Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Red Lion Cabernet

R Wines
Red Lion
Cabernet Sauvignon
Geyserville, California, USA
$14.99 -- Whole Foods, Austin, TX

Color: Deep purple
Nose: Dark fruits,
Body: Medium
Front: Cassis, cream
Middle: Cedar
Back: Fig
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screwcap

This is another Grateful Palate Imports project, and one that a lot of labels are working on: cheap good wine from California. I like the distinctly pagan and communistic label design, which is as crazy as the wheels of Ezekiel. The wine is almost completely sane, though, and quite tasty. It's not a perfect match for barbecue, which I think says several things. First, that I should not eat so much damned bbq. Second, that it's not overpoweringly fruity, a trait that I like in a Cabernet. I forget the third thing, but it was the coup de grace.

Tannins! That was it: these are not overpowering tannins, to be sure, but the wine has delightfully soft ones, a nice structure, and a wallop of alcohol (without being hot) at a great price.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Root: 1 Cabernet

Viña Ventisquero
Root: 1
Cabernet Sauvignon
Colchagua Valley
Rancagua, Chile
$8.99 -- Grape Vine Market, Austin, TX

Color: Deep ruby
Nose: Cassis, tar, cardboard
Body: Medium
Front: Cherry
Middle: Bittersweet chocolate
Back: Herbs, raisin
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

There are two selling points for this wine, which has gotten some oenophile press. First, it's cheap and strong! Second, it's from ungrafted original cabernet vines, which are rare in the world thanks to the phylloxera epidemic back in the day. Presumably the appeal here would be that you are drinking the wine the ancients drank: that there is something about ungrafted vines that is unique.

That may be. Certainly the overly decorated bottle, with its long historical narrative on the front, would lead one to believe it, referring to the vines it's made from as "pure." I love history as much as...no, probably slightly more than the next girl. But a caveat: really, Nietzsche would warn us about the invariably impure genealogy of vines. That is to say, hybridity is hard to avoid. And what's more, whether pre- or post-phylloxera, vines channel terroir. So it's still a lot about care, feeding, and character. And not over-manipulating the grapes before they get to the emptyer.

Having said that, I think Root: 1 is reasonably tasty, and probably the best 8-9 dollar Cabernet that I've had this year. It seems to have about a two-stage delivery, fruit and a little chocolatey thing, but it's interesting and good with the aged Irish cheese I broke out before dinner tonight. It is not very tannic, compared to its acidity, so I fear it won't age--but I bet in about six months to a year from now, it'll be way better. That notwithstanding, if I were having a reception tomorrow, I'd order a case of this and a case of the Veramonte Chardonnay to serve.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Clos du Bois Sonoma Reserve Cabernet

Clos du Bois
Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma Reserve
Alexander Valley, Sonoma
Geyserville, California
$18.00 -- HEB, Austin, TX

Color: Deep red
Nose: Plum, leather, violets
Body: Medium to full
Front: Blackberry
Middle: Cocoa, tannins
Back: Cigar wrapper
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Clos du Bois makes a hillion jillion wines. Tonight I was looking for something good but not too expensive. The CEC (current economic climate) makes me wary of drinking too many expensive wines. Plus most of the ones I have around here seem to be 2005s, which I wanna save a lot of, because these things are like vino bazookas. This one you can probably get cheaper than I found it, but it was handy at H.E.Butts's tienda para gueros, next to the roasted chicken and bag o' lettuce I was eyeballin'.

Though it's among a hillion jillion wines, the Sonoma Reserve cab is a good choice. Not mind blowing, but in a class with the Robert Mondavi Napa Cab of the same year: great with just about any dinner. It makes a good companion when reading around the wine blogs of the internets to see just how crappy your own blog is by comparison with some oenophiles' out there.

This cab also harmonizes with the stunning voice of Maureen Murphy, who just came in second in a big contest in Nashville for up-and-coming artists (and should have come in first, je crois). But be sure to give this as much air as Maureen gives her songs, or it's a bit tight.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Merum Monastrell

Bodegas Merum

$14.00 -- Vino100, Lakeway, TX

Color: Deep purpledy-red
Nose: Cherries, spice, a little heat
Body: Medium
Front: Blackberries, tangy fruit
Middle: Cream, slate
Back: Pepper, leather
Burns clean?: Maybe
Cap: Cork

I opened this at the perfect time of year--a warm spring day, sun beaming down, a promise of more heat to come. Zinfandel fans will like this one plenty; it's not too complex, but layered and rich. It's fruity, but there's plenty of ol' Spanish earth in it, too--a little bite, then a little dirt. Tonight, like many nights, I'm eating pizza, and it's a fantastic combination with this wine.

The first Jumilla wine I ever drank was back in 1987, during a summer stay in Madrid. We were given a bottle by our generous hosts in Valdeiglesias, left over from a delicious outdoor lunch after visiting a recently-restored ancient monastery. We opened it a few days later back at our challenging quarters at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and it was damn good. I've had a soft spot for Jumillas ever since.