Monday, June 30, 2008

Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis 2003

Vieilles Vignes
12.5% alcohol

From the bottle notes:

Chablis located in north burgundy, produces exclusively dry white wine, from Chardonnay grapes. These wines exhibit aromas of flint and very fleshy, fruity flavors.

You can drink this wine with seafood, and white meats. Best served at about 54 degrees.

The wine flashes in the glass, a bright clear pale yellow. Aromas start with lemon and something special, first ginger snaps and then banana cream, without losing the underlying citrus. The palate comes with several layers, too, opening with lime zest, starfruit and minerals, then sweetening to that same banana cream, followed by lime, chalk and walnuts. This is medium bodies witha long finish.

Three hours later the wine had changed some, the nose still had soft rich banana cream, but lime and ginger snaps were replaced with pineapple and starfruit. The palate was a bit different, too, with lemon zest and lime zest, some starfruit and bananas.

It should be interesting to see how this evolves overnight.


UGH! FUNK!! No, really, FUNK! This slept in the fridge overnight and woke up smelling like sour milk (and no, there is not any bad milk in there). The first whiff was all spoiled milk. That faded to a butter smell mixed with pineapple, evolving slowly to add a light sprinkling of lime zest and some minerals. Drinking it was another story. It opened with lemon zest and something I had to reach way back into memory to identify, zweiback, followed by a soft banana skin a mineral melange. Sharp acidity and freshness were what you look for in a chardonnay. However, out of the fridge this was just too cold to do it justice.

Two hours later it was cool, not cold, but had not changed considerably. The funk was gone, but lime zest remained on the nose, along with buttered toast and banana. Up front and midpalate the temperature change meant almost nothing, still bringing banana peel and lime zest, then acidic minerality, but the finish lengthened, adding long-lingering kumquat and grapefruit.

The wine had good body throughout, from the long-legged swirl in the glass to the mouth-coating finish. The only problem was the initial funk on the second night, but that disappeared after some open time and a warm up from the fridge.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Azienda Agricola Lohsa Mandrone di Lohsa Maremma Toscana IGT 2004

13.5% alcohol

This was an interesting two-night trip. The color was medium garnet, slightly cloudy, with clear edges.

The nose of this wine exploded with leather, white chocolate, plums and toasted nuts. There was also another scent, was it fruity or floral?, hiding in the back, something I could not quite put my finger on. Stay tuned for the second night, when it makes a big appearance.

The palate had dark, very dark but not burned, toast, cranberry, and black cherry up front, tobacco, white chocolate and smooth dry leather tannins on the midpalate, and a long finish. On the first night this was full bodied, mouth coating, but apparently very young.

On the second night that mysterious scent made its appearance again, this time front and center. It was mango. Yup, mango. Not mango from a can, or jelly, but real, honest-to-goodness fresh mango from the Indian River, specifically Merritt Island, Florida. There was also some white chocolate and flowers, mostly three day old hibiscus and roses. Bring it to your mouth and take one last quick sniff and lavender shows up, too.

On the second night it still seemed young on the palate. It was tight and dry. Cranberries and fresh plm skins give the sour, plus the tiny clear wild cherries you find growing in Michigan, up near Traverse City. Tobacco and leather are there, too.

This could use a lot more time in the cellar, maybe five years or more, going on the last two nights. There is a lot of wine here and it shows on the nose, but the palate is still too tight to show its best.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shotfire Ridge Barossa Cuvee 2004

Australia, Barossa Valley
Cab. Sauv., Cab. Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot
13.9% alcohol

From the maker:

The colour is a deep inky purple. There is an intense lifted perfume nose of great complexity. The predominant aromas are of berry and liquorice fruit support by spicy French oak. The palate is full bodied and complex due to the five varieties used in the blend. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc provide wonderful upfront berry fruits, the Malbec and Petit Verdot provide great depth of flavour and intensity, while the Merlot gives the palate a wonderful suppleness. The grainy tannins add to the rich mouthfeel of the wine. There is awesome length to this wine with the berry fruit and spicy oak lingering.

