Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hubert Chavy Bourgogne

Hubert Chavy-Chouet
Les Saussots
Meursault, Bourgogne, France
$19.99 -- Wine Authorities, Durham, NC

Color: Pale gold
Nose: Creamy apricots, lemongrass
Body: Medium
Front: Butter, clove
Middle: Circus peanuts cut with helium (can it be done?), lime
Back: Walnuts, grapes
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Great God almighty. There's so much going on in this bottle I don't know where to start. It tastes awesome with everything. Cheese, beef, rice crackers, kale. It's structured beautifully; has a long delivery; and the tastes come in a different order than I've been used to with Bourgognes. It's tastier and more entertaining than almost any California chardonnay I've had recently at this price.

Pata Negra Tempranillo

Bodegas Los Llanos
Pata Negra - Roble (Black Paw - Oak)
Valdepeñas, Spain
$10.75 -- Weaver Street Market, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Deep strawberry
Nose: Oaky raspberries, a little heat
Body: Medium
Front: Cassis and sawdust
Middle: Spice and smoke
Back: Creamy raspberries
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is an interesting one. The nose is a lot like a zinfandel, but the profile is much more Spanish than Californian, especially the refusal to let fruit take over, ever. I think at this price it's a good choice, though I often like Valdepeñas reds. Pairing it with food is tricky; not super with tonight's Manchego cheese (though it does make for some groovy rum-and-coke-and-cinnamon-like synergy) or pot roast (that's my bad for choosing unwisely), but it could be fantastic with fish.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon

Eberle Vineyards
Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard Selection
Paso Robles, California, USA
$12.99 -- Weaver Street Market, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Blackberries, meaty charcoal, heat
Body: Dense, sticky even
Front: Tart raspberries
Middle: Smoky
Back: Ripe berries
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Hybrid cork-plastic; this bottle's had some weird insertion distortions (see at right). [I visited Eberle in May 2008 and, at their tasting counter, found that all of their corks have this odd, somewhat suggestive feature.]

This wine is berry-centric; none of that Napa vanilla or cinnamon. It has a nice structure, though, with the stinging fruit up front and a mellower finish. There may be more stuff going on in here than I'm tasting--it's about 65 degrees in the house so the wine never really got up to "room temperature" as I understand it.

[I had another bottle a few weeks later and it was delightful; a little chocolate taste coming in at the finish this time.]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rodney Strong Chardonnay

Rodney Strong
Chalk Hill
Sonoma, California, USA
$14.99 -- Total Wine, Durham, NC

Color: Warm gold
Nose: Tanning lotion, pear
Body: Medium to full
Front: Peachy pear
Middle: Buttery mango, a little pepper
Back: Cilantro, lemongrass
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

I really like this chardonnay. The structure is clear and clean; it packs a whallop without being too hot; and it's a bargain. The spiciness is particularly nice next to the butter. It's fer sure California, though, so if you want the subtlety of a Bourgogne, drink one a' them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon

J. Lohr
Cabernet Sauvignon

Seven Oaks
Paso Robles, California, USA
$14.99 -- Harris Teeter, Durham, NC

Color: Deep red with purple tinge
Nose: Dark berries and cinnamon
Body: Firm
Front: Plums, a little grassy
Middle: Creamy vanilla, then graphite with tannins
Back: Chocolate, raspberry
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork
Nice structure; for the price, this is a good Cabernet from a region that’s still underestimated. It benefits from a little air; the transitions from the fruit in the front to the less fruity tastes in the middle and again to the more tannic finish are a little edged (grassy or hot) early on. After about thirty minutes, and perhaps a little food, these subside and the layers begin to overlap. It’s more old-world in style than a lot of Californians.
Update: 2007 vintage, tasted 11-13-2009. It's still a good bargain, but this one you might wait a year to taste, or at least decant it for an hour. Decant a $14 wine?! Ferreal. It's extremely fruity, but there's a tannic presence that bodes well. All told, still a great food wine.

Elizabeth Spencer Cabernet

Elizabeth Spencer
Cabernet Sauvignon
Special Cuvée

Napa Valley
Calistoga, California, USA

$34.99 -- Wine Authorities, Durham, NC

Color: Deep velvety red
Nose: Cherries, spice
Body: Full
Front: Cherry, smoke
Middle: Cinnamon, wood
Back: Chocolate, sometimes caramel
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a seductive, rich wine. When you're drinking it, it's what you're doing. It's all you're doing. The grapes come from all over Napa, including the Rutherford area; there's a little Merlot and perhaps something else in here that give it striking, evolving structure. I don't want to sell this one too much, because they don't make very much of it. Let's just say it's up there with V. Sattui.

