Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval

Andrew Will Cellars
Ciel du Cheval
Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot
Vashon, WA

$33.88 at Whole Foods, Austin, TX

Color: Dark ruby
Nose: Meat, mango, a little olive
Body: Medium to full
Front: Olive
Middle: Blueberry, plum
Back: Oak, cinnamony spice
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

I promised to do more Washington wines, and so I have. I see a case of this in my future. It's going to slow down the pace of my wine experimentation, but I will happily take blogging obscurity as the price of 12 bottles of this wine.
It is extraordinary. Complexly layered, fascinating in its flavors, beautiful in color and odor. With roasted chicken paprika and spinach salad, it showed all kinds of interesting synergies, even a chocolatey flavor at one point. As it opens up, the tastes shift, the fruit ripens, the spices bake, the compost crumbles, the metaphors ferment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hahn Estates Meritage

Hahn Winery
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec
Central Coast (Monterey County)
Soledad, CA

$15.88 at Whole Foods, Austin, TX

Color: Dark red
Nose: Blueberries, green spices, circus peanuts
Body: Medium
Front: Cherry
Middle: Circus peanuts, berries
Back: Vanilla, wood
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

I picked up this wine on a recommendation from a reader, and in the wake of a pleasant experience with the Hahn Cabernet. As with that former bottle, I find this one to be a good deal. I'm not sure I taste as many layers in this one as in the Cabernet, but it's laid-back, sophisticated, and good with food. It's not very tannic, so perhaps drink it soon (though I did decant it for an hour before drinking it).

This wine makes a beautiful accompaniment to the music of Ezell, an up-and-coming Nashville singer/songwriter, especially the smooth subtlety of her song "Somebody Else Has Got My Girl." The Texas chili I'm eating isn't bad with it, either.

I note that I seem to drink Hahn wines only on Sundays, so I seem to be associating them with comfort food and relaxation...

Friday, November 21, 2008

St. Francis Cabernet

St. Francis Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma County
Santa Rosa, CA

$21.88 at Whole Foods, Austin, TX

Color: Dark dirty ruby
Nose: Creamy orange, licorice
Body: Full
Front: Apricot
Middle: Mocha, almonds
Back: Soft tannins, blackberries
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Fake cork (plastic)

I've been drinking St. Francis Cabernet for about a year now, pretty regularly. They have it at J. Alexander's in Nashville, where you can see such rising alternative musical luminaries as Matt King and Denitia Odigie dining with the staff of their record labels and such. This stuff is from just over the hills from Napa, but it tastes completely different; it's still big, but not a bully, and while the flavors are rich, they've got a French sort of subtle complexity to them.

St. Francis was one of the wineries I visited back in May. While there, I had a chance to taste many of their other wines, and two things were memorable. First, I enjoyed this Sonoma Valley cab more than I did the single-vineyard cab (Nuns Canyon) they let us taste. Second, one of the reasons I like it so much turns out to be that it's got a good dose of their Cabernet Franc, which is superb, in it; unfortunately, I think the Cab Franc may only be available from the winery.

My pot roast isn't ready yet, but I can smell it preparing itself to be eaten, and it's going to go superbly with this wine.

A note on the price range: I've been getting this for $17-19 regularly; it should be possible to find the current vintage for under $20 (especially in the coming months).

Note, 15 January 2010: I had the 2005 last night and it's delicious; it was different, and still good, tonight after simple corking. The oakiness is under control, balanced nicely with plummy and spicy flavors

Note, 15 November 2014: The 2008 is lovely, rich, and chocolatey, though a bit out of balance; good with something grilled, perhaps?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Waters Syrah

Waters Winery
Columbia Valley (Yakima AVA)
Walla Walla, WA

$25.88 at Whole Foods, Austin, TX

Color: Dark red with a purple spectrum; notably beautiful
Nose: Blueberry pie
Body: Full
Front: Creamy berries
Middle: Pepper and lamb
Back: Marmalade, a hint of leather--a long finish
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a really nice Syrah. My avid reader will note that I do not drink a lot of Washington wine. My friend Todd keeps trying to educate me about it, and, indeed, I like many wines from there. If I ever had the wherewithal to make notes while drinking wine with Todd, there'd be more reviews of things like Andrew Will on here. My excuse is that I'm young to serious wine drinking and am totally crushing on the 2005 California Cabernets. My bad.

So tonight I set out to balance things a bit. I threw difficult food at this wine. Brisket, Texas beans (plenty spicy), a green salad with oil and vinegar and tomatoes that didn't live up in taste to their appeal to the eye. Even the music I threw at it was difficult: Chris Isaak's Baja Sessions, whose laid-backness seems totally unsuited to bravura Syrah, the wine of ecstatic Hafiz. This Syrah was great with everything. Fruitier, with the beans; elegantly balanced and soft with the beef; structured and old-world-(Rhone)-like with the salad; joyfully provocative in the face of Isaak's mopiness about Mexican beauties.

This winery makes single-vineyard Syrahs as well (though if I'm reading the website right, this one might technically count as a 1v Minick Vineyard wine)--I'm very curious now about these. Lurking all over the palate of this wine are little hints of this and that odd flavor; it's like a conversation with a well-traveled, but strong, personality. Perhaps I should take a hint and spend a little more time in Washington.