I have rarely been as underwhelmed by a wine as I was by this one, ON THE FIRST NIGHT (read on for a great second-night surprise). It was not BAD, it just utterly, completely, and perfectly failed to be good. Sure, there were blackberries and vanilla, plus a hint of pepper on the nose, but that was it. Well, not exactly "it," because I forgot to mention the alcohol. Even after an hour in the glass this smelled hot. At this price point from Australia, $22 (and marked down from $29!), I expect a second layer, something more than generic fruit.

The palate was equally disappointing - blackberry, a bit of blueberry, some pepper, then, well, nothing, nada, squat. Midpalate? What midpalate? This just sat there, doing nothing, like a rock in front of the lawn mower. You're surprised it's there, you hope it will move, but it won't. Eventually, you have to mow around it or go pick it up. This wine was like that. Swish it around, breathe in some air, move it around your tongue, nothing. Eventually, all you can do is spit or swallow (why, oh why, does that have to sound so dirty?) and move on.

Mind you, I did say this wasn't BAD. It was not overoaked, too fruity, too tannic, or anything obviously bad. It just completely failed to be good.

Maybe it will be better the second night. Come back and we'll find out together.

Second night, and the first impression on the nose is still alcohol. The nose is more complex the second night. Sure, the blackberries are still there, but so is some olive, some pepper, and cherry.

The palate is far better, too. There is black and red fruit, blackberries and cherries. Chocolate follows, and mocha lingers. This is a far better wine on night two. It has dusty tannins and a medium length finish.

Wow! This wine has absolutely turned itself entirely around overnight. What does this mean? Maybe it just needs a boatload of decanting, but I suspect it needed several more years in the cellar to do it justice. This is a good wine now, one that deserves some time to mature. It is also fascinating how much it changed over a single night, even though it was well-sealed the whole time. The initial shot of air, plus some time to process it, made this wine grow up in a hurry. I wonder how it would have been if it had been able to mature slowly in the bottle.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Buttonwood Merlot 2003

Nehi Grape Soda in a new leather wine skin.

Buttonwood Farms
Santa Ynez Valley
alcohol 13.%
85% Merlot 15% Cabernet Franc
from the California Wine Club

From the label:

Merlot... full bodied and supple witha spicy disposition. Take her to dinner with lamb, beef, pork or duck.

Folks, that's a bad sign. When the winemaker has to pretend the wine is a girl, and says it goes with everything, well, it's probably not a girl you want to date, and it might not go with anything.

This was purple, new wine purple. It was also shy, not giving up much but a slight chemical smell the first half hour out of the bottle. Even an hour after a glass was poured alcohol drove the nose (I wonder if the 13.7% is accurate). Finally, if you managed to dodge between the chemical and alcohol, there were some green olives and some vegetation.

The palate was better, overwhelmingly spicy with blackpepper, nutmeg and green peppers. Some cherry was there, too, but gritty dry tannins were distracting.

Will this get better overnight? Come back for the second episode and we will find out together.

Second night and I have never before been more perfectly confident in my description of a wine than I am this one, but it ain't pretty. I mentioned a chemical smell last night but I could not put my finger on what it was. Tonight it was clearer. It was the chemical/fake fruit smell, and taste, of artificially flavored grape soda. This also had strident tannins. This wine es EXACTLY what you would get if you put flat Nehi Grape Soda in a new leather wine skin. That's it, I have nothing else to add. Flat Nehi Grape Soda in new leather wine skin.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Frazier Cabernet Sauvignon, Lupine Hill Vineyard 1998

Napa Valley, California 14% alcohol

The first thing I noticed about this wine was the cork, which was longer than average. It felt longer when I was using the Screwpull, and it measured 5mm longer than a typical (I randomly looked at it against half a dozen other corks I had laying around).

The color was dark garnet, with the edge just beginning to turn orange.

Right out of the bottle I got some funk, but it blew off in a few minutes. It was then truffles, black currants, and black fruit, followed by a quick hint of green pepper followed by definite cedar. I thought that was it, but as I brought it to my nose I got tobacco, as well. It was actually pretty hard to separate and identify the different things, it is all so well knit together.

