Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pessagno Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

Pessagno Winery
Pinot Noir
Lucia Highlands Vineyard
Santa Lucia County

Salinas, California, USA
$24.98 -- Wine Library, Springfield, NJ

Color: Medium to deep garnet
Nose: Cherry, heat, port, plum, chocolate
Body: Medium to full
Front: Cassis, orange peel
Middle: Licorice, black cherry
Back: Charcoal, with lighter fluid and attendant smoke
Burns clean?: Mostly
Cap: Cork

This is a big wine: hot, fruity, dark, heavy, and sweaty. I'd have pinned this as a good Zinfandel if I'd been tasting it blind. It's not charming, and it's not elegant. This is that friend of yours who's really good at heart but a bull in a china shop, or too loud in conversation in public, or accidentally hurts people's feelings all the time.

I had to eat some almonds with it, to calm it down a bit, and that helped thin it out and bring out some of the more meaty and herby flavors. I think I really like it; I'd put it in the category of the Hamilton Russell, inasmuch as it's an unusual set of flavors for a Pinot, and I'm really curious to see what it tastes like in a couple of years.

Now that I check for a cross-reference I see I have not reviewed the Hamilton Russell, and I think I know why: they're running out at Twin Liquors, and I don't want anyone else to get it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sbragia Chardonnay Home Ranch

Sbragia Family Vineyards
Home Ranch
Dry Creek Valley
Sonoma County

St. Helena, California, USA
$27.99 -- Twin Liquors, Austin, TX

Color: Medium green-gold
Nose: White pepper, honeysuckle, tar
Body: Medium
Front: Hard pear, Meyer lemon
Middle: Graham cracker, orange
Back: Pine, brioche, asphalt
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

For enemies of oak: avoid this one. I find it a charming use of wood, but the long cedary palate will turn you off if you want an acid-dominated wine. There's a bit of fruit up front, and a little persistent acidity that keep it from getting buttery. I like it a lot: it's a bit clumsy right now but I actually think that a little air will sort out the flavors--and even then, it's already a pretty interesting glass of wine!

I'm having a snack of almonds and salami and watching a beautiful Texas sunset, prior to laying on a steak and (perverse though it may seem) a 1997 Burgundy. It's been a long week!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Duckhorn Decoy

Duckhorn Wine Company
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot
Napa Valley
St. Helena, CA

$24.99 at Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Dark garnet
Nose: Blackberries, anise, pepper, Elmer's glue, dried cherries
Body: Medium
Front: Plums
Middle: Chocolate, white pepper
Back: Oak, tannins, dirt
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a fascinating bottle of wine. It's subtle: the nose is a bit tight, but alluring, like a beautiful face seen through a veil. The flavors are diverse, from fruit to spices to dirt--and they change as the wine opens up. It opens up slowly, so definitely decant it, and if possible, wait a year or two from now before you open it at all. If you love big fruit or expect a California-style wine, don't drink this one, or wait until it's been open for a few hours before you try it.

Note: Trying to find more, I failed. Instead, I obtained the 2007, at $21.99. It's more fruity; blueberries and plums, a little chocolate; and, I think, perhaps not as charming, though as elegant, as the 2006.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Groth Merlot

Groth Vineyards and Winery
Napa Valley
Oakville, California, USA

$33.99 -- Twin Liquors, Austin, TX

Color: Medium to light peachy garnet
Nose: Pepper, oolong tea, orange, black currant
Body: Medium
Front: Dried cherry, mint
Middle: Plum, tar
Back: Firm tannins, tobacco
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This wine is much to my taste. 12 years old, American Merlot, and still tannic, but nicely balanced. It's seriously old-worldy. It's like...grandpa's fruit closet. Didn't your grandpa have a fruit closet?

Your obvious question is, is it really worth $34? Not if you like Lodi Zinfandel, no. But if you like licking a steering wheel from the 1970s or chewing bubble gum while smoking a Gloria Cubana, yes. It might benefit from a medium-strong cheese as accompaniment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Truchard Chardonnay

Truchard Vineyards
Napa Valley
Napa, California, USA

$20.88 -- Whole Foods, Austin, TX

Color: Light gold
Nose: Orange, lemon, peach, peppermint
Body: Medium
Front: Orange
Middle: Honey
Back: Lemon, vanilla
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a very smooth wine. It's well-made and balanced. There's oak, but it's well integrated with the fruit flavors. I think it would be a crowd-pleaser, as oak lovers will find what they want, there's plenty of fruity sweetness, and it's easy-drinkin'. Tonight it's a tomato basil soup with Raschera cheese (with which the wine is fantastic), a baguette, and some green salad. And then, an enormous pile of paper, with little black marks on it, the bottom of which must be reached ere the bottom of the bottle is revealed!