Above is a portrait of the bottle, in situ with Wayne Bates ceramics.

J. Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône

J. Vidal-Fleury
Domaine le Pigeonnier
Côtes du Rhône
Rhône, France
$13.99 -- Durham, NC

Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Violets, smoke
Body: Medium
Front: Cedary raspberries
Middle: Lavender, a little mint
Back: Leather and spice
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Hybrid plastic and cork

This is one of my favorite Côtes-du-Rhônes and a colossal bargain. Every vintage of it I've had has featured this floral nose and this lavender or even rose taste, along with the usual leatheriness and occasional spice of the grenache-syrah-mourvèdre blend. It has beautiful structure and goes with all kinds of food except fruit and vindaloo. One of the coolest things about it is that it has synergy with food; the tastes in the wine change depending on what you eat, but it stays distinctive and balanced. Alchemy.

Bedford Road Pinot Noir

Bedford Road Estate
Pinot Noir
Wairau Valley
Renwick, Marlborough, New Zealand
$24.00 -- Durham, NC

Color: Translucent garnet
Nose: Raspberry
Body: Medium
Front: Strawberry smoothie
Middle: Subtle hints of auto transmission; light caramel
Back: Not a whole lot there; cedar, maybe
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screw top

This one divided opinions at my wine tasting. Some couldn't take more than two sips of it. Others loved it, and drank half the bottle. Everyone else liked it, but for different reasons. My caveat would be that it lacks the long structural unrolling that I love so much in really super Pinot Noir. So: good with food, not so good as a showcase.

D. Pedro de Soutomaior Albariño

Adegas Galegas
D. Pedro de Soutomaior

Rias Baixas
Galicia, Spain
$16.99 -- Wine Authorities, Durham, NC

Color: Pale gold
Nose: Peary with a hint of ammonia
Body: Medium
Front: Melon
Middle: Pear, smoky caramel (I know! Whateverrr!)
Back: Pineapple and margarine
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Plastic cork (and it's, like, green!)

Again, please pardon my Valley Girl parentheticals. It's really too early in the morning to be drinking wine. But vacation is vacation. I had this wine-tasting dinner last night but it snowed, so only a few die-hards came. Menos burros, my abuelo would say, mas elotes. At any rate, everyone was surprised by the complexity and length of this wine; in a group of die-hard red drinkers, it garnered much praise. Since we tasted this one first, I feel it's a reasonably reliable assessment.

deLorimier Sauvignon Blanc

deLorimier Winery
Sauvignon Blanc
Alexander Valley (Geyserville)
Sonoma, California, USA
$12.99 -- Wine Authorities, Durham, NC

Color: Pale gold in a stream
Nose: Pears on a glacier
Body: Light on the water
Front: Cloves on a grapefruit
Middle: Pears in a blender
Back: Alfalfa in a tractor
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Please pardon the above, which was inspired equally by this wine and by Snakes on a Plane. I got this wine to make fondue, and as readers of my blog will know, this means I'm likely to end up liking it on its own. I suppose there's an entire wine education in trying to make an interesting fondue. It was great in the fondue, too, but quite pleasant on its own, with a nice development, not too tangy in the front and not too hot at the back.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mark West Pinot Noir

Mark West
Pinot Noir
Appellation California
Sonoma (negociant), California, USA
$8.99 -- Total Wine, Durham, NC

Color: Medium orangey red
Nose: Raspberry Bubble YumTM
Body: Medium
Front: Raspberry smoothie
Middle: A little kiwi skin; sometimes some nice burnt wood
Back: Pixie stix, heat
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Why don't I review more white wines? I don't know! They kind of give me a headache. But I'll try: damn you, I'll try. The things I do for knowledge.

But not for wisdom! Only patience will get you there. Sooner or later, I will say something about Mark West's Appellation California Pinot Noir. Maybe not today, though. Maybe today all I'll say is, if you like decent wine, this is a bargain. And that there's a goodly amount of Syrah in this bottle, though the label does not say so; and that it's better after it's been open an hour.

There are a million wine blogs, and half of them have an entry on this wine. So where, I ask, is wisdom to be sought?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Renteria Cabernet

Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley
, California
$28.00 -- Wine Authorities, Durham, NC

Color: Deep red
Nose: Like a briar patch; spicy and strawberryish
Body: Medium; zinfandel-like
Front: Warm small berries
Middle: Spicy; maybe even like orange
Back: Popcorn; a little heat; a little whitewall
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Tight at first, the structure isn't striking. It's like being thrown into the brambles; berries and flowers and wood and stickers all at once. And it doesn't hurt until later. But as it breathes, it takes on structure with an almost French profile. I think that if you like more subtle cabs this is good.