This was just as well knit on the palate. It took some time and a lot of swishing around in the mouth to separate out the different elements. Black currant was there, but so were plum and tobacco, along with nutmeg. On the midpalate this wine added cedar, a passing glance of green olive, then the black fruit again.

This still had a strong backbone of smooth tannins, and finished with tart cherries, plum skins and cloves, which lingered for a long time.

Two hours later (have you tried to get 3 and 5 year old boys to bed in the summertime?) it had changed some. Note, just to be fair to the wine, that it had changed temperature, from 57 in the cellar to (air-conditioned) room temperature. Now there was a touch of vanilla, some plum, and cedar, along with a bit of brambly vegetation - the fruits had calmed down and the tartness of blackberries and currants were not as obvious. I would be far more likely to peg this as a Bordeaux this time around (mostly because of the vegetation and lack of overpowering vanilla/oak).

Blackberries dominate the palate now up front, with tobacco and mushrooms on the midpalate. The mouth feel is a little thin, the wine's Achilles' heel that will keep it from being great, but it is integrated and balanced enough to be very good. Tannins are just barely dusty, not quite silky, but firm, and the backbone is still firm, the finish still long and a bit more tart.

I am really curious how this will show tomorrow night.

Second night, and this has really undergone some changes. Flowers wafted through the room the second I popped the Vacuu-Vin top. The complex nose pumped out gardenias and violets, their sweetness countered by liquid smoke and tarragon, the whole thing held together by an underlying dark fruit.

The palate, too, had added complexity, starting with brambles and licorice, followed by the gardenias and plum skins. Truffles were there, too. Chocolate and the very dark fruit from the nose made their appearance midpalate, then the violets. Burnt caramel and smoke led their way to the finish, a lovely long finish.

This is a nice wine, a very good wine. Based on the two-day drinking I would say it has some more cellar life in it, too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Melipal Malbec 2003

$21.98 14% alcohol 100% Malbec Mendoza, Argentina

According to the label, this wine comes from an 80 year old vineyar, and 18,631 bottles (1550+ cases) were made. That is actually a pretty small run compared to a lot of the Malbecs.

Just looking at the glass, this is inky dark, almost black, with a very thin purple edge. It is also thick - a quick swirl around the glass coats the sides and sticks.

Up front, just out of the bottle, the nose is overpowering. There is a lot of alcohol, more than I expected from 14% alcohol. A few minutes later the fruit blasts its way out of th glass. There is blueberry, but not just blueberry, BLUEBERRY!!! More blueberry pie filling than fresh fruit or even jelly or jam. Next is a very interesting smell, bananas and brown sugar, maybe even plantains in brown sugar. It is a sugar/fruit sweet baked odor, and not a bad one. There is a tiny hint, way in the back, of bell pepper, just enough to tell you this is really from South America, but not obtrusive.

There is a lot of black fruit on the palate, starting with tart blackberries then moving to the blueberry pie filling from the nose. This is a real mouthful, like a fruit tart, a vanilla pastry filled with blueberry pie filling and fresh blackberries, sprinkled with black pepper. Add a side of beef and some leather and there you have it. The leather comes in toward the end, a bit of tannins but not enough to believe this wine is going to last a whole lot longer. It will be interesing to see how it holds up overnight.

Second night. This was only open an hour or two then sealed under a Vacuu-Vin seal. Tonight it opened with a "suuuuck-POP!," so it did not get air overnight.

The nose is still filled with black fruit, plus cloves and some green olive. Plus, for the first time, some florals- violets, I think.

Old wine. This tastes like old wine. It is not oxidized and tasting of Port, it just tastes old - like very overripe/bruised plums. There are other fruits still there, blueberry and blackberry, plus cloves, but one night overnight and this seems over the hill.

I am really not surprised. For some reason the South American wines, even the pretty good ones (I haven't bought any of the very good ones, just because I can't bring myself to spend good Bordeaux money on "very good" anything from South America), just don't seem to last a long time. This is not a bad wine, in fact it's pretty good. But if my idea that the second night tells you something about the life of a wine, well, drink up. Don't let this one sit in the cellar much longer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Muir-Hanna Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2004

Estate Bottled. 14.3% alcohol, 100% Pinot Noir.

