Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Von Strasser Cabernet Diamond Mountain

Von Strasser Winery
Diamond Mountain District

Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley
Calistoga, California, U.S.A.

$39.43 -- Spec's, Austin, TX

Color: Dark cherry red
Nose: Stewed plum, herbes de provence, black cherry pipe tobacco
Body: Medium
Front: Sour cherry
Middle: Roasted fig, orange
Back: Toasted spices, soft tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

I got this wine on a bit of a sale; I'd heard good things about the house, and loved a Diamond Mountain cab that I had at Sattui's Castello di Amoroso a couple of years ago.

This isn't a huge wine, but it's complex, and evolves in an interesting (though not quite distracting) way as it opens up. The nose is delightful; like the palate, it combines fruit and herb elements in a seductive way.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ravenswood Pickberry Vineyards Red Wine

Ravenswood Winery
Pickberry Vineyard

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma Mountain
Sonoma, California, U.S.A.

$19.99 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Dark cherry red with purple tinge
Nose: Blueberry pie, cherry cola, cumin
Body: Full
Front: Cherry cream
Middle: Licorice, salt
Back: Marshmallowy tannins, green herbs of some kind
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This wine is powerful, but young. The tannins are nicely distributed throughout the wine, but they're everywhere you turn, as my "marshmallow" description is meant to suggest. I'm thinking of the outside of the marshmallow, there, though the richness of this wine lends it a more comprehensively marshmallow-like texture, come to think of it. The combination of big fruit and curry-like smells on this wine is completely enchanting to me, I must say; if the wine ever ends up tasting like that (and I think it's got several years to go before it really integrates) it'll be astonishing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Angela Pinot Noir

Clawson Creek
Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley
Carlton, Oregon, U.S.A.
$29.98 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Medium garnet
Nose: Strawberry jam, cherry
Body: Medium
Front: Raspberry
Middle: Strawberry-cherry cola
Back: A little Slim Jim, soft tannins
Burns clean?: Very
Cap: Cork

The taste of this wine reminds me a bit of the Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir. It's bright, but not just fruity, with a couple of layers, and has a lovely texture. The price is, under the circumstances, a little shocking even at Costco (though after reading the hype about this wine, I'm curious why it is available at Costco; perhaps there was a large harvest in 2008).

But it certainly goes well with food -- grilled lamb chops, roasted beets, and sauteed beet greens with onions, dried red pepper, and garlic. After it was open three hours, it gained weight and interest, particularly when paired with some late-night sorpressata. And it comes in a gigantic bottle with a huge punt, so you can wear it on your head when you are finished drinking it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chateau de Launay Bordeaux Superieur

Chateau de Launay
Bordeaux Superieur
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
St.-Emilion, Gironde, France
$20.29 -- Twin Liquors, Bee Cave, TX

Color: Deep clear garnet
Nose: Cherry, black olives, black currant
Body: Medium to full
Front: Cassis, licorice
Middle: Black cherry, espresso, charred vegetables
Back: Leathery tannins, mint
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Alright. One mystery has been solved: my Bordeaux-disappointment problem. I like St.-Emilion, and not so much the other areas that I have tried. This may require a systematic approach to figuring out if this is true of all the areas.

There's a lot going on in this wine. It's good. I'm going to go back and get more. Tonight I'm having it with a little sauteed spinach, butternut squash soup, and lemon-herb marinated pork tenderloin, which I'm sure will be a good pairing, but it's pleasant with a simple chunk of Centenol cheese, too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tablas Creek Vermentino

Tablas Creek Vineyard
Paso Robles, California, USA
$24.00 -- Tablas Creek, Paso Robles, CA

Color: Light gold
Nose: Pear, honeysuckle, lime
Body: Medium
Front: Pear, apple
Middle: Marshmallows--not roasted, river stones
Back: Lemon, pine
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screwcap

There's a slight effervescence in this wine that I find delightful, right off the bat. This isn't the acidic, cutting style that I'm used to from Italian vermentinos, but it is damn fine. The pine flavor is an illusion; this wine is not fermented in oak, and they stop malolactic fermentation to keep the acid levels high. Still, it's very smooth, and would be great with seafood, particularly of the briny sort. I'd serve this to anyone.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hall Cabernet

Ceramics by Wayne Bates.
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley
St. Helena, California, U.S.A.

$28.99 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Deep cherry red
Nose: Blueberry jam, cherry, white pepper
Body: Full
Front: Cherry vanilla
Middle: Cream, raspberry
Back: Cafe au lait, blueberries, firm tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a large, rich wine, in a big California style. The oak is elegantly balanced, though, with interesting fruit. And it's not cloying or sticky; it has nice texture, and will evolve into a much smoother version of itself over time. The tannins will kick you if you try to drink it too soon after opening, so beware of it at a restaurant and ask for some time to breathe. If so, it's splendid with food--on its own at this age, it's a little too wound up, like having dinner with a smart, talkative humanities graduate student; he's brilliant, but more pleasant when occasionally silent from scarfing down food. Oddly (and maybe it's just my weirdo palate du jour) it was more fascinating with the bleu cheese, tomato, and iceberg salad tonight than the grilled ribeye (though tasty with both).

Wine Spectator gave this wine 94 points, which I can't quite support, and not just because we don't do points here at Caveat Emptyer: but I will say that it's a bargain at the Costco price.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Barrot et Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils
Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault
Vaucluse, Chemin du Clos, France
$25.95 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Dark red, purple edges
Nose: Stewed cranberries; licorice; coffee jam; Slim Jim
Body: Full
Front: Dark cherries, violets
Middle: Licorice, blackberries, mushrooms
Back: Espresso, firm tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Everybody has had coffee jam, right? Just checking. It's an occult southern tradition; you can look it up. This is a tasty wine, good for a cold night with some baked chicken and a warm, salty tomato and basil soup. It's a good deal at the Costco price, as there aren't a huge number of $25 wines that are this interesting, especially after an hour to breathe.

Mérode Ladoix 1er Cru White Burgundy

Prince Florent de Mérode
Ladoix 1er Cru
Hautes Mourottes
Grand Vin de Bourgogne

Ladoix-Serrigny, Cote-d'or, France
$24.49 -- Twin Liquors, Austin, TX

Color: Rich light gold
Nose: Lemon, salt, intriguing hint of charred bone
Body: Medium
Front: Lemon, salt
Middle: Lime, beach ball
Back: Wood for days, graphite
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a lovely wine, if a little rough in the transitions. The acid is good, and there's a hint of fruit in it, with nice non-food savors. It's great with nuts and cheese, and I think would be phenomenal with oysters, if I had any lying around here. The nose smells a bit like a fire raging in a lemon grove. Or a forest fire being put out with lemon juice, either of which reminds me more of California, but the palate is French to be sure.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Virage Vineyards
Napa Valley Red Wine
Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa, California, U.S.A.
$45.00 -- Virage Vineyards, Napa, CA

Color: Deep ruby with a tinge of purple
Nose: Herb, spice, a little lovely stank, vanilla, violets
Body: Medium to full
Front: Cherry
Middle: Currant, cilantro
Back: Smooth tannins, anise 
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

My affection for Cabernet Franc is well-known to my tiny following. As it happens, one of my blog's followers makes one, and this is her maiden vintage. I'm delighted to be among the first to drink this wine, and have been looking forward to it for months. As a point of information, this bottle (pictured at right with Wayne Bates pottery) wasn't a gift; indeed, I've never had a wine company send me anything to review, which shows that I have been doing something wrong!

This is a wine of tremendous subtlety, that rewards patience and a good meal to accompany it. The nose is enchanting, and more so the more air it gets. It has a combination of greenness--herby greenness, more than broccoli or that sort of thing--with dark fruit and telluric aromas that I like in some European wines and that's pretty rare in American ones.

At this price point, doubtless people who encounter this wine will decant it and give it an hour or two to open. Having gifted three bottles of it (see, Emily, I'm spreading the word in the best of ways, not just in the watered-down medium of a review!) I'm going to lay down my other two for two and five years: structurally they're built to last, and I am excited to see what the future holds for them and their younger siblings. {Note, in 2014: Just a beautiful wine, evolving slowly and surely.}

Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Sparkling Wine

Domaine Carneros

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
Napa, California, U.S.A.

$19.99 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Pale gold
Nose: Apple, minerals, a hint of bread
Body: Light
Front: Lemon
Middle: Bread, orange
Back: Lime, wet stones
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

What better way to ring in the new year--and more or less this blog's fourth--than with sparkling wine? This one has long been a family favorite, though I seldom, for some reason, take the time to review sparkling wines (a fault I'll correct this year), so it hasn't shown up yet.

The 2006 is super, at this price. Nicely balanced, with good bread, acidity, fruit, and a hint of something more. Just a hint, though: it doesn't have that powerful late-mid-palate delivery of something bizarre that I like most in sparkling wine. But it's a good pairing with almost everything except bubble gum and raw pork. Wasn't superb with pistachios, but you cannot win them all.

As for this blog, I note that last year was a banner year, if one measures things in terms of volume. This year I'm focusing a little more on quality. I'm not sure what that means, but I think it has something to do with reviewing odd varietals, tackling a couple of problems in the wine world, more carefully reviewing things made by houses I gravitate to, including more photos, and reporting on more wine dinners.