Saturday, October 31, 2009

Forchini Cabernet Sauvignon

Forchini Vineyards & Winery
Proprietor's Reserve
Cabernet Sauvignon
Dry Creek Valley
Healdsburg, California, USA
$18.99 [26.99] -- Grapevine Market, Austin, TX

Color: Deep purple and garnet
Nose: Huge berry, sour smoke, plum, vanilla
Body: Medium to full
Front: Ripe cherry
Middle: Creamy chocolate
Back: Spicy oak, a little mint
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This thing is an olfactory experience, as much as a tasting one. The nose is humongous; it has the typical Sonoma Cabernet profile, a lush berryness, but it's bigger than most. It reminds me a lot of the Ferrari-Carano Cab, but the palate isn't as full as the nose, which is a bit peculiar.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chapillon Cuvee Harmonie

R.E. 3145-Z
Cuvee Harmonie
Petit Verdot, Tannat

Aragon, Spain
$8.00 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Deep red with purple tinge
Nose: Sour fruit, compost, pool float
Body: Medium
Front: Cassis
Middle: Cilantro, chocolate covered raspberry
Back: A smidgen of orange peel, fine tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Plastic cork

This is a mysterious wine. What house made it? Where exactly in Aragon does it come from? Why doesn't it have any official denominations? The link in above is to the blog of a person whom I think is the winemaker; his Frenchness makes some sense of the blend. But the rest is a mystery I hope my three, or perhaps four, readers will illuminate for me because I am lazy.

The wine is tasty. Despite the acrobatics of combining two grapes that Americans rarely drink, or want to know that they're drinking if they do, the terroir kind of takes the limelight anyway. It's a Spanish red: gritty, tangy fruity, leathery. I confess it's got a bit of Madiran goin' on, probably an effect of the Tannat; it occurs to me that if you like Zinfandel, you might enjoy this as an entry to European wines. There appears to be, by the way, a teeny bit of residual carbonation in it...look for little tiny bubbles at the edge...

Rombauer Carneros Merlot

Rombauer Vineyards

St. Helena, California, USA
$35.00 -- ALC, Austin, TX

Color: Medium to deep garnet
Nose: Raspberry, spice, cocoa
Body: Medium to Full
Front: Ripe raspberry
Middle: Sweet basil
Back: Chocolate, soft tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

The flavors in this wine are stunning, but it's the structure that's so impressive. Get some and drink it. It will disappoint few. No, never mind. Shun it. Drive down the price. Send me bottles that you disdain to drink because you saw Sideways, dammit, and you know that truly deep-feeling Western subjects favor Pinot Noir and never drink Merlot.*

I had this one with a classic Cabernet meal: seared steak, garlic mashed potatoes, blue cheese-dressed salad. It stood up to it like a sophomore English major fighting for a B+ instead of a B, and as so often happens in that case, it triumphed. And this was a well-marbled steak, so unlike the sophomore's, this was a real victory.

* Wasn't that a Merlot that Miles ended up drinking, in ecstasy, at the end...? Just sayin'.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cain Cuvée

Cain Vineyard & Winery
Cain Cuv
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot
Napa Valley
St. Helena, California, USA
$23.44 -- Grapevine Market, Austin, TX

Color: Medium to deep strawberry, a tinge of purple edge
Nose: Burnt raspberries
Body: Medium to Full
Front: Strawberry
Middle: Dried cherry, mint
Back: Coffee, soft tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This has the Napa Valley mark on it, to be sure, but it's a more restrained, Frenchy sort of style. That said, it isn't all leather and cigar smoke--it's fruits and herbs. It needs air, and wouldn't suffer from a year or two more in the bottle (stored in the dark at responsible temperature and humidity, of course). The mintiness only emerged after I'd decanted it for an hour, and helped balance out the palate. It was tasty with the grilled filet mignon and tossed salad with avocado that I painstakingly prepared this evening, instead of doing my work.

NB to the NV: This wine is made up from two different vintages, the 2006 and 2005.

Stephan Ridge Red Wine

Stephan Vineyards
Stephan Ridge
Syrah, Cabernet
Paso Robles, California

$19.99 -- Grapevine Market, Austin, TX

Color: Dark garnet, browning at the edges
Nose: Plum
Body: Full
Front: Roasted figs
Middle: Chocolate
Back: A little heat, cedar
Burns clean?: Hard to say; I only managed one glass
Cap: Cork

This wine caught my attention because I had the L'Aventure Optimus and nearly cried. Apparently I was so impaired by affection that I didn't write a blog entry on it. That will be corrected. At any rate, this is made by the same French dude, out in the boonies of Paso Robles, who made the awesome Optimus. It's a blend that I've been proven to hate, and it's nine years old, which, given that the winery was fairly new at that time, ought to mean it's past its prime.

It may be. But if you like a sweet, beefy wine, this will make you happy. Surprisingly, there's still a bit of heat on the end of the palate, but the rest of the way it's a round, rich wine. It's not the Optimus, but then, I suspect that it's getting a bit intense and perhaps unbalanced with age, and favoring the roasted figgy end of the spectrum.

Note: I drank the 2001 tonight.  This one's a little less past prime, but still too sweet for me.  But it's much more reserved; chocolate, cranberries on the nose, and raspberry compote and mocha on the palate, with something weirdly spicy in there, too.  A bit brown at the edges, though, so it's getting to the end of its tether.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Prieure Roch Vosne-Romanee Les Clous

Domaine Prieure-Roch
Les Clous
Pinot Noir

Nuit-Saint-Georges, France
11.5 or 12.5% (front and back labels disagree)
$48.99 [$68.99] -- Grapevine Market, Austin, TX

Color: Light, smoky strawberry peach
Nose: Strawberry, darker fruit, wet gravel, sour [something vegetal]
Body: Light
Front: Rose water, tire iron
Middle: Sour cherry, licorice
Back: Graphite, cedar, thyme
Burns clean?: Perfectly
Cap: Cork

An urging from a dear relative a few days ago sent me to the Grapevine Market, where eighty people on their lunch breaks were loading up carts with vast numbers of bottles of (sometimes) fabulous wine. This location is closing down, apparently, so they're selling off wines at a big discount. Thus it was that I was able to obtain my first, and possibly last, taste of real French Pinot Noir, from the relatively new winery of Domaine Prieure-Roch.

The color of this wine is stunning; it's very light, and in the glass it's like a peachy sunburst, almost going to clear at the edges. I can't quite describe the nose. A quick whiff and it's like most pinots, but less juicy fruity--then you stick your nose in the glass and way more interesting layers of things hit you. The palate is equally difficult to capture, though that's partly because I drink so few pinots. The tannins are incredibly soft, and I really like the sour and spicy mixture of flavors on top of a delightful mineral bed.

Here's what I'd say about this one: don't drink it if you are in a hurry. Don't drink it if your mind is set to accounting, or multitasking, or catching-up, or getting-ahead modes. It won't demand your attention, like this wine will, but it will reward your patience and attention. Also: the brownness in the color may well be evidence that it's moving past its peak--it is hard to find information about Prieure-Roch wines online (I've linked the most useful thing I found to the title above), but it seems equally possible, from the taste, that we are nowhere near its evolutionary end. It is a blend of grapes from several vineyards and, I think, not the top-of-the-line stuff from this house.

Having not done a lot of Pinot pairing, I'm staying safe with slow-cooked chicken, onion, and garlic, and roasted yaller potatoes tonight. Also maybe an avocado. And a Texas sunset, part of which reflects the color of this wine much better than my prose.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Howard Park Scotsdale Shiraz

Howard Park Wines
Great Southern

Cowaramup, Western Australia
$35.99 -- Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Cheese fondue, pepper
Body: Full
Front: Currant
Middle: Cream, chocolate
Back: Blueberry, tannins, aromatic herbs
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screwcap

This is an enormous, rich, stunning wine. It's got nice acid with the curranty flavors, backed by a real creaminess and a hint of spiciness. This may be the peak of this vintage; it flattens out after about an hour open. But with about twenty minutes of air, it's spectacular: serve to friends!

This evening's accompaniment was Kat Edmonson on the stereo, and grilled rack of lamb with grilled yellow squash and a dried cherry red wine sauce on the plate. The lamb brings out the spice in the wine, even as the wine brings out the richness in the food--a happy pairing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Terra Valentine Cabernet

Terra Valentine
Cabernet Sauvignon
Spring Mountain District
Napa Valley
St. Helena, California, USA
$33.99 -- COSTCO, Austin, TX

Color: Dark strawberry
Nose: Chocolate, plum
Body: Full
Front: Cassis
Middle: Sparkledy cherries
Back: Tannins, eucalyptus, cedar
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is an intense Cabernet. I'm trying it after only a half hour of decanting, so perhaps there's more fruit in the bottle. If so, I will update later. But the old-world flavors are prominent at this point, including the minty tastes that are one of the things I really like in some Napa Cabernets (and McLaren Vale reds, too). This would be good with cheese and meat, though my phone-in dinner has not yet arrived, so I may be completely wrong on that.

Hmm. It is increasingly appearing that I should have waited half an hour before writing this blog entry. Moral: Timing is everything.