The color was brilliant translucent ruby.

Right after opening this had a strong nose, earthy, rich with dark cherries and mushrooms. An hour later most of that blew off and the nose was light, even closed. I was faint but fruity. If you stuck your nose all the way in the glass you would catch strawberries and cherry pits.

Right after opening this was disractingly bitter. An hour later, again, it is entirely different. Pomegranate, strawberries and distinct minerality, with slightly pronounced tannins keeping the end a little bitter, but not to the point of distraction. Instead, it gave some depth, distinguishing the wine from cheap 'cherry cola and black tea' pinot plonk. Fruit, then tannins, followed by toasted pecans at the end. The finish was mid-length and pleasant, tannins fading with fruit lingering.

Day two.

The nose is distinctly more full-bodied, combining the initial earthiness with lilting fruit. Now there is earth and a hint of peaty undergrowth to go with strawberries, cherry pits, and some raspberry.

Wow! The longer this stayed in my mouth, the more different things I tasted. It just kept evolving. First, fruit, pomegranate, strawberry, and maybe raspberry. But then, oh then, mushrooms and beef, smoky bacon, barely-ripe plums, some more smoke, all covered with a delicate strawberry glaze. This would be magnificent with food, but it's so nice on its own that you want to make a meal of it.

I like this wine. Based upon the two-day review, it either needs a LOT of decanting or several more years in the cellar. I'm guessing five, minimum.

Now let me tell you a tiny short story about this family vineyard, and I mean FAMILY vineyard. When I called to order the wine the delightful lady on the other end of the line had to shout a bit to be heard, because she was giving the baby a bath at the same time. Now how can you not just love that?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Domaine des Amouriers Vacqueyras 1999

$19.99 in Indianapolis
14% alcohol
France, Appelation Vacqueyras Controlee

The color of this one was interesting, a very deep dark ruby, almost like fresh blood in india ink (did I mention that I do some political cartooning, and that pen nibs can be very sharp?). It was also just slightly cloudy.

This is definitely not a "fruit forward" wine. If you're looking for parkerization or spoofilation, the nose will send you running. It is distinctly vegetal first, with brambles, mushroom, barnyard and a touch of tarragon, plus some wax, allbefore you start to find any fruit. There is a bit of black fruit hiding in the background, along with some black currant, but with the bottle only open an hour or so, you really have to look for it. It will be interesting to see if fruit makes more of an appearance the second night.

The first impression on the palate is grit. The second is tart fruit. Have you ever had native cherries or strawberries? They taste of cherries and strawberries, but mostly tart, very little sweet. Some sweetness is there but it seems to come more from florals than fruit, florals including violet and gardenia. Vegetals from the nose are in the palate, too - cloves, brambles, and just a bit of dirty hay from a barnyard floor. It also has gritty mouth-drying tannins. I am making it sound far worse than it is. This is a great big mouthful of wine with layers of flavors. The grit is a downside, but otherwise it works (assuming, again, you're not looking for Everclear and Welches). I am very curious to see if this comes together or drops off the map overnight. Aren't you?

Second night. It spent the night under a Vacuu-Vin closure and in the wine cellar.

The nose is, if anything even more vegetal, but more floral as well. To the herbaceous brambly smell add tarragon and some strong flowers, like magnolias and gardenias a day or two past bloom. I am still getting some wax, like, do you remember those little wax "candies" with juice inside that you used to get for Halloween, the ones that always had a waxy residue/taste? That is the wax smell. Okay, a few minutes in the glass and the smell is mellowing, the sharp herbaceous smell giving way to some meat, raw wet beef to go with tarragon and flowers.

Menthol, tarragon, that same wax and flowers open the palate. The meat is there too, perhaps a bit more bacony than beef, but not heavily smoked. Fruit is certainly more apparent the second night, blackberries, cranberries and plum skins, then cloves and pepper. It is a very interesting evolution in the mouth. Every stage has two or three tastes, which are one at a time replaced by the next, flowing all the way through from start to finish. Tannins are no longer gritty, or even dusty, though I would not go so far as to call them velvety.