Note, fall 2014: The 2013 rendition of this wine is magnificent already, and I think destined for even more awesomeness.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chateau du Vieux-Guinot St.-Emilion Grand Cru

Vignobles Rollet
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
Grand Cru
St.-Etienne-de-Lisse, St.-Emilion, France
$21.99 -- Spec's Liquors, Bee Cave, TX

Color: Medium dirty garnet
Nose: Cherry, pig sty, black currant
Body: Medium
Front: Cassis, licorice
Middle: Sausage, broccoli
Back: Leather, espresso
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is Bordeaux, alright. It tasted like broccoli and dirt for three and a half hours. Now the fruit flavors are starting to come out a bit. But it's still like you took red currants and a not-quite-ripe cherry and wrapped them in celery and smooshed it into your brand-new leather wallet and then rode around all one August day in your 1983 Chevy truck with the vinyl seats and leaky exhaust and then, when you met with your winemaker at about 5 p.m., took the unholy mash out of your back pocket and said, do it like this!

Pegasus Bay Riesling

Donaldson Family, Ltd.
Pegasus Bay
Waipara Valley
Canterbury, NZ
$19.99 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Light to medium golden-green, with tiny bubbles
Nose: Gravel, green tea, lime
Body: Medium
Front: Lime, peach
Middle: Pineapple, lemon
Back: Apricot, stone
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screwcap

It wouldn't take a statistician to look at this blog's tags and deduce that I'm not a big fan of Riesling. I've had a couple of stunning ones -- a Hugel that blew me away, for example -- and a whole lot of lame ones. This one was highly rated, and it's quite elegant, though still a bit sweet for my taste. The off-dry style, as I think it's called, somehow leaves me unsatisfied. Perhaps I drink too much soda.

But with the right kind of food (light cheeses and fruit, I think) this wine would be spectacular. A fascinating thing about this (and it's not changing as the bottle stays open) is that the nose is so unrevelatory about the palate. It's a fruit-tacular extravaganza on the palate, but quite minerally on the nose: enchanting. This is better than many a Riesling I've had before, so take that from a non-Riesling drinker as a recommendation.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gary Farrell Merlot

Gary Farrell Winery
Sonoma County
Healdsburg, California, USA
$20.99 -- Twin Liquors, Austin, TX

Color: Medium garnet
Nose: Bright cherry, herbes de Provence, licorice
Body: Medium
Front: Cassis
Middle: Cherry, sage
Back: Coffee, graham cracker
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

What a delicious wine this is. I'm going to go back and get more this weekend. It's not terrifically complex, but it's beautifully balanced, with tart fruit and sweeter notes, almost imperceptible tannins, and an herby, hypnotizing nose. There's not much oak: no vanilla, no milkiness, perhaps only a very light pineyness at the edges. The bottle declares it to be 84% Merlot and 16% Cabernet, and it's got a Bordeauxish flavor, though I couldn't be more specific as I haven't had enough Bordeaux, by a long shot--a situation that I will have to remedy soon.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rutherford Hill Cabernet

Rutherford Hill Winery (Terlato Wines)
Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley
Rutherford, California
$19.00 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Dark garnet
Nose: Black cherry, Dr. Pepper, coffee, violet CrayolaTM crayon
Body: Full
Front: Plum, chocolate
Middle: Raspberry, orange, black tea
Back: Soft tannins, cedar
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

I'm a big fan of Rutherford Hill wines, not so much because they're the tastiest things ever -- though they're pretty good -- as because they are solid, characteristic Napa wines at reasonable prices.

I'm having a bit of a strange struggle with myself as I drink this, respecting whether I prefer the Cabernet or the Merlot, especially given that in general the 2004 Merlot is a couple of bucks cheaper. They share many features: they're both generously oaked, and they're both from fruit grown in the same vineyards (probably all over the Valley), which gives them a strong personality. This one is probably a little more complex, but not as charming as the Merlot: so there, I finesse the question!

Note (3-8-2010): Had the 2003. 13.5% abv. Cherry, cedar, asphalt, and a hint of mint and NyQuil on the nose; plenty of oak, with a bit of cherry and cassis on the palate. I think I preferred the slightly more diverse palate of the 2004. On day 2, though, the mint and chocolate and wood leapt from the glass: fascinating!