Thursday, June 24, 2010

Eden Hall Shiraz Viognier

David Hall
Eden Hall
Shiraz Viognier

Single Vineyard
Eden Valley (Barossa Valley)
Springton, South Australia

$19.98 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Dark blood red
Nose: Blackberry jam, plum, cilantro
Body: Medium, creamy
Front: Blueberries
Middle: Ripe cherry, pepper, sage
Back: Coffee,
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screwcap

Those who are closely following my every utterance will notice that I'm cheating.

I said I was done with the less-commonly consumed white varietal tasting, yet here we have a Viognier! It's just that it's also blended with Shiraz (95 Shiraz-5 Viognier for the curious). This is an Aussie experiment in a southern Rhone thing: if I remember correctly, for example, Cotes-du-Rhone wines can include a small percentage of white grapes, including Viognier.

This is unmistakably Australian, with big ripe fruit, strong personality, and that tangy thing at the end that I like so much in OZ wines. With a little ago on it, this I'd guess has calmed down a bit; I like it a lot, though it seems to lack a third level beyond the dark fruit and the tangyness. It's elegant, very easy to drink, and worth the price for a well-made, interesting wine. Tonight it was perfect paired with a chicken fajita soft taco.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hess Mt. Veeder Block 19 Cabernet

The Hess Collection Winery
19 Block Cuvee
Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc
Mt. Veeder
Napa, California, USA
$23.99 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Eucalyptus, cherry, espresso
Body: Full
Front: Tart cherry, nopal
Middle: Licorice, mint, chocolate
Back: Leather, spicy tannins, sage
Burns clean?: Mostly
Cap: Cork

Put a little Syrah in it, and it's no longer a Bordeaux blend. Here's the thing, though: you don't need that reference point to enjoy this wine. It's Napa Valley mountain action, all the way. It's briary, dark, brooding, serious: not much fruity, though substantial and juicy. I love this paradox of wines from this region, as I have attested before. They're big like Napa, but they're weird like some of the best wines anywhere, and they carry serious terroir into your face.

So the pairing tonight was a failure: grilled ribeye. It's like you had a small party and you invited two awesome people that you didn't realize had dated but who broke up a few months ago and have still been following each others' endeavors on Facebook, but haven't actually posted anything on each others' walls or even really "liked" anything on each others' pages yet because it's still awkward. Not bad, just awkward. The alcohol makes it okay, but you don't want to repeat the experiment. This I'd pair with a mole, or a watermelon and mint salad (try it! let me know!), or a peppery wild boar ragu with mushrooms and pasta.

Somebody please let me know if nopal has been used before in a tasting note. I've tasted it before in some southern hemisphere whites but didn't have the courage to utter it.

Chateau St. Jean Belle Terre Chardonnay

Chateau St. Jean
Belle Terre Vineyard
Alexander Valley
Kenwood, California, USA
$13.99 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Medium gold
Nose: Wood, banana, salt cod
Body: Full
Front: Lemon-lime
Middle: Soy sauce, butter
Back: Oak, white pepper
Burns clean?: Mostly
Cap: Cork

It's been late April since I reviewed a Chardonnay--and there are so many great ones out there yet to taste! So I get off the unusual-white-varietal train for a bit.

This is a big, almost frightening sort of wine. It's neither charming, nor particularly elegant. Both the nose and the palate feature things not normally encountered in Chardonnay, including fishy and salty odors and flavors, which I confess I find attractive. In fact, it tastes a lot like a parmesan-encrusted, baked sole with plenty of lemon juice. Partly this is because the acids in this one aren't particularly strong, so as a wine it feels a smidgen out of balance. As a fish I love it.

If you like the ripe oak bomb, you will find this wine to be a big bargain. But there is a hint of nail polish, late in the mid-palate, that will put some folks off.

Loyal readers have demanded my review of Austin wine bars. It's an interesting time here on that score, so I'm going to pony up soon, I promise. A teaser: how often do you find a wine bar where the music is as good as the wine? Or where you can listen to the sweet sounds of a drive-through burger joint next door as you sip? And the kicker: how many of you have been to an Irish wine pub--in the U.S.?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wild Rock Pinot Noir

Wild Rock Wine Company
Pinot Noir
Cupid's Arrow
Central Otago
Hastings, New Zealand
$18.98 -- Wine Trader, Lake Travis, TX

Color: Medium garnet
Nose: Strawberry, fish, smoke
Body: Medium
Front: Cherry
Middle: Strawberry cola
Back: Raspberry, Skittles, no tannins to speak of
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screwcap

This one reminds me a lot of the Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir. It's bright but smoky, with a couple of layers, and at a decent price point for Pinot in general. There is a little third-stage candy-esque, raspberry thing that delivers on the finish, that is endearing, and makes it easy to drink. I'm hoping it will pair well with a chicken korma this evening; the low alcohol suggests a good pairing with food. It certainly goes well with the sunset!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fess Parker Viognier

Fess Parker Winery
Santa Barbara County

Santa Maria, California, U.S.A.