Conclusion- I am surprised. Given that this was a 1999, just purchased at a wine store so probably not stored perfectly (only their top of the line stuff gets the temperature control), I expected it to fall precipitously from night one to night two, and instead it improved. This probably has a couple more years of cellar improvement in it. I am going to go back for more.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Garretson Roussanne "The Limoi Cior" 2004

Paso Robles, California.

100% Roussane from two different vineyards. 15.1% alcohol. $29.98 in Indianapolis.

This was a rapidly evolving wine, changing over the first two hours out of the bottle. The color was a very golden yellow. The nose, right out of the bottle, was very fresh, like new-cut hay. I had trouble putting my finger on the fruit at first, until I reached for the exotics and starfruit fit the bill, along with mango and some softening butter. Thirty minutes later the starfruit gave way to very clear pineapple, along with mango and buter. The palate had lemon zest and butter, lightly grilled pineapple, and some pear on the mid palate. The finish was mid-length. Then, another thirty minutes later, it had changed again. Honey not only made itself known, but came to the fore, along with pineapple. The mouth feel was thick, a bit syruppy. The finish was mid-length and very pleasant.

Here is an interesting side-note: "Limoid Cior" is Gaelic for "lemon honecomb," and the label tasting notes start with lemon rind and honey, a rare label note that has any relationship with reality.

Second night.

The nose was thicker, honey, the tiniest echo of lemon zest, and some fruit somewhere between date and fig. The palate, too, had changed, far heavier on honey, the same lemon zest, and now the fruit was clearly fig, fading into vanilla in the toward the end. The finish was medium length, mouth-coating and thick.

My overall impression of this wine was a bit too thick and cloying, more so as it aged overnight. It did not really work well with tender dark meat chicken, but it might balance against something a bit more spicy. This was a very nice wine last tonight, but too thick and cloying the second night. Drink up now and enjoy it. I'm not sure it will last until next summer.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey 2006

It was hotter than hell and the air conditioning was not working. Nothing was in the fridge, so what to drink? Something lighter, maybe a fairly fresh pinot. This mid-priced bottle seemed to fit the bill.

The color was a medium garnet, translucent, very pretty. The nose was bigger than I expected, since newer pinots often seem to be closed, hiding their odors. It offered black cherries, raspberries, black tea, and, if you kept your nose shoved all the way in the glass long enough, just a touch of cocoa. The palate was similar, with black cherries and raspberries up front, followed by a touch of sweet cocoa powder and tannins. The tannins were surpisingly soft. The finish did not fall right off but lingered a few extra seconds.

The next day. The wine spent the night back in the cellar (the A/C was out and I did not want to cook it) under the Vacuu-Vin. The next night it was far more earthy, with mushrooms and earth added to raspberry and darker cherries on the nose. The palate wa still fruity, showing strawbery and raspberry, black tea and, as odd as this sounds, a hint of somethin reminiscent of ginger snaps. The finish was softer and far longer, more obviously teeth-coating. This improved a lot over night, telling me (as if I didn't know, heck, it was an '06) it would actually improve with some cellar time or long decanting.

The first night's overall impression was a pretty typical mid-priced Cali-Pinot, mostly cherry and black tea, with enough mid-palate secondary development to justify a "pretty good, I'd drink it mid-week if the restaurant marked up the good stuff beyond reason" rating. In Parker-world that is probably about 84-86.

Friday, June 6, 2008

J. Hofstatter Lagrein 2003

Denominazione di Origine Controllata, Alto Adige, Product of Italy. 13% alcohol, $19.98.

The color was dark, almost black, with bright purple edges. Te cork was almost black, with wine almost half an inch up the edges.

Right out the bottle this wine had a huge nose of blueberry, burnt caramel and vanilla. The palate started with bright red fruits and cranberries, followed by a touch of mint and some orange peel. Mild velvety tannins only showed up at the finish, which dropped quickly but not entirely, lingering with berries and cream.

