Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Wild Horse Pinot Noir

Wild Horse Winery
Pinot Noir
Central Coast
, California
$28.00 -- Wine Authorities, Paducah, KY

Color: Medium red
Nose: Smoky raspberries, holly
Body: Medium
Front: Strawberries
Middle: Some elusive spice; beach-ball
Back: Graphite
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a tasty but not super-complex wine. It goes well with food. I'm a fan of Wild Horse's other wines, in particular the cabernet; this wine has many of the virtues of that one.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sattui Duarte Vineyard Zinfandel

V. Sattui Winery
Duarte Vineyard (Old Vine)

Contra Costa Co., California

$28.00 -- Sattui Vineyards, Napa, CA

Color: Medium to dark red
Nose: Cinnamony strawberry
Body: Medium to heavy
Front: Cassis and blackberry
Middle: Coffee cake, huckleberry, and Ford Mustang exhaust
Back: Coffee and soggy oak twigs
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a dense, layered Halloween treat of a wine. Much to everyone's chagrin, they're not making it any more. But it's good with everything (sensational with manchego bien curado, Chee-tos, and Flarp). They say, to sing a worried song, you got to have a worried mind. If they're right, don't plan on singing any worried songs when you're drinking from the Duarte vineyards...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Marques de Arienzo Crianza

Marques de Arienzo

Rioja, Spain
$11.99 -- Wine Pro, Paducah, KY

Color: Medium to light red
Nose: Sawdusty caramely strawberry
Body: Medium to thin
Front: Cherry or strawberry
Middle: Vanillaish and spicy--not tannic, peppery
Back: Woody and then tangy
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

The nose on this wine is excellent. A little more fruity than I expect in a Spanish wine, but nicely balanced and great with the pot roast we had tonight. You don't expect it, 'cause of the thinness of the body, but it's got spine. The spiciness is lovely and the tannins are soft.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Juan Gil Monastrell

Juan Gil
Jumilla, Spain
$18.99 -- Wine Pro, Paducah, KY

Color: Deep ruby red
Nose: Spicy cherry, tarragon
Body: Stout
Front: Tannins with blueberries wrapped in sawdust
Middle: Walnuts; after being open awhile it gets chocolatey
Back: Spicy oak; palo verde branches
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

It's not quite like being in Spain. Not leathery dirt and smoked prunes and corky olives. But this wine is structured, seductive, evolutionary, and just plain tasty. We had it with chili and a spinach salad and it went well with both. What do you mean, you've never chewed on palo verde branches?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Abbona Bricco Barone Nebbiolo

Azienda Agr. Abbona
Bricco Barone
Nebbiolo d'Alba
Dogliani, Piedmont, Italy

$15 -- Parker & Otis, Durham, NC

Color: Medium red, almost peachy at the edges
Nose: Like violets growing next to a car-painting facility
Body: Medium to heavy
Front: Cherry, tannic almost immediately; after it's been open awhile, a hint of spice at the front, and the fruit part moves to the middle
Middle: Leather, but no spice
Back: Fruity cardboard, but in a good way. When you were a child, chewing on cardboard, you wished it tasted like fruit, yes?
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a lovely wine. The structure is clear and elegant. It's fantastic with food (roasted chicken with lemon and garlic; sauteed spinach); the tannins are less dusty with the meal. It's also great with Aimee Mann or Dan Cohen playing in the background. Would you have thought these would go well with Italian? Perhaps not. But there it is. This sets a standard for wines at this price from Europe, as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Chateau Beauchene Côtes du Rhône

Chateau Beauchene
Premier Terroir
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre
Côtes du Rhône, France
$9.99 -- Wine Merchants, Durham, NC

Color: Medium red
Nose: Spicy berries, a little heat
Body: Medium
Front: Cassis
Middle: Licorice
Back: Meaty; something smoky
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a tasty wine; it's a good deal at the sale price above. It's tout French weirdness, fruit and spice, great with all kinds of food. It didn't go all the way in and get me, but if you like Côtes du Rhône, it's certainly one you should try.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre

Cline Cellars
Ancient Vines Mourvedre
Mourvedre (Contra Costa County)
Sonoma, California, USA

$15 -- Southern Season, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Medium red
Nose: Spicy strawberry; cherry
Body: Sturdy, but not too heavy
Front: Washington cherries
Middle: Vanilla, sharp spice like pepper or something more aromatic
Back: Caramel, smoke
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Cline does some hard "cultural capital" selling of this wine on the back of the label, naming Mourvedre's French and Spanish associations (Monastrell), Chateauneuf, etc. It's completely unnecessary. This is, for me and at this price, one of the best wines made in America. Partly this is because it's got serious California terroir: distinctive fruit up front, nice structure, full body. But partly it's because of its more haunting character, which comes second. It starts by tasting like wine and ends in metonymy: a Texas barbecue right before it's lit; driving a road in the boonies of Kentucky during tobacco smoking season; an Indian kitchen on Devon right after the oven's been cleaned.

Update: Little did I know, when I used that Texas barbecue metaphor, that the next time I drank this wine (the 2006 vintage; 15%; similar price) I'd in fact be in Texas. The back label is even more unnecessarily elaborate, with a vegetarian recipe attached: DIY California. But inside, it's got much the same stuff going on, and is still a stunning wine and a ridiculous bargain to my taste.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sequoia Grove Cabernet

Sequoia Grove Vineyards
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa, California, USA
$32 -- Durham, NC

Color: Creamy deep red
Nose: Berries, a litle peppery but not hot
Body: Strong, but not overpoweringly heavy
Front: Berries and cream
Middle: Plum, vanilla, soft tannins
Back: Cinnamony spice
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a dangerous wine. I've had the '02 and the '03 before and this is better than both of 'em. The grapes come largely from two places I like in Napa: Rutherford (including the Morisoli vineyard, for you Sattui fans) and Oakville. It's structured but not sharply, so it's smooth; you find yourself in another taste county before you realize it, instead of being chased across the line by the oenological equivalent of Roscoe P. Coltrane as in some high-power wines. It's like a warm fire after a cold walk; a warm towel after an ocean swim; like sinking your foot into the wet sand up to your ankle....

Note: I've been thinking about this "Rutherford Dust" thing. If it's dust, it's caramel dust. How would you make caramel dust (other than, apparently, with grapes)? I don't know. But they make powdered shrimp, so I'm sure there's a way.

Note 2: I had another bottle of this 12-10-2007 and verified in vivo ex vitro that it rocks. That joke is funnier because if you are a biologist.

Note 3: It's 1 November 2009, and I'm having a bottle of the 2003, discovered high on an H.E.B. shelf, being sold a a discount. Age has given it more complexity -- a lovely sourness, to match the dark vanilla and spice that was always there -- and I'd call it a match for the 2004 now. I thought I saw the 2004 on that shelf, too, shelved in front of a bunch of 2005s...perhaps I should go back! Tonight I'm having it with this chicken dish, and the combination is solid.

Note 4: It's 25 November 2009, and I seem not to be able to avoid this stuff. Tonight it's the 2005, with a creamy blackberryness that's excellent. It's opening up rapidly, though the dust and espresso layers are still definitely there at the end of the palate.

Note 5: 1-22-2011, and I'm trying the 2007. A charming sour fruit on the nose, with a little cinnamon from the oak. The body is less powerful than I remember from before, but it's still the classic plum-cherry-chocolate. The dust is not evident, for some reason. Also they changed their label for the worse.