Monday, February 18, 2008

Castello di Lucignano Chianti Classico Riserva

Castello di Lucignano
Chianti Classico
Chianti, Italy

$18.99 -- Weaver St. Market, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Medium red with brown
Nose: Peppery strawberries
Body: Medium
Front: Tart raspberries
Middle: Apricots
Back: Leathery thyme, mint
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is one of those old-world wines that it'll take a miracle to replicate in the U.S. It's subtle; the flavors lurk below the surface and it takes focus to figure out what's going on. I still can't quite tell what's going on in the nose. But check this out: after sniffing for a few minutes, trying to get a read on it, I gave up and went back to the kitchen. A chicken onion garlic thing was roasting in the oven and, thanks to the contrast, it smelled like candy when I first walked in. So: alchemy in the nose, herbs kept in your wallet all day in the glass.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas

Tablas Creek Vineyard
Côtes de Tablas
Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Counoise
Paso Robles, California, USA

$24.99 -- Mr. Whiskers, Nashville, TN

Color: Medium red with brown tinge
Nose: Blackberries and sweat
Body: Medium
Front: Sparkly spice
Middle: Plums
Back: Licorice, tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

A good friend gifted a bottle of Tablas Creek's "Esprit de Beaucastel" wine a few years ago and it split the room's opinions. I liked it immensely, but others disliked the spicy, sparkly attack that the wine exhibited. Still young and spritzy, a bit. This wine has the same thing going for it--though it's not quite as pronounced--and I like it again.

Maybe I like it because I've been working like a dog this week; maybe because it's practically a spring day out here on the back porch with my wine and cheese and wisteria; or maybe it's just that this is an excellently structured, elegant wine.

2004 vintage: Stellar again, though not quite as complex as the 2001. Perhaps, though, with another year, it'll get there. Cherry and vanilla dominate in this incarnation.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Honig Cabernet

Honig Vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley
Rutherford, California, USA

$35.99 -- Wine Authorities, Durham, NC

Color: Deep purple-red
Nose: Bread, kale, plums
Body: Stout
Front: Blueberries
Middle: Cream
Back: Cassis and cedar
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This wine makes an excellent accompaniment to Dan Cohen's ballad "Hope You Don't Change Your Mind," which is currently at number 40 on the A/C radio charts. Its laid-back blend of cynical tannins and fruity wit match Cohen and King's lyrics perfectly. We're lucky to have wine like this and music like this. This wine evolves as it opens and goes well with lots of different foods.

Note, 10-19-2010: The 2007 vintage is delicious. Chocolate covered cherries, with evenly distributed tannins giving texture and structure, and cherries, plums and tar on the nose. Give it a little air and it'll be stunning.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Martin Pinot Noir

Martin Family Vineyards
Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley
Sonoma, California, USA

$23.99 -- Carolina Wine Merchants, Chapel Hill, NC

Color: None too dark red with a tinge of peach
Nose: Strawberry, clover, and cinnamon
Body: Medium to light
Front: Cassis, cedar
Middle: Plum, pepper
Back: Sprouts, vanilla
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Just when you think it's going to be State Fair cotton candy like lots of boring, headache-inducing Pinot Noirs, this thing takes a right turn up into Sonoma and gets more like a trip to the library.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Cueva de las Manos Cabernet

Proviva S.R.L.
Cabernet SauvignonCueva de las Manos (Reserve)
Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
$10.99 -- Parker & Otis, Durham, NC

Color: Dark ruby
Nose: Rosemary, Pu Erh tea, shoe polish
Body: Full
Front: Spicy plum
Middle: Raspberry coffee
Back: Graphite, figs
Burns clean?: Perhaps not
Cap: Cork

This tasting is based on about an hour's airing. This wine reminds me of powerful Australian shirazes. There's a little of the cabernet profile in there. But largely it's other strange things. Not bad things, but strange things.

A note on the bottle: "Cueva de las Manos" (Cave of Hands) refers to a pictoglyph site in the mountains of Argentina, fragments of images of which are reproduced in slick style as visual elements of the label. The wine is proclaimed, on the back label, to be the winery's tribute to the indigenous people of Argentina. That seems like an odd thing to me, on several levels. It's not clear what the indigenous people of Argentina are getting out of such a designation, though this doesn't rule out that they're getting something. But even without quibbling about dedicating an alcoholic beverage to an indigenous American population or the formal oddity of a French grape being chosen, it seems like a weird gesture; or, perhaps, seems little more than a gesture.