This is a very good wine and at a very good price. I am curious to see if it opens more overnight and becomes something extraordinary.

Second night. Now it is a softer, more balanced, mature-tasting wine. Four or five hours open, plus a night under the Vacuu-Vin, have the same effect as several hours of decanting, giving just enough instant-aging to give you an idea how it might change with more cellar time.

The nose with not as explosive, but surrendered more layers, including dark cherry, plum, cloves, black pepper and, at the end, a touch of mint. The palate changed rom last night's slightly acidic red fruits to softer black ones, including blackberry and black cherries, plus cloves and lavendar. About an hour after re-opening it started with cocoa and black fruit, followed by the tarter cherries, cloves, and florals. Tannins were far less obvious on the much softer finish.

This was a good wine, an interesting wine, offering plenty of tastes and layers. Based upon its changes overnight, I also think it could benefit from another year or two, not much more, in the cellar.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chateau des Hautes Ribes Vacqueyras 2001

Appellation Vacqueyras Controlee, Mis en Bouteille a la Propriete. 14% alcohol, $15.98.

Half an hour after opening, the color was translucent, like an Oregon pinot, but brick red, trending strongly to orange near the rim. The nose was lovely, starting wtih coffee, then hazelnut liquor, buttered toast, and blackberries. Blackberries were clear on the palate as well, along with cassis, followed by sage and licorice, all over an underlying mushroom earthiness. Tannins did not show up until the finish, which was long, smooth and had a creamy softness.

Three hours after the bottle was opened the nose had changed. It was more obviously earthy with boatloads of chocolate. Blackberries and vanilla cream rounded it out. The three hours made a big difference on the palate, which is now far fruitier, with cherries and blackberries dominating, the mushrooms and sage now in the background. Add strawberry and caramel in the midpalate. This is a very nice wine, even lovely for the price. The finish is still soft, creamy, and long.

More tomorrow.

Second night now. The wine was open last night for about 5 hours, then closed with a Vacuu-Vin stopper. It is still tremendously aromatic, even more floral than last night. Lavender is coming through along with black currant, blackberries and pepper. Plenty of black fruit and plums on the palate, perhaps even a tiny touch of cranberry, along with a pinch of pepper. That said, it is far more one-dimensional than last night, giving its initial fruit and not much to follow. There is also that slighly oxidized bruised plum taste you get in a wine that is over the hill. Not, mind you, blatant port-like oxidation, merely a sense of flatness and age.

Conclusion? This was a good wine, even a great wine with the QPR, on the first night. The second night is was on its way down hill. That probably means it is ready to drink now but right now. Don't leave this in the cellar waiting for it to get better.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Chateau des Deux Moulins 2001

This was a cheap Bordeaux, costing a mere $13.98. It is a Grand Vin de Bordeax from Medoc, with 12.5% alcohol. It is very dark, with a purple rim. On the first night I was, to put it mildly, unimpressed. The most obvious part of the nose was olives, maybe kalamata, strong and salty. It took a long time to find anything else, but eventually some burnt caramel and white pepper made an appearance. On the palate it improved a bit, but not much. The olives were still there, but here was also tar and pencil lead, violets and spearmint. Fruit remained elusive, but there was a tiny hint of fig. The tannins were not harsh, but that was about the kindest thing I could say.

Would this one be any better the second night? Let's find out, shall we?

This time around there are some florals on the nose, mostly geranium, perhaps a touch of violets, too. Hey, good news, there's fruit, too. Strawberries and raspberries, to be precise. On the palate, the kalamata returns. Fruit was there, but dry, very dry, like blackberry and plum skins, just skins. I did like the florals, mostly violets.

Conclusion? This is just not a great wine. It is, however, a much better wine on the second night than the first. Might this mean it is just very closed, that it might improve with a few years in the cellar? Sometimes a lot of improvement from one night to the next means just that. In this case, I suspect not. Night one this barely rated a "drinkable but who would want to" score, maybe a 78 on the 100-point scale. On night two it popped all the way up to an "adequate, but not inspired" score, about 83 points.