Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cruising the Caribbean and drinking wine

I took the wife and kidlets on a seven day cruise of the Western Caribbean last week. Lots of stops of T-shirts and shells, and endless buffet of mediocre food, great service and food that didn't match for dinner, and a genuinely boring wine list. But wait, I brought some of my own wine. Or at least, I tried. The ship was out of Miami. My mom lives in Miami. I sent her boyfriend a list of wines to buy and his wine ***SUPERSTORE*** did not have a single one out of a dozen or more. Rest assured, the wine guy said, here are some bottles that he'll LOOOOVE, if he liked those. Let's see how that worked out, shall we?

I suggested Chateau Branaire-Ducru 1999. They didn't have it. Their substitute?

Arthurs, Cotes de Castillon 2004

Grand vin de Bordeaux
13% alc

Night One

The nose was green, herbaceous & hot, hiding a tiny little bit of black fruit & blueberries. The overall smell was of unripe wine, stems & leaves. It did not improve on the palate, which was all green, stems & leaves. There was a little black fruit. Very dry leathery tannins overpowered everything else.

Night Two

Blackcurrants & blackberries lead the nose, which has far more fruit and less green on nt 2. It seems hot & makes me wonder about the alcohol level. The palate was less green, showing blackberry and a touch of sage, but it ends with very strong overpowering tannins that dry out the mouth and leave little but leather & plum skins.

I suggested Groom Shiraz 2004. They didn't have it. The substitute?

Thorn Clarke Terra-Barossa Shiraz 2006

This was pretty good stuff.

Night One

The nose was very powerful, but not merely a fruit bomb. It brought coffee & black pepper, and blackberries. The palate brought blackberries & pepper, some coffee, softening on the mid-palate to more mild plums & black cherries. It had a long finish & fine sweet tannins, slightly drying, promising plenty more life in the cellar.

Night Two

The nose was blackberries & black pepper, with some black cherry. The palate was blueberry & black cherry, and sweet tannins. The mid-palate evolved to vanilla, cedar & cream. It was very creamy & soft. Fruity but not a fruit bomb. It had a long tooth-coating finish. Very good.

I went to a wine tasting on board the ship. It was a special tasting set up for frequent cruisers (my mother cruises all the time an gave me her tickets). I was a bit surprised to see just how they low-balled the wine selection for their best customers. It was also very fast, lacking sufficient time to really explore the wines, or to take very good notes.

First up was Caliterras Sauvignon Blanc, '07

The color was very light, an almost clear gold. The nose brought lemon zest, pink grapefruit & ginger. The ginger was not overpowering but was very evident. As soon as I mentioned it everybody at the table nodded their heads, as if it was the smell they were trying to put their fingers on. The initial attack was grapefruit and grass. Th ginger from the nose showed up clearly on the mid-palate. The finish was medium length. The mouth feel was slightly oily, and the overall impression a little fat.

Second up was Stone Cellars Chardonnay, '07

The color was pale straw. The nose was pure caramel apple. The same apples and caramel showed up on attack, along with some lemon zest. The apple-taste changed a bit on the mid-palate, moving from fresh apples to baked apples, vanilla & brown sugar. The vanilla seemed to just get stronger and stronger throughout, the wood eventually taking over. The overall impression was very fat and woody.

Third up was, by far, the most interesting wine in the tasting, Footprint Syrah '07.

I have never smelled such obvious coffee-grounds in a bottle of wine. The coffee was just screamingly obvious, along with some black pepper and blackberry. Very interesting. The coffee was there on the attack, too, along with unsweetened chocolate, burned rubber & blackberries. The tasting was ripping right along, but this is worth a follow-up with some more time to explore.

Stone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon '06

Initially, the nose was interesting, even promising. There was the signature Cabernet blackcurrant, but that was not all. It also brought a surprising amount of mint. In fact, the mint was so clear I could identify it not just as mint, but specifically as wintergreen. There was also, alas, enough vanilla, or should I say VANILLA, to hint of oak to come. On the palate, too, there was promised, ultimately crushed by wood. Eucalyptus joined the blackcurrant and mint, but it all devolved quickly into vanilla and wood. This was a potentially pretty good wine absolutely crushed by efforts to make it mainstream and generic.

Finally, we had a reisling, Leonard Kreusch Reisling spatlese late harvest '07.

The nose was very sweet, offering not just pears, but the juice of canned pears. There were apples, too, along with the key lime from a key lime pie, rather than pure juice. Apples disappeared on the palate, leaving primarily pears plus a little key lime. We got hustled out to clear space for the first dinner seating so I can't say much more.

My overall impression was not overly enthusiastic. The wine list was a little thin. Mark-ups were not bad (about double, when they had a captive audience), but selections were pretty low-end with a few very high end "name" wines, like Opus 1 and Darioush. What it was really missing were the good wines in the middle.

No comments: