Friday, June 27, 2008

Elizabeth Spencer Pinot Noir

Elizabeth Spencer Wines
Pinot Noir
Special Cuvee
Sonoma Coast
Calistoga, California
$45.00 -- Elizabeth Spencer Tasting Room, Rutherford, CA

Color: Rich medium strawberry
Nose: Young strawberry, beef jerky
Body: Medium
Front: Tart cherry
Middle: Strawberry, pine smoke
Back: Peat, clover
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a delightful Pinot Noir. I like it because it doesn't have the fruit-solo taste many Pinots do; there are layers in here, strata of interesting, strange flavors on the heels of the fruity taste. The delivery is long on the palate, too. Check here for a fact sheet on the wine, but don't read too much if it will delay your ordering bottles and drinking them.

Note: still tasted great the next evening.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Keenan Merlot

Robert Keenan Winery
Napa Valley Merlot
St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA
$44.50 -- Pastiche Wine Shop, Tucson, AZ
Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Cassis, mocha, smoke
Body: Medium to Full
Front: Berries
Middle: Spicy
Back: Leather car seats
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Give it air! It comes out a little tight, even after years in the bottle. This is a little more French than I'm used to in a Napa Merlot. Hear hear. It's well-built, economical, and will run smoothly for years; plus, who doesn't like leather seats?*

I'm amused to find that this is the first Merlot I've reviewed.

*No animals were harmed in the writing of this review.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Maryhill Winemaker's Red

Maryhill Winery
Winemaker's Red
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc
Columbia Valley, WA
$14.50 -- Pastiche Wine Shop, Tucson, AZ
Color: Medium strawberry red
Nose: Cassis
Body: Medium to Full
Front: Tart cherries
Middle: A little spice, chocolate
Back: Light tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

I don't seem to have reviewed many Washington wines, but this one is more than worth it. It reminds me a little of one of Andrew Will's Bordeaux-style blends. It's smooth, chocolatey, but brooding, without being mean or overbearing. It's like having a little-known poet over for dinner. And like that, too, it's a real bargain in terms of entertainment for the money. Please show this post to your favorite under-published poet friends.

Speaking of the under-published, this wine goes fabulously with the music of the jazz/country trio Swamp Rat, especially the two songs with "Stella" in the title.

This reviewer found it tarter than I did, which makes me think it might have settled down a bit in the intervening months. If so, that's a good sign.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy

Mollydooker Wines
Blue Eyed Boy
McLaren Vale, Australia
$45.50 -- Pastiche Wine Shop, Tucson, AZ
Color: Deep creamy red
Nose: Raspberry, brambles, heat
Body: Full
Front: Blueberries, cream
Middle: White pepper
Back: Plums, jam, perhaps a little cocoa
Burns clean?: Somewhat; don't drink too much at a sitting.
Cap: Screwcap

This is a big, playful wine, true to the Sparky Marquis style. If there are tannins, I can't taste them. It's not the synesthetic experience that a wine like Possum is, but it's spicy and jammy and dark out of all proportion to what is normally understood to go by the name of wine. Let it sit open a bit; it's hot and tight out of the bottle.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Elizabeth Spencer Chardonnay

Elizabeth Spencer Wines
Wente Clone Cuvee
Sonoma Coast
Calistoga, California
$40.50 -- Elizabeth Spencer Tasting Room, Rutherford, CA

Color: Rich yellow
Nose: Pear, damp sawdust
Body: Full
Front: Lime, fig
Middle: A little butter, clover
Back: Grapefruit
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

"'8 Barrels Made'?" my mother says; "They should have made more." It makes a wine writer's job easier when half of his reading audience declares an opinion. This is an excellently balanced, nicely structured chardonnay that's long on the palate, but I think I'll have to drink some more bottles of it before I launch into any poetics about it. It goes well after a swim in the pool on a hundred-degree day with a little fruit and cheese before dinner, that's for sure.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Crane Brothers Brodatious

Crane Brothers
Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah
Crane Ranch Vineyard
Oak Knoll, Napa Valley, California
$39.00 -- 58 Degrees, Tucson, AZ

Color: Dark red
Nose: Eucalyptus, raspberry
Body: Full
Front: Cherry mint
Middle: Leather, spice
Back: Oaky, peaty
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a huge, beautiful, Bordeaux-style blend. Crane Brothers doesn't make a lot of wine, but what they make is sick-and-wrong-good. They graciously make available a hefty amount of information about this wine. But you don't need it. It evolves as it's open, going from a dense mint-fest to a chocolatey brooding lurker, to something more laid-back and yet sophisticated for which I lack a simile that isn't laughable. I admit I was going to say "like James Bond."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sattui Family Chardonnay

V. Sattui Winery
Sattui Family
Napa Valley
Napa, California
$17.75 -- Sattui Winery, St. Helena, CA

Color: Light gold
Nose: Pears and clover
Body: Medium
Front: Peachy
Middle: Grapefruity
Back: A little butter, marmalade
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

A nice mix of oaky and steely. 2/3 from a Carneros property, and 1/3 from the Carsi Vineyard, it's an elegant balance of Chardonnay elements. Not many people are going to dislike this wine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hog Wilde Chardonnay

Glenlyon Vineyards & Winery
Hog Wilde
Sonoma Valley, Parmalee-Hill Vineyard
Glen Ellen, California
$17.75 -- 58 Degrees, Tucson, AZ

Color: Intense gold
Nose: Pears
Body: Medium
Front: Pear, wood
Middle: Cilantro, hamburger
Back: Butter
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Plastic

Don't be put off by the unusual bottle. The spelling of "Wilde" in its name demands fabulous spectacularity. This is a delightful wine, especially for summer. It's about a thousand degrees here in Tucson today, and this wine is a perfect accompaniment to death-dealing heat. It's not super-long on the palate, but it does have some really interesting flavors going on in there. Don't be put off by the hamburger. Embrace the hamburger. Besides, maybe I'm just hungry.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Faust Cabernet

Huneeus Vineyards
Cabernet Sauvignon
Rutherford, Napa, California
$50.00 -- Bounty Hunter, Napa, CA

Color: Deep burgundy red
Nose: Plums, cinnamon
Body: Heavy
Front: Cherry
Middle: Café crème
Back: Walnuts, soft tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Drinking this is like walking down a root-corrupted sidewalk under a canopy of moss-laden live oaks on a late afternoon on the gulf coast. Like most 2005s it is better with some time to air (one hour, in this case, and it really bloomed). It’s got a long delivery, yet by some paradox, it doesn’t take long to drink a bottle. Good with everything but spicy food. Comes in a half-bottle which is a good deal.

On disrespecting the palate length of wines: I used to wait until the wine had fully delivered before taking a bite. I do that less now, because eating doesn’t erase or stop the wine’s unfolding on the palate—it combines with it.