$16.99 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Medium  straw
Nose: Hazelnut, lemon, mango
Body: Full
Front: Honeydew
Middle: Honey, a little residual fizz
Back: Oak,
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Fake cork

We're nearing the end of the "experimental white grapes" extravaganza that I've been on lately. I think the end of it will come with the sparkling wine comparison that's upcoming, as the grapes that go into southern sparkling wines like cava are different from the traditional champagne grapes.

I've heard about Fess Parker wines before--there was a controversy about Parker selling land back to Native American tribes a few years ago that brought it to my attention--but have never tried one before today. This one is rather dark, almost Vin Jaune-y, with a delightfully nutty nose. It's a rich one--perhaps too much so for my taste, but I'm going to drink it outside in the 90-degree heat and I bet I'll appreciate it more. It'll go well with fruit and many cheeses. If you like a full-bodied, complex Chardonnay, but always find yourself wishing it was just a hair sweeter, go for this one.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Louis de Sacy Champagne Brut

Louis de Sacy

Grand Cru
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier
Verzy, Champagne, France
$28.99 -- Spec's, Austin, TX

Color: Pale gold
Nose: Carr's table water crackers, lemon,
Body: Light to medium
Front: Lemon
Middle: Bread, orange
Back: Lime, wet stones
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This isn't the most complex Champagne I've ever tasted, but it's not bad and it's got great acidity with a charming, yeasty nose. It's a very hot day here; there's a little Brie Couronne and garlic crackers going down after a nice dip in the pool, so situationally it's hard to beat what this wine is putting out!

I should really do a run-down of sparkling wines, as I tend to drink them without reviewing them. I think it's a strange market for them right now, with the French ones way overvalued in many cases and some Iberian ones slightly undervalued. Perhaps I will invite a bunch of folks over for a little Champagne tasting and see what happens....

Friday, June 4, 2010

Silverado Merlot

Silverado Vineyards
Napa Valley
Napa, California, USA

$27.99 -- Twin Liquors, Austin, TX

Color: Dark garnet
Nose: Cherry, orange, anis, a touch of heat
Body: Medium
Front: Strawberry
Middle: Chocolate, graham cracker
Back: Leather, oak, soft tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Merlot! I often love it. I visited Silverado Vineyards recently and enjoyed all of the Merlots they poured. They aren't super-complex, but they are charming, and have a nice acidity to balance the usual Napa bigness. And so perhaps unsurprisingly: I'm eating a tomato and avocado with lime and oil and vinegar salady sort of thing, and the 2002 pairs elegantly.

Note: The 2005 is really delightful: it has a healthy dose of mint on the nose and a bit on the palate. This is no coincidence, as there used to be eucalyptus trees around the vineyards from which the grapes came. They were removed after the '05 vintage, however, which I consider a most unfortunate decision. Boo! But...choose your poison, wisely.

Chateau de Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône

Louis et Cherry Barruol
Chateau de Saint Cosme
Les Deux Albion
Côtes du Rhône
Gigondas, France
$13.99 -- Spec's, Austin, TX

Color: Deep purpley red
Nose: Cassis, strawberry jam, coffee
Body: Medium
Front: Cherry
Middle: Licorice, game, pepper
Back: A little heat, charcoal, soft tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Like most of the '07 southern Rhone bottles I've had, this one is dense and rich, a big personality in the room. It's almost too intense for me, for a Côtes du Rhône; that it's all Syrah is interesting. I'd almost wait a year or more to try this again--or be prepared to drink it with some reasonably substantial food, perhaps something roasted and peppery. It'll take some age; I vacuum pumped it and tried it two days later and it had calmed down a bit, but was still lovely.

One of my followers has observed to me that I've been out for two weeks: indeed, in Napa Valley. When I get a few hours, I'll lay the latest on you from the tasting rooms there.