Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sattui Crow Ridge Zinfandel

V. Sattui Winery
Crow Ridge Vineyard
Old Vine
Russian River Valley
St. Helena, California, USA2006
$28.00 -- Sattui Winery, St. Helena, CA

Color: Medium garnet
Nose: Raspberry, fig, pine
Body: Medium
Front: Raspberry
Middle: Rosemary, black pepper
Back: Smoke, cedar
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

V. Sattui wines are always on my mind. Admittedly, I'm not a big Zinfandel fan, but partly that's just because they seem to vary so much from bottle to bottle and even year to year that I feel I can't count on anything.

The Crow Ridge is a rich, juicy wine, good with any kind of food (though it's just salted, spicy almonds tonight). It provokes a little contemplation, though, unfolding through a few nice layers, and it's big enough to make you take notice.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Berthoud Syrah

Berthoud Vineyards & Winery

Sonoma Valley
California, USA2003
$28.00 -- Mayo Family, Glen Ellen, CA

Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Plum and mash
Body: Full
Front: Sour cherries
Middle: Dark roasted coffee, caramel
Back: Thyme, tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

It was a damn noisy late afternoon in the Mayo tasting room (they stay open until 6:30, well past most wineries) when I tried this wine, but I think I heard that it's the private label of that company's winemaker. This is some seriously French stuff; dark, earthy, and brooding.

This is not a wine for everyone. It was delicious with the roasted chicken and avocado of tonight's meal, but really, it's got a strong character. At about an hour of decanting it was at its most subtle and multilayered. There's not much more of it, honestly--they only made three barrels, to my math about 900 bottles--but it's a delight.

Robert Craig Affinity

Robert Craig Winery

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot
Napa Valley
, California, USA2006
$55.00 -- Wildflower, Tucson, AZ

Color: Rich ruby
Nose: Boysenberry, licorice
Body: Full
Front: Cherry
Middle: Coffee
Back: Chocolate cream pie
Burns clean?: Yes, though I had weird dreams
Cap: Cork

Another Wildflower half-off deal. This one wasn't as memorable as the 2005, which I first tried at this same restaurant last year. It's mostly Cabernet (judging from the front label, which declares it a Cabernet Sauvignon) but it's billed as a blend (judging from the back label which heralds the varietals listed above.

Whatever it is, it's great with all kinds of food, from the duck with cherries and spinach I had to the rich Mahi Mahi extravaganza my mom ate most of next to me. I do think I have an "affinity" for this wine, but I think in all honesty I'd say that it doesn't quite extend to passion. But friendship is more than enough.

Chalk Hill Chardonnay

Chalk Hill Winery

Russian River Valley
, California, USA2006
$26.00 -- Wildflower, Tucson, AZ

Color: Pale, milky gold
Nose: Pear, butter
Body: Full
Front: Apricot, lemon
Middle: Garlic butter
Back: Cedar, rosemary, truffle
Burns clean?: Yes, though I had weird dreams
Cap: Cork

I'm breakin' my own rule about reviewing wines served to me at restaurants. Wildflower's got a half-off special on bottles of wine on Tuesdays during the raging hot months of the summer, and this was way too good to pass up. I haven't had Chalk Hill in 10 years; when I was a youngster, my parents used to get it because it was a fantastic Chardonnay for around 20 bucks. Then it skyrocketed, along with a host of other Californiay Chardonnays, and they didn't buy it anymore.

It's a stunning wine. A long, long development on the palate, with clear structural shifts and an immaculate balance of acidic fruits up front, mellowing out to soft butteryness in the middle, and evolving into a woody, earthy finish. My father compares it to a Puligny-Montrachet, and I think that's right, though it's bigger, beefier, somehow. Still, it's subtle.

Wildflower has a world-class tuna tartare, and this was perfect accompaniment. But! We took the last few ounces of it home, and I had the last glass this evening while in my parents' pool. It was just as good with a hot afternoon swim as with raw fish.