it’s kind of hard to appreciate it. It was more subtle the 2nd day, but still more Barry Bonds than Bernie Williams.