Monday, September 29, 2008

Ryan Patrick Rock Island Red

Ryan Patrick Vineyards
Rock Island Red
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
Columbia Valley
Rock Island, WA
$13.88 -- Whole Foods, Austin, TX

Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Violets and a lovely gaminess
Body: Full
Front: Strawberry
Middle: Chocolate, mocha
Back: Ripe cherry
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This wine is a delightful surprise. It's an ideal tertulia wine. The Spanish have this custom, the tertulia, where on Friday afternoons you get together with a small group of friends, eat lots of stunningly good food, drink appropriate wine, and decompress from the week. The conversations range from art to politics, and usually blend the two in ways it's hard to describe. It takes a good wine, but a wine great with food, to make the tertulia happen properly, and this is one. For example, it shows a delightful mintiness with the heavily spiced pasta with tomato sauce I'm having. It stands up both to the young parmesan and the rock-hard, paprika-and-pepper laden chorizo that I don't seem to be able to put back into the fridge.

This is a new winery (first vintage 1999), but with stuff like this it's going to stay on my list. It's not very tannic, so it may not be one for the ages. One thing: it's a bordeaux-style blend, Merlot-heavy, but I wouldn't go into it thinking about that comparison. This wine is its own thing--a good thing, with layers and depths all its own. And, at least for the moment, it's a bargain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon

Robert Keenan Winery
Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon
St. Helena, CA
$40.15 -- Spec’s, Austin, TX

Color: Rich, jammy red
Nose: Apricots, bananas, berries
Body: Full
Front: Pepper, spice
Middle: Early tannin attack, plums
Back: Licorice, and bread or pencil lead, way out there
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

You have to be paying attention when you drink this one. It's not an explosive wine, though it has the strong character of Napa Cabernets. It's spice-imbued, not fruit-imbued. Leave it open awhile before drinking it; or leave it closed for a few more years, since this I'm thinking will age for a good while longer and just become more interesting. The nose is great, so you nasally oriented types can smell it while your tongue-oriented friends wait for it to open up and it'll be a perfect collaboration.

I was told about this wine's high marks by a manager at the perfectly stocked Pastiche Wine Shop in Tucson, Arizona. It doesn't disappoint, but it deserves more than just a number and a few stock adjectives.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Frank Family Cabernet Sauvignon

Frank Family Vineyards
Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon
Calistoga, CA
$31.14 -- Spec’s, Austin, TX

Color: Rich purpley red
Nose: Cassis, vanilla
Body: Full
Front: Ripe berries
Middle: Vanilla, cinnamon
Back: Cedar, cumin
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

I had this wine first at the winery (across the road from one of my favorites, Larkmead), where things were a little carnivalesque in the tasting room. I remembered it being classic California: huge fruit, embracing, but with a hint of complexity that keeps it from being Hi-C. The pourer pointed out that it took it awhile to open up, and said I should buy an older vintage than the '05. I thought it was pretty damn fine as it was.

The next time I had it, I was sitting at a table with three dudes who have been or are GMs at major international luxury hotels. We drank two bottles and everyone went home happy; don't be surprised if the next time you stay at a $500+ per night hotel in Miami (like ya do), you see it on the menu.

Tonight it's glorious instantly out of the bottle (I got the 2004, since I'm trying to take people's advice more often these days). It's lush, embracing, and with a hint of complexity that says, "I have been drunk by people smarter, more experienced, and better looking than you, but I still love you, so let's spend the night together."